A Most Perfect Recipe





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Give Just 18 Minutes to Our Most Critical Food Issues



It’s nearly Thanksgiving; the whole country already has food on the brain.
Why not take 18 minutes out of the long holiday weekend and watch a food-focussed TED Talk?

For the uninitiated, TED Talks fall under the heading of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’
That’s the slogan of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conferences that spawned the speaker series. Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and U2’s Bono were among the earliest presenters, and as the talks spread into topics of food policy, food politics, hunger, and nutrition, food-minded individuals like scientists, policymakers, chefs, and activists joined the list.

TED Talks are required to clock in at under 18 minutes.
These are big thinkers presenting big and often complex ideas. The time constraint challenges them to consider form and format, resulting in narrative arcs that engage and enlighten while remaining concise. TED Talks are often snappy, savvy, and powerful, and presenters often point to theirs as the best speech of a lifetime. 
Many are so compelling that even in a post-turkey tryptophan-induced stupor you should make it to the end.

A cheat sheet to some of the best of the food-focussed TED Talks:

Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell follows the food industry’s pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce to make a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.

See why 11-year old Birke Beahr says, ‘Now a while back, I wanted to be an NFL football player. I decided that I’d rather be an organic farmer instead.’

New Urbanist/Architect Carolyn Steel looks at the ways in which food has historically shaped our cities, and why our current relationship with food is severing that connection.

Chef Dan Barber begins by fretting about the fish choices on his menu and ends falling in love with a fish.

Michael Pollan speaks from the plant perspective in a TED Talk that leaves us questioning Darwinism and human consciousness.


TED Talks are always free and can be accessed through a multitude of apps and media outlets including YouTube, iTunes, Netflix, and the TED website.
Visit TED for links to all the different ways you can watch.


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Are You a Music-Nerd-Slash-Foodie?



If you’re a music-nerd/foodie, it’s your golden age.
Restaurants are adding music directors who create musical pairings for the night’s list of menu specials, and British Airways now partners inflight meals with its Sound Bites music matching menu. There are pop ups like Covers, a kind of tribute band for the restaurant world, serving the signature dishes of well-known chefs, each paired with a cover version of a well known song. The bands and food booths are both headliners at festivals like San Francisco’s Outside Lands, Charleston’s Southern Ground, South Africa’s Delicious, and Maryland’s Sweet Life.

Sonic seasoning
We all know that a good meal is about more than just the plate of food in front of you. It’s also about the pleasure you take in the people you’re with, the buzz in the room, the atmosphere, and the ambiance. Music adds another sensory component, and the right music will complement the meal and elevate the whole dining experience.

Create your own soundtracks with these resources:

Supper is like a cookbook with mood music.
It’s a website and a Spotify app that combines recipes with enough harmonious tracks to carry you from cooking through dining. Well-known chefs, restaurateurs, and musicians collaborate on the selections like shrimp with tomato fricasee paired with Massive Attack and John Coltrane, and black rice-stuffed baby squash accompanied by Solange, Leonard Cohen, and Scissor Sisters. Are playlists becoming the new wine list?

The Recipe Project sings for its supper. 
It’s a book, a CD, an app, and a video, with contributions from top chefs, food writers, and musicians. It’s smart, with interviews and essays exploring the relationship between food and music. And it’s silly, with sing-along recipes set word-for-word to music. There’s a heavy metal octopus salad with black-eyed peas from Michael Symon, Chris Cosentino’s Beastie Boys-esque offal and eggs, and the classic rock of Tom Colicchio’s creamless creamed corn. Bonus tracks: David Chang shares a playlist he calls ‘Songs to Lose Customers by’.

Turntable Kitchen calls their service ‘a curated food and music discovery experience.’
A subscription to their Pairings Boxes brings monthly shipments, each with recipes, spices and other ingredients used in the recipes, a digital mixtape of new music, and a limited-edition vinyl album pressed by their own record label.

Mood magazine is a food and music quarterly organized around the notion that ‘not many things can beat a good record and a delicious meal.’
A recent relocation from Brussels to New York has served to beef up the US-focussed content, while still gathering stories from around the globe. The latest issue looks at Brooklyn’s fried chicken scene, visits a South African café owned by a local indie rock star, and travels to food and music festivals in Norway and Illinois.

The creator behind Musical Pairing has devised a mathematical system that’s supposed to identify the perfect song for every dish.
The system assigns a numerical value to a meal based on ingredients, flavor profile, and cooking method. It also looks at music, assigning a value based on instrumentation, tempo, beat, and genre. The supposition is that when the Food Pairing Number (FPN) is equal to the Musical Pairing Number (MPN), you’ve got your match.


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Place Your Bets: It’s Bracket Time


Bracketology Cake via Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen NCAA Basketball Tournament Recipe Booklet

Bracketology Cake via Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen NCAA Recipe Booklet


Why should basketball fans have all the fun?

Every year around this time food lovers and sports lovers are both overcome with the same impulse. I’m talking about their shared compulsion to turn everything into a tournament bracket. It’s blueberry vs. corn in March Muffin Madness and parm vs. wings in the Final Four of Chicken. There’s a beer bracket and a booze bracket, Munch Madness and Starch Madness, and a bracket ranking of the campus food for each of the NCAA tournament teams.

Some say the madness is out of control.
We have breakfast joints vying for Morning Meal Madness in San Antonio and Oklahomans choosing the top state fair food-on-a-stick for Food Fair MadnessAnd we hardly need a bracket to tell us that Thin Mints are the top dog of Girl Scout Cookies.

There are also some rather specious competitions out there.
There’s something fishy about the Southern Food Bracket over at Garden & Gun Magazine where Duke’s Mayonnaise bested Tabasco, and Moon Pies never made it out of the first round of southern brands. Then there’s the Bar Food Bracket: should Zagat voters really have the final word on fried pickles and jalapeño poppers? And who made the brackets in the Fruits and Vegetables Tournament? The banana pepper is a number one seed? Really?

Nothing ignites passions and stirs debate like the annual condiments tournament, this year’s courtesy of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Past condiment contests have brought legendary matchups like ketchup vs. dijon mustard, and surprises like satay sauce’s unexpected run to the Elite Eight. We’ve been introduced to regional long-shots like chow chow and Pickapeppa, and they’re still debating Nutella’s 2011 disqualification for being an edible candy.

You can find more alternative brackets at Sports Grid’s meta Bracket of Brackets: In Which We Bracket All The Best Non-Basketball Brackets So Far, or create your own at The Bracketizer.


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Chef: A Food Film With Credibility

Chef had its premiere at the SXSW festival, and early word is that it gets it right.
The film, about a chef who resets his career by opening a food truck, comes with foodie bonafides. Jon Favreau, who portrays the eponymous chef, learned his kitchen chops from L.A. chef Roy Choi, the Los Angeles restaurateur who is credited with reinventing street food. Choi’s resumé includes leaving behind his own fine dining kitchen to pioneer the current food truck craze.

Chefs are rarely satisfied with movies about chefs.
They complain that there’s too much cinematic eye candy, the details are bogus, and there’s never enough of the unique culture of the professional kitchen with its comradery and competition, ego and submission, artistry and forearm burns. Chef’s often cite Disney’s Ratatouille as the movie that comes the closest to capturing the industry’s sacrifice, striving, and ethos—and it’s an animated rat in the kitchen!

Filmmakers will never stop trying.
Among the vicarious pleasures that sell movie tickets, food is up there at the top of the list along with sex and violence. All three are fetishized, idealized, larger-than-life screen themes, but food is the one that we can most closely approximate in our real lives. Favreau, who also directed Chef, has even said ‘I shoot food the way Michael Bay shoots women in bikinis.’

Food can also cut right to the heart of a character.
We see the commitment and sacrifice when we watch Rocky Balboa gulp down raw eggs, and we immediately understand that ice water flows through the characters’ veins in Goodfella’s when they horrifically brutalize Billy Batts and then swing by Mama’s house for a late night supper. Could anything take the place of the exposition provided by the bag lunches of the Breakfast Club? The privileged girl’s bento box, the soup thermos and crustless sandwich of the nerd, the Pixy Stix and Cap’n Crunch sandwich of the oddball—it’s like cinematic shorthand. A quick peek tells us everything we need to know.

Plotlines and characters are forgotten while food scenes linger in the imagination.
They captivate, seduce, and make us drool. Think of the iconic scene in Big Night: the two chef-brothers, desperate to save their struggling restaurant, are banking everything on the success of one special meal. They’ve cooked their hearts out creating an elaborate layered pasta dish baked inside a domed pastry crust. You’re holding your breath as the siblings carefully lift the dish to reveal the timpano, and at that moment there’s an audible exhale from the audience; a sigh of relief, a moan of pleasure.
If we’re lucky, Chef will give us one of those moments.


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Dinner Party Wars

image via MissOmniMedia

image via MissOmniMedia


There’s a show on the Food Network in Canada called Dinner Party Wars:

Dinner Party Wars invites you to enjoy a deliciously hilarious hour of wining, dining and undermining as three couples go head to head in a ruthless, no-holds-barred dinner party competition. Hidden cameras capture every detail as testy guests come to blows and taste buds are either tickled or tortured.

A Canadian chef and a British etiquette expert serve as arbiters of taste and style by mocking, critiquing, and choosing an eventual winner from competitions like Gnocchi Knockdown and Chicken Bingo.

This is home entertaining as a full contact sport.
It’s soulless competition, a manifestation of our over-heated foodie-ism that has turned dining into an emblem of status and lifestyle. And it’s a far cry from the simple pleasures of sharing a hand-crafted meal with friends.

It’s easy to see where we lost our way. 
It started with Martha—the one we love to hate and hate to love. Martha Stewart taught us to sweat the details with her asparagus bundles braided with strands of chive. She instilled in us her mania for perfection and armed us with stencils, X-acto knives, and a carpenter’s level to decorate cookies.

Then the foodies took over. We learned to critique every morsel, abandoning genuine gustatory pleasures as we vet the preparation and provenance of each locally-grown, artisan-crafted, bee-friendly bite. Entertaining is fraught with political correctness and one-upmanship knowing that you’ll be drummed out of polite society if you serve the wrong coffee.

Dinner party perfection should be at most aspirational. We shouldn’t expect to reproduce the slick pages of Bon Appetit or Martha Stewart Living any more than a reader of Playboy expects to date a Playmate. 
And in any case there’s always a lot of air-brushing going on.

Our current favorite antidote to dinner host anxiety is Kinfolk. 
It’s a magazine, dinner and workshop series, online journal, and film series that celebrate the soul of the dinner party. It’s about artistry, but it’s scaled back to a simple elegance. You’ll find recipes, table settings, and shopping resources, but it’s more inspirational than instructional. There’s nothing super-human about any of it. Feet on the ground, sleeves rolled up, and you’ll get there by dinner time.


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As Seen On TV: Gifts that make a lump of coal look good

Remember when fruitcake used to be the worst food gift for holiday giving?

hamdogger rollnpour eggstractor

Now we have the HamDogger, and the Roll ‘n Pour, and the Eggstractor.

Holiday time ’tis the season for kitchen gadget infomercials.
The airwaves fill with long-winded, fast-talking pitchmen hawking the latest gizmo that no home should be without. They come on late at night when your guard is down and the logic of a push-button butter dispenser seems less dubious than it would at 3pm.

Resist the urge!
Especially when they tempt you with a two-fer offer. Your holiday shopping may be too long, and when you shop on TV that second one can be had for nothing more than the cost of shipping and handling, but deep down you know that a matched set of Rotato Express electric peelers is not the answer. It only doubles the chances of things ending badly on Christmas Day.



According to the ad for the amazing new Pancake Puff™ Pan, simply use your favorite pancake batter, pour and flip.’ Amazing.




Better Bagger? Actually, I’ve always considered my hands to be pretty good baggers. 



I’m holding out for the Fat Repellant.






Robostir promises to be ‘like a third hand in the kitchen.’ No mention of the contraption’s plastic feet that fall off in the pot.





Eggs are like the Law and Order franchise of the infomercial world with their own programming block. There are the tubular creations of the Rollie Eggmaster; the Egg Genie that magically combines water and eggs to create boiled eggs (in just minutes!); and the Clever Cracker and Clever Scrambler, two separate devices that are available in a combo pack. Who knew so many cooks are stumped by eggs?




If a little cake is a cupcake, wouldn’t that make this… cake?






Tough call: cake pop baker or pie pop maker?



Let’s let the fortune cookie maker decide.  fortunecookie





Posted in Christmas, Entertainment, gadgets | 1 Comment

The Food Network is History, Tastemade is the Future



Matlock. Murder She Wrote. The Food Network.
The Food Network has gotten old. The shows are stale, the hosts have overstayed their welcome, and the audience is sliding into middle age.
Along comes Tastemade.
It’s a multi-channel network on YouTube that’s not just aiming to host the next generation of food shows. Tastemade wants to be the future of programming for the modern media age. It’s instantly global, social, and available anytime, anywhere. See the difference?

One year-old Tastemade is not just any old startup but is already a force to be reckoned with.
Tastemade creates original programming but the bulk of its content comes from networked partner channels. It has assembled a network of more than 100 food channels seen in over 200 countries and across multiple networks and devices. It’s got serious money behind it as well as the backing of serious players from technology and media, including early investors in TiVo and Netflix. There’s also a wildly popular app that storyboards users through the making and uploading of their own one-minute mini food shows. It takes just a few minutes and nothing more than an iPhone or iPod to create a restaurant review or cooking demo that’s shared with a global audience.

If you’re much older than a millennial you might not get it.
It sounds like a lot of unpolished content to slog through when you could just tune into a little Rachael Ray or Chopped on TV, but Tastemade speaks to an overall shift in viewing patterns. YouTube is the dominant go-to website for a generation raised on visual computing, even routinely used for content searches in the same way that older audiences rely on Google. But younger generations are still hooked on the traditional format of episodic television entertainment, and they look for more than the random aggregation of the YouTube universe. Tastemade finds the viewing sweet spot with a combination of TV-length, serialized shows plus digital media creation and discovery.

The Food Network was launched twenty years ago and it immediately won us over with a roster of talented chefs and cooks who entertained us by sharing their knowledge and passion for food. In recent seasons the real cooking has taken a backseat to inane competitions, product placements, dumbed-down instruction, and loutish celebrity hosts. 
Tastemade’s multi-channel platform is squarely aimed at a new, global generation of food lovers, but the fresh, truly food-centric content belongs in everyone’s future.

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Cook Your Cupboard Wants to Know: What’s Languishing in Your Pantry?


Campbell's Limited Edition soups

Campbell’s Limited Edition soups


Cook Your Cupboard wants to know what’s in your pantry.
NPR has launched a food project inspired by a dilemma that every one of us has faced: What do I do with                   ?
Go ahead and fill in the blank with three of the odd, the random, and the esoteric items that lurk, semi-forgotten in the back of your cupboards.

We all have them. 
They might be edible mementoes from a long-ago road trip or bizarre condiments chosen on impulse. There’s the still-full bottle of rose water that was purchased for a specific recipe, the rice cakes from the diet you never started, the raspberry chipotle mustard you were gifted with last Christmas, and the Arborio rice and saffron bought for a dinner party you never gave.

Cook Your Cupboard is never stumped.
Poke around on high shelves and low ones, in the back of your cupboards, and the darkest reaches of your freezer. The Cook Your Cupboard blog invites you to submit three items that you’d like to salvage before they reach their expiration dates. The radio show listeners and blog readers offer suggestions, advice, and recipes, and a few lucky submissions are handled on-air by the week’s guest chef—past participants include big names like Jacques Pepin, Nigella Lawson, and Mollie Katzen.

We learn that canned vegetarian haggis is best left in the desert for coyotes, and powdered lemonade mix should only be used  to clean the insides of a dishwasher, but most pantry hodgepodge trios are put to legitimately appetizing use. Apple cider vinegar, almond milk, and dried red beans become vegetarian chili and cornbread; chick pea flour, chia seeds, and harissa are turned into Indian-inspired fritters. They’ve tackled fenugreek, bonita flakes, Georgian Tlekmani sauce, Moroccan fish balls, and canned custard. And anchovies. For some reason no one seems to know what to do with anchovies.

Submit a photo of your most regrettable purchases and let the culinary brain trust at NPR work some magic. Currently they’re looking for three items hidden in the forgotten corners of your freezer.

The pantry contents of celebrities, the secret language of grocery purchases, and more are revealed in Gigabiting’s Snooping in Other People’s Pantries.

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Online Auctions Make Fantasy Dinner Parties a Reality


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?

We’ve all played 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, the President, Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Einstein, or the Dalai Lama will make someone’s list. Maybe Warren Buffet would show up (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 pretty much fill your dream table, and the proceeds generally go to charity.
Currently you can arrange to have lunch with Gloria Steinem, cast members of the Big Bang Theory or The Simpsons, or with Francis Ford Coppola at the winery he owns in Napa Valley. You can dine with the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, have cocktails with Quincy Jones, or go to tea with primatologist Jane Goodall

Most of the sites operate with a standard auction model with the spoils awarded to the highest bidder. Omaze has a more raffle-like, and more democratic, process collecting thousands of small donations, usually under $10, and choosing the winner in a random lottery. The auctions donate from 80-100% of the proceeds to charitable organizations, usually chosen by the celebrities.

The hottest date right now—and it’s not even dinner but just for coffee—is with Apple’s CEO Tim Cook. The auction was first posted in April offering a cup of Joe and an hour of Mr. Cook’s time with an estimated value of $50,000. It reached $190,000 in the first day, and has since skyrocketed to $605,000 (placed by an anonymous bidder known only as J********n) with four days to go.

Check out Charity Buzz, EBay Celebrity, Hollywood Charity AuctionCharity Folks, and Omaze where you’ll see ongoing auctions for all kinds of social engagements with sports figures, politicians, artists, rappers, technology wizards, business leaders, and plenty of Hollywood stars. For the right price, or sometimes just a little luck, you can fill the dinner table of your dreams.






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Dear Gwyneth.


Dear Gwyneth,  
Can I have a word with you, friend to friend?

Please stop writing cookbooks.
I’m sorry, but it had to be said.
And be grateful that it’s coming from me, because there are plenty of harsher critics out there.

The Atlantic Wire dubbed your new one (It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great) ‘the Bible of laughable Hollywood neuroticism,‘ and the New York Post likened it to a ‘manifesto to some sort of creepy healthy-girl sorority’ under the headline A Recipe for Ridicule. According to Eater, it’s full of a chatty faux-populism that could only come from a rich person fearlessly boasting about her life of privilege,’ and the U.K. Guardian calls it completely crackpot served up with a hefty side of overprivilege.

Yes, Gwyneth, it’s happening again.
Two years ago your first cookbook inspired snarky critics to hunt down its most unintentionally funny line (sample contender: “I first had a version of this at a Japanese monastery during a silent retreat…”). Maybe it was the way you instructed us to “nourish the inner aspect,” or maybe it was that book’s rundown of kitchen ‘essentials’ that had us scouring specialty stores and digging deep into our wallets, and then wondering what the hell to do with an opened bottle of $40 ginger liqueur, although you did allow that in a pinch we could substitute bacon for duck prosciutto.

I gotta tell you, Gwyneth, sometimes you come off like a modern-day Marie Antoinette.
I suppose I could cut you some slack. You had a posh and fabulous early Hollywood life (is Steven Spielberg really your godfather?), a charmed career (an Academy award in your 20′s!), and some not-too-shabby romances (Ben Affleck and Brad Pitt before the rock star husband). The willowy blond thing doesn’t hurt either. Of course we can’t relate. But the real problem is that you seem incapable of relating to us.

The fact is that really very few of us keep duck eggs in our refrigerators to whip up your omelette recipe, and I for one don’t aspire to a diet based in ‘psychospiritual nutrition’ that leaves you with something you scarily describe as “that specific hunger that comes with avoiding carbs.” And do you know how out of touch you sound when you say things like: “I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup‑a-Soup”?  But when it comes to statements made out of a blinkered sense of entitlement, there is none more clueless than your USA Today interview:  “One of my most negative qualities is this perfectionism that I have, and I think that I unconsciously project that because it comes from self-doubt and insecurity, and that’s the ironic part. I’m so deeply flawed. I’m just a normal mother with the same struggles as any other mother who’s trying to do everything at once and trying to be a wife and maintain a relationship.”

Oh, Gwyneth!


image via SFGate

image via SFGate




Posted in diversions, Entertainment, funny | 1 Comment

Oh Cap’n! My Cap’n!



Does Cap’n Crunch have more lives than Tony the Tiger?

Back in 2011, the rumor mill started grinding with an article in AOL’s Daily Finance. A reporter noted that Cap’n Crunch cereal was nowhere to be found on the Quaker website. The article’s speculative title asked the question Is Cap’n Crunch Easing Quietly Into Retirement?
The piece was a rumination on the challenges facing the brand: its shrinking market share, public criticism of food companies that market to children, and White House pressure to make healthier products. It concluded that this is a pretty good time for the Cap’n to maintain a low profile.

The blogosphere then took that thread of speculation and ran with it:
Cap’n Crunch Retires (Seattle Post-Intelligencer); Cap’n Crunch sails into obscurity (Today on MSNBC); Cap’n Crunch Retirement (Yahoo! Buzz).
Fox News, as is its wont, took it a step further, fabricating a political angle: Food Police Kill Cap’n Crunch (Fox Nation)inspiring headlines in conservative blogs like Obama’s Soggies Force Cap’n Crunch Into Early Retirement (AsianConservatives.com), and Cap n’ Crunch: Michelle Obama Forces Captain Crunch’s Retirement?(Conservative BlogsCentral).

This spring Cap’n Crunch is sailing back from the brand equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.
Beginning May 7th he’ll be hosting his very own YouTube talk show set in a giant cereal bowl aboard his old ship, the S.S. Guppy. In the language of the Pepsico press release, the show’s content is described as a mix of ‘interesting guests, topical banter, and comedy sketches.’ The Cap’n’s faithful companion Sea Dog will serve as his on-set sidekick. The show’s official teaser can be viewed here. New videos will be added to the YouTube channel every other Tuesday through spring and summer.

Count Chocula could not be reached for comment.


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The Grand Tradition of Meat Art

That’s right, meat art.
Meat art is art that uses meat as the medium and art that uses meat as the model. Artists have always found inspiration in meat, and now a new generation of artists is exploring and reinvigorating the meat art genre through a wide range of visual art, art experiences, and performances.

5th Egyptian Dynasty (around 2,400 bcd) deceased with food offerings

5th Egyptian Dynasty (around 2,400 BC) deceased with food offerings 

2010 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress, 2010

Long before Lady Gaga put on a meat dress for the MTV Video Music Awards, the Ancient Egyptians included fanciful meat drawings in their offerings to the gods, and the Greeks and Romans paved their rooms with meat-focused mosaics. But meat’s real heyday was the still life painting of the 16th and 17th centuries when elaborate tableaux of banquet-ready roasts and hanging carcasses of sinewy slaughtered animals were depicted with realism and meticulous detail.

Rembrandt, The Slaughtered Ox, 1655

Rembrandt, The Slaughtered Ox, 1655

Pieter Aertsen, The Butcher Stall, 1551

Pieter Aertsen, The Butcher Stall, 1551

Why meat?
The early still life painters loaded their canvases with religious symbolism and meat was a handy visual metaphor. A leg of lamb could be a stand-in for gluttony or decay; a slaughtered animal could symbolize spiritual death or represent the body of Jesus. Contemporary artists still use meat to explore themes of morality and mortality, but they’re also making statements about violence, technology, sex, and gender politics.

Modern landmarks in meat art history:

Paul Thek, Untitled (Four Tube Meat Piece), 1964

Paul Thek, Untitled (Four Tube Meat Piece), 1964

Damien Hirst, The Prodigal Son, 1994

Damien Hirst, The Prodigal Son, 1994

Thirty years before Damien Hirst began pickling calves and sharks in formaldehyde there was Paul Thek. For his 1960’s Technological Reliquaries series Thek sculpted replications of raw meat and encased them in glass and plexiglass vitrines, wire cages, and an Andy Warhol Brillo box. Thek’s meat sculptures question our capacity to live compassionately even as science and technology encroach on our humanity. The questions are provocative and the imagery is still potent three decades later when Hirst covers the same ground .

Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy, 1964

Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy, 1964

Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy debuted at the First Festival of Free Expression in Paris in 1964, and the film version has been exhibited worldwide at museums like the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and the Louvre. It’s considered to be a groundbreaking achievement featuring partially nude dancers performing a kind of sloppy erotic rite with raw fish, chickens, and sausages.

Jana Sterbak, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, 1987

Jana Sterbak, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, 1987

50 or so pounds of raw flank steak is stitched together and hung on a hanger in Jana Sterbak’s 1987 Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, the precurser to Lady Gaga’s fashion statementSalted and unrefrigerated, the piece cures with age as it steadily decomposes, asking the viewer to consider personal vanity while confronting the fleeting nature of beauty. The dress hangs in the permanent collection of  the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis where, to be properly displayed, a fresh dress has to be sewn every 6 weeks.


More recently, the meat artists have lightened up their metaphors. Today’s self-consciously carnivorous diner embraces the every-day grotesqueries of whole animal butchery and nose-to-tail cooking. They’re less inclined to recoil from stagings of flesh as art and more willing to celebrate the tactile and visual beauty of meat. Meat artists have responded with a more playful approach to their work.

The 2008 group exhibition Meat After Meat Joy obviously referenced Carole Schneeman’s seminal performance when it brought together a roster of best-in-class contemporary artists who use meat in their work. The show included Betty Hirst’s American flag rendered in meat and lard, Zhang Huan’s pumped-up superhero meat suit, and Adam Brandejs flesh shoe. The art was politically provocative while keeping the revulsion at bay.

Betty Hirst, American Flag, 2008

Betty Hirst, American Flag, 2008

Zhang Huan, Meat Suit, 2002

Zhang Huan, Meat Suit, 2002

Adam Brandejs

Adam Brandejs, Animatronic Flesh Shoe, 2004








Jennifer Rubell, Creation, 2009

Jennifer Rubell, Creation, 2009

2009’s Creation was a meat art ‘happening’ that spoke directly to our over-heated food culture of  pickling classes and restaurant pop-ups. Staged at the opening of the Performa Biennial, a vast, performance art invitational, the centerpiece, inspired by the biblical tale of Adam and Eve, was a literal ton of ribs in a single, massive pile. The meat was lubricated by streams of honey that poured from vats suspended from the ceiling. The interactive work demanded that its 500 participants dine sans napkins.

You can see the future of meat art where the current crop of creators gathers online at the Meat Artists blog and gallery.

Silly you, thinking that meat is just for cooking and eating.

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Fruitarians: Can Man Live on Fruit Alone?

[Ashton Kutcher via Meme Generator]

[Ashton Kutcher via Meme Generator]

Steve Jobs was unquestionably the world’s most prominent fruitarian.
He followed an all-fruit diet for much of his life, even naming his company for the time he spent at a commune-like apple farm.
For Ashton Kutcher, who’s portraying the late Apple CEO in this spring’s jOBS bio pic, that meant adopting Steve Jobs’s fruitarian diet for one month. It was part of his Method acting preparation to get inside the mind of the man he’s portraying.
All that fruit landed Kutcher in the hospital with gastric distress and abnormal pancreatic functions, opening up the debate about the healthfulness of the diet regimen.

Fruitarianism is an extreme form of veganism.
While all vegans follow a diet without animal products, fruitarians also pass on vegetables and grains. Some fruitarians will indulge in nuts and seeds, and some use a botanical definition of fruit to include beans, peas, and legumes, but it is primarily, if not exclusively, a fruit-based diet.

This calls for a big, all-caps WHY??
Fruitarians are motivated by same ethical/environmental/health/aesthetic set of factors as other vegetarians and vegans, plus a big one that’s all their own. Many tout it as the original diet of mankind in the form of Adam and Eve, and therefore the purest and most natural. They cite Genesis 1:29:
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Too much of a good thing.
Most health and nutrition experts are highly critical of fruitarianism—as they are of any diet that excludes major food groups. Fruits are packed with certain vitamins and antioxidants, but they’re almost entirely carbohydrates. An all-fruit diet can overwhelm the body with sugars while it’s deficient in essential nutrients like protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and a laundry list of vitamins and minerals. Try it for more than a few weeks and you’re probably looking at aches, fatigue, and a susceptibility to infections and viruses. Stick with the diet long enough and it can lead to compromised organ functions, metabolic imbalances, anemia, and weakened bones and teeth—all symptoms of malnutrition and starvation.

It’s not a diet for the sociable.
Invitations to dinner become a thing of the past. Fruitarians are no fun to cook for. Dinner parties and barbecues are out of the question, and most restaurants are certain disaster. It’s also kills the sex drive, but fruitarians tend to be too busy to notice— they need to devote many hours of the day grazing on many pounds of fruit to take in enough calories.

In small doses
An all-fruit diet can have a healing, cleansing effect. It is de-toxifying, and practitioners speak of a pleasant mental and physical lightness. It can also be effective for weight loss. If someone is in good health and feels spiritually drawn to the fruitarian diet, a short stretch of a few weeks can be a positive experience.

Registration is now open for this summer’s Woodstock Fruit Festival, an annual, week-long fruitarian extravaganza. The festival’s press release extends an open invitation to Ashton Kutcher.



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Home Soda Maker Goes After the Big Boys


You drink too much soda.
Last year Americans consumed 50 billion liters of soda. That comes to 216 liters for every man, woman, and child. Not you? Well, someone is drinking all that soda.

This is not like pineapples from Hawaii or lobsters from Maine—it’s water and flavoring and some CO2 for carbonation—the stuff could come from anywhere. And sparkling water? We haul San Pellegrino from Italy like it’s Prosciutto di Parma. Oceans of corn syrup; mountains of glass, metal, and plastic waste; money; fossil fuels; canned and bottled soda is wrong on so many levels.

Who wouldn’t want to cut the waste? That’s why home soda makers are so appealing. And that’s why the giant soft drink manufacturers just might be looking over their shoulders.

One home soda maker, SodaStream, is itching for a showdown.
It was supposed to happen during the Super Bowl. SodaStream had saved up its pennies and purchased one of those big-money ad slots during the game. They prepared an ad touting their reusable bottles that showed rival Coke and Pepsi trucks racing to make a delivery. As the delivery men push their carts loaded with soda bottles toward the supermarket’s entrance, the bottles spontaneously explode into a sticky mess. It cuts to a home SodaStream user while a voice over intones ‘With SodaStream, we could have saved 500 million bottles on game day alone.’

We had the duration of the Pepsi-sponsored halftime to ponder this one.
The ad wasn’t aired. CBS, which owns the broadcast rights to this year’s Super Bowl, rejected the spot. Too ‘controversial’ for the network, it crossed a line that apparently wasn’t approached by the soft core content of the Mercedes-Benz wet t-shirt car wash or the explicit GoDaddy make out session.

You can see the banned commercial and its milder replacement at Fast Company’s Co.Create blog.


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The Super Bowl of Snacking


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—these are the football-related activities that it would take to burn the calories.



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 ride a bicycle from the New Orleans airport to the Super Dome and back.




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.



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.

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 in this year’s championship. Figure on 10 minutes of climbing stadium stairs to burn a quarter cup of guacamole.



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… it’s no wonder that 6 percent of Americans will call in sick for work on Monday morning.

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TV Dinners: TV Show Cookbooks


Where would Andy and Opie be without Aunt Bee’s pies? Or the Brady Bunch without Alice’s pork chops and apple sauce? Jerry Seinfeld could build an entire episode around a babka, Tony Soprano happily traded his gun for a fork when Carmela whipped up her baked ziti, and Betty Draper’s kitchen is a model of midcentury cooking with gems like turkey tetrazzini and pineapple upside-down cake.

A TV tie-in cookbook combines cultural anthropology, a food-annotated episode guide, and a culinary love letter to the characters. Publishers love them for their immediate brand recognition and built-in audience. The best of the cookbooks are filled with well-tested recipes that take genuine inspiration from their shows and characters. Others, like the Star Trek Cookbook, require a bigger stretch of the imagination since we never actually saw Mister Spock stirring a pot of kasha varnishkas à la Vulcan or Bones McCoy recreating the smoked baked beans of his Tennessee childhood.

Andy Taylor’s Aunt Bee is perhaps television’s most beloved homemaker; so much so that when Aunt Bee’s Mayberry Cookbook was published decades after Andy of Mayberry had gone off the air, it sold 900,000 copies. After moving in with her widowed nephew to help raise the motherless Opie, Aunt Bee was perpetually up to her elbows in wholesome, home-cooked meals. She baked fruit pies for church suppers, entered her pickles in the county fair, and brought picnic baskets of fried chicken to the town drunk residing in Mayberry’s homey jail cell. The dishes are all in the book, along with Andy’s favorite cornmeal biscuits and Aunt Bee’s justly celebrated butterscotch pecan pie.


She’s no Aunt Bee but Carmela Soprano knows her way around a baked ziti. The Sopranos Family Cookbook  shares the secrets of Carmela’s ziti and sautéed escarole, and shows you how to recreate quail Sinatra-style and other specialties of Artie Bucco’s Vesuvio Restaurant, home to the finest Napolitan cooking in Essex County, New Jersey. Uncle Junior contributes Little Italy-style potato croquettes and Bobby Bacala offers cannoli-stuffing tips.

Vampires and mortals mingle over the Cajun cooking of True Blood’s fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps. True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps has classics like banana pudding, gumbo, baking powder biscuits, and crawfish dip as well as a slew of blood-red dishes like beet bisque, blood orange gelato, and the Tru Blood cocktail of carbonated orange soda, grenadine and lemon juice, hold the plasma.

You seldom saw Monica cooking, even if her character was a chef. Maybe that’s why most of the recipes in Cooking With Friends exist mostly as an excuse for some Friends-centric jokey recipe names like ‘Janice’s Foghorn Fish Dish,’ ‘Marcel’s Monkey Lovin’ Mocha Mouthfuls,’ and ‘Chandler’s Could THIS Be Any More Fattening? Cheesecake.’


A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook breaks the mold of the tie-in cookbook. More scholarly than kitschy, it’s a meticulously researched and detailed culinary document that updates recipes while staying true to the Game of Thrones’ late medieval setting. Dishes are based on those found in 15th-century manuscripts and ingredients adhere to the seasons and imagined geography across the Seven Kingdoms and over the Narrow Sea.

If a food or drink was so much us mentioned in an episode of the show, it made it into The Unoffical Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men. There are Oysters Rockefeller from Sterling Cooper power lunches, the gazpacho served at Betty’s around-the-world dinner party, and lots and lots of cocktails (even little Sally Draper is known to mix a mean Tom Collins). Dishes were recreated using recipes that were adapted from cookbooks that would have been popular at the time or from Manhattan restaurants visited by the characters.


Bree is a brittle striver in the kitchen; Lynette is a time-challenged multi-tasker; Edie is a sensualist; Gabrielle is a spicy Latina; and Susan doesn’t know which end of a spatula to stir with. Some recipes in The Desperate Housewives Cookbook come straight from the show’s episodes while others use the characters’ wildly different personalities as a launching point for some culinary imaginings.

The most anticipated TV tie-in cookbook since Aunt Bee’s opus is next summer’s Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. The HBO series provides substantial raw material. Treme is a favorite of chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert who have guest-starred in past episodes and contributed material to the book. It’s set in in New Orleans, one of our greatest eating cities. Plot lines revolve around a fictional chef who’s ‘worked’ at some of the city’s top real world restaurants like Brigtsen’s, Emeril’s, and Gabrielle. Kitchen scenes on the show are scripted by Anthony Bourdain, who also wrote the book’s foreward.

It’s not out in time for holiday giving, but Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans can be preordered at Amazon where it’s already racking up some serious sales numbers.


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Audible Edibles: The Best Online Radio Food Shows


There’s something about listening to a food show on the radio.

Of course I am endlessly entertained by TV cooking shows: a little pseudo-cooking from a well-coiffed celebrity host in a pristine, Sub-Zero-sponsored kitchen; or maybe the high drama of competitive cooking looking all too easy with flashy knife skills and careful editing. It’s performance television, and most of us view it with the same slack-jawed passivity we assume when watching a CSI marathon.

But there’s just something about listening to a food show.
There’s an intimacy and immediacy to the disembodied voice in your ear, a connection that is rarely found through the high-gloss visuals of television. Fans of the genre claim that at its best, radio taps deep into their memories, pulling imagery from their brains in a way that video never does.

Radio is accessible just about anytime, anywhere: you can tune in the local station through the FM dial, subscribe via satellite service, stream shows live online, or download podcasts to numerous devices. There are shows for every taste from the big city polish of Los Angeles’ Good Food and Eastern Iowa’s recipe-swapping Open Line, with its repertoire of icebox cookies and new uses for canned cream of mushroom soup. Niche podcasters play to cultish audiences with the practical, the edgy, and the strange like the dairy discourse of Cutting the Curd, school cafeteria reports from the Renegade Lunch Lady, and Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, known by its legions of fans as MATES, in which comedian Michael Ian Black and actor Tom Cavanagh riff on snack food, combining wildly improvisational comedy and surprisingly solid food reviews.

Tune in here, my friend; you look hungry:

  • Cooking Issues brings one of our favorite blogs to life. Dave Arnold, the Director of Culinary Technology of The French Culinary Institute at The International Culinary Center, tinkers with the newest kitchen technologies, techniques, and ingredients.
  • The BBC’s The Food Programme produces thoughtful, in depth explorations of a broad range of culinary topics.
  • Dare we call it hipster radio? Snacky Tunes is a weekly Brooklyn-based happening hosted by identical twins Greg and Darin Bresnitz, a duo better-known as Finger on the Pulse, bringing together chefs, DJs, farmers, bands, DJs, restaurateurs, and record label owners for a discussion of things culinary and musical.
  • The Menu comes from The Monacle, a global affairs magazine that’s become essential reading for the young, stylish, and moneyed, as well as those who aspire to a global jet setter lifestyle. The weekly radio show is a fascinating peek at that crowd’s need-to-know hotspots and personalities.
  • American Public Media is still at the top of its game with the long-running classic The Splendid Table, combining recipes, cooking tips, chef interviews, and lifestyle segments.

You can keep the food talk streaming with a pair of food-focused radio networks:

  • The Food Radio Network is a far cry from the cluster of food shows found on the lower end of the dial at public radio stations. Brazenly commercial, it can feel at times like ‘QVC Radio’ with sponsored segments like Pillsbury Makes It With Love, but in between the promos you’ll find some quality programming like the global kitchen of One World One Table and the totally tea-centric Steeping Around.
  • The non-profit Heritage Radio Network presents an eclectic lineup of live webcasts aimed at a hip, green-leaning listener. Hot Grease follows the local food movement; Let’s Get Real sniffs out everything fake in food from empty health claims to self-righteous foodiness; The Speakeasy examines contemporary cocktail culture; and there’s a whole slew of shows for everyone from culinary do-it-yourselfers, to craft beer lovers, and culinary world insiders.
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Gross, But Kinda Great: A New TV Show Looks Inside Dirty Restaurant Kitchens

image via Folded Pigs


The Food Network’s new reality series takes us through the swinging kitchen doors, and it’s not pretty.
In each episode of Health Inspectors, restaurant consultant/host Ben Vaughn visits a filthy restaurant, exposes its grossness in all its stomach-churning glory, and then tries to bring it into compliance with health code standards.

The official premiere is October 26, but there was an early peek this summer with the pilot episode filmed at Big Momma’s Chicken & Waffles [& Roaches?] in New Orleans. Big Momma’s kitchen opens the show as a hairnet-optional cesspool of grease and raw chicken just begging for some salmonella cross contamination. Refrigerator surfaces were slimy with chicken guts, and frozen poultry was left to bob in a sink full of tepid water for hours on end. The fryers hadn’t been emptied of old oil in anyone’s recent memory (literally-the manager didn’t know they could be moved). Ditto for the stove. As one employee put it, watching Vaughn go after the greasy, crusty cooktop: “Oh man I’m not going to lie to you, we didn’t even know that could come apart like that.”

The clean-up portion of the episode has its charms, but it’s really about the ick factor.
We gloat as the owners and employees take their lumps, and the gleaming surfaces that ultimately emerge give a distinctly OCD-like pleasure. But even the drama of a looming state inspection can’t compete with an earlier, skin-crawling moment when the refrigerator is moved to reveal a thriving, writhing colony of cockroaches.

Future episodes include:

  • Rats in the Cellar—When the owner’s friend is stricken with food poisoning, Vaughn is called in to clean up Salud, a Chicago restaurant specializing in specialty tequila cocktails and high-end Mexican cuisine.
  • Renegade Pirates—The staff and owner of the Green Burrito enlist Vaughn to save them from a New Orleans’ restaurant inspector that is threatening to permanently shut down this repeat violator.
  • Slugs in the Walk-in—New owners have lowered the standards at Harley’s Café, a biker-themed diner that’s been an institution in its Oklahoma town for nearly 50 years.
  • A Game of Chicken—Vic is juggling too many balls with his money and attention focused on expanding his Michigan business. He’s dropped the sanitation ball at King Vic’s, and stands to lose it all if the restaurant fails its upcoming inspection.

Do you have any reservations? if not, you will after watching this show.


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News and Booze


Newspaper and magazine wine clubs
The first time you saw one, it struck you as a bit odd. Then you saw another one. And another.
This is no ordinary brand extension. It’s not like selling crossword puzzle books or sponsoring a lecture series. It doesn’t flow naturally from the core business; in fact it can pair as jarringly as a big Cabernet with your sole meuniere.

The Wall Street Journal was the first major newspaper to offer a wine club membership, launching its Discovery Wine Club in 2008. Today there are dozens of publishers in the wine business, from the Dallas Morning News to Rolling Stone. Most of the clubs are open to readers and non-readers but offer special deals and promotions to their subscribers. The more successful clubs, like the Wall Street Journal’s, come from publications appealing to an affluent demographic with an affinity for fine wine; some, like USA Today’s, have been a total bust.

Some are natural pairings.
A wine club was a natural extension for Touring & Tasting, a lifestyle publication based in California’s wine country that can claim cozy, insider access to some of the area’s producers. Sunset Magazine has been writing about food and wine in California since the 19th century and sells the ‘kitchen-tested’ expertise of its wine club’s curation. And of course the club from the magazine Food & Wine comes from Food & Wine.

Rolling Stone and Playboy are two publications that are looking to build their lifestyle branding with wine clubs.
Rolling Stone calls its club Wines That Rock, with bottlings like ‘Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon,’ ‘The Police Synchronicity Red Blend,’ and ‘Woodstock Chardonnay,’ explaining that “Each wine we deliver is a reflection and interpretation of the music itself, inspired by legendary artists and the rock ‘n roll mythology behind these classic albums.”

Playboy has dipped its toe into the wine business before. There was a successful 2006 collaboration with Napa Valley’s Marilyn Wines that produced a Merlot with a peek-a-boo peel-off label based on Marilyn Monroe’s 1953-centerfold photo from the inaugural issue of the magazine. In 2008 Playboy sold a different high-end bottle each month with photo labels featuring vintage magazine covers from the 1960’s and ’70’s. A press release from Playboy Enterprises stresses the lifestyle connection of the new wine club:”We carefully select a handful of wines that represent the essence of the Playboy brand – delightfully jovial, indulgent and carefully crafted — while catering to the consumer’s desires to celebrate life and live it with a little style.” The wines are offered in themed ‘encounters’ like Blind Date (surprise selections), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (white varietals), and the Mansion Collection (a vertical tasting of Bordeaux).

For all their talk of ‘lifestyle,’ newspaper and magazine wine clubs are really about money, plain and simple. Paid circulation is down, advertising is going the way of the web, and newspapers and magazines haven’t quite cracked the monetization model for online content. Most of the publishers are just looking for a cork to plug the flow of red ink. With challenges to the traditional publishing business model coming from every direction, the hope is that this new revenue stream from wine clubs can help the old-line publications age as gracefully as the wines they are pushing.

Wall Street Journal Discovery Wine Club   Rolling Stone Wine Club   Playboy Wine Club   Dallas Morning News Wine Club   Touring and Tasting Wine Club   Sunset Wine Club  Food & Wine Wine Club


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