As a longtime tea drinker, I am certainly happy to read this news:
Scientists have evidence behind what many tea
drinkers already know - a regular cuppa can help you recover more
quickly from everyday life stresses.
The study of black tea - instead of green or herbal
varieties - found it helps cut levels of the stress hormone cortisol
circulating in the blood.
They found people who drank tea were able to de-stress more quickly than those who drank a tea substitute.
The University College London study is in the journal Psychopharmacology.
In the study, 75 young male regular tea drinkers were split into two groups and monitored for six weeks.
They all gave up their normal tea, coffee and
caffeinated beverages, and then one group was given a fruit-flavoured
caffeinated tea mixture made up of the constituents of an average cup
of black tea.
The other group was given a caffeinated placebo identical in taste, but devoid of the active tea ingredients.
All drinks were tea-coloured, but were designed to mask
some of the normal sensory cues associated with tea drinking (such as
smell, taste and familiarity of the brew).
This was designed to eliminate confounding factors such as the 'comforting' effect of drinking a cup of tea.
Both groups were subjected to challenging tasks, while
their cortisol, blood pressure, blood platelet and self-rated levels of
stress were measured.
In one task, volunteers were exposed to one of three
stressful situations (threat of unemployment, a shop-lifting accusation
or an incident in a nursing home), where they had to prepare a verbal
response and argue their case in front of a camera.
The tasks triggered substantial increases in blood pressure, heart rate and subjective stress ratings in both of the groups.
However, 50 minutes after the task, cortisol levels had
dropped by an average of 47% in the tea-drinking group compared with
27% in the fake tea group.
Blood platelet activation - linked to blood clotting and the risk of heart attacks - was also lower in the tea drinkers.
In addition, this group reported a greater degree of relaxation in the recovery period after the task.
You know, to be perfectly honest, eating foie gras does not sound like it is--or should be--at the top of my "Things To Do" list. I have never had foie gras, and to be perfectly honest, I imagine that if I never had it, I would not miss it.
However, I really can't stand officious meddling. And as eating foie grasseems to be the new "in" thing to do in order to show one's distaste (pardon the cheap attempt at a pun) for officious meddling, I might have to find some way to engage in a little bit of civil disobedience of my own.
I suppose that I can understand how chicken tikka masala became "the national dish" of Great Britain, but to be perfectly honest, I prefer plain chicken tikka; masala sauce just seems to be an impediment to enjoying a better dish. I am certainly pleased that the Persian origins of many an Indian dish are noted; those who have yet to enjoy the delights of Persian cuisine are missing out something fierce.
A very good find, and one that goes a long way towards satisfying my desire to find new and interesting places to dine. As far as appetizers go, keba is an excellent choice and was delightfully consumed. And the kabob khish khash made for an excellent main course (I know, this meal was rather heavy on the red meat and the next time I go to Souk, I shall endeavor to diversify at least somewhat). The only thing that struck me the wrong way was the Moroccan mint tea, which was too sweet and not strong enough for my tastes; I am used to strong tea. But the atmosphere was good, the surroundings were inviting, the service was quite enjoyable and the bill was reasonable at the end of the proceedings.
As I say, a good find. Now, go ye forth and patronize it.
We engage from time to time in a search for food so exquisitely divine as to defy description. We might be able to find it New York, but for the nannies of the local health department. Have I mentioned recently how much I dislike killjoys?
Morton's, as every Chicagoan knows, is an institution of the Windy City. It's legend and place in the Chicago Gustatory Constellation has reached near-mythical status. In part, that is because of the many city heavyweights that hang out at the restaurant. Also, it is because the place is Just. So. Darn. Good.
It's really nice to go to a restaurant where people identify you immediately and treat you like a good friend after only a couple of visits. The greeting staff, the management and the wait staff are extremely friendly, extremely helpful and incredibly diligent. It's easy to get spoiled on that kind of service and congeniality and one misses it immediately when visiting restaurants of lesser quality.
And then there is the fare The double filet mignon is one of the better ones I have had. Very tender, very juicy, succulent and can be made rather quickly to boot. The baked potatoes are mutant-sized. The wine selection is very good (the pinot noir is recommended by yours truly) and the cappuccino will make you curse Starbuck's the next time you frequent it (the merits of Starbuck's notwithstanding). I am anxious at some point to try their seafood selection, but that would mean forsaking the double filet and I am not sure how I will muster the willpower to do that.
Of course, Morton's is pricy--all good steakhouses are--and so perhaps one cannot enjoy it as often as one wishes. It should be noted that there is a bar where some lower maintenance fun can be had. And of course, so long as one is measured in enjoying indulgences, those indulgences can still be enjoyed. In any case, give Morton's a try, and soon. It's hard to truly understand Chicago without doing so. And if you do not have the privilege and honor of living in the Windy City, rest assured: Morton's is all over the place.
Shiraz (corner of Montrose and Cicero, no link found) is a new Persian restaurant. The interior decor is very nice, though it suffers from being in a poor location. The food is potentially good, but since it is new, the attendance is sparse and I suspect that the kitchen staff does not feel as motivated to get fresh food as it would if there were lots of people going to the restaurant and fresh food was constantly in demand. The wait staff was nice, but at times, they just seemed lost and incapable of following directions or carrying out requests.
My kabab? I asked for it medium, but it turned out to be more on the well-done side. My rice? Good grief, how much salt are we supposed to put in that again? The restaurant does not yet have a liquor license and its capability in processing certain forms of payment appears to be limited.
I almost didn't want to write this review. I wanted instead to let Shiraz get its bearings, and then go again when it had and when the crowds were bigger. I might yet do that. But even though I am not prepared to write them off, I have definitely had better meals. Better Persian meals as well. Despite the fact that it may be going through some growing pains, I see no reason why Shiraz could not have come out with more of a bang. And if they don't do so soon, this restaurant may not be long for the Chicago culinary world.
The better pure ingredients in Paris include amazing cheese shops,
perfect bread, and fresher strawberries. On the macro scale, this
translates into superior haute cuisine.
America, in contrast, excels in multi-dimensionality. Move away
from refined Michelin-style cooking, and New York City is usually
better than Paris. We have better Indian food, Columbian food, Afghan
food, Chinese food, sushi, burger joints, street pretzels, and so on.
Yet there is probably no single cuisine where NYC is #1 in the world,
precisely because American ingredients are not up to scratch.
It is no accident that France specializes in uni-dimensional food
competition, whereas the United States scatters its culinary energies
in many directions. By choosing food networks which emphasize speed,
reliability, and cheapness over perfection, the U.S. makes possible
many more ethnic cuisines, and it also guarantees a better shot at
cheap prices. In short, New York offers more choice.
I would add to this by saying that America excels at offering fusion cuisine. It is all the rage nowadays on the restaurant scenes and does wonders at shaking up the ossified restaurant establishments. And Chicago does quite well in the fusion market, I should add.
I have never tried foie gras. I may at some point try foie gras because of my desire to try something at least once--assuming that there isn't a high chance of it killing me instantaneously. But whether or not I try foie gras, I find this to be bizarre:
In the city once known as the world's slaughterhouse, restaurants, politicians
and animal rights activists are worked up over a goose liver delicacy.
A proposed ban on foie gras has
divided Chicago's fine restaurants and stirred a two-pronged debate: whether it
is humane to force-feed geese and ducks to plump up their livers, and whether
politicians should be telling diners what they can and cannot eat.
"Our laws are reflection of our
culture, and in our culture it's not acceptable to torture small animals," said
Alderman Joseph Moore, whose proposed ordinance would affect at least 19
restaurants in Chicago, by one count.
Chicago was once "hog butcher for the world," as the poet
Carl Sandburg so famously put it. The vast Union Stock Yards were the setting
for Upton Sinclair's muckraking novel "The Jungle," about conditions in
turn-of-the-century meatpacking plants.
While that era is long gone, Chicago is still very much a
city of carnivores, with its steakhouses and its Chicago-style hot dogs with all
"I never thought
this would happen in my lifetime. It feels so politically driven," said Rick
Tramonto, the chef and owner of the four-star restaurant Tru. "We're the
meatpacking part of the country. We're the Midwest. We're farming states. It's
strange to me that this is happening."
A City Council committee approved the ordinance last month,
and the full council could vote this month. But Mayor Richard M. Daley has made
it clear he does not like the idea of banning certain foods, grumbling, "Pretty
soon, you can't drink."
Hmmm, let's see: We send cows to the slaughterhouse. We kill chickens and eat them. We consume lamb. We digest all sorts of pork consumables (unless, like me, we keep a semblance of kosher). And yet, somehow a fracas has emerged regarding foie gras. Mais pourquoi?
Rich and buttery, foie gras, pronounced fwah-GRAH and French for "fat liver,"
often is served sliced and pan-seared, frequently with fruit or atop greens or a
cut of steak or veal.
the liver of waterfowl, a tube is inserted into their throats twice a day and
partially cooked corn is pumped down the esophagus. Only three foie gras farms
-- two in New York and one in California -- operate in the United States.
"Force-feeding birds to have livers
up to 10 times their size is appalling and most citizens are shocked to learn
this," said Gene Bauston, president of the animal rights group Farm Sanctuary,
which is part of a worldwide movement against foie gras.
But Guillermo Gonzalez, who owns
operates Sonoma Foie Gras, a foie gras producer about 80 miles east of San
Francisco, contends the process is not abusive.
"The images using a tube to feed is duck is not pretty, but
the fact of the matter is the anatomy of ducks and geese are perfectly
adaptable," he said.
Let us assume arguendo that the process is appalling. So then would the aforementioned acts of killing cattle, fowl, lamb and porcine creatures. Have we just tired of focusing on these acts and have decided to turn our attention to goose liver? Je ne sais pas.
And of course, the following is predictable:
In October, a restaurant that serves foie gras, Cyrano's Bistrot, was vandalized
after its owner testified against the proposed ban. A window was smashed and a
door was smeared with a blood-red liquid.
Needless to say, if such tactics get repeated, you can conceivably kiss your steaks, your chickens, your lamb chops and your pork roasts goodbye. I don't think it will happen tomorrow. It may never happen. But it is worth noting anew that your tastes are subject to the extreme dictates of political correctness, and that political correctness may not be content with influencing only one portion of your diet.