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Our blogger kvetches away

RED (VELVET) ALERT

I've had it with red velvet cake. That means you, too, red velvet cupcakes. Every bakery I've been to lately - Jacqueline's Patisserie in Babylon, Reinwald's in Huntington, Taste in Syosset, Main Street in Port Washington, Malverne Pastry Shop - it's always the same story: If this isn't the top-selling cake, it's in the top three.

I just can't figure out why.

You want a cake that has a faint chocolate taste and a ton of red food coloring in it? Red velvet is for you. Most recipes for red velvet cake call for no more than 2 tablespoons of cocoa and up to 4 tablespoons of red food coloring. McCormick's red food coloring contains water, propylene glycol, FD&C reds 40 and 3 and 1 percent propylparaben. Yummy!

I can't imagine it's the taste of red velvet cake that makes it popular, so it must be the color - a garish, artificial color that exists nowhere in nature.

Can anyone out there make a case for red velvet cake?


WHERE IS THE LOVE?

Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone, let's talk about love. A talented photographer I was working with earlier this week lamented a recent restaurant meal he had, observing that "the food wasn't cooked with love." This sentiment has become commonplace; Carla Hall, one of my favorite contestants on "Top Chef All Stars," is always going on about it.

Call me a cynic, but when it comes to cooking, I'll choose skill over love every time.

First of all, I don't know which love, exactly, food should be cooked with. Surely not love of whoever's going to be eating the food. In my own kitchen I have been unable to discern a difference in the results whether I am cooking for someone I love or for someone to whom I owe dinner.

I suppose it helps, when cooking, to love one's ingredients as well as the recipe they are being used in. But loving a standing rib roast is much less crucial than having an instant-read thermometer with which to assess its internal temperature.

The idea that all a cook needs is love is appealing because it implies that she doesn't need practice, commitment or the proper training. Would you patronize a mechanic who fixed cars with love?


PRIZE-WINNING CHICKEN?

KFC is running TV ads informing viewers that, according to the Zagat Survey, it serves the No. 1 fried chicken in the country, a claim that puzzled me since KFC isn't listed in any Zagat city survey that I have ever seen.

It turns out that KFC won "best fried chicken" in a special fast-food survey published online back in August 2010.

Long Island isn't a hotbed of great fried chicken, but we have a few contenders. Salamander's (414 First St., Greenport, 631-477-3711) is my top pick. Also recommended, LL Dent (221 Old Country Rd., Carle Place, 516-742-0940) and Zorn's three locations (4321 Hempstead Tpke., Bethpage, 516-731-5500; 1939 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow, 516-357-7300; 2495 Merrick Rd., Bellmore, 516-826-8000).

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