Monday, February 23, 2009

We interrupt radio silence to bring you this important message

Bill Niman built a $65 million empire on a simple idea that revolutionized the food world - that meat could be more than just what's for dinner. It could be raised naturally, humanely and sustainably, better for people and the planet. Niman knew success would take time, but believed his methods would prove profitable.

But in nearly 30 years of existence, despite becoming the darling of high-end chefs and turning the brand into a household name, Niman Ranch never did turn a profit. In fact, it was broke. To save it from Bankruptcy Court, the East Bay company merged last month with its chief investor, Chicago's Natural Food Holdings LLC, and Niman was officially out.

The 64-year-old Bolinas man said he can live with losing the business he built from scratch. But he can't stand quietly by, he says, while the new owners fundamentally change the brand that influenced an entire food movement. He refuses to eat their products.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Fuck it

My supermarket now has gluten-free chickens.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


"I mean, I cannot believe when, like, people expected me to remember their name when they didn't wear lipstick and didn't dye their hair blonde."

-- Eve Babitz

RELATED (in my mind): Maya Deren on Youtube!!!1!!1:

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Things one says when one's relatives, who are the only people who still pretend to care, complain about the lack of content

Kishu mandarins.

They are good.

That is all.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cooking for one

An omelet and a bottle of wine. Seriously, is there a better dinner? All you need is eggs and butter, plus whatever embellishments you feel like and/or can scrounge because you're too lazy to go to the store. 1 pan, 1 fork, 1 plate. And if you have the secret ingredient -- salted capers* -- you don't even need salt.

Ok, honestly, my minimum embellishments are capers, thyme and garlic, but I always have those.

* They needn't cost a tenth of your mortgage payment if you can find some that aren't from Pantelleria; they're not as good, but so what?

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The whitest salad U know

Endive is the dry white toast of the chicory family. It reminds me of a time when one said the word gourmet without irony, and Craig Claiborne was still alive (...and therefore the ancient Blues Brothers reference is perfectly appropriate). However: it's actually pretty damn good, and you can get non-bitter greens-eating people to eat it raw, which comes in handy this time of year, when lettuce verges on inedible for a few months.

Years ago (but well after the deaths of Claiborne and Belushi), a friend gave me Peggy Knickerbocker's Olive Oil cookbook and said don't laugh (not at Peggy, at the gimmicky single-subject Chron Books format), it's actually really good, and she was right. Of course I was such a douche that I didn't believe her until she cooked for me, but the point is that I'm converted, and this salad was one of the things that did it.

Fennel-Endive Salad
from (imperfect) memory: quantities may vary

  • 3 heads endive
  • 1 big-ass fennel
  • 1/2 small white onion
  • parmigiano
  • lemon/garlic/salt/olio (duh) dressing
Wash everything. Slice the onion and fennel (lengthwise) very fine; use a mandoline or knife skills. There is some debate about the ideal thickness of the fennel. Probably the thinner the better, but you want to retain a little crunch to pair with the endive. Living in an Eritrean neighborhood with leaky windows has sorely tested my raw onion tolerance; I recommend rinsing the hell out of the onion and soaking it in acidulated water for a few minutes. Drain well of course. Layer the whole endive leaves with the fennel and onion, shave off a good amount of parmigiano on top, and dress liberally. Coarse black pepper.

The whole point is the whiteness, resist the temptation to buy red Endive, which also costs twice as much for some reason. Orange zest might be good.


It's been a few years since I've been able to bring myself to follow food policy, but I must say I find it ironic that IRRI is privatizing its hybrid rice research the same week that agricultural biodiversity gets a little traction in this Times article. Cf. this Seabrook article on a different Umbrian preservationist. Looking in my archives, I find I was irritated at the time because he seemed not to understand basic genetics... Hard to remember why I was so angry.

Also! How sad/awesome/convenient is it to have google blog search tell you what you're supposed to think about things you've forgotten about?

Speaking of which, Schlosser reports today on the latest shenanigans of our own little slave economy down in Florida. In case you've forgotten what you're supposed to think about that that, I got you covered. Someone needs to go down to South Florida and get Tony Montana on these motherfuckers.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Because I am an old person, I bought the collector's edition of Closer last week. Standing in line, I realized that it was the first CD I ever bought, 21 years ago. How's that for instant mortality? [Actually, I didn't buy it, I got it and The Age of Quarrel for Christmas with my first CD player]. Anyway, someone stole it in high school, and I never bothered to replace it.

In my dotage, I want to listen to Still approximately 40% of the time that I want to listen to music, which is not very often, because, in case you haven't been following me on this, I'm old. I love Still with the intensity of a thousand suns. The problem is, I only have it on vinyl. But I am mostly too lazy to listen to vinyl now. So instead of buying Still on CD, I bought Closer.

My excuse is that the "collector's edition" features a previously unreleased live disc which on first listen appears not to have been released for a reason. But it seemed like a good idea because I cannot track down a copy of Les Bains Douches, an excellent previously unreleased live show that is out of print.

In short, I was brutalized by intimations of my impending death for buying one CD that I didn't really want instead of buying two CDs that I do want.

(This is the best part: I love Still so much I had to make sure I hadn't already written something embarrassing about it. Thankfully not; instead I discovered that I've been failing to solve my problem for at least a year and a half. Genius.)

As long as I'm wasting our time:
Death. is. this. communion. fucking. rocks.
As noted before to general stupefaction, Matt Pike shreds. Also, surprisingly elfin in person. They go back on tour in January.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Joyful Tidings from the New World, or
Gimme Sugar

A belated celebration of Chris Colon (fuck you, I had to work) and update of my occasional annual series of good things:

1. I'm not really a dessert person. Sugar interferes with my preferred methods of dopamine pathway alignment. (I do, however, like it when you order dessert at a restaurant, because it gives me time to drink a digestif). But a few months ago, I realized that chocolate can be had with little sugar. Extensive testing in the 80% cacao range produced a winner in Green & Black's 70%. (I liked various bars up to about 83% cacao, but this one tasted most intensely of chocolate, somehow). But the most satisfying chocolate bar of all is Venchi's peperoncino.
Chilli + xocoatl = dopamine uptake inhibition. Bring it.

2. Hey, did someone say digestif? Oh wait, I forgot all you yuppie douchebags have driven up the price of anything drinkable out of my budget. $40 is the minimum for decent Calvados now, and have you seen the prices on real tequila? But it turns out that if you distill pure cane sugar and age it in oak for 8 years, it tastes significantly better than any Cognac I can afford. And if you do it in the most impoverished country in the hemisphere, it's fucking cheap. I'll be honest, I almost didn't write this because I don't want the aforementioned yuppie douchebags to discover Rhum Barbancourt and ruin it for me like everything else. But now that no one reads this any more, I figure I'm safe.

3. This has nothing to do with cane sugar, but early fall is the time when butternut squash and chiles poblanos collide. Is any combination better? Sticking with the hybridity theme, throw a little sage in there too.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trickle down

I just assumed Sunday was a proverbially slow news day when the Chron ran a farm bill article on A-1 (Steve Sullivan having had little effect on DiFi), but today Gawker Media is liveblogging a House food safety hearing. Yes, it's Consumerist, but still.


(Practically unprecedented) Correction

It looks like I will have to revise the timeline of my Kim Severson mockery, to judge by Craig Claiborne's charming story on everyone's favorite "revolutionary":

June 3, 1981, Wednesday, Late City Final Edition

BERKELEY,Calif. WHERE American gastronomy is concerned, there is one commodity that is rarer than locally grown black truffles or homemade foie gras. That is a chef of international repute who was born in the United States. Even rarer is such a celebrated chef who is a woman.

There is, however, one here in Berkeley who could justifiably deserve such renown. Her name may not be a household word from Maine to California, but many culinary experts, both here and abroad, sing her praises without reservation.

Alice Waters is chef-proprietor of Chez Panisse, a cunningly designed, somewhat raffish establishment with a noteworthy menu and kitchen. One of the most euphoric and enthusiastic appraisals of her work came from Christian Millau who, along with his colleague, Henri Gault, publishes a guide to restaurants in Paris. Writing in his monthly guide, Mr. Millau stated that dinner at Chez Panisse had been his most memorable experience in the San Francisco area.

Miss Waters, he stated, "makes a cuisine Française that is authentically bourgeoise, commanding the basic flavors, which she ferrets out with a passion and astonishing understanding, from good and beautiful products of her native land." He goes on to praise her treatment of tomatoes, wild crawfish, native olive oils, zucchini flowers, mussels, veal, farm-grown chickens, butter and woodland mushrooms.

The subject of this praise is a modest, diminutive, gaminelike figure with fingers that are astonishingly small, considering her metier.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007


adriatic fig

Hey, the Chron noticed that farmer's markets suck. No, nothing new happened, but the interviews give a good sense of how much unpleasant work -- and driving -- is involved in the delivery of your local food. Also, the Disneyfication of Ferry Plaza. Julia Wiley gets the gold star for this quote: "I'm not a value-added farm wife."

Allow me to suggest that you eat some figs while you still can. I do not, however, recommend reading about fig pollination if you are at all squeamish, i.e., if I am likely to try to serve you figs at some point. Although there appears to be some taxonomic instability at the retail level, whatever they are calling Adriatic is really really good.

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Friday, August 24, 2007


When I heard that the Rangers beat the Orioles 30-3 the other night, I have to admit, the first thing I thought of was Tim Kurkjian's reaction. And it was much, much better than I imagined.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Another one Bites the Dust

RIP, Terra Firma:

....Our sales at this market have not kept up with our sales through other outlets, particularly our CSA boxes, much less with inflation. We have found that every year, it takes more staff at the market to sell the same volume of produce....

They're cutting back to an April through July schedule.

I'm going to have to find out what Julie Guthman has to say about this.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Like most reasonable Americans, I decided long ago that the best response to the state of our government is to ignore it... hey! did you hear what happened to Lolhan? But last March I found myself uncharacteristically stricken by George Packer's report on the plight of the Iraqis who have tried to save us from our own incompetence: in short, we're leaving them to die.

Last month, Packer updated the situation (no change), then announced that Kirk Johnson's List Project has a website, where you can donate, or write to Congress to support H.R. 2265 and S. 1651.

A rare opportunity to rectify one particularly shameful part of this nightmare.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

This explains everything!

It turns out that all the incoherent mouthbreathers that populate the internets are CEOs.

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Monday, July 09, 2007


Is it possible that the Gainesville Sun is funnier than Bad News Hughes?

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm a steelworker*

I was struggling to compose a suitable peroration for the fifth anniversary of this blog when I realized it was actually the sixth anniversary. Man, time flies when you totally don't give a shit. Just kidding: the last year doesn't even count. But don't worry, I still have nothing to say.

Except for the following, composed in your honor at the risk of redundancy.

This is the time of year when it's not only easy to "eat seasonally," it's imperative (your USDA zone may vary). Eating the year's first perfect peach today, I declined to get annoyed at what I'd paid for it (as I'm increasingly prone to do): it was cheaper than a king-size Snickers, and infinitely more satisfying™. Of course it is a banner year for stonefruit, as Russ explained [HEY! HAVE YOU BOUGHT HIS BOOK YET?], and I should point out that the less-than-perfect peach is both profoundly less satisfying™ than a Snickers and more redolent of unflattering financial comparisons.

The point is, peaches are fucking good this year, and so are the olallieberries and figs that comprised the rest of my dinner. Believe me, I want to eat meat and cheese and potatoes, but there isn't enough time. Thus the observation that I could happily be a hunter-gatherer for about one month a year.

* And thus the reference to Big Black's Steelworker above, the lyrics of which turn out to be totally inappropriate to my point, except for the mention of the hunter-gatherer. God, I suck at this whole blogging thing.

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Monday, June 11, 2007


I probably get Journey in my head at least once a week. You cannot imagine the joy of waking up this morning with the knowledge that probably 100 million people were sharing my pain for one day.

Hold on to that feeling, suckers. It won't be long until the sequel.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

World collides with itself

My narcissist isolation has been interrupted by news hurtling across the internets of a local food kerfuffle. In short, Steve Sando was forced to lay the smackdown on Slow Food guru Carlo Petrini.

Now I know no one wants to see me come crawling back to the intarnets just to say I told you so, or, in fact, gives a shit what I think. But this is too good to pass up.

First of all -- sorry -- the proposition that Ferry Plaza isn't some kind of weekly yuppie Woodstock is laughable. But the idea that it only just occurred to Carlo Petrini that the mingling of serious food and self-important rich people (who aren't Carlo Petrini) is somehow objectionable is off-the-charts absurd.

Of course, this kind of miscegeny is inevitable, and it's not the end of the world, as much as some people might agonize about it. But it does represent the contradiction at the heart of the "food movement" (someone has to pay for utopia), which no one on the face of the planet has done more to yuppify than Carlo Petrini.

Would it be uncharitable to wonder if the Piedmontese ruling classes prefer their agarian heroes to look more like peasants than "surfers" and "movie stars"?

Related: Joe "the surfer" (who happens to grow the best tomatoes in Northern California) responds at Small Farms, and Andy Griffin explains how to charge for quality and still lose money.

See you next year.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Just saying...

The Times spelled Garcilaso de la Vega wrong.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Derby day

Although I'm sadly bereft of julep cups, the WORLD'S LARGEST TRACTOR glasses proved a suitable though perhaps excessively capacious vessel for my Derby day mint juleps.


So, uh, who won? I was asleep by noon.

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