Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Letting You Go Hungry

Otherwise I will be.

"Many violations found at grocery stores in Boston" by Sacha Pfeiffer and Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff  April 06, 2016

Your grocery store may not be as pristine as you think.

A Globe review of Boston food safety inspection data found that supermarkets are equal-opportunity offenders, with hundreds of violations, big and small, scattered across stores and neighborhoods of all kinds.

Three years of citation records from the city’s Inspectional Services Department show a wide variety of problems, from minor ones such as cluttered storage areas and ice buildup in freezers to critical ones like employees not washing up before handling food. And there were nearly 50 citations issued for evidence of rodents, flies, or cockroaches.

Of the stores open during the entire three-year period, every one had at least a dozen violations.

The Boston supermarket with the most violations — 127 — was the Whole Foods on Cambridge Street, near Beacon Hill, a high-end brand in what is generally considered a well-to-do, white-collar area. But not all citations are created equal, so sheer quantity may not be an indicator of an especially problematic store.

Case in point: The majority of violations (108) at the Cambridge Street Whole Foods involved relatively minor problems, including dirty shelves and improperly stored mops. None of them involved mice or rats. It was last week’s discovery of mice in a Roxbury Stop & Shop that brought new attention to the issue of supermarket cleanliness.

Caused a ruckus it did.

Interpreting the violation data requires some context. For example, larger grocery stores, as well as chains with more locations, often have a higher chance of being hit with citations simply because their size creates more opportunities for missteps. That’s especially true among stores like Whole Foods that sell large quantities of self-service prepared foods.

A Whole Foods spokeswoman, in a statement, said the chain is “dedicated to maintaining the highest quality standards for the products we sell and the stores we operate.”

The lesson for shoppers, according to food safety advocate Darin Detwiler, who teaches food regulatory policy at Northeastern University, is this: “Just because it’s got a big name like Whole Foods or Market Basket or Stop & Shop does not mean that it doesn’t have a record of problems,” requiring consumers to always be on the alert for problematic conditions....

You have to take your food safety on faith.


I'd skip going to Stop & Shop or Whole Foods and head straight for the food court.

"Tensions flare over Boston Public Market’s future" by Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  April 13, 2016

It’s the lunchtime rush at the Boston Public Market, and the lines run long for pastrami sandwiches and Bon Me rice bowls, while customers crowd the Noodle Lab stall for steaming bowls of ramen.

“Essentially, it’s become a food court,” Silverbrook farmer Andrew Thornhill laments. “The majority of people are going for the quick grab-and-go stuff.”

In the eight months since the public market opened, it has proven a wildly popular destination, home to dozens of artisans and chefs, with nearly $9 million in sales through March. More than a million guests have visited to sample its eclectic mix of homemade cheeses, New England grown produce, and fresh doughnuts. But there is also tension among vendors with competing visions of what the market should be.

The market was conceived as a place where foodies and the downtown lunch crowd can shop side by side.

The grocers and raw food vendors insist they aren’t struggling — all who started when the market opened remain in business. Thornhill of Silverbrook reported that his stall has been profitable and that eggs have sold particularly well. But those vendors also say they depend on a certain kind of traffic that the market needs to better encourage. That’s particularly true come spring and summer when produce purveyors do the bulk of their business.

Mark Jaquith, an employee at Stillman Quality Meats, said the lunch crowd isn’t the kind of customer they need. Even if office workers buy a pound of salmon or an expensive steak at midday and return to work, where would they put it?

Jaquith also worries the market will lose its identity as an agricultural center if prepared food stalls aren’t kept in check. Those vendors are permitted to sell food without the local ingredients the other retailers rely on.

“There’s a big difference between grown locally and owned locally,” he said of the merchant mix. “I was hoping for more of a farmers market atmosphere when I took the job.”

Some say a sense of farmers market-style community will take time....

Been one out here next to the town common on Saturdays for years and years.


Maybe MIT could cook up something for you:

"Student inventors honored with Lemelson-MIT prize" by Amanda Burke Globe Correspondent  April 12, 2016

Three inventions by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: a camera that is sharper than the human eye, an electric car transmission, and a fully automatic health-food restaurant.

No need to tip!

Related: Providence restaurant eliminates tipping, but charges fee

A 22% tip no matter what the service?!!!

MIT mechanical engineering students Kale Rogers, Michael Farid, Braden Knight, and Luke Schlueter won the undergraduate prize in the “Eat It!” category for food and agriculture.

They’ve devised a fully automatic restaurant, dubbed Spyce Kitchen. When a patron orders a meal, the 20- by 20-foot stand-alone unit dispenses ingredients through a refrigerated hopper and then transports them to one of four cooking modules. The modules cook and stir ingredients simultaneously then dispense the finished meal onto a plate, in a process that takes about five minutes. The cooking module cleans itself.

They can't even get a car to drive itself yet and they are going to automate a restaurant?

Currently, the students are seeking USDA and FDA certification for their labor-less food stand, which eliminates the cost of hiring cooks, an estimated 50 percent of the overhead for quick-service restaurants, according to a statement from the Lemelson-MIT Program.

And the jobs that come with it.

Heather Hava was the graduate winner in the “Eat It!” category, from the University of Colorado Boulder. Through a partnership with NASA, she invented a self-contained vegetable grower designed to work in nutrient-scarce environments like disaster zones and outer space.... 

It will be like Star Trek; hit a button and hot food will come out.


Whose going to fund the idea?

"M.L. Carr’s new game" by Globe staff   April 18, 2016

After many years as a pro basketball player and coach, M.L. Carr figured out where the real money was made. Across the National Basketball Association, he sees a common thread: many of the team owners are in venture capital and private equity.

So Carr, known around here for his roles with the Boston Celtics as a player and coach, is getting in on the game. He’s helping New Technology Ventures, a Newton-based VC firm launched last year, raise money for its first $250 million fund.

It’s been a longtime goal, getting into venture capital.

“Watching deals and looking at deals is exciting,” said Carr, who is listed as a special partner at the firm. “What I bring to this is the contacts that I have. I don’t think there’s a door that I can’t get in.”

Carr also just started a new side job: board member at Healthy Acquisitions Corp., the parent of the Burlington-based UFood Grill chain. Carr has struggled with diabetes and appreciates the difficulty in finding fast, healthy meal options on the road. He said he was attracted to UFood because it offers healthier choices compared to its rivals.

They serve juices?

Carr joins as UFood is ramping up efforts to land franchisees: The firm’s stated ambition is to expand beyond its current base of 16 locations, to more than 100 over the next four years. Having Carr on board, UFood CEO Sal Rincione said, could be invaluable. In particular, Rincione said he’s hopeful that Carr’s NBA contacts can help get UFood into basketball arenas and build its brand awareness.

“When you have an NBA legend like M.L. Carr of the Boston Celtics,” Rincione said, “there’s got to be some sort of traction with his name.”


Also see: Market Basket workers get a turn on big screen 

The devil you say?

Next Day Update: Wednesday Food

There are always leftovers.