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!

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.

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.