Yelp rot

A Rave, a Pan, or Just a Fake?

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.

Hand job

The Long Pull of Noodle Making. (NY Times)

Michael Hodgkins is a stern, passionate chef from upstate New York, with a dedication to local and organic ingredients. Huacan Chen is an aspiring entrepreneur from Fuzhou in southern China, with a skill that happens to be seriously marketable in New York at the moment: he knows how to spin out endless skeins of la mian, smooth, springy hand-stretched noodles, using nothing but a countertop and his hands.

Hung Ry, a restaurant that opened in October, serves noodle soups that brilliantly combine Mr. Chen’s noodles and Mr. Hodgkins’s broths: deep brews of oxtail, duck belly, roasted squash, star anise, ginger, tamarind, dried chilies and mushrooms. They are the most recent expression — building on David Chang’s ramen and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s chicken-coconut soup — of the East-West dialogue that has produced some of New York’s most memorable modern dishes.

Because of Mr. Chen’s skills, they are also a high expression of traditional Chinese noodle arts. Even a thousand years ago, there were late-night noodle shops in many Chinese cities; today, niu rou la mian, beef soup with hand-pulled noodles in the hearty style of western China, is a ubiquitous dish. There is a staggering array of fresh noodles served all over China — far beyond the familiar lo mein and chow fun — and more and more of them are popping up here.

OpenFleece

Is OpenTable Worth it?. (Incanto’s Official Site)

We live in the Golden Age of Google, in which Web-based services have transformed many consumer and business functions by making them easier, more accessible, and drastically less expensive. That’s ultimately the most perplexing thing about OpenTable: unlike so many other Web services, this one has actually driven up operating costs, not reduced them.

No wonder Groupon is so popular.

All the cock that’s fit to swallow

The New York Times Ate My Slogan. (The Food Section)

Two days ago, I had the surprise of receiving a cease and desist letter from the New York Times demanding that I immediately remove the “All the News That’s Fit to Eat” tagline because, in their words, the “use of this similar slogan capitalizes on the good will and reputation associated with the Times’s trademark and constitutes trademark dilution and infringement.”

The New York Times can suck it.

Food that will kill you

Fast Food Items Highest In Trans Fat – The 88 least healthy foods. (A Calorie Counter)

Keeping in mind just how terrible trans fat is and all of the terrible things it can cause, I have given this the very catchy nickname of “The 88 Fast Food Items Most Likely To Kill You.” When you look over this list with the understanding that you should be eating 0 grams of trans fat per day, you’ll realize that my little nickname really isn’t that much of an overstatement.

Jack-in-the-box, Burger King, White Castle — the usual suspects.

Help support my friend

What are you doing the evening of Sunday, November 11?

Perhaps, if you have some free time and a few bucks to spare, you can make your way over to AudioCinema to attend a benefit for my friend Chad, who was diagnosed this summer with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. There will be music, beverage, food (for purchase — provided by the cafe@AudioCinema), and a raffle. If you’re lucky, you might see yours truly popping and locking to those new-fashioned musical beats all the kids are listening to these days on their Zunes and Packard Bell MP3 devices, while stuffing my face with free-range hot dogs while drinking Zima-and-Grape-Kool-Aid cocktails (aka the “Ryan Seacrest”).

Learn more on this website I set up.

Portland food blogs proliferate

As much as I hate the term, the Portland food “blogosphere” continues to expand in scope.

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen

I received Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen as a gift some time ago, and I must say it is the best Vietnamese cookbook I’ve owned.

The design, layout, and organization are all wonderful. The photography sparkles, and Nguyen herself brings a confident and welcomed voice to the recipes and chapter intros.

It is quite a comprehensive tome, running the gamut from simple sauces to Vietnamese charcuterie. Nguyen provides a slick primer for bringing authenticity to the table, whether by describing various techniques or detailing a taxonomy of Vietnamese herbs complete with accompanying photos, descriptions, and corresponding Vietnamese nomenclature.

Ms. Nguyen also runs her own web site and blog, Viet World Kitchen, that is a great companion to the book. Graham @Noodlepie has recently published a Q&A with this great new voice in Vietnamese-American cuisine.

Bacon burger

Via Adam K @Serious Eats, the burger with a patty made entirely of ground bacon.

This is like the first time I saw somebody do a windmill without allowing their butt to touch the cardboard, or ollie over a park bench. I didn’t believe it at first, shaking my head in amazement, and then basked in the awe of witnessing the occurrence. Over time I came to grips with my own inadequacy, and ultimately gave up breakdancing/skateboarding.

Batali and Bourdain

Batali and Bourdain Argue Over Adam Platt, the Egg Thief, and Much More. (New York Magazine)

Batali: It’s amazing, these fucking Websites, these blogs. [Otto co-owner] Jason Denton hasn’t even thought about this pizza restaurant that isn’t even a pizza restaurant across the street from Otto, and he’s getting quoted. I call him and say, “Lips. What are you doing?” and he’s like “I want to tell you, I’m never planning on opening a pizza restaurant … I don’t know what happened on the blog this morning.” Whatever the blog heard is now fact.

Bourdain: I think it’s great. They’ve beaten down the wall, and everybody’s invited to write whatever shit they want about you. It’s democratic.

Batali: I’m not so much about these blogs by anonymous people saying nasty things about you. I think it’s getting pretty stupid. If there’s something interesting, and there’s somebody editing it and taking care of it, I’m down with it. But some of those people are just bit with vituperative anger and just want to rail on you.

Bourdain: It’s inevitable, it’s the tide, there’ s no fighting it. There’s a bunch of these guys that are like Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons, whipping out their fucking little cameras, and five minutes after one of them says it’s the greatest, the next will say that’s so last week. That’s inevitable. I go to all those sites and enjoy them, especially when they’re about people I don’t like.

Batali: Well, I don’t like them.

Speaking of Comic Book Guy…

Mario-1

Breast cheese

HUMAN BREAST MILK CHEESE MADE IN FRANCE. (Why Travel to France)

Le Petit Singly is a farm that specializes in making cheese from women’s breast milk. Are you imagining the milking process? Admittedly, that imagery makes me come to the conclusion that it’s an absolutely bizarre and crazy world of cheesemaking in little ole Singly, France. But, no. I think the “donors” bring their milk to the farm, or something like that.

The cheese is produced exactly like it would be for cow’s milk and apparently tastes like it has hints of hazelnut. I still have my doubts about its existence, though. The farm says the cheese is rich in vitamins and nutrients but I don’t think these survive after being ultra-pasteurized. Also, they have an “AB” label, which is the official label for organic products. Does that mean that the women all grazed on organic?

That’s nothing. You should taste the truffles that grow on my taint.

Pig to the slaughter

Last thoughts on a dead pig. (Ed’s Diner)

Driving from the slaughterhouse in Kapowsin to Cheryl Ouellette’s farm in Summit one morning this month, it barely registered: dinner – 90 pounds of whole pig, freshly killed and USDA approved — was riding in the jump seat behind me.

On the way to the slaughterhouse two hours earlier, the pig, then 160 pounds and breathing, rode in a wooden crate in the back of Ouellette’s red Dodge pick-up truck. Now, with hair, blood and entrails removed, the pig, now pork, was wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a cardboard box about the size of a bag of golf clubs.

Acoustic stoves

Acoustic Stove Could Aid Third World. (Discovery News)

An appliance being designed for developing communities in Africa and Asia not only generates electricity, but also cooks and cools using acoustic technology.

The efficiency comes from a technology known as thermoacoustics, which produces sound waves from heated gas and then converts them to electricity.

Here’s how it works: wood is placed inside the stove and burned. The fire heats compressed air that has been pumped into specially shaped pipes located inside the stove’s chimney and behind the stove.

The heated air begins to vibrate and produce sound waves. Inside the pipes, the noise is 100 times louder than a jet taking off. But because the pipes are stiff and do no vibrate, the sound waves have nowhere to go. So outside the pipe, people hear only a faint hum.

Not so well-done

Firing up the grill? Make it a ‘rare’ occasion. (LA Times)

Nothing that good can be good for us, of course. And yes, the natural chemicals that give barbecued foods their trademark crusty-brown smokiness are toxic and carcinogenic. Researchers have linked consumption of flame-grilled meat to all sorts of ailments: breast, prostate and colon cancer; diabetes; glaucoma; heart disease; and Alzheimer’s disease.

But you don’t have to convert to a raw food diet yet. Barbecue chemicals may be potent toxins in petri dishes and mice, but the evidence that they do the same in humans, at the doses we’re exposed to, is weaker.

Most studies find a significant increase in cancer risk only for people who eat several portions of well- or very well-done meat a week. And even then, the risk is often small. For example, a 2005 study in Cancer Research found a 21% increase in the risk of developing colon cancer precursors for people eating as much as 18 ounces of well-done red meat per day. The bottom line: A twice-weekly date with a medium-rare steak is unlikely to give you cancer any time soon.

Bottom line, stay away from well-done meat. Not only does it ruin the cut, IT WILL FUCKING KILL YOU. It should be reserved for those with suicidal tendencies and corrupt congressmen with homo-erotically polluted jacuzzi fetishes. My main man Jeffrey Steingarten speaks truth to power:

Jeffrey Steingarten, food writer for Vogue magazine, thinks very critically about what he puts in his mouth and has yet to find sufficient evidence to steer clear of a perfectly done steak — which, in his estimation, is somewhere between rare and medium rare.

For those who choose to grill their steaks to the blackened point of well-done shoe leather, his tongue-in-cheek opinion is simple: “If you eat a steak like that, you don’t deserve to live.”

Q&A with Marco Pierre White

The man who made Gordon Ramsay cry. (Salon)

Marco Pierre White, the original bad-boy chef, talks about taking over “Hell’s Kitchen” from his rival, his scorn for molecular gastronomy and kitchen rage.

Some choice bits…

[…on Alinea]

I went to Chicago, and I went to Alinea. The boy there [chef Grant Achatz] has got extraordinary technical ability. This boy, I believe, can win three stars in the Michelin guide. But do I want to sit in that environment, where I’m dictated to? No. I’m told these are my two choices, 12 courses or 24 courses. It’s not my thing. It’s just too much; I get bored by it. You just lose your place. It’s like having six bottles of Cheval Blanc. In the end, you forget, and think, “What have I drank?’ It’s a bit too much of an indulgence.

I’m very happy with two great courses, with my freebies and my little amuse gueule, the little things like that. It’s enough for me. And then give me a pudding, and then I can go home.

[…on MG]

Molecular gastronomy, I don’t see the point of it. It’s a stamp, it’s a label — let’s get a few column inches, let’s make it interesting. My wife’s mother, without a doubt, is one of the great chefs. When I eat her food, it’s the most delicious food. She has no training. She just had a childhood in ’30s Spain; she was brought up by the nuns. But when I sit and eat her food — delicious. Fabulously seasoned. Great textures. It’s peasant food. What I love is it gives me an insight into the world that she came from. She’s eating today still what she did as a little girl being brought up by the nuns. This molecular gastronomy, it’s soulless.

Dessert is so overrated

Just Desserts.

Most restaurants don’t make their own desserts. They farm that work out to local bakeries or mega-dessert conglomerates like Bindi. I’m not saying these outsourced desserts aren’t good – they’re just not homemade.

Agreed. I’d rather sport for another appetizer to round out the meal. Why waste 700 calories on something sweet and cloying? Bah.

How about an appetizer of seared Shut the Fuck Up with a Bite Me coulis?

Food bloggers dish up plates of spicy criticism. “Formerly formal discipline of reviewing becomes a free-for-all for online amateurs”.

If you think restaurant critics from mainstream newspapers, television and magazines are tough on the food industry, you haven’t spent much time in cyberspace. Online message boards, gossip columns, city restaurant guides and food blogs are proliferating and having a profound influence on where consumers spend their eating dollars. The once-genteel discipline of restaurant reviewing has turned into a free-for-all, celebrated by some as a new-world democracy but seen by others as populist tyranny.

Dark matter

Dark Restaurant: Where one eats in total darkness.

The first dark restaurant in Asia is officially opened on the 23 December 2006. This restaurant, located in Beijing, China, has its interior painted completely in black. Customers are greeted by a brightly lit entrance hall and will be escorted by waiters wearing night vision goggles into the pitch dark dining room to help them find their seats. Flashlights, mobile phones and even luminous watches are prohibited while in this area.

The meal will be taken in this environment with the complete loss of vision. By starving one’s sense, your other senses are stimulated to full alert – all so the theory goes – and your food will taste like it’s never tasted before. In case you are wondering about the washrooms, they are all brightly lit.

I’m not sure if I’d be too eager to sign up for this. First of all, it’s pitch dark, so what’s to prevent some perve with a night vision scope from sneaking up and giving you a finger bang against your will? And if something is shaved with truffles and you’re paying $75 for it…how do you really know? Then again, nobody is going to see you if you want to pick up your plate and hoover every last truffle to make sure.

Come to think of it, this would be a concept better suited for, say, a rib joint, so you can go totally atavistic on a bone or a plate of chicken wings without caring a whit about appearances. And truly, whoever smelt it dealt it — no need for a poker face after ripping one.

Click through and check out the masked waiters, who look like (straight out of Blade Runner) industrial designers of frozen, biorobotic Replicant eyes.

Frou brew

High-brow brews. “Boulevard joins brewers creating beers with the complex characteristics of wine.”

And to drink better, they’re willing to pay a premium. A Rogue Imperial India Pale Ale from Newport, Ore., goes for $13 for 750 milliliters, a price more comparable to wine than a six-pack. Even the O’Fallon Smoked Porter, which is best enjoyed with barbecue ribs, rings up at $4 per 22-ounce bottle. Boulevard craft beers will cost $7 to $13 for 750 milliliter bottles (about 24 ounces).

“A growing segment of the population wants more flavorful products, more premium products,” Gatza says. And, like wine, “they will have several different beer styles in the refrigerator, from several breweries, so that they can match beer to the occasion.”

Turbochef dreaming

Built for Speed, but Looking for Love.

WATCHING a three-and-a-half-pound chicken roast in 14 minutes, time loses all meaning. The skin turns gold and crisp, juices immediately rise to the surface, and the flesh firms before your eyes. It’s dizzying and seductive, like the home makeovers on TV that compress a six-month renovation into a single afternoon.

TurboChef, however, has put an unusual amount of research and design energy into adapting its product for residential use. It will be introduced next month, priced at $5,995 for a solo unit and $7,895 for a TurboChef combined with a conventional oven. The company is pitching — hard — the notion that its appliance will do no less than revolutionize American home cooking.

Time to sell the Jetta.

$14 hot dog

Via Serious Eats, the $14 hot dog.

The “Texas Haute Dog” at Max’s Wine Dive, the wildly popular new wine bar and restaurant on Washington Avenue, goes for $14. It’s a grass-fed beef frankfurter on a Kraftsmen bun, topped with “house-made” pickled jalapeños, venison chili, cotija cheese and crispy fried onions that look remarkably like the Durkees canned onions of green bean casserole fame. The dog is served on top of a pile of hand-cut frites (that’s French for French fries) that have been garnished with more venison chili.

“Haute Dog”. Get it? Har har. In Houston, of course, the land of defense contractors that routinely defraud the American people of billions of dollars. It would only make sense that’s where the $14 hot dog lives and breathes.

First of all, check out the photo. That thing is so monstrous it looks damn near inedible, thereby violating the axiom decreed by The Hot Dog Council that you should not take more than five bites to eat a hot dog.

Second of all, shut the fuck up.

Pastor of Mass Destruction

Holy OMFG. Via The Great Taco HuntWorld record pastor.

A group of businessmen in the Mexican city of Chihuahua broke a tasty record Friday, making a hunk of meat on a skewer big enough to serve 24,000 tacos….the meat for a pastor taco, a variety of the Mexican dish that consists of pork squashed onto a stake, weighed 3.9 tons and was 13 feet high…

Officials from the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the hunk of meat as the world’s “largest skewer of kebab meat.”

Where are they gonna get all the radishes? How come nobody told me about this? This was the Hajj of my lifetime. Oh well. Hello empty, meaningless life.

Kimchi Kalbi Tacos

EatDrinkandBeMerry goes on the fusion tip and imagines a world with Korean taco trucks.

What kind of world would that be? A better world. A better tomorrow.

Excuse me as I go into hyperbole mode, but this is THE BEST FREAKING FOOD INVENTION SINCE MSG.

For some reason, this tickles my fancy as very few things can. The ultimate in fusiony goodness — IMO the justification for the interracial relationships.

Mark this day on your calendar…the birth of the Korean taco.