Frank Bruni's final food column as restaurant critic for the New York Times runs today, and in it he uses the occasion to answer questions that he was either asked all the time or wishes he'd been asked. Why are you reading this in a Nashville-centered food blog? Because two of his points struck me as valuable whether you're dining in Woodbine or Williamsburg.
One is Bruni's response to a question about which restaurants offer the best value. He answers: sometimes the ones that charge the most. A $20 difference in the check total, he writes, is all that separates a lavish, comfy spread at one elegant restaurant from the relatively spartan experience at another (which he also recommends). "Value doesn't mean a low price," he writes, "it means you're getting a lot for what you're paying."
The other is this amusing response to the question, "Is there any best, safest way to navigate a menu?"
Scratch off the appetizers and entrees that are most like dishes you've seen in many other restaurants, because they represent this one at its most dutiful, conservative and profit-minded. The chef's heart isn't in them.
Scratch off the dishes that look the most aggressively fanciful. The chef's vanity--possibly too much of it--spawned these.
Then scratch off anything that mentions truffle oil.
Choose among the remaining dishes.