Food and Drink

Roberto Ferdman reports:

Ratner has a new study titled ‘Inhibited from Bowling Alone,’ a nod to Robert Putnam’s book about Americans’ waning participation in group activities, that’s set to publish in the Journal of Consumer Research in August. In it, she and co-writer Rebecca Hamilton, a professor marketing at the McDonough School of Business, describe their findings: that people consistently underestimate how much they will enjoy seeing a show, going to a museum, visiting a theater, or eating at a restaurant alone. That miscalculation, she argues, is only becoming more problematic, because people are working more, marrying later, and, ultimately, finding themselves with smaller chunks of free time.

Might part of the problem be narcissism?:

“The reason is we think we won’t have fun because we’re worried about what other people will think,” said Ratner. “We end up staying at home instead of going out to do stuff because we’re afraid others will think they’re a loser.”

But other people, as it turns out, actually aren’t thinking about us quite as judgmentally or intensely as we tend to anticipate. Not nearly, in fact. There’s a long line of research that shows how consistently and regularly we overestimate others’ interest in our affairs.

There is more here.  For the pointer I thank Claire Morgan.

And not just if you are drunk:

When consumers taste cheap wine and rate it highly because they believe it is expensive, is it because prejudice has blinded them to the actual taste, or has prejudice actually changed their brain function, causing them to experience the cheap wine in the same physical way as the expensive wine? Research in the Journal of Marketing Research has shown that preconceived beliefs may create a placebo effect so strong that the actual chemistry of the brain changes.

Related experiments were run with milkshakes, by Hilke Plassmann and Bernd Weber.  There is more here, of considerable interest, hat tip goes to Samir Varma.  Do any of you know of an ungated copy?

This new article asks how much placebos are affected by your DNA.

Dogfish Head, for example, has Chicha – a native corn beer that is chewed by the brewers and spit out before being brewed (and boiled – so it’s sterile). The saliva, say the brewers, has enzymes that convert the starches in the corns to sugar.

Earlier this month, Barrels and Bottles Brewery in Golden, CO offered an extra special bitter that was brewed with Peeps, the colored marshmallow candy that marks the Easter season. (90 of them, to be specific.) And just last week, New Belgium teamed up with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to announce plans to produce a Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale (which will go on sale this fall).

…The newly crowned king of stunt beers is Iceland’s Brugghús Steðja. In January, the microbrewery introduced Hvalur 2 – a 5.2% ABV seasonal ale that incorporates the testicles of fin whales into the brewing process. And, believe it or not, that’s not the weirdest part of the ingredient list.

“We consider this beer to be in perfect style of [the Thorri] season,” says Dagbjartur Arilíusson, Steðji’s co-owner. “We get fresh whale testicles from a fin whale and we smoke it in an old Icelandic tradition way, smoked with dry sheep dung.”

There is more here, via the excellent Samir Varma.

What was once one of America’s most iconic and popular chains is now down to just two locations. According to NPR, one of the last three Howard Johnson’s restaurants closed its doors this week. Located in Lake Placid, N.Y., the restaurant opened in April of 1956. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the owners of the Lake Placid location are getting old and their children are “not interested” in taking over. So, they sold the restaurant to new owners who plan to turn the building into a “high-end roadside diner.”

Via the excellent Mark Thorson, there is more here.  You can read the Yelp reviews here.

3-D printed food

by on April 25, 2015 at 1:24 am in Food and Drink, Web/Tech | Permalink

Marijn Roovers’ epicurean delights have graced the tables of some of the Netherlands’ finest restaurants. But the food designer’s Chocolate Globe is his most intricate — and technologically advanced — creation. A chocolate shell just 0.8 millimetres thick is embossed in gold with the chocolate’s continent of origin, and it holds delicacies that symbolize the region.

Roovers and chef Wouter van Laarhoven printed it — layer-by-layer of chocolate — on a 3D printer. Roovers is at the forefront of a small group of gourmets and technophiles who want to revolutionize how food is prepared. On 21 April, they will gather in the Netherlands for the first conference dedicated to the 3D printing of food.

But do note this:

3D food printers tend to be slow: Roovers’ chocolate globes, for example, currently take about an hour to print. To prepare one per guest in a restaurant with 40 patrons would take almost 2 days of continuous printing. “It’s not very realistic,” he says. “At the moment it’s a way to show craftsmanship.”

Then there is the matter of texture. Most 3D printers work with either pastes or powders, so the resulting food tends to be mushy, says Julian Sing, founder of 3DChef, a firm near Tilburg, Netherlands, that specializes in 3D printing of sugar. “The food needs to have the right texture,” he says. “It needs to look like food and not like slop.”

There is more here, via Michelle Dawson.

Go to the mercado in Valladolid, right off the main square, and sample as many dishes as possible.  Don’t hesitate to use the spicy black sauce.  That is the single best introduction to Yucatan cuisine I know of.

Mérida offers a more urbanized variant, with influences from Cuba (the tortas) and Lebanon (kibi, which is like kibbeh).  The town has many bad restaurants, go eat at Punto y Coma, a loncheria inside one of the markets, taxi drivers seem to know where it is.  Ask for their specialties, and don’t miss Sopa de Lima.

In Cancún, get yourself to El Centro, away from the tourist hotels.  If you are stuck on the strip, Tempo offers ten courses for less than $50, the founder chef is from San Sebastian and I would put the quality at that of a Michelin two-star.  Otherwise look for small places selling fish tacos.

El cenote Samula was created by the meteor which did in the dinosaurs, today you can swim there.  The open air restaurants to its side were the best meal so far.

I will be speaking at the Voice and Exit Festival in Austin, Texas, June 20-21. Voice and Exit is like a TED conference on steroids, an edgier, more radical TED. It looks like a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.

Here is a bit from V&A:

imageWe assemble those who ask: What are the systems and ways of life that are holding us back? What can we create to make those old ways obsolete? What innovations enable us to find wellbeing, life meaning and stronger connection to others? How can we live intentionally today so as to create that better future? Voice & Exit is an environment of exploration where we “criticize by creating” a better world.

Karkarmar: It was clear that shoppers who brought their own bags were more likely to replace nonorganic versions of goods like milk with organic versions. So one green action led to another. But those same people were also more likely to buy foods like ice cream, chips, candy bars, and cookies. They weren’t replacing other items with junk food, as they did with organic food. They were just adding it to their carts.

The full story is here, via Peter Metrinko.

Bleg for Cancun, Mexico

by on April 6, 2015 at 11:32 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

Your answers here will help everyone at APEE, so please tell us what else should one do besides the usual?  Where is the truly good food to be had, including cocina economica?  I thank you all in advance for your assistance.

Bleg for Merida, Mexico

by on April 6, 2015 at 11:31 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

I haven’t been there for thirty years, what do you all recommend for a short stay?  And where can we find good marquesitas, pib x’catik, caballeros pobres, pucheros, and chancletas?  Among other delicious treats.

How to find good Iranian food

by on April 3, 2015 at 11:54 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

I hardly ever blog Iran, most of all because I’ve never been there, but perhaps the time has come to serve up the meager amount I do know about the place.  Let’s start with food, here are a few propositions about Iranian food, at least as it is found in the West:

1. Choose a restaurant which has a diversity of rices, such as zereskh polo (rice with barberries).  Or sour cherry rice.  The rice you order is a more important decision than the kabob you order.  Personally, I like to commit the heresy of loading up a tart rice with a gooey yogurt concoction, such as Mast-o-Mosir, spellings on that one will vary greatly.

2. Choose a restaurant with koreshes, namely stews.  The kabobs get boring, Afghan kabobs in this country are usually better anyway, so over time you should end up getting the stews in a Persian restaurant.

3. It is very hard to find Iranian restaurants in the United States which break from the usual medley of offerings.  The good news is that there are very few bad Iranian restaurants around.

4. The best Iranian restaurants in this country are probably those in and near Westwood, Los Angeles, not far from UCLA.

5. If you get Iranian bread, it looks boring.  But load it up with the spicy green sauce, butter, and yes sliced onion.  Then it’s really yummy.  Don’t be put off if your bread shows up cold and embedded in plastic wrap, just add the condiments and it will be yummy.

6. I always like the soups, but in this country opt for “minty” over “barley.”

7. Iranian food in Germany and London is also quite good, I don’t think I have had it elsewhere.

8.  Buying fesenjan sauce out of a can and cooking with it is much tastier than you might think.  This is super-easy and inexpensive.  Fesenjan sauce, in case you don’t know, is a kind of walnut and pomegranate mix, for you vegans it works OK with tofu.

9. At the end of writing this post, my own googling led me to a 2009 post I had written on the same topic but had forgotten about completely, it is here if you wish to compare.  If nothing else, it shows my views on Iranian food are pretty consistent over time, as is the food itself.

Colin M. MacLachlan, in his splendid Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture, reports:

1. Corn gruel and tamales were reinforced with fish, seeds of various kinds, fruit, and honey.

2. Beans were supplemented with meat from iguanas, armadillos, and rabbits.

3. The calcium content of corn was (and still is) increased by alkaline cooking with lime (“nixtamalization,” duh).

4. “Pulque” has “substantial food value,” “whether fermented or fresh.”

5. Dried red maguey worms have 71 percent protein.

6. Axayacatl (a species of aquatic insect sometimes called “water boatmen“) have 68.7% protein.

7. Mesquite pods and seeds have high caloric value.

8.”Tecuitlatl (spirulina), the green scum collected from lakes with high saltwater content, was sold in the market to be eaten with chilies and tomatoes and has been shown to be a modern wonder food.”

As you can see, the world of food really could have evolved along very different lines.

I also enjoyed this line from the book:

The fundamental belief that the gods sacrificed themselves to create the Earth and continued to do so to sustain it locked the gods and humans into a circular dependency — a relationship characterized by fearful respect coupled with regulated violence.

Definitely recommended, and oh yes that reminds me, here is the livestream for my chat later today with Peter Thiel.

I may not follow any of your suggestions, but just thought I should ask for advice, for my dialogue with Peter next week.  I am the interviewer, he is the interviewee, more or less.  #CowenThiel

One of the most remarkable discoveries of economics is that under the right conditions competitive markets allocate production across firms in just that way that minimizes the total costs of production. (You can find a discussion of this remarkable property in Modern Principles. See also this MRU video.)

One of the necessary conditions for this result is that firms must face the same input and output prices. If one firm is subsidized and another taxed, for example, then resources will be misallocated and total costs will increase. In a pioneering paper, Klenow and Hsieh measure misallocation across firms in China, India and the United States and they find that micro misallocations can have large, macroeconomic effects. In particular, if capital and labor were allocated as well in China and India as they are in the United States then output in those countries would double.

We can get some intuition for the costs of resource misallocation by looking at water in California. As you may have noticed at the grocery store, almonds are in demand right now whether raw or in almond milk. Asian demand for almonds is also up. As a result, in the last 10 years almond production in California has doubled. That’s great, except for the fact that almond production uses a huge amount of water and water in CA is severely mispriced and thus misallocated.

In my previous post, I pointed out that agriculture uses 80% of the water in California but accounts for less than 2% of the economy. So how much water does almond production alone use? More water is used in almond production than is used by all the residents and businesses of San Francisco and Los Angeles combined. Here’s a chart from Mother Jones:

(Aside: Some of this water is naturally recycled so net use is likely somewhat lower but a lot of water in California is now being pumped from the aquifer and that water isn’t being replenished.)

At the same time as farmers are watering their almonds, San Diego is investing in an energy-intensive billion-dollar desalination plant which will produce water at a much higher cost than the price the farmer are paying.  That is a massive and costly misallocation of water.

In short, we are spending thousands of dollars worth of water to grow hundreds of dollars worth of almonds and that is truly nuts.

Hat tip: Walter Olson.

When Medolac Laboratories, a competitor of Prolacta, said last year that it wanted to buy milk from women in Detroit, it was accused of profiting at the expense of black women.

“We are deeply concerned that women will be coerced into diverting milk that they would otherwise feed their own babies,” the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association wrote in an open letter in January. Medolac, which said it was working with the Clinton Foundation and wanted to encourage breast-feeding by making it financially attractive, abandoned its plan.

The article, by Andrew Pollack, is interesting throughout. And here is Wikipedia on the history of wet nurses.

For the pointer I thank Pam R.