"" What's She Eating Now?: 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lost in Translation, Menu Edition

Among the many things my sister and I share is an obsession with taking pictures of funny english translations when we travel. One of our favorites, which we took together in Japan, was of a sign pointing to the "bus porking."

Back from her trip to the Middle East, sis has added to the collection and made me proud. Please see below the dessert choices one may have in Syria after downing a delicious Crap Salad. Hot love ice cream anyone?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Alabama Treat

When I was in high school I took the bus to school with a group of rowdy guys from my grade until we were old enough to have cars and then we drove together. These guys would tell dirty jokes, listen to hard core rap and often invite themselves over to my house after school to hang out, whether I wanted them there or not. The particularly frustrating part was that sometimes my mom would feed them, insuring they had no need to leave and more reason to come back. It sounds bad but these guys were also hilarious and fun and good guys at heart and I am happy to still call them my friends all these years later.

In particular, I am happy to have remained friends with Ken Hess (pictured above, perhaps you have seen him on Pitmasters or the Food Network's Unwrapped). Ken is a barbecue chef at Big Bob Gibson in Decatur, Alabama, an award-winning fourth-generation barbecue mecca known for their chicken and pork and the secret sauces they make to dress them. Unfortunately I do not find myself in Decatur, well ever, but I get a chance to sample their food at the annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party where this year they had a line that stretched for nearly two city blocks. Dan and I walked along side the queue in disbelief until we reached the Big Bob Gibson tent where we spied Ken up in the rig cutting up pork shoulders with a giant knife, pork flying up in the air and for the most part landing back down on the cutting board.

"Schupak!" Ken exclaimed as he saw me and Dan wiggle through the crowd, "Come on up here." Slipping through the barricade and joining Ken up in the rig was a super thrill for this not easily impressed food enthusiast. Just like on Pitmasters, the rig had a huge rotisserie cooker which Ken and the team used to turn out more than 200 pork shoulders for each day of the event (see Ken's 5am photo above, these babies were going low and slow for the entire night). When he took one off to serve, it practically melted off the bone. He felt his way through the meat to remove large pieces of fat and gristle then using a large knife chopped at it like crazy. Once chopped, he mixed in a little vinegar based finishing sauce, then on it went to its potato roll to be topped with barbecue sauce and nestle next to a small compartment full of cole slaw.

I have heard Ken say he has converted vegetarians with his barbecue and after that sandwich I believe it. The pork was tender and flavorful and chopped to perfection with an out-of-this-world sauce, which you can buy online here. As the famous critic Goldilocks might say, it was juuust right. Indeed the sandwich ignited a uniform reaction: big smiles all around. And the cole slaw was no after thought. The cabbage was crisp and fresh and the dressing made it match well as a side to or a topping on the sandwich.

It is such a great feeling to see a friend doing what he loves, and even better to also be a beneficiary! Thank you, Ken, for a delicious meal and a great experience. Who knows, maybe next time in Decatur.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Super Delicious Ingredient Force

It is not often I get excited when something new comes from the folks at Taco Bell, but their new Super Delicious Ingredient Force campaign earns my applause. Featuring 10 taste superheroes, Taco Bell's marketing mavens have created Marvel-esque shorts where this flavor force saves people from eating really un-delicious fast food (this is where you use your imagination that the Taco Bell items it brings to the rescue are indeed the antidote). Here is the first in what their site indicates will be a series of episodes. My favorite characters are Fantastic Rice and the protector of value who wears a helmet while riding his Segway. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Label Me Jaded

Should you judge a book by its cover? Usually, if not often. Particularly when it comes to wine. A wine bottle with a an exceedingly silly label probably indicates something about the juice contained therein. After all, if the marketers are doing their job, a goofy wine label is appealing to a customer who is in search of a goofy wine. I don't know about you, but when selecting bottles I rarely include "goofy" among the characteristics I am looking for. In fact, I tend to like wines whose character and structure are anything but.

The LA Weekly blog recently posted a list of the top ten worst wine labels they have come across of late. Though they only judged the labels, not the corresponding wines, what do you think Plungerhead may taste like? What aromatic notes and flavor profiles does this label evoke? I feel the need to test some of these to see if my theory really holds (stay tuned for that blog post), but if the below image doesn't entice you to click through and see the rest I don't know what would. Don't miss the one for "Pinot Evil."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Tribute to Our Urban Sanctuary

Dan and I have been looking for a new apartment which has mired me in nostalgia for our current one. But not so much for what's inside it. It's what is outside that I am really going to miss. For some time Dan and I have lived in a one bedroom which is too small for all his triathlon gear and way too small for my kitchen gear (and wish list kitchen gear), but we have endured the cramped quarters inside for the spacious quarters outside.

Over the years we have collected a group of trees and bushes who of course we named and now feel like part of the family. And in addition to planting flowers each spring, we grow herbs we really enjoy using when we cook. There is just something so satisfying about going outside and cutting some rosemary when you need it.

And of course there is the memory of all the gatherings we have had out there. Our burger showdown, our blind wine tasting, and many many other get togethers with friends and family that centered around what was coming off the grill. Even dinners we have hosted in the winter usually involved me slipping on a coat over my apron to fire up some some steaks or maybe a leg of lamb. Just thinking about losing this space, which is probably my favorite little plot of land in the city, makes me sad. I even proposed to Dan last night that we could stay in our place and when we have a baby we can add a second floor in part of the apartment in order to have a nursery-- 6 1/2 feet of height downstairs for Dan, 2 upstairs for little Dan Malkovich.

Who knows, maybe we'll find a place with some outdoor space and our outside friends can all come with us. But even if we don't, I'll always have the memory of the sounds of happy guests laughing as they eat and drink and enjoy what we have always called our urban sanctuary.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Food Humor Wednesday

I wanted so much not to laugh at this but couldn't help it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Romanian Proverbs

As those who read this blog regularly know, Dan is Romanian. Over the years I have tried to acquaint myself with what this means from a cultural perspective. While I am still working on acquiring a taste for much of the cuisine, I have long been a fan of their sayings. In fact, if a nation could export sayings for profit, Romania would be oil-country rich. My personal favorite adage: "A camel is a horse designed by committee." Perhaps a good one to keep in mind as we work through our health care situation.

And when it comes to food, Romanians have so many proverbs it is a wonder they have not taken to scrawling them on tiny pieces of paper to place inside of cookies. The one which possibly best describes their culinary philosophy is, "the best vegetable is the chicken meat and the best chicken meat is the pork." Another which helps paint a picture of what you might expect to find on a Romanian menu: "We eat everything with four legs that's not a table, and everything with two wings that's not an airplane."

But what is food without wine? This saying couldn't have been put better by Bacchus himself: "Every man is entitled to a glass of wine, after that glass of wine he becomes another man, who is entitled to a glass of wine." Supposedly first stated by a professor to explain the concept of summing an infinite series, I must say I may have gotten better grades in math had my math teachers been Romanian.

Romanians also have some practical advice on drinking such as, "If two people say you're drunk, go to bed." Many other of their sayings reflect their history like, "Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow," and still others betray their openness in calling out the intellectually unfortunate. I personally like, "Don't argue with a fool, he has a rested mind." Many of my conversations with Dan's dad are punctuated by these entertaining Romanian isms but the one he has held back from me for years is perhaps the most universally relevant, "Love is blind, marriage is the cure."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kitchen Tool Corner: Arachnid Edition

Last time in Kitchen Tool Corner I featured a very useful, but expensive, kitchen item. Today we are going to the other end of the spectrum with a must-have wallet friendly gadget, a spider. Sometimes referred to as a skimmer, a spider should have a relatively long handle (preferably stay-cool but not required), be stainless steel, and have a head that it makes it easy to retrieve stuff out of a pot and drain quickly. Mine was a $6 or so find in Chinatown but even at a fancy retail store a spider should never run you more than $20.

So what does one use this for? So so so many things. A spider is incredibly handy if you want to safely deep fry anything. Use the basket to lower your object of fryfection into the hot oil and use it again to retrieve it once it is done, no dangerous splashing! A spider is also perfect for blanching. Blanching is a great technique for cooking vegetables to help them maintain their color and consistency or to partially cook them ahead of time. Basically, you lower your veggies into boiling water for a minute or two and then immediately dunk them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Guess how you get your veggies from the boiling water into the shock tank? Bare hands, spoons, and spatulas won't cut it. Spider to the rescue. Another use for a spider is lowering homemade ravioli into boiling water and fishing them out when done. After carefully making a filling, rolling dough, and forming your little dumplings, the last thing you want to do is plunk those suckers into the water and watch them break on contact. Use a spider and your ravioli will be safe... and delicious.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Link of the Day: Opening Wine Sans Corkscrew

I know its only about 1pm but I am calling it. By beating out Foodiggity's post featuring Seven of the Greatest Food Moments in Muppets History, Ready Made has claimed the Link of the Day prize with its 5 ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew tutorial. The link includes five short videos and all are worth a look (if you have to skip one #2 isn't all that exciting but nonetheless merits inclusion). I am now headed out to find the equipment necessary to do #4! What a party trick.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brewfest 2010

Twitter, so useful for finding out about cool events around NYC. Courtesy of @SkeeterNYC, mark your calendars for Brewfest June 19th on Governors Island. Admission gets you a 4 ounce glass you can use to sample over 300 types of craft beer made by 100 plus breweries from the US and abroad. Tickets aren't cheap, $55, but the price includes water taxi transport in both directions and assuming the weather cooperates, what a fun way to spend a summer day. "Music lovers" tickets are also available for $25, which includes transportation and gains you access to the live bands and food vendors (list looks promising), but no beer. Perhaps they should have named this one the "your pregnant friends can come too" ticket. The last 3 years reportedly sold out so if this sort of thing is up your alley click through to get tix. You now have 6 weeks to work on your tolerance.

Friday, April 23, 2010


This just in, the Business Insider's Clusterstock reports that a Citi employee called the cops on the Scnnitzel Truck today. After the truck's proprietor showed his permits, Citi then resorted to claiming the Schnitzel Truck posed a terrorist threat. I suspect whoever is responsible for the company cafeteria's P&L may be behind this but seriously? They are going to bombard the building with thinly pounded meat and potato salad? This certainly one-ups the Anti-Schnitzelism I exposed back in September when Eisenberg's threatened the Schnitzel Truck.

So what is it about the Schnitzel Truck that people find so objectionable? Its German-ish name? Its ability to take lunch orders over the phone and have them waiting for customers when they arrive? The mobile deliciousness of it all? Or maybe, just maybe, Citi is holding a big short position against the schnitzel market.

[April 29 Wall Street Journal post script here. Yes, this made the WSJ.]

[April 30 The Schnitzel Truck returns to its spot in front of Citi. So Tweets the Truck:   schnitzeltruck: Vassup to all our schnombies. Today is judgement day on 54th & lex. Come show your support for the humble schnitz truck.. Be there @ 11:30]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eat for Less with Blackboard Eats

The value theme continues! I have been a subscriber to Blackboard Eats for some time now but wanted to observe what it was all about before recommending it. After a trial period, I can say this is junk mail worth getting. Blackboard Eats is a service which sends you discount opportunities via email for restaurants in New York or LA (San Francisco coming soon). But the discounts aren't for T.G.I. Friday's or Applebee's as you might expect. They are for legit places you'd probably eat at even sans discount, and the promotions tend to be 30% off your entire check with very limited restrictions (like it has to be used at dinner, for example).

This week, Blackboard Eats is promoting Cabrito on Carmine Street. Cabrito's food is modern, upscale Mexican in a fun, casual setting. And Chef Dave Schuttenberg, formerly of Fatty Crab fame, can cook (I have eaten at both). In January of last year Cabrito earned a very favorable one spot from Frank Bruni, missing an at least two-star review due to some inconsistency in food and service from visit to visit, which Schuttenberg and owner Zak Pelaccio have had ample time to address and hopefully have. You can go find out yourself for 30% off plus a free Margarita, courtesy of Blackboard Eats.

Blackboard Eats has also recently promoted West Village mainstay August, Boqueria Soho, I Sodi, Aquavit, Dinosaur BBQ, Resto, The Highlands.... you get it, a good variety of places in terms of location, tenure, and category of fare that you would actually want to dine at (and there are plenty of Brooklyn joints too!). Oh, did I mention signing up is FREE? I get a totally tolerable amount of email from them and as best as I can detect they have not shared my info with anyone else. And there are no embarrassing coupons to whip out, just a code you share with your server. This one is a no brainer folks, sign-it up!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spotlight on Value: 2 Italian Reds

Examining our recycling bin last week, I noticed that Dan and I have been economizing a lot more when it comes to wine. There are just as many bottles, perhaps even more, but the total value of the empty shells that once held wonderfully fermented grape juice is decidedly less. If I were a sociologist perhaps I would hypothesize that given the recession we have been drinking more, which means we in turn have reduced our per bottle spend. But that doesn't mean we have been enjoying any less. Or only drinking wines from Argentina and Chile, though we do enjoy many of those.

In fact, let's take a trip to the Italian aisle. I spy a bargain in this 2008 Sigillus Primus Vigna D'Oro from Apulia (aka Puglia) which is a blend of three grapes: negroamaro, primitivo and anglianico. So what does all this Italian mean? It is a robust red wine from the part of Italy that looks like the heel of a boot. It is medium to full bodied and round but just when you question whether the wine is too smooth, the fruit reveals a little spice. Best with food, we have enjoyed this wine with everything from grilled lamb to shepherd's pie. And at $7 on sale at Astor right now, you really can't go wrong. (For you out-of-towners Astor has a great website and gladly ships.)

Not cheap enough? Try this Lilla Moltepulciano from Abruzzi. I recently picked up a bottle for $5 and felt like king of the world but that was a fluke. The 2007 is priced at $5.99 at Astor right now, though, and it is worth all five hundred and ninety-nine of your hard-earned pennies. Everything from the color, to the nose, to the mouthfeel, to the finish-- even the label-- suggests a much more expensive wine. But for the price of a non-fat-double-decker-vanilla-hazlenut-absurd-i-can't-believe-you-drink-that-latte, you can get a remarkably likable wine which pairs well with almost any meat dish and also happens to love cheese, a quality more rare in red wines than you'd think. It is velvety but with just enough tannin and contrast notes to remind you it isn't a ho hum plain jane. Salute!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Kitchen Tool Corner: the Le Creuset Saucier

As much as I know one can technically do most things in the kitchen with one good knife and one good pot or pan, I am a tool for kitchen gadgets and cookware. Every once in a while, Dan will come home to find me sitting in the dark surfing Williams-Sonoma.com or some other website full of shiny, fancy kitchen toys and he'll look at me hopelessly and say, "Cooking porn again?" Had he only known he could have proposed to me with a KitchenAid Stand Mixer with full attachment suite, he could have saved himself a lot of time and money.

And while Dan may not appreciate it, I am very pleased to introduce you to a recent addition to my cookware collection, the 2.25 Qt Saucier from Le Creuset. My father told me I had to have it. I debated it's merits. I wanted it for sure, who doesn't want new Le Creuset cookware, but I grew concerned that I would catch hell for bringing home yet another pot. "You have to have it," he insisted, hands wildly gesticulating in the air. "I use it for everything. Where is the button? Oh here, add to cart." And with that, a beautiful friendship between lady and pot was formed.

This thing is The. Best. And I have indeed used it for "everything." Just this past week I have used it to make caramel, poach prunes and kumquats, whip up a cream sauce, shore up my gravy, reheat soup.... the list goes on. This is a total kitchen workhorse and my only regret is not owning two of them. Maybe I will also have to get the 3 qt, after all one can fit inside the other for storage right? It cooks great, cleans like a breeze, and is safe for the stove, oven, and fridge. Like most good cookware its a tad heavy and a decent investment at mas o menos $165, but it is useful beyond compare. Do not cheap out and buy the Martha Stewart version or any other version. Buy this pot. There is nothing like real Le Creuset and taken care of properly it will last forever. Like my mother always says, "Why do you keep buying them, one day you'll have all of mine."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Passover in Haiku

This piece is a guest post I should have uploaded yesterday but I was elbow deep in matzoh balls. I nonetheless hope you enjoy the below handiwork from the wildly popular blogger behind No Happy Medium, who also happens to be my sister. Had she done just one haiku, Dienu.

Tonight my sister will be hosting a seder for the first night of Passover. I love this holiday: You get together with friends and family, retell some of the most important stories in Jewish history, and eat a tableful of food representing elements of those stories. There's also copious wine, and getting to decide who's the simple son. Jessica does a great job each year, but it's a ton of work to get all that food ready, which means she certainly hasn't had time to blog today. She asked me if I'd be up for guest-posting a Passover haiku. Sure thing, Sis. But I'll do you one better. Since you're going to let me stuff my face tonight, and you'll surely provide me with left overs enough for the remainder of the holiday, I'll give you one haiku for each of the 8 days of Passover. There are eight, right?

my sister prepares
for a passover seder
she's a better jew

soon we gather to
commemorate our freedom.
rev'rently we nosh

this food has meaning
even bitter herbs taste good
symbolism rules

read and tell stories
drink wine, eat yourself silly
love this holiday

we're meant to recline
but no one ever does that
respect tradition!

each year we say this:
and next year in israel
but we don't mean it

a week without bread?
you've got to be kidding me
i'm not doing that

ritual eating:
favorite thing about the jews?
yup, that'd be it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Link of the Day: Padma Makes Out with a Burger

As tends to happen when its a little gray out, my web surfing to work ratio is pretty high, but all the better to entertain you with. My best find of the day is this post from Eater which features the "Top 10 Most Embarrassing Celebrity Chef Commercials." My favorite is number 3, which I have posted below, with an honorable mention going to number 5. Click through to see the rest.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Learning to Bake

Growing up my mother never baked sweets. Bread, if I was around to knead it for what seemed liked forever, yes, but sweets no. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining necessarily, only mentioning as a possible explanation of why I have always cooked and seldom baked. (In other words, Mom, no complaints about how I "vilify" you on my blog.) I decided recently, however, that I must learn to do some baking. Nothing touches that inner child in all of us like a visually tantalizing, aroma wafting, luscious dessert and I felt inadequate not knowing how to make one.

My baking endeavors began some time ago when Dan had requested I procure a cake of a tombstone for something work related. When I found out how much that would cost I said to myself, "I have watched hours of Ace of Cakes, I'll be damned if some of that didn't sink in." I marched off to the baking supply store and out this bizarre cake came. Like Duff, I don't choose my clients either. Since then I have been going through more butter, sugar and flour than I ever imagined I would use in a lifetime and have been loving every second of it.

Last night I threw some fruit into the mix and I highly recommend this easy Italian recipe for my kindred budding bakers out there. It doesn't require any unusual ingredients, equipment or technique and it will make your house smell great. (NB, that torte is most certainly not burnt, blame that on my camera and the brownish black baking round.)

  • 1/2 cup butter softened (note, not melted, just leave it out for a while)
  • 2/3 granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tspn baking powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 Tspn grated lemon rind
  • 2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious and Northern Spy recommended)
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Butter and flour a 10 inch spring form pan or torte pan (I hope this doesn't qualify as "unusual equipment" for you. If you don't have one they are easy to find, reasonably inexpensive, and you'll use it many times)
  • Arrange all your ingredients (This is often not a step listed in directions but I find it critical so like to include as a little reminder.)
  • Peel, core and slice thinly the apples (I squeezed a little lemon over them to add a little flavor and preserve color because even though we are cooking them I dislike looking at brown raw apples)
  • Using an electric hand mixer take 1/4 cup of the softened butter and 2 Tbspns of the sugar and beat together in a large bowl, you may also use the back of a spoon to help.
  • Beat in 1 egg at a time
  • Stir together the flour and baking powder
  • Alternating some flour mixture and some milk, beat these into the bowl
  • Stir in the lemon rind
  • Add the batter to the pan
  • Arrange the apples around the pan, you may need half pieces to fill in some holes and the center
  • Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top and dot the entire thing with pieces of the remaining butter
  • Bake for 50 minutes or until top has lightly browned (my oven is slow, this took a bit longer for me)
  • Cool before cutting (I re-warmed the pieces for serving slightly in the toaster oven and served with good vanilla ice cream but this is also great at room temperature by itself. I know, I had it for breakfast)
Buon Appetito! 
Recipe adapted from an adaptation of Anna Gosetti della Salda's Le Ricette Regionali Italiane for Torta di Mele.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Lidda Bit Sweet

Bourbon. Coffee. Caramel. Bacon. Popcorn. What's not to like? This kitchen sink confection by Liddabit Sweets out of my native Brooklyn, New York, is deliciously addictive. I didn't detect any coffee when I tried it, but the popcorn is a wonderful canvas for the love affair between the smoky bourbon and bacon flavors and the seductively sweet caramel. This treat, as well as other sumptuous offerings, are available at the Brooklyn Flea, a handful of local shops and restaurants, and directly from the source through their new online store. These products are handmade and use as many organic and local ingredients as possible, so feel less bad about eating gobs and gobs of candy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kumquats Preserved

I wasn't planning on posting about this but half way through eating the below plate I decided the What's She Eating Now-reading public should know about this little secret. It involves kumquats, a little known member of the citrus family. Allow me to introduce you. Kumquats look like little tiny oranges but sort of oblong and are usually sold in a plastic clam shell similar to a pint of blue berries in the supermarket. You can eat them whole and the taste experience is quite unique: the rind is super sweet and the inside is incredibly sour. After you pucker at the extreme sourness you are tempted to eat just one more because your taste memory is craving that sweetness from the rind again. Pucker. Repeat.

Dan loves kumquats. Personally I have a love hate relationship with them. Love the sweet. Hate the sour. But they are oddly addictive so I keep eating them anyway. But recently a peace maker emerged. A pastry chef friend of mine who taught me a little trick with kumquats that makes them more appealing to the masses and easily incorporated into savory or sweet dishes: preserved kumquats.

  • Take 1 part rice vinegar, 2 parts water, 1 cup sugar, some star anise and cloves and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves (the star anise and cloves have a strong flavor so I added them closer to the boiling point)
  • While you are waiting for your brine mixture to come to a boil, wash and then cut kumquats in half and de-pit
  • Pour boiled liquid over them in a bowl
  • Refrigerate overnight
The resulting preserved kumquats are tangy but not overly sour and can be used in savory or sweet dishes. My pastry chef friend used them in a dish that involved an olive oil macaroon with rosemary ice cream. Delicious for sure, but I went for something a little more simple, fennel salad. I sliced the fennel through a mandolin and coated lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper, and some freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Then I cut the preserved kumquats in half again (so in the end they were quartered) and added them. Often one sees fennel salad served with oranges or grapefruit but this is a lovely citrus substitute and an easy dish to make for guests which seems like it was much harder to make than it was. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Antidote to the Breast Milk Cheese Craze: Non-Breast Milk Cheese

OK Lori Mason and Daniel Angerer, you have provoked me to break my posting hiatus. For those of you who haven't been following this bizarre gastro news story, Chef Angerer of Klee Brasserie in Chelsea recently blogged about cheese he made from his wife Lori's breast milk (see "Mommy's Milk" post and make sure not to skip the comments section). Why are people so curious and why all the clamor to try it? I can hardly imagine people foaming at the mouth to try any other bodily fluid expelled from a stranger.

Perhaps it is because they do not know where to get good cheese and are flocking to Angerer for what they think may be the lactose Holy Grail. This is probably not the reason, but believing it will help me sleep better at night. So in an effort to help address this apparent crisis, I am sharing a few of my favorite non-breast milk cheeses and some shops where you can find them so you don't feel the need to resort to options from Chelsea's human dairy operation.

Nettle Meadow Kunik This cheese is particularly interesting because it is a mix of goat and cow milk, which gives it a lovely balance between tangy and creamy. Kunik's flavor is mild in intensity but rich in flavor and its grassy notes are complemented by a butter and honey bass line. Kunik makes a wonderful first batter on any cheese plate because it is mild enough to preserve the pallet, but at the same time thought provoking and savor worthy.

 Tomme Crayeuse This cheese is among my most cherished, but also unfortunately holds the honor of  being among the most expensive (currently $31.99/lb at Murray's). To set expectations, a cheese habit does not come cheap, but it is worth it, especially if you include some Tomme Crayeuse among your regular go-to selections. Tomme Crayeuse (or the 'Tom Cruise" of cheese as the label at Murray's jokes), is a French raw cow's milk cheese whose paste is soft but not gooey and has a hint of mushroom in the flavor. The rind on this cheese is not to be missed. It has a lovely texture and a nutty quality which will make you wonder if the rind or the cheese itself is the main event. The only downside of including this winner on a cheese plate is it may very well upstage all the others around it. When buying Tomme Crayeuse look for a designation that it is from Herve Mons on the description. He is the affineur to reckon with in France and his name is synonymous with quality.

Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise This raw cow's milk cheese is made in Vermont and for those of you more familiar with European cheeses, Tarentaise closely evokes an Apline style. That means it is a hard cheese that has some pliability and is close in texture and color to a Guyere. This cheese is great on its own or on a plate somewhere between the 12 and 6 o'clock positions.

Meadow Creek Grayson This is a washed-rind cow's milk cheese from a family farm in Virginia where they give their Jersey herd the white glove treatment, and it shows in the product. It is pungent and intense, and that is what makes it so delicious. The paste is soft and has a stickiness to it and tastes great on its own or smeared on a piece of bread to help shore up its structural integrity a little. The first time I brought some Grayson into my apartment Dan screamed "What the hell is that? It stinks!" After I convinced him to try it by challenging his masculinity, he couldn't stop eating it. Go get this one now! Grayson is a highly seasonal cheese and after March you may not see it for a while.

Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue If you think you don't like blue cheese I encourage you to try it again. A bad blue can scar anyone, but a truly well crafted one will have you tapping the inside of your elbow for your next hit. The Bayley Hazen Blue hails from Vermont and is made by one of the most reputable cheese making teams in the country. The cheese's ammonia blue veins are a perfect match for the sweet pale yellow cream that surrounds them. I consider this among the "no rind left behind" cheeses as well. If you're still a little scared of the blue stuff try it with a little bit of honey but trust me, before you know it you'll be eating this one straight without cutting it with any other flavors.

If nothing else I hope this post will dissuade you from pursuing breast milk cheese, but I also hope it will encourage you to start spreading your cheese wings a little. Stay tuned for a future post which will include tips on composing a cheese plate, crib notes to understanding American and European cheese classifications, the answer to when you should eat the rind, and guidelines for selecting accompaniments and pairings.

Some quick notes on cheese:
  • Cheese is a living product. That means it is constantly changing over time, similar to wine. What you try today will taste different tomorrow. Roll with that, it is part of what makes cheese so cool.
  • Good cheese is an artisanal product. That means there will be differences wheel to wheel. 
  • Cheese is made from animal milk. That means it will taste different seasonally depending on what the animals are eating, and also that it may only be available certain times of the year depending on the animals, how they are raised, when the cheese is made and how long it ages. As you develop favorites learn about their seasonal variations.
  • When buying cheese I like to think of a serving as about an ounce. As I mentioned, cheese changes over time and usually not for the better so I would err on buying smaller quantities more frequently. Your monger may bristle as you hold your thumb and forefinger up to indicate "a little smaller please," but stand your ground.
Cheese shops I like:
Murray's cheese: Murray's is the standard bearer of cheese in New York City. They have 2 locations for your convenience, one in the west village and one in grand central. In addition to a monstrous selection of cheese, they also boast top notch chacuterie, a bevy of artisanal food products, and a host of non-cheese dairy products. Be prepared for sticker shock, but they only carry the very best. For those not in NYC, they do online/mail order.

Lucy's Whey: Lucy's Whey was born in East Hampton but recently opened an out post in Chelsea Market. Their selection is smaller than Murray's and focuses on American artisanal cheeses but they take the utmost care of their inventory and their cheese is always in excellent shape. The place is small so if possible go on off-hours for best service.

Saxelby Cheesemongers: Anne Saxelby is a Murray's alum who struck out on her own and out of her small stall in the Essex Street Market she sells a very nice selection of American farmstead cheeses.

Formaggio Essex: While Saxelby covers off on American cheese in the Essex Street Market, Formaggio maintains a small selection of European cheeses. They don't have that much so a trip just to go there may be unwarranted, but if you are nearby the staff is super enthusiastic and helpful, the cheese is good, and they have other interesting food finds as well (including some in the form of samples!).

Wholefoods Market, Chelsea. Heresy you say. Up until recently I would have said so too, but lately they have upped their game. They are buying a much better selection of cheeses, taking much better care of them and all of a sudden the cast of mongers can actually answer questions about the cheeses and make worthwhile recommendations. Last I visited you could even get Twig Farm cheese there, a favorite producer of mine that isn't even carried at Murray's. I am keeping my guard up but so far I am liking what they have done with their cheese program.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Food Safety Friday

So you have had some food in your fridge for a while. Like me you hate to waste anything, but you're not sure if it is safe to eat. What do you do? Some people call their parents. "Mom, I bought fish on Tuesday, didn't cook it, can I make it today?" one might ask, only to hear back, "It is probably not a good idea but while I have you on the phone I have some things I need you to do and by the way, what are you doing with your life?"

Please allow me to spare you from ever having to have this conversation again. I introduce you to StillTasty.com, a website which will answer your food storage and safety questions for almost any item under the sun. Bacon is always a tricky one, its cured but its pork and you may not eat it all the time so it could be around for a while... Hm. Before you spend way too much time touching your bacon to decide whether it is "slimy," my dad's preferred method of determining if it is time to toss it, check out Still Tasty. You'll also learn neat tips such as store your eggs in the main area of your fridge, not the door, they'll last longer. I won't spoil the rest for you. Go check them out for yourself and start wasting less food and money! TGIF.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bacon Haikus

In the gastronomic blogosphere there is a lot of blah blah blah. Here is where I ate last night. Here is the recipe for the blueberry crumble I made. Here is what I think of the White House vegetable garden. But every once in a while I stumble across something truly original, and hilarious. I direct you to this site full of haikus about bacon. Below is my hand at a quick one, but I am just a dabbler. Click through to experience a real pro.

Bacon where are you?
When I need you most be here.
Sad, happy, neither.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Love, Northern Spy Food Co.

I went on a first date with a restaurant last night. When we were set up I checked the place out online, Northern Spy Food Co: local, sustainable food at reasonable prices. It seemed too good to be true. Either it was going to be packed, or ugly, or have bad food, or my least favorite wart, nasty service. Maybe I am not ready to try new places again I thought.

But I put my coat on and went, and am really glad. I know its early but I may even be in love. I tried not to stare but I couldn't help notice that the place was really cute. Its not all about looks I reminded myself, as my friend Katie arrived. A restaurant has to have more than that to offer.

We shared the kale salad to start. Frilly chopped pieces of delicate yet flavorful kale piled fluffully with cubes of cooked squash, clothbound cheddar, and almond pieces. It was slightly heavy on the almonds but the elements combined liked they were meant to be together and the textures yielded some fun chewing which unlocked gradually changing taste experiences with each bite. You make a good first impression Northern Spy Food Co.

Next, Katie had the squid and mussels entree and I had a special of pork meatballs in red sauce. I reached across the table and tried Katie's food. The squid and mussels were light but the navy beans in the dish gave it a little heft and the subtle breadcrumbs lent it a hint of decadence. And the meatballs? A nice balance on the sweet to spicy and dense to squishy scales with a lovely porky flavor. The red sauce, as it should, tasted like tomato and had a good acid level. Often tomato sauce can be like an assault rifle on my esophagus but this was just right. Could you be for real Northern Spy Co?

We skipped dessert to spend a little time browsing the shop of artisanal food products in the back. Brooklyn Brine pickles. Anarchy-in-a-Jar jams. Mother-in-law's Kimchi. Consider Bardwell Cheese. And then there is the sin section, a bevy of little homemade confections by the register. I was wooed by the beer pretzel caramel and the chocolate covered graham cracker. How you sweet talk me Northern Spy Food Co.

So where is the catch? Is it the service? Not at all. It was homey and genuine and sweet. Was it the price? Not that either. $33 each for the above plus two house-made seltzers, two drinks (one wine and one beer from a good selection of local craft offerings), and a 20+% tip. The little treats we got on the way out were $1 a piece. I'll keep my guard up because this is a tough town, but I can't wait to go out with you again, Northern Spy Food Co.

Northern Spy Food Co.
511 East 12th Street, between A&B
(212) 228-5100
Open 11am – 11pm (’til Midnight Friday and Saturday)
Brunch Sat & Sun 11am – 4pm
Sit down or take away. Menu.

Dine for Haiti

5 Second Rule Cheat Sheet

From this San Francisco food blog, I present a cheat sheet to help you with a more intricate application of the 5 second rule. If only I were a puma.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sustainable Farming Starts with You

An issue that has become very important to me of late is sustainable farming. And I don't mean sustainable farming in the buzz word, bumper sticker, causnik, I'm for puppies sort of way. I mean that in actual practice, we need to transform the food ecosystem through the choices we make when it comes to food. Sustainable farming is a trendy issue these days but one thing many lose sight of is that sustainable farming is not the responsibility of farmers alone. Consumers are an integral part of the food business, in fact its reason for existing, and it is our responsibility to demand food that has been responsibly produced and sourced, and support the producers that meet these demands. We should know where the food we eat comes from and roughly speaking, we should know how it is produced. And we should know, in the case of livestock, if it was raised in the most humane and natural manner possible. You wouldn't drink a cocktail that was made with a bottle that only said "alcohol" in block letters on the label. So too shouldn't you eat something that just says "food" on it, and if you don't know where it comes from, that it is edible is really all you know about it.

But, how you ask, in a free market economy, did we get to a place where people actually prefer to buy industrially farmed produce that is laden with chemicals and devoid of taste? When consumers have choice, why do they buy chickens that have been raised exclusively indoors with no room to even turn around? It is a complicated issue for sure, made more complicated by farm subsidies and other government programs, but at the consumer end of the supply chain, a lot of it boils down to a fundamental information asymmetry-- one of those little wrenches they taught you in Econ 101 could disrupt a market's ability to function efficiently. Other than superficial appearance, the only thing consumers really see when they shop for fruit, vegetables or meat at the average grocery store is price. They don't see the impact on our soil and water supplies from farming the way big agriculture farms. They don't see pictures on meat packages of animals raised in barns packed practically wall to wall. Leading with price, and obscuring a lot of other facts, farming industrialists have radically changed our agricultural landscape and in turn, the food that makes it to our tables.

I could go on and on about how sustainable farming is better for the earth, better for you, better for animals, and better in terms of taste. Just ask if you're curious. But my point is that it is not in the interest of the big food companies to tell you about where the food they sell comes from. So start finding out on your own and make educated choices. You, the consumer, are the tail that can wag this dog and help reverse a tragic trend in American agriculture and food. Sure, these choices may be more expensive, but how do you really feel about eating a $2 chicken anyway? My suggestion is to choose the good stuff, maybe just a little less of it.

To help you on your way to learning more, here are two short videos. Neither was chosen for shock value so don't fear any preachy animal abuse snuff like content. Just some good information. The first video is As We Sow, a short sobering documentary about farming in Iowa. The second is a look into animal farming at Stone Barns, a working farm and agricultural center just north of New York City. Take note of the difference between the pigs in both videos, which ones do you want to eat?

As We Sow

Raising Animals Green: The Stone Barns Way

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

News Bite of the Day

"Pants Bomber Causes Grief for Chefs Who Smuggle Salumi into America"

--The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2009

The Japanese Make the Best Coffee, Who Knew?

Friday, January 8, 2010

San Francisco Treats

Like most stubborn life-long New Yorkers, I am reluctant to concede there is better anything anywhere else, especially when it comes to food. Certainly regional dishes are best where they originated, partly because of the execution and partly because of the authentic trappings, but there is not much you can't find a great version of in New York. Barbecue, check. Fried chicken, check. New England-style lobster rolls, in spades. And I have never failed to emphasize the superiority of New York's culinary landscape to Dan on our many trips to San Francisco, as we suffered through mediocre meals at restaurants we went to on recommendation. But this time was different.

Dan and I go to San Francisco fairly often because his family and many of his friends aren't fortunate enough to call New York home. On each of these trips, I have labored to find good food, only to head back to New York with no strong memories, positive anyway, of anything I have seen or eaten. But even this New York food snob has to give it up to San Francisco for some finds from our most recent trip.
  • Fisherman's Wharf. A fresh crab sandwich for breakfast. What a way to start the day. Dan and I walked through all the stalls and chose the vendor with the tastiest looking crab on the best bread and also tried the crab cocktail. Since it has never been frozen or transported cross-country, the taste is rich and clean, and although we have similar items in New York, nothing here is quite the same. Dungeness crab is indigenous to the west coast and you can't get it much fresher than at Pier 39. And if you go at 9am like we did, there are no tourists to contend with. Bonus. 

  • Neighborhood Sushi. Another nice thing about San Francisco is the neighborhood sushi place is probably pretty good. Unfortunately for my wallet, I rarely eat sushi in New York if its not in a top place that has the good stuff such as Ushi Wakamaru or Sushi Yasuda. But in San Francisco, your average sushi place will include premium selections such as kampachi, kinmedai, shima aji, and fish specials from Japan, and is a much better bet than any run of the mill corner sushi joint in New York. A couple I can recommend purely based on the fish are Sanraku and Sushi Groove (yes, somehow places with names like Sushi Groove, which I would avoid here like a new soul food restaurant being opened by Lidia Bastianich, can be total delights there). If you've been to Sebo let me know how it is, its on my list.
    • La Boulange Bakery. Its a chain, but a good one. For brunch or lunch this is a solid choice for good eggs and sandwiches served in a quaint environment that feels a lot more homespun than someplace with 11 units. I particularly like the open face tuna melt with cheddar.

    • Ferry Building. What fun. Every Tuesday and Saturday there is a green market around three sides of the building and as far as produce goes, advantage San Francisco. The fruits and vegetables have such vibrant colors and scents and there are things you can't buy from local farmers here such as amazingly sweet and juicy citrus. The other neat thing about this green market is there are many stalls also serving up prepared foods. The smells were overwhelming and we wanted to try everything but settled on a bier sausage from Aidell's to tide us over until lunch. Simply amazing. The sausage stood on its own, no condiments necessary. (They carry Aidell's packaged product in Food Emporium in New York City). After walking the entire market we went inside to amble along the gallery of specialty food shops and eateries. Again, most of the shops also serve food made to order and it all smelled and looked fantastic. But we refrained for we had a mission in mind and it was...

    • Hog Island Oyster Company. We shared 24 assorted west coast oysters and their version of steamers. The oysters were all wonderfully flavorful and so different than oysters on the east coast. Our favorite, which we noted was a little tart upfront and sweet on the finish, was Hog Island's own oysters (you can find these in a handful of NY restaurants but I imagine they lose a little of their mojo in transit). A couple of glasses of champagne, oysters, and a nice view of the Bay Bridge was a lovely way to cap off the afternoon.
    • The next day we were in the mood for a little dim sum but didn't want to have the head-on-a-swivel-looking-for-good-stuff Chinatown experience. We headed to Yank Sing. Solid, clean tasting dim sum in a very civilized setting. Any easy parking too!
    • If your travels bring you the south bay, I really like the Los Gatos Gourmet in Los Gatos. Great sandwiches and a small but quality selection of cheeses and chacuterie. Manresa, also in Los Gatos, is on my list to try for dinner on a future trip.
    It took a while but now that I have seen that the lights aren't totally broken in the San Francisco culinary tunnel, I look forward to going back and exploring more!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Rest in Pez

    He passed in December but I only learned of it this morning. Curtis Allina, the man who brought us the Pez dispenser, died last month at age 87. Since its introduction in 1955, the Pez dispenser has been an important contributor to chronicling our pop culture by rendering some of our most beloved characters in plastic, candy containing form. Mickey Mouse, Yoda, Bugs Bunny, Wonder Woman, and even three different portrayals of Elvis Presley have all been commemorated in a dispenser. There is something very innocent and fun about Pez and I will always remember the dispensers, as well as the fruity candy bricks they serve up, fondly. Thank you, Mr. Allina, for bringing so many smiles to so many faces.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Quotation of the Day

    From a friend's G-chat status:

    "[P.] feels weird every time he orders a 'large black ethiopian' at his local coffee shop."

    Stay tuned for posts this week on San Francisco dining gems and a showdown between locavore big wigs Alice Waters and Dan Barber.