Wrapping up three great days of Pigstock in Traverse City, MI, and I’ll write more about it, but had to quickly share the astonishing differences in breeds of hogs, and most important, the difference between a factory-farmed pig and a properly raised pig. Above Brian Polcyn shows four different breeds. On the left is the belly of a factory-farmed pig, breed not known. Notice how diminutive it is, how little fat is on that loin, which I guarantee tastes like cardboard when cooked. Compare it to the one he’s holding up, a farm-raised Berkshire-Duroc mix. When you buy the one on the left, not only will it not be a pleasure to cook and eat, you have cast a vote for more just like it. When you buy a belly from a farm-raised Berkshire, you Read On »

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I’m in Traverse City, Michigan, at Pigstock 2013. Herewith, a guest post from Chef Erin Harris. Erin began her culinary adventure in her hometown of London, Ontario, where she started cooking in a local fine dining restaurant at the age of 16. Erin studied Culinary Arts at Fanshawe College, and continued her education at George Brown College, where she studied La Cucina Italiana. This diploma course took Erin to Italy for 6 months where she studied Etruscan-era cuisine in Tuscany, and regional specialties in Trentino-Alto Adige. Erin found her true love while in Europe: cheese. She now owns a small boutique cheese shop in a local farmers’ market—The Cheese Poet—where she sells all of the best Canadian-made cheeses and charcuterie. Erin is also a sales consultant for a respected national wine agency, and teaches cooking Read On »

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Ina Garten and I had such a good time on stage at Playhouse Square in Cleveland last year, she’s asked me to join her tomorrow for a similar show at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh (details here). Garten is the brain and heart behind what has become an adored brand. And such is the subject of our talk, business and brands, as well as food and cooking. (Though ask me in the comments field below if there’s something specific you’d like me to address.) She, like me, is something of an accident—that is, Garten never set out to do what she is doing. She knew by age thirty that she didn’t want to be entombed as a policy wonk in D.C., so she put a low-bid offer on a prepared foods store in the Hamptons Read On »

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I got so carried away with my enthusiasm for Omar’s I didn’t get to the rest of my NYC post, which needs to emphasize an important event, orchestrated by Ferran Adrià, that took place in Manhattan and at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. (A number of people asked what show my Mom took me to before that lovely dinner. It was The Trip to Bountiful, for which Cicely Tyson won a Tony. I mention it not because it’s a lovely, subtle play [and movie with Geraldine Page] by Horton Foote, but because it was such an unexpected thrill to see genuine star power on stage. And I’m not talking about the power of celebrity, which is its own weird, slightly creepy entity, but rather power that comes from within, the diamond-hard center of an artist. Tyson lights up the Read On »

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Here’s how it happened. When my mom asked me what she could give me for my 50th birthday, I said “A Broadway show and a nice meal, just the two of us.” The restaurant she chose was one of her faves, Marea, but then she changed her mind—her pal Cynthia, with whom she was staying on the UN-traffic-clogged East Side, said we had, had, had to go to Omar’s—only open ten weeks. I hadn’t heard of it. Checked it out on Urban Daddy—interesting but I hate clubs. I looked into the namesake and thought, South American party boy—I don’t know, Ma. But she’d reserved it, even ordered a car for after the theater for the special occasion, so I didn’t argue. It’s in one of my favorite neighborhoods, West Ninth between Fifth and Sixth, and we descended from the sidewalk to Read On »

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