Tag Archives: local

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.



Posted in diversions, local foods | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is Access to Healthy Food a Basic Human Right?

Is access to healthy food a basic human right?
That’s the question being asked by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Not just food, but healthy food.
Food access is a right. That one has been with us since 1948, the result of the experience of the Second World War. At the end of that war, vowing that the world would never again see such suffering, the international community created the United Nations and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among the various protections, guarantees, and liberties is the individual’s right to food.

Back in 1948, nobody thought to specify the type of food. When those words were written, the Big Mac was just a gleam in Roy Kroc’s eye, and the Colonel had yet to fry his first chicken. Who could have imagined a time when nutrition would be so divorced from food that malnutrition could go hand-in-hand with obesity?
This is the paradox of modern-day poverty.

It’s like the line in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink
Millions of Americans are adrift in a sea of junk food. They are surrounded by cheap and abundant processed foods, with little access to healthy foods. This landscape has been dubbed ‘food deserts,’ to describe low-income communities with plenty of processed foods at convenience stores and fast food outlets, but little or no fresh food, and the nearest supermarket is one mile away if it’s an urban community, and 10 miles away if it’s rural.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that this is a reality for more than 20 million Americans, and 1.7 million of them are living in California. The bill on Governor Brown’s desk would create the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative. It enables the state to collaborate with public, private, and philanthropic entities to bring loan and grant financing to the under-served neighborhoods. The goal is to encourage existing businesses to expand their healthier offerings, and to attract grocery stores, food cooperatives, farmers’ markets, and other fresh food retailers.

Is access to high quality food a basic human right?
The State Assembly and the Senate in California think so; in fact they have thought so twice. The previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was inclined to believe that healthy food is a privilege earned by the state’s wealthier residents who own cars or live within striking distance of farmers markets; last year he vetoed a similar bill after it passed both houses of the legislature. Once again, it sits on the governor’s desk where it is a signature away from becoming law.

Find out where they are: the Economic Research Service of the USDA created a Food Desert Locator based on census tract-level data.

The Food Environment Atlas lets you go deeper into a community’s statistics, looking at factors like restaurant expenditures and meals cooked at home.



Posted in community, fast food, health + diet | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What’s Hot in Cold Beverages

What we’ve been drinking:

Infographic via Beverage Marketing Corporation

We worry about an obesity epidemic, but in 2010, we were still chug-a-lugging soda, which remains the most consumed beverage at an average of 45 gallons in a year. And our professed concern for the environment? Last year we drank more bottled water than ever before.

As 2011 winds down, the prognosticators are turning toward 2012. The Food Channel combined the results of its reader survey with intelligence gathered from the market analysts at Mintel, Culture Waves, and the International Food Futurists to identify the top 10 beverage trends that will shape our drinking habits in the coming year.

What we will be drinking:

1. Do-it-Yourself Flavor
 Beverage companies have been experimenting with a profusion of flavors looking for the new blockbuster. Refrigerated cases overflow with lychee water, ginger-peach iced tea, and rhubarb-lemongrass soda. We’ll be taking matters into our own hands with powdered and liquid flavor enhancers that are added to water or seltzer; coffee and tea creamers in new flavors like honey-vanilla crème and white chocolate caramel latte; and Coca Cola’s new Freestyle machine with a touch-screen that turns you into an instant mixologist with more than 100 flavor variations.

2. The Buzz Around Chocolate Milk
Chocolate milk is all over the map. While school districts are questioning its place in their cafeterias, new studies seem to indicate that it’s a better choice than sports drinks for athletes looking to develop more muscle and less fat, and improve oxygen uptake during workouts. New products include straws imbedded with chocolate beads that flavor each sip, and a boozy chocolate milk for grown-ups with the tagline: “Retaste your youth at 40 proof.”

3. Cold Coffee is Hot
The iced coffee market has grown by 20 percent in the last five years. Dunkin’ Donuts, the nation’s largest retailer of coffee—hot and iced—reports that more than a fourth of the yearly, billion cups of coffee it serves are now iced. Iced, frozen, and slushie coffee drinks are available everywhere. Home brewing systems are growing in popularity and you can always grab a pre-bottled iced coffee or ready-to-mix concentrate. Iced coffee is not just for summer anymore.

4. Drink to Your Health
The category of functional beverages is exploding. Bottled waters are enhanced with vitamins and fortified with minerals that claim to battle diabetes, improve digestion, and promote improved bone and cardiovascular health. Sugars are being reshuffled as we steer away from high-fructose corn syrup and back to cane sugar; and away from artificial sweeteners toward natural, zero-calorie plant-based sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar. You can fire up with an energy shot, mellow out with a stress busting anti-energy drink, or sharpen cognition with one of the ‘think drinks.’

5. Simple, Seasonal Sips
The local foods ethos is coming to your highball glass. Beers are going seasonal, artisan distillers are cooking up local spirits, and bartenders are embracing a style that’s been dubbed ‘Market Fresh Mixology,’ whipping up cocktails with natural mixers made in-house and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. Even the hotel minibar is now stocked with local brews and regional wines.

6. Fizz-free Combo Meals
Fast food and quick-serve restaurants are looking beyond fountain drinks. McDonald’s is urging its customers in ads to ‘drinkcessorize’ with its new smoothies and frozen lemonade, and Sonic Drive-In is promoting milk shake happy hours. Popeye’s is experimenting with soda-lemonade blends, Burger King has toyed with a breakfast cocktail of orange juice cut with Sprite, and they’re all testing the waters for alcoholic beverages.

7. Craft Beer is Booming
Sales of craft brews are seeing double-digit increases, even while overall beer sales are flat. In the midst of a mature industry, craft brewers are acting like frisky teenagers as they tinker with ingredients and techniques to brew experimental batches with ingredients like fruit, tea leaves, lavender, chiles, and Nutella. There are so many small, independent artisan brewers popping up around the country that most Americans now live within 10 miles of at least one specialty producer.

8. Bourbon’s Rebirth
It’s the biggest bourbon boom since Prohibition. Just a few years ago, distillers were ready to consign the bourbon category to that great liquor store in the sky; today, inspired at least in part by the popular period TV series Mad Men, classic cocktails are making a comeback as the twenty- and thirty-something crowd bellies up to the bar for whiskey—specifically bourbon whiskey. Small batch premium and super premium bourbons are now commanding the same respect and high prices that had been the domain of single-malt scotch. 

9. Drinks and a Show
Restaurants like to dazzle us with presentation: the pampering turn of a peppermill; the deft, table side deboning of a whole fish; the oohs and aahs of a made-to-order zabaglione that’s whisked and flamed in its copper bowl. Now we’re seeing the same star treatment for cocktails. Juices are squeezed a la minute, syrups and purees are ladled right under our noses, and mixed drinks are given a deliberately theatrical, tooth-rattling ride in cocktail shakers.

10. How Low Can They Go?
Happy hour has always been a diet disaster, and drinkers, especially women, have always pushed for lower calorie choices. There’s a caloric arms race as the big players compete for the title of the lightest of the light beers on the market. Miller had just released its MGD 64, claiming it to be “as light as it gets” at 64 calories, when Bud Select 55 stole the title with a mere 55 calories in a 12 oz. bottle. Pre-mixed, low-calorie cocktails—a category that barely existed just a year ago—is giving a boost to liquor store sales, and restaurants like Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurants, Applebee’s, and even that ode to caloric excess, the Cheesecake Factory, have developed low-calorie cocktail menus.


Posted in beer + wine + spirits, food trends | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Genius of Trader Joe’s

It doesn’t work for everyone.
Trader Joe’s store locations are second-rate and their parking lots are impossibly small. The aisles are cramped, there are so many missing product categories you’ll never knock off a whole shopping list, and the lines at the register rival July 4th at Disneyland. It should all add up to the retail equivalent of waterboarding, but instead, the population of admirers continues to swell.

Trader Joe’s has figured out how to take its many shortcomings and weave them into its mystique.
There’s just one brand of olives and one box size of polenta, but customers will bet that if Trader Joe’s picked them, those olives must be fabulous and it’s the best damn polenta out there. Employees are scruffy, laid-back, and Hawaiian-shirted, but also customer-friendly, always out on the floor to answer questions, and quick to open a package to give you a sample. Beloved products spontaneously disappear from store shelves, but they’re replaced with new and offbeat culinary discoveries that are often a half-step ahead of our palates (anyone for adzuki bean chips and dried green mango?). Instead of a chore, shopping at Trader Joe’s is a cultural experience.

Trader Joe’s carries around 4,000 products, compared to the typical grocery store’s 50,000. It’s a mix of foodie-friendly staples, like cage-free eggs and extra virgin olive oil, plus affordable luxury and exotic items, like frozen truffled ricotta pizza and Moroccan tagine sauce. This is not inexpensive food, but the offerings are unique and the prices are often the lowest in town. If this is not how you shop, cook, and eat, you just won’t get it.

To make sure its customers get it, the company looks at demographics like education levels and cooking magazine subscriptions to divine its next store locations. And they sure do get it: Trader Joe’s has average store sales of  $1,750 per square foot—that’s double the sales per square foot of Whole Foods and triple the amount of a typical Publix or Shaw’s supermarket. For Trader Joe’s, it adds up to $8 billion in annual sales.

The genius of Trader Joe’s is its marriage of cult appeal and scale. It doesn’t just masquerade as a neighborhood store with its bad clip art and folksy hand-lettered signs; it is a neighborhood store, with a tight customer focus and an ability to curate each store’s offerings to suit local tastes.

With 361 stores and counting, individual store oversight is less manageable, and a buying error can cost the company millions. Let’s hope as Trader Joe’s grows, it can hang on to the quirks and surprises that make it a special place to shop. Although no one will complain if they expand their parking lots.

If you do nothing else today, be sure to watch this video. If I Made a Commercial for Trader Joe’s is one man’s unauthorized tribute. It’s a complete, warts-and-all portrait; a love song celebrating the customers, employees, and eclectic merchandise of his favorite store. And it’s charming and very funny.



Posted in food business, shopping | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Milkman Cometh

Remember the milkman?

Once a fixture of the early morning landscape, making deliveries to about a third of all households in the United States, the milkman was all but extinct as the 20th century drew to a close, with sales down to a paltry 0.4% of the retail dairy industry. It appeared that the milkman would remain a bit of quaint nostalgia for those old enough to remember, and younger generations would never know home delivery that doesn’t arrive in an Amazon box.

Home milk delivery had been dying since the 1970’s. Improvements in refrigeration and pasteurization had extended the shelf life of dairy products allowing for less frequent purchases. The burgeoning supermarket industry had begun selling milk as a loss leader to lure customers into their stores. And Americans were drinking less milk.

The return of the milkman
Recently, this old-fashioned service has been making a comeback for reasons that can be personal, practical, and political. It’s a convenience for working parents who can strike a chore off their list, and for seniors who can lighten the load they lug home from the market. It fits with consumer interest in local products and small-scale producers who likely bottle in reusable and recyclable glass bottles and adhere to natural and organic dairy practices.

This is not the milkman of yesteryear.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that it is still almost always a man slinging the bottles. But smaller customer bases and larger areas of coverage demanded tweaks to much of the business model, so in addition to traditional dairy products, high-profit items like specialty meats, bread, jams, and cut flowers are often added to the orders.

Dairies are availing themselves of plenty of 21st century technology with online ordering, route optimization software that works with the delivery truck’s GPS , twittered delivery announcements, and hand-held scanners that track barcoded products and generate the customer accounts.

Businesses range from the small mom and pops with a few hundred local customers to Oberweis Dairy, which delivers to more than 50,000 households throughout Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Dairies in Maryland , Virgina, Washington, and Boston are reporting annual sales growth of more than 30% and massive waiting lists as they expand into new delivery areas. Even New York City has Manhattan Milk, although its trucks are more likely to drop the bottles with doormen than on doorsteps

You will pay a premium for the convenience, usually a delivery charge of around $3, but the milk itself probably costs no more than the supermarket price for organic dairy products. In exchange, your milk will be the freshest you can get and you will be doing your part for the local economy and the environment. And between the nostalgia, the cream on top, and the glass bottles, you’ll swear it just tastes better.



Posted in food trends, home delivery | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Arrested for Feeding the Homeless

adj \əb-ˈsərd, -ˈzərd\
1: ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous
2: having no rational or orderly relationship to human life

—from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

12 members of the all-volunteer, anti-hunger group Food Not Bombs have been arrested for feeding the homeless in an Orlando, Florida park.
That’s right; it’s illegal to feed the poor and hungry.

Food Not Bombs, after obtaining the appropriate permits, began distributing free food every Wednesday in Orlando’s Lake Eola Park in 2005. More recently, the City Council passed an ordinance limiting any group that holds a food sharing-event that attracts 25 or more people to two events per downtown park per 12-month period. The Food Not Bombs members, who were handcuffed and loaded into a police van, will each face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Several U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, Nevada, Santa Monica, California, and Wilmington, North Carolina have adopted ordinances limiting the distribution of free food in public, with many more considering similar legislation. Most have restricted the time and place of food handouts, hoping to discourage homeless people from congregating and, in the view of officials, ruining efforts to beautify parks and gentrify neighborhoods.

The criminalization of homelesness.
The ordinances are aimed at the broader blight of public homelessness. The cities have already tried to shield their citizens with selective enforcement of anti-camping policies and public intoxication laws. Failing that, they are switching tactics and criminalizing the activities of good Samaritans, religious groups, and other humanitarian efforts.

According to the United States Conference of Mayors, in 2010, requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 24% in cities across the country. At the same time, resources are dwindling as financially strapped state and local governments cut their funding to aid agencies. It’s estimated that about one-third of the need is not met, and the the shortfall between demand and resources keeps growing.

The right to food is a well-recognized, basic human right. It’s protected by over 100 instruments of international law, and guaranteed by the domestic constitutions of many of the world’s nations.
But not ours.

Free the Orlando 12!
Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolent social change. It shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world. And the group’s name? It answers the question:  With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?

You can download the full Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness from the United States Conference of Mayors.



Posted in food policy, local foods | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Let’s Make a Deal

My This for Your That.
You did it as a kid. You had an innate sense of the relative value of a bag of Cheetos and could broker a win-win lunchroom exchange.

Swapping is back.
Combine the DIY ethic with social networks, add in a shaky economy, and the table is set for cashless food exchanges.

If you’ve ever made your own pickles or jam, the appeal of a swap is obvious. You spent a small fortune and an entire weekend on the project, leaving you with enough jars of a single condiment to last you two lifetimes. Connect with a dozen or so nearby DIYers and everyone gets to strut their culinary stuff and go home with a varied pantry’s worth of foodstuffs. Since swaps are held privately and no money changes hands, they are generally out of the purview of health and commerce regulatory agencies.

When a swap is dedicated to a single product the trading is self-evident—cookies for cookies, soup for soup. It gets fuzzy when there is no common food currency. I’m sure you make some kick-ass blueberry muffins, but they can seem awfully pedestrian next to Buddha’s Hand limoncello or confited duck legs. As the trading goes on around you, you might feel like the last kid left after the captains choose up sides in a neighborhood kickball game.

Putting your creation out there is inherently personal. Kitchen egos and credibility are at stake. At its best, with a community of like-minded home cooks with shared food sensibilities, a food swap ends up like a town hall meeting crossed with a village marketplace and a hint of the local pub. And you get to go home with your haul of lovingly-made, hand-crafted foods.

The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking guides you through hosting your own food swap, and provides links to ongoing events around the country.


Posted in cook + dine, social media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Food Sovereignty: One town goes it alone.

The town of Sedgwick, Maine has done something that no other place in the United States has dared to do: its citizens voted, unanimously, I might add, to declare food sovereignty. They have given themselves the right to control their own food supply; “to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing,” without government intervention. The local ordinance overrides the authority of state and federal health codes, regulations, inspections, and restrictions. This means that raw milk, foraged foods, home-cured meats, and goods produced in unlicensed kitchens can be freely bought and sold.

In recent years, we’ve seen a flowering of small culinary start-ups. Cost, scale, and access keep them cooking at home instead of in the commercially licensed kitchens required by mainstream distribution channels. That then bars them from purchasing sales permits and liability insurance, driving many of them underground. Some state and local governments have chosen to relax regulations while others are cracking down on unlicensed operations, forcing them to comply or shut down. This has led to incidents like last year’s so-called pie-gate, when the elderly, pie-baking church ladies of St. Cecilia’s Parish were harassed and shut down by a state inspector in the midst of an annual bake sale fund-raiser marking the first Friday of Lent.

Questions of safety and liability come to mind.
There are growing concerns about the integrity of our national food system, and criticism of the sometimes arbitrary and wrong-headed nature of health code enforcement. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one out of six Americans gets sick from food-borne illness, with 3,000 of them dying each year. Sedgwick decided to takes its chances with local producers, taking reassurance from the personal nature of the interactions between producer and consumer. Residents are being encouraged to make informed decisions, especially if they are consuming raw milk products, and to waive liability stemming from transactions.

Maine is governed by “home rule,” which gives municipalities the power to alter and amend their charters on local matters that aren’t prohibited by constitutional or general law. So far, state and federal authorities have been hands-off in Sedgwick, and three nearby towns are in the process of adopting similar measures.

Learn more about the food sovereignty movement. Grassroots International publishes Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum. It’s available as a free download from their website.



Posted in food policy, food safety | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Tasty Cartography

funny food photos - Food Map


Google unleashed a beast when it gave the public access to the code for the Google Maps interface.
All of a sudden anything and everything could be turned into geography with a mash-up of data overlaying a map.

A Google Maps mash-up brought us a map of farm stands to shop for locally grown produce. A mash-up pinpoints every fast food hamburger from coast to coast, and another tells if a locality has more strip clubs, pizza parlors, or guns. There’s a map of happy hour specials for every day of the week, a  food truck location spotting map, and a map that can guide you through a multi-state burrito roadtrip, complete with reviews.

If it’s edible and mappable, it’s been mapped. […]

Posted in cyberculture, fast food | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Best Food Town Around


Is it a cluster of Michelin-starred restaurants?
A distinct regional cuisine?.
Is it the availability of ingredients or the edible imprint of ethnic enclaves?

What is it that makes a place great for food lovers? […]

Posted in cook + dine | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Is Coffee Within Walking Distance? Check your walkability score.

image via Apple (Parlophone)/EMI

Can you walk to get a cup of coffee?

If you have ever lived in a highly walkable neighborhood, you already know what a beautiful thing it is. Walkable communities are happier, healthier, safer, cleaner, and greener.

A truly walkable neighborhood offers convenient access to the daily destinations of life. If you’re lucky, you can walk to school or work. If you’re even luckier, there are groceries, a decent bakery, and a good cup of coffee within walking distance. […]

Posted in coffee, food policy | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Daily Deals for Dining: Groupon and its many imitators


Everyone loves a bargain.

Just 21 months old, the online social shopping service Groupon has signed up 12 million subscribers, adding nearly two million more each month. It’s grown to more than 1,000 employees, has been profitable since June 2009, and recently attracted a $135 million dollar round of investment from the venture capital group behind Facebook. (Gigabiting first looked at the Groupon phenomenon when it reached the one million subscriber mark) […]

Posted in cyberculture, restaurants | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Buying Local: Is it style over substance?

image via Hotpoint


Howdy neighbor.

Multinational conglomerates— especially those best known for corporate steamrolling— are touting their locavore cred:

Lay’s potato chips is running a series of television commercials featuring five of the farmers/suppliers who bring the simple happiness of farm life to big cities across America— including one whose ‘local farm’ covers 17,000 acres in 11 states.

McDonalds billboards trumpet locally-sourced french fries that are from here, for you; although the company admits that it hasn’t actually changed its buying practices and, of course, “participation and duration may vary.” […]

Posted in sustainability | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Food or Candy: are you smarter than a legislator?


If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck…

We manage to breeze through Halloween. Any 5-year old can set you straight. So why are state legislatures struggling with the definition of candy?

Retail food sales have traditionally been exempt from sales tax, which were deemed cruel and regressive. In recent years, as cash-strapped states look to plug up budget deficits, candy taxes have become the go-to revenue source. Already this year candy or soda taxes have been proposed or passed in more than a dozen states.

Food or Candy: how well do you know your sweet treats? (answers appear below)*

  1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
  2. Twizzlers Red Licorice
  3. Gummi Bears
  4. Jordan Almonds
  5. Snicker’s Bar
  6. Kit Kat
  7. M&M’s Peanut
  8. Milky Way
  9. Three Musketeers
  10. Nestle’s Crunch

On June 1, when the candy tax goes into effect in Washington, state residents will be paying a little more for Good and Plenty and licorice whips, but not licorice buttons or drops. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar– taxable; Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Creme– tax exempt. Reese’s pieces and Butterfinger bars are taxed but the stick versions aren’t.

Food or Candy? Walking the thin, sweet line is an audit manager in the Washington State Department of Revenue who has been charged with the all-important determinations. Each flavor of jelly bean must be individually parsed. Decisions must be made about bulk buying and boxed assortments. This is one state auditor whose job is safe for a very long time.

Absurd, arcane, and just utter nonsense, hair-splitting categorizations have been assigned to 3,600 items, although word is that one candy distributor just dropped a list of 11,000 Japanese imports on his desk. Whether you’re  a fan of Mr. Goodbar or Sour Patch Kids, you can check the status of your favorite sweets with the Washington State Taxable Treats Database.

*answers: odd numbers are candy; even numbers are food, except for 4.Jordan Almonds and 8.Milky Way: Jordan Almonds are candy except for the white ones, which are food; Milky Way bars are food except for the dark chocolate version, which is candy.



Posted in food policy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Locavore? Try one-block-avore.


Forget about the 100-mile diet. How about the 100-yard diet?

Sunset Magazine has taken local foods to a whole new level with its One-Block Diet. With a long history of expertise in cooking, gardening, and DIY, and utilizing just the open space on their Menlo Park, California campus, the magazine staff is attempting to grow, cultivate, brew, ferment, breed, and distill everything needed for a complete diet.

Not exactly soup to nuts (no nut trees planted yet), the goal is not total sustenance. There is some daily eating that reflects ripening, harvests, and cooking schedules, but the bulk of the food production is geared toward a series of seasonal feasts that are meant to inform, educate, and inspire the magazine’s readership.

Responsibility for the One-Block Diet has been assigned to teams of staff members in more than a dozen categories.

  • Honey, wax candles, and mead, a traditional honey wine, come from a team of beekeepers.
  • Beer brewers and winemakers go from garden to bottle, with enough left for cooking and salad vinegar.
  • There is a cow for milk and cheese, and eggs to collect from the chickens.
  • The mushroom team germinates spores, the olive growers run a press for cooking oil, and the salt crew learned how to harvest from the ocean and nearby salt ponds of San Francisco Bay water.
  • A gardening team grows and harvests fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, culinary herbs and teas, aided by the garden snail removal provided by Team Escargot. It’s all put together in a series of seasonal meals by the kitchen team.

By now, the virtues of going local are well known. In fact locavore is so much a part of the modern lexicon that it was named word the year for 2007 by the Oxford American Dictionary.

Even if you don’t plan on milling your own grains or getting honey from a backyard hive, the One-Block Diet is more than a lark for a bunch of magazine editors playing at farming. At a time when supermarkets sell fish from Viet Nam, plums from Chile, and apples from New Zealand; and the safety and integrity of our food supply is under attack from genetic modifications and food borne illnesses, an experiment like the One-Block Diet opens our eyes to the possibility of fresher, healthier foods and varieties that just taste better than what the supermarket offers.

Any volunteers for Team Escargot?

Team blogs, how-to manuals, menus, recipes and more are found on Sunset Magazine’s One-Block Diet website.

The Locavore app, available through  Apple’s iTunes store, tells you what’s actually grown near you and what’s ripe and available at any time of year.

Eat Local Challenge covers the local foods movement in communities spanning the U.S.

Posted in sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Culinary Crusaders: lending a hand in the volunteer kitchen

image via saavi


If you can chop or bake or just wash dishes, then have I got an opportunity for you!

From gleaning fields after a harvest to feeding the hungry in Appalachia to a bake sale in your community, there is a food-focused volunteer opportunity to fit every calendar, budget, and skill set. […]

Posted in community, kids, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Backyard Goats? Think long and hard.

Go to "Raising Goats For  Dummies" page


Suburban goat-keeping is the latest topic to get the Dummies treatment from the popular series of how-to books. It’s a sure sign that backyard goats have reached critical mass.

This time last year it was chickens. Stories in the press fueled a nostalgia-tinged notion of endearing, pet-like creatures, deliciously fresh eggs, and serious locavore status. The dream ran up against the reality of filthy, shrieking fowl that barely edge out snakes in cuddliness, and are prone to ailments like poultry mites and pasty butt. Egg dreams were dashed by fragile hen health and the surprise of chicks that matured into roosters. Animal shelters around the country are overflowing with last year’s fad. […]

Posted in food trends, home, local foods | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Spending a Bundle? See how you stack up.


Are you a dine-now-pay-later Life-a-holic? A first-on-the-scene Thrill Jockey angling for the hottest table in town? Or more of a Proud Provider, cooking dinners at home so you can feather the nest?

Bundle is a new social-media website for personal money management that puts you in touch with your inner spender. It’s a joint venture of Microsoft MSN, Citigroup, and the investment research folks at Morningstar that in their minds offers information and tools to help people spend more wisely, but to the rest of us it’s a chance to see how the other half really lives. And eats. […]

Posted in phone applications, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Outlaw Dining: forbidden foods

[photo courtesy of Telegraph UK]

Sure, you can always bring a bottle of wine. Safe, solid, predictable.
Come on, people, this is a party! It’s time to bust out the contraband!

Between the Department of Agriculture, The Food and Drug Administration, and the  Customs and Treasury departments, there’s a slew of delicacies that have been banned in various locales. Even so, with a little sleuthing and a few shady contacts you should be able to score an impressive gift for your host.


Contrary to popular belief, absinthe is legal in the United States. The FDA strictly limits the level of thujone, a toxic substance found in wormwood, one of the spirit’s ingredients. Thujone has long been rumored to cause hallucinations in absinthe drinkers, although this has never been confirmed. The legal version is highly alcoholic (up to 74%) and is usually diluted before drinking.


Since 2005, caviar connoisseurs have been forced to make do without the eggs of the wild beluga sturgeon. Until the dwindling numbers of this species can be revived, caviar lovers have to satisfy themselves with the roe of salmon, trout, and other more plentiful fish. Strictly speaking, these substitutes are not true caviar.


The dried root bark of the sassafras tree has been used for tea, as a fragrance for soap, a painkiller, an insect repellent, and­ a seasoning and thickener for many Creole soups and stews. It’s best known for contributing the characteristic flavor to root beer, although few can remember the taste of true sassafras root beer. A potential carcinogen, its use has been banned for 50 years.

Foie Gras

Celebrated for its luxurious taste and texture; excoriated for the cruelty of force-feeding geese and ducks to enlarge their livers before slaughter. It’s hard to stay neutral on the subject of foie gras. Chicago banned the retail sale of this delicacy in 2006, imposing fines of up to $500 per violations. Since eating foie gras remained legal, restaurateurs skirted the ban by serving the dish under the guise of other menu items, claiming that they were giving away the livers with the purchase of the other dishes. The ineffectual ban was lifted in 2008. California is gearing up to implement its own foie gras ban in 2012.

Raw Milk/Raw Milk Cheeses

Raw milk proponents tout the superior flavor and nutrition of milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Government agencies worry that bacteria present in unpasteurized milk poses a health threat. Raw milk can not be legally sold in about two dozen states, and is limited to direct farm sales in a few others. A few enterprising farmers satisfy raw milk demand by selling ‘herd shares’– customers purchase a share in a cow that entitles them to a portion of its milk.

Throughout the US, unpasteurized cheeses can only be legally sold when they have been aged at least 60 days– the period deemed necessary to kill off potentially harmful bacteria in raw dairy products. True cheese connoisseurs feel that we are missing out on the distinct and extraordinary pleasures of young cheeses, such as those found in European countries where the requirement is a 30-day waiting period.

Here are some resources to help you locate and legally transport some of these forbidden foods:

A Campaign for Real Milk provides a state-by-state directory of raw milk producers on their website.

Keep up with the latest legislation with the Food Law Blog.

Think twice before packing that prosciutto– failure to declare food products at border crossings can result in fines as high as $10,000. Consult the US Customs website to learn what you can lawfully transport.

Read The Devil’s Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit (available through Amazon.com) for a chef’s tour of prohibited pleasures.

Take a look at Treehugger.com’s list of foods banned in Europe that are available in the US. It includes genetically modified foods, pesticides, hormones, and other additives that the EU considers a threat to public health. 
At least in American we are safe from month-old cheese.



Posted in food policy, food safety, Travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Such a deal!


Wheeling a shopping cart through Costco piled high with enormous bottles of olive oil and 24 can cases of tuna fish.
That’s what most of us think of buying in bulk.
Groupon is looking to change that with its bargain-hunting meets social media mashup. […]

Posted in food business, shopping, social media, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments
Web Analytics