Ruining dinner; restaurant inspector killjoys in NYC

Although not exactly widespread, the New York Post reports a dinner ruined by a health inspection is a growing nuisance for New Yorkers looking to enjoy a romantic meal or celebrate with friends, only to be shown the door.

The number of restaurant inspections by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has risen sharply in recent years. In 2002, there were,254 inspections. Last year, there were 98,176, according to figures from a report by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a mayoral candidate.

Earlier this month, Dan Stewart, a 33-year-old magazine editor, wanted to take a friend visiting from London to Brooklyn Star for a cocktail. When they walked into the Williamsburg eatery on a busy Thursday at about 8 p.m., an embarrassed server informed them that a health official had just come in and the restaurant was only serving soda and water — no food or booze.

According to restaurateurs, Mayor Bloomberg’s blue-coated buzzkills are increasingly invading city eateries during peak times, shutting down service for several hours and leaving diners hungry and businesses broke. (La Grenouille owner Charles Masson estimates he lost $30,000 in revenue due to inspections in a single night.)

Anything less than an “A” grade can mean thousands of dollars in fines and lost business. Restaurants aren’t required to stop serving customers during a health probe, but with so much on the line — and a strange person roaming about a busy kitchen — most do.

When confronted with such complaints, the Health Department continues to defend its practices.

 “[Inspectors] do not stop food preparation or service during their inspection,” reads a Health Department statement sent to The Post. “Restaurants that earn A grades on initial inspections are inspected only once a year, limiting any inconvenience.”

Most New York restaurateurs, many of whom were too scared of the Health Department to go on the record, say it is essential to stop cooking to get through an inspection and avoid racking up too many violations.

PEI church dinner suspect as 160 sickened

At least 160 people became ill following a weekend church supper in Malpeque, Prince Edward Island (that’s in Canada).

The Charlottetown Guardian reports the province’s Health Department must wait "several days” before receiving lab results to help pinpoint the exact cause.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Lamont Sweet says all indications are the cause of the wide spread illness was foodborne. However, the ongoing investigation has yet to determine if a virus or bacteria is responsible.

Sweet says the illnesses, mainly diarrhea but also some cases of abdominal pain and nausea, appear linked to the 500 meals that were sold Saturday at Princetown United Church, most as takeout dinners. Many were ill for only a few hours but others reported being sick for 24 hours or longer, he said.

If this outbreak of illness proves to be food-borne, this will mark only the third time in the past 22 years that community meals have resulted in food-borne illness on P.E.I.

Any remaining food purchased from the church on the weekend should be tossed out, he added.

The meal was roast beef, vegetables, rolls and desserts. A portion of the meal was prepared on site and some of the items, including desserts, were brought into the venue.

Bad idea: dumpster food to a dinner party

This is why I avoid potlucks: who knows how the food was prepared or, where the food came from.

Like a dumpster.

Someone wrote a lifestyle type at Toronto’s Globe and Mail to say her “brother-in-law is a dumpster diver, only for the thrill of it and not because he needs to. … Things gave cause for concern when his family’s contribution to Christmas dinner was food from a dumpster. Still sealed, mind you, but publicly announced as a terrific find.”

Part of the response: “While there’s no doubt your brother-in-law put some effort into his contribution (effort which may have included being covered in coffee grounds and banana peels, and throwing stinking, steaming, soiled diapers over his shoulder), it’s the ultimate re-gift.

“I would also question whether he’s exposing anyone to health risks with his tossed-out offering. Maggots squirm and writhe around in our waste containers. Sealed or not, it could be spoiled, contaminated, or otherwise compromised. Some things are tossed out for a reason.

“You’re certainly within your rights to politely refuse when someone passes you the dumpster doughnuts.”

What’s For Dinner: The Shine family and the separation between mainstream and food safety geeks

Real meals in real homes, from the Toronto Star (that’s in Canada).

Featuring a real doctor; a 54-year-old anesthesiologist who works in the sterile confines of a hospital where he’s also the operating room medical director.

Dr. Kevin Shine planned to show me how an “obligate carnivore” and his diabetic vegetarian wife get along on the food front.

He may or may not have realized that the most unusual thing about mealtime in his Oakville home is how involved the family’s cats Angel, Katanya, Sasha and Sam are.

The feline foursome eats on the spacious granite island in the kitchen. Their food bowls and automatic water dispenser are kept there so Rusty and Tino, two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, don’t get “a constant feast” (pic from Toronto Star).

The cats freely roam the countertop, even as Kevin’s wife Cheryl chops veggies for her spaghetti sauce on one end and lays out buns and salad fixings on the other.

A curious Katanya gives one crusty Italian roll a thoughtful lick.

“I’ll eat that one,” says Kevin with a shrug, explaining how this adored cat needed unusual jaw surgery to survive. “Katanya thinks she’s a person. She sits with us. She eats with us.”

The Shines don’t usually eat in the dining room, but they decide to do that tonight. They warn that the cats may sit on the table and sample the meal.

Their oldest daughter Elyse, 26, is at veterinary school in Edinburgh. The younger two live at home. Rebecca, 23, is a research coordinator at York University and hopes to do graduate studies in psychology. Connie, 20, is studying culinary nutrition at George Brown College.

An anesthesiologist, a vet student, a chef student and a possible shrink, and they’ve never heard of zoonoses.

“We are most entertaining and live in a very modest house full of cats and dogs as well so be warned!”

The modest home features a 16-foot dining table and seats 22 people.

8 cases of salmonella confirmed at Ohio school

Clearview High School in Ohio sounds like the ideal setting for a Proactiv commercial. Katy Perry or Avril Lavigne (right, pretty much as shown) could shoot their next acne removal spot at the high school while disinterested teens go about their business – or barf in the background like 100 students from the school did a couple of weeks ago.

In one of the slowest investigations of a possible foodborne illness outbreak,
The Morning Journal reports Lorain County Health Department officials have confirmed eight cases of Salmonella B at Acne-High, believed to be connected with a dinner served to the football team two weeks ago.

Health Commissioner Ken Pearce said,

“Our focus is on that little football dinner. But it’s not confirmed that that’s what caused it.”??

Last week, health investigators interviewed Clearview students to find any commonalities in sickness and collected voluntary stool samples. Pearce said not all the illnesses were related to diarrhea and norovirus has been discounted.