People Spending Less on Food; Fat Tax Likely Doomed

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• Consumer spending on food dropped 3.7 percent in the last quarter of 2008, forcing grocery stores to cut prices and putting restaurants in peril. [WSJ]

• Governor David Patterson has little hope that his "fat tax" on sugary drinks will pass. [NYP]
Related: Chefs on the Obesity Tax [NYM]

• Steve Scher, the recently deceased restaurateur behind BLT Prime and Calle Ocho (among others), will be honored at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. [Feedbag]

• Starbucks will begin testing selling "soluble" (a.k.a. instant) coffee in stores next month. [Crain's]

• Cocoa prices are soaring and, although most confectioners are keeping chocolate prices down for Valentine's Day, you might pay more for your chocolate next week. [WSJ]

• This year's candy-conversation-heart theme is "Menu of Love," with messages like "Table 4 Two" and, oddly, "Top Chef." [Eat Me Daily]