Sunday, December 27, 2009

Food Inc. The Movie

The movie Food Inc. has been out for some time now, and I’ve finally watched it. For anyone who has not seen it I will agree with most other’s opinions that it is a well put together documentary that everyone can get something from. For those of us who have seen it, perhaps we can discuss.

I was very happy with the way information was presented. There was a clear distinction between facts and opinions which I think is very important in a serious picture like this. I feel like I’ve educated myself quite well on most of the issues Food Inc. breaches so there were few ‘new’ ideas to me. I do appreciate that the ideas were presented in a well organized, easy to understand manner.

In my opinion the single most interesting chapter of the movie was the story of the poverty stricken family who could manage a full stomach off a fast food dollar menu, but would starve on a grocery store bought diet. That’s right; $1.18 got one single bunch of broccoli at the grocery, but fed their small child at Burger King! It brings up a whole slurry of questions. Could fast food be ‘good’ for some people? Is turning our food over to corporate giants and selling our souls the only way to feed the growing population? Will differences in food production create a new class of Americans? Should those less wealthy people be forced to ignore the inherent moral ambiguity of giant corporate food production standards?

The other idea that most sticks with me from the movie is that fast food companies control the whole, yes WHOLE food production system as it is they are the most prolific purchasers. It only makes sense to make your best customer your happiest customer. How do you break that chain? It’s capitalism, it’s American, it’s success!

The farmer is the ‘pickle in the middle’ of this whole debacle. A modest man, with modest goals, willing to live a modest life might enjoy the work of organic, sustainable farming in today’s environment. But can you fault anyone who is already elbow deep down on the farm, neck deep in debt, with his farmer colleagues failing fast, give in to the corporate giants? On the other hand can you afford the higher prices that organic, sustainable products require? Yes, these products require a higher price since they cost much more to bring to market. As customers, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t condemn the mega farmer while refusing to support the ecco-farmer.

Fruitcake Poll Results

What is fruitcake?
1. a rich cake containing dried or candied fruit, nuts, etc.
2. Slang. a crazy or eccentric person; nut.

Indeed, this chewy, rich confection is a staple of the holidays, but what, exactly, is it? It is called a cake, but because it is full of nuts and candied fruits, it resembles a candy bar. When sliced, pieces look like cookies.

In ancient times, fruitcake was made with raisins, pomegranate seeds, and pine nuts mixed together with barley. Later, honey, spices, and candied-dried fruits were added. Because of fruitcake's consistency and longevity, early soldiers and hunters carried it with them on long journeys.

In the 1700s, Europeans baked ceremonial fruitcakes at the end of the nut harvest, saved them, and then ate them at the until next year's harvest. This was done with the hope that it would bring another successful harvest.

Also, throughout Europe during this time, the consumption of fruitcake (also called plum cake) was legally restricted to special occasions because of its "sinfully rich" taste. Those laws were later rescinded, and fruitcake became an essential of the Victorian tea era.

In 18th-century England, it was believed that unmarried wedding guests who put a slice of fruitcake under their pillow at night would dream of the person they would eventually marry.

Today fruitcake has become the butt of many jokes, and idolized as the one most dreaded gift. What made fruitcake a succes in the past have become it's downfall in the presant; it's longevity, sweetness, and nutritional/physical density.

Looking at the poll results there is far less detest for fruitcake than expected. Only 25% polled claimed to flat out not like fruitcake. While I'm not a huge fan of fruitcake it does convey some feeling of celebration and I would surely enjoy a slice during the holidays. If by chance you have some fruitcake this season enjoy it and savor in it's long history.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Great Chistmas Potato Gratin

It has become somewhat of tradition at the Walsh family Christmas that I make some sort of cheesy potato dish. Layering a gratin can be as simple as mixing everything up and smashing it into a pan and baking it or you can take the time, and put the effort into making uniform layers with evenly distributed ingredients. This year I decided to put in that effort. Whether you decide to take the easy route or not, here is a list of ingredients that makes enough to fill a 10 inch square baking dish, and roughly 6-10 people.

Cheesy Potato Gratin

5-6 pounds large Idaho potatoes, cleaned and sliced 1/4 inch thick on a mandolin
1 onion sliced as thin as possible
8 oz cheddar
6 oz fontina
4 oz parmesan
1 pint heavy cream
5 egg yolks
1 heaping tablespoon roasted garlic
salt and pepper

Shred the cheeses and mix them together. Mix the cream, eggs, and roasted garlic together. Assemble the grain by nicely alternating layers of potato and cheese. Every third layer add some of the cream mix, but make sure you save some cream for the top and final layer. Don't forget to salt and pepper each layer.

Bake, covered at 400 degrees for about an hour and a half. Pressing the gratin at this point is optional. If you press it this makes unmolding it and cutting it into serving very easy. If you are serving it in the dish there is no reason to press it. To re-heat microwave until warm then bake for 5-10 minutes to form a crusty top.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New pics

This special ran about a month ago; seared Grouper over carmalized salsify, horseradish gnocchi and shoestring zucchini in a basil pest cream topped with pickeled summer peppers.

This is the current weeks meat special; Grilled boneless lamb loin over a warm watercress-fingerling potato salad in a feta-oregano dressing garnished with persimmons and oven-dried strawberries finished with a tomato reduction, herb oil and sea salt. This might well be the 'wordiest' description of a dish ever.
These pictures where taken with my phone's camera. I never expected them to come out this well. They aren't super crisp or detailed, but they convey the essence of the dish nicely and when your working the line and trying to catch a shot of a dish in 10 seconds while the server is giving you the evil eye because 10 seconds feels like 5 minutes. Then, in the flow of things it is much easier to grab the phone and snap two shots and move on. I plan on trying this more often while my camera is on vacation.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kevin, Top Chef Winner in our Hearts

Kevin earned a finale win according to 50% of my pollsters. He garnered a full 70% on this site. Now we learned his personal life was in shambles during recording, poor guy.

You can find Kevin's bio here. It's not often that industry people leave places on good terms, and when they do, and return to a place of former employment it really speaks to there character.

From the bio you can trace Kevin to the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta. There webpage is not complety up do date, but the dinner menu was current when I dropped in here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music and food

I've never been able to carry a tune. From those horrible days in grade school playing the violin to present day I can not 'do' music, but I do love music. It's crossed my mind a few times to post about music on this blog, of course it would be food related, but I always stopped short. The othter night I heard this jam by Colin Dussault called, "Good Booty and BBQ" and I just knew someone else reading my blog would also enjoy it. I tried to find it online, but Mr. Dussault's version is not available. Fortunatly the Out of Favor Boys have a version posted here, and it's damn good too. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Top Chef Vegas, over and out.

You can see my prediction here from my observations when the season premiered.

I am glad to say I had Jen, Eli, Kevin and Michael all in my final four and that is almost how things played out. Brian V. lacked the outward confidence in the beginning that would make you think he would show up in the end. Ironically after watching the last episode I thought Brian should have won.

You can't argue against the judges’ pick of Michael as he did a great job as well. The sibling rivalry played out well. I thought it might get ticky-tacky eventually, but the producers didn't take it down that road. Kevin might just win out as fan favorite. Everything he did seemed to be quality work, unfortunately not everything hit the high note at the right time for him. Plus, he painted himself into a hole with the "simple southern" pre-disposition about everything he cooked.

I really like the mothers at the judges table of the finale. That really tugs at the heart strings. I mean who doesn’t want to do well in front of their mom. The group of restaurant owners who tasted the dishes was over the top impressive. The chef's might as well have considered their performance a living resume for the next year or so with those guys. On the flip side they never explained how, or if at all their opinions played in the final discussion.

Lastly congrats go out to all those chefs who lasted long into the competition. I can't really imagine the stress that goes into being there let alone winning. Cheers!