U.S. and Japanese scientists reported on Sunday that they had used genetic engineering to produce cattle that resist mad cow disease. Great! So instead of a simple solution to stopping mad cow like don't feed cattle (who are vegetarians) animal parts from sheep and other cows, let's complicate the whole thing by genetically engineering animals to "lack the nervous system prions, a type of protein, that cause BSE and other related diseases." Yum, now we can go back to feeding our cattle spinal cords from sick, old cows!

The stimulation of hunger causes mice to take in information more quickly, and to retain it better — basically, it makes them smarter. And that’s very likely to be true for humans as well. Uh oh, is all my food enthusiasm leading to a decline in my intelligence? Maybe I need to go on that calorie-restriction diet.

First Lenny Kravitz gets fooled into thinking L'As du Falafel makes the best falafel in Paris, and now to my dismay I see that Mark Bittman of the New York Times not only thinks L'As is the best in Paris but says "this is the falafel destination in Paris, indeed in Europe." But Bittman and Kravitz are wrong! Right across the street from L'As du Falafel is mi-va-mi, which I believe makes a superior falafel, and easily the best one I've ever had. And trust me, I've had it many times because I lived in the neighborhood for a month back in 2002. Perhaps the problem is that both places offer such superior falafels to anything anywhere else that upon eating one, you conclude there simply cannot be a better falafel and you've found the best spot. Regardless, mi-va-mi is my place, and it has a take-out window and nice indoor seating. And every time I return to Paris, I head over there for a delicious sandwich and swear it's all I'll eat for the rest of my visit.

Harmful bacteria are rampant in meatpacking plants and in produce fields, but government oversight is eroding. But after the recent contaminations in spinach and at Taco Bell, attention is focused on the issue of food safety, and the public is becoming more engaged.

Christmas Dinner side dishes

A photo of the Christmas Dinner I prepared for friends and family. Missing from the photo is the delicious roasted goose, which was further down the table. I ordered the goose from Mike at Tamarack Hollow Farm back in September and picked it up at the Union Square Greenmarket the Wednesday before Christmas. I simply roasted it and didn't even bother to baste it while it was in the oven. It was moist and rich in flavor, simply wonderful. To accompany it, I made David Leite's celery root gratin, green beans with shallots and vermouth, mashed sweet potatoes, and caramelized apples, which cooked in goose fat, cinnamon, lemon juice, sugar, and Calvados. Oh the whole meal was so yummy, I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it. The goose and apples was my favorite part. I might want to make that every Christmas from now on!

A more detailed article about yesterday's decision to allow food from clones animals: F.D.A. Tentatively Declares Food From Cloned Animals to Be Safe. "Cloning is too expensive to be used to make animals only to then grind them into hamburger or even to milk them. Rather, farmers and breeders are cloning prized livestock so they can then be used for breeding using more conventional means of reproduction...most food from cloning would come from the sexually produced offspring of the cloned animals."

Aerial view of Buche de Noel
My bùche de Noël on Christmas Day

The government declared Thursday that food from cloned animals is safe to eat. "Officials said they don't think special labels are needed, although a decision on labeling is pending." I sure hope they decide to label the cloned animals. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, it seems like you should be able to make an informed decision as a consumer.

Bourdain promises to shoot an episode of "No Reservations" in Cleveland after Ruhlman's nagging baiting. Promises "DEEP shit, my friend."

What are ten (give or take a few) ingredients that are handy to always have on hand to cook a good meal? Looking for suggestions over at

Speaking of New Year's Eve: Are You Going Out for New Year's Eve Dinner? If so, where?

The Scottish celebration of Hogmanay takes place on New Year’s Eve and for centuries ranked above Christmas in the Caledonian calendar. Change up your routine and learn how to celebrate Hogmanay. Why not prepare grouse on a bed of oniony skirlie followed by clootie dumpling for an authentic Scottish spread? (I don't know what half those words even mean, but it sounds interesting.) I was wondering what to do for New Year's Eve, I think Hogmanay may be the answer!

This is the year everyone discovered that food is about politics and people can do something about it. Between Wal-Mart announcing plans to sell organic, the numerous E. coli outbreaks, and the continued rise of farmers' markets, 2006 may just be the year of a great food awakening in the United States. I hope so.

My partner in Serious Eating, Ed Levine, will be on ABC's Good Morning America tomorrow morning, December 26th. He'll be discussing New Year's food ideas. Also don't miss the flaming "yule" log over at Serious Eats today. Doesn't look quite like the bùche de nöel I made!

A perfect bite of foie gras
How's that foie gras ban going in Chicago? The city has sent warning letters to nine restaurants believed to have served foie gras but issued no citations. And Mayor Richard Daley called it "the silliest law" the City Council has ever passed. Chefs are openly serving it and some are even hanging their warning letters on their walls. [via Ruhlman]

Today's final gift suggestion contains neither a picture nor a link, because it's more of a rough idea. And that idea is cheese! Why not go out and buy someone a hunk of some really expensive lovely cheese (Coach Farm's triple cream goat cheese comes to mind, or Humboldt Fog) that they'd never buy for themselves? For the price of a DVD, you can give someone a delicious treat they'll remember long after its been digested. And who doesn't love cheese?

That wraps up not only my gift suggestions but also probably my posting around here for a while. Family arrives in town tomorrow and I've got a Vermont goose waiting for them in my fridge. In addition there's a bûche de nöel to be constructed and many tasty side dishes to be prepared. Updates next week only if the mood strikes. If it doesn't, I'll see you back here in 2007.

Smiling Kettles
Totally excellent photograph of some smiling kettles is an optical illusion. The faces aren't painted on, they're reflections of objects on the stove top. [via bb]

The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet NationAnyone interested in food would be interested in reading The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp. Again, easy to pick up at the local bookstore for you last-minute shoppers out there. Or for $17.16 from Amazon. Stay tuned for tomorrow's final installment of my gift suggestions guide.

Second-rate chefs who eat one meal at El Bulli and think they’re Ferran Adrià don’t realize that bad foam belongs in cheap mattresses. Ed Levine assess the foodscape to determine what we’re going to see more of on our plates next year, and what we don't want to see ever again.

Lemon curd image from the BBC"Whether it's sweet or savoury, people always love to receive something homemade," suggests the BBC and today's gift idea follows their advice. You might be too late to order something online, but it's probably not too late to make a nice food-related gift you can bring with you to holiday events. The BBC suggests some things you can purchase and assemble to make a gift basket (which they call a hamper) or you can do something all homemade, like make this lemon curd in less than an hour. $ varies depending upon what you make.

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