Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Food For Thought

The New York Times is always a good source of information and inspiration about food.  Recently Mark Bittman who'd written about cooking has been promoted to the opinions department, where he writes pieces without recipes with a more political bent, but still very rooted in food.  Yesterday's piece Why We're Fasting  particularly interesting to me as it looks at the draconian Republican proposed budget cuts for people who need help to feed themselves and their families.  Mr Bittman is fasting, along with 4000 others to protest a Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry.


Mr. Bittman touches on the rising cost of food and the issues around food distribution and criminality of cutting life or death assistance to this countries most needy:

...the House budget bill, H.R. 1. The budget proposes cuts in the WIC program (which supports women, infants and children), in international food and health aid (18 million people would be immediately cut off from a much-needed food stream, and 4 million would lose access to malaria medicine) and in programs that aid farmers in underdeveloped countries. Food stamps are also being attacked, in the twisted “Welfare Reform 2011” bill. (There are other egregious maneuvers in H.R. 1, but I’m sticking to those related to food.)


These supposedly deficit-reducing cuts — they’d barely make a dent — will quite literally cause more people to starve to death, go to bed hungry or live more miserably than are doing so now. And: The bill would increase defense spending.

This is an important piece and will give great insight to anyone wanting to know more about what Republican priorities are in the current budget battle in Washington.

Also in the NYT yesterday was a touching and informative piece about a Japanese restaurateur, Ben Yagi who has almost single-handedly made the East Village into New York's little Japan. 

The article hit many personal notes for me, Hasaki has always been one of my favorite sushi restaurants and in the late '80s and early 90's would go there when every there was a special occasion or we wanted to splurge. 

Down the street from Hasaki is my favorite Japanese snack Shack Otafuku.  Which is just a few doors down from one of the only places I know of where you can go and have a formal tea ceremony, Cha An, a place I always tell visitors to go to because it is such a wonderful ritual so unique this ancient ceremony isn't something you'd expect to find, especially not on a side street in the East Village.  All these restaurants are Mr. Yagis, he owns 11 in total. 

One of the things I was surprised to learn in this article was that many of these restaurants got fish from the famed Tokyo fish market and had it flown in.  Concerns over radiation have stopped this practice for the time being.  The devastation from the earthquake, Tsunami and ongoing reactor meltdown are at the heart of this article. 

Mr Yagi was instrumental in organizing Dine Out for Japan Relief.

What most surprised me was that his first restaurant, which was not a Japanese restaurant, but rather a late night diner: 103 Second, which he opened in the '80s and is now occupied by the trendy new Vandaag.  103 Second is one of those nostalgic restaurants from my early days in New York when I would stay out late at the Saint and go for breakfast or very late night snacks there.  I always loved how bohemian and cool I felt going there, I was finally living the life of an arty denzien of downtown like I had dreamed of for so many years.

Two articles, that may on the face of it seem very different, yet in many ways are, to me, about the same things.  The importance of food, compassion and charity to support life and to offer a helping hand even in hard times.

New Zealand Manuka Honey

The other day I was talking to my brother David on the phone and I made an off handed comment about want to get on a plane and go to New Zealand which promoted my brother to tell me this story about New Zealand honey.  Given how good the local honey is here in NYC I never really think about looking at honey from far off exotic places.  He was telling me all about the many health benefits and other mystical qualities of this honey, from wound healing to probiotics this stuff has it all!  Or so they say... then the other day I saw some at Whole Foods and was blown away by how expensive this stuff is.  It ranges from $23.99 to a whopping $36.99 so it had better do something more then make your tea sweet.

Harpers List Highight





A San Antonio man was embroiled in a three-hour armed standoff with police after he discovered that the price of a Taco Bell Beefy Crunch Burrito had risen from 99 cents to $1.49. "They did used to be 99 cents, but that was just a promotion," said restaurant manager Brian Tillerson.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's Time To Take A Breather...

I've posted Air New Zealand commercials before, this is the new inflight safety instruction video featuring Richard Simmons.  It's hysterical, I'm packing my bags and booking my flight to Auckland!  I wish they'd do one about their food.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Living Off Grid in the UK

                   

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Coconut Pecan Chocolate Bundt Cake

You may remember a while back I published this post about a Coconut Walnut Pound Cake that my friend Michael made and I fell in love with.  Tonight I'm going to a birthday party and offered to bring a cake so thought I would try this out for myself, making a few changes and seeing how the recipe works.  Normally I never post a recipe I haven't made luckily this one was very straight forward and easy and turned out well (so far I will know better tonight after eating a piece exactly how well it turned out).

My first change was the addition of 3/4 cup of roughly chopped 70% chocolate to the batter,  and instead of Walnuts I used Pecans.  So already it is starting to become like a German Chocolate Bundt cake.  In addition to the Coconut oil I added 1 teaspoon of rum into the mix as well.

Here it is about to go into the over.
...and just out of the oven.
The entire cake gets doused in a simple syrup which it absorbs as it sits in it for a few hours.  I over cooked my syrup and it became crystallized.  I have questions about the addition of butter to the syrup and think the cake batter which is made with canola oil should be made with butter and the syrup should just be simple syrup without the butter.  I will report back the next time I make it. 
Here it is soaking in the syrup.

Here it is after it had been soaking for an hours or so, in reality it should not crystallize but rather remain moist.
 Out of the pan, I have to admit I love the shape of Bundt cakes, they're very handsome, no?
 So my other addition to the recipe was to add  a chocolate ganache made with 70% chocolate  (1 cup heavy cream, brought just to a boil, then  poured over 6 ounces dark chocolate chopped, I added, of course, a splash of rum) let it cool for about 15 minutes and then drizzled it over the cake.
 To finish I sprinkled about 1/3 cup of toasted coconut over the ganache.
I'm going to make it again with a butter batter and will re-post my final reworking of this already great recipe.  My only qualm is that I don't think you can call it a pound cake if it doesn't have butter in it. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Colbert on Rising Food Costs

One day I hope to be not sick with the flu and cooking again!  Until then here is Stephen Colbert doing what he does so well...it's the bit with the kid that I loved most...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Signs...

I saw both these signs on the same day...what does it mean??????

The Cheapest and Tastiest Soup in Town: Vanessa's Dumplings

Venessa's Dumplings has been written up in every travel guide and on every  Best Of  and Top 100 lists for years now. So it's not really a secret, but it is always amazing to me how delicious and cheap their food is every time I go.  

Lucky for me the original shop (there is now one on 14th st) happens to be conveniently located just 6 short blocks away at 118 Elderidge St between Grand and Broome. 

During my struggle with this nasty flu (which doesn't seem to want to leave me) all I've wanted to eat is  soup, soup and more soup!  So I wandered over to Vansessa, which I normally think of as more a sandwich and dumpling place to see what soup they had on offer.  For $3 they had Vegetable Dumplings in Soup. 

The way it works at Vanessa's is you order at one counter, they give you a receipt with a number on it and you pick up your food at the adjacent counter when they call your number.   After I ordered I thought:  Damn I should have asked them what kind of soup it was....  As I really didn't wanted to keep it veggie if I could.  So imagine my glee when I got my large plastic quart container filled with 6 plump dumplings and a cloudy white Miso broth!  Heaven.  The dumplings are filled with greens, tofu, mushrooms and cilantro then hand wrapped in a dumpling noodle and boiled.  For good measure they also add several Shanghai Bok Choi to the broth for an added crunch and a little extra green.  For 3 dollars!  I was filled for the day.  Hot sauce and black vinegar are on the table so you can adjust the seasoning as you see fit.  I added Sriracha to each dumpling before I ate it. Yum.

This isn't a very good picture, I had already goobled down half of it before I thought to photograph it.
Limited communal and crowded constant flow may always make you want to consider taking your food home and eating it in more comfort, but I like the bustle of the place and enjoy the open kitchen and eves dropping on everyone's conversations.

Budget or not Vanessa's with certainly worth checking out, but go to the one in Chinatown, it's much nicer than the one on 14th street which has a student ghetto cafeteria feel.


Monday, March 21, 2011

You Go Girl! Girl Scout Cookies Made with Rain Forest Destroying Palm Oil



Click here to sign the petition and learn more.

Shocking: Iowa and Florida Move to Outlaw Unauthorized Photos of Farming Operations

Yes that head line is correct, read all about it here.

In theory your kid could take a picture while driving with her parents, along the highway, say in Florida, a picture of say a field with maybe in a building in the distance and post it on Facebook, that could according to these new proposed laws be illegal!  The penalty?  If approved you could get up to 30 years in prison, so proposes the new law in Florida.

Just another reason NEVER to VISIT FLORIDA EVER AGAIN.
Of course if the farmers weren't doing something you didn't want to see you wouldn't need draconian fascist laws like these proposed by radical right wing politicians.  Probably God spoke to them in the night and told them to do it - what do you think?   Even George Orwell couldn't have imagined this....

Of course the people who they really want to stop are documentary film makers and news shows that are trying to expose their abusive or poisonous practices. The kid taking a picture would probaby be over looked as long as the kid didn't use it in a way that was intentionally pointing out the abuses of a particular farm.  My point is simply that the laws as proposed are so broad the interpretation and the enforcement of them could vast and sweeping.

This makes my blood boil, what have we become as a society, as a culture that these kinds of bills are even being proposed?  I mean the fact, the reality is that the web is filled with these images already, not to mention the dozens of movies made about the abuses of corporate agriculture.

Ok I'm going to step away from the computer, breath and when I get back hope this was all just some sick joke.

After sending a note to the folks at Grist they wrote back and alerted me to this post and very upsetting video from last week:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Modernist Cuisine


Modernist Cuisine is a 6 volume magnum opus about the new cuisine that has sparked chef's imagination since Ferran Adrià came onto the scene with his wildly inventive cuisine at elBulli his restaurant a few hours north of Barcelona. 

Much has been written about this $625 tomb, but my favorite review is John Lanchester's New Yorker review which is very fair, thorough and often times very funny, like this excerpt:

The discussion of poo-eating in “Modernist Cuisine” is exhaustive, convincing, and gag-inducing. According to the microbiologist Philip Tierno, “We’re basically bathed in feces as a society.” “Bathed in feces”—not words you often read in a cookbook, but apparently poo-eating accounts for about eighty per cent of all food-related illness. Also, cat litter in the kitchen? Bad news. Toxoplasma gondii, a species of protozoa present in cat litter, kills three hundred and seventy-five Americans a year, and perpetuates itself through cat feces in a freaky way: when rodents eat toxoplasmii, their brain chemistry is changed so that they develop an attraction to the smell of cats. There’s no happy ending.

The discussion of pathogens is fascinating, but it’s something of a relief to move on to the cooking.

In the end I can't imagine spending that much on a book that is thin on recipes and large on discussion about su vide (cooking in plastic bags which as readers of this blog will know I'm not a big fan of) and has recipes that involve things like liquid nitrogen (not something I have in my pantry) don't make it something I'm itching to get.  Nonetheless it is interesting and I appreciate the thoroughness of it, but not enough to spend $625 on.  Regardless you should read Mr. Lanchester's review it's priceless.

Despana

As I walked home today from SoHo I passed by my favorite Spanish food shop Despana, which I mentioned last week had expanded and added a little wine shop next store.  Today I was taken by how crowded it was and by the guys at the front who were carving up two wonderful Serrano hams.
They make all sort of wonderful bocadillos (Jamon y Jamobon y Jamobon on bread!) and other traditional Spanish foods which you can have to go or if you choose you can stay and sit in their wonderful little "lunch room" this place has grown so much since it was just a Spanish food distributor in Queens (or was it Brooklyn).
Above is the eating area, below a panorama of some the many Spanish delicacies they sell.
408 Broome Street 
NYC

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Souvlaki GR

 By the looks of it you'd think you were in Greece, right?  Wrong- this place is just opening up on Stanton Street (between Essex and Ludlow) it has a kind of Disneyland affect that annoyed me at first, fake bougainvillea, you gotta be kidding me...then you look at it in the pictures and you know, it looks good, right?  It certainly livens up the street and it's very easy to spot!

After some research I learned that Souvlaki GR is the 2010 Vendy award winner for Rookie Food Truck of the year and that this is their foray into non four wheel food!  I wish them the best of luck and can't wait to stop by when they are open and sample some of their award winning Souvlaki.
116 Stanton St

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grumpy Comes to Essex Street

Grumpy is the one on the left
At this point I am a hard core regular at Dora Coffee which is oh so conveniently located on the corner of East Broadway and Clinton a half block away from my place.   Now I find out 2 blocks further West the super hip high end mini NYC coffee chain Grumpy is opening up a tiny little space at 13 Essex street.  I peaked in yesterday and things look like they should be ready to open very soon.

I know it's gentrification and all and that's suppose to be bad but can I just say how much I love the new Lower East Side!  It's so exciting to see how much as changed in the 5 years since I moved here and how much of a foodie destination the neighborhood has become, as I like to say, the Lower East Side is the Brooklyn of Manhattan.

A cappuccino to go from Dora

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cocoron Soba

Cocoron Soba opened at 61 Delancey Street (just a little west of Allen) in December.  I've walked by it many times and peered in and thought: "this places looks great!"

It wasn't until a friend, who lives in the neighborhood and I take Yoga with, asked me had I been to the great new Soba place on Delancey that I got motivated to actually go.

In part my motivation was based on being sick with the flu, all week I've had no appetite for anything but hot tea and broth so the idea of some warm soothing Soba in hot broth was my true motivation. Don't blink when you are walking by or you will miss it. Cocoron Soba has 14 seats in total.
 
All over this tiny place are signs that say: Praying for our country Japan

It's very touching, I find the smiling cartoon character on the poster a little jarring, I understand that is a cultural thing and I do like the feeling that it gives that although a terrible tragedy is still unfolding in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami and now the nuclear reactor meltdown that as this orange head character would suggest, fist skyward, we may be down but we are by no means down.
 
One of the funniest aspects of their website is if you click on the Characters tab  there are 17 different cartoon characters that represent, um, I guess different aspects of Soba making?  My favorite is Mr. Bu the balding, pink, chubby, pig character.
Both times I have been here I have ordered the same thing: Kim Chee and Pork Dipping Soba.  You can order your Soba three ways, cold or hot which come complete in a bowl or Tsukemen Style which means dipping style so you get a strong hot bowl of broth served on a stand with a heater below and a plate of cold Soba noodles.  You place a mouth full of noodles into the broth let them sit for 30 seconds or less, then scoop them up and place them in your eating bowl and slurp them up.  When you are done most of the chunky bits of the hot broth have been gathered up with the noodles, then you are presented with an enamel tea pot that is filled with Soba noodle cooking water which you pour into your broth to make a soup.  You are also presented with an over size wooden spoon to drink your broth from.  Its so amazingly good I can't begin to describe it.  They have a good selection of small plates, Yuba Sashimi (house made tofu skin), fried chicken and steamed chicken meatball in addition to desserts like Black Sesame Cheesecake which all look amazing.  
 
 And here is the lack "tea pot"  filled with Soba cooking water ...
The only other item I've had is a side of miso coleslaw, which was a small, crunchy bowl of red cabbage, in a simple oil and miso dressing sprinkled with sesame seeds.

I'm going to be spending a lot of time here over the next week or so because I can think of no way to eat myself out of this flu than with this deliciously spicy Soba soup.  Come join me while seats are still gettable!

Here are two organizations that you can donate money to who are helping in Japan during this terrible crisis: 

Doctorswithoutborders

Redcross.org

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tis the Season For Fresh Goat Cheese!

...and other good goat stuff as well.  A perfect time to try out my goat cheese cheese cake that I have been writing about and experimenting with here and here for the last month (OK, OK so I was pushing the season a little bit...).   Here is an excerpt from today's email from Saxelby Cheese :

...my colleague Ariel and I were up to our ears in kids! No we weren't taking a day off from the shop to babysit, we were visiting Beltane Farm in Connecticut, where kid goats are running amok in what amounts to the earliest harbinger of spring. What does that mean for you? Besides the fun-filled photos below, it means the tastiest fresh chèvre and goat yogurt in town, waiting for you at Saxelby Cheesemongers!
paul feeds a kid
Beltane Farm was started in 2002 by Paul Trubey in the tiny town of Lebanon, CT. A lifelong lover of goats, he was urged toward cheesemaking by Liz McAlister from neighboring Cato Corner Farm. He slowly but surely grew his herd, taking the word 'farmstead' to the max, milking the goats, making incredible cheese, and selling it at farmers' markets across the state.

Paul, an ex-social worker, is the consummate farmer, showing each of his animals the utmost in love and respect. Beltane Farm is comprised of a true menagerie of animal personalities, which I'm sure puts the social worker in Paul to work on the daily! First off there are the goats, a herd of about twenty ladies with personalities as distinct as snowflakes. There's Limerick, the oldest goat in the herd (born on St. Patrick's Day of course!), Flash, who gave Paul a love tap about as gentle as an NFL linebacker would as we walked through the pen, and Veronica, who was allowed to walk about the farm wherever she pleased. Then there's everybody else: Nestor and Geronimo, the farm's two donkeys, Asa and Miss Betsy Bigelow, new arrivals of the bovine variety, a coterie of cats and chickens, and two loyal dogs, Maggie the collie and Duncan, a geriatric Jack Russell terrier who has his own chair at the dinner table.

Two years ago, due to the success of his business, and the need for a workday shorter than 24 hours, Paul partnered with nearby Reynolds Farm to help him raise and milk his troupe of La Mancha, Alpine, and Oberhaasli goats. The Reynolds hadn't had any animals on their farm since the late 1980's, when the family's cow dairy succumbed to the perennial volatility of the commodity milk market. Now the farm, located about eight miles from Beltane, oversees the milk production of close to 100 does. That milk is carted back to Beltane Farm where it is turned into cheese. The milk of the other twenty-odd goats that live at Beltane full-time is bottled and sold directly to customers that come to visit the farm.

So stop on by the shop for the cheesemongers' version of March Madness... pure, delicious goat goodness from Beltane Farm! 


Living in the city I forget that things like goat cheese have a season, mostly when I used to think of seasonality I think of produce, but thanks to people like Anne Saxelby and her wonderful cheese shop I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy even my cheese seasonally. 

Not that anyone needs another reason to eat and shop locally, but lets face it fresh goat cheese made when the goats are expressing milk doesn't get much better!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Elvis Burger

I just saw this over at one of my favorite blogs JoeMyGod.  Sometimes I just feel so out of the loop, I see this burger which looks to be a cheese burger with peanut butter and banana's added, I google it and pages of link for Elvis Burgers pop up.
 
Apparently in many of the recipes the bananas are friend and there is bacon, of course they has to be bacon.  I wonder if anyone makes theirs with a sprinkling of barbiturates?

I got this picture from a site called cheese-burger. net - I like the addition of tatter tots to this one, just in case the burger wasn't enough:

Yarning

 
This is the second yarned bike I've seen, the other one was near the Essex Street Market and sat outside for a long time until it basically fell apart. This one is on Broome Street just off the Bowery.  I like how colorful it is and it sure was catching people's attention when I walked by I saw 2 photo ops in the few seconds it took me to walk past (and take a picture).

South of Delancey

As full of great restaurants as the Lower East Side is they tend to cluster, Allen street south of Delancey has staid steadfastly old neighborhood until recently, in November I wrote about the new coffee/cafe Berkli Parc.  The first trail blazer on Allen south of Delancey was Sorella a warm, woody Piedmontese wine bar/restaurant that does some seriously tasty takes on Italian classics (with an emphasis on seasonal and local foods).  Have opened up right next store: Stellina a bright, modern Gelato and espresso cafe. Sometime tells me that all the Chinese sign making places and kitchen supply stores are going to be slowly replaced with trendy cafes and art galleries it seems to be the trend these days down here on the Lower East Side.  You might want to call or email the folks at Sorella before you stop by as they don't have a website yet and it still looks to me like they are not yet open.

Despana Expands: Vinos Y Mas

Despana is by far the best Spanish fine food shop in the city. I try to stop in monthly, but I have to admit that it's been a while since I was last by, so you can imagine my surprise when I see that they have expanded!  In January they opened Vinos Y Mas in the much smaller storefront right next store.
So now not only can you get all your favorite Spanish cooking supplies - white anchovies, olive oil, olives, lots of Jambon y queso (including the classic Spanish Serrano Ham), great clay cook ware you can bop next store and browse through there extension collections of Spanish wines, Cava's, Sherries and more. 

The thing I most buy at Despana is the terracotta earthenware, I love it and use mine all the time,  as is more than apparent to anyone who reads this blog frequently as almost anything I bake in the oven I bake in this terracotta earthenware.  In downtown New York there is a store for everything, if you want Italian groceries you go to Buon Italia, Indian spices and more is Kalustyans for all thing Spanish your one stop place to shop is Despana.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Grocery Store in Japan Survives Quake

Like everyone else in the world I have been glued to my computer screen watching the news about the devastation going on in Japan right now. In all of the video I have watched this one below capture my attention in a way that most of the others didn't - this is taken insider a grocery store - so there is one reason I was interested, but when you watch it the thing that amazes me is that the employees instead of fleeing or running to a doorway or under a table all try and prevent the goods from coming off the shelves and being broken....which would have been the last thing I would have thought about if it was me working!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Vegetable Stock, Ribollita and Re-Thinking Chicken Stock

Vegetable stock is so easy to make,  you use all the scraps you would otherwise compost or throw away into something simple, satisfying and very versatile.  When I made Ribollita last week I needed to make stock, so I used all the onion skins, carrot peel and kale stems in my stock.  I made so much stock I was able to pack my freezer full with the left over.  I like to add a few cloves, a couple of whole hot dried red peppers and a small palm full of black peppercorns to my stock.  In addition I like to add the stems of what ever herb I might be using in addition to several sprigs of parsley.  Each vegetable stock is individual and should be made based on what you have in the fridge.

Much has been made in the press over the debate on whether or not we will be able to feed to world in the future with such a rapidly growing population, usually as an excuse to support the large AG companies who see this as a way of having a strangle hold on all agricultural output and maximizing profit.  Now, what does this have to do with vegetable stock?  Well one of the thing that I notice at restaurants here in the city is how often chicken stock is used to make a soup that would otherwise be vegetarian.  Chicken stock is ubiquitous, but one h as to stop and ask oneself where do all those chickens come from and have we always cooked like this?

The first question is easy, they come from polluting, energy consuming, torture factories that also  poison the animals they "grow".  The answer to the second question I don't really know the answer to, but I would think it probably is a result of some french culinary tradition and was based on a culture where people had chickens on their farms or friends farms or bought them at a market where they were raised on farms and then after eating them they would make a stock with the left over bits and bones.
Next time you order soup that isn't chicken noodle ask the waiter if the soup is made with chicken stock.  Just reducing this one simple thing could make a difference, reduce the demand of large scale poultry factories, therein reducing pollution and the gross amount of chemicals used to sustain such an unsustainable way of producing meat.

By all means the next time you buy a chicken at the market make a nice stock and freeze some for later.  Otherwise a good vegetable stock can do just as much to adding flavor and depth to your soups and do it without the factory, pollution or expense.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cocktails

Last night I was out with my foodie friend David, we started the evening over dinner at chef John Fraser's What Happens When a temporary restaurant (in Nolita) that changes it's menu and decor every 30 days for 9 months.  The decor and menu we got last night was winter changing to spring.  The menu is a prix fix for $58.  I liked the deconstructed art project look of the place with pink bird houses sitting in and amongst this architectural crawling structural teal painted wood sculpture that went from floor to ceiling. There were also a couple of swings hanging from the "sculpture" that had little stuffed birds on moss....and next month it will be something totally different.  Fun and a reason to keep you going back.  The food was great, tender melt in your mouth shirt ribs on Cheddar polenta and a kick ass chocolate ganache and praline dessert.  My only compliant was that for $58 I would have thought I would have left full... I got home and was hungry and ended my evening eating corn chips out of the bag in front of my computer.

After dinner David asked me if I wanted to go for a night cap at a place on Essex street called
Painkiller.  I love any bar called Painkiller so I said sure!  Besides I was curious how I could miss a bar on a street I walk down daily and had never noticed.

Turns out the outside of the bar is rather confusing, it's at 40 Essex St just south of Grand, but there is no number out front and instead of having the name of the bar outside it has a rather tacky spray painted sign that just says Tiki Bar.  I had walked by before and thought it was some undesirable bridge and Tunnel place and never given it another thought.  Turns out it is an uber cool secret (well or not so secret at this point) subterranean bar.  Think 1950's polyensian tiki room on acid.  The menu is so extensive and funny that it could take an hour to make up your mind. Luckily the staff is very well informed and helpful. The first thing our waitress did was bring us two glasses of water and as she put them down she said something to the effect of: "you always have to have water to take with your pain killers".  Famous for their party sized cocktails like Scorpion Bowl or Zombie Punch  which can cost as much as $80 and serve 6 or more people, I opted out for a ginger drink called a Dark and Frosty.  Which was delicious!   I was very happy to see on their website that they list the recipe!

Dark & Frosty
2 oz. Gosling’s rum
1/2 oz. lime
3/4 oz. ginger.
1/2 oz. demerara syrup
Blend til smooth. Pour into Collins. Garnish with ginger candy.

Of course I wonder what they mean when they say  3/4 ginger....I'm guessing syrup and demerara syrup is just a simple syrup made with demerara sugar....

I'm not exactly what you would call a cocktail kind of guy,  I drink red wine, maybe on the rare occasion a beer (it's so fattening!) but never cocktails, yet on the last month or so I have been swept up in the mixologist frenzy that has swept NYC and have been to 3 bars that all do amazing things with booze bitter, syrups, ice and grated spice. In addition to Painkiller there is Mayahuel, which I love and have written about before.  Mayahuel is first and foremost a Mescal and Tequila bar.  If you don't want to drink it sip the high quality mescal beverages straight like I do there are many clever cocktails on offer. I had a beer cocktail called a michelada it was dangerously delicious and went perfectly with my organic Del Maguey mescal. 

Death and Company which is often sited as having one of the best mixologist in town has a bar that looks more like an old fashioned apothecary then anything else, bright chandelier light just in case someone might need to do an emergency autopsy and serious bartenders who the night I was there weren't so interested in friendly service, nonetheless the drinks rock and watching them make them is pure theater, I'd certainly go back and recommend it to anyone interested in mixology (and booze).

Now I need to take 2 Advil and lay down.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Foodies: The Series

What has the world come to...



Actually it's interesting that this should catch my eye the same day that I get an email from Food Declaration.org entitled:  Is Food Taking Over the Green Movement?  Which is their thoughts on the Time article: Foodies Can Eclipse (and save) The Green Movement.

I'm going to dinner at at What Happens When to contemplate this all over some fancy food, I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Double "D": Doughnut Plant and Dora Coffee

This is a Cortado my favorite new coffee drink that somehow even though I've one or two before it was a Barista at Dora Coffee who made me fall in love.  The first one I had was over ice, it was so good with a luscious caramel aftertaste, but now I drink it hot as well.  For those of you who aren't lucky enough to live near a serious coffee shop a Cortado is, according to CoffeeGeek. com is:
2 ounce espresso and 2 ounces of frothed milk served in a four ounce demi-tasse cup.  

And the visiting temporary Barista who made me this particular Cortado was horrified that I was taking a picture of it as she felt her "latte art" wasn't up to par, I think it's pretty and for me it's more about the taste, which was stupendous.  

Dora has a nice selection of sandwiches and sweets (peanut butter and Jelly on Balthazar brioche buns, yummy!)  but sometimes you just want a doughnut and with the best ones in town just around the corner I walked by this past Saturday with the idea of treating myself.

There is always a line up on the weekends, but this was an all time Doughnut Plant winner!  Someone in line said that the wait was 45 minutes!  You might want to think about going during the week when usually there is no line.  And don't forget that coffee and doughnuts make a great pairing!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jeffrey's Meat Market at The Essex Street Market Closes

I just read this over at the Lodownny.com, (which is a great site for news and information about the lower east side that you should for sure check out)  that Jeffrey's Meat Market  in the Essex Street Market has announced that after 75 years will be closing to "regroup".  Mostly, it seems like the problems is rent, but I know a lot of the vendors at the market are worried about their future as the market building is part of the SUPRA redevelopment project that wants to tear the market down and redevelop it into mixed use housing/retail space.  I for one think that all the market buildings should be revitalized, not torn down.  I think there are 4 original market buildings up and down Essex Street, only one of which is being used, the rest are empty.  Why not return them to there former glory and create a "Market Row" with an emphasis on locally made, artisanal foods and seasonal produce from farmers?  It would be like what the New Amsterdam Market people are trying to do in the Seaport (maybe they'd settle for Essex Street?).   The neighbor hood is desperate for a good place to shop and seeing as how Fine Fare (ironic name, eh?) has a 20 year lease on their dump on Clinton street so a good place to buy quality groceries that was closer then the Whole Foods on the Bowery would be a boon.

Anyway I digress, here is the letter Jeffrey sent out.  I wish I had know I would have gone buy and bought something, he sold Bo Bo Chickens and wonderful Hudson Valley Duck breasts....


I speak to my/our community.
I sent out a press release last week in a last ditch effort for help because I have run out of time and options.  Only one of my issues was rent.  The press release resulted in a barrage of responses directed toward EDC and I understand that the “landlord’ is an easy target.  In response to the press release EDC requested a meeting with me.  I expected to meet with their representative and expected to hear, “pay rent or get out”.  Instead, when I arrived to the meeting, I was met with the top four executives of EDC.  C’mon, really, I’m just a butcher, I don’t deserve this attention… Only after an hours long meeting did they bring up the issue of rent.  I found myself meeting with the community, not my landlord.  All they wanted to do was to find ways to help me. They represented you, the community, and they played their roll in helping me as your representative of the community.  I was astounded at their position.  I’m a black and white guy, if I can’t pay rent, I have to get out.  Instead, they gave me options to survive. I don’t really know how to define what happened to me in that meeting but I started to breath again.  While we worked out a plan to keep my rent the same, at this time I still must temporarily close, as we have other financial considerations that we must try to resolve.
This is my world; a week ago a lady came to my shop, drunk, and I knew that she needed food.  I went to the Pain D’Avignon bread store in the market and wanted to buy bread for her, in which the bread company gave me some bread for free to help my cause, I came back and made her a sandwich to fill her belly.  Moments later the next customer spent 45 dollars on some of my prime dry aged steaks to feed her family for dinner.  I don’t decide who gets what, I respond to the communities needs as they arise because if it were not for the community I wouldn’t be here.  I can say that the community feeds my soul as their butcher but in addition, is that the community fuels my existence.  What I know to be true is that we belong to each other and without the community, you, I don’t exist. Thank you for giving my family our life blood.
For many reasons, I regrettably closed the store today, temporally.  I need time to re-group, to tap into resources that can help keep this piece of antiquity alive. I’m in trouble and I’m going to rely on fate to decide the future of my store; my families history. It’s okay, I’ll continue to be who I am as a representative of the Ruhalter family.  I know you’re out there and thank you for being with me and my family for 75 years.
Because this may be may my final ado I offer this:
I walk with my eyes open and closed.
I take a breath.
Feel the past.
Touch my soul.
Feel tomorrow.
Lay my head.
I say a prayer.
That you are here.

Jeffrey Ruhalter
Jeffrey’s Meat Market

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tonight's Menu

Somehow tonight we're having a rather large group of friends over for dinner, this is great it's just not what was planned.  Originally it was just going to be three couples, then one half of one couple couldn't come and the other couple asked if they could invited some friends so Neil and I thought: Well why not invite...and then once the flood gates were open, well now 14 people are coming.  Which I love!  I made a huge pot of Ribollita a tradtional Italian soup/stew made with beans (Borlotti in this instance), Kale and served with lots of bread and grated Parmesan cheese.  It's what I call a larder dinner, as it is mostly made with things I had in my pantry, the dried beans being the inspiration.

More pictures and recipes to come, but now I have to get back to cooking!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tim De Christopher

This guy is my hero.  How an act of civil disobedience can get you a jail sentence of up to 10 years is mind boggling to me.   Check out the back story of this brave, smart, articulate climate activist here and here

Then watch the video and be in awe of this guys calm and strength as he faces serious jail time for clogging up the gears of an auction that was later found to be illegal by the Obama administration, here's the summary from Grist:

As a busy graduate economics student at the University of Utah, DeChristopher hadn’t planned what he was going to do that day when he arrived directly after a class. The auctioneers asked if he would like to be a bidder. Thinking on his feet, he said, “Yes, I would.”

Handed bidder paddle number 70, DeChristopher began bidding as soon as the auction opened. He bought more than a dozen parcels and drove up the prices of others before being stopped by a federal agent. His “purchase” totaled 22,500 acres, and effectively put a halt to the 11th-hour leases and subsequent drilling.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

9 Billion Mouths to Feed

The Economist has a special report looking at how ready are we to deal with feeding the 9 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2050.  It's a big agriculture versus traditional farming methods article focusing on how to mass produce food. It touches on a lot of issues, but because it is such a short piece doesn't go into the environmental devastation and cost of industrial agriculture or really even looks at what the alternatives might be.  The author John Parker's mind is made up from the start.  Admittedly it's a very complicated issue so even though I'm not convinced that the forgone conclusion is GMO seeds, pesticides and large factory farms are the only way to go, it is not surprising that a business magazine is siding with business on an article such as this. Nonetheless I found it to be an interesting read.

Here are a few interesting bits:

For years some of the most popular television programmes in English-speaking countries have been cooking shows. That may point to a healthy interest in food, but then again it may not. The historian Livy thought the Roman empire started to decay when cooks acquired celebrity status.

Food is probably the biggest single influence on people’s health, though in radically different ways in poor countries and in rich ones, where the big problem now is obesity. Food is also one of the few pleasures available to the poorest. In the favelas (slums) of São Paulo, the largest city in South America, takeaway pizza parlours are proliferating because many families, who often do not have proper kitchens, now order a pizza at home to celebrate special occasions. 


and the predictable conclusion:


This special report concentrates on the problems of feeding the 9 billion. It therefore gives greater weight to the first group. It argues that many of their claims are justified: feeding the world in 2050 will be hard, and business as usual will not do it. The report looks at ways to boost yields of the main crops, considers the constraints of land and water and the use of fertiliser and pesticide, assesses biofuel policies, explains why technology matters so much and examines the impact of recent price rises. It points out that although the concerns of the critics of modern agriculture may be understandable, the reaction against intensive farming is a luxury of the rich. Traditional and organic farming could feed Europeans and Americans well. It cannot feed the world.

The Future of Fish

 My friend Kurt who lives in San Francisco sent me this article from the aptly named San Francisco Magazine.  The opening paragraph sums it all up:

The Bay Area’s smartest diners, chefs, and purveyors now know (and care) where every cut of grass-fed beef and stalk of pesticide-free produce comes from. Yet nearly all look the other way when fish is on the plate. What will it take to stop the eco-fibbing?


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