All Posts In News

How to Win Summer: Dino-mite Watermelon Carvings

by in Family, News, July 3rd, 2014

Dino-mite Watermelon CarvingsWatermelon’s always been the coolest fruit of summer. When I cut into a watermelon, it’s either for a last-minute barbecue contribution or an instant “side dish” for the kids — seed-spitting contests are just a bonus. It has plenty of vitamins A and C, and it’s ready in two minutes flat. Wedges, cubes, balls of sugary-sweet juiciness — the options are endless and there’s no oven required. But maybe I need to hone my knife skills and take a slice from Vancouver’s Clive Cooper, a government worker by day and artist by night whose latest extreme watermelon carvings give fruit-platter party planners something to, well, chew on.

I thought Cooper and his fabulous menagerie were the “why” of a spike in watermelon searches reported by Yahoo web trend expert Lauren Whitehouse a week or two ago; since then his fierce alligator carving and the latest, the triceratops above, have been stomping their way through food news and Facebook. He’s not the only one; Pinterest is ripe with countless carved characters. Why, after all, should food fans have to wait for pumpkin season to make faces? As to folks searching “watermelon,” they wanted to know how many calories are in the fruit (about 50 per cup) and how to cut it (try Alton’s cut-the-ends-first method); there was also a 500+ percent increase in searches for “watermelon cake” (not a cake at all but a trompe-l’oeil fun fruit dessert), plus plenty of people pondering perennial favorites likes drinks and refreshing salads with watermelon (with feta as a partner; here is Ina’s take, one of my go-to’s for summer guests).

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State Fair Foods: You’ll Never Guess What You Can Get on a Stick

by in News, July 2nd, 2014

State Fair FoodsWhen you think of state fair food, you probably think of things that are deep-fried, sugar-dusted, perched on a stick or served in a cone: You’ve got your corn dogs, funnel cakes, ice cream — with which you can fortify yourself as you gaze upon your wall of blue-ribbon pies and, especially in the Midwest, your life-size cows carved out of butter.

But, of course, those fairground staples are only the beginning. State fairs are also famous for debuting foods that are new and different — innovative, imaginative, exotic and often deliberately excessive. Who can forget the deep-fried stick of butter on a stick that made its debut at the Iowa State Fair a few years back?

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Why We Get Hangovers and How Eating Can Help (Plus Recipes)

by in News, July 1st, 2014

Bobby's Spicy Citrus Bloody MaryMany of us enjoy a summer cocktail or two, sharing a bottle of wine over dinner, a few beers while watching the game. No one — at least no one I know — enjoys the hangover that often follows. But what is causing all those miserable symptoms the morning after? Why, exactly, do we get hangovers? And what, if anything, can you do about them?

The Atlantic magazine recently published an interview with Richard Stephens, a psychology professor at Keele University in the U.K. and a member of the Alcohol Hangover Research Group, a group of scientists who study hangovers that convened this past weekend. He offered some insight that may prove useful before you head out to those Fourth of July barbecues and wake up the next day with fireworks going off in your head.

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Salad as Art: Presentation Is a Matter of Taste, Study Shows

by in News, June 30th, 2014

Salad as ArtAll that time you spend artfully arranging food on the plate before serving it to your guests or family is not in vain. And if you’re the sort of cook who doesn’t think much about how you present the food you make, thinking that taste alone will carry the day, you may want to reconsider your approach.

Presentation may not be everything, but when it comes to the meals we serve, appearance may be more important than we realize, capable of greatly influencing diners’ perception of taste, a recent study, published in the journal Flavour, has shown.

Building upon prior research showing that visual factors, like the color and balance of elements on the plate, play a large role in the way people respond to food, experimental psychologists at the University of Oxford, in Oxford, England, set out to discover whether arranging food “in an art-inspired manner” would affect diners’ expectations and experience of the food they were served.

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Why Not Letting Your Kids Eat Junk Food May Backfire

by in News, June 27th, 2014

Why Not Letting Your Kids Eat Junk Food May BackfireParenting is full of “Do as I say, not as I do” moments, but few may be as obvious as the vast differences between the food choices we make for our kids and those we make for ourselves. Am I the only parent who strictly limits her kids’ access to sweets, waving away their pleas for candy and giving them fruit for dessert, only to raid the treat drawer as soon as they have been tucked in and drifted off to sleep? I’d guess not.

I’m also probably in good company in feeling guilty when I give in and agree to let my kids eat junk food, even though the salty, fatty, sugary packaged foods that strike fear into our hearts as parents are the very same foods we get nostalgic about when we think about our own childhoods.

We know we’re raising our kids in the midst of an obesity crisis and skyrocketing diabetes rates, but is it such a crime to let them enjoy a twirl of cotton candy or an ice cream cone every once in a while?

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Temp Tats Help You Wear Your Love of Cooking on Your Sleeve

by in News, Product Reviews, June 26th, 2014

Temporary Food TattoosCooking from a recipe can be logistically challenging — going back and forth from your cookbook or computer to the food you’re preparing while trying to keep several steps in your head and not lose your place. If you’ve ever found yourself yearning for a better way — and one that is far more fun — you’re in luck.

Two Italian problem solvers, Marina Cinciripini, an interior designer who loves kitchens, and Sarah Richiuso, a product designer and illustrator, have created a collection of illustrated recipes in the form of temporary tattoos. Cooks can apply the tattoos directly to their forearms — or really, one supposes, whatever body part they choose.

Marina and Sarah called their line of temp tattoos, which can be applied in seconds using a damp paper towel and last about two or three days, I Tradizionali — in part because they see it as a new way of passing down traditional recipes from generation to generation. What’s more, their website notes, having a recipe emblazoned on your forearm not only helps you remember how something is prepared, it also evokes “the common gesture of ‘rolling up one’s sleeves’ before cooking.” Poetry, right?

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How to Achieve Your Personal Burger Best

by in News, June 25th, 2014

How to Achieve Your Personal Burger BestLet’s talk burgers — big (but not too big), juicy and perfectly turned, with or without cheese, tucked inside a fancy bakery brioche or a basic potato bun, dressed to the nines or served neat. It’s nearly impossible to discuss the finer points of burgers without working up an appetite. But there’s no nibbling around the fact that some burgers are better than others. The question, then: What’s the key to making sure your burgers rank among the best?

According to The New York Times, a lot of it comes down to what you cook the burger on, and those known for the most-perfect patties insist on “heavy, cast-iron pans and griddles.” Yes, even if you’re cooking outside on a grill. Heat the meat in a pan over the fire. Don’t place your patties directly on the grill. “The point is to allow rendering beef fat to gather around the patties as they cook, like a primitive high-heat confit,” Times Senior Editor Sam Sifton explains as he strives to deconstruct “the perfect burger.”

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How Much Would You Pay for That Dinner Reservation?

by in News, June 25th, 2014

How Much Would You Pay for That Dinner Reservation?It would probably be an overstatement to call the usual way of reserving a table at a hot restaurant at a prime time on a Saturday night an entirely democratic process. In theory, snagging a seat is simply a matter of dialing up the restaurant or booking online through a free website like OpenTable — equally accessible to all. In fact, it probably doesn’t hurt to know someone or be someone or, if conventional wisdom holds, be the kind of person who’s willing to slip a little cash someone’s way.

Now a new batch of fee-based apps is aiming to change the way tables at desirable restaurants are reserved. Whether these new apps, which claim to make hard-to-get reservations available to anyone willing to open their wallets, make the process more democratic is open to debate. Certainly they’ll make it more expensive.

Whether restaurants and diners will embrace the idea of paying for something that has always been free, if sometimes inaccessible, remains to be seen. In New York City, the market most of these new apps initially aims to serve, people are already used to paying a fee to book tickets to events — even to movies.

“But for restaurateurs — even those who demand $6 for a baked potato to accompany a $48 steak — charging patrons for reservations feels like touching the third rail,” Julia Moskin noted in a recent New York Times story about the new apps.

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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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