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Archive for August, 2010

This Just In: Whole Foods Not Competitive with Del Taco

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Photo from You’re Doing It Wrong

Why do I think you can’t get 3 tacos for a buck and a quarter at Whole Foods?  Oh, because you can’t.   Although you could probably get half a Lara bar.

Eataly My Shorts, Batali!

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Eataly opens today.  Yawn.  Will they have a Crocs section for the Batali edition?

Balls Out

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

You guys, last night I was totally craving testicle pizza and testicles in bechamel sauce flavored with a variety of herbs and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I know I say this all the time, but I should have been in Serbia. There, in Belgrade, the World Testicle Cooking Championship just took place! People, it is not just about eating kangaroo testicles. It is about bravery, according to the organizer. They even give out an award for being “ballsy.” This year the winners were President Obama (somebody tell Maureen Dowd!) and Sully Sullenberger, the pilot who landed in the Hudson back in Jan 09. Strangely, neither was present to accept his award.

The Whole Lie

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

vintage cereal box

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, in USA Today:

On like items, Whole Foods is very competitive. … We have 30,000 items, and you can probably find 30 on which we’re more expensive. Look at our 365 private-label line, which we price against Trader Joe’s. We match their prices. But you can’t always be cheapest if you have the highest quality.

This is what people are always saying about Whole Foods. “On a lot of things it’s so much cheaper!” Well, yes, their prices on organic peach granola might be cheaper than organic peach granola is at your corner store that isn’t making big orders because they need to have a variety of price points on their shelves. But if all you can afford (or want!) is Cheerios or something, that “cheaper at Whole Foods” thing is kind of a joke.

Shut Up Bacon, We’ve Lost Count: Cookie Monstrosity

Monday, August 30th, 2010

image of a cupcake with blue frosting decorated to look like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, complete with a cookie in his mouth

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned 456,874,398,473 times, I’m currently working at an office job rather than at home with my cats. True, it is a perversion of the natural order of things, but I’m kind of enjoying interacting with humans who don’t live within three blocks of me, being thanked and praised for the mildest of accomplishments, and the fact that at least once a week someone has a birthday or gets sent a cake or a box of candy or something.

Today it was a box of cookies from The Cravory. (See what they did there? Clevor.) The Cravory did not send us samples of all NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY cookie flavors available at their retailory, but they sent a pretty big selection, including Ultimate Chocolate Chip, Lemon Cherry Basil, Oatmeal Pear Fig, Red Velvet, and… Pancakes and Bacon.

Naturally this caused some discussion amongst my colleagues, mainly along the lines of, “Gross,” “Is this for real?” and of course, “Who would eat them?”  We determined the most likely consumers to be heterosexual men, pregnant women, and hungover people of either gender, and left them on the counter with all the other cookies as bait to test our hypothesis. I wondered if I should announce I would be chronicling the experiment in my food-blog-that’s-not-really-about-food and figured I would keep my identity secret in order to maintain the integrity of the results.

While waiting for our subjects to participate, I looked at the Cravory website to find out more. First, although they advertise on the front page the NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY flavors available via their “Create Your Own Cookie” service, the page for it has a disappointing “Coming Soon!” on it, looking rather lonesome. It expected to have 950 friends, I suppose.  On the “Signature Cookies” page they describe the Pancakes and Bacon cookie thusly:

The perfect combo of salty and sweet, Pancakes and Bacon is a supremely rich, yet playful alternative to any “Big Breakfast.” Rich mini maple chips, pure maple syrup, and hand-chopped Maple Smoked Bacon are carefully mixed in to a hearty Pancake batter dough. The complexity of this trendsetter cookie gives way to layer after layer of breakfasty flavor. Although this daring creation takes a walk on the wild side, P and B truly shines by showcasing the classy side of bacon and introducing it to the purest of gourmet ingredients. This cookie will blow your bacon and eggs out the Denny’s Window.

Blowing your meal out a window? That does sound classy.

As we go to press (ie, I have to get back to work), no one has taken the bacon bait. Fear not, fellow Scientists! I will update with any developments.

Breaking news, 6:05 pm–tried by a woman! Her report: “Strong maple flavor, can’t taste the bacon.” The end.

Eat, Pray, Sell Gourmet

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Substitute “Portland,” “Seattle,” or multiple other cities in the graf below:

Carrot buns, lemon macaroons, golden veal cutlets and tamarind ice cream spiked with balsamic vinegar are taking New York by storm, as street carts trade working-class fare for delicacies.

One thing that really irks me about the food truck thing is that it’s only become a “trend” now that food trucks are “gourmet” and run by middle class  people. I grew up in Los Angeles going to taco trucks all the damn time, and since living in New York have eaten multiple falafels, pretzels, and ice cream sandwiches from food trucks.

And it’s even more irksome when you read about people like Oleg Voss, “a 28-year-old culinary school graduate and one-time investment banker.” He had to give up his lucrative job in Vienna to open his veal cutlet cart, because of “the brutal economic recession.” That is brutal!

It seems like “I opened a niche gourmet food business” is the new “I found myself.” Who needs an ashram when you can sell artisanal delicacies to people who enjoy the added flavor of self-righteous foodiness? Oh and isn’t it funny, hahaha, when people who have been working on the street for their entire lives don’t take kindly to being pushed out of business by a trend? Take, for example, two former marketing executives who have now opened a gourmet ice cream truck:

“Three Mister Softee guys came and threatened to burn our truck,” said Di Mille, referring to the half-century old franchisor of trucks serving up soft ice cream.

Yeah I don’t know why they would have an issue with two former marketing executives with “friends in the New York police force” taking away their business. After half a century.

Birthday Science

Friday, August 27th, 2010

"mad scientist" birthday cake

A fascinating piece by Kathryn McGowan about the industrial changes that gave rise (HAR) to the modern birthday cake.

Before the invention of roller mills (about 1870) flour was made using grind stones resulting in flour that contained some of the bran and all of the germ of the wheat. To get white flour the miller then had to sift or boult the flour through a succession of cloths of differing weaves which filtered out the bran and the germ. The oil that comes out of the germ during milling stayed in the flour giving it a gray-ish yellow color. The presence of that oil shortened the shelf-life of white flour to about six months after which it would go rancid. All of these limitations meant that white flour was expensive and used only by the wealthy or for special occasions.

When flour is ground using rollers, the grain passes through two rollers moving at different speeds the slower one holds it and the faster one strips it. Scraping off the germ before grinding meant that no germ or germ oil got into the flour. And so was created the first truly white flour, ground solely from the endosperm of the wheat. It was a snowy white and due to the lack of wheat germ and wheat germ oil, it had double the shelf life of the old style “white” flour. The new technology made it much less expensive and the longer shelf-life meant that it could be shipped all over the country. Everyone could have white flour.

The other invention important to those towering, sugar-laden birthday treats is baking powder. It was Initially created in England in 1843. The first American manufacturers were Evan Norton Horsford and George F. Wilson who founded the Rumford Chemical Works in Providence, Rhode Island in 1857. Before chemical leavening, cakes had to be raised with the power of eggs alone, which requires a lot of elbow grease with a whisk (remember, no stand mixers in the 19th Century), and speed to get it into the oven before it begins to collapse. It took an expert baker with lots of skill to make a fluffy, high angel food cake. Baking powder changes all of this, anyone could just add some to their recipe and poof, a cake as light as a cloud.

She also makes a “birthday cakes” recipe from 1870 and goes on a search for candied caraway seeds. I could have done with more SCIENCE! and less BAKING, but still.

Going to the Dark Side

Friday, August 27th, 2010
screen shot from the movie "Eddie and the Cruisers" with Michael Pare as "Eddie" walking down the street

You'll never know just how I feel.

Yesterday I did a shocking thing. I took a picture of my food. I know! We think that’s funny! But something compelled me….

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Annals of Unasked Questions, Part the Second

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

billy corgan with a dirty handFloFab, today:

Q: You have probably received this question a million times but I couldn’t find it in the archives. My boyfriend licks his fingers really noisily, I’m not used to licking fingers at all when at table (whether at home or in a restaurant). What can I say in a polite way to make him stop?

A. If your boyfriend licks his fingers noisily, you might suggest he use silverware. Or bring some packaged towelettes along and hand him one
Are we talking about a man who does not use silverware? And that is not an issue, it is just the licking? More specifically, the sound of the licking? Or do they only go to restaurants that do have finger food, but don’t have napkins? This will haunt me for weeks.

Noted

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

red velvet cake

Someone got a red velvet cake for some reason or another today so we all had some. And no one talked about how they make red velvet, or what red velvet is or anything! There was even some sidetalk on this whole Jonathan Franzen situation. There is hope for society yet.