Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Post-Mortem

Well, it's Sunday after Thanksgiving and the time to get back in the swing of the super-stressful day job  is approaching.  On the stove at the present moment is some homemade turkey noodle soup.  The Secret Teaspoon loves soup and it's a great way to use the leftover turkey.  I can already tell this is about the best batch of turkey soup I've ever made.  I think the reason is that I am using the leftovers of the best turkey and stock I have probably ever managed to make.

Let's recap.

I started with a fresh turkey.  I called around hoping to find something harvested in the not-too-distant past from a local Hutterite colony.  No such luck.  Worried I was not going to be able to find a bird of a certain size I got the first one could find the weekend before Thanksgiving. I paid too much for the darn thing.  Ok. I got it at Look's.  Note for next year- buy a fresh turkey at Hy Vee and save at least $0.70 per pound.  More remarkable than the buck-ninety-nine a pound price was the attempt by the sales clerk to convince me to buy a wet brine mix.  This nearly resulted in a small argument.

More background.  The plan was to brine this year.  Specifically, the plan was to dry brine the bird.  I've been reading about dry brining (salting, really).  I've brined things like pork chops before with great success.  I've wanted to brine a turkey for some time now, but have never wanted to mess around with finding a suitable container that will hold a turkey and a couple of gallons of brine solution.  After a lot of reading (Bon Appetite, Gourmet, Food & Wine, blogs, etc.) I found the solution to the wet brining problem-- lose the solution.  I wanted a fresh turkey because I didn't want a bird that had been injected with some percentage of "a solution."  Basically, the "solution" is the frozen solid turkey industry's way of trying to help you along by essentially pre-brining the bird.  A fresh bird isn't injected.  Also, a fresh bird is not necessarily "unfrozen."  I am not sure exactly what the USDA definition of fresh is, but it's something like the bird has never been stored below 20 degrees or zero.  Basically, it means a fresh bird was never frozen to the point where it was suitable for turkey bowling.  Don't kid yourself though, that bird has been frozen, to some degree, so you have to make sure it is thoroughly thawed.

So here I am at Look's confirming that my fresh turkey has not been injected with a solution and the guy asks me if I am going to brine and walks me over to see the display of wet brine mixes that are reportedly selling like hot cakes.  I explain that no, I am going to dry-brine my bird by salting it and sealing it in a bag so the juices will draw out and then be reabsorbed into the meat.  The guy thought I was nuts, questioned my research, and informed me that because salt draws out moisture I was pretty-much guaranteed to ruin that bird.

Well, that didn't happen.  On Monday evening, the bird was salted, inside and out with about 1/3 cup kosher salt that was mixed with dried herbs and pepper.  I sealed it up in a roasting bag and chucked it into the fridge.  On Tuesday, I flipped it over to help/counteract the effects of gravity.  On Wednesday, I rinsed all the salt off- there was not a great deal of liquid in the bag.  I dried the bird and put it back in the fridge, uncovered, to let the skin get dry so it would get nice and crispy during roasting.

The bird was a manifest success.  The meat was juicy and perfumed with the herbs.  Awesome.

Also prepared ahead of time was about 2 quarts of turkey stock made from roasted turkey wings and some roasted vegetables.  Making extra stock for gravy is the only way to go.  

So today, the turkey carcass went in the stock pot with the last cup or so of the stock to make soup broth.  Strain it really well to get the gristle, bones, and yucky bits out of it.  Saute some carrots, celery, and onion, throw in some garlic and then put the broth back in the pot and simmer it for a while.  Add about a half a bag of frozen egg noodles and when those are about half done, toss in some of the leftover turkey meat.  Finish with a handful of frozen peas and check the seasoning.  Good stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Liquor Sales in Sioux Falls and The Politics of Convenience

Ever walk into World Market, or a local grocery store on a Sunday and notice those signs that advise you that state law prevents sales of wine and liquor on Sunday? The Fork always knew that was a crock, because unlike the state law that pre-empts the ability of municipal governments to handle their own local smoking restrictions, municipalities have had the ability to regulate liquor sales for some time. City ordinances prevented the Sunday sales.  State law merely allowed the cities to decide that one for themselves. If you happened to find yourself in another community in South Dakota (Spearfish comes to mind) on a Sunday and needed a little wine for dinner or a refill of blood mary fixins because all you pals dropped by to watch an early football game you could visit any liquor retailer. 

Well, at any rate, according to a story on today,,76509 apparently the Sioux Falls City Council finally relaxed the non-sensical Sunday prohibition. Somehow, news of this managed to escape the Fork's tightly-woven intelligence network.

An ordinance preventing Sunday sales is a classic example of a "blue law." The Fork isn't sure what the history of the moniker is, but the Fork knows a blue law on sight. Blue laws impose a certain standard of moral conduct, especially on Sundays. Blue laws still exist in many places today, including South Dakota.  For instance, according to our state statues, there are two days when alcohol cannot be sold- Christmas Day and Memorial Day.  Some municipalities do not allow on-sale liquor establishments to be open on Sunday.  Vermillion comes to mind. Some cities regulate how liquor must be sold. It has only been in the last 10-15 years that Rapid City repealed an ordinance that mandated that liquor be packaged in a plain brown paper bag when it is sold. The so-called "plain brown wrapper."

Some blue laws probably make some sense, but it definitely makes sense that local municipalities should be free to determine their own community standards and pass ordinances accordingly.

The Fork cannot help but notice the timing of this repeal coincides to some degree with the decision of the Legislature last session to repeal the restriction on the number of off-sale licenses that can be owned by corporations, the so-called Hy Vee bill. (Hy Vee was a major proponent of the measure which had previously been pursued by other major food retailers.) Under the old law, corporations, like Nash-Finch, Hy Vee, or Safeway (West River) could only hold so many off-sale licenses. That's why Hy Vee on Louise Avenue had a liquor department in-store, but there was no liquor department at 26th and Sycamore or at the East 10th location. Sunshine has beer, wine, and liquor on 57th and Cliff, but not 14th Street. Lewis Drug is even in the game offering beer, wine, and liquor now. Get it? If the Fork's crystal napkin ring is working correctly, it is probably only a matter of time before almost all of the major grocery retailers in Sioux Falls are offering beer, wine, and liquor at most all of their locations. If the recent remodeling of the Hy Vee at 49th and Louise is a sign of things to come, it is only a matter of time before Hy Vee revamps the 26th and Sycamore location. The Fork wouldn't be a bit surprised to see a big liquor selection at 26th and Sycamore filling up that space where Boomer's used to be.

There is no doubt that with these changes, the consumer is going to enjoy one-stop convenience. Need some shrimp and a bottle of sauvignon blanc to make shrimp scampi, even on Sunday? No sweat. Just pull into Hy Vee or Sunshine. No more stops at the grocery store for the food and then a second stop at a neighborhood liquor retailer to pick up the wine.

Convenience is great, but the Fork hopes people will remember that there is a price to be paid for that convenience. In terms of sucking more and more of the retail liquor business into already-existing grocery stores, the clear loser is the small, independent local liquor retailer. There is no way a local independent can compete with a large food retailer that already possesses real estate, employees, and its own distribution system. Actually, if you look around Sioux Falls, you might notice a few vacancies where some of those small liquor stores used to be. It's just a matter of simple economics.

Sometimes, life is about more than doing what is easy and most convenient.  If you've been patronizing a local bottle shop and developed a relationship with the proprietor, the Fork hopes you will continue to give your business to that small, local business person's establishment and encourage others to do the same.  If you don't have a relationship like that, or care more about the economics of convenience, don't complain when there are no more friendly little wine and liquor shops around.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Sioux Falls Grocery Scene: Meat

Yeah, baby!  Meat!  The Fork loves meat.  Vegetables, grains and even tofu all have their place- usually right next to something cooked medium rare.

It's hard to tell if we have made progress in the last 40 years or so when it comes to meat.  There was a time when there were actually butcher shops and even grocery stores had butchers on staff.  I am not talking about the people who stand back behind the counter and hand you the same boneless skinless chicken breasts available wrapped over in the meat case 30 feet away, I mean people who actually could take apart a half a beef carcass back there using a knife and a band saw and use those skills to hand you exactly what you want.

For a few brief shining moments we had such a place here in Sioux Falls a few years ago- Tom's Specialty Meats located on N. Weber Avenue by the Falls.  If you wanted a T-Bone steak, you told Tom or one of his able staff members how thick you wanted one and they cut it on the spot and wrapped it up.  If you wanted a nice 4-bone bone-in rib roast for Christmas dinner- call Tom.  Tom also sold a pretty fair amount of goat.  Yes, goat.  Kind of an ethnic item, if you catch the Fork's drift, but available nonetheless.  I bet a leg of goat would cook pretty well on the old grill.

Anyhoooo . . .

Let's talk about the state of the meat buying experience here in Soo Foo.  And to be clear, when the Fork is talking about meat, we're talking mostly about beef.  

Hy Vee.  Look, as far as big, nice, features, and a variety of inventory, Hy Vee has to be at the top of the chain food store food chain around here.  Hy Vee has had full service, butcher shop-style meat counters for some time.  They have a nice selection of packaged meats.  Everything looks great. Who could want more?  The Fork, for one.

If the Fork had a dime for every time the Fork has about lost it while trying to compare prices on meats between the counter and the case, the Fork could blog full time and lose the super stressful day job.    If you are going to walk into Hy Vee and pick up what you want without giving a thought to cost, then you're in good shape.  If you want to compare some labels and feel like you are making a good economical purchase, good luck.  It's confusing.  And, the Fork thinks it's confusing on purpose.  Here's an example.  Say it's a nice summer night and you want to fire up the grill and make a little steak for you and yours.  You go to Hy Vee and walk over to the case and find 18-22 oz of sirloin in one big steak for, let's say six bucks a pound.  Or you can go over to the meat counter and ask one of the helpful smiles to wrap you up two 8oz charcoal steaks or whatever they're called (they're sirloins), two for 8 bucks.  That's 8 bucks a pound.  That's an insult to the Fork's intelligence and really bends the tines.  Hy Vee does the same thing with pork and they do the same thing with sausages- brats 5 for $3.00 or $4.00.  Go look in the packages, find one with five in it and see if it costs more or less than the ones in the case.  If you think a friendly smile is in the back room stuffing seasoning cuts of pork and veal and stuffing casings, you got a cart with two wobbly wheels.  Fortunately, the Fork's mother smelted all the dumb silverware, so the Fork doesn't fall for Hy Vee's little price stunts.

The other problem the Fork has with Hy Vee meats is the packaged meat that is in the little trays sealed with clear plastic.  That stuff ain't being cut up behind the counter by a butcher and being placed in the case.  It's coming from a central location where that meat is put in the little tray and some sort of gas that keeps the meat looking rosy red is injected before the plastic is sealed.  At least with the old-style packaged meats that were wrapped on the little foam tray, you could pick it up and kind of look at it to see if its what you wanted.  

To leave Hy Vee on a good note, they do usually have a selection of steaks that are cut for people who really like steaks.  You know, those puppies that are at least an inch and a quarter thick and are called things like Sioux Falls Cut Strip.  As long as they don't price those suckers individually, they are a decent enough deal.  But, as mentioned below- you can do better if it's a big beefy steak you long for.

Sunshine.  Sunshine prides itself on its meats.  Definitely not as flashy as Hy Vee, but they keep guys behind the counter who can help you out. The meat in the case is wrapped and not all of it is sealed up in those mini gas chambers.  That's good.  One might conclude that the stuff is at least processed in town or closer than West Des Moines.  The Fork doesn't know what the deal is, but Sunshine's meat seems to be a bit better than Hy Vee's.  The Fork had a real decent porterhouse from Sunshine a few weeks ago.  It was good and flavorful, but it would have been nice if it had been thicker.  The Fork thinks Sunshine would really have something going if they had some steaks in the meat case that look like those nice honkers they have at Hy Vee.

Sunshine also seems to have a selection of some very locally raised pork and beef.  The Fork might like to try some sometime, but it only comes in individually wrapped in vacuum packaging and frozen hard as a rock.  The Fork doesn't generally buy meat by the cart to fill up the deep freeze and the Fork doesn't buy meat so it can thaw for two or three days before hitting the grill.

Cleaver's.  Nice commercials for these guys lately.  It's kind of a neat little store and there is some good stuff in the freezer cases.  It's nice to be able to get a Hutterite chicken or some Kuchen from Eureka.  The service at the meat counter is great.   

You're gonna pay more for meat at Cleaver's than you are at Hy Vee or Sunshine.  So, is it worth it?  In the Fork's humble opinion: no.  Personally, the Fork thinks they picked up the fresh meat at Sunshine and are just cutting it themselves.  If you want the real meat counter experience and are willing to pay a premium price and want better meat, head up the hill, a little further south on Western Avenue and go see Nick Heineman and the crew at Look's.

Look's.  The Fork wouldn't necessarily stop into Look's to pick up all the protein needed for a week or two (cha ching $$), but when the Fork and the rest of the Secret Utensils get a hankering for a good umami experience Look's is the only real choice.  Granted, you're going to pay a higher price, but you are going to get superior meat.  

The secret behind Look's is simple: they carry higher quality beef than anyone else in town.  In terms of beef, Look's is the only place in town that sells USDA Prime beef.  Look's also sells some dry-aged beef.  Best of all, Look's basic, run-of-the-mill grade of beef is CAB- that's Certified Angus Beef.  It just so happens the Fork knows just enough about how fresh beef is sold and graded to be dangerous, but that knowledge comes in handy when it's time to buy meat.  The Fork is not prepared to offer an opinion as to whether Angus is better than Hereford or Limousin or Charolais breeds, but the Fork can tell you that, by and large, in order to qualify as CAB, there is more grading involved.  That puts CAB closer to USDA Prime than some of that Amana Beef you are buying at Hy Vee.  The pay-off is good flavor.

The customer service at Look's is also excellent.  Don't see what you want in the case?  Ask the fellas to go back there and cut it exactly the way you want it- like inch and a half thick bone-in ribeyes.  They are only too happy to oblige and they actually have meat back there.  

Besides, McNally's is right next door and a pint of Guinness sure goes well after meat shopping.

Sam's Club.  I know, I know.  It's Wal-Mart and the Fork HATES Wal-Mart, but Sam's Club does have a couple of unique advantages over every other place in town when it comes to meat.  Actually, it's two advantages: (1) they actually carry some stuff you cannot get elsewhere in town and (2) quantity.  And at least the meat at Sam's isn't coming from China.  Yet. 

So, what can you get at Sam's that no one else has?  How about a big ol' packer cut brisket?  Bone in pork shoulders, generally in 6-8 pound chunks.  These are real barbecue meats- full of fat and connective tissue, tough as hell if not cooked for hours and hours at low temperatures and dirt cheap.  Not the kind of thing you throw on that big stainless steel propane fired thing sitting on the deck.  Real BBQ- like smoke, a temperature of about 235 degrees and 12-20 hours worth of cook time.  Tastes like somebody "famous" made it BBQ.  Ask one of the 17 year old friendly smiles at Hy Vee for a packer cut brisket and see if he knows what the hell you're talking about.  One other interesting thing at Sam's that no one else seems to have and that is decent racks of lamb.  No kidding.  It's odd, but Sam's has them- only place in town I'll buy them.

Sam's is also a pretty good place to buy things like pork loins and racks of pork ribs.  These meats come straight from the processor to Sam's.  They are in cryovac packaging.  In other words, they are the same thing that someone at Hy Vee or Sunshine cut open, dried off and stuck in the meat case where you are gonna pay a lot more for it.  Buy some freezer paper, a roll of tape, a Sharpie marker and sharpen a knife and you can turn one of those whole loins into chops, chunks of pork for stew, a small loin roast or two- you get the idea.

There are some other places in town the Fork needs to check out.  The Franklin Market is reputed to have pretty good meat and a trip up to Renner might be in order one of these days.

So, what's the verdict?  If you want a decent deal on meat and aren't afraid of doing some of the work yourself, Sam's might be the ticket.  Sam's is definitely the ticket if you want authentic meats to use for a real deal low and slow BBQ experience.  Don't want to make a special trip to Sam's for a few pork chops?  Well, then it's Hy Vee or Sunshine, but don't fall for Hy Vee's little pricing games.  Want a special treat?  Look's.

Want veal? Skirt steak? Blood sausage? Really good handmade Italian sausage?  Duck breasts?  Too bad.  Everyone in town could do a better job with variety.  I know some of this stuff is out there, but it's probably at some of the very small ethnic groceries around town- more on those in another post.

Until next time, eat more beef.  The West wasn't won on salad.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Sioux Falls Grocery Scene: The Introduction

If you truly love to cook, you should probably also love to go to the grocery store and find good ingredients to cook with.  If the size of grocery stores these days and the variety available is any indication, then the whole country must be refining its tastes and demanding more and better ingredients.

Here in Sioux Falls, there are probably less grocery stores in town than there were 20 years ago.  Let's see around 1988, give or take a few years, there used to be Hy Vee, Albertson's (or maybe it was Randall's then), Sunshine, Prairie Market, some of the neighborhood grocers like Andy's and the Franklin Food Market, and probably a few other places I cannot remember. 

Back then, grocery stores were pretty ubiquitous.  They all carried the same things, more or less.  As far as ethnic foods, you might find a can of Chung King chop suey and some soy sauce in the "Chinese" aisle and maybe some Old El Paso refried beans or Pace salsa in the"Mexican" area.

Now, the Sioux Falls grocery scene is pretty much dominated by Hy Vee and Sunshine.  Oddly, there was a time when the Hy Vee store on 33rd and Minnesota was one of, if not the, largest grocery store in the state.  That has changed pretty fast in the last two or three years.

Twenty years ago, it was tough to swing a dead cat and miss one of those little Sunshine stores 8th and Spring, 10th and Cleveland, and my personal favorite 33rd and Minnesota where, circa 1988 icy cold six packs of Miller Genuine Draft in bottles always rang up at $1.89 regardless of what the price on the shelf said.

Now we have grocery palaces here in Sioux Falls- especially the new Hy Vee stores.  Sunshine has built a new store at 57th and Cliff that has to be as nice a venue as Sunshine has ever occupied.  With the new stores has come services and products unlike any we have seen in Sioux Falls.  We have full service meat counters, fresh seafood selections, bakeries, full selections or organic and natural foods, deli service, full wine, beer and liquor selections, and wide choices of all sorts of other products.  Oh yeah, even Wal-Mart sells groceries and has some nice selections.  (Note: The Fork hates Wal-Mart for a number of reasons.  So, rather than devote time to saying nasty things about Wal-Mart and how it has done more to ruin the U.S. than help it, we'll just ignore Wal-Mart.)

We also have new specialty markets in Sioux Falls like Look's and Cleaver's.  Even World Market offers interesting specialty foods.

Altogether, we have it pretty good, but we still have things to talk about, and will in the coming days and weeks.  For instance:
  • Is the one-stop-get-your-groceries-and-booze-here arrangements good?  Sure, it's handy to roll into a store where you can get a bottle of cheap Sauvignon Blanc to use in your shrimp scampi recipe, but will the inevitable loss of small, local liquor retailers a good thing?
  • Bread.  We have a lot to discuss here.  How can Hy Vee offer varieties of soy ice cream, but can't offer a decent loaf of made-in-the-store French bread?  For that matter, why can't Sunshine offer decent French Bread?
  • Meat.  Pricing, quality, service, and selection.  Lots to complain about here.
  • Produce.  Who's got the good stuff and who doesn't?
  • Deli.  We have nice delis in almost every store in Sioux Falls.  Can we increase the quality to match the quantity?
Gotta watch Top Chef now.  Have fun, eat well, live well, and stay tuned.

Wooo Hooo: New Top Chef Season Begins Tonight!

The new season of Top Chef begins tonight on Bravo.  The Fork loves Top Chef.  Granted, who gets kicked off when seems to be manipulated by the producers to make sure one long shot makes it entirely too far and whichever contestant plays worst with the others makes it too far and its a bit formulaic (just like all the other design shows on Bravo) but what a fun show to watch!

Its fun to watch the creativity of the talented contestants.  Top Chef confirms to me that there is a huge difference between people who can cook very, very well and people who have the artistic vision and talent to create interesting dishes.  The Fork can cook, but give the Fork a can of tuna, a bag of marshmallows and 15 minutes to create some haute cuisine, and don't expect much.

The other fun thing about the beginning of a new season of Top Chef is to watch the hapless schmucks who manage to screw up right out of the chute.

We'll be talking about this new season in the weeks to come.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Great Indoor Smoking Ban Debate

No sooner do we finish another contentious election season here in South Dakota and it's time to gear up for the legislative session.  It looks like the smoking ban is going to have a prominent place among the issues our legislators will wrestle with during the upcoming session.

The question of banning smoking in all indoor spaces is one of those issues where food and politics collide.  All across South Dakota there are towns where the only place to dine out also happens to pretty much be a bar.  And, as most of us know, anyplace that serves alcohol is exempt from the current South Dakota indoor smoking restrictions.  The same thing is true here in Sioux Falls, as there are plenty of places that serve alcohol and food that allow smoking somewhere inside their establishments.

Not to get too deep into the politics and away from the dining and drinking focus of this blog, but there are a whole lot of new faces that make up the 105 representatives and senators.  The anti-smoking lobbyists and associations, and those united in interest are well aware of that fact and are not going away.  They've been trying to pass much more stringent restrictions on smoking and have publicly announced that they are going to take a run at it again this coming session.

Is it time for the State of South Dakota to get tough on smoking?  The Fork thinks it is.

The Fork reads a few political blogs, watches the news, and is generally familiar with the arguments against a tough smoking ban.  Let's address a few.

"Government shouldn't stick its nose into how people run their own private businesses."  The Fork will be the first to admit that the Fork has held a less than consistent position on the issue of smoking.  In a state where the legislature has never adopted a helmet law and a police officer cannot make a traffic stop because the driver is not wearing a seat belt, it's easy to justify the lack of political will to get tough on smoking by resorting to the statement that it's just not right to have government dictate how private individuals have to run their businesses. After all, tobacco is a legal product.  We don't need any more nanny-state do-gooders cramming their ideas about private responsibility down our throats.

Yeah, well, the Fork ain't buying that anymore.  Government has no problem telling business what to do and how to do it.  We can argue all day about whether government has gone too far into certain areas.  (Partially nationalizing the banking industry comes to mind.)  Nevertheless, anyone who has been paying attention to anything in the last 25-40 years and has the capability of being honest with themselves ought to admit that government intervention is necessary, if not proper, when the free market is not going to take care of certain public health and safety issues.  The Fork understands that, in general, people have good intentions and want to do the right thing.  Nevertheless, the Fork also recognizes the reality that given the choice between doing the right thing, a lot of people will defer to doing what is easiest, cheapest, or best for them at the time.  That's just simple economics.  Face it, if government didn't intercede once in a while, there are certain companies that would be dumping toxic waste without a second thought, cars might be a lot less safer than they are today and segregation might still be the rule in certain places.  When it comes to certain issues, we, as a society, are not content to leave them to private choice especially when public health is concerned.  

"The dangers of smoking have been overstated by people who make their livings combatting tobacco use."  Anyone who thinks smoking is not dangerous to the smoker and anyone in the immediate area is on the same level as people who deny the Holocaust occurred.  Get a grip and watch out for the black helicopters. 

"People who don't want to be in smoky places can vote with their wallets and take their business elsewhere."  That's true, but as pointed out above, the free market isn't going to take care of this issue on its own, at least in anyone's lifetime.  There will always be owners of establishments who will never make the leap to smoke free out of fear that a smoking customer will just go elsewhere.  In addition, anyone who doesn't believe the Fork that there are LOTS of places in South Dakota where the only place for a family to get a bite to eat out is a place where smoking is allowed and present.  It's true.  If you don't believe it, get off the frigging interstate and go see what most of South Dakota looks like.

"If we ban smoking, especially in casinos, people will flock to the tribal casinos because they won't have to follow the law."  This is one the legislators are going to hear from the multiple lobbyists who represent gaming interests in Deadwood.  So, if this is true, the people who come to Deadwood to visit the variety of casinos located in historic buildings on the same streets in the Black Hills town where those characters in the popular HBO series once walked in favor of heading down the road to Oelrichs, Mobridge, Lower Brule or Ft. Thompson to be held captive in one building in the middle of the prairie so they can smoke, drink, and gamble at the same time.  Undoubtedly, this will also include the busloads of Canadians who flock to Deadwood to play slots and shop at Wal-Mart in Spearfish, even when the exchange rate is not in their favor.   All those people who sit and pump coins into a nickel slot machine chain smoking and drinking coffee are going to drive 1oo miles or more so they don't have to step outside for a smoke. Errrrr. Right.  Besides, if indoor smoking now constitutes economic development, that might be the one form of economic development we can do without.

"The Nazi's tried to enact a smoking ban."  No kidding the Fork read this today on South Dakota War College (  So what?  It was 1938.  Here's some other things that were true in that era:  cars didn't have seat belts, a small pox vaccine hadn't been developed, lead paint was used in the rooms of children, and the only people who didn't smoke were anti-social freaks.  Stopping certain practices in light of increased knowledge is kind of smart.  Treating the mentally ill by using lobotomies and blood letting come to mind.

There is probably no greater proof that the world will not come to an immediate and violent end if meaningful comprehensive restrictions on smoking are implemented than to consider what has happened in other locales where smoking bans extend to bars and restaurants.  Been to Minneapolis lately?  Chicago?  Denver?  How about Anchorage?  No kidding, you can't smoke in bars in Anchorage.  You can risk your life fishing for king crab or get chased by a bear or moose on the bike path, but you can't light up in Humpy's.  Visit Wriggleyville before or after a Cubs game, or even in the dead of winter.  No lack of activity in that bar scene because people have to step outside to smoke.  Same in Minneapolis.  Omaha and Des Moines aren't far behind.

One last point.  Smokers lack political clout with the people who elect legislators.  The liquor lobby might be able to scare the crap out of some legislators, but the Fork thinks they'll have a hard time convincing the electorate to reject a ban.   (Insider tip- the tobacco lobby is pretty much dead, but the liquor retailers, video lottery folks, and other gaming interests will carry this torch for them.)  The voters didn't flinch to impose a higher tax on tobacco when the legislature couldn't get the job done.  The Fork would bet the pepper mill and the napkin rings that, if given the choice, the voters would enact the ban.