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Why LA Can’t Get Enough of Zankou Chicken

March 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Zankou Chicken is one of LA’s most recognizable restaurants, famous even to those who live outside the city. That’s because Zankou offers quality food at an affordable price, and has built its business around that concept.

In the old days, Zankou occupied a busy street corner in Beirut. The Iskendarian family spent their time cleaning and salting chicken for the lunch and dinner time rush hours. They handed customers orders wrapped in to-go boxes, collected money outside the building and made a good living in the city they loved. Then they brought those family secrets across the pond to Los Angeles.

LA in the early 80s was full of people trying to make it: immigrants, aspiring actors and actresses, writers and artists all appreciated Zankou Chicken. The restaurant made a name for itself offering its garlic sauce, which is a twist on traditional Lebanese “Toum”,  for free alongside its platters of chicken and vegetables.

That wasn’t quite the start of Mediterranean food in Los Angeles, but it became a central hub. One of the missing pieces for the Iskendarian family was Middle Eastern food. Today, Glendale and Little Armenia are full of Mediterranean delights, but much of that movement can be traced back to the Hollywood Zankou location.

LA has become obsessed with Zankou in large part thanks to that garlic sauce, which is also the same impetus that drove Zankou’s owners to expand their menu and include more Mediterranean tastes. Tri-tip shawarma and falafel both owe their existence at Zankou to the fact that customers want more to put the garlic sauce onto.

Look for rBGH-free dairy products

July 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to healthy food and diet many look for no or low sugar and carb products. When it comes to dairy products, it is rBGH or rBST is a concern for many. It can find its way into dairy products including milk, yogurt, cheese, whey protein and many others. Some are linking its presence in many food items to cause cancer including colon, lung, breast, and prostate cancer.

How Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) find its way into your table? Cows are injected with the artificial and genetically engineered hormone to produce more milk and to enhance their metabolism. The synthetic hormone works in the pituitary glands and it is the largest selling dairy animal drug in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) insists that rBGH is safe for human consumption. But some countries including Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union ban the use of the product. Due to a failure of an attempt to ban it worldwide by the United Nations Safety Agency in 1999, there is an international ban on U.S. milk. The scientific community is divided on the issue. Some argue that dairy products containing rBGH could result in increase in infertility, risk of lameness, and shorter lifespan.

McDonald’s is trying to reinvent itself

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The world’s largest restaurant chain with more than 36,000 stores worldwide, McDonald’s is going through a tough time and is trying to reinvent itself. It lost its performance within the last five years. It has not only a healthy food issue but also an image issue. Its drive-thru wait time is getting longer. While still serving what many consider tasty but less than healthy meals, it is introducing salads, apple slices, McMuffins made of egg whites. Many customers left for new food choices offered by other fast food restaurants including Chipotle. But fewer people are still lining up for basic Big Mac, fries and a drink.

During a recent franchisee and supplier event in Las Vegas, McDonald’s offered a new vision for the company and its food. It wants to be modern, progressive burger and breakfast destination. They want to bring a food revolution they started in Europe to the United States and North America. It operates more than 14,000 stores in the United States. New food options call for less salt in fries, serve antibiotic free chicken within two years, and add organic milk to the menu to bring back health conscious customer it lost within few short years.

Chicago style deep dish pizza

March 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A Chicago style deep dish pizza is a mystery. The name doesn’t necessarily establish the origin of the deep dish pizza in Chicago. But many believe it originated in Pizzeria Uno in Chicago in 1943 by its founder Ike Sewell. Some believe it is an invention of its pizza chef Rudy Malnati. For pizza lovers it is a dream pizza filled with many savory items.

As the name suggests the crust allow it to be thick and provide a place holder for many toppings. So expect a longer cooking period. Unfortunately, long cooking time may create a burned cheesy crust on the top. For this reason many use topping upside down way to avoid burning. Cheese often mozzarella is the base layer topped with pepperoni, sausage, onion, mushrooms and bell paper as some of the favorite toppings. You can get it in many combinations. Expect semolina in the crust.

If you are ordering it to go, be careful. The crust can quickly get soggy and make it hard to hold with your hands when eating later. Upside down way of using topping also contributes to the sogginess. So, it is a good pizza to enjoy at a pizzeria.

Major food safety regulations are expected to be completed in 2015

February 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The US government expects to complete major attempts under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2015. The FSMA of 2010 signed into law by the President on January 4, 2011. The Act which is aimed to ensure food supply safety in the United States shifts the focus from responding to food contaminations to prevention efforts, major policy shift for the government. The responsibility to formulate regulations has been vested in the nation’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They can formulate regulation regarding how food is grown, harvested and processed. Another major power given to the FDA under the Act includes mandatory recall authority which was requested by the agency for many years. The Act requires the agency to undertake the writing of at least ten new regulations.

Rules regarding preventive control for human food and similar regulations for animal food are expected to be completed by August 30, 2015. Rules for produce safety, the foreign supplier verification program and the third party accreditation rules are expected to be completed by October 31, 2015. The other two areas of the FSMA given to the FDA, sanitary transportation and intentional adulteration, are not expected to be completed before May 2016.

The American Bison as a Foodstuff

January 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Phineas Upham

There was once a time in American history when the American bison was a staple in the natural world. You could look far and wide and almost constantly find one of these docile beasts roaming the plains. The natives of this country relied on the buffalo for almost every aspect of their daily life. The pelts made winter clothes and coverings that protected them from storms. The bones were sharpened into weapons, or fashioned into tools.

The buffalo is still around today, but massive hunting expeditions from those days made the creature scarce in America. Water buffalo milk is a key component to authentic Italian mozzarella cheese, and these animals are indigenous to those more historical parts of the world.

Natives cut fresh buffalo meat from the animal shortly after the kill was made, and additional meat was stockpiled to be cured. Native women would lay it out, letting the sun cure it over the course of several days. They cut the prime parts of the animal, making sure to get even layers of meat and fat so the jerky that was made would remain juicy and filling. The jerky could be reheated in a boiling pot too, not unlike backpacker food.

Blood soups were also popular, as the natives tried to preserve every aspect of the kill. Buffalo steak was soon in high demand from the incoming European settlers, and numbers dwindled. They preferred their meat on a skewer, sticking chunks of meat through a stick to roast over an open flame.


Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.

Fast food giant McDonald’s problems continues

January 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

America’s favorite fast food restaurant for decades, McDonald’s, has been in the news lately. Unfortunately it is not for good news. Its annual sales are slumping year over year and its stock price is hitting 52-week lows. What’s behind all these negative results?

Many think that the quality of food is in question. It is trying to get rid of menu items loaded with fat and calories and stay relevant with certain other fast food outlets that claim healthier food options. Add to the injury, a recent report from the Consumer Reports list McDonald’s at the bottom of 21 other similar fast food restaurants for taste. In order to compete with other fast food chains McDonald’s increased its menu items. This is causing delays serving customers and lots of preparation mistakes. Industry trade magazine QSR reports that average drive-thru wait time increased by about three minutes at McDonald’s. Supplier problems caused China sales to drop and in Russia several locations have been shut down by the government regulators last year over food safety concerns. Labor unions are fighting with the McDonald’s management demanding higher minimum wage for its hourly workers. All these are causing many loyal customers to ask the fast food giant to go back to its basics.

Tasty Hawaiian salad and appetizer, Poke

December 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The Hawaiian raw salad and appetizer known as Poke originally made with four main ingredients. They include sea food mainly cubed ahi tuna (yellowfin tuna), seaweeds, roasted kukui nuts (candlenut) and salt to taste. But today mainly due to Japanese influence this tasty appetizer comes with many other ingredients including ginger, lemon, green onions, tomatoes, soy sauce (shoyu), sesame oil, and chili pepper. Adding many ingredients to make Poke became more popular in early 1970s. Poke is a raw salad that is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine and ready to eat can be found in markets all over Hawaii.

Poke means “to slice crosswise or cut.” Raw bite size cubed fish is the main ingredient in Poke. Similar dishes that are served in Europe are fish Carpaccio and fish tartare. In Korea marinated tuna usually served over rice. In Japan, sashimi contains raw fish.

Since 1991, a festival dedicated to poke known as Sam Choy Poke Festival is held annually in Hawaii. It is an opportunity for professionals as well as amateurs to show their poke skills as well as other similar food preparations. This is why poke is not just limited to tuna. Other sea foods such as octopus, crab, and lobster are also favorites among festival participants.

How your Thanksgiving feast got started

November 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The large meal is the center point of Thanksgiving in the United States. Main item of the meal is roasted turkey and that is where we are going to start. The known “First Thanksgiving” started in 1621 in the Plymouth Plantation between Pilgrims and Wampanoag after their first harvest. The celebration continued for three days. Meal included fish, venison, waterfowl, lobster, clams, berries and fruits, squash and of course pumpkin. This is quite opposite of what many Americans are thinking of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Later, some politicians took action to declare turkey should be the center piece of the meal. Over the years side dishes began to shape and included cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and cornbread. Pies were more common for dessert at the time and included apple pie, sweet potato pie, and pumpkin pie and are more common today as well as traditional too.

Nationalization of the Thanksgiving happened under the watchful eye of President Lincoln in 1863. It was to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Since that day, it has been a national holiday. As expected by many of the Pilgrims, Thanksgiving is celebrated without any religious affiliation.

Is Chia the next superfood?

October 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Who can forget the Chia Pet that is mainly advertised during holidays? It is an annual crop and plant and associated Chia Pet container is a gag gift; that is why it is cropping up mainly during holidays. Seeds of the house hold plant Chia are in many of our cereal, granola, dressings, many fruit drinks, baby food, animal food and others. Chia contains fiber and protein, and some thinks it may be the next superfood. Chia believed to provide energy boost to the body and pair nicely with buckwheat, quinoa and other similar healthy food items. Some say Chia can reduce food cravings, lower blood pressure, and help with weight loss. But these health claims are yet to be proven with hard evidence and conclusive scientific research.

Between 2009 and 2013, Chia products grew by more than 1,300 percent and in 2012 its retail sales value exceeded more than $29 million. Botanically called Salvia hispanica, Chia belongs to the mint family and native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is believed that ancient Aztecs planted Chia and it provided important supplement to maize. Some parts of Central America still uses ground Chia seeds in nutritional drinks and as a food source.

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