Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oh no! We're late for dinner -- by about 60 years...

One of our minor but very real gripes about South Florida when we moved here in the late 1970s was the almost total absence of Armenian food.

Somehow, we moved to a place where it was probably easier to buy a kilo of cocaine than a sack of bulgur.

As we've noted, the culinary scene has definitely brightened for Armenians and fans of other Near and Middle Eastern cuisines as well. But the advertisement above suggests we may have arrived a little late rather than early.

The enticing prospect of a shish kebab dinner for $1.50 greeted readers of the now long-departed Miami News on May 3, 1950.

Was it any good? The same paper gave the restaurant a rave review a few months earlier.

The headline: "Armenian Dinner Offers Variety at Palm Tree Inn Overlooking Bay." Reviewer Helen Burns warned readers to arrive hungry because "the courses are numerous, the portions are generous and the food is delicious."

Of course, like any good reporter dining on the company's tab, Helen splurged. She ordered the beet soup, salad, borek ("a pastry with hot cheese") and finished up with paklava. The bottom line: $2.58.

Best of all, the lamb kebab was tender and "roasted perfectly."

The setting sounded even better than the food. The dining terrace overlooked the spot where Miami River flows into Biscayne Bay.  As she enjoyed her lamb, "the moon, a great golden globe, appeared to come up out of the very water."

I know the spot. The Bay still shimmers seductively by either moon or sunlight, but you'll get only the briefest glimpse passing over the bridge on Brickell Ave. Mostly you'll be dazzled by the reflected glory of blue-glass office buildings framing the Miami Convention Center.

The Palm Tree Inn gave way to rental apartments many years ago, and they in turn gave way to years of controversy. Excavations in the late '90s turned up evidence of an ancient Native American burial ground along the water's edge.

Today, Googling the Palm Tree Inn's address will land you in Miami Circle Park, which preserves and commemorates the historic site.

Pondering all this left us with yet another destination on our long list of places to visit if anyone ever invents a time-travel machine. (We're betting on Google.)

But it also left us wondering about "your genial host Aram." Who was he?

If any of you remember the glory days of Miami and a certain Armenian who served up shish kebab by the Bay, we'd love to know more.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rachal - Candied Pumpkin

Traditional orange pumpkins are great for Halloween jack-o-lanterns, their seeds, and pulp for pumpkin pies - and they're easy to find.

I had my heart set on trying my hand at making rachal - candied pumpkin, which requires a yellow or white pumpkin - also known as white milk pumpkin... not as easy to find.

I came across a recipe in my newly acquired cookbook from NJ's St. Leon Armenian Church’s Women’s Guild (thanks Mom!!). The recipe, submitted by Carolyn Soojian and Ginny Clarke, is said to be a favorite of their Der Hayr, Father Diran Bohajian.

Carolyn's and Ginny's recollection: Father Diran’s mother Victoria made rachal every autumn - a treat he loved very much. We gave him the recipe, which he now prepares for his family and himself.

Aside from the length of time to prepare, making rachal really didn’t sound too daunting. Finding two of the necessary ingredients, however, presented the challenge - slaked lime powder, and yellow or white pumpkin.

Failing to find slaked lime powder in the types of stores suggested in the recipe, I turned to my friends, Nazan and Eddi Macarian, proprietors of Macar and Sons, Inc., International Food Distributors, for help. Alas, they did not have slaked lime powder.

Doug came to my rescue, as always. He simply googled “slaked lime powder” and found that a brand called Mrs. Wage's Pickling Lime, is carried by - are you ready for this? - Ace Hardware stores! 

Before jumping in the car, I called 3 local Ace Hardware stores. Of course, they’d never heard of Mrs. Wage's. Hmmm. On my fourth try, I hit pay-dirt! The store in Boca Raton (a 30 mile round-trip drive) had 2 bags left, and they would put one on hold for me.

One ingredient down, another to go.

The other hard-to-find ingredient was the pumpkin itself. I called my local farmer’s market, but they only had the orange variety. Whole Foods wouldn’t have white ones for another couple of weeks. My last hope was The Fresh Market; they carried them - and - they were in stock. (If this hunt sounds familiar, I went through the same thing last autumn looking for quince!)

Finally, I had all the ingredients on hand.
Mrs. Wage's Pickling Lime and white pumpkin
Today, I offer you two recipes...rachal and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Recipe #1: Candied Pumpkin - Rachal
from Carolyn Soojian and Ginny Clarke (with a few of my own touches)

Day 1:
one 5-lb pumpkin (yellow or white)
2 small bottles slaked lime powder (about 3 to 4 Tablespoons)**
1 gallon water
Day 2:
10 cups sugar
3 3/4 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp whole cloves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
chopped walnuts for garnish
I used ½ cup of Mrs. Wage's pickling lime to 1 gallon of water.
Be sure the lime powder you use is “food grade” and not “commercial grade”.
Older cookbooks suggested that slaked lime powder or calcium hydroxide could be purchased in Middle Eastern stores or your local pharmacy. Neither of those proved successful, however, pickling lime in powdered form can be purchased on line at

Day 1 Directions:
Cut pumpkin in half. Remove seeds and save for making roasted pumpkin seeds. (See recipe below.)
Cut pumpkin into 1/4 inch slices; peel slices.
Place pumpkin slices in a large porcelain (or plastic) container.
Dissolve slaked lime powder in one gallon of water.
Add lime-water mixture to pumpkin slices. Place a large, heavy plate on the pumpkin to keep slices submerged. Let stand overnight.

Jars of finished rachal
Day 2 Directions:
Remove pumpkin and wash each slice thoroughly in cold water.
In a large pot dissolve sugar in 3 3/4 cups water, stirring until completely dissolved.
Tie cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in cheesecloth, and add to sugar water.
Add washed pumpkin slices. Cover and bring to a boil.
Remove cover; simmer gently for 2 to 3 hours. Turn slices occasionally.
Add lemon juice; simmer 15 minutes.
Remove and discard cinnamon and cloves.
Syrup should be somewhat thick and pumpkin should have changed color and texture.
Cool. Store in glass jars and refrigerate.
To serve: sprinkle chopped walnuts on top for garnish.

A Dabbakian Family specialty...
My Aunt Zippi (Zabelle Dabbakian) Keil shared this with me: 
"after my mother made rachal, she stored it in a cool place to preserve its crispness. I can still see the pumpkin slices so beautiful and appetizing in its syrup with walnuts throughout. So during the winter months, when it snowed and while it was still snowing and so nothing would touch the new-fallen snow, my father would go into our backyard with a large bowl and collect the fresh snow. In the meantime, my mother would have the "rachal" chopped into bite size pieces together with chopped walnuts (or almonds) and we children would be waiting with great anticipation for the winter's most delectable dessert! They would spoon out the "rachal" over the fresh snow into bowls and we would dig in! This was very much like today's sorbet or Italian ice desserts.....only much, much better."
Doesn't that sound glorious? It's a shame there's no snow in South Florida.

Recipe #2: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (unsalted)

• Wash pumpkin seeds thoroughly in cold water. Remove any fibrous, pulpy strands.
• Place in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet (or use a vegetable spray instead of oil); stir to coat seeds. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Bake at 325 F until toasted - about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally during baking.
• Cool completely; store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Armenia aims to preserve as well as serve its native cuisine

We started this blog with one major goal: to preserve the recipes we remember and love.

Since then, we've heard from many Armenians in America and around the world who feel the same urge to record the culinary traditions of our parents and grandparents before it's too late.

Now comes news that the same sense of urgency is just as strong in the homeland -- and an exciting effort is now underway.

The National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia has launched its ambitious Cuisine Revival Project, which aims to reverse decades of neglect and foreign influence in the nation's commercial kitchens.

The foundation's announcement said the project "aims to foster the revival of lost recipes and the creation of new dishes based on Armenian ingredients and traditions."

"We want to make Armenia a culinary tourism destination," foundation CEO Pegor Papazian said in a press release.

Unfortunately, many younger cooks are untrained in Armenian food. Chef Setrak Mamulyan noted in the same release that "we are facing the danger of losing some of our dishes with the passing away of the older generation."

The revival effort, which involves many of the country's top chefs and restaurateurs, was launched in six villages in the Syunik province. Local residents were surveyed about each village's traditional cuisine, and recipes carried back to the national's capital for testing and development by professional chefs.

As the project grows, villagers through the country will be called on. Researchers are also scouring old manuscripts and other historical sources not only for recipes but for evidence of the unique roots of Armenian cuisine.

The results will ultimately be shared with the world through a Web site and cookbook.

"It's like mining for gold," Papazian said. "We want to bring out the full hidden potential of Armenian cuisine through a process that starts with research but also involves substantial creativity and teamwork."

Friday, October 22, 2010

“Mayrig” a unique Armenian Restaurant

I recently received an email from my friend Lucine,  sharing a link to a YouTube video for an Armenian restaurant in Beirut called “Mayrig” (translation: "Little Mother"). 
From what we've heard  from our world-traveler friends and family members, Beirut sounds like a gastronomic paradise.
The interior of Mayrig restaurant, Beirut
Mayrig, in operation since 2003, was started by the family of talented cook, Manouchag Jouhourian, who, I believe, hailed from Musa Dagh, the homeland of my maternal grandparents.

As I watched the Mayrig video, a well-done advertisement-documentary, my stomach began to growl, and my mouth watered uncontrollably.

Mayrig's Delicacies
I immediately consulted with blogger Joumana, who writes “Taste of Beirut." I wondered if she’d ever dined at Mayrig. Not only had she been there, and loved it, but she wrote an item for her website describing her visit.

Follow Joumana's account of her visit to Mayrig, "Armenian Delicacies in Beirut."

Then it occurred to me that my nephew has been to Beirut a few times. Sine he and his wife attended a wedding there just a few months ago, I wondered if they’d ever been to Mayrig.

This is what my nephew wrote:

“... Not only have I heard of Mayrig, I have been there 3 times and it is HANDS DOWN the best restaurant I have ever been to in my life. It is SO good, in fact, that it is worth a trip to Beirut just to eat there."

Hoom (Chi) Kufta at Mayrig
Well, that clinches it! If Doug and I ever travel to Beirut, one thing is certain, we'll be dining at Mayrig, too!

In case you're interested, Mayrig is offering franchise oportunities. Perhaps someone would like to open a Mayrig's in South Florida??

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Hummus

The arrival of pumpkins in stores and roadside stands signals cooler weather, Halloween, and, of course, Thanksgiving. I have to admit - I’ve never been interested in carving pumpkins; I dislike the mess. So I stock up on canned, solid -pack pumpkin for my recipes.

Pumpkin Hummus with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses
Since I like to experiment with traditional ingredients in non-traditional ways, I thought I’d try adding pumpkin to a hummus recipe. Doug didn't  think that combination sounded very appetizing, but approved the experiment anyway.

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who thought of adding pureed pumpkin to hummus. I found a number of recipes which included other ingredients as well - yogurt, cayenne pepper, and cumin - to name a few.

Try this (or a version of your choice) and see what you think. Is it a hit-or-miss?

Pumpkin Hummus

1 -15 oz can solid-pack pumpkin
1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tahini
juice of 1 to 2 lemons
pinch salt
water, ½ cup or more

a drizzle of pomegranate molasses - or - 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish, if available

Place the pumpkin, chick peas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture is well combined and lightens in color. Add enough water to thin-out the mixture to the consistency of a spread or a dip. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, spread the dip/spread in a serving bowl and drizzle the top with a little pomegranate molasses, or sprinkle with pomegranate or pumpkin seeds.

Serve with vegetable dippers and/or toasted pita triangles.

Our evaluation: In a word, interesting. This recipe has a mild pumpkin taste with a hint of chick pea and sesame flavor. The pomegranate syrup garnish added a sweetness that one would not associate with hummus, but gave it a surprising twist.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kebab Cubano: Remembering the Armenians of Cuba

Kebab Cubano
Cuban food in Florida is like Italian food in New Jersey, so nearly ubiquitous that it's almost the native cuisine.

As long-time Floridians, we're hooked. We can't imagine who wouldn't be. If you don't know Cuban food, you should know this: It isn't highly spiced and it isn't fast food.
The intense flavors are sophisticated blends of seasonings and ingredients, and many dishes demand time to marinate, prepare and cook oh-so-slowly. We're usually happy to leave all that work to the people who do it best -- but, we do love to cook, so we can't resist trying our hand once in a while.

Mojo (sounds like mo-ho) is a citrus blend. You can buy it in any store (at least, we can), but the commercial blends are too salty for our taste. We prefer a simple mix of orange, lime and garlic
-- with a touch of Allepo pepper flakes.

The prep was a snap. The time was no problem either: We let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours and went on with our lives.

Basically, we just roasted our Kebab Cubano like any other kebab and served it with rice and a home-made version of our favorite Latin salad that's as old as its name, the "1905 Salad" from Tampa's famous Columbia Restaurant.

We don't like to brag, but...well, it tasted great. The mojo tenderized the meat and lent a slightly but not overpoweringly sweet, fresh citrus taste .

If Armeno-Cuban fusion sounds odd, consider this: Not long ago, Cuba was home to a substantial Armenian community. The island nation continued to welcome Armenian refugees in the 1920s after America began enforcing restrictive immigration quotas.

Many families waited a generation or more to come to the U.S. Some stayed and made Cuba home, at least until Castro came to power. How many remain is an open question.

We're sure the Armenians of Cuba learned to adapt their recipes to local ingredients and customs. Kebab Cubano would almost certainly have been high on the menu.

Kebab Cubano (serves four to five)

two pounds lean pork loin
one cup orange juice
juice of one fresh lime
two cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Cut the pork in kebab-size cubs and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the orange juice, lime juice, pepper flakes and garlic.
Add the pork to the marinade, stir and cover. Refrigerate for 24 hours, mixing two or three times.
Skewer the meat, adding salt just before roasting. Cook well.

Serve with any sides you like -- but salad and pilaf are always appropriate!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homemade Pomegranate Jelly

Ten years ago, I participated in a week-long educational program sponsored by the Mardigian Institute at St. Vartan Cathedral in NYC. The program was designed to refresh and renew Sunday School teachers with teaching materials and strategies, and so much more. Men and women came from coast to coast - north and south... a most spiritual and uplifting experience.

My roommate, Patricia Tootikian-Hachigian from Detroit, had a background in Home Economics as did I. Discovering that we had so much in common, the two of us got along great! Sadly, we lost touch shortly after the program ... until now.

Pat Hachigian at St John Armenian Church, Detroit - her preserves, tourshi, and apron with logo
 Pat emailed me recently. Here’s what she wrote:
“I met you at the Mardigian Institute in N.Y. and we were roommates. We had so much fun and were so alike with our home ec backgrounds.
... I plan to make tourshi for our church bazaar and I haven't made it in about 15 years and I was searching the web for some additional recipes and I found you. I was so impressed with your website.

I made jams and jellies for our bazaar. I made pomegranate jelly last year and it was the first to sell out. I made 3 batches of it this year. I also tried a pomegranate blueberry juice following the same recipe and it came out perfect, too. ( Antioxidants are in both of these fruits.)”

Pat said her church (St. John Armenian Church, Detroit) had trouble getting preserves from Armenia to sell in the “country store” section of their bazaar, and that prompted her to make jams and jellies herself - donating every jar. (What a gal!) She said whatever doesn’t sell at the bazaar, goes to the church bookstore for sale. The woman in charge of the book store says the jams and jellies make perfect hostess gifts.

I wrote back immediately to say “Hello” and ask for the recipe. I figured I’d give jelly-making a try.

The recipe Pat uses for making Homemade Pomegranate Jelly comes from the Sure-Jell company.

Robyn's first-ever batch of pomegranate jelly

3-1/2 cups prepared pomegranate juice (or buy about 8 to 10 fully ripe pomegranates)
1 (yellow) box Sure-Jell
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
5 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Robyn's Notes:
I used bottled pomegranate juice for my first-ever attempt at making jelly, saving a ton of time!

Be sure you have the proper canning equipment before you begin.
Pat said the recipe would make 5 - 1/2 pint jars. Mine yielded 6 - 1/2 pint jars.


1. Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.

2. Measure exactly 3-1/2 cups prepared pomegranate juice into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot.
If using fresh pomegranates, SUBMERGE pomegranates in water; let stand 15 min. Break pomegranates apart under water, then separate the seeds from the membranes. (Seeds will sink to bottom while membranes, skin and rind will rise to top.) Skim top and discard skin, rind and membranes. Scoop up seeds and drain. Crush seeds, one layer at a time. Place three layers of damp cheesecloth or jelly bag in large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into cheesecloth. Tie cheesecloth closed; hang and let drip into bowl until dripping stops. Press gently.

3. Stir pectin into juice in saucepot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil an boil exactly 2 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

4. Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 5 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids springs back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Evaluation: For a first-time attempt, I was pleased with the results. The taste is sweet-tart, and a little goes along way!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

You never know where Armenian ingredients will turn up

We took a few unexpected twists and turns on our Northern drive this summer, including an unplanned visit with our friends David and Jane Kinney at their getaway home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

The setting is just slightly past gorgeous: nearly 30 acres sprawling across a tree-covered slope where deer and the occasional bear sip from the spring-fed pond out back.

I love mountains -- pretty much all mountains. So even as we made our way along the winding roads to meet them, I began musing aloud about how I'd love to live in a place like that.

Robyn, of course, responded in typical fashion: "I can't live in a place where you can't buy bulgur."

This seemed like an irrefutable objection.  It's hard enough to buy any sort of food in rural Floyd County, VA, as we learned when we volunteered to make a grocery run and kept winding our way down one mountainside and up the next. It turned out to be a 36-mile round-trip to the supermarket!

But...when we got stuck behind a slow-climbing lumber truck, we pulled off the road at a vegetable-stand/bakery. The first clue that we were in a special place was the sign by the vegetables advising customers to help themselves and take their own change out of the coffee can!

The inside store turned out to be a real marvel, too, full of fresh-baked pies and breads and locally made cheeses -- as well as a vast selection of dried fruits, nuts and grains.

On a whim, we squinted our way down the aisles toward the back of the store -- and, there it was: Bulgur!

It wasn't quite enough to sell Robyn on the idea of life on a Virginia mountaintop, but it sure was fun to see another sign of changing times and tastes in America.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homemade Basterma - a Labor of Love

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a Middle Eastern store nearby to purchase ready-to-eat favorites. 

Just ask reader Mario of Queensland, Australia. He requested a recipe for homemade basterma because there's no place for him to buy it, and his local butcher can't create this recipe for him. 
Mario, originally from Alexandria,Egypt, said the best basterma in Egypt was made by the Armenian community. In Australia, he was able to buy thinly sliced basterma in Melbourne and Sydney, but noted that no one in Queensland even knows what it is.

Depending on where you live, October and November are said to be the best months for making this favored delicacy. (Mario reminded me that Australia's seasons are opposite those of North America, so those months don't necessarily work for him.)

Making homemade basterma requires the patience of a saint. You’ve got to set aside plenty of time for curing the meat. Mario, I hope you're a patient guy!

Top-quality meat is the key to tender basterma, and having a favorable relationship with the local butcher is a must.

When you’re ready to tackle the job, tell the butcher what you are planning to make, then ask him to cut a 2 to 3 pound piece of boneless beef from the rib section about 1 to 1 ½ inches thick.

If, after reading the directions, you’re concerned about the food safety aspect of making basterma, don’t worry. According to Irina Petrossian, author of “Armenian Food - Fact, Fiction and Folklore”, bacterial growth (in basterma) is prevented because the meat is dry-cured with salt, and, because fenugreek is a key ingredient in the paste, it acts as a natural insect repellent.

Feel better? Roll up your sleeves, put on your apron, and give it a go...

Homemade Basterma

2 to 3 lbs. boneless beef (from rib section, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
½ cup Kosher salt
For the Paste:

1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup chaman (ground fenugreek seeds) - Found in specialty shops or well-stocked grocery or Middle Eastern stores
1 tablespoon allspice
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
3 small cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced

1 cup (or more) cold water


Using a fork, pierce the meat all over. This will allow the salt to penetrate. Cut the meat in two equal pieces, then with a large needle, thread a heavy twine or string through one end of each piece of the meat and tie it into a loop. This will be used to hang the meat when curing.

Generously sprinkle each section of meat with Kosher salt on all sides. Lay meat on a pan and refrigerate for 3 days. Turn meat once a day to keep coated with salt.

On the fourth day, remove salt from the meat. Wash meat thoroughly, then soak in cold water for about an hour. Drain and pat meat dry using paper towels, making sure excess moisture is removed.

Create 2 bags out of cheesecloth to hold each section of meat. Place meat in bags, and hang from the loops in a cool dry place** - or the refrigerator - for about 2 weeks.

(**If you hang the meat in a cool dry place rather than the refrigerator, be sure to bring the meat inside if the weather becomes rainy or damp.)

After the 2 weeks are up, combine all of the ingredients for making the paste, stirring in water a little at a time. Stir until a smooth, thin paste is formed. (Note: the paste can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator until ready to use.)

Remove the meat from the cloth bags, saving them for later use.

Cover the dried meat completely with the paste; let stand for about 2 weeks in a pan. Turn the meat every couple of days to keep covered with the paste. At the end of the second week, remove meat from the paste and return each piece to the cloth bags. Hang outdoors for one more week of drying. Remember, if it’s damp outside, hang the basterma in a cool dry place inside.

After the second drying period, the basterma will be ready to serve.

To serve, slice into paper-thin pieces. Best eaten with lavash, olives and Armenian string cheese. (A little Arak wouldn't hurt either!)

To store, keep in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.
Now that Mario has the recipe, he understands why prepared basterma is so expensive. To make it at home is truly a labor of love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Love chocolate? Head for Armenia now!

I always thought of chocolate as Armenian when I was growing up because it was probably my mother's favorite food.

"Chocolate gives you energy," she'd say, nibbling a Hershey Bar or Tootsie Roll.

It was probably the only really bad advice Mom gave me.

She was blessed with incredible natural energy -- and a furnace-like metabolism, so all those sugary treats just melted away like...well, sugar.

I, on the other hand, can't exactly hide the evidence of my life-long chocolate addiction, although I take comfort in all the recent news about the heart-health and other benefits of dark chocolate eaten in moderation.

(Moderation is such a wonderfully ambiguous word, isn't it? I like to interpret it as, "Well, I could have eaten more...")

Now comes word that Armenia is becoming a chocolate wonderland.

The Grand Candy Company has crafted the world's largest chcolate bar, certified by the Guiness Book of World Records.

It's 224 inches long, which means it's just about as long as a hulking Chevrolet Suburban SUV -- but at 9,702 pounds it weighs about half-again as much. That must be some rich chocolate!

According to the Associated Press (whose photo appears at top), factory owner Karen Vardanyan says the special bar commemorates the company's 10th anniversary.

It's all natural, and contains 70 percent cocoa mass. So in my book, it qualifies as health food.

Better yet, it's free! The 10-inch-thick bar will be pieced-out on Oct. 16 to anyone who happens to be in Yerevan that day.

My advice to the lucky folks back in the homeland is simple: Moderation.

In this case, I think the meaning is perfectly clear: Save some for me!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Is Pomegranate juice not so wonderful after all?

A few weeks ago, Doug posted an item about the medical breakthrough of the pomegranate

Now we learn that POM, a major producer of pomegranate products, is  being attacked by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for their advertising claims.

According to an NPR article written by Julie Rovner, the FTC is slamming the makers of POM Wonderful juice and POMx supplements for "false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction."

Read Rovner’s article and see what you think.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to consume - and enjoy - our favorite juice.