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Food & Cooking

    Austinites might want to stock up now on one of our favorite things — tequila — asthat producers in Mexico might not have enough of the key ingredient in the spirit to keep up with demand. Tequila is no longer the cheap liquor shot bars would offer with a lime wedge and a ring of salt. With many brands now regarded as premium products, it has become one of the most sought-after spirits both worldwide and in the U.S., where sales have increased 121 percent since 2002, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. But that success has a dark side. Blue agave — the spiky Mexican plant from which tequila is distilled — isn’t on the same yearly growth cycle as the grains and grapes that make whiskey and wine. The hardy plant matures over the course of seven to eight years, at which point it’s harvested for the sugar-rich center, the piña. With such a long growing time to account for, farmers have to plan out their crop yields far in advance, anticipating the demands of a fickle market. In 2011, farmers planted almost 18 million blue agaves for use this year, according to the Reuters article that broke the news in late January of the shortage. That amount falls well below the 42 million agave plants needed to supply today’s 140 registered companies. Now the cost of blue agave has skyrocketed to an all-time high, squeezing the profits of smaller distillers and sparking concerns that even the bigger companies will feel the pinch. Though agave cost as little “as one peso per kilo in 2009, now it’s 22 pesos per kilo ($1.18). That’s a considerable jump in price,” Eric Dopkins, CEO of the Austin-based brand Dulce Vida Tequila, said. And despite warnings in 2012 and 2013 about an agave shortage, “there was not enough planning done over the past few years to account for it,” Dopkins said. “We should have planned it out better. You can Google articles from 2012, 2013, and it happened like clockwork,” he said. “The question is how long it will last. It’s lasting longer than it did during the previous experience, and I think it’ll take more of a toll than people were expecting.” He’s referring to a prior agave shortage that happened as far back as 2000, when he worked at the multinational beverage company Diageo — the owner of many well-known brands including Don Julio Tequila. With 25 years’ experience working in the industry, Dopkins has a pretty farsighted view of the agave crisis. He knows, for instance, that how it concludes will depend in part upon consumers’ purchasing practices. Soon enough, we might start seeing higher prices on our favorite tequila brands in the liquor store, with some price points going up as much as 10 to 15 percent. And if we respond by buying less, the industry might have a chance to recover, bringing down agave costs. Dopkins, also the previous CEO for Deep Eddy Vodka, purchased Dulce Vida in 2016 through the beverage development company that he started with Deep Eddy co-founder Chad Auler, Milestone Brands. They have no plans to raise the price of Dulce Vida’s array of tequila expressions over the course of the next year even though the company is taking “a seven-figure hit,” Dopkins said. “We’re just going to take the hit and hope the price of agave goes down,” he said. Dulce Vida produced almost 40,000 cases of tequila last year, and Dopkins anticipates a roughly 50 percent increase in product this year. It’s the fastest-growing tequila brand in the country, according to Nielsen data. RELATED:Dulce Vida Tequila adds line of flavored tequilas in rebranding move Still, Dulce Vida is a relatively small company compared to juggernauts like Sauza or Jose Cuervo, and it’s those giants that industry insiders like Dopkins anticipate will be the most affected by the agave shortage and price hike. The Reuters story noted those firms haven’t yet had problems paying for agave or meeting their demand, but Dopkins said dozens of brands are likely going to raise their prices in the next few months. Another Austin-based tequila brand, similarly small, is also resolute about not raising the price of its products. Tequila 512  has “no plans to raise prices at this point and will do everything we can to keep it that way,” owner Scott Willis said in an email. He gets his tequila from La Cofradia, a family-run operation. He frequently travels to Mexico — to the state of Jalisco, the main site of tequila production — to check on the tequila and on the large, conelike piñas that are roasted and milled to produce the agave juice that becomes tequila. Dulce Vida takes similar measures to make sure its tequila derives from fully matured agave plants. It’s a step that has proved necessary of late, Dopkins said, because both farmers and distillers are so desperate to guarantee supply that some have been harvesting agave early, before it’s fully ready. The unripe plants yield less tequila, creating a cascading problem that will guarantee less agaves for use in a few years. So the agave shortage is likely to last until 2021, according the Reuters article. But will we actually see a tequila shortage as well? “We don’t expect it to get apocalyptic, but you never know,” Dopkins said. If demand doesn’t lessen, “we could see longer-term issues until more piñas are harvested. There has been a lot more planting of agave in Jalisco, which will eventually meet the demand and bring down some of those prices. Eventually.”
  • A new cheesecake flavor is coming to The Cheesecake Factory for National Cheesecake Day. Food & Wine reported that the restaurant chain is bringing a birthday cake-inspired cheesecake to its already lengthy menu of 30 flavors of cheesecake. According to a Thursday news release, the treat -- a which has layers of the eatery’s original cheesecake and chocolate, vanilla and strawberry layers of mousse and a cream cheese frosting, is part called “Celebration Cheesecake.” >> Read more trending news The sprinkled slices are part of the chain’s celebration of National Cheesecake Day, which is July 30. In addition, from July 30 to 31, customers can get half price cheesecake slices. “National Cheesecake Day has become an annual tradition at The Cheesecake Factory, and we look forward to it all year,” David Overton, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated CEO said in the news release. The Cheesecake Factory will also donate 25 cents to hunger relief organization Feeding America for every slice purchased from July 30 through August. The half-price cheesecake offer applies to all 193 restaurants, but is only good for one slice per guest each day.
  • Remember the controversy and resulting multibillion-dollar libel and defamation lawsuit over Lean Finely Textured Beef being dubbed “pink slime” by ABC News? An undisclosed settlement has been reached, the parties said Wednesday. The South Dakota-based manufacturer of the meat product, Beef Products Inc. sued after ABC referred to the product as “pink slime” hundreds of times in news reports in 2012. Beef Products Inc. and the Roth family issued this statement about the settlement of the case against ABC and reporter Jim Avila: >> Read more trending news “We are extraordinarily pleased to have reached a settlement of our lawsuit against ABC and Jim Avila. While this has not been an easy road to travel, it was necessary to begin rectifying the harm we suffered as a result of what we believed to be biased and baseless reporting in 2012. Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: It is beef, and it is safe, wholesome and nutritious.” “This agreement provides us with a strong foundation on which to grow the business while allowing us to remain focused on achieving the vision of the Roth and BPI family,” the statement read. In a statement Wednesday morning, ABC said: “ABC has reached an amicable resolution of its dispute with the makers of ‘lean finely textured beef.’ Throughout this case, we have maintained that our reports accurately presented the facts and views of knowledgeable people about this product. Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the Company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase.” The settlement follows a trial that began on June 5. If BPI had won, it could have received a verdict of as much as $5.9 billion, according to published reports. After the news reports, consumers were turned off by the term. At the time of the broadcasts, the product consisting of beef trimmings treated with ammonia was being used in 70 percent of ground beef. Demand fell, and BPI had to close three plants and lay off 700 workers. Click here to read more about the meat product.
  • Some Costco locations are serving up a new burger -- and it’s causing chatter beyond the food court.  >> Read more trending news Observations of the new burger have circulated for weeks, and it’s making headlines because food critics are comparing it to a Shake Shack burger. Shake Shack, a popular chain that hasn’t made it to the northwest U.S., builds its burger with all-natural Angus beef, a “Chicago-style” potato bun, the Shack's sauce, which is made up of mayo, dijon mustard and dill pickle brine. >> Related: Dick's Drive-In makes ‘25 Best Cheeseburgers' national list “The final product looks nearly identical to Shack's beloved burger, though the ingredients are slightly different,” wrote Delish.com's Rheanna O’Neil Bellomo, who simply called it a “Shake Shack copycat.” Ingredients in the 1/3 pound Costco burger are reported to be an organic beef patty, topped with romaine lettuce, and smoke Thousand Island dressing. >> Related: This essay about Costco got a high school senior into 5 Ivy League schools When the Seattle Times checked in with Costco Corporate about Seattle as a test market, it wouldn’t confirm the cheeseburger. But a reporter found one for sale at the Costco location in SoDo, costing a modest $4.99 and not-so-modest 1,140 calories. According to Eater, the burger is in a localized testing phase.
  • It is still six months until Christmas, but Oreo cookies could be part of your holiday tree decorations. >> Read more trending news The cookie maker is unveiling candy canes for Christmas, Country Living reported. The Candy Hunting Instagram account revealed that Oreo Cookies & Creme Candy Canes will be available in time for Christmas. However, Nabisco, the parent company for Oreo, has not confirmed the product’s release. Candy Hunting conceded in its post that “I highly doubt these will taste like Oreos, but hey, why not brand everything with Oreo to boost sales?”
  • Burger King is adding another unique creation to its fast food menu. Fortune reported that the burger chain introduced the Lucky Charms milkshake on Monday. >> Read more trending news The limited-edition drink will have crushed pieces of Lucky Charms oat cereal, its famous marshmallows and vanilla soft serve. It will also include sweet syrup. Related: 10,000 marshmallow-only Lucky Charms boxes up for grabs in giveaway “Our guests can’t get enough of our cereal shakes, so we’ve extended the platform to include the Lucky Charms Shake,” Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, said in a news release. “The mashup of our velvety vanilla-flavored soft serve and one of America's classic breakfast cereals is something we think our guests are going to love.” The treat will sell for $2.99 at participating locations. Burger King previously introduced a Froot Loops shake to its menu.
  • KRMG Morning News Host Dan Potter has perfected his barbecue ribs recipe. Plan to spend several hours cooking, but the results will be well worth it. Dan uses a Hasty-Bake, but you can use your favorite charcoal grill. Yes, charcoal. Ingredients Dry Rub, combine the following: 1 T. ground black pepper 2 t. cayenne pepper 2 T. chili powder 2 T. cumin 2 T. brown sugar 1 T. white sugar 1 T. ground oregano 4 T. paprika 2 T. salt 1 T. ground white pepper 3 T. celery salt 3 T. garlic powder Barbecued Ribs: 2 slabs of pork spare ribs Dry rub (see above) Your favorite BBQ sauce Heavy-duty aluminum foil large, brown paper grocery bag. (This is a key piece of equipment!) Instructions Trim an excess fat from the ribs. At least an hour before cooking, rub generous amounts of your dry rub onto each side of the ribs. You can leave the ribs at room temperature for an hour (plenty of time for the seasonings to mascerate)..any longer and you'll need to wrap them in plastic and refrigerate them. Start with a Hasty Bake grill that's free of any leftover ashes or coals. You'll need 40-50 charcoal briquettes. Push all of the coals to one side of the fire bed, Light the coals. While the grill is warming up, wrap two large handfuls of hickory chips in heavy duty aluminum foil. (You really don't need to soak the wood chips, but if it makes you feel better, go right ahead). Poke several holes in the top of the foil packet. Once the coals are ready, lay the foil-wrapped chips on top of the charcoal. Position the ribs on the grill, OPPOSITE the fire. Set the Hasty Bake fire bed in the “smoke” position and close the lid and side vents. After smoking the ribs for 30 minutes, open the side vents. By controlling air flow and adding coal from time-to-time, try to maintain a temperature around 200 degrees (F). Turn the ribs every half-hour for a total cooking time of about 4-6 hours. Signs of doneness include the meat starting to pull away from the bone. Grab a bone and twist it. If it almost turns in the meat...the ribs are done. Using your grill tongs, lift the slab of ribs. If they bend easily until they’re almost perpendicular to the grill, they’re done. KEY: IMMEDIATELY AFTER TAKING THE RIBS OFF THE GRILL, COMPLETELY WRAP THEM IN HEAVY DUTY FOIL. PUT THE FOIL-WRAPPED RIBS IN THE BROWN PAPER SACK AND FOLD THE SACK TIGHTLY AROUND THE RIBS. ALLOW TO REST AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR AN HOUR OR MORE. Unwrap the ribs...swab 'em with the sauce of your choice and enjoy! Dan also makes his own barbecue sauce. Here’s the recipe. Ingredients 4 T. butter 1 small onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 t. paprika 1 T. ground black pepper 2 T. fresh lemon juice 1 t. dry mustard 1/2 t. Cayenne pepper sauce (Tabasco or your favorite) 1/2 t. salt 1/4 C. cider vinegar 1 can (16 oz.) tomato sauce ½ C. brown sugar Instructions Heat butter in a medium sauce pan. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions soften. Stir in next 6 ingredients. Cook over medium heat to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered until sauce thickens slightly...about 15-minutes. Stir in brown sugar, taste and adjust salt/pepper and brown sugar to taste.
  • Fans of the marshmallows in Lucky Charms cereal could end up with a whole box full of them. General Mills is launching a contest in which it is giving away 10,000 boxes of  Lucky Charms marshmallows. >> Read more trending news According to The Huffington Post, the contest is in response to customer demand after General Mills gave away 10 boxes of the cereal during a social media sweepstakes. “In 2015, 10 lucky people won a box of “Marshmallow Only” Lucky Charms through a social media sweepstakes. But according to the brand’s many marshmallow maniacs, 10 boxes just wasn’t enough,” the General Mills blog on the news said. “Fans of Lucky Charms are obsessed with our marshmallows,” Priscilla Zee, senior General Mills marketing manager, said. “We were overwhelmed with calls, e-mails, and tweets last year, asking for a box of our Lucky Charms marshmallows. So this year we wanted to give them even more opportunities to win.” More information can be found at the General Mills website.
  • It’s time to break out some cheese and wine to celebrate a new study that debunks long-held rumors about dairy products. The study, published in the “European Journal of Epidemiology,” states that consuming dairy products, including full-fat versions, “does not increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke,” The Guardian reported.  >> Read more trending news It was believed that dairy products had been harmful because of their high amount of saturated fats, The Guardian reported.  However, an international team of experts argues the opposite and said those who cut dairy from their diet are doing more damage, according to The Guardian. People, especially young women, who don’t drink enough milk are at risk of damaging their bone development and getting conditions such as osteoporosis, or “brittle bones,” according to The Guardian.  Read more at The Guardian.  Editor’s note: The research cited in this report was part-funded by three pro-dairy groups -- Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia -- but the groups had no influence over the research, according to The Guardian.
  • Hawaiian pizza is not for everyone. It’s a decadent, tasty treat to some, but for others ham and pineapple are the worst topping choices ever created. Iceland’s president waded into the fray last week when a student asked him a question about pineapple on pizza. (Ham wasn’t mentioned, by the way.) >> Read more trending news    Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said he found the combination “completely disgusting,” USA Today reported, and would ban it if he could. By Tuesday Jóhannesson was forced to back down from his remarks on banning it after a social media storm, dubbed pizzagate, erupted. “I like pineapples, just not on pizza,” he posted on Facebook. “I do not have the power to make laws that forbid people to put pineapples on pizza.” “Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding what I don’t like. I would not want to live in such a country,” he said. Dear President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson,We cant believe you.  Poor Iceland. However, we forgive you because our guess is...Posted by Homegrown Tap & Dough - Arvada on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 Instead, Jóhannesson, made his own recommendation for the best topping. “For pizza, I recommend seafood,” he wrote on Facebook. Jóhannesson is Iceland’s youngest president ever at 48. He was sworn into took office last August. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson: people should try fish on their pizza!Posted by Farerskie kadry on Tuesday, February 21, 2017