Saturday, January 31, 2009

Le Creuset makes me grumpy


Apparently grumpy is the theme of the day.

Before I decided to do a make shift covered dish for my no knead bread I spent the better part of the afternoon looking for a covered dish.

The recipe calls for a 5-6 quart, pyrex, le Creuset or ceramic covered pot. The one pictured above is Le Creuset's "French Oven." It retails for $310. Broadway Panhandler has them on sale for $250-ish.

Here's what I discovered. In the 5 or 6 stores I went to - from K-Mart to Dean and Deluca, no one sells a 5 or 6 quart ceramic or pyrex pot. The only one available was Le Crueset. I had no intention of buying one, even though I have fetishized them for years, because they are out of my price range, but even if I had the money: are you ready for this?

The beautiful French Oven pot, has a top on it made of some plastic rubber substance THAT MELTS AT 375 F.

Why would anyone in their right mind spend 310 bucks on a French Oven that is meant to go into the oven as its singular purpose, but you can't cook anything in it at a temperature above 375? Of course, ever the clever marketer, Le Creuset offers you the option to buy a metal top that cost $20 extra (meaning they are well aware of the situation and could care less what their customers think).

These metal tops, individually wrapped, were sold out at the two retailers where I asked. Meaning if you really wanted one you'd have to order it on line and have it mailed. Further increasing the expense and carbon footprint.

To their credit, the new line of basic black and white pots, now comes with a metal top, no extra charge, a bargain at $310.

Dining with Bittman: Speedy No-Kneed Bread Revisited - NYT



I posted this before and like so often happens things you post from Youtube seem to disappear on you. So I'm trying again!

Last night I made my first loaf of no knead bread, I replaced 1 1/2 cups bread flour with 1 1/2 cups rye flour and added a hefty tablespoon of caraway seeds.

It was the best bread I've ever made! Oh and it says you need to buy some sort of large expensive dutch oven type thing - you don't I used a ceramic pie plate covered in tin foil, worked just fine.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Yummy! Pesticides, slurp ;-)

In my ongoing craziness to find out far more information then is most likely good for me, I came across this site foodnews.org. They had this very helpful chart (see below) showing which "conventionally" grown fruits have the most pesticides in them. Peach and Pesticide Cobbler, anyone?

The Full List: 43 Fruits & Veggies

RANK

FRUIT OR VEGGIE

SCORE

1 (worst)

Peaches

100 (highest pesticide load)

2

Apples

96

3

Sweet Bell Peppers

86

4

Celery

85

5

Nectarines

84

6

Strawberries

83

7

Cherries

75

8

Lettuce

69

9

Grapes - Imported

68

10

Pears

65

11

Spinach

60

12

Potatoes

58

13

Carrots

57

14

Green Beans

55

15

Hot Peppers

53

16

Cucumbers

52

17

Raspberries

47

18

Plums

46

19

Oranges

46

20

Grapes-Domestic

46

21

Cauliflower

39

22

Tangerine

38

23

Mushrooms

37

24

Cantaloupe

34

25

Lemon

31

26

Honeydew Melon

31

27

Grapefruit

31

28

Winter Squash

31

29

Tomatoes

30

30

Sweet Potatoes

30

31

Watermelon

25

32

Blueberries

24

33

Papaya

21

34

Eggplant

19

35

Broccoli

18

36

Cabbage

17

37

Bananas

16

38

Kiwi

14

39

Asparagus

11

40

Sweet Peas-Frozen

11

41

Mango

9

42

Pineapples

7

43

Sweet Corn-Frozen

2

44

Avocado

1

45 (best)

Onions

1 (lowest pesticide load)

Note: We ranked a total of 44 different fruits and vegetables but grapes are listed twice because we looked at both domestic and imported samples.

Just another reason to stay local and organic when you can. Apples, my favorite and really the only Winter eating fruit, comes in as #2, so maybe soon I will be radioactive and glowing. I buy all my apples locally, and am told by the farmers that they do very little spraying and use green products when they do. This is the conundrum about buying local, when farmers don't have the money to pay for the organic certification. Apples that I have seen at the market that are local and organic look pretty bad; now I understand this is not just about looks, but I am sorry to say that sometimes I choose the non-organic local apples because I am a sucker for the better looking ones. It does tell you how much apples have changed in their look since they were first planted (mostly for hard cider) in this country. Apples that are just going to be pressed for juice can be as ugly as they want to be, but eating seems to be another issue. Just goes to show you that even when you are trying to eat healthy, locally, and sustainably you are still making choices as to how far you are actually willing to go. The bottom line for me is that I'd rather support a farmer who is local then some large corporate food producer in California or Chile.






Thursday, January 29, 2009

Only Homos Don't Eat Meat

One of my favorite blogs that I read daily is called http://joemygod.blogspot.com/.
Normally I'd just link to this, but this is so absurd to me that I have gone ahead and cut and paste it directly from Joe's site. Thanks Joe.



A straight and married Wall Street trader is suing his former employers, saying that they tormented him for his vegetarianism and told him that only homosexuals don't eat meat.
Ryan Pacifico is suing Calyon in the Americas, charging that his one-time boss at the French financial firm presided over a testosterone-fueled trading desk, where he was mocked for avoiding meat and wearing snug-fitting shorts during triathlons. "A trading floor is certainly a manly man's world," Pacifico said. "I just never expected someone to think it's gay to be a vegetarian or to constantly poke fun at me." The 28-year-old Long Island man worked as a junior foreign-exchange trader in Manhattan for the firm from 2005 until he was fired last March. Pacifico's discrimination lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, contends the firm cooked up lies about his job performance to fire him - when the real factors were that he was a vegetarian who was perceived to be gay by boss Robert Catalanello. "They associated being a vegetarian with being gay," said Rick Ostrove, a lawyer for Pacifico. "It's a ridiculous male stereotype that only real men eat meat."

Pacifico says at one time his boss taunted him with "You don't even eat steak, dude. At what point in time did you realize you were gay?"

OK this is me again, wow, just WOW, if not eating meat makes you gay in these men's minds then what does that make all the gay people who do eat meat?

What an up hill battle it is going to be to change people's eating habits and perceptions of food. It's also really important to note that this is the second news article that I have read in recent months, the other being the killing of Nicaraguan man Jose
Sucuzhanay in Bushwick, where straight men have been the victims of "anti-gay" hate violence."

It seems maybe on this score my mother may have been right: "We're all going to hell in a handbasket"

And apparently for a great number of us - the 48% of the population that voted Republican - that would be just fine, better to stay the same and be ignorant than change. No wonder Obama had to have a security detail sooner then any other presidental candidate.

I know I'm a drama queen, but lets be honest here, this is, in reality, very scary. These are the people we have to educate and it isn't going to be easy.


Anthony Bourdain in Quebec

WAIT! This is not for the faint of heart. Anthony visits an Inuit family in the far north of Quebec. The family he visits kill a seal and share it with him. The scene of them sitting around the kitchen floor eating bloody, raw seal is amazing, but pretty gory, so be warned.

Powerful stuff.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Ad 2

This is such a joke. The corn syrup industry has an ad campaign to convince people that high fructose corn syrup is an OK, healthy, feel-good product we should hold close to our hearts and embrace, mindlessly, like a character in a zombie movie. As you can imagine, trying to put a good spin on an obesity- and diabetes-causing, genetically modified, Monsanto-is-taking-over-the-world, government subsidized "sugar product" isn't easy.

It is, however, particularly galling given recent reports about contamination of corn syrup with mercury. Just another negative to add to the already long list of why we shouldn't even make the stuff. Anyway, enough of me ranting, here's what the new findings are:

"In one study, published in the journal Environmental Health, former Food and Drug Administration scientist Renee Dufault and colleagues tested 20 samples of high fructose corn syrup and found detectable mercury in nine of the 20 samples".

For the full article go here.

Dinie's Birthday Menu

Dinie’s Birthday Dinner
January 25, 2009


Parsnip Chip
with cumin seed and lemon

Home made pizzas (made with no knead dough):

Equinox (a local goat/cow cheese) and wild arugula
(from a greenhouse in Long Island) tossed lightly with olive oil, lemon salt and pepper

Rosemary and thyme infused tomato sauce with parmesan and mozzarella

Onion Marmalade, olives, and goat cheese

Fresh goat cheese and hen of the wood mushrooms
Finished with white truffle oil.



Meyer Lemon Curd in a Pecan Shortbread Tart
With whipped cream

The No Knead Revolution! Part deux

So the other night I was making a birthday party for our cousin Dinie. Somewhere I had come across a recipe from NYC's famous Sullivan Street Bakery for no knead pizza dough. Then out of the blue my friend Jim in Vancouver writes and sends me four links about no knead bread. Apparently, it is a popular concept that has caught on. Here is Mark Bittman making it, and here is the link to Sullivan Street bakery.

The no knead revolution: recipes!

Here is the link to the recipe from the genius behind it all Jim Lahey, at Sullivan Street Bakery here in NYC.

Here is the recipe that I found for no knead pizza dough, from Mr. Lahey's new pizza restaurant in Chelsea called Co.

No-Knead Pizza Dough

1. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups all purpose or bread flour with 1/4 teaspoon yeast and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended (the dough will be very sticky). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot, about 70°.

2. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and lightly sprinkle the top with flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Generously sprinkle a clean cotton towel with flour and cover the dough balls with it. Let the dough rise for 2 hours.

4. Stretch or toss the dough into the desired shape, cover with toppings and bake on top of a very hot pizza stone.

(He suggests dividing the dough into 4, this makes small individual 12" pizzas, I doubled the recipe and made bigger pizzas, play around and see what works best for you. Also feel free to add other types of flour, Alice Waters is a big fan of using some Rye Flour in her pizza dough, and I'm all for upping the fiber if you can find some whole grain local flour).

Dining in the Dark

My dear friend and UrbanFoodGuy reporter at large Craig sent me a blog post about this restaurant Opaque.

The concept is all the servers are blind (I made a typo and initially wrote blond - so glad I caught that one! Can you image eating a restaurant where all the servers where blond? Like wow what a concept!) and you eat in total darkness.

I did a search and found this video. It struck me initially as being kind of gimmicky, but there is something to be said about putting yourself in a situation where you are forced to taste your food without the help of yours eyes. As someone who did food styling here in NYC I am keenly aware of how much of what eat eat is about how it looks. So what happens when you don't see the presentation or the room, how does that change your experience?

So, yeah, it is a gimmick, but I think one that would be valuable to try at least once.

Kumi Naidoo appeal

You see all these Hollywood movies about the power of the CIA and other such organizations who go into dangerous places and take out some strategic leader or corrupt low life type, isn't it about time we hired 007 or some thing to go in and get rid of Mugabe? What is the world waiting for? In the mean time don't eat for a day and support Kumi Naidoo in his brave and important activism to make Africa and the the world a safer, more humane place for all of us. A place where eating isn't a privilege.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The History Of Straus Family Creamery

This is a two part video, this is the documentary part 1 and the second one is actually an inside look at how they make their butter.

I know I seem to be on a butter obsession these days, but hey it could be worse, because as I have always said, butter makes everything better!

Making Organic Butter

I saw this video and then came across the Straus history video and thought they were wonderful. Mostly, it is inspiring to see people way ahead of the curve make bold commitments to the environment, to quality and ultimately making it work as a business.

Straus products are available here but for local reasons I buy Kates from Maine butter, although now I'm tempted to go against my local philosophy and by a pound just to support these great people and their very noble mission.

Fine Fare over charges for Organic products

I've been doing a survey of organic butter at different grocery stores. Fine Fare tends to cater to a poorer demographic and really under sells and over charges for what few organic items they carry. It's sad to me that poor people are always the ones being shafted. They go to the grocery store and see how expensive the organic version is and buy something cheaper and inferior. The idea of going out of the way to shop at Whole Foods probably doesn't even occur to most people , in part, I think because they are convinced it's more expensive. Well, these two videos prove that Whole Foods, if you shop selectively, offers far better value than you might think.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Butter at Whole Foods

Friday, January 23, 2009

Food Matters: Mark Bittmans new book


Everyone is a-buzz about Bittman's new book, yet another of the many growing voices denouncing the commodification of our food supply by large corporations more interested in profit than, well than anything else.

Bittman’s journey into sustainable food and the issues surrounding food production in this country began when he learned that global livestock production accounts for more greenhouse gas than cars, trucks, planes and trains do.

I ask every restaurant I eat in where they get their chicken from and 99.9% of the time the server just shrugs like they don't understand the question as if to say: "Why, the grocery store, wrapped in plastic on that little piece of Styrofoam. How else would chicken come? "

The thing that I am using this day to not eat CAFO meat (and I eat very little meat) is to think about how factory farmed meat is done in cramped spaces, where the animals are treated like "products" - so cutting off beaks and feet of chicken who then go insane because they are packed so close together and defecating on each other, which is why so much of our meat is filled with antibiotics. How could anything live in this environment and be "healthy"? Oh, the icing on the cake is that these animals spend their time on this fair earth living in their own and their neighbor's waste. Animal waste is a problem for CAFO's which end up having to have a "waste lagoon" adjacent to the "concentrated animal feeding operation."

Remember a couple of years ago there was a tainted organic spinach scare? Remember what the issue ended up being? The farm next to the organic spinach farm was a CAFO and their "waste" lagoon spilled over into the organic farmer's field. Nice.

"Cow shit with your salad, Madame?"

Why would you want to eat an imprisoned, antibiotic filled, mutilated, shit covered, tortured animal? And why is it most people aren't even aware of this as a significant issue?

Probably the same reason Duane Reade doesn't carry recycled paper products; see my post on that topic below. Here's my update: I checked again. They are in the pay of big paper, who doesn't want anyone to have the option of buying a green product. As a matter of fact, the Duane Reade on the corner of Broadway and Grand hides their organic cleaning products in an entirely different section so if you were looking for window cleaner say and you looked in the window cleaner section you would not see a green choice, because the green stuff is at the end of an aisle, somewhere totally unrelated.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

4 Stars

In today's NY Times, restaurant critic Frank Bruni re-reviews Daniel giving it 4 stars in a rave revue.

Bruni sums up perfectly the super-expensive-fancy-French-cuisine-thing here in NYC.


"Among the handful of elegant restaurants that maintain the rituals once synonymous with superior cuisine and cling to an haute French style, Daniel is the most straightforward, the one with the fewest tics or tweaks. It’s the truest link to the past."

"Le Bernardin has its microfocus of seafood. Jean Georges has its mission of lightening French cooking, finding alternatives to cream and reductions. Per Se does its bombastic strut, with discourses on ingredients that are equal parts tutorial and sonnet."

We ate at Daniel years ago, it was boring, very beige and efficient but kind of not so interesting to us. I tend to like quirkier places.

The picture from the Times makes the room look splendid.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Random NYC Restaurant updates

The new hot place for chefs after hours to go and nosh is a bar on 13th st called The Redhead where Chef Meg Grace has been making big news with her southern inspired late night dinner menu (just an abbreviation of the regular hours menu). Served every night, except Sunday, from 11-2am. Her big hit dish is (get ready) bacon peanut brittle, which is served in a jar. If you go to the website you can buy it online. Here is what New York Times food writer Frank Bruni had to say:

“The bacon peanut brittle, served in a jar that a diner can take home, is an instant classic, a way to fill up quickly and a clue to the kitchen’s unpretentious bearings. The Redhead speaks with a pronounced Southern accent.”
- Frank Bruni in the New York Times


Back Forty has been around for a while, the brainstorm of the owners of the long established Savoy, one of the first places in NYC to really do local, way back when, real pioneers. Back Forty offers really good value (grass fed burgers for 11 bucks) in a series of three comfy, dining rooms. The other night, the simple green salad was transcendent as was the rare lamb with chickpeas. The veg sides all looked good; we had the brussel sprouts and ate them like candy! Oh and don't forget the onion rings with spicy mayo. So good.

For desert we had awesome home-made, served fresh from the deep frier, donuts with a cider glaze - so yummy. Warmdough, fried and covered in sugar: the perfect winter dessert.
The dessert menu is for me, though the weak link, the Brownie, is nondescript and kind of cakey for my liking. And I don't consider "floats" to actually be dessert. How about some cranberry upside down cake?

Our dear friend Jane took us for dinner here a few months back and we sat in the back room, very lovely and quaint old farmer house feel to it, but I was sitting at a table on a chair facing the kitchen, the very brightly lit kitchen. My 2 cents worth is: buy a drape! Yeah I know it's a drag for your servers, but your customers would love you even more. ;-)

In any case, if you want subdued lighting, just don't sit in the back room. Otherwise run, don't walk to this amazing local restaurant, with a serious and seriously delicious menu and mandate.
Keepin' it local on Ave B.


Lastly, my all time favorite coffee place in the World, 9th Street Espresso, has opened up a new shop right on 10th street over looking Thompson Square Park. If you haven't been, you gotta go. My favorite is the Mezzo but the drip coffee is great as well, although as the name would suggest they are most famous for their espresso drinks.

Not for the weak of heart, the coffee is full, rich, strong and tastes like coffee should!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Duane Reade NYC

For those of you who don't live in NYC you might not know Duane Reade, it is one of the larger local drug store chains in the city (akin to Rite Aide). There is nothing particularly unique about these big, bright, box stores, they are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. I went into one on 14th street because I had forgotten to pick up some toilet paper, I went to the large selection of paper products and looked and looked and there were no recycled paper products in the entire store, nor were there any environmentally friendly items on the cleaning shelf.

This shocked me.

If for no other reason then I can't believe a store interested in making money would want to not be part of the largest growing movement in the industry: organic/environmentally friendly items. So today I called the corporate offices at Duane Reade and was told indeed they do sell them, but they must have just been sold out. I'm not sure I buy this, I don't regularly shop there as I prefer stores like Wallgreens that although a corporate box store chain puts a big emphasis on organic and recycled products.

The woman on the phone was very insistent that they carry the items, but they were sold out. I was told by a cashier that they flat out didn't sell them, period. I didn't ask for the manger as it didn't seem like a big deal, instead I went to down the street to Commodities and bought what I needed.

How can you be sold out yet the shelves where they would go are filled? And if they sell out why not order more recycled products than the other stuff that is made from virgin forests? I mean global warming is a problem, right? Cutting down trees that have been on the planet for decades so you can have something soft to wipe your ass on seems a little, er, selfish, no? Oh and did I say that they cut down trees from old growth forests? Not sustainable in any way, no siree. Tear down that forest and flush it away! Yes, that's the way to make money! Who needs forests anyway? Pesky trees.

OK, so I'm curious, do you live near or shop regularly at Duane Reade? Let me know if you see recycled or other green items when you shop there and please report back here.

In the meantime if you do shop at Duane Reade please make sure to ask the manager ( I was chided for not speaking to the manager as I guess she/he is the only person at Duane Reade who has any influence) to be sure to carry MORE of the green products you can't find because they are sold out.

Good luck!

Gods Love We Deliver

I started volunteering for God's Love about a month ago. It's a wonderful organization that started out preparing healthy, home cooked meals for home bound people with AIDS, back in the eighties, back before the antivirals, when not a day went by that you didn't hear of another friend who had died.

Now that things are more controlled they have expanded their mandate to include all people who have a debilitating disease.

It seems to me, from what I have learned, that if you live in the NYC area and are unable to prepare meals they can help you out. A truly amazing organization.

Given the new era of community service that was ushered in today I thought this would be an appropriate time to give this a mention and encourage you all to watch the video and or check out their site and maybe think about joining the volunteer force

I greatly admire the new president's call for community service. It's going on 9 months now since I have been unemployed and unable to find work. Volunteering has given me a reason to get up in the morning and a place to go, it has been very helpful to me.

In the end though there is nothing like having a job, even a shitty one, that gives your week a focus and structure and puts cash in your pocket a the end of the week.

Being unemployed and 49 really makes me feel obsolete and redundant, especially after such a long period of unemployment. It also makes me keenly aware of what a truly horrible financial situation we are in here in America.

Bush and his cronies have left us devastated, suffering in ways we haven't since the great depression.

Community service is a great start, but to really move forward we need to figure out a way to get more of us employed.

Good luck with that Mr. President.



Monday, January 19, 2009

Pie Bird Part 1

I can't believe they had concord grapes in January and then I got a gift certificate from my Brother David at Dean and Deluca and I found there my favorite new cooking gadget - a pie bird!

Pie Bird Part 2

It worked well and tasted even better especially with all the unsweetened whipped cream that slathered each piece!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brown Bread

My all time favorite cook book for general use is:
The Fannie Farmer Cook Book.

Brilliantly updated and revised by Marion Cunningham.

I made this incredibly simple and delicious bread last week and wanted to share. If you've never done a yeast bread this would be the one to start with - no kneading! Unbelievable.

Entire Wheat Bread

Mix 2 cups of hot milk with 1/3 cup molasses, 1 1/2 t salt in a large bowl to cool.

Stir one package (2 teaspoons) of yeast into 1/4 cup hot warm water in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes.

Add 4 1/3 cups whole wheat flower and the yeast mixture into the milk and stir with a wooden spoon. Incorporate well, cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 1- 1 1/2 hours (until doubled in bulk).

Stir again and then turn into a well buttered loaf pan.
Cover again and let rise another hour or so until it has raised, but no quite doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 F . Bake the loaf for about 45 minutes. Remove, cool and enjoy.

(I think this recipe could work well if you wanted to add to chopped nuts and maybe some currants or apricots. Works very well with cheese, but then don't most things?

Silly picture


I meant to include this in my post about Toronto. My brother David is a great photographer and he took this picture of me one cold night on the trendy Queen St.West. I do love me my hood!

Toronto is a great place for a get away.

One of my favorite french Bistros in Toronto is called Le Select Bistro I've been going there since I was in university. I love it and had a wonderful brunch with my brother, Neil and Kim.

My predictable and usual refrain is that other then the cheese course nothing was stated as local. I'm surprised that people with such dedication to food and hospitality still are using a full menu of CAFO meats and commercial fruits and veg with no apparent concern for the season.

I love this place and I heartily recommend if you are in town you drop by and have dinner, but please tell them it is important to you that they start supporting local farmers and serving real food not manufactured product.

Intervale Farm





This is a picture of the wild blueberry farm I mentioned in an earlier post.
Beautiful isn't it?

Now go order some blueberries! ;-)

intervale.lassen@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A shop at Whole Foods

I can't believe that I finally was able to upload this video! It took over three days of tinkering. I am such a Luddite sometimes. Anyway, in order for it to make sense I had to cut it short at me asking the question how much did all this cost, which in the original video I answered, so I thought it might be fun if we played The Price Is Right here. Add a comment and let's see who gets the closest. I'll follow up with the answer on Sunday.

OK I guess I should have offered a prize or something. $131.77, yep that's right, seemed awful steep to me for what I got, but hey the times, they are a changing.

video

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Followers and Comments

Just wanted to say thank you to all the people who have started to leave comments here. I really appreciate it, for me it makes this worth while to know people are reading and engaging in the issues being talked about here. I don't have any real rules yet about posting other then don't be personal in your attacks or criticism and try to be as honest intellectually and emotionally as you can. The only posts I will delete are those that come from a company who is only making a comment to advertise their product.

I'm sure this will change as things progress, but for now it seems like a fairly straight forward guideline.

This blog has become more and more important to me over the 8 months that I have been writing it. Being unemployed has really freaked me out and knowing I have a focus and a "job" here makes things better, gives me a focus and allows me to wake up each day with a goal.

I'm thinking about allowing advertising here but I always just thought that was only for bigger sites with more hits, but then I'm surprised to see that my hits keep increasing and again I thank you for coming back and telling your friends. Who knows maybe this can be my new job? That would be so cool

A special shout out to those who have signed on as followers. Please if you stop in here on any sort of basis become a follower - what the hell!

Let's hope 2009 will truly bring some hope and change to our lives and to our planet. It's obvious to me that even though sometimes I'm shrill and angry that most people here understand the passion and thought that goes into what I post or write about. For me, as you know, our food, our planet, our environment are all in peril. I fear that we may have already gone to far, that maybe we can't actually fix the ongoing destruction that has been started and seems impossible to stop in a capitalist culture that demands constant growth and profits over people, and greed over common sense.

The revolution starts now, thanks for joining me.

Chocolate Pudding Cake - For Natan

This is a recipe that has been in my life since I was a child and my grand mother made it for me. My nephew Natan is a big fan of it and wanted the recipe, it seemed like a good way to get me off my political ranting of late and get back to basics.

After years of looking at different variations of this I have created an amalgam that I think works best.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Preheat the oven to 325 F and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter an 8" square baking dish.

Combine 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Break up any large chunks with your fingers and set aside in a small bowl.

Melt 6 T of butter, add 1/3 cup cocoa and 2 oz of 70% quality baking chocolate (like Valrhona) in a bowl set over a barely simmering pot of water. Whisk until smooth and incorporated then set aside to cool slightly.

Combine 3/4 cup all purpose flour (organic, unbleached) and 2 teaspoons of baking powder together in a small bowl.

Whisk together 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup whole organic milk, 1 T vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt, combine, then incorporate 1 egg yolk. Add chocolate mixture and combine. Then add the flour mixture and whisked until fully incorporated.

Pour batter into buttered pan, sprinkle sugar and cocoa mixture evenly over the batter. It needs to cover the entire surface of the batter, then very carefully pour 1 1/2 cups coffee over the cocoa/sugar mixture.

Cook for about 45 minutes, until the cake is puffed and starting to pull away from the sides. Don't over bake! Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes.

I think this cake taste best cold with a nice dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.













Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Off topic - please send a letter

Sean Kennedy

(I went on a little bit of a tirade before I get to the point here so if you want the real reason for the post scroll down and read the red text).

Sorry, I realize I have become increasingly political here and I should probably do more "real" food type writing about cooking techniques and new fab products to buy.

I promise some more recipes and local NYC food stuff soon.

What I am feeling as this blog evolves is that I'm posting things that interest me - there are a ton of sites with pretty food pictures and the umpteenth reprinting of any number of familiar recipes (that you probably already have). These days, for me, food is about so much more then what you buy at the market and how you cook it. Food is about who we are, what we consider important, the environment, about supporting local farmers who toil to feed us as we turn on backs on them so we can eat cheap junk food or watch while agribusiness destroys our planet.

The idea of buying and eating a non-genetically modified food product is quickly fading into vague memory as our soil is poisoned by Monsanto and nature (birds) help to spread these frankenseeds all over, including places like organic farms.

These are all things I can't help but think about all the time.

It infuriates me when my dear friends shrug and tell me they could care less where there meat comes from or what happens to the animals or how agrifarming affect nutrition and taste. It's easy to get bogged down with the every day work of survival to be concerned with everything, especially when our pocket books are so bare, how can we think about anything but what is cheap and easy?

As I have argued long and hard here for us to all rethink and change the way we eat and shop for food we constantly have to remind ourselves of some simple facts. Cheap in the short term is not cheap in the long term and if we persist in eating this way and letting our planet be destroyed at such a rapid pace then there will be no "long term". The radical idea that people might just have to eat less meat seems incomprehensible to many. People cling to old food habits with the fondness of a childhood memory.

You want cheaper food? Find 8 friends (or 2 or 3 or 4 or...) go to the market and have one of the farmers sell you a goat, cow, lamb, pig and butcher it humanely at the farm and split it up and put it in your collective freezers. There, local, healthy, human food that didn't cost a fortune. The only thing eating sustainable requires of anyone is some planning and maybe some friends to help you in your mission to save the planet and improve the quality of your life and to serve your family more nutritious food.

OK there I go again.

What I really wanted to write about here was a murder case in South Carolina, a young man was killed when he was called a faggot and bashed in the face. His brain severed from his spinal cord and killed him. His murder was given 8 months - yes you read that correctly, in South Carolina if you murder in cold blood and admit to it a gay person it's really no big deal. His mother is campaigning to keep her son's murderer in prison. Please help her. Here is the info: Sean's Last Wish

Carectomy.com

I found this article while looking at this site Carectomy.com - too funny and their tag
line is : "removing cars from people" Gotta love that! I cut and paste this so the links
need to be cut and pasted - sorry!


Biofuels Are Starving Us


Written by Joshua Liberles
Saturday, 23 August 2008


The impact of the rising biofuels market on global food prices is much worse
than predicted. According to an as yet unpublished study commissioned by
the World Bank, biofuels have caused food prices to rise 75%. The World Bank
completed the study, which has been leaked by the Guardian, at the end of April
but has yet to publish it, presumably in deference to Bush's gung-ho corn ethanol
campaign. Another damning study by the British government, due out soon, states
that biofuels have “played a significant part in pushing up food prices.” From
the Guardian: "Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the
strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises,"
said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam. "It is imperative that we have
the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies
happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."

Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line,
estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt.
Government ministers here have described higher food and fuel prices
as "the first real economic crisis of globalisation".

President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and
China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: "Rapid income growth
in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption
and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases."

Even successive droughts in Australia, calculates the report, have had a
marginal impact. Instead, it argues that the EU and US drive for biofuels has had
by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices. Food prices have risen 140%
since 2002. Higher prices for energy and petroleum-based fertilizier accounts
for 15% while researchers linked biofuels to a whopping 75% increase.
While no biofuel has yet proven efficacious, the government-pushed corn-based
ethanol program is particularly disastrous. The massive amounts of petroleum
fertilizer dumped on the fields, eventually running into the ocean, has caused an
increase in the Dead Zone; we're increasing the smog and ozone levels and causing
more deaths from asthma and respiratory illnesses; and the energy yield from corn
is laughable. From Bloomberg.com: Say you were able to cultivate every acre of
Illinois for corn-based ethanol. This is purely hypothetical as it would involve
bulldozing Chicago and other cities and towns in the Prairie State. As an Illinois
resident surrounded by cornfields, fleeing demolition is not my relocation fantasy.

One of the potentially most productive corn-growing states on the planet would
yield about 5.7 billion bushels of corn and 16 billion gallons of ethanol, according
to Charles Washburn, professor emeritus at California State University. He has
researched the subject over the past 45 years.

The Illinois mega-crop would provide only 0.8 percent of annual U.S. gasoline
and diesel-fuel use, Washburn estimates, subtracting the energy it takes to
create ethanol.

Of course, U.S. energy consumption isn't a static beast. Washburn further projects
that “a new corn field the size of Illinois would be required to meet our transportation
energy growth every seven months.”


(my comment - why eat when you can drive?)

Bio Tech Industries for Vilasck

To me, this is proof of everything I have been ranting about here, if the Monsanto's of the world are endorsing Obama's choice then it is clearing obvious the new Secretary of Corn has no interest in stewarding the land or promoting sustainable farming or helping farmers grow food that isn't dependent on genetically altered, patented, fossil fuel based agri-business as usual.

I found this link from a story on www.envirovore.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, December 17, 2008) - President-elect Barack Obama announced today the nomination of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to be U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in support of the nomination:

“BIO and its member companies applaud President-elect Obama’s choice of Governor Vilsack to be our Secretary of Agriculture.

“Having lived and governed in America’s heartland, Vilsack is a staunch supporter of our nations’ farmers and ranchers, and of the many companies and organizations who work in partnership with them. He is deeply experienced in addressing the many challenges facing our world today, such as the growing need for a sustainable food and fuel supply.

“It’s important to note that former Governor Vilsack is a past recipient of BIO’s Governor of the Year award for his support of the industry's economic growth and agricultural biotechnology research. As governor, he helped charter BIOWA – a group designed to foster the deployment of advanced biorefineries and supporting facilities and to create green jobs.

"Vilsack is keenly aware of the benefits of agricultural biotechnology and the role that science and innovation can play in helping farmers grow more food in a more environmentally friendly manner. He is a strong proponent of ethanol production, and we are confident he will work to further diversify our nation’s biofuels supply. He also knows the importance helping to build biobased business models that use biomass as a feedstock to make green plastics and renewable chemical platforms. In addition, Governor Vilsack recognizes the opportunities that can be realized with an increased focus on research and development in our agricultural sector.

“BIO and our member companies are excited at what the future holds, and we urge the Senate to quickly confirm Tom Vilsack. We look forward to working with him to enhance our regulatory system, manage our trade environment and further invest in agricultural research so we can further provide a sustainable supply of food, feed, fuel, fiber to our American consumers and those around the world.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Food Declaration

Check out fooddeclaration.org
I've just cut and paste their declaration, to see it in it's original form and to endorse it (or not) click the above link.

We, the undersigned, believe that a healthy food system is necessary to meet the urgent challenges of our time. Behind us stands a half-century of industrial food production, underwritten by cheap fossil fuels, abundant land and water resources, and a drive to maximize the global harvest of cheap calories. Ahead lie rising energy and food costs, a changing climate, declining water supplies, a growing population, and the paradox of widespread hunger and obesity.

These realities call for a radically different approach to food and agriculture. We believe that the food system must be reorganized on a foundation of health: for our communities, for people, for animals, and for the natural world. The quality of food, and not just its quantity, ought to guide our agriculture. The ways we grow, distribute, and prepare food should celebrate our various cultures and our shared humanity, providing not only sustenance, but justice, beauty and pleasure.

Governments have a duty to protect people from malnutrition, unsafe food, and exploitation, and to protect the land and water on which we depend from degradation. Individuals, producers, and organizations have a duty to create regional systems that can provide healthy food for their communities. We all have a duty to respect and honor the laborers of the land without whom we could not survive. The changes we call for here have begun, but the time has come to accelerate the transformation of our food and agriculture and make its benefits available to all.

We believe that the following twelve principles should frame food and agriculture policy, to ensure that it will contribute to the health and wealth of the nation and the world.

1. A healthy food and agriculture policy: Forms the foundation of secure and prosperous societies, healthy communities, and healthy people.

2. Provides access to affordable, nutritious food to everyone.

3. Prevents the exploitation of farmers, workers, and natural resources; the domination of genomes and markets; and the cruel treatment of animals, by any nation, corporation or individual.

4. Upholds the dignity, safety, and quality of life for all who work to feed us.

5. Commits resources to teach children the skills and knowledge essential to food production, preparation, nutrition, and enjoyment.

6. Protects the finite resources of productive soils, fresh water, and biological diversity.

7. Strives to remove fossil fuel from every link in the food chain and replace it with renewable resources and energy.

8. Originates from a biological rather than an industrial framework.

9. Fosters diversity in all its relevant forms: diversity of domestic and wild species; diversity of foods, flavors and traditions; diversity of ownership.

10. Requires a national dialog concerning technologies used in production, and allows regions to adopt their own respective guidelines on such matters.

11. Enforces transparency so that citizens know how their food is produced, where it comes from, and what it contains.

12. Promotes economic structures and supports programs to nurture the development of just and sustainable regional farm and food networks.

Our pursuit of healthy food and agriculture unites us as people and as communities, across geographic boundaries, and social and economic lines. We pledge our votes, our purchases, our creativity, and our energies to this urgent cause.

Go Continental!


I've always been a fan of Continental airlines, they offer a decent service with lots of direct flights to Europe and Asia from their Newark hub. Like most legacy carriers in the US they have been having a tough time of it the last few years. Continental is based in Houston, the oil capital of America, so it's not the airline I would think of first when trying to name a "green" airline. And don't get me wrong I don't think any airline can ever truly be green, but Continental was first to start flying a smaller newer fleet, they were first to add wingtips to there plans to save on fuel and now this:

First Biofuel-powered Flight by a U.S. Carrier

Continental Airlines will conduct the first biofuel-powered
demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner. The
demonstration flight will be powered by a special fuel blend
including components derived from algae and jatropha plants -
sustainable, second-generation fuel sources that do not
impact food crops or water resources, and do not contribute
to deforestation.

The demonstration flight will be the first biofuel flight by
a commercial carrier using algae as a fuel source and the
first using a two-engine aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 equipped
with CFM International CFM56-7B engines.

It should be noted that the smart people at Continental aren't buying corn based ethanol fuels which aren't sustainable nor viable even though here in the States they are still pushing it as if it were the next best thing since bread.

Tip of the hat to Continental for their willingness to lead the industry in fuel efficiency, with an obvious desire to not wait and see but to boldly move forward towards a greener, more profitable and sustainable future.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel Toronto

Exterior of the St Lawrence Market

This is the area around the market and the hotel that we stayed in (The Cosmopolitan)

Photo's by David Owen

The above picture is from our mini-balcony and is what passes for a "city view" at the Cosmo.
To me a view of a building isn't a "city view" it's a building view. A city view would have a vista of well in this case, the city? Maybe I'm being to literal, but somehow I don't think you can have a vista of a building, and I'm not so sure why they don't just call it a deluxe room with separate bedroom.
Not a big deal for me but I'd be pissed if I was counting on a view and this is what I got.

I've staid at the Cosmo 4 times now I believe (3 or 4). I like it. The rooms are suites that resemble mini apartments. It makes entertainer at your hotel much more comfortable than just a hotel room with a bed in it. The aesthetic is very much Ikea meets West Elm.

It was great to have a deluxe room with a separate bedroom (and no view) with an
awesome bed.

The fridge is very small and they fill it with mini bar shit, so you have a kitchen, but with limited fridge access. There is no stove, but a fully functioning electric stop top with 4 burners, a microwave and a small dishwasher. There is a nice bar that you can sit at with two stools, a coffee maker (but no filters you have to ask for them - even though coffee and tea are provided) a toaster and a water boiler thingy.

The view and the fridge are minor when compared to all you get here for a very reasonable price - the room was about 170 a night USD.

Two things bugged me this trip. The very perky woman who checked us in was friendly enough and quick, but when we got to the room it was a superior open concept room, a room that costs 20 or 30 dollars less then the one that I had booked. I called her and she immediately sent someone up and took us to the correct room. I'm not sure if this was a mistake or if it was intentional, I mean she must know that there are basically 5 rooms on a floor (with the exception of the two very fancy and expensive penthouses) and that the only deluxe room on each floor ends in "4". It left a lingering bad taste in my mouth, it seems to me that her intention was to rip us off by offering us a room that was cheaper. Or she is really not paying attention to what she is doing, either way it was a major minus for me.

The biggest minus to me is that as a customer who has stayed at a hotel 3 or 4 times I find it mind boggling that upon returning to the Cosmopolitan, never once did anyone say:
"welcome back Mr. Owen"

I've yet to hear that in a Toronto hotel, although I suspect that if I staid at the Four Seasons it might be different.

The Cosmopolitan isn't the only hotel that I fault for this. I've staid many times at the much more expensive and posher (Le Germain) over the years as well, and every time I arrive at the front desk a stranger.

Danny Meyer the owner of Gramercy Tavern, Tabla, 11 Madison Park and many other first rate restaurants in NYC have spoilt me. Every time I go to one of his restaurants I am welcomed back and in many instance someone after we have been seated will say to us: "I see Mr. Owen that the last time you were here you ordered this wine..." in many cases I only will eat at these special occasion restaurants once or twice a year.

This is hospitality in the computer age. It's called a data base. It's a no-brainer, you want your customers to feel welcome - right? You have a computer, right? So get your act together.
Make your guests feel welcome, by um, welcoming them back! Duh!

The Cosmopolitan has a nice vibe to it, I mostly like the design of the rooms (well except the light switches in the bathroom - is there a reason they aren't by the door, but rather in a corner by the sink?) and it is reasonably priced. Which is why I will stay there again and recommend it, something I can't do for the posher Le Germain, when you spend that much money on a hotel room and they can't even remember their repeat guests, then to me that says they aren't interested in having repeat guest.

Lastly, as this is a food blog, I have to give the F&B at the Cosmo a zero. "Eight" is the name of their wine bar restaurant that also, I believe, is the kitchen that provides room service. Eight is a poured concrete windowless bunker with the ugliest light fixtures I've ever seen, sort of modern arty colored glass - which is also used on the walls as "art'' (throat clearing, long uncomfortable pause). In the morning they are on super high bright so as to lind you with their ugly glare before you have even had a chance to get a coffee. There are windows but they are all blocked by a very elaborate structural type blind. There are many design elements going on in the room and even though some of them are interesting the collective affect is not, to my eye, very inviting.

The thing to really look at, the thing that might be able to allow one to over come the grim surroundings is the food, I only had breakfast, which was included in our room but if you decided for kicks you wanted to come and have say a business breakfast it would cost you 13 bucks. What do you get for that? During the week: two kinds of cereal, coffee/tea, bagels (plain and cinnamon raisin) a typical fruit salad (you know the one with lots of out of season imported cantaloupe and honey dew) a selection of mini pastries. On the weekends, for an additional 6 bucks!!!!! you can get eggs or omelets. No organic or local or anything like that. I mean come on, you hire some poor guy to stand behind a stove-top to make eggs and no one takes them because it's so friggin' expensive.

Hint to F&B manager - if you make good food people will come. If you make really good food people will come back and if you offer value and quality - you will be a hit. Right now I feel like you need to close it down and start from scratch.

On an up note I will say that the room service menu was filled with intriguing items that potentially sounded great, although very upscale and mostly in the upper twenty dollar range. Again it seems incongruous in this setting to have such fancy expensive food for room service in a moderately priced hotel where every room has a kitchen. Good french fries, a pizza, a healthy stir fry with brown rice, pannini. a few tasty salads...some good simple deserts, maybe a killer brownie or a selection of tasty cookies? Just a thought.

If you need a good restaurant consultant let me know.

I would gladly stay here again and would heartily recommend it to friends who are heading to Toronto and need a place to stay. The staff are friendly and helpful, the suites are well designed, quiet and feature lovely beds with wifi and flat screen tvs and all the other luxuries you crave when on the road.

An ideal place to stay for people who like a modern aesthetic and who appreciate staying in a hotel room that offers the comforts of home, including a kitchen.













Saturday, January 3, 2009

Belated New Years from Toronto

St Lawrence Market

Happy New Year.

I hope everyone rang in the new year with some wonderful home cooked food, either at home or at your favorite restaurant. Neil and I spent it with my brother David and his significant other Kim. We made a communal meal, I made a wild mushroom ragout with thyme and white wine, it was served as a side with a traditional fondue made with Gruyere and Emmenthaler, white wine and kirsch (and some corn starch to bind). We ate it with some delightful baguette that Kim brought and some California organic Granny Smith apples I got at the St. Lawrence Market.

Then Kim made black truffle spaghetti, butter, fine Tuscan olive oil, shaved truffle and a little sea salt. Perfection. I inhaled mine and ended the savory part of the meal with a salad of endive,frisee, pear and lightly-dipped-in-honey Pecans that Kim whipped up.

I went to school and lived a total of 8 years here in Toronto. The beige and gray concrete provincial city of my early twenties is barely visible now. I couldn't wait to leave and now I really enjoy it and think it makes for a wonderfully close, easy to get away to city.
The snow and the cold are just all the more excuse to sleep in and have long extended lunches, coffee/snacks and dinners.

We're staying at a suite hotel, which is just a fancy way of saying it comes with a kitchen and a washer and dryer. As a New Yorker I've never lived in an apartment with a washer and dryer. It's just so unusual to have laundry any where but downstairs or across the street and around the block.


We're just a few blocks away from the St Lawrence market. A venerable institution here that I have visited several times since it's close by and I love it but the second times was to re-visit Buster's Sea Cove Seafood.

OMG. Please tell me this is what heaven is like! A button down, fry place that does it well and has a huge selection. Besides the excellent fry selection they also do really fresh simple salads, grilled fish, onion rings and on and on.

The Octopus was grilled as were the sardines, both looked succulent and tempting, but I went for the local favorite, smelts, breaded and deep fried on a bed of spiral fries and some awesome coleslaw. Malt Vinegar is in spray bottles on the counter along with sea salt ketchup and hot sauce. The lobster bisque was rich and sweet and pink mostly smooth with small bits of lobster. The fish and chips made Neil very happy, there is Boston Blue or Halibut. I love any place where everything comes served o a big bed of fries.

All of this takes place at a counter that you order from, four or five guys run around behind it, manning the grill and deep frier in skillfull ease and sync, the dance of the fish guys.

There are some bar stools but scattered around are plastic picnic type tables mixed equally plastic chairs. The view facing south is the entire great hall of the market. The first night was new years eve, as we ate we watched the market close down, as vendors hurried to get home to start celebrating.

It was a great way to be welcomed to Toronto.

More Toronto tomorrow!

(and some pictures soon,David's working on it).







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