Recently in Food Category

Licking the spoon - not such a good idea

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From Barfblog:

E. coli O26 and (O121) loves flour
I used to be a lick-the-batter-off-the-spoon kind of guy. I stopped doing that a few years ago. I don’t eat raw cookie dough, or let my kids eat it. I’m probably not the most fun dad, but outbreaks recalls like what is going on right now is why.

General Mills announced today a voluntary national recall of five-pound bags of its Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose Flour with a better if used by date of September 6, 2020. The recall is being issued for the potential presence of E. coli O26 which was discovered during sampling of the five-pound bag product. This recall is being issued out of an abundance of care as General Mills has not received any direct consumer reports of confirmed illnesses related to this product.

This recall only affects this one date code of Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose Flour five-pound bags. All other types of Gold Medal Flour are not affected by this recall.

Guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to warn that consumers should refrain from consuming any raw products made with flour. E. coli O26 is killed by heat through baking, frying, sautéing or boiling products made with flour. All surfaces, hands and utensils should be properly cleaned after contact with flour or dough.

E. coli can be found in the most unusual places. Sanitation in food preperation is paramount. One of the first things I learned when doing food service back 40 years ago.

Argentinians love their steak

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Video from a rodeo - vegetarian protestors interrupt the event:

From the YouTube link:

Vegans stage protest during a rodeo...
Argentinian cowboys put their whips to good use..

"Vegan and Animal Rights Activists Stage Protest at Exposición Rural.

This Saturday at La Exposición de Gandadería, – commonly known as Expo Rural – more than 40 vegan activists staged a peaceful protest interrupting a dressage contest.

The activists walked onto the central track, bearing posters with slogans against the exploitation of animals.

Less than a minute later, a tense and violent altercation ensued: using their horses, gauchos ran them off and out of the area.

Most audience members repudiated the protest, erupting in applause when the activists were kicked off"

Heh - silly vegans...

An interesting look at soy

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A lot of people are relying on soy protein for their diet. Here is an look at why this might not be such a good idea
From Natural Foods:

Fermented Soy is Only Soy Food Fit for Human Consumption
Writings about the soybean date back to 3000 B.C., when the Emperor of China listed the virtues of soybean plants for regenerating the soil for future crops. His praises centered on the root of the plant, not the bean. These ancient writing suggested that the Chinese recognized the unfitness of soybeans for human consumption in their natural form. Now 5000 years later, we are once again catching on to the anti-nutritive qualities of the soybean, and realizing that the only soybean worth eating is one that has been fermented.

About 1000 B.C. some smart person in China discovered that a mold, when allowed to grow on soybeans, destroyed the toxins present and made the nutrients in the beans available to the body. This process became known as fermentation and led to the creation of the still popular foods tempeh, miso, and natto.

A few centuries later, a simpler process was developed to prepare soybeans for consumption. After lengthy soaking and cooking, the beans were treated with nigari, a substance found in seawater. The end product was tofu. During the Ming dynasty, fermented soy appeared in the Chinese Materia Medica as a nutritionally important food and an effective remedy for diseases.

A bit more - some symptoms:

Unfermented soy has been linked to digestive distress, immune system breakdown, PMS, endometriosis, reproductive problems for men and women, allergies, ADD and ADHD, higher risk of heart disease and cancer, malnutrition, and loss of libido.

Groups most at risk of experiencing negative effects from the anti-nutrient properties of soy are infants taking soy baby formula, vegetarians eating a high soy diet, and mid-life women going heavy on the soy foods thinking they will help with symptoms of menopause.

I wonder if this is in part the cause of the ills of modern civilization. Everyone is so triggered all the time, people needing anti-depressants, panic attacks, etc... Our soy intake has certainly spiked over the last 20 years. I use it myself but use it as tofu and do a minimal use as TVP.

As for a simple vegetarian diet, there are these two headlines:

I could go on but you get the idea...

A Vegan diet

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Totally bad for you. Now, with even more bad news. From the London Daily Mail:

Trendy vegan diets could LOWER IQ due to lack of a nutrient that is critical to brain health, leading nutritionist warns
Trendy vegan diets could be putting the IQ of the next generation at risk, a leading nutritionist has warned.

Dr Emma Derbyshire said the growing fad for 'plant-based' diets risks creating mass deficiency in choline – a dietary nutrient that is critical to brain development.

Choline, found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, is particularly important in pregnancy, when it contributes to the healthy growth of a baby's brain.

Dr Derbyshire, writing in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health journal, warned of the 'unintended consequences' of moving away from diets based on meat and dairy.

A bit more:

She added: 'We are at risk of dumbing down the brain power of the next generation. Plant-based diets are great and brilliant for the environment.

'But in terms of reducing intake of choline - which is vital for foetal brain development - no-one had given it much thought.

'The train is moving so fast, and more people are ditching meat and eggs. But it could leave many women of childbearing age deficient in this key nutrient.'

But if you have been eating vegan for a few years, you are already dumbed down to where the importance of this does not register to you.

I once managed a bakery for a couple years (long story) and we had a vegan customer. I always paid attention to my customer's dietary needs (have a few myself) and one day, XXX came to me and said that the pastry they had the other day was so wonderful. It gave him energy and made him feel so good. I checked with the wait staff and it turns out that what he ate the other day had a lot of butter in it - about a half-ounce. Did not have the heart to tell him that. He still lives in the area and still looks like crap - sallow skin, greasy stringy hair and shambles when he walks. I think he is in his 30's but he acts like he is 50.

Simple soup for dinner tonight

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Doing a lentil and carrot soup for dinner tonight with a salad fresh from the farmer's market. Quick, filling and nutritional.

Also picked up some fava beans and planning to do a salad like this for tomorrow: Easy Fava Bean and Carrot Salad With Ricotta Recipe - I will be leaving off the ricotta as I have a problem digesting cheese but everything else looks yummy.

Heading out for two pints later - some live music playing.


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Heading out for dinner and a couple pints. Putting some beans on to soak for minnestrone soup for tomorrow. Been a while since I made any and with the cool drizzly weather, it will be perfect. Maybe make a Panzanella Salad to start the meal with. I have some crusty bread that is a bit old.

In three words? Higher Food Prices. From Michael Snyder writing at The Economic Collapse:

Crop Catastrophe In The Midwest – Latest USDA Crop Progress Report Indicates That A Nightmare Scenario Is Upon Us
The last 12 months have been the wettest in all of U.S. history, and this has created absolutely horrific conditions for U.S. farmers.  Thanks to endless rain and historic flooding that has stretched on for months, many farmers have not been able to plant crops at all, and a lot of the crops that have actually been planted are deeply struggling.  What this means is that U.S. agricultural production is going to be way, way down this year.  The numbers that I am about to share with you are deeply alarming, and they should serve as a wake up call for all of us.  The food that each one of us eats every day is produced by our farmers, and right now our farmers are truly facing a nightmare scenario.

You can view the latest USDA crop progress report right here.  According to that report, corn and soybean production is way behind expectations.

Last year, 78 percent of all corn acreage had been planted by now.  This year, that number is sitting at just 49 percent.

And the percentage of corn that has emerged from the ground is at a paltry 19 percent compared to 47 percent at this time last year.

We see similar numbers when we look at soybeans.

And it is not just crops in the USA:

Over in Asia, the biggest problem right now is African Swine Flu. Earlier today, I came across a CNBC article which stated that “up to 200 million Chinese pigs” may have already been lost to this nightmarish disease…

A trade fight with the U.S. isn’t the only war China is fighting. African swine flu has decimated the pig population in China and sent pork prices soaring. As many as up to 200 million Chinese pigs have reportedly been lost due to the disease.

Now, Wall Street analysts are scrambling to assess the fallout from the fast spreading illness and how to invest around it.

The entire U.S. pork industry does not even produce 200 million pigs in an entire year.

Despite the hyperbolic name of his blog, Dr. Snyder is not your typical TEOTWAWKI Survivalist - his writing is well thought out and based on concrete data, not hand waving and rhetoric.

News I can get behind - brisket

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I love a good brisket. From Texas Hill Country:

Texas Research Scientist Says Brisket Might be Good for You
If it was perfected in Texas, you can bet someone from this state is proving it’s good for you. Such is the case for brisket and ground beef! Researchers out of Texas A&M have found that not only does it make for some of the tastiest food you’ll ever try, but (believe it or not) it comes with some health benefits too.

Their findings confirmed that high levels of oleic acid can be had in beef brisket. You want this because it lowers LDLs (the “bad” kind of cholesterol,) and produces high levels of HDLs (the good kind, which are said to promote better heart health). Dr. Stephen Smith, a research scientist from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, explained the findings. “Brisket has higher oleic acid than the flank or plate, which are the trims typically used to produce ground beef,” he said. “The fat in brisket also has a low melting point, that’s why the brisket is so juicy.” Researchers in this study have also found that the same applies to ground beef, but to a lesser degree.

Ran into this recipie last night - will be queing it up soon. Looks really good.
From Food Wishes: Easy Baked Beef Brisket – Slow and Low is Not the Tempo

Great article about the history of this iconic American food - from The New York Times:

The Sweet Success of the Spiral-Cut Ham
In the 1930s, Harry J. Hoenselaar was just another ham salesman in Detroit trying to find an edge.

He spent his days handing out samples of honey-glazed ham and teaching drugstore clerks how to slice it for sandwiches. Although he was a master at knifing ham from the bone, he knew there had to be a better way.

His family, which still runs the Honey Baked Ham Company he founded in 1957, says the answer came to him in a dream. With a tire jack, a pie tin, a washing machine motor and a knife, he fashioned the world’s first spiral ham slicer — a contraption that would become one of the world’s great ham innovations.

If an aged country ham is like jazz, funky and improvised, a spiral-cut is the pop music of the ham world — sweet, approachable and easy to eat. Even though ham snobs may look down on it, it’s a rare critic who won’t grab a slice of the tender, pale pink meat given the chance.

Fun story and I did not know the history. I get the Costco spiral hams, cut them up and cryovac them. They take just ten minutes in warm water to thaw and are perfect for a meal. That actually sounds pretty good - haven't had ham for dinner for a while...

Take that - Kale Lovers

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Much prefer chard to Kale - even Collards is better. From CNBC News:

Kale is now one of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables
Often touted for being highly nutritious, kale has joined the list of 11 other fruits and vegetables known to be “dirty,” according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group.

The watchdog group publishes its “Dirty Dozen” list annually, in which it ranks the 12 produce items that contain the highest amount of pesticide residues. The group analyzes data from the Department of Agriculture’s regular produce testing to determine the list.

And what did they find?

More than 92 percent of kale had residue from at least two pesticides after washing and peeling the appropriate vegetables, according to the report. Some had up to 18. Almost 60 percent of the kale samples showed residual Dacthal, a pesticide that is known as a possible human carcinogen.

What to eat?

The group releases its “Clean Fifteen” list as well, highlighting the 15 produce items with the least amount of pesticide residue detected. It includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honeydew melons.

I love all of these except for eggplant. Never liked eggplant.

Quote of the day

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Found over at Kim DuToit's place:

“Vegan is just a polite word for eating disorder.”

So true. Working in my store, I can tell the vegans from everyone else. They simply do not seem healthy. It is amazing the levels of abuse the human body can tolerate without breaking down completely.

My thoughts exactly - coffee

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Found at Peter's


Peasant food - England

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In line with this, some of my favorite foods are what used to be slave food. Wholesome, cheap and flavorful.

Slaves were a valuable resource and they burned through a lot of calories doing their masters work every day. They needed to be fed cheaply and well.

An interesting discovery - tea

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Tea has a lot of chemicals that are beneficial to us humans. Unfortunately, the process of decaffeinating the tea also removes a lot of those chemicals so although you do not get the jitters, you do not get the health benefits when drinking decaffeinated tea.

Which brings us to this interesting paper at the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:

Hongyacha, a Naturally Caffeine-Free Tea Plant from Fujian, China
Hongyacha (HYC) is a type of new wild tea plant discovered in Fujian Province, China. This tea is helpful to the healing or prevention of disease in its original growing area. However, research on this tea is limited. Our results showed that HYC displayed obvious differences in its morphological characteristics compared with Cocoa tea (Camellia ptilophylla Chang), a famous caffeine-free tea plant in China. Theobromine and trans-catechins, but not caffeine and cis-catechins, were the dominant purine alkaloids and catechins detected in HYC. HYC might contain abundant gallocatechin-(4 → 8)-gallocatechin gallate, 1,3,4,6-tetra-O-galloyl-β-d-glucopyranose, and (−)-gallocatechin-3,5-di-O-gallate, which were not detected in regular tea. We also found that the TCS1 of HYC was distinct, and the responding recombinant protein exhibited only theobromine synthase activity. The obtained results showed that HYC is a new kind of caffeine-free tea plant and may be used for scientific protection and efficient utilization in the future.

And I bet that they are working on sequencing the genome, finding what makes it caffeine free and doing a bit of CRISPR with conventional tea plants.

Yikes - no Romaine for you

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From the Centers for Disease Control:

CDC is advising that U.S. consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any, until we learn more about the outbreak. This investigation is ongoing and the advice will be updated as more information is available.

    • Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
      • This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
      • If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
      • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
    • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing romaine.
    • Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection:
      • Talk to your healthcare provider.
      • Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
      • Report your illness to the health department.
      • Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.

Place I was at this evening was using spinach for their salads. Nobody seemed to mind.

Science rules! - pizza

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Interesting paper - from the Abstract:

The Physics of baking good Pizza
Physical principles are involved in almost any aspect of cooking. Here we analyze the specific process of baking pizzas, deriving in simple terms the baking times for two different situations: For a brick oven in a pizzeria and a modern metallic oven at home. Our study is based on basic thermodynamic principles relevant to the cooking process and is accessible to undergraduate students. We start with a historical overview of the development and art of pizza baking, illustrate the underlying physics by some simple common examples, and then apply them in detail to the example of baking pizza.

Pretty solid paper - they look at the dynamics of heat transfer and the effects of water in the dough and toppings (vegetables carry a lot of water).

PDF download here: The Physics of baking good Pizza

Nice article on Iceberg Lettuce at The New Yorker - includes an interesting recipe for pickled hearts which I will have to try:

It’s Time to Admit That Iceberg Is a Superior Lettuce
There are many categories of salad snob—the ingredient minimalists, the chop evangelists, the dressing-goes-in-the-bowl-first brigade—but perhaps the most vocal, and the most misguided, are those dedicated to the denigration of iceberg lettuce. To its detractors, iceberg is the avatar of commodity gastronomy—“the polyester of lettuces” is a popular gibe. The influential Times food editor Craig Claiborne famously loathed it. “It is omnipresent,” Alice Waters, goddess of the farmer’s market, sniffed in a 2001 interview. “It doesn’t have a season,” she said. “It doesn’t have a sense of place.” The only thing iceberg really has going for it is durability, this line of thinking goes—it’s a lettuce for growers, shippers, warehousers, and sellers, not a lettuce for eaters. But, like its glacial namesake, iceberg lettuce has a lot more going on beneath the surface. For starters, it’s far from flavorless: focus your palate as you take a bite and notice a clean sweetness blooming beneath the watery crunch, deepening, in the pale ruffle of the inner leaves and stems, to a toasty bitterness, with whispers of caraway and coriander seeds.

Some fun writing.

My kind of day

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Always start (and sometimes end) the day with a little piece of this.

Happy World Chocolate Day (although do not forget its cousin, International Chocolate Day on September 13th - the birthdate of Milton Snavely Hershey)

Thinking twice - Ramen

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Quick and tasty but... From The Washington Post:

All those instant noodles you eat may put you at risk for heart problems
It’s convenient, cheap and best served hot, but how healthful is it?

The instant noodles commonly known as ramen — a staple food for college kids and other young adults, as well as for people in certain cultures — may increase people’s risk of metabolic changes linked to heart disease and stroke, new research finds.

In the study, women in South Korea who consumed more of the precooked blocks of dried noodles than others were more likely to have the condition known as metabolic syndrome, regardless of what else they ate or how much they exercised, the researchers found. People with metabolic syndrome may have high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels, and they face an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

“Although instant noodle is a convenient and delicious food, there could be an increased risk for metabolic syndrome given [the food’s] high sodium, unhealthy saturated fat and glycemic loads,” said Hyun Shin, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the study.

They looked at over 10,000 people ages 19 through 64 - a good statistical sample size. Everything in moderation...

Big drinker of Diet Coke. This from The Wall Street Journal:

Cheers! Coca-Cola Launches Its First Alcoholic Drink
A fizzy lemon-flavored alcoholic drink that went on sale in Japan on Monday marked Coca-Cola Co.’s first fling at selling alcohol in its 132-year history.

At a sampling event in Fukuoka on Saturday, hundreds of people lined up for a taste, including some who didn’t expect to find the U.S. company experimenting with Japanese-style booze.

A bit more - about the product:

Canned drinks known as chuhai have long been popular in Japan. They are often made with a distilled grain-based alcohol called shochu and carbonated water flavored with fruit juice or other flavorings.

Coca-Cola, a big competitor in nonalcoholic drinks in Japan, is entering the fray with a lemon-flavored version of chuhai called Lemon-Do. It will be available with 3%, 5% and 7% alcohol, including a salty-lemon version and another that is flavored with honey and lemon. The drink doesn’t include any Coke.

I like the three different alcohol contents - they are basically selling booze for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner :)

A great resource for recipies

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T turned me on to a great collection of online recipies. The Puget Consumers Co-op - a Seattle staple for healthy eating. Lots of recipies with an excellent web interface. Check it out!

I turned her on to my favorites - J. Kenji López-Alt's The Food Lab and another website he edits Serious Eats.

Both excellent sites that give details on what is actually happening to the food as you cook it - what to do and why. 

Warnings for Romaine Lettuce

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The E. Coli outbreak is getting worse - from Food Safety News:

All get expanded romaine warnings because of Alaska findings
The federal government today expanded its romaine lettuce warning to include all types of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing region, including whole heads and hearts of romaine in addition to chopped, because of an ongoing E. coli outbreak. No specific brands, growers or processors have been named.

On April 13, the warning against romaine from the Yuma, AZ, only included pre-chopped romaine and salads containing pre-cut romaine. At that time 35 people from 11 states had been confirmed with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the sick people, 22 had required hospitalization.

The CDC’s expanded warning today did not go as far as Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization, did in recent days, urging people to avoid eating any form of romaine lettuce from any region because of the “potentially fatal consequences” until the government declares it “definitely safe.”

The CDC has these recomendations

    • Do not buy or eat romaine lettuce in any form from a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, AZ, growing region.
    • Unless the source of the lettuce is known, consumers anywhere in the United States who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. Food contaminated with E. coli usually does not look or smell bad.
    • Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, pre-packaged salads, and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
    • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce in any form from the Yuma, AZ, growing region.
    • The expanded warning is based on information from the illnesses in Alaska . Ill people in Alaska reported eating lettuce from whole heads of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.

Actually once - to meet for a Craigslist deal (camera lens) - did not buy anything. One reason why from Instapundit:

Starbucks’ CEO (now executive chairman) Howard Schultz, a self-proclaimed “life-long Democrat,” floated the idea of having his baristas lecture customers on racial tolerance, trashed Trump, openly endorsed Hillary and afterwards, vowed “to hire thousands of refugees after President Donald Trump’s first executive order that temporarily banned travel from seven mostly-Muslim nations.”

The other reason? Their coffee is a really mediocre product. There are wonderful roasters in Bellingham, in Seattle, and on Camano Island who make an excellent product. No need to resort to the lowest common denominator.

About those fresh herbs

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A bit of news from the Food and Drug Administration:

FDA Sampling Fresh Herbs, Guacamole and Processed Avocado
In its continued efforts to protect consumers and ensure food safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun testing fresh cilantro, parsley and basil, as well as processed avocado and guacamole, for certain microbial contaminants. These two large-scale sampling assignments will help the FDA assess the rates of bacterial contamination in these commodities, as well as help to identify possible common factors among the positive samples.

The FDA plans to collect 1,600 samples for each assignment. As of January 1, 2018, the agency had collected 35 domestic samples (4.6 percent) and 104 import samples (12.4 percent) of the total for fresh herbs. None of the domestic samples tested positive. Of the 104 import samples tested, 4 tested positive for Salmonella, 3 tested positive for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, and none tested positive for E. coli 0157:H7.

As of January 1, 2018, the agency had collected 58 domestic samples (7.3 percent) and 49 import samples (6.1 percent) of the totals for processed avocado/guacamole. Of the 58 domestic samples tested, 3 tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Of the 49 imported samples, 1 tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. It is important to note that no conclusions about overall contamination rates can be made until all of the data are collected, validated and analyzed.

Yikes - I eat a lot of guacamole. Costco has some nice stuff in a three-pack. Pretty cheap, tasty and freezes well.

Interesting news from the culinary world

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From The New York Times:

Finding a Lost Strain of Rice, and Clues to Slave Cooking
Among the biologists, geneticists and historians who use food as a lens to study the African diaspora, rice is a particularly deep rabbit hole. So much remains unknown about how millions of enslaved Africans used it in their kitchens and how it got to those kitchens to begin with.

That’s what made the hill rice in Trinidad such a find.

The fat, nutty grain, with its West African lineage and tender red hull, was a favored staple for Southern home cooks during much of the 19th century. Unlike Carolina Gold, the versatile rice that until the Civil War was America’s primary rice crop, the hill rice hadn’t made Lowcountry plantation owners rich off the backs of slaves.

It didn’t need to be planted in watery fields surrounded by dikes, which meant that those who grew it weren’t dogged by malaria. You could grow it in a garden patch, as did many of the slaves who had been taken from the rice-growing regions of West Africa. This was the rice of their ancestors, sustaining slaves and, later, generations of Southern cooks both black and white.

A good article - just a bit more:

It is hard to overstate how shocked the people who study rice were to learn that the long-lost American hill rice was alive and growing in the Caribbean. Horticulturists at the Smithsonian Institution want to grow it, rice geneticists at New York University are testing it and the United States Department of Agriculture is reviewing it. If all goes well, it may become a commercial crop in America, and a menu staple as diners develop a deeper appreciation for African-American food.

Looking forward to trying it myself in a year or so. Fascinating story - well worth the time to read.

Yet another bubble - Coffee

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From The Wall Street Journal:

Too Much Caffeine? Coffee Shops Face a Shakeout
America’s coffee market is getting too crowded.

Consumers’ hankering for caffeine and quality coffee has fueled a big build out of cafes in the last five years, especially in dense urban areas such as New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. There are now nearly 33,000 coffee shops in the U.S., including those run by big chains such as Starbucks up 16% from five years ago, according to market research firm Mintel.

The boom in coffee shops is starting to hurt business owners. Consumers are visiting traditional coffee shops less often when there are a plethora of cheaper options. Everyone from McDonald’s Corp. to gas stations is hawking specialty coffee. Even grocery stores are expanding the space devoted to bottled and canned coffee drinks, which Mintel says poses a threat to coffee shops. Traffic growth to large coffee chains such as Starbucks is slowing, while traffic to small coffee chains and independent shops is declining, according to NPD Group Inc.

Not crowded, comoditized. Coffee used to be a specialty item - a luxury - where few people had the taste to discern what they wanted and who was serving it. Now, everything has shifted to some banal middle ground. There are a few old-school places still in existence - here and here - but the majority of places are nothing to write home about.

News you can use - whiskey

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From Phys Org:

Can you make a 10-year malt whisky in weeks? The chemistry says yes
Over the past few years the whisky-drinking world has been introduced to several new products that claim to produce high-quality liquor in just a fraction of the time usually required to age single malt spirits. Instead of maturing the whisky for a decade or more in oak barrels, some distillers say they can replicate the quality and taste in a matter of weeks.

As global whisky consumption continues to rise, could these new ageing techniques be the answer to protecting supply? Or are the claims too good to be true? And even if the taste measures up, does that still necessarily make it the same as a fine aged malt?

Recent innovators in this field include Lost Spirits, whose prizewinning rums and single malts use a patented combination of light and heat to speed up the ageing process. Cleveland Whiskey creates whiskies and bourbons in high-pressure stainless steel tanks that mix the spirit with new wood combinations, creating unique flavours in days.

Highspire Whiskey uses wine barrels and adds oak wood chips to get a product aged in just four months. Tuthilltown Spirits, a distillery based in New York, blasts music through stereo speakers to get their barrels vibrating!

Australia's homegrown example is Deviant Distillery based in Tasmania, which claims to have created a single malt spirit that has the "chemical composition and flavour identical to a 10-year-old whisky". Before we test the validity of such a claim, we should review how brown liquors are made.

Interesting developments - introducing tiny bits of oxygen works. Using oak chips or staves from used wine barrels is used a lot by beer brewers and cider makers. A lot cheaper than trying to use the real oak barrels - these can run several hundred apiece and require very careful maintenance once first used. If they are allowed to dry out, the wood can become infected with wild yeasts which would change the flavor profiles completely.

More information at the site - interesting stuff!

From The Washington Post:

‘How dare they’: Nutella changes recipe, sending its fans to the edge
Not many foods inspire a fandom quite like Nutella.

McDonald’s restaurants in Italy serve it on hamburger buns. Lifestyle websites cheekily offer lists of “signs you’re addicted to Nutella.” And at least one German soccer team dropped a player who couldn’t stop eating it.

Yes, a legion of snackers live for the hazelnut spread. And they’re not happy.

Nutella confirmed on its Twitter feed Wednesday that the recipe “underwent a fine-tuning” after Germany’s Hamburg Consumer Protection Center said on Facebook that  it appeared the recipe had changed.

That set off both panic and anger on social media in a symphony of languages — English, German and Italian chief among them.

“Real cool,” wrote one user, adding, “why not draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa too?”

There are some things in life that you simply do not mess with. Anyone remember the New Coke debacle

A shift in the market - beer

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Seems to be a bit of a shakeup in the beer market these days. My favorite Auction company is James G. Murphy and they have upcoming sales for one tavern and two breweries:


To top this off, our beer distributor says that lightly hopped beers are coming back into style - people are tired of the intense mega-hopping that some breweries try to compete on. I used to drink Arrogant Bastard but now prefer Coors.

From Rob Beschizza writing at BoingBoing:

I found the worst K-Cup coffee
After an exhaustive and uninterrupted search extending over many years, I have finally determined the worst K-Cup coffee. Target's Market Pantry Premium Roast ($15.98 for 48 pods) is about as cheap as Amazon's popular 30-cent K-Cup, but is far worse. It tastes nearly as good as own-brand instant coffee from British supermarkets. It's flavorless yet vile, catching in the throat like air from a house inhabited by forty cats.

Imagine, if you will, old espresso grounds resteeped in sweat and sweetened with flakes of seborrheic dermatitis. You have imagined something no less unpleasant than Market Pantry Premium Roast.

But no snarky turn of phrase or revolting comparison can do it justice. The more you know (or think you know) about coffee—and the more you despise the entire concept of these machines—you owe it to yourself to experience just how bad the K-Cup experience can get, a place whereof one cannot speak, an invitation to the true friend that will never betray, a silence steeped in medium-roast horror.

The mind reels at the thought. My taste-buds are jettisoning themselves off my tongue in sheer panic that I might actually buy one of these to try it out.

I will have to add that to the menu here. I grilled the meat separately from the veggies so I could develop a nice crust and malliard reaction. Cooking the veggies separately meant that I could cook them perfectly (low and slow to caramelize the onions and peppers) and the combination was yummy. The original recipe only uses one frying pan so is simple to cook over a campfire - this way helps to develop the flavors a lot more.

Surf for a little bit - getting up early tomorrow as Thunderbunny (my truck) has a 10:00AM appointment at the car dealership for periodic maintenance.

About that $15/hour minimum wage

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From A. F. Branco:


From The Bellingham Herald:

The Willows Inn, luxury restaurant on Lummi Island, caught underpaying staff in labor investigation
The Willows Inn, a world-class restaurant on Lummi Island, violated federal labor laws by underpaying kitchen staff and requiring trainees to work for free in a month-long tryout for a job, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The upscale inn has earned glowing reviews from food critics for its luxurious, fresh, homegrown menu since 2011, when The New York Times named it one of “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride.” To reach the Willows it takes a five-minute ferry ride across from the Lummi Peninsula, too, a journey that has become a pilgrimage for those willing to spend more than $200 per person for a 15-course meal.

Over the past two years, however, the restaurant has broken federal labor laws by underpaying staff, or having interns work menial jobs such as painting the buildings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

“The restaurant required entry-level kitchen staff known in the industry as ‘stages’ to work one month as a free try-out period before they were considered for paid employment,” according to a news release from the federal agency. “Once on the payroll, the kitchen workers were paid daily rates from $50 per day for up to 14 hours per day with no consideration of weekly overtime premium.”

At The Willows Inn, stages – pronounced staahj, from the French word stagiaire – would clean dishes, polish silverware, collect herbs, prepare vegetables, assemble dishes, clean the facilities, and paint the exterior of the buildings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s common practice at high-end restaurants, though it’s illegal under U.S. labor laws, said Jeannette Aranda, director of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division office in Seattle.

The key problem is that normally, stages are working closely with the chef and are there to learn from them - this way, the chef can see if the applicant will fit in with the culture of the restaurant. Stages at The Willows Inn were expected to do drudge-work - washing dishes, painting the buildings, etc...

News you can use - Garlic

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Just one person's opinion but still - from Western Living Magazine:

Garlic: “One of the most dangerous ingredients in your kitchen”
Forget sharp knives and open flames—garlic is one of the most dangerous things in your kitchen.

In a private demonstration at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Chef and instructor Julian Bond took Western Living staff on a harrowing journey through food safety and the many unassuming dangers in the kitchen—the first stop? Garlic.

Watch Out for Sprouts
When a garlic clove sprouts even the smallest green shoot in its centre, it’s now unsafe for eating. “It’s a perfect garlic if you want to grow garlic,” says Bond. “But this sprout, if moisture gets in here in any shape or form, it’s actually a mild form of salmonella will grow in there and give you an upset belly.” The chef explained that often when diners get an upset stomach after a meal, it’s the garlic—not suspect meat—that’s to blame.

Interesting - I use a lot of garlic in my cooking and I do avoid the sprouts but for more of a taste issue than a disease one. They taste bitter.

From Only In Your State comes this entry for a restaurant:

There’s A Bacon-Themed Restaurant In Oklahoma And It’s Everything You’ve Ever Dreamed Of
If there’s one meat item we all can’t live without, I think we could agree it’s our beloved bacon. And while you can find it in most Oklahoma restaurants, we found a restaurant that’s overflowing with bacon. From the moment you walk into Bacon in Oklahoma City, the smell alone makes your mouth start watering. Bacon lovers you will want to visit this bacon-themed restaurant…it’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of (and more).

They even do a Bacon/Caramel ice cream for desert - sounds delicious.

Tip of the hat to Firehand at Irons in the Fire for the link.

RIP - Sam Panopoulos

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Sam Panopoulos? From the BBC:

Hawaiian pizza inventor Sam Panopoulos dies aged 83
Sam Panopoulos, who has died aged 83, leaves a legacy that has delighted, confused and appalled diners worldwide. Often at the same time.

Panopoulos is the Canadian man who invented Hawaiian pizza, a dish so divisive it led to a presidential outburst this year.

He passed away in hospital suddenly on Thursday.

Panopoulos emigrated to Canada from Greece in 1954 when he was 20, eventually going on to own and operate several successful restaurants with his two brothers.

It was in one of those restaurants in 1962 that Panopoulos was inspired to add canned pineapple to pizza.

It was invented by Sam Panopoulos, who moved to Canada from Greece aged 20

In February, Panopoulos recounted to the BBC how he and his brothers came up with the idea for the pizza, topped with pineapple and ham.

Anthony Bourdain on food trends

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Lettuce in the news

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That deluge in California three months ago? It is showing up at the grocery stores right now - from the Sacramento, CA CBS affiliate:

Lettuce Prices On The Rise As California’s Wet Winter Prevents Planting
Eating healthy is about to take a bigger bite out of your budget, thanks to California’s wet winter.

You might have noticed your local grocery store lacking in lettuce, and the drought-busting winter is to blame.

If you’re a big fan of salads, BLTs or anything avocado, you’re not going to be a fan of the latest news on produce prices.

And it is not the rain now, it was the rain that prevented planting.

“It is all because of the rain. The rain not last week, not last month, but the rain three months ago. Three months ago we should have been planting crops that we should be harvesting now. We can’t harvest those crops because they weren’t planted,” Marks said.

The bagged salad mixes are still pretty cheap probably because these are mostly grown in greenhouses. I looked today and a head of green leaf lettuce at our local wholesaler was $4.49. The stuff we were getting before was from Mexico but their lettuce season is over - too hot there now.

Oh the tragedy!

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From Michigan’s Livingston Daily Press & Argus:

Pepsi mops up 'unusual' Mountain Dew spill
Some 7,200 gallons of concentrated Mountain Dew syrup created a "huge foaming event" and generated environmental concerns after it went down the drain, literally, at the Pepsi bottling plant on Mason Road in Howell last month.

Mountain Dew is my soft drink of choice - specifically the Throwback formulation. Original formula and made with cane sugar instead of HFCS

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