Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

I am a Servantless American Cook

I saw Julie & Julia tonight – and though I can never, ever imagine myself intrepid enough to conquer 536 recipes in 365 days, I figured I CAN strive to accomplish one task – the Boeuf Bourguignon.

And so I shall.

Before I embark on this mini-project, however, I will need to purchase a casserole. According to the recipe, I need a 9 to 10 inch fireproof casserole, 3 inches deep.

Anyone have advice on what sort of a casserole I should get? On the one hand, because I’m not going to turn into either Julie OR Julia, something for the budget-conscious would be appreciated. On the other hand, I don’t want to purchase a pot that would fall apart or be too thin or heat unevenly, or whatever it is that inferior bakeware does.

So, I am gathering the recipe, I will purchase the necessary cookware and supplies, and I will try to hold a little dinner party for the (un?)fortunate souls who will be trying my first and perhaps only attempt at French cooking. (Is it just me, or does boning a duck hold no appeal what so ever?)

For you guys, I promise a tally of what this project will cost me. And pictures. 🙂


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So it turns out that some waiters are trained to aim the check at the man – I never knew that!

Curiously, I received a comment from a reader who said that in her experience as a waitress, men tend to be better tippers. Another waitress commented that while the men tends to pay, she hasn’t noticed any difference between men and women tippers. According to the couple of surveys that I could find, men are definitely better tippers (see Hitched Mag and 2002 HCareers Survey).

Boyfriend and I are fairly close in terms of tipping (around 18%-20% for lunch and dinner). However, I think that my range of tipping is wider than his. For example, if I have received absolutely fantastic service, I would be more likely to tip 25% than he is. On the other hand, if the service is dismal, I have no problem tipping 10%, whereas boyfriend might feel that’s a little bit low.

Another interesting difference I’ve noticed is that boyfriend tip for take-out pick-up, whereas I usually don’t. Boyfriend also puts his change into those tip jars at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. I hold on to my change (they come in handy when I need coins for meter parking). So, I guess in the grander scheme of things, boyfriend is probably the better tipper by a slim margin.

Even so, I’m not quite convinced that our difference can be attributed to gender – boyfriend has a sibling who works in the service industry, so that aspect is probably more influential on his tipping practice than his gender.

I would like input from readers (especially those of you who has worked as waiters / waitresses) – have you noticed that either men or women tend to be better tippers? Why do you think that is?

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If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, and need some foodspiration, here are my favorite treats for under $5.

1. Flore de Moscato ($4.99) – delicious blend of Orange Muscat and Muscat Canneli. Great dessert wine to drink on its own or pair with some flourless chocolate cake. I’m not a big drinker, but I have a terrible sweet tooth. So… dessert wines are totally up my alley.

2. Chocolate croissant ($3.99) – Flaky, buttery pastry rolls with a chocolate log in the middle. Every package has 4 croissants. I’ve already waxed rhapsodic about this particular treat from TJ’s. In a nutshell, if loving these is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

3. Lemongrass chicken eggrolls ($2.99) – a package of 10 mini eggrolls that will bake up crispy and golden in your oven. Juicy chicken filling, with lemongrass and pepper. These treats would be perfect for finger foods. 

4. Vermont apple chicken sausages ($3.49) – 5 pre-cooked sausages with the most delightful sweetness. I like to chop these sausages into thin slices, pan-fry them (no oil necessary) until browned, then just eat them by themselves or fold them into omelets with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions.

5. Mango sorbet ($3.99) – Honestly? Honestly?? This taste just like frozen, pureed mangos. This sorbet captures the essence of mango down to the fruit’s last pulpy drop. It’s the perfect indulgence on a Summer night.

6. Pizza Parlano ($4.69) – Best. Frozen. Pizza. Ever. Sausage, pepperonis, onions, bell peppers (i.e. my favorite ingredients on one pizza!). The meats are all nitrate-free, so I can indulge (relatively) guiltlessly. I just make one of these pizza and toss together a salad for a quick and yummy meal for two.

(Can you tell that I love adjectives related to food?)

Share your favorite under-$5 treats in the comments!

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Or, at least, my mother’s love.

Mom called me last night and suggested and boyfriend and I go to brunch with her and Dad this weekend. Of course I accepted. Outing with parents = free food! Mmmm… I’m already dreaming of BBQ pork buns and shrimp dumplings.

Even though I have paid for dinner on few special occasions (Dad’s birthday, family gathering with aunts and uncles visting from overseas), my parents still pay for the vast majority of our meals together.

For now, I’m still young enough that the thinking in my family goes: “parents should feed the kid.” I figure I have until 30 before the balances tips to “kid should treat the parents” when it comes to normal meals out.

Does anyone else’s parents do this?

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Question: How do I feel about the most expensive meal I’ve ever paid for by myself?

  • The setting: Michelin-starred restaurant upon a hill.
  • The food: delicious and well-presented.
  • The company: my girlfriends and I, decked out in cocktail dresses and heels.

But what really stayed with me was the impeccable service – friendly, informative, unfailingly polite and never pretentious. The dĂ©cor was gorgeous too – it’s as if I wandered into a dining room decorated by a very wealthy individual with very good taste (or an interior designer).

The entire dinner took almost 3 hours, including a pre-appetizer and pre-dessert compliments of the chef. All in all, a wonderful experience.

I ordered a prix fixe menu and the total tab came out to $80 including tax and tip. It was the most I’ve ever spent on a meal, for myself. That’s a special occasion type of dinner.

Funny to think that when I was in middle school, a $3 box of popcorn chicken from KFC was considered a special treat – by my 8th-grade culinary standard, I’ve definitely made it. 😉

What’s the most expensive meal you’ve ever spent on yourself (excluding meals dined on the company, date, or parental tab)? Was it worth it?

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In no particular order…

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: Strawberry cream tea latte – iced or hot, depending on the weather and my mood ($4)

Starbucks: Iced chai latte ($3)

In-N-Out: Hamburger with extra grilled onions ($2)

McDonalds: Sausage egg McMuffin ($2.50)

Pinkberry: Pomegranate yogurt with mochi, mangos, and blueberries ($6)

Coldstone: Sweet cream ice cream with brownie, bananas, and fudge ($5)

Rubio’s: Fish taco ($2) – but I can never just have one.

Chipotle: Fajita bowl with barbarcoa with extra corn salsa ($7)

What are your favorite treats? And what do you pay?

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What’s your favorite berry?






As I speak I am munching on a bowl of blueberries ($2-something per box at Trader Joe’s). Balance out the cookies I’ve had earlier, I say. 🙂

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Economic stimulus

I have eaten out all my meals on every single weekend (so, around 4-6 meals a weekend) for the past three weekends.

This has to stop.

I don’t even want to tally up how much my Starbucks lattes and Spanish tapas and Thai curry cost.

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Question: What is dining out?

Thanks to the economic downturn, many high-end restaurants have been offering great deals. And as much as I am trying to save money, I have also been heartily enjoying the “recession specials” at high-end restaurants.

Several weeks ago I ate at a Japanese place that would normally be stretching my budget. Instead, I got a 3-course meal for $33 including tax & 20% tip. Best sea bass I’ve had in years. YEARS. I still think of it fondly.

Next week I’m going to a swanky French restaurant where I estimate $28 for 3-course meal including tax & tip. Then the week after I’m going to a trendy lounge / restaurant where I can indulge for 50% off the regular prices (probably around ~$30-$35).

I am so excited.

If you are a gourmand and you have some discretionary income (and you can’t get away for long to take advantage of those awesome travel deals), go to a nice restaurant. You will be doing something good for the economy, and treating yourself to deliciousness that would cost far more in better times.

Let’s eat our ways to prosperity!

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Coupon neophyte

I read through a little of Jane’s couponing techniques on her blog. The amount of stuff she gets with her coupons is really amazing. Even before I read her blog, I knew I wouldn’t be able to duplicate her strategies. I’m not much of a couponer for food.

I do 90% of my grocery shopping at two places: Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy. I don’t particularly enjoy food shopping, so the fact that these two stores seem a lot “happier” wins points with me. The prices are reasonable, and Trader Joe’s premade foods are just so delicious. Seriously!

If Trader Joe’s had coupons, I’d be ON IT in a minute. But I can’t complain though, their normal prices are already really good!

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