Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
STOP THE PRESSES!
STOP THE PRESSES!
I have eaten in some top notch restaurants including places run by celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. My experiences have always been wonderful. If pressed to find an issue, I couldn’t come anywhere near anything disastrous (though my experiences with my lovely wife, Jennifer on two occasions at Emeril’s at City Walk in Orlando were quite interesting and warrant future blog material).
This edition of Culinary no-no is a first. I have never written about anything like it because I have never witnessed anything like it. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened before. It means I personally have never seen or read anything like what I’m about to relate before.
I read a lot. I don’t read fiction at all. No time for that stuff in my life. I read newspapers, blogs, magazines, most, if not all current events and non-fiction.
That includes the entertainment, lifestyle, food and drink sections in daily newspapers.
A recent restaurant review in the LA Times caught my attentions.
Seems Fabio Viviani has opened a new spot called the Firenze Osteria. Not too long ago, Viviani won the Top Chef contest on the Bravo cable network. If Viviani wins Top Chef honors and opens up a new restaurant, one would think it offers a memorable dining experience.
Firenze Osteria was reviewed by LA Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila. One can sense snootiness thousands of miles away.
Here are portions of Virbila’s review:
“Everybody's eager to taste the cooking of Fabio Viviani, the Tuscan-born chef…..
Viviani's not in the kitchen tonight, though, where a handful of cooks are working at a furious pace to feed two packed dining rooms. He's not in the main room where the handsome Falleni is going from table to table greeting guests and soothing egos. Where's Fabio? Somewhere in the
Now, I wasn't expecting Viviani to reinvent Italian cooking or anything big like that, though he does state on his website that he's into molecular cuisine and fusion. But what I didn't expect was a menu so conventional it reads like a tourist trap -- mostly generic dishes from no particular region. Italian Food for Dummies.
It takes us a long time to order and not only because the restaurant is so dark it's hard to see. Do we really need another beef carpaccio or burrata garnished with vegetables? A Caesar salad or tiramisu?
The malfatti are not the usual marble-sized ricotta and spinach dumplings. These are three big ovals scooped out on the plate like ice cream and napped in brown butter and sage. Though delicious at first bite, the dish is a big wet mass….
The 18-ounce rib-eye steak at $38.95 is so average that the grilled asparagus that comes with it outshines the beef.
And the special sweetbread dish that night…... Awful.
The wine list is a bore, too……
When I come with Italian friends another evening……
To start are fried calamari and "tempura" zucchini, which you'd think might be airy and light but are, instead, heavy and greasy. Downright clunky.
The waiter touts a special the chef just put on the menu: handmade fettuccine with black truffles. When the plate is set down, it reeks of truffle oil and no truffles in sight. I ordered truffles, not truffle oil, I tell the waiter.
Risotto is more like rice soup.
Osso buco tastes like it was steamed rather than braised. And because two of us are sharing it, I guess the kitchen can't decide who gets the bone and its delicious marrow so they leave it off. Or did it fall out on the way from the pot to the plate?
The arugula looks like it came straight out of a bag.
A third visit doesn't add much new information....
The stuffed pastas may be the worst I've ever encountered anywhere, big thick ugly things with either a butternut squash and ricotta filling that has the texture of baby food or, in the case of the braised short rib ravioli, a dry, almost sawdust-like filling. Oh, and Viviani is again out of town.
Ouch, Ouch, and triple ouch!
Virbila, as a good restaurant critic should do, when his/her radar goes up, should return again to play fair. The critic made three visits and wasn’t impressed.
I knew the late great Milwaukee Journal Sentinel restaurant critic Dennis Getto personally. That means I knew what he looked like underneath the paper bag.
I also read his columns religiously.
I’ll get back to that in a moment.
The LA Times review headline of Firenze Osteria reads:
Ouch! A 'zero stars' review for 'Top Chef' Fabio Viviani's restaurant
If you didn’t jump out of your chair (remember, this is Culinary no-no territory, pardner), you should have.
For a very popular restaurant?
Run by an acclaimed and award-winning chef?
Zero stars, nada, zilch, the big enchilada.
By an LA Times writer?
This is, in my estimation, breath-taking.
I could be wrong, and I know my very good friend at 4th and State who read my blog would be more than happy to correct me, but I have never read a Dennis Getto review that handed out zero stars. That goes for any critic in the country.
You're talking Courtney Garish material on WTMJ’s Dirty Dining series when she barges in “60 Minutes” style blasting stick-em-up and everyone starts shouting out in native tongues anything but English with the ensuing investigation finding endless violations, rodents, and insects.
But not at a brand spanking new
How bad do you have to be?
You know what?
While I read with interest their stuff, I don’t trust them as much as I trust MYSELF.
I will check the place out and decide for MYSELF.
Critics set out to find fault so they can live up to their role as “critic.” If they like everything about a place (and no place is perfect) they and their editors don’t feel they are doing their jobs.
So you rarely see a perfect 4-star rating for a restaurant.
Or zero stars.
Oh, we're not done yet.
We have a Christmas smorgasbord of Culinary-no-nos.
CULINARY NO-NO EXTRA
I like filet mignon.
I also like barbecued ribs.
And butterflied pork chops.
And prime rib.
Where am I going?
The great culinary philosopher Arthur Fonzarelli (often quoted on This Just In) once lamented at puting two great food items, ice cream and ketchup, together.
The same goes for the above.
Apologize till you're blue in the face.
This is just plain wrong.
CULINARY NO-NO BONUS
McNuggets and vodka?
CULINARY NO-NO BONUS
What do you mean there's no dollar menu?
CULINARY NO-NO BONUS
When I grow up I want to be as clever as the BACON-EATING folks who run our daily newspapers.
CULINARY NO-NO BONUS
From a This Just in reader...
EATING TIPS HOLIDAY
1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.
2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare.. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!
3. if something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
4. as for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.
5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?
6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.
7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.
8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?
9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.
10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read these tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
Have a wonderful Christmas season!!
A Culinary no-no blast from the past worth repeating: