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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

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April 2007

April 30, 2007

Grapes on the Vine

Img_0184Since Monday is the big deadline day here at Seven Days, it's not a good day for deep and meaningful posts. Instead, I offer you a pretty picture.

I took this shot in Yountville, California at The Villagio -- a beautiful hotel and luxury inn. My sweetie and I were taking a walk before heading into San Fran -- in part to work off some of the calories from a sumptuous dinner at The French Laundry the night before -- and came across these multi-colored bunches of grapes. Memories...

April 28, 2007

Flavor Danger

I came across a scary article on MSNBC today called Food-Flavoring Workers at Risk for Lung Disease.

Basically, workers in plants that manufacture artificial flavors are at risk for a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, which is irreversible and can be fatal. The disease seems to be caused mainly by a chemical called diacetyl, which is used to make non-buttery foods taste buttery, and is dangerous when heated and inhaled.

In 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) linked diacetyl to lung disease and recommended that "workers be protected from this hazard." The NIOSH website also says, "Most chemicals used in flavorings have not been tested for respiratory toxicity via the inhalation route." But NIOSH doesn't have the power to regulate the substance -- OSHA does. And they don't do so at the moment.

In July of 2006, 42 "top scientists" sent a letter to OSHA urging the body to "protect workers," but the matter is still "under consideration."

Today, seven years after the problem was discovered, factory workers are continuing to breathe the stuff.  Meanwhile, thousands of happy consumers are chowing down on microwave popcorn, butterscotch candy and other products made with the diacetyl.

Clearly, part of the problem here is regulation and worker safety, but it seems to me that there's another one, too. Dairy farms in Vermont and elsewhere are failing left and right, but I'll bet the factories that manufacture fake butter are thriving. Are we really too busy or lazy to melt real butter and put it on plain popcorn? What if Americans stopped eating snacks laced with products like "Exceed Plus 4010N," a "natural" cheese flavor by Kraft that "enhance[s] a product’s overall cheese profile," and instead ate some nice cheddar, accompanied by a crusty baguette from an artisan baker and an apple. Where do you want your food dollars to go?   

Working on a farm isn't easy, but I'd take it over working at a flavor factory any day.

Spiced Beef Tongue Recipe

Yesterday afternoon, Ruth Horowitz informed me that she would be eating leftover tongue for lunch. Although I'm the resident food writer, my co-workers don't usually drop by my desk to tell me what they're eating, but Ruth knows that I'm particularly interested in the American discomfort with chowing down on "variety meats."

She found the tongue for $1.99 a pound at City Market and prepared it using a tried and true recipe from the original, 1961 edition of The New York Times Cookbook.

Wanna try it? A friendly gentleman in the meat department explained that City Market gets tongue from the folks at LaPlatte River Angus farm in Shelburne, but they don't always have it around. To find out if tongue is available or to place a special order, call 863-3659, ext. 7. Meat from LaPlatte is free of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.

Here's the recipe Ruth used, which I located with a little help from my mother.

Spiced Beef Tongue   6 servings

1 fresh beef tongue, about 3 pounds                3 strips lemon peel
1 tablespoon salt                                              1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small onion, sliced                                         2 teaspoons brown sugar
Few whole black peppercorns                           1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf                                                          2 cups dry white wine
Water to cover

    1. Place the tongue, salt, onion, peppercorns and bay leaf in a saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer until the tongue is fork tender, two and one-half to three hours.
    2. Remove the tongue from the water and cool slightly. Trim as for boiled fresh beef tongue, above. [taken from recipe above: cut off bones and gristle at the thick end of the tongue. Slit the skin from the thick end to the tip on the underside. Use a paring knife to loosen the skin at the thick end, and pull and peel off the skin from the thick end to the tip.] Cut the meat into thin slices.
    3. Place the tongue slices in a casserole and add the remaining ingredients. Bake, covered, in a preheated moderate oven (375° F.) until the meat absorbs nearly all the liquid, about thirty-five minutes. Serve hot or chilled.

April 27, 2007

Gusanoz Mexican Restaurant in Woodstock

Since we don't have a "story chat" feature on the Seven Days website (yet), I thought I'd create my own version for food stories.

So -- Here's a link to the recent story "Doing the Salsa." It's about Gusanoz, a Mexican restaurant in Woodstock, VT.

There's a notorious lack of good south-of-the-border cuisine in this state, so it was neat to find a place that has a Mexican co-owner. She uses family recipes, too!

Are there any other interesting Mexican places I should know about?

April 25, 2007

My Tirade Policy

So, I think it's time to elucidate my policy on whining and complaining. It's actually pretty simple...

I won't complain about a restaurant or food-related establishment unless 1) whatever went wrong is so egregious that I just can't help myself OR 2) I've brought my beef to the management and was unable to reach a resolution/was ignored/insulted/etc.

An example of something in the first category would be a finger in my chili or cockroaches swarming over my shoes as I eat.

However, if I discover a grimy spoon, point it out to a server, and they quickly replace it, I'm not going to bitch about their establishment publicly. Everybody makes mistakes.

If I point it out the dirty spoon and they tell me it's clean and I'm an idiot, you'll be hearin' about it -- that's a category 2 offense.

Make sense?

Nutrition Guidelines for Schools

This morning, the Institute of Medicine released a report called Nutrition Standards for Food in Schools: Leading the Way Towards Healthier Youth. The document was commissioned by Congress in an effort to fight the obesity epidemic in our nation's youngsters. It's a set of guidelines for schools around foods which "compete" with school lunches. Think soda and chips from a vending machine or Slim Jims from a school store. None of this is's just suggestions, for now. But new laws could be proposed based on the information. 

I didn't have time to read all 300 pages, so I downloaded the "brief." There's also an article about it on MSNBC.

Basically, the IOM divides acceptable foods into two tiers. The first tier is "healthy stuff" like fruit, veggies, yogurt and whole-grain products. Kids can get this stuff whenever. The second includes items that are a little more indulgent, but still meet designated health criteria. The IOM suggests that Tier 2 stuff be restricted to High School students and only available after school.

Now, some people get all upset about any type of food restriction, like the moms in Britain who smuggled fast food to their kids after it was banned from school. But, while I think the food pyramid is wonky and wrong in lots of ways, I do think this is a move in the right direction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that children have an unalienable right to drink Coca Cola and eat Snickers Bars whenever they want to.

I know how hard I crash after I eat lots of sugar...makes it harder to do calculus and conjugate Latin verbs. And really committed junk food junkies can still bring stuff in from's just recommended that schools not sell it.

A Stylish Crêpe Recipe

Last week, one of my co-workers asked me if I knew of any good crêpe recipes. Although I can't  remember where I got the one I used most recently, I found the version below in The French Menu Cookbook (the 2002 ed. of a book from 1970) by the late Richard Olney. The American ex-pat author and painter, who moved to Paris in 1951, hung with some famous folks: James Baldwin, Ned Rorem and John Ashberry, to name a few. His recipe writing definitely has style...

Crêpes from Richard Olney's French Menu Cookbook

2 heaping T. flour
1 heaping T. sugar (for dessert crepes only)
small pinch salt
3 eggs
1 c. milk
1 T. cognac
3 T. melted butter

Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, make a well in the center and break in the eggs. Stir, keeping to the center, until all of the flour is gradually absorbed into the eggs, then slowly add approximately 2/3 c. of milk, stirring all the while. Stir in the cognac and melted butter and thin the batter with milk until it is no thicker  than fresh cream. I do not find it essential to let the batter stand before cooking, but this may of course be done.

A small ladle of the capacity of 3 T. is practical for pouring. For large crêpes, count about 3 T. of batter, for small, about 2 T. If the batter refuses to cover the bottom of the pan, it is too thick and more milk should be added.

Heat the pan, lightly buttered (it need be buttered only once, assuming the batter to be sufficiently lubricated), over a low to medium flame (after the first 2 or 3 crêpes, adjust the heat if necessary). If the pan does not sizzle at contact with the batter, it is not hot enough. Lift the pan from the flame and, holding it with one hand, pour in the batter with the other. At the same time, give the pan a rolling motion, turning it rapidly in all directions, so that the batter spreads immediately over the entire surface. Return it to the flame, and after 30 seconds or so, delicately lift an edge of the pancake with the rounded tip of a table knife to check its progress (after one or two times, you will have the feeling and everything will go automatically). Ease the knife all the way under and flip the crêpe over. Toss it if you prefer -- it is a pretty piece of theater, but requires a certain amount of practice and the result is the same. After about 15 seconds, remove the pan from the flame, lift the crêpe out with the knife, and begin the operation all over again. It is essential to remove the pan from the flame for several seconds each time, for, with the flame at the correct temperature for cooking crêpes, the pan heats progressively and rapidly becomes too hot. The batter should be stirred each time just before being poured, as the flour has a tendency to settle to the bottom and the butter to rise to the top. If, partway through, the batter is noticeably thicker, more liquid may be added.

Wanna put the recipe sleuth to work? Send an e-mail with your query

April 21, 2007

Why Can't You See My Face?

Yes -- there's a reason I'm hiding behind a bunch of Swiss chard! Sometimes I write restaurant reviews for the paper. When I do, I make reservations under different names and attempt to remain incognito -- wouldn't want extra attentive service or an especially pretty garnish to skew the review! Is it possible to maintain anonymity in a small city like Burlington? Maybe not...but I'm going to give it a try.

A couple of questions for the masses:

1) Should restaurant critics be anonymous?
2) What do you think happens when they're not?
3) Is this different in a place like Burlington vs. somewhere much larger -- and with lots more restaurants -- like New York City?

Comment away...

About Me and My Blog

About me: I'm the food writer for Seven Days newspaper and a devotee of all things culinary. I designed my own B.A. at the University of Vermont in a field called "Interdisciplinary Food Studies," and own over 400 books about food. Many of these are cookbooks from all over the world, a bunch are other kinds of tasty tomes. The most ancient book in my collection is from 1893.
    Philosophically, I'm a proponent of ethical eating -- you'll hear a lot more about that if you read the blog. I base my diet on local, seasonal food, supplemented with exciting products that are best when they come from a specific region of the world -- think balsamic vinegar from Modena and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I've eaten at a handful of the best restaurants in the world, but also swoon over good hamburgers and comfy bowls of mac & cheese.
    Yep -- I looooove food.

My wacky college major: My "Interdisciplinary Food Studies" major consisted of fiction and non-fiction writing, food ethics, sociology, anthropology, basic nutrition, sensory evaluation of food and lots more. I minored in philosophy and dabbled in studio art and film. I managed to make almost every course I took relate to food in some fashion.

About the Omnivore: Since the Seven Days newspaper has a local focus, this is a place where I'll post my thoughts about more expansive food-related topics. Here are a few of the special features I'm planning:

  • Accolades -- praise for tasty products, quality cookware, delicious meals, etc.
  • Cookbook of the week -- Over the course of each week, I'll try out recipes from one of the cookbooks in my collection. When the week is over, I'll post the results, complete with photos and a critique.
  • Culinary Q & A -- Have a burning question about a strange item in the produce section or on any other type of culinary trivia? I'll try to find the answer. Just send me an e-mail with your query. I'll do some research and post the results.
  • Food news -- Links to articles on foodie topics, and commentary, of course.
  • Recipe Sleuth -- Kind of like "Culinary Q & A," except with recipes. You tell me what you're looking for, I'll scour my cookbooks till I find it.
  • Tirades -- The opposite of accolades. Bad meals, bad service, bad'll hear about 'em here.
  • Did I miss something you'd like to see on the blog? Tell me about it!

Bon appetit!

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