Counter Intelligence

Drive N Dine

Posted in Other Places by melissamccart on January 27, 2009

A tipster directed me to Chicago’s Everest on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, which now offers Town Car service within 15 miles of the restaurant to pick up and drop off diners for $15 one way, regardless of the number of people in a party. Can’t wait for a drink? Drivers coordinate drink orders so it’s waiting upon arrival.

Would a Town Car drive to dine make you more inclined to patronize a restaurant, particularly on a wintry day like today? Or is it out of place in a city like DC, where the average taxi fare is significantly less, and Town Cars aren’t as ubiquituous as they are in New York and Chicago?


It’s about time, Michael Bauer.

Posted in Other Places by melissamccart on May 25, 2007

cav.jpgI’m glad to see that the San Francisco Chronicle has finally taken Cav seriously in “An accomplished kitchen matches the sublime wine list“:

The food is excellent, and the professional, efficient service adds icing to the cake. The staff knows the menu, so on each visit I put the server in charge of pairings. At least 30 wines are offered by the taste or the glass, including more than 50 after-dinner options. The 18 countries represented make a fascinating list, one the staff is so proud of that no outside wines are allowed to be brought in.

Three meals, three winning experiences. I feel remiss in not reviewing it sooner. But now that you know about it, raise a toast to Pamela Busch and her crew.

Trotters– as in pig’s feet, not Charlie

Posted in General Interest, Other Places by melissamccart on January 15, 2007

2334c.jpgI went to two places in San Francisco this Saturday worth writing about– The first is Cav (read:cave).  After a Friday night at Toronado trying beers, I wanted to sample some wines. The most interesting we had read about are both a stone’s throw from Zuni: Hotel Biron and Cav.  I wasn’t in the mood for a speakeasy, so we decided on Cav, a casual and minimalist wine bar. After a day of grazing, I was looking for wine selection, olives, and charcuterie plate– nothing over the top. 


Had we not sat at the bar, I don’t think the experience would have been as phenomenal; it helps that Tadd Cortell, one of the partners, poured our first glasses and helped us navigate the menu.  He was enthusiastic for the charcuterie: foie gras torchon with honey poached quince, country boar pate with mustard and pickled vegetables, and pig trotters served with confit garlic, pickled shallots and mustard. My experience with pig’s feet is the jarred and pickled version; these were braised for nine hours and were falling-apart tender, rich, and decadent. And we’re talking about a pig part I’d thought to be more awful than offals.


San Francisco Grazing

Posted in Other Places by melissamccart on January 13, 2007

1672252.jpgI’m in San Francisco and have just wrapped up a day of grazing that consisted of:

1) Oysters at Hog Island in the Ferry Building

2) A piece of dark chocolate with 65% cacao at Recchiuti

3) Persian lime olive oil samples from Stonehouse

4) Lavender salt from a Marin County farmer vendor

5) Zongzi from some Dim Sum to Go stand on Jackson Street in Chinatown.  As great as the oysters were, this last one was my favorite, since I miss not having a real Chinatown in DC.  Four or five women were waiting for their dim sum before me, so I was able to check out what I guessed were scallion and pork dumplings, shrimp balls, etc. as the cook delivered them to the front from the kitchen. (I’m not exactly sure what they were, since everything was written in characters on cardboard scraps taped to the wall.)  I loved how the mother and her kids who worked there tucked them into pink bakery boxes and tied them with string, like presents. 

I was a little surprised Zongzi was available, since I thought it was eaten during the Dragon Boat Festivals in the Spring.  Then again, when I taught at a Taiwanese cram school, I could buy them at any time of year in Flushing, too. On wikipedia, it says that people from Hong Kong and Malaysia eat it year round as dim sum, so that may be why it’s not a once a year thing in US Chinatowns, which are often a mishmash of people from different regions of the country.

images3.jpgWhen I ordered it, the woman asked, “Are beans ok?”  which was a little confusing, since I thought it was filled with rice, shrimp, chicken, and/or pork as opposed to rice and beans, burrito-style.  Once I opened it, I realized beans meant peanuts. I think she was asking if they were OK in the event that I was allergic to peanuts.  

I can’t tell you how great it was to graze on bites of sticky-sweet rice, pork, and peanuts while walking by the park at the Chinese Cultural Center, toward the Financial District, just sort of meandering around town.  I’m pretty sure it’s not on the diet, but it was worth it.

Absinthe, Sazaracs, a Hay Ride, and Other Guilty Pleasures.

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City, Other Places by melissamccart on December 29, 2006

artofthebar_absinthe_800.jpgEven though I’m reluctant to admit it, I loved Toby Cecchini’s Cosmopolitan, since he’s from that bastion of quirkiness, the University of Wisconsin– home of The Onion and Bucky Badger.  More important, he started one of the more fun bars in what used to be a low-key neighborhood– the Passerby.  His book is about his early exploits there, including his “invention” of the Cosmopolitan, a dubious accolade to be sure, though it wasn’t in the early ’90s.  Still, it’s a fun bar read, particularly if you have a schedule like I’ve had, which limits evening bar time and trips back to New York. I guess I’m living vicariously through drink lit rather than actually drinking as of late.

img_1423_edited.jpgAnother bar book that I love is Ear Inn Virons, a little sliver of a compilation on the history of way west Spring Street, the James Brown House, and the bar that has graced 326 Spring Street since around 1817, known affectionately as The Ear.  Allegedly the oldest bar in Manhattan (Take that, McSorley’s!), the building had been in pretty bad shape before the Philip Johnson-designed condos broke ground, which is part of what made it so charming.  Though I haven’t been there in a couple of years, I have a soft spot for the place. 

A new book just arrived in my mail since I’d been gone for the break– The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics, written by the bartenders at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar.  Even though I’ve only had time for a quick perusal, I like several things about it– the first chapter’s nod to the spirit of Absinthe, for example, with sections on the Martini, the Sazerac, the Old Fashioned, the Bronx Bomber, bitters, etc.  I also liked that book’s authors showcase what makes bars both illicit and romantic: favorite bartenders, barstools reserved for regulars, and memories of old timey drinks, legal and otherwise. Perhaps its no coincidence that drinks from the Prohibition Era are becoming stylish again, with government paternalism nipping at our heels.

And, about that hay ride?  It’s listed as a cure for the hangover, among “hair of the dog,” “greasy eats,” “sleep,” and “hydration.” 

“This is a favorite cure that came up more often than we expected.  Taking a roll in the sack with your favorite partner is a great way to forget the pains of a hangover.  Maybe it’s the exercise, like going surfing or taking a therapeutic bike ride, but we think it’s something else entirely.”

Happy New Year and have a fun, safe weekend. 

Savory San Francisco (And a D.C. Request)

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City, Other Places by melissamccart on September 15, 2006

Chris and Jennifer McBride, the team behind Savory New York, launched the preview of Savory San Francisco this week, a wiki-based restaurant guide that features video clips of restaurant chefs and owners at work. Check it out! It’s what the Food Network should feature more of– local restaurants and the inspiration behind them, as opposed to Rachael Ray dropping $40’s in Houston.  Though Savory is not as extensive as a traditional restaurant guide, each listing is more interesting and informative because of the videos, the menus, specialty listings, and links to reviews.  In addition, the site catalogs restaurants by neighborhood and cuisine. 

For New York, the top videos of the week include Daniel, Extra Virgin, and WD-50.  And I’m looking forward to watching Savory San Francisco’s features on Delfina, Zuni Cafe, and Quince.  For updates and interesting observations on the research behind Savory– such as Jennifer’s entry on the two types of California restaurant kitchens, check out the blog, Savory Tidbits.

Though I’m guessing a Savory D.C. launch would fall well behind a site for L.A., Chicago, Miami, and other cities, it shouldn’t.  Doesn’t everyone have to come through D.C. at some time or another?  And Savory would join the efforts of Metrocurean and Don Rockwell in doing people a favor by pointing out places beyond Clydes and Old Ebbitt.  Aside from that,  I’d love to watch clips from Gillian Clark and Michael Landrum online.  Commentary from these folks would erase out-of-towner assumptions once and for all that  D.C.’s restaurant world is gutless or uninspired.