Archive for MEdia

Media Mentions: Sweet & Salty Craze, eBay Gourmet

Check out two new food articles I wrote!


Pastry chef Nicole Kaplan makes salted “s’mores.”

“The Rise of the Salt Tooth” – Chow.com

What does salt do for sugar, and who’s making salty desserts? (For the record, I’m not a fan of overtly salty desserts. Berthillon’s salted caramel ice cream in Paris is smoky and deep, but the salt gets in the way. Coppeneur makes complex, high cacao milk chocolate, but it’s a shame it tastes salty. Low-brow salty sweets, like the Take 5 candy bar, work though. The combination of salty pretzels, caramel, peanut butter and milk chocolate is addictive. Maybe I’m having a foodie backlash.)

Related links:
Soy Sauce Candied Nuts
Soy Sauce Sorbet
Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse
Potato Chip Cookies
The Way We Eat: Salt With a Deadly Weapon

“Whatever it is, you can eat it on eBay” – AP

The media’s been touching on mail-order desserts, from the difficulty of trusting something you can’t sample to professional chefs who’ve flocked to the Internet. For the AP, I wrote about homemade food that’s appearing on eBay. If you’ve ever wanted chokecherry jelly or handmade fudge from a congressman’s mom, you can get it on eBay. Buyer beware though…the samples I received were disappointing at best.

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The Perfect Weather for Grilling

snowstorm
Photo: 2005 snow storm in Times Square (Edward/Wired New York)

As sleet pierced my face like needles today, I couldn’t help but think of busting out a barbecue grill. In the past five years, winter grilling has steadily increased across the country. Some hardcore fans smoke meat for 20 hours during blizzards. For the rest of us, here’s some tips (it’s actually easy if you keep the lid closed and use a meat thermometer), courtesy of an article I wrote for the AP.

Try these specially designed winter recipes for Grilled Pork Chops with Squash, Apples and Cider-bourbon Jus and Asian Grilled Flank Steak.

Update: Download the podcast in MP3 form for your iPod!

How to Grill

Weeknight Grilling with the BBQ Queens

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“Le mobile Mardi Gras”

King Cake
Photo: What We’re Eating

You can take the New Orleanian out of Mardi Gras, but you can’t take Mardi Gras out of the New Orleanian. Ever since Hurricane Katrina struck, evacuees have spread their culture and cuisine to other states. For Mardi Gras, some order four king cakes, others import 40 pounds of crawfish and still others adapt their favorite recipes to local ingredients. For more info and tasty recipes, check out an article I wrote for the Associated Press!

More info:

Extended profile on a Mardi Gras Indian I interviewed

What the heck is Mardi Gras, anyway?
Nola.com guide
Wikipedia entry

Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen

Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File Gumbo

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An ode to spoons

corn-plastic sporks

Photo: MoMA Store

Pop quiz:

Slooper: kiwi as sugarak: ___________

a. Korea
b. rice
c. egg
d. grapefruit

To find out the answer, check out the gallery of specialized spoons that I did for Chow.com. There, you’ll find biodegradable sporks (pictured above), medicine spoons and soup spoons.

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10 Most Nauseating Fast Food Meals

Fast Food Nation
Art: Fox Searchlight

In honor of the new movie Fast Food Nation, I wrote a Hollywood Heat/Court TV story about the 10 grossest things to allegedly appear in fast food. Fingers, phlegm, oh my!

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Fancy Food Show 2006

Fancy Food Show logo

Before food makes it to the supermarket, it’s displayed at the Fancy Food Show, an annual convention with endless tables of specialty foods. From July 9-11, the Jacob Javits Center in New York showcased 160,000 products from 2,200 exhibitors. An estimated 24,000 attendees, including retail store decision makers, distributors, caterers, chefs and media (yours truly) sought out the best gourmet products.

From the moment I saw the floorplan, I knew that this foodie’s paradise and dieter’s nightmare would be overwhelming. Booths are not grouped by category, so you can eat a chocolate truffle before you get a bowl of pasta and bump into a mascot handing out hot sauce. (For all of you who make meals out of Costco samples, you can can do the same here, but you’ll hear from your stomach later.) If you’re lucky, booths were organized by country and state, but most were randomly strewn throughout 300,000 square feet.

I don’t mean to stereotype, but Italy focused on olive oil, cured meat and cheese; Germany had sausage and bulky grain products; England had shortbread and greasy food; Texas had lots of beef and spices; China had dehydrated vegetables to make your own cup-o-Noodles; and middle Eastern countries had dates.

As for general food trends, there were lots of fruit pastes (like sliceable jam) with nuts, gourmet bake-at-home mixes for molten chocolate cake and creme brulee (It’s ironic that anyone who makes creme brulee needs a blow torch or a broiler. Anyone that serious about food probably wouldn’t bake with mixes.), alternative natural sweeteners (Mostly in the form of agave nectar and honey. I was disappointed that molasses, date sugar, evaporated cane juice, stevia, and fruit juice concentrate, etc. didn’t make a mark.)

In chocolate trends, cacao nibs were popular. Nibs are plain cacao beans; once sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and lecithin are blended in, it becomes chocolate. In the words of chocolate expert David Lebovitz, “The term ‘cacao’ refers to the beans used to make chocolate, and ‘cocoa’ usually refers to the powder made from the beans after they’re roasted and pulverized.” Also, prominently labeled single-origin chocolate was abundant. It’s not enough to know about cocoa percentage anymore; the country of the beans can indicate their taste. To see how Venezuelan v. Santo Domingo beans taste different, check out my Michel Cluizel chocolate review.

There was a dismal attempt at whole-grain products. Most were rock hard and tasted like medicine that your doctor would prescribe. Others, like Milton’s multi-grain cracker squares, were tasty but relied on enriched wheat flour (a euphemism for bleached white flour—you don’t need to enrich something if its nutrients are intact) and had the same nutrition as Cheez-its. As a whole, the grains didn’t fall far from the tree. Familiar grains like whole-wheat flour, oats, corn, rice, sesame and flax were staples, but kamut, spelt, millet and quinoa were virtually non-existent from the show.

samples

After sampling hundreds of products to the point where everything tasted the same and I could no longer talk in straight sentences, the best products became apparent. If you ever go, pace yourself and be selective before tasting the overabundant olive oils, olives, sauces, cheese, and preserves. It helps if you bring a friend or randomly bump into one, such as Gerald from Foodite.

Following 101 Cookbooks’ lead, here’s my personal Best in Show. Look for these products in specialty food stores like Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, Zabar’s and Fairway.

Chocolate

I’m breaking products down by category, so why not start with my favorite food?

valrhona chocolate
Photo: Foodite

Valrhona
Best chocolate

Every time I try a different brand of chocolate, I always come back to Valrhona. The flavor is unparalleled: complex, rich but never bitter. Out of all the flavors at the show, I liked the Manjari the best, which Valrhona describes as “A highly aromatic bouquet, 64% cocoa. Made from Criollos and Trinitarios beans from Madagascar. A distinctive chocolate flavour with an intense bouquet of red berries.” The 72% Araguani and 85% Abinao were perfectly palatable, but I prefer a little more sugar in my chocolate.

Dolfin chocolate

Dolfin
Best chocolate runner-up

Dolfin comes at a close second behind Valrhona. I usually associate Belgian chocolate with mildness. Pure Belgian chocolate, like Callebaut, has a weak aroma and bland taste. Begian-style truffles from Neuhaus and Leonida’s are heavy on the dairy. Dolfin, however, is wonderfully nuanced. I love their dark chocolate bars with crunchy cacao nibs.

Margaux chocolate twigs
Photo: Mademoiselle de Margaux

Mademoiselle de Margaux
Best shaped chocolate: Sarments du medoc

Elegant packaging and presentation aside, Mademoiselle de Margaux makes tasty chocolate twigs that are perfect for nibbling. They come in natural tasting dark chocolate, orange, lemon, mint, raspberry, coffee, toffee and hazelnut flavors.

Monbana cocoa

Monbana
Best cocoa

When I visited France two years ago, I smuggled their hot cocoa mix so I could savor it back home. From the looks of it, the Chocolate Powder mix contains natural cocoa and raw sugar. Even if mixed with water instead of milk, it tastes as rich as hot chocolate. They had distribution problems in the U.S. before, but they plan to get off the ground soon.

Photo: Monbana

Chocolats Olivier
Most potential

The oldest chocolatier in France (open since in 1780 during King Louis XVI’s rein), Chocolats Olivier recently acquired new ownership. They feature single-origin chocolate and truffles. The chocolate in their chocolate-covered raspberry jelly was forgettable, but the jelly tasted fresh and was full of seeds. When they sort things out, I think they’ll be really promising.

Chocolat modern

Chocolat Moderne
Best truffles

Chocolat Moderne is a nouveau chocolatier that gets its flavors right. Even under the melting heat of the display, the chocolate-covered grapefruit caramels and lychee truffle with crunchy pralines tasted bright. These chocolates were just as delicious as they looked. They were much better than their more famous competitor, Vosges Haut Chocolate, whose chocolate didn’t taste anything like its advertised flavors of curry or pandan. However, it is with great reservation that I recommend Chocolat Moderne, since the gentleman at the booth snubbed me. He tried to convince me that he had no samples available, although I saw the people before and after me grab from the prominent tray of truffles. Later on, I discovered samples at the Focused Tasting area.

Photo: Chocolat Moderne

Dagoba nibsDagoba
Outstanding organic chocolate

If you’re into conscientious eating, check out Dagoba’s certified organic chocolate. Other organic brands, like Divine Chocolate, are crumbly, and Endangered Species has a lingering malty sweetness. Dagoba chocolate doesn’t suffer from these pitfalls, and it comes in unique flavors such as xocolatl (with chilies, spices and cacao nibs). Having things labeled organic and fair trade is a plus, but I think they can be redundant if you already seek out artisan chocolate. Good cacao beans come from small farmers who care about the crop and already take care of their land. Some chocolate makers, such as El Rey and Jacques Torres, deliberately avoid becoming certified because they think the system is flawed. Big corporations can afford certification, which defeats the purpose of supporting the small artisans.

Dagoba also makes one of my favorite chocolate-covered cacao nibs. They resemble rice krispies in size and texture, and each one tastes slightly different, keeping your tastebuds guessing. There is actually one brand that makes better nibs, but I had such a bad personal experience with the owner that I want to boycott their products.

Photo: Dagoba

Blanxart chocolate

Blanxart
Best rustic chocolate

This Barcelona chocolatier leaves the cacao beans chunky and uses coarse sugar. The chocolate-covered hazelnut nougat is also very good.

Photo: Blanxart

Coming up in parts two and three: the remaining Best in Show and behind the scenes at the Fancy Food Show.

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