Monday, January 30, 2012

The Darker Side of the Truffle Industry

Fresh from Italy's Piedmont region - a gorgeous black truffle

The stunning landscape of northern Italy provides beautiful truffles
Truffles are those heavenly scented tubers plentiful in specific regions of France and Italy. The funghi (yes, as in related to mushrooms...not chocolate truffles) have been used throughout the ages as an aphrodisiac, enjoyed as delicacy, and even used for medicinal benefits. As a lover of all things truffle (just a little bit of my favorite truffled salt can go a looong way with the heavenly aroma) I was lucky enough to see some of the harvesting first hand when I traveled to Italy's truffle and wine mecca in the northern region of Piedmont (pronounced Piemonte in Italian).
A trained dog seeks out the black truffle
Due to the truffle's highly prized value the demand is steadily increasing its market rate and quality black truffles can sell for $250 - $450 a pound! The more coveted white truffle commands an even higher price with prices reaching an outstanding $3,600 a pound. Insane right? Well, apparently this insanity is fostering a dangerous black market trend. Less expensive (due in part to their inferior harvest) Chinese truffles are often being passed off as the more expensive European truffles. Trained truffle dogs are being stolen and people's livelihoods are being threatened. I was shocked when I saw the recent story on CBS about the disturbing trends in the truffle industry.

Take a few minutes to watch the video and let me know your thoughts. This delicacy has driven the market to take desperate measures and it's shocking just how much inferior truffle products are ruining the established vendors who have made their livelihood selling the tubers for centuries.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Healthy $10 or Less Lunch in the Loop - It's True!

Protein Bar offers a wide variety of salads
Chicago's Protein Bar offers a wide variety of protein rich healthy breakfast and lunch selections. After reading about the quick service restaurant in Time Out Chicago, I decided to venture in and I've been hooked ever since. Seriously I have to will myself away from the storefront and allow myself visits only a few times a month (I'm "attempting" to be on a budget in 2012.)

I've been craving oatmeal more with this cold Chicago weather and I can't say enough about the pancake in a bowl dish which is actually steel cut oats with agave nectar (gotta have some sweetness), vanilla protein and mixed fruit. Sheer morning delight. Add some Intelligentsia coffee and we're set to start the day.

Did I mention lunch? Well there are plenty of salads, soups and barrito wraps most prominently featuring super grain quinoa. As you can see from the picture I love the salads and the buffalo chicken salad tops my list with crunch greens, chicken, quinoa and vegan buffalo sauce that's got some serious tang.

To date Protein Bar has a handful of Chicago locations, but I've heard a rumor that they're ready to expand in a big's hoping they head to your neighborhood!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Ice Cold Holiday Treat

I LOVE Malley's chocolates located in my hometown of Cleveland, OH since 1935, and am absolutely crazy about their old-fashioned ice cream parlor in nearby Mentor. Whenever I got home for a visit I love to go there, so much so that my 5 year old nephew went on a recent visit with my parents and confidently stated "this is Aunt Robyn's favorite place!" It's true.

I wanted to share this mouthwatering photo of the Pink Elephant - my all time favorite sundae. Peppermint ice cream, whipped cream, a side of hot fudge and Spanish peanuts. Yes, it's an ice cream sundae it cold Northeast Ohio temps, but it is the perfect holiday treat!