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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NYC Get Ready for Rachael Ray...In a Truck

Tomorrow (Thursday, November 3rd) Rachel Ray will be making a special appearance in her “Two Buck Truck” on Vanderbilt Avenue between 42nd and 43rd. While Rachael Ray may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking about food trucks, but food as cheap as this deserves special attention. On the menu will be chopped brisket sliders and touchdown chili, served at only $2 for both. The truck starts serving at 1pm, but will only be able to serve 500 people. All proceeds from the promotion go to charity and Rachael Ray herself will be making an appearance. The truck recommends you come by a little early to beat the line, with only a limit of one per person.

Halloween Heads Up: Does candy Ever Go Bad

Every Halloween concerned parents make sure their children have received untainted candy, carefully inspecting the candy and making sure the packaging is fully intact. Something rarely addressed however, is how long candy lasts before it goes bad. The facts are actually surprising, and may make Halloween just a little sweeter.
Because candy bars are high in sugar and low in moisture content, they present an inhospitable environment for microbial growth. Pure chocolate can last for two years before any health risks emerge, but after about twelve months it will change texture and become drier and inedible. While the chocolate may last longer, other ingredients within the candy bar, such as nuts, caramel or peanut butter may decay much more quickly. After being packaged just a year, nuts can begin to go rancid, but by the time they produce harmful carcinogens, the candy bar itself will have gotten too decayed to eat.

Sometimes old chocolate bars develop white spots or a dusty quality, this is known as blooming, and has not been proven to harmful to consume. Some have thought that blooming was mold, but in fact it’s bits of fat or sugar that have risen  to the surface of the bar due to fluctuations in temperature or changes in humidity. Storing candy in a cool, dry place will prevent blooming from occurring.
Chocolate will only develop dangerous microbe growth if they somehow got inside before packaging. In the past salmonella has been found in chocolate, but under modern manufacturing standards this is much less likely. Overall most candy bars will last far beyond their expiration dates, and many do not even have expiration dates. When food is unsafe it will usually become inedible first, and many expiration dates do not even refer to safety, but more product and brand quality.

Jersey City Food Truck Regulations Still Under Discussion

Jersey City regulations on food trucks have been hotly contested in the last several weeks; however a new law received initial approval from the City Council with only a few objections. The regulations were initially set for approval in May, but food truck vendors said that they would be put out of business by them.
The new regulations state that mobile food vendors would have to submit to criminal background checks, be unable to remain stationary for more than two hours unless they pay a $400 monthly fee, and be at least 200 feet away from any permanent eatery.
Though these regulations initially received approval, some council members have objected to the $400 fee, saying that it is in fact too low. One member said “That seems to be quite a bargain, in my estimation, to give someone and opportunity to do business from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.”
Brick and mortar restaurant owners still object to these new regulations, claiming they pay well over $400 monthly to the city just to remain in operation. In a business where food trucks could potentially make $2,000 a day, $400 once a month seems very cheap in comparison. Restaurants also claim that many food trucks parking in one area steal business from permanent restaurants.
These regulations still require further approval before the nine member council will be ready to approve them.

El Rey Del Sabor's Imported Grasshoppers

This week El Rey Del Sabor is introducing chapulines, or for those of us less familiar with this traditional food, grasshoppers. The grasshoppers were just imported from Mexico, where they are commonly eaten in many areas, including the cart owner’s hometown, Pueblo. The chapulines are available in various forms, with a $9 quesadilla advertised. I opted to try the tacos, ordering two chapuline and one al pastor to balances the flavors out. I was impressed to see that the three tacos came to $9, and were stuffed with chapulines.

The tacos were unlike anything I had ever eaten. When I ordered them I was filled with excitement, but when I actually saw the browned grasshoppers stuffed under a coating of hot sauce, cilantro and onions, the whole experience became much more real to me. However, knowing the health benefits of eating insects (more protein per gram than any other meat), coupled with the frightening thought that insects could become an ever more present item on our menus given our depletion of resources, I dived right in.
Order from El Rey Del Sabor yourself and see what we’re talking about here
The chapulines were crunchy on the outside with a tenderer inside, similar in feel to shrimp, though not nearly as tasty. The more I ate, the more I found myself struggling to eat these tacos. The hot sauce definitely added to the crunchy chapulines, and helped nullify the taste a little bit. I tried to sit down and describe exactly what they tasted like, but nothing really came to mind. They’re kind of like shrimp without the fishy taste, but with a crunchy shell still intact. Overall they weren’t as flavorful as the excellent al pastor taco, and the crunchy bits were sometimes hard to chew. However the chapulines were a completely out-of-the-ordinary lunch experience and I can’t help but wonder how they would taste in the quesadilla…

Just how Dangerous is Spicy Food?

Recently a curry-eating contest in Scotland resulted in the hospitalization of two people, after consuming bowls of “world’s hottest chili” Though a waiver was signed by all participants in the contest, an ambulance had to be called after contestant began profusely vomiting.
This event begs the question, just how dangerous is spicy food, and is it possible to consume enough of it to kill you?
Different studies over the years have yielded varying results about the benefits and dangers of consuming spicy food. Cayenne pepper has been proven to boost metabolism and aid in weight loss. However, consuming excessive amounts of cayenne peppers can inflame tissues and cause harm to the body.

In the 1980’s a study claimed that a 150-pound person could be killed from three pounds of extreme chili powder is consumed all at once. However this situation is unlikely to actually play out, because the body would expel the excessive heat and not allow so much to be consumed. This could play out through various symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains and sweating (all exhibited by curry eating contestants).
Spicy foods have also been blamed for stomach ulcers, but experts claim that to be a myth as well. The reason spicy foods may cause discomfort is because is because they increase the secretion of stomach acids, causing irritation to the stomach acid wall and afflicting any open sores or slowing the healing process of an ulcer.
If ulcers are a recurring problem when eating spicy food then you should probably tone down your intake. All in all though, spicy food most likely cannot prove fatal because the body will reject the heat before getting to that point.

Vegan Bakeries Going Incognito to Build Business

Vegan bakeries recently began to advertise their establishments in new ways to draw more customers and to avoid the reputation that comes with making vegan food.
Vegan bakeries have experienced a great deal of success lately, winning Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” two times consecutively while growing quickly in many locations throughout the country. Vegan products are free of animal-made products, including milk, eggs and honey. However, vegan bakers are still wary of advertising themselves as vegan for fear of scaring off potential customers. Many bakeries simply use terms  like “egg-free” and “dairy-free”, knowing that vegans will read the labels and understand that the food is truly vegan.
Some bakeries, like Pattycake Vegan Bakery in Columbus, Ohio, opened with a strong political message proudly advertising that their food was vegan. While the concentrated vegan population of Columbus bought good there frequently, outsiders rarely ventured to the bakery. At last owner Jennie Scheinbach removed “vegan” from the company name, signs and advertisements, and slowly experienced an increase in sales.

Other vegan bakeries have chosen not t deny their political message, like Danielle Konya who operate Vegan Treats, distributing her vegan baked goods in bags marked with “vegan” and “compassion never tasted so delicious.” Ms. Konya believes that covertly, vegan bakeries will accomplish little to change the world around them.
In the past vegan recipes used primitive means to replace animal products, such as tofu instead of eggs lending a ‘cakey’ taste to vegan foods. However new cooking methods have vastly improved the quality of vegan cooking, such as flax seeds, coconut oil and soy.
Though many people now agree that vegan baking has significantly approved, it seems that the negative connotation of vegan food is still instilled in many potential customers, prompting some vegan bakeries to adopt new ways of marketing their animal-product free food.

Wall Street Protests Wearing Thin on Food Vendors

Although the occupy Wall Street movement intends to stand up for small business owner like New York’s street vendors, those who sell food around Zucotti Park have been less than understanding of the protestor’s goals. Street vendors have recently complained that they have been losing all their business due to the influx of protestors, repelling their regular crowds and not purchases themselves.
The street vendors are mostly Arab and Egyptian, and though the protests have been compared to the Arab Spring and Tahrir Square, the vendors fail to see the similarities between events. While the protestors have exhibited a certain level of destitution, begging for coffee and hunting for money, streets vendors have failed to see the parallels between the Wall Street protests and uprisings in Third World countries. Egyptian street vendor Zizi Elnagouri said, “We were fighting for a big, big thing: for life, to eat, against a giant snake that would kill us. Here, they’re not fighting to eat, say, regular bread, but … special bagels or something.”

The feelings of disconnect between street vendors and protestors extends to brick and mortar business owner as well. Many have reported lower sales as customers are driven away by the protestors, as well as having issues with protestors damaging their bathrooms. For some vendors closely surrounded by protestors it is difficult to move their carts in and out of the park, resulting in all night vigils guarding their carts in Zucotti Park.
Though many street vendors sympathize with the goals of the Wall Street protests, they cannot help but hope that they come to an end soon. A falafel vendor named John from Alexandria had this to say, “This is terrible business. I hope they get the money they’re protesting for, then they can give me some.”