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Are you being spammed by “spon con”? Is food-and-drink cobranding idiotic or innovative? And why is American brewpub food so universally terrible? To find out, tune in to Episode 15 of “The Four Top.” Listen from Mar. 27, 2017.

Savor the conversation. Every other Monday, a roundtable of culinary media insiders discuss today’s hot-button topics in food and beverage culture. Hosted by Katherine Cole.

Subscribe to “The Four Top” on NPR One, iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts. Join us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheFourTop and tweet at us at @The4Top.

Episodes


In this Aug. 20, 2012, file photo a brewer pours a sample of beer. America loves its beer and its fine dining, so why is it so hard to find the perfect pairing of the two?

In this Aug. 20, 2012, file photo a brewer pours a sample of beer. America loves its beer and its fine dining, so why is it so hard to find the perfect pairing of the two?

Steve Helber/AP

Ep. 15: Spammed By ‘Spon Con’ | Convoluted Cobranding | Why Is Brewpub Food So Bad?
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So-called “Spon Con” is influencing our food-purchasing decisions. But can we identify it when we see it? Next, cobranding has crossed over from fashion to food, with some bizarre consequences. We’ll debate the merits of Carhartt-brand beer and Tabasco-sauce-flavored Jelly Bellies. And finally, why is it so hard to get a decent meal at a brewpub? Join us as we unravel one of life’s great mysteries on Episode 15.


 

Is the formal dinner party a thing of the past?

Is the formal dinner party a thing of the past?

adrigu / Flickr

Ep. 14: Checkout Talk | Death Of The Dinner Party | ‘Average’ Home Cook
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Do you feel like a deer in the headlights when a grocery-store cashier asks you how your day is going? Do you mourn the loss of proper old-fashioned dinner parties? If you’re nodding yes, you’ll love Episode 14. Our panelists tackle these two questions, then consider who, exactly, the “average” home cook is. Does contemporary culinary media serve this demographic?


 

Kyra Bussanich is a four-time winner of "Cupcake Wars."

Kyra Bussanich is a four-time winner of "Cupcake Wars."

Courtesy of Food Network

Ep. 13: Food Network Champion Tells All  |  Laptop Squatters Killing Cafés?  |  Surprising Reasons Why Kids Should Cook
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If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to appear on a culinary reality show, tune into Episode 13 to hear Kyra Bussanich, four-time champion of “Cupcake Wars,” tell all. Next, we debate the impact of freelance workers who camp out at coffee shops for free wi-fi: Are they bringing down the bottom lines of small businesses? Finally, our conversation turns to some of the surprising reasons children should learn how to cook.


 

A person holds freshly gathered truffles at the Oregon Truffle Festival in this undated photo.

A person holds freshly gathered truffles at the Oregon Truffle Festival in this undated photo.

Oregon Truffle Festival

Ep. 12: Why Truffles Are Like Drugs | Restaurant Playlists | Rethinking The Microwave
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Are four-star restaurants serving narcotics? Truffles are sold on the black market for thousands of dollars per kilo; and according to Italian researchers, these homely little tubers can get you high. We discuss, then turn our attention to the role of music in enhancing the dining experience. Do you prefer to eat to the sound of silence, soothing violins, or something more sonically dynamic? Finally, microwaves: We think outside the box.


 

Find Snoop and Martha on a television screen near you.

Find Snoop and Martha on a television screen near you.

VH1 / Brandon Williams

Ep. 11: ‘Martha And Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party’ | Dictatorial Dining | Single-Subject Cookbooks
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Meet the only cooking show that brings high society together with “high” society: “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.” Next, get to know the hardline rules restaurants are increasingly laying down for customers to follow. Finally, what’s the appeal of the single-subject cookbook? Savor the conversation as our team of panelists debate these issues, and more.


 

Fresh fruit is on display at a market in Havana, Cuba, in this Jan. 21, 2013, file photo.

Fresh fruit is on display at a market in Havana, Cuba, in this Jan. 21, 2013, file photo.

Guillaume Baviere/Flickr

Ep. 10: Competitive Culinary Tourism | Eating Under Embargo | Rum, From Cuba With Love
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As American tourists stream into the newly opened nation of Cuba, they’re driven by a desire to capture this magical moment. But how “authentic” is a Cuban dining experience when full-time residents don’t have access to many foods? After a heavy conversation about privation, we lighten the mood with a brief history—and taste—of Cuban rum.


 

During World War I, the homefront fought with Victory Gardens and Meatless Mondays.

During World War I, the homefront fought with Victory Gardens and Meatless Mondays.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WWI Posters, 4-P-59

Ep. 9: The Juice Cleanse | Digital Foraging | Food On The WWI Homefront
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Our roundtable of culinary experts pulverize those popular cold-pressed juice cleanses, scan the digital realm for the newest ways to forage for wild edibles, and commemorate the century anniversary of the United States’ involvement the First World War, when the home front fought with Victory Gardens and Meatless Mondays.


National Candy Cane Day is Dec. 26. Who knew?

National Candy Cane Day is Dec. 26. Who knew?

Penn Waggener / Flickr

Ep. 8: The Tyrannical Traditional Table | Fake Food Holidays | Culinary Class Divide
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With the help of Megan Scott, the fresh new face of “The Joy of Cooking,” our panelists question holiday food traditions and decry the scourge of fake food holidays (although National Eggnog Day might get a pass). Finally, they tackle the troubling class divide between foodies and those less fortunate.


 

Poke means "to slice" or "cut crosswise" in Hawaiian.

Poke means "to slice" or "cut crosswise" in Hawaiian.

Kanaka Rastamon / Flickr

Ep. 7: Have You Eaten Your Sea Vegetables? | New in Food for 2017 | Doing the Hoke-ay Poke
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Wild, nutritious, delicious and planet-friendly, sea vegetables are the next big thing. So is poke, the Hawaiian cured-fish dish. But at what cost? We consider both, and weigh in on which culinary trends will take fire in 2017.


Soylent: Is the future of eating really here?

Soylent: Is the future of eating really here?

Aaron Muszalski / Flickr


Ep. 6: So What About Soylent? | Craft Beer’s Dirty Little Secret | Fear the Great White Yeti
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We uncover craft beer’s dirty little secret and examine the cult phenom that is the Yeti cooler company — but not before sipping Soylent, the embattled Silicon Valley food replacement.


 

Taking a picture won't necessarily make it last longer.

Taking a picture won't necessarily make it last longer.

olegkruglyak3/Fotolia

Ep. 5: Dining In The Instagram Era | Shedding Light On Secret Menu Items | Martha Stewart’s Meal-Prep Kits And
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In our fifth episode, our panelists investigate the “secret menu” trend that’s happening in national chain restaurants and discuss the significant impact Instagram has had on restaurant menus. In addition, our two professional recipe testers try out Martha Stewart’s new meal-kit delivery service, “Martha & Marley Spoon,” and compare it with the competition.


 

Ep. 4: Session Beers Back | Fast Casual Dining | The War On Minimum Wage
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In our fourth episode, we embrace the return of the simple session beer and explore the new millennial-friendly restaurant category called “fast casual.”

We also discuss the connection between restaurant workers and changing minimum wage laws.


 

Alexey Rotanov/AP





Ep. 3: Recipe Theft | Born-Again Chefs | Tipping … Over?
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In our third episode, we explore the nefarious realm of recipe theft, discuss the recent trend of born-again chefs ditching bacon and embracing health food, and debate the end of tipping as we know it.



 

What exactly is "bycatch"?

What exactly is "bycatch"?

Chris Ford / Flickr

Ep. 2: BS Food Terms | Flavor Bombs | Bycatch Curious
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In our second episode, we kvetch about B.S. food terminology, learn why inherent flavor will save our lives and cast our net around bycatch, the best new thing in seafood.


Breakfast ... it's what's for dinner.

Breakfast ... it's what's for dinner.

Internet Archive Book Projects / Flickr

Ep. 1: Breakfast Insanity | Dining Out On Apps | Talking Trash About Food Waste
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Welcome to “The Four Top.” In our debut episode, we talk trash about food waste, unpack the baffling breakfast-ization of dinner and test-drive the hottest dining apps for your phone.


Trailer: ‘The Four Top’
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Check out the trailer for “The Four Top,” a roundtable of culinary media insiders dishing about today’s food and beverage culture. Hosted by Katherine Cole.

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