Tag Archives: beer

Chew on this: The World in Food Numbers

We all have stereotypes of different countries. The French drink a lot of wine, the Russians a lot of vodka and the Mexicans a lot of Corona. Boy, are we wrong (well, at least in terms of who do it the most).

Read these random facts and figures (food-related, of course) from the The Economist Pocket World in Figures (2008 Edition):

World’s Greatest Beer Guzzlers (Off-trade sales, liters per head of pop.)

  1. Czech Republic (You were thinking Germany, eh?) – 82.4
  2. Venezuela – 71.6
  3. Australia – (68.7)

Top Global Smokers (Average Annual Consumption of cigarettes per head per day)

  1. Greece (!) – 8.4 (Who knew that these Mediterranean denizens were such smokers?)
  2. Macedonia – 7.1
  3. Russia – 6.8

World Winos (Off-trade sales, liters of head of pop.)

  1. Portugal – 32.1
  2. Switzerland – 29.5 (They may be neutral, but they’re not sober!)
  3. Italy – 29.4

Spirited, they are: Greatest Consumers of Alcoholic Drinks (Off-trade sales, liters per head of pop.)

  1. Australia – 99.2 (those Aussies really put it away!)
  2. Czech Republic – 98.2
  3. Germany – 96.2

(The U.S., by the way, is #12, with 73.8)

Pass the Lipitor (Cardiovascular Deaths per 100,000 population, age standardized, 2002)

(Basically, living incountries that end in “stan” is not good for your heart!)

  1. Turkmenistan (and you thought the U.S. with its diabesity crisis was #1!) – 844
  2. Tajikistan – 753
  3. Kazakhstan – 713
  4. Afghanistan – 706

Where’s the Sugar? (Diabetes rates, % of population aged 20-79, 2007)

(Looks like living in an oil-rich country is hazardous to your health!)

  1. United Arab Emirates – 19.5
  2. Saudi Arabia – 16.7
  3. Kuwait – 14.4
  4. Oman – 13.1

Posted by on May 15, 2008 in Food Reads


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Culver City = Foodie Haven

With my trusty Cole Haan heels in my bag and a copy of Elle magazine in hand (hey, I was heading to the La La Land — aka the land of the superficial), I hopped onto Amtrak and headed down to Los Angeles this last weekend. The boy and I stayed in a hotel in Culver City, so I decided to make our evening plans in the environs and made plans with Christa and her boy to meet up.

Culver City has brilliantly rebranded itself. Once a decaying exurb bordering Santa Monica, it is now a vibrant, trendy hub filled with beautiful people clinking glasses and eating gastropub fare. Ford’s Filling Station, owned by Harrison Ford’s son, lies within the city limits and Fraiche, which has the second most requested reservations on in LA (according to Christa), is only a few yards away.

We started off at BottleRock, as per Christa’s suggestion, which is a fabulous little wine bar with a huge wine menu and a pretty thick beer book as well. The metal high chairs and bar tables paired nicely with the bar’s sleek interior and the wine racks on the side added a bit o’ humor with funny signs such as “effin’ merlot” and “pinot envy.”

The boys choose beer while Christa and I selected some wines. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very into wine these days, so I ordered a 2003 Cordon Syrah — dusty, earthy, dark plum jam flavors — and shared fruit-and-nut bread crostini with the boyfriend (who got the PranQster Belgian Style Golden Ale — my new favorite beer — fruity and crisp), which were topped with crispy prosciutto. Christa and her boy shared a truffle grilled cheese sandwich which looked quite tasty as well. Glasses by the wine range from about $6 to $65 for the most expensive wines.

We skedaddled over to Tender Greens — a casual spot that serves a variety of fresh tossed salads — and watched as our meals were prepared in front of our eyes. Compared to most of the restaurant spots in the area, Tender Greens is pretty inexpensive. I opted for the steak salad, which featured several slices of rare, juicy steak topped on mesclun, while the boy picked the vegan salad. His dish had several grain salads and a big scoop of delicious green hummus all topped with fresh mixed greens.

We ended the night with some gelato from Ugo — a conetto and chocolate concoction that was creamy and rich (and pricey! $4.60 for gelato! what is this? Starbucks?) and thus ended our Culver City jaunt.

I most definitely recommend a visit or two (or three!) if you haven’t made it to this little gem. Street parking is available (and for the most part free after 6 p.m.) and the hip, unpretentious ambiance is most welcoming here in La La Land.

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Posted by on April 21, 2008 in Restaurant Buzz, Wine


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Drink Up: “The History of the World in Six Glasses”

Beer, yes, beer — has made history. And no, we’re not talking about the hazy stories told the morning after beer-soaked frat parties — we’re talking thousands of years of real history. Who knew that the bubbly, fermented beverage was once a form of currency in ancient Mesopotamia? Or that Egyptian mothers were urged to give beer to their children?

I feel like much was edited out of my history textbooks, likely the result of overzealous parents hoping to shield their innocent children from any book containing the word alcohol. But to censor alcohol is to censor history — the oldest forms of writing in several cultures include the intoxicating elixir. Fortunately, Tom Sandage’s book, “The History of the World in Six Glasses”, has filled in those critical gaps.

Sandage — the technology editor for the Economist — regales us with tales of how beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola have shaped history. And unlike your dry history books of yore, Sandage has full of cocktail party-worthy tidbits (and has any topic ever been more interesting for a cocktail party?) that keep you intrigued. Who knew, for instance, that tea began as a medicinal gruel in China, mixed in with garlic, shallots and ginger? Or that Coca-Cola was exempted from sugar rationing during World War II so that it could be sent abroad to the troops to keep up morale?

What’s funny is that while reading the book, you recognize that, well, some things haven’t changed. Greek and Roman wine buffs distinguished between wines of different regions and prided themselves on their knowledge. In ancient Rome, wine became a symbol of social differentiation, of status and class. “For wealthy Romans, the ability to recognize and name the finest wines was an important form of conspicuous consumption; it showed that they were rich enough to afford the finest wines and had spent time learning which was which.”

Hmmm… sounds to me quite a lot like modern readers of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast!

My only complaint is that the book is too short. Sandage picks only several periods in history to highlight as he talks about the influences of these drinks when we well know that some of their influence stretches across different cultures and eras. For instance, how can you tell the story of coffee while mentioning modern coffee empires like Starbucks in only one line? Or how to talk about the history of wine without mentioning new regions like California, Chile and Argentina? Clearly, each of these drinks deserves a volume and it’s difficult to include everything, but all in all, the book is quite fun to read.

Some of my favorite facts (take these to your next wine-and-cheese — you’re sure to impress):

  • Coca-Cola still includes extracts from the koca plant, from which it was initially derived
  • In 1671, French doctors decried that coffee caused impotence and burned the blood (they did so at the behest of wine merchants who feared for their livelihood)
  • “Coca-Cola” is said to be the second most understood phrase in the world after “OK”
  • The word “alcohol” is derived from the Arabic “al-koh’l”; the Arabs became master distillers around 1000 A.D.
  • The first stockmarkets started in European coffehouses
  • The British began adding sugar and tea to their milk in order to mask the bitter and often adulterated beverage (merchants added loose leaves, ash, sawdust — even sheep’s dung to stretch the tea)
  • Sailors in the 1600 and 1700s were able to prevent scurvy by drinking “grog:” rum, lemon juice, water and spices on board
  • Greeks and Romans almost always drank their wine with water
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Posted by on April 21, 2008 in Food Reads, Wine


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