Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Nation on Food Democracy

foodforall

Everyone should check out this week’s issue of The Nation, a special called “Food for All.” Various restauranteurs and food activists including Alice Waters and Dan Barber contribute articles to support the grassroots movement of “food democracy.” These authors argue that a transformation of the food industry is necessary and they discuss the various obstacles that our nation must overcome in order to make safe and nutritious food available to all.

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Parental Example: A Solution to Disordered Eating on Both Ends of the Spectrum?

As I discussed here, the obesity epidemic has been widely publicized recently in light of the current healthcare debate. Amidst the discussion on obesity, obesity-related diseases, and the funds required to care for individuals who suffer from these diseases, there have been a couple of interesting articles on unhealthy eating habits on the opposite end of the spectrum: unhealthy dieting habits, anorexia, and bulimia.
In Jeffrey Zaslow’s Wall Street Journal article, “Girls and Dieting, Then and Now,” Zaslow describes his reunion with members of the 1986 fourth grade class at the Marie Murphy School in Wilmette, Ill., whom he had interviewed about their dieting habits some twenty-three years ago. He discovered in 1986 that among these young girls, the majority of them restricted their diets because “boys expect girls to be perfect and beautiful and skinny.” Not surprisingly, most of these women continue to stress about their appearance and thus their weight today. Further, as actresses and models become thinner and thinner, young girls are employing more and more dangerous methods to look like them. While I thought it was interesting that Zaslow interviewed the same women two decades later, I found the conclusion to be predictable and uninventive.
When I began reading Frank Bruni’s article “Eating Anxiety: Is Anyone to Blame?” on The Atlantic’s online food channel, I thought, “Oh no, not another article about Frank Bruni’s weird relationship with food,” a popular topic in light of the former food critic’s newly published memoir that discusses his struggle with weight and eating. But I was pleasantly surprised by Bruni’s ultimate suggestion to his readers. He advises parents to “instill good food sense in their children the same way they instill a good work ethic: by example.” I am certainly a believer that eating and exercise habits are learned, perhaps through my own personal experience, and that it is important for parents to set healthy examples. At least Bruni offers a feasible suggestion to help solve the problem of disordered eating, one that could apply to both obesity and unhealthy diet restriction.

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I Love You, Eggs

Eggs: Perfect in their simplicity

Eggs: Perfect in their simplicity

After my rant a couple weeks ago about how gross I think green peppers are and why, I thought I might write a post about one of my favorite foods to maintain some semblance of positivity. I didn’t have to think twice about the topic: eggs were my answer.

Eggs are fantastic for a number of reasons: they’re cheap, healthy, easy to make, taste great, and can be combined with lots of different ingredients and cooked in many different ways depending on individual taste. Basically, eggs are the perfect food.

I like eggs cooked all different ways: over easy with a nice runny yolk, scrambled, in a frittata, in an omelet, boiled and poached on toast, to name a few. My favorite way to make an egg meal for myself is to make a vegetable scramble. I chop any vegetables that I have in my refrigerator and sauté them in olive oil on medium heat. I like to use a wide variety of vegetables in every scramble including, but not limited to, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, avocado, and kalamata olives. I then take one whole egg and two egg whites and scramble them in a bowl. Next, I add shredded cheese, usually feta, goat, or sharp cheddar, to the eggs and mix well. Once the vegetables are almost completely cooked, I turn the heat way down to low heat (this is KEY to decent eggs) and add the scrambled eggs, distributing the vegetables into the runny egg. Every so often I stir the eggs in the pan so that they cook evenly and none of the eggs are cooked too much. A few minutes later, I sprinkle some salt and pepper on them and have a delicious and nutritious meal.

Eggs are obviously great for breakfast, but for me, they are the ultimate comfort food. If I’ve had a long day and I don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen but need to eat something before I crawl into bed, an egg scramble is the way to go.

Eggs have recently gotten a fair amount of praise from celebrity chefs and food writers. I loved what Mark Bittman did in his recipe posting and corresponding podcast, “More-Vegetable-Than-Egg Frittata.” This really exemplifies how eggs can be used not as the main focus of a dish, but as a component to maintain texture and form, a strategy that I employ in my vegetable-heavy scrambles. In Eric Ripert’s post on his visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, he gushes about the soft boiled egg he ate (farm fresh, of course) that had been perfectly cooked in a circulator bath set at 61.9 degrees. Here, Ripert shows that although eggs are nothing new, the art of egg-cooking is continually advancing. Simple as eggs are, the possibilities are endless.

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Neyla: Ehhh, I Blame Restaurant Week

                I really like Restaurant Week in theory: top restaurants offer discounted prix fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner, giving people on limited budgets the opportunity to try places with expensive reputations. I enjoy the Restaurant Week buzz—browsing menus, organizing big group dinners with friends, reading recommendations—because it is fun and social. However, I find myself consistently disappointed with the whole experience, both in New York and DC, and this year was no exception.

                I am not the first person to feel this way about the Restaurant Week tradition. It seems as though everyone remotely interested in the DC food scene has an opinion about Restaurant Week. Other nay-sayers agree that the menus are often dumbed down and that the $35 dinner price tag is frequently not that much of a bargain. I would think that restaurants would want to put their best foot forward to impress the restaurant week patron so that he or she would want to come back for a full-priced meal. It is unfortunate that so many restaurants fail to do this, leaving some restaurant week-goers feeling like they were tricked into buying a mediocre meal.

                Because of my overall negative feelings toward the institution of Restaurant Week, I was hesitant to write this post about my Restaurant Week visit to one of my favorite restaurants in DC, Neyla. I recommended Neyla to a group of friends who wanted to try somewhere new in the spirit of Restaurant Week because I had been to Neyla many times before and was always very happy with my experience. While the regular a la carte menu at Neyla is not outrageously expensive, I still thought it would be a good choice considering its consistency in the past and the Restaurant Week menu offerings (main course options included two of my favorite dishes to order out, short rib and sea bass). Neyla is also a great place to go with a big group; they have big round tables (much better for conversation than rectangle ones) both out on the pleasant outdoor patio and in the funkier main dining room inside.  

Neyla's exotic interior reflects its flavorful Lebanese food

Neyla's exotic interior reflects its flavorful Lebanese food

                I’m puzzled as to why Nelya hasn’t gotten more recognition in DC. It has really good Lebanese food in the heart of Georgetown at the intersection of N and Wisconsin. I barely ever read about it, especially compared to the oft-buzzed about Zaytinya. Their beet salad (although I think they might have changed it) was at one point a beautiful mound of red and golden beats tossed with creamy goat cheese. It was perhaps the best I’ve ever had. My sister, who is also a big lamb fan, once shared the most extraordinarily tender leg of lamb with me off of the list of specials there.  Neyla also has a very extensive and delicious tasting list of classics including hommus, tabouleh, baba ghannoug, and grape leaves. Their complementary lebneh, which they serve with zatar spiced pita toasts and olives, is creamy, garlic-y, and delicious. The wine list, including a variety of Lebanese choices, is extensive. They even have a belly dancer.

                But my Restaurant Week meal was just ehhh. I started with the tuna tartare tabouleh, and the tuna was not great, in both quality and quantity. My friend’s chicken in filo dough appetizer was much more substantial, though also a little bland. I shared both the sea bass and the short rib. Both were decent, but not as interesting as I’d hope considering Neyla’s usually exotic flavors. The desserts were pretty bad. This, for me, is generally Restaurant Week’s downfall. Why don’t they include desserts that would be featured on the full-price menu? The macaroons I ordered tasted like they came from a tin; they paled in comparison to dappervan’s. The sorbet just tasted like standard grocery store sorbet.

                So, go to Neyla. Just not for Restaurant Week. And if anyone knows a truly great place for Restaurant Week next time around, let me know.  I have yet to be impressed.

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