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eG Foodblog: Fat Guy (2010) - Goin' Mobile


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I'm pleased with the thought that the Q&A's are returning along with the blogs. Any chance you could talk Sarabeth into doing one? At this rate it will be the eGCI coming back next!

Indeed. Food blogs are a major strength of eGullet, as are Q&As, and the forum is poorer without them. Bravo, Stephen, for bringing back an important tradition.

Coco Helado = iced coconut -or- coconut ice

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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If you have never been on a media familiarization tour you simply must start an independent online publication in order to start collecting invitations.

Some people when they go on vacation like to sit around on the beach. Others like to get out and do stuff. If you favor the latter model, a press trip is like that vacation only better because you have the benefit of the inside track thanks to the local CVB or tourism commission, plus it's free and you may even get paid to write about it down the road (if not, there's always blogging).

At the moment I'm en route to LaGuardia airport to catch a Delta flight to Biloxi via Memphis. The flight is free but I'm responsible for getting myself to the airport. So in an attempt to avoid unnecessary expenditures I find myself at the corner of 125th Street and Amsterdam Avenue waiting for the M60 bus. In the course of making a villion stops and picking up various unsavory and/or strange characters in Queens this bus gets you to LaGuardia for only the cost of a Metrocard swipe (which if you have a monthly unlimited card is, at the margin, zero).

So anyway...we are about to enter the core phase of this eG Foodblog: a media tour of Mobile Bay with specific focus on the local seafood industry especially in light of the recent BP oil spill. But first I have to spend most of today traveling.

I'll attempt to post this from the airport if I get there with any time to spare. Or maybe from my phone, on which I'm typing very slowly right now. If I can post updates throughout the day I will.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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LaGuardia is not a single entity. The Delta terminal is pretty nice but I got here a little early to try the Pat LaFreida burger place.

Boarding is delayed, of course.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Approaching one hour of delay here on the LaGuardia end, the length of my layover in Memphis is rapidly shrinking to zero. So much for a shot at Corky's barbecue or anything like that. And, unfortunately, since they keep announcing that the delay here will be 10 more minutes, instead of just fessing up to an hour in the first place, I haven't been able to step away from the gate to investigate the food-court options down the corridor. Instead, I had the breakfast of champions: yogurt, a banana and 600 milligrams of ibuprofen.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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They need to give you one of those buzzers that you get while you are waiting to be seated in the finest dining establishments - then you could wander away from the gate.

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I guess I've got time to get caught up on a couple more photos.

Here's PJ's lunch for today:

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

Okay they're finally boarding. More later.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks for posting about Sarabeth's book. I pre-ordered it a while back but had forgotten all about it. (Several upcoming books on my pre-order list and it had dropped to page 2)

Now your photos have really increased my desire to actually hold the book in my hands.

I visited a few bakeries the last time I was in NYC but my time was very limited (was there for the Westminster dog show) and can't recall if Sarabeth's was one of them.

One of the reasons I began baking at home was because of the dearth of good bakeries within a reasonable distance of my home. That was many years ago and now I do it simply for pleasure.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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In terms of the picnic, we got our food from Hummus Place. This is one of our favorite inexpensive restaurants. Every couple of years I start a topic called "put your money where your mouth is," The $7.95 lunch special includes hummus as well as a choice of appetizer. We most always get falafel as the appetizer -- they do that very well too, though we have a different favorite place if falafel is to be the actual centerpiece of the meal.

That eggplant sandwich at that Hummus Place is also a fantastic lunch deal. It's really two sandwiches with eggplant and hard boiled egg. They even have amba to go with it, something I miss at a lot of falafel joints.

I'm curious about which falafel place is actually your favorite around there! Lately I've been going to maoz to take advantage of the salad bar too, but I think I still prefer the actual falafel at Hummus Place.

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We pulled up at the gate in the Memphis airport with 12 minutes for me to make my connection. The gate agent told me I was about to attempt the impossible: get from the farthest gate on the B wing to almost the farthest gate on the A wing. As I made a mad dash across the airport (I was motivated because the next flight would get me in close to 6 hours later, defying all expectations of how fast an overweight, out-of-shape fellow can get from place to place, I powered past Jim Neely's barbecue in the B wing and Corky's barbecue in the A wing. Jim Neely's in particular smelled amazing. I considered that it wouldn't take all that long to grab a pulled pork sandwich to take on the plane, but in the end I wasn't bold enough to try it. As it was, the moving walkway -- which could have saved me a minute or two -- was out of service in the direction I needed to go. And then it turned out my little plane for the Memphis-to-Gulfport leg of the trip didn't use a jetway -- I had to go out outside, where a guy pointed to a plane in the distance and said, "That one." It turned out to be sitting right behind Corky's.

I've finally checked in at the Battle House Hotel. That's another great thing about press trips. When I travel on my own, I stay in Motel 6. When I go on a press trip, I get to stay at whatever is the nicest hotel in a given town, sponsored by the local CVB, the hotel itself, or someone (I'm not sure who paid on this particular trip; I just know it's not me). This place seems completely awesome. I'm going to go explore a bit right after I catch up on a couple more posts, then we're off to dinner.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Here's the Sarabeth's recipe for currant scones, as well as the official photo from Rizzoli:

sbscones.jpg

Currant Scones

Makes 12 scones

In Britain, these are teatime favorites, but in the States, we like them for breakfast, too. You’ll get tall, flaky, buttery scones that are excellent partners with your finest jams.

¾ cup whole milk

2 large eggs, chilled

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

A few gratings of fresh nutmeg

10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes

½ cup dried currants

1 large egg, well beaten with a hand blender, for glazing

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. TO MAKE THE DOUGH BY HAND: Whisk the milk and 2 eggs together in a small bowl; set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Add the butter and mix quickly to coat the butter with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour, scraping the butter off the blender as needed, until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs with some pea-size pieces of butter. Mix in the currants. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the milk mixture and mix just until the dough clumps together.

TO USE A MIXER: Whisk the milk and 2 eggs together in a small bowl; set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Add the butter. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until the mixture looks mealy with some pea-size bits of butter. Mix in the currants. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the milk mixture, mixing just until the dough barely comes together.

3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour on top. Knead the dough a few times, just until it doesn’t stick to the work surface. Do not overwork the dough. The surface will be floured, but the inside of the dough should remain on the wet side. Gently roll out the dough into a ¾-inch-thick round.

4. Using a 2 ½-inch fluted biscuit cutter, dipping the cutter into flour between cuts, cut out the scones (cut straight down and do not twist the cutter) and place 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared half-sheet pan. To get the most biscuits out of the dough, cut out the scones close together in concentric circles. Gather up the dough scraps, knead very lightly, and repeat to cut out more scones. You should get two scones from the second batch of scraps. Brush the tops of the scones lightly with the beaten egg, being sure not to let the egg drip down the sides (which would inhibit a good rise).

5. Place the scones in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 400°F. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool on the pan for a few minutes, then serve warm or cool completely.

And here's the recipe for her house bread:

Sarabeth’s House Bread

Baker’s Note: Bread dough made with a high proportion of whole grains has a tacky, almost sticky exterior. If you notice this texture when handling the dough, do not try to adjust it with more flour. As long as the dough isn’t sticking to the kneading surface, it is fine. For dry yeast, refer to the adjusted liquid measurements in the directions.

1 ounce (2 packed tablespoons) compressed yeast

or 3½ teaspoons active dry yeast

¼ cup honey

2¼ cups cold water

2¾ cups whole wheat flour

2¾ cups bread flour, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons stone-ground yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1½ teaspoons fine sea salt

2 tablespoons hulled sunflower seeds

Softened unsalted butter, for the bowl and pans

1 large egg, beaten with a hand blender, for the glaze

1 Crumble the yeast finely into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Add the honey

and let stand until the yeast gives off some moisture, about 3 minutes. Whisk well

to dissolve the yeast. Add the water and whisk to combine. (If using active dry

yeast, sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm, 105° to 115°F, water in a small bowl.

Let stand 5 minutes to soften the yeast, then stir to dissolve. Pour into the mixer

bowl. Add 2 cups cold water and the honey and whisk to combine.)

2 Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Combine the

whole wheat flour, 2¼ cups of the bread flour, the cornmeal, poppy seeds,

sesame seeds, and salt in a large bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the

flour and seed mixture. Beat until a dough begins to form. 
 Gradually add enough

of the remaining bread flour to form a rough dough that cleans the sides of the

bowl. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low

speed until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky, about 5 minutes, again adding

a little more flour only if necessary—keep the dough soft. During the last minute or

so, add the sunflower seeds.

3 Transfer the dough to a clean work surface. Knead with your hands to check the

dough’s texture: It should be slightly sticky but not stick to the work surface.

Knead in more flour only if needed. Butter a medium bowl. Shape the dough into a

taut ball. Place in the bowl, turn to coat with butter, and turn smooth side up.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the dough doubles

in volume, about 1¼ hours.

4 Cut the dough in half. Shape each piece into a ball. Place on a lightly floured work

surface and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for 15 minutes. Butter two 8 by

4 by 2½-inch loaf pans. Working with one ball of dough at a time, gently press

to deflate the dough . Pat the dough gently into a thick 8-inch-long rectangle.

Starting from the long side, roll and shape into an 8-inch-long loaf and pinch the

long seam closed . Place, seam side down, in the pan. Repeat with the remaining

dough. Place the pans on a half-sheet pan.

5 Choose a warm spot in the kitchen for proofing. Slip the pan with the loaf pans

into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag. Place a tall glass of hot water on the pan

between the loaves to keep the plastic from touching the dough. Tightly close the

bag, trapping air in the bag to partially inflate it. Let stand until the loaves gently

dome about an inch above the tops of the pans, about 45 minutes.

6 Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Remove the glass

from the bag, then the pan with the loaf pans. Brush the tops lightly but thoroughly

with the beaten egg. Bake until the loaves are browned and the bottoms sound

hollow when tapped, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the pans and cool completely on the rack.

Edited by Fat Guy
Corrections to bread recipe (log)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steven, we seem to be missing much of the ingredient list for the bread!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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You're right. That's exactly as it was sent to me but it's clearly missing information. I'll follow up.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Okay last things before I head out to explore the fancy hotel.

Breakfast for PJ and Ellen consisted of poached eggs, the last of the Sarabeth's house bread from yesterday (toasted), jam and butter.

I've been doing a lot of work on poached eggs lately. In the past few months I've probably poached 500 of them, using most every method and variation. This week I've been experimenting with cracking them into little dishes before poaching. This seems to increase reliability, especially for people who don't poach eggs often.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

I'm getting really hungry for dinner. The last meal I ate was my lame breakfast, and all I had between then and now was a can of cranberry-apple "juice" (15% juice, 85% sweetened water) and two little foil envelopes of peanuts on the plane. Dinner should be good, though. We're going to Wintzell’s Oyster House.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've been doing a lot of work on poached eggs lately. In the past few months I've probably poached 500 of them, using most every method and variation.

Any luck with a microwave? I have this idea that it must be possible to mike a perfect poached egg. I can't do it.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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I can say, with no objectivity whatsoever, that the Sarabeth book is a killer. My wife edited it, and our friend Tracey Zabar was midwife.

I can't tell you how many evenings over the last couple of years that Sarabeth has called up and asked "Why is that lunatic wife of yours still at Rizzoli?.....(i.e. not home yet to eat my cooking)".

No element went untested on this project - it should be one of those books you can cook from every day.

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This week I've been experimenting with cracking them into little dishes before poaching. This seems to increase reliability, especially for people who don't poach eggs often.

What was your technique before using the bowls? Cracking them right into the pot of water?

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Any luck with a microwave? I have this idea that it must be possible to mike a perfect poached egg. I can't do it.

I haven't been able to cook an egg in the microwave without it exploding.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What was your technique before using the bowls? Cracking them right into the pot of water?

Right. I've experimented with bowls on occasion, and I do think they can be helpful for people who are having poaching difficulties. But if you develop good cracking technique the bowls don't really improve anything -- and they create an extra step and an extra set of things to wash.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This is Miss Pinky:

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

Miss Pinky was our server this evening at Wintzell's Oyster House on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile, Alabama. Miss Pinky is a marvel, an avalanche of wit and wisdom. "The crabcakes are so good they'll make you wanna go bear huntin' with a switch."

Some of us think of fish and seafood as lighter fare. That attitude is not reflected in Wintzell's approach to menu planning. The food is significant. I ate too much.

We started with an embarrassment of oysters, platter upon platter, prepared various ways.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

There you can see oysters Monterey, oysters Rockefeller, oysters Bienville and "grilled oysters." (I do think the grilled oysters are grilled at some point in their preparation, but by the time they hit the table they have been blanketed with parmesan, romano and pepper butter.) The table favorite was oysters Monterey -- the ones with the cheddar, bacon and jalapeno -- though I went against consensus and preferred the grilled. This was evidenced by my consumption of about a dozen of them (as I mentioned there were many platters), a feat that nearly maxed out my consumption ability for the evening. The Bienville were also quite good, covered with a sauce of shrimp, crabmeat and parmesan. The oysters Rockefeller were not remarkable. Nothing wrong with them, but you can get them as good lots of places. Each oyster of each type was rather large, and the bowl of the oyster was completely filled with sauce. So each oyster was a mini meal. My mistake was treating them like appetizers.

Other starters for our meal (the management selected and sent out starters -- although to say "selected" sort of implies a choice, whereas I think they sent them all) included the restaurant's version of West Indies Salad.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

That photo wasn't what you expected when I said West Indies Salad, was it? I'm not sure what the expected West Indies Salad should be, but certainly not lump crabmeat with vinegar, onion and black pepper. This is something I've only ever seen in the coastal lowlands, particularly Alabama but I've also seen it pop up in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. I've never bothered to do any research on it. The Southern Table has researched it, though, and the account sounds legit. Various sources, including Saveur, all seem to agree that the West Indies Salad was created and named in 1947 by an Alabama restaurateur named Bill Bayley. In any event, it's a nice take on lump crabmeat salad and was the only really light, refreshing thing we had all evening -- so I ate almost a whole bowl of it.

We also tried the gumbo (correctly made), shrimp in a Creole "barbecue" sauce (just okay) and some other stuff I didn't get to photograph due to the fast and furious pace of the group -- for example fried green tomatoes smothered in a superb crayfish sauce.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

For my main course (yes, after all that we were expected to order main courses), I had the crabcakes, served on top of fried green tomatoes with the aforementioned crayfish sauce. They were great, as were the sides of hush puppies and sweet-potato casserole (I also got fried okra, which was fried okra). I might have been tempted to go bear hunting with a switch but I was too stuffed to think about any activity requiring expenditure of energy.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

Here are just some of the things other people ordered. I got to taste about half of them.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

Of the items I got to sample, the bacon-wrapped shrimp were the most impressive.

We also had desserts. I chose bread pudding, which was good enough to inspire me to eat about half of the large portion.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

The restaurant itself is very cool. We were dining at the original location. (There are also several newer branches in and near Alabama.) This is what it looks like from outside:

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

And the bar:

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

The walls are covered with signs quoting the folk wisdom of the founder, Oliver Wintzell, who opened the restaurant in 1938 (it has not been owned by the family since the 1970s). According to John T. Edge, the first one ever posted was "A man can sometimes get a pearl out of an oyster, but it takes a pretty girl to get a diamond out of a crab." You get the idea.

The meal was enjoyable, but the highlight of the evening was the opportunity to talk to Wintzell's president, Bob O'Mainsky.

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

He not only runs the Wintzell's restaurant group but also is very involved in the local restaurant association and the fishing industry. So he has a lot of opinions about fishing in the Gulf, most of which boil down to the position that Gulf seafood is still perfectly safe to eat, and that while the BP spill was a true disaster the reactions to it have been disproportionate to the actual impact on food safety. That seems to be the overwhelming majority opinion in these parts. More on that as I get into it with some industry and science people.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm getting ready to head off to spend the morning with a local chef, Wesley True. I got up earlier than usual on account of the time difference so I've been catching up on much-neglected reading about Gulf Coast seafood. In particular, I've been looking for written confirmation (or refutation) of some of the arguments Bob Donlon made last night.

Of all the things I've read today, this piece from USA Today has the best summary of the factual information. It's also a good read from the human-interest perspective.

This is the key statistic, I think, about Gulf Coast seafood safety: "Of the 1,007 samples tested so far, only one has failed — a red snapper pulled from an area south of Orange Beach, Ala., in May, said Christine Patrick, an NOAA spokeswoman."

It's strange. On the one hand, I remember watching a hundred million gallons of oil -- or maybe more -- spill into the Gulf. Plus there were all the chemical dispersants. All that stuff has to go somewhere. On the other hand, lab testing hasn't shown the local seafood to be unsafe. The testing seems so rigorous, it makes me think that right now seafood from the Gulf is more likely to be safe than from anywhere else (most seafood is not all that carefully monitored).

Another thing that provides me with some sense of relief: it's not permanent. In other words, even if fish eat oil, they process it out. From the article, quoting an NOAA supervising research chemist, "Fish and shrimp metabolize hydrocarbons quickly, within days, so even if they had been exposed to oil at some point in their lifespan, when caught in clean water they would have had time to filter it from their bodies, she said."

More to come.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm really interested to hear about what seafood they are currently harvesting and what the perceptions are of the people walking into local diners and cafe's when they read the words "fresh" and "local" seafood on menus. Are they scared to eat the seafood down there, regardless of what scientific studies are telling us?

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      About me:
      I dream about food, I wake thinking what's for dinner and I'm so excited to share it with you. I'm part of the food world in New York. By that, I just mean that I'm so fortunate enough to be invited to great events where I get to eat great food. I'm also a nerd and a part of the technology world. I produce, edit and sometimes host food related web videos and I'm also a part of the tech world.
      I'm launching a website called Please, Pass the Gravy. www.pleasepassthegravy.com We let you create a menu, invite friends and then collaborate on that menu. Never host another potluck with 8 pasta salads. You could use it now, but we're alpha launch, it works but it's ugly. It's my ugly baby. So, if you use it be kind and message me if you have improvement ideas. I thought it would be ok to write about it here because it is food related.
      I live in Brooklyn with a lovely guy who likes to eat and a small corgi mix dog. I cook pretty much every night and do a nice brunch on the weekend. I am not a crazy dog lady, but I do admit to cooking food for the dog. I have an excuse, beyond doting, he had seizures that have stopped since not feeding him dog food.
      Foods I cook:
      Spicy foods! If you look at my blog I have a simple papaya ketchup with habanero that is pretty darn good.
      I love great cheese. This may be the week for Beer Cheese Soup.
      I try to limit carbs, though I do cheat.
      In any given week C. and I probably eat cauliflower, broccoli and green beans as a side.
      Tonight's dinner will be Vietnamese inspired. We'll see how it goes. I'll post about it as soon as I can.
      Any requests? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.
      -Grace
    • By Duvel
      In these challenging times, a full summer vacation is not an easy task. For the last 1.5 years we have been mostly at home with the clear plan to visit Catalonia (or more precise my wife’s family) latest this summer. And it looked good for a while. Unfortunately, the recent rise in case numbers in Spain have resulted in …
       
      OK, let’s skip this part. Long story short - my wife and me are fully vaccinated, as are >90% of the people we care about in Catalonia. After some discussion (after all, Germans tend to prefer to be on the safe side of things) we simply fueled up the car, got each a test (for the transit through France) and started to drive …
       
      After a leisurely 11h drive we arrived at a small fishing town somewhat north of Barcelona around 3.00am. We unloaded the car and my wife an the little one went straight to bed. 
       

       


      I found an expired beer in the elsewise pretty empty fridge and enjoyed the cool breeze on the terrace. Holidays, here we come …
       

    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
    • By shain
      It's been more than a year in which international travel was challenging to impossible, but gladly this is changing, as more countries are able to vaccinate their population.
      Greece had managed to return to a state of near normality, and opted to allow vaccinated individuals to enter. And so I decided to go on a slightly spontaneous vacation (only slightly, we still had almost a month for planning). To the trip I was joined by my father, to whom I owed some good one-on-one time and was able to travel on a short-ish notice.
       
       
      Many people are yet unable to travel, and many countries are suffering quite badly from the virus, and therefore I considered if I should wait some time with this post. However, I hope that it will instead be seen with an optimistic view, showing that back-to-normal is growing ever closer.
       
       
      We returned just a few days ago, and it will take me some time to organize my photos, so this is a teaser until then.
       
       
       
       
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