This Week in Ed's Head: Anthony Bourdain, GMO Papayas, The Best Hot and Sour Soup, and More!

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[Photograph: Chichi Wang]

Welcome to our new column, in which SE founder and overlord Ed Levine stops by to share the bits and bites he's digesting this week.

Food & Wine is having guest celebrity chefs guest edit certain issues. Anthony Bourdain is going to be the illustrator in residence. The guest chef editor gambit has been tried before, with middling results, so I'm wondering how this incarnation will be different. I do look forward to Bourdain's illustrations—I have a feeling they're going to resemble Ralph Steadman's work with the late Hunter S. Thompson.

Cheerios going non-GMO is obviously a good thing. But a story in the New York Times about papaya farmers in Hawaii overcoming a diseased crop with a new genetically modified papaya introduces a welcome layer of complexity and nuance to the debate.

After forty years of eating hot and sour soup, I finally came across one that made me realize how complex and flavorful it can be. Red Farm's hot and sour soup with shrimp (which may make it as much Thai as Chinese-inspired) will change the way you think about hot and sour soup. Trust me.

If you haven't read Kenji's 8000-word opus on his quest to make the paradigmatic chocolate chip cookie, you're missing out on something quite special.

Alan Richman, a Philly native, embarked on a tour of 23 cheesesteak joints to find the ten best cheesesteaks in his hometown. He obviously didn't find ten he liked, because by the time he got to number 7, Pat's, he wrote the following: "The meat on the grill looked rosy and appealing but came out overcooked and tough. The onions were artfully done, but the roll was chewy and elastic. The provolone never melted, probably due to the speed of preparation, and the Cheez Whiz was slopped on, ending up everywhere but on the meat." If Pat's was the seventh best, I'd like to know what he thought of the other 13 he tasted that didn't make his top ten list.

Adam Platt's decision to out himself on the cover of New York Magazine was an interesting take on the the role of the anonymous restaurant critic in today's food culture. I'll have lots more to say about this in a future column.

The Democrats and Republicans in Congress arguing about how much to cut out of the food stamp budget in a time of great food insecurity in this country is a sickening display of insensitivity and ignorance in a country as rich as ours. Neither party looks good here.

Our guide to Cold Weather eating in Chicago was pretty well-timed, don't you think?

Paulie Gee's expansion plans based on finding someone as passionate about making great pizza as he is in each city he goes into is a fascinating and original path to go down. Stay tuned for more on this subject.

Congrats to my friend and former tv co-host Nilou Motamed on her new gig as editor of Epicurious. Curious to see what changes she will bring to the true granddaddy of food sites.

Big hugs and kisses to Gail Simmons and her husband on the birth of their daughter. Gail is one of the truly mensch-y people in the food world.

About the author: Ed Levine is the founder of Serious Eats.

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