Originally created 01/27/99

Small portions: News and notes from the world of food



Feeding the pope

Pope John Paul II is Polish, but Italian food was on the menu for his visit Tuesday to St. Louis.

Sister Patricia Corcoran, cook for Archbishop Justin Rigali, planned such specialties as fennel and orange salad, stuffed cannelloni alla francescana and a mousse flavored with espresso. Another dish, pasta di papa, was created for the occasion.

"It means `papal pasta,"' she said. "It's gemelli pasta with tomato sauce and asiago cheese."

Sister Corcoran said she had no advance instructions from the Vatican, so she and the other sisters on her kitchen staff worked out the menu.

"I'm a little nervous about cooking for the Holy Father, but it's a great honor, and I'm really blessed to have the chance to do it," Sister Corcoran said before the pontiff's arrival. "This is truly the chance of a lifetime."

Sweet tips from a pro

Use a slicer instead of a spatula to spread icing. A slicer has an edge on it and will make for a smoother cake, says pastry chef Bill Hallion.

Mr. Hallion also says wetting your hands in cold water will prevent sticky hands when working with corn syrup or glucose. And he offers this tip for using a pastry bag: Wrap the ingredients in plastic wrap and cut off one end. Then place it in the pastry bag. That keeps the bag clean.

Mr. Hallion hangs his chef's whites at the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg, Fla., one of more than 100 hotels in the National Trust Historic Hotels of America.

Frosting for Fido

The cookies come in meat flavors, and the customers wag their tails to pronounce them doggone good.

A bag of five is less than $2 in a corner of Dr. Todd Lykins' Pet Pro clinic in Champaign, Ill.

Dr. Lykins' wife, Gina, a registered nurse, and Wilma Woosley, who works at the veterinary clinic, say everything is made of the same natural ingredients found in most home kitchens.

The bakery came to fruition after Ms. Woosley researched the concept for about four years, visiting pet bakeries in other cities and perfecting her recipes. Each one is tested and licensed by the Department of Agriculture.

Ms. Woosley is perfecting a sugar-free, pet-friendly frosting that she says spreads beautifully.

No doubt, dogs will line up to lick the bowl.

So, skip the pizza

Students at a Rhode Island high school have to look beyond the cafeteria for their junk-food fix.

Administrators at Exeter-West Greenwich Regional High School in West Greenwich have ordered candy and soda off the menu. They also pulled the plug on vending machines -- except in the teachers' lounge.

Senior John Zina lamented: "Do you know how bad pizza and juice taste together?"

Liquored thieves

Early on New Year's morning, thieves broke into a liquor store in Edmonton, Alberta, smashed a display case and stole a bottle of Scotch valued at $8,000. It was one of only 306 bottles of a 44-year-old whiskey from the Bowmore Distillery on the Scottish island of Islay.

Store manager Don Koziak told Reuters he assumed it had been stolen by drunken New Year's Eve revelers who had no idea of its worth, but two days later an anonymous caller told him the robbers had been hired to steal that bottle, which was being offered for auction at a local club.

"The bottle is serial-numbered. It's engraved with a number, 249 of 306, so whoever has it will have a tough time. It's like a stolen piece of art," Mr. Koziak said.

So far, Edmonton police have few leads, except for a hammer, broken glass, a fingerprint and some blood left at the scene of the crime.

Freezer protection

When faced with a power failure, there's a simple strategy to follow for your refrigerator, according to the Department of Agriculture. Place all the essentials -- milk, cheese, meats, etc. -- in the freezer at once.

A fully packed, free-standing freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for about two days if you don't open the door; refrigerator freezer units won't last quite that long.

Avoid opening the freezer door more than absolutely necessary. If the freezer is only partially full, group packages together so they form an "igloo."

If food has begun to thaw, though, each item will have to be evaluated separately. Generally, according to USDA charts, if milk and soft cheeses have thawed and have been sitting at a temperature above 40 degrees for more than two hours they should be discarded. When in doubt, the USDA experts say, throw them out.

For more information, call the Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555.