War on flavor continues

Hot on the heels of the FDA’s ban on flavored cigarettes (menthol excluded, of course), other governments are taking even more drastic steps against flavored tobacco. First Canada:

Canada has banned the manufacture, importation and sale of most flavored cigarettes and small cigars, which have been slammed as little more than an enticement to get children to start smoking. [Again, menthol excluded.]

The law, which came into effect on Thursday, was backed by both government and opposition lawmakers. It also bans tobacco advertising in newspapers and magazines, closing a loophole that had allowed ads in publications that claimed they were read only by adults.

Then New York City:

The council, by a count of 46-1, voted to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco in the city, with the exception of tobacco used in pipes and hookahs. This goes a step further than the recent FDA ban, which banned flavored cigarettes (including cloves, but not menthol), because it bans flavored little cigars and chewing tobacco. Mayor Bloomberg has 10 days to decide to sign or veto the measure. If signed, the ban could go into effect in 120 days.

These bans are, in essence, forbidding the processing of tobacco to make it taste good. This sets a dangerous precedent for premium cigars. Might cask-aged cigars be next? Why allow leaves to be cured at all? After all, the aging process “masks” the harsh flavors of tobacco just as surely as adding a dollop of fruit-flavor does.

And after we do that, why not ban the flavoring of any other product that can be unhealthy?

[Via The Stogie Guys.]


Balanced tobacco reporting at NYT

The New York Times’ coverage of the new Institute of Medicine report on smoking bans and heart attacks includes these passages:

Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at Boston University, said that such limitations were significant flaws and that the panel was being “sensationalistic” about the impact of smoking bans.

“Anybody could have told you without any kind of review that smoking bans don’t raise heart attacks,” Dr. Siegel said, but “it could be that they have an exceedingly small effect” and that reductions were “just occurring anyway” because of improvements in treatment of heart disease. […]

Dr. Siegel said that connection was “unequivocal,” but that a significant risk applied only in people who have severe heart disease. “An otherwise healthy person is not going to walk into a bar for 20 minutes and have a heart attack,” he said.

I’ve blasted the paper repeatedly for uncritically passing on unsubstantiated claims of tobacco researchers, so good for reporter Pam Belluck for writing a balanced piece.

Congrats also to Michael Siegel for getting his views included. If you missed his detailed rebuttal to the report, be sure to read it here.


The culture that is Portland?

I don’t want to make light of domestic violence, but I will make light of how this news story was written:

Portland man gets probation after stabbing ex-girlfriend’s pet fish

A 27-year-old Southeast Portland man who beat his ex-girlfriend and then stabbed her pet fish and left it impaled in her apartment has been sentenced to two years of probation and a psychological evaluation.

An attorney for Donald Earl Fite III said he didn’t want to talk about the details of the assault, but that stabbing the fish was “a very low point” in his client’s life.

“He is absolutely mortified and ashamed about what he did to the fish,” said attorney Tom MacNair today in Multnomah County Circuit Court. […]

According to an affidavit filed with the court, [his ex-girlfriend] had broken up with Fite, but returned to her East Burnside Street apartment in Portland last July 25 to find Fite lying on her bed. Fite wanted to get back together, but [she] didn’t.

When she told him she had plans that evening, [she] refused to let her leave the room she was in, the bathroom, according to the affidavit. She tried to push past him. He threw her against a wall. She again tried to leave, punching him in the nose to get by. He grabbed her by the hair and threw her against the bathtub – ripping out her hair extensions and causing her to hit her head.

My emphasis is in italics. The paper’s emphasis — and perhaps the perpetrator’s too — is all about the fish, whose family will hopefully be comforted by the outpouring of remorse over its untimely demise. What the hell, Oregonian?

Fortunately the court appears to have had better priorities, restraining the man from being around his ex-girlfriend but allowing him continued access to pet shops. No, I am not making that up.

[Thanks to Jonathan Blanks, who’s as confused about this as I am!]


Bols genever and the Van Houten cocktail

Bols Genever

On Monday Carlyle hosted the Oregon launch event for Bols genever. Genever, the predecessor to the old tom, London dry, and Plymouth styles of gin that eventually took hold in the United States, has until recently been extremely hard to find here despite its continued popularity in parts of Europe. Mixologists seeking to replicate 19th century cocktail recipes have had to resort to desperate measures like blending Irish whiskey, Plymouth, and simple syrup to approximate its flavor in cocktails. Needless to say, having a real genever in wide distribution is a welcome development.

The juniper flavor in genever is much less aggressive than in London dry. Malt notes from the grain instead take center stage. It mixes differently than junipery gins, which can be a challenge if you try to treat it like one (though it does make a nice Collins). David Embury, for example, didn’t know what to do with it. “Holland gin does not blend well with other flavors and, while dozens of recipes have been written for Holland-gin cocktails, they are generally regarded (and properly so) as pretty much worthless,” he wrote in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

This is more a failure of imagination than of the spirit. Treating it more like a whiskey than a gin can lead to some great results. One of my favorite drinks we served was a simple genever Old-Fashioned, made with Bols, superfine sugar, Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters, and a slice of lemon peel. It’s delicious. Other bartenders at the event tried substituting it for rye in variations on the Vieux Carré and Remember the Maine, both of which showed promise. There’s a lot of unexplored territory here and I expect we’ll be seeing innovative genever cocktails showing up on many local cocktail menus soon.

As part of the event I was given the opportunity to feature one of my own creations. I realized early on that chocolate bitters could play well off the malt flavors of the genever, though bridging the two together with other ingredients required some experimentation. Ron at PDXplate and Tim at The Goodist tried out many variations and offered suggestions. I like what we eventually hit on with the Van Houten cocktail:

1.25 oz Bols genever
.75 oz Lillet
.75 oz Cointreau
.33 oz lemon juice
.5 tsp Chartreuse
2 dashes Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. The bitters tie this drink together, offering lots of flavor affinities: chocolate and malt, chocolate and orange, chocolate and Chartreuse. I’ll be adding it to the menu at Carlyle later this week.

The name, by the way, isn’t a reference to Milhouse Van Houten. Bonus points if you know who it is a reference too, especially if you can name him without Googling.

[Photo courtesy of PDXplate.]


Kaine celebrates death of small businesses

It would be hard for me to adequately express my loathing for Virginia Governor Tim Kaine:

With just about 50 days to go before the Commonwealth’s landmark smoking ban goes into effect, Governor Timothy M. Kaine is joining dining patrons and community leaders across Virginia today to highlight restaurants that have already gone smoke-free. The new law—called “monumental” in one of the nation’s biggest tobacco-producing states—takes effect December 1 and will prohibit smoking in nearly all restaurants across the Commonwealth. The Governor is visiting successful restaurants in Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke and Fairfax County that have voluntarily gone smoke-free.

“This historic public health measure will only enhance the high quality of life Virginians have come to enjoy by protecting restaurant patrons and employees from the serious health risks of secondhand smoke,” said Governor Kaine. “With a growing number of Virginia restaurants that have already found they can be both smoke-free and successful, I encourage other restaurants to go smoke-free before December 1 to immediately protect restaurant-goers and workers alike.”

It’s great that so many restaurants have voluntarily gone smokefree, but not all businesses are identical. I wonder if Kaine will include visits to Virginia’s soon to be defunct hookah bars during his 50 day countdown? The reception from those business owners won’t be nearly so warm.

The same article notes that about 70% of Virginia restaurants and bars already forbid indoor smoking.

Liberty Tavern not so keen on liberty


This post is not an ad

In my previous post about the FTC’s new guidelines for bloggers I wondered whether the new rules would apply to Twitter. According to the FTC, they do:

As for Twitter, the FTC isn’t letting you get a pass with the excuse that 140 characters–Twitter’s famous text limit–is simply too short. “There are ways to abbreviate a disclosure that fit within 140 characters,” Cleland said. “You may have to say a little bit of something else, but if you can’t make the disclosure, you can’t make the ad.”

That’s funny, when I mention liking a product on Twitter, I didn’t know I am “making an ad.” I thought I was expressing an opinion to the people who follow my feed.

Lots of my tweets, I mean ads, are in technical violation of this rule. I go to tastings and dinners all the time. I’m going to one tonight, in fact. If a few hours from now I post something like “This cocktail with Brand X is delicious!” without adding that they gave me the drink for free, I could be fined for not making the disclosure.

Of course I’m not so much of an internet celebrity (alas!) that the big bad FTC is going to spend time reading my tweets. But it’s silly make this activity illegal and it raises the prospect that people will use FTC complaints as a way to get revenge against bloggers and Twitterers they don’t like. Like Jeff Jarvis, I would rather have a messy, unregulated, and free internet than an internet that’s aggressively sanitized by the government busybodies.

Update: Jack Shafer weighs in here. Thanks, Ben!