Friday, May 30, 2008
Product Review: Stonyfield Farm Organic Greek-Style Yogurt
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Product Review: Old Engine Oil Black Ale
The Alva, Scotland brewery has a way with fermented drinks, if this one is an example. On the ale's label are the words viscous, chocolaty, and roasty. I'm not sure about viscous, as it didn't glop out of the bottle, but chocolaty and roasty are two perfectly good terms. You can add a finessed balance between barley and hops (whole flowers only and not concentrates), and the resulting sweetness and bitterness. The head is thin, which is fine because you're not drinking soda. If you're interested in some of the technical aspects of the ale's composition, check here. My suggestion is to forget the technicalities and get hold of a bottle. Harviestoun suggests this as an after-dinner ale, but I found it going down pleasantly with a grilled curried chicken sandwich.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Product Review: Krups XP4030 Pump Manual Espresso Maker
The machine boasts 15 bar (otherwise known as 15 atmospheres) pressure, but most machines generally dissipate pressure until it is at 9 bar. Too much pressure and you could end up unable to let the water mingle with the grounds long enough to extract all the flavor. I found that espresso shots poured too fast for my taste, even as I tried more finely grinding the beans and tamping the grinds down more firmly. Plus, the espresso portafilters (the baskets that hold the grinds) have a single hole in the bottom, meant to "improve" the crema, I think, and tend to clog badly.
When it came to steaming milk, I found the machine completely unsatisfying. The attachment to make frothing "easier" was overly aggressive and wasn't capable of producing the fine foam that is a mark of properly steamed milk. I tried unscrewing the bottom part of the steam wand, but I couldn't do any steaming that way.
Overall, I'd say pass on this machine.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Product Review: Blandy's Alvada Madeira
Strange News from the Food Front (5/27/2008)
- $175 Hamburger The Wall Street Burger Shoppe, which likes having the most expensive hamburger in New York City, just raised its price from $150 to $175 because Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne had hiked its previous budget busting burger from $120 to $150.
- Cons Are Dining Pros An Italian maximum security prison runs a restaurant a few evenings a year, charging patrons about $55 a head for dinners cooked and served by inmates. (Reuters)
- Nothing Fancy Please A Spanish chef whose establishment has three Michelin stars, calls high tech cooking, such as using foams or gels, to be pretentious. (Reuters)
Friday, May 23, 2008
World Food Prices To Stay High For Next 10 Years - At Least
“Food prices would be considerably higher in nominal terms than in the past but below the current records,” said an official familiar with the report. Compared with average prices for 2005-07, the report forecasts that in 2017 the price of wheat, adjusted for inflation, will be 2 per cent higher, rice 1 per cent higher and corn 15 per cent higher. Oilseed prices are expected to be up 33 per cent.In a separate report, the FAO said that people will have to get used to higher food prices, even though in the short term, prices will ease a bit from their record amounts. While the report acknowledges the current drop, it says that the overall cost increase won't go away any time soon. These reports do assume that the drive for biofuel won't be heading for a rest stop.
Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo
Not only does it lack HFCS, and not only does it have organic ingredients, but it has great taste. I'm finding that both mochas and egg creams are much better than with Hershey's, and, I'm starting to think, even better than with U-Bet. Yes, it's a bit pricey, but then, so is a liver transplant. I can happily recommend what I thought was going to substitute but instead supplanted my former choice.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Product Review: D'Artagnan Hot Dogs
I've never come across a selection broken out quite this way, but the results are good. The "franks" are uncured, so there are no nitrates or nitrites - and also no fillers, additives, hormones, or antibiotics. They taste far milder than kosher dogs, which have always been my gold standard, but don't let that deter you. Everyone liked them here and were happy that they weren't too spicy. (That might be a plus if you find yourself with a case of heartburn after a session at the outdoor grill.)
The hot dogs are a lot bigger than the usual variety - 3 ounces - and the retail price runs from about $6 to $7 a package, so you might want to keep them for the adults. Also consider how else you might use them; if they can move beyond the concept of a hot dog, you can move beyond the usual concept of serving. Just the other day we split a couple of the duck dogs down the center and heated them (they all come fully cooked) in a cast iron pan, serving them with scrambled eggs and crusty rolls as breakfast.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Product Review: Kohinoor Foods
The foods come in so-called shelf-stable packages, so no refrigeration. You can drop the foil packets into boiling water, or empty the contents into a dish and microwave them. Kohinoor products are widely available, at least here in the northeast, and while it wouldn't satisfy my craving for really good Indian food, they aren't bad to have on the shelf for an emergency, like when it's lunch time and one of the kids snarfed the left-over Chinese food from the previous night. And there are no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or MSG.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (5/19/2008)
- Bad Tips Are the Least of Worries A new Georgia law allows those with permits to carry concealed weapons the right to bring firearms into various places, including restaurants that serve alcohol. Note to wait staff: don't forget the bread. (AP)
- But ... Is The Lager OK? An Australian was fined for buckling his beer into a seat belt but not his child. (AP)
- How Much Is A Six-Pack? At an Oregon charity auction, one bottle of beer went for $707, while the cheapest ran $478. (Internet Broadcasting Systems)
- Watch the Moguls A couple of Belgians have developed some video games to be installed at urinals. (Reuters)
- Make Them Eat The Mystery Meat Two cafeteria managers resign after allegations that they stole thousands of dollars from their schools. (WFTV)
- That's a Lot of Relatives A Girl Scout sold more than 17,000 boxes of cookies. The formerly shy girl and her troop will be going to Europe on the strength of the proceeds - and we're waiting for corporate sales department scouts to come recruiting. (AP)
- After All, They're Just Sitting Around Alabama Sheriffs feed prisoners on $1.75 a day and pocket anything left over. (AP)
- Are You Sure This Guy Wasn't In Alabama? An Austrian prisoner escaped his cell by squeezing through the door's food hatch. (Reuters)
Friday, May 16, 2008
Product Review: TeaSpot Steepware Cup and Earl Grey Tea
The company also sent a tin of Earl Grey - great balance, and I was surprised to see a thread or two of some blue bonotanical that I haven't seen before in this style looseleaf. Fragrant and very pleasant to sip, in case you need something with which to test your new cup.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (5/12/2008)
- Vodka Tickles My Nose A British inventor, obviously never having heard of club soda, spent two years to create a sparkling (read that as carbonation) vodka. (Press release)
- Caffeine Chips Someone has apparently decided to add caffeine to chips. Now snackers will not only have an urge to drink something, they'll want cream and two sugars. But then, who calls a product "the love child of caffeine and snack chips?" (Press release)
- Never Again a Boston Harbor Apparently, the British government in the mid-1950s was worried about the impact atomic warfare would have on the availability of tea. (London Telegraph)
- No Such Thing as Free Doughnut A Canadian woman was fired from the Tim Horton chain after giving a 16-cent doughnut treat to a child. After bad press, the chain said that firing her was a mistake. (Reuters)
- And See What You Get If They're Overcooked Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is quoted as saying that restaurants should be fined for serving out of season vegetables and fruit, and that all the produce should be home grown. Guess his cooking is strictly meat and potatoes during the winter. (Reuters)
Friday, May 09, 2008
Book Review: Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook
The beginning of the book has a "manual" for how to select, store, and handle various types of fish and seafood. I would have liked to see a bit more - for example, not just filleting a whole fish, but also gutting and cleaning it. However, even in the section on fin fish, there was a tip I had never heard for telling if a fish is done. Insert the tip of a knife into the thickest part of a fillet. Then put the tip against the inside of your wrist. If it feels hot, then it's done. And there's plenty of other useful information, like an explanation of the difference among different types of crab meat and crabs.
The recipes look fabulous: crab cakes with ravigote sauce, chilled smoked scallops with tomato-and-onion marmalade (making your own stove top smoker is in a tips appendix), oyster and artichoke bisque, baked catfish with sweet potato scales and andouille sauce, shrimp and spinach cannelloni with champagne butter sauce. This is upscale fish cookery.
Oddly enough, my eyebrows frowned when I came upon the dessert, side dish, and drinks sections. Heaven knows I love dessert, and there are some terrific recipes in here, and I've also been known to tuck into side dishes and even take the occasional drink (including a rum-based milk punch during a "Breakfast at Brennan's" at the famous restaurant owned by some of his kin). But there are so many general and even restaurant cookbooks, I found myself wishing that they had just concentrated on the fish alone, expanding those sections even more (not that they are skimpy by any means). But that's just me; my wife happily bookmarked through the rest of the pages as well.
It's a hefty $45, but you get a hefty amount of hardback for the money. It could make a great gift, whether for someone else or yourself.
Book Review: Cake Art
However, it's not a paralyzing shortcoming, as you can get some of that from browsing online retailers, stores, and catalogs. Where the book really shines is in the techniques and instructions. For example, on page 31 there is a photo with three spoons of meringue, one stiff, one medium, and one soft-peaked. There are formulas for both hard and soft ganaches (Books often don't explicitly set the two side-by-side, and there's a big difference in the resulting texture and use.) as well as modeling chocolate. You can learn to make ribbons and coverings of fondant. Pipe a flower from buttercream (with a tip on how to reconstitute the mixture if it separates) or mold it from molding chocolate, marzipan, or fondant. In short, there is a lot to learn.
And that might be the big problem for many would-be cake decorators. Some of these techniques require practice, and a lot of it. If you go directly to the projects and try to work your way backward into the techniques, the results are going to be disappointing. If you want to undertake a given project (which, smartly, tell you how far in advance - weeks in some cases - to start different parts), then read through, write down the techniques that are necessary, and practice well in advance. You don't really think that pastry chefs start on this level of work their first day of class, do you? However, if you are willing to spend some time, this book should be well worth your while.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Product Review: Mom's Best Naturals Cereals
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Product Review: Grill Charms
Next, there are different collections. Depending on the collection you get, you might find it harder or easier to use. For example, in the charmed life collection, the charms bore marks of a crown, martini glass, dollar sign, clover, sail boat, and a palm tree on the beach. Pray tell, how do you remember which you assign to a given meaning? Checking the web site, the spiciness was a little clearer, with an X over a pepper for mild, a single pepper for regular, and multiple peppers for spicy. Clearest of all are those in the steak collection: R (rare), MR (medium-rare), M (medium), and so on. But what happens if I have a small party at which three people like medium-rare, two like rare, and one holds out for well? I don't get multiple doneness charms, so do I have to buy multiple sets at $19.95 for six or $4 for a single one? That seems like a lot of money for such a small piece of stainless.
I suspect the best thing is to divide the grill surface into a few sections. Put all the rare in one, all the spicy in a second, the salt-free in a third, and invest the money into some good beer to tide you through the chef experience.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Product Review: Krups GVX1/GVX2 Burr Milling System
Calling the Krups GVX2 (the all-black model is the GVX1) a "burr milling system" seems pretentious, so let's use a more realistic name: burr coffee grinder. For the most part, it does what it is supposed to, which is definitely good, although there are a few quirks that I didn't completely care for.
What generally makes a burr grinder superior to a blade system, at least for coffee, is the ability to set the texture of the grind with an adjustment mechanism, and not by trying to guess what amount of whirring corresponds to what you need. And there was an adjustment knob on the side of the GVX2. However, I found that it didn't set finely enough for espresso; the coffee brewed a few seconds too quickly for my taste even when I had the grinder at the finest setting. I was also ambivalent about setting the number of coffee measures you want and then pressing a button, which is really setting a timer to get the "right" amount of coffee. That worked roughly the same as the old Capresso model I used that finally gave up the ghost after years of service. But if you found yourself a bit short, there was no obvious way of getting just a little bit more. (Actually, I found that pushing the start button a second time would turn off the grinder, which had the same end effect.)
The hopper didn't have room for a lot of beans at a time, though enough for a double espresso or a few cups of coffee. Given how much room the two measures of espresso took up in the receptacle (it did keep the grounds contained nicely), I wouldn't have tried for 12 measures all at once, as I would have been concerned about it backing up into the machine.
I also found that at times the coffee would stop moving through the grinder, which was still on, and I'd have to give it a shake to get things moving again. Overall, it's a fair grinder, though not a great one. However, the list price of $59.99 makes it a reasonable entry-level machine choice.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (5/5/2008)
A weekly round-up of food and drink oddities:
- No Drinking; We're Indian India's health minister is asking actors in that country's film industry not to smoke or drink alcohol on screen. (AP)
- Or Germans on Father's Day The German family minister is urging men not to head into the fields on Father's Day to drink beer and schnapps. (AFP)
- Or Living in Tisbury A small town on Cape Cod remains dry when a referendum on the subject ended in a dead heat. (AP)
- Or Drinking in a Romanian Bar A Romanian man complained that a single can of beer that he consumed in a bar get him so drunk that he nearly passed out. (New Zealand Herald)
- Forget Feeding Pigeons in the Piazza It's now officially illegal to feed pigeons in St. Mark's Square in Venice. (Reuters)
- And Don't Even Think of Calling Your Sausage Cumberland A food industry group in Cumbria, off in the northwest of England, is trying to get protected status for its sausage, which would have to be coiled (no links here) and contain at least 80 percent meat. The other 20 percent? If you have to ask, you don't want to know. (AFP)
- But Aluminum Cans Are OK on PEI Prince Edward Island, Canada has lifted a 35-year-old ban on selling beer and soda in aluminum cans. (AFP)
Friday, May 02, 2008
Tyson Must Suspend Misleading Ads
Dave Hogberg, Tyson's senior vice president for consumer products, said it is a common industry practice.Guess "raised" doesn't count food, either. Unfortunately, some large companies are willing to capitalize on consumer concerns about food without going to the length of actually doing anything about their practices. Guess they've been listening to the concept of marketing being about perception for a bit too long.
Hogberg said injecting eggs with antibiotics did not undermine the "raised without antibiotic" label because the term "raised" is understood to cover the period that begins with hatching.