Revolutions and Insanity

Few revolutions occur by choice and even fewer are implemented at the optimum time. Such decisions tend to sound as if they sprang forth in a single moment of inspiration. The reality (to which I can attest) is that this kind of change is usually long in coming and even longer in implementing. I can also vouch for the fact that such changes should often happen sooner than they do. If your "gut" tells you something, pay attention. Doing something repeatedly and getting a result is called persistence, but when nothing changes, we call it insanity. Between the two is a very fine line.
For years, I've lived and thrived (to varying degrees) in Silicon Valley; arguably among the epicenters of change and progress in the modern world. Like a virus, our expectations of and demands on technology mutate and evolve very quickly. With each generation, current "treatments" for our ills are rendered nearly useless. Technological hardware has become part of our lifestyle, not…

Opting Out

In retrospect, maybe April 1st wasn't the best day to notify my friends that I was "giving up meat". It was an announcement met with skepticism, suspicion, and downright fear. (People seem to fear zombies, who consume human flesh, as much as humans who choose not to eat the flesh of other animals.) It's hardly a day to announce anything of a serious nature, but that was exactly the point. I didn't plan on the timing, it just worked out that way.

My friends had always (and only) known me as a devout and fairly boisterous carnivore. The self-justifying mantra of "If the universe didn't want us to eat animals, why did it make them so tasty?” actually made sense at the time. Who are we to argue or question Mother Nature? While I've never been one to tuck into a 32-ounce Porterhouse steak (and, frankly, those who do are frightening to me), I've certainly enjoyed my share of animals as a main course or side dish. Odds were good that some unsuspecting cr…

My First Fork

A preference for one thing over another is innate. It's also a survival instinct. If this watering hole is better than that watering hole, and you're an elephant, it's in your genes to communicate that fact. And those that don't follow you take their chances. Literally.

However for humans, stating a preference - declaring that one type of food, music, or way of thinking is  "better" than another - can be perceived by some as being elitist, arrogant, or as they say in the U.K., "up one's self"; which perhaps help explain their food.

As I write this, I'm in front of a new audio system. While I consider myself a music fan and want to consider food and music as equals, I tend to listen to music while making food; the auditory being a single stimulus while the sights, smells, and tactical nature of food occupies the other senses. A good soundtrack makes audible what the other senses are celebrating.

Having been in the right place at the right tim…

The Tasting Menu

Dining experiences come in many forms, from the unexpected "taco truck" at the right hour of the night (usually well past midnight and often dangerously close to dawn) to 3 or 4-star (depending on the measurement) restaurants from name-brand chefs. Taco trucks tend to exceed our expectations because one's expectations of quality are tempered in the wee hours. But those other places? They come with certain expectations.

I spend what some could easily call an unconscionable amount of money on food in a year. However, it's been awhile since I'd spent such an amount on a single meal.

The number one slot expense belongs to a meal in Monte Carlo at an Alain Ducasse outpost (Louis XV). It was an unexpected opportunity and I was fine spending what I did knowing it would be unique. Below that, plenty of meals in New York caused me to wince one the bill was tallied along with Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London.

Tonight's meal at Benu took the #2 position.

A 12-course mea…

Whining as a means to an end.

I've always written. In binders and notebooks, on typewriters, and on computers; the latter, for 28 years. And I've always loved food, though I fell in love long before I got to know it well enough. It was probably inevitable that I write about it.

My first blog entry about the "Death of the Martini", while a bit peripheral to the topic of food, encompasses why I started writing in the first place - I saw something I didn't like, I wrote that piece, and then began asking questions. Writing it all down gives me a point of reference, a reminder that something in food is broken in some small way.

At the end, I ask whether there might be a resurgence in cocktail making and, in the three years since I started FoodandWhining, I have discovered that there is indeed a resurgence, a revolution, a revival of "artisanal cocktails". Mind you, not to the point of being able to order a perfect Sazerac in any bar I enter, but I've been surprised by "secret …

Luxury without Impact

In an effort to follow the advice I post here, I purchased a book I referenced only in passing in my blatantly fluffy piece about making clear ice.

"The Frozen Water Trade" by Gavin Weightman is one of those books that opens up a hidden world behind something we take for granted. It's history, entrepreneurship, and struggles against adversity for ice. It covers its collection, distribution, and sale before there were handy machines which would make it in abundance automatically.

I think most people under the age of, say, 50 know that ice was sold in blocks but know very little about beyond that. My grandparents referred to their refrigerator as an "ice box" which I assumed to be a holdover from their modest upbringing and scant education. My assumption was that companies manufactured ice in large quantities and distributed blocks regularly to homes with a box in which to hold it. It turns out, the history of gathering and storing ice goes back much further tha…

Natural Selections and Food Chains

I remember watching "Mutual of Omaha's 'Wild Kingdom'" as a child and how it all seemed so cruel and unfair. A lion would stalk an hours-old, baby of some variation of "deer" and when the parent was even the slightest bit inattentive, the lion would storm in and kill the animal, often under the helpless gaze of the parent. The fact that the prey was cute didn't help the matter. (Cuteness seems biologically designed to amplify sympathy.) Why didn't the film crew step in and stop it? How could they just allow such a brutal death? The reality, which I couldn't understand at the time, was that while one cute baby animal died, a few other cute animals (cubs of the lion) would be fed, along with mom. As an ironic bonus, the parent of the sacrificed animal wouldn't be passing such inattentive genes on to the next generation. Lessons about "survival of the fittest" and "natural selection" and "food chain" wouldn'…