Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.
1. School lunch suppliers scrambling. On BNET, Melanie Warner writes about the changes that major companies supplying school lunch programs are making to comply with new USDA regulations, which institute strict calorie caps, and demand lower salt, higher whole grains, and no more than one starchy vegetable each week. What are companies like Schwann and Tyson doing? Why, they're upping the sugar in all their newly reformulated whole-grain, low-sodium entrees and launching a PR blitzkrieg.
2. Spring. Finally. Last week, the first California asparagus showed up at the farmers' market. Yesterday, I ate my first favas of the season. Now come the onslaught of sweet peas, peppery leaves, baby leeks. Every chef I talk to right now speaks about the produce they're bringing in tones of relief and excitement ― apparently they've gotten a little tired of carrots. I suppose it's now time to give up my own solace for the crappy weather: cheap, satin-fleshed Mexican Champagne mangoes ($1 a piece at Whole Foods, $7 a flat at Manila Market in the Excelsior, FYI).
3. Wine history. I was curious to read in Wine Spectator that Falernian wine ― the premier-cru of the Roman Empire ― was grown in a tiny area on the slopes of Mt. Massica. Though there's a limit to the historian's knowledge: Falernian might have been made from aglianico grapes, or may even have been white.