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Archive for the ‘Food & Wine’ Category

Gopnik Cookbooks“Vicarious pleasure? More like deferred frustration. Anyone who cooks knows that it is in following recipes that one first learns the anticlimax of the actual, the perpetual disappointment of the thing achieved. I learned it as I learned to bake. When I was in my early teens, the sick yearning for sweets that adolescents suffer drove me, in afternoons taken off from school, to bake, which, miraculously, meant just doing what the books said and hoping to get what they promised to yield. I followed the recipes as closely as I could: dense Boston cream pie, Rigó Jansci slices, Sacher Torte with apricot jam between the layers. The potential miracle of the cookbook was immediately apparent: you start with a feeling of greed, find a list of rules, assemble a bunch of ingredients, and then you have something to be greedy about. You begin with the ache and end with the object, where in most of the life of appetites—courtship, marriage—you start with the object and end with the ache.” (more @ The New Yorker)

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Matchcover“If smoking was their sole raison d’être, restaurant matches should by all rights have disappeared by now. After being overtaken by the disposable lighter, they have run into smoking bans of varying severity. (Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia now have laws prohibiting smoking in restaurants, according to the American Lung Association, and local jurisdictions impose their own smoke-free rules.)

Matches“Yet matches appear to be struggling back from the brink to reassert their pre-eminence among the rabble of coasters, business cards, cocktail napkins and swizzle sticks charged with hawking a restaurant’s good name. In an era of instant information access and viral publicity, logo-bearing matches may have the edge as ambassadors that convey distinction in their very physicality.” (more @ NY Times)

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HopperChopSuey“Is there anything more American than Chinese food? Remember that scene in ‘Manhattan’ where Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway cozy up in bed in his cramped apartment with cardboard boxes of something in black-bean sauce while W. C. Fields plays on the television? Or the scene in ‘A Christmas Story’ when the holiday meal is rescued by crispy duck? Both examples highlight one of the key features of American Chinese food: it’s always there when you’re in a tight spot. And it really is always there. One of the fascinating facts in Andrew Coe’s new history ‘Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States’ is that there are today over forty thousand Chinese restaurants in the country, ‘as exciting,’ Coe writes, ‘as the corner gas station or the Super 8 Motel down by the highway entrance.'” (cont’d @ The New Yorker)

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Pastrami“He may have written a book about Jewish food, but David Sax is quite a ham. He refers to a deli’s finances as ‘pastraminomics,’ describes a knish as being ‘baked to a George Hamiltonesque hue,’ and titles a chapter on Las Vegas’s deli scene ‘Luck Be a Brisket Tonight.’

“But in addition to Catskills shtick, journalist Sax brings passion and substance to Save the Deli, his paean to the Jewish delicatessen experience. The heart of the book is his cross-country road trip, during which he sizes up the state of the deli in cities obvious (New York, Los Angeles, Miami) and unlikely (Boulder, Salt Lake City, Houston).” (cont’d @ Barnes & Noble Review)

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Cycles Nude Label“The State of Alabama’s liquor agency has banned the sale of wine which features a ‘nude nymph’ on its label.

“The label on Cycles Gladiator wine shows a naked nymph with flowing hair flying alongside a winged bicycle.

“Alabama’s liquor regulations bar labels with ‘a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner.’

“According to the winery’s website, the labels are based on a Parisian bicycle advertisement dating from the late 19th century.” (cont’d @ The Food Section)

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Au Revoir“On Bastille Day, as chefs from the Flatiron District were holding a benefit in Madison Square Park inspired by food from around the world, a couple of blocks away Michael Steinberger was sounding the death knell for the most legendary cuisine of all. The occasion was the launch, at Idlewild Books, of his book ‘Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France.’ . . .

“Steinberger, an ardent Francophile, sat on a stool on a low dais in the front window, next to a giant illuminated globe of the world. ‘For the first time in the annals of modern cuisine, the most influential chefs in the world are not French,’ he declared. ‘If you wanted to come up with the top three, you would say Thomas Keller, American; Heston Blumenthal, British; and Ferran Adrià, Spanish.’ He spoke of France’s thirty years of economic stagnation and crippling regulation and high taxes, which have translated every year into the loss of thousands of bistros, cafés, and brasseries, along with thirty thousand farms, all of which, together with a certain gastronomic indifference, he feels has led to the decline of French cuisine. Only ten per cent of cheeses in France are now made from raw milk (there’s just a single artisanal producer of traditional lait cru Camembert left in Normandy), and the consumption of wine—wine!—has dropped fifty per cent, to the point where thousands of small producers are effectively destitute.” (more @ The New Yorker)

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Food, Inc“MOVIES about food used to make you want to eat. . . .

“But that was then, before Wal-Mart started selling organic food and Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Before E. coli was a constant in the food supply, before politicians tried to tax soda and before anyone gave much thought to the living conditions of chickens.

“Into this world comes Food, Inc.,’ a documentary on the state of the nation’s food system that opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday. . . .

“‘Food, Inc.’ begins with images of a bright, bulging American supermarket, and then moves to the jammed chicken houses, grim meat-cutting rooms and chemical-laced cornfields where much of the American diet comes from. Along the way Mr. Kenner attempts to expose the hidden costs of a system in which fast-food hamburgers cost $1 and soda is cheaper than milk.” (more @ NY Times)

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Mustard“What kind of a man eats his hamburger without ketchup? That was the big question yesterday on talk radio, after President Obama visited an Arlington, Virginia, hamburger place on Tuesday and ordered his burger with spicy mustard.”

Apparently Texans and Republicans also prefer mustard to ketchup as their condiment of choice:

In Texas:

“Texans traditionally eat hamburgers with mustard or with mayonnaise (or with both), but without ketchup. This is simply called a ‘hamburger’ in Texas, but is sometimes called a ‘Cowboy Burger’ or a ‘Texas Burger’ outside of Texas. 

“A hamburger with ketchup is sometimes called a ‘Yankee Burger.’ A hamburger with mayonnaise is sometimes called a ‘Sissy Burger.'” . . .

As for the GOP:

“A 2000 survey of members of Congress by the National Hot Dog Council found that 73% of Republican lawmakers preferred mustard to ketchup, as opposed to 47% of Democratic lawmakers.”

(via New Majority.com)

Related: The Ketchup Conundrum

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fatty-foodsA hormone released during the digestion of certain fats triggers long-term memory formation in rats, a new study says.

“Researchers found that administering a compound produced in the small intestine called oleoylethanolamide (OEA) to rats improved memory retention during two different tasks.

“When cell receptors activated by OEA were blocked, the animals’ performance decreased.

“Though the study involved rats, OEA’s effects should be similar in other animals, including humans, said study team member Daniele Piomelli, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine.” (more @ National Geographic)

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hopper-new-york-restaurantJoseph Epstein on why New York food is so good:

“Manhattan must have 300, perhaps 400, splendid restaurants. I estimate that Chicago has, at the outside, 30, and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., respectively probably not more than that. Why is this? How to account for this plentitude of good restaurant food in Manhattan?

“Demand has a lot to do with it. By this I don’t mean demand as in the old economists’ formula of supply and demand. What I mean is that New Yorkers are, and always have been, more demanding than any other Americans when it comes to what they eat. . . .

“New Yorkers tend to order food as if they are spoiled children dining in their mothers’ kitchens. They demand excellent service, which includes accommodation for their idiosyncrasies (that pickle on the separate plate). If they do not get what they want, they howl, return food, do not return to the restaurant, and verbally torch the place. If you open a restaurant in New York, you had better be good, or you will soon be gone.” (more @ Wall Street Journal)

[Thanks, John.]

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bigburger“Last week, the West Michigan Whitecaps minor league baseball team sold more than 100 mega-sized burgers on opening night.

“It’s made with five patties plus chili, American cheese, nacho cheese, tortilla chips, salsa, lettuce, tomato and sour cream — all piled on an 8-inch bun.

“The mammoth meal weighs more than 4 pounds. And, even in this era of scaling back, plenty of people took on the burger by themselves.

“This monster of a burger is called the Fifth Third burger. It has five 1/3-pound patties of beef.” (cont’d @ NPR)

A video of the burger being prepared can be viewed here.

[Click on image to “supersize.”]

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05_Flatbed_1 - APRIL“Mexico is protesting what it says is a whopper of an insult.

An advertisement for Burger King‘s Texican Whopper burger that has run in Europe shows a small wrestler dressed in a cape resembling a Mexican flag. The wrestler teams up with a lanky American cowboy almost twice his height to illustrate the cross-border blend of flavors.

“‘The taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican,’ a narrator’s voice says.

“The taller cowboy boosts the wrestler up to reach high shelves and helps clean tall windows, while the Mexican helps the cowboy open a jar.

“Mexico’s ambassador to Spain said Monday he has written a letter to Burger King’s offices in that nation objecting to the ad and asking that it be removed. Jorge Zermeno told Radio Formula that the ads ‘improperly use the stereotyped image of a Mexican.'” (more @ NY Daily News)

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fromage-frais“The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-miligram Containers of Fromage Frais, published by Icon Group International, has been crowned the winner of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. The Bookseller received just over 5,000 votes on its online poll, with the study into the future of the diary product packaging securing a 32% share of the total vote since the shortlist was announced on 20th February.” (more @ Bookseller.com)

“The Diagram Prize began in 1978 as a way for Bruce Robertson, co-founder of the Diagram Group, an information and graphics company, to combat his ennui at the Frankfurt Book Fair. That was a bumper year for odd titles — nominees included ‘100 Years of British Retail Catering’ and ’50 New Poodle Grooming Styles’ — but the runaway winner was ‘Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Nude Mice.'” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedThe 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais

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DEU Obama Fingers“Sprehe, a company that has all manner of frozen delicacies on offer, has come up with a new product it calls ‘Obama Fingers.’ Far from being real digits, though, the ‘fingers’ in question are ‘tender, juicy pieces of chicken breast, coated and fried,’ as the product packaging claims. . . .

“‘We noticed that American products and the American way of eating are trendy at the moment,’ Judith Witting, sales manager for Sprehe, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. ‘Americans are more relaxed. Not like us stiff Germans, like (Chancellor Angela) Merkel.’ . . .

“For Americans in Germany, though, there is a risk that the product might be seen as racially insensitive. Fried chicken has long been associated with African-Americans in the US — naming strips of fried chicken after the first black president could cause some furrowing of brows.

“Witting told SPIEGEL ONLINE the connection never even occurred to her. ‘It was supposed to be a homage to the American lifestyle and the new US president.’ she said.” (more @ Spiegel Online; via Newser)

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colsanders540“A statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders tossed into Osaka’s Dotonbori River some 24 years ago by rowdy Hanshin Tigers fans has been discovered. . . .

“The Colonel ended up at the bottom of the river in 1985, when delirious Hanshin Tigers fans celebrating the team’s first Central League title in 21 years decided the figure bore a striking resemblance to Tigers slugger Randy Bass and, lifting it off its base in front of the Dotonbori Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, gave the Colonel a victory toss. The fans put a little too much energy into the toss, and the Colonel Sanders figure went over the railing of the Ebisu Bridge and into the river. Since the statue’s victory dive into the Dotonbori, searches for the statue were undertaken, but none with any success.

“The Hanshin Tigers have not won the Japan Series since 1985, a fact attributed by some to the ‘Curse of Colonel Sanders.'” (more @ Mainichi Daily News; via Newser)

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Obama Sushi

obamasushi

Russian Writers Cookies: Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol


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“These days, with a kitchen and a bit of ambition, you can start to make a name for yourself in Brooklyn. The borough has become an incubator for a culinary-minded generation whose idea of fun is learning how to make something delicious and finding a way to sell it.

“These Brooklynites, most in their 20s and 30s, are hand-making pickles, cheeses and chocolates the way others form bands and artists’ collectives. They have a sense of community and an appreciation for traditional methods and flavors. They also share an aesthetic that’s equal parts 19th and 21st century, with a taste for bold graphics, salvaged wood and, for the men, scruffy beards.” (via NY Times)

Related: edible Brooklyn

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Cao Lau, the celebrated Vietnamese noodle dish (usually served with pork and fried rice paper bits), according to local legend can only be made authentically in the ancient port town of Hoi An with water drawn from wells such as the one pictured here dug hundreds of years ago by the Cham people (December, 2006)

(Full photo)

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As reported in a New York Magazine article still much-discussed by DUMBO locals, Steven Kaplan, a Professor of European History at Cornell University and the “world’s preeminent French-bread scholar,” after a blind tasting of 13 of New York City’s finest baguettes, chose Almondine Bakery‘s eponymous baguette as the city’s best.

Scoring a 14.65 (on a scale of 21), the Almondine baguette, said Kaplan, “has a nice look, nice resonance, and a nice song . . . It has a little bit of fruit, a peachy, buttery quality in its nose . . . [and] achieves a good marriage of crust and crumb.”

almondineBut before Almondine’s now famous dough could rise, the abandoned four-story warehouse and pepper factory now occupied by the bakery had to be gutted, rehabilitated and adapted for commercial and residential use.  In 2003, Bob Vila, late of the This Old House home improvement and repair television series, devoted the entire season of his Home Again series to the transformation of this c. 1850s building unused since the 1950s.  

More than just a chronicle of a single restoration project, the videos from the DUMBO series (clips from all 13 episodes can be found here) offer some of the best footage available of the development of the Brooklyn neighborhood that in the past several years has become a must-see destination on the New York City tourist circuit.

Update: Best of New York: Eating: Best Bakery (via “2009 Best of New York” issue of New York Magazine)

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“Milton Parker, who brought long lines and renown to the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan with towering pastrami sandwiches and a voluble partner who kibitzed with common folk and celebrities alike, died in Queens on Friday. He was 90 and lived in Manhattan. . . .

‘In the history of delicatessens, Milton Parker’s Carnegie Deli caused more heartburn to the Jewish world than anything I’ve ever heard of,’ Freddie Roman, the veteran borscht belt comedian, said this week on the savethedeli Web site. ‘His pastrami sandwich was incredibly much too large for human consumption.’” (via NY Times)

[Parker was born the same year as my father and both grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Parker’s passing reminds me of my father’s frequent boasts of having served in the same Army battalion as the owner of the Pastrami King, the venerable Queens Boulevard delicatessen that my father proudly referred to as the “Carnegie of Queens.”]

Related

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