COVID-19: Is It Safe to Go Out to Eat?

Pete Wells wrote . . . . . . . . .

Restaurants are slowly returning in many states. Just because you can eat out again, though, does not mean that you should. And if you decide to go back before the virus is under control, it will not necessarily be clear which dining rooms are safest.

Restaurants will have to navigate a situation that is new to them and to the rest of the world. New guidance for restaurant operators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention favors broad principles (“Intensify cleaning, sanitization, disinfection and ventilation”) over specific standards.

“There really is no scientific study” on the best ways for restaurants to reopen following a Covid-19 outbreak, said Dr. Robert W. Amler, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College. Nevertheless, doctors and public health experts have some suggestions for handling the risks of dining out while the virus is still a threat.

Check your community’s health.

Dining rooms are open again in several states that have not met the criteria for progress against the virus suggested by the White House for a phased reopening. The states’ reopening is a public-policy decision, but going out to eat is a personal one. At the very least, you should check the latest data on coronavirus cases in your city or county before making up your mind.

“I would certainly want to have some awareness of how much transmission seems to be going on in my community,” said Craig W. Hedberg, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. “So if you know that there are new cases continuing to be occurring every day in your community, you have to assume there’s going to be a risk for transmission in public settings.”

Know your personal risk.

Anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 or who has recently come into contact with someone who has had the virus should stay home, Dr. Hedberg said. As people leave home more often, gathering in groups will start to seem normal. But it will increase the risk of the virus spreading.

Anyone who falls into one of the high-risk categories identified by the C.D.C. should be especially cautious about going out to restaurants. In particular, older people, which the agency defines as those age 65 and above, “really do have to be extra careful, and their family members have to be extra careful,” Dr. Amler said.

Ask questions before you go.

Just as you’d interview a babysitter you were thinking about hiring, you can quiz a restaurant’s staff in advance about its safety practices, or look for a summary on its website or social media accounts.

Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, who has collaborated on a training program to help restaurants in his state manage their response to the coronavirus, said that among the things he would hope to hear are: “We’re taking this seriously. We’ve trained our staff on how to wear masks, on the importance of hand washing and hand sanitizing. We’ve changed what we’re doing to ensure that we’re practicing social and physical distancing to keep you safe.”

Look around once you arrive.

A fast glance can tell you a lot about how thoroughly the management has responded to the pandemic. “A restaurant that looks exactly like it did before is probably not the kind of restaurant I want to go to,” Dr. Chapman said.

Are the tables far apart? Will the chairs permit at least six feet of space between customers? Is the restaurant allowing staff or customers to gather in clusters?

“The biggest red flag would just be crowding,” Dr. Hedberg said. “If people are crowded near the entrance or around the bar, or there’s a lot of interaction going on between staff and customers in close proximity, then obviously they’re not operating in a mode that’s designed to prevent transmission of the virus.”

Consider a table outside.

The virus spreads readily indoors, as shown by a study of a woman who appears to have transmitted it to nine other people who were eating in the same room of a restaurant in China. Recent evidence suggests that the risk of infection may be lower outdoors. Alfresco dining has other advantages. Dr. Chapman pointed out that there may be more space outside to spread out, and that all-weather furniture may be easier to rearrange than a fixed booth in a dining room.

Expect face coverings.

The C.D.C. recommends wearing masks or cloth face coverings when out in public, to keep people who don’t know they’re sick from spreading the virus by respiratory droplets. This applies to restaurant workers. “What that shows is that the business is really trying to take the idea of asymptomatic carriers of the virus seriously,” Dr. Chapman said.

Eating a meal with a mask on is a challenge. Diners should arrive with face coverings, remove them temporarily to eat or drink, and put them on again before talking. A new study shows that in an unventilated room, droplets produced by normal conversation could linger in the air for as long as 14 minutes.

Don’t expect gloves.

In many places, the law already requires people who prepare food to wear gloves. That hasn’t changed. For hosts and servers in the dining room, however, gloves are not necessary, and some experts believe they’re a bad idea.

“The real problem is, over a period of time, if you’re using these gloves, you’re going to get a false sense of security,” Dr. Amler said. “It’s better to be concerned about your hands’ getting contaminated, and to be washing more frequently.”

Be conscious of shared surfaces.

Although surface contact is not believed to be the primary way the virus spreads, experts still recommend being careful about surfaces that other people may have touched: tabletops, silverware and so forth. Looking at a chalkboard menu might be safer than picking up a laminated one.

If you do touch common surfaces, wash or sanitize your hands and don’t touch your face. Thoughtful restaurateurs will provide sanitizer throughout the establishment, but it’s a good idea to bring your own. If you need to wash your hands in the restroom, Dr. Hedberg suggested that its condition may give you an insight into the restaurant’s overall commitment to a sanitary environment.

Picking up a French fry or a burger with your bare hands is permissible, once you’ve taken care of personal hygiene. But you were probably doing that before the pandemic, too. “You should always be washing your hands before you eat,” Dr. Hedberg said.

Relax, but not for long.

Although we often go to restaurants so we can slow down, unwind and forget our worries, the pandemic makes a more businesslike approach advisable. “The longer you stay in an area where there’s this potential for transmission, the greater the likelihood that something could happen,” Dr. Hedberg said.

In other words: If ever there was a time to eat and run, this is it.

Source: The New York Times

Asparagus Omelette with Smoked Salmon


1 kg white asparagus salt
1 pinch sugar
1 teaspoon butter
8 eggs
4 tablespoons cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons butter
300 g smoked salmon in thin slices

Hollandaise Sauce with Herbs

1 shallot
5 white peppercorns
1 tablespoon white wine-vinegar yolks of 3 eggs
250 g butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill


  1. Peel the asparagus, remove the woody ends and boil in salted water with a pinch of sugar and a teaspoon of butter for 20 minutes until done.
  2. To make the herb hollandaise sauce: peel the shallots and chop finely. Add to the crushed peppercorns, vinegar and 5 tablespoons of water and boil to reduce it slightly. Rub through a fine sieve into a bowl, then beat in the egg yolk. Put the bowl in a container of hot water. Whisk the shallot and egg mixture continuously until it is creamy and thick. Remove the bowl from the hot water container and add melted butter – not too hot – while stirring constantly. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and stir in the chopped herbs.
  3. For the omelette, beat the eggs and cream together. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and make four omelettes in butter.
  4. Remove the asparagus from the water and drain. Stuff the omelette with asparagus, salmon and hollandaise sauce with herbs.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Cooking with Asparagus

Jimmy’s Kitchen – Hong Kong’s Best-loved Kitchen Closes Its Doors after 92 years

Kate Whitehead wrote . . . . . . . . .

When Jimmy’s Kitchen closes its doors at the end of this month many will mourn the loss of one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most storied restaurants. Indeed, the 92-year-old Central eatery was set to close in April but was given a month’s reprieve following a surge of interest from patrons who wanted to dine at Jimmy’s one last time.

“The response has been so overwhelming we have extended the closure into May,” says Epicurean Group’s food and beverage director Anthony Russell-Clark.

Even if you haven’t dined at Jimmy’s Kitchen, you’ll likely be familiar with its large neon-lit sign at the bottom of Wyndham Street. First opened in 1928, the restaurant was controlled by the Landau family until it was sold in 2002 to Sherman Tang, whose Epicurean Group also owns the historic Peak Lookout.

There is talk of Jimmy’s reopening when its management finds a suitable location, which may or may not happen. (When much-loved Central restaurant M at the Fringe closed, it too did so with the hope of reopening at a later date. That was more than 10 years ago.)

The past two decades have seen Jimmy’s slide into medi­ocrity, its heyday having been in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Writer and critic Stuart Wolfendale was a junior civil servant in the late 70s and remembers “an interesting mix of clientele – Chinese and Eurasian businessmen who were used to dealing with Westerners, a lot of Shanghainese who were happy tucking into Western food, senior civil servants, senior administrators and the odd barrister.

“No taipans, but smaller business heads, people with their own companies. It was a Hong Kong that has now probably gone. I don’t remember being chased with the bill. You could take a while with your coffee. And those were the days when people might have a couple of Armagnacs with their coffee”.

In the 70s, there were very few good European-style restaurants in Hong Kong. If you wanted to dine on such fare, you went to a five-star hotel or a private club, many of which did not allow Chinese people, the Hong Kong Club being one such example until the late 70s. Jimmy’s provided a common ground for Chinese and Western business folk.

Tim Huxley, chairman of Mandarin Shipping, was a regular at Jimmy’s from the late 80s and says the restaurant was also a hub for the shipping industry. “You could see everyone who came in,” he says. “When the shipping firms were based in Central, a lot of the shipping community used to go there, it was almost like the Baltic Exchange.”

Long before Tung Chee-hwa – the eldest son of shipping magnate Tung Chao-yung, who founded Orient Overseas Container Line – became the city’s first chief executive in 1997, he had his own table at Jimmy’s.

“C.H. Tung’s table was past the bar on the left,” recalls Huxley. “If he wasn’t there, I would get his table.”

Lynn Grebstad, for many years the doyen of Hong Kong public relations, recalls how as a patron you “always saw plenty of people you knew, as well as people who didn’t want to see you, hiding in a dark corner behind a wrought-iron screen. It was a popular place for trysts, and I suppose no one ever suspected anything because it was in Jimmy’s, for all to see”.

Wolfendale remembers the staff being fiercely loyal to Leo Landau and his successors, which guaranteed them a job and meant they didn’t need to fawn over guests.

“They may not have been terribly polite, but there was a certain – ‘warmth’ is a strong word – a certain welcome, even if they didn’t do people-pleasing well,” says Wolfendale.

Grebstad recalls the “waiters shuffling around in their unbecoming pyjama-style uniforms with badges that displayed titles such as ‘Bread Boy’”.

Neville Sarony QC was less enamoured of the staff, saying the waiters left you with the impression that they thought serving you was a privilege you didn’t really deserve.

“Any delay in placing your order would receive a frown, followed by a grump and then a walk-off, indicating that you were wasting their time,” says Sarony. “I think they expected you to have memorised the menu and decided what you wanted to order before you even arrived.”

Which would have been a challenge because the menu was huge. Huxley recalls a great leather-bound volume with pictures of Hong Kong scattered throughout and a note at the beginning that read: “If it’s not on the menu ask Jimmy.”

When PR legend Susan Field began doing the marketing for Jimmy’s Kitchen in 1990, there were several rounds of discussion about whether to make the menu bilingual to serve the increasing number of Chinese customers. They decided against.

“The menu was so huge it was a tome, so it was decided to keep it in English,” says Field.

Sally Lo, founder of the Hong Kong Cancer Fund, arrived from Britain in 1967 to stay with her beau, Robert Lo Kai-leung, and meet his family. Her husband-to-be sent a limousine to meet her at Kai Tak airport, “waiting for me on the tarmac”, says Lo. “The driver dropped me outside Jimmy’s Kitchen, which was quite British and filled with businessmen.”

Her first meal in Hong Kong, the city that would become her home, was oysters kilpatrick. “They were sensational, grilled with cheese and garlic on top,” says Lo, who married her man the following year, in 1968. “Jimmy’s was famous for them. I’ve looked for them on menus over the years and never seen them elsewhere.”

Wolfendale also had a first date at Jimmy’s, in 1984, looking to impress in a place where he knew he would feel comfortable. These were the days when waiters were trained to do tableside flambés, a giant whoosh of flames preparing a decadent tournedos rossini.

Wolfendale usually ordered the old-school favourites Jimmy’s was known for, such as chicken kiev, steak and kidney pie or mulligatawny soup, one of the first dishes to emerge from the hybrid cuisine developed in British India.

Kerry McGlynn, who served as press secretary to Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, recalls Jimmy’s as the place to go for “good old-fashioned nosh”, such as bangers and mash, fried liver and bacon, or a colonial curry.

“I took my partner there one New Year’s Eve,” says McGlynn. “It was not exactly sedate, neither was it particularly wild. Perhaps that was Jimmy’s.”

Grebstad loved that each table was given its own bowl of pickled onions – “naughty but so nice and low on the calories” – and she usually opted for the onion soup or the chicken madras while her husband went for the beef stew.

Huxley was a chicken stroganoff man: “It was a unique recipe, apparently brought down by Jimmy from Shanghai.” Once a regular, he hasn’t been to Jimmy’s for a long time, and not regularly since his favourite barman, who could make “the best martini in Asia”, retired 20-odd years ago and the vibe of the place began to change. Nevertheless, he says its closure is a loss for Hong Kong.

Wolfendale laments the loss of a treasured haunt but, as so many institutions tend to, he says it had become over­priced. “The prices were getting out of proportion with the product,” he says.

Grebstad still has her 1982 edition of the cookbook Jimmy’s: Secrets from Hong Kong’s Best-Loved ‘Kitchen’, with an introduction by Australian journalist and corres­pondent Richard Hughes, who wrote, “The old saying still holds good: ‘Whether you’re a resident or a long-time absentee on solitary return, just visit Jimmy’s and in half an hour you’re almost certain to greet someone you know.’”

Source: SCMP

Chemists Develop Foolproof New Test to Track the Fats We Eat

Michelle Donovan wrote . . . . . . . . .

A team of researchers at McMaster has developed a reliable and accurate blood test to track individual fat intake, a tool that could guide public health policy on healthy eating.

Establishing reliable guidelines has been a significant challenge for nutritional epidemiologists until now, because they have to rely on study participants faithfully recording their own consumption, creating results that are prone to human error and selective reporting, particularly when in the case of high-fat diets.

For the study, published in the Journal of Lipid Research, chemists developed a test, which detects specific non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs), a type of circulating free fatty acid that can be measured using a small volume of blood sample.

“Epidemiologists need better ways to reliably assess dietary intake when developing nutritional recommendations,” says Philip Britz-McKibbin, professor in the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology at McMaster and lead author of the study

“The food we consume is highly complex and difficult to measure when relying on self-reporting or memory recall, particularly in the case of dietary fats. There are thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to in foods, both processed and natural,” he says.

The study was a combination of two research projects Britz-McKibbin conducted with Sonia Anand in the Department of Medicine and Stuart Phillips in the Department of Kinesiology.

Researchers first assessed the habitual diet of pregnant women in their second trimester, an important development stage for the fetus. The women, some of whom were taking omega-3 fish oil supplements, were asked to report on their average consumption of oily fish and full-fat dairy and were then tested with the new technology. Their study also monitored changes in omega-3 NEFAs in women following high-dose omega-3 fish oil supplementation as compared to a placebo.

Researchers were able to prove that certain blood NEFAs closely matched the diets and/or supplements the women had reported, suggesting the dietary biomarkers may serve as an objective tool for assessment of fat intake.

“Fat intake is among the most controversial aspects of nutritional public health policies given previously flawed low-fat diet recommendations, and the growing popularity of low-carb/high-fat ketogenic based diets,” says Britz-McKibbin.

“If we can measure it reliably, we can begin to study such questions as: Should pregnant women take fish oil? Are women deficient in certain dietary fats? Does a certain diet or supplement lead to better health outcomes for their babies?”

Researchers plan to study what impact NEFAs and other metabolites associated with dietary exposures during pregnancy, might have on childhood health outcomes in relation to the obesity, metabolic syndrome and chronic disease risk later in life.

Source: Brighter World

After a Stroke, Diabetes Could Worsen Brain Function

Having Type 2 diabetes could cause cognitive impairment in stroke survivors, according to new research that points out the need to aggressively treat prediabetes.

A new analysis of seven international studies found that three to six months after a stroke, the participants with diabetes functioned worse than those without diabetes on measures for memory, attention, mental flexibility, processing speed, language and other examples of cognitive function.

“That’s why Type 2 diabetes is another important target in the prevention of dementia, and the focus should be on early treatment for prediabetes to delay or prevent the progression to Type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Perminder Sachdev said in a news release. She is the study’s senior author and scientia professor at UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing in Kensington, Australia.

Previous research by Sachdev and colleagues determined that stroke patients with a diabetes history had worse brain function than those without the condition. But this new work, published Thursday in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, looked at whether that held true for people with prediabetes.

“This is important because prediabetes is very common, and individuals can have prediabetes for several years before progressing to Type 2 diabetes,” Sachdev said. “Early and aggressive treatment of prediabetes can delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes. If we target the treatment of prediabetes, could this prevent the development of dementia in some individuals?”

The analysis included data from 1,601 stroke patients in Australia, France, Korea, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United States. Their average age was 66 and almost all had clot-caused strokes. Overall, 70% were Asian, 26% white and 2.6% African American.

Fasting blood sugar levels measured at hospital admission and medical history were used to define Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. But the study was limited by not having information about the duration and severity of diabetes and having only one blood sugar measurement.

After adjusting for age, sex and education, researchers found “significantly poorer” function in stroke survivors with diabetes – but not in those with prediabetes. The findings held up even after researchers adjusted for additional factors such as ethnicity, high blood pressure, smoking, body mass index, abnormal heart rhythm and previous stroke.

“The deficits we found in all areas of cognitive function highlight the importance of assessing the capacity for self-care in patients with Type 2 diabetes following a stroke,” Jess Lo, lead author of the study, said in a news release. She is a research associate at UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing.

Health care providers should ensure stroke survivors have the mental competency to fulfill the complex tasks needed to manage diabetes, Lo said.

That “can include measuring glucose levels multiple times a day, managing glucose monitoring devices, adjusting medication doses, self-administering insulin or other medications, and understanding food labels and portion sizes to adjust what is eaten at each meal or snack.”

Source: American Heart Association

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