Friday, March 28, 2008

Vino And Veggies


Wine and Vegetables: Which wines go best with tomatoes, salad greens and grilled veggies? Do red wines work as well as white wines with green food? Which wines should be paired with spring and summer vegetables?

Find out about these questions and more in my good friend, wine expert Natalie MacLean's podcast where she gives you all the information you'll need for pairing the best wines with the best vegetable dishes.

Breaking the topic down to the common saltiness or creaminess of salad dressings and their effects on certain wines, to which ones to avoid or choose is Natalie's specialty, as an award-winning sommelier and wine connoisseur. She even mentions my favorite wine, Tuscan Chianti, which is a classical regional match for most Italian dishes with tomatoes, including most pastas, lasagnas, and pizza.

Great stuff. Thanks, Natalie.

And don't forget that Natalie MacLean is also the noted author of the book, Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. This one's definitely on my recommendation list of must-haves for the cookbook shelf.

Friday, March 21, 2008

One Order of "Pay Up" To Go

Of all the recent happenings over the years filed under the categories of Cool or Un-Cool, this one would definitely have to be filed under the latter.

Totally uncool, Starbucks! Yes, I'm talking to you. And now, the courts seem to agree.

And of course, I'm talking about the recent lawsuit filed by former Starbucks barista, Jou Chou, from La Jolla, California who complained shift supervisors were sharing in employee tips. Using the tip pool money of the lower paid baristas -- to pay your shift supervisors? Sorry...but I thought that was what your OWN rather deep pockets were for when it comes to paying your management employees. Um, hello?

So needless to say, I was overjoyed to hear that a Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered Starbucks Corp. to pay its California baristas more than $100 million in back tips and interest that the coffee chain paid to shift supervisors. Money that I'm sure took at least a few grocery items off the table at the time for many of these hardworking baristas -- and their families. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2004, gained ground in 2006 when it was granted class-action status, allowing the suit to go forward for as many as 100,000 former and current baristas in the coffee chain's California stores. It was not immediately clear how many current and former employees are affected by the ruling.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Patricia Cowett also issued an injunction that prevents Starbucks' shift supervisors from sharing in future tips, saying state law prohibits managers and supervisors from sharing in employee gratuities.
But nevertheless, a Starbucks spokeswoman still maintained that the company planned an immediate appeal of this ruling, calling it "fundamentally unfair and beyond all common sense and reason."

Pull-eeze. (Or... was she actually referring to Starbucks' treatment of the baristas they routinely fleeced? Hmmm...maybe.)

In any case, I think Jou Chou summed it up concisely enough in a written statement released by attorneys this week:

"I feel vindicated," Chou said. "Tips really help those receiving the lowest wages. I think Starbucks should pay shift supervisors higher wages instead of taking money from the tip pool."

Or, as common sense and a little bit of common decency would certainly dictate.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Easy Mac

Don't let those technically "Frenchie" terms like "roux" and "B├ęchamel" throw you. The secret to this Macaroni and Cheese casserole lies in the perfection of these two basic starters, along with two other secret ingredients -- dry mustard and cayenne pepper. (Yeah, I know. Mustard and Cayenne. Who knew?) Anyhow, I tried it myself just this very evening, to some rave reviews. A piping hot, deliciously "kicked up" Mac 'n Cheese casserole in a little under 45 minutes. (FYI --the secret also lies in a good ceramic "au gratin" baking dish.)

Watch Tanya Wenman Steel, editor in chief of Epicurious Magazine, demonstrate how to make this better-tasting version of the classic comfort food on NBC's Today Show.

Friday, March 07, 2008

No Cheese Please

It's a clear writerly mix of "food and fornication," no doubt. And that's probably what has everyone buzzing about Sex and Bacon: Why I Love Things That Are Very, Very Bad For Me, an essay collection coming out in May from Seal Press, by former adult film actress, Sarah Katherine Lewis.

Lewis' take on frying chicken is "a wild, feral act of meat-loving debauchery," and she compares fat (of all things)to a pair of black boots: "It goes with anything, always adds a welcome flair, and gives you a sexy, ass-swaying strut." (Um...ookay. Never really thought about fat in those exact terms before, but, er...okay.)

But after pages of delighting in everything from raw whale meat to three pounds of bacon ("just enough" according to her for, okay...nevermind), to things you probably don’t even want to know about, Lewis says she draws the line at cheese. Something she admits she "cannot contemplate eating without breathing deliberately, to avoid retching." (Is it just me -- or does this sound pretty much like your average, everyday I'll-put-anything-in-my-mouth-but-that kind of a confession?) Hmmm....

And of course, we won't go into what Lewis memorably refers to as "cheese rape." Um, no, we won't.

In any event, Sex and Bacon is touted as being quite a unique kind of lovefest -- with Lewis not being your average, run-of-the-mill food writer.