Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Chocolate and Gum Become One
Monday, April 28, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (4/28/2008)
A weekly round-up of food and drink oddities:
- Two Great Tastes in One The manager of an Arkansas pizza place is alleged to have sold marijuana through the establishment's drive-through window. A wicked case of the munchies solving itself. (AP)
- Nearer to God, But Who's Buying? A western Ohio church holds services in a bar. (AP)
- Really Big Catch Three fishermen just sold a giant rare fish for HK$20,000. The buyer turned around and sold it to a restaurant for HK$580,000. And the restaurant sold it to a buyer on the Chinese mainland for HK$1 million. That final take was over $128,000 in US currency. Who says that the fresher the fish, the higher the price? (Reuters)
- How Much Was the Bill? A man who cannot pay his restaurant tab faked a heart attack. (WFTV.com)
- Please Don't Try This at Home People in the UK are apparently inujing themselves as they try to duplicate the feats of onscreen chefs. (The Press Association)
- This Slop Isn't Fit For Prisoners A 300-pound inmate is complaining that he's lost 110 pounds on the jail's fare, and so is suing. Wait, I can see it now: the newest diet craze, the Stir and Save. (AP)
Friday, April 25, 2008
Review: Noble Juice
An added benefit is that the company is shifting to a biodegradable bottle made out of corn. The products are also available through a wide number of grocery chains, so finding it shouldn't be too hard. It only gets tough when the juice gets home and is suddenly unprotected from the familial hordes.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Review: DeLonghi DCG39 Blade Grinder
Although the DeLonghi DCG39 doesn't do well everything it seems to advertise, it has enough features and smart design to make it worth having if you need to grind things, like coffee beans or spices. The overall look is clean and visually appealing, with a great feature of an electrical cord that hand reels back into the body when you are done; the knob is hidden out of side underneath the unit.
You turn a knob on the front to set how much coffee you want and then hold down a button and watch LEDs light to tell you whether the coffee is coarse, medium, or fine. Because there is no hopper that feeds beans into the grinder, to be dispensed below, setting the volume is critical because it will affect for how long the grinding occurs. That makes operation a tad clumsy, but then, using older fashioned grinders, like my probably 20 year old Krups model, requires you to keep an eye on the results and to check from time to time to be sure the texture is right. So you have to do the same basic thing here.
The front knob lets you pick anywhere from 4 to 12 cups of coffee. That works well with my regular (not espresso) coffee maker, because it makes a minimum of four cups. But if you want to make a single or double cup, you really have to keep a close eye.
As far as the "fineness" lights that go on, it was a bit confusing at first. It turns out that you hold the button and wait for the lights to come on in succession. If you're looking for a medium grind (for drip coffee makers), you wait until that comes on, but the coarse (percolators or coffee presses) will also be lit. Although there is a fine grind for espresso, if you're serious about that drink, you simply don't have the control in adjustment to get a consistent pour, which you absolutely need. However, in an emergency it could do, and I suspect it would be fine if you wanted to experiment with Turkish style, in which you boil the grounds with water and some spices (cinnamon and cardamom, I believe).
The street price seems to be about $30, which seems fair for what you get. Overall, if you don't need to make espresso on a regular basis, this is a decent grinder choice.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Recipe: Orange Sesame Asparagus
- 1 lb. asparagus
- 1 TBS. sesame oil
- 1 TBS. peanut oil (or neutral-tasting oil)
- 1 TBS. rice vinegar
- juice of 1/2 orange
- julienned zest from 1/2 orange
- If asparagus spears are thicker than 1/4 inch, peel tough skin. Trim bottoms; discard bottoms. Put spears into 10-inch pan with 1/4 inch water and place on high heat. Steam asparagus until turns deep green and is still firm.
- While asparagus is cooking, take all remaining ingredients other than zest and whisk together.
- When asparagus is done, remove from pan and put into non-reactive deep dish. Cover with the mixed ingredients. Garnish with zest. Serve at once or at room temperature.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (4/21/08)
- Coffee Immersion The Roasting Plant Coffee Company in New York is a coffee shopt that is the coffee brewer, and patrons literally walk through the works. (Gizmag.com)
- Museum Drinks to That The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has two concurrent exhibitions on drinking vessels: The Art of Drinking and Elizabethan Flagons from St. Mary Woolnoth. (Victoria and Albert Museum)
- Food as Art If art in food doesn't take you, how about food in art? Prudence Emma Staite is an artist who makes custom sculpture, paintings, games, and life-sized rooms out of food. She currently has a display of famous artworks made out of a name-brand candy. (BBC)
- Forked An Iowa couple, known for their practical jokes, returned from an out-of-town wedding to find 3,000 white plastic forks stuck in their lawn and dangling from the house and fence. (AP)
- Feeling No Pain - Literally A Russian electrician got so drunk that when he slept it off, he hadn't noticed that there was a knife in his back. (Reuters)
Friday, April 18, 2008
Product Review: Arrogant Bastard Ale by The Stone Brewing Co.
This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory -- maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it's made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you're mouthing your words as you read this.And it tastes great with a partly dried-out piece of chocolate cake obtained from the same food coop that had the ale.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Review: Bass Brolly
Bass came out with something they call a brolly - English slang for an umbrella - that supposedly helps make the drink. They sent one over, along with a glass and bottle of ale, but the devices are still available for free through the end of the month, unless you live in California, in which case you have to pay a buck. Don't ask me why; I can't figure out anything about that state.
First clue I should have had that something was going to go wrong was what appeared to be two conflicting sets of instructions. In one, you tip the pint glass (the three-cornered Bass one is nice) on a 45 degree angle and pour the ale down the side. In the other, you pour down the center of the glass, creating a good foam, whatever amount that indicates. The two different instructions agreed that you get the glass two-thirds full, and then set the brolly atop the glass and slowly pour the stout through it so the dark liquid floats atop the amber.
But I let down the English and Irish parts of my muddled ethnic background when I couldn't get the damned stout to float. (I suppose that the Scottish part of me sat back, amused.) So much for the device making this easy, though in the press release, the Bass Pale Ale brand manager said that the device makes the black and tan "less challenging." Oh, good. Otherwise, I might have ended up with a monochromatic glass of liquid even faster than I actually did. Ah, well. When at first you don't succeed, have the barkeep pour another. I'll clearly have to continue practicing.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Story Accuses Monsanto of Strong-Arming Farmers
The article opens with a story about someone going into someone's general store and threatening the owner that there was proof he had used the GM seeds in violation of the patent, and that if he didn't settle with Monsanto, they'd go after him:
Scenes like this are playing out in many parts of rural America these days as Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers’ co-ops, seed dealers—anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the “seed police” and use words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe their tactics.The company is also busy in acquisitions, clearly trying to own the seed market and, as a result, as much of the world's food supply as it can. Secret investigations? Threats? Economic hardball? Is this the kind of organization you'd trust to control your food? This article is a must read for anyone concerned about what goes onto their plates.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Deepening World Food Crisis
Driving the rising prices are the conversion of land from producing food to biofuel materials, which are still food crops, but taken out of the global food chain. The EU's subsidized crops, offered at a fraction of their production price, have undercut agriculture in Africa. Toss in low food reserves, and you see exacerbated prices that then become fodder for financial speculators. Food aid money isn't going as far as it needs to, and the UN World Food Program says that it needs $500 million in additional aid by May 1. Even so, 100 million people may find themselves pushed even deeper into poverty because of the unavoidable cost of eating.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (4/14/08)
- Absolutely Terrible PR Absolut Vodka raised ire, not a glass, in the US when its Mexican ad campaign included a map of Mexico that included California, Arizona, and other US states, all of which were part of that country until 1848. (NPR)
- Sazerac Sinks The Louisiana Senate scuttled an attempt to make the sazerac the state cocktail because it would be inappropriate. A tough-minded decision for a state that has drive-through daiquiri stands.(AP)
- Noodle Schmoozing Apparently we all missed the World Ramen Summit. (Reuters)
- Taxes Require Drink A New Jersey CPA brings his tax services to bars on weekday nights and week-end afternoons. (Reuters)
- Shellfish Stuffing The winner of the Acme World Oyster Eating championship downed 35 dozen in 8 minutes. (AP)
- Crying Into Your Noodles South Korea's Black Day is a commisseration of people without love interests who wear black and eat black food. (Reuters)
Friday, April 11, 2008
View Into Pillsbury Bake-Off
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Review: PAM Professional
I asked about the blend of oils and whether there was any chemical or biotech modification of the ingredients. The PR firm wrote back with the following:
PAM Professional was originally created for restaurant environments, so it has a different formulation than the other PAM varieties. It is designed to perform on cookware at high heat (such as with sautéing and stir-frying).Now just hold on a minute. The product is patented but they can't discuss the differences? A company can only patent a product or process if it completely discloses the methods it is using. That is simply part of the patent process (and given that I write regularly about intellectual property and the patent business, I'm on pretty comfortable ground here).
We can't talk about the exact differences, but the product has a different formulation than the other PAM varieties.
So the "we can't" translates into "we don't want to." I could, in theory, go to the US Patent and Trademark Office and check records for ConAgra, but the would likely have thousands of patents, and I don't have time to wade through them. So I have to consider this answer to be evasion, and I noticed that the PR people did not say that there were no genetic or chemical modifications of the oils in the mix. If I'm not allowed to know what I'm using in my food, then I'm simply not going to use it or recommend it. Until food companies are willing to be more forthcoming about what they want us to ingest, I think it would make sense to do business with other firms.
There are commercially available oil sprayers that are refillable and that don't need propellants. If you have the need for a high heat cooking spray, I'd suggest using one of these with something like avocado oil, that has a high smoking point as shown in this handy table from CookingForEngineers.com.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Recipe: Almond-Crusted Chicken
- 5 lbs. chicken parts, bones in
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 12 ounces sliced almonds
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil (or use a cooking spray on) a large roasting pan, or two pans that will fit the chicken and your oven at the same time.
- Take three wide containers. Mix flour, salt, and pepper in one. Beat the eggs with milk in the second. Crush almonds with your hands and place into the third.
- Rinse chicken and pat mostly dry. In turn, dredge each piece in flour, coat with egg mixture, and roll in crushed almonds. Place in pan.
- Place pan in oven and bake about 40 minutes, or until almond crust is golden brown and chicken cooked through.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Product Review: Hershey's Bliss
Hershey's Bliss Chocolate is specially crafted to ensure that every detail contributes to the overall chocolate experience. The slight domed shape of the individual square fits the mouth perfectly allowing the chocolate to melt evenly cascading rich, creamy chocolate notes across the tongue. The finish is satisfying and sophisticated, a lasting reward.For the effective translation, yes, they are small pieces and, yes, they are square with a rounded top. But the chocolate is pretty boring - not bad enough to deserve blistering, but falling far short of bliss. The dark didn't have the bite and depth you might expect for a fine chocolate, and even the milk was dull. Even though the company is "targeting female chocolate lovers," I doubt that a sudden gender change by human hand or divine intervention would change my impression. Although they're holding some promotion that involves a claimed 10,000 home chocolate parties the weekend of April 25, I'd suggest staying in your own home with a good bar of chocolate, instead. You could even cut it up into smaller pieces.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (4/7/08)
- Good Time Charlie Britain's Prince Charles is asking the UK government to help the closing of British country pubs. (IANS)
- Cheetos, Mary, and Joseph Oh, however could I have missed this in March: a church youth worker found a cheese curl that he thought looked like Jesus, and so decided to share it with the world. Someone at his church nicknamed it Cheesus. (KTRK)
- Repent, Satanic Bar Code! A Russian doomsday group has claimed that food packaging bar codes and credit cards are satanic. Well, one out of two ain't bad. (Reuters)
- Goat Power A wine and cheese estate in South Africa has harnessed its 700 Saanen goats by having them walk on treadmills connected to generators. (Cape Argus & Independent Online)
- Job Didn't Pan Out A worker at an Oklahoma Pizza Hut was accused of stealing every pizza pan in the establishment to sell them to scrap metal dealers. (AP)
- What's in a Champagne Name? A Swiss wine-growing region called Champagne is fighting to keep using its regional name although international trade rules restrict it to the French region. (Reuters)
Friday, April 04, 2008
Product Review: Sargento Artisan Cheese Blends
Read a bit further in the web site and materials, and you notice the major point: "Artisan cheeses with our specialty shredded cheeses." That makes sense, because there is no way that artisan farms could possibly create enough cheese volume to satisfy the mass market needs of Sargento. I tried a number of varieties (actually, one of each) that the company's PR firm sent my way, and they're not bad on a relative scale. The blends tended to be a little sharper, with a touch more flavor, than typical bagged shredded cheese. If I was looking for a quick and convenient cheese hit, these products might be fine. However, if you want real artisan cheese flavor, go buy real artisan cheese and use it in enough volume to make a significant difference. And, at $1.99 to $4.99 for bags holding three, five, eight, or ten ounces of cheese - or per pound prices starting at $8 and hitting $10.61 - that chunk of artisan cheese stops seeming so incredibly expensive.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Review: The Fillo Factory and Aunt Trudy's - Various Products
The pocket sandwiches - broccoli and cheese, cheese and tomato pizza, spinach and cheese, organic eggplant and roasted peppers, organic Asian vegetable - were great. The teens liked them as well. Microwave according to the directions, and they come out surprisingly crisp. Appetizers were, sadly, more hit and miss. Spinach and feta were good. The potato and roasted garlic would have been good just as that, but there was an overly aggressive rosemary presence, which no one here found pleasing. The roast vegetable one filling cubed a bit too fine for my taste. Now, I know these are small, and that you couldn't use larger cubes, but maybe more roughly chopped, or even mashed. I found the texture a bit off-putting - not bad, just strange. The spanakopita was fine.
On to dessert. My wife, who loves baklava, loved the walnut variety that we got. I tried it as well and agreed that it was fabulous.
So, all in all, if your taste is like mine and you stay away from the potato and roasted garlic appetizers, at worst you'll find something acceptable, and at best you'll be impressed. Later on I'll report on the various prepared chilis that came in the test package from the company.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Review: DeLonghi Convection Oven with Rotisserie (Model RO2058)
It is great having the convection option if you are in a hurry, as the hot air currents can cut a good 25 percent off the time you'd need to cook many things. There is also a toasting function for up to six slices of bread, in case you want to avoid NCAD (Needless Countertop Appliance Duplication). There are a couple of wire shelves, or you can replace one with a broiling pan that slides into the sides the same was as the racks do.
There are some drawbacks. I don't know whether someone accidentally sent me a European model, but the temperature scale was marked out in Celsius, not Fahrenheit, causing me minor mental convulsions as I was trying to convert between the two in my head. (Here's a hint: 180 C is about 350 F.)
And now let's to the rotisserie. I had put off checking it because we kept getting quartered chickens, and I wanted to test a whole one. The instructions claimed a 4.5 pound capacity ceiling, so when I picked up two chickens, I choose the smaller one, which weighed in at about 4.1 pounds. That was a disappointment. The heart of the rotisserie is a rod with a couple of fork implements that adjust with thumb screws. You put the skewer through the food, push the forks, tines inward, into the object of your future dining, and tighten them into place. That went well enough, but it was a little tricky to get the bar into place in the oven; it was a bit shorter than I had expected and easy to let one end or the other fall down while trying to get it into place. When I finally had it seated, I started the rotisserie - and found that the chicken was hitting one of the heating elements. Had I trussed the chicken, it would have been a little better, but it was clear that it still would have been banging into things. I'll try it again with something smaller, but it seemed too bad that turned out to be necessary.
Overall, I've been finding it useful, and at a street price hovering around $100, it's not too expensive to consider.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Technique: Beets, Fennel Bulb, and Other Candidates for a Hot Oven
The fennel got the same treatment, and the anise taste worked well with the beets. In addition was some briefly sauteed (until wilted) Swiss chard. There was a roast chicken for which I sauteed chopped leek, threw in flat parsley, and added some stock I made from the chicken innards. I blended the lot for a leek sauce, though I can see now that it's a bit mild on its own, and could have used a dash of something hot.