Saturday, March 26, 2011


It's probably happened to some of you. You're eagerly waiting for your hamburger or sandwich and take a big first bite, only to be unexpectedly greeted with an abnormal crunch and some pungent flavor. "Oh no," you say, "Did I forget to say no onions?" You look under the bread only to see onions cut into a nice brunoise. Of course they're not the big slices you can easily pull off the bun. If you're nodding your head right now, you're one of us, you are an anti-onionian. For the rest of you, anti-onionians are people who carefully scan the menu to see if a dish, particularly hamburgers and sandwiches, have onions. If so, they exercise their rights as a diner to demand that no onions be placed on said dish. Generally, anti-onionians have only one request, "No Onions." These are usually not high-maintenance customers who place an order like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.
At this point you're wondering why on earth are you writing about something as trivial as onions? Why you ask? Why? Because I am an Anti-Onionian! Wow, it felt good to put that out there. It's time someone said something. It's time to take a stand for all of the other Anti-Onionians out there. Questions need to be answered and myths need to be debunked.

Question: If you don't like them, why not just pick them off?
A: Okay, this is just what my family used to tell me when I was little and we'd order the supreme pizza. This always drove me crazy, as I enjoy a simple pizza, not some salad buffet topped pizza. If the slices of onion are more like the size of the red onion slices, it's an easy removal process. However, if they chop them up in the little cubes and hide them in the cheese, it becomes a restorative pizza project. Just when you think you have removed them all, you bite into an onion using a pepperoni slice as an umbrella. This applies to sandwiches and hamburgers as well. While they frequently have the cheese issue, you also run into the mayonnaise and mustard being used as an adhesive to keep the onions from being removed like some warning tag on the underside of a couch cushion. If I don't like them, how about I ask you to leave them off? What if I were allergic? Maybe we need onions to be treated like peanuts.

Myth: You Anti-Onionians are too small of a voice to make a difference.
How dare you! We are a lot larger than you may think. I can't tell you how many times I've been out to eat in a group and have had everyone request no onions. Unfortunately, there are no statistics out there to resolve this debate. One would think that if the majority don't prefer onions in this environment, they would be relegated to the 'optional topping' category. If any action were to come from this post, my request would be that people would have to ask for onions rather than ask that they be excluded.

Question & Myth: You're an alleged "foodie," yet you don't want onions around? You are a fraud!
First off, name-calling is not necessary. I am no fraud, and I don't want onions eradicated from all dining establishments. I respect the flavor and depth that onions can provide. Finely chopped onions sautéed in olive oil are a fantastic start to many sauces, especially a great tomato sauce. In fact, if I am including them, I usually chop them superfine so I don't encounter an unsavory onion cube. The finely chopped onion can quickly dissolve into the sauce, which adds the depth without the crunch. In some circumstances, I keep them large, so they're easy to remove.

Anti-Onionians, stand up and let your voice be heard! Do not accept that disappointing crunch that shocks you with your first bite. Don't let onions become the standard topping on a sandwich or a hamburger. Chant with me, hold the onions! Hold the onions! Hold the onions!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Le Bernadin!

I lucked into having the chance to visit one of the best restaurants in the world (#11, to be exact, as voted by Restaurant Magazine). As soon as I learned of a business trip to NYC, I decided I would make the most of this opportunity with a highly desired reservation. It didn't matter that the best time they could get me in was 9:45 on the night I flew in, I would have taken an even later time. The unfortunate thing about such a late reservation was the time spent waiting for it to show up. I tried to not psyche myself out about how the food would be. I didn't want to expect the best meal of my life only to be let down by anything less. I ate very little that day, in fact I'm not sure I ate at all. What would be the point? Tray tables down? Seat backs. . . back? Let's go.
Eric Ripert's, Le Bernadin, is well-known for being a top restaurant, but it's an even more known for having amazing seafood. If you come here for anything but, you'll be disappointed. After quite a bit of internal debate (I was dining alone), I went with the Le Bernadin tasting menu. I've listed photos of the courses, in order, below. I apologize for the quality. They were taken on my cell phone without the use of a flash. I refused to create even more attention for myself as a loser, eating alone, using the flash on his phone. First course was Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellowfin Tuna; Toasted Baguette; Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The presentation was amazing on this course, as it was on most, but I loved the delicate flavor here. It was very similar to eating sushi and the texture of the baguette was a nice contrast to the pounded tuna. It was probably my second favorite course. Next was the Charred Octopus; Fermented Black Bean - Pear Sauce Vierge; Ink - Miso Vinaigrette; Purple Basil. Seeing this course on the menu almost made me choose something else, but I figured, why not. The flavors were quite surprising, in a pleasant way. You could taste the char on the octopus, but not overwhelmingly. It kind of had a chicken consistency, not rubbery, which means it was cooked beyond perfectly. The fermented black bean was sweet and complimented the char flavor. Next was the Warm Lobster Carpaccio; Hearts of Palm, Orange Vinaigrette. Pretty hard for me to not like lobster, and this was no exception. The sauce on this was quite savory and there was pickled ginger and shaved fennel that served as a nice contrast to the buttery lobster. Then, I had the Seared Yellowtail King Fish; Truffle Risotto, Baby Vegetables, Black Truffle Emulsion. This was my favorite course. The fish was cooked medium rare and had so much flavor. Plus, the combination of the truffle emulsion and the truffle risotto was fantastic. I debated about asking for a second. This was followed with the Crispy Black Bass; Lup Cheong and Beansprout “Risotto” Mini Steamed Buns, Hoisin-Plum Jus. The flavors of this were definitely Asian-inspired, as can be seen in the name. The fish was delicately moist with a nice crispy layer. Moving towards dessert, I had the Parsnip Crème Brulée, Roasted Hazelnut, Browned Milk Solids, Vanilla Salt. The desserts were not anything special, and while I appreciated the art of this dish, it was kind of bland. Almost done with the Maralumi Milk Chocolate Parfait, Liquid Pear, Gingersnap. I liked this more than I thought I would. I really would love to know how they made the liquid pear. It had the appearance of a pear, but broke like an egg yolk over the parfait. It gave the dish a nice clean pear flavor. I couldn't tell you what the next two dishes were as I didn't take good notes, and they weren't on the menu. One was some sort of multi-layered chocolate mousse served in a hollowed out egg. The presentation was stunning, and the flavor wasn't bad. Sadly, I got excited and squeezed the egg shell instead of the dish as I scooped out the bottom. The waitress did inform me that about 50% of people have the same problem. I think she was lying. Lastly was kind of thank you dish of small chocolates. I can't remember what any of them were, but they were good.
To sum it up, yes, it was one of the best meals I have ever had. The best. . . I'm not sure. However, I do believe it deserves to be one of the best restaurants in the world. Dessert wasn't exciting, but it rarely is at some of these nicer places. I don't know why that tends to be the case, but I'd rather have a good dinner and a mediocre dessert than the other way around. Take some time, find a great restaurant in your area and attack it!