Jean-Paul’s Rating: 5/5 Food Orgasms 6/5 Hurting Pocketbooks
The highlight of my recent trip to Grand Cayman was without a doubt a trip to Blue located in the Ritz-Carlton. Everything in Grand Cayman is expensive. Blue is probably the most expensive of them all. I was afraid that I was not going to get anyone to go with me when I noticed the prices, but three of my friends were momentarily drunk enough and in full vacation mode and threw caution to the wind and joined me.
We each had the seven course tasting menu with wine parings. Add on the various pre-dinner and post-dinner freebies, and it was closer to a ten course menu. No wine parings for the freebies. So sad. Calling the meal divine doesn’t do it justice. Alas, I will never be able to recall the names of the wines, but each paring was a magnificently chosen compliment to each course.
By far, and across the board, we all agreed that the first course, the tuna-foie gras, was the best. It was a thinly pounded layer of tuna lightly brushed on the bottom with foie gras and placed on top of a toasted baguette with chives. It was transcendent. I could easily have had seven courses of just it and been happy. Also well worth mentioning were the poached halibut and the striped bass and the mousse that was served as part of the desert course. It was all quite yum. That isn’t to say the other courses were bad, but they were only excellent. They included a crab salad, a lobster dish which, with the wine pairing, tasted better with every bite, and one course I don’t quite remember. The highlights of the wine were my finally finding a Riesling that I enjoy, a very excellent Merlot, and a Tempranillo that was to die for.
Now that you’ve read this far, I’ll tell you the price. The seven course meal with wine pairings and one pre-dinner cocktail cost $400 including a 20% tip. Yeah, I know, ouch, right? It is three times what I’ve ever paid for a dinner. The big question is was it worth it? Yes and no. No meal is worth that much, but the meal itself was the best I have ever tasted and given the company and the enjoyment we all had, I believe it’s a good once a lifetime experience if you make more money than you should but less than being comfortable throwing down $400 for a meal.
Oh, wait, no, that’s food deserts. My bad.
A food desert is an area of residential housing that is underserved by traditional grocery store but often over-served by fast food stores. These tend to occur exactly where you’d think they’d occur; in poor neighborhoods. Being poor and living in a food desert makes it almost impossible to make healthy food choices. Now, you would think that a great solution would be to bring grocery stores to this area. A few studies have recently been released that show when a grocery store finally comes to a food desert, the dietary habits of the residents don’t really change much. What’s going on here?
Well, first off, it’s only a couple of studies so there may be certain things not controlled for, but the studies certainly pass the smell test. So why would poor people choose to still go to the fast food joint when there’s a much cheaper and healthier alternative right next door? If you took $10 worth of groceries and $10 worth of McDonald’s stacked side by side the choice seems absolutely preposterous. You can make many meals out of the groceries but only one from the McDonald’s. Look closer, though. See the problems? That McDonald’s value meal is ready to eat right now. No cutting vegetables or measuring out spices. No stirring of sauces or browning of meat. No washing of dishes or cleaning the kitchen. It takes five minutes to get fast food while cooking and cleaning can take an hour or more. And that’s just one out of three meals. We are so used to having time that we don’t realize how much of a luxury time actually is. And it’s a luxury that the working poor can not afford. There are second jobs to get to and precious sleep to catch up on. How are you going to throw fresh food into that mix?
So if grocery stores aren’t the answer, what is? I’ve always been a fan of something along the lines of a slow food co-op. The basic idea being that there is a kitchen somewhere that can cook very large portions of healthy meals and local residents can come in and pick up these meals for slightly less than what you’d pay at a fast food restaurant. The kitchen is local, the workers are local, the patrons are local. All that plus the locals can eat healthier and save slightly more than they had been with their fast food choices.
It’s a very simple idea. Of course, how to implement something like that is well beyond my pay grade. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Churches would probably be a good bet. It’s times like this when I wish I knew someone who actually knows something about these things.
Talk about dark, dystopian futures! Entrepreneur Rob Rhinehart wants to change the way everyone eats. That mostly entails eating, or rather, drinking his new product he cleverly called Soylent. It’s a combination of powdered chemicals and nutrients meant to satisfy every need the human body requires nutrition-wise. His goal is not to replace eating real food but to drastically reduce it. Eat Soylent on the weekdays and have some nice meals on the weekends.
Things are off to a good start for Rob too. He’s already passed the $2M mark in sales. I think it was $65 gets you a week’s worth of Soylent mixture. Not a bad price. I, for one, can’t imagine a world without the every day variety of foods I now enjoy, but I’m an upper middle class first worlder. I’d assume the poor or the third world would welcome something like this if the price could come down with the success of the product.
I think Soylent’s main problem with mass acceptability will likely be its taste. The best review of the taste I’ve seen or heard was that you get used to it after a while. “Soylent, you’ll get used to it!” doesn’t exactly have much commercial potential. So far, it seems more marketed to those people who don’t have time to eat or simply don’t like to eat. The former seems a limited market and the latter is just unfathomable to me. There’s likely to be quite the upward battle in spreading from those two niches.
There is also the problem of Rob Rhinehart’s perceived future need for Soylent. He claims that the world can’t possibly feed 10 billion people on normal foods. That may be true given today’s food paradigm, but remove meat from it and we’re looking at a whole new ballgame. I like his ambition, though. He sees Soylent as eventually being provided as just another utility like water.
It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and Christmas is right around the corner. That means Saturday was Pierogi Day! It’s the day that my family gets together and makes pierogi for Christmas. For you heathens out there who don’t know what pierogi are, they’re the Polish version of dumplings. Take some filling of some sort, wrap it in dough, boil and there you have it, pierogi!
We specialize in two types of pierogi. By far, the best is our kapusta pierogi. And boy, is it good! We also make a cheese pierogi. We used to do dry curd cottage cheese, but that’s become impossible to find so my ever inventive brother came up with a cheese concoction of his own with alfredo sauce, pepper jack and mozzarella. His version is much better than the cottage cheese version. We usually end up making somewhere between 100 and 150 a year and we have become quite the well oiled machine. This year we made about 130 in three hours.
But of course, the best part about Pierogi Day is taking the extras home with you. I was ever so proud of myself that I refrained from eating a single one on Saturday. This is a new record for me. Today, I didn’t fare so well. I may or may not have eaten 12 for dinner. I strongly suspect that my cat ate some on my plate when I wasn’t looking. I’m just going to say that she ate 10 of them. I asked her and she didn’t deny it. If history is any experience, the remaining 10 or so pierogi will be done by Wednesday. And then I have to wait all the way to Christmas Eve to have any more. Oh, the humanity!
You should also buy All The Nomz! It’s a cookbook with recipes from celebrity geeks, dorks, and dweebs. Best of all, ALL of the proceeds go to charity. Specifically, Child’s Play, an organization that provides toys and games to children in the hospital. So not only do you get a cookbook, but you also get to help spawn a new generation of gamers. Win, win!
This almost escaped my attention. Craft Beer week started today! So much for sobriety. Revolution Brewery is taking over the Village Tap on Friday. And Sunday! Oh, Sunday! Goose Island is having a block party featuring eight, count them, eight Bourbon County Stouts! *drool*
The Supreme Court recently unanimously ruled in favor of Monsanto in a lawsuit that has far reaching implications for genetic modification and individual control of the food chain. At issue was whether a farmer could buy soybeans from a grain elevator and plant them even though those soybeans were grown with Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready soybean stock. The court ruled that the farmer violated Monsanto’s patent doing so.
There are a couple of interesting points to this. First, the farmer does have a contract with Monsanto to buy its Roundup Ready soybeans and he did so for the traditional first planting season. He then decided to attempt a risky second planting with the much cheaper soybeans he was able to purchase from a local grain elevator. Second, 90% of soybeans grown in the United States are Roundup Ready. Talk about a monopoly! Third, the Supreme Court made it clear that all the thorny issues involved with this decision are only relevant to this decision and no inferences should be made as to the general legality of patented gene modification technology.
I call balderdash on that third point. I am far from an expert, but I’ve never heard someone cite a case and the citation be rejected because the Supreme Court called no backsies when they made the decision. Of course this decision is going to be used as precedent in the many cases to come! The “this is not meant to be a sweeping decision” language is just political cover for an incredibly contentious issue.
Think about the implication here. The Supreme Court has ruled that a company can create a self-replicating organic product and then decide how the offspring of that product is used ad infinitum. I buy and plant Roundup Ready seed from Monsanto. I plant those seeds and sell the resulting crop to person B. Person B is restricted from planting the seeds I sold him. Person B sells the seed to person C. Person C is restricted from planting the seeds that person B sold him. Monsanto can dictate exactly how those soybeans are used throughout the soybean’s life cycle no matter how many generations that soybean exists. In theory, this means that Monsanto could dictate exactly what products are made with those soybeans. Not that I think they would ever do something so stupid.
The farmer in this case almost certainly deserved to lose. He signed a contract with Monsanto and he tried to skirt that contract in an inventive way. The problem is HOW he lost. The Supreme Court is saying that he violated patent law, not contract law. Monsanto can and does go after farmers who plant non-Roundup Ready crops that happen to get cross pollinated with a neighbor’s Roundup Ready plants. This Supreme Court decision declares that Monsanto has every right to do so.
This is one of those issues where the law definitely needs to be updated but there is so much money involved that there is almost unanimous political agreement that nothing will be done. Self-replicating technologies should not be patentable. If companies like Monsanto want to mess with genes to produce a superior plant they should mess with a few more genes and make those plants infertile.
It completely snuck up on me, but Chicago Restaurant Week starts today! Yum! Of course, this is my first time as a vegetarian so we’ll see how well it goes.
For those of you not in the know, Restaurant Week is a week of semi-affordable fixed price menu items at over 250 of the Chicagoland area’s best restaurant (and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company). It’s a great opportunity to try that really expensive restaurant that you always wanted to go to but can’t really afford.
It’s time to eat!
Oh, Trader Joe-san, why must your wasabi peas taste so good? I once ate so many wasabi peas that I couldn’t taste anything for three days. True story. I guess you can say that I OPed. Ha!