Stay tuned, stay hungry, and go cook something already!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

King Arthur Flour presents the one and only Susan Purdy!

King Arthur Flour is hosting Food Writing with Susan Purdy at their Baking Education Center in Vermont
Join our pal Susan G. Purdy, prize-winning cookbook author, culinary journalist, and CSCA seminar teacher, for a three-day interactive adventure through the world of food writing and publishing. Explore all types of writing from recipes to reviews, memoirs to magazines, including cookbooks, websites and blogs. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the fine points of creating, analyzing, and selling your words. There will be long and short exercise assignments in class and time for consultation with Purdy.
Monday-Wednesday, August 11-13, 9 am to 4 pm Monday & Tuesday, 9 to noon $475
Lunch included
Limited seats available, click here for the course calendar, and to sign up!

For anyone who has ever taken a class with Susan in Santa Fe, you know what a great opportunity this is!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Welcome to the real-deal world of bagel baking

Terrace Bagels in Prospect Park

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! In honor of Independence Day, I'm celebrating my independence from Santa Fe's lack of proper bagels.

One of the best parts of returning to NYC is of course, the bread. Many of the old-time bakeries have disappeared, but the ones that remain are treasures. I recently discovered this bagel bakery and appetizing store around the corner from my friend George Ryan's apartment (where his family has been living for the past 60 years — when you get a good apartment in the city you do not give it up!). On George's recommendation I went over to Terrace Bagels. The bins were all full and I asked which one was hot, expecting the usual answer which is "none" and he said the whole wheat everything, so that's what I had with a schmear of chive cream cheese. I sat down on the sidewalk to enjoy. It was one of the best bagels I have ever had! The moment I finished (which was about 1 1/2 minutes later) I walked back in and said "I would like to talk to the man who makes the bagels." I was then introduced to Louis Thompson, the owner, who welcomed me into the kitchen and was happy to answer my questions and let me photograph the process. I went in twice to photograph the process: at night to watch the rolling process; and in the morning to watch the baking process.

Some of the questions I asked Louis:
  • What kind of flour do you use?
    Pillsbury high gluten flour, "the best and most expensive of flours."
  • Do you add anything to the water when you boil the bagels and how long do you boil them?
    Just NYC tap water, and you boil them till they float and they look done.
  • What do you use for sweetener in the bagels?
    Malt barley syrup, no sugar.
  • How hot is your oven and how long do they bake?
    500 degrees about 12 minutes in a large oven with rotating shelves, it varies do to the weather and humidity.
  • What do you bake them on?
    We bake them on thin metal racks covered with burlap soaked in water for the first half, then we turn them directly on to the metal shelves in the oven and bake the other side. We then pick them up onto wood peels and dump them into milk cartons.
  • How do you proof them?
    When they proof they let out moisture and form a skin. We roll the dough into the bagel shape and refrigerate them overnight, we then bake more throughout the day.
  • What are you working on next?
    Next project, gluten-free bagels!

Enjoy the Photos!

Rolling bagels

Lots of rolled bagels!

Mixing the dough

The bagels go into the oven

Milk crates full of finished bagels

Water-soaked, burlap-lined, metal oven racks

Bagels in boiling water

Scooping bagels out of the water

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Russ and Daughters Cafe and the Tompkins Square Greenmarket

Tompkins Square Greenmarket
Nothing like a leisurely stroll on a Sunday morning at the market. Although most of the city farmer's markets are insanely crowded on weekends, the East Village market has a much more laid-back vibe. It's a small setup with lots of produce and bread, a few neighborhood activists, and some free samples. We tried a grilled turkey slider on a brioche roll, some fresh Roma tomatoes, and some unfortunately slightly mealy apples. The organic produce stands were overflowing with lettuces, herbs, and root veggies. We also picked up eggs and berries. I never eat supermarket strawberries because they are hard, dry, and tasteless. Remember when strawberries used to be delicate?


Russ & Daughters Cafe
I was so very excited to try this new restaurant. My family has always shopped at Russ & Daughters. It's been around for over 100 years! They sell all the classic smoked fish I dream about: sturgeon, sable, white fish, and all kinds of different flavored smoked salmon. The shop also features bagels and bialys (the best I have ever had), dried fruit, halvah, and amazing babka, chocolate and sweets. So when I heard they were opening a sit-down restaurant I could not wait to give it a go.

The cafe and menu design are nothing short of brilliant. They basically paid homage to the existing style of the store with the same type of signage, but gave it clean, updated feel so it has this old-school / new-school feel. Modern presentation meets Jewish comfort foods. In both the store and the restaurant, servers wear the traditional white, button-down, lab-type coats. The room is elegant and clean and is enhanced by beautiful and soft reflective up-lighting. Even the bathroom brought a smile to my face because the walls are lined with a custom wallpaper where the design is made of the numbered paper pull tickets you have to take at the store if you ever expect to get served. You can a listen to this podcast from the Heritage Radio Network to learn more about the redesign, or check designer Kelli Anderson's blog about it.

The Herring appetizer was served on a long wood board with a sort of sushi presentation but instead of rice the herring rested on a small rectangle of black bread. I must go back at least 3 more times because there were so many items on the menu I need to try. Everything was excellent but I must say the petite potato knishes brought a tear to my eyes they were so yummy.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Sweet Weekend

This past weekend I had a number of stellar experiences, all food related, and all quite different. That's what I love about being in New York City, the never-ending adventures to be had around every corner. And of course, the bagels!

ABC Cocina, Union Square, NYC
Jean George Vongerichten has always been one of my favorite chefs. From the first time I ate at JoJo's (which I believe was his first NYC restaurant) with my parents, I fell in love with his take on French cuisine. At that point, he was replacing the heavy butter- and cream-laden sauces with vegetable and fruit infused oils and juices and it produced amazing results. Jean George is also a master at combining Asian and French influences. He has gone on to be an international brand, bringing excellence and innovation to all his projects and I have enjoyed eating at many of his establishments. So I was very excited to dine at ABC Cocina with my fabulous foodie friend on Saturday. The room is fantastic, the lighting creative, fantastic use of materials, but I must say a bit noisy. I arrived a few minutes early and waited near the bar. A lovely young waiter came over to me welcomed me and gave me the menu du jour. He explained they had some special brunch cocktails made with a sage syrup from sage grown on their rooftop garden. We started a lovely chat about gardening and got to the fact that I was a chef who had just returned to NYC and I told him how kind Jean George had been to me and my father years ago at JoJo's. Then my date arrived and we were seated and ordered some drinks from our handsome young waiter. Next thing I knew, the head chef Ian and the manager came out to greet us, welcome us, and tell us how happy they were to meet us, and then the 5 star treatment began. They showered us with complementary menu items — it was over the top! We felt so special and everything was amazing. The food is a combination of farm-to-table with a latin touch. Some of the items we had: fresh pea guacamole; shaved Fluke ceviche; simple grilled veg and brown rice with Chimichurri sauce; and Garlic roasted shrimp. I have never been treated so well! This restaurant is super hot so reservations are a must. And then you can go shopping at ABC Home, what a great afternoon!

ABC Cocina, photo by Daniel Krieger for Eater NY

Kara Walker at the Domino Sugar Factory, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
On Sunday, I walked over the Williamsburg bridge to meet friends at the Domino Sugar Factory, a local landmark soon to be demolished to make room for more overpriced condos. Everyone who has ever lived in Williamsburg has wanted to get inside this famous structure. I remember hearing stories from friends who lived on Kent Avenue about the weird bugs that would arrive with the raw ingredients coming in from all over the world and end up in their lofts. Now that it is slated to be demolished, Creative Time, a group that stages art in public spaces, organized this exhibition. It's free and open to the public on weekends through July 6th. All you have to do is sign a release form (because you are entering a construction zone), wait in a four-block-long line of hipsters, hipster children, and tourists, and you're in! The first thing you notice is the sweet smell of caramelized sugar which coats all the walls.The space is enormous and kind of spooky. The art installation consists of a number of sculptures made out of caramelized sugar which looks like amber of children in different stages of slave labor and then the main attraction, a giant — and I mean giant — sculpture of Sphinx like Aunt Jemima made out of hard foam which has been saturated with sugar syrup. I expected it to be covered with decay and bugs but it's so cool in the building it is very well preserved. This piece is lit naturally by a skylight in the roof of the building and looks amazing. If you find yourself in Brooklyn, check it out. 

SOS Chefs, East Village, NYC
This is a tiny little spice shop in the East Village that a fellow chef turned me on to. The walls are covered with shelves full of jars of spices, bags of rice and grains, oils and infused vinegars, and ingredients for molecular gastronomy. The selection of unusual ingredients blew my mind. They had a fantastic price on the Verjus (an unfermented grape vinegar) from the South of France that I had been looking for. I also tasted the orange vinegar which they make in house which was fantastic. The whole time I was there the owner was on the phone doing business and all I could hear her saying was "yes chef, yes chef, yes chef." As soon as I have my own kitchen again, I will be going back to stock up.