Ask Tom -- Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema discusses the DC dining scene

Aug 10, 2011

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema entertains your dining questions, rants and raves.

Find all of Tom Sietsema's Washington Post work at washingtonpost.com/tomsietsema.

Please, please make every owner read this great Slate article on how horrible many restaurant web sites are, and how to fix them.

I agree, the piece on restaurant websites by Farhad Manjoo is  important reading.

 

One explanation for bad online performances: "People in restaurants have a sense that they want to create an entertainment experience online," says one of the design experts quoted in the Slate article. "That's why disco music starts, that's why Flash sideshows open. They think they can still play the host even here online."

 

Why should restaurants be more attentive to their websites?  A rep for OpenTable tells Slate that one-third of an establishment's reservations occur "online during hours in which the restaurant is closed," and more than 10 percent of diners are coming from mobile devices.  Many in the industry don't comprehend how important the Web is to their operations, says the OpenTable spokesman. "The fact that it's a front door for many customers is still a new idea."

 

 

Good morning, gang. Thanks for joining me today.

 

 

  Did you hear that DC's future ramen restaurant, Daikaya, secured a brand-name chef?  That the Columbia Room acquired a new top toque?  That there's a new restaurant in the SW with a, ahem, weak link to Spain?  Or that Bobby Flay is opening (be still my heart!) a burger joint in Washington next Tuesday? All grist for today's discussion.

When it comes to servers interrupting there is no clear person to blame. Sometimes the server, sometimes the guest, but many times the consistently eroding knowledge of dining etiquette. A server that knows proper dining cues and etiquette should rarely have trouble with timing when waiting on a guest with the same knowledge. Unfortunately, in my experience as a restaurant manager, both groups increasingly lack such important knowledge of social rules.

I'm amused by the way a friend of mine handles intrusive staff.  The first time anyone interrupts a conversation to ask, "How is everything?," he whips out a little framed sign that reads: "If everything is not alright, you will be the first to know."  A little terse, maybe, but it gets the point across.

I just noticed that Michael Landrum has a Website for his various restaurants. Is this a new development or have I been in the dark for a while? Any idea why he finally decided to make information available about his restaurants?

See  the Slate reference above.

 

The steak honcho's site is news to me, too.

Tom: I'm traveling to Albuquerque for work next month and I'm wondering if you or any chatters have any suggestions for quality, affordable meals. I'll be staying in a hotel right downtown (near the convention center) and won't have access to a rental car. Things are looking a little rough; can anyone offer me a little hope? Thanks!

Are you open to a little adventure? When I was returning from Santa Fe last summer, I stopped at a place called the Monte Carlo Steak House in Albuquerque.  Located behind a liquor store, the rustic dining room attracts lots of bikers, lots of seniors, a few families; it is revered for its  char-broiled green chile cheeseburgers. 

 

Anyone else care to weigh in with ideas?

Tom, where can one find some good fondue in or around town? There used to be a Swiss restaurant, Appenzell, when I first moved to D.C. in the early 80s but I can't seem to find one anywhere now. Even the Swiss Embassy didn't know where I could get some cheese fondue. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated! Andrew in D.C.

One of the few places that's not the Melting Pot serving  fondue in the city  is the newish Sax downtown, but it's hardly a traditional restaurant. Along with the warm blend of cheese ($25 for up to four, by the way), patrons get a side of burlesque.

I am challenged by logistics every time we go for sushi. I know you are "allowed" to take bites, but more than two bites is overly-challenging for my chopsticks. Is there a correct way to order lady-sized pieces? I would be ever-so glad not to look like a glutton or a slob who my husband can't take anywhere.

Did you know it's perfectly acceptable to eat sushi with your fingers? That's my means of dispatching an especially large pillow of rice topped with raw fish.

Please, Mr. Sietsema, please!! My partner and I leave Saturday for Africa. Do you or your chatters have restaurant suggestions for Cape Town? We already have reservations at La Colombe, but could use some help with other dining venues. We are also going to Lusaka, Zambia (Victoria Falls) and would appreciate recommendations there as well. Thank you very much!!

Africa, anyone? It's not a part of the world I've met yet.

I have reservations this weekend at Graffiato for my mother and myself. However, after last week's discussion I'm a little concerned about the noise. The food sounds fantastic but the noise sounds truly awful. We're going on the early side but my sense is it is the blasting music, not the people, that makes it bad. Should we go somewhere else? We have the whole weekend together so we don't need to have an in depth conversation but we don't want to come out of it with ringing ears either.

Graffiatio is a loud restaurant that gets more so as the bar fills up and the evening progresses. Your best bet is to dine early (before 7 p.m.) and sit upstairs.

 

P.S. Don't miss the corn agnolotti.

I'm hosting a group of about 40 for a private dinner next month. Guest from all over the world, and I'd like to showcase U.S. cooking if you will. What would you recommend for a private room in West End or nearby Georgetown (so people can walk to and from)? Budget about $90/person all included?

If  great American food is more important to you than proximity to Georgetown, I'd book the party at the  Oval Room (and simply instruct guests to take cabs or the Metro).

 

Tony Conte is an important chef with a distinct cooking style; every one of his dishes features "a little pop and a little zing" as he likes to say.  Bonus:  When guests stroll out of the restaurant after dinner, they can see the White House across Lafayette Park. Now how cool is that?

I'm planning in advance, but my boyfriend's birthday is a few months away. He is a pesca-vegetarian and I'd like to take him out for a special dinner that is not a. burritos or b. pizza (our usual restaurant outings). Where should I take him?

Did you catch my review of Elizabeth's Gone Raw? Not only is the part-time restaurant completely vegan, nothing is cooked above 115 degrees. Might be something different.

Ugh. I waitressed for book money in college, and if any of my customers had whipped out that framed sign about "letting me know first," I think I would have been in tears. It's just plain rude. My manager required us to make a certain number of visits to tables, and I just didn't have the time to carefully determine beforehand whether the diners were receptive to my visit. I'm surprised that you would think treating wait staff like that is appropriate, Tom.

I didn't say I condoned the sign, just that I was amused by it.  (Far be it from me, a former waiter, to make servers feel bad.)  Maybe I'm simply tired of  having so many of my restaurant meals interrupted. I know I'm not alone.

Not sure where to put this, but a reader asked you Friday about local country inns and you recommended the Ashby Inn in Paris (which is lovely, especially in winter with the fireplaces blazing!). I want to put in a plug for two more of my favorites: Goodstone Inn on Snake Hll Rd. and Hunter's Head Tavern on Rte 50 in Upperville. Goodstone makes a real effort to offer locally-produced food - dishes are occasionally overly ambitious. It's a lovely place to eat and a good choice of a special occasion. Hunter's Head's menu includes both pub fare and normal, American-style entrees. All of the meat and much of the produce are (is?) raised organically at the owner's own farm down the road - which is owen to visitors twice a year during the Farm Tour. Meat animals are also certified humanely raised and, I'm told, are slaughtered by the owner at her own place 30 miles farther west. Consistently decent food, good draft beer, moderate prices, pleasant outdoor seating except in winter and indoor dining rooms with creaky floors and fireplaces in an old inn. Kid-friendly (my two-year-old is a regular).

My keys are * in* the ignition!

 

Thanks for your detailed mini-reviews of two places I hope to get to in the near future.

I can think of several restaurants I want to send this article to.

Then do it!

Tom: It has been quite awhile since you have had a guest chef participate in your chat. I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the sessions because we could ask them questions directly. Any plans to bring anyone to the table anytime soon?

I'm happy to take suggestions.  A number of readers complained to me that some of the guests stuck too close to a script and didn't provided anything of insight or value. (I disagree, but I listen to readers -- most of them, anyway.)

is it in bad form to only order small plates at restaurants like Rasika and America Eats (where there are entrees on the menu)? I have done so in both places in recent weeks, and enjoyed the meals tremendously but wonder if this is an annoyance to the wait staff/cooking staff and if I should tip extra or make a point of thanking them? At AE we had to ask for individual plates so we could share--at Rasika they do that automatically. Both places were nice enough about it (and the food was great) but I wonder if this is something that goes against some sort of etiquette/rule?

As long as you're ordering food, I don't think it matters. As I've mentioned before, both here and in reviews, appetizers frequently trump main courses in the taste department.

After reading last week's food section I have to assume that the heat is affecting you. Love the fact that you wrote about bread service, but hate the fact that you did not include Graffiato. It's one of the hottest places in town and their bread service is atrocious. I simply can not understand how an italian restaurant with a massive pizza oven can have no viable bread service (charging $2 for bad foccacia is not bread service). My Sicilian Mother, who loves the chef from TV, was in disbelief and is still praying for him. Go to Posto and see how easy it is. Second, since when did RJ Cooper become such a celebrity chef in DC? Did I miss something? You have way too much love for him. He has never had his own place and he opens up a vanity project? He does not come close to ranking amongst the local top 10 chefs, maybe not even the top 20. Went to Rouge 24 with a friend and can't believe we dropped over $500 there (24 course, drinks, wine, tip and tax). Yeah, there were a few interesting courses, but not even close to worth it. Went home and ordered a pizza (also admit that when I went to mini bar I went to BK for a whopper afterwards). Its not a real meal. This place will have a full ala cart menu in 6 months. He simply does not have the name or talent to pull this off. By the way, if you have not yet had the suckling pig at Maialino in NYC, I highly recommend it. One of the best meals I had in a while. Hope the heat stroke has worn off and you are cooling down! Got to make my bi-annual trip to Giant and get some food since next week is restaurant week.

Whoa! I appreciate your contribution to today's chat, but there's lots to address therein.

 

Yep, Graffiato does not serve bread automatically, or for free.

 

I'm not sure a fairly positive preview of the new Rogue 24 makes me an R.J. Cooper worshipper. I admire his guts in these fragile economic times and he's definitely adding something fresh to the scene. Remember, the guy also won a James Beard Award for his cooking in the Mid-Atlantic in 2007, so you can't totally discount his work. I agree with you about all those itty bitty dishes, though; at one point in the meal, I just wanted something to last longer than two bites.

 

Suckling pig at Maialino sounds divine. I hear you about buying groceries in advance of Restaurant Week. I think I'll be doing most of my eating out of town then.

OMG. I set out to do just that, went to the worst offender's web site to get their e-mail address, and lo & behold their web site has been completely redesigned: no Flash intro, no horrible light-blue-on-bright-yellow lettering...Slate be praised.

We bow to Slate.

I think it would be truly awesome if you could get Michael Landrum to chat. I have a feeling that would be WILDLY entertaining.

No doubt!

RJ Cooper! He would be a blast! And perhaps he can explain Rogue 24 'cause it is a mystery to me.

Keep the names coming, folks.

Hmmm. Diners don't want to be interrupted so often, but managers are requiring servers to visit tables more often - perhaps some customers need to communicate with the managers?

Maybe there should be two signs at every restaurant table.

 

One would be green and read:  "We want to bond with you!"

 

The other would be red and say: " Not in the mood. I'll flag you if I need you."

Hi Tom! My sister and I are going to Heritage India this Thursday for dinner. Have you been? We're not familiar with Indian food. What should we order? We're open to everything.

Gosh, I haven't been there in years; here's what I liked the last time I spent time at the spinoff of the original Heritage India in Glover Park.

 

Chatters? Any suggestions?

Obviously a term coined by city dwellers who dont have a clue about stockmanship and raising meat for the market. If you stress a steer or a lamb it will not put on weight. Less weight equals less profit. Also stock at times do not want to cooperate and go where they need to go. In these cases a good stockdog is called upon to use its influence on the herd or offending stock to get them moving.. The presence of the dog is often enough incentive to get things moving but often time a good cross check administered by a 40lb dog on a 200lb sheep or grip on the nose of a 1000lb steer or on the hind quarters of a sheep gets it done. A sheep or steer isnt humane when it runs over the dog or human to get where it wants to go. Folks need to live in the real world and not fixate on Babe

I learn so much from this chat.

 

 

Not only that, but many appetizers are the size of what used to be entree size. (OK, I need to revise that sentence, but you know what I mean.)

I do. Appetizers have grown, like Americans' girth, to near-entree-size.

Hi Tom, My husband and I were horrified yesterday by the sight of a woman cradling her cellphone between her ear and shoulder while helping herself to the buffet. Just one slip and the cellphone would have landed in the food, not only splattering it everywhere but contaminating it as well. Have you seen this behavior before? In wonder, with food as expensive as it is, I can't imagine any restaurant that could afford to have whole batches of food ruined. Are there efforts out there to ban cellphones while serving oneself from buffets? Thanks.

Please raise your hand if you've been behind someone at Starbucks who is holding up the line because he or she is having a cell phone conversation.

 

I count a lot of hands, including my own.

 

 Chatter, I'm glad you and your husband were "horrified" by the woman cradling her cell phone at the salad bar. Unacceptable cell phone (and other) behavior is so rampant these days, I think a lot of us just shrug our shoulders, roll our eyes and try to ignore the offenders. 

 

At my gym, there's a sign in the locker room asking patrons not to use cell phones.  Not long ago, I observed an attendant enforcing the rule after a guy took a call  while he was changing. The same day, I encountered a different man talking on his cell IN THE STEAM ROOM.  For a brief moment, I thought he was talking to me; when the steam cleared, I realized he was conducting business with an out-of-state colleague. Niiiiiice. 

 

 

Isn't it the manager's job to train the staff to "read" the table rather than simply say "visit it more often"?

Bingo!

I'm looking for a sleek space for 12 teenage girls to celebrate 16th birthday. Food obviously important, but atmosphere will seal the deal. Asian/sushi a favorite but can go in almost any non Mex direction.

I think the rear dining room of the second-story Sushi Taro in Dupont Circle would be my first choice. It's pretty and light-filled and the tables near the big windows look onto the bustling sidewalk activity below. Plus, the quality of the fish is very good. 

 

A broader pan-Asian menu awaits at the colorful Raku in Bethesda; a pricier option is the uber-sleek Source next to the Newseum near the Mall.

If any of my dining companions whipped out a framed sign like that, they would no longer be my dining companions. I just assume I will be interrupted by inquiries as it is their job to do so - to expect otherwise is foolish.

For the record: My friend has never done this in my presence. And he knows I would remove it from a shared table if he did.

I highly recommend Barelas Coffee House in Albuquerque for great New Mexican food. I work with many New Mexicans and we go there when we're back in ABQ.

Gracias.

Like "Maid Service Requested" on hotel doorknobs. One side could feature two happy gabbing diners, the other side could be a diner frowning at his water glass.

I like it, I like it.

Hi Tom, First trip to Lost Society failed to meet expectations because the menu on the web site (directed there from Open Table) listed steak entrees that were not available when we dined. I'm not talking about a daily special...the posted menu showed more steak options than were available on the restaurant's actual menu. Given that web sites are the primary source of information for many of us making a restaurant choice, I can't stress enough how important it it to be accurate! Prices were different on the actual menu compared to the web menu, too. To me, this is as disappointing as poor service or bad lighting...maybe the food is terrific (it was just OK), but you have created expectations that you aren't really able to meet. GET A CLUE, managers!!!!!! On the plus side, the space is wonderful and the vibe is really great - high energy without being exclusive/hipster/too cool for school. I'd gladly return for a drink at the bar.

If it's Wednesday, it must be Bash Restaurant Websites Day!

 

Finding inaccurate information online is the equivalent of  discovering lipstick on a wine glass or crumbs on a banquette: Disappointing.  It reveals a business that isn't minding the details.

 

As I've stated before, restaurants need to have on staff someone responsible for updating menus and other useful information on a regular (read: daily) basis. 

 

Lost Society, by the way, is the subject of my next   First Bite  column.

I recently went to the one in Dupont (and I am Indian-American and grew up eating Indian vegetarian food) -- we ordered only off the "street food" portion of the menu. Do not miss the golgappas, they are hard to find around here and very good. The bhel puri is also good, as are the dahi bhallas (similarly hard to find outside an Indian home kitchen b/c they are extremely labor intensive to make).

Ah, good advice. Thanks for chiming in.

as a neighborhood resident, I was thrilled to see a restaurant go in. I'm less thrilled that it doesn't really meet the needs of the neighborhood, though. While I appreciate that Lahlou wanted something "nicer" with "better food," what we really needed was a low-key neighborhood place with good food and service. Sadly, Station 4 misses the mark on every one of those points.

Yup. Weird how so much thought was lavished on the interior and so little consideration was given to what the neighbors want or need.

Then the managers should change. We don't want 'visits.' We want our food, a rare check-in (at a logical time; not before I've had a chance to taste my dish) and to enjoy time with our freinds.

Ah, but there are other diners --- I've seen them! -- who love chatting up the people who are taking their orders and delivering their food.  One size service does not fit all.

I've seen some that post "sample menus" and/or menus with no prices. While both are annoying, it's better than nothing for a place that isn't going to be updating the site regularaly.

In this day and age, posting sample menus and leaving out prices is just plain lazy. If I saw such online, I'd move on to another restaurant.

Hi Tom. My son and daughter-in-law are celebrating their 1st anniversary at the end of August. I don't live in or near DC so I don't know much about the restaurant scene there, but want to send them someplace special to mark the occasion. They appreciate a great meal, love wine pairings and are pretty adventuresome diners. Friends have suggested Komi and Marcel's. What would you suggest, either between those 2 or another option. For the kind of $$$'s we're talking about, I'd like to make the right choice!! Thanks.

I'd be thrilled if someone gave me a gift certificate to either the modern Greek or polished French  restaurant  (your friends have good taste!) , but if you want to make the decision more challenging, consider CityZen or the Dinig Room at Palena, too.

Send the word to Rasika, PLEASE!!!!

I think you just did. Great restaurant, lousy website.

Restaurant Eve only posts a sample menu.

Caught!

Speaking of Eve, the co-owner of that and several other choice restaurants in Old Town asked me to post a response to someone who sent the following in regarding the new Virtue Feed & Grain last week.

Ready?


Virtue Disappointment
As a huge Cathal Armstrong fan, I was very much looking forward to dining at Virtue Grain and Feed last week. The restaurant space is fantastic (maybe a little bit loud), servers were good and I was impressed that there were few new restaurant hiccups; but the food was thoroughly unimpressive. I was so disappointed. The Pate Maison was good, but only served with three pieces of bread (a nit), but the Ox Tongue salad was bland, the scallops unoriginal, and the pork shoulder was inedible & tough and somehow was over seasoned (too salty), while simultaneously lacking any flavor. The oysters were good with a great accompanying vinegary smoky mignonette, but they oysters were fairly manhandled and looked like the offending shucker could have been wearing two eye patches and only had the function of two hooks for hands. Arrg. I reread your review and noted that you didn't have too many superlatives in your food review and like others talked more about the space. The Armstrongs should be proud of their beautiful historic reinterpretation of a great space on Union street, but I hope that their food can live up to their reputation, space and high expectations. P.S. Oh and pretty please, I hope that Mr. Thrasher decides to start offering the world's greatest gin and tonic at Virtue or else I will have to get my fix at the Restaurant Eve's bar.

The following response is from Meshelle Armstrong:

Dear Tom,

Hope you are well, would love it if I could chime in in response to last week Virtue poster comments:

"The restaurant space is fantastic (maybe a little bit loud), servers were good and I  was impressed that there were few new restaurant hiccups; ; but the food was thoroughly unimpressive."

As as restauratuer I have 3 very significant factors that require success in a concept; you've included all three in your initial evaluation, so thank you and kudos; most civilian critiques rarely take all three collectively into account.

I'm going to say this out loud so hopefully it may shake off any "expectations" from those who have yet to visit.

There are 3 types of people we've encountered since we've opened Virtue.

Those who are accustomed with other taverny type places, come to Virtue and say, "the portions aren't big enough."

Those who are accustomed with Restaurant Eve, come to Virtue and say, "it's not impressive enough."

Then there's the third group; those who are accustomed to both who come to Virtue and say,"the beer is cold, the nosh is good and the place is great."

Ding, ding!

Virtue, is exactly, as we planned. There are times when chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream is exactly what I want. It's not meant to "impress" me. It's just meant to be easy, good and familiar.

And when 1300 people (our average number of patrons) from all walks of life fill the place to: play pool, pick up a date, drink beer, listen to music, eat a sandwich, have a great time and return often. Virtue has full-filled our expectations.  

But hey, we eat there too and yes, at times, things do need tweeking. We are on it! Oh and so that there's even less head scratching as to what we actually do at Virtue, our menu states : Here, we are all about meat, fat and flavor. Foo foo food is shunned and tweezers are banned.  Rustic coolness however, is celebrated.

And as far as loudness, when the dj starts and pajama brunch gets going, it's going to get a whole lot louder. Just so you know.

Thank you so very much, come eat and play!

Meshelle Armstrong

A good server and one properely trained learns to read his/her tables and provide the level of interaction that each table warrants. its not that hard if a knuckle head like me can do it.

You actually sound like a smart server.

Look at the supermarket industry. Cashiers are now required to look at the bonus card and greet the customer by name. Why don't managers, instead of issuing such edicts (which, I grant, come from misguided Dilbert-like corporate HQ), focus on the cashiers being familiar with the products that don't have bar codes, like unusual produce?

YES! I don't care if anyone other than my doctor, my friends and my SO call me by my name when we're transacting business.

He gets in all the food chats to complain about livestock etc. Stop giving him airtime when there are so many other interesting opinions and questions out there in the queue!

Okay, he snuck under the gate today. Sorry.

You're criticizing a waiter for customer service? Get over yourselves, people. How hard is it to interrupt yourself just to say five words? "We just need a moment." Then resume your sentence -- unless you're such a conversation hog or a flake that you forget what you're saying if you take a break to breathe and literally say. five. words.

'I wish I had thought of that,"  he types while injesting a chill pill for the team.

Why haven't somany waiters learned to never bring out an entree until the appetizer has been completed and cleared from the table. I now make sure that I don't order my entree until after I've received my appetizer, which is annoying!

Yeah, chefs aren't too keen on staggered ordering, either ....

Nice spin dude but you failed to address the poster's complaints about the food. Pork was tough what say you? You should not have responded at all if this is your response you come off as a jerk.

Oops! I meant to go over Ms. Armstrong's post before it went public. I apologize for not adding anything other than her reply to a previous chatter ...

What I loathe is when I splurge on a special ocasion, to find the tables to the right and left of me fawned over while my companion and I, unfamous and unrecognized, get neglected.

We've covered this complaint before.

 

Chefs, you're being watched! Don't forget to spread your love around, because we're all watching.

Hi Tom, saw your First Bite on Station 4 and completely agree. I live in the neighborhood and have waited years, as have my neighbors, for a decent place to eat that doesn't require a schlep down the street to the Mandarin Oriental. The other offerings are sub par to downright awful. I have been there three times to Station 4 and the only positives have been the physical space of the restaurant, the staff and the octopus. While I really really want this place to succeed, I can't be spending my hard earned dollars for mediocre food. Additionally, did you know that Jose Andres severed his relationship with Ridgewells catering at Arena Stage? I ate there several times, outside of a play at Arena, as the food was mostly good and it was on my way home from work. Now, without Jose Andres, and Station 4 not living up to par, I'll resume my schlep to Sou'wester at the Mandarin Oriental and/or eating in Penn Quarter. We Southwest residents want, if not, demand, a good restaurant. We've been overlooked for far too long.

so wanted to like Station 4.  But the food was really a mess. It didn't help that the chef's bio trumpeted him as a Ferran Adria acolyte.  I scratch my head sometimes, wondering why restaurant owners go so far to hire such indifferent talent. And why some chefs pay absolutely no attention to the calendar.

 

Didn't know Andres severed ties with Ridgewells/Arena.

I know it's not necessarily where you'd send a bunch of adults looking for the best food around, but Zengo has a lot of pizzazz, some interesting food, and a great vibe for a bunch of teenagers who want to feel special for a night.

I haven't been there in awhile, but Zengo could be a contender, too.

Don't despair about ABQ food - there's wonderful food in the city! I would recommend checking out http://nmgastronome.com/blog/ and Chowhound's Southwest Board. From the Convention Center you can easily take City buses to many different locations. The Route 66 bus takes you from downtown to UNM/Nob Hill area, where there are many dining options.

Just before we go. Thanks.

Do you ever feel like having a guest chef might compromise your objectivity when reviewing their food?

Not at all. First, I don't see them.  They participate remotely. Second, any subjects  I might have on certainly know the difference between a free-wheeling public chat and a review based on multiple visits.

 

Lunch bell is ringing! Thanks for a lively chat, everyone. See you next week.

In This Chat
Tom Sietsema
Weaned on a beige buffet a la "Fargo" in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. In thinner days, he was a critic for Microsoft Corp.'s sidewalk.com and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; and a food reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the '80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section's recipes. That's how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.

He covers the local scene in his Dining, First Bite and Dish columns and keeps tabs on the world at large in his Postcard From Tom. His video series, Tom Sietsema's TV Dinners, pulls back the curtain on a critic's life -- in and out of the dining room.
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