Spot of Tea: Twinings Jasmine Green Tea

I also love Twinings Jasmine Green Tea. I buy it locally for considerably less than $3.99.

From the Cookie Aisle: New Pepperidge Farm Milano Melts

I'm suspicious of the packaging--at least what I can see in the photo. Am I wrong in surmising that the "creme" does not contain real chocolate?

Recap: Top Chef All-Stars, Episode 15, Last Supper

I'm with mamiejane. I'm sick to death of those gimmicky challenges. If I wanted to see a chef prepare a meal while s/he is hanging upside down from a chandelier, I'd go to the circus. I want to watch talented chefs create their most brilliant cuisine, period. Bravo may as well hand Top Chef over to Penn & Teller and call it a day.

10 of Our Favorite Pancakes in America

@mwheeler: Just read your comment. Could that be Joe's Diner in Lee?

Champagne for Valentine's Day

Nothing compares to good Champagne. I can't tolerate Prosecco; to me, it tastes like wannabe. If I can't afford a full bottle of the real thing (and most of the time I can't), I'll take respectable bottle of non-sparking wine, but none of that stuff with the gas pumped into it.

Seriously Delicious Holiday Giveaway: Charles Chocolates' Edible Chocolate Holiday Box

Chocolate mousse.

Weekend Giveaway: California Wine Club Membership

Alsatian Gewurztraminer.

That's Nuts: Torrone, the Italian Nougat Confection

Love, love, love Torrone. Nothing compares. I've been known to order it from various importers when I need my fix. Anyone have a favorite importer?

Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

@PrettyNicola: Note that he qualifies #100 with "...or something else management approves." I wouldn't say he's talking about comping. A glass of port or a plate of biscotti to show appreciation to a good table is, for the restaurant, a sound investment.

Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

@PrettyNicola: Thanks. Good idea.

I applaud all of these. But this one made me downright giddy:

97. If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.


Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

Oh, dear. Sorry.

Serious Chocolate: Understanding Necco Wafers

I regularly eat whole packages of Neccos. I just love them. It has to be a childhood thing, since I'm quite sure that if I were introduced to them now, I'd never understand why anyone would eat them.

Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

Mario Batali's Jarred Pasta Sauces

Ya know, I've not tried any of his pasta sauces, and I'm usually loathe to try celebrity-endorsed (or -launched) products. But I love my Mario Batali vegetable peeler.

Popcorn: Do You Err on the Side of Unpopped or Burnt?

Add me to the "weird" list. I like mine slightly burnt. I haven't a clue where I developed that peccadillo, as I can't tolerate any other food that's overcooked.

Cook the Book: '100 Best Vegetarian Recipes'

Avocado and brie with ripe tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts on crusty whole grain bread. Fabulous sandwich.

Quinoa catastrophe!

Good to know that I may not need to bother with rinsing. Next time I buy quinoa from my local store, I will ask them if the stuff they sell in bulk is pre-rinsed.

@bareneed: something was wrong with the quinoa you prepared. There is absolutely no aftertaste with rinsed quinoa, I promise you.

Quinoa catastrophe!

Sorry, gastronomeg, I didn't notice you made that recommendation until now. Kudos to you as well.

I purchased the quinoa at my local organic food store, where they sell it in bulk But it's not at all difficult to find.

Quinoa catastrophe!

Misterhee, you saved the day. Grazie mille. I often forget that cooking and baking require science as well as art.

Gastronomeg, the quinoa has a lovely nutty taste with a very pleasant little crunch. I was going to prepare it for breakfast, with chopped dates, raisins, and almonds, but I got too hungry and grabbed some oatmeal. I will probably have it tonight, topped with some stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms, and onions.

Quinoa catastrophe!

Thanks, misterhee, I'll try heating the pot. I'll report back!

Quinoa catastrophe!

Glad to be of service, gastronomeg! The pot is no longer hot, but I already tried prying the lid off with a fork, several different knives, and a screwdriver. Really. It's as if the thing were superglued.

What to give a new freshman at the University of Chicago?

Wow. More great ideas. chgoeditor and bobcatsteph3, thanks for reminding me what life is like for college freshmen and the importance of care packages when you're away from home for the first time. And chgoeditor, big thumbs up for the information on the CTA. You've all give me much food for thought.

What to give a new freshman at the University of Chicago?

Thanks for some really good ideas, Serious Eaters! (I think I'd take a pass on the beer money, misterhee, even if the U of C were a party school.)

Serious Grape: Gewürztraminer, the Spicy White Wine with the Difficult Name

I've yet to find a Gewürztraminer as complex and delicious as those from Alsace.

Coffee with Something Added: Way or No Way?

No way! Been drinking it black since I was a kid. There was a time when I enjoyed iced coffee in the summertime, but for some reason I can't stand the stuff now. Hot black coffee--definitely my drug of choice.

Quinoa catastrophe!

This morning I made my first attempt at cooking quinoa. I followed a standard recipe, first soaking a cup of quinoa for about half an hour, then rinsing and draining a couple of times through a sieve. I returned the quinoa to my trusty old Revereware saucepan, added a cup and a half of cold water and a dash of salt, brought it to a boil, then lowered the heat and covered the pan. It simmered for 20 minutes, then, as the recipe dictated, I removed it from the heat and let it sit for five minutes with the lid on.

To my astonishment, the lid would not budge from the pan. It had come off easily when I checked it before the five-minute resting period, but now, no amount of tugging, banging, running water, or even attempts to pry the lid off with a screwdriver would move the thing.

I'm not an inexperienced cook (except, obviously, when it comes to quinoa), but I've never in my life seen anything like this. Can anyone explain why this happened, and advise me how to safely remove the &^*#!#@* lid from my pot?

Whom do you trust?

I've tried more than a few restaurants, locally and globally, that bore little resemblance to the gushing reviews that led me to them. Now, the phony Wine Spectator awards revelation (see Adam's post) makes me even more cynical. What critics or publications do you trust (or not)?

Candy Exchange?

What's the story with Kandy X-Change? Apparently through this site, members swap candy internationally. Do you know this site, or any others where members exchange edibles?

Amish Friendship Bread?

Today the local paper features an article about Amish Friendship Bread. If you compliment the baker after sampling this stuff, s/he is obliged to gift you with a bagful of starter that requires 10 days of labor-intensive cultivation, along with stern instructions to pass along three portions of starter after you've baked your bread. For me, that would put the end back in friendship...but maybe that's just me. Have any of you encountered this wacky ritual?

Five ripe pears. Now what?

In my refrigerator are five very large ripe pears, part of a holiday gift I received. I probably won't eat them. I'm the only human in the household, and I won't be home much over the next few days. What I'd like to do is use them in a recipe I can bake and then freeze. Any ideas?

Server scandal

Here in the glorious Berkshires, a headline-grabbing lawsuit caught many by surprise. A group of servers have brought action against Canyon Ranch, the super-pricey holistic spa, claiming that management has been pocketing their gratuities. Canyon Ranch has long had great PR up here as a good, community-friendly neighbor. From what I understand, the servers' claims may well be justified.

Within a day or so the employees of the Cranwell Resort (neither as posh nor as large as Canyon Ranch, but they do a good business hosting conferences and weddings) following to speak.

Any thoughts?

Do you belong to a food co-op?

Soon I'll be single again (yay!), and I'm so ready to do all those things I yearned to do but he didn't. However, I will be moving (with a couple of four-legged friends) into a small house, I don't have children, I live in a rural area, and I will have a limited budget. Does it make sense for me to join a food co-op?

Are alfalfa sprouts still verboten?

Years ago we were strongly advised against eating packaged alfalfa sprouts because of the stratospheric numbers of bacteria found in them. At the time I lived in NYC; I remember the stuff disappearing from the shelves. Now I live in the mountains, about 200 miles north. I hesitated to buy a container recently, when I suddenly realized I've been eating alfalfa sprouts in local restaurants for almost a decade. Comments?

Remember the Nut Lady?

One great thing about watching Johnny Carson: The food collectors. I have such fond memories of the Potato Chip Lady and the Nut Lady.

I got to thinking of "Nut Lady" Elizabeth Tashjian after reading a comic strip (Zippy the Pinhead) this morning. Did a bit of research, and I'm sorry to report that the founder of the Nut Museum in Old Lyme, CT died just this past January.

But you can still listen to Ms. Tashjian's rendition of her song, "Nuts Are Beautiful"

...and you can read more about her here

Quesadilla dilemma!

I'd heard the Salton Santa Fe Quesadilla Maker was a snap to use, and I couldn't wait to play with my new toy. But after three soggy failures, each leaving a yucky mess in its wake, I banished it to the back of the counter.

Anybody have one of these? Any advice?

"I'd hate to take a bite out of you...'re a cookie full of arsenic." J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) to Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) in the 1957 film "Sweet Smell of Success." Killer line, in a movie full of them. Anybody have other food metaphors (or references) from the Silver Screen?


One of my most glorious meals ever, ever was the feast I had in Amsterdam in the '80s. I invited a woman from my hotel to join me. The fabulous rijstaffel turned out to be so much more than dinner. Even the acquaintance who joined me, this pleasant woman from my hotel with whom I'd nothing in common except gender (I was a 30ish arty NY type recovering from an affair; she, a 40ish blonde Southern CA babe recovering from an eye job), evolved into a boon companion. That long narrow table, the big bowls of rice surrounded by the myriad of little bowls bearing vegetables hot and sweet, beef satay, peanuts, and more....and gales of laughter, and lovely bottles of Heineken. (I'd never much cared for beer before.)

A friend found a little Indonesian place in the Turtle Bay area (on either 2nd or 3rd Ave. in the East 40s) shortly after I returned home, but the ambience was lousy, and the food just wasn't up to snuff. Does anybody know of an Indonesian restaurant in NY? In the US?

Has anybody made rijstaffel at home?

What can I get ya?

You've finally scored a seat at the counter of an unfamiliar coffee shop. You have maybe 20 minutes to grab lunch. The joint is jumping, and the frazzled server has neither the time nor the inclination to chat. What do you order?

Freezing soup

(Sorry--I didn't understand I needed to add comments.) I love to create big pots of soup for winter meals. But I've yet to understand why some freeze beautifully, while the flavors, textures, and consistancies of others are pretty much destroyed by freezing.

Most of the soups I make in large quantities are vegetarian and uncomplicated. Ingredients can include lentils, beans, or peas; a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables; various herbs and get the picture. Any thoughts? Rules of thumb?

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