Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Food News

Two pieces of good news today on the food front. 

First the local news: the New York Senate voted in favor of a moratorium on the practice of hydrualic fracturing.  

I posted a great clip from Josh Fox's film Gasland a while back that gives a great overview of the process and the problems with it, in particular the risk it poses to our drinking water.

On the national front the Food Safety Modernization Act just passed the Senate earlier this morning with a vote of 73-25.  Food Democracy Now wrote this in their press release:

The Senate vote was the bill's biggest hurdle -- and we expect that the House of Representatives will soon send an approved version to the President for signature.

This is a huge victory for family farmers and the local food movement! I'm proud of all the great work we've done together -- making more than 12,000 calls to Senate offices demanding that the most important Food Safety Bill in a generation didn't unfairly undermine local food producers is a major accomplishment for our small but growing movement.



Thank you so much for all your hard work.

But here's the truth -- this fight is not over. I can assure you that Big Ag is already plotting their strategy for watering down these important regulations at the agencies tasked with enforcing them or trying another last ditch effort to stop these important protections for family farmers from being written into law.
And we will need your help -- and your support -- to make sure that this bill stays strong and fair to protect family farmers and the local food movement.

Will you chip in $10 right now to help us with this campaign to keep this bills' regulations strong and fair for family farmers all the way through implementation at Federal agencies like the FDA and USDA? 

Click here right now to make your $10 donation.

We're hoping to raise $10,000 today with this appeal so we can plan the next steps of our effort to ensure that enforcement has teeth for the biggest violators and that smaller farmers and producers are protected.  $10 might not seem like much, but if just 1,000 of us make a gift right now, we'll beat our goal in no time.

We don't ask for money often -- but this time it's really important. The more resources we have to marshal, the better able we'll be able to raise your voices to the powers that be on Capitol Hill and in Washington, DC.

And if you'd like to engage in the conversation with other FDN! members about this success, join us on Facebook and talk to other FDN! members who are excited about our latest victory.
Thank you so much for all you've done. I am so amazed by all of us -- and what we can accomplish together when we put our hearts, minds, and phones to it.

Hell it's only 10 bucks I just made my donation and I hardily encourage you to do the same to ensure you and your families food safety!

German Christmas Delights

There is this great store in the Union Square Christmas Mall that sells only German Christmas Goods and they all are very traditional and beautiful in that ye olde Christmas looking way.  It's mostly packaged food stuffs, but they are so well packaged that it's hard to resist buying something.  I got a marzipan stollen and it was delicious.







Monday, November 29, 2010

Women Peace Laureates' Message to Aung San Suu Kyi

Not about food, but about life. I was as moved by this as I am by the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Wangari Maathai is a powerful, articulate and moving speaker. Gotta love her.

Amazing Multitasking Musician

I saw this guy playing in the subway tonight and was amazed that he played the trumpet the accordian
and percussion.  He sounds like my favorite band Beirut.  I've lived in the city 24 years and it seems the quality of music in the subways and on the streets has just gotten so impossibly good that all you have to do to see a great concert is take the right train! 



Baked Chocolate Caramel Custard

This is so easy and so good it's crazy. Baked custards are an old-fashioned, simple dessert that are nearly impossible to go wrong with and offer an endless variety of flavors.

Baked Chocolate Caramel Custard

Preheat the oven to 325 F

In a large heavy bottomed pot place 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, mix briefly to incorporate, turn the heat to medium high and cook until a rich caramel color about 3-5 minutes.  The darker it gets the more "burnt" caramel the flavor.  The minute it is ready take off the heat and pour, in a continuous stream, 2 cups of heavy cream, it will bubble and hiss and some of the caramel will seize up and harden, place the pot back on the burner on a medium heat, stirring constantly until all the harden caramel has dissolved - could take about 5 minutes.  Take off the heat and add 1 cup of whole milk.

In a large bowl separate 7 large egg yolks (keep the eggs whites for an angel food cake or macaroons) add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and whisk until light and yellow and slightly increased in volume.

Over a double boiler melt 5 ounces of 70 percent (or darker) fine dark chocolate in a large bowl.  When it has melted remove from the hot water.

Pour the hot caramel mixture slowly into the beaten eggs, whisking as you go, you don't want the yolks to cook, add the caramel mixture in a slow continuous stream until all of it has been mixed in with the egg yolks.

Then repeat this process slowly, whisking the egg yolk and caramel mixture into the melted chocolate. 
Add 2 Teaspoons of good quality amber rum or vanilla and stir.

I used wide low 4 ounce ramekins and got 7 servings.  It's very rich, so if you have smaller ramekins you could make it work or I also made this in a porcelain pie dish and let my dinner guests scoop it out for themselves so they control how much joy they wanted! Basically the technique is simple: you fill the containers you are using up, leaving about 1/2 " at the top, then place them either on a cookie sheet or in a bigger deeper pan if you are using a larger container, fill the baking pans with hot tap water until it comes about 2/3 of the way up the ramekin or what ever you are using.  The cooking time will vary but for the 4 ounce ramekins they were ready in about 40 minutes.  The pie dish took an hour and 15.  You want the custard to be set but a little jiggly in the middle.  These are very forgiving. 

When cooked remove from the oven and take out of the hot water bath.  Cool to room temp then chill for several hours before serving.  Grated chocolate and unsweetened whip cream make a great garnish.

If you want to make variations on this you could add 1/2 Teaspoon of 5 Spice Powder or Cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne to make it Mexican Chocolate, or you could swap out the chocolate of squash puree and add pumpkin pie spices, or add some fresh ginger....the options are endless and I feel pretty confident in saying your guest won't ever get tired of trying them all!  

I served simple Pecan Shortbread with this.



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Good Beer NYC

The poster below says it all, but let me just be clear: this place rocks!  Good Beer NYC looks at first glance like a really great beer store, but once you enter you realize there is a huge selection of beers on tap, so you can get a flight of beers to have small tastes before you buy.  In the back are a few tables and chairs where you can hang out while you are doing your research and if you get peckish they also sell food.

How brilliant to have a beer store that not only has an exhaustive selection, but is also a tasting bar and casual eatery?  Brilliant.
 
Double click to make bigger


422 East 9th Street, south side of the street between Avenue A and First Avenue.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Porcetta's Pork Lasgana

The night before Thanksgiving I was running around getting last minute groceries and I was starving.  Neil was sick in bed and I needed to get back home to start cooking.  I was on 7th street and was going to stop into Luke's Lobster for a bowl of soup but there were totally sold out of everything.  Just a little ways down the block and across the street is Porcetta where they serve amazing humanely raised heritage pork.  I hemmed and hawed at the menu and eventually the very helpful woman behind the counter said:  Have you had our lasagna? I had not, though I had heard about their lasagna I wondered why it wasn't on the menu?

It was $8 for a generous portion served on a lovely old plate like your grandmother would  have had.  Homemade noodles, Parmesan bechamel and a pork ragout.  It was heaven, truly one of the best things I have ever eaten.  It's amazing I was able to stop long enough to take the picture.  Rich, creamy with a sharp edge of the Parmesan juxtaposed to the fall apart in your mouth pork which every now and then you'll bite into a chewy end piece and get an mouth explosion of slightly salty fatty ambrosia.  $8 bucks.  Deal of the century.  Even though it's not on the menu it's a regular item so phone before you go and tell 'em you're coming for the lasagna!

Oddly enough both Porcetta and another placed I passed on my way home had Thanksgiving marketing that both basically said:  Save a Turkey eat pork!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Veritas Returns

I've had very many wonderful meals at Veritas.  In the old days when Neil and I lived on 19th and Second and had more cash flow we would treat ourselves to a meal here either at the bar or in the very elegant, smallish dinning room.  My favorite time to go was on Christmas Eve; we would sit at the bar and sip amazing wine and order wonderful food from Scott Bryan's inspired menu.  I thought that he was one of the best chefs cooking at that time and feel remiss that I haven't been to his new restaurant Apiary. And in truth it's a stretch to call it his new restaurant as it's been there for years.

Veritas used to remind me of one of my all time favorite restaurants in all the years I have lived in New York which was Anne Rosenzweig's Arcadia.  Not because they looked very similar, but because they were both intimate and luxurious, but friendly, comfortable, almost cozy, in their feel and always left you feeling that you'd just had a very special meal out.
It was sometime this Summer when I heard that Veritas was closed and had fired all their staff and were doing a complete renovation.  Out with the posh in with the casual, at least that's how it looks from the peak I got the other day when I walked by.  I'll miss the old Veritas, but think it was time for a change and am glad that they are making it more accessible to more people with a more casual and I am assuming, although I have not seen a menu, less expensive dinning and drinking experience.

The most interesting thing about Veritas is that it was started by two wine collectors who realized that they had so much wine they could never possibly drink it all and that they wanted to share it.  So if you are into wine this is the place to go.  Their old wine list was so large it look more like a book, and for those who really wanted to study it you could go online and research your choice before your meal.  As it would have been impossible to have done the list justice with the time given at dinner!

With the reflection in the window it was impossible to get a good picture, but these will give you a bit of an idea of the new look. These are of the newly redone bar area; the floor is now poured cement and as you can see the look is modern with an industrial feel.  More wine bar then fancy restaurant.  I'm looking forward to checking it out in it's new incarnation... hopefully before it gets to be packed.


Thanksgiving Menu

I'm exhausted!  Recipes to follow....the Chocolate Caramel Baked Custard is my new favorite Chocolate dessert!  Although the 4 ounce size I made was too much; a small 2 ounce portion with a cookie would have been perfect.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fishes Eddy's Windows


Fishes Eddy has just installed a new window display.  These were my favorite two but you should go by and check them all out if you are near Union Square.  You might also want to go into the store and check out their amazing selection of dishes, glassware and serving plates!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are You Ready for Thanksgiving? Open Thread

Preparing for Thanksgiving can be anxiety inducing.  Over the last few weeks I have bee n trying to post recipes to give you inspiration on new ways to think about cooking cauliflower, make squash as a souffle or sweet potato as a spicy soup with peanuts.  

Last night I went out with a new friend, David, who works in a fancy restaurant that is very much about farm fresh produce and meat.  We had an overly salted, yet still tasty meal, at Marlow. Not sure why the entire cheese selection was all cows milk cheese... given the vast selection out there it seemed odd to me.  Of the two deserts the apple pie and cinnamon ice cream sounded great, but in the end we chose to just sip the rest of our lovey Gamay.

David and I had a lively dinner discussion touching on everything from living in Ho Chi Minh City as a student abroad to how if you cook a Turkey with the stuffing in it, it cooks slower (so maybe you might want to think about doing it on the stove top). He also told me how crest fallen he was to discover in adulthood that his childhood favorite Turkey stuffing, made by Grandmother,  was made mostly with Ritz Crackers.

As a Canadian I have never fully  understood the big deal that Thanksgiving is here and often would either go for lunch at the Second Avenue Deli or go for Indian food, but this year I am fully embracing
the traditional Turkey dinner.  

My two favorite things about thanksgiving are pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. Although I don't actually make pumpkin pie... I make a ginger infused squash tart (that can be made with pumpkin, but this year I am making it with butternut squash instead).

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes or what are your least favorite? Feel free to just vent as well if this big yearly festival just makes you anxious and full of dread.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Your Food Rules

Michale Pollen is asking people to send him their food rules over at Grist.org as a follow up to his book Food Rules.

In the comments section of the article a few people have offerred their food rules.  This one by Clifford Wells caught my attention:

No desert until you finish your vegetables.
Don't eat white refined foodstuff.
Never shop at the store when stoned.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Secret to Gluten Free Baking! Ginger Blueberry Buckwheat Crumble


My friend Elizabeth is on a gluten-free diet so last night, when she and her husband Noah came to dinner, I had to come up with a gluten-free menu.  In addition Elizabeth said she was not into really sweet desserts.  I had already decided to make salted butter toffee ice cream, which is probably the sweetest thing I make next to chocolate pecan tart, so I had to come up with a not too sweet gluten-free goodie. 

Time always being an issue I decided to use some of my stockpile of frozen organic blueberries in my freezer (which I got from my friend Jane's daughter's farm ... order some jam or chutney for the holidays!) and I had some crystallized ginger in the cupboard.  Someone had said to me just recently that they had started using buckwheat in everything that called for flour.

Buckwheat is not actually wheat.  In fact, it's not even a grain!  Its actually related to rhubarb, of all things, and its benefits, aside from complete lack of gluten, include being rich in protein, anti-oxidants, and a variety of minerals.

So I modified my standard crumble recipe: 1 cup ground pecans/walnuts/hazelnuts/almonds, 1 cup buckwheat (instead of the usual flour), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter and a 1/2 teaspoon of ginger or cinnamon, 6 T brown sugar, 2 T cane sugar) , added to the blueberries 2 Tablespoons chopped up crystallized ginger and a 1/3 cup of sugar to the fruit, put it in a baking dish and covered it with the buttery crumble and baked it for about 45 minutes in a preheated 375 F oven - it's ready when the fruit is nice and bubbling.  It wasn't until I was putting it in the oven to bake that I realized that what I had made was akin to a blueberry buckwheat pancake. It actually makes me want to try and make a blueberry cobbler with buckwheat, so you would get the cake/pancake like topping with tons of gingery blueberries underneath.

Who knew gluten-free could be so much fun!
Even the gluten eaters devoured this simple, tasty, treat.
As always, everything is better with a little bit of unsweetened whip cream.

Berkli Parc: Upscale Coffee on Allen And Delancey

On my way home yesterday I noticed that construction was nearly completed on the very handsome Berkli Parc - directly kitty corner from Starbucks (Allen and Delancey). 

I'm sure they plan on giving them a run for the money.  It's hard to say for sure, but Berkli Parc looks like a well funded start up that plans on serving good coffee in a neighborhood that prizes all things local and thinks, by the very fact of it not being a mega chain, it could garner it a fair amount of business.

It's amazing how even in this grim economy that the food scene on the Lower East Side just keeps growing and growing.   Hell, soon I won't need to go to Brooklyn! (kidding of course)

Which makes me want to make one of those stupid comments that everyone is making these days... something along the lines of:  The Lower East Side is the Brooklyn of Manhattan!   

I'd say that I've heard Brooklyn used as as an adjective more in recent months then even before:
Portland (OR) is the Brooklyn of America.

Or my friends in Asheville described their neighborhood as the Brooklyn of Asheville and, as it just so happens, I am currently reading Colm Toibin's book Brooklyn.  What I want to know is when did Brooklyn come to represent all things alternative, fun, funky and interesting?

Organic Candy Canes?


Saw these in Whole Foods yesterday and was kind of surprised, but glad to see we are slowly weaning ourselves from our high fructose genetically modified corn syrup addiction.  I love how they make sure to cover all conceivable markets and say:  Gluten free, Vegan and Kosher.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sex is Like Pizza

A refrigerator magnet I saw at the Strand the other day.

Psssssst, Bagels and Lox and Cream Cheese and Coffee, Oh My!

Nicole, the owner of Dora's coffee, left a comment on my last Dora's posting alerting me and you, my dear readers, that tomorrow morning starting at 7 am there will be a limited supply of (free if I am reading it right) Kossar bagels, smoked salmon and cream cheese to go along with your most excellent cup of Stumptown coffee which Dora will be brewing exclusively.

This is just a little pre-opening peak so don't miss it!


If I can manage to get up that early I will be over there taking pictures to share here and enjoying a bagel with the works!

Dora opens it's doors for regular hours Monday November 22nd (I'll check and get back to you about what the hours are, I think 7am-4pm for now).
 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harmony

Prince Charles on the environment and climate change.  I have the greatest admiration for him.  I remember years ago when he started talking about these issues and everyone dismissed him as some privileged loon, when indeed he was on the cutting edge of warning the world about what was to come.  In part I think his clarion call to support small, local farmers has helped bolster England's new food scene and that people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nigel Salter got a leg up from his early activism.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Man Turns Plastic into Oil

This is pretty amazing.  This guy takes plastic garbage and turns it back into useable oil...makes me wonder why this isn't big news?  Obviously when you see the video the technology has been around for a while as he is taking it to developing nations and making presentations....it seems like an essential tool for dealing with our garbage crisis....so why is this the first time I'm hearing about it?  And why did I hear about it from a friend who got the video from their Mom?  Mmmmmmm....

Ma-N-Pa Soul Food

Ma-n-Pa Soul Food restaurant is in Bed Stuy, across the street from my new favorite place to eat, Saraghina.  I love the way it looks, especially the signage.  Although I was surprised to see Fish & Chips advertised since I didn't think that qualified as soul food? But then I suppose any food that is good for the soul would qualify and fish & chips are certainly good for the soul!

Mast Brothers Chocolate Brooklyn

My friends Alex and Christian were visiting from Vancouver and of course I had to take them to Williamsburg.  We had a lovely 2 bottles of red wine lunch at Marlow and Sons and then went for a walkabout. First up on my tour of Williamsburg is always Mast Brothers Chocolate.
   
They have changed things around since I was last there and I love how they now have a tasting plate next to each bar so that you can sample their selection before you buy.
Just so I don't get her in trouble:  she was dealing with a work related issue, not making plans for drinks later.  She was very sweet and helpful and we were lucky to catch her during a slow moment.
Chocolate bars are $7 each or 3 for $20 and if you go they now have tours for $9.99 which you can sign up for online, or if you are lucky you might be able to go on a day when they have a space available.
Mast Brothers is the premier "bean to bar" chocolate maker in NYC and by far my favorite chocolate bar.  If you haven't visited already, their store is well worth the trip to Brooklyn.
Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory
105A North 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 388-2625 phone
(718) 228-5805 fax

Chinatown

It was late, cold and raining and I noticed this sign and it just seemed very noir.  I expected Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson to be lurking around the corner.


Goat Czech

I took this little mini video one night at a local East Village Gay bar call Eastern Bloc (owned by Anderson Cooper's BF so I'm told).  I'd never noticed this sign before and thought it was amusing. I don't usually cover nightlife, but hey....it does bring me to a food related issue which is:  why is it that so many bars don't serve food?  Particularly gay bars, which are the ones I mostly go to.  The only one I know of in all of the city that does serve food is Julius, the oldest gay bar in NYC and the oldest bar in the village, which has a small open kitchen and sells burgers, fries, onion rings and assorted sandwiches and in the old days you used to be able step just outside and buy some chicken to go on the corner (ahem...).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Save The Blue Fin Tuna: Sign The Petition

Bluefin tuna will be wiped out unless drastic action is taken to stop overfishing at the world summit going on right now. Without these magnificent fish, oceanic ecosystems could collapse.

This little known summit is the last chance for Tuna, and elite and even criminal cartels with powerful political allies are lobbying hard to block a vital recovery plan, putting short-term profits before the future of our oceans and fishing economies.

If we can show governments that the world's eyes are on them, the cartels could be exposed and an urgent survival plan could be forced through. Sign the petition to save this ecologically crucial fish and forward this email -- it will be delivered to the negotiators and the media at the summit:


Sign HERE

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thai Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup

I made this soup/stew the other day for my friends Alexandria and her husband Christian who were visiting from Vancouver.  I've known Alex since I was 18.  We auditioned together for theater school/university.

They loved this soup, but it's one of those things I've been making for so long it doesn't really have an official recipe.  It is really very tasty and very easy.  Here's the outline.... I encourage you to play with it until you find a version that is perfect for you.

I pureed this soup in a blender but it would work just as well as a chunky stew.  See how you feel; the chunky version seems more hearty and might work better when you are looking to serve something more stew-like, although, truth be told, it's equally rich and filling whether its chunky or smooth.

In a large stock pot add 1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil.  When it is hot, add 2 large onions chopped (if you are pureeing the soup it doesn't matter, if you are making a stew chop all the veg in a way that you like and think is pleasing), sweat the onions for about 5 minutes then add 2 large carrots peeled and roughly chopped, 2 Large Sweet Potatoes roughly chopped (about 4 cups), 2 cups water (or vegetable broth, add more if during cooking it gets too thick ), 1 1/2 cups grounds organic peanuts, 4 large tomatoes roughly chopped and 3-4 crush dried red chili peppers. and 1 Teaspoon of salt and a generous grating of Black Pepper, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and lightly cover.   Cook for about 45 until all the vegetables are soft.  Turn off heat and when cool enough to handle, in small batches, puree in a blender.  Add as much coconut milk (Thai unsweetened coconut milk) to thin the soup so it purees easily - I used about 2  - 13.5 ounce cans.  When each batch has been pureed return it to your soup pot.

In a small skillet or sauce pan heat 1-2 Tablespoons of canola or sunflower oil.  When the oil is hot add 4 Tablespoons of red curry paste (home made) stirring for about 30 seconds.  This is very aromatic and best done before your guests arrive!  Take off heat and add half of it to the soup and stir in until well incorporated.  Add 2 Tablespoons of Fish Sauce, 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce, 2 teaspoons of Palm Sugar (or brown sugar) stir to mix, taste.  I like it spicy, but the reason I have you make the paste on the side and add it gradually is so you can go slow and increase the heat and flavor to your liking.  Squeeze the juice of 2 limes into soup, adding Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce, Coconut Milk, Curry Paste, etc until you get it to where you like it.  You can thin the soup with water or broth if the coconut milk is too much.

Garnish with lots of chopped Cilantro and Scallions.

In traditional Thai style you can have a tray with wedges of limes, grounds peanuts, chopped scallion
and cilantro so people can adjust the seasoning to their liking. 

I think this would be great served with sticky rice as a side and a Green Papaya Salad or a crisp refreshing Watercress Persimmon and Pomegranate salad.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dora Coffee 7 Days and Counting, Really

Last week I posted about a fabulous new coffee shop, Dora that is opening up on the corner of east Broadway and Clinton and said it was going to be open today, so this morning I went over to check in and get some coffee and see  how things were going.  The gang was all there busily preparing for opening next Monday.... so here are some pictures to get you excited about this very hip and beautiful coffee shop...






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