Culinary no-no #628

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

These photos have something in common.

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Years ago my wife Jennifer wrote a Culinary yes-yes blog for the old FranklinNOW website. Here’s a segment from August 2013:

Summer schedules tend to be more relaxed, as does our cooking.  Firing up the grill for a meal is second nature to many people.  If you have a garden or frequent farmers’ markets it takes nothing to whip up a salad fit for a meal.  Dining al fresco, no matter what the fare, elevates any cuisine to an event.  Picnics, whether at the park, zoo, or in your own back yard, are magical moments.  Dinner can be an easy, casual almost after-thought that takes second place to swimming, biking, golfing or boating.  But when the school year ramps up again we fill every minute with sports, lessons, PTA meetings, scouts, and a million other activities.  And suddenly our family evening meal TOGETHER comes to a screeching halt.

While it may seem hard to argue with the old adage “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” perhaps we need to reconsider that advice.  True, breakfast fuels our bodies.  It gives us the jump-start we need as we begin our marathon days.  With family members starting their daily grind at all different hours it’s unlikely that mom, dad, and kids all sit down at the same time to steaming bowls of oatmeal or mile-high pancakes and sausage during the week.

Enter The Family Dinner.  You know, that time around 5:30 – 6:30 when everyone sat down at the same time, shared food, talked, laughed, etc.  June, July and August made it pretty simple to do that.  But clearly, a meal shared by all is critical to strong family bonds YEAR-ROUND.

It doesn’t have to be a chore, a major undertaking or something to be feared.  What you managed in the summer can certainly be achieved the other nine months of the year.  Yes…  it can be simple, fun, and beneficial to the entire family.

And if you think your nightly repast needs to look like something Norman Rockwell created, think again.

Sure, as the kids get older and involved in more extracurricular activities it may seem easier just to say “grab something when you can.”  But that is exactly the time in their lives when a family meal can keep those “extracurricular activities” the kind parents want…  Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem according to Anne Fishel, Ph.D.

If you don’t have the routine of a family meal quite yet, perhaps you could use a date just around the corner as a kick-start.  September 23, 2013 marks the nationally recognized “Family Day” initiative.

Gathering your family ‘round the table all through the year?  How could that be anything but a Culinary Yes Yes!
—Culinary yes-yes by Jennifer Fischer, August, 2013

Fast forward to today.

According to The Atlantic:

“People in the United States eat alone more frequently than they ever have before.”

Read more here.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

Amazon is shipping expired food, from baby formula to old beef jerky, scaring consumers and putting big brands at risk

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposes doubling city’s tax on food and drinks at restaurants

ICYMI, Culinary no-no  #627

Culinary no-no #627

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

Dutch immigrants. Russian exiles. French bakers. The Pilgrims. They all get some credit for the origin of one of America’s favorite snacks.

The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink says these snacks are “deep-fried cakes with a long European history and roots in still earlier Middle Eastern cuisine. They were introduced to America by the Dutch in New Netherlands to America as oliekoecken (oil cakes or fried cakes). Made of yeast dough rich in eggs and butter, spices, and dried fruits, their sweetness came from the fruit and the final dusting of sugar. The dough was often somewhat sticky (additional flour toughened and masked the spicy and buttery flavors), and was dropped as blobs off the end of a spoon into hot rapeseed oil (canola)…The oil (fried) balls….were eaten during the dutch Christmas season, which extended through New Year’s through Twelfth Night (January 6), and for special occasions throughout the year.”

In the mid-1800’s a New England ship captain ‘s mother, Elizabeth Gregory took these fried balls of dough and placed some nuts in the center where the dough wasn’t expected to fully cook through, and gave them to her son for his crew.

Captain Hanson Gregory according to some was guiding his ship through a storm and stuck one of those oily fried balls on a spoke in order to keep his hands free. Thus, the donut hole was born, though Gregory claimed he cut into the middle using the top of a round tin pepper box. It wasn’t long before donuts arrived in America.

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My father loved donuts (especially the jelly kind) and he passed it on to me.

Between 1982 and 1988 I was anchoring the morning drive shift at WUWM. That meant dragging myself out of bed…

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Well, much earlier than that.

Before heading into work, I’d make it a habit to stop, not every morning but most, at a donut shop very close to campus. Because of its location, nestled in a residential area just to the southeast of the radio station, I believe it was a Honey Dip Donut joint as opposed to a Dunkin Donuts that was a bit difficult to find in such a remote spot.

Given my consistent arrival that you could set your watch to I became a regular. Sort of like Cheers, but at an obscene hour of the morning.

Enter the door and you’d walk right into the counter, behind it a cascading display case of more varieties of donuts than Disney’s Dalmatians. To your right was a long counter for diners and even more regular faces.

Out of the 1,000 dark, quiet mornings I’d venture to the shop for a to-go order, on 999 I was welcomed by the same worker. She was about my age, short with blonde hair and dark glasses. Also, you couldn’t help but notice her bum right leg. Unable to lift it she was forced to drag it on the floor. And yet there she was as the sole employee on duty at that hour, loading boxes of crullers, pouring coffee, waiting on those dining in.

It didn’t take long for her and I to get into a friendly routine.

“Coffee today?”

“Yes, please.”

“Sour cream donut to go with that coffee?”

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“But of course.”

On rare occasions I’d wait until her reach had almost gotten to the sour cream section before I’d announce that I had changed my mind and wanted something chocolate instead. An expression of disgust came next but it was delivered through a wide smile.

Had to have that donut, but I stopped visiting when I left the morning drive shift to the more normal first shift hours.

And now 10-year old Kyla loves donuts, too, including the Donut of the Month at our nearby Sendik’s.

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From left to right, Kyla’s Irish dance friends Erinn, Mallory, and Kyla enjoying unicorn-themed donuts from Sendik’s before a dance program. Here’s a closer look.

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Who doesn’t like donuts?

Regular readers get that there’s usually a build-up to the no-no of the week. What is it?

After all these years say it ain’t so. Read on.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

I’m not a big fan of the Journal Sentinel’s restaurant critic Carol Deptolla. She’s no Dennis Getto. Deptolla is out with her latest list of top restaurants. It clearly helped if the restaurant was Oriental, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, un-American, exotic, etc.

Food-waste study reveals trends behind discarded items

ICYMI last week, Culinary no-no #626

Culinary no-no #626

Culinary no-no began on Father’s Day 2007, a beautiful summer day, when I wrote about grilling brats. And eating brats. And topping those brats. I was inspired by my wife, Jennifer who, in my admittedly unscientific opinion, ruins brats by squirting ketchup on them. Other dining taboos quickly came to mind. The original idea was to take this concept only a few months, till the end of summer and then pull the plug. Then the unexpected happened. People started reading Culinary no-no. Lots of folks. So we keep doing the no-no.

Remember this 2007 Pixar movie named after the French stewed vegetable dish?

“Ratatouille” featured the very unlikely duo of a rodent culinary genius and his inept human.

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One review on empireonline.com began like this:

Describe the plot of Ratatouille to most and they’ll likely turn up their nose as if assaulted by a bad smell. It’s about a rat who yearns to be a chef. That’s not cute, that’s not flip and postmodern. Couldn’t we make it a giraffe who wants to play golf, or a hippo who dreams of being a stunt-hippo, or a gerbil who aspires to play lead guitar in a heavy-metal band (please note, second-tier animation studios – these concepts are copyright Empire)? What’s cool about a rat in a kitchen? Isn’t it, like, kinda gross?

Not at all, the reviewer continued.

I do recall that at the time, Duane Dudek, a critic with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wasn’t sold on the entire idea of a mouse cooking in the kitchen.

Remy, one of the film’s major characters, was rather skilled and prepared scrumptious menus. This wasn’t a case of a mouse getting into the food. Now that would be gross, right? Such is the lead-in to this week’s no-no.

Wine critic Esther Mobley writes for the San Francisco Chronicle.

You can’t smell it. At first, you can’t taste it. But once you do, you’ll wish you’d never opened the bottle.

It’s a stealthy little pest known as mouse, or mousiness, an off-flavor that can infect wines. Depending on whom you ask, it tastes like a dead mouse, or a caged mouse, or “dog halitosis.” Confusingly, it can also taste like crackers or corn chips.

It’s experienced retronasally, meaning your nose perceives it when it’s in the back of your mouth, as an aftertaste, so a wine that might smell perfectly pleasant and initially taste fine could spoil by the time it arrives at your tonsils.

Mousy wine. How does it happen, and what can be done about it?

Mousy wine is infected, tainted wine, an abnormality wine experts have known about for a couple of centuries.

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That’s Alice Feiring, author of…

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Feiring told the SF Chronicle, “Mouse is enough to really destroy a wine.”

Of course it can especially when Feiring has referred to the effect as “puppy breath” or “dog halitosis.”

Why and how does this happen?

The preservative sulfur reduces mouse in wine. Even though wine producers fully understand that, they choose not to include the sulfur necessary to eliminate mouse for fear it will cut into the overall quality.

More consumers want natural wine that is made without adding or removing anything in the cellarNo additives or processing aids are used. Realizing this, manufacturers bottle their product faster. But in so doing the chances of mouse increase rather than if they had waited another six to 12 months to market.

The result? Wine that can all kinds of undesirable flavors: Cashews, peanut butter, rising bread dough, cereal milk, or even a cage full of mice.

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Alex Pomerantz is winemaker at Subject to Change Wine Co. in Forestville, CA. He told the SF Chronicle:

“Of course, most people have never actually tasted a mouse, but when it’s really bad it actually does kind of feel like there’s a jittery little weird mouse in my mouth.”

Problems:

  • There’s  a 1 in 3 chance you won’t even notice it.
  • Lately the problem seems to be on the rise.

One expert told the SF Chronicle consumers need to serve and drink wine that could be mousy, fast.

Or do as I do. Skip the wine and grab the brandy bottle.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

Bugs, rodent hair and poop: How much is legally allowed in the food you eat every day?

Vegan School Lunches Expand Despite Opposition From Meat Industry

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Artificial Sweeteners

The McRib: OVER-RATED

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #625

Culinary no-no #625

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

This week’s blog is about Bacchus, one the most superb restaurants in not only the Milwaukee area, but the state. Bacchus just re-opened after a recent renovation.

I love Bacchus. Always, always, always an impeccable experience.

Uh, Kev. Excuse me. If that’s the case, how can Bacchus possibly be your selection this week?

Good question. Stay with me and follow along. First, the backstory.

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That’s the original Boulevard Inn that opened in 1946 at Sherman Boulevard and Lisbon on Milwaukee’s north side just across from Washington Park. That bronze statue is Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the Prussian hero of the American Revolutionary War.

Albert and Marie Gaulke gutted what was already a restaurant and transformed it into an elegant place with white linen tablecloths and a pianist who performed regularly. The menu: sauerbraten, wienerschnitzel, rouladen, goulash, roast duckling and steaks and lobster, chopped chicken liver pate, and shrimp cocktail.

Then in 1992…

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An arsonist destroyed the building. So Gaulke family members moved to Cudahy Tower at the very east end of Wells Street near downtown Milwaukee.

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The new Boulevard Inn closed in 2003. The Bartolotta Restuarnat Group took it and re-named the place after the god of agriculture and wine and the son of Zeus.

Bacchus has great food, always elegantly presented. Some examples.

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Wild Mushroom Soup served over a bed of porcini mushrooms, a smoked Gouda beignet and a truffle vinaigrette.

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Smoked Beef Carpaccio featuring Pleasant Ridge reserve, mustard greens, fried capers, and horseradish vinaigrette.

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Soft shell crabs  served with Napa cabbage slaw, honey mustard chili glaze.

 

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Roasted Duck Breast. Duck fat potato pavé, sautéed morels, blueberry-infused duck sauce.

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Beer battered grouper cheeks, with root vegetable slaw and a potato pancake.

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Strauss veal medallion, acorn squash purée, Madeira mushroom sauce.

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 Eclair garnished with coffee, passion fruit and vanilla.

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Key Lime Tart served with toasted coconut, lime meringue and graham crumble.

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Dessert served last October when some Milwaukee Brewers executives paid a visit.

Consistently rated as one of Milwaukee’s top restaurants. A terrific special occasion spot or date night destination, Jennifer and I dined there often when we were courting.

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As mentioned, Bacchus has been re-designed.

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The ceiling is gone from the main dining room.

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The conservatory got a new floor featuring bright tiles.

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The bar has been completely stripped of wallpapering, flooring, and other fixtures.

So why this week’s no-no designation?

This clearly is not one of the most egregious no-no blogs. Understandably owners customarily upgrade their restaurants. Before he died Joe Bartolotta was making renovation plans with his family. The so-called “dark” interior would be brightened. Some decor was removed and replaced.

I thought Bacchus looked great and I never considered it to be too dark. If someone had suggested to me a few months ago Bacchus needed an architectural overhaul, my immediate response would have been, ‘why’?

OnMilwaukee.com Senior Writer Lori Fredrich has a thorough article on what she calls a “renaissance” at Bacchus with a “worthy refresh” that’s “vibrant.”

The new look isn’t really what grabbed my attention. Fredrich writes there are “bold new flavors.” Bold as in charred Spanish octopus with  hummus, preserved lemon and fried chickpeas along with Calabrian chilies.

My concern if you will is that Bacchus doesn’t get too bold, or dare I say it, too weird.

Executive Chef Nicholas Wirth told OnMilwaukee.com “And my goal with each dish is to begin with great tasting ingredients. I don’t want to overcomplicate them.”

Hmm.

TAGLIATELLE PASTA 

Braised rabbit ragout, roasted pearl onions, wild mushrooms, Parmesan cheese

BEET SALAD

Smoked goat cheese, spiced sunflower seeds, apple cider vinaigrette

YELLOWTAIL KINGFISH

Avocado purée, marinated bok choy, jasmine rice cake, sweet soy glaze

SEA SCALLOPS

Acorn squash purée, Romanesco, cauliflower, pork belly lardons, white wine butter sauce

CRISPY JASMINE RICE

Avocado purée, baby bok choy kimchi, sweet soy glaze

GRILLED MARINATED TOFU

Sautéed spinach, butternut squash, candied cranberries, vegetable demi-glace

And where’s the beef?

Bacchus’ main, non-vegetarian menu has seven items to choose from.  Three are seafood (with Bartolotta’s Harbor House a hop, skip and a jump away). The others are a flat iron steak, venison, duck, and a Chateaubriand for two.

I’ve confessed on my blog that I’m not fussy. But there are many occasions when a chef can go too far.

Can’t wait to visit Bacchus sometime, but it’ll be tough since our mini-foodie, 10-year old Kyla has zero options.

I wish Bacchus well. Just please don’t enter the culinary Twilight Zone.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

Shamed in the Lunch Line

Flight Attendant Says You Shouldn’t Drink Coffee on Planes

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #624

 

 

Culinary no-no #624

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

We recently remembered.

Yes, there’ a food tie-in.

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Ledo Pizza began near The University of Maryland in 1955  and has grown from that first restaurant to over one hundred locations throughout Maryland, D.C., Virginia, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Florida.

I’ll bet it’s pretty doggone tasty.

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From their Facebook page:

A critical role that Ledo Pizza takes pride in is giving back to the community through local fundraisers and charitable events. Through giving back to the communities by holding fundraisers at various locations for schools, sports teams, and local hospitals Ledo Pizza gives time and donations that can make a difference.

Sounds like they’re wonderful business people. But what’s that saying about good intentions?

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Ledo uses the above picture on social media throughout the year to promote patriotism and did so again this month.

 

You can guess the reaction.

I would imagine losing your job as a social media manager for a pizza company because you posted a flag pizza to commemorate one of America’s worst tragedies will be pretty hard to forget, yes.

Never forgot the time you used 9/11 to promote your pizza

Ledo apologized, not once, but three times.

Our Twitter post was never intended to diminish the gravity of September 11th and has since been removed.

Again, if you are familiar with Ledo Pizza, you know that we would never intentionally do anything to dishonor our flag and we hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive us for this misstep.

I’m sure Ledo meant no harm. But they probably should have known better.

Manufacturers need to be smart and sensitive. Campbell Soup had to apologize for this 2013 Pearl Harbor Day tweet.

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“You don’t want to be seen as making money off this (9-11). The strategy might be to remain silent. It avoids things like risk and getting it wrong,” said Jennifer Grygiel, assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University.

“The watchword should be respect,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys, a New York-based brand research consultancy. “The watchword should be care—both of your brand and of the moment. Because although there are consumers now who weren’t there at the time, this is a moment in our history that isn’t going away. Brands had better learn how to deal with it well, or consumers will make them pay for it.”

Back to Ledo. After deleting their post they reconsidered and put the flag pizza back up, to the delight of their followers.

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Thank you for reposting this. It is nothing but respectful.

What a wonderful looking flag and pizza. United We Stand, divided we fall.

Why would you apologize for making that pizza on your Twitter account. You are an American company showing respect to 9/11.. God bless this country.

I saw your apology on Twitter, but you didn’t need to apologize. Love Ledo AND America! Thank you for honoring 9/11.

Love this Ledo. Oklahoma knows the spirit intended in the presentation of this pie. The great American melting pot of people, cultures and (of course) great food is represented here. This is a most appropriate expression of respect from a NewYork Pizzaria. Ya done good guys. Thank you.

Never be afraid to be a proud American!

If this offends anybody, the problem is theirs, not yours.

Never apologize again. Please. Don’t give in to those people or that mentality. There was nothing offensive about the ad or its intent. You have a great company, and outstanding pizza!

Thanks for not caving.

No difference between this and the flag cake I make with blueberry stars and strawberry stripes on a white whipped cream background

My call: Ledo could and should have used better judgment, but the Twitter Universe completely over-reacted.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

NASA Spawns Drones that Deliver Defibrillators and Pizzas

‘Okra is the most foul thing ever grown’: chefs on their most hated ingredients

Wine? A no-no?

Why food critics go too far

And ICYMI, Culinary no-no #623

 

 

 

Culinary no-no #623

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

It’s so easy to pick on McDonald’s. Sometimes they invite the criticisms.

A friend of mine was recently at a Milwaukee McDonald’s with his wife and was informed the day is coming when, with rare exceptions, customers will have to use kiosks to order their meals.

It’s true. When 2020 rolls around self-service ordering kiosks will be installed and implemented at all U.S. McDonald’s locations.

How will they work? Let’s take a look.

Well that looked easy and simple. How about a different order?

So bye-bye human interaction and smiling face. Hello big lit-up touch screens.

When my friend was at McDonald’s the worker he encountered said the news is spreading and patrons are less than pleased. They’re angry and upset. Some yell. Some even shout out obscenities (including the older folks).

I tried this experiment just one time. I got nowhere. The kiosk wasn’t functioning at all.

Can you imagine during busy times the long lines? And what if the machines inevitably break down?

Driving this concept is the demand by fast food workers for a $15 minimum wage that McDonald’s execs have said they probably won’t fight. That will add costs so the company will have to cut workers. Thus kiosks will take your order and someone will bring it to you when your number is called. The minimum wage issue will backfire on employees who protest for increases.

Here’s another perspective and it’s compelling.

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See the gentleman on the right? That’s Ed Rensi.

“I am the retired president and CEO of McDonald’s USA, where I spent nearly my entire professional career. I started as a grill cook in Columbus, Ohio in 1966 and went on to hold nearly every position in the restaurant and field offices before being named president in 1984 and CEO in 1991. In my tenure at McDonald’s I spearheaded the enhancement of the breakfast menu and drive thru concept as well as the development of Chicken McNuggets, McRib sandwich, Extra Value Meal, and Ronald McDonald House. As president, McDonald’s sales and number of U.S. restaurants roughly doubled.”

Rensi is a bit worried.

“My concern about this is personal. Without my opportunity to start as a grill man, I would have never ended up running one of largest fast food chains in the world. I started working at McDonald’s making the minimum wage of 85 cents an hour. I worked hard and earned a promotion to restaurant manager within just one year, then went on to hold almost every position available throughout the company, eventually rising to CEO of McDonalds USA.

“The kind of job that allowed me and many others to rise through the ranks is now being threatened by a rising minimum wage that’s pricing jobs out of the market. Without sacrificing food quality or taste, or abandoning the much-loved value menu, franchise owners must keep labor costs under control. One way to combat rising labor costs is by reducing the amount of employees needed.”

Rensi wrote a column about this on Forbes.

Don’t care to work with the McDonald’s? You can just go somewhere else, right? Wrong. There’s a likelihood that other chains will follow suit.

I get that this is 2019 and improved technology can be beneficial. I also get the kiosks will cause heartburn for many consumers.

My suggestion? Hit the drive-thru and pray they get your order right.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

Enough is enough! For the respect of food, we need to draw the line with pumpkin spice

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are heating up the runway

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #622

Culinary no-no #622

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

Brunch. Buffets.

Some folks are such big fans they make this excursion a weekly, yes weekly ritual.

One of the best is here.

The Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The restaurant’s name is simply…

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Not everyone is enamored with the all-you-can eat concept. I recently stumbled onto a list of items you should ignore at the buffet table including breads, sushi, and fresh fruit.

And the insights of chefs are quite interesting. They offer buffet options you should definitely skip. See what you think.

DONUTS

Unhealthy

SCRAMBLED EGGS

What if they’re not cooked right?

EGGS BENEDICT

Many chefs don’t know how to prepare

FRENCH TOAST

Inconsistent

STEAK AND EGGS

Jawbreakers

CANADIAN BACON

Too old?

MULTI-INGREDIENT DISHES

Glorified leftovers

For more detailed explanations from the chefs read this.

ALSO, found on reddit.com:

I’m An owner operator for a large independent (non-Chinese) all you can eat concept in the US. Ask me anything, from how the business works, stories that may or may not be true…

What is one item you would advise people to stay away from at an all you can eat buffet?

Crab legs. I’m being serious. I have seen Chinese buffets at the fish market going and buying bottom of the barrel seafood including crab legs past their prime. And then they don’t steam them properly either to save on volume.

The sushi on the other hand, a common misconception, is relatively safe to eat IN A BUSY PLACE, as the health code standards in the region of raw food is very strict, and you cannot skimp out on prices of salmon and tuna fillet.

What is the largest amount of food you have seen/heard about someone eating at one sitting?

Personally I had seen one man pile 9 plates of Chinese food (mostly cheap noodles and chicken). When they eat by themselves, I think they eat a lot more. When they are with friends, the social pressure keeps them from gorging too much. My waiters had said a larger number, but they might be overestimating. No one can really eat more than 2 pounds.

The oysters always sketched me out.

Oysters are also to be avoided as they source them, especially in the midwest, from groceries and fisheries past their prime. Sometimes on the coasts they are imported from China and South America, but are decent quality while they are fresh.

How do you feel about patrons who dine-in and then ask to take a box home?

For the customers who want to take their food home, it’s usually a small amount left on their plate and they just want to limit wastage. In most cases they ask to pay for the box themselves, but we let it go if it’s a small quantity, as it will be wasted anyway.

If people constantly get multiple plates of the most expensive foods, do you lose money?

Yes, but only a small amount. You see, not many people can eat 1 1/2 day’s worth of protein or seafood in one sitting.

Fortunately that does not happen often, but when it does, we lost at most the price of the buffet. They will not cover the cost of labor, rent, and utilities, but I’m pretty sure no one will pack several pounds of heavy-protein food, so it’s less than the buffet price. They also bring their friends along, so if there is one glutton in the group, they convince the rest of them to go to our place, while we make money on the glutton’s friends.

Why do the deserts always look so delicious but taste like stale cardboard covered in colored sugar?

That’s what they are. They all come from the same factory in one of the major cities for Chinese immigrants in the US. The ingredients used are not half bad, but they lack preservatives to help it taste fresh. Some customers do say they get hard after some time on the trays. But I doubt these factories hire any food scientist to prevent them from turning into cardboard.

The deserts are full of sand. Of course they’re going to taste awful.

Deserts vs Desserts – the easy way to remember the difference: Dessert is so good, you want to go back for seconds (hence, two ‘s’ letters). No one wants to go back to the desert.

There’s a buffet near me that charges people for any food left on their plate. What do you think about that kind of policy? Do you think it’s sensible, or risks driving customers away? Is wasted food a serious enough problem to necessitate such strict measures?

I would imagine if we implemented that policy we would lose some of our new customers. In practice, it is sensible, as running this place is very low margin, and any food wasted lowers that. But driving customers away ultimately results in fewer customers, which is more devastating than a bit more wastage.

I guess there are all types of people out there.. but whenever I don’t eat something at a buffet it’s because I tried it and it’s disgusting.

What is the exact number of shrimp that you would cut someone off at ?

Depends, what size. I have the ability to buy shrimps from 200 to a pound size to jumbo 4 ounce shrimps.

But really, we just would change out the type of shrimp for another type of shrimp with a different sauce/cooking method. The customer won’t come again, but if they are losing us money, we cannot let them take advantage of us. They are already getting their meal at a fraction of a la carte price, but the abuse cannot happen, as it is unsustainable. Before you know it we have to raise prices because of a group of people who become too greedy and just want to make us lose the most.

Why are you always running out of chicken wings?

Chicken wings are hard to make in a busy kitchen. Each wing has to be spun and dipped by hand in sauce, which increases time. Chicken wings also come in smaller cases from restaurant wholesalers now for some reason, and the price increased.

  1. Do you ever have to ban someone from returning because they ate too much or wasted too much food?
  2. How profitable are buffets in general?
  3. How long does it take to prep and cook everything before the store opens?
  4. With so much food, are roaches and rodents a problem? How do you keep it under control?
  5. Are sushi made from a factory? Or made in-house? The’re usually pretty bland.
  1. Wasted: No. If they are kids their parents control them.
  2. Very low margins, but good if high volume. Low labor cost. Food cost is slightly higher.
  3. 2-3 hours before we open is how long it takes, with a complete team. Most prep work is done the night before, so it isn’t that unreasonable.
  4. We never had roaches or rodents in our place, so I cannot vouch for that. Probably because of a newer building. A decent pest control should always prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. Food is sorted and rotated frequently, and never on floors. From a business perceptive, keeping this standard is great as it lowers wastage.
  5. Sushi are not made from a factory. They are made in house, but not from the finest fisheries or filling. They are made with pretty safe treated fish, but we have to tone down the flavor since it’s a wide crowd we are appealing to.

What do you do with the food which is left after end of service? Serve it up again the next day? Have always wanted to know about how such places do with the large quantities of food left after a days end.

Half of the stuff at the end of the day is reprocessed much like other restaurants, even MCD and Panera Bread. You can turn so much stuff into soup, and will still taste fresh. We mark all our food to make sure that the day old soup, while it would normally last 2 days with fresh ingredients, we would only put out for a day. In almost all cases, the food is eaten and turned over within the next 12 hours by the morning. Stuff like fried food however and mushrooms, have to be thrown away.

I worked at Panera for several years and nothing we served was reprocessed. Of course whatever was unused on the line that had a specific expiration date wouldn’t be thrown out until that date, but any pre-made paninis, pastries, souffles, etc. were either donated, taken home by employees, or thrown out.

Do you have to deal with lower tip percentages based on being a buffet? Ive heard people over the years complain about tipping at buffets because they get up and get their own meal.

Our waiters deal with that, but it turns out to be okay most of the time, as $1pp is on the low end. 1 can handle 10+ tables easy

I hated my short time working in the food industry. So many people were demanding, wanted everything for free, and overall just nasty and gross. I always thought the buffett crowd would be extra bad. What is the buffett crowd really like to deal with? Extra points if you throw in your worst and best customer experience in the reply 🙂

Some customers will bitch at you and purposely spoil the food in order to get their food for free. Some customers leave out their food at their table for 10 minutes and say it is cold, AFTER THEIR MEAL, and demanding it should be free.

The worst experience was when a customer wanted a take out box from the buffet, which was by weight. He got two huge boxes, and the bill turned out to be higher than the price of the buffet. He argued and started yelling in the whole restaurant that it was a rip off that he took 5 pounds of food (verified on the scale) and should pay more than the buffet price. He said that he could eat more than the amount in the boxes, but it was 5 POUNDS of food! After arguing and initially lowering the price a bit, he threw a fit and wanted the whole 5 pounds of food for free. Regardless, we have a price policy in place, but some just don’t want to pay it. If you are going to take your food home, we cannot charge you the buffet price. This was well known before even walking in. Not to throw a fit and bother other customers.

Did a client ever abused a lot of the system?

Unfortunately, quite often. Food cost is not that low, and plenty of people stack their plates and end up wasting it all. Fortunately, most of the time, the food wasted is of low value. The people who take the expensive stuff like seafood and meat actually eat most of it. Big eyes, but small stomach.

how many fat people do you clock in one day?

I would say about 30% of our customers are obese, surprising enough that is around the same percentage as the general population in the area. Maybe we don’t put enough fat in our food to attract them?

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

Study Demonstrates Why Phone Etiquette Is Still Important for Pizzerias

Pizza candy canes

Um, You Can Buy Brussels Sprouts Gin Now?

And ICYMI, Culinary no-no #621

 

Culinary no-no #621

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

We open with some fast food porn.

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Culver’s is an amazing success story. The Culver Franchising System Inc., is based in Prairie du Sac, WI. Culver’s restaurants are among the hottest franchises in the country with close to 700 restaurants in 25 states.

Craig Culver opened the first Culver’s in 1984 that combined butter burgers and fresh frozen custard.

A few days ago Food and Wine listed Culver’s as the best fast food in the state of Wisconsin. It’s hard to disagree.

Earlier this year Culver’s was rated the third best quick-service chain by Restaurant Business, getting high marks for its ambience, food and convenience.

The unhealthiness of fast food is not a news bulletin. This infographic by Healthline illustrates 13 effects of eating highly processed, unhealthy food on the human body.

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But what’s this?

Could this blaring headline possibly be true?

Fast food can be healthy

Who said that? Craig Culver? The CEO of McDonald’s? A cook at Taco Bell?

Negative.

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Researchers at Harvard University.

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That’s Kelsey Vercammen, a PhD student at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health in Boston and the lead author of the study, “Calorie and Nutrient Profile of Combination Meals at U.S. Fast Food and Fast Casual Restaurants.” She and six other researchers collaborated on the study that just came out in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Here’s what they did. In 2017 and 2018, Vercammen and her team took online menus from 34 U.S. fast food and fast casual restaurants to identify combination meal options. At their disposal was nutrition information for each item.

The researchers analyzed three options for each meal: the default option, as advertised on the menu, and two versions of the meal with substitutions (a low-calorie, or minimum option, and a high-calorie, or maximum option).

The Rand Corporation claims the United States is in the throes of an unprecedented epidemic of obesity, fueled in part by consumption of food away from home. Rand cites healthier restaurant and meal guidelines that suggest an adult meal should contain no more than 700 calories, with less than 10%, or less than 70, of those calories coming from saturated fat and less than 35%, or less than 245 calories, from sugars. The average combination meal, in its default form, contained 1,193 calories, with 14 grams of saturated fat (126 calories) and 68 grams of sugar (272 calories),

The guidelines say an adult meal should contain no more than 770 milligrams of sodium, but the study’s authors found the average default option contained 2,110 milligrams.

Keep in mind it took seven researchers at Harvard no less a significant amount of time to come up with their conclusion, that fast food can be healthy. Any idea where this is headed? Of course the Harvard team is correct. Actually the key word isn’t “healthy.” A better word is “healthier.”

An optimistic Vercammen said, “We were surprised at just how much realistic customer modifications can change the nutrient profile of a meal.”|

Note the word “modifications.” That would mean:

Substituting a sugar-free beverage for a sugary drink.

Substituting plain water for a sugary drink.

Removing toppings from entrées.

Removing  dipping sauces from entrées.

Vercammen maintains these “modifications” would substantially change the calorie and nutrient content of a fast food meal.

And it took some Harvard brainiacs over a two year period to come up with this?

So, using Culver’s as an example, I am supposed to:

Request that no butter be placed on my butter burger.

No cheese on the burger.

No mustard, no ketchup, no bacon, nothing.

Just a plain old naked burger.

No ketchup on my fries.

No BBQ or ranch sauce for chicken strips for nuggets.

Same for the cheese curds.

Oh, and no soda. I’ll just have water.

Remember Vercammen said “realistic”  modifications would make a difference. Sorry, young lady, but as for me these would not be “realistic.”

No no.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

Unhappy meals: Study says fast food could make teenagers depressed

Diet advice changes by the minute. How are we supposed to figure out what to eat?

Half-empty boxes of Milk Duds, underfilled Halo Top: people keep suing over “slack fill” in food

ICYMI: Culinary no-no #620

 

Culinary no-no #620

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

After posting some Culinary “FLASHBACKS” the past few Sundays (busy, busy summer) we return with an original feature this week.

For the longest time I’ve always been attracted to news items that publish rankings or listings for certain categories. A particular Culinary favorite of mine came in 2008 when I simply couldn’t resist exploring some headlines that proclaimed “the perfect burger” and “the burger that will change your life.”  No choice, I just had to read with my full compliments to the creative headline writers.

I’ll tie that in shortly. This week’s blog was inspired by an article I saw not too long ago on the website that tells readers to EAT THIS, NOT THAT!  They state:

Whether you’re in the frozen food aisle, the fast-food drive-thru, the local Olive Garden, or even your own kitchen, you’re faced with dozens of food choices every single day. Which ones will help you look and feel fit and trim—and which are loaded with hidden calories, fats, and other nasty stuff? You’ll never know—unless you have EAT THIS, NOT THAT!

For example:

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Admittedly I always seem to prefer wanting to try the NOT THIS selection. Counting calories is not high on my priority list.

When the website promoted that it would outline the best slice of pizza in every state, like Pavlov’s Dog, I was hooked.

Granted, such an endeavor is an easy target for abuse and skepticism. Surely that’s to be understood. One other website I found reported that there are more than 16 billion combinations of pizza toppings, so who’s to say which is the best. Still I had to find out what is considered the utmost in each state, at least according to this one source.

For Wisconsin the website chose this location.

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You’ll find Novanta in Madison. Six years ago the Wisconsin State Journal wrote in a  review, “Novanta, turns out pizzas that are as good or better than the rest, and best of all, its pizzas don’t skimp on the cheese and other ingredients the way so many authentic Neapolitan pies do. Customers order at a counter from sincere, friendly and helpful employees…The name ‘Novanta’ is 90 in Italian, and refers to the 90 seconds it takes to cook the pizzas in a gorgeously tiled wood-burning oven behind the counter.”

On the restaurant’s Facebook page I discovered this beauty of a pie.

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Slow cooked pork shoulder, balsamic caramelized onions, dijon mustard, and fontina cheese make up The Pizza Porchetta. I’m intrigued, especially since I also just read that pork shoulder is the new steak.

But this is the photo of a Novanta pizza EAT THIS, NOT THAT selected to highlight in their alphabetical compilation of the best pizza shops in every state.

Slide 50 of 51: “I decided to order the Pesto Pizza. It was the perfect size for one person, and most important, it was flavorful and delicious,” said one reviewer on Yelp. Another shared that they appreciated how the pesto sauce wasn’t too oily or loaded with basil.

Of course that’s a pesto pizza.  Two red flags immediately go up for me. One, where’s the meat, and two, since there are billions of ways to order a pizza, no way in Hell I’m deciding on anything green, especially that green. Oh, I’ll bet there are hordes who think that pesto pizza would be scrumptious. I find the photo totally unappetizing.

What was the methodology  you might be wondering. Let’s go to EAT THIS, NOT THAT.

To find out which pizza shops were tops across America, we tapped our friends at Yelp who gladly supplied the data on the best pizza shop in every state. To come to these findings, Yelp sorted through its “Pizza” category and strategically chose the best spot using an algorithm that takes into account both the number of reviews and star rating for each business. We then hand-picked what we thought was the best slice of pizza at each restaurant based off of reviews from Yelp.

I contend the pesto pizza photo wasn’t the best to highlight Novanta, and I’d go so far as to suggest Novanta had no part in the decision to post the pesto or any other pizza. Again, that photo could be a turnoff, doing more harm than good. Relying on Yelp to make these 50 determinations is dubious since Yelp is such an unreliable source to begin with. Not exactly trustworthy.

Now, if I was the proprietor of a pizza establishment that was about to receive national attention I’d want as much food porn utilized as possible.

 

In this case, that means the most mouth-watering, drool-inspiring pizza on my menu.

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Marty’s in Brookfield.

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Zaffiro’s in Milwaukee.

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Infusino’s in Kenosha

And I could go on and on, BUT THOSE ARE PIZZAS AND ARE PIZZAS THE WAY THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE AND LOOK!

Major point we all can agree on. Pizza is one of the most subjective topics of discussion on the planet. But pizza, like any other food, has boundaries you just shouldn’t cross, as evidenced by the ridiculous summary of pizza places from EAT THIS, NOT THAT.

“Why get a steak sandwich when you can get strips of meat and crumbles of fresh goat cheese topped on a pizza pie?” they write.

Are they serious?

Not even close.

It’s like putting Pee Wee Herman in the ring with Mike Tyson.

Look, Illinois is a God-forsaken place, but they have good pizza. Not by the photo I saw.

And if I never get to Newport, Rhode Island, that’s perfectly OK. Not on my bucket list. Even if they put a superfood (YUCK) on their pizzas.

Here’s the list. Plenty of good, but also bad stuff.

Pizza. Why must we mess?

Bottom line: When someone suggests someone or something is the very best, more often than not, it is darn near impossible to back up such a claim.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

You’d be a fool to try to re-heat pizza, wouldn’t you?

Mushroom coffee?

Bernie Sanders ice cream

ICYMI…

Culinary no-no #619