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New Fries Size At Five Guys!

Monkeyrotica,

Well, no. It is not a sustainable business model. But let's not complain about the "excessive" amount of food we are served because restaurateurs will be only too willing to accommodate us with less food for more money. How about if we just leave things as they are?

about 21 hours ago
gfr1111 in Chains

Better than bouillon?

Reading the comments on this page from Greygarious and MMRuth, both knowledgeable and frequent posters, I am surprised. I have never used Better Than Bouillon because I assumed that it was just a powdered form of hyper salty bouillon cubes. The comments on this page make me want to give it a try.

Apparently, it is still salty, but the salt lick that bouillon cubes are.

May 25, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

New Fries Size At Five Guys!

Beware! This path leads to higher prices and less food. Once you start complaining to a restaurateur about getting too much food, he'll accommodate you. At first, the price and the amount of food will come down. Then, after a while, the price will climb back up to where it was but the size of the serving will stay "minimized."

Don't believe me? Witness the "small plates" movement that restaurant owners so love. They get to charge 75% of the price for the normal size serving but only provide 50% (or less) of the amount of the food that they formerly gave you. Owners will take that deal all day long.

I agree that Five Guys' fries are an extreme example of over serving. Clearly, this was done as a marketing ploy that has now (apparently) run its course. But don't encourage these people (restaurateurs anywhere). You'll be sorry! Pretty soon we'll be getting the portions that they serve at French restaurants and be charged French restaurant prices. (And I think the French are food geniuses, but I don't like leaving a restaurant feeling hungry, despite having spent a fortune on a meal!)

May 25, 2015
gfr1111 in Chains

Besito Mexican Restaurant in Tampa: a Review

My girlfriend and I went to Besito in Westshore Mall in Tampa for the first time on Saturday, May 23. The following is a review. It is based on only one visit.

Besito, recently opened, sits in the Westshore Mall "restaurant row" in the space formerly occupied by the Palm Restaurant, near the intersection of Westshore Boulevard and Kennedy Avenue. "Besito" means "a little kiss" in Spanish. It is different from most Mexican restaurants, being more upscale (and more expensive). The interior is mostly white, with black wrought iron lights and other similar hardware, subdued--very subdued--lighting, and a clean, modern "Mexican" look. White tablecloths, booths, and banquets, topped by white paper, abound. There was a huge photo of two slightly weird-looking, long-haired cattle on one wall.

Upon entering, we were seated at the rear of the restaurant, steps away from the open arch to the kitchen. The temperature was very cold. I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and was still cold.

Our waiter was a young man and very enthusiastic. His service throughout the night was impeccable.

We were served excellent salsa which was heavy on cilantro. (I happen to like cilantro, so I liked the sauce.) This is one of the best salsas I have ever had. It also had an attractive amount of chili-created heat, moderate but noticeable. The accompanying corn chips were fresh, thin, and crisp, probably homemade.

The menu consists of mostly old favorites--lots of variations on the tortilla. I noticed something which I had not eaten before, "Boudin de Mariscos," (Pudding of Shellfish), about $22 and a jicama side dish for $4.95. (An assortment of side dishes are all $4.95.) My companion had something characterized as a "skillet plate," or something to that effect, which turned out to be tenderloin fajitas. I have forgotten the price.

The Boudin de Mariscos was an attractively slightly browned mountain of, as I recall, "queso de Chihuahua," which is a light colored cheese with a flavor and texture similar to part-skim mozzarella. It came on top of a thin, attractively light green, sauce, which I think was a tomatillo sauce.

Unfortunately, the tasty cheese obliterated the underlying shellfish and what I think was a corn tortilla. The cheese was good, but I have no idea what shellfish I ate. The tomatillo sauce was attractive, but bland. The dish was very filling.

The shoestring sticks of the jicama were crisp and fresh and heavily accented with cilantro. They had a great texture, but they needed a sauce to bind them--possibly just vinegar and oil, or any one of the many ingenious sauces of which Mexico is justly proud. Otherwise, it was just crunch and cilantro flavor.

The skillet fajita dish lived up to its billing, the tenderloin beef being tender and devoid of all defects, mixed with a melange of sauteed vegetables in a red sauce with garlic, cilantro, chili, etc. It was accompanied by corn tortillas, but my girlfriend asked for flour tortillas, instead. It was excellent.

My companion also ordered a side dish for $4.95, but I have forgotten what it was. I had Diet Coke and she had two glasses of Malbec at about $10 a glass, or slightly under. The total bill was $89, including tax and a 20% tip.

General impressions: my companion liked the low lighting, but a manager, walking by, helpfully gave both of us keychain flashlights so that we could read the menu. Obviously, this was a problem which he had encountered before. That's too dim, in my opinion, even though I could have made out the menu without the help of the flashlight. The lighting was borderline annoying. (Okay, this comes from a 64 year old, "old guy.")

The place was also too cold, but I have noticed that a lot of restaurants in the Tampa summer, set their air conditioning to combat the blistering heat of the day and then forget to adjust the temperature after the sun sets.

We had one winner--the fajitas--and one disappointment, the seafood dish. The jicama was so-so.

The decor was excellent and the prices high for Mexican place, but not out of sight. Service was excellent. We both look forward to coming again. This is a good addition to the Tampa restaurant scene.

May 24, 2015
gfr1111 in Florida

Arrrgh! Please help settle tipping argument!!!

Good point, Chemicalkinetics!

We do sometimes order food which is way more expensive than other times, but I figure that the high tip I give when ordering that $40 filet mignon (plus the rest of the meal), is balanced out by the low tip which I give when ordering soup and a salad.

However, most of the time, the amount of food ordered is reflected in price and is a rough guide to the amount of the tip.

Another unfairness is why I should be expected to pay a 20% tip on an $80 bottle of wine, when the serving of the wine requires little more effort than the rest of the items in the meal. Counterpoint and contrariwise, what about when the server prepares Steak Diane, Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee, Crepes Suzette, guacamole, etc. tableside? That requires the server to expend considerably more time and effort, but I do not tip extra. (On the other hand, the chefs in the kitchen have then had to expend little effort in preparing the dish, so perhaps they should tip the server.)

Okay, I am rambling a bit. It is all a bit unfair, either to the customer or to the server, but, on average, I figure that it all evens out in the end and is, ultimately, fair.

May 22, 2015
gfr1111 in Not About Food

Best type of pan for caramelizing mushrooms?

My girlfriend is an extreme mushroom lover and praised the carmelization which I got with a non-stick pan.

Based on the theory that more is better, a theory that has gotten me into trouble many times while cooking, I decided that I would try the same procedure in a stainless steel pan because non-stick pans don't develop much fond: high temperature and no oil (because I wanted carmelization and not frying).

I did it and the mushrooms came out nicely carmelized, but my stainless steel pan was near-ruined. The mushrooms bonded with the stainless steel unbelievably. I still have an upside down mushroom head pattern on the bottom of my skillet, even after much scrubbing.

So, next time, I will go back to the non-stick pan. Once again, I have learned the lesson that more is not always better in cooking (but then, sometimes it is).

May 22, 2015
gfr1111 in Cookware
1

Is it necessary to marinade a top round steak?

Dear SBP,

All the experts say that marinade will only penetrate 1/2 inch deep from each surface. So, if your London broil is 1 to 1 and a half inches thick, you will get penetration of 1/2 inch on either side, which is all or two-thirds of the the steak. (That is, you will get 1 inch of penetration which may be the entire steak, or, at least 1 inch of penetration out of the thicker part, which is 1 and 1/2 inches of steak.) The point is that if you use an acid in the marinade, most of the meat fibers will be tenderized.

If you are thinking of a more traditionally shaped London broil, sort of a 5"x7" oval, I agree with you, but the O.P. gave us the dimensions as a (steak-shaped) 1 to 1 and a half inches thick.

May 22, 2015
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

A good way to evaluate restaurants?

I had a very Anglo-Saxon friend who, nevertheless, had a system for picking out good Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. He looked for roasted ducks hanging in the window. We went to a Chinese restaurant which we had never visited before in San Francisco and, guess what, he was right!

May 19, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

A good way to evaluate restaurants?

Alex Rast,

New York food critic Jeffrey Steingarten wrote an article about standing in line and its connection (or lack of connection) to a restaurant having good food. It appears in his second book, "It Must Have Been Something I Ate," on pages 166-174 in an article titled, "Lining Up."

Mr. Steingarten was surprised by how often on busy nights he was able to waltz into a popular restaurant, with no reservation, and be seated after only a short wait. (This was in 1999 or earlier and was before he had appeared on the Food Network. So, he was not recognizable.)

However, a sushi restaurant to which he assigned the fictional name of "Super Sushi," employing the techniques of accepting no bookings, having a limited number of tables, limiting the size of groups to five people, etc., had a line out the door, and he had to wait in line for almost exactly two hours. After two hours, he and friends ordered their sushi and cooked items, and concluded, "This is the worst Japanese food I have eaten all year--giant, ragged, floppy pieces of less than pristine fish. Don't you just hate raw fish when it is slightly above room temperature and really, really mushy?"

He concludes that a long line might be an indicator of quality (Pearl Oyster Bar, for example, on Cornelia Street in Manhatten), but not necessarily) and, that if you are polite and willing to wait a short while, most top quality places will seat you pretty quickly, even though you have no reservations and it is a busy night.

May 19, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

Arrrgh! Please help settle tipping argument!!!

Emglow101 and NoCharge on May 7 had it right. (See downthread.) You should tip on the pre-tax total whatever percentage you consider appropriate. You said 20% was what you considered appropriate. Therefore, 20% of $101 is $20.20. The total payment would be $129.85.

I seem to be in the minority--but a sizeable minority (about 44.5%, based on the survey NoCharge mentioned)--in basing my tip on the pretax (a/k/a "subtotal" amount).

To do otherwise makes no sense to me. Let me illustrate: Suppose that you eat the meal in the newly formed United States 51st state of "Da U.P." Da U.P., as a new state in the union, desperately needs to fund its operations and has imposed a sales tax of 50%. The neighboring state of Michigan has a sales tax of 6%. You ate the identical meal in two branches of the same restaurant, one located in "Da U.P." and one located across the border in Michigan. The quality of service was the same in both restaurants. Do you tip the server in "Da U.P." more, simply because the government of Da U.P. has an unreasonable sales tax? No way!

To put it another way, the rationale for paying a tip on the amount of the pretax bill is that the amount of the bill roughly reflects the amount of service provided. The more food or drinks which you ordered, the more service your server provided by having to carry all that stuff to you and take it away, not to mention discuss with you your order, etc., which all took the server's time and effort.

I often see restaurants "suggest" a tip to me on the bill, which has been conveniently calculated and almost invariably includes a percentage tip based on the entire bill, including the tax. But I fail to see why I should tip on the amount of the tax, which is not service and was not provided by the server.

(As for my selection of the mythical state of "Da U.P.," look up on the internet the Michigan Upper Peninsula independence movement, which was popular in the late 1960s. I have no idea whether such a movement continues today.)

May 17, 2015
gfr1111 in Not About Food

#1 Black Licorice?

I'm surprised about the salt. I never heard of salty licorice until now. I wonder if this is a recent trend (like salted caramel), or if it is a traditional Dutch style.

May 15, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

#1 Black Licorice?

Walgreen's has an Australian brand. It may be called "Delish," which is Walgreen's house brand, made all over the place, depending on the type of candy. Anyway, it says on the label that it is made from natural, not artificial flavors. I compared it to other brands of licorice and concluded that this was the only one (at least, at Walgreen's) that does not use artificial flavors. It is intensely licorice flavored and well worth the slightly higher price. I am not swearing it is "Delish" brand, but just look at the label where it says where it is made. The licorice comes in two inch sticks that are fairly thick and relatively soft, compared to its competitors.

I also like the "Delish" chocolate, which seems to be made mostly in Germany.

May 15, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

Dried versus fresh herbs and spices: when do you favor the former or the latter?

Thanks, Will Owen,

Your comments are always appreciated. So I see from the comments of all posters that there is substantial disagreement as to the strength of dried versus fresh. This was the same thing that I have found. I'm even ambivalent from time to time as to which herbs/spices are more powerful fresh or dried. Very confusing!

May 10, 2015
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Dried versus fresh herbs and spices: when do you favor the former or the latter?

I grew up in the 1960s in northwest Indiana in a small town and had no car (too young). I got interested in cooking when about 10 and always used dried herbs and spices because I had never heard of fresh ones; the local grocery store did not carry them; and all the recipes I tried either designated dried herbs and spices or did not say.

When people started using fresh ones, it was quite a revelation. Many recipes improved immensely, especially salads. But a funny thing happened: I discovered that sometimes fresh herbs and spices are milder than dried ones and sometimes they are far stronger. I've read experts who counsel you to, "Throw out all your dried spices. Only use fresh ones!" But I'm skeptical. It seems to me a mixed bag.

I prefer dried oregano on my pizza to fresh. Dried oregano seems to impart much more flavor and fresh oregano just withers and disappears, even if integrated into the tomato sauce (to protect it and keep it moist). At least, I don't much notice the taste of the oregano, if it is fresh.

On the other hand, fresh basil sprinkled over the pizza once it is out of the oven, is much more flavorful than dried basil incorporated into the pizza.

Or take Bearnaise sauce--the sauce is much more flavorful using fresh tarragon than dried tarragon.

So my question is: When do you used dried and when do you use fresh for maximum herb/spice flavor? Is there a rule? What's you experience with different herbs and spices?

May 02, 2015
gfr1111 in Home Cooking
1

Grilled lobster tails: How do you cook them to not dry them out? What other sauces or side dishes should I serve with them?

Dogboa,

Wow! That looks delicious!

Thanks,

gfr1111

May 02, 2015
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Grilled lobster tails: How do you cook them to not dry them out? What other sauces or side dishes should I serve with them?

Dogboa,

Actually, I was thinking of Maine lobster tails. I've had Florida lobster tails (slipper tails, I believe) and being a Florida resident myself, I am not anti-Florida seafood at all, but I do recognize that Maine lobster has a better texture and flavor than Florida lobster. So, that is what I had in mind. Thanks.

Apr 26, 2015
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Grilled lobster tails: How do you cook them to not dry them out? What other sauces or side dishes should I serve with them?

This sounds delicious. Thanks, Dogboa

Apr 26, 2015
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Grilled lobster tails: How do you cook them to not dry them out? What other sauces or side dishes should I serve with them?

I have a request from a college-age kid for grilled lobster tails. I've never done them because it always seemed to me that grilling them made them tough and dried out. Can you suggest a way of grilling (over charcoal) that will not dry them out or make them tough? Also, how would you prepare them--what sauces or side dishes? Thanks!

Apr 25, 2015
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Palate Memory...

What's Youvets? Details, man! You've got me interested.

Apr 25, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

What is Reasoning Behind Southern Extremely Salty Bacon?

My story about our first Virginia ham: my parents took a trip to Washington, D.C. and, on the way back, picked up a whole Virginia ham in some little country store. it was wrapped in a cloth bag and, when removed from the bag, was huge and smokey smelling. Also, it had some mold on it and stuff.

Everyone was very interested. We had been hearing about Virginia ham and how good it was our whole lives. The directions on the ham warned about cutting off the rind and that it was salty and called for a ridiculous number of soakings and changes of the water in which it was soaked. (Maybe five?) My mother dutifully did it all. She very carefully cooked it, per the instructions.

When we sat down to eat it, the meat had an odd texture and fell apart into little pieces easily. It think that this was from the salting. It smelled wonderful--so smokey. AND it was totally inedible. The amount of salt remaining was unbelievable. If you had shredded the meat, you could have used it as a salt substitute. We all ate a small piece, but I think my mother threw out that huge ham.

Apr 25, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

The Egg -- Why Is It On Top of Everything?

While I have seen an uptick in the use of fried or poached eggs on top of something entirely unrelated, it hasn't been tremendously common, the way the (incomprehensible) uptick in kale consumption has been in the last five years.

To whatever extent the use of eggs on top of other foods is up, I like it. Eggs go with a lot of other foods because they are not a very assertive flavor and, left moderately cooked, they add needed moisture to what they are placed on top of.

Apr 25, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

Key Lime Pie filling

This is the kind of question which I love on Chow because it requires no skill or facts on my part--just a totally "pulled out of the air" opinion, the easiest sort of writing, coming to you from my Olympian heights.

I think that you do have to cook it. I would do it in a sauce pan over low heat, stirring constantly. No one knows what kind of consistency you want in the filling for your already baked cake, since you did not describe it at all. I would guess you might want it a bit less thick than the filling in a Key lime pie, so I would add a small amount, maybe a tablespoon, of whole milk and see how the consistency is, after the filling has cooked.

As to why I think that you have to cook it, hey, these are egg yolks that have been sitting around in the refrigerator for 48 hours, gathering bacteria, albeit in a highly sugary solution--certainly a petri dish if I ever saw one. I do not have the paranoia that many people do about eating raw eggs, but once they have been cracked open, I think that they should be eaten promptly raw or cooked. Forty-eight hours in a refrigerator is pushing it, but the high amount of sugar in condensed milk should have inhibited the growth of bacteria. On the other hand, would I eat it? Not on your life. I've had food poisoning . . . It's not worth the risk.

So there is my opinion, based on no facts from other sources to which I can point. I will say this: I lived in Singapore for about a year, and there, serving you an uncracked raw egg in a melanine dish is common. You crack open the egg, beat it with your chopsticks, and add chopped green onion, fish sauce, soy sauce, and chili sauce, sometimes (but rarely) chopped garlic, and then use it as a dipping sauce for your protein. I ate all this raw egg and never had any trouble, but this was a fresh (presumably) raw egg which had not been sitting around--a world of difference, I think.

Another tipping question?

Jfood, who always has insightful comments, has it right. Look, there is no rationale for increasing the percentage of the tip, due to inflation. The cost of food goes up, due to inflation, right? When the cost of food goes up, if you pay a particular percentage of the restaurant bill (say, 20%), that tip goes up correspondingly. So servers are never placed behind the inflation eight-ball.

If I paid 50 dollars for a steak meal in 1980 and that same meal now costs 75 dollars, then 20 percent of 50 dollars is 10 dollars--the tip. When the meal costs 75 dollars, then 20 percent of 75 dollars is 15 dollars--the tip.

I don;t know why this is so hard for a lot of people to grasp.

Apr 18, 2015
gfr1111 in Not About Food

Pizza Stone or Pizza Steel - please help me decide

I like the pizza stone over the steel (although I use steel mostly because it is more convenient, but creates a less crispy crust). I got one pizza stone that was very porous, sucked in moisture, and produced great pizza crusts. It was a gift and I don't know where it came from. After I was using it a while, it drank in spilled tomato sauce and cheese and then I couldn't get those substances off of the pizza stone. Eventually, the sauce and cheese became so baked in (not on, "in") that it lost its porous quality. I think this stone must have been like Alton Brown's recommended quarry tiles because it was porous. Most of these stones have a slick, polished surface, but this was rough. I recommend it if you can find one, or maybe, try Alton Brown's recommendation.

Apr 18, 2015
gfr1111 in Cookware

Everglades City

I haven't been to Everglades City in years. When I used to go two or three times a year, people I knew from the area thought well of the Rod and Gun Club. Raffles' comment makes me guess that it is still good.

Apr 11, 2015
gfr1111 in Florida

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

I miss White Castles. I grew up eating them occasionally in Northwest Indiana, but not that often because they were not nearby. They were a treat. Then I moved to Florida, where they do not exist, except as frozen burgers. (There is an imitator in Florida, but it is not nearly as good.) White Castles have a unique taste that isn't duplicated anywhere else because the cooking technique is unusual.

There does not seem to be any middle ground on White Castles. You either love them or you hate them. My experience us that most women hate them. They seem to be a "guy" thing.

Morton's vs. Diamond Crystal Kosher salt?

Karl S,

I don't think that I agree with you on what is the standard for American cookbook recipes. Most cookbooks that want you to use a kosher salt specify kosher salt. (This drives me crazy because they don't tell you which brand of kosher salt to use and, as you pointed out, there's a difference in salinity because of how they are made.)

But back to the question of what is standard in American cookbook recipes, surely you would agree that back in the 1930's through the 1960's finely ground table salt was the standard. (I don't think I had ever heard of kosher salt until I was in my twenties, with my Indiana white bread upbringing.) And since then, I haven't seen any change in standard cookbooks like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens. They're still specifying finely ground table salt, when you can even get them to specify.

Feb 28, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

Why aren't we eating more geese?

Yeah, Paul J,

I've often wondered why the prize bird in the butcher's window in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was a turkey and not a goose. Maybe it was the difficulty of raising geese in more enclosed environments.

I had the impression that turkeys hardly existed in England in Dickens' day, since they were originally birds of American origin, only brought back to Europe by the early explorers. Some literary historians on these boards disabused me of my impression. Apparently, turkey was all over the place in Europe by the 1860's. Did it displace goose in Europe because it was easier to raise, could live in a more enclosed environment, was less hostile, was less fatty, etc.?

Feb 28, 2015
gfr1111 in General Topics

Where can I get Provel cheese or St. Louis-style pizza around FL?

Somewhere on the several different board discussions about IMO's and St. Louis style pizza was a recommendation to try Chubby's in Apopka. The poster said that it was like IMO's. I printed out the posts connected with that recommendation and went to Chubby's. (It took me about six or seven years and a job change to make it there.) Alas, there was no sign of the place at the address listed. It had obviously been closed and some new restaurant had taken over the space. As the Snoopy used to say in the song, "Curses! Foiled again!"

Feb 21, 2015
gfr1111 in Florida

Chili con Carne

I have not tried this recipe yet. I had to hand write out the ingredients because when I printed off the recipe, the list of ingredients out to the side disappeared. Very aqgravating.

Jan 17, 2015
gfr1111 in Recipes