Did you know there are knives just for lefties? I didn't, but I spotted a Wusthof Left Handed Bread Knife the other day.

How to sharpen a serrated knife

Henckels Pro S 8-Inch High Carbon Stainless Steel Bread KnifeA friend recently asked me how to sharpen a serrated knife, and I realized I had no idea. I sharpen my chef's and paring knives at home on my sharpening stone. But I've never sharpened my serrated blade. Poking around online, I found a link that says you can sharpen on a stone by each individual blade serration. That sounds insanely time-consuming. Other sites say it should only be sharpened by a professional.

Anyone have any suggestions for how best to sharpen a serrated knife?

Update: Doh! Forgot to turn comments on. Fixed now, answer away.

My post from Wednesday on babies and tipping has an interesting discussion going about attitudes towards babies in restaurants, breast-feeding in public, and whether the United States hates children. Keep up the interesting comments folks, and join in if you'd like.

A creamy taste of Innsbruck

Tyrolean cookbookOne of my favorite things to pick up when I travel are local cookbooks. In Austria I purchased a Tyrolian Cookbook filled with recipes for "Marinated Leg of Mountain Goat" (which I haven't tried) and "Innsbruck Garlic Soup" (which I made last night). We had some great knoblauchsuppe (garlic soup) in Innsbruck, and Jason was anxious for me to recreate it.

I've posted the recipe, with a small change and some metric conversions, here: Innsbruck Garlic Soup. We found last night's soup to be more garlicky than the one we had on our trip, so I've slightly reduced the quantity of garlic. Aside from that, it was delicious. I'm looking forward to making this throughout the winter.

Innsbruck Garlic Soup

For soup
1 onion, finely chopped
3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons heavy cream
nutmeg, freshly grated

For croutons
four slices bread
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Jason's looking for cheap eating suggestions in NYC. Got some favorites? Go add them to the discussion.

Parents Against Junk Food is non profit organization devoted to eliminating junk food from our public school system. It's hard for me to believe that soda and candy are even sold in schools. They certainly weren't offered in any of the public schools I attended in the 1970s and 80s.

By fingering any spinach as suspicious, even bunched fresh spinach, the F.D.A. isn’t educating anyone, or solving the problem. A view on the E. coli spinach outbreak from the original owner of Riverside Farms, one of the farms at the center of the controversy.

Frank Bruni kept a running history of his calls to procure a Per Se reservation. It is an infuriating system, but it's better than no "two month" rule. It's like no matter who you are, you have the same opportunity as anyone else of getting a reservation at the Laundry or Per Se. It's a slim chance for one and all.

If you haven't already heard, the 2005 Bordeaux is being touted as an incredible vintage. In an attempt to try to put it in its historical context, some Sherry-Lehmann (an NYC wine store) folks visited Chateau Palmer in Bordeaux. Now they're offering some pristine bottles of such legendary vintages as the 1945, 1961, 1966 and 1970 for sale in their store. You know, in case you've got $7,900 to drop on a single bottle of wine.

Poor service at Freemans

Today New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni published his review of Lower East Site hot spot Freemas. While he seemed to enjoy a lot of the food, it was the inconsistent service he kept returning to. Coincidentally, Freemans is the restaurant I wrote about yesterday where I had poor service while dining with some friends. His review captured the experience we had at Freemans on Monday night.

Mr. Bruni reports there was "dismissive service." A "bossy, brittle man" wouldn't let his party order the artichoke dip while they read the menu--at least our server allowed us that! He describes a hostess who "had all the cuddly charisma of Cujo." Ouch. In the end Mr. Bruni gave it no stars, simply "Satisfactory."

Yesterday, Eater ran a two-part (Part I, Part II) interview yesterday with William Tigertt, Freemans' owner. As I read it, I was struck by how much Mr. Tigertt was concerned with getting the food just right for Mr. Bruni's visit. He changed things on the menu and worried about what Bruni and his party ordered. It was as if running a restaurant were only about the food.

But in my experience, and as Mr. Bruni's review demonstrates, a great restaurant is more than just its food. It's a welcoming environment that sets you at ease. It's a place that treats each and every guest with respect, whether they're a big-time restaurant critic or a few friends stopping in for an early dinner with babies in tow. Perhaps the New York Times review will spur Freemans to improve their service. I hope so, because I enjoyed their food, and I'd like to go back there again someday.

Update: Eater has a final update from the Freemans owner. Even after reading the review, they're still concerned about the food. My hopes for a service improvement are dashed already.

Alinea is number one in GourmetGourmet names Chicago's Alinea number one in their bi-decade list of the Best 50 Restaurants in America. Chef Grant Achatz "is redefining the American restaurant once again for an entirely new generation." This is great news and for one I agree completely with one of these "best" lists. I loved loved loved Alinea when I ate there in late May of this year. (See Alinea's most exciting food and the June 2006 archives for lots of Alinea-related links.)

Update: There's no link to this information because it's not online. It's in the October, 2006 Gourmet, the one with Moto chef Homaro Cantu on the cover. Mine arrived in my mailbox today.

One more post about Ferran Adrià's Espesso that includes a recipe.

In Japan McDonald’s tags food with high-tech nutrition information. "Known as a QR Code, these printed codes look somewhat like a barcode and are scannable by many photo cellphones. All sorts of information can be packed into these little codes, from the website to find the amount of calories and fat in a Big Mac to a company’s contact information on a business card."

We've always had this joke, those of us who have been exposed to Chez Panisse or worked there, that Alice thinks she invented food. The great article about Alice Waters and the history of Chez Panisse from October's Vanity Fair is online.

Babies and the tipping point

Last night I had dinner with four adults. One couple and one woman were accompanied by their babies (both well under the age of two). We were at a popular restaurant, but arrived at 6:30 when it was still empty. Over the course of two hours, we ordered appetizers, main courses, and dessert. We also ordered two bottles of wine.

During that time, the server was so-so in his attention to us. Our salad forks were cleared and no new ones were brought with our main dishes. When we asked for some additional items (another fork, salt, a fresh napkin), another server was short with us and exasperatedly asked, "Is there anything else?" After we finished our first bottle of wine, the servers cleared empty wine glasses rather than ask if we wanted more wine. They seemed irritated with us, as if they were trying to get us out the door as quickly as possible.

So, when the bill finally comes, our server puts it on the table and says, "The tip is included for parties of six or more."

I rarely mind when the tip is included for large parties, because I know they can be difficult. But usually the service that accompanies the included tip is well earned. I'm not sure that was the case last night. On top of it, we were a party of five adults. As I don't usually dine with infants, I'm not sure if it's common to include them in the count. But saying we were a party of seven seems like a stretch. Though I suppose we weren't a usually party of five either.

It felt like the server invoked the "six or more" rule because he found our table difficult and wanted to be sure of a large tip. We paid and left, but not before my friend (who herself had worked as a server for many years) left a note on the check saying the food was great but the service was bad.

So what I want to know is, is this common? Do babies count? Was the server in the right to invoke the large-party-tip-included rule? Or should we have protested? Or is this one of those nebulous areas of American tipping custom that make the whole process so frustrating you wish service were just included in the bill?

The poisonous truth about our daily bread. "The industry is keen to sell us 'premium' loaves with fashionable additions of omega-3, inulin, folic acid and the like. But if we don't attend to the innate quality of our wheat and flour, our diet will consist of little more than nutrified industrial slop."

IKEA duktig cookwareGet your child off on the right gourmet foot with this totally cute toy set of DUKTIG Cookware. It comes with a mini frying pan, stockpots, a strainer, a whisk, and a ladle.

After a lot of trial and error, geek reverse-engineers Patsy's pizza. "This pizza is modeled after Patsy's on 117th street in NYC. I have been working on this for SIX years, but FINALLY I can report that I have achieved my goal." Incredible directions and detail about pizza-making. [via boingboing]

At Aurora Organic Dairy, cows are put on grass only when not being milked or when they are nearing the end of a lactation cycle, and that totals about two to three months a year. A look at big organic, Wal-Mart, and the price of milk.

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