Monday, November 19, 2007

Tony Bourdain keeping it real in Fruitvale

My friend Connie emailed to say Anthony Bourdain is chowing down in front of at least one of the famed taco trucks in the Fruitvale district of Oakland:

so i just sent zack on a taco run to our favorite
truck (mi grullense) and he just called saying that
tony bourdain was there (w/the contra costa times).
he's super tall and ordered the cabeza and the tripa.

cool, huh?

Very cool, but what would be even cooler is if Tony could convince one of those truck owners to publish "Taco Truck Confidential." SO much scarier than Kitchen Confidential.

(PS, maybe he found this place through nerdfury??)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Your wine bottles are melting the planet, snob

I just got a press release saying I should buy my wine from Oakland vintners because shipping bottles from Napa spews way more carbon than shipping grapes, since glass is so bloody heavy.

And it turns out there is new scientific research to confirm this, described the author Tyler "Dr. Vino" Coleman on his awesome blog.

Which has been covered elsewhere, but everyone, including Dr. Vino, emphasizes the solution of continuing to buy wine bottles, but from a local winery.

Yet Dr. Vino's research found boxed wine "has much less (carbon) intensity" than bottles.

Wine snobs object to boxed wine because it was historically used for low-quality wine and sometimes even marketed to alcoholics as cheap guzzle. Also, the wine suffers is you leave it in the box too long, since it's wrapped in plastic, so you can't age the wine.

The thing is, the vast majority of Americans who buy bottled wine do not cellar -- heck, their wine is lucky to last 48 hours! And the composition of wine, from what I gather, has evolved in response. Most bottles serve as props to perpetuate the acknowledged, romantic fiction that they will be lovingly aged by sophisticated drinkers in the cool, dry caves under their chateaus.

Get with the program, Monsieur Terroir! I'm ready to start buying some quality boxed wine to drink in my sweltering shack!

I'm also ready to start re-using my bottles. Hook a hose up to your tank or barrel or whatever, stick it in my used bottle or portable plastic tank, and fill 'er up! If it works in France it can work here. And ideally I would be able to buy not just from the winery, but at the wine shop, supermarket, heck even my gas station. I mainly use them for Ben & Jerry's anyway, and they're right across from Acme Bread and could give Kermit Lynch a run for their money!

It's time to end this preposterous charade of wastefully shipping bottles around.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Foie gras is back at Jardiniere

SF Chronicle, August 2003, following attacks on chef Laurent Manrique of Aqua:
Jardiniere's Traci Des Jardins ... said she will discontinue her signature foie gras and see how customers respond. Although she, like many chefs, wonders if her restaurant will be the next target, Des Jardins says her decision is not about fear. Ever since she visited a foie gras farm in 1995, Des Jardins said she's been "haunted by the image of those ducks."
Jardiniere menu, November 2007:
Liberty Farms Duck Breast,
Fuyu Persimmon, Chestnuts and Foie Gras Beignet, Huckleberry Jus
Emeritus Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California 2005
And from the Jardiniere New Year's Eve menu (PDF) for later this year:

Terrine of Foie Gras
Ginger Gelée and Toasted
Prum Riesling Auslese “Wehlener
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany 1997

Jardinier's opera-loving customers, it would appear, are quite fond of foie gras, and not particularly concerned with Traci Des Jardins' traumatic, terrifying nightmares.

Tough crowd!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Google computer nerds to teach children how to eat healthy. Oh holy God.

Google invites you to bring your children to its Mountain View headquarters next month for pizza, soda and television so it can teach them how to not be obese.

If you're afraid your kids are going to grow fat watching television on their computer or chatting with friends on the computer or surfing the Internet all day on the computer or deciding to become computer programmers who marry their computers and eat chips and Mountain Dew until the day their startup gets bought by the world's biggest computer, probably the best way to allay your fears is to march them down to Google headquarters.

Go there on October 20, when the company is fighting childhood obesity by holding a benefit for a TV show aimed at children.

The show is called "DooF" -- "food" spelled backwards -- and airs on PBS.

The benefit basically is a day of eating and walking around the Googleplex, but hey it's not as bad as I make it sound: the pizza is from an organic "make your own" workshop deal that will be led by Steve Sullivan of Acme Bread and by Google's pizza chef.

The soda is Italian soda from a "Euro Cafe" so, uh, probably still not healthy.

The TV is just a big screen showing interviews with kids at the event itself so it will not keep your kids glued.

You also get to tour an organic garden, sip smoothies, learn about "raw foods," taste apples from Donner Trail Fruit, do a food spelling bee, have a cheese sniffing contest with Cowgirl Creamery, and listen to some hip hop dudes called "Felonious." Fair enough.

Just make sure you don't accidentally come on some other day, or your impressionable youth will instead learn how to set up a webcam, start a blog and immerse herself in software development so that she can someday work in a giant computer that controls her transportation, laundry, diet, hair style, dating options, etc.

And bring some cash because Google can't just be letting anyone in the door for free, it's not like they are made of money.

Business Times: Hey kids! Come pig out at Google!

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hoist Thomas Keller by his own Sysco petard, no really GO AHEAD, says ex-employee!

Photo cropped from original courtesy mikebaudio on FlickrThere's an awesome new post in the comments from ex-Thomas Keller employee "Ken," who confirms that, yes, Keller uses Sysco frozen fries at Bouchon to make what food-media empress Laura Froelich has declared are the best French-fried potatoes on the planet.

But Ken's bigger message is that Thomas Keller has no secrets.

Ask him for the model number of his fryer, he'll tell you. Ask him for what kind of Sysco oil he uses, he'll tell you.

Wait, what?? He uses Sysco OIL even?? Not like goose fat, or rendered Unicorn, or at least the carefully distilled juice of a grass-fed free-range happy cow? God this keeps. Getting. Worse.

But anyway, the point is, you could totally TAKE ON Thomas Keller using nothing more than his goodwill and copies of his own cookbooks. Here's the whole comment:

As a former employee of TK, I will tell you that you are correct about where the fries come from. I will also tell you that if you asked Thomas or Jeff Cerciello, they would tell you what kind of fryer they use and what kind of Sysco oil they use too.

Now, all you have to do is cook and season the fries. Match what they do and open your own place, it's that simple. TK has never hidden anything from anyone. His recipes and techniques mentioned in the TFL and Bouchon cookbooks are on the money and the same as the cooks thaqt work for him carry around in their precious pocket notebooks. TK feels that all you need to know about working for him or cooking in general is - desire.

Another secret about TK is that the pork he uses actually comes from pigs, but don't reveal this, it may cause a stir.

I hope all you local chefs looking to steal Thomas Keller's Michelin-star-studded crown got all that. Basically all you need is DESIRE, along with some chutzpah, hard work, Thomas Keller cookbooks and the ability to READ.

Hey where'd all the chefs go after the last part??

View comment with original post

(Photo cropped from original courtesy mikebaudio on Flickr via Creative Commons license. You may redistribute and "remix" this cropped version under the same license.)

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Foodies are amoral creeps, including Michael Pollan, says Atlantic writer

Quick, read it while the Google cache still exists!

Atlantic writer B.R. Myers savages foodies, starting with Michael Pollan, for celebrating the joys of feeding while ignoring, even mocking, the suffering of animals:
The pleasures of the oral cavity are now widely regarded as more important, more intrinsically moral, and a more vital part of civilized tradition than any other pleasures ... This can be seen in the public’s toleration of a level of cruelty in meat production that it would tolerate nowhere else ...

This is a prime example of food writers’ hostility to the very language of moral values. In mocking and debasing it, they exert, with Madison Avenue’s help, a baleful influence on American English as a whole. If words like sinful and decadent are now just a cutesy way of saying “delicious but fattening,” so that any serious use of them marks the speaker as a crank ...
Agree with it or not, Myers' essay presents an intriguing argument about food and foodie culture that will keep you reading. It is presented as a review of Pollan's Omnivore's Dilmema, and presents that book in a unique new light.

The essay is supposed to be roped off only for Atlantic subscribers, but Google still offers the essay for free from its cache:

Hard to Swallow page 1 (google cache)

Hard to Swallow page 2 (google cache)
Hard to Swallow page 3 (google cache)
Hard to Swallow page 4 (google cache)

Lest you think I post this to bash Michael Pollan, I should note that Myers clearly admires his work and praises two thirds of Omnivore's Dilemma in no uncertain terms.

Myers, by the way, put himself on the map with the thrilling A Reader's Manifesto, an essay attacking literary pretension.

(Also in the same issue of the Atlantic, an essay on San Francisco's Camp Bread and the scones therein.)

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Zuni, Quince buy their produce in Berkeley

Tonight Anne and I watched the engaging documentary "Eat at Bill's," about Monterey Market in Berkeley, and learned that chefs from Zuni, Quince, Foreign Cinema and other San Francisco restaurants cross the bay to buy vegetables and fruit there, a mile from our home.

I knew Monterey Market as the place where Anne could get sour cherries for pie at certain times of year, and as the neighborhood place with better variety than Berkeley Bowl, which is a much longer drive away (albeit with longer hours).

What I didn't realize is that Monterey Market has become a key supporter of pioneering farmers and a hub for some of the most interesting produce out there. Nor did I realize how many culinary maestros slip in its back door every morning.

I was pessimistic that a documentary about a produce market could fill an hour. Eat at Bill's is an uplifting and fun movie that unexpectedly brought me close to tears.

I checked the movie out from the library, another option is to buy the DVD online for $20. They also carry it at Monterey Market.

The filmmaker, Lisa Brenneis, wrote more about the movie in Edible East Bay.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thomas Keller's Sysco fries are totally punk rock, blogger says

In which Laura Froelich makes Michael Pollan cry some more
Dear Michael Pollan,

There, there.

We know you're down because Nancy Pelosi personally hung, bled and skinned your farm reform bill in a Smithfield abattoir on account of it being terrorism, the kind of terrorism that keeps Democrats from controlling Congress again in 2008, when the new president might give them permission to finally end the war or whatever.

Might we suggest some ways to cope with your depression, Michael? Start with some bourbon, neat, followed perhaps by a kill-crazy rampage in which you and your mob personally smash all tractors, ethanol tanks and lifesaving hospital technology your great great grandmother's great great grandmother wouldn't recognize as anything other than witchcraft.

And then fire up your laptop (named for a genetically engineered fruit no doubt!) and log on to food writer Laura Froelich's blog, where she says prepared French fries from Sysco, the massive food service company, are the absolute best in the world, far better than the ones made by hand in a fussy traditional French style by Tony Bourdain in New York.

Laura is especially fond of the Sysco fries served in gauche Las Vegas by agribusiness giant Thomas Keller. As an Archer Daniels Midland spokesman Keller's rep told New York Magazine:
One of the top reasons Bouchon uses frozen French Fries is consistency ... the consistency in these fries is often better than that of fresh potatoes.

The second reason is capacity. Bouchon would need to use over 200 pounds of potatoes a day to fulfill French Fry orders.

Laura Froelich is also a fan of the product. She writes of Bouchon's frozen, government-subsidized corporate welfare fries:

In my opinion, the Keller fries were stellar. Thin-cut (but not too thin), crispy (but not crunchy) on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, and just the right proportions of oil and salt.

Feeling better already, Michael? Thought so! Interest you in a FunYun??

Fro Fro Blog: Chowdown - Keller vs. Bourdain

New York Magazine: Keller Cops to Using — No! — Frozen Fries

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

So sick and wrong: Mark Pastore cooks local kids. And serves them as a 'special' dish.

Can you awful San Francisco foodies ever stop pushing the envelope? Do you have no decency?

Smoke pot and launder drug money in your restaurants, fine. Launch a jihad against science and progress, whatever. Launch a satanic crop-circle cult and worship an Austrian eugenics guy, boring with bored sauce.

But the kids. The KIDS. Can't you leave them alone, terrorists?

Here's Mark Pastore, the chef-owner at Incanto -- and a SICKO -- in the summer Edible San Francisco:
He had a smile on his face when he answered ... "How do you think it's going to look if I have 'neighborhood kid' on the menu?"
Uh, awful?

But he did it. And did it again. And he would keep going, if he could get his hands on more kids.

The author of the article, Andy Griffin, is trying to help him. He thinks, if he can round up enough kids, he can also sell them to Palestinians, Moroccans, Mexicans, Filipinos, Jamaicans ...

Griffin has anticipated your outrage, and has an answer:

America's political culture has embraced multiculturalism, yet goat meat has yet to break into the mainstream. Why? ...

I call Mark Pastore ... Pastore means shepherd in Italian, so Mark is almost fated to serve goat. He had a smile on his face when he answered. "You want to sell me tender, young, locally-grown goats? How do you think it's going to look if I have 'neighborhood kid' on the menu?"

Mark was kidding. Incanto does serve goat sometimes, but the supply of high-quality goat isn't as consistent as it is for pork or lamb. Kid production can be problematic.

At this point, I decided Griffin was creeping me out on a whole other level and stopped reading. But you might want to pick up the magazine (story not online) and read this for yourself. It's almost unbelievable.

Especially the picture of a kid being roasted over a spit.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chronicle biodynamics letters: So. Very. Best.

I'm awarding Jim Cuthbertson of El Cerrito and especially Kathy Cheer of Santa Cruz the coveted title "Honorary Covers Editor at Large" for their letters to the Chronicle today, regarding the recent story on How Biodynamic Pagan Sacrifice Can Help Guerrilla Market Your Restaurant, blogged here under the title "Chefs turn to witchcraft and sorcery in logical next step for food world."

For those that missed these letters tucked into the back of the Food section, Cuthbertson wrote that "Organic farming is real and has real benefits ... Burying stuff in a skull is just plain weird."

And Kathy Cheer, well, let's just say that not only am I going to print her letter in full, but also that I encourage her to sue me for copyright infringement just so I can meet her in person and shake her hand:
Rudolf Steiner's speeches on biodynamic farming bring to mind the following quote from Shakespeare's "Macbeth":

Saith the witches: "eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog ..."

For those who have the time, this approach to farming is whimsical. For those responsible for feeding large populations, this is tomfoolery.

Blessed be.

Well, these letters may not get you, say, a high-profile gig as a regular contributor to New York Times Magazine, but we're happy to run your stuff over at Covers!

I'm a sucker for a nice turn of phrase, I guess. Even though, like Arugula, Michael Pollan or a well-timed stint laundering narcoprofits, biodynamics is neither all bad nor all good. Right?? Tell me there's a redeeming ending here.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chefs turn to witchcraft and sorcery in logical next step for food world

Photo Courtesy anatomist on FlickrSo you've taken Michael Pollan's advice. You replaced science with culture, and then you threw out "anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food," and your "ancestors " get to veto everything you'd like to buy in the supermarket.

Which kind of sucks, since your great ancestors were salt-of-the-earth types in East Texas and Oklahoma who mostly just fried the sort of critters you find around your yard, and you came to San Francisco to move beyond all that, but whatever. You've made the haj to Terra Madre for the Slow Food truffle-and-wine orgy, and even enthusiastically applauded the flag of Iran. Yay!

Locavore, check; organic/sustainable, check; rallied against demon corn, check.

What's next?

Well, it turns out, ritualistically stuffing excrement and chamomile into cow horns and deer bladders is next! Awesome.

It sounds weird at first, but really it makes sense if you think about it. We went organic because we didn't want to eat food with poison on it, right? And then we went sustainable because we didn't want our grandchildren to starve in a sea of fire and sand, right?

Well, now we're going to go "biodynamic" because Lucifer is a being of light that makes us creative and free and because we need "rituals, practices and formulas based on (the) study of nature and the cosmos -- for example, the making and applying of certain preparations by the lunar, solar and astrological calendars."

Wait, what??

No no, hold on, the Chronicle explains further, it starts making a lot more sense:

Two of the preparations, 501 and 500, involve stirring quartz and manure respectively into water in a way that creates a vortex in the water, reversing direction intermittently throughout one hour. The mixture is highly dilute, and often described as "homeopathic" in dosage.

Some other formulas include those injected into compost. One consists of dried chamomile flowers stuffed into intestines (natural sausage casings) and buried underground for six months. A yarrow compost preparation consists of dried yarrow blossoms stuffed into the bladder of a deer, hung from a tree for six months then buried underground for another six months. Oak bark preparation, also used in compost, must be placed in the skull of a domesticated horned animal and buried for six months before it is used.

See, it's not so bad. The whole thing was dreamed up by an Austrian esotericist named Rudolph Steiner who defenders say was quite charming, only very rarely delivering controversial lectures on race and mostly just prattling on about Anthroposophy, which is about "sense-free thinking" and "spiritual science" and other things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The key thing is, biodynamics can give you an edge. That's why two-Michelin-starred Manresa chef David Kinch is doing it -- it gets him out of the undistinguished scrum of chefs shopping organic at the farmer's market and into what he called "the next level" on the "voodoo side."

Read all about it, if you haven't already:

Chronicle: Digging biodynamic / Restaurateurs look beyond organic in quest to cultivate pristine produce

(Photo Courtesy anatomist on Flickr)

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Corn is a sick depraved vegetable that will enslave us all, said (who else?) Michael Pollan

Speaking to an angry mob of local radicals who were probably looking to burn something down, author Michael Pollan may have taken his food purity crusade just a bit too far when he suggested corn, the vegetable, is a sentient collective being that will kill us all.

Pollan went on to say people should not sleep easy at night while demon corn is allowed to freely roam our streets.

From the Oakland Tribune:
"Corn is on a quest for world domination," Pollan said last week to a standing-room-only crowd at the Oakland Museum of California. "Corn has taken over our land, diet, and now cars with ethanol fuel."
"Politicians sleep easy when food prices are cheap," he said.
Pollan won plaudits for his previous argument about corn -- that it was an inanimate object wielded as a simple but effective tool by a mindlessly self-perpetuating cabal of agricultural corporations and rural politicians.

But while it's tough for activists to remove a sitting Congressman, it's relatively easy to go after an innocent little veggie guarded only by a green husk and shaggy brown strings of hair, limping along with sad genetic mutations like a complete nervous system and set of teeth.

So Pollan may have decided going after corn, not certain politicians, is the easier route. Either that or Pollan had been eating at Chez Panisse that night, wink wink.

Oakland Tribune: Corn aims to rule world, prof says (NOTE: This is the actual headline.)

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Alice Waters at Cody's tomorrow night; will get you high, kill us all

Alice Waters biographer Thomas McNamee will be at Cody's San Francisco tomorrow night, 7 pm, which means Alice will certainly be remote-controlling his every last word and gesture and will effectively be present herself. Should be awesome.

The reading starts at 7 and the tentative agenda is:
  • 7:05 pm Welcome and inconsolable sobbing from Cody's owner Andy Ross.
  • 7:10 pm McNamee hands out Waters' famous PCP-laced tarts to lucky first 20 guests.
  • 7:15 pm Reading begins with chapter on Waters' CIA training in Santa Barbara and how she came up with genius ruse of creating hippie restaurant in Berkeley to lure, spy on SDS and Black Panthers and free-thinking professors.
  • 7:22 pm Visibly intoxicated John Birdsall arrives.
  • 7:23 pm Waters "security detail" of Trotskyite drug lords moves to eject Birdsall, not realizing he has concealed a chef's knife under his apron.
  • 7:24 pm McNamee's batteries run out just as he was getting to something interesting on arugula, crowd becomes frantic.
  • 7:25 pm High off organic Columbian cocaine, Waters' "security detail" panics when a foaming-at-the-mouth Birdsall unsheaths his bloody knife. In the ensuing chaos, they spray the entire crowd with standard Chez Panisse-issue Uzis.
  • 7:26 pm Ross reminds survivors there will be NO REFUNDS on unsigned books.

See you there!

Cody's Stockton Street: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - Thomas McNamee

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pork belly: So hot right now

Knife's Edge writes that pork belly has become "so trendy that by now I'd say it's passe."

The chef reports that denizens of his Northern California town are flocking to his own restaurant's pork belly with root beer reduction, which he originally thought would be too adventurous for most customers.

He writes: "It's selling. More than we ever have before. Perhaps the mullet wearing citizens of my town only see the BEER part of the sauce and their eyes glaze over."

I enjoyed a wonderful pork belly at Ad Hoc on Superbowl Sunday, then noticed it the other day on the menu at Vitrine in the St. Regis. Some Web searches turn up pork belly recently on the menus of La Folie, Farallon, Salt House, Cortez and Redd. Among others, surely.

Next stop: Olive Garden.

Full Knife's Edge pork belly post: C'est la vie say the old folks

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Copia opening in San Francisco

My colleague Sarah Duxbury has the scoop in today's Business Times on how Copia, a sort of food museum in Napa Valley, is opening a satellite office in San Francisco at Ghirardelli Square.

The SF Copia will share space with Cellar 360, a Healdsburg wine retailer than will offer tastings and small plates of food. Cellar 360 is a division of Australian spirits firm Foster's Group, which owns wine brands like Beringer and Stag's Leap, but the tastings will be run by people from Copia.

Copia will offer everything from a half-hour tasting course to a two-year certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Sarah writes. Copia is the only entity on the West Coast to offer such certification.

The 6,000-square foot facility is joined in Ghirardelli Square by Fairmont's fractional ownership hotel, set to open in thee fall.

Sarah's Copia story is not online; this may change on Monday but I wanted to post something today because I see the press release is going out.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Kim Severson selects embarassing truffle, unmasks Iranian agents. Yes, I'm serious about the truffle thing.

Former Chronicle food writer Kim Severson is now at the New York Times, which last fall dispatched her to wage war against the accumulated sum of human knowledge and progress and to not stop writing until she had burned science itself to the ground.

Oh, sorry, that was Michael Pollan.

Severson was deployed last fall to Italy, where she was to infiltrate the Slow Foodintern gathering at Terra Madre and link up with what she called, in a debriefing that has since been yanked from public view, "the elite troops in the fight against McFood."

I have reviewed this restricted account of the battle at Terra Madre.

There was a "call to arms" involving yak cheese. There was an incendiary "honey manifesto." There was, I kid you not, "some of the warmest applause" when the flag of Iran was unfurled.

But our decorated operative Severson left something out of her November 1 report, perhaps ashamed of the awful, awful truth. Buried deep in a story wrapped in an engima wrapped in the Winter 2006 edition of Edible San Francisco, freelancer Andrea Blum reports:
In Alba (an hour from Turin), during a heavenly meal of white truffles at Lalibera restaurant, the chef/owner Marco Forneris showed me the stack of business cards he had collected from Americans who visited his domain. Among them was Sue Moore of Let's Be Frank and Chez Panisse fame as well as New York Times food writer Kim Severson, who ate there four consecutive times, including lunch.

The pair came to the restaurant the night before, proudly armed with a truffle of their own. Flavia Bodda, co-owner of Lalibera and the only woman on the Italian commission controlling the quality of white truffles in the marketplace, was astonished. "I didn't want to tell them," she said shaking her head. "But it was the worst truffle I had seen in a while. I felt terrible."
So there you have it: Kim Severson, award-winning journalist, really-really-nice-advice-giver to a friend of mine once, good writer, exposer of Iranian sympathizers in our midst -- and terrible picker of truffles. The shame.

Blum's story ends, by the way, with Flavia Bodda bringing Blum an amazing truffle, which is way way so much better than Severson's, and which transforms Blum's senses. "We all have our food moments but this was mine," Blum writes.

And so a freelance journalist not-so-subtly one-ups a New York Times writer; Flavia Bodda escapes stoning from the Iranian Slow Food squads; Michael Pollan successfully bans from all kitchens "anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food" and all pesticides were evaporated forever The End.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Slow Food opens San Francisco office, wants it permanently

Slow Food Nation mascotSlow Food International has opened a San Francisco office, its second permanent office in the U.S. outside of New York, and hopes to make it permanent.

The office was opened about six months ago in North Beach, at Stockton and Union Streets, primarily to organize the much-heralded Slow Food Nation food expo, which is set for May 1-4, 2008 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

Slow Food now estimates the expo will draw 60,000 people to Fort Mason Center!

But the office is also meant to service the highly visible San Francisco-area chapter of Slow Food USA, and Slow Food International would like to keep the office going even after the Expo folds up shop and, in all likelihood, moves to the East Coast in 2009, for example Ann Arbor.

For now, the office is small, about 600 square feet and two people, including Slow Food Nation's Content Director, who I spoke to for the full story on the Business Times website today (free link). But it is expected to grow.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More faux gras

I posted in November about a South Dakota farmer who has these geese who like to indulge themselves, so much so their livers naturally turn to foie gras without the usual tube down the throat, which some people find cruel and others have no problem with for various well-considered reasons.

Derrick at Obsession with Food spotted a similar force-feeding-free foie gras out of a farm in Spain, which won an award at the Paris International Food Salon.

Derrick is skeptical about the quality, like some of the people in my original post, and notes that people haven't accepted this stuff as foie gras for the couple of hundred years it's been available.

He also notes some practical issues with using Geese as opposed to ducks:
You can't artificially inseminate them, so a farmer can only sell fresh foie gras during the winter season, when Spring's goslings have come of age. And they stress more readily than ducks. When the stoic Mulard breed came on the scene in the 1970s, it transformed the industry overnight. Fifty years ago, 90 per cent of the birds for foie gras were geese. Today, only 20 per cent are.

Still waiting for this stuff to show up on an SF menu.

Derrick's post: Foie Gras Without Force-Feeding?

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Chocolate ripoff exposed in Dallas, media implicated

There is an absolutely delicious takedown of Texas chocolatier Noka on the website by a guy named "Scott."

Capsule summary: World's most expensive chocolate, priced at $300-$2,000 per pound, is Noka, carried by Nieman Marcus and at one point by Dean and DeLuca. It has been hyped by Forbes, Dallas Morning News, Baltimore Sun and Food and Wine.

Turns out? Made in a half-empty strip mall by an accountant reprocessing chocolate from France -- and badly, at that.

It surprises and disappoints me that so many professional reporters were duped. Maybe I have been soaking in the foodie culture of the Bay Area too long. After you've toured Scharffen Berger, where they actually make chocolate, or perused the counter at Recchiuti, where they do exquisite things with chocolate after it is made, I can't imagine writing about a chocolate company without getting into the nitty gritty of where they are creating value.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kimpton fermenting hotel in wine country

There were several things to learn at the party Monday night celebrating young Fifth Floor chef Melissa Perello's Michelin star, first among them that Melissa Perello would not have anything to say to assembled guests, but would stand and smile politely beside her hotel's General Manager as he spoke on her behalf.

(Not that I blame her. The event was in the middle of dinner service. Talk about timing -- do you chefs get this a lot? "Yeah, we're going to honor you at the busiest possible moment in the day, and oh by the way can you put together some apps and pastries beforehand ...?")

I also learned that Oprah, allegedly, had planned to put the organic vodka from Novato, Square One, on her "Favorite Things" list but decided hard liquor endorsements did not suit her image so shuffled the product off to her magazine, where someone else raved about it. Business, apparently, is through the roof.

I learned that I am worthy of not one but several glamour shots for the pages of party host Papercity, including several awkward over-the-shoulder glances (suggested by the photographer).

The most important thing I learned was from a Kimpton source who let slip that the San Francisco boutique hotel chain has plans for a property somewhere in wine country. No word on timing, whether they've identified a property or site -- it might just be a glimmer in Mike DePatie's eye. But it's in the cards.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Faux gras

A goose farmer in South Dakota wants to sell a foie gras substitute next year. The stuff would be made from older geese that -- get this -- decide, with their cut little independent goose brains, to gorge themselves. As opposed to having a farmer pour the feed down the animal's throat, a traditional technique that some people believe is cruel.

"Some choose to eat more than others," farmer Jim Schlitz tells Business 2.0 magazine, which has the story in its November issue, but not online.

Schlitz is setting aside 10,000 of his 250,000 geese this season to live longer, which makes their livers fattier. He's also betting that many will pig out on abundant feed.

Then he'll divide the faux gras into several "grades" and, pending USDA labeling approval, put the stuff on the market next year.

Chef Jeffrey Trujullio, who runs a restaurant in New York state, says "it's not the same as $30-a-pound Hudson Valley of French foie gras -- it's not fatty enough," but thinks it's good enough to change the business.

Restaurant consultant (and Covers Best Friends Forever) Clark Wolf disagrees:
A foie gras substitute would not have the same status. And the restaurant industry ... will find other things to play with ... like truffles or oysters.
Completely random aside: Schlitz is also the name of a beer that began as a reasonable facsimile of a European product but ran itself into the ground by becoming progressively cheaper and thus more American.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bloggers blog to the top, blogged, Part 2

It was two or three years ago now that I attended a party convened by a gaggle of food bloggers, when such a gaggle was a new and curious thing.

My ticket to the event was my girlfriend, who publishes the Cheese Diaries, featured last year in the New York Times and soon to return, it is hoped, from a grad school hiatus.

It has been astounding to watch the fortunes of this initial group.

When my girlfriend applied to the science writing graduate program at UC Santa Cruz, the director was not so much interested in her research work or magazine writing as in her blog. Ditto for the two newspaper internships she completed and the two large science facilities where she worked.

Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy has hooked up with KQED. Pim of Chez Pim is working on a book. Both have loads of press clippings and photo spreads about their endeavors.

Another party attendee, Alder Yarrow (at right, with obvious groupie), today announced he is speaking and moderating alongside some very big names at the Symposium for Professional Food Writers next year in Napa.

Derrick Schneider, also from that initial party (teaching at UC Berkeley!), reports that a blogger (albeit one with an MSNBC day job) has replaced Linda Murphy as wine editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. (In an amazing coincidence, Derrick's AppleScript book was effectively my entree into programming while a UC Berkeley student 10 years ago.)

These are just the bloggers I happen to have come across. I expect more news from the Bay Area food bloggers in the future, and more names, surely.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Yes, Virginia, ranch is a food group.

Oakland's Clorox has jumped onto the healthier-school-lunch bandwagon, donating $15,000 to an Oakland elementary school to promote fruits and vegetables among the kids.

Actually, the money comes from Clorox's Hidden Valley brand of ranch dressing, which is making similar donations at six other elementary schools around the country.

The donation came on the heels of a report in the New York Times that Bill Clinton will "take on the Agriculture Department and improve what is put on the plates of the government-approved school lunch." Clinton has already made Coke and Pepsi promise to take soda out of schoolyards.

The donation also comes as corporations are increasingly trying to co-opt the healthier-lunch trend, with soy-based lunch meats, pre-wrapped fruit packs and tortilla wraps.

In the Bay Area, the notion of natural, fresh and healthier lunches has not been very controversial. It helps that Alice Waters has been a major leader of that movement.

But there certainly seems to be room for a backlash as larger food corporations get more involved. There's also been pushback from the kids -- see the New Yorker's Lunchroom Rebellion, set in Berkeley, if you haven't already. And anger from parents, at least in Britain, where parents are smuggling in fish and chips as an alternative to "overpriced, low-fat rubbish" brought about by chef Jamie Oliver.



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