10 Signs You’re in a Good Restaurant

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I thought this was an original idea for a post but, just to be sure, I Googled the title. Turns out there are several posts with the same name. That almost caused me to click “delete” but then I thought, “Well, if I don’t read any of those posts and write my own take on the subject, that might still be useful.” So here you are, based on my own experiences as a frequent diner at restaurants (the above photo is from a recent meal at Cafe Boulud in West Palm Beach) and as someone who cooked in almost 50 restaurant kitchens while researching my cookbook, 10 Signs You’re in a Good Restaurant.

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Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink

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The first time that I wrote about Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink (in Miami), I focused on the lighting. In fact, I was so focused on the lighting, I didn’t really write about the meal. Instead, I wrote a post called “When You Can’t See Your Food.” It was very dark in there.

Since then, though, I’ve been back to Michael’s twice for lunch and absolutely loved it. This most recent trip was with my mom and sister-in-law, Tali, (seen above) and as you can see lighting isn’t at all an issue when you’re eating outside at lunch. That’s the time to go.

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Easy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

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Sometimes I write recipe posts where I share a recipe at the end and other times I write recipe posts where the recipe is embedded in the post itself. There’s a reason for that!

Recipe posts where the recipe’s at the end are the kinds of recipes where specific amounts matter; recipe posts where I just write a recipe as part of a larger narrative are recipes where you can just wing it. So, Sam Sifton’s Pear Cobbler? You need to follow those instructions. But my Butternut Squash Soup with Whiskey Ginger Cream? That’s a totally improvised recipe and I wanted to give you the power to improvise your own version. If I’d written that with specific amounts, chances are you would’ve just replicated what I did instead of doing it your own way. The soup will taste better if you do it your way.

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Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving Pear Cobbler

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Talk about waiting until the last minute…

Most food blogs and websites have inundated you with Thanksgiving recipes for WEEKS and here I am, the day before Thanksgiving, offering you up a recipe for cobbler. But maybe you’re still figuring out dessert? And maybe you haven’t heard about Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving book yet? If the latter is true, you better hurry out and score yourself a copy. What the former New York Times restaurant critic has written is pretty much the essential Thanksgiving cookbook. It’s full of good advice and smart, straight-forward recipes for turkey (roasted, brined, deep-fried, smoked), cranberry sauce, the works. My eye, of course, went straight to dessert where a pear cobbler caught my fancy. And last weekend I served it for dessert at a dinner party, to lots of acclaim.

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Absolute Bagels (And The Best Bagel Of My Life, So Far)

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The journey to the best bagel of my life was a journey of precisely three miles. It started on the Upper East Side, near 2nd Avenue in the 70s, and ended close to Columbia University, on Broadway near 108th Street. I told myself that I could treat myself to a decked-out bagel if I walked all the way to Absolute Bagels, home of what Ed Levine once called “the best bagel in New York.”

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Secrets of the Best Chefs is HERE TODAY! (Plus: A Look Behind The Scenes)

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When my friends Patty and Lauren had their baby Audra this year, we had lots of conversations leading up to it about doulas and midwives and anesthesia. None of those things were relevant for my own personal pregnancy, though: over the past three years, I’ve been giving birth to a book.

And today that book is finally here. SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS arrives at this very moment and it really does feel like a birth: the build-up, the agony, the ecstasy, and, at the end of it all, a thing that exists that didn’t exist before I created it.

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Let’s Not Forget These Other Austin Eats (Torchy’s Tacos, La Condesa, Takoba, Barley Swine, Perla’s, Banger’s, Walton’s, The Counter Cafe, TacoDeli & Elizabeth Street Cafe)

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The day that I flew to Austin, I was coming from Los Angeles in the most convoluted way possible. I started on Sunset Blvd., where I was staying, then drove up to Topanga Canyon, where I left my car with Craig’s aunt and uncle, then took a car service to the Long Beach airport which was about an hour and a half away. By the time the plane touched down in Austin, I was so hungry and tired I could barely move. But I made my way to a cab which took me to the Doubletree Hotel (my first hotel there) which was nowhere near anything that I heard was worth eating. So then I took a cab to South Congress, specifically to Torchy’s Tacos which many of you recommended on Twitter. It sounded perfect.

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Room Service

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The idea of room service held little appeal for me until I was on a book tour for longer than expected (stranded in Austin for a bit by the hurricane) and suddenly I couldn’t fathom another dinner out with human beings. I enjoy human beings…but on a book tour you meet so many of them and talk to so many of them there comes a moment where you just want to be by yourself.

So on the night before I flew back to New York, I stayed in my room at the W hotel and ordered room service. Something about it made me feel giddy, like I was a kid doing something I might be punished for later. (And when my publisher sees the hotel room bill, that may still happen! Don’t worry, I didn’t order any exotic movies.)

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