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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The weather is warming up, you feel that sweat on your brow. You pulled out your jean cut offs and put them on. You’re feeling like an animal awake, after the long hibernation of winter.

You suddenly are salivating for all the barbecue and meat you’ve missed over the winter. All you want is that open flame, and a sandwich full of pork. Preferably pulled.

Now that the sacred Blue Mondays have long since gone the way of the buffalo (although, anyone notice the buffalo sandwiches comeback?), you’re looking for your next meaty summer event.

Well Loki Lounge is having a porktastic event this Sunday, May 3rd. What better way to welcome the summer with open arms than to eat wonderful pork creations by some of the best connoisseurs this side of the East River (COUGH COUGH ChezJJP COUGH).

I like sections of Pig!

I like sections of Pig!

Now I’ve only walked pass the Loki Lounge, but it looks like a nice place. Pool table, darts, patio, and the first review on Yelp calls it…let me see….”awesome”.

So show those swine what you think of their flu and taste some delicious pork, while helping…um…toxic waste victims in the Philippines? Alright…go for the pork, stay for the um…Philippians?

+ =

Nom Nom Nom

Nom Nom Nom

P.S. Reports of my death have been slightly exaggerated. Seeeee, I’m fine.

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I haven’t been 100% up on what was and wasn’t getting included in the Farm Bill as it made its way through Congress over the last year – but I read just now that today Pres. Bush vetoed the Farm Bill! And then the House overrode the veto! The Senate will begin consideration tomorrow, and according to the AP they’re expected to have enough votes to override as well.

Read Bush’s veto notice here, and the USDA support of the veto here.

NPR’s coverage highlights that the vetoed bill contained prosocial things like food aid for the poor, biofuel development, and incentive to let farmland lay fallow (this is prosocial because of its long term benefits to the land). Unsurprisingly, NPR’s take on things is different from the federal government’s. What IS surprising is that the issues the feds object to are totally easy to agree wtih. Bush’s and the UDSA’s statements cited subsidization of farmers with income over $15 million (?!!?! This figure comes from Bush’s statement – I don’t know where that number comes from); funding and authority for the noncompetitive sale of National Forest land to a ski resort; and a $170 million earmark for the salmon industry.

Here are the beginnings of my thoughts on the Farm Bill as it stands now (or, as the media is reporting that it stands now):

PRO: Cuts tax credit for corn-based ethanol (less sustainable of biobased fuels), and creates tax credit for cellulosic ethanol (more sustainable of biobased fuels).

 

PRO: Adds $10.4 billion over 10 years to nutrition programs, including food stamps and food pantry donations. 

CON: Well, not a con so much as a ‘that’s good, but you need more.’ As in, those are poverty mediation efforts, not poverty prevention/eradication efforts. But they’re necessary for the world we live in now.

 

PRO: Increases funding for land stewardship. Almost $30 billion, according to NPR. When food prices are so high, farmers have way more incentive to plant, and take advantage of the record prices. It takes $$ to encourage them NOT to plant. Not planting is important in safeguarding the longterm viability and quality of the soil.

 

CON: National reserve land gets turned into a ski resort!

 

PRO: The bill would deny all subsidies to people with more than $500,000 a year in off-farm income and bar “direct” payments to those with more than $750,000 a year in farm income.

CON: Is this stringent enough?

 

CON: This salmon farming business – wtf? Haven’t seen an explanation of that anywhere yet.

 

And yet… I’m confused! Is Bush trying to distract us with images of richy rich farmers raking it in, when really he wants higher corn-based ethanol rates for his buddies at high corn-producing outfits like Monsanto and Cargill? Or does he want to squeeze the nutrition and emergency food money out? And did the Dem’s in Congress really let these porky earmarks in at the last minute?  Or was Bush just feeling bored and ornery and wanted to use his veto power while he still could? All of the above?

With a 1700 page, $300 billion behemoth legislation like this it’s pretty safe to assume that no one has read it cover to cover. Shit gets snuck in at the last minute – who the fuck knows how. The legislators are so disassociated from the actual effects of their work that budget items and restrictions and tax credits get traded back and forth as though they were items of comparable value. 

drama Drama DRAMA!

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Throughout the summer and fall I became accustomed to eating locally grown foods thanks to the Park Slope CSA. Everything I got was fresh, tasty, affordable, and environmentally sustainable. I felt connected to the farm and the farmer, and interestingly, to my neighbors in Park Slope. Overall, it was an immensely positive experience.

Sadly, we are now in the hideous throes of winter (never mind that it’s 60° outside today) and while the land rests in a barren, tundra-like state, the CSA is on hiatus. So what’s a girl with an affinity for local food to do?

Leda, a New Yorker who’s put herself on a local food diet, has compiled a handy online resource for folks in the NYC area who are looking for specific products that are locally grown or raised. So, if you want some flour or cheddar or eggies from producers less than 250 miles outside of the city, this is the website for you.

On a side note, my main man Michael Pollan has a new book out called “In Defense of Food.” I’m about half-way through and I love it and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it soon.

veggies600.jpg
Ooh baby, you look good.

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As nouveau cirque enthusiasts across the city gear up for the upcoming run of Au Revoir Parapluie (Dec 4-16 at BAM), a French food enthusiast is born in Brooklyn.

For two of the last three nights I have warmed myself on Le Gamin’s hearty yet refined sandwiches, delicate yet substantive crepes, and invigorating yet stupefying GROG.

legamin.jpg

Le Gamin graces New York and Boston with several locations; ours is located on Vanderbilt between Dean & Bergen, nestled on a very special block next to two of my favorite spots, sweetie pie boutique Red Lipstick and reliable repair shop Bicycle Station.

This is a first date’s wonderland with a cozy, romantic feel and a menu that won’t break your bank, even if he orders the most expensive thing (roast beef tenderloin, $15). A fireplace warms the back of the restaurant, and a generously sized patio equipped with umbrellas and picnic tables promises warm weather fun to come.

Mooseknuckle and I both began with sandwiches, or as they call them: “Les Sandwiches.” Isn’t that just darling? He housed the Merguez a la Moutarde Forte – spicy lamb sausage with roasted red peppers. You know how sometimes roasted red peppers are the ‘luxury’ item in a sandwich or salad that you pay extra for, but still you’re like – is this worth it? Should I have just gotten free tomato slices instead? In this case, the roasted red peppers totally complete the sausage – just the two of them there in that sandwich would keep each other well enough, but the goat cheese that Moosie opted to add contributed a lovely smoothness as well as that cool tartness to cut through the sausage-spice and red-pepper-sweet. Mmm!

I went for Le Saumon Fume – smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, mesclun, homemade mayonnaise, and pesto. Right away I liked their boldness at including as standard two condiments. They’re a funny pair. If you added mayo to pesto, it would totally bring down the quality. If you added pesto to mayo, you’ve got yourself some gourmet spread. But allow the two to exist separately but equally (what doesn’t work in society can sometimes work in sandwiches) and you’ve got a sandwich whose mayonnaise helps things stick together and keeps the eggs from sticking in your throat, and whose pesto seeps into the ciabatta and gives your teeth a succulent layer of olive oil to sink through before reaching the chewy crust. I liked it. The salmon itself was also great – not overly salty, and generously portioned.

Both sandwiches,$9.75, were served with mesclun salad on the side – fresh leaves, appropriately engaging but understated dressing.

The next night, intending to just stop in for desert, Mooseknuckle, Johnbaptisedme, and I were taken in by the savory selections. They were sadly out of mussels, so I opted for a Brie crepe ($9). Whaat??! Oh man. Combined with expertly carmelized onions and sliced baby tomatoes, it was excellent. If you are the kind of person who has to restrain herself from downing the whole baked brie wheel at a party, then this dish is for you. Don’t share it!

Moosepie went for a make-your-own crepe ($10.50) with chicken, goat cheese, and ratatouille. After the disappointment that it was not served by animated rats subsided, he tucked into this tasty concoction. The taste I begged off him was very satisfying. More ingredients provide many many possible combinations for personalized crepes. Like an omelette bar but way classier. Also served with salad.

Always a classist, I mean classicist, JBM got Gratinne a L’Oignon, the classic French onion soup ($6). Mmm! The rich broth you want, the crusty bread made soggy in it, the sharp cheese knocking you down. They get it right.

And then of course there’s desert! Though the actual desert menu sounds great, with a warm upside down apple tart served with creme fraiche ($5) and a classic creme bruelee (also $5), how could we do anything but head straight on to the sweet crepes ($4.50-$7)?

Apricot jam made a delicious filling. As did melted chocolate – of a really high quality and cocoa count – either on its own or combined with fresh bananas. They are famous for their crepe with fresh sectioned orange and homemade caramel, and for good reason. Unlike its made-by-Kraft counterpart (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Le Gamin’s homemade caramel does not stand up on its own, instead lending the subtle flavor of burnt sugar sweetness to the juicy oranges and light crepe dough.

The drink options in a French restaurant can be intimidating, but with a small and accessible wine list, I felt empowered to order a glass of Muscadet to accompany my meal. It was a nice choice and at $7 for a generous class I felt like all was right with the world. Mooseknucks opted for a bottle of Brooklyn, which Le Gamin rings in at $5. About reasonable and standard at a Brooklyn restaurant, no?

The drink enticements continued on to the section of the menu entitled “Les Boisson Chaudes,” or delicious wam things to which we occasionally add liquor. I was taken in by the GROG (as I may have mentioned before). It turns out GROG is a simple and refreshing drink, the Mandy Moore of warm winter drinks. Hot water, lemon juice, honey (that you add yourself to your liking), and spiced rum. Serve it in a big ole bowl and you’ve got yourself my new favorite drink!

The next night I opted for a steamed milk, again with honey and spiced rum, again served in an oversized bowl. What is not to like about drinking from a bowl? In a place like this, you feel like a viking and a refined French person at the SAME time! A valuable, if too rarely found, combination.

So, clearly, I recommend Le Gamin with no reservations (ha!). No, really, you don’t need reservations. This 3 1/2 year old restaurant was no where near crowded either night I went. Perfect for a romantic rendezvous or a night out with the gals, Le Gamin has an extensive, inexpensive menu that will make your friends think you know your GROG.

Le Gamin, 566 Vanderbilt Ave, Prospect Heights

Related merchandise: Joie de Vivre, simple living the French way. A book that tells you how to be happy like the French. I’ll stick to the food, thanks!

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The weather is getting colder and I am getting older. My weary bones sometimes ache from the chill of near-December winds. All I can see is a quarter year of frigid air ahead of me. There is only one thing that can get me through this: hot cocktails.

It all started a few weeks back at Buttermilk, where a drunk Boomstick whet his whistle with a potent mug of hot apple cider and bourbon. Obviously, I had to get some for myself. It was badass. Since then, I’ve pwned several Hot Toddys at Daddy’s while Pizappas has essentially dedicated her life to Sepia‘s spiked hot cider.

But, you know, with ever-rising gas prices, the cost of heating your beverage raises the price pretty significantly. And with the holidays right around the corner, you need to make the decision about spending your hard earned cash on gifts for your loved ones or getting warm and drunk. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to face that Sophie’s choice any longer. This is the big secret: you can make this shit at home.

In a pinch, Oneiroi, ImaginaryDomain and I have hit the Brooklyn Skeptic Hot Cocoa pretty hard. You can be just like us.

Good hot cocoa mix (like Ghirardelli’s)
Soy milk (unless you don’t have a milk phobia)
Coffee liqueur
Vodka

Follow the instructions to make the cocoa. Add a shot of vodka and one of the coffee liqueur. Stir with a candy cane. Drink until shitfaced and diabetic.

Might I also suggest warming some cider over an open fire and adding a splash of Maker’s Mark? That works too.

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ChezJJP’s porky-squashy soup recipe is picked up by the Park Slope CSA’s blog like someone with a November-chilly nose picks up a bowl of porky-squashy soup.

Check it out here.

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Papa Pizappas tipped me off to this NY Times post reviewing the health benefits of our stinky friend Garlic.

Besides helping to keep away vampires, it also helps your body make more hydrogen sulfide. Too much can kill you, but a smaller amount in your body acts as an antioxidant and increases blood flow.

When something has antioxidant properties it means that it helps get rid of these things called “free radicals” that float around inside you. No, not those guys! Free radicals are molecules with leftover bits – unpaired electrons and stuff like that – that make them more reactive and unpredictable than other molecules. Like crazy Uncle Viktor a few moscow mules to the wind. Antioxidants act like soothing Aunt Hazel, diverting Uncle Viktor with shiny toys, mini gherkins, and the chance to practice his harmonica in front of the grand-babies. (high school science teachers among you, feel free to steal this analogy to help your classes understand this important concept) Free radicals are strongly linked to many kinds of cancer, and might also contribute to Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and other things that we don’t want to get. Antioxidants stop free radicals dead in their tracks and sort of neutralizes them. Make them unthreatening.

Right, so now that we know what antioxidant properties are good for, turns out we get them in garlic!

And the take away message that I got from the Times that I wanted to share with you all is that the healthy stuff that garlic does is greatly enhanced if, after you cut or mash it, you let it sit for 15 minutes before cooking. Give it a shot. If you still don’t have a serious illness in 50 years, you’ll have me to thank. Hover-dollars will be fine, thanks.

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The joys of hot sauce are many. Whether it’s slathering it all over a slice of some nice Brooklyn pizza or droppin’ spoonfuls to brighten up a homemade salsa or marinade, you can always count on being satisfied every time you open the fridge and see a nice full bottle, ready to titillate your taste buds.

Your adventurous food column contributor ChezJJP has been experimenting with two recipes for a couple years. The first is tomatillo and poblano pepper based, and is fresh, tangy and mild with a beautiful green color. The other is hotter and combines the flavors and color of small red peppers, baby tomatoes and habaneros to give a bright red fiery concoction that can lead to dizziness and profuse sweating as well as total atomic combustion of the palate. How wonderful.

So you might ask “but JJP, that sounds like so much fun! How do I make my own?” Yes, how do you make your own?

Hot sauce can be made a million ways, and what I describe here is just my personal take on it. There’s nothing like turning a couple lonely veggies from the CSA into a total barn-burner.

Chile Peppers

Above: sweet peppers and chiles roast over hardwood charcoal

So what ingredients should be involved? Well, from my observations, it seems to be clear that hot sauces are built with four parts: a) chile peppers for the heat and sharp flavor b) a base ingredient for the sauce’s body (main flavor) and color c) vinegar for the tang and preservation and d) other random components such as onion and garlic which give the sauce a personality.

Let’s break it down:

The chile pepper component can range from a sweet pepper like the Cherry pepper to an insanely hot pepper like the Habanero. It is up to you to knock your socks off to desired intensity. Do some online research about the different peppers because you need to know what level of danger you are dealing with. Chiles can hurt you bad. You should know that the seeds contain the most “hotness”. (The scientific name for the “hotness” chemical is “capsaicin”). So, do not add the seeds if you think the sauce will be too hot. Also, see Tip #1 from below before you attempt anything with chile peppers.

The base component is most commonly tomatoes, sweet red peppers or tomatillos (which, like the tomato, is a fruit) and its presence assures that you can actually feel full flavor on each side of your tongue, as opposed to pure heat on whichever spot that type of chile pepper hits. You can also use carrots for some sweetness. There are infinite variations.

Vinegar is just an essential component of hot sauce, because vinegar is good, and vinegar is addictive. Hot sauce needs vinegar. Vinegar needs hot sauce. Period.

Random components give the hot sauce an identity or a direction. You might want to create a concept around something called Garlic Love Fest 2008, in which case you could add a ton of garlic cloves to the mix. You might want to flavor the hot sauce with an herb, such as cilantro for added flavor. You might want it to be sweet, by adding pureed apples or papaya. You could add tequila, or just the worm. I think I have made the point by now, that the point of cooking is to create something that is your own by going with your gut and realizing your ideas.

For the method, this particular process is simple:

Assemble the desired ingredients in front of you. Try and figure out the right proportions. Chop and optionally de-seed your chiles. Handle with gloves if using hot ones. For the body of the sauce, if using tomatoes, peel them by hand or by dropping in boiling water for 20 seconds after making an X-mark with a knife. If using big sweet peppers, make sure they are peeled by roasting over open flame until the skin is charred, cooled down and then scraping with a fork. Roughly dice any other element you wish to add. Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender with a small amount of vinegar. Blend and transfer to small saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes to let the flavors combine. Season with salt and pepper. Leave in refrigerator for several hours to chill. Transfer to small glass bottle or squeeze bottle.

Here are my tips from lots of hot sauce experience:

1. Use Gloves!!!! Buy plastic throwaway gloves when you handle chiles. Do not question this and do not skip this step. “Capsaicin” (the chemical that is responsible for the heat) gets on your hands and in your eyes and god forbid you visit the washroom without having used gloves (especially if you are a dude).
2. Roast the peppers on the grill if you can. There is nothing like that smoky flavor from charcoal. Plus, as I said, it makes your hot sauce more special when you are sitting around your living room, slathering it on cold pizza or pad thai while it’s raining outside.
3. Buy plastic squeeze bottles and use them! If chefs use these squeeze bottles to be fancy, why can’t you?
4. Use small amounts of garlic and onion. These are flavor builders, so don’t overpower your sauce. Its all about subtlety.
5. Feel free to use canned chile peppers from the supermarket. Those cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are awesome.

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