Archive for March 2007

Many health problems, like diabetes and cancer, are linked to what you drink. Not surprisingly, water is best drink bet. But Americans have increased their consumption of sweetened drinks like soda and juices a lot in the past thirty years. "About 21 percent of calories consumed by Americans over the age of 2 come from beverages, predominantly soft drinks and fruit drinks with added sugars." And even diet sodas don't get you off the hook, because of the lack of long-term safety data for artificial sweeteners. Wine, coffee, and milk are all recommended over sweet drinks.

Wolfgang Puck's humane decision

Americans consume vastly more chicken, turkey, pork and beef than foie gras and veal, and most of the creatures those meats come from are raised in ways that are ethically and environmentally unsound. And so the New York Times lauds chef Wolfgang Puck's decision to "use products only from animals raised under strict humane standards" in all his restaurants. This means no more battery chicken or beef, but also no more foie gras. As a reader of this site, you're probably aware of my support for ethical and humane animal husbandry but also my support for foie gras.

I've read a lot about foie gras production, articles in support of it and articles against it. The one I found most enlightening was Jeffrey Steingarten's article for Men's Vogue from the spring of 2006, Stuffed Animals: Is foie gras the height of gastronomic pleasure or murder most fowl? His reports of stress studies done on foie gras ducks and geese conclude the animals are not in pain during the feeding process. And so I've felt comfortable eating foie gras on occasion.

Which leaves me in a troubling spot with regards to this editorial and Puck's decision. I want to fully support it, yet including foie gras bothers me. You don't need to measure the levels of corticosterone (a hormone closely associated with stress, reports Steingarten) in crated pigs or chickens to know they're stressed out. You can tell that because they chew off each other's tails (pigs) and peck each other to death (chickens) when kept on factory farms. And anything that relieves these animals from such deplorable conditions absolutely gets my support. But there seems to be a growing consensus that foie gras production is inhumane, and so it's included in decisions like Puck's. But if it's not inhumane, is that really fair? Or does the fact that someone is finally taking on the truly inhumane factory farm industry outweigh the loss of some succulent fatty liver? Honestly, I don't know.

When people ask, “what is your goal with this?” I say, “I want people to feel.” Great interview with Grant Achatz of Alinea over at Chicagoist. Makes me realize it's been almost a year since my visit there. I've got to go back! [via Jason]

Larger portions are a reliable way to bolster the average check at restaurants. "So while it may cost a restaurant a few pennies to offer 25 percent more French fries, it can raise its prices much more than a few cents." And the Super Size was born. Some restaurants are struggling to reign in portion size, but it cuts into their profit margin (causing big trouble for publicly-traded companies) and customers complain they're not getting value. If only Americans prized quality the way they do value. I guess then we'd be France or Switzerland or something.

Not sure how I missed this profile of chef David Chang, of Momofuku Noodle Bar and Momfuku Ssäm Bar fame. I've been a Noodle Bar fan for a while now, but only recently visit Ssäm since they changed the menu. (I had the burritos a couple times last fall and enjoyed them.) And oh what an idiot I've been! Now I've been twice to Ssäm and can't wait to get back there again very soon, like tomorrow, even though I was there last night! It's far and away my favorite new place to eat: comfy and friendly, relaxed service, and phenomenal food. I had scallops with a lychee gelee that I'm still thinking about nearly a week later! Jason wrote up our first visit there. I'm ssoo crazy for Ssäm!

Best chocolate chip cookie search

CookiesRecently I've been on a kind of chocolate chip cookie mission, trying to find and make the best chocolate chip cookies possible. After dismissing the recipe on the back of the chip package, I was looking forward to making Adam Roberts' The Best Cookies Of Your Life. Last night I did, and I'm sad to report that while good, the cookies where not The Best of My Life. A little too thin for my taste. Of course, the other recipe I rejected for being too cakey, so clearly I'm difficult to satisfy.

Do you have a good recipe? I'm determined to find one I really enjoy, so if you've got something you think worthy, post it (or a link to it) in the comments. I'll bake all the ones I receive, and pass judgment when I'm finished. Let the cookie games begin!

Buzzfeed's got two new food trends today: Unfiltered Olive Oil and Eating in the Dark. I've heard of unfiltered olive oil, but eating in the dark? Restaurants in China are in on the trend that has diners eating in total darkness, unable to see their spoons or dinner companions, never mind what they're actaully ingesting. Uh, no thanks.

Wine Spectator asks Thomas Keller, Is there a "dream wine" that you'd love to have for your restaurants or your personal collection? And his response: "That's like when people ask, 'What's your favorite food?' Why limit yourself to one?" Exactly! Keller goes on to talk about what he loves about wine, how he serves it, and his favorite varietal, Zinfandel.

Demand for raw milk seems to be rising faster than cream in an unhomogenized gallon jug. Time reports on the apparently increasing efforts to shut down raw milk sellers around the US.

Everything he makes tastes as good as it sounds disgusting. An examination of the Au Pied de Cochon cookbook, from Montreal's renowned restaurant of the same name. I really want to go there next time I'm in Montreal, whenever that will be.

Business Week wonders do meat and dairy products from cloned animals mean better-quality food at lower costs to consumers? There's a pro and a con argument. The pro argument is hardly convincing, and the con is only so-so. The comments are where the good stuff is. My favorite to date:

David M

March 7, 2007 10:16 AM

My No. 1 concern is not even the health risks like smoking that could rear their heads later in life, but the safety of cloned foods from the standpoint of reducing genetic diversity, thus making animals subject to quicker spread of disease. If most of the cows are clones and a virus or bacteria develops that kills them, what happens to our food security? That is why nature allows for genetic diversity through sexual reproduction. Nature has rules for a reason.

A later commenter raises the lessons learned (or not) from the Irish potato famine. But these days, science tends to get the short shrift in favor of other concerns like corporate profit or phony marketing strategies like "best meat." Meat tastes plenty good when the cows roam around freely and eat grass, and it's disingenuous for argribusiness to blame the "27% drop in beef consumption over the last three decades" on anyone but themselves. Stuffing beef full of corn on feedlots creates sick cows. And the beef passed on to consumers can make us sick as well, between the increase in saturated fat, the decrease in "good" fats like omega-3s, and the antibiotic remnants in their systems. Cloning only complicates the unstable situation we've created for ourselves. [via Serious Eats]

Three parts of the sheep episode of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It are available on You Tube: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Part One introduces you to the slaughter process, Part Two shows the stunning and bleeding of a sheep, and Part Three shows the butchering. Hopefully the full episodes, in better quality, will appear online soon.

Lettuce SafeIs your apartment filled with diamonds and cash and other valuables? Do you constantly struggle with where to hide such items in case a thief breaks in? Fret no more, my ruby-wearing reader! This iceberg lettuce safe looks like an unassuming head of lettuce, but in reality is a cleverly disguised safe. No thief will think of looking in your produce bin for cold cash -- unless s/he reads this site, but let's not worry about that now. $49.00 and it's yours. And they also sell soda can safes, in case you have more loot than a head of lettuce will contain.

A 14 minute chicken? 4 minute lamb chops? A new oven, the TurboChef, promises to cook your foods up to fifteen times faster than conventional cooking methods. Soufflés in two minutes? How's that possible? A combination of convection oven and bursts of microwaves, using some "patented Airspeed Technology," could be yours for ~$8,000. But don't let the cost bother you, you'll make it up in volume on quick cooked soufflés and chickens.

The succulent taste of forced rhubarb is infinitely more delicate than the kind grown in ordinary gardens. "The roots, or crowns, of outdoor rhubarb are left in the fields for two to three years and are then lifted, by hand, from November through to Christmas and replanted into low, dark forcing sheds where they are kept warm and moist as the shoots form." I wonder if it's like white asparagus compared to green, which is also grown in the dark. It sounds yummy, and there are a bunch of recipes linked at the end of the article.

Food 1, Meg 0

Meg gives upSo today may be the day when I throw my hands in the air in frustration and give up when it comes to food. Yesterday I confirmed that my attempts to drink the occasional "healthy" latte precluded rBGH from my diet but yielded no nutritional value. Today I spot, from the Serious Eats blog, a link to this item about the value of eating oily fish for its Omega-3s only to discover "tuna counts only if it's fresh, so no points for that tuna mayo sandwich." What?! I've been eating so much more tuna these days because of everything I've read about tuna and Omega-3s.

Following the current nutritional dictates is confusing and no guarantee of success, regardless of whether they seem silly ("no carbs") or reasonable ("Yay Omega-3s"). So that's it. I'm done. I'm tired of over-thinking everything I eat. It's exhausting and it doesn't seem to do much good. I'm going to follow Michael Pollan's Nine Key Points and "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Reader Feedback

Yesterday's post about Starbucks inspired a bit of reader email, some of which I will answer publicly here for everyone's benefit:

1. Don't you think that a major market force like Starbucks can come up with a better excuse than "it will take a couple of years". How many people would accept WalMart saying "It'll take a couple of years to get all our employees up to 40 hours a week". Starbucks has the power to say "non-rBGH milk NOW" and make it happen. - Teena

Teena, good point. It does seems like something that could be done rather quickly in most metropolitan areas, certainly New York. Check out the next reader email. - Meg

2. Not sure if you know about the Starbucks "Hold the Hormones" campaign. You can check it out at: We know that Starbucks' stores in Northern California, New England, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska are all rBGH-free. For NYC, you'd have to ask at the stores whether or not they're rBGH-free. - Audrey

Audrey, great news. Sounds like they're making a lot of progress. With continued pressure from consumers, hopefully the process will be completed in less than a couple years.

3. a brand of milk (check the intrigues involved with that Italian company), not a variety like 2%. - Joe

Yes, it is. I'm not sure I said anywhere that it wasn't.- Meg

Thanks for your thoughts folks, and keep those emails coming.

Ignorant food policy mandates will soon lead us to ban mother’s milk, writes one New York Times reader in a letter to the editor, "loaded as it is with 'bad' things: cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar and trans fat." It would be funny if it weren't almost possibly true.

Coming soon to the big screen near you: Julia Roberts as Ruth Reichl? It looks like Reichl's third book, Garlic and Sapphires, about her adventures as the restaurant critic for the New York Times, will be made into a movie. Reichl is an executive producer on the project and is hoping Robert's will play her. That could totally work, especially if Robert's hair is dyed black. Both have those big curly manes and giant teeth-filled smiles.

Now is the time for Sweet Sweet Passover Coke. Unlike regular Coke, which is made with high fructose corn syrup, Passover Coke is made with real sugar. Get it while it lasts and enjoy the superior flavor.

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