Friday, December 19, 2008

Bursting The Bubble

So, how bad is the economy? The latest indicator may be the plummeting sales of Champagne.

While Champagne shipments increased by an average of 2.2% per year for the past two decades (and America’s consumption rose by 3.5% annually for the past five years), they are now plunging, down 10% from one year ago. One of the worst to be hit is Laurent Perrier, whose sales were 30% lower in the third quarter of 2008 than in the same period last year.

In any event, I'll be off now until after we raise our glasses to 2009.

So until then, have a happy and joyous Holiday Season!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lo Scintillante

T'is the season, and one of my personal drinkable favorites for the holidays, is this simple cocktail that combines two Italian alcohols—Cocchi and Prosecco—for a bubbly cocktail that’s slightly sweet and laced with hints of clove and spice. A great choice for a holiday apéritif (and in some circles it's slowing becoming a huge happy hour staple).

What to buy: Cocchi Apertivo Americano is a wine-based apéritif. It can be found at high-end liquor stores and online.


1 white sugar cube
2 ounces chilled Cocchi Apertivo Americano
2 ounces chilled Prosecco
Orange twist for garnish


Place sugar cube in a champagne flute, add Cocchi Apertivo Americano, and stir briefly. Top with Prosecco and garnish with orange twist.

Drink up and ENJOY.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Best For 2008

Does the lackluster economy make cooking at home seem more appealing these days? Then no doubt, tackling it with a treasure trove of new recipes would certainly make it fun, too.

Whether you're doing it yourself or just inspiring friends and family with homemade gifts this season, these cookbooks will justify the investment. And at a time when travel is both out of reach and painfully expensive, these books can also transport you to places -- both near and far.

So check out the Epicurious Best Cookbooks Guide For 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Got Champagne?

Raise your holiday cookie glass, but hold the milk and the spicy hot chocolate?


As it turns out, there are plenty of alternatives for washing down those holiday cookie treats this year. And according to the good people at the Culinary Institute of America here in New York, there are some totally unexpected (as well as interesting) cookie and drink pairings. Geez, who knew?

Anyway, instead of thinking warm, fuzzy, and homogenized, try the following at that upcoming holiday bash:

Rum balls with a Dark and Stormy cocktail: "Rum in the drink and rum in the candies, what else do you need?" says Douglas Miller at the CIA. To make a Dark and Stormy, mix 2 ounces of dark rum with 3 ounces of ginger beer. Serve over ice.

Snickerdoodles with cream soda: The cinnamon sugar sprinkled on the cookies pairs well with the vanilla in the soda, especially when the cookies are dunked.

Shortbread and sparkling wine: A dry Champagne cuts through the rich, buttery flavor of the cookie.

Molasses cookies with hot spiced apple cider: In this combination, the spices in the cider stand up to the rich molasses in the cookie.

Lace cookies with a late-harvest Riesling:
Like lace cookies, a late-harvest Riesling is light and delicate. The wine's peach and apricot flavors also work well here.

Maple oatmeal cookies with an oatmeal stout beer: "The oatmeal adds a touch of sweetness to the beer, a nice match for the sweetness of the cookies," says Miller. The cookies themselves have a chewy texture, which also pairs well with the rich texture of the beer.

Gingerbread with Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur: This liqueur stands up nicely to the dark molasses and ginger in the cookies. Serve the liqueur over ice or in coffee.

Sugar cookies with Demi-sec Champagne: The bubbles in this sweet sparkling wine go wonderfully with the crunchy sugar coating on the cookies.

Linzer cookies with Clear Creek Loganberry Liqueur: The fruity flavor of the liqueur goes well with the nutty flavor of the cookie dough and the berry filling. Serve the liqueur chilled.

Popcorn balls with a farmhouse Belgium ale: "This is a play on the baseball classic popcorn and beer," Miller says. A farmhouse Belgium ale, which has a fruity flavor and aroma, would cut the sweetness of the popcorn ball without over-powering it.

And after that...what can I say? Except:

Happy cookies and alcohol!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Turkey Talk

Yes, it's that time of year again.

So sit back and watch Epicurious editor-in-chief, Tanya Wenman Steel, as she whips up a Thanksgiving meal for 8 people on a budget of less than $80. (Wine *not* included.)

And for more Turkey Day tips, be sure to check out the Epicurious complete Thanksgiving Guide.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama's D.C. Kitchen

These days even in the culinary department, it's clear that there's a new Commander-In-Chief in town.

Outgoing President George W. Bush, who notoriously wouldn't eat anything "green" or "wet" is being replaced by one who loves his meals leafy, as well as straight from the garden.

"Apparently he is not into carbs," says Denver chef Daniel Young, who cooked for President-elect Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention. "I made lots of fresh, healthy foods."

And though the family's been dutifully sampling local specialties like cheese steaks, fried chicken and pizza for the past year on the trail, word is the White House fridges will be stocked with noticeably fresher fare. Guaranteed.

But... there's even bigger news. In addition to the new White House menus to come, there are three top cooks on the short-list for the coveted title of White House Chef:

Art Smith:
Personal chef to Oprah Wnfrey. (Above right)

Daniel Young:
Personal chef to Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. (Above center)

Rick Bayless:
Owner of Topolpbampo and Frontera Grill in Chicago. (Above left)

But then again... like many others, I can't help wondering why no female chefs appear on this list. And this is especially on the heels of First Lady Laura Bush's very successful appointment of White House chef Cristeta Comerford back in 2005. Hmmm....

Friday, November 07, 2008


Talk about sheer kitchen ingenuity? Just check out these floating utensils, consisting of ceramic forks, knives, and spoons. They're shaped with an empty ball in the center so that they will bob up and down rather than sinking to the bottom of your sink (and ending up in your garbage disposal).

The gastronomic buoys might also make for an interesting way to serve food. Just imagine them floating in a container of just about anything brined or, perhaps, in a bowl of floating chilled peaches in brandy. The utensils' creator, Seongyong Lee, has also designed a plastic ladle that, like the forks and knives, floats upright.
Okay, sound terrific so far? Yes, it does. But unfortunately...don't expect to run out your nearest Williams-Sonoma for these nifty little items any time soon. Both designs only appear to be concepts at this point. And it's only through a rather mesmerizing video of the ladle in action, that we can even see it on YouTube.

Nevertheless, I'll be watching this new concept *very* closely. Hear that Williams-Sonoma? You're on notice. I for one, have been totally waiting for something like this to come along.

Check out the video:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Juniper Gin

Dating as far back as the early 1900s, making your own gin, as it turns out, was never really something that was hard to do. Perfect example, your average, everyday Prohibition Era bathtub gin.

Actually, there are several different methods and the simplest (also the one that does not include a complicated vapor infusion) is no more difficult than making iced tea: Soak juniper berries (available in the spice aisle of most major supermarkets and grocery stores) and a handful of other spices in a neutral spirit (vodka), then strain and enjoy. You’ll end up with an unclarified, rustic version of London’s finest.

Below is a recipe that a fellow blogger friend of mine is excited about. Its complexity rivals the finest gins on the market, some of which cost four times as much as a lowly bottle of vodka.

To find a recipe that works best for your taste, try adding different aromatics for different lengths of time. Just remember: It's not really gin... without the juniper.

1 (750ml) bottle of inexpensive vodka
2 Tbsp juniper berries
3/4 tsp coriander seed
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp fennel seed
3 green cardamom pods
2 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf, torn into pieces
1 (3-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
1 (2-inch-long) fresh lemon or lime peel
1 (1-inch) sprig fresh lavender

Infuse juniper in the vodka overnight. Add remaining spices and herbs in the morning and let infuse all day. When you get home from work, strain out the botanicals and start making your favorite gin cocktails

Finding juniper berries online can be even simpler. For example, try here for one of several online sites that sell them at reasonable prices.

And don't forget: They can also be a terrific spice compliment to roast porks and lambs.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sushi Bullies

Chef Kazunori Nozawa at his flagship restaurant, Sushi Nozawa, in Studio City, Calif.

Talk about making Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" look tame?

If you're seated at the sushi bar at Sasabune in New York, Sushi Nozawa in Los Angeles, or Sawa Sushi in Sunnyvale, Calif., a few words of advice:

Don't try to order -- the chef will decide what you eat. Use extra soy sauce at your own risk. And don't ask for a California roll. You might get kicked out.

Never fear, however. You've just entered a recent wacky parallel universe known as the domain of the "sushi bullies."

Basically, what we're talking about here, are top sushi chefs who serve only what they want, how they want it and to whom they want. Their rules are often posted on signs throughout their restaurants. And some of these chefs are notorious for ejecting patrons who annoy them.

On her first encounter with one of these raw-fish autocrats in San Francisco, a customer tried to add some soy sauce to her seaweed salad. Sound simple? Actually, it turned out to be a big mistake. The tyrannical chef immediately scolded her, telling her, "No, no, no. No soy sauce!" Then, she had the temerity to scrape some wasabi off a piece of sushi, because she doesn't like spicy food. The chef's response: "No! It needs the wasabi." Hence, she obeyed, and choked down the fish.

"I was so nervous, I spilled my miso soup," said the patron, whose meal for two, with no alcohol, cost $75 -- before tip.

Now in all fairness to this growing trend of hardcore sushi disciplinarians, I have had encounters in Italian restaurants, whereupon asking for some freshly grated parmesan cheese , the waiter would come back with a "request" from the chef, that I "try" eating my entree without it -- thereby, allowing the natural flavors to come through. However, in each of these instances, the chef was in the kitchen, and the "request" never came across as anything more than just that.

In any event, read more here to see how the familiar Seinfeld catch phrase: No Soup For You apparently still applies today.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time To Bid


Tuesday, October 21The Metropolitan Pavilion 125 West 18th Street 7:00 - 10:00 pm (VIP hour: 6:00 - 7:00 pm)

Yes, it's that time of year again, to see some of the city's top chefs in action!

Bid Against Hunger is one of fall's most anticipated restaurant tastings, featuring over 70 restaurants preparing signature dishes.

Guests will have the opportunity to bid on exclusive prizes in both live and silent auctions, including exclusive dinners with top chefs, vacation packages, sports memorabilia and concert tickets.

The VIP Room will be featuring exclusive tastings of regional purveyors' foods, hors d'oeuvres, and high-end wines.

Bid Against Hunger sold out last year. So make sure you don't miss the chance to see some of the world's best chefs taking center stage.

See you there.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Breaking A Few Eggs

Omelets. Gotta love 'em (I know I do!) for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, from plain, to mushroom, to Western, to Omelet au Champignon.

And for me, the best instruction on exactly how to make these little egg concoctions as fluffy, airy, and light as they need to be, will always be from my personal culinary "goddess," the late, great, Julia Child.

So break out a bottle of your best Beaujolais Nouveau and enjoy some more "Classic Julia" in this video clip from one of her vintage French Chef episodes on how to make: The Perfect Omelet.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Desperately Seeking Moose Meat


What can you learn about Sarah Palin from eating a moose burger? Probably not much.

But how about a moose farm? There’s one in Russia that only sells moose dairy products.

Still, you'd be really hard pressed to find a moose farm in the United States. It seems that the demand here is low, due to the fact that it costs more to produce the meat (and to cut it), than you can actually sell it for. (As well as it being, well, just a wee bit illegal for sale here in the U.S.)

Anyway, read more here about a Washington, D.C. writer who, in desperation for a little "Big Mac" style moose flavor, placed an ad on Craigslist in Vermont. This was to barter for the meat, of course, instead of an exchange of money, i.e., an actual purchase or sale. (Clever, huh?)

In any event, pass the relish. Hmmm... I'm wondering...does garlic work as well on moose to get rid of that "gamey" taste?

Friday, September 26, 2008

No Thanks For The Mammories

Following recent reports of a Swiss restaurant that will be serving breast milk in its food (they swear it's the greatest thing for stews and sauces), the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has sent Ben & Jerry's a letter asking that they replace all the regular dairy in their products with human breast milk.

"The fact that human adults consume huge quantities of dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn't make sense," PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman writes. "Everyone knows that 'the breast is best,' so Ben & Jerry's could do consumers and cows a big favor by making the switch to breast milk."

Here's the letter:

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Cofounders
Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc.

Dear Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield,

On behalf of PETA and our more than 2 million members and supporters, I'd like to bring your attention to an innovative new idea from Switzerland that would bring a unique twist to Ben and Jerry's. Storchen restaurant is set to unveil a menu that includes soups, stews, and sauces made with at least 75 percent breast milk procured from human donors who are paid in exchange for their milk. If Ben and Jerry's replaced the cow's milk in its ice cream with breast milk, your customers,and cows,would reap the benefits.

Using cow's milk for your ice cream is a hazard to your customer's health. Dairy products have been linked to juvenile diabetes, allergies, constipation, obesity, and prostate and ovarian cancer. The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, America's leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding cow's milk to children, saying it may play a role in anemia, allergies, and juvenile diabetes and in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease, America's number one cause of death.

Animals will also benefit from the switch to breast milk. Like all mammals, cows only produce milk during and after pregnancy, so to be able to constantly milk them, cows are forcefully impregnated every nine months. After several years of living in filthy conditions and being forced to produce 10 times more milk than they would naturally, their exhausted bodies are turned into hamburgers or ground up for soup.

And of course, the veal industry could not survive without the dairy industry. Because male calves can't produce milk, dairy farmers take them from their mothers immediately after birth and sell them to veal farms, where they endure 14 to 17 weeks of torment chained inside a crate so small that they can't even turn around.

The breast is best! Won't you give cows and their babies a break and our health a boost by switching from cow's milk to breast milk in Ben and Jerry's ice cream? Thank you for your consideration.


Tracy Reiman
Executive Vice President

And just when I thought PETA couldn't possibly go farther "out there" -- as always -- they never cease to surprise me. Have these folks considered and/or actually vetted the "diets" of some of these human donors? But even beyond that, I guess the overall idea of my Ben & Jerry's Chunky Mocha Fudge coming to me compliments of a faceless lactating female with a check in her hand for services rendered, wouldn't exactly get my taste buds going in a particularly good way, either.

By the way, to the letter above, Ben & Jerry have rendered -- no response.

In any event, all I can say here, is that for me this is "udder" nonsense.

Hey PETA, listen, I'm 100% for the cause of humane treatment toward animals. But guys...let's be real here. 'Kay?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rachael Ray...Every Freaking Day!

It's kind of a scary thought, even if I have on occasion found Rachael Ray's "perkiness" to be, well, kind of refreshing.

Anyway, despite the otherwise spoofy resemblence, look a little bit closer, as well as how the name "Rachell" is spelled. (Clever, huh?) It seems a new book titled, Every Freaking Day! With Rachell Ray by Elizabeth Hilts, parodies the food lifestyle magazine Every Day With Rachael Ray via some laugh out loud and "biting" hilarity.

This unauthorized spoof, released on Sept. 3, is packed with recipes and commentary from "Rachell" and photos of a "perky" brown-haired model who bears a striking-but-weird resemblance to the real Ray herself.

"She's very easy to parody," says Freaking author Elizabeth Hilts. "She has a lot of very recognizable mannerisms: talking with her hands, singing to the food, referring to food as an almost human entity."

In any case, even if the parody sells well, it's stll very unlikely to match the 7.2 million copies in print of Ray's six (yes, count them, SIX!) cookbooks. The seventh of which, is due out in November 2008.

So there...I guess. Once again, the real Rachael Ray has the very last laugh.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shake And Ache


As it turns out, athletes aren’t the only ones with on-the-job injuries. Some food-and-drink pros feel the pain while pulling the perfect espresso or mixing a stiff martini. And this includes:

Cocktail Shaker Shoulders:

Starbuck's Coffee Barista Arm:


Saute Slump:


And the list goes on in an article in this week's Time Out New York here

Note to self: My own magazine article pitch on the aches and pains of cooking in "home" kitchens.

Yeah...think I will.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Food Writing 101

The Institute for Culinary Education has launched the Center for Food Media, a program of academic courses for aspiring food writers, publicists, TV personalities, and -- even bloggers.

In this class, students will learn the essential tools for becoming a food journalist--without going to journalism school. Veteran food writers Ramin Ganeshram and Marge Perry, will share how to write a pitch letter that sells, how to get your work published even when you're just starting out, along with basic editing skills, the difference between the various types of food stories, and research tips and tricks. You will do in-class writing exercises in essay format and reviews based on tastings. And yes, you'll actually get to eat...and write about it. (Now, I ask gastronomically cool is that?).

A program for Wine Writing will follow in early 2009.


Read more about it here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lessons of a Sushi Chef

When a restaurateur is faced with a serious sushi chef shortage...what next? Open up a sushi school? Um...yes.

And in September, master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi of the Katsuya restaurant empire will team up with the president of Japanese food importer Mutual Trading Co. to launch a professional sushi school in downtown Los Angeles.

Uechi is chef-owner of Sushi Katsu-Ya in Studio City and Encino and executive chef of SBE Entertainment Group's growing chain of Philippe Starck-designed Katsuya restaurants -- there are three in the L.A. area and more are slated for Miami (in 2009) and Las Vegas (in 2010). By opening a sushi school, Uechi says he hopes to address a shrinking pool of professional sushi chefs in the U.S. (Other Los Angeles sushi schools include the 10-year-old California Sushi Academy and the Sushi Chef Institute, founded in 2002.)

In any case, pass the Wasabi... and read more here

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chem Lab Cuisine


Even if you failed most of your science courses in school, I still say: Not to worry.

If you're in or around the New York City area, the
Astor Center
at 399 Lafayette Avenue, presents,
Chilling Out with Liquid Nitrogen
, hosted by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot of the culinary blog
Ideas in Food

Liquid nitrogen has gained much popularity for its innovative use in making instant ice creams, creating innovative twists on cocktails, and cryo-blanching.

Discover these techniques and more while tasting some samples of what cooking with liquid nitrogen can actually produce. The class will take place on Tuesday, August 26th, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
See ticket informtion

Hey, I'm serious. So, see you there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pint-sized Hell In the Kitchen

After recently being touted as "Little Gordon," the foul-mouthed child actor playing celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay "junior," returns in a second video at the UK online jobs recruitement website, which has the chef dressing down the manager of a failing restaurant.

In the second viral video produced by Rebel Virals, Little Gordon accompanies his parents on their wedding anniversary to a local restaurant. After waiting an hour for their starter the Ramsay Junior can take no more.

He summons the manager and lets rip as the celebrity chef has been seen to do many times in his series Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares where the celebrity chef attempts to turn around failing restaurant businesses.

In any event, having once been a parent of a child of Little Gordon's age myself, I don't know how I'd really see the "cuteness" value in having my child spewing these four-letter words for the camera -- only (and hopefully) to turn around later and try to instill in him that this type of language is not exactly "polite" social behavior in restaurants -- or anywhere else. But then again, child actors cussing on cue like sailors on a 3-day pass, has never really been my general idea of "cute" to begin with, so I guess I'm really probably not your best judge on this one.

Anyway, see for yourself as Little Gordon Ramsay pitches his latest culinary Holy War in this clip:

Friday, August 08, 2008

Getting Better


Do you know the difference between pancetta and streaky bacon? How about what makes a good egg? Or, why frozen peas can be better than fresh? And why goose fat is better than butter?

Well, the answer to these questions and more, are in a recent addition to my cookbook shelf titled, How To Be A Better Foodie: A Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious by well-known food writer and gourmand, Sudi Pigot .

Simply put, this is more than just a book. Since its release in 2007, its been a virtual "celebration" of food that will appeal to anyone dedicated to finding the finest, latest, rarest, and most delicious culinary knowledge. How To Be a Better Foodie serves up entertaining and informative morsels to satisfy even the most insatiable cravings, such as:
Unusual delicacies—prawn shells, radish leaves, parmigiano reggiano rind and more

The latest in culinary trends such as belly pork, wagyu beef, lotus root crisps, green tea iced meringue, and sousvide preparation

International foodie pilgrimages and an almanac of seasonal delicacies

It also features quizzes to test readers' true foodie wisdom, with page after page of foodie facts and illustrations.

About the author: Sudi Pigott is passionately obsessed with good eating and has been writing about the best ingredients, artisan producers, specialty shops, culinary trends, and food destinations for more than a decade. She has written for a wide variety of publications including The Financial Times. She lives in London with her equally "foodie" husband and son.

And don't forget to stop by and spend some time at the "Sudi The Better Foodie" website.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Iron Chef America: Taking The Lid Off

Iron Chef, Cat Cora

Nightline did a long segment on Iron Chef America this week and although the segment was more promo than exposé, there were some good tidbits along the way that the show's many fans might not be aware of.

• Mark Dacascos, the diminutive martial-arts actor who portrays the presiding “chairman” on the show, insists on being called “The Chairman” at all times. (Or, at least, he did that day.)

• The chefs are constantly cutting themselves (accidents that are then, presumably, edited out). “Sous-chefs do most of the work in restaurants, so they have the best knife skills,” host Alton Brown tells Nightline. “Chefs get a little sloppy on the knife skills.”

• When the Iron Chef is selected, the shadowed figures to his left and right are stand-ins. Only one Iron Chef comes in at a time.

So, that's how they do it, huh?

Anyway, if you're a fan of the show (and I have to admit that for me, this one will *never* measure up to the old original Japanese version of the 1990s), you'll want to read this.

Friday, July 25, 2008

One Good Stretch

With today's food prices higher than ever, putting meat on your table can be exceptionally costly. So, excluding the more reasonable alterntive of becoming a vegetarian -- what should you do?

Well, this new video from the American Meat Institute (AMI) seems to have the answer: Stretch Your Meat Dollar.

Great meat money saving tips here, and this woman in the clip really sounds like she knows how to pinch a good "meat" dollar. And while I'll admit that some of these tips are just good common sense, it often pays to be reminded on how we can save when we walk those aisles once a week in the supermarket.

So take a listen. And, don't forget to go here to download a brochure outlining more money-saving tips.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Party Like It's 1776

Just in time for the 2008 elections, the owners of the fledgling Political Winery are strategizing with distributors and campaigning to get its wines, made by St. Julian of Paw Paw, in front of political junkies nationwide.

Featuring labels with caricatured donkeys and elephants, the four-wine product line has two Democratic and two GOP varieties. Each party line offers a red and a white semidry blend, priced between $11.99- $14.99.

Here are two examples:

Representing the Blue States

Jack Blue is their oldest wine, tracing his roots back to 1792. Through years of democratic reform, Jack Blue shed his more Republican ancestry. Enjoyed best with friends of all political stripes, but especially those seeking equality and social justice, Jack Blue is a wine for the common man. Although often criticized for having a disorganized flavor, Jack Blue is fermented following the principals of Jefferson and Jackson, culled from the vision of Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson and finished with the ambition of Carter and Clinton.

Representing the Red States

Red Trunk traces its roots to Jackson, Michigan where it was first uncorked ‘Under the Oaks’ in 1854. Whigs, Northern Democrats, and Free Soilers proclaimed that it was time to modernize the palate and formed a new Party pleaser for the masses to consume. Recent blends may be too conservative for some political tastes, but consumed in whole, Red Trunk is perfectly balanced with the Right juices. Red Trunk draws from Lincoln's responsibility, Teddy's tenacity, and Ford's humility.

How's that for two well-pitched political wines?

In any event, the state of Michigan ranks ninth in the nation in political spending, say the owners of the Political Winery, and it's also where the winery makes its headquarters. They also feel they can find plenty of Washington lobbyist customers looking for client gifts, party operatives organizing fundraisers, and armchair political junkies everywhere for their product.

So if you've been sold so far, these wines can be ordered: here

Great for those last minute Election Night Coverage parties, no matter if you're red...or blue.

Friday, July 11, 2008

No Dishing The Dogs

Out of respect for Western dining habits, it appears "canine cuisine" is out, and man's best friend will not be served at Olympic-connected restaurants in Beijing this summer. In fact, Chinese officials are strongly urging other eateries to follow suit.

In other words, if a patron requests "xiangrou," or "fragrant meat," as the Chinese refer to dog meat, food servers will be instructed to politely recommend another dish.

However, as chef and world-class extreme eater, Anthony Bourdain, of the Travel Channel's No Reservations might agree, in several other Asian countries, dog is something you might very often find on some dinner tables. Even though it should also be noted that eating dog has become noticeably less popular in many places like China and Korea. And surprisingly, even in the West, it's no secret that a minor flap was allegedly caused when a newspaper reported about the popularity of curing dog meat into sausages and jerky in the Swiss rural cantons, as recently as 1996.

In any event, if you're planning on attending the 2008 Games in Beijing, just be reminded (and possibly breathe a sigh of relief!) that you probably won't be seeing that Lhasa Apso Quarter Pounder listed on a local Beijing McDonald's menu. Sheesh!

And for me as an avid dog lover, of course, this can only be seen as a good thing. (Better yet...better make that a *really* good thing.)

Anyway, big props to the folks in Beijing for this "noble" effort. Really.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Grilling Question


With far more important issues to think about such as skyrocketing oil and food prices, and a U.S. economy that's literally at death's door, still when it comes to backyard grilling -- the people have spoken.

Given a choice between inviting Barack Obama or John McCain over for a barbecue, Americans choose the Democratic senator from Illinois over the Republican senator from Arizona by 52 percent to 45 percent, according to a new Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll out today.

"Having Obama to a barbecue would be like a relaxed family gathering, while inviting McCain 'would be more like a retirement party than something fun,'" the Associated Press quotes a Washington, D.C., systems engineer as saying.

And considering that many people think George W. Bush won re-election in 2004 partly because 57 percent of Americans decided that he was the kind of guy they'd rather have a beer with (than John Kerry ) I'd say let's just continue to take these polls with the same old humungous grain of salt-- as usual.

Happy grilling, one and all.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Goodness For the Cause

Imagine eating a brownie, or two, and feeling really good about it. (And okay, just for the record...maybe these aren't exactly the kind of "feel good" brownies you might remember from the 60s, 70s and 80s.)

In any case, the good people at Greyston Bakery have just introduced the Do-Goodie Brownie, a 100% all natural treat made with real Belgian chocolate and free range eggs.
All profits go to the Greyston Foundation, an integrated network of organizations that assist in providing jobs, childcare, health services and employment opportunities for those on the road to self-sufficiency.

By the way, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield the co-creators of Ben & Jerry's ice cream swear that these are the only brownies they ever eat. And with names like Chocolate Fudge, Walnut Fudge, and Brown Sugar Blondie, I think I can understand why.

They're priced at $2.49 per brownie and can be purchased in New York City Markets such as Balducci's, Food Emporium, and Gristedes. Or, you can find them

I ate my first Chocolate Fudge Do-Goodie last night, and as promised, I'm feeling "guilt free" and good all over.

Really, I am.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Forbidden Fruit

Never since that low-grade, 1970s horror flick, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes has this pulpy, red recipe staple gotten so much bad press. Still, it seems that Salmonella-flavored tomatoes have now sickened seven more people here in New York. Even though, the Health Department claims it still doesn't know where these "Killer Tomatoes" are actually coming from.

"These people might have bought tomatoes at many different places, or they might not remember where they ate tomatoes. We cannot say that any of these places are the source until we have confirmed that they are, and we have not yet done that," a NYC Health Department spokeswoman recently told the New York Post. And of course, the NYC Health Department is totally wise to be cautious. No doubt, one false allegation of bad produce -- could lead to a nice, hefty lawsuit.

Lest we forget the fate of Chi-Chi's, a Mexican chain of restaurants that closed its U.S. locations after being tied to a Hepatitis A outbreak. (Just for the record though, Chi-Chi's is still in operation in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Indonesia)

Anyway, this time last year we had Salmonella spinach, this year it appears to be tainted tomatoes. So let's all just be careful out there at your local salad bars, taco stands, etc.

Or at least -- until somebody knows a little more about all these random outbreaks.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cheap Hang Ups


According to several recent reports, the abysmal economy, increases in the cost of doing business, and rising food prices are starting to make their impact felt on the restaurant industry and consumer spending on food. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, chefs at premier dining establishments are finding it difficult to strike a balance between quality and cost. Signaling the fluidity of food costs, Chef David Chang has just raised the price of a prix fixe dinner at his coveted Momofuku Ko from $85 to $100. And, the New York Times brings news of a boom in vegetable gardening by Americans trying to save money on groceries.

Into this changing food environment comes news of the latest in food marketing ploys to targeting current economic conditions: enter the "hanging brochette." According to a recent press release, the restaurant Brasserie Julien is promoting this new menu item as a dining option designed specifically for the budget-minded customer.

"I decided to change the presentation of a classic dish. Our guests enjoy the different presentation, and they also get to enjoy meat that they might shy away from these days because of their budget. We are using smaller, more cost-effective pieces, but the same total weight, so it's a win-win. Normally a server pulls your meat off of the skewers or even presents them on the skewer flat on the plate. This way, you take one morsel off at a time without spearing yourself," Philippe Feret, Chef/Owner of Brasserie Julien recently said.

In any event, it looks like this all means if you can't afford an entire entree of lamb, filet mignon, fish, or game -- then order these "smaller, more cost-effective pieces" dangling on a skewer at your table like a wee little mini-meat hook.

One might ask if this PR stunt represents the first in a new wave of "recession specials"?

Guess we'll all have to stayed tuned.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Big Apple Barbecue Festival

For all those in or around the NYC area, the sixth annual Snapple Big Apple Barbecue Block Party will take place in Manhattan on Saturday, June 7th and Sunday, June 8th from 12 noon to 6pm. Barbecue pit masters from around the country will be showing off their talents -- and smoking up the atmosphere. So take a brief peek here at last year's event, and let's hope there will be no rain in sight for this annual grillin' and chillin' event.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cupping: Describe That Joe

A Cupping Coffee Tasting at Café Grumpy in Chelsea, NYC

Swirl, sniff...inhale the bouquet?

Well, even though wine tastings seem to have become less pretentious in recent years, it’s still rare to hear a popular choice compared to Cinnamon Almond Toast Crunch cereal. But at coffee tastings — known to aficionados as cuppings — there seems to be a lot more room for whimsy.

One Monday night at Joe, a West Village cafe, a group of coffee enthusiasts crowded around a coffee barista, as if they were graduate students and she were a professor. The eight New Yorkers, who had paid $20 apiece to taste three coffees, each from a different country, listened intently.

They sniffed and slurped. Then came the tricky part: finding the right words to describe the flavors.

"Cuppings used to be this professional-only activity that coffee buyers did," says Mark Overbay, the marketing manager for Counter Culture Coffee, a boutique roaster in Durham, N.C., that supplies cafes and restaurants like the Spotted Pig here in NYC. "But we see it as more of a taste exploration, more like a wine tasting."

For the curious, New York now offers more opportunities to cup than ever before. In 2004, the city had only a few third-wave coffee shops. Today, there are at least a dozen, 80 percent of which sponsor cuppings.

Read more about the art of "cupping," along with a video clip showing how it's done here

Friday, May 23, 2008

One Man's Scraps, Another Country's Feast?

There's very little doubt that soaring gas prices are having a substantial affect on food prices, therefore sending grocery bills continually through the roof. Food banks are also running short of donations, and food shortages are causing sporadic riots in poor countries throughout the world.

But, it seems you’d never know this, especially if you saw what was ending up in your local landfills.

As it turns out, Americans waste an astounding amount of food — an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study — and it's happening at the supermarket, in restaurants and cafeterias and in your very own kitchen. And even with all the frenetic calls for more diet and exercize plans (to counteract all that food we American chubsters really DID wolf down) -- this works out to about a pound of "wasted" food every day, for every American.

Grocery stores discard products because of spoilage or minor cosmetic blemishes. Restaurants throw away what they don’t use. And consumers toss out everything from bananas that have turned brown to last week’s Egg Foo Young leftovers. In 1997, in one of the few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States was never eaten. Fresh produce, milk, grain products and sweeteners made up two-thirds of the waste. And, the study didn’t even account for the explosion of ready-to-eat foods.

America’s Second Harvest , a group of more than 200 national food banks, reports that donations of food are down 9 percent, but the number of people showing up for food has increased 20 percent.

A never-ending conundrum, for sure. And, reports show that the problem isn’t only unique to the United States.

Read more here
Also: Check out what author Jonathan Bloom has to say about wasted food in America over at:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Drink Mixology By Design


Let's face it, if all cocktails were designed by Ryan Magarian and made by bartenders who have been through his training program, we'd be a country of seriously raging alcoholics.

But of course, it would be very expensive. And of course, he'd never want it that way.

"I’m not trying to get people to drink more. I’m not getting people to drink less. I just want you to drink better," he says. And his ongoing passion and conviction for the art of "The Cocktail," gives you no other recourse -- than to believe him.

The 10-plus years Magarian has spent concocting thousands of drinks and customizing cocktail menus for clients such as the Holland America Cruise Line, Fairmont, and the Sofitel Hotels chains, certainly hasn't dampened his enthusiasm one bit. But lately the "associates" in his firm, Liquid Relations, crisscross the globe when he needs to stay closer to home in Portland. Magarian's other venture, Aviation Gin, takes his ambition one step further by allowing him to formulate actual raw materials, not just ingredient combinations.

Ah, the life of a master mixologist in contemporary American cocktail culture.


And just in time for a cool summer thirst quencher, is Ray Magarian with his creation, the "Kiwi Envy" (pictured here).

Kiwi Envy

A complete balance of fruity texture, mild sweetness and tiny tart aftertaste makes this one perfect for those warm, backyard grilling days ahead.

4 thin slices of peeled kiwi
1 ½ oz. dry gin
¾ oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (AKA "angel spit")
½ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 oz. soda
Kiwi slice (with skin on) and lemon wedge
1. In a pint shaker glass, add kiwis and hand press with muddler
2. Add spirits and mixers, fill glass with ice, cover with shaker tin, and shake vigorously for 6 seconds
3. Add soda and strain over fresh ice into Collins glass
4. Garnish with kiwi slice and lemon

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tim Horton's: Like Taking Timbits From A Baby


Okay, maybe it's just me, and without a doubt, every merchant has every right to protect his or her inventory through whatever employee guidelines they deem necessary. Still, I can't help feeling really tempted here to file this one under my already overflowing: "Pulleeze, Gimme A Break!" file.

Recently at a Tim Horton's store in London, Ontario Canada, a single mom of four and three-year veteran of the Canadian doughnut seller (whose equivalent down here in the U.S. would probably be Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts), noticed that a regular customer's baby was getting a bit fussy and cranky. In an attempt to calm the baby down, the woman gave the baby a Timbit, a popular doughnut-hole pastry that sells for about 17 cents Canadian ($1.70 for a box of 10).

And so far, this all sounds like a simple, kindly gesture, and possibly even good for business in the case of one of Tim Horton's "regular" customers. Right? Wrong.

Three managers happened to notice this little transaction on a videotape they reviewed at the end of the day -- and fired the woman on the spot for theft. This, they said complied with Tim Horton's rules forbidding food giveaways.

"It was just out of my heart. I should have gone to my purse and got the change, but it was busy," the woman told the the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail.

She said that it was common practice to give Timbits to babies and pets, and that she'd noticed that the baby's mom (again, one of Tim Horton's regular customers) had been having a bad day.

But Tim Horton's district manager, Nicole Mitchell, told the paper:

"Employees aren't allowed to give out free products and that's the bottom line. She gave out free product and it doesn't matter if it is a Timbit or a coffee or a doughnut or 10 sandwiches or what."

Nice. (Not)

In any case, after receiving much (deserved) bad press after this incident, the company quickly rehired the woman, who has chosen to go to work at another Tim Horton's location just down the street. Tim Horton's hasn't decided what will happen to the managers who fired her, but offered both the reinstated employee and its customers an official apology.

However, the company hasn't decided whether it needs to revamp its nationwide rules on freebies.

So what do you think?

Is it really good for business in these isolated cases? Or... just plain old, outright, mean and awful stealing, perpetrated by burned-out moms and cranky kids?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Salad Days

It's May, and like always, it's a new Something Awareness Month.

So this month, looks like we're paying tribute to the very versitile and healthful dish simply known as: The Salad.

And as such, we're invited to make a pledge to eat more greens by the Association for Dressings and Sauces, a trade group representing manufacturers of salad dressings, condiments, and sauces. (Even though, if you're like me, you probably never knew such an association -- even existed.)

Anyway, for years I think something we've all known, is that eating a salad a day is directly correlated with higher nutrient levels, which are important for the body's defense against illnesses.

So for some of the best "Big Salad" main course ideas, check out Epicurious's feature on Healthy Main Course Salads with a dozen delicious salad recipes, such as the Turkey Chopped Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing (pictured above).

This one's truly for the avocado lover in all of us (like myself!)

So think green, eat more salad greens, and enjoy them in the upcoming summer months ahead.

Friday, April 25, 2008


And no, we're not talking Emeril here this time.

But it seems as amateurs try to imitate their favorite TV celebrity chefs, the number of insurance claims for "singed eyebrows" as well as other kitchen mishaps are skyrocketing.
According to a recent UK survey, 14% of those questioned had experienced an accident or damaged their kitchen in some way, while trying out new recipes.

So while celebrity chefs are trying to educate armchair chefs by lining up the Crème Brulée blow torches alongside the carrot slicers, these amateur chefs have been getting themselves into heaping tablespoons full of trouble.

Read more here

And holy smoke...for heaven's sake, let's remember to be careful out there.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Mini-Minimalist


New York Times writer and cookbook author, Mark Bittman, a k a The Minimalist Chef, makes a simple, sophisticated dessert out of an otherwise "intimidating" one called, Chocolate Ganache.

(Why is it that those "Frenchie" names are just too "shee shee" and scary for words?)

Anyway, watch here how Mark Bittman brings this chocolaty "high brow" dessert down to earth. (He promises...that this one is so darn easy, it's really hard to screw it up.)

Then, watch how the Mini-Minimalist, 3-year-old Jaden Carda, gives his version of the same receipe. Clearly, this pint-sized chef has spent time banished to his play area with nothing but Mark Bittman recipe videos playing over and over in the background.

Totally cute stuff, though.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Book Deal... For Not Eating Out

They're called blooks which I guess would be the best possible way to fuse the words "blog" and "book" together. (You know, sort of like that whole "Brangelina" thing, i.e., Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or, um...oh, well, I'm sure you get the picture.)

Anyway, Cathy Erway, author of Not Eating Out In New York, a blog devoted to shunning restaurant brunches in favor of cooking your own food in New York City, is the latest food blogger to score a blog-turned-book deal, aptly titled Not Eating Out In New York.

By far, Erway is one of my favorite food bloggers, due to my love for her Reason Of The Month For NOT Eating Out.

Clearly, for me, Because You Can Salt To Your Own Taste, was one of her most memorable.

Way to go, Cath! Much success and can't wait for the book to be released.