If you haven't read enough about Big Food, get another angle on the issue with Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's Really Making America Fat. It's also good if your blood pressure has dropped dangerously low and you need a dose of righteous anger.
Author Hank Cardello is a veteran of the food business, having worked on Count Chocula and other big name products for General Mills and Coca-Cola. He reports from behind the office door on how marketers, merchandisers and buyers work toward selling more food.
Strategies you'll be familiar with include making food more delicious (like frying French fries in beef tallow), making food seem like a bargain (the "combo meal" strategy) and putting the most-tempting and most-expensive products at eye-level in grocery stores.
Much of the book's path has been trod before, including a chapter on the pestilence of vending machines in school, but Cardello has other insights. Chair of the annual Global Obesity Business Forum, he offers perspectives on why "healthy" takeout food has failed, and why yet one more education effort won't work. The answer, he thinks, is for fast food and fast casual dining places to work with customers, not to eliminate bad foods, but to make favorites more healthy, a process he calls "taking the calories off the street."
I had a really bad experience in one of my favorite wine shops last week. I won't name it by name, because I hope it was a one-time event brought on by an inexperienced employee. In the same way that it's unfair to write a bad restaurant review after one trip, I don't want to slam a good local business because somebody had a bad day. Besides, I was a newbie at my job once too.
So I decided to take lemons and make lemoncello. In logic, there is the concept of the contrapositive where one uses the negative of the negative to prove the positive. I figured I'd use the experience to discuss ways how I (and you) might go about choosing your favorite grape monger.
It was intended to be an easy trip. I had received an email announcing a sale on one of my favorite house wines and wanted to duck in to buy a few bottles. While I was at it, I figured I'd buy a few bottles of Spanish Cava for my girlfriend to enjoy while I was out of town over the weekend. "Zip in, zip out. It'll be like going to Wisconsin."
I walked in the front door and started looking for the wine that was on special.
1. Mark your prices clearly, especially your sales.
The wine I was looking for was tucked in the corner facing away from the windows. The shelf talker had fallen over and most of the bottle labels were facing the wrong direction. I'm just not smart enough to figure that out very quickly.
As discussed before here, some kids make the effort to order bizarre combinations at yogurt and ice cream places. But at Maggie Moo recently, I put my foot down: "You can't have a scoop of mint and a scoop of coffee together in the same cup. Why? Because coffee and mint are natural enemies, like the foon and the spork."
The solution was to divide the two between two cups and have brownies mixed into both. I was tempted by the coffee ice cream, but once I tasted it, well, it just can't hold a candle to Better Batter with Butterfinger mix-in.
In your assessment of the flavor spectrum, what other combinations are natural enemies?
Sunset Grill has a new top chef. Chris Cunningham has been promoted to chef de cuisine at the venerable Hillsboro Village dining spot. He reports to Brian Uhl, the executive chef who oversees all three of entrepreneur Randy Rayburn's restaurants: Sunset, Midtown Cafe and Cabana.
As chef de cuisine, Cunningham is in charge of crafting the Sunset menu and running the kitchen. He just introduced a new fall menu that adds entrees like the Trout BLT ($19.99), which features Italian bacon sandwiched with pan-seared semolina-crusted trout, a couple of chic condiments (tomato marmalade and preserved lemon aioli) and waffle fries on the side. The new dinner menu has 18 entrees instead of 12. (Click here for the menu PDF.)
Cunningham was promoted from sous chef after three-and-a-half years at Sunset. Previously he worked in the kitchens at F. Scott's, Zola and Bound'ry. Working under him as sous chefs at Sunset are Trent Raley (most recently at Ombi) and Aaron Walters.
(Trout BLT photo by Dave Turner)
Admittedly, the first two games on Turkey Day "feature" the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders being offered as sacrificial lambs but you still might want to watch them and reminisce about last year's triumphant Titans performance on Thanksgiving. Or maybe you'd rather spend time with friends and family that day rather than trying to time the simultaneous preparation of two proteins and six vegetables. Or maybe you're just lazy like me.
Regardless of your motivation (or lack thereof), the massive kitchens at Gaylord Opryland Resort are promising to come to your rescue. They are offering a "Gobblers to Go" program to provide all or part of your Thanksgiving experience at a completely reasonable rate. The bill of fare is scalable depending on whether you need an entire turkey dinner or would prefer to go à la carte so that you can save room on the table for Gramma's marshmallow sweet potato casserole dish. Check out the menu after the jump.
I've only seen one of those cake competition shows--I think it was called Cake-Off or Last Cake Standing or Crazy Cakecapades or something. At first I sneered at a couple of teams of pros battling to create some cake that pleased the man in charge of putting on some pirate convention. It sounded terribly tedious. But 45 minutes later, I was watching with giddy schadenfreude as chocolate fondant peeled tragically off a 4-foot tall concoction, shattering hopes and dreams in the process.
Turns out decorating cakes is no cake walk. And since this article about cakes wrecked beyond recognition ran about two weeks ago in the Times, it's ancient in blogspeak. But that hardly makes it any less amusing to scan images of professionally decorated cakes gone horribly wrong, as one can now do thanks to Cake Wrecks.
There are Hello Kitty cakes that look more like gerbils with glandular problems, fondant ribbons gnarled into hideous nests, and squishy inscriptions that read, "Happy 3th Birthday, Evan." As Ms. Yates, 31, defines it, a Cake Wreck is "any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate -- you name it."
When these folks aren't misspelling your kid's name, they're translating your instructions too literally--for instance, actually putting the words "in small letters" on a cake instructing the word "congratulations" to appear in small letters. So many levels to enjoy, both aesthetic and grammatical. Take a gander, and do please tell us your own cake-decorating foibles, whether experienced personally or professionally.
Deaderick Street is newly ossum -- rain gardens, LED traffic lights and parking meters, pervious paved sidewalks that absorb water rather than add to the run-off problem. It's beautiful, walkable and appealing.
Which means it needs food. There are six or eight office buildings full of state and bank workers and not much retail, so the market is big but space is short. The mobile cart approach is the right approach. Savarino's, Mas Tacos, or Tex-Mex taco, or a hot dog carts -- or maybe an all-new type of portable street food. Who can we recruit to sell sidewalk eats on Deaderick?
The other night I walked into The Silly Goose--the not-even-two-weeks-old restaurant that took Fresh Blends' place adjacent to Ugly Mugs in the Walden complex on Eastland Avenue in East Nashville--and was immediately struck by a few things. First, there was the restaurant's credo--both the fact that it had one, and what it says, which is, in part: "We search for and buy local, organic, sustainably produced, minimally manipulated food." Points for that. And there's a list of local suppliers hand-written on the chalkboard to the left of the cash register.
Then there were the mouth-watering aromas coming from the kitchen--or, more exactly, from directly behind the counter, where food was being minimally manipulated and artfully arranged. I placed my order for a King Kong couscous dish ($9.50), a Saylor wrap ($8) and a Goose Stack salad ($9) and was offered a taste of basil lemonade. Fresh, delicious, and an auspicious first taste, but I opted for a juice of carrot, apple and ginger instead. It arrived with a slice of Granny Smith apple floating on top.
Aubrey Bean, the barbecue man of many seasons and locations, is offering a serious treat to promote his new Brentwood restaurant.
Stop by Judge Bean's BBQ at 7022 Church St. E. (823-2280) between 8 and 9 a.m. today through Friday and get anything on the breakfast menu for free.
Bean, a Texas ex-pat, has been serving up authentic smoked beef brisket barbecue for the past few years, first on Wedgewood Avenue, then in the Gulch, then atop Greer Stadium. After heart bypass surgery last year, Bean took a break before returning to the restaurant biz. (He's a tough and ornery critter.)
F. Scott's just tweeted a deal: mention its tweet when you make your reservations and get 50 percent off food in the dining room. 269-5861.
I totally disagree with this writers assessment of El Pollo. I find the food is…
Cafe Fundamental (brunch)
Bonus to the person who said…
My two cents:
Not a fan of the decor at all. I ate in…
I guess you can look forward to that cicada special in 12-15 years...
The old man told me to take any rug in the house.