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constant comment

A weekly serving of food news and views

"Memories are like mulligatawny soup in a cheap restaurant. It is best not to stir them." _ P.G. Wodehouse, English novelist (1881-1975)

bobby flay's roots

Chef Bobby Flay takes viewers on a journey to Ireland, home of his ancestors, in the one-hour special Tasting Ireland at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Food Network. From small town pubs to the busy Dublin restaurant scene, Flay highlights foods associated with Ireland, including Guinness beer and smoked salmon.

grapefruit warning

The Florida Citrus Department is funding research to find out if the fad grapefruit diet has scientific merit. One thing that won't change even if scientists find in favor of skinny grapefruit is its interaction with several commonly prescribed drugs. According to pharmacologist Joe Graedon and nutrition expert Theresa Graedon, authors of the People's Pharmacy column that runs in the St. Petersburg Times, grapefruit can raise the levels of cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Zocor, Lipitor and Mevacor. Estrogen levels from birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy can go up. Concentrations of blood pressure medications such as Plendil, Sular and Procardia are also elevated by grapefruit. Talk to your pharmacist if you are a grapefruit eater and are taking any drugs regularly.


explanations from the inside out

green beer

St. Patrick's Day _ March 17 _ is probably a bigger event in the United States than it is in Ireland. The patron saint of Ireland also is honored there on the last day of July, when thousands of people climb Croagh Patrick, a steep, rocky mountain in the west.

Certainly, green beer flows more freely in American bars than in Irish pubs. The dark beer commonly quaffed in Ireland simply becomes darker brown, not green, when food coloring is added.

That said, the origin of green beer is not easy to come by. Green brew probably got its start in Boston or New York City, both of which have large populations of folks of Irish ancestry.

The association of green with Ireland comes from the lush landscape of the countryside that inspired the country's nickname, the Emerald Isle. A custom called "drowning the shamrock" may be the forerunner to green beer. After parades and other special events, men would go to local pubs, drop a shamrock into their whiskey and drink it down, including the shamrock. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock's three leaves to explain the Christian trinity _ father, son and holy ghost _ to King Laoghaire.

Whatever its beginnings, green beer will be flowing this weekend and Monday, St. Patrick's Day. Just a few drops of food coloring in light-hued beer and everybody is a wee bit Irish.

to every season

McCormick has introduced 1 Step Seasonings in jars in eight varieties: Tex Mex Chili, Spaghetti Meat Sauce, Skillet Mac, Sloppy Joe, Garlic Herb Chicken, Lemon Herb Chicken, Jambalaya and Stir Fry. We like the convenience of the jar _ you can use as much or as little as you like in a dish _ and one jar will make several creations. Suggested retail price is $2.49 per plastic jar (ranging from 4 to nearly 6 ounces each).

this web site cooks

Come summer, you'll be glad to know where you can find 26 versions of bean salad. Portuguese, spicy Mexican, Brazilian black, chick pea, corn and kidney, garbanzo and a sexy little number called You've Got to be Kidding Beans, with coriander seeds, fenugreek, Chinese chili and garlic paste. The bean salad recipes are among 70,000 on this site, started by a student at the University of California at Berkeley in 1993. Aside from the occasional weird ingredients, there isn't a radical aspect to the site, despite its revolutionary birthplace.

smokin' hot

The new chipotle flavored Tabasco sauce gets a standing ovation from us. The smokiness of the dried jalapeno gives the Louisiana hot sauce more depth and a an even bolder presentation. Even a tiny drop has distinctive flavor. Add it to barbecue sauces, chili, marinades and even soups. We ate it on Triscuits, and it hurt so good. A 5-ounce bottle is $2.65.

Compiled by Janet K. Keeler from staff and wire reports