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Tastemakers: No Salt? Bell‘s Oberon Ale

Rick Coates - April 5th, 2010
No Salt
Okay, here it comes; the floodgates are opening as legislators continue to justify their importance by constantly coming up with legislation that they feel will better society. A shockwave went through the New York City culinary community a couple of weeks ago when assemblyman Felix Ortiz introduced laws that would ban the use of salt in New York eateries. While shakers would remain on the tables, sodium/salt based seasonings would no longer be used in the kitchen. The fine would be $1,000 for each violation.
Ortiz’s logic for introducing the legislation is a call by the American Heart Association and other health organizations for Americans to decrease the amount of their daily sodium intact. Six grams of salt is the recommended daily allowance for an adult, but most Americans have no idea of their actual intake because most processed foods are loaded with sodium, while salt is a staple in the kitchen for chefs. Experts agree that too much salt may lead to high blood pressure and heart disease but one should not eliminate salt completely. Sodium helps your body maintain its water balance and pH and it also enables your cell walls to draw in nutrients.
Chefs in New York are outraged, and they are lobbying against passage. New York City Mayor Bloomberg is supporting it, arguing unhealthy dietary habits cost taxpayers more money. But the New York City chefs, one of the culinary capitals of the world, argue that is should be a matter of personal choice. Chef Jeffery Nathan, owner of the famed Abigael’s on Broadway has formed a coalition of chefs and consumers on Facebook (My Food My Choice) opposing the legislation, stating “This is absurd, modifying trans fats and sodium intake needs to be home based for optimal health. Regulating restaurants will not solve this health issue.”
Seasoning food is an art; chefs take years mastering this craft. In theory properly prepared meals require no additional seasoning at the table. So as one chef put it, “This law will handcuff us in the kitchen. Foods will come out bland and the consumer will simply over salt at the table.
So what is next? Banning alcohol? Oh yeah we already tried that. It was called Prohibition, and it didn’t work. Come on elected officials start focusing your energies on job creation, school funding and maybe eliminating “fat”, not from restaurants but from government. --Rick Coates

Oberon Ale

One indicator that summer is around the corner is Bell’s Oberon Ale hitting the area tap handles. The weather last week certainly put everyone in a “summer frame of mind.”
Each year Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo releases Oberon on the last Monday of March,with celebrations taking place all over the state. In Traverse City, local pubs hosted the Second Annual Oberon Pub Crawl, where Oberon enthusiasts went from pub to pub to pub.
Kalamazoo Brewing Company brewmaster and the godfather of the Michigan microbrew industry Larry Bell developed this beer several years ago during the gray winter skies while longing for the summer sun. Originally called Solsun, the name was changed to Oberon a dozen years ago because someone else was already using Solsun. This actually benefited Bell’s because a few years ago a California winery released a red wine named Oberon; it proved to be more cost effective for the winery to pay for the rights to use the name versus changing the wine’s name. Oberon has a bright yellowish orange color and its citrus scents are said to be the perfect reminder of a summer afternoon.
Oberon rates among the best for American style wheat beers. It presents a balance of spicy and fruity flavors and drinkers are rewarded by Bell’s use of those tasty Saaz Hops from the Czech Republic. When out on the town, order with a lemon or lime to further draw out the citrus flavors.
This brew pairs well with BBQ foods like ribs and pork chops. So don’t let the weather get you down. Enjoy an Oberon while putting in the dock or venture out to Art’s in Glen Arbor (the first establishment in Northern Michigan to put Oberon on tap about 20 years ago) and take pleasure in a fresh pint. --Rick Coates

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