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Carrot Cake that Wows... does anybody know this recipe???

Could it have been one of Molly Katzen's cookbooks?Moosewood, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest?

Feb 14, 2014
mancina in Home Cooking

Questions for professional cooks...

Do you like working in the more relaxed environment? I know I would. I'm a professional pastry chef, and I am not the world's most organized and speedy employee. I march to my own drum, so to speak, and I feel I do my best work this way. Sometimes I'll get an assistant who insists on doing everything in a more regimented fashion, but sometimes this is actually wasteful. For example, in culinary school they teach you to have your mise en place totally ready before you start a recipe. Let's say you're making creme brulee. You heat up your cream with your sugar and vanilla bean, separate your egg yolks into a--well, culinary school tells you to put them into a deli cup, right? So then you scrape them out of the deli cup into a bowl and temper in the hot cream. So you've just lost some yolk. Why don't you separate the yolks directly into the bowl? Also, I've seen people cut up the green tops of scallions and throw away the white part, and then lunch crew comes in and cuts up the white part of a new bunch of scallions and throws away the green. Sometimes fascist chefs are just hidebound. You can learn great things from less regimented chefs, too. And great cooking isn't about tidiness and speed, it's about finesse. Read some great cookbooks, the food section of your newspaper, Cook's Illustrated. That is how you will improve your game. At least that's my two cents.

May 27, 2007
mancina in Not About Food

Bistro vs. Brasserie: what's the difference?

My understanding is that a bistro is precisely the French equivalent of the Italian Trattoria: a family-owned, family-run, independent restaurant, serving serviceable, ordinary fare. It is never part of a chain, so of course Louise's Trattoria is misnamed. The menu can change daily, and is based on what is seasonal, what is cheap, and what is left over from last night (but, we hope, still good.)

May 27, 2007
mancina in Not About Food

AP article on waiters and tips.

I agree that waiters have upped the ante perhaps unfairly, to the point that servers will routinely bitch about a customer who pays 15%, as if they have been undertipped. They also tend to complain that the sometimes-observed rule of 15% at lunch, 20% at dinner is unfair because they do the same amount of work at lunch as they do at dinner, but that isn't quite true. People tend to linger more over dinner, taking up a table for two hours or often more, so I imagine since turnover is slower, tips must be reflected. All in all, in Los Angeles, servers seem to have a pretty good deal. They get minimum wage, at least, and they usually get 20% or close to it. (Except from older people--what's up with the oldsters giving 10% or less?) Anyway, I always overtip for good service, and lavishly overtip for excellent service.

May 27, 2007
mancina in Not About Food

AP article on waiters and tips.

Maybe the head chef in a hotel, but not a restaurant. I am a pastry chef in a chic Los Angeles restaurant, and, per hour, I make only about three times what the servers make before tips. With tips, they routinely make more than I do per hour. True, this is Los Angeles, where waiters are paid $7 per hour. I find it weird that NY pays so very little to servers. BTW, in London, where I lived years ago, service sucked hard in many restaurants, I'm convinced because tips were included in the bill, and they had no incentive to do a good job and please the customers. This may have changed in recent years. I wonder, why change the current system of tipping 20%? It's not that hard to figure out, and I think it does inspire better service. Thoughts?

May 27, 2007
mancina in Not About Food

not sharing recipes: ....huh? [moved from General Chowhounding Topics]

I read that discussion, and I had to respond. I am a professional pastry chef, and I have always felt that recipes are for sharing. I never, ever refused to give a customer a recipe, and was usually only too thrilled to share not only the recipe but the particulars of method, possible rookie pitfalls, tricks I had discovered and even supply sources. I once even gave a customer a vanilla bean to take home and use for herself, since the local shop that sold them was closed and she wanted one for use that night. I have always maintained that the thing that makes my pastries good is the little particulars of personal weirdness that I cast over the food--the fetishistic fervor with which I core apples, having tasted too many tartes Tatin ruined by apple core fragments, for example, or the liberal (and unmeasured) hand I use with vanilla. I have seen this in action, actually, when I train an assistant, and expect him to be able to follow a recipe without supervision, then come back and find he's made a markedly different product. And that is with a career cook, mind you, not a layman. What I did find surprising in myself was the reaction I had after being fired from a job last year under what I considered to be unfair circumstances. Initially I tried to help my former employers fill my shoes, but when they tacitly withheld my final paycheck until I gave them my recipes, I felt betrayed (they were my own recipes, developed, for the most part, long before I worked for this restaurant) and was quite tempted to alter the ingredients slightly. I must admit I did omit the vanilla from a few of them!

Then there was another circumstance from a few years back. I had some black bananas and my employers had offered banana bread to a party of 75 red-hatted, purple-dressed ladies (you know who I mean, right?) and I had to make many loaves of it for a set brunch. I never really loved banana bread, and had never made it, so over coffee one morning I asked my oldest friend for a banana bread recipe, mostly to flatter her, since I knew she had a recipe. She gave it to me, and it didn't seem great to me. I looked in a few cookbooks and cobbled together a better recipe that ended up becoming an overnight success and we put it on the menu. My friend heard about it and kind of claimed kudos for it, so I fudged and told her I had slightly altered her recipe by replacing the oil with melted butter, tossing in some vanilla and toasted walnuts, all the time suggesting that these were natural changes that she herself would have effected had she happened to have butter on hand, etc. Actually, the recipe bore no relationship to hers whatsoever, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

In the end, I think that the only proper thing to do is to share recipes with unstinting generosity. There is no "secret" to my desserts that would in any way diminish my work were I to disclose it. So I share recipes with the same liberal left hand I use to pour vanilla.

May 27, 2007
mancina in Not About Food
1

Best Coffee in Pasadena and Environs

I'm not sure what beans Espress Yourself uses, but I am sure they're good ones. It's the level of care they take in the process that impresses me most.

Apr 21, 2007
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Best Coffee in Pasadena and Environs

I'm sitting in Espress Yourself (courtyard of Pasadena Public Library) drinking my usual triple americano (for hard-core coffee-drinkers, there's also the quad-shot coffee option, but I retreated back to three shots), boyfriend drinking his single mocha. This place has been making consistently perfect coffee since it opened five years ago. Richard and his wife Jennifer, the co-owners, can't make a bad cup. Many people probably wouldn't notice the deftness with which the espresso is pulled, but even the most oblivious mocha drinker will be delighted by the tower of gently sweetened, honest-to-goodness, freshly whipped cream (Alta Dena, not Rockview brand) capping his Guittard chocolate drink. The thermos jug says "cream", and that's what it is, that same Alta-Dena heavy cream diluted with a touch of milk (most coffee houses use half and half.) This makes my americano creamier. Richard also has the knack of microwaving a croissant exactly the right amount to vaguely warm it without destroying its flaky texture.

The coffee, as mentioned, is excellent -- but please note, this is a coffee stand, not house. There are no mugs, nor comfy couches (nor regular indoor drinking area, in general). On sunny days, sit outside and enjoy the free Wi-Fi (with library card number as your user ID). On cold mornings, there are heat lamps, but perhaps the best option is to take your coffee into the library foyer, and sit at one of the beautiful dark wood-stained antique tables. The library opens at 9:00am, but for early coffee-drinkers, Espress Yourself opens an hour prior.

Apr 19, 2007
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Kitchen Aid Mixer - which size to buy?

Get the big one. It is absolutely worth the extra. You will have this mixer all your life, don't skimp. I'm a pastry chef, and I bought my home use Kitchenaid right before they came out with the larger model. I'm tempted to replace it. I use the large one at work, and it has one feature that is worth its weight in gold--it starts mixing a little bit slowly, for just a second, so flour doesn't go flying out of the bowl with the initial agitation. I'm telling you, this is genius.

Apr 19, 2007
mancina in Cookware
3

What's the deal with Highland Perk?

Hi, Tuna Toast!
I've been going to Highland Perk for a couple of weeks now. It's cute, with lots of (mostly terrible) art on the walls, several big sofas, free wifi. I like it, though it is terribly disorganized. I am very happy to have a coffee house there, and I will continue to patronize it, but I have my fears for it. On a recent Sunday morning, one lone teenaged girl was manning the counter and the kitchen, doing her best. It took 20 minutes to get a sandwich. On every table is a yellow sign saying that you get a free scoop of ice cream with every desert. (As opposed to dessert.) I know some people don't care about grammar and spelling, but some do, and it isn't that hard to get it right. I like their coffee, though I wish they'd get some really large mugs so I wouldn't have to drink my triple americano out of paper. Most important is the attitude of the staff--they have been universally friendly. I have made this my coffee house of choice, and fully intend to become a regular. I'd love to see some non-pastry breakfast items offered, like bacon and eggs. All in all, I really like Highland Perk, and hope they can organize a little better. What is it about Starbucks and Buster's that makes service so fast and efficient?

Mar 12, 2007
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena - Early Returns?

I'm sorry to hear that others are having less than great dinners at Vertical. I loved (almost) everything I've had there. I've been to AOC, and it was very good, but very expensive, and the things I've had at Vertical really do compare in quality, in my opinion. AOC's desserts, by the way, at least the three I tasted, were truly disappointing. A really terrible "blancmange" which was really just a panna cotta with too much almond extract and too much gelatine, a cobbler served in a tart shell with too little fruit and almost completely unsweetened, a peanut butter chocolate bombe that was way too sweet. Granted, Vertical's were no better, but the pulled pork, the rabbit rilette, the duck confit, all were every bit as good as I would expect from AOC, and much closer to where I live, and less expensive.

Dec 11, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena - Early Returns?

Jack Flash is right--Vertical is very good. I have been there three times now. They serve bread with a red pepper tapenade that is a little spicy and very flavorful, a great idea. I don't like the parmesan crackers much--they have never been quite crisp enough, and the baguette slices go with the spread better. I've tried the rabbit rilette, which was great but needed a few more toast points, the brioche-bun hamburger was outrageously good, and the duck confit was everything you want it to be, with cippoline onions--my daughter actually couldn't decide which she liked better, the burger or the duck! This from a kid! We also had a side of perfect mushrooms. The cookie plate had way more cookies than we could eat, all of which were refigerator cold, and was lacking the promised nougat (the reason I had ordered it.) Last time I went I had pulled pork, which was fantastic. I can't remember the other dish, but it was perfect. I am very impressed. I think Vertical is comparable to AOC, but less expensive. The apple tart was about five times too big for two people, and was a little heavy and doughy, but I'm very picky about desserts. All in all, I can't recommend Vertical enough! Don't miss it!

Dec 07, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

San Diego to Pasadena

Jack Flash is right--Vertical is very good. I have been there three times now. I've tried the rabbit rilette, which was great but needed a few more toast points, the brioche-bun hamburger was outrageously good, the duck confit was everything you want it to be, with cippoline onions--my daughter actually couldn't decide which she liked better, the burger or the duck! This from a kid! We also had a side of perfect mushrooms. The cookie plate had way more cookies that we could eat, all of which were refigerator cold, and was lacking the promised nougat (the reason I had ordered it.) Last time I went I had pulled pork, which was fantastic. I can't remember the other dish, but it was perfect. I am very impressed. I think Vertical is comparable to AOC, but less expensive. The apple tart was about five times too big for two people, and was a little heavy and doughy, but I'm very picky about desserts. All in all, I can't recommend Vertical enough! Don't miss it!

Dec 07, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

grace or lucques?

I much prefer Lucques, though I've only been to AOC once--kinf of expensive, even for me. No inexpensive wines to speak of. Lucques was more of a traditional dining experience, and everything I had was perfect--except dessert, which was only OK. (As for the use of "punitive", above, I think the poster might have meant something more like puny or paltry, not punitive, which means punishing, so kind of the opposite. $20 for corkage could hardly be considered too much...could it?)

Nov 01, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Nice, quiet restaurant in Westwood

Friends from out of town are staying in Westwood, a neighborhood I'm not too familiar with. One of the guests strongly dislikes loud restaurants. Any ideas?

Nov 01, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Restaurant Review: Briganti, South Pasadena (w/ photos)

Thanks, tokyoastrogirl. As always, a great review. I must go back to Briganti soon.

Oct 24, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Trendy, Small, and Avant-Garde?

Oh, and, yes, sometimes the pace is slow, but who wants to rush?

Oct 19, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Trendy, Small, and Avant-Garde?

Bistro K gets my vote. The chef is doing all the outre things--ant caviar was a special one night, and wild boar is on the menu, as are duck tongues and hearts, and I had the goat dish one night. But it's really well done, not weird-for-weird's-sake. The guy's a genius, and I guess he doesn't really need the money, because this place is way underpriced (and I hope it stays that way) for the quality. Also, it is very small and intimate, in a sleepy, little, tree-lined, pretty neighborhood. The decor is inviting and nice, if not hip. There is outdoor garden seating with little lights, not too close to the (fairly quiet) street. You can bring several bottles of wine and open whichever you want to go with your meal, and there's no corkage fee. Get the grapefruit-crab appetizer. This is definitely where I would take out-of-towners to show them a side of L.A. that they wouldn't expect.

Oct 19, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Grubb in hollywood/west hollywood

I used to work there, briefly. Denise and Betty are not only great cooks, but damned fine women. The food is exuberant, very friendly fare without a lot of fuss. Creative, adventurous, but non-threatening. Gosh, it's been a while since I worked there, and I can't remember many of the dishes, though one I remember was a Thai dish called "Love You Long Time" spring rolls. So funny. They also had the "After School Special"--a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup.

Oct 19, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

where can i get HAZEL NUT paste?

Well, first of all, you would need to toast and skin the Trader Joe's nuts, then you would have to process them in some sort of industrial machine, I think. "Yum" isn't looking for hazelnut butter, but more of a compound, I think. I'm a huge fan of Trader Joe's, but they can't help here. I bought some hazelnut paste at Sur la Table just the other day. It happened to be on sale for half price, but might therefore be about to be discontinued? If so, try Nicole's Gourmet Imports, in South Pasadena, on El Centro near the train tracks. They may not sell it in small enough containers for your use. It's a paste, very finely ground, somewhat like almond paste from a tube, but not so stiff. It makes a great ice cream. The stuff from Sur la Table was very good, but it does contain sugar. I do think this is what you're looking for, Yum. What are you using it for?

Oct 19, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Highland Park - Mexican

Oh, and on Figueroa, near the Ave 43 exit off 110, is El Buen Gusto, a dive that serves handmade pupusas revueltas for like $1.50 each. Salvadoran, not Mexican, but they do Mexican things, too.

Oct 19, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

Highland Park - Mexican

I actually like El Arco, though the margaritas are poor. They do nice comfy cheesy enchiladas, but, whatever, I grew up on it! But I love love love Villas Durango. They do take credit cards now, and for goodness' sake, get the Poc Chuc. Yum. The Pollo Pibil is good, too. It's a little stuffy place, often with a loud juke box playing Mexican music, and the servers sometimes don't speak English, but it's a good opportunity to practice your Spanish without feeling like a moron. La Estrella is great for a taco stand, but not a place to sit down in.

Oct 19, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

As Requested....From a Waiter's Perspective...

That can't be it--I've never heard of the alchemist who was able to freeze a hollandaise sauce! Hollandaise has to be prepared within, at most, a couple of hours of serving, and breaks at the drop of a hat. It has to be kept warm, but not too warm, and basically has to be handled with utmost care throughout its brief existence.

Oct 18, 2006
mancina in Not About Food

As Requested....From a Waiter's Perspective...

I have sympathy for those who are on a diet, or are with a party who wanted Cuban food, say, and they hate it but had to go along. I do feel so superior to those in the latter category (I am willing to try almost anything, and I have fairly broad tastes.) But, having been in the former category (watching my figure!) I do appreciate the indulgence of a sympathetic server. I reflect it strongly in my (always generous) tip. BTW--sauce on the side. Oh, jeez, why do people insist on a bare naked salad? The last restaurant I worked in, the servers usually tried to talk the customers into "light dressing" rather than SOS, and I think this is better, especially since, as a cook, you have to make that sauce/dressing, and putting it on the side means you always give the customer quite a bit more that you would have done if the dish were prepared normally, so it seems such a waste. Clearly the customer wants less sauce, not more, so it seems all out of whack to put it on the side. Also, it's a bad salad! Salad is so much better when properly tossed. This trend has crept into low-end restaurant practice, now, to the point that when I go to lunch with my boyfriend and order a caesar salad, I've actually been given a sad plate of romaine, some croutons, and a side of caesar dressing! In several places they automatically give you all dressing on the side. What kind of caesar salad is that?

Oct 18, 2006
mancina in Not About Food

As Requested....From a Waiter's Perspective...

Good points, but I have to say that I don't really see why servers ask how I'm doing tonight. I'd prefer that they say, "Good evening. Welcome to______."

Oct 18, 2006
mancina in Not About Food

new restaurant/wine bar in pasadena?

Where is this place in Pasadena? Old Town?

Oct 18, 2006
mancina in Los Angeles Area

What are "Belgian Fries" anyhow? [moved from L.A. board]

I love that about them!

Oct 18, 2006
mancina in General Topics

What are "Belgian Fries" anyhow? [moved from L.A. board]

I read in "The Man Who Ate Everything" that they sometimes fry their fries in horse fat in Belgium.

Oct 18, 2006
mancina in General Topics

Tiny crabs in my clams - WTF?? [moved from Home Cooking]

Oh, and they were definitely crabs, not amphipods. They looked like tiny sand crabs, only a bit skinnier and shorter from front to back, quite wide from side to side. A sort of foreshortened appearance.

Oct 17, 2006
mancina in Not About Food

Tiny crabs in my clams - WTF?? [moved from Home Cooking]

I've found tiny pale crabs in my mussels many times. I don't eat them; in fact, I don't eat the mussel that contained them, either. I always assumed they were parasites, which is kinda gross, don't you think? Once it happened in my own home when I made mussels (bought from Bristol Farms.) It certainly did nothing towards my campaign to get my daughters to eat mussels.

Oct 17, 2006
mancina in Not About Food