food news


If you’ve read my “About me” section, you know that I do not apologize for going to a restaurant once and then writing my review.  The reason? 

Like Top Chef judge Tom Collichio said in Season Two when a contestant complained why they’re only judged on that one day’s performance (paraphrasing here) — the first impression matters!  Your customers are judging you on the one day they come in so you had better be good!
I read this very interesting blog posting on how a former restauranteur banned himself from going to his favorite restaurant for a year.  While he was a regular going once every week (Thursdays to be precise), he no longer went due to a poorly cooked piece of pork and bad customer service.  He calculated how much this ban would conservatively cost the restaurant:
Each week I spend an average of $52.00 on my Thursday evening dinner. Multiplied by 52 weeks the number was $2704.00. On at least six occasions a year I would entertain another couple at the restaurant for about $200.00 a visit. Another $1200.00. At least once a month I would have dinner on a Saturday night at the restaurant for another $600.00 for a total of $4504.00. Add a 20% gratuity and the total loss to the restaurant was approximately $5400.00.
It’s expensive for restaurants when they lose the regulars…

I’ve bought grocery store sushi several times in the past, but I never could figure out why it taste weird.  Don’t get me wrong — it’s decent, but it’s not like what you would get at a sushi restaurant.

Even if there’s people making the sushi right then and there, it’s still not exact.  I bought the brown rice 9-piece Dragon Roll that would normally cost $12-15 in a restaurant, but at the grocery store, cost only $9-10.   So while it’s cheaper, what’s the deal?

I’ve come up with two ideas on why it taste strange:

  1. Temperature — I’m sure they have to do that for health law reasons, but the fish is always colder than you’d get at a restaurant.
  2. Additives/preservatives — While I was eating my sushi, I happened to start reading the ingredients list.  It was quite long with a lot of “stuff” added from various food dyes to preservatives.  Oh, and the wasabi?  It’s fake wasabi…

Grocery Store Dragon Roll  Grocery Store Dragon Roll  Grocery Store Dragon Roll

Do you have other thoughts/ideas?

While this was originally published on August 27th, there are major updates on Top Chef Season 5 so I thought I’d post it for today.  I know, it’s cheating.  I’m sorry! 

A side note though that is new — can you believe Top Chef is already in the fifth season?  Wow!  I remember the first episodes and I’ll be honest — I didn’t love it.  I fell in love with Top Chef Season 2.  Oh, and I forgot that Billy Joel’s wife, Katie Lee (that’s number 3 for him and she’s 32 years younger) was the first season’s host

It feels like it was just yesterday when Stephanie Izard won Top Chef Season 4 in Chicago, but already the tips on Season 5 are coming in.  BTW, no air date has been set, but I’d guesstimate that it’s going to be March/April 2009 (since that’s when the last couple of seasons started).  Taping for Top Chef Season 5 was completed on August 26, 2008 and will be airing starting November 12th (so much for my guesstimate!). 

The next season will be held in NYC and here’s the real list of the 17 contentants. contestants rumored to be on the show.  There’s another list here.  So far, it seems these are the new chefs:

  • Absinthe’s Jamie Lauren
  • Danny Gagnon of New York
  • Jeff McInnis of Miami
  • CIA student Patrick Dunlea
  • Stefan Richer of Los Angeles
  • Carla Hall of DC (chef-owner of Alchemy Caterers)
  • Jill Snyder of Baltimore (chef of Red Maple)

I can’t wait for the new season…think anyone from DC will be competing???  Can you tell from these photos?  Should we start a rumor?  Also, if you heard Rickles’s private chef, Stacey Slichta is one of the contestants, it’s a lie.

The economy…wow right?  But when I read this story, it really made me stop.  What it’s saying is that McDonald’s is a better credit risk than the US.

Here’s the explanation by Finland’s Helsingin Sonomat (as translated by Watching America):

The insurance risk-premium for a 10-year U.S. treasury bond shifted on Friday up to 0.3% according to a broker in a Finnish bank. In practice this means that if an investor wishes to insure 10 million dollars worth of U.S. T-bonds against a government default the insurance will cost 30,000 dollars. Such an insurance for the same amount of investments on Finnish bonds cost on Friday only about half of that at 16,000 dollars. Even loans to McDonald’s would be cheaper to insure than U.S.-bonds, at 28,000 dollars per 10 million.

CDS-derivative prices are an indicator of investors’ views and mood, but as such they reveal nothing of the true financial state and wealth of their targets. Thus, while Finland’s and McDonald’s risk of bankruptcy is now smaller in investors’ opinion than that of the U.S. this does not mean that Finland and McDonald’s would necessarily be any wealthier and thus safer targets of investment than the U.S.

This being said, it is extremely rare for a fast-food chain’s corporate loan to be viewed as a safer investment than the bonds of the world’s most powerful country. 

Strange, but true.  Burger King has develop potato chips that are marketed to taste like ketchup and fries. 

They taste more like ketchup than they do fries and the smell of ketchup is so strong.  They were fine, but I wouldn’t buy a big bag.  I am glad I tried them — I feel like I was adventurous.  Ha!

Burger King Ketchup & Fries Chips  Burger King Ketchup & Fries Chips  Burger King Ketchup & Fries Chips  Burger King Ketchup & Fries Chips  Burger King Ketchup & Fries Chips

Well, I’ll admit it.  I thought baby carrots were carrots that were picked from the ground earlier than the regular carrot.

And sometimes, that is what really happens.  But usually, baby carrots are actually mushed up pieces of big carrots that they’d normally give as feed to animals.  On the package of baby carrots, you’ll probably see the word “manufactured.” 

Interested in the story behind baby carrots?  Read this story

Did you know that the ties on a loaf of bread has a meaning?  Since I used to work in a grocery store, I once asked the delivery guys what the colors meant. 

The color of the tie means the day that the bread was baked.  Apparently, they don’t make bread on Wednesdays or Sundays. 

  • Blue = Monday
  • Green = Tuesday
  • Red = Thursday
  • White = Friday
  • Yellow = Saturday

Now when you go to the grocery store, make sure you get the freshest loaf!

Actually, they arrived last weekend.  I went to the grocery store on Wednesday (August 27th) and there were none.  When I went again on Friday (August 29th), there they were in the cookie aisle! 

Hydrox Cookies  Hydrox Cookies

Since they’re limited editions, I bought 6 boxes.  I figured an April 2009 expiration date gives me some time to enjoy.

I really like them better than Oreo’s because they’re not as sweet and they’re easier to break apart and eat the filling.

Delicious!

BTW, I went to the grocery store today (9/6/08) and they’re still there!  Also 9/13 and 9/20 — Hydrox are still available.

While this was originally published on August 27th, there are major updates today (10/2/08).  I made them below. 

It feels like it was just yesterday when Stephanie Izard won Top Chef in Chicago, but already the tips on Season 5 are coming in.  BTW, no air date has been set, but I’d guesstimate that it’s going to be March/April 2009 (since that’s when the last couple of seasons started).  Taping for Top Chef Season 5 was completed on August 26, 2008 and will be airing starting November 12th (so much for my guesstimate!). 

The next season will be held in NYC and here’s the real list of the 17 contentants. contestants rumored to be on the show.  There’s another list here.  So far, it seems these are the new chefs:

  • Absinthe’s Jamie Lauren
  • Danny Gagnon of New York
  • Jeff McInnis of Miami
  • CIA student Patrick Dunlea
  • Stefan Richer of Los Angeles
  • Carla Hall of DC (chef-owner of Alchemy Caterers)
  • Jill Snyder of Baltimore (chef of Red Maple)

I can’t wait for the new season…think anyone from DC will be competing???  Can you tell from these photos?  Should we start a rumor?  Also, if you heard Rickles’s private chef, Stacey Slichta is one of the contestants, it’s a lie

The other news?  Marcel from Season 2 (for those who don’t remember, he was the one who put foam in everything) was arrested for a DUI on Saturday morning.  But he did end up going to his O.C. cooking demonstration later that day!

Reuters is reporting the USDA is telling people to get ready to pay more for eggs, fruits & veggies, meat, etc.  This year, prices will increase by 5% and next year, it’ll jump another 5-6%. 

In other words, we are going to experience the biggest increase in food prices since 1990.  

FDR Memorial - Food Line

FDR Memorial food line

Seriously, who hasn’t wondered how the heck restaurants price wine?  In today’s WSJ, they crack the code and provide some good insight. 

The story is free, but if you’re looking for the highlights, here they are (directly copied from the story):

  • Sometimes, more-expensive wines are the better deals.
  • Wines from regions like Argentina and Spain are likely to be marked up less than ones from Napa or Bordeaux.
  • And if you’re looking for value, don’t order wine by the glass.
  • Go for lesser-known regions and varietals (they’re cheaper).

OK, so it’s only online, but who knows what can happen from there? 

Recipezaar, sister site to FoodNetwork.com and the place where I get a lot of the recipes I test out here, is hosting a contest to find a host for their online video show about regional food.  This video show will be shot in NYC or in the winner’s home.

Interested applicants should create a two minutes or less video showcasing their talent.  According to the release, the video “should exhibit a distinct regional flavor, and must teach a little about the featured food. Most importantly, they ‘want to see passion and a unique point of view on home cooking'”.  

Entries are due by Friday, August 22nd.

For more information visit here.

If you do (and who doesn’t?), there’s news that your newspaper’s food section is in jeopardy.   With fewer people reading newspapers, advertising dollars are going down which means newspapers are cutting down on staff — and any unnecessary sections.

Unfortunately for those of us who love the food section, it’s usually viewed as an unnecessary section. 

According to Jill Silva, president of the Association of Food Journalists, there’s a push to get people to read the food section online and expanding their reach to include and target men. 

Interesting. 

To read more about the declining newspaper food section, click here.

Ahh, who doesn’t love lists?  So when I saw there was a release issued on the 6 worst restaurants for kids, I was intrigued.

The criteria to determine which fast food and casual chains were bad (or good) for kids used: calories, fat (trans- and saturated), and sodium, as well as the average number of calories per children’s entree.

I’m going to start with the healthiest because it was unexpected.  Drum roll please…

Chick-fil-A.  Surprised?  So was I.  Here’s the reason they were #1:

With a slew of low-calorie sandwiches, the country’s “healthiest” chicken nugget, a variety of solid sides like fresh fruit and soup that can be substituted into any meal, and nutritional brochures readily available for perusing at each location, Chick-fil-A earns the award for America’s Healthiest Chain Restaurant (for kids, for the adults who drive them there, plus anybody else wise enough to make it their fast food choice).

Coming in second was Subway

And now the six worst are Applebee’s, IHOP, Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, T.G.I. Friday’s.

Why?  According to the release:

These titans of the restaurant industry are among the last national chains that don’t provide nutritional information on their dishes. Even after years of communication with their representatives, we still hear the same old excuses: it’s too pricey, it’s too time-consuming, it’s impossible to do accurately because their food is so fresh. Our response is simple: If every other chain restaurant in the country can do it, then why can’t they?

Recent New York legislation requiring these restaurants to run calorie counts on their menus gave diners a glimpse of what these establishments are hiding: At Friday’s, no fewer than nine sandwiches and ten appetizers topple the 1000-calorie barrier; at IHOP, the “healthiest” entree-size salad has a staggering 1050 calories; and at Outback, even a simple order of salmon will wipe out 75% of your day’s caloric allotment.

The rest of the listings can be found here.

I love fruit, even when I was a kid.  You couldn’t keep fruit in the house.  In fact, I still can’t. 

I was at the grocery store to pick up a few items when I saw a perfect bag of bing cherries.  So I threw them in my basket and proceeded to the checkout counter. 

Do you know how much this almost 3 lb bag cost?  It shocked me.  Wait for it…

Bing Cherries  Bing Cherries 

This almost 3 lb bag cost me $18.  SERIOUSLY?  You better believe I ate every single one of them in this bag.  Is there a bing cherry shortage?

Apparently, we do not give our sense of smell the credit it deserves according to this story in Newsweek

What I found fascinating was this nugget:

“Most of what we perceive as flavor in food does not come from the tongue, which picks up only the basic five tastes-sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (the savory taste in meat or broth). Instead, it comes from aromas of food being drawn up into the nose from the back of the throat, then exhaled through the nostrils.”

Wow.  Who knew?

Hydrox cookie, for those who don’t know, was the original chocolate cookie with a creme filling.  Then Nabisco came along and created these cookies called Oreo and, well, you know the rest.  In fact, Hydrox stopped production, but thanks to hardcore fans, the cookie will be coming back with limited availability in August 2008.

To say Hydrox cookie lovers love their cookie is an understatement.  They’re dedicated cookie fans and Hydrox knows this.

So they’ve announced a “tell us your story” contest, starting June 30th-July 14th.  According to the release, winners will receive:

  • Three Hydrox cookie enthusiasts will each win a grand prize including a six-month supply of Hydrox cookies and a trip for two to New York City
  • Winners will be the special guests at an exclusive 100th anniversary celebration and will be among the first to taste the newly released cookies
  • They will also win the chance to attend a closing bell ringing ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange

For contest rules and more information, visit here.

From today’s Washington Business Journal, Restaurant K has closed

According to the story, the restaurant officially closed yesterday but Alison Swope will be joining McCormick & Schmick’s culinary team. 

On Friday, the WSJ had Manhattan’s International Culinary Center, chef André Soltner and two cookware junkies try out various celebrity cookware. 

While Bobby Flay’s wasn’t included, they did test Emeril Lagasse, Rachel Ray, Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, and Marcus Samuelsson.

So what celeb cookware caught on fire?  Which one was bendable? 

To see the results, click here.

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