Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Farming a Wedding part 4: The Chefs

On a cool and sunny saturday morning in February, Karina and I drove up the Taconic to the little town of Clinton Corners, NY.  We were on the way to visit with Don Lewis at the Wild Hive Bakery.  We hoped don could provide us with milled grains, such as corn, wheat, lentils, and the like.  We also wanted to try his cheesecake, and other deserts he has been tinkering with.  

Clinton Corners is really just one corner, with a general store and then the Wild Hive Bakery just down the road.  There are signs for several farms near by.  The town has a very front-porch rural feel to it.
Don's large store/bakery/restaurant is very pleasant, with tables scattered around for in house diners, a large display of grains, and a few refrigerators with food wares from other local producers.  
We found out fairly quickly that Don is a very able and active business man, miller, food producer, but perhaps less accomplished a baker.  His cheesecake was sour and somewhat bland, with a nice texture, but little else to recommend it.  The fruit preserve (made by another local producer) on top was the saving grace of the desert.  But his grains and milled flours were beautiful.  We took a few different kinds home to try.  The cornmeal for polenta was especially good.  
This was a useful visit, as we discovered fairly quickly two important menu factors:  1.  we want his grains!  2.  we don't want his deserts!  All this became academic later on in the afternoon when we began our second meeting of the day, this with Jim and Anthony, our Mohonk chefs.  

The evening before we sat in the living room of Karina's parents house, drinking wine and talking about the wedding.  Her parents suggested we tell the wedding planner that we want to have the most expensive package (complete with Ice Sculpture).  Their thinking was that if we chose the expensive grand buffet then the planners would be more amenable to our (wild and unreasonable) demands for local and beyond organic foods.  
Karina and I, as we have become quite used to doing, took all suggestions in stride and found ways to stick to the original plan.  But a seed was planted in our minds, that maybe the Mohonk people would not be willing to do what we asked for.  Maybe they would not want to work outside of their normal distribution channels.  Perhaps they don't care about local ingredients, but want to work with all the exotic foods available to the modern chef.

With these doubts in mind, we drove up the cliff-clinging road to the Mohonk mountain house. 
Our meeting with the Chefs and mohonk's planner began promptly.  Jim and Anthony came in and almost immediately set our minds at ease.  They were well prepared, having contacted most of our farmers and producers in the week leading up to the meeting.  They knew our plan and were very excited about it.  
Jim said they had never created a menu that was geographically this narrowly guided, and was obviously on board with the concept of paying homage to the land of Mohonk, so to speak.  
Anthony tried to ingratiate himself with suggestions that were quite good for small dishes and some great sounding dessert ideas.  Christina seemed a bit confused by it all, as she tried several times to get us to say exactly which items in the sample menu we wanted to use.  She didn't quite understand that we didn't really want anything from the sample.  Our chefs were with us, talking about creating a menu that tied together the elements of the local foods that were most important, and presenting it in a way that cries out to the glorious bounty of the land.  

Chefs love this shit.  Who knew?  They want to be challenged and excited by food, and too often in a place like mohonk, they are asked just to do the same old thing.  These guys are as enthusiastic as we are.  I was sitting there thinking how stupid we would have been to ask for the big buffet, trying to make allies of those that had already joined our side.  Karina and I left mohonk tired and very happy.  

Though that could all change when we find out just how much extra they want to charge us!

Monday, March 2, 2009

A thought

Carla fucked it up good.  Josea is a lucky bastard.  and, as it turns out, Stefan has no soul at all!  

All in all it was an entertaining season of Top Chef.  Jaime was robbed though, that girl should've been challenging for the top instead of Josea or Stefan.  

Oh Mokey...I mean carla.  


Karina and I just finished a move to the neighborhood of Ditmas Park.  Needless to say I have been exhausted for a few weeks.  But, there will be more on the wedding front, so stay tuned.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Top Chef live blogging fail.

Karina didn't let me twitter the episode.  she's mean.  but the above photo should give you an idea of who I think will win TOP CHEF this season.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I have been harboring doubt about plastic bottles and containers for a good while now.  I didn't really know if they were to be avoided, but I could not get away from the feeling that they should be avoided.  

Today I read a review of a University of Rochester Study that at the very least casts plastic, or more specifically Bisphenol-A, a chemical used in plastic hardening in a disparaging light.  

It turns out that the chemical stays in our bodies far longer then first imagined.  BPA in the body is not decisively understood, but there is some association with higher levels of heart disease and diabetes, as well as birth defects.  The Rochester study has shown that either a) we are ingesting BPA from other sources, such as air or water, and/or b) there is BPA in our food (plastic containers being the source).  

On this one, I would err on the side of caution.  It may be time to switch to ceramic water jugs people.


I have been out of it for the past week.  Had papers to write and some other shit.  I will be back tonight for top chef, and at the suggestion of a friend, I have decided to twitter it.  So tune in and watch the side bar for my almost completely useless commentary on tonight's episode...

Karina was saying last week that I am too snarky about the show.  So tonight I am going to make an attempt to be nice and complimentary.  I will submit myself to the food porn and get off happily.  

doesn't that get you excited?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

that was fun

for me...tune in next week!  


wrong choice.

I call Leah

i hope, Jaime is cute.

Is this the top 3?

Fabio has to keep his shit together.  but if Jaime survives...

the minutes in between.

I hate commercials.  Although seeing Tyra go into a conniption is priceless.


jaime better get it right, then josea goes home.


what a kook, i'm starting to like her.  bad news for josea.


european boys are both safe.


not so much.



Spoilers for nobody

this is fun.

Lucky Bastards

Le Bernardin...i don't think I will ever be able to afford that joint.

Just look at the menu...or go eat there, for $135/person.  ($220 with pairing)

Karina is gagging

she stopped watching the fish guts get peeled.

this is gross

but i love sardines.

goodbye douche

So Jeff got the BOOT. Happy day. Here comes the new one.

top chopping ***SPOILERS ABOVE***

So, I have been out of it for several days. I thought I would make up for it by live-blogging tonight's new episode. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lard FTW!!! (really this time)

A friend asked me about recipes for Lard or rendered Fat (pretty much the same damn thing!)

So I did a cursory search on and came up with these recipes. There are soups, tamales, biscuits, all looks delicious.

Happy frying!

High Fructose Corn Syrup FTW!!!

A new study published by the Environmental Journal has examined a small sample group of HFCS (20 samples). Guess what they found?

Mercury.  In 9 samples.  

And that is not the only study to find mercury, webmd already picked up another study.  Read all about it here.  In it they found mercury in 17 of 55 samples.  Neither study is statistically significant, larger samples need to be studied.  But both suggest that these larger and more efficacious studies are necessary.  

Why oh why is there mercury in HFCS?  I have not yet read the full paper but the gist is that the mercury could have come from the process of converting corn syrup to HFCS, which involves bathing the syrup in mercury.  Perhaps they are on to something?

Not necessarily, says the industry organization Chlorine Institute, "It is conceivable that measurable mercury content can be found in high fructose corn syrup regardless of how it is processed."

The salt war.

What is wrong with Salt?  This question is not answerable at the moment with a definitive.  The current research shows that those with hypertension react poorly to too much sodium.  But not all of them.  It is statistically significant to be a risk factor for Heart Disease, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, but again, only in some cases of hypertension.

For the non-hypertensive population we really don't have evidence to suggest that sodium is "bad" for us.
There are different kinds of salt.  Your standard refined table salt is 99% NaCl.  Iodized salt includes some iodide to decrease the incidence of iodine deficiency.   Lastly, Sea Salt will usually contain small amounts of iodine, magnesium and calcium, depending upon region and source, these amounts will vary widely.  

In preparing food for health and taste, I use and highly recommend sea salt.  There are a million kinds out there, and I urge you to find your own preference, mostly because I am too lazy to filter through them all.  

The benefits to health are unlikely to find any strong support in a clinical setting, but my assertion would be that a diet with the extra (even small amounts of) minerals in the salt is beneficial.  The difference in taste is also a matter of opinion and not clinically testable, but I assert also that the taste of sea salt is far superior.

But where do we get most of our salt?  It's definitely not from home cooking.  No, most salt in average diets comes from processed foods.  I will not belabor this point, as the NYtimes already did:

Throwing the book at salt,  from yesterday's times.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Render THIS!

My sister in law sent me a link on how to render bacon fat and it is so easy my 3 year old nephew could do it! Well...

Lard is the most natural and healthy frying substance out there. When you use lard you are adding anti-oxidants to the finished product. When using an unsaturated fat (like canola or some other vegetable oil) the higher free-radical content will cause oxidation.

Simple explanation:

Anti-oxidants = good
Oxidation = bad

So, all you bacon lovers - just pour the fat through a paper towel, and refrigerate the finished product!

Cook, pour, repeat.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Where have all the seasons gone?

Getting back on seasonal eating is an effort in strange delusional anachronism. Ignore the tomatoes in aisle 3 please, they are not in season, and they taste like shit, just pretend they do not exist.

For thousands of years we have eaten seasonal foods with little or no difficulty. If I were born 100 years ago I could tell you when you would be able to eat any number of fruits, legumes, tubers, and meats, without a second thought. In modern times we live in ignorance of the pathways of agriculture. We also have the stupid habit of eating foods when they are out of season, an odd habit, as they taste hideous by comparison.

Onward, enough are some seasonal veggies for january and february:

Brussels sprouts
Greens (cooking)
Sweet Potatoes
Winter Squash

Also, the BBC has a nice seasonal eating page: Check it here 
Eat Seasonal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Slow days

I discovered the NYC tow pound today. Joy of Joys. Top Chef was a little surprising, and a little dull. Watching them run around Restaurant Depot only one week after the Stone Barns episode was a bit trying. I won't spoil anything...but this season is turning out to be pretty low on quality. The Judges are consistently choosing not who is best, but who is less bad. My feeling is that it will come down to Jaime and Stefan. Fabio has turned out to be kind of a shitty cook. Jeff, well I dealt with him last week. Josea is a space cadet. His not-girlfriend will be out soon enough. Carla can't cook anything but desserts and she couldn't cook desserts this week. and then there's radhika...


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the other america

I was listening to Hannity on the radio yesterday and a caller was insisting that "Snoop Dog will be in the White House every day".

I can't make this stuff up.

back to real content soon!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday is (now) recycling day

I am going to trip over my repetition on this topic, but it is so vital to our health, ecology and agricultural system. The it I am referring to? Grass-Fed Beef.

Here is an overview from October of last year:

Pasture Meat

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Road Trip day

We are off to Providence, RI today, so I will not be posting anything new. I used the Eat Well Guide trip planner to find a few restaurants and stores we can go to along the way.  It is a great application, and i can leave today confident that I won't be eating microwaved sandwiches at a rest stop, or freak show S'Barro's off 95 in the middle of RI.  

Be Well.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

First Slice

I am no New Yorker. Despite what I was telling you when you asked where I was from, pointing to the ground directly under my lying heart and saying “From Here”, I am no New Yorker. I grew up in Rockville Center. A bustling Long Island town far enough away that ‘going into the City’ was an event, but close enough to eat and breath (eat, most importantly) the many offerings of the City.
But we (my brother and I) knew, even as my parents’ stack of New Yorkers piled up. Even after hearing the dimly lit stories of the Health Department in 1969, the City College Takeover, Janis Joplin at the Tennis Center, driving a cab in Manhattan, Music and Art, Bronx Science, Hasidic thugs, and Luncheonettes in the South Bronx, Or the nearly floodlit stories of walking down Flatbush Avenue (Pop) or the Grand Concourse (Mom) in the fifties. We could feel it, my parents most inspiringly were New Yorkers. My Brother and I? We knew we were not and would never be the same as our cosmopolitan parents.
My Brother, a scant year older than I, received the brunt of the post-Brooklyn masculinity training my father doled out on a daily basis. “If you did that in Brooklyn…” would follow if we were to say, covet the wrong color Converse All-Star, give up in a wrestling match, mention Walter O’Malley’s name, or generally look or act un-manly, which one or the other of us was inevitably doing at just about every moment. Growing up in fear of getting beat up by every half-cocked Lord of Flatbush if we so much as set napkin to the greasy surface of a slice of pizza, we developed a hyper sense of New Yorker-ness. This Training had rules, and if we followed them well enough we would feel good, be Somebody. Roughly broken into satisfying and easily devoured extremes, they follow:
• Never look up at the buildings.
• Never make eye to eye contact with pedestrians.
• Never walk slowly.
• Never say “Excuse me”.
• Never Change trajectory for oncoming pedestrians.
• Never apologize.
• Always J-walk.
• Always know where you are going.
• Always know what you are going to say.
• Always know what you are going to order at a takeout counter.
• Always fold your pizza in half before eating.

We knew how to act, and we were going to show it off to every ill-prepared spoiled sub-urban or semi-rural slob who had the misfortune of accompanying us to the City on a weekend jaunt. Quietly scoffing at the wallet hanging out of the back pocket, the twenty dollar bill casually slipped between the third and fourth fingers positively begging to be swiped, waiting at a stop light when there were no oncoming cars, giving money to beggars (remember when we had them here in NYC, before Guiliani relocated them?). Falling for the gimmick, the quickie, the scam, the three card monty game, There was always someone to smirk at. My brother and I had practiced knowing wise-guy smiles by age 9 and 10 respectively. We had our own version of a Brooklyn Queens turn-it-on-at-will accent and we were newfound Lords. Yes, we were Lords.

The Pizza chapters

About 6 years ago I entertained the idea of writing a book about New York style Pizza.  As I began writing it turned into somewhat of a narrative about being a New Yorker, getting around the city, and eating the city's pleasure, namely Pizza.  

I didn't get very far.  But I have retained a great love of Pizza, and I am always on the lookout for a new or old pizza place of high quality.  Anyway, I thought I would put some of those old writings up, hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Top Shitheal

No, I didn't do this just to put up a picture of smokin' hot Padma.  
I love Top Chef, what could be better then food porn and elimination TV?  This season has been a bit strange. The producers are getting more manipulative (they left a fridge open in one episode to see how the chefs would react, and the t-giving and christmas in july was just dumb) and the cast is strangely ambivalent.  But it is here in New York, which is fun.  I liked the first episode when they had to go to small markets in ethnic neighborhoods for their product.  Of course the show quickly degenerated into Whole (shit) Foods shopping and product placement (Sequoias, Gladware, GE appliances, etc etc etc).

So I was excited last night when they drove the pampered little brats out to Stone Barns.   First off, Stone barns is a first rate farm with incredible educational and outreach programs.  They practice Management intensive grazing which we got to see in the episode - when the Lamb team was moving wire fences around and the lambs were scampering to fresh new pasture; and (did you notice?) the chickens in their chicken mobile (which allows the chickens to follow the sheep in organized fashion).  They primarily serve the two Blue Hill Restaurants that are directly associated with the farm.   

So the cast shows up at Stone Barns and everybody starts whining about not being able to go to Whole Foods, and how their menu ideas are shot, particularly douchebag Jeff.  (and I can hear Ian Mckellen quietly muttering "Pearls before swine")

But they adjusted and seemed to get excited that they could go (every chef's dream?) directly from farm to table for once in their lives.  

but there has been a recurrent problem this season...the chef's kind of suck.  Fabio, the drippingly italian, yet California based chef shockingly smothers his ravioli in pesto, Radhika wanders around waiting for a truck to drive right through the middle of her left eye, and Ariane, what a train wreck.  I mean, we knew she was a train wreck already, but for fuck's sake woman, you are given a freshly slaughtered beautiful baby lamb and you turn it into a sorry excuse for "Mutton" (i think that was colicchio who said it).  Thank god for Toby Young who is so fantastically mean to the chefs that he makes it all bearable.  

Now I don't know much about cooking, but I know lamb.  And I learned the hard way a few weeks ago, that cooking a boneless leg is a horror show.  it doesn't cook evenly, temperature readings are impossible, and if tied improperly, looks as if a wild boar tore into it, briefly.  But throw a bone-in leg into the oven and an hour or so later you have beauty on a stick.
So I am screaming at the TV when ariane is boning the legs!  Then, she slathers the insides with a paste of herbs (what is wrong with americans and lamb??), and ties it all into a lumpy morass.

Then there's Jeff.  Oh Jeff, you are a douche, yes you are.  He proves he is almost as dumb as Ariane, when he slices out the best tasting fat off the pork loin.  Later, staring at the judges he gives a little self-important nod when Colicchio calls out his fried green tomatoes as "saving" their dish.  What a douchetastic douche-a-lot.  I hope this guy gets booted soon.  

But that raises the question, should any of these champions of mediocrity stay?  I kind of like Jaimie, but her affinity for Scallops makes me feel awkward, and Stefan is a good chef it seems, but he is also an asshole.  I liked the filipino dude, but that was only out of partisanship, as my fiancé is filipino.  I guess as long as Toby Young is ripping the little bastards to shreds then I am happy...

Watch Well.

About the books

A friend told me about the Amazon affiliate link-up that you can see on the right.  I chose the books to be viewed.  They are:

Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
Everything I want to do is Illegal, by Joel Salatin
Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan (at the bottom)

Pollan is well known, particularly in the subway reading circuit here in NYC.  It is likely that looking up on any given weekday morning someone will be reading Omnivore's Dilemma, or In Defense of Food.  He is a fine writer, and one who really has a grasp of the food system.  I think the corn and grass sections should be required reading in secondary school health classes!

Joel Salatin is a guru farmer who was introduced to most of us by Michael Pollan.  He runs a farm in western Virginia that specializes in "Salad Bar" Beef and Poultry.  He is the champion of Management intensive grazing, a process by which animals are grazed over larger areas in particular configurations (poultry follows ruminants, etc).  It is a boon to the land, the health of the animals and lastly, our palettes, as the meats are healthier and better tasting.

Gary Taubes has written a tour de force in Good Calories, Bad Calories.  It is a resounding thumping of the prevailing theories of cholesterol and health.  The bottom line?  White sugar and white flour are far more dangerous then Fat and foods high in cholesterol.  But don't tell the AHA that!

Read well.


I knew the folks at Eat Well Guide were cool, but now they've outdone themselves.  With google's maps application they created a travel map of local and sustainable foods for road trips.  I plugged in Brooklyn to Providence (a small trip Karina and I are taking this weekend) and got literally hundreds of listings on the interactive map.  That means no more Roy's and McDonald's, no more shitty pancake houses and Cracker Barrels, we might still go to the Awful house when in the south, but only because it is funny to say awful house. 

Travel Well.


I will add in some useful things like the widget to the right, from the terrific website Eat Well Guide.  Just put in a keyword and you will get a cool list of sources for food.  I entered "brooklyn" and I got a list of 2 bakers, 2 coops, 2 csa's, 2 educational organizations, 14 Farmer's Markets, 25 Restaurants, and loads more.  Check it out!


I assume my few devoted readers have noticed the changes to the page.  I am experimenting with ads and book recommendations, all in an effort to "grow" this blog into a potential source of income.  The best part about it is that it won't cost you (the reader) anything at all.  So if you like the blog, please just keep reading!

And, if you are feeling itchy, click on the ads, or go to amazon and look around.  Better yet, tell a friend to stop by, cause I will be here stoking the fire and pitching new posts as often as I can.

Be Well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The best ice cream on the planet

One thing I neglected to mention in the Buttermilk Channel post was the ice cream they serve. Blue Marble ice cream is a new brooklyn based pair of shops (one on Atlantic in boerum hill, the other on Underhill in prospect heights).  They use grass-fed cow's milk for the ice creams, fair trade coffee, tea and chocolates, and they even have little kids corners for children to play in while their parents put away some serious sweet cream.

Buttermilk Channel will make you a mean rootbeer float with some blue marble if you are not in the mood for regular beer.

Cream well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Right around the corner...

It is dangerous to have a restaurant close to one's home.  We have several.  As Karina and I have talked about cutting out of Brooklyn, we often run into some troubled moments.  She inevitably mentions the restaurants we won't be able to go to anymore, and how she likes to be able to do that!  I tell her we will likely go out less and less as we (grow up) get married, have kids, etc.  

I think it will be ok, we will move up into the mountains of northern New England, have some kids, do some (very) small scale farming, and be very, very happy.  But Buttermilk Channel isn't going to make that transition any easier.

On the corner of our block, around september, construction began on the storefront vacated by Cafe Scaramouche in mid '07.  On several occasions the grinding of the jackhammer at 8AM was a foil to my attempts at sleep.  We lost parking spots and gained new sidewalk; all the while with growing anticipation.  Anytime a store opens curiosity and excitement are stoked.  

The boards came down and windows went up, allowing us covetous glances inside at the high bar and tables that began to appear.  Finally we began seeing those who would be the purveyors of the restaurant.  Watching a tasting as we walked home one night Karina and I said to each other, for the first time of many, "this is going to be dangerous".  They were young, and the decor was simple and homey.  Everything about it screamed New American and Slow Food

Finally on Tuesday the 25th of November, Buttermilk Channel opened up.  We were expecting to go the following night, but could not resist a change of plans and walked in around 7.  The staff was friendly, but not overbearing, and we took our seats at the large community style table in the middle of the floor.  

The place seats somewhere around 50, with about 6 or 7 seats at the Bar, 10-12 at the big table and another 40 or so at 2 tops (which can be combined into 4 and 6 and whatever...).  

After looking at the Menus we knew our doom was sealed.  They had Mozzarella and peppers from Caputo's and Esposito's, the two very fine italian deli's in the neighborhood; they had a Lamb special for tuesday nights, with lamb from Jamison Farm a nice certified humane outfit in western PA; they had some terrific east coast Oysters, which made me very happy; and for Karina, a full Vegetarian Menu.  Chef Ryan Angulo has done a terrific job of putting together a menu that is cohesive, but can also serve varying palettes (and ethical deviants like myself and Karina).  It is also almost fully stocked with seasonal and local (northeast, at least) foods.

I ordered some oysters and the lamb, and Karina ordered Johnny Cakes off the veggie menu.  They also brought out some delicious sweet and savory popovers as a starter.  The food was really good, not too complicated, but with interesting combinations.  The anchovy olive butter served with lamb and cauliflower made for a spry and tasty dish; and Karina's mini pancakes came with some delicious mushrooms and garlic, and (very) fresh slaw.  

We finished off the meal with some terrific Oatmeal Cookies.  

Since that visit we have been back several times.  We have made a bit of a ritual of going there on thursday nights after the Office, for fries, wine, and the absolutely outrageous Apple Cider Donuts.  Service is excellent.  The owner and manager Doug Crowell is devoted and obviously knows the ins and outs of the business.  Additionally he is supportive of his waitstaff, a quality few managers possess.   

Last night I finally tried the namesake dish, the Buttermilk Fried Chicken.  It was fantastic.  The winter vegetable slaw is really terrific, and for a twist, the dish comes with warm waffles and a maple syrup concoction (hey Ryan, what's in that shit??).  All together the dish is the most comforting of comfort foods.  Who doesn't love chicken and waffles? 
Karina had the Kale and Endive salad, which comes with a lovely (on the hard end of) soft boiled egg split in half sitting atop the salad luxuriously.  It was also delicious, her favorite dish so far (i think).  

In all our visits so far, the place has been generally crowded, and the service has been, without exception, very smooth and very clean.  The servers are warm and helpful, but not annoying and overly friendly.  They don't bother you with extended conversation and up-selling techniques.  They largely allow you to do what you came there to do, enjoy the food.  

I don't know how we are going to get married with this place so close.  We have to figure a way to limit our visits to a reasonable once/month, or something.  Otherwise there just won't be any money left.

Eat dangerous.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday is recycling day

This is really where the quest for local wedding food started, on a small farm in New Hampshire.  

I also wanted to remind folks about the problems of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.  (CAFO's) and this post talks a bit about it.
So enjoy, though it is a repeat.

from 4/22/08