So for some reason I can't access my blog (or any blog on this site) right now. I used a back way, so the links you will have to do manually.
So B's parents came at the beginning of last week. It was good to see them. We asked them to bring us some stuff and they graciously accepted the challenge. When they brought it to us, I realized that all I asked for was basically toys. They brought me a 10-pack of nose flutes (http://www.nashco.com/noseflutes.html), an e-bow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Bow), two sets of whiffle balls and bats and a Nerf football. They also brought us a treasure of chocolate candies. Yeah, I am pretty much a kid in an adult's body.
So anyway, during the time that they were here in Beijing, we were being escorted by various people related to the business that B's father is doing here. They were very nice and interesting people, but they insisted that we go to "special" restaurants that were super expensive for every meal. This was very thoughtful of them, and it was luxurious but the food actually sucked in every upscale place. I found it nice when I had to work one day so I ate by myself and chose the cheap restaurant around the corner where the cleanliness is sub-par. This experience only reinforced my theory that most expensive restaurants suck or they are equal to the non-expensive ones. Now I'm not talking about taco bell here--I mean taco bell sucks. In China, if you want a meal that tastes good, I recommend that you choose the smaller, dirtier, hole in the wall where the waiter is the owner. I think the thing is, in the smaller mom and pop restaurants you have two factors that make them taste better: 1) The people who cook and wait are the owners and they NEED your business because this is their lively hood. 2) The people who cook have opened the restaurants because they have been told a thousand times, "damn, you are a great cook. you should open a restaurant". so they do. The bigger places concentrate on rare ingredients and presentation, but not on the taste. I really do think that a good meal is always cooked with heart. Some guy who cooks in a restaurant just cause he needed to have a job or because he is trying to pay off his loans from cook school is going to cook with heart less often than the owner themselves.
I think this "Mom and Pop are better than Fancy" theory could also be true all over the world. I remember when we lived in New Mexico, the Taqueria Mexico (which was completely staffed by a sibling group of 10 and had 6 tables in a former gas station) was far superior than the fancy Mexican or New Mexican restaurants. I mean the Taco Truck on Broadway was blew the doors off of Sadie's (only ABQ people get this one). In AL the BBQ that came out the smoker which was being dragged by a truck was always better than the sit down fancy places.
If you come to China and want to visit me, I will take you to the fancy restaurants if you are scared of the sanitary issues but I will probably try to convince you to eat at the smaller places too.