Monday, March 5, 2012

Around The Culinary World

Hello again everyone! It’s a beautiful Monday morning here in the greater Midwest. Temperatures are gaining ground and spring is beginning to show signs of returning. We all know the real reason to be excited today, however. Today marks a new edition of ‘Around The Culinary World’! Lately, we’ve been graced with a plethora of great stories to share; in fact the past month of culinary news has been varied and quite interesting. Today’s batch of news is no exception. While the quantity is lower from past weeks, the quality and diversity of today’s stories more than makes up for the difference. Enough grandstanding – let’s dive right into the culinary news for this week:

A few months ago, we shared a story about a pending change for the meat packing industry. The FDA was requiring that the most popular cuts of chicken and beef begin displaying their nutritional information on the side of the package. Well, the deadline has come for this change. Starting on 3/1/12 – all ground beef, steaks and poultry packaging (I’ve not been able to confirm if pork is included in on this change, however, I haven’t read anything specifically exempting it from the change) will have to include caloric values and fat content. Interestingly, even products that advertise their fat percentage on the package (I.E. ground beef that states “85/15”) will still have to list their fat percentage on the label. This could pose a problem for manufacturers who like to ‘round off’ their numbers on the packaging. In the end, it’s a move that benefits consumers as more transparency will help them make better decisions. You can read more on this change HERE.

The garbage disposal may be one of the most handy kitchen gadgets. Whether it’s reducing the leftover scraps from pan into a fine pulp or simply quickly clearing out a sink full of soapy water, this kitchen gadget is indispensable for the everyday chef. The hungry little blades seem like they’re able to chop up just about anything that comes its way. There are some things, however, that the garbage disposal cannot do. Check out this collection of things NOT to put into your garbage disposal HERE.

As a funny side note to this story, Maggie learned the hard way about rice and garbage disposals. After cleaning a pot that was used to cook rice earlier in the evening, Maggie had collected a large amount of rice in the bottom of the sink. Flicking on the garbage disposal, she pushed a fair amount of rice down the drain and out of sight. She then proceeded to wash the remaining dishes. Typically, when we’re washing dishes our sink fills up with soapy water, so it wasn’t too concerning as the water level rose. Normally, a flick of the disposal switch remedies this situation. Except…this time it didn’t. The water stubbornly stayed in the sink. A few more flicks of the disposal did remove the water from one sink, but much to Maggie’s horror the adjoining sink promptly filled up with said water. That night resulted in a pipe’s seal leaking, spraying water all over the under-sink cabinets (and about 3 to 5 buckets of water being rushed from under sink to tub as we tried to keep our kitchen from going under water) and forced us to call our apartment’s emergency maintenance line to snake the line clear. It was a wet, soapy mess (one that I got stuck cleaning up somehow…) and (in hindsight) a funny lesson about what DOESN’T go in the disposal.

A few weeks ago, we shared a story regarding the candy manufacturer Mars Inc. and their plans to lower the caloric content of all of their candy offerings. Well, Nestle has decided to go one better. Finishing a plan that launched in 2005, Nestle has axed all artificial ingredients (including coloring and dyes) in their UK product line. There are no plans to roll out these changes to the US market yet, but Nestle is apparently looking at making the same changes overseas. The UK is one of the world’s largest candy consumers, and many new products or concepts debut there and then move across the world. Don’t be surprised if sometime soon, your Kit-Kat or Smarties start boasting all natural ingredients. Read more on this change HERE.

Much like the Mars announcement, I’m happy to see a company that is taking initiative to make their products better for their consumers. The health world cannot reach a consensus about the effects artificial flavorings and colors have on individuals – but I tend to believe that any opportunity you have to use a natural ingredient over an artificial ingredient is one you should take. Cheers to Nestle for their health conscious move – and here’s hoping this change makes it way to the US.

Every chef has an ingredient or flavoring they don’t like. Whether it’s simply a pain to cook, hard to prepare or just plain gross – there’s something that each and every chef (amateur or professional) just detests. My ‘foods I detest’ are green beans (hate – hate –hate – HATE! Their flavor) and mushrooms (the texture simply ruins a dish for me). While there are certain exceptions to the rule (I have found uses for mushrooms that I enjoy) I usually go out of my way to avoid either ingredient if at all possible.

The difference for amateur chefs and professional chefs is even though professional chefs may detest an ingredient – they still have to use it if the customer requests it. So, which ingredients do professional chefs dislike the most? Check out the list HERE.

Beer – the ubiquitous alcoholic beverage. Beer often gets unfairly lumped into an “uncultured” drinking category –labeled as the low brow drink. This is an unfortunate notion, however, as beer, when done well, can be just as full of life and personality as the finest wines or whisky. Typically it’s the mass-produced ‘cookie-cutter’ beers that earn this label (Budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors Lite – (the big boys) are internationally famous for being “American beer” which is not exactly a good classification in the beer world).

If your world of beer doesn’t range outside of the major players, you might not ever even realize why the big brands are so detested for being flat, bland or tasting like things that rhyme with “miss”. No, the real beauty of beer isn’t in the mass produced offerings, but in the microbreweries. It’s here that beer takes on a new life, picking up hints of flavor – depth and amazing quality. If you’ve never had a microbrewery beer, you owe it to yourself to try one. Most grocery stores carry microbrewery offerings – you just have to move away from the grand Bud-Lite displays to find them. (I’m particularly fond of Red Hook’s ESB at the moment – check them out if you get a chance).

Microbreweries are booming right now – and the resulting trend has caused its own spinoff; home brewing. Yes, the DIY beer market has become quite the playground for hobbyists over the past few years and the product has greatly improved as the players become more experienced. No longer are hobby beers for the single male crowd – and they certainly are no longer looked at as mere fermented water. Recently, the New York Times ran a profile of home brewing and the strides its made over the past few years. It’s an interesting read and it has quite a bit of information on the DIY brewing trend. Check out the full story HERE.

That’s all the culinary news that’s fit to blog about this week. We’ve got another full week of recipes lined up. I’ll be taking to the kitchen tomorrow night to try out a very unique dish that blends some flavors you don’t commonly associate with each other. Maggie will follow me on Wednesday night with a recipe that pulls in some of her favorite things to cook with. Be sure to stop in Tuesday night to see what I’ve got cooking. Until then,


1 comment:

  1. I have found a jar key great. No strength required any more to open those pesky jars!