Category: Food

Speaking of the American Diet…

Print This Post

Saturday, I will be attending an Oakland A's game. Now, the A's are terrible, play in the hated AL, have a rotten stadium and use the DH. So, why would I go? Well, I just have to try out some very special seats

I don't see this going well at all. Check back Sunday or Monday for the full report.

One Size Fits All: Not Just A Good Idea; It's The Law.

Print This Post

At least that's Kimberly Block's interpretation.

The Squeeze Inn, known for huge mounds of melted cheese on its burgers, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, [a] lawsuit alleges.

Kimberly Block, who says she has severly [sic] limited use of her legs, argues she suffered "embarrassment and humiliation" and that her civil rights were violated because of inadequate access inside the Fruitridge Road restaurant.

In addition to its cheeseburgers, the Squeeze Inn of Sacramento California is also noted for its cramped spaces and limited seating.  Get it?  "Squeeze in."  The restaurant is famous, having been featured on Food Network and in a number of other media.

The charm is evidently lost on Kimberly Block, who is suing the Squeeze Inn and its owner, Travis Hausauer, for alleged violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a well-intended law that has produced an unusually high litigation burden for small restaurants and businesses.  But one wonders whether Ms. Block visited the Squeeze Inn last November to order one of its famous cheeseburgers, or to just to get a settlement check, hold the onions.

Why?  Well according to a search on Justia, this isn't the first time Ms. Block has suffered embarrassment and humiliation so severe she felt compelled to sue a restaurant.  It's the third time this year. While Ms. Block hasn't yet filed enough suits to place her in the company of famous serial ADA litigants like Thomas Mundy, her lawyer Jason Singleton, like Mundy's lawyers at Morse Mehrban, has made an industry out of the act. No doubt Block will get there in time.

Of course if Block's suit is litigated rather than settled or defaulted, there's room for a defense attorney to move here.  According to its owner, Squeeze Inn had already altered its patio dining area to accommodate the disabled, making the outdoor area less "squeezy."  Did Block ask for a patio seat?  Did she order to go?

According to Block's suit, she's a longtime resident of Sacramento who routinely travels into the restaurant's neighborhood for business and pleasure.  So the question arises: what did Kimberly Block know about Squeeze Inn, and when did she know it?  Hadn't she heard of the diner famous for its packed seating and cramped aisles before she visited?

Or did she visit the restaurant not for a cheeseburger, but for the express purpose of suing it?

Unfortunately those questions may have to remain between Ms. Block and her consience, rather than a jury.  The owner says he can't afford the renovations Ms. Block demands (renovations which would, not coincidentally, remove much of the Inn's weird appeal), and insurance typically doesn't cover or defend ADA suits, for which defense costs are high.

So while cheeseburger fans and lovers of whatever funky local character remains in Sacramento may be out of luck, their loss will be Jason Singleton's gain.  They'll always have McDonalds.

Update: See comments for more on Jason Singleton, and see this profile of the attorney from 2001.

So Apparently I'm the Highlander

Print This Post

Great news:

Health experts have long warned of the risk of obesity, but a new Japanese study warns that being very skinny is even more dangerous, and that slightly chubby people live longer.

People who are a little overweight at age 40 live six to seven years longer than very thin people, whose average life expectancy was shorter by some five years than that of obese people, the study found.

Via.

Likelihood Of A Grossout

Print This Post

As Ron Coleman points out, the key test to determine whether a trademark infringement claim is valid is whether an offending advertisement creates a "likelihood of confusion" with a prior issued trademark.  That a trademark has some value may be presumed, until the court is required to determine damages, at which time its actual value is determined.

Here's a case where that presumption might not be valid.

Miami-based Burger King Corp. alleges … Steak n Shake’s name for slider-style hamburgers, Steakburger Shots, is “confusingly similar” to trademarked Burger King names. They include BK Burger Shots, BK Breakfast Shots and BK Chicken Shots.

Like any red-blooded American, I enjoy a good hamburger, and find Burger King's hamburgers, if not its french fries, better than those of its fast food competition.  But I find the entire concept of a "slider burger," not to mention "Burger shots," "Chicken shots," or for that matter a "Steakburger shot" uncomfortably, well … digestive in nature.  In fact, I'm unlikely to eat anything described as a "meat shot," no matter how tasty it may look, and assume the same is true for others.  Perhaps Steak 'n' Shake should pursue this promising defense as the litigation unfolds.

At the same time, I am quite aware of the BK Burger Shot, for reasons that have nothing to do with its name or quality as a hamburger:

Expect Steak 'n' Shake to argue that since Burger King cannot trademark cleavage, the claim has no merit.

You Are Why I Cannot Eat Good Things

Print This Post

You, you sniveling worms, with your relentless insistence on safety, absence of risk, and your belief that if the government only had more power, over everything, somehow you would not die.

Well you are going to die, and you deserve it, because you elected a government that drafts bills like the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, or as Radley Balko called it via twitter, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of Food.

Currently before the House Committees on Agriculture, and Energy and Commerce, the FSMA is drafted with the noble goal of seeing to it that Americans do not die of salmonella poisoning as a result of the ghastly diet that most Americans consume: things like processed peanuts rendered down into a flavorless paste and slapped between crackers at industrial food processing plants, or Mexican jalapeno peppers stewed into the unappetizing gel that most Americans think of as salsa.  That's the intent anyway.  The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, on which we've written but which Walter Olson and others have covered much more effectively, was drafted with the intention that no American children die of lead poisoning.  The havoc it's wreaking on thrift stores, handmade toy makers, and smallscale clothing producers is merely an unintended byproduct of all the good that the CPSIA does.

Well, when the CPSIA was passed, no one was minding the store.  Only Ron Paul and a few other cranks raised a complaint.  Apparently on this bill, only a few blogging cranks are minding the store.  I'll barely add to the number of cranks, but the FSMA has not yet passed, so there's time to prevent the damage.  The Food Safety Modernization Act, as currently drafted, will ruin most of the farmer's markets in America.

Without going into a detailed textual analysis (click the link above), the FSMA requires all "food establishments," which means anyone selling or storing food of any type for transmission to third parties via the act of commerce, to register with a new Food Safety Administration, to keep copious records of sales and shipment by lot and label, to subject themselves to at least annual inspections by FSA inspectors, and to provide detailed handling instructions for safe processing of food.  That may work for Nabisco and the people who supply McDonald's, but it's probably not going to work at, for instance, the farmer's market I visit without fail every weekend beginning in late March.  The place is infested with hippies and rustic sorts who couldn't fill out a spreadsheet and can't afford legal advice on how to farm, but know a thing or two about growing good peppers.

Nor will the more detailed recordkeeping and lab testing requirements, and the monthly inspections, to be required of farmers' markets which offer delicacies such as bacon or cheese, both of  which I purchase at my own farmers' market because I trust the farmers involved, and because I won't give up absolutely fresh tomatoes even if I'm not assured they were audited by the government.

It's also unlikely to work for importers of certain delicacy foods which aren't made in America (the bill requires food makers overseas to adhere to bacterial testing standards equal to those mandated by the FSA) such as mortadella ham and certain cheeses.  Those may no longer be imported.

As the CPSIA illustrates, the problem with "one size fits all" regulation of business activity at the federal level is that one size, in fact, doesn't fit all.  Lead paint testing requirements, which are just a cost to be passed on to millions of customers by a Mattel or GAPKids who see little increase in price per unit because they test in bulk, simply kill small, artisan toymakers or small-lot clothing producers.  The mandates of the FSMA likewise will cause little trouble to Hormel, but may be onerous indeed to the smallscale family farmer in Louisburg North Carolina from whom I buy sausage on saturday mornings.  Even though the small farmer's operation is cleaner than a factory slaughterhouse, and even though his pigs live in far healthier conditions than those from a factory farm.  (I know because I've visited them.)

This bill can be fixed, and it should be.  We're currently undergoing a media frenzy on contaminated food, just as in 2007 we did with stories of lead paint, but farmers, even small farmers, are much better connected and have broader support than thrift stores or small crafts businesses.   If you enjoy fresh food from farmers' markets, and don't want to eat processed glop from Big Food at every meal, contact your congressman, particularly if you live in an agricultural district, and ask about this bill.  Encourage lawmakers to consider the effect this will have on family farms and farmers' markets, and to ask themselves whether we need yet another federal food agency.

Do it for the tomatoes.

Can I Get That With a Diet Coke?

Print This Post

I've now lost 15 pounds on this diet, which consists mostly of eating portions calculated for wee folk. So rather than gorge, I can only dream of gorging. If I want to torture myself, I might visit a spot like This Is Why You're Fat, a repository of gustatory excess. Enjoy. Really, I'm perfectly satisfied having a bowl of lawn rather than the Double Bacon Hamburger Fatty Melt.

Cardiologists Curse Its Name

Print This Post

I'm on a diet, so I can't plan on eating traditional Super Bowl food this weekend. I'll be eating a bowl of lawn. But I can dream. And when I dream, I'll dream of this. Mmmm . . . bacon.

Spotted at GamingTrend.

Edit: Almost is good is seeing the vegetarians show up in the comments to the post.

Humiliation: It's What's For Dinner

Print This Post

Stung by invidious stereotyping of Asian Americans as the "model minority," people who study and work hard to get ahead where other Americans loaf or look for the quick buck, a group of 1,020 Korean Americans has taken a bold step to erase that misconception.  They've filed one of the silliest lawsuits I've ever read about:

More than 1,000 South Korean-Americans filed a group lawsuit on Monday against a South Korean broadcaster, claiming its coverage on the supposed health risks of U.S. beef humiliated them and subjected them to mockery in the United States….

A total of 1,020 Korean-Americans collectively filed the lawsuit against MBC with the Seoul Southern District Court, seeking compensation of 1 billion won (US$735,000) for alleged humiliation and psychological stress.

"We demand that MBC and the chief producer of PD Notebook pay for the psychological damages and broadcast a correction report and an apology," said Lee Heon, legal representative of the group.

It's indelicate of me to say this, but one would think that Korean Americans might be more used than most to mockery based on a food associated with their place of origin.  I refer of course, to kimchee.

Spammers Say The Darnedest Things!

Print This Post

I don't know why, but this, by one Karrie Tamsin, struck me as hilarious:

I create a by crowd of soups that check out extraordinary, and can be made in big batches and frozen.  Is there any interest?

Ms. Tamsin tried to add that comment to something Ken wrote, months ago, about Mexican food, penguins, and children.

I love extraordinary soups.  If my wife was at home, I'd order her to make one.

Two Days til Thanksgiving, Part II: Turkey Sandwich

Print This Post

Continuing a theme from last year, I present: the turkey sandwich which is likely to be enjoyed in my neck of the woods sometime soon.  I've consumed this sandwich in the aftermath of every turkey I've cooked for at least ten years.  I like it.

Ingredients:

Leftovers of one roasted, or preferably fried, turkey (do not take this as an endorsement of the dangerous art of turkey frying).

One loaf of good sourdough bread, preferably not pre-sliced.

Plain yogurt.

White horseradish.

Tomato puree or high quality ketchup.

Dried dill, to taste.

One green pepper, bell or spicier as preferred.

One small red onion.

One block sharp cheddar cheese, sliced into 1/4" rectangles.

Bacon, as much as desired.

Take leftover turkey meat in quantity desired based on number of sandwiches, and chop into cubes, about 1/2" on a side.   Reserve.

Thoroughly mix yogurt, tomato puree / ketchup, dill, and a small quantity of horseradish in a bowl.  Reserve in refrigerator.

Fry bacon until crisp.  Do not crumble.  Dry the bacon on a paper towel thoroughly.

Dice pepper and onion, removing the pepper seeds and interior pith beforehand.  Mix the two, and fry over low heat in a small amount of leftover bacon grease until not quite translucent.  Add turkey and yogurt/tomato/horseradish mixture (enough to cover but not to drown), reducing heat (the goal is to warm, not cook) and stirring all ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

While this is going on or shortly before, slice bread into thick slices.  Toast until lightly browned, ideally using an oven broiler, toasting both sides by flipping.  When lightly browned, add slices of cheddar and return to broiler until cheese is melted but not blackened.

When cheese is melted, remove bread from oven and set aside.  Add heated turkey from the original pan atop the cheese bread.  Crown with bacon.  Assemble into sandwiches.

Eat.

Le Poutine C'est Moi

Print This Post

It wasn't really traditional, but the Poutine at the still unfortunately named O My Dawg was quite good. The gravy had a sweetness to it that subtly invoked Barbecue Sauce (without being overpowering..) The biggest disappointment was the lack of cheese curd (with shredded Monterey Jack being substituted..) It was tasty, but I feel like I did not get the true Poutine experience.

Actually, the highlight of the meal was the curry catsup that a fellow diner got. It was really good, and dragged me back to visits to Germany. Curry catsup. Yum!

Food Blogging Teaser: O' Canada

Print This Post

Tomorrow, for the first time, I will get to try the native dish of Canada, Poutine. I know, I'm as excited as you are. You can be sure that if I do not suffer a massive heart attack, I will be back to give you my full review.

The funny thing is, the restaurant is a tiny little hot dog stand (the regrettably named O' My Dawg) right around the corner from my office. How random is that? Come back tomorrow afternoon for the thrilling conclusion to my culinary voyage Oot & Aboot.

And The Mary Mapes Award For Culinary Excellence Goes To…

Print This Post

I just heard of a wonderful, magnificent scam, on NPR's food and cooking show The Splendid Table (which actually isn't at all like those old Saturday Night Live skits).

What does it take for a restaurant to win a Wine Spectator magazine award for excellence?  $250 and a website.  No wine needed.  No restaurant needed:

Milan's Osteria L'Intrepido restaurant won Wine Spectator magazine's award of excellence this year despite a wine list that features a 1993 Amarone Classico Gioe S. Sofia, which the magazine once likened to "paint thinner and nail varnish."

Even worse: Osteria L'Intrepido doesn't exist.

To the magazine's chagrin, the restaurant is a Web-based fiction devised by wine critic and author Robin Goldstein, who said he wanted to expose the lack of any foundation for many food and wine awards.

To pull off the hoax, Goldstein created a bogus website for the restaurant and submitted an application for the award that included a copy of the restaurant’s menu (which he describes as "a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes") and a high-priced "reserve wine list" well-stocked with dogs like the 1993 Amarone.

Evidently, the most crucial requirement to win this award is the $250.  Spread among the nearly 4000 restaurants that applied, and almost all won awards, that's a cool mill.

Wine Spectator, while admitting that its staff never visited about 200 award-winning restaurants, naturally denounces this as the "publicity-seeking" equivalent of a troll.  A fancy way of saying, "We got caught, but we're not going to apologize and make it right.  We're not about to own up and fire everyone involved."

Which is precisely what the magazine should do.  "And by the way, did we mention that balloting for the 2009 Wine Spectator awards for excellence is about to begin?  Send your restaurant's application, with the processing fee of $250, and we'll notify you if you've won an award."

When I think about Pad Thai causing ignominious downfalls . . .

Print This Post

. . . I'm usually thinking about me eating the rest of the take-out at one in the morning straight out of the refrigerator.

But apparently Thai food is even more destabalizing than that.

Thailand's prime minister was forced to resign along with his Cabinet on Tuesday after a court ruled that he had violated the constitution by hosting TV cooking shows while in office.

Was it worth it? That depends. Did it come with cha yen? I love that stuff.

Allow me to mention that I cannot imagine wanting to eat anything that any recent president would want to teach me to cook.