Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A flight of news

The Scoop usually strives to mound your plate with news and insights. But, in a blatant rip-off of the small-plates phenomenon, today's installment takes more of a sampler approach. The day has brought a smattering of interesting bite-sized developments, worthy of a taste but not sufficient for a main course. Consider these tidbits, for instance:

The 1,799 items that were a no-go: In an interview published today by The Orange County Register , McDonald’s menu planner Dan Coudreaut was asked how many potential new products his R&D department considers in the course of the year. His answer: 1,500 to 1,800. That’s 125 a month, more than 30 a week, and an average of six per day.

Out of that torrent emerged the Snack Wrap, a chicken finger wrapped in a tortilla. McD’s needed some time to get it right, Coudreaut confided to the Register. Initially, the chain was looking at a quesadilla made with the strips of chicken that are sold separately as Chicken Selects. But test-subjects balked.

The Culinary Institute of America grad said his menu-development team will be focusing near-term on new kids’ items, desserts and beverages, but he did not divulge any specifics.

The next high-art culinary craze to captivate mainstream America: Gelee. The Akron-Beacon Journal informed Ohioans this morning that chefs and foodies alike are going ga-ga over creative riffs on gelatin, a.k.a gelee to any urban sophisticate. Of course, the story did refer to it as Jell-O, and advised readers to experiment with a variations of the Knox brand before moving on to preparations like Ginger Ale Gelee or a Creamsicle-like orange and yogurt gelee treat. Curiously, none of the recipes or examples were taken from local restaurants.

South Korea loses its mind over bird flu: Officials of the Asian nation disclosed Monday that the national government will begin destroying cats and dogs to stifle outbreaks of bird flu. Never mind that scientists don’t know if the virus that causes the disease can even be passed to and from the pets. With a second outbreak in three years confirmed by authorities earlier this week, the nation is willing to err far on the side of caution to contain the ailment.

N.J.’s smoking ban could apply to Atlantic City: Trenton legislators caved to the casino lobby when they outlawed smoking in restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and every other public place in the state. But now the plucky officials of Atlantic City have vowed to close the exemption that was handed to their city’s casinos, which whined that they’d lose business under an across-the-board snuff-out. Never mind that restaurants and other establishments had said the same thing.

If Atlantic City’s City Council has its way, as many observers expect, the playing field may finally be leveled in Jersey, to the delight of restaurateurs who feel they’re losing smokers to the casions.

Catherine Zeta-Jones goes back to working in restaurants: The film star and cell-phone spokes-gal has reportedly been working in the kitchen of an unnamed London restaurant. Britain’s notorious slander sheets have gone easy on her, saying she landed the gig to research an upcoming role as a chef in a flick called No Reservation. They did note her confession that a stab at cooking for hubby Michael Douglas resulted in a decent-sized kitchen fire. But the tabs completely overlooked her serial foodservice employment, including a gig at the well-known Fiamma restaurant in New York City earlier this year. That time around, she was supposedly gathering real-life experience for yet another movie role—that time, too, as a chef.

The Scoop can see right through her subterfuge: Ten or twenty million doesn’t buy what it once did, and she and Michael are feeling the pinch. What better way to pick up some cash than putting in a few weeks at a restaurant? Especially around the holidays.

What she should really do is rent herself out as a salt lick: She works at a restaurant, and you get to hire all the people who want to work with her. I guarantee you’ll have a line of applicants at your back door.

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