Friday, December 29, 2006

More Tallula...

I really loved this restaurant. Just posting what my companion and I ate was enough for one post so I decided to cut it short and continue my professions of love another day. Today is another day. I want to talk about the food. I've also been eating like I never heard of Weight Watchers so now seems like a good time for that.

As the king told Alice in Lewis Carroll's tale, "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop." I shall do so.

Baby Burger
This was delightful. I'm not foodie enough to give the proper descriptions of flavor, mouthfeel, etc. but I know what I like and what I don't. This bite of beef was exquisite. It was moist and flavorful and I would love a full-size version one day.

Risotto Fritter
Mmmmm. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.... MMMMMMmmmm!!! It was crispy-ish on the outside and wonderfully creamy on the inside. The reddish-orange sauce was perfectly spiced.

Mahi-Mahi Ceviche
I really, really liked this. I'm so glad my companion ordered it because I'm still not sure I'm pronouncing "ceviche" correctly. I know I live in Redneckville. I just don't want to proclaim it with improper pronunciations. I wonder if I can point at it on menus and pretend I'm having a coughing fit or something.

Duck Spring Roll
I've never met a duck I didn't like. This was no exception. I was curious about the gastrique. The first time I'd heard the term was on Top Chef and it was used by a very pretentious contestant. I loved the gastrique. It was the perfect match to the tender duck in the crispy wrapper.

Steak Tartare
This was my absolute favorite of the Amuses. Beef? Cheese? Capers? Mustard? Completely drool-worthy and I want more. Now.

Liptaur on Crostini
While nothing was bad at Tallula, this was my least favorite Amuse item. The crunch was nice. The taste was nice. Goat cheese is always good. Quark? I don't know quark. I suppose I shall Google it at some point. It was okay. If I have the good fortune to find myself at Tallula again, I will pass on the Liptaur and get more Steak Tartare.

I raved about the salad (especially the cheese) with my last blog post so I'll just skip re-reviewing that and continue the dreaming of it.

Tuna Tartare
The mix of flavors in this was unexpected and completely delicious. The pineapple puree was the best little bit of sweetness for the creaminess of the avocado and the cool firmness of the cucumber. Icing on the cake? Sweet potato chips. I loved every single bite I took.

Goat Cheese Ravioli
I just had a bite of this. I thought grabbing the plate from my delightful dining companion and inhaling her food would be just a little bit impolite. I managed, barely, to restrain myself. Fortunately, I had something delicious waiting for me on my own plate.

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
I'd never had foie gras before that night. I wasn't sure I'd like it. So, with all the lovely choices before me, one might ask why I chose the foie. Stupid government interference, that's why. Now, I'm not going to turn my second "I love Tallula" post into a rant about intrusive government but I will say that Chicago's ban of foie gras is what influenced my decision to order it. I thought I'd better try it before other cities jumped on the BANdwagon.

I loved it. It was creamy and hearty and delicious and I want to eat it again. I'll probably eat a few more trans fats before it's all said and done, too.

As for the desserts, I love desserts. While I'm usually a Creme Brulee purist, I enjoyed the Pear Brulee. The sorbets were not in flavors I would normally think of for sorbets but I thoroughly enjoyed them. Cookies are my weakness. I love cookies. Both desserts had cookies. By the time we got to the dessert portion of our meal, I was way outside of my Comfort Zone (thanks, Weight Watchers) but I. DID. NOT. CARE. There were cookies! And creamy brulee and sorbet! And Tawny Port!

Excuse me. I'm going to go think about exercise for a while. It IS the thought that counts, right?

(Thank you, Chef Nathan, thank you!)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dinner at Tallula!

A few weeks ago, I dined at Tallula Restaurant with a dear friend who lives in the area. Nathan Anda is the chef and my dining companion is well known to him. Chef Nathan and the general manager sent us a bottle of wine they thought we’d like (Tittarelli Bonarda – completely new to me and thoroughly enjoyed). My companion and I decided not to get entrées but, instead, chose from the Amuse Your Mouth menu to start, followed by a salad, and then two appetizers each (in place of the entrée) and dessert.

From the Amuse Your Mouth portion of the menu:
(These are two-biters, designed to share. We split each of these.)
Baby Burger - black truffle butter, red onion marmalade
Risotto Fritter - roasted corn & scallion, romesco sauce
Mahi-Mahi Ceviche - citrus & green onion vinaigrette
Duck Spring Roll - confit leg, chipotle chili, orange gastrique
Steak Tartare - Dijon mustard, capers, Parmesan cheese tuile
Liptaur on Crostini - quark & goat cheese spread, micro salad

It was a hard call to determine which was my favorite but the steak tartare edged out the others for the win. For our beverage with this course, she had a glass of 2004 Santa Barbara Chardonnay and I had the 2003 Kunde Viognier.

Our salad was the Spicy Greens Salad - with pecorino vecchio, truffled acacia honey, pumpkin seed vinaigrette, aged balsamic. The salad was delightful but I fantasized about a plate piled high with the cheese and sauce. Chef Nathan then sent us a treat of a beef tenderloin served with duckfat-fried potatoes and sliced crimini (I think) mushroom with some kind of heavenly reduction.

For our entrée made of appetizers, we both had the tuna tartare. She also had the ravioli and I had the foie gras. The menu description follows.

Tuna Tartare - avocado, cucumber, crispy sweet potato chips, citrus vinaigrette, & spiced pineapple puree
Local Goat Cheese Ravioli - maitake mushrooms, sauteed broccoli rabe, lamb sugo
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras - sweet & sour quince, buckwheat crepe, blackberry syrup

We might not have ordered dessert. The chef just sent it out. I think he knew we were weight watchers and probably wouldn’t order it. With this, we had the Taylor Fladgate 10-Year-Old Tawny Port.

Pear Brûlée - Poached Pears, Ginger Snaps
Sorbet Duo - Pomegranite and grapefruit, Shortbread Cookies

The atmosphere was lovely and I can't wait to go back once they finish the EatBar. The food was beyond exceptional. I've perused menus from my local establishments and they all are lacking. I live in a culinary wasteland.

I long for Tallula where there are 70 wines offered by the glass, where the food is decadent and delicious, where dining is an experience, and where the people who provide it love food and enjoy sharing that love with others.

Allow me to share one final appreciation for Tallula. How can you not love a place that categorizes the wines by the glass in such a creative way? (From their menu)

Tickling Your Nose
' think of the soil' (Earthy Reds)
'Exuberance After the Crush' (Fruity Reds)
'...but your color was seductive' (Medium-Bodied Reds)
'And With a Touch of Spice Turned the Red Face into a Shadow of Delight' (Spicy Reds)
'The Angelic Side of Hedonistic' (Full-Bodied Reds)
'Summer in a Bottle' (Lighter Style Whites & Rosés)
'Spring & Fall in a Glass' (Medium-Bodied Whites & Rosés)
'Wickedly Ponderous' (Full-Bodied Whites & Rosés)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Random Thought #2: Travel Notes

I'm on the road (or in the air) again. I've mentioned my affection for airport bars. That remains true. Tonight's blog is just a few random thoughts from my travels today.

* There's a spit of land on approach to the Detroit airport that looks just like a sperm.

* I love the Sky Box at the Detroit airport.

* Always get a sleeve for your hot Starbucks beverage.

* Religious dicussions in airport bars CAN be good.

* On the people movers - left is walk, right is stand.

* Some airport employees are not AT ALL familiar with their airport.

* You can do good deeds anywhere you go.

* It blows people's minds when you switch from reading Nietzsche to reading Harold Robbins.

* Not all babies will scream through the flight.

* Sometimes, the people sitting next to you will smell like pee.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Return Your Cart Here ~or~ People Irritate Me - Chapter 2

Why is it so hard for some people to return their shopping cart to the cart return?

This really pisses me off in a great, big way. First of all, it's lazy. Now, if someone's lazy, that's not really my business BUT if their laziness causes damage to my car, it becomes my business. Plus, in the general, be good to the world, be considerate of your fellow humans way, it's just rude.

A loose cart in a parking lot can roll into someone's car. Have you ever priced getting one of those dings in your door fixed? It's not cheap.

Let's look at another aspect of it. Do you think those store employees who retrieve the carts are making a lot of money? If you do, you're very much mistaken. Minimum wage is probably the norm. So, instead of these folks going to a cart return and gathering the carts and bringing them back into the store, they're forced to wander the parking lot retrieving the carts one at a time. Have you ever retrieved a line of carts from a parking lot? I have. Granted, it was many years ago but it's not an easy job. It's one cart to you. It's lots of carts, all day long, for these people.

I've heard arguments for leaving the cart. "It's their job to get them." "The cart return wasn't convenient." "I don't want to leave my kids in the car." Bullshit. The cart return is there for a reason. If you have a problem walking a few extra feet to return the cart, park next to one. Kids? You got them to the cart, didn't you? And what are you teaching them? Leave your stuff wherever you like with no regard to other people? Nice lesson.

Put the cart in the corral. Please? Even better, take it back to the store. It's a good deed and we could all use a little more exercise.

Oh, and don't leave your trash in the cart, either.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Here's a Tip for You

One of my favorite blogs is Slashfood. One of their recent topics was a review of a Michael Bauer blog entry. Bauer is the restaurant critic for the SF Chronicle and his blog entry was about service charges at restaurants.

The Slashfood article, "From Tipping to Service Charges" inspired some comments from U.S. diners as well as some from folks in other countries.

My comment on the article was:
I tip appropriately. If the service is good, I give 20%. If it's fantastic, I'll tip much more. Especially at restaurants or bars that I visit frequently, I get excellent service.

I also tip appropriately if the service is horrible. There's only been one instance where I tipped nothing.

Since I always pay with a credit or debit card, I also write an explanation or note of appreciation on the signature slip. Then, the server and the manager doing the receipts later have no doubt as to why the tip was less than stellar or over the top.

It would be wonderful if our servers were paid at least minimum wage. Since they're not and this is no secret to them, I'd think they'd work to make the service good and, hopefully, make up the difference in tips.

Bauer's Blog is here and the tipping article's permanent link is "Beyond the Tipping Point.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bank Fee Rant

My bank doesn't charge me any fees unless I happen to overdraw my account. That hasn't happened in a very long time. This is not a rant about my bank. This is just a general, that doesn't seem fair, kind of rant.

I was given a check the other day to reimburse me for some expenses I'd had in caring for someone. Since that person doesn't bank at my bank, I went to their bank to cash the check. I needed to have the cash immediately (long, boring story).

First of all, I had to go into the bank. Minor irritation because it was really cold but I can understand the reasons they have non-members come in to a teller.

When I got to the counter, I saw the sign that said I would have to pay a $3 fee to have the check cashed. The sign stated that checks over $100 would be assessed this fee. So, I could have had the check writer make out two checks (more work for her and the teller) and not pay the fee.

This is what irritates me: By cashing the check, they are performing a service for their customer. They are also making an impression on a potential new customer. This was not a good impression.

I could understand charging a fee for cashing a check from another bank. I could understand charging a fee if I was asking them to make out a cashier's check or a money order for me, a non-member. I wasn't. I brought a check from one of their members into their bank and wished to exchange it for cash.

So, I've wasted a lot of mental energy being irritated at a bank over three, measley dollars. The thing is, it's not just that three dollars. It's a combination of random taxes and surcharges and handling fees and delivery fees and activation fees and more all tacked on to the price of an item or service.

I don't like it. I don't like it one, little bit.

EDIT/ADD: I've decided to find a friend who banks at that bank. I will give them $100 and ask them to let me fill out 50 checks, each for $2.00. Then, I will go stand in line, wait, and hand the checks to the teller. I think I just found my vindictive bone.

Friday, December 01, 2006

People Irritate Me - Chapter One

I go to McDonald’s every Tuesday morning with my mother after we go to Weight Watchers. We get our Modified McMuffins* and our apple slices and our coffee. While we eat, we discuss how we did that week and what we’re going to do to have a good loss at the scale the following week.

Mom orders, I fill our water cups and get napkins, salt & pepper, and straws while she waits at the counter. I did my thing then sat down and indulged in one of my favorite pastimes: people watching.

I watched one man get up and leave his tray, piled with trash, on the table. He walked out of the restaurant, got in his car, and drove away. Another man sat down with his cranky, pouting child and proceeded to eat his breakfast while his son refused to eat. After he finished, he got up and left his tray, piled with trash, on the table. He and his son walked out of the restaurant, got in their car, and drove away.

Always better at excusing the actions of others than they are themselves, I tried to excuse why they did that. Maybe they realized they were late and just didn’t have time? No. Both men strolled out at a casual pace. Neither seemed to have any physical limitation that would hinder carrying the tray to the trash can. Both were fully able to carry a full tray from the counter to their table. Had I missed a sign stating they should leave their tray? No. The trash can and tray return were NOT inconveniently located. They were right by the exit door.

What is it with people?? Were they never taught to pick up after themselves? Do they leave their trash behind everywhere they go? Do they always expect that someone else will clean up their messes? I just don’t get it.

The whole thing started a random, rambling thought process in my head. It’s okay. That’s normal for me. I do that. I’ll go off on a tangent that seems completely unrelated to the current topic and, if you wait around long enough, I get back to the original topic. Usually, I end up tying the whole ramble together in a cohesive fashion. Sometimes, I don’t. See, that’s where the fun comes in – you never know. Back to my story…

I started thinking about how when my kids were at home they’d just leave their stuff all around the house. Glasses on the coffee table, toys and clothes on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink but rarely did anything end up where it belonged. They just assumed I’d pick it up or clean it up and it would be where they expected the next time they needed a glass/their toy/their clothes/a dish. Even now, when my son is home from college, I’ll walk out into the office and find a half-empty water glass on the desk.

I’ve failed to teach him that personal responsibility thing. Or, maybe, I’m just a doormat. He’s very considerate of other people and of public spaces. I hope he is when I’m not with him. I hope he’s not Mr. McTrayLeaver when he’s out with his friends.

I think I’m going to have to come back to this topic. My ramble has taken me off track and I’m out of ramble-time for the day.

*Regular Egg McMuffins made with no butter and a slice of tomato added. We then squeeze a packet of hot salsa on the muffin. Not bad. Not great but not bad, either.