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Posts posted by Darren72

  1. Just to add my 2 cents:

    First, every time I read a post by slkinsey I learn something really valuable.

    Way back when, I bought a stainless steel All-Clad fry pan and saute pan. They're great. No complaints, though knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't have bought the set these came in.

    There are some much lower cost options to consider, depending on how often you'll use each pan and what you'll use it for.

    1. Cast iron skillet. A 12" skillet will probably cost less than $20. They're heavy and therefore aren't ideal for anything that involves a lot of moving around (like a saute). They also aren't great for stewing or boiling because I think that will work against seasoning the finish. But they are ideal, I think, for the low, slow heat you'll want for carmelizing onions. They are also ideal for pan-frying meat. I also like that they are nearly indestructible -- I like to put them directly on hot coals in the grill.

    2. Aluminum frying pan from a restaurant supply store. A common brand here in Chicago is Vollrath. You can read more about the advantages and disadvantages of all-aluminum in Understanding Stovetop Cookware. The main advantage, for your purposes, is that it is very cheap, say $20-$30 for a pan. This might be the way to go if you want a high-quality saute pan, but also want a fry pan around for occasional use.

    I have an aluminum frying pan with a non-stick coating that I think is perfect for eggs and fish: because it's cheap, I don't need to worry about the inevitable scratches in the non-stick coating.

  2. Hello eGulleters,

    I visited Baltimore last week for a short business trip and attempted to go to Mama's on the Half Shell. I called Friday afternoon to confirm that they do not take reservations (which they do not on Friday and Saturday nights), and to ask what the typical wait is around 7-8pm on a Friday night.

    I was told the wait is usually around 15-30 minutes at that time of the evening.

    So a group of us take a cab there and discover, to our surprise, that the wait will be over an hour.

    Maybe there were larger crowds than normal.

    Maybe the receptionist who told me the wait would be 15-30 minutes was new and didn't know how long the wait typically is on a Friday night.

    Maybe the receptionist thought I was asking about 6pm, rather than 7-8pm.

    Maybe the waits fluctuate from week to week, and she was being optimistic.

    Maybe she didn't know what the wait would be and just made a guess.

    Maybe the receptionist didn't think it was important to give an accurate indication of the wait time.

    I don't know what happened. But I do know that future readers of this board should expect an hour long wait on a Friday night at 7:30pm at Mama's on the Half Shell. If you get in faster, good for you. If it takes an hour, at least you were warned.

    It's frustrating to arrive at a restaurant you had been looking forward to, only to find out that, because of time constraints, you have to go somewhere else. We went to a rather unremarkable restaurant in the neighborhood.

  3. Yeah, the second and third wines have been stored in my livingroom/kitchen for a year. I don't have the luxury of a cellar, let alone a wine cellar. You're sure they'd be ruined? My apartment isn't so hot. I keep it comfortable for myself, which means that when too much heat is coming out of the radiator, I open the window.

    If the temperature in your kitchen and livingroom is comfortable, and the wine has only been there a year, the are probably fine. If they have been in direct sunlight for a year, or have been stored over 80 degrees for a significant portion of the year, I'd be a little worried. In that case, I'd say better to just buy a new $10-$15 bottle for your function (and drink these yourself).

    Or, just open one of the three bottles with dinner tonight. If it tastes fine, I'm sure the other two are in similar condition and are also fine to take to your function.

  4. Nah.. I am willing to say as a member of a food board that Olive Garden Sucks.. I am sorry, I dont think its snobby rather I think it keeps up the integrity of a website Devoted to Food.. But this issue has been done to death..

    I wasn't trying to say Olive Garden is good food. I was simply pointing out that we more frequently hear about food bourne illnesses at national chains rather than local restaurants for a reason, and it isn't because this stuff only happens at national chains.

    Sorry that I wasn't clear enough.

  5. I think it is important to point out that we hear about these outbreaks at national (or regional) chains much more than at local restaurants simply because national news outlets are likely to carry a story about a large chain that is nationally known. By contrast, there won't be much national interest in virus or food poisoning incident at a restaurant no one has ever heard of, and will likely never visit.

    I think we should keep our holier-than-Olive Garden tendancies in check.

  6. There are mixed opinions - mostly naysaying - about the Kitchenaid's suitability as an espresso grinder (although I suspect it's as good or better than the Solis in that regard).

    But the overall consensus is that it's a fine general purpose home coffee grinder for drip, press pot, vac pot etc..

    And I have a friend who had pesky issues with his Solis (I had none when I owned one) but he dumped it, got a Kitchenaid and is thrilled (and he's fairly picky).  No question about the fact that it's got beefier more rugged build quality and is a more heavy duty machine.

    I suggest going up to a Rocky or its equivalent if your focus is espresso grinding but otherwise the Kitchenaid, especially at the prices I've seen mentioned, appears to be the top dog in the $200 and under category.

    I've been researching burr grinders for a while and have sort of hit an impass. I'd like to get some updated feedback from readers of this thread.

    I considering the following:

    Solis Maestro Plus - around $150;

    Gaggia MDF - close to $200

    the Kitchenaid - around $200

    the Rocky - around $300

    I mostly make drip and french press coffee, and will soon try vacuum brewing. So I'm leaning towards the Solis. However, at some point I may get bit by the espresso bug, and I understand that the Solis and Kitchenaid (and perhaps the Gaggia?) aren't great at grinding for espresso.

    So my questions are: Does anyone have experience using the Solis and/or the Gaggia for espresso? If so, what are your impressions?


  7. Melissa,

    Just a quick note about Trotter. My *guess* is that the B & W scene you saw was edited. I spent some time in the kitchen at Charlie Trotter's and they were absolute freaks about cleanliness. The kitchen is a very tight ship. If the scene wasn't edited, my guess is there is some other explanation. I am sure that Trotter wouldn't touch raw poultry, then cooked poultry, and then serve the latter.

    I agree that his books and shows use incredibly rare, and sometimes very expensive, ingredients. I've found that many of the recipes are quite easy to simplify, though, into an everyday version. For example, you don't have to top the dish with microgreens from Ohio, but could top it with herbs. Instead of using basil oil to finish a dish, finish it with olive oil and chopped basil.

    Now, I realize Trotter decided to present his version and not mention these kinds of simplifications. Maybe the show would be better if he did. Every once in while, though, he does give in. For example, he'll use an exotic piece of meat, and then say something like "you could of course do this with a chicken breast, or a piece of lamb..."

    Anyways, I realize many are turned off by him and his style. If you ever decide to give him a third chance, you might look at his books "Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home" and "Gourmet Cooking for Dummies". The latter is part of the XYZ for Dummies Series. Both present recipes that are considerably simpler (and by that I mean use more common ingredients, etc) than what he does on the show or in his other books.

    I didn't mention names above, but Emeril is exactly who I had in mind. Not only does he get a no on the let-him-in question, he gets a rather resounding HELL NO!!! Interestingly, also on the HELL NO list is Charlie Trotter. That goes back to an episode in his first season on PBS, which I think I've mentioned previously on eG. It was an episode about birds (mostly chicken, I think). During the first season, they'd intersperse the color portions of recipe demo with B&W segments in the restaurant kitchen, where he'd show you things about the food or variations thereof. The B&W shots were always done in a single cut with a single camera. And in this particular episode, with his bare hands, Charlie T caressed some raw chickens, some raw quail, maybe a raw pheasant or other raw bird...and then IMMEDIATELY wrapped those same grubby paws around a roasted bird. :shock:  Unless his editing people are really really good, he most definitely did not wash his hands inbetween.

    That really grossed me out, and blacklisted him from ever setting foot in my kitchen...or me from setting foot in his again. :raz:

    In the end, though, that little incident was not why I quit watching his show. I quit watching because he wasn't doing anything that was at all accessible to me in my own kitchen. I got sick of seeing microgreens grown in Ohio especially for him, meat from providers that those of us not in the biz don't have access to, and other unavailable stuff. He'd talk plenty about how beautiful his ingredients were, but didn't have any advice for those of us who are normal ol' home cooks, even those of us who live in agrarian areas with farmers' markets.

    But it got worse. Especially in the second season of the show, he started talking a great deal about flavors and simplicity. But then, when it came time to put his money where his mouth was, he'd concoct a dish that had two dozen ingredients, each of which was used in minuscule quantities and/or required substantial preparation. I'm not quite sure what idea of simplicity he was trying to convey, but it was totally lost on me. The tone of the show became unbearably uppity, and I lost interest in even watching for inspiration. The show in its first season at least presented things that might have been doable by, say, me. But the second season sent it up over my head and my interest level...which takes quite a lot.

    The technique looked pretty good to me, and the kitchen stayed relatively tidy. But there really wasn't much teaching going on, beyond the part about restaurant chefs being able to get stuff that none of the rest of us can. And I knew that already. :wacko:


  8. Not sure if I should take the bait on this ...

    There are roasters all over the country from whom one can buy through mail order. I'd kind of like to get away from buying the few brands available to me locally, and branch out and try beans from small roasters located elsewhere. Hence, using my senses is not that helpful for beans located hundreds of miles away. I'd also like to know about small roasters locally that don't sell through the megamart.

    Sure, as you suggest, I could just start buying beans from different roasters. But rather than do it blind, so I thought I'd ask where people gather information.

    At a more basic level, I'm not asking about how to evaluate beans in front of me. I'm asking about where one can learn where the beans are in the first place.

    As you saw, I got some friendly and helpful advice.

    I tend to have five sources where I gain information about beans.

    The first two reside side-by-side, protected by little fleshy flaps that do a thing called "blinking" to keep them moist.  I believe those who speak English call them "eyes".

    The next two lie a little bit more central and just below--my nares.

    The final item lies below my hard palate and between my teeth--my tongue.

    Edit to add: remember, there is no shame in occasionally purchasing bad coffee as long as you learn from the purchase.  You shouldn't be bothered by branching out to new suppliers.

  9. I wish I knew this was going to be on. I would have TiVo'ed it.  Any idea if/when it will re-air?

    Honestly, if you read his posts on eGullet, you pretty much got the gist of the short Larry King segment (as you can also see from the transcript above). There were a few nice stills from the Marine ship and a few from Lebannon, though. It was a very short segment, though fun to watch.

    I loved that Larry introduced him as a "celebrity chief".

  10. Sweet Maria's is tremendous information resource, as well as being a great source for green beans.  All of the coffee that they carry is rated, with plenty of background information such as crop, farm, region, tasting notes.

    A good site even if you don't buy and roast your own.


    I love Sweet Maria's and it the first place I look for info about equipment. I didn't realize they had notes on beans -- well, more accurately, since they sell unroasted beans, it never occurred to me to look at their pages on beans. Thanks for the tip.

  11. I'm curious what your sources are for learning about the latest coffee beans to try.

    I begain reading The Coffee Review (http://www.coffeereview.com/) a few years ago and was struck at the time that coffee beans are much like wine in that there can be significant year-to-year variations in the taste and overall quality of a given bean, from a given region, imported and roasted by a particular company. The Coffee Review reviews beans as they come on the market, and it's been fun to try a few of the things they have recommended (but I'm not always excited about shipping costs...)

    Most of the time I buy Allegro beans from my local Whole Foods because they roast them in the store and I know I'm getting beans that are quite fresh. I also buy Intelligencia, sometimes Small World, and perhaps a few others. But I'm mostly shopping rather randomly...so, ah, what seems good this week?

    I'm interested in trying a wider variety of beans. But coffee isn't sold in stores similar to wine shops that have hundreds of different bottles and knowledgeable sales staff. So I'm curious what other sources you have for learning about new beans to try out. I live in Chicago, so there are some roasters in town (Intelligencia), but do you buy most of your small roaster beans via the internet?

    (Owen, I'm especially interested in your take.)


  12. i'm sure i'll sound like a complete looser by asking this, but are all the restaurants considered equal? meaning if i wanted to plan a trip to visit one, is there one over another i should focus on?

    What do you mean by "all the restaurants"? I think there is only one El Bulli.

  13. I bought the Daniel Boulud knives based upon my idea that he would certainly make the best knife for himself .. I haven't been disappointed in his santoku ...  :wink:my first DBK santoku

    My guess is that many of the chef-branded cookware and knives are not actually used by the chefs themselves in their restaurants. Perhaps some are. My guess is that the chef-branded stuff is meant to be used in a home kitchen, and so the specifications are slightly different than what is required in a professional kitchen.

    I know many line cooks, even if high end restaurants, use lower-priced knives (such as Victornox). Knives get lost, taken, scratched, etc. and so many chefs and kitchens don't have the highest quality stuff. Similarly, many professional kitchens use aluminum pans.

    Having said that, I'd imagine that at home many chefs have both their own brand and some of their old favorites.

    Cooks Illustrated did a test of celebrity chef cookware (not knives) and found some to be quite good, while others were definitely over priced, given their quality. Don't remember any specifics.

  14. I'm personally very fond of Riedel's "Vinum" line of champagne glasses. You can buy two of them for $34 right now...  (note that they make several other styles; this one happens to be my favorite for champagne, even though I prefer the "Vinum Extreme" for wine glasses).

    I'm just curious about the differences between the Vinum line and the Vinum Extreme line. They are both machine made and are roughly similar in price. The Extreme line seems to have more of a "bowed out" shaped. Is this just an asthetic difference, or is there also a functional difference? Are some wines better suited to one line, and other wines to the other glass line?


  15. I've been very happy with the Spiegelau set of 6 that I bought on Amazon. Interestingly, they were $35 when I bought them in January, now they are $45. There is free shipping.

    I picked these because they were not expensive and I read that a number of higher end restaurants use them because they are slightly more durable than other brands, yet still elegant. I also figured that it would be better to spend more money on fine Bordeaux or Burgundy glasses, but "mid range" Champagne glasses were likely to be fine. I'd say this is especially true if you are making Bellinis.


    Friends have also bought these and in none of our experiences did we have any glasses broken upon shipment, or have any deformed glasses (as some Amazon buyers claimed).

  16. I don't mean to move this discussion towards the pros and cons (mainly cons...there I go again) of Zagat. I'm the first to admit that it has some uses, especially if you understand how the rating are put together.

    But I take any opportunity I can to plug a great article by our own Steven Shaw, "The Zagat Effect," published in Commentary, Vol. 110 • November 2000 • No. 4.

    Available free here:


    Excepts of this appeared in the Fat Guy's book, Turning the Tables.

    When the article first came out in print, Steven generously offered to fax it to anyone who wanted it (It wasn't available on line at the time). I made copies for almost everyone in my office. It's an excellent read.

  17. Crate and Barrel sells good, inexpensive wine glasses, though I don't think they have retail stores in Canada.

    I've bought Spiegelau from Amazon. I believe they only have sets, no single glasses. They have good prices, free shipping, and I've never had a problem with broken glasses during shipment.

  18. I agree with the earlier poster who said there is something offensive about the tone of the article. It smacks of a common theme in which someone compares the best of their land to worst of another, and believes he is making a general statement about cultures.

    Regarding Starbucks: I've thought about this a lot. :)

    1. I mainly get their medium or small (er, grande or tall...) black coffee. These cost perhaps $1.60-$1.90, depending on location. Coffee any decent shop is the same price. This is hardly a luxury item.

    2. I think their coffee is, generally, over-roasted for my taste. Burnt. But in many situations I find myself with a choice between burnt coffee at Starbucks and insipid, weak coffee at another place. I opt for Starbucks. It isn't that there are no other good coffee places here in Chicago (There are many), but the Starbucks are ubiquitous and the places that I prefer are not.

    3. My recent travels to Europe suggest that Starbucks is just as common in many places there as here. Most interestingly, a trip to Oxford, England about 5 years ago revealed many places advertising "Seattle style coffee," which was essentially Starbucks style.

  19. Hi everyone,

    I am going to do a hot smoked salmon this weekend. I am thinking about doing something quite similar to the cold smoked salmon in Charcuterie, but rather than finish with a cold smoke, do a hot smoke at about 200-250 in my Weber.

    Is this approximately the right procedure, or are there other recommendations you'd give me? Also, I'm guessing it will cook in about 25 minutes or so -- is that on target?


    Hey Darren,

    When I've done hot-smoked salmon and bluefish in the past it usually takes 45 min to an hour, smoking at around 215 degrees. I use a pretty simple cure that's a 2:1 ration of brown sugar (packed) to kosher salt. You can, of course, add other spices and seasonings. I'll usually stick to black pepper. I cover the fish in the cure, let it cure overnight, rinse it off, and set it out to dry for a couple hours and form a pellicle. If I'm impatient I'll put an oscillating fan in the kitchen to speed this up. Then it's into the smoker. I tend to be paranoid about overcooking things, so I use a digital probe thermometer for just about everything I smoke. When it hits 140, it's done in my book.

    Hope this helps,


    How important is it to let the salmon dry (after curing) in a fridge versus out of it, and covered versus uncovered? In some places I've read that the fridge is too moise to sufficiently dry out the salmon.

    Thanks in advance.

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