The Silliness Of Plant Rights

I think that it is important to respect the lives of the animals we eat. They should be raised as humanely as possible, and slaughtered with a minimum of pain and fear. That is not to say that I reject the incredible advances in food production. I love the fact that we spend much less on food then at any other time in history. And that is a tremendous advantage. Not as much to us first-world folk, but to the poor across the world, who have access to food at prices that were just dreams even a few years ago. People on the margins are alive because of our incredibly efficient food production. Can we do better? Of course. Water conservation, runoff of fertilizer and waste, loss of topsoil, and many other problems have yet to be solved. But I will happily tolerate less-than-perfect living conditions of our food animals if it means that even one human being will not starve.

And I draw the line at respecting the dignity of plants. I just don’t care that a corn plant has been violated, its genetic essence destroyed in a cold-blooded attempt at growing more of the stuff at lower cost. Slaughter every broccoli plant on the planet (that actually happens every year!) and I will sleep peacefully.

Momofuku Ko (No, I Didn’t Eat There!)

David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar is a great little noodle joint that is fun to enjoy on the spur of the moment. It is certainly not a destination unto itself, but then I don’t think that it is intended to be. But Momofuku Ko, Chang’s newest restaurant, is something else entirely. Ignoring for a moment (we’ll get back to it, don’t worry) the interesting, innovative, and ultimately successful Internet-only reservations system, it is perhaps the toughest reservation in New York. Oh, maybe Babbo and a few other restaurants are in the same league, but this one is booked in 4 seconds for the entire evening (one week ahead)! And the reviewers have been almost unanimous in their praise of Ko. Gaele Greene was unimpressed, and Bruni has yet to weigh in, but most love the place. And with an $85 prix fixe you can’t really argue that it isn’t close to the top in the quality/price ratio, at least according to the critics. 

But there is a pretension that irked Greene, and I had a taste of it when I made a reservation for Continue reading “Momofuku Ko (No, I Didn’t Eat There!)”

A Blog By a Real Chef

Here is a new food blog that I just came across. The blogger says that he is a chef and restaurant owner and lives in Lambertville, NJ. We have spent several weekends in and around Lambertville, and the food scene there is fun and good, with a few excellent restaurants. So this guy might be a serious chef, although he doesn’t name his restaurant, so I guess it could be a Burger King. Anyway, it’s a fun blog to poke around, and worth a few minutes.

[Update]  He is the chef at Anton’s at the Swan in Lambertville (Thank you Tommy).

“The Agony Of A Food Snob”

Don’t click on this link unless you want to be irritated. Written by Daniel Gross, the Moneybox columnist for Slate, this is a pompous, elitist, self-important whine about high food costs. But not just any food, or the foods that most people eat, this is a whine about organic eggs and $43 olive oil and $22 Parmigiana Reggiano. And just so he can irritate everyone, he makes a profoundly stupid comment about the politics of most food snobs. He partially redeems himself at the end, but it is still an obnoxious article. And yes, I know that it is, at least in part, tongue-in-cheek. But it isn’t nearly funny enough to get away with being so pretentious.

A Barbecuer’s Dilemma: Charcoal Or Gas?

I love to barbecue. There, I said it. For those of us who aren’t chefs, barbecuing is a perfectly acceptable cooking method, and one that is preferred for some things (no matter what the real chefs say). Like steak for instance. Oh, I can make a mean steak in my kitchen with my trusty cast-iron pan, but grilling outside on a charcoal or gas grill just…feels right. But which will it be? When I was young and poor I didn’t have a choice. It was a tiny kettle and cut-rate briquettes. Then, as my pay check grew, so did the size of my grill. And the next logical leap was into hardwood charcoal or, and this was the really fun part, hardwood itself. Then I moved to the suburbs and left behind many things, not least among them was good bars and restaurants just around the corner, but that is a different post. But I also left my trusty Weber kettle, and moved on to a neat, and expensive, Weber gas grill. Continue reading “A Barbecuer’s Dilemma: Charcoal Or Gas?”

Steak Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive

When I was just a lad, cooking for myself and, more importantly, paying for the food that I ate; I was a model of frugality (not like today, when I think nothing of using Petrus as cooking wine). I used to shop for meat at my local Safeway, which was in a great neighborhood (Rockridge, if anyone knows the East Bay), but not too far from a few less savory and elegant places. So they had porterhouses alongside chuck steaks, and that is where I used to head when I had an urge for steak, which was fairly often. I would buy a thick chuck steak, at least two inches, and then let it age for a few days in the bottom of my refrigerator. At 69¢/lb. I could get a pretty hefty steak for not much money. Continue reading “Steak Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive”

I Love My Cast-Iron Skillet

You can easily spend $200 on a skillet. And a set of pots and pans made from some weird copper alloy sandwiched between stainless steel with a hi-tech coating will set you back the price of a used car. Before you shoot me horrible e-mails and comments about how I don’t appreciate the technological advances that have made cooking accessible for lots of people (ignoring the fact that most people can’t afford this stuff) and how I am a Luddite, I like fancy pots and pans just as much as the next guy.

But my Lodge cast-iron skillet cost me $25, and I use it almost as much as my fancy non-stick sauté pan. Continue reading “I Love My Cast-Iron Skillet”

Sibling Rivalry, And I Lost!

I am a better cook than my sister. I have better technique, a surer sense of the chemistry of food, a much better grasp of ingredients, and I am a man, and everyone knows that men make better cooks. Did I mention that I am a better cook than my sister? So how could she take one of my recipes and improve it, both in taste and simplicity? And the worst part is that she is holding out on the details. I discussed this kind of repellent behavior a while ago, but I never expected it from my own sister.

Ingredients: Good, Bad and indifferent

I have always been puzzled by the huge differences in the quality of ingredients that, at first glance, seem to be similar. Tomatoes are an obvious example. Who hasn’t been fooled by  spectacular looking tomatoes that are utterly tasteless, horribly textured, and devoid of aroma? Even stuff like potatoes and carrots can vary. But most people are more aware of things like beef, mostly because it’s comparatively expensive. If I buy a bag of potatoes that are a bit below par I can survive the blow to my bank account. And doctoring a potato to make it palatable is a simple affair. But making a tough, tasteless porterhouse taste great is an undertaking that, at least in my experience, is akin to Don Quixote tilting at windmills. It may be a good idea, but it probably won’t work. 

So choosing ingredients is best done very, very carefully. But there is one Continue reading “Ingredients: Good, Bad and indifferent”