The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.
Foreign Policy: “The Cookbook Theory of Economics,” by Tyler Cowen.
In this engaging essay, Cowen argues that the availability of cookbooks from other countries is a good indicator of their economic development—Italian, French and Mexican cookbooks are easy to find in the U.S., but try to find a book on the cuisine of Chad. He also discusses how cookbooks from different countries reveal a lot about the cultural expectations for the cooks they are written for. He discusses how ethnic cookbooks intended for a Western audience, even if written to be authentic, must still translate recipes in ways that wouldn’t be needed in the cuisine’s original country. An Indian food writer, for example, will detail steps for Westerners that it written for Indian cooks would be assumed they would already know how to do (like squeezing water from Indian cheese). Recipes may also substitute ingredients that just aren’t available (or available fresh) elsewhere.
New York Times: “A Culinary Birthplace in Dispute,” by Julia Moskin.
Many words have been written this week about the downfall of television food celebrity Paula Deen, who it seemed had barely recovered from the bad publicity connecting her battle with diabetes and her fatty cooking. Putting a more meaningful spin on this than what the tabloids are giving, Moskin interviews Southern cooks for their views on Deen, the implications of what she's done and what Deen's story reveals about the racism, sexism and other “isms” that plague some parts of the food industry. It also touches on thoughts about who gets to "represent" Southern cooking.
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook: "Salmon with Avocado Salsa," by Hank Shaw.
Hank Shaw's James Beard Award-wining blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook is known for its use of unusual ingredients Shaw has foraged or hunted/caught. While that makes it a fascinating read, it also puts most of his recipes beyond the reach of urban cooks like me. Here then is a recipe that's a bit unusual for Shaw because it contains no unusual ingredients: a pan-fried salmon fillet with a side of chunky fresh guacamole. All of the ingredients are available at your typical grocery store; however, in keeping with the blog's theme, I imagine you get bonus points for catching the salmon yourself.
Washington Post: “Napa cabs’ balancing act,” by Dave McIntyre.
When it comes to boldly styled popular wines, Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is clearly king. It’s one of my favorite varietals and, if you drink enough of it, you’ll find quite a bit of variation between different wineries. To former Stag’s Leap winemaker Warren Winiarski’s taste, however, too many cabs these days are going for bold at the expense of balance. While makers of shiraz and pinot noir have embraced restraint and nuance, big big big still dominates cabernet. But there are exceptions: along with the article, McIntyre includes recommendations for six old-style Napa cabs, including the comparatively affordable Oberon 2011 cab (which is excellent and you can get it at Safeway), Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar’s 2010 Artemis cab, which I haven’t tried, and Chateau Montelena’s 2010 cab (I have a 2006 bottle I should probably drink soon). (Note: Montelena, along with Stag’s Leap, were the two American wineries that famously bested their French competition in a 1976 international wine competition, as depicted in the film Bottle Shock.)
The Guardian: "Wine-tasting: It's junk science," by David Derbyshire.
Speaking of the complexity of good California wine... Robert Hodgson, a California winemaker, noticing how his wines were inconsistently honored in state contests, proposed an experiment were judges were sometimes served multiple glasses of the same wine without being told to see whether they would notice. Interestingly, very few did, awarding different scores (and average of plus-or-minus 4 points) for different glasses of the same wine poured from the same bottle. Derbyshire does a good job discussing how the flavor complexity of wine is a reason it is so hard for human palates to accurately and reliably discern its nuance.
New York Times: “French Class Is in Session,” review of Lafayette restaurant by Pete Wells.
Lafayette is the new NoHo French restaurant from restaurateur-chef Andrew Carmellini, just a block away from his Library at the Public, which opened last year (and I reviewed, positively). Unfortunately, Wells is disappointed in Lafayette, which he says has much that will please but little that will impress. The service sounds particularly disappointing, although he names the baked goods—both the bread and desserts—as delicious standouts. But it still only earns 1 star.
Wired: "How Silicon Valley Perfected Ice Cream," by Michael V. Copeland.
In an area known for churning out tech start-ups, Stanford business school alum Robyn Sue Fisher is instead churning a sweeter business proposition: a San Francisco ice cream shop called Smitten. Using a liquid nitrogen-based device she created, she makes quick-frozen made-to-order ice cream. Sounds delicious.