'Tis the Seasoning 

A certified chef makes the argument for salt.

Ask Certified Executive Chef Richard Fulchiron to name the seasonings he couldn't do without, and salt is prominent on his list. "It's excellent for rounding off flavors and finishing off soups, sauces, or braised items," the assistant professor at Tri-C's Hospitality Management program says. "Why, even bread is not bread without it." All this is by way of response to a reader who recently suggested that professional kitchens should lay off the salt and let diners salt to taste at the table. While no one will argue that a diet of Fritos and hot dogs is healthful, most diners would agree that the relatively small amounts of salt that go into dishes in top-notch kitchens is a paltry price to pay for the magnificent flavor boost. If a chef handles salt properly during preparation, diners will never taste it in the food. But if it's omitted, discriminating palates will notice it immediately.

Chuck E. grows up . . .

Sure, top-of-the-line billiard tables now stand in for "whack the gopher" games, and sophisticated virtual reality simulators have replaced the singing hippos. But when you get right down to it, what is Dave and Buster's but Chuck E. Cheese for big kids? The 58,000-square-foot entertainment center in Westlake opened last week, and along with its pool tables, arcade games, and futuristic amusements, the complex has a large, handsome bar and a full-service Grand Dining Room, decked out in wood, brass, and eye-catching Tiffany-style stained glass lamps. While the large, moderately priced menu of burgers, salads, steaks, and seafood -- many with a Southwestern accent -- won't make you think you've somehow stumbled into Tremont, it's a far cry from Chuck E.'s cardboard pizza. Slow-cooked ribs, slathered with a rich Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce (half-rack, $10.95) are tender and mild; blackened chicken pasta ($10.95), in a pleasant Alfredo sauce studded with bits of Roma tomato and mushroom, is flavorful and well handled. Although frozen french fries are run-of-the-mill, the kitchen's freshly made tempura-fried mushrooms ($5.95) are a treat. And quesadillas ($6.95) stuffed with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, avocado pico de gallo, and poblano peppers are delicious. The full menu is available anywhere within the complex; however, dining room seating is first-come, first-served. Dave and Buster's is open daily from 11 a.m. until well past your bedtime. Call 440-892-1415 for more information.


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