So here’s what’s been happening…
Hong Kong-based meat processing company Shuanghui International sent shivers down the spines of U.S. meat-eaters this week when it announced its plans to buy Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest processor of pork, for $5 billion. Why the unease? Shuanghai is infamous for its shady food safety standards, including a 2012 report in which a Beijing woman opened a pack of Shuanghui sausages and discovered a bunch of maggots. Then there was the clenbuterol scandal of 2011, in which the illegal additive — lethal to humans — was fed to pigs that Shuanghui had purchased. U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura has “deep doubts about whether this merger best serves American consumers,” and we have to admit we’re inclined to agree.
Beyond the realm of Bennison’s there’s a whole galaxy of incredible pastry chef talent, but only six were lucky enough to be honored by Food & Wine magazine’s second annual Best New Pastry Chefs in America award. Among the names honored with the award this past Thursday were Melanie Durant of Atlanta’s Empire State South and Bob Truitt of Ai Fiori and the Altamarea Restaurant Group in NYC. Chicago’s own Sarah Jordan of Boka and GT Fish & Oyster also made the list, along with Jodi Elliott of Austin’s trendy Foreign & Domestic, who won the popular vote-determined People’s Best New Pastry Chef award. Check out the July issue of Food & Wine, on newsstands June 14, for a full list of the winners.
If you’re looking for another lineup to obsess over now that Dillo Day has come and gone, you can shift your attention to the list of restaurants that will be making an appearance at Taste of Chicago this summer. The city announced the lineup Friday morning and while it went without much fanfare due to the largely familiar names on the list, there are a few promising new presences including Bobak’s, Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill, Smoke Daddy and Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant. The festival, which will take place July 10-14 in Grant Park, will also feature “Chef du Jour” pop-up restaurants, along with concerts and other fun, family-friendly activities. Check out the full lineup and purchase tickets at the link above.
Don’t be alarmed if you’re enjoying dinner at Cozy and someone at the table next to you shouts “That’s how many calories are in pad thai?!” at their phone. It’s not another off-kilter Evanston townie; it’s probably a conscientious eater taking advantage of Google’s latest high-tech development: nutritional info on search results pages, also available through voice search on the web or mobile. Google’s been building its “Knowledge Graph” — an aggregated, easily accessible network of info from all across the web — for some time now, with nutritional information for over 1,000 foods and counting. Next time you’re curious, try asking “how many carbs in corn?” or simply searching “corn,” and you’ll see the detailed answer immediately.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), non-approved genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in an Oregon field. While the wheat has been deemed safe to eat, and there is no evidence to date that the wheat entered the marketplace, the discovery could present troubling trade ramifications if its growth is widespread. The U.S. exports about half of its wheat crop, while Oregon exports 90 percent, and many global trade partners don’t accept imports of GMOs. Organic food brands could also be affected by the discovery, as they are not legally allowed to use genetically engineered ingredients. The report is pending development, but Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse says the U.S. is already in touch with international trading partners to try and quell any concerns.
For wine enthusiasts who also profess a fondness for Star Trek, the stars have aligned in a glorious way: CBS has partnered with Votto Vines to launch three limited-run Star Trek-themed wines in commemoration of the sci-fi franchise’s 50th anniversary. Until July 1, you can boldly go where no one has gone before by purchasing the CBS Consumer Products-licensed wines (named “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Mirror Mirror” and “The Trouble with Tribbles,” after the three all-time most popular episodes) on Vinport.com. Hopefully you like steak with your Star Trek, as the medium-bodied, “easy drinking” California red blends will go best with red meat. Hard-core fans can buy a whole case for $285, while single bottles will go for $24.99. Complete your collection with some Silence of the Lambs wine, too, launched Wednesday by Alamo Drafthouse.