Archive - September 2012

Cooking Tips of the Week


I hope you enjoyed our last week’s Cooking Tips

For this week, here’s our great tips:

Pecan pie is popularly served at holiday meals and is also considered a specialty of Southern America cuisine.

Lentils are added to sauteed onions, carrots and celery. Lots of crushed tomatoes and water are added, and the magic begins. Make some Lentil Stew and remember to use our tip.

Holidays are fast approaching, I can smell the roasted Turkey in the air.

Le Taste of France NYC to Benefit Action Against Hunger

Le Taste of France in New York (Image via Facebook)

Francophiles rejoice. On September 29 & 30, 2012, Le Taste of France will take place at Hudson River Park’s Pier 54. Why you should attend…lots of fabulous French Chefs have gotten together to benefit Action Against Hunger. Chefs from both Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and l’Académie Culinaire de France will be participating by showcasing some of their signature dishes from various regions in France.

There will also be live French Music; Pétanque (a national French pastime – the winner is he/she who drinks least rose – at least when you play with my friends); a “Marché aux Puces” (flea market) AND a French Bulldog Show.

The Cost:

$30 in advance; $40 at the door for day events
Saturday, September 29, 2012 – 11:00am to 5:00pm
Sunday, September 30, 2012 – 11:00am to 6:00pm
“La Soirée” Saturday, September 29th, 2012 – 6:30pm to 11:00pm $149
**If you join the Manhattan Original French Language group you get a discount

Who will be there?

The legendary Jacques Pepin, Marc Murphy the Executive Chef and Owner of Landmarc (best chicken burger in NYC) and Ditch Plains, Jean-Louis Guérin (“Chopped” Champion 2012), Jean-Louis Dumonet the Executive Chef of the Union Club, Ariane Daguin the Founder of one of my favorite food companies – D’Artagnan, Claude Godard the Chef/Owner of Madison Bistro and Jeanne & Gaston, Michelin starred Laurent Manrique (Millesime, Rouge et Blanc, Blanc et Rouge and Cafe de La Presse), Maste Chocolatier Eric Girerd, amongst many others.

Bruce Willis May Have Lost His Taste For Vodka


In 2009, Bruce Willis began endorsing Sobieski, a Polish brand of vodka [see vodka recipes] owned by French liquor company Belvédère. Willis appeared in dozens of television commercials and at promotional parties.

He also appeared in newspaper ads and was quoted saying: “I am very selective about what products I choose to associate myself with.”

His celebrity endorsed ad campaign was successful and Sobieski sales in the U.S. soared from 70,000 cases in 2008, to one million nine-liter cases in 2010.

“He has done a huge job,” Belvédère Chief Executive Krzysztof Trylinski said. “To get such a result, you can either spend in marketing for 35 years or hire a star: It is much faster and eventually cheaper.”

(Click “Next” to see Bruce Willis May Have Lost His Taste For Vodka)

7-Eleven Driving NY City Mom-And-Pops To Extinction


In the 1990s, New York City was invaded by corporate chain store behemoths like the Gap and Starbucks, then came Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway sandwich shops. Now it’s 7-Eleven stores, the world’s largest convenience retailer.

Manhattan now has at least 187 Starbucks, which is eight per square mile. Last year, Jim Dwyer with the NYTimes quipped, “There are more Starbuckses than subway stations.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Sumathi Reddy points out that “7-Eleven is the first retailer that could pose a direct threat to one of the idiosyncrasies of New York City: its thousands of corner bodegas and mom-and-pop green grocers.”

7-Eleven now has about 100 stores across the five boroughs, with at least a dozen more expected to open by year’s end. Reddy notes 7-Eleven has plans to open 30 new outlets over the next five years, making it among the city’s fastest-growing chains.

According to Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the nonprofit Center for an Urban Future, 7-Eleven has grown 72% between 2008 and 2012, ranking it among the five fastest-growing retailers with 50 or more stores in the city.

As part of their plan to devour and assimilate what’s left of the city’s unique character expressed through mom-and-pop businesses, 7-Eleven held a meeting earlier this month with its members to promote a business conversion program that allows established shop owners to become a 7-Eleven.

But Reddy claims no one showed up to an open house at an Upper West Side location earlier this month. And no bodega owners have applied for the business conversion program, though nine other business owners have since February.

“In the street, people are talking about 7-Eleven,” said Ramon Murphy, president of the Bodega Association of the U.S.

“Some people agree, some people not agree. The main thing is, let’s educate our members, let’s be prepared for competition. If you want to be 7-Eleven, great. You don’t want it, I’ll help you, too. We want to keep the bodega in New York.”

“They’re gonna close me,” said Sedki Ali, the owner of 374 Deli on Eighth Avenue. The 7-Eleven is just a few blocks away from another store owned by Mr. Yu, owner of Kyung’s Fruit Store in Chelsea who has owned the store for more than 25 years.

“If my business goes down, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Mr. Yu, whose offerings include Asian candy, orchids, coffee, a Korean bulgogi on a hero and a $2.99 turkey burger. Reddy notes his best hope is that 7-Eleven buys him out.

Ali said since a 7-Eleven opened about a month ago, his sales have been cut in half. “I usually order cigarettes every week, now this is the third week I still have them,” he said.

Similar concerns are felt by business owners in the East Village.

Reddy notes bodega owners experienced an instant hit to their bottom line when a 7-Eleven opened close to the once counterculture corner of St. Mark’s Place and Second Avenue, where sales on everything from coffee and soda to hot dogs plummeted.

“We are trying to do different things,” said the owner of Gem Spa, across the street. “We have to add. We are thinking of adding something. We don’t know what to add.”

Is The Predicted World Shortage of Bacon Real?


According to Britain’s National Pig Association, a world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable.

But as Slate points out, is the claim of a bacon shortage by a pork trade association really a reliable prediction, or do UK pork vendors want British consumers to buy more of their product at higher prices?

It’s true that the drought has elevated corn and soybean prices this year, and a feed shortage has led to sharply declining herds across the US and European Union as farmers liquidate stocks early to avoid the higher cost of feed.

But prices will eventually rise for all meat, not just pork, because the US is the world’s largest exporter of corn and soybeans.

And as Slate’s Matthew Yglesia notes, what the British call “bacon” isn’t the same as what Americans call “bacon.”

“Their bacon is from the back cut of the pig and corresponds to what we call ‘Canadian bacon.’ Our beloved bacon, made from pork belly, is known in the United Kingdom as ‘streaky bacon.’”

In other words, the issue is the shortage of corn and soybeans, and the resulting higher price for feed. There will be a global increase in meat prices as a consequence of the increase in corn prices, but there shouldn’t be any actual shortages.

According to the USDA, in U.S. warehouses pork supply soared to a record last month, rising 31% to 580.8 million pounds at the end of August from a year earlier. The surge was a result of farmers thinning out their herds because of the high cost of feed.

According to USDA estimates, beef output will slump to a nine-year low in 2013 after drought damaged pastures from Missouri to Montana.

Last summer, the USDA reported the impact of the US drought on the Corn Belt was the worst since 1956.

Global Food Prices On The Rise

Los Angeles Times writer Tiffany Hsu, also points out that global food prices jumped 10% in July from the month before, driven up by the severe Midwest drought which has pushed the price of grains to record levels.

The price of maize and wheat rose by 25% from June to July, and soybeans rose by 17%, according to the Washington-based organization.

The Times noted the sharp price jumps are attributed to the Midwest drought, which has destroyed more than half of the country’s corn crop.

“The drought, the worst in decades, has pushed the price of corn to record prices. Corn futures have jumped about 60% since the drought started in late June. They are now trading above $8 a bushel.”

“We cannot allow these historic price hikes to turn into a lifetime of perils as families take their children out of school and eat less nutritious food to compensate for the high prices,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

“Countries must strengthen their targeted programs to ease the pressure on the most vulnerable population and implement the right policies.”

In 2011, the Food Price Index, a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, reached its all-time high at the beginning of the year.

And according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Food Price Index rose nearly 40 percent higher in June 2011, than a year earlier.

Higher food prices has caused demand for more expensive brand-name food products to plummet as cash-strapped consumers flock to cheaper off brand items in droves to save money.

“The ‘Deen’ of Profanity”

Paula deen Coochie

You don’t have to possess integrity, or even tell the truth, to make millions from TV, books, and endorsement deals as an aficionado of food and drink.

Because despite deliberately deceiving millions of fans and The Food Network by pimping fried food laden with fat while being a confirmed diabetic, Paula Deen has raked in more than $30 million for her abject deception.

“When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you’ve been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you’ve got type 2 diabetes … It’s in bad taste, if nothing else,” said Anthony Bourdain.

Now it seems the queen of Southern Fried Fat has an appetite that extends beyond the decadence of fried egg and bacon atop a burger served between glazed doughnuts — Deen also totes around a gaudy collection of vulgar and irreverent profanity.

In a two-minute “blooper reel” Deen provided to a group called Celebrity Chefs Tour, intended to be shown as an introduction to her appearances at a series of live cooking events, Deen blurts out “motherf–kers” and “shee- t” and declares that a dish smells like a “stinky coochie.”

“You ever smelled a stinky coochie?” Deen asks a person off screen. “I know you have.”

New York Post writer Bruce Golding comments that Deen pretends to perform a sex act on a chocolate eclair shortly before declaring, “My ass ain’t pretty no more!”

Deen also describes one gooey concoction as “just a syrup that’s gonna stick our balls together,” and yells “crap” over burned mashed potatoes, then exclaims, “That’s about the nastiest meatball I’ve ever tasted!”

So obscene were Deen’s bloopers — other profane utterances included Deen shouting “bastard” and “f–k” — the tour operators decided the video was unfit for a family-themed cooking demonstration and refused to show it.

“We found it to be unacceptable because it’s certainly not family content,” said Gary Ravet, president of Celebrity Chefs Tour. “We wouldn’t play something like that for a live audience.”

Golding claims the video became a major part of a legal fight between Deen and the promoters after she backed out of the 10-city tour.

Deen claimed Ravet’s company bounced a check to her and sued him for $1.25 million. Ravet then countersued for $40 million, alleging a breach of contract for failing to do the shows.

In the countersuit, Ravet claimed Deen’s contract required her to provide a “blooper reel” to be shown at her appearances but that they were dismayed to find out it was “laced with expletives and profanities.”

The court battle was settled last week. Terms of the deal are confidential, although Ravet said Deen “paid a lot of money.” He wouldn’t specify, but said the sum exceeded the $300,000 he spent on legal fees.

Chocolate Affects Brain Similar to Opium

Effects of eating chocolate

The findings of a University of Michigan researcher, Dr Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, published in the US journal Current Biology, suggests chocolate has an effect on the brain similar to opium.

The findings are based on experiments with rats. In the study, a natural brain chemical called enkephalin — an endorphin with similar properties to opium — surged as rats began to eat M&M chocolates.

The study also found comparisons between obese people and drug addicts.

“The researchers stimulated the rats’ nestriatum and gave them access to unlimited amounts of M&M’s. They confirmed that this area of the brain is linked to craving; moreover, they found that it was the release of enkephalin that boosted the desire to eat more.”

The scientists concluded: “Opioid circuitry… could in this way participate in normal motivations and perhaps even in generating intense pathological levels of motivation to overconsume reward in binge eating disorders, drug addiction and related compulsive pursuits.”

When a drug was used to stimulate the dorsal neostriatum – the brain area releasing the chemical – the number of M&Ms eaten more than doubled.

In the brain, enkephalin binds to molecular ‘receptors’ sensitive to opiate chemicals to reduce pain and produce pleasurable feelings.

Dr Alexandra DiFeliceantonio said:

“This (study) means that the brain has more extensive systems to make individuals over-consume rewards than previously thought. The same brain area tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes.

“It seems likely that our enkephalin findings in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption and addiction in people.”

From the published study:

These findings reveal that opioid signals in anteromedial dorsal neostriatum are able to code and cause motivation to consume sensory reward.

Another recent chocolate study claims eating chocolate five days a week may make you thinner.

Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, at the University of California, wrote in a letter published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, claiming those who ate chocolate about five times a week had a body mass index one point lower than those who didn’t indulge.

For someone who weighs 120 pounds and is 5 feet tall, one BMI point translates to about 5 pounds, Golomb said in a Bloomberg telephone interview.

The results were based on a survey of a total of 1018 men and women aged 20 to 85 years from San Diego, California, all without known cardiovascular disease.

Read the rest of the article here.

Houston Chefs Serve Up Eco-Friendly “Trash” Fish

Red Snapper fish

Andrew Knowlton, reastaurant and fish editor for Bon Appetit, explains that the main commercial fish in the Gulf are snapper, grouper, and codfish, but there are thousands of other species in the same water that end up on the same lines and in the same nets as commercial species.

In the commercial fishing industry, these fish are called “bycatch” — also known as “trash” fish — fish that are inadvertently caught while fishing for another, larger, commercial fish.

These fish — pink sea bream, longtail sea bass, almaco jack, and blackfin tuna — are eaten by people in the US and different parts of the world.

Knowlton points out that instead of the standard fare of snapper and grouper on seafood menus, Houston restaurants regularly serve “bycatch” on the menu.

When Houston chef Bryan Caswell initially tried to create a market for “trash” fish, the industry was so dominated by traditional commercial fish that he couldn’t purchase bycatch even if he wanted to.

Until he met a man named PJ Stoops.

Stoops began selling bycatch about five years ago out of coolers in the back of his truck. Within couple of years, he started delivering to most of the best chefs in Houston and launched a weekend bycatch market called “Total Catch.”

“We get people at the market who had eaten at the restaurants and gotten used to eating the bycatch species,” Stoops says, “but we also get people who come because it’s fresh fish at low, local prices.”

Food writer Alison Cook writes:

“Shoppers never knew what they would find at Total Catch. There might be meaty Barrelfish, or perhaps Triggerfish, Blue Runner, Porgy, Blackbelly Scorpion fish or Vermilion Snapper, depending on what the fishermen were catching along with their bread-and-butter species.”

Knowlton notes that beyond the economic and eco-friendly concerns, chefs love the challenge and unpredictability that using bycatch fish poses in the kitchen.

Justin Yu, at Houston’s Oxheart restaurant, has been using bycatch since he opened the restaurant.

Yu recently served cured and smoked sand trout with sweet potato greens, smoked pine nut puree, and a sofrito made with dried bycatch shrimp.

“I got to use stingray wing recently, which gets a gelatinous texture to it if you cook it for a long time,” says Yu. “But you put that with something super crunchy in a richer sauce, and people get really into this new thing.”

“Houston home cooks could pick up a bony, delicious sheepshead (long and unfairly derided as a trash fish) or a batch of curlicued shells containing oyster drills, a shellfish that preys on oysters and can be an unintended part of the catch (therefore “bycatch”) when the oysters are harvested,” says Alison Cook.

Cook adds that Stoops has made it his mission to coax consumers to broaden their horizons from the easy stuff, and five years after he first started showing up the back doors of local restaurants, he’s had significant success.

Eat Gulf Seafood at Your Own Risk

While I admire PJ Stoops’ economic and eco-friendly effort, I strongly advise consumers to refrain from eating any and all fish from the Gulf, where eyeless shrimp and fish with lesions have become common.

Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.

Along with collapsing fisheries are horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp – and among all those interviewed, BP’s oil pollution disaster is named as being the cause.

Regis Returns to TV in Rachael Ray’s Kitchen


Daytime talk show king, Regis Philbin, 81, who has broken the Guinness World Record for the Most Hours on U.S. Television, will be semi co-hosting on 30 Minute Meal fame Rachael Ray’s kitchen.

“I tried to make a distinct point that I wasn’t retiring, that I was moving on,” he says in a phone call interview. “Everybody said ‘retired’!”

According to USA TODAY’s Ann Oldenburg, when Regis left Live! last year, he contemplated a reality show, but discovered it was “not my kind of reality.”

Philbin says reality shows just don’t happen. They’re well-planned, and he didn’t like it.

But life has changed. “I sleep now until quarter to 10,” admits Philbin who would leave his upper West Side shortly before 9 and walk across the street to the Live! studios every day.

“I don’t know why I’m waking up so late. The body is just enjoying this.”

“When the call came from Rachael Ray to come in once a month as a recurring co-host, he figured why not.

“I’m not gonna say I don’t want to do your show! I think it’s fun. I spent my whole life doing this.” The difference now, he says: “It’s not the every-morning burden.”

Even though he’ll be side-by-side with Ray in the kitchen for the full hour, Philbin’ says, “I’m not a co-host, I’m just a guy showing up on her show once a month.”

He adds, “I love the idea. It’s fun to be back on TV when you don’t have to do it every day.”

Besides, he says, “I like her a lot. I’ve done her show a number of times. She has followed my show here in New York at 10. She has become a friend. (My wife) Joy and I have been to her home. She and her husband John have been to ours. She’s a little dynamo.”

Ray said in her announcement: “It’ll be a blast having him on the team. It’s Regis Philbin’s big return to daytime and he’ll be a special guest on our show all season long!”

Janet Annino, exec producer of the show, adds, “When he’s visited our show in the past you can feel their chemistry come through the screen! He’s a perfect fit for our show, and for the viewers who miss spending part of their day with him.”

But Philbin isn’t inclined to do any cooking. “No, I’m not a cook,” he says, explaining, “I can make a sandwich. To pieces of bread and you lay a little cheese or something on there. Add some mustard. Bang! I’ve made some lunch!”

He adds, “I would love to let her teach me that I could cook here at home and really surprise my wife. Whatever they wind up doing, he says, “We’ll have a good time.’

A few months back, Rachael Ray moved into Martha Stewart’s New York Chelsea studio. Stewart had taped “The Martha Stewart Show” there for years before the Hallmark Channel terminated her show in January.

The New York Post claimed Ray had asked her staffers to perform an exorcism ritual in Stewart’s Chelsea studio before Ray and her team move in.

California Chef Slow-Cooks Wife For 4 Days


David Veins, a 49-year-old chef and owner of Thyme Contemporary Café in Lomita, California, a little town south of Torrance and east of the Palos Verdes Peninsular, confessed to police that he slow-cooked his wife, Dawn Viens, for four days in boiling water.

The Daily Beast reports that in a police interview, David Viens told detectives that on October 18, 2009, he argued with his wife about her excessive drinking.

“She was, uh, yeah, wasted at work,” Viens said. “You know, she had issues with everybody…She ended up, you know, becoming a mean drunk.”

She began a fight with him that night as he was trying to fall asleep, he said. When she wouldn’t stop, he dragged her to the living room and bound her with duct tape.

“And that was it,” he said on the tape. “I said, ‘Good night.’” He woke up hours later and discovered that she was dead, he said, and panicked. Then he placed her body in a plastic garbage bag and drove her to work.

He told detectives that at the restaurant, he stuffed his wife’s 105-pound body in a 55-gallon drum of boiling water, slow-cooked her remains for four days, and then disposed of what was left in the restaurant’s grease pit or garbage bags.

“I manipulated her so the face was, the face is down, and I took some, some things, like weights that we use, and I put them on the top of her body, and I just slowly cooked it and I ended up cooking her for four days,” he told detectives.

“You cooked on [her] body for four days?” asked Garcia.

“I cooked her four days,” he said. “I let her cool. I strained it out.”

He told detectives he hid his wife’s skull and jawbone for safekeeping in his mother’s attic in nearby Torrance.

“That’s the only thing I didn’t want to get rid of, in case I wanted to leave it somewhere,” he said.

The investigation into Dawn Viens’s disappearance began on Nov. 18, 2009, when her sister, Dayna Papin, and friends reported her missing.

Dawn Viens’ disappearance remained a missing persons case until August 2010, when detectives turned over the case to the homicide unit of the sheriff’s department.

As detectives began closing in on Viens, he attempted to commit suicide by diving feet first off a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff.

He survived, and in 2011, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged him with the murder of his wife.

David’s wife, Dawn, had apparently grown tired of their lifestyle and pleaded with her husband to move to the mountains. When this failed, Dawn began stealing money from the restaurant and when David found out he “snapped.”

“For some reason, I just got violent,” he told the detectives. “Seemed like it had to deal with her stealing money.”

“So you found her with money and you snapped,” said Sgt. Garcia.

“Yes,” he replied.