Marion Nestle loves being called a nanny statist:
I love nanny-state accusations. Whenever I hear them, I know either that food industry self-interest is involved or that the accuser really doesn’t understand that our food system already is government-regulated as can be. These kinds of actions are just tweaking of existing policy, in this case to promote better health.
This is wrong on both counts. It’s extremely disingenuous to suggest that anyone against new regulations is in bed with the food industry. In many cases it’s just the opposite. The fight over calorie labeling in restaurants is a good example. Large chains were initially against it but now favor having a national standard over dealing with a mix of local statutes. As big businesses they can absorb the fixed costs of regulation more easily than regional chains. Collaboration between big government and big business at the expense of smaller firms is hardly unusual when it comes to food regulation (see NAIS for another instance of this).
Critics of the nanny state aren’t ignorant of the fact that our food supply is already heavily regulated and most would like to see many of these rules disappear. They know there’s a difference between regulations intended to prevent unequivocal harms (no one wants to get salmonella) and regulations intended to eliminate choice on matters for which people may value the trade-offs differently (eating foods cooked in trans fats, consuming more or less salt, patronizing new fast food restaurants rather than banning them). The fact that Nestle appears incapable of recognizing this difference is one reason libertarians are distrustful of giving technocrats like herself control over food policy.
With my dual interests in cocktails and coffee it was only a matter of time before the two collided in the same glass. Most recently I’ve been experimenting with coffee bitters. Many roots and barks can be used as bittering agents, so why not the pleasant bitterness of coffee beans? My friend Lance Mayhew and I have tried out several recipes for coffee bitters and with batch #5 we’ve hit on a combination that I find very satisfying. We use Lemonhart 151-proof rum as a base and add in a few complementary flavors like orange peel and star anise. The final product has a distinct coffee aroma and taste without overpowering the other ingredients; it might be more accurate to call these coffee-orange bitters given the strong orange note they produce. (Coffee geeks will be interested to know that the beans are Stumptown’s Costa Rica Herbazu; how much of a difference origin makes in these bitters is yet to be determined.)
My favorite use for the bitters so far is in a rum Old-Fashioned. I’ve tried this with a number of rums, searching for a spirit to give the drink the right amount sweetness without tipping too far in the direction of strong caramel flavor. My favorite so far is English Harbour, an Antiguan rum with just enough time in barrel to give it depth. It’s well-suited for a classic Old-Fashioned preparation:
2 oz English Harbour rum
.5 tsp superfine sugar
2 dashes coffee bitters
Stir all ingredients to dissolve the sugar, add ice, and stir again. Finish with a strip of orange peel.
The rum Old-Fashioned with coffee bitters has been a popular off the menu item at Carlyle for a couple months now and will be making the jump to prime time later this week.
Update 4/12/10: The recipe for our coffee bitters has been posted here.
The online edition of today’s Chicago Tribune (the print article ran in December) has a story about the’ increased use of the Italian bitter liqueurs known as amari in craft cocktails. I’m quoted a few times, and they included the recipe for my Shift Drink, a cocktail made in honor of West Coast bartenders’ love of Fernet-Branca. (For the record not all of my cocktails use Fernet-Branca or Branca Menta, but sometimes it does seem like it!).
An article in the soon-to-be-launched Oregon Politico examines the impact of the statewide smoking ban on lottery revenues and small businesses, hitting some of the same themes I did in my Oregonian piece:
Salem cigar shop owner Saadeh Hadeed was confronted in February by the Marion County Department of Human Services for the simple purpose of needing to file for an exemption to the smoking ban put into effect in January 2009. Soon after filing his application with the department, he received a letter from DHS telling him that his request for an exemption was denied. This questionable decision was because the business, Aava Cigar and Wine, was not seen as “stand alone,” meaning that it is connected to other businesses in the area.
Yet, the smoke shop was originally built as a “stand alone” store and encompassed later by Lancaster Mall with only a single entrance opening to one of the mall’s courtyards and the remaining entrances opening to the outside area. The business also has a three-fan ventilation system to redirect smoke from the store to be released outside, above the roof of the shop. Since finding out that an exemption was needed for Aava’s, the shop has not allowed smoking on its premises, bringing sales down by $1,200 to $1,400 a week.
[Thanks to Jan for the link!]
Another study has found that the calories listed for items in some restaurants are often inaccurately low:
Measured energy values of 29 quick-serve and sit-down restaurant foods averaged 18% more calories than the stated values. Likewise, measured energy values of 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets averaged 8% more calories than stated on the label.
That’s not surprising. What’s interesting is that this isn’t necessarily due to intentional deception. It may be in part an unintended consequence of FDA regulation:
The authors also note that the US Food and Drug Administration allows up to 20% excess energy content but weight must be no less than 99% of the stated value. This might lead manufacturers to add more food to the package to insure compliance with the weight standards and thereby exceed the stated energy content.
In case you missed it during the holidays, the latest study regarding mandated calorie posting at restaurants does not make it out to be an effective policy.
Calorie counts for all, like it or not
Mark your calendars, Portlanders: The next Oregon Bartenders Guild event for charity is coming up on January 21 at the Jupiter Hotel. This time we’re playing Iron Bartender as four local mixologists compete to improvise the best cocktail with a yet-to-be-revealed mystery ingredient. Behind the bar will be Evan Zimmerman from Laurelhurst Market, Elizabeth Markham from Beaker and Flask, Neil Kopplin from Clyde Common, and this guy from Carlyle whose blog you’re reading right now.