Category Archives: Food


Food Trucks: The Edible App for the Social Media Aware

food&wine_july2010.jpgOnce upon a time, purveyors of food from trucks, stands and carts earned little regard from food critics or cooking publications. And either you knew where to find them because they staked out the same general location or, in the case of ice cream trucks, you could hear them coming.

But with an increasingly mobile (and hungry) society and the rise of social media, food trucks seem to be gaining a foothold and even some culinary legitimacy, thanks to endorsements like Food & Wine magazine’s.

Every year, Food & Wine seeks out the best new chefs based on nationwide recommendations and months of research to unearth culinary gems with five years or less of experience running their own kitchens.

For the first time, the magazine tapped a food truck chef to hold one of its coveted–if not sometimes controversial–spots as one of its ten “Best New Chefs for 2010,” who were introduced in the July 2010 issue. Roy Choi, proprietor of the Kogi BBQ truck in Los Angeles, is but one of the faces of a new trend that’s taking food to the streets in major cities.

Using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter or other websites, customers addicted to the edible app or even those adventurous enough to sample the new craze can find where and when to find food trucks like his.

Make no mistake, Kogi BBQ doesn’t serve your typical hot dog stand fare. For instance, two recipes recently featured in Food & Wine magazine include Roy Choi’s L.A. Gas Station Taco recipe–among its ingredients are popular gas station items like beef jerky and pork rinds–and a Midnight Torta (sandwich) marketed to L.A.’s late-night party scene. Like the cooking approach that garnered him the “Best New Chef” title, this sandwich combines Asian and Mexican flavors–fried eggs, spinach, pork and jalapenos. But neither his culinary combinations nor his kudos end there.

Sports network ESPN teamed up with Kogi BBQ and the food truck concept to offer fans hungry for sustenance and hungry for World Cup action the opportunity to get both in one place. Through June 29, L.A. and New York City each had its own ESPN Match Truck serving up a range of international flavors created by Roy Choi that were inspired by the countries participating in the World Cup.

But not everyone is welcoming the food truck trend with open arms… or stomachs. At least one Los Angeles city councilman is crusading to ban trucks like Kogi BBQ’s in hopes of sustaining the city’s stationary establishments.

This seems more of a knee-jerk “solution” instead of seeking how to adapt to the changing food service and delivery landscape. Granted, fighting the bigger battles of convenience and technology may be a futile attempt, making that the very reasons food trucks are here to stay. At least until something better comes along.


Chef Lucy Buffett’s Gulf Coast Actions Go Way Beyond Being Green

southern_living.jpgBeing “eco-friendly” and “going green” can be accomplished in seemingly easy enough steps. For chef Lucy Buffett and her ever-crowded restaurant, LuLu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Ala., that means using recyclable cups, supplementing electricity with wind turbines and using homegrown local produce in the kitchen.

Southern Living magazine‘s May 2010 issue dutifully detailed these, but the article failed to capture one now-more-important thing: her passion for place. If anyone has publicly embodied this spirit in the last few months, it’s Lucy Buffett and her famous “Margaritaville”-strumming brother, Jimmy, who have taken up the Gulf Coast’s cause in the wake of the BP oil spill.

Once upon a time, LuLu’s was a tucked-away spot along Weeks Bay, more a watering hole for locals than for tourists. But now that she’s front and center on the gulf scene, Lucy has become an unofficial spokesperson and advocate as the subject of a national ad campaign and numerous media interviews.

The announcement of a free concert to help fill empty beaches gave her brother’s laid-back musical voice a more impassioned tone. Originally planned as a July Fourth weekend kickoff, the show was postponed by–wouldn’t you know it–a tropical storm. But it’s been rescheduled for July 11.

While it’s duly noted that LuLu’s has gone green, let’s also realize it’s another fight for your little corner of paradise. It’s noble and responsible to recycle and reduce energy consumption, but any restaurant could do so if it really wanted to.

So when Lucy Buffett tells national media that the Gulf Coast needs people’s business, or Jimmy Buffett tells CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the “people on this coast can survive anything,” their sincerity for not just the planet, but for a place–a home place–resonates with a passion so deep that it’s much more than just “eco-friendly.”


On a Tear: How Pull-Out Features in Cooking Magazines Can Help You Get Organized

everydayrachaelray_june2010.jpgHave you ever wished you could tear out that great new recipe you just tried in your favorite food magazine? Or have you longed for the ease of an already compiled grocery list that summed up what you needed for that week of delicious dishes touted as “fast and healthy”?

Unfortunately, there is no one food and cooking magazine that allows for easily clipping out every recipe or one that does all of the shopping organization for you. Such features aren’t lost on some food and cooking magazine editors, though.

Here’s a survey of the best portable elements in popular cooking magazines if you’re in need of a little boost in convenience and organization.

Better Homes and Gardens: In every issue, there is at least one page containing four recipes–photo on front, ingredients and directions on back–that can be easily clipped and filed away. The downside is that they are printed on lightweight paper and may need a little laminating to prevent rips and tears.

Simple & Delicious:  Though there are several more pages of easy-to-clip recipes than Better Homes and Gardens, they are likewise not printed on heavier paper that would be able stand up to frequent handling.

everydayfood_july-august2010.jpgFood Network Magazine: In nearly every issue, Food Network Magazine includes a pull-out section offering 50 recipes for one dish or dessert, like pizza, burgers, pancakes or cookies. In reality it’s not so much about recipes as it is mostly variations on a few, yet the section is generally appreciated by readers who can easily remove the tiny booklet and add it to their collection for future reference.

Martha Stewart Living: Delivering nothing less than what we’d expect, each issue of Martha Stewart Living contains one heavier-stock, already perforated page with four recipes that are easy to fold, tear and file. Thanks, Martha!

Everyday Food: Perhaps a little easier to store because of its smaller digest size, Everyday Food takes a swipe at another aspect of organization: Its monthly feature “Grocery Bag” offers a tear-out shopping list (printed on a heavier, perforated page like its sister publication Martha Stewart Living) for everything you need to create five meals. Even better, the list is arranged by produce, meat, dairy, staples, etc.

Every Day With Rachael Ray: Not to be outdone by Martha Stewart, Every Day With Rachael Ray takes the shopping list feature a step further. Each issue features a “Menu Planner” tear-out section with enough recipes for a week, along with a list and an estimated total cost, so you’ll have an idea of what to expect at checkout. This list is a little larger and maybe a little more cumbersome than Everyday Food’s smaller page, but it’s still very helpful.


To Be or Not to Be (an Ad): Does Food & Wine Magazine’s July Cover Cross the Line?

food&wine_july2010.jpgThe talented men and woman who made Food & Wine magazine‘s cut for its “10 Best New Chefs” were announced months ago, but I was nevertheless excited to learn more about them when the July issue arrived.

Their smiling faces and the promise of their “simplest recipes” inside made me want to dive right in, but I just couldn’t get past the cover. Specifically the right edge, where three thin yet visible staggered pages made up only the tiniest fraction of the cover. Still it was distracting, and upon further investigation, confusing.

Initially, I thought the three tabs, titled “Masters of Innovation,” “Masters of Design” and “Masters of Sustainability,” were relevant to the best new chefs. Instead, the six-page advertising spread covered chefs from Bravo network’s TV show “Top Chef” and touted luxury automaker Lexus. Just the juxtaposition of so many elements–and the questions it raised–were enough to drive me to the table of contents for some expected solace.

Still, I wanted to make some sense of the magazine’s entropic introduction. Turns out, Bravo’s “Top Chef” is judged by former Food & Wine “Best New Chef” Tom Colicchio and the magazine’s special projects guru, Gail Simmons. With the seventh season premiere of the show taking place June 16, the cross promotion was understandable, if a little muddled with Lexus added to the mix.

According to the ad spread, the same innovation, design and sustainability qualities found in some of Bravo’s top chefs presumably can also be discovered by driving one of Lexus’ luxury vehicles. Ultimately, I think too many distractions took away from what could have been a cleverly made point.

But distractions aside, I question the placement of the three “Masters of” staggered ads visible on the cover. None explicitly state “Bravo” or “Top Chef” or “Lexus,” but each of those “Masters of” titles referred to the ad spread accompanying each cascaded page.

Even after reviewing some of the American Society of Magazine Editors’ recent decisions on whether other cover ads have crossed the line, I didn’t quite know how the professional organization would judge Food & Wine’s July cover. But I tend to think if it looks like an ad and refers to an ad, then that’s what it would be.


Rise and Shine: Food Network Magazine Names Best Breakfasts in Every State

foodnetwork_june.jpgEven when I didn’t religiously eat a morning meal, I had a hard time passing up breakfast foods served at any hour of the day. Maybe because my mom would serve pancakes or eggs, grits and toast for dinner when my dad was out of town and unable to object.

Whether fueled by those special memories or not, my craving for breakfast foods just intensified after seeing Food Network Magazine‘s July/August 2010 issue and its “50 States, 50 Breakfasts” spread.

Let me start by saying I love best-of lists–best restaurants, best dishes, best magazines, best lists. And when my home state’s chamber of commerce put out a brochure titled “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” I was in heaven. My own culinary bucket list!

Quickly scanning Food Network Magazine’s best breakfast picks, I was pleasantly surprised to see a restaurant from my hometown, Mobile, Ala., and from my current city, Savannah, Ga., make the list. Though I haven’t sampled the featured morning fare (yet!) at either place, I have dined at both and haven’t been disappointed.

Mobile’s Café 615 menu approach is best described as Southern tastes with a gourmet twist, and its Food Network Magazine best breakfast, Eggs Mauvila, is no exception. This Southern take on Eggs Benedict combines cheese grit cakes, poached eggs, bacon, hollandaise sauce and lump crab meat. The result is a traditional dish seasoned with local flavor. So it’s no wonder that its moniker “Mauvila” comes from the Indian tribe for which the city is named.

The site of the Georgia entry, B. Matthew’s Eatery in Savannah, is a favorite lunch spot of mine, but I have sampled their fresh blueberry and raspberry scones still warm from the oven. Absolutely. To. Die. For.

My noontime usual is a fried green tomato sandwich, and I can’t imagine that their best breakfast of HabersHam and Eggs would be any less delicious. This thick-cut, sugar-cured ham comes with eggs, gravy and a biscuit. Like the Eggs Mauvila, the name of B. Matthew’s dish is inspired by local history. Savannah native Joseph Habersham, an active statesman, businessman and soldier, was one of the state’s delegates who helped ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Just as with these two personally familiar spots, Food Network Magazine’s spread describes the best dishes from each of the other 48 states too, along with photos, prices and where to find them. Though most are variations on the traditional, some unusual dishes–like the Oatmeal Soufflé from Red Feather Lounge in Boise, Idaho, or the Buenos Dias Fritatta (packed with spicy chorizo and drizzled with sour cream and chipotle sauce) from The Chef in Manhattan, Kansas–make their way in.

Are you lucky enough to live near any of Food Network Magazine’s picks or have you sampled them on your travels? If so, I’d love to get your feedback. If your favorite spot was left off the list, please share that too. In the meantime, I’ve got some breakfast plans to make.


South Rises Again: Regional Magazine Capitalizes on Southern Food’s Surge

taste-of-the-south.jpgCould you name a regional magazine focusing on Southern food and Southern travel that isn’t Southern Living or Cooking With Paula Deen?

I couldn’t either until a couple of months ago when I was introduced to Taste of the South magazine, which by its title alone, I expected to be part of the Taste of Home magazine series.

Launched in 2004, Taste of the South bills itself as the simple and easy approach to Southern cooking. And while most of this bimonthly publication’s dishes are quick fixes, there is the occasional dessert or entrée that requires a few more steps and may be a little more complicated.

Of course, traditional Southern staples like potato salad, chicken salad and corn muffins are covered, but even some of these favorites are prepared in nontraditional ways. For example, the spring 2010 issue included recipes for Boiled Peanuts With Chipotle and Chile Flavors, Spicy Sweet Potato Chips With Vidalia Onion Dip, and Pulled Barbecue Bites with a white mayo-based sauce flavored with horseradish, vinegar and pepper.

A sweet spread titled “Baby Cakes” detailed miniature desserts perfect for parties, gifts or guilt-free indulgences. From interesting flavor combinations, like pistachio-lavender lemon cheesecakes and coconut cupcakes with lemon curd frosting, to trusted standbys, like carrot cake and strawberry shortcake, Taste of the South magazine respects traditional tastes, but isn’t afraid to try something new.

Even its restaurant recommendations in its travel section mimic this culinary range. In Memphis, Tenn., the Roasted Beet Salad with spiced pecans and ginger vinaigrette at Hunt-Phelan and the Tres Leches Cake with port-wine-macerated berries and port wine sabayon at The Peabody scored high marks.

Then, just a few pages later, more classically Southern tastes like lemon meringue pie, family-style potato salad, homemade biscuits and praline cookies at Savannah, Georgia’s Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room received similar praise.

The appreciation for all things Southern is nothing new, but with multiple similar publications, how does Taste of the South magazine gain a foothold, particularly against established competitors like Southern Living?

Well, perhaps it’s not that difficult. Both traditional and contemporary Southern cooking are gaining in popularity, well beyond the Mason-Dixon Line and the Mississippi River. For that, credit the superstardom of Southern chefs like Paula Deen, the dispersion of Southerners due in some part to Hurricane Katrina, and even recognition like the James Beard Foundation’s cookbook awards, whose 2010 finalists for the top American book were all Southern.

With this ever-growing popularity of Southern culture and cooking, this aptly named magazine gives readers something else to satisfy what they evidently have an insatiable appetite for–a taste of the South.