Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

In 1984, as a young man, I came to New York for what I called my experimental summer.

I had a few friends here who were willing to put me up and I wanted to see what it was like to do more than just be a tourist. To dip my toe in the water and see if I had what it took to fulfill my dream of living in NYC. I figured four months should give me a pretty good idea.

It was an exciting and scary summer and as you can see I came back again and stayed.

The first job I got was painting fluorescent lines on greeting cards for 2 cents a line. Besides the terrible pay I found it really hard to stay awake, I had a radio in my little room in a loft in the meat packing district on Gansvoort street listening to Tina Turner wondering: what love had to do with it?

I was in love, had been since I was 6 years old, this summer was my very long first date.
I don't remember a time when I didn't want to move to New York City.

My second job was much more interesting.

At first I was applying for a job at a gay bar in the West Village called Uncle Charlies, but they saw I had experience as a waiter in a fancy restaurant so sent me over to a new restaurant that the owner of the bar had just opened called La Grand Corniche which was located at Christoper and the West Side Highway (it has since become Bailey House a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS).

I'll never forget the job interview, first a classically handsome man with a dark brown beard asked me a few questions, he was so relaxed and friendly, after he was finished he said:
I want you to meet our chef she has to OK every new waiter.

After a few minutes a short, feisty, young woman came to the table, sat down and asked me what a hollandaise sauce was made. I not only answered her question, but went on, in brown noise fashion, to tell her of two other sauces that can be made using a hollandaise base (mouselline and béarnaise if memory serves me). I got the job.

The chef was Anne Rosenzweig who went on to open her upper east side classic new American restaurant Arcadia. This was her Summer job after leaving Vanessa, which had already propelled her to culinary stardom.

It was a heady summer for me, I got to wait on such diverse personalities as James Beard, Sandy Duncan and a bunch of people from Vogue magazine. It was the year I learned a new appreciation for food and was introduced to corn cakes with crème fraiche and caviar as it was made by Anne.

I've made this recipe every since. It is the perfect special occasion recipe, easy, delicious and sophisticated here is my version (I've posted it before as a variation) of the Anne Rosenzweig classic:

Corn Cakes with Caviar

In a bowl mix: 3/4 cup organic corn meal, 1 cup flour , 1/3 cup organic cane sugar, 3 teaspoons organic baking powder, 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions or chives, 1 teaspoon salt, freshly grated black pepper combine.

To the dry ingredients add: 1 - 1 1/2 cups fresh corn, 1 cup whole milk, 1 egg well beaten and 2 T melted, unsalted butter.

Coat a large skillet with canola oil and bring to medium high, just before smoking add a tablespoon of the corn mixture. Work quickly as you want these to be nicely brown but not dark.

You can make several batches and keep them warm in the oven, patting the excess oil off with a towel.

It's best if you can make one batch at a time and serve them fresh out of the skillet, I like put out a spread of crème fraiche/sour cream and caviar (you can also do cream cheese and smoked salmon) and if you're feeling fancy a bowl of finely chopped chive or scallion.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baohaus: A New Place for Fast Food on the Lower East Side

On my way to buy some cheese at Saxelby's I stumbled upon this new take Taiwanese take out place that makes a selection of tasty sandwiches with Niman Ranch meat! Always happy to see affordable delicious food made by people with a commitment to sustainable meat.

I had the Sichuan bao $7.95 for 2 small steamed buns stuffed with pulled chicken and Sichuan pepper corn oil - yummy. I can't wait to go back to try the rest. The guys who own/run it were all there tonight, all three young energetic and friendly. They gave me some salt and vinegar boiled peanuts on the house, I liked them, but they took a while to get used to something about the texture - I'm not used to eating wet peanuts, but once I got over that they quickly became addictive!

They also serve sweet bao fries which sound very intriguing (Gua Bao is a kind of bun - I can call them steamed buns and they tend to be really white, soft and lovely, kind of like the wonder bread of Asian) here's their description:

Sweet fried slices of bao served with sweet sesame dipping sauce. Sounds like dessert!

For more info check out their site

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Tour of the Gay Beach In Puerto Vallarta with Some Lingering for Kurt

A while back my friend and avid urbanfoodguy commenter ask me to linger a little longer when I took videos where sexy men showed up, this is my attempt to honor that request.

Totally off topic and a little long, but just in case you were wondering what it was like to sit on the gay beach in Puerta Vallarta here it is...with an appropriately silly soundtrack.

Holiday Favor

So I'm a little apprehensive to do this in part because I loath self promotion and in part because I am more superstitious then I would like to be and never want to jinx anything. But here goes anyway. In January a publisher I have been talking to for some months is going to pitch to the big wigs an urbanfoodguy cook book, it won't necessarily be called urbanfoodguy the title is still up in the air. Cross you fingers for me, it would be so cool to write a cookbook and I have what I think is a great concept. Anyway the reason I'm telling you all this is that even if you are just a casual drop in reader it would be very helpful to have more followers to make me look more sell able. All you have to do is scroll down to the end of the blog and click on the followers box and it will walk you through the steps and if you feel like telling some friends that would be way cook as well.

Thanks again for stopping in, I can't begin to tell you how appreciated it is!

Have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year and let's hope 2010 is much better then 2009!

A Walk Through the Market in Old Town Puerto Vallarta

Amnesty International Video

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Making a Pineapple Upside Down Cake in a Toaster Oven

The middle part of this video is kind of fuzzy I think I got some butter on the lens or something.

Update on Uganda

Seems like things are moving in a better direction in Uganda and I wanted to give you this update. I also wanted to thank W.Taylor from Crop to Cup for writing such a thoughtful and informed comment. It is much appreciated.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Feliz Navidad

I'm on a funky computer with a Spanish keyboard as my internet at Casa low tech Tucan has failed me again. So I'll keep this brief: Have a happy healthy holiday.

Do a turkey a favor this holiday season, mix it up. Have an ox tail stew or a silken chicken soup with lots of fresh herbs or a sweet potato mole.

Me, personally, Urbanfoodguy, I'm on my way out for a fish taco.

Actually in the end I went to Joe Jacks Fish Shack a wonderful place run by a British guy who totally understands the theater of food and restaurants. I had a great fresh fish taco here the first day I arrived - they give you the option of either battered and fried or grilled fish, I chose battered and friend (claro!) they also have Fish and Chips (Neil).

Tonight I went with the much tooted octupus with chunks of potatoes in a chorizo and dried pepper sauce. It was a very generous portion and the octopus (pulpo) was done to perfection. The flavoring was a bit off for my taste buds, but I think it's a Mexican flavor that I just don't click with, it was akin to some moles which you get on, mostly chicken, there is a heaviness to it that doesn't sit well with me. The dish can't be faulted it was perfectly done and presented, I just think for me, tonight I should have played it safe and had comfort food. They coconut pie on the menu which I love and what a better place to eat it then here, but after to rather pale and citric margaritas it seemed an unwise choice.

Tonight I sat upstairs on there really great roof terrace with lots of colored lights, climbing vines and walls plastered with old movie posters. Very tasteful and charming, which is probably why it was filled with gay men tonight. It's a funny place in that every one speaks perfect English some of the waiters speak it as there first language I'm sure, it's like a little colonial outpost - they even have mashed peas on the menu.

Rule Britannia!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Low Hanging Fruit

Bare with this at the start I was shooting into the light and everything was in shadow.

Cool Organic Store in Puerto Vallarta

This place is great I was so happy to see it here! The guy who owns it is very charismatic, he and his wife moved here to make a life for themselves somewhere quieter then Mexico City. We had a nice chat, he sells a small, but good selection of cheeses and some homemade crackers that look like they are made with a tortilla press that are awesome with some of the fresh goat cheese he sells. A local foodie makes them a package cost 15 pesos!!!!! ($1.25 ish)

If you are in PV be sure to stop in and support these people. I will post the address tomorrow.

Oh and the best internet computer design store in town(where I am right now) is Colores.

Rotisserie Chicken

This made my mouth water and I really liked the idea of roasted jalapenos dripping with hot chicken fat!

At the end of this little video is a price list here it is in USD approximately:

Whole chicken: $5.75

2 Chickens $10.65

1/2 Chicken $2.85

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mexico City Loose Ends and Puerto Vallarta Update: Now with VIDEO!

It's hard to really get myself to sit down and write these days as the lure of the beach and getting lost in old town is too great! Random things:

Mexico City rocks and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! On my last night I did two things that were really wonderful I went to this small mescal bar on Campeche street around from my guest house on Cuernevaca in the Condesa neighborhood. It's called La Botica which is the old name for pharmacy so the walls are filled with shelves with little medicinal size bottle of mescal. I didn't count, but they probably have 30 or 40 different kings ranging from clear to dark amber all with a different taste and quality. My favorite was called anejo and was very smoking and sweet with a taste of clay - funny how terroir is there in mescal just as it is in wine.

They have a small selection of food, I had two tamales which were about 2 bucks each and they suggest you drink beer with your mescal and the beer they serve is in a tiny half size bottle, way cool. I had three mescals 2 beers and 2 tamales and spent about 16 bucks plus tip.

Then to end the night I had a very fancy posh drink on the terrace of the uber hip Condesa DF hotel. This place is way cool, the entire building throbs with dj'd house music, the courtyard dinning room has a dj area, cuz, you know, I wont eat at a super expensive fancy place unless there is a dj playing music so loud I can't talk to my friend without yelling. I'm old so many it an age thing, but as much as I loved the design I was glad to be drinking on the roof overlooking all of Mexico, where the music was way more subdued. They have wonderful gas heaters every where and luxurious blankets to cozy up in while you have your cocktail and enjoy the surroundings.

I can't imagine staying here it's only 4 stories and between the rooftop scene and music and the surround sound dinning room I can't imagine how anyone could sleep with all the noise and even if they had sound proofing the throbbing of the base was so heavy your room must vibrate! Which reminds me if staying at a roadside motel once with my mom and brother and the bed vibrator if you fed quarters into a slot on the head board. I suppose for your 250 USD bucks you at least get free vibrations with your bed. Anyway, the point here is that you don't need to stay here you can simple go here and enjoy the fabu design and style and vibe. And if I remember correctly through my mescal hazed mind the beer I had was actually reasonably priced (I think 40 peso so 3.30 which for such a fancy place is a deal!) In the end I think they could make more money by just being a club that rents rooms hourly for the rich and fabulous set, a perfect place to spend your K hole.

Thanks to Urbanfoodguy readers Skip & Chris for pointing out that Coke in Mexico is still made with sugar not corn syrup. I've talked to a lot of locals and it is amazing how savvy they seem to be about food and how the few Mexicans I have spoken to about food issues both immediately with out prompting evoke Monsanto and coke with utter contempt. Which is good to know and it is nice to see even here in PV an organic grocery store struggling to make a go of it here. I made a video and will post on it tomorrow.

The internet connection at the Casa Tucan where I am staying is pretty much non existent, barely here then gone in the same second. I found a place that I can go and download at so if the cloud covering stays I might be motivated work in a sweaty internet store or happy hour? The real drag about not having it at my place here, to be sipping a corona overlooking the ocean and blogging would be a sweet deal.

Can't really complain though it really is wonderful here. Especially the outer reaches of the old town which is still very much a traditional neighborhood. There is a wonderful little corner with an old courtyard market building with a fish monger, butcher, chicken seller (all local totally whole with heads and feet still on) a small hardware housewares store that sells some nice very simple primitive clay dishes and cookware. At the back is a long table filled with mostly men slurping up these very hardy looking soups, one had a half an ear of corn in it. The selection of food goes way beyond soup it just seemed to be a popular item when I passed through today.

(After a day of trying to upload one short little video I have given up and will go to the internet place tomorrow where I have a real connection and upload a tons of videos.)

Ok so I made it to the internet place it's great, tuck away in the outer reaches of old town, next to the 12 step meeting and up the street from the yoga studio! This grocery store is just around the corner from here and I hope to do a video of the market across the street tomorrow.

The Winter White House Garden

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Museo National de Anthropolgia Videos

This was one of the vendors on the walk into the museum, I thought he was a character and liked the colors of the drinks and the artfulness of the fruit in the cups.

These crazy guys were swinging by their feet from a pole just in front of the museum:

My impromptu corn rant:

Friday, December 18, 2009

La Tecla Video

Sorry about the weird close up of the bay leaves I was just so surprised to find such fresh and aromatic bay leaves in a dish. This was an uniquely all vegetarian meal. It was good although bith dishes my salad which had an Asian influence with lots of sesame seeds and my eggplant main were both sweet in a way I found a little over powering especially in the eggplant.

This is a charming place with chef who is trying to do "fusion" cooking, the crowd was fun and the room cozy. More on this I'm running of to see my first pyramids!

More Mexico City Street Food

El Contramar For Lunch - Mexico City Journal

My friend Jeff has been telling me about this restaurant for ages so I was very excited to be able to finally get a chance to eat here. Contramar is all a buzz with sophisticated, fashionable, wealthy Mexican business people.

Interestingly all the four places I've eaten at that are: "must-eat-at-fancy-restaurants" none of them where in the least bit touristy (as far as I could see).

None of them: Primos, El Cardenal, La Tecla and El Contramar had a soul working for them who could spoke a lick of English. In the case of the last three they had marginally English menus, which in reality are a mix of some English and then a blurb or some specials that are in Spanish. I also noticed (as I insisted on looking at both English and Spanish menu's) that there always seemed to be things on the Spanish menu not on the English. The names of the dishes are always in Spanish, the description is English, so you end up either badly pronouncing what you want in Spanish or pointing.

This is frustrating for me because I just want to be able to speak better Spanish, motivation for me to go home and sign up for a class, but more so it's a testament to how even though American pop and corporate culture infiltrates every second of Mexican life, they remain aloof and steadfastly dedicated to their cultural heritage. It certainly isn't easy, especially given corporate American's insistence on homoganizing all cultures in order to increase their market share and make sure their products has a place. Coke, a GMO corn syrup product is insanely popular here, never in my life have I seen so many people at a fancy restaurant order Coke as their drink of choice.

Hand in hand with Coke is the upsetting case of Monsanto (again) who have basically invaded Mexico and ruined it's traditional corn cultural (see my Museo Nacional de Anthropolgia corn rant).

El Contramar was the first place I ate at that whose menu was not so predominately Mexican, for example they had pasta with tomato and basil (I thought of you Neil) and simple cold seafood platters on ice. Promos also had steak frite and other international items, in a way Primos is the least Mexican of any of the four restaurants.

I do find the preponderance of tuna and to a lesser extent salmon on the menus here a little upsetting from an enviornmental point of view. The salmon is all farmed and I wonder why it is in a country that has two coasts they feel the need to import farmed salmon (duh, it's cheap). Tuna is just over fished and certainly unless a miracle happens Blue Fin Tuna will be extinct within the next few years. I assume the tuna being used at Contramar is yellow fin or other less precious tuna, running a seafood restaurant at this point in history isn't easy, given the desperate state of the world's seas.


My meal at El Contramar an appetizer, main course, beer, coffee was 305 pesos plus a 50 peso tip so 355 which is $27.64 a fraction of the cost at a similar restaurant in NYC.

The other thing to know about Contramar, other then it's fabulous and you should go if you are ever in Mexico City, is that they aren't open for dinner. Yes, you read that correctly they stop serving around 5:30 or 6. It's the ulitmate slap in the face to the Spanish invaders whose restaurants don't even open for dinner until 8:30 that Mexico is a culture of early eaters. The main meal of the day is in the afternoon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mexico City: Day 1

Sorry it was all I could do today to just get lost and find my way again so I have yet to start taking pictures or movies - tomorrow!

Here are my first impressions of this huge, sprawling amazing city:

A Latin Bangkok.

Lots of really great street food, just look for the place with a crowd and stand in the queue.

Meat, meat and more meat! And you know it's from a factory, but these are poor people so what are you going to do? I did find one organic salad place, very modern and vaguely chain like, and then I read at the guest house I am staying in there is another organic place in the neighborhood! Good signs that things are changing.

Amazing Parks.

Museo de Art Moderno Fabulouso!

They really don't speak much English and I really wish I had studied Spanish in school!

The metro is great and I was the only gringo I saw using it. 2 pesos a ride!!!!!!! That's barely 16 cents a ride to go anywhere on this extensive and vast system.

I rode it twice today, paid admission to the modern art museum, had pork, onion, potato, black bean and hot sauce, soft, corn tacos (3 or 4 tacos to the dish) and bought a big bottle of bubbled mineral water: the entire day cost $4 USD (a hearty breakfast is part of my guest house).


Monday, December 14, 2009

Oops, Chanukha Menu and Some Changes

Recently I posts recipes for both Latkes and Pumpkin Flan.

Both of which I made the other night and realized that there was need for some improvement on what I originally wrote.

I've gone into the documents and added comments, basically for the latkes you don't need 2 tablespoons of salt 1 is enough for about 8 medium to large potatoes and 2 teaspoons should be tossed in before you drain them to help extract the water from the potatoes. Also this time my onions were not watery at all and didn't really need draining - in the past they have been really watery so play it by ear if the onions after you have grated them are really juicy sieve them otherwise no need.

The Flan, when I first made it I used only half of the caramel it worked like a charm, so when I made it again and posted the recipe I said to use all of it! Well it was a mistake, if you add all of it it doesn't get incorporated by the flan and you end of having hard caramel that sticks to the pan not the flan! Ugh. So use only enough to coast the bottom of the pan and add 1/3-1/2 cup of water to the remainder to make a sauce which you can pour over the flan once you have flipped it out onto a plate.

Hanukkah Dinner

Sour Dough Whole Wheat
Sour Dough Challah (still needs work)

Kate's Sweet Maine Butter

Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles

with Russ and Daughter's Cream Cheese, Organic Irish Lox and Wild Salmon Roe

Red and Green Cabbage Salad
with Currants, Pecans, Apples and Caraway

Roasted Cauliflower and Romanesco
with extra sharp white Cheddar

Sweet Potato Flan

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coffee, Uganda, Death to Gay People and Crop to Cup

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I've been following this story about Uganda since it broke and have been really furious about it and also wondering how I can make a difference? It's hard, as a gay man, not to take this kind of event personally. Particularly as Rachael Maddow points out it seems like American Christians who really got the ball rolling.

Christians seem to be more and more right wing, high profile and extreme in this country then I ever remember. When did they become so hateful, intolerant and vocally homophobic?

In nature on this planet that there is balance you find two things, always, you find diversity and balance. The fungus that kills the ants when they over populate the lion that eats the antelope a gay man I see my role in this complex system as being one of balance. The problem with our food systems and our planet are to a large extent because we have taxed the planet to it's hilt because we have over populated it. Gay people for the most part don't breed. We make great aunts and uncles. We provide balance and support to our friends and family who do choose to breed. That's why I think we are here, have always been here and wish people would just comes to term with this very simple reality.

I think it's evil, yes I used the word evil, to spread hate, to fund hate in poor African countries when they are already trying to deal with famine, desertification, poverty and AIDS. So the conclusion these American Christians come to is: oh this is a vulnerable place where we can get our claws in and push our hate filled ideological agenda. Encouraging the current right wing Christian government of Uganda to introduce a bill that would make being gay a crime punishable by death? Currently there are 5 countries in the world where laws like this are on the books, it's hardly an elite I can imagine you'd want to be a part of, but maybe the lunatic fringe Christians in this country feel like the only way they can compete with the lunatic fringe Muslims is to go head to head with them to see who can be more intolerant and hateful?

Let me breath and give you some back ground, Uganda had recently been getting more prosperous and more stable enjoying better times along with it's troubled neighbor Rwanda. They have collectively the largest group of gorillas living in the wild in the world. It's created a tourist boom and I have fantasized about going for years, although mostly to Rwanda. A friend of mine who lives in Rwanda told me the same Christian haters have been working in that country to also introduce such a similar kill the gays bill.

Now you may ask why am I even writing about this on a blog that is ostensibly about food. Well for over 6 months now I have been getting my coffee from Ugandan farmers from Crop to Cup. A company who I have profiled here and whose coffee I really like. Crop to Cup supports family farmers, pays a better price for their beans then even fare trade brands and they do other good works with the people of Uganda. Yet over the last week I have been furious and the one thing I can do, that I have control over is to say to those poor Ugandan farmers - fuck you! I'll buy my coffee elsewhere thanks. Gay people in American and all over the world help you feed your children and this is how you treat us?

Then I take a yoga class and realize that one of the reasons this is able to happen in Uganda is because it is such a broken, poor country. If someone offers them money and hope, even if they are an ideologically insane right wing American Christian who wants access to your country to proselytize and spread hate well, what are you going to do? You need to feed your family.

Still how am I, as an American consumer going to respond to this?

Does it even make a difference if I stop buying my coffee from Crop to Cup?

I want to make an impact, to express my outrage and to let the people of Uganda know a few things, like: my money is helping, in a small way, to get their economy going again.

My money is helping them grown their business and feed their families.

That gay people drink coffee, have jobs and spend money. That the death penalty is really medieval and cruel and mean spirited and a very odd way to punish love.

It's a struggle. I write about it today because it's on my mind and I don't really know what to do and because I feel powerless, that no matter what I do it only hurts people who have had no say in what is going on.

Thoughts or comments would be much appreciated.

Change Your Diet, Become Less Irritable

Thanks Kurt

Friday, December 11, 2009

Is All Bourbon Is Genetically Modified?

Last week I was at Astor Wines it's probably my favorite place to by booze these days. They have great prices a vast selection and a real dedication to organics. They also have lots of staff pick narratives and friendly helpful staff willing to help out with making a decision or giving you the low down on a bottle.

We were having a dinner party and I needed to pick up some wine and wanted to treat myself to a nice bottle of Bourbon, I don't actually drink it, but I love to cook with it. Scotch, Rum and Bourbon are my cooking triumvirate and I was out of all of them.

It dawned on me while browsing through the huge selection of bourbons that not one of them was organic. I actually didn't see an organic scotch either, but that didn't bother me so much as it's made from grain that isn't genetically modified, Bourbon, on the other hand, is made from corn which is a huge GMO crop here in the States. When I did a search online for organic Bourbon nothing comes up.

So every time you see a recipe here or anywhere that calls for bourbon use rum, I found several organic rums my favorite is R J Rum VSOP. It's aged in old bourbon barrels, but they are recharred, so let's hope that gets rid of any trace GMO nastiness.

And if you are a business person reading this, I have a great idea for you: small batch organic bourbon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Latkes for Chanukah

Please Note that there have been some changes made to this reipe since it was posted.

I love Latkes, who doesn't? For me the key to a good Latka is that it should taste of potato, be crunchy and thin. Lots of hot oil helps (high temperature canola or even better organic Peanut Oil, with peanut oil it's really important to spend the extra money on organic*)

This is a recipe I have developed over 23 years of living with Neil and making them each year for Chanukah. In that time I think I have tried every possible variation included a version that had cinnamon and was made with egg noodles (I was young and adventuresome what can I tell you).
Turns out, as it usually does, the simplest recipe is the best.

Latkes Recipe

This is a recipe you should feel free to play around with, all I'm offering you here is a template, you may want more or less onions or herbs or potatoes, what is key here is the process.

Wash, but do not peel 6-8 medium to large potatoes, I like Yukon Golds (double or triple if you are using smaller fingerling type potatoes like La Ratte which are also a good choice).

Pat dry and grate on the large hole side of the grated or with the grating attachment of a food processor (forever I have made these on a box grater and they were always juicy this year I used the grater attachment with the food processor and found them to be far more dry - So I added two teaspoons of salt and tossed the potatoes with it before letting them sit for 30 minutes).

Place the grated potatoes in a sieve or colander over a bowl to allow all the liquid to drain, placing a plate over the potatoes and weighing them down with some large cans is a good idea. I usually start out by squeezing the shredded potatoes with my hands to help start things out.

Let drain for at 30 minutes.

Don't freak out - the potatoes will turn color and become brown when cooked it will become moot. If you want you can wrap the shredded potatoes in cheese cloth first before draining this helps.

While you are waiting for the potatoes to drain, pulse in a food processor 1 or 2 medium onions (to taste I think you need 2), put them in a fine sieve and also let them drain over a bowl until the potatoes are finished - 30 or so minutes (again with these onions this year using a food processor far less wet).

After the shredded potatoes have sat and drained what happens is that all the potato starch has sunk to the bottom of the bowl on top of which is brackish water - which you want to dispose of - but keep the potato starch sediment (OK so I used Kennebec Potatoes and they were far less starchy then previous potatoes, so I just added a few tablespoons of flour to supplement the starch that wasn't there this time).

Once you have disposed of the water, put the shredded, now dry potatoes (feel free to wring them one more time with your hands just to make sure you've gotten out every last drop!) into a bowl add the potato starch sediment, add 2 slight beaten large eggs and the onions (discarding the watery onion water) and stir. Here is where you would add a tablespoon or so of flour if you thin they need further binding.

Fold in 2-4 T of your choice of fresh herb Sage is my favorite, but Rosemary, Thyme or Savory are all good. Add 1-2 teaspoons more of kosher salt (more or less to taste) and generously grate with black pepper and add an optional pinch of cayenne.

A cast iron skillet is best for frying, use at least an 1" of canola or organic peanut oil over medium high heat, get the oil good and hot (but not smoking) and using a generous Tablespoon of batter place in the oil cook for 2-3 minutes until the edges start to brown then flip and cook the other side for the same amount of time. Dry on a towel and serve immediately.

I always like to make one in advance to test the oil and then taste it so I know if I have seasoned it right, I like them to have an almost salty french fry quality. You may not, but the only way to know is to make one and see what you think, always er on the side of less salt then more.

You can keep them warm in the oven but they will lose their crispiness.

Smear them with cream cheese or sour cream and have a platter of wild caught smoked salmon or smoked whitefish salad, from Russ and Daughters for your guests to add as they see fit along with a big bowl of homemade apple sauce - try using Pippin Apples for your sauce and sweeten it with maple syrup!

It's best to recruit help with Latka parties because you really need to keep making batches of Laktes until all the batter is done and serving them fresh from the frying pan, oven warmed ones just aren't the same.

* My thing is commercial non organic Peanut oil is that peanuts are grown in rotation with cotton in this country, cotton is the more heavily soak in pesticides of any crop. Peanuts have an amazing ability to seep these poisons out of the soil. You do the math, organic peanut oil which up until recently has been incredibly hard to find is now available in most health food grocery stores.

Public Art in Copenhagen

I thought this was a brilliant and very effective work of art:

Monday, December 7, 2009

About Town: Knodel, Caramel Artisans and Pretzels, Oh My!

Interior of the Northern Spy Food Company

We may be in a recession with tons of people out of work, but it hasn't dampened the entrepreneurial spirits of chefs and other ambitious business minded foodies. Downtown is a-buzz with a bunch of new (or newish) places that I've come across in the last couple of weeks.

Here's my list and first impression of places you need to visit:

Kinski: Austere wood and autopsy bright florescent lighting meets Austrian Coffee House.
I only had a rosemary angel food cake garnished with what I think was dried rose petals and an Americano coffee (get some drip Kinski).

I like the feel of the place, reminded me a bit of cross between the first City Bakery and the first Momofuku - all modernist plywood and bright lights (can I mention the bright lights again? The eating area would so benefit from some floors lamps on dimmers....maybe it's my age, but really, you need sun glasses to eat here).

They have a unique selection of dumplings both sweet and savory (nougat knodel anyone?) or the bread knodel (knodel = dumpling) with goulash. No mention on the menu where they get their meat for said goulash, but the menu and the well equipped kitchen suggest these people are serious about sustainability and other locavore issues (and of course I'll ask next time I'm in).

So far I've only visited once for a takeout sweet that I was underwhelmed with (I'm old fashioned when it comes to these things I'd much rather have had a traditional or chocolate angel food cake then rosemary and rose petals). I couldn't really taste the rosemary and the rose peddles had no flavor and the texture of cardboard.

The Americano tasted like burnt hot water, I got rid of it in a block.

Now I know that doesn't sound like a recommendation, but I really do want to go back and sit at the communal table and do a serious tasting of their food. The place has a great vibe and I love that they are doing something new and interesting. Cranberry nut bread with goat cheese and fresh herbs and dark bread with butter, honey and crisp apples both make my mouth water as do the knodels. I'll up date you further after I've visited more .

Not far from Kinski, as you walk west, is a place called Papabubble, a chain that originates in Barcelona that makes what they call artisanal caramels. I'd call it pulled toffee, but no matter what you call it they have created a great fun space that makes caramel in the old fashioned way - without corn syrup! When you walk in there is a caramel maker kneading some brightly colored wad of caramel. A little further away someone else is stretching the caramel over a big hook on the wall. It's great food theater! On the counter are a half dozen samples.

This is definitely one of the more fun and unique places to open since Rice to Riches put gourmet flavors of rice pudding on the map (check out their web site it's hysterical).

Speaking of unique, over in the East Village Sigmund opened about a month ago on Avenue B with a mission to change your mind about how you think about pretzels. I had the Gruyere and paprika, which was soft and chewy and delicious. They offer several sides and I chose grain mustard, but sweet butter, nutella and many others are available, as are pretzel sandwiches and home made filled donuts. The flavor of the day on Sunday was passion fruit curd with coconut.  Good thing I'm diabetic, otherwise I'd be very fat.

I was able to finally sample the food at Northern Spy Food Company, a place on East12th Street that I'd mentioned here before and have been anxiously awaiting to try.

They're still stocking their shelves and getting up to speed, but their dedication to local, quality ingredients shines through in every dish. Don't think about appetizers and entrees when you eat here it's all about small dishes even though there appears to be 4 "main" dishes: squid, polenta/veggie, chicken and pork.  You'll want to spread out and try a bunch of the sides, salads and sandwiches as the big 4 aren't really enough for more then a light meal (at least the squid wasn't - I have to go back and try the other!)

I started off with the kale salad with cheddar, squash and almonds. The almonds gave the salad a wonderful crunch, the kale was finely shredded, the cheese subtle, the flavors melded well and I love how local and seasonal it is. I wish the squash cubes were smaller and crunchier in this dish the squishiness of the squash seemed a little out of place, even though it was quite tasty.

My squid dish was perfectly plated and every aspect of it was done just right. I ate it all up, but I think it really could have been helped out by a condiment of some sort, some fish sauce or hot sauce or chutney, as it leaned towards bland.

The trend in restaurants not to have salt and pepper on the table really pisses me off. OK, fine, you don't want to have them pre-set cuz people steal them, how about bringing them to the table when you get your food so the customer doesn't have to ask?

Neils grilled cheese was awesome and they were wonderfully accommodating about removing the mushrooms (he's over mushrooms, long story...) I really appreciate this as so often restaurant kitchens can be fairly entrenched about not making alterations to dishes.

The side of fingerling were OK I think they would have benefited from more crunch which could easily be accomplished by roasting them longer, as served they were a bit mealy. These are small easily fixed problems. The cookie selection plate was great, chocolate chip, corn meal apricot, Sandie's and a dark chocolate disk cookie all were very tasty. They have several desserts, like Seckle pear tart and chocolate cherry cake, that having me itching to return (along with a reasonably priced cheese selection for 10 bucks).

Northern Spy Food Company is one of the most exciting restaurants to open in the East Village in many years, I look froward to eating there often and am anxious to see their food shop expand and become the lively marketplace it deserves to be.

Extra Salmonella With That Burger?

By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

This just in from USA Today.

As you'll see the article says this is the 2nd time this year ground cow has been recalled: 22,723 pounds this month and 826,000 pounds in August contaminated with antibiotic resistant salmonella Newport.

That's an awful lot of toxic burgers.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cooking in Plastic Now Available At Home!

So I get this email newsletter thingy with the head line:

An appliance that will change your life

Jeez that's an awfully big statement. Let me see what other appliances have changed my life? My dishwasher has made things easier and I sure am glad I no longer have to take my clothes down to the river and rub them against rocks to get them clean. Change my life? I thought maybe it was a machine that printed money or cured deadly diseases or something, so you can imagine my disappointed when I opened up the email to see what it was - a machine that allows you to put everything you cook into a plastic bag and heat it in hot water for a long time.

The email starts out badly:

"The turning point in the war against dry chicken and mushy broccoli came in the 1970s, when French chef George Pralus invented sous-vide ("under-vacuum") cooking".

How about not cooking your broccoli so much and buying chicken that wasn't manufactured in a factory? Funny it's 2009 almost 2010 and I don't seem to be suffering for either of these life threatening issues? And I manage to do it with out an expensive machine and the assistance of the fossil fuel industry. How can cooking in plastic be a good thing?

Leached PCBs in your Cacciatore anyone?

I don't know maybe I'm just being old fashioned, but besides not really liking the food I've eaten that was cooked in this method I think there is something terribly wrong with the idea that we think at this point in our history that cooking in plastic is a good idea and that it will change our lives?

Given that we cook less than ever before I don't see it as a major threat to civilization, but still, come on, please. When I grew up my mother, who was one of the worst cooks on the planet, used to buy boil n' bag meals Salisbury steak was my favorite at the time, but it's not a time I wish to visit again.

I also like how the newsletter never mentions plastic it just says:

"Seal any ingredient--from fruit to foie gras--in an airtight bag (emphasis added), then cook it in a controlled water bath"

I love the idea you would spend all that money on foie gras only to boil it in a Ziploc PLASTIC bag.

Obviously this is not the appliance that is going to change my life, it's not even an appliance I think should really exist, but hey it's a free country and if you have $500 and can't figure out how to take broccoli out of the water before it's over cooked well - knock yourself out - just don't invite me over for dinner.

Oh and just in case someone accuses me of not being fair and balanced here's the link so you can get your Sous Vide Supreme before the holidays!

Your Harper's Moment for the Week via Kurt

Zookeepers at the Chongqing Wild Animal Park, China, were dismayed to find that the zoo's five white tigers had become so domesticated they were scared of the live chickens they were meant to eat.

This resonates for me because in Planet Earth, the BBC series I've been talking about lately, one of the topics is the importance of habitat for animals. Besides the need to maintain biodiversity it's clear that animals who live in captivity lose their "wildness" and become basically domesticated.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter Market

The perfect place to get all your food gifts for the holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Craig's 40th

Happy 40th Craig!

House Roasted Almonds


Thai Red Curry Pumpkin Soup

Cheddar Cheese and Melted Onion Fondue

Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Potatoes,
House made Sour Dough Bread, Pippin Heirloom Local Apples

Persimmon, Pomegranate & Spinach Salad

House Made Pickle Tray

Coconut Rum Layer Cake
with Hot Dark Chocolate Sauce

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
with Whipped Cream

The Meat Hook, Brooklyn KItchen and Cooking Classes

Last Sunday I went to the Brooklyn Kitchen Labs which is a collaboration between the Brooklyn Kitchen the Meat Hook.

These foodies have really out done themselves, with two spaces for cooking classes, a big meat market specializing in odd bits, offal and dedicated to local and humanly raised animals and a food shop cooking supply store that when I was there was still getting up to speed. So much so the doors on the class hadn't been installed yet and the oven had only been connected hours before we go to class.

What class you wonder? Why I took my first ever cooking class on how to make sour dough bread. It was taught by the smart and charming sour dough expert Nathan Leamy and it changed my life. Well, at the very least it has changed the way I make and think about bread.
It certainly has changed my relationship to bread making and everyone in my circle is very happy because even though my bread was pretty good before it really has jumped to an entirely new level.

When I got to the class a selection of bread, cheese and butter were laid out for us to nibble before the class got started. We were also given a plastic dough scrapper and a small jam jar filled with sour dough starter - pretty damn good for 40 bucks! The class lasted two hours and was really fun, informative and encouraging.

I highly recommend you check out the class schedule and consider taking a class. Just be aware that they are still working out all the kinks so the day I went it was pretty cold and the ambient noise from the store area made it hard to hear so sit close and take a sweater. These are minor and temporary issues and even if they weren't it's worth it to be part of this exciting new culinary epicenter in Williamsburg.

The space is a fantastic large old warehouse (maybe garage?) with high ceilings and skylights. In addition to kitchen supplies the goal is to also have bulk local food stuffs, spices, and other artisanal local foods.

This is a definite must - put it on the to do list for this weekend! And don't forget to sign up for a class!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pork from a Petrie Dish

This isn't really very surprising, but the London Times is reporting that scientists have grown meat in a lab.

My favorite quote is:

So far the scientists have not tasted it, but they believe the breakthrough could lead to sausages and other processed products being made from laboratory meat in as little as five years’ time.

Good enough for processed meat mass consumption real soon, but we've yet gotten around to trying it.

Really, this is so unnecessary.
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