Restaurant Failure Myth
A businessweek article by Kerry Miller debunks the “9 out of 10 new restaurants fail” myth.  The real figure is about 60%, the article says, consistent with the failure rate of new businesses generally.  Article blames banks for perpetuating the myth in order to refuse loans or charge higher interest rates to potential restaurateurs.  Reasons for restaurant failure remain: lack of initial capital and the restaurateur’s failure to devote enough time (24/7, abandon family) to the business.  [thanks bob del G]

Pâté Technique
I’m a fan of Mark Bittman and always check out his cooking column in the NYTimes dining pages.  He’s a good writer, offering solid information without fluff.  I was delighted when last week he took on the pâté de campagne a subject I explore at length in Charcuterie, and something I care about and want to encourage.

But he leaves out one piece of the pâté equation that is fundamental to its success; failing to acknowledge it, in fact, is probably the most common reason for failed pâtés and sausages.  Temperature.  When you mix or puree ground meat and fat, the meat and fat has to be really cold or the fat will break out of the mixture when it’s cooked, resulting in a dry meat loaf with an unpleasant texture.  Best results happen when the meat and fat is very near freezing.  Bless Bittman for encouraging home cooks to take on the pâté de campagne, and keep your meat cold.

The Return of the French

I spoke with my friend Eric Ripert last week who’d just returned from France where he’d had several meals at two- and three-star restaurants and was delight to hear him say this.
    “Michael, the French are back,” he said.  “For a while I was worried.”
    He’d often spoken about how hidebound the French could be, remaining too rooted in the dogma of Escoffier and even the newer tenets of nouvelle cuisine, while unfettered American chefs blazed new ground.
    “It’s still traditional,” he said, “but modernized.  It’s really really refined and delicate. … You need ten-thousand cooks and asparagus cost seven dollars each, but still.”
    Maybe it’s time for writers and critics to force their gaze away from the circus of Spanish gastronomy back to the place where haute cuisine originated.  Eric’s prediction is hopeful news for Francophiles.

Could I have a side of Marlboro’s with that bacon, please?
A new study links consumption of cured meats with lung disease.  I’m in the skeptics camp, and the study doesn’t suggest why increased nitrite consumption would lead to lung disease.  But there it is, see for yourself. [from Heath the wooly pig man, thanks.]

Salted Water
A few people remarked on the color of the peas soup I showed in a previous post and asked about it and one reader wondered about the salted water.  I believe in salting water heavily for green vegetables.  I learned it from Thomas Keller and we wrote about it in The French Laundry Cookbook in a brief essay called “Big-Pot Blanching.”  The ratio: 1 cup of kosher salt for each gallon of water.  Some chefs, such as Heston Blumenthal, question the necessity of the salt in terms of its resulting in the best possible color.  But I speak from experience: the most vivid color and best flavor results when your vigorously boiling water tastes like the Atlantic ocean.