Food and Politics
|AP via Telegraph
On Monday, we asked you to nominate the beer for President Obama's Rose Garden sit-down with Harvard prof Skip Gates and Cambridge cop James Crowley. Some great responses in the comments, in addition to our selection of Sam Adams Boston Lager as the one beer to end racial strife.
The so-called Beer Summit finally took place last night, and here's who drank what (veep Joe Biden ended up chilling along with):
- Obama: Bud Light. The most popular man in American selects the most popular beer in America. Works on paper, we suppose ï¿½ but straight-up Bud would've endeared this choice more to all those people in the Rust Belt or wherever who still think O is Al-Qaeda. [GRADE: C]
- Biden: Bucklers. The VP is a longtime teetotaler, so he opted for this "beer," which carries less than 1 percent ABV. We've never had Bucklers, but for some reason it seems more legit than O'Doul's, so respect. [GRADE: B]
- Crowley: Blue Moon. Coors makes this some-ladies-love-it wheat beer, which is often served with an orange wedge. (They wouldn't let photogs close enough to the meeting for us to determine whether or the sergeant went with the citrus.) Kind of an anemic choice, but in post-racial America, we suppose it's OK for a cop to be seen drinking this in the company of men. [GRADE: C+ with orange wedge; B- without it]
- Gates: Sam Adams Light. Leave it to the Ivy League brain to listen to us! Though he didn't go with Boston Brewing Co.'s flagship beer, this works ï¿½ Meal Ticket typically tries to avoid light beer at all costs, but we've had this stuff on several occasions and were pleasantly surprised. [GRADE: A]
Wait, wait ï¿½ here's what Gates said to some reporters post-summit regarding the circumstances of his arrest:
"Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters ï¿½ as metaphors, really ï¿½ in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control," he said, striking a suitably scholarly tone.
People who drink beer shouldn't talk like that. A REVOKED! [NEW GRADE: B]
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
At the Dunkin' Donuts at 16th and Washington.
Love that flag.
We were thinking this would be a great pic to molest in Photoshop ï¿½ make it seem like Obama's holding a copy of Twilight, etc.
|EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images|
We've all heard about Obama's plan to have Cambridge police sergeant James Crowley and Harvard professor Skip Gates over to the White House for a beer, to soothe the anger caused by the president's comments over Gates' July 16 arrest. Word is this drinking sesh will take place early this week. While the city of Cambridge plans to use the incident as a springboard to encourage open discussion of race and law enforcement in America, we're sitting here all hung over agonizing over the most obvious question of them all.
Which beer are they going to drink?
Picking Budweiser, or any of its big-box counterparts, would be much too obvious. Yet popping open some obscure craft brew or import would be counterintuitive to the we're-all-in-this-together, boys-and-their-beer olive branch O is attempting to extend. You want accessible, but not so accessible it seems cheap. Tasty, but not so complex it alienates the everyday boozer.
Most vitally, you want a beer you can tuck into, as we're fairly sure these dudes will need more than one to hash this out.
A beer that comes to mind (and yes, this pick could be construed as "too easy," as well) ï¿½ Sam Adams Boston Lager. It's suitable for the task based on more than just its geographic relevance ï¿½ this is a brew that has a national presence, but doesn't suffer from the soulless corporate stigmata tainting its more ubiquitous yellow-water competitors. And it's named after a great agitator who shook things up ï¿½ and the White House, especially after the drubbing Obama took for accusing Cambridge PD of acting "stupidly," has begun spinning this incident as an opportunity to get Americans talking about race, in earnest, for the first time in forever.
But that's just us. What say you, Meal Ticketer? Which beer will quench thirsts and quell apprehensions? Or, at least, which beer do you think would appeal to a blue-collar cop, a lauded Ivy League scholar and the leader of the free world alike?
|Photo | Michael T. Regan
|" ... and a double cheeseburger in the hand of every
man, woman and child ... "
Great Daily Beast piece this past weekend from Sandra McElwaine, who examines Barack and Michelle Obama's influence on D.C. dining. It's no secret that the President and the First Lady are, ahem, "foodies" (check Barry on Check, Please!) ï¿½ but you should note that they've made it a point to ditch the fully kitchen-staffed White House and grace all manner of local spots, from high-end eateries to everyman lunch joints:
Whether out for date night or lunch with chums, the restaurant-hopping first couple exude a heady sense of glamour and excitement. Every maitre'd and restaurateur is hoping for a drop-by: After all, the Obama food chain means big bucks. Take Michel Richardï¿½s award-winning but pricey Citronelle in Georgetown (dinner for two with wine can hover around $300). It was packed when it opened 15 years ago, but had recently become somewhat lackluster in both food and service. You could walk in and get a last-minute reservation on almost any eveningï¿½that is, until the Obamas arrived a few weeks ago. Now for weekends, reservations are required eight weeks in advance; for weeknights, better book one to two weeks ahead.
The decidedly cheaper and more low-key Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Virginia, is still another eatery to attain star status thanks to Obama [...] Things have changed since the president stood in that line to order a basic cheddar cheeseburger medium-well, with lettuce and tomato and then asked for fries and Dijon mustard. Neither were available. Now there is a sign inside warning, "due to media exposure, the wait may be a little longer than normal." Count on 20-30 minutes at lunch time on weekdays. As for weekends, who knows?
Obama recently caused yet another griddle-centric stir when he dropped in for some burgers at a Washington Five Guys while filming an NBC segment. (Clip after the jump.)
Should all this be interpreted we eat out a little more often to fatten up our asses the emaciated economy? I am in.
|Help make Fresh For All happen.|
Foodies have the luxury of plenty of good food. We spend hours thinking about and preparing the best bites, including lots of fresh, local produce and nice grass-fed meat, while thousands of folks right here at home go without even the basics. Since guilt is an unproductive emotion, add your energy to hunger relief by donating your time.
PhilAbundance has been working to fight hunger since 1984, and is the largest food bank and hunger relief organization in the region. A new initiative, Fresh For All, is seeking volunteers to aid in the distribution of fresh produce to people in the neediest neighborhoods. Volunteers can donate time to answer phones or post mailings, or sort and hand out produce at six pick-up sites in the Delaware Valley.
With the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables rising, increasing numbers of people will find these critical food groups unaffordable. Contributing time to PhilAbundance's efforts ensures that more than just foodies are able to access the natural bounty of the Delaware Valley.
To volunteer or donate, contact Tunisia Garnett (215-339-0900 ext. 238 or email@example.com). For more information, visit philabundance.org
Thanks to Daily Candy Philadelphia for sending out this volunteer opportunity.
|Simon & Schuster|
Everyone who missed Foie Gras Week's $5 plates will get a second shot at liver love this Sunday, April 5, when The Foie Gras Wars (Simon & Schuster) author Mark Caro visits London Grill for an evening meet-and-greet, complete with foie, beer and sauternes specials and representatives from controversial producers and sellers Hudson Valley Foie Gras and D'Artagnan.
London Grill owner Terry Berch McNally and chef-owner Michael McNally led the charge against Philadelphia animal-rights protesters, who began picketing restaurants that serve foie gras in mid-2007. Hugs for Puppies and Nick Cooney, who originally took credit for forcing restaurant owners to remove fattened duck liver from their menus, have renamed themselves Humane League of Philadelphia and no longer use public protest as their main tool. This year's Foie Gras Week, compared to the first iteration in 2008, was quite peaceful.
The hotly contested issue has since cooled in Philadelphia, and Caro's book devotes two full chapters to the charged debate of 2007-08. Simon & Schuster's Web site describes Caro's book and how he was thrown into the maelstrom:
In announcing that he had stopped serving the fattened livers of force-fed ducks and geese at his world-renowned restaurant, influential chef Charlie Trotter heaved a grenade into a simmering food fight, and the Foie Gras Wars erupted. He said his morally minded menu revision was meant merely to raise consciousness, but what was he thinking when he also suggested -- to Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Caro -- that a rival four-star chef 's liver be eaten as "a little treat"? The reaction to Caro's subsequent front-page story was explosive, as Trotter's sizable hometown moved to ban the ancient delicacy known as foie gras while an international array of activists, farmers, chefs and politicians clashed forcefully and sometimes violently over whether fattening birds for the sake of scrumptious livers amounts to ethical agriculture or torture.
Chicago has since reversed the ban. Whether you're for, against or simply curious, meeting the author of The Foie Gras Wars should add a little spice to an already hot pot.
Sun., April 5, 6-8 p.m, London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave., 215-978-4545, londongrill.com
- Newspaper feature without recipes: Craig LaBan
- Outstanding Service: Vetri
- The Rising Star: Michael Solomonov
- Outstanding Restaurateur: Stephen Starr
- The Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic: Jose Garces
The field of semi-finalists is now cut down to 3 to 6 finalists in each category. Awards for media (like LaBan's newspaper feature without recipes) are handed out on May 3, while the "food Oscars" for nominated chefs and restaurateurs are awarded on May 4. You can view a complete list of the finalists here.
Meal Ticket caught up with a few of the finalists and got their take on getting sooo close to the big win.ï¿½ We asked them all the same question: What is it like to be nominated for the top award in your field, and do you think you'll win?
Craig LaBan: It's a great honor. Competitions like that are kind of funny. They never matter unless you are nominated to be a finalist. These are great food writers from around the country.ï¿½ It's nice to be recognized for the work we do every week.
Meal Ticket: Which story are you nominated for? [The Philadelphia Inquirer, "The Tender and the Tough"]
Craig LaBan: I wrote about John Bucci of John's Roast Pork, which focused on his pre-leukemia and bone marrow transplant. I hung out with him on his last night at his luncheonette, the last night before he closed up to get a bone marrow transplant. I've covered him as one of the great cheesesteak and pork sandwich places, and this was a unique opportunity to tell his story from the other side of the lunch counter, something I don't get to do often.ï¿½ John's is a great restaurant, a real part of the city, and they are much beloved by those who knows them. It was an opportunity to remind people that food writing doesn't have to be just about food, but about the people who make food, too. I'm glad to say he's doing well. I have no idea what judges are thinking. When it falls in you favor, it's very exciting.
Michael Solomonov: Uhhhh. I don't know. Probably not gonna win. I'm really honored to be nominated. I'm proud of my team. Opening the restaurant [Zahav] was pretty nuts. Everyone worked really hard. Honestly, I am just really excited to be nominated. It's all I can ask for. I'd have to squeeze into a tuxedo, which would be weird. I'm in the company of great chefs, who are heroes of mine. Seeing the people who have inspired me to be a chef will be pretty cool.
Meal Ticket: Is this the first time you've been nominated?
Mike Solomonov: I was nominated a couple of times at Marigold. This is my first finalist, though.
Stephen Starr: I'm very honored and humbled to be nominated in this group.ï¿½ Drew [Nieporent, Myriad Restaurant Group, NYC] I've known for years ï¿½ he's an icon in New York. Richard Melman in Chicago is Lettuce Entertain You [Enterprises], and he's been around for 30 years. Keith McNally owns Balthazar, Lucky Strike, Pastis ... he's had more influence on the pop culture of restaurants in New York than anyone. I feel like I'm in the company of superstars.
Jose Garces: It's an honor to be nominated again. I'm hoping this is the year. This is my third nomination,ï¿½ all in the same category. I don't know if I'm going to win. The committee can be kind of fickle. I'm unsure, hoping for the best and keeping an open mind.
Meal Ticket: Marc Vetri won Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic on his third nomination.
Jose Garces: Yeah, Marc won on his third nomination. He guaranteed I would win last year. I just talked to him and he said he guarantees nothing this time.
[Ed. Note: Jeff Benjamin returned Meal Ticket's call, and we missed it. At time of publication, we had not spoken to Jeff Benjamin or Marc Vetri at Vetri.ï¿½ When we get in touch, we will update here.]
Oregon brewers are furious over five state legislators' proposal to increase the excise tax on beer, which has not been raised in 32 years. The proposal would increase state tax on each barrel of beer produced 1,900 percent; the current rate of approximately $2 per barrel would go up to almost $50.
KGW, a Portland local news station, reports that brewers are claiming the tax hike will cripple their businesses and cause job losses at breweries. Legislators are seeking to bridge budget deficits, with the proceeds from the tax specifically funding treatment for alcohol abuse. KGW writer Eric Adams:
The bill's language defends the tax by arguing alcoholism and “untreated substance abuse” costs the state $4.15 billion in lost earnings as well as more than $8 million for health care and nearly $1 billion in law enforcement-related expenditures.
Oregon ranks 49th among states for its malt beverage taxation rate, which brewers claim helped forge the hospitable climate for the small brewing businesses that Oregon has become famous for. Adams spoke with a local Portland microbrewery owner.
Laurelwood Public House & Brewing Co. owner Mike De Kalb said the tax may sound like a good idea in this economic climate, but he believes it would cost jobs and not raise enough new tax revenue to justify the increase... De Kalb said Oregon would potentially lose its prominence as a craft-brew destination and that some small breweries could potentially go out of business. He said Laurelwood could possibly face job cuts as well. Prior versions of the beer tax bill have exempted small breweries but this one does not, he added.
DeKalb goes on to state that the tax would increase the average price of a pint from $4.50 to $6. Rep. Bill Cannon, one of the bill's sponsors, counters that his office had calculated the increase to the consumer at just 15 cents. Another brewery owner squashed that notion.
But Kurt Widmer of Widmer brewing told KGW that in order to keep profit margins constant, he'd increase his price to distributors, who in turn would likely increase prices to retailers, making the 15 cent per class estimate unrealistic.
Oregon is home to hundreds of breweries, both large and prominent, like Rogue, and tiny micro-breweries and brewpubs. The tax seems not only unfair, but absolutely nonsensical. Are alcoholics buying micro-brews exclusively? Does every gutter drunk clutch a bottle produced at home in Oregon? Of course not. State legislators are looking to fix their hopelessly red budget by grabbing at one of Oregon's most successful local industries, and cripple them in the bargain.
"Sin taxes" have long been a favorite of legislators, who can stand on the moral high ground that they are protecting the citizenry from their own vices and earning the state revenue at the same time. Increasing a tax that has been untouched for 32 years in reasonable -- but not by 1,900 percent. One wonders who lobbied for this stratospheric hike. If Oregon's legislature passes this dramatically increased excise tax on each barrel of beer brewed in their state, the fallout should quickly vault Philadelphia to uncontested status at America's best beer city. Too bad such a victory would taste so bitter.
|Obalma, bias-blasting lip goo.|
Utah-based skin care company Shaka Laka celebrates the 44th President and his veep with a commemorative set of practically edible lip balms. Obama's flavor is a patriotic Red, White & Blueberry, a smoothie-style blending of raspberry, cream and blueberry with SPF 15 and vitamin E to soothe wind-whipped lips.
BidenBalm is a Ham & Cheese flavor, chosen to match the V.P.'s favorite lunch on the campaign trail. Ham and cheese on a sandwich is a reliable American combination sure to please most of the people; ham and cheese in a 2-inch oily cosmetic stick is an unholy union fit only for the olfactory-addled. Though the stick is a noncommittal white color, one whiff reveals a cold Lunchable aroma that turns the stomach as it boggles the mind.
Shaka Laka's other lip products are convincing doppelgangers for the real thing: sharp peppermint, sweet coconut and tangy citrus. They are made with healthy SPFs, natural oils and beeswax. We attribute this Ham & Cheese nonsense to press-baiting. You won, Shaka Laka. Now take this stinky stick off my desk, I don't want to touch it.
Shaka Laka lip care (including the foul Ham & Cheese balm) can be purchased online at ShakaLakaHut.com.
|Change was needed.|
Belgian-owned, Cooperstown, NY-based Brewery Ommegang was recently slapped down for having too much fun by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The feds rejected the name "Obamagang" for the brewery's commemorative inauguration beer, to be released tomorrow.
Apparently, it is unlawful to use anyone's name or likeness for profit without his or her consent. Almost-President Obama is filing a suit against every street-corner T-shirt hawker as we speak.
Ommegang begrudgingly changed the official name of their "porter-stout with a hint of kriek and chocolate" to Inauguration Ale 2009, but kept the original Obamagang moniker on tap handles accompanying 600 kegs of the beer destined for select bars in Syracuse, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and New York.
In the Philadelphia area, drinkers from both sides of the aisle can taste Inauguration Ale 2009 at London Grill, both Tria locations and Teresa's Next Door in Wayne.
London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave., 215-978-4545
Tria, 123 S. 18th St., 215-972-8742; 1137 Spruce St., 215-629-9200
Teresa's Next Door, 124-126 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne, 610-293-9909
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