Monday, March 31, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (3/31/08)
- Bugged By Low Tab A Dubai restaurant took 25 percent off the bill of a birthday dinner party because seven insects found bugs crawling in their food. Sorry, the house has a firm policy: it takes 8 bug-infested dinners for the 50 percent discount.(Reuters)
- And What's For Dessert? Before dining with the Queen of England, French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked to see the wine list. (The Sun)
- Shave and a Haircut - Two Pints The Michigan attorney general told a barbershop owner in Grand Rapids, MI that he couldn't hand out a beer with each haircut without a liquor license. (AP)
- Worms Are Easier to Get Into the Bottle A Texas man is in legal trouble for selling bottles of vodka with dead baby rattlesnakes in them. (Reuters)
- Didn't They Like the Food? Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme was grazed by a bullet as he cooked at a New Orleans golf event. (AP)
- Dumping Tea in the Harbor Always Worked for Us Disgruntled Brits on the Internet are gaining traction with a campaign to ban Britain's chancellor of the exchequer from pubs because of a new tax on beer. (AP)
- Can't Hold Their Soda Wausau, Wisconsin police broke up a high school keg party. How embarrassing that the liquid was actually root bear. (AP)
Friday, March 28, 2008
Expect Higher Rice Prices
The Egyptian export ban formalises a previously poorly enforced curb and follows similar restrictions imposed by Vietnam and India, the world’s second- and third-largest exporters. Cambodia, a small seller, also on Thursday announced an export ban.That will only exaccerbate a growing problem of food shortages worldwide and, sadly, riots as a result. Expect US producers to look for higher prices along with the rest of the market.
These foreign sales restrictions have removed about a third of the rice traded in the international market.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Review: Café Tequila BBQ Sauce
So, it's worth getting, although there is one problem: the bottle. Yes, the wide bottom and tall, skinny neck are attractive and grab your attention. But that base takes up a bit too much shelf space in the refrigerator and the neck means you can't slip it onto just any of your shelves.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Warning: Some Jenny Craig Products May Have Tainted Beef
However, a legal PR person and activist that I know in California was interviewed - turns out she had recently bought some of the products - and the "effort" to inform people was to put a small sign on the counter in the Jenny Craig locations. This Feb. 27 post on the Jenny Craig site suggests that the company knew about this as of then. So why hasn't the company done anything other than post some small signs? "Every effort" would suggest a whole lot more ... effort.
The state said Jenny Craig Salisbury steak and meatloaf meals were made with beef recalled from Westland/Hallmark. Lisa Talamini, a Jenny Craig program executive, said the company has taken swift action to notify its customers.
“We have asked our distribution centers and retail channels to locate and destroy all impacted products,” Talamini said in a statement. “As part of our commitment to quality and client service, we are making every effort to inform those clients who are in receipt of impacted product.”
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Review: Fusion Stemware Rack and Carol Fountain Nix/Sophia Ceramic Line
I had never heard of Carol Nix before getting an email from her about two products: Fusion drying racks for wine glasses and a set of wine-themed dishes. That was right before Christmas, but the actual products for review only recently showed up. Two words: I'm impressed.
The Fusion 8-glass and 16-glass Stemware Racks are smart. You don't want to good fragile wine glasses into a dishwasher. So you wash them by hand and ... what? Immediately dry each and put it away while dinner guests may still be about? You don't have to bother. The Fusion Racks are metal frames with legs that fold flat for storage. But when unfolded, you can hang wine glasses upside down and let them drip dry onto a towel that you'd put below. The 16-glass rack has room in the center to turn a carafe upside down and let it drain as well.
As for the Carol Fountain Nix/Sophia Ceramic Line, Ms. Nix sent an assortment of these heavy square plates. My entire family and people who have come into the house have oohed and awed. Each is named for some varietal, and the color palette and art work are most pleasing. These would make great plates for a party, or even serving pieces or candy dishes for a dressed-up dinner at home. Unfortunately, she doesn't have her own web site up yet, so the links are to Oenophilia.com. The racks are also available through Target; Amazon; Wine Enthusiast; Bed, Bath and Beyond; and other outlets.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (3/24/08)
- Taco Bars A man got 30 days in jail for scamming a taco shop out of food and then posting the escapade on YouTube. Wonder what the sentence would have been for a burrito? (AP)
- Jailhouse Slop Vermont prisoners have undertaken a class action suit in protest of such dishes as nutraloaf: "a mixture of cubed whole wheat bread, nondairy cheese, raw carrots, spinach, seedless raisins, beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk and dehydrated potato flakes." (AP)
- Some Schnoz Lloyd's of London has insured a winemaker's nose for close to $8 million. (Reuters)
- Illinois for $1,350 on eBay Two sisters sold a corn flake shaped like the state of Illinois for $1,350 on eBay. Is that with milk, or without? (AP)
- In the Bag Patrons of Atlantic City's Irish Pub celebrate a holiday, invented by bar staff that worked through St. Patrick's day one year, by wearing paper bags on March 18. (AP)
Friday, March 21, 2008
Review: Eggland's Best Eggs
We still go for: 1) eggs from our chickens (when they feel like paying off the massive debt in chicken feed they now owe), 2) organic store-bought, and 3) vegetarian-fed free range (though, to be truthful, chickens have eating habits that you probably don't want to know if you're ever to use an egg again in your life). But the Eggland's Best seems like a reasonable choice.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Starbucks Tries to Become More Relevant
- Install lower-height automatic espresso machines so you can see the bored look in the barista's eyes.
- Add yet another coffee blend that is different from all the other ones the chain has sold.
- Buy a company that makes single-cup grinding and brewing machines for filter coffee and put them into select stores because, as you know, more things to look at or buy means better coffee.
- Provide extra ingredients and toppings to people who use the Starbucks purchase cards because that way your coffee becomes even more of a commodity.
- Start a social networking site to let people suggest ideas and vote on them, which doesn't sound all that tasty, but what do I know?
- Get into health and wellness food and drink, which probably means cutting the caffeine and, therefore, the coffee that they want to promote.
Should Scientists Avoid Beer?
According to the study, published in February in Oikos, a highly respected scientific journal, the more beer a scientist drinks, the less likely the scientist is to publish a paper or to have a paper cited by another researcher, a measure of a paper’s quality and importance.But, as one source pointed out, there's a difference between correlation and causality. Two things happening at the same time are not necessarily linked by one causing the other. And it would be possible to get this completely backwards. Maybe, instead of beer drinking causing lack of publishing productivity, it is low spirits over being at the back of the pack that pushes some scientists to seek consolation with barley and hops.
The results were not, however, a matter of a few scientists having had too many brews to be able to stumble back to the lab. Publication did not simply drop off among the heaviest drinkers. Instead, scientific performance steadily declined with increasing beer consumption across the board, from scientists who primly sip at two or three beers over a year to the sort who average knocking back more than two a day.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Revew and Recipe: St. Peter's English Ale
Beer-Braised Short Ribs
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 4 lbs. short ribs
- 6 ounces beer (I used St. Peter's English Ale)
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 stalk celery, chopped (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp basil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds
- Heat oven to 250 degrees F.
- Mix flour, salt, and pepper together. Dredge short ribs in mixture. Heat 12-inch frying pan over high heat, add olive oil, and brown ribs on all sides. Transfer to dutch oven.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and celery, cooking until onions are translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking until onions are browned. Add mixture to dutch oven.
- Add beer to pan and deglaze. After dissolving all solids, add tomatoes, basil, bay leaves, and cardamom. Heat through. Add to dutch oven.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover dutch oven and place in oven. Cook for three hours. Serve with egg noodles.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Review: V8 V-Fusion
I know the mantra is to eat X many servings of fruits and vegetables every day, but when I looked at the bottle's label, darned if I could find a massive influx of vitamins or minerals. So while the advice is out there, I can't figure out exactly what it is trying to accomplish in results.
However, if there is a benefit from drinking some portion of your fruits and vegetables, and the V-Fusion fits the bill, the açaí version had a quite pleasant taste, and the bottle was gone a lot faster than would have been the case with a bottle of regular V8. (Though I like that as well.)
Monday, March 17, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (3/17/08)
- Now That's Crabby Guinness World Records has certified the world's biggest fishcake - a crab cake of 235 pounds. (AP)
- Chew On This Peru lawmakers criticize a UN recommendation to criminalize all uses of the coca plant. (Reuters)
- Jenny Craig, Meet King Kong Zoos try to keep their charges from putting on too much weight. (AP) gorilla
- Pass the Biscuits A 27 year old man who lived on biscuits (cookies in the UK) became a chef to fight his addiction. (BBC)
- Meals by Mail The Thailand post office has announced a new food delivery service with meals coming from famous restaurants. (AFP)
- Ham Bone Connects to the Thief Bone A Massachusetts restaurateur drove off a would-be robber with a frozen ham. (AP)
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Since When Did Water Need to Become a Diet Drink?
Twenty-five calories in a bottle of water? And that's supposed to be impressive? There are no calories in water, so if the bottle from which you drink puts something into your body that needs working off, you're not drinking water. You're drinking a sweetened concoction, probably a variation on soda, except with some collection of vitamins or minerals replacing the carbonation.
Clearly, regular water isn't enough for people. If we as a society are so far gone as to need to find low-cal water, then the barbarians can't be far away.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Product Review: Flavorbean Flavored Coffee
According to the PR materials, most flavored beans are made using chemical solvents to deposit the taste on the coffee. I don't know that independently, but, if true, that perhaps explains the overly aggressive and harshness I've found when I've tried such brews. But the french vanilla and hazelnut varieties I received from the company to test were really pleasant. They claim that the coffees are "naturally flavored," which can be a slippery label to understand. But if you like flavored coffee, I'd suggest giving these a try.
And if you want something really different, add a half teaspoon of good cinnamon to the grounds. It's a lovely way to start an early morning.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (3/10/08)
- Keep Pouring... The Utah legislature has decided to loosen up a bit, and allow restaurants and bars to serve up to 1.5 ounces of liquor in a single drink - up from the previous 1 ounce limit. Can the lampshade hats be far away?(AP)
- ... But Not Here Teetotaling members of the Swedish legislature want only alcohol-free drinks at official parliamentary functions. Next thing - wet blankets for everyone(AFP)
- Don't Eat the White Snow Research has shown that many snowflakes coalesce around a core of bacteria. (AP)
- Steel Cage Birthday Parties Two mothers got into fight at a Chuck E. Cheese when one, there for her son's birthday, thought the other was allowing her child to hog an arcade game. (AP)
- First, We'll Puff at All the Lawyers Minnesota has a ban on all smoking in restaurants and bars - unless you're an actor in a theatrical performance. Some bars are avoiding the ban by declaring all patrons to be actors. Ah, but did they ever eat with one? (AP)
- Way the Cookie Crumbles Oklahoma police arrested a man for allegedly breaking into Chinese restaurants. The giveaway? The fortune cookies in his pocket. (AP)
- Alas, Poor Triffle New research indicates that steak and kidney pie, spotted dick and sherry trifle may become extinct by 2021. (Press Assoc)
Friday, March 07, 2008
It's Maple Sugaring Time
Maple sugaring also means the opening of the seasonal restaurants attacked to some of the sugar houses: fluffy pancakes and round corn fritters, all soaked with maple syrup, and, at one, at least, even tiny cones of maple-flavored ice cream. The whole experience will last only six weeks. If you're anywhere near this part of the country, come by on a weekend, check one of the web sites for the locations of the restaurants, and get in early. Two hour waits are hardly unusual. In April, as people who have been coming for decades are leaving from their last breakfast of the season, you'll hear people say, "See you next year."
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Review: FruitaBü Organic Smoooshed Fruit Twirls and Sploooshers
There are two versions. The fruit Twirls are like a ribbon of soft fruit leather spiralled up. The fruit Sploooshers are packets of some kind of gelatinous mass that I'm sure is a heretofore unknown physical state of matter. I found the texture mildly off-putting, as did my teenage daughter, though, as I did, she liked the Twirls. But, being the dutiful young woman she is, she brought samples with her to school to test on her friends. They pretty much said, "Bring more," and they preferred the Sploooshers.
So give them a shot. Chances are that you won't go wrong, and at least you're keeping the corn content out and available for ethanol for the car.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Hormel Discusses Sodium Content of Compleats
I did want to clarify your statement on sodium content. The USDA recommends that healthy Americans get 2,300 milligrams per day. (USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, Chapter 8 “Sodium and Potassium - http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/chapter8.htm) At 600 milligrams or less, Hormel Compleats products provide roughly a quarter or less of the sodium recommendation per day. The sodium content in Hormel Compleats is equal to or less than other single serving shelf-stable offerings in the market today.I think the PR firm meant that it wanted to challenge my statement, as I don't see how it would be in the position to clarify what I had said. In any case, the product may hover around the same sodium content as other shelf-stable offerings, but the company's analysis is off and even misleading. First, the USDA reference cited does not recommend that people get 2,300 mg of sodium, but less than 2,300 mg of sodium, which is a significantly different statement. If you are middle-aged or older, black, or have hypertension, the top number is 1,500 mg. But that's not the USDA's only statement on sodium.
Instead, let's consider this from the second chapter, Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs, of the same USDA 2005 dietary guidelines. I'd argue that looking at nutritional needs would be closer to the concept of a recommended minimum amount, and that the 2,000 Kcal nutrition levels are near an adult average, given gender and activity levels, which can widely swing the recommendations. That 2,000 Kcal number is the general baseline used for nutritional comparisons on food levels. For that level of caloric intake, the recommended sodium number is 1,779 mg. And here’s an interesting paragraph from the same chapter the company quoted:
Common sources of sodium found in the food supply are provided in figure 4. On average, the natural salt content of food accounts for only about 10 percent of total intake, while discretionary salt use (i.e., salt added at the table or while cooking) provides another 5 to 10 percent of total intake. Approximately 75 percent is derived from salt added by manufacturers.In other words, packaged foods - shelf-stable or not - put the largest amount of sodium per serving into our diets. On the whole, I think that my analysis is probably more realistic in terms of viewing a food as "healthy" or not, and certainly closer to what a health professional would likely say than taking the number Hormel does and trying to interpret it as a recommended amount that people should have, rather than a maximum, with the understanding that, for salt, less is certainly more.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Review: Nature's Path HempPlus Organic Hot Oatmeal and Flax Plus Red Berry Crunch
More textually pleasant was the Flax Plus Red Berry Crunch. It's a cold cereal, crunchy, with a fruity taste (freeze-dried raspberries and strawberries) and enough whatever in it that I found it didn't need sugar - just a dash of milk. Put me down for more of this one.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (3/3/08)
- Worse Than Smell-O-Vision Welch's is testing a magazine ad where you lick the page to taste the product. If it were Campbell's Soup, I'd say, "Ewww, ewww, good." (Wall Street Journal)
- Newport Newborns A Newport, RI hotel has a themed pregnancy special, including a diaper cake with the upcoming child's name on the rear end and a pint of ice cream and dill pickles as part of the turn-down service. Only $900 a night. Did someone say turn down? (The Chanler at Cliff Walk)
- Is That Supersized? Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar in Southgate, Michigan is trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records with a 150 pound hamburger. With 24 hours notice, you and scores of your closest friends can have one - for $350. (Detroit Free Press)