There's a restaurant near my house in LA called Native Foods. It's busy every time I walk by. While other places struggle to bring in customers, this one is exploding, and not just in my neighborhood. In the past year, Native Foods has gone national. And guess what: It's completely vegan. No meat, no dairy, no animal products whatsoever. And it's not the only example of the vegan takeover.
Meat- and dairy-free restaurants are all the rage these days, and a lot of carnivores are devoted customers. That's all fine with me. The only problem is, many people add vegan food to their weekly routine because they assume it's healthier. Those people are wrong and I'm sick of people thinking that all vegan food is healthy.
Regular readers know that come the weekend I like to enjoy a post-dinner Dunhill Peravia cigar with a relaxing adult beverage. In the winter months, the tipple of choice is Dow Tawny Port. Ten year old most nights, but I'll spring for 20 year old when I feel like pushing the boat right out. Forty year old for my birthday. When it gets hot out, however, port no longer refreshes. Instead, it cloys and tastes mainly of alcohol.
So I switch gears. Oddly enough, to a higher alcohol tipple. Since my college days, the summer month post-dinner drink of choice was Wild Turkey Liqueur on ice. (Lots of ice.) A few years ago they changed the name to American Honey, reflecting the fact that it is a blend of bourbon whiskey and honey liqueur. A bit hard to find, but well worth it.
Today, however, there is a new competitor(s). The resurgence of interest in brown liquors and, especially, whiskey has been accompanied by new whiskey-based liqueurs. (The less said about Jim Beam's Red Stag cherry flavored bourbon, the better IMHO.)
Lately I've been seeing Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey liqueur practically everywhere. Because it's now easier to find than American Honey, I've been trying it.
As a preliminary matter, I must confess that straight whiskey is not my tipple of choice in this setting. As suggested by my love of Port, when it comes to a post-dinner drink with a smoke, my sweet tooth demands satisfaction. Hence, my preference for whiskey-honey blends.
Tasting the two side-by-side tonight as I enjoyed a Peravia after watching the first round of the NFL draft, I concluded that I still prefer Wild Turkey's American Honey. The Wild Turkey liqueur is a bit more syrupy. The honey elements are less assertive, but the finish is still softer and sweeter.
The Tennessee Honey is thinner. It has a much longer finish, but a much less pleasant one. There is a mixture of nutty, vegetal, and smoky flavors on the finish that isn't very pleasant (to my palate).
The nutty/vegetal elements of the Tennessee Honey also don't mesh as well with the creamy vanilla, buttered toast, cedar flavors of the Peravia as do the citrus and sweet flavors of the American Honey.
In sum, American Honey is harder to find (at least in LA) than its new competitor, but I still prefer it.
I've been cooking a lot lately out of Cooks Illustrated. Last night, I made the Provencal beef stew from the 2012 Make-Ahead recipes special issue. It turned out great, perhaps because of (or in spite of?) some tweaks I made.
The original recipe was proportioned to make 6-8 servings. I wanted 2 servings, so I cut everything by about two-thirds. Except: I used the whole 3/4 ounces of dried porcini mushrooms, because I like mushrooms. I also only cut the anchovy fillets from 3 down to 2. I used the whole can of tomatoes for which the recipe called, instead of cutting it down. Other tweaks: I used pancetta instead of salt pork (and left the pancetta in the stew). I used preserved lemons instead of orange zest. I omitted the olives for which the recipe called.
Finally, I cooked the stew on the stove top instead of in the over, using my Le Creuset enameled cast iron Tagine. I love this thing. It's sized for 2 people. It produces moist, succulent stews and braises. Indeed, it's become my go-to tool for anything needing a braise.
“It may be better to live under robber barons,” wrote the British author, “than under omnipotent moral busybodies.” [Barton Hinkle, Richmond Times-Dispatch] The federal government is preparing new rules restricting snack foods available through local schools, “which could include banning the candy sold for school fund-raisers,” notwithstanding a recent study finding no link between vending machine availability and child obesity [New York Times] And a blog supporter of bans on birthday cupcakes and soda machines in schools responds to her critics [Bettina Elias Siegel, "The Lunch Tray" and more]
The wine list at the White Castle [in Lafayette, Ind.] proposes a thoughtfully balanced varietal selection, from a pétillant Moscato to a quite approachable Merlot. ... "Our customers wanted beer, so we thought, why not try wine, too?" said Lisa Ingram, chief operating officer. She was drinking a Sprite. Her father, Bill Ingram, president and chief executive, held a bottle of Budweiser. "I don't think we'll do scotch," he said.
Why not? Fast food joints are American bistros and wine has been an element of bistro life for generations. I like it.
But would Harold and Kumar still go to White Castle?
"1. Dogs in Cafes/Outdoor Restaurants." Predictably, this one doesn't bother me at all. To the contrary, I like it.
"2. Tables Ridiculously Close Together." Why is it that restaurants with lousy acoustics are especially fond of this one? "3. Overzealous Wine Pouring. If there’s one thing we definitely don’t need help with, it’s pouring our own alcohol." Damned straight. I bought it. It's my bottle. Servers should keep their hands off it.
"4. Designer Ice" Who cares?
"5. Enormous Wine Glasses" I'd rather have a glass that is too big than too small. One trend that seems to be over is for high priced Italian places to use tumblers instead of real wine glasses. My $100 bottle of super-Tuscan wine belongs in a Riedel glass, not a water tumbler.
"6. Ketchup Snobbery" Who cares?
"7. Sparkling, Flat or Filtered Tap?" Filtered tap is better for the environment and, for my money, tastes better.
"8. Unisex Restrooms." Lousy idea.
"9. Excessive Punctuation/Lower-Case Letters in Restaurant Names, Menu Items Wh.at is up wi.th all the pe.ri.ods?" it's annoying, but it's better than the 1980s fad for adding extra "e's", as in "Ye Olde Taverne."
"10. Wood-Infused Food" Unless it's smoked BBQ, wood is not an ingredient.
For the corporate governance policy wonk in your life, the latest learning on corporate governance after the financial crisis. "Stephen Bainbridge is not only an expert on corporate governance and an academic whose ideas and writing have changed the way we think about corporations. Professor Bainbridge is also one of the most perceptive academic commentators on the federal government's regulation of corporate governance. In Corporate Governance after the Financial Crisis, Professor Bainbridge has written an important book for those seeking to understand the theoretical and practical implications of Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley and the federal government's foray into corporate regulation. It is a book that for years to come will influence the controversial debate over the federal regulation of corporate governance." --Professor Steven Davidoff N.Y. Times "Deal Professor"
For your favorite oenophile, the best wine glasses on the market, combining fashionability with an amazing ability to enhance the flavor and aroma of wines. Plus, they're completely dishwasher safe. I've switched entirely to the O line at home.
"Like other Riedel lines, O glasses are specifically shaped and sized to suit particular varietals but with the additional benefit of stemlessness. This innovation creates a lovely rounded silhouette that cradles pleasantly in the hand while fitting better than traditional stems in the cupboard, picnic basket, and dishwasher."
I've been using this tagine a lot, for both traditional tanginess but also for pretty much anything I braise. Many of the recipes for which I've used it came out of the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Mediterranean Cooking book. All in all it is an incredibly useful kitchen tool. "Inspired by the slowly simmered, heavily seasoned cuisines indigenous to North Africa, this 2-quart Moroccan Tagine by Le Creuset is a classic example of form following function. Its distinctive cone-shaped lid promotes natural steam circulation and allows for the constant return of condensation to the base, moistening ingredients and tenderizing tough fibers within cuts of meat. And because it's crafted from durable cast iron, the Moroccan Tagine retains heat longer and cooks food more evenly and thoroughly. Traditional Moroccan tagines (the dish is named for the cookware) typically include a combination of braised meat (often lamb, beef or chicken), fruits, root vegetables, nuts, and fragrant spices like cinnamon, saffron, and ginger. For centuries, North Africa has had access to a myriad of wonderful spices to complement the region's diverse selection of seafood and meats. The traditional method of cooking in North Africa--the Tagine--has been used for centuries to slow cook with these spices. Precious little water is needed to keep foods moist, and the unique design of the Tagine lid locks in the combination of flavors. The base in this model, made of cast iron, works with any heat source: gas, electric radiant or solid plates, ceramic, halogen, induction, and Aga-Rayburn-type stoves. The tall, inverted cone shape keeps the top far from the heat source and from absorbing the heat, and thus stays cool to the touch. Le Creuset has also included many wonderful North African recipes for the Tagine, including soups, main dishes, salads, and desserts."
And now for something serious: Thoughts on the season from one of Christianity's most heroic and inspiring figures. "Pope John Paul II continues to be remembered and loved for his closeness to all people around the world. In this book his own words lead readers to the holy season of Christmas. Reflections for each day--from the First Sunday of Advent until the end of the Christmas season--begin with selections from talks and statements of the late Holy Father, followed by Scripture, prayer, and a suggestion for an appropriate seasonal activity. Advent and Christmas Wisdom is ideal for those who want to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ's Incarnation as they prepare room in their hearts for his birth."
A new ad by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals features a turkey with the head of a dog. It reads, “Kids: If you wouldn’t eat your dog, why eat a turkey? Go Vegan.”
To which he responds:
Man occupies the top of the food chain for a reason, and the animals are here on this Earth to serve us. In the case of the turkey, that service includes with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce and potatoes on the side.
Dog, on the other hand, serves us by showing extreme loyalty, and working hard to protect us and also to keep us warm on cold winter nights. My dogs are more than human, they are G-O-D spelled backwards. In fact,
I don't think my dogs are more than human. But I do think God gave us dogs to show us that unconditional love really exists. And, like Sean, the more people I meet, the more I love my dogs. Which makes them different from turkeys in my book too.
Since it's just the two of us for Thanksgiving this year, Helen and I are going out to eat instead of dealing with 20 pounds of left over turkey. If I were eating at home, however, I definitely try a couple of these celebrity chef recipes. Plus, of course, I'd take my own advice on What American Wine to Drink at Thanksgiving.
Bill A06884, introduced by Democratic assemblyman Robin Schimminger, would “amend the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law to insure that alcoholic beverages distributed in this state pass through those authorized to sell the product.” Specifically, it would “require the manufacturer of an alcoholic beverage to identity [sic] the entities that are authorized to distribute, at wholesale, the product.” This is being done in order to “protect against counterfeit or ‘grey market’ goods and would serve . . . in the collection of state excise taxes.”
Stephen Bainbridge, UCLA law professor and wine blogger, tells me that this will mean that “a limited number of wholesalers will be exclusively entitled to import wine into the state of New York.” In the past, wine retailers and restaurants could “do grey-market purchases, to bypass the big wholesalers, and buy directly from the winery, or go to the auction market or private collectors.” But if the bill passes, “every bottle of wine sold in New York has to go through a licensed wholesaler.” There are only five such in New York State, and they would control “the flow of inventory from producers to retailers.” ...
Bainbridge notes that “the limited extent to which there is a counterfeit-wine problem tends to be in very old, very rare, expensive collectible wines.” The demographic that consumes these wines is a narrow slice of the electorate and one that most New York voters would think, if they ever thought about it, does not require the Assembly’s special solicitude.
But even so, does this market require regulation and surveillance? It surely does. But that surveillance is done within the market — by connoisseurs who take steps to make sure they don’t get conned on a four-figure purchase, and auctioneers and collectors who carefully guard their reputations. Professor Bainbridge notes that “wineries are making much more sophisticated labels and bottles that are much harder to duplicate,” and requiring auctioneers to provide “documentation of where and when auctioned bottles were bought.” In other words, the market is policing the market.
Had lunch today at the RajinCajun food truck, which was parked on Wilshire in the Miracle Mile area near LACMA. Had a very good bowl of jambalaya topped with a spoonful of gumbo. Just the right amount of heat, although vast quantities of hot sauce were available for those with the need for real heat. The praline cheesecake looked good, but good sense prevailed.