Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Deep Dish Doesn’t Cut It

Deep Dish

I previously reviewed the original Pizzeria Uno, offering a slightly negative opinion but remaining fairly agnostic (with an admitted New York bias) on the issue of deep dish pizza in general. It took a few months to overcome my bloatedness of that evening and to bring myself to eat deep dish again, but I did it. I ventured downtown and tried another Chicago staple, Giordano’s, which gets immense praise from foodies and common restaurant-goers alike. I still went in with some trepidation given my Pizzeria Uno experience; nonetheless, I really wanted to be won over. I wanted to start on a path towards loving Chicago’s specialty so I could reap the benefits of that love for a few years.

However, I moved in the opposite direction. I’ve become convinced that, in general, deep dish pizza just doesn’t cut it. The concept of deep dish is flawed philosophically. The philosophy underlying deep dish is a philosophy of excess. Let’s stuff as much mozzarella cheese and as many other ingredients of your selection as possible between the tomato sauce and the crust at the bottom of the pizza. And, let’s use a ton of dough, so much that the crust alone will virtually fill you up after one slice. Continue reading

Joie de Vivre: Praising the Bretzel

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Yes, you read that correctly. If you thought I was actually writing about “Braising the Pretzel”* and became enthused, then I sincerely apologize for causing false excitement.

*Nonetheless, an article on such a topic does not make much sense so I would question your logic if you did indeed become enthused. I would still maintain an overall apologetic tone though.

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Dear Wendy’s, Bring Back the Pita

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You will hear me defend agnosticism, insular arrogance, irrational anchoring, and the Second Amendment before you will hear me offer a general defense of the food quality of American fast food chains.

As a child not very into the burger, going to fast food restaurants was a tough experience. While my peers salivated at the mere idea of a Quarter Pounder with fries, I shrugged with indifference. Whether you’re a child or an adult, you should be able to comprehend the frustration that comes from the vast majority of others appreciating something far more (or far less) than you do (e.g. Fireworks!).
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What Common Human Behavior Will be Viewed as Mistaken in 100 Years?

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I’ve heard a variant of this question posed many a time, most recently by John S. If you look back at any slice of history, there were certain human behaviors, beliefs, and institutions that are now viewed as obviously wrong. Slavery, racism, and geocentrism are a few examples.* What is next?

*These examples are generally thought of as examples where we have made progress. Realizing that slavery and racism are immoral and that geocentrism is false represented a movement towards truth and rightness. I don’t endorse Condorcet’s view that history is always moving in the right direction: It is possible that we can move in a wrong or neutral direction (the stronghold that religion still has is one example that certainly would have disappointed Condorcet). Hence, my prediction is purely predictive/descriptive and I’m not making a moral judgment.
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In Defense of the Food Network

bobby-flay-iron-chef-americaMichael Pollan, acclaimed author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food (which I reviewed), offers a thought-provoking critique of TV food culture in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. There are many different components to Pollan’s argument (I wouldn’t be surprised if a book on the subject is forthcoming) but the gist of it is that the Food Network and TV food programs generally encourage a culture of eating and spectating, as opposed to actually cooking at home, and that this cultural shift is—on the whole—harmful. I will argue that TV food programs are not only valuable as a form of diversionary entertainment but also that they have the potential to be inspirational.

Let me first present Pollan’s own words:

“We learn things watching these cooking competitions, but they’re not things about how to cook. There are no recipes to follow; the contests fly by too much too fast for viewers to take in any practical tips; and the kind of cooking practices in prime time is far more spectacular than anything you would ever try at home. No, for anyone hoping to pick up a few dinnertime tips, the implicit message of today’s prime-time cooking shows is, Don’t try this at home. If you really want to eat this way, go to a restaurant. Or as a chef friend put it when I asked him if he thought I could learn anything about cooking by watching the Food Network, ‘How much could you learn about playing basketball by watching the NBA?’”

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Consider the Appetizer… Or the Lobster

I love the concept of tapas. Since dinner is served so late in Spain, tapas, a variety of small appetizers, serve to keep Spaniards from suffering from hunger bouts between work and dinner. What I love about tapas is that it allows people to eat a diversity of foods in one meal. One can reasonably eat four tapas for the price of one entrée.

In Spain, tapas precede dinner. But, I see no reason why tapas-style appetizers should not constitute dinner. Most entrees have diminishing returns. As you eat more of an entrée, that entrée becomes less pleasurable. Some of this can be attributed to decreased hunger but much of it can also be attributed to decreased novelty. The first taste of a delicious flavor does more for you than the 35th taste of that flavor (there, arguably, are exceptions: lobster may be one). The last bite of that steak or chicken is rarely as pleasurable as that first bite. Rich foods like creamy pastas tend to have significant diminishing returns. Anyone who has ever eaten penne alla vodka can attest to this.  Moreover, one of the benefits of going out to eat at a restaurant is that the chefs cook for far more people (who have varying tastes) than you probably do at your home: as a result, its easier to order a variety of dishes than it is to cook a variety of dishes.

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What to Eat in NYC

New York City (NYC) has a lot of really good food: So much good food that it is very difficult to decide where and what to eat when in the city. The question I pose here is this: If someone is in New York City for the first and only time for a day and can eat three foods/meals what should they eat? Before moving on let’s put forward two assumptions about this person to make my job a bit easier: 1. He has a very diverse palate and is willing to eat foods of most cuisine. 2. He is well-traveled and intends to continue traveling and dining in other cities.
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The Original Pizzeria Uno: A Review

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This week the NPI crew, the Lawgorrhea crew, and a Chicago native ventured to the original Pizzeria Uno to try Chicago deep dish pizza. Let me start by saying, as a native New Yorker who is very proud of his state’s culinary accomplishments, I’ve always been skeptical of the deep dish as competition to New York Pizza. Here are some notes, some of which may cover deep dish more generally and some of which may be specific to Uno. Continue reading

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