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Originally published on Food Republic.

GLASS LV (1)

On a recent night in February at Piranha, a gay nightclub in Las Vegas, the owner approached Cooper Cheatham, who had organized the event to bring together LGBT spirits and cocktail professionals. Piranha and Share, another Vegas gay bar, are something like rivals — usually the two sets of clientele do not mix, preferring to stick to their home bases. But that night, many Share loyalists showed up at Piranha, and the owner commented to Cheatham that it was a really surprising turnout. For Cheatham, it was a success, because his organization, G.L.A.S.S. — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Spirited Sipping — is all about creating community by bringing together the mixologists, brand reps and beverage directors who often feel marginalized in a heteronormative, male-dominated industry.

“I want people to feel comfortable being themselves — no matter where they are — and feel accepted,” says Cheatham over cocktails at Manhattan’s ABC Cocina, where two of his “G.L.A.S.S.-mates” are on staff, as the chef de cuisine and beverage director. “A lot of people feel like they have their straight life behind the bar and their gay life outside the bar. They feel isolated from coworkers, but they’re so passionate about spirits, cocktails and hospitality.”

Edible DC editor AJ Dronkers (here with Cheatham) came to a recent event dressed in drag as “Felicia Beefeater.”

Edible DC editor AJ Dronkers (here with Cheatham) came to a recent event dressed in drag as “Felicia Beefeater.”

Since 27-year-old Cheatham started G.L.A.S.S. a few years ago, it has grown so quickly and attracted enough attention that Absolut approached with a sponsorship offer, helping expand G.L.A.S.S. to cities across America, including D.C., Miami, Dallas and Austin. Now Cheatham is traveling around the country — with Absolut’s sponsorship — building up local chapters at events, like the one in Las Vegas, that bring together LGBT beverage-industry professionals. He shows me a picture on his phone of a recent launch event, at Southern Efficiency in D.C., where Edible DC magazine editor AJ Dronkers had come dressed in drag as “Felicia Beefeater.” Cheatham had also just thrown a launch event in Miami, at the Gaythering, a gay hotel.

G.L.A.S.S. was born out of a sense that LGBT-identified people were feeling isolated within the drinking industry. Fresh out of college, Cheatham first worked at the distributor Cooper Spirits. “I was still becoming confident with myself and my sexuality,” he says. There was one other openly gay guy in that office, and Cheatham felt grateful for his presence. Very quickly, Cheatham began to see that the spirits industry was “very macho, male-dominated,” even though there was a “sizable population” of LGBT professionals in it.

One day in 2012, he was having drinks with a friend and they were talking about the lack of an LGBT community within the industry. “She said, ‘Start a Facebook group, and the rest will follow,’” Cheatham recalls. The Facebook page grew quickly, often delivering surprises — “You’d see someone on it and it was like, ‘Wait, she’s gay?’ Which was cool,” Cheatham says.

Chef de cuisine Ian Coogan comes over with a plate of guacamole and chips and off-the-menu maitake tempura, and gives Cheatham a warm hug. As we snack, Cheatham explains that G.L.A.S.S. is about more than just hosting events for its members. They also offer support to the broader LGBT community, such as volunteering as bartenders at fundraising events for organizations like the Ali Forney Center, which works with at-risk LGBT youth.

“We can provide nice drinks and a nice atmosphere to help events succeed,” says Cheatham, who also runs a marketing and events company called Double Barrel Consulting, with clients like cocktail bar Death & Co. and microdistillery Three Hunters Vodka. He points out that it’s good for brands’ images to be known for supporting LGBT culture — it shows that they are progressive. Absolut Vodka, which was the first spirits company to run an ad in the magazineAdvocate back in the ’80s, was way ahead of the game in this respect, he says.

We are joined by Ann Marie Del Bello, who runs ABC Cocina’s beverage program. As I sip my spicy whiskey sour, made with Widow Jane bourbon and Oloroso sherry, Del Bello explains that she originally learned about G.L.A.S.S. through chef Coogir. It had become “like a second family” to her as she transitioned from hanging out with friends she knew from college, most of whom had “corporate 9-to-5 jobs,” she explains, to a social life with people in her industry. Del Bello sees her G.L.A.S.S.-mates as a support group, people she can bounce ideas off of or relax with over cocktails after a long Friday-night shift. “I’ve made some of my best friends through G.L.A.S.S.,” she says.

Over the next few months, Cheatham will focus on using his Absolut sponsorship to build up local chapters and the national network. It’s pretty difficult to imagine that it will be anything but successful, partly because a good turnout is basically guaranteed when people are offered an Absolut vodka open bar and a chance to meet people of a similar ilk, in terms of both career and sexuality, but also because Cheatham is clearly a mover and a shaker whose motives are authentic. As our conversation comes to a close, Cheatham excuses himself to head downtown to meet “a date that’s not really a date.” But then he delays leaving for a few more minutes, chatting about life in general with Coogan and Del Bello, proving that at its heart, G.L.A.S.S. is really about friendship. We share one last round of cocktails, and then Cheatham jumps on a CitiBike to go meet his not-date.

Continue Reading »

I think it has something to do with the amount of time I spend in front of a computer screen. Lately, all I want to do is work with my hands, and make stuff in the kitchen. I don’t even have a nice kitchen. It’s literally 5×5. And I’m kind of a klutz, especially in small spaces. Which means a lot of broken dishes. Fortunately, my roommate forgives me. I just ply her with free wine every time something shatters. But this desire to use my hands has led me to discover the immensely satisfying practices of pickling and fermenting.

In a way, it started with investigations I was doing for the website I write for, Collectively.org. First I talked with Tara Whitsitt about how she’s driving around the country in an old police bus, preaching the gospel of fermentation. It made me think about how, while some people are really focused on high-tech, futuristic ways of designing new foods — like cricket protein bars, for example — there’s also this movement to just go back to the things our grandparents did, in terms of growing and preparing foods in the most basic, natural ways.

Hayes making a nuka-zuke pot at Ferment! Ferment!

Michaela Hayes making a nuka-zuke pot at Ferment! Ferment!

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fermented radicchio

After talking with Tara, I attended a little festival called “Ferment! Ferment!” in Brooklyn, where I ate a lot of smelly foods and took a workshop about making a “nuka-zuke” pot with Michaela Hayes, who helped develop the pickling program at Gramercy Tavern before starting her own business, Crock and Jar. The nuka-zuke pot is definitely an advanced fermentation project, but she did give me a simple recipe for sauerkraut.

My plan was to start with that recipe — but then my roommate went out of town and left a nice, fresh radicchio head in the fridge. I learned from research that chickories aren’t necessarily the best candidates for fermentation, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. Hayes advised me to add a mixture of water and a tablespoon of salt to the radicchio since it had not created its own brine. I let it ferment for five days, and it was ready — and it tastes awesome!

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kraut!

For my next experiment, I turned to this great cookbook by the English chef Arthur Potts Dawson, who founded the People’s Supermarket in London and is an advocate of the veggie-forward lifestyle. I tried his recipe for kraut and it’s now fermenting away happily in a cool, dark cabinet.

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pickled onions and leeks

Meanwhile, I’ve also been pickling onions and leeks. This started when I cooked a Passover seder for a bunch of friends and I made chicken liver pate, which is one of my absolute favorite things to make because it’s soooooo easy (we had a “Passover-inspired” meal, by the way, with brisket and matzah ball soup, but everything else fairly non-traditional). I needed pickled onions, so I threw them together that morning, and by dinner time they were tasting fantastic. Quick pickle is the way to go!

I enjoyed interviewing Andrea Calek for Eater Drinks. Check out the story here. And more of my photos below, from his visit to June Bar.

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Originally published on Collectively.org. Photos by Alex Brook Lynn.

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Unless you’re a pretty elite food industry or media professional (like Pete Wells), chances are you couldn’t get into the WastED pop-up that Dan Barber threw this month at his NYC restaurant, Blue Hill. Well, get over that FOMO – because the important thing is that food waste is the hot issue of the moment, and now is the time to make sure it doesn’t fall off our radar.

One of the cool things about Barber’s pop-up is that he sought waste materials to use on his menu from all over NYC – bruised leaves from the outer edges of cabbage heads from a Bronx restaurant supplier; imperfectly rolled noodles from a pasta shop; and juice pulp from Melvin’s Juice Box, a colorful Jamaican-inspired spot in the West Village. These collaborations naturally created a unique dialogue between businesses across the city, about waste.

We were invited to partake in a mini-pop-up at Melvin’s, which is attached to a Caribbean restaurant called Miss Lily’s and a record shop. The restaurant has been around for five years, and the juice bar for only three, but within that short time Melvin and chef Adam Schopps have developed a devoted neighborhood following, due to the amazing vibe inside their eateries — not to mention the delicious food.

The place was hoppin’ when we got there around lunchtime, but chef stepped aside to whip up his juice pulp burgers for us.

Chef Adam Schop used juice pulp from Melvin’s to make us a seriously awesome (and vegan, except for the cheese) veggie burger. For real, we were amazed at how good it tasted – we wouldn’t lie to you! And not only is this is a great way to repurpose waste, it’s also super healthy: juice pulp is full of vitamins and minerals, including lots of fiber.

Here’s the recipe, but you can totally improvise and play with the proportions.

Chef Adam Schop’s Recipe For Delicious Vegan Juice Pulp Veggie Burgers

Serves 4

Feel free to vary the recipe as much as you want. Here’s what Chef made for us.

Start by mixing together your leftover juice pulp!

1 cup beet pulp

1 cup carrot pulp

½ cup red cabbage pulp

½ cup red bell pepper pulp

¼ cup green apple pulp

¼ cup pear pulp

Now, add your proteins and binders.

½ cup cooked red kidney beans

1 cup cooked quinoa

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

¼ cup crushed raw cashews

Throw in some seasonings!

Salt & pepper

Chopped up garlic sautéed in sesame oil (or just add sesame oil)

Extra firm tofu, sliced thin and cooked in vegetable oil 20 minutes or until very dry

Form into patties. Let them sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Put a little vegetable oil in a non-stick cooking pan. Once the oil is hot, turn the flame to medium and put the patties in. Cook until brown on each side. Top with cheese if you wish, and place on a warm bun with any toppings you like. Voila!

That’s chef on the left, and Melvin on the right. We were totally inspired to start doing these veggie burgers with pulp leftover from juicing at home.

All photos by Alex Brook Lynn

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Originally published on Refinery29.com. Photos by Alex Brook Lynn, copyright protected.

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After a long day at work, then evening classes or a gym session, the last thing you’re about to do is whip up a gourmet three-course meal. More likely, your fingertips are on the food delivery app on your phone – meaning, you’ll spend at least twenty bucks, just for one dinner.

There is one recipe you need to know about, with ingredients you can always have on hand. You can whip it up at 11pm on a random night when you need something salty, delicious — and which takes no longer than twenty minutes.

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Pasta puttanesca is a dish of southern Italy, and it’s basically anchovy paste, capers, olives, a little tomato, and spaghetti. The word “puttanesca” is derived from the Italian for “whore.” Personally, I find myself smiling a little bit when I’m making pasta puttanesca at 11am in my undies, sipping a cold glass of white wine, thinking that I’m making whore’s pasta. Maybe we could say that the contemporary version of the dish is basically the working girl’s pasta. If you want, you can sing “She works hard for the money,” while stirring the saucepan.

There is a little bit of debate as to where exactly pasta puttanesca comes from, and how the name came about. I asked Keith Beavers, owner of the East Village, NYC Italian restaurant In Vino, to help me figure it out.

“Originally, it’s said to be named that way because the ladies of the night would get off very late, and they only had a few ingredients in their kitchen, so they threw together whatever they could find,” is what Keith told me. In other words, pasta puttanesca just refers to ingredients hastily thrown together – whatever you’ve got in the pantry. Olives, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, are all commonly found in Southern Italian pantries. And they should be in yours!

I started making pasta puttanesca recently because I moved into an apartment with a teeny tiny kitchen, which isn’t ideal for more elaborate dishes. It has quickly become my favorite weeknight dish, and once you’ve made it you won’t really need a recipe because it’s that easy.

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Here is my personal rendition of pasta puttanesca. I recommend enjoying a glass of dry, nutty white wine from Southern Italy along with the meal. Actually, whites from Italy are pretty much some of the best values you can find out there. Southern Italian whites I love include Falanghina, Greco, Fiano, and Vermentino. Feeling into red? Try Aglianico, one of Southern Italy’s prettiest and earthiest red grapes, and also a good value.

 

Pasta Puttanesca

Serves one working girl

 

You need:

1 bag spaghetti or bucatini

Salt

3-4 Tbs. olive oil

2-3 Tbs. anchovy paste

2-3 Tbs. tomato paste

Capers

Black olives without pits, roughly chopped

1 little jar anchovies (optional but recommended)

Red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Steps:

Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. Meanwhile, start the sauce.

First, heat up olive oil in a non-stick saucepan or a cast iron skillet. When the oil is hot, add the capers and olives. Stir them for one minute with a wooden spoon.

Add in the anchovy paste and tomato paste one after the other, and whisk it all together so the ingredients combine. If you are using anchovies, add them here.

Keep adding in tiny teaspoons of the tomato paste and whisking the sauce.

When the water boils, add however much pasta you want for yourself (1/3 of the package is good in proportion to the sauce). Now, this is very important: you need to make sure not to overcook the pasta, because you’re going to let it finish cooking in the sauce. So, if the package says 11 minutes, give it only 9. Use a timer! No overcooked pasta!

Use tongs to lift the pasta out of the water – don’t toss the water yet – letting the pasta air dry for a moment, before dropping it directly into the sauce. Cover the dish and let the pasta fry in the sauce for one minute. Uncover, add about ½ cup of the pasta water, stir, and cover again.

Last steps: sprinkle red pepper flakes. Twirl it all into a pretty pile on your plate and enjoy!

 

 

On Sunday, I moved into a new apartment. Was feeling pretty good about it. Monday, left the house in a hurry, aware that my commute would take longer — a bus and a train, as opposed to just the train.

I saw the B44 clanking on by, and started jogging. My backpack, carrying my laptop, thumped against my shoulders. The bus and I played cat-and-mouse until finally, after crossing Atlantic, I boarded, out of breath but content that I would not be late to work, or at least not late enough that I would miss the 10am edit meeting.

As soon as I got on, I reached into the side pocket of my backpack, for my phone — planning to do my usual morning commute read-through of e-mails and Twitter and whatnot, thinking ahead to what I would respond to or use in my labors as an Internet writer.

It wasn’t there, and a very bad feeling came over me. Immediately, I got off the bus, backtracked, and started looking. Back at my apartment, I logged into iCloud and used the “Find My iPhone” app. It appeared that the phone was just one block away from my place, so I went there.

“Excuse me, have you . . . seen a phone anywhere?” I sheepishly asked a group of guys standing around on the corner. That’s how I met the residents of our local shelter. Two guys, both named John, walked up and down the block with me for several minutes, but the phone was nowhere to be found.

Later on, and over the next two days, I watched the phone travel, deeper and deeper into East New York, into neighborhoods that I had never lived in. Watching the little pin change locations on the interactive map, I was reminded that, despite having lived in Brooklyn for going on seven years, I am still a newcomer; that there are and will always be areas that I feel comfortable in and ones that, by contrast, I know not to be my stomping-grounds.

An eBay order took place, and the phone arrived. In between, there was much drama: at work, I had to borrow colleagues’ cell phones, and found that trying to get a landline at the Vice Office is probably a bit like trying to get a Visa to travel to China. Despite requests, and mysterious half-promises, it never came. Meanwhile, I realized that I’d entered the wrong address (off by one digit) for the eBay delivery, which of course created more drama, and a very drawn-out visit to the Crown Heights post office that I won’t bore you with.

All throughout the week, I had to explain over and over again that people couldn’t call me, I didn’t have a phone. Within two minutes of having said that, people would say, “OK, text me!” — completely oblivious to the possibility that I could not do such a thing. (As it turned out, Messenger came in very handy as my texting instrument.)

But on Saturday, a woman I met in the T-Mobile store on 6th Avenue showed me just how much it can debilitate a person when an iPhone goes missing. Continue Reading »

Originally published on Collectively.org. Some photos mine, copyright protected.

Chef Amana Cohen EDITED

Chef Amanda Cohen, photo by Rachel Signer

If you’ve ever been a server, chances are you’ve watched your day’s wages disappear when snow or rain starts coming down hard, and all the reservations cancel. If you’ve ever been a line cook, most likely you’ve bitterly wondered why, with your culinary degree and rock-star knife skills, you’re earning the same hourly wage as the 19-year-old hostess who spends her time texting behind the podium.

Last fall, the Economic Policy Institute reported that 40 percent of restaurant workers live in poverty. And on top of providing low wages — maybe $12 per hour for a line cook in any critically-acclaimed restaurant in cities as expensive as L.A., New York, or San Francisco — very few restaurant jobs offer benefits like health insurance. Yet, many people, have chosen to pursue these careers because they love them and have culinary or service talent.

One chef in New York City is taking a stance against the unfair employment structure that pervades restaurants across the country.

Photo by Rachel Signer

Amanda Cohen’s vegetarian restaurant, Dirt Candy, recently re-opened in a new space, with an unusual proposition: no tipping. Instead, diners will pay an “administrative fee” of 20 percent on top of their meal price. Cohen’s workers are paid between $15-$25 per hour, with the exception of managers, who are salaried. Continue Reading »

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