Tag Archives: foodstuff

Best Vintage Punch Bowls

As you probably know by now, punch is “in.” The trend gained ground in New York a couple years ago through cocktail experts like Phil Ward of Death & Co. and Julie Reiner of Clover Club, and now there’s an entire bar in Williamsburg dedicated to punch (and sailing), the Drink. Meanwhile, people unaware of the trendiness of punch are just trying to get rid of punch bowls accumulated during the time when everyone and their grandmother owned a punch bowl.

Given the laws of supply and demand, as Trendcentral points out, there are some great deals to be had on vintage punch bowls. We rounded up a few of the best for under $100 from Etsy and eBay for your buying and bidding pleasure. If you entertain, it is so easy to mix up a huge vat of cocktails like Phil Ward’s Mother’s Ruin Punch, Julie Reiner’s Sparkling Holiday Punch or David Wondrich’s adaptation of 1869’s Yale College Punch. The olds knew best: punch is a fun – and economical – way to get your drink on, anytime of year. (more…)

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Last-Minute Foodie Gift Guide

There are various types of foodies, but certain gifts will be appreciated by all, whether they use their kitchens for massive baking projects or just as a place to mix cocktails. In the food world as in the tech and fashion worlds, there are certain It things to have every year, and the latest must-haves are always changing.

Here’s a round up of some of the best food gifts, classic and trendy, for 2010 – all available to be purchased at the last minute. (more…)

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Brooklyn Larder

Whenever a magazine publishes a guide like “The Best Unsung Food Shops,” as Time Out NY did recently, it begs the question of what other gems have been left out of the collective New York food consciousness. Brooklyn Larder, on the border of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, is one of the few specialty food shops in New York that succeeds with flying colors in several categories and across several cultures.

Exterior, Brooklyn Larder

The cheese counter is tightly edited and wonderfully curated, with several interesting cheeses available every day as samples. We picked up a wedge of Irish Gubbeen cow’s milk cheese (first sampled at a Joy of Cheese tasting) and a rare American sheep’s milk “Magic Mountain” cheese from Woodcock Farm, VT. (more…)

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Red Hook Beef Jerky

Intensely smoky with a spicy finish, this Red Hook Beef Jerky was off the market for a while but is now for sale again at Sample in Boerum Hill. Made by a Red Hook couple who slice brisket, marinate it in soy sauce and spices and dry it in a regular oven until it reaches just the right chewy-soft texture, this jerky should be a stocking stuffer for all the meat eaters on your list – if you can resist eating it all yourself.


152 Smith Street between Bergen and Wyckoff Streets
Brooklyn, NY

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This Weekend in Food: Bite of BoCoCa and Hapa Kitchen BBQ at Brooklyn Yard

happakitcheneflyerDon’t just read about all the gourmet fare coming out of Brooklyn, taste it yourself this Saturday, with two – count ’em, two – food fests that promise to deliver great food at even better prices.

Lunch: Bite of BoCoCa

More than 20 Court Street and Smith Street restaurants, gourmet stores, and bakeries are taking over the Transit Garden at Smith Street and 2nd Place this Saturday from 1pm-6pm for Bite of BoCoCa. Your $10 for five tastings or $20 for 12 tastings will benefit the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation (SBLDC), which keeps up the pretty gardens in the nabe. (more…)

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The Joy of Cheese: Good Cheese for Hard Times

cashel-blueLast night Marie Fromage and I went to another tasting for the Joy of Cheese at Ten Degrees – this time focused on inexpensive cheeses for the rest of us. The depressing packaged cheese section at Trader Joe’s notwithstanding, just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo good cheese. Our host and fromagier extraordinaire Martin Johnson, who now also teaches at the 92nd Street Y, brought out a few of the best. “There are lots of great cheeses for $25 a pound or less,” he told the group of about 15 at the tasting. Plus, as he pointed out, cheese, bread, some sort of charcuterie and a salad can make a great summer dinner.

  • Camembert Mons. This was one of our favorites – silky, slightly funky, vegetal and mushroomy. A pasteurized Camembert, yes, but it’s produced by acclaimed affineur Herve Mons. You can’t go wrong with cheeses by this guy. Available at Whole Foods Fromagerie (on the Bowery) and the Bedford Cheese Shop.
  • Pecorino Rosellino. The Italians are known for thowing all sorts of things into their wine, and it turns out the same thing is true with Italian sheep’s milk cheese. In what was originally a controversial move, cheesemakers started rubbing classic Italian pecorino with tomatoes – doubly blasphemous because tomatoes actually originate from the New World. But the result is an excellent pecorino, with a softer, fruitier, more complex edge. Available at the Bedford Cheese Shop. (more…)
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The Advent of Evil: Domino's Bread Bowl Pasta

Domino's-Bread-Bowl-PastaHave you seen the ads for Domino’s “Bread Bowl Pasta”? It’s a big, healthy serving of chicken alfredo, Italian sausage marinara, or three-cheese mac-n-cheese in a bread bowl. Because why have just pasta or bread when you could have twice the carbs in one dish? And there’s nothing like a big chunk of yeasty bread to cut the starchiness of pasta.

Interestingly, Domino’s hasn’t released the nutrition information for the bread bowl pasta on their website yet. But they do have a handy calorie calculator that tells you that there are 265 calories in one slice (1/8 pie) of deep-dish “Deluxe Feast” pizza (pepperoni, savory Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, onions and cheese). From this 12-inch pizza information we can deduce the approximate calories of the 10-inch bread bowl pasta: (more…)

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The Joy of Cheese

Did you know that “artisanal” refers to a cheese that’s been made from the milk of a single herd? That it’s useless to walk into a cheese shop and just ask for “tomme,” because then you’re asking for “from the land of”? That there’s an underground American movement for unpasteurized milk?

Most people don’t know these things, but Martin Johnson, one of the city’s best and most experienced fromagers, does and is happy to teach you. When he’s not working for the Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg or writing about basketball for the New York Sun, he’s conducting cheese tastings at 10 Degrees on St. Mark’s Place. For $30, he’ll take you and the rest of the group through about 12 excellent, hard-to-find cheeses of a certain type.

In March, it’s cheese that goes with martinis. The theme came from an inadvertent challenge from Max McCalman, who said to Johnson one night, “You can’t pair cheeses with vodka, can you?” Turns out you can. We tried a number of interesting, unusual hard cheeses, like Coolea, a gouda from County Cork, Ireland; Foja Di Noce, a Tuscan cheese that’s rubbed in hazelnuts as it ripens; and Ouray, a wonderfully sharp, crumbly cow’s milk cheese from Poughkeepsie. It’s an entertaining way to develop your palette: As the tasting progresses, Johnson throws in “mystery cheeses” related to the rest of the bunch, then asks you to guess what country it’s from and whether it’s cow, goat, or sheep’s milk. With the right crowd, the competition becomes amusingly cuttthroat.

To sign up for class, which is on Tuesday nights from 7 to 8:30, you need only email Martin Johnson at thejoyofcheese@yahoo.com. Schedules and themes – April is “All About Chevre,” May is “Viva Italia,” and June is “the Young Americans” – are posted on the Joy of Cheese blog and site.

Coolea, Niman Ranch salami, and a Bombay Sapphire martini

Ascutney Mount, Foja di Noce, and Tomette Chevre

Mystery cheese #1! (An aged goat gouda.)

Lavort, Doddington, Lessino

Mystery Cheese #2! (Some kind of Roquefort.)

Ouray, Mimolette, Stanser Schafkase

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Black People Love Coca-Cola BlaK!

I’ve heard of junk food companies targeting minorities before, but…Coca-Cola’s new drink is called “BlaK”? I assume that’s just a reference to black coffee, or an attempt to get in on the young, “urban” Red Bull market. It must be just a coincidence that the Coca-Cola BlaK site plays bongo drums overlaid with smooth jazz. Or that the sultry, mellifluous female voice-over encourages you to “experience the fusion of Coke effervescence with coffee essence.” I don’t know. As you can tell from my picture, right, I am a whitey, and I was too busy creating my own gallery of “Artistic Expressions of the Essence of BlaK” on Coke’s interactive website to notice.

A lot of Starbucks loungers think of themselves as artists too, and Coke is obviously trying to jump on the Starbucks bandwagon by launching a coffee product. I don’t blame them for wanting to be like Starbucks, another, equally scary Death Star in the beverage universe. I blame them for trying to be black.

Coke reps were putting the black back in Times Square the other day by distributing plastic bottles of BlaK instead of the usual glass. Presumably the Coke heads don’t know anything about the Crain’s article that concluded that “free product samples, sweepstakes, free gifts and travel prizes all can motivate minority consumers to buy a particular product if they are well-planned and targeted.” After all, the former Coke head quoted in the article who handled “ethnic marketing” for Sprite has left the company, but not before organizing a free trip giveaway to the Soul Train Awards Show. No, the Coke heads were probably just handing out free soft drinks in New York City because they thought we were thirsty! Aw, shucks.

Fortunately, I happened to be having lunch with a black person that day. (“Half black,” he elaborated. Whatever, Tiger. Black enough for the purposes of this article.) I couldn’t wait to see what he thought of Coca-Cola BlaK.

First, we admire the bottle. At least Coke knows good design, as has been mentioned before here. Is the plastic bottle supposed to bring down the cost? Let’s hope so. Right now it’s $6.99 for a friggin’ four pack of Coke BlaK on Fresh Direct (where a lot of white people might secretly order Coke BlaK). I haven’t done my market research, but the last I checked, black people and most other people don’t want to spend more than $1-$1.50 on a Coke. It’s like the subway-pizza rule of inflation. Coke is basically a monetary unit, one that should be on the currency index. If a Coke is half as expensive here as it is in another country you’re thinking of visiting, for instance, chances are your vacation will cost twice as much as planned.

My friend and I request a glass with ice at the restaurant where we are having lunch. No corking fee is required once we explain that we just chanced into a highly coveted giveaway of plastic-bottled Coca-Cola BlaK. The pour is similar to that of regular Coke. It is fizzy and dark brown, not really black. Then again, that same issue always confused me as a child – why were black people called black when sometimes their skin is actually dark brown? And shouldn’t redheads be called orange-heads? So I guess Coke has some leeway here.

The taste: my first thought is “ice cream.” It tastes like melted coffee ice cream with an overlay of dulce de leche. Sweet! (Literally and figuratively.) It has half the calories of a regular Coke. Read the fine print, though and you’ll see this is not just because it’s half coffee, but because it’s sweetened with both aspartame and corn syrup. (Coke’s decision to use corn syrup instead of sugar in the American market is credited to “local tastes” and has absolutely nothing to do with farming subsidies.) This half-sugar, half-not combo is similar to an annoying Starbucks order of “grande coffee, half caf, half decaf, in a venti cup” that confuses the counter person enough to make her summon the manager while everyone else waits in line.* Just make up your mind already.

My friend tastes it. He likes it! He really likes it! Oh phew. Now I can drink Coca-Cola BlaK in good conscience. Because I would drink it again, though we decide it would probably taste better with vodka. Or maybe a little Hennessy.

*actual recent Starbucks scenario

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I Love Lamb

Once considered the lowly stuff of schwarma joints, lamb has been popping up in haute cuisine recently. The quality has improved: the gamey taste once in lamb dishes at second-tier French bistros has morphed into a lighter, more delicate flavor. After superstar francophiles like Thomas Keller, who has served lamb at French Laundry for a while now, started sourcing out grass-fed lamb, farms have been raising more and better lamb and getting it to market faster, and gradually diners have responded. Many who used to say they didn’t like the taste of lamb have changed their tune in the past couple of years, and now only a few people other than non-meat-eaters complain if it appears on the plate.

Such was the case at Per Se the other night, where a fixed dinner menu for a private party included Herb-Roasted Elysian Fields Farm’s “Selle D’Agneau,” or shoulder of lamb. The waiters did not ask whether or not we cared for lamb, which was featured amid uncontroversial items like halibut, squash, and peach melba. The only asked if we had any food allergies.

The lamb turned out to be the highlight of the dinner. It was perfectly roasted, as was to be expected at Per Se, where Thomas Keller’s deft touch is still very much in evidence. But it had a complexity that couldn’t be credited to the delicious demi-glace or the kitchen’s techniques alone. It was also a fabulous cut of meat.

Roast lamb appeared again at Craftbar later that week, where it was similar to Per Se’s but not quite as dazzling, and according to other New York diners, it is on the menu at the new L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon, though I haven’t been there yet.

Next up: in what may turn out to be a futile battle, I am going to attempt to recreate the lamb perfection of Per Se in my own kitchen. So far, in one semi-botched cooking spree last night, I have discovered that it is much more difficult to make roast lamb taste delicious than say, roast chicken. It’s also difficult to find a good butcher with excellent cuts of lamb. This may explain why lamb is everywhere now: New York chefs love a challenge, especially one that involves having the right connections.

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