Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuna Sandwich Anyone?

This in from Greenpeace on the destruction and death that goes into every tin of  "Chicken of the sea".
I see videos like this and wonder if we shouldn't stop eating fish all together that farming actual chickens is  more sustainable.  Of course vegetarians who eat fish think somehow the death of these majestic creatures is more acceptable than the death of, say, a chicken, yet when confronted with this evidence it just doesn't seem to add up to me.  A chicken slaughtered on a farm doesn't have any residual impact like the devastating by catch of other species and baby fish who are killed in the process then thrown back in the sea to rot or feed Seagulls.

Funny how this video just makes me want to eat chicken of the land and give chicken of the sea a pass.

Go Here and sign the petition.

The helicopter pilot who took this footage is shown in the shadows doing the narrative with one of those distorted voices so that no one can identify him - is it just me or does he sound Australian?  I thought those voice distortion things were suppose to make it impossible for you to decipher those sorts of things?

Packaging Flavor

Fascinating piece about how corporations chemically create flavors for packaged food so you just have to by more and more and more and more and.....of their processed crap.  I love the host.  This is a must watch, set aside the 14 minutes it's worth it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Doughnut Plant Expands

Oh I'm going to get so fat....the original Doughnut Plant is expanding into the store front next store and make a seating area.  And giving all those people who wait in line for donuts somewhere to say warm and dry.

Monday, November 28, 2011


By early November all over Berlin little "christmas villages" are sprouting up, the central focus of them seems to be a cabin where you can drink (my favorite one had fur covered benches outside).  The drink of choice?  What else but Gluhwein or as we would call it here: mulled wine.

When I got back to NYC and went to Astor Wine I was happily surprised to see a display of German Gluhwein for sale ($8.99) they have limited stock and it's not available on their website so if you want something fun and kind of special for this holiday season go and get yourself a liter of this festive German libation, heat it up on the stove and sip it while the snow falls outside your window.

From what I can tell there is no added sugar to this wine just spices.  Which is a good thing, although I believe the wine has a little natural sweetness to  it, so it goes down easy.

Farming In NYC (or close by)

This weeks Perennial Plate, just in case you missed it.

What I want to know is how old is the African American man at the end of the video - his face looks like he's 40 but his eyes makes me think he's probably closer to 70!

The Perennial Plate Episode 81: Farming State of Mind (NYC) from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Maple Pudding Cake

It's always surprising to me when I "discover" a new recipe then I do a google search and see dozens of versions of something that I have never heard about (which apparently has been around forever).   Such is the case with this recipe I came across on The Kitchenista web site.  The Kitchenista folks come to the Union Square market and do wonderful cooking demonstrations, but because they are cooking over a single burner and trying to sell produce their recipes tend to being veggie based - or so I thought, the minute I saw this recipe for Maple Pudding Cake I knew I had to make it.  It was by far the hit of Thanksgiving.  Originally from Quebec Pudding Chomuer is truly ambrosia and has become a instant classic that I will make on a regular basis from here on in.

The recipe says it should be made in an 8" square pan, I made it in a round pie pan.  The picture on Kitchenista shows a perfectly uniform cake mine cooked up with a more segmented aspect.  Don't think it matters because the end result is a wonderful maple treat like I have never encountered before.  And it's really easy to make. Try it, you'll like it!

Maple Pudding Cake

Butter an 8" square pan or round pie plate.  

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a saucepan add 1 1/4 cups of dark grade B Maple Syrup, 3/4 cups of heavy cream, 2 Teaspoons of Apple Cider vinegar and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then immediately take it off the heat.

In the bowl of standing mixer add 1/3 cup of sugar and 6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter - cream together using the paddle attachment until light and fluffy (minute or so).  Add 1 large egg and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla mix until combined.

In a small bowl add 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 cup of cake flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.   Put a fine sieve over the bowl with the butter mixture and pour the dry ingredients in all at once and sift into the butter.
Gently fold together with a spatula until just incorporated.

Pour 1/3 cup of the maple syrup mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Use the spatula to divide the batter into the pan - if you use a square pan it would be 6 mounds (round it'll be 7) pour the rest of the maple syrup mixture over the batter mounds and put into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30.  The syrup will overwhelm the cake mounds, not to worry.

When the cake is done with the top is firm and nicely browned.

Serve warm with unsweetened whipped cream (add a little creme fraiche for an extra jolt of sourness).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Straight Talkin' Cooking Help

My friends Michael and Kurt both tipped me off to this video and this woman who runs a cooking school in San Francisco called Tante Marie's.  I like her focus on what top drink, basically saying: if your guests are drunk it won't matter how good or bad the food is.  And then at the end of the video her classic advise: Just put the Fucking Turkey in the oven!

I spent most of my time when I watched this video having kitchen envy. Also I think although realistic she might have mentioned that Heritage breeds of Turkey cook up better and have less dry breasts because they aren't force fed in a factory in order to give them huge white meat breast....just saying, there is a way to increase your odds at making a more successful turkey, buy one that is from a farm not a factory and odds a good meal go way up.  This coming from the guy who made ravioli for Thanksgiving.


Here's my non-traditional menu.  Lots more tomorrow!

 Maple pudding cake the hit of the night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Last Night in Berlin

I had gone to see the Boros Collection, a contemporary,mostly German art collection housed in a redone old bunker.  Then I met up with my friend Keith and went for a walk about in Kreuzberg which is akin to the East Village here in NYC.   We were headed to The Golden Ahan restaurant where I was meeting my friend Malka to have dinner and celebrate her birthday.

First things first:  Drinks!    We passed this really adorable, cozy old world style Cafe called Gipfeltreffen:

The view from outside:
 Inside you are greeted by the cheesecake display!
 Italian pastries:
In the first room is this incredible old heater.
Love the candle scones

In the main room a wood burning stove.  I tell you in the winter if I lived near this place I would never leave!
The view from out table.
Now that we have been fortified it was time to continue on with our walk.  Just as we were nearing the restaurant we stumbled upon a farmers market.  Well I say farmers markte even though there were vendors selling everything from flowers to cooking ware to meat, cheese and produce.  

Elstar is a Golden Delicious varietal common in Europe, but rarely seen here.

Local walnuts.  These are the people who yelled at me for taking pictures, apparently I need to sign a release form to take pictures of produce in Berlin. Thankfully I had Keith there to protect me.

From here I met up with Malka and went for on of the most memorable meals of my trip at Der Goldene Hahn.

A rustic Italian restaurant with a great high ceiling  divided into two rooms, the front room has the bar and several tables and is more high energy the back room by the kitchen is quieter.  The food was delicious, the portions generous, the servous gracious and friendly (and then were happy to speak English)  and the lighting too dark for me to get any good pictures!

I had so many more food experiences in Berlin that I haven't even gotten to yet, but these were the highlights.  One of the meals I thought was going to be spectacular was Dos Palillos run by El Bulli alumni's Albert Raurich heads up the very modern kitchen in the chic Casa Camper hotel serving up rather uninspired Pan Asian food.  Food was of a very high quality, but rather bland (roll your own tuna maki - really? Please).  Tastier and cheaper versions of this kind of cuisine can be gotten for half the price at any number of places in the East Village. Also our waitress was not good.  At one point after a very long pause in the service I asked her if we were done?  She didn't respond so well to this question, but as it was prix fix and I didn't know how many courses we had had I was just checking in to see if the meal was complete.  She was equally hard to get at the end of the meal when I was trying to get a large bill broken so I could tip her (options to tip are not given on a credit card receipt like they are here).   For a restaurant of this caliber, this kind of shoddy service and lackluster food is not really acceptable.  The meal I had at Lavenderia Vecchia was way more spectacular, friendly and tastier (not to mention cheaper) so when deciding on where to eat in Berlin don't let the pedigree persuade you as it did me and give this place a pass.

It was with great apprehension that I said good bye to Berlin and my friends there, regretting that I couldn't stay longer and vowing to return soon!  It was a great trip filed with lots of delicious meals, amazing markets and oh lots of really good beer.


Monday, November 21, 2011

The Train Back to Berlin

In the midst of that bun is a hot dog, this was at a fast food place at the Prague Train station - something about the excess of all that cheese on white bread with a hot dog buried deep inside fascinated, repulsed and well, appealed to me....but I opted for coffee instead.
Compared with the modern architectural wonder that is the main train terminal in Berlin Prague's station is very dilapidated and old world. Which I have to admit I liked.
As old as the outside of the train station looks the downstairs has been totally redone and is very modern.  Here is a poster I saw when I arrived
Those stuff soviet days are over!

Beware taxis at the station!   It's best to go out of the station walk down through the little park and try and get a taxi on the street - knowing that a cab should cost around 100-150 to take you anywhere in town.  

The train I got on to go back to  Berlin originated in Wien (Vienna) and was a totally different experience from the German train I took there.  The first class compartment was all rooms with big fancy leather chairs and plugs for your laptop (no wifi tho - the phone reception on this route was very dodgy).

Of course given that it was a train  coming from Austria it was no surprise that schnitzel was featured prominently non the menu in the dinning car.
The look for the dinning care was very modern and austere totally in contrast to the old world warmth of the one coming to Prague.  Still I love sitting in a dinning car and watching the world pass.  It's much more interesting to me then sitting in your seat, this way you get to interact with the life of the train.  All food and drink you get in the dinning car can be taken back with you to where you are sitting if you are so inclined

There is a huge ongoing dispute between the very old Budweiser Budvar Czech brewery and the American Budweiser one who, it would seem stole the name.  Budweiser Budvar has been using that name and brewing beer since oh around the time America was founded.   It also tastes way better.
The kitchen on the tain was huge and everything was cooked to order.  I had a chicken salad, batter fried tenders of chicken on a bed of crunchy fresh greens:  delicious.
And of course how could I not finish the meal off with some Apple Strudel with unsweetened mit schlag?
The contrast between the Czech landscape and the german landscape on this journey is quite a study in contrast.

 Back in Berlin with only two more nights to go....already I am wishing I could stay longer.

The Last of Prague

Prague proved to be much more than I  had expected.  I figured it would be beautiful, historically interesting and filled with tourist; which it was.  But it was so much more.  In the end it was a place I could linger in for weeks and am already looking forward to returning to.

Loved the est. 1348 part of this hotel sign.  Hopefully they've update the plumbing since opening.
The restaurant/food scene is obviously grown way beyond the cliched goulash and dumpling reputation that still lingers about this town.  I never had a noch or a drink here, but Cantinetta Fiorentina always enchanted me with it's high end tasteful Italian decor and casual bar set up.

Practically next store was King Solomon whose add always made me smile - since 5760?  So that would be to the best of my googling 1999.  
Indeed I saw several restaurants serving "jewish specialtes" though I'm not sure they were kosher.

And for those who don't eat meat I found plenty of vegetarian restaurants and veggie friendly menus all over town.
On my first night I stumbled across this very traditional Czech wine bar in a basement not far from my called Na Sikme Plose. It was the perfect place to spend my first night, cozy,warm with a good selection of local wines and a good selection of bar food (I had a chicken club sandwich which hit the spot perfectly).   

After much indecision I finally choose this wine - which is a Pinot Noir type wine.  After I was sipping I looked around the full rom and noticed that everyone in the place was drinking white wine.  later I found out that Czech people prefer the white and think it is of better quality.  I liked my wine and thought it was the perfect thing for a cold damp Fall evening...  
My only warning to you is that if you order olives get just the green ones, both in Prague and in Berlin I had several run ins with those tasteless artificially chemically altered "ripe olives" from a can that I personally think are disgusting and really aren't even olives.  

Funny how I'm ending my trip to Prague with my first night there, it must be all the Kafka I was reading, everything is a puzzle, a labyrinth in the fog...OK I'll stop now - go to Prague, you'll like it and relatively speaking it's a great value for Europe as they don't use the Euro.

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