I am an award-winning journalist who has specialized in writing about food, wine, spirits and even the occasional hard cider for more than a decade. Recent stories have included pieces on everything from a program that certifies "true" Italian pizzerias (there are just 76 in the United States) to the death of the sit-down lunch. I also write the Weekend Sip, where I look at bottles both pricey (say, a $4,000 whiskey) and cheap and see how they fit into the marketplace. Prior to my time at MarketWatch and The Wall Street Journal, I was a restaurant critic for The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Fl.

https://twitter.com/CharlesPassy/status/472379164109336576

Comments: 211 • Responses: 66  • Date: 

chooter8 karma

Favorite restaurant recommendations in NYC?

chazpbg21 karma

Where to begin? If budget is not an issue, go to Per Se (Thomas Keller's place) -- the best meal I've ever had in my life, but it ran $750 per couple (and that was more than five years ago). But the true pleasures of eating in New York are cheap, ethnic eats. Two favorites: Zenon Taverna in Astoria, Queens (great Greek/Cypriot) and Congee in New York's Chinatown (98 Bowery -- amazing but simple Chinese fare, including -- of course -- congee!).

Predator_2 karma

Have you been to Dead Rabbit yet?

chazpbg1 karma

Love Dead Rabbit. But it's gotten too popular!

glubes7 karma

Where can I get really good sushi in NYC without spending 11 billion dollars?

chazpbg20 karma

Yeah, I once visited Masa -- just to say I did. I think I spent $40 for two pieces of sushi and a beer. So, I'm going to let you in on my gluttonous secret. There are a few places in the city that do all-you-can-eat sushi, but they tend to be pretty mediocre. And then there's this place: Kiku Sushi. A great, great neighborhood sushi joint in Chelsea -- does all the standard fare and a few interesting rolls. And it's all on the all-you-can-eat menu, which runs about $28. Add all-you-can-drink for another 6 bucks, I believe. (And all-you-can-eat green tea ice cream for another two bucks.) This place won't win awards, but it's solid and the deal is incredible. Come hungry, of course.

martins_friend3 karma

Hey Charles! I live in West Palm and was wondering what are your favorite places to eat at outside of Miami? Other than a few fish places in N. Palm, and several overpriced decent joints on PB I must say the food scene down here is weak. In your time down here did you find this to be the case?

chazpbg5 karma

I left the Palm Beach Post in 2010 and I covered restaurants for more than five years there. It is an incredibly frustrating place to dine -- so many mediocre restaurants (but plenty of them still pretty expensive). And pretty pathetic ethnic eating, too -- except for Cuban. Like a lot of people, I was a fan of Little Moir's and Leftovers in Jupiter. I loved Talay Thai in Palm Beach Gardens. And Paddy Mac's was my go-to Irish bar. That's a very short list, I realize. But it's what came to mind.

Fandorin3 karma

What's your favorite whiskey and wine?

chazpbg8 karma

Favorite whiskey: I'm a sucker for anything peated, meaning Islay Scotches. Laphroaig, Bowmore, they're all good to me. But if I had to pick a favorite, I'd go with the Laphroaig Cairdeas -- a special edition they've done where the liquid is aged in port casks. It adds a layer of sweetness to the smoke. Unfortunately, the bottle may have sold out by now. Ran about $100 if I recall. As for wine, again, so many to choose from, but I never say no to a good California Zin.

karmanaut3 karma

What is the most unethical food that a person can eat? And what makes that food so bad?

chazpbg17 karma

Honestly, I tend not to get into ethics games with food. So, yes, I eat foie gras. The one interesting thing I did find, though, was when debates emerged around kosher certification (I happen to be Jewish, but don't keep kosher). I thought it was fascinating that meat could be considered kosher because it was slaughtered properly, but that the ethics of the ownership of the slaughterhouse didn't seem to matter (ie an owner that refused to pay his or her workers). This became quite a matter of debate in some circles in the Jewish community. Again, perhaps not really an answer to your question, but it was one of the few times the ethics thing hit home for me.

LopsidedLolly3 karma

Charles, I'm pretty new to drinking, and I love Jack Whiskey but my friends always purchase Seagrams saying that it is cheaper and tastes the exact same. What should I say tell them so they want to go for the more expensive alcohol?

chazpbg7 karma

I just answered a question about wine and price. The short answer is price matters somewhat, but like anything else, you pay for brand names. With whiskey, the best value these days is Ireland, I'd say. They make great whiskey -- much more purely "drinkable" than a lot of bourbon and Scotch. And because it hasn't gotten quite the buzz that bourbon or single malts have, you can get great bottles for $50 or under. Here's a recent favorite, albeit right at the $50 mark: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/get-your-irish-whiskey-up-2014-03-14

starfoxx62 karma

[deleted]

chazpbg2 karma

Wow. I suspect it's probably in Jersey, where great diners continue to thrive. (The best I've been to of late: Mastori's. My favorite NYC diner is the one nearest me -- Chelsea Diner on 23rd and Ninth. If you go, ask for Herman (my favorite waiter).

EndsWithMan2 karma

Speaking in regards to business and spirits, what do you think the landscape of the beer and spirit industry will be like in 15 years? I ask because if you looked 15 years ago, there were very limited choices with few craft choices. Now you can go to any small liquor store and find a decent collection of craft beers and spirits. To me, it feels oversaturated at this point, also I feel like the casual drinker doesn't understand that what they might think is craft beer, is actually from a large brewer like Anheuser or Coors (Shock Top & Blue Moon). Do you see similar craft breweries and distilleries #'s to today's #'s or do you think there will be a "bubble burst" for all these local craft joints?

chazpbg3 karma

The craft biz will not grow smaller in my view. Now that Americans have gotten a taste for good beer, I don't think there's any going back. But what I think will happen -- in fact, what's already happening -- is that the Big Boys (think AB of Budweiser fame) will start buying out smaller breweries or introducing their own "craft" styles. It's possible that "craft" will lose some of its specialness as a result -- in other words, craft will become mainstream. But I just don't see Americans going back to drinking one or two flavorless lagers. Craft isn't a fad; it's a reality.

EndsWithMan3 karma

Thanks, Charles. That was my viewpoint on the situation as well. If you'd be so kind as to answer a follow up. The small batch distilleries I feel are a few years behind the microbreweries in their coming of age. Do you think we'll see a similar explosion in the smaller distilleries over the next few years, similarly to the micro and craft breweries in the last 10 years? I've tasted some really wonderful whiskeys from small distilleries and surprisingly, they were very affordable. A small, fun question as well, any suggestion on a craft brew that you've really enjoyed?

chazpbg2 karma

Hmmm... I can't say why, but I don't see it happening with craft distillers. Perhaps the reason is that the great thing about craft beer is you can enjoy a small-batch product, something truly artisan, for a very low price (even large format beers rarely run more than $10). With craft spirits, pricing can easily run $30-$75 -- and you can't find these things at your local bar if you just want a sip. So, to explore this stuff, you gotta spend. Given that a lot of the people who are into this are young and don't have deep pockets, I'm not sure it's going to explode the same way... Beer gave them a great entry point. As for a craft beer I liked, as I mentioned, the Upheaval IPA was one of my recent favorites.

hannibal_cannibal2 karma

Hi Charles! Small world, i actually went to middle school and high school with your son. My biggest question is how does one become a food critic? Is a knowledge of writing/journalism more important or is it better to focus on the culinary aspects and understanding flavor profiles? Getting people to trust and respect your opinion on food/alcohol is my ideal type of job and I am envious of your ability to turn my favorite hobbies into a career!

chazpbg3 karma

I'm always an advocate of becoming a journalist first, then finding your niche -- be it music or food or sports or whatever. The basic reporting/fact-gathering skills will serve you no matter what niche you find. (And I've actually found a few -- I wrote about music before I wrote about food). Others may suggest the reverse route, but this one worked for me.

_TheDevilsAdvocate2 karma

As a whiskey, beer, and ethnic food lover myself I'm glad tou brought your column to our attention. I now have it bookmarked.

I've read through everyone's comments and heard your recommendations. Just throwing a couple your way (feel free to ignore).

Have you tried McCarthys whiskey yet? I would fully sincerely and highly recommend it. Although nothing will beat their 2013 first batch (and they just got sold) all the vintages are fantastic.

Also, peekskills simple sour is one of my favorites right now.

Have you been to streecha? I just went last week and loved it.

chazpbg4 karma

Love the suggestions (especially the sour). Thanks!

thebud322 karma

Where are the best bagels and why cant anyone outside the tri-state are replicate them?

chazpbg4 karma

I dunno. Some say the best bagels are out of Montreal. I do think, however, there's something to the water thing. NYC water has a taste and texture that is going to have an affect on what you use it with. There's actually a bagel place in Florida that's essentially "crafted" NYC water to use in their bagels -- it sounds a bit like a gimmick, but I thought they indeed produced a better bagel.

thebud322 karma

Ha, that is a funny concept. As a New York Jew ( I think this makes you very qualified) where is your favorite bagel place in NYC?

chazpbg5 karma

Without a doubt, Ess-a-Bagel. Murray's is a close second.

inferno2292 karma

Do you write about First/ Business class flights? What was your best experience and what airline did you fly on?

chazpbg2 karma

I've done some travel writing, but not quite my area. Have to save that I've only flown first class twice in my life. And on the last time (2012) the wine was shockingly average.

wentadon17952 karma

Hey Charles, do you think that molecular gastronomy is the future of cooking or will traditions always rule in most of the great restaurants around the world?

chazpbg2 karma

The molecular thing is a fad that seems to be fading. The best bits of it will survive in some form or another -- I like how we can "pearls" for flavoring. But it's a supplement to traditional cooking, not a replacement for it.

whiskeydrone2 karma

Which current food/beverage trends do you find annoying and hope they disappear?

chazpbg3 karma

Siracha. When Subway started slathering it on its sandwiches, I knew it had jumped the shark.

Oh, and flavored vodkas. And flavored whiskeys, too. Enough is enough.

SmartHercules2 karma

Were you able to try IBM's new computer generated barbecue sauce? http://m.fastcodesign.com/3027687/i-tasted-bbq-sauce-made-by-ibms-watson-and-loved-it

chazpbg1 karma

Ha! No, can't say I have. But I have tried a lot of hot/bbq sauces over the years. As long as it's not too mass market-y -- I hate corn syrup in my bbq sauce -- I'm not one to complain.

dhartun12 karma

Two questions:

  1. With the current "shortage" of Buffalo Trace bourbon which is pushing the price point higher, do you have any recommendations for consumers for alternatives in the bourbon market? Bulleit? Rittenhouse? Weller 7/12?

  2. You have written about craft beer before. Is there anything in craft beer that excites you right now?

Thanks for your time!

chazpbg2 karma

Let's see -- re bourbon: I keep hearing about these shortages, but there's a lot of bourbon out there. I think we need to get out of Kentucky and explores "bourbons" made in other states (I know there's controversy about whether a corn whiskey made elsewhere can be called a bourbon, but whatever...). Here's one place out of New York that's recently fascinated me of late: Widow Jane.

As for craft beer, I just love anything in the sour beer category right now... The flavor takes some getting used to, though. I was also wild about this IPA I tried a while back: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/a-new-brew-for-ipa-lovers-2014-03-07

hackyflackattack1 karma

Hi Charles - what areas do you think are doing the most interesting things with craft beer? I've had a lot from New York state (living in NY), but what about other places like Baltimore, Chicago, etc.? Have you tried the Old Bay beer just released?

chazpbg3 karma

Can't say I've gotten that regional with beer -- outside of some obvious places (like Pacific Northwest). I wonder if Texas could be an "it" spot. Shiner seems to be catching on again, and the warm weather calls for a good beer.

fnord_happy2 karma

I aspire to be you someday. Or have your job, in the least. Working on it :)

chazpbg2 karma

The job market is a killer right now. I cover personal finance, too. I think it's one of the great untold stories of our time -- how the unemployment numbers go down, but no one can seem to find work.

wagesoffear2 karma

know any good places in Toronto?

chazpbg1 karma

Only been there once. Great Chinese food though, as I recall.

daredaki-sama2 karma

I live in southern California. As a native, what's something I should try but probably haven't before?

chazpbg2 karma

Alas, don't know SoCal well. But again, great ethnic eating, especially Asian.

digital_cake2 karma

Have you ever written about coffee? :)

chazpbg1 karma

A bit here and there. Let's just say I have had some thoughts about the pumpkin spice latte craze... http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/10/01/who-killed-the-great-pumpkin/

IniNew2 karma

What particular food do you not see enough of in the US?

chazpbg7 karma

I was just remarking the other day that we seem to have a Chinese and Japanese restaurant on every street corner (or strip mall) in this country. And we're starting to see the same with Thai. But for my money, Korean food is just as approachable, if not more approachable -- we're talking barbecue beef, hearty soups and lots of chilis. What's not to like?

daredaki-sama2 karma

As an Asian Californian, Korean food is where my latest taste trends go. Love having side dishes too.

chazpbg5 karma

Another great thing about Korean: those side dishes (banchan, I believe they're called) that come free with every meal. Great value!

mofo8081 karma

What are your thoughts on Yelp?

chazpbg3 karma

Basically, a necessary evil. I like how it's opened up "reviewing" and allowed folks to find quick opinions. But have you ever noticed how every restaurant has the inevitable review that begins, "Do not eat here!!!"

GT_ED1 karma

Do you smoke cigars? If so, what's a good cigar / whiskey combination?

chazpbg2 karma

I'm obsessed with cigars! But also totally lacking in knowledge about what to smoke and what to pair it with (perhaps you can help me!). The thing that drives me really, really crazy is that there are almost no places -- bar or restaurant-wise -- where you can smoke and sip at the same time (because of smoking laws, at least in NYC).

lolpdb1 karma

Are coffee shops dead? Must we all drink Starbucks all the time? :(

chazpbg2 karma

Good point. Some independent ones (or small chains) do well in NYC. But there's certainly no Burger King to Starbucks' MacDonald's (if that's a fair analogy). I do think that may change as other coffee styles -- think cold-brewed -- start to gain ground and different specialists emerge for them. I'm also wondering if we'll see an Italian company start to make a play for this market.

stayinschoolsayszuul1 karma

What are your views on food trends? Can you tell what is going to be the enxt big thing? How? What are the most important things you look for when writing about food?

chazpbg3 karma

Next big food trend? Wow, pretty wide open question. I mentioned South America. I think we're going to see the Chipotle model become more widespread for other foods/cuisines (there's a Chipotle-style Indian place in NYC that I bet will catch on.) As for trends, there's a joke that journalists look for things in threes -- but I do kinda take note of something that's interesting, and see if others have copied it in any way. If there are three or more examples, that tells me I'm on to something.

Amphenol11 karma

Hey Charles. I'm a recent university graduate searching for a career path that would allow me to derive some modicum of joy from going to work each day. It sounds like you've got a great thing going - what would you say was the most important step in turning your love of food/drink into a viable career? Also, you need to try Franklin BBQ in Austin if you haven't already.

chazpbg2 karma

Like I've said before, the ability to write -- in the all-around journalistic sense -- made it easier for me to pick what I wanted to focus on as my niche. Frankly, the ability to write is probably the most overlooked thing in almost any career these days. When was the last time you saw a decently written email or biz letter? Oh, and you've given me another excuse to visit Austin! What's the specialty of the house? If it's Austin, I'm guessing brisket...

matthewhughes1 karma

Hey there! First off, thanks for doing this AMA! Anyway, I'm trying to get into food writing. Can you give me any advice? Any good starting points?

chazpbg1 karma

Like I said, my advice would be to become a journalist first, then branch into food writing. Grab whatever opportunities you can (which, alas, these days means writing for free). And, yes, start your own blog -- and build things through social media channels. (But only go the blogging route if you're sure you've got something to say -- and you're prepared to say it on a fairly regular basis.)

rogueonomist1 karma

What can I do to be like you? Lets say, I want to specialize in writing about food, wine, spirits, etc.

chazpbg1 karma

Like I said, best to become a journalist first, then find your specialty. If you're with a publication/site, grab any opportunity you can to write about food, wine, etc. (or create your own). If you're on your own, start a blog, but commit to it.

Optimus-wine1 karma

Ultimate sandwich?

chazpbg4 karma

I spent almost 18 years living in South Florida. A good Cuban sandwich from a dive-y sorta place always works for me. Better yet, instead of the traditional Cuban, go for the Medianoche (made on sweeter bread). I'm trying to think of one spot that did it best where I used to live -- maybe this place in West Palm Beach: Tulipan Bakery.

RancorHi51 karma

Mr Passy can you tell me a bit about the hop futures market? I work with craft beer and people mention how interesting it is but can never elaborate.

chazpbg2 karma

Not something I've covered, but now you've got me curious.

tidder957471 karma

Hi Charles, what particular ciders do you prefer or recommend? Thanks.

chazpbg1 karma

I really need to brush up more on cider. I wrote a fairly extensive article about the cider boom a while back -- http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hard-cider-elbows-up-to-the-bar-2013-07-23. Best I've ever tried? One called Albee Hill (made in New York) -- a dry, non-carbonated cider.

outsidepr1 karma

Do you like sardines? Serious question.

chazpbg2 karma

Not really, though I've had the non-canned version in better seafood restaurants and enjoyed those. Anchovies are really one of the few foods I dislike, though (as much a cliche as it is to dislike them).

sliboneer1 karma

Are you related to Frédéric Passy?

chazpbg1 karma

Not as far as I know.

gijyun1 karma

Why do you think Philadelphia keeps getting stiffed for James Beard awards and Michelin stars?

chazpbg2 karma

Don't know Philly's scene well enough to comment. But the Beard thing is a bit of an enigma to me. I do know that the South Florida chefs who got nominated (but never won) came from the obvious places. The ones who really deserved recognition but fell slightly under the radar didn't even get the nomination.

dooj881 karma

Who really invented the Singapore Sling?

chazpbg1 karma

No idea!

chugotit1 karma

You need to come to Cider Camp!

chazpbg1 karma

What is cider camp???!!!

PenguinsFromDetroit1 karma

Best Bloody Mary ever? go!

chazpbg1 karma

Can't really say anything comes to mind. The key when ordering any Bloody Mary, though, is to find out if the bar makes its own or uses a mix. I'm always amazed at how even good bars rely on mixes. (Not that there aren't good mixes, either, but bars that use mixes tend to use the cheap stuff, I find). One trend I'd like to see catch on more, though, is the Bloody Mary bar.

bs4121 karma

Why is the "restaurant" industry so difficult? I see small shops in business for decades, but then others close within a few months.

chazpbg3 karma

Frankly, I think it's because so many amateurs enter the biz. It's a cliche, but it's really true: Everyone with money wants to open a restaurant. And the pop culture-ization of food has only made that more common. When amateurs enter a pro's game, they are often destined to fail. But when that many new restaurants open, it makes it all the harder for existing ones to survive, too.

fnord_happy1 karma

What do you think makes a restaurant click?

chazpbg1 karma

A gazillion things. A chef who tries to do something different. (I remember singing the praises of a chef who did a deconstructed Caesar salad -- it became something of a signature for him and it really boosted his restaurant. And we're talking just a salad!) But location and timing count, too. (For example, right now, some NYC neighborhoods could use a good Chinese restaurant that's not a takeout joint.) And don't forget service -- a lost art, if you ask me. (Do you ever have a bad meal at a place with great service?) But it's really the combination of all of the above that make a restaurant truly click, I'd say.

fnord_happy1 karma

Thanks! How big a role do marketing or gimmicks have?

chazpbg1 karma

I suppose they have their role in getting people to try a place the first time. But no restaurant I know could last -- at least beyond a year -- if it couldn't deliver the goods.

inferno2291 karma

Hi there. I've got a couple of questions if you don't mind answering them.

  1. As I'm a food blogger (with shotty writing skills I might add), what is your take on the current culture of Food blogging and people traveling around the world to eat at fine dining restaurants while taking photos with either their smartphones or expensive hi-res cameras and then writing about their experiences afterwards?

  2. What is your take on the other current trend of just people, not only food bloggers, taking photos of their food and posting them on social media outlets such as Instagram?

  3. What was the best restaurant you've eaten in France, USA, UK and Japan as those countries to me seem like the top places for gastronomy?

  4. As I've been exposed to fine dining and spirits at a young age, people say that I should become a food writer. How did you get to where you're at and what advice can you give to others who want to get into your profession?

  5. Finally, have you heard of the upcoming documentary "Foodies: The Culinary Jetset"? What is your take on the trend in the media about more programs/movies focused more on food and dining such as Top Chef and the series starting Anthony Bourdain?

Edit: as I'm aware that I've asked a lot of questions compared to the rest of the others, the first two questions of mine are the ones I'm concerned with the most.

chazpbg1 karma

Re your first two questions: I know everyone likes to take pictures of their food. I got no complaints with that. But I also know that a lot of dishes don't show up particularly well when photographed -- I learned this lesson as a newspaper critic when I'd have a staff photographer shoot a particular thing I ate that was delicious and the photo somehow made it seem like a barely edible blob. I guess that's why people must be going for better cameras and such. But in general, no beefs with a picture if it ADDS something to the reporting. If it's just to say "I ate this and that," then so what? Re becoming a food writer: My advice is to become a solid journalist first, then specialize in food. If you can cover a fire or cover the stock market or cover a political race, you'll have chops that will serve you well when you get into something more niche-y -- like food.

ItsPillsbury1 karma

Did you go to school for journalism or something culinary?

chazpbg1 karma

Nope in both cases. Got an English major because, well, I had to major in something. Decided against a journalism master's because this is a career that doesn't require an advanced degree (though my son is getting one -- these days, it does seem to help). I've always felt I had a good set of taste buds and I read A LOT about food -- that's where my culinary education comes from. But if I had a chance to take a year or two off and someone paid me to go to culinary school, I wouldn't be opposed! I know a lot of non-chefs who work in the culinary field who say the training is invaluable in all aspects of the food world.

GT_ED1 karma

Other than NY, what cities have the best restaurants that you've visited?

chazpbg6 karma

I've not done as much traveling as I'd like. But the last place I visited that really impressed me was Montreal. It's got the ethnic thing going on -- great Jewish deli and great Middle Eastern food, for examples. And it's also got poutine! (If you don't know about poutine, let's just say it takes cheese fries to a whole other level).

Sisiwakanamaru1 karma

  • What do you think is the next trend for restaurant scene in north america?

  • What is the tastiest food that you ate recently?

Thank you

chazpbg3 karma

I think South American cuisine -- Brazilian, Chilean, Peruvian, etc. -- is going to have its moment soon. It's been predicted for a while, but I think the World Cup (and the next Summer Olympics) will make it more of a reality. As for tastiest food, hmm, just had some really unusual (well, for me at least) Chinese puddings/desserts in Flushing, Queens, the other day.

argyros2 karma

What do you think of Pollo a la Brasa in regards to the South American emergence?

chazpbg3 karma

Yeah, that could be part of this trend, but I think Americans are too hung up on fried chicken. I've always been amazed that a great South Florida Cuban chain, Pollo Tropical -- it does amazing chicken -- hasn't gone national. But again, I suspect it's because Americans like their chicken fried.

argyros1 karma

What other cuisines and styles of food or restaurant do you consider to be part of this trend? I think Polla a la Brasa and other fast casual latin american restaurants are seeing, are going to continue to see, a rise in popularity and scope. I am not sure the affinity for things fried is confining Pollo Tropical, or other restaurants like it. Americans like good chicken, be it fried or grilled. If it can be had with a side of fries or arroz chaufa, and dipped in aji verde, all is good.

chazpbg2 karma

I bet we'll see more empanadas (maybe even a chain?) and pupusas and arepas soon. Just a hunch. The whole Latin-American sandwich thing seems to work with our food truck-friendly mindset, too.

inthemorning331 karma

Have you ever had a fine dining experience with John C. Dvorak?

chazpbg2 karma

Nope. Our paths have not crossed.

Witherkay1 karma

Strange question, but did you always enjoy wine? As I approach my mid-twenties there's more pressure to drink wine at fancy social occasions, but I still hate the taste of all of it. In your opinion, is this something that comes with age, or am I drinking the wrong wines?

chazpbg2 karma

Good question. I always think of wine like I think of classical music, which I used to cover. A lot of people are hesitant to get into the music or find it difficult -- perhaps because they start with stuff that's simply not as much "fun" (Bach is my favorite composer, but I'd never begin with him -- instead, go for Tchaikovsky). I think the same is true with wine -- try stuff that's a little more fruit forward or fun. Rose sometimes gets a bad rap, but it's a great beginner wine, for example.

lioemases1 karma

Hi Charles,

How do you choose what to eat on a daily basis? Do you tend to stick with favourites or do you often go out on a limb to try something new?

chazpbg4 karma

Both. I eat at the same diner near my NYC apartment about three times a week (sometimes for breakfast, sometimes for dinner). But I try to make a point of trying a new restaurant -- and especially a new cuisine -- as often as possible. In NYC, you have no excuse not to.

ClarenceBeeks1 karma

i recall you wrote about the pinball scene in New York City -- has it reached its peak? Is it just a passing hipster driven analog fad, or a more permanent pastime reasserting itself anew?

chazpbg4 karma

Yup, I'm obsessed with pinball. Hard to say -- I think we could be just at the beginning of a pinball boom. This is a great American pastime that deserves to reach a wider market again. But the hipster crowd does tend to move on to the next thing, so that's possibly what may happen here. And thanks for remembering the piece I wrote.

bluestar_airlines1 karma

I find many restaurants I read reviews about to serve mediocre food once I go and visit for myself. I have especially experienced this at well known restaurants that have alot of money behind them. Are there any red flags I should look out for when reading a review. I know it's common for reviewers to receive free meals and restaurant PR is very common as well these days and I am really tired of wasting money on a sub par dining experience after reading a stellar review.

chazpbg3 karma

Actually, a reputable newspaper critic (and yes, I'm talking a print newspaper) won't ever accept a freebie for a review. (And most try to dine anonymously.) The rules can be different online. The one thing I would say is that if a place gets a good review and you're curious to try it, just wait a few months (or at least a few weeks). I went through this a lot myself as a reviewer -- I'd write a favorable review, and the restaurant would get slammed. The result? They couldn't keep up with the sudden demand, and so diners got a lesser experience. Eventually, they get back on track. But you don't want to be part of the crowd that rushes to the hot new place.

RookieSaver1 karma

What do you think of the recent craze for secret menu items? Like the chipotle quesarito? Http://Www.hackthemenu.com

chazpbg3 karma

Kinda like what I think of the speakeasy craze. It's cute, but it's also annoying. If you got something to serve, just serve it!

spockosbrain1 karma

Have you ever gotten food poisoning from eating at a restaurant? How did the restaurant deal with it?

Last year I got food poisoning. The restaurant blamed the supplier. The supplier, based in the US, said the lettuce mix was from Mexico and delivered in a pre-washed triple rinsed bag.

The USDA said they don't have enough resources to check everything, especially imported stuff. From what I've read it's just going to get worse.

I would think that since the restaurants usually take the PR hit for these things would demand better regulation and inspection, but it looks like they just pass the buck.

chazpbg1 karma

I actually can say I've never gotten food poisoning from a restaurant. If I did, I'm not sure how I would have dealt with it in a review (that's a charge you don't make lightly). The supplier issue indeed comes up a lot in these incidents. Not really sure who's to blame, but restaurants clearly hold some responsibility for what they serve.

SlipStreamWork1 karma

Two questions.

1) Where's the best place to get a pastrami sandwich in NYC (any borough)?

2) What's your opinion on Darren Rovell?

chazpbg1 karma

1) Katz's (is there really any question?) 2) No opinion.

SoaringFish1 karma

What college degree did you study? How did you start your career in food journalism? Sorry I am just curious on how this career is like :P

chazpbg1 karma

I majored in English because you have to major in something. (Journalism wasn't offered at my college, in any case.) I started primarily as a music writer, but branched into broader areas of journalism. Became a food writer when an opportunity opened up at my old paper.

jjmc860 karma

Hi Charles

Two questions

  1. What do you make of the rise of at home immersion circulators?
  2. How can I get a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle in NYC without paying an exorbitant amount?

Thanks.

chazpbg1 karma

I dunno. I think that sous vide stuff (if that's what you're referring to) is never going to achieve critical mass. If anything, I see cooking at home becoming simpler and simpler -- people like to talk about cooking, but I don't think they actually like to do it (and restaurant sales and takeout sales show that). As for Pappy, I don't know where in NYC, but I've written a bit about whiskey as an investment and it seems a lot of the buying and selling happens online or through specialists. I'm sure you already know this, but I think any question about hard-to-find stuff can be answered by the good folks at Astor (my favorite place).

alcoholland1 karma

Do you get good service there? I can't get most of the staff to say hi or be willing to help me.

chazpbg1 karma

Actually, I have gotten good service there. Surprised to hear that. Maybe it's a question of finding the right person?

melissa550 karma

I am a huge foodie! I would love your job! Do you get to pick the restaurants to review or are you asked? What's your favorite red wine under $50? I despise restaurants where you have to order from menu on wall as soon as you walk in the door. Do you mind them or does it not matter? Thanks! : )

chazpbg2 karma

I don't review restaurants any more (though I certainly go to plenty of them -- for work and fun!). When I used to review, it was pretty easy to pick places -- anything new and noteworthy or anything that had been around a while and perhaps merited a new look (say, because a new chef took over). As for the wines under $50, wow, that's a pretty wide open one. You can get lots of great stuff under $50. The trick is to get great wine for under $20 (or even $15). My advice (and I'm far from the first to suggest this): Look for wines from emerging locales -- South America, for example. Or Old World places that don't get the buzz that France and Italy do -- Spain is great in that regard.

MaeglyHeights0 karma

Charles! I find beer drinkers are falling for the same mythologies that wine drinkers have. From my experience people are chasing the bottle instead of actually enjoying it, they don't know what they are drinking unless they see the tap handle or bottle it came out of, and they're really taking some aspects of it far too seriously. Do you see this happening with whiskey as well?

chazpbg2 karma

Yup. Whisky/whiskey has become a hipster's game in this country. But that's not a terrible thing: Even as recently as five years ago, it was hard to find more than, say, a half-dozen bourbons at your corner liquor store. Now, you can find easily twice that number. (And really good stores will carry a couple of dozen.) I, for one, like the variety, so if we have to put up with some pretension to get to that point, I'll suffer the fools.

Bawnsley0 karma

Welcome! I hope this isn't a question you've had to answer a zillion times:

Is there something you have always wanted to write about/publish but have not yet done so? What is it and why not?

chazpbg2 karma

Hmmm... The hardest stories to tell are the most personal ones. I've done a lot of first-person piece for various outlets, including MarketWatch. For example, I wrote about my struggles as a fat man: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chris-christie-wins-four-more-yearsof-fat-jokes-2013-11-08. When you do something like that, you open yourself up to a lot of ridicule (and a lot of crazy emails) -- so when I have a story like that in mind, I do often hesitate. But those are also the stories that end up being the most important in a way, too. Readers always connect to the personal.