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Knife Sharpening Service in Central NJ

Just had my battery of go-to cooking knives, (wustof classics, Shun, Global and a homemade butchering blade) given a complete sharpening and some re-profiling by Ziggy of ZB Sharpening.

Located in central Jersey he provides an extremely convenient pick up/return service with 24 hour turn around. He also supports mail in service using USPS, FedEx and UPS.

While his prices are competitive with Korin's mail in service Ziggy's results are not just superb but completely personable. I turned over knives that while functional (steeled and ceramic honed regularly) they were anything but razors. What he returned are simply the sharpest condition any of the knives have ever been, ever.

What sets ZB Sharpening apart is quite simply Ziggy's incredible knowledge that he readily shares on topics like knife care, qualities of knife steel, using the right knife for given tasks, and knife skill techniques. He shares that via his website and his progress status emails but also in person when picking up and returning the knives.

May 23, 2015
ThanksVille in New Jersey

Two Days in Birmingham, AL

Multiple Saw's venues each different and each truly worth a visit although my favorite is the Soul Food version. Rest assured the BBQ there is exceptional. Miss Myra does her own version of white sauce with BBQ chicken that saves you from having to head north to BigBobGibson's although that destination is worth the trip if you have the time. Sneaky Pete's dogs make a fine lunch but simply could not get excited by the meat and three cafeteria quality at Nikki's. enjoy B'ham the Q is real

May 13, 2015
ThanksVille in Central South

Can we talk about kitchen lighting?

Color temperature of our new LED recessed ceiling lights and our under cabinet LED fixtures was the subject of substantial discussion during our kitchen rebuild.
We went to a commercial lighting supply house that had mock ups available to demonstrate the effect of different lamp temperatures (kelvin degrees) in a room that could be blocked off from all other light. While they had pieces of (plastic) fruits around to help illustrate the impact of color temps on color rendition (CRI), we found the most effective gauge was looking at white copier paper. The lower temp lamps (2700) were simply too artificially warm and unnatural. The super high 5000 (blue sky daylight) were just too harsh and contrasty for us. We ended up selecting 3500k for the under cabinet lights and 3000k for the overheads on the theory that slightly higher CRI lamps would prove useful for task level illumination while a (very) slightly warmer lamp would keep the overall ambient lighting less clinical looking. Ultimately that was the right choice for us and despite having the two different temperature lamps in the same space the 500k degree difference is virtually imperceptible. Of greater importance is having sufficient light intensity positioned in a manner that avoids placing shadows on your hands or task objects, something achieved by fixture position, overlaps of direct illumination, cut off angles of the fixtures to prevent views to any 'filament' as well as being able to control the lighting intensity via dimming at least for ambient lighting.

May 03, 2015
ThanksVille in Cookware

Rangetop decision: wolf vs blue star

Faced a similar decision a few years ago during a kitchen makeover and after test cooking on several ranges we chose a 36" BS and never had any reason to doubt the decision. Stir fry at least weekly placing the wok directly into the open burner (grate removed) for kick ass heat and complete stability. Simmer stocks regularly for hours perfectly below a boil. Cast iron components clean up easily and run them through a heavy dishwasher cycle maybe every couple months but pull them out to hand dry. Convection oven / broiler is powerful and big enough to roast a 28 lb turkey for the holidays. Never had a problem with the igniters or knobs. Paired with a 42" variable speed exhaust hood capable of 1100 cfm and it has proven to be the strong backbone we wanted in our kitchen.

Apr 11, 2015
ThanksVille in Cookware


We send out written invitations that state 'cocktails and appetizers anytime after X' and that 'dinner will commence at Y' (usually 1 hour later). If someone is a no-show at the appointed time without calling to advise us of a late arrival we simply plow ahead as scheduled in their absence. If they've had the courtesy to call in advance we'll try to defer completion of cooking, alert the other guests and break out a bottle of champagne to help endure the additional wait. if the delayed arrival is more than 15/20 minutes out, we'll set aside some service plates for the late guests and move forward as planned. No call = no special accommodations.

Mar 30, 2015
ThanksVille in Not About Food

Pot racks - yes or no?

So Nararabbit, what did you decide? Old posts without an update sort of lurk forever.
We struggled with the same question when we finally re-did our kitchen after 20+ years of compromise and clutter. What was right for us was deciding to skip the hung pot rack or even a wall mounted rack since both would have compromised the openness achieved in the renovation. That meant a few of our lesser used items like the ice cream maker and slow cooker went into a nearby closet so the pots and pans could go into the kitchen cabinets but in hindsight it was right for us and kept the aesthetics pretty clean

Mar 25, 2015
ThanksVille in Cookware

Saratoga Springs; Off-Season Visit; 4.2015 Need Recommendations

Thank you. Will search previous posts

Saratoga Springs; Off-Season Visit; 4.2015 Need Recommendations

Heading to SS for a conference in April way before the racing season. Where can a Chowhound go for some good meals (Breakfast and Dinners) over the course of 4 days?

Are Himalayan Salt Blocks awesome?

Sister in Law who appreciates novelty but rarely cooks when there are so many take out options within 5 minutes of her house.

Mar 22, 2015
ThanksVille in Cookware

Are Himalayan Salt Blocks awesome?

Received one from a well meaning SIL. Have used it as a bookend in our cookbook collection for 3 years now. At best It is attractive to look at.

Best BAKED chicken wings recipe?

Big fan of wings, very big fan. Absolutely great fan of Kenji and crew at SE.

These baked wings are so close to their fried cousins that you never miss the frying. Excellent recipe.

Mar 14, 2015
ThanksVille in Home Cooking

The search for a decent stovetop espresso maker (moka pot)

We have a couple Alessi SS moka pots, designer styles who I can't recall, but with the cast metal handles that hinge and pivot at the top locking onto the base section, wide base tapering upward to the narrow top chamber. Used daily for 20+ years, replaced the strainer gaskets a couple times. Wonderful rich coffee, never ever leaked. PS we grind the coffee in a Mazzer mini to a very fine powder and high boil water initially until the first sound of a siphon but then lower to a simmer until brewing is complete.

Mar 14, 2015
ThanksVille in Cookware

Wolfgang's in Somerville has opened...

Had to try the new rage in downtown Somerville complete with their valet parking option. On a Main Street that is just six blocks long where it is a pleasant walk from any of the nearby municipal lots, Wolfies couldn't find where they parked our car for 20some minutes.

Nice interior albeit way too loud made for strained conversation. Comfortable seating reasonably spaced tables (no bumping from behind), pleasantly gruff waitstaff playing their roles. unfortunately not really attentive when it came to refilling water glasses or checking on us.....but in their defense the place was packed.

Decent solid wine list but nothing stellar like you can find on 90 Acres list. Per glass pricing was excessive and we chose to skip their 3-4 x bottle mark ups.

Ordered the porterhouse for 2, plus a couple sides (spinach was undistinguished), plus one overpriced cocktail and still ended up paying the equivalent of 2weeks worth of groceries. Asked for medium rare on the rare side and only a quarter of the steak met our expectations. You can't be a great steakhouse and get that wrong. They did table side cutting service that was appropriate but failed to ask if it was cooked to our liking

Overall ridiculously expensive NYC pricing in this destination restaurant town. Sorry but no value here. Admittedly get into NYC frequently enough that when I get the desire for a great steak at obscene prices we make that happen. Wolfies in Somerville is not the equivalent except for the pricing.

Mar 14, 2015
ThanksVille in New Jersey

Korean in Somerville

We tried Seoulville in Downtown Somerville last night and had a very enjoyable dinner. BYOB. Nice clean simple interior. Attentive and informative service. Decent menu but not excessive. Excellent kimchi, haunting dipping sauce, rich bean paste/pepper sauce. Admittedly Korean food novices. Tasting 9 appetizer plate, pork with spicy veggies and the BBQ beef rib. All were very well flavored. Reasonable portions. Bill was just around $35/person including tip. We'll definitely return

Mar 14, 2015
ThanksVille in New Jersey

Best/worst Thanksgiving ever...

Thanksgiving has always been a family/extended family event for decades and the venue changed with passing generations. When my aunt inherited it, at an uncle's insistence, she had never made a whole turkey before so consulted some misguided culinary source suggesting a large bird needed to start roasting the night before the holiday. We arrived to find local firefighters power venting her house so ended up eating all the stove top veggies and previously baked pies outside on the patio in winter coats. The next year she over compensated by lowering her oven temp and trying the brief sear approach which made no impact on a still frozen bird. I recall a day of pretzels and mixed nuts along with her pre-baked pies.

Oct 30, 2014
ThanksVille in Not About Food

Copper Sauciers - Falk vs. Matfer Bourgeat

Over the years we have accumulated a collection of Falk as well as a couple of the Bougeat pieces. Both sets are substantial, cook evenly and well detailed. For their heft, the cast iron handles on the Falk seem a bit narrow forcing me to grip tightly in order to prevent the pan from rotating in my hand. Whether that is caused by the linear profile of the handle I am not certain. In contrast, the Bougeat handles seem equally narrow but slightly more ergonomic in their profile. Frankly this rarely comes into play while cooking but more so in the act of moving them on or off the range. Their respective finishes each have merit with a great deal more 'polish' to the copper and ss lining on the Bougeat than on the Falk however the satin finish on the latter makes for easier care on the copper and provides a ss lining that allows for excellent fond production when searing foods. Some of our pieces are now 20 years old and remain as attractive and formidable as when they were new.

Aug 20, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Good Mexican Tacos near Piscataway or Somerville NJ?

Great fish tacos, I mean impeccably fresh, at Metropolitan Seafood on Rt 22 in Lebanon about 15 minutes west of Somerville. Other option is to visit Grub Hut on Main St. Manville with multiple options for the fillings. Several authentic venues in Bound Brook worth exploring

Jun 14, 2014
ThanksVille in New Jersey

What is this cut of pork?

My guess is 'steaks' cut from a bone in pork butt as described in Amy Thielen's Midwestern Table cookbook

Venting Microwave or Dedicated Vent Hood?

Our former home had a microwave vented thru the exterior wall and positioned above the gas range. It was a large Amana unit that required several service calls because the heat from the cooking range 'toasted' the control board in the microwave. It's exhaust capability was the equivalent of a glorified bathroom fan taking hours to vent out the odor from a stir fry or boiled cabbage.

The renovations we did to our current house kept the heat zone above the range clear with a proper hood and variable speed exhaust fan with large capture hood. There is no comparison between the two approaches. Poppycock about having to open windows for cross drafts as long as your furnace and water heater have sufficient combustion make up air there is no reason to do so.

Jun 01, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Toaster recommendation


May 24, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Brisket: to foil or not to foil

I foil my flats as the crutch to ensure moistness but have never needed to when egging my points. I have gone both ways with packer cuts and generally prefer no foil for the true bite of a bark but will take steamed BBQ brisket over the thrice killed ash my BIL makes. I do love brisket. Maple and hickory are my favorite woods, the mesquite I've tried just seemed too bitter. Salt, pepper always but admittedly like chipotle powder in moderation.

Toaster recommendation

We have the Dualit (low end version) which is about 3 years old and makes decent toast. 2 slices or 1, thin or thick, breads or bagels. Less than $100. Looks like a toaster, pull out crumb tray, excess cord wraps underneath.

May 23, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Need some help deciding on an ice cream maker

We sprung for the Musso Lussino perhaps 7 or 8 years ago as an upgrade to our Donvier manual with freezer canisters ice cream maker. Fortunately we have storage space to house the beast and more so that we actually splurged since it makes fabulous ice cream, gelato, sorbets etc. aside from not taking up freezer space on a constant basis (we had 2 of the Donvier cannisters) the Musso allows you to make batch after batch (well at least 4 in a row for us) and virtually hands free.. The only downsides are that it is noisy and the freezer bowl is built in and not removable so after spooning out all the ice cream you have to wash it out with a dishcloth and dry it with a towel to clean the polished SS. Otherwise flawless performer and proven durable.

Apr 26, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Southern Food in Birmingham, AL

Saw's Juke Joint is very credible and includes a variety of BBQ items should they wish to go that direction but the standards like loaded potatoes, Mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, collard greens etc are all very well conceived and executed.

Apr 12, 2014
ThanksVille in Central South

Going to be in Baltimore for two days.

Thames Street Oyster House is more than just a cold bar, but does offer impeccably fresh, reasonably priced seafood.

brine & temp for smoked turkey breast

Try John Ash's turkey brine.....old standby allows for longer brine period due to lower salt concentration. Readily accessed on line. Smoking at 275 and pulling off at 155 followed by a 20 minute rest results in a memorable TB.

brine & temp for smoked turkey breast

John Ash's brine recipe is our go to standard for whole turkeys and turkey breasts. Best results are to assemble the brine at least 24 hours in advance and brine for a full 12 hours for a whole breast or 24 hours for a whole turkey. Salt ratio is lower than Ruhlman's which allows you to go longer without salt overkill. Before smoking I rub the bird with a cut lemon and very light coat of olive oil

We smoke the whole breast on a large BGE at 275 to 300 using just a couple apple or cherry wood chunks, bird is inserted with a wired thermometer and target its removal at 155 degrees followed by a 20+ minutes rest while partially tented.

One night for dinner in Birmingham

Sorry you missed the opportunity for some exceptional dining at H+H and Highlands as well as some outstanding BBQ and lowlands cuisine at Saw's venues. Nikki's is a meat plus 3 cafeteria at best by comparison.

Apr 11, 2014
ThanksVille in Central South

Proper grilling technique for steaks

In lieu of individual steaks I prefer a large 2" thick prime grade porterhouse that will feed 4adults and after spending a small fortune follow the reverse sear approach on our large BGE to respect the integrity of that beef.

Typically preseason generously with Montreal Steak seasoning about an hour before cooking with a light coat of EVOO.

Fire up the lump charcoal, set up for indirect cook with place setter deflector and throttle the dampers to a controlled 250 degrees burn. Toss on one or two chunks of dry smoking wood like hickory, oak or maple and place the porterhouse into the egg, close the lid and let it low roast with light smoke until the internal temp is just 120.....usually 40 to 50 minutes. BTW I turn and flip around half way. Also use a wired probe thermometer to ensure I don't miss that mark.

At 120 IT remove the beef while opening the dampers, remove the deflector and set up for direct grilling bringing the temperature to 650.....usually takes 5 minutes to build up the heat

With dome open the porterhouse goes on to sear and lightly char at 2 to 3 minutes per side as well as a minute standing upright to finish the ends. Rest the beef for 5 to 10 minutes uncovered, carve off the bone and slice. Results in a perfectly uniform 130 red-pink across the entire thickness with the seared/char outer surface.

Big Green Egg? Is it worth it?

IMHO absolutely but that is for our use 52 weeks out of the year as a grill, awesome smoker and great pizza oven. Lots of prior posts discussing / debating this topic. We upgraded from a variety of grilles and metal smokers that in hindsight were a waste in comparison to the BGE