Category Archives: Food Rant / love song

Health Inspection Grades Put the “F” in FDA

Sample grading form

There is nothing more distracting than craving a juicy, succulent, amazing burger in the middle of the day. When you want a burger, you really can’t think of anything else. You get up and decide to go to your usual favorite spot and can’t help but notice a sign on the window. “Sanitary Inspection: Grade Pending.” “Okay, cool.” You think to yourself but as you continue to go back, you realize the sign hasn’t changed. You’d figure that after about a month, their results would be up but they’re not. Two months pass, the same signs still there. It is then when you realize that that your favorite burger joint might never put its results up, which leads you to question…why?

What started in 2010 in southern California has made its way to NYC. The FDA has implemented a food-safety grading system which has the sole purpose of making sure restaurants provide safe food and service to its customers. Now, this is only fair, considering in a city like New York where there is a restaurant (or five) on every block, definitely putting a “subtle” influence on New Yorkers to go out and eat at least once or twice a week.

The least a restaurant can promise its customers is a benign and health-conscious environment. Instead, restaurants make such an effort to hide their disturbing sanitary truths by not posting their true grades.

This grading system holds a lot of bias towards particular restaurants though. Don’t get me wrong, places like McDonalds and Burger King are happy to rave about their A scores. This is because of the all fast food places are meant to follow a certain set of microbial standards. These standards happen to be incredibly easy to follow, with examples such as setting meat temperatures above 160 degrees and using pasteurized milk, my own kitchen could pass them.

Not only that, but then one has to take into consideration the more “high end” restaurants in the city. I mean, they should also be just thrilled about this new grading policy, correct? Not quite…

The way how the grading system works can be seen in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Principles and Application Guidelines. These set of rules are a lot more rigorous than those of fast food chains, leading to more atomicity from the restaurants end. Though the guidelines seem never ending, the Food and Drug Administration also allows restaurants who get a C or D to put up their grade pending sign and get re-evaluated again months later.

This whole ordeal with grading restaurants has caused nothing but controversy within the food industry. It really is all a matter of who you are willing to trust. Some consumers have taken it upon themselves to dive deep into the dirty laundry of restaurant culture. Dont Eat At, an app developed by a current NYU student, provides a simple analysis of the restaurant of your choice and tells you whether or not they are at risk of being closed down due to health code violations.

Moral of the story: I think I am going to re-evaluate my favorite burger place, with its favorite “Grade Pending” sign in the window.

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 2 Comments

A Celebration Always Needs Food!

On March 20th it was Purim for my friends Brandon Bordonado, an interesting New York mix of Puerto Rican and Jewish, and Kacey Herlihy, a more typical New York mix of Irish and Jewish. They tell me about their earliest experiences with Purim while in Hebrew school during this “Jewish Halloween.” ” We dressed up, there were carnival games, like a basketball hoop, tickets, prizes and free coffee and cookies (like) rugelach and hamantaschen,” said Herlihy with a childish timbre in her voice.

Hamantaschen is a cookie that comes in an array of flavors. “Apricot is the creme-de-la-creme. It’s what every kid wants when he goes digging into the cookie jar,” said Bordonado. Raspberry is the next best thing, but the least desirable is Blackberry he tells me in his heavy Queens accent that Cuomo talks about in this New York Times article.

Brandon is so enthusiastic about the falafels, about the stuffed cabbage, and about his mother’s cheese salad and I wonder where my excitement is. All around me I have been ignoring the signs of celebration in Colombia. I’ve got cheese from Barranquilla in my fridge that comes in huge blocks that weigh 1o, sometimes 20, pounds each. Colombian candy sits beneath it in the shelf below and I ignore it to reach for the peanut butter. I hear the words “carnavales,”“aguardiente,” and “semana santa,” but don’t realize I haven’t been home to celebrate with my grandmothers over the phone and thank them for the handmade “bollos de yuca”. All I had to do was open the fridge and look to see their was a celebration going on.

I try and remember when Ivonne, my parents oldest friend, still lived in their Jersey house they never owned. Our families, and other friends, used to get together there and eat seafood rice for dinner on Saturdays, but the economy has stripped us of our happiness. Others in our family of friends have endured real life challenges of unemployment and coming out of the closet. We have lost our joy during these hard times and don’t even get together during moments like these to celebrate life for a while. I didn’t realize how important food was to keep my family together, but without sharing rice or homemade food, we just don’t seem to see one another.

Posted in Food, Food Rant / love song | 2 Comments

If It’s Healthy, Then What Is The Problem?

Healthy Food Choices

As a mom, I am always concern about my daughter’s diet. I am always making sure that she eats food that is healthy for her and at the same time, food that she will enjoy eating, and whenever I get advice on how to better my child’s diet, I am all open for it, because after all, I want the best for her. If you sit for a minute to think about this, you will agree with me. Ultimately, parents always want what is best for their kids.

Unfortunately, not ALL parents want the best for their kids, at least not when it comes to nutrition. In an attempt to reduce the high number of obese children in the Unites States and in an effort to prevent or reduce Diabetes in children, the first lady Michelle Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This bill will allow, or force, schools to start serving better, more healthy and nutritious foods to kids all over the nation. This bill has also affected franchises such as Burger King and McDonalds since they also have to add more fruits and vegetables to their famous Happy Meals and if they fail to do so, they will no longer be allow to sell the meals that makes children so happy.

My question is this: If something is going to benefit our children, why would we get upset about it? Honestly, we have to keep our priorities straight. When I hear parents complaining about the first lady signing the bill, it infuriates me. She is only looking out for our children’s health. If that is the case, then why do we not flip out on our children’s doctors when they tell us to follow a specific diet, or to give our children a specific medicine when they are sick? It is the same thing, but those parents who feel their kids should be able to eat anything in the name of “freedom” are simply being selfish, period.

The first lady was highly criticized by Rush Limbaugh, saying she was a hypocrite for eating ribs while on vacation, but then forcing the nation to eat healthy. However, republicans like Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor, came to the defense of the first lady saying that obesity threatens the welfare of the entire nation. With this much information about obesity and the high risks of diabetes and cancer in our children, it is beyond me that there are parents who criticize Michelle Obama for her efforts to help our kids.

In an effort to better understand both points of view on this topic, I asked different mothers what they thought about this new food act. The responses were very different, here are a few:

“If it’s going to help our children and keep them healthier, then why not?” said Jaqueline Gomez

“I am actually very excited about the bill. I waited a long time for this change because the food serve in schools is the opposite of healthy.” Said my aunt Maria Velez

“We should be able to feed our children whatever we want, especially because they’re our children. Nobody else should tell us what we give them or what we feed them” said Shirley Restrepo.

If we want healthier children, we must do our part people, let’s get with the program. In the given case that you believe we should have the right to feed our children whatever we want and we should not be told by anyone what to feed them, then do not complaint if in the future your children turn out to be diabetic, obese or at risk of cancer. We cannot have it both ways.

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 3 Comments

Children of the Corn

The corn is everywhere

Corn, it’s all around us. It’s in the food we eat and the sweet beverages we drink. It’s in us, we are corn. Well whats wrong with that? Whats wrong with having most of our diet consist of corn? It’s a grain, isn’t it? Well, sure it is but like anything else, too much of a good thing is bad and in corn’s case, we’ve gone far beyond just a little too much.

Grab some processed packaged food you have in your home and just read the list of ingredients. Besides all of the multi-syllable ingredients you’d normally find, I’m sure you’d spot one interesting ingredient appearing consistently. That one ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Ah corn syrup, a food manufacturer’s dream come true! It preserves the food, it sweetens it and best of all, it cheapens it! Using HFCS is a great way to manufacture food for the masses. Well, at least for the food companies, it is. For us, HFCS is nothing but fat-inducing, pure corn-sugar. It has no real nutritional value and just like real sugar, will cause a whole series of heath problems like diabetes and obesity when over-consumed. And it’s very easy to over-consume when so much of the mass produced food on the market is made with it.

With the evidence pointing more and more to HFCS as the reason for our nation’s obesity epidemic, you would think that their use would be more regulated. You’d think that sugary drinks and snacks containing it would no longer be sold to our children at schools. You would think that cereal companies that market to children would avoid cramming their products with so much of the syrup. You would think that HFCS would get the same treatment cigarettes do today in America. However, the progress made to cut out HFCS-containing products out of the system has been minimal at best. This does not bode well for our nation’s children who don’t see the danger that HFCS poses to their health. We are raising children of the corn. Expect the national health nightmare to come full circle before long.

Kids are getting fat.

Posted in Food, Food Rant / love song | 2 Comments

Light Mayo… Or Is It?

I used to work at a Subway Restaurant in Roosevelt Field Mall, Long Island, and after a year of making hundreds of sandwiches, I came to realize that people are just too picky when it comes to what they eat. For example, I’ve had tons of customers ask me for light mayo or light ranch on their sandwich. For some reason, people think that light dressing makes a huge difference. My coworkers and I always joke about this. “Like light mayo is gonna stop that inevitable heart attack,” says Josh Baum, a former coworker.

When you’re cutting calories, switching from brownies as a snack to carrots makes a difference, NOT a few calories in your dressing! The truth is, it’s all the same anyway.  Just because it says light mayo on the container, doesn’t mean that’s what it is. There were several times that I told my manager we were out of light mayo and he always told me to just fill the container with regular mayo and put a light mayo lid on it. As long as it’s mayo, we could care less whether it’s light or not.

There was one instance where a customer came in and insisted on having light mayo on her sandwich. My manager’s number one priority was always to keep the line moving and his rule was to never go in the back and waste time, especially not to fill a dressing container. So, as usual, he told me to grab the regular mayo, and put the light mayo lid on it.  Once the customer was satisfied with her sandwich, I asked her if she’d like a drink. “I’ll take a large cherry coke,” she said. Really? After making a huge deal about light mayo you’re going to consume hundreds of calories anyway?

The point is, you have to take fast food for what it is. It’s fast, not perfect. Every fast food restaurant has its flaws so try not to be so picky with your food and let some things go.

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 5 Comments

Queenie and the Chocolate Factory

Cioccolato, Schokolade, chocolade, cokolado, chokolade, czekolada, choklad, coklat, cikkulata, sjokolad, suklaa, 巧克力, الشوكولاته, チョコレート, 초콜릿, sô cô la, seacláid, siocled and teòclaid; These are some of the different ways to say CHOCOLATE.

Count Chocula

I love chocolate what else can I say? At least once a day I will eat or drink something that is either made from chocolate or has chocolate on it. Ever since I was a baby I can remember drinking chocolate milk. I love chocolate no matter what form it comes in; whether it is cereal, candy bars, ice cream, cookies or milk.

Cocoa Pebbles

I am aware that I have an obsession with chocolate and, if there was a chocoholics anonymous program my family would have an intervention and try to get me in. However, I wouldn’t go because I am okay with my addiction and I don’t want to get rid of it.

I Want a Chocolate Bunny! Get me one PLEASE!

Once my parents said to me “you are addicted to chocolate why don’t you try something else” and I said “I can either be addicted to drugs or chocolate which one would you prefer.” The conversation was over.

There are many benefits of chocolate. After all, it is made from plants. Some of the benefits include flavonoids, which are antioxidants that help slow down the aging process, nitric oxide, which slows down blood pressure, fuels endorphin production, which provides a sensation of pleasure, acts as an anti-depressant, has theobromine and caffeine which stimulates your system and last but not least it tastes great!

Contrary to popular belief chocolate does NOT cause acne!

If vegetables tasted as good as chocolate I would actually eat them.

MoMA Cookie YUM YUM!!!I was recently invited to the Museum of Modern Art where after my tour I had a full course meal, but it wasn’t like I actually ate most of it. The majority of it was vegetables and Panini’s. What I really ate was the chocolate chip cookies at the end. They were hot and good.

I also went to Petite Abeille (401 East 20th Street), a Belgian/ French style restaurant, and their hot chocolate was awesome!

Some of my favorite chocolate brands include Hershey, Lindt, Nestlé, Ferrero Rocher, and Russell Stover. I have always wanted to try Godiva Chocolatier but they are so expensive; who do they think I am, Willy Wonka?

Chocolate in Heart Box

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 5 Comments

Somewhere Over the… Railroad Tracks

My home away from home.

I’ve always wanted to be a regular somewhere; one of those people who can walk into a restaurant and have everybody know my name (cliché, I know) and my order. After years of tasting disappointing food and meeting my fair share of creepy people who I’d rather not have remember my name, I’ve finally found my place, Dominick’s Bakery Cafe. It’s nestled on the corner of one of the busiest streets in Staten Island, but everything slows down inside.

As soon as I walk in off of New Dorp Lane and through the brick entrance and flowing black and white curtains, I find my first prize for having dodged the loonies lurking outside the train station across the street: the smell. Dominick’s is a bakery/restaurant, and the aromas from the kitchen in back, the coffee bar across the small, dimly lit room, and the enormous bakery counter up front are divine.

I usually snap out of my cookie coma just in time to be greeted by a handful of friendly faces. At first I found it strange that these people are always so happy, running around like madmen serving people in this cramped little corner restaurant. The more I came back, though, the more I understood that it’s impossible to be anything but happy here. If everyone were fortunate enough to have a boss as friendly and hard working as Dominick, who makes a point to introduce himself to new patrons and reward his employees with sweet little baked gratuities, a mass of loyal customers, and a sweet smelling and looking environment to work in, there would be a lot less cranky workers out there.

Anyway, once I manage to tear myself away from the bakery counter, only after planning out my dessert and which baked goods I’ll be sending to friends and relatives, and plop myself down at the table closest to the coffee bar, I rarely wait more than a minute before having a big black and white mug (my favorite colors, for the record) of coffee placed down in front of me by yet another smiling waitress. I wave away the menu since I’ve had it memorized since the place opened about a year ago, and I order one of my twenty-or-so favorites.

Don't be deceived by its simplicity.

Now, I may only weigh in at a whopping ninety-eight pounds, but I assure you, I can and do eat quite a bit. Dominick himself has called me a bottomless pit; I take it as a compliment. Most often I’ll tackle a huge chicken marsala hero with a salad on the side, followed by a slice of seven layer cake and some black and white cookies for the road.

“Enjoy that metabolism while you can, Sweetie. And keep enjoying it here,” the sweet elderly counter-woman told me last week. I can assure her and all others who may care that I will do just that.

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 1 Comment

I’ll Eat to That

Do you want to eat at an affordable price, in New York? Is it after midnight? Have you been drinking? If so, now, get the best of the late world with Kennedy Fried Chicken, the overlooked-place-to-eat-after-partying sensation that fits every budget perfectly. No need for a special TV offer, you can now get a ton of Kennedy for under $9.95. Order a piece of chicken breast right now and as a bonus, they will give you a dinner roll, absolutely free!

Who can turn such a place down, when inebriated? In all likelihood, most will not. With over 35 locations in New York, 30 of them in the Bronx, convenience is provided, which is essential for weekend partygoers that do not own a car; by and large, they do not want to walk after a night of carousing because either they are tired, cannot walk or forgot how to. Into the bargain, hot dog and falafel stands are nice, but, after the second weekend of being out and about, they get old. Their biggest flaw is that it is more or less impossible to remember where they are located at 3 a.m. One does not even have to think about where a Kennedy will be; chances are they will just run into one. In addition, Kennedy has tables and seats. As a tip to those who do not go out much and as a reminder to those who have not in a long time, after a night out, sitting while eating is a blessing; eating as you walk can make you vomit, which is, ten to one, why your friends made sure their cell was charged so they could record and broadcast the footage of you spewing up.

Apart from convenience, the affordability is important as well. One can spend around $200 on an average night out. It is not out of this world to spend $20-60 on cabs because of distance or one’s hatred of trains. Be that as it may, for dudes, in the bar/club/lounge is where the real damage is going to be done; from buying drinks for girls that say “yes” to your offer of a drink but “no” to your request of their phone number to drinks for yourself and/or your friend who ran out of money, the munchies that hits one while exiting has to be satisfied at a low price. Kennedy fulfills that.

During my rigorous investigation this past Saturday, I ordered three pieces of chicken breast, onion rings and a small sweet potato pie, and it cost me less than nine bucks. What can beat that? Nothing. In fact, my friends and me were in Popeyes; it had the three-piece chicken combo for $7.09 before tax, and two of the pieces were flimsy drumstick and a flimsier wing. I left and went to the Kennedy on the same street, got my order, made sure they put my free dinner rolls in the bag and ate with pleasure till I dropped one of my rolls on the floor; that vexed me.

Posted in Food, Food Rant / love song | 3 Comments

New York Restaurants Love to Discriminate.. Against Credit Cards

It’s Friday night, and you and your friends decide to go out to eat—what probably 50% of other New Yorkers are also doing. You choose a restaurant, sit down, and take a look at the menu, wondering which item sounds like it will make your mouth water the most. Once you’ve picked out your item for the night, the waiter comes to the table and you find the sudden urge to ask about payment. You say, almost nonchalantly, “You take card right?” Then awaits three words that will grind anyone’s gears who only keeps that Visa, Mastercard, or any other type of credit card only: “No, Cash-Only.” You, credit card in hand, are left sitting there, starting at the waiter as if they will somehow change the restaurant’s payment system and suddenly accept cards.

No. You and your friends have to walk around and choose a new restaurant. And the first thing you’ll say as you walk in won’t be hello but “Now do you take credit cards?”

Welcome to what annoys me the most about New York restaurants: the inability to enter into the 21st century and join the rest of humanity with a credit card machine.

I guess I need to get out of the way why I do not carry cash. What I would usually answer as “Because I don’t want to,” and leave it at that, I will be more specific in light of trying to prove a point. I do not carry cash because cash in my pocket does one thing for me: makes me want to spend it. If I see a candy bar, and I have a dollar in my pocket, I’m going to buy it. However, if I see candy and I only have a debit card, I’ll think it’s stupid to swipe a card for 99 cents. Cash also makes me want to evenly spend all the cash I have in one day, because I, for some odd reason, was born with the obsessive-compulsive need to do so.


I could not count the amount of times I could not eat at a food place because they were cash-only. Now, I can more so understand a let’s say, small pizza place. But being cash-only for an entire sit-down restaurant? The kind where meals are over $15 and using a credit card is only second nature?

This literally happened to me, once again, two nights ago at Galanga in Greenwich Village. As my friend and I sat down to order some delicious Thai food, I looked at my friend and said, “I bet you $5 they are cash-only,” knowing we both happily use Bank of America cards. And they were.

Inside the visual appealing yet credit-card hating Galanga.

We walked around for an hour before landing on another Thai restaurant that took card. Annoying, to say the least.

All in all, I would simply like to understand the reasoning behind cash-only restaurants and their desire to lose business of customers like me who hate carrying cash.

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 4 Comments

Dear Coffee Snobs,

Coffee with milk. Period.

No, I don’t like ”bodega coffee” that does taste like water, or is filled with cream and sugar even if you order it ”black.” But does this mean that I care where my coffee is roasted, and if it has a bold or round finish? I don’t think so. All I want is a decent cup of coffee that I can enjoy in peace. What I mean by this it that the last thing I need on top of the price and tax of my drink is someone pointing out coffee-facts, as if these should be part of every sophisticated persons life. Welcome to the world  of Coffee Snobs.

I have considered myself as a real Coffee Geek for quite a while. Maybe this also is why Coffee Snobs bothers me so much. Because remember, these two types of “coffee people” are not the same. Let me explain.

Coffee with milk. Or, excuse me, "Short soy-cappuccino with a smooth foam, 152 degrees warm."

For a while I worked in a coffee shop here in New York, and enjoyed my job, doing hearts and flowers in the milk foam of people’s latte’s. But then I started to notice coffee shops around me, where both the baristas (the one’s who makes your coffee) and the customers were obsessed with – no, not coffee – but vocabulary. Short lattes, solid foam, organic fare trade coffee ONLY. And not to forget the ”cuppings,” coffee tastings, where you sit around and slurp coffee (the louder the better). Is it tangy and nutty, with a touch of plum and…smoke!? Oh, this means it must be from Guatemala! Coffee had become the new wine – something fashionable and sophisticated. From this day on, I swore to keep my coffee knowledge to myself and never become one of them – the Coffee Snobs.

I am not here to tell anyone they can’t demand their coffee to be steamed at 152 degrees, or forbid people to spend hours debating which coffee roastery is the best in town. If these are things you want to put down energy on, sure, go ahead and do it. I just have one little request: Do not look down at us ”regular” coffee drinkers, and do not correct our orders. And no, I do not only speak to all you latte-art obsessed baristas. All you snobby coffee buyers, this considers you too – especially you. If you know exactly how your coffee should be done, I would suggest you start working in a coffee shop. Or just stay at that one place where you once were served this perfectly smooth-foamed, nutty and earthy soy-latte with a bold finish. Oh, and for your information, the heart in your cappuccino foam was not there because the barista liked you, but because he likes his own artistic hand.

Dear Coffee Snobs, please keep your valuable knowledge to yourself, and let me enjoy my coffee as what it is – a plain drink.

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 1 Comment