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The Cooks Palate Blog

Saturday
May182013

Silicon Valley Techies Take on Food

I never thought I would see the day that Silicon Valley types made an important contribution to the food industry.  Clearly I was wrong.  Earlier this month the first Food Hackathon was held.  The Food Hackathon brought programmers, designers, and other technical types together in a competition to create new products to improve the food ecosystem. Food Hackathon is the first event of its kind, empowering food lovers and techies to positively  impact the production, storage, distribution, access, discovery, sharing, consumption, and social impact of food.

Teams created at the Food Hackathon will have an opportunity to demo their products and receive feedback from notable judges with a chance to win prizes and awards.  They will be recognized in global food and tech communities and network with notable movers and shakers in Silicon Valley. 

I tried a few of the products referred to in the articles with mixed results.  The first is an iTunes app called Can I Eat, available for $1.99.  You configure preferences and establish a daily guideline for your nutrition intake.  You can then scan an ingredient bar code to determine how the food item fits into your diet.

The second is a website: http://unhungry.me/canyoucookme.html#.  This site asks you to name up to ten ingredients that you have on-hand in your pantry.  It suggests recipes that you might like from a web search.  I personally think the search needs improvement because I didn’t like any of the recommended recipes and there wasn't a way to fine tune the search with my preferences.

Foodies are a discerning crowd with very individualized palates.   One of the reasons we got into the recipe software and cookbook publishing business is because we wanted to create a platform where foodies could express their own palate.  Generic food solutions will never satisfy foodie palates.  It will be interesting to see if the hackaton teams figure this out.

There is a second Food Hackathon scheduled for June.  It will be interesting to see what other innovations they come up.  You can learn more at their website foodhackathon.com.

Sunday
Apr212013

A Fresh Look at Fermentation

First of all, thank you for all the kind wishes and comments from everyone about the horrific events here in Boston this week.  Boston is a strong community and we are grateful to get back to normalcy.

In looking into fermentation food trends this week, I was amazed to see how common fermentation has become. We all know about sauerkraut, but did you realize how many of our favorite foods are fermented? Besides bread and wine there is salami, cheese, yogurt, fish sauce, coffee, beer and chocolate, among others.  Fermented foods exist in almost every culture and fermentation has been practiced for thousands of years.


Home fermenting has been a hot food trend for a few years.  Health enthusiasts and the DIY and farmers’ market shopping crowd are advocates.  Fermentation broadly describes a natural preservation process that boosts beneficial bacteria, which generate deep, rich flavors. An array of foods and beverages rely on fermentation for their creation. The flavorful taste generated by fermentation doesn't contain many calories, and the probiotics involved can help boost digestive health, experts say.


I am getting up nerve to try my hand.  One of the easiest recipes I found was for pickled jalapeno peppers.  Nourished Kitchen seems to be a great site for fermentation recipes.  If the jalapeno work out I might try making my own hot sauce next.  What is your favorite fermented food and have you tried home fermentation?

Saturday
Mar232013

Recipe for Success

Many cooks would like to write a cookbook but we don’t know how to get started, don’t know how much effort is involved and don’t know how much it will cost.  Here is what is involved.

The major effort in writing a cookbook is getting all of the recipes entered, placed in the cookbook in the right location and making a cross-referenced index.  The Cooks Palate makes it simple.  You enter your recipes without regard to where they go in the cookbook.  Once you have entered the recipes, you enter chapter names such as,  appetizers, soups, etc. and click to copy recipes into those chapters, where they are automatically indexed.  For planning purposes, entering a recipe takes 10-15 minutes.  So a 100 recipe cookbook would take about 25 hours or less of data entry depending on your comfort and speed in typing.

Once recipes are in The Cooks Palate software, you can import them into The Publisher to design the manuscript.  It is a very simple process.  The Publisher leads you through a series of steps with a wizard.  It asks you what size the book will be, what kind of binding you desire and the manuscript is automatically created for you.  You are asked what pages to include, such as foreword, acknowledgement, etc.  These pages are placed in your book where you edit them for content.  You can easily insert images on any page.  You can include stories or other content.  A cross referenced index is automatically created, and you can index your recipes several ways.  You can also edit the recipes globally to ensure that you get the font type and size that you prefer.  We offer cover design services for your book, or you can submit your own file. You will end up with a professional manuscript, suitable for printing and resale in bookstores if that is your goal.

After the cookbook is complete, you choose what types of book to actually print by either printing a single style or mixing and matching several combinations.  You can print hard cover, color, coffee table books for the family and soft cover B x W cookbooks to be sold on Amazon and in bookstores.  The main cover choices are hard cover, soft cover and case laminate.  You choose which binding would be best for the book (many prefer wire coil).  Finally, will the book text be black and white, color, or some mix of color with black & white?  Since there are no additional costs for mixing and matching styles, you can print as many variations of the cookbook as you wish.

You can get an estimate the cost of printing your book on our online calculator. If you would like to discuss your project you can reach us at 1-888-238-8377.

Monday
Mar112013

Parmageddon

Tracy and I wandered into our local Whole Foods last Sunday just in time for “Parmageddon”.  Apparently Whole Foods set the world record in 2008 for cracking 300 Parmesan Cheese Wheels simultaneously.  They have upped the ante each year and held the title until last year when a Canadian grocery company cracked open 378 wheels of Parmesan.


Since we are regular customers, Tracy and I were asked to bear witness to the heroic attempt to return the title to Whole Foods. We were honored. Whole Foods was cracking more than 400 cheese wheels simultaneously at precisely 3 pm EST on Sunday in stores in the US, Canada, and the UK. The spectacle of Whole Foods cheese mongers using five different authentic knives to crack open these 82 pound behemoths was incredible.  They say that these centuries old techniques are the best method to ensure that the cheese’s internal crystalline structure and crumbly texture are preserved.


After the event we signed a statement that we had indeed witnessed the wheel being cracked.  I don’t know what the record time for cracking one of these beauties is, but Drew, our cheese monger, completed the task in one minute, five seconds.  As a reward for our participation, Tracy and I were given more than a pound of the fresh Parmesan. 

What a treat! Do you have a good parmesan recipe to share?

Saturday
Feb092013

Growing Demand for Shared Use Commercial Kitchens

While watching my local PBS station I happened upon a program about “Shared Use Commercial Kitchens”.  While I intuitively new that something like this must exist, it was new to me so I decided to do some research to see how they operate. 

A shared use kitchen is a licensed kitchen facility providing small scale food entrepreneurs commercial space to prepare and process value-added food for consumers. Most facilities also provide training, support and access to other resources and distribution networks. For example, in our local Whole Foods Market we have cookies from Fancy Pants Bakery and Cold Fusion Gelato, both of which were produced in a shared use kitchen.  State regulations vary on food production and some states prohibit food production at home for commercial resale.

There are no equipment standards for shared use kitchens, so they are all a little different depending on the type of food products they are producing. Typical facilities include equipment such as commercial ovens, ranges, mixers, kettles, industrial food processors, refrigerators, freezers, dry storage, sinks, among other equipment.  The kitchens also provide both cold storage and dry storage.

Kitchen space is typically rented by the hour, based on the time of day.  Rates vary from $40-50 an hour during prime business hours to as low as $10 an hour in the middle of the night.  All rates are negotiable and regular users get preference.  Food entrepreneurs, cookbook authors, caterers, food truck owners and producers of specialty foods use these facilities to test new products, expand production and manage growth economically. Shared use kitchens can be the first step toward co-packing and larger scale production capacity.  These facilities also play an important role in community job creation.

It seems to me that if more home cooks were aware of shared use kitchens, more of them would be motivated to test the market with specialty products.  It would give us access to an even greater variety of prepared foods.  Do you have a favorite recipe that you think could be sold for a profit?