Denver Post restaurant critic Tucker Shaw is one lucky duck. In today’s food section, he wrote about a mega-multi-course feast prepared by Opus Restaurant chef Michael Long for him and a handful of selected epicures with each course featuring at least Colorado one. In “A 25-Course Colorado Blowout,” he described the meal that was a tribute not just to Colorado ingredients but also to “the now-legendary 31-course meal created three decades ago at Paris’ Chez Denis by revered Chef Claude Mornay for New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne and celeb-chef Pierre Franey — a decadent feast of foie gras, truffles, sweetbreads, and taboo orlotans that was so decadent (and so well-reported) that the Vatican called it ‘scandalous’ — Long said he wanted to create a similarly elaborate, extravagant circus of a repast, 30 courses in all, each constructed from Colorado ingredients.”
Perhaps with just 25 rather than 30 or 31 courses, the Vatican will not pass judgment on Long’s creation — or perhaps everyone is so accustomed to excess now (mega-mansions, enormous cars, ultra-luxury resorts, supersized people) that it most likely didn’t raise a papal eyebrow. Post photographer Glenn Asakawa documented each dish in gorgeous, artistic shots, and I wonder whether he was allowed a nibble now and again too. From the website, you can see his beautiful images and also a video showing the gorgeous plating of the feast.
Of the evening, Shaw wrote, “Regarded from a distance, or at least from the semi-reclining position I found myself in as I slumped my way through the last bites of corn pudding, I had no doubt that Chef Michael had succeeded in his dual missions. He’d cleared his own high bar, producing an astonishingly daring dinner, and he’d proven beyond question the possibilities that burst from the wealth of ingredients we Coloradans have under our own noses. When I stumbled out the door six or so hours after sitting down, spent and sated and semi-conscious, I knew I’d just participated in a never-before, never-again, crazy-wonderful piece of art.”
The Food Fakery
Boulder Daily Camera food editor Cindy Sutter wrote an eye-opening expose called “Meaty Concerns,” reporting on how big-time grocers tamper that process meat in central facilities and shrink-wrap it tamper with it to make it more tender and more appealing.
She wrote about “modified atmosphere packaging — a process in which gases that can include oxygen, carbon dioxide and/or carbon monoxide are pumped into the package. The gases cause the meat to ‘bloom’ and turn bright red, an oxidizing process that happens naturally when beef is exposed to air. The packages, however, keep the atmosphere constant, so beef stays red for its entire shelf-life, even if it has passed the recommended use-by date.” She wrote about “brining, in which meats are injected with a flavor solution generally made of water, broth, salt, flavorings and sodium phosphate to keep the meat moist and juicy during cooking.”
She wrote about “carbon monoxide…The Food and Drug Administration allowed certain meat processors to use carbon monoxide in meat packaging through a practice called ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS. The European Union banned the use of carbon monoxide with meat and tuna in 2003. The gas is frequently used with fresh tuna, as with meat, because it gives the fish a bright red color. Media reports in 2006 said that Wal-Mart has test-marketed low oxygen packaging, which uses a carbon monoxide-oxygen mix, on meat in some of its stores.” Heck, isn’t carbon monoxide poisonous? Thanks again, FDA and Wal-Mart.
“King Soopers,” Sutter reported, “processes and packages all its meat for the Front Range at a central Denver facility. Each package is individually wrapped in the traditional way with plastic wrap over a tray, meaning that any air in the package is what occurs naturally in the atmosphere. Those packages are placed in bulk in a ‘mother wrap’ that has an 80 percent oxygen-20 percent carbon dioxide mix and shipped to stores. The company does not use carbon monoxide in any of its packaging…King Soopers brines some of its pork, which is sold under the label Moist and Tender.”
The Consumer Federation of America has raised alarm bells about these practices, but they hit close to home when a local newspaper shines the spotlight on them. Sutter reported that Whole Foods, Wild Oats and such old-time butchers as Boulder’s Herb’s Meats “sell meats directly from the case” and wrap them in butcher paper to order for each customer.
Speaking of Whole Foods and Wild Oats, even as one government agency (the FDA) is permitting such Wal-Mart to do stuff to food that can’t possibly be good for us, another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, is “concerned” about the possible merger of these two natural/organic grocers as being anti-competitive. In fact, the feds have filed suit in Federal Court to determine “whether to block the $565 million acquisition of Boulder-based Wild Oats by Whole Foods Market,” as the Camera reported in a page-one story called “FTC, Grocers State Cases.”
I frankly don’t know whether the merger of would be good or bad for consumers, but I do know that this holdup is bad for one restaurant that is a local institution. According to yet another Camera story, “Laudisio Sues Twenty Ninth Street,” the owners of the restaurant “are suing the Twenty Ninth Street mall, saying they’ve lost more than $1 million because developers misrepresented how much business the new shopping center would see….With a planned Wild Oats headquarters sitting empty indefinitely, nearly a year’s worth of delays in the opening of a 16-screen movie theater and delays in the opening of several other restaurants at Twenty Ninth Street, the promised customers haven’t materialized, the lawsuit says. ‘Based on the negligent misrepresentations by the landlord [developer and owner Macerich Company], the restaurant has not been, nor will it be, exposed to the represented foot traffic, and therefore all the financial projections upon which the restaurant project have been based, as well as investment and commitments made, are now inaccurate,’ the suit says.”
This lawsuit filed in Boulder County District Court will not have the national impact of the decision of the merger between the two grocery chains, but locally, it is a big deal indeed.
The Food Icon
The Rocky Mountain News ran an interview that Natalie Haughton of the Los Angeles Daily News conducted with the legendary Jacques Pepin, one of the first celebrity chefs in this country. He was promoting his gorgeous book, Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $45) and when asked whether he expects people really to use it to cook from, he replied, “After writing the recipe down, I explain the recipe as I would if I were talking to a friend. So it leaves the cook with more freedom so he can interpret the recipe and make it his own. My goal is to excite the imagination rather than set limits in a structured recipe.” The 71-year-old who has done so much to enlighten American cooks and epicures noted, “As you grow older, you eat less of one thing, more of another. . . . You get less complicated in your cooking. You take away from the plate rather than adding to the plate.”