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September 07, 2011

I love it when PR stunts backfire

So a bunch of food bloggers and crunchy mom bloggers in the New York area received invitations to the opening of a new Italian restaurant, hosted by a celebrity chef. Only when they get there they slowly realize they have been totally lied to and it really is said chef pimping himself for ConAgra foods, pushing a salty and flavorless lasagna-analogue. Hilarity ensues. Or at least, people get really insulted and storm out. Open Letter to George Duran -- FoodMayhem
Jessica and I, along with other food bloggers, such as the Feisty Foodie, were invited to a secret restaurant, “Sotto Terra” (Italian for “underground”) by your public relations team. Like others who attended (as we learned later), we jumped through hoops to re-arrange our schedules to attend. Perhaps you have tons of time on your hands, we do not. We arrived in the West Village townhouse, which you charmingly (but obviously jokingly) claimed to be your own home; it was a beautiful, multi-million dollar space, beautifully decorated, filled with a lively crowd. We were happy to make your acquaintance and I traded some parenting advice with you about baby-led weaning; a food-oriented approach to introducing whole foods to babies. We wish you luck as a father to be and hope you will not feed your son the same ordure you fed us. Cayenne, our daughter, was with us and were grateful that the P.R. team on site were incredibly accommodating to her presence — that is what good P.R. teams do. What good P.R. teams do not do is lie to build attendance. Lying to media makes it that much harder for legitimate P.R. teams to achieve their goals. Build trust, not facades. In a brief conversation with part of the P.R. team (they were from Ketchum), I inquired as to the timeline of Sotto Terra, “how long would it be open?” The answer: “two more days”. Any more reservations available? “No.” Weird. Why would they want us to visit and write about a restaurant that would see no benefit from the press? (hint #1) . . . When focus came to me, I spoke of disdain for the use of cellulose fiber (a.k.a. wood pulp) as a food processing agent, popular in fast foods like McDonald’s and over-processed foods like Eggo’s. A hot topic right now and TheStreet has a good article covering some details. Humorously we had discussed McDonald’s as one of the worst offenders and Lempert offered the tidbit that their breakfast sandwich is their biggest money maker, guess what: it is made from wood, big shock. When Jessica spoke, her hot topic was the use of artificial food coloring and other flavor agents. Also in many of these over-processed foods. It was jarring to hear you say something about how sometimes it’s necessary to use these chemicals to get “good food” to the supermarket. Lempert quickly moved on to the next guests. (hint #3) As we ate the “cheesy garlic bread” I said aloud how incredibly salty it was. Jessica, her neighbor to the right, and the couple across from us all agreed. Another guest said it wasn’t garlicky enough. The cheese tasted cheap and like a lot of fat was added. Your exuberance extended our patience and we figured it was a minor fumble, we moved on. But then, the entrées came out. Generic-looking lasagna of the type I’d expect to find in my elementary school cafeteria. But whoa, where was my wife’s cube of the dish? Instead she received zucchini with a light tomato and shallot sauce with a side of cous cous. We asked why and they said “there might be food coloring” in the lasagna. Sojourn here a moment. We eat… a lot… at many places… around the world. We have never heard of anything like this. Why on Earth would a chef color an entree like lasagna? (hint #4) . . .

September 03, 2011

Did you ever wonder how Russia treats drug addicts?

They basically lock people in cages. Which doesn't help very much, but probably lets the government make a big show about being strong and tough. Drug Treatment In Russia | ThinkProgress
Not surprisingly it’s harsh: The treatment center does not handcuff addicts to their beds anymore. But caged together on double-decker bunks with no way out, they have no choice but to endure the agonies of withdrawal, the first step in a harsh, coercive approach to drug treatment that has gained wide support in Russia. [...] Most experts in drug treatment condemn this approach as a primitive, brutal and ineffective way to address the problem, saying that addiction is a much more complex and intractable challenge and that simply drying out cannot bring a lasting cure. “What they present as drug treatment has absolutely no basis in evidence,” said Diederik Lohman, a senior researcher at the monitoring group Human Rights Watch who took part in a recent study of narcotics use and treatment in Russia. Russia bans the use of methadone.