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


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: (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:

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:

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:


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:


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.


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!


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.