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« August 6, 2006 - August 12, 2006 | Main | August 20, 2006 - August 26, 2006 »

August 17, 2006

To salt or not to salt

The controversy over salt spills on and on. Salt Salt.jpg
has been used for centuries to season and preserve food. In fact, as Mark Kurlansky wrote in his 2002 book "Salt," it was so valuable in ancient societies that it was often used as money. But since the middle of the last century, medical authorities have fretted over its effect on cardiovascular health.

Earlier this summer, the American Medical Association called for the food industry to cut down on salt in processed foods and suggested salt warnings. Americans ingest about two teaspoons of salt a day, says Dr. Emily Senay, when the AMA thinks one teaspoon would be better. Meanwhile, the Salt Institute is complaining that salt is being unfairly cast in a villainous light.

Throw into this controversy the fact that artisanal salt is the darling of the gourmet world, and you can see there's been a lot of, shall we say, salt spilt. However, there is one clear-headed way to look at the situation. When you cook yourself, you know how much salt you're eating. That's often not the case in processed foods. So buyer (or rather eater) beware.

Posted by Alison Arnett at 03:39 PM
August 17, 2006

Which loo?

Our foursome at the new Oishii in the South End knew that there was no sign on the outside of the restaurant (you only know it's there because of the valet sign). And when someone returned from the restrooms with this comment: "Be sure you use the restrooms before you leave," we knew we were in for another signage situation.

First the food: Omigod! This sushi is remarkable, and the incredibly dramatic look of the bar and dining will be the subject of a future blog.

Back to the loos. There are three, each with a sign on the door, if you want to call them signs. (After two glasses of wine, just give up and go inside one. The doors have locks.) One sign is a vertical squiggle with a bulge at the top and middle -- the bulges go in different directions. Another is a vertical line with an off-center horizontal bar. A third, also a vertical line, has a kind of half-moon cluster of wavy fluting on one side.

Which is which? You'll have to stop by!

Posted by Sheryl Julian at 12:40 PM
August 15, 2006

Dining on oysters on Long Island

A favorite Globe editor, who is a foodie, went wandering around Long Island last weekend and had lunch at Scrimshaw, The Waterside Restaurant. She and her husband sat at tables that were so close to the water, she said, that if she dropped her napkin, it would have gone into the drink. Lunch began with divine oysters and an Asian mignonette sauce. The restaurant bottles and sells the sauce, but she thinks she's figured out what it is: essentially rice vinegar and crushed pink peppercorns.

French mignonette, which is the classic accompaniment to freshly shucked oysters -- along with Chablis, of course -- is typically a mixture of white wine vinegar and shallots. It has the affect of perfectly complimenting the sea taste that you get from slurping oysters.

After lunch, said the editor, they stopped by a Long Island vineyard and drank some bad wine. They should have quit while they were ahead.

Posted by Sheryl Julian at 07:27 PM
August 15, 2006

TV chef on the move

TV superstars like Mario Batali just can't get enough exposure. At least, that's what I surmise from the promotional e-mails I receive.


Batali, shown here in a photo from, has his spoon in at least four and counting New York restaurants, a TV show, cookware, and clogs. In the last couple years, he has roared into NASCAR . Even though the concept sounds like a disconnect -- axle grease and olive oil, exhaust fumes and fine cuisine -- Batali is game. He's got a cookbook, "Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style." He appears at NASCAR events. On Aug 19, he's judging a cooking competition at a NASCAR tailgate party for 35,000 at Michigan International Speedway.

Maybe the five contestants could cook burgers on top of race car engines zooming around the track. That would be a true test of a driver's skill.

Posted by Alison Arnett at 05:17 PM
August 14, 2006

Porch dining at its finest

Last evening, I was lucky enough to be eating a later summer feast while watching wisps of clouds turn pink and lavender over the Bass River in West Dennis. sunset.jpg For this exquisite late summer feast on Helen Sullivan's deck, we ate succulent lobster removed from the shell, some steamers, and corn.

To go with the treat of as much lobster as we wanted, my daughter Nora and I quickly made up a salad. She whisked a vinaigrette with red wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh tarragon, salt, and pepper. I chopped 1/3 cup red onion, about the same amount of red bell pepper, and about 2 tablespoons of jalapeno pepper. As she tossed the vinaigrette, the vegetables, and 2 cans of chick peas, I spread mixed lettuces on a platter, then added 1/2 cup each of sliced radishes and cucumbers, and the chick pea salad. Sprigs of tarragon embellished the top.

The simple salad rounded out the meal beautifully. We finished the steamers and lobster as the sky turned velvety midnight blue, and ended with coffee and bites of Helen's fudgy brownies. Summer memories don't get much better.

Posted by Alison Arnett at 05:53 PM
August 14, 2006

Remember the wait staff

Restaurant Week -- this summer it runs for two weeks -- starts today. For many diners, it's a great time to sample places that might be too expensive otherwise. At $20.06 for lunch and $30.06 for dinner, the meals can be a bargain. But it's only fair to remember that these bargains mean the wait staff is working on discount, too.

If you're spending $30 on a dinner that would normally cost you $60, you might want to be generous on the tip. Think at least 20 percent and maybe more. It's no less work to wait or bus tables during Restaurant Week(s) than any other time.

Otherwise, you might recognize yourself on one of those websites where waitpeople vent their rage about "evil" owners, bad tippers, and other villains in the world of restaurants.

Posted by Alison Arnett at 12:33 PM
August 14, 2006

Grilling in, not on, cedar


For dinner last night I pulled out some cedar grilling papers I bought on sale at Williams-Sonoma recently. The idea had intrigued me, something of a cross between plank-grilling and "en papillote," the French technique for steaming in paper. With these, you easily roll the sturdy paper (which is like flexible cardboard made of cedar) around meat, fish, or fruit, and plop it on the grill. I followed a recipe included in the packet for halibut or salmon topped with a vibrant mix of shiitake mushrooms, carrots, scallions, garlic, ginger, and soy (and left out the sake because I didn't have any). I tied off the packages with scallions and put over an indirect fire on my Weber. The result was moist halibut delicately perfumed with wood smoke. I worried about the expense of such a method -- the papers are no longer available at W-S but sold here and here for more than $1 apiece -- but turns out they're reusable, at least until they get too charred.

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