Pizza is not a vegetable

Pizza is not a vegetable
There are a lot of things sparking debate in DC right now, but there’s one issue that has me really concerned. The spending bill that was passed last week, H.R. 2112, included a section regarding the national school lunch program that will:

-Confirm four tablespoons of tomato paste as a full serving of vegetables
-Prevent limitations on sodium content until further research can be done about its health impacts
-Prevent regulated inclusion of whole grains until the USDA can officially define them
-Prevent further limitations on starchy vegetables like corn and peas

These mean that the already unhealthy school lunch diet mandated by our federal government will continue to reinforce the poor eating habits from which so many Americans suffer: high sodium, starch and carb consumption without the balance of healthy nutrients and vitamins. The first bullet point alone makes a slice of plain, frozen pizza count as a serving of vegetables to our kids as long as it has one quarter cup of processed “tomato” paste on it!

Good nutrition, particularly for our kids, has been a driving value in my personal and professional life. I’m absolutely incensed that the government would try to undercut the well-being of our children for political gains, whether it’s about budget cutting or Big Agra subsidies. This bill is yet another example of how those representing us in government don’t really represent us at all.

I’m going to write my representative to let them know how upset I am about this plan. I encourage everyone to do the same. Let’s make it clear that THIS PRECEDENT IS UNACCEPTABLE. Future school nutrition legislation must reflect our sincere concern for the nutritional health of our school population, not the deep pockets of lobbyist groups.

Below, I’ve drafted a sample letter for your convenience. The best way to get your legislator’s attention is with an actual letter, so please print up a copy and mail it to your congressional representative.

I’d love to hear your input directly, so when you send a letter, please let me know in the blog comments or on my facebook page.

Dear Representative  [senator’s name],
                I’m writing you to express my disappointment in the proposed amendment to the Senate Bill H.R. 2112. The modifications to the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act outlined in Section 743 are explicitly destructive for the health of our youths in public school. With obesity in kids and teens in the U.S. reaching the level of nearly 30%, poor nutritional habits during the formative years are a direct threat to our nation’s health. Cutting costs by redefining health standards is downright insulting, both to our intelligence as constituents and to our responsibilities as parents. What’s more, it suggests that legislative decisions are influenced more by the interests of lobbyists than by the well-being of the citizens. I understand that H.R. 2112 as a whole is intended to balance the budget and keep the government solvent from day to day, but sacrificing the health of our public school student population is not an appropriate way to improve the national finances.

Thank you,

[Your name here]

Flatiron Faves - ABC Kitchen with Jean-Georges

There are some restaurants that just fit you. Everything on the menu seems interesting. The atmosphere feels like something you recognize from a forgotten dream. The whole experience smacks of déjà vu. In restaurants like these, it’s like someone reached into your head, found your ideal restaurant, and made it happen. If I were to make a foray into haute cuisine fine dining, ABC Kitchen with Jean-Georges, would be that restaurant.

Jean-Georges is a titan of the restaurant industry. He’s tossed his toque into just about every culinary ring at one point or another. It was only a matter of time before he undertook the locavore trend. Organic, local, farm-raised, grass-fed, line-caught: the menu reads like a sustainability bingo card. It doesn’t stop with the food either. The menus are made from recycled paper and served on cardboard from ABC Kitchen’s boxes, the furniture is reclaimed, and the placemats are compostable. Don’t let all this get you carried away, though. Although this type of verbiage can often translate to lawn-flavored smoothies or pasta that tastes like burlap, the food at ABC Kitchen is far from those heavy-handed bulgur/wheatgrass concoctions. It’s artfully plated, delicate, and well-balanced, yet somehow maintains a rustic, comfort food quality to it.
Serving Pure Food has always been a priority for me, from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese to Maximus/Minimus. Regardless of the type of food, I want people to be sure they know how it’s made and where it comes from. It’s hard to do that with exotic-seeming haute cuisine, but Jean-Georges is able to do it, and well. I appreciate that and I’m always excited to get a chance to dine there again.

View Beecher's and ABC Kitchen in a larger map

Thank you for following my little walking tour through my Flatiron Faves. Remember that if you’re curious about my other selections, head back to the original post for a list and a map.

Next week, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled recipeblog!

Kurt's Flatiron Faves - Union Square Greenmarket

In my travels, I always keep my eyes out for farmer’s markets. in a new town it can be hard  to know where to get the good stuff, especially when it comes to produce. Really though, that’s just the beginning. A lot of my best ideas for the kitchen actually come to me while I’m watching the motley market-goers pass by those many marvelous treasures.

The Union Square Greenmarket is exceptional because there are so many local sources represented there. I’ve seen food from New York rooftops and suburban New Jersey yards, even Pennsylvania and Connecticut. And that’s really what New York’s all about, isn’t it? It’s that vibrance that comes from so much diversity in such a small area. It really is pretty inspiring.

Do you have any good stories about the Union Square Greenmarket? Or maybe a favorite vendor there? Please share in the comments!

Porcini-Balsamic Glazed Short Ribs

I was recently invited to a wine dinner at DeLille Cellars over in Woodinville, a small suburb of Seattle. The invitation came from my friends Charlene and Greg Steinhauer, who are regulars at Bennett’s. We took a tour of the winery to see how DeLille has managed to continue producing great wine year after year after year. As a fellow business owner, it’s always fascinating for me to see the ways other people are able to cultivate the dedication and enthusiasm that is required to remain successful, particularly in an environment as competitive as the wine industry.

After the tour, we all sat down to dinner and began my favorite part of any evening: great conversation over really good food and wine. As we talked, Charlene told me about how much she had loved the short ribs at Bennett’s and that she wishes that they were on the menu again. When the wine was poured, Charlene raved about the DeLille D2 Bordeaux blend and how it should be on the wine list at Bennett’s. Although separate recommendations, they gave me an idea. We’d never incorporated a drink into the special at Bennett’s before, but this seemed like a perfect opportunity: beautiful braised short ribs with a luscious wine. Judging from the response, we should do these pairings more often!

Porcini-Balsamic Glazed Short Ribs
4 servings

3 cups balsamic vinegar
1.5 oz porcini mushrooms, powdered
3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp granulated garlic

8-4 oz boneless short ribs

Heat the vinegar in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, uncovered, until reduced to one third, to about one cup. Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix the reduction with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl until thick, about the consistency of cake batter. Rub the glaze into each of the pieces of short rib. Pre-heat the oven to 550 degrees F. Cook short ribs for about 15 minutes, or until the glaze is caramelized. Reduce heat to 250 and braise for two hours, until soft and tender. Remove from the oven and let rest a couple minutes before serving.

At Bennett’s we served these short ribs with some kale chips and a potato gratin that had artichokes and jalapenos. What would you serve this with? Let me know in the comments about side dish or wine pairing ideas!

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Lover of big ideas and bold flavors. Food should be like family and friends: honest, fun, and fulfilling.

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