Donna Minkowitz is a friend, colleague, activist and food critic. She is giving a class in New York City.  The five words that are the title of this post are the words under her blog. Yes. We’ll take that dish. You should take this class. Along with some other notables she will be reading tonight June 11, 2017 at KGB Bar and Lit Mag at 85 East 4th St. New York, NY 10003 (see below about this Zhencool production)

The real down low on the food scene in NYC. Well, maybe our national obsession with how we intimately relate to food and specific foods and other people’s food. These words from the above piece:

“It’s an odd time for eating out in New York. The places most likely to be reviewed by critics are restaurants where entrées cost $30 and tasting menus cost $100 and more. They are tiny food-temples and shiny mega-boîtes where most of us can’t go even if, by normal US standards, we are “upper income” — little palaces where, we, reader, certainly can’t eat if we are what the government calls either low income or middle-class. (Note that $55,575 is the median household income in the United States; median household income in the city is $67,201.) Reading the reviews has become an exercise in tantalized frustration: breathing in paragon writer Pete Wells’ description, in the New York Times, of the grated frozen foie gras appetizer at Momofuko Ko, you could be forgiven for feeling like the orphan cousin not invited to the party. “A cook behind the counter would rub a frozen cured brick of it across a Microplane held above a bowl with pine nut brittle, riesling jelly and lobes of lychee, showering them with falling pink flakes of airborne pleasure.” (The liver is part of the $195 tasting menu for lunch or dinner, the only way that you can eat at Ko.) The other spots in critics’ reviews – restaurants like Cosme and Blue Hill and even Contra and The Spotted Pig — are not for us, either, unless we’re in the top 5%, or interested in acquiring a load of debt that will cripple us.”

And it’s a restaurant review! For an eating establishment in New York City that recognizes that people with mobility and swallowing and metabolic issues need to eat as well : “Mekelburg’s, 293 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-399-2337, Monday through Thursday, 8 AM-2 AM, Friday 8 AM-4 AM, Saturday 10 AM-4 AM, Sunday 10 AM-2 AM. Most fruits and vegetables served are pesticide-free; all house meats are hormone and antibiotic-free and pasture-raised. The extraordinary cheeses and creams served come from Lioni Latticini. Wheelchair access: the grocery and restaurant are down one flight of stairs, and an automated wheelchair lift is available, though it must be operated by a Mekelburg’s staff member. The scrupulously clean bathroom is accessible and has a lovely chalkboard covering the walls, multicolored chalk provided. On recent visits, there was lesbian love graffiti, anti-rape chants, and Black Lives Matter annotations on the walls. This was originally published in Gay City News, New York’s LGBT paper, on September 29, 2016.” 

According to Donna :

I work with writers on their books of memoir and literary nonfiction and, on occasion, on their book proposals. In addition to my experience writing and teaching memoir, I have a deep background in English literature, including a BA in Literature from Yale University and an Andrew D. White Fellowship in Comparative Literature from Cornell University. For many years, I have also been a book critic for venues ranging from the New York Times Book Review to The Nation, Salon, Kirkus, and the Village Voice


Foraging for mushrooms in the wilds of Cleveland..
Jeremy and daughter foraging find a mushroom (photo from kickstarter link)

And if you happen to live in Cleveland or want to help a really smart and lovely family open a very cool Eastern European Deli and Bakery send them some bucks here Larder  that’s just in case. We’ve done a lot of consulting for hoped to be food services like restaurants, caterers, pop-up restaurants as well as done a lot of training and remedial work with chefs and staff when their business was just not working. The reason why this one will be successful is because three smart, talented and energetic people with a vision are involved. It’s based on a familiar precedent of a Deli and Bakery. This should allow them to introduce ideas and dishes that people will connect with and come back for frequently. 

And after taking Donna’s class – read this Growing up Golem excerpt and you will not only have to read the entire book but see why you should get into her class – you’ll be able to write about Larder with clarity and passion. Or if you live too far away you could just watch an internet presentation by Jeremy when you donate about our favorite addiction which as you can see in our description below is our logo.

Celebrate pride month at the gay table with “Queering Food: Taste the Rainbow” readings at KGB Bar and Lit Magazine.

Featured writers: Anna Dunn, editor-in-chief of Diner Journal, Daniel Isengart from The Joy of Gay Cooking, and Donna Minkowitz, restaurant critic for Gay City News.

Anna Dunn has been the Editor-In-Chief of Diner Journal for over a decade, and a bartender at Diner, Achilles Heel, and Roman’s for almost as long. She is co-author of Saltie: A Cookbook and Dinner at the Long Table.

Daniel Isengart is a German-born cabaret entertainer, writer and self-employed private chef. His controversial essays on The Joy of Gay Cooking were published on in 2015. Isengart is a contributing writer to Jarry, the first explicitly gay food magazine.


culturesgroup offers food preparation, preservation and fermentation education and information. We share and collaborate with individuals, other educators, and businesses through e-books and internet meetings, printed materials, videos, photos, and presentations on:

• the preservation and demonstration of food cultures and techniques

• wild yeasts, koji, grains and SCOBYs to create sake, beer and beverages

• fermentation and food history, culture and semiotics

• the use of aspergillum and lactobacillus throughout the world to create:

Miso • Sake • Mirin • Tseukemono • Koji • Tamari • Shoyu • Legumes • Cheese • Cultures • Fish Sauce • Amazake • Milk Kefir • Wild Yeasts • Food History • Kimchee •  Whole Grains • Sourdough


Twitter: @culturesgroup


Instagram: @culturesgroup

HRN Radio:

Here is a recent interview with Chef Ken with brief bio:…/episode-204-ken-fornataro/

For the last 40 years Ken Fornataro has been fermenting and preserving grains, legumes and other proteins with A. oryzae.  Ken was appointed Executive Director of The Hermitage in Boston at 19 years old, and left both Brown University and Northeastern University. He found himself ducking out the back door to Erewhon, where he befriended Aveline and Michio Kushi, Bill Shurtleff and other macrobiotic practitioners and Japanese chefs, who taught him traditional Japanese fermentation — including koji, amasake, miso, shio-koji, shoyu, sake, shoyu-koji and many kinds of tseukemono.

Since then, Ken has continued his study of microbiology, food, 五大明王,  and transformative processes including fermentation. He has served as Executive Chef, Sous-Chef and Garde Manger of numerous restaurants, and has engaged in other business development — including founding and directing a non-profit organization, which made a significant contribution to developing a cure for HCV and treatment advances for HIV/AIDS.  Ken is the author of 32 publications on science and research primarily through the New York State Department of Health and The Kaiser Family Foundation. He is working on a book series related to food, fermentation, and aspergillus in conjunction with his role as founder, Executive Chef and CEO of, an educational venture dedicated to traditions in food preparation, preservation and fermentation.

#ChefKenFornataro, #miso, #microbiology , #学生, #漬物, #麹 #dysphagia, #魚, #酵母, #酒

What’s in your gut microbiome and heart disease in HIV

Do gut flora play key role in cardiovascular disease with HIV?

CROI 2015, February 23-26, 2015, Seattle, Washington

Mark Mascolini

Levels of trimethylamine (TMA), a pivotal player in choline metabolism via gut microbiota, were linked to presence of calcified plaque and total coronary plaque burden in a comparison of people with and without HIV infection [1]. The findings by Steven Grinspoon’s Massachusetts General Hospital team and colleagues at other institutions suggested to them a potential association of gut-based choline metabolism to subclinical atherosclerosis in HIV-positive people.

Suman Srinivasa and coworkers spelled out the rationale for their 222-person study this way: (1) Ongoing inflammation in people with HIV may heighten the risk of atherosclerotic plaque, but no one has pinned down the precise mechanism. (2) Research links HIV to changes in the gut microbiome, and altered gut flora may elevate markers of inflammation and immune activation even in people with well-controlled HIV. (3) Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) may play a part in cardiovascular disease by altering cholesterol metabolism and other mechanisms. (4) Elevated TMAO is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular events in HIV-negative people. (5) Metabolism of choline to TMAO from TMA depends on gut microbiota. (TMA accounts for the bad smell of rotting fish, halitosis, and some infections [2].)

With that pathogenic scaffold in place, the investigators set out to compare serum phosphatidylcholine metabolites in HIV-positive and HIV-negative people in relation to subclinical atherosclerotic disease. They hypothesized that people with HIV “would demonstrate unfavorable coronary plaque characteristics in association with increased TMAO” compared with HIV-negative people.

The analysis included 18- to 60-year-olds with and without HIV. They excluded people with known cardiac disease or symptoms, or signals of kidney impairment. The 155 HIV-positive people had taken antiretroviral therapy for more than 3 months. Along with 67 HIV-negative controls, they underwent 64-slice coronary CT angiography (CCTA). They also had metabolic assessment of inflammatory markers, dietary assessment of choline and betaine [3], and measurement of serum choline, betaine, L-carnitine, TMA, and TMAO.

Age averaged 47 in the HIV group and 46 in the HIV-negative group; 53% and 49% were Caucasian, and 61% and 58% were men. The HIV group had a significantly higher proportion of people coinfected with HCV (27% versus 9%, P = 0.002), had significantly higher alanine aminotransferase (35 versus 24 U/dL, P = 0.0001), higher triglycerides (97 versus 83 mg/dL, P = 0.001), and higher lipopolysaccharide, an inflammation marker (0.09 versus 0.07 ng/mL, P = 0.003). Similar proportions of people with and without HIV smoked (44% and 42%). Dietary intake of choline and betaine and levels of metabolites measured were similar in the HIV group and the control group.

People with HIV had been infected for an average 14 years, 99% ever took antiretroviral therapy, and treatment duration averaged 8 years. Current CD4 count averaged 552, current viral load 1.8 log (about 65 copies), and 86% had a viral load below 50 copies.

CCTA detected coronary plaque in 53% of the HIV group and 35% of the HIV-negative group, a significant difference (P = 0.01). People with HIV also had a significantly higher number of arterial segments affected by plaque (about 1.8 versus 1.2, P = 0.03) and a higher number of segments affected by rupture-prone noncalcified plaque (about 1.0 versus 0.5, P = 0.003). The groups did not differ significantly in number of segments affected by less dangerous calcified plaque.

Serum TMA, but not TMAO or choline, was positively and significantly associated with coronary plaque features in people with HIV. Specifically, serum TMA correlated significantly with total plaque segments, calcified plaque segments, calcium score, calcium volume of plaque, and calcium mass of plaque. TMA, but not TMAO or choline, was also significantly and positively associated with lipopolysaccharide in people with HIV (r = 0.19, P = 0.03). These correlations were not seen in HIV-negative controls. Serum TMAO and choline did not correlate with coronary plaque features in the HIV-negative group.

Multivariate analysis determined that TMA was independently associated with several measures of calcified plaque burden in people with HIV: calcium score, total plaque segments, calcified plaque segments, calcium volume of plaque, and calcium mass of plaque.

The Massachusetts General team concluded that serum TMA, but not TMAO, “is associated with the presence of calcified and total coronary plaque burden in HIV-infected patients.” They noted that the association of TMA with calcified plaque indices was largely independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors in multivariate analysis.

The researchers suggested further study should address three questions: (1) “Is TMA itself pathogenic or simply a marker of altered microbiome in the HIV population?” (2) Why are TMA but not TMAO levels associated with plaque burden?” (3) “What is the significance of this association with calcified versus noncalcified plaque?”

Srinivasa and coworkers proposed that their findings suggest “a potential association of choline metabolism to subclinical atherosclerosis” in people with HIV, as assessed by CCTA. They suggested that this association may reflect altered gut flora or microbial translocation unique to HIV populations. If true, that could partly explain the higher cardiovascular disease risk with HIV infection.

1. Srinivasa S, Fitch KV, Lo J, et al. Calcified plaque burden is associated with serum gut microbiota-generated TMA in HIV. CROI 2015. February 23-26, 2015. Seattle, Washington. Abstract 138.
2. ChEBI. CHEBI:18139–trimethylamine.
3. Craig SAS. Betaine in human nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;80:539-549.

Many thanks to Jules Levin, the founder and director of, and to Mark Masculine for writing this.