by Amy Reiter in News, June 25th, 2014
by Amy Reiter in News, June 25th, 2014
Let’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.”
by Amy Reiter in News, June 24th, 2014
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.
by Amy Reiter in News, June 20th, 2014
Farming 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.
by Amy Reiter in News, June 19th, 2014
NFL 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?)
by Amy Reiter in News, June 17th, 2014
Peace, 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.)
by Amy Reiter in News, June 16th, 2014
There 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.
by Amy Reiter in News, June 14th, 2014
The 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.
by Amy Reiter in News, June 13th, 2014
Butter 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.
by Amy Reiter in News, June 12th, 2014
As 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.”)
No 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]