diversions

A Little Culinary Quantum Physics to Answer Some of Life’s Vexing Questions

 

So much in life is uncertain, unknowable, and uncontrollable. Sometimes we can use a few answers. Maybe these aren’t the kinds of questions that keep us up at night, but there is still something comforting about round numbers.

 

A keg contains 15½ gallons, or the equivalent of 6.8 cases of beer. That’s 124 red party cups filled to the brim. [KegBooty]

 

 

 

There are 37 scoops in a gallon of ice cream.  [WikiAnswers]

 

 

 

Within their PVC-wrapped tubes, Smarties come in a combination of white, yellow, pink, orange, purple, and green. Each color’s flavor really is slightly different. They are packaged as a roll of 15. [Wikipedia]

 

Plain or peanut?
A 1 lb bag of peanut M&M’s contains approximately 190 candies; you get 405 M&M’s in a bag of plain.   [ChaCha]

 

 

Figure on 7,200 grains in a cup of rice.  [WikiAnswers]

 

 

 

It takes 1½ potatoes to make the Big Grab single serving size of chips. How many chips is that? Let’s just say not enough. [Askville]

 

If you squeezed every last drop of ketchup out of little foil packets, it would take 41 of them to fill a standard ketchup bottle; realistically, you’ll never wring out every last drop or hit the narrow bottle opening every time, so count on 50 packets. Of course, realistically, who’s going to attempt this?  [CalorieCount]

 

A box of Cornflakes contains a mere 981 flakes, [WikiAnswers] while the same size box of Cheerios holds almost 5,000 of the little O’s. More importantly, it’s easily enough to make Cheerio necklaces for 50 small children.  [WebAnswers]

 

 

 

And the proverbial two scoops of raisins in Raisin Bran? It begs the obvious question Just how big is said scoop? You have to wonder, is it the same scoop, independent of box size, or does the scoop get larger when the box size increases?

The raisin counts prove to be an average of 221 in the 15 oz. package,  337 raisins in the 20. oz. box, and a stingy double scoop of 321 in the 25.5 oz. size. The scoop-to-box-ratio increases proportionately until you get to the big box, which is strictly for bran flake enthusiasts. [Science Creative Quarterly]

 

Next time you go grocery shopping, remember that volume estimates are subject to all sorts of perceptual illusions—a fact that marketers never forget. Tall and narrow appears to hold more than short and wide, and tuna cans aren’t flattering to anything but tuna.

Posted in diversions, food knowledge | 1 Comment

Julia Child’s French Country Home Might Be the Foodiest Airbnb Listing Ever

Julia at La Pitchoune image via the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe

Julia at La Pitchoune
image via the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College

 

3BR, 4BA, and Oh, that kitchen.
La Pitchoune, the Provencal cottage Julia Child and her husband built in the ’60s, has new owners who plan to turn it into a cooking school and culinary retreat. In the meantime, they’re offering it as a vacation rental on Airbnb. Listed for around $600 a night, it’s described as A space to cook, commune, explore, and walk the footsteps of culinary greats.

OMG Chez Julia.
Child devotees are vibrating with excitement over this: Julia shopped the local markets, drinking the wines and cooking the rustic dishes of the region. She and Paul spent part of every year at La Pitchoune where their dinner party guest lists read like a Who’s Who of the French-American food world. The equivalent of a culinary G8 Summit took place during a 1970 La Pitchoune get-away that serendipitously gathered James Beard, Richard Olney, Judith Jones, Simone Beck, and M. F. K. Fisher, whose seminal table talk, documented in the book Provence, 1970, helped define the modern American food movement, reshaping the cuisine and culture for decades.

It’s Julia’s kitchen, pegboard and all.
The kitchen at La Pitchoune was designed by Julia’s husband, Paul, and modeled on the one in their house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That one is in the Smithsonian, but this one has the same high countertops to accommodate Julia’s six foot two frame, and the same array of kitchen tools on the same pegboard walls on which Paul painted the outlines of the implements. The current owners installed a drop camera fixed on the utensils to ensure that the priceless artifacts are all returned to their rightful positions.

The house is set on a scenic hillside about a half-hour’s drive from the Côte d’Azur, with a stone terrace, swimming pool, and olive trees and rosemary bushes all around. But really, does any of that even matter?

 

 

Posted in diversions, Travel | 1 Comment

Dirty Bathroom, Dirty Kitchen

 

 

 

We’ve all been there. Literally.
The dirty restaurant bathroom that makes us wonder about the kitchen. As Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential, ‘If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like.‘ You can argue that there are different crews with different responsibilities, but Bourdain is not alone; most of us see it as an omen. A poll from Cintas, a provider of restroom supplies to the restaurant industry, found that 79% of respondents would avoid a restaurant if they knew the bathrooms were dirty. 88% of them agreed that the state of the restrooms says something about the kitchen’s hygiene, and 94% said if they personally encountered bathroom nastiness, they wouldn’t return.

There’s spillover in our minds, but there is actually little hard data to support a connection between a dirty bathroom and a dirty kitchen. According to Doug Powell, publisher of the BarfBlog, health inspectors will take note of the general state of a restaurant restroom and include impressions and any obvious violations in the report, but they don’t pull out the swabs and test kits like they do in the kitchen. Correlation or not, when we eat out, we want to know about the table and the throne. While the state of the restroom sometimes makes it into the review on sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor, restaurant bathrooms, like favorite dishes and ambiance, really warrant their own crowdsourced reviews. Since personal preferences can be very personal, there’s no shortage of potty apps out there to help you find the right place at the right time. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Bathroom Scout directs you to more than a million user-reviewed restrooms worldwide.
  • Flush’d won us over with its motto: No one takes this sh*t as seriously as we do.
  • The Charmin-sponsored Sit or Squat has ease of use going for it, dividing all its mapped facilities into two categories: safe to SIT; or maybe you want to SQUAT.
  • Refuge Restroom locates safe and welcoming restroom access for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals.
  • The Looie is not for everyone, and that’s by design. For $25 a month, the New York City-based app offers its members entry to restrooms housed in restaurants, hotels, and office buildings—all places that normally deny public access. In exchange for admitting its members, the Looie team provides the janitorial services to its partnering establishments.

Cintas, the company behind the poll, gives an annual award for America’s Best Bathroom. Last year’s award went to the town of Minturn, Colorado for a public restroom that resembles a passageway into a Rocky Mountain mine. Past nominees include a distillery’s restroom in a whiskey barrel, a Las Vegas casino men’s room with urinals set into authentic, graffiti-covered sections of the Berlin Wall, and a Presidential porta-potty made for Barack Obama’s inauguration. You can find all the winners and top nominees at America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame.

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Mouthwatering Words: The New Branding Strategy

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Which one of these shapes is a kiki and which is a bouba?
Did you choose the curvy shape as a bouba and the jagged one as a kiki?
Do you think it was an arbitrary choice?
The names are made up with no inherent meaning, but there’s nothing arbitrary about your selections. Upwards of 95% of people make the same choice. They do so in nearly every language on the planet and at ages as young as 2‏½ years.

Names matter.
Even nonsensical names evoke perceptions. When it comes to packaged foods, the name precedes the taste, so good branding appeals to the palate with words. The words need to stimulate perceptions and connections in the shopper’s mind that hint at the deliciousness inside. Think of product names like ‘Twinkies,’ ‘Miracle Whip,’ and ‘Gatorade’— completely meaningless yet somehow evocative.

The latest trend is food names that simulate eating.
Brand strategists have latched onto something called inward wandering brand names. They want names that, when spoken, mimic the act of eating. The names are ‘inward wandering’ because the articulation of them causes muscle movement and mouth activity that starts with the lips and ends with the throat.

How to eat your words.
The ideal inward wandering word would begin with p, b, or m.
A front-of-the-mouth vowel should come next (a, e, i, ā, ē).
The concluding syllable pulls it over the tongue and into the esophagus with a back-of-the-mouth vowel (o, u, ä, ō, ü).

An outward wandering word is just what you think.
It mimics movements of the mouth that simulate spitting or vomiting.
K, h, and g are the best back-of-the-mouth consonants to begin an outward wandering word.
Follow one of them up with a back-to-front vowel and consonant sequence and you’re basically spewing in an abstract fashion.

It sounds like marketing mumbo jumbo, but it works.
Numerous studies have established the ability of an inward wandering brand name to make a product seem more palatable. It works across languages, allowing for differing phonetics and speech mechanics. It’s effective whether you’re reading silently or saying the words aloud. Of course since we’re seeing inward wandering brand names in the marketplace, you can be sure that the technique translates into higher purchase rates and a willingness among consumers to pay higher prices.

 

Posted in food business, food trends, shopping | 1 Comment

Whether You’re a Big Cheese or a Good Egg, We All Use Food Idioms

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We’re spilling the beans on food idioms, those food-derived metaphors, aphorisms, similes, and other figures of speech that lard our language so liberally.
Even when we’re not talking about food, it works its way into our speech. You go to work and bring home the bacon, and if you’re not working for peanuts you’ll be rolling in the dough and can salt some away. When you come home at night, maybe you chew the fat with an old friend who’s one smart cookie, or just curl up like a couch potato and sink your teeth into the cream of the crop on cable TV.

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You can put all your eggs in one basket or walk on eggshells, but if you lay an egg with a poor performance, you just might end up wearing egg on your face. But that’s just how the cookie crumbles. High-spirited types are full of beans, tattlers spill the beans, and bean counters can tell us if it all adds up to a hill of bean. 

maxresdefaultFood has worked its way into common slang in every language. When you’re having a good day in France they say you have the peach, while a bad day in Holland has you staring at the sloop like a herring. Lucky Americans are born with silver spoons in their mouths, while Belgians are born with their bums in butter, Spaniards arrive with a loaf of bread under their arms, and Swedes slide in on a shrimp sandwich. A fussy Australian carries on like a pork chop, a lying Russian is hanging noodles on your ears, and when you’re pushy in China they say you’re the first to have the soup.

maxresdefault-2Why food?
Maybe it’s because eating is a universal experience. Maybe it’s the way food reveals so much about a culture. Maybe it’s just because food references are broadly relatable in a way that, say, astronomy or auto parts are not.

Food idioms might not be your cup of tea, but it’s impossible to go cold turkey.
That’s it in a nutshell.

all images via This is Not Grammar
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It takes a half hour of tossing around a football to burn off the calories from just one little pig-in-a-blanket

On Super Bowl Sunday, we’re not so much armchair quarterbacks as snack bowl linebackers. 
For most fans the broadcast is an excuse to eat a full day’s worth of calories– one tortilla chip and chicken wing at a time.

Of course you’re no linebacker bulking up for the big game. But if you were— or a cheerleader, or even just a wildly enthusiastic fan—here’s the Super Bowl-style workout it would take to burn the calories of Super Bowl gluttony.

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We’ll consume 27 billion calories just from potato chips. Forget about the carbs; the fat content alone contributes the calories to create four million new pounds of fat on American bodies. To burn off just a small handful of chips with French onion dip you’d have to bicycle back and forth across the Golden Gate Bridge four times.

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Who doesn’t love a good pig in a blanket? It takes about a half hour of tossing around a football to burn off each little pastry-wrapped sausage.

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You’re looking at a graph of 52 weeks of chicken wing sales. Note the spike? That would be the week leading up to the last Super Bowl. Paint the faces of eight rabid Ravens fans and you’ll burn the calories contained in a single chicken wing that’s been fried and drenched in Buffalo sauce. Unfortunately there aren’t enough football fans on the planet to make up for the 1.23 billion wings that will be eaten this Super Bowl Sunday.
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Once the hors d’oeuvre of choice for Grandma’s bridge club,deviled eggs have become a Sunday staple during football season. Jogging the length of the football field 20 times will burn the calories from two stuffed halves of an egg.

 

football guac

 

Guacamole has risen through the Super Bowl snack ranks in short order. From a mere 8 million pounds a decade ago, this year we’ll be mashing 79 million pounds of avocados into dip, helped by having San Francisco host this year’s championship. Figure on 10 minutes of climbing stadium stairs to burn a quarter cup of guacamole.

football-pizza-300x261

 

Pizzerias are always the big winners. Super Bowl Sunday is their busiest day of the year by leaps and bounds. One in seven Americans orders take-out and most of it is pizza. If you played the French horn in a marching band for the duration of the game, the exercise would earn you a couple of slices.

superbowl glass

The nation’s beer tab will be more than $10 billion for Super Bowl Sunday. That’s 50 million cases, but it’s still only good enough to rank eighth on the list of beer-drinking holidays, mostly due to the season. The warm weather holidays of 4th of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Fathers Day hold down the top spots. If you do your part with a 12 oz. beer each quarter, you’d have to do ‘the wave’ 2,853 times to burn the calories in those four bottles of beer.

Chips, dips, wings, beer… Sunday is the Super Bowl of gluttony. And you’ll pay for it on Monday when 6 percent of the workforce will call in sick.

Posted in diversions, holidays, snack foods | Leave a comment

Online Auctions Let You Snag the Ultimate Dinner Party Guest

Pop Culture lats Supper via Adara Tiana

Pop Culture Last Supper via Adara Tiana

 

Last Supper with Dead Rock Stars by Misha Tyutunik

Last Supper with Dead Rock Stars by Misha Tyutunik

 

Physicists Last Supper by Nick Farrantello

Physicists Last Supper by Nick Farrantello

 

Who’s on your fantasy dinner party guest list?
You know the parlor game: if you could invite anyone, living or dead, who would have at your dinner table? 
As you go around the room and name your names, there are some predictable results. Jesus, Steve Jobs, Marilyn Monroe, and the Dalai Lama are classic choices; J.K. Rowling and Barack Obama are often mentioned as are Warren Buffet (who wouldn’t want some investment advice?), Gandhi (more meat for the rest of us), and Martin Luther King Jr. to say grace. So will someone’s sixth grade teacher and a great grandpa who died in a war. The rest of the table would probably be filled out with intellectuals and sex symbols, favorite writers, athletes, and Hollywood stars.

Online celebrity auction sites can fill the seats of your dream table.
Recent auction winners have supped with the likes of Gloria Steinem, Hugh Jackman, Snoop Dogg, the cast of The Big Bang Theory, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and primatologist Jane Goodall. The celebrities like to participate because the proceeds go to a charity of their choosing, while bidders relish the chance to hobnob with their heroes.

These are the kinds of opportunities that normally are relegated to the well-heeled and well-connected attending pricey galas, but online auctions make them available to anyone willing to pony up the right price. Some of the sites operate with a standard auction model with the spoils awarded to the highest bidder. Others are more raffle-like, collecting thousands of small donations and choosing the winner in a random drawing. The auctions donate from 80-100% of the proceeds to charitable organizations.

Current auctions are offering a salumi-filled cocktail hour with Mario Batali and a bike ride and ice cream date with Bono. For a lowball bid you can have lunch with Judge Judy, whose reserve price has yet to be met.

Check out Charity BuzzPrizeoHollywood Charity Auctionand Omaze where you’ll see ongoing auctions for all kinds of social engagements with sports figures, politicians, artists, rappers, rockers, technology wizards, business leaders, and plenty of Hollywood stars.

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A Most Perfect Recipe

 

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Posted in Entertainment, entertainment | 2 Comments

There are Good Luck and Bad Luck Foods. Start the New Year Off Right.

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What’s on your plate for the new year?
Many New Year’s revelers try to balance the bad juju on its way by starting out the year with a meal of lucky foods.
These are foods that symbolize health, long life, prosperity, fertility, love, and forward progress. Summon your own good luck for the coming year with some of the good luck foods from New Year’s traditions around the world.images-3

Beans, peas, and lentils
Legumes are symbolic of prosperity in many cultures because they’re thought to resemble coins when they’ve been cooked. They’re often paired with pork, which has its own lucky associations, so the combination makes for a most propitious meal. Italians eat sausages and green lentils just after midnight. Germans usually eat their New Year’s legumes in lentil or split pea soup with sausage. Hoppin’ John, a dish of black-eyed peas cooked with ham, is a tradition in the American south.

images-2Noodles
Cook your noodles carefully. Chinese traditions suggest that the longer the noodles, the longer the life. Uncut, unbroken noodles are eaten as a symbol of longevity at birthday and New Year celebrations. The Chinese new year doesn’t begin until February 19th, but some January 1 noodles can’t hurt.


tangold2016bootRound or ring-shaped foods

The shape represents a year coming full circle. Mexicans eat the ring-shaped rosca de reyes cake, the Dutch eat the donut-like ollie bollen, and in Greece, families bake a lucky coin into the round vassilopita cake.

images-2Pomegranates
Pomegranates are an especially auspicious symbol. Filled with hundreds of seeds with an almost lifelike ability to bleed, they symbolize life and abundance, and in a number of New Year traditions they’re smashed open at midnight. An Islamic legend says that each fruit contains one seed that has descended from paradise.

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Fish makes frequent appearances on New Year’s tables. There’s herring at midnight in Poland, boiled cod in Denmark, and the Germans not only feast on carp, they also put fish scales in their wallets for a successful new year. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and dried sardines for a good harvest. Chinese tradition dictates that a whole fish should be served with the head and tail intact to ensure a good year, from start to finish.images-6

Grapes
In Spain it’s traditional to eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each month of the coming year. Are this year’s grapes sweet or sour? The taste gives a clue to the character of each of the coming months. Spanish state television broadcasts the New Year’s chimes and nearly 4 million pounds of grapes (in little 12 grape packets) are sold in the last week of the year.


What Not to Eat:

  • Lobster
    Lobster is considered a poor choice for a new year’s meal because lobsters move backwards and could lead to setbacks, regrets, and dwelling on the past.
  • Chicken
    You don’t want your good luck to fly away.
  • White foods
    The Chinese avoid eggs, cheese, and tofu, because white is the color of death.

And never clean your plate. A little leftover food will usher in a year of plenty and guarantee a stocked pantry.

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Posted in diversions, holidays, New Years | 3 Comments

Who Still Buys Calendars? Oh, about 98% of us.

 

The physical calendar is still king.
We spend our days tethered to digital devices, but the ubiquity of low-tech timekeeping is remarkably untouched by the competition. 98% of homes and 100% of all businesses use at least one printed paper calendar, and day planner books have seen a resurgence as a must-have accessory for millennial women.

This year’s top-selling calendars are the typical mix of boy bands, small animals, inspirational sayings, and zombies.
But we did find a few food-themed calendars with way more personality. They’re quirky, creative, and anything but ordinary—just like the food-loving friends on your holiday list.

Poutine? Spam? They’re not our thing, but there’s one in every crowd.

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A few designers are bringing interactivity to calendars. A food photo with its accompanying recipe is printed on each of the pages of A Year of Tempting Plates. The pages are enhanced with augmented reality software; scan with your phone and each month’s recipe appears in a video cooking tutorial. A lower-tech rendition comes from a German tea maker that created a daily calendar using tea leaves that are pressed into 365 date-embossed, wafer thin, brewable shingles. Instead of a page-a-day, it’s a cup-a-day.

agfacalendar1  drinkable-tea-calendar-7

Carponizer

 

In the grand tradition of Hot Potatoes from the Bavarian Farmers Association, we have the Italian Erotic Carp calendar and the cheese pinup girls from the French Fromages de Terroirs Association.

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These page-a-day pet calendars promise nutritionally balanced, veterinarian-approved ‘tandem’ recipes that you and your pet will both enjoy.

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Proving that firefighters don’t have a monopoly on calendars, the Sexy Chef is back for a third year. Cheeky and cheesy rather than steamy, in past editions the shamelessly untoned chefs stripped down and oiled up to step into singlets as masked Mexican-style wrestlers and short-shorts for roller disco. The Wrecking Ball promo suggests there’s more of the same for 2016.

 

 

 

Posted in diversions, New Years | 2 Comments

Food Videos are the Reigning Thumb Stoppers of Facebook

image via ReelSEO

image via ReelSEO

 

Cooking videos have emerged as the killer content on Facebook’s recently added video feature.
They’ve proven capable of stopping thumbs—getting Facebook users to put on the brakes as they scroll through their newsfeeds—winning fans among users and more importantly among marketers and content creators. Month after month, food content has dominated the leaderboard rankings of Facebook’s video creators for as far back as these things have been measured.

Nothing stops thumbs quite like meatballs.
Leading the pack last month, a Buzzfeed clip for Mozzarella-Stuffed Slow Cooker Meatballs was viewed 82.9 million times. With the Crock-Pot people reporting annual sales of about 4.4 million units, there were more viewers of the recipe than there are slow cookers out there in which to make the meatballs.

The most successful videos grab attention quickly, like the all-time champion, a 15-second s’mores dip clip with more than 120 million views. They’re short- less than a minute in duration- and usually feature just the cook’s hands as they add, mix, and shape a series of ingredients. Most prep steps take place off camera, and the whole process is sped up with time-lapse editing. Instructions tend to be represented graphically, since Facebook videos go straight to autoplay without sound, and the visuals are designed to look best on small mobile devices, where most people view their newsfeeds.

Buzzfeed has cracked the code like no other.
Already known for its mastery of the internet’s tone and aesthetic, Buzzfeed has nailed the art of the viral Facebook video. Buzzfeed content generates 2 billion Facebook video views a month, well ahead of every other other creator. The big surprise is the way that food and cooking is single-handedly responsible for that success: 19 out of the 20 most-watched Buzzfeed videos uploaded to Facebook last month were food related.

Buzzfeed posts through its main Facebook channel, through Buzzfeed Food, and now through a new, dedicated channel called Tasty, with the taglines: Food that’ll make you close your eyes, lean back, and whisper “yessss.” Snack-sized videos and recipes you’ll want to try. Other food-oriented video creators have found similar success on Facebook. The Tastemade TV Network picked up nearly 5 million Facebook fans this year after garnering 80 million views for No-bake Strawberry Chocolate Tart, and has just launched the all-dessert Sweeten channel. Between Milk-and-Cookies Shot Glasses and Supersize Ice Cream Sandwich, the lifestyle site PopSugar attracted 40 million Facebook video views. And life-hacker site Tip Hero stormed into the rankings last month with Baked Apple Roses, a surprise megahit generating more than 220 million Facebook video views.

Facebook is giving YouTube a run for the money- except when it comes to actual money.
Unlike YouTube, Facebook isn’t paying video producers for content, and advertising is still in a testing phase. But Facebook offers unparalleled reach and social engagement, and it’s bringing in a new kind of audience that wasn’t explicitly seeking out video content. For now, Facebook’s video producers have to be satisfied with the occasional paid endorsement or product placement and the opportunity to build an online following.

 

Posted in cyberculture, diversions, recipes | Leave a comment

A Little Thanksgiving Humor (courtesy of Eater)

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The Thanksgiving issue of Gout Magazine via Eater.com

plus back issues, in case you missed them:

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Gout Magazine Winter2015

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Gout Magazine Summer 2015

 

Posted in diversions, funny, Thanksgiving | 1 Comment

Write an Essay and Win a Food Cart, a Restaurant, a Country Inn

Second prize is a set of steak knives (David Mamet-Glengarry Glen Ross)

Second prize is a set of steak knives (David Mamet-Glengarry Glen Ross)

 

Last year the owner of the historic Center Lovell Inn in Maine held an essay contest to find the next owner.
Each of more than 7,000 would-be innkeepers sent in a check for $125 and a personal response to the question ‘Why would I like to own and operate a country inn?’ It was a pinch-me-it’s-so-good opportunity for the contestants who were vying for an elegant, 200 year-old mansion with seven guest rooms, 10 staff members, and a bustling bistro doing 100 covers a night in the high season. It also netted the retiring owner—who had acquired the business 22 years earlier through a similar competition—more than $900,000 in entry fees, an amount roughly equal to the  property’s appraised value.

The win an inn story is now the stuff of legend.
A pittance and 200 words made a dream come true for a Brooklyn couple who were running a restaurant in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the feel-good story went on to make national headlines. Since then, dozens of copycat contests have popped up, giving essayists a crack at inns, restaurants, bars, bakeries, food trucks, and even one movie theater. Many of the property owners have sought out Bil Mosca, the former owner of the Center Lovell Inn who thought up the first iteration of the essay contest back in the 90’s and now makes a living as a contest consultant.

The transfer of the Center Lovell Inn was PR gold, but not everyone strikes it rich.
Some of the recent contests, lacking history and a compelling backstory, have found it difficult to reach the critical mass of entrants that’s necessary for the total of the nominal fees to rival a conventional sale. The Maine inn was awarded unencumbered, and the prize included $20,000 in first year operating costs for a smooth transition. In other contests where the entry fees fell short of the owners’ goals, the winners have found themselves responsible for transfer taxes, title fees, and outstanding debts and liens against the property.

Still, if you’ve ever fantasized about running a quaint bed and breakfast or a restaurant in a tropical paradise, the current crop of essay contests are a chance to make it a reality.

The Alsatian-born chef-owner of Der Essen Platz is retiring and his very popular and highly-rated (4.5 stars on Yelp; #1 in its Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri town on Tripadvisor) German-Continental restaurant is running an essay contest. Knowledge of schnitzel, klopses, sauerbrauten, and strudel are helpful, but if you need me to translate the restaurant’s name it’s probably not for you.

You can work the land on the 35 acre Rock Creek Farm in Virginia or make chèvre at the Humble Hearts Goat Farm and Creamery in Alabama. High Meadows Vineyard Inn in Virginia and the Deerfield Valley Inn in Vermont are looking for their new innkeepers in the bed and breakfast category that always seems to have properties up for grabs.

Tropical resort fantasies can be fulfilled by sending $175 and 300 captivating words to the owners of Outback Jack’s Beach Bar N Grillean open-air bar-restaurant in the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica. If you prefer your beaches cool and fog-shrouded, northern California’s Mendo Bistro has been a labor of love on Fort Bragg’s Main Street for nearly 20 years. The chef-owner is devoting more time to teaching culinary students at a local college; convince him of your suitability in an essay and he’ll hand over the keys to this popular and profitable establishment.

Win Your Dream Life is the mother of all essay contests.
At stake is the $10 million Inn at Villa Bianca, a fully operational Connecticut hotel, restaurant, events venue, and catering complex. The 14 room inn sits on nine manicured acres complete with a wedding chapel, banquet halls, three ballrooms, a stand-alone Italian restaurant, and a fleet of limousines. It’s a turn-key operation with a move-in ready owner’s residence and $100,000 in cash to keep things running smoothly.

 

It’s the opportunity that all of you creative writing majors have been waiting for.

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Trader Joe’s Claims There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Pumpkin

 

I beg to differ.

 

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Pumpkin Ice Cream…Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s (sandwich cookies)…Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter…Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels…Mini Pumpkin Tea Scones…Pumpkin Spice Coffee (pods)…Pumpkin Spice Coffee (ground)…Pumpkin Waffles (frozen)…Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps…Iced Pumpkin Scone Cookies…Pumpkin Pie (frozen)…Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend…

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…Pumpkin Pie (frozen)…Mini Pumpkin Pies (frozen)…Pumpkin Biscotti…Pumpkin Macarons (frozen)…Pumpkin Rolls With Pumpkin Spice Icing (in a tube, bake at home)…Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls (pumpkin ice cream ginger cookie sandwiches)…Pumpkin Seed Brittle…Pumpkin Body Butter…Pumpkin Tortilla Chips…Pumpkin Salsa…

via the Coupon Project

via the Coupon Project

Pumpkin Seed Pita Crisps…Greek Style Pumpkin Yogurt…Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce…Assorted Belgian Chocolate Pumpkins…Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Baking Mix  (also available gluten free)…Pumpkin Cornbread Mix…Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix (also available gluten free)….Pumpkin Panettone…Raw Pumpkin Seeds…Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats…

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via Serious Eats

…Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds…Organic Pumpkin Purée (canned)…Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli…Pumpkin Bagels…Pumpkin Butter…Pumpkin Spice Cake…Pumpkin-y Pumpkin Bites…Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins…Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream…Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latté Mix…Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea…Pumpkin Croissants (frozen)…

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…KBC Pumpkin Ale…Pumpkin Bread Pudding (frozen)…Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread…Pumpkin Cheesecake…Organic Pumpkin Toaster Pastries…Pecan Pumpkin Instant Oatmeal…Pumpkin Bar Baking Mix…Pumpkin Cranberry Scone Mix…Joe’s Pumpkin O’s (breakfast cereal)…Pumpkin Spice Granola…This Pumpkin Walks Into A Bar… (breakfast bars)…

At least there’s one issue we can all agree on: there’s too much pumpkin at Trader Joe’s!

 

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Trumpkin and more via John Kettman



 

 

 

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Pope Francis and Wine: His Cup Runneth Over

Pope Francis enjoys a taste during communion in St. Peter's Basilica via patheos.com

Pope Francis enjoys a taste during communion in St. Peter’s Basilica via patheos.com

 

Vatican City consumes more wine per capita than anywhere else in the world—and its number one citizen is no slouch.
The Pope’s paternal grandfather was a winemaker near Asti in Piedmont, Italy, and as a child he grew up drinking bottles shipped to Argentina from the family vineyard. As the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, he loves a good wine metaphor (he compares a heart that isn’t luminous to bad wine, while grandparents are likened to a fine vintage) and extolls its celebratory virtues (“Imagine drinking tea at the end of a celebration. No, it’s not good! There is no party without wine!”).

The meek may inherit the earth but Pope Francis preaches that “The finest of wines will come for every person who stakes everything on love.”
He’s not talking about altar wines used in the celebration of the Eucharist “There’s very little sacramental wine that’s good,” according to the Rev. E. Frank Henriques, an Episcopal priest who is the author of The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine, but there’s no reason it can’t be. Roman Catholic canon law governs the making of sacramental wine, and pretty much the only requirements are that it be unadulterated and naturally fermented from pure, fresh grapes. It can be red or white, dry or sweet, and even fortified. Basically any naturally produced wine fits the bill, but most churches rely on a handful of bulk winemakers who label their product for ceremonial use after its purity has been formally pronounced by a bishop of the vineyard’s diocese.

Châteauneuf-du-Pope 
Pope Francis is known to take pleasure in off-the-altar wines. Earlier this year a Vatican gathering of wine producers, oenologists, wine journalists, sommeliers, and representatives of Italy’s gourmet associations awarded him a diploma as an honorary sommelier, honoring his elevation of wine “not just in relation to its Christian symbolism but also to its hedonistic aspect.” And he so thoroughly enjoyed his namesake Cabernet FRANCis, a gift from Napa Valley’s Trinitas Cellars, that his cardinals had to relinquish their own gift bottles to beef up the Pope’s supply of the limited commemorative bottling.

Wines of the Papal visit
While in Washington, Pope Francis will be served a 1986 Harbor Mission Del Sol made from California Mission grapes that were originally planted in the Sierra foothills by Franciscan friars. America’s oldest (143 years) sacramental winery, upstate New York’s O-Neh-Da Vineyard, is supplying wines for the New York leg. So far there’s no word yet on vintages or varietals to be served when the Pope lands in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, but there will be no fewer than 10 specially brewed beer (some made with holy water) to greet the pontiff, Philly style.

 

image via Philadelphia Brewing Company

image via Philadelphia Brewing Company

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A Blessing and a Curse: The Supertaster Gene

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Extra tastebuds on your tongue? You could be a supertaster.

 

Most of us are born with around 10,000 taste buds on our tongues; many more and you’re a supertaster.

Supertasters perceive far more subtle and nuanced flavors than the rest of us. It’s a genetic trait, like being endowed with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision. It’s found in about 15% of the population, and the ranks include countless wine connoisseurs (wine writer Robert Parker famously insured his own supertasting taste buds for a million dollars) and a disproportionate number of chefs. But it’s a mixed blessing. Assertive flavors present more vividly— salt is saltier and sugar is sweeter. A bitter beer can be off-putting. Hot peppers can be punishing. Hardly a garden of gustatory delights

Supertasters tend to prefer orange juice to grapefruit, green beans to broccoli, spinach to kale. They have a penchant for creamy, fatty foods but as a group are thinner than the general population. Supertasting is found in more women than men, and more Asians and African-Americans than Caucasians. Supertasters are likely to be known as picky eaters as children, but many of them will grow up to be good cooks, mastering techniques that will mute unpalatable tastes.

It’s all in the tongue.
There are two genetically determined traits that distinguish supertasters’ tongues. One is the greater number of taste buds densely packed into each square inch of the tongue’s surface. This gives greater sensory capacity, leading to more precise sensing of flavors. The second trait is the perception of a particular chemical compound (6-n-propylthiouracil known as PROP). Vegetables like  brussels sprouts and kale are loaded with it, and most people get a slightly bitter taste from the dark greens. About a quarter of the population sense none of the bitterness, and supertasters are overwhelmed by it.

Does this sound like you? There are a few tests to determine if you possess either of the attributes of a supertaster.

Bland, vile, or somewhere in between? Test your sensitivity to the bitterness compound. The Supertaster Test Kit contains two sets of PROP-infused strips and a detailed test guide.

For an easy home test, swab a little food coloring on your tongue and check the number and concentration of taste buds.

Take this quick and easy quiz about food preferences to see if you could be a supertaster.

 

 

 

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Has the High Price of Eggs Got You Down? Rent a Chicken.

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Egg prices have more than doubled in most of the country and there are more increases to come.
An avian flu outbreak that struck farms in egg-producing mid-western states has led to the deaths of more than 48 million chickens causing wholesale prices to skyrocket—a record-breaking 85% jump in May alone. Because most of the affected birds were egg-laying or breeding chickens as opposed to those raised for meat, it’s wreaked havoc on chicken economics. For the first time ever, eggs are a more expensive form of protein than chicken breasts.

Measures for these desperate times.
The egg shortage forced the Whataburger chain to abbreviate its breakfast service, Rita’s franchises substituted eggless soft-serve for its signature frozen custard, and Chinese-American Panda Express tried putting the yellow in its fried rice with corn kernels. But for everyone with a backyard there’s another option: chicken rentals.

People lease cars because it’s less hassle and commitment than ownership; same with chickens.
There’s a slew of poultry leasers out there with regional and even national presence like Rent the Chicken, Rent-a-Chicken, The Easy Chicken, Urban Chicken Rentals, Coop and Caboodle, and Rent a Coop. They all follow pretty much the same formula: For around $150 a month, they deliver two or more hens that are of egg-laying age, a portable chicken coop, food, bedding, and supplies to last the rental period, and an instruction manual. The rental season usually runs from late spring to early fall, the prime laying season with long daylight hours and warmer temperatures when a chicken produces about an egg a day. At the end of the rental period, the leasing company comes to retrieve the whole setup,

Poultry leasers report that about half of their renters have grown so attached to the chickens that they opt to purchase them outright rather than return them for the winter. These are backyard farmers who got hooked on the fresh eggs, the feathered pet-like creatures, and some serious locavore bragging rights. Others are relieved to hand back filthy, shrieking fowl that barely edge out snakes in cuddliness, and are prone to ailments like poultry mites and pasty butt.

For those inclined toward the latter version of avian husbandry, you can always lease your own little piece of the farm while keeping your fingernails clean with Rent Mother Nature. There are no laying hens but you can lay claim to a beehive in the Catskills, an oyster bed on the Puget Sound, a lobster trap off the coast of Maine, or a pistachio tree in the Arizona desert, and for one season the harvest is yours. You can lease a dairy cow and the farmer will ship back wheels of cheese, the sap from your stand of sugar maples comes to you as syrup, and the wheat from your leased acre of farmland is milled into flour. Rent Mother Nature sends out periodic progress reports during the growing season, and many of the farmers welcome personal visits from lease-holders. There’s a minimum guaranteed bounty with a roll-over to the next season if it’s not met, and your larder will overflow if there’s a bumper crop.

 

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Your Social Media Profile Rendered in Ice Cream

Which Gelato Flavor are You? PSFK is a Cocoa Rambutan Tangelo
You’re Sweet and Cool and Kind of Nutty.
You’ve already been assessed by Myers Briggs, done your colors, read your horoscope, and found your spirit animal. Now you can fine tune your personality typing with your own custom-matched gelato flavor.
Talenti Gelato launched a campaign called Flavorize Me that purports to create a flavor profile based on your social media profile.
It looks at your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts and analyzes keywords within your profiles and posts to identify compatible tastes. Then it matches those tastes with corresponding ingredients to create a custom flavor.

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Flavorize Me creates a personalized ‘science-ing of your flavor,’ a mathematical breakdown and graphical representation of your results. Are you more sour than sweet? Maybe you’re molasses-sweetened with a balsamic vinegar glaze. Or you could be a well-balanced orange ricotta cinnamon toast. Or a spicy clove muffin peppercorn. Flavorize Me has a 25,000 keyword database and an algorithm that can create 50 million unique flavors.

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The campaign runs until August 2, and in September Talenti will announce which six personal flavors will be going into production, with free pints for the winners. Until then, you can peruse the unique creations shared on Twitter using the hashtag #flavorizeme.

 

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Food Emojis: Look What You Can Do With Them!

Smile, You're Speaking Emoji by Zohar

Smile, You’re Speaking Emoji by Zohar Lazar

 

Emoji is the fastest growing language the world has ever seen.
That’s right, language. It’s syntactic enough that the UK Guardian printed an emoji transcript of President Obama’s last State of the Union Address, and the Library of Congress recently catalogued its first emoji title, Emoji Dicka faithful translation of the Melville classic. Four in ten of us have sent messages entirely made up of emoji, and only 2 in 10 texters can finesse meaning and nuance well enough to completely go without.

Food emoji 101
Emoji is overseen by the same Unicode Consortium that creates worldwide standards for all of the computing industry’s encoding and representation of language. Since emoji originated in Japan, it makes sense that many are emblematic of that country’s culture. Nowhere is this more obvious than with food emojis where symbols include a bento box imgres-3, fish cake imgres, and rice ball imgres-2. New emoji characters are regularly added as part of wider updates to the Unicode Standard, and recent additions reflect the growing influence of American texters.  The last batch included the burrito imgres-4, cheese wedge imgres, hot dog imgres-1, popcorn images, and the taco images-1, which made the cut after Taco Bell advocated for its inclusion, collecting more than 25,000 signatures on a Change.org petition. Never satisfied, food-loving texters and bloggers are constantly sharing their wishlists for the next round of emoji introductions. First We Feast nominates the red Solo cup, the Chinese takeout container, and portraits of notable food celebrities; Thrillist wants to see a waffle, a pretzel, and a shot glass; and everyone’s wondering what, no bacon?
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Emojis are catalogued in the Emojipedia which currently lists 59 in the food and beverage category.
Here’s what you can do with them:

  • You can search the recipe archives of the New York Times by emoji,

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or cook with a Bon Appétit Magazine emoji recipe.

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  • Follow the emoji diet profiled in The Atlantic.

…This diet is essentially the opposite of Atkins. Of the 59 food emoji, eight incorporate rice, and 11 are desserts…

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  • Recreate your favorite food emojis as their real-world correlates,

 b96551f0-0b99-0133-5040-0ec273752cbdb4120aa0-0b99-0133-45a5-0a2ca390b447de5f16b0-0b99-0133-f4ad-0e18518aac2f37e5baf0-0b9c-0133-503f-0ec273752cbd6870e820-0b9d-0133-f4ad-0e18518aac2f37f02a60-0b9c-0133-45a4-0a2ca390b447

           or as Rice Krispie treats.

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  • Wear your favorites as a sweatshirt.

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The Unicode Consortium has named six new food emojis that are being considered by the Unicode Technical Committee for inclusion in the next update scheduled for mid-2016. They are croissant, avocado, cucumber, potato, carrot, and yes, finally, bacon.

 

 

Posted in cyberculture, diversions, food trends | 1 Comment

More Men Grocery Shop, Few Reports of Testicle Shrinkage

notepad from Guajolote Prints

notepad from Guajolote Prints

 

It’s big news to retailers: men are no longer the hapless dolts of the household.
They can finally be trusted to walk into a supermarket with a list and walk out with more than chips, bacon, and beer.

Just a few years ago stores were rolling out man aisles.
2011 was the year that men first surpassed women as the likely primary shopper of their household and retailers were scrambling for ways to broaden their man appeal. Studies were commissioned and theories were trotted out, and they latched onto the old chestnut of men as hunters and women as gatherers. Shopping was seen as a modern adaptation of our species’ ancestral skills and the theory goes that man has no interest in strolling the aisles. He’s programmed to treat the supermarket like a prehistoric hunter; he should get in and out quickly and stay in safe territory. These days instead of a gazelle one in ten men is on the hunt for a good under-eye cream to reduce puffiness, but the male ego still needs reassurance that they’re not performing ‘women’s work.’ Stores like Target, CVS, and Wal-Mart established their man aisles as safe havens within their stores where men wouldn’t have to encounter troubling lady things like Tampax and mustache bleach, or be led astray by probiotic yogurt and frilly tarragon leaves.

Gone are the days of dopey dads and ‘honey-do’ lists.
Grocery shopping is now evenly shared in most households, and among millennials it’s predominantly a male domain. And except for their resistance to coupons (most men say it makes them feel like a cheapskate), their shopping habits and patterns are nearly indistinguishable from women’s. Men and women grocery shop with the same frequency and spending differences are narrowing. They’re in a virtual lockstep when it comes to engagement and concerns for the role food plays in the household’s well-being. They choose fresh ingredients over processed the same rate, and assign similar values to local foods, nutrition quality, and branded goods.

As the stereotypes fall, so go the man aisles.
When we shop for food for ourselves and our families, we’re driven by needs that transcend gender. It’s nice to see the supermarkets finally got the memo.

 

 

 

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