Hello, There. Michael here, Laury’s husband. I thought it was about time I made an appearance on the blog.
Laury hasn’t been feeling too great this week, so she asked me to do a guest post for her today. We thought you might be interested in some tips I got from my latest read, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, based on a recent conversation we had about the book.
It’s no lie that I love to eat out. When Laury and I started dating she never ate out. She didn’t really like to until we started experiencing some amazing meals together. Knowing my wife it had a lot to do with eating healthy. Although she makes the better choices when we go out to eat, and advises me to do the same, I have gotten her to lighten up a little from how anti-restaurant she was when we first dated almost 10 years ago.
The first real dinner date I took her on was at one of my favorite restaurants, The Capital Grille. Laury was a pescatarian back then, this was before I persuaded her into eating steak for the first time in eleven years. I am a salesman. Now she knows my antics all too well (her meat eating lasted a brief couple years of ‘Organic Grass-Fed steak’ for her- I had to point out as per her request). She has since sworn off all animals, except some fish (which makes things easier when I want to enjoy a meal at my favorite restaurants), and I respect her decision. It’s not for me, but I can understand how strongly she feels about it. As long as she doesn’t try to make me live on tofu, I am supportive of her choice. We make it work.
For me, I just enjoy good food. My wife is particular about having healthy options, and I am particular about good quality food in general. If I find a chicken bone in my grilled chicken breast, that restaurant is off the list for good. If I don’t like the looks on the person preparing food at the deli counter when I order a turkey sandwich, I walk out and go elsewhere. Some call me weird, but I think it’s reasonable. The chapter in Anthony Bourdain’s book titled “From Our Kitchen to Your Table” brought my outlook on restaurant eating to a whole other level. It may do the same for you as well.
Rules of Restaurant Eating by Anthony Bourdain:
If you have a weak stomach, read at your own risk.
–NEVER eat at a restaurant that has filthy bathrooms. They let you see the bathrooms. If they can’t be bothered to keep it clean, then just imagine what the refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are pretty easy to keep clean, kitchens are not. If the chef is spotted at the bar with a filthy apron, half shaven with his finger up his nose, he’s probably not handling your food so well. Common sense, right? Same goes for the waiter. If the management lets your waiter walk around looking like he just rolled out of bed, hungover, then who knows what he’s doing with your food.
–Never order fish on Monday, unless you are going to a 4 star restaurant where you know they are buying their fish directly from the source. Most seafood is about 4 or 5 days old by Monday!If you were to walk into a nice 2 star restaurant on a Monday night and see they are running a special that sounds fantastic, the two word that should leap out to you are “Special” and “Monday.” Don’t do it.
–Anthony claims that he doesn’t eat mussels in a restaurant unless he knows the chef personally, or sees with his own eyes how they store and hold their mussels for service. Most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them. He says that more often than not mussels are allowed to wallow in their own foul smelling urine at the bottom of a reach in. Some restaurants may pack them in special containers, with slotted bins, allowing the mussels to drain while being held–and maybe the cooks at these restaurants carefully pick through each order mussel by mussel making sure every one is healthy and alive before throwing them in a pot. But don’t bank on it. Again, if you are going to a 4 star restaurant with a lot of turnover you may be okay. Laury ordered mussels in a red sauce a few months ago (before I read the book) and 90% of them were closed. She of course sent them back and told them not to bother with another batch. It was an experience that backs up Anthony’s claim.
–How about Seafood on Sunday? Sometimes, unless it is an attempt to offload aging stuff like seafood salad vinaigrette or seafood frittata on a brunch menu.
Speaking of Brunch…
-Brunch menus are the perfect opportunity for chefs to save money. They are loaded with random leftovers from Friday and Saturday nights or scraps from the normal course of business.
–Hollandaise sauce. It’s loaded with bacteria. I know a lot of Laury’s readers may not be ordering this at a restaurant, but pass the word to your husbands, boyfriends and friends that enjoy it. Hollandaise must be held at temperature, not too hot, not too cold. Unfortunately it’s usually held at lukewarm temps which is an ideal environment for bacteria to copulate and reproduce. The chef claims that no one he knows makes Hollandaise sauce to order, so beware. He calls is “a veritable petri dish of bio-hazards .”
–Beef Parmentier? Shepards Pie? Chili Special? Sounds like leftovers.
-Think again when ordering Swordfish. Anthony claims that his seafood purveyor will never eat it out due to seeing one too many of those three-foot-long parasitic worms that riddle in the fishes flesh.
–Chilean Seabass? More than likely arrives at the market frozen solid still on the bone.
–Discount sushi? He talks about his experience with Fulton Street in NY and fish that is left to sit all day in the middle of August, right out in the open. What isn’t bought early is sold for cheap later. At 7:00AM the Korean and Chinese restaurant buyers, who’ve been sitting at local bars waiting for the market to be near closing, come in and buy up what’s left at rock bottom prices. The next buyers to arrive are the cat food people. When you see a sign for discount sushi, remember this story.
–Chickens are the filthiest animals. They eat their own feces, are kept tightly packed in cages and in most restaurant situations they will cross contaminate other food. Laury traumatized me for a minute when she forced me to watch Food Inc. with her, and anyone that has seen the film knows all about chickens. In a restaurant situation, you are better off staying away from it. Unless it’s my favorite, Chicken Parmesan. Or the grilled chicken on the menu is the only healthy choice for me (that I like). In that case, as long as it looks OK, I don’t think about it. I know that my wife is disgusted by chicken for good. She won’t ruin it for me though when I go to eat it and “forget” what I’ve seen. I still ask her her clean my chicken breast to cook at home which thoroughly grosses her out. She reluctantly agrees because she knows I won’t do it. That’s love.
Laury eats mostly a vegetarian, or “veganish” (as she calls is) diet, with fish maybe once a week, and it’s pretty limited to salmon at this point. After I read her most of the chapter she said: “see, that’s why you shouldn’t eat animals!“ “If you want me to continue to eat out with you, it’s not wise to ruin fish for me too.” Well, guess what? Vegetarians have it the worst, according to Anthony Bourdain. She didn’t like what I told her next. I won’t repeat all the shots he took at vegetarians and vegans; Laury was pretty offended when he called them “the enemy of everything good.” She informed me that between her and all her vegetarian blog friends, and all the meals they think up, that statement could not be further from the truth. That doesn’t mean that it’s the cleanest option when eating out…
–Vegetarian eating in restaurants: Think about this-Amoebas are transferred most easily through the handling of raw, uncooked vegetables, particularly during the washing of salad greens and leafy produce. Telling her this kind of put a damper in going out for her favorite salad that night (it sort of scared her away from fish too), but I thought she should know that meat isn’t the only thing to get a bad rap.
Sorry, guys. I am just the messenger here.
Laury will be back tomorrow, and she promises not to ruin your dinner. Thanks for having me and taking the time to read my post.
Munchkin says hello: