Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Fleischgeist

January 8, 2008

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As a veteran of the magazine industry, I enjoy looking at premier issues of new titles. The other day, at my favorite kitchen store, I came across Meatpaper, an arty magazine put out by two recovered vegetarians. The photographs are striking (The one above is from an article called “They’ve Got Chops” about three women who run an artisanal butcher shop in San Francisco.) Meatpaper aims to capture what its founders call Fleischgeist, “the growing cultural trend of meat consciousness, a new curiosity about not just what’s inside that hotdog, but how it got there, and what it means to be eating it.”

I thought the magazine might inspire my fleish-adverse eight-year-old to give meat another chance, but he didn’t find the machete-wielding gals as beguiling as I did.

The Invertebrate Turkey

November 18, 2007

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I went this afternoon to visit the Lochness monster (because it was a drizzly day, with limited visibility—perfect conditions, in other words, for the shy serpent to show its face). Then I sped back to Williamsburg to attend a cooking demonstration at The Brooklyn Kitchen on how to de-bone a turkey. I wasn’t born yesterday, but I didn’t know such a thing was possible.

The idea is that the turkey cooks faster without bones, and you can plump it up with more stuffing than you could force inside the familiar bony T-day bird. Also, you can carve it more elegantly when there are no bones. Or you can make a turducken—every vegetarian’s nightmare—in which the turkey is stuffed with a duck that is stuffed with a chicken.

De-boning the turkey doesn’t look so hard but it is not for the squeamish. You have to get down and dirty with the bird. Surgeons and taxidermists will have an advantage.

Pumpkin Gobble Gobble

November 9, 2007

The Brooklyn Kitchen’s blog has now released a picture of Sarah Gentile’s Pumpkin Gobble Gobble, the yummy winning entry in Wednesday’s Bodega Challenge. It also provides the complete recipe, which requires only $14.57 worth of bodega ingredients: 1 & 1/2 cans pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix), 1 can coconut milk, 1 bag marshmallows, 1 can cranberry sauce, 1 can candied yams in heavy syrup, 1 small package pistachios, 1 small package walnuts, 1 apple, and 1 lemon or lemon juice.

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Marshmallows Win; Knights Rule

November 8, 2007

My loyalties were torn again last night. I wanted to go to the Marshall Chess Club* and watch the New York Knights in person in the first round of the playoffs in the U.S. Chess League. But I also wanted to attend the one-year birthday party of The Brooklyn Kitchen, a groovy store in über-groovy Williamsburg, the section of Brooklyn in which I encamp whenever I’m in the city.

My stomach won out, but that’s because I could be really nerdy at the party and occasionally fire up my laptop to look online and check on the progress of the Knights.

The highpoint of the party was the Bodega Challenge, a cooking competition in which people brought Thanksgiving side dishes that they had prepared from ingredients purchased at a bodega. There was a $20 cap on the ingredients, and the contestants had to produce receipts. The bodegas had to be pre-qualified by Brooklyn Kitchen: they weren’t supposed to sell sushi, kombucha, imported beer besides Heinekin, organic milk, or Pirate’s Booty, and they couldn’t take credit cards. A true bodega would sell lottery tickets, Velveeta, and individually wrapped slices of Kraft cheese. It would have a resident cat and a Plexiglas divider between the customers and the cashier.

Some entrants tried to go upscale with carrot ginger pumpkin soup, but the judges singled out a gloppy marshmallow concoction festooned with a faux turkey made from apple slices and post-expiration-date pistachios.

When I peaked at the Knights, top board Hikaru Nakamura had reached a queen and pawn ending. Sending his king to the center of the board, he planned to jettison all of his kingside pawns in an attempt to queen a pawn on the queenside. The game turned out to be a draw because his opponent could spoil the fun by perpetually checking Nakamura’s king. His teammates, Irina Krush, Jay Bonin, and Irina Zenyuk, all came through with wins to wallop Philadelphia and advance to the semifinals next Wednesday against Boston.

[*speaking of the Marshall, next Tuesday, November 13, at 7:30 PM I’ll be doing a book talk and signing there on King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.]

It’s Tough Being an Author

October 15, 2007

Mediabistro threw a publishing party at Bar Martignetti at which I was the guest of honor (I’m the guy in the bottom photo with the wine glass). I enjoyed telling the assembled literary celebrants about King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game and raffling off three copies of the book.

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Rat Nose Best

October 3, 2007

If the Rat Anti-Defamation League was happy with “Ratatouille” (a word, incidentally, whose spelling I butchered beyond recognition for my spell checker and was correctly ascertained by Googling “Disney rat movie”), it will be ecstatic with the study reported by cooking-science expert Harold McGee. Remy, it seems, can not only cook, he can taste the difference between organic and nonorganic food, and has a clear preference for the former.

When given a choice between biscuits made from organic wheat and ones made from conventional wheat, Swiss lab rats consumed the organic biscuits in greater numbers. Score one for the natural foodies of our species who claim that organic chow is not only healthier but tastier, too.

Score One for the First Amendment

September 27, 2007

Last night I shirked my responsibility as New York Knights bloggerI was too tired and chessed out from King’s Gambit activities the evening beforeand, instead of going to the Marshall Chess Club, went with my friend Chris for an out-of-borough dining experience.

We set out to find Greek food and ended up in Queens (Astoria, to be specific) at Agnanti, a comfortable, country-style restaurant on a residential stretch of Ditmars Boulevard. The food was all fresh, unpretentious, and expertly seasoned. The menu is long, and we took our server’s recommendations of eggplant dip, meat-stuffed tomatoes, salt-cod cakes, and a salad with feta and huge brown-bread croutons.

But the real fun of the meal was when Chris checked his iPhone and discovered that Mobile Commons, the company he co-founded, had made the New York Times Web site (and, subsequently, the front page of the paper itself) over a first-amendment dispute with Verizon. Mobile Commons provides mass-text-messaging technology to progressive organizations that want to mobilize their memberships. One of these organizations is Naral Pro-Choice America, and Verizon had refused to let Naral bulk-text its members with pro-abortion messages.

Now I’ve had my own share of free-speech problems, and at one time I wanted to be an ACLU lawyer, and so I was delighted and proud that my friend was on the right (left?) side of the issueand on the front page of the Times, no less! It made the salt cod even tastier.

By this morning. Verizon had reversed itself.

The Gorgonzola Defense

September 6, 2007

Gallows humor swept the back room of the Marshall Chess Club last night after the New York Knights went down to their second straight 3-1 defeat in the U.S. Chess League, this time at the hands of the Philadelphia Inventors. “What do you have to say to your fans?” I asked manager Irina Krush moments after the match ended.

“Do we still have fans?” she replied. After some thought, she added: “We lost on boards three and four this time. Last week we lost on boards one and two. Maybe now we’ve gotten all the losses out of our system.”

Before the match, I had dinner with three of the Knights at Piadina, an Italian restaurant a stone’s throw from the Marshall. Four of usNew York’s chess power couple (Irina and Pascal Charbonneau), Jay “I’d like to play a rated game every night” Bonin, and meoccupied a cozy table in the middle of the place. Irina had chosen Piadina because a meal there, along with a cafe latte, was part of her pre-game ritual that had served her so well last season. Perhaps the problem was that, after much discussion, she adventurously deviated in her choice of entrée to the daily special of artichoke ravioli with gorgonzola.

When I was working on King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game, Pascal told me about their respective pre-game rituals. “Some chess players are superstitious about what they wear,” Pascal said. “I couldn’t care less. Irina always gives me this you’re-too-rational speech. She’s superstitious about her shirt, her jacket, the pen she uses.”

Next Monday, when the Knights play again, I’ll make sure she sticks to one of her regular dishes.

PC Fishing

July 13, 2007

Walking through a gourmet food market in Grand Central Station, I was struck by a sign promoting wild salmon.  “Line caught!” the sign trumpeted.

Now there is a legitimate food-safety debate about the relative merits of eating farm-raised fish versus free-ranging salmon.  At first blush, farmed salmon would seem to be the better choice because they have not bred in carcinogenic streams.  But the farm-fed fish actually turned out to have higher levels of carcinogens in them because of what they were fed, and they had undesirable traces of the antibiotics they’d been treated with so that they didn’t get sick in their over-crowded enclosures.

So wild fish are probably healthier (and generally tastier, not to mention free of the pink dye with which their raised-in-captivity cousins are sometimes injected).  But the issue of how a wild salmon is captured would seem to have little bearing on our physical well-being.   We’re not even talking about whether these wild fish had the satisfaction of a free-ranging lifethey all swam free.  We’re just talking about how they spent their very last moments.  It can’t matter to our own physical health whether a wild fish was “line caught”and heroically exited this world after a mano-a-mano struggle with a lone craggy angleror was instead unsportingly identified by radar and herded with hundreds of its hapless brethren into the mass grave of a mile-long net.  But I guess it could matter to our guilt-ridden mental health if we imagined the fish we’re about to eat as a noble fighter, nearly pulling the fisherman into the water, and not the victim of mass slaughter.

The Scientific Skinny on Chocolate and Chips

July 4, 2007

During Fourth of July revelry, which often includes overindulgence of saturated fatty acids (in burgers and sausages and other barbecue fare), it is easy to fall behind in the news.  In case you missed it, the esteeemed Journal of the American Medical Association reports today the results of a study at the University of Cologne, in Germany: the daily consumption of a little dark chocolate30 calories worth, the equivalent of one and a half Hershey’s Kisseslowered blood pressure a small but statistically significant amount (2.9 points for systolic pressure and 1.9 for diastolic).  Although the magnitude of the reduction is small, even a three-point decrease in systolic pressure correlates to an impressive eight-percent reduction in stroke mortality.  So now dark chocolate joins red wine as heart-healthy staples that should be consumed daily in mo0deration.  How sweet it is!

Also in food-science news is a fascinating piece in The New York Times by Harold McGee on crunchiness and crispness in potato chips.  Crunchiness is a sign of freshness.  The crunchy sound as you bit down on a chip is the breaking of potato cells made brittle from frying.  If the cells are moist at all, they lose their brittleness; the chip won’t sound crunchy and will taste stale.  The perfect chip, McGee argues, has the shape of a horse’s saddleas does the universe itself, according to recent cosmological thinkingbut saddle-shaped chips are unfortunately hard to find in the rough-and-tumble existence familiar to most bags of chips. 

Times taste testers who sampled nearly fifty brands of chips had a favorite: Kettle Brand Lightly Salted from Kettle Foods in Salem, Oregon.  “An assertive chip that looks darker than most but also delivers more potato aroma and tatse.  A pleasingly light, crisp texture.”


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