Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sage Pesto

Sage is one of those things that seems to used once a year in stuffing, maybe with some butter on Ravioli and that's about it. And the ravioli butter dish always sounds better then it actually is, I never feel in the few times I've eaten it that it had much sage flavor.

Last week I was confronted with a huge bundle of sage as part of my CSA. Initially I thought:

Maybe I just want take it?

What am I going to do with all that sage?
I'm not making stuffing.

Sage?

Reluctantly I took my sage placing it at the bottom of my canvas Delta airlines bag some body handed me on the street as part of some promotion.

When I got home I was confronted by it again as I unpacked.

There's so much of it!

That evening I was making an Indian Stew with seasonal veggies, potatoes, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts. One of the things I love about Indian food is all the condiments to go with any one dish, the yogurt, chutneys, breads etc. So I figured why not try sage pesto? It made sense with all the autumnal veggies, but I wasn't sure how it would work with the Indian flavors.

Not only did it work great in the Indian stew it is tasty just by itself on pasta or as a swirl in some late season roasted tomato soup.

My recipe is hardly exact so feel free to modify as you see fit:

Sage Pesto

In a food processor place: 1 cup of sage leaves, washed, stems removed, 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, washed. stems removed, 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped, 1/2 cup of almonds (raw or roasted - the later will give the pesto a mellower flavor) and about 1/3 - 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Pulse until the mixture becomes a paste, adding more oil if it is too thick. I wanted it a bit thinner but thick could work just as well, it would make a nice tapenade on crunchy sliced toast (I'd add some pecorino if I was going to do this).

Add sea salt and ground black pepper to taste and a squirt of lemon juice if your so inclined.

Sage in the North East is winter hardy, so it is a perfect substitute for flown in out of season basil. Even after a snow storm you can go to you community garden and clear off the snow ans grab enough sage leaves to make some pesto. Or you can just take the huge amount you got from the CSA and freeze it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

No Impact Experiment

This is very inspirational, well to me at least. I joined up and encourage you to do the same, even if you aren't able to completely change your habits (I have no intention of giving up flying for example) any modification would be very helpful. Besides what this does more then anything is get us all to look at how we live and how the choices we make on a day to day basis really affect how we impact the environment.

In the next couple of days I am going to be introducing a new interaction feature here at Urbanfoodguy called Sunday Suppers an interactive local community building weekly feature that I'm very excited about and hope you will be too!







Moms Against Climate Change

Manipulative, but effective - love the song and it makes the point very clear.

Shout Outs


photo's are from The Huffington Post

Michelle Obama's Fall Harvest was a huge success, hundreds of pounds of crops, 134 pounds of honey and it only cost them $175* to start up and they managed to get all this beautiful food and didn't use any chemicals, this is the truth that big AG, Monsanto et. al. don't want you to hear, they are selling products that no one needs and do nothing but destroy our planet and our health.

Thank you Michelle for taking on the powers that be and bringing awareness to families across the country to the fact that healthy, organic, local produce doesn't have to be expensive or elusive to the average family.

(For the full story check out Obama Foodorama)

My second shout out is to Keith's Organic Farm who nnot only sells the best rocambole garlic in the world he is the first farmer at the Union Square market to introduce bio bags, a kind of plastic made from corn which is totally biodegradable. There is a small charge depending on the size othe bag it ranges from 1- to 20 cents. CENYC should encourage all the farmers in the market to do this and set a date when plastic bags will be banned altogether.

Way to be a trendsetter Keith, thanks!

And my last shout out today goes to the lobster boy on everyone's lips these days Luke of Luke's Lobster for putting a large No on 1 sign in his window (proposition 1 is an attempt to repeal same sex marriage in Maine).

Just another reason to head down to 7th street and enjoy a lobster roll - thanks for the support Luke!

Guide to Freeconomy - Episode 1

Mark Bolye the founder of www.justfortheloveofit.org has lived for almost a year without cash, totally off grid, he's started this community based on this simple belief: be the change you want to see.

He credits the movie Ghandi with inspiring him to do this.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Clarissa Dickson Wright Cracks Me Up

Photograph: David Hartley / Rex Features

My friend Ian in London sent me Nigel Slater's new book Tender - he writes for the Guardian a site I love and check out frequently, so I went on today and came across this interview with Clarissa Dickson Wright (she was one half of the 2 Fat Ladies).

It's an hysterical interview, I love the British bluntness. She doesn't sound like someone I'd get along with very well, but I do admire her pluck. Here are a few of my favorite lines, but by all means read the entire interview!

I signed the hunt declaration many years ago that said I would go to prison for hunting. It would be quite peaceful in prison – I wouldn't have to do interviews and I could write the prison cookbook.

What do you think of Jamie Oliver?

Jamie Oliver is a very good cook. I get so angry about him because he could have been such a force for good, and he's sold out to the supermarkets.

Gordon Ramsay? Pity he didn't stick to football.

Say No To Monsanto: Please Sign the Petition

This just in from the good folks at Food Democracy Now:

I'm just cutting and pasting the email, click on the links to go to the petition, I urge you to please take a minute and do this we can not let big AG run the Department of Agriculture it is dangerous to both our health and the health of our planet to allow big business to run the show. It's suicidal.

Dear Friends,

Speak up to stop Big Ag.

President Obama has found himself with some strange bedfellows lately.

While on the campaign trail in Iowa, Barack Obama boasted, “We’ll tell ConAgra that it’s not the Department of Agribusiness. We’re going to put the people’s interests ahead of the special interests.”1 Despite that promise, it seems that ConAgra’s friends at Monsanto and CropLife are still finding their way into the USDA.

Last month, President Obama nominated two “Big Ag” power brokers--Roger Beachy and Islam Siddiqui--to key agency positions, putting agribusiness executives in charge of our country's agricultural research and trade policy. Please join us in telling the President that this isn't the change we voted for. We don't want Big Ag running the show any more.

Siddiqui's confirmation hearing is set for next week. Please help us reach our goal of 50,000 signatures to make a real impact.

http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/65?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

Obama’s first agribusiness selection is Roger Beachy, to be head of the USDA’s newly created National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Beachy is the founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO. It may sound innocuous, but the Danforth Center is essentially the non-profit arm of GMO seed giant Monsanto; Monsanto’s CEO sits on its board, and the company provides considerable funding for the Center’s operations.2

As the head of the USDA’s new research arm, formerly known as the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CREES), Beachy is responsible for deciding how U.S. research dollars will be spent in agriculture.3 Translation: more research on biotech, less research on how to scale sustainable and organic agriculture.

Unfortunately, Beachy has already started work at the USDA, but the next nominee—Islam Siddiqui—still must be confirmed by the U.S.Senate. Siddiqui, the Vice President of Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, was recently nominated to be the Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Office of the US Trade Representative.4 Amazingly, when Michele Obama planted her “organic” garden on the White House lawn, Siddiqui’s CropLife MidAmerica sent the First Lady a letter saying that it made them “shudder”.5

During his career, Siddiqui spent over 3 years as a pesticide lobbyist, an Undersecretary at the USDA and a VP at CropLife. In defending Siddiqui, the White House has stated that he played a key role in helping establish the country’s first organic standards.6 What they neglect to mention, though, is that those original organic standards would have allowed irradiation, sewage sludge and GMOs to undermine organic integrity! The standards were so watered down that 230,000 people signed a petition for them to be changed, which they eventually were.7

Fortunately, the organic community stopped Siddiqui and his cronies then, and we need your help now to do it again. If Siddiqui’s nomination is allowed to go through, then agribusiness will continue to control the seeds, the science, and the distribution of global food and agriculture.

Please join Food Democracy Now! and a broad coalition of other groups, in calling on President Obama to keep his campaign promise of closing the revolving door between agribusiness and his administration.

Please click here to add your voice.

http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/65?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

Thanks for standing with us and our coalition partners from across the country, including: The Pesticide Action Network (PAN), National Family Farm Coalition, Food & Water Watch, Farmworker's Association of Florida, Institute of Agriculture & Trade Policy, Greenpeace and the Center for Food Safety in calling for President Obama to live up to his promises to put people's interests ahead of special interests

Sustainably Yours,

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team.

(Urbanfoodguy: this links are not attached please just cut and paste if you want to go to them)

If you'd like to see Food Democracy Now!'s grassroots work continue, please consider donating. Your donation of $5 or more will help us continue our work. We appreciate your support! http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/25?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

Sources:

1. Obama slams corporate agriculture, two Illinois firms, The Chicago Tribune, November 10, 2007
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/58?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

2. Another Monsanto man in a key USDA post?, Grist, September 24, 2009
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/59?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

3. A New Direction on Research at the USDA? The Experts Weigh In, The Huffington Post, October 15, 2009
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/60?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

4. Obama’s attempt to tap an agrichemical-industry flack runs into trouble, Grist, October 10, 2009
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/61?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

5. Michelle’s green garden upsets pesticide makers, The First Post, April 23, 2009
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/62?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

6. Agriculture nomination steams greens, Politico, October 10, 2009
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/63?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

7. USDA Enters Debate on Organic Label Law, The New York Times, February 23, 2003 http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/72?akid=35.3357.fjRNIi&t=1

Meat Hand for Hallowe'en

Even as kid I never liked Hallowe'en, it always made me uncomfortable. The dressing up the asking people for candy, as soon as I could I opted out and hid in my room.

This morning I was thinking about if I should do something on Urbanfoodguy to acknowledge this pending holiday, you know a squash loaf with chocolate sauce or something, mostly I was thinking about sage pesto and Indian Vegetable Stew so not very thematic. Then, out of the blue, comes an email from our friend in SF Kurt from a site I was totally unaware of called Not Martha which right off makes me love it. Not that I have anything against Martha, I don't at all, I just appreciate the obvious sense of fun on view over at Not Martha as is witnessed by the seasonal meatloaf hand they came up with.

It really is disgusting and creepy, but you have to check out the narrative and the blow by blow pictures of the process they went through to get the finished product. The white onion as arm bone is truly a stroke of genius, check it out here.

It's still not to late to make one, although I would suggest that if you do make one (or two), make them for decoration not for eating. Even made with the finest local grass fed meat and organic veggies there is something a little off putting about the presentation that might make your guests loose their appetites (unless of course they've had a lot of pre-dinner orange root beer margaritas in which case...Bon Appetite!)



Rome

I am turning 39 again this year and to celebrate my 11th year of being 39 Neil and I are going to Rome, Italy - not Rome NY - just in case anyone was confused ;-)

Our friends Todd and JC live there and have a cute little apartment they rent out which they have generously given us for the week.

Several friends have given us suggestions about places to eat at, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask here if anyone has a suggestion of a place to eat, be it a stall on a street corner or a fancy restaurant, a food shop or a market. Anything that you loved in Rome I'd like to hear about!

Thanks for your help.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jonathon Safran Foers: Eating Animals

For more information check out eatinganimals.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sour Dough Starter versus Commercial Yeast

The big difference is flavor! You realize with commercial yeast how the bread doesn't have the depth of flavor it does with the sour dough - it's really incredible how much better the sour dough tastes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Awesome Elephant Picture

Saw this on Huffington Post and just had to share. Elephants are such amazing, smart animals. My years of traveling to SE Asia and meeting with these incredible beasts has forever endeared them to me.

Luke's Lobster in the East Village


When I was at York University in theater school in Toronto I remember going to see a play called Cowboy Mouth by Sam Shepard and Patti Smith. I have no real recollection about the play except that Scott Thompson was in it (he later went on to Kids in The Hall fame), that the play was a lot of fun, very weird, and that there was a character called the Lobster Man. In this particular production it was a man made to wear a life size lobster costume.

Luke is the 25 year old newly crowned Lobster Man of the East Village. He was not wearing a lobster costume when my friend Ian and I stopped by for lobster rolls the other day, instead he'd gone for a more understated look of jeans and a blue shirt.

He was sitting in an Adirondack chair out front of his charming shop, aptly named Luke's, working furiously on his laptop. Luke's is his homage to the homard* of Maine. Well not just homard*, he serves shrimp and crab as well, but the lobster was the draw for us.

(sorry I grew up in Canada - homard is French for Lobster and for some reason it's one of the four words in French that I remember and I couldn't resist the line homage to the homard, but apparently I should! Sorry for the confusion.)

At 16 bucks the lobster roll with Vickie's chips and a Maine Root drink is a bargain. The rolls are about the size of a hot dog bun, only on a far superior bread than any hot dog bun you've ever had, and they're nicely toasted and filled with fresh, rich, simply done lobster from Luke's dad's fisheries in Maine.

The thing that really separates this lobster roll from any other I've ever had is that the lobster is not drowned in mayonnaise, as a matter of fact it's not drowned in anything. I detected a little bit of celery salt and a touch of butter allowing the wonderful, fresh lobster flavor to shine through.

If an ethereal and reasonably priced lobster roll wasn't enough, Luke is also big on sustainability. Here's what he says: "If your first bite brings to mind an old lobster boat steaming through the morning fog off of Vinalhaven Island, it’s because that’s exactly what happened just hours before."

You gotta love that.

I was thinking after inhaling my roll that I would like something sweet. As of yet Luke's doesn't offer any desserts, though I thought that the perfect little sweet might be a nice, organic, wild, Maine, blueberry crumble bar. Maybe with the option of some fresh whipped cream?

It just so happens that my friends at Intervale Farms in Cherryfield, Maine grow the tastiest, organic blueberries in the world! So Luke if your looking for some blueberries...

So whether you're hankering for some Maine seafood, a crazy good lobster roll, or maybe just missing Maine, Luke's is the place for you!

93 E. 7th Street, New York, NY

212.387.8487

Hours:
Sunday - 11 am - Midnight
Monday - 11 am - Midnight
Tuesday - 11 am - Midnight
Wednesday - 11 am - Midnight
Thursday - 11 am - 1 am
Friday - 11 am - 2 am
Saturday - 11 am - 2 am






Angel Food Cake with Concord Grape Sauce

Often for fruit sauces the French word coulis (pronounced /kuːˈliː/, "koo-LEE") is used, I'm not sure how we went from sauce to coulis, maybe in an attempt to be fancier? Mostly to my experience of eating out it's raspberries that get the coulis treatment, usually squirted decoratively under or on a decadent slice of chocolate cake.

In order to strike out on my own and try I devised this dessert over the weekend. Concord Grape season is rapidly coming to an end and I've been trying to figure out as many ways to use them as possible.

This is a great recipe because the grapes don't have to processed in anyway, no need to separate skins from pulp. Just wash and remove the stems and you're ready to put them in a pot and cook them down.

Angel food cake is something I have been making more and more - mostly as a result of making ice cream and pasta, I have lots of egg whites left over. You have to be organized and motivated when it comes to egg white, I collect them in a container and keep them in my fridge then forget to use them, after a week or so they lose their viscosity, becoming watery and acquire a funky smell. The good news is that Angel food cake is super simple to make and freezes great. It also disappears at an alarming rate as it is so light sweet and delicious.

Anecdotally, I found in the bottom of a drawer an Angel Food Cake pan that had a stick free surface on it, normally I was using my really old tin one that has the cool "legs" on it so when you cool it you don't have to hang it from a bottle you can just turn it upside down on the counter. So anyway, I see this non-stick pan and decide to use it for my Angel Food cake instead of my old tried and true un-coated old fashioned one. Guess what? The cake stuck and had to be pried from the pan with a metal spatula. So I threw out this last piece of Teflon in my kitchen and am embracing my retro old fashioned tried and true baking pans.

My last words on Angel Food Cake, if you get a little tipsy and forget to put your left over cake away at the end of the night it makes a great breakfast food sliced, toasted and buttered (my grandmother taught me that, though she never actually made a cake it was store bought but at 6 it didn't matter to me, it was delicious none the less.)

Angel Food Cake with Concord Grape Sauce

Preheat your oven to 350F.

In the bowl of a standard mixer (this becomes a real labor of love you if whisk it by hand) pour in 1 1/2 cups of fresh organic egg whites.

With the whisk attachment turn on to medium speed and get the whites frothy (about a minute or so).

Add to the white 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon room temperature water and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (concentrate would be a bad idea - you can also use 2 tablespoons of orange juice or lemon juice and omitting the water if you want a citrus flavored cake - a couple of tablespoons of finely grated lemon or orange rind can be added as well if you are doing this to enhance the flavor - the orange version with taste great served with a bitter hot chocolate sauce).

Beat the whites for about 1 or 2 minutes then add 3/4 organic cane sugar, continue to beat until whites are thick and glossy - another minute or two - don't over process. The egg whites will now fill the bowl having greatly increased in volume.

With a rubber spatula in three stages fold in 1 cup pre-sifted all purpose organic flour (I like King Arthur, but if you have a local source even better) another 3/4 organic cane sugar and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Don't get too hung up on this part, just quickly and efficiently fold in the dry ingredients in three parts. You want to keep the volume while at the same time incorporating the dry ingredients thoroughly.

Pour the batter into an un-greased 10" tube pan place in the oven and cook for 35-45 minutes, it should be nicely brown and spring back when you touch it.

Remove from oven and turn upside down - if you don't have a tub pan with "legs" place it over a wine bottle to cool. Once at room temperature turn over and run a knife or spatula around the edges and bottom then turn over onto you serving plate.

Concord Grape Sauce

Wash and stem 1 pound of concord grapes and place in a sauce pan over medium heat. I use a potato masher to mash down the grapes in the initial minute so there is liquid in the pan - once they have started to boil I turn down the heat to a simmer and cook until the pulps of the grapes have either disintegrated or become so soft they easily will pass through a fine sieve about 8-10 minutes.

Pass through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the solids. Place the grape juice back into a sauce pan and add 3/4 cup of organic cane sugar, cook on medium heat until the sauce comes to a simmer, turn to low and cook for about 5 minutes, you want the sauce to thicken slightly and to make sure the sugar has dissolved.

Cool to room temperature then chill, the flavor is much better when the sauce is served cold. Can be made days in advance.

To serve pour about 1/4 cup of sauce on a dessert plate, place a nice thick wedge of Angel Food
Cake on top of the sauce and top with freshly whipped unsweetened cream.

Truly one of the best sweets I've ever come up with. Plate licking good!



Saturday, October 24, 2009

My First Sour Dough Bread!

The idea of urban homesteading is very appealing to me. It's why I do my own canning, have made several not so successful attempts at composting, belong to a CSA and obsessively shop at the market. Anything I can do to decrease my carbon foot print and be as independent as I try and do.

For the last 10 days I have been coddling my very own sour dough starter which is made with equal parts water and flour, every day (mostly) you pour half off and "feed" your starter with more flour and water. There are many, many ideas about starters some involve yogurt and grapes, but I went for the basic old fashioned kind just flour and water. To makes things easier I also decided to use a Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery sour dough no knead bread recipe as it just seemed easiest. Some of the recipes I've read are insanely time consuming, it basically requires you to be home for 2 days to make a loaf of bread!

My first attempt was after day 8 of my starter, I used a recipe that called for a cup of starter and I think in this instance a cup was too much. The loaf had a great sour flavor and a wonderful crust but was more akin to a shot put then a loaf of bread. My second attempt on day 11 I used a recipe from this awesome site Breadtopia that used only 1/4 cup of starter and some whole wheat flour.

The Dough is fairly wet, it rose nicely and I was very excited when I was about to put in my preheated covered pot, but the minute I turned it out of the bowl it had been rising in it deflated something fierce. I was able to re-shape and put it in the covered pot, but was anxious that it was going to be another hard flat deadly weapon. Luckily it puffed up nicely even though I wished it hadn't spread quite so much. The guy from Breadtopia talks about all the many variables and how if you add more flour it has better shape but smaller holes - to me it's a fair trade off to get the bread looking nice and round.

The recipe is as on Breadtopia, but the basics are:

1/4 sour dough starter, 1 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 1/2 cups bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour. Mix, cover with plastic and let sit for 18 hours.

Place the wet dough onto a slab of marble and shape it with minimal flour and what ever utensils you like (I use a silicone spatula but you could use any non stick utensil that works for you) let sit covered for 15 minutes and then either wrap in a well floured bread cloth or put in a bowl lined with the well floured bread cloth and let double - 1 1/2to 2 hours.

30 minutes before it's finished proofing heat the oven to 500F and put your covered baking dish in the oven to preheat as well.

Transfer the proof dough into the hot covered pot and bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes or until nicely brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

Let cool before cutting.



Friday, October 23, 2009

Bills Gates Shills for Monsanto

Thom Philpott over at Grist has done a bang up job of analyzing a recent speech Bill Gates gave on The Bill and Melinda gates Foundations intention to open up Africa to GMO seeds.

This is a must read article here are just a few of my personal highlights:

25-year Monsanto veteran Rob Horsch to the position of “senior program officer, focusing on improving crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa.”

(me: That's a good way to stay open to all the possibilities now isn't it Bill?)

Here’s a summary of a 2005 paper published in Bioscience comparing yields of organic and conventional corn. The 22-year study compared yields of corn and soy for the following systems: 1) conventional chemical-based agriculture; 2) organic ag using manure for soil fertility; and 3) organic ag using “green manure” (nitrogen-fixing cover crops) for fertility. From the summary, here’s the key nugget of the study:

“First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems,” said [researcher David] Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators. [Emphasis added.]

Note well the “especially under drought conditions” bit. Here is a technology for “drought-tolerant” corn that’s ready right now—no need to wait until 2018. It doesn’t rely on the benevolence of Monsanto to waive a technology fee; and there are no questions about seed-saving. It asks no one to accept a drop in long-term productivity as the price paid for sustainability. And not only does it help farmers adapt to climate change with its drought-tolerant qualities, but it helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. From the summary:

The fact that organic agriculture systems also absorb and retain significant amounts of carbon in the soil has implications for global warming, Pimentel said, pointing out that soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.











Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Ethnic Exception



Last night I went to Kuma Inn on Ludlow Street, the week before I finally made it out to Los Hermanos Taquerias in Bushwick. Both very reasonably priced places with cult followings that serve very tasty authentic food (at least from the small sampling I tasted).


Los Hermanos is in what looks like a converted car wash. The restaurant part being a glass walled partition that allows you to look out into the emptiness of what is now storage and prep area. It's a small place with a few tables and a few stools. You have to write your order down on a card and give it to the people behind the counters. Los Hermanos is ridiculously cheap.

Refrescos, Mexican Sodas are a buck fifty, water a buck and coffee seventy-five cents. The menu is split up into 6 sections, Taquitos, Tacos, Tostadoas, Tortas, Picadas, Quesadillas.

I'd never heard of a Picadas, the guy before me in line said they were his favorite, so I got the carne enchilada version (spicy pork) it was $3, my friend got the veggie version (beans and cheese and lettuce) also $3, with a side of guacamole for an additional whopping .25 cents for a small plastic container.

Pickled Jalapenos, red and green hot sauce are free for the taking.

A Picadas are 9" or so, round, like a tortilla only thicker and all the ingredients are piled on top.
With two bottles of soda water the meal for 2 was $9.

Even including the subway fare to get there this has to be the best bargain in town. The food was fresh, tasty and served up post haste. My friend Elizabeth who lived in LA for many years said she had never tasted authentic Mexican food in NYC until now.

Kuma Inn is on Ludlow just north of Delancey, outside is a doorway with a very unassuming, homemade sign just inside the dingy doorway is a menu pasted on the wall.

To get into Kuma Inn you have to walk up a long fight of the stairs as if you would if you were going to visit a friend in their railroad tenement flat or maybe in days of yore a speakeasy. I think part of the appeal of Kuma Inn is it's out of the way (though it's not really) secret hideaway feeling.

When I reached the top of the stairs a very serious waiter asked me if he could help me, I said I wanted to eat here, to which he asked if I had a reservation?

A reservation? This is exactly reservation territory nor did it stick me as that at a cheap and cheer pan Asian restaurant on the second floor of a walk up would I need one, this isn't Gramercy Tavern and I wasn't looking for a five course prix fix just a bite to eat.

I told him no I didn't have a reservation, that there was just one of me. I could see clearly there were several empty tables and no one else waiting. It was a bit off putting, as it seemed out of touch with the look of the place.

He told me to have a seat and he would see what he could do. OK.

Then he told me it was cash only, which was very helpful I said I would run down and get money, as I needed to go to an ATM. When I climbed the stairs my second time I was greeted with a more encouraging, I can seat you right now.

Once seated in a lovely little corner deuce I survived the room, windowless and noisy were my first two thoughts. The room is done is what I would call Thai beach hut decor was my first thought, very beige and lots of bamboo all sort of assembled around the room with some odd sort of sand line that connects everything.

The waitress comes over and tells me the long list of specials and asks me if I had been here before, when I admitted I was a virgin she gave me the run down. In the end she told me what to order and was right on. The Chinese sausage, fried with golden brown sweet onions, served with a dipping sauce of lime and fish sauce, a side of sticky rice garnished with black sesame and a side of Bok Choy which was poached in a broth (I didn't ask but a something about the broth made me think it might have had chicken or pork stock in it). Kuma Inn is a BYOB establishment with different corkage fees depending on what you bring, beer for example is a buck, wine is $5 and a 1.5 L bottle of Sake is 10. A bargain.

Even though they bill themselves as serving Asian Tapas my sautéed Chinese sausage with Thai chili-lime sauce was a main course size portion and was $11.50 the sautéed market greens (Bok Choy) where $8. $19.50 for two courses is a fair price fro dinner in Manhattan and because it was in a place where booze wasn't sold it was easy and quilt free for me to just sit there drinking New York tap water.

In writing about Low Hermanos the first time I mention my problem with eating out at places where the food is good but there is no emphasis on organic or farmers or local anything. For the most part these days, even though I live in an amazing neighborhood for restaurants I eat at home, because I know where the food I'm eating at home comes from. My food is traceable.


At a restaurant, any restaurant, it is only as traceable as the restaurant tells me.


I hate that I've become the person asking the waitress at Marlow and Sons if they are using corn syrup in their deserts. I particularly hate that at so many of the better places that my questions are greeted with an incredulity that I feel is unwarranted. All I'm really looking for is a place where there is consistency. Don't sell me grass fed local, humanely, raised cows made into hamburgers and then serve with it Heinz ketchup made with 2, yes count 'em, 2 different kind of Monsanto certified genetically alter obesity causing corn syrup.


Why would you do that?


Probably for the same reason that when I go to restaurants like Los Hermanos and Kuma Inn searching for an authentic experience and flavors I throw up my arms and order the first tortured living in it's own shit commercially raised in the darkness of a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) piece of pork I can get my hands on.


Not because I am such a big fan of pork mostly I've spent a life time avoiding it and most meat, but if I go to a restaurant now and someone says this is the dish (as the waitress at Kuma did) I want to try the dish and see. The people of Asia and Mexico are not going out to restaurants and asking the waiter if the pork was humanely killed and did it live under the sun under the lovely gaze of a farmer.


They just aren't.

My stark choice is to stay at home or go out, rarely, and make the decision to make an exception.


The reason this is so on my mind is because it is so rare that I eat at places like these, but enthnic food in particular in this city is never organic or local or anything (and if you know of a place please let me know and Suen doesn't count).


I’m confronted by my hypocrisy: in both cases the food was delicious and cheap, but that is exactly what people who eat burgers at fast food joints say and I'd easily tell you that you should never eat a fast food burger. We all make our exceptions and I suppose if there is an point to this post it is simply how hard it is to actually live an urban life and eat out and be consistent with ones beliefs especially if they involve eating food that is not only good for you but responsibly grown and raised.


Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Amsterdam Market and Dumpling Festival


Chef One, a commercial brand of dumplings (and other packaged delights) is holding a Dumpling Festival this weekend in Sara D. Roosevelt Park (on East Houston, the boulevard park that separates Chrystie and Forsyth streets).

It's very much a festival about product placement from their site, but they are having a dumpling eating contest for which the first prize is a cool $1000 (you need to register). The highlight to me is the East Village dumpling tour being given by the authors of The Dumpling, Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt (I'm not sure if they are both doing it as he is the only one pictured in the promotional material). Sadly, though, it is already sold out.

In looking at the site for the book I was pleased to see that Mr. Chu was the guy behind El Eden Chocolates which was on 6th street, on the North side just west of Avenue A. Neil and I used to love his chocolates. He even opened up a separate kitchen down the street and then just as suddenly closed the whole shebang. Small business is always such a mercurial thing, the book looks great.

Also, don't forget to go wander around The New Amsterdam Market this Sunday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The World Gone Bacon Mad

(This was the first picture that came up when I typed in "person dressed as bacon" on Google as an image search...)


From Harper's via a tip from Kurt:

A woman dressed as a rasher of bacon harassed Muslim food vendors in Manhattan. "Don't you like bacon?" she asked. "Bacon is so good. Do you ever put bacon on these hot dogs? 'Cause they'd taste really good wrapped up in delicious bacon. Maybe sprinkled with bacon. Or stuffed with bacon. Come on, don't you love bacon?"

Turns out that the real source of this tale of bacon harassment is: http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2009/10/bacon-vs-hot-dog.html

... and that as my sleuth friend Kurt reports:

Reading the source of the story, it seems that the facts were only that the vendor spoke Arabic. Characterizing the vendor as a Muslim was pure speculation.

As far as I'm concerned it was worth it just to post the picture of those kids dressed as bacon ;-)



Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Reason Not to Drink Coke

Besides the obesity making, genetically modifed, high fructose corn syrup in each gulp and the wasteful, fossil fuel-based plastic bottle it comes in, now there is this news just in from MoveOn:

Dear MoveOn member,

Why would a company like Coca-Cola oppose solutions to global warming?

Coca-Cola is a prominent member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which just launched a $100 million campaign described as a "declaration of war on the White House." The Chamber is pouring millions into killing clean energy as well as health care reform.1

Recently, an uprising of companies fighting back against the Chamber of Commerce has begun, led by companies like Apple, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, and GE.2

But Coca-Cola continues to help fund the Chamber's anti-climate agenda through their Chamber dues.

Can you call Coca-Cola and urge them to quit the Chamber of Commerce? If you're a customer of Coca-Cola, be sure to mention it when you call. Here's the info:

Coca-Cola
(800) 438-2653, press 2

Then, report your call by clicking here:

http://pol.moveon.org/chambercalls/coca-cola.html?id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=4

For years, the Chamber of Commerce has pushed a right-wing agenda.3 But now, it's trying to kill progress on clean energy, health care, workers' rights, and even financial reform.4

The U.S. Chamber has gotten so out of step with its own members that even local chambers are joining the rebellion. "They don't represent me," the head of the Greater New York Chamber said the other day.5

The top issues causing companies to walk away from the Chamber are clean energy and global warming. Wind and solar power create jobs and help the economy, and most business leaders know it.6

But the Chamber isn't listening. After Apple quit, the Chamber's president said of his critics, "Bring 'em on."7

So why is Coca-Cola still funding the Chamber? The Chamber wouldn't be able to run multi-million dollar campaigns if it weren't getting so much money from its members.

Call Coca-Cola today and urge them to quit the Chamber of Commerce:

Coca-Cola
(800) 438-2653, press 2

Then, help track our progress by clicking here:

http://pol.moveon.org/chambercalls/coca-cola.html?id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=5

Thanks for all you do.

–Steven, Wes, Anna, Noah, and the rest of the team

Sources:

(I haven't attached all these links if you want to access them just cut and paste - thanks!)

1. "Does the U.S. Chamber Speak for Big Business?," Business Week, October 7, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=84889&id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=6

2. "Apple quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce over global warming views," San Jose Mercury News, October 5, 2009
http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_13492186

"Nike Resigns From Chamber Board," The New York Times, September 30, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=84826&id=&t=7&id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=7

3. "A Quiet Revolution In Business Lobbying: Chamber of Commerce Helps Bush Agenda," The Washington Post, February 5, 2005
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=84896&id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=8

4. "Corporate America Is Fighting Back," Financial Post, October 14, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=84891&id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=9

5. "Defections Expose Chamber's Dirty Little Secrets" The Washington Post, October 16, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=84890&id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=11

6. "At Chamber of Commerce, Member Exodus on Climate Issue a Big PR Problem," Newsweek, October 6, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=84820&id=&t=8&id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=12

7. "Defiant Chamber Chief Says 'Bring 'Em On,'" The New York Times, October 8, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=84829&id=&t=11&id=17578-3196443-ud.lc6x&t=13

Want to support our work? We're entirely funded by our 5 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cranberry Beans go Indian

Chana Bazi with Poori is a very traditional Indian dish, chickpeas in a tomato-ish gravy with a piece of big puffy bread on top. I love it. I've have been eating it ever since I came to New York and used to go for very cheap Indian food on First Avenue around the corner from 6th street at a place called Milon.

My friend Ansell first took me there in 1986. We were both vegetarian at the time and the chickpeas were an appetizer, if I remember correctly, and only cost a couple of bucks. They easily made a meal and with the cheap beer you could bring yourself from the corner deli this quickly became one of my favorite places to eat. The thing I liked most about this dish at Milon was how buttery the sauce was and how soft the chick peas where. I also am a big fan of poori. It still seems kind of mysterious to me how they manage to get to puff up like that, it's like the bread version of a puffer fisher.

Things certainly have changed on 6th street and at Milon. After a while we started to feel more flush and ate downstairs at the larger and somewhat fancier Royal India. Now in order to go to Milon you have to pass the dueling door men - right next store is another, competing Indian restaurant, but you have to climb the same set of stairs to reach them both.

Then there is the jungle of hanging lights, truly it's a wonder there is anywhere to sit there are so many lights. When I used to go it was very third world bleak, which I have to say, I preferred, it seems a more authentic experience then the one you get now.

Just last week I was wandering down 6th street and realized that when I first came here and went to Taj Mahal with my friend, the dear and sorely missed friend Peter McGhee, all the restaurants on 6th street where Indian. Now there are 3 Japanese restaurants - sushi, home cooking and macrobiotic, a southern food place, an Ethiopian place and a new European pub looking place. Little India is giving way to restaurant row.

Speaking of change here is my version of this venerable dish, made with local ingredients in a more assertive manner then what you used to get at Milon, and I don't make the poori. I find a thick slab of homemade whole wheat or white bread does just fine. Homemade pear chutney and some Hawthorne Farm yogurt make wonderful accompaniments.

Spicy Indian Stewed Cranberry Beans

Cook in a pot of lightly salted water 1 1/2 pounds of cranberry beans, about 2 1/2 cups (remember when you buy these in the shell you need to double the weight so to get 1 1/2 pounds of beans you need to buy 3 pounds of beans) until tender about 10 minutes, drain the beans and reserve cooking water for later use. Set the beans aside in a bowl covered.

In a large cast iron frying pan or a heavy bottomed pot heat 2 T of Canola oil and 2 T unsalted butter until hot, but not smoking, add 2 T grated fresh ginger, 2-4 (I used 3) jalapeno peppers, stemmed seeded and finely chopped, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds and fry for a few minutes, when the cumin seeds have turned a darker shade and have become aromatic add 2 large roughly chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of Tumeric, 1 heaping teaspoon of both Chat Masala and of Garam Masala.

Cook over medium heat until the tomato has broken down - about 10 minutes. Add 2 T chopped parsley, 2 T chopped Cilantro, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, the beans and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, turn the heat down and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and freshly grated black pepper, more chopped fresh herb (another 2 Tablespoons each), serve in a big bowl with lots of good bread and a chutney. A great meal for the cold months ahead that tastes better after sitting in the fridge a couple of days.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crispy Cone the New Food Craze

I love Stephen Colbert.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - Coal Lobbyists, George Takei & Crispycones
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Things To Do in the Cold Darkness Ahead


Can I just tell you how depressing it is to me that today felt like winter and by 6:30 pm as I type this, it is dark out.

We should be able to hibernate like bears, it's a perfectly reasonable response, think it about it, you get a nice long sleep, you avoid the dreary long dark cold months and when you wake up you've shed lots of weight and its warm and sunny!

To pass the dark hours I have given my self many projects, well some of them were given to me like writing a proposal for a cookbook. Ugh. Love the idea of writing a cookbook, but the self promotional aspect of writing text for marketing people is so not my thing. Nonetheless it needs to be done and it is giving me a good sense of what kind of cookbooks are out there and where I might be able to find a niche. Although in a world filled with cookbooks it's a challenge.

I'm leaning towards the: urban, organic, local, sustainable, tasty, simple, eco-minded, politically astute, food activist, fun, Burma loving, New York focused, gay, lower east side with aspirations of urban homesteading (as much as that's possible in an apartment on the 14th floor) angle. What do you think?

Maybe I should make this a contest. The first person to be able to take the last paragraph into one catchy sentence gets an urbanfoodguy home cooked meal!

OK Go!

Then there are the cooking projects: Grape Ice Cream with Ice Wine - don't tell anyone - I want it to be my recipe claim to fame, just like Anne Rosenzweig's Lobster Club.

Sourdough starter, that's right by Sunday I will never have to buy yeast in little packages again if this little chemistry experiment works out. I have my doubts it will, but I am trying to be optimistic, it just seems so weird to me that yeast floats around and if you add water to flour and let it sit around for a while you can make bread with it? More on that later.

Walking, walking is very important to me, I try to walk at least 5 miles every day. Mostly my goal is the Union Square market, but I often meander off course. I love to walk around the East Village and the Lower East Side and see what's new. These days the southern reaches (from Grand to Canal) of Ludlow and Orchard are really hopping, economic downturn be damned!

74 Orchard Street has had several restaurants in it over the 4 years we have lived here, none of them have fared very well. The latest incarnation is Saffa 212-260-5317 (the site isn't up yet, hopefully soon). It's a South African restaurant and looks like it has what it takes to make this odd shaped room a hit (see picture above). I've never had South African food, so I'm excited to try it out.

Cooking classes, as the Brooklyn Kitchen people labor to get their new three kitchen and new store space open by November they announced a rockin' list of cooking classes pickle making with Bob McClure of McClures Pickles (love them and their mustard too!) . Kombuchaman teaches yo how to make Kombucha, Louisa Shafia is doing a class on Persian Food and the one I signed up for: Nathan Leamy's class on Sourdough Bread making!

Speaking of busy, I have Brussels Sprouts to de-stalk and a concord grape pie to bake!

The great thing about baking is how warm and cozy it is by the oven. The wine helps as well.

Bon Appetite!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seasonal Non-Grilled Cheese



Last week I helped my friend Frank out with an event he was doing at St Philips Academy in Newark. He developed their seed to table program and last week was the big inaugural party to celebrate two years of work in their newly finished kitchen!

One of the ideas I had for this cocktail party was to have a cheddar cheese fondue with a selection of different local apples to dip in it.

This year at Union Square one of my favorite vendors, Cheerful Cheery, is selling an heirloom apple I've never seen before called Keepsake. It looks like a mini Macintosh, only harder and smaller. Also this year I see several people selling crab apples, which I am tempted to buy and preserve some how, but given I still have 24 pint Ball jars waiting to be filled with Corn Relish and Tomato Sauce in my pantry pickled Crab Apples may be for another year.

Meanwhile, Grilled Cheese or some variant thereof is the perfect Autumn/Winter sandwich, toasted and filled with gooey melting cheese, what could be bad?

The cheddar cheese fondue recipe we used for the cocktail party and a newsletter from Cookstr.com about grilled cheese sandwiches got me thinking about my idea of a perfect grilled cheese and this is what I came up with.

Open Face Non-Grilled Cheese

Make the cheddar cheese fondue below, then...

Thickly slice a piece of brioche (Challah or even Sally Lunn would work too) try and get it in a loaf shape so it will fit in a toaster easier. Or you can always toast it under your broiler, I just like the shape of a traditional loaf slice...

Core and thinly slice your favorite local apple (no need to peel it unless you want).

Place the apple slices on the brioche toast and cover generously with the cheddar cheese fondue.
And there you have it. No grill needed!

I like the contrast between the hot, sharp, melted cheddar sauce with the tangy, sweet, crunch of the apple, but a variation that occurs to me is to bake the apple slices with just a light sprinkling of sugar until they are soft (10 minutes in a 375F oven). Or if you have some not to sweet chunky homemade apple sauce that would work in a pinch as well. Or if it is sweet you could think of it as a version of apple pie with cheddar cheese. Go ahead, conceptualize your heart out.

Cheddar Cheese Fondue

Open a bottle of good amber bear like Peak Organics and measure out about a cup. Let it sit out while you make the fondue to get a little flat. You need about 2/3 - 1 cup.

In a medium sized heavy bottomed sauce pan mix: 1 pound of grated white extra sharp cheddar cheese (Grafton is a good choice, use what ever is your local favorite) 2 T unsalted butter, 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne mustard (adjust seasoning to your liking or omit altogether).

Over medium low heat, stir constantly until the cheese has melt and all the ingredients are well combined.

In a small bowl lightly beat two large eggs. Carefully add a tablespoon of the hot cheese mixture and quickly whisk so as not to cook the eggs, whisk in a few more tablespoons, then pour the egg/cheese mixture back into the sauce pan and stir together, adding enough beer until you get the thickness you like - I like it fairly thick - (whole organic milk can be substituted if you don't want to use beer). Add salt to taste (cheddar cheese is pretty salty to start with so taste it first).

If you are going to serve this as a fondue you are best to heat it until bubbling on the stove where you can stir it vigorously then place it on your fondue pot stand, but don't light the flame/butane under it.

If you are serving this to 4-6 people with bread and apples by the time it's cooled down it's gone.

If not take back to the stove for a minute to reheat, add a little more beer and milk if it's gotten really thick and bring it back out for round two when it's hot again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chew on This


From this months Harper's Index:

Percentage of Gardeners who say the recession has figured in their planting: 62

Percentage rate of U.S. obesity that the US Health and Human Services says it hopes to reach by 2011: 15

Number of states where less then 20 percent of the population is obese: 1

Number of states where the obesity rate declined last year: 0

Average number of calories by which an American underestimates the total in a hamburger and fries: 463


In a recent Grist article where Michael Pollan and Tom Philpott discuss the state of food at a conference in San Francisco, Mr. Philpott points out:

that still only 3 to 4 percent of food consumed in the U.S. is organic or local. And in the infamous words of Amanda Wingfield (the mother character from Tennessee William's classic play The Glass Menagerie):

Honey, don’t push with your fingers. If you have to push with something, the thing to push with is a crust of bread. And chew—chew! Animals have sections in their stomachs which enable them to digest food without mastication, but human beings are supposed to chew their food before they swallow it down. Eat food leisurely, son, and really enjoy it. A well-cooked meal has lots of delicate flavors that have to be held in the mouth for appreciation. So chew your food and give your salivary glands a chance to function!

Masticate this!

You Go Girl!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Butcher a Pig Under the Bridge



If you haven't made it down to the New Amsterdam Market yet here is another good reason to go.

Master Butchers Josh Appelstone and Tom Mylan will be dissecting an entire side of pig and discussing all the various cuts and their uses. Definitely sounds like something I should attend and take my video camera along. As someone who has a history of eating little to no meat I feel increasingly like I need to get up to speed on my understanding of butchery. What better way to start then with a free demonstration?

Here's the press release with all the details:

TWO MASTER BUTCHERS TAKE ON A HALF PIG UNDER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

New Amsterdam Market hosts a cutting demonstration, offers shoppers the opportunity to buy directly from regional food purveyors, and joins the debate on meat.

New York, N.Y. - New Amsterdam Market will be held on Sunday, October 25, 2009, from 11:00am to 4:00pm. The market will take place on South Street in Lower Manhattan, between Beekman Street and Peck Slip. The upcoming market will have a special focus on meat production, sourcing, and butchering, demonstrating an alternative to the industrial model whose safety and accountability was recently questioned by journalist Michael Moss earlier this month for his New York Times article "E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection." (Sunday, October 3, 2009).

The New Amsterdam Market on October 25 will feature farmers and meat ranchers, regional distributors, butchers, and purveyors who can trace and identify the source of every pound of meat sold to the public, even to the specific head of cattle. "The trust-based food system being pioneered by this market's participants sets a new standard that can help direct our thinking about food" says Robert LaValva, director of New Amsterdam Market, which was founded in 2005 to revive the concept of a public market system. "Public markets, which are historically instituted with civic aims, have long allowed cities and regions to control their food supply while generating economic development."

The market will feature a meat cutting demonstration by Josh Applestone, whose Kingston, NY meat store - Fleisher's Grassfed and Organic Meats - helped reintroduce the concept of local sourcing and a revival of the art of butchering. Applestone, a fourth-generation butcher who first cut meat at his grandfather's shop in Brooklyn, will be joined by Tom Mylan, who apprenticed with Fleisher's, helped open Marlow and Daughters, and is now working with Brooklyn Kitchen to open the Meat Hook in Greenpoint, which embraces a similar philosophy. The two butchers will cut an entire side of pig at the market on October 25 and discuss how various cuts are used in home and restaurant cooking.

The October market will include New York City purveyors - local businesses which select, source, and sell quality products from the region - such as BoBo Poultry, Bklyn Larder, Dickson's Farmstand Meats, Marlow and Sons, Saxelby Cheesemongers, and the Health Shoppe of Morristown, NJ. "Vendors like this are the foundation of a permanent institution" says LaValva. "In our first full market season, they will be joined each month by a changing array of like-minded farmers, food producers, and advocates, demonstrating not only the potential impact of a permanent, public market, but also the role New York City will play as a leader in the ongoing evolution of our food system."

New Amsterdam Market will convene at the same location and time on Sunday, November 22 and Sunday, December 20 this year, completing its first full season of monthly markets.

New Amsterdam Market is a regional economic development association, founded in 2005, whose mission is to revive the public market as a civic institution in the City of New York. It uniquely includes local food purveyors and distributors as its core group of vendors, joined by a changing roster of farmers, food producers, chefs, cooks, and other proponents of a regional food system founded on sustainable principles.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Coffee


One of my favorite places to get a cup of coffee is Ninth Street Espresso at their original digs on 9th street between Avenues C and D (700 9th Street, to be exact). Artisanal coffee has become such a thing here you'd think it was Seattle or Portland.

Speaking of Portland, establishments serving Stumptown coffee now hang arty little signs outside advertising the fact. A little co-branding never hurts, especially if it encourages people to drop 3 to 4 bucks on a cappuccino. For those wanting the real Stumptown experience New Yorkers no longer have to hop a plane to get it, thanks to the new Ace Hotel which plays host to the first Stumptown cafe in our fair city.

The Mud Truck seems to be permanently parked across the street from Cooper Union on Astor Place. I love their sense of fun, 60's graphic sensibilities and fun music, but mostly I like their strong coffee.

After Yoga you're supposed to drink lots of water and cleanse yourself (or something like that). Instead, I like to go to Everyman and get jacked on caffeine. It was started by the Ninth street people, but then got sold, but the new owners make an equally rockin' cup o' Joe. I go to Om Yoga at 12th and Broadway just upstairs from the Strand, so Everyman is just a hop, skip and a jump away on 13th street and Third ave.

Mostly what got me thinking about coffee today was not how much of the stuff I consume, but how expensive it has gotten to buy good quality beans that fit all my criteria. I like my beans to be roasted locally (the Roasting Plant does it on the premises and in their shop on Orchard the roaster was in the front window, I wish they would put it back, they had to move it when they opened their fancy new West Village location) , be preferably shade grown, organic and grown by people who aren't being exploited by the folks who purchase their product, so Fair Trade or the even better Direct Trade.

So if you are as big an addict as I am and fussy to boot you're no longer getting the canned stuff from the ghetto grocery store across the street for 4.99. No sirree, if you're like me your spending 12-14 for a pound of the good stuff, that is if you don't plan ahead or don't want to shop at a mega grocery store where sometimes you can get a deal. I like supporting small business people, and I really like supporting people who are helping farmers make a living wage, which is why all summer as part of my CSA I was getting my coffee from Crop to Cup. What I really like about them, other than how great their coffee tastes, is their commitment to making the production of coffee personal. You can go on their site and see movies of their farmers talking about coffee beans and farming. The majority of them seem to be in Uganda (now why couldn't Rick Warren be doing something productive in Africa like this, instead of proselytizing and spreading his pernicious homophobic hate and intolerance? But I digress...)

Crop to Cup is a wholesale business with a non-profit attached to it so if you want to add a buck to your order it is a tax deduction and goes directly to the farmers. The best thing is because they don't have retail overhead, if you are willing to buy a 5 pound bag of beans it works out to be about $9 a pound! I have yet to place an order on their site so I'm not sure how much the shipping is, but they're pretty easy to get to from my place so maybe they'll let me go and pick it up? They also have a coffee club which if you sign up to have a regular shipment they give you a further discount.

Worth checking out and as a caffeine addict I can vouch for their beans. I mix equal parts Uganda Bugisu and Citizen Espresso for what is, to me, a perfect cup of coffee.

Cheers.
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