The CHOW Blog rss

Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

El Bulli 2003 – 2004

El Bulli 2003 – 2004

You can't get reservations, but you can buy this book. READ MORE

Dessert Cuisine

Dessert Cuisine

A cookbook for the most important course. READ MORE

The Complete Thomas Keller

The Complete Thomas Keller

Recipes from a man with six Michelin stars. READ MORE

The Professional Chef

The Professional Chef

Cook like somebody pays you to do it. READ MORE

The Oxford Companion to Wine

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Vincyclopedia. READ MORE

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Breads and cakes from our favorite ex-con. READ MORE

What You Don’t Know Can Mess You Up

The Gourmet holiday issue, overwhelmingly dominated by cookie recipes and gift guides, also contains an interestingly off-message piece titled “Your Ignorance, Their Bliss.”

The story has a relatively simple point: The Food and Drug Administration, which has been charged in recent years with protecting the national food supply against acts of terrorism, may soon also need to take over the duties of food labeling and standards from individual states.

The National Uniformity for Food Act—sponsored by, surprise, surprise, the food industry—would replace stronger state food labeling and safety standards with weaker, federally mandated rules. Moreover, the rules would need to be researched and imposed by an agency whose resources have been increasingly cut back, even as its duties have expanded.

A chart run with the piece tells the story of the incredible shrinking FDA in a hurry:

BUDGET

2003: $47.6 million

2006: $30 million

2007: $25 million

FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES

2003: 950

2006: 881

2007: 817

Government thriftiness is swell, but it’s hard not to wish that costs had been cut another way—like, say, scrapping a couple spare nuclear weapons. We got lots!

You Haven’t Been Eating Seriously Enough

Today food writer Ed Levine launched a new food site called Serious Eats. He teamed up with a cadre of all-star bloggers, including Adam Kuban of A Hamburger Today and Slice (managing editor), Meg Hourihan of Megnut (senior adviser), Alaina Browne of A Full Belly (general manager), plus Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet and the folks at Roadfood (contributors). With such a great group behind it, the site has already attracted attention from other food media and is likely to have a wide built-in fan base. Still—and I don’t mean to sound catty here—it may be a while before the site attains its “goal, however lofty,” of providing “the best, most satisfying food- and drink-related experience on the internet.”

As Levine explains, he launched the site because he

looked over the food mediascape and saw that there was no welcoming homebase for passionate and discerning food lovers, no place serious eaters could go to for engaging, entertaining, and informative video or for trustworthy food advice, no welcoming, gathering place online where passionate eaters could get their questions answered or just hang out and chew the fat about pizza, steak, greenmarkets, or wine—or any other food they love.

Video is indeed a main attraction of the site, and the first series—a conversation between Susie Essman of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Vogue food critic Jeffrey Steingarten—is entertaining, if not capital-S Serious (at one point Steingarten utters the sentence, “Let’s have a really good talk about poop”). The site also includes a forum, selected shorts from the contributing bloggers’ blogs, and features (which for now are also republished from said blogs, though in time the editors aim to have original exclusives). So far so good on these as well: Levine’s meditation on the sheer awfulness of the new Starbucks breakfast sandwich is a great read, and Adam’s Thanksgiving comic is in keeping with the usual hilarity of his posts. But it seems like a slightly odd choice for a food site with such high ambitions to launch with such scant original content (perhaps the team is hoping the launch will generate the buzz they need to attract more contributors?). I’m looking forward to seeing it evolve beyond this first step.

Mmm, Capitalist Chocolate

I’ve been hearing a lot about a chocolatier in Seattle that roasts its own beans and creates confections with innovative flavors. But I was a bit alarmed after reading today’s article in the Seattle Times about Theo Chocolate because the article repeatedly notes that the company manufactures “free-trade” chocolate.

I’m sure Milton Friedman, rest his soul, would have been delighted to sample one of Theo’s yellow-curry and roasted coconut chocolate bars.

My fears were put to rest after a visit to the company’s website, where they note that their chocolate is Fair Trade Certified, and therefore free of the social ills that some chocolates, particularly those sourced on the Ivory Coast, can carry with them.

The Perfectionist

The Perfectionist

A chef obsessed with restaurant reviews. READ MORE