Alton Brown: Molecular gastronomy won’t replace cooking basics (Restaurant News)
“My worry about molecular gastronomy, especially with young cooks, is that they will try to use it to replace knowing how to cook food,” Brown said during his presentation. “Show me you can cook a chicken breast properly. Show me you can cook a carrot properly. Now do it a hundred times in a row. Then we can play around with the white powders.”
Molecular gastronomy, he added, is part of the cyclical evolution of food and cooking.
“It’s an interesting skill set, but you can’t live on it. It’s not food,” Brown said. “Don’t think you can replace cooking technique with throwing a whole bunch of flavors on top of something any more than you can making it into a caviar or making it into a foam. If I live the rest of my culinary life without a seeing another foam, I’ll be OK.”
Squish Durawa owns Wy’East Pizza in Portland, turning out artisan pies from a 64-square-foot trailer. He tells me he loves what he does, would never go back to his old job at the tile store.
But living the dream?
“No. I work roughly 12 hours a day,” Durawa says. “Twelve, fourteen, sixteen -— it doesn’t matter after twelve .”
And it’s not just the hours that are rough. Durawa deals with rain that drives his customers away, and drafts that keep his dough from rising.
And he shares this small space with an 800-degree oven.
“People say we’re living the dream,” Durawa says. “There are moments where it feels like we may be living a dream – I don’t know if it’s the dream we set out for.
Food Fight! (WSJ)
Why was a small boîte in Copenhagen crowned the best restaurant in the world for the second year in a row? And how does it stack up against the best restaurant in America? Globe-trotting restaurant critic Jonathan Gold judges the year’s biggest taste test.
Somehow, it feels like humanity has lost its narrative.
Throughout April and May, U.S. farmers faced floods, tornadoes, downpours and droughts — all of which made planting difficult. Now in June, intense heat has been sweeping over much of the country.
The harsh weather likely will reduce the fall’s harvest, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That, in turn, could further drive up grocery prices for consumers.
“Farmers had everything thrown at them” by Mother Nature this spring, USDA economist Gerald Bange said. “Excessive rains led to planting delays, and then some of what was already planted actually got flooded.”
Information is Beautiful: Plenty More Fish In The Sea? (Guardian UK)
So this is a kind of collective social amnesia that allows over-exploitation to creep up and increase decade-by-decade without anyone truly questioning it. Today’s fishing quotas and policies for example are attempting to reset fish stocks to the levels of ten or twenty years ago. But as you can see from the visualization, we were already plenty screwed back then.
Europe’s E. coli Outbreak Continues to Grow. (Food Safety News)
Officials at the University Hospital in Gronigen, Netherlands got a call Tuesday from the Bremen hospital — just over the border in Germany — asking if they’d be willing to take on extra patients in the event Bremen cannot accommodate its growing number of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) patients, those suffering the most serious effects of E. coli illness.
“I said yes, of course,” Dr. Alex Friedrich, head of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Control in Gronigen, told Food Safety News. “We are preparing ourselves because we are the largest hospital close to the German border.”
The fact that German hospitals — among the best-equipped on the continent — are putting international backup plans in place is a sign of how severe the E. coli O1404:H4 outbreak in Germany has become.
This reads like a rave on Yelp, but it’s actually a sample from a help-wanted ad on another site — specifically, Mechanical Turk, a Web site owned by Amazon.com and a place where companies invite “Mechanical Turk workers” — thousands are registered, worldwide — to complete what could be described as microtasks. Each task pays a tiny sum. In the case of Southland Dental, workers were asked to write a fake, five-star review and post it to Southland’s Yelp page, for which they would earn 25 cents.
Fucking Mechanical Turks.
The “No Nitrites Added” Hoax. (Ruhlman)
Please, if someone can tell me what is wrong with nitrates (in green vegetables) and nitrites (in curing salts and in our bodies, a powerful antimicrobial agent in our saliva, for instance), I invite them to do so here. In the 70’s there were studies finding that at high temps, they could form nitrosamines, cancer causing compounds. I don’t disagree, but burnt things containing nitrite are bitter and unpleasant so we’re not likely to crave them in harmful quatities.
Preach it. On par with the MSG hoax.
Is Sugar Toxic? (Behind NY Times paywall)
It doesn’t hurt Lustig’s cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it’s incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.
Freeze-dried food and the new frugal frontier. (LA Times)
Costco’s Great Gift Ideas catalogue last Christmas included a one-year, four-person supply of dehydrated and freeze-dried food on sale for $2,999. It sold out.
The fear factor alone can drive families to avoid restaurants and stock up on coffee in ways that would have seemed extreme a few years ago.
“There are all kinds of ways consumers can feel this,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics. “With unemployment hitting 10%, most people probably know someone who has lost their job. Housing markets haven’t recovered yet and that matters for about two-thirds of consumers who are homeowners.”
At Thomas Keller’s esteemed restaurant Per Se, the prix fixe has quietly jumped to $295 from $275.
At sandwich chain ‘wichcraft, the price of a bag of chips and a turkey sandwich has crept up.
And Hoomoos Asli, a casual Israeli eatery in Nolita, last week started charging a “vegetable shortage surcharge” on its eggplant items.
Where Steaming Fried Noodles Spell Relief. (Behind the NY Times Pay Wall)
Nutritionists and the diet-conscious have made instant ramen a noodle non grata. One packet contains about half the maximum amount of sodium anyone should eat in a day. And most versions are fried, sometimes with particularly unhealthy trans fat.
But attacking instant ramen donated to feed Japanese earthquake victims would be just wrong, said Mr. Chang. It’s still very cold in the north, and there was a recent snow. Although potable water is at a premium, those who can find a source of fuel might melt snow or ice to turn dried noodles into sustenance.
“You are not going to tell a starving person they can’t eat that,” he said. “Now is not the time. For the dire situation they’re in, I can’t imagine a better food.”
Oyster Extinction? Stop Panicking and Get the Facts (In A Half Shell [ Oyster Power ])
This is where I see most secondary news sources come to a fault. They make a giant leap in connecting the decline in global oyster reef to your favorite oysters vanishing from the raw bar. Perhaps it’s to drive more hits on a page or maybe it’s just a lack of understanding. Fortunately, this is not an accurate depiction of today’s oyster consumption trends.
I am not trying to downplay the importance of oyster reefs or diminish the need to scrutinize wild fishery management. I just want to put things into perspective so that unnecessary panic can be nipped at the bud.
U.N. Food Agency Issues Warning on China Drought. (NY Times)
World wheat prices are already surging, and they have been widely cited as one reason for protests in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. A separate United Nations report last week said global food export prices had reached record levels in January. The impact of China’s drought on global food prices and supplies could create serious problems for less affluent countries that rely on imported food.
With $2.85 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, nearly three times that of Japan, the country with the second-largest reserves, China has ample buying power to prevent any serious food shortages.
“They can buy whatever they need to buy, and they can outbid anyone,” Mr. Zeigler said. China’s self-sufficiency in grain prevented world food prices from moving even higher when they spiked three years ago, he said.
Eggs Are Now Naturally Lower in Cholesterol. (PR Newswire)
According to new nutrition data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), eggs are lower in cholesterol than previously thought. The USDA-ARS recently reviewed the nutrient composition of standard large eggs, and results show the average amount of cholesterol in one large egg is 185 mg, 14 percent lower than previously recorded. The analysis also revealed that large eggs now contain 41 IU of vitamin D, an increase of 64 percent.
Global food prices are moving ever higher, hitting record levels last month as a jittery market reacted to unpredictable weather and tight supplies, according to a United Nations report released Thursday.
It was the seventh month in a row of food price increases, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which put out the report. And with some basic food stocks low, prices will probably continue reaching new heights, at least until the results of the harvest next summer are known, analysts said.
“Uncertainty itself is a new factor in the market that pushes up prices and will not push them down,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist and the grain expert at F.A.O. “People don’t trust anyone to tell them about the harvest and the weather, so it has to await harvest time.”
There’s been a lot of predictable outrage and gnashing of teeth over an Alabama law firm’s seemingly pointless decision to sue Taco Bell for “false advertising”. Apparently a sneaking suspicion — that the meat slurry used by the fast food juggernaut in their painfully-bad-it’s-good menu offerings contained very little beef — was actually confirmed.
It looks bad but passable… until you learn that—according to the Alabama law firm suing Taco Bell—only 36% of that is beef. Thirty-six percent. The other 64% is mostly tasteless fibers, various industrial additives and some flavoring and coloring. Everything is processed into a mass that actually looks like beef, and packed into big containers labeled as “taco meat filling.” These containers get shipped to Taco Bell’s outlets and cooked into something that looks like beef, is called beef and is advertised as beef by the fast food chain.
In terms of the legitimacy of the class action suit itself, I would say Taco Bell has uniquely and cleverly shielded themselves of culpability by referring to their menu items as “beefy”, which in this case is technically true.
The Internet was similarly abuzz a few years ago when it was discovered that the “guacamole” dip commonly sold in erstwhile supermarket chains contained nary an avocado, and were essentially of the some composition as the crappy french onion dip it sat besides on the shelf, except with a booster shot of pale, artificial green.
If you’re paying attention, this really should come of no surprise. In the case of the supermarket avocado subterfuge, a quick glance at the ingredients of the guacamole container would confirm it always primarily consisted of industrially emulsified vegetable oil, and in the case of Taco Bell any sort of self awareness would have allowed the average person to discern that little of what passes as “ground beef” is actually flesh extracted from cows.
As someone who grew up on Chef Boyardee Ravioli (not because it was forced upon me, but out of pure, misguided choice), I recall being nine years old and marveling at how the first “meat” ingredient was “crackermeal”. I assumed at this young age this wasn’t a slang for what poor white people in Arkansas called beef — this was simply filler. Taco Bell’s “seasoned ground beef” similarly shares the same sort of strangely uniform and smooth texture.
If you’ve ever dared to look at what goes on inside the back of the house of any Taco Bell after placing your order, you’d already know that what goes on in the back-of-the-house doesn’t approach anything that resembles cooking in any conventional sense. Taco Bell is simply an MRE repurposing exercise. I presume the meat (and this includes all the meat, not just the seasoned ground beef) comes pre-cooked in unnaturally large, cryovaced bags, and each morning the opening shift simply cuts open a bag and pours the ignoble contents into a slot on the steam table and allows it to bring it up to temperature.
So how can it be a surprise that Taco Bell’s beef is more filler than meat? This is a place that has guacamole and sour cream loaded into separate chambers of the same squirt-gun. Taco Bell preys off teenagers, inebriated college students, and those of us suffering from bad judgement. Its raison d’etre revolves almost entirely around selling soda at huge profit margins — food is just a necessary means to an end.
Taco Bell President Greg Creed said in a statement that the lawyers who filed the lawsuit got their facts wrong and that Taco Bell plans to take legal action against those making the allegations. He did not explain specifically what type of legal action Taco Bell might take. “At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket,” Creed said. “We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef.”
I, for one, am strangely comforted that only 36% of what is found in Taco Bell’s seasoned ground beef is actually meat.
Biannually, the Southern Arizona city of Tucson hosts a street fair along 4th Avenue, just north of the the 4th Avenue Underpass that leads into the downtown city core.
The street fair occurs in December and March, a time when the weather in Arizona is quite lovely. The event features your usual panoply of street fair “circuit” artisans, hippies, and countercultural hoi polloi peddling trinkets, assorted wares, and a provincial sense of whimsy (“Aunt Esther, we went to the homeless district and bought a bedazzled tarot card case sold by somebody from Taos!”).
There’s lots of beer tents serving watery domestic swill, and quite an interesting food scene as well. The following photos give you a taste of what rolls into Tucson twice a year, for only 4 days at a time, only to break down as fast they set up, leaving in their wake a bunch of sunburned rubes and a mountain of discarded paper and plastic detritus.
A vow for 2011: No cheap chicken. (Francis Lam @Salon)
I want to get back to that sense of value, of deliberate appreciation and enjoyment. (And, hopefully, it’s not going to happen from privation.) I’m going to learn about chicken. About how it’s produced, how it’s valued by the people who raise it and by the people who cook and serve it. I’m going to talk and share stories. I’m going to learn how chicken turned from something special to something common to something cheap.
Foodie fatigue. (Chicago Tribune)
“Having more people interested in good food is never a bad thing,” said food writer Amanda Hesser, who recently assembled “The Essential New York Times Cookbook.” But what she can’t stand, she said, is eating dinner with people who “only want to talk about food and every place where they ate, like, doughnuts or something, and where the best doughnuts are secretly found. Knowing a lot about food culture is a good thing. That cataloguing of food experience is becoming tiresome. I’m pro-food experts. I’m just not so sure I want to have dinner with them or have them judge me on the coffee I drink.”
Caffeine and Alcohol: Wham! Bam! Boozled. (NY Times)
Four Loko joins this warped tradition. And what I quickly came to see was that if you set out to engineer a booze delivery system that is as cloying, deceptive and divorced from the usual smells, tastes and presentation of alcohol as possible, you’d be hard pressed to come up with something more impressive than Four Loko.
For some reason I ended up at Yelp and ran across this review:
(1-star rating from “Wil. C”): I would have to concur Mindy C. below, this place is NOT authentic. When stepping inside just take a look across the room, when none of your customers are asian that is a red flag right there. Would you consider an Italian restaurant with all Asian customers authentic?
U.S. restaurants starved for business. (LA Times)
The number of restaurants operating nationwide dropped this year for the first time in more than a decade, a survey shows, with California accounting for almost a third of the losses.
Oyster Herpes Deaths Tied to Global Warming. (Discovery News)
A new, virulent form of herpes is killing large numbers of Pacific oysters. Scientists think global warming may be fueling the virus.
Gourmet Magazine Revived for the iPad. (NY Times)
Jimmy Dean, sausage maker extraordinaire and country music troubadour, has passed.
To commemorate, it’s worth revisiting the best product feedback call of all time.
This chart illustrates succinctly why our country sucks ass.
“Change in price of items since 1978, relative to overall inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The price of carbonated drinks, for example, has fallen 34 percent relative to all other prices.” (“The Battle Over Taxing Soda“, NY Times)
Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture. (NY Times)
Ron Siegel, who runs the Michelin-starred dining room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, said he’s grown past his partying days. But even he is having a little fun with haute stoner cuisine.
To serve slow-cooked quail eggs and caviar, he places them atop plastic film that tightly covers a white porcelain serving bowl. Then he fills the vessel with smoke from grated Japanese cedar packed into the bowl of a fan-driven bong he buys in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The smoke escapes when the diner lifts a small spoon covering a hole in the plastic.
He calls it the Lincecum, after Tim Lincecum, the star pitcher for the San Francisco Giants who was arrested last fall after police found marijuana and a pipe in his car.
Under the new standards, only 7.5% of chicken carcasses at a plant would be allowed to test positive for salmonella, down from 20% allowed since 1996. Salmonella levels in chickens were tested at 7.1% nationally in 2009, says Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council.
Double Down by the Numbers: Unhealthiest Sandwich Ever?. (Nat Silver @FiveThirtyEight.com)
We can, of course, be a bit more exacting about this. I’ve created an index based on the amount of fat, sodium and cholesterol that the Double Down and a variety of comparable sandwiches contain as a portion of the USDA daily allowance. (In the fat category, saturated fats are counted double and trans-fats are counted triple.) The index is scaled such that the Original Recipe version of the sandwich receives a score of 1.00, a measure of gluttony that will hereafter be known as The Double Down (DD).*
A Georgia man bit off more than he could chew — literally — when he dislocated his jaw while trying to eat a super-sized sandwich.
Chad Ettmueller, a structured settlement broker in Cumming, Ga., suffered a locked jaw for 14 hours after biting into a double meat, double cheese sandwich.
- More people who complain about service on Yelp.
- Another Thai restaurant.
- More people who think restaurant food is too salty.
- More blanket media coverage for Korean tacos.
- Another national article on the fact that there are carts in Portland that serve food.
- More people who like to deep-fry things.
- A foot soldier movement to pretentiously over-analyze and thus ruin another beverage-related conceit just like wine, coffee, and beer before it. Candidates include water and milk.
- More places that serve dessert for breakfast and the requisite line of white people that line up to spend dozens of dollars for this privilege.
- More people who think a restaurant should exist solely to satisfy their predilections, whether it’s bringing in their own food/wine to augment their dining experience and expecting no resulting fees, or demanding the coq au vin be made with tofu or that the pizza be made gluten-free, or asking that each course be brought out exactly 78 seconds after I’ve fully and lovingly masticated the last bite from the previous, or expecting a dish to be comped because I tried pig intestines and realized it just isn’t my thing.
- One more food blog.
- Another asshole with an opinion who can make a bulleted list.
One of the best overviews of the very real dangers of MSG comes from Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.” In it he explains that MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.
Part of the problem also is that free glutamic acid is the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body. Even the FDA states:
“Studies have shown that the body uses glutamate, an amino acid, as a nerve impulse transmitter in the brain and that there are glutamate-responsive tissues in other parts of the body, as well.
Abnormal function of glutamate receptors has been linked with certain neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s chorea. Injections of glutamate in laboratory animals have resulted in damage to nerve cells in the brain.”
Although the FDA continues to claim that consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say otherwise.
Of course, I don’t think so.
FDA orders widespread food recall. (MSNBC)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a recall of a common flavor enhancer that could be contaminated with salmonella bacteria.
The product, called hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP, is potentially in thousands of food products, including soups, sauces, chilis, stews, hot dogs, gravies, seasoned snack foods, dips and dressings. HVP is manufactured by a Las Vegas company.
All HVP in the world is manufactured by one company? In Las Vegas?
So it’s not really a surprise that her book, “Going Rogue,” published today, extols the virtues of eating meat.
“If any vegans came over for dinner, I could whip them up a salad, then explain my philosophy on being a carnivore,” she wrote. “If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?”
But the former Republican vice presidential candidate did not stop there.
“I love meat,” she writes. “I eat pork chops, thick bacon burgers, and the seared fatty edges of a medium-well-done steak. But I especially love moose and caribou. I always remind people from outside our state that there’s plenty of room for all Alaska’s animals — right next to the mashed potatoes.”
“Medium-well-done steak”? Fuck that noise. Not fit to govern.
How safe is that chicken? (Consumer Reports)
You would think that after years of alarms about food safety—outbreaks of illness followed by renewed efforts at cleanup—a staple like chicken would be a lot safer to eat. But in our latest analysis of fresh, whole broilers bought at stores nationwide, two-thirds harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease.
Last Sunday, after that afternoon’s televised American tackle football match had ceased, I was greeted with this wonderful program starring competitive bouncing champion and notable television personality
I trust you found this as enthralling and educational (not to mention fraught with sexual tension) as I did. Here’s a sample.
The All-Inclusive All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide (Eating the Road, a food blog)
In my more gluttonous days this would be invaluable.
Meat is murder on the environment. (New Scientist)
A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.
This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption. The team looked at calf production, focusing on animal management and the effects of producing and transporting feed. By combining this information with data from their earlier studies on the impact of beef fattening systems, the researchers were able to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef.
Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy (Animal Science Journal, DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-0929.2007.00457.x). In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
The calculations, which are based on standard industrial methods of meat production in Japan, did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is higher than the study suggests.
Big Food vs. Big Insurance . (Pollan in the NY Times)
No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.
That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.
We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.
Burgerville: Get your calorie bill here. (KATU.com)
At the Burgerville on Northeast Martin Luther King Boulevard, they’re serving up more than just burgers and fries.
The new receipts there not only show customers what they order, but also the nutritional value for exactly how they ordered it.
“Guests order and ask for different things: different buns, different cheeses, different sauces, different everything,” said Jeff Harvey, president and CEO for Burgerville. “So to put a label on the menu is not going resolve that challenge.”
Right now this caloric-bill program is just a pilot program. But it could be expanded to more stores in September.
“It’s kind of nice,” said Burgerville customer John Spaith. “If I was watching my weight more this would be very helpful.”
We decided to put the system to the test, to see just how much you can ‘save.’ We ordered up the cheeseburger basket.
The first part of the receipt shows the cheeseburger we ordered that’s 639 calories. The french fries, that’s a regular serving, that’s 360 calories. And the shake, the special one that’s in stores right now, that alone is 840 calories.
My on-again, off-again, on-again boycott of Whole Foods IS BACK IN THE SADDLE, BITCHES.
The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare. (Wall Street Journal)
Personal responsibility…blah blah…people are to blame for not having health care…blah blah…socialezm is teh evil…blah blah…people should buy $1 kumquats at my store if they want to live to be 100.
Fuck John Mackey, who is the world’s most notorious sockpuppet. I’m surprised he didn’t simply byline this op-ed with “I Hump Ayn Rand’s Rotting Corpse.”