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  • 08/22/12--09:00: 20 Great Bread Bakeries
  • 20 Great American Bread Bakeries-photo
    by Meryl Rosofsky and Alex Rush

    Acme Bread Company

    Bay Area, California
    510/524-1327

    This nearly 30-year-old Berkeley institution, helmed by co-founder and Chez Panisse alum Steve Sullivan, is not content to rest on its yeasted laurels. Committed since 1999 to using only organic flour, these days Acme, with its original bakery in Berkeley and an outpost in San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace, is working closely with flour supplier Keith Giusto and his cadre of California farmers to find hearth bread-friendly wheat varieties suited to the local climate. A loaf to look out for: Acme's new hand-formed "Edible Schoolyard Loaf," a tasty homage to Alice Waters' groundbreaking program, a toasty bread made from California-grown, stone-milled Yecora Rojo wheat. A point of pride for Sullivan: five current or former employees now have an ownership stake in this much-loved pioneering bakery.

    Balthazar

    Englewood, New Jersey
    201/503-9717

    Like watching the Yankees, riding the Cyclone and shopping in SoHo, eating Balthazar bread is a quintessential New York experience. Okay, so it's technically baked at a 14,000-square foot warehouse in Englewood, New Jersey, but Balthazar's dozens of products fill the breadbaskets of hundreds of eateries in the five boroughs, including the bakery's sister brasserie of the same name. And despite the large-scale operation, each bread tastes like the work of a single boulangerie. The French Baguette, Rye Boule, a beer-infused Olive Bread and Chocolate Bread loaded with morsels of bittersweet chocolate are just a few of Balthazar's greatest hits.

    Berkshire Mountain Bakery

    Housatonic, Massachusetts
    413/274-3412

    Baker Richard Bourdon's shop may be tucked away in a Western Massachusetts village with a population just over 1,000, but it has garnered nation-wide attention. The calls for road trips to Berkshire Mountain Bakery are certainly warranted, as Bourdon, who hails from Quebec, has been committed to the art of natural sourdough baking for more than 35 years - long before this wild yeast process became en vogue in America. Some of the his most legendary products are Bread and Chocolate, a white boule studded with Callebaut chocolate chunks, the Multi Grain covered with rolled oats and the Cherry Pecan, which makes for incredible French toast.

    Credit: Alan Tansey
    Bien Cuit Bakery

    Bien Cuit

    Brooklyn, New York
    718/852-0200

    Zachary Golper's stories of his first baking experiences as a 19-year-old in rural Oregon sound like generations-old folklore - but they happened a mere 15 years ago! He worked by candlelight under the guidance of a man known to him only as Carlos, hand-mixing dough and raking the embers of the wood-burning oven. These days, Golper uses electric mixers in the one-year-old Boerum Hill bakery and café he owns with his wife, Kate Wheatcroft, but his techniques are as meticulous as ever. For instance, he blends six different flours and then ferments the dough for 68 hours to craft the miche, a round French-style loaf with a dark, chewy crust and a slightly sour flavor.

    Credit: Meg Matyia
    Blue Duck Bakery and Café

    Blue Duck Bakery Café

    Eastern Long Island, New York
    631/629-4123

    Keith Kouris has been raising the bread bar since the mid-1990s, when, as a visionary young baker in a suburban King Kullen, he introduced artisan breads to one of Long Island's largest supermarkets. In 1999 he and his wife Nancy opened Blue Duck in Southampton, in a building that had housed a bakery since the 1930s, turning to Europe for inspiration for their traditional, hand-made baguettes, bâtards, and focaccias. We love their chewy, hearty Pain Rustique; gorgeous, cake-like Pain Chocolat; super aromatic fennel-scented Swedish Limpa with raisins and spices; and a stunning seed-studded sunflower loaf. What makes Blue Duck breads so delicious? Proximity to the water - the Atlantic Ocean on the South Fork and the Long Island Sound on the North - may be part of the secret, fortifying Kouris's cultures with moisture and a lick of salt air. But it's the baker's passion that elevates Blue Duck above the flock.

    Bread Alone

    Boiceville, New York
    845/657-3328

    This pioneering bakery nestled in New York's Hudson Valley churns out more than 55,000 pounds of organic bread each week, sending freshly baked loaves to supermarkets, specialty shops and farmers' markets throughout the Northeast, not to mention its three Upstate New York cafes. But Bread Alone wasn't always such a major operation. Artisan Dan Leader moved to the Catskills in 1983 to escape the New York City rat race and sold bread out of his Mazda Hatchback. But he was back in Manhattan soon enough, hawking Bread Alone loaves at city greenmarkets. And despite Bread Alone's expansion, Leader and his team still use locally sourced ingredients for everything from their golden Challah to their rustic Ciabatta.

    Credit: Ed Anderson
    Della Fattoria Bakery

    Della Fattoria

    Petaluma, CA
    707/763-0161

    Started in 1995 by Edmund and Kathleen Weber at their family ranch, an old chicken farm that today supplies eggs and produce to their café in downtown Petaluma, Della Fattoria began quite by accident back in 1994 after Kathleen installed a wood oven outside the kitchen ("a lifelong dream!") and began baking breads for friends, neighbors, and soon, the chef at Sonoma Mission Inn where her son Aaron was working. These days Della Fattoria turns out 400-1,200 hand-shaped loaves a night, crusty beauties crafted from 100% organic flour, Brittany sea salt, and a natural starter that began life years ago with yeast from Weber Ranch grapes (they still grow Pinot Noir at their small vineyard). Their breads - campagne, levain, ciabatta, polenta, pumpkin seed, and more - are all naturally leavened and baked on the bottom of their two wood-burning ovens using retained heat. Find them at restaurants like Napa Valley's Auberge du Soleil and the Marin and San Francisco Ferry Plaza weekly farmers markets. Della Fattoria's Rosemary-Meyer Lemon bread is a knockout: salty, lemony, herbal, with a beautiful sheen to the well-structured crumb and a crust that bears beauty marks from the floor of the hearth it baked upon.

    Gerard's Breads of Tradition

    Westford, Vermont
    Available at Onion River Co-Op, Burlington, Vermont

    It's a good thing Gerard Rubaud set up his bakery next to his Vermont home, as he often works 15 straight hours to hand-form and wood-fire hundreds of his signature item, the wild yeast-based 3 Grain Country Loaf. "I like baking through the night, under the stars - that's my life," said Rubaud, a Savoie-native who took his first apprenticeship at age 13. Vermont's beloved artisan (he has a street named after him!) still employs many of the same techniques that he learned as a teen in the 1950s, including using a manual grinder to mill flour and feeding his organic levain three times a day. It's methods like these that make Gerard's sourdough arguably the most deeply flavored bread in the state.

    Leslie Cole (courtesy of Grand Central Bakery)
    Grand Central Bakery

    Grand Central Bakery

    Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington
    This Pacific Northwest pioneer, founded by Gwenyth Bassetti in 1989, grew out of her little Seattle sandwich shop The Bakery, which when it opened in 1972 served a custom "Bakery Blend" coffee made for them by a new local company called Starbucks. Today Grand Central Bakery has three locations in Seattle and another six (soon to be seven) in Portland, and is run by Gwen's son Ben, a onetime geologist and fisherman in Alaska; daughter Piper, the "soul" of the company; and an assortment of friends who share their passion. Grand Central's rustic European-style hearth baked breads are made from sustainably grown white flour from Shepherd's Grain in Palouse, Washington and whole wheat flour from Camas Country Mill in Oregon's Willamette Valley, which is bringing back heirloom wheat varieties like Red Fife well suited to the local climate. In addition to their classic baguettes, levains, ciabattas, sour ryes, and their famous white Italian-style Como Loaf, with its crisp crust and glossy crumb, Grand Central Bakery has just started a seasonal loaf program, kicking off this past winter with a rye-based Swedish Limpa, scented with anise, coriander, caraway seeds, and orange zest.

    Hungry Ghost Bread

    Northampton, Massachusetts
    413/582-9009

    The Hungry Ghost feeds more than spirits with its spectacular breads, among them French, organic raisin, and a dense rye topped with toasted black kalonji seeds. Baked in a wood-fired masonry oven baker/owners Jonathan Stevens and Cheryl Maffei helped build themselves, many of Hungry Ghost's breads are made from locally grown, freshly milled wheat and spelt, cultivated as part of the bakery's "Little Red Hen" project to restore grain-growing in the Pioneer Valley. Like the Johnny Appleseeds of wheat, Stevens and Maffei started several years ago doling out handfuls of wheat berries to eager customers to plant in their yards and gardens. By now, one local farmer delivers 400 pounds of flour to Hungry Ghost each week. Try the Hungry Ghost's Trinity bread, made from local spelt, wheat, and triticale (a wheat-rye cross). Another curious specialty is annadama, a corn flour-and-molasses New England bread born, the legend goes, when a hungry fisherman, tired of the cornmeal and molasses porridge his unimaginative wife served him day after day, added yeast and flour, muttering "Anna, damn her" as he baked the concoction.

    Credit: Lawrence Mambrino
    Iggy's Bread of the World Bakery

    Iggy's Bread of the World

    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    619/924-0949

    Husband-and-wife team Igor and Ludmilla Ivanovic changed the Boston bread scene when they opened their groundbreaking Watertown bakery on a nondescript industrial block in 1994. Their creations, from moist focaccia made from naturally leavened dough to hearty 7-Grain roll laced with wildflower honey, were revelations to locals raised on overly processed supermarket bread. Iggy's, whose breads are available at the bakery's storefront, New England farmers markets and grocery stores, prides itself on using organic ingredients sourced from sustainable farms.

    Ken's Artisan Bakery

    Portland, Oregon
    503/248-2202

    Inspired by the late famed French baker Lionel Poilâne, Ken Forkish ditched his career in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley in search of something more craft-driven. The result: this warm, welcoming bakery, started in 2001 and now a neighborhood institution, serving up traditional European-style hearth-baked boules and baguettes that fans say rival the best in Paris. Clearly, the career move has paid off, with Forkish recently garnering his third nomination for a prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Look out this fall for his first book, Flour Water Yeast Salt: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza (Ten Speed Press, September 2012). In the meantime, if you're in the area, treat yourself to Ken's soulful walnut levain, with its gorgeously irregular honeycombed crumb and notes of lavender, or a nice Country Blonde, its thin crisp exterior cloaking a light, subtly tangy sourdough crumb.

    Credit: Emily Hart Roth
    Milo andamp; Olive Bakery

    Milo andamp; Olive

    Santa Monica, California
    310/453-6776

    Fans are already flocking to this tiny Santa Monica bakery and pizzeria that turned out its first breads just last November. Run by husband-and-wife team Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, whose nearby much-loved restaurants Rustic Canyon and Huckleberry Bakery ensured an instant following, Milo andamp; Olive brims with playful energy: the place was named for the couple's young son and the daughter they may one day have, and Tartine-trained Zoe cheerfully confesses that the inspiration for her out-of-sight Cheese Bread, packed with parmesan, Grana Padano, Gruyère, and cheddar, was childhood favorite Cheez-It crackers. But don't be fooled: her multigrain baguette, swoon-worthy Cinnamon Sugar Brioche, and jewel-studded Fruit andamp; Nut Bread are as sophisticated as they come.

    Credit: Josh Shaub
    Orwasher's Bakery

    Orwasher's

    New York City
    212/288-6569

    Even the newest offerings at this 86-year-old bakery are firmly rooted in the past. Orwasher's line of artisan wine breads, launched in 2008 by new owner Keith Cohen, are based on centuries-old French recipes that feature the yeast of fermented grapes. Of course, the Upper East Side shop still serves brick oven-baked favorites that were perfected by the Orwasher family (the original owners) like the Jewish Rye and Pumpernickel - edible histories for the Eastern European immigrant experience.

    Pain D'Avignon

    Long Island City, New York
    718/729-6832
    (not open to the public)

    No matter how many restaurants and markets clamor for their bread, the Pain D'Avignon crew refuses to cut corners. Bakers at the 12-year-old Long Island City operation work side by side, cutting and shaping dough by hand before allowing it to slowly ferment en couche - in a cloth that supports the dough as it rises and keeps it from drying out. But while the dough is the tour de force of Pain D'Avignon's product line, intoxicating ingredients like fresh Rosemary, caraway seeds, cranberries and pecans are wonderful supporting players.

    Seven Stars Bakery

    Providence, Rhode Island
    401/521-2200

    Baker/owners Jim and Lynn Williams started tending their whole wheat and rye sourdough starters months before they opened their bakery in early 2001, and they continue to lavish the care of a parent on their starters to keep them young and healthy for breads with great flavor and rise and only the mildest tang. The couple have since expanded operations to include three locations around Providence, one on the site of the old Rumford baking powder plant, now a National Chemical Historic Landmark. We especially like the French Rye, the Toasted Walnut and Raisin, and the chewy Olive Batard, strewn with tiny oil-cured Moroccan olives and plump, briny Kalamatas, the essence of the Mediterranean in bread form.

    Credit: Squire Fox
    Sullivan Street Bakery

    Sullivan Street Bakery

    New York City
    212/265-5580

    The innovator whose no-knead bread recipe became a New York Times sensation in 2006 and who invents bread names - truccione , cruccolo, doni - that quickly take on the patina of authenticity, Jim Lahey also embodies a back-to-basics classicism that prizes skill, repetition, and craftsmanship, even as his breads and business continue to evolve. He lauds the local flour movement and quests for exotic yeasts, but at the end of the day, he says, "it's the primacy of the bread, feeding someone, that really matters." Bite into his succulent, slightly salty Truccione Saré, a rustic sourdough with deep, appealing slash marks and a heavily charred, crackly crust, and savor that primal feeling.

    La Farm

    Cary, North Carolina
    919/657-0657

    You know what they say, you can take the baker out of France but you can't take the French out of the baker. That's certainly the case for Paris-native Lionel Vatinet. He left his French bread-baking guild to travel the world and eventually settled in a Raleigh, NC suburb, where he opened La Farm with his future wife, Missy. La Farm reflects the baking traditions Vatinet learned during his seven-year tenure with the prestigious guild, Les Compagnons du Devoir: The dough is made with a natural sourdough starter and unbleached flours before it is baked in a European-style hearth oven. "I wanted to introduce people in the neighborhood to crusty, hand-made bread," Vatinet said. But he does enjoy experimenting with internationally influenced breads, such as the addictive Asiago Parmesan Cheese Bread. "We're a French bakery with the creativity of the American spirit," Vatinet said.

    Standard Baking Company

    Portland, Maine
    207/773-2112

    There's often a long line at this 17-year-old bakery located inside a brick warehouse, but that may not be such a bad thing; the wait gives customers the time to inhale the scent of fresh-baked bread and behold the wicker baskets filled to the rim with gorgeous loaves. Husband-and-wife co-owners Matt James and Alison Pray modeled the Standard Baking Company after the neighborhood bakeries of France and Italy, and breads like the flour-dusted Rustic Loaf and Rosemary Focaccia are the edible incarnations of their influences.

    Tartine Bakery andamp; Cafe

    San Francisco, California
    415/487-2600

    Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson's Mission District phenomenon is its city's gold standard for impeccable organic bread. The stone hearth-baked loaves have spawned a café menu of artfully prepared sandwiches, but bread bought unadorned is still the best way to experience Robertson's way with flour, salt, water and wild yeast. His masterpiece is the Country Loaf, which he developed and perfected over the course of two decades. The process takes 24 hours and Tartine loyalists line up to buy this fundamental bread when it's served fresh from the oven after 5 pm Wednesday through Sunday. The Country Loaf is available with walnuts, olives or sesame seeds, but purists prefer it plain and simple.


    What's your favorite bakery? Let us know in the comments.

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  • 08/27/12--09:00: Pod People
  • The Guide: The Food Cart Pods of Portland, OR-photo One thing that makes Portland's food carts so special is the way they are grouped together in what's locally known as "pods," which range from a couple of vehicles with shared tables to dozens lining the perimeter of downtown parking lots. The downtown pods were the first to open years ago, and they do a brisk business at lunchtime; by 3:00 p.m., most are closed. It's when you get out into the "destination pods" that you really experience the sense of community and culinary innovation that cart culture can foster.

    Cartopia (SE Hawthorne Boulevard and 12th Avenue) is packed late-night, but its picnic tables are a pleasant spot to sit any time of day, with one of the superb pies from Pyro Pizza, crêpes from Perierra, or poutine from Potato Champion.

    Some of Portland's cheffiest meals on wheels can be found at Good Food Here (SE 43rd and Belmont Street), featuring carts like Lardo, The Sugar Cube, and EuroTrash.

    There's also great beer on tap at Good Food Here and at D-Street Noshery (3221 SE Division Street), where highlights include the thoughtfully prepared Guamese food at PDX 671 and the fruity desserts at The Pie Spot.

    You often find people getting food to go for dinner at A La Carts (SE 50th Avenue and Division Street), where the Iraqi cart Aladdin's Castle Café is parked; you can also eat vegan burgers from solar-powered Off the Griddle, and other fare in this pod's covered central area, where bands sometime play.

    Some pods, like Mississippi Marketplace (4233 N Mississippi Avenue), are connected to bars with outdoor seating, so you can pick up your sandwich at The Big Egg, and enjoy it with a drink.

    While there are pods, like the new Cartlandia (Springwater Corridor Bike Trail and 82nd Avenue), that are designed to be big, others are so small they don't have a name. The outstanding pasta cart, Artigiano, for example, is parked by itself near D-Street Noshery.

    To find a cart's current pod location, visit Food Carts Portland »
    See our feature on Portland's food trucks, Food of the People »


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    City Dozen: The Berkshire Mountains-photo Summer is the time to visit the small hamlets clustered in the Berkshire Mountains, a tree-covered highland that straddles western Massachusetts and Connecticut. Equal parts fertile farmland, high art, and Yankee liberalism, this corner of New England feels like a slice of utopia. But I have a particular fondness for the Berkshires' Massachusetts towns. The area is home to some of the best seasonal arts in the country: the Williamstown Theater Festival; Jacob's Pillow in Becket, host of the world's finest dancers in the summer; and Tanglewood in Lenox, summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Talents past also lend this place gravitas-Edith Wharton's mansion in Lenox is now open to visitors, as is Norman Rockwell's museum in Stockbridge, and Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick in nearby Pittsfield. As rich as the culture is, there's a homegrown food scene to match it. From the small farms that dot the area that put forth excellent meats, dairy, and produce, to local cheese makers, coffee roasters, artisan bread bakers, and more, the Berkshires is a fine place to celebrate all the senses. - Gabriella Gershenson

    SAVEUR Senior Editor Gabriella Gershenson has been visiting the Berkshires, particularly Tanglewood, since she was a toddler. She's been spending even more time in the area since her parents' recent move to Pittsfield, MA.



    Barrington Coffee Roasting Company
    This airy roastery is ground zero for coffee enthusiasts in the Berkshires. Founded by self-described java geeks Gregg Charbonneau and Barth Anderson, Barrington Coffee Roasting Company specializes in certified organic coffees, roasted onsite in Lee. In addition to their signature blends, single-origin coffees, and "limited offerings"-from far-flung locales such as Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and Hawaii-the experts at Barrington regularly hold "cuppings;" professional tastings of their brews. Visitors are made welcome in a lovely ante room, where a carafe of hot freshly brewed coffee is available for sampling. The store also peddles in drinking accessories, such as the classic Chemex coffeemaker, whose headquarters are in nearby Pittsfield.

    Barrington Coffee Roasting Company
    165 Quarry Hill Road
    Lee, MA 01238
    tel: 413/243-3008


    Charles H. Baldwin andamp; Sons
    One of the Berkshires' most charming shops, Charles H. Baldwin andamp; Sons has been making vanilla extract at this West Stockbridge location for over 100 years. Owned by Earl B. Moffatt, Baldwin's great grandson, the general store is a destination for Madagascar vanilla extract, which percolates away in plain view in a copper still, and is aged in nearly century-old oak barrels. In addition to the extract, vanilla powder, whole beans, and vanilla sugar, Charles H. Baldwin andamp; Sons sells baking supplies, and doubles as a novelty shop carrying quirky gifts and paper goods.

    Charles H. Baldwin andamp; Sons
    1 Center Street
    West Stockbridge, MA 01266
    tel: 413/232-7785


    The Meat Market
    Chef-entrepreneur Jeremy Stanton's locally-minded butcher shop is a recent yet beloved addition to the Berkshires. Stanton's commitment to sourcing from nearby independent farms is apparent in the quality of his custom cuts, whether it's a porterhouse steak or a goat's head. In addition to selling the fruits of the abattoir, Stanton sells prepared foods (most of them are listed on the vast blackboard behind the counter) and runs a catering business that specializes in cooking over open fires. Depending on the day, you may encounter house-made headcheese among the charcuterie, as well as a menu of sandwiches and meat-centric specialties, such as beef pie with a leaf-lard crust.

    The Meat Market
    389 Stockbridge Road
    Great Barrington, MA 01230
    tel: 413/528-2022


    Berkshire Mountain Bakery
    This European-style artisanal baker makes the best breads in the Berkshires. Richard Bourdon, who runs the bakery out of a former paper mill, has been studying his craft for decades. He specializes in slow-fermented sourdough breads with incredible depth of flavor, an elastic, glossy crumb, and chewy, crackly crust. Popular loaves include the bestseller sunny flax, rich with flax and sunflower seeds, as well as the bread and chocolate, heavy with bittersweet chocolate chunks. A small adjoining café serves the bakery's own sourdough pizzas.

    Berkshire Mountain Bakery
    367 Park Street, Route 183
    Housatonic, MA 01236
    tel: 413/274-3412


    Rawson Brook Farm
    The winding road that leads to Rawson Brook goat dairy is gorgeous, and to describe its charms (brambly, sun-dappled, overgrown) would require many a rustic cliché. Though it's easy to miss the turn off to the farm, once you arrive, you'll know you're in the right place, as you'll be greeted by a small herd of Alpine goats. Their milk produces some of the freshest, tangiest soft goat cheese around. There's no store, but inside a small shed on the grounds is a refrigerator full of tubs of goat cheese (plain, chive and garlic, or thyme and olive oil-all delicious) that can be purchased on the honor system.

    Rawson Brook Farm
    New Marlborough Road
    Monterey, MA 01245
    tel: 413/528-2138


    Rubiner's Cheesemongers
    The inventory at this upscale Great Barrington grocer, run by cheese aficionado Matthew Rubiner, reads like a who's who of fetish foods: cheeses from Neal Yard Dairy in London, Mast Brothers chocolate from Brooklyn, vintage European sardines, Vermont-grown Japanese rice-you get the idea. Located in a grand neoclassical building, the carefully curated shop exudes prestige; as such, the selection is reliably beautiful, if preciously priced. In the summer, Brooklyn's Blue Marble dispenses ice cream from a cart out front, and year-round, Rubi's, the café behind the market, serves coffee, sandwiches, and even wines by the glass.

    Rubiner's Cheesemongers
    264 Main Street
    Great Barrington, MA 01230
    tel: 413/528-0488


    Guido's Fresh Marketplace
    With locations in Pittsfield and Great Barrington, Guido's Fresh Marketplace is the supermarket for discerning home cooks in the Berkshires. The store is an ideal place to stock a vacation rental, or put together a Tanglewood-bound picnic. The family-run grocer offers a fine selection of local meats, cheeses, seafood, and produce, as well as a respectable natural foods section. It's also good for specialty items -whether you're seeking Cholula hot sauce, Maldon salt, or SoCo Creamery ice cream. Be sure to pick up some Berkshire Bark, Guido's proprietary sweet, a chunky chocolate bar in fine-tuned flavors such as White Lightning, made with white chocolate, lemon zest, cashews, and candied ginger.

    Guido's Fresh Marketplace
    1020 South Street
    Pittsfield, MA 01201
    tel: 413/442-9912

    760 South Main St
    Great Barrington, MA 01230
    tel: 413/528-9255


    Chocolate Springs Café
    Classically trained chocolatier Joshua Needleman did some time at La Maison du Chocolat in New York City before opening this chocolate shop-café in Lenox. His store caters to sophisticated palates while maintaining a welcoming, family-friendly vibe. Here, you'll find delicate Early Grey-infused ganaches and handmade passion fruit marshmallows alongside chocolate-dunked Oreos and molded chocolate Buddhas. There are a few seats for those who wish to linger over hot chocolate, house-made ice creams and sorbets, or an assortment of pastry, such as macarons and chocolate chip cookies.

    Chocolate Springs Café
    55 Pittsfield Road
    Lenox, MA
    tel: 413/637-9820


    Moe's Tavern
    Though it shares a name with Homer Simpson's favorite dive, this craft beer bar is a bit more discerning. The dozens of mostly domestic brews range in style from robust IPAs to toasty porters. The breweries represented, such as Sixpoint, Troeg's, Dogfish Head, and Unibroue, hail from all over North America. Moe's looks as a beer bar should - with brewery paraphernalia covering the walls, and rotating tap selections scrawled on every available surface. Moe's doesn't serve food, but they do invite patrons to order in from local restaurants, and will even provide you with menus.

    Moe's Tavern
    10 Railroad Street
    Lee, MA 01238
    tel: 413/243-6697


    SoCo Creamery
    Every place needs its homegrown ice cream, and for the Berkshires, SoCo Creamery is it. Though the family-run operation is nearly ubiquitous - there are several scoop shops in the area, pints are sold in supermarket freezers, and a stand appears seasonally at Tanglewood - the quality stays true to their small batch values. SoCo uses local berries in their Berkshire Berry flavor, and entices with imaginative flavors such as lavender honey, mission fig, and deep, dark "dirty" chocolate.

    SoCo Creamery
    5 Railroad Street
    Great Barrington, MA 01230
    tel: 413/528-9420


    Farmers Markets
    The Berkshires are rich in local agriculture, and farmer's markets are especially bountiful during the summer. Two of our favorites are in Lenox and Great Barrington. The selection in Lenox tough to beat-each Friday, dozens of vendors display their wares, and the prices are quite reasonable. Keep an eye out for the gorgeous root vegetables and greens from Markristo Farm, and Cricket Creek Farm's Italian-style cheeses made from pastured cow's milk. The Great Barrington market gets the award for most charming - two-dozen vendors gather each week at the site the town's old railroad station. Among them are Maynard Farms, growers of superb stone fruit and berries, and Naga Bakehouse, makers of hand-shaped artisan breads. You may even pay for your spoils with Berkshares, the local currency, which is accepted by more than 400 area businesses. Each is adorned with a local hero, such as Norman Rockwell on the $50 bill.

    Great Barrington
    40 Castle Street
    Great Barrington, MA 01230
    tel: 413/528-8950

    Lenox
    70 Kemble Street
    Lenox, MA 01240
    tel: 413/528-8950


    DreamAway Lodge
    One of the most memorable places for a night out in the Berkshires is Becket's DreamAway Lodge. A relatively short, winding drive from Jacob's Pillow Dance Center, the 200-year-old farmhouse, perched on the edge of October Mountain State Forest, is equal parts roadhouse, indie music venue, and local hangout. The place is decorated in mismatched furniture and bric a brac, and the menu is as comforting and eclectic - offerings range from a juicy bacon bleu cheese burger to Moroccan tagine. The hippie vibe is palpable, and there's a reason - Arlo Guthrie was a regular back in the 1970s, and thanks to him, the restaurant appears in Bob Dylan's film Renaldo and Clara. Be sure to visit when there's a band (which is most of the time). There's nothing like starting the evening at the bar, progressing to the dining room, and ending it dancing barefoot on the grass.



    Where to Stay: Porches Inn
    Located next to Mass Moca (the Massachusetts Museum of Contempary Art) in North Adams, Massachusetts, Porches is a convenient and quirky perch in the Berkshires. About 30 minutes from Lenox and even closer to Williamstown, the refurbished Victorian row houses host 47 comfortable rooms, all furnished in a homey, grandma-chic style with wainscoting, decorative plates on the walls, and some rooms that come with their own porch. Breakfast is delivered to your room in galvanized metal lunch pails, a sweet touch.

    Porches Inn
    231 River Street
    North Adams, MA 01247
    tel: 413/664-0400
    Rates: $230-$304 double


    Where to Stay: Stoneover Farm
    Just a few minutes walk from Tanglewood and the Kripalu Center for Yoga andamp; Health is this charming restored farmhouse and inn. Proprietors Suky and Tom Werman refurbished the 19th century property into three well-appointed suites and two standalone cottages, both with views of the grounds-don't miss the picturesque duck pond-and above-and-beyond amenities that may include a terrace, fully equipped kitchens, a Bose sound system, and more.

    Stoneover Farm
    169 Undermountain Road
    Lenox, MA 01240
    tel: 413/637-9100
    Rates: $325-$425 double


    Where to Stay: Canyon Ranch
    Situated in the heart of Lenox, this renowned spa, with outposts in Miami, Las Vegas, and Tuscon, got its start right here in the Berkshires. The location is superb-rolling, well-manicured grounds of a nineteenth century mansion just a few minutes from the town center. In addition to accommodations, Canyon Ranch offers a full range of fitness classes, health, spa, and beauty services. But the focus here is on wellness, and in that regard, the place comes off more like an old-school sanitorium more than a ritzy spa. If you don't wish to make a stay of it, Canyon Ranch also offers an 8am to 5pm day rate that includes a spa service, lunch, and access to all classes for $310.

    Canyon Ranch
    165 Kemble Street
    Lenox, MA
    tel: 800/742-9000
    See room and spa rates »



    Interactive Map: Gabriella Gershenson's Berkshire Mountains Dozen



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    The Saveur City Dozen: Gabriella Gershenson's Berkshire Mountains in a larger map




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  • 09/25/12--09:00: The Essential Italy

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    Pasta Making in Puglia-photo
    by Lana Bortolot
    In Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot, I approached a pasta-making lesson with a combination of eagerness and anxiety.

    I was eager because, as an Italian-American, I am happy to explore all things from my particularly delicious culinary heritage. And then the anxiety: A tiny finger of dread poked at me because I am, admittedly, a terrible cook. (That I come from a long tradition of family restaurant proprietorship is an added indignity.) But here in the homeland of my ancestors, surely these kindly nonne would take me to their ample, apron-wrapped bosoms and convey to me the techniques behind their ancient art. At least, I hoped they would.

    While most of Italy embraces pasta, Puglia takes that love even further. The region could arguably be considered one of pasta's holy places, with many centuries-long traditions originating here. Each of the region's provinces claims a distinct pasta shape made from its own locally-grown durum wheat; each shape is designed to marry ideally with ingredients particular to its location. Some work well with seafood, others with legumes or vegetables, while everything receives a healthy dose of local olive oil.

    Here, near Castel del Monte, I was going to learn the art of orecchiette ("little ears," named for their orb-like appearance), under the tutelage of two squabbling octogenarians named Dina and Maria. The small curled discs of dough work well with heartier sauces, or dishes like orecchiette con le cime di rapa (broccoli rabe), the pasta providing little scoops in which the other ingredients nestle.

    We met in the garden of Antichi Sapori, a simple country restaurant owned by Pietro Zito. In addition to growing most of the ingredients for his menu, Zito uses the garden as a living laboratory to teach residents about the local food traditions he fears will be lost. The nearly four-acre garden was full of late-summer color, bursting with bright spots of tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines among the wavy vines of leafy vegetables. To one side of the plot, local women were preparing sun-dried tomatoes, while their husbands strung up fresh bright-red fruit for a long bake in the sun. And in the center of the garden was a wooden work station: the classroom for our pasta lesson.

    Zito recruited the nonne, Dina and Maria, from a nearby village, but they came as well from a long tradition of street-side pasta-making in larger towns like Bari, where methods of proper dough and shaping are debated publicly and loudly. What's not arguable, however, are the ingredients: Traditional Puglian pasta is made from only flour and water. Dina and Maria bantered back and forth in Italian while preparing the wooden board upon which we'd knead, shape and cut the pasta. Working quickly and side by side, they mixed flour and water, a little at a time, measuring only by eye and monitored with an occasional friendly slap to the arm or a loud cluck. Another unofficial validation: making the sign of the cross over the dough.

    Credit: Lana Bortolot
    Under their hands, we kneaded the ashy dough onto a lightly floured board, formed it into small balls, and rolled it into long thin strips. Key to shaping the little ears is a flat, triangular spade with which we sliced the dough and spread the small chunks into disks that would then quickly be flipped over the top of the thumb like a cap. Watching these women work-between them, a century of pasta-making expertise-it seemed simple.

    I could chop and smear, but when it came to the final maneuver, a combination of dexterity and intuition, I failed miserably. I couldn't negotiate the spade with one hand, while applying an even amount of pressure to the flattening dough disk. And forget that thumb flip: I had too many fingers in the way. The ladies guided my hands through the motions, but it became clear I'd never understand the intricacies of transforming the dough into its iconic ear shape-at least, not in the afternoon available to me. It seemed orecchiette's mystery would remain in the hands of Dina and Maria. My Italian language skills weren't quite good enough to pick up on the nuances of their corrections, but I had enough knowledge to understand the final comment of one nonna to the other as they cleaned up the table once we were through. With a shake of the head and a glance at me, she said "Lei non si sposerà"-she will never get married.

    Trattoria Antichi Sapori
    Piazza S. Isidoro 10
    Montegrosso d' Andria
    + 39/0883/569-529



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    Postcard: Inside the Lamborghini Cafeteria-photo
    by Jamie Feldmar
    Although Lamborghini manufactures some of the most outrageously high-tech luxury cars on the planet, the cafeteria at the company's factory in Bologna has decidedly less cutting-edge ambitions. Every weekday, nearly every employee-mechanics, engineers and office suits alike-slides a plastic tray down a very different sort of assembly line, pausing to pick upprimi (tortellini or penne), contorni (braised fennel, the day I was there), and secondi (roast beef or chicken). The lunch rush comes in two waves: noon (the production line workers) and one (the office crowd), but everyone takes the full hour allotted for lunch break, leaving just enough room after dolci for a very Italian pit stop at the adjacent espresso bar. -Jamie Feldmar




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    Post Card: Drafting Sheep in New Zealand-photo
    by Sarah Bray
    It was stupid of me to wear open-toed shoes when I visited Cape Campbell Farm, a windy, mountainous property on the Pacific coast of New Zealand's South Island. More stupid, perhaps, to volunteer to sort, or draft, the farm's sheep, a tough, semi-wild breed that came up to my waist, but Rob Peter, the farm's owner, had made it look so easy. I found myself standing next to a narrow channel of sheep with my hands on different gates, ready to direct them into distinct pens. They were marked with colored chalk-"Orange to your left, blue to your right, unmarked straight ahead," Rob explained. "And careful of your fingers; they've got very hard heads and will be running very fast." Then he unpinned the sheep and set the dogs barking. Large, scared, jumpy animals that they are, the sheep stumbled over each other, scrambling to get out through the narrow passage, as I tried and failed to keep up. At least my toes didn't get trampled! -Sarah Bray




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  • 10/15/12--23:23: Alex Witchel Just Us Cooks
  • Just Us Cooks-photo
    by Alex Witchel
    My father's mother, Nana, was the greatest cook in the family, so my mother was at a disadvantage from the start. No matter how well she did-the crêpes for her cheese blintzes alone were a work of art-Dad preferred Nana's cooking. It was never a fair match, and most of the time Mom didn't even try to compete. When Nana made gefilte fish, she started with live carp in the bathtub. Mom started-and ended-with a jar from the supermarket.

    Nana, a tall, imposing woman, would take me firmly in hand as she strode, unafraid, into the squawking, stinking live poultry market that was still in existence in Passaic, New Jersey. Born and raised in Bialystok, which was Russia before World War I and Poland after it, Nana had a facility for languages-she could speak seven of them. This came in handy for her job, working in a store selling women's coats to Russians, Poles, and Germans. After she married the man who brought her to Passaic, they opened a produce shop there. Not particularly glamorous, but she managed to cultivate her many interests. She was a lifelong opera fan; I listened to WQXR with her every Saturday afternoon, to the Texaco-sponsored live broadcasts from the Met. In her younger years, the Yiddish theater was still vibrant, and she loved going to it on Second Avenue. When it waned, she took to Broadway. She also loved the movies, anything with Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck, strong women.

    Todd Coleman
    It just so happened that my mother had been named for Barbara Stanwyck. And in my mother, as in those cinematic heroines, Nana saw the possibility for a life and career she never dreamed of for herself. My mother's own mother was dumbfounded when she decided to pursue her doctorate in education, a rarity for a woman of her generation. What did a woman need that for when she was already married, with small children? Nana, however, not only championed my mother's ambitions, but made it possible for her to fulfill them. If she, for all her intelligence, had to settle for selling coats and cucumbers, the most constructive thing she could do would be to help her serious daughter-in-law earn the highest academic degree possible. So every weekend, for years, my father dropped my brother and me at her house so Mom could work toward her degree uninterrupted.

    I spent hours watching Nana cook, and she always found a task for me. When she made chopped liver, she would screw a cast-iron grinder onto the edge of the kitchen table and let me turn the handle as she fed the livers into it. Later, we would sit in her living room in front of a small black-and-white TV to watch Julia Child. Just us cooks.

    She made wonderful potted meatballs in sweet and sour sauce. She served them with rice on the side, never spaghetti, and you could break up the very large meatballs and mix them into the rice with the sauce.

    Nana's brother, Coduk, also loved those meatballs. Coduk (pronounced SUH-duk) was actually famous in family lore for an inauspicious reason: He wasn't smart. In a Jewish family besotted with education, being a dummkopf was a shanda, which in Yiddish means shame. Coduk was, however, a gifted tailor, and worked at Chipps, a men's clothing store where he was known as the trouser man. He was also something of a ladies' man-he had quite a beautiful wife-and a legendary dancer. "In his hands and his feet, he's a genius," Dad and Nana would say.

    I never had a conversation with Coduk-he spoke only Yiddish-but I do remember engaging him in some competitive meatball eating when I was seven or eight. He was matching and raising me until Nana cut me off with, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach," which carried the inglorious sting of truth. I watched as Coduk continued to eat. In contrast to my penchant for turning all food into baby food, breaking it down and mixing it together, he was an isolationist. He kept his meatballs separated from his rice, which in turn was separated from his spinach. He ate each item sequentially, starting with the meatballs. I couldn't understand the point of eating rice plain when there was sauce to be had. Maybe what they said about him was true.

    Nana's kitchen was a haven for me, a place where I learned the ballet of bending and stretching for the appropriate pots and platters
    On most nights at Nana's house, she and I would sit at the kitchen table together after dinner, she with a glass of tea and a sugar cube in her mouth, me with a glass of milk and a Tootsie Roll in mine, so each mouthful would taste like chocolate. Later, if I woke during the night and started to cry, missing my mother, she'd sit with me at the kitchen table with all the lights on, and boy was I sorry then. By that point she had taken her teeth out for the night. There they were, near the sink in one of those glasses that used to be a Breakstone's sour cream container. Her face, which seemed like the one on Mount Rushmore to me, had lost half its heft. I was more afraid of that than the dark.

    But in daylight at least, Nana's kitchen, like my mother's, was a haven for me, a place where I learned by osmosis. To this day, the ballet of bending and stretching for the appropriate pots or platters sets itself in motion, and all I need to do is follow along. Measure a cup of rice, notice how little is left, add it to the shopping list. Half watch, half listen to whatever news is on the small TV near the stove, while tapping out my spices in little multicolored heaps. Hear the water boiling for pasta without having to see it, smell when to turn down the heat under the onions. In my kitchen, where every gesture is small and distinct and insignificant to the world beyond my door, I am at peace.

    See the recipe for Sweet and Sour Potted Meatballs »

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  • 10/16/12--02:16: Meat of the Matter
  • Chile-Rubbed Turkey-photo
    by Javier Cabral
    I've never understood why people complain about roast turkey being dry, or bland, or otherwise not delicious. But then, the turkey the Cabral family sits down to each Thanksgiving at my older sister's apartment in Pasadena isn't the turkey everybody sits down to. When that big, chile-rubbed bird comes to the table, its crisp skin burnished a deep red, it's like, "Yeah. Time to eat."

    As a kid, I assumed every family ate a turkey like ours. It wasn't until I was a teenager and started getting interested in cooking that I realized how special my mom's recipe is. When she was growing up in rural Zacatecas, Mexico, meat was a luxury, eaten sparingly. This turkey of hers is an American invention, an artifact of the life she's lived since immigrating to Los Angeles in 1961, but it tells the story of where she comes from, too.

    From the smell of the ground cinnamon, cloves, and New Mexico and árbol chiles as the turkey roasts, you might think she had a mole or a birria on the stove
    She begins by rubbing the turkey with a spice paste, and from the smell of the ground cinnamon, cloves, and New Mexico and árbol chiles as the turkey roasts, you might think she had a mole or a birria on the stove. Slowly, the bird's fat and juices accumulate at the bottom of the pan, along with some of that spice, forming a pool of red gravy that the wings, thighs, and drumsticks cook in almost like a confit. Meanwhile, the exposed skin on the rest of the turkey becomes crisp, dark, and delicious.

    The gravy cooks down until it's thick and intense, and we always have soft rolls on hand to mop it up. So why stuff the turkey with more bread? That's my mom's logic, anyway. This holiday is about meat and more meat, as far as she's concerned, and so the stuffing is a savory ground beef picadillo pumped up with chopped green peppers, beets, and green beans, and black olives. On the side we have baked potatoes, because that's what Americans eat with a fancy meal-or so my parents concluded when they dined out in steak houses after coming to the U.S. in the sixties.

    Until I started contributing a side of roasted Brussels sprouts a few years ago, there was no other vegetable on the table. Well, there were the candied yams, but we eat those Mexican style, for dessert, stewed in a syrup of piloncillo (unrefined sugar) laced with cinnamon and cloves. We each get one whole yam, soft and syrupy, and mash it with a fork before pouring milk over the top. It's not exactly all-American, and it's not strictly Mexican, either. It's pure Cabral.

    See the recipe for Chile-Rubbed Turkey with Beet Stuffing and Gravy »

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    Multiple Choice-photo
    by Naomi Duguid
    I've made many trips to Burma recently to research my book Burma: Rivers of Flavor (Artisan, 2012), but food in this country is so subtle and varied, I never tire of eating it. Burmese food is distinctive, but there are reminders, too, that the nation borders India-the use of shallots as a flavor base, for instance-and the rest of Southeast Asia, with its balance of hot, sour, salty, and sweet tastes, and generous use of fresh vegetables and herbs. The main meal of the day, called nei lei saa thamin (meaning "midday food"), eaten at noon, is the one I relish most. In Old Bagan-a village set amid centuries-old Pagan ruins-a wonderful restaurant serves a memorable version. An amazing range of curries, salads, and condiments comes to the table all at once, to be eaten in any order. On a recent trip, I chose beef currry, sweet with shallots and touched with chile heat (pictured in the top photo, at bottom left); and eggplant, crunchy with peanuts (upper right); chile-fried okra (top, center); pickled greens (right); and simmered beans (at center). As always, the meal came with the essentials: a vegetable soup tart with lime (lower right), a plate of raw and steamed vegetables (at top left), and dried-chile sauce and other condiments. And there was rice, the fragrant staple that connected them all. I took a spoonful of rice with a little curry, then a bite of salad for crunchy contrast, then a refreshing sip of soup. The mouthful-by-mouthful decisions are what make the meal so special.


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  • 10/16/12--22:18: A Storied Feast

  • by Bernard L. Herman, illustrations by Brenda Weaver
    On the Eastern Shore of Viginia, home to some of America's earliest settlements, the Thanksgiving meal features ingredients and dishes that have defined life on the peninsula for generations. Many of the Thanksgiving foods favored on the Eastern Shore, such as



    oysters, precede the holiday itself by a long stretch. For thousands of years, Native Americans harvested mollusks from nearby waters, a practice quickly adopted by the first European colonizers, who arrived in the early 1600s, a good decade before the landing at Plymouth Rock. Today, demand for the bivales continues undiminished, especially through the winter holidays. Around Thanksgiving, when the water grows cold, oysters fatten up and are at their best.


    Corn, present on Thanksgiving tables these days in the form of corn bread and pudding, has an especially long history in Virginia. It was a staple in the diet of native peoples as well as colonists. You can still find an heirloom variety of corn indigenous to the area grown on the Eastern Shore today-it makes for a dense, moist, delicious corn bread. Locally caught


    fish, too, have always been a fixture of the local diet. Historically, bluefish, croakers, spot, jumping mullet, menhaden, and many, many more were netted, salted, and eaten fried, baked, and boiled. Today, a Sunday-after-Thanksgiving breakfast of baked or poached fish and pancakes remains a distinctly local pleasure. Other emblematic Thanksgiving foods, like


    sweet potatoes, were introduced after the arrival of Europeans. Many varieties are grown on the Eastern Shore, but whenever I talk to people about Thanksgiving side dishes, they speak lustfully of sugary Hayman sweet potatoes, which have been grown in the region since the mid-1800s, when they were introduced from the Caribbean via North Carolina.


    Figs, another beloved food, made their way to Virginia in the colonial period. They were introduced by European settlers, and have flourished on the Eastern Shore ever since. In summer they're eaten fresh, but it's preserved figs-whole figs in syrup- that have historically had pride of place on Thanksgiving tables. Famously, Grover Cleveland enjoyed them for dessert at an Eastern Shore Thanksgiving in 1892.

    See A Chesapeake Bay Thanksgiving »

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  • 10/16/12--23:02: Cassava Nation
  • Cassava Nation-photo The fish, rubbed with garlic and cumin, was frying, and the coconut milk was bubbling on the stove when Mama Nicha walked through the room. "Now it smells like a Garifuna kitchen!" she proclaimed in Spanish. At 75 years old, this tireless community leader presides over a busy household and language school in the seaside city of La Ceiba, Honduras. She was getting ready to teach a lesson to youngsters who were hoping to add English to the Spanish and Garifuna they already spoke.

    Dionisia "Mama Nicha" Amaya-Bonilla and her students are Garifuna, descendants of Africans and Native Americans who live, a nation within nations, along the Caribbean coast of Honduras as well as in neighboring Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and, nowadays, several U.S. cities. The most common story of their origins tells of slave ships that sank in the early-17th century, and of the Africans who escaped the wrecks and swam to the island of St. Vincent, there to mix with the indigenous Carib Indians and to thrive for more than 100 years, their numbers reinforced by other escapees of the region's slave plantations.

    The Garifuna fished; they grew cassava and other Carib crops, as well as colonial imports like plantains, which they used in a dense mash akin to African fufu. They skirmished with the French and the British, resisting subjugation until 1797, when the British defeated them and exiled thousands of Garifuna to the island of Balliceaux. Starvation and illness decimated their numbers. Later that year, survivors were deported to the island of Roatán, off Honduras. From there they migrated to the mainland, eventually spreading out along Central America's Caribbean coast. The Garifuna brought their culture and language with them, living off the bounty of the shore. Though modern times have seen the Garifuna squeezed out of many of their valuable beachfronts, they remain fierce in their identity.

    "We were deported from St. Vincent because we refused to be enslaved," Mama Nicha explained to me. "They deported us to nowhere, hoping we'd die. But we didn't. It's been 215 years, and we are still here."

    In the kitchen beside Mama Nicha's classroom, her niece, Mirna Martinez, a big woman in a maroon dress and matching headwrap, was deftly cubing cassava and sweet potatoes in the palm of her hand with a dull kitchen knife. I knew the knife was dull because her cooking partner on this day, Robinson Chimilio, complained about it. A young chef in Coke-bottle glasses, Chimilio, like many Garifuna men, often works on cruise ships or abroad. He had arranged the mise-en-place just so for his dish-green banana dumplings called alabundigas, served with meaty turbot steaks in a coconut milk-based sauce. After a while, Martinez set out her tapou, a fish, green banana, and root vegetable stew emboldened with plenty of garlic and crimson achiote paste. We dug in, eating silently, scooping leftovers off of each other's plates, picking fish from the bone with our hands.

    "Semeiti weigie, idia?" said my guide and friend, Lina Hortensia Martinez, and then she translated from Garifuna: Our food is delicious, right?

    We dug in, eating silently, scooping leftovers off of each other's plates
    Indeed it was. I could understand why Chimilio and Mirna Martinez took such pride in their cooking. Elemental yet opulently flavored, these dishes said a lot about who the Garifuna are, and how, in a changing and challenging world, they manage to hold fast to their identity.

    "Our food is survival food," said Mama Nicha after lunch. "We will not die of hunger if we have banana, fish, coconut, and we know that. You go to the sea and fish, and there are coconuts on the beach. You don't need money."

    Of course, nothing, really, exists separately from money, not even the Garifuna culture. So I found the day I met Lina, a year before my trip to Honduras, at a food festival in the Bronx, where many of New York City's estimated 200,000 Garifuna live. Lina was in New York promoting her business of exporting cassava bread made by Garifuna women's cooperatives in the municipality of Iriona, in Honduras' remote northeast. For these women the starchy flatbread, a Garifuna staple, offers a potential livelihood and therefore a way to keep their coastal lifestyle-one based on communal fishing, farming, and cooking-intact.

    I was so compelled by the down-to-earth beauty of the Garifuna foods I sampled that day that I called Lina afterward; without hesitation she invited me down to Honduras. And that's how I ended up here, among the Garifuna in and around La Ceiba, Lina's home, eating delectable Garifuna food. At Chef Güity, a restaurant overlooking La Ceiba's pier, we savored a creamy soup chock-full of tender hunks of conch, and another made with briny she-crabs bursting with roe. In the nearby Garifuna town of Corozal, we hung out beneath the pavilion roof of Restaurante Corozal, where proprietress Maritza Centeno maintains a museum of Garifuna folk objects, many of them cooking utensils. Of the enormous wooden mortar and pestle called a hana, used for pounding plantains, Centeno said, "This is African culture." There was a grater called an egi, fashioned from bits of jagged stone embedded in a board, and a ruguma, the woven sleeve used to squeeze the juice from grated cassava.

    Credit: Penny de los Santos
    A group of young musicians from the local church slapped out Garifuna rhythms on their drums, and we devoured platters of fried conch, kingfish, plantains, and rice and beans. Though the lunch included foods eaten, as well, by the country's mestizo majority, the predominance of seafood reflected the Garifuna's coastal palate, and the rice and beans were sweet from cooking in that quintessential Garifuna ingredient, coconut milk.

    Lina and I walked off lunch, strolling past concrete-block houses wedged between the highway and the Caribbean Sea. "When the road was built," Lina said, "people felt the land had been cut in half, so they moved to the beach side and sold the other. Now the Garifuna live shoved up next to one another, with health, water, and housing problems."

    Among other challenges facing the Garifuna along this coastline, there are the land-grabbing tourist developments in Trujillo, two hours east of Corozal; the palm oil plantations threatening to swallow up Iriona; and the encroaching pan-American drug trade. Then there's lethal yellowing disease, which ravaged Honduras' coconut palms in the 1990s. For the Garifuna, who use coconut profusely-frying fish and plantains in its oil; making soups, stews, and breads with its milk; cooking its grated meat with ginger and unrefined sugar to make a fudge-like sweet called dabuledu-the loss was devastating. Though disease-resistant coconut palms have been introduced, "these are not the ones we're used to," Lina explained. "They have less oil."

    Not that I would have known it from the wonderfully rich alabundigas and tapou and seafood soups I sampled. These Garifuna recipes are strong enough to have weathered the storm-despite the availability of fast foods and supermarket conveniences. "In the city, things have changed because of jobs and school. We have left that kind of cooking for the weekends, but we haven't lost it," said Lina's friend Teofila Valerio, a law student and gifted home cook, as she peeled plantains in the kitchen of her house in La Ceiba. "The lifestyle has changed, but the culture of the Garifuna will not change. The food will not change."

    We savored a creamy soup chock-full of tender hunks of conch, and another made with briny she-crabs bursting with roe
    We had come to watch Teofila, who goes by Teo, make the most beloved of Garifuna dishes, hudutu. Prepared traditionally, many Garifuna dishes take a while and some effort to complete. But none match the labor intensiveness of hudutu. Both sweet, ripe plantains and unripe ones, which add a starchy consistency, must be boiled and then pounded-and pounded and pounded-to a smooth, dense paste. The paste is served alongside of, and as a utensil for, the fish and coconut stew that completes the dish. Often, Lina said, while the plantains are boiling, "men take a nap and expect to be awakened to do the mashing."

    Since we had no men with us, the job was delegated to Lina. "When they hear the pestle hitting the mortar in the community," she told me, "people pass by your house and say, 'Oh, you're making hudutu!' That's a special sound." While Lina mashed, Teo prepared the stew. She started with coconut. If this were another dish-if she were making the Garifuna's sweet coco bread, for instance, which requires the richest milk-she might have stopped at what they call "first water," squeezing the grated fruit with only a small amount of water so as not to dilute its aromatic compounds. But for the stew she soaked and strained the grated coconut repeatedly to extract the milk. To that she added cumin, allspice, and a sofrito, or flavor base, of diced and sautéed aromatics-garlic, bell peppers, basil, culantro, and oregano, all pulled from her garden. Then, into the pot went thick kingfish steaks marinated in lime. Along with the pounded plantains, the finished stew made a hefty meal. I mopped up the last, luxurious drops with a sleek, sweet-savory hunk of the plantain mash and thought of the man I had met the day before in Corozal. "After I finish hudutu," he had told me, "I go to sleep."

    The following morning, Lina, Teo, and I made the four-and-a-half-hour drive to the municipality of Iriona, traversing highways, forging rivers, and bumping along on country roads walled with coconut palms. Along the way, Lina serenaded us with Garifuna songs: "Meiguada la tia bere, meiguada la, meiguada la." May your strength not fall, may it not fall, may it not fall.

    Credit: Penny de los Santos
    When we reached our destination in Iriona, the village of Ciriboya, women were gathered around a thatch-roofed hut that serves as a communal kitchen. "The Garifuna community does everything around feasting and food. If there's no food, they will highly complain," said Lina.

    The occasion was the 40th birthday of Mirna Ruiz, a taut-muscled, lively woman who is a member of a cassava-producing cooperative that Lina works with. We found Ruiz and her friends at her sister's house, finishing up breakfast-coco bread and cups of porridge-like adulu, made with coconut milk and cassava flour, flavored with unrefined sugar and cinnamon-and assembling a few stews. As they cooked, the women bantered in both Spanish and Garifuna, a language derived from their Carib ancestors' but with plenty of African and adopted European words.

    Like their language, their cuisine has borrowed from the dominant culture around them, while retaining its distinctly Garifuna character. I was handed a pot of ariran guisou, a spicy-sweet, mestizo-style chicken stew, and instructed to carry it down the road to the thatch-roof hut, where one of the women slid it into wood-fired handmade clay oven. Lina carried the darasa, green banana paste steamed in banana leaves harvested from the women's yards. "We call these traveling tamales," Lina said. "They can take away your hunger if you are walking a long distance."

    The women here are used to journeys on foot; every week, they trek with their machetes to the steep hillside where they farm cassava. From the long, muddy path up to their high patch of land, the view of their pristine beach is breathtaking. It's easy to see why others would want to take it all from them. But as their men and children leave the village to find work elsewhere, the women have fought to hold on to this land, for cassava's sake. "Ereba nanibei weiyei," said Ruiz. Cassava bread is my husband. "Whenever I need some money, I know cassava bread will feed me."

    While we celebrated, sitting at tables in the shade of a nance tree and feasting on guisou, rice and beans, darasa, and caramelly, dense banana and pumpkin breads, the women took turns working over a clay stove inside the thatched-roof hut. Using a hand broom fashioned from shrub branches, they spread cassava flour on a hot iron plate, patted it down with a wooden press, and when the starch had bound the disk-like bread together, they flipped it to toast the other side. Then they swiftly trimmed its edges with a machete, creating a big, bronzed, perfect circle.

    "God made people in his image, and he made us Garifuna with our qualities," one proficient breadmaker told me. "When we dance and when we sing and when we eat, we show the world who we are, and we are content. We believe in our ancestors, and they have left us a lot of things: the cassava bread, all our foods."

    She handed me a piece of the freshly cooked bread. It was nutty and chewy and smoky; it tasted wonderful. Then we all stood in a circle beneath the nance tree holding hands. Lina led us in prayer, asking God and the Garifuna ancestors for the wisdom and strength they would need to prosper as a community, and giving thanks for the gift of the meal we had all shared.

    See the travel guide to Honduras' Garifuna Coast »
    See a gallery of recipes from the Garifuna Coast »
    See more photos in the gallery »
    See a gallery of Garifuna cooking essentials »

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  • 10/17/12--03:28: Maghreb Food in Paris
  • Couscous Royale-photo
    by Jay Cheshes
    In my memory, Paris and couscous have always been inextricably linked. I attribute this to one of the most mythic meals of my youth, a lunch that lasted six hours. It was the early 1980s and I was living in Paris, an expatriate kid with a diplomat dad. We were a big group, occupying a long table at a Moroccan restaurant not far from the Opéra. I'm not sure how the conversation, and the food, lasted so long. I can still hear my dad's barrel laugh as he recounted some story in Bronx-accented French.

    Family friends from Morocco had pre-ordered the main course, couscous royale, which came to the table in stages on long silver platters. On one rose a golden slope of buttery grains. Another held hunks of spoon-tender carrots, turnips, zucchini, and celery. Chickpeas and white beans in broth arrived in wide bowls along with fiery red pepper harissa and caramelized onions mixed with plump golden raisins. Silver warming dishes awaited the meat-stewed chicken and lamb, merguez sausage, grilled lamb chops, and spicy beef meatballs. Those delicacies were brought out last, on immense platters and with great fanfare: sparklers protruded from the meat like porcupine quills, sending up plumes of sulfurous smoke. I reached for seconds and thirds as the hours and bottles of wine disappeared. I was hooked.

    During the four years that we lived in the French capital, we returned frequently to Chez Bébert, the scene of that midday feast. It was hardly the most authentic Moroccan spot in Paris, but the restaurant-among the earliest to promote couscous to a non-immigrant clientele-was moderately priced and was so popular among middle-class Parisians that the owners soon opened additional branches. By the time my family and I moved back to the States, couscous symbolized Paris as clearly in my mind as a buttery croissant.

    It turns out the French shared my enthusiasm. In the decades since I left Paris, North Africa's best-known dish has become one of the most widely consumed foods in France. These days, even ordinary neighborhood bistros often feature a couscous special one day of the week. Its popularity reflects the integration of North African culture in France, where I can now hear Algerian raï hip-hop on Top 40 stations, smell sweet smoke wafting from shisha bars that swarm with Parisian hipsters, and find upscale hammams, or Turkish baths, opening in posh neighborhoods.

    I recently returned to Paris to immerse myself in the tastes of the Maghreb-as French-influenced Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria are known-and to rekindle a romance with that region's food that started long ago. I learned, to my delight, that the Maghreb's diverse culinary repertoire is being expressed more fully than ever in Paris, and it includes far more than couscous.

    Credit: Landon Nordeman
    Expats from the Maghreb-the name means "occident" in Arabic, and denotes the western edge of the Arab world-constitute the largest immigrant group in France. Those immigrants have been arriving in waves since the 1950s and '60s, when they began settling on the edges of Paris as the French colonial era came to a close. Even as second- and third-generation North Africans identify as French, new immigrants from the region continue to pour in, populating sections of the city that are as fragrant with spices and teeming with hijab-clad women as the Marrakech Kasbah.

    While Tunisians and Algerians dominate the maghrébin enclaves, Moroccans run the majority of the most ambitious restaurants, upscale places with a bourgeois clientele. Morocco-as in vogue today among Europeans as it was in the '60s, when Yves Saint-Laurent unveiled his Moroccan-inspired couture-has a long history of catering to well-to-do visitors. That tradition of European-inflected hospitality took root firmly and enduringly in Paris.

    Le Timgad, a Moroccan restaurant located not far from the Arc de Triomphe, has been serving couscous to a jacket-and-tie crowd from the same silver tureens, in a dining room with alabaster friezes and a gurgling fountain, since 1971.

    To me, couscous represented Paris as faithfully as a buttery croissant might
    "This place is frozen in time," offered a well-dressed regular sitting one table over from me at dinner one night, who was sipping from a glass of chilled house rosé. "It has a sumptuousness, a joie de vivre you don't find anymore, even in Morocco." A kefta tagine with tomatoes and olives featured delicate lamb meatballs topped with a soft-cooked egg. Le Timgad's couscous princier was several notches above the royale of my youth, with grains so fine and buttery they needed no sauce at all. Making couscous of the caliber I found at Chez Bébert and Le Timgad is labor-intensive, so different from the boxed variety most of us know. The semolina pasta is hand-rolled, rubbed with olive oil, steamed, then rubbed again between the fingers so each grain remains fluffy and distinct.

    Though Morocco's cuisine is the Maghreb's most regal, with the most complex spice blends and elaborate dishes, you're not likely to find any food in that country dubbed princier or royale. These fancy presentations were Parisian innovations, intended to seduce the French palate. (In Morocco, couscous is traditionally served with only one meat, and just one day a week, usually after Friday prayers.) That point was driven home when I paid a visit to Le Mansouria, a venerated Moroccan restaurant in the 11th arrondissement. The owner, Fatéma Hal-a cookbook author and authority on Moroccan cuisine-offers couscous royale on the menu only grudgingly.

    "In '84, when I opened, you didn't talk about Moroccan food," Hal told me. "You talked about cuisine orientale. As if there were no difference." Hal went on to tell me that she approached her first cookbook, published in 1995, like an ethnographer, interviewing Moroccan women and writing down the recipes they'd learned from their mothers. Many of these dishes showed up on Le Mansouria's menu. "Once the first book came out, people were willing to try something beyond what they knew," she said. Among the restaurant's many intriguing offerings is mrouzia, a ceremonial dish of caramelized lamb that dates to the 13th century and is rarely found in restaurants. The falling-off-the-bone meat is lacquered with honey, surrounded by almonds and raisins, and flavored with ras el hanout, a spice mix that, at Mansouria, blends 27 spices. The lamb, like many authentic maghrébin dishes, is cooked in smen, fermented clarified butter that lends a mineral tang to the food.

    Credit: Landon Nordeman
    Smen, I discovered the following day, is readily available in the food markets of working-class Belleville, one of the most dynamic sections of town, home to North Africans, Turkish, Chinese, and Vietnamese immigrants, among others. I continued my maghrébin food crawl there, meeting up with Hal's son-in-law, a young Frenchman named Rénato Lolli. The plan-a foolish one in retrospect-was to start off the day with Algerian sweets.

    More than a century of French rule in Algeria left a distinctive architectural legacy and a stubborn political mess, along with a weakness for crusty baguettes. It might also explain why Algerian pastries are as delicate as the finest petits-fours. La Bague de Kenza, just outside Belleville, is the city's best-known practitioner of pâtisserie orientale. I was mesmerized by the exquisite confections. Honey-soaked d'ziriates, filled with orange blossom-scented almonds, resembled the most intricate dim sum. There were pyramids of powdered sugar-dusted cornes de gazelle ("gazelle's horn"), trays full of baklava, and an entire section devoted to almond-paste sweets molded into the shapes of exotic fruits-Barbary figs, pumpkins, bananas-and flavored with jam. These are deceptively rich morsels, as we discovered while nibbling our way through an overly ambitious selection.

    It was after noon when Lolli and I departed, leftover pastries in hand (dense with honey, a natural preservative, they have a shelf life of several weeks). Up the block we passed a cluttered shop selling sandals, clothing, Korans, and framed pictures of Mecca. In the window of a halal butcher I spied saucissons made with beef instead of the usual pork. Out front were crates of fresh mint for the tea sipped all day in Belleville's many male-only cafés. Around the corner, the shelves of a dry goods store were piled high with imported foods and dirt-cheap couscoussiers and tagines, the traditional cooking vessels for the dishes that share their names. We passed a shop that sells only water pipes, then a hammam, and then a Tunisian bakery called Nani.

    The lamb is lacquered with honey, and flavored with ras el hanout, a blend of 27 spices
    Peering through the bakery's window reminded me of long-forgotten early Sunday mornings when my family lived in Paris. Before the rest of us got up, my dad used to head out in search of Tunisian beignets. We'd awake to discover on the kitchen table orbs of fried dough as big as our cat-sweet, sticky, and drowning in honey. Nathan de Tunis, the Jewish Tunisian bakery that was the source of those treats, closed down years ago, but the cruller-like boules de miel of my youth are easy to find in maghrébin Belleville, as are dozens of Tunisian pastries, which tend to be more rustic than their Algerian counterparts. I couldn't resist buying a boule de miel; the huge, fluffy doughnuts remain as chin-drippingly good as I remember.

    We turned up the Boulevard de Belleville, the neighborhood's central thoroughfare. Toward one end of the street, you'd swear you were in Tunis or Algiers; toward the other, it was like being in Shanghai or Hanoi. We walked into the heart of the North African section, where Jewish businesses sit across the street from Muslim ones. On the Jewish side, we found a line of customers awaiting a quick lunch at a Tunisian hole-in-the-wall called Chez René et Gabin. "We're known in Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas," boasted the proprietress, manning the till.

    The specialty at Chez René et Gabin is casse-croûte tunisien (casse-croûte translates loosely as "snack"), a crusty white roll filled with flaky canned tuna, sliced potato, mechouia (a tomato and pepper chutney), olives, hot peppers, capers, cucumber-and-tomato salad, preserved lemon, olive oil, and spicy harissa. It's the country's most beloved sandwich, and an incredibly satisfying two-handed lunch. Tunisia is blessed with bounteous Mediterranean waters and thriving fisheries, and tuna is a favored ingredient in all kinds of dishes. At lunch counters like Chez René et Gabin, you'll also find the fish stuffed with an egg into samosa-like bundles made from feuilles de malsouka, Tunisian pastry leaves. The packets are flash-fried so that the exterior is golden and the egg is still runny inside.

    A few days later, Lolli and I rendezvoused near the elevated Métro tracks at Barbès-Rochechouart. This gritty neighborhood at the base of Montmartre is among the least touristy spots in Paris, right next door to one of the most frequently visited ones. The outdoor market there is one of the liveliest and most reasonably priced in the city. The two of us entered the scrum, pushing our way past stalls selling artichokes, cardoons, fresh dates, squat zucchinis, olives, spices, even mouse traps. At Méditerranée Alimentation, an Algerian grocer across from the market, a woman in a purple head scarf stood before a sizzling griddle, preparing mahjouba-Algerian crêpes filled with stewed tomatoes, red pepper, and onions. We ordered two for the road, then turned onto a quiet side street.

    We wandered around looking for a bakery, El Andalousia, that had been recommended to Lolli by an Algerian friend. We found it on the Rue de La Goutte d'Or. In a glass case inside the shop, I noticed bags filled with what looked like fresh angel hair pasta. The noodles, called rechta, are made with semolina and, like couscous, are usually steamed and served with stew. The noodles are traditionally eaten, the bakery's owner explained, in a dish that shares their name, at the start of the Islamic New Year-which it happened to be on the day of our visit. We left the shop armed with directions to a nearby restaurant that serves, we were assured, a very fine rechta.

    Dar-el-Houma is a family affair, with Dad at the register, Mom in the kitchen, and their son waiting tables. As promised, their rechta was a revelation. The handmade noodles, as light and fluffy as the finest couscous, came topped with chicken, chickpeas, and turnips, all seasoned liberally with cinnamon. The humble restaurant, filled with Algerians, was a far cry from where my journey began, almost 30 years earlier, at that fancy six-hour lunch. But it was no less pleasurable, and just as quintessentially Parisian.

    See a gallery of recipes from Maghrébin Paris »
    See our food and travel guide to Maghrébin Paris »
    See more photos in the gallery »

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    Maghreb in Paris-photo
    by Jay Cheshes
    Dinner for two with drinks and tipInexpensive: Under $20; Moderate: $20-$80; Expensive Over $80

    WHERE TO EAT

    1 Chez René et Gabin
    92 Boulevard de Belleville, 20th arrondissement (33/1/4358-7814). Inexpensive. The overstuffed tuna fish sandwich called casse-croûte is the specialty of this Jewish-Tunisian neighborhood joint.

    2 Dar-el-Houma
    47 Boulevard de la Chapelle, 10th arrondissement (33/1/5692-1848). Inexpensive. Order the superb rechta, a holiday meal of noodles with chicken and turnips, at this homey Algerian restaurant.

    3 Le Timgad
    21 Rue Brunel, 17th arrondissement (33/1/45/74-23-70, timgad.fr). Expensive. Since 1971, this posh Moroccan restaurant has been a draw for its exceptional renditions of couscous and tagines, served by waiters in black tie.

    4 Mansouria
    11 Rue Faidherbe, 11th arrondissement (33/1/4371-0016, mansouria.fr). Moderate. Fatéma Hal's authentic Moroccan restaurant features many hard-to-find dishes based on recipes culled from research trips to her home country.

    5 Méditerranée Alimentation
    30 Rue de la Charbonnière, 18th arrondissement (33/1/4262-6455). Inexpensive. This maghrébin grocery store on the edge of the Barbès-Rochechouart market offers fine Algerian crêpes called mahjouba, made to order.

    WHAT TO DO

    6 La Bague de Kenza
    106 Rue Saint-Maur, 11th arrondissement (33/1/4314-9315, labaguede.kenza.free.fr). The most acclaimed Algerian bakery, with many Paris locations, specializes in honey-drenched confections that are as delicious as they are beautiful.

    7 Barbès-Rochechouart Market
    18th arrondissement (no phone). Look for spices, olives, produce, fish, meat, and much more at this massive outdoor market, on Wednesdays and Saturdays under the Barbès-Rochechouart Métro.

    8 El Andalousia
    25 Rue de la Goutte d'Or, 18th arrondissement (33/1/4251-1925). This little Algerian bakery is a destination for both sweet and savory treats, such as les roses, filo-dough blossoms filled with a paste of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds.

    9 Nani
    102 Boulevard de Belleville, 20th arrondissement (33/1/4797-3805). This venerable kosher bakery, founded in 1962, specializes in honey-soaked boules de miel and other Tunisian pastries.

    Back to the article Couscous Royale »

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    Travel Guide: Honduras' Garifuna Coast-photo For information on planning a trip to Honduras, contact Honduras Tourism (800-410-9608; letsgohonduras.com).

    WHERE TO EAT

    Chef Güity
    Beachfront, west of Quinta Real, Zona Viva (504/443-4595; ecohonduras.net). Inexpensive. Sit on the upstairs deck, and enjoy Garifuna foods like tapou (fish, green banana and root vegetable stew).

    Restaurante Corozal
    Barrio Belize, Corozal (504/ 9985-4008). Inexpensive. A living primer on Garifuna culture, this canopied restaurant includes a museum. The seafood soup is delicious.

    WHAT TO DO

    Expovida
    (504/9995-8509; expo.vida@yahoo.com). Lina Martinez offers excellent tours to Garifuna communities, including visits with women's cooperatives in Iriona.

    Tourist Options
    (504/2440-0265; hondurastouristoptions.com). Boat trips to the Garifuna island of Cayos Cochinos include lunch cooked by the community's women.

    WHERE TO STAY

    Quinta Real Hotel
    Barrio La Isla, between Avenue 15 de Septiembre and Avenue Victor Hugo, Zona Viva, La Ceiba; (504/2440-3311; quintarealhotel.com). Rates: $135-$220 double. Many rooms overlook the pool, seaside patio, and bar at this relaxing hotel. Breakfast is included.

    Back to the Cassava Nation: Garifuna Food and Culture »

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    Post Card: Farmer Craig Black at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens-photo
    by Rien Fertel
    For thirty-five years Craig Black has tended the thirty-eight acres of gardens, greenhouses, ponds, and oaks of Houmas House, the crown jewel of Louisiana's River Road plantation trail. Located on the Mississippi River's eastbank, midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Houmas House and its restaurant Latil's Landing have thrived under the direction of Chef Jeremy Langlois. The chef and the farmer work together to develop dishes through experimenting with heirloom fruits, vegetables, and herbs. When I asked Craig Black to describe his life with plants, he rhapsodized on asparagus-the shoots, leaves, and soil-in such a sensuous style that I know my own next spear will be my first all over again. -Rien Fertel

    Latil's Landing Restaurant at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
    40136 Highway 942
    Darrow, LA 70725
    tel: 225/473-9380




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  • 10/31/12--23:00: A Virginia Thanksgiving
  • A Bountiful Shore: Celebrating Thanksgiving on the Chesapeake Bay-photo
    by Bernard L. Herman
    Just before dawn on Thanksgiving morning, I pull on my waders, grab a basket, and splash my way to the oyster cages that lie a hundred or so yards from our house on the banks of Westerhouse Creek, not far from the shore of Chesapeake Bay. Light from the kitchen windows flickers across the water. The first winter jellyfish pulse in the flowing tide. Hauling one of the cages onto the lip of a sandbar, I brush away seaweed, unhook the lid, and peer at the oysters inside. Silvery grass shrimp somersault across the shells. Mud crabs skitter to the cage's bottom. A drowsy oyster toad squirms in a corner. Into my basket, I toss big handfuls of oysters-a favorite delicacy at the Thanksgiving meal my family hosts every year on Virginia's Eastern Shore, the long, narrow peninsula that forms the eastern boundary of the lower Chesapeake Bay.

    I have loved this place since I was a child growing up here in the 1950s. Even after I moved away, I stayed connected to the Eastern Shore. Over the years, I looked for ways to return to the place, visiting often, and writing academic papers on the peninsula's food and folk traditions, old and new-from the annual October snapping-turtle feast to the everyday life of the Eastern Shore's early settlers and native communities. About ten years ago my wife, Becky, and I bought a second home here, a 1720s brick house south of the village of Bayford, about 20 miles from the peninsula's southern tip. It has become my family's favorite place to spend Thanksgiving.

    For me, it's a coming together of all my favorite Eastern Shore traditions, and a celebration of the local foods that have fed the people of this peninsula for generations-all of it combined with the favorite holiday dishes of the rest of my family
    The company isn't huge by holiday standards: This year it's just me and Becky; my mother, Lucy; my sister, Fredrika (who goes by "Freddie"), and her husband, Paul; their daughter, Jessica, and her six-year old son, Peter; and my 30-year-old daughter, Lania, who's brought her friend Samantha, who everyone calls Sam. As for the meal, it tends to be a bit over the top. For me, it's a coming together of all my favorite Eastern Shore traditions, and a celebration of the local foods that have fed the people of this peninsula for generations-all of it combined with the favorite holiday dishes of the rest of my family.

    The Eastern Shore is 70 miles of sandy, fertile land abutting the country's best clamming and oyster-growing waters. The climate is Mediterranean, and home gardens here yield figs, peaches, and even pomegranates. No matter what time of year it is, when I'm on the Eastern Shore, I always seem to be thinking about provisioning our Thanksgiving meal. Becky and I start our preparations early, in July and August, when we and our friends put up fruit preserves, and savory pickles made from the tomatoes and okra that the area produces so abundantly.

    Throughout the fall, our neighbors who hunt and fish make their contributions, too, though what gets to the table depends on luck and weather. Our neighbor Jon Moore presents us with six venison roasts, and another friend, ace oyster grower Tom Gallivan, drops off a 25-pound bluefish. I rub the venison in black pepper and cayenne, and cure it in the smoker in our backyard, then fillet and smoke the bluefish, before storing both away until November.

    Credit: Beth Rooney
    As the holiday draws near, our preparations intensify, peaking two days before Thanksgiving, when I embark on the annual "big loop," an epic, daylong drive to visit purveyor friends along the shore. It's my version of the Thanksgiving harvest. The trip ranges from one end of Northampton County to the other, along back roads bracketed by creek and marsh, field and woodland.

    This year, Sam accompanies me. Our first stop is Pickett's Harbor Farms, at the southern tip of the peninsula, where W.T. and Tammie Nottingham live on land W.T.'s family has farmed for generations. They grow heirloom sweet potatoes, including a variety called Hayman that is virtually unique to this area and prized for its dense white flesh and intense sweetness. We pick up a couple dozen of them, plus a medley of other kinds for cooking into casseroles. Next, we drive north to visit James Elliott, the co-owner of A. andamp; J.'s Fresh Meat Market, in the little railroad town of Cheriton. A. andamp; J.'s is where we get our turkey, always naturally raised. James also makes a sage pork sausage that really sings. This year I buy some for our hominy and oyster stuffing, and, as I do every year, I ask him what goes into the sausage. He gives me the same wry answer he always does: "That is something I'm not telling."

    After that, we head to JC Walker Brothers Inc. clam house in Willis Wharf. "These just came off the grounds this morning," Hank Arnold, the owner, says as he hands me a 250-count bag of littlenecks. Finally, before heading home, we make a return visit to Tom Gallivan, our oysterman friend, who owns Shooting Point Oyster Company in Bayford, to retrieve two mesh bags of Shooting Point and Nassawadox Salt oysters, to supplement the haul from my own oyster cages.

    The next day, Wednesday, preparations really shift into high gear. While I brown the sage sausage in a cast-iron skillet for the stuffing, Becky makes a couple of sweet potato casseroles and a pumpkin cheesecake. I turn next to the smoked bluefish, making a creamy, brandy-spiked pâté. Finally, Lania and Sam prepare an old family standby, juicing lemons and chopping oranges and apples for a cranberry relish that's based on a recipe my mother, a retired elementary school teacher, coaxed from a lunchroom cook in the 1960s. Once our two refrigerators are full, Becky and I tidy the kitchen and turn in for the night.

    On Thanksgiving Day, by seven o'clock, I've returned from my oyster beds with a hundred or so Westerhouse Pinks, as I like to call the mollusks native to our creek. I take them over to an old workbench, which will serve as an outdoor buffet table that we've set up in the yard. I lay out a couple dozen of my oysters on ice-filled wooden trays, alongside the ones from Tom Gallivan, then light the propane burner on the pot steamer that I'll be using to steam the littlenecks. Sam and Lania bring out some pickled okra and pickled figs, the bluefish pâté, and the cured, smoked venison, sliced paper thin and served with rounds of crusty bread and coarse brown mustard. At our home, the eating on Thanksgiving starts outdoors, and it starts early.

    Credit: Beth Rooney
    By ten o'clock, almost everyone has arrived, and the festivities officially commence. In the middle of the yard stands a towering pyre of branches, driftwood, and old stumps, fuel for the bonfire that we always light on Thanksgiving morning and keep burning into the night. This year, Sam does the honors, touching a match to the pile. Flames erupt high in the air, and everyone cheers.

    The bonfire lit, it's time to shuck the first oysters. I pop open one of my Westerhouse Pinks; it's fat and sweet. Then I taste a Shooting Point Salt, which has a briny, mineral tang. My brother-in-law, Paul, the family's Thanksgiving sommelier, shows up with a case of domestic bottles from his cellar. For the oysters, we open a chardonnay made just up the road.

    As morning turns to afternoon, guests beat a path between the roaring bonfire and the steamy warmth of the kitchen. The turkey-stuffed with the sage sausage and hominy, rubbed with olive oil, and seasoned with fresh parsley, salt, and black pepper-has been roasting for a couple of hours already, and it's filling the room with its aroma. Various family members pursue culinary tasks under Becky's gentle direction. Freddie and Jessica plate creamed spinach and a layered vegetable terrine. Becky pulls a pan of roasted oysters from the oven and sets them out with one relish of pickled green tomatoes and another of horseradish, beets, and cranberries. The cooks snatch the oysters right off the baking tray, and in minutes, they're gone. Just before dinner is served, Becky improvises a last-minute dessert of roasted pears stuffed with minced pear, almonds, dried currants, and raisins.

    Finally, by midafternoon, all the dishes are ready, arrayed on our kitchen table. In the dining room, my late father's huge, three-by-eight-foot writing desk has been put into service as our dinner table. I head outside to throw a few more branches on the fire and then come in to grab a plate along with everyone else. It is a sumptuous spread: the freshly carved turkey; a platter of thin-sliced aged country ham; the baked Hayman sweet potatoes, incomparably luscious; the Brussels sprouts and rosemary potatoes; plus the pumpkin cheesecake, an apple pie, a boozy rum Bundt cake, and Becky's sugar-glazed roasted pears, which are destined to become a regular addition to the holiday menu. There is no order to serving. Everyone just descends on a favorite dish.

    At last, seated, glasses raised, we toast the day, and then we toast the cooks
    At last, seated, glasses raised, we toast the day, and then we toast the cooks. Becky, looking tired and elated at the same time, clinks her glass with Lania's and says, "Aren't we lucky?" In no time, guests are heading back into the kitchen for seconds. Before dessert, I read aloud from The Sot-Weed Factor, John Barth's great novel, written in 1960, about life in the Chesapeake Bay country of the late 1600s. I select a passage that describes an imagined eating contest between the English explorers and the Ahatchwhoop Indians to choose a king:

    [T] he rest watch'd in astonishment, the two gluttons match'd dish for dish, and herewith is the summe of what they eat: Of keskowghnoughmass, the yellowe-belly'd sunne-fish, tenne apiece. Of copatone, the sturgeon, one apiece. Of pummahumpnoughmass, fry'd star-fish, three apiece. Of pawpeconoughmass, pype-fishes, four apiece …"

    Credit: Beth Rooney
    After a few more lines I break down laughing. By the time the dessert wine and the grappa come out, we're starting to feel like the culinary combatants in Barth's book.

    Once night falls, most of the rest of the family departs. The kitchen is a wreck, but it can wait. It's growing chilly, and Becky, Lania, Sam, and I return to the dying bonfire with glasses of wine. "That was a great Thanksgiving," I say to Becky. "Let's talk about next year."

    "Let's not," she replies. "We've had enough fun for one day."

    But I can't help thinking about next Thanksgiving's big loop, about what we'll cook and eat. Down by the creek the night herons are calling to each other raucously, and I can hear the rasp of the breeze in the marsh grasses. It is the soundscape of the Eastern Shore.

    See the menu and all the recipes for this Chesapeake Bay Thanksgiving »
    Read about the history of Virginia's native ingredients »



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  • 11/07/12--07:36: A Seattle Coffee Story
  • A Seattle Coffee Story-photo
    by Drew Zandonella-Stannard
    In 1983 my two mothers, Meredith and Elyse, bought an espresso cart, parked it along Alki Beach in West Seattle, and unknowingly positioned themselves among a handful of coffee pioneers in the Northwest. A year later, I came along. I have spent my life surrounded by coffee.

    As a child of the 80's, it was quite probable I'd grow up in a kitchen with a mother and father brewing Taster's Choice every morning before heading to the office. Instead, my earliest years were spent comforted by the sound of milk steaming, the clunk of the espresso filter being emptied into the knock box, and the smell of coffee roasting in the back of my mothers' shop. What started as a few espresso carts they pushed through local community colleges transformed, in 1987, into Mad Hatter Espresso, a coffeehouse in the middle of Seattle's young, hip, and gay Capitol Hill neighborhood. There, my parents always had two kinds of soup simmering, their best friends in the kitchen, and a story that they told everyone about how the coffee cake recipe was an old family secret (the cookbook my mother Meredith photocopied it from remains a mystery). Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell played on the tape deck while I concocted elaborate baking experiments and chatted with regulars at the counter.

    My parents tend to dream big, while simultaneously being the most efficient people I know. Were they to come to me today and outline their latest idea-to, say, open a retirement colony for aging feminists on a remote tropical island-I wouldn't doubt them for a minute. Looking back, it isn't surprising that somehow in the middle of raising a daughter, running a cafe, and pursuing various degrees, my mothers bought and restored a vintage Danish coffee roasting machine.

    Drew Zandonella-Stannard
    In 1989, they opened Lighthouse Roasters, Seattle's first women-owned coffee roastery, just down the road from our home in North Point. There was an old pinball machine in the back, jars of Italian amaretti cookies in paper wrappers, and plenty of burlap sacks of green beans to nap on. My time away from school was spent making wholesale deliveries with my mom Elyse out of our Volvo station wagon, and eating maraschino cherries in closed bars around the city while she dropped off samples and chatted up the managers. It was wonderfully scrappy and entrepreneurial, but it was my normal.

    Maybe that's why 20 years later, I work for a coffee roasting company two blocks from the (now condo-converted) site where my parents had opened their (now-closed) shop Mad Hatter Espresso. A few old-timers here remember the two women who started Lighthouse Roasters. Lesbians with a kid, roasting ten pounds at a time and pulling shots in a storefront half the size of my current employer's cupping room. There's a certain symmetry in my return to the coffee industry, although I never intended it. My parents are retired now, the business sold years ago, still drinking 12-ounce Americanos and visiting me at work as roasted beans cool in giant drums.

    Drew Zandonella-Stannard is a writer and coffee drinker. She lives in Seattle, Washington and blogs at One More Salute to Vanity.

    FIVE SEATTLE COFFEE LANDMARKS

    In 1895, a dock worker found an overturned bag of coffee beans on the pier, roasted them in a pan, and launched a whole bean venture that led him to open Seattle Tea andamp; Coffee in Pike Place Market. 76 years later, the very first Starbucks moved in just across the way. Seattle is a city grounded in coffee: what follows are five of the coffee landmarks that I hold closest today.

    1. Lighthouse Roasters
    400 North 43rd Street Seattle, WA 98103
    Ed Leebrick purchased Lighthouse from my parents in 1993 and has been roasting out of Seattle's Fremont neighborhood ever since. The original logo, drawn by a design student in exchange for many free cups of coffee, remains the same.

    2. Caffe Vita
    1005 East Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98122
    If Lighthouse was my birthplace, Vita is my home. Roasting locally since 1995, Caffe Vita now operates 10 cafes across the country. The Capitol Hill shop happens to be where I work, drink and spend most of my waking hours, surrounded by the best coffee in Seattle.

    3. Monorail Espresso
    520 Pike Street Seattle, WA 98101
    In 1980, Chuck Beek opened the very first espresso cart under the monorail and started serving delicious espresso to Seattleites. Now operating out of a more permanent walk-up window in the same location, some say the burnt cream latte is life changing.

    4. Pegasus Coffee
    131 Parfitt Way Southwest, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
    Just a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle, Pegasus has been caffeinating Bainbridge Island since 1980. After a fateful afternoon there, my mothers wound up buying their coffee roaster from David Dessigner, who still roasts daily on the island.

    5. Starbucks at Pike Place Market
    1912 Pike Place, Seattle, WA 98101
    Including Starbucks on this list seems like an odd choice in a city full of independent shops, but the very first cafe is a landmark, having opened its doors in 1971. Today it is the only chain store allowed in the market, proudly boasting the original bare-breasted mermaid logo out front.



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    Postcard: Iverstine Family Farms-photo
    by Rien Fertel
    Just over two years ago, after reading about the problematic complexities of modern industrial meat and poultry processing, Galen Iverstine purchased fifty-five aches of pasture and woodlands and moved from the city to the farm. Outside Kentwood, Louisiana, at Iverstine Family Farms, Galen believes in asymbiotic relationship between the land and the cattle, hogs, chickens, and turkey he raises (a holistic livestock system learned from farming icon Joel Salatin). Soon, Galen will relocate these three-week old chicks and their coops to pasture land that's just been grazed by beef cows. The richness of the fertilized grass and soil provides healthy worms and other proteins for the growing chickens, who further drive the cycle of sustainability.-Rien Fertel

    Iverstine Family Farms
    2973 Newman Road
    Kentwood, LA 70444
    tel: 225/276-0207




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    Gianduia: Nutella Wishes it Could Taste This Good-photo
    by Jamie Feldmar
    As a teenager, I ate Nutella straight from the jar, eschewing any vehicle for the spread beyond a spoon. I found it pointless to let another flavor interfere with the brilliant combination of chocolate and hazelnut, and so I carried on with this admittedly uncouth behavior for years, until I discovered Nutella's sophisticated older cousin, gianduia.

    Gianduia is an Italian dessert paste made from hazelnuts, cacao and sugar. It was invented in Turin, the capital of Piedmont, the northwestern region that sits alongside France and Switzerland. Just south of Turin is the Langhe, a lush, hilly area covered in hazel trees, whose buttery, tri-lobed nuts are prized worldwide, though locals know them simply as tonda gentile delle Langhe-"the sweet round nut of the Langhe." Local confectioners started combining the nuts with cacao in the 18th century, naming the pasty product that resulted for the eponymous marionette character who represents Piedmont during Carnival.

    Traditional gianduia is deeply nutty (by law, modern versions must contain at least 20% hazelnut to even be called gianduia, though premium producers go much higher) and luxuriantly dark-the spread was invented before milk chocolate. (Today, milk chocolate gianduias do exist, and some of them are quite tasty, though purists may disagree.) Whether dark chocolate or milk, gianduia is grown-up stuff: sweet but balanced, with an elegant, rich flavor that belies the purity of its ingredients.

    My teen dream, Nutella, was invented in the 1940s, by Italian pastry maestro Peitro Ferrero (of Rocher fame). Originally called Pasta Gianduja and sold in individually-wrapped solid loaves, the confection was introduced post-WWII, when cacao was still carefully rationed. The loaves didn't last long: Ferrero soon started making a cheaper version with the aid of vegetable fat, which helped stretch pricey ingredients and created a smooth, spreadable paste, sold in jars under the name Supercrema Gianduja. The spread was renamed Nutella in 1964, and today, tubs are stocked around the world.

    All of this is to say that when I encountered a chocolate tort filled with true gianduia at a Piedmontese-themed dinner recently, I was more than a little excited. A heady, comforting smell filled the room, and the chef pulled me aside with a secret: he'd mixed a tablespoon of ground coffee into the gianduia before baking to help intensify the flavor of the toasted hazelnuts. The decadent finished product-individually portioned dark chocolate cakes oozing with molten centers of the nutty stuff-arrived runny and warm, garnished with whole tonda gentile delle Langhes. It was served, much to my delight, with nothing more than a beautifully curved spoon.




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