Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Talking to the kids

November 20

You might remember my friend Michael from earlier this month when I had dinner with him at Dante. His wife, Shoshi, is a journalism professor at Suffolk University, and about every year I go up to Boston to talk to the students of a review-writing class.
As I say often, despite the fact that no one will listen to me, I'm not a restaurant critic. I'm a reporter. I don't say whether the food's good or not, I just say what it is. But I have written reviews in the past, and I've written about writing reviews. So I talk to the kids about how to write a review, and then we go in a huge group to a restaurant and review it. Of course, I explain to them that calling a restaurant and telling them that you and 24 of your classmates are coming to the restaurant to review it will likely skew your experience and make it difficult for you to be a proper consumer advocate. Then again, I also explain that, although wealthy publications pay exorbitant sums so their critics can sneak into restaurants and eat there multiple times, others expect their critics to eat for free, and at any rate savvy restaurateurs know who the critics are anyway, so the whole anonymity thing is a bit of a red herring.
One student in his deep Massachusetts accent said a friend of his who worked in a restaurant knew who the critics were because they ordered a lot of food and just took a couple of bites of each item.
So after we all reviewed Stephanie's on Newbury I walked back to Boston Common and met up with Michael and his two sons, Nadav and Gilad, and then picked up Shoshi and went to Michael's parents' house in Lexington where his mother Merry was having an open house to display her paintings (my favorite was of the outside of a white house in the autumn behind a tree of brilliant orange leaves). We were joined by Michael's old friend Morgan Hott and his fiancée Ellen Wingard (I think fiancée; if not I'm sure they'll let me know). While Michael and Shoshi bathed the kids and put them to bed, Morgan explained his PhD work. He's an MD PhD and did work producing structures that could replace damaged cartilage on people.
I asked him what he used to replace the cartilage and he said "something called alginate."
Now, this is funny, because alginate also is probably the most popular hydrocolloid being used in molecular gastronomy these days. So I got to show off by saying that I knew about alginate and that it was a hydrocolloid that formed a gel when it reacted with calcium.
So we had a big laugh about that and then went to Legal Sea Foods for dinner.
Based on a recommendation by Warren, the student with the friend who worked in a restaurant, I had a cup of clam chowder. I followed that by a seafood rasam soup that I assume was the result of Legal Sea Foods' Ayurvedic promotion a few years ago.
Really, they had an Ayurvedic promotion. I couldn't make that up.


Anonymous said...

Bret as usual is right on about many things. Including the chili relleno tacos at flash taco. I recommend their web site, www.flashtaco.com, in particular for the awesome 70s photo of their humble beginnings selling tacos at soccer games.

Oh, and the club on Milwaukee is called the Double Door.

- the Absolute Prince

Bret Thorn said...

Thanks Alexei. One of your numerous prince-like qualities is that you bring new and interesting things to the table, like flashtaco's web site. In this case you put it above instead of below the
relevant post, contrary to what our blog designers had in mind, but I blame them for that.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff... You know I've actually seen some very impressive, but not previously published, work on alginate from a guy named Morgan Hott. His data showed that alginate gels that have bubbles in them are actually heavier (as measured by a digital scale) than alginate that has no bubbles. Isn't science facinating? I remember learning all kinds of cool things like that in highschool or something...

Bret Thorn said...

Does that mean that whatever is in the bubbles is heavier than the alginate, or is some sort of weird structural thing going on that makes alginate with bubbles in it become denser somehow?

You'll never guess who said...

Its probably the latter, unless the bubbles are made of stone or the volume is larger making increased weight that of the trapped gas. Now that Morgan is married and Michael is a professional chef, the world has come full circle in preparation for the 2012 disaster. Flash Taco...Isn't that the restaurant that has no restrooms? Pretty dangerous for a Mexican joint.

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