Archive: June, 2009
Tom Colicchio visited the Williams-Sonoma in the Bellevue yesterday to get his scribble on and grin at slews of blushing admirers. The line to chat it up with the chef, restaurateur and Top Chef judge snaked throughout the store, and people waited up to 45 minutes for a personalized version of his latest book, 'wichcraft (Clarkson Potter), full up with sandwich recipes from his multi-location concept of the same name. The eager throng was happy to wait, however, and like the patron foodie saint that he is, Colicchio was gracious, posing for pictures, answering recipe disaster questions and chit-chatting with starry-eyed foodies.
Food, Inc., director Robert Kenner's exploration of America's hidden food-production system, opens tomorrow, June 19, in Philadelphia. (See Cindy Fuchs' review.) The award-winning director even has a local connection, having attended the Solebury School in Bucks County.ï¿½ "It's great to see the whole food scene that has evolved here," said Kenner. "There was nothing like it when I was here." Meal Ticket sat down with the filmmaker last week, when he visited the South Street Whole Foods, to talk about Food, Inc., and what we are really eating.
Meal Ticket: What was the inspiration behind this film? Did you have some kind of motivating personal experience?
Robert Kenner:ï¿½ It wasn't really that. I was just curious, you know, to find out where our food comes from. An interesting exploration. I wanted to talk to all the different producers of our food system, and I found out agribusiness did not want to talk. Not only could I not see into their kitchens, they didn't want to speak to me at all. I was a threat. They don't want us to know where our food comes from. Food has fundamentally been transformed without us seeing it, or thinking about it. What we realized was that there is a movement percolating ï¿½ we didn't know about it until we got out there.ï¿½ It's going to take a movement to change things.
MT: One thing that really stood out to me in the movie was the statement, "It's not a tomato, but the notion of a tomato," and that there are only 12 slaughterhouses in the U.S. that are processing almost all of the beef eaten in this country.
RK: It is the notional tomato. It is flavorless, of course, and practically devoid of nutrients. It's just an idea of a tomato. Did you know that there is a major purchase about to go through that will make the four major meat processors into three? Those three will control 80 percent of the market. It's total consolidation. There are aisles and aisles of things in the supermarket, but they all come from the same corporations. We are offered the illusion of choice. Everything is owned by the same people. It's an Orwellian transformation that has been hidden from us.
MT: In the film, you show a family that eats from the dollar menu at fast-food restaurants because they cannot afford whole foods in the supermarket. Do you think there is a disconnect between the middle and upper classes, who can afford to question where there food comes from, and the poor, who have to eat just to exist?
RK: Money is a concern. The Baldwin Park family was spending $400-$500 per month on medications [for the father's diabetes and blood pressure]. This low-cost food comes to us at a very high cost. You don't see the real price at the checkout. This is the future of health care ... you can't have health care reform and still have this food system. Listen, one out of two minority individuals has diabetes.ï¿½ To say that poor people can't afford good food is ridiculous ... these corporations, subsidized by the federal government, are selling food to low-income people that makes them sick.
MT:ï¿½ Do you think the Obama administration is interested in reforming the American food system?
RK: We screened the film for them ... the heads of the FDA and USDA, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.ï¿½ There is interest in this administration, but they didn't come into office with that interest. They want to reform health care, and you can't change health care or the environment without changing the food system. Twenty to 25 percent of oil used in this country goes into the production, growing and transportation of food. The intensive raising of food pollutes water, the earth ... it exploits animals and human workers. What is the human cost? This food system cannot continue. It's unsustainable and it's going to end. We need to figure out a different system.
MT: What can the average consumer do?
RK: This film is meant to be empowering. It's a film for the non-converted; I want to turn minds, not stomachs. We can change the system two ways, on two levels. On the personal level, we vote three times a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. We can shop at farmers markets and support our local farmers. When that is not practical, we can buy local and organic at the supermarket. You can encourage your market to increase the amount of local and organic produce they carry. When consumers started telling Wal-Mart to remove rBST [recombinant bovine somatotropin] from their milk, they listened. Consumers should also read labels and buy less processed food. Don't buy things made with words you can't pronounce.
On another level, you can influence government. The tobacco analogy is the best one ï¿½ really powerful, wealthy corporations were lying and putting out false information about the safety of their products. Ultimately we were able to fight them and get these products labeled as dangerous. The Web site TakePart.com has a list of organizations you can join, like Slow Food.
Things will change when people know what is in their food and we get the right information. At some point, we have to turn the Farm Bill into the Food Bill to benefit consumers. We need a movement to make this happen. I believe it will be mothers with young children who will lead it. This will become like the civil rights movement. This is a major issue, and so much is building at this moment that we are a part of. Some person, some event will set it off, like Rosa Parks.
|Click to enlarge|
Here's the opening lunch menu for Oyster House (1516 Sansom St., 215-567-7683, oysterhousephilly.com), which started offering daytime service this past Monday. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with a separate midday menu taking over from 2:30 to 5.
While we probably wouldn't opt for the $50 New England clambake for two, the affordably priced small platesï¿½ ï¿½ like steam soft shells ($12), sautï¿½ed mussels ($13) and fried oysters ($9, $12 with the addition of chicken salad ï¿½ sound like they'd make a winning lunch.
PREVIOUSLY: Aw shucks: Oyster House opens this week
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Great beer in cans.|
When we chatted up DRAFT magazine editor Erika Reitz in March, she was hot on fruit beer, especially the Come Hell or High Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. Way back then, you couldn't get this beer in Pennsylvania. But today, my friends, by some miracle of modern monopoly bureaucracy, 21st Amendment is onï¿½ shelves in Philly.
I was thrilled to grab a case of the Watermelon Wheat today at Bella Vista Beer & Soda Distributor. At $37.95 before tax, it ain't the best deal ever, but neither is it as spendy as a trip to San Fran.
The beer pours as hazy as the June gloom in SoCal, with a moderate bright white head. The nose is pure sunshiny watermelon, which comes through in the finish, as well. I find most wheat beers under-hopped and insipid, but this one stays crisp and refreshing all the way through. The 5.2 percent ABV is effective but not deadly.
21st Amendment Brewery has pioneered not only acceptable-tasting fruit beer, but good beer packaged exclusively in cans. Their jazzy, watermelon-green box lists Good Reasons To Open A Can Of Beer:
- Cans keep beer fresher because the beer never sees the light
- Cans are lined so they don't affect the flavor of the beer inside
- Cans weigh less than glass and chill faster
- Cans are easier to recycle and more often recycled than glass
- Cans use less energy to to produce and transport than glass
- Cans fit the craft beer drinker's lifestyle. They go where no glass dares: beaches, parks, stadiums, boats, pools, golf courses...
21st Amendment Brewery cases are available at Bella Vista Beer & Soda Distributor, 738 S. 11th St., 404-555-1426
|Photo courtesy Distrito|
|Vacation on ice.|
... and suggests that East Coast readers take a thrifty mini-vacay to our fair city. The content is not available at Glamour.com, so pick up a hard copy of the July issue to check out their recommendations.
They namecheck some sweet spots, like dinner at Distrito, and share a recipe for vegetarian enchiladas from finally-getting-national-attention chef Jose Garces. The editors also tip their chapeaux to little old CityPaper.net listings database as a prime resource for finding cheap, arty, fun and free things to do while you're in town.
In another section of the July book is a short Q&A with Norrinda Brown, an attorney who co-owns Brown Betty Dessert Boutique with her mother and grandmother. The schtick? Following your dreams ... straight to cupcakes.
SNACK TIME: the latest in tacos, act like you've been out to eat once before, two takes on Rick's Steaks, edible blossoms with flavor, NEW! a birth control T-shirt
|Five Spice Duck|
|Tender and trendy: Korean tacos|
Every Wednesday, Meal Ticket pokes around the food blog world to see what's simmering.
-- Five Spice Duck doesn't post often, but when they do, it's so good. Drool over their version of Korean tacos, pictured above.
-- The Restaurant Club knows that nothing provokes comments like a discussion of service.ï¿½ Add your rant/praise/damnation to this hoary chestnut, but don't forget, it's 20 percent.
-- Both Unbreaded and Living on the Vedge visit the new incarnation of Rick's Steaks in the Bellevue Food Court.ï¿½ The 'Breaded boys delve into Rick's noble lineage, while Kelly White names a new, Pantone hue for the color of her seitan cheesesteak: "off-provolone".
-- Insatiable belly Adam Erace of Blogalicious visits Headhouse Market and turns up some tasty edible nasturtiums at Yoders Heirlooms. You, too, can mix up a fruit medley and top with the peppery blooms, or add some eye candy to a salad.
-- Feeling nostalgic for the revolting chewing gum trees of South Street?ï¿½ Wear your devotion on your chest with this guaranteed-no-nookie T-shirt.ï¿½ Via The Illadelph, who saw it on Serious Eats.
Evan Kelley, 21, was cycling in Northern Liberties last weekend when struck by a vehicle that immediately fled the scene. The Cafï¿½ Estelle cook suffered fractures to his tibia and fibula, necessitating surgery and the insertion of six pins to stabilize his lower leg.
Cafï¿½ Estelle chef and owner Marshall Green is holding a beef & beer fundraiser this Friday, June 19 to benefit Kelley, who has a young daughter and is not currently able to work due to his injuries. Your $20 donation buys as many of Green's slow-cooked beef brisket sandwiches with all the fixins as you desire, as well as unlimited local beer on tap.
All proceeds will go to Kelley to assist in the payment of medical bills. Please help, and eat and drink lavishly, if you can.
Rider Down! Beef & Beer at Cafï¿½ Estelle, Fri., June 19, 6:30-10 p.m., 444 N. Fourth St., 215-925-5080, cafeestelle.com
You already knew that Katz has recruited chefs Michael Solomonov (Zahav), Jonathan McDonald (Pub & Kitchen), Steven Cameron (Noble), Pierre Calmels (Bibou) and Peter Woolsey (Bistrot La Minette) to collaborate on a five-course pork dinner. Check out bios for all the fellas.
Now comes word that there will be two seatings of 30 people each ï¿½ 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. (We hear 8:30 might already be sold out.) The dinner is $75 a head, which includes a wine and beer pairing. Even without the booze, it'll still cost the same, "so take advantage and drink!" Katz writes on his Web site. What specific pork will the team be cooking? Black Berkshire, aka Kurobuta (with its ridiculous marbling, it's essentially the Wagyu beef of swine), and milk-fed pig from Montreal's St. Canut, to name two. Woolsey, who worked as a pastry chef fulltime before opening La Minette, will be making a pork dessert (!).
Marathon Grill owner Cary Borish, manager Nick Maldonado and contractor Mike Parsell collab'd to convert MarBar, above Marathon's 40th and Walnut restaurant (200 S. 40th St., 215-222-0100), into Panda Bar. a live music venue with food and drink. OMGZ PANDAS!! So loveable!
Sorry. Maldonado tells Meal Ticket they're updated the interior to feature"mafioso-type" high-back booths, among other aesthetic tweaks. Mostly American craft beers on tap, with one or two Belgians; though the menu's not finalized just yet, expect shareable snacks like pierogies and pork or kobe sliders. The 3,500-square-foot space, which has room for about 350, will have its grand opening this Saturday, June 20, with performances from Akilles and Patty Crash; there are near-future plans for open mic nights, karaoke and possibly comedy nights.
|The view from the top of the lawn.|
Do you love to host parties with themes and costumes? Does planning a menu based on Star Wars or Mozart make your skin prickle? Then the Mann Center for the Performing Arts wants you to come out this summer and show them how you take your show on the road.
Three concert dates will host this year's picnic competitions. Costumes, props, culinary excellence and commitment to the theme of the evening all come into play, with "celebrity judges" making the rounds and noting the contenders. Here's your schedule:
- Tue., June 30: the program is Mozart and a Midsummer Nightï¿½s Dream, with the theme of ï¿½Animal Night.ï¿½
- Tue., July 21: the Philadelphia Orchestra will be performing Hollywood Classics Under the Stars: Star Wars and More and the theme is ï¿½Star Wars.ï¿½
- Tue., July 28:ï¿½ the orchestra will perform Verdi and Rachmaninoff.ï¿½ The theme for this eveningï¿½s competition is ï¿½Fall in Love Again.ï¿½
Register for each nights' competition at the PECO Plaza at the Mann from 6-7:15 p.m.; judging will take place from 7:15-7:45 p.m. Three winners for each night will be announced from the stage, with prizes to include tickets to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Please Touch Museum and The Franklin Institute, along with a set of designer picnic dishes courtesy of Mottahedeh.
Tickets range in price from $10 lawns to $50 in the lower pavilion, visit manncenter.org for more information and to purchase.
- barstool scientist
- Brew Revue
- Chef Salad
- Dirty Dishes
- Don't Front
- Eat This Immediately
- Field Trip
- Food and Art
- Food and Holidays
- Food and Movies
- Food and Music
- Food and Politics
- Food and Sports
- Food and Web
- Food Blogs
- Food Books
- Food Events
- Food News
- Food TV
- Happy Hour Hopper
- In Print
- Meal Ticket
- Menu Time
- Not So Quickfire
- Notes from the Weekend
- On Wheels
- Patio Drinking
- Philly Beer Week 2010
- Private Chef POV
- Product Placement
- Snack Time
- Stiff Drank
- Ticket Stubs
- Top Chef
- Weekly Candy
- Weird Regional Foods
- We're Here to Help
- Where'd We Eat?
- Drew Lazor's Ill-Advised Rant Factory
- Ill-Advised Ranting
- The Week Without Meat
- Philly Beer Week 2009
- Real Big
- Where'd I Eat Last Night?
- Top Chef Masters
- The Good Word
- Next Iron Chef
- Arterial Terrorism
- Food and Radio