Taking a stab at newspaper’s questions

What's my favorite kitchen tool? A new doughnut cutter I picked up at Johnstown Restaurant Supply.

What’s my favorite kitchen tool? A new doughnut cutter I picked up the other day at Johnstown Restaurant Supply.

I’ve long been a closeted fan of tommy:eats, a North Jersey food blog I respect enough to type it correctly. I don’t always agree with him — we had public disagreements when I manned the food blog at The Record down there  —  but I admire his knowledge and appreciate his critical eye toward not only food but the stuff people write about it.

So when he took well-deserved aim at aspects of a Chef Q&A that my former paper started a few years ago, I noticed.

Basically, the paper poses several questions to chefs and presumably prints the answers verbatim. On his Facebook page, Tommy flagged some of the answers of the latest chef, and we agreed that this clown probably was just trying to just answer questions in ways that subtly promoted his restaurant rather than answering from the heart.

Then it got me wondering how I’d answer.

And it wasn’t easy. What’s the next food fad? In the Adirondacks? What’s a food fad?

Anyway, here are my answers. Tommy, my friend, this is for you. Fire away!

Biggest mistake home cooks make: Drying out meat through overcooking, stabbing or other mishandling.

Culinary hero: Alton Brown. I appreciate how he explores every food, appliance and technology development from all angles.

What I would never pay for at a restaurant: Truffles if they’re not already part of the dish. I like them, but not at the price.

Best dish I ever ate: A marinated skirt steak cooked directly on coals, finished with a squeeze of lime. The chef? My wife, Fathers Day 2005.

At a vending machine with a buck, I get: Chex Mix for salty, Three Musketeers for sweet.

My favorite tool in the kitchen: It was my old Dunkin Donuts coffee grinder, which I used for spices. But as of a week or so ago, it’s probably my brand-new doughnut cutter.

Most overused spice: Cinnamon. I’m guilty of this, too. I need to use more nutmeg, allspice, mace, ginger, chiles and pepper in sweet dishes instead of reaching for the predictable.

Strangest request from a diner: “Some of us can’t chew well. Can you cook the vegetables until they’re mushy?”

Most overrated food: Aged steak. Unless it’s USDA Prime and dry aged for several weeks — which probably less than half of 1 percent of the market — it means nothing. All steak is aged.

I hate it when diners: Omit information about food allergies and dietary needs on the camp registration form. I want to help you, but I don’t have the stock or the staff of a restaurant.

The next food fad is: More use of honey and maple sugar or maple syrup as sweeteners. That’s the Adirondack answer. Nationwide, I’m way behind the fads. Maybe crudo?

Presentation is important because: Some dishes, frankly, aren’t always attractive on their own (my roasted eggplant), despite their flavors, and need all the help they can get to be appealing to guests.

My favorite dish to cook: Our Sunday gravy, which is based on a pork ragu recipe from Arthur Schwartz. So much flavor from just a few simple, inexpensive ingredients.
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