A Post about Tipping

16 Apr

To all those who come here for the food porn, today we’re taking a deviation to talk about tipping. (Come back soon for more food porn, however! There are still at least 100 posts in backlog!)

Why?

Because tipping is the one thing that we all do, pretty much every day, and very few of us have any idea what exactly we’re supposed to do.  I worked in the food industry for a hot second, but it was enough for me to truly appreciate why tipping is important. Why this country allows this practice to happen the way it does, with most waiters making far below minimum wage and “making up for” that wage in tips (which are at the discretion of unreliable people) I will never know.  But I read an article this week that was a nice discussion about how important it is to not be a low tipper and what customary tips are for many industries: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/04/everything-dont-know-tipping.html

It’s a thorough article, and not only is it helpful because so many times I’ve asked myself “Am I supposed to tip in this situation?” but also because it discusses that to go from being a low tipper to an average tipper (or average to high) doesn’t take that much out of your pocket in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly does make a big impact on the people you encounter every day who rely on those tips.

I’m also in a place in my life where I WANT to be a great tipper. Great tippers in my past helped me when I needed it most, and when I was reading about the people who were randomly leaving $1,000 tips on random checks in restaurants last year, I was touched. I immediately thought that I would love to do that some day… Have enough money to spare to make a big difference in someone’s paycheck for that night.  I’m certainly not there yet, but I can bump up from average to high at the very least.  I’ve always prided myself on being a good tipper, trying to always give 20% on a bill after tax, but I can do more.

Tipping outside of the food industry has always been a bit of a mystery to me. (And it seems like it is to this writer as well… why DON’T we tip an acupuncturist but we do tip a masseuse?)  After having a wedding, I was left me scratching my head with whom to tip even after reading many articles on the subject.  One thing I learned from that experience, however, is that if someone is providing a service where they set the price and they are the business owner, you don’t tip, because they are setting the price to include gratuities, for the most part (though I’m still not sure about photographers, since the best advice was split on this). On the other hand, if the person helping you works for a business and someone else is setting those prices, then you tip.  Okay… I can live with that. But this article still helped me know that I have to put down a few extra bucks at the nail salon and for bartenders who mix a complicated drink. (I always had in my head that it’s $1 per drink, maybe $2 for a really hard one or really great service, but with cocktails costing $13-$15 in most NYC restaurants, which the bartenders have no hand in setting prices for, $3 per drink is probably a better idea).

One thing I learned by working in a restaurant for a summer is that 15% (before tax) is the absolute minimum you leave, even if you get shitty service. Why? Because that waiter also pays out the kitchen and everyone else that keeps that restaurant humming, so even if the waiter forgot you half the night, there are still a lot of people working to get that food into your face (and at hours when everyone else is out and doing fun things). Working nights and weekends is the only option in that industry if you want to make money to survive, and when I wound up going home with $20 in my pocket after 6 hour on my feet as a hostess because the waiters sucked that night, that really just wasn’t cool.

If you have bad service, the only way you should deal with that is to talk to the manager, just like you would in any other industry. Taking it out on a waiter takes it out on the entire establishment.  If that manager hears that the waiter isn’t doing great, or the kitchen is really screwing up, they have the ability to remedy that situation. Stiffing the waiter doesn’t help anyone figure out what went wrong and never “punishes” the offending person without taking it out on the rest of the staff.

What’s your opinion on tipping? Do you consider yourself a good tipper? Do you want to make it a point to tip better in the future?

 

 

Recipe: Nutella + Caramel Stuffed and Salted Chocolate Cookies

14 Apr

As soon as I heard “Nutella Caramel Salted Chocolate Cookies” from an old coworker, I knew I needed the recipe.  She kindly pointed me to this blog: http://www.topwithcinnamon.com/2013/09/twc-feat-sorted-video-salted-caramel-nutella-stuffed-double-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

Now all I needed was a good excuse to bake them.  Superbowl seemed like as good an excuse as any! So these guys I shaped into footballs and used a simple icing to draw on the laces (simple icing = powdered sugar and water!)

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I couldn’t find the right candy, so I went with Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel (not my first choice, and I would probably look for Rolos or regular ol’ caramels if I did it again).

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They baked up oh so ooey gooey inside

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Another ooey gooey picture just for fun.

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GREAT recipe!  Though next time I’d go with a regular caramel rather than a piece of chocolate covered caramel. There were just too many competing chocolates in here.

The dough itself was fantastic, and can probably be used simply on its own to make a delicious salted chocolate cookie. Check out the original post to see a video on how to make them (great video!)

Nutella + Caramel Stuffed and Salted Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (110g) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (350g) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (55g) cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 oz (100g) milk or dark chocolate chips
  • Flaky salt/ fleur de sel/ maldon salt, for sprinkling
  • Approx. 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) Nutella
  • 15-16 caramel-filled chocolates (or regular salted caramels)

Instructions

  1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Take off the heat and stir in the brown sugar and eggs
  4. Add the cocoa, salt and baking powder and stir until well combined
  5. Add the flour and stir until no floury patches are left
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips
  7. Take 1 heaped tbsp of dough, use your finger make a large indentation the centre of the dough
  8. Fill the indentation with a small blob of nutella (~ 1/2 tsp)
  9. Top it with a caramel-filled chocolate or caramel
  10. Top with a flattened tablespoon of dough, and seal the edges
  11. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and bake for 8-10 minutes
  12. For the video and original recipe, check this link: http://www.topwithcinnamon.com/2013/09/twc-feat-sorted-video-salted-caramel-nutella-stuffed-double-chocolate-chip-cookies.html
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Must be Passover: Recipes for Charoset and Meringue Cookies

13 Apr

Passover is a bit of a strange holiday. I’ve always felt a bit unsettled that it’s a holiday with the retelling of a story that includes dead babies as part of the festive meal, but hey, we have Passover at the same time as Easter, a holiday that is the original Walking Dead story celebrated with a giant bunny who hides eggs… so I guess we all have our quirky religious dogma.

As with most Jewish holidays, Passover is a holiday that is defined by food. While most Jewish holidays involve some specific food to celebrate an event (apples and honey for a sweet new year for Rosh Hashanah, fried foods for the oil that lasted 8 days for Chanukah, triangular shaped Hamantaschen for the triangular hat that the bad guy in the Purim story wore… yup… religion is weird), Passover is a holiday that has many specific foods that celebrate many specific parts of the story.  And boy are most of them depressing!  We eat bitter herbs dipped in salt water to remind us of the bitter life that the Jews had under slavery and the tears they cried.  We display a shank bone to represent an animal sacrifice.  Matzo, the most constipating food on earth, to remember the fact that the Jews had to flee so quickly when they were liberated that their bread didn’t have time to rise (nor did they have the time to poop… I assume).

Then there are some foods that actually taste good, like Charoset, which despite its still depressing meaning (it represents the morter and bricks that the Jewish slaves used to build the Pharaoh’s buildings), is pretty rad.

The classic recipe consists of chopped up apples (peels on or off is a hot debate), walnuts, cinnamon, sugar and sweet red wine (usually Manischewitz, which if you have never tried, you aren’t missing much except a very bad headache in the morning… unless you ask Mike, in which case it’s the best wine on earth and nothing will ever compare so stop laughing right now and let’s just accept it).

The recipe is really kind of by eye… you chop up apples and walnuts, combine with wine, sugar, and cinnamon until it tastes right.

 

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This year, we were asked to contribute this dish, which I was more than happy to do, except I also had a make a version that was a bit different. Mike affectionately called it “weird,” but I will call it “creative” or perhaps “nontraditional.”  And after all, I’m not sure how you can beat Maple Bourbon Charoset with apples, pears, dates, and chestnuts.  Mmm mmm mmm.

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And I can’t have a holiday pass without making SOME sort of dessert. Each year I make my Grandma Litty’s classic meringue kisses, because they are not only one of the most popular cookies I make, but also because they are flour free, so they are a perfect Passover treat.

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Our family seders are super nontraditional, and we usually make it just a few minutes into reading the Hagadah (tells the story of Passover and most people go around the table with each person reading a section to make sure we never forget… which we shouldn’t… but Jews never forget… we’re like elephants).

Last year, we had an accidental light saber fight in the middle of seder before rushing to the “eat the meal” portion.

We also usually celebrate a night with the very gracious family of our more conservative friends most years.  They do the full pre-dinner seder and after-dinner seder (confession… until I was in my late 20s, I didn’t even know there was supposed to be an after-dinner portion). It is kind of nice to be able to do something much more traditional in comparison to my crazy family, even if I don’t entirely believe in all that the holiday has to say word for word.  I am proudly Jewish in culture, after all, and traditions are nice to keep going.

Are you cooking for Passover or Easter? What are you making? Do you have traditional celebrations or is it typically more mayhem like my family?

Meringue Kisses

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: ~40-50 small cookies

One of my favorite cookies of all time, and great for passover

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites (room temperature)
  • pinch of cream of tarter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy
  3. Add pinch of cream of tarter and salt and beat until stiff
  4. Add sugar 1 tsp at a time
  5. Slowly add vanilla
  6. Fold in chocolate chips
  7. Drop cookies onto silpat or parchment paper
  8. Place cookie sheets in oven and turn the oven off immediately
  9. Leave off over night and do not open the oven

Notes

These do not truly bake for 4 hours, but must stay in an oven that was heated and then turned off for at least 4 hours to "set."

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