Wild Table Archives 2009
Saveur Magazine’s 100 for 2010 #30
December 27, 2009
Saveur Magazine’s 100 Best: 2010 # 30 (Warren Bobrow)
An abridged history of the Tuna Melt:
Charleston, South Carolina. About 1965. Woolworth’s lunch counter on King Street. The air is thick with the smell of tea being brewed for the large glass containers that sit atop ceramic dispensers. Inside the containers are chunks of rough-cut ice, fresh mint and golden brown-colored tea.
One container says simply, Sweet. As quickly as a glass is filled, it is emptied by thirsty passers-by. All of King Street finds their way in for a cup. Sweet Tea is the most popular drink on a day like today.
It’s July and hamburgers are sizzling away on the sleek metal of the grill. The sun seems to rise low in the sky earlier and set later, extending the heat and mud-scented humidity from the tidal confluence of Ashley and Cooper Rivers.
Behind the counter, the ladies work at their prescribed tasks. Send a Tuna on White over there, cup of Tomato Soup to the end of the counter! Macaroni and Cheese with a Fish Cake? Side of Slaw!
Chef Bo is greeted; orders given. “Sweet tea! I‘ll have a grilled cheese sandwich, white bread with a smear of mayo and slices of American cheese, “just as you like it.” Atop the griddle on a shelf, a bowl of freshly made tuna salad sits on the edge… and, as if guided by a hidden hand, the contents tip over, falling on the grilled cheese sandwich.
Voila! The Tuna Melt is born!
About the same time as the tuna salad falls onto the grill, Bo notices it bubbling away along with his open-faced grilled cheese. Some of the tuna has coated the top. The smell is familiar to him. The metallic tang of nearby sweet southern ocean air, the syrupy caramelized smell of mayo combining and dripping on celery and onion sinking into the butter and mayo-coated white bread. And on top, becoming crisp and sealing in all the flavors… that errant dollop of tuna!
One of the gals from behind the counter offers to make him another one, ’cause he might not want to eat the mistake!”
Tucking in-carefully at first, then with fervor – time and history make way for a new sandwich, a new invention. Pursing his lips and sipping the sweet tea Bo has no idea that he has invented the Tuna Melt.
Soon, thereafter, the Tuna Melt became a favorite at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. It was almost always served with a glass of sweet Iced Tea and a side of Lay’s potato chips.
Cast Iron Pans Make for the Best Xmas Pancakes (German Style)
December 25, 2009
German pancakes (HOT, HOT, Hot!)
in oven. HOT
Cast Iron Pans Make for the Best Xmas Pancakes (German Style of course!)
I’ve written about being raised on a farm in Morristown, New Jersey, near the Jockey Hollow National Historical Park. One of my earliest childhood memories centered around an ancient cast iron pan and the memories it contained. One of these memories were the pancakes that Gertrude, my families’ governess, cooked for my sister and me. As a child, these pancakes left an indelible mark on my culinary psyche. I can still taste the crunch and sweetness, tempered by the acidic sharpness of the lemon juice and…. if I was really lucky…. a quick nip of Schnapps!
Gertrude was from Germany. She and Estelle (my families’ cook) taught me about the old ways, the nearly forgotten methods of cooking with love!
Gertrude would heat her completely blackened; Lodge cast iron pan, the one that never, ever saw soap, and into the oven it would go. 400 degrees hot! (please, be very careful when touching the handle! Use heavy oven mitts!)
She would add ingredients to a bowl, singing softly under her voice in German about pancakes, children and life.
The pan was hot after a while. The ingredients would enter the pan, and the pan would leave its memories in the batch of German pancakes.
She would drizzle raw honey over the pancakes and spritz some lemon juice over the top. Divine!
* 6 eggs
* 1 cup non-fat milk or 1/2 cup non-fat and 1/2 cup clabber
* 1 cup organic-all purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons sweet butter (no substitute for the real thing)
* 3/4 cup buttermilk
1. Place the eggs, milk, flour and salt in a bowl and mix gently by hand. Use a wooden spoon. Pour the batter into an ungreased cast iron pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.
2. Remove from oven with dry oven mitt, be careful the pan will be very hot!
3. When pancake is on a plate, drizzle with raw honey, honey comb and lemon juice.
4. Serve with a Half-Dry Riesling. (Halbtrocken) or Schnapps!
(Great) Sex before (Great) Food, or (Great) Food Before (Great) Sex?
December 21, 2009
*Guest Writer from Japan*
How many times have I read (and seen on screens!) about those great meals being the preamble to great love?
I’ve always wondered about the truth, if not the feasibility, of such perfection…
Now, I fully understand the risks of posting an article on this somewhat contentious issue:
-”He’s doing this to get more views…”
-Some spammers will not resist from jumping on the bandwagon. They’ll be disappointed!
-Some bloggers with overriding precepts will complain (loudly)…
I hope I will not have to erase too many comments!
In spite of my “maturity”, I enjoy (relatively) good health and endeavor to enjoy my life to the full.
But there are limits.
The Romans might have developed one way to enjoy two of life’s greatest pleasures by eating and making love on the same couch, but knowing how these orgies (have you checked the real meaning of this word?) ended up in later years, I’m not really convinced.
Honestly speaking, have you tried and really appreciated sex with a full stomach and a swirling head?
Many of us do have to consider inescapable issues:
At some time of our lives we were brainwashed into thinking that sex should occur at night (Shut those lights down, will you?).
The hippies had it right in 1960’s as they were asking love when and where they wanted. That is, until they settled into comfortable lives…
On the other hand, nights are no longer the frightful period of of your daily life as in the Middle Ages when humans had to comfort each other.
One overriding reason for avoiding sex after a great meal is that strenuous physical exercise after consuming a good amount of food and drink is fraught with high health risks, whatever our age. Ask the doctors!
Now, if you need a more prosaic excuse, have you ever realized that, unless you had a good scrub and plenty of perfume beforehand, how you and your spouse/partner/lover look and smell after ingesting a significant volume of food and drink, whatever the quality of the latter?
The French might have it right with their “demon de midi/noon demon”, meaning that mature people will skip lunch in favor of (sometimes illicit) sex.
-”But I’m too busy working in day time!” you will say.
There is a solution to that:
Share that great food early enough, settle down for a long contented moment to allow your body metabolism to recuperate (keep talking, don’t doze off!)
Why do you think the “digestif” was invented for?
I just read an interesting survey held by this week’s “L’Express” magazine, which says that, among other data, 61% of ladies attach great importance to a shared meal against 46% of gentlemen before eventual sexual relations!
Ladies do seem to prefer sex after a great dinner (or a great drink), or at least at night when they can doze off inside their loved one’s arms (who am I to say that?) ….
But women can suddenly wake up with strong yearnings.
Have you ever heard this (allegedly true) story about Napoleon and Josephine:
The Emperor’s first wife was a notoriously highly sexed individual.
One night she could not wake up her illustrious spouse to assume his marital duties.
She got up and took a piece of particularly pungent cheese from a tray on the bedroom table and brought it under Napoelon’s nose.
The Emperor, not bothering to open an eye, muttered:
-”Sorry, not tonight, Josephine!”
When sex can be associated with food…
My own recommendation/preference?
The “noon demon”, of course!
The food and drink depicted in this article have no aphrodisiac properties whatsoever!
Sorry to disappoint those who expected sausages and meatballs!
The photographs of food is worth the price of admittance. this is beautiful writing and it deserves great merit. cheers from New Jersey, my friend.
I am constantly impressed at your talents.
- dragonlife Says:
December 20, 2009 at 9:44 am | Reply Cheers, dear warren!
The old dragon is blushing under his scales!
Bio for Robert-Gilles:
Born: August 31st, 1948
Graduated from High School in Chalon sur Saone, Bourgogne, France
Spent 5 years in the French Air Force.
Graduated from Cambridge University (England), Major, English
Moved to Shizuoka, Japan in 1976
Presently work as a visiting lecturer at Shizuoka Rikoka University, language instructor, and freelance writer on gastronomy and Fantasy
Write blogs in English and Japanese a on all Japanese gastronomy, sake, sushi and shochu included.
Hobbies: Sports, Music, Fashion, Gastronomy, History,Traveling, Blogging
As for gastronomy, one of my brothers is a restaurant chef/owner in Bresse/Bourgogne.
Home-made Choucroute. It even sounds warming
December 18, 2009
Even with a fire in the wood stove, I can’t seem to get warm enough. This winter reminds me of the winters on the farm growing up. It always seemed to be colder then. There certainly was more snow than there is now. I may have been smaller in stature, but there was a reason for having snow fencing at the top of the hill where I grew up. Some of most poignant memories of this time centered on a bowl of soup or a mound of sliced sausages, sauerkraut, smoked pork cooked until melted and tiny boiled potatoes…
… It was what I demanded to eat. I didn’t want anything else other than tortellini in brodo while in Italy and Choucroute while in Alsace.
We did a lot of traveling when I was a boy. It was a fine education, filled with European travel and foods from the specific regions. This made for great memories. This fed the well from which I draw my passion for the foods that speak of the place-their unique qualities and their individual flavors. The wines and beers of these regions were never denied to me. Thus I was able at an early age to develop a refined palate, mostly on trial and error!
My palate was weaned on true “Continental” (read: European) cooking. From Taverna-style Moussaka in Crete, to REAL Neapolitan Pizza in Naples… to towering high, puffed omelets in Mont St. Michel, to vast platters of Choucroute in Alsace. There were times in Europe where all I dreamed of were these steaming platters of Choucroute. At this time of year, the holiday time when the sauerkraut is just coming into its own, the sausages-plump from the smokehouse, streaky bacon-ready to be folded into a stew, right out of the field potatoes, duck fat for warmth and baby pork ribs… this is the food that my body craves. Do you concur?
During the many wars over the ages between Germany and France, the region known as Alsace has worn many hats. Wines are made from similar grape varieties, but taste nothing alike. A Riesling from Alsace may have no resemblance to one grown just 1000 yards away in Germany. The foods they eat, however are amalgamations of the years of this 100 yards being German, this year, and the next 100 yards going to France and so on. Foods are hearty, filling and warming on a cold night. Alsace is a cold place in the winter and the foods they enjoy make for a fully belly.
This is farmer’s cooking, not food for a fancy white table cloth restaurant. It is without pretension. People would sit down to a steamy bowl of Choucroute with beers and wines from the region; usually crisp Pilsners or bottles of dry Riesling. These foods containing sausages, sauerkraut, bacon and pork ribletts call out for highly acidic wines and beers to cut the powerful flavors of rendered fat.
Every time I taste Choucroute, I am comparing the flavors to the times I enjoyed this dish in France…and it cannot compare. There is something about the raw materials that make this dish impossible to duplicate here in New Jersey. I can, however use pretty good local ingredients. Choucroute can be made to suit your tastes, using the materials at your disposal.
Nearly all ingredients recommended are produced within 100 miles from my home. I must recommend going to a real butcher for your sausages. There aren’t too many of these around any more. It would be nice if you were to find a German butcher. You would honor his heritage and craft by buying from him, instead of going to the supermarket. You should use a mild beef sausage, and also some veal sausages. Pork sausage is ok too, but don’t use spicy sausage, as it will make the entire dish spicy, and it’s traditionally not a spicy dish. If you must have spices, pick hot German mustard or grainy mustard, but please do not use Chorizo or a Hot Italian sausage. The dish will be ruined.
If you know a German butcher, he will have sauerkraut at this time of the year. He uses this sauerkraut in numerous preparations during the cold winter months, so you shouldn’t surprise him by asking for it. If don’t have a local butcher, move someplace that does. Support local farms and buy their products. It’s good for you and good for the farmer.
- 1/3-cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning (you will brine the pork ribs, worry not, it’s easy!)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 pounds pork back ribs cut “Chinese-style” across the bone to make ribletts
- 6 pounds sauerkraut local is far preferable to the bottled stuff…never use that!
- 1/4-cup duck fat. Try D’Artagnan foods for duck fat on the Internet. http://www.dartagnan.com/
- 4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped-you must never use garlic in a bottle. If you have it, throw it out this very minute.
- 20 juniper berries (essential)
- 3 large bay leaves wrap in a cheese-cloth with caraway seeds and peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds wrap in the above cheese-cloth
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups home-made chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups dry Riesling (Trocken)
- 2 pounds assorted German sausages, cut into 2-inch pieces from your local German butcher or search for this on the internet. It’s worth the effort to gather the best ingredients!
- 10 natural casing hot dogs (beef)
- One 2-pound piece of a “cottage ham” or Boston Butt, smoked. Call your German butcher; he’ll explain what it is.
- 2 pounds small, all-purpose boiling potatoes (about 10), peeled
- German Mustard, grainy, smooth and green.
- Streaky (read: fatty) bacon. Only a few slices.
In a non-reactive pot cover the ribs with just enough water. Add kosher salt and sugar, stir with a wooden spoon to distribute sugar and salt. Brine overnight in the refrigerator. Next day, remove ribs; discard brine except for ½ cup of liquid. On stove top place a large cast iron Dutch oven. Add duck fat to the pot. Sautee the garlic cloves in duck fat, add pork ribletts, then the sausages, let them brown, add Boston Butt, add German Kielbasa and hot dogs to the pot. Add the wine and deglaze. Add the spice packet, cover with chicken stock and the ½ cup of brine. Top with the Sauerkraut and the streaky bacon. Place potatoes around the liquid and sausages. Cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, more if you are able to cook in a slow oven for about 3-4 hours on 250.
Serve Choucroute with a Trocken (bone dry) Riesling or a Crisp and refreshing “Beer de Garde” from France.
Knuckles scraped. Latkes enjoyed. Kvetch averted
December 16, 2009
Of all the holiday foods I look forward to most, two dishes connect my stomach to the past. The first is a rousing bowl of Matzo Ball soup. The other, a plate of crispy potato latkes, cooked in a heavy cast iron pan. I prefer my latkes interspersed with dots of scallions and served with a dollop of sour cream and a rosette of smoked salmon. My wife, Julie, on the other hand prefers her latkes with freshly made apple-sauce. Whatever way you enjoy them, connect your stomach with the history contained in every crunchy treat on your plate.
My great-grandmother Yetta made excellent latkes. Her recipe on these days of Hanukkah, (eight chances to get it right… to be exact) celebrates the past by reliving these flavors each time we bite into a steaming morsel of grated potato, egg, onion and a bit of vegetable oil. Yetta was particularly interested in not scraping her knuckles too badly into the mixture. She used to say that if you don’t catch your knuckle on the grater then the latkes couldn’t possibly taste good…
Something about the physical act of grating potatoes connects us to the past. Generations of cooks have grated potatoes for latkes. You will not be the first or the last. Onions are the other part of making latkes that resonates in my memory. The tears that erupt from your eyes when grating onions are not tears of joy; they are a kvetch heard every year.
It takes quite a few potatoes to make latkes. A basic recipe contains over 2 pounds of Russet or Yukon gold potatoes. These are also known as “all purpose” potatoes. Don’t use baking potatoes; you will have mashed potatoes and not latkes. Yetta would scrape and grate until the job was done. Much hushed conversation would follow. Were the latkes going to be good? If not, what would we do, there was not place in those days to buy some frozen in the supermarket!
Years of latkes conversation would follow…How about the ones we made twenty years ago? Did potatoes taste differently then or was it a specific taste that stuck in our memories? Every time she made them, the experience would last nearly the entire year to come-with each bite taken, another memory made. I must stress that you shouldn’t be too careful when scraping potatoes on a grater over a bowl. If you don’t catch your own knuckle at least once (and you’ll know it) the flavor could not possibly be complete. At least you would have the battle scars to prove that you made them from scratch.
Potato Latkes: Serves 4
2 Yukon gold or Russet potatoes (about 1.5 pounds) (grated into long strips)
2 large eggs (must be at room temperature)
1 medium white onion, very finely grated (watch those knuckles!)
8 scallion greens or green onion tops
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying.
1. Grate potatoes into a bowl of cold water. (This releases the starch-essential!) Make sure that you use the large hole of a box grater. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Transfer grated potatoes from the water into a dry bowl. Press with your hands or a wooden spoon until all the liquid is removed from the potato. It is essential for the potato mixture to be as dry as possible before adding the egg and onion mixture; otherwise the latkes will be a loose mess and will never become crisp. (No matter how many prayers you say over the bowl!) Add eggs, onion and slivers of scallion greens. Season with salt and pepper. It is also essential to mix by hand. Much conversation about how much salt and how little pepper or vice versa will follow!
2. Heat a cast iron frying pan with ½ inch of vegetable oil until very hot. About 400 degrees. (Be very careful, hot oil is dangerous, do not splash hot oil on yourself- a good burn from hot oil will give you something else to complain about)
3. (Carefully) Drop 1 heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture into the pan. Cook until golden brown in color, about 3 minutes on each side. The pan should hold no more than five or six latkes per batch. Any more and the oil will get cold. There is not excuse to have oil soaked latkes! Sodden latkes are a curse upon the family; one could never have that. A tummy ache? Maybe, a fever? Perhaps…. But to serve latkes sopping with oil? Never! Turn the latkes over in the pan and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until uniformly golden brown and crunchy. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200-degree oven for up to ½ hour before serving.
Yetta liked to serve her latkes two ways. The first was with freshly made applesauce. She would peel the apples and cook them slowly in a copper pot with just a tablespoon of sugar until they released their juices, then she would serve this “hot out of the pan” applesauce on the top of the latkes. My wife, Julie recommends using less sugar so that the dish is more a savory than a sweet.
The other method is suitable for New Year’s Eve or at a more formal family gathering. Using the latkes as above, put a dollop of sour cream on the latkes and top with slices of smoked salmon.
A wine recommendation? Serve a crisp and lightly oaked sparkling wine such as Champagne. A further luxurious method of serving the latkes is with a gently placed spoonful of caviar, sprinkled with chopped egg and onion, over a smidgen of crème fraiche.
I can picture Yetta, hunched over her bowl of grated potatoes, her smile firmly in my memory, knowing that her recipe would live on through the generations-and that specific connection leads directly to my stomach.
December 12, 2009
Sammy’s Roumanian. If the scattered packages of Alka Seltzer by the doorway is any clue as to what you will feel like later… Then open your mind to blaring “bar mitzvah” music-peppered with flying obscenities and much hands on the hips no matter who’s dancing or with whom or how they look sweating and belching and carrying on in the dark.
A liberal attitude to all things garlic, schmaltz and fatty is necessary to truly enjoy yourself. Livers are beef livers here (cheaper to make, customer will NEVER know or want to ask), bread is raw and inedible and what is called Romanian Karnatzlack may well be the most unidentifiable foodstuff I’ve seen since the deep fried butter at the Sussex County Fair. Kreplach is fried and I cannot tell what meat variety it is stuffed with. You don’t want to know, don’t ask. It’s a sodden deep-fried mess, resembling a golf ball, they weigh as much as a small nation, glad I only nibbled at it. I wonder to my companions what they fry these little dough covered marbles with? Bet it’s not pretty. Calves Liver Steak is workable, scrape the sodden onions off the top, you don’t want to eat them anyway.
Kishka is best left to the guys without necks sitting next to you. Don’t stare. They don’t like to be stared at. Get it? Don’t offer them a drink either.
Stuffed cabbage is wrapped with an outer wrapper that may have dated to the Nixon administration. Don’t order that. Vodka comes frozen in a brick of ice. You have two choices. Ketel one for 95 dollars, Grey Goose for 125. They sell a lot of Vodka here. No, you cannot have a beer. They drink frozen vodka here, with seltzer water or cranberry juice-so bitter that you see why they use seltzer water. Don’t order a beer, they don’t serve it at Sammy’s Roumanian. Don’t even ask, they’ll tell you.. No beer, Vodka!
Dancing? They do that well. Eating at Sammy’s Roumanian is like playing in a scene from a movie. Which movie? It doesn’t matter. The lights flash, the music pumps… it’s loud, obnoxious and you are actually enjoying yourself?
The guy next to you may be in NYC for the first time, just here for a convention from Texas-like the group next to us. They sure know how to dance in Texas, as my wife found out, her new dance partner shook my hand after each dance, a gentleman indeed. He should have bought us more vodka. That would have impressed me more.
The bottles of vodka go down quickly when hot (not the bodies but the temperature) dancing and slabs of fatty food is served. All the room is a swirl of nearly hallucinogenic proportions and I’m not talking about the food quality. That speaks for itself. There is nothing worse in my book than paying too much for a meal that’s inedible. Ok, maybe I’m being a bit bold… it could be much better, if only they used better quality ingredients. If the ingredients shone through with their simplicity, then the meal would have been text-book. In this case however, something is missing and that is-flavor. Add a depth of flavor and better ingredients and I’ll sing on the street corner how delicious it is.
The only saving grace is the chocolate pudding with heavy cream. Yes, just as it sounds.
The pudding goes down easy with Dairyland cream poured over it. And yes, they do a decent egg cream. You can’t go wrong with Fox-s U-Bet syrup.
That and the seltzer water in the old fashioned dispensers.. you can’t beat it.
The neighborhood doesn’t support bank owned ATM’s although they are all over the place. Don’t use them.
Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House
- 157 Chrystie St., New York, NY 10002nr. Delancey St.
The Orchard in a bottle-Eau de Vie Tasting in the snow
December 9, 2009
Picture – 1 L1000489
tasting of several digestives in the snow
Picture – 2 L1000487
Chartreuse and Digestives
Picture 3 L1000477
first ‘real’ snowstorm”
Picture 4 L1000488
France meets Firewater in the freshly fallen snow
By Warren Bobrow: Contributing Editor: Wild River Review
Growing up on a farm in New Jersey afforded me an upbringing that was rooted in a fruit orchard that dates back almost a century. My governess, Gertrude (about whom I’ll write more in later posts), hailed from Germany. She taught me to climb those gnarly fruit trees and attempt to pick the fruit that the birds had not yet devoured. I would have to act quickly though and remember that I was competing with the unafraid blue jays who would seemingly dive-bomb me in competition for these fruits. Eventually I would repel these opportunistic birds long enough to bring down pears in a straw basket that I have to this day.
Gertrude would carefully wrap each of these pears in small paper bags for several days to ripen them further. This was necessary because not all pears ripen at the same time. Upon opening the bags the earthy and haunting aroma of these pears still stick in my memory. I can close my eyes and envision Gertrude smiling about the really juicy ones that I helped pick.
One of her pleasures was making fruit preserves and smaller quantities of pear brandies. These Eaux de Vie of fire to the tongue possessing razor sharp fruit aromas were favorites of mine. They were made from the tiny, almost inedible pears that dotted the perimeter of the orchard. When cooked, these formerly hard to the tooth pears would reveal themselves to be sweet and gushing with the essence of fall. When I walk in the woods today and see pear trees, I want to climb them to find that one perfect pear-the one to grace a glass of Eau de Vie.
Last night it snowed a few quick inches here in New Jersey. I lit a fire in the wood burning stove, I smelled the high notes of burning oak from where I sat surrounded by elixirs – all from France. With this aroma firmly in place in my mind’s eye, several Eaux de Vie needed to be tasted, savored and explained.
G.E. Massenez- Eau de Vie of Williams Pear. (Poire Willams) Tasting notes:
Sweet and tangy aromas of Pear skins and freshly cut hay, gives way to deeper heating finish. Crisp, uncomplicated and refreshing. Think of the first time you smelled a tree-ripened pear. Then add a slowly simmering pot of pear preserves- the alcohol lurking in the background suddenly jumping up and greeting your forehead and nose. Marvelous stuff. Pure and lightly thirst quenching. Marvelous with Cave Aged Gruyere. Keep iced in the refrigerator at all times. A real wake-up drink on a cold morning.
G.E. Massenez-Eau de Vie de Framboise. (tiny raspberries that taste like love) Ah, the Framboise. The power of this little berry catches me almost unknowingly of the energy contained within. Sweet at first, then the nasal attack of piercing fire. Just the thing after a hot mineral bath then a quick plunge into icy cold water. Then quickly imbibe a ice cold hand blown glass of Framboise. Always store in the fridge or better yet, your freezer next to the Chartreuse.
Serve with a dry towel… you will sweat.
Chartreuse is one of those “open the bottle and smell the place” type of mountain produced liqueur. It reminds me in many ways of the liqueur produced by a specific sect of monks in France- but this formula is not the commercial product that graces many liquor store shelves. Packed in a wooden box with a hand numbered label, the VEP is made in extremely tiny quantities….
Chartreux VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) is aged in oak for many years. The combination of over 130 medicinal plants, plus the balance of “taste the place” Terroir gives Chartreuse this unique flavor of high Alpine pastures and crisp, mineral mountain water. Of course, there is a liberal dash of thunder and fire on your fore-palate.
It is rare and very expensive, but a bottle may last a year or more, making it a bit less of a pinch to the wallet. Creatively rich over mountain herb- scented gelato.
Picture – 5 1000485
Out in the snow. The only place to drink Eau de Vie. All photographs: Warren Bobrow
Wild Table/Wild Wine
December 4, 2009
Wild Wine: Madeira and Marsala. What are they and why are they important?
Late last night while the wind whipped around the house as if summoned by a spirit, I took note of two wines in my cellar.
One was a Sweet Marsala. No, not that cooking garbage that plagues the store shelves of liquor stores near and far. This wine has lineage and is produced in minute amounts. This wine bears no resemblance to the product that calls itself Marsala in the large bottle with fancy lettering. The bottle sitting in front of me is short in stature, but drinking it in a short cocktail connects the drinker with the past. Comprised of Catarratto, Grillo (the most sought after grape for Marsala production) or the highly aromatic Inzolia, this was a popular wine several hundred years ago and hails from Sicily. The most common use of Marsala of this quality is in a glass-alongside a chocolate dessert, or perhaps with a plate of Pistachio Gelato. The bottle reads “Sweet” but the flavor is dark, robust and tinged with the sweetness of freshly dried tobacco.
Madeira is a wine of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Connoisseurs from Montreal to New Orleans enjoyed wines like Madeira because they were almost indestructible. Unaffected by vast swings of cold and heat, a bottle of Madeira could be enjoyed year-round and with many different types of food. Amongst them, nuts, fruits, ice creams and roasts. Madeira has been recently found to be drinkable even after 200 years of being in the bottle! Truly the flavor of the vine, with the addition of time and patience…. Madeira is a history lesson for the palate. Madeira’s signature taste of dark brown sugar with sharper aromas of butterscotch, cocoa and dark espresso coffee.
Madeira hails from the Island of Madeira. It is aged in casks that sit in the burning sun, aging for years before the makers deem it ready to drink. Wonderful stuff with an English Trifle! Cheers! wb
Wild Bite (where to dine tonight if anywhere near Princeton, NJ) - Lawrenceville Inn
November 28, 2009
Dennis Foy’s Lawrenceville Inn</strong>, 2691 Main Street, Lawrenceville, NJ
To make reservations, please call (609) 219-1900.
Dennis Foy’s Lawrenceville Inn
By: Warren Bobrow
Over the broad fields from bucolic Princeton, NJ the gracious prep-school town of Lawrenceville, NJ comes into view. Surrounded by the vast still-private estates and working farms, Dennis Foy has made a name for himself, again, at the helm of the newly re-opened Lawrenceville Inn.
I sat with Dennis for a luncheon, in fact his first luncheon in the new, freshly painted, gleaming space. Brightly lit through windows looking out over surrounding homes, sunlight streams through, creating a deep sense of space. The walls are hung with Dennis Foy’s paintings, mostly panoramas with the Jersey Shore within his timeless vision. Dennis Foy paints with the colors that are located deeply within his psyche. The room exudes a feeling of cheerful Latin rhythms and perpetual motion…perhaps this energy is exemplified most through his wife, Estella who infuses her warmth and smile into each person who walks into the room. She has that inner groove that shows love for her craft. The paint and colors of the rooms are pure. They let the sparse almost minimalist quality of the seating and the further lack of window treatments speak volumes to those who prefer Mondrianesque simplicity and clarity of form over frilly architectural excesses.
The food at the Lawrenceville Inn weaves story of passion and a lifelong commitment to buying, whenever possible only the best local ingredients. The inn is surrounded by many great farms such as Terhune Orchards or the Cherry Grove Farm, are just up the road. This life-long passion for locavore, drives Dennis Foy to create a tapestry of foods on the plate that are not overly exotic. His educated palate is driven by a simplicity which shines through everything he does as a chef and an artist. Dennis Foy was doing locavore cooking three decades ago, longer than the age of most of his chefs. This history has honed Dennis Foy’s hand in the kitchen to speak of clear flavors.
On his tables there are no wild concoctions of highly over- sauced and confused ingredients. The food at the Inn speaks firmly of that distinctive flavor that takes time. Cooking over low heat for long periods of time imparts this inner warmth on the palate. The scent and richness of slow roasted bones, vegetable stocks and soups all from scratch. Sparkling fresh seafood, aged prime beef and all homemade breads. Desserts that are executed with the same attention to detail and fine, freshly brewed coffee all speak of this commitment. No foodstuffs enters his kitchen pre-made or from a frozen pail of demi-glacee or stock-mix. The long forgotten words “scratch house cooking” comes to mind. Based in old-fashioned techniques that live in the history books, the cooking here is classic, brigade-style in the clearest form of the word.
A forest mushroom soup, dense with earthy mushroom flavor is like liquid velvet on the palate. The foods that follow-all say to the diner, care, love, compassion and a firm hand guiding the line. The kitchen is open to the dining room so if there are mistakes, the end result is the same-meted in quick, terse words. Dennis is in charge here, please make no mistake in assuming otherwise. It is his restaurant. His staff all from notable venues are the tabla rasa in Dennis Foy’s kitchen… They all will be remade in the image of the Lawrenceville Inn. Leave the baggage from past kitchens at the door and come with an open mind. Dennis is firmly at the helm and this ship will fit his ethos of fine food, simply prepared and with passion. But in deference to other white table cloth restaurants that dot the area, his kitchen has no airs.
Cook simply and with passion is exemplified here by observing the restaurants collection of darkly crusted, ancient cast iron pans. These unpretentious cooking vessels are used for most kitchen preparations adding a deeper layer of flavor to every dish that leaves Dennis Foy’s kitchen. Nothing escapes his caring glance, for his name is on every bit of food that is on the palate of his customers.
T-Day and what to drink?
November 20, 2009
Thanksgiving is almost upon us. If you haven’t picked your wines yet, then you are in luck! I have some delicious suggestions that are esoteric, but still available if you are the adventurous type. If you live in NJ, you should try 56 Degrees in Bernardsville, CoolVines in Princeton and Westfield, Wine Library if in the Short Hills area, or Moore Brothers if you are in the Southern Tier of the state. All these shops specialize in small producer wines. Many of their selections are organic/biodynamic and handmade.
My suggestions are as follows: Trocken Riesling is what I’m having. The brilliant winemakers at Dr. Wehrheim produce a Kabinett Trocken which is like blue slate and apricots. Picture a plate of sun-dried apricots, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.
Next on the list is a 1/2 bottle of Guy Charlemagne Le Mesnil. Very similar in the palate to the Uber-Expensive Salon, this little package of bubbles and passion just leap from the glass. Use a straw if you are at a party!
For something “completely different” may I suggest the Santa Chiara from Azienda Agricola Paolo Bea Vignaiolo. The wine is comprised of Malvasia, Sauvignon, Garganega and Chardonnay. Such a palate of white stone fruits, steel with an almost ice wine nose. If you can find it, buy all you can… super esoterica.
Azienda Agricola COS Ramy from Sicily is a fine choice as well with Sheep’s Milk cheeses for a tasty change of pace from “just another chardonnay.”
Pax Vineyards produces tiny quantities of Syrah. I chose a Castelli Knight Ranch/Russian River Valley Syrah.. plump, juicy and richly textured. The 2006 is young still, but with about a day of decanting… you get the drift.
Dessert wines could be an Apple Ice Wine from Canada…. or perhaps a glass of Madeira?
Madeira is the wine of our founding fathers.
Whatever you choose, Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!
Yo! Meet you at Jimmy's…
November 18, 2009
Hunger is a sense you can feel.
One can almost taste a palpable familiarity when driving down Asbury Avenue in scenic-always evolving Asbury Park, NJ. This part of town is the old Asbury Park, the one bound by tradition and history. The block used to be part of an Italian ghetto for immigrants right off the boat from the old country. A stark-looking cathedral is just up the street. The Asbury Park of this time is bound by honor and recollection. This Asbury Park exists today in a little known, but beloved corner of Asbury Avenue.
The restaurant is called simply; Jimmy’s.
But, who is Jimmy?
“Long gone” according to Diane. She rules the roost. It doesn’t matter who you are-you must go to Diane to get beyond the velvet rope, otherwise you will wait for a table. True, in all the times I’ve eaten at Jimmy’s, I’ve never actually seen a rope-but it’s there.
The waitresses are mostly Italian heritage..Ladies ranging in appearance from a certain age to a lesser of a certain age. They’ve been there for their entire lives it seems. The staff knows and greets their customers by name having seen them grow up dining on the selection of the classics. At Jimmy’s, there is a menu of regional Italian cooking which is southern-Italian family style in nature. They use the best and freshest ingredients from local purveyors and farms.
We drive up into the parking lot that belongs to the restaurant. It’s heavy with dark colored late model cars. The lot outside is the cleanest and safest in all of Asbury Park-or anywhere down the shore for that matter.
We are recognized by the smiling attendant and greeted. Lot’s of “how’s by you’se” are offered. It’s comforting to feel so welcome in the middle of a part of town in transition. Not that the area is unsafe, just this is an extra layer of good feeling.
Once inside the front door the mood becomes like a visit to a cool friend’s parent’s basement bar. Jimmy’s is a place where you can always have a drink when visiting, eating or not. It’s like entering a pristine time capsule. Everything gleams and shines, there is nary a fingerprint on any exposed glass mirror walls.
A friendly bartender greets you. The bar is filled with patrons, summer people, locals to the area and professional drinkers all enjoying classy drinks. This is not a bar for molecular intoxicologists, but one for Manhattans, Martinis, Rob Roys and simple cocktails served shaken with a maraschino cherry on a crisp cocktail napkin. Jimmy’s offers a touch of grace unheard of in a time of new world -modern gastronomy. At Jimmy’s, they serve classic cocktails and dinner if you want it at a real old-time cocktail bar. It’s not trendy, it’s as it should be, as it’s always been.
The scene is all about recognition, everyone knows one another. They have known each other all their lives. This sense of camaraderie and trust is thick in the room. On the table over there, a veal chop the size of a Florida Grapefruit is plain on a platter with string beans glistening with olive oil. Fish fresh from the local purveyors, just out of the ocean, served simply but with an understated style.
Plates of pasta and red gravy, lasagna stacked high and covered in more of that excellent mozzarella. Pizza, wafer thin-served on a classic aluminum tray aloft from the table on a stand, it’s blistering hot and well proportioned. I want to reach out and have a slice. The waitresses haul trays of food past Diane who yells at no one in particular but then centers her gaze directly at one of the gals…no one is immune from the stern but tough love metered suddenly. It is quiet for just a second, and then the pace begins again.
The menus provided too many choices, all classics, lasagna, ravioli, pork and veal chops, and Jimmy’s “special” steak, bar pies and full sized pizza- red sauce rules here. Pizza comes in two sizes. Small and large are the choices. Small is enough for one person, large enough for you and for your lunch tomorrow.
I choose a Shrimp Cocktail served on a plate with a vibrant sauce spiked with horseradish, lemon and lettuce leaf. You don’t even have to add the word “classic” to any of the descriptions. Timeless Italian food is the name of the game at Jimmy’s. The nice sized peeled shrimp tasted of metallic seawater brine, fresh and inviting. Salad for 2, 3 or more comes with the meals here. A plate overflowing with “not the usual restaurant” lettuce leafs, tomato, thick slices of crisp red onions and if wanted, green and black olives, peppers and marinated mushrooms. This is not the place to ask for a fancy salad dressing like a French Dijonnaise. It’s an olive oil and red wine vinegar kind of room.
Warm bread with individually wrapped butter pats are set down-but don’t fill up on this good chunky bread or else you won’t be hungry for dinner!
I ordered a bar pie for my supper after seeing the one being enjoyed in one of the intimate booths that line the wall opposite the bar. It literally singed the top of my mouth, something I felt for days afterward with real mozzarella cheese-a well-seasoned sauce and that incredible, wafer-like, hand-stretched crust, which was charred nicely underneath.
Desserts are made from excellent seasonal ingredients by a very talented pastry chef. I tried a Key Lime tart, topped in sweetly acidic “Jersey” Blueberries that smacked of fresh blue juices. A table across the way were gushing over the coconut cream pie- was that the recipe from the Tavern Restaurant in Newark?
“Yes it is…” according to the in house pastry chef. Delicious! “Let me snag a slice!”
On the way out, I saw that Diane was busily tucking into a bar pie of her own. She said to me that mine looked so nice-she had to have one herself.
1405 Asbury Ave
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
November 16, 2009
A plate of sliced steamed carrots and sauteed spinach-as a side for a Roast Chicken.
Play the right music for Chicken Roasting!
1 Free Ranging Bird
1 bulb of Garlic
several Myer Lemons/ 1 juiced, the others sliced into chunks
1 Vidalia Onion
1/3 cup white wine
1 bunch of thyme, lavender, rosemary and sage tied together. *Bouquet Garni*
Preheat oven to 425. Rub chicken well, inside and out with Sea Salt and Fresh cracked pepper (your choice)
Fill cavity of chicken with Myer Lemon chunks, Bouquet Garni, and slice onion
splash white wine inside cavity of bird
Slice the top off the bulb of garlic and scatter cloves of garlic around and inside bird.
Roast for 20 minutes at 425 then drop temp down to 325 and finish after about 1.5 hours depending on weight. 20 minutes per pound is fine. Let rest when removed from oven for at least 10 minutes.
Slice and enjoy with sauteed Spinach and sliced carrots, lightly steamed. Drink a Beaujolais Village. AVOID that Nouveau stuff at all cost. JMHO.
Wild Wine-Project Ladybug and a delicious wine suggestion
November 13, 2009
Monday: Wild Bite
Tuesday: Wild Drink
Wednesday: Wild Table
Thursday: Wild Culture
Friday: Wild Wine/Beer/Charitable persuits
Project Ladybug’s Dina Manzo of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” established a micro-charitable project called the Project Ladybug to help children live with their cancer. Dissimilar to other foundations that help children on a global standard, Project Ladybug attempts to personalize the care and attention that children crave. Children with cancer need plenty of support. That is where Project Ladybug excels.
What would be my connection with this foundation? My wife, Julie is a classically trained pastry chef and she works at Saks.
Julie bakes micro-amounts of specialty cupcakes for the ultra-chic Lancome store at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. Every month she is asked to create one of a kind cupcakes in unique flavors and designs. Julie received a call from Lancome a few days ago asking for a special design, something they had never done prior. The cupcake would have to exemplify and honor Project Ladybug. The design they wanted was in the classic shape of a cupcake, but with a twist. The twist that was discussed is the foundation of Dina Manzo in an image…with these sweet confections. The task required a topping in the shape of a ladybug! A topping with a ladybug? Had it ever been done before? Who would create such a confection? Would it be able to fly? All these questions were to be answered by just looking at how beautiful they turned out. Project Ladybug was set up not only to help children with the fight against cancer, but they attempt to help children live with their disease one smile at a time… Through the taste of a cupcake. Thank you to Kathleen McCarthy at Lancome for supporting a businesses like Julie’s one cupcake at a time.
Lancome’s attention to detail, right down to the cupcakes that they offer to their customers is very special to the followers of Dina Manzo.
These cupcakes are different than any I’ve ever seen. They exemplify the hope for these children that Dina throws birthday parties for and goes beyond a picture and a statement type of charity. The Lancome contribution to the Dina Manzo project is a bright light in a typically sad world of children and their cancer. They aim to put a smile on each and every child-one cupcake at a time.
Finding a wine that complements Cupcakes? That’s easy! I suggest something festive and sweet. A lovely sparkling Brachetto wine from the Piedmont in Italy. Extremely low alcohol and easy quaffed, it is the perfect foil for the Ladybug Project’s cupcakes. Light pink in color and slightly frizzante (or sparkling) this sweet cotton candy of a wine is delicious with sweet desserts or by itself as a “dessert in a glass.” Please accept our personal best of luck to Dina Manzo and the Project Ladybug!
Julie bakes: 908.489.0779
Project Ladybug: Dina Manzo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wild Culture – Minetta Tavern Redux
November 12, 2009
Nothing Has Changed, Yet Everything is Different at Minetta Tavern.
by Warren Bobrow
MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, NYC
Picture a bustling street in the heart of summertime Greenwich Village. Food is being sold in open doors and windows nearly everywhere. To the left there are multitudes of schwarma stands, gaudy kebab palaces, Chinese take-out, Halal vegetarian foods, pizza from a dozen different windows. Then, to the right the Village staple, the ubiquitous Italian cuccinas – one there, another there, another and another with frivolously dressed hostesses clutching piles of menus trying to entice the throngs to come in and feed on ambiguous plates of carbohydrates and heavy cream sauced pasta dishes.
Ahead there are more coffee houses serving staccato conversations, poetry, and 60s style guitar music. Watered down diner quality espresso drinks dot the tables and the waiters move to the ebb and flow of students. This is the restaurant row of mostly cheap eats, Village-style, MacDougal Street subculture.
We ask ourselves, has simple classic American cooking gone the way of a preconceived notion that all new dining spots are designed to become mere “theme” restaurants?
Evidently not, as we were to discover at Minetta Tavern, the “feather in the cap” restaurant of wunderkinds, Keith McNally and his chef-partners Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr.
We open a wood and frosted glass door, then enter a vacuum from another generation, 1930s New York City to be exact. Patrons, over five deep at the bar, are deep in loud, back slapping, boisterous conversations. It is an extremely loud room from the tile floors and hard ceiling to the wood bead-board walls. All ages are represented from the elderly moving slowly in walkers to the young bon vivants who sit in front of vast plates of steak frites and glasses filled with classic cocktails.
Minetta Tavern is a serious steakhouse with a wine list to match, featuring old Bordeaux and library wines plucked from private wine cellars. We order glasses of an excellent Cotes de Provence. We have come for Dry Aged Côte de Boeuf from Creekstone Farms. Here, they serve it plain on a plate garnished only with elegant 6-inch long roasted marrow bones. These marrow bones have been cut lengthwise on a meat saw, sprinkled with fleur de sel and roasted at over 700 degrees until browned and sweet.
There isn’t anything like this series of two speak-easy style rooms anywhere else in New York City. Low, tin ceilings are painted white; brass chandeliers covered with vintage painted paper shades hang from the ceiling. The music is big band enlivening the already lively room.
Minetta has the formula right and the food is not secondary to the historic nature of the room. In stark contrast, the energy of the dining room at Minetta reminded me of the Friar’s Club uptown. I felt as if I was in a private domain where everyone knew each other through some association. I had not dined at the Friar’s Club in many years, but the memory of a secret place was rekindled when I entered Minetta, it was as if I never left that club located so many blocks uptown. The Friar’s Club is no longer a temple of gastronomy; it may not have served a fine meal in many years, although the historic dining room filled with those “in the know” still exists. The private domain of the crowd could have been here at Minetta Tavern all along.
There is boundless good energy at Minetta Tavern. People are very serious about what they eat and demand the highest quality food. We scarcely had time to lift our drinks from the bar when our table was called. The hostess efficiently and cheerfully offered to take our drinks on a tiny tray-directly into the fray of the dining room. Waiters bustled by carrying steaks, chops and frites. I didn’t know which way to look.
Our table was set in the tight hallway between the two rooms of the restaurant. We had a perfect view in both directions, everyone who went into the rear dining room had to pass by our table and vice versa. It was as if we were on stage and the wait staff who rushed back and forth made for a kind of visual and ever-changing tapestry. Balthazar, the French bistro just up-town from Minetta is the obvious template on which the service model of Minetta is based. The uniforms worn by the wait staff reflects the intellect of the owners. They could walk out of Balthazar and enter Minetta Tavern without losing a beat. The back waiters and busboys do their tasks with quick motions, pouring water into perfectly clean glasses from what appear to be clear wine bottles (a la Balthazar), without disturbing the rest of the table.
I ordered a Maple Leaf Sazerac, an old school cocktail made from Rittenhouse Rye, Sortilege Maple cordial, Pernod, and Lemon Zest. The addition of the Maple cordial added a certain depth to the drink that mere white sugar cubes could never duplicate. This small cocktail transported me to a time when hastily mumbled secret passwords opened doors in this neighborhood. I had the secret password in my hand in the form of this delicious, classic cocktail from before the days of Prohibition in New Orleans. I suggest taking that same cocktail and adding instead of the Pernod, a new-fantastic spirit I’ve discovered called Root.
Our very patient waiter read us the specials. Salads were ordered and then swiftly presented with expertly melted goat cheese croutons forming juxtaposition from sweet to savory to meltingly delicious cheese to crunchy toasts. After a bite or two, I wanted more. I had ordered a steak-house favorite. Steak Tartare. But here, in this room the menu stated that there were three nuggets of different meats. Lamb Tartare with Argan Oil, olives and mint. Pastured veal with black truffle and chervil; and finally, one composed of classic beef with mustard and cornichons.
Each morsel of the tartare spoke of the highest quality, albeit small portions, of billowy soft, hand-chopped meats. I secretly wished for a raw egg on the side for mixing with the mere spoonfuls of precious essence as I see that pure ingredient as crucial in a mouthful of Steak Tartare.
My wife and I ordered the hero of the restaurant that is listed under Grillades, dry aged Côte de Boeuf. This slab of crunchy, well-marbled and aged meat was served blistering hot, then hand carved off the bone, similar to the presentation at Balthazar. But here at Minetta Tavern the steak takes on a deeper manifestation and is a masterpiece of purity and form. Pat La Frieda’s $ 26 “Black Label” burger composed of short rib, brisket and skirt may well be the most popular item on the menu for its sheer crowd-pleasing imagery of Prime Aged Beef, but the La Frieda specialty,Côte de Boeuf , may well be the flashiest cut of beef in New York City.
Pat La Frieda custom ages steaks for Minetta Tavern using a special aging room for up to 6 or 7 weeks. This extended aging process breaks down the tough sinews naturally found in the meat by a proprietary progression of time and temperature. The steak comes plain broiled on a plate. It is simple cooking raised to the highest possible standard – no butter melted on top to cover up the sight of anything unpleasant, no Béarnaise sauces to smother a second rate cut of beef here, no “un-named” steak house sauce from that other steakhouse over in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Heinz Ketchup, on the other hand is available for the excellent, steaming hot frites that are served in a paper sleeve set into a silver cone on the side.
The menu claims that the chocolate souffle’ we ordered for desert serves two persons, but it was a portion fit for three or more; and a delight to behold, presented with a thick mantle of powdered sugar.
We were taken care of by the restaurant staff as if we were old familiar faces in a crowd of well wishers. This is what white tablecloth fine dining is truly about. It’s not just the physical act of eating a meal, but creating a shared memory of a lovely dinner with family and friends. Minetta Tavern took us into its grasp with simplicity and grace. I can see becoming a regular here, perhaps one day my image will join the hand-sketched pen and ink pictures of long-gone customers that grace the walls. Nothing has changed, yet everything is different at Minetta Tavern.
Wild Table …. patience
November 11, 2009
Wild Table and the lesson for the day is patience
I was supposed to have a leisurely drive up to Scranton this morning but something came in between an orderly drive and the possibility of a goring by deer in rut.
Today, I started my day with four hungry deer in the garden, holes in the fencing and two really huge bucks charging me with their antlers facing downward. In that moment of complete clarity I knew that I’d have to do something.. really quickly.
After this excitement in the garden this morning, I was able to compose myself enough to drive up to Scranton, Pennsylvania to meet with the “Q Grader program” Certified Cupper, Mary Tellie.
TheQ Grader Program is a rigorous testing and certification program, this is the first comprehensive professional accreditation for coffee graders and cuppers, recognizing the deepest talent at work in the coffee industry. source: The Coffee Institute.
A patient person, she has the determination to be a true artist/craftsperson in a traditionally male dominated field of small batch roasters. Mary so succinctly stated…” You can’t buy culture, you have to create it.”
Mary owns the Electric City Roasting Company in Scranton, Pa. I had never been up to this part of the state and didn’t know what to expect. What I found was the answer to my question. “What is cupping?” Mary dispelled all my preconceived notions about coffee culture and it was immediately apparent why she is so sought after as a “cupper.” Just as a Master of Wine slurps on a glass of vino, Mary throttles-up the art of cupping to a deeper, much more visceral level. She possesses a palate akin to the most highly compensated scent testers who work for perfume companies. Which, by the way drives her crazy. ” If you come to work smelling like perfume, I’ll send you home.” Mary goes on to explain that even a whiff of cologne or perfume may sway her nose- one way or another. If she is to remain objective in her craft, she must work without influence of artificial aromas. She opens the door wide to demonstrate her conviction for fresh air. Mary is akin in this respect to a laboratory scientist, but with a huge difference. Although very detail oriented with a mind for minutia, Mary still works with her hands. She infuses her soul into the coffee. She crafts the coffee with passion and love. There are no shortcuts here. The basis of her passion? Taste the coffee and then tell me what you think.
She slurps the coffee like someone would slurp Japanese Noodles to release the aromas.. The liquid is warm, adding to the depth and richness of the potion. Secondly she is so experienced with the truly high end flavor profiles of coffee that she would rather not drink coffee in most restaurants. Let me tell you why. Most restaurant coffee is not good quality, even the “supposed” best is a marketing concept. It’s all in the selection of the beans, the roasting of the beans and something unexplainable. Just empty your mind of what you thought you know about coffee culture. Mary speaks of this culture and fair trade, micro-millers and Costa Rica coffee plantations high in the mountains. She beams the energy and unbridled enthusiasm of a child turned loose in FAO Schwartz at Christmas time; her passion is so deep for her craft. A row of micro sized hot air roasters test and retest green coffee bean samples.. she also uses a sample roast on a vintage single barrel
gas sample roaster. Nothing escapes her intensity for it is her name and her reputation on every bag. Her reputation as a craftsperson, locavore, artist and community supporter be it in Scranton or Costa Rica. Her profile and her mantra in every cup supped. I learned something today- and that was patience. I knew immediately for all the experience I have tasting wine, I truly know nothing about cupping coffee or coffee of this caliber. Today that was even more apparent and it made the day fly by. The experience taught me to taste differently. Thanks Mary.
Wild Snack just for one week
November 10, 2009
I’ve worked in many white table cloth restaurants and a few soul food restaurants, so I know a bit about good ingredients, even those that are Middle Eastern or Turkish in origin. If they are locally gathered and what’s fresh- that’s what I’m looking for in food of this character.
I like fire tinged, homemade spicy Harissa sauce made with olive oil, garlic, slow roasted hot red pepper and lemon juice. Rotisserie spun marinated lamb, veal and beef, or chicken or vegetarian kebab, cooked over smoldering hard wood coals get my attention quickly. All are prepared with love and smiles… That energy alone is what brought me to this hole in the wall restaurant in Morris Plains, New Jersey. I was hungry and wanted to taste the heat that surrounded the place and calls out to you when you drive up with your car windows open.
Set on an otherwise ambiguous street, directly across from the bustling Morris Plains, NJ Transit station, this likeable restaurant boasts Middle Eastern comfort food without saying a word. The scent of natural wood charcoal is evident in the non-air-conditioned space of about 100 square feet. The natural charcoal grill is my focus here, although large hunks of lamb and veal turn on spits, giving off little boiling bursts of fat and natural juices, all of which collects in a saute pan under the rotating meats. The front window is spotlessly clean and the open kitchen shares in a thorough cleaning when I walked in this afternoon. The owner was carefully cleaning the refrigerator case and each internal section making sure it gleamed. I often stop here because the restaurant is that clean.
In the past, a drive down to historic district in Paterson, NJ for Middle Eastern food and a glance at the Great Falls would entice.. but that food, although delicious and satisfying at the time never sat well with my stomach. You just don’t want to go all the way down to Paterson to feel not quite right, too long of a drive for mediocre feed bag style of cooking. Huge buffet style lunches of uncertain age and provenance and much eating with hands, (and serving with hands) always made me queasy, so I stopped going out for Middle Eastern cooking.
Carmel Haifa is a little gem of a restaurant in Morris Plains. They use good local fatty (read flavorful) lamb for their shish kebab sandwich. It is grilled over the same natural hardwood coals that I smelled from the street. There is a sign on the menu that reads just that: “we only use real natural charcoal.” You can see the bags lined up under the grill in a reassuring form of advertisement. The scent of lamb fat crackling and bursting on hardwood charcoal is familiar to me. Recently I grilled some New Vernon, NJ- baby lamb rubbed with garlic and thyme. The spices were different, but the smell of baby lamb is the same.
The owner, like an old friend, greets me warmly. I smile, the man who is cleaning by the window smiles too. They all know why I am here. I usually order the meat that is swirling throwing off hints of juicy pops in front of me. This rotisserie cooked meat is then stuffed into a pita which, when sliced open is added with lettuce, house pickled onions, homemade Harissa paste, tahini sauce and the sizzling slices of veal and beef… but today, I want a grilled lamb kebab sandwich. Char grilled hot marinated lamb, cooked until crusty on the outside and juicy inside. Served with oily hot pepper paste, tahini, lettuce and chopped pickles…. My new favorite.
Carmel Haifa 682 Speedwell Avenue Morris Plains, NJ 07950
November 9, 2009
Monday: Wild Bite
Tuesday: Wild Drink
Wednesday: Wild Table
Thursday: Wild Culture
Friday: Wild Wine/Beer
POT LIQUOR OR POTLIKKER? The Cultural Dichotomy of Potlikker vs. Matzo Ball Soup
Preface Originally Published: February 23, 1982 Credit: The New York Times
In an article on Senate debates on food that ran on this page Feb. 10, mention was made of a 1935 filibuster in which Huey Long lectured his colleagues on the merits of potlikker. Due to an unfortunate consultation with a dictionary, that great Southern delicacy was referred to as ”pot liquor,” prompting the following communication from a regional authority on the subject:
I always thought The New York Times knew everything, but obviously your editor knows as little about spelling as he or she does about Appalachian cooking and soul food.
Only a culinarily-illiterate damnyankee (one word) who can’t tell the difference between beans and greens would call the liquid left in the pot after cooking greens ”pot liquor” (two words) instead of ”potlikker” (one word) as yours did. And don’t cite Webster as a defense because he didn’t know any better either.” Sincerely, ZELL MILLER Lieutenant Governor State of Georgia
The Southern food heritage authority, John T. Edge wrote his masters degree thesis on the cultural relevance of Potlikker. Why can’t I explain my personal connection with Potlikker? All great Southern Heritage questions should be answered by those who are influenced by the South- for their own perspective on Southern Culture and Southern Cuisines. You don’t have to be a Southerner to be knowledgeable about the history of Southern Cooking. You can even be a Yankee Carpetbagger!
I’m a Damn Yankee, born and raised. Why should I be interested in potlikker? The explanation goes back to my childhood. The kitchen in the big house was the place that made me love bacon, cooked low and slow in a cast iron pan. To whit my first true memories were on the farm, in the kitchen next to Estelle cooking a rooster including all the parts into a stew. The collards, turnip or mustard greens were cooked until they oozed their very souls into a viscous, slightly cloudy fluid-thick with the rendered chunks of salty home-cured, country ham. The pan in which they cooked further flavored those greens. Then they were wiped out with the hunks of hand-cut “light as a feather” biscuits. I would sop up the likker and country ham with a still warm biscuit or hunk of cornbread hot from the old cast iron frying pan. Nothing went to waste. A pot of old black coffee was stirred into a pan of cooking greens. Why throw out coffee? If it tastes good, it will extend the ingredients and flavors in a more complex meal. A top round of roast beef cooked for a Saturday night supper would always have the collard greens on the side- and the potlikker. My earliest memories of family and table involve tasting the ground, the earth beneath my feet and a splash of Southern cookingthrough liberal application of the likker. Most of these earliest memories were in the kitchen of my grandparent’s “big house.”
Estelle was our cook. With her broad smile and determined yet friendly demeanor in the kitchen, food not only tasted differently, it tasted better. She was a strong willed woman who loved us deeply and not just because she worked for our family. That love translated through the warmth of her hands into creating food that didn’t just feed us, it sustained us. These memories I have are complete and true. They tie me to her kitchen and her teaching. The dishes that my mother cooked for my sister and I had no flavor or discernable memories. That’s not to say she couldn’t cook. She used excellent ingredients all from local farms and grocery stores. It’s just simple…My mother couldn’t cook like Estelle, she wasn’t meant to, after all, my mother is a Yankee, like myself. Estelle was from Georgia. I learned about potlikker at the knee of Estelle, who didn’t actually teach me how to cook, she just cooked and I watched. One of her favorite dishes was served in the fall when the greens were bright and available for next to nothing at the grocery store. Simple foods that speak of the soil are most pleasing after the first frost. They seem to grow better after being “hardened-off.” So far this season we’ve only had one hard freeze and several light frosts. To my palate, this is the best time for one thing and that’s GREENS and memories of meals gone past. The cultural analysis for greens, cooked low and slow, is what is left over after the greens have she their liquids. This likker slides around at the bottom of an ancient cast iron dutch oven- slick with the memories of all the greens cooked in the past. The cultural and historical dichotomy of connecting potlikker and the Jewish culture of matzo ball soup (chicken soup prepared with matzo balls/using typical Jewish ingredients such as a Pullet or an old Rooster is more than just a coincidence. The defining thread of these liquids is akin to the perceived healing properties of the liquid. Evidently, potlikker contains a metaphysical oral history many hundreds of years old, attached to healing, just as matzo ball soup (when made correctly) contains what is known as Jewish Penicillin. Jewish Penicillin is as much a part of the greater world of culinary delights as “potlikker” is mentioned as a cure for scurvy, Vitamin K deficiency and general malaise. Down South, the description of not feeling well is sure to garner the response: “have a cup of likker” as in NYC, where the words “have a cup of matzo ball soup, you’ll feel better” describes a similar experience and cultural history. They are both tied to our stomach and feeling of being… “better.” The combination of drippings from the greens and the broth of a bowl of matzo ball soup are tied into the deepest recesses of the culinary psyche. They both say “heal me from the inside out.”
I share with you Estelle’s greens. Cooked low and slow with a dash of Southern Georgia Pig.
I use salty Smithfield Ham slices or a few smoked ham hocks soaked of their salt
Collard greens are nutritious. You can grow them just about anywhere. The best soil to grow collards is sandy acidic soil, although the will grow almost anywhere that sun shines hot during the day after a cold night under the stars.
Drinkin and Dronin’ starts here while the greens cook down to their sweet essence.
2 – 3 medium smoked ham hocks or 2 pounds smoked pork neck bones or a few slices of dry and salty aged Smithfield Country Ham
2 teaspoon of salt (if you use Smithfield Country Ham, then do not add any extra salt- it will be salty enough from the ham. Take 2 or 3 smoked ham hocks and put them in a large (6 quart) pot of water. Bring the water to a full boil and let it boil for about 2 1/2 hours. Add more water as it boils down. When the Ham hocks are falling apart you can add the collard greens. Just before they go into the pot wash them carefully in many changes of fresh, sweet water from your well. If you don’t have a well, get your water from someone who does.
Rinse the collard greens thoroughly, stack several leaves on top of each other. Roll these leaves together like rolling a cigar. Slice the leaves into thin strips using a wooden cutting board and large very sharp knife. Smile while you’re making this dish and play this. Rolling them together like a fat Cuban cigar speeds up the process and makes the job more enjoyable.
Next, add your cut and rewashed collard greens to the pot. Since this is a lot of collards, you will need to add them until the pot is full. Then allow them to wilt as they cook – then add some more. Add a bit of salt, only if using ham hocks, not the Smithfield Ham. Cover and cook for twenty minutes on medium heat. Stir every few minutes with an old wooden spoon to distribute the smoked meat taste evenly. Eat the ham hocks or neck bones right along with the collards. Heck, invite the neighborhood over and get a few cases of PBR. Have plenty of fresh cornbread handy to sop up the juices. On our farm we always had plenty of hot sauce (homemade of course) to sprinkle over the greens. The juices that flow from the greens are known simply as “potlikker.” This is the magic liquid that binds hundreds of years of Southern history in a scented broth. I knew a family that always kept a jar of this in the refrigerator, if not for cooking, but for general medicinal purposes.
Like a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup… “Potlikker” heals everything that hurts. Try some!
The wine for “potlikker?” May I suggest a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. And thanks to Billy Reid for influencing my stomach.
Wild Beer…. What a week
November 6, 2009
I’m not one to complain. This week has made me sure that there is a reason for Friday. Sitting in front of me is a crystal brandy snifter. Inside there is a golden brown elixer. Slightly bubbling, sweet to the nose and very old. How old? Try Ten years or so. What is this potion? It is a snifter of Belgian Beer, but not just any Belgian Beer, but one that I bought several years ago with the intention of letting it rest for an unspecified period of time. When it would be ready, it would be ready. I forgot about it for a while a long while. About 10 years to be exact. What is is that I’m drinking? A bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru. Imagine the deepest cherry from that tree- over there. It’s just bursting with flavor. The dew from the morning fog is dripping off that cherry and now it’s in your hand. Taste it. The juice dribbles out, sweet, tangy and full of an almost effervescent quality. I take another bite of the metaphorical fruit, in my mind’s eye- and sip a bit more of this Ale. Pear like flavors reveal themselves along with a drumming of cedar wood drums in the background. You can’t miss it. The Artists who made this Ale a decade prior are still haunting each sip. A brandy snifter is the perfect glass, never use a pilsner glass, they just won’t work. You need a bowl shaped glass to hold the beer close to your hand and heart.
The week has been very good to me. Starting with the Root Redux from Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction *what talented people!!* then a Wild Table Re-Dux from A Toute Heure and the Wild Drink…. Yesterday’s piece from Bella Stander isbrilliant! If you haven’t read it, the article linked here. Fall is upon us! Go out and enjoy a walk in Jockey Hollow– or where ever your feet take you. Eat hearty foods that speak of love and prepare them in a cast iron pan so that the flavors add to the memories held within. Cheers! wb
Wild Table (Wednesday-Food Day)
November 4, 2009
Wednesday is Food Day on Wild Table. I’ve just been reminded of a wonderful meal we enjoyed a few short months ago. Was it this past Summer? Oh my, how time races by. The restaurant is called A Toute Heure and it is located in Cranford, NJ. Now it is Fall, it’s getting colder out and my stomach is interested in foods that speak of the place and the time of the seasons. Right now here in my home, in front of thewood burning stove, I’m enjoying a bottle of Unti Syrah and the only thing I can think about is having dinner at A Toute Heure. The take away here is when you cook with love, you have everything at your fingertips. Thank you to Ann Hall Every for this enlightenment.
Please enjoy this Redux of A Toute Heure in Cranford, NJ. I’m going to have lunch there and report back really soon.
When a Restaurant Does it Right
A Toute Heure is located not in Martha’s Vineyard, or Boston or even New York City… But, if you ever find yourself just off the Garden State Parkway in Cranford, New Jersey and locavore is how you eat, then you must find your way to one of the best restaurants in New Jersey, if not in the entire Tri-State area. (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.)
Walking up the path to A Toute Heure, is like stepping into a farmhouse located somewhere in the Hudson River Valley of New York, without the farm tractors parked outside.
Local to the restaurant is a postage stamp farm called Cherry Lane-mere blocks away-nurturing perfect little heirloom tomatoes that glow on the plate with an inner energy. The mention of the Cherry Lane farm had originally piqued my interest. Where was the Cherry Lane Farm? Did I know that it was “just around the corner?” You cannot get any fresher than this!
A black board prominently displayed on the wall tells all you need to know about who is supplying what ingredient to the restaurant. Fresh cheeses are listed alongside the farm names. All the varied locavore ingredients right down to the eggs are given a place on the wall. The list changes daily depending on what is fresh.
Local foods complete the scene in this change-the-entire-menu-weekly, James Beard Society-nominated restaurant. But that kind of award doesn’t make the scene. What makes the scene is the abundant energy and pulse-the smiles from the staff-the smell of the open kitchen as the staff prepares each plate. The kitchen just radiates good feeling… you can taste the energy in anticipation of your supper.
A Toute Heure is a BYOB. I brought a peach pit and citrus-tinged Sybille Kuntz Trocken Riesling in a 1/2 sized bottle for our appetizers and a really special bottle of a single vineyard, Pax Syrah Cuvee Christina from 2004-which has rested in my cellar until I opened it about 9 hours prior to dinner. The tap water doesn’t taste like chlorine that is a nice complement to the meal, one I cannot say for Morristown, New Jersey, where I live and where the tap water reeks of it, making for difficult drinking and eating.
We were presented with an Amuse Bouche of Hush Puppies that sent me right back down to Charleston, South Carolina. It was here that sparkling fresh shrimp from Shem Creek fished just out of the brackish pluff mud filtered water filled my memories. One taste and I was eating the essence of Wild Shrimp. A brilliant, freshly made remoulade sauce sealed the deal.
My mother-in-law, who doesn’t eat shrimp, was offered a small plate of several heirloom “cherry” tomatoes. Each one was brimming with flavor and were still slightly warm from being just picked maybe seconds before they were sliced, dashed with a grassy olive oil and a bit of sea salt to raise their inner secrets to her fork. I tasted one and wanted to eat an entire bowl of them with aged Balsamico and crusty bread.
I started with a bowl of Kara’s Mussel Pot, an appetizer size that dwarfed the other plates on the table. It was brimming with succulent, steaming hot PEI Mussels. Sweet and plump, they came drenched in Belgian Ale from a local microbrewery, dotted with sweet, yet tangy blue cheese and a splash of cream. I inhaled most of the bowl and set to work at the excellent bread served and refilled without my notice to sop up the broth.
My wife and her mom shared the satisfyingly filling, meltingly soft to the tooth Paffenroth Garden’s roast beet salad. Each generous portion of beets echoed their specific terroir and was folded between perfectly cleaned local greens. I could smell the earthy nature of the beets and it stirred a far away feeling of summer and memories that lingered at the edge of my memory.
Tables around us shared large portions of all the items I had myself dreamed of ordering. Steak Frites! Pork n’ Clams! Cones of Pomme Frites – Can I snag one? Here, have one (or more) they’re crispy and hot…… with Ketchup!
I ordered the Hudson Valley magret duck breast which came over goat cheese-infused mashed potatoes that tasted made a la minute-the glutens of the potato had not turned to glue. I wanted to jump right in to bowl full of them. A veritable pillow-top mattress made of them. The duck, rendered of the fat that sometimes plagues other examples of this dish, tasted as if it had been running around just that morning. Or swimming, so deep was the flavor.
The other dishes were the boneless, brined, “brick” roast ½ chicken. Brick-Cooked Chicken holds a special place in my heart and this delicacy was brined to bring out all the flavors of a small, organic bird. So delicate and almost sous vide in texture- I wanted to tear into the chicken and perhaps convince the chef to fry me up a few wings,to keep me honest and quiet.
My mom-in-law has a restrictive diet, so she doesn’t eat meat in a restaurant, nor most fish. A Toute Heure accommodated her needs, serving her the bountiful, piping hot, Heirloom Cherry Lane Farm’s eggplant gratin with Gruyere and Parma cheese. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her polish off a plate of vegetables so quickly.
While we were finishing our meal I took note of the cheese list. Perfectly aged cheeses abound. We were served a selection of cheeses which included: Cayuga Blue from Lively Run Dairy in NY, a perfectly aged specimen of the Weston Wheel from Woodcock Farm in Vt., and my personal favorite-the Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill in Vt. Each cheese was just about 2 bites-served with house-cured olives and more of that excellent toast, carefully marked by the grill in crosshatches. I love seeing that extra effort at taking an ingredient and expanding on the flavors of the charred locally baked bread.
Dessert would be a selection of the best ice-cream I have ever tasted in NJ, the Burnt Sugar, the brightly flavored and toothsome Spearmint Bittersweet Chocolate Chip and the Ricotta with Candied Citrus. if I had a cooler, they might have been missing some. My wife enjoyed the chocolate bread pudding, drizzled with caramel sauce.. it was… deep, dark and filling.
Coffee was served in a French Press-nice touch! I wanted more-but wanted to be able to sleep and dream of our beautiful meal.
At A Toute Heure, if they stick to their ethos of fresh food,cooked simply with the love that we were shown through the excellent service and not-overly intellectualized cuisine, they will have that grail.. The James Beard Award hanging on the wall-just out of eyeshot though, for their food doesn’t need an award to be truly wonderful.
Wild Drink: It is feeling more like Fall/ A Root Redux
November 2, 2009
I visited Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction on Friday in Philadelphia and was astounded at what I found there. Like the de Medici family in Italy, the fine folks at Art in the Age are encouraging unknown and known artists to sell their works through this “Temple” of applied arts. I could not help but be inspired by the clothing, books and of course what I came for in the first place…. The Root Tea that goes by the name ROOT. While I was chatting with the Laura who is the public relations person at Art in the Age, I started to get really thirsty. It was only about 10:30 in the morning but my whistle was soon whetted by a large shot of Root. A lovely way to start the creative juices flowing.
Zombie Root Carousel
In a cocktail shaker-mash several maraschino cherries to a pulp. Add 2 shots Rye Whiskey, 1 Shot Root. finish with a shake or two of Fee Bros. Rhubarb Bitters, Add Ice, Shake Strain, pour over fresh ice in a TALL glass
Root and Creme Cliffhanger
Finish by adding a final shot of Coconut Water (also from Goya), Shake and pour into a tall glass with fresh, hand cracked ice.
Muddle fresh Chocolate mint with cane sugar.. add a shot of Root. continue to muddle mint and Root and Cane Sugar, Add 1 shot of Fee Bros. Mint Bitters or some really fresh spearmint
Add cracked ice, continue to muddle increasing amount of Root as necessary to create frost on glass. Finish with a splash of Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye Whiskey
picture 4 L10001051Hot Buttered Root
In a mug heat with boiling water, let sit, pour out water. Add 3 shots of Root. Top with freshly boiled water, add a pat of salted goat butter then finish with Fresh Nutmeg and a few dried cloves
picture 5 L10001031
img title=”Reading material?” src=”http://www.wildriverreview.com/wildtable/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/L10001031-1024×576.jpg” alt=”Reading Material @Art in the Age/Photo: Warren Bobrow” width=”499″ height=”280″>The Maine *yes, with an e* Line Cocktail
Slice a few apples, sprinkle with Grade B Maple Syrup. Roast in a 250 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Chop apples (they’ll be quite soft) To a cocktail shaker, add a tablespoon of the apple (chopped) 2 shots of Root and a few splashes of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters, Add a splash of VYA Sweet Vermouth. Add cracked ice, Shake and strain into a tumbler with some of the warm chopped caramelized apples on the top of some fresh ice and drink through the apples to bliss, or at least to a nice buzzy day.
Root is not available in very many places, yet. This will change (I hope soon!!!!)
November 1, 2009
Monday: Wild Bite and a Glass of Wine-with a recipe
Tuesday: Wild Drink
Wednesday: Wild Table
Thursday: Wild Culture
Friday: Wild Wine/Beer usually something really small producer, organic, biodynamic or just plain fun!
Wild Bite: The Good ‘Ole Grateful Dead
A Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Sitting in the dining room this morning, listening to a show recorded on this date in 1985 that I attended during a particularly busy Fall concert tour, I was wondering what I had to eat that day. The usual grilled cheese sandwiches, uncertain provenance “mystery” meats grilled over Sterno (I was NEVER that hungry) and the standby of all the shows I attended, the veritable kitchen sink of all stomach ailments, the mystery mushroom infused chili. (again.. I was NEVER that hungry to eat, so I didn’t!)
A grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast? I love grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast. Do you? Try one and see. The hot cheese, melting through a slice of rye bread slathered with butter (doesn’t Butter make EVERYTHING taste better?) and the crunchy texture of a slice of toasted rye bread…always with seeds- cannot ever imagine why Rye bread would NOT have seeds. This is my idea of a fine breakfast. I cook this sandwich in the cast iron pan that I’ve lugged around the country, with a new addition, a cast iron sandwich press. Weighing in at about 1 pound, this sandwich press creates a perfect little slice of pleasure for my teeth to cut through. And although it is breakfast, the wine that I would serve with a grilled cheese sandwich is not wine at all, but a glass of hard cider. Cider you say? What is better than cheddar cheese with apples? The mouth-feel of hard cider is a natural for grilled cheese- and if you are using a nice sharp artisan cheddar (NEVER USE AMERICAN CHEESE) then the combination is pure heaven. Cheers!
A Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Toast two slices of thickly cut Rye Bread (always with seeds)
Butter with salted Goat Butter from Valley Shepherd in Long Valley, NJ
Slice several thick pieces of Aged Cheddar Cheese and pack in between the slices of buttered rye bread. Place in Cast Iron pan on lowest setting. Place cast iron sandwich press over the top and open a bottle of Farmhouse Cider. While the sandwich is “grilling” enjoy a glass with a slice of the aged cheddar cheese. Flip when crispy and cheese is just starting to run down the side of the sandwich and into the pan. Put sandwich press back on the other side of the sandwich and cook 1/2 as long. Slice into finger sized portions and enjoy with several further glasses of the Hard Cider. Cheers again.
October 31, 2009
Will anyone come to my door today for Halloween? Doubtful. It’s 74 degrees and raining. The leaves are pouring along with the rain filling the driveway- making for an inhospitable looking place. I’m listening to Cabin in the Pines by Louis Armstrong, but someone has cut it all up, playing some parts in reverse, while other parts are going very slowly, yet other parts moving a double time. There has to be something said for the way music used to sound- walking down the street on Thursday in NYC, I was assailed by several Suburban trucks with something pumping out of every orifice of the vehicle, yet all the windows were shut and colored dark black. I could hear every single cymbal, bass drum and note as if I was in the Suburban with whomever was listening to this racket… at ear splitting levels. Often I’ve said the next true growth industry is in hearing aides. What did you say?
The ambient sound of the rain makes for a lovely background experience. Wisps of wood smoke are in the air from the fireplace. Maybe there is something to be said for silence? John Cage certainly believed in it. Pomona? Europe? Architecture? Silence.
I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.
Live Blogging From Wild Table!
October 28, 2009
Today’s Wild Table is coming live from PJ’s Pancake House in Princeton, NJ. Soon (after breakfast) I am driving down to Lawrenceville, NJ to attend a Live Blogging event. Part of the new media explosion with regard to Twitter. But first, the pancakes.. Three of them, served plain on the plate with a fried egg on top. I used to eat at a place in Charleston, Sc., called the Goody House. Their specialty was the pancakes with a fried egg on top.. One perfectly cooked pancake with a sunny side up egg. May they live on in everyone’s memory. No one paid cash there. It was all in the memory of the owners. They knew everyone by their first names.. Either Bo or Bubba. That was it.
Today as I finish my breakfast at PJ’s Pancake House, I am reminded of the years I spent in Charleston. And the Goody House. They were as much a part of me as the Grilled Cheese and Mayo sandwiches that I enjoyed.
Wild Drink for a Rainy Tuesday
October 27, 2009
Cold and pouring rain all day…. a Wild Drink for for a rainy Tuesday.
The Sassy Pear Smash. I was thinking about fruits that are in abundance during the Fall and Bosc Pears came to mind. Crisp, juicy and full of flavor, the Sassy Pear Smash is the perfect drink for warming your insides and then some. A hint of Sarsaparilla and the deeply scented flavor of the Grade B Maple Syrup is the key to the success of this cocktail.
1 Bosc Pear roasted with a drop of Grade B (Dark Amber Maple Syrup) then puree
1 part Root Liquor
1 part Eau-De-Vie du Pomme (or Calvados)
Roast slices of Bosc Pear until the sugars come out (about 20 minutes at 300 degrees)
Puree Pear slices and force through a small piece of cheesecloth to render the essence of the pear
Instructions for preparation–
In a cocktail shaker, add the Pear Puree. Then add 1 part Root Liquor, 3 parts Pear Eau De Vie, 1 Part Eau De Vie of Apple or Calvados, add cracked ice and a further splash of Grade B Maple syrup. Shake, Strain and Pour into a chilled Martini glass, garnish with a pear slice. Finish with a splash of Club Soda. Drink will have some heat, some sweet and some sassy-hence the name, the Sassy Pear Smash.
Wild Bit-a surprise on the lower east side of Manhattan
October 26, 2009
Monday: Wild Bite and a Glass of Wine-with a recipe
Tuesday: Wild Drink
Wednesday: Wild Table
Thursday: Wild Culture
Friday: Wild Wine/Beer usually something really small producer, organic, biodynamic or just plain fun!—
Thursday spells Alan Richman at the French Culinary Institute. It is also the day that I can wander New York in search of past lives. Funny how this past life of mine intersected several different parts of New York, a strange (to me) time- space continuum. Started the day taking pictures by the old restaurant named Florent. This swirling, circus of the absurd restaurant was host to drag waitresses, 25 hour per day pancakes and 50’s Girl Group music. A bowl of French Onion soup at 6 a.m? Bien Sur! Fried eggs and toast at 7 p.m.? No problem.
My brush with Florent came during a particularly wild time in NYC. The time of course was around the period of 1983-1985. I worked at Danceteria in the video lounge and in the old-time manual elevator while interning at WNET-13. The New York nightlife usually just got started at 2 a.m. and Florent was well placed to service those of us who wanted a party after the party…. after the party.
Thursday, I was in the store Kartell in Soho, looking for a desk chair. The girl behind the counter looked familiar- but I couldn’t place her immediately. Looking around, I glanced at the pictures I had on my Leica d-4. One picture was of the restaurant: Florent! I knew at that moment who was helping me at Kartell! It was the hostess from Florent. As it turned out, her husband was also in the restaurant business. He owns the Austria-German-Beerhaus named Cafe Katja… Their specialty is German food, German beer and Coffee Haus energy. Located in the old Jewish Quarter of New York on 79 Orchard Street, Cafe Katja was to be my destination for a late night sup after class.
Sausage is what I want. And a beer! But not just any beer… The month is October and in October one must drink beer that has been brewed in March for service in October. Why October? Because it is the celebration time in Germany. Time to break out the Sauerkraut and the Wursts… we’re getting serious about the colder weather now. Fill your stomach with great food from the old country. But make sure you save room for the excellent Linzer tort mit schlag!
Grilled Weisswurst and Sauerkraut- adapted from my dinner at Cafe Katja.. and the appropriate music.
Prepare a fire using hard wood coals. If that is not available use a cast iron grill pan on the stove. Use the best Weisswurst you can get made from Veal. Get these from your local butcher. You may be able to buy Weisswurst at the supermarket but I don’t recommend that product.
A German butcher will delight when you tell him that you are celebrating Octoberfest with his sausages. He may even offer you a beer. Make his day and help a small business by using an artisan product.
Heat your grill to smoking hot and place the wurst on the fire. when it splits, turn over and move to the cooler side of the pan. In a saute pan add some local sauerkraut. The Morristown farmers market has carried a really great sauerkraut and that needs to be heated slowly. Add a few caraway seeds. Heat a plate and slice some Rye bread. Plate the sauerkraut and then place the sausage on top of that. A working man could not hope to eat any better on a cool night. If you don’t want a German beer then you must have a glass of Grüner Veltliner with your sausage. I saw the excellent Hofer which is produced biodynamically. The crispness and white pepper notes of this wine screams out for Rudolph Steiner poetry.
Picture 1 L1010298
New York City view
Serve with ultra hot German mustard as they did at Cafe Katja.
Orchard Street certainly has changed since the mid-80’s. I would never have recommended a trip down here after dark. All that has changed though. Restaurants open their doors to the street and a vibrant scene flourishes in the far reaches of Manhattan.
Cafe Katja is living proof of brilliance on the plate… and thank you to Andrew (the owner of Cafe Katja) for the Linzer Torte it was delicious.
Wild River Review contributing editor, Warren Bobrow grew up on a farm in Morristown, NJ. A graduate of Emerson College with a degree in Film, he spent his senior year as a research assistant at The Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. He worked for many years in the corporate world.
His column, Wild Snack, appears every Wednesday on WRR@Large. His daily eMag; Wild Table is now available. In addition to Wild River Review, Warren writes for NJMYWay.com and SLOWFOODNNJ.org. He has upcoming work in Edible Jersey Magazine on the topic of Organic and Biodynamic Wine and upcoming submissions for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed., 2. Please follow his moving about and drinkin’ ’round on Twitter @ jockeyhollow.
Picture 2 L1020042
Please only use local sausages from a butcher Photo: Warren Bobrow
Trust your instincts and cook with passion!
October 23, 2009
Wild Wine: 2006 Thief in Law
Mouton Noir Wines/Andre Mack Best Young Sommelier in America
Friday brings another weekend and this weekend we plan to drink a 2006 Thief in Law.
This sumptuous wine has been resting calmly until today in the splendor of the old root cellar… Dinner should be a 28 day aged Prime “Shell” Steak, seared in my new Lodge cast iron pan until crunchy on the outside and medium (to my taste) on the inside. The mineral scent of aged meat will complement the Thief and elevate it to another height. This wine is layered in mouth coating flavors that remind my palate of cedar, lead pencil and roasted late season plums. The last time I tasted it a flavor of Quince cooked until they become syrup was especially pronounced.
A wine meant for charred steaks or long braised fatty foods. It is not for the person who likes fruit forward bombs or their evil twin: the candy wines.
This wine from Andre Mack is seriously intense stuff!
Prepare to spend a bit more- but reap the rewards of your labor in your glass. Decant, Decant, Decant. Open this baby up in the morning for service on your table in the evening.
I know that CoolVines in Westfield and Princeton carries this wine- you should call your local wine store and see if they can get some.
The passion and commitment to excellence comes shining through in every bottle of the Thief in Law. Get it quick- because they only made about 300 cases of it!
October 22, 2009
1-Year Anniversary of Billy Reid
Has it been a year? My discovery of Billy Reid has given me a new way of dressing, in keeping with the spirit of my “look” over the years. From the moment I walked into the shop on Bond Street in New York City, I felt something familiar. My wife and I shopped in the neighborhood and we stumbled in. There was an article in the New York Times waxing poetic about bespoke Southern Clothing and I am constantly intrigued to find that Kentucky bourbon and hand sewn bespoke clothing makes for a good conversation. Perhaps it is the casual elegance of the clothing. Maybe the music playing puts me in a good place. Then there is the sales help. I’ve always been spoken with, not spoken at. This is a good Zen exercise on manners if there is anything that a person can learn about great service.
Then there is the Bourbon. Great Kentucky bourbon can be offered to you if you know the secret code. There is a lesson to be learned regarding a glass of brown. That lesson is the art of listening for the queue. The secret code is somewhere between the actual word meaning, “yes, I’d enjoy a glass”… and that knowing smile…one that comes with a steady hand and quick wit. This is the Southern way of thinking. Offer a glass and reap the rewards. A new friendship is born!
You don’t know what I’m talking about? Then Billy Reid is not the store for you. With their 1-Year Anniversary on my mind, having the chance to enjoy a brown cocktail seems very friendly. Too bad the last few nights freezing weather killed off most of the mint. I’ll bet in a few days of warm weather, some sweet sprouts will pop up and a fine mint and bourbon cocktail will be offered up. If not, there is always Fee Brothers Mint Bitters– used only in very small drops!
Billy Reid’s clothing embodies a deeply Southern sensibility. Inside every person who wears this clothing there exists a good old boy (or gal) who is “fixin’ to get some barbeque” from a restaurant like Skeets in Darlington, SC. This is pit style meat. Cooked low and slow. I once drove all the way from Charleston for Barbeque at Skeets. This was before Hugo. When I called asking for directions- the kind person on the phone said: “When you smell Hog, you’re almost there.” That in itself is the metaphor for good cookin’ and fine eatin’. So in the spirit of the 1st anniversary of Billy Reid’s store on Bond Street in NYC, grab yourself a tall-boy PBR or a short glass of Brown and drink in the smell of Pit Barbeque, which just may be on the menu tonight.
Magnolia Springfest, Live Oak, Florida 03/24/00 www.archive.org
The Basics Series: A Cast Iron Pan: full of memories
October 21, 2009
Cast Iron is THE pan for making cornbread!
Fall is time to bring in a new member of the family to your kitchen. I say family not in the sense of the word as a blood relative-but moreover a family member that will be with you for the rest of your life and perhaps for that of your offspring. This new family member will be as trusted as your grandparents and as giving to your inner self as a glass of fine Kentucky Bourbon. Take this new family member in your hands-admire its heft-the dark glow of the material-the sticky coating covering the surface that will cook a thick slice of sugar cured bacon, a ham steak or a few fried local eggs. Touch this living history and hold it in your hands. Feel the weight. What is this history? Simply put, your new family member is a Cast Iron Pan. If you take the time to season it properly, it will become part of your family. Shrimp n’ Grits will be stirred and greens cooked low and slow until they release their inner liquids- their pot likker’. No chemicals or electronically bonded non-stick stirring devices will ever touch it. Only my old hand crafted wooden spoons will touch the inside of my new cast iron pan, and if used correctly, this pan will last a lifetime and then some. Right now it is dull gray, but given a bath of pork belly or some slowly caramelized onions, the pan will take on an inner glow of contentment. The time taken now to seek the darkest seasoning will follow this pan throughout its memory. Years from now- when the pan is used to craft a BLT, it will know- deep inside- the first time bacon touched its cold iron alloy and gave the bacon a warm welcome as if to greet an old friend.
My old cast iron pan came from near Savannah, Georgia out in the real Low Country. Yemassee to be exact. I received it as a gift from a former client who was giving away her kitchen mementos. She said that this cast iron pan had been to “Montana and back, mostly on foot” Her family’s family cooked in it she said. It was used to make many a meal over the years. It is not a fancy pan, but it does have a non-stick finish that shines! I cooked for her a few times- she asked me if I liked cast iron since I always wanted to cook out of that one pan. I remember replying that it was all I used at home in Charleston. Then it became mine…This kind of history places my cast iron pan in the annals of early culinary history. Many an egg slipped into this pan not knowing that someday another fried egg would slip out… a century or so in the future. To think of a perfect little chicken, frying gently in my cast iron pan, brined in salt water, then battered in seasoned buttermilk and panko Japanese bread crumbs, or the bacon that cooks low and slow until crispy for my late season heirloom tomato BLT sandwich, or even the perfect cornbread that was made in it almost 150 years prior-gives me pause…
The standards of Southern Cooking in this pan, has always mesmerized me with its inner energy and the flavors contained deeply within. Some of these memories are passed on in the form of stories. Others are passed on to future generations in the form of passing a cherished cast iron pan on to another generation. The non-stick coating only comes from years and years of cooking low and slow. Blackening a piece of freshly caught Brook Trout will not make you a better fisherman, but it will make you a better cook. It is as if this pan has a memory all its own. The pan is not a fancy “space age technology” non-stick pan, nor is it made of fine French Copper. It’s not made of stainless steel either. But lift it into your hand and connect with the campfire, the washing of that pan (once it has completely cooled) in an ice-cold stream, or just being re-seasoned with memory after memory-in the form of flavor over the years. Yes, this pan has a memory. Many a fine dinner has cooked within its walls for good times and not so good times-the flavors contained within tell a different story each time it is used. This story connects us with a simpler time, before the old cast iron pan in your cupboard was thrown out to make room for non-stick. Little did they know that this pan and all that came before it, was non-stick due to its own inner sense of duty-to cook foods made with love and the care of cooking, not just to feed, but to fulfill a greater cause as well. George Washington it is said, cooked in cast iron. His soldiers who inhabited the woodsbehind my home during the winter of 1778 used cast iron to cook what little they ate. Soldiers were “boiling their boots for soup.” It must have been a fragrant pot of broth! I honor them by cooking my own meals in this new cast iron pan that I hold in my hand.
A New Cast Iron Pan/New Pan Seasoning.
I noticed that my new pan is covered in heavy gunk, is it ready to use? The answer is no. You must season it before you use it. The sticky gunk is food safe, but would you want to eat that in your food? I don’t recommend it. First you must remove the packing grease that has been sprayed on the pan. To do this you first should heat the oven to 500 degrees. Put something like another baking dish on the bottom rack of your oven, the top rack will hold your new cast iron pan upsides down. Wipe your new family member inside and out carefully with a kitchen towel with the fat of your choice, make sure that kitchen towel is absolutely dry or you will burn your hands. The pan will immediately smoke heavily. Open your windows, pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea, for you have many hours of seasoning ahead of you today. Turn oven down to 250 and leave it be for a while. How long? How about a few years… it takes that long to set the seasoning.
The next day caramelize a bunch of onions in that pan.. The next day cook some butternut squash in it. Chose your dinners carefully and when you cook in the pan, do so with love. Always smile when you use this new pan- but do not be afraid to show emotion around it.
The pan will appreciate it and so will I. This process of seasoning will take many years- do not hurry or rush. Never, ever use soap on your cast iron pan. Soap will stick to the pan and make everything you cook taste of soap. If you burn something in the pan, take some sea salt and rub it into a paste with a bit of water and scrub away the burn, then re-season as described above. A pan takes time to become an heirloom, a trusted friend in your pantry. There is much for the pan to remember before it becomes your best friend. Trust your instincts and cook with passion. The results will sing of the energy contained deep in your new cast iron pan and it will reward you with perfect bacon and a slippery non-stick coating for years to come.
October 20, 2009
Wild Drink-Single Origin Hot Chocolate (not for the kiddies)
Fall walks in the National Park behind my home always stimulate a powerful thirst. Is it the crispness of the air? Or perhaps the feeling of the change in the seasons? Whatever we say is the true reason for thirst, may it be the warming sensation of a hot liquid filling the stomach with heat…. or perhaps we just like to drink something with a little “kick” —– oh, that is the ticket.
In front of me at this early hour of the morning is a container of Single Origin Natural Cocoa from Askinosie chocolates. Several months ago I met the fine folks who own this artisan chocolate company at the Fancy Food Show, held every year at the Javitts Center in NYC. Initially I was not going to stop and taste their wares, but there was something about the way they smiled when I inquired about the provenance of their chocolates that drew me in. They offered to “taste” me through their line and I learned much about equity in the chocolate producing regions and their ethos. On the container sitting in front of me it reads: Use for baking during peace negotiations. They also printed on the label, “a Stake in the Outcome” meaning that they guarantee to their farmers more than fair prices, open books and a share in their success. This meant something to me and I wanted to share that energy.
Hot Chocolate for a cold day.
2 Ounces of Single Origin Hot Chocolate from Askinosie (or your choice)
2 shots Root-The USDA Certified Organic Neutral Spirits with North American Herbs and Pure Cane Sugar
1 shot Branca Menta Amaro (super intense mint liquor from Milano, Italy)
freshly whipped cream
(there REALLY is no substitute for the real whipped cream, throw out those cans of chemical fluff the food technologists call whipped cream)
Prepare a mug with boiling water to heat through and through.
Pour out the water, the mug should be really hot.
Add Branca Menta, then the Root liquor, then top with Hot Chocolate-finish with a large spoonful of freshly whipped cream.. scrape some fresh nutmeg over the top and reflect on your fine manners by offering your friend a cup.
Thanks Art in the Age for linking to me… http://www.artintheage.com/blog/root-hot-chocolate-from-wild-river-review/
Wild Bite- A new Daily Series from Wild River Review and Wild Table
October 19, 2009
Introducing a new format for Wild Table, with: several interconnecting parts
Monday: Wild Bite and a Glass of Wine-with a recipe
Tuesday: Wild Drink
Wednesday: Wild Table
Thursday: Wild Culture
Friday: Wild Wine/Beer usually something really small producer, organic, biodynamic or just plain fun!—
Early fall dinner: Freshly made pasta sheets filled with pureed pumpkin- then drizzled with a bit of tangy and spicy watercress pesto, a splash of brown butter and some -cave aged 5 year old parma cheese scraped on top.
Recipe for pasta sheets:
* 3 1/2 cups Semolina Flour
* 4 extra-large eggs at room temp. Support a local chicken farmer. Buy their eggs!
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board or stoneware bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour, crack the eggs into another container removing any pieces of shell, then add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. It will be very messy, so have some cool water to dip your hands into on the side. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape. The dough will come together in a loose mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.
Kneading the dough should be done with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Place dough in a ceramic or stoneware container and set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature. Cover bowl with a damp cloth. Roll with a wooden rolling pin and form as desired.
Note: Do not skip the kneading or resting portion of this recipe, they are essential for a light pasta.
Cook pasta sheets in boiling water until they float to the surface *about a minute or so* and remove from the water carefully not to tear, .
Sugar Pumpkin Puree
Roast a small Sugar Pumpkin at 400 degrees with a splash of Grade B (Dark Amber Cooking Syrup) in the cavity.
Let cool and puree in a food processor. Adjust for seasoning with a bit of Maple Syrup and tiny bit of salt if needed, remember, the cheese is salty. Add a teaspoon of the pumpkin puree to the pasta sheet, cover with another sheet and cut to size.
Freshly Toasted Pine Nuts
1/4 cup Parmigiano Cheese Older is always better!
scant dash sea salt
Best EVOO you can find.
add olive oil a drizzle at a time to the watercress, pine nuts, scant dash of sea salt and cheese in a food processor or mortar/pestle.
Lately, I’ve been eating a really European tasting butter from a fabulous farm out in Long Valley, NJ.
Take about 2 tablespoons of the best butter (unsalted always!) you can buy.
In a copper pan, cook over really low heat until it takes on the color of hazelnuts and smells sweet like roasting nuts… use this to drizzle on plate, then pasta pillows filled with the sweet pumpkin, then drizzle with watercress pesto, then roughly scrape some cheese over the top..
Serve on a heated plate or bowl with a glass of:
Wild Wine for Wild Bite
A wine from the mystic named Abe Schoener called Scholium. The specific wine is called NAUCRATIS from the Lost Slough Vineyard. Small producer juice from a Greek Scholar.
“Utterly dry and balanced” is a perfect description of this wine.
October 17, 2009
Chartreuse VEP a rare treasure!
Chartreux is one of those “open the bottle and smell the place” type of mountain produced liqueur. It reminds me in many ways of the liqueur produced by a specific sect of monks in France- but this formula isnot the commercial product that graces many liquor store shelves. Packed in a wooden box with a hand numbered label, the VEP is made in extremely tiny quantities….
Chartreux VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) is aged in oak for many years. The combination of over 130 medicinal plants, plus the balance of “taste the place” Terroir gives Chartreux this unique flavor of high mountain pastures and crisp mountain water. Of course there is a liberal dash of thunder and fire!
It is rare and very expensive, but a bottle may last a year or more, making it a bit less of a pinch to the wallet.
Not for the meek at nearly 110 Proof!
October 16, 2009
I attend the French Culinary Institute on Thursday nights in NYC. The renowned food journalist Alan Richman is the teacher. Alan makes the trip into NYC worthwhile. I’ll be traveling into the city tonight in a forecasted Nor’easter.
I’ve heard talk about snow. Normally I would stay home and feed a wood stove fire. For dinner there was the thought of a late season heirloom tomato/ BLT… a hot buttered rum as a companion to the toasted bread and crisp bacon.
At least for a short while I’ll be listening and hopefully learning something new from a master.
Thank you Alan for keeping me excited about learning.
Soup.. Good for the Soul
I am really cold tonight.. We are having an early Fall snowstorm.. This has not happened since I was a boy growing up here in Morristown, NJ. My body is calling out for a bowl of Miso Soup from Nagano in Morristown, NJ.
The art of Miso is seasonal. You make the correct Miso because of the interconnection of the seasons, very similar to biodynamics.
This is early Fall, so a darker Miso is called for. In the Winter, Miso is almost a deep red black in color from the longer fermentation time necessary to make a cold season Miso. So I sit. Ready to eat some raw salmon, maybe a tuna tatatki. A cup of Bancha Root tea will guide me.. And the Miso soup.. My body craves it.
Task – Life, Art, and Fried Chicken in a Cast Iron Pan
October 14, 2009
By Warren Bobrow
Last week, I spent the afternoon with the Wild River Review editorial team at TASK(Trenton Area Soup Kitchen) and this experience left me in a different place.
While at the Soup Kitchen, I met “Shorty.” He is a soft-spoken man of uncertain age, and I am sure that he always chooses his words carefully. I asked him where he grew up. He said in New Jersey; and gently probing a bit deeper, I asked him about his family and if they used cast iron pans over the years.
His face lit up and he replied ,”Yes!” And what was his favorite meal cooked in the heavy cast iron pan?
“Fried Chicken,” he said.
His family, if I recall correctly, was also from Georgia where my favorite cast-iron pan hails from.
I knew not to pry into his inner history by asking too many questions. He has his food memories, I have mine. My pans are used daily; his may have been lost to history as his family moved from south to north. But discuss with Shorty the meals that were cooked in those pans that belonged to his mother and father, and the meal he describes: a big plate of biscuits, red eye gravy, and chicken foot stew become a rekindling of childhood memories led by his taste buds.
There were other men who shared their stories with me-the man who does pointillism paintings -each point another bit of his life revealed. His work was most powerful. Then, the photographer who photographs people, places and things-that seem just out of reach at present. He is so proud of his work, his use of light and dark in his black and white photography. I feel strangely out of place using a digital Leica when he takes his photographs with a faded 35mm. He may not have had much, but he had his images on paper.
Just waiting for another memory or conversation to enter the seasoned walls of that cast iron pan.
The names and faces of those men who have had really hard lives lingered in my mind for days. We are all connected though…and that connection for me is the metaphorical cast iron pan. Our stomachs, full of a fine fried chicken dinner with all the fixins’ cooked in cast iron pans. And for that I am truly thankful.
The cast-iron pan in my kitchen has been through a lot over the years. If its walls could speak, they’d tell tales of contentment, hunger, strife and struggle. I cannot compare myself with “Shorty” or any of the other men who I met at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. All I can do is honor them. It is with that respect that I submit my recipe for Chicken Fried Simply in a Cast Iron Pan.
Chicken fried in a Cast Iron Pan
Liberally adapted in small parts from Damon Lee Fowlers’ The World’s Best Fried Chicken.
1 cup all purpose flour preferably White Lily (sifted)
1 teaspoon baking powder (if your tin isn’t fresh, buy a new one)
Salt, freshly milled white pepper, and 2 tablespoons of freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups BUTTERMILK (Damon uses Milk. I like the deeper flavor of home-made Clabber Cream, thick Greek yogurt or best yet, local Buttermilk.)
1 fryin’ chickin’ no more than 3 pounds-leave the skin on, I think this is essential for flavor (Damon uses skinned in his recipe.)
1 teaspoon of Tandoori Spice sauce-(Damon doesn’t use this at all.)
Peanut oil 1/3 way up inside a Cast Iron Pan for fryin’
Wash chicken under ice cold water and place in a sterilized stainless steel container. Cover with a mixture of buttermilk and a scant handful of salt. Soak the bird for a few hours. Preheat an oven to 275 degrees. Meanwhile, sift the flour, combine the dry ingredients with the wet ones and whisk the wet into the dry to make a nice smooth batter. Add a teaspoon of the Tandoori spices, it will make the batter slightly pink in color. When fried, the chicken takes on the color of the palest pink summer Georgia peaches.
Heat a CAST IRON pan filled 1/3 up the sides with peanut oil. Bring fat up to 375 degrees. Check temperature with a candy thermometer.
Add chicken to the batter made with the above ingredients. Drop chicken pieces into the batter and let rest for a bit to gather its thoughts before the plunge into fat fryin’ history.
Slip the battered chicken into the fat. Repeat until the pan is full, but not crowded ( I agree with Damon on this).
Reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Turn chicken only once and don’t move it around! Expect about 40 minutes total cooking time.
Pour out most of the fat and add some old coffee to the drippins’. This is your gravy.
Finish in a warm oven or serve chilled with a squeeze of lemon and some chopped Italian parsley for garnish.
You may substitute a lime wedge for a more Southern Caribbean/Island flavor.
October 14, 2009
Fall is upon us and with the first really cool nights my taste buds call out for Hot Dogs. Last night, at the Roger Smith Hotel in Manhattan-we tasted through a series of Hot Dogs. Some classic NYC, some Chicago and some local to the Hudson Valley in NY State. The famous Hot Dog historian Bruce Kraig led us through a tasting of several Hot Dogs from his new book: “Hot Dog A Global History”
Andy F. Smith, the editor of the Edible Series of books officiated. (Thanks Andy!)
Burgundy.. a walk in the forest (in a glass)
October 14, 2009
Imagine a perfect Fall day-the leaves crunching under your feet, here and there a Chanterelle Mushroom peaks out its crown. You walk on the leaves and the mushrooms releasing their perfume. This is Fall. This is Burgundy.
Sammy's Chester (Mendham) NJ
October 14, 2009
Drive a few miles past Mendham, NJ and you’re in another time and land-take care not to be distracted by the gentleman farms or the steeply winding road ahead of you-there is no sign to let you know it’s there, after all during prohibition this temple of succulence was a speak-easy!
The parking lot is the only tip off of its location-set just off the road across from the crumbling, cider mill. Enter through the formerly screened front porch, or from the back up a few steps if you can’t find a space up front. Move to the right by the kitchen of the most times packed dining room and order up your dinner with one of the owners. Choices are extensive, we always get the Shrimp Cocktail that is comprised of 3 prawn (gigantic) sized shrimp, sweet and lemony as if just plucked from the steamer, then flash cooled for your plate, served with fresh cocktail sauce brimming with really spicy (I love spicy) horseradish.
Steak is king here. Prime Aged Black Angus Beef. Tastes like it was grass finished. Got a tooth for Porterhouse for two or more? How about a Rib Eye, studded with hot meltingly crunchy fat? Maybe a bone in NY Strip charred and finished with sea salt? They have double cut lamb chops too, plus a commendable hand ground burger that rivals the best available in New York. If meat not your style order yourself a few Maine Lobsters, sparkling fresh and dripping with the steaming salt tinged water in which they are cooked. These “famous for their freshness” bursting with the flavor of the ocean- lobsters can be ordered with a New York Strip Steak as a Surf and Turf if you desire. Nearly everything is made in house by loving hands. You also should try the appetizer portion of pasta with garlic and oil-but save room for the excellent bread and the made in house red wine vinegar doused- lettuce, tomato and red onion tossed salad that comes with your meal. Freshly steamed local corn greeted us with our steaks, as well as the show-stopper-the double cooked French Fries, Crispy, searingly hot and salty… Get yourself some Heinz Ketchup and dig right in. Use your fingers, everyone else does too. I cannot wait for the creamed corn made with with the local product.
Fish is handled with the same care and love as the steaks. Wild Salmon was the choice the other night, cooked perfectly to exactly the requested temp.
This former Prohibition era speakeasy (hence no sign out front) really bustles on a Saturday night with “multi-hour” waits for a table. But all is not lost! After you order, go downstairs to the bar, play a few games of pinball, have a classic shaken cocktail like their famous “historic” Gin Martini, and smile as people in the know, like yourself line up for a few drinks amongst friends before dinner. The Wine Spectator Gold Award Winning cellar filled with well chosen selections should serve to wash the steaks or your choice of dinner down very nicely.
Service is always with a smile-the seventy year old murals of verdant farms which surround you inside of the dining rooms serve to connect you with the past. Coffee is bottomless and served in a small coffee pot, steaming hot…The desserts never fail to please, they’ve stepped directly out of the playbook of American Standards…Cheesecake, Apple Pie, Apple Crisp, Brownie, Brownie with ice cream. .What kind do you want?
Bring a group of your friends, but if they’re from the area, they’ll know everyone at Ye Old Cider Mill already.
Sammy’s Ye Old Cider Mill
353 Mendham Rd W
Mendham, NJ 07945-2507
Wild Music (really)
October 13, 2009
2350 Broadway 4 – PW 50
Release Date: 15 January 2007
Hear the Sun 12.14
Sustained Energy 9.34
Extended Wave 10.24
Etherial Being 6.59
Take the Sky 11.47
Two Lives 10.29
all tracks written by Pete Namlook & Tetsu Inoue
Another lovely gem from the hinterlands…. I put this on my cd player 3 weeks ago, at night… haven’t remembered a thing… not a one.
so sleepy it makes me drowse off immediately. That, coupled with a wood stove fire…
wonderful stuff for dreams….
liquid dream music
From Russia with Love, via New Jersey. Matzo Ball Soup
October 13, 2009
use Dill.. why? just try it.
Welcome Fall – Welcome Cold Season – Russian-Jewish New Year style.
Yom Kippur – the day of Atonement for observant Jews – is a day of fasting. This means no food sundown to sundown. Ok, in the morning I had a few locally gathered scrambled eggs with Herbes de Provence. And, of course, a cup of coffee made with the beans my wife and I bought a few short weeks before on Martha’s Vineyard. I really wanted a Kossar’s Bialy with tomato and onion for lunch. I didn’t eat that. Wanted to, but didn’t. And no BLT’s or cheeseburgers .. I had one last year and had to atone for it this year.
What I dreamt of that day was the sweet and savory (Kosher) chicken soup made by my mom- in- law, Lenora. Her matzo balls are perfectly light and airy and she worries about how they turn out. They are wonderful, handmade with love. They are the essence of perfection. No leaden golf-balls in this family. The matzo balls would be the first thing I would bite into, hot or not. Her soup broth, slowly simmered using only Kosher ingredients, would break our fast.
Yom Kippur is that holiday when a bowl of chicken soup is not just a simple bowl of soup, it means something deeper, it binds us to our past. We stress out all year over it. My 90 plus-year-old grandmother, Sophia, was able to join us for dinner, so we enjoyed a lively evening of memories discussing the preparation of the matzo ball soup. At Break-Fast, the next day we enjoyed conversation about the soup we ate the night before over platters of smoked fish from Zabar’s.
Matzo Ball soup as a cultural metaphor has been the source of much lore. It is sometimes known as Jewish Penicillin. I’ve been fighting off a grippe for the past few days, and a bowl of this soup has reputed mystical properties long understood to be the cure for the common cold-and now Swine Flu. It is my thought to offer this matzo ball recipe because to share it brings another generation to the dinner table.
Unfortunately for strict recipe followers a great bowl of matzo ball soup is something that is felt deep inside the soul, and it doesn’t hurt to be Jewish, but this is not a prerequisite. It transcends the ages as an identifiable cause of that specific kind food story…that the matzo ball may be too firm, or too heavy or it fell apart in the pot!
I’ve heard that some people actually like their matzo balls to be as hard and heavy as a golf ball. In fact they have a golf ball in their kitchen so when they build these little bricks of cement ,the matzo ball’s weight will be about 2 ounces or more. Not me! I like them light and fluffy, made by hand,
Don’t bring me matzo balls that are round or heavy or hard to the tooth… I won’t eat them. If you consider using a boxed- mix, leave those matzo balls at home and feed them to an unfriendly neighbor or his dog. Open the pot- ruin the matzo ball, they’ll drop to the bottom like a hard potato dumpling in a kettle of Frogmore Stew. Patience is necessary. A good pinch of nutmeg is also recommended according to my great grandmother, Yetta, who taught me years ago about her Eastern European methods of matzo ball cooking.
And so, as we move into fall, I’m reminded of those in my family who have influenced me both present and past-through the ever-present bowl of matzo ball soup.
Prepare your chicken soup with a nice roasting bird like a Pullet, *a small commercial supermarket chicken- just won’t do* add washed and peeled carrots, celery, onion, parsnip, maybe a turnip if you desire, add fresh dill and a several garlic cloves unpeeled, but cut on one end.
Heat the Pullet and the vegetables over a medium flame with at least 12 cups of pure spring water in a non-reactive soup pot. Stainless is best. (the soup will reduce over time-making you thankful you listened to me on the water amount used)
Set chicken aside to cool and when you can handle it, separate the flesh from the bones. Make another pot of water and put the remaining bones in it.. heat for 30 minutes or so on a medium simmer. Use this bone-infused broth for cooking the matzo balls. Strain the first stock and chill covered so that the fat rises up to the surface. Put this stock in the fridge for the next day. This will be the soup.
Retain chicken fat for toast points ( memories of Sammy’s Roumanian? anyone?)
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 farm fresh eggs at room temp.
2 tablespoons reserved chicken fat from your soup
1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground nutmeg (more or less to taste, want spicy? use more…)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons seltzer water, not club soda (too salty)
Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and rest in the in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a brisk boil in a medium sized pot.
Reduce the flame. Wet your hands. Form matzo balls by dropping just enough of matzo ball batter to form approximately 1-inch in diameter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them in the shape of an Idaho potato- loosely into oblong balls. Drop them carefully into the simmering chicken stock from the bones one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes without opening or peeking or allowing anyone else to open the pot to catch a glance at them…. EVER!
Heat the dark Pullet-infused stock, add chicken pieces, some freshly snipped dill, carrots, celery and onions from the soup-pot. Place the matzo balls into the stock to warm, and serve in heated bowls.
I dedicate this article to my great grandmother, Yetta, who taught me to make a pretty good matzo ball and to my grandmother, Sophia, who was there to share our Yom Kippur supper with us.
Wild River Review contributing editor, Warren Bobrow grew up on a farm in Morristown, NJ. A graduate of Emerson College with a degree in Film, he spent his senior year as a research assistant in visual thinking at The Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. He worked for many years in the corporate world.
His column, Wild Snack, appears every Wednesday on WRR@Large. His daily Blog; Wild Table is coming soon in October. In addition to Wild River Review, Warren writes for NJMYWay.com and SLOWFOODNNJ.org. He has upcoming work in Edible Jersey Magazine on the topic of Biodynamic Wine and a piece in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed., 2., and NJ Savvy Living. Please follow his moving about and drinkin’ ’round on Twitter @ jockeyhollow.
Welcome to Wild Table!
Edgy, tense, tactile? Do you love food? Belgian Beer? biodynamics? NYC? Maine? and more?
Visit my new blog… Wild Table.. for all this and more.
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
Apothecary Cocktails: Mexican Sleep Cure
Billy Reid: Bourbon, Branch and a Splash of Southern Lore
Blue Hill/Stone Barns: Time Exists in Harmony with Nature
The Cocktail Whisperer asks Anthony Bourdain Four Questions about Scotch
The Five Questions: Andrew Bell, American Sommelier
The Five Questions Catherine Reynolds
The Five Questions: Lincoln Henderson (Master Distiller)
The Five Questions: Natalie West (Foppiano Wines)
The Five Questions: Randall Grahm
The Five Questions: Sustainable Sushi
A Glass of Bourbon, Branch, and History
Midnight in the Bronx: Visit to Hunt’s Point Wholesale Fish Exchange
A Modern Day Absinthe Alchemist
A Summer Cocktail Party for Artie Shaw
Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans, Louisiana