When life is in disarray, travel! Which is what I’ve been doing nonstop for a month and a half, and more. The above is a salumi maker from Norcia, a town famed for its butchers and recently devastated by an earthquake. Happily he found a place in Rome to sell his goods. I have neglected my pledge to spend more time on this blog, but herewith is the reason why, a sort of photo essay of the lands and pigs and pork and salumi and chefs from the past six weeks. It began in Rhode Island, little old Rhode Island, where I made some mandatory holiday aged eggnog.   I was there to do a reading with Ruth Reichl at Matt and Kristin Jenkins lovely Chez Pascal, sponsored by Goat Hill, an organization like Boston’s Grub Street that Read On »

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Just returned from the New York Times Food For Tomorrow Conference (this post being in keeping with my goal of keeping a culinary web log), and I found it energizing and amazing, in large measure because it was held at Blue Hill Stone Barns in Westchester, New York, an amazing place, led by chef Dan Barber, about whom I will say this: He can be really fucking annoying. Which I’ll get to.     I was there because NYT food editor Sam Sifton, who knew I was working on (just finished in fact) a book about grocery stores in America. I would be on a panel with Rodney McMullen, CEO of the biggest traditional grocer in the country, Kroger, with 2,600 some stores, including those in about 30 chains that do not bear the Kroger name. McMullen Read On »

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  (First published in Finesse, Thomas Keller’s superb magazine, earlier this year.) In the 1970s, the egg was bad-for-you food in America. After being a mainstay of the human diet for millennia, doctors here decreed that the cholesterol-laden yolk clogged arteries and resulted in heart attacks. Eat an egg if you must, nutritionists warned, but only in limited quantities. And after 30 years of telling us to avoid eggs and order up those egg white omelettes, the American Heart Association changed its mind—oops!—and declared that eggs, like an unjustly punished child, could once again return to the dining table. As I began to write about the egg, I realized the egg fatwa was no isolated event. Indeed, it came to symbolize for me what was wrong with the way we think about food and how we let others decide what we eat. Read On »

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  Just back from a fabulous trip to Hawaii on a magazine assignment. Such a great time, wanted to share some iPhone shots. Top: Opah, at the Honolulu fish auction. Terribly shabby view from my hotel in Maui, the Andaz resort. Breakfast at Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Cafe (garlic rice, beef patty, mushroom gravy, egg). Below: Adam Watten of the soon-to-be-opened Hanai, a market and eating venue, standing at his makeshift smoker. Lee Anne Wong with chef Mark Noguchi. A farmers’ market on Kauai. Watten’s menu for the night he cooked for a group of us. Chickens on the beach in Kauai, where the birds run wild all over the island. The Papahana Kuaola, a restoration site on Oahu. Soursop fruit at farmers’ market. The biggest Spam display I’ve ever seen. Smoke-roasted baby pig from Steelgrass Farm, Kauai.   My final mai tai, alas. The Read On »

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A new grocery store opens in downtown Cleveland this morning. But this family-run business is more than a grocery store. It’s more like a food cathedral. The above iPhone photo, shot early this week as cases were being filled, attests to that. But the simile goes beyond architecture. This grocery store, perhaps among the most humble-seeming of businesses, is a symbol of this once moribund city’s recent growth. Downtown Cleveland is now a desirable place to live (apparently it’s at 95% capacity). We’ve long known it’s a desirable place to eat. Astonishingly, it’s made significant lists of must-see destinations (Travel+Leisure, Fodor’s, even the LA Times). Also it’s my hometown and I care for it the way one does a cherished mutt: with devotion and pity and deep love, for all its good and bad. (See this hilarious tourism Read On »

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