Girl goes to Whole Foods. Girl buys emu egg. Girl scrambles emu egg. Girl decides egg smells gross. Girl puts hot sauce on it. Egg still smells gross. Girl dumps scrambled emu egg in garbage disposal.

Peanuts and bombs

I'm 43 today and while I say this with neither joy nor sadness, more just a general sigh at the nature of time, or rather of the way we perceive it--an acceleration, a rush, like falling, rather than a metronomic procession of days--the day occasioned an unexpected delivery from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Not a fresh foie gras, but rather two excellent cuts from the bird that gives us the foie gras and are every bit as excellent. Wonderful duck legs and duck breasts, called magret, from the moulard duck--it's not just about the foie gras. The card inside read happy birthday, from my mom. Is that a great mom, or what? I'll confit the legs and save them for fall; I'll dry cure two of the duck breasts with salt and thyme for duck prosciutto, and grill the other two (they're as fat and rich as strip steak and even more flavorful).

--In another package, also from my saintly mum, a can of Whitely's Peanuts. These peanuts I tell anyone who will listen are arguably the best in the United States. They're large, very crunchy, and the driest fried peanuts I've encountered. One of the company's owners told me why: they soak the peanuts in water before cooking them; when they're fried by hand in 130 pound batches, the steam they release apparently prevents them from absorbing tons of oil. They're fantastic.

--A final more somber note. Bourdain has written a complete account of his Lebanon trip at You may have to watch a quick ad for the travel channel for the whole story, but the commercial is brief. I emailed Tony to ask if writing it had been cathartic. He replied "I wish that were true." And this is a guy who is not easily rattled.

Dissatisfied with the Coca-Cola Company's business and environmental practices, a pair of bar managers from the UK decided to whip up a Coke taste-alike for sale at their establishment. After some initial missteps, they ended up with something possessing "satisfying, complex flavour, subtly different from the brand leader, but easily as good." Scroll to the end for the recipe to make your own Coke at home.

A Full Belly has some photos of tattooed food fan: he's got a daikon radish and a woodcut-style pork diagram on his arms. Last year, the NY Times ran a photo slideshow of some chef tattoos, including Nino Mancari's huge tat of Alice Waters.

Do oysters have souls?

Nobody knows. But we DO know they have digestive systems. Meg's oyster posts over at got me thinking about Penn Cove oysters and that company's sensible practice of storing harvested oysters in the water. "Some distributors often treat shellfish like fish, and this is the problem," Ian Jeffords, gm of the company, once explained to me. "When you take them out of the water and hold them in a cooler, they're still alive. You think about it, all the things that make shellfish taste good, fats and sugars, theyre living off those in the cooler, they're metabolizing those fats and sugars, so by the time you eat them everything that makes them taste good is gone."

What do those tasty fats and sugars become in that oyster you're slurping down? I'm not sure I want to know.

"How long have these oysters been out of the water?" is a good question to ask the chef who purchases them at your favorite raw bar.

You can buy Penn Cove oysters via company called farm 2 market.

Frank Bruni explains that medium-rare pork is nothing to get worked up about these days. "If the pigs are raised properly, there’s no reason to be afraid."

Foie love: A level field

Amidst the righteous PETA bluster attending foie gras legislation and the earnest journalists trying their balanced best to cover the issue and the misslonelyhearts marching outside Union Square Café (a business that's an emblem of quality and excellence in the culture of American restaurants), indignant foodies railing, committed gourmands wailing, and the food terrorists harassing chefs--well, it's actually relatively quiet now, so I thought it a perfect opportunity to cut right to the core of the issue. The fat liver itself. Which no one seems to talk about anymore.

Foie gras is a marvel and a wonder. If I'd had some left over fresh a few moments ago, I'd have diced it and sprinkled it over my gently scrambling eggs (or should I call them unborn chickens?). That would be a treat on a Wednesday morning! Foie in farm fresh eggs. Almost reason enough to open a bottle of Schramsberg blanc de blanc to go with it (but that would kill the day, wouldn't it ((not necessarily a bad thing!))?).

What's the great fact about foie gras for American home cooks? It's this: that what's available to you is the exact same thing that's available to the country's best chefs. This is a rare circumstance. The caviar that Eric Ripert gets you and I can't get, don't even think about it (and he sends half his back at the delivery door, and you couldn't even get that). Not available to you and me, wouldn't be even if we were rich as Bloomberg. The truffles and fingerling potatoes Joel Robuchon can send to his Vegas outpost--you and I can't have it. Gotta head to Vegas and pay through the nose (entirely worth it, surely, but a nose is a nose). The lamb Grant Achatz lovingly heats sous vide, fragrant with the smells of the carefully grown alfalfa raised and cut and stored by Keith Martin in Pennsylvania--gotta go to Chicago for that.

But foie gras, here the playing field between the chef and the home cook is leveled. There are four growers in the United States, and you can buy from the same one most chefs do, Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Daniel Boulud's A foie is going to be of the same quality as the A foie you order. Yes, he's going to pay a little less because his volume is greater, but even so, and even though it's considered a luxury item at restaurants, it's not really more expensive for the home cook having a dinner party, say, than a beef tenderloin. An A foie, will serve ten healthy portions and it will cost about a hundred bucks with shipping. Ten bucks a head, which, if you're one to go all out for your guests or you're having a special party, is not out of control. And it's a very cool thing to offer your guests, if you run with that kind of crowd.

Moreover, foie gras is one of the easiest things in the world to cook, one of those the-less-done-to-it-the-better food items. Salt the whole thing, put it in a hot pan to give the top a beautiful golden brown, flip it, drop some thyme and garlic in the pan and pop it in a hot oven for ten minutes, basting once or twice with the copious fat that renders. Slice at the table. Or slice it an inch thick, pluck out any large dark veins, salt it, and briefly cook in a really hot pan on either side till you have a nice crust (you'll need a good exhaust system for saute, not a method for the unventilated fifth floor studio walk up).

Or for something truly amazing, the foie-iest foie of all, spread out the lobes, remove the veins, give it a healthy sprinkle of salt and some white pepper and some pink salt if you have some, pour some milk on it to help leach out any residual blood and refrigerate overnight. Then rinse it roll it into a cylinder in cheesecloth and poach it for a couple minutes, just so it all melts together inside. Chill, unroll, slice an inch thick and serve with something sweet and acidic and some good bread and Champagne. That is a luxury beyond luxuries, and available to you, home cook. (This preparation has the fancy name torchon with the unfancy translation dish towel--really all you need for this preparation: a dishtowel to roll it in.)

Foie gras can be roasted first, then pressed into a terrine mold and chilled, maybe layered somehow with a fruit that goes well with it, mango or quince. Slice and serve it cold. Poach it in wine. There are so many wonderful thing you can do with foie gras, so easily, there's so much fun to be done, so much pleasure to give to your closest friends, it saddens me that we've lost sight of the foie itself amidst all the noise.

There's nothing else like it in the culinary world. It's a gift. We need to protect it or we'll lose it.

Can a Recipe Be Stolen? from the Washington Post examines recipe copyright issues. I'd always wondered about this and now I have a better understanding of the issue.

Very cool Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad. If this is accurate, I need to clean out my cabinets!

I always look to Accidental Hedonist for information about mad cow and Kate's recent entry Wither Mad Cow and the USDA doesn't disappoint. She makes some excellent points regarding the USDA's recent decision to reduce the number of cows it's testing for the disease.

I received an email from a reader wondering about the ethics of my Grass-fed Montana beef from La Cense review I posted last week. I turned on comments so we could publicly discuss it, since I thought others might be interested in my response.

Enjoying the Vegan Guide to NYC

Over the weekend while I was cleaning out a closet in my apartment, I stumbled upon a copy of The Vegan Guide To New York City. Before you jump to conclusions, let me just say that it was left behind by previous tenants, hidden high up at the back of a shelf. Yesterday while we ate lunch, we thumbed through it and enjoyed the following passages:

On the chefs at Pure Food & Wine:
In previous incarnations, both had won fame as chefs de cuisine cooking animal flesh for carnivores.

On uptown Juice Bar's tonics to cure whatever ails you:
Of course, if you're a vegan of long-standing, you probably don't have any of these ailments, so toast your good health--and your good fortune in being a vegan--with a fruit smoothie instead.

On Why veganism?:
Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis is a vegan--need we say more?

That's just a sample of the sanctimonious writing that fills this book, perfect for gratifying your ego if you're vegan, or making you laugh a lot if you're not. Also by the same author (I'm not kidding, it's advertised in the Guide): Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover.

Over at the Epi-log where I'm guest blogging, I've decided to spend the week doing some virtual traveling. Today we'll be visiting France's Brittany region, so check in for some information about amazing sea salt and oysters.

There's a new feature article up: The sweet (and bittersweet) taste of summer. Submitted by our roving correspondent Anonymous Drinker, it's a look at the less common (at least in the US) drinks of summer. I've been enjoying Lillet on the rocks lately. So refreshing, and not as bitter as some of the others he discusses.

The sweet (and bittersweet) taste of summer

Summer drinks should be like summer evenings: long, light and cool. These are the days of G&Ts, mint juleps, caiphirinas, mojitos, where the sign to pack up is an ice bucket down to its last inch of meltwater. This year, though, I've forsaken the old mainstays for something a little more challenging to the tastebuds.

When rain intervenes at Wimbledon, the lines at the Pimm's tent grow fifty-deep. Given English summers, that's a lot of drinking, and it's a scene repeated across the upper-class 'season': continuously-refilled cauldrons topped with a fruit-salad flotsam, their contents ladeled into plastic pint glasses where the precise shade of rusty orange betrays just how badly you've been stiffed on the mix.

Friends enjoy Pimm's CupThe base spirit in Pimm's No. 1 Cup is gin. Not enough gin as before, say the purists, who'll add a glug of the pure stuff to make up the difference. The mixer is lemonade: not the cloudy uncarbonated stuff, but a clear fizz that's just enough unlike Sprite to make it worth splashing out on 'French limonade' if you're making it by the glass. (Otherwise, stick with ginger ale.) The heart is a melding of fruit and spice and herbs, its grassy undertones accentuated by the traditional garnish of mint, borage or cucumber. There's a paradoxical warmth to Pimm's that speaks of English summers, a comfort in days of sun and showers, like a parasol that serves double-duty as an umbrella.

Head south to summers that bake the clouds out of the sky, and the tastes grow equally intense. The Mediterranean coast is the aniseed belt, from pastis to sambuca, ouzo to raki: cloudy and heady and palate-numbing. But there's another family of summer drinks that enlivens the senses without overwhelming them.

Vermouth is too often bought grudgingly, to be waved at a martini or splashed into a risotto pan, then left to go bad. Now's the season to rediscover it. The lighter varieties, particularly the vins aromatisées of France, give up their initial bitterness to sweeter notes: serve white Lillet or Noilly Prat well-chilled and in small glasses, as you would a dry sherry; or try Dubonnet on the rocks with a splash of soda, its intense berry flavors underlaid with spice and the tonic tang of quinine.

It's Italy, though, that gave birth to vermouth and still nurtures it, with a range that extends far beyond the liquor store bottom shelf. The best whites are dry, crisp and herbal, but the real discoveries are to be found in the bittersweet varieties. Carpano lays claim to the original recipe, recreated in the hard-to-find Antica Formula, and to the more widely-available Punt e Mes, to my mind the best 'red' vermouth. Although based on white wine, its aromatic infusion gives it a tawny translucence; its opening spicy sweetness is reminiscent of cola, but soon overtaken by an astringent orange kick. (The name stems from its 'point and a half' dose of bitters.) Serve it on ice, with or without a splash of soda, or be brave and mix it with freshly-squeezed orange juice for a combination that goes down much better than it looks.

Campari on the rocksWhat do you get if you replace the wine base of vermouth with distilled liquor, doubling the alcohol content? One answer is Campari, the quintessential summer apéritif. Again, the recipe is secret, dating to the mid-1800s, and the ingredients hard to discern: certainly quinine and gentian, a hint of rhubarb, the bitter chinotto citrus that's the signature of so many Italian drinks. It's traditional to drink it short in a chilled glass, with a splash of soda to open up the aromatics just as plain water invigorates a single malt; others ritualise it: three fingers in a tall glass, ice, soda and garnish on the side, refill at leisure while the evening lasts. For those who prefer the kick of a cocktail, equal parts Campari and red vermouth on ice with a splash of soda gives you a Americano, a tip of the hat from 19th-century Florence to the Henry James set; replace the soda with gin for a Negroni, and drink it as slowly as possible.

Close relations to Campari, though less well-known outside Italy, are the 300 or so varieties of amari alle erbe; originally designed as herbal tonics, many are still served straight up or with coffee as a digestive. While the most assertive are best left to that role -- I'm thinking of you, Fernet Branca -- others adapt well to a little ice, a little more fizz and tall glasses.

Although some of the most popular amari are now under larger corporate ownership, production remains typically Italian: highly localised, usually out of a single distillery, with dominant flavors that speak of the region that created them. To the north, herbal ingredients take precedence: the menthol of Genoa's Santa Maria al Monte, the alpine yarrow and juniper of Amaro Braulio, made close to the Swiss border, and the wintergreen and anise that make the Milanese Ramazzotti a very grown up root beer when served long. A little further south, warmer notes enter: Bologna's Amaro Montenegro has plenty of vanilla sweetness to accompany the floral orange bitterness, while Abruzzo and the Marche bring hints of cardamom, cinnamon and saffron to their many offerings. Reach the heel of the boot, and the Basilicata's Amaro Lucano adds sage and nuttiness to the mix, while the Sicilian Averna, perhaps the most accessible amaro for the uninitiated, is heavy on fruit, especially chinotto, and rich with butterscotch and candied fruit.

If there's a downside to all these drinks, it's that they don't pair well with food, or at least not with complete meals; they'll find better companions in succulent summer fruit: sliced melon, peaches, mangoes. But if you want to put the taste of the season in a glass and make it last until sunset, I can't think of anything better.

Our roving correspondent Anonymous Drinker knows his liquor. Having traveled the world, he's sipped the best. From the framboise of France to the boozes of Bourbon Co., Kentucky, there is nothing he won't put to his lips.

Photo credits: Pimm's Cup © Dave Morris. Campari © Marie-Louise Avery.

During my presentation at Taste 3, one of the sites I talked about was Cork'd. Bruce Cole pointed out this interesting post on Vinography: Why Community Tasting Note Sites Will Fail. I don't agree with everything he says, but it's an interesting read and there's a lively discussion of his points at the end.

It's that CC label again

Celebrity chef Bourdain on the USS Nashville, safely evacuated from Lebanon.

Watch Beau cut pineapple. An instructional video for those unsure how to cut up a whole pineapple. Also check out his choked-up knife grip.

Foodies love the arcane patois of the professional kitchen and, whenever possible, use it in general conversation. And another annoying traits of "gourmet snobs," a group I don't want to join anytime soon.

Grass-fed Montana beef from La Cense

About two months ago I received an email from La Cense Beef telling me about their grass-fed beef and asking if I'd be interested in writing about it for my site. I replied and asked for some "review steaks" (a la Michael Pollan) so I could try the product before writing about it. To my amazement, they said yes and sent me two steak burger patties, a ribeye, and a New York strip steak. And over the past six weeks, we've eaten it all and I am here to report: yum! First, a bit about the beef, which comes from Montana and is raised without added hormones or antibiotics:

La Cense Beef is natural and fed only grass. Unlike some other “grass-fed” brands, La Cense cattle are never fed grain to “finish” and produce rapid weight gain. The introduction of any amount of grain to the diet of cattle can diminish the quality of the beef, reducing both health benefits and the real beef flavor that makes this a truly epicurean ingredient for your finest meals.

La Cense Beef is produced exclusively from cattle born and raised on the La Cense ranch. La Cense Beef is not produced from cattle raised by a consortium of other ranchers. In this manner, La Cense is able to oversee quality production and adherence to its standards for humane care, as well as ensure that La Cense cattle never come into contact with other herds, which might lead to contamination or transmission of disease.

We started with the burgers, which I overcooked a bit but had a very nice heft and flavor to them. Next we ate the New York strip and I was very impressed with it. Some grass-fed beef I've had has been pretty lean, so even if it's undercooked a bit, it still may lack some moistness that makes a steak so good. But not this strip. It had a nice strip of fat along one side and it stayed juicy throughout cooking. It also had a great chewiness and tang, and what I can only describe as a real beef flavor. We ate the ribeye last and enjoyed that as well. And we had to cook all of them indoors on our cast-iron "grill." I can only imagine how good they would have tasted had they been done outdoors over fire!

We don't eat that much beef. When we do, I like it to be grass-fed and humanely raised but I also want it to taste delicious. La Cense beef makes that possible. Jason had a great steak frites at Bouchon last weekend. With the help of the Bouchon cookbook, we're going to attempt re-create it here at home with a flat iron steak I just ordered from La Cense.

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