NPR's T. Susan Chang hunts morels and other wild mushrooms. Ever since I took a biology class in college (called "Plants and Humanity") I've been afraid to hunt for wild mushrooms. Our professor warned us about the death cap mushroom and told us some story about a professional mushroom hunter who was lost in the woods with a group and they stumbled upon some mushrooms. Very hungry and lacking food, he decided he would try one -- being the expert and all -- before subjecting the group to the mystery fungus. He ate it and it was poisonous and he died. At least, that's the story the professor told. Maybe he was just trying to scare us away from eating mushrooms in the woods. If so, it worked on me.

Sustainable Table fact-checks the Times and finds a statement about organic to be misleading. With all the confusion and controversy about organic food these days, I would hope sources like the New York Times would be vigilant about how they report such things.

New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni tries to kill himself by eating 42 fast food meals over the course of nine days and 3,650 miles. The man is insane!

My article at Lifehacker

An article I wrote entitled How to mouse goofy is up over at Lifehacker. Enjoy!

Cheese by Hand's posted a ten-minute audio clip from their trip to Vermont Butter & Cheese. Glad to see they're finding time on the road to release some clips of their interviews. They said it was their hope to do this, but sometimes such hopes are deferred.

There's an eGullet thread on the best food blogs. If someone wants to mention the new Megnut in there, I'd be honored. I don't have an eGullet account and so I can't post.

GQ heads to Chicago and discovers a new direction for American food. The article talks about Moto (with the chef who cooks with a laser), Avenues (not familiar with this one) and Alinea (chef Grant Achatz worked for Thomas Keller). The New Yorker in me is a little irritated that NY is not driving a new direction for American food. Plus it would be easier for me to eat. [via chez pim]

Audio from the BBC's The Food Programme about frozen food from February, 2006. Over the winter I actually used some frozen vegetables (baby spinach, broccoli, green beans) and found them to be tasty and very convenient. Now that the farmer's market is carrying such stuff, I'm back to using fresh. [Thanks Michael!]

Following the life of a pig

Life of a Pig: from the birth of five piglets to a celebratory dinner of pork. A Seattle chef spends eight weeks documenting her time on a farm and following the life of the pigs she will eventually serve in her restaurant.

Life of a Pig reminds us to be grateful for what we have and to recognize the value in supporting our local farms and farmers. It is not about change, but creating awareness.

As a chef, I have mindlessly chopped, sliced, baked, roasted, grilled, braised hundreds ...gulp...thousands of pounds of meat, fish, produce without a second thought. Just after weeks of my participation in Life of a Pig I look at my cooler filled with food, differently

A really great look at pigs and what goes on at a farm, accompanied by great photos as well. I really enjoyed reading this.

A sort of report from the FDA on benzene levels in soda reports Accidental Hedonist. Benzene is a carcinogen and has been found in soft drinks in limits above those considered safe for drinking water.

Argentina bans beef exports to combat inflation, according to this snippet of an article in the Economist. Drat, just as I'm getting into Argentinian and grass-fed beef too! [Thanks Jim!]

Augie emailed to point me to his rant from last December about foie gras and Chicago. It's well worth reading and he raises excellent points. The more I think about the contradiction inherent in such a ban, the angrier I get. Shutting down small farms and leaving large factory farms intact doesn't do much to solve the problem of inhumane animal treatment. It just leaves people to feel good about themselves and pretend they've made a difference in the world, while hundreds of thousands of animals continue their miserable existences until they are killed for our consumption.

Earlier in May, the James Beard Foundation hosted a day of seminars, "Trends & Transitions: Exploring Careers in the Culinary Industry." Now the podcasts of these seminars are online for free download. I haven't listened to any yet, but there's one entitled "From Blogging to Blockbusters."

The BBC takes a look at trans-fats and answers some common questions about them.

A visit to Eleven Madison Park and chef Humm

Always a fan of restaurateur Danny Meyer, and a fan of his New York spot Eleven Madison Park, I couldn't let all the recent hype (see Eleven Madison Park is the hot table and More about chef Humm at EMP) about their new chef pass me by. So Jason and I headed over for dinner last week to check out Daniel Humm's cuisine and see if things were as great as everyone had been saying.

(Apologies now for the one crappy phone cam picture. I've got to get a better system for taking pictures of meals.)

Things didn't begin very smoothly, our arrival and initial fifteen minutes were not what I remembered from previous Eleven Madison Park visits. Fans may recall the cheese puffs (aka gougeres) that were laid down on the table moments after one was seated. Alas there were none of these, and no bread nor water nor even server for nearly fifteen minutes, which began to bother me because I was really hungry. Eventually our server arrived and we ordered the four course "spring" tasting menu. They also offer an "aquatic" and a "garden" choice.

Once we'd ordered, things picked up and the food began to flow. First to arrive: a long lovely tray of amuse that consisted of a little pouch stuffed with sweetbreads that was deep-fried, a coin of foie gras on a round piece of bread (didn't seem yellow enough to be brioche but I could be wrong), a radish spear, a tuna bite and something I've forgotten. Yummy little starts to the meal, and the foie gras was creamy and delicious. I was a bit disappointed with the sweetbreads because I love sweetbreads and I don't think this approach really highlighted their flavor as well as it could have. If I hadn't been told, I wouldn't have suspected it had a sweetbread filling.

A second amuse arrived: a cup of green gazpacho accompanied by a scoop of tomato sorbet. The sorbet was excellent -- a real rush of tomato as the ice melted on the tongue, and a nice compliment to the greeny flavors of the cold soup. The third amuse, and best presentation of anything I'd seen in a long time, was a beet and apple forest. Two kinds of beets and apples, carved into cylinders of various lengths, were standing on end, nestled together. Delicious and so artfully assembled, this was the highlight of the meal for me.

The first official course was a foie gras terrine with a lovely jelly on top (I believe it was rhubarb). It was accompanied by a very strange soupy mixture of golden raisins and pine nuts (?) that just didn't do it for me, it tasted almost like it was in a coffee-flavored soup. I didn't understand how it harmonized or enhanced the terrine in any way, though the terrine had a layer of rhubarb and raisins in the middle. It was accompanied by nice brioche toasts. I was disappointed with this course -- though the foie itself was silky and smooth -- because of my love love love for foie gras and my wish for it always to be deliciously presented.

Next we had langoustines in a carrot-orange nage (a sauce). Good and carroty flavor, and the langoustine tail was tender and sweet, but again (perhaps my palate differs from Chef Humm's) I didn't rejoice in the flavor combination. Carrot and langoustine together didn't merge into a superior third flavor. It just tasted like a nice carrot with a nice langoustine.

The final savory course was a rib eye of beef with a nice, marrow crust and peas. It was excellent, and my favorite of the official menu courses. But the very first time I ever ate at EMP, Jason and I had a côte de boeuf that I can still taste on my tongue. It remains one of the best beef dishes that I've ever eaten. So though this beef was excellent, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed.

Desserts were very good, a strawberry sorbet with a lovely beignet followed by a little dessert sampler. The pastry chef seems to be the same, as I recognized some of the desserts from a visit last summer.

It was very good, to be sure, but a let down for me. Perhaps the hype raised my expectations to an unrealistic level. Or perhaps it just wasn't to my taste. Two women seated next to us were celebrating a birthday. I overheard one say to another, "This is just as good as Per Se." Having enjoyed both restaurants, I can't say that I agree.

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 899-0905

Philadelphia wants to join the "ban wagon" as councilman proposes ban on foie gras.

Or maybe for the cheesemaking, I just need to start with this simple but successful homemade ricotta from Becks & Post. Sounds delicious and I love ricotta.

So You Think You Want to Make Cheese? Why yes, yes I do. Though after reading this long post about it, I may be reconsidering.

Accidental Hedonist looks at the two basic stances people have on high fructose corn syrup. Some good discussion there as well.

Great long post about Paris organics from David Lebovitz. Organic is less popular in France than America, and my understanding (based on readings from Michael Pollan and others) is that in France they still have a more wholistic approach to farming and don't use a ton of peticides to begin with. Makes sense I suppose. Also, be sure to check out the picture of the Asperge Sauvage, or Delicate Wild Asparagus. Amazing.

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