Sunny's Blog

Jun 26

Table Talk: Ranch-topia



There is a ranch dressing lover’s paradise coming to St. Louis and Eater checked it out…

“Twisted RAnCH — St. Louis’ upcoming all-ranch dressing restaurant with a strangely capitalized moniker — will open at the end of the month. Owner Jim Hayden tells Eater that he will throw open the doors to his ranch palace June 30. As previously reported, every item in the restaurant will include “the fast-growing condiment and best-selling salad dressing.”

The restaurant will offer 18 versions of homemade ranch dressing, including smoked paprika, teriyaki, chipotle, cheesy bacon, Thai, and dill. The restaurant plans to serve dishes like wild mushroom soup served with ranch crostini, tortilla roll-ups slathered with ranch cream cheese, and even guacamole made with ranch. Even meaty entrees will receive the ranch treatment: The menu features a boneless pork chop served with a mushroom ranch sauce, horseradish ranch brisket, and a meatloaf seasoned with ranch. For pasta lovers, there’s a chicken and bacon lasagna served in a parmesan ranch sauce and a toasted ravioli stuffed with ranch-seasoned beef and pork.

As for the beverage service: Yes, there will be boozy ranch concoctions. “We are working on drink cocktails and at least possibly infusing ranch into a couple vodkas,” Hayden said.”

[via Eater]

Jun 25

Table Talk: Can You Finish This Pizza?


The 2015 World’s Fair has brought us a great achievement in human history: a pizza that is almost a mile long.

“Created for the 2015 World Fair in Milan, Italy, the pizza measured 1,595.45-meters, or 5233 feet — finishing just short of a mile, because Italians don’t care about silly American units of measurement.

And, since it took longer than 30-minutes to deliver — actually about 18 hours — it was free to all participants of the fair and donated to a local food bank.”

[Via Foodiggity]


Jun 24

Table Talk: Cereal Gets Real


Changes are coming to your favorite breakfast cereals!  According to New York Magazine

“General Mills announced that it will be the first major cereal-maker to ditch artificial colors and flavors from the 40 percent of its products that still have them. It’s going to sub in fruit- and vegetable-juice concentrates in Trix, Cocoa Puffs, and Reese’s Puffs, and hopes to have reformulated versions of 90 percent of its cereals on shelves by the end of 2016. The company joins fast- and packaged-food brands like Panera, Subway, Taco Bell, Nestlé, and Kraft, in what Grub Street deemed “the great artificial-ingredient purge of 2015.” (Chipotle‘s ban on genetically modified ingredients notwithstanding).

While some groups suggest that dyes like yellow 6 and red 40 arecarcinogenic, General Mills says the changes are not in response to health concerns, but rather consumers’ increasing interest in ingredients. Jim Murphy, president of the company’s cereal division, told the MinneapolisStar Tribune that the move would help its business at a time when the cereal industry has seen sales shrink by 5 percent over the last five years. Industry analysts say that while older generations were concerned withnutritional stats like calories and fat, younger people care more about qualities like “local,” ”organic,” and “natural.” And it seems that large food companies are doing the bare minimum to keep buyers around. To wit, the Washington Post reports that there will be “minimal to no changes in nutrition” in the General Mills cereals.”

[Read more, via New York Magazine, photo by Cathy Yeulet]

Jun 19

Table Talk: Paint, Wallpaper or Sandwiches?



Pop Chart Lab created a poster to show you what’s in nearly every sandwich across the globe…

The Charted Sandwich Board is here to inspire and help cover some wall space. Brought to us by Pop Chart Lab, the poster contains nearly 90 hand-drawn heroes, gyros, po’ boys and other stacked culinary art.

They were even nice enough to include each sandwiches’ components, country of origin, and proper serving temperature. Don’t panic… The PB&J is included, just in case you’re inspired to eat like a five-year-old. Available for pre-order here.”

[via Foodiggity]

Jun 18

Table Talk: Haute and Saucy Finds


Paste Magazine looked into the Top 10 Hot Sauce Trends from this year’s NYC Hot Sauce Expo.  Get in the know…

Hot, Hotter, Hottest
A range of Scoville heat levels is popular with most hot sauce companies, which strive to provide something for every consumer. Many booths even had a mild-as-milk sauce.

More Power
Like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, for some hot sauce producers, more is still more. For those hot sauce fundamentalists, a must is a sauce featuring the Carolina Reaper, the top dog in Scoville hot units currently. The Trinidad moruga scorpion and the ghost chili pepper also made their hellfire-and-brimstone presences known at many booths.

Flavor, Not Fire
Many of the exhibitors I spoke with at The NYC Hot Sauce Expo said that their mission was to bring about the best flavor instead of focusing on hot sauce that would flay your tastebuds. I found that so many sauces, from A&B to Queen Majesty, focused on excellent flavor rather than just burning you down with heat. In fact, Queen Majesty’s motto, instead of screaming about devils or hellfires like many of the labels, nonchalantly says, “Heat & Flavor.”

A short, five-ingredient, all-natural list graced the back of many bottles. Choosing to skip the xantham gum, the sugar, and even the vinegar was not an uncommon sight at the expo. These hot sauces would fit right in with Portland’s back-to-food-roots aesthetic.

Grow Your Own
More and more producers, like Home Sweet Home Grown and the Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce teams, are producing the product from start to finish, which gives total control over soil (dare I call it terroir?) conditions, shade and sun, watering, compost, age and size of harvesting, and the cooking process.

Surprisingly, city folks are growing enough peppers on rooftops to feed the hot sauce bottle. A&B’s NYC Rooftop Small-Batch Pepper Sauce is made from Red Fresno chilies that grow above busy Northern Boulevard at massive rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange. Brooklyn Grange produces its own hot sauce, as well.

Friendly Competition
The market is competitive and sometimes extremist, but friendly and full of jest, producers said.

A Dose of Vitamin C
All the hot sauce companies brought the spice, but some brought the fruit, too. The Chesterville Pepper Company had a fruity, fiery sauce called the Fistful of Pineapple, Dorset Naga Pepper Hot Sauce. When I tested in on friends afterwards, try as they might, they just couldn’t figure out what the fruity flavor was, but they loved it. Heartbreaking Dawns featured a 1498 Apricot & Scorpion Hot Sauce, which adds apricot, blueberry and carrot to the blazing, already-fruity Trinidad scorpion and a bouquet of Scotch bonnet peppers. Horseshoe Brand, meanwhile, makes a kiwi jalapeno that adds sweetness and tang perfect for tacos or marinades to the mix.

Not Just for Barbecue
More and more vegetarians are getting in on the hot sauce action, and hot sauce producers easily doled out great recipes for tofu and tempeh to me. Even the carnivores at the expo had superior knowledge of how to make hot sauce-inflected veggie dishes. Home Sweet Home Grown uses all-vegan ingredients in its hot sauces, and even eliminated Guinness because it was not completely vegan.

A Swizzle Stick and a Stra
Hot sauce is spicing up more liquors and entering more cocktails than the bloody mary and the michelada these days. Stoli and Jack Daniels had booths at the expo featuring hot sauce recipes for their liquors. Add some honey and a jalapeno slice or two to that vodka, please! Liquor brands are also increasingly creating spicy lines that cater to the hot sauce lover’s palate—Stoli featured a Hot Jalapeno Vodka and Jack Daniels sampled its cinnamony Tennessee Fire.

[Via Dakota Kim of Paste Magazine]

Jun 17

Table Talk: Join the Avocado Mafia


It was once called the alligator pear… and now NPR took a look at how the avocado got its current name.

“The ahuacate, a pebbly-skinned, pear-shaped fruit, had been a staple food in Mexico, and Central and South America since 500 B.C. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors fell in love with the fruit after observing its prized status among the Aztecs.

Until the early 1900s, the ahuacate had never been grown commercially in the United States. By 1914, however, hotels in Los Angeles and San Francisco were ordering as many of the fruits as they could and paying as much as $12 for a dozen.

But the farmers faced a marketing problem. First, ahuacate was too hard for Americans to pronounce. Worse, it was the Aztec word for testicle, named for its shape and reputation as an aphrodisiac. Then there was the other unappealing name: “alligator pear.”

The farmers came up with a new name: avocado. They informed dictionary publishers of the change — and that the plural was spelled “avocados,” not “avocadoes” — and named their own group the California Avocado Association.

The approach worked. Today, California accounts for nearly 90 percent of all avocados grown in the United States.

When the farmers first met, E.J. Wilson, a Berkeley horticulturalist, predicted little interest from the American market. “It contain[s] no sugar and fruits are supposed to be sweet — the sweeter the better,” he wrote to a colleague.”

[Read more at NPR]

Jun 16

Table Talk: CLEARLY, this is your fault


According to Grub Street, it looks like 90’s fad soda Crystal Pepsi is making a comeback…

“Upon noticing that anti-sodas like Clearly Canadian and Original New York Seltzer are poised for major comebacks, Grub wondered how long it would be before Pepsi dusted off Crystal Pepsi, its own transparent, long-departed ’90s-era soft drink. It did not take long to get the answer. Though Pepsi hasn’t yet revealed official details on when it will return, the soft-drink giant has told one prominent fan to get ready. In a message sent to ’90s-soda activist and professional competitive eater Kevin Strahle, Pepsi coyly hinted the he and his fellow fans will “all be happy with what’s in store.”

Originally introduced in 1992, Crystal Pepsi was a caffeine-free “clear cola” that, despite an initially positive reception, quickly went bust. Yet that hasn’t prevented CP from developing a fanatical fan base that wants it back after two decades of absence from the market and the fact that many found its flavor to be subpar. This legion of obsessive fans has rallied around Strahle, launching a #BringBackCrystalPepsi campaign on Twitter, creating a petition on with 34,000 signatures, and campaigning the old-fashioned way: over the phone. Judging from their tweets, Crystal Pepsi’s fans are very, very passionate about the soda.”

[Via Grub Street]

Jun 15

Table Talk: The Chi in Kimchi

kimchiFood Republic looked into kimchi’s possible role in helping you conquer social interaction fears:

“Fermentation has brought us beautiful creations. Beer, sauerkraut, kimchi, soy sauce, pickles and kombucha all come to mind — and the list goes on. As if you needed another reason to indulge in these delicacies, a recent study shows that consuming fermented foods can help combat social-anxiety disorders in young adults.

College of William and Mary professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell and University of Maryland School of Social Work assistant professor Jordan DeVylder found that the probiotics in fermented foods increased a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA — the key to lessening anxiety.

According to Hilimire, GABA is “mimicked by anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines,” which is found in drugs such as Xanax and Valium. Just think of pickles as your over-the-counter happy pill.

The study measured the amount of social-anxiety symptoms in the 700 students surveyed in terms of neuroticism and found that the correlation between higher consumption of fermented foods and less symptoms was strongest when neuroticism was present. In other words, eating more fermented foods so you can be sociable at parties works best if you’re neurotic.”

[Read the rest of the article on Food Republic, photo via Food Republic]

Jun 13

Top Five Restaurants Premieres June 15th on Food Network!



Catch Sunny and co-host Geoffrey Zakarian’s new show Top Five Restaurants on Food Network.  For the first time ever, Food Network is naming America’s top five burger spots, the ultimate five steakhouses, the best five BBQ joints and more! From pizza and ice cream to tacos and fried chicken, each episode is taking on one of America’s favorite foods and telling you exactly where to get the best. We’ll meet the makers and culinary masterminds behind these ultimate food creations as the battle for top spot is finally crowned.

Premiering Monday, June 15th at 10:30pm!

Jun 12

Table Talk: Meet This Fungi (Fun Guy)

Mushroom Man

Mushrooms… they’re great in risotto and delicious on pizza.  But could they have a greater impact on our health and environment?  Vice Munchies talked to a man who believes so…

“Paul Stamets claims that mushrooms can save the world. I’m not so sure about universal salvation through fungal means, but I do enjoy cooking with them, so I decided to call Paul up for some cooking tips. I also happen to have an autoimmune disease, and I was intrigued by Paul’s TED talk about the incredible potential of fungi and extensive writing on the nutritional and medicinal properties of mushrooms in his book, Mycelium Running.

I went to the guru of ‘shrooms in search of food medicine, albeit with my skeptic wits about me. I asked him to share some culinary tips that might also help ease my symptoms and prevent the progression of my disease. Take this all with a grain of salt—literally, because everything tastes better with salt—and also figuratively, because the science of fungi is still tenuous.

Paul will be the first to admit that he is eccentric. He is drawn to mushrooms for their mystery and danger as much as for their potential to help the human race. He often wears a hat made out of mushrooms. I asked, “Does it fall apart in the rain? Does it smell bad when it gets wet, like leather or wool?” He laughed as though to suggest my naiveté in the face of such fungal magic, then told me that the hat was crafted from Amadou, a hoof conk polypore found in Transylvania, and the same mushroom used by our prehistoric ancestors to transport fire. Back before the Common Era, Hippocrates wrote of the mushroom’s anti-inflammatory properties.”


[Read more at Vice Munchies, photo via Paul Stamets]

Jun 11

Table Talk: Google Yourself Thin


According to a post by Food Republic, Google is creating technology that estimates calories of foods found in images…

“Thanks to the power of artificial intelligence, the Internet and the future, you’ll soon be able to Google how many calories are in that brunch you just took down…simply by taking a photo. That Instagram of yours just got a whole lot more interesting.

Google is working on a technology, called Im2Calories, that will estimate the number of calories in a photo by assessing the size of each food iteam. The proposed program isn’t quite foolproof just yet. It’s possible, for example, that Im2Calories could mistaken a fried egg for a poached egg. There is room for users to correct the calorie-counting app, however, according to Google research scientist Kevin P. Murphy, who spoke at last week’s Rework Deep Learning Summit in Boston.”

[Via Food Republic]

Jun 10

Table Talk: He doesn’t want his baby back, baby back…


In an impressive bit of investigative journalism, Vice Munchies tracked down the singer of the Chili’s Baby Back ribs jingle.  They found out, among other things, he wrote the jingle in five minutes and… wait for it… he has NEVER eaten ribs at Chili’s.

From the interview:

MUNCHIES: Hi, Guy! Does it bother you that I’m asking about a project you worked on two decades ago? Are you sick of hearing about the Chili’s song?
Guy Bommarito: I’m not sick of it—it’s more just that I haven’t written that much music in my career, probably less than five pieces. In each case, there was an exception. The same thing with the Chili’s jingle. I only did it when we got into a situation where we had done a campaign that did so poorly they were going to fire us. We went up to Dallas and we begged them for a second chance. They said, “We need a spot for baby back ribs in about six weeks, and we want it to be music in the restaurant.”

I was too embarrassed to go back to my department and give them the assignment, because it was really an awful assignment. This was a time when really good agencies would send out Christmas cards that would have a blank before the word “bells,” like “___ bells, ___ bells,” and when you’d open it up it would say “We don’t do jingles.” That was the feeling at the time, that jingles were the lowest form of advertising and the lowest common denominator. Our department didn’t even do them, so I just did it myself so that no one would have to mess with it.

I wrote it in, like, five minutes. I presented it to the client, I just sang it to them, and they said, “Yeah, that sounds fine.” I called a friend of mine in Dallas—Tom Faulkner—and I asked if he would put it together for me. He recorded me over the phone and made it sound like a professional had actually done it. So it ran, and we thought that it would go away. And then months later, it ran again, and then after a couple of years, I had left the agency, and I got a call saying, “You know, your song is going to be in the new Austin Powers movie in two weeks.” And I said, “What song?” I’ve been totally blown away by the popularity of the song and all of the places it’s appeared. It’s not so much that I’m angry about it, I’m kind of just like, how did this happen, why did this happen?

That’s the fascinating part. When people think of Chili’s, they immediately think of that song. I think it did a lot for the brand, you know? And a lot for baby back ribs.
I tell people: I’ve never had a Chili’s baby back rib, so you don’t necessarily have to try the product to write the song, I guess.

You’ve never eaten baby back ribs?
I’ve had ribs before, and I guess I’ve had baby back ribs before. But I’ve never had them at Chili’s. The whole thing was kind of this fluke that happened, because restaurants love having music over food, “bite and smile” kind of stuff, the way that Las Vegas loves slot machines. It’s just part of who they are. It’s a really tough category, casual dining. The clients were even tougher, constantly pushing towards “I want to see more shots of people biting and smiling.”

Read more here.

[Via Vice Munchies, Photo via Flickr user kurmanphotos]

Jun 9

Table Talk: Every Nut Can Be Milk



Lactose intolerant folks rejoice!  Refinery 29 looked into how easy it is to make milk from any nut.

“Believe it or not, nut milk couldn’t be easier to make! As you’re likely aware, it’s also seriously delicious — and good for you. Plus, this recipe lets you pick your favorite nut. Even if you’re a dairy lover, I encourage you to try this homemade non-dairy variety. I promise you’re going to want to enjoy it with everything from granola to fresh fruit to your favorite hot cereal — but drinking it straight is pretty awesome, too.”

Read more here.


Jun 8

Table Talk: A Butcher’s Guide to Defrosting


Food Republic looked into the best ways to thaw frozen meats of any variety, both safely and effectively.  They highlighted 3 distinct methods:

The Traditional Way

“A good old-fashioned thaw overnight in your fridge is, in my opinion, the best method — and in some instances, the only method (more on that below). This takes a bit of planning, though; sometimes more than 24 hours, depending on the size of what you’re trying to defrost. No way is a 20-pound turkey defrosting overnight. Stick to things like smaller roasts (three to four pounds), a chicken, a steak or ground beef. A plus side to taking a bit more time is that if those dinner plans are canceled, you’ve got some time before you need to cook it: about a day or two for chicken or ground meat, three to five days for red meat. You can refreeze, but there will be some loss in quality.”

The Hasty Way

“For something a little less time consuming, I recommend a cold-water bath. I don’t remember much from physics, but I do recall a thing or two about thermodynamics. Number one is that water is a much better conductor than air. So if you want to speed that defrost time up a bit, get yourself a bowl of cold tap water. Tap water temps can vary, so add some ice to keep things on the safe side: 40°F or below. Small packages of about a pound or less can take up to an hour. Something on the three- to four-pound side may take up to three hours. For jumbo items like a turkey, the USDA recommends a general rule of 30 minutes per pound.

Some things to keep in mind: Make sure the packaging is sealed. You don’t want to introduce bacteria into the food, nor do you want it to absorb water like a sponge. If you haven’t purchased something vacuum-sealed, you’re going to need a leakproof bag of your own, or make sure you zip those ziplocks real tight. Also, make sure to change the water every 30 minutes. Some local health departments require cold running water to thaw, but you’re not a restaurant, and the FSIS (the public health agency of the USDA) says to change it every 30 minutes, so that’s good enough for me. Plus, it’s a terrible waste of water.

Finally, unlike defrosting in the fridge — where you can refreeze the meat — you’ll need to cook meat thawed in water right away, just in case it was held at a temperature above 40°F.”

The Out-of-the-Box Way

“The third way might come as a bit of a shock to you, but fear not: The Journal of Food Science, Harold McGee and The New York Times all say it’s okay. Here goes: You can use hotwater to defrost meat. Now, there are some pretty important caveats here: Mainly, this is only to be done on cuts of meat one inch thick or less and within a certain temperature range. The USDA says around 102°F. Harold McGee says 125°F. I’m good with what Mr. McGee says. Results vary, but plan on anywhere from as little as just over three minutes to around nine minutes until cook time. Feel comfortable knowing that the USDA is fully on board: “These water-bath times are so short that any bacterial growth would remain within safe limits,” say the guidelines. Common sense applies here, so please don’t thaw large roasts or turkeys this way. For those, stick to the fridge or cold water.”

Read the whole article here, photo: Paul Joseph on Flickr

Jun 5

Table Talk: America’s high tech burger, built in Silicon Valley




Grub Street looked into Silicon Valley’s race to reboot the burger, creating a meatless version that they believe could have a positive environmental impact.

“America’s highest-tech hamburger prototypes are built in Redwood City, the Silicon Valley home of Oracle and Evernote, in what looks like a test kitchen hijacked by chemists. On a sunny day in October, a lab-coated technician piled woolly brown threads into a small Tupperware container: proteins centrifuged from liquefied soy, wheat, and spinach and reassembled to mimic the fibrosity and tensile strength of a steer’s connective tissue. (Shaped via high-moisture extrusion, a process similar to that used for spaghetti, the threads would add chewiness — the resistance you feel when biting through beef, said a scientist who had specialized in biophysics and polymers before transitioning to gristle.) Next came the muscle replica, fresh from a KitchenAid’s meat grinder: fluffy, pale-pink clumps of proteins from the same three crops, isolated because they could form fleshlike gels and because one of them — RuBisCO, found in most plant matter yet apparently never before purified for food applications — firms up in the same temperature range as myosin, a key protein in meat. (In other words, it would enable the prototype to transform from raw to cooked the way a hamburger does.) A broth of amino acids and other precursors of meaty aromas — the latest vintage of the flavor team’s “magic mix” — was squirted out of a pipette and warmed on a hot plate. Red blobs of yet another protein melted in a beaker, which suddenly filled with synthetic blood.”

Read the whole article here.