Will more restaurant prices fall?
Local restaurants are adjusting to tough times in different ways. La Fogata in Gulfport is changing its gourmet table to a high-end salad bar, adding new appetizer options and reducing the price of the full churrasco dinner from $45 to $29. "These recent changes were in response to consumer demand," says director of operations Farshad Bagheri. "Consumers needed us to listen. We are listening." La Fogata is at 2832 Beach Blvd.; (727) 327-4200
At Restaurant BT in Tampa, a reinvented menu was launched two weeks ago with an all-new, moderately priced bar and lounge menu. Kaffir lime leaf-scented prawn skewers ($12) and galangal-rich chicken skewers ($8.50), baby squid salad ($9), chilled cucumber salad ($4) and other nibbles provide a range of less expensive dining options. And sleek vermicelli noodle bowls offer traditional Vietnamese one-dish meals for cost-conscious diners, $9-$16. Restaurant BT is at 1633 W Snow Ave.; (813) 831-9254
What the world needs now is food
Reuters recently reported that U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called for a huge increase in food production at a summit on the food price crisis. He said that food output had to rise 50 percent by 2030 to meet rising demand.
"We have a historic opportunity to revitalize agriculture," Ban told the assembled heads of state. "I call on you to take bold and urgent steps to address the root causes of this global food crisis."
Food prices are at a 30-year high, the causes a stew of factors like the rising call for biofuels, increased demand from Asia because of its changing diet (read: more meat, please), poor harvests and natural disasters, increased transportation costs and trade restrictions.
All right, 50 percent more food in the next 22 years. But, as Ban reminds us, we need to have a long-term focus on "improving food security." Wow, talk about a tall order.
Social networking for food lovers
Spend time trolling through friends' and ex-boyfriends' Facebook pages? Now Eats.com, a social networking site for foodies, has launched a Facebook application. Using the Eater Info application, users can access their foodie friends' Eats profiles, including favorite restaurants and dishes, and find local restaurants with reviews and menus right from their Facebook page. Go to Eats.com to sign up. But we need to get cracking. So far there are no Tampa Bay area restaurants reviewed on the site.
Celebrities are different from us
What are the odds of comedian Jimmy Fallon running into Mario Batali at a store in Dublin and then buying one of his pots right in front of him? How come that never happens to us?
Then, according to a Q&A in the June issue of Bon Appetit, Fallon went back to Batali's hotel room and cooked "rack of lamb and pasta with homemade sauce." We're guessing Batali was staying in something more than the standard double.
Fallon also says he has a well-stocked kitchen in his New York home, thanks to his mother and grandmother. They both love to cook, he says, and "I really got into it through them."
Big awards in the food world
The James Beard Foundation Awards, the nation's top recognition program honoring professionals in the food and beverage industries, announced 2008 winners on Sunday in New York. For a full list of this year's award winners, go to www.jbfawards.com. This year's top awards go to:
• Oustanding Restaurateur: Joe Bastianich/Mario Batali, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, New York
• Outstanding Chef: Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago
• Outstanding Restaurant: Gramercy Tavern, New York; owner Danny Meyer
• Best New Restaurant: Central Michel Richard, Washington; chef/owner: Michel Richard
• Rising Star Chef of the Year: Gavin Kaysen, Cafe Boulud, New York
Get Dad knives, a book about knives
It's nice to have a beautiful set of knives, but it's nicer still to know how to keep them in good condition.
In time for Father's Day are two new books about knife skills. They would also make good wedding presents.
• Mastering Knife Skills by Norman Weinstein (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35) comes with an instructional DVD. There are dozens of color photos in the book that demonstrate techniques for quartering chickens, slicing lemons, scaling fish and making stars and fans from fruits. Weinstein is a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.
• An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward (William Morrow, $34.95) isn't as good looking as Mastering Knife Skills but it contains much of the same helpful information. We like the photographic depictions of the different cuts including julienne and chiffonade.
Laura Reiley and Janet K. Keeler, Times staff