The Great Foie Gras War

CHICAGO -- If you like foie gras and are heading to the Windy City, don't get your tastebuds set for the pricey delicacy.

Chicago has become the first city in the nation to place a legal ban on the sale of the goose or duck liver product opponents claim is made from maltreated fowl.

The state of California already had a foie gras ban pending, but it won't become effective until 2012. Bans are under discussion in other states, such as New Jersey and Hawaii, and come up periodically in New York and elsewhere.

The artificial fattening process used to produce the duck or goose liver has the birds being force-fed starting at the age of 12 weeks through metal tubes pushed down their throats. After two to four weeks of feeding, when their livers are up to 10 times normal size, they're slaughtered.


Asia's largest beer festival planned

Interested in a beerfest in an exotic locale? The largest beer festival in Asia has been scheduled for Feb. 2-4, 2007, in Singapore.

The organizers of Singapore International Beer Festival 2007 hope "to attract brewers from around the world to showcase their products to buyers and distributors in Asia, and at the same time, to create wider consumer awareness about the quality and diversity displayed by the various beers of the world."

At the moment, brewers have signed up from the United States, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The three-day event, to be held at the Singapore Expo, also will feature live entertainment, a dance competition and, of course, a beer drinking contest without which no brewing event can be held, apparently.

Details are available online, by e-mail or by phone at (65) 62263818.

Other international beerfests:

International Berlin Beer festival

Qingdao International Beer Festival

San Francisco International Beer Festival


Don't card this guy in a bar

NEW YORK -- Most visitors to the city like to take home tales of seeing its oldest sights. For those who like to frequent famous watering holes, Hoy C. Wong may be the best thing to see.

Wong has been working at the legendary Algonquin hotel in Manhattan as a bartender for the past 27 years. But, he has plenty of other experience on his resume. He should. He's 90 years old.

Management at the Algonquin, where writer Dorothy Parker and other wits of the 1920s-40s held forth at their famous "Round Table" dinners, think he is the city's oldest active bartender.

Fame is nothing new to Hong. In the 1970s, he was featured on the cover of Life magazine as the best of America's great bartenders.

"I like this job because one man behind the bar can make everybody happy," Wong said at the time.

The Daily Record in Morris County, NJ, just across the river from New York, offered this profile of Hong that I found quite informative.


Long Island's bargain dining week

Restaurant weeks are becoming the
big thing in New York State. In addition to such industry co-op events in Manhattan, Albany and the Hamptons, visitors now can experience a full-scale Long Island Restaurant
Week, which will debut in a Sunday-to-Sunday period, Nov. 5-12.

The time span was picked because it is the end of the harvest season when numerous local items are available to participating restaurants.

Each establishment will offer its own version of a three-course prix fixe for $21.95 all night, except Saturday when it will be offered only until 7 p.m.

As restaurants are added to the list of participants, they will appear in regional groupings online.

Organizers say the inspiration for the event came from the successful New York Restaurant Week that runs annually in Manhattan every January and is modeled after the Hamptons Restaurant Week that takes place on the South Fork of Long Island. In the past four years of Hamptons Restaurant Week, restaurateurs there reported a major surge in business, some by more than 50% during the promotion.


Sizing up your travel destinations

If you're the type of traveler who likes to visit places with special distinction, we have a few for you here, both domestic and foreign.

Sam’s Bar in Colorado Springs currently holds the title of smallest bar in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

However, its 109 square feet seem positively cavernous compared to the 64 square feet of space taken up by the Signal Box, a tiny pub in the English seaside town of Cleethropes that just opened in a century-old, 8-by-8-foot structure that used to be a railroad signal box for the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway.

The box now is a four-seat pub that is open from 11 to 11 each day, serving customers --preferably skinny ones -- inside as well as at the 30-seat outdoor beer garden adjacent to it. Owner Andrew McCall says he will submit his site for inclusion in the Guinness book.

"We're so small some drinks companies won't fit equipment for us because they think we won't do enough trade. But business is booming," McCall said.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, McCall, who runs the pub alone, said, "I would have to refuse to serve someone if the bar and garden were full, and if there is trouble I can just push them out of the door – it's not too far."

On the other end of the spectrum, the Heartland Brewery has opened the largest beer garden in New York, at Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. The temporary waterfront beer garden is being set up for Spiegeltent, an entertainment extravaganza that runs through Oct. 1. The beer garden includes cabanas, tents, daybeds and night lighting, with views of the East River, the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, Fulton Landing and Governor’s Island. The 600-seat venue will be open from noon to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

Heartland, a microbrewer of such items as Apricot Ale, Cornhusker Lager and Indiana Pale Ale, has created a new brew for the event – Spiegel Light, made with Belgian yeast, orange oil and coriander.


A book of stamps, an address form and ... some vodka, please

In the remote Republic of Tatarstan -- yes, there is such a nation -- the post office has gotten into the vodka business.

The autonomous nation within the Russian federation has pretty much run out of the traditional alcohol. In July, state legislation forced individual vendors and traders to either obtain a license to sell alcohol or close up shop. Faced with the overwhelming bureaucracy and the new cost of doing business, many folded.

The demand for vodka, however, has not diminished. It has just made the alcohol a de facto unit of currency in the barter-dependent economy.

"Vodka has been established as a very good currency," explains Alsu Kurmasheva of the Tatar-Bashkir Service unit of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Rustem Arslanov, deputy head of Tatarstan's State Alcohol Inspectorate, says, "The lack of places selling alcohol in the villages is leading to illegal trade -- that's to say, trade has begun in bootleg alcohol. So, we need places that are licensed to sell alcohol."

The village post office serves many needs in rural Tatarstan -- post office, library, general goods store, and general meeting place. Olga Kuznetsova, director-general of the nation's postal service, says, "We have 58 shops and we are selling alcohol in 24 of those. When we have shops, they sell everything: milk, bread, and alcohol."

She plans to expand alcohol sales to 1,058 post offices around the country.

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