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mongoose

Have any of you cooked with tobacco?

@Babsie: My question was, 'Have any of you experimented with tobacco as a flavouring ingredient, and if so, what were your experiences?'

To get cancer, you need two things: genetic predisposition, and repeated exposure.

You need to quite a bit of tobacco for it to have an emetic effect.

My boyfriend's family are all grownups, all were aware of the presence of tobacco; none chose to sue me.

Before using the tobacco, I researched it
( cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/monographs/9/m9_3.PDF ); this is the intelligent thing to do with any unfamiliar ingredient. The single pinch of tobacco flavouring the cream I used in an entire batch of truffles contained way, way less nicotine than would be considered a risk factor. The idea was for it to contribute a flavour nuance, not have an overwhelming presence.

I can understand people's concerns over certain ingredients, such as tobacco, but it helps to have a little perspective on things; it is important to be able to grasp the difference between the repeated use/use of substantial quantities of such substances, and the occasional use of the same substances in miniscule quantities (I've heard say that alcohol, also sometimes used in small quantities to flavour sweets, may cause liver damage and addiction if taken in sufficient quantities).

Gluten free gravy, chestnut soup?

Make a jus gravy, which sidesteps the starch factor altogether, and is full of flavour:
Deglaze the pan with half a litre/2 cups of low- or no-salt broth (if there is much salt in it, it may be unbearable once it is reduced), including a couple of tablespoons of wine, if you like (sherry or madeira are both good), and reduce over low heat (you can do this over higher heats, but watch the pan like hawk) until it reaches a consistency you like. Then season it to your taste.

I haven't come across a chestnut soup that involves starch as a thickener (the chestnuts do the thickening), so that really shouldn't be a problem.
I make a pumpkin chestnut soup. The recipe is flexible (you can even make it without the pumpkin, if you prefer, but you'll need to double the amount of chestnuts you use, and I think the pumpkin does add something), as there are no tricky chemical reactions to keep track of, so it can easily be adapted to produce a very wide array of different end-products.

You'll need about a tin (the smaller size) of pumpkin, at least a cup of dried chestnuts, chicken broth (home-made if you have it, two tins of the best you can get your hands on, otherwise; if you're vegetarian, a good vegetable broth would works just fine), and the seasonings that strike you as best fitting in with the rest of the menu (I've done everything from just salt and pepper, to a wide array of spices, e.g. saffron+cardamom+nutmeg+cloves, etc.).

Overnight, soak the dried chestnuts in two cups (or one tin) of broth (in the refrigerator). I usually soak the chestnuts in the pot I'm going to use, ready to go the next day
The next day, add another cup of broth (the dry chestnuts absorb a lot of fluid), bring the chestnuts to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the chestnuts until they are tender.
At this point you have two options:
A. remove the chestnuts from the broth, and fork-mash, puree, or rice them, according to whether you want a smooth soup or one with a less even texture, then return them to the broth, add the remaining broth, the pumpkin, and the spices, and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.
OR
B. simmer the broth until it has reduced to the point that, in combination with the natural sugars in the chestnuts, it is a thick brown glaze over chestnuts (these taste delicious, and I've used these on their own as an accompaniment to various savoury dishes). Mash the chestnuts (or leave them whole, if you prefer), add the pumpkin, and as much broth as needed to give you a consistency you like, and season.

Capsule version: Simmer chestnuts in broth until tender, and reduce broth to a thick glaze if you so please; mash chestnuts to the desired texture, add pumpkin, more broth, and seasonings; bring to a boil and simmer for a minute, or until you're happy with the texture.

Etiquette for Eating on Planes/Trains/Buses

Truculence, why on earth would someone bring fries on a trip like spare socks?! Actually, they seem a weird choice for carryon food, but if you reduce this to being all about YOUR specific smell sensitivities and preferences, you are essentially standing in the same field as those who think it is their fundamental right to bring their whiffy food on board.

I agree that strong-smelling food should not be on board, but it is as much about the fact that the cumulative effect of a lot of strong-smelling foods is pretty rough. Yes, I do have preferences, but I try to be a grownup about this, I know it isn't all about me.

Thing is, who determines what is 'too strong smelling'? And while they're at it, can they please deny permission to board to anyone wearing noticeable perfume?

Why salt my salad?

Salads are traditonally salted: that is, technically what makes them 'salads' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salad#Etymology).

But if you don't care for it, or if you're restricting your salt intake, you might ask if they couldn't skip the salt.

Etiquette for Eating on Planes/Trains/Buses

Lorenzo, you're not a snob, you just don't make much sense.

It is absurd to describe flying as a luxury; I fly a lot, and have no choice in the matter, nor do many other fliers. If a client says 'I need you here tomorrow', you are bloody well going to be flying. Passengers may not have a god-given right to nirvana when they fly, but airlines make pretty certain that there is no risk of that. As for the profitability, if it wasn't profitable for them to offer low rates, trust me, they wouldn't do it. The CEOs of airlines are not, by and large, washing their own socks in the sink, and living on ramen noodles. The cost of in-flight food may not break the bank, but paying the amounts involved for the utter garbage that is generally sold is outrageous and offensive. The alternative is to bring your own. Some clearcut guidelines would be an excellent idea, however. Then again, I think fragrance and bores should be banned from flights, too.

Etiquette for Eating on Planes/Trains/Buses

I mostly do transatlantic flights, where everyone is eating the same disgusting food at the same time, and since they're focusing on having it not end up on their clothing or in their lap, this distracts from the general repulsiveness of the experience.

On US flights I bring a few nutrition bars and some water (and rather wish other people would do that too). Some people get airsick, and the smell of food/sound of chewing and crunching doesn't help; I'll do whatever necessary to avoid someone chundering anywhere near me in a relatively confined and poorly ventilated space.

Also, the bars remain fully edible, even if flattened or smashed by other things in my carry-on. If you pick decent ones, they're fairly nutritious, too. I occasionally bring Cliff blocks or those Powershot thingies. You get odd looks from those sitting nearby, when you eat (suck?) the latter, though

I'd say that anything strong-smelling should be out of the question, except, perhaps, coffee.

Debunking the MSG myth

Well, MSG certainly turns pretty much any food into crack, as far as I'm concerned, but, like crack, it also (I can't bring myself to say 'unfortunately', however :D) can induce hallucinations. At least, it does in me.
Yes, really, no kidding. If eat something with a lot of MSG, and have nothing else in my stomach at the time, I hallucintate my face off.

First time it happened, I hadn't yet eaten that day, and, since I turn into a collossal bitch when I'm hungry, and I do try to protect people from my hunger-induced rage, I thoughtfully I picked up some deep-fried wontons on my way to meet my boyfriend.
I was supposed to meet him at a restaurant, and got there a bit before him. By the time he arrived, I seemed to be moving through time at a much greater rate than the world around me, and I could feel the molecules in the table-top. My brain still worked, so I concluded that I was stoned out of my mind. I decided to reject the theory that the Chinese take-away place was spending good money to load their food with drugs, and concluded that it must be something in the food itself.

In order to check this, I began regularly getting take-away from various Chinese restaurants that were honest about their use of MSG, making certain on each occasion to eat half the order on an empty stomach, and the rest later, after a small meal. It's pretty consistent. I seem to hallucinate easily (an excess of coffee has made me hallucinate, as far back as when I was two... crazy neighbours, not negligent parents!), so this may have somthing to do with it.

It's not really horrible, to be honest (okay, it can be sort of fun), but it has sort of ensured that I've never been tempted to experiment with drugs. And anyone with a sensitivity to MSG may want to think twice about letting their young children eat things containing significant amounts of MSG, since the sensitivity may be inherited, and hallucinations can be pretty unsettling, if you have no idea of what they are.

I have a hunch that those who are sensitive to MSG in any way are so because it is both concentrated and isolated from whatever it would occur with, naturally. Still, yum...

Are You A Fan of Food Souvenirs?

I may as well be honest: we travel with the bare minimum of personal necessities, and leave the rest of the luggage space for food and kitchen stuff. Last trip was to Emilia Romagna on the mototrbike, and we each brought almost nothing with us, but filled the originally empty space in the sidebags and topbox with so much stuff that the suspension had to be tweaked a bit, before we headed home.

Are You A Fan of Food Souvenirs?

Most of my souvenirs are food souvenirs; prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, my favourite candies from when I was growing up, Penzeys spices, the list is plenty long. Lots of kitchen-related hardware, too. The real coup came the first time my boyfriend and I went to Bolzano; my boyfriend was smitten by a commercial slicer he saw in a shop window, and there was nothing for it but to buy it, partially dismantle it to fit into our luggage, and bring it home.

Eating & drinking Florence, Tuscany & Rome

Of the places you mention, I only know Florence (but since I grew up there, I don't often eat out, but at friend's homes). I can recommend Il Cinghiale Bianco (in the oltrarno), with one caveat: if the bloke at the door is not in a great mood, remember a previous engagement and go elswhere, because the experience of myself and my friends is that the entire staff shares the same mood on any given night, and when they're having a grouch, they can ignore you for simply ages.

There is also a quite good place at Via del Moro 22, near Piazza Goldoni, called Ristorante Osteria di Giovanni... not certain whether or not they speak English, however.

I really recommend doing a little shopping at the panifici and salumerie, and making sandwiches! I also recommend the botanical garden (not so much the Boboli Gardens, which aren't so relaxing) as a great place to sit and eat them :)

Jamie Oliver - Taking On Obese America?

People just don't move as much as they are intended to. I've worked on farms, eaten 4 whacking great meels a day, and been slim; I've also spent months crouched over a computer, subsisting on nothing but water, coffee (no dairy, ick), grapefruit, Wasa crackers, and small dinner, and had a persistent spare tire.
Yes, heaps of people eat badly/excessively, but for most people, if you don't have movement in the equation, your metabolism functions at the slow end of its range, and you store fat.

'Cake Bible' Author Rose Levy Beranbaum Charged $25 'Forkage' Fee at The Breslin

I still want to know whether it is actually LEGAL to NOT mention the existence of a fee; in many businesses, this is illegal.

There are actually two separate discussions going on here: whether or not it is okay to charge various fees, and whether or not is ethical to not alert customers to these fees.
The former is purely subjective, and the ethics surrounding a lack of transparency when it comes to costs is, too (clearly, many feel that ethics cannot be permitted to interfere with desired profits) illegal (objective); on the other hand, ethics aside, this failure to inform smells like it is on the border of illegal.

Perhaps RLB is not entitled to special treatment, neither do I see that the restaurant industry should be exempt from the same standards that govern the business practices of other industries

Cook's Country's 'Wellesley Fudge Cake'; have you tried this?

Thank you! I was wondering about the eggs, because the layers came out so domed... in fact, last time I made this, I eliminated an egg-white, and it seemd to help that problem although it didn't eliminate it.

The addition of hot water (I used boiling) was puzzling; was that discussed? I couln't figure it out, and if it was meant to bloom the cacao, it didn't seem the most efficient way to do it; I was thinking about seeing what would happen if I added it to the cacao alone (to bloom it), then added the cacao-water mixture at the end.

Because of Serious Eats I _______

Annoy more people, I believe. Sorry, guys...

What are your morning coffee gripes?

Too many factors make getting my morning coffee away from home not worth it, so I get mine at home.
My only gripe? When the moron who is supposed to keep track of whether or not there is enough coffee on hand (that would be me) fails to do so.

The fine art of making Tiramisu?

The recipe wazup posted sounds good, so I'm going to just post a recipe I use to make savoiardi (it comes from an Italian woman who is not, however, my mother), if you're in the mood for making them (ones from a shop or a bakery are fine, though!). The measurements are bit odd, because this is an Italian recipe, and I had to convert grams to ounces; I did not convert this to volume measurements, because they aren't as reliable as weights.

They come together pretty quickly, and can be used at once; you can get going on the other parts of the tiramisu while they're baking.

Lady Fingers (savoiardi)

7 oz. sugar
6 eggs, separated
Grated peel from one lemon (orange and lime are good, too)
The rest of that same lemon, for its juice
Pinch of salt
4.5 oz. flour (I use an equvalent of all-purpose flour)
2 oz. corn starch (I've used rice flour and potato starch with equally good results)
A vanilla bean
Pastry bag (improvised is fine) with 1.5 cm (that's a bit over 0.5 inch) tip
Baking paper/parchment

Preheat oven to 320° F
Sift together the flour and starch, and set aside.
Beat the egg whites and half the sugar together, until you have very stiff peaks, adding a squeeze of lemon juice towards the end.
Beat together the yolks, remainder of the sugar, as much as you can scrape out of the vanilla bean, the peel and another squirt of lemon juice, until light and well-aerated (about 8-10 minutes by hand).
Using a large spoon, not a whisk, gently incorporate the flour-starch mixure, taking care to not 'defluff' the eggs.
Gently add the egg whites, still taking care to not 'defluff' the mixture.
Tranfer mixture to pastry tube, and extrude onto baking sheets covered in baking paper: make them about 4" long and a bit over 0.5" wide, and about 2" apart.
Bake 20 minutes.

If they are going to be served on their own, you can dust them with powdered sugar.

N.B. For the coffee in which the savoiardi are dipped when making the tiramisu: Assuming it is appropriate for your guests (e.g. no one among them is avoiding alcohol), adding a couple of spoonfuls of grappa to the coffee is a nice touch, and I have also sometimes replaced the coffee entirely with an espresso liqueur (e.g. Borghetti). The total amount of alcohol per serving (unless the portion is really big) will not make most people tipsy.

where do you work?

Both sides of the Atlantic/at home; I'm a mobile copyeditor. Do not get me started on the use of 'awesome' :p

Signature dish? No idea, I cook and bake so many different things (although 'beans fresh from the tin, seasoned at will' would be my guess), but my boyfriend insists that it is the 'Lasagne Verdi al Forno' from Rossetto Kasper's 'The Splendid Table', but which uses modied, usually game-based ragu.

'Cake Bible' Author Rose Levy Beranbaum Charged $25 'Forkage' Fee at The Breslin

@shortstop: Frankly, I can see the points raised by both parties, but what I find troubling is the restaurant's failure to indicate that there WOULD be a fee; there is no way that that was appropriate, and the gracelessness etc. of the reaction doesn't change that.

I keep a list of places that have 'surprise fees', most of which I discovered the expensive way, and yes, I paid them without a fuss, but I share this list with friends, and no longer patronize these places myself.
I am perfectly willing to pay even quite silly fees at places that manage to take the trouble to say (for example) 'Another napkin? Certainly, but we charge a $10 for additional table settings, even partial ones' (yep, that happened, and yes, I took the napkin, since I had half a glass of water in my lap :D ).

'Cake Bible' Author Rose Levy Beranbaum Charged $25 'Forkage' Fee at The Breslin

Well, I suppose the establishment is entitled to charge any fees it likes, but I'm wondering about the legality of not forewarning the clientele about this practice.
I can understand a restaurant wanting to protect itself financially, and not have people randomly bring in outside food, but this incident was a bit different, and at least one person at the table seems to have got a dessert from the restaurant (unless that tart was a savoury one).

I better eat in New York soon

I just don't see this going through...

Lost in ny?

Yep, need more details....

Ugly Food

The pork filling for Thai lettuce wraps that I often make looks pretty unfortunate, and the sooner it disappears into the lettuce leaves, the better, visually. But the scent and flavour are amazing.

Have Cardamom Left Over, Need New Ideas to Use It

Try it in virtually any baked good; a couple of days ago, I combined it with vanilla and black pepper, in some brownies. I particularly like cardamom with vanilla, nutmeg, and black pepper, and sometimes add it to coffee or hot chocolate, too.

In savoury dishes, I especialy like it in dishes that include one of the winter squash and mutton/lamb or game; it is also great in smooth, puree-based soups such as carrot, white bean, or pumpkin-chestnut.

here's the real reason not to eat in the subway

My first thought was that the guy was probably mentally ill; my second thought was that he was offended by your eating on the subway, and this was actually a broad, sarcastic hint.

@avaryne: yep, that sounds like typical transit authority response; I reported a man smoking crack, and all the response I got was 'Well, what d'you want ME to do?' My suggestion that she call the police was simply greeted with a repeat of the original statement.

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Vegan Substitutes?

'Which of the following is not another name for wheat gluten (the wheat-based meat substitute)? . . .'

Actually, since wheat gluten comrprises about 80% of the protein in what, I'd say ALL these, including 'wheat proten' are other names for wheat gluten.

Cook's Country's 'Wellesley Fudge Cake'; have you tried this?

I was one of the testers, and it's a great cake, although the layers came out very domed and a bit cracked (I made it twice before getting back to them with the results, and it happened both times), making stacking them a bit tricky (I flipped the bottom layer upside down and used a shallow bowl as a serving dish, and mentioned the problem in my feedback). I was wondering if they ironed out this issue, but when I checked online, I saw that the recipe has been published in the February issue of 'Cook's Country'. I have a subscription to 'Cook's Illustrated', but unfortunately it costs a fortune to get here in Denmark, so subscribing to 'Cook's Country', too, is not an option :(

Have any of you seen this/tried this recipe? I was wondering about the final ingredient list and procedure (particularly whether they cut back to one egg white, which I suspected they might), so if anyone has this info., I'd really appreciate it.

Your Experience with Gaggenau stovetops/ovens?

Our stove is in the final stages of decrepitude, and we've decided to replace it; where we live, the readily-available brands include Gaggenau (we're currently wavering between it and Miele), but the reviews on their products are few (except in Dutch, and I don't speak Dutch!). They look well-made and reliable, but that's to sort of thing you just don't discover until you've actually workd with a unit.

So, I wondered whether any of you have worked with Gaggenau ovens/stovetops, and if so, whether they seemed reliable and pleasant to work with; we use our kitchen a lot, so this matters.

Thanks!

Serious Efforts: Evaporated Milk Crisis

Have any of you successfully replaced evaporated milk with something else in an icing or candy recipe?

And if so, what did you use?

I'm in Denmark, and evaporated milk is not to be found anywhere; I've spent the entire morning looking.

Unfortunately, I am planning on testing a CI recipe (the 'Wellsley Fudge Cake'), which some of you may also be taking on. I was fairly certain I could find evaporated milk, but when I went to get it, I found that the tins were actually sweetened condensed milk, and (because of the added sugar and the relative water content) that's no substitute.

The most sensible sounding suggestions come from this site:
http://www.ochef.com/664.htm but I have no idea how they'd work out in practice.

IFF you have any experience with this, please share! I'd appreciate it enormously.

Thanks,
M.

Where to find Stramondo brand marzipan in NYC?

I used to find this in a lot of shops in the city (and thank you, izatryt, for reminding me of the name, I could only remember the way the packet looked), but now I can't seem to find it anyplace (actually, I didn't even have much luck finding sales staff that knew what 'marzipan' meant, not a good sign). And it is the best marzipan I've ever come across... here all I can get is the wretched local Odense stuff, and that's just no good, too heavy :(

Reconceptualizing the Things On or with Which You Eat

I'm not certain how I missed this, but I only this moment came across Ferran Adria's tableware designs: http://www.facesdesign.com/indexf.html

Although I don't love all the ideas on the site, I do like seeing this sort of thinking; it's so easy to take for granted the objects we use every day, even if they're not necessarily ideal for our purposes.

Any thoughts on this, and have any of you ever had ideas for practical revamps of tableware, which might update or replace traditional designs?

PerkyMac, how did the gnocchi + granddaughter combo go?

Not that long ago, you mentioned your granddaughter's sensitivity to pasta, and I was wondering how the gnocchi went over... gnocchi are still pasta, although they involve the addition of some potato, and since there are evidently quite a few SE member with assorted food sensitivities, I think this of general interest. I'm really hoping to hear that this worked out well :)

Tobacco truffles, and the holiday dinner Post Mortem

(The PM of the holiday, meal, that is, not of someone who ate it ;))

I made most of the holiday meal this year, which consisted of roast goose with bacon, sage, and apple stuffing, red cabbage and caramelized potatoes (a Danish tradition, and a joint effort involving my boyfriend, his brother and, occasionally, his father), followed by a plum pudding. There were cookies, assorted candies, tobacco truffles, and coffee as to stave off starvation in the hours between lunch and dinner.

The tobacco truffles worked out well, although my first batch broke. The tobacco flavour wasn't particularly assertive, just a fairly elusive note that blended seamlessly with the chocolate (this was what I'd been hoping for). After my boyfriend and myself, my boyfriend's mother picked one up, placed it in her mouth, glanced about at us, and chewed, first cautiously, then more vigorously, hunting for the anticipated weirdness/unpleasantness. Then she reached for another. I'll definitely make these again.

The roast goose came out beautifully, with very tender meat and extremely crisp skin, thanks to a great goose and a reliable recipe (from 'The Best Recipe'), although the gravy went a bit to hell, owing to the removal of the wing-tips by the butcher; there wasn't enough gelatin in the bones of the neck alone to give the gravy a nice consistency.

Once the plum pudding was set out, I paid close attention to the texture of the plum pudding, particularly because of the fruitcake (and eggnog) thread that PumpkinBear started just a little while ago. This morning I had another slice for breakfast, dissecting it by the window; definitely not dry, nor rubbery/gummy. It made me think a bit of a the texture of a good honey cake. With unsweetened espresso, it tastes sweet, but not aggressively so.

How did the rest of you make out with your holiday dinners? Any experiments, triumphs, disappointments, or discoveries?

Fondant and truffle train wreck: Fellow sufferers, any insights?

Well, it's been quite a day. I made fondant according to my usual recipe, and, even with my boyfriend and I taking turns for an hour, it wouldn't come together as fondant. Discouraged, I turned to item two on the list: truffles. Same recipe as always. The mix broke. It is a revolting greasy mess.

Fondant involved 5 C. sugar, 1.5 C. water, 1tbsp vinegar. Boiled to 114C (237F), and acted correctly for the soft ball stage. Cooled to the room temperature and worked vigorously. Then... nothing.

Truffles involved 0.5 C. cream, heated to simmer, and poured over 227g (8oz) coarsely chopped chocolate (73%). Then, as I mixed, the whole thing broke.

Anyone ever have similar experiences? Discovered the cause?

Thanks!

Is the Landmark Tavern in NYC gone?

I have a (possibly morbid) desire to eat there soon, since each time I've been there, something so fantastically bizarre has happened, that it was impossible for me to focus on the quality of the food, which actually seemed as though it might be good.

A message board on Chowhound suggested that the place had closed due to gentrification pressures, but their website (http://www.thelandmarktavern.org/) is till up.

Add a 'Professional-level efforts/topics' category, please?

A couple of recent postings suggest that there really is room for a conversation category that is strictly nuts-and-bolts, no fooling about; a category where the irrelevant, hearsay, and pure visceral reaction are in the category of 'inappropriate content', and would be removed as such.

This would be a category in which BOTH the thread topics and the responses posted to them were objective, matter-of-fact, AND previously researched (if you're serious about something, it isn't reasonable to expect other people to do your research for you, Google it, or go to the library before asking!) So, no 'WHAT IS fermented shark?' in this category, since that can be looked up or asked elsewhere).

For example, a starting question such as 'Has anyone made fermented shark?' stated as a simple unadorned query; responses would be only objective, first-hand accounts.
No 'GROSS! Why do you want to cook that?' or 'that's too difficult to do at home' or 'That is a bad idea, you shouldn't do it';
once someone has reached the point of wanting to know whether or not anyone has tried an ingredient, source, or technique, then that is that--not opinions or reminisces--which they want to hear about.

So what do you think? Wouldn't a category dedicated to high-level technical questions remove ease some of the grouchiness that's been evident in the forums recently?

Have you calculated the costs of 'home-made'?

With the economy not looking so great these days, have any of you done some numbers-crunching on home-made versions of certain foods?

Frozen chicken thighs+backs have been heavily discounted at a local supermarket (about $2.50/kilo), so I bought half a dozen bags, and began making chicken broth.

Afterwards, I decided to pick the meat from the bones, for later use. My boyfriend wondered how much waste came out of the original 2 kilos (about 4 pounds) of chicken thigh and backs, so we weighed it: about 40% of the original weight gets binned.

This got me wondering about the cost of making broth at home: Figuring in the hour of electricity involved (electric stove), it cost about $8.50 (possibly less; we went for the outside figure for the electricity) for 2 litres of broth, plus a bit over 600g of meat for use in pasta filling or something.

Your best mushroom de-gritting strategy?

Anyone have a particularly effective approach to getting the grit out of dried mushrooms?

I break the dried mushrooms down to the size I want, put them in a small pitcher, and pour about a cup of boiling water over them. Then, I let them stand, giving them an occasional poke. When I use them, I scoop out the mushroom pieces, being careful to not disturb the dirt residue at the bottom, and add most of the fluid above the level of the sediment).

I frequently find grains of sand or dirt in the finished product, however, and although I've simply regarded this as one of those things you have to live with, I'm wondering...

Any of you successfully de-grit you reconstituted dried mushrooms?

Creative judgement vs. accommodating guests' preferences

(THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE A CONTROVERSIAL POSTING, please play nice!)

Do you tell guests, when you use an ingredient that they may not like (I'm not talking about health-related or religious restrictions; I believe these should be respected)?

Or do you go quietly ahead, knowing that your guests are very likely to enjoy the dish, if they don't know that something a bit out of the ordinary is present in their food?

I'm not talking about the intent to trick guests into eating something, by the way.

In my post about using a pinch of tobacco to flavour chocolate truffles, dbcurrie raised the very valid point of considering guests' preferences.

The thing is, how far do you take take this?

When we prepare food that goes beyond 'just fill 'em up' (a meal prepared for others is is usually intended to be at least a bit beyond the ordinary), at what point does our judgement of the best choice conflict with accommodating guests?

I know, for example, that the presence of dairy products in savoury dishes makes them as inedible to me as the contents of a spittoon, but if there IS dairy in such a dish, and I can't tell, I don't want to be enlightened.
I know my attitude is purely psychological, and there are probably many things I would miss out on, if I were informed, out of courtesy, that they contained milk, cream, yoghurt, etc.

Your turn: What are the ethics involved in telling guests precisely what is in their food, and what determines this?

Have any of you cooked with tobacco?

I have a sort of vague recollection of this being a brief fad in the culinary world, when I was in my teens, but can't remember much about it. I didn't pay attention.

Now, I'm seriously considering it as a flavouring for this year's chocolate truffles.
I thought a bit about what I might add to the mix that would resonate without adding an alien or pointless note, and rejected everything except espresso (I'm toying with the idea of ground cinnamon or cardamom). Then I wondered if I could think of at least one other flavour that would work as well... and thought of tobacco. I'm aware of the risks of nicotine poisoning, and making the flavour too strong. On the other hand, there IS chewing tobacco (I know that it's spit out, not swallowed, but some of it must be absorbed), and I'm thinking in terms of adding perhaps half a dozen shreds of tobacco to the mixture.

Have any of you experimented with tobacco as a flavouring ingredient, and if so, what were your experiences?

Has anyone seen this particular marzipan in shops?

It comes in a small, rectangular packet of heavy, plasticized foil, and is sealed at both ends; it is an organic Italian brand, and the name – which I unfortunately cannot remember, or I would look for it online – appears on a paper label. The place where I used to buy it ('Dom's Fine foods', on Lafayette) closed some time ago, and I haven't seen it anyplace else in NYC, when I've visited recently.

This is a marzipan with a very fine, lovely texture, and a distinct almond note; if anyone could tell me the name of this (or suggest a brand with similar qualities), I'd really appreciate that (I can get Anton Berg and similar brands here in Denmark, but don't like them very much; the flavour is more nut-like than almond-y, and the texture is coarse).

Does your interest in food impact what you give to the homeless?

In the past few years I've spent a great deal of time in Denmark, which essentially does not have a homelessness problem, so each time I return to NYC, I find the sight of people begging on the street really painful.

When I see these people, it's hard not to give money--that's what they want, right?--but if they have so little, I imagine that they probably go for the cheapest food going. That's GOT to be depressing (yes, I know some of them spend their money on drugs and alcohol, but I doubt they all do), since one of the marginally affordable pleasures is eating well.

So I find myself ducking into the nearest decent bake shop, and getting something nice for them to eat, too... just a change, you know? to make them feel a bit more human.

I know that if food was just fuel to me, I wouldn't have this reaction, regardless of how badly I felt for the homeless, or how much hardship I'd personally experienced.

As fellow people who care about food, do you also find yourselves reacting in a similar way to that which I've described?

Your recent favourites?

I'm back in NYC for a couple of days, and would love to hear of any recent and much-enjoyed food-related finds you may have come across in the last few months... it seems as if things are changing even faster than usual, these days, and a lot of my old favourites are just GONE.

Body Shots of another sort, in Denmark

I'd heard of body shots, but never really gave the concept much thought; then, a friend of mine mentioned 'body sild' ('sild' being Danish for 'herring'), but I though he was joking, and promptly forgot all about it.

Then I heard recurrent references to it, and realised that people are actually doing this, which struck me as odd. When I asked my boyfriend about this, he said it seemed a 'natural' extension of 'body tequila' (evidently the most popular body shot in Denmark). This definitely deserved elaboration, so i persisted. He pointed out that the most traditional Danish liquor is 'snaps', and one normally has this with herring. So, pounding back a shot of snaps, then consuming pickled herring off somebody's cleavage is just a perfectly natural outcome of being seriously hammered.

Hm.

I told him I was going to put this before the SE community, as I was curious as to your overall reaction (and now, so is my boyfriend :D): Is this a uniquely Danish phenomenon, or do parallels to this exist in elsewhere?

N.B. This is NOT intended as negative criticism of a cultural phenomenon; I'm simply a bit surprised and amused, and quite curious, as, although I sometimes like sild on rye bread, I would REALLY hate to have a clammy slither of it draped over any portion of my anatomy. I think. After all, I've never considered this while drunk...

Recipe/Fiction

Have any of you been drawn to works of fiction that include recipes (e.g. Laura Esquivel's 'Like Water for Chocolate', John Lanchester's 'A Debt to Pleasure'), and if so, have you tried them, and with what results? Any overall feelings about such works? If their recipes were/are any good, would/do you include such works in your 'kitchen library'?

Beyond citing sources: copyright issues?

redhead raised an important point about citations (this was originally going to be a reply, but I realised that it didn't answer anything, but raised another question), but I was wondering about the extent to which it's alright to post recipes on this site.
I've noticed many of the recipes say 'adapted from': Does this mean we need to make a minor tweak, and then cite something as 'adapted from'? I tend to be very precise about the recipes I pass along to others, so I have misgivings about this.

So far, I've simply held off from posting recipes, and have stuck with 'recipe x' from Y's book, 'z'. If the source is not necessarily an easy one to find (e.g. out of print), I feel bad doing this. What are the ground rules for posting recipes, apart from accurately citing the source in full?

What happened to Dom's Fine Food?!

This was on the west side of Lafeyette Street, and a block down from Spring Street.

I'm no longer in NYC, and only go back about four times a year, so I don't know when--or why--the shop closed. From the look of it, it's been a while, and I only made the discovery when I went there to buy THE best marzipan I know... and was foiled.

I Googled the name, but nothing came up for a new location, so I think it's just gone... unless anyone knows better?

Incidentally, if anyone knows of a place that stocks this marzipan (I cannot remember the name, but the quality is so outstanding, it must have other fans), I'd love to know. It is an Italian brand, comes in small a foil packet sealed at both ends, paper label, and is organic.

Apropos of Jamie Oliver's televised chicken slaughter

Have any of you ever participated in the slaughter (not hunting, but hands-on slaughter) of an animal for food? Did the experience affect you, and if so, how?

When I first began coming to Denmark, I stayed on a small biodynamic farm. A good portion of their meat came from their small flocks of free-range chickens and sheep.

On two occasions I was there when they slaughtered some of the chickens. I didn't do the actual slaughter—not a job for the untrained—but held the birds in place (and, yeh, turned my head away, and also prayed I wouldn't get a finger or something chopped off).

On both occasions, this left me shaking like a leaf.

I was raised as a lacto-ovo vegetarian (for ethical reasons). When I left home, I reverted to eating meat. In all honesty, I cannot supply a truly objective rationale for killing animals for food. On the other hand, I also believe that if they are raised and slaughtered humanely, this cannot be classified as cruelty.

My own experience with slaughtering chickens didn't change my views, since I’d had to sort through those a long time before, when I stopped being a vegetarian. Still, whenever I shop for meat I cannot help wondering if the animal died as painlessly as possible, or if it was, essentially, tortured to death. And this does affect what I buy.

After reading the article about Jamie Oliver slaughtering a chicken on television, I wondered what your experiences were with regard to this subject, and what views you held as a result.

What has happened to 'City Bakery'?!

I've eaten at 'City Bakery' since they were at their original location on 17th Street, and over time, it became THE place where I met friends; the baked goods were lovely, the atmosphere pleasant (particularly up in the balcony), and the location very central. The shop had an air of effortless, yet unrelenting efficiency that characterised similar establishments in Italy, where I grew up. I cannot precisely remember when things seemed... changed.

Suddenly, the staff was very different, more evocative of a Dunkin Donuts than a moderately upscale bake/coffee shop. The sense of efficiency was gone. The baked goods were frequently heavy or soggy, as if they'd been rushed into the oven without adequate rising time. The seats of some of the stools broke from their posts, and were not replaced. I came to dread going there. Last time (late November 2007), at least, the naked seat-post had been replaced with ordinary stools.

I know another branch of the bakery opened in LA, and the negative changes do date back to about the time that the owner was no longer around on a full-time basis; I also know that new business makes heavy demands of its owner. Still, it seems a shame to drop the ball on what was a really good thing.

Has anyone else noticed this? Any thoughts as to whether this slide is likely to be long-term?

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