There will be two Digests today — one for all the food sections (below) and one later this afternoon for other news.
I'm Glad and I Eat Frugally: Carol Ness at the Chronicle heads a great feature package about the upcoming Pennywise Eat Local Challenge, in which participants set out to prove that eating locally (and therefore seasonally) can be done on the average American's food budget. Cleverly, Ness persuades several people to take the challenge ahead of time and reports on the results. The conclusion won't surprise regular readers of this site: "It's entirely possible to eat locally on a budget. But it's hard. It takes a lot of time. And it can never be 100 percent, because life simply isn't worth living without caffeine and dinner out." Ness's victims include Ethicurean buddies Debbie and Rob Morse (aka Cookiecrumb and Cranky from I'm Mad and I Eat), who are such old pros at this kind of eating that they show off by coming in way under budget. Woot! The other participants, a single hipster and a restaurant-owning couple, had a little less fun.
The veal deal: Farmers have finally responded to consumer concerns about the treatment of veal calves — often tethered alone, in the dark, and fed milk replacement formula to keep their meat tender — and are now raising them more humanely. And as a result, chefs are putting veal back on the menu. Unfortunately, those meatheads in the meat industry are fighting back by saying the others have knuckled under to animal rights activists, that grass- or grain-fed "pink" veal isn't really veal at all, blah blah. Guys, your "keep our prisoners" attitude is not going to help your sales. Admirably, the article also looks at the fact that if you drink milk, you might as well eat veal — economics require that the male calves of a dairy herd either be slaughtered at birth or raised for quick meat. New York Times
I am surprised: A NYT reporter visits Cafe Gratitude, a raw-food restaurant in San Francisco, where every order is a self-affirmation — I Am Open, I Am Beautiful, I Am Powerful. There's one in Berkeley too, but Dairy Queen, who is allergic to public displays of consciousness, has so far avoided it. But after reading this article about how good the food is, she might have to open her mind a bit. New York Times
Cafe gracias: Until now, lovers of Mexican street food had to turn off their internal censors when they ate the meaty offerings, but San Francisco's Regalito Rosticeria on 18th Street has finally improved its menu of "market foods" made with Niman Ranch beef and free-range chicken. San Francisco Chronicle
Trés bon!: The Bon Appetit food service company, which runs 400 cafes for colleges and institutions, has announced that it's taking steps to reduce the amount of fuels consumed in the meals it serves. No more unseasonal tomatoes, no meat or poultry from outside North America. San Francisco Chronicle
Now that's just wrong: The Chronicle reports that the nation's food manufacturers are asking for federal permission to make chocolate with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter — and still call it chocolate. Kate at Accidental Hedonist wrote about this a few weeks ago, and thinks it actually might give artisanal chocolate makers a boost.
Really really slow food: Regina Schrambling on the joys of do-it-yourself "sous vide" cooking. Los Angeles Times
Chefs are leading trend for restaurants to donate used oil for fuel (Los Angeles Times)
The man who's roasted a thousand chickens (Boston Globe)