Here’s a very interesting piece responding to some things Thomas Keller recently said about “local foods”. [thanks to the Psst for the link!] Keller makes an argument for using “the best” ingredients even if they come from afar. While I disagree with the definitions Keller uses (why not just admit that it isn’t local?), I think he’s right in principle. Local does not always mean best quality, and a chef has the right (some might say responsibility) to pursue the best ingredients for his or her cooking. And, frankly, local food producers can sometimes learn something when they see a superior product coming from elsewhere. And then, hopefully, they will redouble their efforts to produce better food right here. Of course we are thrilled when customers far away recognize the quality of our Maine food products and purchase them for use in their states.
Archive for May, 2009
Here’s a great little photo essay on pig butchering from the Guardian. It’s interesting how the British butcher watches the Italian butcher, and wonders at how slow it is, but also how little of the pig is wasted.
A Portuguese Wine Dinner at Local 188. Samantha and I will be heading to Local 188 to join Jay and his crew for this taste of Portugal.
Here’s a UK holiday that needs no explanation (unlike “boxing day”). It’s Sandwich Week! Celebrate accordingly. this week I’m likely to celebrate with a roast beef, horseradish and cheddar on homemade bread from Food Works, a hot Italian panini from Duck Fat, and a Chicken Shwarma from Olives. Any other favorites out there?
Here’s the NYTimes short piece on tonight’s James Beard Award winners. I didn’t realize until now that the cookbook awards were given Saturday night, relegating them to the position of the Oscar’s “technical”awards, which I believe are held on a Tuesday at 10am at a Holiday Inn banquet room. The cookbook authors, restaurant designers, etc., should be right up there in the big ceremony, as should the film techs.
“…although human beings do not enjoy eating dog food, they are also not able to distinguish its flavor profile from other meat-based products that are intended for human consumption.”
This is the conclusion of a fascinating piece from the American Association of Wine Economists. It’s a double blind study asking the surveyed to distinguish between dog food and pate. The duck liver pate well outperforms the liverwurst and Spam which (among others) were offered up alongside the dog food.
I particularly enjoyed the bibliography, with titles like “Optimizing the sensory characteristics and acceptance of canned cat food: use of a human taste panel.”
Now this study strikes me as similar to one brought to us by the Journal of Wine Economics titled, “Do more expensive wines taste better? Evidence from a large sample of blind tastings.” The problem seems to me that the participants in the surveys are just ordinary folks, and what ordinary folks eat duck liver mousse on a regular basis (or drink expensive wines). My point is just that these products aren’t aimed at most people, so why test them (and waste them) on most people?
It’s been a very busy week here at Rabelais. We started out with a lecture at Bates College on Tuesday, as part of a course being offered by our friend Myron Beasley. The lecture was titled “Food in Print: The Cookbook in History and as Physical Object.” It hoped to offer a brief overview of the history of books about food (including but not exclusively, cookbooks), and a survey of the many physical forms cookbooks have had through the ages. Cookbooks have taken on so many forms, including scrolls, accordion books, the exquisite corpse, calendars, file-card boxes, manuscript books, shape books, and more. We showed off books bound in leather, copper, wood, and plastic, and others cut into the shapes of soup bowls and beer mugs. The students were great and we hope they got something out of it.
Wednesday was another meeting for the Slow Food Portland Book Group, and we tackled George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. This one everyone liked a great deal, and it was a pleasure to read such fine writing. We all seemed struck by the immediacy of Orwell’s depiction of hunger. Now we move on to MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, which also takes place during a time of less than plenty, and gives advice on how to survive a downturn. Timely.
Thursday Samantha stayed home to work on the finishing touches of a piece she’s done for Gastronomica, deadline Friday, while I hung a show of original pages from Nicole Chaison’s Hausfrau, the local homemaker’s zine, with a book due later this month. Nicole was let loose by our neighbors, Dean’s Sweets, on their front windows, and has decorated them in time for Mother’s Day. In order to celebrate, we hung some work from Nicoles’s upcoming book and joined Dean’s Sweets for a First Friday reception. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend as I was down with a cold (not swine flu). I also missed Leon Johnson’s Blue Hammer, a performative meal at Whitney Art Works. Samantha did attend, and is still explaining the many, many pieces of this intricate dinner/art work.
I’m back in today, and we’re getting ready for the next FoodFilms installment, which we do together with One Longfellow Square, The Maine Food Ambassadors program and Aurora Provisions. Tonight’s film is Tampopo, and the food will be a three-course offering by Food Factory Miyake’s Masa Miyake. Should be great.
I have to mention that Monday night the James Beard Awards will be held in NYC. Two of our favorite restaurants in town are up for significant awards: Sam Hayward and Dana Street of Fore Street are up for Outstanding Restaurant in the US, and Rob Evans is up for Best Chef North East for Hugo’s. Best of luck to both of them! Our finger are crossed.