Toronto Restaurant Fights Waste By Chopping Menu Prices Till Food Is Gone

Jonathan Bloom wrote . . . . . . . . .

It’s 3:51 p.m., and chef Ashley MacNeil is busy planning how to run out of food. Sunday brunch service has ended at Toronto’s Farmhouse Tavern, and she has already cubed and deep-fried the morning’s excess biscuits into croutons to adorn tonight’s house salad. Now she is fretting over an excess of shaved Brussels sprouts, which isn’t something she wants to freeze. She sighs and hopes it’ll be a big salad night.

MacNeil eyes the shimmering skin-on fillets of trout. Fourteen will be enough for tonight’s Fish Dish entree, she decides, and she asks one of her cooks to double wrap and freeze six, which she’ll later cure into gravlax. “You want to run out, but you want to make sure that you have enough of a selection so people come back,” says MacNeil, 34. “It’s a weird teeter-totter game.”

That game begins around 5 p.m., as the horseshoe-shape restaurant begins to fill with diners ordering “buck a shuck,” or 1 Canadian dollar ($0.74) oysters. The promotion is just one of eight hourly food and drink discounts designed to attract and retain customers on Sunday evenings. The goal is to sell out of perishable food and open bottles of wine so that Farmhouse can shut up shop with an empty refrigerator for the three consecutive days, when it is closed. Oh, and this weekly event is called F*** Mondays.

Come again? The strong language stems from owner Darcy MacDonell’s lifelong dread of the coming workweek and how, in the restaurant business, quiet Sundays lead to either throwing away food or freezing it. Because he is adamant that “freshness is omnipotent,” refrigerating unserved items and corking wine bottles are not options.

That philosophy led MacDonell to create Farmhouse’s compelling offer: Come thumb your nose at Monday by enjoying an affordable evening that’ll help us finish our food and drink.

A table of three women, having arrived at 4 p.m., is doing its very best to help out. “We came for the $4 Caesars,” says Andi Wheelband, 36, referring to a Canadian bloody mary-like drink. “And then one Caesar turned into two Caesars, which turned into oysters and a bottle of white wine.”

As afternoon turns into evening, Wheelband and her friends order two half-price appetizers and pints of beer on special for CA$6 ($4.47). By 8 p.m., they are ready to share a few half-price entrees — the short rib pasta for CA$10 ($7.45) and the Fish Dish for CA$12 ($8.94). All three women have work in the morning, but — Monday be damned — at 9 p.m. they’re discussing which glass of wine to sample next.

At that exact hour, says bartender Riley MacLean, 29, “any open wine is [CA]$9 per glass [$6.70]. It’s pretty easy to steer people toward the open wines when you tell them it’s [nearly] half price” for some bottles.

Despite a casual environment — waiters wear mismatched T-shirts, and the decor leans toward cowhide banquettes and photographs from the MacDonell family’s Ontario dairy farm — Farmhouse is not cheap, and Toronto is not an inexpensive city. MacDonell is adamant about serving premium local food and drink, and that comes at a cost — which makes the deep discounts of F*** Mondays even more compelling.

Farmhouse relies on chalkboard menus, the better to cross off dishes as the night wears on. On Sunday, there’s eighty-sixing on the central board. When that happens, all eyes turn to the server reaching over or around diners to cross off an item. “There are definitely noticeable sighs, and guests vocalize their heartbreak when they miss out,” says MacDonell.

Those dramatic erasures also create some urgency. A young artist couple, Candace Bell and Anthony Ficaro, voice two of those sighs as the carrot tartare appetizer disappears from the board. Their dismay is short-lived, though, and they switch to the bone marrow appetizer to accompany an order of 36 oysters. “That things could run out makes us order faster,” says Bell, 34, a Sunday regular. “That’s part of the deal when you come out on a Sunday. It’s a bit of a gamble.”

Another duo arrives at 8:50 p.m. and rushes over to the blackboard just as the Duck, Duck, Goose! is crossed off. They order a dozen oysters, bone marrow, foie gras, tomato tagliatelle and the Fish Dish. The dwindling supply is sparking demand. “We started to see the good stuff was going away, so we ordered quickly,” says Tara Veysey, who comes once a month with her husband, Charles. “We end up ordering more because of the specials, but we’d come here anyway.”

Farmhouse is comfortable striking dishes from its chalkboard menu any night. Yet the price for other restaurants that refuse to run out is either unfresh food, abundant waste — or both. A recent study found that restaurants, hotels and institutions are responsible for 13 percent of avoidable Canadian food waste. The U.S. restaurant sector generates 18 percent of U.S. food waste, at a cost of roughly $25 billion annually.

MacDonell, who learned to loathe waste while growing up on his family’s farm, implemented F*** Mondays upon opening Farmhouse in June 2012. “It became clear that we would likely always struggle to get diners in after a certain point on Sunday evenings,” he says, with the restaurant located in a hip, but family-filled, neighborhood called The Junction. “I hate freezing stuff, and I hate throwing food out, so we needed to find a solution that would help us use up as much as we could before closing for three days.”

By 9:30 p.m., the kitchen has closed, and MacNeil is pleased with her nearly empty fridge. There’s still an abundance of shaved Brussels sprouts — it turned out not to be a big salad night — but she plans to pickle them early next week. Most of the garnishes were already pickled and will store. Aside from about 8 ounces of chimichurri sauce that won’t be as bright in four days, Farmhouse wasted no food on this Sunday and virtually no food the rest of the week. What the restaurant didn’t manage to use went into its green city compost bin.

That’s no small feat, given that Farmhouse fed upwards of 70 people this evening. “It does take a certain amount of managing and mental energy, but it’s worth it when, at the end of the night, there’s virtually no food left,” says MacDonell.

There is another reward aside from that satisfaction. At 10:32 p.m., the staff — bartender, chef, cooks, servers and dishwasher — congregates at the bar to finish off wine bottles that are less than half full. “It’ll be a quick one, because we’re all pretty sick of each other by this point,” MacNeil quips.

The next morning, MacNeil will process the croutons into breadcrumbs, a garnish for a Thursday dish she has, on Sunday, yet to conceptualize. Such decisions are better left for later. “That’s a Monday thought,” she says with a smile.

Source: npr

Chinese Sichuan-style Twice-cooked Pork


10 grams fermented black beans
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons jarred chili sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 dried chilies, about 10 cm long
2 medium-sized garlic cloves
3 Japanese leeks (negi)
2 red banana chilies
800 grams green head cabbage
300-400 grams siu yuk (Chinese-style roasted pork)
1/2 tsp of fine sea salt, or more as needed
cooking oil, as needed


  1. Briefly rinse the black beans under running water, then drain them. Put them in a small bowl and add 1-1/2 tbsp hot water then leave to soak for about 10 minutes. Drain them, reserving the soaking liquid. Roughly crush the black beans. Mix the soaking liquid with the soy sauce, chili sauce and sugar.
  2. Put the dried chilies in warm water and leave to soak for about 10 minutes. Take the chilies out, cut off the stem end and shake out and discard as many seeds as possible. Cut the chilies into 1 cm pieces.
  3. Halve the garlic cloves then thinly slice them. Cut the leeks on the diagonal into 2 cm pieces, and the banana chilies into 5 mm pieces. Quarter the cabbage and remove the core. Cut the leaves into pieces about 6 cm long and 2 cm wide. Slice the siu yuk about 5 mm thick.
  4. Place a wok over a high flame and when it’s hot, pour in about 2 tsp of oil. Swirl the wok to coat it with the oil, then add half the cabbage. Spread the cabbage out in the wok so it has contact with the metal, pressing on the leaves so they char slightly. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then stir, and again, spread the cabbage out. Cook until the leaves are slightly charred (about two minutes) then transfer them to a bowl. Repeat with more oil, the remaining cabbage and a little salt.
  5. Place the wok (no need to wash it) over a high flame, add 1 tbsp of oil and swirl the wok to coat it. Add the leeks and banana chilies and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks start to soften (about two minutes).
  6. Add the crushed black beans and the dried chilies into the wok and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Mix in the siu yuk, cabbage and soaking liquid/soy sauce/chili sauce mixture. Stir well so the seasonings are evenly distributed, then add about 4 tbsp of hot water. Stir the ingredients then push them to the centre of the wok, turn the heat to medium and cover with the lid. Let the ingredients simmer for about two minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cabbage is crisp-tender.
  7. Remove the lid and taste the mixture. Correct the seasonings, adding more chili sauce if you like, and/or more sugar, soy sauce and salt.
  8. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with steamed white rice. Serves four to six as part of a Chinese meal.

Source: SCMP

Omega Lambs and Fitbit Cows: New Zealand Responds to Alternative Protein Threat

Charlotte Greenfield wrote . . . . . . . . .

At Dave Harper’s family farm in New Zealand’s scenic Canterbury region, a painstakingly bred flock of lambs is grazing, not on grass, but on a field of herbs selected to unlock healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the animals’ meat.

Known as ‘Te Mana lambs’, they are part of an effort by the island nation to future-proof its agricultural sector from the threat of meat and dairy substitutes based on synthetic proteins or plant-based alternatives.

Aimed at occupying a similar niche as premium Wagyu beef, each Te Mana lamb has a unique number and has been tracked, weighed and scanned since birth.

“We’ve got to tell our story better and we can’t do that unless we collect the information…everything’s got to be right,” said Harper, whose farm hosts the lambs for their final few weeks grazing on chicory herbs after being brought down from the mountainous high country.

The lambs have received millions of dollars in government funding in a joint venture with meat company Alliance Group. Both want to cut the country’s dependence on shipping bulk commodities and move up the value chain into luxury products with burnished ethical, environmental and health credentials.

New Zealand relies on agricultural farming and processing for 8% of its GDP, among the highest in the OECD so has a lot to lose as synthetic food gathers momentum.

With an ideal climate, plenty of arable land and a long farming history, New Zealand is the world’s top dairy exporter, and ranks second and seventh for sheepmeat and beef exports respectively.

“I see this as both an opportunity and threat to New Zealand, depending on how we react to this emerging reality,” New Zealand Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor told Reuters. “Animal welfare, labor standards, environmental management and food safety systems must be the best in the world.”

Disruptive Threat

The global meat substitutes market is predicted to reach $6.4 billion by 2023, according to research firm Markets and Markets, still a tiny fraction of the multi-trillion dollar traditional meat market but growing quickly. Asia, New Zealand’s top agricultural export market, is the fastest growing region.

High-profile investors are pouring in.

Vegan burger maker Beyond Meat Inc, which counts Microsoft founder Bill Gates and actor Leonardo DiCaprio among its backers, saw shares surge after its initial public stock offering, reflecting ravenous investor demand.

Impossible Foods, which makes a meatless plant-based burger and is backed by celebrities like Serena Williams and Katy Perry, this week announced it raised $300 million ahead of a possible initial public offering.

Dairy is also at risk, particularly in the ingredients business, which relies on products such as milk powder and dairy-protein casein in everything from cakes and cookies to salad dressing and chewing gum.

San Francisco-based Perfect Day plans to roll out dairy-like ingredients based on yeast cultures within the next two years, while Ripple Foods is selling a milk substitute, derived from yellow peas, throughout the United States.

New Zealand’s Fonterra, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, has taken note. It made a modest investment – it has not disclosed the exact value – in U.S.-based Motif, a start-up using fermentation technology to create ingredients that mimic milk and egg proteins.

“We’re trying….to position ourselves so if this was to take off and become a huge demand, that we’re well placed to try and tap into it,” said Judith Swales, head of Fonterra’s consumer and foodservice business. “We can’t say that we don’t see an increasing rise in veganism and vegetarianism.”

After safety scares in China and criticism from environmentalists at home, Fonterra has also introduced a ‘trusted goodness’ seal to its products, which it says reflects increased efforts to improve traceability and ensure its grass-fed status and animal welfare meet independent standards.

Changes Coming

Still, many animal and environmental advocates say damage from industrial agriculture is unavoidable.

Complaints include the removal of male ‘bobby’ calves from their mothers, methane emissions from animals, and chemical and agricultural runoff polluting New Zealand’s once pristine rivers and lakes.

The government has introduced new requirements for the agriculture sector to slash methane emissions by 10 percent in the next decade, drawing a vocal backlash from farmers who say they have already improved practices significantly.

The industry is banking on its clean, green image to capture a niche global pool of consumers willing to pay a premium for ethically produced real meat and dairy.

“There’s going to be people who don’t always want to have the synthetic stuff and having the organic, outdoor pasture fed stuff is definitely going to have a huge part of that market,” said entrepreneur Craig Piggott.

His agri-tech start-up, Halter, has won backing from Silicon Valley venture capitalists, some of whom also invest in synthetic proteins.

North Island-based Halter is in the trial phases of a device, worn around the cow’s necks, that allows farmers to monitor cattle health from an iPad, much like a human fitness tracker.

The device can help to share information with consumers and uses noises and vibrations to direct livestock away from waterways without the need for farmhands, dogs, or fences.

Other agricultural projects, from milk powder with immune-enhancing probiotic properties to farm management and product tracing software, are attracting government research and funding through the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The partly state-funded Primary Growth Partnership plans to spend NZ$726 million ($478 million) on innovative projects in agriculture and horticulture. Te Mana lambs received NZ$12.5 million from the fund for the decade they took to develop with the help of a full-time geneticist and a handful of farmers working to develop a new niche for one of New Zealand’s most famous foods.

“There are some big changes coming,” said Harper, 57, one of the farmers. “We’re going to see more changes in the next 10 or 15 years than we’ve ever seen before.”

Source: Reuters

Growth Hormone, Athletic Performance, and Aging

Can human growth hormones really benefit aging, like the elusive fountain of youth? In 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Len arrived in Florida to search for the fountain of youth. If he got any benefit from his quest, it was due to the exercise involved in the search.

Few men today believe in miraculous waters, but many, it seems, believe in the syringe of youth. Instead of drinking rejuvenating waters, they inject human growth hormone to slow the tick of the clock. Some are motivated by the claims of the “anti-aging” movement, others by the examples of young athletes seeking a competitive edge. Like Ponce de Len, the athletes still get the benefit of exercise, while older men may use growth hormone shots as a substitute for working out. But will growth hormone boost performance or slow aging? And is it safe?

What is human growth hormone?

Growth hormone (GH) is a small protein that is made by the pituitary gland and secreted into the bloodstream. GH production is controlled by a complex set of hormones produced in the hypothalamus of the brain and in the intestinal tract and pancreas.

The pituitary puts out GH in bursts; levels rise following exercise, trauma, and sleep. Under normal conditions, more GH is produced at night than during the day. This physiology is complex, but at a minimum, it tells us that sporadic blood tests to measure GH levels are meaningless since high and low levels alternate throughout the day. But scientists who carefully measure overall GH production report that it rises during childhood, peaks during puberty, and declines from middle age onward.

GH acts on many tissues throughout the body. In children and adolescents, it stimulates the growth of bone and cartilage. In people of all ages, GH boosts protein production, promotes the utilization of fat, interferes with the action of insulin, and raises blood sugar levels. GH also raises levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).

Human growth hormone benefits

GH is available as a prescription drug that is administered by injection. GH is indicated for children with GH deficiency and others with very short stature. It is also approved to treat adult GH deficiency — an uncommon condition that almost always develops in conjunction with major problems afflicting the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, or both. The diagnosis of adult GH deficiency depends on special tests that stimulate GH production; simple blood tests are useless at best, misleading at worst.

Adults with bona fide GH deficiencies benefit from GH injections. They enjoy protection from fractures, increased muscle mass, improved exercise capacity and energy, and a reduced risk of future heart disease. But there is a price to pay. Up to 30% of patients experience side effects that include fluid retention, joint and muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on the nerve in the wrist causing hand pain and numbness), and high blood sugar levels.

HGH doping and athletic performance

Adults who are GH deficient get larger muscles, more energy, and improved exercise capacity from replacement therapy. Athletes work hard to build their muscles and enhance performance. Some also turn to GH.

It’s not an isolated problem. Despite being banned by the International Olympic Committee, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the World Anti-Doping Agency, GH abuse has tainted many sports, including baseball, cycling, and track and field. Competitive athletes who abuse GH risk disqualification and disgrace. What do they gain in return? And do they also risk their health?

Because GH use is banned and athletic performance depends on so many physical, psychological, and competitive factors, scientists have been unable to evaluate GH on the field. But they can conduct randomized clinical trials that administer GH or a placebo to healthy young athletes and then measure body composition, strength, and exercise capacity in the lab.

A team of researchers from California conducted a detailed review of 44 high-quality studies of growth hormone in athletes. The subjects were young (average age 27), lean (average body mass index 24), and physically fit; 85% were male. A total of 303 volunteers received GH injections, while 137 received placebo.

After receiving daily injections for an average of 20 days, the subjects who received GH increased their lean body mass (which reflects muscle mass but can also include fluid mass) by an average of 4.6 pounds. That’s a big gain — but it did not translate into improved performance. In fact, GH did not produce measurable increases in either strength or exercise capacity. And the subjects who got GH were more likely to retain fluid and experience fatigue than were the volunteers who got the placebo.

If you were a jock in high school or college, you’re likely to wince at the memory of your coach barking “no pain, no gain” to spur you on. Today, athletes who use illegal performance-enhancing drugs risk the pain of disqualification without proof of gain.

Human growth hormone and aging

To evaluate the safety and efficacy of GH in healthy older people, a team of researchers reviewed 31 high-quality studies that were completed after 1989. Each of the studies was small, but together they evaluated 220 subjects who received GH and 227 control subjects who did not get the hormone. Two-thirds of the subjects were men; their average age was 69, and the typical volunteer was overweight but not obese.

The dosage of GH varied considerably, and the duration of therapy ranged from two to 52 weeks. Still, the varying doses succeeded in boosting levels of IGF-1, which reflects the level of GH, by 88%.

As compared to the subjects who did not get GH, the treated individuals gained an average of 4.6 pounds of lean body mass, and they shed a similar amount of body fat. There were no significant changes in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, triglycerides, aerobic capacity, bone density, or fasting blood sugar and insulin levels. But GH recipients experienced a high rate of side effects, including fluid retention, joint pain, breast enlargement, and carpal tunnel syndrome. The studies were too short to detect any change in the risk of cancer, but other research suggests an increased risk of cancer in general and prostate cancer in particular.

HGH, or simple diet and exercise?

“Every man desires to live long,” wrote Jonathan Swift, “but no man would be old.” He was right, but the fountain of youth has proved illusory. GH does not appear to be either safe or effective for young athletes or healthy older men. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and let Father Time peck away at you. Instead, use the time-tested combination of diet and exercise. Aim for a moderate protein intake of about .36 grams per pound of body weight; even big men don’t need more than 65 grams (about 2 ounces) a day, though athletes and men recovering from illnesses or surgery might do well with about 20% more. Plan a balanced exercise regimen; aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, a day, and be sure to add strength training two to three times a week to build muscle mass and strength. You’ll reduce your risk of many chronic illnesses, enhance your vigor and enjoyment of life, and — it’s true — slow the tick of the clock.

Source: Harvard Medical School

Controversy of Drinking Red Wine for Heart Health

For years, studies have shown a relationship between drinking a moderate amount of red wine and good heart health, but experts say it’s important to understand what that means before you prescribe yourself a glass or two a day.

No research has established a cause-and-effect link between drinking alcohol and better heart health. Rather, studies have found an association between wine and such benefits as a lower risk of dying from heart disease.

It’s unclear whether red wine is directly associated with this benefit or whether other factors are at play, said Dr. Robert Kloner, chief science officer and director of cardiovascular research at Huntington Medical Research Institutes and a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California.

“It might be that wine drinkers are more likely to have a healthier lifestyle and a healthier diet such as the Mediterranean diet, which is known to be cardioprotective,” he said.

But you may not even have to drink red wine to get the benefit, Kloner said. Moderate amounts of beer and spirits also have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

It’s a common assumption that red wine may be good for the heart because it contains antioxidants such as resveratrol, which is primarily found in the skin of grapes but also peanuts and blueberries. Some studies suggest resveratrol can reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

“There’s a debate about whether resveratrol is really cardioprotective or not,” Kloner said. “In addition, there is debate about the amount of resveratrol you would need to ingest to get a protective effect. To get the equivalent of the amount of resveratrol that has been reported to be protective would probably mean ingesting an excess of wine.”

Federal guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend that if you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation. That means no more than one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (According to the AHA, one drink is 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.)

Studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption may have some health benefits, including raising “good” HDL cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of diabetes. However, excessive drinking can lead to a host of health problems, including liver damage, obesity and some types of cancer and stroke, not to mention its negative effect on the heart.

“Alcohol in excess is really bad for the heart,” Kloner said. “It can cause high blood pressure and promote arrhythmias. It can cause cardiomyopathy where the alcohol is actually toxic to the heart muscle cells, and that can lead to heart failure.”

Proving moderate alcohol use causes better heart health would be tricky, Kloner said. Ideally, it would require a large prospective study that not only randomly assigns people to a no-drinking group versus a moderate-drinking group, but that also compares different types of alcohol — red wine, white wine, beer, spirits — to determine if one really is better.

“And then you’d have to control for various factors — age, gender, cardiovascular risk, their diet. You’d have to follow them for many years,” he said, noting the added ethical dilemma of taking people who are not drinkers and telling them to become drinkers.

For now, the message certainly isn’t to go out and start drinking, Kloner said. “But if you do drink, drinking in moderation is the way to go.”

Source: HealthDay

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