Sugar!

The lead, Front Page story in today’s NY Times  is about Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to, “ban big sizes of sugary drinks.”  It’s a fine decision, and though it may seem like a small shot in the war on obesity and the deleterious effects that condition has on health, banning sugary drinks is specific and well-targeted.  Along with NYC’s calorie counts in franchises and the leadership in lowering salt in restaurants and processed food, what we have here is a metropolis in which people are going to be given opportunities to be fit and healthy.

Sugar has been on my mind lately:  A recent review in the TLS of a book about sugar barons in the Caribbean, and how they created fortunes in England and developed the slave trade to farm the cane to make the sugar.

Interesting to posit a link between the old enslavement of sugar and the new ways in which this delicious white substance can harm us.

Top view on teaspoon with white sugar on white wooden table Stock Photo - 11107348

Boston Globe Hits Celebrity Chef Hard!

Although I stopped getting the Globe over a year ago, it’s the Playoffs and the paper’s Sports section  is needed to see What is What.  Today Shaughnessy  shares his love for the team by predicting a 4-0 or maybe 4-1 series with the Heat being the 4.  Very uplifting!

In the same vein, the paper has an unsigned editorial taking celebrity chef Todd English to task for having too many restaurants.  The editorial uses the example of his place at Faneuil Hall closing and the crew not completing the clean-up as proof that chefs really ought to limit their enterprise.  The illogic of the criticism is matched nearly by the paper’s long history of criticizing successful Bostonians.  A friend in the hospitality industry some years ago likened it to a kind of class warfare: “They think that people who move out of the old neighborhood, so to speak, are too big for their britches.”  English left Boston for NYC and Other Parts some years ago and only maintains a small presence here in Pizza Town.

But the sheer illogic trumps: McDonald’s, like it or not, is a clean, reliable product with, at last count, 33,000 restaurants.  On a much smaller scale, many chefs and restaurant groups have many restaurants: Good, clean, enjoyable, delicious.

Still, say the Globe is right: Businesses that expand lose control of the franchise and have an inferior product.  Did The New York Times, which owns The Globe, made a mistake when it expanded by buying The Globe?   Let’s face it: The New York Times is a terrific source of credible information while The Globe isn’t.  Maybe the point of the unsigned editorial was to reflect on that.

Meanwhile the one silver lining in Shaughnessy’s dire prediction?  That’s right: No Globe until next year’s NBA Post-Season!

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Where to Eat in Boston: No More Beantown!

I’d stick with NEW DEAL FISH on Cambridge Street x 1000, buy a Weber grill or some kind of solar powered oven used in the developing world and start cooking curbside if I was from out of town or even local and hungry.  Bar none, this fish store is the best I’ve ever been to in the United States.  Carl and his father Sal sell really amazing, first-rate, restaurant quality product.  By restaurant quality I mean the upper echelon.  Rare and exquisite nature of the product, high fat content, perfectly cut.  Due to the richness of what’s sold–the fat–a 1/2 pound served with vegetables is more than enough for two.

Why just last night: Kerala style fish curry (salmon, bone in) with channa masala and steamed spinach.  We’re talking about eight minutes of cooking.

Of course, you can hurry over to HI-RISE for the city’s best bread, too.  $4 and you’ve got a loaf and anything with it tastes good.

If the 5-0 object to your roadside flash mob grilling or baking or pan searing, and once you’re sprung you’re still hungry?  Outside of NYC, we’re talking PIZZA TOWN!  Yes, it’s true: The city has decided to rename itself.  No more Beantown!  Here’s a rundown, in order of greatness: Galleria Umberto, Pizzeria Posto, Santarpio’s, Iggy’s, Haymarket, PICO, Area Four, Armando’s, Pinocchio, Regina’s, T. Anthony’s, Otto,  Upper Crust, Oggi, Cambridge 1.  That’s 15 pizzerias!  Wow!

BBQ isn’t really synonymous with PIZZA TOWN, and there’s been a lot of media fuss over a number of white folks who insist that they can do this, but with the exception of REDBONES, I’d head over to PIT STOP in Mattapan.  BBQ needs soul, and that’s not just about manufacturing sauces and rubs.

For high end dining, and, say, the Acela isn’t running, MARKET, CRAIGIE ON MAIN, GRILL 23, & OM.

The New Official Symbol of Boston!

 

The Old Official Symbol of Boston!

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Sustainability: Code for Profit?

More news from the Front Lines of The War on Fish: In today’s NY Times, an Op-Ed, “Eat Your Hake and Have It, Too,” by Ray Hilborn and Ulrike Hilborn, adds a voice of reason to the generally shrill, histrionic, misguided, and contextually limited debate on sustainability and fish.

Rather than ban certain types of fish, as Whole Foods has done, with devastating effects for folks whose livelihood it is to catch them, the authors of the piece suggest that, “we can harvest a certain fraction of a fish population that has been overfished, if we allow for the natural processes of birth and growth to replace what we take from the ocean and to rebuild the stock. Instead of calling on consumers to abstain from all overfished species, we should direct our attention at fisheries that consistently take more fish than can be naturally replaced.”

The authors go on to note the sheer inconsistency of Whole Foods in targeting fish as a product that requires greater vigilance: “At the same time, we should recognize that seafood-labeling systems hold seafood to much higher standards than other forms of agriculture. The same stores that won’t sell an overfished species are selling other foods whose production affects the environment far more.  During a recent visit to a Whole Foods store in Seattle, we saw no evaluation of the environmental impact of the meat being sold. Free-range chickens were labeled, but there were no labels telling us if pesticide and fertilizer runoff from growing the corn used to feed the beef caused dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, or if the soybeans came from land clear-cut out of the Brazilian rain forest.”

You have to wonder who benefits from the regulatory standards applied to fish.  Yes?  You in the back.  Right, industry with fish that is not labelled as “unsustainable” have, when other fish are taken off the market or banned or boycotted, products that are more valued and for which they can get more money.

So is sustainability code for profit?  Just askin’…

This is a dollar bill:

This is an endangered, blue fin tuna:

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The Bolognese Caper

I had a hankering for pasta last night.  Right, I know.  Same thing happens to you.  Normally, I just boil water, toss in the penne, spaghetti, or the whathaveyou, which is a really delicious pasta from Puglia shaped like The Pope’s Nose, and in a separate pan heat up olive oil, then toss in a finely chopped celery stalk, carrot, and red onion.  Add some Pomi.  Add some chopped veal or grind up yellowfin tuna or turkey or whatevah, which is a type of meat from the rare, heritage breed of cattle now found only in southeastern Lombardy, and before the pasta is done, I toss it with the sauce.  Add grated parmigiano, a little black pepper, and a little olive oil, and we’re good to go.

But last night I found myself downtown between Mark Morris and Game 5 so had to eat out.

I settled on the very wonderful Market: Hirame!  Red Snapper!  Cheeseburger!  Killer service!  Great room!

I had thought of Bolognese, but the prices?  Insane!  Why is pasta so pricey in Boston?  Are the ingredients better than NYC?  Are the chefs better?  We all know that these are not the right questions.

I do know the answer.  Yes, you, with your hand in the air?

Correct!  Limited competition!

Here are the facts:

Boston

Via Matta: Tagliatelle alla Bolognese   $26

Sportello: Tagliatelle Bolognese $24

Stella’s: Tagliatelle Bolognese $18

Teatro: Rigatoni Bolognese $20

NYC

Babbo: Pappardelle Bolognese: $21

Locanda Verde: Pappardelle Bolognese $19

Da Silvano: Tagliatelle Bolognese $18.5

Orso: Tagliatelle Bolognese $21

Amazing, huh?  In Boston, you have Schlow (Via Matta) & Lynch (Sportello) selling pasta at 20-30% higher than Batali (Babbo) and Carmellini (Locanda Verde).

Here’s a remedy:

Boil a big pot of heavily salted water.  While you’re waiting, dice a carrot, a celery stalk, and a small red onion.  Put about 1/3 cup of good olive oil in a pan.  Heat the oil, add the vegetables, stir until they are softened.  Add about a pound of chopped up tuna, chopped veal or chopped turkey.  Stir until brown.  Turn off heat.  Add a cup of Pomi tomato sauce.  Return to lowest heat.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir.  When water is boiled, add pasta.  Cook until nearly done.  Drain, but reserve a little of the water.  Place pasta in the a sauce.  Stir and cook until al dente.  Correct the salt.  Place in bowls.  Grate the cheese, see above, and add the black pepper.  Eat hot.  Total cost is about $9 for four people (as long as you save the oil, cheese, tomato sauce that has not been used).

Crazy Chef Knife

 

 

Eat Less Meat?

This week in the world of food, where some people have all the luck and others have none, two great stories emerge.  OK, they are not great stories the way Chekhov wrote great stories, but you’re reading about Russian dressing here, not Russian serfs.  Russian bear with me.

In a NYT online op-ed yesterday, Mark Bittman derides eating meat.  Well, OK, I concur.  Eating less meat is a good idea for many reasons.  The irony of Mr. Bittman’s HHW (high horse writing) is the fact that for decades he’s been telling us all to eat more meat.  How do I know this?  Well, look at his BB (big book), “How To Cook Everything.”  Independent of his sections on Beverages, Glossary, and Index, the book has 792 pages.  The MEAT section is 76 pages.  The POULTRY section is 65 pages.  The FISH section is 78 pages.  That’s 219 pages, and it doesn’t include the MEAT, POULTRY, and FISH in other sections like soups and appetizers.  That’s about 27% of the book.  In contrast, his sections on BEANS (28 pages) and VEGETABLES (88 pages) is a total of 116 pages, which is about 15% of the book.  So who’s kidding who?  Is the idea, Mr. Bittman, to cook the MEAT, POULTRY, and FISH and not eat it?

In today’s NYT, in contrast to the Bittman Doctrine, there appeared a fine interview with Chef Thomas Keller.  Keller dismantled the nonsense of sustainability, farm to table, etc.  He was especially hard on etc., but the FTT (Farm to Table) comment was priceless: “What restaurant isn’t farm to table?” Mr. Keller asked. “I think about quality, not geography.”

You might think these are radishes, but they’re not:

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The Geek Crisis

Do you think the geeks will default on their loans?  I do.  And then what? Drachma, drachma, drachma.  It’s as if the geeks want to be drachma queens: All about them.  Fine, go ahead, be geeks.

Personally?  Personally, I love geek salad, geek olives, and geek olive oil.  Say what you like, the biggest geek of them all is still Homer.

Meanwhile, when my mind’s not racing between thoughts like a hummingbird going from one pistil to the next, when I’m not sorely preoccupied with my book on chefs, 7th pass, back to NYC on Monday, I’m basically running a Geek diner.

That’s right, we’re talking grilled steak, eggplant parm, and turkey and black bean chili.  Super fast dishes, easy to prepare, and good for sammies at lunchtime.  A word about that steak: I bought it from Savenor’s.  Vermont farm, labeled as “Kobe” style.  Now I knew, I just knew, looking at it, that it wasn’t Kobe.  Not enough fat.  It was red, sort of, and not white, the way that real Japanese or Japanese style steaks must be.  But, I thought, what the heck, grill it, taste it, maybe I’m blind.

Anyhow, the steak was good, but it wasn’t “Kobe” style, not by a long shot.  Why is this OK?  Why call a peach an apple?  Why call a VW a BMW?  I mean, serious?

Which gets us back to the geeks.  Why not “say” they are going to pay back the loans and then just take a stroll, drink some cloudy ouzo, and sing:

“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus. . . .”

Classic geek salad:

 

Stormy Weather

Did everyone see the Gail Collins today about morels?  Titled: “Man vs. Morel,” it quoted Richard Mourdock: “’It’s not like I just popped up like a morel mushroom in the spring of agitation,’” Mourdock said last month, in an interview with ABC News.”

See, we are so cutting edge here!

Last night it was snapper on a bed of morels, ramps, and fava.  Tonight we have to take a breather to serve beer and wine at Project Hip-Hop in Roxbury.  As a board member, I am dedicated to saying: “Red?  White?  May I pour that beer for you?”

Meanwhile Game Six: The heir designate and the QM will be attending.  So that’s Scampo beforehand: Elephant ear?  Pasta?  Fish?  Who knows?  I do know it’s a sub for me at home after the aforementioned red, white, and suds.

The overarching context is O’s announcement in favor of gay marriage.  Why should straights be the only ones with the Seven Year Itch?

But what does this have to do with food?  I know!

Cream of morel soup tomorrow night followed by…fresh fish!

This is not Richard Mourdock.  It is a”blond” morel:

morelyellow.jpg (81841 bytes)

 

Morel Season

Yes, the tray of morels dwindles nightly even as the moon gets closer to the earth.  Last night it was a pan of about a dozen morels seared briefly in butter and shallots, placed then on toasted bread from Hi-Rise, and finished in the home version of a salamander under good Emmental.  Grated black pepper and: Dinner!  Now where close can you get a simpler, more flavorful meal?

This means more morels tonight with red snapper and perhaps on Friday we’ll make a soup of some kind with what’s left.

Big article today about Pete Kaminsky @ Eataly sussing out heathy, delicious food.  Pete!  I’m with you!  We can do this!

In Season

OK, so yesterday, still woozy after the 17 hours of driving, I looked for ways to cheer up.  What could be better, after walking the dogs, than to go to Russo’s, supplier to the region’s restaurants, to stock on the latest and greatest?

I went into the back where the stuff the restaurants buy is kept.  A few minutes later: A tray holding two pounds of big, beautiful morels.   Yes, it was expensive ($58), but these babies will be used for four dinners so, let’s see, that’s $14.50 a meal, divided by three for three, which means they cost about $4.85 per person.  “Nice,” as Santos would say.  The morels add flavor to roast duck (last night), grilled cheddar and pea soup (tonight), red snapper (tomorrow), etc.

Russo’s also had on display many ramps looking as if they were in the earth only hours ago.  Clean, chop, sauté in olive oil, then add cooked penne to the mix, grated parm, and black pepper.  Oh, yeah.

All this and Game #5 C’s-Hawks?  It’s May!  Hooray!

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