Monday, June 30, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (6/30/2008)
- Nineteenth Amendment? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Nineteenth Amendment Proving that dead ideas of the past are never far away, the Phoenix Country Club still has a men-only bar, with women relegated to some dump of a back room, crossing the line from "weird" news to pathetic. (New York Times)
- It's a Good Vintage For those, like me, who missed this story the first time around, Martha Stewart has lent her name to some $15 a bottle wines that I notice the other day in a local grocery store. It's probably the only wine that matures according to a strict calendar. (USA Today)
- Say Cheese A Wisconsin sculptor recreated John Trumbull's painting "Declaration of Independence" in a ton of cheddar. (AP)
- Peanuts ... Popcorn ... Kung Pao ... In time for the Olympics, Beijing is providing to restaurants official English translations of local menu items. "'Bean curd made by a pock-marked woman,' as the Beijing Youth Daily rendered the spicy Sichuanese dish, is now 'Mapo tofu.' And 'chicken without sexual life' becomes mere 'steamed pullet.'" (Reuters)
- Hold On There, Pardner The Naked Cowboy, a New York City street performer, is suing Mars for billboards depicting a blue M&M in the cowhand's signature outfit of boots, a hat, and white briefs. (Reuters)
- Maybe If They Call It Adult Grape Juice A burgeoning Finish wine industry is halted in its tracks as the European Union, which doesn't recognize Finland as a wine-producing country under EU rules, prohibits inhabitants from selling what they make.(New York Times)
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Mars and IBM to Explore Chocolate Genome - for the Greenhouse
Computational biologists and supercomputers can drastically accelerate the pace at which promising new strains of cocoa trees come out of the greenhouse, from the traditional length of five to seven years down to 18 months or so, Dr. Shapiro said.That is a huge time and money savings. It's easy to forget that it takes significant time to grow a tree, and that to avoid GM methods, you have to bring plants to maturity and work through a line of generations to get the eventual results that you want. If mapping the genome helps them move through the process more effectively, it takes some of the pressure off switching to more artificial and potentially risky approaches, like swapping genes around.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Product Review: Arico Natural Foods Cassava Chips and Cookies
On the cookie front, we were far more divided. The kids loved the chocolate chunk and triple berry, my wife liked them, and I found them on the dry and mealy side, though if you can't tolerate gluten, they are good to know about. However, they are far from cheap, at least if you are buying online. You buy by the case of six family packs, and each pack, in a reclosable pouch, weighs 4.8 ounces; the price is $29.94, and then you pay $5.95 on top of that for shipping. Even without the shipping, it's $16.63 per pound of cookie. Similarly, the chips are a case of one dozen 5 ounce bags for $41.88. Ouch. So I'd suggest holding off on trying the products unless you can find them in a store, and even then you might find them an over-priced novelty, unless you have to avoid casein and gluten, in which case you probably have limited choices.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Corn Refiners Association Tries HFCS PR
HFCS, table sugar, honey, and several fruit juices all contain the same simple sugars.Not exactly, as I remember my high school chemistry. There are a number of relatively basic sugars, including fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (the table sugar we use), lactose (a sugar found in milk), maltose (malt sugar found in beer and malt whiskey), and glucose (also called dextrose, found in plant saps and fruits). They are similar, but not exactly the same.
HFCS is safe and no different from other common sweeteners like table sugar and honey.Now we're entering some real word twisting, so far as I can tell. Suddenly they are trying to pretend that the sugars are equivalent, and they aren't necessarily. Some people are "lactose intolerant," meaning that the particular form of sugar called lactose is something their bodies do not digest.
HFCS is equal in sweetness to table sugar.Interesting, as I've always heard that industries like HFCS because 1) it's cheaper than regular sugar, and 2) it's sweeter, so they don't need as much.
Instead of just listening to these people, how about some nutritional information from the MayoClinic.com?
Monday, June 23, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (6/23/2008)
- Scratch and Sniff Lottery The Colorado lottery is selling scented scratch tickets, where you scratch the latex-covered area and release scented ink, including chocolate and coffee. (AP)
- Cold Crustacean A restaurant cook allegedly tried stealing frozen lobster tails by stuffing them down his pants. Will he end up in the cooler? (WABC)
- Begone, Thou Misshapen Fruit! The EU is having trouble ridding itself of regulation over the shape of fruits and vegetables sold there. (Reuters)
- One for Me, One for You An English farm has ended its pick-your-own strawberries program because people ate more than they bought. (The Press Assoc.)
- Swearing by Ramsey Australia's parliament is tightening rules on permissible on-air language, and all because of Gordon Ramsey. (Reuters)
- The McDonald's Diet A man in Virginia lost 80 pounds in six months by having nearly every meal at a McDonald's - salads, wraps, and apple dippers without the caramel sauce. Could he maybe have exercised a bit, as well?(AP)
- A Hair of the Dirty Dog An ex-cook was charged with putting hairs inside a steak that was served to a dissatisfied customer. (AP)
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Cocoa Surges While Mexico Controls Food Prices
The International Cocoa Organisation is forecasting a small supply surplus of 71,000 tonnes in 2008/09, but a poor crop in Ivory Coast could push the market into a supply deficit for a third year in a row.Similarly, Brazil has reported that its sugal crop will be delayed and smaller because of rain, so sugar prices rose by 3.2 percent. Now here's the real interesting part, I think: prices for October sugar are 12.83 cents a pound. How much do you pay for a pound of sugar? Who gets the rest of that money, and what value do they add to justify their cuts?
In the meantime, in another Financial Times story, food prices are hitting hard enough in Mexico that the "center-right goverment" - which I take to mean on the conservative side - has put price controls into place on 150 basic items, including beans, cooking oil, canned tuna, and fruit juice. Prices will remain frozen from now until the end of the year. But given the hefty jumps we've been seeing in the underlying goods, what happens to the merchants and wholesellers? I understand that people with no money are hurting, but this seems to be a short-sighted approach of addressing a problem. The government shifts the burden onto businesses, which might end up losing money in the long run and possible start cutting jobs, because it wants to appear as though it's active toward the problem. But the dynamics don't change, and the effect is to sweep the pain under a carpet and out of site. The eventual price for this approach may be higher and longer-lasting, but, hey, maybe that will be for someone else to deal with.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Review: IKEA as Food Stop
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Presidential Recipe Purloining
When I was writing my pizza book, I developed a dough recipe - and eventually learned (long before going to print) that one of my favorite bread books had the identical recipe. I didn't start with that recipe as a reference. Instead, I just put stuff together until it looked and felt right. But there are only so many ratios of flour to water to salt that will give you a particular result. (However, I did mention the unintended similarity in the book - and also heartily recommended the other title, Secrets of a Jewish Baker, which is definitely worth finding used if you like to bake bread.)
So, my sympathy was with Cindy McCain - until I read about the first time this happened in April. John McCain's campaign web site had a number of "her" recipes posted, when someone noticed that many appeared identical to recipes taken from the Food Network's web site. (Really, how many people come up with a passion fruit mousse?) The campaign eventually blamed an unpaid intern, which raises the question of how this person was sent off to find recipes that would be posted as coming from Cindy McCain. If it was a blunder, didn't any of the McCains notice that something was wrong? Or maybe passion fruit is considered a common ingredient in Arizona. And doesn't your family make ahi tuna with napa cabbage slaw or farfalle pasta with turkey sausage, peas and mushrooms? I thought so.
So much for sympathy. By the way, did I tell you about my new cookie recipe?
Monday, June 16, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (6/16/2008)
- What About the Free Eggs? Employees at a McDonalds finally captured a rogue chicken that had taken up residence and blocked the drive-through lane. (AP)
- They Also Make a Mean Burre Blanc Scientists find monkeys that fish. (AP)
- Restaurant Snaps Closed New York City inspectors shut down a restaurant after finding a snapping turtle in the sink. (AP)
- Did They Have to Clean the Glasses? A New Zealand restaurant got in trouble for accidentally serving dishwashing liquid as mulled wine. (AFP)
- Garlic Groveling In an attempt to keep yet another segment of the economy from protesting or striking, the Thai prime minister, a former television chef, used his weekly television address to promote cooking with local garlic. (AFP)
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Product Review: Honest Tea Jasmine Green Energy Tea and Citrus Green Energy Tea
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
High Fructose Corn Syrup - A Sticky Ingredient
It's in wide use - a Tufts study in 2005 suggested that whereas bread was once the major source of calories in the diets of Americans, drinks sweetened with HFCS have now taken that position. For more personally empirical data, go to a grocery store and see how many products include HFCS: everything from sodas to snack chips. We've undertaken an interesting experiment of trying to eliminate HFCS as much as possible from our house. That still leaves anything at a restaurant that might fly under the radar, but I can say that even just within the house, making the switch is difficult. But any ingredient that has Archers Daniels Midland (ADM) spending heaven knows how much in lobbying fees to protect it can't be all good.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (6/9/2008)
- No Time For Oranges A survey suggests that Britons feel that they don't have time to peel oranges at lunch, so they opt for easier-to-peel citrus. (Reuters)
- Only $358.82 a Pound Someone in Japan paid $6100 for a 17-pound rare black-skinned Densuke watermellon. Hopefully it came with someone to spit out the seeds for the buyer. (AP)
- What Is that Flavor? An Arkansas corrections officer was allegedly caught smuggling syringes and pot hidden inside take-out TexMex food. (AP)
- What Weren't They Smoking? Some dorm workers at Indiana University got suspicious when they found green leafy material in some fudge they had been given. Turns out it was lavender. (AP)
- Serving Your Way to Heaven An Indian widow spent over $37,000 on a feast for a reputed 100,000 because she had no one to leave her money to. (Reuters)
- Do They Come in Coffin Shapes? The late inventor of the Pringles potato chip can had some of his cremated remains buried in one of them. (AP)
- Last Stop for Tube Drinking Thousands took to the London Underground to celebrate the last day of legal drinking on the system - and when things got out of control, police arrested 17 and closed 6 subway stations. (Reuters)
- Shaken, Not Stirred Champagne manufacturer Louis Roederer is testing the results of letting sparkling wine age 50 under the surface of the ocean rather than in the traditional cellars. And after all that wave action shaking the carbonated contents, who gets to open the first bottle? (Reuters)
- Looks Good to Him An Israeli rabbi has declared giraffe meat and milk to be kosher. (AFP)
- Guess the Souffle Fell A 28-year-old trainee chef threatened to kill himself with a knife unless allowed to retake a test at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in London. (London Telegraph)
Friday, June 06, 2008
Product Review: DeLonghi EC155 Espresso/Cappuccino Maker
The one-liter water tank is not the largest I've seen, and the "easy to clean" claim only makes sense if you don't have large hands as I do, because the opening is wide but narrow. Thank heaven for cleaning brushes. But the tank does go on and off pretty easily. There is also storage next to the top of the tank for a portafilter coffee holder, which is important because the machine comes with two: one for two shots of espresso, and one for one. This way you can keep out one of the way when using the other.
The coffee holders seem to be of type that are intended to make crema - or the flavorful foam on top of the shots - more easily. Experts generally frown upon these, because they actually can damage the natural development and taste in the quest for something that looks good. I can attest that some fabulous beans that I picked up from Amherst Coffee - maybe the best espresso bar I've come across - just don't come out as well as I know is possible. However, comparing one of these lower-end machines to pro equipment is unfair. A complete espresso head may be disappointed, but if you don't find yourself fussy to a point that others consider a bit nutty, you should be fine.
The steam wand has one of those attachments that's supposed to make getting the right foam easy. I was actually surprised that it worked decently. The foam isn't as fine as I could get with a regular nozzle, but without a doubt it is decent, and if you haven't put in the practice time doing one batch of milk after another over weeks and months, you'll get acceptable results immediately. The one thing I didn't like about it is that the wand only swings from side to side and not up and down, which means you can run into difficulty trying to get the milk pitcher or a cup under the wand and even tougher getting it back again. At an online "street" price of about $100, you could do a whole lot worse while spending significantly more.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
EU to US: Bad Chicken, Bad Chicken - and Problems with Kosher Birds
Then again, we've had some unpleasant experience with kosher birds - namely Empire brand - over the years. Just recently we picked up a couple at a Trader Joe's, got them home, started unwrapping one, and found that it smelled bad. The store was fabulous about handling the problem, not only taking the bird back, but bringing my wife out to check for a replacement and letting her open and smell it before taking possession.
Unfortunately, this isn't the only time we've brought Empire birds home to find the aroma off-putting. We also had this problem a few times with The Butcherie, a kosher food store in Brookline, Massachusetts. Does it mean that the better taste that goes with a kosher treatment also brings a higher risk of a problem? If anyone has an answer, I'd be glad to hear it - and I think I'll check with some sources to see if I can provide some educated information.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Yes, We Have No Bananas
Panama disease is so virulent that a single clump of dirt tracked in on a tire tread or a shoe can spark a country-wide outbreak. It isn't hard to imagine that a stray banana box from the Philippines, loaded into a Dole shipping container could be left unloaded at Long Beach, California, and continue on to Guatemala, where it could infect that nation's crop and tear through Latin America.The big fruit companies seem to be living in denial and aren't publicly addressing the problem. Scientists are looking at genetic engineering as a solution. Great, from blight to GMO.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
A Yogurt Rant
Monday, June 02, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (6/2/2008)
- I'm Going to Need Seconds Japanese scientists created a noodle bowl so small that you have to use a microscope to see it. (AP)
- Everyone's a Critic Police arrested a Hamptons gallery owner for serving wine and champagne at her gallery for the opening of an exhibit of photographs taken by Angelina Jolie, Madonna, and Justin Timberlake. (AP)
- Who Had Too Much Caffeine? Dunkin Donuts withdrew an ad featuring Rachel Ray when conservative bloggers went berserk over her wearing a scarf that they claimed was patterned like a traditional Arab headdress. (AP)
- Bridget Jones Blamed as Chardonnay Bane A wine expert blames the fictional character Bridget Jones's crying into a glass of chardonnay for making the wine less appealing. (London Telegraph)
- A Really Light Beer A Japanese company plans to make beer with barley descended from grains that spent five months on the International Space Station in 2006. The entire run, by Sapporo, will be 100 bottles. (AP)