Category — Site News
Long before I became a food blogger, I was an avid food blog reader, and for the past few years I’ve sat back and watched in awe and admiration as the Menu for Hope campaign brought food blogs together to raise money for charity. Created by Pim Techamuanvivit of Chez Pim five years ago as a way to help the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Menu for Hope has become an annual affair which today benefits the United Nations World Food Programme, which helps to feed hungry folks the world over, assisting them to become self reliant.
I am proud to be able to say that, this year, The Best Food Blog Ever is going to be a part of Menu for Hope for the first time.
Today, December 14, sees the launch of the 6th edition of Menu for Hope. Over the past three years, Menu for Hope has raised almost a quarter of a million dollars for the UN World Food Programme. But here’s the kicker – the majority of that money came from donations between $10 and $50.
Here’s how it works: the fundraising is performed by raffle for several glorious bid items. Every tax-deductible contribution of US$10 buys you one ticket to win one of the items contributed by myself and other participating food bloggers – each bid item on each blog has a code that you specify as part of your contribution, and you can buy more than one ticket for the same bid item to increase your chances.
The campaign ends on Christmas, and the results of the raffle will be announced on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18, 2010. I’ll arrange to have my bid items sent to the winners, and the funds raised will go to the United Nations World Food Programme. All of the donations are processed by FirstGiving, an online fundraising company that has handled all of the monies for Menu for Hope since the campaign’s inception.
Here’s the fun part – the items! Please note the shipping restrictions on each bid item when placing your donation. The Best Food Blog Ever is offering the following three bid items this year:
UE20 is a Set of Six Cookbooks that belong on everyone’s ‘active cookbook’ shelf. It includes copies of The Joy of Cooking, Boy Gets Grill, On Food and Cooking, Bakewise, Elements of Cooking, and Ratio. With a retail value of nearly $200, this set could be yours for the $10 cost of a single raffle ticket. Be sure to include the reference to the bid item code UE20 with your donation. These books were a generous donation by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Please note that shipping for this item is restricted to the United States.
UE21 is an Stainless Kitchen Tool Set by All-Clad. Check it out, you get a slotted spoon, solid spoon, fork, ladle, and turner, all in a nice matching caddy. Worth $120 at retail, this will be the absolute last set of tools you’ll ever need, and owning them will make you hate cooking in other peoples’ kitchens. To get a shot at this item, include the bid item code UE21 with your donation. Much thanks to our friends at All-Clad for donating this prize! Please note that shipping for this item is restricted to the United States.
Here’s the biggie. Bid item UE22 is a bundle package of the Nespresso Le Cube Espresso Machine coupled with the Aeroccino Plus Frother. I actually own a Nespresso machine, and it makes espresso on par with the best cafes in Europe – it’s that good. But you know what makes the espresso from my Nespresso even better? Steamed milk and a dollop of froth straight from my Aeroccino Plus. It’s an incredible frother that has both hot and cold options, and two little propellers for froth/no-froth. With a retail value of $349, this prize is worth multiple donation entries because, trust me, you want this bundle on your kitchen counter. Be sure to reference bid item code UE22 with your donation. The Le Cube and Aeroccino Plus were donated by our friends at Nespresso. Please note that shipping for this item is restricted to the United States and Canada.
If you have any questions about Menu for Hope, check out Chez Pim and read her main Menu for Hope post, where you can also find a master list of prizes across all food blogs. Thank you in advance for your generous participation!
Instructions for Donating:
1. Choose a bid item or several items from the master list.
2. Go to the donation site and make a donation.
3. Each $10 contribution gets you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. You must specify which bid item you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. If purchasing multiple raffle entries, you must write-in how many tickets per item, referencing the bid item codes. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UE22 (espresso machine), 1 ticket for UE21 (kitchen tools), and 2 tickets for UE20 (cookbooks). If you were doing this, you would write 2xUE22, 1xUE21, 2xUE20. On the other hand, if you wanted to get 5 chances at the Nespresso bundle, you’d write 5xUE22.
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we can claim the corporate match.
5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
Happy Giving and Good Luck!
December 14, 2009 Comments
The Best Food Blog Ever Screen Saver is now available!
This project started when I came across a software application that let me build screensavers. I figured it would be nice to market a screensaver that featured the photos that have appeared on The Best Food Blog Ever, especially since most photos are often used only once to accompany an entry and never appear again in any other context.
I fired up iPhoto, scrolled to the very first photo, and started gathering the best food pictures. As it turns out, I had been taking pictures of my food well before I began writing about the topic, and when I had finally reached the end of our photo collection, I had tagged well over 300 pictures! You may recognize some of them from The Best Food Blog Ever, but there are also quite a few notable shots from our trips to Paris and Italy, which occurred years before I even had the idea to start this blog.
With that said, you can download a free trial of the screensaver by clicking here, or by clicking on the graphic on the website. If you enjoy the photos and would like to continue using the screensaver after the trial period ends, the purchase price is $4.99 99 CENTS. Once you have completed your purchase, I’ll receive an email with your name, and I’ll send out a registration code which unlocks the full version.
November 20, 2009 Comments
As you may have read earlier, we are expecting our first child soon. Seizing the opportunity to expand the blog empire, and wanting to spare you all the discomfort of reading blog entries that have absolutely nothing to do with food, today I am announcing the launch of The Best Parenting Blog Ever.
While I may occasionally mention the Sprout in these pages, mostly when the worlds of parenting and cooking collide, for the most part all of the news and updates of our new status as parents will be found on the other site.
As with this site, there’s a variety of ways to stay connected with The Best Parenting Blog Ever. You can follow me on Twitter as @BestParentBlog. As always, you can add the new site to your RSS reader. Or you can just drop me an email at ddl[at]bestparentingblogever.com.
September 11, 2009 Comments
Today, August 10, is our thirteenth wedding anniversary. It also happens to be the last anniversary that we will spend as solely husband and wife because, at some point towards the end of September or the beginning of October, we will be assuming the additional titles of mom and dad. No, we haven’t decided on a name quite yet.
The prospect of raising our daughter is, at any given moment, exciting, petrifying, thrilling, overwhelming, and a big ball of unknown mystery. As new parents-to-be, we have spent many hours tracking down information that had been all but foreign to us just a year ago, navigating our way through the books and websites of a world that is completely new to us. Throughout all of this, we’ve tried to maintain a steady grip on reason so as not to give in to the temptations of rampant alarmism, paranoia, and marketing that plague all expectant couples. I never knew we needed so many things until the helpful magazines told me so.
One thing that I know for certain is that I want to raise a daughter that appreciates food, and the value that cooking and eating together contributes to family unity, and that doing so is going to take time and consistency. We have an opportunity to shape the blank template of our child’s palate into one that’s open to trying new things, but I also have to realize that there’s some reliable science out there that explains why most kids aren’t adventurous eaters. I’m perfectly willing to see how much a person’s taste in food is affected by nature versus nurture. I won’t be able to know for quite a few years whether my efforts were successful.
Do the children of fussy eaters grow up to be fussy eaters themselves? If I tempt my daughter with the promise of a toy even BETTER than what’s in the Happy Meal, in exchange for eating a home-cooked meal instead, will it work? Are we doomed to a period of “nothing but” chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or food of a specific color? I’m curious to find out.
As much as I am apprehensive about these things, there’s an even bigger part of me that’s looking forward to a whole new set of experiences in the kitchen. I need to learn how to make food that looks like things, for example. Research into how to unleash my inner Picasso using food coloring and frosting is an absolute must.
I get to introduce my daughter to the joys of picking blueberries on a warm summer day, of knowing just when to flip a pancake, and how to pick the meat out of a crab. I want her to grow up knowing what real Chinese food tastes like. I want to involve her in what happens in the kitchen and the garden, so that the concept of cooking is very real for her, and not something that involves opening a package and microwaving its contents, or an activity that requires some artistic level of unique culinary sorcery that only her parents can muster. I’m sure that there will be some foods and activities that she just won’t take to, but I’ll be proud of her just for trying them once (even though I will secretly hope that she’ll come back to them again when she’s older).
If I can achieve even half of the things on my ever-growing list, I think I could live with that. All that I know is this – I can’t wait to get started.
I’m going to need a new category tag. Any suggestions?
August 10, 2009 Comments
Talk about a meta-media whirlwind spanning decades. First, Julia Child authors a cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which triggers a fundamental shift in the way that Americans view cooking, during an age that celebrated hot dogs and canned soup as viable kitchen ingredients. Forty-one years later, a young woman named Julie Powell begins a blog, the Julie/Julia Project, which chronicles her journey to create every one of the recipes in Julia Child’s massive tome. The blog is so successful, it gets converted into a book entitled Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen in 2005. Four years later, that book has been turned into a film, Julie & Julia, which debuts in theaters on August 7. And today, I’m happy to report that The Best Food Blog Ever is the featured Blog of the Day on the official Julie & Julia website. Seriously! It’s in the lower right hand corner!
So, you got all of that? A book spawned a food blog which spawned a book which spawned a movie which is featuring a food blog on its website. As I’ve said, it’s all very meta. But enough about all of this new media stuff, let’s talk about Julia Child.
Julia Child was quite an inspiration for more than just the obvious reasons. Yes, she taught generations of people to cook and explore and discover tastes that were beyond the periphery of their experiences, but what many folks may not know is that Julia Child didn’t start cooking until she was 32. As someone who didn’t start writing about food until the age of 35, that fact commands a certain measure of respect from me. What Julia Child introduced, and what Julie Powell reinforced with the Julie/Julia Project, was the proposition that everyone can learn to cook at any point in their lives, and that, as intimidating as cooking may be to the uninitiated, you can never fail so spectacularly in the kitchen as to permanently lose your license to turn on your stove. On a larger scale, the lesson to be taken from Julia Childs’ life is, it’s never too late to start something new.
Above all else, though, Julia Child was a troublemaker, and for all of her troublemaking she has left the world a better place. Who else would dare, at age 37 in 1950, to be one of the few women to train at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris? Who else but Julia Child could possibly convey that cooking, even if it involved tackling the most daunting lists of ingredients, the most intimidating processes of classic French cuisine, could be fun, and that you could actually take the time to laugh in the kitchen? Cooking is not supposed to be some mysterious and somber dark art, and Julia Child went a long way towards promoting the notion that there’s fun to be had in the kitchen.
Troublemaking was an essential ingredient to Child’s career as an author, for even after completing the manuscript for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she faced a constant struggle to find a publisher. An editorial panel at Houghton Mifflin, all men, overruled the recommendation of a female editor and rejected the book. It was their belief that women wanted recipes that were simple, preferably using mixes (and woe be unto all of us that we may be sliding backwards into that era today), so the complex mechanics of the recipes in Child’s manuscript wouldn’t find an audience. It’s amazing to think how, if Julia Child was not as tenacious a troublemaker as she was, that such a classic may have languished at the bottom of a slush pile forever. It wasn’t until the draft found its way to Judith Jones at Knopf that fortune finally began to favor it. Since its first publication, Mastering the Art of French Cooking has seen many printings and been reissued twice.
Even by current standards, Julia Child’s approach to life would have placed her in the minority. She was an advocate of moderation, a concept that is all but lost today, where everything is deep fried, supersized, and over-the-top. A quote attributed to her stated that the secrets to happiness and good health were moderation, small helpings, and sampling “a little bit of everything”. She never endorsed any commercial products, despite several lucrative offers. She never advocated any kind of diet that required you to eat only this, or everything but that.
Julia Child used cream.
Julia Child used butter.
Julia Child drank gin and wine.
Julia Child lived to be 91 years old.
Thank you, Julia. You got a lot of people cooking.
July 6, 2009 Comments
Imagine a place where you could sample the best, most perfectly ripened cheese you’ve ever had, followed by a bite of decadently rich chocolate, which is then even further enhanced by a shot of red wine, all finished off with a spoonful of the finest extra virgin olive oil to ever cross your lips. Now imagine doing that every hundred feet or so, over and over, until even the notion of a single sea-salt encrusted artisanal paper thin wafer seems grossly unappealing to you. That, in a nutshell, was our weekend at the 55th Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.
To say that it’s possible to tour the entire Fancy Food Show in a single day is much like saying that one could see all of the artwork in the Louvre in an afternoon. Sure, you could do it, but it would involve a lot of running through crowds, you would only catch a superficial glance of each piece, and you wouldn’t enjoy yourself in the least. And, in perhaps the greatest of parallels, your feet and legs would hurt for days.
Consider the numbers – 140,000 food products from lands both near and far, large and small. Two floors of exhibit space, ranging from narrow booths hosted by small producers to immense, towering pavilions representing entire countries. Over 2,300 exhibitors from 75 countries, all vying for the attention of over 24,000 visitors, each booth with its own selection of samples. Given those numbers, and the vastness of the Javits Center itself, The Fancy Food Show is at all times exhilarating, exhausting, and overwhelming, yet I find myself already counting the days until its return to the East Coast next year. The scope of the Fancy Food Show is so gloriously outlandish, I may never want or need to go to any other food convention. Only next time, I’ll be much better at pacing myself.
This was my first trade show since launching The Best Food Blog Ever, and the difference between industry events such as the Fancy Food Show and public conventions can be summed up in a single word: Power. At conventions that are open to the public, the audience attends for a leisurely experience, and the vendors pull in customers by selling products, giving away coupons, and increasing recognition of their brand.
At a trade show such as this, though, and especially in New York City, the stakes are exponentially higher. I glimpsed badges for retail buyers, trade affiliates, manufacturers, and distributors, some of whom had the potential to make purchasing decisions worth millions of dollars. In some booths, men dressed in somber gray and black business suits sat in plastic folding chairs, hunched over paperwork, hashing out details of deals in progress, the intimacy of their discussions in stark contrast to the cacophony of the crowded exhibit floor. Whenever we walked up to a vendor, you could catch the subtle downward glance at our badges – are we buyers for a major supermarket chain? Restaurateurs looking for the next brilliant ingredient? A guy with one of those whatchamacallits…a “blog”? Compared to these movers and shakers, I barely registered a quiver.
We arrived at the Javits Center about a half hour after the show opened on Sunday morning. After receiving our badges, we entered the exhibit hall armed with the same strategy that has consistently worked for us in many other conventions – start at one end of the hall and work our way up and down the aisles. Only this time, as we neared the end of the third aisle, having tackled Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Germany, Morocco, Turkey, and half of France, we checked the time to discover that nearly two hours had passed, and we still had thirty aisles left to explore on the upper level, representing the remainder of the international vendors. Seventeen more aisles of domestic products from states such as Texas, Virginia, and New York awaited us on the lower level. In the hours to come, we would only be able to cover about half of the show floor before the exhibit halls closed for the day.
But, oh, how those hours were filled with decadence. The best vendors were eager to chat and share the stories behind their products. Some booths were staffed with representatives who demonstrated a full command of every nuance of their wares, fully capable of explaining the differences between their cheeses, for example, and those of other producers. Others tempered their enthusiasm when they saw that I was not representing a major buyer. In any case, we were able to sample chocolates, baked goods, jams, cheeses, and all other manner of edible nirvana. Whenever we came across a particularly outstanding product, we’d take some literature, or ask for a press kit. As the afternoon wore on, our plastic handbag grew portly and strained against our fingers.
In all, we spent about nine hours over the course of two days at the Fancy Food Show, and boy, do we have stories to tell. For now, those stories have yet to be written, and you’ll just have to be a patient for a little while longer – I expect to spend at least two weeks, if not more, on the New York Stories, recounting both the Fancy Food Show as well as other food adventures. Just as the Fancy Food Show can’t be experienced in a single day, I can’t possibly do justice to the weekend in a single entry.
I can tell you this – I ate the world’s hottest chile pepper at the Fancy Food Show, and we caught the whole thing on video. Maybe I’ll tell you that story first.
In site news, The Best Food Blog Ever has been selected as the Blog of the Day for July 6 on the official website for the Julia & Julia movie. I’ll be interrupting the New York Stories series for an entry about Julia Child on that day.
July 1, 2009 Comments
Just dropping a quick note to let everyone know that The Best Food Blog Ever is now available via subscription on the Amazon Kindle Reader. Click on the graphic above to take a gander at the product page on the Kindle Store.
This means that you, loyal reader, now have three different subscription options to access The Best Food Blog Ever. You can click on the BIG ORANGE BOX on the left to subscribe in your favorite RSS feed reader. You can submit your email address to have the latest content delivered to your inbox. And now, you don’t even need a computer to read the latest content – all you need is Kindle.
June 1, 2009 Comments
The gnocchi post really hit a nerve – apparently the Internet loves gnocchi! So, in celebration of our shared adoration of this versatile dish, today I am announcing the Best Food Blog Ever Gnocchi Challenge.
The rules, much like gnocchi, are simple: over the next two weeks, develop a gnocchi recipe and post it to your own blog during the week of May 5th, and send me a link to it at ddl(at)bestfoodblogever.com. Over the weekend of May 11-12, I will post the results of the Gnocchi Challenge here, with links to all of your recipes. With any luck, and a good level of participation, we’ll be able to collect a goldmine of gnocchi recipes in one spot.
Your gnocchi recipe can be as simple or as complex as you wish, and you can use any combination of flour, potato, and ricotta as you please. You should strive to keep your sauces simple – the showcase of your Gnocchi Challenge recipe should be the gnocchi themselves.
Now go crazy with your gnocchi-making self.
April 24, 2009 Comments
Over the course of a week, I posted a single interview question every morning to Twitter and recorded your responses. Some observations:
1. When it came to rating a meal as the “most memorable” or wanting to repeat a meal as your final dish ever, emotions definitely come into play, particularly regarding who would accompany you at the table, or who would prepare the meal for you. The food, in these situations, was not as important as the company.
2. Generally, bad service can cast even the best food in a bad light.
3. It is possible to get bad pizza in NYC.
All responses are in their original form and remain unedited. And with that, on to the questions:
Question 1: In the 60s/70s, Duck a L’Orange was the iconic symbol of haute cuisine. What, in your opinion, is today’s equivalent?
@ElBueno Hmm… Foie gras seems to get a lot of attention, but never interested me. Is ‘I don’t know’ a valid answer?
@StephWeber 3 things come to mind- foie gras, caviar, truffles. They’re not in my diet, but they seem to have a *shmeh* aura about them
@melomel Any dish involving molecular gastronomy has become increasingly popular. And truffles. Everyone’s nuts about truffles.
@sgabarik – tapas / asian-anything fusion.
@banana_stand i’ve been to and work at a restaurant that does a take on poutine, the classic canadian comfort food. With fingerling potatoes, artisinal cheese, fois gras, and a fine brown sauce, it has infinite potential for excellence!
@HannahAmick tuna tartare
Question 2:Describe your most memorable meal, including what made it so special. Remember, responses should be two tweets or less!
@multikulinaria For me memorable and humbling was when visiting with our interpreter’s elderly parents in a poor village in Bangladesh.They cooked two of their chickens for us. Not even sure any other chickens were left to them. I hardly think so.
@ElBueno BD dinner for my fiancee. Made bruschetta, duck over bacon/arugula crepes, and apple tart over hot cinnamon ice cream.
@SmokeInDaEye Windows on the World dinner after asking my wife to marry me. Don’t recall what I ate but wish I could do it again
@StephWeber Dinner at Alba in Malvern, my X-mas gift to my husband. Most delicious, juicy, flavorful steak & pork dishes we’ve ever had
@melomel It’s a tie between the engagement dinner party that you and Jen threw for us (amazing grilled cheese and tomato soup) and Ray and my 2-year anniversary dinner at Vetri last summer…wonderful melt-in-your-mouth pasta! Both meals were great.
@TailgatingTimes Jean-Georges 5 course dinner with wine on the company in Internet heyday. Kevin Bacon & Kyra were across the room.
@domesticDIY Last Thanksgiving we did an Asian theme. General Tso’s chicken, thai soup, eggrolls, pot stickers, and fried rice. Yummy!
@banana_stand A traditional hangi meal of chicken, lamb, potatoes, and other things cooked in a dirt hangi pit and left to roast all day – New Zealand on a Maori marae by the nicest ppl. old school cooking culture at its best. Truly an amazing people and culture
Question 3: Whether homemade or dining out, describe your most disappointing meal, detailing why it was so awful.
@ChefAsata 2 words: bad service. What a downer. Nothing sucks worse that being treated like an imposition.
@StephWeber When I was first teaching myself to cook (I must have been 19 or 20), I tried making my own recipe, lemon-garlic chicken. At the time, I didn’t know garlic burned quickly, and it ruined the whole dish. I ate it anyway, but I was very discouraged
@melomel I had a pretty awful Shepherd’s Pie at McGillin’s Olde Ale House…the chef didn’t use enough salt (or any) and the meat…was a strange texture. The final blow was the lack of salt and pepper on the table. I couldn’t even fix it myself!
@zoeythegreat Most disappointing meal: $22 plate of “onion-crusted grouper” that was clearly breaded with French’s Fried Onions. Horrid.
@uglyhermit Bland, flavorless pizza in a New York city parking garage turned pizza parlor.
Question 4: When it comes to dining out, what contributes more to a great meal – the quality of the food or the service?
@melomel The quality of the meal contributes more to a great meal; if the food sucks but the service is good, it’s not the same. But, if the food is amazing and the service is outstanding, then that makes it a meal you can’t stop talking about.
@Greg888 Too long for RT, but bad service dinning out is the least forgivable mistake a restaurant or diner can make
@alandaviddoane Good food trumps good service, but both are a must for a truly great experience.
@StephWeber Definitely the food. I don’t care if the service is so good that they give me a back massage during the meal, the quality of the food is what I’ll remember. Servers are mostly salesmen for the meal.
@AteToTheBar Food’s more important. Good service helps but can’t really make up for bad food; but good food can trump bad service.
@seidson Bad service does ruin good food. I have vowed never to go to certain restaurants due to bad service
@ChefAsata bad service may ruin the experience, but amazing food always shines… like a sincere smile or a diamond in candlelight.
@uglyhermit Bad service can make or break a meal. Dining out is all about the TOTAL experience. I’ve had $200 meals with $2 service.
@floatingprncess Bad service absolutely ruins good food!
@Foodie_Chick I think bad service sours a good meal. Happened to me tonight! I’ve almost forgotten how much I liked my duck confit.
@cookerteacher Bad service definately contributes to the quality of the food. A restaurant is an entire package! Reputation is everything
Question Five – If you had a say in it, what would you select as your final meal?
@HealthySpices I am not ready to think about my final meal I am thinking about many more to come
@seidson 1st time I made apple crisp for my now husband. He asked me to marry him it was so good.
@StephWeber I’ve been trying to think of some amazing elaborate last meal since you posted the question, but I keep coming back to my mom’s chicken francais with angel hair pasta. Simple, delicious comfort food. Can’t beat that.
@melomel For my final meal, I would want Ray to repeat what he made for my 27th birthday. A meal made with love.Mango prosciutto cheese bruschetta, duck over savory herb crepes, and hot cinnamon ice cream over apples and puff pastry.
@ElBueno London broil, marinated in whisky, soy sauce, and lime, seasoned with dill. Fresh tomatoes and corn.Grilled outside (except for the tomatoes). Beer, choosing at the last moment. On a backyard deck with friends.
April 6, 2009 Comments
Here’s a fun little diversion, and a great way to help out a good cause. It’s called The Bread Art Project, and the site lets you design toast, and for every slice of bread art that’s created, a dollar is donated to Feeding America. The site itself is impressively designed, letting you stroll around an art gallery looking at the art that others have created. You can also upload your own photos and toast them!
April 2, 2009 Comments