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a Big Bowl of Bull

a Big Bowl of Bull
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  • a Big Bowl of Bull

    Post #1 - June 6th, 2008, 1:06 pm
    Post #1 - June 6th, 2008, 1:06 pm Post #1 - June 6th, 2008, 1:06 pm
    I was surprised and pleased to learn in another thread that Big Bowl has made a new commitment to sourcing local ingredients. With a quick look at the restaurant’s website, I found a letter from the head chef which really sounded like a genuine commitment rather than marketing hype. I’m sad to report that I’ve been seriously duped.

    After wading through the huge lunch crowd entering the Big Bowl on Ohio Street, one can’t help but notice the large chalkboard:

    “The Right Stuff
    Big Bowl is committed to using fresh, naturally raised meat, seafood, and produce from local producers.

    In House Today
    Naturally Raised Freebird(tm) Chicken, Fredericksburg, PA
    Fresh Sea Scallops, New Bedford, MA
    Michigan Asparagus, Mick Klug Farms

    When I asked a manager why 2/3 of the goods listed on a board claiming to be about local producers were from afar, he said “Yeah, I don’t understand it either.” The truth is that the only local food item on the Big Bowl menu is the asparagus. Asparagus is also the only local product in the produce section at Dominick’s, by the way.

    I ordered chicken with seasonal vegetables, described on the menu as “chicken sautéed with seasonal, local produce (ask your server)”. My server explained that the produce was asparagus, and the dish was served in a “flavorful brown sauce.” It’s hard to describe how bad this dish was. Boneless, skinless, and utterly flavorless chicken, a few pieces of asparagus (local, perhaps, but devoid of any asparagus taste), some button mushrooms and a whole load of sliced red bell peppers. All swimming in about a gallon of truly disgusting sweet soy sauce thickened with corn starch, and containing a very unpleasant, greasy mouth feel. To better balance the cloying sweetness, perhaps this dish could have used some of the sour taste left by the meal's $16 price tag.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #2 - June 6th, 2008, 1:09 pm
    Post #2 - June 6th, 2008, 1:09 pm Post #2 - June 6th, 2008, 1:09 pm
    Kennyz wrote:a few pieces of asparagus (local, perhaps, but devoid of any asparagus taste)


    For what it's worth, the Nichols Farm asparagus that I've been buying this season has been excellent.
  • Post #3 - June 6th, 2008, 1:14 pm
    Post #3 - June 6th, 2008, 1:14 pm Post #3 - June 6th, 2008, 1:14 pm
    eatchicago wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:a few pieces of asparagus (local, perhaps, but devoid of any asparagus taste)


    For what it's worth, the Nichols Farm asparagus that I've been buying this season has been excellent.


    I certainly didn't mean to imply that local asparagus is less than excellent. I too have bought some great stuff from Nichols and elsewhere this spring. It's also true that asparagus quality dimishes rapidly with time, and I suspect that Big Bowl stores their stuff for too long to make the source matter.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #4 - June 6th, 2008, 1:17 pm
    Post #4 - June 6th, 2008, 1:17 pm Post #4 - June 6th, 2008, 1:17 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    eatchicago wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:a few pieces of asparagus (local, perhaps, but devoid of any asparagus taste)


    For what it's worth, the Nichols Farm asparagus that I've been buying this season has been excellent.


    I certainly didn't mean to imply that local asparagus is less than excellent. I too have bought some great stuff from Nichols and elsewhere this spring. It's also true that asparagus quality dimishes rapidly with time, and I suspect that Big Bowl stores their stuff for too long to make the source matter.


    I understand.

    I like the intentions of their chef, but the clumsy execution doesn't surprise me.

    As for Dominick's, I haven't been in one in a very long time, but I'm surprised they have any local produce at all.
  • Post #5 - June 6th, 2008, 3:24 pm
    Post #5 - June 6th, 2008, 3:24 pm Post #5 - June 6th, 2008, 3:24 pm
    That is certainly disheartening after learning that they were being returned to the LEYE fold, with a dedication to local products. I was actually hopeful that it would be vastly improved...but that seems hardly the case, thanks for the update.
  • Post #6 - June 6th, 2008, 4:11 pm
    Post #6 - June 6th, 2008, 4:11 pm Post #6 - June 6th, 2008, 4:11 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    “The Right Stuff
    Big Bowl is committed to using fresh, naturally raised meat, seafood, and produce from local producers.

    In House Today
    Naturally Raised Freebird(tm) Chicken, Fredericksburg, PA
    Fresh Sea Scallops, New Bedford, MA
    Michigan Asparagus, Mick Klug Farms

    When I asked a manager why 2/3 of the goods listed on a board claiming to be about local producers were from afar, he said “Yeah, I don’t understand it either.” The truth is that the only local food item on the Big Bowl menu is the asparagus.

    I'm sorry you were disappointed, although as I read it, what they're guilty of here is bad sentence structure. "Produce from local producers" is the only local thing actually promised on the sign. Probably they should have phrased it, "produce from local producers and fresh, naturally raised meat and seafood." You can hardly expect them to have local scallops.

    Kennyz wrote:I ordered chicken with seasonal vegetables, described on the menu as “chicken sautéed with seasonal, local produce (ask your server)”. My server explained that the produce was asparagus, and the dish was served in a “flavorful brown sauce.” It’s hard to describe how bad this dish was. Boneless, skinless, and utterly flavorless chicken, a few pieces of asparagus (local, perhaps, but devoid of any asparagus taste), some button mushrooms and a whole load of sliced red bell peppers.

    I'm very sorry to hear this. It's not the kind of thing I would ever order -- I think sauteed chicken is inherently boring -- so thanks for taking one for the team. The dishes I order tend to be from the spicy portions of the menu.

    I looked up the Freebird chicken:
    our chickens, they're free of antibiotics and hormones. Free to wander in barns, without cages. And always fed a natural corn and soybean diet, free of animal byproducts. And you'll have a free conscience, knowing that all our chickens were raised on sustainable family farms. So, enjoy our delicious FreeBird Chicken--guilt free.
    A pity it should be flavor free, too.
  • Post #7 - June 6th, 2008, 4:23 pm
    Post #7 - June 6th, 2008, 4:23 pm Post #7 - June 6th, 2008, 4:23 pm
    So this is an aside- if the chickens are allowed to wander free without cages are they then debeaked? Frankly I'd rather my chicken be in a cage than have the totally insanely crazy procedure of debeaking done to it.
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #8 - June 6th, 2008, 5:15 pm
    Post #8 - June 6th, 2008, 5:15 pm Post #8 - June 6th, 2008, 5:15 pm
    Are the chickens driven to suicide by endless drunken college students' imitations of Peter Frampton? I suppose an argument could be made that this is cruelty-free....
  • Post #9 - June 6th, 2008, 7:00 pm
    Post #9 - June 6th, 2008, 7:00 pm Post #9 - June 6th, 2008, 7:00 pm
    MHays wrote:Are the chickens driven to suicide by endless drunken college students' imitations of Peter Frampton?

    That would be Lynyrd Skynyrd :wink:
  • Post #10 - June 6th, 2008, 7:42 pm
    Post #10 - June 6th, 2008, 7:42 pm Post #10 - June 6th, 2008, 7:42 pm
    Kennyz wrote:It's also true that asparagus quality dimishes rapidly with time, and I suspect that Big Bowl stores their stuff for too long to make the source matter.


    As long as we're talking asparagus...

    Cook's Illustrated had a great tip this month. To get them to last longer without wilting, cut off the ends and store them upright in some water loosely covered in the fridge. I made risotto with thoroughly re-crisped asparagus and kept another bunch of purple taut and turgid with this method.

    Aside from the droop, will extended stays in the cool chest affect flavor?
  • Post #11 - June 6th, 2008, 10:46 pm
    Post #11 - June 6th, 2008, 10:46 pm Post #11 - June 6th, 2008, 10:46 pm
    gastro gnome wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:
    Aside from the droop, will extended stays in the cool chest affect flavor?

    Yes. Without question, in my opinion.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #12 - June 7th, 2008, 12:18 am
    Post #12 - June 7th, 2008, 12:18 am Post #12 - June 7th, 2008, 12:18 am
    and kept another bunch of purple taut and turgid with this method...aside from the droop


    With it being Friday, and Gary's quick and double-entendre-loving mind at the helm, I would have bet that THIS quote would be the one to make it to the forum tagline from this particular thread. However, I applaud the restraint, and Kennyz's excellent original quote. Nice to see you up there.

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