How to close a bag of chips without a clip. Handy video and instructions to perform chip bag origami so your snacks stay fresh without one of those clips. [via Lifehacker]

What Makes a Perfect Lobster Roll? “It should be all about the lobster.” Whether that allows for mayo depends on who you ask. I'm ok with a little mayo, but not too much.

Memorial Day

My grandpa in the Navy, 1944That's my Grandpa in a photo from April 1944, on or very close to his wedding day. He had just turned 24, and the photo was taken shortly before he left for sea during WWII.

I was thinking about him today, Memorial Day, as I thought about veterans in general. His ship, the USS Wasatch (AGC-9), was the flagship of the 7th Fleet, stationed in the South Pacific. Being the flagship meant that admirals used the ship as their command post, as Admiral Kinkaid did to command the naval forces of the 7th Fleet during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of all time. This log of movements chronicles the Wasatch from its departure at Norfolk, VA June 27, 1944 until its return to San Diego, CA November 28, 1945. I also found a more detailed description of the Wasatch's action in the South Pacific as I was looking for information.

I didn't know much about my grandfather's war experience -- he never talks about it, not when I was little, not now. But in less than an hour poking around online, I was able to uncover more than I ever knew about where he'd been and the battles in which his ship had been involved. And for the first Memorial Day in a long time, I actually did some good hard thinking and reading about the sacrifices men and women have made throughout history to ensure, "that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." To my grandpa, and veterans everywhere, thank you.

Originally published May 27, 2002

Confetti Cakes Cookbook for dream cakes

The Confetti Cakes CookbookThe Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City's Famed Bakery by Elisa Strauss is one of those cookbooks that just astounds. I was not familiar with the bakery or this woman's cakes before, but color me impressed. As someone who's not only worked with fondant but actually made it from scratch (not recommended), my mind was blown by what this woman can do with cake!

The book features recipes for all kinds of cakes and cookies, including amazing stacked wedding cake cookies that look just like little cakes, and a sushi cake that looks just like the real thing. Strauss's ability to make cakes that look like baseball caps, sushi, and handbags is incredible. The book also contains basic information about techniques and ingredients that any baker will find useful, even if they don't undertake a week's worth of baking to create the "Sugar Stiletto and Shoebox Cake."

But perhaps what I like best about this book is the inspiration it provides. I'm not sure I'll ever make her exact cakes, but boy does it make me want to come up with my own crazy concoctions. With all the techniques and tips she provides, I have the confidence to do that. Now I just need a willing victim friend who's looking for a birthday or wedding cake.

The key to a good hamburger is to grind your own meat. Mark Bittman explains how you can control the quality of the meat this way, and its fat content, two critical factors in making a great burger. And of course he talks about the health concerns of buying ground beef as well. Makes me long for a grill!

Harold McGee will demonstrate the application of the scientific method to classical cooking techniques, ingredients and new technologies in a three-day class at the FCI. Drat! That sounds totally cool and right up my alley. Alas, the mid-July date is no good for me. And also it costs $1,200! I think I'll read McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen again instead.

Up to 10 small cups of green tea a day is fine but studies show that more than that can be harmful. This is important to note if you're taking green-tea-based supplements because they "can contain up to 50 times as much polyphenol as a single cup of tea." Polyphenols are helpful in small doses but in large doses can cause liver and kidney damage. Everything in moderation, as they say.

His cattle ration consists of about 17% "candy meal," a blend of chocolate bars and large chunks of chocolate. And that's not all, in this report about livestock producers feeding their animals human food because ethanol is driving up the price of corn. I'd love to read the whole article, but that damn Wall Street Journal is subscription-only.

How to keep cookies fresh

Cookie Osmosis

After all that perfect chocolate chip cookie baking, what's the use when your batch goes stale in a matter of days? Cookies are great out of the oven, but biting into a hard crumbly mass later in the week is no fun. That's why you need to understand the science of cookie osmosis, or How to Keep Cookies Fresh.

The trick is simple: place a slice of fresh bread in with your cookies a day or two after you've baked them, or whenever you find their texture has deteriorated. The moisture from the fresh bread will migrate to your cookies (through cookie osmosis, see diagram above), rendering them soft and chewable again. It will literally unstaleify them!

Special thanks to my mother-in-law Dee, who passed on this technique to her son, who introduced it to me.

Almost dining at the Waverly Inn

waverly_inn.jpgHow We Almost Ate At Ye Waverly Inn. The Amateur Gourmet and his parents tried to have dinner at the Waverly Inn but there reservation was lost and the host was not accommodating, and well, you have to just read it. The whole tale of the "new" Waverly Inn just saddens me. I used to live down the block from the Inn and went there a few times for dinner. The food was so-so, but the building was fantastic, with cozy fireplaces and a great old bar. I always thought it could be something really special. Then a few years ago, I saw it was for lease, and for about one crazy moment, I fantasized about opening my own restaurant there.

Of course, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and some partners snapped up the lease and the rest is history. He opened an exclusive supper club for himself and his friends and those in the know. Their town cars block the narrow street. And what was once a nice neighborhood joint is now another "it" spot in Manhattan. And the food isn't even supposedly that good! I haven't been, though I might try at some point, just in the hopes that somehow, it's not as bad as everyone says. That somehow, it's become that neat little cozy local restaurant I always wanted it to be.

Into the meat night of the Bronx

Meatpacking Adam Kuban

Donning a white smock and white paper hat as required by federal law, I followed [chef Adam Perry] Lang inside these hallowed halls of prime and choice beef. My friend Adam heads to the Bronx at 1:30 AM to visit Master Purveyors, a meat distributor at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market. A big burger fan, Adam wanted to see the beef being ground. I love his photos of the steaks being dry-aged. I only wish he talked more about Master Purveyors and what makes their steaks so good.

Asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid and vitamins, and is low in fat, calories and carbohydrates. Though this article from the BBC talks about the virtues of English asparagus, there's lots of information for those of us outside the UK. Includes some tasty recipes to prepare while this member of the lily family (yes!) is in season.


Shorpy, the 100-year-old photo blog has a great picture of the Blue Bell Diner in Washington DC in 1948. I love the counter bump outs. And you can also read the entire menu. [thanks Jason!]

Marco Pierre White never wanted three stars

Marco Pierre White Photo: Drew Gardner/eyevine/Zuma PressWhen I won my three stars, I realized that I'd worked for something all my life that I'd never wanted. Marco Pierre White talks about why he left the kitchen, about the American food scene and molecular gastronomy, and what happens when chefs keep their name on the door but no longer work behind the stove.

Does the quality suffer?

It can't be the same, can it? ... I just think when you've got three stars, it's an issue of principle. Your name is above the door, you've got to be there. But that's me. We're all different.

I've never been a big Marco Pierre White fan but this interview was pretty interesting. I'm a sucker for tales of wisdom and experience and finding balance.

A handy cheat sheet to help you make sense of beef terms like Kobe and Wagyu. Because if you're going to pay the premium prices that accompany these labels, you should understand what you're getting, dontcha think?

Is human breast-milk vegan? I'm having a tough time swallowing this argument being made by some over at Serious Eats, since humans are animals, after all.

david_chang.jpgMy last good idea was my worst idea; every time my ego comes into it, it hinders the restaurant. David Chang calls Ssäm Bar "bad fusion" and talks about how a chef's ego can get in the way of the food. Even though he just won the rising star award from the James Beard Foundation, I didn't taste any ego when I ate there last night. The menu's been changed a bit because of the season (no more brussels sprouts, sadly, but artichokes and asparagus are in play) but the food was as great as ever. And the Led Zeppelin cranked on the stereo keeps me coming back for more.

photo by Jesse Chan-Norris

We are living at a time when we just can’t leave bad enough alone. "Whole wheat pasta and whole grain Froot Loops. Lactose-free reduced-fat Swiss cheese. Sugar-free ice cream. Alcohol-free beer. Trans-fat-free French fries." An amusing piece about adding vitamins to Diet Coke to create the new Diet Coke Plus.

From February 2007 Food & Wine, Spain’s Next Food Mecca talks about El Poblet, Quique Dacosta's restaurant. And other sci-fi cooking outposts in Spain. I think Spain needs to be the next country I visit for a culinary travel adventure.

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