Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Zipcar: Revisited

My last blog post was a bit of a rant against Zipcar. In addition to the blog post, I also did some complaining on Twitter. Lo and behold, all that complaining did some good. A Zipcar rep saw my tweet and sent me an email. The key portions:
Our new policy will be that you can make a reservation and then cancel it within 30 minutes (as long as you don't start the car) and there will be no charge for the reservation.

With the new policy if you realize you've forgotten something in a car, you can make a reservation, walk to the car and retrieve your item, then walk home and cancel the reservation. Or you can make and cancel the reservation via your cell phone if you're standing next to the car.
Awesome, I say. Zipcar is back in my good graces.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I could spend a whole post talking about the things I love and appreciate about Zipcar, but screw that. Time to vent about the bad stuff.

1) No 30 minute reservations. Minimum of one hour. If Rachel Ray can cook an entire meal in 30 minutes, then surely I can run a quick errand in 30 minutes as well. LAME.

2) Lost item policy. Forget your gloves in the car? Don't realize it until the next morning? You have to reserve the car for another hour (again, not 30 minutes) to retrieve your gloves. I know I screwed up by forgetting my gloves, but it's a perverse incentive when it's about the same price to buy new gloves as it is to make a reservation for an hour to retrieve the gloves. Plus, the car just sits there for an hour now, unusable by anybody else.

3) No cars near my house. What more can I say?

I place blame for 1) and 2) on Zipcar, since Flexcar never had these problems. I'll cut them some slack on 3) because Flexcar had the same problem. It's mostly my fault for living in a neighborhood where everyone drives.

Venting complete.

Saturday, January 17, 2009



I love waffles. LOVE them. They are possibly my favorite breakfast food, which is saying a lot, because I love most all breakfast foods. LOVE. To me, a waffle is this crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, buttery-all-over dimpled round of perfection. Eaten hot off the iron with butter, syrup, jam, etc, it simply can't be beat.

Sadly, for oh so many, a waffle is a frozen disc pulled from the freezer, maybe toasted or more likely microwaved until it reaches the consistency of a warmed-over kitchen sponge. It's nasty! Sure, if you put enough syrup on it, maybe you'll forget that you're eating a waffle at all, especially once you go into a sugar coma. But the world deserves better!

As such, I've made a habit of giving people waffle irons as wedding presents, whether they ask for one or not. But getting the right waffle iron is tricky. Personally, I am blessed with not one, but three waffle irons:

Waffle Irons

The white NC State-ified model on the left is a Sunbeam-Oster model that my sister Elizabeth gave me back when I left for college. Ten years later, it is still a solid workhorse that has been there through the good times (like that time I had waffles for breakfast) and bad (like that time I spilled waffle batter on my keyboard in the dorm room while having waffles for breakfast).

The Cuisinart on the right is a special heart-shaped waffle iron that I gave to Amy as a Chritmas present a few years back. It tends to make very thin waffles that get extra crispy as result, but are just a little too thin for my tastes.

The model in the middle is the Cuisinart (Model WMR-CA), which we received as a wedding present. This model is interesting, because it's the same model I tend to give as wedding presents to other people, mostly because it's the one waffle iron that Bed, Bath, and Beyond typically carries as a floor model. Thus, it's pretty ubiquitous.

Having given this waffle iron as a present many a time, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I'd never actually used one myself. My first reactions were not good: my waffles tend to cook way too quickly, burrning the outside before the middle could finish, which ultimatetly meant that the two sides of the waffle stuck to the iron, ripping the waffle in half when you opened it up. Not good.

Part of this is a function of my waffle recipe. My favorite by far is the Light, Crisp Waffle recipe from Fine Cooking. When done right, these waffles live up to their name: crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. As a bonus, they will stay crisp when left in the oven at 200ยบ, which is key when you want to serve waffles to a group of people at the same time, but don't want your waffles to get all soggy while you build up a sufficient stockpile for service. The recipe is a little extra work, including separating an egg and beating the egg whites with a hand mixer, but again, the result can be awesome.

Except the light-and-crispy action that makes this waffle so good make it susceptible to pulling apart in the waffle iron as I described above. A more typical recipe (see Alton Brown's, for example) is a little thicker so the resulting waffle holds together better. But it's not as light and tasty!

I've since learned a few tricks that have brought this waffle iron back in my good graces.

1) Grease the waffle iron. Yes, I know, the waffle iron already has a non-stick surface, but an extra hit of cooking spray will go a long way towards keeping your waffles from sticking.

2) Keep the waffle iron on the lowest heat setting. For my iron, anything hotter than that would cook the outside of the waffle way too fast. Your mileage may vary, of course.

3) Ignore the red-light green-light for knowing when your waffle is done. While the light may be ok for determing when your waffle iron is hot enough to add batter, it doesn't seem to be a good indicator of when your waffle is done. Instead, I just set a kitchen timer. On the three of my waffle irons, 3 minutes is about the perfect amount of time to cook a waffle, so you might try that as well, and adjust to taste.