Tag Archives: awards

You Too Can Be A Food Blogger

image via If Only She Applied Herself


The instructional book publisher For Dummies has announced its newest title: Food Blogging for Dummies.

Come on in, the water’s fine.
It’s been estimated that a new blog is born every half second, and an awful lot of them are food blogs. Blogging continues to redefine the way information is exchanged, and its influence is irrefutable. Political blogs have the power to oust political leaders, video blogs create instant celebrities, and food bloggers moved no less a mountain than McDonald’s when they got the fast food giant to shrink the french fries and add apples to its Happy Meals.

Food blogs have grown up.
Food bloggers took their knocks in the early days when the category was overrun with the tedium of the hyper-personal ‘Today I had a cheese sandwich‘ genre (bear in mind that the whole of the blogosphere seemed to then be powered by cute kittens and homemade porn). While tedious, navel-gazing scribblings can still be found, many more food blogs are serious endeavors that inform, entertain, and edify. They’re increasingly authored by chefs, cookbook authors, and other food industry professionals, and are essential reading for every restaurateur, purveyor, grower, and policy-maker. Food bloggers are followed assiduously by editors, publishers, and journalists of all stripes (who often envy their readership) and are courted by publicists and marketers, agents and manufacturers.

Food Blogging for Dummies is the latest title to join a literary lineup that includes primers on ferret-keeping, programming your TIVO, buying property in Spain, and how to feng shui your garden (or home or office). While it’s authored by a totally legitimate and talented food journalist, early word (the book’s release date is still a month away) has it that chapter titles include How to Write a Top Ten List and Using Words Like Toque, Delish, and Drool-Worthy For Fun and Profit. Really.

Here are some other resources to visit for a look at the world of food blogging:

Yes, we have them. It’s the Food Blog Code of Ethics.

Saveur publishes one of the internet’s more definitive lists of top food blogs.
The magazine has also created A Brief History of Food Blogs.

It all started here in 1997.




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Rethinking Airplane Food

This fall, Continental joins every other major U.S. airline when it ends free economy-class meals on domestic flights. Like checked luggage and bulkhead seats, in-flight meals join the list of existing amenities that airlines are looking to spin into upgrades. The stuff of jokes probably since the dawn of aviation, few are mourning their passing.

Entrees On Trays

Prison food, hospital food, school cafeterias— has anything good ever been served on a divided tray? In fairness, serving meals at 40,00 feet poses unique challenges of logistics, space, cooking technology, and security. On top of all that, the altitude messes with the body’s sense of taste.

When ‘beef or chicken?’ is a trick question.

The recently published Titanic Awards, a celebration of dubious achievements in travel, identifies the 5 worst airline meals of all time. The current titleholder is Estonian Air’s Baltic herring (we think) with potato salad.

Airline food doesn’t have to suck.

It is a whole different scene at the front of the plane. A seat in the first-class cabin of Singapore Airlines can get you pan-seared scallops and grilled-to-order steak washed down with fine French wines (the airline happens to be the world’s second-best customer of Dom Perignon Champagne). While airlines typically spend about $5.00 for an economy class meal, the cost can soar to over $100 in first class.

Before you book your summer travel, take a look at these online resources to see what you can expect on your tray. Personally, I say the airlines can keep their meals. I’ll pack a sandwich. But how about a little extra legroom?

The Independent Traveler presents a survey of food service on major domestic carriers.

The Diet Detective rates the healthfulness of on-board meals and snacks.

Air Meals has a staggeringly complete photo gallery of airplane food. More than 18,000 photographs depict meals served on 552 airlines around the world. Other galleries on the site are devoted to vintage airline advertisements, crew meals, and in-flight dining scenes on film.

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The Porkapalooza Roadshow is Coming to Your Town

Pignal via Cochon 555

The traveling pig fest rolls on in 2012.
Now in its fourth year, the high-profile touring porcine bacchanalia known as Cochon 555 will travel the country looking for this year’s King or Queen of Pork.

555: 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 wines
Cochon 555 holds culinary competitions in 10 cities—NY, SF, Napa, Portland, and the rest of the usual foodie suspects. At each stop, five prominent local chefs are paired with five whole heritage breed pigs and matched with five wines. They’re given a week to prepare a whole hog feast that’s judged by attendees at a public tasting. The 10 regional winners face off in a grand finale when the tour wraps up at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic.

The chefs dream up menus utilizing every bit from snout to tail: all manner of charcuterie; pork belly slabs and tenderloin slices; liver-stuffed dumplings and heart-stuffed ravioli; salads of lardo topped with lardons; ribs and chops galore. You’ll drink pork fat digestifs with bacon swizzle sticks, and dessert might bring a piggy popsicle or sweet and crunchy pig ears.

Brady Lowe, Cochon 555’s founder, thought up the pork Olympics as an entertaining way to educate consumers about heritage breeds and the sources of a more natural, sustainable food system. It pits chef against chef, but also breed against breed: the rich marbling of a Berkshire pig against the bacon-friendly Tamworth, the lardy Ass Black Limousin against the beefy Red Wattle; each with its own deeply distinctive flavor and fat distribution. Breed loyalties and passions run so high that a food fight broke out in the aftermath of the Portland round, complete with tasers, contusions, and chef mug shots, when a local hog was slighted.

You can expect plenty of fireworks, culinary amd otherwise, when the tour kicks off in New York later this month.

Cochon 555’s 2012 Schedule 22:
· New York, January 22
· Napa, January 29
· Memphis, February 4
· Portland, March 11
· Boston, March 25
· Miami, April 1
· Washington DC, April 22
· Chicago, April 29
· Los Angeles, May 6
· San Francisco, May 20
·The Grand Cochon, Aspen, June 17

Tickets will be available on the Cochon 555 website.



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2011 Food App Award Winners

image via National Post

Talk about understatement.
Do you cook? There are apps to plan a menu, find a recipe, convert to metric, shop ethically, analyze nutritional content, pair a wine, and donate your leftovers to a soup kitchen. Maybe you feel  like eating out. You can get cuisine- and location-based restaurant suggestions, read reviews, book a table, preview the daily specials, map your route, figure the tip, and calculate the excercycle mileage that will burn off the meal.
There are food apps for travelers, for fans of street food, and apps that will let you know when to take a cake out of the oven. They stop short of washing the dishes for you, but there is a house cleaning hypnosis app that promises dishwashing enjoyment through the power of suggestion.

The food app category has grown so large that it has its own, dedicated awards. Toque, the online magazine of food journalism, has just announced the first annual Food App Award winners. Entries came from multinational media giants, independent web designers, and everything in between. They were judged on creativity, technical excellence, and the ability to solve a problem (that we often didn’t even know we had until the app came along).

Here are this year’s winners:



Posted in appliances + gadgets, phone applications | Tagged , | 2 Comments

How Far Would You Go For a Meal?

A strange little story got picked up recently by the national news agencies:
Man Drives 1,400 Miles for Pizza.
It seems that David Schuler, a resident of  Jackson, Mississippi makes regular pizza runs to Town Spa Pizzeria in his former hometown of  Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Traveling for a special meal is nothing new. The Michelin guidebooks turned it into a provincial French industry nearly a century ago, and today, a third Michelin star is a global event. 100,000 out-of-towners tried to book dinner and a hotel room when that third star was awarded to Noma, a Nordic/Scandinavian restaurant that’s rather obscurely located in a warehouse on Copenhagen’s Greenlandic Trading Square.

The International Culinary Tourism Association defines a destination restaurant as “a restaurant that is so interesting, different, or special that people travel just to eat there.” Usually this means that the food, the service, the decor, the setting—any or all of these factors—are so distinctive, so unique, or so authentic and typical of a place or style, that the restaurant creates a singular culinary experience.

Mr. Schuler’s trip raised eyebrows because Town Spa Pizzeria doesn’t seem to fit the bill as a culinary destination. There are no Zagat ratings or stars, Michelin or otherwise; it doesn’t even make the Globe’s cut for the top 25 pizza’s in the greater Boston area. And let’s not forget that his road trip took him through more than a dozen states, including such pizza strongholds as New York, Philadelphia, and New Haven.

What the culinary tourism professionals don’t understand is that the best food destinations are more than just notable dining experiences. They are great adventures that are etched in our memories—the time zones crossed, the inaccessible location, the sheer audacity of the journey can all punctuate a meal with a piquancy that’s all its own.

By that definition, Town Spa Pizzeria made for a worthy culinary destination for Mr. Schuler.

For the record, he placed a takeout order for 150 frozen, par-baked, vacuum sealed pies, evenly split between cheese, linguica and onion, and pepper and onion.



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The Middle East Falafel Conflict

image via Falafel Road

The Arab-Israeli conflict is playing out over a pita sandwich.

Does the falafel belong to the Arabs or the Israelis?
This is no ordinary food fight. It might seem like a silly and inconsequential question, but it captures the essence of a conflict that has been one of the most world’s most complex and intractable struggles for nearly a century. Whether it’s the falafel or the West Bank, it boils down to the same issue of the legitimacy of claims, and in the Middle East, both sides take it very seriously.

Here in the U.S., we have a hard time comprehending its significance.
We’ve always been culinary magpies. We’re content with borrowing hamburgers from the Germans and pizza from the Italians, and tossing it all into our great melting pot. Cultural expressions like food take on new meaning when your society is threatened with eradication. To Arabs and Israelis, dominion over the local dish demonstrates a toehold on the land.

In the 1960s, there was a deliberate effort to create a collective Israeli identity along side the nation building campaign. Falafel was an obvious symbol: it’s made from local, desert foods and is a parve dish that fits with kosher laws. It had been eaten for centuries by the Mizrahi, the Middle Eastern Jews who then comprised 70% of Israel’s Jewish population and are still the majority. It quickly became an icon of Israeli culture and the official national dish of the young state.

The problem is that falafel is also a staple of the Arab diet. Israel’s Arab neighbors saw it as another way in which the European-descended Jews appropriated what was theirs. It became part of the wider conflict, finding its way into debates over territory and history.

The debate has spilled over into international courts, with the Lebanese Industrialists Association claiming copyright infringement over falafel recipes. Arts groups like Falafel Road and the theatrical production the Arab-Israeli Cookbook have examined issues of culinary colonialism through culture. And there is an ongoing battle for supremacy in the record books, as national teams compete to fry up the world’s largest chick pea fritter. It’s even crossed oceans to Brooklyn’s Bedford Avenue, where a long-established Palestinian falafel stand is facing a challenge from an Israeli-American owned food truck.

At the center of the controversy is the humble falafel, a spicy fried rissole made from mashed chick peas or beans that is the most unlikely of political footballs.

You can see the conflict play out in the West Bank Story, a musical spoof of West Side Story that tells the story of the forbidden love between David, an Israeli soldier, and the Palestinian cashier Fatima, the children of rival falafel stand owners in modern day Israel. It won the 2007 Oscar for best live action short, and is available on Netflix.

Read about McDonald’s failed foray into the falafel : McDonald’s Israel. But is it McKosher?


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College Dining: It’s Not Like You Remember

image via GraphJam


Sushi Bar … Espresso Bar… Carving Station … Mongolian Barbecue… Made-to-order Pasta
This is a college cafeteria?

The old dining hall was supposed to be a taste of home. There was little choice: a green salad, a main and some sides, bread and butter, and  jello or a slice of cake for dessert. There was little imagination, plenty of repetition, and mediocre execution—just like Mom used to make.

Steam trays full of meatloaf and homey casseroles don’t cut it for a generation raised on Starbucks and shopping mall food courts. They have eclectic tastes, broad palates, and a long list of food allergies and specialized diets.

Colleges are more than happy to cater to fussy, finicky students. Campus dining is a $9 billion market—as much as Americans spend in fine dining restaurants. More importantly, according to the food service consultants at Technomic, 44% of college students give significant weight to college dining programs when deciding where to enroll. And it’s a lot easier for a school to boost the meal plan than the average SAT scores.

Sodexo, the food service provider to 650 U.S. campuses, gives us their predictions for the top 10 trendy dishes of the 2011-2012 school year:

  1. Grilled Chicken Souvlaki Kabob
  2. Paella
  3. Spanakopita
  4. Couscous Chicken Stew
  5. Orecchiette with Broccoli and Garbanzo Beans
  6. Fattoush and Sumac (Pita Bread Salad with Tangy Dressing)
  7. Spanish Tomato Bread with Manchego Cheese
  8. Edamame and Corn Salad
  9. Pesto Pasta Bowl
  10. Wild Mushroom Risotto Balls with Pesto Aioli
According to the Princeton Review, these are the top 10 college cafeterias :
  1. Wheaton College (IL)
  2. Bowdoin College
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. Bryn Mawr College
  5. James Madison University
  6. University of Georgia
  7. Washington University in St. Louis
  8. Cornell University
  9. Colby College
  10. University of Massachusetts- Amherst



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Contest Winners: Designing a new food label


Daniel Campuzano




The old label (far left) just isn’t working for us.

Not that it ever really did. In fact when the FDA first introduced nutrition labeling in 1993, the agency deliberately didn’t choose the best option; instead, it opted to play it safe by choosing the design that was characterized as ‘the least poorly understood.’

The FDA is taking another crack at it. Later this year it will introduce revised food labeling, and the hope is that it set its sights a little higher.

Melissa Messer- Daily Nutritional Value Paul Frantellizzi

The School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, is lending an unsolicited hand. It held a public competition called Rethink the Food Label,  judged by a panel of designers, health professionals, and food activists (including faculty member Michael Pollan). Entrants were encouraged to “re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics.”

Joanne Frederick- The Real Food Label

The biggest shortcoming of the current label is the nutritional arithmetic. All those grams and percentages tend to cause our eyes to glaze over. It also gives manufacturers the ability to ‘game’ the system by adding irrelevant and inert ingredients that improve the labeling profile without making the food any healthier. Instead of improving food and nutrition literacy, the current label is a distraction that doesn’t directly answer the real questions:  Is this good for my health? Is this good for the planet?

The best of the contest submissions (some seen here) use a visual shorthand to answer those questions. They finesse a graphical yes or no with design elements like thumbs up or thumbs down, report card-style letter grades, color coded food groups, and red light or green light.

We will soon find out if the FDA has incorporated any of these elements in its final redesign. The contest makes one thing clear —the existing model can be vastly improved with a dose of simplicity and a little creativity.

See who won at Rethink the Food Label.


Posted in food knowledge, health + diet | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Why the Chef Gave Back his Michelin Star

The chef said:
The food world was stunned this week when Le Lisita, a restaurant in the south of France, handed back its Michelin star.

Why on earth would a restaurant give back its coveted Michelin star?
The best known and most highly respected of all the restaurant ratings, Michelin stars are awarded very sparingly. A star (or two or three) in Le Guide Rouge can make or break a restaurant.
But so can a bad economy.

A Michelin star signifies a standard of décor and service. The guidebook’s inspectors demand it, diners know to expect it, and bankers are more than happy to extend credit lines for capital improvements to starred establishments. According to the Society for Quantitative Gastronomy, a restaurant’s prices will rise by 20% after the award to offset the higher operating costs.

Thanks, but no thanks.
Following the accolade, Le Lisita found itself barely breaking even, serving haute cuisine in a rareified atmosphere in the midst of an economic crisis, while humble, affordable brasseries and bistros were doing a roaring trade. Since giving back the cherished award, Chef Olivier Douett has revived his former, brasserie format.

Le Lisita now offers a menu with starter and plat du jour for €23.60 ($33.54). Each waiter looks after twenty to thirty customers, rather than the five or six of the one star restaurant. Chef Douett now feels like he is cooking for his customers, not just for stars.



Posted in food business, restaurants | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

You’ll be Eating This Next Year

That’s no Oscar.
The toques! The domed plate covers! It can only be the sofis.

You might not know the award, but you know the winners.
The Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation, or sofi, is the top honor in the specialty food industry. Past winners include the Republic Of Tea, Rick’s Picks, Stonewall Kitchen, Cypress Grove Chevre, O Olive Oil, and the list goes on. If you pay attention to these things you know the names; if not, I can guarantee they are on the shelves of your neighborhood market and making their way onto local menus. This year’s finalists were just announced, and the odds are you’ll be seeing them soon too.

The sofi nominees are selected at the Fancy Food Show, the industry’s twice-yearly marketplace and schmoozefest that’s attended by everybody that’s anybody in specialty foods. The events draw executive chefs, supermarket buyers, specialty retailers, the food press, and even a few lucky civilians who can be easily spotted for their blissed-out looks and tote bags overflowing with a free haul of artisan meats, exotic condiments, 6 colors of finishing salts, and 92% cacao chocolate truffles. This is where the tastemakers decide what’s in, what’s out, and what’s on the horizon. These are the trends and ingredients that will first break with the fervid foodies of the Open Table crowd, and eventually trickle down to the menus of Olive Garden and Applebees.

The trendspotting:
Foods of the Andes captured two of the ten silver medals for this year’s best new product, a pretty good indication that we will be delving deeper into regional Latin American cuisines.
Prepared foods, spice blends, and ingredients from the Indian kitchen point to another trendy cuisine.
The pig still rules. Cured ham from the new, American-raised mangalitsa pigs, and an herb-rubbed, domestic pancetta were also awarded silver medals.
There was chocolate purported to make you smarter, and fermented, probiotic -rich beverages to make you healthier. Expect a big takeoff for the functional foods category;
and gluten-free everything.

Sofi silver finalists and gold winners are selected from more than 250,000 products that appear at the Fancy Food Show. Competition takes place in 30+ categories, literally from soups to nuts. You can see the full list of this year’s silver medalists at Foodspring, the consumer-oriented blog of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. Gold medal winners will be announced at this summer’s edition of the Fancy Foods Show, temporarily relocating from New York to Washington, DC.


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

Are Wine Ratings for Suckers?

image via Cornichon.org


Two thumbs up for this movie.
Four stars for that hotel.
The twirl of an Olympic ice skater, our approval of the President; even the red-orange-yellow of our national security level.
We do love the shorthand of rating systems.

Few things are rated as extensively as wine, and few ratings wield the influence of the 100-point scale for wine. And none is more controversial. […]

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Meatball Madness

image via Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

We are having a meatball moment.

Of course meatballs never went out of style, but the homey, homely dish is downright stylish.

The meatball renaissance could have been predicted. As we turned to comfort foods to soothe our frazzled, modern souls, we’ve seen a parade of the familiar: fried chicken, cupcakes, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese—each has had its turn in the spotlight. Meatballs were inevitable. […]

Posted in food trends | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Get Paid to Eat with Culinary Dream Jobs

image via Jenni Brown Writes


Nice Work if You Can Get It.

Who hasn’t fantasized about a dream job? I’m talking about the one where you get a nice paycheck to do something that doesn’t even feel like work—a semi-mythical gig like playing video games all day as a beta tester, or quality control taster for a brewery. For a food lover, the fantasy might be restaurant reviewer for the Parisian Michelin Guides or tasting new ice cream flavors at the Häagen-Dazs factory. […]

Posted in food business | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Does Sarah Palin Drink Chardonnay?

image courtesy of Behance Network

Hand over that wine list, buster!

Women wine drinkers have overtaken men. Women buy more, spend more, drink more. And it’s not the proverbial glass of Chardonnay– red wine is favored by a wide margin.

Women and wine are a natural match. […]

Posted in beer + wine + spirits, food business | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Butter Carving Comes to Hollywood

Barack Obama rendered in butter courtesy of Norma "Duffy" Lyon

Jennifer Garner has a taste for Butter.

Garner is producing and starring in a film of that name set in the cut-throat world of competitive butter carving.

Butter tells the story of a young, African-American orphan who is adopted by a white, midwestern family. She is discovered to have an uncanny talent for butter carving, a much-revered skill in America’s agricultural heartland. When the girl enters the butter carving contest at the Iowa State Fair she is pitted against Garner’s character, the ultra-competitive, limelight-seeking wife of the sport’s reigning champion. Garner’s husband is forced to step down after fifteen consecutive blue ribbon wins, and she is expected to step into his shoes. […]

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Time Magazine 100 includes 4 Foodies


Time Magazine’s annual roundup of the world’s most influential leaders, thinkers, heroes, and artists hits newsstands this week, and this year the list includes four individuals from the food sector whose ideas and talent transform the world we live in. […]

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Dinner With Oscar: the Academy Awards after-party

.pPhoto courtesy of Al Seib via LA Times


Long gowns, longer speeches, and Wolfgang Puck. It’s Oscar time!

The red carpet has been rolled out in front of the Kodak Theater, but for a few more days it will remain in its rain-protective plastic covering. The tourists stand on it as they pose in front of the giant golden Oscar statues taking cell phone snapshots. For now, the only star crossing the red carpet is celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

Wolfgang Puck is once again at the helm for the official post-show feeding of the glitterati known as the Governors Ball. Preparations are underway as his cooking staff of 300 fills the ballroom’s kitchen, peeling potatoes and popping the mini chocolate Oscar-shaped statuettes out of the molds so that they can be sprayed with edible 24k gold. […]

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The Golden Globes Dinner: where everyone’s a winner

image courtesy of Astrocrack

How do you please Jennifer Aniston and Mickey Rourke, Clint Eastwood and the cast of Glee?  Factor in the low calorie/low fat/low carb/vegan/vegetarian/dairy-free diets favored by Hollywood celebrities.  Consider the ease of dining mechanics with multiple cameras capturing and broadcasting every bite. This is why Suki Sugiura, executive chef at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, began planning the January 17th Golden Globes dinner last summer.


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