Posts for January 23, 2013

Your Cheap Olive Oil May Be Filled With Fake Crap

Not a virgin!

If that $5 bottle of extra virgin olive oil seems too good to be true, it probably is. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, a scientific nonprofit, discovered a 60 percent increase in food fraud this year. Pomegranate juice, olive oil, lemon juice, and tea are often diluted with cheaper products such as grape juice, water, and filters like lawn grass (gross!). Milk, honey, coffee, and seafood are also frequent culprits — but you already knew the unnamed "fish" in your favorite $3 taco was dodgy.

So, how can you fight food adulteration? »

Restaurants Fight Back Over Credit-Card Fees

Debit or credit may mean the difference of a couple dollars.

Since dinner out can often top $100 for two people, it's not surprising that most customers demand restaurants take credit cards. Restaurants, of course, are obliging, but that means credit-card companies can charge ever-higher fees, for which restaurants must bear the burden. Now the National Restaurant Association is lobbying Congress to get those fees lowered, much the way debit-card processing fees have already been capped under the Dodd-Frank Act. They've posted this fee calculator for restaurant owners so they can figure out just how pricey all this is — even small restaurants are likely paying tens of thousands a year in fees alone — with the hope that they'll make more noise. But barring any immediate changes at the federal level, restaurant customers in 40 states may soon start seeing those processing fees passed on to them as a line item on their bill.

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Tipple At Tavernita Tonight, Support Chickens at Red Door Monday, and More

Allow us to favor you with doings of the restaurant trade from all over our fair city. Firstly, Tavernita launches its Tippling Nights wine and spirits dinner series tonight by hosting its collaborators the Tippling Bros., Paul Tanguay and Tad Carducci, for a sherry-inspired Spanish dinner. It's at 6:30, and is $55; see the menu here, and watch for each month through the rest of the year.

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Drunk Guy Holds Pizza Deliverywoman Hostage, Asks Her to Be His Wife

A Boston-area man allegedly held a Papa Gino's deliverywoman against her will because he wanted a wife with his pizza, reports the Boston Globe. Jonathan Quinlan, drunk at the time and having clearly misinterpreted the whole "you ring, we bring" concept, was arrested for kidnapping.

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Waiter Who Defended Special-Needs Child Becomes Local Hero

Oh, happy day: Michael Garcia, the Houston waiter who refused to serve a customer who criticized a boy with Down syndrome, is earning widespread praise. Customers are flocking to Prime Rib to shake his hand, and kind commenters (they exist!) are showing Garcia some love on the restaurant's Facebook page. Well-deserved. Now, about that raise. [Earlier, Today]

Ranking People Magazine’s Paula Deen Puff Pieces

Puffy.Photo: People

Diabetes opportunist crusader Paula Deen hams it up on the absolutely-not-Photoshopped-we're-sure cover of People this week flanked by her newly svelte sons, touting her family's amazing weight loss (they shed a total of 178 pounds and proclaim, "If the Deens can do it, anyone can!"). But it's really no shock that People got the inside story on her dieting habits: They write about her all the time. Suspicious? Ahead, we rank the puffery possibilities (up to 100 points each) of each hard-hitting scoop.

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Join Chicagoist and the Ghosts of Bridgeport Restaurants To Benefit Benton House Tomorrow Night

Kevin Hickey goes Back To Preschool!

Here's a cool event we're overdue in mentioning, organized in part by our friends at Chicagoist. Benton House is a community center and social service agency in Bridgeport with a century-old history of helping the community with programs from feeding the hungry to day care. It has a cool set of vintage buildings which got that much cooler last year with the installation of booths and stools from the legendary Ramova Grill (it also has stuff from the equally legendary Healthy Food Lithuanian restaurant). And tomorrow night, a bunch of cool chefs will turn out for an event similar to those put on by Soup and Bread, in which your suggested $10 donation gets you soup, bread, and who knows what other goodies they may turn up. Who are the chefs? They include Bridgeport natives Kevin Hickey of Allium (who went to preschool at Benton House) and Mark Mendez of Vera, as well as local present-day restaurateurs including Jason Vincent (Nightwood), Art Jackson (Pleasant House), Daniel Sarkiss (Zaytune), Bridgeport Pasty Co., Bridgeport Bakery, and lots more. Chicagoist has full details, including why you won't have to wait in line in the cold, here.

The Taste Is Off to an Appetizing Start

A healthy number of viewers chomped down on the two-hour premiere of Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson's new culinary competition show last night. The Taste had 6.04 million viewers, beating comedies on Fox and NBC. In adult viewers 18 to 49, it averaged a 2.2 rating, beating CBS, NBC, and Fox. So, shazam! "The 18 to 49 range is what counts," Vulture's Josef Adalian tells us, "and while it's not a monster hit by any means, the show is off to a solid start." By comparison, America's Next Top Restaurant debuted in 2011 to 4.57 million viewers and a 1.6 share of viewers from 18 to 49. Adalian also notes The Taste had four times as many viewers as last month's most-watched episode of Top Chef Seattle. [Zap2It, Earlier]

Here’s What 27 Tons of Burning Goat Cheese Looks Like

A truck laden with about 27 metric tonnes (or, almost 60,000 pounds) of brunost cheese caught fire in a tunnel in Norway last week, causing a raging fire that burned for five days. The truck driver says he was about 1,000 feet into the tunnel when he noticed his cargo of dark goat cheese was aflame. Officials suspect the high sugar and fat content in the brunost and its arrangement on the truck caused a rapid spike in its temperature, leading to the fire, which badly damaged the interior of the hillside tunnel and left clouds of toxic gasses looming around the tunnel's entrances for days, the BBC reports. The driver escaped from the flaming cheese inferno unscathed, and the tunnel will be closed for a few weeks until it can be repaired. For now, at least, a small part of the country smells like raclette, and citizens are shocked. "I didn't know that brown cheese burns so well," says the director of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. Head toward the molten dairy center of Norway's fiery goat cheese tunnel of doom, just ahead.

Raclette! »

Slideshow: Jason Hammel On How Being Chefs With Kids Led To Collaborative Dinner With Beverly Kim, Rich Table

"It's because we all had kids," Jason Hammel says about last Monday's collaborative dinner with Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, and Evan and Sarah Rich of San Francisco's Rich Table. The dinner represented an evolution of the thing that Hammel's Lula Cafe is most associated with— its Monday night farm dinners— into a new, collaborative form, but first and foremost, it grew out of the fact that Hammel has young kids, and so did his collaborators on Monday night. "When you have kids, you can't go out with other chefs all night. So I was talking with John and Beverly about how you balance work and family life and still get to meet other chefs, and we were talking about doing a dinner, and they had just met Evan and Sarah and they have little kids too— and so I decided to invite them in and we could be social by working together." We attended Monday's dinner with our man Huge Galdones; his slideshow, and our chat with Jason Hammel, continues below.

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Alpana Singh Leaving Check, Please; Replacement To Be Named Soon

It was suspected as soon as she became involved in the opening of a new restaurant, The Boarding House (a conflict of interest, ultimately, though apparently a distant enough one that WTTW didn't act immediately), and it was hard to read this morning's tweet from Alpana Singh as meaning anything else:

Each great bottle must come to must come to an end. We are left with the memories created while drinking it.

But Crain's is now reporting it (no doubt the reason for the preemptive tweet) and Check, Please producer David Manilow effectively confirmed it in a tweet, saying that an announcement of Singh's replacement would be coming shortly. So: after ten years as host, Alpana Singh is leaving the popular restaurant reviewing show Check, Please, though WTTW says they hope she'll still contribute wine commentary to Chicago Tonight. UPDATE: Singh has a blog post here. [Crain's]

Time Out Says, Next Stop Carnitas, Pierogies Are Next

They couldn't have timed this better for a time of year when you want your walk from train to destination to be as short as possible. Time Out Chicago looks at what's to eat at key stops on every subway or elevated line — from Western on the brown line, with its odd combination of old German and Thai, to 18th street on the pink line which they aptly dub "the carnitas stop," to the Polish food and nightlife off the blue line in Jefferson Park. (We'll pass over that they also include mostly chainy and mediocre Southport, but at least they manage a couple of decent suggestions here, too.) It's a guide to the transit system, to be sure, but it's really a guide to the city's rich diversity of neighborhoods as illuminated by easy public transportation access— and both new and old-timers will discover something new using it to take themselves to a part of town they haven't really explored before. Though maybe not until it gets a little warmer... [TOC]

Kate Middleton Doesn’t Have Much of an Appetite

According to a (former) friend of the Duchess, Kate feels nauseous when she looks at food. She's living off avocados, berries, oatmeal, and broccoli, and is now undergoing hypnotherapy to disassociate the act of eating with morning sickness. But she did have a Starbucks cookie last week. Maybe that's why she lost her appetite. [International Business Times, Cut]

The Taste Premiere in 91 Seconds

Last night, ABC unveiled its Top Chef-meets-the Voice mash-up, The Taste, filled to the brim with close-ups of quavering hands over the yes/no buttons of destiny and pre-decision anonymity for the contenders. Anyway, the concept is that the judges — Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, and the other guy — build a team of cooks that they choose based on blind tastes of various dishes. But reviews say the premiere "drags," lasts for what "feels like forever," and "is confusing ... with humorless banter." So, we've assembled the best bits into a tidy, easy to watch minute and a half. Check it out straight ahead and decide for yourself if this cooking competition is for you, or if it's another mediocre show that should go the way of America's Next Great Restaurant.

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