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Freeze Hits Veggies

A major freeze in Mexico earlier this month has resulted in a shortage across the U.S. of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and other produce that could last until April and lead to higher prices at the grocery store.

Supermarkets, distributors and restaurant chains are scrambling to find other sources for the items and to offer replacements. But the problem has been compounded by the fact that inclement weather has also hit other growing regions, like Florida and Texas, that would normally be able to make up for a supply interruption from Mexico.

"It's extremely unusual for more than one production area to experience abnormal weather in the same year. We are continuing to harvest tomatoes in Florida, but our current volume is maybe half of what it would normally be," said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, adding that a 25-pound box of tomatoes went from costing less than $15 to more than $30 in the past week.

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Danish Chef Rasmus WIns Bocuse D'or Food 

Chef Kofoed Rasmus of Denmark today won the Bocuse d’Or, a biannual cooking contest that draws the elite of the culinary world to the French city of Lyon.

Rasmus was victorious in a competition where spectators pack the grandstands to cheer on their national teams. The runner-up was Tommy Myllymaki Sweden). The third place went to Gunnar Hvarnes Norway). The best meat platter prize was won by France and the best fish award by Switzerland.

“This is not a reality television show, it’s a real competition,” Daniel Boulud, the chef best known for Daniel in New York, said before the result was known. “It’s important for the restaurant industry to give young chefs an ambitious challenge and it’s the responsibility of established chefs to support them.” He was dining with Thomas Keller of Per Se at Brasserie de l’Est.

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Taco Bell Vows Legal Response to Beef Claims

Taco Bell is challenging a class action lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in a California court. The YUM Brands-owned fast-food chain vows to take "legal action" against claims that the beef items on its menu only contain 35 percent of the meat and don't meet government label requirements.

The class action lawsuit, filed by Alabama law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, on behalf of a California Taco Bell customer, Amanda Obney, asserts that the majority of the meat mixture used in Taco Bell’s beef items is actually composed of ingredients like water, wheat, oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch. Therefore, the chain doesn't meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards to be labeled “beef,” per the suit.

Taco Bell, however, issued a statement that says otherwise. “At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods. We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef . . . Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later, and got their 'facts' absolutely wrong. We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food,” Greg Creed, Taco Bell's president and chief concept officer, said in a statement.
The consumer behind the action, Obney, didn't request monetary damages, but the public relations fallout may be incalculable. How much commercial damage has been done remains to be seen. The lawsuit has gotten extensive media pickup, with one outlet featuring a photo of the ingredients listed on a package of the chain’s self-described “taco meat filling.” That story has become one of the busiest pages on the Internet, and consumers have taken to Taco Bell’s Facebook page and to Twitter to express their disgust.
The avalanche of bad publicity comes at a time when Taco Bell has been focusing on a marketing and menu strategy, emphasizing healthier options. Reminiscent of Subway spokesman Jared, Taco Bell has used a female consumer, who allegedly lost 54 pounds in 18 months, in its advertising. 


Root Vegetables Shine In Desserts

In these dreary months, root vegetables are more than mere consolation.

They comfort and sustain, but when prepared just so, they also deliver panache.

Tradition holds that these healthy tubers and taproots have an affinity for herbs and benefit from roasting or a slow, purposeful braise. Many are great mashed, and some can serve as a stand-in for the common potato chip.

More surprising: They’re making their into desserts, being hit up with vinegar and mingling with fruits for an atypical, enlightened fusion of flavors.

“Root vegetables are the number one produce option this time of year for an obvious reason: They’re what’s most available,” says Andrew Zimmerman, chef at Sepia, 123 N. Jefferson. “But it also has something to do with the fact that people are more interested in and knowledgeable about seasonality and local food.”

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How To Start A Food Truck

During the height of the recession in early 2009, Washington D.C.-based Peter Korbel and Justin Vitarello threw caution to the wind and opened Fojol Bros. of Merlindia, a high-end Indian-style restaurant. Korbel and Vitarello dressed in colorful costumes and answered to made-up names, all while serving up dishes like chicken curry and spicy beef stew. 

But Fojol Bros. isn't your typical brick-and-mortar restaurant. Korbel and Vitarello entered into the increasingly popular food truck industry. A far cry from traditional hot dog carts, food trucks now peddle everything from gourmet cookies to lobster rolls. In fact, the National Restaurant Association named food trucks a top trend in its "What's Hot in 2011" survey.

But there's more to this specialty business than buying the food, the vehicle and parking it curbside. Here's what you need to know to steer your own food truck onto the right path.

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