The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2014

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4  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2014 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR There's a subtle but significant change happening in the way Americans eat in restaurants: Eating at the coun- ter has come into its own. We have come a long way from the white tablecloth, formal setup of yesteryear. First, the tablecloths went away, replaced by a more casual place setting. Then communal, refectory tables became popular. The counter was the next step in this logical progression. Eating at the counter used to be a down-market concept relegated to soda fountains and fast-food loca- tions. It was a good way to have a quick sandwich and a Coke. Frequent trips to Japan have disabused me of this simplistic point of view. The best restaurants in Tokyo serve their food to customers seated in front of them at a counter. Saito and Jiro, two Michelin three-star sushi restaurants, both have counter seating—and only counter seating. Saito seats seven; Jiro ten. You can expect to spend north of $300 per person at these gastronomic temples. Nothing down- market about that. Dining at a counter is a more intimate and profound experience. Instead of being served food pre- pared by a battery of anonymous cooks in a hidden kitchen by a server who is really not much more than an impersonal deliverer, the Japanese counter restaurant is an all-enveloping culinary submersion. The diner is placed face-to-face with the person who is preparing his or her food. Eye contact is essential. What takes place is a unique and personal sensory dialogue between the preparer and the consumer. This personal approach, which encourages a deeper appreciation and understanding, is by far the most satisfying way in which to enjoy a meal. It also assures that the diner is paying attention to what is being served. In today's American restaurant, having a full meal at the counter or the bar is becoming more and more an accepted meme. The counter, which used to be mainly for people dining alone or those drinking their dinner, has become an important fixture—actually a desirable place to sit. Restaurateurs should be aware of this incremental change in dining style. Bars and counters should be attractive and welcoming as a dining place and people who want to make use of them should be welcomed and encouraged. CONTRIBUTORS Cal Bingham is a Los Angeles– based portrait and architectural photographer with a love of capturing people in their environment and connecting both young and experienced brands with their audience through visual storytelling. Selected recent client list includes Ogilvy Public Relations, Google, VMware, Sweetgreen, and Rose. Rabbit. Lie. David Michael Cane is a James Beard Foundation Award–winning radio broadcaster for Best Radio Show on Food. He is a wine industry veteran and cellar consultant. He is also the producer of David's Old World Brand Artisanal Pastrami, Hamlettes and Bacon. Asutralian-born Naren Young has worked in numerous temples of mixology, from Sydney to London to New York City. He now works as a freelance writer, specializing in and deeply passionate about food, travel and drink. His writing credits include GQ, Gourmet Traveller, Men's Style, Metropolitan, Barfly and many others. He television appearances include guest slots on The Martha Stewart Show and NBC's The Today Show. Find more on Naren's website at www. When she's not eating, drinking, swimming, traveling, photo- graphing, writing or dreaming about either of those, Houston, TX–based freelance writer Carla Soriano is enjoying her city alongside her husband and super-cat Jet. Counter Intelligence TP0514_001-33.indd 4 4/24/14 10:43 PM

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