Welcome to Smart Cookie

Hungry in Nashville has a new feature for you and it begins tomorrow. It’s called Smart Cookie and it tells you the background on all kinds of things food-related.

Each program runs about five minutes. New programs will be released on the first and third Thursdays of the month – our regular Hungry In Nashville shows remain on the second and fourth Thursdays. If it’s a five-week month, consider it a wonderful opportunity to go back and listen to one of our previous shows.

To kick things off tomorrow, you’ll learn all about curry. In coming weeks, we have programs on sausages, food processors, soybeans and how to eat a taco.

To get Smart Cookie, you don’t have to do anything. New shows will be announced on Facebook, via email or it will automatically load into your podcatcher. To make sure you know about all our new episodes, visit Hungry In Nashville dot com and sign up for the mailing list or follow us on Facebook. Just search for the Hungry In Nashville page and click to follow.

The new show is fun and I think you’ll enjoy it because, after all, you’re a smart cookie.

See you tomorrow.

In the piano lounge, Jeff has you feelin’ alright

In the corner of the lounge at Maggiano’s restaurant on Nashville’s West End, Jeff Alfiero plays the piano five nights a week. It’s far from a lonely job. People gather around the piano to listen and shrug off the tension of the day.

The craft is about far more than just filling time between requests. It’s knowing how to set the mood, read a room and when to play Happy Birthday.

In this episode, Jeff tells us what it’s like to have played in the same lounge for 15 years, the songs people request and having some of Nashville’s premiere musicians stop by.

How pianos are built

The 88 keys on a piano give it the greatest range of any other instrument and to make each note perfect, a lot of care goes into construction of a piano and its 12,000 parts. Ten thousand of those are moving parts.

You have Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori in Italy to thank for the first piano that was created in 1709.

There are vertical pianos and grand pianos – those are the ones that stretch out horizontally and often have the lid popped open.

Pianos come in sizes. Grand pianos range in length from about four to nine feet from the front of the keyboard to end of the bend. Baby grands are five to eight feet. Smaller grand pianos are called “apartment size.” Larger sizes are called medium grand and concert grand.

The vertical piano has seen only minor changes since 1935. They range in height from 36 to 52 inches. The five standard sizes from smallest to tallest are the spinet, consolette, console, studio, and professional pianos.

Maple is typically used for the outside of the piano because it can be bent into curves. Spruces are used for braces. Since vertical pianos don’t require curves, other woods can be used. Strings are made of high tensile steel in factories that specialize in piano wire. Vertical pianos usually don’t have bends and are simpler to construct. Their strings are also shorter.

Steinway uses 22 layers on the rims to bend them to the desired shape. Lacquer, paint and sealants are used to give the piano its finish.

The soundboard sits under the strings in a grand and vertically on vertical pianos. Steinway makes it from spruce because of is resonance.  Like the exterior, the spruce is curved to produce the best sound.

Strings arrive at the factory flat, not rolled so they can be more easily be stretched on the piano  without irregularities.

When one of the keys is pressed, it raises a hammer that then falls onto a string. Felt is used to silence the string when the key is released. The hammers are most responsible for the piano’s tone and sound quality. The hammers are also balanced so they all respond to equal pressure.

Some notes are made by hammers that strike multiple strings. The pedals can control the number of strings struck and whether the tone continues once the key is released.

As construction nears its end, pedals, keyboard, lid and other finishing touches are added, then the piano is tuned. New pianos should be tuned four times a year after they are in their new home as it string tension will change as it adjusts to its new environment.

An affair to remember

Experts say public spaces are the worst places for couples to break up and yet, bars and restaurants are common places for one person to tell another that the relationship is about to end.

In this Hungry In Nashville Valentine’s Day episode, you’ll hear from bartenders and servers about bad breakups they have witnessed. The stories are sad, sometimes funny and always enlightening.

So what’s the best way to break up?

Those that have researched the issue say:

Do it in person. Don’t ghost, don’t text, don’t email. Show the other person and the relationship the respect they deserve. It won’t be pleasant for either of you, but it’s the right thing to do.

Be kind. Don’t belittle the person or go through a list of things you don’t like. Be honest, but don’t belabor the reasons for your decision.

Don’t do it in public. Don’t do it at a place where you’ve shared good times together. Announcing a break up there will only tarnish the good memories  you’ve shared. If you’re breaking the news, try to do it at the other person’s home or apartment. They will feel comfortable and you can leave when you feel it is appropriate. At your place, you’re trapped until the other person decided to leave.

If you feel you need to get away after dumping someone or having been dumped, the travel website Orbitz has some suggestions.

And don’t forget we live in the days of social media. The British newspaper, The Guardian, has some ideas about the proper etiquette for breaking the news to your followers.

Then there is the question of property. Who gets to keep what, including your friends. The website Marketwatch has does and don’ts on this issue.

Click bait — how fresh seafood finds its way to Nashville restaurants

You’ve ordered a wonderful tilapia for dinner. You’ve got the right wine, great company and entire evening to spend enjoying your meal.

You probably aren’t thinking about how fresh that fish is, how it got to Nashville, whether it has been frozen or if it made its way to your plate via China, even though it was caught elsewhere.

There is a lot to know about how fresh fish ends up on your plate and David Feinstone of Off The Dock Seafood tells us what happens from the time a fish makes the fatal decision to swim into a net to when it lands on your plate.

Off the Dock Seafood

How much seafood should we eat?

By far, the most popular seafood for American is shrimp. We eat four pounds of it per person per year, according to the World Atlas. Salmon and tuna are next with 2.3 pounds per person each. Coming in last among the top 10 are clams with 0.34 pounds per person per year.

When it comes to freshwater fish, there is little data available because species vary from region to region. Very little northern pike is caught in Tennessee and, if they are, it probably involves a barrel.

Whatever fish you like – or don’t like – the experts at the Harvard University School of Public Health say we need to include fish in our diet. They say: “Fish is a very important part of a healthy diet. Fish and other seafood are the major sources of healthful long-chain omega-3 fats and are also rich in other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, high in protein, and low in saturated fat. There is strong evidence that eating fish or taking fish oil is good for the heart and blood vessels. An analysis of 20 studies involving hundreds of thousands of participants indicates that eating approximately one to two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish a week—salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines—reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.”

Maybe anchovies on pizza isn’t such a bad idea.

Or maybe shrimp – the USDA says we should eat 8 ounces of seafood a week.

On the FDA’s list of best fish to eat are:

Atlantic mackerel; Black sea bass; Butterfish; Catfish; Clam; Cod; Crab; Crawfish; Flounder; Haddock; Hake; Herring; Lobster, American and spiny; Mullet; Oyster; Pacific Chub; Mackerel; Perch, freshwater and ocean; Pickerel; Plaice; Pollock; Salmon; Sardine; Scallop; Shad; Shrimp; Skate; Smelt; Sole; Squid; Tilapia; Trout, freshwater; Tuna, canned light (includes skipjack); Whitefish; Whiting.

The FDA says the worst choices to make, because of high mercury levels are: King Mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico), Tuna, bigeye.

One reason more people don’t eat fish, the health experts say, is because we don’t know how to cook it. Southern Living has what it calls a foolproof method for cooking filets.And no less of a culinary genius than Betty Crocker offers its own tips for cooking fish.

2019 Food Trend: Marijuana

It’s the start of a new year and that makes it time for those of in the media business to write trend stories about what’s likely to come your way in the coming year.

Spoiler alert: We’re nearly always wrong, but we like writing them and listeners like to hear them.

Marijuana appears on nearly everyone’s list of food additives for 2019. The people who put food in front of us are investing in it so you might say they are high on the idea.

There will also be anti-pop up restaurants, cheese tea and crickets.

Invest a few minutes with us and we’ll give you all the predictions along with why we’re going to be stuck with kale for another year.

Learn about cricket powder

I never thought I’d be writing about cricket powder, but here I am. It’s on the list of one of the upcoming culinary trends of 2019.

My research naturally began at CricketFlour.com which tells us, “Cricket flour is made by milling crickets, and results in a course or fine grain powder. Because cricket flour is milled from whole crickets, cricket flour provides a full nutritional profile that is high in protein, nutrients, and amino acids. Throughout our website and in the industry, often you will see the terms cricket powder or cricket flour used to refer to milled crickets.”

They are “humanely” killed by chilling them into a stasis, then flash-freezing them. They are then bound for the mill. Powder is made from whole crickets and that’s good because the idea of dissecting their little bodies for the “best” parts is a little disturbing.

Cricket protein powder is made mostly of cricket flour and some supplements. Crickets are 55-70 percent protein by weight and it takes about 5,000 crickets to make a pound of flour. With that kind of volume,  you may want to consider cricket farming. Crickets are not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.

So, if it’s flour, can you bake with it? Kinda. You have to add other flours to get so it can rise and brown like other baked goods. They say you can substitute it for regular flours, but it’s really expensive to do that. Some say it has a nutty taste. You can also buy whole crickets in case you want to put one in the icing of your cricket flour cupcake.

If you want to give it a try, you can go to CricketFlour.com and check out 16 recipes using cricket flour. If you can get past the photo of cricket nachos, you’ll find muffins, scones and other baked goods, but ala, no chocolate chirp cookies.


Food and Wine magazine weighs in on cricket flour

Popular Mechanics whips up a batch of cricket biscuits

Bartenders pour shots of party tips and bad party behavior

Want to hear a story about an office party that needed two ambulances and a manager to break up a sex party? Sound great unless that party is your own and you’re the head of the company.

Laceey Mclaughlin and Amanda Graham of VIP Bartending and Events will share that story with you and give you tips about how to throw a great holiday party of your own.

Yes, it’s all fun and games until someone loses their dinner on the karaoke stage. Join us for a good time and great advice.

Our blog post: What to do if you really screw up at the office party.

VIP Bartending and Events

Niido Nashville


Make sure the punishment fits the crime

Your boss came into the bathroom just as you were hurling into the urinal.

You were a little too flirty with the cute guy who is your boss’s boss.

The make-out session you thought was in a deserted part of the hotel was caught on camera. It went viral on YouTube.

The first work day after the office holiday could be more painful than a hangover if you’ve misbehaved or just exhibited bad judgement. The degree of your transgression will determine the penalty you’ll pay. It may be snickers from other office workers, or it may mean a call into your boss’s office with the extra chair occupied by someone from HR.

It’s too late now, so let’s take a look at what experts say are some of your options.

It may be that you weren’t the only one who was out of line so, if the company grades on a curve, you may be considered a minor offender. You’ll have to suffer jokes from you co-workers, but those will pass. If you can pull it off, get the jump on everyone by owning your bad behavior and start the jokes about yourself. With luck, you’ll have taken the fun out of it once they realize they won’t get under your skin.

If your actions involved an individual, apologize. Don’t blame the alcohol, just straight out apologize. It won’t change what you did, but you will end points for copping to the crime.

If you’ve been really out of line, your first instinct might be to quit your job. Don’t. What may seem horrible to you may not be seen that way by others. Get the lay of the land and try to understand what trouble you’re in, if any. You can always resign later. Don’t make a mistake that may be far worse than whatever you did at the party.

On the other hand, it may be your employer’s idea that you should now spend more time with your family. An Australian law firm offered this observation:

“The legal problems that can emerge from alcohol-fueled work functions became particularly apparent when the Fair Work Commission found that an employee had been unfairly dismissed even though the employee’s behavior was seemingly abhorrent and inexcusable. In this case, the worker yelled profanities at his bosses at a work function, spoke to colleagues in a disrespectful and abusive manner, and also sexually harassed colleagues.

“In most circumstances, this conduct would easily amount to ‘serious and willful misconduct’ to justify the immediate (summary) termination of employment.

“Whilst the Commission found that the conduct had indeed occurred, it also found that the employee’s intoxication was a ‘mitigating factor’. The Commission concluded that “it is contradictory and self-defeating for an employer to require compliance with its usual standards of behavior at a function, but at the same time to allow the unlimited service of free alcohol at the function.”

“In other words, if the employer supplies unlimited alcohol at a function, it should not arbitrarily sack workers whose conduct is less than satisfactory after consuming large amounts of alcohol.”

The best thing you can do – other than stay home – is to not put yourself in a position to behave badly. Alcohol is often a factor, so if you can’t hold your liquor, stick with club soda. If you’re going to drink, limit yourself to half of what you’d usually have. It will be easy to over imbibe. Pace yourself and make sure you drink more water than booze – those trips to the bathroom will be worth it.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun. This is a chance to relax with co-workers and get to know them as people. What you learn may surprise you. If you really don’t like the people with whom you work, then put in the required time at the party, then go someplace else and have fun there.

And if it’s one of your co-workers that misbehaves, make sure your reaction is commensurate with the crime.

Bringing home the bacon at the World Food Championships

It’s said that bacon is the gateway drug for vegetarians. If that’s the case, then there were lots of conversions at the World Food Championships during the bacon category.

In this episode, we talk to the Fabulous Bacon Babe, a nice Jewish girl from Long Island, N.Y. We also go into the tent where competitors are cooking bacon and talk with some of the contestants.

Finally, we tell you how well Tennessee contestants did in their categories.

Check out our blog post that goes with this episode and you’ll learn what it’s like to eat championship food. I judged six contests — none of them bacon — and I’ll give you the inside dish.

The Fabulous Bacon Babe

Chef Rock

Bill-E’s Bacon

Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees charity

World Food Championships

How good is the food at the World Food Championships

When top chefs from around the world come to cook for the title of World Food Champion and $100,000, you’d think the judges get some pretty wonderful food to eat.

Not so much.

I was a judge for six events at the championship – chef’s choice, chicken, burger, duck, chili structured and chili signature. Duck was an ancillary category open to anyone who wanted to compete, so those cooks should not be grouped with those chosen from regional contests. Those who won the regional contests were both pro and home cooks and a fair number of home cooks win the chance to compete at the WFC; last year’s winner was a home cook.

Cooks have to prepare all food on-site. That means cooks from all over the U.S. and the world have to buy local ingredients which may not match the items they used to win their regional contests. They work in unfamiliar kitchens, grouped closely under a tent and are subject to weather and humidity that doesn’t exist in the regular kitchens. For most of the contest, the weather was in the upper 70s with high humidity. Friday afternoon, winds kicked up and temps rapidly dropped into the low 50s.

Still, they got to the competition because they are the best and they should be able to produce great food.

Judges don’t taste every entry. There are five judges at a table and they typically get five entries. Each entry is judged on its own merit and is not compared with other entries. Judges give point scores on their food and those with the top 10 points move into the finals.

Most of the entries are disappointing. They are still high quality, but they don’t meet the standards of world quality food. Burgers are a great example.

At my table, some beautiful burgers were presented for judging, but the problem was that they could not be eaten. They were tall and stuffed with ingredients. They could not be picked up without falling apart. Try cutting it into a bite-sized piece and, again, it falls apart. There were great flavors on the burgers, but they could not be tasted together as a whole. They were – over-chefed.

The structured dish in chicken was chicken parmesan, a classic dish. Chefs could prepare it any way they liked, as long as it contained the ingredients that make the dish unique. One entry at our table were balls of chicken with a parmesan crust, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sitting in a tomato sauce. It looked great.

I cut into mine and it tasted good, but when I saw other judges cut into their portions, cheese spilled out. That didn’t happen for me. I dug through the rest of the entry and finally found a small bit of cheese. Regardless of conditions, consistency is important. This should not be a challenge for chefs who made it this far in the competition.

This was my third year judging and I’ve found the same issues each year. In talking with judges both at my table and those who judged other categories, they share the same experience.

Is it worthwhile to be a judge at the WFC? Without a doubt, YES. There are dishes that can blow you away. But as you watch cooking competitions on TV and you see cooks judged harshly, those criticisms may be warranted. The same issues that exist at the World Food competition exist in television studios.

If you want to find out for yourself, you can take an EAT class sponsored by the WFC or buy a ticket to the VIP tent at the event where you won’t go away hungry.

And even if you don’t want to spend the cash to go into the tent, you get to watch the cooks in action and you’re close enough that you can chat with them as they work. Plus there is the opportunity to watch great chefs at work and I promise you’ll learn a lot.

Food photography

Who doesn’t like good food porn? And what better day is there for food porn than Thanksgiving. Well before this episode was released, food photographers were clicking away creating images that make you want to buy stuff and imagine that you can make it look as pretty as it does in the picture.

Nick Bumgardner knows all about this. He’s a Nashville area food photographer and in this episode he gives you the tricks of his trade along with tales of how he photographs burgers and beer along with some of the things used in a photo shoot you wouldn’t want to eat.

Nick Bumgardner Photography

Food Photo War — the best laugh you’ll have today

The importance of visuals

I’m a fan of the Great British Baking Show, but damn, when I watch an episode I want to go raid the nearest bakery. It’s one hour of solid food porn.

But take heart, we human beings are not the only ones subject to fall for visually tasting dishes. The Atlantic published a story in 2015 saying:

“In the mid-20th century, the Dutch biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen uncovered an odd quirk of animal behavior: Across species, the animals in his experiments seemed to prefer prettier, flashier, more attention-grabbing versions of their natural environments — ‘supernormal stimuli,’ he called them — even when those stimuli were fake. Certain types of fish, he found, would become more violent towards dummy fish whose undersides were more vibrant than the species’ usual color; mother birds would ignore their own eggs to sit on a nest of larger, more colorful imitations, or divert food from their children to feed models of chicks with brighter beaks.”

So the next time you walk past an ice cream store and just have to go in, you can blame it on nature, not nurture.

Now, before you go, you MUST watch this video — it’s the most fun you’ll have all day.

National Geographic’s tips for photographing food

99 Tips for better food pictures

Food Porn Daily

Wikipedia’s take on food photography

A turkey can dream — as Thanksgiving approaches, a turkey tells his story

Last week we learned about turkeys from someone who raises turkeys. In this bonus episode, Hungry In Nashville has an exclusive interview with a turkey who tells us what his flock faces one week before their day of reckoning. His answers may surprise you, but you won’t know until you hear his side of the story.