Sunday, September 30, 2007

Drowning in a Sea of Wine

by The Foodist

For the last three weeks I've been neck deep in wine. Normally I wouldn't make it sound like a chore, but in this case I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that wine class is the hardest, most academically challenging, study-intense class at the CIA. But its not to say it wasn't worth it.

I am a little frustrated though with the short amount of time allowed for the class. The information given in the class is overwhelming for someone like me. I'm far more of an kinesthetic learner, hence being in culinary school and wanting to be a chef, so to be sat in front of a book and required to memorize powerpoints for three weeks doesn't do it for me.

Regardless of my struggle in the class I have to say I'm only more interested in wine. Instructors Michael Weiss and Stephen Kolpan do an excellent job of stating the basics in a straight-forward manner. Their passion and wealth of information is prevalent in every class. Given the fact that I studied till my brain felt as though it was melting out of my ears and I just barely squeezed by in the class, I give these gentlemen plenty of Kudos'.

We tasted close to 60 wines in the total three weeks of class and I've reinforced the fact that I love Champagne and Sparkling wines, and found a new love in the world of wine and her name is Sherry.

We ate lunch at St. Andrews Cafe for a food and wine pairing project. During the desert course we were served a Pedro Ximenez, "San Emilio," Lustau, Jerez, Spain NV. The wonderful warmth and hints of sweetness in the sherry were the stuff dreams are made of. I have always steered clear of Ports and Sherries because of the heavy alcoholic aroma, but after that lunch I've been trying sherries at every chance.

If I had my choice I'd go back go back and study harder for wines (Though I'm not exactly sure my brain could handle that) and walk away feeling as though I learned allot more then I have, but given the fact that I have found a new love in Sherry it really didn't end up that bad.

Now if I could just get past the tannic taste of red wines.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Makin' Bacon

Okay, it's on. I've been nattering for weeks about making pancetta and finally I'm doing it. Last night I broke out the slab of pork belly given to me by Trent Hendricks and mixed up a cure from Ruhlmans' famous Charcuterie book.

Think it was easy? Not. Ruhlman's recipe was written for 5lbs of pork belly and the piece I have is only 2.5 pounds. So I had to divide everything by 2. So, like 2 tablespoons of juniper berries had to be 1, and four cloves of garlic came down to 2. What a headache, no wonder they this kind of stuff 'Slow Food.'

Seriously now, the recipe is a no-brainer. The bacon gets cured over 7 days (no it isn't sick, it's dead!) with a dry rub of juniper, kosher salt, pink salt (Instacure #1), nutmeg, sugar and a few other things. It's funny, you can tell the book is written by someone who has spent a lot of time in professional kitchens because it suggests that you crush the juniper berries with the bottom of a saute pan. I'll bet that as I write this there are thousands of professional cooks all over the United States getting ready for Saturday night dinner service and crushing black pepper or cloves with the bottom of a pot.

The technique works great, of course it does, and it's good advice since most people are not likely to have something like my trusty old Roman designed mortar and pestle. But I don't care how brilliantly you use the bottom of a saute pan as a cudgel, some of whatever it is you are trying to crush always skitters out from under and shoots across the room. The mortar and pestle is much neater and you can't beat it for beauty and simplicity of design.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

News Snack

This pawpaw fruit (l) reminds me of durian
On the Side | Lost foods reclaimed | Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/27/2007

I'd almost forgotten that mustard oil is considered not fit for human consumption by the USDA. I bought some years ago to play with and had to scrape the warning label off the bottle so it wouldn't give me nightmares. i didn't serve it to anyone, of course. But from the sound of this Village Voice article I could have...
village voice > nyclife > Counter Culture: Our Man Indulges in Forbidden Oil, Bangladesh-Style by Robert Sietsema

Thanks to PETA, you can now have cage free eggs while you abuse yourself with a meal at Hardee's and Carl's Jr. (What's a Carl's Jr? ) If this keeps up we are going to end up with the most humane junk food in the world. I can't wait to read

Chef Boyardee Raviolios
Now with free range grass fed beef

The Associated Press: Hardee's, Carl's Jr. and PETA Reach Deal

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Milk Heaven

Yesterday my quest for raw heavy cream to make butter brought me to Hendricks' Farms & Dairy in Telford, Pa -and some unexpected surprises. For starters, the farm is an amazing example of what someone who really wants to minimize their energy consumption can do if they put their minds to it. The main building that houses the milking operation and cheese making facility and retail outlet is heated by a wood furnace that is fueled by wood that would be otherwise destined for a landfill. Well water is cycled through three separate closed-loop processes before it ultimately sent back into the farms aquifer via a pond.

The farm is amazingly clean. The main building, which is made from a shiny white composite plastic material, is power-washed regularly to keep it gleaming and safe for food production. The floors are immaculate and even the air in the barn smells clean -which anyone who has ever been to a farm will immediately understand to be the result of superior design and placement of the the buildings and slavish devotion to maintenance.

I spoke at length with Trent Hendricks -who owns and operates the farm with his wife Rachel- and who showed me around while talking about his operating philosophy and the kinds of products and ideas he wants to put out there into the food-os-spehere. He's already producing over a dozen different types of cheese, Rachel makes beautiful soaps, I saw grass fed beef that was so marbled with fat it could pass for wagyu if you squint. The milk which comes from Ayrshire cows shows all of the subtle nuances of flavor that you expect from milk from grass fed cows that has not been cooked, but it's texture confused me a bit when I compared it to the raw, nonhomogenized milk that I bought last week from Bethany Farms. There was no cream on the top and no lumps of butterfat clinging to the sides of the container. My first thought was huh, this is homogenized? So, I emailed Trent and this is what he wrote back

No, we have Ayrshire cows. The fat molecules of the Ayrshire milk are the smallest of the Dairy breeds. That is important for two reasons; easier to digest, and they break down more consistently in aged cheese due to the uniformity of the fat molecules. The milk is around 3.8% fat but takes days to separate and will not separate fully.

And check this out, Trent gave me four pounds of pork belly so that I can finally make Ruhlman's pancetta. (I'm so psyched.)

Hendricks' Farms & Dairy is Certified Humane but as Trent put it, all he did to get the certification was invite the Humane Farm Animal Care folks in to look at what he was already doing. Frankly, I was not surprised by this. I've long believed that if you make it your mission to grow and cook the cleanest, best-tasting food possible, the natural result will be humanely treated animals and minimally polluting methods of agriculture.

And is it ever a pleasure to see this in action!

Hendricks' Farms and Dairy
202 Green Hill Road
Telford, Pa 18969

Ruhlman Capote?

In case you missed this post at Ruhlman. com, it appears that Mr. Ruhlman is headed to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. I wonder how he finds the time to write now that he has become a Food Network celebrity. The ratio of the time he spends at his desk to the time he spends on planes and trains and in front of camera lenses must be on the order of 1:10, I should think. Suddenly, the hardest working writer in the food business has become a party animal. You'd better be careful my friend, you know what happened to Truman Capote...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Foie Gras for Five Bucks

My friend at Hudson Valley Farm sent this to me today, and I'm passing it along to you.

Never tried foie gras?
Now you can for only five dollars at restaurants throughout Philly!

Philadelphia, PA, Sept. 24, 2007-- Philadelphia Chefs for Choice invites you to Freedom Foie for Five: a special celebration of foie gras. All next week, the week of October 1, both for lunch and dinner, you will be able to sample this deliciously controversial dish for only $5 at the participating restaurants listed below.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

News Snack

Is your elementary school really a foie gras farm?

Wanna trade some meth for that abalone?

Gordan Ramsay sounding like a normal human being.

An offensive restaurant marketing idea that never fails to generate lots of media attention: make some food so expensive that everyone will prattle on about it endlessly. Over the years this strategy has given us such culinary masterworks as Kobe beef hamburgers with foie gras, pizza loaded with caviar and now a stupid desert gold leaf and a precious stone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Refrigerator Door

The moment you have all been waiting for: The contents of my refrigerator door! Beginning with the top shelf

1) Unsalted commercial butter, Salted butter made by me

2) Chrystal Hot Sauce, Pickled Ginger, Bread & Butter Pickles, Raspberry Jam, Wasabi Mustard (Yuck!), Doma Coffee Guatemala Trapichitos (Fabulous!)

3) Tabasco, Ukranian mustard (Hot! A nose-bleeder), Horseradish, Hellman's Lite Mayo, Hero Blackcurrant preserves, Peach Butter (yuck!)

4) Gulden's Mustard, Ketchup, Grape Jelly

5) Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin 1985 (champagne),

A 12 year-old jar of confit d'oie (preserved goose) that I made for a friend in 1995 but who died before I could give it to him. I can't bear to eat it.

Pellegrino water

I decided to leave the vacuum cleaner in the background to intensify the aura of domesticity that surrounds this scene. Nah, I was just too lazy to remove it. But it works, no?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Now for something completely different

This is a banana made from lemons and oranges that was displayed at the annual Lemon Festival in Menton, France in early 2007.

Okay, now that I got that out the way, doesn't it make you wonder what Howlin' Wolf's "The Lemon Song" (made famous by Led Zeppelin) would have been like if he had seen this? (I'm sorry if this seems obscure, but I can't think of polite way to write what I really mean here.)

Click this link if you would like to see more examples of the potential of the lemon as a building material.

Thanks out to Gary Allen for the link to this lemon of a web page.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Elements of Cooking

I've had an advance copy of Michael Ruhlman's newest book "The Elements of Cooking" for a few weeks. As odd as this will sound to many of who are familiar with his other writing, I think "Elements" -due to be published in early November- is the first piece from Ruhlman where he firmly and clearly identifies himself as an authority on the language, techniques and ideas that inform the contemporary American cooking scene.

Other books such as "The Making of a Chef" and even "Charcuterie" took a more and less journalistic or reportorial approach to their subjects. By comparison, "Elements" is more of a thesis and very clearly the work of someone who has spent many years cooking, thinking about cooking and synthesizing what he experienced into a coherent philosophical outlook.

I've known for years that Ruhlman can think and cook, and that he knows his brunoise from his dice. So I'm not at all surprised by the authoritative tone of Elements. But I'm guessing that some who do not know him as well as I do, might raise an eyebrow when they discover that the guy they been told by defenders of professional cookery like Anthony Bourdain to think of as a Jimmy Olsen in an apron, actually knows what he's talking about. Ruhlman is not reporting here, he's telling.

The book begins with a series of eight essays on what we francophilic culinarians often refer to as fonds de cuisine or fundamental preparations and ingredients such as stock and sauce and eggs and salt, followed by what Ruhlman described to me personally as an "opinionated glossary" of elemental concepts. I've read every entry and I'm completely comfortable in saying that I think that professional cooks, home cooks and people who just like to eat at the table of modern American cuisine are going to find these very useful and in many places, entertaining. And I'll bet it becomes a standard quick reference for culinary students.

It kind of ticks me off that I didn't write it, but what the heck.

Disclosure: I helped clarify some of the cooking and science-related concepts in "Elements," and I consider Michael Ruhlman to be a friend and colleague.

Hungry for a Dead Soul

Jimi (Buster) Hendrix, a true hunger artist, died on September 18th , 1970 . How TF can I ever forget?

I'd just gone to see him for what was suppose to be the first time in July at Randall's Island. Unfortunately, I had to leave BEFORE he went on. See, I was only 15 and had a 2AM curfew. And there was no way I could pull my usual routine of just not going home and telling my parents I took the wrong train and ended up in Montauk or wherever, because they came to pick me up. (Think they were on to me?)

Hendrix was supposed to go on at 11PM but according to my SOB friends who stayed, he did not show until 4 O' clock in the morning. So while my friends were enjoying having their ear lobes removed by songs like "All Along the Watchtower" and "The Star Spangled Banner" I was in bed on Long Island tearing my pillow to shreds. Two months later he was dead.

But am I really bitter?

Yeah, hell right I am. But truthfully, I'm more sad that he died.

And I take some solace in the fact that my wife saw him twice (Once with the Experience at Madison Square Garden and again on New Years Eve at The Fillmore East with Band of Gypsies) albeit a solace aggravated by extreme envy.

Sigh, I miss you Buster. Rest in Peace or wherever. I'll be thinking of you when I visit Hendricks Dairy.


I was doing a little research ahead of a trip to Hendricks Dairy to buy raw cream to fuel my butter making fugue and discovered that they use a robotic milking machine . My first thought was something on the order of "Gee, I wonder how this will play in the anti-factory farming community?" But on closer inspection decided that it should not trouble anyone other than vegans (who'd be against using cows for milk anyway) and those who might think that energy consumed by lead to an uptick in the production of greenhouse gases.

On it's face the Lely Astronaut 3 Robotic Milking System looks like a pretty good deal for the cows and the farmers. The farmer is relived of the tedium of milking while the cows get to choose when and how they are milked.

Warning: Not for viewing at work unless you are udderly sure you won't be ridiculed by your colleagues for being a demented food nerd.

Dope Beef and other news

A Hunger Artist typically does not condone the use of illegal drugs, but we may have to make an exception in the case of cows
Pot-smoking cows could stop BSE, maybe

Oklahomans realize that they been using gold for chum
Spoonbill eggs can be processed into a gourmet dish

It took this long?
First sturgeon farm to be built in Russia

Not news, just a really stupid idea: Shark Fin Snack Food
Lest you wonder why it's a stupid idea

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Got Raw Milk

So I just got back from an expedition to try to locate raw heavy cream to make butter. That part of the mission was a failure but I did manage to score a fabulous half gallon of raw cow's milk.

It's not homogenized so it needed to be shaken to disperse the cream and the flavor could not be more different from the pasteurized variety. When I tasted it alongside regular homo the pasteurized stuff tasted like skim milk.

Of course I have had raw milk many times before. But I'm not much of milk drinker so I haven't bothered to seek it out and probably won't buy it regularly. But man, is it ever good. I know if I was cooking professionally I'd be buying this to make custards and ice cream.

For those of you who are raw milk fanatics (I know there are a lot of you) and need a source for milk produced by someone with a license, you can get this wonderful stuff from

Dan B. Messener
Bethany Farm
71 Fariview Road
Glenmoore, Pa 19343

Ph: 610-942-3996

Mr. Messner also sells raw goat's milk, free range eggs, organic produce and meat. FYI, the milk was $3.00.

National Socialist Soup Sop

The National Socialist Party of Germany threw sops to the German people in the form of cheap public housing and "Strength through Joy"cruises and a range of other hand-outs (often funded by looting and grave robbing, of course). The Cuban government doles out free medical care and, in addition to cheap heating oil and gasoline, the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez is giving away soup to demonstrate it's beneficence.

Judging from the masks these cooks are wearing as they prepare this almost 4000 gallon batch of "Sancocho" stew, their customers might not be any better off if they filled their bowls with gasoline.

Venezuela serves up record breaking stew

Monday, September 17, 2007

Soylent Green Bronx Style

I pulled this one off of, heaven help me.

Another September 18th

I may be running the risk of being charged with outright plagiarism by posting this newsletter from The Old Foodie, but this one was so affecting that I had to put it up. I'll take my lumps if they come. Bob dG

Today, September 18

On this day in 1942, the Reich Minister for Nutrition and Agriculture, issued a Decree Concerning Food Supply for Jews. This is an extract from it:

Decree Concerning Food Supply for Jews.

Jews will no longer receive the following foods … meat, meat products, eggs, wheat products (cake, white bread, wheat rolls, wheat flour, etc) whole milk fresh skimmed milk, as well as such foods are distributed not on food ration cards issued uniformly throughout the Reich but on local supply certificates or by special announcement of the nutrition offices on extra coupons of the food cards. Jewish children and young people over 10 years of age will receive the bread ration of the normal consumer. Jewish children and young people over 6 years of age will receive the fat ration of the normal consumer, no honey substitute and no cocoa powder, and they will not receive the supplement of marmalade accorded the age classes of 6 to 14 years. Jewish children up to 6 years receive ½ liter of fresh skimmed milk daily.

Accordingly no meat, egg or milk cards and no local supply certificates shall be issued to Jews. Jewish children and young people over 10 years of age will receive the bread cards and those over 6 years of age the fat cards of the normal consumer. The bread cards issued to Jews will entitle them to rye flour products only. Jewish children under 6 years of age shall be issued the supply certificate for fresh skimmed milk. "Good for ½ liter daily" shall be noted on it.

For the purchase of non-rationed food the Jews are not subject to restrictions as long as these products are available to the Aryan population in sufficient quantities. Ration-free foods which are distributed only from time to time and in limited quantities, such as vegetable and herring salad, fish paste, etc., are not to be given to Jews. The nutrition offices are authorized to permit Jews to purchase turnips, plain kind of cabbage etc.

From amidst this whole, awful list, for some reason I cant explain, the most poignant image for me was the idea of little children without “honey substitute”. Not “no honey” - not even "honey substitute”. I don’t even know what constitutes a honey substitute. Do you? In a Quotation for the Day in a previous post, I used a comment by Judith Olney, and it bears repeating here:

“Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold.”

In recognition of a whole generation of little children who never had an opportunity to experience such a moment of sweetness, here is a recipe from an English newspaper of 1942 – a time when, in England, due to sugar rationing, honey was often used as a substitute.

Honey Chocolate.
Private bee-keepers may be glad of the following recipe for home-made honey chocolate:
¼ lb honey, ¼ lb sugar, three tablespoonsful cocoa, ½ lb chopped home-grown nuts (hazel, cob, walnut &c.), three tablespoonsful stale plain cake crumbs. Put the honey and sugar in a saucepan over very low heat and allow the sugar to dissolve. Boil up, stir in the cake crumbs and cocoa, heating until smooth, add the chopped nuts and mix well. Spread on greased flat tin, leave to dry, cut into squares.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I've been experimenting with butter-making for a few weeks now. Earlier attempts were limited to producing simple butter by churning cream in the stand mixer, extracting the buttermilk and salting. This time I added a fermentation or culturing step. The results are pretty good, but not on par with professionally made butter from quality artisan butter makers. The flavor is great but not as nuanced as I would like it to be.

Here's what I did:

  1. To 1 pint of organic heavy cream I whisked in 1 tablespoon of plain organic yogurt, then let it sit at room temperature (68 degrees F) for 12 hours to ferment.
  2. Churned the cream in the food processor (the stand mixer was busy kneading bread) until it broke.
  3. Poured the mess into a strainer lined with fine cheesecloth and squeezed it gently to remove the buttermilk. (The hanging step shown below was ineffective and not necessary.)
  4. Added approx. 2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt and kneaded it in with a plastic bowl scraper
  5. Rolled in up in plastic and chilled it down.
I'm pretty sure that to take it to the next step I'm going to have move beyond playing around with store-bought pasteurized cream and spend some time reading up on the science of butter culturing. The stuff I'm making beats the deerskin off the Lando-Lakes squaw's best, but it would not hold it's own in battle of hand crafted butters.

Eat my soup!

I love that region of the language and iconography of cooking and eating where the words and images we use to describe culinary things and the eating process are the same as those we use to express concerns of the libido. If there is anything about the language of cooking and eating that is more amusing, only the words and imagery that refer to our atavistic (I hope!) desire to eat other people come close to providing a similar level of (albeit morbid) entertainment.

Henceforward, if you see me shuffling in front of a shop window while quietly chuckling over a display of Day of the Dead candy, you will have one less reason to doubt my sanity, and perhaps another to wonder how lust for forbidden flesh and the desire to eat something sweet got so mixed up.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Culinary Student's Conundrum

By The Foodist

I was going to finish my three part series on kitchen equipment, but over the last few days I've had a kind of epiphany. Ok, not so much and epiphany, as say a major stick up me bum about a particular issue that's been eating at me for some time.

Why is it the culinary students think that the only thing to learn in culinary schools is how to hold a knife, cook a chicken, and make some stock?!

This is driving me near bonkers trying to figure it out.

Now given the average age on the CIA campus is 23 (Last I heard at least) that would lead me to think there was a little more mental maturity about the educational process, but jumpin jimminy christmas am I just a little tired of hearing "Why do I have to learn this stuff, I'm going to be in a kitchen cooking."

Ok, here's a little info for you.

First off, more then half of you won't be in a kitchen three years from now. Secondly cooking, very much like life, isn't just about what your doing right now its also about where it comes from and why we do it. Thirdly, you cant honestly tell me that if you love food you just want to know how to hold that knife correctly?!

Everyone, it seems, wants to be the next Ferran Adria and create some new culinary wonder to make them rich and famous. All the while never paying attention to why you first need to master the basics and learn how they came to be the basics. If you walk through the halls and ask any random student who Antonin Careme was there may be a handful of students who know who he is. Ask them what he did and I would bet the $2.26 in my bank account that the most they could tell you was he made Napoleons wedding cake.

Ok, so they don't know some ancient food history, fine. No one expects every culinary student to brush up on the 18th century while they learning stock ratios and how to make hollandaise. But should they care about it? yes.

We are so involved in catching our episodes of 30 minute meals and Hells Kitchen (Oh which reminds me a current CIA student is out in LA right now participating in the 4th season... Good Luck Christina, please make us not look like complete idiots...please.) that we aren't looking over our shoulders to see what it took to get us here.

We have a wealth of knowledge at our disposal here. Countless texts and experienced minds to pick at. Yet, it seems the student body seems less and less willing to ask the questions, probe for answers, and research "Why" then ever before. We want to spend more time trying to get the chefs to like us, compare the newest shiniest sharpest knife, and dominate the kitchen in some alpha wolf competition then to notice how much we could truly learn about food, culture, and why we eat what we do.

I took a poll this week on my blog asking if people thought cuisine was dying out, and after talking with students around campus realized that to understand exactly what cuisine is you would have to know where it comes from, what makes it up, why it came about, and who was doing it. None of which seemed to matter to students, except if it comes from Italy it must be Italian Cuisine.

My hope is that we have an epiphany, as students, as teachers, as foodies to realize its just not about how to make that stock, or cook that chicken but also why we do it that way, and who taught us this grand way of creating what we consume

World's Strangest Culinary Tools V.1

Musical Cake Server

Meat Sniffer that tells you whether or not it is fresh by sensing bacterial aroma (Wonder if it works in the bathroom too? Or armpits...hmmm.)

The Spinmallow Marshmallow Cooker cooks hot dogs too!

And, of course, the motorized pasta fork, Oy Vey.

Top Chef Contestant Victim of Gay Bashing

Josie Smith-Malave got the neo-nazi treatment over Labor Day weekend and in Sea Cliff of all places! I grew up (unsuccessfully) in Glen Cove, which is adjacent to Sea Cliff, one of the most beautiful and delightfully liberal towns on the North Shore of Long Island.

On the face of this, it's hard to comprehend something like this happening in the Sea Cliff that I know. But really it's not surprising that a town that in effect invites everyone in, would be host to a bunch of homophobic dirt bags whose idea of fun is to harass a someone because they happen to have been born gay.

This is very disappointing -to say the least.

Long Island man jailed in gay-bash of 'Top Chef' hopeful


Google News Hits

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh S--t!

Worker who prepped food underfoot fired, restaurant says -

A Plug for the Gman

Since tomorrow I will be going to a party in Manhattan to celebrate the publication of Gary Allen's (aka Gman) latest book The Herbalist in the Kitchen, it's probably the best time for me to plug my old friend to my friends here at A Hunger Artist.

I'm not going to pretend I have read it yet. In fact, I'm not getting a copy until tomorrow. But after watching him work on this beast of a bestiary of culinary herbs, their intrinsic properties and culinary applications for the past 12 years, I know it is going to be every letter the kind of meticulously researched and organized reference for which my friend is becoming famous.

So while your's truly is getting down and being bad with such members of the glitterati of the academic culinary community as Krishnendu Ray, Francine Segan and the sexagenarian Bacchus himself, click over to Amazon and have a look at Gary's new book.

Also, if you don't mind, pray for me or tune a quartz crystal (or whatever superstitious thing you do to tilt the odds towards favorable outcome) that I don't spill champagne in my lap. Because when you get to be my age, no one fully believes you when you tell them that "Ahem, the stain is wine."

Restaurant Vandal Arrested

From the look of this smug shot, Joshua Rosenberg, who is accused of writing the words "Spit Out" in acid on the windows of Restaurant Jezebel in Austin Texas , doesn't look like he's worried about much. But then, I suppose he thinks he's being accused of doing god's work by trying to terrorize people into not serving duck liver.

Animal rights activist arrested on vandalism charges

Restaurants fold under pressure

Click the link at the bottom of this post to read a list of Philadelphia restaurants that stopped serving foie gras. What are we going to be harassed into not serving next, milk, butter, grain-fed beef? Make no mistake about it, the animal rights folks are not going to stop until all animal products are illegal.

The List

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Family Stuff

The picture shows my zio (uncle) Ettore Fenaroli at the stove of his restaurant in New Jersey. I'm not sure of the date when this picture was taken but my best guess is that it was taken in his 40's sometime before WWII. Uncle Arthur was born in 1887 in the village of Pocigatone, Province of Parma, Italy (Region of Emilia Romangna) and immigrated to the United States in 1905. His son, Arthur narrates

"This picture was taken in the kitchen of the first Hudson Villa. The Hudson Villa was owned by Ettore and his partner Charlie Rossi. Subsequently there were three Hudson Villas. This Hudson Villa was located on the edge of the Palisades, about two miles south of the George Washington Bridge. It was a beautiful old Dutch Mansion with an absolutely spectacular view of upper west side Manhattan. The grounds around it were wilderness. Arthur, Rita, Lou and Charlie's son, Lou spent many days exploring the wilderness. There are many stories to tell about the site, including stories about gamblers and show girls from the nearby Ben Marden's Riviera, a night club, speakeasy and illegal casino. Ettore and Charlie were forced to vacate the site when John D. Rockefeller bought a strip of properties along the edge of the Palisades to keep forever wild. The beautiful mansion was removed. In so far as I know the land continues to be wild but there are high rise buildings all around the site."

This photo shows two minor musical celebrities, Arturo Toscanini ( He was from Emilia Romangna and was drawn to my uncles' restaurant by the authentic cuisine: lots of small wild birds and polenta; cotechino; venison.) and Vladimir Horowitz standing near a tree overlooking the Hudson River at Zio Ettore's restaurant. According to my cousin Arthur and other family members, Toscanini was a regular customer who brought Maestro Horowitz as a guest. I'm pretty sure that this picture was taken after the war. Again, my cousin Arthur narrates

"This is the only photo I have of the original Hudson Villa. It was located on top of the Palisades about two miles south of the George Washington Bridge. The picture shows Arturo Toscanini, the most famous conductor of the time and his family. His family included Arthur (sic) Horowitz one of the outstanding pianists of his time or maybe the century. Toscanini often told his friends the Hudson Villa was his favorite restaurant. He often orderred tripe and polenta. He was always addressed as Maestro by my father and his waiters

Note the magnificent view of Manhattan west [side]."

Finally, here is a photo of Zio Ettore and his family.

From left standing: Cousin Arthur, his sister Rita (Aunt Rita), brother Joe.

Seated Zia Antoinetta (Toinietta) and Zio Ettore. Only Arthur and Rita are still alive.

Heart /Hate Starbucks Lyke I Do?

Then read this and yuck it up. Personally? I'll never forgive them for branding the name of a beloved character from my number one all time soul book, Moby Dick. (Funny how they don't sell that book under their brand, huh?) But since when did Mr. Das Kapital listen to me?

NewsBiscuit: Starbucks to open franchises inside Starbucks

Okie Mountain Oysters Anyone?

I ran into a minor roadblock while trying to write my newspaper column and decided to surf the news a bit and this little bit of horror turned up. It's not obviously about food so I almost didn't put it up. But in the end my incredulity over the idiocy and brutality of my homo sapien brethren trumped editorial consistency. WTF?

OU fan accused of gruesome injury to man clad in UT shirt

Judge strikes down rule forcing restaurants to post calories

Reason has prevailed, and NYC fast food restaurants will not be required to label their garbage with nutritional information. The idea was stupid from the get go. First of all most people know that garbage isn't good for them so what would be the point of rubbing it in their faces every time that chose to eat?
Last time I looked carting companies weren't required to put nutritional information on dumpsters, why should someone who sells junk food be burdened with that responsibility?

City and state governments should abandon efforts to require restaurants to eliminate ingredients that have been implicated but not proven to cause disease (e.g. duck liver). They should not be encouraged to pass laws requiring junk food cooks to post warnings on their products and instead spend their time and our money educating the public about how to eat well and how to prepare their own food. And I'll go one step further and say that there should be a massive publicly financed effort to encourage and support people to not eat in fast food restaurants and instead prepare food at home and take it with them. It's only when you prepare you own food that you can really begin to take charge of your diet.

Judge strikes down rule forcing restaurants to post calories

Monday, September 10, 2007

Women are from Venus and Men are from Marze 4 Reel

THis is InTeresTing

"Female celebrity chefs, it seems, are harder to understand in print than their male counterparts, peppering their books with complex language.

Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith have come under fire for writing cookery instructions that are too difficult to follow.

By contrast some of Gordon Ramsay's recipes are so simple they can be followed by a seven-year-old."

"The verdict comes from a [British]Government study in which experts looked at 35 recipes published by five popular chefs and assessed their literacy standards, layout, writing style and readability."

Nigella and Delia's recipes are 'too tricky to follow'

Of Salt and Fire

Screw General Petraeus' report to Congress, now this is what I call serious news.

Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay Accidentally Burns His Genitals | September 10, 2007 | AHN

And this (Thanks Tags)

Busted for over-salting the man's burger!

Voting with my fork

Here's what I had for dinner last night at a local restaurant. The menu speaks for itself.

Smoked Salmon and Foie Gras Beggars Purse

Butternut Squash and Granny Smith Apple Soup with Foie Gras Cream

Gewurztraminer Poached Foie Gras with Gewurztraminer Jelly, Brioche Toast

Butter Poached Lobster with sautéed Foie Gras on Corn and Andouille Hash
with Sweet Corn Emulsion

Magret Duck Breast with Foie Gras and Shiitake Pot Stickers, Port sauce and Asian Pear Salad

Champagne Melon Fruit Soup with Strawberry Sorbet

An experiment in dining or language?

I'm not sure what's more interesting about this article: the fact that a chef in Washington DC has opened a place where the cuisine follows the pattern established by Ferran Adria and other chefs who spearheaded the trend of using food-grade chemicals and medical instruments to make haute cuisine, or the author's use of the term "molecular gastronomy" as in the following excerpt

"The technology used to create such marvels is called molecular gastronomy, the laboratory is minibar, and, if you can snag one of the restaurant's six seats, you can eat the experiments."

It is obvious to me that when she calls molecular gastronomy as a technology she is she is struggling against the same thing that everyone who has chosen to grapple with that term has to deal with: the fact that it has never been adequately defined for the public by the people who coined it or the chefs who have had it applied -in many cases without their consent- to their way of cooking. But that's really not what I find so interesting.

What I find intriguing is that this is the first time that I have seen the term referred to as a technology and I'm wondering it this usage is going to spread. Let's keep an eye out for other instances and see if it increases in frequency. Who knows? We may soon learn that molecualr gastronomy is commonly undestood to be a technology and that the earlier most common definition disappears into the ether, like so much smoke from one of those funky culinary bongs.

D.C.'s minibar: an experiment in dining --

Bad Acid Trip

Seen this guy? If you have, he may need your help. This surveillance photo from Restaurant Jezebel in Austin Texas shows him painting the words "Spit Out" with, I assume, hydroflouric acid on its windows during the night before Thursday September 6th. While this news report suggests that he is an animal rights activist who wants to stop the serving of duck liver by the restaurant (which has been vandalized several times this summer), I remain skeptical that any sane person could be so bothered by the idea of people serving and eating meat that he would go to such extreme measures to stop it.

Of course the human neurological system is subject to all kinds of defects. Axons, neurons and synaptic connections can fail or malfunction without warning and produce symptoms ranging from simple anal orifice-like behavior to full blown psychosis. Neglect or coddling by parents and others can turn otherwise normal individuals into angry, cranky, self-centered twerps incapable of sustaining themselves in school and in normal society so that they end up trying to carve out a niche for themsleves in religious cults or anarchist organizations. I suppose there is the always the possibility that he could be what some experts call a "douche bag, " and someone who requires nearly constant colonic irrigation. I certainly hope not. It is troubling to imagine that anyone could be so intellectually constipated, that he'd choose to express his mind bullying a chef into not serving duck liver.

There is the possibility that he is the victim of an attempt to tweak his brain chemistry. It is not difficult to imagine that having taken one too many micrograms of window pane (LSD) he is acting out some sort of cosmic joke. Let's hope so!

As I have stated on many occasions, I believe that everyone has the right to refuse to eat animal products and to refuse to buy products that are produced in ways that they believe cause animals to suffer. But no one has the right to terrorize someone who chooses to do otherwise. That's called terrorism and that's a very bad thing, isn't it? And it troubles me that this poor soul might end up on the Department of Homeland Security's short list. (Not)

Animal rights activist wanted by police

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Save the Bagel Foundation: Stop the herbicde in Afghanistan

The Bush Administration and it's counterparts in NATO allied nations operating in Afghanistan are engaged in a (not) terribly effective campaign to eliminate the cultivation of that country's biggest cash crop, the opium poppy or papaver somniferum.

While we do not condone the production, sale or use of narcotics for recreational purposes -unless the junky is a really cool rock star who'd sound lousy without a fix- we cannot ignore the threat of this this herbicidal campaign to poppy seed bagel culture. So A Hunger Artist has created the Save the Bagel Foundation (SBF) and is seeking your support in the form of money or anything of great value that we can sell on eBay to fight this miserable threat to our most beloved bagel variant. (Don't even think about mentioning raisin bagels or -gag- marbled bagels on this blog.)

Here are some photos that will break your heart and cause you to believe in our cause and make you send us money.

War Criminal

Innocent Victims

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cooking Show Emetic

The next time you find yourself cramping up after watching Rachel Ray or some other gag-me-with-a-spoon TV cook, watch this video. You'll feel better, I promise. On the other hand you may end up with bleeding eyes, but don't say I didn't warn ya!


Hungry for something else

If you read half as many food blogs as I do you cannot help but notice that a lot of bloggers (myself included) spend a lot of words on concepts like "sustainable agriculture," family farmers," "animal rights," and a host of other environmental, social and ethical issues. The recent success of Michael Pollan's book, The Ominvores Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, by Eric Scholsser are just two examples that reflect the public's interest in reading about the hidden costs associated with eating. And magazines like Mother Jones and newspapers such as The New York Times, regularly run stories that are less about food and the people who eat it than they are about the intricate relationships between places and methods of production, transportation networks, collateral additive and processioning industries, migrant worker issues and so on, ad infinitum.

Lately I've been stricken by the thought that while all this attention to where food comes from and how it is produced is certainly a valuable an important discussion, something always gets lost when social, economic and environmental issues enter into any discussion of food and cooking. Whenever anyone write or talks about food as node in the grand web of cultural interactions, it can become difficult to think about it in the way that I, the chef, prefers to think about it. My preferred way of thinking about food is to see it as a variety of substances that have the potential to be crafted into to something that will inspire a moment of joy in the people who eat it. And if I'm very lucky, they will remember what they ate and the happiness it provoked and take them with them.

Food, whether it's a bowl of tomatoes or a beautiful loin of grass fed beef, is also something I like to touch and smell and bring through the process of cooking and serving. I even enjoy cleaning up after a meal. When I cook professionally, I often (not always) derive a great deal of pleasure breaking down the kitchen, scrubbing the counter tops, and true, I've many times enjoyed mopping the floor. I really have to wonder how many others who spend so much time writing about the social dimensions of food feel the same way?

I wonder how many of them feel something like what I feel when I pick up my grandfather's carbon chef's knife and look at it's ancient blade, bowed and almost useless from years of running it over a steel, and think about him toiling in the sweltering basement kitchen of the Gotham Hotel (Giovanni delGrosso is in the photo above. Click it to see where he is). Those old kitchens were hell holes with coal fired stoves and lousy ventilation, and I'm sure he suffered greatly, but I also know that he was proud of his craft and could talk for hours about how to butcher and roast and saute. And such was his love of craft that he always cooked at home when company

Actually, when I was kid we had no fewer than five professional chefs on my father's side of the family all of them expert in cooking the peasant food of their village in Emilia Romagna and all of them trained in the haute cuisine. I loved to visit them to see what was in their gardens and what they would cook, and more importantly, what they would say about cooking. (Suffice it to say that they never talked about sustainable agriculture.) You want to talk to food fanatics? Then have a sit down with a 70 year old chef who worked in a kitchen managed by Escoffier as my grandfather did.

The talk will always be about the food but salted with stories of the people who cooked it and ate it. And lots of talk about marvelously esoteric techniques and weird but enthralling ideas about what might be called "the science of cooking" -if it wasn't a bunch of superstitious claptrap. For example, my uncle Amadio del Grosso, a pastry chef, once told me that the way to identify a poisonous mushroom was to cook it in some boiling water with a silver dollar. If the dollar turns black he said, the mushroom will kill you.

That's the kind of stuff that gets lost in the soup of so much modern discourse on food and cooking. I'm hungry for it. And the irony is, that there's never been more chatter about food and cooking than there is today.

Liver Satyricon: When the man comes around

Alright then chef, the man is in the house because somebody accused you of cooking and selling duck liver. If you has been accused of selling duck legs or breasts or duck fat on toast, he probably wouldn't be there.
And you wouldn't be having worry about whether or not the dishwasher had burned the labels as per you instructions. And you certainly would not be having to face reading your name in the newspaper because the man didn't find any liver in your wlakin, but he did find cockroaches. (see Inspectors looking for foie gras at Cyrano's find something worse)

But WTF? You live in Chicago, where the social scientists on the city council have decided that an effective way to reshape the moral fabric of a dangerously depraved dining public is to ban the sale of duck liver.

When you discovered that the liver you had loved since the first day you tasted it at your grandmother's house in France was slated to be banned for sale, you were incredulous. But that's because you did not know then that your grandmother hadn't lovingly coddled the goose so that it grew fat and succulent. What she was really did was torture the poor thing by shoving a tube down it's throat and tearing it's esophagus to shreds while pumping in huge amounts of grain so that it's stomach exploded and it choked to death on it's own vomit. Then she gouged out it's liver with a knife, pulled the veins out of it with her teeth, doused it with alcohol and baked it in it's own fat. In other words your grandma was guilty of the same vicious crime that the farmers who force-feed ducks and geese, and chefs who cook them are guilty of.

So chef, pull yourself and your business back together. And for heavens sake don't worry. If the people who convinced the aldermen to enact the ban on foie gras have their way, soon you won't have to worry about having to keep track any labels from any type of meat product at all. See, those people want to ban all animal products -even the leather in your work clogs. Of course you could always go underground and work a la Speakeasy. But then the smell of cooking meat might be too easy to detect. Hmmm...perhaps you could go a la japonaise and do an all shashimi menu? I know, vacuum-bag (sous-vide) everything and cook it in water!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ciao Bello

Pray I will and sing I must,
And yet I weep Oedipus’ child
Descends into the loveless dust.
From Antigone by WB Yeats

Goodbye Maestro

Today we say goodbye to a great cook, a gavone (gourmand) of titanic gustatory and carnal appetites, and a brilliant artist and singer who has certainly earned the immortal status that his name and music will now enjoy. Luciano Pavarotti was a true hunger artist who served much better fare than he ever took for himself and will remain a role model for all of us who aspire to give back something of what we take from the table for other's to enjoy.

I remember the first time I saw him perform at the Metropolitan Opera in Giuseppe Verdi's Luisa Miller, in 1991. For most of the first two acts, Maestro Pavarotti as Rodolfo was unimaginably wooden and appeared to be holding back his voice, which I knew was capable of rendering the most arrogant men into wailing babies.

If I had not gotten the tickets from my brother (who still works there as an electrician) I know that I would have been really angry and made a show of asking for my money back. Actually, I doubt I would have even gone in the first place, because even though I love opera, this particular opera held no interest for me at all. Add to this the fact that I had been primed by stories of Pavarotti's primo don hissy fits, last minute cancellations and other stories of his bad behavior, that I'm sure that if I knew I could get away with it, I'd have gone up onto the stage during the first act and pulled his buttons to wake him up.

But then, near the end of Act II, Pavarotti cut loose on the aria "Quando le sere al placido," and I thought I'd die in my seat. I don't have a vocabulary that is up to the task of explaining how magnificent he was. The audience went wild, I went wild. It was as if all of a sudden this ridiculously overweight and lazy old man who had been pretending to be a teenaged lover had suddenly revealed himself to be Dionysis. And that voice, O Jesus, I had never heard anything like it.

Anyway, I'm too sad right now to write much more, but I will add this. Please don't think for a second that Luciano Pavarotti, the real Lucianno Pavarotti was anything like the man who sang Christmas carols on TV or whose principal claim to fame seemed at times to be his contribution to bringing opera tenor-ship to the masses.

The real Pavarotti, the essential Pavarotti was something profound and frightening, a monster of art who really did have the ability to turn arrogant sons of bitches like me into wailing babies.

Ciao Maestro, you are gone and my grief is complete. - News in English - Pavarotti dead at 71

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Armed to the Teeth, Part II

By The Foodist

Last time I talked about buying to much crap when you first arrive at school, so that leaves the question "What on earth should I buy?"

The general idea when buying anything should normally be quality over quantity , except in the area of kitchen equipment. Now don't misread me and think that quality doesn't matter, because it sure does, but I want you to keep this in mind.

Buy a $25 peeler and chances are its going to grow legs and walk out of the kitchen. Its a sad truth about kitchens, and one that's lead to the birth of the stereotype about chefs protecting their gear as though it was a newborn child. When you find a good piece of equipment you safeguard it with your life, but you cant always be there to protect it. So what to do?

Like I said before quality is important yes, but sometimes cheap, reliable, and easy are the best ways to go.

There are a few items that every knife kit would be useless without. Of course, you need to have a decent quality chef's or French knife, a paring knife, and a slicer. But here are a few cheap but reliable "extras" you may want to consider buying:

Peeler I've heard people tout this peeler or that peeler more times then I care to remember. The debate is constant and with every new peeler people go crazy. Peelers are essential in kitchens, they make a dull job fast and easy. But don't think you have to go out and buy a $25 one. Personally I prefer a good plastic horizontal peeler. A strong body with a good reliable blade are what you want to look for, something that wont wear out and wear your hand out when you're pulling a Beetle Bailey and peeling 25 sacks of potatoes. Horizontal or Vertical really doesn't matter much that I've found, its really personal preference, I've just found I tend to go faster with a horizontal blade.

Wooden Spoon I know it may seem silly, but a decent wooden spoon is indispensable in a kitchen. I use a wooden spoon whenever possible, the less metal on metal the happier I am. What you want to look for is a good heat resistant as well as water tolerable spoon. Something that can handle constant abuse.

Whisk Ahh yes, the whisk. It would seem that every Sally Homemaker with her own line of products would lead you to believe that you need this type of whisk for eggs, and that type of whisk for brownies. Just not true. What you want to look for is a whisk with a comfortable handle (Ever try hollandaise sauce with a crappy whisk? ) and sturdy wiring. The wiring can be key for a whisk, too thick and you wont get air into your product too thin and it will break apart easily on you. A good way to tell a decent whisk is to hold it upright in front of you and give it a little back and forth shake. If the wiring doesn't move it's too stiff. If it flays all over the place it's way to loose. What your looking for is a very slight movement of the wiring, just enough so that it still feels stable. There is nothing saying though that you don't want a thinner wiring for uses other than everyday whisking. Thinner wiring works wonders for whipping cream. Again its personal preference but don't think you need a different whisk for every application.

Instant Read Thermometer One of the biggest fads I see with culinary students are going and buying these high tech thermometers that use lasers to record temp or can compute the launch trajectory of a NASA space craft. Look, Ill be honest here. If you buy a cheap thermometer, calibrate it correctly, make sure to recalibrate it before each use, and take care of it it will last years. Unless of course your name is Bob and you decide to toss yours down your garbage disposal (it committed suicide my arss!). And buy the way, those laser thermometers only record surface temp which doesn't do you much good if you want to temp a turkey.

These are just a few items you can buy cheaply and will reward you with years of reliable service. And your wallet will thank you. If you want further motivation to buy "cheap and reliable" here's a short list of things that have grown legs and walked out of my knife kit in the last 6 months:

2 Paring Knives, 1 Whisk, 1 Steel, 3 Peelers, 1 Bread Knife, 1 Digital Camera (curses!), 2 Wooden Spoons, 1 Wine Key, and 1 thermometer.

Thankfully all but the Camera and Bread Knife can be replaced cheaply.

Wieners and Beer

Recently my world took a trip to hell in a handbasket that was carried by beer snobs. I realize that this might sound like a ridiculously hyperbolic thing to write, but as someone who has devoted the better part of his adult life to cooking and eating and teaching cooking and eating (yeah, I taught several classes on dining etiquette at The Culinary Institute of America) I am acutely aware that there are a lot of people who take food, wine and -this really blows my mind- beer way too seriously.

The most recent event that crystallized my thinking on this happened a few weeks ago at of all places an annual family members social at Vollmecke Family Orchards Community Sponsored Agriculture (VCSA) farm in Coatesville, Pa. The VCSA is run by farmer Karen Vollmecke (Chester county Farmer of the Year 2006) and her mother Jan, and is the place to go for superb organic produce and fruit and a ramble through some of the most beautiful farmland in the county.

I don't belong to the VCSA , but I've been going up there to trade some of the bread I make for the eggs that the Vollmeckes harvest from their magnificent free-range chickens. So it's a measure of the Vollmecke's magnanimity that they invited me and my family, and also indirectly explains why I chose to bring my tool kit and help out with the cooking.

A CSA works best if the people who contract to buy a portion of the crop also spend some time working on the farm. So since I don't buy any of the crop or spend any time weeding or pruning, I figured the least I could do was prep and cook a bit to show my appreciation.

It was while I was cooking that I met four people, the like of which I had previously only encountered at art galleries in Manhattan, at music stores haunted by greasy looking grease-balls in black t-shirts and thick black-rimmed glasses and at other venues where connoisseurs of one thing or the other gather to amuse themselves by tormenting others with their expertise.

Just a few short paces from where I was cooking were two kegs of beer. (It wasn't an accident that I chose to work the grill closest to the beer. Believe it!) I don't remember if it was the first time or the fifth time I decided that I was so hot that I needed a refill, but what I can never forget was the scene that greeted me by the keg of Alaskan ESB beer: a tall very-white bespectacled woman of a certain age (probably my age) with badly cut and frizzy white hair standing shoulder to shoulder with a tall very-white bespectacled man of a certain age with a very definite paunch. Both held empty cups in hands that looked like they hadn't held anything heavier that a toothbrush in a very long time. Now, I had made it to the keg just a moment before they did and since they both looked so miserable -and I had already had enough of this particular brew- I said "Please, you help yourselves, I'm going to have the Victory lager instead."

The woman fixed on my face with a pair of dead gray eyes, and in a tone of voice that was at once monotonous and as discordant as a trio of cats in heat said "Oh, are you sure, is there something wrong with it?"

"No, I said, it's just a bit bitter and I've had enough."

"Bitter?" the man said, his face as still as sheetrock.

"Bitter?" the woman chimed in "even for an ESB? I can't believe it."

The last comment was delivered in such a withering tone of condescension that I realized then and there that I had two choices to make: lift the keg off the ground, try to hit both of them in one shot and run like hell, or turn away, fill my cup with Victory lager and get back to work. I chose the latter -and was sorry I did.

As I was carefully filling my cup by letting the beer slide gently down the side to keep it from developing too much foam, some guy comes along and tells me I'm doing it all wrong and that I should watch him do it. So what does he do? The exact same thing, but much-much slower. The end result, of course, was no better than what I had done, but I was too polite to break his thick skull about it, and let him walk off secure in the knowledge that he was a siphon meister.

Now if you think for a moment that my suffering at the hands of beer snobs was over, you'd be wrong, very wrong. While Mr. Expert had been teaching me how to pour beer boredom had piqued my thirst and I had emptied my cup. And I damn well wasn't going to go back to the grill with an empty cup. As I was refilling and enjoying the recent departure of the three brew-scags a scraggly looking twenty-something guy steps up to the keg and says "Pilsner?"

"No," I said "lager"

"Oh" he says in a tone that made his disgust palpable. Then the wiener turns his back and walks away! There is only one word that is up to the task of describing a guy like this, "wiener" isn't good enough and I'm too polite to use it. (It's wanker.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Taiwanese Pig Slaughter Jubilee

Jeesh, the Taiwanese sure know how to get down. Some Taiwanese engage in an annual competition to rear and ritually slaughter (in public mind you) the biggest pig in the national poke. The competition is officially illegal but it seems that the authorities are reluctant to prosecute the contestants out of concern over treading on their religious beliefs.

According to this article the winning pig (pictured above) was force fed sand an metal to bring it's weight up to 908 Kg. That's over 2000lbs ! A number that I find hard to believe. It's not clear from anything that I have read that the pig is eaten by the celebrants.

Protests at Taiwan's giant pig contest - Telegraph

Fatuous Food Writing Award Entry : Pizza with Caviar

I suppose that there is no way to write about a pizza topped with lobster and caviar other than to drizzle the page with sex and snobbish hyperbole. But after reading this I'll bet that you'll be tempted to wonder if the dish on the plate was as frightening as the prose that was summoned from its wormhole to described it.

"Sparks flew as soon as the super-snack arrived at our table but that could have been the firework fizzing on top of the delicious-looking dish.

Fellow diners looked on in awe and snapped a picture of our dinner with their mobile phones as it was brought out of the kitchen.

Soon the pizza wasn't the only thing getting saucy as Dave spooned caviar on to a slice for me.

Scoffing such a luxury food - which sells for up to £2,500 a kilo - on top of a pizza slice seemed a bit naughty.

But the salty fish eggs went perfectly with the cheese and tomato topping."


Celbrity chef EVOO-lution (gag)

Victorino Matus answers the big questions in this very readable article, "Bam! Making sense of America's celebrity-chef culture" in The Weekly Standard. Here's a sample of some of the questions to focus your mind before you commit to reading the whole piece

How did we get from Julia Child and Jacques Pépin to the more than 30 celebchefs now featured at the local bookstore? What was the turning point and who caused it? What of the impact of this celebrity chef culture on future generations of culinary school students? Won't they all want to skip restaurant work and demand their own shows? In short, have we gone completely and irrevocably insane over food and the people who make it?

And don't fail to note how often he quotes our friends Michael Ruhlman and Tony Bourdain.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

This'll wake you up, I promise: Cat Food

Note: Apologies in advancer to Fiat Lux and other cat lovers for the editorial comments that follow.

Every once in a while some enterprising environmentally aware cat or chick (or whatever) tries to help solve the problem of overpopulation of one species or another by turning it into a tasty dish in the hope that it'll pique the publics appetite and send thousands out into the bush with the intention of turning the pests into dinner. In the '90's Paul Prudhomme and other Cajun chefs unsuccessfully tried to convince Louisianians that nutria, a rodent that is indigenous to South American and is still is turning that state's coastal marshes into rat turds, was the other- other white meat in an effort to bring their numbers under control.

And now we learn that Australian children's book author Kay Kessing is trying to convince her fellow Aussies that feral cats stewed are more quietly chewed. Suffice it to say that cat lovers are all over her like a swarm of flies on a carcass. It's too bad really, feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds and small mammals annually and globally. And frankly, I don't see why anyone would protest. After all, cats are not endangered species, and meat is meat for goodness sake.

Here's a bit about the story from the Canadian newspaper the Edmonton Journal
SYDNEY - Australians have come up with a novel solution to the millions of feral cats roaming the Outback: eat them.

Wild cats -- the escaped descendants of domestic cats - kill millions of small native animals each year. Now the tables have turned and they find themselves on the menu.

A bush tucker competition held at the weekend in Alice Springs, in the Red Centre of the continent, featured something new: wild cat casserole.

"It's a white meat," said Kay Kessing, who came up with the recipe. "They vary a lot. The first cat I cooked didn't have a strong flavour. I put a lot of ingredients with it and made a beautiful stew." Source

Google News hits for Kay Kessing