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Everything posted by TheFoodTutor

  1. As with corkage fees, I think some discretion is appropriate for plate sharing charges. The regular guest who keeps a few special bottles in a locked wine box in your storage facilities, orders pre-dinner cocktails and 3 or 4 courses of food isn't charged a corkage fee, and he likewise shouldn't be charged for plate sharing, on the occasions that he chooses to dine family style. On the other hand, people who must save up for months in order to dine in a restaurant where they can only afford and eat a half of an entree, with no appetizers or dessert, need to be casually and politely informed that they really cannot afford to eat there. Here's a positive-reinforcement idea, that might work well when coupled with instituting a plate sharing charge: Seek out tables like these of obviously budget-minded individuals, and hand them a special business card, inviting them to partake in an "early bird" special, or an off-night discount. Take one of our tables at 5:30 on a Wednesday evening and get 3 (smaller portioned) courses for a price that's in the neighborhood of one of our regular entrees, say, $28? It's not terribly expensive to offer a half-caesar, some braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and a portion of tiramisu for that, and you're selling a table that would otherwise sit empty at that time of day. Really, it wouldn't be mean of you at all to suggest that sort of alternative, and in fact, you'd be doing them a favor, by suggesting a way that they could get much more value for their dining dollars, don't you think?
  2. This sounds true enough to me. How does one build a crab cake that is packed tightly enough to hold together on a grill, anyway? By packing it with flour or breadcrumbs? Which would make it a rather lousy crabcake, wouldn't it? Seriously. I'm asking this question because I don't know the answer. I've never had a grilled crabcake, but I've had some excellent ones that were very loosely packed, pan-fried, and only lightly coated on the outside with breadcrumbs. That sort of crabcake would totally fall apart on a grill, I should think.
  3. They're very definitely not washing their hands. It's a tiny place and they're in full sight the entire time - they never even go into the kitchen because the food comes out through a pass between the kitchen and the dining room - except if one of them ducks into the bathroom (in plain sight) at some point in the evening for personal business (when I hope they're washing their hands), they don't, certainly not inbetween shaking hands with arriving customers and serving plates. ← Well, then, I'd probably avoid eating there during cold and flu season. Restaurant employees get sick more often than the general populace for a reason, and I'm sure you don't want to share in that phenomenon, right?
  4. Hmmm. I always wash my hands after every time I: - Eat something. - Touch my face. - Use the restroom (of course). - Shake hands with someone. - Drop off dishes in the dish pit. - Touch anything that might be questionable in any way. Basically, as a server, I wash my hands more times than most people would even think about washing their hands in a single day. I wash my hands far more frequently than the cooks in my restaurant do, as I mentioned before, and I wash them just barely out of the gaze of the customers, as the handwashing sink is just around a corner, and it only takes me a half of a minute to do it (or the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself, twice, as per my ServSafe training). It seems as if it's possible that A) The FOH staff you speak of may, actually, be washing their hands between shaking hands with guests and delivering food to tables, but it is done out of sight, so you aren't aware of it or B) The staff isn't washing their hands because, in that particular restaurant, it isn't convenient or common practice to do so. The latter is something that I find especially crappy about working in restaurants: When you work for an independent, as opposed to a chain, even if you're working for an upscale, upmarket, fine-dining independent, handwashing sinks are usually not as prevalent, and a lot of the facilities are much more haphazard. Chain organizations do absolutely everything according to code, which makes it far, far easier to follow health regulations. Fine-dining independents get a lot of slack from Health Inspectors, in my experience, in comparison to chains, who are expected to follow the law to the letter. Definitely an ironic trade-off, if one is germophobic, but also a foodophile. My own observations may not be standard, outside of the bits of the industry that I've observed, just to qualify the statements I've just made.
  5. That's a fair assessment, I think, and I don't think your opinion is unreasonable. I act on the same assumptions, sometimes. There are a couple of incidents that led to my never returning to certain restaurants, because the things I observed seemed so unclean that it turned my stomach a bit. (Note that no roach sightings are among them, because I am fully aware that all restaurants have roaches, particularly in my regional climate.) One time was at a Vietnamese restaurant where I ordered an iced coffee, which came with an iced tea spoon in the glass. When I pulled the spoon out of my coffee, I noticed that the spoon end was coated in some sort of green food matter, something that didn't come off when it was washed for whatever reason. I called my waiter's attention to the spoon, indicated that I'd pulled it out of my drink, and that the spoon was dirty. At that point, the waiter, who didn't speak much English, ran away from the table saying, "Dirty, dirty. . ." over and over again. That kind of freaked me out, so I didn't drink the coffee and I never went there again. Another time, I was at some sort of a buffet restaurant, and there was a manager bussing the multitude of unbussed tables, piled with scads of dirty dishes, all around me. The manager had on a white button-down shirt which, after a short period of observing him, I noticed had a large, brown ring of dirty sweat stain - the sort of stain that takes numerous wearings to attain - encircling his waist just below his spare tire. I figured that, if the manager doesn't have a clue when it's time to change his shirt, especially when that particular shirt should have bypassed the laundry hamper and gone straight to the dumpster, then the rest of the staff probably wasn't too well-versed in cleanliness, either. And it was just a crappy buffet, anyway, so I never went back. But, on the other hand, the sort of restaurants where all the employees very cautiously observe clean-appearing procedures in the dining room - such as using pristine marking trays for replacing silver, rather than carrying them in hand to the table - aren't necessarily any less germ-ridden than the fast food place down the block. People have a very strong tendency to trust any place that has white linen, for instance, but even the cleanliness of that linen, itself, is somewhat questionable. It really all ends up being a matter of perception. Roll the dice and take your chances on who you choose to trust with your food. Or don't. No one says that you have to eat in restaurants at all, right?
  6. I'm in adegiulio's camp. I try to get a good dose of germs now and then just to beef up the old immune system. Seriously, if something that you can witness in the dining room makes you queasy, then you might not want to eat in that restaurant at all. And by that I don't mean that the restaurant isn't clean enough for people to eat there, but I mean that your comfort level might not be suited to dining there. I work in a restaurant where some groups of our clientele regularly ask for a cup of hot water, which I then provide, and into which they deposit their silverware, after they unroll it from our linens. Presumably, they assume that the process of putting our silver through a very hot dishwasher, then putting it through a second dishwasher, expressly for silver polishing, then polishing by hand and rolling it into clean linens isn't clean enough for them. Perhaps they assume that my hands, in particular, aren't clean enough for them to trust with silver that is going into their mouths. If that's the case, then I'd really love to tell them how silly that is, because I wash my hands far more often than our cooks do, trust me. But then, that bit of information might be waaaay more than they need to know. If questions about these sorts of sanitary matters really start to concern one that much, there is always the option of brown-bagging it, which fits rather neatly into even very short lunch breaks, while also ensuring that one never has to trust the cleanliness of other humans with ones food.
  7. Very strange game. Almost no one wants to play in the traditional roles, though. I had a customer steal my check so he could make the money off the table, and then he waited on me. . . And most of the customers want to sit on me and bite me. If they're gathering psychological data in this game, it's sure to be skewed toward the bizarre.
  8. then you would work in the only restaurant where FOH doesn't cmplain about the staff meal they get! ← Crazy. I've never once complained about family meal, but I've seen some pretty bleak situations, so I'm thankful whenever something edible is on offer. I worked at a very expensive, fancy restaurant where the official policy was that there was never any staff meal, whatsoever, aside from what the cooks could steal for themselves. Even if servers wanted to order an item at full price and box it to go at the end of the shift, they were not allowed to do so. I waited tables there for almost a year, and not ever being able to scrounge something to eat was an issue on a number of occasions. I worked a double shift on Valentine's Day, which amounted to 14 hours on my feet without a break, and the GM put in some food for me, because during the time that I might have gotten a break to go get something to eat, Evander Holyfield came in, and there were other events that necessitated my continuing to work. . . I asked for a small order of chicken francese, and when it came up in the window, a Sous Chef snarled at me that if he'd known the food was for me, he wouldn't have cooked it. I really, really despised all the enmity between BOH and FOH at all those fine dining places I worked, and I'm so glad that I never have to go back to working in that environment again. My own restaurant versions of Murphy's Law: - If you work in a place that has 1/2 price meals, and you're working a 12-13 hour double with just barely enough of a break to eat a sandwich, a guest will ask specifically to be seated at a table in your section at the precise moment that your food comes up in the window. - If you try to sneak a crust of bread in the waitstation during your shift, a Sous Chef will walk around the corner just in time to catch you at it, and then he'll say, "You're going to get fat from eating all those carbs." Every time. - If you're working in BOH, the mornings that you are the most hung over will always be the mornings that there is something rank-smelling and unidentifiable in the walk-in, and even if you remember what you went in there to get, it will always take you far too long to find it. - Guests planning private parties and buyouts will always, always ask for a fruit that is far out of season to be part of the dessert menu. Oh, I could go on and on. . . And perhaps I will, later.
  9. I love gazpacho for breakfast! Lately, I've been pouring myself a bowl of gazpacho, then making some soft scrambled eggs with a bit of bacon mixed in. I ladle the steamy eggs right into the center of the gazpacho, garnish with a few of my rice wine vinegar pickled cucumbers, then eat. The contrast between hot and cold works very well, and I get my veggies and protein all in one shot. My gazpacho generally contains tomatoes (a fruit, I know), cukes, green pepper and onion, plus garlic, vinegar and other seasonings. I generally keep a batch in the fridge all Summer long, so that I can have a serving of vegetables whenever I want it, without having to do any prep.
  10. Visited last night, and all was delicious from from everything I tasted: JMolinari's Lamb Prosciutto, yogurt ravioli, cantaloupe caviar. Excellent, and a fine example of someone who has been doing something well for a long time, finally getting his due recognition. Soft poached egg, hollandaise "carpaccio," grilled asparagus. Let's not dwell on the whole sous vide process for the egg, shall we? I'm tired of hearing about it. I just want to eat it. Also an excellent dish. Soft shell crab, brown butter chutney, curry remoulade. Light, crisp batter, sauces that complement well. A+. Lamb short rib, sourwood honey, malta goya. Again, nice cooking process, but the end result is what makes it great. I ordered "Family Meal," but well, the best laid plans of mice and men. . . I did eventually get to try a bit of it in the kitchen. Nifty idea, at any rate. The Staff Meal of the day was a sort of "impasta" of shredded vegetables, sauteed in smoky tomato. My taste of it was quite good, but I ate too many other things to miss eating a plate of it. I got a special rendition of an amuse, because Chef Blais noticed that I'm on the proverbial wagon, and thus didn't want to send me a nitro margarita. Instead, I got a taro chip with tomato gelee in a smoke "vapor" - wood chips under a shot glass - with a smattering of mole powder. Quite the sensational, space-age Dorito. Loved it. Very cool caviars, especially the beet caviar on the hamachi. Looking forward to learning more about making that. I'll most likely revisit soon. If anyone from eGullet should happen to bump into me there, don't be afraid to say, "Hi."
  11. Here is a LINK to a site showing the one that I have tried. It is called "Natori Cheese Tara Just Pack," and it is described as being a "dried cod and cheese snack" on that website. But when I bought it, I couldn't help noticing a distinct absence of cheese (or any other dairy products) in the ingredient list on the packaging. Sorry to mention "quarts" without giving reference to it's similarity to a liter. That's the American side of me showing itself. Thanks to MarketStEl for clearing that up. This is such an exciting blog! How do you keep your home so clean? I'm terribly impressed! And you are not unphotogenic! You look totally cute! The kids look especially cute, too. Thanks again for sharing with us.
  12. Lactose intolerance is very common among a large percentage of the population of this planet, beyond a young age, after which the proper enzyme is no longer produced to digest that sugar. I would expect that this would be even more pronounced among the population in Japan, since dairy products are rather expensive there. How much is a quart of milk where you live, these days? Not a lot of dairy grazing land in Japan, I'd guess. Barley tea? I didn't know that barley tea was popular in Japan, as I usually associated that with Korean food. Do you always drink it unsweetened? Hot or cold? Very exciting blog! Thank you ever so much for sharing your views of Japan, as it is a country that I'd love to visit! So interesting that you like cheese, too! Have you had the Japanese cheese snacks that are made of fish? I'm looking forward to learning so much more! Thanks again!
  13. That's what I was thinking. It's sold in our Asian grocery stores with the label "mung bean jelly." Very low in calories, but not a lot of flavor until you spice it up with chili paste or other condiments. Excellent start to the blog, mizducky, and I want to add my congratulations to those piling up so far on your tremendous weight loss. Such courage you must have! Bravo! Did you get anything from the pastry case? Or are you not terribly tempted by sweets?
  14. As fun as it is to watch them cut the fries at Ted's, I don't eat their french fries when I go there, because I really don't like them. They do cut their fries all day long, but then they give them only one frying, whereas "blanching" the fries, cooling them, then frying them at 375 for service gives the right crispness that I prefer. An aside: I am truly a prick about what french fries I will or will not eat because, at my age, height and weight, a lousy french fry is simply not worth the calorie expenditure, for me. Your mileage may vary. At any rate, I did mention the procedure for french fries at the small-ish chain (47 restaurants, currently) where I work in the eGullet foodblog that is linked at the bottom of my posts. It involves a good deal of work, and of the 5 walk-ins that are there, one is entirely devoted to the french fries that have been cut, rinsed, drained, spun in a salad spinner, blanched in 300 degree oil, drained again, and then chilled while waiting their finishing fry for service. If one cannot devote that sort of time/energy/space/labor to making terrific french fries, then it is understandable that frozen french fries (which I prefer over what Ted's serves, unfortunately) are a reasonable alternative. I am not that familiar with what is added to frozen french fries, or whether they are blanched, then frozen, or what specific blend of preservatives, sugars and such are added to the particular brand that Keller chooses to serve at Bouchon. However, I agree with you, wholeheartedly, that knowing, first hand, that the from-scratch version can be done on even a very large scale for a very large volume of guests, makes me think much less of Keller, as a chef. I would have thought that his dedication to ingredients would dictate otherwise. I am a fan of his work, but I've never been fortunate enough to eat his food, outside of the things I've replicated from his cookbooks, if it makes any difference.
  15. Good point. I deal with a number of wine reps, and not only are they knowledgeable, but they are very dedicated and committed to providing excellent products. They travel to the restaurants where I work, and many others, giving classes on wine, discussing everything from the growing conditions of a particular grape to possible pairings from the wine list to specific menu items. In fact, any of the wine reps that I know would be rather heartbroken to see a wine list as shoddy as the one markk describes, and would be constantly suggesting better wines for the list. Are the reps in my city that unusual?
  16. This is a very interesting point, and it brings me to what seems to be a blatantly obvious solution, since markk has pointed out that opening the second bottle for only a glass with dessert, and being charged the second corkage fee, is an issue. Instead of sitting down with the owner and taking upon the task of educating her about her entire wine list, how difficult would it be to ask her to simply carry one dessert wine that you could order by the glass at the end of your meal? Since this is a place you've established a long-term bond with, I'd possibly even start by bringing a bottle of fairly inexpensive dessert wine as a gift. It's very likely that she could find something suitable from one of several wine distributors in the area, and that way you could simply order your one glass to complete the meal, and the whole issue would be finished. But then again, if the place doesn't generally meet your standards for hospitality, you may well be better off deciding not to visit there anymore, anyway.
  17. I think that, perhaps, you lack an understanding of exactly how many hours there are in a day when one lives in a moderate climate with abundant food, and yet television has not been invented yet. I generally take it as read that just about anything that can be done with natural ingredients and rudimentary tools has been done at some point by various tribal cultures in the Amazon, throughout South America and pretty much throughout the world. No elaborate scientific process was necessary to weed out the things that were not tasty or which didn't deliver the desired substance, since the methods that proved pleasurable were simply repeated, and those the didn't produce the desired result were not repeated (though they were probably tried by multiple cultures in different areas, and even many individuals in one area.) It goes without saying that items that caused fatal poisoning upon ingestion were given special notice, which is one reason why language proved adaptive to our species.
  18. You should definitely go, because the desserts alone are well worth the trip. In spite of being a steakhouse, it's a steakhouse that's very adeptly geared toward feeding those who are dragged to a steakhouse by others who prefer that sort of restaurant. Lots of small plates available, nice space, astounding desserts in small portions for $3 apiece. I'm not a big fan of Atlanta magazine or Lauterbach's writing, personally, as I find that my experiences at the restaurants she reviews differ greatly from hers, which can be partly explained by the fact that she is instantly recognized absolutely everywhere she goes, and she works for a magazine that doesn't mind blurring the line between editorial and advertorial just a tad more than suits my taste. Still, her writing is vastly superior to our primary reviewer in our local daily rag, as noted by therese. Better than either of those writers, to my taste, is Besha Rodell of Creative Loafing. The Loaf is available widely throughout the city, free for the taking, and it's got a larger amount of the information on current events that I find useful, along with timely reviews of restaurants that are recently opened, plus updates on more casual spaces that have been open for longer periods of time. It hits the streets weekly on Thursday, usually by noon. Oh, and I've been to East Pearl, but wasn't aware that it would be new enough to merit that list. It's good, but not good enough to merit the drive. Nothing like Tasty China, at any rate.
  19. Neat topic. I've often noticed the potato salad at my favorite Korean restaurants, and it perplexed me a little, since it does seem like a Western style dish thrown into the mix, to me at least. Up until now, I lumped it under the category of culinary blending of traditions that would explain iceberg lettuce salads at Japanese restaurants and Western broccoli in Chinese stir-fries. I've also noticed some Korean places serving boiled peanuts where they'd normally serve edamame (in Korean sushi restaurants) as part of the banchan here in Georgia. I like the substitution, and I can imagine it might be cost-effective or simply more convenient to procure for the restaurant.
  20. 15% is considered the minimum, while 18-20% is a more current standard range for good service. I never tip 15%, personally, but I am in the industry. You are correct that the tip provided in this instance is around 15%, so no horrible faux-pas has occurred, but generally, most people take into consideration the fact of an entree that is split. After all, 2 people are more trouble to wait on than 1, even if they only drink water and they split one entree. It's actually more trouble, in fact, since an extra plate must be brought, usually extra sauces are requested, or possibly extra bread or crackers (in the event that one entree really wasn't enough for 2 people, but the budget didn't allow for ordering more), refills must be brought and all of those extras must be cleared. I couldn't imagine tipping less than a dollar per person to sit down and have another human being wait on me. If I don't have enough money to pay at least that much, then I go home and serve myself, or I take my companion home and serve the two of us. But that's just me. Obviously, there are others who think otherwise, and I wait on them all the time. Edited to add: What in the world can 2 people order at Longhorn Steakhouse (they have them here in Atlanta), and split, so that the bill will only be $7.53?! They must charge much lower prices elsewhere, or perhaps I'm missing something.
  21. I'm so glad you answered that question before I asked it. (btw - my avatar is also not a picture of myself). I'm also glad that you're blogging this week, since it gave me an opportunity to look up your previous blog, which I hadn't read yet. Nice cappas! I noticed that the cappas you got in restaurants had the massive "marshmallow" foam on top - which is funny, because that's exactly what I was taught to do, when I first learned to make cappuccino as a waitress - and I've been struck by how different this is from what makes a really good coffee drink. Crazy, to make a contest out of trying to build the tallest cup of coffee, as if air adds that much value to a beverage, and yet, many people still teach this. So, tell me: Do you prefer skim? Is it best for foaming, or do you find you have another preference, or no preference? And that is one gigantic triple espresso you had there. Is the alien cup from Illy, as well? Looking forward to some great market photos. Happy blogging!
  22. You answer yourself with your own question: With the amount of experience you have, you still question your knowledge of the financial side of things. I'd say, from an informal knowledge of what you write here (though I've read many of your posts), that you'd benefit from consulting a half-dozen or so investors, to see if any of them approve of your business idea enough to finance it, which is, also, exactly what I'd suggest of most people with the same idea. Your location, your concept, your knowledge of staffing a kitchen and front of the house, etc. would come into play, of course. . . People can lose several years of income, gross, and even more than that, on opening their own restaurants, so I'd hate to see you do that with your own money, and a good investor will likely have some helpful ideas about what that location will do, real-estate-wise, or with a certain restaurant idea. I hope this is not negative, since it can be a great way to make a living, but just go into it with both eyes open.
  23. TheFoodTutor

    Salsa Tasting

    They thought your first two were too fancy, and they want you to do salsas and quesadillas? Wow. Try putting the salsas in free-style tortilla cups, made by throwing tortillas in a deep-fryer, shaping them with tongs or a couple of forks. Methinks you need to aim a little lower.
  24. Oven-roasted tomatoes keep well, either in the freezer, or in a jar with some good olive oil. Use them as you would sun-dried tomatoes.
  25. How do you run 50% cost on liquor . Do you run after your suppliers vans throwing large wads of cash at them? Yeah, I was going to say, you need to get that liquor cost under control, pronto, or it won't matter what kind of food your serving. As they say in the 'biz, "There are 2 kinds of bartenders: Those that are smart and only steal a little bit, and those that just go ahead and steal a lot." It looks like you have the latter. Start counting the drawer yourself. Other than that, the suggestions made so far are excellent. Meat pies, braised meats and stews, good fries and sausages are all great ideas for pub grub with a good beer. Try not to be too ambitious at first, because poorly executing a spectacularly creative menu is not nearly so successful as just being able to put out a good burger. Good luck!
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