Chef Wolfgang Puck readies caviar, gold dust for Oscars feast

Master Chef Wolfgang Puck is pictured during a media preview of this year's Academy's Governors Ball in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 1, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 03 March 2018
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Chef Wolfgang Puck readies caviar, gold dust for Oscars feast

LOS ANGELES: Three-hundred pounds of Miyazaki Wagyu beef will be sliced, 1,500 quail eggs cracked and some 1,400 corks popped as Hollywood’s stars dine on chef Wolfgang Puck’s recipes after the Oscars are handed out on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Puck, the celebrity chef in his 24th year preparing the post-Academy Awards feast, on Thursday unveiled his menu for the annual Governor’s Ball that will serve up 30 pounds (13.6 kg) of edible gold dust to 1,500 guests of A-listers and Oscar winners.
“We are really all of us excited, and I really think for us it’s always very special,” the 68-year-old Austrian-born Puck said.
Diners will be treated to more than 50 dishes, including small-plate entrees such as mini pea and carrot ravioli with black truffle, a raw bar featuring caviar parfait with 24-karat gold, and cocktail-inspired macarons like negroni and mojito.
The event will require a staff of more than 1,000 to prepare food, serve 800 stone crab claws and pour more than 10,900 glasses of various beverages.
Puck, who also included vegan and gluten-free fare such as spinach campanelle and tiny taro tacos, approached the event with his trademark enthusiasm, cracking a raspberry dessert with a spoon while declaring sweets his “most important thing“
“As long as the Oscars is not tired of me, I’m not tired of Oscar,” Puck said with a grin.


Worth the sting: Cuba’s scorpion pain remedy

Farmer Pepe Casanas poses with a scorpion in Los Palacios, Cuba, December 5, 2018. Picture taken December 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Worth the sting: Cuba’s scorpion pain remedy

  • In Cuba, where tens of thousands of patients have been treated with Vidatox, each vial costs under a dollar
  • The scorpions are caught in the wild as Labiofam workers believe their venom — which is not dangerous — is not as potent when raised in captivity

HAVANA: Once a month for the last decade, Pepe Casanas, a 78-year-old Cuban farmer, has hunted down a scorpion to sting himself with, vowing that the venom wards off his rheumatism pains.
His natural remedy is no longer seen as very unusual here.
Researchers in Cuba have found that the venom of the blue scorpion, whose scientific name is Rhopalurus junceus, endemic to the Caribbean island, appears to have anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, and may be able to delay tumor growth in some cancer patients.
While some oncologists abroad say more research is needed to be able to properly back up such a claim, Cuban pharmaceutical firm Labiofam has been using scorpion venom since 2011 to manufacture the homeopathic medicine Vidatox.
The remedy has proven popular.
Labiofam Business Director Carlos Alberto Delgado told Reuters sales were climbing 10 percent annually. Vidatox already sells in around 15 countries worldwide and is currently in talks with China to sell the remedy there.
In Cuba, where tens of thousands of patients have been treated with Vidatox, each vial costs under a dollar. On the black market abroad it can cost hundred times that — retailers on Amazon.com are seen selling them for up to $140.
“I put the scorpion where I feel pain,” Casanas said while demonstrating his homemade pain relief with a scorpion that he found under a pile of debris on the patch of land he cultivates in Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Rio.
After squeezing it long enough, it stung him and he winced.
“It hurts for a while, but then it calms and goes and I don’t have any more pain,” he said.
Casanas, a leathery-skinned former tobacco farmer who now primarily grows beans for his own consumption, said he sometimes keeps a scorpion under his straw hat like a lucky charm.
It likes the shade and humidity, he says, so just curls up and sleeps.

FROM FARM TO LAB
In a Labiofam laboratory in the southern Cuban city of Cienfuegos, workers dressed in scrubs and hairnets tend to nearly 6,000 scorpions housed in plastic containers lined up on rows of metal racks.
Every few days they feed and water the arachnids that sit on a bed of small stones. Once a month, they apply an 18V electrical jolt to their tails using a handcrafted machine in order to trigger the release of a few drops of venom.
The venom is then diluted with distilled water and shaken vigorously, which homeopathic practitioners believe activates its “vital energy.”
The scorpions are caught in the wild as Labiofam workers believe their venom — which is not dangerous — is not as potent when raised in captivity.
After two years of exploitation in the “escorpionario,” they are released back into the wild.
Dr. Fabio Linares, the head of Labiofam’s homeopathic medicine laboratory who developed the medicine, said Vidatox stimulates the body’s natural defense mechanisms.
“After four to five years (of taking it), the doctor whose care I was in told me that my cancer hadn’t advanced,” said Cuban patient Jose Manuel Alvarez Acosta, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008.
Still, Labiofam recommends Vidatox as a supplemental treatment and says it should not replace conventional ones.