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The Cooks Palate Blog

Entries in foodie (5)


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?


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?


National Food Day

Once again I missed National Food Day.  Since it seems to be driven by schools, I probably missed it because our children have finished school.  According to the web site there were 3,200 events around the country.  The web site says “Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.” 

The event was created by The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Food day takes place annually on October 24 and 2012 was the second anniversary.

National Food Day's charter is to:
•    Promote safer, healthier diets
•    Support sustainable and organic farms
•    Reduce hunger
•    Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals
•    Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers

The founding non-profit, CSPI, produces the Nutrition Action Healthletter, which has almost 1 million subscribers nationwide and this has become the main source of funding for the organization. CSPI does not take any funding from corporations or government. Some foundations support Food Day as well.

I reviewed the advisory panel and found that aside from 11 politicians, the only names I recognize are Jane Fonda and Alice Waters.  I have eaten in Alice Waters Chez Panisse restaurant and of course, I know who Jane Fonda is.  There are a total of 78 advisors on the panel which seems like an enormous group.  The list of Food Day events is very impressive.  There are many free local events that teach food preparation that are centered around farms and farmers markets.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the recipes interested me.  I will be watching their site for updates, but thought I would share this information in the meantime.


Peer to peer cooking

Just when I think I know what’s going on in the food industry, something new pops up.  Gobble is a marketplace for home-cooked meals from neighborhood chefs.  Chefs prepare meals for one person.  The meals are not prepared days in advance.  You can order up until midnight on the night before the meal is delivered to you, and the meals are not particularly expensive.  The day I looked at the Gobble web site, the meals ranged from $9.95 for Chef Julie’s Kid’s Dutch Apple Pancakes to $21.95 for Chef Alisa’s Chicken Himmaphan Over Rice.  Most of the entrée’s were in the $15.99 range.

Gobble takes pride in working with the best home chefs in every neighborhood. Chefs apply to work with Gobble, and are selected based on their character, cooking knowledge, and of course, talent. Gobble's chefs are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, uncles, grandmothers - you name it. Each chef specializes in one or more cuisines, and each has his or her own style.  Some chefs grew up cooking in a foreign country, and make authentic meals from their native cuisine.

"Our chefs are people in your community who have a passion for cooking and are ready to share their unique meals with the world.”  They deliver anywhere, including home, work or a friend’s house.  Delivery costs $3.95 and it includes a tip.  If you are not home, they will leave it at your door.  They also have a program called 'Gobble Up' which allows unlimited delivery for $18.99 a month.  You can order from any combination of chefs, and they will coordinate delivery, so all of the meals arrive at the same time.  It is unclear to me how delivery would be charged in that scenario.

Today, Gobble is currently available in about 7 towns on the San Francisco Bay peninsula.  Gobble is planning to expand to cover the entire Bay area and beyond.  They are also encouraging customers to vote on cities for their expansion across the country.  What a unique idea.  How long do you think it will take for this concept to expand to a neighborhood near you?


Eat with a Local

One of the more interesting foodie concepts I have come across lately is eat with a local.  This is a site that matches up travelers with local foodies.  They meet either at a home or a restaurant and have a meal together.  So if you were going to, say Paris, the site would pair you up with a local Parisian.  They may invite you to their home for a home cooked meal, or they may select a local restaurant for the event.  

Conversely, you can choose to be a host to someone traveling to your area.  The site encourages you to provide as much detail about yourself as possible.  This makes it more likely that the people you host will be compatible with you.  You can use the search field to look for hosts in a country you'd like to visit, and then refine your search by cities or towns. You can also click on 'Find a Local' and then 'Advanced Search' to search for members with particular choices in their profile information.

You  provide feedback to someone by posting on their wall.  You can look at the profile of anyone who asks you if they can visit. That way you are able to see immediately if they're entering into the spirit and playing host themselves or not.  They even give you tips to make your visit and hosting experience more enjoyable. For example:

  • A visit should not exceed two and a half hours, unless the host insists on extending this time.
  • It is recommened you exchange emails beforehand to make the meet up more comfortable.
  • Enjoy the experience and relax.  You will be surprised how much you will have in common with your host.
  • Take along pictures of the area you live in, as your host will be curious to see your country and this will provide a good conversation starter.

There are more tips, but since the site is hosted in the UK, they seem more specific to the UK.  Will you be brave enough to Eat With a Local?