Golden Corral  Scientists Discover Meaty, Non-Toxic New Species of Mammal in Previously Unexplored Reaches of the Urban Jungle

Buffet_brekafast_(5078306699)Field biologists working for a Golden Corral in Manhattan’s Lower East Side have discovered a previously unseen mammalian organism living deep the heart of New York City’s urban jungle. Sources report the species is meaty, non-toxic and “basically good enough for human consumption.” If their reports are confirmed, this creature would be the first new mammal discovered within the city’s five boroughs in nearly two centuries.

“This is a remarkable find,” said Chef Frank Salar, a world-renowned expert familiar with the details of the expedition. “It’s simply groundbreaking work poised to slash tens of dollars from the food bills of millions of Americans. In my 30 years working in the field, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

Initial reports suggest the organism’s flesh becomes “remarkably tender” after a simple regimen of marinating overnight, stewing in a crock pot for eight hours and then sitting in a steam tray under a heat lamp for at least a day.

“I admit, when we trapped the first one, I thought to myself ‘no way is that going to be any good, not even by the standards of someone interested in an all-you-can-eat pricing arrangement,’” said Fry Cook Erwin P. Maer, the supervising biologist leading the expedition into the primeval depths of New York’s notorious urban jungle. “Stacy [Parker], [the expedition’s head chef], though, she marinated the [expletive] out of that thing, stewed it overnight and then let it sit in the team’s steam tray for a couple days, and damned if it wasn’t totally edible. I mean it was at least in line with what you’d expect for an everyday low price of just $8.99.”

Reports describe the creature as gray or brown-furred, between one and two feet in length and possessing a circumference greater in the posterior than the anterior. “They look like furry bowling pins,” said Alice Murray, cashier interested in studying the flora and fauna living beneath New York City, who accompanied Chef Parker on the expedition. “It’s got a long [expletive] tail, too. Good for grabbing, not so good for eating. Even Stacy couldn’t make that part work.”

The animals are also remarkably abundant in the new terrain, which suggests they reproduce both rapidly and affordably, a critical combination.

“This animal possesses what I call the ‘Golden Duo’ of acceptable taste and extreme affordability,” noted Maer.

He wasn’t the only one who was impressed, either.

“There were just a[n] [expletive] ton of these things down there,” said urban jungle guide and street survival expert Miguel Wallace, who assisted the researchers in navigating the labyrinth of subterranean corridors twisting and turning just beneath the city streets. “Give me $10 and a box of trash bags, and I could get you enough meat to fill every buffet steam tray in the tri-state area.”

The expedition made its momentous discovery by accident. The team had originally planned to only study and further document previously explored regions of the vast underground transportation and waste disposal tunnels below Manhattan’s Lower East Side. However, an upside down map and a couple wrong turns later, they stumbled upon a completely unexplored section near the Upper West Side.

“I admit it was pure luck,” Maer said of their serendipitous find. “But then again, weren’t most of history’s greatest discoveries made by accident? Other than the ones given to us by aliens, of course.”

Asked for comment, a press spokesman from Golden Corral’s corporate headquarters said executives were “very pleased” with the new findings and “optimistic” about what it could mean for the company’s bottom line. He added that company researchers would soon begin clinical trials to determine whether customers can tell the difference between the new organism and the “wide variety of competitively-priced meats” already being served at Golden Corral’s 500 locations nationwide.


Can Someone Please Make This: an eHarmony for Food

Like most humans, I like to eat. It can be anywhere: home, restaurants, a gas station, a relatively clean dumpster behind a Wendy’s, even Golden Corral. The thing is, when I go to a restaurant I often have a hard time figuring out what to order. There are a variety of reasons for this. Sometimes the menu doesn’t do a good job explaining the item (what is Moo Goo Gai Pan anyway, some sort of beef gel?). Sometimes the item just doesn’t live up to its description. More often that not, though, the reason I can’t decide is because I’m not even sure what I want. Sure, I’m hungry. Buffalo Beef Wellington smothered in a sauce made of butter, Frank’s and blue cheese dressing sounds good enough, but I have the nagging feeling there’s something I would rather have. Choice can be a good thing, but sometimes I get sick of having to make choices and would rather just have some food thrust upon me. That can be dangerous game, though. Nobody wants to eat just any random thing. What I need then is some sort of middle ground—something that doesn’t require a choice but also takes into account my personal preferences. I need some sort of quiz that can be analyzed to find my perfect food match. I want the sort of food bliss that can only come from careful consideration of 29 different levels of culinary compatibility. What I want, in other words, is for someone to make an eHarmony restaurant.

Can someone please make this? It really wouldn’t be that hard to pull off. I’m almost kinda maybe half-considering doing this when I retire myself. Here’s how it would work: you, the restaurateur, create a questionnaire that asks all the big food taste questions. Do you like spicy food? Do you like tomatoes? What are your feelings on dairy? Is fish a good thing or a bad thing? Do you have any allergies? And so on.

The purpose of some of the questions shouldn’t be obvious in order to add an air of expertise and give diners the false impression that you’re analyzing more than you really are.  For example, have you broken any bones in the last 10 years? Do you prefer traveling by car or plane? When you head to the casino do you head to the slots or the blackjack table? Maybe even throw in some absurd hypothetical along the lines of the classic would you rather fight 50 horses the size of a duck or a duck the size of a horse? In fact, I’d say there should be at least five “would you rather fight” hypotheticals in the questionnaire.

Naturally, half the questions don’t factor in at all, but the ones that do should be either/or so you can make a flow chart that your waiters can use to analyze the questionnaire and determine the perfect dish. Ideally, diners should only get the same dish if their questionnaires were identical, but for practical reasons this might not be possible. Getting the right amount of questions and asking the right questions will take a little practice and tinkering, but it should be doable with experience. Keep in mind, this whole model will only work if the questionnaire actually does a good job selecting a dish. The most important thing should be to identify major turnoffs first and avoid those at all costs.

Of course, the questionnaire can never be perfect, and a lot of people may not really answer the questions accurately. For example, I like to consider myself someone who likes fish, but really when it comes down to it I find it tolerable at best. This mostly stems from my dislike of picky eaters and the fact that I like to think of myself as open minded. There may be a way to ferret out certain self-deceptions, but sometimes you’re just going to have to go with what you have.

The real homerun you’re going for with this restaurant isn’t just to make something your customers like, though that’s a good start. What you really want is to make them something they like that they would never have picked off the menu if ordering in the traditional method. If you can do that, the whole eHarmony-of-food thing becomes more than just a gimmick and starts to provide real value added. That’s something we can all enjoy.

Trend Watch: Raising Turkeys May Be Cooler Than Raising Chickens

TurkeyMove over chickens, there’s a new trend in urban animal husbandry: Tom Turkey. That’s according to several leading cool people in hip coastal cities.

“Chickens are played out,” says food truck owner/chef and facial hair blogger Gerry Hildebrand of Brooklyn, NY. “I mean, shit, the other day my mom was asking me about the best brand of chicken coop for her tract house in the ‘burbs. Keep in mind this is a woman who still asks for ‘the Rachel’ at her hair salon.”

Many poultry owners say they have grown dissatisfied with the nutritional content of chicken products. Proponents of switching to turkeys often cite several health benefits of “going gobble.”

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that turkey eggs are actually much healthier than chicken eggs,” says graphic designer and Etsy-preneur Sophia Szydlik of Portland, Oregon. “They have less cholesterol, more protein and a ton of antioxidants. And if you’re into butchering, the meat is leaner and has a crapload of Omega-3 [fatty acids]. Plus, a tom turkey isn’t going to wake the whole neighborhood at sunrise like a rooster. It’s kind of a no brainer, really.”

Bridge connecting Manhattan with the traditional poultry farming community of Williamsburg.

It’s not always easy, though. Making the switch can come with a steep learning curve and often entails significant added expenses.

“When I started experimenting with turkeys two or three years ago, I thought I could just use my old chicken coop,” said Alexis Little, a San Francisco barista and author of the self-published DIY guide/epic poem A Turkey in Every Pot. “Yeah, not so much. Turns out turkeys are a very different sort of fowl. They need a lot of space and a diverse diet or they’re just going to taste like some bland, Globo-market crap you’d get at Safeway.”

It’s also important for potential turkey owners to consider their resources and lifestyle when selecting a breed.

“Newbies will often see a picture of a Bourbon Red or a Royal Palm in Turkey Country and go buy some poults without really giving any thought to whether they have the space, time and patience for a breed like that,” says Allyson Cole, a poultry expert who runs the Butterball™ Chicken and Turkey Rescue in Brooklyn. “All the time I get turkeys from well-meaning rookies who got in over their heads and just gave up.”

Still, most seasoned turkey enthusiasts say that if you’re willing to make the commitment and do your homework, it can be well worth the effort.

“I roll my eyes every time I hear someone talk about how great their fresh chicken eggs are,” said Szydlik. “Please, it’s 2015. I suppose you think your Prius is still super cool, too? Turkeys are where it’s at now. I wouldn’t give up my Joseph Gobbles or Eddy Gizzard for a whole flock of chickens.”

Picky Eaters are the Scourge of Civilization

“Nobody really likes sushi. It’s just a fad.” This is how a picky eating coworker of mine once described the centuries-old Japanese culinary tradition. Sure, I get his basic point. The popularity of sushi among young Americans has risen dramatically in the past decade and is, to some extent, a trend. But come on. It ain’t Krispy Kremes and cupcakes. Sushi has been popular with people my age since I started college in 2002, was popular before then, and will continue to be popular into the long term. I don’t really care about that debate, though. What got to me, what really drove me up the proverbial wall, was it’s just the sort of thing a picky eater would say, and picky eaters are, as they say, the worst.

There are three kinds of relationships people have with sushi: either (1) they love it; (2) they’ve never had an opportunity to try it; or (3) they’re overgrown children who never eat anything outside the spectrum between white bread and mac & cheese. What makes the third category “picky” eaters is that modern sushi ain’t just yellow tail sashimi. It’s tempura. It’s hot sauce. It’s rolls so Americanized they’re named after American cities (believe it or not cream cheese isn’t an authentic Japanese ingredient). To say you dislike sushi is more akin to saying you hate a whole class of food than it is to saying you dislike one type of food. But still, it’s not just that they dislike sushi that bothers me…

It’s a common misconception that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Bullshit. Legally, we’re entitled to think stupid, baseless things, but my respect for someone’s opinion is dependent on how they arrived at that opinion. That’s not to say that just because I disagree with your opinion means I disrespect it. There are plenty of horrible opinions whose existence I can at least appreciate and tolerate because they have a logical underpinning (see Ayn Rand). The thing is, picky eating isn’t one of them. Picky eating is more a state of arrested development than it is a real opinion. We all start our lives as picky eaters. I myself used to hate half the grocery store. Then came my eighth birthday and I realized that seemingly icky things with foreign sounding names and strange colors could actually be pretty good if I gave them half a chance. And that’s just it. Picky eaters don’t give things any chance.

Don’t get me wrong here. Just because you don’t like some foods doesn’t make you a picky eater. Everyone has a few things they just can’t stand. For me, that’s creamy goat cheese (feta is fine). It has this barnyard-y taste I just can’t like no matter how many times I’ve tried it. And I have tried it dozens of times. I want so badly to like it. That’s the key. I’ve given it a real chance. Having an opinion about something doesn’t make you picky. Having a baseless and/or unreasonable opinion makes you picky.

For picky eaters it’s their way or the highway. In fact, the unifying trait of all the picky eaters I’ve known has been that they’re generally close-minded and demanding about everything, not just food. Picky eaters are that asshole who won’t even give three seconds of playing time to a song before declaring they hate it. They’re that asshole who has one or two entertainment venues they’re willing to go to. They’re that asshole who will never move more than a hundred miles from their hometown even for the opportunity of a lifetime. They’re that asshole who has to be coddled into playing any new game and will have a tantrum if not good at it immediately. Picky eaters are certain of everything. They follow the most popular religion in their region. They hold all the most common opinions.  They know what is right and what is wrong without having to think about it. They are supremely confident and think anything else is evidence of error. Most of all, they can’t understand why anyone would want to be any other way. It’s all so obvious to them.

Once again, don’t get me wrong. There’s a certain breed of picky eaters who claim to be picky because of their unusual sensitivity to flavors, the so-called “supertasters.” I really can’t comment on this. It’s clear that such people do exist, but I don’t know how common they really are. All I can say is that making that excuse for picky eating seems similar to an obese person claiming it’s a glandular problem. Sure, I think such people exist, but for most it’s probably just a convenient excuse. That said, most of the self-proclaimed supertasters I’ve met don’t exhibit all the typical picky eater pathologies. For one, they’re usually apologetic about being a picky eater. True picky eaters don’t feel bad about being picky; they resent people who aren’t, like my sushi-eating coworker. True picky eaters proudly proclaim their allegiance from the rooftops and bitch and moan any time everyone else wants to hold a group lunch at some place that isn’t cheese pizza or chicken fingers. Secondly, supertasters have usually given the foods they don’t like several chances. When pressed, many picky eaters will admit they’ve never even tried the foods they hate, and when they have it was usually half a bite, one time, a decade or so ago.

Which brings me to my final point. Some of you are probably thinking “Why do you care so much? Live and let live, right? It’s not like they’re making you be a picky eater. Isn’t it kind of like them to have such a strong, certain opinion about picky eating? It doesn’t affect you, does it?” Okay, sure. I get what you’re saying. If I were reading this about a subject I’m neutral on I might have the same reaction. But see, the thing is it does affect me. Constantly.

Every time 95% of us want Chinese or Chipotle but we have to go to Applebee’s because Frank doesn’t eat “ethnic” foods, it affects me. Every time we have to order a goddamn cheese “pizza” because Debbie refuses to pick the pepperonis (or god forbid vegetables) off her slices, claiming she can still taste it, it affects me. It affects me when, instead of Subway or Quiznos, we have to go to Burger King for the 10,000th time because Bob hates “health food.” It affects me when the office snack closet has nothing but potato chips and candy bars because as a child John’s parents never made him eat anything that couldn’t be bought at a gas station. There is nothing group-related that they do not try to affect.

Unless you have a legit medical condition or a conscientious or religious objection (e.g. you’re vegetarian, have Crohn’s disease, don’t eat pork because you’re Jewish or Muslim, etc.), you have no right to always demand the majority change its food choice to suit your tastes. What’s ironic is that people who have legitimate reasons for wanting to eat something else are usually more accommodating than they need to be. I’ve seen many a vegetarian not make a fuss over having to order French fries for their whole meal because no vegetarian entrees were on the menu, and yet some spoiled child of a picky eater will bitch at Italian food because they don’t like tomatoes.

And that’s just it. Picky eaters are usually like that because they’re used to getting their way. They’re overgrown brats. Spoiled 25 year-old toddlers. When other parents were telling their kids to shut up and eat their damn broccoli, the picky eater’s parents were back in the kitchen cooking up an alternative their little prince wouldn’t cry over.

This attitude, the type of person who is absolutely unwilling to compromise, causes half the world’s problems. Civilization is the product of many compromises. If everyone were as intransigent as picky eaters, society would crumble into anarchy. Just look at all the problems America has had in the past decade because Republicans and Democrats have had difficulty compromising on even basic stuff. A good compromise means nobody gets exactly what they want, but no compromise means nobody gets any of what they want. Picky eaters introduce this stubborn unwillingness to deal into our world and the chaos and suffering that comes with it.

Let me close with a message to the parents of the world: picky eaters are made, not born. It is up to you to end the scourge of picky eating. When your kids complain about the Brussels sprouts, smack ‘em upside the head. When they refuse to eat, let them go hungry. The French say hunger is the best spice. Maybe your kids will think sushi tastes better after a foodless night spent pouting in their room.

Cooking Tips I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger

A common listicle I encounter in my internet travels is the advice from an old person to a young person theme. It’s usually called “Stuff I wish I knew when I was younger” or something to that effect. While these articles are all well and good, they’re typically quite general, giving basic, common sense life advice like “Texans are, without exception, horrible human beings.” This is fine. I enjoy these articles no matter how many times I read about the importance of giving back, or avoiding credit card debt, or whatever. That said, I like my advice as specific and tailored as possible. That’s why, starting today, I’m creating a series of stuff-I-wish-I-knew articles. This may end up being the first part in a one part series or I may do a ton. We’ll see.

In any case, I want to start with a topic near and dear to my heart: the noble art of cooking. My cooking education has been, for the most, part unguided and picked up from just cooking whatever recipes I’ve come across. I’m not really that old and not really qualified to teach any cooking classes, but I do know enough to point amateurs like myself in the right direction. I cook from scratch about four nights per week and have done so for years, so I would at least call myself a veteran home cook. In any case, take this advice for what you will.

  1. Less is More, Particularly When It Comes to Spices

Keep it simple. I would say this is the single most common mistake beginners make and the critical difference between novices and intermediates. When I was younger, I used to think that the more flavorings I added the better the flavor would be, sort of like Texans think the more tires your pickup truck has the better the man you are. This method ravaged my spice rack on a weekly basis. This was the first and only time in my life I actually had to replace a bottle of coriander. And yet, like so many duely-drivin’ who can’t understand how they spend $500 a month on gas, I could never understand why my recipes never turned out well. Did it need another tablespoon of coriander? Perhaps my tarragon to dill ratio was off? Or maybe I just needed to add an 1/8 cup dash of Mrs. Dash to even it out? Turns out it was none of the the above actually. What it needed, every single time without fail, was less of everything but a few high quality ingredients that work well together.

How do you know what goes together well? Experience. Practically speaking, what you should do is make the same or similar recipes many times, adding or changing just one ingredient to see the effect every ingredient has. Unless you’re operating off a recipe, don’t add a flavor if you don’t understand its effect. It’s not enough simply to have smelled the herb or read about it. You need to have experimented with it personally. I have discovered many flavorings I never knew I liked this way. Adding too much stuff is like trying to operate a computer by pressing all the buttons. Press each one individually and figure out what they actually do. Once you understand them, then you’ll understand which ones go together, and your cooking will improve exponentially. You can speed up this process by making several small portions of something you cooked up, adding one new ingredient to each portion and then tasting each one individually. Just make sure to clear your palette between each one (i.e. rinse your mouth with some water) to make sure one sample’s flavor doesn’t bleed into the next.

Keep in mind that most of the best recipes out there are actually pretty simple. The pitfall most people make is ruining them through poor execution, poor ingredients, or adding a bunch of dumb stuff the recipe didn’t call for. Resist the urge! The only spice in my favorite stir fry is ginger. My favorite salsa is spiced only with cumin. My favorite vegetable soup only has parsley and coriander, and honestly would be fine without both of them. If something isn’t good before you add the spices, chances are it’s not going to be after you add the spices.

  1. Fresh Herbs are Way Better

Speaking of spices, I can’t stress enough how big of a difference freshness makes. Freshness is important with practically everything, but it’s doubly so with herbs. This is something I failed to appreciate for years, always using the freeze dried crap in my spice rack because it was a cheaper and easier to get. As a general rule, l will only use the spice rack if fresh are unavailable at the grocery store, or if I’m making something unplanned and won’t be going to the grocery. The difference fresh makes really depends on which herb we’re talking about as some dry better than others. There are some things I won’t even use unless they’re fresh, though, e.g. basil. Fortunately, basil is probably the most available fresh herb at grocery stores. An example of something that doesn’t make as big of difference would be thyme, a plant that’s half dried out already when it’s still alive. Rosemary is also okay from a bottle. If you’re really serious about cooking, though, I’d recommend growing your own herbs. I live in an apartment and still manage to have a dozen different herbs growing on my porch during the summer.

  1. Make Reductions

Oh how I love reductions. Nothing makes you trick people into thinking you know what you’re doing like a nice, thick reduction poured over a well-cooked piece of meat. I discovered the beauty of reductions when I first made steak au poivre (French for pepper steak). To make it, coat a steak in peppercorns, cook it in a pan, then deglaze the pan with brandy, reduce said brandy, add cream and dump over the steak. The flavor is astonishing. There are several reasons it works, but the biggest is the concentrated flavor of the brandy reduction. For those who don’t know, making a reduction just means you boil the water out of a liquid. It can be done with anything, but is often done with alcoholic beverages. Examples of good things to make a reduction with are brandy, wine, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce. I’ve made them with many other things though, and usually a combination of multiple things. I recently made a pork chop reduction by mixing Madeira wine with balsamic vinegar. It tasted like love. The beauty of the reduction is that they’re almost always good. Really, they just range from mere goodness to spine-melting deliciousness. It doesn’t need to be for sauce either. I typically add a red wine reduction to my vegetable beef soup. Just check out some recipes, experiment and see what happens.

  1. Balance

Having balanced flavors is the hallmark of a good recipe. With the steak au poivre I mentioned above, one of the things that make it so damn good is that the sweet creaminess of the brandy cream reduction is magnificently balanced out by the bitter spice of the coat of black peppercorns. If something is too acidic, add a little sugar or cream. For example, when I make balsamic vinegar reductions the result is often a little too acidic. Adding a couple tablespoons of heavy cream does wonders for the flavor. Likewise, if something is too rich or sweet, add a little lemon juice to give it some acidity.

So there you have it. Four tips that will serve you well in your culinary life. Enjoy.