March 17, 2017
– Some sad news for fans of Lucky Peach: The six-year-old food media company created by Peter Meehan and David Chang announced that it will soon close up shop. Lucky Peach will put out one final book (about eggs) in April, and the magazine will put out its last regular issue in May, and close out with a double issue in the fall before turning out the lights for good. Lucky Peach is beloved for its in-depth irreverent take on food reporting. It will be sorely missed. (Eater)
– Whisky, craft beer, and now natural wine. Saveur visits Tokyo’s tiny standing bars specializing in natural wine, or wines that are produced without additives, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers. Japan’s natural wine scene has been growing since the ’90s, although many Japanese still prefer European bottles to domestically produced wines. You’ll find many of these closet-sized natural wine bars tucked within the artsy neighborhoods of Roppongi and Ebisu. If this article has peeked your interest and you’re heading to Tokyo, you’ll want to bookmark Punch’s list of Tokyo’s natural wine bars. (Saveur)
– While I’m on the topic of wine, my friend Julia Weinberg took the above photo of an alcohol warning label affixed to the back of a bottle of Hungarian wine with a message to a certain orange Republican. The bottle was discovered at Metzger Bar & Butchery in Richmond, VA. Egészségedre! (cheers!) to you, cheeky Hungarian winemakers!
– I’m lovin’ it. Yesterday, another food company sent a message to Donald Trump. Or so it seemed. The McDonald’s Twitter account tweeted that Trump is “a disgusting excuse of a President” and that they’d love to have Obama back. They added “also you have tiny hands,” just for good measure. The post was pinned to the top of the account’s page, but moments later, McDonald’s deleted the tweet, claiming they had been hacked by an external source. They later released a statement that did not include more details, but added an apology. Following the news, Wired posted an interesting article about the growing number of fast food companies who’ve been using Twitter to “re-shape their public persona” from safe, boring, and sterile to what they called “yakkity oddball.” You know, corporations who want to seem out-of-the-box, somewhat meta and ironic, and like they totally have a pot card, too. Examples include @DennysDiner, @Wendys, and @BurgerKing. There are even parody accounts like @nihilist_arbys, which mock these hipster-corporate attempts to be cool. But as Wired points out, McDonald’s has always played it safe on Twitter, so all our hopes and dreams that Mickey D’s was trying out some new marketing tactic yesterday when voicing resistance to DT are dashed. Still, I’m lovin’ it. (Wired)
– OK, one last Trump food news item for this edition of The UM Reader, and this one’s a doozy. This week, Trump announced his 2018 budget plan and there are tons of cuts to government funded programs and agencies, including, but not limited to, the EPA, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Community Development Block Grant program. The latter program funds Meals on Wheels, and Trump’s budget proposes to kill the program entirely to save the government $3 billion. Trump’s proposal claims that the CDBG, which provides services to senior citizens, veterans, disabled, and other Americans who often are bound to their homes, is not “well-targeted to the poorest population and has not demonstrated results.” Tell that to the 2.4 million seniors who were fed by Meals on Wheels last year. SAD! (Time)
– Now for some heartwarming stuff. Reporter Colleen Haggerty tweeted this great photo she took of two New Yorkers clinking bottles on the 6 train with the following: “A full bottle of wine just rolled out from under a subway seat and now these 2 strangers popped it open & are drinking it. This is peak NYC.” Apparently, the guy on the left used an empty bottle that he found under the subway seat to drink the wine. (I’m going to assume that he wiped the lip of the bottle first!) (Muni Diaries)
– California farm, Happy Boy Farms, needs your help! The certified organic produce farm, located near Watsonville, suffered majorly this winter from the torrential rains. The rain caused the worst damage the farm has experienced in its 25 years of existence, including losing 100 acres of crops that were ready for harvest and a tractor to 30 feet of flooding. Happy Boy reports that more than half of their land is inaccessible and equipment that power their wells were damaged. If you’d like to help Happy Boy recover from this rough winter, you can donate to their Go Fund Me page.
– Häagen-Dazs is releasing a new limited-edition flavor, catered toward the Japanese palate: Hojicha Latte. This ice cream is flavored with hojicha, a robust roasted green tea that has a toasty, astringent flavor. Usually, hojicha is made with tea leaves from the last harvest of the season, but for this flavor, Häagen-Dazs uses first harvest leaves, which are said to produce a smoother, less bitter flavor. The addition of milk – the latte part of the flavor – further mellows and rounds out the taste. Hojicha Latte is being released in Mini Cup form for a limited time starting on April 25… in Japan only! (RocketNews24)
– Did you know that flying in an airplane can actually affect the flavor of food and drinks? A 2010 study conducted by Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany found that sweet and salty foods are lessened in flavor by 30% at high altitudes. Also affecting our ability to taste is white noise, low humidity, and low cabin pressure in a plane flying over 30,000 feet. The one flavor that’s actually heightened in flight is umami, which may be the reason why you’re drawn to tomato juice or Bloody Mary’s whenever you fly. Knowing all this info, airlines are starting to create food and drinks just for the in-flight experience. Copenhagen’s Mikkeller beer, for example, has made 10 flight-friendly beers for Scandinavian airline, SAS, and are in the process of crafting even more. Bitterness is heightened at high altitudes and high air pressure causes beer to be foamier than normal, so these special Mikkeller beers are made almost entirely with malt, with less hops, and without carbon dioxide. They’re also bottled in Champagne bottles, which are better at resisting air pressure, too. (New York Times)
– In Japan, yaoya are neighborhood grocers that sell high-quality fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Traditionally, they were where people bought produce, however depachika, or department store basements, have become the favored produce stores in recent years and yaoya have become a dying breed. However, a new startup in Japan, Vegeo Vegeco, is looking to bring them back. First started as a CSA-style box that could be ordered online, Vegeo Vegeco opened its first neighborhood shop in Tokyo this year. And judging the photos, it’s the best looking produce store ever. Its simple, utilitarian wood shelves are constructed from light-colored wood, so that the fruits and vegetables are the starring attraction. (Spoon & Tamago)
– Bee good: It’s pretty disturbing that honeybees are dying off in huge numbers at record rates. Since 2006, colonies of bees have struggled to survive due to a combination of factors, including pesticides, habitat loss, climate change, and disease. A 2015 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council states that 42% of bee colonies in the U.S. collapsed. This isn’t just bad news for bees, but bad news for people, too. We rely on bees for a third of our crop production, and the death of bees means food production is going to be harder, more expensive, with less variety of produce. A definite lose-lose situation. With climate-change deniers heading up the Presidency and the EPA, it’s not looking so good for the future of our little black and yellow friends. But there are things we can do to help bees. For one, we can stop using pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids, that are known buzz killers (You could also go a step further and contact companies like Bayer to stop producing known bee-killing pesticides). And when buying seeds and plants for your garden, make sure they’re not pre-treated with pesticides (big box hardware and garden stores often sell treated plants, so shopping at your local nursery is best). You can also make a bee drinking fountain out of a simple pie plate filled with marbles and water, to quench the thirst of our busy bees. And finally, Cheerios is partnering with Veseys, an organic seed company, for its new campaign called #bringbackthebees, which is giving out free wildflower seed packets for people to create bee-friendly habitats in their yards.
– San Francisco-based company Memphis Meats says it’s developed the world’s first lab-grown chicken strips from animal cells. Memphis’ goal is to get rid of the negative aspects of producing and eating meat, including, per its website, “environmental destruction, animal welfare concerns and a slew of health risks.” Memphis’ “chicken” is created without the need to breed, raise, feed, or kill actual animals. However, as Business Insider reports, making lab-grown meat does require fetal serum from unborn animals. Along with its lab-grown chicken strips, Memphis has produced lab-produced meatballs from cow muscle tissue and lab-grown duck. Memphis hopes to start offering its lab-grown meat products to the public in 2021. (Business Insider)
– Is it blood or is it beets? Before you freak out about that red stain in your #1 or #2, remember this Portlandia skit.
The Umami Reader: Mining the internet for stuff about food worth reading and watching