Changes at the News & Observer

June 17, 2008

The News & Observer, like most newspapers, is struggling with the competition from the internet. No story there, but today the N&O announced it was reducing its workforce by 70 people, including 16 from the newsroom. Among those who are no longer with the N&O is food editor Amber Nimocks, who played a large part in dramatically improving the paper’s food and dining content. Along with Andrea Weigl, Greg Cox, and several free lance writers (including former editor Debbie Moose), the N&O had one of the country’s best food sections for a regional paper.

The parent of the N&O, The McClatchy Co., instigated the changes as a result of huge losses nationwide. The Charlotte Observer, another McClatchy company, will be even harder hit, losing 123 positions. The features departments of the two newspapers, which includes the food sections, will collaborate on future stories. So don’t be surprised if you see a Kathleen Purvis byline more frequently in the N&O, which is definitely not a bad thing.

All is not lost, however, and I expect the N&O to continue to put out great food stories. Andrea Weigl is remaining with the paper, and Nimocks will write free lance stories from time to time. Nimocks’ editorial presence will be missed, but let’s hope they’ll fill in the gaps. It’s a tough time for print media, so be sure to give the N&O your support if you want to continue seeing good local food writing.



June 17, 2008

I hosted a small dinner party on Saturday where I planned to make a dinner that really highlighted what was fresh at the North Carolina Farmers Market. I picked up some plums, raspberries and blackberries, as I planned on making a plum tart served with berries. I bought some great looking tomatoes and basil for a basic mozzarella and tomato salad. When I got home, every damn thing started to go wrong.

The tomatoes were not that good. In fact, they were a little mealy. But they had decent enough flavor. So I pureed the tomatoes and strained them in a cheesecloth, collecting the tomato “water.” I then cooked the tomato water, reducing it by two-thirds. I added a bit of salt and served this essence of tomato with the mozzarella and basil and just a drop of aged balsamic vinegar. It was a really great starter for our meal and very light.

The other problem was the plums — they were way too hard to just plop on top of a tart, so I decided to poach them briefly in some riesling. I got distracted for a few minutes, and before you knew it, those plums had disintegrated. Ugh. Rather than making a plum tart with berries on the side, I reversed things, making a classic fresh berry tart with pastry creme (glazed with some wonderful blackberry-rosemary jelly I had in the fridge) and served with a plum-riesling gelato. I ran my plum mush through a food mill and made ice cream out of it. Frankly, this worked out better than my original plan, as the gelato was incredibly creamy, tart and just damn good.

So, when life gives you stewed plums, just make ice cream out of it!