November 1, 2008

Scrapin' Up the Bits... Spooktacular Style

A little bit 'o everything here. No need to mince words. I'll just get to it.

First, and this is not the first study to reach this conclusion, but a new study from the United Nations concludes that, in Africa at least, yields on farms that are organic or "near-organic" have superior yields compared to large industrial farms.
The study found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and chemical-intensive conventional farming. It also found strong environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water and resistance to drought.
Next, and this is very late in coming, but if you didn't read Michael Pollan's latest in the New York Times -- a letter to the next president -- please do so now. It's quite long, but well worth the read. At the heart of this letter is a central proposal, to return to a food system based on the power of sunshine.
Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.
More locally, Cafe Allegro, a Pittsburgh dining standard bearer for the better part of the last two decades, is closing. I never ate there, and had heard its better days were behind it. Nevertheless, it's sad to see.

Meanwhile, the Passport Cafe, a restaurant where I have only eaten lunch, gets raves from the City Paper.
The subtitle of Passport Café, a year-old restaurant in an upscale strip mall on Perrysville Highway, is "Global cuisine, local harvest." Worthy, to be sure, but ... not to put too fine a point on it, but lately every other restaurant we visit seems to tout a variation on this theme. What then, we wondered, would distinguish Passport Café? Let us count the ways.
That's a long way from this Post-Gazette review from nearly a year ago, not long after the restaurant opened.
With all this effort, I expected to be impressed. Instead, I found myself perplexed and disappointed.
When we eat steaks anymore, I've given up on the grill. Instead, I opt for the cast-iron, seared first on the stove top, and finished in the oven. While I enjoy a burger, the ones I make at home are just never that great. I place part of that blame on the grill and its lack of temperature control. I know it sounds like heresy, but I've been thinking if, for burgers, we should likewise abandon the grill altogether.

This, however, convinces me that a combination approach, may be worth at least one try. Now if I could only find those brioche buns!

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