School lunch gets an upgrade
March 29th, 2010
01:41 PM ET
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Advocates for improved school nutrition hope the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a bill cleared for a final vote by the Senate this past Wednesday, might pave the way for lunch programs across the country to replicate the success of a deliciously successful pilot project in Berkeley, California.

The School Lunch Initiative provides "delicious, healthy, freshly prepared meals using seasonal ingredients from sustainable farms to all of Berkeley's public school students." It grew from Uber-celebrity chef Alice Waters' proposal to build a football field-sized garden at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Waters is an authority on the locavore movement, which encourages the consumption of food that's produced within a 100-mile radius.

"It's an incredible program," said Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District. "We don't use any frozen stuff at all. Even when you're looking at pizza, you're looking at really good stuff."

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Filed under: Bite • Ingredients • Products • Trends

March 26th, 2010
01:45 PM ET
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"You are now free to advertise about the cabin."

It started with elevator commercials and "Interactive Urinal Communicators." Now the battle for brandable spaces is reaching new heights - 35,000 feet to be exact.

Brand in the Hand, a California-based company, offers third-party advertisers the opportunity to repurpose snack bags, beverage cups, cocktail napkins and other on board consumables into promotional vehicles.

The benefits of a captive audience have not escaped the company's clients. "The in-flight consumer has always been very receptive to advertising," said Darrin Sarto, Director of Brand in the Hand.

With roughly 600 million travelers flying in the United States in 2009, Sarto said, the concept was such an obvious publicity medium - "a hand-delivered billboard every time."

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Filed under: Bite • Sip • Travel

Latest high-fructose corn syrup study generates buzz, debate
March 25th, 2010
01:37 PM ET
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Acolytes of "Food Rules" guru Michael Pollan and other well-meaning foodies who've made corn a scapegoat for the nation's health crises have welcomed a new study from Princeton University that suggests high-fructose corn syrup causes more significant weight gain than table sugar.

But the findings have been criticized by food science experts and industry veterans, who say the study unfairly demonizes corn syrup and implicitly absolves cane sugar of responsibility for making Americans fat.

"The debate about which one is better for you is a false debate, because neither of them is good for you," says Elizabeth Abbott, author of the forthcoming "Sugar: A Bittersweet History."

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Filed under: Bite • Health News • News • Products

Cupcake passion more than a trend
March 23rd, 2010
01:32 PM ET
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Can we please stop calling the nation's love affair with cupcakes a trend?

Last week, Detroit, Michigan, was the latest city to declare "the nostalgic cupcake craze is prepared for a long stay," echoing a Houston, Texas, Chronicle story from February that heralded "the nostalgic mini treats are a food trend that's here to stay."

These cities are the latest to forget that the cupcake craze took fire more than a decade ago when "Sex and the City" popularized New York's Magnolia Bakery and its sugary treats.

"I don't know how long it takes for a trend to end and become mainstream, but apparently we've established an industry," Magnolia founder Jennifer Appel told The Associated Press last year.

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Filed under: Bite • Trends

Vegetarian activists try in-your-face tactics
March 22nd, 2010
01:28 PM ET
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Not content to sit quietly at home eating their tofu cutlets, more and more vegetarians, it seems, are taking action, trying to get the carnivorous masses to change their ways.

Of course, the meat-free have been trying to win people over to their cause since the time of Pythagoras. But lately, activists are trying more in-your-face tactics.

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A 'dude' explains why salad is 'man food'
March 22nd, 2010
01:00 PM ET
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Real men eat salads. I know this because I am a dude. Right now, in my fridge, I have five bottles of hot sauce, a jar of Cheez Whiz and half a pack of hot dogs. But recently I went to lunch with a couple of buds, and I ordered a salad. I ordered it hard.

It was a basic frissée salad with bacon, shallots and a poached egg, tossed in a light vinaigrette. Frissée is a curly, toothsome leaf, bitter enough to balance bacon and egg but still possessed of a pleasant spring.

My friends laughed at me. They pointed. One ordered a burger, the other fried calamari. I was chastised for not eating "man food."

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Filed under: Beer • Bite • Cuisines • Culture • Salad • Sip

Nominees for 'Oscars of the food world'
March 22nd, 2010
12:57 PM ET
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The James Beard Foundation Awards are often referred to as the "Oscars of the food world," but the honorees are more frequently photographed in chefs' whites and clogs than tuxes and red carpet couture, and they're hounded for hot dish from diners rather than the staff of TMZ.

The awards - established in 1990 by the nonprofit that bears the name of one of America's founding food writers and cooks - honor chefs, food journalists, restaurateurs, cookbook authors, restaurant designers and architects who have achieved excellence in the food and beverage field.

While the journalism, media and cookbook categories call for self-nomination (and an entry fee), anyone can suggest a chef or restaurant via the foundation's Web site,, during an open call in the fall.

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Filed under: Bite • Celebrity Chefs • Cook • News • Restaurants

Should celebrity chefs stick to stand-and-stir shows?
March 17th, 2010
01:55 PM ET
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Self-proclaimed "Kulinary Gangsta" (no, seriously - he has a tattoo and everything) and Food Network phenom Guy Fieri failed to catch fire with audiences in his prime-time major network debut.

Variety reports that NBC's "Minute to Win It" - a distinctly non-"kulinary" game show that challenges competitors to master stunts like one-handed tissue-box emptying and re-stacking plastic cups - "didn't put up great overall numbers from 7 to 9 p.m." on Sunday but rallied slightly against other networks' programming at the 8:30 p.m. mark.

Lukewarm ratings might not relegate most shows to the trash bin, but given how this one underperformed after being so heavily promoted via pricey Winter Olympics commercial breaks, popular food blogs like "Eater" are already predicting the show's cancellation.

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