Rising Stars, Sugar Myths, and Snack Granola

Categories: Talking Points
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Ubuntu chef Aaron London.
Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

1. Young Turks. Yesterday, the Chron named this year's crop of "rising star chefs". Having been impressed by most of them ― I haven't eaten at Oenetri ― it's a solid list, and the Chron has a good record of picking rising stars who make a name for themselves nationally. Is the 2011 lineup short on women, as many have noted? Pastry chefs? Sure. It does show a little diversity, though ― the chef of a restaurant (Mission Chinese Food) serving <$10 entrees. I looked back over the past five years to confirm just how rare that is.

2. Why has sugar pwned HCFS? Mother Jones posted a story today about the return of sugar-sweetened sodas. Nobody wants to sweeten their drinks with high-fructose corn syrup (aka "HFCS") anymore, and so non-mass-market soda makers are returning to sugar. Well, the author of this article thinks that's just silly. The fructose-sucrose profile of HFCS and cane sugar (aka "evaporated cane juice") are practically identical, she argues ― the molecular difference between the sweeteners disappears as they're digested. She meanders from there, raising a lot of questions that don't get answered. (Is agave syrup actually bad for us? Was there a reason the author included a taste test of alternative sweeteners?) The takeaway: Don't kid yourself about your fancy artisanal root beer. Soda is bad for you, period.

3. Granola. I picked up some great granola at the New Taste Marketplace on Saturday. Nana Joe's Granola makes a cardamom-walnut-orange granola ($8 direct, $6.99 at Faletti's right now) that's well toasted and neither too oily nor too sweet (owner Michelle Pusateri uses maple syrup). Better yet, the recipe includes sea salt ― which anchors the sweetness and gives it a more robust flavor. Pusateri told me she adds salt because she prefers to eat granola sprinkled on yogurt rather than in a big bowl with milk. Forget yogurt ― most of the bag I bought disappeared while I was lying on the couch, reading.

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I agree with the takeaway from the Mother Jones piece. Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are practically identical and the more time we waste harping on the nonexistent nutritional differences between them, the more time we've not focusing on how many calories we’re taking in versus how may we’re burning off.

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