Archive for May, 2011

Japanese Seafood Safe In Spite of Fukushima Bloomberg Says

May 26, 2011

Those serving seafood which is caught near Japan can rest easy according to a report in Bloomberg News. Readers will of course remember that the Fukushima nuclear plant suffered a partial meltdown after the recent earthquake and tsunami which inundated the island nation. One of the big concerns that had emerged from the nuclear plant’s damage was that contaminated water was finding its way into the Pacific Ocean, potentially damaging seafood there and rendering it inedible.

The report in Bloomfield News, however, says that tests conducted on seafood in another part of the world, the UK, where radiation has leaked from the Sellafield nuclear waste plant in the north of the country has shown that food safety was not compromised. In spite of the plant dumping massive amounts of cesium 137 into the Irish Sea, causing concern for the seafood caught in the area, catches have shown that the seafood has had less than half the recommended limits of radiation in them when caught. This research, according to Richard Wakeford, of University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute would seem to indicate that a long term ban on Japanese seafood is not necessary to protect consumers.

This is good news at a time when seafood is dwindling all over the world due to overfishing of popular species and when the cost of the catch is rapidly rising as well due to the ongoing oil crisis and the rapid industrialization of China. Still, in the short term at least, it may be prudent to avoid serving seafood from the south Pacific so that your customers will not be concerned about the radiation levels, low though they may be in such products. It is also worth noting that other food products which come from Japan seem to be largely unaffected as the radiation levels in tested food products are still well below the recommended limits in spite of the Fukushima disaster.

Guest Bartenders Bring In New Business

May 24, 2011

Those running restaurants with bars may want to consider the latest twist to bring in new business: guest bartenders. The idea is that the guest bartender may bring in some new blood by offering a kind of a show when he or she is serving drinks from your bar. In essence, the thought is that since people tend to talk with bartenders about their problems, guest bartenders could easily commiserate with diners on a different level.

The guest bartenders might even be themed with special abilities or skills. They also may have certain signature drinks that they are known for which they can provide to your diners while they are there. The key is to make a big a fuss out of it and to make it sound like an event, kind of like having a famous guest chef who can provide new culinary delights that your diners may not have experienced in the past – a guest bartender could provide new alcoholic delights.

Another thing that may work with this concept is to have guest bartenders who are known for their specific “shtick.” The best bartenders tend to spend time talking to their patrons and put on a kind of a show for the diners. A guest bartender can breathe new life into an otherwise moribund bar by offering your diners something new and exciting as opposed to the standard fare of bartenders whom you have had in the past and who simply served drinks without much personality.

The way to make this successful is of course to ensure that you properly advertise the fact that a guest bartender will be arriving. You’ll want to run ads and make up flyers which make it sound like a big deal, even if it’s not, simply because people will be intrigued by the concept and will want to come in to see what the fuss is about.

Is Sugar a Toxin?

May 19, 2011

Bad news has come out for anyone running a sweets shop. A lecture which has been made available on YouTube and which was recently written in the New York Times makes the shocking claim that sugar isn’t just something that will make you fat, but it could also very well be a toxic substance.

Robert Lustig, a specialist in pediatric disorders and a researcher at the University of California – San Francisco gave the lecture and it has, as of this writing, attracted nearly a million views. He refers to sugar as a toxic substance and as a poison throughout the lecture. Interestingly, Lustig doesn’t just take aim at standard table sugar either. He also places things like high fructose corn syrup, which is often used as a replacement for standard table sugar since it’s cheaper and sweeter, in the same boat as standard sugar. He refers to both substances as “the most demonized additive known to man.”

Lustin asserts that the prevalence of sugar in our general diets is the primary reason that childhood obesity is on the rise in the United States today. He asserts however that the problem isn’t just the empty calories that sugar offers, but the substance itself, which he says is actually a form of poison.

The debate is certainly not a new one – high fructose corn syrup was considered a modern day miracle to replace standard sugar when the original substance was vilified as being a noxious substance back in the 1970s. Today of course, things have come full circle and sugar is considered to be the safe substance while high fructose corn syrup is “processed junk food.” The reality by the way is that white table sugar is actually also heavily processed, though no one ever said the American consumer was concerned with facts. Sound bites, which this speech, vilifying sugar and high fructose corn syrup, offers in abundance, will do just fine, thank-you-very-much. For now, it’s a mild protest movement; however, those running restaurants devoted to sweet foods may want to consider offering healthier alternatives just in case the public begins to turn against both of their favorite sweet substances.

Food Rave Hits San Francisco

May 17, 2011

No, it’s not a teenage rave – at least not the kind you’d usually see, but we suppose there could be some teenagers there if they happen to be foodies. Instead, this is a kind of food rave where a group of people get together in San Francisco once a month to share ideas and fresh foods. The meeting is somewhat unofficial, with everyone seeming to know about it who wants to go, but unlike the raves your teenage kids might want to go to (but you say “no” about) these guys all have proper licenses.

The event takes place at midnight, as any good rave should and it features a variety of vendors, who hawk everything from pork rinds to boutique liquor to unusual flavors of ice cream (beet flavored ice cream anyone?). Vendors are able to participate for a cost of about $1,000 per year. That fee includes the vending space as well as health permits and of course liability insurance should anything go wrong during the course of the event.

The events are mostly advertised by word of mouth, including a healthy Twitter following which keeps close track of when and where the event will be held. A typical crowd is around 1,000 people from all walks of life.

The thing that makes this event so special is that there is such a wide variety of foods available. It is a foodie’s playground and members of the event specifically rejoice in that. Interestingly, even though there are health permits required at the rave, everyone attending is required to sign a waiver saying that they understand that the food may have been prepared in a location which has not been inspected. Bottom line, it’s a great place to experiment with new foods and new taste sensations.

Kroger Goes Environmentally Friendly

May 12, 2011

In a sign that they are going after a more environmentally conscious market, Kroger supermarkets, which runs a large chain of grocers in the Midwest, announced recently that they would be eliminating marlin, shark and bluefin tuna from their menu of fresh fish. The plan comes after intense scrutiny of the company the World Wildlife Fund, which pushed the company to create a more sustainable seafood plan.

Ultimately, Kroger says they plan on offering nothing but “certified” seafood products by the year 2015. The first step for the company was to pull the severely overfished marlin, shark and bluefin tuna from their fresh seafood selection – though they do not intend to stop just with those fish. The company has announced that they plan to work with the World Wildlife Fund and with the Marine Stewardship Council to become a model of sustainable sourcing for food in the United States. Specifically, the company plans to carefully monitor the products they sell which are caught in the wild so as to minimize the chance that they will cause irrevocable damage to the world’s ecosystem.

Of course, Kroger’s plan alone, while a brilliant marketing ploy, is unlikely to have a major impact on the consumption of these products as consumers who want to eat endangered fish can easily shop at any of the Kroger rivals who have thus far ignored calls to engage in a new, sustainable policy for their seafood sourcing.

Still, the World Wildlife Fund has said that they are hopeful that other grocers will follow suit and voluntary decide to restrict the offerings made in their stores so as to ensure that these species can replenish their stocks naturally. It also worth noting that the plan by Kroger affects exclusively wild-caught fish stocks and not farmed fish, which are already carefully controlled and are thus not in any danger of falling victim to overfishing.

How to Build Your Restaurant’s Wine Cellar Cheaply

May 10, 2011

While they’re not really intended for the restaurateur to improve his or her wine cellar, a number of new companies have sprung up which can help you to stock your cellar with quality wines at significantly lower prices than you might otherwise be forced to pay when you buy quality wines for your diners.

There are dozens of sites which offer you (and your diners, though don’t tell them about it!), the chance to grab some excellent wines for as much as 70% off the standard prices. How does a nice Bordeaux which ordinarily retails for $250 sound when you can get it for $100? Even at wholesale prices that you might pay to buy such wines for your cellar, the odds are good that you couldn’t get those kinds of prices without buying massive amounts of wine, more than many restaurateurs would really care to purchase for their cellars, especially if you have limited space.

However, if you do want to stock up on some quality wines, you should probably get yourself in line in a hurry. Most analysts believe that the market may start to taper off in the next year or two as the wine makers decide to hide the fact that they have been offering such deep discounts on quality wines (maybe from restaurateurs, who after all purchase their wines by the case rather than by the bottle).

Some of the popular options for getting good wines at cheap prices include websites such as WineAccess, Wines Til Sold Out and Wines.Woot, which is run by’s Woot brand. If you do want to get some additional quality wines for your cellar, it’s important to have your sommelier checking on the offerings regularly as they often sell out quickly, especially if they happen to be offering particularly attractive prices.

An Israeli Cucumber Begins to Transform American Kitchens

May 5, 2011

Californians have recently started seeing an influx of a new kind of cucumber being offered in their local farmer’s markets. Unlike the traditional cucumbers you probably use in your own kitchen, these cucumbers are small, flavorful and, despite the name (Persian cucumbers) they are based on an Israeli varietal. Here’s what you need to know:

An Israeli kibbutz, which is a kind of cooperative farm (though most such places have today branched into other endeavors) began planting local cucumbers before the founding of the State of Israel. It was and remains called Beit Alpha. The kibbutz members, however, found that the local varietals were actually heavily prone to disease and rot. Thus, they began experimenting, splicing them with other varietals which were more robust and still more which were seedless.

The result was that the kibbutz was able to create a small, flavorful cucumber which grew well and which didn’t require peeling since the skin was fully edible. Today, the variety, still known as Beit Alpha by some is also commonly referred to as “Persian” and is offered at some restaurants and farmers markets. What’s really nice about these varietals however is the fact that they seem to be a hit with customers, who prefer the body and flavor of the cucumbers over the tasteless variety more commonly found in American super markets.

We’re suggesting that restaurateurs should consider experimenting with these small, flavorful cucumbers in order to offer their diners a brand new taste experience. Given how popular the cucumbers already are with the population of southern California, we think that these cucumbers could easily make the difference for those who are struggling to attract the more culinarily-aware crowd that also happens to crave a crisp and flavorful salad with their meals. The cucumbers are commonly grown today in Holland, though the Israeli variety is also available for purchase.

A Rather Unusual Restaurant is the “Next” Big Thing

May 3, 2011

Well this has to be one of the most unique ways to generate buzz for a new restaurant. The “Next” restaurant in Chicago doesn’t sell people food ala cart. Nor do they sell people an all you can eat menu. Instead, they sell seats in the restaurant in much the same way that a baseball stadium might sell seats to see the home team (in this case, the Cubs or the White Sox).

Next, which is run by the famous and somewhat eccentric chef Grant Achantz, sells tickets for their restaurant at prices ranging from $45-$75. The price is based on where you’ll be sitting and what time you’ll get to do so rather than the amount of food you’ll get to enjoy. The seats overlook the kitchen, where people can gawk at the food as it’s being prepared and enjoy a kind of “ringside” view of the food preparation business.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangements and pricing, Next is also a rotating restaurant. No, it doesn’t physically rotate the way Windows on the World used to do. It rotates its menu every few months so that the experience of eating in the restaurant is almost always going to be a unique culinary experience. Currently, the fare in this place is French though in a few months time, it will change to something else entirely.

One more thing that makes the experience at Next unique is the price of the tickets to see the show. While the face value is a rather reasonable $45-$75, the restaurant has attracted quite a lot of buzz and as such, tickets to the place are being scalped in much the same way that tickets are scalped on the sidewalks outside of sporting events. Current costs for a ticket to Next, which is booked solid for the next several month are exceeding $3,000. Not bad for a ringside seat to an industrial kitchen.