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Posts posted by Afterburner

  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. So I ask you: what cookbook or label recipe do you turn to for pancakes? Souffle? Chicken soup? Oatmeal cookies? Why that one? Do you tweak it?

    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. what are they going to say, "I realized the bread was fully proofed when it looked like every bread baking book author said it would."?

    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 dubious.gif 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.


    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. At fine dining levels, the higher the check average becomes, the more likely it is that the guest will pay by credit card, relieving the server of making a decision as to whether to declare a tip or not. Any time your average check approaches $100 for two people or more, you start to see very, very little cash.

    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. Sorry, touches a nerve.  The Evil One (the ex) fussed if I salted or if I didn't add pepper when he did.  He also screeched because I put ice cubes in my wine (cheap plonk, BTW).  I wasn't putting ice in his wine, why should he care?

    The drive to make others live their lives as we deem proper seems to be hardwired into the human animal.

  8. The scientific numbers are above.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10% of all waiters earn more than $11.00/hour.

    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. My contention is that tipping, or intending to tip more or less has no effect on the quality of service...

    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 just seems like it would make more since if only those who had a direct connection to the customer (waiter who serves, and cook who prepares the food) were paid via tips, and those with indirect jobs there, like the bartender who is mixing drinks at the bar, but not serving up or mixing drinks for your table who isn't drinking, busboys, and hostesses, were all paid via just a decent hourly wage.

    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. If its primarily a tax evasion scheme, then it doesn't work well, since the taxman is quite capable of estimating average earnings.

    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. When I got a bad tip, I usually asked myself why, and not irregularly was able to pinpoint where I fucked up.  Implying that waiters just write off bad tippers as cheapskates is, I think, a little condescending.

    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. Just curious, do waiters actually register the percentage tip they have received? I know that I for one would be unable to do the math to figure out what I just got, so short of egregiously low or high tips, will a waiter notice the difference between a 12 and an 18 % tip?

    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.

  14. Here's the original quote I responded to.  Maybe it's not condescending, but the phrase "step into teh [sic] world of fine dining" followed immediately by a suggestion of adding a luxury ingredient certainly gave me that impression.

    I believe that the remark about "stepping into the world of fine dining" was equating "fine dining" with "fewer ingredients," as opposed to any specific ingredient combination. Especially since the dish under scrutiny already had luxury ingredients in it.

    In fact, let's...hold on, here we go...

    Step into teh world of fine dining and see how many ingredients are in something.

    Yep, seems to be equating "fine dining" with "fewer ingredients." The foie gras and the duck confit seem merely to be an example of "fewer ingredients."

  15. There is, of course, the pertinent point that a rise in prices of 15% allied to a ban on tipping is very unlikely to yield anything like a commensurate rise in the salary of the employee. 

    Three of the places where I have waited tables in my life were at Country Clubs.

    In all three clubs, a 15% gratuity was automatically added to the bill of every guest.

    In two of those clubs, only 10 of that 15% was passed on to the wait, bar, and bus staff. The remainder went into the club's coffers.

    In one of those clubs, none of the 15% was passed to any employee. The waiters were, instead, paid untipped minimum wage ($3.85/hour at the time, as I recall).

    I didn't work long at that last place.

  16. As someone who waited tables and tended bar for 9 years, I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of waiters in the US (certainly every one of them that I ever worked with) correlate "no tip" with "cheap asshole," except in those rare instances where the waiter is self-aware enough to know that they're giving poor service.

    And if they're that self-aware, they're probably (A) a very good waiter otherwise; and (B) caught in a situation that precludes them from giving good service (such as being slammed by an inattentive hostess, the kitchen running out of a common item, the kitchen being short-handed, etc).

  17. Eh. Not seeing the crime against humanity, here.

    I eat sushi, sashimi, and nigiri with chopsticks, because eating that stuff with a fork is a non-starter.

    All other east Asian cuisine, I eat with a fork or a spoon as appropriate, because it's easier for me, and because (unlike sushi) you can eat them without chopsticks.

  18. I just have difficulty accepting the notion that respected culinary professionals would agree to deliberately sully their reputations by participating in a cooking contest that they knew they were going to lose, just in order to satisfy the needs of the show's producers.

    I am certainly willing to agree that there is a lot of stage puffery and creative editing taking place in many aspects of the show which is designed to make it more entertaining. The "secret" ingredient really isn't, as we all know, to cite one example. And the clock almost certainly stops (along with the filming) as soon as the chefs rush back to their stations with handfuls of the "secret" ingredient. But these things were true in the original Japanese Iron Chef series, and the contests there were not rigged to have producer-chosen pre-determined outcomes. So I don't believe the current show has them, either.

  19. As a homebrewer, it is my (possibly incorrect) understanding that vegemite and marmite are made with the slurry from beer brewing.

    Which means it's yeast.

    Is the yeast still alive? If so, just use it for baking something.

    (If it's been cooked until the yeast is dead, then disregard this post.)

  20. i said it before and i will say it again. Flay did the same dam food he always does. He did a pouched egg with holendaise last time...

    Not only that, but Batali did something similar last week.

    I am amused that, of the first three episodes of ICA shown, all three have featured the Iron Chef making a variant of Eggs Benedict.

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