Vizu has decided to stop offering its free web-based polls. So everything under the link for polls, as well as the polls themselves, is no more.
If anyone has a suggestion on a similar service I could start using as a replacement, I'd appreciate hearing it.
Probably not Happy Thanksgiving fare, whether you eat their soon-to-be vanished products or not:
Innovation long in mix for Hostess Brands at the San Francisco Chronicle
Apparently folks are running out to clean stores out of Ho-Hos, Wonder Bread, and other Hostess products. Or perhaps the unfortunately-named Bimbo Bakeries will buy Hostess trademarks and other IP, and continue to make, um, stuff. :) Happens all the time, fortunately or unfortunately.
Since I'll likely be occupied tomorrow, let me take this time to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and tell you that I seriously do miss you. I hope you don't have to work tomorrow, but whether you do or not, I hope you enjoy yourselves.
The downtown food scene just got a little less bright:
A new wine store downtown — how can that be a bad thing? :)
"New wine shop opening downtown" in the Herald-Sun
One of the partners in the downtown store is Nathan Vandergrift, who ran the bar at Rue Cler for a while some nights shortly after they opened, probably because his brother John made him do it. ;) Seriously, I really enjoyed being able to talk to Nathan during that period, and really appreciated his depth of knowledge about wine. I'm hoping this will be good. Downtown pretty much rocks now, doesn't it? :-D
The store should be open around the middle of October.
If you get a chance to go to Mateo bar de tapas anytime soon, I suggest you do so. The good thing about a tapas bar is that you can eat as little or as much as you want. But at Mateo, you'll probably want to eat a lot. :) Mateo only has a placeholder web site up at the moment, but the N&O has a post on Mouthful by Andrea Weigl with links to a couple of PDFs for the food and wine menus.
About those menus.... I can personally suggest the paté de hígado de pollo, the patatas bravas, and the costilla de cerdo all as being stand-out excellent, but there wasn't much on the menu that wasn't excellent. The croqueta special we had was a delight: hot little golf ball-sized croquettes filled with a delicious melty cheese mixture. The perro cerdito was fun on a stick: basically a small corn dog served with a light mustard sauce. I could go on, and I did, but I'll leave some things for you to discover. I was surprised to see no cod or olives, but there were boatloads of seafood in general, along with an olive tapenade. We missed out on the gâteau Basque, but we made up for it on the other desserts. Most of my examples above are warm dishes, but there are plenty of cool items to be scarfed.
I'd also like to say what a delight it is for someone around here to be giving sherry its due. The wine list contains at least 25 sherries: finos, amontillados, palo cortatos, olorosos, and sweet sherries. There are several straight-up Pedro Ximénezes, of which the two I had were raisiny and delicious.
I know Matt Kelly has been busting butt for months to make this place what he wants. It also looks like Michael Maller has worked hard to get a really good, creative, appropriate wine list, along with a nice full bar in general. It shows. Go eat there. It's good. :)
Some of these lobsters must look like Frank Gorshin did in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" on Star Trek:
Interest in the city's proposed additional regulation for food trucks has really skyrocketed, with some folks getting organized pretty quickly:
City Hall is the place to be tonight at 5:30 pm if you want more information about what's going on. If you do Teh Facebook:
If any of you had any doubt 10 years ago about why the "USDA Organic" national certification effort was such a big deal and how it was going to turn out, perhaps this NYT article — "Has 'Organic' Been Oversized?" — will, um, assist you in your cogitation.
Hope everyone had a grand 4th of July holiday.
At the N&O:
Via our local Special Agent For Gluten-Intolerance Intolerance, code-named "Hor-Hay":
[Edit] ... aaaand the first commenter at the article is complaining that because of her gluten intolerance, she can't eat there, and it's not local food because folks don't grow a lot of wheat here, so please open someplace that doesn't use flour instead. I wrote the first sentence above before I saw her comment, but now I'm glad I wrote it.
In other words: please, get off it. No one makes salt around here, or grows black pepper (or a lot of other spices). The ocean is over two hours away by car. There damn sure isn't any commercial coffee, tea, citrus, a lot of other fruit, or really a large number of other foods grown locally. Had a banana lately? How about an almond or some vanilla? An out-of-season tomato, perhaps? We're actually lucky we live in a pretty agriculturally diverse state. But we don't make everything. Nor can we grow everything year-round. Nor can everyone afford to eat local products even for the stuff that is local (or even afford, say, organic, non-GMO, or non-irradiated spices). Take a waltz through Whole Foods, or better yet, Lowe's Foods, and throw out everything made or grown more than, say 100 miles away. Is there much left?
Tell me, do you buy jeans made of local cotton? I know of one US company making jeans from US cotton, and their jeans cost around 90 bucks a pop, and they're mail order — oops, not even being sold locally. Are you going to bitch because someone else opens a clothing store with more foreign polyester? Of course not. This state used to have a huge textile base that is pretty much shot to hell now. Don't you feel guilty? Somehow, I doubt it.
I'm sorry you're gluten-intolerant, just like I'm sorry a lot of other folks are dairy-intolerant, allergic to peanuts, seafood, or cigarette smoke, made sick to their stomach by the very idea of eating beef, or can't or won't drink alcohol for fear of losing their minds. I know how hard it is to avoid allergens: I used to cook occasionally for a friend who was actually allergic to casein, not just lactose-intolerant — try avoiding any dairy in anything. Kashrut symbols help, but it's still a pain in the ass. I've also baked for folks who are gluten-intolerant. Making everything without flour is arguably as bad.
I'd love to see more restaurants catering to individual needs. For example, Durham needs, and might could support, an actual vegetarian restaurant. And a lot of restaurateurs bust their asses to both serve local food and cater to individual needs (to name just one, Charlie Deal at Dos Perros springs to mind). But being a dog in a manger isn't ok just because the manger has wheat, salami, shrimp, peanuts, bananas, or black pepper in it. And while bitching because yet another restaurant is opening where they use flour you can't eat is probably just dumb and useless, tarring them all with a "not local enough" brush is simply elitist and self-serving. Even worse, your "OMG we're all going to die of celiac disease" whining does a dis-service to those with a serious auto-immune condition. Gliadin isn't poison, any more than casein or fava beans are. And, no, you're not raising consciousness about celiac disease. You just look like an idiot. The diseases are serious; it's at best hard to take you that way.
I think I know what you're really mad about: a restaurant opening that wouldn't even exist in your world. I can't wish away celiac disease any more than I can wish away racism, televisions in bars, or my own medical problems. I wish you didn't have celiac disease. I wish no one ever got sick from eating. I wish everyone could afford to eat out, and know how to cook well at home. But I would also like to go to Tom's new place if it opens. I'd like to eat a biscuit or doughnut there, and I'd like it to be good. Don't begrudge me or anyone else that, please. Gluten isn't poison to me, as far as I know, nor is it poison to (by your numbers) well over 99% of the population. Again, I'm sorry you can't eat wheat and its ilk. But I like it. I wish we all could eat it healthfully and well. You can't, and neither you, Tom Ferguson, nor I can fix it. We would if we could.
Nice article from Slate about the evolution of buttermilk from a by-product of home churning to a fairly different commercial product:
While the author picked up on several good points, she missed a couple. In particular:
What you're left with after churning cream is butter and buttermilk. They go together like twins. :) And, as the author of the above article noticed pretty quickly, the amount of fermentation and acidity level are (for a given batch of milk, which itself can vary widely) the biggest variables one willl usually encounter with respect to flavor.
The home producer of butter doesn't have the tools a huge commercial dairy does to manipulate their butter and its flavor, but they do have a few. The biggest variable to manipulate is the fermentation: how much and when. And the potential biggest effect there is to manipulate the acidity of the final products. That's such an important handle that some folks (including this author) will, when the larder is bare of buttermilk, instill a bit of vinegar to fresh milk to sour it, then use it as an emergency replacement for buttermilk. But fermenting the cream is a natural way to do it.
There's no requirement sour milk or cream be used in making butter. Indeed, it might be easier not to. One can take perfectly fresh milk, chill it, skim the cream off, then churn the fresh cream to get butter. The result is "sweet butter," and should be what commercial dairies mean when their product is labeled thus. Some people mistakenly refer to unsalted butter as "sweet." This author prefers to call butter salted or unsalted, reserving the term sweet for butter that hasn't been soured by fermentation. Almost all mass-market butter is sweet. The author above seems to have bypassed any fermentation, leading to fairly basic and straightforward results.
Washing is another handle one could use to manipulate the butter's flavor: The majority of the butter is, of course, fat. The fat is comparatively rather stable flavor-wise at room temperature. However, there are milk solids left in the butter, most of which are dissolved in any leftover fluid. Most of those solids stayed behind in the buttermilk, along with most of the milk's water. But some remain in the butter. They contribute some flavor, but they also can go bad faster than the butter by itself. One can stabilize the butter's flavor and make it a bit more straight-forward by removing more of the milk solids. After the butter mass is removed from the buttermilk (usually to a large bowl), you add water to the butter mass, and work the butter and water together with, say, a large spoon. More milk solids come out of the butter, and are poured off with the water. This changes the flavor of the butter, and its flavor willl be more stable afterward. Some people prefer a more flavorful butter, and are going to refrigerate or freeze it anyway to hold it, so this step can be omitted. Whether you're washing your butter or not, it's best at this time to use your bowl and spoon (or whatever you're using) to remove as much liquid as you can — you want butter left, not liquid.
While acid and fermentation is one big handle for adjusting butter's flavor, there are others. The aforementioned salt is another. Salt, among other things, is a preservative. Salt added to butter helped retard other changes to it, and some people prefer its flavor in the butter. If one wants to salt homemade butter, it's best done after the butter is removed from the buttermilk, and after any washing. Fold finely ground salt into your butter mass. While this is a matter of taste, I believe the typical supermarket quarter-pound stick of butter has the equivalent of about a quarter-teaspoon of salt — not so much as you'd think.
After any salting, the still somewhat soft butter is usually packed into a mold and allowed to chill. The mold my family used to use was carved out of wood, probably by my grandfather, and was a somewhat flat cup that turned out to hold about a half-pound. The closed side of the mold had what was basically a piston in it, with a very simple flower design incised in the face of the piston. The shaft of the piston went through a hole in the bottom of the cup. The mold, with its piston inserted, is filled with butter from your butter bowl (again, leaving behind any fluid). The butter is packed in as solidly as possible. Then one inverts the cup over a plate or waxed paper ot the like, and uses the piston to push out a cake of butter, which now carries the design that was carved into the piston. The butter needs to be cool enough at this stage to be pushed out as a mass, or it'll be messy, but it'll still be delicious butter. :)
So, after all that, you still have the fluid you removed your butter from. Remember that? That's your buttermilk. :) It probably has little flecks of butter floating around in it. It's also not milk, although the milk was its mother, so to speak. It's not commercial buttermilk either, which is cultured ("clabbered"), thickened, low-fat milk. And it is a lot like milk, with a lot of water and milk solids in it. Again, its flavor, for a given batch of milk, is affeccted strongly by how much it has fermented or soured by now. And, as the author of the article referenced above noticed, if it's made from totally unfermented milk products, it's not very acid, so not so good for reacting with baking soda or adding flavor. But having read both articles now, you now know what to do with your butter and butttermilk, and hopefully how to make something more to your liking.
From the N&O:
Thank god someome still makes stuff:
FWIW, the cookies they make with this stuff are DELISHUS. :)
"Lack of business closing TROSA Grocery" at the Herald-Sun
I guess one reason KFC sucks in the US is because they're paying so much attention to the business overseas:
"KFC's Big Game of Chicken" at Bloomberg/Businessweek
But my almost prurient interest here: What the hell do these t-shirts say?
It's clearly "I'M A STUDENT OF" and then maybe "L...NOMICS"? What the heck do you put on an employee shirt in English in Ghana anyway? Wikipedia tells me it's the official language of Ghana, so I guess that explains it, but I still want to know what these shirts say. :)
Some thief stole a smoker belonging to Fullsteam:
There's information on the Flickr post linked to above and on Fullsteam's FB page on how to contact them if you have any tips. Please help them out if you hear anything. I imagine it's headed to one of Durham's finer metal recycling locations; it'd sure be nice if they could get it back before something like that happens.
Maybe someone can Tweet me some back bacon too:
Not sure where I ran into this beauty at, but I think it was from our Canadian agent, code-named "Peach." Whoever it was has advanced the cause of civilization several thousand-fold. ;)
From The Atlantic: At the Restaurant of the Future, This Gadget Takes Your Order
Asshole. Someome's trying to live off that.
Oops; fake. See comments. Thanks, Eric.
Wow, seems odd, but also seems like a really good idea. Also shows how bad times have gotten:
"Campus food banks help students through tough times" at USAToday
Come to think of it, there were probably a few months when I was in college when I could have used a food bank....
Had a whole plate of these this morning:
Of course, we started a little late: the above pastries are supposed to be eaten on Fat Thursday by good Poles, but we're not Polish. Maybe we should have tried getting our pączki at, say, Halgo instead of a Publix in Savannah. But being Amuriken, we get to rip off whatever culinary traditions we want from whomever we like without regard for decency, geography, religion, respect, or taste. ;) But we should get them eaten up by Mardi Gras in any case, right? So down the, er, pie-hole they go. And we had some yesterday too, on what I guess is Lundi Gras, so there.
The two boxes we got were mislabeled. One was the advertised "cheese" coated with chocolaty goodness (with the filling being more like what one finds in a Boston cream doughnut, but a little richer and a lighter, less smooth texture). The other was the above, but with additional apple filling. I think we've eaten 6 in ~12 hours, which is pushing it. :)
Anyone know where I'm supposed to get a pączek (apparently paczki is the plural form of the word) in town anyway, if not Halgo? I don't actually know that Halgo has them.
[A personal note: Thanks to our special Georgia correspondent, code-named "Agent K," for making the trip & bringing back the goods. :) That's right up there with other such culinary odysseys.]
Perhaps you've heard of syllabub? I guess if you want to be all authentic and stuff, you're supposed to make it while milking a cow. I mean, I can undestand a recipe using a cow, or a cow's products, but not actively involving a live cow in the production of the actual dish. Have I made it clear now that they're actually milking a cow directly into the dessert? :) I hope so, because that's what's going on: