A Peek Inside The Golden Spurtle World Porridge Championships
Every year in the village of Carrbridge, Scotland, amateur cooks around the world gather to compete for the title of hot cereal champion. In the annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, each bowl is reviewed by judges recruited from the culinary industry. Entries are ranked in both “traditional” and “specialty” categories by color, texture, hygiene, and taste. “Golden spurtle” refers to the winner’s trophy, a golden replica of the Scottish utensil traditionally used to make porridge. In serious porridge circles, a rounded spurtle (similar to a bar muddler) is preferred over a spoon, as the spurtle produces fewer clumps in the finished product. “When I won, I was absolutely stunned,” said last year’s winner, Lisa Williams of Suffolk, England. “My face was bright red and I almost burst into tears.” Like many porridge pros, Williams is very particular about the type of oats she uses, the oat-to-water ratio, and the amount of salt. “One part oats to three parts water,” she insists. “Soak the oats overnight and use more salt than you think you would. I use Maldon sea salt — the same salt the queen uses,” says Williams. She also prefers a mix of half steel-cut oats and half stone-ground milled oats from Hamlyns of Scotland. Due to COVID-10, the 2020 competition has moved online. Competitors will submit short video recipes, and the winners will be announced on October 10th. This year’s championship will also be a little different in that it will focus entirely on the specialty category.
Velveting Technique Improves Meat Texture In Stir-Fries And More
Cornstarch and soy sauce are the keys to a Chinese cooking method called velveting. It is essentially a marinade, sauce, and pre-cooking technique that also tenderizes meat. For every pound of meat, a typical velveting mixture consists of 1 tablespoon each cornstarch, soy sauce, and sesame oil or vegetable oil. When meat is marinated in this mixture, the sodium in the soy sauce helps break down and tenderize the meat. When cooked, the cornstarch thickens into a glaze and the oil enriches the glaze to make a smooth, velvety coating. Usually meat is marinated in the velveting mixture for about an hour, then briefly cooked in hot oil or hot water to gelatinize the starch. According to chef Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen, this pre-cooking step helps to create the signature velvety texture. Then the meat can finish cooking in a stir-fry, soup, or stew. For a thicker velvety coating, you can add an egg white to the cornstarch slurry. For more flavor, you can also add 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or rice vinegar. Either way, velveting does more than tenderize protein. It also creates a smooth coating that browns meat more evenly, holds moisture, and enhances sauce adhesion.
Restaurant Menu Exhibition Reveals 100 Years of American Dining
In the United States, restaurant menus only came into general use around the 1840s when hotels began to replace the old inns and taverns in which daily meals were determined by whatever the proprietors had on hand. While most hotel menus were meant for short-term use and not meant to be saved, others were carefully crafted by high-society stationers such as Tiffany’s and Dempsey & Carroll. Even when briefly kept as personal mementos, many menus were tossed out by later generations. To help preserve this bit of American cultural history, Henry Voigt curated 100 years of such menus from the 1840s to the 1940s. He had planned to open the exhibition to the public this September at New York’s Grolier Club, a 135-year-old society for bibliophiles and graphic arts enthusiasts. Due to the pandemic, the menu exhibition is now online. Some of the exhibition highlights include rare menu examples from Edgar Allan Poe, from Mark Twain’s seventieth birthday party at Delmonico’s, and from a reception for French zoologist Paul B. Du Chaillu in the New Mexico Territory. Like other cultural ephemera and artifacts, part of a historical restaurant menu’s appeal stems from the belief that its survival is improbable.
McDonald’s Tests Reusable Returnable Coffee Cups
Early next year, McDonalds in the U.K. will offer customers the choice to buy beverages with reusable plastic cups and lids that are later sterilized for another customer. McDonalds is the first food service company to partner with Loop, a company that created a system of reusable packaging for consumer products such as ice cream and shampoo. The pilot program will determine whether or not Loop is effective in the fast food sector. Most McDonald’s restaurants in the U.K have already started to recycle paper cups and deliver them to recycling centers. With the new Loop program, customers who use a reusable cup pay a small deposit, and if they stay in the store, they can leave the cup in a Loop bin and get their deposit back. If customers leave with the cups, they have the option of returning the cup another day or returning it to another Loop site. Loop brings the cups to a cleaning facility to be sterilized and hygienically sealed. Then the cups are returned to the restaurant. McDonald’s had already partnered with another reusable cup company, ReCup, in Germany. The Loop pilot program hopes to capitalize on ReCup’s success and expand the reusable cup program internationally.
New York City Resumes Indoor Dining At 25% Capacity
New York City restaurants will be able to open for dining indoors at 25% capacity again starting September 30th, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The city’s restaurants are among the last in the nation to reopen for indoor dining. All customers must have their temperature taken at the door, and if contact tracing information is needed, at least one member of each party will be asked to provide it. “This may not look like the indoor dining that we all know and love, but it is progress for restaurant workers and all New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. Customers will not be allowed to sit at bars, owners face harsher filtration and ventilation restrictions, tables will be distanced six feet apart, and customers must wear masks when leaving the table. “Restaurants are essential to New York’s economic and social fabric, and indoor dining is a key component to the industry’s recovery,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. Nearly 1,000 of NYC’s 50,000+ restaurants have closed during the pandemic, so the reopening is welcome news. However, for many restaurants, opening at 25% capacity is neither profitable nor sustainable. “I doubt I’m going to open at 25%,” said Amanda Cohen, chef-owner at Dirt Candy. “Without more federal or state aid, maybe I can last for a month.” Governor Cuomo hinted that if infection rates hold steady, restaurants may be able to open at 50% capacity on November 1. But many restaurateurs say that what’s really needed is more government aid.
James Beard Award Finalists To Receive $3,000 Grants From LEE Initiative
When the James Beard Foundation decided not to announce the winners of this year’s restaurant awards, the decision sparked controversy. The winners had already been chosen, so why not give them some good news in one of the worst years in the history of the restaurant industry? In response, the LEE Initiative has decided to award $3,000 grants to all restaurant award finalists listed by the James Beard Foundation this past May. During the pandemic the LEE Initiative, which is led by Louisville chef Edward Lee and Maker’s Mark, has helped provide widespread relief to the restaurant industry, distributing food and resources to more than 500,000 restaurant workers in 19 cities across the U.S. “While a grand celebration isn’t top priority this year,” said Lee, “we still want to honor these nominees and their work, and we hope that all of the chefs will continue their education and support of their communities and keep their restaurants alive.” .
Michelin Delays Latest U.S. Restaurant Guides Due To Pandemic
For many restaurateurs, achieving and maintaining Michelin stars is an honor worth working toward. Michelin-starred restaurants also attract a large volume of visitors. During the pandemic this year, the Michelin organization has tracked how many of its starred restaurants have been open at any given time. In late April, only 13% of them operating around the world. In early September, the number increased to 83%. However, in the United States, only 27 Michelin-starred restaurants are open. Unlike in some other countries where Michelin stars are nationally awarded, the U.S. Michelin guides only pertain to four major cities in the country: California, Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. Of course, these locations have all had strict lockdowns in place since last March. While Michelin inspectors have visited restaurants in each of these cities during the pandemic, many establishments are not open. As a result, a Michelin spokesperson confirmed last week that all four 2021 U.S. Michelin Guides will be delayed. “Official timing will be announced as the pandemic recovery takes shape,” said the spokesperson in a statement. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, however, Michelin inspectors have finished their work for the unreleased 2020 guide. Theoretically, a 2020 announcement of Michelin stars could still be made and a 2020 guide could still be released.
Molson Coors Brings Yuengling Westward
D.G. Yuengling markets itself as “America’s Oldest Brewery” and its most popular brew is simply called “lager” in bars east of the Mississippi River. But fans in the West have had a harder time finding Yuengling. That will change next year. The Pennsylvania brewery just announced a partnership with Molson Coors Beverage Company to increase Yuengling’s production and expand its distribution to millions of new consumers outside of Yuengling’s current 22-state market. “This partnership is a great opportunity for us to grow our distribution footprint for the long-term, while continuing to support our existing markets and the communities in which we operate,” said Wendy Yuengling, chief administrative officer at Yuengling. The partnership is expected to begin in late 2021. “This is a huge growth opportunity for Yuengling, it’s a huge growth opportunity for Molson Coors, and we’re going to make a whole lot of Yuengling fans out west really happy,” said Gavin Hattersley, CEO and president of Molson Coors Beverage Company.
The Role Of Yeast In Creating Distinct Bourbon Flavor Profiles
Without yeast, there would be no alcohol. The single-cell organism feeds on sugar from grape juice or mash, a mixture of grains and water, converting it to carbon dioxide and alcohol. However yeast brings flavor as well, a fact seldom discussed in the world of distilled spirits. When it comes to spirits such as bourbon, individual strains of yeast perform differently and produce different flavor compounds according to the type of sugar the yeast feeds on, the fermentation temperature, and the total fermentation time. Distillers either use proprietary strains, which are live-culture yeasts continually produced at their facilities for generations, or strains purchased from producers, who offer live and dried strains. Distilleries are generally tight lipped about the yeast strains they use. However, the Kentucky-based Four Roses distillery share “recipes” for its whiskeys. The distillery has a collection of over 300 strains, but uses only five of them and two different mash bills to create the 10 base recipes for its various bourbons. On the Four Roses website, five-letter codes show the yeast strains and mash bills used. For instance, the “K” strain adds some spice to certain whiskeys, while the “V” strain adds lighter notes of fruit to others. Consumers haven’t shown much interest in yeast strains in the past, at least not as much as distillers. But different strains of yeast help to create the wide variety of flavor profiles of different bourbons. “I think yeast may be the single most important thing in [spirits production],” says Ian Glomski, founder of Virginia distillery Vitae Spirits.
Why Whiskey Age Statements Can Be Deceptive
The longer a distilled spirit is left in an aging barrel, the greater the concentration of flavor compounds it collects from the barrel. Spirits also evaporate over time, a portion known as “the angel’s share.” That’s one reason why older whiskeys cost more: there is less in the barrel for the distiller to sell. The accepted wisdom is that older whiskeys are worth more, but time is not the only factor influencing evaporation. Temperature and humidity also effect the rate at which the spirit evaporates in the barrel. And evaporation rates vary around the world. “In Scotland, the angel’s share evaporation rate is 1 to 2 percent per year,” says award-winning spirits importer Raj Sabharwal. “Whereas in Bangalore it’s 10 to 15 percent.” Warmer and drier climactic conditions will, in effect, “age” a whiskey sooner. Sabharwal points to Indian single malt producer Amrut Fusion located in Bangalore in southern India. The Amrut distillery sits roughly 3,000 feet above sea level, and at that altitude, temperature highs range from a warm 75 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to a hot 120 degrees in summer. Since the distiller is inland, the humidity also stays low all year, ranging from 45 percent in the winter to 75 percent in summer. Amrut’s spirits evaporate and concentrate in flavor in just a few years. In Scotland, on the other hand, the typical temperature range is a somewhat low 36 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity levels stay between 70 and 90 percent. With those climactic conditions, it takes longer for Scotch whiskeys to evaporate and concentrate in flavor. But it stands to reason that a 12-year-old single malt from Bangalore may be nearly as flavorful–and expensive–as an 18-year-old single malt from Scotland.
Walmart Tests Drone Delivery Of Groceries
Walmart Inc has begun a pilot project for delivering groceries and household products via automated drones with delivery firm Flytrex. The company began testing the new grocery delivery program last week in Fayetteville, North Carolina using cloud-controlled drones to collect and drop off items. Walmart’s U.S. online sales have doubled in the second quarter of this year. To help meet increasing demand for grocery delivery and to compete directly with Amazon, the company has beefed up both its pick-up and delivery services. Walmart has also partnered with Ford Motor Co and the self-driving vehicle startups Gatik and Nuro to explore the viability of grocery delivery by autonomous vehicle.
Ancient Judean Dates Grown From 2,000 Year Old Seed
Fifteen years ago, Dr. Sarah Sallon, who researches natural medicine, teamed up with Elaine Solowey, an expert on arid agriculture, to germinate ancient date seeds from the region of Judea in modern-day southern Israel. Both the Bible and the Quran venerated date palms as symbols of beauty, and from an archive in Jerusalem, Sallon learned that traditional healers considered dates to be beneficial for digestion, blood production, and memory. Dates were also thought to be an aphrodisiac. However, Judean date plantations died out by the Middle Ages. Fortunately, Dr. Sallon found a few date seeds while excavating Masada, the desert fortress near the Dead Sea where Jewish zealots, captured by the Romans in A.D. 73, famously died by their own hands instead of becoming slaves. Sallon took the seeds to Dr. Solowey, who operates the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura. In 2005, Dr. Solowey planted the seeds in quarantined pots with very few expectations. A couple weeks later, one shoot appeared, and since then the plant has grown into a sturdy tree outside of her office. After 15 years of patiently growing the date plant from 2,000 year old seeds, Sallon and Solowey recently celebrated their first fruit harvest at Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel.
Singapore Scientists Upcycle Pineapple Leaves Into Food Preservation Aerogel
A group of mechanical engineers at the National University of Singapore has developed a new substance that helps to prolong the life of perishable food products. The aerogel, a type of ultralight and porous solid, is made from recycled pineapple leaves blended with water, aged, frozen, freeze-dried, then treated with activated carbon powder. The carbon powder allows the aerogel to absorb ethylene gas, which is what accelerates ripening in fruits and vegetables. As a result, the aerogel helps to prolongs the life of perishable food products and may help to reduce food waste. “In our lab experiments, eco-aerogels modified with activated carbon can delay the rotting process by at least 14 days,” said Professor Phan-Thien, a lead researcher on the team. The scientists have filed a patent for the new aerogel, noting that the material could offer an inexpensive solution for food preservation and even waste water treatment. “These eco-aerogels made from pineapple leaf fibers are very versatile,” said research Professor Duong Hai-Min. “This is a big step towards sustainable agriculture and waste management.”
OSHA Fines Smithfield and JBS Meatpackers For Failures During COVID-19 Outbreaks
The U.S. Department of Labor has fined Smithfield Foods Inc. regarding a COVID-19 outbreak that infected almost 1,300 meatpacking employees and killed four. The fines allege that the company failed to properly protect its employees from the virus. Smithfield said it would contest the citation, a proposed $13,494 fine, which is the maximum amount allowed by law, according to the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “OSHA has been asleep at the switch throughout this pandemic and this is just the latest example of the agency failing to do their job and take responsibility for worker safety,” said Marc Perrone, president of The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant at which the outbreak occurred is one of the pork industry’s largest, with about 3,700 employees. Another large meatpacker, JBS, was also fined for failure to properly protect workers at its plant in Greeley, Colorado, where 290 employees have tested positive and six have died. Between the two meatpackers, the total fines are $29,000, so little that critics fear it will do little to incentivize the nation’s meatpackers to protect workers from additional outbreaks and deaths.
Digital “Nose” Holds Promise For Food Manufacturers
Aryballe, a digital olfaction startup from France, has developed a digital “nose” that has the ability to detect odors and categorize them into a mapped, visual, comparable format. The device is called the NeOse Pro. NeOse Pro mimics the human sense of smell by binding odor molecules to biosensors, which behave similarly to the receptors in the human olfactory bulb. The software within the digital nose is then able to compare captured odor signatures with its library of previously captured signatures. Many food manufacturers have expressed interest in the device. “Coffee companies and coffee-machine manufacturers are coming to us and asking, ‘How can you help us understand the quality of the coffee before we brew it?’,” said Sam Guilaumé, CEO of Aryballe. “It’s extremely difficult to characterize coffee powder… The only way these guys can do it today is that they brew it first, analyze the liquid coffee then smell it and compare it.”
The Science Of Peat Smoke And Flavor Development In Scotch Whisky
Peat is partially decayed vegetation and organic matter that can accumulate over thousands of years to create large peat bogs hundreds of feet thick. In North America, peat bogs are known as muskegs, and when chunks of peat are dried, it can be burned for fuel. In areas with fewer trees to burn, peat has long been used has a source of heat. Peat has long been used to malt barley for making whisky, and in doing so, the peat smoke gets absorbed by the grains. The grains then pass the smoke flavor, known as peat reek, on to the whisky. It turns out that every peat bog has a distinct chemical signature with a specific aroma and flavor profile determined by the organic matter composition and climactic conditions of the place in which it formed. For instance, in areas that get a lot of rain, peat tends to accumulate a large quantity of sphagnum moss, which contains phenolic compounds that impart a medicinal character to peated Scotch whiskies. The more moss in the peat, the more medicinal taste in the whisky. In Eastern Scotland, where the climate is drier, the peat has less moss in it, so whiskies from that region lack the overtly medicinal quality of Scotch from the western part of the country. The western islands of Scotland, such as Islay, and the Northern Highlands, also contain peat with maritime influences, so the whiskies made there exude aromas of iodine or smoked, oily fish. And in the Orkney Islands, the peat composition includes a high quantity of heather, which imparts a delicate, floral, potpourri like aroma to the local whisky.
Apart from the composition of the peat itself, the temperature at which it is burned also influences the flavor profile of whisky. Excessive combustion temperatures can degrade some of the volatile peat phenolics, impacting the flavor of the whisky. For instance, one of the phenolic compounds called guaiacol, imparts the aromas of kippers, smoked bacon and aged cheese to whisky. Cresol, another phenol, imparts medicinal flavors reminiscent of disinfectant and antiseptic. When peat is burned at higher temperatures, by stoking the fire or using drier peat, the amount of cresol increases and the amount of guaiacol decreases. In addition to choosing what kind of peat to burn, whisky makers can also alter the aromas in their whiskies by changing the combustion temperature to, say, increase the smoked fish aromas and decrease the medicinal aromas. The fermentation time and temperature as well as the amount of aging also influence the total quantity of phenolic compounds, and the perceptible flavors, that remain in the bottled whisky.