Friday, July 31, 2009

People's Pops


On a totally unrelated note, last night Neil and I went to see Grace Jones at the Hammerstein Ballroom here in NYC. She is 60 and as fierce and fabulous as ever! If she performs near where you live go see her! She's amazing.

OK, back to food.

A while back I read on Tasting Table about these intrepid entrepreneurs who were making gourmet popsicles and selling them at the booths in Fort Greene, Dumbo and Battery Park called People's Pops. They have a very amusing blog where they say they are community supported, which I am going to interpret as lots of friends help out.

The People's Pops folk are just another in the long list of clever, talented and indefatigable food artists who are making artisanal products and bringing them to market on their own. Brooklyn has become such a hot bed of creativity and ingenuity, especially around food. It's very exciting and suggests to me a move away from corporate prepackaged corn syrup treats that these same people were probably brought up on. This food revolution will be...frozen!

I'm going to write these folks and find out when and where in town I can find them and will report back.

They also will deliver to your home or office if you order 15 pops a week or 10 pops biweekly, you can go to their blog for more info or just write them at: peoplespops@gmail.com

This is such a fun whimsical idea, I just love it and the flavors all sound great, a wonderful mix of childhood memory and adult sophistication, oh and did I mention they also do ices? Here's their flavor list:


Popsicles

Sugar Plum and Tarragon
Roasted Peaches and Organic Cream
Sweet Blueberry & Cardamom

Shave Ice

Organic Lemon
Organic Lemon with Ginger
Organic Basil & Thyme

Not sure why, but I keep wanting to add a "d" to the word "shave" so it reads Shaved Ice...? Anyway that's how they want it and they should know!

Finally, here is a recipe for Blueberries and Cream Pops. On Wednesday when I was at the market they had a sale on blueberries 3 boxes for 10 bucks!

Blueberries-and-Cream Pops

Recipe adapted from People’s Pops. Makes about 40 Popsicles and generously provided by the folks at Tasting Table

3 cups water
3 cups sugar
4 bags of black tea
8 pints fresh blueberries, washed in cold water
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup organic heavy cream
Popsicles molds or paper cups
Popsicle sticks

1. Make the tea-infused simple syrup: In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil
and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the tea bags, remove fom the heat and let steep
for 4 minutes. Remove the tea bags and discard; let the syrup cool to room
temperature.

2. Puree the blueberries in a blender and immediately stir in the tea-infused syrup and
lemon juice. (The mixture will be very sweet, which will later be tempered by
freezing.) Stir in the heavy cream and pour the mixture into molds or paper cups that
have been outfitted with Popsicle sticks.

Freeze overnight, remove from the molds and serve.



Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gingered Gooseberry Shortbread

Gooseberries used to be fairly obscure. You'd see the odd container at the market one day, then they'd be gone. Over the years that has changed and this year I see several vendors selling them and the season seems to be fairly long - I've been seeing them now for over a month. Apparently for many years gooseberries were illegal here and remain illegal in some Northern states, because of some blight they can carry. (Neil relates that his father had smuggled in some sprigs from England 35 years ago and eventually they became several very large productive bushes growing on the side of their Connecticut house where they apparently wouldn't easily be seen. Oh, and the proper British pronunciation: gooz-b'ries)

Just before I went to Berlin I wanted to make my mother-in-law Sarah a treat to have while I was away, so what I did was make a large batch of my ginger shortbread recipe and topped it with gooseberries that I'd tossed with some sugar. She loved it. The sour fruits are always good for me, cranberries and rhubarb are two of my favorite. Gooseberries are similar in that they are sour but have a wholly unique flavor.

Here's several options. First the ginger short bread is great just by itself. Second I have made this twice, once with the aforementioned gooseberries and also with peaches. The cooking time varies and with the peaches I finished them off by putting them under the broiler and browning them. The peaches had more juice and took longer before they got to a desirable texture. In the end it was almost like a jam tart only made with fresh fruit and a nice, slightly sugary crust.

This recipe makes a large amount - the size of a baking sheet, but it can easily be halved. You could also make it into a tart shell and fill it with fruit of your choosing and bake like a pie. Don't forget if you do this to add a thickener (I like instant tapioca) if you are using a juicy fruit like peaches or strawberries.

Gingered Gooseberry Shortbread

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a bowl for a standing mixer (can be done with a hand mixer or by hand, but I love my Hobart standing mixer) add 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, and process until fluffy.

Turn the mixer off and add 1/2 cup organic granulated sugar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar well packed, and 2 T grated fresh ginger.
Turn the machine back on medium and combine.

Turn it off again and add 3 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons ground ginger and 1/2 cup roughly chopped naked ginger (it's soaked in sugar syrup, they sell it at whole foods, it's just a softer form of crystallized ginger, and usually comes in cube form, traditional crystallized in a fine substitute).

Turn the mixer back on low and incorporate until the dough comes together and is well mixed.

It should be on the wet-ish side.

Turn out onto a cooking sheet covered with parchment paper (it makes it easier to take off and cool when done, but isn't essential as the dough is very buttery you can put it directly on the cookie sheet). Using your hands spread the dough out evenly on the sheet.

Toss 4 cups of stemmed and cleaned gooseberries or peaches (if peaches chop roughly and use all the juice) add 1/2 cup organic sugar and toss. Spread the fruit over the dough on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with an additional 1/4 cup of sugar.

Place in oven and bake for about 35 minutes. You want the crust to be brown and the juice from the fruit to thickened.

Great served with home made vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whip cream


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In The News


A friend just sent me the link to the New York Times article on the trials and tribulations of food styling Julie and Julia the new Nora Ephron movie about Julia Child with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

Small world, turns out I've worked with both Susan and Colin the stylist who did the movie.

Over at Grist is a delightful article about canning tomatoes, with a great recipe and a new idea (for me at least) about baking your tomatoes first. It's been a very late season here in the North East for Tomatoes too much rain not enough sun.

Recently came across a new site call Earth911.com it's a great resource for all things green from shopping, gardening to construction and much more!

Finally, the other day I was walking down First Avenue and noticed a new restaurant in a space that seems to be jinxed, I think this is the third business in that space in a couple of years. Anyway, it's called Permanent Brunch. They have a fun site and a really tantalizing menu, I personally can always eat breakfast food any time of the day or night. The highlight of the menu is the Artisanal Bacon Bar, I think it's a great idea and particularly apt for a place serving, er, permanent brunch. And, just to be, well, me, I feel obliged to point out that none of the artisanal bacon is local nor does it state that any of it is farm raised or organic. Just saying...open till 3 a.m Thursday-Saturday and if you aren't in the mood for bacon they have a daily donut!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dining Out in Berlin


My caveat before you start reading this is that all of the places I write about here I only ate at once and so what you're getting is just my first impression. The fact that I have bothered to write about them here is, to my way of thinking, a recommendation, even though I tend to be fairly critical when it comes to food.

For so many years people have made fun of German food. It was all boiled, bland, and bad, Sauerkraut, Wurst, and potatoes in a million different variations. Well I am here to tell you that this is so far from the reality of eating in cosmopolitan Berlin, where you can't walk a block without seeing a trendy café or restaurant serving any number of cuisines.

You could spend a month in just the neighborhood of Kreuzberg alone trying out all the different place of interest and still miss plenty.


My first day in Berlin we went for what was to be really my only truly German meal of the trip (well not totally true I did eat at a new German restaurant that served locally sourced food, but it can hardly be put in the same category). Appropriately it was in a beer garden situated in a beautiful park very near where my friends live.
Adjacent to this pastoral, open-air restaurant is a mini golf.

It was the bleakest mini golf I’d ever seen, no whimsical structures or bright colors, everything was gray including the putting “greens”. What were they thinking? Have fun, but not too much!


It took twenty minutes for our first beer to arrive. It didn't bother me, I was on vacation and the waitress seemed very charming, but my German friend, Christian, was not pleased.
He complains often about the terrible service in Berlin restaurants, but, in fact, this was my only experience in Berlin where the service was really slow. Mostly, I guess, I got lucky as other than this instance I never really had any reason to complain.

Understanding that in part this is because wait staff in Germany actually gets paid a decent salary (and I believe get health care) more to the point: they don’t make the majority of their income from tips.


People leave change, but it’s not a lot.

The food was not memorable with the exception of a soup that came from a list of specials featuring the seasonal ingredient Pfifferling mushrooms (a.k.a. Chanterelles). It was lovely, light and creamy, brimming with sautéed mushrooms, warm and delicious. My Arugula salad was a mixed bag, the greens were fresh and tasty, but I could have done without the large chunks of onions and the upsetting presences of hard, canned, black olives. Still, when all the undesirables where separated and pushed aside the basic essence of the salad was fine.

Similar to this experience was eating at Spaghetti Western, a sleek, minimalist pasta joint on Torstraße, a very trendy food street in the fashionable Mitte neighborhood. The service here was great and the waiter very charming, professional and cute as is befitting such a stylish place. We sat outside at worn, light wood tables with candles placed in simple white paper bags, creating a charming feel, which is rather an accomplishment given we were on a busy city street.

Big picture windows allow you to see the interior of the restaurant so even though you are sitting outside you still have a sense of the place and feel very much a part of the aesthetic.


The menu is extensive and reasonably priced, the portions generous. I did not try any of my friends' pastas. Mine was perfectly cooked al dente, I had the puttanesca and found the tomato sauce over powering and a bit one note, as if they had just tossed the pasta in tomato paste. The olives again were hard, black, canned and inedible. An occasional glimpse of caper, but no anchovy at all. I think a lighter, fresher sauce, freshly chopped parsley and pungent, fishy anchovy bits would have improved this pasta greatly.
Still, given the atmosphere and price this would be a place worth trying again.

Maybe pizza and a bottle of wine would be the way to go?

My other Italian experience was at the fabulous Fratelli La Bionda on Bergmannstr just around the corner from where I was staying. An elegant, simple room with the occasional wall covered in Italian movie posters from the 50’s and 60’s. The rooms have an easy charm and sophistication, comfortable yet somehow special. This meal was the most expensive one I had, but at about $110 for two with a bottle of wine, it is what it would have cost in New York at a lesser place.

The wine was Cantina Terlano’s Winkl a brilliant Sauvignon Blanc from the Alto Adige in Italy. Fruity, yet nuanced, crisp and complicated it cost 30 Euros, and in doing a quick search I see it’s selling for $25 retail in NYC, so that’s a pretty good deal.
The meal was multi-course: simple, fresh tomato bruschetta, a briny, al dente pasta with clams and calamari, thinly sliced octopus laid out on a plate like polka dots, lightly marinated, simple and simply delicious.

The tag line for the restaurant is Pizza e Vino; I want to go back and have their pizza!


The day Keith and I went to KaDeWe to make all the videos we, of course, had to eat lunch! What a challenge it was to choose at which of the many options to eat. It was only afterward when someone suggested we graze that it occurred to me that we could have done appetizers at one stall, mains at another and dessert at yet another. In the end it was the bouillabaisse counter whose call was the loudest.

Keith is a vegetarian who eats fish, so this was perfect. There are several
bouillabaisse variations to choose from: single portion simple fish stews (about 8 Euros) to deluxe elaborate shared feasts (43 euros – don’t quote me on that I should have taken better notes). We decided to split a simple fish stew (the more complicated ones come with lobster, shrimp, and mussels) and a crayfish gratin.

We sat at the bar and sipped a nice Sancerre while we waited for our food to arrive.

The atmosphere is simple, clean white tiles and stainless, the center area of the floor is cut out with a railing around it, helping to give the space an open airy feeling as well as allowing you to see the floor below; a sky light above provided the lighting.

It’s a nice place to eat because it’s separated from the rest of the floor enough to give a sense of quiet.

As this is counter service there is no back kitchen, you get to watch them prepare everything, which I love. I did however almost change my mind about eating here when I saw that the precooked fish is added to broth warmed to order in a microwave!

Come on guys you are charging top dollar for this soup, broth can easily be kept warm in a simple steam tray or heated a la minute!
The crayfish gratin however was broiled in an actual oven with a decadently thick layer of melted Gruyere, rich, unctuous melted cheese over firm slightly briny meaty crayfish. Truly heaven and probably one of my favorite dishes I ate the entire trip. The portion was huge, but we managed to finish it.

The bouillabaisse was good, but in addition to the nuked broth the fish was slightly dry and over cooked.

Raw fish poached for a minute in hot broth, cooked in an actual pot on a stove, would not have had this problem as the chef would have had full control over the process and given how long it took to heat the broth in the microwave I don't think it would even have taken much longer.


Although I found it amusing, the service here started out slow and was not at all what you might call friendly. The ample, middle aged Fräulein with the daring dyed hair was efficient enough, but I think the best word to describe her might be gruff.


Meat, meat and more meat, Berliners love their meat. Christian tried in vain to get me to try Currywurst at his favorite Imbiss. As much as I was tempted to have this famed sliced pork sausage slathered in curry sauce and a side of fries, I'm trying to only eat local farm raised meat. Sometimes being good is such a drag.

So it was with not a little bit of surprise when I ended up lunching at Avril whose menu is a celebration of vegetables, fish and cocktails(so says their card at least).

We sat outside on the lovely Graefestrasse on a particularly warm and sunny day. My luncheon companion had a whole broiled trout on a huge portion of potatoes, boiled and mashed together with tomatoes, they needed salt, but were very tasty and the fish was cooked to perfection. I had a huge triple-decker sandwich, tomato, Arugula, pesto and mozzarella. The mozzarella was not the fresh kind and tasted more like a hard cheese, almost mild white cheddar - it didn’t matter whatever it was, it was delicious.


I tried to come back to Avril for lunch on Sunday only to find that Berlin restaurants do a buffet for Sunday brunch and with rare exception I’m not a buffet kind of guy.


The last place I want to talk about is the uber hip and ultra hot Chez Gino. Apparently the only reason this local, seasonal German restaurant calls itself Chez Gino is because they kept the sign from the previous owners.
It was so cold the night we dined al fresco the waitress offered me a woolly warm vest, nice touch! I sure was very thankful for it.

This place is like something you would expect to find in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The interior rooms are fairly sparse with funky wallpaper and a 70’s photo-mural of woods. I think there must have been some antlers; everything was ironic, funky and fun.


The food was local.

I had a wonderful, perfectly seared, pork chop with a savory/sweet sauce (onions and fruit reduced with sugar but I don’t recall the specifics)next to a nice pile of turnip mash. The chop was perfectly cooked. We started the meal with a large mixed salad, caper berries, olives (real ones!) and lots of tasty mixed greens.

The only off note in the meal was a special Christian had, local venison so over cooked and dark it tasted like week old, well done liver. Luckily the portion was small and juxtaposed to what had to have been the largest amount of salad greens I’d ever seen stacked on one plate. The prices here were reasonable and it was the only time we had to make a reservation. The service was spot on.


Finally, here is the menu for the BBQ at Exile that I made for the over one hundred people who came to the opening. It was a huge success and we sold out of most of the food (with the exceptions of wurst) within the first hour.

Pulled Pork with Potato Biscuits*
Homemade Maple Baked Beans

Cabbage Salad
with Apples, Walnuts and Caraway

Potato Salad
with home made may, capers and parsley
Wurst and Burgers

Watermelon


This is my final piece on Berlin, until next time, auf Wiedersehen!

*check out the recipes! This was a variation: I ended up boiling the pork for 4 hours instead if roasting over the grill, then reducing the sauce with pork water for a good 90 minutes, then mixing it with the pork that I pulled apart with two forks.


Monday, July 27, 2009

555 Pound Boy's Mom Charged with Criminal Neglect - For Letting Him Over Eat?

This is just so crazy. The government of South Carolina has charged this boy's mom with a felony because he is so morbidly obese. Watch the interview with the lawyers - they say he spent his days at school eating at the school cafeteria, several lunches.

Why isn't the state suing the school for selling unhealthy junk food in their cafeteria? Why aren't the makers of trans-fat and high fructose corn syrup being sued for the way they market their disease causing non-foods to children? Seems to me there's a parallel with the cigarette industry here that needs to be explored in the legal realm...


Say Cin-Cin before Din-Din


Funny how good art direction can make you thirsty.

From my childhood I still remember the tag line: Say Cin Cin before Din Din!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stewart Brand proclaims 4 environmental 'heresies'

Another fascinating, troubling and controversial Ted talk by one of the fathers of the environmental movement, Stewart Brand.

His seminal book, the Whole Earth Catalog, has been updated and is being re-released under the new title: Whole Earth Discipline.

Mr. Brand agrees with James Lovelock (the Gaia hypothesis) about nuclear energy as being a good green alternative and makes a good case for why.

He is also a big supporter of genetically modified crops, though he makes a less convincing argument for this and actually, to my understanding of it, makes a completely false statement when he says GMO crops don't require pesticides and are better for the soil. Monsanto's GMO seeds, corn in particular, are all Round Up ready, Round Up being a pesticide produced by, you guessed it, Monsanto. It is fairly indisputable that organic farming methods are by far the best for soil health and provide better tasting and more nutritious food. It has also been proven that organic farms can produce as much as any commercial mono-crop industrial farm.

The "we need to feed the increasingly populated world" argument really doesn't play with me any more. GMO's are not the answer, they are a way to make money and exploit farmers and consumers while making billions of dollars for the large biotech companies.

The real issue here, one that Mr. Brand does not mention, is mono-crops. They just aren't sustainable. Diversity is an essential part of nature. When you eliminate diversity you have problems, like Dutch Elm disease or the Irish potato famine.

Besides since when is putting a corporation that spies on farmers, wrongly litigates them, has manipulated the legal system so they can patent and own nature a good thing?

Obviously something I feel strongly about and on which I disagree with Mr. Brand.

Nonetheless this is a talk worth watching. My favorite bit happens at the 6 minute 30 second-ish point - the train in Bangkok - don't miss it.



Memorial to Those Killed in Bike and Other Car Related Accidents

The first time I saw a ghostly, painted, white bike was on Houston and Essex. It was festooned with photos, personal notes and plastic flowers, a memorial to a twenty-something woman who had been killed on that corner while riding home on her bike.

That was several years ago and over the years I've come across several more. This one is at Second Avenue and 9th street in front of St Marks Church on the Bowery, it's the first one that describes the project in detail. I am not sure who it is that is doing it, but I find them very moving.

If you ride a bicycle remember to always wear a helmet.




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You say Dual I say Dowel

I've been going to this Indian Spice store for so long I didn't even realize, until I was posting this video, that it's name had changed. I call it Dowel as it used to be called Dowel Quality, but apparently now it is called Dual Specialty

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Regardless of name, this is by far my favorite spice and Indian grocery store in the East Village, if not all of Manhattan. One of the many things I love about it is not only can you get things like Amchoor, you can also get Old Bay Seasoning.

If you've never been, you should definitely check it out.

How'd That Fig Tree Get Here?

I was walking around the East Village when I pass the garden at Avenue B and 6th street and notice a funny looking tree...


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United Breaks Guitars

As an unabashed airline nerd I have always been United adverse.

I think it was the incident where the customer service agent told me that the only way I could get a reward ticket for Neil was to go to the airport and purchase it in person.

We fly Continental.

If you want to feed your inner airline nerd check out this site where I have spent far too many hours reading in horror and hilarity the tales of travelers and their airline experiences.

Oh and if you go to You Tube and search this song you will also find a very sweet second video by the performer giving an update on the situation. Seems his video hit a sympathetic nerve with a lot of people and became insanely popular, and guess what, United has, er, changed their tune.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama in the Garden on Health and Nutrition

Michelle Obama is my new hero.

It really is inspiring to me to see her taking on big AG, chemical companies and the fast Food industry in her pursuit of promoting healthier eating habits. I love her comment about snap peas tasting good and how local food tastes best.

You go girl!

Denny's Meat Lover's Scramble


Saw this on JoeMyGod and just had to share. Mostly I just needed an excuse to post the picture of a meat lovers scramble.

Apparently some guy is suing Denny's because he has high blood pressure because no one told him the food was highly salted.

I wonder what would happen if restaurants were made to list on their menus, the salt, fat, sugar and calories of each dish? And if the dish contained any GMO's or corn syrup. Jeez that would be one lengthy menu!

Urban Green Space: Berlin

I had mistakenly published a short video under my KaDeWe section that I got confused. It's actually meant for this post. I've switched the videos around so if it seems like deja vu not to worry, it's me not you. The old intro is now here. Jet lag is my excuse (as lame as that may seem).

You can't visit Berlin and not be taken by how green it is. Parks everywhere, old beautiful trees lining nearly every street, it's one of the things that makes the city so incredibly livable. Briefly during the Summer Camp BBQ I was introduced to a guy named Marko who has obtained an empty plot of land (I think in Kreuzberg) to start an urban farm.

Out walking to a bar at 1 in the morning, a block away from my apartment, I had an encounter with a fox, which from a distance I thought was a scrawny cat. Not something I expected to see in urban downtown Berlin, but that's just shows you how green it is.

Next door to a cafe in which I had morning coffee a few times (Diwan on Bergmannstrasse, an all organic restaurant with rockin' croissants) is a little shop that sells produce from their own garden (I didn't ask, but it might be literally from the courtyard of their building) along with a lovely selection of cheeses.

Funny, if you go to Diwan's website you will see a prominently displayed No Smoking sign (everyone in Berlin seems to be constantly smoking). Must be meant ironically as both times I went there the waiter would bring me my order and immediately go to the table closest to the street and light a cigarette, as if the job of bringing me my coffee was so exhausting, anxiety provoking, or maybe just worthy of deep reflection he had to have a cigarette. This is probably just a rule for the inside dining room. A rule some would find so off putting they wouldn't eat there. Every stitch of clothing I took with me came home stinking of tobacco, I have to say I really appreciate New York’s smoking ban. My friend Keith told me that a no smoking ban had been put in place, but then was overturned by the courts. Too bad.

Every apartment seems to have a terrace; a lot of them beautifully gardened. Berlin is broke so rent is cheap which means people with a vision or an idea who want to open up a store or gallery or whatever has a chance to do so without breaking the bank. This means that the city is chock-a-block full of quirky cafes and eccentric stores. One of those is just a few stores down from Diwan, a kind of fantasy plant store called Fluidum.

I'm really at a loss for how to describe it other than it celebrates decay, and makes green spaces out of post apocalyptic environments. Needless to say the man who owns it is an artist. What he creates is the equivalent to those partially destroyed civilizations sitting in the gravel at the bottom of fish tanks amongst the sea plants. Oddly perfect for Berlin.

I'm not exactly sure what Fluidum means, but when I do a Google translation of the page there is a very funny sentence under the "Gallery" heading: "because of the originality of your own fluid there are no limits." No comment.

My video of this store has an inadvertent Hitchcock cameo and certainly doesn't show the owners work off to it's greatest benefit, but I think you'll get the idea. It's really kind of genius I think, but sadly I don't I wont be able to order one through FTD otherwise I would! My favorite is the old U-Haul trailer.





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Friday, July 24, 2009

Aqui Espana Berlin

In Charlottenberg, Berlin, Keith and I were walking around and discovered several wonderful food shops. Charlottenberg was part of former West Berlin and is very gentrified and upscale so it isn't surprising that so many wonderful food shops are there.

The Germans love Spain (who doesn't really?) and before I left on my trip I came across the web site for this store that sold all things Spanish, Aqui Espana. What a great store! I could have spent hours there! And unlike here in NYC, they were able to combined Spanish Food with Spanish Wine and Brandy along with tons of my favorite clayware and other fun household goods.

They also carried dried chili peppers like Ancho and Pasillo - which were three times as expensive as they are in NYC. The upside, however, is that the wine was much cheaper. In my exploration I was very excited to come across packaged prepared foods that are sold in their own mini clay cazuela! You can even microwave them (something I frown on, not being a microwave fan, and given the wonderful flavor you get when you bake in clay it seems totally besides the point). And they were reasonably priced!

I'm going to check and see if Despana here in NYC carries them.


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Market Hall on Bergmannstraße, Bio in Berlin and the Search for Molasses


My first 4 days in Berlin were spent going to grocery stores and markets to source the food that I we would need to buy for the BBQ/opening on Saturday night. One if my menu items was baked beans which required molasses, so my Holy Grail was to find, in Berlin, Molasses.

A general observation about food shopping in Berlin: organic food is a priority here.
There were two organic grocery stores near me in Kruezberg, one was LPG, a co-op type situation to which you need to pay 30 Euros a month to become a member, the benefit of membership being a deep discount on the regular price. The other was a grocery store chain called Bio Company (bio =organic) with an outlet directly across the street from the market hall on Bergmannstraße. This place is great. They have everything you need including wine (I love that in Europe you can get wine with your groceries) and I was particularly impressed with the vast selection of wines that were either organic or biodynamically grown and produced.

Indeed, "Bio" is everywhere in Berlin. Riding our bikes down the canal there was a truck that sets up every day that sold local produce. Even in the shopping malls (see video below) there are local bakeries, local vegetables, meats, preserves, fruit and pretty much anything else you can imagine (except molasses).

Molasses in Berlin is elusive, if it exists at all, in the blackstrap form I was looking for.

I figured a big store like KaDeWe would have it no problem and was very excited when I was told they had an American section and a Deli section that both carried "typically" American groceries. Apparently to most Germans that translates into junk food. The shelves were filled with Marshmallow Fluff, ketchup, Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, and so on, but no molasses.

The good new is that most junk food, stuff that would be riddled with high fructose corn syrup here, is actually made with sugar there. Some had fructose syrup in them, but I'm led to believe this isn't as nasty and, in general, is genetically modified.

I even had a Coke with my pesto pizza from Ron Telesky's Canadian Pizza company in Kreusberg after I read the label and discovered, to my joy, that it did not contain any corn products whatsoever, that it is indeed made with zucker. I just couldn't resist. Check out his site, by the way. The song is hysterical. I actually met co-owner Ole Schack. He has a canoe out front which I commented on, as I used to love to canoe as a teenager in Canada. Ole told me that his canoe was actually from the former East Germany. He also told me that he had been an exchange student in Peterborough, Ontario and had worked at the pizza place there which is where he got his inspiration. Too funny. My slice was delicious, the variety available was really good. Keith had a slice with sweet potatoes and rosemary.

However frustrating the hunt for molasses, after days of searching, I had gotten a great overview into the food culture of Berlin. What a great city for food shopping. It isn't as multi-cultural or diverse as NYC, but then very few cities are, and Berlin certainly can hold it's own. Walking through Charlottenberg, Keith and I came across a huge Thai grocery store that has a small food room tucked away where Thai moms were making the real deal for people to take away or eat in. Everything it would seem, but molasses.

In the mostly Turkish grocery store, across the street from the Turkish market, I finally found both grape and pomegranate molasses. I was tempted to try the grape, but in the end was afraid to experiment in a situation where I wanted to make a good impression. In the end I used maple syrup in my baked beans and they managed to all get eaten.

And if I may so say myself, they tasted damn good!

It was well worth the exploration, even if I did end up ultimately empty handed. It was great to be able to discover what turns out to be a very environmentally concerned city that is dedicated to organic food, not as something special and rare, but as daily staple. A place where local fruit, veggies and products are highlighted and prized.

Funny, you don't think of Berlin and decide: "Oh I want to do a market tour!" which is too bad because food culture in Berlin is every bit as interesting and extensive as it's art or club scenes.


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lost in Berlin: The KaDeWe Videos

What a crazy trip that was.

Sorry for disappearing like I did, but there is just so much to do in Berlin, that time flew by at an insane rate.

I've only just been back in my apartment for a few hours and plan to do a lot of posting about my thoughts and experiences in Berlin, but for now I just wanted to share these videos with you and give you some background.

KaDeWe is a grand old dame of a department store that is known far and wide for it's food department. When I was in Berlin 9 years ago I went to KaDeWe and was totally unaware that on the top floor was a mega cafeteria with a wonderful glass roof. The cafeteria was bustling the day I went on this trip and rightfully so, as you will see in the video below. Oh and I make a comment about sorbet at one point, in my impromptu rambling I misspoke it was gelato or ice cream not sorbet.

All of these videos, like most of the ones I make, are very much about giving the viewer a glimpse, or maybe I should say taste, of something. In this instance I guess it's more than a taste as I have posted 4 videos just of KaDeWe alone! My narrative can seem rambling with odd pauses and my camera work is, well to be kind, let's call it gorilla video making.

The important thing is that you get see some of the highlights of KaDeWe.

I have to go nap, much more on Berlin later.


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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pfifferling Mushrooms


So yesterday I was with my friend Keith at the Turkish market in Kreuzberg not far from where I am staying here in Berlin. We come up to this one stall and there is a kilo basket of what look to be Chanterelle mushrooms, my German being non-existent I was perplexed by what I thought the sign said:

3 Euros (approximately $4.20).

For 100 grams? No, the vendor tells us 3 euros for the entire basket! I was beside myself.

So I bought them thinking it would be nice to make a risotto for Keith and Christian.

That night we went to a beer garden restaurant and the entire front page of the menu was seasonal specials for a local mushroom: Pfifferling.

Keith and I told Christian the story and he assured me they were just a local mushroom that happened to be currently in season. Then as I was about to write this post I did a search to find a picture and guess what, they are indeed Chanterelles, a mushroom it turns out with many names: Egg, Girole, Girolle and Pfifferling.

After another quick search i find that, at the moment, this same amount of mushrooms in NYC would cost about $15 a pound (which strikes me as on the low side) so a kilo (2.2 pounds) would cost about $37.50

Despite this significant pleasure, I have to say that i'd forgotten how much jet lag sucks. I was awake at 5 and now it's noon and I'm ready for dinner and bed.

Aufwiedersehen for now...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rebecca and Chaz Dinner Menu

I meant to post this before I left. Our niece Rebecca wanted to introduce us to her boyfriend Chaz (a fellow Canadian) who she met at Brown, where they both go to school.


House roasted almonds
with fresh thyme and sea salt

Mixed Olives

Corn Cakes with Cream cheese, smoked salmon and salmon roe
Sugar Snap peas with cumin, lemon and mint

Heirloom Tomato salad with basil, balsamic vinaigrette

Bibb lettuce with herb de provence vinaigrette

Brooke Trout Hazelnut coated and pan fried
caper, lemon, white wine sauce

Sour Cherry Chocolate cake

Selection of home made breads, Tomme de Lay Cheese from Saxelby

We had a very funky single vineyard organic Champagne from France and a biodynamic red wine from Spain (names to come when I get home)

Greetings from Berlin

The flight over was uneventful, almost good given it was empty and I had three seats to myself.
The red wine served on the plane was called Nostalgia Merlot it has a painting on the front cover with horses in the distance, a women whose apron appears to become a ghost, an elephants head and a body of water.

My favorite though is the description on the back of this plastic screw top from Chile:

"..well balanced wine with ample tannins ending in an earthy, harmonious finish."

I've always been a fan of harmonious finishes, and in the end as tacky as the package was, it was fine wine for a plane.

Berlin is muggy and confusing, as most new places tend to be. I have limited internet access and a bad case of jetlag so I'm not sure how much blogging I'll get done.

Although I already have several ideas for movies!

The Turkish market by the canal was wonderful.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Corn Cakes


The first corn started showing up at the market this week. To celebrate I made one of our very favorite things to eat: corn cakes with smoked salmon, salmon roe, and sour cream.

I buy wild king salmon roe and wild caught smoked salmon from Russ and Daughters. Usually I like place a dollop of cultured sour cream on the corn cake first, but lately I've become addicted to Russ and Daughter's house made cream cheese, a sinful hybrid somewhere between butter and whipped cream.

Use as much or as little corn as you like. When I made these on Friday I used 6 ears of corn that I cook briefly in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes and then let sit until they were cool enough to handle and de-kernel with a knife. One of the ears I had was really small and the rest were medium sized, it came to about 1 1/2 cups. Use more or less depending on your preference. I like the sweetness and the texture of the corn, so I tend to use more.
If you use less, the more cake-like the pancake will wind up. Try varying it and see what you like best.

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, garnishing them with a slather of cream cheese, top with a piece of smoked salmon and a dollop of salmon roe, ready to serve (after a sprinkle of some finely chopped chive or scallion on top if you're feeling very fancy).

With some single vineyard organic/biodynamic Champagne this is pretty much a meal.

Add a salad and a simple dessert (seasonal fruit crumble) and, well, it doesn't get much better than this!

After batch one you can slowly continue to make them as you sip champagne. A better strategy than making them all at once, the oven tends to make them soggy, although still great.

Live from Newark Airport



The first blog entry of my trip to Berlin!

In my mania this morning I managed to make an extra batch of ginger short bread (I made a gooseberry tart using the shortbread as a crust for bubbie, but made too much) and am sitting here in terminal C noshing on it with a Starbucks.

On my way to find my gate I noticed a new addition to the airport shopping mall strip, a very tasteful wine bar called, Vino Volo.

Historically the most upscale food at Newark was the Au Bon Pain, so this was a very pleasant surprise!

They have a very well thought out menu of small plates and an intelligent selection of wines, with an emphasis on local and domestic wines, with the option to have a tasting flight (nice pun) also if you have lounge access you can pay an additional fee of $15 and have the bottle of wine in the lounge.

Definitely the classiest place in all of Newark to hang out while waiting for a flight.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Excerpt from Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham

Koko the gorilla with her pet kitten

This book is fascinating. An evolutionary history of cooking and how it started, why it started, what it means, etc.

I'm only on page 91, but I came across this section that caught my imagination and I wanted to share it:

Koko is a gorilla who learned to communicate with humans, and she prefers her food cooked. Cognitive psychologist Penny Patterson asked her why: "I asked Koko while the video was rolling if she liked her vegetables better cooked (specifying my left hand) or raw/fresh (indicating my right hand). She touched my left hand (cooked) in reply. Then I asked why she liked vegetables better cooked, one hand standing for 'tastes better,' the other 'easier to eat.' Koko indicated 'tastes better' option."


Catching Fire is published by Basic Books and is currently available it cloth bound.

For more information on Koko check out the Gorilla Foundation, watch some of the video's amazing stuff.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rural Australian Town Bans Plastic Water Bottles


Way to go! The BBC reports today that Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia have banned plastic water bottle because, drum roll, they are bad for the environment!
Let's hope this starts a trend.

Pickled Beets/Salad



People seem to have very distinct ideas about pickled beets. Which is to say some people hate them, others love them and a fair amount can take them or leave them.

I love them, and given I grew up with a grandmother who used to by the ones in a can that were super sweet, cut into large dice and were suspended in a corn starch, thickened, sugar sauce (a close relative to the thick, red, sweet and sour sauce you get in Chinese Take Out Food on your ribs) it's amazing that I love them, you'd think I run from the room when they were present.
The proper name for the above mentioned thick diced beets is Harvard Beets.
Stick with pickling.

If you don't want to be bothered pickling your own Ricks Picks is a local pickle maker (and a real character) who sells a wonderful variety of wittily named pickles that are for sale at Whole Foods and sometimes at the green market.

If you are up for it, pickling beets is real easy and like most preserves and pickles such a treat to find at the back of your fridge mid winter.

After a couple of years of experimentation I've come up with this recipe which is spicier than most, with a nice balance between vinegar and sugar.

It occurred to me this week that these gems would be great in a salad. A kind of retro riff off of Alice Waters classic beet salad with goat cheese. A salad equally at home mid-February as part of a late night supper or in your high August picnic basket.

Julianne your beets, lets say 2 cups, toss them in about 1/2 cup of olive oil generously salt and grind fresh black pepper on them, and if you want add a drizzle of local honey (optional). Toss well and leave in a bowl.

Meanwhile roast some walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts until just brown and aromatic. Maybe 10 minutes at 350 maybe a little longer. If you choose hazelnuts toss them in a paper bag, shake
about and get as much of their annoying skin off as possible, but don't drive yourself mad over it.

When lightly browned, take the nuts out of the oven and empty them from the baking sheet into a bowl add a teaspoon of oil and some salt, toss.

You could use any green you want to but grated cabbage would be my first choice(I like to use both red and white) maybe 4 cups tossed in a mustard vinaigrette with a drizzle of the pickling juice (1/2 cup oil, 1 T Dijon mustard, 2 T cider or red wine vinegar, pickle juice to taste optional, salt and pepper) or a traditional mayo or use the one from the first potato salad from last week. Toss the cabbage with what ever dressing you are using. Let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes if you can. Re-toss before assembling.

Top with the prepared beets, and finish with nuts and cheese. If it's winter I'd be inclined towards a crumbly Stilton in the summer feta or fresh goat cheese.

Ask you local cheese monger what's good and experiment.

Pickled Beets

Cook and peel 4 - 4 1/2 pounds of beets. Everyone seems to have a different method for this, the one I favor these days is here. It was pointed out to me that it is wasteful of water and that beats can be wrapped in tin and foil and cooked at 375F for 20-30 minutes and allowed to cool inside the tin foil (creating steam condensation) once pierced successfully with a tooth pick. Then peeled and processed.

I used to do this but found the skins didn't come off as easily, but that could have just been some weird idiosyncratic bunch of beets that I cam across determined to give me a hard time. Anyway...

In a heavy bottomed pan pour 4 cups of apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar, 1 teaspoon whole allspice, 2 sticks of Cinnamon, 2 teaspoons cloves, bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar, then turn the heat down so the pickling liquid is at a gentle simmer, add your prepared beets (I like to slice into thin disks the bigger beets and keep the smaller ones whole - also use a selection of types of beets if you can).

Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature.

If you are canning them go ahead and place them in sterilized jars and process otherwise they make fine refrigerator pickles, place them in a seal able container (I use those fancy Italian ones with the glass lids, the brand name we get here in NYC is Fido, but any you fancy will work, just make sure they have been well cleaned and soapy water and rinsed).

The longer you wait to eat these babies the more imbued with mellow spice they get.




Orange Peel Oil Tires

So cool.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recipe Testers, Relief, Celebration and a Favor


Hey there Urban Food Guy readers.

Over the last couple of months several of you have told me that you were going to make one of the recipes that I've posted here. This is great news. I like being helpful and it's good to know you find the recipes interesting enough and inspiring enough to want to try them in your own kitchen.

All the recipes have been developed and tested in my kitchen. As you've probably noticed, I'm fairly free and easy in my instructions, cooking being a personal expression of taste and every one's palate is different. I love really strong flavors, anchovies and hot peppers make me shiver with pleasure, yet I have friends who are repelled by anchovies and tortured by hot peppers. All of this to say that if you do make a recipe and you notice a mistake or have some insight or input into it please post a comment or feel free to email me at my new email address urbanfoodguy@gmail.com

And remember to always taste everything you are cooking as you go along, this is mostly advice for savory food, baking is another situation, one where you hope the person who wrote the recipe didn't make a typo (is that really 14 cups of flour? Or did he mean 1/4 cup? Oops)

On a more personal level I have to say that I am amazed by how many people are now reading my blog and how many of you when we meet talk to me about things that have been discussed here. It's very encouraging and it actually kind of blows me away - so thank you.

What started out as a lone voice in the darkness on this here intraweb thingy is becoming a community of people brought together by their love of good food and the belief that chemical and torture free food is not only good for our bodies and souls, but is good for the whole planet. Which I think we all would agree could use a little TLC these days.

This morning I had a rather stressful meeting that ended up very well.

After a year of under employment and much financial anxiety, in part created by the debt from my previous business, I successfully completed my bankruptcy filing. I hope that isn't too much information, but I have always believed in full disclosure and honesty in all aspects of my life and seeing as how you are my friends, my community, my supporters in so many ways I feel it is only appropriate that you be included in this part of the journey. Besides it's great f@%king news! What a relief! Yippeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Having now been given a new lease on life I'd like to think about what my next steps are.

UrbanFoodGuy has grown and it makes me proud when I look and see how much stuff is on here! As exciting as the two cookbooks in the works are I still, however, have a pesky need to make a living.

I'm not really sure how much it means when people see how many "followers" you have?

My feeling is that more in this instance is better.

In this new world of things going viral, tipping points, and social networking sites, it seems to me the more you can get the word out the more people will stop in and the more chance someone might say: "he,y maybe I could get Urbanfoodguy to write, review, cook, consult...and pay him!"

So if you're feeling up to it and are so inclined, please sign up as a follower (scroll down to the bottom of the main page, it takes a minute). If indeed you check in here with any regularity or just happen to be passing through it'd make a great good will gesture (I'm not fussy and it's good karma).

Thanks for helping me spread the word. And if your feeling very energetic tell your friends and/or post about Urbanfoodguy on Facebook or Twitter or where ever it is you hang out. There's lots here to discover and everyone can always use a good recipe for Maple Cake!

In return I promise to keep posting more recipes, videos, news, commentary and generally keeping you up to the minute on what's happening in the world of food and the environment in my little urban corner of the planet on Manhattans' lower east side.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

BBQ in Berlin Baby





Oops I had posted an image here that was actually NOT from the event I am cooking for, but rather a rival event - sorry!

Here the real poster for the Summer Camp event. Opening night BBQ and all other pertinent information can be found here: Exile




Fill er' Up


With great satisfaction yesterday I took my empty 32 ounce bottle of Ecocover dish washing liquid and an 11 ounce bottle of Avalon Lavender Shampoo with me when I left the apartment.

Why you may ask was I carrying empty plastic with me around town? Well...

...my first stop was the Green Depot who have 4 big tubs of bulk cleaners (dish, all purpose, window, tub and tile in both scented and unscented) at the front of their enviro-wonderland of a store on the Bowery. They refilled my empty container for me at a cost of $4.16 (9 cents an ounce or thereabouts) a savings of at least a dollar if not more depending on the brand you buy and where you buy it. It was great to know that this plastic packaging was going to see more of a life then one filling followed by a landfill.

Next stop on my journey was Commodities on First avenue, about a ten minute walk north. This store has been one of my favorites for years and yet it has taken me this long to realize that behind the checkout counter are all sorts of bulk goodies. I was able to refill my shampoo bottle with Nature's Gate shampoo for a mere $3.69, a total bargain.

A few words of caution here. As much as I love the idea of lowering my carbon footprint I do wish Commodities would change the brands of the items they sell in bulk, specifically the shampoo. This morning when I gleefully started to lather up my hair I was a little put off by the fake suntan lotion smell of the shampoo and the persistent oil nature of it. The other option they offer is that brand that shall go unnamed with all the weird fanatical vaguely antisemitic ramblings on it, the label itself is a small novella - you know the one. Well if you ever think to buy that brand please, take 45 minutes or seconds and actually read the ramblings on the packaging, then put it down and move on to a less, er, how shall I put it, ah yes - dogmatic - brand of shampoo.

The great thing about Commodities is that they are very receptive to suggestions.

Going to The Ten Bells for a Glass of Wine


Ten Bells is a few blocks away from. It's a dark "u" shaped bar that has walls of chalk boards and black painted tin ceilings.

I went there for the first time last summer. I love sitting at a bar and drinking wine and eating. I love it even more when the bar has an extensive list of tapas that keeps you coming back and is dedicated to all things local and authentic including it's wine. The Ten Bells has a true dedication to naturally made wines and I happen to know he buys all his wonderful local cheese from Saxelby.

It's hard not to like a menu with lamb prosciutto, wild boar cacciatorini, a local cheese plate and octopus and potato salad.

Neil, being the hard cider fan that he is, would be very happy to see Basque apple cider Bereziartua on the by-the-glass menu. The red and white list are both equally impressive for their dedication to wine making in the traditional manner, organic grapes and often biodynamic farming.

Makes me want to put on my pants and go out for a nightcap!

Monday, July 6, 2009

For all you Flesh Flippers, some Tips


Funny I just finished the long post below where I talk about my July 4th BBQ experience and then I get my Grist email and Ask Umbria has done a video on grilling. The term flesh flippers is so funny!


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