All Posts By Amy Reiter

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire and Wine Spectator, among other print publications, as well as for websites including The Daily Beast, MSN, Babble, AOL/Huffington Post and Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.

10 Fascinating Facts About Farms and Food

by in News, June 24th, 2014

10 Fascinating Facts About Farms and FoodFarming is as big a part of the American identity as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, but it has nevertheless been a shrinking part of the American way of life for decades. It takes only a drive past malls and multiplexes rapidly rising on land formerly dedicated to agriculture to appreciate that fact firsthand.

In its “40 Maps That Explain Food in America,” Vox.com uses a collection of charts, graphs and maps to illustrate how food in the United States is produced and consumed. In addition to exploring hot topics like the rise in obesity, the spread of McDonald’s, and the correlation between Waffle Houses and hurricanes, the feature reveals a lot about the trajectory of farming in the United States

Here are 10 interesting facts about U.S. farming — its history and current status — to be gleaned from Vox.com’s “40 Maps …”:

1. Between 1840 and 2000, the percentage of the American labor force engaged in agriculture-related work plummeted from a robust 70 percent to a measly 2 percent.

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NFL Players Show Off Big Appetites — for Practical Jokes

by in News, June 20th, 2014

NFL Players Show Off Big AppetitesNFL players have been known to live large and splash out some serious cash on food and drink, especially thanks to a questionable hazing tradition wherein veteran players stick team newbies with whopping dinner tabs.

For example, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant recently told Fox Sports he was forced to fork over $55,000 for dinner with teammates at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Texas during his rookie year. Despite the fact that Dez, a first-round pick in 2010, had signed a five-year deal worth $11.8 million, the pressure to pay for his fellow players’ excesses rubbed him the wrong way.

Earlier this month, Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who was a first-round draft pick in 2013, tweeted a dinner bill from Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Philadelphia with the caption “Rookie dinner.” The total damage indicated on that check was a modest-only-by-comparison $17,747 — much of it apparently on Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac ($4,525) and more than a few extremely pricey bottles of Cabernet (one bottle of 2005 Screaming Eagle Cabernet cost $3,495 alone), as well as steaks, seafood and sides. (The “auto gratuity” was calculated at $472.20 — but perhaps the players left some extra cash?)

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A Neon Tie-Dye Surprise Cake That Will Knock ‘Em Dead

by in News, June 19th, 2014

A Neon Tie-Dye Surprise Cake That Will Knock 'Em DeadPeace, love, understanding — and cake? If you’re baking for a Jerry Garcia fan, a preschooler who adores arts and crafts, or just someone who likes colorful surprises, you may find inspiration in this super-cool psychedelic, rainbow tie-dye cake with an unexpected twist, created for Tablespoon.com by Hungry Happenings blogger Beth Jackson Klosterboer. (Beth credits this tie-dye Peace Cake by Sandra Denneler, of Handmade Charlotte, as inspiration.)

The list of ingredients is pretty simple: four boxes of pound cake mix (it’s less susceptible to air bubbles than regular cake mix), eggs, butter, milk, neon food coloring, 28 ounces of fondant in whatever colors appeal to you, and store-bought frosting. And you’ll need two 6-inch x 6-inch x 2-inch baking pans, and a fair number of disposable pastry or Ziploc bags. (For the full tutorial, click here.)

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Study: Food Trucks As Safe As Brick-and-Mortar Restaurants

by in News, June 17th, 2014

Food Trucks As Safe As Brick-and-Mortar RestaurantsThere are those who swear by street eats and those who avoid them at all costs. Fans of food trucks and carts may point to the entrepreneurial looseness, the homespun mobility and the availability of exotic international flavors in unexpected places as part of their appeal, while those who eschew them may list those same qualities as reasons for passing them by and getting grub at regular restaurants instead.

But whether you love street food or not, you may find yourself wondering, on occasion, just how safe and sanitary it is. A recent study conducted by the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based libertarian advocacy organization and law firm, may allay some concern.

The group reviewed 263,395 food-safety inspection reports from seven United States cities in which mobile food sellers are held to the same health and inspection regulations as regular restaurants. And the group determined that in each of those cities — Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C. — the health and safety records of the food trucks and carts were as good or better than those of brick-and-mortar restaurants.

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World Cup for Foodies: What Really Matters

by in News, June 16th, 2014

World Cup for FoodiesThe 2014 FIFA World Cup — which kicked off last week in Brazil and will continue until one team claims the trophy on July 13 — is for fans of soccer, or “football,” if you prefer. That’s a given. But it’s also for fans of food. After all, if the teams and their supporters in the stands and at home are going to eat, they might as well eat well.

Of course, eating well means different things to different people — and certainly to each of the teams from 32 countries competing in this year’s tournament. That’s why their team chefs and nutritionists are providing foods that reflect not only concern for players’ health and fitness, but also those players’ cultural tastes. Team Italy, for instance, brought Parmesan cheese, olive oil and prosciutto, and the players plan to fuel up with pasta before every match, eating a tricolor diet that evokes the colors of the Italian flag: “pasta (white), tomato (red) and extra virgin olive oil (green),” their nutritionist, Elisabetta Orsi, told the Associated Press.

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Butter’s Not So Bad (Spread It Around)

by in News, June 14th, 2014

ButterButter is ready for its close-up — and gets it on this week’s cover of Time magazine, where a solitary, sensuously lit shaved curl of golden deliciousness poses alluringly against a black background.

“Eat Butter,” the attending coverline directs in a bold yellow font, adding, in smaller, whiter type, “Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.”

Inside, senior writer Bryan Walsh declares the “war on fat” — “for decades … the most vilified nutrient in the American diet” — to be over. Even as we sought to reduce our intake of saturated fats in the name of good health, in the 70s and 80s, Bryan notes, the rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States skyrocketed. That, he contends, is because we were replacing those fats in our diets not with healthier foods, like fruits and veggies, but rather with carbs, sugar and processed foods, which turn out to be far fiercer public health foes.

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Iced Coffee Is Suddenly Hot, Hot, Hot!

by in News, June 13th, 2014

Iced  CoffeeAs the weather heats up and spring sweaters get swapped for sleeveless summer tops, many java lovers trade their piping cups of joe for iced coffee. The clinking cubes bring a coolness and comfort to our daily caffeine fix on sizzling days, the straw a sense of beachy fun and festivity.

This year the excitement about cold caffeinated beverages is more than simply seasonal: Iced coffee (not to mention its fancier cousin, iced latte) is suddenly hot — enjoying an undeniable moment in the sun.

“This is a good era for iced coffee,” Oliver Strand asserts in a New York Times article about the “exquisite,” “carefully formulated and fastidiously made” iced lattes on offer at high-end Los Angeles coffee bars Go Get Em Tiger and G & B Coffee. (The bars’ iced almond-macadamia milk latte, Oliver contends, is “one of the best iced coffees in the United States and almost certainly the best latte.”)

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The Disappearing $1,000 Tip, How “Meat Sticks” Are Made and Your Portrait in Nutella

by in News, June 12th, 2014

The Disappearing $1,000 TipNo Big Tips Allowed? What should a restaurant do when a generous, deep-pocketed patron spontaneously leaves one of its servers, a single mother of three who’s working two jobs, a $1,000 tip — on Mother’s Day, at 3 a.m.? A) Let her keep it. B) Take it away from her. C) Return it to the customer. The correct answer is clearly “A.” But when a customer left waitress Shaina Brown a $1,000 tip and asked her to direct an additional $500 to another customer, writing $1,500 into the tip line on his credit card form, the Waffle House in Raleigh, N.C., chose options B and C instead. The chain refunded the generous customer’s money, which it said was its standard procedure with big tips, in case the tipper has a change of heart. Shaina was crestfallen. “I feel like they stole from me,” she told the Charlotte Observer. Mercifully, the big tipper, a local businessman who wished to remain anonymous, wrote her a check after the paper contacted him. So, phew, sticky situation resolved. [Charlotte Observer]

An In-Depth Look at a Dried Meat Snack: You know what they say about not wanting to know how the sausage is made, but the sentiment may or may not hold true for Slim Jims. For anyone the least bit curious as to how the iconic packaged “meat sticks” are put together, a Wired video exploring “What’s Inside” a Slim Jim is worth a watch. Really, despite the ironic tone of the video’s narrator and the garish animation, it’s not that bad: You got your questionable cuts of meat; your “mechanically separated chicken” (i.e., that pink, pasty stuff they use in some chicken nuggets); your corn and wheat proteins and hydrolyzed soy; lots of salt; and the preservative sodium nitrate, which helps the stick stay red “instead of an unappetizing gray.” Maybe have carrot sticks for a snack today? [Wired via Eater]

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FDA Churns Cheese Makers, Wedding Cakes Are Back and “The Bear” Slips Out for Tea

by in News, June 10th, 2014

FDA Churns Cheese MakersWhere There’s a Will, There’s a Whey? The U.S. Artisan Cheese Industry is reeling from a “clarification” of policy from the Food and Drug Administration prohibiting the use of wooden boards for aging or ripening cheeses. According to the FDA, bacteria may “colonize” the surface layer and inside layers of wood due to its “porous structure,” making wood boards impervious to cleaning and sanitizing, and making them breeding grounds for pathogenic microorganisms like listeria. Cheese makers note that some of the finest cheeses in the U.S. are produced using wood boards and predict it could have a “devastating” effect on artisan cheese production. Furthermore, the Cheese Underground blog points out, should the FDA extend its no-wood policy to imported cheeses, fans of fine cheeses may have to leave U.S. borders to nibble formidable fromages like Comte, Beaufort and Reblochon. [Cheese Underground]

Let Them Eat Wedding Cake: The cupcake towers have been toppled. Wedding cakes are back in a big, beautiful way. “Now, even in Brooklyn, the super-casual center of the universe of culinary cool, wedding cakes are resurgent,” The New York Times reports. Prices per slice are way up — and couples are picking cakes that are traditional, pretty, and in some cases adorned opulently or whimsically. Bare cakes — unfrosted, their inside layers gorgeously exposed for all to see — are also trending, as are gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan and organic cakes. As for cupcakes, brides and grooms are just saying, “I don’t.” Manhattan caterer Mary Giuliani told the Times, “I just don’t get the cupcake request as much anymore.” Macaron towers, yes. “Maybe macarons are the new cupcakes,” she said. [The New York Times]

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Doughnut Doppelgangers, a Pricier Morning Joe and “Billie Jean” on Beer Bottles

by in News, June 6th, 2014

A Pricier Morning Cup of JoeIf You Were a Doughnut: Run, doughnut walk, to check out these photos of people who look like doughnuts. St. Louis photographer Brandon Voges teamed up with ad agency The Marlin Network and local doughnut shop Strange Donuts to produce a series of images and a video, for the National Restaurant Association’s annual food show, in which people appear alongside their morning-pastry doppelgangers. There’s a freckle-faced woman who resembles a white-frosted pastry with red sprinkles on top, a hip lady whose spiky white Mohawk look has a lot in common with a cruller, and craggy-faced smoker “Debbie Diner,” whose pastry double looks like it’s lived nearly as tough a life as she. Be warned, though: After looking at this series, you many never again look at strawberry filling the same. [Behance]

A Jolt in the Java Aisle: Your morning caffeine habit is getting pricier. J.M. Smucker Co., the company behind a host of coffee brands, including Folgers, Dunkin’ Donuts and Café Bustelo, said Tuesday it would hoist the cost of its coffees for consumers by 9 percent, on average, in response to a drought that has affected the supply of Brazil’s Arabica coffee beans. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company is the first major coffee maker to boost prices in about three years, and it’s not yet clear whether other java roasters, like Starbucks and Maxwell House-maker Kraft, will follow suit. Brazilian coffee crops have recovered to a large degree, but that good news probably won’t be reflected on your supermarket receipts for at least a few months. [Wall Street Journal]

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