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Showing posts from February, 2008

The Trouble with Truffles

The latest in unfortunate trends seems to be truffle oil. It's everywhere being put on everything both appropriate and bizarre. It is becoming a panacea for an otherwise lack of flavor focus, a singular obscure ingredient (in the palates of most people) that adds that earthy dimension difficult to describe and impossible to emulate. Well, almost impossible.

This sudden trend is no-doubt due to the the introduction and restaurant promotion of artificial truffle oil. "Give your customers the flavor of expensive, exotic truffles - and charge them accordingly - and you pocket the difference." For any restauranteur, the opportunity to bump the price of an appetizer by a buck or two for mere pennies per dish is a no-brainer.

While truffles can range anywhere from $60 to $300 an ounce (depending on who you ask, what time of year, and whether you want black or white truffles), one truffle can make a respectable amount of truffle oil. But it's still pricey. Like any other organ…

Supper Bowl Sunday

At first, the density of people at the grocery store seemed fairly normal. Those of us cursed with a "brief" attention span struggle a bit with simply making sure we get what we came for, so the quantity - high or low - didn't seem out of place; dense without being crowded. And then I began to notice a trend - a preponderance of chips (potato and/or corn), guacamole in plastic containers, and guys wandering around in football jerseys that they clearly didn't wear for work, 12-packs of Budweiser in hand hovering over the meat counter. What in the hell was going on?

Ah. Superbowl Sunday. Save for the fact that it falls on a Sunday (much to the detriment of productivity the following day), it's basically a national holiday. Friends gather 'round the warm glow of an enormous television (purchased primarily for this day) and celebrate the athletic prowess of total strangers while screaming criticisms at the players that will never hear them.

Normal people bet on whi…

Snake Oil, Part 2 - Unfiltered

A few folks have emailed me both in support of, and in strict opposition to, my comments regarding Riedel glassware. However, not one of them was able to explain the following.

Crate and Barrel has several wine glasses that, should you draw an outline of their shadow on a wall (with a piece of paper on it ideally), you'll notice a STARK similarity between them and the shape of Riedel's Vinum series. I'd be surprised if one can copyright (or patent) the shape of a wine glass which explains how C&B was able to source these things.

Which begs the obvious question - if a wine glass made by C&B has the same shape as a Riedel glass, doesn't it do the same thing? While Riedel socks you for $19.00 a glass, C&B can do it for $5.00. (Presumably the latter are glass and not crystal but...)

As many of you know, I'll attempt an authoritative talk about food but, when it comes to wine, I defer to others for true wisdom. Among those who have chimed in is "Krista&quo…

Bucks Stops Here

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Sunny Beans Coffee in Alameda seems to have come up with an absolutely brilliant bumper sticker. Just sad that I didn't think of it myself...

Everybody in Alameda, go here instead of Starbucks please (but not all at once...)

Here, taste this

For all of the obvious bad points about business travel (especially when trade shows are involved), there was one perk, one thread of cultural redemption I'll always cherish; for 6.5 years, I ate some amazing food on someone else's dime. (Fortunately, it was a cash-rich multi-billion dollar corporation.) New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, L.A., Paris, London, Stockholm, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney... in each case, I was allowed to explore the local culinary scene in some detail without going bankrupt in the process.

Uunless your job is actually to be a food reviewer, or you're the V.P. of something, you're unlikely to be given an appropriate budget. Inevitably, I or one of my coworkers, would bump into (or shoot right past at high speed) our allotted $75 a day. Ironically, when I did exceed my "per diem" by, say, $15.00, I received a scolding for it despite the fact that every day for the 5 days prior, the only thing I had eaten all da…