Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bourbon's Rise

There's a good piece over at NPR about the continuing trendiness of bourbon--the tastings, the festivals, the tourists following the "Kentucky Bourbon Trail".

Interesting fact from the story: with 4.7 million (!) barrels of bourbon aging in warehouses, there are now more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than there are people (4.3 million).

And that suggests that when the bourbon bubble bursts (as I predict it will), there's going to be a huge glut on the market and bourbon is going to get really, really cheap.  Just my own little prediction . . .

Monday, September 26, 2011

How Low Can You Go?

So, for several years now we've had chefs trading in their toques for overalls and opening barbecue stands--so long, in fact, that I think I've typed "chefs trading in their toques for overalls" at least a half dozen times and better find a new phrase.  Then it was gourmet burgers.  Then high-end tacos, often served from rolling trucks.

Now we're on to hot dogs, with Richard Blais's (yes, the Top Chef guy's) HD1--as Broderick reports in a Savory Exposure post with some really sharp pics--just one of the latest incarnation of the gourmet hotdog stand.

I'm trying to think of what cuisine could be lower than the hot dog?  The peanut butter and jelly?  The grilled cheese?  Sorry, that's already been done: so 2007.  Can't be macaroni and cheese--chefs have been making mac n cheese with gouda and fontina and even big chunks of lobster for years now.  Real ramen, we have learned in recent years from those noodle bars popping up all over the place, is SO much better than that packaged crap we ate in college.

I'm dragging the bottom of the barrel here: Slim Jims?  Vienna sausages?  Potted meat?

Surely potted meat is the lowest of the low.  Has anyone run into a gourmet version at a hipster food truck yet?

If not, it's only a matter of time.

You heard it here first.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

More BBQ Scandal

Porky Le Swine over at BBQ Jew makes a trenchant point about the ever-widening Rick Perry BBQ/Roadkill scandal: in his comments, Perry is effectively admitting that he eats roadkill!

Maybe in Texas, Rick.  But, really, do we want flattened armadillos being served at state dinners?

This is getting more and more disturbing with each passing day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

BBQ Politics Goes Viral

My fellow barbecue historians John Shelton and Dale Reed (authors of the wonderful Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue) have a knack for turning a phrase.  Now they've gone viral thanks to an anecdote about Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry's allegedly saying back in 1992 after sampling the offering at a certain North Carolina barbecue joint: "I've had road kill that tasted better than that."

Google that phrase about roadkill, and you'll see hundreds of hits already in just the two days since the Raleigh News & Observer broke the story (and racked up 139 comments on their site already).  I'm happy to dribble a little more oil on the flames!

No response yet from the Perry campaign, but this is the kind of scandal that could wreck a campaign.  Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taking a Poke at the Bourbon Fans

Over the past year or so, I've become an advocate of rum as the true historical drink of the South, and I've had fun taking a few pot shots at the trendiness of bourbon along the way.  In my latest piece on rum for the Charleston City Paper I review the new locally-distilled Sea Island spiced rum from from the guys at Wadmalaw Island's Firefly Distillery (the same ones who created the sweet tea vodka a couple of years ago).   I held off for most of the piece, but couldn't help throwing in a little dig at bourbon in the last paragraph of the piece:

If there was ever a time for Southern foodies to end their unnatural fascination with bourbon and return to their good old rum roots, that time is now. And what better way to get started than with a distinctively local product like Sea Island Rum?

So, imagine my surprise, when I opened the City Paper yesterday (or, to be more accurate, pulled it up in my web browser) and saw my editor had taken a few liberties and moved my poke at bourbon to the opening paragraph!

But, I'm actually pleased with the emendations, even if it gives the piece a little more of a controversial slant.  Bourbon, fans, you're on notice!  Rum, the original Southern liquor, is on the rise!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Google Buys Zagat

Yesterday it was announced that Google was buying Zagat, which struck me as interesting since Zagat and its maroon-covered guidebooks seem like such an orphan in these days--stuck somewhere between the old fashioned printed expert guidebooks like Michelin's and the new freewheeling social opinion sites like Yelp.

It vaguely occurred to me that Zagat probably has a website, but if I had ever visited it before I don't remember doing so.  And when I navigated over the to check it out, I can see why I never used it before.

First, it's a pay site that lets you get a basic listing of restaurants but not see any ratings without buying a subscription, which seems doomed in this day of free sites.  Second, the "Related Buzz" column on the right hand side (which showed when I searched for restaurants in "Charleston SC") has an old story from back in March  about Tony Bourdain and Kat Kinsman having a slap flight over food writers (not really "buzz" if it's six years old, guys) that seems in no way related to the search.

Things are no more relevant if you, for example, search for "pizza" in "Atlanta".  "Buzz" from May about a pizza restaurant opening in Baltimore is not useful to someone looking to each pizza in Atlanta, Georgia.  Maybe a little search expertise will help . . .

Zagat's pay-wall model had another interesting downside: it made it harder for people to find content on the site, since it would show up very high on Google searches. (That'll probably change soon . . .)

I'm sure Google will manage to take the reader-generated content and put it to some sort of good use, but the deal is interesting for other reasons.  Apparently, the New York Times story reveals, the Zagats courted Google pretty aggressively and not the other way around.

My favorite line from the article, quoting an analyst: "It's a little bit of a consolation prize." Two years ago Google made a failed half-billion dollar bid to acquire Yelp, the top online restaurant review site.

It should get interesting over the next few months . . .

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