The Hungry Man Eats

Monthly Archives: May 2014

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Le Pain Quotidien: A Tale of Two Restaurants

Smoked Salmon and Scallion Omelet

For those of you not in the know, “Le Pain Quotidien” is French for “The Daily Bread”. It is a European style restaurant with communal tables as well as some standard single party tables. A specialty of the restaurant is their fresh baked bread, but really all of their food is fresh and delicious.

So what exactly is up with that title? You’ll see soon enough…

Restaurant #1: Le Pain Quotidien: Delicious Food and a Warm Atmosphere

I have been to Le Pain Quotidien four times now for breakfast with a friend and the majority of the time it has been a delightful place to grab a meal. Each time I have been there has been for breakfast/brunch, so I have not yet had an opportunity to try their lunch and dinner style meals. They have some excellent omelets and I have had the good fortune to try their ham and Gruyere omelet as well as their smoked salmon and scallion omelet which is pictured at the top. Their omelets come out with a small side of greens with a vinaigrette style dressing on top, a small container of what I believe is fresh sour cream and two slices of their fresh bread, a portion of one of their baguettes and a slice of their wheat/sourdough style bread.

They do a great job with their beverages as well, their fresh orange juice tastes like it was fresh squeezed and their coffee is towards the top of my list for great tasting coffee coming from a sit down restaurant, a hot pot of their coffee goes great with any of their breakfast items and their iced coffee/latte more than holds its own flavor wise, see that work of art below…

There is a reason I have been to Le Pain Quotidien four times now, it all about their fresh food and quality ingredients. It’s one of those places where I am confident I could order anything off of their menu and enjoy it.

LPQ Iced coffee

Restaurant #2: Le Pain Quotidien: Why Do You Hate Your Customers?

I have been to Le Pain Quotidien four times now for breakfast with a friend and the majority of the time it has been a delightful place to grab a meal. Regrettably only on three of those occasions was I served food…the fourth time they could not be troubled to acknowledge the existence of my friend and I as we sat outside for 22 minutes before we gave up on them and went to Starbucks instead. Its one thing to move along to another place to eat if the first place is full and they have no room for you, but it is a failure on the part of the restaurant if you show up and have to leave because they have not succeeded in their mission to feed you.

The only thing that would give Le Pain Quotidien even the slightest excuse for their failure would be that it was Mother’s Day, however we took a quick peek inside to see how busy were and they were only about two-thirds full at 10:00 am. And even then, if it is Mother’s Day and you are open for breakfast, you better be properly staffed, otherwise you did a crappy job of being ready for the day.

Le Pain Quotidien is one of those restaurants where you seat yourself, for better or worse, it is up to the wait staff to be on the ball to know that you are there and somebody new rather than the people who are responsible for the dirty dishes that are still on the table from the last occupants that they have let sit for 20 minutes.

On the day we weren’t served, we did choose to sit outside where they had three tables, one was clear, one was occupied and one was still cluttered with the dishes of the previous party. At a minimum we figured that somebody would be out just to clear the dirty tables, especially when the occupied table left a few minutes after we arrived. No such thing, they must not have needed the dishes and silverware too bad as nobody appeared…

Of the three occasions we did get served, twice the service was great, interestingly on those two occasions we were there around 9:00 am, the poor service seems to be a bit later in the morning when the crowds pick up a bit more. When I say bad service though it wasn’t that the server was rude, sick or incompetent, it was that they were slow, slow in all stages from drink orders to bill arrival.

For a restaurant that hypes up its communal atmosphere wants to be the place you come to relax and enjoy food, it has the most unhappy looking customers of any restaurant I go to, perhaps because they are enduring some level of staff neglect.

I went and did some research to see if other people have had the same sorts of problems. As of May 19, 2014, there were 30 reviews on Yelp for the location I went to adding up to an average rating of only three stars. The breakdown is as follows:

5 Stars – 3

4 Stars – 10

3 Stars – 5

2 Stars – 6

1 Star – 6

Of the 30 reviews, 7 of them dinged the service in some way, but 8 of the reviews had complimentary things to say about the service, most of the lower ratings were for service issues, most of the higher ratings praised the food (and the service as well in a few cases).

So how about the food? We covered the good above, so here is the not so good: It is on the pricey side for what you get and serving size seems wildly inconsistent. I have had three omelets, and none of them have been the same size, the one pictured up top is the largest one I have been served, the smallest one looked like it came from a kids menu. The plate of food above was a $13.75 meal, the pot of coffee was another $3.50. Also on one of the visits, my friend selected their French toast. It was made from their sourdough wheat and when it came out it looked like something you would have seen on the cover of Gourmet magazine, it looked like it was going to be the best French toast ever. Regrettably, it tasted like you licked a magazine page, it was rather flavorless and blah, my friend sent it back.

When it comes down to it, it looks like the service is what makes or breaks your experience at Le Pain Quotidien, hope you get the first restaurant experience from above, but if it appears like you are actually getting the second experience instead, I’m sure there is a Starbucks nearby that would be happy to have you.

http://www.lepainquotidien.com/

Starbucks Ham & New York Cheddar Sandwich

IMG_0337

Once more unto the breach! I have had success with Starbucks sandwich selections before, their the BLT Chicken Salad Sandwich,and their Egg Salad Sandwich, so I decided to sample their Ham and New York Cheddar Sandwich to see if it was worth my time and money.

Whereas the first two sandwiches were salad style sandwiches that would require additional prep work before even reaching the point where the filling would meet the bread, a ham and cheese sandwich requires little more than assembling your ingredients between two slices of bread. This can be an endeavor fraught with difficulty, and a thoughtless distribution of the ingredients could be all the difference between a transcendent mingling of the ingredients in your mouth and the culinary equivalent of having your tongue slapped by a scorned lover. Even matters as simple as the layering of ingredients in your sandwich can make or break your sandwich. I don’t know about you, but when I have a sandwich, I prefer to have my cheese layer on top of my meat layer. It’s just always been my preference, I think it is because I prefer the meat to be the first thing I taste in a bite followed by the cheese as the secondary flavor along with the other ingredients. I remember this one time where I got a sandwich that had the cheese layer on the bottom and the meat layer on top, I was very worried about how my sandwich was possibly ruined. I looked at how difficult it might be to take the sandwich apart and get the meat and cheese layers in their proper sequence, when I suddenly realized my problem. The poor befuddled clerk and given me my sandwich upside down! Oh how I laughed! I turned the sandwich over, wondered how the poor clerk had managed such a silly blunder and enjoyed my sandwich. Note in the picture above the sandwich half on the left is in its proper upright position, but the sandwich half on the right is askew (must have come that way from the sandwich factory).

Well enough of that tomfoolery, how was the Ham and New York Cheddar Sandwich?

They describe it as: “This sandwich brings out the ham in Gotham, the apple mustard from the Big Apple. But the featured attraction here is the New York Cheddar cheese, soft but oh-so-sharp. It’s all a nod to one of the world’s great cities between two tasty slices of cider wheat bread.”

The flowery words stand in great contrast to the pedestrian everydayness of the sandwich. The ham a very basic baked ham that had no smokiness, no honeyed overtones and was a minor flavor contributor to the sandwich that bears this ingredients name. The New York Cheddar cheese only really brought forth its cheddaryness when I tore off a corner of it and sampled it in isolation. The apple mustard was where the flavor was and I was left wanting more of it, it was the flavor highlight. The arugula was good too, the stereotypical pepperiness of it came through and played well with the other ingredients. The wheat bread more than succeeded in doing its job of keeping the sandwiches innards from escaping and making a mess, and was fresh too. The arugula distribution within the sandwich was something that made me laugh, and then sadly chuckle as I rearranged it properly, see the pic below…

Arugula

I paid $5.99 for this sandwich, and was unimpressed. When you have an everyday style sandwich made in mass quantities for a retailer like this, you will get an everyday unexciting sandwich as a result. What you should do is march on over to your nearest grocery store, buy the variety ham that sounds good to you, buy the variety cheddar cheese that also sounds good to you, a mustard of your choice and some fresh lettuce too and a loaf of bread to hold it all and then make a weeks’ worth of sandwiches from the aforementioned ingredients and enjoy a more flavorful and far cheaper experience.

If you are out at Starbucks and find yourself craving a ham and cheese sandwich, do yourself a favor and grab a BLT Chicken Salad Sandwich instead or order one of their breakfast sandwiches with ham as an alternative.

The Year Ahead

Last time I wrote about the year that was on this site and today I will share some of what I hope to do in the year ahead.
• Be more timely and regular with my posts. It goes like this, you stumble across an awesome blog with entries you enjoy reading, then you check back again the next day, nothing new. Ok, then you check back in a few days and still nothing new, I bet if you check a third time and there is still nothing new, you will probably not check back again. I would prefer you come, stay awhile, and visit often. I better have something new to serve you if you do…
• Write more! In addition to being more timely and regular with my posts, I hope to post more often than I have been.
• Be more interesting. There are two types of entries you see a lot on food blogs out there: Recipes and restaurant reviews, both have their place and can be interesting, helpful and delicious, but I hope to provide you with more unique material beyond yet another gluten free brownie recipe or a review for I restaurant I went to but you live 2000 miles away from and will never get to experience.
Ok, great, so you gave us a list of promises that sound a lot like New Year’s resolutions, what types of interesting stuff are you going to post about? I’m glad you asked…
• Food and its impact on society, what are we eating today, what are we eating tomorrow and what kind of an impact is it having on you, you country and the world.
• Vintage recipes, that gluten free brownie recipe tastes pretty good I’m sure but I am far more interested in that 45 year old brownie recipe on page 138 of that Betty Crocker cookbook and the other curiosities that are lurking in its pages.
• Vintage food magazines, I recently acquired an assortment of old Food and Wine magazines from the 1980’s, I already see hours and hours of entertaining analysis and reviews to come.
• Food history and trends in general from discussions as lofty and the rise(and possible fall?) of salmonella in eggs and corn syrup in soda to matters as trivial and entertaining as olive loaf and why you can’t find a bottle of creamy cucumber salad dressing.
I have some ambitious plans for the year ahead, will I bite off more than I can chew or will I find the recipe for success? Let’s find out together…

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