Roland Parker's Profile

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Store-bought vs. homemade grated Parmesiano Reggiano

I use a lot of reggiano in salads, pasta, baking.

I prefer to buy by the block and process it in my cuisnart rather than buying it pregrated.

I'm of the opinion that the best flavor comes from when the cheese is grated into something akin to crumbly, hard breadcrumbs that still has texture, rather than the fine powder you associate with the generic Kraft brand. You're not going to get this grating the cheese on a regular grater. The cuisinart is wonderful for doing this, really, just about perfect.

Too often I find prepackaged grated reggiano grated into long straws (at least one Whole Foods in Maryland was guilty of doing this for ages), or into a powder, and neither brings out the best of the flavor. Quite often the store will grind a good portion of the rind along with the cheese, which dilutes the strength and flavor of the overall package.

Last but not least, I've come across grated Grana Padana labelled as reggiano!

about 6 hours ago
Roland Parker in Cheese

Best type of pan for caramelizing mushrooms?

I remember reading Julia Child and she observed that the trick to browning mushrooms was not to cook too many mushrooms at one time.

If you have too many mushrooms, it releases too much moisture and while the mushrooms do cook, they become soggy in the liquid and remain gray in color.

As long as I don't crowd the pan I do successfuly brown mushrooms to a wonderful brown color and the flavor is excellent.

May 22, 2015
Roland Parker in Cookware

What's your absolute favorite/best apple dessert?

Apple desserts are perhaps my most favorite dishes to eat. It doesn't matter what kind of dessert it is, pies, crumble, cake, kuchen, charlotte, torte, tatins, pastries, if it has apples in it I'm in pig heaven.

Do I have a single most favorite apple dessert? Apple pie with a good homemade crust.

That aside, what is perhaps more important than the dessert mode is the apple itself. Apples do vary widely in tartness and texture. I love Jonagold apples for baking. Winesapp and Stayman apples for purees such as apple charlottes. Quite often I will mix apple varieties to have a blend of flavor and texture.

Hmm.... must make an apple dessert this weekend.

La Cuchara in Lower Hampden (Baltimore): A good meal had by all.

Thank you for the lovely feedback. Despite being a globe trotting expat I still remember my hometown with fondness and will be visiting for a month this summer. This restaurant is now firmly on the list as I have found your reviews of Parisian restaurants very valuable for our visits to France.

And is "LoHa" now a new buzzword for that area? My, how times have changed. I well remember Hampden of old. Who would have ever thought?

Time to get rid of the microwave?

My grandparents were among the first people to buy a microwave for home consumption, either in the late 1960s or early 1970s. They also lived well into their 90s despite using a microwave regularly for the last third of their lives. As far as I can tell it's had no effect on their health.

Likewise, my parents, who are now in their 70s, have been using microwaves since the 1970s and it doesn't seem to affect their excellent health one way or another, although my mother only uses microwave safe corningware dishes and other ceramic dishes, not plastic containers, but that's only because she doesn't like the asthetics of plastic containers.

May 06, 2015
Roland Parker in Cookware

Time to get rid of the microwave?

Since we're talking about debunking myths, can you verify your statement: "usage of microwave ovens is down among cookware nerds and all food hobbyists."

Is it true? Only curious as I consider myself an excellent cook and someone who is interested in food and I happily use my microwave daily for a variety of purposes.

May 05, 2015
Roland Parker in Cookware

Dinner Disaster!

We all have cooking accidents periodically. Even the best cooks. We know the pain!

But I am curious as to why you elected to use the "best" olive oil for what looks like a standard bolognese/meat sauce recipe? Does it normally improve the flavors as opposed to generic olive oil? I use my "best" oils for salads but not for sautéing.

May 01, 2015
Roland Parker in Home Cooking

Visiting Hong Kong and Chengdu with an 8-year old

We went to Luk Yu on our last trip to Hong Kong, dragged there by friends of ours. It does have an older atmosphere but we didn't find it special. And the dim sum was very ordinary, it's certainly "old school" heavy and greasy, and also the most expensive we had on the trip. Plus they charged us for dishes we never ordered, nor were brought to the table! We tried to argue it but the staff refused to back down.

One Dim Sum in Kowloon was easily our most favorite dim sum place, balancing price and quality. It was absolutely wonderful. And so wonderfully inexpensive too.

Dim Sum Square in Sheung Wan (my favorite neighborhood in HK) was also excellent with its slightly different twist on dim sum.

Toy Kitchen Renovation: High-End Appliances, Gourmet Food

No, that would be the NYTimes.

It's just one of their periodic filler articles on people with more money than most Americans.

best website to order braunschweiger/liverwurst (organ meat sausages, etc.) from?

There's Binkerts in Baltimore:


Wonderful sausages and lunch meat. They supply the German and Austrian embassies in Washington (or at least they used to a few years ago).

Mar 28, 2015
Roland Parker in General Topics

Need advice for tipping a wedding caterer

I think you are missing the reason behind the OP's thread as well as that there is a key difference between a private catered event and a restaurant.

Restaurant wait staff are allowed to be paid well below the minimum wage because it is assumed they are going to be tipped. That is pretty much the only reason why tipping persists in America, certainly at the level of tipping that has become customary. It went from rounding up the bill to 10% to 15% and now 20% and doubtlessly will reach 25% at some point.

However, at a private catered event such as the one described by the OP, the waiters will be making the minimum wage (at least, and assuming the caterer is honest), because it's not a restaurant. Waiters at such events usually make quite a bit more than the minimum wage as it's rarely a full time position and something people do on an "on call" basis to make money outside regular work hours. If the OP wants to leave a tip as a true gratuity, it's entirely up to her and the amount is also up to her.

If I were the OP and wanted to leave a tip as gratitude for a special event I would probably give each waiter no more than $50 and the caterer herself another $100.

Mar 23, 2015
Roland Parker in Not About Food

What's for Dinner #355 - The SPRING Edition! [Through March 24, 2015 ]

Nothing fancy tonight. Warm and dusty where we are but it turned into a pleasant sunset and the smell of the sea drifted into our garden, so we decided to dine outside.

Grilled steaks, oven roasted fries (yes, the frozen ones), salad and clementines. We haven't had steaks in eons so it was a nice change of pace. I have not been ambitious with cooking for a long time, what with one son away at school and DH now traveling much more frequently for work.

Why Are All ‘Good’ Restaurants Around the World Starting To Look the Same?

No places exist in a vacuum solely for tourists (well, perhaps except Venice). Every city or destination is a real home to its people and there's a degree of snobbery in assuming that local residents should be content with whatever passes for their local cuisine or style of dining.

There is a hypocrisy in praising the increasing diversity of the world's cities and the greater choices in food and restaurants, while decrying the homogenization or globalization that has allowed these same choices to blossom in ways that were unthinkable even a few decades ago. To be frank, when I look closely at what passed for "authentic local experience" dining options in many places in the world 30 years ago and compare to what's available today, I'd rather take today.

Why delicious Indian food is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S.

The Indian American population has also exploded.

So far Indian remains a destination cuisine rather than something casually accepted such as Mexican or Chinese. I daresay it's because it hasn't been transformed sufficiently enough to satisfy common American tastes.

Why delicious Indian food is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S.

True. A common sight in Dubai are the small framed working class Indian men, who make next to nothing and eat only at the cheapest of the Indian cafeterias usually because they have no cooking facilities where they live, and the food is incredibly basic, just rice and daal and mushy vegetables some curry dish, but they develop a distinctive pot belly because the food is dished out in very large quantities.

Why delicious Indian food is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S.

Along with increasing reliance on cars and declining walkability for the middle classes.

And in the UAE too. Combine a heavy Indian meal high in calorie and ghee with a box of donuts from Tim Horton or Krispy Kreme or ice cream from Baskin Robbins, and you get a recipe for disaster. Traditional Indian sweets is so intensely sweet that it's not surprising the Indian sweet tooth has eagerly embraced overly sugary American fast food sweets with an appetite that must make the CEOs of those companies cry with joy.

Why delicious Indian food is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S.

The rising obesity isn't only due to American style fast food, which still isn't that common in India (albeit growing). A lot of Indian cooking is high in fat and calories as well. Butter chicken, after all, is not a low fat dish. The prevalent use of ghee is also a contributing factor, such as dal makhani.

It is one of the peculiarities of India that you see both heavy people and malnourished people in the same place.

Why delicious Indian food is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S.

The other dimension to the issue is that most Mexican/Chinese found in the US are the bastardized "Americanized" version (even if it may be very good). Most of the Mexican and Chinese restaurants rarely showcase the breadth and depth of their respective cuisines and have evolved into something that's almost now peculiarly "American."

I have seen Indian do the same in the UK. The vast majority of Indian restaurants in Britain are mediocre to average, serving tamed down and often overly sweet dishes, and the most popular dishes such as chicken tikka masala and the various Brit balti dishes originated in Britain. Here in Dubai most British crave "British Indian" rather than proper Indian (whatever it may be).

While there are certainly adventurous people of all nationalities and cultures willing to try and experiment with different food, I think most people are much more conservative and are bound by deeply ingrained cultural food appreciation and desires, which is one reason for why many "ethnic" cuisines can change in the US, to adapt to the different American preferences. If Indian food becomes more popular in the US (and I don't doubt it will) it will be the toned down and creamy version.


I was wondering what the bakers do with their baked goods after the judging. Do they take them home to their families? Probably. But I'm sure the contestants are constantly tasting nibbles of each other's baked goods. That's probably why Luis put his money on Nancy, he could taste firsthand that she was able to achieve a high standard of consistency in the flavors and quality of her baked goods whereas us viewers only had to go by the judging of the day.


Me too. I was intrigued by how the oven doors could slide back into the oven once down. I imagine it has to do with European kitchens being generally smaller than American kitchens and it's a way not to clutter up the limited space if you're working in a tiny kitchen.


I loved everyone on the program. It was one of the very few, if possibly the only, cooking program where I never gravitated to a favorite cook or disliked any of the other cooks. The personalities of the people were so endearing and friendly that I wanted everyone to win!


I was in Hong Kong last October, not long after the Schittentorte appeared on the show and I saw small prepackaged slices of the schittentorte being sold in the local 7-11. Intrigued, I bought one and enjoyed it quite a lot. It's barely sweet and has a nice dense texture. But I doubt I'd ever make one! I'm not spending a hour+ focused on the broiler.

As a side note, the treats available in the 7-11 in Hong Kong were wonderful and puts the 7-11 in the US to proper shame.

Why delicious Indian food is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S.

You can buy "curry powder." Even in traditional Indian supermarkets in Dubai. And I've cooked from Indian recipes written by Indians that called for curry powder. Just sayin'.....

Mediterranean vs Caribbean vs Continental Cuisine, what's the difference?

To Bkeats: The Mediterranean countries do share many ingredients in common. Seafood is very popular. Tomatoes and olives and cooking in olive oil is ubiquitous. Lamb as opposed to beef. Cooking vegetables and beans for long periods with lots of oil. Meats tend to be grilled. Ovens are a relatively recent introduction to those countries other than the communal bake house, so you find few roasted and home baked dishes and most dishes are dishes that can be prepared on the flame.

Having said that, there is still wide variation among the regions of the Mediterranean. You'll find a greater shared common culinary heritage among the Eastern Mediterranean and it overlaps with North Africa. Lebanese food is regarded as the most sophisticated culinary heritage in the Arabic world and so many dishes you find in other Arabic Mediterranean countries as well as Turkey have origins in Lebanese cooking and standard Lebanese fare is found in all those countries, with regional differences being how the spices are mixed and applied. Zaatar, for example, varies from country to country.

Lots of people talk of an Israeli cuisine these days, but from what I've seen and eaten it's really heavily inspired by Lebanese fare with some modern Western additions, but that's all part of the evolution of cooking throughout time.

Mar 08, 2015
Roland Parker in General Topics

Mediterranean vs Caribbean vs Continental Cuisine, what's the difference?

I associate "continental" with hotel breakfasts, meaning a hard roll, stale croissants, butter pats and small jam containers, and in Europe itself, slices of cold ham or some processed ham "delicacy" and slices of cheese. I think the terminology emerged to differentiate this type of breakfast from the traditional British breakfast, which meant fried eggs, sausages, bacon, baked beans and toast.

In a humor book about traveling through Europe the author referred to the same stale roll following them throughout the continent.

The term "Mediterranean" cuisine emerged in the 1980s (or even the 1970s) to refer to a southern European inspired style of cooking, meaning cooking with olive oil, more pasta rather than potatoes, more seafood rather than beef/chicken. It was supposed to be lighter and healthier, and while it now seems commonplace to us, back in the 1980s it was a different approach to cooking from the standard meat-potato centric diets of Americans.

When I think of "Caribbean" I'm more stumped despite frequent visits to the islands. When I think of food I had in the Caribbean, I think of seafood and tropical fruits.

Mar 08, 2015
Roland Parker in General Topics

Why delicious Indian food is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S.

Indian cuisine is a love it or hate it cuisine. I don't like the assumption that there must be something wrong if more people aren't eating or loving Indian food. I know plenty of people who have tried and still do not like Indian food, and even for myself I'm not wildly enthusiastic about Indian despite having it regularly enough (once a month on average) and having traveled through India several times.

It's not just the heat or spice as other common flavors are very strong, strong enough to drive off many potential diners, and this is despite American Indian restaurants toning down the flavors and heat compared to what you find in the UK or Dubai or India.

As for high end Indian restaurants, when I was once in Delhi, I picked up a copy of the local English language newspaper and it had a long article about the lack of high end "modern" Indian restaurants in Delhi and the writer commented about the relative success of certain places in London. He interviewed the chefs at a number of well known Delhi restaurants and they all laughed at him, saying Indian food doesn't translate well into the high end environment we find in the West and largely associated with French or Italian or even Chinese. They also criticized the fancy high end Indian restaurants in London the writer had touted, saying they had moved away from their Indian origins in too many different ways to be taken seriously. This is certainly a provincial reaction but I wonder if there's truth to it, if you fancify Indian cuisine to try to resemble something closer to high end French or Chinese, are you stripping away much of what makes it "Indian?"

Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious

I read the article and have discussed it with some friends here in Dubai, which has an enormous Indian community (at least half the city's residents are Indian) and an equally enormous Indian dining scene, both high and low end.

I'm not sure what to make of the article. Lots of people love Indian food and it's delicious to them, but an equal number also seem to intensely dislike Indian food, possibly for the same reasons that attracts those who love it.

And then there's my own reaction towards Indian food. While I enjoy it on occasions and even cook it at times, most of the time it seems to be little more than overcooked spicy mush (sorry if I offended anyone!). I really can't taste much difference among the flavors. I've never thought of Indian food has having multiple flavors within a dish, if anything I'd have argued the opposite, that the use of the common spices such as cumin and cayenne and peppers is so prevalent that they dominate the dishes, override any other flavors and give so much of Indian cooking, or at least restaurant cooking, an identikit flavor. My taste buds only remember those core spices, never the rest of the ingredients in a dish.

For me, the reason why I prefer the various Western cuisines or Thai or Chinese or Malaysian cooking is because I'm much more likely to taste the various components of the dish. Yes, it is more subtle than Indian, but you can actually taste the them! I can taste the meat, I can taste the vegetables, I can taste the fruit. In Indian I'm just tasting the same 3-4 spices regardless of what's being seasoned.

Oldest Restaurants in Baltimore area

I'm surprised no one mentioned Swallow at the Hollow, on York Road just off Northern Parkway. It's been around for ages, at least the 1950s I'm sure. A classic dive bar for North Baltimore, attracting a very diverse clientele from the blue collar to old money who could probably have bought the bar, lock stock and barrel, every single night.

I remember the hazy smoky days when we went there for great burgers. The smoke is thankfully gone but people say the burgers are still good.


It's also still a dense crust, and hard by crust standards. But it does lend itself to creative forms easily. I was once at a party in the UK when someone made stacked meat pies baked in crust, but the pies were assembled to resemble a castle with a tower and battlements. The bakers of old, especially for posh households, would create food "art" out of hot water pastry.

For anyone wanting to have fun with their children while baking, the hot water crust could be ideal.

Great British Bake off

I just finished watching episode 6. I won't reveal the ending for those who haven't seen it but it was a delightful ending for once.

This has to be my all time favorite baking competition show. I almost can't watch it anymore because I don't want any of the final six competitors to lose. And they're such charming, pleasant people.

Any thoughts about the cakes made? The Princesstorte looked like a dentist's nightmare. All that sugar! Americans, thankfully, have never warmed up to marzipan (or is it odd that it's largely unknown in the US given our otherwise sweet tooth?).

As it is, I'm heartily looking forward to next week's episode. I wouldn't mind seeing some more savory baked goods as a break from episode six's intense sweetdom.