We're Turning Into a Food Hall Nation

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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As culinary commerce booms, food halls are popping up like gourmet mushrooms from coast to coast. More selectively curated than open-air farmers' markets, these indoor marketplaces house everything from local butchers to casual eateries. Unlike the Italy-centric Eataly archetype, most new halls aren't bound by a theme. Melrose Market in Seattle and St. Roch Market in New Orleans offer a diverse array of vendors—young-gun chefs as well as established faces in the food community. St. Roch co-owner Will Donaldson says his market is "about 13 individuals, all with something to say." The hall allows them a space to say it while establishing a more intimate bond with customers. Thus, the primary focus of these markets is on sharing flavors and moments. "It is a place for people to come in and spend hours as they meet friends, push tables together, and engage in sampling food," Donaldson says. "This is a shared experience."

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She’s been at City Hall six months. Now Nithya Raman is being targeted for recall

Voters in Southern California have launched yet another bid to remove a politician ahead of the regular election cycle — this time targeting a Los Angeles city councilwoman who’s been in office for just six months.

CD4 for CD4, a campaign committee formed last month, served Councilwoman Nithya Raman with a recall notice outside her Silver Lake home Wednesday. On its website and elsewhere, the committee argued that Raman’s office is inexperienced, unresponsive and too politically radical for her constituents to endure a full four-year term.

Raman, 39, did not respond to each of the group’s claims. But in a statement, the councilwoman said she is focused on her “broad progressive agenda” — helping renters, small businesses and people experiencing homelessness, among others.

“I love the people and the neighborhoods of this district. That’s why I ran to represent it,” she said. “I invite the organizers of this recall to work with me on making it an even better place to live, work, and raise our children.”

The Griffith Park incident has emerged as yet another source of conflict over the city’s handling of its recreation areas during a huge homelessness crisis.

Assuming that its paperwork is in order, CD4 for CD4 would need to collect more than 27,000 valid signatures between July and early November to get a recall on the ballot in Raman’s 4th Council District, which stretches from Hancock Park north to Sherman Oaks and east to Silver Lake.

Raman defeated Councilman David Ryu by a comfortable margin in November, becoming the first council candidate at City Hall to oust an incumbent in 17 years. She is far from the only politician in California to experience a recall threat.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is already scheduled to face voters in a recall election this year, while foes of L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón have begun gathering signatures for their own countywide recall bid. Critics of Councilman Mike Bonin are laying plans for a recall effort — one that could run smack into next year’s election schedule if it is not launched soon.

A petition calling for the recall of Los Angeles D.A. George Gascón is underway. But the effort faces significant financial and political hurdles.

Raman won her seat last year with support from some influential leftist political groups, including the L.A. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Recall backers have highlighted Raman’s working relationship with that organization, which favors the abolition of police departments and prisons, saying it is one sign that the councilwoman has a “far left radical agenda.”

Allison Cohen, the committee’s lead recall proponent, criticized Raman over her office’s approach to homelessness and for supporting a plan to cut Los Angeles Police Department staffing by 250 officers. She also questioned Raman’s decision to go to Echo Park Lake in March, when scores of activists protested plans for removing a homeless encampment with nearly 200 tents.

“Emails are not returned. Calls are not returned. People have been trying without success to get meetings with her,” Cohen said. “Yet she shows up in Echo Park as part of that protest situation. It’s not even her district.”

Cohen, the editor and publisher of the Los Feliz Ledger, said residents are also upset that Raman came out against a planning department proposal for height limits on stretches of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz.

Jesse Zwick, a spokesman for Raman, has argued in recent months that the councilwoman’s stance will spur the construction of more affordable housing. Raman, for her part, said her office has provided outreach to dozens of homeless encampments that had “long been neglected” and worked to restore park funding.

“We’ve worked with constituents in every single neighborhood of the 4th District to effectively address their concerns,” she said.

L.A.'s newest City Council members, Nithya Raman and Mark Ridley-Thomas, were sworn in Tuesday and City Council President Nury Martinez was reelected.

Under the city’s rules, Raman has 21 days to respond to the recall notice, if she chooses. The 120-day period for gathering signatures would begin July 7 — as long as the city has approved the petition form, said Jinny Pak, who manages the city clerk’s election division.

To qualify for the ballot, recall proponents will need to gather valid signatures from 15% of registered voters in Raman’s district.

If they succeed in that effort, L.A.'s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America will probably step forward to help the councilwoman. Erin O’Neal-Robinson, co-chair of that group’s electoral politics committee, called backers of the recall effort “right-wing extremists who are throwing a tantrum” and said voters made clear last year that they wanted Raman.

“She’s one of our candidates. We’re going to support her however we can,” she said. “But time will tell what shape that takes.”

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Children of the Corn

Carly Koemptgen

Corn is, in my opinion, one of the "silent killers" of our nation. While an occasional grilled corn on the cob during the summer is delicious, many people are unaware that just about everything processed in our diet contains at least traces of corn–high fructose corn syrup, anyone? And a lot of it is also turned into feed for chickens, cows, and basically of the factory farmed animals that our society eats.

This statement from an article on government food subsidies helped put things into perspective for me,

"Of course, they are not growing all of this corn because Americans can't get enough corn on the cob … they are growing it because the government pays them to, to the tune of more than $77 billion a year to produce corn as a raw material that can be processed into "food." You could not eat most of the GMO corn that is grown in this country unless it is processed at the factory into something that tastes better."

We all know that the drive behind most anything in the United States, and in the world if we're being honest, is money. Farmers a growing what will bring them the most income and that's going to be these subsidized foods.



This should come as no surprise, particularly if you drive around a city or suburban area with your eyes open. Starbucks' locations almost define the term "ubiquitous" as they boast over 15,000 total units across the U.S., according to QSR. The coffee chain continued to grow in 2019, having added over 200 new locations from the previous year. (Related: 30 Secrets Starbucks Employees Wish You Knew

San Antonio's Cowboys Dancehall under new ownership after foreclosure auction

Cowboys Dancehall was sold at a foreclosure auction Tuesday for $6.5 million. An entity affiliated with Austin-based Heiser Development.

The new operators of Cowboys Dancehall expect to book more Mexican bands.

Cowboys Dancehall’s owner sought bankruptcy protection in August after its lead lender sought to foreclose. The property was sold at a foreclosure auction Tuesday.

San Antonio&rsquos Cowboys Dancehall was quietly sold at a foreclosure auction this week after deals to sell the popular honky-tonk in bankruptcy court fell through.

An entity affiliated with Austin-based Heiser Development Corp., which was going to buy the dance hall in bankruptcy court, still ended up taking ownership &mdash for a significantly lower price.

Heiser acquired the Northeast Side venue for $6.5 million, according to Addison-based Roddy&rsquos Foreclosure Listing Service. It tracks foreclosure sales in Bexar County.

In February, the Heiser entity originally planned to buy the property for at least $8.75 million and possibly as much as $9.75 million in a sale overseen by the bankruptcy court. The agreement was terminated two weeks later but the parties entered into a new deal for $7.6 million.

Heiser, though, terminated that contract Monday. That was the court-imposed deadline for Cowboys Far West, the dance hall&rsquos bankrupt owner, to find a buyer. Lead lender Crossroads 2004, owed more than $5.5 million, had court authority to foreclose Tuesday if the property wasn&rsquot sold by then.

Heiser gambled that it could buy the property for less at the foreclosure auction, Heiser official Bradfield Heiser said.

&ldquoIt paid off,&rdquo he said. &ldquoIt worked out. This is something only a family office could do. This would not be an institutional play. They need certainty. This is something we did, and it&rsquos all private-wealth individuals that backed us.

&ldquoI had the most risk involved because I had $150,000 in legal fees if we didn&rsquot buy it,&rdquo he said.

The Heiser entity and PrinsBank, owed more than $2.3 million, were the only bidders at the auction, Heiser said.

&ldquoAt the courthouse steps, it was us and them,&rdquo Heiser said. &ldquoIf they were to bid one more time, it would have been their deal.&rdquo

Heisers envisions the property at 3030 N.E. Loop 410 as the site for a mixed-used development with a hotel, apartments and an office building &mdash but not for years to come.

&ldquoTo us, it&rsquos a long-term covered land play,&rdquo Heiser said. The Heiser entity has entered into a 15-year lease with the dance hall&rsquos new operators but will ultimately shift to a higher use for the property at some point.

&ldquoWe&rsquove entered into a pretty lucrative lease agreement that&rsquos going to allow us to yield a pretty good yield on our investment once Cowboys gets up and running,&rdquo Heiser said. &ldquoWe&rsquore putting money into the space because we see this as the highest and best use at the moment.&rdquo

Arlington-based Cowboys Far West filed for bankruptcy protection in August to stop Oklahoma lender Crossroads 2004 from foreclosing. It was the second time in a little more than two years that the partnership filed for Chapter 11 to thwart a lender from foreclosing.

The Heiser entity has entered into a new lease with San Antonio Country Entertainment, which is headed by Michael Murphy. He has served as president of Cowboys Far West.

Murphy said his company would remove the venue&rsquos rodeo arena, which operated about once every quarter, and replace it with a club similar to his Cowboys Red River club in Dallas.

&ldquoWe&rsquove been there 22 years, and it&rsquos very successful,&rdquo he said.

The new dance club at the San Antonio venue will feature live bands four or five nights a week, Murphy said. The club has room for up to about 2,000 people. An amphitheater, which accommodates about 4,000, will continue to operate, primarily on the weekends.

&ldquoWe weren&rsquot producing enough revenue with the rodeo arena,&rdquo Murphy said. &ldquoWe&rsquore turning that into a revenue producer. It&rsquos hard for a club that large for half of it to be shut down.&rdquo

Murphy said he expects to book more Mexican bands in the amphitheater.

Murphy attributed some of the dancehall&rsquos financial troubles to issues with former partners but declined to elaborate.

Cowboys Dancehall is situated on 16.6 acres, though the Texas Department of Transportation is condemning about 2.7 acres for proposed Interstate 35 improvements, Heiser said.

In the event the new dancehall fails, Heiser said he determined that he couldn&rsquot carry the property at the original contract price for four years while waiting for work on I-35 to be completed. That factored into his decision to let the property go to foreclosure.

&ldquoWe paid a little more than we would have paid just for the dirt,&rdquo Heiser said. &ldquoIn the interim, we&rsquore going to wait for the growth of Austin Highway to come out to this intersection.

&ldquoWith the highway intersection being put in, I think it&rsquos going to add a lot of value &hellip to the site,&rdquo he added.

S.F. City Hall reopens to the public with Pride festivities and weddings

Madelyn Peterson (left) and Indira Carmona Munoz share their first kiss after being married by San Francisco Mayor London Breed during the very first indoor City Hall marriage ceremonies since the start of the pandemic. The service followed a Pride month kickoff celebration at San Francisco City Hall.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Mike Wong, conductor of the San Francisco Lesiban/Gay Freedom Band, dances along to the music as they perform during a Pride month kickoff celebration outside of San Francisco City Hall.

Jessica Christian/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Mayor London Breed presents San Francisco Pride Grand Marshals Melonie Green (left) and Melorra Green with official certificates of honor during a Pride month kickoff celebration outside of San Francisco City Hall.

Jessica Christian/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Stephan Ferris (left) and Sean Alexander of San Francisco embrace as they listen to various speakers during a Pride month kickoff celebration outside of San Francisco City Hall.

Jessica Christian/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

The front steps of San Francisco City Hall were full Monday, with politicians and a marching band, all there to mark the beginning of Pride month, a few days belated, with a flag-raising ceremony. It was standard fare: The Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band &mdash the city&rsquos official band &mdash banged out the classics, like &ldquoDancing Queen&rdquo by Abba, while somebody in the crowd passed out mini Pride flags and politicos made speeches.

But it also marked a turning point &mdash San Francisco City Hall was finally open to the public for the first time since shelter-in-place orders were issued in March 2020. After more than a year spent at home and over Zoom, a group had gathered in joy looking very much to the future while acknowledging the past.

&ldquoWe&rsquore reopening,&rdquo said Clair Farley, the director of the city&rsquos Office of Transgender Initiatives, to the crowd. &ldquoWe&rsquore still coming together to celebrate Pride.&rdquo

When Mayor London Breed took to the podium, behind her were dozens of queer city officials, all of whom, she said, had helped the city weather the pandemic. She thanked Grant Colfax, a gay man and the city&rsquos health director, in particular. She mentioned the city&rsquos high vaccination rate &mdash the highest in the nation. And then she tied that work to another pandemic.

&ldquoWhat we have done here had everything to do with the challenges we faced in the &rsquo80s,&rdquo she said, a direct reference to the HIV/AIDS pandemic that shaped several of the city&rsquos (and the nation&rsquos) health officials.

Left: San Francisco Mayor London Breed sings along with the band before raising the rainbow Pride flag during a Pride month kickoff celebration outside of San Francisco City Hall.

Jessica Christian/The Chronicle

The pandemic is not over, but the city, Breed assured the crowd, would be completely open come June 15, in time for Pride celebrations. They cheered, and then she cheered, and then reminded everyone that, at the big events, it might be smart to &ldquosip and mask, sip and mask.&rdquo

The Pride board is planning a scaled-down celebration this year, but Fred Lopez, the executive director, said his &ldquoheart was still filled with hope,&rdquo and next year, he promised, &ldquoWe&rsquoll be back on Market Street in the tens of thousands &mdash shouting, hugging, laughing and loving.&rdquo

There were many more speeches some mentioned new city initiatives &mdash housing for aging LGBTQ elders, a pilot program to give transgender San Franciscans guaranteed monthly incomes and a museum to honor the city&rsquos queer history &mdash but mostly they had the same message: A community of survivors had survived once again.

Breed took the microphone at the end to make it all official: &ldquoI declare the entire month of June SF Pride Month.&rdquo Rainbow flags waved above the crowd.

IHOP bought Applebee's for $2.1 billion

Applebee's has a long acquisition and sales history. They're no stranger to buying up other chains — the company has, over time, owned smaller chains (like Rio Bravo Cantina), sold those smaller chains (Rio Bravo was sold to Chevy's in 1999), and been sold themselves.

But the biggest sale in the company's history occurred in 2007, when it was purchased by IHOP Corp. for $2.1 billion. The two restaurants together became the largest full-service restaurant company in the world. After the sale, IHOP Corp. changed its name to DineEquity, Inc., which is today known as Dine Brands Global, Inc.

Today, Dine Brands Global, Inc. operates more than 3,700 restaurants in 18 countries, and it oversees the franchising of both restaurant chains.

The acquisition of Applebee's by IHOP is considered to be one of the biggest restaurant sales of the past 20 years. Though both chains have faced recent hardships, it looks like Applebee's is at least on its way back up. In 2017, Dine Brands Global announced that they would be closing 100 Applebee's and 20 or more IHOP locations, and noted that sales had fallen at both chains. However, sales at Applebee's were up 5.5 percent in 2018, after their parent company got a new CEO and they adjusted elements of their menu and employment practices.

Food hacks, recipes and traditions Alaskans need this Thanksgiving week

/>Classic pumpkin pie is pretty great, but it’s also a dessert that lends itself to experimentation. Try substituting coconut milk for evaporated milk or adding new flavors like chai tea. (Photo by Shannon Kuhn)

Classic pumpkin pie is pretty great, but it’s also a dessert that lends itself to experimentation. Try substituting coconut milk for evaporated milk or adding new flavors like chai tea. (Photo by Shannon Kuhn)

Centered as it is on the goal of sharing a hearty meal, Thanksgiving is a holiday that's basically made for foodies. What better time to flex culinary muscles and go beyond the standard weekday fare? While the staples of the Thanksgiving meal seem universal — turkey, potatoes, pie — how those items end up on the table is subject to infinite variation.

With that in mind, we asked some Alaska food writers for their Thanksgiving strategies: Beyond taking the turkey out of the freezer early enough to thaw, what tips, food hacks and recipes do they turn to?

There's a little bit of everything, from the fussiest traditions to time-saving innovation — and from smoked black cod to red currant jam tarts. Maybe an idea or two will make its way to your Thanksgiving table.

A tale of two turkeys

If television has taught us anything, it's that cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey will result in one of the following: a hilarious bout with trichinosis, causing your guests to spend the holiday in the emergency room a smoke-filled kitchen from which emerges a laughably blackened, pigeon-sized bird that was once 21 pounds the disappearance of a family heirloom inside the turkey's cavity or — and statistically this is the most likely — a raw turkey stuck on your head.

Years ago, when hosting my first Thanksgiving, I was determined not to become a statistic. So I turned to the least hilarious woman on television: Martha Stewart. She did not let me down.

My first turkey was golden-brown, crispy-skinned and glistening. It was worthy of a Saturday Evening Post Norman Rockwell cover and I was, and remain, irritatingly proud of it. (To find the recipe, look for "Perfect Roast Turkey 101" on marthastewart.com.)

The technique is simple. Melt a substantial amount of butter with a substantial amount of dry white wine. Dunk a square of cheesecloth into this mixture of vice, let it soak, then drape the buttery, boozy, blanket over the turkey like you're tucking it in. Place the turkey into a very hot oven (450 degrees) until the skin browns and the cheesecloth looks like a piece of burnt toast. (I have a theory that the recipe is so successful because the cheesecloth browns at an alarming rate. Keeping it moist will seem more of an act of fire-prevention than of culinary technique. In other words, you will not forget to baste.) You then lower the temperature, and slowly roast the turkey until it's cooked through. Carefully removing the charred cheesecloth to reveal the lacquered, caramel-colored skin is one of the most satisfying things you will do all year.

In recent years, my family has been celebrating Thanksgiving with our neighbors Sue and Dave, who are both audacious cooks with a taste for spice. They introduced a turkey tradition that, initially, makes very little sense on paper. It's boiled. Crawfish-style.

A whole turkey is tossed into a deep pot with garlic, onions, new potatoes, corn on the cob and lots and lots of seafood boil spice. It's a crab-boil without the crab. It's as if a turkey showed up at the wrong party but decided to try and fit in anyway. After the bird is cooked (and it cooks very quickly), the meat is pulled from the bones and served on a platter. In our case, it is served as an appetizer while we wait for the fussier bird to finish primping.

It is the anti-Martha Stewart turkey. The Oscar to my turkey's Felix. It's messy. It's juicy. It's spicy. It's homely on the plate. People pick at it with forks or sometimes their fingers. And it is absolutely the thing I look forward to most when we start planning our celebration.

Mara Severin lives in Anchorage and writes a biweekly dining column for Alaska Dispatch News. To find a recipe for crawfish boil-style Thanksgiving turkey, check out nola.com.

/>For a twist on the perennial Thanksgiving sidedish – sweet potatoes – try pairing them with a glossy bourbon apple cider glaze. (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

Sweet potatoes, classic and grown-up

In discussing the potential of a simple, intimate Thanksgiving meal at home this year with just a few must-have dishes, my partner and I tossed around ideas. There would be a bird and stuffing, we decided. Certainly there would be cranberry chutney, she said. And mashed potatoes, she emphatically concluded.

Then she stopped there. I stood there with my mouth agape, waiting with questioning eyes. "What?" she asked, "Did I forget something?" Sweet potatoes. For me, a Thanksgiving menu is not complete without them.

While I've made them every year without fail, I've never been one to go the marshmallow-topped casserole route where sweet potatoes are concerned. I like to mix it up a bit, doing something different and somewhat unexpected with this Thanksgiving classic. Consider making twice-baked sweet potatoes with crisp bacon crumbles, green onions and sharp cheddar cheese. Bake them into a velvety maple sweet potato pie in place of traditional pumpkin. Or, for a grown-up, boozy version of candied yams, try caramelizing them in a glossy bourbon apple cider glaze.

Maya Wilson is a food writer and blogger in Kenai. Read more at alaskafromscratch.com.

Stuffing sacrilege

Stuffing is a beloved Thanksgiving staple, but it can slow down the cooking time of the turkey and possibly lead to salmonella. Celebrity chef Alton Brown suggests not stuffing the bird at all. Some may call this sacrilege. If you're a stuffing enthusiast, have no fear!

A great way to keep this side dish on the menu without cooking it inside the turkey is to use a slow cooker. A slow cooker retains moisture, much like the inside of a turkey, so your stuffing (or dressing, if we're being technical) will still have that same fluffy, moist consistency. And since you eliminate raw turkey juices seeping into the stuffing, it eliminates some of the risk of contracting a food-borne illness. Using a slow cooker also frees up valuable post-turkey oven space.

In this method, you prepare your stuffing as usual and cook it on low in a slow cooker for about four hours. Keep it on low until you're ready to serve. If the stuffing starts to dry out, add a quarter cup of chicken stock.

Natasha Price writes about food and crafts from her home in Anchorage. Read her step-by-step guide to Thanksgiving at alaskaknitnat.com.

/>Earl Grey tea-infused cranberry sauce. (Photo by Kim Sunée)

Bring your memories (and Tupperware)

Thanksgiving is my favorite food holiday and, for weeks ahead of time, I use my Evernote app to list new recipes I want to try and to also keep a running menu of the oldies but goodies. That includes my grandfather's spicy oyster dressing, my mother-in-law's roast turkey and gravy thickened with chopped boiled egg, fresh green bean casserole and all types of homemade sweets.

There's also the question of the ubiquitous cranberry sauce. It seems many favor the jelly right out of the can with the visible ridges intact. Admittedly, I have a nostalgic taste for it and I always find room for the maroon-colored tube on the Thanksgiving table. But fresh cranberries, which start to appear in September and continue to grace us with their tart, bright flavor through December, are one of the unsung heroes of the Thanksgiving meal. Whether sweet or savory, they balance out the richness of stuffings and gravies and sugary desserts.

Usually I start by making a large batch of orange-blossom and sugar coated cranberries they last a few weeks in the refrigerator and are perfect for garnishing cakes and pies and to drop into cocktails. But to partner with the traditional canned jelly, I love making a tea-infused cranberry sauce that combines fresh orange and whole warming spices. I make extra to send home with guests when I pack up leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, I'm always asked by guests what they can bring/do. Here are some tips that might be helpful:

– Containers to take home leftovers are always welcome I seem to have more food to give away than containers to hold it all.

– If the host allows, bring a dish that matters to you. As much as I take great pleasure in orchestrating the meal, Thanksgiving is one of the most memory-laden holidays when it comes to food. I always ask guests if there's a particular dish that makes Thanksgiving special, and almost always the answer is a fervent yes! That includes everything from Jell-O marshmallow fluff to the aforementioned canned cranberry to mashed potatoes, creamed corn and pecan pie. Note: If you bring a dish that needs oven time, let the hosts know in advance so they can prepare accordingly.

– BYOB: I have a variety of nonalcoholic as well as alcoholic beverages available when I host, but an extra bottle is always helpful — cold Champagne, a solid pinot noir or a few extra bottles of sparkling water or cider. If your host doesn't open it during the meal, he or she will be grateful for it later.

– If you'd like to bring a gift, try a favorite olive oil or spice, a bottle of port or other digestif something homemade like jam or syrup or a bar of good chocolate. Or consider a pot of fragrant herbs or perhaps a playlist of curated music: something small but thoughtful that says thanks for including me at the table.

Kim Sunée is the bestselling author of "Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home" and "A Mouthful of Stars." For more food and travel, visit kimsunee.com and instagram/kimsunee.

/>Red currant jam tart. (Photo by Mandy Dixon)

Curious what cicadas taste like? Cicada recipes could help you find out

NEW YORK -- Cicadas are poised to infest whole swaths of American backyards this summer. Maybe it's time they invaded your kitchen.

Swarms of the red-eyed bugs, who are reemerging after 17 years below ground, offer a chance for home cooks to turn the tables and make them into snacks.

Full of protein, gluten-free, low-fat and low-carb, cicadas were used as a food source by Native Americans and are still eaten by humans in many countries.

"We really have to get over our dislike of insects, which is really strong and deep-seated in most people in our culture," said David George Gordon, author of "Eat-a-Bug Cookbook" and known as the Bug Chef.

"You could make stir fry. You can mix them into dough to make bread - make banana bread, let's say. You can batter them and deep fry them, which I think would be my favorite way," he said.

This year's group is called Brood X, and they can be seen in 15 Eastern states from Indiana to Georgia to New York. Their cacophonous mating song can drown out the noise of passing jets.

Trillions of cicadas are about to emerge from 15 states in the U.S. East. Scientists say Brood X (as in ten, not the letter) is one of the biggest for these bugs which come out only once every 17 years.

When the soil warms up enough, cicadas emerge from the ground, where they've been sucking moisture from tree roots for the past 13 or 17 years, depending on species. They shed their exoskeletons, attach themselves to branches, mate and lay eggs before dying off in about six weeks.

When eating adult cicadas, it's advised to pull the wings and legs off to reduce the crunchiness. But Gordon advises home cooks to gather the cicadas when they're nymphs, before their body armor hardens and while they are still soft and chewy, like soft shell crab.

He puts them in the freezer, a humane way to kill them. Once defrosted, cicadas can become a pizza topping like sundried tomatoes, or replace shrimp in any recipe. Others have followed his lead, including a University of Maryland cookbook dedicated to the cicada.

"People can't really deal with the idea of looking at a bug and eating it. So that's why I like tempura batter or something that just conceals the features of the nymph," Gordon said. "Plus, I'll eat anything that's deep fried. I have a recipe in my book for a deep-fried tarantula spider and they're really good."

Gordon describes the taste of cicadas as akin to asparagus. University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp goes further: "They have a buttery texture, a delicious, nutty flavor, probably from the tannins, from the roots of the trees on which they fed," Raupp said. "And they're going to be really good with a Merlot."

Gordon's "Eat-a-Bug Cookbook" came out in 1998 and was greeted by hostility and jokes from late-night TV hosts. "But of course, over the last 20 years, this is moving in the direction of being normalized," he said.

Gordon pointed to the rise of foodie culture and thrill-seeking eaters like chef Andrew Zimmern, but especially to a 2013 report from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization as a turning point in interest in edible insects. The report estimated that insect-eating is practiced regularly by at least 2 billion people around the world, and that dozens of species have been documented as edible, including cicadas.

It also declared that edible insects are rich in protein and good fats, high in calcium, iron and zinc, emit fewer greenhouse gases than most livestock, and take very little farming space or water.

"Now people were taking what I had been saying all along more seriously," Gordon said. In America, "We're kind of the weirdos: 80% of the world's cultures eat insects, but we're in that 20% that thinks it's an abomination."

The number of mass-produced foods containing insects - from protein bars to chips and pasta sauce - has been rising. In parts of Asia, some insects are sold in bags like salted peanuts or in tubes like stacked potato chips. A German company makes burgers out of mealworms.

"They're a much healthier option for the planet," said Dr. Jenna Jadin, an evolutionary biologist and ecologist who has worked as a climate change adviser for UN agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organization. "Especially in light of the fact that we will shortly have to feed 9 billion people."

Jadin notes with a laugh that once the mighty, high-cost lobster was deemed so repulsive in the West that it was fed to prisoners. "Perceptions change," she said.

She notes that the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates about 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are due to animal agriculture.

Adventurous eaters might start with insects at the Newport Jerky Company, which has stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and a vibrant online presence. Its insect section includes a bag of grasshoppers for $9.99 or chocolate-covered crickets for $6.99.

Co-owner Derek Medico said he sells one item - a $9.99 mixed bag of dehydrated grasshoppers, mole crickets, silkworms, crickets and sago worms - thousands of times a year. "I think a lot of it just the novelty," he said.

And he doesn't expect to see consistent demand for insects anytime soon.

"In other countries and other cultures, that's much more accepted and much more normal," he said. "But here, I just think it's just going to take a while."

Samar gives up its secrets

SAMAR is regularly brought down to its knees thanks to its geographical location, which puts it right in the path of storms, including the long nightmare that was Typhoon Yolanda. And yet, when BusinessWorld spent the last days of February there, it was hard to feel that it was a province that knew hardship. In a carinderia (roadside eatery), a couple feasted on what are considered luxuries in the country’s capital: crabs and upland rice. A member of the tour group, who will not be named, scoffed, “And they call us poor.”

It isn’t an exaggeration when this reporter uses the word “poor.” An article from the Philippine News Agency in 2019 identifies Samar province (also known as Western Samar) as among the country’s poorest provinces in the country. Samar province shares this status with its neighbors on Samar Island, Northern and Eastern Samar.

BusinessWorld was on a trip to Samar province because of the provincial government’s launch of its project, Secret Kitchens of Samar. The project aims to make Samar a culinary destination, tied to the local government’s Spark Samar development program, which once aimed to boost tourism in the province. In the process of developing tourist spots and highlights in the province, they also managed to change the face of the province bit by bit. The project was started by former Governor and now Representative Sharee Ann Tan, and is being continued by her brother, the present governor, Reynolds Michael Tan (whom people fondly call Mike). Just in his 30s, he ascended to the position after his mother, Governor Milagrosa Tan, passed away late last year. He was then sitting as vice-governor.

At a dinner with the provincial officers, Tourism Operations Officer John Michael Cristobal (also called Mike) happily announced that the poverty incidence within the province has dropped to 22% from a figure of 43.9% in 2015, and 32.2% in October 2019 (the last two figures are from the Philippine Statistics Authority).

BusinessWorld then got a taste of the riches this poor province may have to offer, honoring its efforts to get up from its knees.

Our very first stop was the Sta. Rita Food Processors’ Association, located behind a church. It began as a project of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to help Samarnon (what the citizens of Samar are called) women rise up from the ravages of Yolanda. Others were taught crafts, but this group from Sta. Rita was taught how to make chips from karlang, a humbler cousin of taro. Karlang used to be converted into animal feed, but after being taught to wash it several times, and fry with garlic or other flavorings, the women have managed to turn them into chips that remind one of Pringles. Help from the DTI is key: several more of the small businesses we would see during the tour would thank various government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), and the Department of Tourism (DoT).

It is said that a word is invented because society has a need for it: it’s the same reason we have different words for rice, like in its seed form, or what it’s called after it’s cooked (palay vs. kanin). It’s no surprise then, that we encountered several words that reflect several variations of food, though they belonged to the same family. An example would be the various kakanin (snack food) we saw in the municipality of Pinabacdao. There’s the plain nilupak made of cassava, but then there was sagmani, made of taro and nuts. Cassava, meanwhile, is processed into thin sheets and fried, resulting in a crispy sheet called piking, topped with coconut sugar. Other towns we visited also had various desserts made out of crispy, toasted rice, while another town boasted its own cheesemaker and tablea (chocolate) maker. Mayette and Norbing Bernales showed us how they processed the tablea, shoving cocoa beans into a roaster — the noise made us lose part of the process as she explained it, but she showed us a metal bowl that contained the sticky and shiny penultimate step, just waiting to be molded and cooled. Mrs. Bernales also showed us how she made the province’s version of cheese, keseo, made of carabao’s milk curds in vinegar, then molded into discs. While the recipe is from her mother, another government agency helped her formalize the process. They were happy to tell us that the provincial government was kind enough to sponsor their trips to the capital during trade fair season, but Mr. Bernales said that since they’ve had a measure of prosperity, they’ve begun to pay their own way.

As we moved closer to the provincial capital of Catbalogan, we began to see how the wealthy of Samar entertained. Juliana Samson, descended from an old Samar clan, welcomed us into her home. She told us how to make tamalos, a pork and peanut dish served at fiestas. While her large sapphire earrings gleamed, she cooked the pork in a process akin to making an adobo (a stew made with vinegar). She took the pork out after about an hour of cooking, and used the dark brown broth from that to make a peanut sauce, mixing it with homemade peanut butter. This is mixed with rice, wrapped in banana leaves, and then steamed — kind of like tamales, except tamales is made with corn. The result is kind of like kare-kare (a stew with peanut sauce), but with more flavor, and an interesting, congealed texture. A version without steaming is called pinipian, which was served to us in chafing dishes at dinner at the hotel we stayed in, Alfreda’s Bed and Breakfast. Once a house occupied by a provincial governor, the rooms are decorated in mid-century style, and display his family’s academic achievements: from the Ateneo de Manila to the University of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, two descendants of the local Piczon family, the Paleyan siblings Mary May and Gilbert, showed us how to make bola catalana, yet another festive pork dish, made with ground pork wrapped around sausage and eggs, mixed with pickle relish and cheese. The difference of this dish from more familiar meat loaves is that this is wrapped in lace fat, a membrane that surrounds the internal organs of some animals. This creates a crispy crust around it, like bacon.

Meanwhile, further from Catbalogan and closer to the sea, we met Leonora Nono, a retired principal who showed us how to make humba. While humba in other provinces is sort of like adobo but with black beans, this one from Samar is made with peanuts. She cooked it in an old clay pot, which is, just like the recipe, passed down from one generation to another (she has since lost the lid though).

And thus we began to ask why the project was called the Secret Kitchens of Samar. The governor told us that it is to be developed into a brand with a yellow and purple “S” seal, with about 10 products which were slated to launch on March 12 — the coronavirus scare has dampened those plans, as the event in Shangri-La Plaza in Metro Manila was postponed, according to a statement from an agency. Mr. Cristobal told us, “It comes from the idea that normally, our elders here, when they cook, they’re alone. They close the doors, the windows. They don’t really share their recipes.”

Karina Tiopes, Director, Department of Tourism Regional Office VIII, added, “The recipe is handed down from generation to generation, to select members of the family.” In jest, she then pointed to one of her colleagues and said that he wasn’t able to inherit his grandmother’s recipe for yet another pork dish. (No prizes for guessing that pork and peanuts are popular here).

I will tell you now though that one of my personal highlights of the trip was sipping and nibbling on an exceptionally fine tinola (light chicken stew) from Calbiga. It was cooked in a pot, boiled with just ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass. It was special, not only because the broth was fine, clear, and tasty, but because the tour party had this served amidst the roaring Lulugayan Waterfalls, a local tourist spot, refurbished with a viewing deck and improved roads.

The improved roads didn’t reach the municipality of Pagsanghan, one of our stops. The journey for these wretched crabs took an hour and 45 minutes on a rough road traversing a mountain, that may make you want to grit your teeth and purse your lips.

But I take it back. Those crabs were not wretched. Perhaps it was the long journey on an empty stomach, but the mud crabs served in the municipal hall was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The town credits its seafood bounty to the fact that it is situated on brackish water, and the mix of saltwater and fresh results in their seafood grows better than the rest.

In the town of Jiabong, meanwhile, nearer the sea, mussel farmers showed us their wares. The green shellfish grow on bamboo stilts, which seem miniscule on land. “Oh, that’s just one of them,” said one farmer. We were shown how the mussels are grown: in tent-shaped bamboo structures several feet high and wide. They’re planted in the sea so the mussels could spawn on them. Boats travel around from structure to structure during the day to scrape off the mussels, and then the shells are brought to shore to be sold. It was in this town that we encountered barbecue made of mussels (served on a stick) and mussels adobo (a lovely and spicy preserve in oil).

We also went to a tinapa maker, who showed us how he made the smoked fish by first cooking it in brine, then smoking it over bamboo shavings. The fish were beautiful in the sunlight, the skin radiating an iridescence that disappears in the smoking process. The people there said that they started in the 1970s, their parents migrating from Cavite. The fishing boat that brought them a measure of wealth in the 1970s disappeared, which was why the family learned how to make smoked fish. In a story that echoes in the fishing villages ravaged by typhoons, a family member said, “Sa dagat siya nadapa. Doon rin siya bumangon (She fell in the sea, and in the sea, she rose again).”

If all the roads in Samar were like those we were on, on the way to Crab City, then the Secret Kitchens of Samar, will remain well, secret. Governor Tan told us that unfortunately, that road is the only one they haven’t finished, and when the funds from the national government arrive, construction will continue. “The roads here, to the municipalities, are concrete, except for Pagsanghan. What we’re doing is to connect all the barangays.”

One can take roads for granted, but roads function just like veins to the heart. Without them, communities can die at a slow pace — or as quickly as possible. Mountainous Samar province has a problem with the militant New People’s Army. The provincial government says that in a series of peace talks, it found out what they were so angry about: roads.

“The reason why they go to the mountains is because there are no access roads they don’t have opportunities,” said Governor Tan in a mixture of English and Tagalog.

“Through tourism, they get their roads, they’re given opportunities,” he said, citing success stories such as former combatants turning into tour guides, or opening their own local businesses. He also announced that an airport will be built in the provincial capital of Calbiga, which he hopes would be open and operational by the end of the year.

Roads make it easier for everyone. The path to Lulugayan Falls once took four hours: both for locals in the capital and even those who live near it. After roads were built to make the falls more accessible, not only were tourists able to reach it more easily, but the farmers who lived near the falls were able to bring their crops to town, bringing down both cost and prices. We go back to the original project, which was only supposed to boost tourism: “It’s not about tourism alone. It’s [already] a development agenda,” said Governor Tan.

Watch the video: High-end Supermarket. centralwOrld Food Hall (December 2021).