FOOTBALL GAME FOOD: Food has been steadily improving in places like airports, movie theaters and concert arenas, where people gather for reasons other than to eat. Although staples like hot dogs, pizza and popcorn still make up about two-thirds of food sales in sports stadiums, baseball menus have matured to include gochujang-glazed eggplant buns, fresh Dungeness crab sandwiches, ceviche, espresso and craft beer. (NYTIMES)
Credit: Dan Chambers for the New York Times
Football has lagged behind baseball largely because the sports are different. Baseball is played at a slower pace, with built-in breaks that allow fans to wander around a stadium sampling food. The crowds are smaller, and stadiums are open for about 80 games a season, which makes it easier to polish and sustain creative concessions.
Football is a different beast. Crowds can top 80,000 fans, most of whom want to be in their seats for every play and visit concession stands only before the game and at halftime. With just eight regular home games a season, it’s hard to create a system that produces consistently great food.
Then there is tailgating, although it’s hard to say whether bad stadium food led to tailgating or tailgating led to less emphasis on food inside the stadium.
WORLD’S HEALTHIEST CUISINE: It turns out that countries with big immigrant populations tend to have the greatest diversity—places like the U.S. and Australia, for example. These countries have the greatest number of ingredients and the biggest variation between dishes, too.
For example, about half the dishes from the Southeast Asian country of Laos have more than 15 ingredients, whereas half the dishes from Russia have fewer than seven. So the cuisine in Laos is significantly more complex than Russian cuisine.
Countries with large numbers of ingredients on offer tend to have the most complex dishes. Exceptions: Chinese and Indian cuisine both have relatively few ingredients to choose from, but these are used in relatively complex dishes. Perhaps, these countries had or have good chefs that could cook more complex foods with the available ingredients or the cuisine from older cultures in these countries is more complex because it has had longer to evolve.
Peng Chuang-kuei, creator of General Tso’s Chicken (WAPO)
GENERAL TSO:Peng Chang-kuei, a vaunted Hunanese chef was widely credited as the creator of General Tso’s chicken, a dish that evolved into the deep-fried, sticky and unabashedly inauthentic staple of the American Chinese take-out joint.
Mr. Peng said that he devised the recipe for a banquet in the 1950s. He named it in honor of Zuo Zongtang, a celebrated Hunanese general of the 19th century who helped crush the Taiping Rebellion, an uprising that cost tens of millions of lives.
In America, General Tso, like Colonel Sanders, is known for chicken, not war. In China, he is known for war, not chicken.
Mr. Peng’s original recipe called for chicken with bones and skin. The chicken was not fried, and it was served sans the piquantly sweet sauce, relying instead on garlic and soy sauce for flavor. It did have chilies, but no broccoli.
NORCIA BEER: After the Oct. 30 quake, one of the few things left standing at the monastery was a small brewery, where for the past four years the monks have been making Nursia, a beer named for Norcia’s ancient Latin appellation. Their brew may now be the salvation — symbolically, at least — not only of the monks’ sanctuary, but also of Norcia itself.
FAVORITE BEERS AROUND THE WORLD: Americans love Bud Light. in Canada, the beer of choice is Bud Light’s heavier cousin Budweiser. Down in Mexico, people choose Corona most often. In China, beer drinkers down a lager beer called Snow; in India, people like a pale lager called Kingfisher best; in Brazil, the most popular brew is a Pilsner called Skol; and across the ocean, in Australia, it’s a beer called Victoria Bitter.
How to drink beer like a local (WAPO)
LUXURY TOILET PAPER: Americans have a new favorite way to flush money down the drain: luxury toilet paper. Sales in the United States of what the industry calls “luxury” rolls — anything quilted, lotioned, perfumed or ultra-soft, from two- to four-ply — climbed to $1.4 billion last year, outpacing all other kinds of toilet paper for the first time in nearly a decade.
A roll of luxury toilet paper is stamped with gold in Germany. American luxury toilet paper is softer, thicker and gold-free. (Michael Dalder, Reuters)
RUSSIAN PBR? Pabst Brewing, owner of some of the most well-loved, all-American, blue-collar brews in the country, will soon be bought by a Cyprus-based beverage conglomerate that calls itself the biggest independent brewer in Russia. The iconic brand behind Pabst Blue Ribbon, the red-white-and-blue-canned lager founded in Milwaukee before the Civil War, announced late last week that it will be bought by Oasis Beverages, which runs breweries in Moscow, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
Soon, none of these will be fully owned by American-based companies. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
HEAVIEST EUROPEAN BINGE DRINKERS: Ireland is no surprise, but French binge drinking is one the rise. Other heavy drinkers include Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Finland, and Greece.
Prevalence of Binge Drinking in Europe (WHO 2010/WAPO)
6 ICED COFFEES: Inventive, refreshing and delicious in Washington, DC and Brooklyn, NY
Kenya Cola, Mockingbird Hill in Washington, D.C.: Kenyan coffee with a little sugar is chilled in an ice bath, mixed with three kinds of bitters (tiki, Spanish and black walnut), then poured in a glass with ice and topped with soda water.
Thunderbolt, Smith Canteen in Brooklyn: First came the freshly made lemonade, a taste of the Arkansas childhood of Rob Newton, the chef and an owner. Then came a shot of Haru, a citric coffee with gingery flavors that is grown in Ethiopia and roasted by Counter Culture Coffee. The two partner beautifully for a captivating flavor that’s part iced Americano, part American South.
The Black & Blue from Cuvée Coffee (Phil Kline, NYTimes)
DOMINO’S SMART SLICE: Domino’s is delivering a pizza it calls the Smart Slice to more than 3,000 lunchrooms in 38 states, up from 3 states in 2010.
Compared with the standard Domino’s pizza, the Smart Slice has 1/3 less fat in the pepperoni, 1/3 less salt in the sauce, and cheese with just half the usual fat — all changes made to fit the new standards.
Domino’s uses a brand called Ultragrain, made by the food giant ConAgra; it makes up 51 percent of the flour in the crusts. Ultragrain is derived from a hard winter wheat called Snowmass, developed in 2009 by food scientists at Colorado State University, and the brand is showing up as an ingredient in an increasing variety of foods aimed at the school market, including Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.
CANNED CRAFT BEER: More and more fancy craft beer is showing up in aluminum cans. For decades, canned beer was the stuff you bought cheap — the PBR or Natural Ice — bottom-shelf beer. But the number of craft breweries putting their beer in cans has more than doubled since 2012.
Can advocates and brewers who are choosing cans say there are clear advantages over bottles: The beer in a can cools faster. The can protects from beer-degrading light. Beer cans are portable and take up less space, advantages both for retailers and for consumers who want to take them camping, hiking or fishing. There’s also more space on a can for wraparound design and decoration.
The biggest selling point for the bottle, though, is flavor. There’s at least a perception that cans impart a metallic taste, whereas liquid stored in a bottle comes out tasting pure. However, Most aluminum cans these days are lined with a polymer coating that protects the beer from the metal.