Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving - and a tipple to try later

I'm heading over to St. Paul's Memorial Church to put on the confit of turkey legs, but before I go, I'd like to wish all you loyal readers (I know you're out there, even if you're too shy to comment online) a very happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for your support. Later in the day, I'll roast the breasts. I'm also cooking a whole turkey without salt.

And although I write mostly about food, sometimes it's nice to have a beer to go with it. One I had recently that is just perfect for wintry days is Point's St. Benedict's Celebration Ale. This is made by Point Brewery in Steven's Point, Wis., not too far from my paternal grandparents had their farm. Back when many American craft breweries were throwing in the towel mid-century, Point soldiered on, brewing quality beer in their little town. And it's still really good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

White House chef, cont.

I got a little excited when I saw Yahoo news promoting a story on the new White House chef, but after talking to several more people in the know, Associated Press reporter Holly Ramer didn't get much more information than I shared in my Nov. 15 item, "Who will cook for the Obamas?"

She did advance Alice Waters as a celebrity chef consideration, and quoted the Culinary Institute of America's Tim Ryan making the point that like the Kennedys, the Obama White House can send a message to the nation with the choice of a chef with an agenda.

The Dallas Morning News (where I worked in the early '80s) had this item this morning:
Walter Scheib, the White House executive chef for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, believes there's a 90 percent chance the new administration will stick with his successor, Cristeta Comerford. He also said a celebrity hire, as hinted on food and political blogs, wouldn't work. "You have to be a person who has a real heart of service, and it can't be someone who needs to see themselves on camera," Mr. Scheib said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jail bait

Item from today's Charlottesville Daily Progress
Once the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail runs out of oil, kitchen staff will no longer fry the potato wedges that inmates and staff alike eat at mealtimes.
That should keep more than a few people from a life of crime. ;-)

French flee cafés...

Steven Erlanger had an interesting article in the New York Times Sunday, on emptying out of cafés across France. My personal favorite quote was the café owner who complained that the no-smoking ban was to blame: "They go out for a cigarette and they don't come back." For the full article, click here. 

SAULIEU, France — Nathalie Guérin, 35, opened Le Festi’Val bar and cafe here two years ago full of high hopes, after working at this little Burgundy town’s main competition, the Café du Nord. But this summer, business started to droop, and in October, she said, “it’s been in free fall.”

“Now there’s no one,” she said, standing in a somber room with a few sad holiday decorations, an idle pool table and one young man playing a video game.

“People fear the future, and now with the banking crisis, they are even more afraid,” she said, her eyes reddening. “They buy a bottle at the supermarket and they drink it at home.”

The plight of Ms. Guérin is being replicated all over France, as traditional cafes and bars suffer and even close, hit by changing attitudes, habits and now a poor economic climate. In 1960, France had 200,000 cafes, said Bernard Quartier, president of the National Federation of Cafes, Brasseries and Discotheques. Now it has fewer than 41,500, with an average of two closing every day.

Photo credit: Ed Alcock for The New York Times
Photo caption: Business at Le Relais, a cafe in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris, declined after a smoking ban took effect.

Talking turkey... prices

One thing for which I'm not thankful as Thanksgiving approaches is that I couldn't justify spending four times as much to buy the turkeys for our free night-before-Thanksgiving dinner from a local farm. I called them all; the lowest price per pound was $5.25. When feeding 8-10 people, that's certainly less than the same amount of beef tenderloin, even taking into account the bones. But when you're talking between 50 and 100 people, one does have to consider the total cost. I did get one fresh, organic turkey to cook salt-free. I thought about doing each turkey with a different seasoning, but decided that may be a little too ambitious. Maybe next year. This year, we're just going to focus on delicious.

BTW, I just heard on the Today show that the average number of calories consumed in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is 4,000. Be careful out there, people.