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Too much fast food may cause infertility, study says

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People often warn of excess fast food consumption, citing diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity among health risks.

"Traditional fast food was never meant to be daily fare, and it shouldn’t be," said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. "It’s too high in calories and salt, and as we now know, the chemicals that get into our food supply through industrial food production."

But Big Macs and Whoppers might also cause infertility, according to a study conducted by researchers at George Washington University.

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"We're not trying to create paranoia or anxiety, but I do think our findings are alarming," one of the study's authors, Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, told The Washington Post. "It's not every day that you conduct a study where the results are this strong."

Zota later said it would be more appropriate to refer to the findings as "striking" instead of "alarming."

The study found that increased consumption of fast food results in higher amounts of potentially harmful chemicals, including phthalates -- an acid found in many products, including soaps, makeups, luggage and automobile interiors.

Phthalates, which make items softer and more flexible, are used in hundreds of consumer and industrial products that demand high performance, long-lasting wear and durability. They're also used in the process in which fast food is prepared. The more machinery, plastic, conveyor belts and various forms of processing equipment that food touches, the more likely the food is to contain higher levels of phthalates.

"There's a vast amount of scientific evidence suggesting certain phthalates can contribute to several adverse health effects," Zota said. "I really hope this study helps raise public awareness about the exposure problems associated with our industrialized food system."

But anything that's gone through some form of processing or industrial packaging is vulnerable, The Washington Post reported.

"It’s not fair to say, 'Oh, these exposures only happen if you eat unhealthy foods,'" Leo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at New York University, told Bloomberg.

Read more here and read the study here.

Dunkin’ Donuts challenges Starbucks' new rewards program

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Dunkin’ Donuts is challenging its competition, rival coffee shop Starbucks.

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This week, the two corporate coffee-shop giants exchanged a few figurative punches in their nationwide loyalty programs.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News’, Dunkin’ Donuts waited until Monday night -- the eve of Starbucks’ rollout of its new loyalty program -- to unveil its new mobile app and a “DD Perks Rewards” promotion to help customers get a free drink faster.

The latest version of the Dunkin’ Donuts app allows users to pay with a virtual DD Card using Apple Pay at participating locations, as well as to earn loyalty offers and rewards and give gift cards, according to

New DD Perks members receive a free beverage and 125 points if they enroll in the program by April 21 plus 125 points on their second and third store visits when they pay with their enrolled DD cards.

Dunkin' explained the new rewards in a news release

"With the DD Perks Rewards program, guests earn five points for every dollar they spend on qualifying purchases at Dunkin’ Donuts when they pay using an enrolled Dunkin’ Donuts Card, either plastic or via the Dunkin’ mobile app. Once a member accrues 200 points, he or she receives a coupon for a free any-size beverage of their choice, redeemable at participating Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants. DD Perks members also receive a coupon for a free, any-size beverage upon enrollment and on their birthday. Additionally, throughout the year DD Perks members receive exclusive, personalized, special offers to earn bonus points for specific food and beverage purchases." 

"Our guests are the cornerstone of our brand, and we are committed to continuing to exceed their expectations," said Sherrill Kaplan, vice president of digital marketing and innovation at Dunkin’ Donuts. "Our DD Perks Rewards program, recognized as one of the most robust and fastest-growing programs of its kind in our industry, honors our extremely loyal fan base by making it seamless and affordable to earn free beverages quickly. With 4.3 million DD Perks members, we look forward to welcoming new guests and rewarding them with even more points to keep them running on Dunkin’.”

Starbucks launched a new loyalty program on Tuesday in which loyalty members will earn two stars for every dollar they spend, rather than earning one star per visit, as they did under the previous rewards program.

>> Starbucks customers are not happy about the company's new rewards program

The new program allows members to redeem a free item after accumulating 125 stars, which can be earned after spending more than $60.

Starbucks also upgraded its mobile app to include more personalized features.

Popular Atlanta restaurant is serving 'edible pollen'

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Much of the South is blanketed in pollen right now. Cars are coated in a lime-green color. The streets are lined with it. The latest counts are in the thousands. Look out of a window, if you still can, and you’ll see pollen everywhere. Step outside and you’ll probably get a dusting yourself.

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That pollen count has not escaped Joey Ward, executive chef at Gunshow, who has been dusting a vegetable plate at the restaurant with a thick layer of Georgia olive oil-infused fennel pollen on recent nights. 

Ward starts with a bed of what he calls buttermilk "rampch," a creamy dressing that is less Hidden Valley and more defined by the pungent, herbaceous flavor of the foraged ramps cut into it. From there, he arranges a miniature cornucopia of vegetables in various forms: blanched fiddleheads, roasted and pickled beets, baby carrots, English peas, Easter egg radishes, artichoke hearts, fermented turnips, asparagus, sorrel, tiny crispy potato chips and little edible flowers.

It is a light dish that cuts through the sometimes meat-heavy barrage of dishes that can arrive at Gunshow. But it is also a reminder: Underneath all of that pollen, the bounty of spring is on the way. Just don’t forget to take your allergy pill.

We're all sick of pollen by now, but the pollen on this dish isn't quite the same. We've paired edible GA pollen with...Posted by Gunshow on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chick-fil-A grows NYC presence, opens 2nd store in Manhattan

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Chick-fil-A’s second store in Manhattan is now open for business, with the Atlanta-based company giving away some of its famous poultry as samples across Gotham.

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Eater said Chick-fil-A opened the store at 46th Street and Sixth Avenue on Saturday and decided to go with random pop ups giving away the chicken instead of the usual camp out.

The store opens just months after the chain opened its first New York store late last year to lines that went for blocks as many New Yorkers’ got their first taste of some Atlanta know-how.

The company’s entry into Manhattan comes as it seeks to broaden its footprint into urban areas like Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Boston.

It’s introduction in the Big Apple has had its rocky moments. The 6th Avenue store was closed Dec. 30 after health officials cited it for several code violations, including the presence of fruit flies. The store reopened Jan. 5.

Where is America's No. 1 ramen restaurant?

In Time Out’s list of best ramen restaurants, only two states get multiple shout-outs (New York has two restaurants on the list, and California has four). But it's Texas’ lone star ramen place right here in the 512 - Ramen Tatsu-ya - that has been named America's No. 1 ramen restaurant.

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Two ex-DJs opened Ramen Tatsu-ya in September 2012, and the restaurant immediately began drawing long lines. Its local fan base pushed the restaurant to extend its hours and add veggie options all day in February. Since the restaurant started serving food in 2012, the founders opened another location

Time Out cites Ramen Tatsu-ya’s thick, creamy broth as its main ticket to success:

"Former DJs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto craft a tonkotsu that requires three days’ worth of cook time, resulting in a luscious pork bone elixir that clings to each angel-hair-thin noodle (like many of the nation’s top ramen joints, the custom strands come from revered producer Sun Noodle). Meltingly tender chashu (thin-sliced pork), snappy woodear mushrooms and a marinated egg finish each carefully composed bowl."

When Ramen Tatsu-Ya first opened, Austin food and restaurant critic Matthew Odam gave it a glowing review. The specialty thick tonkotsu automatically comes paired with thinner noodles, balancing the bowl’s ingredients.

The restaurant’s menu lists some rules, including “Chopsticks only,” “Slurp loudly and shamelessly,” and most importantly, “Never share your ramen.”

Rita's Italian Ice celebrates first day of spring with freebies

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In celebration of the first day of spring, Rita's Italian Ice is offering free frozen bliss Sunday.

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The Pennsylvania-based frozen treat shop will give away free Italian Ice drinks to customers between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. during its First Day of Spring celebration.

The franchise has locations in Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and the Carolinas. 

For the last 24 years, Rita's Italian Ice has offered the giveaway to mark the beginning of spring.

Those that visit Rita's on the first day of spring are encouraged to share their experiences on their social media pages with photos and the hashtag #ritasfirstdayofspring. 

For more on Rita's First Day of Spring celebration, visit their website.

These cups are waiting to be filled... #RitasFirstDayofSpring FREE Italian Ice Giveaway is TODAY from 12pm-9pm! Find your nearest Rita's on from Rita's of Bryn MawrPosted by Rita's Italian Ice on Sunday, March 20, 2016

The First Day of Spring is coming! Stop by on March 20 for FREE Italian Ice! And don't forget to tag your photos on Instagram and Twitter with #RitasFirstDayofSpring for a chance to win free Ice for a year!Posted by Rita's Italian Ice on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#TBT The First Day of Spring in 2015 was a snowy one for much of the east coast. What surprises are in store for 2016?! See you on March 20! #RitasFirstDayofSpringPosted by Rita's Italian Ice on Thursday, March 3, 2016

Starbucks celebrates spring with limited-time cherry blossom frappuccino

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To celebrate spring, Starbucks is offering a new blended beverage Wednesday through Sunday. 

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Starbucks describes the Cherry Blossom frappuccino as "a blend of sweet strawberries and cream with white chocolate sauce and matcha drizzle, topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of matcha." Matcha is a powdered form of green tea. 

The drink, inspired by the Japanese sakura tradition, has been offered in Japan since 2010. It will be available in the U.S. until Sunday, the official first day of spring. 

Starbucks' press release explains the drink's connection to Japanese culture:

"In Japan, cherry blossoms are the national flower and a symbol of renewal and simplicity. Families, friends and colleagues gather under sakura trees and enjoy picnics and parties under the delicate pink blooms, a tradition that dates back at least a thousand years. It is also time for new beginnings, marking both the coming of spring and the start of a new school year. Sakura festivals around the world honor the return of the cherry blossoms and celebrate Japanese culture."

Themed frappuccinos have become more common at Starbucks within the last year. The company offered a vampire-inspired frappuccino for Halloweeen last October and a birthday cake-themed frappuccino to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the popular drink. 

Chick-fil-A introduces new coffee and ice cream drink

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A new treat by fast food chain Chick-fil-A combines the company's soft-serve vanilla Icedream with its Thrive Farmers iced coffee.

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The Frosted Coffee will be available starting March 14.

"We're excited to offer customers a new, great-tasting frosted beverage just in time for spring," Amanda Norris, senior director of menu development for Chick-fil-A, said in a media release. "Our guests let us know how much they've enjoyed Frosted Lemonade, and we think they'll love Frosted Coffee just as much when they're seeking  a delicious, light treat."

The 240-calorie drink is similar to Chick-fil-A's Frosted Lemonade, which debuted in 2015.

It will be available in a small (14-ounce) and large (20-ounce) servings, starting at at $2.69.

The Frosted Coffee will be available through May 31, 2016.

Read more here. 

Wahlburgers to open 30 locations nationwide

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Massachusetts-based restaurant chain Wahlburgers announced deals Thursday with five new franchise groups to open at least 30 stores nationwide.

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The restaurant chain, owned by the family of actor Mark Wahlberg and New Kids on the Block's Donnie Wahlberg, currently has seven locations open and many more will open in the next few months. New locations include cities in Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. 

According to, five to 10 of the new stores will open in Massachusetts, including in Dorchester, where the Wahlberg brothers grew up. 

“We are on the road to bringing Wahlburgers to a city near you,” said Mark Wahlberg in a release. “We’ve created this family business with a mission to welcome families and friends from around the world to a place where they can break bread, enjoy some great food and lots of laughs.”

Wahlburgers chief executive Rick Vanzura said the restaurant chain, founded in 2011, hopes to grow to more than 110 locations in seven years, the Boston Globe reported.

“There’s no question it’s an aggressive growth rate,” Vanzura said. “Having said that, we spent a lot of time to get ourselves in the position where we can handle this growth.”

Parts of  "Wahlburgers," the family's reality show on A&E, chronicles the goings-ons of the business. The fifth season starts March 9.

"As we pick up the pace of our national expansion, we are pleased to be working with a group of experienced franchisees who have histories of running multiple units successfully," Vanzura said. "We're glad that they are embracing the brand and thank them and the millions of Wahlburgers fans who are contributing to our early success."  

New app splits dinner bills based on wage inequality

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There's an app on the way that helps you split up the dinner bill with some adjustments for race and gender income inequalities. 

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The app, called Equipay, is essentially a satirical statement about income gaps in the U.S. For instance, when using the app, women would only pay 78 cents for every $1 men pay of the bill.

If a person disagrees with their share of the bill, they can click "protest" on the app, at which point it will provide the user with statistics about the wage gap. 

The app started as a joke for Cultivated Wit's Comedy Hack Day, but now the comedians behind it say they do plan to release an app along with a commercial.

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