Friday, October 26, 2007

My Super Last Supper

Because I am not always in the know about the goings-on in the world of publishing, I pretty much depend on my roommate, who is in the business, to keep me up to date with the latest foodie publications to hit the shelves. This week in particular happen to be a juicy one for I came home to find this book silently waiting for me on the dining room table. My Last Super, Melanie Dunea latest project, is a fascinating book that shares the way in which 50 great chefs would like to spend their “Last Super.” It is a morbid little game and each interview is complete with a revealing photo of the willing participants. Who is it that would prefer to spend their ultimate meal at home with only their wife drinking Hoegaarden beer and who would like to spend it conversing with an array of rock stars and film directors, Iggy Pop, and Martin Scorsese to name a few? If you want the answers you will have to swing by the book store yourself to find out. The photographs - Anthony Bourdain’s almost naked one being my favorite - are cleverly composed and the formatted questions - what would your last meal be? What would be the setting? What would you drink? Music? Accompaniment? - certainly had me pondering the details of my ultimate meal on earth. Here are the answers I have come up with thus fare, of course keep in mind that just about every hour my answers to these questions change entirely. It is not an easy game to play and I dare chanllange you to try it for yourself.

What would be your last meal on earth?
I would like to have a meal that consisted of all my favorite dishes from all of my
favorite types of cuisines; Biscuits and Gravy, Laab Gai, Mole Poblano, Pulpo
Verecruzano, Chicken tikka Masala, Duck Confit, Tapas, buttermilk Pancakes
Lots and lots of cheese (St Andre, Cambolozola, Mozzarella), fresh tangelos with
Homemade vanilla ice cream etc. Basically the meal would last from sunrise to sun

What would be the setting for the meal?
I like the idea of having a meal on the beach in Mexico, under a shady palapa, with an outdoor kitchen and a bonfire blasting on the beach.

What would you drink with your meal?
I would start with coffee in the morning, Micheladas during the day and, since I wouldn't have to worry about the hangover, a Hendrix Gin on the rocks or two before breaking into some wine red or white, would it matter? As the final meal came to a close, I would have to knock back an espresso and calvados or things would not be quit right.

Would there be music?
There would be a kick-ass band that could play salsa, guaracha, soul, funk, blues, jazz...Also my friends would be playing music, and when I had had enough Micheladas, I’d even join in myself.

Who would be your dining companions?
All of my favorite dining companions previously mentioned on this blog: My mother, Kara, Margeaux, Bernie, Abraham, Glynnis, Kadie, Aaron and many more who have not been previously mentioned.

Who would prepare the meal?
I would have a hand in making the food along with all my other friends and family who like to cook, my mother, Abraham to name a few. The more the merrier of course.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tasting Notes

This is week three of my WSET wine certificate class and, as you can imagine, I have been doing a lot of wine tasting. Each class consists of a lecture followed by a tasting of about six or seven wines that demonstrate what we have covered. We then write out tasting notes and share our thoughts; is it dry, off-dry, or sweet? How is the body, acidity, and the tannins? Can you taste stone fruits, black fruits, or red fruits? Any Vanilla, or wet leaves? All of these things combine help us conclude the quality and the expected price of the wine. It would be a interesting game if I were not in the presents of classmates who already knew a thing or two about wine. Out of a class of about forty students, half are already in the wine business, a great many more are sommeliers, and for the rest learning about wine has been their passionate hobby. Then there's me, a Brooklyn peasant who, up until a few weeks ago, did not know that Sancerre is not a grape variety but a village in France where Sauvgnon Blanc is grown. How silly am I? (that would be sarcasm).
Alright, so perhaps this does not make me a simpleton however, it does leave me a few significant strides behind the pack. Interestingly enough, the area in which I feel most deficient is in identifying the bouquet of each wine. It is not as though I don't recognize the aromas, on the contrary; with each inhale I am nagged by a familiar, if not several familiar scents. Yet, no matter how hard I try, I remain unable to give a name to each scent until someone yells out "liquorice!" or "hazelnuts!", "Butter and Caramel..." , then I am inclined to agree, "wow, it does taste like hazelnuts!!" To improve upon my shortcoming, I have devised a plan : I have decided to catalogue all the interesting smell I encounter throughout my day in hopes that it will expand my aroma references. It seems like a silly exercise and even foolish considering I live in a city so full of bad smells, I mean look at the smells I have catalogued thus far,
I hope that not too many of these smells come into play while tasting wine, but if they do, I'll be ready to recognize them.
Outside of class I did have a more down to earth tasting experience to share with you. While knocking back a few Micheladas at Bonita, a nifty and stylish little Mexican restaurant in Fort Green, I was presented with a tasting platter complete with a glass of Tonala Anejo Tequila, roasted sweet potatoes with anise, chili, and cinnamon, sliced oranges, and a glass of sangrita.
The intention was that each accompaniment was to bring out a different flavor component of the tequila, and that it did. The anise and cinnamon in the sweet potatoes toned down the burn of the alcohol, and the swelling of the chili enhanced the smokiness of the aged tequila. YUM! The sangrita (tomato, cucumber, and chili) worked much in the same way, and the orange wedges where a nice finish. This has definitely given me some ideas for Thanksgiving!

Until then I will just have to do my best to keep a good pace with the rest of my classmates, even if it means I have to do more homework then. And since that means tasting more wines, I don't mind if I do.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Does Membership Pay?

So I did it! After living in Brooklyn for close to ten years I have finally become a member of the Park Slope Food Coop. Why has it taken me so long to join? Well to begin with, up until now, I have had a severe distaste for commitment. Though it is not a difficult process to join, it is still a process; you have to attend a two-hour orientation, stand in line to pick out a work shift, and then and only then are you allowed to pass through the pearly gates of a promised heaven of organic and local produce etc. What if I join the coop only to find that it is too inconvenient to shop there? I could see myself working my monthly shift only to turn around and purchase my groceries at the Pathmark around the corner because it is more convenient.

Another thing is that frankly, it has always seemed like a bit of a religious cult to me. Every time I walk past by the busy and bustling doorway, forever stocked with a squadron of reflective vest wearing members*, I get the same feeling I get when I walk past a Baptist Church during Sunday Mass, or a Synagogue just after Saturday morning Shabbat; I am instantly taken by a skeptical curiosity - Is this really the path to enlightenment? Are the prices and produce really that much better? And at the same time, as I watch the members coming and going with their boxes and reusable bags of local and sustainable products, I can’t help but feel excluded from something truly significant - What is it that these people know that I don’t? Is life really so much better on the other side?

Well, as you now know, the questions finally got to me and after the tour that Abraham - a dedicated member - gave me, I was an eager convert, you just can't get organic for those prices in NYC. Wednesday evening after work I dragged myself over to Park Slope in order to attend the orientation, pick out my work detail (21/2 hours every four weeks), and hopefully go shopping the very same night. The orientation was brief; we took another tour, and then lined up to select our work shifts and the man in front of me turned around “ We forgot to ask one question,” he said to me with a smirk, “what do we do if we don’t want to be a member anymore? Are you allowed to quit?” It was an interesting notion, here I was thinking of the coop as an almost religious institution, and he was thinking of it more of like the Mafia. “ Maybe you can’t quit, unless you want to relocate and change your name…”

As soon as we were done, we were given a one-day pass and sent on our way. I immediately rushed down the stairs, and as I passed through the entranceway I was partially expecting to be stopped and dragged out, but that didn't happen. Instead I was welcomed in warmly. I grabbed a basket, and began enjoying my upgraded status as a newly converted Coop Member. I can’t tell you yet if it is all worth it, will I give up bulk at Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue? or De-vine on 7th Ave; Hard to say. What I can say is that the organic gala apples I had with my yogurt this morning were the best I’ve tasted in a long while, and I eagerly await further brining session due to their bountiful organic meats section…

*These guys are members on work detail. They help you get your groceries home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Edible Overdose

I suppose it is only fare that I explain my recent truancy. It was not my intention to take an unannounced week long hiatus from blogging however, every time I sat down at my computer and danced my fingers across the keyboard all I ended up with was a string of flat sentences strung together to create one boring and utterly flavorless passage.

The incredible thing is that there has been no shortage of bloggable material in my life as of late. There were the grilled cheese sandwiches Abraham made for my roommate and me, made with maple smoked Cheddar, thick slabs of maple cured bacon, watercress and pear, served on a slice of Amy's seeded semolina...
There were experiments with brinning poultry in preparations for Thanksgiving, also a wonderful dinner at Kirara on Carmine street where, thanks to Jonah one of the chefs, I finally conquered of my irrational aversion to sushi...
Yellow Fin Salad with Asian Pear, Pomegranate, and parsley oil
Various rolls and Sashimi - can't say what they all are yet, but I did eat them all
Toro platter with sashimi (left), seared tuna (bottom), and tartare lightly seared and topped with quail egg (top right)
I started my WSET certificate class in Wines and Spirits, and I met David Lebovitz, the author of the Perfect Scoop.
Yes, I am aware of my dorkiness in this picture, but the coolness of the pic outweighs my dorkiness
This week was full of culinary events, disasters, and triumphs yet, somewhere during all of the cooking, eating, and drinking I lost my ability to sit down and write about it.

It is entirely possible that I had an edibles overdose - just because my robust digestive system can process large quantities of food does not mean that my delicate sensibilities can. We'll have to take it down a notch in the coming week.