Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Calling all soft-shell crabs

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 7:53 PM

Where are you?

You're already showing up at Brasserie, Café Centro and Brasserie 8½ in New York. What about us? Huh? What about Atlanta?

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Wednesday food links

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 5:48 PM

Catharine Price writes about what to do with winter vegetables on Slate. This article may be a help to many people, but I have to say - really? Has the woman heard the term "soup"? And she doesn't know what to do with parsley? I do love Mark Bittman's response to her parsley dilemma, although his declaration that kiwis aren't that good is horrifying. Makes me think he hasn't had fresh ones off a vine - tiny, sweet/tart home-grown kiwis are perhaps the best thing in the entire universe. So there.

Derek Brown writes a history of the American mixologist on the Atlantic's food site.

The New York Times gets in on the Varasano's conniption of pizza joy.

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Talking Head: Beer Wars is a tale of David vs. Goliath

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 1:55 PM

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War documentaries are perhaps best made by outsiders who are able to show the nobility and suffering on both sides of the conflict. Anat Baron brings such neutrality to Beer Wars: Brewed in America, a documentary film that explores the goings-on behind the scenes of the world's largest and smallest breweries as they struggle to win the minds and palates of America's 115 million beer drinkers. Anat is allergic to alcohol, so she's never tasted the beers that are at the center of the conflict.

"I think that [not drinking] has helped me in making the film because I don't cast judgment over one or the other group," Baron says. "I am certainly the last person to tell you what to drink or what not to drink, but beyond that, the actual war does exist in the business of beer, and that is more what the film is focused on; it is far less about the two different types of consumers, and whether Bud drinkers think beer geeks are elitist."

Baron's 90-minute film will air simultaneously in 440 theaters across the nation on April 16 and will be followed by a 30-minute live discussion with a panel of brewers and beer experts hosted by know-it-all pundit Ben Stein. The panel will be answering questions generated in advance from the live audience. "They have a digital network in the theaters that can accept satellite feed," Baron says. "It's just a really cool idea, I think, that all these people across America are going to be watching something happen simultaneously. I wanted to get people talking, and this seemed like a better way to do that than the traditional way of rolling out a few theaters at a time."

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sick in the kitchen

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 5:28 PM

It's now being reported that the wave of customer illness that shut down the Fat Duck is probably linked to kitchen employees coming to work while they were sick. I find this interesting - it's a part of kitchen culture that's not discussed much when talking about food safety. In most restaurants (and the better the restaurant the more this is true, usually), cooks simply do not call in sick. Part of the culture is that you come to work no matter what. I've seen chefs and cooks work through the most horrific illnesses. You see it all the time, even in reality TV - chefs get sick and then are treated as weaklings if they don't suck it up and work. I wonder if the incident at the Fat Duck will make anyone pause to think that maybe kitchen machismo (and crazy labor standards) might pose a real threat to customers and restaurant credibility.

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Mouthful: Eggs benedict

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 2:00 PM

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CAFE DI SOL: This little café’s outdoor patio is a picturesque spot to dine alongside young families, brunch addicts and in-the-know regulars when spring is the air. The Café’s Eggs Benedict doesn’t try to be fancy, but it is prepared exactly as it should be. The kitchen takes toasted Thomas’ English Muffins and layers them with pan-heated German cold smoked ham, runny poached eggs, a silky sunshine yellow Hollandaise and a smattering of chives. 640 North Highland Avenue. 404-963-9438.

Continue reading "Mouthful: Eggs benedict"

(Photo by Jennifer Zyman)

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The Times on food politics and the glamorizing of the organic label

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 1:03 PM

The New York Times recently published an excellent summary of the increasing political clout of the sustainable food movement. An excerpt (but please read the entire article):

At the heart of the sustainable-food movement is a belief that America has become efficient at producing cheap, abundant food that profits corporations and agribusiness, but is unhealthy and bad for the environment.

The federal government is culpable, the activists say, because it pays farmers billions in subsidies each year for growing grains and soybeans. A result is an abundance of corn and soybeans that provide cheap feed for livestock and inexpensive food ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup.

They argue that farm policy — and federal dollars — should instead encourage farmers to grow more diverse crops, reward conservation practices and promote local food networks that rely less on fossil fuels for such things as fertilizer and transportation.

Mark Bittman also has an essay in the Times about the need to emphasize healthy eating over "organic" eating:

“People believe it must be better for you if it’s organic,” says Phil Howard, an assistant professor of community, food and agriculture at Michigan State University.

So I discovered on a recent book tour around the United States and Canada.

No matter how carefully I avoided using the word “organic” when I spoke to groups of food enthusiasts about how to eat better, someone in the audience would inevitably ask, “What if I can’t afford to buy organic food?” It seems to have become the magic cure-all, synonymous with eating well, healthfully, sanely, even ethically.

But eating “organic” offers no guarantee of any of that. And the truth is that most Americans eat so badly — we get 7 percent of our calories from soft drinks, more than we do from vegetables; the top food group by caloric intake is “sweets”; and one-third of nation’s adults are now obese — that the organic question is a secondary one. It’s not unimportant, but it’s not the primary issue in the way Americans eat.

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Tart up them tater tots

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 4:10 AM

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Now, for your eyes only ... Totchos! That's tater tots impersonating nachos (above). Actually, in this case, they are Cajun in flavor, with shrimp, andouille sausage, grilled onions and peppers all welded to the tater tots with "cheese sauce."

They are featured at the Nook (1144 Piemont Ave., 404-745-9222). The new pub replaces the Prince of Wales and the owners have done a great job with the space, particularly with the way the inside flows outside to the roomy patio where there's a view of Piedmont Park across the street.

The Totchos were surprisingly edible. I bet if you drank a few beers, while you eat these, you'd start craving them regularly. There are three other versions.

Our food generally was good, although the place had been hit so hard over its opening weekend that about a third of the menu wasn't available. Still, it's great to see them do so well out of the gate.

This dish (above, right) of peanut-crusted scallops over a red-curry sauce, served with green beans, is the most expensive dish on the menu at $16.99. At first, we were told they were out of rice, which I found absurd. And they did indeed produce a bowl of white rice studded with green peas a few minutes after the plate arrived.

I'll have more to say in my next Grazing column. But here's something to think about in the meantime: sweet-tea ice cream. It's creamy, soft-serve ice cream and it beats the hell out of the usual crumbly green-tea variety.

(Photos by Cliff Bostock)

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Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 3:05 AM

Varasano's Pizzeria opens Tuesday night...or maybe Wednesday. Yes, Wednesday. (Unless it's Thursday.) The anticipation is unbearable. Foodie bloggers, many of whom have sampled Jeff Varasano's pizza at his home,  are twittering like starving pigeons in Vatican Square. Honestly, I hear the face of the Virgin Mary appears regularly on Varasano's pies.

Anyway, the latest announcement really is a Wednesday opening. Y'all go and let us know if the pizza is as polyorgasmic as the worshipful claim.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Restaurant Eugene debuts new menu

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 8:51 PM

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We checked out the new menu at Restaurant Eugene last night and had a 2.5-hour, spectacular meal of small-to-medium plates, including this one of duck breast with a bread sauce over creamed English peas. Altogether, we sampled 10 plates and could barely move afterward.

It's kind of a hybrid of Holeman and Finch's free-wheeling style and Restaurant Eugene's elegance. The farm-to-table cooking still prevails.

The restaurant offers a five-course tasting menu for $55 but we ordered five dishes each for somewhat less than that. Of course, the tasting menu may include some more expensive dishes. In any case, the portions are not stingy and the average diner can eat quite well here without spending a zillion dollars. You certainly don't need five plates.

More in my next "Grazing" column.

(Photo by Cliff Bostock)

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Sign of the times

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 8:14 PM

I've been writing at the Ansley Starbucks today, as usual. The baristas tell me that one of the regulars here grabbed their tip jar, containing about $75, and bolted out the door. How rude.

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