Vie Restaurant

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Salmon Amuse-Bouche

In October I visited the award winning Vie Restaurant twice – once for my aunt’s 80th birthday party and last night after attending a wake for my father’s best friend.

The food at the birthday party was terrific. Perhaps I just chose really well. The salad, gnocchi and beef with mashed potatoes and squash I had were terrific. The appetizer selection of cheeses and sausages was also superb.

But last night’s meal, which I went to with my parents and their friends wasn’t as on the mark. Part of the problem was sticker shock. We probably should have expected high prices given the awards the chef has won, but we didn’t. We probably should have figured that the grey book on the table was the drink menu, but we didn’t look at it. So we were shocked to see that the chardonnay my mother ordered was $20 and my red wine, which I didn’t love, was $16 for a glass.

The menu showed the entree prices and described the artistic offerings. The problem was each item had something that needed an explanation. Will I like “sweet potato-tofu hash”? Probably not. What is blueberry aigre doux or pickled ramp remoulade or tatsoi? It took our party a long time to order because the menu was so gourmet.

It’s not like we’re bumpkins, but none of us was up on all the trends.

After our drinks arrived we were given some bread, which was a lovely sour dough and butter. Then we got an amuse-bouche, salmon with a tomato mayonnaise.

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I played it safe and ordered the shaved asian pears, mesclun, pancetta, giardiniera vinaigrette, crispy sauerkraut salad and the hamburger.

It took quite a while for our food to come. The pacing this night was off.

If I’d known my wine would be so pricey, I would not have ordered the salad, which for all the flowery description, wasn’t as good as what I can make myself. The pears sure were shaved, so much so that they didn’t add much flavor. The grilled sauerkraut sounded exotic, but tasted like just thinly julienned fried anything. The salad wasn’t bad and the portion was big enough to share, but I wasn’t blown away.

 

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The hamburger was fine too. Not the best I’ve had, but not the worst. It was alright, but for $19, I expect wonderful. The french fries weren’t at all good. They were shorter than usual, greasier and too salty. A lot of fast food establishments do better with fries. I just ate half the burger and fewer than half the fries and the doggy bag is stored in the fridge. Typically, a good burger will be my first choice for lunch the next day, but I figured I can wait as it wasn’t spectacular. I’ll probably throw out the fries.

The other members of the party had the white fish or the black fish. They were satisfied but not blown away.

The service was fine, but nothing special. I think the waitress was tentative because she got off to a poor start by asking, “Are you celebrating anything tonight?” We let her know we’d just come from a wake.  She was nice, but a bit aloof. My father asked for recommendations and hers seemed contrived.

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The Founder

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In The Founder, Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, who propelled McDonald’s to worldwide expansion. The film shows how a mediocre milk shake machine salesman discovered the McDonald brothers in California and coaxed them into teaming up with him after he saw their unique hamburger shop.

In the days of drive-ins, you’d have to wait and wait to to get your order. But the scientific McDonald brothers figured out how to choreograph flipping burgers so that you could get yours in minutes.

When Ray Kroc received an incredibly big order for his milkshake machines from the McDonald’s, he had to drive out to see what they were doing. Impressed, he cajoles them to let him sell franchises.

As he goes from one his first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, to selling billions of burgers, Kroc seems insecure propelled by canned optimism he’s memorized from Dale Carnegie’s books. From the start of the partnership, Kroc follows his own ideas even if it means going behind the McDonald’s backs. His prior failures made him pathetic but his disrespect for the McDonald’s brothers’ views made him unlikeable.

Since McDonald’s is synonymous with America, it’s a film worth seeing.

Sugalabo

Simon and Martina, with the help of the very-talented Dan, have made an outstanding video about a chef in Tokyo, who has an incredible respect and interest in local ingredients and regional cultures.

I’d love to know how they got to join him in Ehime. Just start watching and see what you think. Would you want to try dinner at Sugalabo? I wonder how much that costs.

Sepia Saturday

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This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt inspired me to search for images of old cafeterias. Flickr Commons had quite a few.

Source: Vancouver Public Library, 1950

Source: Vancouver Public Library, 1950

I love signs so the one above is a favorite.

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Circa 1943

But then I also like pie, so I wanted to share this one from the Oregon State University special collection caught my eye. The one below shows WWI soldiers and a few civilians in 1918. And the final image is a postcard for a cafeteria. If you want to see more Sepia Saturday posts, click here.

Cornell University, circa 1918

Cornell University, circa 1918

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C Rating

There’s a newer restaurant in the neighborhood that we call “Fahad’s Restaurant” because it’s the only one he’ll eat in. It’s got a rather up scale decor for this part of town with lots of red and gold. Fahad can’t bring himself to eat anywhere else around here.

Some of the restaurants in Jinan have posted a sign that shows how the food inspector has rated their establishment. Last week I saw that Fahad’s restaurant just got a C, the lowest rating symbolized with a red unhappy face. I’ve never been in that kitchen, but wouldn’t be surprised by anything here.

Needs improvement

Needs improvement

Yesterday I went to the “dumpling restaurant,” a hole in the wall with food I’ve always liked and a kitchen I’ve only gotten a glimpse of. I wouldn’t want to get a tour of that kitchen.

Guess what? Their inspection got the same result as Fahad’s restaurant. Hmm.

Any theories? I’ve got a few.

Living in China: Tip of the Week

If you’re in China and want to partake of the summer barbecue offerings, do as the savvy residents do. I had dinner tonight with my new Chinese friend. Always ask them to go to the butcher, right then and see them by the actual lamb. See that the meat is in a slab your recognize as bona fide lamb.

The Chinese themselves are very concerned about food safety and this is what some do.

Orange: Breakfast with A Peel

A flight of coffee-chocolate pancakes

If you’re a fan of breakfast or brunch, like I am, you must check out Orange. In Chicago they have several locations.

They’re famous for frushi, i.e. fruit sushi. So my friend Maryann and I ordered some. Just the right little taste of coconut milk infuses the rice which is topped with fruit. Cute, yummy and creative.

Frushi

Feeling adventurous, I tried their pear cucumber juice. I liked it, but I doubt I’d order it again, well, not before I sampled some other combinations. The possibilities are almost endless. Mix and match orange, strawberry, pear, pineapple, watermelon, bananas and more.

Pear Cucumber Juice

Maryann was pleased with her rosemary infused French toast, which I was tempted to try. However, I went with the week’s pancake flight special: Coffee – Chocolate pancakes in four forms. One set had Kahlua, another chocolate chips. All were scrumptious and fun. Each week they announce a different flight of pancakes, which could be based on a theme like the Super Bowl this week.

Next time I go, I think I’ll try their Chai French Toast. Street parking’s easy to find. They’re open from 8 – 3, kind of late for a breakfast place, fine for me, but some early birds won’t wait.