BITES : Fire in the Valley

Chilemania marches on in Southern California. Hot Hot Hot, the Pasadena hot sauce boutique, has been joined by a San Fernando Valley shop that likewise sells hot sauces, peppery candies and chile paraphernalia of all kinds. Fire Alley also features monthly chile chat nights for people who want talk about, well, chiles. Fire Alley is at 13207 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 986-HEAT.

Asia Food Eat Read

Here's an interesting idea for a food newsletter: The Asian Foodbookery, a Quarterly Exploration of Asian Foods & Foodways Everywhere. TAF/QEAFFE reviews books on Asian cuisines such as James Udesky's "Soba" and Camellia Panjabi's "The Great Curries of India" and gives sample recipes. The Traveler's Bite is a department consisting of pungent observations on Asian food and dining culled from old travel books. The Bookwalla's Notes reports on phenomena such as the famous Phred, who owns a bar on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido named Furyo Gaijin no Su, "The Nest of Delinquent Foreigners."

A subscription is $14 for one year (4 issues). Write to P.O. Box 15947, Seattle, WA 98115-0947.

I'm Putting You on a 10-Pizza-a-Week Diet

Here's more happy news about how food we love may be good for us. A recent issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that men who ate 10 servings a week of tomatoes (including tomato sauce or pizza) had lower risk of prostate cancer than men who averaged only 1 1/2 servings a week.

The researchers suggested that the reason may be lycopene, a relative of beta-carotene that is abundant in tomatoes. It's the most effective antioxidant among the carotenoids.

By the way, the researchers said tomato juice did not raise the level of lycopene in the blood. The best way of getting the effect was to cook the tomatoes with olive oil. Hey! More pizza and spaghetti all around!

The Oscar of the Glass Trade

Maybe you didn't know this, but the Glass Packaging Institute gives awards for excellence in packaging products in glass. (For that matter, maybe you didn't know there was a Glass Packaging Institute.) It's all true. For seven years the Washington-based GPI has been giving Clear Choice Awards in categories such as new product packaging, "mature product repositioning," environmental awareness and effectiveness in increasing sales. The winners get checks which they can donate to charity and (what else) Steuben glass stars.

Scandale! Scandale!

French investigators charge that a number of top Paris restaurants have been accepting kickbacks of $200 to $600 a month from a fish supplier, some of them for more than eight years. Among the prominent chefs accused are those at La Tour d'Argent and the Hotel Crillon. Apart from money bribes, chefs reportedly could get free fish when they wanted, and executives of the company, Scotfish, could dine free at the restaurants.

As a result of the scandal, Marcel Le Faou, head chef at the Foreign Ministry, has been forced to retire. Le Faou, who was in charge feeding visiting heads of state, is denying wrongdoing. Through his attorney, he told the newspaper Le Figaro on Friday that "gratuities" were "a traditionally accepted part of the profession."

The famous chef Joel Robuchon, who is not implicated, told a French radio audience Friday that when he started out in the '60s, kickbacks from food purveyors were an important source of income for chefs but that the practice is no longer common. "All top restaurants are audited," he said, "so it's hard to do anything illegal."

Police are not charging that the fish was of inferior quality but that the kickbacks meant that customers were paying more than they should have. The restaurant investigation is part of a 3-year-old crackdown on bribery in French society.

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