A Beginner's Guide to Olives: 14 Varieties Worth Seeking Out

@BananaP I've really never been a fan of olives but I've found a few a like. I started with a couple kinds of oil/salt cured and nicoise wel crushed or chopped in cooked dishes like puntanesca. Now I can safely say I actually like certain olives on their own, and for the most part enjoy them in cooked dishes. I've also used the castelvetrano and picholine olives for cocktail garnish to good effect. People who said they didn't like olives were asking to take some home so they may work for you

Manner Matters: A Spicy Food Lover's Conundrum

Antihistamines aren't really going to help at all. The runny nose is due to the irritating properties of the chilies themselves. It's not an allergy/histamine thing.

The Food Lab Turbo: How to Make Lighter Tuna Noodle Casserole With Just One Pan (and No Knives!)

My brother came back from the Marine Corps (and several tours in Iraq) with a disturbing level of obsession with Tuna Noodle casserole. His favorite version came from a family friend, it involved the microwave and Velveeta. He claimed it tasted just like, but better (?) than the mess hall. Most other service men and women I know had nightmares about that tuna noodle casserole. Including 3 generations of our family. He force fed all of us a ton of it for at least a year after he came back. I never liked the stuff to begin with. And while his version was a lot more palatable that what I'd had before; the concept really just nauseates me now. Outside of butter I just think most dairy/seafood combinations are a bit wrong headed. Like why is everyone always trying to combine crab with cream cheese?

The Real Reason Sugar Has No Place in Cornbread

@octopod I've actually been wondering how masa harina would work out in a corn bread recipe. Its good to know it works. (also less pellagra).

The Real Reason Sugar Has No Place in Cornbread

OOOO hit post before finishing. That should go reclaiming or rediscovering foods from the Northeast quarter of the country.

The Real Reason Sugar Has No Place in Cornbread

My going theory on why things like cornbread get labeled as exclusively or particularly Southern is simply because they survived down south. If you look at early accounts from the Colonial or "Frontier" periods the food looks pretty similar throughout the country, and dead close to these sorts traditionalist Southern foods. Succotash for example apparently has its origins in North Eastern Native American tribes, but I keep seeing it labeled as "Southern" because it maintained relevancy down there. Up north it was a nonsense word Daffy Duck spouted off. A lot of these foods with importance in early white settlements or Native American bases might have pockets of regional relevance up here but a lot of them were re-introduced later from the South.

In that frame the "Northern" cornbread everyone's decrying isn't so much Northern, but "Modern". A much more recent, industrialized form of something that's broadly traditional to the whole country. I would imagine if you poked through Northern specific culinary sources you'd find a corn bread style that looks much more like the rigidly traditional Southern approach than the modern form. There would be some regional variation of course, like I'd expect some admixture of wheat to more acceptable simply because it was abundant. Aside from a small obsession with New England seafood in certain quarters I don't see much interest out there in reclaiming or rediscovering

Manner Matters: Can I Bring My Own Tonic Water?

@chi_type we don't use Schweppes. The vast majority of bars and restos use gun or fountain systems. Brands are limited to companies that provide syrup bags and service fountain systems. There's usually 3 options: Coke (who own Seagrams), Pepsi (who distribute Canada Dry and Schweppes) , and a regional generic brand (we have Island Soda here). What brand you get is determined by what's available, for tonic your gonna see seagrams or a generic 90% of the time. Pepsi has som control in the deep south, but brand is determined by what the company wants to ship and Pepsi controls multiple brands of tonic. "craft" type bars that eschew fountains tend to be the only places using bottles. So you might find Schweppes there, cause that shit is good.

Manner Matters: Can I Bring My Own Tonic Water?

In general please don't ask your bartender what "their specialty" is, to " make me some thing special/delicious" or anything nearly so vague. I don't know you. I don't know your tastes and I need something else to go on. Especially if there are any other customers on hand.

Ask to see a cocktail list. Tell me drinks you like and that you'd like to try something different. Ask for a specific recommendation. Which wine, whiskey, or gin, and what it goes well with.

Manner Matters: Can I Bring My Own Tonic Water?


The purpose of the corkage fee is not to "cover costs". As it doesn't necessarily cost anything to serve a bottle of wine. And its seldom intended to discourage patrons from bringing their own. Its to offset the loss of a wine sale by charging for the service directly, and to a lesser extent ensure the bill and tip reflect the added service. Even where that loss is due to lack of liquor license, corkage at BYOB places helps to make the model feasible (profit margin on food alone is exceeding low). Most places the fee is determined in some relation to prices on the wine list. Lower or higher than average, cost of cheapest bottle etc.

Places with "exorbitant", high, or deliberately discouraging fees are usually doing it for a few reasons. Some places with extensive, carefully curated wine lists; and wine specific staff it doesn't make sense to do corkage at all. As offsetting the loss isn't really feasible, or corkage can be detrimental to their reputation, or drive wine sales below the point where keeping staff and maintaining that list are possible. Others are just more expensive in general. If the average price of wine, or cheapest bottle on my list is $80, it makes no sense for me to charge you $20 for corkage. My wine sales would take a serious hit, and I wouldn't get anywhere close to offsetting the loss. Banning corkage all together can cause more problems than it solves, so these places set the price where it needs to be or prohibitively high.

That said I've only ever worked in one place with a $50 corkage fee. Everywhere else, it stood at $25 (which seems to be the standard rate). I can only remember eating at a handful of restaurants that charged more than $35. And those places were very expensive. In my experience its more common to ban corkage and deal with the resulting issues than to price it out of existence.

Manner Matters: Can I Bring My Own Tonic Water?

I work as a bartender. And honestly this happens all the time. People bring their own bar mixers, beers, garnishes, ingredients sometimes even liquors and ask us to use them to make drinks. Its often not a problem, but there's a couple things to keep in mind.

For one it can be pretty annoying or insulting, particularly in a case like this where the bar staff have gone to the trouble of making their own tonic. Its also most frequently regulars who attempt this or get away with it. Their bringing in sodas from foreign countries, booze I've never heard of, things I can't a hold of, or sometimes just the things they prefer. And the important part is they aren't always bringing them by just because I don't have them. But often to show them to me, share them with me, or because we had a conversation about them where they specifically offered or asked to bring them in. I've got regulars now who bring in their own lemonade, we don't always stock it and I don't have the capacity to make it fresh. I had a guy who used to bring in brewery fresh bottles of Pliny the Elder, pretty much impossible to find on the open market (especially on the East Coast, but he knew the brewer). And he always shared (this helps a lot if its something special).

Which brings up another point. If your going to do this you really should be sitting at the bar. It can be difficult to wrangle for some one at a table, particularly if its busy. I may not have any way of knowing who's ordering what, other customers will see and try to order what you brought it despite it being yours, and it will encourage them to do the same, and unscrupulous servers will try to boost their sales by selling your stuff. Which is a problem. Doing this once in a while for a particular regular isn't an issue. But if I've got multiple tables I can't see with special orders going and I'm fighting with servers over why I can't sell one bottle of tonic to 10 people service suffers and my life is appreciably worse. All of which is more of a problem the busier the place is.

So it isn't as simple as just bringing your own and we handle the rest. That bottle of tonic is going to take up valuable space in my already over crowded coolers or ice bins. I've got to be able to tell when and to who I'm serving it, and if its the correct person. I also have to have enough time to communicate with my staff over the issue, and to *think* about what I'm doing rather than just going with muscle memory and doing it the way we normally do. If I'm otherwise busy it slows me down, crowds me, and increases tension on the floor. And if your not a regular we're going to think you are, at the very least, kind of demanding and weird.

So visit the bar for a few drinks, talk to the bartender and tip well. Be nice, become recognizable. Ask them if they have the space to keep a bottle of tonic back there for you. Ask them if they can order some to keep on hand, you're probably not the only person asking for it. The more people who ask nicely the more likely management (who are probably the stumbling block) will be to stock it. Offer to bring by a few bottle for them to keep on hand if they can't(with the implication that they can be used to serve other customers). This can be helpful for me if management wont order the ingredient in question and a lot of people are asking for it. One nice person occasionally providing a small stock I can push to regulars can make my life better. Don't do it all the time, make it a point to order other things (including the house tonic) on occasion. It also helps if more than one person in your group is ordering it. And you shouldn't ask for your tonic back if you don't finish all of it. This is nice because I can sell it else where, or more likely drink it myself.

If that's too much trouble, or you aren't there often enough to be a regular, or feel comfortable doing this. Then just check with your server about sticking the bottle behind the bar (when it slow) or ordering shots of gin in a high ball glass with lots of ice and pouring it yourself. The latter option actually eliminates most of the trouble on our part. But bear in mind while the staff might not care much, or actively want to help you with this, that the higher ups might have a strict policy against this kind of thing. So the answer might still be 'no'. So don't hold it against anyone. And again don't do it when its busy, don't do it all the time, and be nice about it. It also helps to be the sort of person who brings things in general. Interesting things to share and show off.

The Ultimate Mister Softee Secret Menu

OOO Also for pedantry's sake it's not magic shell. That's what the home version is called, with its weird coconut oil base that's liquid till it hits ice cream thing. And that name is a Smucker's trademark. I worked in an ice cream parlor for a few years as a kid. We called it "dip" and its actually a different product. Depending on what dip you use its often a substance that's heated/melted before dipping the cone. So its solid at room temp, slightly heated to a thick liquid. Then it gets crispy when it hits the frozen ice cream. I think that's why the coating is so much thinner, and snappier at a proper ice cream parlor.

The Ultimate Mister Softee Secret Menu

I feel kind of bad now. Like I kicked off a bunch of "grr. new serious eats = link bait shit" comments. I do like the article, and a lot of the stuff involving packaged novelties is cool stuff I never thought of before (I kind of want to have a chipwich dipped and rolled in cookie crumbs now). I just don't see how any of it is unique to Mister Softee, and a lot of it is better accomplished in a decent ice cream parlor. And then there's The Carlos. I remember buying ice cream from that guy. He deserves the support, he came up with a cool (and delicious looking) variation on a company classic (was printed on the trucks when I was a kid IIRC).

And for the record the biggest (if any) change I've seen with the "new" Serious Eats is a slightly larger focus on "tests" and technique driven articles in the food lab mold. This kind of article, complete with the "why did they frame it that way" aspect, has been part and parcel of the Serious Eats bag since day one. I kvetch and criticize because I am a bitter, bitter man. Also I half hope that some one (in this case Niki) will run with whatever I'm on about. Like maybe tomorrow she'll come up with 12 crazier things to order at fully equipped ice cream venue x. Ones that involve deep fried ice cream sandwiches, cookie crumbs and hot fudge in totally stupid ways.

The Ultimate Mister Softee Secret Menu

I'm not sure how this counts as a secret menu. Its not as if Mr. Softee trucks operate with a limited menu of select items and typically wont make anything else. With these being items they don't list but freely make. They're rolling ice cream parlors, and will typically make you anything you ask them to if they have the components. I've been ordering black and white malts, extra thick, from the trucks since I was a kid. And those certainly aren't printed on the side of the truck.

These are nice suggestions of whacked out things to order at any ice cream venue that has the stuff though.

12 Beer-Producing Countries to Watch Right Now

@Dreizhen Peated porters aren't particularly unique. There's a tradition of peated beers in the British Isles (particularly Scotland) and American home brewers and the odd craft brewer have been playing with them for decades. But I'm with you, France seems to have an under represented beer culture over all.

12 Beer-Producing Countries to Watch Right Now

@sdfishtaco Because they're good?

Or for my part the vast majority of American craft breweries make few if any beers to my taste. They tend to be far too hoppy, or too strong, or otherwise unbalanced. Traditional Euro beer styles tend to be something much more to my tastes. Paradoxically it's usually far easier for me to find imported Euro beer than American made beers in the same style. More craft beers that build off that tradition are good in my book, where ever they hail from.

Or a country like, say, Ireland has a really shit economy right now. But new whiskey distilleries and breweries are opening for the first time in something like a century. Liquor and beer production have become a rare area of growth, particularly as exports to the American Market. We don't buy these products, either fewer of them exist or they cease to exist at all.

I've got a lot of family over there. When I go over there I might like to have more options on beer besides a handful of Guinness Products, the near identical ones from their 1 or 2 local competitors, and American or Euro macrobrews. Which was pretty much the state of Irish beer culture last time I was over there.

My family comes over here and they go crazy for American craft brew. A few of them frequent the handful of places that feature it in cities like Dublin. I don't see why I shouldn't do the same with their beer.

So there's a bunch of reasons I might "think about buying" these along side the "amazing" beer right in my neighborhood (its actually not so amazing), just off the top of my head. The chief one being because they're good. I'm not sure I'll ever understand the urge to be so dismissive when it comes to culture topics like food and drink. Why read Dickens? Melville is perfectly good! Its not an either or proposition. A person is generally better off consuming a variety of things created from varied perspectives.

Beef Ribs From 'Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook'


Right so I assumed. But when those occasionally crop up around here they don't just "not look supper meaty" they barely have any meat on them at all. The handful of times I've cooked them I get like 2 mouth fulls of meat off 4-5 ribs. And that's provided you can find some that have any meat on them at all. Maybe they just don't cut them right up here.

How Spam Won Over America's Restaurants

I'd add to that list of characteristics "poverty" most of the areas listed have traditionally been pretty poor. And I've known a lot of people from dirt poor areas of the mainland US who eat a lot of spam. Including my mother's family who didn't have much and come from a janky mill town in Maine

Beef Ribs From 'Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook'

I'd actually like some info on what sort of beef ribs to buy and where to source them. Here in NY short ribs are easy enough to find, even large un-trimmed primal sections. But from what I gather these aren't the "beef ribs" typically used in Texas BBQ. The sort of beef ribs I see more infrequently are from higher up and stripped off rib eye primals when they cut boneless steaks. But they have almost no, if any, meat on them and are usually sold as stock bones. They look similar enough to the photo above, but I'm not sure they're enough meat on them to have them cook up very well. My parents have cooked them from time to time, and like them a great deal. But they have problems finding a way to make them tender enough before they dehydrate entirely, creating a jerky like texture that's kind of undesirable. So what am I looking for exactly?

Win a Copy of 'Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook'

We do a lot of grilled shellfish. Also ribs.

Giveaway: Win a Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer

I suppose steak. But I'm supposed to make some bbq pork shoulder this week.

Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Vanilla Beans?

Speaking of which anyone got a line on cheap bulk vanilla beans? I've always heard you can get a good price on "grade b" or "extract grade" beans by the pound. I've got a quart of Everclear that I really need to do something with. But I don't want to spend a lot of shoving a stupid amount of beans up in there.

The Best Way to Store Vermouth

I can spot a couple major problems with these test. In the first one you've only got one taster, yourself, which really limits the utility of that set. But more importantly you don't seem to have included any un-refrigerated samples as an additional control. So we have no way of knowing, for example, how room temperature inert gas purged bottle compares to any given refrigerated sample. Nor can you specifically say that a refrigerated purged bottle will last longer (or is "better) than a refrigerated non purged bottle.

You also haven't done any work to establish time scales. You went with one month and that's fine. But how long does an open room temperature bottle stay fresh to begin with? Or how long will each (or any of the effective ones) keep a bottle fresh. That's important to know. At what point do I have to worry about quality dips, how long do I have before it goes off if I can't refrigerate or charge with inert gas?

Like wise being identifiable as "different" isn't an exact analogue for quality. If 100% of subjects could identify the wine from a particular storage method as different from fresh, but it tasted like god damned magic you might want to know. This is minor and unlikely though.

In that second test I'm assuming you've stuck with one month, but you don't specify (unless I missed it). There's no refrigerated examples as a control, so again you can't make comparisons as to which is better in any given case (you go with the assumption that fridge is better at a one month time scale). I also think your "negative control" is an improper one. To test this accurately you'd want an open, partially used, room temp bottle that sat for exactly as long as the other test bottles sat opened in their particular conditions. Instead you went and aerated the bottles far more than they'd ever be aerated during regular use. So they're no longer a suitable analogue for the presumed base condition of vermouth. Open and at room temp for use. Even if you could establish the exact extent to which that aeration equated to a still but open room temp bottle and at which time scale, you'd still need an open room temp bottle aged the same length as the others in the test. If it was an attempt to mimic a bottle that's actively used, you don't need that as non of the other bottles are getting active use.

Also I think this provides a good guess as to why the small bottles gave such a poor showing. When you pour from a bottle a certain about of aeration happens in the liquid that stays in the bottle from added head space, and turbulence within the bottle as you pour. But the liquid that's poured out of the bottle is going to get a lot more aeration from turbulence while traveling through air, and when hitting/moving around what ever you're pouring into. So you aren't simply removing head space. You're highly aerating the vermouth and then storing it. You'll get a lot more oxidation, and introduce a lot more yeasts/bacteria etc. You'd need to use a syringe, or a siphon system (like we do with home brew), or something similar to minimize oxidation. Otherwise the damage is done, any storage conditions afterwards can only mitigate.

Ideas in Food vs. Linguine alle Vongole: Part 1


Right its a pretty standard trick. I have a neighbor who does it in food saver bags to make it easier to do large amounts in single layers at home. It can be done even quicker than the 6 hours you cite. I typically freeze clams for an hour or so. Granted you still need to shuck them afterwards, but its ridiculously easy when the clams are partially frozen. They either hold very loosely or open very slightly. And they'll defrost in minutes once opened.

@Ananonnie "steamers" typically refers to softshell clams.

Which are very easy to shuck, as the shell is soft, only weakly closed, and never seals completely. The difficulty is in cleaning them of sand, and removing the indigestible membrane over the siphon. The membrane bit can be tough with over cooked or raw clams. And when un-cooked they're really delicate, so you can mangle them even easier than oysers.

More and more often I've been hearing "steamer" used improperly to refer to any clam (and sometimes mussels, or even oysters in one case) that's been steamed. Most often by tourists from non-coastal or non-steamer eatin' areas. I've never been sure if that's the colloquial usage in some bit of New England they picked up. I think I've seen Kenji, or some other writer with roots in Mass, use "steamers" to refer very specifically to soft clams that have been steamed. As if "steamers" were a dish composed of soft clams that have been steamed. But a large number of my family have been clammers, and we have people in various parts of the North East. I'm from Eastern Long Island, there's people scattered through various parts of New England and New Jersey, lots in Maine, and my mother's family originates in Prince Edward Island. The whole stretch "steamer clam" is just the common name for a soft shell clam (or piss clam when you want a giggle), as noted in the wiki article.

The clams in question here are hard clams. Usually just referred to as "clams" or more specifically quahogs in the North East. They can be difficult to open if you don't know what you're doing. And "chowders" which just refers to the largest size can be a pain no matter what. I usually freeze chowders for at least an hour or two before shucking. Or breach the hinge to get my knife in (but that's kind of an advanced maneuver as you can cut your hand or break the knife easily).

The Easiest Way to Cook Fish: Roast it Whole

@Daniel Yeah I'm reasonable sure they're the same genus, or family at least. So pretty close. As are anything referred to as "Sea Bream". I could be wrong but I think Red and Black Snapper are part of the same group. Certainly look very similar.

Bagelnomics: The Curious Pricing of New York's Bagel With Cream Cheese

Oddly enough the 1 bagel with cream chease + 1 plain bagel thing was a huge thing in my elementary and high school cafeteria with kids teaming up days in advance to make it happen.

But am I the only one who prefers their bagels with butter? One of few excuses I had to eat a quarter inch block of the stuff. Though I suppose that has a firmer connection to the NY buttered roll thing.

Roasting a Pig

My brother an I will be doing a hog this coming Saturday 40-50lb range. We've done this 3 times before, and he's done several pigs and a few lambs on his own. We'll be butterflying the pig and cooking it on what's basically a catering style grill. Shallow fire tray with adjustable grill height and a massive barrel style cover, with an off set fire and some water pans it does pretty well for this sort of thing.

We've got a nice handle on how we're going about it. ~225F, skin down protected by foil initially, basting with apple juice/vinger and lard on the meat side. Depending when we pick up the hog we'll either inject or let it take a long sit with a heavy rub. No sugar outside the juice. Expecting 6-8 hours not including rest but planning for longer. Maintaining a consistent temp can be tough in this grill. Using charcoal and a bit of hardwood for smoke.

Anyone have additional tips or advice?

Thanksgiving: What's Your Stuffing Approach?

It can be a very personal question. Do you use a boxed mix? Stovetop? Semi-homemade? Totally from scratch? Dry out the bread overnight first? And where do you fall in the dressing vs. stuffing debate? To clarify, "stuffing" is when it actually cooks in the bird's cavity while "dressing" bakes in a separate pan. Please discuss. More