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Orchard Fresh executive chef wins Supermarket Chef Showdown

HortoncookingErin Horton, executive chef at Orchard Fresh supermarket in Orchard Park, won the "best side dish or mini meal" category at this year's Supermarket Chef Showdown in Chicago.

The Supermarket Chef Showdown is an annual recipe competition presented by the Food Marketing Institute.

Horton and 24 other finalists had 20 minutes to prepare a dish incorporating three mandatory ingredients in a live showdown before a panel of judges. Her Mediterranean Chicken Meatballs recipe beat out a total of 130 other submissions from 30 different retailers.

Horton's recipe was inspired by the Mediterranean Chicken Sliders dish sold in the prepared foods section at Orchard Fresh.

“What I love about the Supermarket Chef Showdown is that these talented chefs are finally getting some credit for preparing the wide variety of delicious food that feeds millions of Americans every day, said Janet McCracken, Supermarket Chef Showdown judge and test kitchen director for Everyday with Rachael Ray, in a release. “It’s giving a face to the men and women behind everything from that delicious rotisserie chicken that I personally rely on heavily for weeknight meals, to the wonderful salads, vegetable side dishes and desserts.”

Horton is from Springville.

Pierogi by mail, with love

Polana

Buffalo ex-pats who can’t make it to the Broadway market this Easter will be happy to know they can get their Polish-American fix no matter where they are in the country.

Polana.com , an online retailer of Polish and Eastern European cuisine,  delivers Polish foods and prepared Polish dishes to your doorstep.

Based in the heart of Chicago’s Polish-American community, Polana.com has been delivering Polish favorites such as pierogi, potato pancakes, Polish sausage, stuffed cabbage and rye bread for 15 years.

Prices range from 99-cent, imported Polish candies to ornate $50 cakes, with every manner of horseradish, borscht, kizka and pickle in between.

“We love nothing more than delivering top quality products that evoke childhood memories of a grandmother’s cooking or the tastes of home back in Poland,” said Michael Machnicki, Vice President of Polana.

 

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Paula Deen addresses racism scandal during local appearance

PaulaYOLOEmbattled celebrity chef Paula Deen was in Williamsville this weekend, hosting a cooking demonstration for a near-capacity crowd of 1,100 enthusiastic fans at Samuel's Grande Manor. After entering to a standing ovation, Deen addressed the scandal that erupted last year when it came out that she had used racial slurs. The reaction left her with a cancelled Food Network TV show and caused several retailers such as Home Depot and Walmart to drop her line of cookware.

“I have so many friends here, so many people who believe in me. My partners who never quit believing in me, who knew who I was and were steadfast in your love for me. Thank y’all," Deen said.

At one point, Deen singled out Savino Nanula, the Tops Friendly Markets founder and a partner in her Paula Deen Foods venture, who was sitting in the front row.

"Isn't that right, Nino?" she said, before kissing the top of his head. The crowd laughed and applauded.

She went on to address the scandal directly:

“I had a rough year. My family had a rough year. My partners had a rough year. But we all learned a lot.

In June, when people were saying terrible things about me that were not true, it was heartbreaking. But I told my family, don’t ask me how I know this, but God’s arms are wrapped all around us. We’re gonna be all right. And we’re gonna be better than we ever were.

You’ve got to go down in the valley to enjoy the days when you’re on the peak of that mountain overlooking everything. You’ve got to have those days.

I said I’m not gonna talk about that. And what do I do? First thing I do is come out here and talk about it.

I just want you all to know I cannot ignore it and I can’t go without saying that we are not looking back anymore, we’re only looking to the future and with a family like the Nanulas that have loved me unconditionally and who have believed in me. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve made so many new friends here in Buffalo."

Deen arrived in town Thursday afternoon, stopping in Rochester to visit a Wegmans store, then appearing at Dash's Markets to promote her Springer Mountain Farms chicken.

She also visited Landies Candies, the Buffalo company that makes her Paula Deen Foods sugar-free chocolate, handmaking a batch of chocolate herself. She cut the ribbon on her Paula Deen Foods retail showroom in Clarence Saturday before her appearance at Samuel's Grande Manor.

 

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Laugh drought

The rain finally rolled in this weekend after a long, hot period of dry weather.

Analysts have begun predicting what that will do to food prices next year. So have cartoonists.

Food1

Food2

Food5


Food6

Food7



Food8


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Food Cartology

RoamingBuffaloFood trucks have really taken hold in Buffalo, receiving a groundswell of public support despite complaints from traditional restaurant owners that mobile food vendors put them at a disadvantage.

But it looks many of those fears could be unfounded. A recent study of food carts and trucks in Portland, Oregon looked at how food carts can positively and negatively affect a neighborhood and its businesses.

It found:

1. Food carts have positive impacts on street vitality and
neighborhood life in lower density residential neighborhoods as
well as in the high density downtown area.
2. When a cluster of carts is located on a private site, the
heightened intensity of use can negatively impact the
surrounding community, primarily from the lack of trash cans.
3. A cart’s exterior appearance does not affect social interactions
or the public’s overall opinion of the carts; seating availability
is more important for promoting social interaction than the
appearance of the cart’s exterior.

4. The presence of food carts on a site does not appear to hinder its
development.
5. Food carts represent beneficial employment opportunities because
they provide an improved quality of life and promote social
interactions between owners and customers.
6. Despite the beneficial opportunities that food carts can provide, there
are numerous challenges to owning a food cart.
7. While many food cart owners want to open a storefront business,
there is a financial leap from a food cart operation to opening a
storefront.
8. Food cart owners do not frequently access small business
development resources available to them, such as bank loans and
other forms of assistance.

Do you think these findings could apply to Buffalo?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Dinosaur is coming! Run!

It's big news--Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has picked a spot for its first Buffalo location. When Buffalo News food writer Andrew Galarneau first broke the story on his Hungry for More blog, BBQ lovers rejoiced.

Western New Yorkers have been making pilgrimages to the restaurant's Rochester location for years.  While the "Bring Dinosaur BBQ to Buffalo" Facebook page (curated by a fan) has only 137 likes, the restaurant's own official page has more than 119,000.

So what is all the fuss about?

A look at Dinosaur's Web site and menu probably won't do it justice, though it may get your mouth watering.

To get a better idea, you can check out restaurant review Web sites. Dinosaur has a 92 percent approval rating on UrbanSpoon.com. On that site, one fan describes it as "Part biker bar, part southern BBQ restaurant Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a local Syracuse favourite that has both the locals and tourists lining up around the corner for a table."

"When people say this is the best BBQ on the East Coast, they aren't lying," writes fan Michael Shay.

"Love this place! I live an hour and a half away and travel to Syracuse every few months just to have dinner here! Their macaroni and cheese = AMAZING," writes ShelbyVanHalen.

The restaurant was featured on Food Network's Man vs. Food:

  

If you haven't sampled Dinosaur for yourself, you'll soon be able to try for yourself whether it lives up to all the hype.

Until then, you can get your fill of excellent barbecue at some of our own, homegrown restaurants, such as  Fat Bob's Smokehouse on Virginia Street, the new Smoke on the Water in the City of Tonawanda, Kentucky Greg's Hickory Pit in Depew, the R&R BBQ food truck, the Whole Hog food truck and Suzy-Q's Bar-B-Que Shack in Riverside.

 

Winery woes can make your dream a nightmare

LongCliffVineyardOwning a vineyard and winery sounds like a dream: working the fields, crushing the grapes, tasting the product.

But winemakers from the Niagara Wine Trail, brainstorming with U.S. Rep. Kathleen Hochul Monday, aired some of the concerns that make it a bit less romantic to operate in the industry. Things like marketing difficulties and sky-high duties that keep Canadian wine tasters from buying their wine.

SchulzeVineyards

The New York State Society of CPAs, in a back issue of its monthly newspaper The Trusted Professional, talked about how CPAs can cater to the winery community. In doing so, it sheds even more light on the difficulties vineyard owners face.

Perhaps the most unpredictable and potentially damaging event for a winery is a crop failure. John Savash wrote:

When vineyard owners . . . suffer subzero temperatures that unexpectedly injure their vines, CPAs have to step up to financial forecasting in an unpredictable, storm-ridden business climate.

There are plenty of other pitfalls as well:

HoneymoonSince vineyards and wineries are among the most important industries in New York state, many CPAs, especially those upstate or on Long Island, are faced with questions about crop failure, internal theft or inconsistent cash flow due to seasonal production. Even when they can’t predict the weather, CPAs must predict the numbers . . . .

“Since production occurs in the winter and peak season occurs in the summer, cash flow issues can be a problem for many wineries,” said Krista Niles, a Rochester CPA.

To cover production costs, these wineries will often take out working capital or short-term loans in the winter, which they will then pay off in the summer, when cash flow is highest, according to Niles.

Since tourism is an important part of the winery business, a good or bad tourist season can, like the weather, significantly affect the success of the winery.

As with most industries, theft can be a big problem when there’s desirable merchandise available for the taking.

Still want in?

Will a big soda ban make people drink more?

He may be supportive of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg still wants to ban super-sized sugary drinks.

ZyglisMore than half of New Yorkers surveyed said they are against the ban, but Bloomberg hasn't flinched.

"We didn't propose it because we thought it would be popular," Bloomberg said in a statement.

As usual, the rest of the world just thinks we're crazy--for instituting the ban and for offering such huge portions to begin with.

"It's so weird for us, the idea that a person would drink more than a liter of soda - that's huge! Of course there should be a law to stop that," said Arthur Trigo, a 19-year-old student in Sao Paulo told the Associated Press. "Americans are such exaggerated consumers, they really need to consume less."

Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post says Bloomberg is doing nothing but stoking the public's basest fears about a nanny state:

Bloomberg’s Mayor-Knows-Best paternalism feeds — pardon the pun — into a broader public anxiety about overbearing government. The bank and auto bailouts, the massive stimulus package, and sweeping new regulations of health care and the financial industry — all justified, by the way — have contributed to a public sense that the era of big government is back with a vengeance.

John Lott Jr. at National Review Online insists that despite the best of intentions, laws like this just aren't effective:

It is really very difficult to force people to live more healthily than they want. The federal government has mandated safer cars, but research has consistently shown that such mandates lead people to drive more recklessly. (See also this study from the Review of Economics and Statistics.) The number of accidents actually increases after safety features such as seat belts are mandated for cars. True, the occupants of a car are more likely to survive an individual accident, but generally the number of accidents increases by enough to offset the safety benefits. In addition, more pedestrians and bicyclists are struck by cars.

This finding also applies to NASCAR drivers. And bicyclists are more likely to get hit by cars when they wear safety helmets.

This phenomenon is so pervasive that economists have even given it a name: the Peltzman effect, after the University of Chicago economist who first discovered it in 1975.

Movie and a cocktail, anyone?

Amc

How would you like to order dinner and a martini next time you're out at the movies?

In an attempt to win back theater-goers who have abandoned outings to the movie theater in favor of watching newly released films on their giant flat screen TVs at home, AMC Theatres is trying out a new concept that gives patrons a luxury dinner-and-a-movie experience.

The movie theater chain has started construction on the first of the new-concept theaters in Marina Del Rey, Calif. which is slated to open in November.

Here's more from AMC:

Food

AMC Marina 6 will offer six Cinema Suites auditoriums, which combine restaurant cuisine and cocktails, the ultimate comfort of luxury recliners, and AMC’s noted immersive theatre experience.

Guests will enjoy restaurant-style dining combined with the most current movies, presented in the immersive, big-screen viewing environment of an AMC theatre. Moviegoers will have the opportunity to order from an extensive menu of appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, desserts, beer, wine and cocktails, as well as traditional theatre concessions. The renovated auditoriums will also feature spacious, comfortable seating and service at the push of a button.

The AMC Dine-In Theatres Cinema Suites concept will be available in all six auditoriums:

Cinema Suites®

  • Premium, upscale dining
  • Reserved seating in power recliners
  • 7.5 feet of row spacing
  • A personal call button that discreetly alerts a server
  • A wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty drinks, beer and wine
  • Guests must be at least 21 years old

For more information about the AMC Dine-In Theatres experience, visit dinein.amctheatres.com.

First pink slime, now meat glue?

Perhaps after seeing what a big splash they were able to make with pink slime, food activists are now going after something they've dubbed "meat glue."

The latest dustup is over transglutaminase, an enzyme used to bind different cuts of meat together.

This media report, if breathless and sensational, does a good job of demonstrating how it is used:

After media reports about the practice surfaced, a California senator contacted the USDA with concerns about food safety and asking for an investigation.

"If a whole steak was actually composed of different meat parts that were glued together, the center portions of the steak can be contaminated. The outside parts of the meat now become the inside parts of the new steak," said Sen. Ted W. Lieu of Sacramento. "If that 'reformed' steak is not thoroughly cooked and served rare or medium rare, the inside portions of the steak can still be contaminated and cause sickness to the consumer."

 

If an outbreak such as e.coli does occur, the fact that different parts from different animals are attached to one another would make tracing the source of the outbreak more difficult, he said.

He was also concerned about plain, old fashioned, consumer transparency.

"As a matter of honesty and the consumer’s right to know—food suppliers, restaurants, and banquet facilities should not be deceiving the public into thinking they are eating a whole steak if in fact the steak was glued together from various meat parts," Lieu wrote to the USDA.

Activists also said consumers should not be made to pay the same price for lower quality, reconstituted meat as they pay for whole cuts from one animal.

The American Meat Institute, an industry trade group, said the practice is safe and that concerns about consumer transparency have already been addressed, since manufacturers using transglutaminase are required to require their products as reconstituted or reformed meats.

The controversy manifested just as Beef Products Inc. announced it would close three plants, throwing 650 people out of work. BPI suspended production at the plants when school districts and several grocery stores vowed not to source its meat there after controversy erupted about the way its "finely textured lean beef trimmings" or "pink slime" filler was processed.

What are your thoughts? Does the idea of "meat glue" turn you off?

 

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