Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A dusting of news

News sometimes arrives like an avalanche, at other times like snowflakes. This has definitely been a day of flurries, with a few intriguing developments that might have gone unnoticed without this accumulation:

Warren Buffett certainly supports the leveraged buyout of Outback Steakhouse parent OSI Restaurant Partners. He’s already tendered his 1.8 million shares, according to Lon Juricic, who spends far too much time spelunking SEC documents for StreetInsider.com.

Kentucky is considering legislation that would ban machines that allow consumers to inhale alcohol instead of imbibing it. I kid you not. The devices are called AWOL machines, for alcohol without liquid, and they’ve been around for several years now. Users press a mask to their faces and take a hit of hooch, absorbing it through their lungs. Supposedly you get a buzz without any of the taste issues that can turn off neophyte drinkers. Hence AWOL’s popularity among young people. Some of Kentucky’s leaders are determined to shut off that option for the state’s youth. Being the cornerstone of bourbon country had nothing to do with the ban proposal, I’m sure.

A New York City councilman plans to push through a local resolution that would press the federal government to mandate caffeine-disclosure labels for foods and beverages. We New Yorkers may have an exalted perception of our city’s importance, but few of us would have the audacity—some might choose a baser term—to think our elected officials could order the national government what to do. Councilman Simcha Felder says he’s aware the city lacks the authority to order Uncle Sam around, but said he wanted New York’s preference to be entered into the record. What more is necessary, huh? Now let’s see how the Yankees are doing in spring training. Of course, as ridiculous as this situation may seem, it’s a glimmer of a nightmare greatly feared by the restaurant industry. Some of the trade’s Paul Reveres have been warning for years that caffeine would be the next target of the health-thumping nannies. This is another sign that they could be right.

Famed chef Alain Ducasse is rumored to be opening a restaurant in Chicago. Joel Robuchon, another of Europe’s culinary super-heroes, has already confirmed that he’ll be adding a Chicago outpost to his cross-Atlantic operations. If this keeps up, New York won’t be able to tell Dayton what to do, much less Washington, D.C.

It gets worse: The industry’s most brazen act of civil disobedience in recent memory was logged last week by hotdog impresario (and a veritable X-Man to The Scoop) Doug Sohn, proprietor of the legendary Hot Doug’s tubed-meat emporium in—you guessed it—Chicago. Sohn became the first restaurateur to be caught violating the city’s foie gras ban. Not that the authorities could ignore it any longer. He was touting the offending special—Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Sauce Moutarde and Armagnac-Truffle Chicken Mousse—on his website. And he’d been warned before to yank the liver-adorned dog. He’d even framed the letter of warning from authorities and hung it by his cash register. Is this a man or what? And who’d have thought the first chef to get nabbed in the foie gras crackdown would take the hit with a $6.50 hotdog?

Maybe this Chicago deserves a second look.

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