Friday, July 18, 2008

UC Berkeley Wine Studies II, Fall

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I’m once again teaching Fundamentals of Wine Studies II: Sensory Evaluation of Wines and their Components for UC Berkeley Extension, and I’d love to see some of you in the class. If you’ve ever wanted to see if I can actually babble about wine for 2 1/2 hours, now’s your chance. It starts on October 9 and continues for six weeks. By the end, you’ll have a great vocabulary for articulating what you taste in the glass, and you’ll be able to communicate your likes and dislikes with confidence. The class is less about regions (though some of that sneaks in) and much more about analysis. You can read my detailed description of the classes in earlier posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

This semester, given that I live and work in the East Bay, I’ve arranged to teach the class in Berkeley. I hope that means that some of you can take it who couldn’t make it into SF in the past. Let me know if you have any questions, and I hope to see you in class.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Post Slackage

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I apologize for the slack in posting. I’m working a lot at my new job, which has not one but two looming deadlines. And Maxis has reawakened my videogame love, since the latest games are my office’s water cooler chatter. (In fact, if you’re on XBox Live, I’m oenoscribe.) So bear with me as I adjust to the new routine, and, as always, thanks for reading.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dine For A Change, April 3, 2008

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On April 3, have a good meal while donating to a worthy cause. Twenty-five Bay Area restaurants and stores will donate a portion of that day’s till to San Francisco Women Against Rape, an organization that educates about sexual assault and helps women who are victims of that horrible trauma. From Bi-Rite Market to our old neighborhood restaurant Pho 84, you have a wide range of options for donating. Take the opportunity to try a new restaurant, or visit an old favorite. Either way, you’ll be doing a good thing.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Next Berkeley Extension Class: Fundamentals Of Wine Studies II

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I finished teaching my Fundamentals of Wine Studies I class just last night, but the new Berkeley Extension catalogs are out, which means you can sign up for my Fundamentals Of Wine Studies II class. You don’t need Fundamentals I to take Fundamentals II: In fact, there’s often debate about which should come first.

While Fundamentals I focuses on regions, so that students know what to expect from an Austrian white or a Southern Rhône red, Fundamentals II focuses on describing wine. The first of the six classes talks about acidity, sugar, tannins, and alcohol; the second helps you articulate the smells in a wine; and so forth. Here’s the syllabus I made for the last time I taught the class. Class starts in San Francisco on January 30 and meets six times, with no class on February 20.

On a related note, Dr. Vino’s Tyler Colman will teach a one-day seminar on organic and “natural” wines.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Food Blog Awards

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Menu For Hope is one end-of-year tradition in the food blogosphere; the Food Blog Awards are another. Go nominate your favorite sites for awards and virtual glory at Well Fed. As a former judge, I can tell you that this is a tough chore for the folks behind the scenes, so give a big thanks to Cate and all the judges for their efforts in keeping this annual rite alive.

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Menu For Hope Approaches

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Menu For Hope, the end-of-year food blogger charity drive started by Pim, is about to start. Bloggers around the world contribute gifts, and everyone buys raffle tickets for the prizes they’d like to win. The money — over $60,000 last year — all goes to the UN’s World Food Program. If you’re a food blogger and you’d like to contribute a gift, contact the appropriate regional host. Bidding begins on December 10, and I will once again be writing the program that does the raffle drawing, so enter your bribes as soon as possible — uh, which I will ignore, of course. Did I say that out loud? (Technically, I’ll just run the program I wrote last year, but I have some features to add.)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Me at LitCrawl

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Just a reminder to any Bay Areans out there: I’ll be one of the readers at Lit Crawl, this weekend in the Mission. I’ll be at the Laszlo Bar at the front of Foreign Cinema, 2526 Mission Street, somewhere between 8:00 and 8:45 pm. I’m one of a few food writers who will be there, so come out and say hi.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Not About Food: Rent To Own

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Melissa and I have bought our first house.

It’s a simple sentence — compound subject, transitive verb and direct object — but I still have a hard time writing it. I'm not sure I fully believe it. Those of you who have heard the saga of this Berkeley house know how stressful it’s been. For the rest of you, I’ll just say that they accepted our offer three and a half months ago, we closed escrow today, and you don’t want to hear the rest.

Despite the public nature of this site, our private lives stay off of it. But a first house, particularly one in the Bay Area, requires some statement, some demarcation between there and here, then and now.

For one thing, the new house comes with a new budget that will force some changes: Forget restaurant reviews and foie gras for a while. On the other hand, I will focus on my beloved “thrift cooking,” the kind of cuisine that peasants have practiced for millennia: stretching ingredients and preserving food. I’m trying to view our new financial situation as a challenge, not a limit.

Oh, and did I mention gardening? Our house — what an odd phrase — has a yard. Throughout most of this adventure, whenever Melissa or I felt overwhelmed by the tidal wave coming at us, the other would paint a picture of our future garden. Window boxes and pots filled with herbs. Tomato plants. Legumes swirling and twirling around poles and nets. Squashes and corn. If you recommend any organic food gardening books, by the way, please let us know in the comments.

The kitchen — I’m sure you all want to know — is functional but run-down. We’re hoping to renovate in a couple of years, once our budget has returned to normal and other, graver problems have been fixed. I have been saving clippings of kitchen articles for years in anticipation of that day.

We’ll be sharing the food parts of this process with you, of course, and we welcome any advice from other housedwellers about gardening, budget eating, and kitchen thoughts. Because we can do anything we want to the house. It’s ours.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Me In Public

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Shuna’s post about her California appearances reminded me to mention that I, too, will be reading during the Lit Crawl event of Litquake. Come out to the Mission and say hi. We haven’t decided which of my pieces I’ll read, but there are a few options.

And if you’re a member of the Oakland Rotary club, or if you know someone who is, you can come and hear my lunchtime talk on wine manipulation and technology on October 4.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

OWF Survey: Just A Few More Days!

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I’ll pull the OWF 5-Year Anniversary Reader Survey on Friday night, Pacific time. If you haven’t filled it out yet, please take a moment to do so; you’ll help me make OWF a better site for all of you.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Not About Food: Ethical Guidelines

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Sorry for all these housekeeping posts. Regular food and wine programming will resume shortly. Meanwhile, take the OWF 5-Year Anniversary Reader Survey.

I get a number of press opportunities as the publisher of OWF, and I wanted to spell out my policies about freebies. Everyone sets their own rules for this kind of thing, but few disclose them. Some basic rules I follow: When I take samples, I don’t promise to review them, and I don’t promise to only post a good review; I flat out reject press junkets, which are both useless and pricey; and I will always disclose if the item was a freebie.

As a blogger, I decide whether I’ll take samples based on their relevance and educational opportunity for you. I don’t set explicit price caps, but the more expensive the item the more relevant it has to be: Few items pass the test. Recently, Visa offered me dinner at Quince’s chef's table. They wanted to demonstrate the benefits of the Visa Signatures Rewards program. But how relevant would that have been for you? This is not a lifestyle blog. Last year, a company offered me a lobe of fresh foie gras. This is relevant to you — some of you eat it and cook it when possible — but the company had repackaged Hudson Valley Foie Gras lobes. I’ve not only used that foie gras, I’ve done extensive research on their production methods. I already recommend it, and a new sample wouldn’t have added to my knowledge. On the other hand, I did take grass-fed steak samples, because I wanted to test the claims of meat terroir that grass-fed-beef producers often tout. I tend to take books and bottles of wine, because these are relevant and, for the producers, relatively inexpensive.

But I’m not just a blogger: I’m a professional writer. I decide whether or not to take samples based on a potential client’s impression of me. I never want an editor to look at this site and say, “Send him our ethical guidelines so he knows how strict we are.” I want him or her to say, “Wow, look how strict he is.” Freelance writers don’t have staff guidelines to shape our decisions. We are responsible for our own integrity. I take this to ludicrous extremes — I don’t participate in affiliate programs because they amount to kickbacks for reviews, and after I did work for Wilson Daniels, I told my other clients so they would be aware of any conflicts of interest — but who else will keep tabs on me? (All that said, when I’m on assignment for a publication, I follow their guidelines. I didn’t bat an eye when I received several $100/bottle samples for my heritage cabernet piece, because that was in line with The Wine News’ policies.)

In reality, I make my decision based on the WWJBD rule. What would Jon Bonné do? (Sometimes I just ask him.) Many writers are ethical, but the Chronicle's wine editor, along with Tish and maybe two other writers I know, actually thinks about ethics and integrity in a careful way.

So I don’t have explicit rules, but I do have guidelines that inform my decisions.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

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I just noticed a note on A Good Beer Blog that Michael Jackson, the great beer writer, has passed away. No one else has done as much to educate people about the fantastic traditional beers that exist around the world, and his wisdom will be sorely missed. I've used a number of his books as reference material for my own research.

See the tribute to him, and his final article, at the All About Beer site

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Obsession's 5th

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Take the OWF 5-year Anniversary Reader Survey

Five years ago today the word blog had barely escaped the jargon of the tech savvy. Most examples were technical discussions or chatty online journals. Only a few focused exclusively on food. Julie Powell had made one post but had not yet entered the stratosphere of Internet celebrity. Hillel Cooperman had been publishing detailed posts and stunning pictures of restaurant meals for just about a month. The only established and well-read food blog was Bruce Cole's Saute Wednesday, now retired in favor of Edible Nation.

Five years ago today I made my first post, setting up a blog at the urging of friends who wanted my rambling emails out of their inboxes. Other friends pushed me to blog so that I could practice writing; at the time, I only aspired to the role of food and wine writer. (I used a cleaned-up version of an early post to get my first writing assignment, though I didn’t mention my blog in pitches until a couple of years ago.)

Five years ago today there was no food blog community, just a handful of food blogs. I’m not even sure we called ourselves food blogs yet. No Heidi, no Clotilde, no Adam, no Josh. Weird, huh? Today, of course, there are thousands of us.

I remember the first time my daily count of visitors went over 100. And I remember when it went over 1000. The numbers have kept climbing over the years, but Melissa and I ask the same question now that we did then: Who are all you people?

Now I’d like to find out. For OWF’s fifth anniversary, I’ve put together a survey. I want to hear what you do and don’t like, and I want to know a little about you. The survey’s anonymous, and I'm not planning to use the information for marketing purposes—I will raise my sword against the visual onslaught of ads for as long as I can. This is just a way to peer through the Internet's ducts and learn a bit more about my readers. Please take a moment to fill it out.

And as always, thanks for reading. Really. I never miss an opportunity to brag to friends about what a smart readership I’ve got.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Yorker's Food Issue

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The New Yorker’s annual food issue will be on shelves this week, according to a press release they sent me. Check your newsstand or independent bookstore for copies: The food issue always has interesting content.

This year’s topics:

  • How Could One Collector Find So Much Rare Fine Wine? - a story of fine-wine fraud
  • Does Street Food Make the Best Cuisine? - Calvin Trillin on Singapore’s street food
  • Eating the Fruits of the Five Boroughs - Adam Gopnik tries an extreme Eat Local Challenge: Food from New York City's boroughts.
  • Claudia Roden’s Culinary Diaspora - profile of the prolific cookbook author
  • You Are What You Don’t Eat - Judith Thurman goes to a spa

And more, from the press release:
The Food Issue also includes seven sidebars about memorable family dinners, including: David Sedaris on meals without flavor (p. 98); Anthony Lane on eating artichokes (p. 104); Alexsandar Hemon on yearning for home-cooked meals from the war front (p. 58); Gary Shteyngart on assimilation by way of McDonald’s (p. 70); Donald Antrim on his father’s gourmet ambitions (p. 112); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the quintessential Nigerian dish (p. 92); and Nell Freudenberger on a welcoming feast in Bangladesh (p. 80).

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Monday, July 30, 2007

OWF Naptime: We Go to the Land Down Under

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Unread books. Unplayed video games. Unwritten articles and essays. Unheard podcasts. A brand-new GAMES magazine. My carry-on luggage holds enough entertainment to survive an apocalypse, but it may not be enough for my plane flights in the next two weeks.

Melissa and I head out tonight for New Zealand (Blenheim, Nelson, and Wellington) and Australia (Brisbane and Gold Coast), where we'll taste wine, see the sights, and attend the 27th International Puzzle Party. Maybe I'll bring home some more food-themed puzzles. It will be a nice break from our hectic lives of late. Thanks for all your recommendations on things to do and places to eat; we'll provide a full report.

Don't expect many updates, if any, until we get back in mid August. (On the other hand, I have a short piece on Txakoli filed at the Chronicle's Wine section; it may run before we come home.) Until then, Melissa and I wish you good food and drink.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Next Wine Class: Fundamentals I

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A friend of mine mentioned that the new UCB Extension Catalog is out, so it's time for me to give you a heads-up about my next wine class. I'll be teaching the second section (starting Oct. 11) of Fundamentals I: Wines of California and Europe. This is a great starter class about wine — years ago, it was the one that got me hooked — that covers the major regions of California and Europe. We'll cover France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Napa, and more. And usually there's good side conversation about wine industry issues. Each class in the eight-week course will include a lecture and lots of wine. I always work my distributor/importer/producer contacts hard for these classes, so that I can stretch the budget to the utmost.

Sign up early; sign up often.

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Sorry About the Blogroll

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UPDATE: All better now.
Just a quick note: I noticed that my blogroll, which is created automatically by Bloglines, has stopped working. I never turned off sharing, and now I can't turn it back on. But for some reason Bloglines thinks that I've disabled it. I sent them a note, and hopefully they'll help me get it back up and running. (A lot of programmers prefer to make rather than "buy." This is why; when something breaks we have to wait for someone else to fix it.)

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Feature: Web Snacks

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I just added a new feature to OWF. I call it "Derrick's Web Snacks," and it's nothing more than links I find interesting. Most will be about food—it's an obsession of mine, you know—but some will be about my diverse interests. It's anything I think might be good for a quick read if you're looking for a break but doesn't deserve a post in its own right. If it doesn't show up for you on the right, leave a comment and tell me your browser and operating system.

MovableType and Wordpress probably have this feature out of the box, but I use Blogger, a flint axe in a Bronze Age of publishing solutions. It wasn't easy to add. If you like geeky web things, click here for my description of the process.

If you really despise visiting blogs, Snacks has its own RSS feed

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ratatouille

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You're probably sick of reading about it by now, but I'll add my voice to the chorus of huzzahs for Ratatouille, Pixar's latest animated feature film. The story isn't anything new, but the animation and the food motif make this charming film a must-see for foodies everywhere. That means you.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Myself in Self

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Welcome to any new Self readers (Self-less ones, too) who wandered here after seeing my quote in the July 2007 issue. The magazine interviewed me, Amy, and Brett for tips about healthy eating.

A site whose most commented-on post covers making your own lard might not strike you as the most obvious place to look for health tips, but Melissa and I follow a number of "best practices." We don't eat processed food, we have a diverse diet, we eat slowly, and we drink wine often. My quote in the magazine says that if you give your body the time to appreciate your food, rather than just shoveling it in as if it's fuel, you give your system time to catch up and tell you it's full. Normal "healthy eating" reduces food to a grocery list of nutrients and calories that you can consume without thinking, and I think that's an unhealthy lifestyle.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

House Of Mondavi At Cody's 06/28

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My acquaintance Julia Flynn Siler has released her new book The House of Mondavi, an account of Napa's most famous—and perhaps most soap operaesque—family. She'll be speaking at Cody's on June 28th at 7:00pm, and you should go so you can buy a copy of the book and ask pointed questions. Here's Jon's preview of the book.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

City Beer

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Hey, San Franciscans. Like beer? Then head down to The City Beer Shop on Folsom. I had never heard of it, but I stopped by to buy some bottles for an upcoming Chronicle article.

The young and knowledgeable owner, Craig, has packed his small space with a wealth of interesting bottles from all around the world. I had no problems finding most of the beer I was hunting, even though some of it is less common. A small bar and some small tables allow you to pull up a stool and taste one of the four or five beers on tap—I suppose you can buy beer and drink it there as well, though I don't know for sure.

I didn't get the full scoop—I was on my lunch break, and I had a mission—but he's only been around for a year. He's still under the radar for a lot of people. I bought my assignment bottles, and then bought four more for my personal inventory. But I was tempted to walk out with a dozen more.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

No, Not That Edward Behr

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My condolences to the friends, family, and admirers of Edward Behr, the British war correspondent and prolific writer who passed away yesterday.

That Edward Behr is not, despite what the Associated Press says, the Edward Behr who wrote The Artful Eater and who publishes The Art of Eating quarterly. He is alive and, I hope, well.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Reminder: Wines of the United States

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Why am I calling my wine writing colleagues around the country? I'm getting their thoughts on the best wineries in Texas, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, and the other states I want to include in my Wines of the United States class through Berkeley Extension. It starts June 12 and runs for four weeks. There's still room; sign up and find out what the country has to offer in the way of great wine.

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Various Notes

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So there's this food blogger and she's on tour for her new cookbook. Maybe you've heard of her? The delightful and inspirational Clotilde Dusoulier, our community's biggest star, will be at Cody's Books on May 24 at 7:00 to talk about her new book. Come and meet one of the world's most charming people, get your book signed, and chat about food.

I consider The Art of Eating to be the best English-language food magazine. In addition to all the great articles in the latest issue—lardo, real wasabi, Jasper Hill cheddar, the lamb of Quincy—you'll find one of the longest letters sections ever to appear in the magazine. They fall into two basic camps: Swooning praise for James MacGuire's excellent baguette article and sputtering disbelief that Ed would publish my piece about Vinovation. This issue also features a photo by Melissa that accompanies a review of Napa's Pilar. But of course you know this already because you subscribe, right?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Culinate Profile of OWF

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Liz Crain, who writes the Blog Feed column for online food magazine Culinate, focuses her spotlight on OWF this week (with a brief cameo by OWEE). It's a nice Q & A interview, and I encourage you all to go check it out.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Wines of the United States, UCB Extension

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A new UC Berkeley Extension catalog is coursing through the mail as you read this. You all know what that means: the announcement for my next wine class. This summer, I'll be teaching a 4-week course entitled Wines of the United States. The school offers Wines of California and Europe, but I wanted to show my students some of this country's other wines, which can be hard to find here in the middle of California's behemoth wine industry.

Here's the schedule I pitched:

  • Class 1: Texas and the Southwest
  • Class 2: The East Coast (New York and Virginia, among others)
  • Class 3: The Midwest (Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan)
  • Class 4: The Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho)

Sign up early; sign up often.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Humanity Is King

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Another Humane Society press release alerted me that Burger King will commit to buying humanely raised animals for its restaurants. The sheer scale of the Burger King chain prevents it from switching over every animal product to a humane alternative, but they've made good first steps. I wonder how one polices them on these goals.

From the press release:

  • It has begun purchasing two percent of its eggs from producers that do not confine laying hens in battery cages. It will more than double the percentage of cage-free eggs it?s using to five percent by the end of the year.
  • It has implemented a purchasing preference for cage-free eggs. Such a preference is intended to favor producers that convert away from battery-cage confinement systems.
  • It has started purchasing 10 percent of its pork from producers that do not confine breeding pigs in gestation crates, which are too small to allow even ordinary movement. The volume of pork purchases coming from gestation crate-free producers will double to 20 percent by the end of the year.
  • It has also implemented a purchasing preference for pork from producers that do not confine breeding sows in gestation crates.
  • It has implemented a preference for producers that use controlled atmosphere killing of chickens used for meat. This has been shown to cause significantly less suffering than the conventional method of slaughter used by most of the nation?s poultry slaughterers.

Okay, McDonald's, join the club. Stop clowning around with the OED, and give yourself the ultimate PR. Eric Schlosser once said, in discussing the hellish life of a slaughterhouse worker, that if McDonald's wanted to purchase beef from companies that treated their employees fairly, the entire industry would change overnight. Imagine if they wielded that power for an ethical food system. Even I might eat there again.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

About

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Inspired by Sam—and feeling the urge to procrastinate on a few other writing projects—I have finally written an about page. This way you can learn more about me and Melissa, and I can tell PR folks my review policy.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

OWF Quiet:Wine Writers' Symposium

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I'm away this coming week, attending the 2007 Wine Writers' Symposium at Meadowood. This year, I'm going on a fellowship, one of a few granted to wine writers who apply with samples of their writing; I applied with my Mosel and Vinovation pieces from The Art of Eating. Thanks to Saintsbury for funding my ticket—it's no coincidence that I recently read their namesake's book.

I'll try to post at some point in the next few days, but if the blog is quiet, you know why.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

What Every Boy And Girl Wants

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Looking for the perfect Valentine's Day gift? How about a cool six-week-long UC Berkeley Extension wine course in San Francisco, starting in early April? You might think this is a hard gift to find, but you'd be wrong. Click the link, pull out your credit card, and taste wine with me.

I'm putting together my syllabus, and I wanted to share the top-level class descriptions with you so that you can see how much fun you'll have.

  • Class 1: Your Tongue Tastes...
    Discover how different amounts of acid, sugar, tannins, and alcohol affect the taste, feel, and structure of a wine. Then taste typical store wines, and describe where each one falls on the line of acidity, sweetness, tannin, and alcohol levels.
  • Class 2: ...But Your Nose Knows
    Smell through countless vials, and try to identify the items hidden within. Smell some of those items immersed in glasses of wine. Then smell varietal wines typical of their grapes, and identify the scents in the glass.
  • Class 3: Pew! What Is That Stink?
    Learn to identify some of the most common faults in a bottle of wine. Learn that one wine's fault can be another's feature.
  • Class 4: How Much Wood...?
    Learn about the effect of oak on wine. Taste wines made with French, American, new, and old barrels. Compare to wines made in stainless steel tanks, and learn how barrels are made.
  • Class 5: Become A Terroirist
    Terroir, the idea that wine has a sense of place, is one of the industry's big buzzwords. Is it real? Or is it bunk? You'll taste similar wines from different geographies and learn how the complex mix of soil and sun can shape the fruit.
  • Class 6: Go On A Blender
    Make your own Bordeaux blend. You'll have varietal wines from each of the major Bordeaux grapes, and you'll have to mix them to your taste.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Edible East Bay, Winter 2007

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The latest Edible East Bay is back from the printers; expect to see it within a week at farmers' markets and key stores throughout Alameda County and Contra Costa County—Andronico's, Vintage Berkeley, and Berkeley Bowl, among others.

This season's issue has a profile of the Bittersweet chocolate café (chocolate bar?), written by fellow food blogger Anita Chu, an ode to Monterey Market, and a look at Hearst Ranch's grass-fed beef. Several other quality articles fill the issue.

My editor and I decided to push my major piece to the next issue, but this one has a small blurb by me about the East Bay Vintners' Alliance, the organization of wineries in Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, and Alameda.

Don't feel like hunting down each issue? You can always subscribe.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

May 24: C & Z Day

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Within three hours, three beautiful women whispered to me that Clotilde Dusoulier, who publishes a food blog you may have heard of, will be visiting Cody's Books on May 24 to promote her first cookbook. I'll remind you again as the date gets closer, but I know many of you in food-blog-land draw inspiration from the most famous Parisian food blogger, and I'm sure you'll want to give her a warm welcome.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Go Forth and Vote

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This year's nominations for the Food Blog Awards have arrived at the Well Fed network. Go vote for your favorites or learn about new blogs you haven't seen before now. There are a lot of great sites mentioned, and you can probably kill a day or two looking through them.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Menu For Hope III: Some Simple Math

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If you're one of the few people who read this food blog and no others, then you may have missed the announcement for this year's edition of Menu For Hope, an annual raffle organized by Pim in which bloggers and other notables contribute prizes to a giant raffle. People around the world buy "tickets" for the prizes they want in the form of donations. Each ticket costs $10, and all the proceeds go straight to a charitable organization, this year the UN World Food Programme.

You should see the phenomenal list of prizes that bloggers have donated. If I called out the best ones, this would turn into a post that's long even for me. Just go look and admire and buy a ticket or 40. (My donation is all the prizes, sort of, since I'm writing the program that will parse out the tickets and do the actual raffle. And no, I don't take bribes, unless they're really nice.)

Most of the bloggers mentioning the event have appealed to the kind and charitable streak in all our readers. I will appeal to your greed.

Consider this: Menu For Hope has raised twice as much money as it did last year. But because the ticket price has doubled, that means that there have been just as many tickets sold. Fine.

But there are many more prizes this year. That means your odds of winning something are better than they were last year. Many of the prizes have low ticket counts, so you can increase your odds even more. You just have to go buy a ticket. Or 40.

You have until Friday to place your bids. Go look at the prizes and make your donations.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Fundamentals of Wine II

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When I first discovered my passion for wine, I took class after class in UC Berkeley's Wine Studies program. But my favorite was a class then called "Components of Wine," a six-week course on analyzing wine. I took it twice, once as I began to learn about wine, and again more recently. One night we covered flaws and faults. Another we blended Bordeaux varieties together to come up with a master blend. Still another we spent sniffing at vials and wine glasses, trying to identify scents in isolation and mixed with wine.

The class has since been renamed to Fundamentals of Wine II: Sensory Evaluation of Wines and Their Components, and I'm over-the-moon excited to be its instructor in the spring semester. This is a fun class, and I encourage you all to sign up if you can. Enrollment opened today, even though the class starts in April.

I have some big shoes to fill: The class has always been taught by wine expert Rebecca Chapa. But given how much I respect her as a wine educator, you can be sure that her teaching style has influenced my own. Sign up now. Sign up your friends.

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