Eat This List: 5 reasons you (yes you) should embrace fine dining
April 30th, 2013
10:00 AM ET
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This is the eleventh installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about. Today's contributor is John Winterman, maitre d' at Daniel restaurant in New York City.

I can be as casual as the next guy. I'm from Indiana, so I don't have much choice. The only known Hoosier engaged in high snobbery was Bill Blass, otherwise no one ever got beyond “local boy done good” status – even James Dean.

I have ripped this joint and raised some hell. I've been to enduros and hydroplane races and at least one tractor pull. I drank my first PBR at age five and I still have a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off.

But I also know the tragedy that is a grown-up wearing shorts in public. I know the difference between the ballpark and the opera house, between a dive bar and The French Laundry.

As the maitre d' at Daniel I get to work in one of the finest fine dining establishments in the world. The restaurant exudes charm and flair, a hybrid of modern French-American style be it on the plate or in the service, a place that requires jackets and frowns on jeans.

That being said, it is a balancing act. We defend a standard of dining in a time where a chef can earn three Michelin stars while eschewing silver, crystal and a jacket policy. Upholding a standard is ever more critical as you try to justify separating people from their money on a nightly basis.

Herein, a dollop of wisdom on why fine dining still matters.

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Filed under: Daniel Boulud • Dining • Eat This List • Feature • Fine Dining • Restaurants • Service

It's pronounced hos-pi-tal-it-tee
April 17th, 2012
03:00 PM ET
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You say broo-sheh-tah. I say broo-ske-tah. Should we just call the whole meal off?

Dining out gives people a night off from cooking and clean-up duty, but it can also serve up a buffet of pronunciation pitfalls.

The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that, after years of testing, Olive Garden’s gnocchi sales finally took off after the dish was further described on the menu as “traditional Italian dumplings.”

In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a study titled “The name-pronunciation effect: Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun” further proved people are more likely to favor easy-to-pronounce names than difficult-to-pronounce ones. In the case of Olive Garden, traditional Italian dumplings (Mr. Smith) won the popularity contest against gnocchi (Mr. Colquhoun), and added an extra comfort level for diners.

5@5 - Signs you're in a good restaurant
September 14th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Yesterday, we learned if the restaurant is already out of the snapper special during the first seating and the waiter wants to know your family tree, chances are Sean Elder, editor in chief of the digital food magazine Real Eats, isn't going to be returning to said eating establishment anytime soon.

More than 400 of you weighed in to agree, disagree and agree to disagree on Elder's restaurant red flags - and now he's back, counterpoint style, to identify the clues that your meal ahead is in capable hands.

Five Signs You Are In A Good Restaurant: Sean Elder

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Filed under: 5@5 • Dining • Restaurants • Service • Think

Confessions of a meal mooch who took a risk on a stranger
July 27th, 2011
10:30 AM ET
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Linda Petty is an editor at CNN Living. She likes boxed mixes, tarted-up vegetables, letting produce rot in her crisper, eating breakfast at her desk, raiding your pantry, ice cream cones and other frozen delights.

Some people love to cook. I do not happen to be among their number. I cook so that I won’t starve, consume only processed foods or eat from take out menus too much.

I don’t cook for fun. However, many of my friends and family do cook for fun. And I am among their biggest fans. I love to get invited to a great home cooked meal.

My friend Carol makes a meatloaf that has made grown men weep with gratitude when they get to take the leftovers home– if there are any. Becky makes a simple salad of romaine, fresh veggies and homemade dressing that is almost a meal of its own. Tom’s gatherings always include pork loin and beer-can chicken. He seems to always invite women to bring all the labor intensive side dishes and desserts.

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Filed under: Culture • Dining • Eating Clubs

Please don't eat in the bathroom.
July 21st, 2011
09:00 AM ET
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The intern with the shaved head was on her phone in the bathroom again. She seemed to regard the third floor ladies room at our office as her personal rec room which was...fine, if somewhat unnervingly intimate on occasion. I realized, though, that I'd severely, thoroughly, grossly underestimated her level of one-ness with these particular environment on the day several years ago when I saw her emerge from a stall, eating cereal. From a bowl. With milk.

I get it - we're all busy people, caught up in this topsy-turvy, whiz-bang work world where news breaks in 140 character bites and we can gulp down songs, books, TV shows and films the second they burble to mind. It's a miracle that any of us can find a spare five minutes to brush our teeth, apply footwear and haul our info-riddled carcasses to our desks, but still, one should always find time to eat somewhere other than a public toilet. That's my wide, solid stance and I'm sticking to it.

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Filed under: Culture • Dining • Favorites • Hot Messes • Rituals

A life in waiting
January 28th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
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At the front of the room, Pierre Siue calls roll. The rest of the room stands in their uniforms quietly, attentively, collectively with pens and pads out ready to jot down the notes from today.

A man with slicked-back silver hair approaches the front of the room carrying a wooden tray - part of today's lesson. "This is from Connecticut," he says pointing to the object on the right of the tray. "And this, is from Provence," pointing to his left. "Both are washed rind and will be new cheese selections on the menu this evening."

This is DANIEL, the flagship restaurant of famed French chef Daniel Boulud - one of seven restaurants in Manhattan with a New York Times four-star review and one of five with three Michelin stars. And this is the meeting held every day before dinner service, where the maître d' goes over the reservation book details, executive chef Jean François Brue explains any addendum to the menu and the general manager Pierre Siue oversees the calm before the dinner rush storm.

There are no models or aspiring actors in the room. It's an education, a continuing education at that - but it's also a career where the word "part-time" doesn't exist in a world where the profession of serving tables is typically viewed as a transient one.

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Filed under: Best in Life • Bite • Dining • Favorites • Fine Dining • New York • Restaurants • Service • Tipping • Travel

An appetite for votes
October 28th, 2010
02:15 PM ET
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Editor's note: Matthew Jacob is the co-author, with his brother Mark, of "What the Great Ate," published by Three Rivers Press.

Between now and Election Day, candidates for public office will remind us how impossible it is to separate politicking from eating. Food is everywhere on the campaign trail. Large-scale dinners raise millions of dollars for candidates. Empty pizza boxes litter campaign offices, reminders of the power of pepperoni to fuel volunteers' efforts.

Every election cycle candidates have learned that how they eat - not just how they vote - can become part of the debate.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker won the Republican nomination for governor this year partly by portraying himself as a "brown-bag guy" who lunches on ham sandwiches.

And while Mike Montandon campaigned this year to become Nevada's governor, his wife, Antoinette, offered a tasty testimonial to his character. "He is always so complimentary of whatever I cook, and he eats it," she declared.

CNN Opinion has the FULL STORY

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Filed under: Bite • Dining • Food Politics • News

Picky dinner pals
August 5th, 2010
06:00 AM ET
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Ah, dining out. One of the simple joys in life. No need to futz over the stove or fiddle with preheating the oven - everything is taken care of. Just sit back, relax and ... wait, did you say relax? Too bad your restaurant compadre is a total buzzkill.

We polled our friends and colleagues about their dining Debbie Downer pals, then kicked backed and watched their complaints roll in.

Here's what they had to grumble about.

The Top Chef judge

"The food is not hot enough. The chicken is too dry. How long have the ribs been cooking? How often were they sauced? Just enjoy your meal!"

"What do you expect me to say now that you've totally dissed the restaurant? For the record, my salmon was delicious."

"I know, I know, I know. You TOTALLY could have made that sabayon of pearl tapioca better."

"Oh, those lovable faux wine connoisseurs: they sit there swirling and sniffing and gargling when really, they wouldn't know the difference between a Bordeaux and Burgundy if it hit them in the face."

The competitive non-eater

"For some reason, this is particularly the case with women. It's like, let's see how I many times I can push around this piece of lettuce before I set my fork down. I call it 'competitive non-eating.'"

"I really wanted that 16 ounce filet. Curse you for ordering a cup of soup!"

"When that bread basket comes out, you better believe I'm going to have a piece. And if you give me the stink eye, you're just jealous of the delicious carbs I'm about to stuff in my face."

The on-the-side fiend

"I'll have the dressing on the side. The croutons on the side. The tomatoes on the side. The noodles on the side. If they're on the side, you do know you still eat them ... right?

"The dish is written out that way on the menu for a reason. This isn't like Build-a-Bear workshop."

The calculator

"I understand that money is hard-earned and a sensitive topic, but when you take the tax off the total before calculating the 15 percent tip to the penny, it's a little excessive."

"Was the ten extra minutes you just spent doing long division to split up the check perfectly really worth the dollar you just saved?"

The extend-a-fork

"I'm happy to let you have a bite of my scrumptious food - but ask before you reach. I don't want a puncture wound because an unexpected fork comes flying towards my plate."

"Sharing means equal parts. If eight oysters are served, that means four for you and four for me. NOT six for you and two for me."

Good golly, Miss Molly! These folks have divulged their dining dislikes, now it's your turn. Got a friend who’s a pain in the bum to eat with because of their over-the-top demands? The comment therapy lounge is now in session.

Routine repasts
August 2nd, 2010
06:00 AM ET
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My father eats the exact same thing in the exact same chair for breakfast every day of the year. Two hard-boiled eggs, well-done toast with a healthy smear of blueberry jam, a bowl of oatmeal with a drizzle from the honey jar and a large glass of ice-cold Florida orange juice.

I’m the opposite, more the “variety is the spice of life” type of gal; fly by the seat of your (pajama) pants, if you will. I'm notorious for starting the day with leftover spaghetti carbonara on Monday, a peanut butter and banana sandwich on Tuesday and cottage cheese and fruit on Wednesday. That being said, there's always a piece of dark chocolate involved at some point in the A.M. spread.

Just as some of us take the same route to work, meals can become almost methodical, ritualistic: a comfort to prepare and as trusty as Old Yeller. As it turns out, we really are creatures of habit. Par example:

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