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Liz Ciancone

June 5, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Hot or cold, food needs to be right temp

Every now and then someone opens a conversation with me by saying, “Why don’t you write about …?”

A case in point? I got a suggestion the other day which set my mind awhirl. The suggestion was that I write about restaurants where the air conditioning is turned to arctic temperatures leaving your dinner in serious need of a warm-up before you can go to work with a knife and fork.

Actually, I am a big fan of air conditioning. I rank it along with central heating as one of the greatest inventions of my lifetime. But, I do understand the frustration with cold food.

My Best Friend wants his hot food hot and his cold food cold. To deliver hot food on a cold plate puts his teeth on edge. He has been known to do an “Oscar Madison” and try to warm his empty plate on the top of those metal covers protecting the hot food at a buffet. Worse, he has been known to carry his plate under his arm as he approaches the chow line.

Speaking as a woman who worked her way through high school and college as a waitress, I can also understand how overheated one can get when in a perpetual sprint between the kitchen and your assigned tables. You try against all odds to get the food delivered at a reasonable temperature and as promptly as possible after it has been served. I am sure it is even hotter if you are assigned to hover over a steam table. Under those conditions, a few extra degrees of room temperature is certainly welcome.

One or two local restaurants actually provide a hot pad or a padded glove to the waitperson (and, isn’t that an awkward word?) assigned to deliver your goodies. The plate is definitely too hot to handle with the bare hand, and it is still comfortably warm by the time you have scarfed down your dinner as ordered.

One of the things my BF likes best about European travel is that the temperature of your entree is pegged to the ideal serving temperature. Plates are hot. The food is hot when ladled onto the hot plate. The food is delivered almost as soon as it hits the plate and it remains warm throughout your “dining experience.”

As the adage has it, there is no pleasing everyone, but I have to wonder why it is considered important to keep salad plates about half frozen in a cooler, while hot food is left to shift for itself.

Any old temperature will do? Not for my BF and not for my friends who suggested I write this. They are the ones who had to send a sandwich back to the kitchen to be nuked in a microwave.

Liz Ciancone is a retired

Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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