Wednesday Nine: James Beard Semifinalists Announced, Jesse Koide's Wine Pairing Dinner Series

Plus what John Birdsall found in Indianapolis' dining scene, Off the Grid launches at Stonestown, Parmesan cheese is full of cellulose, and more!

[jump] James Beard Award Semifinalists Named
Overall, it's quite a safe, predictable list. The Outstanding Chef list is full of perennial Bay Area cool kids, like David Kinch, Christopher Kostow, and Michael Tusk, and ditto for the Outstanding Bar Program (Bar Agricole and Trick Dog are S.F.'s only contenders). In the Outstanding Baker category we have Belinda Leong and Michael Suas of B. Patisserie and Craftsman & Wolves's William Werner, and of the 25 semifinalists for Best New Restaurant, we have Cala and Liholiho Yacht Club. The finalists will be announced March 15, right here at the Presidio Officers' Club.

Jesse Koide's Wine Pairing Series at Namu Gaji
Pink Zebra is gone, but Jesse Koide's successor project to his much-lauded pop-up is A Taste of Somewhereness, a wine pairing series held at Namu Gaji. Each $125-$140 dinner will focus on a different wine region or well-known producer, and Koide's menu will revolve around it. The series begins this Sunday and next, with GR-20, the north-to-south trail that bisects Corsica.
A Taste of Somewhereness, one or two Sundays a month, 7 p.m., at Namu Gaji, 499 Dolores.

Michael Mina Steps Down as CEO to Head Back to the Kitchen

According to the Business Times, Mina will be replaced by Bill Freeman, an industry veteran who's worked at restaurant chains like Bertucci's and McCormick & Schmick's, as well as for Robert Redford's Sundance Entertainment.

Indianapolis is the New Brooklyn

Friend-of-the-blog John Birdsall went to Indianapolis — a terminally uncool place almost exactly the same size as San Francisco — and found a veritable paradise for trendy foodies that he wrote about in Bon Appetit. Everyplace is another Brooklyn, now: even a conservative, fairly suburban agglomeration in the heart of the Midwest. Birdsall found great coffee, bourbon distilled in-state, Indiana raclette, and a sandwich shop that names it sandwiches after underappreciated geniuses like Henry Darger.

Off the Grid Launches at Stonestown
Starting Saturday, Feb. 27, Off the Grid will descend upon San Francsisco's southwestern quadrant, with nine food trucks (including Benedict Arnold’s, Koja Kitchen, Bacon Bacon, and Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos) plus tented vendors will like Hookt Mini Doughnuts, Happy Dumplings, and WTF San Francisco. There will be live music, Zumba classes, family yoga, and stuff to keep the kids occupied while adults stealthily eat ice some cream tacos.
Off the Grid: Stonestown, Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 3453 Buckingham Way.

It's Not Just Lead: Citizens of Flint Might Have Been Drinking PFCs
The Intercept reports that the Flint River has the second-highest level of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in the state, second only to a lake near an Air Force base that's full of firefighting foam run-off. They're carcinogens that cause low birth weight, thyroid disease, and immune suppression. Meanwhile, Salon reports, in a disaster-capitalism scene straight out of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, the water crisis has been a boon to privatized, for-profit water companies.

Parmesan, Like Olive Oil, Is Bullshit
Did you know that upwards of 40 percent of that pre-grated Parmesan you bought could be cellulose derived from wood pulp? According to Bloomberg, cheesemakers “commit adulteration” — so biblical-sounding! — because it saves money, which is a no-brainer. Some fillers are permitted, however, and independent testing determined that about a third of the brands out there are hoodwinking cheese eaters. The Italians are not pleased.

Vertical Gardens Are Kind of Bullshit, Too
They look like the wave of the future, but urban vertical gardens are not likely to put more than a dent in the way we grow and ship food. First, Salon says, the light is inadequate for everything but the top deck. Second, because the energy they do absorb is costly and precious, it can only be allocated to cops like lettuce and chard (ones where we eat nearly the entire plant), as opposed to more calorically dense foods like potatoes. Third and perhaps most importantly, the U.S. is not short on arable land; it merely needs to be managed more sensibly. And lastly, the crisis of inadequate nutrition is not an urban problem: While most farms are rural, many of the country's food deserts are, too.

But Edible Spoons Are Awesome
Via Gizmodo, here is a single-purpose gizmo that looks amazing: The Edible Spoon Maker. Look out, chowder-in-a-bread-bowl!

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