Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Reservations- Laos part 1

OK, I know I have a thing for Anthony Bourdain.

I think he's really smart, funny, sarcastic and I so enjoy watching his adventures.

I traveled a lot in South East Asia for several years and in particular loved Laos. I had a store for over 3 years called LaoLao Handmade on Ave C in the East Village.

It's funny, if you watch all 4 of the episodes you'll see one dedicated to LaoLao, the moonshine of Laos. I felt if I was going to have a store that was selling beautiful textiles from that country it was appropriate to give it an intoxicating name which is why I called it LaoLao.

Anyway, it's so worth the watch, even though I really don't get the impression he ate anything he really enjoyed? But, to his credit, he staid away from the "nice" western restaurants and as is Mr. Bourdain's style he kept it very real,very touching, very compassionate.

My one disappointment was I wished he'd eaten dinner at L'Elephant in Luang Prabang.

Makes me wish I could hop on a plane right now!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jane returns from Maine (with blueberries)

My friend Jane has a daughter, Jenny, who lives in Maine with husband Hugh. They're artists and make their money (such as it is) by growing certified organic, wild blueberries. It is becoming a family tradition that every August everyone in the family and many friends gather in Cherryfield, ME to spend the month harvesting the blueberries and bonding.

They are the most beautiful and delicious blueberries I've ever eaten. Wild blueberries are smaller than their cultivated cousins and have a wonderful sweet flavor.

We celebrated Jane's return to the Big City with a little dinner party and she brought us this amazing box of blueberries.

The first thing I made with them was a bourbon peach and blueberry upside down cake.
We managed to choke it down. ;-)

What 60 bucks gets you at the market

I made this clip yesterday when I got home from the market, I'm very interested in looking at the reality of eating locally and organically. I don't always buy organic from the market; I'll buy from any farmer, although I tend to favor smaller stands.

My camera and narrative skills are still being honed, I thank you for your patience.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's local?

Here is a sweet article from the NY Times about a food road trip to the Finger Lakes.

Several of the vendors at the Union Square market drive all the way down (I think it's 4 hours each way) several times a week to sell their produce and, in one instance, their wines.

I've still not figured out how to link to the NY Time so I always have to do this cut and paste thing - if there are any other bloggers out there who could tell me how to do this I'd be very grateful!

I will write more about what exactly qualifies as local and most importantly, what the exceptions to this rule are. More when I get back from Yoga and my Saturday shop at the Union Square market.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Upsidedown Cake unveiling

Just some Kitchen fun with Neil and Debbie.

I call this an August Fruit Upsidedown Cake - it has peaches, apricots and sour cherries and a generous splash of dark rum in it. Yum!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sexy Heirlooms

I've been learning more about my wonderful little flip camcorder, it's so much fun! Here is a little clip I did this week at the Union Square market of this huge table laid out with heirloom tomatoes of all shapes, colors and sizes.

My favorite is what the farm stand helper says. Listen carefully.

Friday, August 15, 2008


'wake n bacon' alarm clock

If you've ever wanted to get up to the smell of bacon this is for you. Designed by American designers Matty Sallin, Daniel Bartolini, Hsiao-huh Hsu, the 'wake n bacon' alarm clock cooks a strip of bacon, ready to eat when the alarm goes off. So how does it work?

"A frozen strip of bacon is placed in 'wake n' bacon' the night before. Because there is a 10 minute cooking time, the clock is set to go off 10 minutes before the desired waking time. Once the alarm goes off, the clock sends a signal to a small speaker to generate the alarm sound. We hacked the clock so that the signal is re-routed by a microchip that responds by sending a signal to a relay that throws the switch to power two halogen lamps that slow-cook the bacon in about 10 minutes."

(Of course it would be bacon from a local, farmed pig! - UFG).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Something New!

I just broke down and went further into debt to buy this crazy little camcorder that sort of looks like a phone only it's just this really simple, straight-forward camera.

I got it so I could do food related shorts and market visits, some cooking, some interviews, and who knows what else.

Please bear with me as the learning curve may be steep.

This guy at the Union Square Market here in NYC sells very high end, beautiful Porcini mushrooms and Chanterelles and Ovolo (egg) mushrooms (very elegant and strange looking).

This being a very spur of the moment thing and a new thing, I forgot to get this guy's name. I did look for a sign, but there was none.

His stuff is awesome.

He's only there on Wednesdays, be sure to check him out.

The price as you will see is not cheap, but Porcini are never cheap and these are local and delicious and still cheaper then the Italian ones.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver rocks.

Here's my inspirational excerpt for today from Ms. Kingsolver's wonderful book: "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

"We're a nation with an eating disorder, and we know it. The multiple maladies caused by bad eating are taking their toll on our health - most tragically our kids' health, who are predicted to be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents."

Slow Food Nation

Double click to make bigger. Looks like a lot of fun!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Urban Harvest - Preserving

I see in the new issue of Saveur (#113 September), Eugenia Bone has written an article called "Urban Harvest" that is a very good example of the movement afoot in this city and certainly reflects my sensibilities as you have seen them here, in particular with regard to pickling and preserving.

She starts the article out by saying:

"Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed with the pace of life in New York City, I go into the pantry of my apartment..."

And I can't help but think "who the hell in New York City has a kitchen big enough that it has a pantry that you can WALK into?" (In truth I do, but it's a fluke.) And if life is so busy and hectic where on earth did you find the time to make all those damn preserves!? (I'm unemployed, so that's not my problem.)

Is this kind of life just for people with money? Can a poor person buy market goods and put them up in a way that is affordable? Funny, isn't it, that something that was the domain of the working and middle class for some many years (preserving) has now gotten somehow fancy and expensive, something for the "leisure class"?

What will it take for us to regress as a culture, as a nation and start to be old fashioned again?

These days I find myself always looking at how much food is: $5 for a cantaloupe, $7 for a pint of cherries, $3 for organic cabbage (a small one) and on and on . It's no surprise that people think it is out of their reach when they can get some third world toxic cantaloupe for half the price. But then is it really a deal? And if we were to step back and think "well I have maybe 4 or 5 weeks to eat cantaloupe, so it's worth the splurge", do we really need to have everything available always? What would happen if we couldn't get red Bartlett pears in March?

Michael Pollan does an interesting cost analysis in, I believe, "Omnivore's Dilemma" about the reality of how much more expensive it is and concludes that in the long run it is actually cheaper, especially if your diet is predominantly vegetarian. What it has made me aware of is the need to eat at home, and not eat take out or delivery food, but food you make. Spend good money on good luxury protein (meat, fish, cheese) and eat less of it and eat it less often.

I go to this website called HOMEGROWN.ORG that had a banner up today that read:
"Bring back the potluck!" I think that it is a great idea! I'm all for anything that brings people together over homemade food.

It's also clear that eating with your family* everyday is a good thing. I put an asterisk next to family because I feel the need to say clearly that family can be anything you want it to be. We seemed to be living in an age where we are recreating and reinterpreting what it is to be a family. I think it is any interdependent group of friends, lovers or blood relations, there is no ideal - the ideal is to be loved and love one another (can you tell I just saw Hair in Central Park?)

OK, I pickling and preserving is not cheap and is time consuming, but it is so worth it.

In reality there is no substitute for garden vegetables that you put up yourself.

Lost in your pantry in the dark days of February, after weeks of snow, you reach down past a cobweb you discover, behind a jar of chestnuts from the south of France, a bottle of crunchy, sour, sweet, bread and butter pickles you made last July!

If you haven't had a freelance gig in two months and are on a very tight budget you are well on your way to having a cheap meal! Make a grilled cheese with some nice Grafton cheddar and if you can find in your vast pantry a last jar of tomatoes you put up you might also want to make some tomato soup.

OK now I'm just being silly.

My culinary observation and what got me started on all of this is that a lot of times recipes call for you to salt your Kirbie's, onions, cabbage etc., for several hours before you start the pickling process. Now to you old timers out there this may not be a revelation, but you really need to rinse these suckers way more then you might think. I have had two instances now where I have soaked and soaked and rinsed and rinsed and the final product has been a little bit saltier then I would want - which is such a drag.

So my first pickling tip for today is MAKE SURE YOU GET THE SALT OUT.

This of course is tricky because you need some salt. But better to take too much out and add some later.

Second tip: don't make pickled beets without sugar. Had a recipe that suggested it and it was a very bad idea.

And third: buy Saveur it's a great magazine and Bone's article really is very good.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Whole Foods

The Times wrote this article on the perceived view of Whole Foods as expensive. My personal 2 cents on this is that if you buy their 365 brand you get good quality, organic if want, items for cheaper then their competitors. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is about 8 bucks for a quart the same amount is 14 across the street at Fine Fare.

Trader Joe's is ugly and everything they carry is covered in plastic and from California, they have no commitment to the communities they serve nor do they offer and local products. It's fine for certain things but the one on 14th street is such a zoo I usually give up and go elsewhere.

People are fickle they want good quality, variety and a nice place to shop but then complain it's expensive. In truth it's a very mixed bag. I find these days food every where is expensive. I spent $5 on a Cantaloupe at the farmers market. A friend of mine thought that was ludicris. My feeling is that it was 4 times the size of the off season ones and if the only time in the year I eat it is when it's in season then I don't mind splurging. And, well I don't think 5 bucks is so bad for something that lasted me 4 settings. It seems like it's a good summer for melons it was so sweet and juicy and firm and wonderful!

I'm still not very savvy with this blogger program and can't link in a fashionable way with the NY Times so I'm sorry about the cut and paste action needed here...
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