Which State Has the Most Food Bloggers? Should Critics Cook? Culinary Questions and Answers from Around the Web This Week

Questions and Answers Which State Has the Most Food Bloggers? Should Critics Cook? Culinary Questions and Answers from Around the Web This WeekI don’t have all the answers, but I’ve seen some interesting food and dining questions this week. Thankfully, either experts have answered them — or you (not I) will have to.

* Do you know which state has the most food bloggers? Warning: This is a trick question.  [The New York Times]

* Should critics have to cook to be qualified for their jobs? [Denver Post]

* Why do Chinese food and doughnuts go together like peas and carrots in California (and my tummy)? [The Atlantic]

* How do you know if you’re a foodie? [Serious Eats]

* Which restaurant has the nicest restroom in the U.S.? [America's Best Restroom]

* Are you the next “Vacation Food Dude”? [Eater PDX]

* What should diners do when seated next to a boisterous table? [SF Gate]

* Why don’t servers write down orders? [Chow]

* Did the weather keep you away from chain restaurants? [Nation's Restaurant News]

Celebrity Spotting: Bateman and Arnett; Kelly Bensimon Cooks with Scott Conant; Katie Couric and Matt Lauer Lunch; Where “The Bachelor” Wed His Bride, and More

A round-up of where some of your most (and least) favorite stars have been dining recently…

* A pregnant Amy Adams (Julie & Julia) dined at Napa Valley Grille. [EaterLA]

* Celebrity chef Mario Batali (and his Crocs) greeted fellow diner Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight) at Comme Ca.  [EaterLA]

* “Arrested Development” costars Jason Bateman and Will Arnett took a meeting with Hollywood execs at Lure Fishbar. [US Magazine]

* Kelly Bensimon of “Real Housewives of New York” got a lesson in making pasta from New York chef Scott Conant of Faustina and Scarpetta fame. Doesn’t Sam Talbot (“Top Chef”) know how to make pasta? [US Magazine]

* Actor/director Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullen) and supermodel wife Christy Turlington hit up Napa’s Bottega. [Tablehopper]

* Someone gave singer Tracy Chapman one reason to dine at DOSA on Valencia. No word on whether or not that someone had a fast car.  [Tablehopper]

* Anchor Katie Couric broke bread midday with former “Today” colleague Matt Lauer at Le Caprice in Manhattan. [NY Post]

* Megastar Tom Cruise dined with CBS/Viacom boss Sumner Redstone at Il Piccolino in Beverly Hills. [NY Post]

* Gitane hosted Green Day’s Mike Dirnt. [Tablehopper]

* “Sex and the City” director/producer/writer Michael Patrick King ate with friends at Chaya. [EaterLA]

* “Parenthood” costars Peter Krause and Lauren Graham made an appearance at Quince in San Francisco. [Tablehopper]

* Super skater Michelle Kwan tucked into a meal at Legal Sea Foods. [Grub Street Boston]

* ABC’s “The Bachelor” lovebirds Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney got hitched at Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes.  [South Bay Foodies via Eater]

* Oscar winner Mo’Nique attended a luncheon at Philippe. [US Magazine]

* Johnnie’s on the Side hosted the musicans of Muse. [Grub Street Boston]

* Audrina Patridge (“The Hills) and Julie Benz (“Dexter”) supped at Katsuya in Hollywood. [US Magazine]

* Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was spotted at Scampo. [Grub Street Boston]

* On-again couple Pink and husband Carey Hart stopped in for a bite at Geoffrey’s in Malibu. [People]

* Former American Pie ingenue Tara Reid’s beau popped the question at The Little Door in Los Angeles. [People]

* Actor Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island) lunched at Manhattan’s Brasserie 44. [New York Daily News]

* Precious costars Gabourey Sidibe and Lenny Kravitz attended a luncheon at Asia de Cuba in West Hollywood’s Mondrian Hotel. [US Magazine]

* Anything-but-square designer Christian Siriano (“Project Runway”) was spotted at Upstairs on the Square. [Grub Street Boston]

* Michelle Trachtenberg of “Gossip Girl” sampled the guac at Dos Caminos. [Grub Street New York]

* Kanye West and muse Amber Rose were seen at Lure Fishbar. [Grub Street New York]

* Everyone’s favorite “Golden Girl” (sorry, Rue) and future “Saturday Night Live” host Betty White was spotted at Scala’s Bistro in San Francisco. [Tablehopper]

* Actor-cum-mobile spokesperson Luke Wilson was recognized dining at the Bay Area’s Slanted Door. [Tablehopper]

Chef Watch: Bauer and Co.’s Rising Star Chefs 2010; How Wolfgang Became a Brand; Nobu’s Rise to the Top; Ed Brown’s Loves; Susur Lee’s Chicken Feet; David Myers on Sona’s Shuttering, and More

Chef Watch1 Chef Watch: Bauer and Co.s Rising Star Chefs 2010; How Wolfgang Became a Brand; Nobus Rise to the Top; Ed Browns Loves; Susur Lees Chicken Feet; David Myers on Sonas Shuttering, and More

Chefs making food and news…

* San Francisco Chronicle executive food and wine editor Michael Bauer and his colleagues select the Bay Area’s Rising Star Chefs for 2010. Included are John Paul Carmona (Manresa), Perry Hoffman (étoile), Timothy Hollingsworth (The French Laundry), and Charlie Kleinman (Wexler’s). [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Wolfgang Puck, whose restaurants include 20.21, Chinois, CUT Las Vegas, Spago Beverly Hills, and many others, details of his ascension up the culinary ladder — and reveals he almost ended it all when he was fired from his first kitchen job as a young man. [Los Angeles Times]

* Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu London, Nobu New York, and others) shares his similar success story, which also includes suicidal thoughts after his first restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, burned down, leaving him in serious debt. [ABC News]

* Ed Brown of eighty one in New York reveals a few of his favorite food-related things. [The Daily Beast]

* Susur Lee thinks that New Yorkers, like parents,”just don’t understand,” and we’re not ready to embrace chicken feet at Shang. Oh no, he didn’t! (Totally kidding, Chef Lee. You’re probably right!) [Grub Street New York]

* Laurent Tourondel (BLT Fish, BLT Market, BLT Steak) is ending his partnership with Jimmy Haber. They will, essentially, split the BLT empire. All I care about is who gets the bacon. icon wink Chef Watch: Bauer and Co.s Rising Star Chefs 2010; How Wolfgang Became a Brand; Nobus Rise to the Top; Ed Browns Loves; Susur Lees Chicken Feet; David Myers on Sonas Shuttering, and More [The New York Times]

* David Myers discusses shuttering Los Angeles restaurant Sona (temporarily) in May while he scouts for and sets up shop in a new space. [Los Angeles Times]

Should Restaurants Ban Bad Tippers?

Should Restaurants Ban Bad Tippers Should Restaurants Ban Bad Tippers?Tipping has been on my mind a lot lately. Yours, too, judging by the volume of comments we saw on Facebook when we raised the issue — not once, but twice. It’s on my mind again, as Slashfood’s Hanna Raskin reports on a restaurant (not on OpenTable) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that banned a bad tipper. It may sound harsh, but restaurants certainly aren’t the first businesses to fire their clients. In doing so, the restaurant’s management may have felt they were protecting their employees’ interests (and wages!).

What do you think? Did the restaurant go too far in showing the patron the door — permanently? And, did the diner in question go too far by retaining a lawyer? Share your thoughts on this touchy topic here or on Facebook.

Trendspotting: Foraging for Food; Mixology with Meals; Pigs; Pop Rocks; Pop-Up Restaurants; Sharks; Sustainable Restaurants, and More

In food-related news from the blogosphere and your favorite food sections…

* Forget singing for your supper; it’s all about searching for it these days, thanks to a renewed interest in foraged ingredients. I don’t mind the practice, but this word is beginning to crop up on menus everywhere and it’s driving me a bit batty. [Nation's Restaurant News] [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

* New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz wants to ban the use of salt in food prep at restaurants in New York State. In other words, he wants to ruin all the restaurant food in New York State. [Nation's Restaurant News]

* Are Pop Rocks the new truffles? Probably not, but some restaurants in New York (Klee, Kefi, and Fishtail by David Burke) are embracing this clamorous candy and other 7-11 delights as ingredients in high-end dishes. [New York Post]

* I did not know that: Eggs aren’t dairy. Whew! I recently did a cleanse that excluded dairy, but I adore eggs so it was sheer (and, in hindsight, unnecessary) torture. Thanks to Carolina Santos-Neve and Epicurious for clearing this up.  [The Epi-Log]

* It’s not easy to not eat meat, but Chow’s Roxanne Webber has some insights as to how vegetarian and vegan chefs make their meat-free dishes so delicious. [Chow]

* First craft beers, now cocktails are being paired with food at fine restaurants. Can wine get a break? [The Atlantic] [Washington Post]

* Pop-up restaurants are, well, popping up all over New York, much to diners’ great joy. [Los Angeles Times]

* Restaurateurs are embracing sustainability in ways big and small, from building materials to menu items. [Los Angeles Times]

* Shark is not sustainable, in case you were wondering. [The Atlantic]

* In news sure to shake Miss Piggy to her stilettos, whole-pig restaurants are all the rage in Southern California. [Los Angeles Times]

* Despite their appetite for whole pigs, diners want to get healthier. [Nation's Restaurant News]

* Diners also want to eat outdoors, especially in New York. [The New York Times]

* Food is my religion, and restaurants are my houses of worship. Thankfully, I am not alone. [The Grist]

Dining in Denver: Not-To-Be-Missed Restaurants in Colorado’s Capital

Dining in Denver Dining in Denver: Not To Be Missed Restaurants in Colorados CapitalDenver Post dining critic Tucker Shaw recently compiled a list of restaurants that “define Denver’s culinary momentum.” The criteria for earning a spot on the list were quite lofty.  Cost, food, hospitality, service, and the space itself mattered, but the overarching question Shaw asked himself was, “Did my experience at this restaurant enrich my life?” If that’s not a tall order, I’m not sure what is.

Meeting the challenge and making the top 10 are Bones, Fruition Restaurant, Lola, Olivéa, Rioja, Root Down, and Table 6, among others. Honorable mentions for “trendsetters” include Argyll, Sushi SaSa, Twelve Restaurant, and Venue. Palace Arms at the Brown Palace and Restaurant Kevin Taylor receive honorable mentions under the”lasting hits” category.

Congratulations to these standouts in the Denver dining scene.

State Your Complaint: Restaurant Critics; Restaurant Designs; Restaurant Menus; Restaurant Websites, and Being Treated Like a Regular (Huh?)

State Your Complaint State Your Complaint: Restaurant Critics; Restaurant Designs; Restaurant Menus; Restaurant Websites, and Being Treated Like a Regular (Huh?) * Will a Twitter campaign take out your least favorite critic? Doubtful, but one tweeter is trying, taking aim at Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Phil Vettel stews over restaurant design flaws. I would concur with the oversized menus being a problem. I never know what to do with them if I just want to enjoy a cocktail before ordering but am sitting at a tiny table for two. Suggestions? [The Stew]

* Menus are less-than-appetizing at many restaurants, as far as Baltimore Sun blogger Laura Vozzella is concerned. She doesn’t mention my new pet peeve, which is seeing the word “foraged” on menus (Way too precious and fetish-y for me, thankyouverymuch!). [Dining@Large]

* Restaurant websites come under fire for a few of the right reasons. [Eater PDX]

* Restaurants come under fire for all the wrong reasons, thanks to the Chicago Tribune‘s Christopher Borrelli and his resentment at (GASP!)  being treated like a regular (when he is, in fact, a regular). Here’s a bit of free advice, Mr. Borrelli: If you don’t appreciate that restaurants or the barristas at your local Starbucks are able to anticipate what you’ll order, stop ordering the very same thing every time you dine out or grab a coffee. Live a little! Try something new — but not out of spite, because that’s just plain silly. That is all. [Chicago Tribune]

Well-Reviewed: House Café; The Prime Rib Grill; Strip House-New York, and More

Recent restaurant reviews from the news…

* S. Irene Virbila says the menu at Bruce Marder’s House Ca in LA has “something for everyone.” [Los Angeles Times]

* Marzano and Garibaldi’s in San Francisco save the day for a large party of diners/fans of Michael Bauer. [SF Gate]

* The Prime Rib Grill by Hereford House in Kansas City bests its predecessor, according to Charles Ferruzza. [The Pitch]

* David Kaufman likes the show at SHO Shaun Hergatt. [Financial Times]

* Just like steak and wine, the Strip House in New York improves with age, says critic Sam Sifton [The New York Times].


Dining Out on Easter: Egg-cellent Deals at Restaurants Near You

Dining Out on Easter Dining Out on Easter: Egg cellent Deals at Restaurants Near YouEaster is less than a month away, and, if you’re a planner (as I am), you’re probably ready to book a table at a restaurant for that day. What I love about Easter is that many restaurants offer brunch or an early traditional dinner (think ham and lamb). There’s something about eating dinner especially early (not early-bird special early, however) that feels extra decadent to me.

There are lots of Easter dining deals to be found on OpenTable. Some really fun ones that caught my eye include The Café at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta, which is offering a brunch that includes a live petting zoo and an egg decorating station for kids. In Boston, Harborside Grill and Patio at the Hyatt Harborside features terrific views of the city’s skyline and activities for young diners, including a visit from the Easter Bunny himself. Chicago diners may have all the fun this year as Dick’s Last Resort is creating a brunch with live Beatles music by the Cavern Beat and an appearance by the Easter Bunny (I’m not sure how he’ll be in Boston and Chicago on the same day, but maybe he flies private?) as well as egg dying. China Grill in New York is getting festive and kid-friendly with an Easter egg hunt in the evening. In San Francisco, Bar Bambino is serving up a prix-fixe brunch comprised of classic Easter fare enjoyed in Italy. The nation’s capital is not to be outdone, with Chima Brazilian Steakhouse providing complimentary ice cream and entertainment for kids from 1- 5PM. If we lived in D.C., my husband would probably attempt to pass as a child based on this opportunity alone. His Zach Galifianakis beard would surely betray him, though.

Look for the launch of our national Easter page soon, and search for Easter dining deals on your local start page under “Easter Brunch & Dinner.”

What’s your favorite dish to dine on for Easter? How does your family celebrate? Share your thoughts here or on Facebook.

How Much Do You Tip When You Dine Out?

How Much Do You Tip When You Dine Out How Much Do You Tip When You Dine Out?When you talk about tipping, which is, obviously tied to money, tempers can flare and passions run high. So many factors contribute to how much people tip: the quality of the service and the food, what they spend on their meal and drink, what they were raised or educated to believe about tipping, and if they’ve ever worked in a restaurant.

Recently, David Sax ranted about tipping on The New York Times City Room section, sharing that he always tips 15%. I thought this was stingy. Also, I don’t believe one size fits all, particularly where hats and tipping are concerned. Maybe I’m too prejudiced because of the time I’ve spent as a server, so I reached out to my fellow diners on Facebook and Twitter. I’m pleased to report that Mr. Sax is, indeed, too parsimonious. Most folks responded that 20% is a standard tip. Says diner Sallly Whitehead, “Twenty percent [is] standard, unless [it's] really bad service. If you can’t afford to tip 20% you shouldn’t be eating out.” To the few who chimed in that they left less, Desirée Chérie Rojas notes, “Sorry, people, but 15% is NOT standard. I’m not a waiter nor have I ever been, but the standard is 20%! Stop being so cheap! Those people need to make a living too! If you can’t afford it, don’t go out!”

If the service is poor, though, is 20% still warranted? Not necessarily, according to Mary Hidalgo. She states, “If the service is horrible or the server is rude in any way, I usually ask to speak to the manager and leave 10% or less.” Other folks concurred with the 10% rule, including Maryem Malak, who shares, “If service is poor (assuming it’s the server not the kitchen), [I] tip up to 10% max, but it all depends on the attitude.” If the service is reprehensible, Glendy Kam admits, “Very bad [service] = I write my experience on the back of the credit card slip,” without leaving a tip.

What if you get superb service? Ken Taylor may take the prize for substantial tipping. He reveals, “I’ve tipped 100% when I proposed to my wife. They went way out of their way to make it special for us.” Typically, he will leave 50% for outstanding service and 30% for great service. Leslie Cervantes also tips generously. She says, “We tip 20% if [service is] not great. This is the service industry and servers need to make a living. If [it's] great or excellent, 40%.” The funniest overall strategy came from James Hubble, who notes, “I usually tip *at least* 20%… if service is good, 25-30%. If the server’s a hot chick, bump it up a tad. This is my usual formula.”

A few diners wished for the elimination of tipping altogether, urging restaurateurs to pay service professionals a living wage, especially Paul Woodhouse, who writes, “OMG…this is a US thing right? How about we pay the price on the menu and the employer pays his staff a fair day’s wage!” Angela Raye Johnson reminded her fellow diner, “If they pay the staff more, then food costs would increase greatly due to overhead. Either way, you will be paying for the experience of going out.”

While 20% is the average tip, some folks don’t tip 20% based on the total bill (nevermind the tax). The issue of expensive wines came up and people said they didn’t always factor that in when tipping. Richard Doherty says, “I separate the food and the liquor/wine charges…[tipping] 15%-20% on the food portion and a flat 10% on the liquor/wine portion. Why? Because of the outrageous markup on the ‘adult beverages.’” David P. Best admits that he may leave less than 20% “if the wine component is over $150 per person.” For an insider’s take on this situation, I reached out to AJ Ferrari, lead bartender at Michael Mina in San Francisco and a Stanford University Wine Instructor. Ferrari notes, “I think deep down everyone knows the answer. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.  The tip is always based on the level of service. If your glass stays topped and you get little story about the winery or a full-blown education, well, that can change your meal into a real wow experience!”

Did you share your thoughts on the topic of tipping yet? If not, do so in the comments section or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.