Why are Tomatoes so Tasteless?


Photo Courtesy Dorothy Stainbrook's Tomato Headquarters


In a paper published by Science (subscription required), researchers give the answer:

It’s the redness.

The New York Times’ Gina Kolata explains:

The unexpected culprit is a gene mutation that occurred by chance and that was discovered by tomato breeders.  It was deliberately bred into almost all tomatoes because it conferred an advantage: It made them a uniform luscious scarlet when ripe.

The very gene that was inactivated by that mutation plays an important role in producing the sugar and aromas that are the essence of a fragrant, flavorful tomato.  And these findings provide a road map for plant breeders to make better-tasting, evenly red tomatoes.

The discovery “is one piece of the puzzle about why the modern tomato stinks,” said Harry Klee, a tomato researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not involved in the research.  “That mutation has been introduced into almost all modern tomatoes.  Now we can say that in trying to make the fruit prettier, they reduced some of the important compounds that are linked to flavor.”

Dr. Ann Powell, a lead author of the Science paper, said there is a way around the issue.  Heirloom tomatoes and many wild species do not have the uniform ripening mutation.  “The idea is to get the vegetable seed industry interested,” she said.


Further Reading:




Wine and Dine with the Stars



At Bellavitae in New York, we enjoyed serving the many celebrities who dined with us.  As I wrote when we closed, “I’ve never been star struck, but it was always fun to have famous people in the restaurant, many of whom became regulars.”

Here in northern New Mexico, we dine with different kinds of stars – thousands of them twinkling above in the heavens.  At an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet, the dry Southwest sky is virtually free of humidity, dust, and manmade pollutants, enabling brilliant stars to penetrate the velvet darkness above.

This summer, The Blonde Bear Tavern will be serving a gourmet dinner on a moonless night to celebrate the stars:  August 11th at 7:00 pm.   Joining us will be Geoff Goins and Night Sky Adventures, who will show us the night’s universe, in real time, with our own eyes.  After dessert, we’ll explore the night sky through one of the largest telescopes in New Mexico – with one of the best astronomy guides in the country.


The Menu

BBT-bearLogo2The prix fixe menu is Piedmont-inspired – an Italian region also known for its spectacular Alpine night skies.  And the dates correspond with Taos Ski Valley’s local chanterelle season – so if Mother Nature cooperates, these fabulous mushrooms will be a part of the menu.

Insalata di Lattuga con Pinoli e Parmigiano
Lettuce Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Parmigiano Shavings and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fagiano con Chanterelle e Funghi Selvatici
Pheasant with Taos Ski Valley Chanterelle and Wild Mushroom Sauce

Gnocchi alla Parigina
Parisian-style Gnocchi

Verdure di Stagione
Seasonal Vegetables

Composta di Frutti di Bosco con Gelato
Mixed Berries sautéed in Balsamic Vinegar with Vanilla Gelato

Price: $28.95 per person + tax and gratuity, beverages not included.
We will be offering several specially selected wines by the bottle and glass.


The Night Sky

Geoff promises a spectacular summer sky:

“Depending on the time of year, the rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s great red spot and moons are all plainly visible.  The polar ice caps, surface color variations and dust storms of Mars, the crescent phases, and beautiful cloud tops of Venus and the green disk of Uranus all show their beauty through the eyepiece.  The space walk feel of the surface of the Moon at over 300 power is simply breathtaking.”

He encourages questions and guests are welcome to bring their own binoculars and to share their experiences.

One interesting note:  The annual Perseids Meteor Shower – the most famous of all meteor showers – will be peaking around August 11th.  It never fails to provide an impressive display and, due to its summertime appearance, tends to provide the majority of meteors seen by non-astronomy enthusiasts.


Please Join Us!

Pardon the pun, but if the planets align on this date, we’re sure to have a magical evening.

Seating is limited and reservations are essential.  For more information or to make your reservation, call 575-737-6900.



International Day of Italian Cuisines: Pesto Genovese

The Virtual Group of Italian Chefs celebrates its 4th Annual International Day of Italian Cuisines today as hundreds of chefs in over 40 countries around the world prepare and serve Pesto Genovese with pasta using an authentic recipe.


Click on map to see participating chefs


Bellavitae is joining the celebration, and you can, too.  Learn the history of this centuries-old iconic dish, along with an in-depth look at the optimal ingredients and their correct proportion, as we reveal our famed recipe here.

Photo courtesy Regional Agency for the Promotion of Tourism in Liguria


Related:  Ricette Classice –  Pesto Genovese


Ricette Classiche: Pesto Genovese

Photo courtesy Regional Agency for the Promotion of Tourism in Liguria


Pesto Genovese was one of our most popular signature dishes at Bellavitae.  People would travel across town just to experience this simple yet sublime celebration of Italy’s most seductive herb – basil.  Guests would frequently ask for the dish in the dead of winter!  Of course we would explain that they would need to wait until summer – when basil was at the height of its season – to enjoy the delectable sauce.

Pesto is a centuries-old recipe, where Mediterranean-grown basil is combined with a hint of delicate mountain-grown Vessalico garlic, to which is added Italy’s two most famous aged cheeses – Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino.  Add some Italian pine nuts [pinoli] and the cleanest, sweetest sea salt from Cervia.  Trickle in the fruitiest, most sublime Taggiasca olive oil and presto! – Pesto Genovese.

So why are we talking about this summer dish in, well, the dead of winter?

Every January 17th — for the last four years — the Virtual Group of Italian Chefs (GVCI) promotes one authentic Italian recipe on its International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC).  We were honored to participate last year with Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese, another Bellavitae signature dish.  The previous years featured Pasta alla Carbonara and Risotto alla Milanese.  This year, of course, it’s Pesto Genovese.

The International Day of Italian Cuisines is born from a mission, as explained by Rosario Scarpato, GVCI Honorary President and IDIC 2011 Director:

“We certainly aim at educating worldwide consumers, but more than anything else, we want to protect their right to get what they pay for when going to eateries labeled as ‘Italian’; that is, authentic and quality Italian cuisine.”

So in celebratory spirit we again participate this year.  The weather outside may be cold, but think of the following as a virtual culinary vacation to the Italian Riviera.  Bookmark this page and return to it during the summer when basil is in full season.  Follow the detailed recipe within and discover why Pesto Genovese has remained one of Italy’s most famous dishes.

Continue reading “Ricette Classiche: Pesto Genovese”