Megnut

Archive for February 2007

Last night Whole Food's CEO John Mackey and author Michael Pollan met in Berkeley, CA to discuss "The Past, Present, and Future of Food." After some very public arguments last fall between the two, this event looked like it could be a good debate. But East Bay Express reports:

"Pollan did what egghead intellectuals do: He began a dialogue. Last night’s public sit-down, hyped as 'The Past, Present, and Future of Food,' promised to be the title match. Certainly the public thought so. After hundreds of tickets for the J-School-sponsored event sold out within hours, it moved from Wheeler Hall to Zellerbach. But it might as well have moved to the Whole Foods’ corporate boardroom and been produced as a Webinar. In the end, Pollan failed to raise many substantive questions. And in the absence of a muscular challenge, Mackey used the evening to promote his company’s upcoming initiatives."

I haven't seen the webcast yet (webcast to be posted here at some point) but now I'm wondering if I want to bother. For more reactions to the talk, Google blog search for 'John Mackey' is your friend.

Chicken Fried Steak
Photo by Eliot Shepard, www.slower.net from Flickr

I love this photo because it's out of focus, almost like you don't really want to see the details of chicken fried steak when you eat it.

Taco al PastorIn an event dubbed as the "Tacoton," the meat for a pastor taco weighed 3.9 tons and was 13 feet high. "Tacoton" means "really big taco" in Spanish, and the folks behind this event in Mexico made a world record for their kebab of pork meat. The picture here shows a normal skewer of meat for a taco al pastor. Now imagine that 13 feet high. Delicious! Mmmmm...

Whether it's a $1000 brownie, or a 35kg burger, restaurants are pushing the limits on size and calories. Newest trend from Buzzfeed: Extreme Eating.


Taste3 has posted videos from some of last year's speakers. I've linked directly to Dan Barber's opening talk above, which was one of my favorites from the conference. I'll be heading back to Napa in May this year to speak again at Taste3 "on the power of online technology and social networking as it intersects the food and wine world." I'm really happy to see they've posted these talks. Not enough conferences share their talks after the fact.

In the days that followed, the farmers dutifully (and skeptically) planted Napoli carrots and spread the almond dust over the rows. Dan Barber recounts his attempt to infuse carrots with almond flavor by growing them in soil mixed with almond dust. You can hear him tell this same story in the video linked below.

Cold water boils faster than warm water and other kitchen myths are debunked at this great page collecting all kinds of ideas. Also addressed "When you add alcohol to a recipe it all evaporates during cooking so there is none in the final dish" and "Lobsters scream with pain when boiled."

We're in the grips of a large national problem of fish fakery. Investigators find menu listing doesn't match fish being served! "In many instances, not only is the 'grouper' in fact farm-raised Asian catfish from Vietnam or other species that swim with grouper, but the filets have shown signs of salmonella and traces of illegal carcinogenic fungicides, NOAA law enforcement officials said." Reminds me of some stories I heard on Cape Cod about the cheap sea scallops. Unscrupulous fisherman would catch dogfish and punch out sea scallop shaped rounds from its flesh, then ship them to the midwest where they claimed people couldn't tell the difference. [via Jason]

Spin the Wheel of Food and get a recommendation for a place to eat in your neighborhood. Pretty fun, though I didn't like what it proposed for me today. I think it needs some more sources, though it's using Yahoo Local for information. Still, fun! [via Matt]

Oysters vs. Chocolate: Which Is Sexier? "Judges will be fed a three-course meal of oysters, then go home and have sex. In the second round, they will be fed an equally delicious and light three-course meal of chocolate, then go home and have sex. After each round, judges will fill out a brief 'Sextionnaire' asking them to rate their arousal and pleasure on a scale of one to ten." Finally! Some journalists willing to undertake important work in the name of food.

MacheHere's a food trend I'd like to see in New York City: mâche. Enough with designer burgers, fancy pizza, chocolate in savory dishes, and heritage pork. Bring on the yummy French lettuce! It's easy to get mâche in Paris, but hardly anyone ever serves it here. Could we please replace ramps this spring with mâche, trendmakers? I'd be very appreciative.

Update: Several readers have emailed to point out the Trader Joe's sells pre-washed bags of mâche. Good to know, I will check this out asap. Thanks!

One month from today, folks, just one more month! The Shake Shack opens March 21st. I can already taste the burger on my tongue!

Chicago issues its first foie gras fine and it goes to none other than famous "encased meat emporium" Hot Doug's. Says owner Doug Sohn, “It’s sort of at the point where I don’t really care,” he said. “If we don’t serve it, we don’t serve it. I hope people opposed to it are leading ethical and moral lives. And they better not be wearing leather shoes.”

Is there such a thing as a responsible and environmentally friendly take-out container? An interesting discussion over at Serious Eats. As a New Yorker, and therefore frequent consumer of take-out, I always feel really crappy about not being able to recycle containers.

Latte ArtIncredible photo collection of latte art, including a link to a video demonstrating how to make some designs. I'd like to try some of these now that I see how they're done, it looks really fun! [thanks Jonah!]

Exploring the trend of expensive milkshakes over at Diner's Journal. (Which is no longer just Frank Bruni but other Times writers as well.) Why are milkshakes getting so expensive? At a place near my office, the shake is $5.50, but they use local milk so I assume that raises the cost. Still, an $8 shake? Or more? That's insane.

Foie Gras battle heating up in New York City

Fairway foie gras sign
Fairway's foie gras sign, now removed

While I was out of town, there was an anti-foie gras protest in front of the Fairway Market on the Upper West Side. Farm Sanctuary, "the nation's leading farm animal protection organization" is trying to get Fairway to remove foie gras from its shelves. They've gotten the store to remove a sign they posted last year proclaiming the store "Foie Gras Central" and now, buoyed by their success in gaining bans in Chicago and California, they've set their sites set on New York. According to the New York Sun, "the group recently opened an office in the city and hired a full-time development coordinator." Poking around their site, I see that they've got protests scheduled every Sunday for the month of February to "educate Fairway's customers and other Upper Westsiders about the truth behind foie gras."

First of all, Fairway shouldn't have folded and taken down their sign. They have every right to sell foie gras, and they have every right to explain why they're doing so to their customers. By removing the sign, they've clearly emboldened the anti-foie grasists. Second, is anyone complaining to Fairway about the protesters in front of the store, trying to push their values on Upper Westsiders? If I shopped there, I certainly would.

Maybe what we need is a pro-foie gras contingent to go up and hand out pamphlets explaining the migratory behavior of ducks and geese that causes them to gorge and naturally fatten their livers. Or maybe not. Maybe everyone should spend their Sundays making their own decisions, not being pressured by strangers trying to get their value system codified by the government.

Anyone can cook from any cookbook out there, but it takes a special kind of nutjob to attempt every recipe in The French Laundry Cookbook. It's like the Julie/Julia Project but with less recipes, and more insane amounts of work. Hats off to you Ms. Diner Girl, I wish you all the best. And I look forward to the day you attempt the torchon of foie gras.

Annie's Homegrown CEO John Foraker joins the Annie's discussion. He responds to the Salon article from yesterday and shares a letter he sent to the magazine.

Michael Pollan's nine key points

Unhappy Meals illustration by Leo JungFrom last weekend's The New York Times Magazine comes Michael Pollan's latest article about The Age of Nutritionism. I would've written about it sooner but it took me until last night to finish reading it. It's 12 pages long. While the entire thing is absolutely worth reading, he ends with a "few (flagrantly unscientific) rules of thumb collected in the course of [his] nutritional odyssey" that bear repeating here, with my notes:

1. Eat food. Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
Non-dairy creamer? You're out. You too, breakfast-cereal bars.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.
Science keeps changing, so trying to follow fads won't guarantee health. You have a better chance at health by just eating a well-balanced diet.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
All those signs point to food that's been processed. More process = less nutrients and vitamins, never mind the environmental costs of producing the food.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
Buy food at farmer's markets and you can avoid the foods listed in #3 very easily.

5. Pay more, eat less.
Pay for that grass-fed beef, but reduce your over-all beef consumption and it's not an exorbitant expense. Interesting figure from the article: "Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation."

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
You don't have to turn into a bunny, but make sure you're getting greens. They pack a nutritional wallop, but science still can't tell you exactly what inside is so good.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are.
You know, that whole Mediterranean diet, "French Women Don't Get Fat" thing.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden.
Duh. If you cook from scratch, it's unlikely you'll add ferrous sulfate or sodium tripoly-phosphate to your dinner. See #3 above.

9. Eat like an omnivore.
Variety is important, and we've been reducing the diversity in our diets over the years. Plus "biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields."

Those tips should be given to every single citizen of the United States, as far as I'm concerned. It's hard to believe we've gotten to the point that we don't know how to eat anymore.

Also: The Kitchen has a summary of the article as well, highlighting some other facets of Pollan's argument.

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