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Bruce Earls

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Everything posted by Bruce Earls

  1. I go back to my Cuisinart® Supreme Grind™ Automatic Burr Mill as a recommendation on the low end of the market. Assuming you keep it clean, it does a perfectly fine job, and for only $50. Note that as I get better at making coffee, I will likely upgrade to something better (assuming there is something the others do better), but if you are really looking to minimize the initial costs of learning, you can get the french press and grinder for about 90 bucks.
  2. I am suprised they didn't go to Central Market. Assuming organic isn't as important as food variety and quality, Central Market is my favorite by a large margin. To expand on the topic, CM has a robust selection of organic produce, but also an even braoder and often fresher selection of regular produce. CM has graded beef, including prime cuts, which Whole Foods doesn't. At least in Austin, CM has a much wider selection of seafood. Their cheese selections are much more diverse, their deli has a huge selection, I could go on and on. Of course, I am not actually suprised, Whole Foods is listed in the credits as a sponsor. It is truely a shame that the chefs do in show commercials for the Toyota Crapola or whatever it is. I want chefs that want to make great food, not ones that want to do commercials. If I want commercial producing chefs, I'll just watch The Next Food Network Star.
  3. Hi Chris, I taught myself to make coffee I like. I won't claim it is gourmet, but it is as good to my palate as a coffee shop. My first step was to start using a french press. The advantage to it over the cheap machines I had was that I could add really hot water, which to my understanding releases some desired flavors. My next step was to accurately measure the coffee, water and brewing time. I haven't found a need to be accurate to the gram. I satisfy myself with measuring my water in a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup (I use 2 cups), and my coffee on a scale that measures to the .05 oz. (I use 1.75 ounces of coffee). I boil the water in the microwave, wait for it to stop bubbling, add it to the grounds in the french press and let it steep for 4 minutes, then press and pour into a cup. If you can produce the same cup every day, then you can start to experiment with different roasts or sources of beans. You can add a grinder (I have the Cuisinart burr grinder). You can decide how you want to store your beans (I freeze mine, in part because frozen beans don't dirty the grinder near as much as room temperature ones). Once you can make a baseline consistent cup of coffee, you can modify your process to produce the cup you really love. A couple words of caution. If you have a glass French Press, you will break it. The standard one I buy costs 40 dollars US. However, they also sell the glass replacement carafe for 20 dollars, so when you break it, don't replace the whole thing, just the glass. If you choose to grind coffee, and choose to not freeze your beans, you must clean the grinder often. I burnt one out by not cleaning it; the powder from the grinding built up so much it jammed the motor. Now I freeze my beans, and haven't had to clean the grinder in months. You have to decide if you can taste the difference, but my palate cannot. I hope you can find a process that makes a cup you can enjoy every day.
  4. I had a taste of this at a local fine dining restaurant as the dessert part of a wine flight and fell in love with it. I don't have a photo of it before it was opened, guess I couldn't wait to get it opened. It has a nice taste of roasted macadamia, is sweet, but barely not too sweet. It is a schnapps equivalent, meant to be sipped, and not taken as a shot. I can drink several, finding them not overly sweet, and also not too strong. I plan to start mixing it with coffee or maybe Bailey's to start and going from there.
  5. I will be in SLC on business next week, and am wondering if there are any decent dining experiences in the Cottonwood Heights area. I am considering taking a taxi to the places listed below for my four dinners and would appreciate more local recommendations if there are equivalents closer to the Cottonwood Heights region. The last time I was in SLC, I hated almost every meal I had, excluding the doughnuts which I am pretty sure came from Banbury Cross and lunches from a hamburger joint and a taco truck. That is why I am planning to go further afield. I am looking for dinner meals, and am willing to pay for quality, but expect reasonable quality for money. For the below restaurants, do they deliver on the promise of their websites, are they accessible to the single diner, and are they still a good overall dinner? Are there better options, either closer to Cottonwood Heights, or just better overall? Copper Onion The Tin Angel Cafe Mazza New Yorker Takashi
  6. Assuming you have a charcoal grill, and assuming you use a chimney to light your charcoal, you use some of the oil as an accelerant on the paper underneath the charcoal, and if in a hurry, on the charcoal as well (get a cheap spray bottle, use all but the sediment). If you live in a region where burning brush, lighting campfires, etc. is a common activity, use in place of lighter fluid, gasoline, etc. If fire is not a reasonable solution, then I can't help
  7. To Broken English, I specifically said "unless they are actually harming another person, causing physical damage, or threatening the same, they are not terrorists". You discuss "business vandalized", "car doused with acid", and "had video of his wife and children at home (along with a threatening message) sent to him". That is causing physical damage x2 and threatening the same x1, all terrorism per my definition. Those are all cases of unacceptable behavior, people that should be locked away for the rest of their natural lives, and overall detriments to society. Someone proposing the outlawing of a food product is not a terrorist, someone damaging property or threatening violence towards families is. It is important to maintain the distinction, we can find common ground with people of principle that we disagree with, but those that threaten families have no place anywhere in decent society. To Mjx, I didn't mean that those that disagree with me are liars, etc, but that using those terms was within the bounds of reasonable argument, albeit on the extreme. I meant to make my agrument in the abstract but see that it could easily be understood to be specific. I mean this to be a discussion about how to disagree, not specifically about foie gras. If I truely believe someone is telling a falsehood, I believe it is ok to call them a liar, say they are a propagandist, etc. However, in the absence of them causing or threatening violence, I do not have the right to call them a terrorist. This was my point. Not that those that disagree with me are such people, but that that is the upper limit of what I can accuse them of.
  8. The author is talking about picking wild fruit from an unharvested crop. That is not gleaning. Gleaning is picking the leftovers from a field that was already harvested by professionals, picking out the remnants that are too sparse to be profitable to gather. There is nothing shameful about this process, but it is done by the poor, those that are living on the edge of subsistence, needing that last calorie to make it through the next year. It isn't a gourmet activity, displaying all of nature's bounty, it isn't a braggart's display of cheapness, it is survival. It is all about getting the best return for effort, doing everything possible to ensure enough calories for tomorrow, and putting food on the table. The author invokes Leviticus (which commanded the property owners, i.e. the rich, to leave something in the fields for the poor), but the author isn't poor, and is describing gathering from wild sources, not the leftovers from a rich man's farming efforts. If the concept were "wild sourcing", then it might have some meaning, but as an article about gleaning, it misses the concept, at least as far as I understand gleaning.
  9. I am a meat eater and oppose any laws that restrict my freedoms to eat meat, animal products, etc., unless such laws address a documented case of abuse, neglect or other malfeasance. That said, the people that disagree with me, unless they are employing weapons that harm people, are not "terrorists". They may be liars, propagandists, deceivers, etc., but unless they are actually harming another person, causing physical damage, or threatening the same, they are not terrorists. I believe it is important to be careful of our words and strategies. If we are alarmist, calling our opponents names they don't deserve, then our message is lessened. If we are the reasonable ones, then our message is strengthened. Instead of calling someone a terrorist, identify the silly parts of their argument (in this case, show video of the animals running to be fed, not the behavior of a tortured animal), and let the viewer see who is the extremist.
  10. For outdoor cooking, I use real charcoal (not factory produced briquets), lit in a charcoal chimney using used newspaper and used cooking oil. All of this is renewable, reasonably inexpensive, and to my taste, grills food better than any other option.
  11. Thanks for mentioning it. I checked out the schedule, and luckily, it is playing in Austin tonight.
  12. I've always hated squash. However, I am trying to learn to expand my tastes and the above ideas rally interest me. The flavors listed are new to me in combination with squash, so I am going to start mixing and matching and trying to find a mix I enjoy.
  13. I find this discussion interesting as I could easily have become one of the people that refuse seafood. I grew up in the '60s and '70s in Western Pennsylvania, at a time where there was no fish that hadn't been breaded and frozen in the grocery store. Any fish my dad caught was utterly destroyed by my poor mom. The only time I've ever had food poisoning was from fried fish in a local restaurant. I did have one restaurant in Jamestown, New York (Davidson's) where I had some of the best fried fish I have ever had. I don't know if they kept up the quality, but at the time, the owner flew to the Atlantic coast regularly (my memory is daily, but that was 30 years ago, so I can't verify it) to buy his fish, so it was extremely fresh and prepared by someone that cared about what they served. I think that one restaurant was what helped me to develop a more adventurous palate as I looked for other similar excellent experiences once I got older. I didn't immediately broaden my tastes (spent 3 years in Hawaii in the Army in the 80's and never ate local food), but as I matured, I started to open my mind. I found the wharf in Monterrey CA, fresh prawns in the market in Crete that I boiled myself, then finally eased my way into sushi with seared tuna that I could tell myself wasn't raw. Now I love all the sushi I've tried and am looking to try more. However, I have friends that are less willing to try new things. One thing I've noticed about most of them is that they eat to live, not live to eat. If they find something they like, they are willing to have that same dinner every day. They don't remember that great thing they had last week or month or year and set out to find it, they are happy in their comfort zone and have no desire to venture out. My attitude is fine, I'll look for restaurants that have their comfort zones and the new things I want to try, and failing that, I'll be happy with the friendship and on days when I am dining alone I go looking for the new and interesting. Finally, there are a lot of allegedly decent restaurants that still ruin seafood. I have had salmon several times and always disliked it. I occasionally try it to see if my taste is expanding, but that was never the case. I had had it as sushi and liked that, so I didn't understand exactly why I didn't like what I was being served at decent places that made so much good food otherwise. I finally had a restaurant cook it somewhere around rare or medium rare, and absolutely loved it. All the others had cooked it at least medium well (I had never been asked how I wanted it, and left it to the chef to cook it correctly) but now I understood, I didn't like overdone salmon. The thing is, I had to put some effort in to find out what "cooked right" really was, and only someone with an adventurous palate will do this work.
  14. My favorite beer is hefe-weizen as found on tap in Bavaria. In comparison to American hefe-weizens I have tasted, it is not nearly as hoppy. The closest I have found in a bottle in Austin is Ayinger Brau-Weisse. My second choice would be Julius Echter Hefe-Weissbier Hell, but I have found it to be inconsistent, perhaps because it moves off the shelves more slowly and varies in freshness. I am not sure why, but most German imports and every American version that I have tried are much hoppier. I do enjoy IPAs, but don't care for the bitter taste in a hefe-weizen.
  15. Here are my annoyances in no particular order. All I want is a reasonably tasty meal cooked and served by someone making an effort. In some towns, that is all you get (Minneapolis astonished me, everyone wanted to serve a great plate), and in others, no one cares at all (Salt Lake City, at least in my experience, excluding some of the best doughnuts I ever ate). 1. Tails on shrimp in fork dishes. If you are serving shrimp cocktail, shrimp on some sort of skewer, fried shrimp, or some other dish where you are eating the shrimp with your hands, then the tail makes perfect sense. However, in a shrimp alfredo, or some other dish that is logically eaten with a fork (or stuffed into a tortilla as the poorly named shrimp fajita would be) the tail just means that either I waste the meat in the tail (impossible for someone who grew up poor and frugal) or I put my fingers into the sauce (probably rude, but the only choice I can make). 2. Hard butter. If you are serving bread and butter, I am happy. You don't have to, but if you do, and the bread is good, then it is a treat to be enjoyed. However, if the butter is frigid, and the only way I can spread it is to rip the bread to pieces, then part of the magic is lost. Don't get me wrong, I'll keep coming back and eating it, and will tip well, but if you want to make me even happier, you'll thaw the butter just a bit. 3. Unfilled drinks when the restaurant is slow. I can cook, so when I go out, I am not just asking to have my stomach full, I want a decent experience. That said, I understand the laws of physics. If the restaurant is really busy, I know that it may take a while for me to get my next refill and so my tip decision considers that the server did the best job possible. However, if there are only a couple of tables and there are multiple waiters, I don't enjoy spending a lot of time with an empty drink. I know that when I am drinking iced tea, there can be some question of if I want it refilled in case I sweetened it (I don't, but can't expect the server to know that), but with a cola that isn't an issue. It is even worse with alcohol; if I am drinking, then that directly affects the tip, so the server should be at least asking if I want another one (assuming I am not drunk, of course). 4. Unclear procedures. I probably have some social anxiety disorder or something, but I hate walking into a place and not knowing what to do. I get over it (my local Mexican joint is a seat yourself, but looks like a wait to be seated place, but the food is so good I am learning), but it is always nice when you know what you are supposed to do. You also have to walk up to the register, they don't bring a bill to the table. I waited a good while before figurng that one out, but went back because the food was so good. A sign telling you where to wait is always welcome. Of course, there is the possibility that I am clueless (I have asked for napkins in a barbeque joint that provided a nice roll of paper towels, my friends still rib me about that one) but if the process is different than most places, a sign is nice. 5. Appetizer timing. If your restaurant isn't trying to be fancy, then this doesn't apply. However, if you list some items as starters or appetizers, then when I order one of those and something from the meal (call it what you want) menu, don't bring me the main before I have had a good chance to eat the appetizer. I understand if I eat slowly (I don't, I am usually the first one done) and I also kinda understand if you are busy and trying to get an extra seating, but if you are slow and I have a book with me, I want to sit and enjoy. If you don't give me a chance to finish each course, you are saying you don't want me to come back. I have a good number of places that do want me to come back, and so that 30-50% tip that I tend to leave will go there. I will tip this time, I just won't come back. If you were slow today, then that may happen regularly, and soon you will have no customers. 6. Food quality in relation to restaurant level. I don't mind eating an average steak at Applebee's. It isn't any kind of gourmet, but it doesn't pretend to be. They don't pretend to be other than what they are. I don't generally go there, but if that is where my friends are going, I don't feel cheated. I knew what I was in for before I showed up, and it is what I was served. However, I do mind going to a place calling itself fine dining and getting a steak tougher and less flavored than the aforementioned chain. I can grill a very good steak at home. If I had a renowned chef coming over, I'd get a few prime ribeyes from Central Market, lightly season them, charcoal grill them medium rare, serve with baked potato (with sour cream, butter, chopped chives, grated cheddar, salt, pepper, and crispy bacon), sauteed in the bacon grease asparagus and crimini mushroom and it would be as good as you can get in anything less than a top end restaurant. Now, that is an expensive meal. I'd pay 30+ dollars per person on ingredients. and expect to pay well over 80 bucks a person to eat that well in a restaurant. When I pay 10 bucks for a steak, then I expect a cheap piece of meat. If you can do something nice with it, then all the better. If I pay 25 dollars for a steak, then I want something a little better. You aren't using prime at that price, but I still expect good flavors. At one regional chain steakhouse that I'll let be anonymous, I got a gray steak, not very well seasoned. I could cook the 5 dollar a pound average grocery store steak better. At another, higher end place, I had a tenderloin that was completely unseasoned. You can get away with fewer seasonings on a ribeye if you grill it right (the crispy fat on the outside is a flavor all its own) but a medium rare tenderloin, cut super thick as is traditional, with no seasoning, says that you don't know what to do with the ingredient. Yes, an apple is a marvelous item, wonderful as is. However, if you had a restaurant that just served apples, no special techniques, no seasoning, no nothing, I don't think I'd go. I want the chef to show me something. 7. Overly salty food. I am someone that goes out to eat a lot. I occasionally eat at a place where the food is far saltier than reasonable. I can add salt, but it cannot be removed. I don't even bother complaining, I just don't go back. It is obviously how they like their food (unless they don't taste it, and if they don't, then another reason not to go back), so I'll eat at the other 2000 places in town that like salt, but don't try to preserve everything they serve. 8. Obviously un-fresh food. My 2 biggest examples are a fish that smelled fishy (I live near Austin, so as we aren't next to the ocean, it is possible but not acceptable) and dried salad. I went to a new location of a chain cajun place that I always had great experiences at in the past, and ordered the same dish I always ordered. The fish smelled and tasted like that smell Emeril said if it smells like, have the pork. In my suburb, there are a few restaurants that opened up trying to get some local business. As one was recommended by a co-worker, I took a chance. I ordered the salad as an appetizer. It was obviously from a grocery store bag, and worse, had sat out for quite a while drying out. The rest of the food was also obviously something I could buy in the grocery and make myself, and probably better. In both cases, I just didn't go back. That is my regular technique. I don't complain, because it is pointless. If they understood food, they wouldn't violate the basic rules of food. If they don't, I am not the person to educate them. 9. Preserved salsas. This only applies to Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants. There are some that serve canned, jarred or otherwise preserved salsas, often with factory made chips. I don't even notice the rest of the meal, I just leave quickly and never return. 10. Corner seats. There are some restaurants that have either booths or counters with one really bad seat. Maybe you are crammed against a fellow diner, maybe there is something under the table, but somehow, you are uncomfortable. 11. Wobbly tables/chairs. Seriously, how hard is it to have decent tables and chairs? If I go into a diner where the most expensive meal is 8 bucks, then have whatever tables you want. You likely bought everything used and are doing the best you can, I have no complaints. However, as you charge more, I expect more quality, including in your furniture. I was recently in a fancy (white linen, some entrees over 20 dollars) barbeque place that I love and had a chair that I had to swap out as it wobbled. The worst, and root of all the items listed above is staff (anyone, servers, cooks, owners, bussers, etc.) that doesn't care about making me have a good time. I have eaten in places that have average quality across the board, but the people liked food, liked what they were doing, and wanted me to be happy, so I went back as often as I could. However, all it takes is one person not caring for a place to fail. There is a Vietnamese restaurant in town that I always loved the food, but I couldn't get an iced tea refill to save my life, (there were plenty of servers, they just seemed to deliberately avoid checking drinks) so I stopped going. I found a different one that was serve yourself on the iced tea, and that became my go to Vietnamese place. The food was the same quality, but in the one, although I had to serve myself, I saw it as I got to serve myself. The counter is staff that love what they do. I sometimes ask about a menu item, especially if it is something I am fussy about (for example, brownies, I like them chewy, while most places seem to make them more like cake). If I can ask about an item, and find out it isn't what I like, I am far more likely to keep asking and find something I do like. However, if the server doesn't know, then I am more likely to try another restaurant for my next exploration. I remember my first time eating snow crabs. The restaurant was really slow, and I was having trouble getting the meat out (had never seen it done, I can do it fine now). My waitress cracked all my crab for me, almost feeding me. This was 20 years ago, but I still remember that dining experience and go to that restaurant often. I don't expect such treatment to happen again, but I know the staff love what they do and want me to love coming there. That is really all I need. I can tell when that is going on, and can forgive the occasional mistake when the people I see are doing their best.
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