Archive - February 2010

New Organic Dairy Rules Disappointing

goats

The USDA has announced the establishment of new organic standards for pasture and livestock. Kathleen Merrigan, the agency’s deputy secretary calls the new standards a “down payment” on future reforms of organic practices. She expects more rules in the coming months.

We certainly hope so. Because we believe the new rules are a far cry from what you and I, the consumer, would consider to be organic. The new standards ban intensive confinement and requires livestock to be pasture grazed for no less than four months a year — 120 days; it also requires that animals receive at least 30 percent of their feed from grazing. The rules will be enforced by organic certifiers required to make at least one inspection a year.

One inspection a year by certifiers who last August the USDA was forced to audit because of self-admitted problems with reliability and transparency. That means that despite the new rules, there will be virtually no enforcement.

Only a few huge mega-dairies supply nearly half the nation’s organic milk supply, dairies like Aurora Dairy, where regulators discovered violations of 14 organic regulations on factory farms they operated. Family farmers across the country have lobbied over a decade for the USDA to prohibit factory farms from fraudulently labeling their milk as organic.

The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group, has surprisingly referred to the new rules as “strict new USDA regulations that establish distinct benchmarks”.

How is less than one-third of feed from cattle grazing considered an organic benchmark? A benchmark is a standard by which something can be measured or judged. Is 30 percent the new organic benchmark? That means 70 percent of the time animals will be fed grain, and studies show that cattle fed grain in feedlots are prone to E. coli 0157H contamination, whereas cattle grazing on grass are mostly free of E. coli.

Granted, the previous rules only required that animals have “access to pasture”, but that just demonstrates how utterly meaningless the organic standards were to begin with.

To their immense credit, the Cornucopia Institute has previously filed an endless barrage of formal legal complaints with the USDA’s National Organic Program insisting on investigations into organic fraud from the 20 largest factory farms. But with sales of organic milk and beef skyrocketing over the past few years, you can be sure capturing sales in a booming market and maximizing profits will trump watered-down organic rules everyone in the mega-dairy industry knows will never be enforced.

Attempts by the USDA to regulate organic products are meaningless; that’s why discerning consumers ignore all so-called USDA approved organic products in favor of a different certification that has captured the original scope and grass roots substance of what organic means.

Now more than 750 farms in North America are part of an alternative organic movement called Certified Naturally Grown. Certified Naturally Grown is a non-profit organic certification program tailored for small-scale, direct-market farmers and beekeepers using natural methods.

“CNG was founded when the National Organic Program took effect in 2002, partly out of a dissatisfaction with the direction the NOP was taking, but also in the belief that we could create something uniquely valuable to small farmers and the communities they feed.

Our certification model encourages collaboration, transparency, and community involvement. Our programs are based on the highest ideals of organic farming, and the requirements are reasonable. Many farmers find the peer-review inspection process a valuable learning experience.”

Is a Bloom Box Powering Your kitchen?

Bloom_Box

Not yet but the Bloom Box will probably be powering all your kitchen appliances in the not too distant future. The Bloom Box was originally developed for NASA as a means of producing oxygen for astronauts landing on Mars.

When the mission was scrubbed, K.R. Sridhar, a former NASA engineer, altered his invention to produce energy with solid-oxide fuel cells that run on plant waste and natural gas via an electrochemical reaction instead of combustion.

What is revolutionary about the Bloom Box is that each box will be able to power a household, restaurant or business and operate independent of a power grid, and the energy produced is cleaner and more efficient than oil, gas or coal.

Imagine a metal box the size of a refrigerator in your back yard. Inside are flat, coaster-size ceramic plates stacked into small blocks that act as solid oxide fuel cells combining water, oxygen and natural gas or ethanol to produce power, heat and cooling. Multiple 100kW units costing $700,000 – $800,000 are already being used by eBay, Wal-Mart, and FedEx.

According to The Atlantic, the Bloom Box is being used as part of an ongoing trial at the University of Tennessee, where a Bloom Box the size of a coffee table capable of powering a 5,000-square-foot house has proved twice as efficient as a traditional gas-burning system and produced 60 percent fewer emissions. “If you have clean, affordable energy, you can get clean air and clean water whenever you want,” Sridhar says. “You can make recycling affordable. You can turn latent local resources into marketable ones. I want to open up access to energy the way that PCs and the Web opened up access to information,” Sridhar says. “So people can live where they want, and still be connected, without someone telling them when they can do their laundry.”

Sridhar’s goal is to produce an efficient, affordable fuel cell for industry, homes, businesses and even Third World villages to produce their own power. “Distributed power is like democracy, and centralized power is like communism,” says Sridhar. And when the price of the refrigerator-size Bloom Boxes drops enough for any village to afford one, power to the people will have real meaning.”

According to Sridhar, 64 stacks could power a Starbucks. Currently there are over 16,000 Starbucks in the world (11,000 of which are in the USA). According to the Green Restaurant Association “Restaurants are responsible for the largest consumption of energy in the retail sector”. The impact of the Bloom Box could be significant. Although the technology is still quite pricey for small business and the regular home; Sridhar estimates that within three to five years Bloom Boxes will be ready for home use, and be competitive with traditional electrical grid energy supplies.

The former NASA engineer believes the biggest impact will be in villages throughout the developing world cut off from power. “Access to electricity is a life-enhancer,” Sridhar says. “It means access to information, access to education, to clean water, and to good health because refrigeration will prevent food from spoiling.”

Meatless Meals for Lent

Chili

During the Lenten season, many Christian sects abstain from eating meat.  Observant Catholics, age 14 years and older, are not allowed to eat meat on any Friday during Lent.  Many others, as part of their Lenten penitence, give up meat entirely during the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  While eating meatless meals is easy for practicing vegans or vegetarians, it may be a challenge for those who are not used to planning meals around non-meat food choices.

The Church’s doctrine on abstinence forbids the use of meat products, but allows eggs, dairy products and even condiments made of animal fat, so there is some latitude in what can and cannot be used to plan Lenten meals.  For example, abstinence allows meat juices, so foods such as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are acceptable to use in cooking.  It is also permissible to use lard.  Even bacon drippings, which contain small bits of meat, may be used as a flavoring.

Using animal byproducts may seem sacrilegious to purists, but since it doesn’t violate any dogma, the available food choices and cooking techniques are endless and can keep anyone satisfied for more than the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  So if you’re cutting out meat for Lent or any other reason, here are three landmark recipes that may have you giving up meat forever.

Super Fast Spinach, Pesto and Cheese Lasagna

 

Ingredients

3 – cups ricotta cheese
1 – cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 – large egg
2 - 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 – 7-ounce package prepared pesto
4 – cups bottled chunky pasta sauce
12 – no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package
2 – cups grated Fontina cheese

Directions

Blend ricotta and Parmesan in medium bowl. Season cheeses with salt and pepper; stir in egg. Blend spinach and pesto in another medium bowl.

Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce in prepared dish. Arrange 3 noodles side by side atop sauce. Spread 1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese mixture over in thin layer. Drop 1/3 of spinach mixture over by spoonfuls. Repeat layering with sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese mixture and spinach mixture 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles and 1 cup sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover lasagna with foil. Bake 35 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with Fontina cheese. Bake lasagna until heated through, waiting for the sauce to bubble and cheese to melt, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes.

Crispy Fried Cod

 

Ingredients

¾ – cup dry bread crumbs
¾ – cup yellow cornmeal
1 - tsp. salt
¼ – tsp. cayenne
4 – (6-oz.) pieces center-cut cod or scrod fillet (3/4 inch thick)
2 – large eggs, lightly beaten
6 – tbsp. vegetable oil
Accompaniment:  lemon wedges and tartar sauce

Directions

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Combine bread crumbs, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne in a large sealable plastic bag and shake to mix.

Season fish with salt and pepper on both sides and, working with 1 piece at a time, put fish in bag and shake to coat well with crumbs. Dip fish in eggs, then shake in crumbs again to coat. Transfer fish to a plate.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) over high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry fish until undersides are golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn over, add remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and cook 1 minute more. Put skillet in upper third of oven and bake until fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Vegetarian Chili

 

Ingredients

¼ – cup olive oil
2 – cups chopped onions
1 2/3  - cups coarsely chopped red bell peppers (about 2 medium)
6 – garlic cloves, chopped
2 – tbsp chili powder
2 – tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 – 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained, 1/2 cup liquid reserved
1 – 16-ounce can tomato sauce

Chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream
Grated Monterey Jack cheese
Chopped green onions

Directions

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne; stir 2 minutes. Mix in beans, 1/2 cup reserved bean liquid, and tomato sauce. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and chili thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle chili into bowls. Pass chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese, and green onions separately.

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Who is Responsible for Dining Decline

Full Restaurant

Blame aging baby boomers for the lack of business many restaurateurs are experiencing, although younger diners are cutting back on how many meals they eat out, as well.

The dinner hour is when most restaurants make the bulk of their profits, but it has been a poor performer over the past decade, reports the NPD Group, a leading research firm that evaluates food trends.  This downward spiral started even before the economy started to tank.  What is alarming about this story is the rapidly increasing number of aging baby boomers, whose dinnertime meal habits are changing, and creating a negative economic impact.

(Click “Next” to see Who is Responsible for Dining Decline)

Do You Fondue?

Melting pot resto

For those of you old enough to remember the 1970s, fondue was a popular way to share an intimate meal – either with a significant other, or with a small group of friends.  Gathered around a fondue pot, diners could dip skewered bread cubes or vegetables into a warm cheese sauce, or cook chunks of meat or vegetables in sizzling oil.  For dessert, rich melted chocolate served as the coating for pieces of fruit, pretzels or pound cake.  Fondue became so popular that the sale of fondue sets skyrocketed.  They became one of the most popular wedding gifts of that era.

Fondue isn’t so much a type of cuisine as it is a style of eating.  Some credit the Swiss with the development of fondue; others say it was the French.  A third school of thought claims fondue started in Neuchâtel, which was an independent principality until it joined the Swiss federation in 1815.  Regardless of where fondue originated, everyone agrees that it is best enjoyed with good friends and good wine.

Fondue is Making a Comeback

Fondue lost its glamour in the 1980s and remained relatively obscure for the last few decades.  Although specialty restaurants such as The Melting Pot have had staying power and much success (there are 145 locations in 37 states and 28 more in development), some of those wedding gift fondue pots are coming out of hiding (or showing up at yard sales) and creative cooks are discovering an entirely new appreciation for this artful way of cooking and eating.

Although fondue may be suitable for a weeknight dinner, it really is more appropriate for a leisurely evening with friends or a casual dinner party.  Considered an interactive dining experience, fondue requires participation on the part of the diners, especially if they are hungry.  (After all, they do have to spear and cook their food before they can eat it!)

Have a Fondue Party!

Throwing a fondue party can be great fun, since all of the preparation is done in advance.   This allows the host the opportunity to to mix and mingle with the guests, instead of slaving in the kitchen.   Fondue parties are ideal for cold winter nights, so here are some tips to help plan the perfect fondue event.

Keep the guest list manageable. Figure that you will need one fondue pot for every four guests, so keep the numbers down to six or eight people, especially if you are new to fondue.  If you don’t have enough fondue pots, a crock-pot can be a suitable substitute for cheese or chocolate recipes.

Plan a menu. Decide if you want cheese, meat or dessert fondue, or some of each.  Here are some guidelines on the amount of food you’ll need per person, depending on what type of fondue you serve:

  • 20 cubes of bread
  • 5-10 pieces of meat, chicken or seafood
  • 10-15 vegetable chunks
  • 8-10 pieces of fruit
  • 5-7 dessert pieces (cubes of cake, cookies, marshmallows, strawberries, pineapple, etc.)


Decide on a theme. Although it’s not necessary to have a theme, it might be fun to plan a `70s party, and ask everyone to dress in attire from that era (bell-bottoms, polyester shirts, etc.).  Set out candles and incense to complete the décor and play music from the Bee Gees or your favorite `70s group.

Couple it with some activity. Perhaps watching a foreign film, playing charades or a teaming up for a game of Trivial Pursuit might be a good way to continue the camaraderie.

Fondue may have been forgotten for the last 40 years, but it is definitely coming back in style.    Here are some recommended FriendsEat.com recipes to consider for your own fondue party.

Basic Cheese Fondue

Fruit with Praline Dessert Fondue

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High Tea at the National Cathedral

national-cathedral-DC

Taking a trip to Washington, D.C. involves the obligatory sightseeing: the White House, the U.S. Capital, the Lincoln Memorial and of course, the Smithsonian museums.  Washington, D.C. is also home to dozens of upscale and sophisticated restaurants, so choosing where to have your meals may be a dizzying dilemma. Tourists will also want to put the Washington National Cathedral on their sightseeing list, but instead of taking the self-guided tour, they should check out a little known option called Tour and Tea.  For $25 a person, visitors to the famed cathedral will get a personalized tour of both public and private areas of the structure, followed by traditional afternoon English tea in the Pilgrim Observation Gallery, which affords a commanding view of the city.  (The tower of the Washington National Cathedral is the highest elevation in the city.)

Afternoon tea at the cathedral includes a variety of freshly-brewed imported teas, finger sandwiches, cookies and scones with clotted cream and fruit preserves. Other menu items may be served, depending on the time of the year.  Tour and Tea is available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with the tour starting at 1:30 p.m. and tea at 2:45 p.m.  Reservations are required and can be made online up to six months in advance.

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Grape Spotlight: Falanghina

Map of the regione Campania.

Home of Falanghina

If the only grapes you are familiar with are Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay I am glad you are reading this post.

There are amazing white varietals out there and discovering them can be incredibly pleasurable. Falanghina is one of these grapes. It hails from Campania in Italy (this would be the area right below your shin on the boot). The area is perfect for the grape because it is warm and dry. It tends to be a more full bodied grape and incredibly complex. The grape ripens around September and is ready for harvest in October.

Every time I’ve tasted a Falanghina the nose automatically reminds me of crisp apples and pears. I sometimes get a whiff of nuts and almonds and on the mouth on certain vintages I get banana right on the mid palate. What makes this varietal really great is that all this fruit is usually balanced by minerality and accompanied by a great acidity that just makes you want to swallow.

If you’re looking for nice dishes to pair with this grape, try some grilled fish (swordfish or octopus will do), risotto (made with Falanghina of course) and sushi.

Interview with Ghazal Sheei, Marketing Director of Rishi Tea

Rishi Teas

Our team recently tasted samples of Rishi Teas. The teas were delicious, but what we found really impressive were the fair trade practices followed by the company. We interviewed Ghazal Sheei, Rishi Tea’s marketing director to get more of an insight on how ethical companies such as theirs can be profitable in these times:

Susan Davis: Rishi Tea has been in business for 13 years.  How did Rishi Tea get its start?

Ghazal Sheei: Rishi Tea started as a result of Joshua’s (Rishi Tea founder and tea buyer) travels to East Asia. During his travels he had the opportunity to taste many authentic teas that had not been available in the U.S. He has always been interested in food and culture, and tea, like wine, is a natural bridge to both that is deeply connected with origin. During his travels, Joshua purchased and brought back some of his favorite teas and herbs and thus, Rishi Tea began.

SD: What makes Rishi Tea different than the tea you purchase in supermarkets?

GS: While you can find Rishi Tea at Whole Foods stores and other natural
grocers nationwide, you won’t find it in your typical supermarket. There are a few reasons why our tea stands out amongst other tea companies. Firstly, our tea is imported direct from origin meaning we don’t go through distributors and we buy direct from tea farmers and gardens that are harvesting the tea. Joshua spends about nine months out of each year traveling to tea origins, checking on each season’s tea harvest and working directly with artisans. That personal connection from tea origin to selling tea directly to our customers is evident in the freshness and quality of our tea. Because our tea is loose leaf (many companies still use teabags), it allows for the customer to fully experience and taste the tea. Tea packed in teabags (referred to as “dust” or “fannings”) is typically lower quality. Without a tea bag, the tea leaves are able to expand and release their flavor. You can also re-steep loose leaf tea multiple times which makes it a great value. Additionally, the majority of our teas are Organic and Fair Trade Certified which ensures that the farmers harvesting the tea make a better living, the communities benefit from the Fair Trade funds and the integrity of the environment is maintained since pesticides and GMOs are not used.

SD: Are all Rishi teas organic?

GS: The majority of our teas are certified organic.

SD: Why is it important for your tea to be organic?

GS: It’s important for us to maintain the true taste and integrity of the tea because for centuries, traditional teas were produced using completely organic farming methods.  The well-being of those involved in the tea making process is also very important to us. By offering organic teas, we are protecting the health of farmers as well as their land and environment. Sustainable practices implemented by organic agriculture will enable the next generation of tea lovers to enjoy natural, true-tasting tea.

SD: How do you ensure that the tea you import is organic (quality control)?

GS: There is a great amount of documentation and regulation enforced upon the production and selling of organic products. The organic process from seed to store must be both transparent and traceable. Our QAI organic certification ensures strict compliance with USDA Organic standards. In addition, because Joshua spends so much time visiting tea farms and facilities, he is able to witness firsthand the tea growing and handling process.

SD: How do you decide what teas will be part of your product line?

GS: Because of Joshua’s great relationships with farmers at origin, he’s able to work directly with them and experiment on processing and develop completely new teas. With blends, either Joshua or our Master Blender, Kevin will have an idea and collaborate on the formula. Two of our newest blends, Pu-erh Vanilla Mint and Pu-erh Blood Orange developed as a result of Joshua’s ideas and Kevin’s blending expertise.

SD: You adhere to Fair Trade practices.  Can you tell us why this important for Rishi Tea?

GS: Fair Trade is very important to us. The Organic Fair Trade tea projects we’ve helped initiate ensure a better life for the tea farming families by honoring fair prices, safe working conditions, direct trade, environmental sustainability and community investment.  Because of our consistent travels to tea producing origins, we experience firsthand the positive impacts that Fair Trade has on communities. We’ve seen social and economic developments such as improvements in sanitation and water quality, new schools, roads, cultural centers, communication systems and health clinics. When customers purchase our Fair Trade teas, they know the Fair Trade funds are making a positive difference not only for the environment but also for the tea farmers at origin.

SD: How do you guarantee that the workers who cultivate the tea are getting a living wage?

GS: Between inspections by the FLO (Fair Trade Labelling Organizations International) at origin, TransFair USA’s audits in the states and our direct relationships with tea farmers and artisans, we are able to ensure that workers receive fair wages and a higher standard of living.

SD: Which countries does the majority of your tea come from?

GS: The majority of our tea is harvested in China and produced as part of our Organic and Fair Trade tea projects we helped initiate and partner with. We have a wide variety of white, green, black and pu-erh teas from our Fair Trade projects in Mannong Manmai (Yunnan) and Xuan En Yulu (Hubei). We also offer a selection of premium Japanese green teas and were the first to offer organic Japanese green teas from Kagoshima.

SD: What are the demographics of the consumers who purchase your teas?

GS: There’s a wide range of Rishi Tea fans but generally, they are college educated, active, healthy and environmentally conscious. We’ve seen growth in popularity amongst college students, particularly with our Natural Tea Powders. Cooks and bakers are growing as customers, as more people experiment with tea in cooking and baking (Matcha – Japanese Green Tea Powder is a big hit with bakers).

SD: What are your best selling teas and why?

GS: Organic Jasmine Pearl (a traditional Chinese green tea) is one of our biggest sellers due to the fact that it’s one of the few organic pearls on the market and is made without any perfumes or oil, but rather with a traditional scenting process using real jasmine blossoms. More than 20 pounds of fresh jasmine flowers are used to scent each pound of green tea. Organic Cinnamon Plum is a seasonal caffeine-free blend that’s extremely popular. We developed it in the fall of 2008 as a winter/holiday blend that won First Place at the World Tea Championship, so we brought it back again this year. Twenty Five percent of the profits of Cinnamon Plum are also donated to Clean Water Fund.

SD: How often do you develop new products and flavors?

GS: The development of new products and blends varies and can sometimes be a surprise. Joshua worked with a Japanese Tokoname artist recently to develop our new teapot, Tsuki and I know he’s also working on creating some new teaware but the process usually takes a couple months and we may not know details until it’s complete. A new product that we’re quite proud of and excited by is our new Masala Chai Concentrate which benefits the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program. Keep an eye out for the new concentrate in your local Whole Foods.

SD: What type of consumer research do you undertake to maintain your leadership position in the organic tea market?

GS: Consumer research in the form of surveys is something we only recently implemented, however we take to heart all of the feedback we receive from our customers and ultimately, providing the best tea at the best price allows us to maintain our leadership in the tea industry.

SD: Whom do you consider your biggest competition?  Other tea makers or coffee producers?

GS: The tea industry has recently become more saturated with loose leaf tea companies and that’s a positive indicator of consumer demand. As the American palate expands to appreciate more complex and interesting flavor profiles, so to does interest for high quality and single origin tea. Origin is extremely important to Rishi Tea; every tea reflects its harvesting origin because the soil, climate, altitude, history, culture and traditional of a tea producing region all affect the tea produced there. There are a few coffee companies such as Intelligentcia Coffee, Caffe Vita and Stumptown that really tell the story of origin and that’s the direction we aspire the tea industry to move towards.

SD: What were your biggest tea flavor failures?

GS: There are no failures, just fun experiments!

SD: Do you envision Rishi Tea developing fad flavors, such as bacon-flavored tea?

GS: With a motto like “Taste True Tea” I don’t think fad flavors are in our future but we do plan on continuing with innovative blends and unique teas.

SD: What does the future look like for Rishi Tea?

GS: We always compare tea to a long-distance marathon since tea provides long-lasting and sustained energy. We’re in that long distance marathon and its looking good. We hope our future includes more partnerships with amazing organizations, more tea education, more travels, Rishi Tea videos, an even greater focus on origin and the people harvesting the tea.

SD: How can people discern the quality of tea?

GS: The best way to determine the quality of tea is by drinking more of it and by tasting and comparing tea from different companies. The more you drink tea, the more familiar you will become with your own preferences as well as the different flavor profiles and will begin to sense the nuances and characteristics that make each tea so unique.

New Research on the Mysteries of Flavor Preferences

A Rainbow of Fruity Flavor

A taste for the senses

In a recent article, THE Multi-Sensory FLAVOR EXPERIENCE, published in “Flavor & the Menu Magazine”, Steven L. Kaun, president of Flavor Solutions, Inc., a company that combines the art and science of flavor technology with texture technologies, explains how art, science, emotions and memories are layered into our flavor preferences.

Kaun has assembled a handful of fascinating studies that explore what specifically influences our flavor preferences and why. Kaun suggests that gender, emotional state, and cultural backgrounds influence our food choices and consumption levels, and says new research on every level reveals how food interacts with each of our senses.

Kaun cites a 2005 study by New York’s Cornell University and Canada’s
McGill University which revealed that women indulge in comfort foods to boost their emotions when they are feeling down, while men indulge in comfort foods when feeling happy.

Another study by Dr. Alan Hirsch at The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation demonstrated that the smell of grapefruit affects age perception. “In the presence of the smell of pink grapefruit, women appear to be six years younger [to men] than their real age,” said Dr. Hirsch.

And researchers at Yale University found that chocolate activates two different regions of the brain. Based on aroma experiments, chocolate smelled from the front of the nose triggered pleasure anticipation neurons and food-reward neurons from the back of the palate.

Kaun claims that crunch, texture and tactile components are as important as appearance, aroma and taste in forming our opinions of certain foods. He says scientists from the University of Leeds in England determined that “bursts of ultrasound are generated during the first milliseconds of biting into crunchy food, and our ears and mouth analyze these sounds for desirability.”

University of Leeds Professor of Food Physics Malcolm Povey explained that his sound study proves food “talks to us.” Kaun adds: “We listen and use mouthfeel to decide whether we like what we’re hearing and feeling.”

Flavor is a many-layered experience, says Kaun. He suggests that the Flavor Pyramid listed below serves as a tool to help food-industry professionals assimilate science, sensory theories and futuristic techniques into daily practice.

Flavor Pyramid From Top to Bottom

BASIC TASTES
Sour
Salty
Bitter
Sweet
Umami

SENSATIONS
Cooling • Numbing
Fullness • Tingle • Burn
Bite • Astringency • Pungency

TEXTURES
Crunchy • Crispy • Soft
Mushy • Smooth • Creamy

AROMAS
Acidic • Esters • Spicy • Lactonic
Sulfury • Sweet • Woody/Smoky • Terpenic

VISUAL APPEARANCE
Color • Contrast • Size • Height • Plate Coverage

EMOTIONS
Childhood • Travel • Family • Events • Culture • Past Experiences

Four Simple Steps to Perfectly Brewed Home Coffee

making cold brewed coffee

Making it right for ultimate satisfaction

Although drinking tea has many health benefits, a  bold cup of coffee is just what many of us need to jump-start our day.  There will always be dissension about what makes a great cup of coffee, so jump off to your favorite coffee shop if you have coffee discount coupon but a brew is only good if you like it!  So if making a great cup of coffee at home is a personal goal, here are four easy steps to follow:

Discover your coffee preferences. Your personal taste is the ultimate factor in what makes coffee good.  If you prefer a bold and hearty taste, select French roast or espresso.  If you want something lighter, go with a Brazilian blend.

Buy fresh beans. Beans lose their flavor quickly, so buy only enough to last for two weeks.  Store extra beans in the freezer, but use within 30 days.

Use the right method and measure generously. Choose which method works best for your taste; electric drip coffeemakers, stove top percolators (which often make the best coffee) or cold water extraction pots. Use two heaping tablespoons of coffee beans or two tablespoons of ground coffee to make a six-ounce cup.

Drink coffee immediately. Coffee should be consumed within 10 to 15 minutes of brewing to enjoy the most flavor.  If you can’t drink all the coffee in one sitting, put the extra in a thermos.  This will keep it warm without it tasting burned.

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Gourmand World Cookbook Awards Announced

Looking for great stuff for your kindle?

Since 1995, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have been recognizing the best books by and for cooks – for those who “cook with words,”  as their website proclaims.  The 2010 ceremony took place on February 11 in Paris, where entries competed for recognition in more than 40 different categories.  Nominations for the awards are accepted from authors, publishers and even readers.  There is no entry fee and thousands of cookbooks vie for the prestigious honors.

Entries came from all over the world and winners were were equally international in scope.  Some of the books from the United States capturing prizes included the following:

(Click “Next” to see the list)

Best Wine Atlas/Tourism Book
South-West FranceSouth-West France: The Wines and Winemakers – by Paul Strang.

France has had a long history of wine making. Paul Strang gives us an insight into its history, the decline that almost destroyed the industry and it’s renaissance. This book gives an honest view into this wine making region learn about its wine, food and traditions.