Monday, January 31, 2011

Oysters in the Hudson

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Speaking of Meat Pies

I just wrote a post about the best meat pies in the East Village and I couldn't help, but think about Stephen Sondheim's classic song from Sweeney Todd, A Little Priest, which is the only song I know about meat pies.  Here is a clip from a 2005 benefit performance staring the original cast: Len Cariou As Sweeney and Angela Lansbury as Mrs Loveitt. The sound is a bit off, but I'm sure the musical theater fans reading this will over look it.

Tuck Shop

It's funny how you walk by a place a million times and never really see it, or you see it and for what ever reason you have no urge to go in and check it out?  The Tuck Shop on First Street has been like that for me, until a few days ago when I was walking by, starving and looking for a place to eat , all of a sudden the idea of a meat pie seemed like the perfect snowy winter's day meal so I went in and am I ever glad I did! Not only did I go in I went back the next day.   This is an Australian place that specializes in meat pies, which is a bit of a misnomer s they do have non meat pies, like the one below which was a mushroom and prawn pie redolent of garlic and fresh out of the oven.  At $6 you can't beat the price, if you want more of a meal for an additional $4 you can have a side of Coleslaw, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Scallop Potatoes or a Pea Floater (I should have asked what that is).  The pastry the envelops the pies is thin, crispy, perfection.  The first day I had a lamb and veg pie that was a very meaty lamb stew baked in pastry, filling, tasty and exactly what I was looking for.  Vegetarians need not despair as a Vegetable pie is on the menu.
 The pie warmer.

 The open kitchen.
 Besides soda, good coffee, wine and a unique selection of Australian beer is also available.




Indeed 2011 is going to be my year of the pie now that I have discovered the Tuck Shop, which has also opened up a bigger place at 115 St Marks between Avenue A and First Avenue.  The place at 68 First street where I have gone seems more geared towards take away with  l2 maybe 3 small tables and a few stools at the bar to eat at. The staff are very friendly and generous and I really like how the kitchen staff and the front of house guy help each other out and both help with the service.  They also are very good about offering a taste of the homemade ginger beer or giving out small classic beef "party pies" to try.  In a way it's the sitting at the kitchen counter feel of the places that adds so much to it's appeal, try Aussie hospitality.

Next time you are in the East Village treat yourself to the "great Aussie bite" and stop into the Tuck Shop.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Focaccia Made with Wine

This is my cherry Focaccia from an older post - it is NOT the recipe below, just a visual for inspiration!

Focaccia is an easy quick yeast bread that is prefect for those nights when you want to have a homemade bread, but didn't have the forethought to start it the night before.  My favorite Focaccia tend to be thicker and spongier then the traditional version.  Over the years I have experimented with several recipes and even though most are fine I feel like I still haven't found the holy grail of Focaccia recipes.  Then yesterday I came across this on in the LA Times and was peaked by it's use of white wine.  I have not made it, but thought I would post it today and make it in the next couple of days and get back to you with my thoughts and some pictures.  If you have a Focaccia recipe you love and would care to share it I would love to see it.

This is adapted from "Focaccia" by Carol Field

Sponge

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast

2/3 cup warm water

1 cup (4.9 ounces, or 140 grams) unbleached flour

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large mixing bowl, stir it in and set aside until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and beat until smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until puffy and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Dough and assembly

Sponge

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus about 2 tablespoons for drizzling

2 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons (12.7 ounces, or 360 grams) unbleached flour plus 1 to 2 tablespoons as needed

2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus ¾ to 1 teaspoon for sprinkling

1. To the sponge in the large bowl, add the water, wine and one-third cup olive oil, and stir to combine.

2. If mixing by hand, whisk in 1 cup of flour and 2 teaspoons salt, then beat in the rest of the flour until you have a dough that is very soft and very sticky. Knead on a lightly floured board with the help of a dough scraper and 1 to 2 additional tablespoons of flour until the dough comes together nicely and is silky and shiny, 6 to 8 minutes; it should remain soft but not wet.

If mixing with a mixer, using the paddle attachment beat together the water, wine, one-third cup olive oil and sponge. Add the flour and 2 teaspoons salt and mix until the dough comes together (it will be very soft). Change to the dough hook and knead for 3 minutes at medium speed, stopping once or twice to press the dough into a ball to aid in the kneading. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand using the 1 to 2 additional tablespoons of flour to finish, 6 to 8 turns at most. It should remain soft but not wet.

3. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled container, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. The dough should be soft and full of air bubbles and should stretch easily. Press it into a well-oiled (17-by-12-inch) jelly roll pan, dimple it well with your fingertips or knuckles, cover with a towel and let rise until puffy and doubled, about 45 minutes. If the dough springs back before it is completely stretched, set it aside to "relax" the dough for a few minutes, then stretch again; the dough will stretch more easily after it is rested.

5. At least 30 minutes before you plan to bake, heat the oven to 425 degrees with a baking stone inside on the lowest shelf. Once again, dimple the top of the dough with your fingertips or knuckles, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil so it pools in the little indentations and sprinkle with the remaining salt.

6. Place the pan directly on the stone and immediately reduce the temperature to 400 degrees. Place a shallow metal container of water on the floor of the oven to make steam.

7. Bake until the focaccia is golden (lift the bread to check underneath as well), 25 to 30 minutes. Immediately remove from the oven and cool briefly on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Each of 12 servings: 231 calories; 5 grams protein; 32 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 9 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 0 sugar; 420 mg sodium.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cutting the Curd

Anne Saxelby is a friend of mine who also happens to be the proprietor of my favorite cheese shop in NYC: Saxelby Cheese.  As luck would have it her shop is located a few blocks away from my home in the Essex Street market, regular readers here know I speak of Saxelby's often. 

Anyway in addition to selling local farmstead cheeses Anne also has a radio show on Heritage Radio (which is part of Roberta's out in Bushwick) called Cutting the Curd.  Being the technology troglodyte that I am I have yet to be able to figure out how to get pod casts to work on this here blog thingy, so I was very excited today to discover that there is a video of Anne and thought you'd like to see this person I have spoken so much about.  I'm sure after watching this you will want to find your way down to Essex street market to meet her in the flesh and buy some delicious local cheese


Cutting the Curd from Heritage Radio Network on Vimeo.

Fruit Loops Versus Fruit

Josh Viertel, President of Slow Foods USA submitted one of over a 140,000 questions that were submitted to be asked to president Obama on this You Tube face the nation Q & A.

Out of all the questions submitted only a few were asked but Josh's was one of them! Watch the video below and see what you think about the president's response.

If you aren't a member of Slow Foods you should for sure check out their site and consider joining.

Colbert on Taco Bell "Beef" Controversy

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Gordita Supreme Court
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Too funny.
                                   

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Anti-Stress Praline

Personally I always find eating praline to be good for relieving stress, so I was surprised to see see chocolates which are being sold as "anti stress" praline.  A friend of Neil's brought these back from Tübingen Germany where these delicious little gems are created with citrus, blood orange und mint.

 I'm not sure about their anti stress abilities, but they sure are tasty. 

Radicalized Brisket

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ThreatDown - Radical Muslim Snacks, Flying Robot Drones & Coked Up Vacuums
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hand Pulled Noodles

The first time I went to Hong Kong we were taken to a restaurant where a chef come out and demonstrated how to make hand pulled noodles. It still looks like a magic trick to me, how out of this blob of dough comes these amazing, stretchy, perfect noodles. I have never heard of Hung Ry but after this video I can't wait to go!

If Only The FDA Was So Blunt

Tis The Season: City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival!

double click on the calendar to make it bigger

I personally can't wait to try Beer Hot Chocolate.  City Bakery also has an awesome selection of savory foods to go along with all the amazing sweets.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Filling But What Is That Filling?

 Taco Bell is being sued by an Alabama firm that says there meat filling is more filling then meat.

Here is the full article from the Consumerist but my favorite is the list of ingredients in the ground meat:

The suit claims that Taco Bell's meat-like offering is filled with extenders and other non-meat substances listed in the lawsuit like water, "Isolated Oat Product," wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate as well as beef and seasonings.

What the fuck is anti-dusting agent?   And is Beef at the end of the list because it is in order of amount in the filling?  So there's more Isolated oat product than Beef?  Inquiring minds want to know!  Not that I would ever eat something like this....but it is nice to know that the contents of fast food is starting to be scrutinized enough that lawsuits are being filed.  Not that any of it is news to us foodies, but the more the media reports on this the more able people are to make a decision as to what they choose to eat.  Bottom line is that fast food is cheap and it's cheap for a reason, if they started filling it with grass fed beef it wouldn't be cheap!  So in the end it's all about economics how do you feed billions of people food they can afford that is also good for them? 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Good Loaf of Bread: Rye Bread with Caraway Seeds

This isn't really the best picture, but you get the idea.  Lately I have been making a loaf of bread for every dinner party I make and am still amazed at how Jim Leahy has revolutionized bread making with his simple over night no kneed process.  It's a very forgiving recipe, I usually add about 3/4 of a cup of some other type of flour rye (with or without caraway seeds) or whole wheat.  If you haven't tried this bread making technique you really should give it a go.  I know I have written on this before, but every time I make this bread I am amazed how good it is and how making it was so easy.  This is the kind of bread you spend 5 or 6 dollars on at the fancy bakery and never thought you would be able to duplicate, but now you can! And it's an easy way to impress your dinner guests.

David's Dinner Menu: Thoughts on Fish Stew

I made a fish stew because, well it's winter, and stew is such a perfect winter dish. In part I was inspired by making a fish  Cioppino in Toronto for my brother David and his partner Kim.  It had shrimps, monk fish and clams in it and was made with a generous amount of clam juice.  I thought by  making it spicy and adding a complicated combination of spices to it would make up for the richness given to the one in Toronto by all the shellfish.  It didn't.  I used Mahi Mahi and used a spice combination I found in a North African cookbook - cumin, coriander, caraway, paprika and fennel.  It never really got to the place I wanted it.  It just lacked a depth of flavor....the next day I had made some toast from the left over bread and heated up some of the left over for lunch and it was delicious.  Reminding me again the rule of thumb for stews and soups is that they are always better the day after!  Mahi Mahi is a good meaty fish and if you live in a kosher household like I do I suggest you try it in fish stew, I also think nothing beats homemade fish stock which you can freeze in ice cub trays so you always have some on hand.  I didn't have and used white wine which made it too acidic for my liking, especially as it was a tomato based broth.  I used red wine in Toronto and think as counter intuitive as that may seem it really added a nice complexity to the stew.  

Oh and I noticed in writing this both fish stews were made for David's my brother in Toronto and my foodie friend here.

Walnut Onion Muffins

This is probably the best savory muffin I have ever made or eaten.  It's a recipe I've been making for over 20 years, it's easy and quick and so damn tasty!  It goes great as a side with soup or stew, or eaten with a good piece of cheese.  I even made a grilled cheese sandwich with it last week when I made them in a loaf form.  Neil said it was "over the top" but it didn't stop him from inhaling it!

When I first started collecting recipes from magazines and newspapers I would cut them out and paste them onto a 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper.  I used to work for a food consultant ages ago and when I had down time would go through his extensive cookbook collection and photocopy recipes that interested me.  All this to say I have no idea where this came from all I know is the recipe itself is attributed to New York Chef Waldy Malouf.  I have adapted and suggested a few other variations if you are feeling daring!

 
Walnut Onion Muffins

Preheat the oven to 400 F for muffins 375 F for the loaf.

I use a food processor for this, but certainly feel free to do it all by hand it you want.

In the bowl of the food processor add 8 ounces of Walnuts (or Pecans) 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 1/2 cups of Bread Flour (All Purpose will work in a pinch but you'll get a more cake like muffin.  Also I sometimes use a cup of white flour and 1/2 cup of whole wheat).  Process the mixture until the nuts are well ground - it's up to you if you want to have the nuts fine or more chunky, both are good, I like it finer so I process it well.

Remove the dry ingredients from the processor bowl into a large mixing bowl.  Replace the food processor bowl and add 1 large or 2 medium onions (you want 1 cup of onion puree so guess as best as you can).   Puree the onions.  Measure out one cup of puree and set aside.

In a sauce pan melt one stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup) pour the melted butter into a mixing bowl and add 5 Tablespoons of sugar, stir to mix then add 2 large eggs and whisk until well incorporated.  Add the 1 cup of onion puree and stir to incorporate.   Pour this wet mixture, all at once, into the dry ingredients and stir until it is well mixed.

You can makes these as mini muffins (makes about 36) or one loaf, in both cases the pans should be well buttered and in the case of the loaf I often line it with parchment.  I have a metal loaf tin that is not the standard size, it's 4 1/2"  x 12" I prefer it to the 5 x 9" loaf pan I used to always use.  The thing I like about it is how long the loaf is, making the slices smaller and more elegant (or at least so I think).  Feel free to use what ever you have, just be aware that the 5 x 9 loaf with take a little longer to bake.  Like most baked goods they are done when the top is nicely browned and a tester comes out clean.
Bake the muffins/loaf in the center of the preheated oven turning once at the half way point.  Muffins take about 20 minutes the loaf anywhere from 45-60 minutes (at 375 F if you find the top is getting to brown and the center is not yet cooked cover gently with some tin foil).
Cool on a wrack.  Your family and your guests will LOVE these and you'll wish you made more!  The reason I don't have a picture of the loaf version is because we ate it so fast it was gone before I remembered to get a picture.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Take Action NOW: If approved, GMO alfalfa will fundamentally undermine the entire organic industry overnight.

 
Here is the letter Food Democracy Now are sending to President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, at the end of the letter there is a link you can clickso you can add your name, please take the time and add your name it is very important.

Dear Secretary Vilsack and President Obama,

I urge you to immediately reject the approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa. The U.S. Supreme Court has already acknowledged that the economic risks from genetic contamination, as well as the risk to the environment of gene flow, are real concerns. The USDA has a responsibility to protect farmers and consumers and should refuse the biotech industry’s demands for deregulation. More importantly, the Secretary of Agriculture and President of the United States have a sacred duty to protect biodiversity and seed integrity for future generations and our planet.

If approved, the contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa crops is scientifically certain to happen. Once contaminated, organic and conventional crops will lose their economic value and this threatens the livelihood of family farmers who have responded to market signals regarding the valid concerns of the negative health and environmental impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Already the CEO of the largest dairy cooperative has stated that approval of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa “threatens the very fabric of the organic industry.” Once undermined, consumers will lose faith in USDA approved organic products. As head of the federal agency in charge of protecting farmers, any decision to approve GMO alfalfa threatens to destroy the fastest growing and most profitable segment of agriculture today and thus runs counter to the mission of the agency you are sworn to uphold.

And while I appreciate your admission of the serious risks posed by GMO contamination to organic and conventional farmers, it is evident that the USDA’s proposed remedies are not adequate to protect America’s farmers or our nation’s citizens who choose to buy organic products. Approval of Monsanto's GMO alfalfa infringes upon the rights of Americans to make legitimate choices in the foods that they eat and feed their children daily and threatens the rapidly growing $26 billion organic market.

The basic right to consume food that is not contaminated and for farmer's fields to be safe from genetic contamination that ruins their economic livelihood is enshrined in the Constitution. It is time that federal officials at the USDA, White House and Congress move to protect this right, rather than to continue to trample upon it at the biotech industry’s bidding.

As such, I strongly urge you to reject the approval of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cooking in Kenya

This is my friend Nate, he went on a volunteer vacation with Habitat for Humanity where his group help a rural village build a new house.  When he was showing me his pictures I was amazed at how basic the process was, instead of just getting gravel, they gathered large rocks and then had to break them down into gravel here is what it says on the wbesite about the buildings they make:
 
All Habitat Kenya-sponsored houses have masonry walls, concrete floors, foundation slabs and corrugated iron-sheet roofs. The houses are built with fired brick, stabilized soil block or rough stone.

And here is Nate's further explanation:

We built for six days and mostly worked on the foundation work: clearing the site of debris, digging the holes for the foundation walls, stacked bricks and applied mortar, once dried we filled it in with dirt, layed gravel for the floor and then eventually poured cement (made from very finely broken up rocks, water and some sort of pre-made mix that was added--I didn't see specifically what it was but looked like a concrete bag.  Perhaps we were using some pre-made concrete but added the small gravel rocks to make the concrete go farther.  I suppose buying bags of concrete would be very expensive in Kenya -- cheaper to use the rocks, which are easily available, to save on building costs.

The most interesting thing for me was his story about volunteering to do non building work.  I for one would have been the first in line to help out in the kitchen, not just because I love to cook and am fascinated with how different cultures cook, but because anything that would break up the tedium of crushing rocks all day would be much appreciated. 

Nate was the first person to volunteer for kitchen duty and apparently his being a man was very uncomfortable for the women working in the kitchen, they laughed uncomfortably for a few moments while letting him roll out one maybe 2 flat breads then the volunteer co-ordinator came in and told him he had to leave. Men don't cook in Kenyan (many African) cultures and the site of Nate in the kitchen was such a freak out to these women they couldn't take it and had him removed.   This in the same culture where men hold hands with other men who they are friends with, something in our culture that still makes many people uncomfortable.

Ever since Nate told me this story it has stuck in my head.  I wanted to write about it here, but I didn't have any great insight or point about it.  It reminded me of stories Richard Wrangham writes about in his seminal book Catching Fire, which is you haven't read you really should.  It's the most fascinating book about cooking and the way we came to use fire to cook our food and how that changed who we are, in every aspect of our being.  In Catching Fire Wrangham talks about gender roles and cooking, men always went out to hunt while women would forage and gather closer to home and make dinner.   If the men where successful and they had caught something there would be something else to cook, but there needed to be supper on the table when the men got back or watch out.  It was acceptable to beat your wife if she did not have food ready. 

So the weirdness around Nate's cooking makes some sense in that the lives of these rural people have not change that significantly, women are still entrusted to "keep house" while the men build the house or go off and work or hunt. 

In pondering this I mostly just feel very lucky to be living in a culture where it is perfectly acceptable for men to cook.  That our gender roles have become more fluid.  Famous chefs are still predominately men, something we accept without a thought and yet in Kenya this would be a perplexing and uncomfortable reality:  Why would men want to do this?

In the last year I've become fascinated with the food culture of Africa, which is vast yet something we know so little about, there is Moroccan, Ethiopian and that's about it. Of course with civil strife,
poverty and war consuming so many African nations it's no wonder they aren't all sitting around writing cook books.  So having even just a glimpse of how the people in Kenya live and cook thanks to Nate has gotten me very excited about one day going to African and exploring

This is the lunch that was served daily during the two weeks he was volunteering.  The end of the trip was a fairly posh safari.  I think this food look delicious, but can understand how every day of the same thing might get a little tired.
Below is the menu from a famous Nairobi restaurant called Carnivore that specializes in exotic and wild game meats.  Ostrich Meatballs anyone?

Portlandia

I think some of this is really annoying and some of it is funny.  This is an entire episode so it's 24 minutes.  I guess Portland is too near and dear to my heart to find this kind of humor so funny, it just makes me look forward to my next visit!

My favorite line is : Portland is a place where young people go to retire.

Too funny.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Peach Scones, Vanilla Ice Cream and House Preserved Ginger Cognac Peaches

Way back in August I preserved peaches for the first time, never content with just following a recipe as it is written I added fresh ginger and cognac to half of the jars of Peaches I canned.  Monday night my friend David came over for dinner.  It seemed to me the best antidote to the January cold was to open up a jar of preserved peaches and see how they turned out.  Certainly I could have just served them plain or maybe with some heavy cream, but I decided to make a short cake of sorts, so I made some vanilla ice cream (also with a little splash of cognac) and fresh from the oven ginger scones.  For the scones I added crystallized and dried ginger to the batter and then added a pinch of dried ginger into the sugar I sprinkled on top of them before popping them into the oven.

This is the best reason I can think of as to why we all need to be doing canning in the summer!   These peaches where spectacular, if I do say so myself, and such a wonderful reminder of what a spectacular season we had this summer for stone fruits.  Being able to taste this summer's peaches again in the middle of a cold snowy January night, it doesn't get much better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blueberry Pound Cake

For the last two days I have been cooking myself into a frenzy, it's so nice to be home and in my own kitchen cooking again!  Neil has been reminiscing about a blueberry pound cake I made last year and I have a freezer filled with the most amazing organic blueberry's from my friends farm Intervale so as a welcome home after a month of being on the road I decided blueberry pound cake would be the first thing I'd make, and boy was this the right decision!  This can be eaten plain as a snack with tea/coffee or can be dressed up for dessert by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a simple blueberry sauce. However you choose to serve it this is a very versatile, easy and delicious cake.

 Blueberry Pound Cake

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Generously butter a 10" tube pan then equally generously coat it with sugar.

You can use fresh blueberries, but given it's the middle of winter here in the Northeast I think frozen seasonal berries would be the way to go.  Lay out a few sheets of paper towel and place 2 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries on top, cover with another layer of paper towels and let sit while you make the cake.  This helps soak up the extra water that the frozen berries have.

In a medium bowl add  2 3/4 cups organic cake flour, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Stir to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment add 1 cup of unsalted butter and process until soft, with the mixer on low slowly add 2 cups of sugar, when all the sugar has been added turn the mixer up to medium high and one at a time add 4 large room temperature eggs when the eggs have all been added pour in 1 teaspoon of cognac, brandy, or vanilla (I actually used a teaspoon each of cognac and vanilla) and 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon rind.

Return the mixer to slow speed and add the flour mixture a little at a time.

Making sure you have gotten as much excess moisture off your frozen blueberries as you can  and toss them in a bowl with 1/4 cup of cake flour.  

With a spatula fold the flour covered blueberries into the batter and pour into the prepared pan, bake in the center of the preheated oven for about an hour and 15 minutes.  The cake will be nicely browned and a tester should come out clean when it is done.
Cool on a wrack for a least 15 minutes before removing it from the pan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Edible Cups: Jelloware

Made from the seaweed based agar agar not only can you eat your cup after you've finished your drink, Vegans can join in the fun as well!  Jelloware comes in flavors like ginger mint, rosemary-beet and lemon-basil.   

But before you go looking for these clever cups the inventors are still looking for some seed money to get going if you think this could be the next big thing check out their Kickstarter page and get in on the action.  But hurry you've only got 9 days to go!

Oh and I forgot to mention that if you aren't feeling like a jello-y explosion after your drink these colorful cups are biodegradable.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Xocodiva and Organic Super Foods: The Last of Puerto Vallarta

 
Maybe it's all the snow and cold here in NYC, but I can't seem to get the sun and the beach in Puerto Vallarta out of my mind.  The thing that really makes Puerto Vallarta so great is that when you have had enough of the beach there is so much to do and such a vibrant food culture.  I did a big posting when I was there on the farmers market which is amazing and sells a large variety of produce and food stuffs so it's good for people who have a kitchen and for those who only have a mini bar fridge. 
The two gals (Charlotte left and Carol right) who spearheaded the farmers markets also own and run the best artisanal chocolate shop in town Xocodiva.  An amazing place with a large selection of truffles, several in Mexican themes, chili pepper and margarita come to mind.  I loved the dark chocolate almond bark and the fact that if you wanted to linger over coffee and a few chocolates there is a sweet (sorry couldn't help myself) little cafe area up front.  It didn't hurt that Xocodiva was on my route home, but even if it's on the other side of town from you if you are in Puerto Vallarta you have to make a trip to this amazing chocolate shop and stock up for your stay!

Organic Superfoods I wrote about last year, but neglected to post their vital info (another Margarita, Mark?) but now they have a website so just click on the name and it's all there.  Located in the heart of old Puerto Vallarta on 509 Venustuan Carranza Organic Superfoods are the best organic grocery store in PV.  MY favorite item is their flax seed tostadas which I use as crackers for everything from cheese to guacamole. 

Local organic produce is hard to find so the people at Organic Superfoods have leased a farm and will, in several months time, be providing a large selection of fruit, lettuces and eggs from their very own farm!  Very exiting.  I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Kill It, Cook It, Eat It: A New TV Show

 
I think this is a great idea, take 6 volunteers and have them go through the life of an animal from birth to slaughter to hamburger.  Leave it to the Brits.  The above video is not for the faint of heart.  Check out the the site for more:  Kill it, Cook it, Eat it

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Snowman on Essex and Canal

This HUGE snowman is in front of the fruit stand on the corner of Essex and Canal, so it makes sense that his buttons are made from mandarin oranges and his eyes are two plums!   Anyone read Chinese and can tell me what his hat says?

Only in Canada, eh? The Cesar

It's so nice to be home.   After a month of travel it is so nice to be settled again.  Of course in 2 weeks time I will be all ready to get back on a plane, but for now I'm just really glad to not have to live out of a suitcase.

Believe it or not there are still some loose ends from Puerto Vallarta, which I will get to tomorrow. Then I can start cooking again and sharing recipes with y'all.  Of all the food I've eaten in the last month, the thing that has stuck in my head the most are cinnamon rolls.  So I'm going to start baking tomorrow, if anyone who is reading this has an amazing cinnamon roll recipe please let me know.

The last thing I wanted to say about Toronto is:  Caesar.   Which is the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary only instead of being made with tomato juice it is made with Clamato juice.  Something that you can not find here (or at least not easily) but can make by adding clam juice to tomato juice (50/50 but obviously you can adjust as you see fit).   The rim of the glass is coated with celery salt.

It's odd that I have posted now 3 times in as many weeks about Bloody Mary's and now a variation as I really am mostly just a wine drinker and I am not much of a fan of drinking before 5.  Being on the road means you are often out for brunch/lunch and particularly around the holidays when everyone is being festive, or at least trying to be festive, a nice bright red drink festooned with pickled onions, celery, pickles, olives, cherry tomatoes, lime wedges and the variations go on....seemed like a great way to start my day.  My only word of warning is 2 Caesars/Bloody Mary's is 1 to many! That is if you have any intention of doing anything more that afternoon than going back to your hotel room and napping.  Of course that is just advice from a lightweight.  The funny thing is how in Puerto Vallarta Clamato juice is sold everywhere, which just goes to prove what I have always said about it, which is that the Canadians outnumber the Mexicans in Puerto Vallarta.

Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue!  So nice to be home.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fabarnak Restaurant and Catering: Toronto

Every year I go to Toronto to visit my family and old friends. In the last couple of years I seem to end up there in January.  In part it's my desire to avoid the family Christmas thing altogether, but even though January has to be one of the worst months of the year to visit Toronto I always manage to have a good time.  On the day before I left, in response to the exhaustion of being on the road for a month (see recent posts of Puerto Vallarta, San Francisco, and San Diego!) and all the stress a trip to visit family entails, I slept in very late and had purposely not made any plans to do anything with anyone until dinner.

When my head cleared a bit I managed to make vague plan and left my hotel room in search of food on my way to visit my old apartment building.  In the mythology of my life 67 Gloucester street looms large.  It was my first adult apartment that I shared first with my friend Martha and then with my friend George.   We painted our door red and used to tell people by way of instructions: third floor red door.  


I had no real idea as to where I was going to eat; I just figured something would appear that appealed to me.  What I saw initially, from across the street, was the new addition to the LGBT Center at 519 Church street.  It looked like there was a cafeteria or something, but I couldn't tell and there was no sign so I went across the street to check it out. 
  
On closer inspection there was a very bright modern room with several people sitting around a large wooden communal table eating.  I still wasn't sure if this was a private cafeteria for the Center or what, so I went in to investigate.
There were menus on the tables and I was greeted with a nice: sit anywhere you like.  I chose one of the few tables for 2 at the back of the room next to the big window which looked out on to Cathra Square Park.  With the bright green chairs and the big painting of woodland animals on the wall across from me the room started to feel like the park inside.  In a modern minimalist kind of way.

Before I go any further about my experience at Fabarnak here is what they have to say for themselves:
FABARNAK is a social enterprise initiative of The 519.  We re-invest profits from the restaurant into our programs and services, we work to provide training and meaningful employment opportunities for marginalized members of our community and over 80% of our food is locally and sustainably produced. 

We believe eating should be fun, food should build relationships between people and eating healthy, local, handmade food shouldn't be complicated.
How great is that?  Not only is it a well designed room, modern yet cozy it actually exists to do good.
Of course all of this would be less impressive if the dedication to good food made with quality ingredients wasn't there.  The menu is filled with hard choices.  A combination of breakfast and lunch menu it is split up into 6 sections: Good Morning, Special, Soup, Sandwich, Salad, Slightly More.
I really wanted to order the Square Pegs which is a sampler plate, served TV dinner style, or as they put it: the refined cafeteria style lunch tray.  A "best of" from that day's offerings, including dessert.
When I heard the sandwich special was pulled pork, smoked cheddar, homemade BBQ sauce and apples on whole grain bread, made even more enticing by the fact that it came with my choice of soup or salad, I couldn't resist.  The special soup of the day was a curried parsnip.   Beautifully presented.  the soup was a thick puree, intensely infused with curry and pepper.  I loved it (though it was, indeed, very peppery, which for me was fine, but it certainly wasn't for the weak of heart).   As much as I loved the look of the soup, I always ponder the idea of garnish; in this case they sprinkled micro greens, but I wondered if maybe something in the soup, like say finely chopped, roasted parsnips might not have made a more integral choice than the greens?

The sandwich was heavenly: delicious in every way, the sweet-sour crisp of the apple, the rich and tender pulled pork, the understated BBQ sauce, the great fresh bread.  So good.  And such a wonderful compliment to the soup.
My concession to breakfast was coffee:  it was strong, hot and refilled often.

The most amazing thing about this lunch was that the Soup and Salad cost only $10.  By far the best food I ate in Toronto and it was a bargain to boot!  Of course I had no real need for dessert but when my waiter was telling me about the Square Peg he mentioned a smoked Stilton cheesecake, and it sounded so unusual I just had to try it.   A small tartlet served with a side of blueberries in a light syrup this is not your typical dessert.  More a cheese course than a sweet.

Fabarnak has only been open for a few months and it still hasn't gotten its liquor license, which I am sure is soon to come.  From what I can tell they are open daily from 7:30 am to 4 pm and then from Thursday to Saturday they are serving dinner.

This is a very special place. I spoke with the front of house Manager and the Sous Chef and these guys know what they are doing: an innovative, locally sourced menu, great service and a beautiful room.  I regret that I didn't discover it until my last day, but I certainly know where I will be eating next time I am in Toronto and I heartily encourage anyone who is going to be in Toronto (or lives there) to eat at  Fabarnak.
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