I’ve reviewed some in-flight food options on this website recently — LAN’s Premium Business, American Airlines’s domestic first class, United Airlines BusinessElite to Hawaii — with more hopefully to come.  But I’ve never truly been impressed, even in first/business class or with celebrity chefs.  Why not?

The Points Guy tackles this question with the help of a science writer today:

At low elevations, the 10,000 or so taste buds in the human mouth work fairly normally, translating chemical signals into electrical signals and sending them to the brain. They work in conjunction with the sense of smell to parse different flavors, from sour to umami.

But here’s the rub: a plane’s artificial atmosphere is equivalent to being in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at 7,000 feet above sea level. The altitude, combined with low humidity, puts the taste buds on the fritz. Scientists estimate that smell and taste decrease about 20-30% on planes.

SCIENCE!

Have you ever had airplane food you liked?  Is it uniformly terrible, even in premium cabins?

Norma’s — Breakfast for Lunch — 2.5 Stars

Norma's

Norma’s

You know that friend of yours who tries too hard to dress fashionably?  The one who has just a few too many colors, or accessories, or flourishes, to the point where it overwhelms?  Norma’s is that friend.

In fairness, if you are looking for the best breakfast in New York, Norma’s has to be high on your list. Located at the Parker Meridien Hotel, Norma’s is open every day until 3 pm and serves breakfast that whole time.  Norma’s is a great option on weekends, and a fantastic alternative to the usual lunch spots.  In 2002, Eric Asimov described Norma’s breakfasts as “more fairy tale than real,” and a decade later — with Norma’s serving up cheesecake-stuffed French toast, a $1000 lobster frittata (with 10 oz. of caviar), or a $5,022 Caesar salad (which, in fairness, comes with the Presidential Suite) — the description is still true, even if the prices are higher.  But in the quest to be “fairy tale,” Norma’s tries too hard, to the point where the dishes don’t quite hold together.   Continue reading

Gramercy Tavern — 3 Stars

Always bustling.

Always bustling.

Earlier this summer, I had lunch at Gramercy Tavern, a one-Michelin-starred restaurant in, well, the Gramercy neighborhood.  If you want great vegetarian food in New York, Gramercy Tavern is probably on your short list: their dinner tasting menu features a vegetarian alternative, and many of the same options are available for lunch or a la carte.  I’ve had many great experiences at Gramercy Tavern (including some fun interactions on twitter, but this was just good, not great. Continue reading

LAN Business Class JFK-LIM

Pre-departure drink and warm mixed nuts.

Pre-departure drink and warm mixed nuts.

After a summer hiatus (from blogging, but not dining or travel) I’m back.  I know this will severely hamper the likelihood that I fulfill my New Year’s resolution, but I’ve got some posts in the pipeline and should catch up soon.

A few months ago, I went to Chile and Peru.  I flew there in LAN‘s new “Premium Business” product.  As far as business class products go, it was quite good: spacious cabin, lie-flat seats, a nice little amenity kit.  But the food was quite disappointing. Continue reading

Kajitsu — Four Stars

The entrance to Kajitsu.

The entrance to Kajitsu.

Dining at Kajitsu, the Michelin-starred vegan restaurant in midtown Manhattan, is like nothing you’ve ever done before.  (Trust me.)  There’s a reason it’s been on my list of places I’d like to go, even though I don’t typically list completely vegetarian restaurants on the list. The restaurant features Japanese shojin cuisine — a style of cooking that is centuries-old and comes from Buddhist monks.  But it’s much more accurate to say that this is a place that uses ingredients you might or might not be familiar with and concocts them into incredible works of food and art.   Continue reading

Where Have I Been?

Bermuda

Well, yes, I was recently in Bermuda, but that’s not the point of this post. While I was in Bermuda, I dropped my iPhone into the swimming pool at the hotel! The iPhone was shot (even though I immediately threw it in some rice) and with it, hundreds of pictures and notes! I had a bunch of restaurant reviews that I was planning to write, but alas, they are gone forever. So I’ve been spending some time regrouping, and will have some more posts up soon.  Stay tuned…

Power? Breakfast at the Lambs Club

Lambs ClubWhere do you go for a power breakfast in New York City?  The obvious answer, for years, was apparently the Loews Regency (so I read).  But they closed for renovation, so New York’s wheelers-and-dealers are apparently adrift.  This, of course, means there is a free-for-all among the restaurateurs who charge too much for eggs.  The Lambs Club gets a fair amount of discussion, but if a recent visit is at all typical, the Lambs Club’s power breakfast needs a backup generator. Continue reading

Rich Table — San Francisco, CA

So much food!

What’s the best vegetarian food in San Francisco?  I recently raved about State Bird Provisions, the best new restaurant in America according to Bon Appetit Magazine.  But here’s the thing.  The second time I went to SBP (review coming), I asked the waitress what restaurant she recommended, and without hesitation, she answered, “Rich Table“.  Rich Table was also the recommendation of my friend Chef Dave Santos.  Oh, and the James Beard Foundation has listed both SBP and Rich Table as semifinalists for best new restaurant.  Dave Santos hooked me up with a last-minute reservation at Rich Table the day after I ate at SBP.  If I had not been to one of these restaurants, I would easily say the other is the best restaurant I’ve been to in the last year.  Having been to both within 24 hours, I really can’t say. Continue reading

Not Frugal Friday — American Airlines First Class

American Airlines First Class -- Champagne

Are you looking for vegetarian food on American Airlines in first/business class?  Well you’re in luck, sort of.  As I recently mentioned, when you fly cross-country in a premium cabin, you can pre-select your entree, and there is typically (at least the four times I’ve selected an entree) a vegetarian option.  So far so good.  But, selecting a vegetarian entree and getting a vegetarian meal are two different things, because the first course is typically not vegetarian.  don’t learn from my mistakes, I forgot to request a vegetarian meal the next time I flew AA as well.  So here, combined, are my two reviews.  Surprisingly, even though I was flying the exact same flight (AA 85, JFK-SFO), the meal was a lot better the second time. Continue reading