Wine Stories And More Wine Stories (Plus Some Quebecois Travel Tips)

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So, 4th of July is coming up–I got you covered! Advice about amazing domestic wines to drink here, plus the scoop on delicious glou-glou light reds to serve chilled, here.

But the most interesting work I’ve been able to do recently was hardly work at all, because it was also a true pleasure: getting to know Brianne Day, who I think is not only the future of artisanal, natural winemaking in Oregon, but also an example of an amazing businesswoman who really knows how to invite opportunity into her midst and make the best of it.

Thank you to everybody who took the time to give me quotes for these stories!

Also, I recently enjoyed an amazing trip to Vermont, where I visited a bucolic sheep farm and a goat cheese-making operation, then trekked on up to Montreal and ate my face off across town. Take a look at my recs here. Thanks to a special someone for guiding me around that belle ville.

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Mixed Reactions At Dan Barber’s WastED Burger Shake Shack Pop-Up

I did man-on-the-street interviews at the one-day WastED pop-up at Shake Shack, which featured a veggie burger made of juice pulp, rejected beet ketchup, and day-old Balthazar bread. People’s reactions were pretty interesting! Dan Barber and the Shake Shack culinary director, a very enthusiastic and creative guy named Mark Rosati, chimed in, too. Read my piece on Food Republic.

Here are my photos:

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Fermenting And Pickling Are My New Loves

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!

Pasta Puttanesca: The Ultimate Working Girl’s Weekday Dish

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. More here

Now You Can Learn To Cook From Someone Else’s Grandmother

Originally published on Collectively.org. All photographs mine, copyright protected.

Making Roti

Only minutes after walking into Dolly’s house, taking off my shoes off and saying hello to her four kids, who were lounging on the couch and playing reggaeton videos on YouTube, I was holding a steaming mug of fresh ginger tea and swapping stories and recipes with my new cooking classmates. The whole atmosphere cultivated a kind of warmth and casualness you don’t usually encounter in a cooking class, for one main reason: most cooking classes aren’t in someone’s home.

League of Kitchens launched in early 2014 as a cooking school for people who want an intimate, culturally-rich food experience. It’s about much more than knife skills, or learning classic French sauces. These classes are for people who want stories, culture, and authentic, unguarded interchange alongside instruction. And the instruction itself is meant for the home cook, rather than the professional.

All over the Internet, there are platforms for communal dining experiences, outside restaurants. EatWith, for example, sells tickets to home-cooked meals with a cultural twist, all over the world; Feastly, similarly, allows you to support “an indie cook’s dream” by joining a meal at their house or a pop-up location.

The idea behind League of Kitchens started when New York City resident Lisa Gross realized that her family’s Korean American culinary heritage was at risk of disappearing.  Read more

Batard: Just So Tribeca

It wasn’t until I dined at Batard that I understood what had made so many of my previous restaurant experiences as special as they were.

Batard is a restaurant that gets basically everything right, on the surface. Every dish is plated with absolute stunning attention to detail and use of space. Each ingredient is cooked with evident precision. And of course, the service is fairly good, in that totally impersonal, very Manhattan, kind of way.

But appearances aside, Batard may be a waste of some very serious kitchen talent. The first mistake is a perhaps unavoidable result of an already existing structure, or it may be a design flaw: when you walk in, you enter into an immensely stressful clusterfuck. We had to hunt the hostess down amidst all the clamor, ducking people who were speaking unnecessarily loud about their coats and bags. It put my date and me on edge, right away.

More importantly, though, several of the dishes were rather underwhelming. I had been thinking about having the octopus “pastrami” (it’s basically a terrine) ever since it was featured in Pete Wells’ write-up. Well, Pete, this may be the first time you’ve let me down. The octopus was bland and unsalted, and the soft potatoes on the plate were a nicely saline companion but they were also boring. Oh, and it came with these these crazy, sort of airy crouton things, which I could have done without.

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My date had the tete de cochon, which was deliciously flavorful. Like the octopus, it was beautifully presented. Read more