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Tell us what we need to do to save this site? PLEASE.

I don't really have a concrete recommendation, but I'll make some candid remarks:

When I joined ChowHound years ago, there was a vibrant community with wonderful banter about food, recipes (with a weight toward what Americans would call "ethnic food") and restaurants.

Now, 25% of the posts are "not about food" and address either tipping, reservations, or things guests to to annoy the host(ess).

The same whiny, cranky voices seem to pop up all the time and a lot of wise and articulate voices have disappeared.

Aug 10, 2014
shaogo in Site Talk

Food from the 70's!

Black Tower. Ick.

May 17, 2014
shaogo in General Topics

Rudest grocery checker remark

I'm overweight (and was at one time morbidly obese). And I occasionally will buy things for our restaurant in a retail store. Try being 5'7" and 300 pounds and present to a checker an order which includes 4-5 different pies, several bags filled with candy (starlight mints), and 5 or 10 loaves of specialty bread -- you're bound to get some sort of comment. Now I'm in much better shape and the comments run more toward "I see you're having a party," or "what's the occasion?"

Is tipping in cash better for the server?

We pay our servers their credit card tips at the end of each shift, as do you. However, there are many in our business who hold the credit card tips and disburse them with the employees' paychecks. There are a few unscrupulous restaurateurs who make employees wait an entire month to receive credit card tips. I wonder how much money these people actually make in the "float" on cc tips -- or if they just suffer awful cash flow and need to play around with money that's not theirs in order to pay bills timely. I always tip in cash, unless I know that the restaurant I'm patronizing disburses card tips on a per-shift basis.

Apr 25, 2014
shaogo in Not About Food

Your "evil food" (super unhealthy) recipe?? :)

From years of cooking brunches in restaurants:

Place sausage pieces, mushrooms, onions and home-fried potatoes on flat-top griddle and heat through. Scoop the mess into a small baking dish. At this point 1-2 poached eggs are optional. Drown the whole affair with Hollandaise or Bearnaise sauce.

A woman named Katie Bull loved this dish. I first made it for her when she explained that she needed to eat the most fattening thing imaginable in order to fight a horrible hangover.

Apr 19, 2014
shaogo in Home Cooking

cast iron stove top grille pan

We use Lodge grill pans in our restaurant to cook steaks and hamburgers. They're extremely forgiving when you ruin the season; they're very easy to re-season. Now, that being said, we don't often grill vegetables on them. And typically it's zucchini, mushrooms, and the like, which we've saturated with good olive oil.

We use very high heat levels, and "prep" the pan each time, once it's very, very hot by using a commercial pan release spray. However, I've used a brush and oil and that works just fine.

It's important to remember to set the food on the grill pan and let it "mark" the food thoroughly. Moving foods around too early ruin the grill marks and make a mess of the grill pan. The food almost releases itself if a little patience is used.

Cleaning with nothing but scalding water and a dry cloth should be all that's necessary. Burnt bits which remain after a blast with the kitchen sprayer can be worried off of the pan with a non-stick scouring pad before rinsing thoroughly.

Apr 19, 2014
shaogo in Cookware

Kitchen Nightmares .... back to Amy's Baking Company

I've been in the restaurant business 32 years. People like this are the ones who give restaurateurs a bad name.

Apr 12, 2014
shaogo in Food Media & News

Packaged Mixes, Sauces, Spices & Boxed Items You Use

I can (and do) make my own hollandaise. But I buy Knorr Bearnaise and hollandaise because it's easy, and because there's less butter per serving than in real hollandaise.

At least twice a year (summer and winter holidays) I whip out the Lipton Onion Soup mix and add it to sour cream to re-create a childhood favorite. We pass potato chips and also Ritz crackers with this mess.

I recently gave in to a hankering for Swedish meatballs (another childhood thing). The McCormick seasoning/sauce mix packet sang its siren song and I got it. The fragrance was remarkable and the meatballs and sauce disappeared in record time.

Apr 12, 2014
shaogo in General Topics

Where do you go for tempura?

I'm also looking forward to an answer. I've tried a couple -- it's been about 2 years ago -- and I've been very disappointed.

Apr 12, 2014
shaogo in Manhattan

Paying it forward

I have a very wealthy friend who often does this. Even though I'm not rich his spirit of giving infected me and I tried it. Karma is a great thing and reveals itself, at least to me, when I least expect it. I can think that helping someone out -- even if they don't really need the help -- rewards me with a general good feeling and leave it at that, but then karma comes in and rewards me with something a hundred fold more valuable. Sometimes these gifts are material but much more often they're gifts of the spirit, or of friendship -- or love.

If someone is such a boor that they have some sort of attitude about having a drink/coffee/meal paid for by someone else, they have a much larger lesson to learn about themselves and they must work through that situation for themselves. Let 'em complain but don't worry about their discomfort. In the case of folks like these, it's therapeutic.

Apr 12, 2014
shaogo in Not About Food

Have you ever lost your cooking Mojo?

At home, if I'm not inspired to make something I generally force myself to cook something. The other day I had a cold and just couldn't get started; just boiling water in the kettle for tea got me going. While I waited, I cleaned the fridge a bit and started lunch. By dinnertime I'd also baked a coffee cake to serve at breakfast the following day.

There's always stuff in the fridge and although we've let the pantry get low at times, right now we have quite a collection of stuff in our cabinets. That has no bearing when I'm not feeling the creative urge -- and cooking becomes a necessity; even a chore.

I'm blessed with three days off and enjoy cooking as part of my relaxation. Suffice it to say the other four are sleep-deprived, high-stress nightmares. I'm in the restaurant business.

Apr 12, 2014
shaogo in Home Cooking

I like Ice!

Another who runs to the ice machine in hotels first thing (which my fire-phobic dad coached me into combining with scoping out exits in case of emergency). We have an ice maker but it makes those infernal solid-white crescents. In a perfect world I'd have 1" to 2" cubes (there are commercial machines which do this). Bagged ice is also fine with me.

Mar 21, 2014
shaogo in General Topics

What the heck do I do with smoked oysters?!

Whip one cup of heavy/whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks (without breaking). Do not sweeten. Fold in 2 tbs of Dijon mustard, add cracked pepper. Top the smoked oysters with this mixture and serve by themselves, on lettuce leaves or on crackers...

Feb 28, 2014
shaogo in Home Cooking

Fleming's Steakhouse, Any Good? (Even with a $40 Gift Card?)

We've been to the Fleming's in West Hartford, CT. Overall it's a typical steak house experience and it's generally very good. But for some reason they occasionally fail at some very important things (on one visit a $25 by-the-glass wine was just old -- it'd obviously been sitting way past serveability; on another, a vegetable side came covered with a sauce that was absolutely inedible and visibly broken, and this problem slipped by the expediter and the food runner).

The staff is empowered by their corporate office to make very generous offerings to quell unhappy diners. Again, it's just the West Hartford location but sadly we've seen people here really over-working their propensity to comp dishes at the mildest customer complaint.

All in all, I'd recommend this chain nonetheless. It's a good restaurant where, for a price, one almost always has a good meal.

Feb 22, 2014
shaogo in Chains

Food from childhood you cannot eat

Anything in a can from Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. "American" Cheese. Pop-Tarts.

Feb 20, 2014
shaogo in General Topics

Can you refreeze Italian gravy with meatballs and pork sausage and pork neck bones

I have a problem with freezing, thawing and then re-freezing food. The second time thawing and re-heating, the food in question may acquire more bacteria as it goes through the "danger" phase of temperature (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit). Even though the foods will be heated to a safe temperature, hopefully rapidly, I'm not necessarily a proponent of re-freezing previously frozen foods. All the natural acids in tomato sauce, the subject of this thread, definitely help retard growth of bacteria -- so foods higher in acids may be safer to do this with than, let's say, a meat gravy.

Feb 16, 2014
shaogo in Home Cooking

Are dinner parties passé?

Dinner parties are not dead. I find nowadays (last 15 years or so?) that more people who want to have a dinner party host said party in a restaurant instead of their home.

We love giving dinner parties -- but haven't given one at home in many years. I'm in the restaurant business, and I'd like to believe that my job is like giving a dinner party for dozens of people, each day I work.

Pet Peeve: Bartenders Drinking Shots

Vote with your feet, if you're that offended by an employee drinking behind the bar. It doesn't make it right; but lots of restaurant employees do this (with or without management's approval).

If it's going on flagrantly, I guarantee any and all complaints about it will go ignored. If you don't believe the bartender should be part of the 'party,' go somewhere else where the servers adhere to a code of behavior that's closer to what you imagine it should be.

Feb 07, 2014
shaogo in Features

Oh seriously... Not another tipping thread!

The OP and cousin stayed a little longer, and the service was so good it was worth remarking. The best way to rectify a cheap-tipper situation is to excuse oneself to the bathroom (or the bar, where servers seem to congregate in some places 'cause the POS terminals are there) and make-up the difference.

Servers rely on tips as part of their wages. It's the way it is in this country and not your individual server's fault. To fail to compensate a hard-working server for his/her efforts is, at the very least, a poor karmic decision.

Feb 07, 2014
shaogo in Not About Food

Mice in apartment

A cat is the best at ridding your home of mice consistently. However, the cat I had would catch 'em and then present them to us with great fanfare -- not the nicest thing to have happen during dinner, romantic moments, etc.

The landlord in the O.P.'s question is responsible for having this done, in my opinion.

Feb 07, 2014
shaogo in Not About Food

Rao's in East Harlem, the original G

We dined about once a month, with my boss's boss, at Rao's, from about 1978 until 1982. Vinnie and Ann Rao were still alive and working. The dishes were delicious but it was also a lot about great, hand-picked ingredients. And just when you thought you couldn't have another bite, they'd bring out a beautiful platter of chilled, perfectly ripe fruit -- which they said Ann Rao selected herself each day at the greengrocer. Back then it wasn't the big celebrity magnet it is now, but we got an eyeful of some of New York's most note-worthy and also most notorious. The guy I used to go with passed on in about '85.

Speed up to about 2001 or so. I went in on a Tuesday or Thursday night and sat at the bar and had a drink. Frank Pellegrino was there and I got his attention by talking about a business idea he'd pitched to my boss and others at our table, so many years ago. Even the fact that he remembered me, my bosses, *and* the business idea, the way the conversation went it became very clear to me that if I asked him for a seat for dinner, the answer would nevertheless be "no."

Another small detail that *may* make the original poster feel a bit better, the Rao's you pass when you visit the corner of 114th and Pleasant Avenue *looks* like it's been there over a hundred years, but it's actually a very clever, expensive re-creation. The place burned completely in the summer of '95.

The Vegas incarnation is nothing like the original. Decent food and a great, energetic vibe -- but nothing like the original.

I'd hazard a guess that the best advice I could give Kevin is that he needs to get in touch with someone who could perhaps advance Mr. Pellegrino's acting career. It's my understanding that lots of people ate there who didn't "own" a table during his gig with HBO's "The Sopranos."

Jan 25, 2014
shaogo in Manhattan

I Don't Peel Potatoes

At home, I don't peel potatoes for home-fries for breakfast, but for potato salad I peel (unless I'm using small red potatoes). At our restaurant, sadly, all the potatoes must be peeled, no matter what the use -- except, of course, baked potatoes.

Jan 24, 2014
shaogo in Home Cooking

Rao's in East Harlem, the original G

They open at about 4:30 and just about anyone can get a drink at the bar. But not a table.

There's a reason co-owner Frank Pellegrino's nick-name is "Frankie No."

And this thread's in the wrong category. Rao's is indeed on the island of Manhattan.

Jan 24, 2014
shaogo in Manhattan

Help! Is my food spoiled??

I'm a "waste not, want not" kinda person (probably my parents' Depression-era mentality rubbed off). I agree with Dirtywextraolives, below, and would boil it up and cook it in a pot on the stove. Now, several posters recommended not to take a chance; but in this case there're several factors to take into account: the cover was on the crock pot, the beef was browned, and there was lots of tomato present. Tomatoes contain acids that can act to preserve food (and prohibit the growth of protein-borne contaminants, to an extent). Just because of all that tomato I think you'll be fine -- even for 8 hours at 65 degrees.

Where can I buy Suntory brand Japanese whiskey in Connecticut?

Hibiki and Yamazaki are both available for sale in Connecticut. You can ask your liquor store to order one of these for you. The wholesaler, in case they ask, is Brescome/Barton Co.

The straight "Suntory" is either not available for wholesale sale in Connecticut or I haven't run into which wholesaler sells it.

I've offered Hibiki at our restaurants for over ten years. We find it's a superb quaff as a Scotch alternative.

Jan 11, 2014
shaogo in Southern New England

Carbone's recently?

Carbone's is still a very good restaurant. It's not among my favorites in the greater Hartford area, but it is what it is, and is beloved by many.

The service is superb. There are quiet areas but be sure you're not seated near the lively bar.

I guess I'm just tired of this kind of Italian-American restaurant. It's not terribly innovative and it's rather expensive. Not a good value.

Jan 11, 2014
shaogo in Southern New England

Foods or snacks you NEVER get tired of?

Good roast beef.
Wonton soup.
Fig Newtons cookies.
Hot dogs -- natural casing, of course.

Jan 11, 2014
shaogo in General Topics

SURVEY: When/Where/How did you learn to cook?

I took a job at age 15 at a fine-dining restaurant, washing plates and pots and pans -- by hand. The owner was a certifiably nutty German guy who'd scream and yell at all of us on staff -- but who happened to be a great chef as well as a great teacher. He not only taught me all about cooking methods and ingredients, but he also taught me how to work efficiently in a commercial kitchen. I don't cook for a living any more but his lessons have served me well for the past 35 years.

Cooking classes were offered -- but not required -- by our school district. Shortly after I graduated high school in 1976 the school district began offering cooking courses that were more male-oriented; more of a "life-skills" sort of thing.

Jan 11, 2014
shaogo in General Topics

Spin-Off: What gins to people love?

We're currently in love with Hendrick's. That being said, we realize that there're many who are in love with the taste of juniper berries -- and sometimes we are. Plain old Tanqueray fits the bill for those times. We almost always have our gin chilled in a martini glass, perhaps with olives.

Jan 11, 2014
shaogo in Spirits

onions, ingredient, whole veggie, or both!?!

Me too! I can't get enough of onions as an ingredient. I've made braised creamed onions as a side dish, as well as the creamed pearl onions.

I take large onions and take the inside out and use 'em to hold other veggies (e.g., peas).

Jan 11, 2014
shaogo in Home Cooking