Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Comensoli's Final Review


Located just a jump away from Kalamazoo College next to the railroad tracks on West Main, Comensoli’s Italian Bistro and Bar seems slightly out of place surrounded by roads on all sides. It stands alone, sticking out like a sore thumb, a small cozy looking restaurant unlike the dilapidated apartments and old buildings neighboring it.

An enclosed patio, bar, and dining room allows for around 70 people to fit comfortably. The black, burgundy, and deep red decor with brick walls made the space feel warm and inviting. The waiters dress all in black, giving a nice professional touch to the bistro.

The tables are draped with black tablecloths, silverware cocooned in bright red linen napkins. Wrought iron chairs encompass the many small tables, creating a cozy environment where diners can sit getting a peek into the kitchen or a view of outside and the abandoned Burger King building across the street.

With the sight of customers, waiters and cooks hustle off to finish their tasks that should have been done before customers arrived: lightening candles, changing the radio from talk show to music, dimming the lights, and finishing setting the tables. The service is not up the standard of what some may deem acceptable for a higher-end eating experience. The wait staff is awkward and the service a bit too slow making uncomfortable amounts of time in-between courses as well as having empty plates taken away.

But even so, the food makes up for it.

More up scale than Fazoli’s and less crowded than Olive Garden, Comensoli’s is a wonderful place to venture on a date, go out to for a family meal or to have a nice meal with a group of friends. No one will go hungry with the unlimited choices at Comensoli’s. The option to create your dish is a favorite of many. It includes eight types of pasta, nine sauces, and six meat options allowing even the pickiest of eaters to find the perfect meal. Gluten free pasta is available, a distinctive option that most Italian restaurants don’t have or make known. The huge variety of choices allows for anyone to be satisfied with their dining experience.

The Feta Bruschetta is something that cannot be ignored. Not only is the plating done tastefully, but the mixture of the salty and crumbly feta and the savory tomatoes and onions form an exquisite combination. There is nothing else like it as far as taste goes. The feta adds that perfect softness needed to set on top of a crisp and crunchy toasted slice of French bread.  It’s a true “melt-in-your-mouth” experience. Every last bite of the juicy toppings will be scooped up even when all the toasted bread has been devoured, with nothing left on the plate to be disposed of. No matter how many times this appetizer is ordered and devoured, the dish will leave any diner wanting to come back again and again for more.

After a long time contemplating the multitude of choices, diners should be sure to try the one of the many classic dishes, but also some of more inventive ones as well. The Exotic Mushroom looks like the normal Fettuccini Alfredo, but tastes nothing like it. With a lavish cream sauce over linguini, accompanied by crimini and portabella mushrooms, the sauce is much lighter than a heavy Alfredo. The mushrooms gave the pasta a little extra something special. With their juiciness and soft consistency combined with the slight earthy flavor combined with the cream, this is one dish that must be tasted.

The Tomato Basil Pasta, with its olive oil and white wine sauce drizzled over angel hair pasta, accompanied by tomatoes, basil, onions, and garlic with a light coating of Parmesan cheese, is the perfect combination of all great Italian ingredients joined into superb dish. It is surprising how fresh everything tastes and is just another plus towards Comensoli’s excellent meals.

Filling and scrumptious, the gnocchi is paired with a sauce of choice. The potatoes dumplings were cooked to a perfect al dente. Depending on the mood, gnocchi can be paired with Comensoli’s savory marinara or pesto sauce that made with a less than desired amount of basil. A tad creamy, the pesto sauce could have used a bit more basil bringing more taste to the sauce, but even so, the taste was flavorful nonetheless.

All sorts of pasta dishes are listed on the menu, from the classic Baked Manicotti and Ravioli to Lasagna and Gnocchi, which allows for no hunger to stay unsatisfied. Comensoli’s veer away from the basic dishes with the Frutta di Mare, a white wine, cream based seafood meal, Veal Marsala, and Cudighi, a homemade pork sausage sandwich with marinara sauce, mushrooms, onions and mozzarella. The choices at Comensoli’s almost seem unlimited and each dish seems to be perfected even with the large amount of meals on the menu.

If one is hesitant about trying a new restaurant, Comensoli’s has the opportunity for a test run. During the first and third Tuesday of every month from 5-7, the bistro offers a wine tasting event with bottomless appetizers and wine for $15 per person.

Flavorful. That is the word that comes to mind while thinking about the food at Comensoli’s. For an appetizer and two entrees and a bill just over $30, this restaurant is worth the slight splurge. Entrees are around $15, salad and appetizers never exceeding $10, and soups under $5.

Even with a rough start and slow table service, Comensoli’s sure knows how to impress with their appetizing and tasty creations. If you are looking for Italian food close to campus that won’t weight down your wallet and is rich in flavor, Comensoli’s is the perfect choice.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reading Response 7 - "The Omnivore's Dilemma"


You know how when you eat too much of one food and for months afterwards you don’t go near it, no matter how it is prepared? Maybe because you got sick after or you felt so full that it felt as if the food was rising up your esophagus. Whatever it was that turned you off to the food, I am now feeling that way about corn. While reading the first part of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” I thought that Michael Pollan might eventually move on to a larger issue other than circling around corn, but come to find out, corn is that larger issue.
These one hundred or so pages made me absolutely disgusted with the way that our country runs its food production. To me this is a prime example of how we as humans, but in this case Americans, are only worried about getting calories and food that is pleasing to our taste buds rather than worrying about eating whole foods, that have not been through a chemical process.
“The first rough breakdown of all the corn begins with the subdivision of the kernel itself: Its yellow skin will be processed into various vitamins and nutritional supplements; the tiny germ (the dark part nearest to the cob, which holds the embryo of the potential future corn plant) will be crushed for its oil; and the biggest part, the endosperm, will be plundered for its rich cache of complex carbohydrates” (86).
I don’t know about you, but this sounded like corn was getting a huge plastic surgery operation done. The way that it was dissected and changed “for the better” was frightening. I just want corn! Not a chemically processed, divided, enhanced, improved, refined, more appealing food, I want food to be in its original form. Is that too much to ask for? It seems like it is when almost everything I consume can be traced back to corn in one way or another. I don’t want to be on a diet based around corn. I don’t know what turns me off from the idea so much, but I feel like this is not good for the body and does not constitute a well-rounded diet.
            Pollan does a really nice job presenting the facts rather than making it all about his opinions. I appreciate that he included his McDonald’s experience with his family to drive the point home. Not only are fast food joints on issue with obesity as he points out how he and his family consumed 4,510 calories in just one meal, but how much of the meal and menu was made up of corn. One 4 oz. burger translates to two pounds of corn. TWO POUNDS! That is a whole lot of corn for a tiny burger that was one part of his overall consumption for the day.
            Being omnivores, we have a choice of food that we eat every single day. But after reading this section of the book doesn’t make me feel like we are omnivores, but corn-nivores solely. And that is repulsive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Comensoli's Review

Located just a jump away from Kalamazoo College next to the railroad tracks on West Main, Comensoli’s Italian Bistro and Bar seems slightly out of place surrounded by roads on all sides. It stands alone, allowing for it to stick out, a small cozy looking restaurant away from dilapidated apartments and old buildings.

A large patio, bar, and dining room allows for plenty of eating space. The black, burgundy, and deep red decorum with brick walls make the room feel warm and inviting. The waiters, dressed all in black, give a nice professional touch to the restaurant.

Coming at the start of the dinner hour is not advised, as the staff seems to be unprepared. With the sight of customers, waiters and cooks hustle off to finish their tasks that should have been done before customers arrived; lightening candles, changing the radio from talk show to music, dimming the lights, and finishing setting the tables. The service is not up the standard of what some may deem acceptable for a higher-end eating experience. But even so, the food makes up for it.

Once everything seemed to get on track as far as service goes, Comensoli’s has a very natural feel about it, everything seems to run fairly smoothly. Getting baskets of bread mid-meal is not normally how most think of an appropriate meal rule.

No one will go hungry with the unlimited choices at Comensoli’s, having the option to create your dish with their Pick-A-Pasta that includes eight types of pasta, nine sauces, and six meat options. Gluten free pasta is available, a distinctive option that most Italian restaurants don’t have or make known. The huge variety of choices allows for anyone to be satisfied with their dining experience.

The Feta Bruschetta is something that cannot be ignored. Not only is the plating done in a tasteful fashion, but the mixture of the salty and crumbly feta and the savory tomatoes and onions are an exquisite combination. It’s a true “melt-in-your-mouth” dish. Every last bite of the juicy toppings will be scooped up even if all the toasted bread has been devoured, with nothing left on the plate to be disposed of.

After a long time contemplating the multitude of choices, dinners should be sure to try the Exotic Mushroom Pasta and Tomato Basil Pasta. The Exotic Mushroom is served looking like the normal Fettuccini Alfredo, but it tastes nothing like it. With a lavish cream sauce over linguini, accompanied by crimini and portabella mushrooms, the sauce was much lighter than heavy Alfredo and the mushrooms gave the pasta an additional texture and unique taste to break up the taste of the dish.

The Tomato Basil Pasta, with its olive oil and white wine sauce over angel hair pasta, accompanied by tomatoes, basil, onions, basil and garlic with a light coating of parmesan cheese, is the perfect combination of all great Italian ingredients in once meal. It is surprising how fresh everything tastes for it being so late in the growing season, just another plus for Comensoli’s excellent meals.

All sorts of pastas are listed on the menu, from the classic Baked Manicotti and Ravioli to Lasagna and Gnocchi, which allows for no hunger to stay unsatisfied. They veer away from the basic dishes with Frutta di Mare, a white wine, cream based seafood pasta, Veal Marsala, and Cudighi, a homemade sausage sandwich with marinara sauce, mushrooms, onions and mozzarella. The choices at Comensoli’s almost seem unlimited and each dish seems to be perfected even with the large amount of meals on the menu.

Flavorful. That is the word that comes to mind while thinking about the food at Comensoli’s. Every bite is overly garlic-filled, has a perfectly salty Parmesan taste, and each dish was an overabundance of food. Splitting seemed like the most practical idea with such large portions.

Even with a rough start and slow table service, Comensoli’s sure knows how to impress with their appetizing and tasty creations. If you are looking for Italian food close to campus that won’t weight down your wallet and is rich in flavor, Comensoli’s is the perfect choice.



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reading Response 6 - Professional Reviews


Throughout this class, I had started to really like the idea of becoming a food critic. I could travel around the world, tasting exotic foods, experiencing different cultures, and enjoying the company of the people that I meet. Now this is of course forgetting all the dietary restrictions that I have, but that is beside the point. After reading Sam Sifton’s pieces and Q & A pieces, I think that I should consider another career choice.
            I had never really considered the amount of time a food critique would have to spend on the job, or rather lack of free time from traveling around from restaurant to restaurant. That man never stops! If he is lucky, he gets to have one meal with his family each day, he has to work out every day in order to stay semi-healthy, and I’m sure he doesn’t enjoy having to go out every day. I know I wouldn’t. Going out to dinner is a treat. Most days I would just rather sit at home in my sweats eating my mother’s food then having to dress up and have appropriate table manners. It just seems like too much work to have to do every single day.
            One thing that I applaud Sifton for is how he knows that what he does is a job and so even though he may not want to go out and eat day in and day out, it is his obligation to the restaurant and chef. He says that “it wouldn’t be fair to the chefs and it certainly wouldn’t be fair to me. I’m in the place to eat” (Sifton). He takes his job seriously, which is how it should be.
I found it interesting that he had a breakdown of his job. It is something I am sure a lot of people are interested in, but something we may not think of often. Elisabeth Franck-Dumas writes about this just as Sifton does when talking to Fran├žois Simon and how he handles his job as a food critic. When doing a bit more background research on him, I noticed that there were no pictures, which makes sense when you think about it. Would someone who is trying to give a true take on a restaurant want to be recognized and get special treatment? No! That would go against the main objective of their job. Free meals and special treatment that some get from announcing themselves as a food critic is not something that Simon is about. "He never mixes with anyone; he always acts alone. He is unbuyable" (Franck-Dumas)
To me, this is all very intriguing and interesting, like a whole new world I have never thought about before. Even though I still think it would be really neat to get paid to eat food and let other people know what I thought about it, I just don’t think it is the job for me. Not only would my stomach be upset all the time, but my figure would not withstand the torture. And working out all the time just to keep up with my job doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. Still, it is nice to dream.

A Sample of Korean Food

I know I always bring up my trip to Korea and I was looking through my photos and have a few of some of the dishes I got to eat while I was there. Sorry for the quality, my camera wasn't the best at the time.



There two dishes were my first encounter with Korean food. At this point I was a little too nervous to try the second dish, a variety of seafoods in a cream sauce, and stuck with the basic sushi, not realizing that the orange "sprinkles" around each piece were actually caviar.


The treat I am holding in my hand us a waffel covered in honey and whipped cream folded in half. They had these vendors at almost every subway stop. Surprisingly, the the combination of the two wasn't too sweet or overwhelming.


This is the pizza I mentioned yesterday in class. I tried to crop the picture so that you all could get a better look, but I would have lost this one. If you look closely to the large picture on the Pizza Hut sign above the door, you can see that the pizza had waffel fries on it with some sort of sauce drizzled on top. Not my idea of pizza, but that is how the Koreans like it I guess.


This was a masterpiece of a dessert at a breakfast joint. I don't remember all that was on it, but boy was it great. I think there was a chocolate pancake, ice cream of various kinds and then that is a waffel towards to top with cookies.


This is cuttle fish jerky. While we were traveling around in the country, the rest stops we have vendors outside selling this and other quick snacks and then inside they would have a food court like area. If you ever have chance to eat this, try it! It is really sweet and chewy.



This was another treat from a street vendor in downtown Seoul. I am not sure exactly what type of fruit was in it, but I believe it was vanilla ice cream with some sort of berries, watermelon, kiwi and some other things.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Comensoli’s Expectations and Assumptions



Am I venturing way out for this restaurant review of Comensoli’s Italian Bistro and Bar. I know that I am a self-proclaimed vegan based on my dietary restrictions, but I am going to be adventurous and try some meat. Also, as I have looked over the menu, I noticed a lot of dishes filled with butter and cream, but thank goodness for lactaid and forgiving roommates.
First thoughts about this restaurant are nothing but good. I have heard rave reviews about their garlic soup and pasta. I’m pretty sure it won’t be any different than any other Italian restaurant I have been too. I am guessing the ambiance will include Italian music, colors of red, green and white, as well as vines and such around the dining room. The only reason I say this is because the sign has vines on it and it seems like it will have a Roman sort of feel.
Cheese will probably be a main staple in the dishes and carbs will be plentiful. I’m hoping for marinara sauce that is tasteful with lots of spices. A lot of the Italian restaurants that I have been to seem to have the same tasting sauce and I feel like that needs to be different. It should be the one thing that sets each Italian restaurant apart. Hopefully there will be a lot of garlic in the food. It seems as though most of these restaurants seem to value that ingredient. I am going to assume that the food itself will be very heavy and the plates will be large. For some reason, it seems like every Italian restaurant I go to, I leave and need to be rolled out. I can never seem to eat enough to be satisfied, but not stuffed.
After our discussion of authenticity today, I am interested to see if Comensoli’s has any items on the menu that don’t scream normal. I am hoping that some of the dishes are a little different than what you get at most American Italian restaurants and have a bit of mother country flair to them. I would like to say more authentic, but I now know that this word is a bit vague and really depends on the relationship and viewpoint of the person encountering the food.
As for the service, I am a little wary. When I called to ask what the attire was, the lady who answered seemed to be annoyed with me calling. In general, this is not a good sign when it comes to service. Since the hostess is the first person that one encounters when they come to any restaurant, normally this person is the most friendly and enthusiastic about the food, but this lady didn’t not seem to be enjoying her job.
All in all, I’m just hoping that this dining experience will be a good one. Not that I have had bad Italian restaurant experiences, but it has been so long since I have gone to one because of my aversion to dairy that I just hope that the food is worth the discomfort that will follow.