Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fobloog Gripe List (2008 so far)


So at this exact moment you're probably saying to yourself, it's just barely 2008 Marly, how can you present a Gripe list so soon into 2008?

I admit, these items are not really "of" 2008. They are definitely from before that, and so their time has come. You'll notice the list below has only 4 items on it, 6 fewer than the 2007 list, yet these items have more explanation. The list is in order from least important to most important in my foodie-opinioned head. Here goes...

4. Sparkling, still or tap?

Everyone knows about this one, so why list it at all? Because it annoys restaurant patrons, though admittedly the smarter restaurants have learned not to be as obnoxious about it these days.

This gripe is about when the restaurant server asks, "What kind of water would you like? Sparkling, still or tap?" (Sure sometimes the word “tap” is left off that short list of options and we're left to struggle with having the nerve to say "TAP is FINE.") As a matter of fact, this trend exists solely as a way to up the check average for your table. More profits for the restaurant, bigger tip for the server. If you actually prefer the bottled water, so be it! But be aware that after your bottle runs out, some shiesters will keep opening bottles until you’re finished with the meal. One price-gouged check later, you’re disgruntled and feel like a sap. So watch for that, and don’t buy into this sort of peer water pressure unless you sincerely don’t like tap.

3. New restaurants that are irrelevant
I'm talking about places that open and are a new place and a new space but don’t offer anything unique to the scene or the city. When people open a new restaurant, there needs to be a reason behind it. Not just to fulfill a dream to open a restaurant and then do what everyone else does, especially on the ubiquitous dessert front!

I once worked on a "let's open a fake restaurant" school group project at the French Culinary Institute. One student in my group was a flag-waving resident of Long Island who we'll call Dave. It was Dave's dream to open a seafood restaurant in the seafood-restaurant-laden town of Port Jefferson, Long Island. In truth, he was using the class to help him actually open the restaurant, he'd been to a realtor and everything. Well when it was time to plan the "fake" menu, two of us from the group built a really unique seafood menu that stood out from the crowd. But when Dave saw this, he said "Where's the shrimp cocktail?" I said "Every restaurant in Port Jeff serves shrimp cocktail. I thought the group decided we wanted our 'restaurant' to be different." Dave went on and on, not budging on the shrimp cocktail, asking why isn't cheesecake on the menu, where's the clam chowder, where's the Caesar salad and the fried shrimp plate and the skate with brown butter (apparently the only way skate wing is served on the east coast)... You get my meaning? There's no point to that restaurant existing, because it already exists in that location twenty-times over.

2. Tortilla chips in big bags
Have you ever noticed that tortilla chips aren’t sold in small, snack-size bags? You know, if you go to a convenience store and want a 99¢ bag of Tostitos, all you see is Fritos and Doritos? I called Frito-Lay once with this question...Why can’t I buy Tostitos, my favorite chip, in a snack-size bag? About a week later a very nice lady from Texas left a 5-minute voicemail explaining that in the eyes of Frito-Lay, Tostitos are a party food. They’re not thought of as a snack that any one person would want to eat on their own without salsa. It's something that is eaten in the company of others. (I responded to myself, "Not in New York! Our homes are too small for company!" :) She also mentioned that some states do sell snack-size bags of Tostitos in vending machines, but this is only in the Midwest, and alas, I lived on the east coast, dang it.

1. French is for toast, not fries
I will spare you the very long story about why I care whether or not the world understands that “french fries” is an all-lowercase phrase. I will, however, tell you that most publications that write about food are incorrect when they spell it “French fries.” This includes the paper of record, The New York Times (and no they never printed my complaint letter on the subject). Many restaurant menus are incorrect as well. And I laugh at them all, ha! and not in French.

So now you know, the phrase “french” in the case of french fries is a verb, “to french,” and here is the definition according to the THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst:

> french fries
Potatoes that have been cut into thick to thin strips, soaked in cold water, blotted dry, then DEEP-FRIED until crisp and golden brown. They are called pommes frites in France and chips in Britain. The name does not come from the fact that their origin is French, but because the potatoes are "frenched" — cut into lengthwise strips. Other versions of french-fried potatoes are shoestring potatoes (matchstick-wide) and steak fries (very thick strips).

That concludes this early edition of the Fobloog Gripe List 2008. I know this was a short list but hopefully some gripe recognitions were sweet (ok for me, yes, it was ;) Feel free to send along your nominations for future lists any time!

Until we eat again,
:) Marly

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