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  1. I was surprised that Mario won after the comments made by the judges. I was particularly surprised that Mario got one more point on taste after the comments from the judges. I have to say, though, that watching Mario go at it on Iron Chef is immensely entertaining. The banter between him and Alton is fun to watch.
  2. Okay, so as I've gained insight and education into the cooking, I have gained some skill in Pan Searing Salted Dead Animal Flesh, and serving it with a side of veggies or a salad. But I feel like I've plateaued in my progression. When my wife asks "What's for dinner?", the response is usually something to the effect of "Well, I'll thaw out some of that Dead Animal Flesh we have in the freezer, throw some salt and pepper on it, and then toss it into a skillet." And while this was groovy the first few times, I'm looking for some variety. So last night my wife takes out a large sirloin steak to thaw, and says "Maybe you can look up some recipe to cook for this." And, well, I know I can put salt and pepper on it and throw it in a skillet. But that's what we had on Saturday. I guess I'm looking for something more...robust. Something with a sauce, perhaps. But I'm kinda stuck, because when I look up the "beef" recipes in my cookbook, they're mostly variants on "Seasoned Hunk of Beef, Cooked." Any thoughts?
  3. The Shepherd's Pie recipe in Cooking for Dummies is pretty groovy. I tweak it by adding cheese to the mashed potatoes, and by doubling the amount of stock specified in the recipe.
  4. Well, I was thinking something more along the lines of not presenting the situation as though they were the first ones to figure it out, e.g. "It has long been common knowledge in baking that the way to know if your dough is properly proofed is when it has doubled in size, and when indentations placed in the dough don't disappear. We tested this wisdom ourselves in the test kitchen, and...." yadda yadda yadda. It's not the dry, scientific approach to the recipes that I mind. (In fact, quite the opposite. I dig that format.) And, as mentioned, I really enjoy the magazine as a whole, and am eager to try making the sourdough bread mentioned above. It's just that, occasionally, I'll run across something like the "new discovery" mentioned above and I'll have a moment.
  5. As part of my efforts to edumacate myself, I got a subscription to Cook's Illustrated. On the whole, I dig the magazine. I like their format, and they offer useful tips. But... Is it their standard approach to present every recipe as though they're cooking in a vacuum? Like, for example: Latest issue has an article on Sourdough Bread. At one point, the article's author pointed out that you want neither overproofed nor underproofed dough. The author then claimed to have "discovered" two methods for checking proofing doneness: (A) when the dough has risen to twice it's size; and (B) poking the dough with a fingertip or knuckle and seeing how fast it springs back. I mean, literally, she said something to the effect of "...but eventually I figured out a way to tell if the dough was properly proofed." and then followed that with the steps mentioned above. I, in all my rank and utter cooking newbieness, managed to "figure out" these steps by reading a few cookbooks. The bread sections of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything both mention these two ways to see if your bread is proofed properly. So did Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For More Food. I'm assuming it's pretty common knowledge for anybody who bakes bread. So what's with the pretense that it's a brand spankin' new discovery? (This isn't the only example, just the first one I could think of.)
  6. But, on the gripping hand, there's probably 50 Bennigan's or Olive Garden-type restaurants in this country for every one French Laundry. So I think the original assertion -- that most waiters don't report all of their tips -- is valid.
  7. The drive to make others live their lives as we deem proper seems to be hardwired into the human animal.
  8. Given my experience with waiting tables, I think it would be far more accurate to say that only 10% of all waiters report earning more than $11.00/hour. In 9 years of front-of-the-house work, I only ever met two people who accurately and faithfully reported ALL of their tips -- one had been audited by the IRS in the past, and the other was an ex-con who didn't want to give the Feds any reason to look askance at him. Everybody else reported only the 8% minimum that's required by law.
  9. I largely agree with you. When I waited tables, I didn't offer above-average service because I thought I would get a good tip. I offered above-average service because that was my job, and because I had pride in my craft. I provided excellent service to people I was certain would leave me a lousy tip, due to age, occupation (cops and teachers are lousy tippers, generally), or what-have-you. The only people that ever got intentionally indifferent (or worse) service from me were people who were, in my opinion, unconscionably and unreasonably rude to me. (Like the twits who were tugging on my apron and repeatedly saying "Mister! Mister! Hey Mister!" while I was waiting on the next table over.) And I can count on one hand the number of folks that fell into that category over the course of my 9-year career as a waiter.
  10. It makes a lot of sense for the company that runs the restaurant to have their waitstaff do tip-sharing. This is because the minimum wage laws in this country allow for different minimum wages for tipped vs. non-tipped employees. Most places I worked at required the waiter to give a percentage of his/her tips to the busboy in charge of bussing his/her tables, as well as to the bartender(s). The bartenders in this case weren't going to be getting non-tipped minimum wage, but the busboys might have...except that, thanks to tip-sharing, they're technically considered tipped employees and, therefore, the company can pay them the minimum wage for tipped employees. So forcing the wait staff to share their tips with other members of the staff allows the company to lower their overhead.
  11. In the US, the government expects that you make 8% of your total sales in tips. That is, if you sell $100 worth of food in a shift, the government will expect you to declare a minimum of $8 worth of tips as income. I used to declare 10% because the math was easier, and still made out like a bandit.
  12. I don't think all waiters do it. But I do think a significant portion -- perhaps even "most" -- have that attitude. Of course, almost all of my table-waiting experience comes from working in chain restaurants like Bennigan's, the Olive Garden, and so on. So my sample set may be skewed in one direction or another.
  13. Perhaps not to the exact percentage. But if you wait tables for any length of time, you get a rough feel for 15%, and you learn what 15% is for the $10 increments (i.e. 15% of $10 is $1.50, 15% of $20 is $3.00, 15% of $30 is $4.50, and so on). So it's pretty easy to look at a tip and make a ballpark estimate of how the tip compares to the 15% standard.
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