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apb3000's Profile

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No Drinks = Bad Service

I'm a non-drinker who loves dining out, and I generally go to the types of restaurants where everyone else is drinking wine. One way I've found to indicate to a server that I'm not just a cheap customer, is to ask "I'm a non-drinker - what are my options?", giving them the opportunity to tell me about their bar's mocktail or the $7 bottle of Pellegrino. I don't really do sugar, so I end up with the bottled water. It's cheaper than wine, sure, but indicates that I will be the kind of customer who isn't there to scrimp & save, especially when it comes to the tip. Yes, I wish I didn't have to do this, but it minimizes neglect in the event the server is too bottom line-oriented.

Feb 25, 2012
apb3000 in Features

The Top Four Worst Coffeehouse Faux Pas

Basic human courtesy isn't "coddling" just because you're paying for your damn drink!

May 01, 2010
apb3000 in Features

Scent-Free Dining

@givemecarbs - Actifed still exists, they just took the pseudoephedrine out of it because people use it to make meth. You can still get pseudoephedrine-based decongestants at pharmacies, but they're kept behind the counter now. This is admittedly inconvenient for law-abiding congestion sufferers, but in many areas it has been extremely effective in curbing meth production and consumption.

That said, nobody should be forced to take medication because others have selfish and idiotic ideas about what people should smell like. People who wear a lot of perfume or cologne, especially in any crowded situation like public transit, must be completely self-centered or just clueless.

Aug 26, 2009
apb3000 in Features

You Break It, You Replace It

If the party is the kind of party among friends where everyone's drinking a lot, there's no reason to hold back from getting as drunk as you'd like (within safe limits of course). When everyone else is taking it easy, it's really awkward when one person gets really trashed (this happened at a recent dinner party I attended), but that's not always the case. Scolding Helena for mentioning that she was drunk is pointless if the context isn't given. (I say this as a non-drinker whose sobriety doesn't prevent her from occasionally breaking something.)

Aug 18, 2009
apb3000 in Features

The Chillax Conundrum

If you're close friends with someone, you should be able to be honest with them and expect them to understand. If you can't, you're not really that close, right?

Jul 21, 2009
apb3000 in Features

But I Only Have Plastic

Cash-only is really common here in NY, and I just don't have a problem with it. Every small business owner I've worked for has had a lot of problems with credit card companies, and not only because of the fees. Technical difficulties (communication and equipment issues, slow transactions due to network overload) can hold up an entire restaurantful of transactions. I've never met a server or employee who finds credit cards easier to deal with - they simply take longer to deal with than cash.

Something nobody's mentioned: credit card machines make mistakes really easy - charging your card for someone else's dinner or accidentally adding a zero to the end of your total - and because of the way some cards hold onto funds, even when the erroneous transaction is voided, the consumer can end up with the original amount of money unavailable for up to a month. If this is your debit card, and a restaurant accidentally charges you $500 rather than $50, imagine how that could affect your monthly cashflow.

I can't understand how anyone can justify tipping less because a restaurant doesn't take credit cards, when that's not your server's decision, and you chose to eat at the restaurant - that's just horrible, selfish logic.

Jul 18, 2009
apb3000 in Features

What do you make for yourself when you eat alone?

Takeout white rice w/ a huge pile of sauteed greens (or broccoli, as my bf hates the stuff), cooked w/ shoyu, garlic, and Sriracha, and sometimes a fried egg. When he goes out of town I have to restrain myself from eating this every night.

Jun 05, 2009
apb3000 in Home Cooking

10 Tips for a Healthy Diet

Not to be contrarian, but white/beige foods like cauliflower, parsnips, chickpeas, cannellini beans, and millet are loaded with nutrition. Refined and starchy is what we want to avoid, but the "white is bad" tip could cause folks to avoid, say, a healthy white-bean purée that's filling, tasty, and loaded with fiber and vitamins.

A tip that has really helped me up my consumption of hearty greens like curly kale and collards is to wash, trim, and blanch enough for a few meals at once, then keep them in the fridge until I'm ready to use. It's so easy to quickly sauté some of this kale at the last minute to go with dinner, or add it to, say, leftover soup I'm reheating, and by blanching, the texture improves and much of the bitter flavor is eliminated. (Some of the nutrition is eliminated as well, but because they're much tastier when blanched, I end up eating 2-3 times as many greens as I would otherwise, which more than makes up for the blanching-related vitamin loss!)

Jan 17, 2009
apb3000 in Features

10 Little Luxuries

1. You don't sharpen a knife with a steel! And I have to say, if you really want to save money (and have knives that are always sharp, on your schedule rather than the knife shop's), learn how to sharpen your own.
8. Trader Joe's dish soap comes in lovely scents like lavender and is much less expensive than Mrs. Meyer.

Dec 19, 2008
apb3000 in Features

Tomatoes Packed in Their Own Juices

I love how simple this recipe is, and I am just starting to can this summer - but can you explain why bottled lemon juice must be used? Could I make fresh lemon juice and strain it? Or would it have to be heated and cooled? Thanks!

Jul 24, 2008
apb3000 in Recipes

Caloric Conjecture

This piece is a reductio ad absurdum. Does anyone think that the obesity crisis has one cause? By looking at the problem in a fragmented manner, the "experts" are able to let HFCS off the hook, because clearly it's not the sole source of the obesity problem. Nor is giving up smoking, nor the low-fat recommendations of the '90s (a low-fat diet that is full of vegetables, whole grains, and beans, combined with a healthy amount of physical activity is certainly not an obesity cause). It's not just one - it's all of these!

Too many drugs, pollution, stress, a more sedentary lifestyle, tons of refined sugar and caffeine and, perhaps most of all, a diet extremely high in processed foods (a vast majority of which contain HFCS and its extra valueless calories), are contributing to this problem. Why didn't people in the '50s gain weight on a diet that focused on white flour and meat? Well, they did smoke, but also they ate fewer meals out, didn't drink three sodas per day (whether diet or regular, they both spike your insulin and cause food cravings) and the meat and dairy they consumed were not raised in CAFOs and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. What about the hormones in our meat? What about the drugs we're inadvertently consuming by drinking milk from antibiotic-treated cows? How about GMO foods, which could be doing any number of things - since no conclusions beyond "educated' assumptions have been drawn about their long-term effects?

This article has the unfortunate effect of making obesity seem like a mysterious epidemic that nobody understands - if it's a mystery, what can anyone possibly do but wonder? It's not mysterious. Rather than throwing up our hands, we should be educating people, lobbying the government to improve school lunch programs so that they include fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as reviving required physical education in elementary and high schools to help instill healthy habits in our kids, and stopping the massive and detrimental influence corporate food interests have had on our national diet. It is an individual's responsibility to eat well, but it is the country's responsibility to help its citizens understand what that means, and right now the US is doing a crap job of it.

Jul 14, 2008
apb3000 in Features

Surprise Guest: Mom

I guess it depends on the person. If your friend Joe is the type with good judgment, he probably (as Helena says) knows his mom could be a fun addition to the party, and won't be a downer. If your friend Joe is a selfish, cheap, lazy idiot, it's weird that you're friends with him in the first place. I've had some great times at dinner parties when a friend brought a parent, or two, or many - one of the rowdiest parties I've been to was my college graduation party, which had moms and dads outnumbering the kids.

This just sounds like the type of answer that depends on the person asking, the mom in question, and the rest of the group. Surely asking to bring another guest at the last minute is questionable regardless of who it is, but it is the duty of a gracious host ought to accommodate.

May 13, 2008
apb3000 in Features

Drunk on Recycling

Surely it depends on the type of party. If people are dressing up, then no, don't ask them to bring their own cups. But if they're dressing up, you're not going to be using disposables anyway, are you? But if it's a fun outdoor casual event, I don't see why not. And calling the host "cheap" is silly - they're providing the booze! A BYOB party where cups are provided would be much cheaper for the host - which would you prefer? And as far as the ease with which dozens of extra glasses can be stored in "the garage," well, those of us who live in apartment buildings wouldn't find that so easy.

May 07, 2008
apb3000 in Features

Emasculated Breakfast Cereal

Wheat Chex was the serious cereal. Rice Chex is so frivolous and puffy in comparison - I can't say I'm surprised to see it keeping such company.

Mar 17, 2008
apb3000 in Features

Is "Vegetarian" a Dirty Word?

I thought the same thing, hollyeve! Vegetarian doesn't use any of the suffixes of deprivation, but meat-free or meatless do. Unfortunately the term "vegetarian" continues to be associated for many people with e.g. underseasoned tofu, alfalfa sprouts, brown rice, etc. - "meat-free" doesn't carry that stigma for those who are choosing meatless foods for reasons other than their vegetarianism.

And, im_nomad, while those who criticize vegetarian-identifiers for not being veg enough are rude and silly (and in my opinion just add to the stigma against vegetarians/vegans as being self-righteous), when those who aren't vegetarian identify as such, it does make the term less useful for those of us who are. Many who eat fish, or who simply eschew red meat but eat poultry are calling themselves "vegetarians", which leads to a dilution of the term's meaning - and can lead to errors like someone calling a soup "vegetarian" when it contains e.g. chicken stock or fish. (In the past few years, I have lots of people assume I eat fish when I tell them I'm vegetarian, and that never used to happen.)

Feb 08, 2008
apb3000 in Features

Mum's the Velveeta

My initial response was "eh, it's just a tiny bit of bread, and it sounds like he's on a stupid diet anyway," but I reread the question and changed my mind. This friend tried to avoid inconveniencing his host by declining the invitation, but s/he insisted, and promised to make something appropriate. While "a little bread" doesn't seem so bad to me as a normal-carb-diet person, there are omnivore folks out there, like YumTum's former roommate, who might think that a little meat wouldn't be so bad to feed me, a lifelong vegetarian.

I think Helena's response here has more to do with her own judgment call about the South Beach diet than what's really appropriate. Would she have answered the same way if the person had used beef broth in a soup served to a vegetarian to whom s/he'd promised a meatless meal? I doubt it.

Jan 24, 2008
apb3000 in Features

Super-Sized Ginger Chewies

These are quite good - just made them - though I would like a little more spiciness/ginger flavor. I might take your advice, seeldee, and add some candied ginger next time - that sounds perfect. My recipe made exactly 14 cookies, but we inhaled three of them immediately, so we only netted 11....

Nov 26, 2007
apb3000 in Recipes

How to Cook Yet Another Thing

Eat_Nopal, the current GDP charts I've found place Japan slightly lower than most Western European nations. I wouldn't call him a "moron," but his statement does seem reductive, because he's clearly ignoring natural resources, cultural differences, land area, climate, etc., all of which affect what food sources are most common in a certain region.

I'm a vegetarian, but I still think PETA is already a parody of itself.

Oct 18, 2007
apb3000 in Features

A Very Vegan Wedding

"My advice, if you're planning a vegan menu, include supplemental caloric foods for those guests that depend on food for energy."
This reminds me of my advice to those planning a "vegetarian option" dish for a large event like a wedding - a plate of steamed vegetables isn't adequate food for an adult human for, say, 10 hours. Protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates are all essential to avoid getting hunger pangs an hour after the meal. Steamed veggies are great, but if this is the only meal option that will be offered (as it so often is when meat-eaters who believe vegetarians are a different species who don't require protein or more than a few hundred calories a day), warn your veg guests ahead of time so they can come prepared with an aluminum foil packet of baked tofu to add to their dish surreptitiously when the snooty aunt isn't looking.

Oct 16, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Is Jessica Seinfeld a Copycat?

While I agree that bowing to kids' wishes all the time has the potential to make for very picky, unhealthful future diets, my two nephews have both gone through phases where they "hated" anything other than a few dishes. My sister and brother-in-law both cook a healthful variety of foods at home, and found it impossible to take a hard-line "eat it or don't eat" policy, because, when he was five, my nephew would regularly choose not to eat, period. Sneaking added nutrition into the few things he'd accept at the time helped ease their minds, but they continued to be firm in introducing new dishes, and now he's much improved (though he's still the only kid I have ever met who doesn't like mashed potatoes). Unfortunately, kids can be willful about food to an extent that will affect their health and development, so parents do have to compromise sometimes.

Oct 16, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Cheesy Beefy Melt and Simple Harvest Hot Cereal

Jack In The Box used "I Melt With You" eight or ten years ago to advertise some new melt sandwich. That song suffers more from the association, I think, than "Unbelievable"....

Oct 07, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Woman, Bake Me Some Pie!

This post is about a cookbook, so it seems pretty relevant to me (a regular Chow reader).

Sep 09, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Are You Coming or Not?

I think it's appropriate not to RSVP:
- when the event is a casual get-together, held in a public place (usually a bar)
- when the event is a big (not catered) blow-out keg-type party where the hosts expect 40+ people to show up
In both cases, the events are casual and are presented as options for your weekend night.

My trouble with RSVPing is that I have an extremely variable work schedule - I often have evening events to attend or houseguests on a few days' notice - and I hate inconveniencing people. So usually I will tell my friend that I'll be able to let her know a few days ahead of time, but that if she needs to know before that, I will just decline. I always feel a bit weird about it, but I don't have the option of missing a last-minute work engagement because of previously-made social plans.

Aug 30, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Salt Your Wild Oats

This reminds me of my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe ever, Anarchist Oatmeal Cookies! They're amazingly crispy and perfectly salty - I still remember feeling like they were a revelation the first time I made them (and the second time, which was the next day). Because the recipe was developed by the NYC chapter of Food Not Bombs, they're also really inexpensive to make:

Aug 15, 2007
apb3000 in Features

But I Only Drank Water!

I am all for splitting the bill evenly for an inexpensive meal like brunch where the difference in cost will be $5 or so either way...but for dinners, Paphos.SK makes a good point: non-drinkers shouldn't be paying for everyone else's drinks. This isn't pettiness - alcohol can be as expensive as the food itself, if we're talking about a long meal with multiple rounds of drinks.

In a situation that's relatively even, definitely split the bill. Nothing is more annoying than that one person who quibbles about getting $4 back in change! But if we're talking about a meal with large disparities between what different members of the table spent, splitting evenly just doesn't make sense. If you can't remember if you had three or four beers, pay for four! The rest can be tip.

This quandary describes, in a nutshell, why I hate going out to dinner with more than three other people. I always feel like a large group is a nuisance to the restaurant staff (with some exceptions), it takes forever to be seated (even with reservations), and the check always makes things crazy, unless there's a magnanimous millionaire at the head of the table to cover it...which there never is.

Aug 14, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Leftovers: The Career Killer

This article is not about "being unwavering in your need to eat your lunch." Who is like that? Anyone who cares about his/her career recognizes the importance of going out to lunch occasionally for networking/work social reasons, or, in the event of the type of events described above, participating in intra-office social activities - all of these are vital for showing one's commitment to the workplace, as well as building rapport with colleagues and upper management.

The point of this article is that if you bring your lunch rather than ordering in expensive takeout, you're showing that you're somehow lower class than those who spend a pile of money on sushi everyday, or that you spent too much time before work thinking about food (those five minutes with the chicken fricassee), or, like in the case of the "tiresome" vegetarian, you're trying to show everyone that you're different. (The last point is so idiotic that I want to scream.)

When I worked in a corporate environment, about half my coworkers brought their lunch, some ordered in, and some went out. While I would happily go out to lunch once in awhile (sometimes for meetings with clients, sometimes just for fun with my colleagues), I found just as much socializing went on among those who brought leftovers as those who went out - we'd often take our lunches to the park and sit together, or eat together in the conference room, or at least we'd have a few minutes to chat in the kitchen area while people were preparing their meals.

Surely you'd have to be quite a mediocre employee to worry that your lunch choices would affect your advancement!

Aug 13, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Leftovers: The Career Killer

I have to agree with the other commenters. If my coworkers had enough time not only to notice, but to draw conclusions about, something as trivial as my lunchtime habits, that would indicate to me that they're not focusing on work.

Bringing your lunch can say positive things like "I'm resourceful," "I'm economical" (which isn't a bad thing, especially if you're in a position to create budgets for company projects), "I think ahead," and "I'm health-conscious." The idea that preparing your lunch cost you time away from the office is silly - more likely, you got up five minutes earlier than your colleagues to do so.

The fellow who claims his vegetarian colleague was bringing her lunch in order to seem "different" is ridiculous. She was bringing her lunch to eat healthful food of her choice, undoubtedly without thinking that her coworkers would care; he is self-centered enough to assume that she would only do so to make an impression upon him. Idiotic.

Aug 07, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Why Aren't Dogs Allowed in U.S. Restaurants?

The problem is that there aren't other humans who are allergic to children (no matter what they say!), and I know many people who are severely allergic to dogs, to the point where very limited exposure causes hives, facial swelling, etc. No matter how well-behaved your dog is (and in terms of behavior, I agree with glazebrookgirl that dogs are often better-behaved than kids!), you're still endangering allergic folks by bringing them into a restaurant. Of course, service animals still harbor allergens, but they are much rarer than pets.

Jul 26, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Butter Me Up

I always notice when people bite out of the whole slice/roll, and I wince. This is one of those things that seems absurd until you're at the dinner table, watching one of your dining companions struggle to bite a piece from a chewy/crusty roll. The inevitable back-and-forth head motion, like a dog with a chew toy? It's both unattractive AND distracting. I bet a lot of people you've all dined with have never noticed people who butter individual pieces of their rolls, and that's the point - that's the way to eat bread that is least intrusive into conversation and the meal enjoyment of others. It's meant to go unnoticed, like most good table manners - they're not about being ostentatiously "polite", but about being subtle and discreet.

Jul 21, 2007
apb3000 in Features

Times article on Cold-brewed iced coffee

The Verb (on Bedford Avenue in Wmsburg) has the best iced coffee I've had in NYC, by a long shot!

Jul 07, 2007
apb3000 in Manhattan