Sunday, November 3, 2013

Disposable Dishes with Ethical Elegance

This was a fun story that started with some thinking about the news that New York City is taking steps to divert more of the city's waste stream to composting facilities instead of into landfills. Around the same time, I was at a trade show where I saw vendors serving food samples on beautiful paper plates that were also compostable. I went online to see what compostable paper plates were on the market and found some great stuff. Then I went to another trade show, this time for the foodservice industry, and I happened to be discussing my work on the story with one of the vendors. And just at that time, a man came up behind me, overheard what I was saying, and told me that I really should stop by another booth at the show to talk to the man from Aspenware.
I knew I was onto a story that would be as interesting to readers as I had found it myself when I found myself discussing compostable dinnerware at a dinner party. Questions were asked, and the economics and ethics of compostable dinnertable became a topic for discussion for the entire table. It was fun to know that I'd given people that I respect something to think about.

Casual Dinnerware from Zak Designs

I talked with Zak Designs CEO Irv Zakheim for this story about his company and its design-driven products. In the wake of a horrible fire in Bangladesh that shined a light on the working conditions of garment workers in third-world nations, I found myself asking about how Zakheim ensures that the Zak Designs factories aren't going to be the next to be identified by the news media or political activists as unsafe or exploitative. I wasn't surprised to find that Zakheim had thought about this before I did, and I was glad to hear that he had a good answer for the question.

Gourmet News' November Retailer of the Month

For Gourmet News' November issue, I wrote the retailer profile on The Fresh Market, a chain that I'd been completely unfamiliar with. I interviewed Craig Carlock, the company's CEO, and you can find that story here.

Weekend Menus for

In an effort to boost weekend traffic over at, I am taking a leaf from the food bloggers and posting some casual pieces about interesting food that are based on my own experiences with some of the products I enjoy using. I'm not one of those cooks who has endless hours to spend in my own kitchen, but I'm also not one of those cooks who's willing to put bad food on my table. My solution to this dilemma is to use quality products that help speed along the process of making and serving a delicious meal.
Up until now, I've been keeping my time-saving secrets mostly to myself, although I've never shied away from admitting my reliance on a lovely sauce or a ready-made product if someone asks for my recipe. Now I'm going more public.
You can read about a lovely Sunday brunch, which was actually a Friday night dinner when I served it, here and a menu for a weekend supper here. The Sunday brunch relies on heat-and-serve quiche from La Terra Fina for a meal that just couldn't be easier to put on the table, and the weekend supper leans on oven-roasted pork chops served with Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce from Fischer & Wieser. The pork chop meal story doesn't mention that the sauce totally rescued me on those pork chops, which I overbrined a bit. They weren't wrecked; just a little too salty, but that sauce is a combination of sweet raspberry flavor and a nicely balanced heat from chipotle peppers, and it was just glorious on those pork chops. For the menu, I paired the pork and the sauce with Barley Couscous from Roland, which is pre-cooked in the box, so that all you have to do to prepare it is to pour some boiling water over it, let it sit for a few minutes and then fluff it with a pork when you're ready to plate. I had my doubts about how well that was going to work before I tried it, but I followed the directions anyway, and it turned out terrific. I had some left over after dinner, so I reheated it in the microwave the next morning with some cherry jam on top. Very nice breakfast.