Archive - January 2011

Recipe of the Day: Concord Grape Jam

Concorde Grape Jam_

Grapes have romantic connotations because wines originate from this juicy, round fruit.  Nonetheless, grapes have long been present in the whims of mythology, especially with its symbolic associations with love, fertility and virility.  Ancient civilizations revered the meaning of a bunch of grapes, especially as the preferred representations of gods (Bacchus, god of ecstasy and Dionysus, god of winemaking and grape harvests).

The aphrodisiac nature of grapes naturally comes from its mythical connections.  This is especially true with the image of hand-feeding a bunch of grapes as part of the seduction process.

A grape-based jam may seem like the least romantic form of this very sexy fruit, but you can do a lot with this tasty and sweet jar of love.  Spread it on your favorite cracker or you can taste it with your bare finger.  Or better yet, warm up a spoon, scoop a nice heap of this jam, and top it on another sensual feast: your choice of ice cream.


5 lb Concord grapes, stemmed

5 cups sugar

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Special equipment: 7 (1/2-pt) canning jars with lids and screw bands; a boiling-water canner or an 8- to 10-qt deep pot; an instant-read thermometer; a food mill fitted with fine disk


Wash the jar (lid and screw included) in hot, soapy water.  Rinse well.  Dry the screw bands very well and set aside.  Put the jars in canner or deep pot; add enough water to cover 2 inches.  Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Immerse the lids in water and heat them until the thermometer registers 180 degrees F (do not boil).  Remove from heat.  Leave the jar and the lids submerged in hot water until ready to use.

Slip the skin off the grapes and then puree them in a food processor with about 1 cup of sugar.  Transfer the puree into a wide heavy pot, and stir in the lemon juice, the peeled grapes, and 4 cups of sugar.  Boil over moderate heat for 20 minutes.  Stir frequently and skim the foam; make sure to break down the pulp.

Take the jam out of the pot and then force it through a food mill.  Discard the solids.  Take the jam back into the pot; take it to a slow boil for 35 minutes.  Stir frequently and skim the foam.

To test the consistency of the jam, drop a teaspoonful on a chilled plate.  Chill for a minute and then tilt it.  The jam’s consistency is acceptable if it does not run on the surface of the plate.  Otherwise, continue cooking until thick.

Transfer the jam into jars and seal them.

Fourteen Top States to Get Sick


Seriously, just when we think the worst is over, here we are talking about the salmonella scare. Frankly, salmonella is a pretty easy disease to treat, that’s why it comes as a surprise that there are people who would actually be sick.

Well, human nature is human nature. We can’t help it if people just go and get themselves sick. But if one really insists, then there’s no helping it. Anyway, if you’ve got any plans this summer, or are just thinking of going into some road trip, then I’ve got a good list of states that you’re most likely to get sick. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has reviewed 10 years of records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to come up with a list of states that fail to make the grade. These states were graded from A to F with A as the lowest. Just looking at this list may give you a couple of surprises. Better be wary when you visit these places.

But hey, if you’re planning to be sick in that case, then be my guest.

Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 766
Total Hospitalizations: 33
Total Deaths: 0

West Virginia only reported 27 outbreaks to the CDC, 17 of which were solved outbreaks. The most common pathogens implicated in these outbreaks were bacillus, Salmonella, and norovirus, each of which was involved with three solved outbreaks.

2. TEXAS Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 11,055
Total Hospitalizations: 250
Total Deaths: 8

Although Texas reported only 201 foodborne illness outbreaks, the state’s large population dwarfed this number and caused the stated to receive a ranking of “F.” Thirty-one percent of the state’s 56 solved outbreaks involved Salmonella, often associated with contaminated vegetables.

Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 2,663
Total Hospitalizations: 116
Total Deaths: 1

South Carolina reported a total of 76 outbreaks, and identified a pathogen and food source for 43. By 2007, the number of reports per million people had improved to four. The most common pathogens implicated were Salmonella and staphylococcus, each of which was involved in a quarter of solved outbreaks.

4. OKLAHOMA Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 480
Total Hospitalizations: 40
Total Deaths: 2

Oklahoma reported 31 outbreaks over the 10-year period, with 21 being solved. Forty-four percent of the state’s outbreaks affected between 11 and 25 people. One outbreak in 2005 was traced back to a single restaurant serving lettuce that had been cross-contaminated with raw chicken.

5. NEW MEXICO Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 885
Total Hospitalizations: 48
Total Deaths: 2

Between 1998 and 2007, New Mexico reported 24 outbreaks and solved 14. Forty percent of these outbreaks affected between 26 and 50 people. Clostridium, which was the most prominent pathogen, was often associated with fish and home-canned foods.

6. NEVADA Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 1,952
Total Hospitalizations: 47
Total Deaths: 1

Nevada reported 45 outbreaks between 1998 and 2007, but solved only 21. Salmonella was the most common illness-inducing pathogen. In 2007, three people became sick after eating Salmonella-tainted hamburgers.

7. NEBRASKA Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 518
Total Hospitalizations: 23
Total Deaths: 0

Nebraska reported only 21 outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, however in 18 of these cases a pathogen and food source were identified. There was a fairly even distribution of active pathogens, with the same amount of reported outbreaks involving norovirus, clostridium, E. coli, and Salmonella.

8. MISSOURI Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 2,538
Total Hospitalizations: 51
Total Deaths: 0

Missouri reported 86 outbreaks, although only 31 of these were “solved.” The state’s peak year for reports was 2004, during which 24 outbreaks were reported. The most common pathogen was Salmonella, frequently originating in restaurants.

Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 908
Total Hospitalizations: 35
Total Deaths: 0

Mississippi reported 35 outbreaks between 1998 and 2007. In 2007, the state reported only two outbreaks. The most commonly implicated pathogen among these outbreaks was Salmonella. One report, published by the CDC in 2001, hypothesizes that many of the state’s Salmonella cases are linked to contact with amphibians.

10. LOUISIANA Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 2,584
Total Hospitalizations: 95
Total Deaths: 2

Louisiana reported 44 outbreaks from 1998 to 2007 and identified a pathogen and food source for 35 of these cases. The most commonly found pathogen was clostridium, often present in beef products.

11. KENTUCKY Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 193
Total Hospitalizations: 20
Total Deaths: 0

Over the 10-year period, Kentucky reported only 25 outbreaks of food illness. Sixteen of these reports were “solved,” and a quarter of those that were solved affected only residents of Kentucky. As with many other states, the most common pathogen in Kentucky was norovirus.

12. INDIANA Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 2,756
Total Hospitalizations: 99
Total Deaths: 0

Indiana reported 88 outbreaks to the CDC, half of which were “solved.” The number of reported outbreaks varies greatly by year, with only three outbreaks reported in 2005 and 16 reported in 2000. The most common pathogen was norovirus, which affected 373 people during one outbreak in 2006 that originated at an Olive Garden restaurant outside of Indianapolis.

13. ARKANSAS Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 1171
Total Hospitalizations: 80
Total Deaths: 0

Arkansas has reported only 32 food-borne illness outbreaks in the 10 years between 1998 and 2007. The greatest amount reported in one year was eight reports in 2002. Seven of the total reported outbreaks involved Salmonella, spread by food such as sushi.

14. ARIZONA Grade: F
Outbreaks Per Million: 1
Total Illnesses: 2,161
Total Hospitalizations: 78
Total Deaths: 0

Of Arizona’s 106 reported outbreaks, 40 are considered to be “solved.” The most frequent pathogen involved in these outbreaks is norovirus. Many of these outbreaks occur among people doing recreational water activities, such as rafting on the Colorado River.

Should Lipton Test Their Tea on Animals?


I’m sure many of us have enjoyed a nice cup of tea in the afternoon, or during those cold, chilly nights. Come to think of it, tea is one of the healthiest beverages known to man. It’s been around for thousands of years, and never have we experienced any need to make health claims about it. Tea is healthy, period. There’s nothing to elaborate more about this.

That’s why one could understand the public outrage when a report by the United Kingdom’s branch of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) came out regarding some shocking news about tea companies. Just to be clear, tea is not in the spotlight here, it’s the companies that make them are. According a report, tea companies PG tips, Lyons, and, in particular, Lipton, have been found to test their tea on animals. And the testing is by no means humane. It seems like for the sake of making health claims on their products, these tea companies are putting the health of animals at the backseat.

Here’s an excerpt by PETA of what they found out:

• Rabbits were fed a high-fat, cholesterol-laden diet, leading to extreme hardening of the arteries. They were then fed tea to see if it could reduce the lesions that formed on the animals’ arteries. After the experiment, the rabbits’ heads were cut off.

• Mice bred to suffer from a painful bowel inflammation were fed tea ingredients in order to see if the tea had any effect on their condition. After the test, experimenters killed the mice by suffocating them or breaking their necks.

• Rats were forced to eat a high-sugar diet, and then tea was given to the animals to see if it could protect against sugar-induced brain damage. Other rats had their abdominal wall punctured and were fed radioactively labeled tea ingredients through a tube in their stomachs in order to examine the absorption of tea in the body. Then they were killed, frozen with liquid nitrogen, and crushed.

• Piglets were exposed to E. coli toxin and then fed tea in order to see if the tea could prevent fluid loss and diarrhea. As part of the tests, experimenters cut the pigs’ intestines apart while the animals were still alive. The piglets were then killed.

It’s understandable if these gruesome details make you lose your appetite for tea. It really comes quite as a shock that some tea companies would actually go this far just to make a claim on the healthiness of their products. In their desire to grab a slice of the herbal tea market, (and shore up whatever dwindling sale they have on black tea), tea companies are putting animals at risk. Personally, it doesn’t really make any sense at all.

As stated earlier, tea has been around for thousands of years. And that’s for human consumption. Such a wealth of information gathered in such a long time should have been sufficient to provide some sensible idea to researchers about the health benefits to tea. By intentionally harming animals for the sake of testing is not only an inhuman practice, but it’s also an unnecessary endeavor.

There are other ways to test tea without using animals. And besides, whatever health benefits that these companies claim from these tests don’t mean a thing for people who are suffering from diabetes, heart diseases, and other maladies, but still continue drinking tea. It’s all right to like tea, but if you’re drinking it solely to treat your disease, then that’s an entirely different story. You might require a different kind of help.

You can join in the campaign urging these companies to stop animal testing. Here’s a link to a petition. Try avoiding buying Lipton’s and other companies’ products for the meantime, until the entire issue is resolved. At least, in your own small way, you can put a stop in this.

On Food and Television


Monday’s up to day. We’d better stretch and welcome the new day of the week. Well, that is, if we’re in the mood for it. But that shouldn’t be the case. Why don’t we look for something exciting to do? After all, there are plenty of things to do. For example, watching some great foodie shows. And you’re in luck, since I’ve got some good shows to recommend.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation (Indonesia) (10 a.m. at the Travel Channel)

See the sights, enjoy the food. That’s what Tony is obviously going to do. He’s going to this vacation paradise to find out exactly why foreigners are crazy over it.

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: Phuket, Thailand (11 a.m. at the Travel Channel)

We may know Phuket as the best in tropical destinations, but wait until Andrew comes in the picture. He’s going to show us a culture and cuisine that is certainly surprising and out of this world!

Guy’s Big Bite: Guy’s Goal Line Grub (3 p.m. at the Food Network)

Thinking of that winning recipe for that winning game? Then let Guy show you how. He’s preparing some amazing dishes that will leave you asking for more (even when half-time’s over).

Cake Boss: Pipes, a Phoenix, and a Problematic Kitchen (6 p.m. at the TLC)

Of all the days to make a Phoenix cake. Buddy and his crew took an order for an Irish bar; the only snag is that the ovens are being replaced. Will they make the order in time? Let’s find out.

Throwdown with Bobby Flay: Steak (7 p.m. at the Food Network)

It seems like Bobby’s took in too much heat. This time, he’s going to challenge the tough-as-nails steak cook Eric “Captain D” Dominijanni for a steak showdown. Will Bobby prevail, or will this captain and his marines prove themselves supreme in the art of steak.

Tempo Ceramic Cup: A Modern Way to Serve Tea


Tea is without doubt a very delicious drink. Whether cold or hot, you would certainly want to relish a few nice cups in a day. Of course, it’s pretty much troublesome to brew a good cup of tea. In these modern times, it’s a bit of a hassle to make yourself a cup, especially if you’re in the middle of work. That’s why you should be grateful that we now have something to solve our problem – the Tempo Ceramic Cup.

The brainchild of Italian designer Amir Alizade, this cup features an automated brewing system that brews your tea on its own. You don’t have to leave your workstation just to make that hot cup of relaxing drink. The cup is divided into two parts. The upper part serves as the container of the tea while the lower part serves as the base of the cup. The base also serves as the timer. You can adjust it according to the time needed to brew your tea. This is also functions as its heating unit, so you can just keep the cup beside you and still be able to enjoy your tea with all its heat maintained.

It’s a brilliant idea, don’t you think? It’s pretty much hip, and is the perfect solution for the younger generation who wants to enjoy a nice hot cup of tea while they’re at work. It’s certainly a must-have for every young professional.

What are aphrodisiacs?


In the next few weeks, expect an increase in the demand for these so-called “aphrodisiacs”.  Don’t be surprised if oysters are priced higher than usual, and even the lowly ginger might experience a price increase even by a few cents.  How about those chocolates?  Are adding ribbons enough to make them extra special and extra pricey?  Can these foods really help your sex life?

True to the mystery and intrigue surrounding love potions and other concoctions, aphrodisiacs have been supported by history and cultural.  This is not to say that an aphrodisiac actually works.  Not to spoil your plans and schemes this Valentine’s Day, but the scientific backing of these morsels for increased libido is as strong as oral tradition and folklores.  Even though this is the case, how come aphrodisiacs remain to be a very revered component for seduction and the erotic?

Aphrodisiacs are substances that are known to cause sexual arousal and the intensification of sexual desire.  These “substances”, however, are debatable especially when found in food.  Oysters, for instance, do not cause any direct effect on the libido by means of its natural components.   What can make oyster an effective aphrodisiac is based on its shape that can cause a placebo effect or other causes of sympathetic magic.

In a scientific context, an aphrodisiac is supposed to create an effect on the brain that can rouse sexual desire.  This effect can start from the levels of sex hormones, especially the testosterone.  Aphrodisiacs can thereby enable arousal through the senses such as the increase in blood flow in the genitals and certain chemical releases in the brain that can cause attraction and arousal.

At this point, those that are proven to be aphrodisiacs happen to be formulated by pharmaceutical companies.  Components such as Yohimbine, Bremelanotide, Alkyl nitrites and Melanotan II have been developed to increase sex drive and address sexual dysfunctions.  Unfortunately, and expectedly, these drugs can cause negative side effects.

Of course, there are some natural aphrodisiacs as well coming from natural components like Crocin (as found in saffron) and phenylethylamine (as found in chocolates).  These aphrodisiac properties mostly cause reactions in the brain such as the case of Crocin which basically has antidepressant properties.  Chocolates, as we all now, can create the same effect.

What about those famous aphrodisiacs that our ancestors have sworn by?  Even though they do not have the scientific evidence to prove that they contain aphrodisiac substances, there is something about these aphrodisiacs that can help people believe they will do wonders in the bedroom.  Some of them may do but some of them can cause more harm.

Rhinoceros horn – because the horn looks like an erect penis, its penile implication can bring visions all-night satisfaction and all-out masculinity.  Rhino horn does not have sexual powers and is in fact an illegal commodity although used in Chinese medicine.

Spanish fly – the Spanish fly seems like a mythical insect that boarded the ships states-bound but this is in fact a ground-up blister beetle that can be actually toxic.  Because of its cantharidin content, the ingested powder can cause a warm feeling in the urinary tract which is actually an infection and not a sign of increased libido.  Next time you want to fulfill your curiosity, use Spanish fly as pepper and not as a powdered drink.

Alcohol – ah, how alcohol has caused nights you will never forget, nights you have forgotten, and nights you wish you’ll forget.  Alcohol can twist one’s perceptions thus will not make you think straight.  It’s not libido, it’s merely an increase in the blood flow.  Not an aphrodisiac.

Chocolate – as chocolate contains phenylethylamine and serotonin, these chemicals can make nice wonders to the brain because they light up the pleasure areas.  Can chocolate increase sexual desire?  Not really, but if feeling good makes you want to jump into the hot tub with your partner with a massage oil waiting by the bedside table, why not?

Oysters – yes, an oyster look like a vagina.  Is the sight of a vagina on an open shell a fuel for one’s libido?  Oysters do not contain any substance that can directly affect a person’s libido, but there were studies that showed how oysters increased the testosterone levels of male rats.  It is also high in zinc that can jack up sperm production.  But whether oysters can do these chemical wonders, Casanova probably ate those 50 oysters for breakfast because he woke up hungry and had a craving for these lovely mollusks.

Yohimbe, Tribulus and Maca – any combination of these three herbs may form the “natural Viagra” but they are more known to cause side-effects that can even cause death.  Don’t believe in those ads that say “natural sex wonders” or “sex herbs”.  Their medicinal properties are not proven, and they are indeed not aphrodisiacs.

Viagra – this treatment for erectile dysfunction is not an aphrodisiac.  Although it increases blood flow into the penis, sexual desire stems from something else.  It also has critical side effects in some cases.

Purple Yam


Our friends Sean (of Sean Reads the News) and Julie invited us out to Filipino brunch. Julie’s family is from Iloilo and eating Filipino with them is usually a safe bet. We met up this morning in the Ditmas Park section of Flatbush in Brooklyn at Purple Yam. It was seven of us in total and when we got there the place was half full. By the time we left there was a line of people waiting, our bellies were full and our taste buds satisfied.

The good thing about eating out with a large group of people is having the ability to order one of each and sharing. This is how our brunch started. We ordered one of each of the appetizers (and pre-ordered the large Bibingka) so that it would be ready by the time our meal was coming to an end. One of the first dishes we ordered was the fresh lumpia at $7. It came wrapped in a crepe and stuffed with Napa cabbage, leeks and mushrooms with a peanut and tamarind sauce. The peanut sauce was nice and the crepe was a surprise (light). The mushrooms were a charming addition and the cabbage added some freshness. A lovely dish.

Ukoy is a vegetable and shrimp fritter. The danger with a dish like this is that it can easily be made into a greasy mess. One thing that I noticed in all of the dishes at Purple Yam was the freshness and lightness of the dishes. The ukoy at Purple Yam ($7), although rich and sinful, still managed to keep a light and fresh feeling. when the dish came back around to my setting I made sure to grab some more.

We also ordered two types of dumplings one of which was the special of the day. The dumplings that are on the menu are filled with pork and chives ($6). The special were filled with mushrooms and corn ($6). Both were great, but the mushroom and corn won my heart. Again, these were lightly fried, not too oily while maintaining a heartiness that was welcome on a cold winter day. The sauces that came with the dumplings were based on vinegar which cut through the fat in these dishes.

This dish is the Lumpia Shanghai ($7). Deep fried deliciousness that included pork, mushrooms, carrots and jicama. It came with a sweet and sour pineapple sauce for dipping. Again, a very nice dish. The sauce worked nicely with these deep fried spring rolls and was surprisingly light. Not sticky or cloying as I normally expect from a sweet and sour sauce. This was something I truly welcomed and hope to see from other Filipino joints.

As if that was not enough food, we had also ordered the kimchi and scallion pancake. This gave me a hint that the chef was not being a stickler about straight on Filipino cuisine and instead chose to take inspiration from other cultural areas. This is a nice point of difference for the restaurant. The execution was impeccable but as a fan of spicy food I was hoping for more heat in the dish.

Pancit bihon is one of the most well known dishes in Filipino cuisine. It is quick and easy to cook and can be found being made by street vendors all over the country. At Purple Yam it was made with rice noodles, chicken, pork and vegetables ($8). The pork utilized in the dish was slightly sweet. The chicken was super tender and juicy. The scallions fresh and tasty. This was one of my favorite dishes of the morning. Good stuff.

The duck sotanghon ($10) was probably the only dish I was not in love with. Sotanghon is basiacally a vermicelli, a cellophane noodle which is the protagonist in this dish. There was nothing particularly wrong with the sotanghon. The duck was cooked fine, but there was not much special about this dish either. Perhaps I like a stronger tasting curry. Either way, I was not completely in love with this one.

There were a few other dishes ordered. To be frank, I was saving room for dessert. Do yourself a favor and make sure to order the Bibingka ahead. It is delicious and takes a bit longer to make. Our bibingka came on a banana leaf. It was light and fluffy. The sides were crunchy and slightly salty (enhanced by cheese; Gouda and Feta to be exact). This enhanced the flavors of the coconut. I had a slice but could easily have eaten at least another two. This is dessert worth saving room for.

One more thing. The juices at Purple Yam are delectable. I had the kalamansi juice. It was slightly sweet and super refreshing. Julie had the Buko (coconut) juice…no complaints came from her end. Everyone that ordered juices was happy with their beverage.

And one last (last) note. We meandered a bit in the restaurant. The server let us know that a large reservation was on their way in. He did this with such tact, that we did not feel rushed or unwelcome. Overall, Purple Yam is a lovely experience and worth the trek to Brooklyn on a cold winter’s morning.

Purple Yam is located at 1314 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn, NY 11226 (718) 940-8188 Take the Q train to Cortelyou Road

If you can’t wait to try this place (or if you live nowhere near Brooklyn, you can pick up Amy Besa’s book Memories of a Philipine Kitchens.

Vending Machines Go Futuristic


Is the paperless future heading towards a cashless, “smart” one?

At the moment, smartphones have the capability to scan barcodes and send item information in seconds.  Everything is digital and mobile these days — cash credits on cellphones and applications that allow instant transactions.  The vending machine, which at some point was a revolutionary tool in food purchasing, is now taking things to the next level.  This lowly consumer of coins and bills is turning into a tool that can revolutionize food purchasing and consumption.  As far as these changes go, out with the change, and in with different body parts.

A very interesting design is an invention by Kraft.  Kraft has developed a vending machine that can read the customer’s face, analyze the facial features, and then recommend what kind of food the customer should eat from the machine.  It also has a feature that will email a recommended recipe and shopping solutions.  Called the “Meal Planning Solution”, this machine also has the cool, touchscreen interface you can scroll through, well designed and informative meal options, and of course, a camera that scans and predicts what you want to eat.

The future of vending machines is treading the benefits of biometrics. Transactions can now be activated through biometric scans such as thumbprints or retinas.   For instance, a Massachusetts-based vending machine company is developing and testing machines that allow thumbprints to pay for purchases through stored credit or debit card information.

In addition to cashless transactions, these machines are also improving in terms of interface.  Instead of merely peeking through the window to have a good look at the food selection, these machines are also being developed to feature an interactive touch screen similar to the iPhone.  A customer can therefore simply go through the current vending machine menu, select an item, and spin the item to look at the product’s nutrition level.

Vending machines are evidently joining the “smart” bandwagon.  The definition of “smart”, in this case, steps beyond the convenience of cashless shopping and the advantages of biometrics.  In the very near future, these machines will not just dispense food, they will be also integral in the smart decisions consumers  make when making their instant purchases.

Five Healthy iPhone Apps

Restaurant nutrition iphone apps

Information these days cannot find a better place but in an iPhone application.  Foodies and health-conscious individuals can just whip out their iPhones, load up an application and find out the nitty-gritty on the food they are about to put in their mouths.  With these information at your fingertips, you can now make wise decisions on food planning, purchasing and consumption.

Check out the following iPhone apps that will not only give you the reviews but also the much needed information that can be advantageous to your health.


As iPhones can scan barcodes these days, you can set almost any item in-front of the camera and — voila! — information.  Fooducate was developed by tech executive Hemi Weingarten whose children almost ate glow-in-the-dark yoghurt.  With all these food gimmicks and absurd labeling, it is hard to tell which food products will cause harm to one’s health.

Fooducate has more than 200,000 food products in its database and it can give you instant nutrition information on your favorite products.  Simply scan the barcode and the application will automatically give you a health rating.  Should you find a product missing in Fooducate database, simply take a picture of the product and Fooducate will immediately conduct its own evaluation.

What’s great about this application is that makes deciphering food labels a lot easier.   Should your product receive a bad grade, the application will also provide you with healthier options under the same product category.  According to the website, Fooducate is developed by concerned parents and dietitians.  The application is also not associated with any food manufacturers, supplement companies and other relevant corporations.  And it does not cost anything at all — it’s free.

Restaurant Nutrition

We all have the tendency to shelve our health and diet concerns when eating out.  Those images of yummy dishes and plated meals seem to take the guilt and the worries away.

With the iPhone app Restaurant Nutrition, you can redirect the guilt and the worry by checking out for yourself whether you’re ordering what’s good for you.  Restaurant Nutrition has 115 restaurants and 19,000 food items in its database.  The application can automatically give you important nutrition facts on the food you are about to eat, from your favorite burgers to your preferred “healthy” salad.

This application also allows you to track what you eat.  With its continuous restaurant updates, you can be sure that Restaurant Nutrition is always in the know of the good and the bad in your favorite restaurants.  It is also a free application.

Mint Nutrition

This is another iPhone app that can help you keep track of what you eat.  In addition to nutrition facts, Mint Nutrition has a “Plates” feature which calculates different multiple items in your meal.  You can also create your favorite plate and custom items based on the products in your house and your own recipes.  You can get this app for only US$1.99.


This is a great iPhone application that generates healthy meal plans according to your diet objectives.  Dietician basically tracks your meals and it also comes up with a diet plan and recipes.  This is a handy, standalone application that gives you personalized access to diet tips and healthy choices when designing your meals.  You can purchase Dietician for only $7.99

HarvestMark Food Traceability

Concerned with the recent food recalls?  A produce traceability app called HarvestMark Food Traceability can tell you about the produce you are about to pick up.  Just look for millions of produce with the HarvestMark logo and you will find out where that particular produce came from, where it was grown, and whether it’s safe.  Simply scan the barcode and you will also find out whether that particular produce may be under a food recall or any safety issue alarm.

Why We Love Matsuhisa Nobu


Fusion cuisine seems to be all the rage these days, and while we’re at it, let’s take a look at one of the most celebrated chefs that specialize on this – Matsuhisa Nobu. He’s one of the few chefs in the world who can successfully put together amazing dishes that titillate the taste buds, and amaze us at the artistry involved. After all, fusion cooking is all about harmony. And Nobu pretty much does an excellent job in that area. Not many chefs can lay claim to the genius that Nobu is famous for.

Born in Saitama, Japan, Nobu lost his father at a very young age. His mother took care of raising him and his brothers. Upon graduating high school, he worked at Matsue Sushi, a sushi restaurant, for the next seven years. During this time, he met a Japanese customer who is also a restaurant entrepreneur in Peru. Nobu was invited to try his hand in setting up a restaurant there. The rest, as you might expect, is history. It’s safe to say that his work in international restaurants helped shape his skill in fusion cooking, where creativity and resourcefulness is needed.

Nobu reached superstar status in his career when he became partners with actor Robert De Niro. Together, they opened the NOBU restaurant chain that instantly became a hit. All the restaurants in the chain received rave reviews. Most of these praise the way the Japanese chef fused Japanese cuisine with that of South American cooking. The results of this mix are dishes that bring out the best of both worlds. So popular are the restaurants that NOBU restaurants began cropping up in every part of the world, from Las Vegas to Tokyo. As a sign of his greatness, three of his NOBU restaurants received a Michelin Star each: NOBU Las Vegas, NOBU London, and NOBU Berkeley Street London.

He is also an author of several cookbooks, all which detail his skills in fusion cooking and how the dishes featured can be done at home. These books are Nobu: The Cookbook (2001), Nobu Now (2005), Nobu West (2007), and Nobu: The Party Notebook (2008). All these are testament to the brilliance of this culinary artist.

Interview with Adria Tennor Blotta


Adria Tennor Blotta, a theater actress and a restaurant-owner, understands what it takes to be successful on Twitter. She has been in the hospitality industry for quite a long time. She started serving root beer floats at A&W, made her way to NYC’s River Cafe, met her husband at Campanille and they eventually opened Bar Brix. Her life in the industry prepared her for the social media storm that has taken over. She understands that avenues like Twitter are more than just a bully pulpit and require a personal touch. Her efforts got Barbrix on our list of Top 100 Restaurants on Twitter. Most importantly Barbrix has a loyal Twitter following. Adria took the time to chat with us about her experiences and just what makes Barbrix so successful on Twitter.

FriendsEat:  What was your first reaction when you heard of Twitter?

Adria Tennor Blotta: I was curious.  I love the name.  I love the idea of brief updates.  Just enough to pique one’s interest, and if you need to know more, there’s always google….

FE:  Did you initially think that Twitter was something your restaurant could put to use?

ATB: Absolutely.  It’s perfect.  It’s like delivering little clips and sound bytes (as Chef Don likes to call them) about the menu – enough to get people to pay attention, stop surfing the net and get down to barbrix to check out the latest tasty thing.

FE: When did your restaurant start using Twitter?

ATB: We started using it while we were still under construction.  Our opening was delayed by two and a half years because of a parking snafu.  My husband and I were both unemployed, but we used the time wisely.  I built our website with the help of the guys at the Apple Store who helped me place the “follow us on Twitter” button on our homepage and in our emails.  Then, I started a twitter account and we started to gather followers.  We did a couple tastings at our friends’ Silver Lake Wine (also big Twitterers!) and our follow list started to grow.

FE:  Can you share with us the first Tweet? Was it hard composing the first Tweet?

ATB: “hanging drywall” was our first tweet apparently, according to the backwards scroll I just did for 1/2 hour.  I don’t think that one was too hard to come up with!

FE:  How important is Twitter in your restaurant business?

DT:  It’s very important.  My husband has owned restaurants in the past and never used any kind of social media to promote them.  I’m an actress and a writer so I’ve used Twitter to promote my work and could see it’s benefits in reaching our customers.  It’s expensive to pay a publicist and we just don’t have the budget for that.  Twitter allows us to do our own PR and stay in touch with our customers.  Not everyone likes to give out their email address, but people do feel comfortable following a business on Twitter because they can connect when they want to.  Now when business seems a little slow, my husband urges my to get on the computer and “”Twitter!”" He does all our wine buying so often he chooses a new wine he’s excited about and we post about it.  People LOVE drinking the wine that the owner and proprietor is touting. Twitter helps us reach out to our customers and make them feel a sense of community and belonging, not so anonymous and unknown.

Twitter also helps us document our specials and the evolution of our menu.  We can look back at our twitter feed to see what specials we were running last year, and when those heirloom tomatoes came into season.

FE:  Has Twitter significantly contributed to the restaurant? How?

ATB: We always tweet about the newest dish or the newest prosecco cocktail, and people will literally drag themselves out of the comfort and warmth of their houses and apartments to come try something they saw on their twitter feed 20 minutes ago.  If the description and the picture are good, it can really boost our sales, which also boosts the waitresses tips – everyone profits…literally.

FE:  Your restaurant is very active on Twitter, how much time do you devote daily to this task?

ATB: I would say an hour or two every day.  My husband probably doesn’t believe it takes that long, but it does.  I’m a writer so I tend to be a little snobby about the crafting of my tweets.  I don’t want them to sound lame or boring, but also don’t want them to sound too cheerleader-y.  It’s a fine line.

FE:  How is the interaction with other people on Twitter?

ATB: It’s great.  We have a few followers that always RT us – there is a Happy Hour Tour that likes to promote our Happy Hour as well.  There’s a few Silver Lake twitterers who like to RT our specials to their followers.  People will also ask questions that I try to to answer.  Or people will show us love by tweeting about their yummy dinner they just had.

Once after we had just opened, I recognized a guest from his Twitter avatar.  It was pretty hilarious, and of course he had to tweet about it.

FE:  What advice would you give to a restaurant that is just starting to use Twitter?

ATB: I would think of myself as a prospective customer and ask myself, “What would I want to know about this place?”  And then tweet about that.  The tweets don’t have to be earth shattering either.  I think sometimes simple is better.  That’s how we came up with Claudio’s wine pick and people love that.

FE:  Was there any memorable Twitter-related incident that will go down with the history of the restaurant?

ATB: Well, I described a funny incident in which I recognized a patron from his twitter profile pic, but what was even funnier was his tweet about the incident calling out our cinnamon air freshener in our mens room:

gregg “Just got recognized by @barbrix from my Twitter profile. btw, the cinnamon scent from their men’s room pairs well with the niman pork belly.”

FE:  Have you ever experienced anything negative from Twitter? How did you handle it?

ATB: We’ve had people voice a complaint on Twitter, which I feel isn’t the best or most effective way to make one’s “beef” known, but I guess some people aren’t comfortable having to face the person to whom they are complaining. We pay attention to these complaints, however there isn’t a lot we can do about addressing the issue once someone has walked out the door.  We just take the note and if it is something we can do differently, we do it.  I have to say though, usually if someone is using Twitter to publicly call us out on something with which they were unhappy, it’s usually something we don’t have a lot of control over.  It just seems to work that way.

FE:  What is your opinion on the validity of Twitter as an effective tool in marketing the restaurant?

ATB: We are sold on it! And if my husband who made so much fun of and poo-pooed social networking and media is sold on it, it is a viable and important tool!

FE:  How do you fit tweeting into a restaurant’s already busy schedule?

ATB: I’m on the computer a lot during the day so I just make a point of taking a moment to update our tweet.  We have a meeting every night with our staff before we open and Chef Don (@chefdond) brings the new dishes for everyone to see and taste so I make sure I get a good picture of everything and then tweet them before we open at 6pm  I also try to get in a tweet around 9pm to remind people of our late night happy hour that starts at 10p.

FE:  Do you see Twitter as a long-term component in your restaurant’s activities?

ATB: Yes!

FE:  What do you find are the most effective tweets?

ATB: New dishes, new cocktails.  Tweets accompanied by a picture are great.  Stimulate as many of the senses as possible!

FE:  Do you see any changes or modifications in the future as to the Tweet content of your restaurant?

ATB: We had a couple of guys working for us who have gone on to open their own handmade sausage business (@GringhausLA).  We are now using their sausages on our menu and tweeting about them and @-ing them.  So I have this vision as we grow and more and more people come through our “”boot camp”" here then go off and do their own amazing things that our tweets will be more and more filled with those @s!!

The neighborhood of Silver Lake really supports its own, so that sense of community and @ing each other just comes naturally.

FE:  What strategies should restaurants utilize when Tweeting?

ATB: I think Twitter makes it easy with the 140 character rule.  Make it sharp and to the point!

FE: How active do you get in order to increase your number of followers on Twitter? Does it even matter?

ATB: I haven’t made a huge campaign to acquire followers.  I have to be honest, I get a little turned off when I feel like someone is just following us so that they can gain a follower for themselves and not because they care about anything we’re tweeting about.  If there’s someone I’m interested in, I seek them out, but I don’t spend a lot of time searching for people to follow.  I collect followers the way I collect friends.  Carefully.

FE:  Have you studied the profile or demographic of your Twitter followers?

ATB: I haven’t.  When we get a new follower, I usually check out their profile to see if it’s someone I should follow, but I haven’t done a scientific study of who they are.  I just don’t have time! And I’m not sure what I would do with that info.  I think we know who are customer base is and what they want to eat and drink and how much they want to pay for it.  Honestly, we made our restaurant the kind of place that we’d like to go, so we feel like we know pretty well what it should be.

FE:  Has there been an unexpected result from using twitter?

ATB: I guess we didn’t realize how immediately we would see results from our tweets.  Sometimes I’ll tweet about a new dish and someone will arrive fifteen minutes later to try it!

FE:  If your restaurant can get a celebrity to Tweet about it, whom would you choose?

ATB: Well, @helloross tweeted about us and we were pretty psyched about that.  When my husband and I were trying to open.

FE: Do you think Twitter is instrumental to the success of the restaurant business in general?

ATB: I do.  I think it’s a platform that a LOT of people pay attention to and it’s not something to ignore.

FE:  Do you use other social networking sites other than Twitter to promote your restaurant?

ATB: Yes, we use Facebook, which is great for posting pictures and video from our cooking classes.  We also post to a site called Foodspotting which links to our Twitter act.  We also use Foursquare a little for check-ins.

Barbrix, a restaurant and wine bar named by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the Ten Best New Restaurants in Los Angeles in 2009, offers more than just wines and cheese. They have all sorts of menu that changes daily; from appetizer, to salad, to main entrée to dessert. The ambience is dark that adds mood to the guests. It has a very large bar at the center, which serves various wines from across the world.

Barbrix is located at 2442 Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles. 323-662-2442