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New Post: What's Good in Dedham

Kouzina also makes pretty good more elaborate basics, if that makes sense, meaning mousaka, pastitsio, etc. Nice people. Unless they've replaced the furniture, the chairs are mismatched and often the wrong height for the tables.

Sep 11, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

New Post: What's Good in Dedham

I prefer Byblos to Al-Wadi.

Sep 11, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Buy a Chicken Pot pie or 8

I tried the Bob's and didn't like it but tastes differ and types of pies differ. Part of that may be I'm not exactly a big turkey fan. (Too many farm memories of the bleeping birds?) That's why the "I don't like" or "never again" posts go right by me: they reflect what x or y thinks, which may have no relation at all to what I or you or z thinks and maybe they didn't have it prepared properly, etc. This is why I tried to describe Harrow's - the all chicken version only - as a traditional pie in the PA Dutch mold, though not as yellow. It is. Some may not like that style. You can have "gourmet" or "artisan" pies with thinner gravy and with vegetables that aren't as mushy or you can have pies which are essentially chicken with a thin, not thick crust. And so on.

Sep 09, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Fresh Mozzarella

IMHO, Narragansett Creamery is the only excellent mozzarella. It is smooth and creamy, not at all rubbery. And their smoked is fantastic. They sell at SOWA and some other markets (though of course it's now Sept.) and they sell some of their cheeses at Roche Bros as well as at WF.

I've also had a decent mozzarella from Russo's. No brand, so I have no idea if they make or get (though I see another poster says they get from Everett). Not in the same category as NC.

If you're in CT, like south of Hartford, Stew Leonard's makes terrific mozzarella. One of the few things I think they do well, but then they started as a dairy. Weird place you have to wind your way through but really good mozzarella.

Sep 08, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Minimum Wage Impact on Restaurant (especially FF) Prices

The actual studies are far more complex than much of the discussion. That's why I love threads like this: people develop their ideas by listening to what feeds their pre-existing beliefs and don't spend the time to test them.

The primary, meaning actual field work-type (not "empirical", which in economics can mean analyzing a data set, date from the early 1990's. They found no relation to fast food employment or to pricing. The employment study - it's famous, look up Card & Krueger (and see also Katz & Krueger) - looked at NJ's increasing the minimum wage by nearly $1 and compared employment in border areas. Found zilch. That's generally been repeated but there are significant questions in most studies about the quality of the data and what it actually represents. As in, trying to pull out the workers actually affected and the management of hours (full-time versus part-time, etc.) and various other stuff is pretty darned hard and can only be estimated.

If you want a worst case scenario, go to Heritage's website (heritage.org). They lie like rugs and torture data to get to a 38% price increase and 77% drop in profits. But if that's the kind of analysis you want, go for it. I wouldn't use their work outside of political argument, meaning it's garbage outside of its use as argument, but it's there if you want to read it. The quality of their work declines with each passing year. It's sad how they've become such a blunt advocacy group. They used to do interesting, real analysis.

There is some new work on the impact of wage increases on fast food prices. (If you want to read an actual study, look up Emek Basker at Missouri, plus co-author Khan.) A quick read through will show how complex the reality is: they have to pull out the number of employees affected, whether the increase affects the prevailing wage, who it affects and the percentage of employment that might be. Take "prevailing wage": in many places, fast food restaurants already pay more than the statutory minimum - or pay close to it now - so the effect might be nothing. The worst case "studies" assume a huge jump in pay but, for example, the prevailing wage in Seattle is much higher than the prevailing wage in Topeka so a higher minimum wage in Seattle has less effect than if the same wage were enacted in Topeka. That's one complication of many. Another is simply total payroll and how you estimate that: owners switch payroll composition by switching more people to full time if that's the cheaper option (or vice versa). To really do this right, you have to estimate how restaurants would manage that.

As to price increases, the study I just mentioned looked at McD's, Pizza Hut and KFC and estimated a .9% increase in prices for every 10% increase in the minimum wage for the first two and no effect for KFC. This study, btw, looks at a nearly 20 year period. (I gather industrial chicken farming had more of an effect on prices.) There are many additional factors and even that one line about price increases isn't exact: the price increases are concentrated in the 1st quarter after the wage hike, etc. They note that the price increases they find are roughly 1/2 the increase in the actual wage bill. Think about that: the actual wage increase for the restaurant would be 1.5% or so. BTW, another recent study has found a .7% price increase.

In sum, I'd bet anything you come to this subject with a pre-existing analysis and conclusion. You can find work which buttresses your conclusions if you want. If you look at the actual academic work, there seems to be relatively little effect with a few caveats. First, one market may be different. If the wage goes up materially more than the prevailing wage in that area, you could rationally expect higher prices than the studies find. Get that? If wages are low and they go up a lot ... but most fast food restaurants have to compete for workers so their wages are higher. Second, local stores may pay worse than chains. They may also be better able to manage hours and change staffing but they aren't as readily analyzed as chains. Third, all these studies are statistical estimates and that means they correlate to reality but don't describe it exactly. They may describe a range or they may all, for some reason, be outside the actual range. This can happen if the underlying data is somehow flawed.

In general terms, we tend to think of a wage increase in a vacuum. That doesn't happen. A famous example is Henry Ford paying $5 a day. He didn't do that so his workers could buy cars. He did it because his working conditions were terrible and annual turnover exceeded 100% - given competition in the early Detroit car industry for workers. So he paid more to reduce turnover and thus reduce costs (& improve quality from more consistency, etc.). He saved money by raising pay. Keeping workers enabled him to introduce more and more efficient manufacturing techniques.

In fast food, turnover can be a huge problem. And turnover means you have to pay more to keep people. That means the wages paid - in most locales - are higher than the statutory minimum unless the area is so depressed the prevailing wage is actually lower than the statutory minimum. Even in fast food restaurants, only a certain number of people actually receive the lowest pay rate because they give small increases for tenure, productivity, etc. Why? Because retaining workers is worth the extra cost which isn't an extra cost because it's more expensive to bring in new people all the time. BTW, this is true even in areas where unemployment is high because fast food restaurant chains are pretty picky about hiring and exclude lots of people so the actual pool of potential employees is smaller than the sheer number of unemployed might suggest. This is of course less true if there's been a recent economic shock that has dumped higher quality employees into the labor pool.

Sep 08, 2014
lergnom in Not About Food
1

Do I really need a Vitamix or Blendtec?

And as a note, the height difference between the new version 64 oz container and the 32 oz is 1/2 inch: total height of 16.9" versus 17.4". The older, taller height is a little over 20". I think they decided to market it fits under cabinets ... if they have 18" of clearance.

Sep 07, 2014
lergnom in Cookware

Do I really need a Vitamix or Blendtec?

As an FYI, we bought our Vitamix at Williams-Sonoma when they had a 20% off sale. We decided on the one with the rotary dial but not the presets. It is noticeably quieter than the older model and is quieter than our Waring. The shorter container doesn't fit under our counter - measure if that's a potential issue - but we leave it anyway because it's used so often. One thing we see: cleaning is really easy.

Sep 07, 2014
lergnom in Cookware

Buy a Chicken Pot pie or 8

Harrow's is actually really good. The crust is solid and the gravy is very traditional, like what you'd find in PA Dutch country (though not that yellow). I think the all chicken ones are better. Buy frozen and cook for like 45 minutes.

New Half Sour Pickles at my local Market Basket.

Adding to this thread a mention that Wegmans has Bubbie's Pickles, mostly kosher dill and pickle chips. I think $6.50 a jar, which is less than at Whole Foods.

These are my favorite brand, matched or exceeded only by some random pickles available from farmers, etc. in places too far away from here. Though they're from SF, they taste of Brooklyn.

Aug 30, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Parchment Paper

Costco website says "available at select locations", so maybe ...

If it's there, it's where you'd expect. I'd ask at service.

Aug 29, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Parchment Paper

My wife says that's too thick and the other too thin. The normal stuff is apparently just right.

Aug 29, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Parchment Paper

Best value is Costco, though it's a lot of parchment paper. Note: we don't buy aluminum foil at Costco because it seems too thin, but the parchment paper is ...

Aug 28, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Where to buy Red Star yeast, other quality baking ingredients?

You might not expect it - I didn't - but Ocean State Job Lots carries a wide variety of Bob's.

Aug 28, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Artisan/premier bakeries in Boston?

When you say "artisan", do you mean decorated well or unusual or something else. For decoration plus a solid cake and excellent butter cream frosting, I'd say Party Favors in Brookline. They're not "artisan" in another sense. For that, you could check - along with the ones already mentioned - Tatte, which is now in Brookline & Cambridge and, apparently, soon on Beacon Hill.

I really like <fill in chain> and I look forward to returning

I like their Clover-made coffee, not their drip coffee. Really brings out the flavor of each kind of coffee. I sometimes get a small regular coffee and it isn't very good.

I want to add that if you go into a Starbucks even reasonably often and make any form of effort, you get to know the people. Well run stores have a culture of customer service and friendliness.

Aug 24, 2014
lergnom in Chains
1

Pay by Check no more!

I was mostly teasing. I don't think you're in any way like that. I don't think anyone is like that, not even the psycho woman at Trader Joe's. I get ticked off at these ridiculous threads: someone posted that he/she is glad a place isn't taking checks, some people point out that various people need to use checks and it degenerates into something out of a bad junior high school english debate and all because someone posted something about a payment method without thinking first and then people respond as though waiting in a checkout line for a few minutes is the worst thing in the world. It would be humorous if it weren't sad.

Not long age, checkers had to type in each transaction and credit cards were uncommon and many stores only had a few checkout lines so you'd wait for 20 minutes or more in a long line and now it's about those extra few seconds a person could be looking at his/her phone.

Aug 21, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Pay by Check no more!

Writing bad checks is illegal. Writing a check and covering it, as in you shop at night and get the money in the account the next day, is common when people don't have much money.

Maybe you should police the line. You know, walk around the registers and tell everyone to get their money or cards out so no one is kept waiting.

Or tell the people who don't empty their carts out quickly they should move it, move it, move it. Or follow them around the store and make sure they load the cart so they can unload it without inconveniencing anyone.

I believe the word was "jeebus".

Aug 19, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Pay by Check no more!

Card skimmers have been found attached in grocery stores. There is no "safe" way to use cards, particularly debit cards. The new generation of card skimmers are much better looking. I've seen examples that were discovered attached to bank ATMs in actual bank lobbies. You really had to know what the card reader should look like to know something was wrong.

Aug 19, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Pay by Check no more!

I don't think it takes longer than when someone bags his/her stuff instead of using the card machine. Or when some person decides to use the self-pay machine for the first time and takes a minute per item. You learn to wait a few seconds.

Most people who use checks are on tight budgets, not trying to stay off the payment grid. They may be floating checks against what they can put in to cover. The last thing I want is to make their lives more difficult.

Just ate lobster for the first time

If lobster is stringy or dry and chewy, odds are it's over-cooked. Most recipes lead to massive over-cooking. The meat is delicate.

Steam, don't boil those hard cooked eggs.

I have steamed eggs for years. The method doesn't require exact timing, which is nice.

To peel, I use an open-mouthed water bottle. Put in egg with some water. Shake. Shell comes off. When eggs are warm, the shell just about slides off. If the eggs sit in the fridge, it takes more shaking. Only possible downside is that with cold eggs a few bits of shell may get stuck in the outer surface - because you shake more. Just pull them out. It's like magic. You don't need to crack the egg first with warm eggs: just put in with some water - you'll quickly figure out how much water is needed - and shake for a few seconds.

Aug 13, 2014
lergnom in Home Cooking

Family-Friendly Rochester Recommendations?

I'd add to the Dinosaur recs; it's an appealing place which the boys will like. The view is over the waterfall but the inside is genuinely a cool vibe.

I have to mention that inside the Boulder Coffee at the Public Market is a meat counter that sells extremely delicious pastrami sandwiches. (Should underline delicious.) And the cheese store in that row has a little counter all the way in the back where 2 or 3 young girls - almost young women now but they've been doing this for years - make simple but delicious bagel sandwiches. Little bits of local color. Rochester is full of stuff like this.

There's an Abbott's on Park Avenue, which is a beautiful street. Plenty of restaurants around.

Brown Sugar - Allston (and one very spicy dish for those who ...)

Ate last night at Brown Sugar on Comm Ave near Babcock. We eat there every month or so. It's a genuinely well-decorated place - they have a beautiful little garden seating area on the sidewalk now - and a huge menu and good service. They really seem to care about details.

My wife is not an adventurous diner so she eats mostly Pad Thai, Pad See Ew and some duck dishes. I go for things in the Thai sections, particularly from the page that has English descriptions for dishes under their Thai names. (Better that than the other way round.) Their Pad See Ew is very well made and you can taste the individual components of the sauce.

Last night I had Tom Zap, which is beef stew in a very highly seasoned and super spicy hot soup. Waitress asked if I realized it was very hot and I told to make it the way they'd eat it. One of the spicy hottest dishes I've had in a few years. Not right in your face from the first bite spicy but that kind of growing heat that lets you taste each part of the dish and then lasts. Really good. I'm finishing it now.

Prices are a bit higher, like $11 or $12 for Pad See Ew, though a large portion. The Tom Zap is big enough for 2 at $15, served in a clay pot with individual bowls to eat out of. You can easily make a meal for 2 of apps and that.

Oh please Arby's...

I didn't realize there were none. Growing up in Detroit, you couldn't avoid them. Now I want one.

Aug 10, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

August 2014 Openings and Closings

The family had kids at our elementary school. Their parents retired. Nice people. Sisters were maybe still are involved in other restaurants.

Aug 07, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Alternative to Market Basket for cheap lobsters

I had 10 double yolk eggs out of a carton earlier this year. I figured they must have sorted and then mistakenly stuffed them in the same box(es). It was weird because I've only had one other in decades.

Jul 31, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Lasagna... a bit fancy but not too pricey?

Stellina in Watertown makes eggplant lasagna. It's on the menu now for $20, per the website.

Jul 31, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Pepes Pizza coming to Boston

How is this something to make small points about? This is silliness.

To do this in "chowhound style", I'd have to point out I never said "ticket". The usual enforcement mechanism is to make people move. But I'm done with silliness.

Jul 30, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Pepes Pizza coming to Boston

Yep. I've been part of that process. They require valet parking arrangements for some places and have set aside certain (rented) spaces for valet use. You have to present a contract that shows where your valet will park if it's not with the town itself. I doubt carryout people will valet, but you never know. The Town enforces against double parking, parking at hydrants and parking on some neighborhood streets, etc. Just the way it is.

Jul 29, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area

Pepes Pizza coming to Boston

My point was not that people won't try to pick up orders but that Pepe's is likely not basing its business model on carryout because that won't work very well for much of the week. The Town will not grant special dispensation to double parkers, etc. and they are responsive to local complaints about that kind of thing. Those people will need to cope or go elsewhere. It's the way things work.

Jul 29, 2014
lergnom in Greater Boston Area