What is ‘pumpkin spice,’ anyway? And why do we crave it?

Each fall, as leaves turn golden and the crisp autumn air carries the scent of pine, Catherine Franssen waits for her husband to bring home the latest pumpkin spice-flavored concoction he has discovered at the grocery store.

“My husband — whose favorite pie is pumpkin; he’ll eat it year-round — thinks the pumpkin spice craze is funny and brings home all sorts of odd pumpkin spice items to try,” said Franssen, assistant professor of psychology and director of the neurostudies minor at Longwood University in Virginia.

“I think I ended up eating the entire box of pumpkin-spiced Cheerios last year after the rest of the family tasted and rejected,” she said. “They were pretty good.”

Franssen called the current trendiness of pumpkin spice “a fantastic example of the psychology of consumer behavior and fads.” She knows that the sweet smell and tantalizing taste of pumpkin spice can trigger a nostalgic emotional response in her brain and the brains of many other consumers, she said.

After all, “this spice blend has been used in popular baked goods for quite some time, but mostly in home-baked goods,” said Franssen, who wrote a 2015 blog post in the Huffington Post about the science behind pumpkin spice.

“Since these are popular spice combinations, it’s very likely we would have encountered some or all of them combined in a favorite baked good in a comforting situation, like a family gathering, early in life,” she said. “It’s not just the pumpkin spice combo but that we’ve already wired a subset of those spices as ‘good’ very early in life.”

In other words, if the pumpkin spice blend — or a synthetic version — that has been added to your favorite food item reminds you of a baking pumpkin pie at grandma’s house, then it probably did its job.

What is pumpkin spice anyway?

Most pumpkin spice mixtures don’t involve an actual pumpkin. Typically it contains ground cinnamon, nutmeg, dry ginger and clove or allspice mixed together, said Kantha Shelke, a food science communicator for the Institute of Food Technologists and a scientist at Corvus Blue, a Chicago-based food science and research firm.

When many food companies use a pumpkin spice flavor, they often develop a synthetic version with various compounds and aromas designed to trick your brain into thinking you actually consumed a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices.

Included in many of these synthetic pumpkin spice flavors are top notes that mimic the aroma of butter browning with sugar, which creates an olfactory illusion of a freshly baked pumpkin pie, Shelke said.

Nonetheless, “history shows that pumpkin spice-like combinations have been used for millennia in various cultures,” said Shelke, who is also an adjunct professor of regulatory science and food safety at Johns Hopkins University.

For instance, similar mixtures of spices are used in Indian masala chai and Middle Eastern baklava, she said. These mixtures are often used in celebratory occasions — most often to ease the digestive impacts of overindulgence, Shelke said.

Yet “in the Western world, the aroma of pumpkin spice immediately transports people to all the warm and friendly times associated with pumpkin pie, holiday gatherings, families, celebrations, treats, sweets … things that childhood memories are made of,” Shelke said. “This is why pumpkin spice latte is trendy.”

Pumpkin spice seems to have emerged as a common seasonal scent and taste in the home and food market a couple of decades ago, when spiced pumpkin candles grew in popularity, Franssen said.

“Then, a few high-profile companies, like Starbucks, run some super successful experiments, and then you add in the fantastic marketing strategies, and you’ve got a fad that turns into a trend,” she said.

Starbucks first developed its pumpkin spice latte, known as the PSL, in early 2003. In a news release last week, Peter Dukes, the product manager who led the development of PSL, said, “Nobody knew back then what it would grow to be. … It’s taken on a life of its own.”

The seasonal beverage, which has its own verified Twitter and Instagram accounts, returned to stores nationwide last week for the fall.

“Marketing is truly the key here, and there’s some incredibly interesting neuroscience going on,” Franssen said.

The marketing behind many pumpkin spice-flavored items, like the latte, condition our brains to expect that pumpkin spice is the flavor of fall and to anticipate the flavor’s arrival each season as something comforting, Franssen said.

“We don’t have innate odor responses. We learn odors through associations, but the associations we make with pumpkin spice are generally all very positive,” she said.

Though, even without the seasonal marketing, the brain has a special response to pumpkin spice when the flavor is mixed with sugar, Franssen said.

‘Actually, scientifically, kind of addictive’

“When an odor or flavor — and 80% of flavor is actually smell — is combined with sucrose or sugar consumption in a hungry person, the person learns at a subconscious, physiological level to associate that flavor with all the wonderful parts of food digestion,” Franssen said.

By combining the recognizable pumpkin spice flavor with sugar, you train your brain and body to remember how delicious the combination is — and as soon as you smell or even imagine pumpkin spice, your body will have an anticipatory response and crave it, Franssen said.

For that reason, “the pumpkin spice latte is actually, scientifically, kind of addictive,” she said. “Not quite the same neural mechanisms as drugs of abuse, but certainly the more you consume, the more you reinforce the behavior and want to consume more.”

On the other hand, natural pumpkin spice mixtures without added sugars, fat or salt could offer some potential health benefits if used in a pumpkin soup or to flavor vegetables, Shelke said. Pumpkin is a source of vitamin A, fiber and other nutrients.

“I love vegetables and consume at least eight to 10 servings of vegetables a day. Pumpkin and its cousins show up in my diet regularly and often with pumpkin spice-like spices,” Shelke said.

“Spices are powerhouses of phytochemicals — chemicals that the plant makes to protect itself — that can afford us health and protection from many health issues. Like with any food, the amount consumed determines the experience and the benefits,” Shelke said.

“All spices come from plants. There are no spices from the animal kingdom,” she said. “So, spices are perfect for vegetarians, vegans and those who follow Halal and Kosher diets.”

So, if you have the craving, enjoy your pumpkin spice and everything nice.

The brothers behind New York City’s waterfront restaurant boom

Even though Manhattan is an island, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the interior of the city and forget that it is, in fact, a waterfront city.

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the somewhat chaotic and slightly intimidating drinking and dining scene in New York City, you don’t have to go farther than the waterfronts to find an entirely new experience.

Restaurateurs Alex and Miles Pincus have changed the way New Yorkers drink and eat by tapping into the city’s waterfronts and creating scenes where you can enjoy the tranquility of being on the water.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Manhattan was surrounded by oyster barges that, as Alex explains, “were basically saloons on the water where you could go for a beer and oysters.” Inspired by this concept, the brothers set out to bring the city’s drinking and dining scene back to the waterfronts.

It begins with a schooner

It all started with a 72-year-old codfish schooner that would eventually become a restaurant and oyster bar called Grand Banks. The old sailors’ bunks became the kitchen, and the deck was outfitted with two nautical-themed bars and a dining area. Clearly, the concept worked: Even on a weeknight, you may find yourself waiting in a line that extends down the pier.

The nautical-inspired cocktail list includes a wide variety of liquors and flavors and the prices are pretty standard for New York nightlife, around $15 a drink. If you’re a tequila drinker, try the Fracas (it includes pineapple and lime along with a smoky mezcal, which creates an interesting contrast). On a brutally hot day, cool off with The Fisher’s Country Club (gin, grapefruit, and lemon) or a Skipper Key (rose mixed with strawberry, cucumber and lemon).

Aside from the oyster selection that changes daily, Grand Banks also is known for offering one of the best lobster rolls in Manhattan — they’ve truly mastered the mayo-to-lobster ratio.

Other standouts include sea scallops served with bacon and tomato compote, Montauk sea bream ceviche and tomato-and-watermelon salad seasoned with mint, basil and coconut oil. Everything is great to share –and even better when accompanied by a side order of the seaweed salt french fries.

The best things to do in New York City outside Manhattan

Expansion projects

But the best thing to do with a successful concept is iterate it. Alex and Miles Pincus are continuing to expand New York City’s waterfront drinking and dining options, opening two new hotspots just this summer: Island Oyster on Governors Island and Pilot in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Besides being a way to enjoy the New York waterfront, Island Oyster also holds the distinction of being the first restaurant on Governors Island.

While there are a few other venues that offer a waterfront dining experience such as The Frying Pan and Pig Beach, Island Oyster is unique because in addition to great food and drinks, it offers a true island experience. Since it is a ferry ride away from Manhattan, it fosters a much more relaxed vibe and is an all-day destination (perfect for a staycation for New Yorkers or a day trip for visitors).

Alex Pincus, who describes that their business model has been “to do what we think is cool and feels good,” has transformed a former Lenape Native American Indian hunting and fishing ground into a 32,000 square foot venue and unusual dining destination with the help of Eric Cheong (designer of the Ace Hotel Properties).

The gorgeous space boasts two 50-foot bars and tables so close to the water you may even find yourself in a splash zone; along with recreation areas (including activities such as corn hole and ping pong) and a coffee shop.

This location was also an oyster bed, and the brothers liked the idea of bringing the oysters back to where they came from. Alex describes Island Oyster as a place where you feel relaxed and totally alone while technically inside one of the largest cities in the world. Island Oyster is set to be open until October, and should definitely be on your NYC hit list.

Meanwhile, if you want to try out the Grand Banks concept experience from Brooklyn, the Pincuses have transformed Pilot, a schooner built in 1924, into a bar and restaurant docked on Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6. Pilot has all the same charm as Grand Banks and dawns many special details such as the mosaic-laid tiles in the bathroom. Once built to be the fastest sailboat in the world, Pilot is now serving up the same level of Instagram-worthy food and drinks as Grand Banks against panoramic views of downtown Manhattan.

Two dishes that particularly stand out from Pilot’s menu are the Calmar a la Plancha and the Softshell Crab Po’boy. The first is fresh grilled Montauk squid served over a bed of arugula with avocadoes and tomatoes. The Softshell Crab Po’boy (inspired by brothers’ New Orleans roots) might take you all day to eat.

And in case you haven’t noticed the theme, Pilot also has nautical-themed cocktails: the Life at Sea (vodka, mint, blackberries and lime juice) and the Spirit Animal (light rum, Aperol, coconut, lemon and strawberry).

Like a love of boats, hospitality runs in the Pincus family. Miles and Alex grew up in New Orleans, where their father ran well known restaurants restaurants and hotels such as Royal Orleans. Their father is currently the CEO/GM of Hotel Monteleone, which is also the location of the famous Carousel Bar. (The oyster bar at Monteleone in the ’80s and ’90s even featured an oyster bar in the shape of a boat…hmm, inspiration?)

While Alex was studying architecture at Columbia and Miles began working on a sailboat, they started spending more time out on the water and realized how largely untapped the city’s waterfronts were. Their first venture was a sailing school and summer camp on the Upper West Side called Atlantic Yachting that is still in operation today..

Island Oyster and Pilot, like Grand Banks before them, are redefining New York’s dining scene by offering true waterfront city experiences. Whether you live in the city or you’re just visiting, all of these venues transport you out of Manhattan’s chaos and allow you to appreciate the city’s waterways.

Food Safety Tips for Kitchen Confidence

— With spring renewal upon us, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service invites home cooks to gain kitchen confidence by refreshing their perspectives on food safety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year approximately 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Many of these illnesses can be prevented by changing behaviors in the kitchen and gaining a little kitchen confidence.

Kitchen confidence is simply the confidence in your ability to safely prepare delicious meals for your loved ones and yourself. Even armed with grandma’s best recipes, the most experienced cooks can unknowingly make food safety mistakes that can make people sick. So this spring, be confident in your food safety skills by accessing the following resources: FoodSafety.gov, the Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888MPHotline and the FoodKeeper app.

Throughout the spring you’ll find blogs, roasting charts, storage guidance, and the latest news on food recalls at FoodSafety.gov. You’ll also have access to a wealth of expertise to help tackle any food preparation challenge.

Among the many tools available on FoodSafety.gov is the FoodKeeper. It’s available on the website, and as a mobile app for smartphones and tablets. With more than 100,000 downloads onto Android and iOS devices, the FoodKeeper is quickly establishing itself as the go-to quick reference guide for safe food storage. Available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, the FoodKeeper helps limit food waste by providing storage information on more than 400 food items, including produce, baby food, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood. The FoodKeeper also offers customizable notifications that sync with smartphone calendars to remind users when it is time to use, freeze or dispose of products.

Protecting families from foodborne illness is one of the Food Safety and Inspection Services’ primary goals. Our food safety specialists on our Meat and Poultry Hotline can personally answer your food safety questions on weekdays year-round. The hotline receives more than 50,000 calls annually. This toll-free telephone service, which began July 1, 1985, helps prevent foodborne illness by answering questions about the safe storage, handling and preparation of meat, poultry and egg products.

This spring, get that kitchen confidence back. Visit FoodSafety.gov.

Is sushi healthy?

— Whether you eat sushi from a Japanese restaurant or from a local supermarket, there’s no arguing that it’s become a mainstream meal — and that’s good news.

Sushi can be a very healthy addition to your diet, especially when it’s filled with vegetables, omega-3-rich seafood such as salmon and tuna, and small amounts of heart-healthy avocado.

The healthfulness of sushi can rapidly decline, though, depending on how your roll is prepared. Sushi saboteurs include tempura batter and condiments such as mayo and cream cheese, which significantly boost unhealthy fat and calories.

For example, a shrimp tempura roll drizzled with spicy mayo can contain more than 500 calories and more than 20 grams of fat — that’s double the calories and three times the fat of a crab-containing California roll.

Sodium-rich soy sauce can also be a concern; just one small tablespoon contributes about 900 milligrams of sodium, or about 40% of the daily recommended sodium limit. By comparison, 10 salted pretzel twists have 744 milligrams of sodium. If you are watching your sodium, ask for a low-sodium version or eliminate it altogether.

Another tip to keep in mind: Though white sushi rice may be pleasantly sticky, it’s typically made with sugar and salt along with vinegar and is a source of refined carbohydrates. Ask for brown rice instead. Although it still may contain sugar to boost sweetness, it’s rich in whole grains and offers a fiber boost.

And if you are pregnant or if you have an impaired immune system, don’t risk the chance of illness from raw seafood.

Bottom line? When eating sushi, keep it seafood-rich and simple.

Wendy’s best menu picks, by a nutritionist

— If you’re the type of person who likes to customize meals in order to achieve your health goals, Wendy’s is worth the trip. Like many others, the chain allows you to modify a meal any way you wish.

You can order a sandwich in a lettuce leaf instead of a bun if you’re cutting carbs, forgoing gluten or simply cutting calories. Additionally, you can leave mayonnaise off sandwiches, omit chicken from any of the salads and even order your fries unsalted for a significant sodium savings. (Then again, we try to steer clear of fries in general.)

Wendy’s offers a variety of salads, in both full- and half-size portions. You can also order burgers in junior sizes, which cuts calories, sodium and saturated fat. And we like the fact that you can get a healthier baked potato as part of your meal, a protein-rich option for vegetarians.

As always, be careful with condiments and extras, especially when it comes to sodium. For example, if you eliminate roasted tomato salsa from the taco salad (half-size), the sodium count goes down about 50%, from 1,320 milligrams to 670 milligrams. Also worth noting: Wendy’s full-size salads come with two packets of dressing; use only one to keep sodium levels in check.

There are a few items that you’ll want to steer clear of at Wendy’s. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, especially the Frosty, a creamy dairy dessert beverage that ranges from 27 grams of sugar, or about 7 teaspoons for a junior size, to 81 grams of sugar, or 20 teaspoons for a large vanilla Frosty. Choose water or unsweetened iced tea, with 0 grams of sugar.

Wendy’s mobile-friendly website is very easy to use. Sliding your finger over each menu image to view its nutritional facts makes it easy to quickly compare and contrast items within a category. Additionally, the site offers allergen information for its menu items as well as a dedicated gluten page.

Below are the best Wendy’s options if you’re focused on healthy choices within the limits of the menu. We break it down by our picks for kids, athletes, drivers, vegetarians and vegans, as well as low-calorie, low-sugar, low-salt, gluten-free and low-carb options.

For kids

Our picks: Four-piece chicken nuggets (for small kids); or grilled chicken wrap (for bigger kids); and apple slices and 1% milk

When it comes to feeding little mouths, no need to worry at Wendy’s. A kids’ meal can make for a healthy lunch or dinner. We like the four-piece white meat chicken nuggets for smaller stomachs and the grilled chicken wrap with shredded cheddar and honey mustard sauce for larger, more sophisticated appetites.

Skip the fries and opt for apple slices to boost fiber and vitamin C. Adding low-fat milk delivers calcium and vitamin D for growing bones and, hopefully, eliminates the need for a Frosty if you can get away with it.

For vegetarians

Our picks: Broccoli cheese baked potato and garden side salad with light balsamic dressing; or power Mediterranean salad without chicken

If someone asked us whether we could have a baked potato topped with cheddar cheese and broccoli that delivers 15 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber and a healthy dose of potassium, we’d say yes, even if we weren’t following a vegetarian diet. This nutrient-rich potato will satisfy anyone looking for a meatless meal that offers carbs, protein and vegetables. If saturated fat or sodium is a concern, order the baked potato without cheese, which will bring the counts down to 0 grams of saturated fat and 45 milligrams of sodium. Add a garden side salad with light balsamic vinaigrette dressing for even more greens.

Vegetarians can also order the power Mediterranean salad without chicken. The combination of feta, hummus and sun-dried tomato quinoa still gives this salad a respectable amount of protein, as well as fiber. Plus, you slash 360 milligrams of sodium.

For vegans

Our picks: Baked potato with broccoli and garden side salad with pomegranate vinaigrette dressing and roasted pecans; or power Mediterranean salad without chicken or cheese; and apple slices

Thank goodness Wendy’s offers baked potatoes. After all, they are a healthier choice than fries and one of the few options for vegans. There’s also no veggie burger at Wendy’s.

Even without cheese, a baked potato with broccoli at Wendy’s delivers 9 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein, with a significant saturated fat and sodium savings. Pair the potato with a garden side salad with pomegranate dressing, and add roasted pecans to boost the protein of the meal.

Another vegan-friendly option is the power Mediterranean salad without chicken or cheese. It offers 7 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, thanks to the red and white quinoa and brown rice in the salad’s sun-dried tomato grain blend. Add some apple slices if you wish.

For calorie-counters

Our picks: Power Mediterranean chicken salad (half-size); or grilled chicken wrap; and apple slices

Wendy’s power Mediterranean chicken salad recently came onto the chain’s menu, and it’s perfectly suited for waistline-watchers. It’s a mix of grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, feta, hummus and sun-dried tomato quinoa blend, along with three types of lettuces, that packs 20 grams of satiating protein and 5 grams of fiber for only 240 calories in the half-size portion. That includes dressing.

If you’d rather skip salad, the grilled chicken wrap is comparable in calories, even with the honey mustard sauce and cheese, and offers the same amount of protein.

The apple slices pair well with either option and offer 2 more grams of fiber for only 35 calories.

For the sugar-sensitive

Our picks: Grilled chicken wrap; or Caesar side salad and baked potato with broccoli; or small Rich and Meaty Chili; and unsweetened iced tea

If you’re closely watching sugars, you have plenty to choose from when it comes to food at Wendy’s: The chain’s grilled chicken wrap and Caesar side salad are some of the lowest-sugar items on the menu, with 3 and 2 grams respectively. If you’re on the hungrier side, opt for the wrap, which is more protein-rich.

A baked potato with broccoli contributes only 4 grams of sugar. Combine it with the Caesar side salad for a total of only 6 grams (or 1. 5 teaspoons) of sugar. Another option with 6 grams of sugar is the small Rich and Meaty Chili, though its sodium count is higher.

To drink, skip the tea-based, juice-rich Fruitea chillers (even a small has 42 grams of sugar, enough to reach your daily limit and more) and opt for water or unsweetened iced tea.

For the salt-sensitive

Our picks: Sour cream and chive baked potato and garden side salad without croutons and with light honey French dressing; or apple pecan chicken salad without cheese (half-size)

If you’re watching sodium, Wendy’s sour cream and chive baked potato packs a one-two punch. It has only 35 milligrams of sodium and delivers a third of your daily potassium needs. It’s a winning combination for those concerned with high blood pressure.

For those who like sour cream, the light version will not make a significant dent in your daily saturated fat budget, so feel free to enjoy it this time. Add a garden side salad without croutons and with light honey French dressing for only 115 milligrams of sodium.

If you prefer a salad with chicken, the one with the lowest sodium count is the half-size apple pecan chicken salad without cheese. Without the cheese (which contributes close to 200 milligrams of sodium), it becomes the lowest-sodium chicken option on Wendy’s menu.

For the gluten-sensitive

Our picks: Apple pecan chicken salad (half-size); or grilled chicken sandwich as a lettuce wrap (without bun) and garden side salad without croutons and with light balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Like with other chains, there is the chance of cross-contamination among non-gluten-containing foods at Wendy’s, so it’s not necessarily a favored option for those with celiac disease. The chain even cautions that the same cutting board and tongs may be used to cut both grilled and breaded chicken breasts; hence, grilled chicken is omitted from its list of gluten-free offerings.

However, Wendy’s offers a list of items for those who are simply looking to avoid gluten-containing ingredients. We like the apple pecan chicken salad with apples, cranberries, pecans and crumbled blue cheese. A half-size will satisfy, with 340 calories and 20 grams of protein. You can also order the grilled chicken sandwich as a lettuce wrap; you’ll slash more than 300 milligrams of sodium by doing so. Pair it with the garden side salad with light balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Just remember to omit the croutons.

Also, sandwiches can be requested without a bun or as a lettuce wrap, and the potatoes are gluten-free.

For the athlete

Our picks: Grilled chicken sandwich; or small Rich and Meaty Chili and sour cream and chive baked potato; and 1% chocolate milk

The grilled chicken sandwich is a satisfying option for athletes. It offers 38 grams of carbs to fuel muscles and 35 grams of protein to build and repair muscles, and it is relatively low in fat. It also delivers a healthy dose of iron, an important mineral that helps carry oxygen to muscles. It’s slightly higher in sodium than some of our other picks, but athletes who lose sodium in sweat can afford the extra milligrams.

If you’re carbo-loading, you can’t top the sour cream and chive baked potato, with 63 grams of carbs and fewer than 3 grams of fat. For an extra protein boost (and even more carbs), enjoy it with a small chili.

Grab a kids’ chocolate milk as a post-workout beverage. It offers a beneficial amount of carbs and protein for muscle recovery.

For the road warrior

Our picks: Grilled chicken wrap; or power Mediterranean chicken salad without cheese (full-size); and apple slices

The grilled chicken wrap with cheddar and honey mustard is one of our favorite items on Wendy’s menu, and it makes for a quick grab-and-go meal when you’re on the road.

If you have more time for a travel break, choose the power Mediterranean chicken salad, another one of our top choices. It’s particularly helpful if your travel day falls short on vegetables, as it contains a mix of spring, Romaine and iceberg lettuces along with red onion, cherry tomatoes and hummus. If you skip the cheese, you won’t miss out on flavor, but you will save close to 300 milligrams of sodium. The final count has 35 grams of protein and 8 grams of filling fiber, enough to tide you over until you reach your destination.

If you still think hunger pangs will distract you while driving, grab some apple slices, too.

For the carb-conscious

Our picks: Grilled chicken sandwich as a lettuce wrap (without bun); or junior cheeseburger deluxe as a lettuce wrap (without bun and mayo); garden side salad without croutons and with ranch dressing

Those cutting carbs will feel welcome at Wendy’s. The chain will prepare a sandwich without a bun and serve it as a lettuce wrap instead. Our top choice is the grilled chicken sandwich wrapped in lettuce with honey mustard and tomato. It has 28 grams of protein and only 6 grams of carbs.

If you’re craving a burger, order the junior cheeseburger deluxe as a lettuce wrap and without mayo for only 5 grams of carbs.

For more greens and fiber, add a garden side salad with ranch dressing to either option for an additional 6 grams of carbs.

Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, author and health journalist.

The best new restaurants for 2017

— Korean barbecue in London, Danish cuisine in New York and a seafood specialist in Dubai all share one thing in common — they’re served at some of the world’s hottest new restaurants for 2017.

From the Caribbean to New Zealand, global gourmets will be digging out their airline schedules to get to these must-try tables.

Whether manned by established chefs with household names or the up-and-comers hoping to rival them, one thing the fervent foodie can count on is that the world’s newest restaurants are serving up surprises.

Jinjuu Mayfair, London, United Kingdom

Korean food continues its global rise with the second opening in London from chef Judy Joo.

Located on Albermarle Street in swanky Mayfair, it promises a fun and modern take on the country’s cooking with dishes that include hoedeopbap: slices of raw and fresh seafood with signature Korean dressing and marinated skewers of Ibérico pork and prime rib, cooked in the classic Korean barbecue style.

Unsurprisingly, a number of cocktails feature soju, Korea’s spirit of choice, while some of the country’s best craft beers are also available.

Jinjuu, 39 Albemarle Street, London; +44 20 3889 0780

The Spanish Butcher, Glasgow, Scotland

Owners James and Louise Rusk already have award-winning venues to their name and, with more than 1,000 people booked into this New York-loft style restaurant in the first two weeks of opening, it seems their stellar run is set to continue.

As the name suggests, expect top-quality Spanish meats including Grade 9 Galician steak or 30-month salt-cured Jamón Ibérico.

Extensive grill options include seafood such as turbot and octopus.

The Spanish Butcher, 80 Miller Street, Glasgow, Scotland; +44 141 406 9880

Avecita, Kimpton Seafire, Grand Cayman

At the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa on Grand Cayman, Avecita is a 10-seat chef’s bar that offers a “tasting experience” of around 15 small plates created in front of you.

Although chef Remy Lefebvre is French, he spent years in Barcelona which shows in his tapas cooked on the plancha, including slow-braised and charred octopus.

Handcrafted cocktails feature local Caribbean bitters and fruit.

Avecita, 60 Tanager Way, Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman; +1-888-226-4412

IGNIV, St Moritz, Switzerland

Badrutt’s Palace is a luxury hotel in the swish Swiss resort of St Moritz, now with a restaurant to match, in partnership with a chef with three Michelin stars to his name, Andreas Caminada.

“IGNIV” means “nest” in Switzerland’s fourth language of Rhaeto-Romance.

The restaurant invites gourmets on a gastronomic journey with a difference where platters of food are passed around the table, family style.

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, Via Serlas 27, 7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland; +41 81 837 10 00

Cocina de Autor, Grand Velas Los Cabos, Mexico

Cocina de Autor at Grand Velas Los Cabos is led by two-Michelin-star Dutch chef Sidney Schutte, who has worked under some of the best in the business, including Richard Ekkebus at Hong Kong’s Amber.

The just-opened $150 million resort on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula offers an opportunity for Schutte to build his enviable résumé.

He can already claim SVH Meesterkok recognition, the highest that a chef can achieve in the Netherlands.

His menu promises distinctive cuisine with “outspoken flavors that pop.”

Grand Velas Los Cabos, Carretera Transpeninsular Km. 17.3, Cabo San Lucas — San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico; +52 322 226 7923

Hilma, Stockholm, Sweden

A hostel might seem an unusual location for a restaurant, but in an area of Stockholm known as Europe’s Silicon Valley, Hilma has won fans for global dishes with Scandinavian touches.

This means plates such as trout sashimi with brown butter, soy vinaigrette, mushrooms and watercress or charred salmon with miso mayonnaise and dill salad.

Pricing is based per dish from one for $14 to six for $65.

With this being hipster central, there are even two resident tattooists on hand.

Hilma, Torsgatan 10, 111 23 Stockholm, Sweden; +46 8 505 323 70

12,000 Francs, Hong Kong

This oddly named joint in the city’s Soho district is inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte’s bounty offered for anyone who could preserve food for his troops.

Accordingly, chef Conor Beach celebrates the art of preserving with global influences across the menu via Picked + Potted, Smoke + Salted, Vacuum + Fire and Sugar + Sweet.

Japanese bonito fish comes with marinated and grilled eggplant, fried onion, smoked almonds and an almond aioli for a textural and flavor masterclass, while desserts are not to be missed.

12,000 FRANCS, 43 A Elgin Street, Soho, Hong Kong; +852 2529 3100

The Patio at The Margi, Athens, Greece

The Margi Hotel’s new restaurant allows chef Panagiotis Giakalis to raid the property’s farm for the finest Mediterranean produce, before crafting them into a choice of gourmet degustation menus that set a new standard for contemporary Greek cuisine.

He brings with him serious culinary chops including stints with French legend Eric Frechon and time in Michelin-starred kitchens in Milan and Paris.

The Margi Hotel, 11 Litous Street, Vouliagmeni 16671, Athens, Greece; +30 210 8929128

Attitude, Avani, Bangkok, Thailand

Regular visitors to the Thai capital know that restaurants with views are much in demand, and its newest rises 26 floors above the Chao Phraya river.

Attitude sits atop the new Avani hotel and serves small plates such as crispy pork skin with crunchy onion, polenta chips and a sweet and sour apple sauce.

Mad Hatter is a crunchy matcha (green tea) cake, with lemon sorbet and kumquat salad. Try saying that after a few cocktails.

Attitude, Avani, 257 Charoennakorn Road, Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand; +66 (0) 2431 9100

Agern, New York, NY, USA

To global gourmets, Danish culinary entrepreneur Claus Meyer is something of a hero after co-founding the legendary NOMA in Copenhagen.

His first US venture, Agern opened a few months ago in the jaw-dropping surrounds of New York’s Grand Central Station and has been packing them in ever since.

Icelandic executive chef Gunnar Gíslason is at the helm and delivers simple, clean but memorable dishes with distinctly Nordic roots, notably in his Land & Sea and Field & Forest tasting menus.

Agern, Grand Central Terminal, 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY; +1 (646) 568 4018

Grow, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

Ryan Clift trained under chefs such as the legendary Marco Pierre-White before establishing his own restaurant, Tippling Club, in Singapore. Now he is targeting the island of Bali via a new space called Grow at the L Hotel.

The concept is all-day dining with plenty of healthy eating options for the island’s numerous wellness fans.

His reputation as winner of one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 means that other options will be more sinful.

L Hotel Seminyak, Jl. Raya Petitenget No. 8L, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia; +62 361 894 7898

COMO The Treasury’s Wildflower, Perth, Australia

The indigenous people of Western Australia established a calendar of six seasons rather than four and this ethos guides Wildflower at COMO The Treasury, where genuine culinary innovation is on the menu.

Executive chef Jed Gerrard has long been fascinated with native Aussie ingredients and his farm-and-forager menu is set to showcase truly seasonal and local produce.

This may mean some of the state’s more than 12,000 species of wildflower or Dorper lamb make it to the plate, while dishes and desserts also feature wildflower honey from the restaurant’s rooftop beehives.

COMO The Treasury’s Wildflower, 1 Cathedral Avenue, Perth WA 6000, Australia; +61 (08) 6168 7855

Sushi Wakon, Four Seasons Kyoto, Japan

Sushi Wakon at The Four Seasons in Japan’s elegant former capital of Kyoto promises diners a “quintessential Ginza sushi experience.”

This is down to chef Rei Masuda, a 36-year-old sushi protégé named by Jiro Ono (of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” documentary fame) as having “truly remarkable seasoning.”

After nine years working under Jiro he opened Sushi Masuda which quickly won two Michelin stars.

In Kyoto he’ll serve traditional edomae-style sushi from an exclusive dining room that overlooks an 800-year-old pond garden.

Sushi Wakon, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, 445-3 Myohoin Maegawa-Chohigashiyama-Ku, Kyoto, Japan; +81 (0) 75-541-8176

La Tête, Cape Town, South Africa

Brothers Giles and James Edwards are behind this new French bistro which is all about nose-to-tail eating.

Situated in Cape Town’s increasingly popular Bree Street restaurant landscape, part of their goal is to get diners to embrace otherwise unfamiliar parts of the animal.

It’s no surprise that Giles worked for years with the godfather of nose-to-tail chefs, Fergus Henderson, at London’s peerless St John restaurant.

The menu changes daily but will include plates such as crispy pig tails.

La Tête, 17 Bree Street, Cape Town, South Africa; +27 21 418 1299

Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, Burj Al Arab, Dubai

British chef Nathan Outlaw is known as a seafood maestro, winning legions of fans across his UK portfolio of restaurants.

Dubai represents his first international venture in the unique surroundings of the Burj Al Arab’s Al Mahara restaurant.

Aptly, diners feel like they’re underwater given the huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium featuring more than 30 types of fish.

On the menu, the finest global produce includes stars from Outlaw’s home county of Cornwall, with dishes such as crispy oysters with caviar, raw scallops or citrus-cured brill all on offer.

Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; +971 4 301 7600

Don Alfonso at Helena Bay, Northland, New Zealand

New Zealand is proud of its luxury lodges and Helena Bay is one of the newest, offering breathtaking views alongside world-class cuisine.

It’s pulled off a culinary coup by bringing the team behind Italy’s renowned Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890 to the Southern Hemisphere.

Michele Martino is the executive chef behind a six-course degustation menu which changes nightly.

Diners can expect Italian specialties with New Zealand influences, such as linguine with clams and zucchini, while the property’s acres of gardens ensure the restaurant delivers on its promise of “estate-to-plate” cuisine.

Don Alfonso at Helena Bay, 1948 Russell Road, RD4 Hikurangi 0184, New Zealand; +64 9 433 6006

White Gold, New York, NY, USA

April Bloomfield is one of the most successful British chefs in New York with venues including the much-loved Greenwich Village stalwart The Spotted Pig to her name.

Her newest venture White Gold is uptown on the Upper West Side and features a full service restaurant with 38 seats that also doubles as a butcher’s shop.

Carnivorous cuts such as beef heart are on the menu, in addition to fermented pickles, bone broth, smoked lamb shoulder and more.

White Gold, 375 Amsterdam Ave, New York , NY; +212 362 8731

Sushi Ginza Onodera, Los Angeles, USA

Sushi doesn’t get much better than Michelin-starred omakase-style where chefs craft every piece in front of you.

West Hollywood is the second US location for Sushi Ginza Onodera, following their hugely successful New York opening.

The fish is all wild (never farmed) and flown in daily from Japan, meaning executive chef Yohei Matsuki has perfect produce to play with.

The 16-seat counter is only open for dinner, with the menu at a cool $300 per person — but at least the gratuity is included.

Sushi Ginza Onodera, 609 N.La Cienega Blvd West Hollywood, CA; +1 323 433 4817

Chris Dwyer is a Hong Kong-based food and travel writer and communications consultant. Follow him on Twitter at @chrismdwyer or visit www.finefooddude.com.

Eat Mediterranean diet for a healthier and younger brain, studies say

— As we age, our brains naturally shrink and our risk of having a stroke, dementia or Alzheimer’s rise, and almost everyone experiences some kind of memory loss.

Scientists know that people who exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking and keep mentally stimulated generally have healthier brains than people who aren’t as careful about diet and exercise.

Now, a new study seems to confirm that eating an easy-to-follow Mediterranean diet can have lasting benefits for brain health. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

For the study, researchers analyzed the diets of about 400 adults, 73 to 76 years old, in Scotland over a three-year period. During this same time, the researchers took MRI scans of the participants to analyze their overall brain volume and thickness of the brain’s cortex.

The researchers found that those who closely followed a Mediterranean-like diet were less likely to lose brain volume as they aged, compared with those who didn’t follow such a diet.

However, more research is needed to determine an association between a Mediterranean diet and a specific effect on risk for degenerative brain diseases, such as dementia.

A 2015 study from the journal Neurology also suggests that a Mediterranean diet (which includes wine!) may help make your brain about five years younger.

Researchers figured this out by looking at the brains of 674 people with an average age of 80. They asked these elderly people to fill out food surveys about what they ate in the past year, and researchers scanned their brains. The group that ate a Mediterranean diet had heavier brains with more gray and white matter.

“The previous study only measured brain volume at a single time point, whereas we had longitudinal measurements: two measurements three years apart,” said Michelle Luciano, a lecturer of psychology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and lead author of the latest study.

“The previous study was therefore not looking at brain volume change over time but differences in brain volumes at a single time point,” she said. “We also looked at two components of the diet, meat consumption and fish consumption, and neither of these had an individual effect on brain volume loss. It might be that the diet as a whole is beneficial, and it is the combination of the foods and nutrients that protects against, for example, vascular disease and inflammation, which can cause brain atrophy,” or volume loss.

The Mediterranean diet is relatively simple to follow. It involves eating meals made up mostly of plants: vegetables, fruit, beans and cereals. You can eat fish and poultry at least twice a week. You don’t have to keep away from carbs; in fact, you should have three servings of those a day, particularly of the whole grain variety.

A glass of wine a day is perfectly fine, too. What you do typically have to limit is the amount of meat, dairy and saturated fat you eat. Cook more with olive oil, as opposed to butter.

In the 2015 study, a higher consumption of fish was associated with keeping your brain young. But if you don’t really like fish, scientists at Harvard and Rush University in Chicago created the MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets that may be a little bit easier to follow, as it requires you to eat less fish and fruit.

People who ate a diet close to the MIND diet saw a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Even people who ate the MIND diet “most” (as opposed to “all”) of the time saw a 35% reduced chance of developing the disease. This is considered a significant result.

This latest Mediterranean diet research builds on other evidence that the diet is likely the way to go. It has also been shown as a key to helping you live longer. It helps you manage your weight better and can lower your risk for cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

Bottom line: you’ll likely be physically and mentally healthier long into old age if you stick with this diet.


5 of the best food podcasts of 2016

— Given our seemingly endless fascination with food as entertainment — highlighted by shows like “Top Chef” and personalities like Anthony Bourdain — it makes sense that there would be a great deal of interest in culinary podcasts.

Fortunately, there are newcomers and longtime broadcasters who are creating some really fine material about the world of food, focusing on recipes, cooking tips, trends and interviews with chefs and innovators.

Despite podcasting being an audio-only format, the medium lends itself to talking about food in ways that television can’t.

“I think there’s an intimacy available with podcasting that’s not as certain or as guaranteed right now in other mediums,” says Howie Kahn, Prince Street’s editor-in-chief. “[It’s] a good environment to draw out a long yarn and the kinds of truths that aren’t always available with a director asking for multiple takes.”

Foodies are lucky that 2016 saw no shortage of food podcasts, so we compiled a list of our top five and asked the hosts and producers a few questions about what makes them tick, as well as what the future might hold.

Prince Street

The Prince Street podcast is named after the location of Manhattan’s Dean & DeLuca store in SoHo. It’s a food variety show with episodes organized around particular themes like risk, craving and anxiety. Howie Kahn, a James Beard Award winning writer, is the host and editor-in-chief of Prince Street. Bourdain was a recent guest for an episode focusing on the holidays, and correspondents such as the actor and director Griffin Dunne often contribute to the show.

Your podcast in three words: Deep, delicious, surprising.

Other podcasts you listen to (not food related): Like everybody else, Serial. Anything Max Linsky and Jenna Weiss-Berman are doing at Pineapple Street Media. I like Alec Baldwin’s show, Here’s The Thing. And Heavyweight. Keepin’ it 1600 and Bill Simmons is always great, too. You Must Remember This is terrific.

Best guests: My favorite guests are the ones who allow themselves to get vulnerable and tell stories that are emotional and resonant. John Malkovich was terrific in this regard. A woman named Hawa Hassan, too. She grew up in Somalia and spent time in a refugee camp there before starting on a whirlwind journey that culminated in reconnecting with her estranged mother and launching a line of Somalian sauces. I loved having Francis Ford Coppola on the show, too. Alex Guarnaschelli is an excellent guest. Anthony Bourdain, Stephanie Danler. There’s so many.

Dream guest (dead or alive): Queen Elizabeth in a no-holds-barred interview. She’d never talk about food with any real depth in public, but if she did, I’d love to hear what that would sound like — 90 years of royal feasts. I’d be into that. An exit interview with the Obamas would be terrific. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on how they’ve modified their diets over the years. In the dead people category — Einstein? He’d have to have something good to say. In more personal terms, I’d be curious to know what my own ancestors ate for the last couple hundred years.

Favorite food city/restaurant meal: My favorite food city, and country, is Singapore for the way in which eating, and preparing food there, is treated with such pride and devotion, whether it’s a world-class restaurant meal or a bowl of $2 soup from a hawker center. Integrity and deliciousness seem like universal rights there.

Food pet peeve: Preparations that smack of laziness. Lack of empathy in a dining room.

Goals for 2017: A show with even more compelling stories, provocative interviews, real feeling and much-needed humor. I want Prince Street to be essential listening for anybody who cares about food and, really, humans.

Cooking With Archaeologists

Cooking With Archaeologists is truly a unique food podcast, focusing on recipes from field archaeologists. These are the people whose job it is to excavate and explore what makes up the history of humanity, literally getting their hands dirty in the process. They often lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle, traveling from one location to another, so mealtime, especially in the evening, becomes very important. Field archaeologists Dr. Colin Amundsen and Cris B. Santisteban produce the show, which is hosted by Colin.

Your podcast in three words: Universal, energizing, gregarious.

Other podcasts you listen to (not food related): Joe Rogan Experience (Colin) and Bill Burr Monday Morning podcast (Colin). Cris listens to Catalan radio and football matches (Barcelona, of course).

Best guest: The best guest is the diversity of the show. All of our guests are unique and bring something different to each interview through their personal experience and perspective regarding archaeology and food.

Dream guest (dead or alive): Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was an English woman who wore many hats, one being an archaeologist in the Middle East. Ms. Bell probably personifies why a lot of people become archaeologists — seeking adventure!

Favorite food city/restaurant meal: Galician style octopus in Barcelona! (Cris) and the 7-napkin burger from the Owl’s Head General Store in Maine (Colin).

Food pet peeve: Ketchup on hotdogs — I really don’t see the need or understand the combination (Colin). A hair or a fly in my food and too much coriander (Cris).

Goals for 2017: To continue to bring the public a diverse perspective on archaeology and food through the people who dedicate their lives to uncovering our shared past. And to promote the fantastic work and culinary skills of our talented colleagues.

Milk Street Radio

Milk Street Radio, which premiered in October, is Christopher Kimball’s latest media venture. Kimball is the founder of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and America’s Test Kitchen, but he parted ways with those ventures in 2015. His new show finds Kimball and several correspondents covering the world of food in interesting and unexpected ways. Recent episodes include a chat with author Michael Pollan and a primer on Persian cooking.

Your podcast in three words: The world cooks.

Other podcasts you listen to (not food related): Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Friday Night News Quiz (BBC), In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (BBC)

Best guests: Nigella Lawson and Ziggy Marley.

Dream guest (dead or alive): Taillevent (medieval chef) or Genghis Khan (for no particular culinary reason).

Favorite food city/restaurant meal: Best meal of my life was at Fredy Girardet’s restaurant in Crissier, Switzerland in the 1980s.

Food pet peeve: Anything labeled as “comfort” food (all food is comfort food) and the whole fermented/umami craze.

Goals for 2017: Making it to January 1, 2018? Traveling to Senegal for a cooking lesson? Putting fried eggs on almost everything?

The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table has been on the air since the mid-’90s. Host and food writer Lynne Rossetto Kasper created the show with the idea of exploring the culture, science and history of food, as well as food policies and issues. In addition to the podcast, the show airs on over 400 public radio stations around the country and has won two James Beard Foundation Awards.

Your podcast in three words: Exploring life’s appetites.

Other podcasts you listen to (not food related): We can start on home turf with a few of our fellow APM Podcasts we are currently addicted to: In the Dark, The Hilarious World of Depression, Historically Black, Brain’s On and Terrible, Thanks for Asking.

Best guests: This is like picking favorite children! Norah Ephron, Isaac Mizrahi, Julia Child, Maya Angelou, Col. Chris Hadfield, Michael Pollan, Vikas Khanna and Amy Sedaris (because no guest has made us laugh harder!).

Dream guest (dead or alive): Catherine de’ Medici, Charles Darwin, Michelle Obama or Oscar Wilde, Peggy Guggenheim, Michael Kinsley, Steve Martin.

Favorite food city/restaurant meal: Minneapolis/St. Paul (homebase) or San Francisco.

Food pet peeve: Food waste.

Goals for 2017: Have fun and try new things!


Bite is a Mother Jones food podcast hosted by food blogger Tom Philpott and editors Kiera Butler and Maddie Oatman. The show covers food politics, science and culture with the help of guest writers, farmers and chefs. Recent topics include tricking your brain into eating healthy, the recent wave of restaurants getting rid of tipping and the truth about how much protein we need in our diet.

Your podcast in three words: Food. Politics. Fun!

Other podcasts you listen to (not food related): Death, Sex & Money, The Longest Shortest Time, Call Your Girlfriend, The Specialist, Dear Sugar Radio, Slate’s Political Gabfest.

Best guests: Nicky Beyries, the San Francisco bartender who created election night cocktails especially for Bite: the Nasty Woman and the Bad Hombre. And having Michael Pollan on the show to talk about psychedelics was pretty cool.

Dream guest (dead or alive): Marco Polo.

Favorite food city/restaurant meal: Anything involving tortillas in Mexico City.

Food pet peeve: The over-use of truffle oil.

Goals for 2017: Interviewing actor Peter Dinklage, a real-life vegetarian whose character gnaws on roasted meat legs in “Game of Thrones.” (Can anyone put us in touch with Peter?)

Holiday Celebrations with West African Cuisine

— As people emigrate from various countries to the United States, they bring many of their traditions and cuisine with them. Such is true of those coming from West Africa.

West Africa is made up of sixteen nations, including: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and the Islands of Cape Verde.

With the large numbers of residents from these African nations now living in the Baltimore Metropolitan area, many stores and markets now carry spices and specialty foods and restaurants offer many authentic dishes.

Celebrations always include lots of food and Christmas celebrations are fun and happy times with many parties and family gatherings. People begin visiting loved ones a few days before Christmas to wish each other blessings and joy. The celebrations typically include feasts, dancing, singing and church services. Christmas Eve is often brought in with fireworks or candle lighting and parties.

Esme Bentil

Courtesy Photo

Esme Bentil

Ghanaian Esme’ Bentil and local caterer Judith Britton recently prepared some West African dishes for a gathering. The following dishes are usually a part of most holiday dinners: Chicken Peanut Soup from Ghana, Jollof Rice, Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage, and Baked Fish.

Esme’ Bentil ‘s Chicken Peanut Soup from Ghana

1 cup smooth peanut butter

2 15 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 cloves of garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 small onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. paprika

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Seasonal or creole seasoning to taste

Chicken parts at least six drum sticks and six thighs

2 stalks celery, finely chopped, use leaves for topping

Use fresh cilantro and chopped peanuts for topping

Add eight cups of water and six cups of chicken broth to a six-quart pot. Once the water is warm, add the peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter dissolves. Next, add all of the other ingredients and stir. Add chicken now and bring to a boil then turn the heat down to simmer until the chicken is cooked. Cooked rice can be added to your bowl of soup if desired.

Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is one of the most common West African dishes. It is served throughout the region, including: Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana.

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 orange bell pepper

2 medium to large onions

3 bulbs of garlic

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper

1/4 pound plum tomatoes

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste

Generous 2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon red palm oil

1 1/4 cups white basmati can rice


Add peppers, onions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water to a blender and blend together. In a large pot add oil and spices, saute’ for 1 minute. Add contents of blender and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, salt, palm oil and bouillon cubes, cook for another minute or so, then add rice and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a boil until most of the liquid has evaporated. The pot should have a tight-fitting lid. Stir gently so that all the rice is coated with the red sauce then reduce the heat to low.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Open the lid and stir gently again. It is important to get under the center of the pan so all the rice cooks at the same rate. Cover and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Open and stir a final time, then simmer a final 10 minutes.

Then fluff with a folk to separate the rice, slowly working inward from the edge of the pan in a swirling motion. If the rice is not completely cooked, add the ½ cup of stock, stir gently, then place back over low heat for 10 minutes. Spoon the rice out onto a dish and serve.

Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage

Courtesy Photo

Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage

Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage


6 slices bacon

1 bunch collard greens (about 2lbs)

1 small head cabbage chopped

1 smoked turkey neck for flavoring

1 pinch soul food seasoning or to taste

1 pinch crushed red pepper to taste

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 cups water, more if needed

3 cubes chicken bouillon

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place the bacon in a large deep skillet and cook over medium to high heat— turning occasionally until brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a plate lined with paper towel and crumble. Cook smoked turkey necks in water for 30 minutes. Add collards greens and cabbage, vegetable oil, water and chicken bouillon in a large pot over medium heat. Simmer until greens are wilted, about 10 minutes. Stir in bacon, soul food seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer until greens are very tender about 90 minutes. Add water if the mixture becomes too dry.

Whole Baked Fish

1-2 large white fish (approx.2 lbs or more ,stripped sea bass or red snapper)

1-2 lemons

1/2 bunch parsley

1/2 bunch basil

4-5 garlic cloves

2 onions sliced

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 bouillon cube

1/2 – 1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste


The whole fish must be gutted and scaled. Make three – four diagonal cuts in each side of the fish. Rub the fish inside and out with olive oil, salt and pepper, squeeze lemon over it. Place fish in a foil lined pan or roasting pan. Add parsley, basil, and garlic cloves inside cavity.

Add bouillon cube and water to the pan. Cover fish with sliced onions, and red and yellow peppers. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes or more depending on the thickness of the fish.

Enjoy your celebration!

Kale in gumbo? Disney pulls recipe after fans stew

— The gumbo recipe cooked up by Disney was supposed to be fit for a princess.

But what the company probably didn’t expect when it posted instructions for a “healthy” version of the dish was backlash from those who know gumbo best — the people of Louisiana.

Disney removed the recipe from social media pages this week after commenters ridiculed the meal for failing to have the signature base known as a roux and for including unusual ingredients like kale and quinoa.

The flap was first reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which wrote about the recipe video for Tiana’s Healthy Gumbo, posted to the Facebook page for the movie “The Princess and the Frog.”

The 2009 film, the Times-Picayune noted, “featured a New Orleanian princess who ruled with her culinary skills.”

Chaos ensued.

“Y’all put kale and quinoa in a ‘gumbo’ without roux or file powder?” one Twitter user wrote. “Ok, Disney. Don’t attach Tiana’s name to that.”

Roux is a flour-and-fat thickening agent used as a base for stews, and filé is a flavoring powder made from the ground leaves of the sassafras tree — as commenters were outraged to have to explain.

“The one thing that instantly unites Louisianans of all races and creeds is the horror of a gumbo recipe with kale and no roux,” wrote another Twitter user.

Others on Twitter used the hashtags #GumboStrong and #GumboGate to announce their contempt for the recipe. Someone even launched a White House petition: “Stop Disney from Ruining Gumbo.”

The video was removed from the Facebook page Tuesday night, according to the Times-Picayune. By Wednesday morning, posts on Twitter and YouTube had also vanished.

Clips from the original video can still be seen in a funny reaction video published on YouTube.

A spokeswoman told CNNMoney on Wednesday that the company would look into it.