Food news roundup

Oatmeal and sardines? Ick. Well, that combination would make me lose weight, and apparently it helped author and Food Network star Alton Brown lose 50 pounds. He’ll be at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Oct. 14, and there’s a Q&A with Brown in today’s News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

The book club I belong to (we call ourselves the MOB, which stands for “Minds On Books”)  is meeting tonight, and I know the hostess is thinking about one thing right now: The snacks. We’re not alone, according to a piece in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. Quote of the week: “We’re not so much a book club as a drinking club with a reading problem,” jokes Stephen Celestini, a member of an all-male book club, The Well-Formed Heads (from a line in Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer”). Read the entire article here. It’s also in the N&O.

Using the same two pastas for every kind of sauce is like owning only two pairs of shoes: It works, but it doesn’t show off your outfits to their best advantage, and it’s no fun. The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal talks about a new book that instructs us on matching the right sauce to the right pasta shape. Read more here.

You know you’re still part of the South when you write an article on biscuits and have so much response that you have to do a follow-up. That’s in the Salisbury (N.C.) Post here, tales of biscuit love.

A chef canning his own fruits and vegetables? That’s what chef Sean Brock has to do to stick to his pledge to use only Southern-sourced ingredients at his soon-to-open restaurant, Husk, in Charleston, S.C. Find out more about this intriguing idea in the Charleston Post and Courier, here.

If anyone can make a Chinese-Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas work, it’s renowned chef Jose Andres. Guacamole with fried wontons, anyone? Read about it in The New York Times, here.

Biscuit personality

Fast food is all about consistency. People want to know that they’ll get the same food at a drive-through in Rochester as they will at one in Raleigh. So, I was intrigued by the seeming contradiction of being asked to judge the regional finals of a biscuit contest for McDonald’s in Cary, N.C. Bakers at each store have a list of rules to follow and everyone has the same ingredients – not much of a contest, I thought.

The biggest challenge was sheer number – there were 12 entries. Even taking just a bite of each would mean eating the equivalent of three or four entire biscuits. My fellow judge, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, boasted that he had gone for a run in preparation for the marathon. I, in contrast, had merely foregone any bread at lunch and walked briskly to my car.

The mayor and I were handed a detailed score sheet. We had little metal rulers to see if the biscuits hit the requisite 1 1/2 inches in height. We were told to check the brownness of the tops and the whiteness of the sides, the amount of pebbly texture on the tops and the fluffiness of the centers. Can a good biscuit be scientifically quantified? They were trying.

I was surprised – even with all the rules and being baked in the same McDonald’s kitchen, each baker’s biscuit was a little different. Even in the standardized fast-food world, it makes a difference whose hands mold the biscuits.

The regional winning bakers were Angelica Hernandez from the Falls of the Neuse Road store, Elena Salgado from the South Street store, Gustavo Sanchez from the Kildaire Farms Road store and Mariana Morales from the Garner store. They will compete next week in the state finals.