Monthly Archives: March 2011

Great American Bake Sale to benefit Food Bank for New York at Grand Central Terminal

This afternoon I had to run an errand in the area around Grand Central Terminal.  How convenient, I thought, now, I can find an excuse to check out Share Our Strength‘s Great American Bake Sale taking place today to benefit the Food Bank for New York.  I checked out on their Facebook page just before watching the evening news, and the GCT folks announced 50 minutes ago that the bake sale, which was supposed to go on until 7:00 p.m. tonight, was all sold out and had shut down.  I managed to get over there around 1:30 p.m. and at least two places had already been wiped out with several other vendors not far behind.  What a great result for a fundraiser for such a worthy cause.  Hopefully, our sweet tooths (teeth?) will assist many families to put food on the table, especially during these tough times.

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A-Brisket A-Brasket at Jimmy’s No. 43 for New Amsterdam Market

Ah, what to do on a gorgeous, sunny, crisp early spring Saturday in New York City?  Head to the East Village to a food-related fundraiser, of course.  Yesterday at Jimmy’s No. 43, Jimmy Carbone hosted a Brisket Cook-off, the proceeds of which went to support the New Amsterdam Market.  Several local chefs came together along with some other special guests to show what they could do with this cut of meat.

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Product Spotlight – Lush Candy

What I really enjoy about exploring the local food scene in New York (or really anywhere) is that I get to meet people who are passionate and dedicated to the craft of creating fine products and discover our common interests.  This happened when I sat down over coffee to talk to Laurie Freeman Pauker the creator and founder of Lush Candy.  The first time I had the chance to try her beautiful-looking and delicious English Toffee was at the Food52 Piglet Party last December.  From that initial buttery-sweet, crunchy bite, I knew that this was something special.  I’ve since found out that I’m only one among many of her fans.

I’ve started making my own toffee for the holiday season ever since I dusted off a recipe that I found in my mother’s card file so I can appreciate what goes into making this product.  It’s not only about the love of eating sweets, but also about the craft of working with all the finicky ingredients that go into making every piece.  Boiling hot sugar and melted butter has to be timed to the exact moment when it needs to come off of the heat.  The molten liquid has to be poured out quickly enough to have it mold and set into the forms, or cut to size, before it hardens and is impossible to re-shape.  After waiting patiently for that to cool, the perfectly-shaped morsels are coated in chocolate and (possibly) rolled in chopped nuts to create each delicate confection.

As we chatted about our respective candy-making exploits, I became more and more appreciative of what goes into these creations.  Laurie grew up baking and started out making her toffees from home, using her family as her test kitchen (where they got to eat her imperfect batches).  We talked about the learning curve for getting the toffees to the point of being able to bring them to market.  There was figuring how to read the stages of the candy itself as it heats up and gets to the level of becoming toffee as well as adjusting for variations in heat and ingredient quality.  Then, there was also learning about how to temper chocolate and the process for dipping the candies to achieve just the right layer of covering.  As she said, and I completely relate, “Being compulsive [about these things] helps.”

This dedication led her to take courses to understand better how all these culinary and chemical aspects come together to create something wonderful to eat.  She also took part in the FastTrac entrepreneurship program to understand more about the business aspects of bringing her product to market, which is where our backgrounds overlap.  If you go to her website, you’ll find out where you can buy several of the varieties that she offers.  Her packaging and design have clear and simple lines which belies all the work that goes into each of these decadent treats yet makes them perfect thing to offer to guests with their after-dinner coffee.  I’m going to try to track down the white chocolate and pistachio variety, as I didn’t get to try that one at the party, but I can’t promise that I’ll share any of them with you.

Buon appetito!


There will be an upcoming giveaway featuring this product.  Please check back on this website in a few weeks for details.

The Food Cranks

This weekend I spent time with a significant portion of my family to celebrate a batch of birthdays. Not surprisingly, we talked about food many times over. We discussed what to do about feeding the little kids among us and how to handle the different meals we’d all be eating together. Given that it is also Lent, some of us had other dietary restrictions to consider as well in the menu planning. Along the lines of that latter topic and fasting for religious reasons, we segued into talking about The Food Cranks.

Just what are these, you ask? Well, as someone who is notorious for having them, I should warn you that they aren’t very pleasant. My sister who is an EMT defined it as not just about being hungry. It’s more like getting to the point of needing to eat where your blood sugar has started on the swift decline towards crashing and you become very irritable and, well, really, really cranky. You reach the stage where you’ll snap at everything and everyone for no rational reason until you can get some food and raise your blood sugar back up to normal operating levels. For me, this also happens if I have to wander around from place to place to find something to eat, if what I really want isn’t available and I really need to have a meal at that very moment.

Since we were dealing with a lot of little ones this past weekend, feeding them before the Cranks set in and Meltdown became imminent was very important so our meals revolved around their little tummies. As my other sister pointed out, however, I am also one of the folks’ whose natural constitution needed to be factored into that equation. This came back to me when I was traveling last month. With my internal time clock out of sync, I had to be very careful to make sure that I was heading towards food when the first sign of being hungry appeared. This didn’t always work out so well, but I managed not to have too many problems. It had been a while since I’d really had to consider the Cranks and their impact on my personality.

One of my sisters used to phrase it like this when we traveled together or were on a family roadtrip. The minute I made the tiniest comment about kind of getting a bit peckish or saying, “I could kind of go for something to eat in a little bit,” she’d holler out, “We need to find something right now for lunch/dinner/snack!” She never wanted to tempt the Cranks out of hiding. All of my siblings seemed to agree with her on this. (Nothing like having four of your five siblings agree, “Yeah, you do get really, really cranky when you need to eat something.”) I didn’t realize that they had such a reputation.

I’ve tried to be better over the years about making sure I listen to my body to know the signs and that I carry snacks with me. Unfortunately, sometimes I just forget, and with the amount of running around I do during my day going from meeting to meeting, there are times when I just don’t realize how long it has been since I last had a meal until it is almost too late to short-circuit the process. Other times, there’s just nothing that I want to eat or nothing suitable to eat at the time I need to put some proper nourishment into my body. A street-cart pretzel doesn’t really cut it. So, I do apologize in advance if you end up meeting the Food Cranks on my behalf. They don’t really mean to be so irritable; they just can’t help it. They’re kind of hungry right now.

Buon appetito!

Edible Manhattan Celebrates the Meat Issue

Instead of crowding into some random local pub to raise a pint in honor of being Irish, last night I joined several hundred other people atOpenhouse Gallery (also the location of Park Here) at 201 Mulberry Street tocelebrate Edible Manhattan’s Good Meat Issue.  What better way to use up my special dispensation for Lent,having given up eating meat this year, to indulge in some quaffable New YorkState beverages and delicious small plates made with locally-raised meats.  I was not disappointed at all with thisdecision.

As guests walked into the space, we were greeted by a trayof crostini with pork rillettes topped with pickled vegetables courtesy of Northern Spy Food Co. The crispy bread with therich, smooth rillettes was balanced by the crunchy and anise-flavoredcelery.  A few of these would bethe perfect way to start off any cocktail party.
At the next table was a selection of Aged Raw Milk CheddarCheese and Grilled Summer Sausage from Organic Valley, representing a cooperative of farmers who bring these products to market.  It was interesting to try these here atthis gathering with more sophisticated dishes ahead of me.  The creamy, tang of the cheese andsmokiness of the meat, however, would be great additions to a summer barbecue snack tray.
The 2009 First Crush Red and 2008 Taste Red from Bedell Cellars each had different flavor profiles but would make great pairings withthe night’s dishes.  Both of thewines are aged in stainless steel, not oak, giving them a lighter feel thanmore robust barrel-aged vintages. While I found the 2009 wine to be very light and what I would call agood all-around table wine, suitable for everything from the shepherd’s pie(below) to the cheese and sausage, my real favorite was the 2008 which had adeep, luscious, ripe berry/cherry/plum fruit aroma and a bigger flavor profileto it.
I decided to skip the drinks selections at this stage tohead for some more of the food before the crowds started to arrive.  I headed straight to the back of theroom to check out the Shepherd’s Pie from The Cleaver Co & The Green Table,which has a wonderful restaurant at Chelsea Market.  This was probably my favorite plate of the evening.  Using beef from Grazin’ Angus Acres,the base of the pie was deeply flavorful and meaty, studded with carrots andpeas, and topped with a perfectly-browned crust of buttery mashedpotatoes.  This is definitely not the shepherd’s pie that you dowse with HP Sauce or ketchup!  Leave it be and enjoy all the hearty tastes of the meat and veg mixed together (although an English ex-boyfriend of mine would dispute the inclusion of the peas and carrots).

 

Fortunately, to wash it down, these folks had their tableright next to Kelso of Brooklyn.  Their NutBrown Ale, which I was told came out of the fermenter yesterday, had a clean,crisp finish that was definitely food-friendly.  It would also havegone superbly with the Fresh Roasted Ham Legs served on wheat bread with adollop of My Friend’s Mustard cut with a little crème fraîche as served up byJimmy’s No. 43.  The subtle flavorof the ham received a wallop of spice and heat from the mustard.  With a sip of Kelso’s ale, it was aperfect party bite.
Print also served meat from Grazin’ Angus Acres.  The Braised Short Ribs were served in anest of creamy potato purée topped with cubes of cooked vegetables andsprinkled with gremolata, which provided a citrusy backnote that livened up thedish.  I enjoyed the tender,melting, pull-apart meat, however, I agreed with the remark I overheard that itneeded a bit more depth of flavor to it.
Another great match for Kelso’s was the charcuterie andpickle display by Cookshop and Hundred Acres.  I selected a spoonful of the rillettes and a slice of patéto have along with a spoonful of quince paste, the grainy mustard, and thesmooth mustard.  Putting some ofeach of the meats and accompaniments on each of the crispbread and soft oliveoil rolls that were also with the display.  The sweet quince pastewent equally well with either of the meats, but I could see it being a greatmatch for the cheddar cheese, too. The mustards were tasty, but I really liked the punch of the mustardthat was at the Jimmy’s table.

 

Off in the side room were the folks from Fatty ‘Cue whobrought with them a hearty, rich lamb rib dressed with a lemon-garlicemulsion.  The outside fat wascrispy and the meaty interior was so delicious I saw folks licking theirfingers and eating clean down to the bone.  This is complete proof that well-done dishes need only thesimplest of adornment.

Another of my favorite bites from the evening has to havebeen the Sweet Italian Pork Sausage from Fleisher’s Grass-fed and Organic Meats.  Whatever it is in the spices or the meat for these, theycreate a juicy, flavorful sausage which would be perfect in many a pasta dish.  It went well with the Sweet TomatoChutney with Black Mustard from DP Chutney Collective that was served alongsideof it.  The Rockin’ Moroccan LambSausage had some heat to it but that was diminished when paired with DP ChutneyCollective’s Apple Chutney.  Again,I could have taken some of that chutney and put it quite well with some of theother pork dishes I had last night.

 

I’m not really a whisky or bourbon drinker.  When I put it to the person serving theselections from Tuthilltown Spirits Hudson Whisky, he suggested that I try their vodkasinstead.  Made from New York State apples,the triple distilled vodka reminded me quite a bit of a grappa with itspowerful, fire-water style finish and its clean taste.  The double-distilled had more of aliqueur feel to it with hints of the fruit still coming through with each sip.
To wrap up my dining, I headed back to the Cookshop tablefor a cookie.  This was not justany cookie, though.  TheChocolate-Chip-Bacon cookie was perfectly baked with a soft, chewy interior anda crispy outer ring.  Deep, darkchocolate chunks and smoky, salty bacon bits made it all more delicious.  There’s a trend in chocolate chipcookies to sprinkle them with salt to bring out more flavor.  This combination amps that upconsiderably.
Aside from all the wonderful food and drink, part of thisevent was also dedicated to the means of production of quality meats.  The Piggery had a sausage makingdemonstration.  (The blur in thephoto is where he is describingthe grinding process.)  They run aFresh Pork & Charcuterie CSA using the meat from the pigs that they raise themselves.  It looks amazing, but a share isprobably more meat than I can handle. The Fleisher’s folks also deliver meat to Manhattan, so that could beanother option for me to check out.
There was also information on what the “Animal Welfare Approved” label means.  I’ve had acouple of conversations recently where we tossed around all the appropriateresponsible eating designations. All of them are good, but it’s hard to figure out which one is the mostcorrect when it comes to making a choice when you are standing in front of themeat counter.  This is an auditprogram that gives a USDA-approved label to farms who follow certain humane,environmentally responsible, and safe methods to rear livestock and poultry.  Please see their website for more informationand for how you can look for this label.
This event was a great way to celebrate the wonderful work thatthe New York State farms that produce good meat for us to eat.  It was nice to be able to try so manyvaried plates that used different cuts and products.  Paired with wines, spirits, and beer also from the region,this gathering showcased the bounty of this part of the country and just howspoiled we all are for choice by living in it.  I’m hoping Edible Manhattan plans to have many more of thesein the future.
Buon appetito!

We Have a Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook Giveaway Winner!!!

 
Congratulations to Amp whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!! Thank you, too, to those folks who participated in this giveaway.  
 
I’m glad that everyone fell in love with the photos of these delicious cupcakes.  To answer a few posts, no, unfortunately, I did not get to try the Nutella ones.  They had been the cupcake of the day a couple of days before my visit.  Now I know that I just need to time my sweets breaks a bit better on my next visit!
 
I have some more great giveaways coming up around the Easter holiday and a fantastic one for the Royal Wedding.  Please check back here again to enter those contests.
 
Buon appetito!