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June 27, 2007

Penne Rigate Throwdown Shocker: Mueller's Tops the Italians!


Hey, what's with the headline — did Rupert Murdoch just purchase bookofjoe in a hissy fit after being rebuffed yet again by the Bancrofts?

No matter.

Cook's Illustrated, the only food and equipment testers whose results are believable since they accept no advertising from anyone, conducted one of its typically deep drilling taste tests and reported the results in the July/August 2007 issue, just out.

The findings follow.

    Dried Pasta — Updated

    We found some significant differences among brands.

    Domestic brands of dried pasta, such as Ronzoni and Mueller’s, have repeatedly won top honors with our testers, but now that more specialty brands and Italian imports have hit store shelves, we decided to give fancy pasta — this time in the form of penne — another taste. We tried eight brands, with some costing as much as $5 per pound. Though none were deemed unacceptable, there were significant differences among the brands we tasted.

    Many Italian brands claim to maintain traditional techniques and ingredients, such as slow kneading, mixing cold mountain spring water with hard durum semolina, extruding the dough through traditional bronze cast dies for a coarse texture, and prolonged air-drying. Supposedly, these practices make for stronger flavor and more rustic, sauce-gripping pasta. Yet three expensive imports (Bionaturae, Montebello, and Rustichella d’Abruzzo) landed at the bottom of our rankings. Ronzoni scored in the middle of the pack. Tasters liked three other Italian offerings (Benedetto Cavalieri, De Cecco, and Martelli), but top honors went to Mueller’s.

    Highly Recommended:

    Mueller’s Penne Rigate
    Price: $1.89 for 16 oz. at Shaw’s
    Online Source: www.muellerspasta.com
    Comments: Once again beating out Italian imports, this “hearty,” wheaty” pasta earned top honors.


    Benedetto Cavalieri Penne Rigate
    Price: $4.49 17.6 oz. at Russo’s
    Online Source: www.demedici.com
    Comments: Made in the “delicate method”— a traditional method using long kneading, slow processing, and drying at low temperature — these imported, oversized, “rigatoni-like” quills earned much praise for tasting especially “homemade” and “wheaty.”

    De Cecco Penne
    Price: $1.99 for 16 oz. at www.peapod.com
    Online Source: www.dececcousa.com
    Comments: Always a top finisher in our tastings, this widely available Italian import garnered praise for its “good texture.”

    Martelli le Penne Claissche
    Price: $5.50 for 17.6 oz. at www.gustiamo.com
    Online Source: www.martelli.info
    Comments: As the priciest pasta of the bunch, this Italian import earned points for its “good chew.”

    Recommended with reservations:

    Ronzoni Penne Rigate
    Price: $1.19 for 16 oz. at www.freshdirect.com
    Online Source: www.ronzoni.com
    Comments: Most tasters found these “pennette-like” tubes too thin and complained that the pieces became “gummy” as they sat.

    Bionaturae Organic Penne Rigate
    Price: $2.69 for 16 oz. at Whole Foods
    Online Source: www.bionaturae.com
    Comments: Organic ingredients and antique bronze dies contributed little to the flavor of this natural foods store staple brand.

    Montebello Organic Penne Rigate
    Price: $2.99 for 16 oz. at Whole Foods
    Online Source: www.sprucefoods.com
    Comments: While many tasters praised this Italian import’s “good, earthy, hearty” flavor, others criticized it for being “unremarkable” and “insubstantial.”

    Rustichella d’Abruzzo Penne
    Price: $3.69 for 17.5 oz. at Whole Foods
    Online Source: www.rustichella.it or www.maricaretti.com
    Comments: One of the most widely available Italian imports, this pasta was criticized for being “nothing special,” though some tasters praised its “nice flavor” and “tender, good texture.”



Q. Yo, joe — how come you only gave a live link for Mueller's?

A. 'Cause if you want to taste the losers, you're on your own: we like to put our money — what remains of it, anyway — on sure things.

And who said you get what you pay for?

Not when it comes to pasta, apparently.

June 27, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

June 27, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

iPhone MetaReview


Okay, then.

This morning I read very closely the reviews in today's papers by tech writers Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal), David Pogue (New York Times), and Edward C. Baig (USA Today).

Things I took away, in no particular order:

• Though you can surf the real net, you can't view Adobe Flash (except for YouTube) or Windows Media Video — that's one huge hole.

• USB dock means you've got the world's most beautiful (and expensive) 4 or 8GB flash drive.

• Nice paperweight — though I wouldn't leave it out on your desk when you go off to lunch if you work in a heavily trafficked area.

• No video capability — still photos only (no flash or zoom either).

• On AT&T's 2.5G EDGE network, the New York Times's home page took 55 seconds to load; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo, two minutes. Pogue wrote, "You almost ache for a dial-up modem."

• The battery starts to fail after 300 to 400 charges; then you have to send the iPhone to Apple for a replacement. Translation: you'll either have to do this on a more or less annual basis or buy a newer version of the iPhone instead. But that shouldn't come as a surprise, really: Steve Jobs said the iPod reinvention cycle is timed to encourage you to buy a new one every year.

• Making a call can take six steps: Wake the phone, unlock the buttons, summon the Home screen, open the Phone program, view Recent Calls or Speed Dial List, select a name. I can't speak for you (though sometimes I wish I could) but currently all I have to do is press one button on my retro Nokia 6230 candy bar-style phone and I'm making a call. Huh.

• Though the phone has Google Maps, it doesn't have GPS, so you have to manually enter your location for driving directions and tap the screen when you're ready for the next instruction.

• You can't cut, copy or paste.

• After a week or so, you can type as fast on the iPhone as on a Treo

In summary, the unbearably slow internet connection when out of WiFi range makes it pretty much useless to me.

Next iteration, please.

June 27, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack



From the website:

    PAL CHAOS Labs

    PAL CHAOS Labs bring together artists, scientists, architects, writers and academics, to explore a new grammar of interactivity through existing and emerging technologies. PAL's pioneering European Multimedia Labs (1997-2000) and subsequent Lit Labs (2001) provided the initial research which led to the first international PAL CHAOS Colloquium in the UK in 2002.

    The colloquium focused on three topics — self-organisation, embodied knowledge and making things small — inspired by Professor George Whitesides, who also gave the keynote speech to fourteen established artists, architects and scientists. The group debated the possibilities of disruptive technologies, complexity theory, and the potential of nanotechnologies on the future and in relation to their own practice.

June 27, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why New York Times senior editor Dwight Garner is crazy about novelist Barry Eisler


From Garner's June 17, 2007 New York Times Sunday Book Review "TBR" column:

    Facts, Checked:

    This column has gone out of its way more than once to praise novelists who bother to identify, and when possible to correct, errors that creep into their books. So it was a treat to find out about Barry Eisler’s books — he’s a former C.I.A. employee who writes thrillers about a half-Japanese, half-American freelance assassin named John Rain — and also to discover his Web site. On it, you’ll find a detailed, witty “mistakes” page that makes you trust everything else he writes all the more. Eisler is willing to suffer for veritas. About one mistake he writes: “The stun gun Rain uses on Crawley in Chapter 9 of ‘Rain Storm (Choke Point)’ would not have left marks (I know because I took a fan’s advice after the fact and... that’s right, zapped myself with a stun gun. Hurts like hell and leaves welts).” At other times, Eisler can sound almost dainty: “In Chapter 36 of ‘The Last Assassin,’ Delilah says ‘Enchantez,’ ” he writes. “This of course should be ‘Enchantée’ because the word is a feminine adjective, not a verb. Pardonnez-moi.” D’accord! Eisler’s new novel, “Requiem for an Assassin,” is No. 26 on the extended fiction list.


Hey, wait a minute — I've got a detailed (witty? you be the judge) "mistakes page" too: in fact, I'm tempted to rename bookofjoe "detailed, (witty?) mistakes."

I like it.

Full disclosure: I have never met Barry Eisler. I have never spoken to Barry Eisler. I have, however read his books and in fact reviewed one back on January 6, 2005. He was kind enough to send me a nice note and copies of his subsequent books, which I also enjoyed immensely.

I'd invite him to join my crack research team™ but he's probably too busy doing other stuff.

Don't you think?

June 27, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Takeru ('Tsunami') Kobayashi, World Hot Dog Eating Champion, Goes on the Disabled List


Forget Paris Hilton on Larry King tonight (9 p.m. ET in case you're unable to do so) or the iPhone two days hence — this matters.

Just in, the news that the six-time champion (above, hoisting the Yellow Mustard Belt) of the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at New York's Coney Island is hors de combat.

This past Monday on his blog the 160-pound Kobayashi wrote, "My jaw refused to fight anymore."

The defending champion currently is being treated for arthritis in his temporomandibular joint, which has left him in such diminished condition that his jaw opening is currently no wider than one fingertip.

He added, "I was continuing my training and bearing with the pain and finally I destroyed my jaw."

The toll taken by training at a world-class level for many years was just too much.

But don't take my word for it: read his blog for yourself.


Nice logo.

***********************STOP PRESS***********************

This just in, posted three hours ago on Tsunami's blog:


Oh, sorry — I forgot your Japanese is rusty.

Here's the translation — gaijin:

"I would like to thank everyone who provided me with all kinds of useful information these past few days. Thanks to everyone's support, I am able to aggressively pursue treatment for my condition. The Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest is a competition that I love. And I intend to do everything I can to treat this condition in what little time I have and to focus on the tournament. I look forward to facing my fellow competitors on July 4th!"

June 27, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'What have other nurses done that freaked you out?'


That's the question of the day at allnurses.com.

"222,165 members — and growing!"

Brace yourself, it's gonna be a bumpy ride... w00t!

June 27, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Grease Blotter Food Oil Sponge


From a June 19, 2007 Cool Tools review:

    Grease Blotter — Food Sponge for Anti-Oil Dieting

    I have been using Mystic Maid's blotter sheets for about 1 year and they are by far the easiest and most efficient way to pick up oil and grease from your food, especially soups, stews and sauces. I currently live in Hong Kong. I don't know if you know much about the Hong Kong/Chinese culture, but we eat a lot of soup. I have tried placing the soup in the fridge to solidify the grease and eventually remove it — too time consuming. I have tried to skim it with a ladle, but it gets messy and you have to clean an additional utensil as well as the container for the grease you have removed. It is much easier to use these sheets to pick up the grease and control your diet.

    Generally, if I'm blotting food like pizza my paper towel or tissue begins to break down and I get paper pieces in my food. The Grease Blotter doesn't break up and it only picks up the oil and grease. When I ordered the product directly from the manufacturer, I asked how it was developed. The high-tech non-woven material was originally developed for the Japanese oil spill containment industry and is now produced in food-grade materials for consumers.

    Fiona Loh


Find out more on the Grease Blotter website.

$4.99 for 10 sheets at Amazon.

[via Steve Leckart and Cool Tools]

June 27, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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