Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Food Writer's Diary end-of-year poll

December 15

I have one final poll for you this year, asking your favorite and least favorite food trends in 2010. I’ve listed on the right what seem to me to be probably the five biggest food trends of the year (I welcome disagreement, of course; feel free to berate and chastise me in the comment section below). Please select the one you like the best (whatever that means to you) and the one you hope not to see in 2011.

Thank you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eat this, not that, or maybe eat all of it

December 13

I just wanted to quickly paste a link to Men’s Health’s “20 Worst Foods in America.”

I’m not linking to it to tell you what foods to avoid. I think you should eat whatever you like, and if you want to try to stay reasonably healthy it makes sense to eat a balanced diet and get some exercise.

That, however, will in no way keep you from getting hit by a bus or falling victim to whatever congenital conditions you might have, or prevent cancer (it might cut down on your chances of getting cancer, although it depends).

But the reason I wanted to post that link is because some chain restaurant executives have told me that getting your food highlighted as being bad for you actually can be a boon to sales.

They’re not sure whether that’s because people want to say “You’re not the boss of me,” to Men’s Health or because just mentioning those dishes gives people a craving for them, but they’ve definitely seen sales go up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Drinks at PDT (and way more information than you need to know about the house I grew up in)

December 10

Kim Yorio definitely didn’t know what she was getting into when she invited me to have drinks with her and Holly Arnold Kinney at PDT. She didn’t even remember that I was from Colorado.

Holly and I vaguely remembered meeting one another a few years ago at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen — we’re not exactly certain of the circumstances, but we’re pretty sure that Ti Martin was there — and I knew that my father had been friends with her father, legendary restaurateur Sam Arnold of The Fort.

Oh, but there was so much more.

It turned out that my dad, Bill Thorn, had been involved in producing a documentary about her dad and The Fort in the 1960s, and we also learned that Holly had been to the house where I grew up in Denver many times.

My parents had bought the house some years before we moved in, and for a couple of years their tenant was the Divine Light Mission, a religious offshoot of Hinduism whose followers did a lot of meditating.

Holly was in the Divine Light Mission as a young mother in the early 1970s, and she frequented the house, which had been turned into an ashram.

“That’s a great house!” she said, and so we were instantly friends, because it’s nice to say positive things about someone’s childhood home.

It is, conversely, mean to say negative things about someone’s childhood home. It’s important to remember that.

I’m pretty sure Kim thought we were going to talk about Holly’s new cookbook, which is also a sort of mémoire and history of The Fort, where Holly also lived, above the restaurant, in her early years.

Before Kim got to PDT, Holly and I actually did look through the book in our booth at the back of the bar. She showed me pictures of her pet bear, Sissy, a 6'5" 700-pound black bear that used to take naps with her. So Sam Arnold called his daughter “she who sleeps with bears.”

“She had been de-clawed,” Holly told me, as if that made it safe. She said the stuffed bear that’s part of PDT’s décor upset her a bit.

Anyway, the bear lived at The Fort for something like 19 years without serious incident, although Holly said it did occasionally startle customers who wandered out back.

Holly’s father and mine also both died at the same age, 79. Sam died a few years ago, and my dad died last year.

After he died, my mother, living alone with her two dogs in the former ashram, was left with the question of what to do with the house.

It looked almost certain that my brother and his family would move in, but instead the house is now once again a home of communal living.

My mom is now renting rooms to an adorable group of hippie-esque 20-somethings who write poetry and form drum circles and work for recycling companies and make chalk drawings on the sidewalk outside.

They sit around and drink wine and talk about ideas, and I just want to put them all in my pocket and take them home, except they’re already there.

The picture at the beginning of this entry is of Plus Randomity by Ron Kessinger. The picture was taken by Nick Orf, one of my mom’s housemates, a street performer and just a sweetheart of a guy. It’s emblematic of cool things in the house.

Randomity is a term from Scientology that as far as I can tell pretty much means “randomness.” I’m not sure why they used the -ity suffix, but they didn’t ask me.

So Plus Randomity basically means “sensory overload.” As you can probably see in the picture, it’s a giant horn with strings and a drum attached, and you can make a lot of noise with it.

The mobile in the bell is actually an addition made by my mother.

What I drank at PDT (descriptions graciously sent to me by the enduringly affable boss of PDT, James Meehan, because I was too rapt in conversation to take notes):

Karlsson’s Vodka, Swedish Punsch, Dill,
Black Pepper Essence

Jim Meehan created this old-fashioned style
cocktail spiked with punsch, herbs and spice
after visiting the Bjäre Peninsula in southern
Sweden where the golden potatoes used to make
Karlsson’s vodka are grown.

Sombra Mezcal, Lime Juice, Passion Fruit
Purée, House Ginger Beer, Cucumber, Chili

A backyard barbeque in a glass, this spicy passion
fruit and cucumber buck gets its smoky quality from
mezcal distilled from agaves roasted in a handmade
underground oven heated by wood-fired stones.