Image Source: Asahiya
Real Japanese Kobe beef is notoriously expensive, but you can taste it in a beef croquette for only $18.20. You just have to wait 43 years. Back in 1999, the family-run butcher shop Asahiya in Takasago City, Japan, began selling its Kobe beef online. As a trial incentive, they offered low-priced, deep-fried "Extreme Croquettes" made from three-year-old female A5 Kobe beef and potatoes sourced from a local ranch. The marketing stunt was so successful that there are now 63,000 people in ‘line’ for the loss leader product. Third-generation store owner Shigeru Nitta said that about half of the people who try Extreme Croquettes end up ordering their Kobe beef, so it’s been a sound marketing strategy. Personally speaking, though, I don't have that long to wait!
Image Source: NASA
Last March, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio grew a red robin tomato on the International Space Station, a giant leap forward for plant-kind. Rubio also completed the longest single spaceflight for an American astronaut, 371 days. But when Rubio returned to Earth in September, there was a blemish on his legacy: He lost the tomato. "I was pretty confident that I Velcroed it where I was supposed to Velcro it, and then I came back and it was gone," said Rubio. Did it just float away? Did he dare to eat the first tomato grown in space, and with it, reams of valuable scientific research? Luckily, he was exonerated by Major Jasmin Moghbeli, a NASA crew member currently aboard the space station. “We found the tomato,” said Moghbeli. Whew—the OG space tomato is safe. What will astronauts grow next?
Image Source: The Examiner/Washington Post
Big sugar is getting a slap on the wrist. The Federal Trade Commission sent a warning letter recently to American Beverage, a lobbying group funded by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The same letter went to the Canadian Sugar Institute and a dozen health influencers with over 6 million followers on TikTok and Instagram (collectively). The charge? Influencers failed to disclose that big sugar was behind their paid advertising. Tsk, tsk. Beware the side on which your bread is buttered! And good on the FTC for enforcing transparency on social media. It's a jungle out there.
Image Source: Imaikouba
Just a decade ago, quality handmade pasta tools were found mostly in Italy in the occasional specialty shop or from a local craftsperson. Today, a new wave of artisan pasta toolmakers has emerged around the world, mostly outside of Italy. Take, for example, Japan's Imaikouba, Oregon's Wooden Essentials, or Nonna's Wood Shop in British Columbia. These boutique companies make gorgeous hand-carved wooden ravioli molds, brass pasta wheels, and intricate corzetti stamps with stunning details. If you like playing with pasta dough (or know a cook who'd appreciate a unique gift), beautiful pasta tools are now much easier to come by.
Image Source: Steve LeBlanc
On September 1, 14-year-old Massachusetts resident, Harris Wolobah, died soon after eating a chile-spiked tortilla chip made by Paqui. It seems impossible that a hot pepper could kill you, but even Paqui's packaging warns that its chips, seasoned with excruciating Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper peppers, could lead to difficulty breathing. As Wolobah's family awaits autopsy results, Paqui has urged retailers to stop selling the "One Chip Challenge." Would you take the risk? Personally, I'd prefer something more enjoyable for my last bite. Maybe death-by-chocolate crème brûlée.
Image Source: Morphing Matter Lab, Carnegie Mellon University
Over the past decade, the nascent discipline of Food Design has come into its own. There is now a magazine, MOLD, devoted to Food Design; an International Food Design Society; and you can obtain a master's degree in Food Design. This new discipline bridges the gap between the food products you see in stores and various disciplines like psychology, biology, genetics, anthropology, sociology, agriculture, environmental science, nutrition, engineering, and culinary arts. Perfect for design-minded food lovers!
Image Source: Hyoung Chang/Getty
The "Disneyland of Mexican restaurants" features waterfalls, cliff divers, Black Bart’s Cave, gold and silver mines, puppet shows, and a person in a gorilla costume chased by a sheriff. It's a wacky eatery that opened in 1974 and went bankrupt in 2020. Enter the heroes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who rescued the beloved landmark, in part because Parker had his own childhood birthday parties there. The pair also featured Casa Bonita in a 2003 episode of their irreverent cartoon "South Park". They've since dumped $40 million+ into restaurant upgrades, including major improvements to the food, now overseen by executive chef Dana Rodriguez (aka Loca), a six-time James Beard Award nominee. Why do Parker and Stone care? C'mon, these guys have always thrown themselves recklessly into the preservation of childhood memories. Will it be as successful as South Park? More than 100,000 potential customers have already signed up for reservations after the soft opening. Long live whimsy and playfulness.
Image Source: Archaeological Park of Pompeii
Pizza in Pompeii?! But pizza was born in Naples, no? Archaeologists recently deepened our understanding of pizza history after unearthing a fresco (mural) in ancient Pompeii depicting what appears to be a round pizza or focaccia. The image was discovered on the wall of a house attached to a bakery, and the flatbread is topped with pomegranate, a fruit resembling a date, spices, and what may be an early type of pesto. "It was an ancient form of pizza," says Gino Sorbillo, owner of one of the oldest pizzerias in Naples, which is only 20 miles from Pompeii. “In ancient Pompeii, we already knew that there were forms of flatbread, made with grains, water, salt and maybe beer as a leavening agent,” he adds. Maybe this flatbread simply wasn't known as "pizza" until Neapolitans topped it with tomatoes and mozzarella. Either way, one thing is for sure: pizza is not made with a base of pulverized cauliflower. Go ahead, fight me on it.
Image Source: Qilai Shen/New York Times
Beijing gets all the economic headlines. But BBQ? That honor goes squarely to Zibo, in central China's Shandong province. A self-proclaimed "Barbecue Experiential Ground," Zibo welcomes hungry visitors under a huge archway that flickers neon blue and red flames. The city often has more tourists than residents (4 million+) and in peak season gets more traffic than the Great Wall. The local BBQ is so popular that Zibo lawmakers set up 21 buses from the train station directly to barbecue restaurants, which sprawl across an open-air market the size of 12 football fields. There, diners grill their own skewers on tabletop charcoal stoves, and wrap them in tortilla-like shells with hot sauce and green onion. At 15 cents a pop, these local DIY skewers might be worth a try if you happen to be in China.
Image Source: IDRlabs.com
Are you grossed out by bloody meat, blue cheese, or a fly in your soup? To better understand negative food reactions, researchers at the Technical University of Zurich have classified and quantified the yuk factor into eight distinct metrics of disgust. Take their simple test to find out your food disgust level. Mine's 20%, which is pretty low. You might also want to check out the other food tests on this site, such as the Eating Disorder Test and the Diet Mapping Test to see how your food intake compares to that of others.