“A fresh food company”

Not to trivialize the hysteria, but what is the deal with beheadings? Even whacking off the face of a soft-shell crab, let alone the cockscomb-bearing part of a chicken, is anything but easy. How in holy hell are these guys managing to make human head-torso separation seem even more effortless than scimitaring off a Champagne cork? And the bigger question: Why are knife manufacturers not cashing in? Admen, start your engines.

Reynolds Wrap with a glass lid

One of the most surprising things I learned in my months of research for Julia’s obit was that the Bammin’ buffoon was once a very serious chef, with actual gravitas, not to mention humility. Clips at the Paley Center couldn’t lie, could they? Among the many sins of the Food Network was turning him into the Bb, but he has no one to blame but himself for what he’s morphed into: a victim of Obama Derangement Syndrome. He’s not Ducasse because black president? What makes that doubly sad is that I still remember my first lunch at NOLA, when my consort and I thought a famous athlete was at a nearby table because the staff was fawning so aggressively over him and his companion. Turned out it was a waiter, given a chance to switch sides; as I’ve ranted before, there could not be a better way to improve service. And now the boss would prefer they don’t get Obamacare, or a living wage. I guess that figures. My other recollection from that first trip to New Orleans was being invited to Thanksgiving at the crowded house of a bunch of NOLA chefs. Who were sleeping on mattresses on the floor in return for the chance to stage with the great one. Wonder how rich they are now . . .

$20,000 coats, 50 cents off on Goya cans

Maybe I should stable my high horse. I read the Murdoch Crier’s cheerleading piece on farmed salmon and wanted to blow it off as pinkwashing. Then I did some poking around for what it didn’t say. Turns out there really has been a literal sea change in the chicken of the sea. To the point that the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch now rates farmed Coho as a best choice. I still have qualms, because I’m haunted by the Scottish fisherman I interviewed eons ago who saw such a threat to the beautiful swimmers from the chicken-cooped kind, and because all these years of shunning the latter have left me with a taste for the wild ones. But it was one more reminder of how you need to read the business pages for your food journalism these days. So much else is just service.


Guess I should be glad they aren’t spelling it suckertash. // Every time I have a conversation with a farmer this time of year, I have new appreciation of the term “punch-drunk.” // POS is not what restaurants say it is. // Cross between scones and muffins — Scuffins — sounds like something you’d kick. Why not Mones? // Rare first-world problem: I buy eggs so fresh I can’t peel ’em. // Louise Slaughter FTW on antibiotics in animals. // The more cookbooks you own, the more likely you are to cook the same things over and over . . .

Mighty like a brush

When my Panchito Beat updater e-informed me that the guy who sold a dry drunk as a harmless good ol’ boy had been among the pundits invited to meet with the Big O before a big speech, I instantly flashed on Al Roker’s confession after his trip to the White House. And, given the Twit-boasting of bingeing on small but epic meatballs, pitied the washroom attendants yet again. Oh, the stories they can’t tell . . . .

“Fig down! Fig down!”

Plus I went to a media event the other week where you could almost hear the ka-ching, with so much splashy investment in promoting supermarket products. A certain someone would ride shotgun all over the grilled cheese in the video. But at least someone else probably got a full week at the George V.

Neo-Tuscan farmhouse by the neon light

I’m late to the Olive Garden brouhaha, but I have the answer to why the water is unsalted, a question that had been bothering me because I went to an all-day “science of flavor” conference over the summer. One speaker there noted that food processors use so much sodium because the only thing cheaper is water. Turns out the company cares more about the warranty on its pots than about adding almost-free flavor to crappy fud. But the most unsurprising revelation about the vultures now pulling the strings is their real mission: sell off the real estate and rent it back to the poor suckers left holding the poop-filled doggy bags. It’s only amazing they aren’t planning to offer unlimited Twinkies. If it weren’t for screw jobs, there would be no jobs at all.

Monster Water: Paper, not plastic

When a great friend in Philadelphia said he and his consort were planning to come north for the climate march, I hopped right up on my high horse and gave him an e-lecture on the futility of taking it to the streets — hadn’t we learned from the 2003 debacle, when hundreds of thousands froze our asses off before the illegal invasion of Iraq, only to be written off as a “focus group” by the White House and mere fodder for page A26 by the hometown paper? So what the hell was I doing standing outside the Dakota on Sunday midday, as close as I could get to the food contingent waiting to start inching down Central Park West to the “starting point” of the demonstration? I’ll blame some old Burgundies at a dinner of Fairway-frisky lobsters the night before; all the talk made me think maybe I should actually walk the walk rather than sit home posting endless links online.

I read crazy people, so I know the wingnuts perceived the demonstrators as “hippie filth.” (Seriously. In 2014.) Clearly they didn’t read any of the smart signs and T-shirts and banners, which were remarkably positive (I spotted only one Kochsucker message).  But I’ll have to admit, after going through my photos and videos, after that hour and a half outside the Dakota: I’m not sure the food world was so well-represented. What I saw in that tight space were a lot of vegans out in force with healthier-than-thou smugness, and the indictments of beef and milk were over the top. For all the advocacy of “food justice” and clean water and rights for food workers, there were too many blinkered views of what’s really ailing this ecosystem. Years ago I read a sharp, unsettling piece in Harper’s that made a seriously persuasive case that it’s not just animal agriculture but all agriculture that should be banned for Earth’s sake. If we really cared, rather than beef-blaming and tofu-grilling we would be shooting elk and subsisting on wild plants — getting ourselves back to the real garden. Somehow I suspect marchers in leather sandals drinking soy milk are not going to buy that. The answer is far from simple. But at least I didn’t spot any signs blaming gluten for global warming.


Corn maze always sounds redundant. // I passed a place called “Papa Kebab.” Dad on a stick? // Somebody puked in the Sunday magazine. // Dog “manure”? The streets of Paris must be very well-fertilized. // 2nd-grader in me had to laugh at Photoville: figures someone would cut the cheese in the Leiden exhibit. // If you’re willing to spend 10 bucks on an apple crisp mix, someone needs to take your credit cards away. // After hours of “audience is all,” 2 convos tonight on why NYT recipe database is arrogantly doomed: No interactivity. // Nothing like dinner next to first-daters to remind you it gets better if you aren’t a jackass on initial eating experience. // Not sure karaoke should pop up in a farm-to-table search. Unless lowing is involved. // And if a chef really wants to make “the best smoked salmon,” why start with farmed fish?

Future of farming, price of a Chanel bootee

Panchito is such a lightweight he still attracts more interest for his short stint covered in napkins than for his political insights, of which he appears starved, as a true media critic notes. In the age of artisanal everything, he gets paid Monsanto-level bucks to churn out high-fructose drivel. But I did get one good LOL: He read the Bruni Digest only once? Sure. And the McD’s at the Spanish Steps is the finest restaurant in Rome.

Big thumbnail chips

File this under “sometimes the news is in the noise, sometimes it’s in the silence.” What was missing in the redesigned issue of a certain magazine whose editor is renowned for hiring the first barbecue critic? And I’m not talking the lone Bertolli ad from the Eighties . . .

Even dwarfs started bigoted

Tweeted this but have to repeat: One of the best things I learned in my pass through journalism school was that you always die. You do not “pass away.” Otherwise, reporters soon find themselves saying chickens were “processed” for sandwiches. Also, too: Every obit that quoted the founder on how starting in poverty gave him his work ethic should have mentioned he appears to believe every employee should experience that misery forevermore. Good Christians do, of course, only have to observe the Lord’s Day, not the Lord’s rules.

Olds gonna old

Don’t ask me where, but dinner the other night made me realize there could be a perfect wine scam: Offer one list for ordering and another if a customer challenges the price on the check. Suddenly those $8 and $9 glasses are $11 and $12 and the markup is all yours. All you’d lose would be repeat business.

Eggs and melons and peanut butter, too

Everyone else can wet their sponsored-post adult diapers over ISIS beheaders. I’m gonna lie awake worrying about MRSA, even if fetal steps are being taken to eliminate antibiotics in animals. Twenty-two aspiring firefighters can get infected in one training class, and have no cure, and we’re supposed to panic over scimitar-wielders halfway around the world who would have their holy water confiscated at airport security? Much smarter to freak out over the notion that I could cut my own hand in my own kitchen and go to the ER and pick up something that would cause my fingers to eat themselves.