Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chocolates the World Over

Huffington Post has an article about chocolate makers in Brugge, Belgium. Apparently, there are artisan chocolate makers on almost every street corner making world-class candies from cocoa nibs that fall from the sky. Sounds like my kind of place. While the article didn't fail to cause an increase in saliva production, I think chocolate in the Rhode Island area is pretty good. All of the makers might not be in the same city, but while you would walk in Brugge, you can drive in RI. Moreover, Rhode Island has Garrison Confections, a world class place in the truest definition of the term.

And while we're on the subject of Rhode Island chocolates, Garrison is going to start holiday hours for its factory store. It's down some crap-hole alleyway in Central Falls, and it's easy to miss the street even with GPS, but it's totally, completely worth it.

Old World Chocolatiers in Brugge (Huffington Post)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

PRODUCT REVIEW: Kicking Horse Espresso

Well, this is sorta' a product review; Kicking Horse makes many varieties. I discussed my disappointment after opening my 1kg (2.2lb) bag of espresso, which lists as a medium roast, to find it very dark indeed. Just to give you an idea, lighter espresso roasts like Black Cat or New Harvest require a grind setting of 9-10 on my grinder. Darker roasts are lower. Crappy supermarket coffee is usually so dark and dry that it requires a setting of 2-3. Starbucks is usually 4-5 and, drumroll, Kicking Horse is 6. A 3-4 grind difference from other medium espresso roasts reveals just how much of a chasm there is.

So it came as no surprise to find that the espresso also tastes very dark. There's more there than Starbucks, but not too much. Very roasty. It's not terrible, and if you prefer darker roasts for your espresso, this is quite good, but if this is medium, what the hell are their dark roasts? A bag of black powder? I'm drinking it, and enjoying it, but I think that calling this a medium roast is an inaccuracy. It makes me hesitant to recommend it even though I will because it is a good dark roast. If you buy, expect it dark, because it is.

Kicking Horse Espresso: RECOMMENDED

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Getting crabs from a vending machine sounds like something that happens to college freshmen. But no! These are actually the kind of crabs that people want... just from a vending machine. I can't tell if Japan is at the vanguard of modern society, or if it's just fucking weird. Regardless, here it is, vending machine crabs. Guaranteed alive or you get three free!

crabby vending

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Portland Maine Gets Its Huffington Due

Portland, Maine, a surprisingly gourmet city, has received a workup in photos from the writers at the Huffington Post. The quality of the city is likely because there's fuck-all to do up in Maine. If you live anywhere in Maine, and want to do anything, you have to go to Portland. Thus, the city acts like it has double its population.

Not only does Duckfat, one of my favorite places in Portland, get mentioned, but it was put on the list compliments of Matt Jennings, chef at La Laiterie in Providence! And we come full circle. It's a short list of photos, but it makes me want to visit the city all over again.

Chefs' Guide to Portland, Maine (Huffington Post)

Michelin is Unimportant

Josh Ozersky has written a Time article expressing similar views as myself on the Michelin Guide. His specific criticism of the guide isn't the act of reviewing itself, but the perplexing way that the guide writes reviews.

Roger Ebert said it best, a critic is not someone who determines what is "good" and "bad," terms too nebulous to use effectively; no, a critic is someone who says whether they liked something or not and effectively explains why they liked it or not. The explanation is the skill of the critic, not their status as an arbiter of taste. It's in this important task that Michelin fails.

I argue that Michelin fails because it's stupid and useless for all but the most self-important in the internet age. Just as Gayot, or San Pellegrino's 100 Best Restaurants (an intellectual task on par with arranging angels on the head of a pin), the final result will undoubtedly bring increased attention and money to the top eateries, but the effects on food at large will be small if not completely hypothetical. And if food isn't changed on at least a regional level, how can we say that some restaurant has been great as opposed to merely a good place to get some food?

My greatest criticism is that these reviews largely ignore food-at-large. All of the major review sites are utterly obsessed with French food, and only recently have they become enamored with molecular gastronomy. I'm nearly positive it's because MG allows those who advocate for it to feel even more self important. Want evidence of this? Many of the products of molecular gastronomy aren't actually terribly hard or expensive to make. If anyone tried to open a discount MG restaurant, it would go under in a month. The price is part of the reason for going.

I like to review restaurants and I think the job of the critic is actually an important one. It prevents people from going someplace and wasting money; it helps restaurants that are worthwhile succeed in an increasingly-crowded market; and, almost eugenically, it helps moves the bad restaurants out of the market, thus freeing space for new ones to try their hand. Michelin doesn't do any of these things. With terse, useless review snippets, stars given to already famous, hilariously expensive restaurants, limited coverage, and a positively myopic view of global cuisine, we're left to ask, what does the guide do?

Very little, I argue. Except let you feel even more self-important when you eat at Le Bernardin.

Restaurant Ratings: Is Michelin Lost in the Stars?