May 10, 2008

Food

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As soon as I discovered that the topic our class would be editorially tackling was “food,? I decided to bring my cameras to the annual Taste of Chocolate dessert competition in Bloomington, MN where chocolatiers compete for “best chocolate dessert? and “best chocolate confection? titles, as they satisfy event-goers with tantalizingly tasty chocolate samples. After all, chocolate is the “food of the gods? -at least according to the ancient Aztecs, isn’t it?

While editing my Taste of Chocolate film, my son Andrew asked me the question that I asked everyone at the event: tell me an early chocolate memory! I remembered as a kid my two brothers and I didn’t really have access to candy or sweets too often, but starting in kindergarten I would regularly set up tea parties with my dolls, including my giant Raggedy Andy and my mini Raggedy Ann. I set a nice table using my beloved and delicate china tea set from Germany. It was fun to unwrap the foil covered Ring Ding and place it on a china serving plate. My faux teacake- a Ring Ding, which is a chocolate icing-covered crème-filled devils food cake. It’s about the size and has the look of a hockey puck. With a table knife I cut tiny cake-type slices and served them to my dolls and me on my little china plates. My teapot held milk, which I poured into our cups with saucers. Of course my dolls shared with me at our delicious afternoon tea party.

It was nice to be asked that question and I asked it back to my son if he had an early chocolate memory. Yes, he did. In our dining room Andrew would do his homework at his very own version of a classic school desk, the kind with an open slot for schoolbooks just under the desktop. Around holidays we would keep a candy bowl filled with Hershey’s kisses; I would treat myself to two a day. Apparently whenever I would leave the homework area, seven-year-old Andrew would grab a handful of kisses and stash them in his school desk cove. He would then dutifully complete a third grade math problem and reward himself with a Hershey’s kiss. Another math problem, another piece of candy. When the homework was done he would condense all the wrappers into one giant foil nugget including one Hershey paper tag escaping from the top and discard that single piece evidence.

No wonder Andrew is so good at math.

May 8, 2008

Farmers’ Market Season Opener

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Just last Saturday the Midtown Farmers’ Market opened for the season, but the season still felt like winter. Yep, it’s the month of May and here in Minneapolis we’re still wearing winter coats. Oh well. A big free parking lot made it easy for neighbors to flock to the East Lake St. and 22nd Ave. South site (right between the YWCA and Hiawatha Light Rail station) and flock we did, despite the chilly weather.

By the time we got to the market around 10:00 a.m. all the artisan bread was already sold out and I just missed out nabbing the very last eggroll. If you want to buy local you have to show up early! A chalkboard sign promised more vendors this week so I bet some bedding plants might be on the horizon.

There was lots of live music courtesy of Steve West and friends, but my favorite part was the ultimate recycling demonstration - sheep shearing!


April 29, 2008

Before Salsa

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This 'before and after' recipe for salsa surprised me while reading the gritty details of being a teacher in New York City on Ms. M's blog. It's just, well, the fact that she took such a tantalizing picture of her fresh ingredients.

If we take pictures while cooking at all, it's usually only of the finished product. But this enticing, tangible shot of 'waiting to be sliced' vegetables reminds us to enjoy the satisfying visuals of fresh food in its natural state.

April 27, 2008

Class Field Trip

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London is hosting a four-day Real Food Festival culminating today, which seems to highlight everything our class magazine, digest, is about. Too bad we couldn't all take a field trip to this relevant extravaganza! We would have had a blast at what is deemed to be Great Britain's largest farmer's market ever. This festival even hosted a gala party on opening night, although I think the 'learn how to skin a rabbit' event would have been a bit too much for me.

Last year when I spent May term in London I was surprised to discover how conscious the United Kingdom is about sustainability. That is where I first heard the term 'reduce your carbon footprint’. From what I see, the United States has a ways to go with catching up to Great Britain's commitment to making ethical food choices.

April 23, 2008

Buyer Beware

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Tea has a new cachet, whose recent surge in popularity is attributed to newly affluent, health-conscious Chinese who believe that Pu’er tea lowers cholesterol, cures hangovers, helps fortify teeth and trims away fat, according to The New York Times.

Pu'er is considered tea's birthplace. Jungle tea is made with leaves picked from still-thriving, ancient trees in the Pu'er region of southwest China, and it produces a mellow-tasting fragrant tea with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste.

But 90% of Pu’er tea that is advertised as ‘wild’ tea is instead harvested from plantations. The locals call this product ‘industrial’ tea, tea that locals do not drink themselves. Apparently the world’s thirsty, health-conscious tea drinkers are being duped into drinking counterfeit tea.

Just like when you buy that $20 Coach purse from a sidewalk guy in Chinatown, chances are good that if you’re drinking Pu’er tea then you just bought yourself a knockoff.

No one can tell, though.

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April 15, 2008

Robin Quivers of “The Howard Stern Show’ is vegan . . . and thin!

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Robin Quivers , the millionaire side-kick to crude, shock-jock Howard Stern on his Sirius radio show, is now known for being a recent convert to veganism. What is newsworthy is that she credits her concurrent 60 lb. weight loss to her new vegan food plan. Wow! I want to go on the Robin Quivers vegan diet. The New York Diet blog begged Quivers to sell them on becoming vegan. The world wants to know her vegan diet secrets, too, beyond ‘don’t eat meat or cheese’.

Good News: Quivers complied with the request by giving New York Magazine’s blog a taste of how she now eats as a vegan.

Bad News: It looks like being vegan is a full-time job, but she can do that because:

1. She is single and answers to no one in her private life.

2. Her real job is pretty simple: she sits next to Howard Stern for a few hours a day and takes his abuse, and ....

3. Did I mention she’s a millionaire? I'm sure she doesn't have to either prepare or clean up after making all those veggie juices and smoothies and salads.

After you read her daily meal details you’ll see for yourself how very little I exaggerate about her near-starvation vegan eating regimen.

Something tells me that most committed vegans don’t follow Quivers’ plan where she essentially fasts on a diet of vegetable juice for breakfast, dry salad leaves for lunch, cayenne pepper lemon water for snacks and grilled veggies for dinner. Her at-home meals are supplemented by Quivers’ frequent visits to the toniest restaurants in the world just so she can eschew these famous dining establishments’ meats and cheeses and order not much at all. She just could have just stayed home and had a V8.

We look to famous people to be our role models, lapping up any bits of entertainment info, hoping that some of their star-power will rub off on our less than stellar lives.

Valerie Bertinelli lost 40 lbs. and is thin again? Is that thanks to Nutri-System or is Bertinelli still taking those ‘chemical substances’ that she has been known to enjoy and which also have that ‘appetite killer’ bonus?

J.Lo is thin again even though she just bore twins? Lopez’s local Westchester Weight Watcher meetings sure must be exciting, or more likely, her tummy tuck stitches are healing nicely.

Lets give ourselves a break and choose to be vegan for our own moral values rather than treat veganism as the next, temporary “too good to be true? diet plan as we jump on yet another star-power weight loss bandwagon.

April 12, 2008

Slumming it with New York Times Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni

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New York Times Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni (hidden by a hilarious disguise) gives Mo Rocca the scoop in a fascinating interview about Bruni’s adventures in dining and tasting.

Sorry you have to endure a 15 second ad for Jeep. That’s show biz.


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April 11, 2008

Fabulous Restaurants Need Fabulous Workers

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Insomnia and job surfing led me to D&D London Ltd., a corporation that operates more than twenty restaurants all over the world, but most are in London.

Great! They speak my language. D&D London’s main page compels me to click “Work for Us,? and I'm immediately drawn to their chef apprentice program. But my work experience is more office related, than kitchen related, so I’ve decided that Floor Manager would be a better fit. If I can’t break down that door, then I’ll rely on my direct job-related experience and go for Receptionist.

If only every company had as an inspiring, workable Web site where each job opening is treated with as much fanfare as the next, regardless of career ladder rung. As Receptionist, I promise to “. . . support the seamless running of the restaurant by providing a highly efficient and effective service, ensuring standards are maintained and guest comfort and safety is paramount at all times. To establish and maintain good working relationships amongst the restaurant team and kitchen brigade.? Isn’t that cool that the kitchen team is considered a ‘brigade’?

Brilliant photographs fill this site, which seals the deal for me. Six restaurants wait for my resume. I’d say the odds are good that I’ll be back in jolly old England sooner than this Minneapolis snow melts, maybe June.

April 8, 2008

German 'Robot' Restaurant

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If there’s one thing I learned during these college years struggling to earn my CLA foreign language requirement, it’s that German service workers are surly, not particularly freundlich. So what did the ever-enterprising Germans do to combat that not-so-nice reputation? Why, the BBC reports that Germany opened a fully automated restaurant, ‘s Baggers in Nürnberg, which replaces waiters and waitresses with a table-side menu screen and a roller coaster track that sends your just-cooked a grillds Schbanfergl (grilled suckling pig) down the rails to you from the kitchen in the sky.

London’s successful fleet of yo! Sushi automats likely inspired the Germans. These popular self-serve restaurants tempt guests with color coded plates full of your potential meal gliding by on conveyor belts – so much fun! And right here on Eat Street in Minneapolis The Bad Waitress eliminates servers altogether by making hungry diners figure out for themselves that no waitress will ever be coming to your table to take your order. It’s a do it yourself affair where you fill out your own order slip, then bring it up to the register to place your order. Somehow, it works.

The German news video wraps up by proposing the equation: no waitrons = no tip required, but that’s not the case with both yo! Sushi and The Bad Waitress. They still expect tips. These modern restaurants needn't worry; my inborn guilt would compel me to tip even if real robots were running the restaurant.

April 4, 2008

World's Largest Cupcake Baked Right Here

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I love cupcakes – what’s not to love? Just one look at those little iced, mini treats makes me smile.

Martha Stewart proclaimed last week to be “Cupcake Week? and what better way to celebrate that occasion than for the Guinness Book of World Records to come to Bloomington, Minn. to declare the first ever World’s Largest Cupcake? As I had already missed the star-studded commotion of Food Network’s Ace of Cake’s host, Chef Duff Goldman, setting off a striped stick of dynamite, I mean, candle shooting sparks all around, I was anxious to reach The World’s Largest Cupcake at the larger-than-life Mall of America. Nearing the Rotunda, I tripped, falling forward in slow motion, superman-style, certain I would right myself, but instead hitting the concrete with a thud. A nearby kid asked if I was OK before her mother yelled, “Leave her alone,? grabbed the girl’s hand and scurried off in horror. A guy asked me if I was OK and I said no as I raised my arm up hoping for help. I regrouped on a bench in sight of my prize whose cartoon blue icing shone like a beacon to me.

This extreme baking stunt was a kick-off event for Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, a national campaign that mobilizes Americans to end childhood hunger by holding bake sales in their communities, where ostensibly Share Our Strength then gives that money raised from registered bake sales to organizations that fight childhood hunger.

Whew. Oh well, call me cynical. It sounds roundabout and maybe just a bit incongruous, trying to help the more than 12 million children at risk of hunger in America (meaning they do not have a reliable source of food on a regular basis) by exploiting America’s sweet tooth and urging the masses to splurge on decadent baked goods that should be for us more an indulgence than what they usually are.

I do love cupcakes, but I really love the idea of them more than the eating of them. They sure are fun to look at.


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March 30, 2008

Macy's Celebrity Chef Tim Scott Stirred Up Lunchtime Crowd

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Macy’s Culinary Council Chef Tim Scott shared recipes and entertaining ideas with a lunchtime crowd of mostly women on Friday in the Macy’s Culinary Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. Although likely best known for being part of the Chefs for Humanity Chefs Council, Chef Scott is the corporate executive chef for all of what’s left of the beleaguered Macy’s North – that’s a lot of restaurants to run. But his experience as a cooking teacher for both adults and children shined Friday afternoon as he effortlessly demonstrated some of the Latin menu items featured in those very Macy’s restaurants coordinating with Floranova, this year’s Latin-themed Spring Flower Show going on right now through March 30, also in Macy’s Minneapolis.

His own daughter, Maddie, ably aided Chef Scott. Their palpable chemistry was a big part of the success of the event, but another big winner was the food itself. Kudos to Macy’s who made food sampling easy by both sprinkling attractive tables nearby hosted by chefs handing out tasty wares throughout the demonstration, along with smoothly conducting waitrons to deliver constant fare in a beeline from Chef Scott’s stove to the hungry audience members.

By all accounts, Chef Scott’s Shrimp Guacamole served on crispy plantains, accompanied by a glass of the deliciously festive Mango Agua made the audience feel like we were honored guests at the best party in town.