Sustain, Gotham Steak, City Hall, and Others: Misleading Salmon Descriptions

Categories: Buyer Beware
via Flickr CC
Sustain Restaurant + Bar has developed a brand synonymous with greener eating. Deconstructed branches line its walls and lamps in natural shapes light up its vast open space, all contributing to a signature earthy feel. The menu lists ingredients with sources and location, and the restaurant strongly promotes its dedication to local food.

This feeling of sustainability all comes at a high price. Main entrées for dinner range from $18 to $30, a hefty cost for peace of mind.

But there's one item on the detailed menu that stirs up concern: the misleading salmon description. The dish described as "grilled organic Irish salmon" at Sustain lures diners to pay the listed $25 for the entrée because it's organic. The truth is, though, it isn't organic, at least in the United States. The USDA does not have established standards for organic seafood, and the description of "organic" salmon is an unregulated term in this country.

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Angry About Paying an Automatic Tip?

Categories: Buyer Beware
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If you are not careful, gratuity can cost you a plate full.
We've all seen restaurants include gratuity on very large bills and when serving large parties. Most add anywhere between 12 and 18 percent on the bill for parties of four or more.

In turn, most patrons don't complain when having to shell out a prescribed amount in certain cases, and some even add an additional tip for outstanding service.

"You get both types of people," said Jeff Plume, a server in the downtown area. "Some people see the 'gratuity included' and feel somewhat slighted, say if they prefer to tip 15 percent and the automatic tip is 18. Others, especially those who (experience) outstanding service, add more tip to the bill. Neither really complain much."

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Shark Fin Soup May Be Bad For the Brain, Say UM Scientists

Categories: Buyer Beware
Wikimedia commons
That adage "fish is brain food" may be true, but that's a fisherman's tale when it comes to shark. A new study conducted by University of Miami scientists found high concentrations of BMAA in shark fins; this is a neurotoxin linked to degenerative brain diseases such as Lou Gehrig's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Sharks are among the most threatened marine species because they are killed primarily for their fins, which are used to make a Chinese soup that denotes wealth and power.

Shark fins are acquired from a process called finning, where the fin is cut off immediately after the shark is caught and the rest of the animal is thrown in the water to die.

The study draws a link between the consumption of shark fin soup--and dietary supplements such as cartilage pills--and significant health problems. Any shark fin is used to make the soup, but only seven species of shark caught in South Florida waters were tested in the study: blacknose, blacktip, bonnethead, bull, hammerhead, lemon and nurse sharks.

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Coffee In Pods Cost $50 Per Pound

Categories: Buyer Beware
Single-serve pod coffee machines are all the rage in America these days. Single-serve coffee is now the second most popular means of making a cup (after drip brewers). Last year, 7 percent of coffee consumed in the U.S. was made with a single-serve brewer; in 2010 it was 4 percent.

The current pod craze was launched by the huge worldwide success of Nespresso single-serve espresso machines. Since 1986, the company has sold 27 billion of the little pods.

Here in the States, Keurig sold 4 million of its K-Cup brewers in the 13-week run up to Christmas; during the same time, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters sold more than $715 million in K-Cup packs. Keurig licenses its technology, so Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks are making K-Cup pods now too.

Last week, Oliver Strand did some math for The New York Times website and figured out about how much it costs per pound for this precious pod coffee; Trent Hamm, in a post published by the Christian Science Monitor, calculated the price-per-cup. After reading these numbers, you may need to sit down and relax with a nice pot of tea.

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Strawberries Pesticide-Laden, Pineapples Better: An App to Find the Best

It can be difficult to justify spending the extra cash for organic food, but with the help of the Environmental Working Group's 2011 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, you can eat healthfully without having to dump your entire wallet on certified organic produce.

Consumers of produce can reduce their intake of pesticides by 92 percent by choosing nonorganic produce from EWG's list of 15 fruits and vegetables that are less likely to have been sprayed with chemicals.

A "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables shows that the 12 most contaminated items expose you to an average of 14 different pesticides a day. Of those, according to the EWG app, six are fruits: apples, strawberries, peaches, domestic nectarines, imported grapes, and domestic blueberries.

Fruits least likely to test positive for pesticide are pineapples, avocados, mangos, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, watermelon, and grapefruit.

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Hostess Twinkies, Going the Way of the Dinosaurs?

Categories: Buyer Beware
Can we all agree that TV Daily World News is horrific? 2012, according to the Maya culture and numerous other civilizations are predicting the end of humanity, as we know it.. this year! The economy, global change, earthquakes...what else could possibly go wrong? Well, here comes le coup de grace. Hostess has declared bankruptcy and Twinkies may soon go the way of the dinosaurs...extinction. Au revoir, Adios, Sayonara and bye-bye.

Yes, Hostess Twinkies, the Texas-based company may no longer compete against healthy food trends. Chef superstar Mario Batali recently said, "Twenty years ago, Hostess executives didn't see the writing on the wall. Had they suspected a healthy, conscientious, low carb, high-fiber oriented America, they would have made whole wheat Twinkies."

If truth be told, the fluffy little, vanilla, spongy treats are filled with corn syrup, niacin, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, cellulose gum, polysorbate artificial flavors, preservatives and saturated fats, plus that yummy, creamy mysterious filling.

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Norman Van Aken Tips for Buying Olive Oil: It Should Smell Like Olives

Photo by Kevan/Flickr CC
Shoppers at the supermarket are bombarded with a variety of brands and types of olive oil to choose from but the reality is that as much as half the stuff sold in the U.S. as "extra-virgin olive oil" is either deceptively mislabeled or just plain fraudulent, according to Tom Mueller in his new book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.

Many Italian brands are either adulterated with other types of vegetable oils or made with rancid olives, depriving the consumer of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil.

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Are 95 Percent of America's San Marzano Tomatoes Fake?

Categories: Buyer Beware
San Marzanos -- for real.
Back in July, gustiBlog ("Italy's Best Foods") interviewed Edoardo Ruggiero, the president of the Consorzio San Marzano, who proceeded to drop a bombshell. "First thing Edoardo said was: maximum one percent of tomatoes in America sold as San Marzano are real San Marzano." When the blogger informed Edoardo that it would put in writing, "he said, OK, let's say 5% to be on the safe side."

Considering how many brands of San Marzano tomatoes are sold on supermarket shelves, and how many Italian restaurants and pizzerias (locally and nationwide) tout that tomato, this is pretty surprising news. As the story goes, in Italy the "D.O.P." stamp has legal backing, while in America it does not. So shady companies send unbranded tomato tins to this country, where labels saying "San Marzano" and "D.O.P." get slapped on.

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Art Basel is No Excuse to Screw the Locals: Joey's Gives Us the Cold Shoulder

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Lesley Elliott
Joey's rigatoni with radicchio in a "4-formaggi" sauce.
I feel like restaurant roadkill after a sad experience Tuesday night when I attempted to eat at one of my favorite neighborhood spots, Joey's in Wynwood. I was ousted from a table by people who were identified as "the owner's friends" just prior to being seated. Now, I completely understand that Joey's and WKB had a pretty full plate business-wise due to the opening of Wynwood Walls, and I truly admire the Goldmans' longstanding efforts on behalf of Wynwood's evolution.

Nevertheless, it's not good to alienate locals during Art Basel. In fact, it's even more important when juggling big names and small ones, to ensure that everyone dining in your restaurant receives fair treatment. So how do I know that my party got shoved aside? Well, we were the only ones waiting when these "friends" walked in the door without a reservation, seeking a table, which owner Joey Goldman, who was at the restaurant, facilitated for them.

We had literally JUST been informed by the hostess that our table was ready, they were resetting, and it would "be one minute." As these "friends" were standing right next to us, we had the joy of hearing the words, "Don't worry, don't worry, it's all taken care of." Then they were quickly ushered onto the last available seating in the place, out on the terrace. It was the exact table promised to us.

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Burger King's California Whopper is Neither New Nor Healthy

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The California Whopper: Green and mean, but not lean.
Ever since Burger King dethroned their totally-creepy mascot, we've been wondering what's the next move for the Miami-based fast-food giant. Here's a, like, totally rad hint at the totally cool sandwich that BK is featuring, starting Monday -- the California Whopper.

According to an article in USA Today, the commercial launch of the California Whopper as campaign and sandwich might be Burger King's entry into the healthier food market.

Short Order did a little research and found that the California Whopper, made with guacamole, Swiss cheese and bacon, is neither new nor healthy.

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