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Thoughts of a politician on the paleo diet

April 26th, 2015 Comments off

From the daily email news summary of The New York Times:

 

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Blades and bones: Pigstock festival of pork – FT.com

April 4th, 2015 Comments off

The pig is carefully chosen and dispatched in its pen in the woods. The process is remarkably quick and strangely peaceful. We join in hefting the carcass into the bucket of a tractor and then follow it quietly back to the central clearing of the encampment. The big Austrian hangs it, head down, from the digger bucket and calmly talks us through the evisceration. The cooks carry the choicest offal to their fires, while a woman takes the spleen from which she scrapes the pulpy meat to be cooked and smeared on toast. This is carried back to the watching circle along with the brain, scrambled with eggs.

Pigstock is most emphatically not like Woodstock. It’s an annual private event run by Tom Adams, one of the founders of the successful Pitt Cue restaurant in London. It’s a little bigger than a party and a little smaller than a local festival and held on the farm of a family friend in Cornwall. The vibe is relaxed, welcoming and gently lubricated with alcohol but it has nothing to do with music. Each year, the participants get together to celebrate cooking and eating pork.

via Blades and bones: Pigstock festival of pork – FT.com.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Chicken McNuggets? Have a little dimethylpolysiloxane with that

October 16th, 2014 Comments off

Don’t worry. The experts say it does no harm. Just an anti-foaming agent used to control the oil when they fry the McNuggets. But one of the frightening sounding substances that the McDonald’s spin-doctors have to deal with in their new ask-me-anything campaign.

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Time magazine revived the dimethylpolysiloxane matter this time in an article What McDonald’s New ‘Transparency’ Campaign Is Hiding.

Online, McDonald’s answers some questions about its products. So far, I didn’t see any questions (or answers) about antibiotic use or whether its eggs are cage-free, even in its section on “sourcing and sustainability.” Here’s what they do answer. On beef hormones: “Most of the cattle we get our beef from are treated with added hormones, a common practice in the U.S. that ranchers use to promote growth.” On feeding animals GMO feed: “Generally speaking, farmers feed their livestock a balanced diet that includes grains, like corn and soybeans. Over 90% of the U.S. corn and soybean crops are GMO, so cattle, chickens and pigs in our supply chain do eat some GMO crops.”

And while it says it no longer uses so-called “pink slime” in its burgers, it does use an anti-foaming agent, dimethylpolysiloxane, in the oil it uses to cook Chicken McNuggets. It also usesazodicarbonamide, AKA “the yoga mat ingredient,” in its buns and sandwiches, saying it has many uses: “Think of salt: the salt you use in your food at home is a variation of the salt you may use to de-ice your sidewalk.” As for why its U.S. menu contains items that are banned in Europe? “Every country has different food safety and regulatory standards and, because of this, ingredients will vary in our restaurants around the world. But no matter where you’re dining with us—in the U.S. or abroad—you can be assured of the quality and safety of our food.”

And the reason for the attempt to remake the McDonald’s image? Mother Jones explains it this way:

For McDonald’s, 2014 has been like a Happy Meal that’s missing a trinket: a major bummer. Its China operations (along with those other US fast-food firms) got caught up in an expired-meat scandal that pushed down Asian sales. Its US sales are down too, and its share price has fallen about 8 percent over the past three months. Strife among workers over low wages has lingered, and took a nasty turn for the company when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that it’s responsible for employment practices at its thousands of franchises, which it had been using as a shield to protect it from allegations of labor abuse. Insult to injury, a Consumer Reports survey named Mickey D’s signature burgers the “worst-tasting of all the major US burger chains.”

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Healthy food costs more and the gap to unhealthy food is growing

October 10th, 2014 Comments off

A new British study tracking the price of 94 key food and beverage items from 2002 to 2012 has found that the price of more healthy foods was consistently greater than that of less healthy foods over the period and that the absolute price gap between healthy and less healthy foods has grown over this period. The authors of “The Growing Price Gap between More and Less Healthy Foods” write that their results tally with the general trend of increasing food prices observed in similar high income nations, as reported in a review, where studies have found that in recent years healthy foods had increased more in price than foods which were less healthy, and that healthier versions of particular foods were more expensive. Another recent review has again found that within given food groups, the healthier option was typically more expensive for meats/protein, snacks/sweets, grains, and fats/oils, whilst healthier dairy foods were found to be less expensive.

 

The authors conclude:

We have demonstrated a novel linkage of existing economic and nutrition surveillance data to assess trends in the prices of foods in relation to their nutritional value. The growing gap in the price of more healthy and less healthy foods revealed by our analysis leads us to suggest that ongoing monitoring of food prices for public health is warranted. The data linkage we describe could underpin such food price monitoring and provide evidence to inform policy responses to the problem of rising food prices.

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Eating and drinking the museum exhibits

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

The cultural heritage of New Orleans is clearly on the mend. The city now has a permanent museum for exhibits dedicated to eating and drinking below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum, SoFAB, also encompasses the Museum of the American Cocktail, or MOTAC.

National Public Radio reports at A New Museum To Celebrate Southern Food (And You Can Eat The Exhibits):

“There are art museums all over the place,” says SoFAB founder and director Liz Williams, “and you know what an art museum is — art on the walls, basically. But when you set out to make a food museum, you don’t know what goes in it, exactly.”
Williams has been figuring that out for about 10 years, when she first conceived the idea of a New Orleans food museum. So she created the SoFAB nonprofit, then launched a stand-alone exhibit called “Toast of New Orleans,” a homage to imbibing.
As she has searched for a permanent home for SoFAB over the years, donations have poured in. Menus, advertisements, kitchen tools and appliances, agricultural implements, aprons, flatware, dish sets, spices, soda bottles, chef toques, aprons, pots and pans, cookbooks, recipe cards. The list goes on.
“In a museum [of] design or decorative arts, they’d want everything that’s pretty. But we want everything,” Williams says. “We want the garbage: the can, the label, and how do you open the can? We want the pamphlet with the instructions for that.”

“It’s not just a building,” says Williams, “it’s related to our mission.”
That mission has grown with the new space. SoFAB’s former home, starting in 2008, was a touristy shopping mall along New Orleans’ riverfront. And that’s where the need to include the actual consumption of food and drink along with the exhibits became clear.
A display on absinthe, for example, a significant piece of New Orleans’ drinking history, was exhaustive in its documentation, with posters, artifacts from artists, writers and poets inspired by their drinking of it, delicate glassware and beautiful absinthe fountains. But, Williams says, museum staff kept getting the same question. “What does it taste like?”
And so, in the new SoFAB, guests are not just allowed but encouraged to “get a Sazerac and walk around,” Williams says. A skilled bartender will line your glass with absinthe or Herbsaint as the first step, and no navy-blazered gallery guard will ask you to leave your cocktail at the door.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Changing fast-food menus to reduce obesity

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

Maybe the fast-food chains are capable of listening to the health experts. New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US finds that large chain restaurants, whose core menu offerings are generally high in calories, fat and sodium, have introduced newer food and beverage options that, on average, contain 60 fewer calories than their traditional menu selections in 2012 and 2013. In the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine the researchers note that the appearance of menu items containing 12 percent fewer calories could have a significant impact on the nation’s obesity epidemic.

A press release based on the journal article (which is behind a paywall) says:

On a typical day, studies have shown, 33 percent of young children, 41 percent of adolescents and 36 percent of adults, eat at fast-food restaurants, with an average intake of 191 calories, 404 calories, and 315 calories, respectively.

“If the average number of calories consumed at each visit was reduced by approximately 60 calories — the average decline we observed in newly introduced menus in our study — the impact on obesity could be significant,” says Sara N. Bleich, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School, and lead author of the study.

Using data from MenuStat, researchers looked at menu options in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains for 2012 and 2013. The newer, lower-calorie items fell into the categories of main course, beverages and children’s menus, they found.

Not that it is all good news.

The research shows, these restaurants, for the most part, aren’t offering lower-calorie versions of signature dishes like their high-calorie burgers or pizzas. Instead, the new items that are lower in calories are mostly in different categories such as salads. Some restaurants introduced new burgers, for example, but their calorie counts tended to be more in line with the original items.

“You can’t prohibit people from eating fast food, but offering consumers lower calorie options at chain restaurants may help reduce caloric intake without asking the individual to change their behavior – a very difficult thing to do,” Bleich says. “Given that the federal menu-labeling provisions outlined in the 2010 Affordable Care Act are not yet in effect, this voluntary action by large chain restaurants to offer lower calorie menu options may indicate a trend toward increased transparency of nutritional information, which could have a significant impact on obesity and the public’s health.”

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Animal welfare groups making political progress

August 25th, 2014 Comments off

The cause of animal welfare is certainly making political progress. Around the world governments are moving to restrict testing of cosmetics on animals and now the major food producer Nestlé is promising to enforce new animal welfare standards on its suppliers which could affect “hundreds of thousands of farms around the world”.

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The Swiss headquartered company has entered into an agreement with the NGO World Animal Protection (previously known as WSPA – World Society for the Protection of Animals) to ensure that supply Nestlé of its dairy, meat, poultry and eggs complies with tighter animal welfare standards.

Nestlé says it has some 7,300 suppliers from whom it buys animal-derived products directly – everything from milk for its range of yoghurts and ice-creams, to meat for its chilled foods and eggs for its fresh pastry and pasta. Each of these suppliers, in turn, buys from others, meaning that Nestlé’s Responsible Sourcing Guidelines apply to literally hundreds of thousands of farms around the world.The company has nine factories in Australia, including Tongala, Broadford and Wahgunyah in regional Victoria.

Under its new standards, Nestlé will not buy products derived from pigs raised in gestation stalls, chickens in barren battery cages, cattle that have been dehorned or had their tails docked without anesthesia and animals whose health has been damaged by drugs that promote growth.

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In a statement announcing the new policy the company said it has commissioned an independent auditor, SGS, to carry out checks to ensure the new standards of animal welfare are met on its supplying farms. In 2014, several hundred farm assessments have already been carried out worldwide. Some of these checks are also attended, unannounced, by World Animal Protection representatives whose role is to verify the auditors.
When a violation is identified, Nestlé will work with the supplier to improve the treatment of farm animals to ensure they meet the required standards. If, despite engagement and guidance from Nestlé, the company is unable or unwilling to show improvement, it will no longer supply Nestlé.

 

Categories: Animal welfare, Eating Tags:

Denmark wins the world’s best restaurant title with Melbourne’s Attica high up the list

April 29th, 2014 Comments off

Goodness knows how you can judge such a contest but for what it is worth the Danish restaurant Noma has regained its title as The S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant. The judges declared that Noma chef-owner René Redzepi is recognised for his highly original, sometimes visceral version of new Nordic cuisine. Having been on the list for nine years Redzepi won the best restaurant award in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca had its moment of glory last year.

The food of the restored champion is described as striving to reflect the Danish landscape and culture

with signature dishes such as ‘Blackcurrant Berries and Roses’.

Redzepi’s meticulous attention to detail, innovative approach to foraging and experimentation with fermentation – all driven by passion and a relentless curiosity – has once again brought his restaurant to the pinnacle.

Attica in Melbourne takes the title of Best Restaurant in Australasia, sponsored by Acqua

Panna, for the second year running, coming in at No.32.

Led by Ben Shewry, the cuisine is unique, imaginative, innovative and nature-led in its execution. Believing a chef should express himself through his cooking, Shewry takes his own experiences and memories, often from childhood, and portrays them through several dishes on Attica’s tasting menu. The result is a playful yet humble reminder of all that Mother Nature has to offer.

An Australian chef did finish higher up the list with The Ledbury in London’s Notting Hill where chef Brett Graham presides advancing three places to finish tenth.

 

Sydney’s Quay restaurant was ranked as the world’s 60th best.

How the list is compiled

The list is created from the votes of The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy,

an influential group of over 900 international leaders in the restaurant industry. The

Academy comprises 26 separate regions around the world, each of which has 36 members,

including a chairperson, and each member can cast seven votes. Of those seven, at least

three votes must recognise restaurants outside of the academy member’s own region.

The panel in each region is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and

highly regarded ‘gastronomes’. Voters list their choices in order of preference, based on their

best restaurant experiences of the previous 18 months. There is no pre-determined check-list

of criteria.

Categories: Eating Tags:

It’s sushi for a President – Barack Obama at Tokyo’s most famous sushi restaurant

April 24th, 2014 Comments off

It has three Michelin stars, only 10 seats and Barack Obama was the guest there yesterday of Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe.
And the presidential verdict on Sukiyabashi Jiro? “That’s some good sushi right there,” he said. “It was terrific. Thank you so much.”

David Gelb, who directed a film about Jiro Ono described for US National Public Radio what it’s like to dine at such an iconic place.

For starters, the restaurant is hidden in the basement of an office building and offers only one item on its menu — the omakase course, which can cost between $300 and $400 per person. It consists of 20 pieces of sushi, prepared and served one at a time.
“There are no appetizers, no rolls of any kind,” Gelb says. “It’s purely his style of sushi, which is kind of the classic Tokyo style, which is basically just fish and rice and seasoning, maybe a soy sauce or a nikiri, which is a kind of sweetened soy sauce.”

And if you’re fortunate enough to be one of Ono’s costumers, don’t even think about ordering off the menu — even if you are the president of the United States. “The Jiro that I know would not change his sushi for anyone,” Gelb says, adding that “he just gives you what he feels is the best of the day.”

There are a few clues on the maestro’s website to help us mere mortals improve our own sushi style.

  • Get the temperature right

Sushi rice or vinegared rice (su-meshi or shari) is the first consideration for nigirizushi (literally, hand-formed sushi). And the most important point for shari is to keep its temperature around the human body temperature, otherwise the sushi will never satisfy the customer. Our practice is to cook the rice so that it is done about 30 minutes before we welcome customers, to meet their high expectationsIt takes about 60 minutes from starting to wash the rice until it is done (we only use cast iron gas rice cookers that cook the rice for sushi much better than an electric cooker). The vinegar mixture or dressing prepared for sushi is slowly poured over the cooked rice to blend with it. It is then cooled down to body temperature and placed in a covered wooden rice tub, which is in turn placed in a covered straw container to keep the temperature. The vinegar mixture is absorbed by the rice to make the hardness of each grain of rice perfect for sushi. Now the shari is done.

  •  Choose the rice vinegar carefully

Jiro’s sushi rice or shari is prepared with a slight sourness for a better taste, and we increase the sourness in the height of summer. We use natural salt from salt evaporation pools containing much bittern (or nigari for culinary use in Japanese) to prepare our vinegar mixture for sushi.
Our shari with its mild taste and slight sourness, when topped with neta or sushi toppings, produces an outstanding balance, an exquisite combination of pure flavors between shari and neta, which is very important for sushi.

  • Control the temperature of the toppings

The flavor and taste of neta or sushi toppings, which are typically raw fish, greatly depend on the temperature at which each topping is kept before use. Some toppings must be kept slightly cool; others must be kept at room temperature or around human body temperature.About 20 different toppings are offered at Sukiyabashi Jiro. We very carefully control the temperature of these toppings until immediately before serving to ensure that each topping is served at the ideal temperature.

Categories: Eating, International politics Tags:

Do you take notice of on-line restaurant reviews? Then here’s some advice

April 2nd, 2014 Comments off

When you read a restaurant review on TripAdvisor or its equivalent, look carefully at the date it was written. And if you come across a negative review try and remember what the weather was like at the time. Why? Because a study of nearly 1.1 million reviews of 840,000 restaurants over nearly a decade shows that if the weather was uncomfortable the comments were more likely to be cruel than kind.

The researchers, Saeideh Bakhshi, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology; her husband, Partha Kanuparthy, who works for Yahoo Labs; and Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor at the university, found that the most negative reviews were written when it was colder than 4C degrees or warmer than 38C (40 and 100 degrees on the fahrenheit scale), or if it was raining or snowing.

Ms. Bakhshi will present her findings next week in Seoul, South Korea, at the International World Wide Web Conference and in an interview with the New York Times said that some regions of the United States were more prolific in their online reviewing habits than others. Restaurants in the Northeast and on the West Coast were reviewed more than those in the South or the Midwest. Predictably, urban areas with a higher level of education and income tended to participate in online review sites more often.

Among the other findings:

People who waited a long time for a table in busy cities were more forgiving than those who waited in smaller communities. And sushi restaurants were consistently rated higher than hamburger places, the researchers said, showing that ambience and a higher meal cost could produce better reviews.

“That speaks to the perception of price,” Ms. Bakhshi said. “Places that have nice ambience and are listed as romantic or trendy or more expensive, the rating is higher.”

… The team found that Seattle, as a whole, tended to offer lower reviews than many other cities. Sunny San Diego had the most five-star reviews.

To reach their conclusions the authors created analytic computer models based on data from several sites, including TripAdvisorFoursquare and Citysearch.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Butter Is Back – No evidence that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease

March 26th, 2014 Comments off

via Butter Is Back – NYTimes.com.

Butter is back, and when you’re looking for a few chunks of pork for a stew, you can resume searching for the best pieces — the ones with the most fat. Eventually, your friends will stop glaring at you as if you’re trying to kill them.

That the worm is turning became increasingly evident a couple of weeks ago, when a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. (In fact, there’s some evidence that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging.) The researchers looked at 72 different studies and, as usual, said more work — including more clinical studies — is needed. For sure. But the days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! may finally be drawing to a close.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Cutting down on sugar – new recommendations from the WHO

March 6th, 2014 Comments off

The World Health Organisation is advising people to to halve the amount of sugar in their diet. A new WHO draft guideline on sugars intake released overnight proposes that sugars should be less than 10% of total energy intake per day. It further suggests that a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits. Five per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI).

The suggested limits on intake of sugars in the draft guideline apply to all monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) that are added to food by the manufacturer, the cook or the consumer, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

Much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar.

Categories: Eating Tags:

They did it with wine and now Europe is turning to protect the names of it cheeses

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

So you like a King Island brie or a little bit of Italiano locally made parmesan. Well enjoy them while you can because history suggests they won’t be available for long. Not the cheeses themselves, mind you. Just the names.

The European Union is on the warpath in an effort to protect what it claims as unique European food names. It is a repeat of the successful efforts a decade or so ago to get outsiders calling their wines burgundy, moselle, port or sherry.

At the moment the pressure is being applied to the United States as part of negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but Australia’s turn is sure to come.

Before our dairy industry reacts with horror it should remember that getting the Australian wine industry to drop European names turned out to be a blessing in disguise for our industry. Major markets throughout the world did not take long to realise that accurately named wines from Australia were often of better quality and value for money than those with the historical names.

Categories: Eating, International politics Tags:

Human diets around the world have become more similar and other news and views noted along the way Tuesday 4 March

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

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A comprehensive new study of global food supplies confirms and thoroughly documents for the first time what experts have long suspected: over the last five decades, human diets around the world have grown ever more similar—by a global average of 36 percent—and the trend shows no signs of slowing, with major consequences for human nutrition and global food security.

“More people are consuming more calories, protein and fat, and they rely increasingly on a short list of major food crops, like wheat, maize and soybean, along with meat and dairy products, for most of their food,” said lead author Colin Khoury, a scientist at the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), which is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. “These foods are critical for combating world hunger, but relying on a global diet of such limited diversity obligates us to bolster the nutritional quality of the major crops, as consumption of other nutritious grains and vegetables declines.”

…  The research reveals that the crops now predominant in diets around the world include several that were already quite important a half-century ago—such as wheat, rice, maize and potato. But the emerging “standard global food supply” described by the study also consists of energy-dense foods that have risen to global fame more recently, like soybean, sunflower oil and palm oil. Wheat is a major staple in 97.4 percent of countries and rice in 90.8 percent; soybean has become significant to 74.3 percent of countries.

In contrast, many crops of considerable regional importance—including cereals like sorghum, millets and rye, as well as root crops such as sweet potato, cassava and yam—have lost ground. Many other locally significant grain and vegetable crops—for which globally comparable data are not available—have suffered the same fate. For example, a nutritious tuber crop known as Oca, once grown widely in the Andean highlands, has declined significantly in this region both in cultivation and consumption.

  • Putin’s Kampf – Charles Tannock, a member of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament, writes:’Russia’s seizure of Crimea is the most naked example of peacetime aggression that Europe has witnessed since Nazi Germany invaded the Sudetenland in 1938. It may be fashionable to belittle the “lessons of Munich,” when Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier appeased Hitler, deferring to his claims on Czechoslovakia. But if the West acquiesces to Crimea’s annexation – the second time Russian President Vladimir Putin has stolen territory from a sovereign state, following Russia’s seizure of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions in 2008 – today’s democratic leaders will surely regret their inaction.’
  • Why Obama Shouldn’t Fall for Putin’s Ukrainian Folly – “If there is one absolutely undeniable fact about Ukraine, which screams from every election and every opinion poll since its independence two decades ago, it is that the country’s population is deeply divided between pro-Russian and pro-Western sentiments. Every election victory for one side or another has been by a narrow margin, and has subsequently been reversed by an electoral victory for an opposing coalition. What has saved the country until recently has been the existence of a certain middle ground of Ukrainians sharing elements of both positions; that the division in consequence was not clear cut; and that the West and Russia generally refrained from forcing Ukrainians to make a clear choice between these positions.”
  • The New Ukraine: Inside Kiev’s House of Cards – “In the days after Yanukovych’s fall, the Ukrainian president’s lavish lifestyle spurred outrage around the world. Now the provisional government is struggling to avoid the corruption and clientelism that plagued its predecessors.”
  • The Russo-Papal Alliance in the Mideast – What has brought Russia’s Putin and Pope Francis together?

How the sausage is made

March 1st, 2014 Comments off

‘The Meat Racket’ and ‘In Meat We Trust’ – NYTimes.com.

Boy, are we ever conflicted about our food, and never is this more obvious than when it comes to the thing that we, as a nation, consume more of than just about anyone else on earth: meat.

This is in some way the point of both Christopher Leonard’s brilliant, in-depth portrait of Tyson Foods, “The Meat ­Racket,” and Maureen Ogle’s “In Meat We Trust,” her fascinating history of what she calls “Carnivore America.” Food production is not just about food — it’s about almost everything else, too, from politics to culture to economics. Both books elucidate two guiding contradictions of the American experience. The first is that we are suspicious of big businesses, even as we worship the individuals who build them. Second, we loathe industrial food production, even as we continue to move en masse to cities and suburbs, thereby deepening our dependence on cheap, ubiquitous edibles.

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The switch to antibiotic free chickens

February 20th, 2014 Comments off

Americans Want Antibiotic-Free Chicken, And The Industry Is Listening : The Salt : NPR.

Indeed, while antibiotic-free chicken is still a relatively small fraction of the market — accounting for about 9 percent of the $9 billion to $10 billion spent on fresh chicken in 2013 — it’s a “fast-growing sector,” says Joe Kolano with IRI/FreshLook, which tracks retail sales of perishable groceries. Driving that growth is concern about the risks associated with routine use of antibiotics in farm animals, says Bob Martin, director of food systems at the Center for Sustainable Living at Johns Hopkins.

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The Russian alternative to tapas

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

Drink Vodka, Eat Pickles, Repeat: Mastering The Zakuski Spread – NPR’s the salt

Zakuski are often described as Russia’s answer to tapas — a little bite to have with your drink. …

They can be as simple as salted herring, or as rich as blini and caviar. …

And the dishes on the zakuski table don’t just provide a delicious snack. In a sense, they tell the story of Russia. There are pickles of all sorts — green tomatoes, apples, mushrooms, cabbage — a nod to the food preservation that kept produce available during the long Russian winters.

The zakuski table also expanded during the Soviet Era — as new republics entered the Soviet Union, new flavors arose. There was the bright cuisine of the more temperate Caucasus — full of walnut sauce and fresh herbs for those with enough connections to secure them — and the Baltics, from which canned sprats are now a fixture on many zakuskitables.

The Soviet Era was also the era of mayonnaise, which brought several mayo-blanketed salads to the zakuski table, as the state promoted this new industrial product — salads like the appealingly named “Herring Under a Fur Coat,” or Salat Olivier.

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A sensible role for My Kitchen Rules?

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change Cuisine: It’s What’s for Dinner – Climate Central

Is this the future of eating?

Living in Ames, Iowa, Steven Cannon is no stranger to the Midwestern potluck. Instead of a potato-chip-capped casserole, however, Cannon serves up “potato beans” fried in duck fat or simmered in south Indian spices. Either way, he says the smooth-textured starch, hinting of boiled peanut flavor, is always a hit.

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The potato bean, also called groundnut, is one of 20,000 wild legumes that go uncultivated. ..

Currently, only 30 crops provide 95 percent of calories consumed worldwide, yet some 7,000 plant species have been used as food crops throughout history. Variously called orphan, neglected or underutilized species, these potential crops have an added bonus — they are often climate hardy.

“In addition to breeding more robust varieties of corn, soybean and wheat, we should also domesticate species already adapted for extremes,” Cannon told a crowd at the International Plant and Animal Genome conference in San Diego in January.

The Climate Central article argues that the effect chefs have on popular food culture is immense and that they are the ones who will create a demand for new foods and an incentive for farmers to plant them.

Maybe a sensible role for My Kitchen Rules?

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Kobe beef | The Japan Times goes myth busting

January 9th, 2014 Comments off

Approximately 7,000 head of Tajima cattle go to market every year, but only about 4,000 make the grade as Kobe beef. And while the animals do require special care, the stories about music, massage and beer are — ahem — just a bunch of bull. “We actually don’t know how those rumors started,” the official told me. “There may be a farmer who occasionally gives a cow a rub down, but neither music nor massage is standard practice and neither would affect the quality of the meat.

And the beer?

“You’ve seen the price of beer in Japan,” he quipped. “Who could afford to give that to cows?”

But seriously, beer would not make the beef taste better, and farmers don’t feed cattle beer. The association is doing its best to supplant these fables with true stories, such as how breeders have meticulously maintained the pure Tajima bloodline for hundreds of years in order to protect and preserve the special taste of Kobe beef. As part of that effort, they’ve launched a swanky website with English and Chinese as well as Japanese.

via Kobe beef | The Japan Times.

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Raw fish make a dinner to remember

January 2nd, 2014 Comments off

No postings over the last week – been too busy fishing with brother David down at Tuross. A wonderful week culminating in a sashimi dinner with fish as it should be – caught by hand, quickly refrigerated, sliced and eaten within hours of being taken from the sea.

A fine array too: flathead (sand and dusky though I could not taste any difference), bream, tailor, mullet and flounder. The brother must have been studying those Japanese experts over the years when he went to restaurants because he’s become a dab hand with the filleting knife.

I am looking forward to a return encounter after that Tuross native Alan Ramsey tales to the water in a few days time to add whiting to the menu. He’s a light fingered expert at catching them.

 

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China Bans Shark Fin Soup From Official Banquets | ThinkProgress

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

China Bans Shark Fin Soup From Official Banquets | ThinkProgress.

China has banned shark fin soup and bird’s nest soup from official banquets, a move that’s meant to cut back on extravagances in government spending but that could have significant environmental benefits.

 

The ban is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crack-down on corruption and lavish spending in the Chinese government, and also stipulates that cigarettes and expensive liquors are prohibited from official dinners. But the ban on shark fin soup, in particular, comes a year after the country pledged to ban the soup from official banquets and after several years of outcry from within China and throughout the world over the cruelty and grave environmental consequences of the dish.

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Fast casual restaurants for a political capital

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

I wonder if Canberra will follow suit? From the Washington Post website – Lunch wars: How fast casual took over D.C., and why the boom is fading

Washington, D.C., isn’t usually the first for food trends sweeping the nation… But there’s one culinary phenomenon for which D.C. is second to none: The rise of fast-casual restaurants, that category in between McDonald’s and Applebee’s, with an haute cuisine twist.

Seemingly every week, a well-designed new lunch spot opens up, or the third or fourth or fifth branch of an existing one, with impressively fresh ingredients and fast turnaround — Chop’t, Sweetgreen, Zoup, Chix, Thaaja, Newton Noodles, Vapiano, Potbelly, Cosi, Shophouse. They’re usually some version of the proven Chipotle model, with an assembly line of base (wrap or salad?), protein (chicken, beef, or tofu?) and veggies (pick four).

That’s no accident. Professional Washington had been under-lunched for decades, with limp cafeterias and high-powered white tablecloths and not much in between. A sustained employment boom has created a resurgent downtown full of affluent office workers, and perfectly matched the emerging style of food service — while still having lower costs than otherwise appealing markets such as San Francisco and New York City.

What does the new breed look like? Fast casual restaurants tend to have most of their technology in the front of the house, with customer loyalty apps and online ordering rather than complicated food preparation systems. They’re very often “all natural” and organic, and build advertising around where their ingredients come from (“Food with integrity,” is how Chipotle puts it). And they specialize in one cuisine, but aren’t sticklers for authenticity…

What does the new breed look like? Fast casual restaurants tend to have most of their technology in the front of the house, with customer loyalty apps and online ordering rather than complicated food preparation systems. They’re very often “all natural” and organic, and build advertising around where their ingredients come from (“Food with integrity,” is how Chipotle puts it). And they specialize in one cuisine, but aren’t sticklers for authenticity.

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What the labels don’t tell you about 6 top fake sugars

November 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Will Fake Sugars Kill You? | Mother Jones.

Sugar kills. The delicious white crack has been linked to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. So what’s a person with a sweet tooth to do? Artificial sweeteners are a tempting choice, since they don’t have calories or rot your teeth, and they’re recommended for people with diabetes. But some of the fake stuff comes with its own potential health risks: Links to cancer in animal studies, reported side effects ofdizziness and headaches, and exacerbated stomach problems, to name a few. And in one case, an artificial sweetener that the FDA had proposed banning was kept on the shelves after an aggressive advertising campaign from the pro-sweetener lobbying industry. Peggy Ballman, a spokesperson for Splenda, tells Mother Jones that, “We always encourage people to make informed choices by reviewing the credible research available.”

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Legs fall off China’s hairy crab industry

November 18th, 2013 Comments off

Legs fall off China’s hairy crab industry – FT.com.

Free “hairy crabs” used to be one of the perks of government service in eastern China at this time of year – peak season for these hairy-limbed delicacies, one of China’s many currencies of corruption.

But, according to crab sellers around Yangcheng lake near Shanghai, home to some of China’s most famous crustacean restaurants, no government departments are staging hairy crab banquets this year.

 

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I’ll Fry Anything Once

November 14th, 2013 Comments off

Tempura restaurants will unpretentiously dip anything in oil – Matthew Amster-Burton writing in The Magazine, “a fortnightly periodical full of features for curious people. ”

2013-11-14_tempura

Photo by Danny Choo

Overmixing is the enemy of good tempura, because it makes the coating tough and chewy, and a confident tempura chef finishes mixing the batter by dragging your shrimp or eggplant through it. By the time the food is cooked, you’d never guess that its crisp and even exterior came from a batter that looks like boarding-school cafeteria oatmeal.

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The Demi-Glace Ceiling: Why Do We Ignore Lady Chefs?

November 14th, 2013 Comments off

The Demi-Glace Ceiling: Why Do We Ignore Lady Chefs? | Mother Jones.

The much-hyped San Pellegrino/ Acqua Panna list of the world’s 50 best restaurants—the industry gold standard—honors only two kitchens led by female chefs (both of them in tandem with men). And just a handful of the world’s 100-plus restaurants with three Michelin stars have a woman at the helm. Ruth Reichl, the former New York Times restaurant critic and Gourmet editor, recalls how, back when the she was part of the California cooking revolution in the 1980s, “we were all convinced that the time of the woman chef was coming.” So why, 30 years later, does all the high prestige in the food world—like in Fortune 500 corner offices and Ivy League science departments—go to people with penises? Reichl says that sexism and even misogyny remain “very much a part of the culture” in top-end restaurants. Another factor is the kitchen system that, she estimates, more than 90 percent of US restaurants use: the assembly-line French brigade model codified by the chef Auguste Escoffier in the late 19th century.

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Chef Chat: We Pick The Brains Of Ottolenghi And Tamimi

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

Chef Chat: We Pick The Brains Of Ottolenghi And Tamimi : The Salt : NPR.

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi own four wildly popular London restaurants and have authored runaway best-selling cookbooks for omnivores and vegetarians alike.The two hail from the West and East sides of Jerusalem, respectively, and first crossed paths in London in the 1990s. In 2002 they opened Ottolenghi, a small deli that Tamimi says resembles a flower shop, bursting with the color of freshly made salads and desserts, rooted in and inspired by their native Middle East. And unlike many other international chefs who have found fame in America — where their book Jerusalem was a surprise best-seller — Ottolenghi and Tamimi made it here without having appeared on a TV cooking show or otherwise succumbing to the personality-driven culture of today’s celebrity chefs.

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An Overdue Ban on Trans Fats – NYTimes.com

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

An Overdue Ban on Trans Fats – NYTimes.com.

The Food and Drug Administration is moving to ban virtually all artificial trans fats from the American food supply. This long-awaited move should save thousands of lives and potentially billions of dollars in medical and economic costs a year.

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How to Carve a Turkey

October 20th, 2013 Comments off

Learning from an American – they know how to do these things, what with their Thanksgiving and all

Carving a turkey

And to add a little seriousness to the subject, have a read of something that seems to defy the logic of economists:

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