The Independent looks at a restaraunteur who wonders, Can a menu be sourced solely from London produce?

Neat article from the New York Times Magazine, The Way We Eat: Olde School about old recipes and cooking methods.

The best running shoe shop in NYC

New running sneakersNow for something not food related! Yesterday I went to Jack Rabbit Sports, a sport store that recently opened near Union Square in Manhattan. (They've also got a Brooklyn location that's been open for a while.) It was far and away the best shoe store experience I've ever had, and I don't think I'll ever buy a pair of sneakers anyplace else again.

First step: evaluating your foot and watching you run. They put you on a treadmill in the shop and watch the way you run and how your foot strikes. Then they start bringing out shoes for you to try, and each time you get back the treadmill and test out the shoe. The guy we worked with was knowledgeable and very helpful, and sent me out the door with the first pair of non-Asics running shoes I've owned in twenty years!

They also offer classes, custom bike fitting, and 10% everything you purchase after your first purchase. They had clothes too, but I was so excited about the sneakers that I didn't even look at anything else. I [heart] Jack Rabbit Sports!

Have you heard of the Certified Humane Raised & Handled movement? I hadn't until LaVonne sent me an email this afternoon alerting me to it and to this ABC News article on the Certified Humane movement, Where Was Your Chicken Before It Hatched? Sounds like an interesting step in the right direction.

Further information about foie gras production

Reader Rich wrote in to alert me to an article about foie gras in the current Men's Vogue (with Tiger Woods on the cover) written by none other than Jeffrey Steingarten. So I rushed out this morning and purchased a copy. His article, "Stuffed Animals" begins on p. 194 and examines not only how foie gras is produced, but the contentious issue of whether the birds suffer during force-feeding.

"And so, at last, the question comes down to this: How much distress does the most careful sort of tube feeding cause to the duck? I know of only two medical or scientific attempts to answer this question. Neither of them has been cited by animal-rights advocates, who instead encourage us to anthropomorphize, to imagine how we would feel getting tube-fed and fattened. But this may be the wrong question. How would we like to be a duck under any circumstances? How would we feel having to paddle all day on cold New England rivers and among the sodden marshes? I wouldn't be able to take it. Think of all the bugs and crawling things. Isn't there a better way of gauging a duck's distress?

"Maybe there is. I telephoned Daniel Guémené, Ph.D., a research director at INRA, the prestigious French Institute for Agricultural Research. Guémené is an extremely prolific author of papers published in French and English journals, places such as World's Poultry Science and British Poultry Science. One of Guémené's keen interests is in discovering and refining ways of knowing whether poultry, ducks in this case, are in pain. He began his work on force-feeding in 1995, and as far as he can tell, his group at INRA is still alone in scientifically assessing the effect of tube feeding.

"His first experiments examined the concentration of corticosterone -- a hormone closely associated with stress -- in ducks' bloodstreams before and after feeding. He expected a sharp rise -- but found none at all. Over the following years, Guémené's group also looked at other indications of distress -- avoidance of the feeder, withdrawal, pain signals in the medulla -- and found possibly some pain in the final days of feeding, probably caused by inflammation of the crop; minor signs of avoidance, but not aversion, among some ducks at feeding time; and an increase in panting. Ducks showed the most stress when they were physically handled in any way or moved to new cages. Mortality on foie gras farms appears to be lower than in standard poultry operations. Guémené's group confirmed that although a grossly fattened liver is not natural, it is not a sign of disease; after feeding is stopped and the liver shrinks, there is no necrosis -- no liver cells have been killed."

In the end Steingarten determines, "though it seems unnecessary to stop eating foie gras altogether, the data is not unambiguous enough to encourage unbridled gorging." I have always been a big fan of Mr. Steingarten's writing (in fact it's the reason I subscribe to Vogue) and his search for the truth in whatever topic he's addressing. I place a fair amount of weight on what he reveals in "Stuffed Animals."

For another perspective, reader George emailed suggesting I Google "Holly Cheever". I did and found that she's a veterinarian who's written letters in support of PETA's activities. She also testified at the hearings in Chicago in support of the ordinance to ban foie gras and sent a letter supporting her position that you can read on the Farm Sanctuary site here.

So what does this prove? Only that the issue is still a difficult one, and perhaps it's best for each person to decide individually if she or he is comfortable with the process by which foie gras is produced. After the reading I've done, I won't go so far as to say the weight on my conscious is entirely lifted, but I will continue to eat foie gras.

A tip when washing wine glasses

Lifestyle hack

Whenever I have people over for dinner, I end up with a very full dish rack and nowhere to place wine glasses to dry. I used to just put them upside down on paper towels on my counter, but that didn't work very well because there was no air circulation. Recently I've taken to placing them on a cooling rack atop a cookie sheet. It works great: air circulates, water is contained in sheet pan, and they dry in no time.

Making cinnamon ice cream

Ice cream makingI mentioned making cinnamon ice cream the other day and a reader emailed asking for the recipe, so here it is! I started with Ben & Jerry's French Vanilla as a template but reduced the quantity of vanilla by 50% (they call for 2 teaspoons) and added ground cinnamon.

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon**

Whisk eggs until light and fluffy, then whisk in sugar a little at a time. Add milk, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon and whisk to blend. Then use ice cream maker according to its directions. Makes 1 quart.

** I used 2 teaspoons of cinnamon but Jason and I both found that it was too much, it affected the texture more than I wanted (though flavor was fine, not too cinnamony). So I think maybe 1 teaspoon, or 1 1/2 would be better. Next time I'll try it with less. Also, if you're a fan of a cooked ice cream base, it might be nice to try and simmer cinnamon sticks with the dairy rather than use ground cinnamon. Or make a combination. But I haven't gotten that far yet!

Another idea: basil ice cream. Reader Sam wrote in to say he made this recently and that it was fantastic, and a lovely color.

No more foie gras in Chicago

So, Chicago bans foie gras in restaurants. Beginning in September, no restaurant can serve foie gras in Chicago. Chicago alderman Joe Moore sponsored the ordinance and,

"To convince his colleges, the alderman showed them graphic photographs and a video narrated by movie star Roger Moore that depicted how metal pipes are forced down the throats of geese and ducks so that their livers become engorged by up to 10 times the normal size."

I sure hope that watching a PETA foie gras video wasn't the extent of the research undertaken by Chicago's alderman before voting to ban foie gras. I found the PETA foie gras video narrated by Roger Moore on YouTube and watched it. I also read the Wikipedia entry on foie gras. It's hard to know what to think, having never first-hand witnessed a foie gras farm. But the PETA video clearly leaves out some facts that would give their video a bit more balance (e.g. enlarged livers are found in migratory birds in the wild) and engages in some suspect reasoning.

The passing of this ordinance signals a rising awareness of food production methods, which I support. I only wish its result were more legislation about how animals should be farmed for consumption. Rather than a prohibition of the product, why not laws -- similar to what we have now around organic certification -- regarding humane treatment for all animals? Something about how pigs and chickens and cows must be allowed to go outside, eat grass, fly around, and live natural lives until the times comes.

If you thought that knife tutorial was detailed, take a look at The Potato Primer over at eGullet. You could cook a different style potato from this article for a year and not have a repeat. Amazing!

Making ice cream at home

One of the wedding gifts we received was a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment. So far we've made two batches of ice cream with it: vanilla and cinnamon. The vanilla was pretty good but the cinnamon was amazing! It helped that the second time I used whole milk rather than 1% and I bought the cream and milk at the Greenmarket from a local dairy. I'm pretty excited to spend the summer playing with this and trying out different flavors and experimenting. So I was excited to find this Unusual Ice Cream Recipes. It looks like just the thing to inspire my experiments, though I have to admit the recipes aren't as unusual as I'm imagining. I want to try to make a basil ice cream. First though, I have to finish off the cinnamon in the freezer.

Terry Gross interviews Michael Pollan

I missed this (I'll blame the honeymoon) but Michael Pollan, author of the recently released The Omnivore's Dilemma A Natural History of Four Meals was on NPR's Fresh Air on April 11. You can listen to his interview here, Dinner: An Author Considers the Source.

Accidental Hedonist takes a look at lettuce in a bag in response to a reader's inquiry, We get Letters v. 24: Lettuce in a bag. Worth reading if you buy your lettuce this way.

A great knife sharpening tutorial from eGullet

I'd noticed my chef's knife was seeming a little dull, and was thinking I should probably sharpen it when I stumbled across this excellent eGullet post about Knife Maintenance and Sharpening. It's so in-depth that I didn't do more than skim it yet, but looks like a great resource for sharpening. Now to find the time to read the whole thing before I sit down with my stone and get my knife back to proper sharpness.

R.W. Apple in the New York Times on an oyster lover on the West Coast, The Oyster Is His World.

Artisanal American cheese exploration

Last night Jason and I went to a great benefit for Cheese by Hand. Cheese by Hand is:

Cheese by Hand is a project conceptualized by us, Michael Claypool and Sasha Davies, to explore the landscape of artisan (hand-made) cheesemaking in the United States. Our goal is to capture the experience of cheesemakers around the country, in their own voices, and share them with consumers and cheese fans everywhere. We hope that this will promote understanding and support for the products themselves and also the variety of farms that make up our country‰Ûªs agricultural system.

On Monday, Michael and Sasha will set off on a cross-country tour to visit cheesemakers around the United States, taping their interviews as they go. We were treated a small sample at last night's event, a slice of an interview with Matteo Keehler of Jasper Hill Farm. You can find the clips in this post they wrote about the Jasper Hill Philosophy. I'm looking forward to hearing more. Michael and Sasha hope to post clips and updates from the road, so I'll be following their site closely.

There are foods I don't like

Yesterday when I answered Joan's question (see Today is answer the reader's question day) about food I didn't like, I really felt like there was something I was overlooking, some food I really just didn't like. Last night over dinner, Jason said the same thing, "I know there's something you don't like." We talked about it for a bit and then finally came up with the two things I don't like and actually won't eat if I find them on my plate.

The first is radicchio, that red and white "green" that often finds its way into gourmet-type salad mixes. It's simply too bitter for me. I've tried numerous times to eat it, but after one bite I'm always discouraged by its flavor and I give up and gently push it to the side of my plate.

The second ispapaya. I've never liked papaya though I tried it often enough when I lived in Mexico back in 1989. Not living in a warm climate since then, I haven't had continued opportunities to see if it's gorwn on me. But I had it on my honeymoon when I ordered a fresh fruit plate. Since I now like mango but didn't used to, I assumed I also now liked papaya. One bite made me think that might not be the case. After a second, I was denouncing the papaya and moving on to pineapple.

(Note: I do like green papaya, which I had in Thailand. I've read that green papaya is either unripe papaya or a different "papaya" altogether. Either way, I like Thai green papaya salad a lot!)

So there you have it, the two foods I don't like and won't eat. Now you know that if you invite me over for dinner, you really shouldn't prepare a radicchio and papaya salad unless you want me to go home hungry. Plus that would be just gross, radicchio and papaya just totally don't go together.

Makeshift vent for serious chicken cooking

Here's an inventive and dedicated response to common cooking problem: Mon Poulet Rôti. The author is a big fan of Thomas Keller's "My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" but it preparing it fills her kitchen with smoke. She's concocted her own vent from supplies at Home Depot and voila, no more smoke-filled kitchen. I've been having a similar problem in my own kitchen, even though I do have an exhaust over my stove. I think that either a) it's not strong enough or b) it needs repair or new filters or something. Any time I cook meat on my cast-iron skillet our apartment fills with smoke. Alas I can't try this method because I don't have a window to vent out of that's easily accessible.

Ameliaaah on Flickr has a photo set of cakes she's decorated and they're amazing. Check out this dragon cake! Be sure to look through the whole set, there's some astounding cake decoration in there. It makes me want to bake a cake and decorate it this minute, except I fear it won't come out even 1/4th as nice as hers.

NPR's All Things Considered follows up on the story I linked to last week with more about the difference between the eggs, Brown and White Eggs, Unscrambled. Apparently, "[m]any listeners were disturbed by an April 15 interview that attempted to explain why some eggs are white and some are brown." I'm not sure what there is to be disturbed by: some chickens lay brown eggs and some lay white eggs.

Today is answer the reader's question day

Joan writes in with an interesting question, and rather than reply just to her, I thought I'd answer it here for everyone. She writes:

You eat such a wide variety of things - I think you even mentioned enjoying liver at some point. Other than processed food, what kind of food don't you like? Is there something that should be healthy or decadent or natural that you just can't stand?

Well, there was the whole time of my life when I didn't like tomatoes, but that ended in 2002 (see my Battle Tomato post for more details). Now I love tomatoes. And I do like liver, from liverwurst to foie gras. I can't think of anything I don't eat anymore, though I wasn't always that way. Some times I'm not in the mood for a certain food or dish, but it's not because I don't like its ingredients. And there's nothing anymore that I have to avoid out of disgust. I love beets but I used to hate them and think they tasted like dirt. Figs scared me but now I savor their sticky sweetness whenever possible. I like all the fancy potentially gross foods like raw oysters and caviar (even just the roe used on sushi rolls) and escargots. I like all kinds of fish and shellfish, cooked and uncooked. It seems like there should be something I don't like, but I can't think of it now. I even like veal cheeks!

Ok, maybe I wouldn't like some serious offal, like tripe or heart or beef tongue, but I suspect it's only a matter of not having tried it. I bet if I were to eat at St. John's in London (menu here) I would enjoy ox heart and chips. I've had bone marrow several times and always found it delicious. So in a very long answer to your question, "Is there just can't stand?" Nope.

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