Friday, November 16, 2007

If you REALLY love me Santa ...

... this is what you'll leave under my tree this year!



The Tercenturian Hamper, from Fortnum & Mason.

I promise I've been a good girl. Really, I have! Don't you think I deserve this hamper from heaven?

F&M has put it out for one year only - to celebrate their 300th anniversary. This is no ordinary gift basket, friends. This one comes stacked with foie gras, truffles, vintage port, cashmere socks, a bottle of Château Margaux, 1er Grand Cru Classe Margaux 1983... What else?

Champagne flutes, a fruitcake weighing in at over 15 lbs., a 5 lb. baby Stilton, Château Latour, 1er Grand Cru Classe Pauillac 1970...

The list goes on...

And the price tag? £20,000. But Santa, I'm worth it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My new internet addiction

Cold Mud is just what I needed. A thoughtful aggregation of news and items from some of the best food sources on the net - sources that I would love to visit daily if only I had the time. But now, I don't have to worry.

Self-described as "the best food and drink writing and the latest news, reviews and gossip..." the site is brand-new and so far has an interesting collection of reading materials. Let's hope it keeps up.

The name, for the curious among you, is apparently diner slang for "chocolate ice cream."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chili Paste Causes Terror Threat in London



LONDON (Reuters) - A Thai restaurant's potent homemade chili sauce caused a chemical scare in central London, with police shutting streets and firefighters forced to smash down the door.

Streets were cordoned off outside the Thai Cottage restaurant in London's Soho theatre and nightlife district.

"It was initially thought to be a chemical problem. Somebody smelled what they thought was chemicals. So we went there, cordoned it off and assisted the fire brigade," a police spokesman said.

The ambulance service dispatched a Hazardous Area Response Team unit to Monday night's alarm.

Firefighters dressed in special suits broke down the doors and discovered the source of the smell: chef Chalemchai Tangjariyapoon's fiery signature nam prik pao chili sauce.

The chef was baffled by the commotion. "I was making a spicy dip with extra-hot chilies that are deliberately burnt. To us, it smells like burnt chili and it is slightly unusual," he told the Times newspaper.

"I can understand why people who weren't Thai would not know what it was. But it doesn't smell like chemicals."

Monday, October 01, 2007

How to Foodie up your Facebook profile

Facebook really is about more than posting pictures and seeing what your friends are up to. REALLY, it is!

Here are a few ways to indulge your gourmet passions (and justify spending even MORE time on Facebook)

Recipe of the Day from Chow
Feeds a new recipe to your profile every weekday, including step-by-step instructions and, now, videos!

Cocktail Recipes
Tell this app what's in your bar and it will tell you what cocktails you can make (if any). This one takes some experimentation. For example, I told it I had lemonade, amaretto and ice and it told me it couldn't do anything with that...

Eating
Menuism's Eating app allows you to update and share what you're eating and who you ate with, track your favorite restaurants, tap into your friends' dining experiences through their restaurant reviews and post your favorite foods on your profile.

And now for a little Facebook mystery. Maybe someone can help me solve it? There's a profile in Facebook for 'Anthony Bourdain'. It's highly unlikely that it is really him, but then... you never know? Does anyone have any intel on this?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of Screech

The best way to stay warm on a cold Newfoundland night is to have a glass of Screech, a strong and characteristic local drink. The manufacturing process of Screech is similar to that of rum: take sugar cane, ferment it, distill it, age it and blend it.

Here’s Wikipedia’s take on its history:

The story goes that Screech was first created in the days of the Triangle Trade, where the same barrels were used to carry molasses and rum, and only occasionally cleaned. The barrels built up a deposit of impossibly sweet sediment at the bottom, which was melted out with boiling water and either fermented or mixed with grain alcohol. This concoction eventually became known as screech.

The Screech sold legally in liquor stores both in and outside of Newfoundland is blended and bottled by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, which unlike its counterparts in other provinces has retained its bottling business (apparently so it can carefully control the quality of a product so closely identified with the province). However, consumers should be aware many Newfoundlanders do not view the NLC-bottled Screech as the genuine article, as stronger Screech that cannot be legally sold continues to be blended and distributed in an extra-legal manner.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Batali still the Iron Chef to beat

Despite loud and insistent rumors to the contrary, Mario Batali tells TV Guide that he is definitely NOT quitting Iron Chef. "I'm taping two episodes of Iron Chef America in a few weeks," he says. "I'm the best Iron Chef, why would I quit?" Mmm... and modest too!

Contestants in the coming season, kicking off in November, include:

- John Besh (Restaurant August, Besh Steak, Luke and La Provence, New Orleans, LA)
- Chris Cosentino (Incanto, San Francisco, CA)
- Jill Davie (JOSIE, Santa Monica, CA)
- Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere, Mijita and Acme Chophouse, San Francisco, CA)
- Gavin Kaysen (El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, CA)
- Morou Ouattara (Farrah Olivi, Washington, DC)
- Aaron Sanchez (Centrico and Paladar, New York, NY)
- and Michael Symon (Lola and Lolita, Cleveland, OH)

Judges will be Michael Ruhlman (cookbook author and food writer), Andrew Knowlton (Restaurant Editor of Bon Appetit magazine) and Donatella Arpaia (restaurateur and owner of davidburke&donatella and Anthos).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dream Holiday

The Guardian's Gemma Bowes writes about her recent cheese-themed trip to Normandy - as I drool with envy.

I do sometimes wish we lived in Europe, although closer to home you can take a wonderfully cheesy trip in Vermont or, slightly farther afield, in Quebec.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Go Go Grammar

A new fast food craze has hit New York, thanks to our friends in Japan. It's called Go Go Curry and it's more popular than a cupcake at a weight watchers meeting.

As with most Japanese imports, the franchise has a great design ethic with bright colors and bold patterns. It also, curiously, sports a gorilla for a mascot and an obtuse baseball theme. Curry plates come in four sizes - Walk, Single, Double and Triple. For about $7 or $8, you'll get a plate of rice covered in Japanese curry sauce and your choice of topping: fukuzinzuke anyone? Or some natto maybe?

My favorite thing about their website (never mind the food for now) is that it is short on words, but every one of them packs a punch. Where emphasis is needed, all caps and exclamation marks come to the rescue. "Menu!" "To GO EVERYDAY! OK!" "5th, 15th, 25th - GO GO DAY!"

At the bottom of the homepage is a link to a site that looks too good to pass up: "pecopeco! Delicious Website for Hungry Japanese!" One click and I am greeted with a site fully in Japanese. The only English words on the page are "Let's Drink Beer!".

Why not, my friends? Why not?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How To Survive a Tiny Kitchen

Cooking in a small kitchen is a bitch. There's no two ways about it... It sucks!

But there are lots of ways to be smart about your space, to maximize efficiency and minimize suicidal tendencies.

One of the tactics we've mobilized in our tiny kitchen is the hanging pot rack, which has been a total life saver. We also bought a butcher block table that doubles as counter space and kitchen/dining table. Four folding bar stools stow away until guests come to call!

Aside from furniture, there are a number of tools built specifically for tight fits. These include folding silicone colanders and measuring cups, but also a number of magnetic tools that can either be slapped on the front of the fridge or to a sheet of metal attached to the wall. Check out online stores like tinyliving.com for ideas and inspiration and be sure to use your imagination!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

NY Times Editorial: In Praise of Tap Water

I would like to share this editorial, for those of you who haven't seen it, on the colossal waste and pollutive power of the bottled water industry. For those who have seen it, it's worth reading again. And again.


Published: August 1, 2007

On the streets of New York or Denver or San Mateo this summer, it seems the telltale cap of a water bottle is sticking out of every other satchel. Americans are increasingly thirsty for what is billed as the healthiest, and often most expensive, water on the grocery shelf. But this country has some of the best public water supplies in the world. Instead of consuming four billion gallons of water a year in individual-sized bottles, we need to start thinking about what all those bottles are doing to the planet’s health.

Here are the hard, dry facts: Yes, drinking water is a good thing, far better than buying soft drinks, or liquid candy, as nutritionists like to call it. And almost all municipal water in America is so good that nobody needs to import a single bottle from Italy or France or the Fiji Islands. Meanwhile, if you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,400 annually. The same amount of tap water would cost about 49 cents.

Next, there’s the environment. Water bottles, like other containers, are made from natural gas and petroleum. The Earth Policy Institute in Washington has estimated that it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use each year. That could fuel 100,000 cars a year instead. And, only about 23 percent of those bottles are recycled, in part because water bottles are often not included in local redemption plans that accept beer and soda cans. Add in the substantial amount of fuel used in transporting water, which is extremely heavy, and the impact on the environment is anything but refreshing.

Tap water may now be the equal of bottled water, but that could change. The more the wealthy opt out of drinking tap water, the less political support there will be for investing in maintaining America’s public water supply. That would be a serious loss. Access to cheap, clean water is basic to the nation’s health.

Some local governments have begun to fight back. Earlier this summer, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom prohibited his city’s departments and agencies from buying bottled water, noting that San Francisco water is “some of the most pristine on the planet.” Salt Lake City has issued a similar decree, and New York City recently began an advertising campaign that touted its water as “clean,” “zero sugar” and even “stain free.”

The real change, though, will come when millions of ordinary consumers realize that they can save money, and save the planet, by turning in their water bottles and turning on the tap.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Black Bean Dip

Beans, Beans, They're Good For Your... Soul


The other day I made a really delicious Black Bean Dip (if I may say so myself). It was simple and quick and makes a great snack.

1 can black beans, water reserved
cumin, 2 tsps. ground and 1 tsp. seeded
coriander, 1 tsp. ground and 1/2 cup fresh, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
juice of 1/2 a lime

Heat the oil in a shallow pan. Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic powder and salt. Fry the spices for a minute or two, then add the beans. Add the cumin seeds. Continue to sautee the beans for about 5 minutes, adding the reserved water if the mixture becomes too dry and begins to stick.

Add the vinegar and chopped tomatoes. Sautee for another two minutes. With a potato masher, gently crush the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency. Use an immersion blender if you like your dip very smooth. If it is still too loose, continue to cook some of the liquid off. Remove from heat, add the lime juice and chopped coriander. Serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How to equip your kitchen on a budget



A few months ago, The New York Times's Mark Bittman wrote a story (and produced a video) on the essential kitchen equipment needed for a beginner cook. For those of you who missed it, I am pasting the text below.

But I'd like to offer a few comments of my own on this subject. I begin with an anecdote... A few years ago, my husband and I lived in Luanda, Angola, in a shared apartment with none of our equipment. We had a stove that had no gas marks, one dull knife, a medium frying pan and a large sauce pan.

We still managed to make some delicious food, including a full Christmas meal for 25 people, so it is true that a presence or lack of kitchen gadgets does not directly impact whether or not you can cook. But having good equipment certainly increases the likelihood of your food being delicious. Enough said.

As far as I'm concerned, there are a few things no kitchen should be without. In our kitchen, we have some "name brand" stuff, but we didn't buy it just for the sake of the name. In some cases, we found (through serious trial and error) that the name brand items really just are better quality. In other cases, not. Someone once told me, "You buy cheap, you buy twice" and I have found that to be a largely true statement, over and over again. (Hint: we buy our name brand stuff on sale, on the 'as is' rack at better kitchen stores or in discount stores like Home Goods).

Here are just a few of the items I couldn't part with:

- a good pepper mill (I use a Peugeot)
- a good peeler (for me, Henckels)
- a chef's knife, serrated knife and paring knife (any brand you're comfortable with)
- wooden spoons
- a grill pan
- a good whisk
- a good pair of tongs
- a honing steel

As for pots and pans, I've used cheap non-stick and cheap aluminum pans before and I find they really don't cook as well as better quality steel pots and pans. In fact, we don't have any non-stick at all. All-Clad pans are great because they are constructed so that you don't have to use a very high heat so food tends not to stick. They are more expensive than what Bittman suggests, but again, you buy them once and keep them for life.

We don't own a food processor and do very well without one. We use a traditional cheese grater and a Microplane and otherwise get by on our very rudimentary knife skills. Our immersion blender stands in for a traditional blender (which takes up too much space for our microscopic kitchen), hides away neatly in a closet and makes everything from smoothies and margaritas to soups and hummus.

Here's what Bittman had to say:

A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks
By MARK BITTMAN

THE question I’m asked more often than any other is, “What kitchen equipment should I buy?”

Like cookbooks, kitchen equipment is a talisman; people believe that buying the right kind will make them good cooks. Yet some of the best cooks I’ve known worked with a battered batterie de cuisine: dented pots and pans scarred beyond recognition, an old steak knife turned into an all-purpose tool, a pot lid held just so to strain pasta when the colander was missing, a food processor with a busted switch. They didn’t complain and they didn’t apologize; they just cooked.

But famous TV chefs use gorgeous name-brand equipment, you might say. And you’d be right. But a.) they get much of that stuff free, the manufacturers hoping that placing it in the hands of a well-known chef will make you think it’s essential; b.) they want their equipment to be pretty, so you’ll think they’re important; and c.) see above: a costly knife is not a talisman and you are not a TV chef.

Finally (and this is crucial), the best chefs may use the best-looking equipment when they are in public view, but when it is time to buy equipment for the people who actually prepare those $200 restaurant meals, they go to a restaurant supply house to shop for the everyday cookware I recommend to people all the time.

In fact, I contend that with a bit of savvy, patience and a willingness to forgo steel-handle knives, copper pots and other extravagant items, $200 can equip a basic kitchen that will be adequate for just about any task, and $300 can equip one quite well.

To prove my point I put together a list of everything needed for almost any cooking task. I bought most of the equipment at Bowery Restaurant Supply, 183 Bowery Street (Delancey Street), where the bill came to just about $200. Throw in a few items the store didn’t have and a few extras, and the total would be about $300. (New York happens to have scores of restaurant supply shops, but every metropolitan area has at least one.)

I started with an eight-inch, plastic-handle stainless alloy chef’s knife for $10. This is probably the most essential tool in the kitchen. People not only obsess about knives (and write entire articles about them), but you can easily spend over $100 on just one. Yet go into any restaurant kitchen and you will see most of the cooks using this same plastic-handle Dexter-Russell tool. (Go to the wrong store and you’ll spend $20 or even $30 on the same knife.)
Video

I found an instant-read thermometer, a necessity for beginning cooks and obsessive-compulsives, for $5. Three stainless steel bowls — not gorgeous and maybe a little thin — set me back about $5. You are reading that right. Sturdy tongs, an underappreciated tool: $3.50 (don’t buy them too long, make sure the spring is nice and tight, and don’t shop for them at a “culinary” store, where they’ll cost four times as much).

For less than $6 I picked up a sturdy sheet pan. It’s not an ideal cookie sheet but it’s useful for roasting and baking (not a bad tray, either, and one of the more common items in restaurant kitchens). A plastic cutting board was about the same price. For aesthetic purposes I’d rather have wood, but plastic can go into the dishwasher.

At $3, a paring knife was so cheap I could replace it every year or two. I splurged on a Japanese mandoline for $25. (It’s not indispensable, but since my knife skills are pathetic, I use mine whenever I want thin, even slices or a real julienne.)

You, or the college graduate you are thinking of, might own some of the things I bought: a $4 can opener; a vegetable peeler (I like the U-shaped type, which cost me $3); a colander ($7, and I probably could’ve gotten one cheaper).

You are thinking to yourself: “Humph. He’s ignoring pots and pans, the most expensive items of all.” Au contraire, my friend; I bought five, and I could live with four (though I’d rather have six): a small, medium and large cast-aluminum saucepan (total: about $30); a medium nonstick cast aluminum pan (10-inch; $13); and a large steep-sided, heavier duty steel pan (14-inch; $25). I bought a single lid ($5; I often use plates or whatever’s handy for lids because I can never find the right one anyway).

I like cast iron, and I have used it in some kitchens for nearly everything; but it can be more expensive than this quite decent cheap stuff, and it’s very heavy. What you don’t want is the awful wafer thin (and relatively more expensive) sets of stainless or aluminum ones sold in big-box stores.

Other things, like the mandoline, are almost luxury items: a skimmer (I like these for removing dumplings or gnocchi); a slotted spoon; a heat-resistant rubber spatula (which can replace the classic wooden spoon); a bread knife (good for crusty loaves and ripe tomatoes); and a big whisk (which I might use three times a year).

You should also have a food processor (you want 12-cup capacity, and Amazon.com, for example, has an adequate 14-cup Hamilton Beach for $60); a salad spinner (the one at Bowery Restaurant Supply was as big as my kitchen; you will find one for $15 somewhere); a Microplane grater (the old box graters have been largely replaced by the food processor, but you’ll need something for cheese, nutmeg and your oft-used asafetida; it’ll set you back less than $10). A coffee and spice grinder is another $10 item.

A blender is a bit more optional. An immersion one is nice, but standard ones are more useful, and you can find them for as little as $15.

And, finally, something with which to keep those knives sharp. A whetstone costs about $6, and if you use it, it will work fine; a decent steel is expensive enough that you may as well graduate to an electric sharpener. Though sharpeners take up counter space and cost at least $30, they work well.

The point is not so much that you can equip a real kitchen without much money, but that the fear of buying the wrong kind of equipment is unfounded. It needs only to be functional, not prestigious, lavish or expensive.

Keep that in mind, stay out of the fancy places and find a good restaurant supply house. If you make a mistake — something is the wrong size or of such lousy quality you can’t bear it — you can spend 20 bucks more another time. Meanwhile, you’ll be cooking.

The Inessentials

YOU can live without these 10 kitchen items:

BREAD MACHINE You can buy mediocre bread easily enough, or make the real thing without much practice.

MICROWAVE If you do a lot of reheating or fast (and damaging) defrosting, you may want one. But essential? No. And think about that counter space!

STAND MIXER Unless you’re a baking fanatic, it takes up too much room to justify it. A good whisk or a crummy handheld mixer will do fine.

BONING/FILLETING KNIVES Really? You’re a butcher now? Or a fishmonger? If so, go ahead, by all means. But I haven’t used my boning knife in years. (It’s pretty, though.)

WOK Counterproductive without a good wok station equipped with a high-B.T.U. burner. (There’s a nice setup at Bowery Restaurant Supply for $1,400 if you have the cash and the space.)

STOCKPOT The pot you use for boiling pasta will suffice, until you start making gallons of stock at a time.

PRESSURE COOKER It’s useful, but do you need one? No.

ANYTHING MADE OF COPPER More trouble than it’s worth, unless you have a pine-paneled wall you want to decorate.

RICE COOKER Yes, if you eat rice twice daily. Otherwise, no.

COUNTERTOP CONVECTION OVEN, ROTISSERIE, OR “ROASTER” Only if you’re a sucker for late-night cooking infomercials.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bombay Duck in Delhi

Delhi City Limits, a bimonthly magazine published by Outlook India, recently ran a feature about what the author describes as "possibly the world’s most delicious fast food."

He's talking about Bombay Duck, and about the version of this delicacy not found at any restaurant in Delhi, but at the house of Sunila Patel, my mother's cousin, seen left with my dear Dad. Sunila, you rock!!

Contrary to reason, Bombay Duck neither hails from Bombay nor is it duck. Read the article below for more details:

Bombay Duck in Delhi

By Freddy Birdy


Some of Delhi’s most delicious meals can be had outside its restaurants.

If you are ever invited to lunch at Sunila Patel’s, and if you happen to know in advance that she will be serving her crisp-fried, green chilly-stuffed Bombay Duck, then please do drop every pressing engagement and go.

It is an arduous climb up several “ builder-steps” to her second floor apartment, but worth every asthmatic gasp.

You will be seated at a square wooden table, bought in the mid eighties at Taaru’s, that furniture brand that existed when there were no such thing as furniture brands. Behind you will be a wall full of books, leaning against each other unselfconsciously like old friends. The walls will be scattered with delicate Mickey Patel drawings. And a split air-conditioner will lower the second floor summer temperature considerably.

But all this will fade to a blur and your whole, undivided attention will fall on the star attraction, as it is placed simply before you.

The Bombay Duck is not a bird, it does not quack, neither does it come from Bombay. Ours comes a short hop down the road from the Chitaranjan Park fish market. To call the Bombay Duck a fish would be like calling Shabana Azmi an actor. It is much more than that. It is about an inch longer than a 6 inch ruler, slender, firm, yet slightly, nicely, plump. [ Think Aishwariya Rai’s belly in Kajra Re.] It is marinated for a bit in a touch of turmeric, a finger’s pinch of red chilly powder, a tiny hint of ginger-garlic paste, stuffed with an entire small green chilly, dusted in the merest whisper of rice flour and gently placed delicately on an iron griddle glistening with smoking hot oil till it is done to an impossible deliciousness, shatteringly crisp on the outside, the flesh meltingly soft and moist on the inside.

Even though I would include Sunila in my list of favourite conversationalists in Delhi city, her Bombay Duck is best eaten in utter silence, with your fingers, head focused firmly on the plate in front of you, fingertips just slightly scalded by the searing hot flesh, hands used only in pantomime when it is time for your plate to be replenished. You pause midmouthful to rain fresh lime on it, lengthwise, from large half-discs of lemon, or gulp large sips of iced water. It is important to mention here that no other conflicting flavour be served alongside. The only thing that goes well with Bombay Duck, is more Bombay Duck.

The ingredients for this feast to end all feasts, cost a princely thirty rupees. But simply flashing a credit card will not give to access to this extraordinary taste sensation. The Bombay Duck is unlisted on menus in Delhi. It would appear naïve and a little foolish in front of its richer cousins: crabs, lobsters, tiger prawns, mussels. But it is a dish that occupies heartspace, not menuspace. In a sense, this is fast-food, straight from the fish market, into the frying pan and in your mouth. But it is possibly the world’s most delicious fast food. You cannot merely buy your crisp fried Bombay Duck, you have to earn it. And of course, it is never ever too late to get to know Sunila Patel.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Frankenfood explained

An article on MSN today explains what we're really putting in our bodies when we eat things like "pasteurized process cheese food," fruit punch and chicken "nuggets."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Food News

Internet fuelling extreme food fighting

MONTREAL — The Internet is fuelling an extreme version of the high-school food fight, threatening innocent teachers and students with ham sandwiches, eggs and rotten tomatoes.

Police raised alarm bells on Thursday following an incident one day earlier at a high school in southwestern Montreal in which more than 20 baton-wielding officers needed three hours to quell a food fight that turned into a riot.

Three people were injured and two students were arrested and face assault charges.

Montreal police said that students are using the Internet to prepare for the fights, then posting videos on websites such as YouTube.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Day in the Park

Picture this:

It's summer, the weather is fine and you have been invited to a picnic in the park. You are looking forward to spending the day in the sun with good friends. In your excitement, you write to the party's host, telling her how you can't wait to "go to the picnic", and how it has been a while since you've had a chance to "enjoy the fresh air" and romp with "the dogs". You say it will be fun "to play football" in the park and you're looking forward to "eating cheese" and having a sip of wine.

Uh-oh...

You might want to think again before sending that message. You might have the feds on your tail.

The New York Times reports that the F.B.I. has cracked a secret code used by terrorist cells when planning attacks (F.B.I. Agent Tells Padilla Jury of Coded Plans for Jihad)

Following are code words, and their meanings, as described by an F.B.I. agent testifying at the federal trial of Jose Padilla and two other terrorism suspects. Defense lawyers have challenged the government’s interpretations.

“go to the picnic” = travel to an area of jihad

“married” = killed or martyred

“the dogs” = the United States government

“playing football” and “to eat cheese” = engaging in jihad

“the students” = the Taliban

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cross-border relations: We're in a real pickle

A silent war is being waged between two powerful neighbors. Canada and the U.S. are, unbeknown to most of us, fighting a bitter battle over who makes the better junk food.

A recent, informal taste test amongst employees of The New York Times dealt a decisive blow, although points were scored for and against. Participants tasted four flavors of Canadian potato chips currently unavailable to American audiences.

Roast chicken chips, "taste like ramen noodles," according Laurie, a taste tester. Ketchup chips taste, "exactly like a chip dipped in ketchup, if you like that sort of thing," said Ross.

On to the all-dressed chip, a secret blend of ingredients that is distinctly Canadian. This one was a hit! The flavours were bold, inventive and strangely addictive.

The clincher, however, was the humble dill pickle. "This is the best potato chip I've ever tasted!" Jim exclaimed. And Lillie has found a "new favorite."

Another battle quietly won through negotiation, reason and sheer good taste.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I will survive

Dear Diary,

As of today, Sugar and I are officially on a break. It's not that we don't love each other and nothing says we might not get back together again some day, but for now we just need some space.

Sugar is just way too controlling. It's like I can't go anywhere without him. Not a day goes by when he won't leave me alone. I think it will just be good for us to have some time apart. I'm sure Sugar will see other people - but I'm ok with that.

We've had some good times, Sugar and I. It's going to be hard to live without him. My strategy will be one of distraction. I am going to try to be intrigued by others... to find beauty in places I haven't yet explored. Like Fennel, maybe. I saw him at the farmer's market yesterday and he looked SO good!

I might try to throw myself into work as a way of forgetting - somehow though, Sugar is on my mind most during the late hours of my shift.

For now, I have a bunch of sad breakup songs playing over and over in my mind...
I walk along the city streets
You used to walk along with me
And every step I take recalls
How much in love we used to be
Maybe just one more night... I can start tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Appenzeller

Appenzeller

Country: Switzerland

Milk: Cow

Description: A fabulous semi-hard cheese from Switzerland that can be identified by its yellow- to reddish-brown rind and medium-sized holes. It has a nutty, delicious flavour with a little bite that comes from a secret blend of herbal ingredients carefully guarded over the centuries (this cheese is said to date back at least 700 years).

Link: www.appenzeller.ch

Monday, May 07, 2007

The not-so-Happy Meal


I usually think twice before spending $18 on a t-shirt, but this one is so cool I might not have a choice. The shirt is marketed on 'Threadless,' a social networking site where people can upload their own t-shirt designs.

The image makes a strong statement about fast food... it has also apparently enraged school principals across the country, who seem to find it offensive and inappropriate... What a world we live in.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Size does matter, shilling for votes and a strange reward

12 inches of hunka-hunka burning meat
Gothamist reviews Prime Burger Cafe, which serves not only burgers but foot-long Kobe hot dogs. It looks like it might be worth a try - could either be delicious or your 'wurst' enemy!

Do I have to eat them all at once?
A Utah restaurant is looking for the crook who stole $3,000 from them last month. Seeing as all the cash is gone, the restaurant is offering an unusual reward to anyone who provides information that can lead to an arrest - 500 tacos. At over $2 a pop - that's worth about $1,200! Wonder if you'll have to pay for a little guac on the side?

This just in...

If you're one of those people who still reads Zagat's before heading out to eat, then the New York Post has got some news for you. The people who write in may have been influenced by some strategic 'ballot-stuffing' techniques engineered by the sneaky restauranteurs themselves... For those of you shattered by the thought, try this: Chowhound.com

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What fast food REALLY looks like

This guy might have too much time on his hands, but I've got to give him credit for a clever idea, well executed.

Jeff Kay, who describes himself as "an Ugly American living on the cusp of a mid-life crisis," runs a blog called The West Virginia Surf Report (even though he lives in Scranton, PA). He recently took the time to compare the food seen in fast food advertisements to what the items look like in reality.

An unpalatable preview:



Check out the full report.

Monday, April 30, 2007

How to garnish a plate

A delicious dish tastes even better when the plate it is served on looks like a work of art. There is something about a beautiful presentation that enhances the appetite, builds anticipation and makes the food that much better.

This site provides simple, step-by-step instructions on making basic vegetable garnishes like green onion curls, julienne carrots and radish roses.

A little more effort can produce adorable chickens made from hard-boiled eggs and bell peppers, cherry flowers or cucumber twists.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Les Frères

Crave Brothers Les Frères

Country: United States

Milk: Cow

Description: The Crave brothers of Waterloo, Wisconsin have won numerous awards for this mild, yet slightly stinky, washed-rind cheese. Although it is all-American, it exudes the brothers' European heritage. Semi-firm and smooth, it pairs equally well with wine and beer. Definitely check it out.

Link: www.cravecheese.com

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mr. Bean on French cheeses

Excerpted from An idiot's guide to French cuisine - by Mr. Bean

... The only mystery about French food, as far as I'm concerned, is why anyone eats half the blooming stuff. For a nation that gets so much right; art, culture, crochette, culottes, how does it get so much wrong? Driving on the wrong side of the road and stinky cheese, for instance. The country's knee-deep in cheese and it's really not anything to write home about. Try this at home if you've got the stomach for it :

Stinky French cheese

1. Take an ordinary piece of English (non-smelly) cheese.

2. Prepare a smelly sock by wearing it for two or three days.

3. Insert cheese into sock.

4. Leave in sunny spot in the garden for a week.

5. Remove cheese from sock with gloves and tongs before serving, and enjoy friends' comments such as: 'Hey, this cheese really stinks. Is it French?'

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Keen's Cheddar

Keen's Cheddar

Country: U.K.

Milk: Cow

Description: A traditional farmhouse cheddar from Somerset, there's no joke when this cheese is described as "grassy". It literally gives the fresh, pleasant experience of freshly cut grass. Slightly fruity and tangy, this is one of the few cheddars still made by hand.

Link: www.keenscheddar.co.uk

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cheese tips for the lactose intolerant

A wise man once said, “In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.” Not to belittle the teachings of the Dalai Lama, but this philosophy works when it comes to cheese as well.

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body stops producing lactase, the enzyme it needs to properly break down lactose. Everyone is lactose intolerant to some degree, but some of us are clearly more affected than others.

This should not, however, be an impediment to enjoying nature's greatest gift - cheese!

Hard, aged cheeses are best for the weak of stomach, as they contain lower levels of lactose (and sometimes none at all), but even a standard swiss or cheddar cheese still only contains about 5% of the lactose found in whole milk. Fresh cheeses like mozzarella may be more of a problem.

Researchers from Purdue University have found that people who stay away from dairy products because of presumed intolerance have stronger symptoms than those who eat small amounts of dairy on a regular basis. This is because over time bacteria in the intestine begin to adapt and more effectively digest lactose. They also found that lactose consumed with a meal is tolerated about three times better than lactose consumed in a fasted state.

So what's the lesson in all this? "Cheese every day will keep the wind away (just choose older, harder cheeses and don't eat them on an empty stomach)"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How to make a great grilled cheese

2 slices of bread + cheese + heat = grilled cheese sandwich

The humble grilled cheese needn't be so one-dimensional. Think of the possibilities!! The variations on bread, the hundreds of cheeses, the plethora of potential fillings, not to mention condiments (ketchup, mustard, horseradish, etc.)

April is National Grilled Cheese Month. You've got all month to celebrate this wonderful invention so why not experiment with some of these options...

Breads:
- sourdough
- calabrese
- baguette
- olive bread
- walnut
- tortillas

Cheeses:
- fontina
- gruyere
- aged provolone
- mozzarella
- monterey jack
- cheddar
- halloumi

Fillings:
- Smoky: smoked ham or turkey
- Spicy: chorizo or salami
- Meaty: roast beef
- Tasty: BACON!!
- Healthy: mushrooms
- Upscale: truffles
- Fresh: tomatoes or pesto
- Zesty: roasted red peppers, sauteéd onions or jalapeños

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Robiola Rosina

Robiola Rosina

Country: Italy

Milk: Mixed

Description: A square, fresh cheese made from a blend of cow and sheep’s milk. Soft and creamy, the flavour is mild and delicate - good with crusty, hearty bread and a light red or white wine.

How to debone poultry

Our friends at Starchefs.com feature a simple method for deboning chicken, duck and other poultry.

Deboning poultry is a valuable kitchen technique. It promotes even cooking and easy serving. Once deboned, the poultry can be used in a variety of ways, including stuffed and rolled, as shown in this recipe.

STEP 1: Starting on the backside of the duck, slit from neck to tail.

STEP 2: With scissors or boning knife, gently follow along breastbone and separate thighbone from joint. Repeat on the other side.

STEP 3: Remove thighbone from each side.

STEP 4: Cut wings off at the second joint.

STEP 5: Lay ducks out flat, cover with plastic, and pat lightly with meat mallet until meat is even at ¼ inch thick.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Brilliant fund-raising idea...

or sad waste of bread?

You decide.

http://yournameontoast.com

In the spirit of the season

The world's most famous cheddar is all dressed up for Easter!

Long live the Cheese Revolution!

Mauritanian cheese maker battles EU
Even after fighting Brussels for 13 years, British-born Nancy Abeiderrahmane is convinced she will one day penetrate "fortress Europe" to sell her Mauritanian camel's cheese in the European Union.

In the office of her dairy on the outskirts of the capital Nouakchott, Abeiderrahmane shows off her different products: packages of milk from cows, goats and camels, yogurts and, last but not least, her specialty -- camel's milk cheese, which she says is a world first launched in 1994.

While many of the products have found a good market in this sparsely populated Muslim country in northwest Africa, the dairy, called Tiviski or Spring, has a public relations headache at home -- struggling to persuade the traditionally nomadic Mauritanians that camel's milk cheese is edible.

*****

That is an effort we can all support, but this next one??? Maybe not...

*****

Does the world really need Human Cheese?
"I think it would be fantastic to try making cheese from the milk of humans," writes Brent Emerson of Oakland, CA. "My goal would ultimately be to identify a large set of mostly-vegan lactating women to use as milk sourcers."

"Imagine the vegans, running through the streets with joy, eating pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches and other cheesy delights! Imagine their digestive systems, happily digesting milk produced to meet their own species' needs!"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Space food, salty food and life of food stamps

Governor, wife to spend a week on food stamps
In an effort to better understand the needs of the poor, Gov. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon has agreed to spend a week limiting his food spending to $65, the amount he would qualify for in food stamps.

World's Food Still Far Too Salty
Too many countries are still ignoring the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines on what should be a healthy level of salt in our daily diet, according to Professor Franco Cappuccio of the University of Warwick’s Medical School.

Space dining, Martha Stewart style
Billionaire space tourist Charles Simonyi took a lunch packed by "best friend" Martha Stewart into space with him. The meal apparently included duck breast confit and semolina cake with dried apricots.

Wanted: Cave Manager
The food business is booming, and with it, there’s a boom in jobs you’ve never heard of.

Food & Wine Magazine Names 19th Annual Best New Chefs
Food & Wine Editor in Chief Dana Cowin revealed the names of the ten up-and-coming talents who have earned the coveted title of Food & Wine Best New Chefs.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Roomano

Roomano

Country: Netherlands

Milk: Cow

Description: Roomano is a hard Gouda-like cheese not to be confused with the Italian Romano cheese. Roomano differs from Gouda in its percentage of butterfat: while Gouda contains 48% butterfat or more, Roomano has less than 48%. Generally aged for four years or more, the nutty, caramel flavours pair well with sherry or port.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Dragon's Breath


Dragon's Breath

Country: Canada

Milk: Cow

Description: A soft blue cheese from veteran Nova Scotia farmstead cheesemaker Willem van den Hoek, also known as That (damned) Dutchman. It stinks, hence the name. But the blue flavour is mild and the soft and creamy texture make it perfect for spreading on crackers or serving with crisp apples or pears.

Link: www.denhoek.ca

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Cheese Report

The world of cheese is wide, varied and sometimes stinky. To help you navigate this pungent paradise, I've put together something of a 'best of' list. Enjoy!


Best birthday gift for the female cheesehead

Eau de Stilton, a perfume blended specifically for the Stilton Cheese Makers Association. The scent reportedly "re-creates the earthy and fruity aroma of Blue Stilton cheese in an eminently wearable perfume." Personally, I'm holding out for Eau de Prosciutto for my next birthday.

Best cheeses to gross out your friends and neighbors

On smell alone, the crown has to go to Vieux Boulogne, a washed rind cheese from Normandy that topped the list of the world's whiffiest cheeses, as decided by researchers at the UK's Cranfield University. For taste, however, my vote is with Strachitunt, so far the worst cheesy concoction I have ever put in my mouth. I'm willing to give it another try, however, as the piece I ate was positively green, as was my face after eating it... Anyway, it's an Italian taleggio, painstakingly made with morning and evening milk, streaked with blue, gray and green molds and aged in limestone caves for two months.

Best reason to go to Britain this spring

What else but the 2007 Gloucestershire cheese rolling festival. It's been a long, cold winter. You've been stuck inside with nothing to do. Spring breaks, the sun begins to shine and, lo and behold, you find yourself running to the nearest hill with a wheel of cheese in your hands. Feeling triumphant at the top of the hill, you proceed to hurl the cheese, and yourself, down the hill. And a sport is born.

Best way to satisfy your cheese and coffee addictions

Cappucino cheese, of course! Introduced in limited quantities in the UK, it is the product of blending white stilton with Colombian coffee to produce a dark base layer, topped by a layer of white stilton with vanilla. Coming soon to a Starbucks near you?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chef Wolfgang Puck joins natural-food movement

LOS ANGELES, March 22 (Reuters) - Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has decided to be kinder to the animals he cooks.

In an announcement made with the cooperation of the Humane Society of the United States, Puck launched a program to bar animal cruelty from his $300 million-a-year business empire.

He said his restaurants would no longer serve foie gras, which involves the force-feeding of geese and ducks, or use pork or calves that have been kept in crates or use eggs from caged hens on his menus.

Puck removed the contentious food items from all his Wolfgang Puck restaurant menus and pledged to use only certified, sustainable seafood, and all-natural or organic chicken and turkey from progressive animal welfare-compliant farms.

Puck told Reuters that going natural was one goal easily within reach.

"We use organic vegetables already. We want to use humanely treated animals, and we want to be responsible citizens. We want to look into children's nutrition ... and sustainable seafood, and so on," he said.

He said the naturally raised veal, pork and chicken tasted better, and the cost, while as much as 5 percent higher, would be a small consideration for customers.

Puck's decision was praised by the Humane Society of the United States and the animal advocacy group, Farm Sanctuary, which served as an adviser after years of campaigning against Puck's restaurants.

"Our guests ... want to know where the food comes from and how the animals were raised," Puck said earlier in a statement.

"They want to eat healthy food in good conscience, and they know that we can make healthy taste decisions," he said.

The program will affect the company's 14 fine-dining group restaurants, including his famed Beverly Hills restaurant Spago, and more than 80 Gourmet Express casual restaurants and 43 venues across the United States, where 10 million customers ate in 2006.

Foie gras is the fatty liver of a duck or goose, which is produced by force-feeding the animals through a tube and served as a luxury hors d'oeuvre.

Crated meats are those in which the animals are kept in small cages that prevent movement or proper growth.

REUTERS

Colossal calamari, rodents and $1,000 pizza

Food news could hardly get sillier than these little tasty bites:

Fishermen in New Zealand dragged up what they think is the largest squid ever caught. The poor sucker weighed 1,089 lbs. and measured 33 feet long. Scientists are now studying the beast to learn all they can about it, resisting the temptation of cutting it up and making calamari the size of truck tires.

Rodent: it's what's for dinner. The New York Times reports that capybara, a rodent the size of a Labrador retriever, is a delicacy in Venezuela. The meat apparently costs twice as much as beef and is an Easter delicacy akin to turkey at Thanksgiving.

Speaking of delicacies, a New York restaurant is taking pizza to new heights. Nino Selimaj, a restaurateur whose 'Nino'-branded restaurants are almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks in Manhattan, has opened Nino's Bellissima, with the Luxury pizza as the star attraction. The pizza, which costs $1,000 and has had two takers since the restaurant opened recently, is topped with creme fraiche, chives, eight ounces of four different kinds of Petrossian caviar, four ounces of thinly sliced Maine lobster tail, salmon roe, and wasabi. And no, it's not available for delivery.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Abbaye de Belloc


Abbaye de Belloc

Country: France

Milk: Sheep

Description: Made by Benedictine monks in an abbey near Biarritz, this sheep's milk cheese has a caramel flavour that comes from a six-month aging process. It has a firm but creamy texture and pairs well with wines such as Zinfandel.

Link: www.belloc-urt.org (in French)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Eat Chocolate, Save the World

Chocolate is possibly the most popular food on earth. It's also one of the oldest known foods - the Maya and Aztec peoples of modern-day Mexico and Central America are the first to have made cacao into chocolate.

For many, chocolate is a 'guilty' pleasure mostly due to its high fat content and its allegedly addictive nature.

It can be good for us though, in the right proportions. Chocolate contains protein, riboflavin, calcium and iron, all of which contain health benefits. A Harvard University study even found that men who ate chocolate lived one year longer than those who didn’t.

Above all, chocolate makes us happy when we eat it and being happy makes us feel good. It's not only interesting, but very important to think about where chocolate comes from and how it's made. Jacques Torres, known as Mr. Chocolate, has a great 5-minute video on his website explaining the process of how chocolate is made.

Going even deeper, however, you can make a commitment to sustainability by ensuring you purchase and consume chocolate that comes from fair trade cocoa farmers. This means that the cocoa is farmed in a responsible way, free of exploitative labor practices. It also means that farmers emphasize renewable resources and soil and water conservation, grow crops without using synthetic fertilizers or the most persistent pesticides and avoid genetic engineering or ionizing radiation. TransFair USA has a list of fair trade chocolate companies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Montgomery's Cheddar


Montgomery's Cheddar

Country: Great Britain

Milk: Cow

Description: A hand-made cheddar from Somerset, this cheese has been made in the same tradition for generations. The nutty flavour and dry, crumbly texture is at its best after about 12 months of aging.

Link: Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cheddar Vision TV

The web is full of weird and wonderful things. One of the weirdest of the year, a live webcam that lets you watch as a wheel of cheddar ages. As of right now, the tomme of Westcombe cheddar has been doing its thing for 77 days, 1 hour and 14 minutes. More fun than watching paint dry? You tell me...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Affidelice


Affidelice

Country: France

Milk: cow

Description: Small and soft, this cheese is washed in Chablis and packaged in a wooden case. The wine gives it a pungent aroma and enhances the complex and pleasing flavour.

Link: Fromagerie Berthaut (in French)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Who cut the cheese?

I'm quickly discovering that there is so much to learn about the world of cheese, including the fact that cheesemongers have their very own version of a World Cup.

It's called the International Caseus Award and the 2007 competition was recently held in Lyon, France. Teams were challenged with conducting a sales pitch and identifying the names, ages and origins of several cheeses simply by tasting them. In another heat, competitors had to cut wheels of cheese into specific weights and sizes in 30 minutes or less.

This year a team from the United States entered for the first time, although Canada has been in the running for a few years. The North Americans faced stiff competition from their European counterparts, however. This year's top prizes went respectively to France, Belgium and Italy. Incidentally, the US team came in dead last... but there's always next year!

Asked about his favorite cheeses, Rodolphe Le Meunier from Team France replied:
"Appreciation of cheeses depends upon the situation in which one finds oneself. Feeling peckish at 10 am? Is the temperature outside 30°C or - 2°C? Is there a bottle of red wine on the table? Is it to finish or make a full meal? In fact, what I appreciate most, is eating the best cheese at the right moment."
I couldn't agree more... It may be a few years before I am proficient enough to compete at this level, but at least I now have my goal clearly in sight: the Cheese Olympics here I come!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Roundup: Food Blogs

It's nearly impossible to keep track of all the food blogs out there. Each one offers something different: recipes, beautiful photos, practical advice, catty gossip... Everyone has their favorites. Here are a few of mine (in no particular order):


Tastespotting
A food-obsessed, user-driven site designed like a photo album - the links can be hit-or-miss but the concept is great.

Leite's Culinaria
Helmed by well-known food writer David Leite, this site features recipes, reviews, resources and great writing.

Kitchen Unplugged
Terrible logo, but great photos and recipes of all things doughy: breads, pastas and pastries.

Coconut Chutney
I like this one because it's easy on the eyes. Plus, I LOVE coconut chutney (even though the site is not about it!)

Bea's Kitchen
Just came across this site, which has such an exhaustive list of links that I think I'll stop now.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Biggest Cheese

The folks at Artisanal set a world's record yesterday on NBC's Today Show by making the largest cheese fondue ever - 2100 pounds of it cooked in a cast iron pot in Rockefeller Center. Left, Terrance Brennan of Artisanal tastes the results.

(On Tuesday I helped prepare the buckets of white wine that went into the mixture and I can tell you that the sight of a garbage pail filled with warm, yellow Chardonnay is in itself one for the record books - not a pretty sight!)

Anyway, MSNBC has shared the recipe for fondue which, if you haven't tried it at home, is a must. It's a real treat. I hope the homeless people who ate the leftovers from yesterday's stunt enjoyed it!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Top Chef needs extreme makeover, reviewer rage and rats in the kitchen

Word has it that Top Chef Ilan Hall has a penchant for bling. There's so much more to say on this topic, but I believe less is more...

Ilan also tells Newsday that he isn't as bad as he seems on TV. And if you don't believe him, just ask his mom (who works for Newsday).

New York restaurant mogul Jeffery "the great white whale" Chodorow has initiated a man hunt for New York Times critic Frank "the truth as I see it" Bruni.

The New York City health inspector who gave a passing grade to the now famous Greenwich Village Taco Bell/KFC has been removed. The rat party made headlines last week after reporters were called in to film and photograph the free-for-all.

A blogger in Columbus gives his first-hand account of his last trip to the original Wendy's. Was it as good as he remembered?

St. Louis' SAUCE magazine has an interesting online food quiz.


And in other news...


Here's hoping that most people in Hollywood last week were either too vain to eat in public or (gasp) bulimic!

Hepatitis A Scare at Hollywood Parties

(AP) An employee of Wolfgang Puck Catering diagnosed with the hepatitis A virus may have exposed guests at several events, including Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue party, health officials said.

The risk of illness was "quite low," but anyone who ate raw food at the magazine's Feb. 14 party was urged to receive a preventive shot by Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Tuesday.

The virus is found in the feces of infected people and can be spread through contaminated food and water. It attacks the liver and can cause fever, diarrhea and jaundice. It is rarely fatal.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Valdeon


Valdeon

Country: Spain

Milk: Mixed

Description: Intense, rich and creamy, Valdeon is a Spanish blue cheese wrapped in chestnut or maple leaves. Its taste is reminiscent of freshly raked autumn leaves. Similar to, and often confused with, Cabrales, Valdeon is milder but stills carries a kick.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Goodbye Columbus

The original Wendy's in Columbus, Ohio is going to be closing its doors in March.

A Wendy's spokesman told the Associated Press that it was a difficult decision but that the restaurant was kept open for sentimental reasons much longer than it should have been.

Dave Thomas, who died of cancer in 2002, opened his first Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers on November 15th, 1969 and named it after his eight-year-old daughter Melinda Lou, who was nicknamed Wendy. By 1976, there were 500 restaurants nationwide.

The original 1969 menu consisted of hamburgers, chili, French fries, soft drinks and the original Frosty, which cost 35 cents. Wendy's restaurants today serve about 300 million Frostys a year.

The company has grown into the nation's third-largest hamburger chain, reports AP. It operates about 6,600 restaurants in the US and abroad. But unlike many of those locations, the original has limited parking and no drive-through window.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Waste not want not, food for vets and critic's pick

Finish up ... there are starving children in Africa!

From The Financial Express India: Hong Kong restaurants have come up with a novel way to cut down on waste and leftovers — threatening to fine diners who don’t eat up.

A number of restaurants in the Chinese city alert customers that they will charge them if they leave any food on their plates, the South China Morning Post reported.

However, a restaurant industry group said the move was merely put in place to warn customers and that few eateries, if any, had actually fined anyone.

“The penalties listed on the menus are just for warning,” Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades spokesman Simon Wong was quoted as saying. “Who can afford to lose customers?”

Hong Kong is facing a landfill crisis as space runs out for dumping the increasing amount of rubbish produced by the city’s seven million people. The government is reportedly looking into a scheme that will reprocess into compost some of the 700 tonnes of food thrown out each day by the city’s huge hospitality industry.


Jonesing for a Gyro

From the Associated Press: Wounded war veterans from New York City who are recovering at a Texas rehabilitation facility will be getting a taste of home, sent straight from City Hall.

Last month, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn visited the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund's brand new facility at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. She said the vets who hail from New York asked her if anyone thinks of them back home, and told her they miss the city.

“They complained that they couldn't get good food in San Antonio, that there weren't any bagels, there weren't any cannolis, there weren't any good sandwiches, that it was really very hard to keep their spirits up without good New York food,” Quinn said.

When she returned, she organized a care package campaign, with donations from the city's top eateries in each of the five boroughs. Tim Zagat, founder of the popular Zagat Survey and a connoisseur of New York food, also lent his expertise.

“I just think this is the least we could do for people who have done so much for us,” Zagat said.

Beginning Thursday, the seven vets will receive a special delivery each day – starting with a giant basket of bagels and other treats from the world-renowned Manhattan deli, Zabar's.

Their menu for the next week includes:

• Cannolis from Dominick's Bakery Cafe in Staten Island

• Italian subs from Mama's of Corona in Queens

• Baba ganoush and other Middle Eastern delicacies from Sahadi's in Brooklyn

• Rice and beans and other tasty Puerto Rican fare from Joe's Place in the Bronx


Ouch! That Burns...

From the Associated Press: One of New York's most prominent restaurateurs took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Wednesday, accusing the newspaper's chief food critic of lacking the bona fides to do the job.

The ad comes on the heels of Frank Bruni's review of Jeffrey Chodorow's newest Manhattan eatery, Kobe Club, which specializes in serving tender and fatty Kobe beef from Japan. A 10-ounce (280-gram) rib-eye portion of the beer-fed cattle, considered a delicacy, costs $150 (€114) on Chodorow's menu.

"Your readers would not expect your drama critic to have no background in drama or your architecture critic to not be an architect," Chodorow wrote in the ad. "For a publication that prides itself on integrity, I feel your readers should be better informed as to this VERY IMPORTANT fact, so they can give your reviews the weight, or lack thereof, they deserve."

Bruni did not think much of the place and chopped it into little pieces, essentially warning his readers to stay away. He gave it zero stars out of a possible four.

"Although Kobe Club does right by the fabled flesh for which it's named, it presents too many insipid or insulting dishes at prices that draw blood from anyone without a trust fund or an expense account," Bruni wrote on Feb. 7.

An exasperated Chodorow decided enough was enough, and he struck back with an ad the newspaper says typically costs $115,000.

"It's expensive, but not that much," Chodorow told The Associated Press.

The ad was addressed to Pete Wells, editor of the newspaper's Dining section.

In the ad, Chodorow called Bruni's comments "vitriolic" and said three other reviewers loved Kobe Club.

Chodorow said he took out the ad to show he backed his employees and to let folks know the Times review was "unfair."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Saint Marcellin


Saint Marcellin

Country: France

Milk: Cow

Description: Small, soft and creamy, Saint Marcellin originated hundreds of years ago and was first made from goat's milk. It has a thin rind, generously coated in salt, and is generally packaged in a ceramic pot. Well matured, it develops a nutty and fruity flavour and pairs nicely with hearty red wines such as Côtes du Rhône or Gigondas.

Link: www.saint-marcellin.fr (in french)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cheeses of the Week: Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, Cypress Grove Purple Haze, Uplands Pleasant Ridge, Comte & Zamorano

Folks, I owe you a backlog of cheese reviews. So to bring us back up to date, I offer you five weeks of cheese in one! Enjoy!



Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar

Country: United States

Milk: Cow

Description: Made in the Fiscalini Farmstead in Modesto, California, this cheddar is one of America's finest offerings. It's tangy, bold and buttery and can hold its own against the best of Britain. The rind is wrapped in cheesecloth bandages which allow the cheese to mature and ripen to perfection.

Related Link: fiscalinicheese.com



Purple Haze

Country: United States

Milk: Goat

Description: Cypress Grove makes some of the best goat cheeses in America. Purple Haze is one of their fresh chevres, made in the traditional three-inch round shape and flavoured with lavender buds and wild harvested fennel pollen. The result is a creamy cheese with a herbal kick. Delicious on its own or in your favourite recipe.

Related Link: www.cypressgrovechevre.com



Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Country: United States

Milk: Cow

Description: This award-winning cheese is inspired by the alpine cheeses of France and Switzerland. Made from the milk of a herd of grass-fed cows in Wisconsin, the cheese is smooth and semi-firm with a nutty flavour that stands up well on its own. Pairs well with both red and white wines.

Related Link: www.uplandscheese.com



Comte

Country: France

Milk: Cow

Description: Comte is made from unpasteurized cow's milk in eastern France. It is one of the most popular cheeses in France and one of the first to receive AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) recognition in the 1950s. This certification guarantees that the product is made according to traditional methods in the particular region of France where it has its origins. The rigorous rules result in a highly controlled standard, ensuring that only quality cheeses bear the comte name.

Comte enjoys a complexity of flavours. It is at once salty and sweet, with notes of nuts and fruit. Taste it once and you may think of pineapple - another bite might remind you of hazelnuts and toast. Try again and you'll be tasting chocolate and butter. This is the real beauty of this cheese!

Related Link: www.comte.com



Zamorano

Country: Spain

Milk: Sheep

Description: If you like Manchego, you are going to love Zamorano. It's bolder and more flavourful than its cousin, thanks to a minimum aging period of 100 days. A pressed cheese made with the milk of the Churra and Castilian sheep native to the province of Zamora, the product is oily but sharp, with a distinct sheep's milk taste.

Seared scallops stuffed with green olive tapenade

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and my lovely hubby made me a very special meal. We began with seared diver scallops stuffed with green olive tapenade. Next up was mushroom soup with chorizo, followed by pasta with meat and porcini ragu. It was an amazing meal - full of bold, fresh flavors.

The scallops were Stephen's adaptation of a Jacques Pepin recipe. First he roughly chopped an assortment of green olives. Then he sliced each scallop nearly in half, like a sandwich. He stuffed each scallop with some of the olives and then placed them on a plate coated with olive oil and fresh thyme. The scallops were covered on both sides with the oil and then seared in a hot, dry pan for about 4 minutes. To serve, he made a sauce with more olives and some heavy cream and garnished with chopped parsley.

Fantastic!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

High rollers, blubber burgers and alien entrees

Should we split the check?

From the Associated Press: High-rolling food lovers from around the world are raving about their truly unique dining experience Saturday evening at a rooftop restaurant on the 65th floor of a luxury hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

Grandly titled "Epicurean Masters of the World," the 40-seat dinner was prepared by six three-star Michelin chefs, four from France and one each from Italy and Germany.

Many diners had trouble finishing the ten-course gourmet dinner, even at $25,000 a head. But, as one Shanghai-based businessman puts it, "The whole thing is an experience. It's priceless."

The dinner featured Beluga caviar, Perigord truffles, Kobe beef, Brittany lobster and each was paired with a rare and robust vintage wine.

Organizers say the event was designed to promote Thai tourism and that most of the profits will go to two charities.

A whale of a meal

From Reuters: Whaleburgers are on the menu at Akiji Ichihara's restaurant to lure young customers, who tend to turn up their noses at boiled blubber or sliced raw whale. "If you just serve whale raw, young people won't eat it," says Ichihara, who serves the burgers -- fried whale meat in a bun with salad, mayonnaise and tomato sauce -- once a month at his restaurant in Wada, a coastal whaling town southeast of Tokyo.

Alien Entreés

From Pravda: Village residents from the Rostov region of Russia caught a weird creature two weeks ago after a strong storm in the Sea of Azov. The shark-looking creature was producing strange squeaky sounds. The fishermen originally believed that they had caught an alien and decided to film the monster with the help of a cell phone camera. The footage clearly shows the creatures’ head, body and long tail. The bizarre catch was weighing almost 100 kilograms, the Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

However, scientists were greatly disappointed when they found out that the fishermen had eaten the monster. They said that they were not scared of the creature so they decided to use it as food. One of the men said that it was the most delicious dish he had ever eaten.

We're Back!

Friends,

Sorry for the long silence. January was a blur of first sickness (that mysterious bug that everyone seemed to have) and later fatigue caused by funky new hours on the job.

But we're all better now and ready to once again serve you hot, fresh helpings of the latest food news and reviews.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Colston Bassett Stilton

Name: Colston Bassett Stilton

Country: Britain

Milk: Cow

Description: This cheese is at its peak right now, as wheels produced in August have been aging for four months and are now being released. The cheese is creamy, rich and smooth with delicate veining and a tangy but not over-powering blue flavour.

Stilton has a history dating back to at least the 1700s in Britain. These days, it is made in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire at only seven dairies and is protected by a certified trademark. The name and method are strictly controlled by the Stilton Cheese Makers Association. This version is one of the best, made by hand in the village of Colston Bassett from the milk of five nearby farms.

Related Link: www.colstonbassettdairy.com

Saturday, January 06, 2007

How to get rid of cooking smells

One of the downsides of living in small New York apartment is that when you cook, the smells go everywhere. If I had a kitchen door, I'd close it but our apartment is literally one big room. Even with the fan on and the windows open, it's hard to avoid stinking the whole place up.

Sauteed onions are the worst. They taste so good and they're essential to so many dishes - particularly in Indian cooking - but the smell just lingers on.

But I have finally found a remedy!

My very clever friend Roshan recommended a brilliant solution. Keep a small pot simmering on a back burner. Put in a couple of cups of water, some cinammon sticks, a few drops of vanilla essence and an orange peel. Keep simmering while you cook, making sure the water doesn't dry out. The smell is wonderful and it really seems to negate the cooking aromas. Two days later, I can still smell the cinammon when I walk in the door!

Also, you know how after chopping onions and garlic it can be hard to get rid of that smell from your hands? Try rubbing your hands on something made of stainless steel - your sink, a ladle, a spoon... anything. Rub it like you would a bar of soap and you'll find the smell disappears!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Vivianna's Apple Walnut Cake

Love passes through the stomach (Romanian proverb)

On New Year's Day, Romania joined the European Union, bringing with it a rich cuisine that blends several cultural traditions.

My first experience with Romanian food was, ironically, in Angola. A small group of friends, all of us humanitarian aid workers, used to meet in a kitchen on the 14th floor of an apartment building overlooking the bay of Luanda. Up there, a light breeze would cool us off and after cooking together for an hour or two we would move out to the balcony to catch the sunset and watch the world go by. Once you got up the stairs (the elevator almost never worked) the apartment felt comfortable and safe and we felt protected from the manic streets below.

Most of our meals we led by the formidable Roshni, who has an incredible flair for food. Her traditional Indian meals were amazing, but she could also whip up Thai, Italian, Chinese, you name it! The rest of us mostly did what Roshni instructed us to do, but every once in a while we had a chance to offer our own special delicacy. That's how we came across this Romanian dessert. (Forgive me if the recipe isn't perfect -- I scribbled it into my notebook as I watched it being made.)

Vivianna's Apple Walnut Cake


6 apples, cored, peeled and halved
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
6 eggs, separated
6 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. oil
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vinegar
vanilla

Sprinkle sugar in the bottom of a baking dish and caramelize over an open stove. Core, peel and halve the apples and arrange them in the pan over the sugar. Dust with 1 Tbsp. sugar, ground cinammon and walnuts and bake at 200-250 degrees until soft.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites until firm. Add sugar, one spoon at a time, and continue beating. In another bowl, mix egg yolks with oil. Fold into egg whites. Add flour, one spoon at a time. Mix baking powder with vinegar and add to batter. Add vanilla.

Add batter to pan and bake until golden brown.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Cheese of the Week: Fourme d'Ambert

Name: Fourme d'Ambert

Country: France

Milk: Cow

Description: This is a mild to medium blue cheese with a smooth consistency and nutty flavour with hints of wine. Legend holds that this is one of the oldest cheeses in France, possibly dating back to the Roman period. The word 'fourme' refers to the distinctive cylindrical "form" or shape of the cheese.

Related Link: www.fourme-ambert.com

Monday, January 01, 2007

Welcome 2007

Well, it's here... A new year, full of expectation, hope and fresh resolve.

A new year seemed to call for a new look around the site. Here are some of the new features you can expect to see in this space in the near future:

- New name - we're changing our name to better reflect our mission to find the best in food, wine, recipes, products, etc.
- 52 Weeks of Cheese - each week in 2007, we will bring you a profile of a cheese, with information on how its made, how it tastes and where to find it
- Wine on a dime - profiles of good wines under $10
- Guest columns
- Cool kitchen gadgets and gizmos
- Taste tests ... and more!

Thanks for your support, keep the comments coming and keep eating!