Meet the Kleptogastromaniacs, Customers Hooked on High-End-Food Theft

In this era of $10 artisanal mayonnaise and $50 “bacon steak,” shoplifters’ tastes have also changed accordingly. Steven Millard, a vice-president of Murray’s Cheese, says he remembers being on a train leaving the Union Square subway station and watching in astonishment as a young man pulled hundreds of dollars’ worth of steaks out of his pants — heisted, Millard presumes, from the Whole Foods just upstairs.

Now You Taste It, Now You Don’t

I can’t recall the exact date a few years ago when I ate my first ciabatta egg sandwich at Seersucker, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. But I remember precisely how great it tasted and made me feel, which is why I ate it again and again at every possible opportunity.

High Lead Found in City-Sourced Eggs

Preliminary results from a New York State Health Department study show that more than half the eggs tested from chickens kept in community gardens in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens had detectable levels of lead, unlike store-bought counterparts. While lead is a naturally occurring element that is ingested in a variety of ways, it has been well established to be harmful to humans, even in very low amounts.

Flame Retardants Found in Butter

For about a decade, scientists have known that most Americans have minute quantities of flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, in their bodies, but they were not sure how they got there.

What Do I Do If My Kid Will Eat Only White Food?

You can’t let them live on marshmallow Fluff and string cheese alone, but you don’t have to worry too much. Try to make sure that the white foods you so tenderly arrange on your child’s plate come from the five food groups and aren’t processed.

A New Sandwich Shop for Cobble Hill

The Van Horn Sandwich Shop, which combines Southern fried fare with an industrial chic aesthetic, opened recently in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Jacob Van Horn, an architect who grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., but has spent the last four years living in Brooklyn, conceived of the restaurant last year after getting laid off from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, an architectural and engineering firm.

All Bottled Up

FINDING a visually appealing way to store wine bottles at home can be challenging, particularly since they need to be kept horizontal. “Wine is a living thing, so it’s always changing,” explained Emily Wines, a master sommelier. “The reason we store the bottles on their side is so the cork doesn’t dry out. If it’s standing up, the cork will shrink, and then you end up with oxidized flavors.”

Bake It Like a Man

What do you call a goatee-wearing, bass guitar-playing, power saw-wielding, tattooed guy who spends his days mixing flour and sugar? A baker. But Duff Goldman, head of Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes and host of the Food Network’s hugely popular “Ace of Cakes” TV show is not your ordinary pastry chef. Instead of flat sheet cakes painted with frosting flowers and cutesy messages, Goldman, 32, uses drills and blowtorches to sculpt fantastical multidimensional creations like a smoking volcano, a three-foot-tall Elvis as well as replicas of Chicago’s Wrigley Field and a 1930s Harlem speakeasy. The show’s second season, premiering Thursday night, reveals the inner workings of his bakery, where a group of fellow artists and aspiring rock stars raise dessert to precarious new heights. NEWSWEEK’s Julie Scelfo spoke with Duff about the show and his passion for pastry. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How did you get into cakes?Duff Goldman: My sophomore year in college I went into the nicest restaurant in…

For the Love of Chocolate

All his life, Jason Judkins was seeking something, but he was looking in all the wrong places, like vending machines. “Usually between 2 and 3 o’clock I’d eat a Snickers, a Three Musketeers or a Twix,” he recalls. “Then after dinner I’d have chocolate cake, or Hershey’s Nuggets, or ice cream with Hershey’s syrup.” But that was before his first taste of a dark-chocolate truffle from the Cocoa Tree, an artisanal candy store in his town of Franklin, Tennessee. Made fresh on the premises from dark chocolate and organic cream and butter, it made his mouth “explode” with tastes he’d never gotten from an M&M. Of course, he could have bought a lot of M&Ms for the price of a single truffle, $1.80 plus tax. But these days he is satisfied with chocolate only a couple of times a week instead of twice a day, and since each piece is 10 times as good, he’s way ahead.Long after iceberg gave way to arugula, American candy remained defiantly retro: cheap, garishly wrapped and tasting just the…

Flying High on Four Stars

When The New York Times bestowed its fourth consecutive four-star rating on Le Bernardin earlier this month, the restaurant became one of only five in New York to win such an honor–and the only one to retain it for nearly 20 years. For chef Eric Ripert, who has been toiling in Le Bernardin’s kitchen for more than a decade, the award was a great thrill, as well as a huge relief. (The loss of a star can have a serious impact on the restaurant’s bottom line.)Over a recent lunch that began with barely cooked bay scallops in champagne-shallot butter sauce, followed by poached lobster in a rich champagne and chives nage and thinly pounded yellowfin tuna with extra-virgin olive oil, Ripert discussed the achievement. As the starter plates were cleared for the arrival of the main courses (wild salmon and spicy-sour baked snapper), Ripert, 40, admitted behaving like a World Series champ when the rating was announced. “As soon as we knew, I came up in the kitchen and I sprayed the entire team…

Fire Up the Grill!

Bobby Flay, chef-owner of four celebrated restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas and host of the Food Network’s “Boy Meets Grill,” is known for many things: a love of barbecue, an obsession with bold flavors and superior grill proficiency. Healthful eating, however, has never been a top priority. So the title of his new cookbook, “Grilling for Life: 75 Healthier Ideas for Big Flavor from the Fire,” may catch some fans by surprise. For his sixth cookbook, Flay teamed up with nutritionist Joy Bauer to create recipes low in simple sugars and refined carbs. The result: a collection of dishes as vibrant as Flay’s traditional repertoire but with far less unhealthy fat. NEWSWEEK’s Julie Scelfo visited Flay at his newest restaurant, Bar Americain, to find out what he learned from Bauer’s nutritional analyses: Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Were there any personal reasons you decided to write this book?Bobby Flay: I have the most beautiful wife. She’s 30. I still think I’m 25, but I’m not … I’m 40…

Keep It Simple Stupid

For Alfred Portale, the Manhattan chef who gained fame in the 1980s with towering culinary creations that resembled architecture more than cuisine, the hardest thing in the world is cooking simply. Consider an appetizer he whipped up for Gotham Bar and Grill’s 20th-anniversary party this year: hamachi tartare with yuzo-orange vinaigrette and jalapeno pepper topped by a wasabi microgreen. Not the guy you’d expect to write a cookbook featuring recipes for popsicles and pizza.”Simple Pleasures” arrives in bookstores next month, bringing with it Portale’s hopes that it will re-energize his career. While Emeril and Wolfgang Puck were turning themselves into brands with TV shows and eponymous restaurants, Portale, 50, stayed committed to Gotham and raising two daughters. But his elaborate cooking style drew increasingly less attention as Food Network-watching Americans came to favor simple fare they could re- create at home. Thus the inspiration for “Simple Pleasures,” which joins a…

In Season: Figuring On Figs

It took centuries for Americans to appreciate what Greeks and Romans knew long ago: fresh figs are a treasured delicacy. The Black Mission variety from California, known for its pink flesh and intensely sweet flavor, is available until November ($5 per pint, plus shipping, at Dean & DeLuca; 800-999-0306). Choose ones with smooth, firm skin, hold by the stem and take a bite. Eat them with prosciutto or pick up Marie Simmons’s “Fig Heaven” (Morrow Cookbooks. $19.95) for 70 luscious recipes.

Helping Kids Get Fit

If doctors announced that nearly a fifth of our nation’s children were exhibiting signs of, say, typhoid, there’d be panic on Main Street. But for the past 10 years, public-health officials have been warning of another problem every bit as life-threatening and even more difficult to treat: childhood obesity. By now the statistics come as no surprise. Fifteen percent of children–9 million kids–are seriously overweight, a rate that has tripled since 1970. These kids are on the fast track for adult cripplers like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. And not all the problems are physical. In a recent study pediatricians reported that severely obese adolescents felt slightly more social isolation than teenage cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.What can be done about our nation of chubby kids? Once kids get fat, the odds of losing weight and keeping it off are depressingly small. That’s why doctors say that prevention, not treatment, is key. Jim Hill, head of the Center for Human…

Cooking: Tastes Like Homemade

Before there were cake mixes, there was cake. But a surprising new book, “Something From the Oven” (Viking. $24.95), by food historian and former NEWSWEEK writer Laura Shapiro, reveals how the packaged-food industry, established in the 1950s to provide meals for soldiers in foxholes, worked tirelessly to convince American homemakers that processed foods were not only acceptable, but superior. It succeeded: after decades of eating boxed and frozen food, many Americans prefer artificial flavors to the real thing. But the desire to feed loved ones with food prepared “by our own hands,” says Shapiro, is one thing that hasn’t changed.

Ballparks: Big Leagues, Bitty Burgers

The joys of a ballpark visit have long included partaking in a major-league snackfest: peanuts, Cracker Jack, hot dogs–plus a beer or three to wash it all down. But at stadiums across the country last week, food vendors took a little-league approach to feeding fans by offering an array of new pint-size snacks. At Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Levy Restaurants introduced three-inch “dinkie dogs” (normally seven inches) and 1.5-ounce “bitty burgers” (normally 5.3 ounces) that it plans to roll out this season at dozens of stadiums nationwide. (Bitty burgers may help shrink waistlines, but, at $7 for a trio, they’re no less damaging to the wallet.) “Big portions are out, but mini-foods with big flavors are in,” says Levy chef John McLean. At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Cardinals fans on low-carb diets can try new lettuce-wrapped burgers or chicken sandwiches on low-carb bread. But for some fans, like John Venti, 63, who’s been a Dodgers season-ticket holder…

Food: Tomato Sauces

There’s nothing like a bowl of pasta with homemade sauce to warm your soul on a cold winter day. But if you don’t have time to spend hours stewing tomatoes with chopped onion, ground beef and the requisite bay leaf, there are many tasty alternatives. Try these brands with fresh ingredients: …

America’s Pasta Pusher

Mario Batali is the latest celebrity chef to capture Americans’ hearts and stomachs. The Seattle native owns and operates three successful Italian restaurants in New York, hosts two television cooking shows and is the author of three cookbooks about Italian culture and cuisine. Recently, he graced the cover of Gourmet magazine–having launched a new line of pasta sauces–and is planning a new Manhattan pizzeria that is scheduled to open in December. NEWSWEEK’s Julie Scelfo spoke to Batali about why Americans have become so infatuated with Italian culture and cuisine. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Why are Americans so interested in Italian culture? Why not Belgian or Czech?Batali: Not to insult those countries, but aside from a couple of things from Belgium or Czechoslovakia, their culture is not exported here. We don’t even know what they do. Italians have made it their business to export Italian culture, from spaghetti, to design, to poster art, to wine and soft drinks. If you open a bar in…

Say Feta

Feta helps put the “big” and “fat” in Greek weddings. Now the European Commission has ruled that only Greek cheese can be called “feta.” (Other countries have five years to comply or win an appeal.) In the meantime, here’s a guide: Greek feta, typically made from sheep’s milk, is the “standard everything else is measured by,” says Steven Jenkins, author of “Cheese Primer.” French sheep’s-milk feta is “sweeter and more buttery,” says Daphne Zepos, fromagere at New York’s Artisanal. Denmark uses cow’s milk, which has “less genuine flavor,” Zepos warns. For American feta, stick to small brands made from goat’s milk.

‘South Beach Diet’ Doc Focuses on the Heart

The author of the ‘South Beach Diet’ books is urging the public and doctors to rethink treatment for heart disease—focusing more on prevention than st

Fast Chat: Changing Your Heart

Dr. Arthur Agatston’s first book, “The South Beach Diet,” was a best seller that turned into a national phenomenon. Now the cardiologist is back with “The South Beach Heart Program,” which aims to reduce heart attacks and strokes. He spoke with Julie Scelfo.It turns out that view is completely wrong. Instead, plaque develops like a little pimple in the vessel wall, but instead of filling with pus, it fills with cholesterol. Blood flow remains normal until the plaque “pimple” ruptures. The healing process includes a blood clot, and if the clot is big enough, that’s what blocks the artery.The cosmetic-surgery approach to coronary arteries–making them look nice with balloons and stents–doesn’t really work. That’s going after the wrong plaque, the kind that has already ruptured and is no longer a threat. Instead, it’s the soft plaque pimples that are little ticking time bombs, because they blow up and cause a sudden blockage. We’re spending billions of dollars going after the wrong…

Organic Chemistry

The boom in restaurants serving local organic produce has come with an unexpected downside: more bugs in your food. Without pesticides to deter them, aphids, ladybugs, caterpillars and beetles are tagging along on the journey from farm to kitchen to dinner table with greater frequency. But the reactions among diners are as diverse as the critters they’re finding on their plates.

Designing the Ultimate Kitchen