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Wanna be a foodie

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I'm sure the title sounds silly, lol. But i'm an average Joe that loves food, loves eating out. However i know next to nothing about good food and good places to eat. I wanna leave behind the TGI Fridays,cheesecake factory, PF CHANGS, and even mcdonalds routine....

I want to learn about different cuisines and great places to eat. So far the best places I've probably eaten are Rare Bar and Grill,shake shack(lol) and Cafe Habana in the city.

My birthday is coming up soon and i want to eat out like a true foodie would. The problem is i dont have a clue in the world where to go. Normally i would think "applebees or red lobster" but i want to make a change this year.

I'm pretty much a blank page right now. I've passed by Balthazar and that placed seemed intriguing. The problem is reading the menu is almost like chinese to me. I don't understand any of the dishes etc... I wouldnt have a clue what to order even if i went there....

So anyway i'm here on Chowhound to learn to be a foodie. For starters, can some someone give me some tips on balthazar?

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  1. oryan. what foods do you like? what sorts of flavor? do you like spicy food? meats? fish?

    what is your comfort zone?

    i want to help. you are my new calling

    1 Reply
    1. re: thew

      I tend to like foods that are seasoned very well. I like sweet and salty flavors, i also like spicy.
      I'm not a fan of fish, i like beef and chicken the best, i rarely get a chance to have pork or lamb etc..
      My comfort zone is probably french fries and a burger or roasted chicken with rice and beans. I also like typical italian food but i'm so bored with italian

      Overall i'm so inexperienced that its hard for me to say what i do and dont like, my diet has nto had much diversity.. I'm pretty much a blank page at this point lol

    2. I haven't been to Balthazar, but I have been to Pastis. From the looks of the menu (menupages.com), much of the menu is fairly standard French brasserie fare - steak frites (probably NY strip sirloin cut), salad nicoise (salad greens, boiled egg, nicoise olives, french green beans and boiled red potatoes), beet salad, chicken liver, frisee aux lardons - these dishes are all fairly standard at other French brasserie type places. THere's also a smattering of nods to other cuisines (linguine - italian), ceviche (peruvian), chicken club (american). Balthazar is probably just a fine introduction as you venture out from the Olive Garden.

      A couple of comments on dishes that you may not be familiar with -
      Steak tartare is raw ground beef mixed with seasoning and egg yolk. So, if you're not inclined to eat raw meat, don't order it.
      Ceviche is raw fish or seafood that's been "cooked" with lime or some other acidic liquid - this kills the bacteria and is actually quite safe to eat. It's healthy, light and quite tasty. It's usually a nice appetizer for the start of a meal.
      Salad nicoise is a classic french salad, and it's usually dressed with a light vinaigrette. It's classically served with canned tuna fish, but New York restaurants tend to serve it with seared tuna - i.e. the tuna will be RARE, pretty much raw in the middle. Personally, that's how I prefer - tuna has a wonderful taste, and it's such a lean (low fat) protein, that it will dry out if you overcook - i.e. cook beyond rare.
      Moules frites - mussels usually cooked in some thyme, shallots and white wine and it's served with fries.
      Macaroni au gratin - a fancy way of describing mac n' cheese.
      Duck confit - it's usually a duck leg that is cooked in its own fat. It results in a very tender and tasty duck leg.
      Brandade de morue - this is salt cod - cod that's been salted and dried, that is cooked with milk / cream (reduces the saltiness somewhat) and cooked with either sliced potatoes or mashed potatoes, which is either like a salt cod and potato lasagna or a salt cod and potato shepherds pie, with the salt cod mixed in.

      Everything else on the menu is much more straightforward, so you should explore freely and order whatever strikes your fancy.

      But to be a foodie, well, I think that's about loving food, but also about being interested in exploring and seeking food that is authentic and delicious. Most foodies out there also tend to be interested in knowing something about their food - whether cheese is made from goats milk or cow or sheeps, whether the beef is grass-fed or grain, etc. There's a lot that you can learn if you're interested. But that shouldn't stop you from just going out there trying new and delicious foods.

      And it isn't that Balthazar isn't perfectly decent, it's just that there's a lot more out there that is much more adventurous, delicious and well worth exploring. At any rate, hope you enjoy Balthazar.

      1. Learning to be a foodie is like learning to be. It's something innate and as someone who is concerned with food and seeking out the best, it sounds like you're already a foodie. The problem it seems, is you want to learn to be a gourmet. To do that, I can only say eat. Try new things. Read the regulars on here to find someone whose tastes intrigue you and visit the restaurants they talk up. Broaden your horizons beyond Italian and burger. The more you expose yourself to ingredients and foods, the sooner they will become familiar and you will think tartare as comprehensible as a burger.

        If you like highly seasoned, sweet and salty flavors, you might enjoy trying a Thai restaurant. If you're dead-set on Balthazar, try googling menu items to find out what they are or pair a few new appetizers with your steak frites. The most important thing is to get out there and eat!

        1 Reply
        1. re: JungMann

          Oryan, I would suggest going to a place that offers small plates also know as tapas. You get to try many different flavors and cooking styles without breaking the bank. I would suggest you go to Kuma Inn. You will get a chance to sample lots of different asian flavors and decide what you like and dont. Then when you find a flavor or dish you like you can build from there. Also try Pipa or Alto for a more spanish flavored meal. Good Luck.

        2. Pardon the interruption Folks, please keep in mind ORyan is specifically asking about Balthazar, and also would like tips on other restaurants that may be of interest, so please do keep the focus of your replies on recommending specific restaurants. If you would like to extend the conversation to cuisine in general or how to learn and appreciate food, please take that discussion to the General Topics boad.

          Thanks for helping to keep the focus of the Manhattan board on where to find great food and drink in Manhattan.

          1. Balthazar is good and is always a bustling scene. The menu shouldn't intimidate you. With enough experience or even reading, you will learn what french bistros specialize in. To give you a general, for a bistro, here is the types of food I think of:

            Cassoulet - a white bean stew with pork sausages, duck confit and other meats
            Steak frites - steak and fries (ideally an onglet which is the french word for hanger steak)
            Steak tartare - raw chopped beef (usually filet) with cornichons, mustard, egg, shallot, mustard
            Duck confit - duck leg/thigh slowly cooked in its own fat.

            At Balthazar, I happen to love the duck shephards pie, which is a duck stew covered in mashed potatoes. Sort of like a pot pie with a potato crust instead of pastry crust. If you want to ask specific questions about certain menu items, fire away and we can answer them.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ESNY

              Thanks for all the replies everyone.

              I have another question. What are some other good eats in NYC that are not too expensive. I tend to like carbs. So anywhere with really interesting carb apps and entrees is always a plus

              1. re: ORyan

                Well, for carbs, though you say you're bored with Italian, Italian would be a good choice. And I expect you'll find that you've barely scratched the surface of what Italian food can be at the sort of restaurants (i.e. Olive Garden) that you're trying to leave behind. For moderately priced, interesting Italian, you might try Crispo on 14th St. Or Otto, which is one of Batali's more modestly priced places. I would stay away from Little Italy for the most part.

                1. re: ORyan

                  1) Go to chinatown
                  2) Go to Banh Mi Saigon bakery for a delicious Vietnamese sandwich on very good bread (trying to appeal to the carb-loving). Order the number 1 to start, i think it costs 3.75. You can, and should, get it as spicy as you like.
                  3) Go to Mei Li Wah for roast pork buns. The savory pork in the middle of the delicious sweet bread (more carbs!) is sort of like the pork in the banh mi, but the bun is more like a sweet snack (or desert) than the sandwich. At $.80, bring an extra home for later.

                  I think you will love both. I have had much success at both places with people who would not normally walk in. Enjoy.

                  Banh Mi Saigon
                  198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                  Mei Li Wah
                  64 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                  1. re: ORyan

                    How about Ramen noodles? Lots of carbs. You can try Ippudo, Ramen Setagaya, Minca and some other places, all in the East Village. Ramen doesn't cost a lot and is really satisfying. Japanese curries are also easy on the palate since they're pretty mild. You can try Katsuhama in midtown where you can get chicken and pork cutlets which comes in a huge bowl with rice and curry sauce for around $10, there's also curry-ya in the east village, same sort of deal.

                2. How old are you and where are you from? Just wondering why you ate at all those rubbish chains and now decide to improve your life drastically. Kudos, in any case.
                  If you want something very safe but much better than your usual, go to a steakhouse. Peter Luger, Wolfgang's, etc. you can search the boards, people argue over what is best but any of the top 3 or 5 will be or rather should be good enough to represent that genre.

                  Hmm, other places with safe menus as a bridge. Gramercy Tavern?
                  For pizza, Difara, Una Pizza, possibly some other I have not tried but most are not worth it.
                  There is great sushi if you check the boards, not sure you are into that.
                  Maybe you could upgrade your burger choices(though Shake Shack uses very good meat,it just doesn't end up as lovely as it should), DB Bistro Moderne(y, that one is expensive), Peter Luger has one at lunch, Shorty's .32 and I hear the Spotted Pig's is good though I try to keep it plain. Tons of others, most probably at least good but overrated. You still will be upgrading.

                  Forget Balthazar. That is the only tip you need about that.
                  Obviously, there is a HUGE number of places to reply with, hopefully, I have given some and I am sure others will throw in a bit more of the specifics but I think I am done. I have droned on long enough.

                  Oh, life without pork and lamb and fish? You really do need to open up.
                  Sorry vegans.

                  1. The best advice I could give you is to try as many new things as you possibly can. We live in one of if not the greatest culinary city in the world. There are so many options and there is nothing more enjoyable than a great meal and trying new foods in my opinion.

                    Just keep an open mind and you will find that there are so many great things out there. Once you start to get accustomed to new things you wont be able to stop! I became a big foodie over the past 2 years and my knowledge of food has grown tremendously. It is an awesome hobby and I hope you enjoy it.