Monday, October 23, 2006

Domaine Saint-Damien Les Souteyrades Gigondas 2003

We picked up some lamb shoulder this weekend, and I braised it tonight in red wine, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and celery. Sadly the store was out of baguettes, so much good jus went unsopped. The lamb immediately called to mind a Rhone wine, so I picked up this bottle from the southern portion of that region. While it was rather ripe and round for an old world wine, it showed a nice balance of earth and acidity to pair well with the food. American wineries would be well-served in studying wines such as this, which show the value of rich fruit and soft texture when combined with length, structure, and tannin.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sweets & Savories

Last Sunday, Chris and I went to Sweets & Savories for brunch. Chris has been wanting to try this place for a while, and I thought brunch would be a fun but affordable way to see what we thought about it. I made reservations through Open Table and sent him an e-vite as a surprise.

The restaraunt is small, to say the least. There were probably fifteen tables. Decor is minimal and is mostly brown and pink. We arrived and were seated promptly at a table by the front window, looking out onto the street. To our surprise, there were several large parties at tables pushed together, including what looked like a baby shower or birthday party for an infant, complete with baby blue baloons tied to the chairs. Otherwise, the restaraunt was not overly full.

Our waiter was nice enough and knowledgeable about the food. Sunday brunch is a three course prix fixe menu for only $16.00. For this, you receive various scones and muffins and are given choices of: 1) drinks, including tea, coffee, mimosas and bloody marys; 2) soup, salad or fruit; and 3) an entree.

Chris ordered the curried potato soup and duck confit hash with poached eggs and a lemon hollandaise sauce. He requested champagne in lieu of a mimosa, and was offered a presseco, which was fresh and bright. I ordered a bloody mary, as well as the arugula salad and soft scrambled eggs with white truffle oil.

Chris's soup was not "curried" so much as it was a warm vichyssoise. It was creamy and rich, and just wonderful, with a hint of truffle. The arugula salad was also great -- lemony and nutty. Chris really loved his duck confit hash (which I did not taste), and the poached eggs in lemon sauce were out of this world. They were perfectly cooked, and the lemon added just the right touch of spark. My soft scrambled eggs were also nice --served over brioche -- but the bread was soggy and the "white truffle" was non-existent. Over all, the food was solid and I would return for that.

That said, our service was simply atrocious. We were brought our soup and salad promptly, and after we had each taken one bite, someone who appeared to be a food runner approached our table and informed us that our entrees were ready and asked if we minded having them served immediately. Chris said yes, we actually did mind, and the food runner said he couldn't do anything, our food was coming out. He was quite rude about it, and he and Chris bantered briefly. He insisted that he was going to bring the entrees out despite our request to wait. Chris then asked about our muffins and scones, which had not yet been brought out, though they are listed as the first course on the prix fixe menu. The food runner very brusquely said he would go and get them if we wanted them. He disappeared and shortly thereafter returned with the scones, but, thankfully, not the entrees.

Our entrees were ultimately delivered after we finished our soup and salad course, as we requested. The food itself was solid, if not terribly creative. The disappointment in this meal was the service, which was astonishingly bad -- e.g., trying to bring our entrees with the salad course, not bringing the "first" course until askd, not refilling our water even once. But, I can live with bad service. Sometimes it happens. Here, the service was downright rude. Chris later had a nice conversation with our actual waiter, but I was not able to get beyond the poor service. While Chris would like to return for a dinner, I would not.

In sum, the food was solid, brunch prices are more than reasonable, but service was terrible. If you're in it for the food and don't care about the service, go for it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Food, Law, and Culture Panels

A while back I published a Call for Papers for a panel devoted to food and the law at the upcoming Law, Culture, and Humanities conference at Georgetown University. I got an excellent response and am forming two panels on the subject. Here are the abstracts for the papers:

J. Amy Dillard
Assistant Professor of Law
University of Baltimore
School of Law

“Sloppy Joe, Slop, Sloppy Joe”: How USDA Commodities Dumping Destroyed the National School Lunch Program

Alice Waters, the godmother of the organic, whole food movement, has set the considerable resources of her Chez Panisse Foundation to the task of reforming school lunch in Berkeley, California, while working within the confines of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). First funded by Congress in 1946, the NSLP combined two post-Depression Era objectives: 1) assist with the health of the nation’s children, and 2) ensure a market for farmers. The Department of Agriculture has used the NSLP to turn the nation’s school lunchrooms into a commodities dumping ground that has produced a glut of obese children and an expanding agribusiness that processes whole foods into nutritional nightmares.
This paper will explore the history of the NSLP and its complex relationship with USDA commodities, will examine the agribusiness of converting commodities into unhealthy lunchroom food, and will conclude by discussing the cultural challenges faced by the organic, whole food movement for bringing healthy food to a land where “latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving” freaks are excoriated by social conservatives.


James Smith
John Byrd Martin Chair of Law
University of Georgia School of Law

Genetically modified pollen drifting onto the field of a neighboring farm may cause substantial harm. If the bystanding farmer is growing non-genetically modified crops, she may suffer a pecuniary loss due to genetic ‘pollution.’ If the pollen is patented, the patentee may also claim harm stemming from the unauthorized distribution of its proprietary genetic material. Disputes arising from pollen drift present classic legal questions arising under the law of neighbors and classic economic questions broached most famously by Ronald Coase in his essay on The Problem of Social Cost. The application of the Coase Theorem and its most applicable corollary strongly suggest that: 1) balancing rules under nuisance law should be applied on a case-by-case basis to determine whether any particular genetic polluter should be liable for damages caused by pollen drift; and 2) most bystanding farmers should have viable defenses to patent infringement. Venerable legal principles applied to this new problem suggest the same two conclusions. Proving both propositions provides a textbook demonstration for the usefulness of economic analysis and solves a world-wide multi-billion dollar legal problem.


Morgan L. Holcomb
Visiting Assistant Professor
University of Minnesota Law School

The local food movement has taken root (or perhaps taken root again). Witness books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan) and Eat Here (Halweil), activists taking on school lunches (Alice Waters revamping the Berkeley public school cafeteria), and the proliferation of farmers markets in almost all regions of the country.

This local food movement evidences a new or renewed interest in where our food comes from. Some farmers hope that it also means a renewed interest in keeping farms as “family farms” and a renewed economic commitment to do so. But what is meant by the term “family farm”? Shall we include large-scale commodity farms, or is “family farm” a proxy for something else? Perhaps by “family farm” we intend something other than simply any farm owned by a family.

This paper will begin by exploring what we mean by “family farm.” It will then go on to address what role will the tax code plays in our complicated agricultural system. Finally, the paper will address whether the tax code in fact save the family farm, and if saving the family farm a goal worth achieving.


Charlene Elliott
Assistant Professor
School of Journalism and Communication
Carleton University

In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Quebec’s long-standing law that prohibits the sale of yellow margarine. While the precise colour of margarine may seem trivial, the dispute carries on a century-old tradition in Canada of placing margarine in the legal (and lobbyist’s) limelight.

Margarine presents a long and bizarre legal history which opens the door for probing both the notion of legislative intent and the belief in a product’s communicative potential. The buttery impostor has been banned, outlawed, bootlegged, taxed and colour-coded—and even implicated in the Canadian Constitution

Inspired by Arjun Appadurai’s (1988) claim that ‘objects have social lives’, this analysis provides a legal ‘biography’ of margarine in Canada from 1886 to present. It details how the product has become the site of contestation, negotiation and special interest claims, and how the evolving regulation of margarine reflects some surprisingly consistent social realities.


Jonathan M. Gutoff
Associate Professor of Law
Roger Williams University School of Law

Under the Common Law, certain animals were classified as “royal” and were preserved for the sovereign as part of his or her prerogative. However, while salmon were recognized to be “great fish” they were not considered to be royal fish. I propose to use the case of sturgeon and salmon to explore the relationship between law and culture. Specifically, my plan is to investigate how the culinary and social distinction between sturgeon and salmon in the medieval period was reflected in the development of the legal distinction. Then, and this is why this case study may prove quite interesting, I hope to show how, in turn, the legal distinction in early-modern and modern times was reflected in the social and culinary position of sturgeon and salmon.


Patrick Baude
Ralph F. Fuchs Professor of Law and Public Service
Indiana University – Bloomington

Memory and the Twenty-First Amendment.

The Twenty-First Amendment (1) repeals Prohibition and (2) allows states to prohibit the transportation or importation of intoxicating liquors. Justice Stevens, dissenting from a recent Supreme Court opinion somewhat limiting state bans on importation, observed that the Court’s decision would “seem strange indeed to the millions of Americans who condemned the use of ‘demon rum.”’ This is a sensible thing to say about Prohibition but quite an odd thing to say about an amendment repealing Prohibition. His comment was especially powerful, however odd, in light of the implication that he had personal memory of this particular bit of legislative history. In fact, one can remember that history as a condemnation of strong drink or as a condemnation of the corruption created by the ban itself. Which memory one privileges will determine whether the penumbra of the Amendment is “wet” or “dry.” This paper traces the link between that history and a number of current questions, such as: (1) Can parents allow their twenty-year old children a glass of wine? (2) Can women be forbidden to drink because they might be pregnant? (3) Can sleeping pills be banned because they sometimes cause automobile accidents?


Christopher J. Buccafusco
University of Chicago

A Culture of Hospitality: Social Norms and Intellectual Property Among Chefs

American law offers little in the way of intellectual property protection to chefs’ creative recipes. Nonetheless, an informal system of social norms exists among chefs that serves to promote recipe innovation, assign credit to creative chefs, and inhibit rampant copying. This paper will examine the history of these quasi-IP norms and the culinary profession’s overarching “culture of hospitality.” It will attempt to determine whether the existence of such norms made the low-IP situation possible or whether they developed in response to a lack of legal protection. Finally, it will consider whether such a system is uniquely possible in the culinary profession or whether it can shed light on other areas of cultural property.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Pork Filled Weekend

After an eye exam on Saturday (apparently all of this graduate schooling isn't good for the eyes), Stephanie and I stopped into a small Latin grocer and picked up a couple of pork cuts not seen at the yuppie markets. That night we roasted a saddle of pork with root vegetables. The saddle is the part on the top of the animal where the loins come together. It is like two very thick pork chops connected in the middle by the backbone. I had a bottle of Dr. H. Thanisch Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2004 open from the previous night that matched superbly. Kabinett is the driest of Germany's sweet rieslings, but it is still far too sweet for Stephanie's palate. It was an excellent wine, with stone fruit flavors, a wild honey sweetness, and a pleasantly lingering acidity.

Last night I braised a pork belly. Regular blog readers will know of our love for the pork belly sandwich at Blackbird, and, fortunately, I was able to locate a recipe online by Blackbird chef Paul Kahan. The belly is the same cut of meat that bacon comes from. It's enormously tender and flavorful, and a bit fatty. The pork is seared on both sides to render some of the fat and then mirepoix and white wine are added to deglaze. Finally, a bit of chicken stock and bouquet garni, and the whole thing is roasted uncovered in a 325F oven for 2.5 hours. Stephanie prepared a delightful side dish of wilted escarole with green peas. She even toasted some bread and smeared it with butter and mayonaise to imitate the Blackbird sandwich. Everything was supremely delicious. Earlier that day at Sam's we had picked up a bottle of J-P Granier Coteaux du Languedoc les essentielles 2001 on sale. Unfortunately, it tasted like something from California or Australia rather than the Languedoc we had hoped for. Far too ripe, alcholic, and glycerin-y to go well with pork. Another riesling, like the Wehlener or perhaps from Alsace, would have been a much better choice.