Archive for March, 2007

Cafe Sam: A Disappointment

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

It’s rare that I look forward to going out to dinner at a particular place; most of the time I see a dinner as a convenience option, knowing that I’ll be able to do as well for myself at home. With Cafe Sam, it was different. I had heard from enough sources that the food was worth talking about and I was expecting a great meal.

Boy, was I wrong. My Greek salad was made with iceberg and olives from a supermarket can: generic old black olives. On a Greek Salad. With iceberg. Now come on, you’re not even putting forth an effort. If you tell me that I’m going to have a Greek salad, I expect it to have kalamatas at minimum, and something with a pit still in it no matter what. The lettuce should have some variety to it. The feta chunks shouldn’t be of uniform size: that’s indicative of it coming pre-crumbled in a plastic bag instead of as whole cheese crumbled fresh in the restaurant. This salad failed on all counts. I’ve gotten better salads from church volunteers.


Extended to When?!

Monday, March 12th, 2007

From a 4-paragraph brief on page A-10 of yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

ConAgra Foods Inc. has extended its recall of all peanut butter produced at a plant in Georgia by more than a year, back to October 2004, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The recall covers all Peter Pan peanut butter and all Great Value peanut butter beginning with product code 2111, including peanut butter toppings

Food borne illnesses are messy things and often difficult to trace back to their origins; usually outbreaks tend to be traced back to things that are more apt to display a risk: oysters, ground beef, and improperly handled chicken. Peanut butter normally does not rank high on the list.

That the peanut butter has been implicated and that the recall extends back more than two years leaves me wondering, what were the conditions at the plant that produced this peanut butter? Why is it that the equipment wasn’t cleaned and sanitized more recently than 2004? Any establishment preparing food for widespread public consumption should have better control over the cleanliness of their equipment in order to reduce the likelihood of cross contamination.


Fork and Knife or Just Fork?

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

My daughter was criticizied by her mother in law for not using her knife at the meal.

Her mother in law was of the opinion that one must use the knife to aid in picking up all food and not trying to navigate just with a fork. I have always been of the school that you only use a knife when needed to cut meat .

What is the correct opinion? Thanks.

I’m not Emily Post, but whether you use a knife to guide your food onto your fork seems like an awfully nit-picky thing to sieze upon for a critique of manners. Because, so long as you’re using a fork (and not your fingers), who really cares? The only time a knife as a guide is necessary is when the food in question doesn’t want to sit on the fork on its own, in which case a knife is the polite mechanism with which to guide the unruly morsel.

In fact, even if your daughter were using her fingers for an occasional nudge, what could her mother-in-law possibly accomplish by calling her out on it? Among adults, unless someone is behaving as a total boor, it seems to me that a courteous person would turn a blind eye; or at most mention the matter quietly when others weren’t around.

How Food Snobbery Can Ruin the Simple Pleasures

Friday, March 9th, 2007

I used to love Hershey’s Kisses: little bits of chocolaty goodness, I thought, wrapped up in foil.  Of course, they’re way too expensive for me to get on a regular basis, but every year I look forward to February 15, because there’s always all sorts of red-wrapped candy at pennies on the dollar.  I always get at least one bag of kisses and then I devour them.

This year, the devouring is going slowly.  You see, over the past year, I’ve developed a taste for fine chocolate.  I’ve on occasion dropped as much as 8 or 10 bucks on a single bar of high cocoa content (75% +) dark, though I’ve also scouted out lesser-priced brands that still offer a high-quality snack.  I’ve gotten used to letting the small bits melt on my tongue; a process of slow-paced enjoyment.

I didn’t let this snobbery get in the way of my 2/15 candy-buying bonanza, though, and I still got my bag of kisses.  Unfortunately, they now taste like wax to me.

What Kind of a Food Scene Is There in Pittsburgh?

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Hi there,

I’ve been accepted into Pitt’s MFA program, which I am very psyched about, and I’m headed that way for a visit.

Is there much of a foodie scene in Pittsburgh? What kinds of things should I try to check out while I’m there?

Thanks in advance!


Beyond a doubt, there is a great foodie scene here! Much of it is centered on the Strip District, which borders on Downtown and is centered on Penn Avenue and Smallman Street. Here, you’ll find all kinds of specialty and ethnic shops. The variety of wares available and the numbers of people who flock to it are proof of how much this city likes its food.


Another Successful Savory Conversion

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Over the past few years, I’ve grown tired of the sickeningly-sweet, aspartame-laced yogurt concoctions available on the general market. My reaction has been to get quarts of plain yogurt, which I think tastes great, especially if you get whole milk yogurt (fat is flavor). It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I could flavor my own yogurt to my own non-sweet specifications. The process was beyond simple and the results were fantastic.

We’ve got a bag of onions in our kitchen that we really ought to have done something with about a week ago; all of the onions in it have begun to sprout. I cut off a bunch of these sprouts and sliced them thinly, thinking that I could add some green onions to my cheese sandwiches. Come lunchtime, I looked at my little half-full shot glass-sized tupperware container of green onions and my 1/2-pint container of plain yogurt and took the not too complicated mental leap of mixing the two together. The result? Another successful savory conversion: savory yogurt featuring thinly sliced green onions!

Chowing Down at the Village Inn

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

I’m a fan of places that serve breakfast all day (BAD–but in a good way). If I can get a waffle whenever I want it from your establishment, I’m biased in your favor before I’ve even sat down. There’s just something about the fare at BAD diners that’s hearty and comforting in its stick-to-your-ribs simplicity.

The Village Inn is a chain that has locations in the Rockies, the Midwest, Arizona, and Florida. Much of their menu is comprised of exactly what you’d expect from a restaurant of its calliber: eggs any way, pancakes, hamburgers, chicken fried steak…. Their stand-out offering is something they call a skillet, which, not surprisingly, comes to the table on a cast aluminum sizzler skillet (the same sort of dish you’d expect your fajita meat to come on at the Tex-Mex chain). It’s like breakfast and lunch all rolled into one menu item: perhaps the best chain diner brunch offering I’ve ever seen.


Gifts for People Who Have Everything

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

What do you get for someone who has everything? How about assistance for people who don’t? I just found out about Changing the Present, a new website that offers you the chance to target your charitable dollars toward specific projects aimed at improving social justice around the world. Many of these are related to issues of agriculture.

The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) has a variety of programs listed on Changing the Present, ranging in amount from $10 (helping banana farmers organize) to $300 (enrolling a student in agricultural school for a year). The International Medical Corps has options that include providing seeds and tools for one woman to grow a garden ($25), training one woman to make a highly nutritional supplement ($25), and providing clean water to a family ($50). Action Against Hunger has a variety of options ranging up to $1,000 to dig a well that will provide water for $300 people. Each group listed on Changing the Present has a link to their own website so you can find out mroe about what they do.

We who have an abundance of food can do much to help those who don’t—especially because (as in the case of the banana farmers), it is sometimes through their efforts that our food comes to us.