Brennan’s, Landmark New Orleans Restaurant, Closes

brennans

Brennan’s, a dining landmark in New Orleans, has unexpectedly closed and its future is uncertain.

The closure is the latest development in a longtime family feud.

Owen “Pip” Brennan is a son of the founder and until recently a manager of the restaurant. He is involved in state and federal litigation with his brother Ted Brennan over control of the business.

Amid the family management squabbles, Brennan’s was heavily in debt and sold in foreclosure this year to a company called Leggo/4.

Attorneys and representatives for those involved in the lawsuits were not immediately available for comment Friday.

The Brennan family has been a fixture of New Orleans’ vaunted culinary scene for decades. Its famous Bananas Foster dessert was invented in 1951. (AP)

Advertisements

Website Wednesday: Food GPS

foodgps

This week’s selection is Food GPS.

I love the top left section – categories are identified subway map-style. How creative! The seven categories are self-explanatory: food, drinks, people, guides, events, about and contact.

The food section posts quick restaurant reviews, but it’s the ‘behind the scenes’ sub-section that I really enjoy! It’s not stuffy or upper-lipped, in fact, this portion really has fun with obliging chefs. For instance, there are articles entitled ‘what magazines do chefs subscribe to?’ (Redbook, Vintage Guitar and Formula 1 were some answers.). And what about ‘what TV shows do chefs watch?’ (The Good Wife, Fringe, and – the Americans courtesy of Tyler Florence!) It’s like dinner party conversation at your fingertips!

There are also hyperlinks to other food postings from the week before; it feels like someone really is looking out for me you know? I can’t read or find everything, but someone(s) on this site is!

The drinks section covers any liquid you’re in the mood for – from coffee to beer and cocktails. I personally enjoy the recipes – I’m always in the mood to try to something new! I don’t know much about beer, but I know my boyfriend would drool over the insider info on craft beers and festivals. While browsing the site, I also noticed older stories on breweries in Hawaii and Colorado – how cool is that!?

The people section is sub-divided into 6 other categories: chefs, bartenders and mixologists, beer pros, coffee pros, artisans and farmers. Interviews are in depth and show off each person’s skills, from the caramel maker Justin Chao to several LA area brewmasters. This section really highlights more is going on in today’s culinary world than just your ordinary chain restaurant offering. Each interviewee is passionate about their craft.

The guide section favors LA tastings, but also ventures out to other foodie destinations like Las Vegas, which is really helpful for moi! Contributors give off an ‘insider’ feel with each item listed. Being an outsider, I may have not heard of X, but it’s nice that someone who has, can take me inside and also offer me what’s in or out.
The only real downside is the events page – since I don’t live in LA, I can’t attend any of the events. But, they are always something to consider for the next time I go there, or you!

So I guess that means I’ll be using the about and contact sections huh?!

Hostess: Twinkies to Return to Shelves July 15

twinkies

Hostess is betting on a sweet comeback for Twinkies when they return to shelves next month.

The company that went bankrupt after an acrimonious fight with its unionized workers last year is back up and running under new owners and a leaner structure. It says it plans to have Twinkies and other snack cakes back on shelves starting July 15.

Based on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its demise, Hostess is expecting a blockbuster return next month for Twinkies and other sugary treats, such as CupCakes and Donettes. The company says the cakes will taste the same but that the boxes will now bear the tag line “The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever.”

“A lot of impostor products have come to the market while Hostess has been off the shelves,” says Daren Metropoulos, a principal of the investment firm Metropoulos & Co., which teamed up with Apollo Global Management to buy a variety of Hostess snacks.

Hostess Brands Inc. was struggling for years before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in early 2012. Workers blamed the troubles on years of mismanagement, as well as a failure of executives to invest in brands to keep up with changing tastes. The company said it was weighed down by higher pension and medical costs than its competitors, whose employees weren’t unionized.

To steer it through its bankruptcy reorganization, Hostess hired restructuring expert Greg Rayburn as its CEO. But Rayburn ultimately failed to reach a contract agreement with its second largest union. In November, he blamed striking workers for crippling the company’s ability to maintain normal production and announced that Hostess would liquidate.

The shuttering triggered a rush on Hostess snack cakes, with stores selling out of the most popular brands within hours.

About 15,000 unionized workers lost their jobs in the aftermath.

In unwinding its business, Hostess sold off its brands in chunks to different buyers. Its major bread brands including Wonder were sold to Flowers Foods, which makes Tastykakes. McKee Foods, which makes Little Debbie snack cakes, snapped up Drake’s Cake, which includes Devil Dogs and Yodels.

Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo bought Twinkies and other Hostess cakes for $410 million.

Apollo Global Management, founded by Leon Black, is known for buying troubled brands then selling them for a profit; its investments include fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Metropoulos & Co., which has revamped then sold off brands including Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee, also owns Pabst Brewing Co.

That could mean some cross-promotional marketing is in store.

“There is certainly a natural association with the two,” Metropoulos said. “There could be some opportunities for them to seen together.”

The trimmed-down Hostess Brands LLC has a far less costly operating structure than the predecessor company. Some of the previous workers were hired back, but they’re no longer unionized.

Hostess will also now deliver to warehouses that supply retailers, rather than delivering directly to stores, said Rich Seban, the president of Hostess who previously served as chief operating officer. That will greatly expand its reach, letting it deliver to dollar stores and nearly all convenience stores in the U.S.

Previously, he said Hostess was only able to reach about a third of the country’s 150,000 convenience stores.

Production was also consolidated, from 11 bakery plants to four – one each in Georgia, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana. The headquarters were moved from Texas to Kansas City, Mo., where Hostess was previously based and still had some accounting offices.

In the months since they vanished from shelves, the cakes have been getting a few touchups as well. For the CupCakes, the company is now using dark cocoa instead of milk chocolate to give them a richer, darker appearance.

Seban stressed that the changes were to improve the cakes, not to cut costs. Prices for the cakes will remain the same; a box of 10 Twinkies will cost $3.99.

Looking ahead, Seban sees Hostess expanding its product lineup. He noted that Hostess cakes are known for three basic textures: the spongy cake, the creamy filling and the thicker icing. But he said different textures – such as crunchy – could be introduced, as well as different flavors.

“We can have some fun with that mixture,” he said.

He also said there are many trendy health attributes the company could tap into, such as gluten-free, added fiber, low sugar and low sodium.

During bankruptcy proceedings, Hostess had said that its overall sales had been declining, although the company didn’t give a breakout on the performance of individual brands. But Seban is confident Twinkies will have staying power beyond its re-launch.

As for the literal shelf-life, Seban is quick to refute the snack cake’s fabled indestructibility.

“Forty-five days – that’s it,” he said. “They don’t last forever.”

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Food Network Won’t Renew Paula Deen’s Contract

pauladeen

The Food Network said Friday it’s dumping Paula Deen, barely an hour after the celebrity cook posted the first of two videotaped apologies online begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.

The 66-year-old Savannah kitchen celebrity has been swamped in controversy since court documents filed this week revealed Deen told an attorney questioning her under oath last month that she has used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”

The Food Network, which made Deen a star with “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2002 and later “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2008, weighed in with a terse statement Friday afternoon.

“Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month,” the statement said. Network representatives declined further comment. A representative for Deen did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment on the decision.

paula

The news came as Deen worked to repair the damage to her image, which has spawned a vast empire of cookbooks, a bimonthly cooking magazine, a full line of cookware, food items like spices and even furniture.

She abruptly canceled a scheduled interview on NBC’s “Today” show Friday morning, instead opting for a direct appeal via online video – one that allowed her and her staff complete control of what she said and how she said it.

“Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable,” Deen said in the first 45-second video posted on YouTube. “I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way but I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners – I beg for your forgiveness.”

Deen adopted a solemn tone as she looked straight into the camera. Still, her recorded apology featured three obvious edits – with the picture quickly fading out between splices – during a statement just five sentences long.

It was soon scrapped and replaced with a second video of Deen talking unedited for nearly two minutes as she insists: “Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me.”

“‘I want people to understand that my family and I are not the kind of people that the press is wanting to say we are,” Deen says in the later video. “The pain has been tremendous that I have caused to myself and to others.”

Deen never mentions Food Network or its decision to drop her in either of her online videos.

Deen initially planned to give her first interview on the controversy Friday to the “Today” show, which promoted her scheduled appearance as a live exclusive. Instead, host Matt Lauer ended up telling viewers that Deen’s representatives pulled the plug because she was exhausted after her flight to New York. Deen said in her video she was “physically not able” to appear.

Court records show Deen sat down for a deposition May 17 in a discrimination lawsuit filed last year by a former employee who managed Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, a Savannah restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The ex-employee, Lisa Jackson, says she was sexually harassed and worked in a hostile environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs.

During the deposition, Deen was peppered with questions about her racial attitudes. At one point she’s asked if she thinks jokes using the N-word are “mean.” Deen says jokes often target minority groups and “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”

Deen also acknowledged she briefly considered hiring all black waiters for her brother’s 2007 wedding, an idea inspired by the staff at a restaurant she had visited with her husband. She insisted she quickly dismissed the idea.

But she also insisted she and her brother have no tolerance for bigotry.

“Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is” or what gender a person is, Deen said. “It’s what’s in your heart and in your head that matters to us.”

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Food Companies Work to Make it Look Natural

Here’s the latest goal for food makers: Perfect the art of imperfection.

When stretching out the dough for its premium “Artisan Pizzas,” Domino’s workers are instructed not to worry about making the rectangles too perfect: The pies are supposed to have a more rustic look.

At McDonald’s, the egg whites for the new breakfast sandwich called the Egg White Delight McMuffin have a loose shape rather than the round discs used in the original Egg McMuffin.

And Kraft Foods took more than two years to develop a process to make the thick, uneven slabs of turkey in its Carving Board line look like leftovers from a homemade meal rather than the cookie-cutter ovals typical of most lunchmeat.

“The goal is to get the same action as if you were cutting with a knife,” said Paul Morin, a Kraft engineer.

kraftmeat

Food companies are responding to the adage that people eat with their eyes. Americans still love their fast food and packaged snacks, but they’re increasingly turning their noses up at foods that look overly processed. Home-cooked meals – or ones that at least look like they were homemade – are seen as more wholesome and authentic.

The result is that companies are tossing out the identical shapes and drab colors that scream of factory conveyor belts. There’s no way to measure exactly how much food makers are investing to make their products look more natural or fresh. But adaptation is seen as necessary for fueling steady growth.

Over the past five years, the overall packaged food industry in North America grew 14 percent to $392.5 billion, according to market researcher Euromonitor International. The fast-food industry meanwhile rose 13 percent to $225.6 billion.

In many cases, food products get their wholesome appearance because of the different or stripped-down ingredients companies are using to make them more natural, said Michael Cohen, a visiting assistant professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business. But in other cases, companies are making tweaks just to achieve a desired look.

“Food manufacturers are adapting by the way they mold the product or the end color or texture they want the product to be,” he said.

Appearances have always been a part of food production. But some experts say the visual cues food makers are using to suggest their products are wholesome fuel confusion about what’s natural and what isn’t.

“They can’t change the fact that they’re making processed products so they have to use these other tricks to pretend,” said Michele Simon, a public health lawyer and author of “Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back.”

A little dressing up can work. Bernell Dorrough, a 31-year-old web marketing coordinator in the Mobile, Ala., area, recently opted for the store brand lunchmeat at the local Publix supermarket in part because the slices came loosely packed in folds rather than in the traditional tight stacks where the meat is peeled off.

“It was folded as though someone held a bag under a machine,” he said. “I know it wasn’t hand sliced but something about the aesthetic quality appealed to me.”

Food companies are banking on customers like Dorrough.

It’s one reason why Wendy’s softened the edges of its famously square hamburger patties. The Dublin, Ohio-based company says it changed the patty to a “natural square” with wavy edges because tasters said the straight edges looked processed.

At Kraft Foods Group Inc., executives took the quest for a turkey slice that looks home-cooked even further. A team at its Madison, Wis., research facility studied the way people carve meat in their kitchen, using the variety of knives they typically have at their disposal.

Instead of the traditional slicers found in delis, the goal was to build a machine that would hack at the meat as a person might, creating slabs with more ragged edges, said Morin, the Kraft engineer.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds since the meat still needs to fit neatly into a package and add up to a certain weight. Morin declined to provide details of the process for competitive reasons but said that no two packages are exactly alike.

“We have a way of making sure that the blade cuts the piece of meat differently with each cut,” he said.

At Hillshire Brands Co., which makes lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages, executives also are attuned to the fact that more people prize foods they feel are natural. At an industry conference in February, CEO Sean Connolly noted that in addition to taste, the appearance of its food needed work.

Specifically, Connolly said people wanted a more natural look for lunchmeat that was “moist but not wet.” They also wanted the turkey to look “a little bit grainier.” Without providing details, a representative for Hillshire, which is based in Chicago, said those changes were achieved through the manufacturing process.

Reggie Moore, the company’s vice president of marketing, concedes that the meaning of “natural” is hard to pin down and varies from person-to-person. But as the definition evolves, Hillshire is taking care to signal the natural qualities of its meat visually.

In revamping its turkey slices, for example, one of the cosmetic touchups the company made was darkening the edges of the meat with caramel coloring to give the impression that it was just sliced from a Thanksgiving roast.

Ultimately, Moore said the change didn’t really impact the taste.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Happy National Dry Martini Day!

martini

Today is National Dry Martini Day!

Martinis are traditionally made from gin and vermouth, although vodka is more popular.

It’s not clear who invented the first cocktail, but it was made with equal parts of gin to vermouth. These days that ratio is more like two parts alcohol to one part vermouth.

A dry martini uses dry vermouth but that’s not the only way to make a martini dry – the less vermouth in a martini, the drier it is, so, dry can also refer to the alcohol ratio.

Website Wednesday: Chow

sitechow

This week’s selection is from Chow.

The site is divided among four sections: a blog, discussions, recipes, videos, how-tos and travel stories. But there’s more – the day I was on, I noticed business-related stories on IHOP, McDonald’s, Red Robin and Costco.

Photos are large and colorful, just enough to make you drool all over your brand new iPad screen. Like the cocoa-chile-rubbed pork tenderloin, easy BBQ chicken and grilled fruit cocktails.

Healthy cooking is also a focus. The homepage contained a section called ’37 healthy summer recipes’ and included summer rolls and peanut sauce, grilled eggplant and red pepper with Israeli couscous and grilled corn with soy sauce and mirin.

Recipes are detailed and thorough, which I appreciate. You want someone who knows what they’re doing posting info like this! Each one also offers beverage pairings. Oh la la.