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.

I don't frequent Starbucks very often, but when I do I order a latte with organic milk. The last time I did so, I noticed the barista pouring milk from a small square container, like the kind soy milk comes in. So yesterday I ordered a latte and paid attention and noticed that yes, the barista was pouring milk from a Parmalat organic milk carton. Parmalat is what's known as "shelf-stable" milk, meaning it doesn't need to be refrigerated. That's because it's been ultra-pasteurized, or heated to a higher temperature higher than normal pasteurization (280°F vs. 145°F). There are many people that believe ultra-pasteurized milk not only has no nutritional value, but also may be harder to digest because of changes in the protein structures of the milk itself. Needless to say, I try not to drink ultra-pasteurized milk.

Stabucks recently announced they'd be moving to rBGH-free milk in all their US stores. I drink organic milk because I don't want rBGH milk. But in the order of rBGH vs. organic vs. ultra-pasteurized, I wasn't sure which way to go. No more lattes started to seem like the best bet. I called Starbucks to confirm their organic milk was ultra-pasteurized, and to find out the time frame for the rBGH-free milk roll-out.

37% of Starbucks now use rBGH-free milk. I was told the process could still take a few more years to complete, but you can always ask at your local Starbucks to see the milk label. So possibly I could drink rBGH-free milk, if my local Starbucks have made the change. But if the haven't switched to rBGH-free, then organic is my only alternative. But my call confirmed their organic milk is ultra-pasteurized. I suppose this is for ease of shipping and storage, since there's probably less demand for organic. Regardless, I'm bummed. For now, my plan is no more lattes.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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]

To the F.D.A., there is no difference between the trans fat that occurs in cows and the kind that is artificially created and favored in large-scale food manufacturing. And to Starbucks as well, who are now demanding all bakery products be "trans-fat free". So your Starbucks croissant? Made with palm oil, not butter. Butter, milk, and beef all have naturally occurring trans fats. Does this mean no more cheeseburgers in NYC because of our trans-fat ban?

Updated: In case you were worried about your NYC burger, the answer to that question is no. The NYC ruling would only ban artificial trans fats, not naturally occurring ones.

Kill It, Cook It, Eat It is a program (or programme, if you prefer) on BBC Three "to bring together the two key moments that are usually separated in our lives and minds: the death of the animal and the eating of its meat." Each episode follows the life of an animal from farm to slaughter, and how see how the animal is butchered and prepared for consumption. I wish the show were on here in the States, but it doesn't look like it's on BBC America. Anyone seen it?

Update: reader Teena H. sends a link to Ready, Aim, Grill on the Outdoor Channel that follows hunters through cathing their prey to grilling it in camp. Similar idea, but not quite the same. I get the idea the BBC program is about understanding where food comes from. This seems to be about improving the quality of food you eat in your hunting camp.

Consumers are eating cheese -- they're just not eating enough of our cheese. Kraft tries to improve its bottom line after flat sales last year and a decrease in processed cheese consumption as consumers move towards healthier products, but is facing lawsuits because of its labeling. "Calling processed-cheese ingredients real cheese is legal, because while the Food and Drug Administration regulates many food-related claims, defining terms like 'low-fat' and 'organic,' it doesn't define other terms, including 'natural' and 'real.'" But it seems consumers aren't falling for "Real Kraft Cheese" anymore.

Any tips on how to make the perfect cup of French press coffee? Lots of good suggestions over at the Kitchen for this one. I used to make a lot of French press, but laziness got the best of me and I switched to a Senseo (which I'm ashamed to admit). My coffee intake has declined dramatically in the past six months though. I think I've gotten spoiled by drinking espresso, and now anything dripped or pressed just tastes terribly strong and bitter.

Local vs Organic in Time Magazine

When I saw that Time had a cover story, Eating Better Than Organic, about local food, I couldn't wait to read it. But now that I have, I must report that I'm disappointed with it. In some ways, it read like a really long blog post by someone who'd just found out about local food. The author, John Cloud, admits to being a big organic food buyer and begins to wonder about the flavor of local foods.

"[I]t makes sense that a snow pea grown by a local farmer and never refrigerated will retain more of its delicate leguminous flavor than one shipped in a frigid plane from Guatemala."

He then tastes local foods, interviews the usual subjects, such as John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, and visits Google's HQ in California to check out their local-only cafeteria, Café 150. Of course, he also joins his local CSA. (CSAs have "some lefty aspects" he warns. He mentions "lefty" twice in reference to CSAs, I'm not sure what makes a CSA particularly lefty, or righty, for that matter.) After a visit to his CSA though, he's confused again, because while the local food tastes great, he's "deflated to hear that I had ingested chemicals with my fruit and eggs." The free-range chickens whose eggs he's been enjoying feed on some conventionally-grown grain in addition to grass. Ultimately, he decides "I prefer local to organic, even with the concessions local farmers must make."

I suppose the article is good as an introduction to the topic (and for such a general audience as Time's) but I wish there'd been a bit more depth in it. There was no mention of several studies that question the viability of local as more energy-efficient than organic from a distance. (The argument being a solo farmer driving his diesel truck 300 miles round-trip to the market isn't kind on the environment than a single container ship bringing millions of grapes from Chile. Economies of scale stuff, you know?) There was also no discussion of the degradation of the label "organic", or any real examination of "sustainable" in the context of either organic or local. I know, it's for Time. I should be happy the issue's getting attention at this level, but still, it's so important, and I'd like to see it done a bit more justice. Especially if the article's going to run five pages!

The ability to drink [cows'] milk is the most advantageous trait that's evolved in Europeans in the recent past. From the BBC's article: "Although the benefits of milk tolerance are not fully understood, they probably include the advantage of a continuous supply compared with the 'boom and bust' of seasonal crops, its nourishing qualities, and the fact that, unlike stream water, it's uncontaminated with parasites, making it safer."

As with wine grapes, the source of cacao beans is supposed to result in distinct flavors and aromas. And like that, terroir makes its way into the chocolate lovers' lexicon and the search is on for single-origin chocolates. Even Hershey's is now producing the higher-quality chocolate.

Is there sexism in restaurant service? Tim Zagat says "Overwhelmingly, people say men are treated better than women" in responses for his guide. Sounds a bit chicken and egg, servers say women tip poorly so they don't get great service. But if you get a crappy table and poor service, would you leave a great tip?

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]

Today is National Pig Day and that can only mean one thing folks: it's all pig, all day over at Serious Eats! That means there will be pig content on the blog, more pig video, and best of all, a feature by Ed listing some of the best places to get pig and pig products throughout the US. Oink-a-licious! National Pig Day may be my favorite holiday ever.

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, 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.

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.

Older Entries Newer Entries