Friday, February 5, 2010

Dinner and a Trip to the Bathroom... Classy

I ran across this on a blog ( and thought it was funny and food/porn relevant.  With SF being such a liberal city, I wonder if anyone would be tempted to offer such a fantastic deal.  Other possible dates for repeating this promotion are March 14 and Christmas...

Here's the story:

Restaurant promotes sex in its bathrooms

Mildred's Temple Kitchen is inviting customers to have sex in its bathrooms.

The Valentine's weekend promotion takes uncomfortable but electrifying sex from the close confines of an airplane and transfers it to the unisex stalls of the Hanna Ave. restaurant.

The Liberty Village restaurant proposes its modern bathrooms become one of the "101 places to have sex before you die."

Mildred's has always elicited a certain response. One customer, who didn't want to be named, remembers going to a wedding at the eatery's old location and seeing a copy of the Kama Sutra in the bathroom.

"They invite it," said the customer.

This time, the invitation is explicit. On its website, Mildred's asks: "Have you given any thought to moving beyond the bedroom?

"Check out Mildred's Sexy Bathrooms throughout the weekend of Big Love. You get the picture."

Actually, the picture is clouded by practicalities. Is the restaurant supplying condoms? What about the health risks of body fluids? And who's cleaning up?

"We've always had little trysts in our bathrooms," says chef/co-owner Donna Dooher, pointing to lingering weekday lunches as a popular time. "We're taking it to the next level on Valentine's weekend."

The restaurant's four bathrooms light up outside when occupied. Staff have learned to watch the light flicker twice when two customers enter the same bathroom, usually a few minutes apart.

Toronto Public Health says as long as there's no sex in the kitchen and the restaurant keeps its washrooms clean and sanitized, it's not fussed. "As far as bodily fluids, it's pretty much similar to the other human functions going on in there," says Jim Chan, manager of the food safety program.

Dooher says customers must bring their own condoms but she's hiring a maid to tidy the washrooms that weekend. "She'll be there with her feather duster and cleaning supplies."

At least diners aren't encouraged to use furry handcuffs, part of a $55 "naughty love hamper," while at Mildred's. "Best to savour and enjoy (those) long after you leave the restaurant," the restaurant says.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Recipe Creation and Menu Originality

There have been many occasions when I go through the process of recipe development and testing that I catch myself formulating a flavor profile, technique or ingredient combination that feels too close to a dish that I had either previously cooked (another chef’s recipe) or enjoyed at a restaurant.  Every time that this happens, I normally take a step back and methodically go through the process of breaking down my own recipe to avoid any confusion/misinterpretation.  This is not to say that I haven’t tried reproducing a familiar flavor combination in a dish, but sometimes certain lines between what can be deemed artistic plagiarism or inspiring tribute are muddy at best.

There are many different situations or arguments for trying to establish a specific set of guidelines for proper ethics when it comes to recipe creation.  In many cases, it would be asinine to argue plagiarism for recipes that have been developed and published for a thousand years (e.g. pizza – trust me, everything done to/for pizza has already been done somewhere else).  I would argue that there are specific situations that are questionably legitimate at best.  I fail to believe that seeing Oysters and Pearls Sabayon on any menu other than The French Laundry (or Per Se) would be anything less than culinary hackery. 

Many times though, I do understand a restaurant/chef’s desire for creating a dish based on another dish’s inspiration, but these new dishes are normally subjected to reinterpretation and tinkering.  One of the issues that exists in a copycat industry (not by design) is that people are too keen on current trends and often too empowered with a lazy self-justified approach under the philosophical guise of “letting the food speak for itself.”   Clearly, you are going to be more prone to seeing multiple versions of something as mundane as Shaved Asparagus Salad or your early 2000’s explosion Tuna Tartar.  I sense you can argue that these examples play more along the lines of a lack of originality than piracy, but lesser cases have been argued and won in musical copyright infringement.

One of my favorite examples of clear cut creativity came from an anecdote in a written piece on Grant Achatz (New Yorker, I think) – who upon discovery that another chef had done something partially similar to his new concept, decided to nix the entire idea altogether.  By nature, many chefs are very guarded with their original recipes and techniques, but within the trade, there is also a desire to share and be open with their work and their discoveries. 

I’m not trying to imply that rustic/classic cooking is not creative and beautiful in its own right because making ingredients taste great or perfecting a recipe whether old or new is already a feat in itself.  Traditional cooking is what satisfies us and makes us go back to all our familiar places/dishes, but for those who want to continue to approach food as means of progressive artistic expression/creation may have to look outside of their current surroundings for new exposure and ideas.  It would be nice to see some people venture out of a comfort zone. 

Here are a few guidelines I like to generally follow:
  • classically defined recipes and family inherited dishes are all fair game and can be done without any reservations
  • classical dishes reinterpreted are fine, duplicating the reinterpreted dish is not
  • all new techniques developed and shared publicly.published are open to use
  • no more than a combination of three techniques and or primary ingredients from someone else’s recipe should be duplicated
  • if the ingredient is served in the same exact technical form, all other supporting ingredients must be different
Here are a few basic restaurant menu rules I wish were followed:
  • Grilled chicken breast salads should be forsaken from menus
  • Edible visual garnishes only matter if they assist in taste or texture in any way
  • Anonymous “Mixed Green Salad”
  • Abusing asparagus as the first sign of spring
  • Bad coffee costing more than $2
  • “Throw the Vegetarian a Friggin Bone” dishes (not literally)
  • “Throw the Vegans a Friggin Bone” dishes (wouldn’t be on this list if it was literal)
  • Fried Calamari in a non-Asian restaurant
  • Tuna and salmon on 90% of menus (except for sushi; sadly, only 1 out of 10 restaurants cook salmon/tuna properly)