Zymurgy Magazine's Poll: America's Best Beers

June 30 2010 - 10:50 AM

The magazine Zymurgy surveys their readers to rank the best beers and breweries in America with some Some midwestern favorites made the list. I was glad to see Bell's Two-Hearted at #2 and recent addition to the Chicago market, Stone Arrogant Bastard and IPA at #3 and #6, respectively. I can't say I've had anything from #1 ranked brewery, Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. out of Texas, but their Ugly Pug schwarzbier sounds right up my alley.

Notables: Bell's #7, Goose Island #21, Three Floyds #23.

Check out the full list here.

Foodies, what are your thoughts?

How To Make Your Grocery Store Better – Ask For Grass Fed Beef!

June 29 2010 - 10:53 PM

This is a no-brainer. As we all know, groceries like Dominick's and Jewel have customer service counters. One of the things you can do there is put in a paper request for a particular item. I've asked for lactose-free ice cream among other things. Here is one suggestion to make the store truly better.

Ask them to give you the option of grass-fed beef. Currently this is NOT an option. It's healthier, lower in cholesterol. Pastured beef is more ethical. It's more sustainable and it simply tastes different. I won't even say it's better, just different. Why shouldn't we have another option in the meat case.

It takes a minute and it would be a great addition to our most commonly attended chain groceries.

What else are they missing?

Home Cooking

Puglia: Olive Oil, Capocollo, & More...

June 25 2010 - 11:01 AM

Crystal Cun is spending the next year in Italy studying at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. She recently traveled to Puglia (the heel of the boot) for a one-week school field trip. For more information, you can check her blog at Lady Parmalade.

Though some time was alloted in Puglia for activities not requiring mastication, the bulk of the trip was spent at food production sites, restaurants and agricultural lands. I realize that this must sound like the best foodie vacation ever, but eating rich foods nonstop for a week is not as pleasant as it may seem. Some of us had the added stress of documenting the trip in detail because there is a paper and presentation required after the stage. By the end, we were all thoroughly sick of cured meats, cheeses and each other. A few people actually became ill, though I cannot say whether this was due to food poisoning, general infection, or the stress of traveling and eating from 9 am to 1 am every day. My advice for anyone who goes on these trips is to ingest plenty of fiber and choose your roommate carefully.

Moving on to the actual food. Puglia’s dry, sunny climate makes it difficult to grow many crops, but the hardiness of olive trees in times of drought has resulted in their widespread cultivation. The trees dot the Puglian landscape with their graceful, twisted trunks and branches, akin to a pair of ballet dancers. We were told by one farmer that the trees twist according to the Earth’s rotation, and that olive trees planted south of the equator would twist in the opposite direction, similar to the rotation of water draining from toilets. This is a romantic idea, but since the Coriolis force has been shown to have a tenuous effect on toilet water, I am somewhat doubtful of the tree-twisting claim.

Still, the trees are majestic to behold, knotted and gnarly, reminiscent of the baobab tree in The Little Prince. The one pictured above actually belongs to a Russian who admired the unique shape of its trunk. So, he bought the tree for €5,000. In return, he gets to keep the olive oil milled from the olives of this tree, which comes to 10-15 liters of oil per year. He also comes to visit his tree annually. If you are interested in owning a piece of Italian real estate and having a lifetime supply of olive oil, you too can invest in one of the 50,000 available trees for the low price of €500-1,000 by contacting Olio Cazzetta.


What Would Wolfgang Puck Make for an Ambassador?

June 23 2010 - 12:09 PM

Stolen from Politico:

WOLFGANG PUCK is in town from Beverly Hills to cook for YOUSEF AL
OTAIBA, ambassador from the United Arab Emirates, where more U.S. Navy
ships are ported than any other foreign country. The ambassador (who
was G’town classmates with Norah O’Donnell and knows the Morrells)
hosted 14 young Washingtonians for dinner and convo at his McLean home,
followed by Game 7 (and a life-size Kobe) on his 103-inch TV screen.
What Puck whipped up: 1) terrine of foie gras with toasted brioche,
seared foie gras with cherry chutney, and mousse on apricot tartlet
(Riesling, Hirtzberger, “Singerriedel,” Austria 2004); 2) seared wild
salmon with cucumber raita and sweet pea puree (Chardonnay, Littorai,
“Mays Canyon,” California 2006); 3) risotto with porcini mushrooms
(pinot noir, Clos De Tart, “Grand Cru,” Burgundy 1995); 4) veal
Milanese (Barolo, Oddero, Italy 2000); 5) slow braised Kobe short ribs
and grilled Kobe New York (cabernet sauvignon, Beaulieu Vineyard,
“Georges de Latour,” Napa 2001); 6) strawberry shortcake, chocolate
raspberry soufflé and peach cobbler (Grüner Veltliner Eiswein, Anton
Bauer, Austria).

2010 Taste of Chicago Map of Restaurants

June 23 2010 - 11:31 AM

Here's the official Restaurant Guide! Click on it to view it at a larger size.


Sargassum Seaweed – Floating Islands & BP

June 23 2010 - 10:20 AM

Overview_df In addition to America, Columbus was one of the first to bring back reports of the Sargasso Sea. In the middle of the ocean is an area of water that's surrounded by opposing currents. It results in an enormous stagnant, elliptical pocket that is 2 million square miles in area. Think of it as liquid land. The currents deposit on to it. Until recently it's been mostly seaweed and has always been a refuge for turtles, a migratory stop for eels among other species, and a source of literary fascination. Sargassum seaweed gets its name from this sea. It's the seaweed that's also found floating in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the tragedies of the BP spill is that the 'floating land' is bearing a significantly larger brunt of the ecological impact. Mucked up seaweed floating around in the gulf doesn't get the reaction that oil-soaked marshes do, but in a way it's 'land'. It has an indiginous population that have evolved to match the brown seaweed color. Sargasso seahorses, pipefish, file fish, anenomes, crabs, shrimp. Butterfish, and hake use the seaweed as breeding ground.

The organisms and species that use it are consumed by what we consume. It is the ecosystem. It is part of our food chain. When you see piles of rusty seaweed on the news, this is what it is. It is our food.

The biggest irony is that Mitsubishi is working to develop biofuel from seaweed. While we are dealing with fossil fuels that work in spite of our ecology. The Japanese are trying to develop fuel that works because of it. From the Sunday Times UK, From 2005 (!)


Haitian Peasants vs. Monsanto

June 22 2010 - 10:49 PM

On June 4th 10,000 Haitian peasants burned corn donated by Monsanto. Ana Jones at the Huffington Post has an article about it. They cite Farmer Leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay first hand. Right or wrong, here are his reasons why they chose to do this.

  • Hybrid seeds are a poison gift. They don't reproduce,
    and therefore cannot be shared among a community. Haiti does not yet
    view seeds as a commodity like the US does. These hybrid seeds threaten
    the cultural fabric in Haiti because they break the cycle of food
  • Jean-Baptiste believes that Monsanto has taken
    the opportunity of the recent earthquake in Haiti to intentionally
    introduce the seeds and destroy Haitian agriculture, creating a
    dependency on Monsanto each season for new seeds.
  • If the
    Haitian government accepts Monsanto's seeds, rather than trying to
    build a system of food sovereignty, the Haitian farmer will become a
    day laborer, working for industrial farms. This would completely
    transform the economy to an industrial system instead of working to
    support farmers through a local economic system.

Next GINeration Cocktail Challenge at Old Town Social

June 22 2010 - 12:42 PM

When it comes to concocting the perfect cocktail according to industry standards, I’ve never seen myself as much of a pro. But when it comes to crafting a cocktail that my girl friends will drink, I opt in as quite the connoisseur.  (In other words, I’m pretty good at adding enough ingredients to make the drink taste delish, but not great at bringing out the true essence of the liquor being used).

So when I was among the food and drink writers lucky enough to participate in the 2010 Next GINeration Cocktail Challenge (hosted by New Amsterdam Gin), I decided to go into it with an open mind, and hope to come away with new insights for crafting the perfect cocktail.


Glacier Ridge Animal Farm

June 22 2010 - 12:40 PM

IMG_0086It was Father's Day and on the way back from our trip to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association seminar we stopped by the Glacier Ridge Animal Farm  in Van Dyne, Wisconsin. Here we encountered the most exotic animals we've ever seen in the Midwest – peacocks, porcupines, llamas, miniature horses, bison, and ostriches. Walking around we enjoyed feeding the animals from the docile deer to the somewhat-scary bison. Speaking to the farmer… we learned that meat from the bison and ostriches are available for sale (talk about being close to one's food chain! One moment you're feeding the animals, next you're buying the meat). Rest assure the peacock is off limits (only bison and ostrich meats).

The Lorax – Sustainable Seuss...

June 21 2010 - 2:00 PM

I’m always amazed when people don’t know this Seuss book. If you haven’t read it, read it. If you won’t read it, at least watch it. Bear with the musical numbers but realize that this was a prediction. Considering all the eco-impact of the unchecked/unregulated growth of business, it’s appropriate.

The truffula trees are sargassum seaweed.