Finally, a diet muffin I can get behind. (Bran, too: my favorite!) The muffin on top is the bran muffin sold in the bakery at Suzanne Goin's new Tavern restaruant. The one below is sold at Whole Foods. I think (but this is a guess) it is baked by a company called Il Fornaio. Tavern's weighs in at 3 ounces, the bottom guy weighs exactly twice that. The small one ,which is dense and chewy and tastes of molasses and walnuts, was much, much tastier. And (I'll venture another guess here) half the fat, half the calories, of that other one. ...

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Today's NYTimes story, When Local Makes it Big, is a great story that shows just how removed Americans are from their food. I mean really: if anyone out there truly believes that because Frito-Lay shows them a farmer on television (sadly most people have never seen a farmer!) that Lay's cares about farmers, or about local, or even about potatoes, then they are stupid. Or at the very least, very naive. Lay's cares about sales, and to that end, Lay's cares about buzzwords, and that is what "local," has become. A primer: to the extent that local is important, here are some reasons why: 1) because food that is sold and/or consumed near where it is grown is food that does not have to travel, and according to Michael Pollan's epic Farmer in Chief, our traveling food is the second biggest use of fossil fuel in this country. 2) food grown locally is presumably--unless you live in the Central Valley or Salinas some other agribiz hub--grown on an independent, family-owned farm. And since America ...

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For some it's obvious: New Yorkers have their pizza. Cubans have their coffee. San Franciscans have cioppino. As a Southern Californian (I was born in Tijuana, spent my childhood in San Diego, and now live half the time in Los Angeles, half the time in New York), I have my points of regional culinary pride, too. The list goes like this: fish tacos. Lately they've been fetishized but for some of us, the relationship is something deeper, lasting, and sincere. It's proximity to Mexico. I can't even begin to tell you the ways--edible and not--that this is beyond cool, and anyone who says that Tijuana isn't really Mexico (which I've been told almost as many times as I've told people I was born in Tijuana) is an idiot. And Sea urchins,. Pulled from reefs off the coast of San Diego or Santa Barbara--I think I love them. So when I saw "Spaghetti with Sea Urchin" on the menu at Angelini, where I dined with my mother for her birthday recently, I couldn't resist. I was introduced to sea urchin p ...

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I was at 3 square, the restaurant/bakery on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach over the weekend when I noticed a word on a menu that I didn't recognize, schlag. People I'm eating with often ask me about culinary terms on menus, and most of the time I'm able to help them. I know from coulis and saba, and I know enough of the current buzzwords like "Berkshire" in front of pork, that I am always surprised when I am surprised, which I was with schlag at 3 Square.  Naturally I came home and looked it up and found that schlag means, simply, "whipped cream." I like that the Swiss (I think) German owner decided to use his native term for it. Plus, it sure made the dessert—a lemon pound cake sliced and served with strawberries and... you guessed it—seem fancier. The irony is that just the day before, I'd had a burger party for my dad (who is really my step-dad, which only matters if you are under the correct impression that my dad is dead), and served my family the exact same dessert. I felt slightly ...

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