Archive for May, 2008

Some Thoughts on Coffee

Friday, May 30th, 2008

There was apparently minimal fanfare nor reaction to La Prima’s decision at some point in the last several months to eliminate Monsoon Malabar from its menu of coffees. During my last visit to their roastery, I ordered a couple of pounds to begin my order. The man at the counter looked briefly alarmed and grabbed for their printed list of coffees, “Don’t tell me that’s still on there!” It wasn’t. They had recently canceled it, he explained, in short, because it hadn’t sold well.

I was surprised. The first time I had tasted coffees, Monsoon Malabar was the sleeper hit: the bean I’d never heard of that captured my palate with its smooth balance and unique aroma. The one that proved all coffees aren’t created equal.


Gambling Baker Puns

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Q: Why did the compulsive bettor open a bakery?

A: Because he kneaded the dough!

Q: Why’d he stay with the business?

A: Because the bread was good.
Q: Why did the sesame seed spend the whole night at the craps table?

A: Because he was on a roll!

Q: Why did the State Gaming Commission raid Senor La Fiesta restaurant?

A: They heard they were making their own chips.

Rachel’s Sustainable Feast Sunday, May 25

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I don’t know any more about this event than what is contained in the press release, so I’m just going to reproduce the press release verbatim. I suppose that’s what usually happens with newspapers, too—they just don’t reveal that’s what they’re doing.

SAVE THE DATE for Rachel’s Sustainable Feast, May 25 from noon to 5:00 p.m. outside Rachel’s house in Springdale. The best of Pittsburgh’s chefs committed to buying locally, more local farmers’ markets, and as many of the region’s great environment, conservation and fair-trade organizations and vendors as we can squeeze into the block party.
This year we’re challenging people to travel to the event in as sustainable a method as possible - walk, bike, paddle, bus, carpool, use alternative fuel. $5 General Admission (kids under 6 FREE) For more details, follow this link.
This event is part of the Pittsburgh Great Outdoors Week

Cleaning Cast Iron

Monday, May 19th, 2008

What do you think about this cleaning tip to clean your cast iron with some dish detergent applied with a cut potato?


I couldn’t disagree more.

There’s no way I would ever expose my cast iron to dish detergent. The entire function of detergent is to break down oil—and oil is exactly what you need to build up a good seasoning on your cast iron.

Instead, I recommend scrubbing it clean with a stiff-bristled brush that is dedicated to the purpose of cast iron (ie not used on any other dishes) and drying immediately with a rag or a paper towel. When your cast iron is young, it may be advisable to rub it with a thin layer of oil before putting it away, but once it has blackened nicely, so long as you dry it well before putting it away and don’t expose it to dish detergent and don’t leave it sitting around for two days with crud in it because you just don’t feel like doing the dishes, it ought to do just fine.

If you would like to clean it with something other than a stiff bristled brush and hot water, heat up a good layer of kosher salt in the bottom of it and then use a rag gripped with tongs to scrub the pan with the hot salt. The abrasive action of the salt will get every last bit of anything stuck in the bottom of the pan without harming the pan’s seasoning. Just be certain not to throw the hot salt into the trash can immediately!! The salt will be hot enough to start a trash fire until it cools down. Instead, pour the salt off into a metal container to hold it until it cools, at which point you may safely dispose of it.

What I ate For Dinner, 5/10/08

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Ribeye Steak of a Grass-fed Beef with Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus


Raw Milk Farmer Bucks Regulatory Attempts

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 5,

On a quiet, 100-acre farm in Cumberland County, Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt, his wife and his 10 children have for three years operated a dairy whose best-selling product is one the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture considers contraband: raw milk.

Pennsylvania requires its raw milk producers to obtain a permit, but Mr. Nolt stopped applying for the permit in 2005 and has continued to sell raw milk and dairy products in the face of multiple citations, a court injunction and two raids that resulted in $50,000 of product and equipment being seized from his farm in Newville.

Raw milk has been a hot button topic in Southwestern Pennsylvania for at least a couple of years, and the advocates for access to raw milk are extremely vocal about their perceived right to get unpasteurized milk. They have also been somewhat militant in their insistence that it is the best choice for everyone.

I am willing to concede that there are enzymatic changes in milk as a result of pasteurization. I am not, however, willing to accept every piece of information distributed by the Weston A. Price Foundation (the main proponent of raw milk rights) as God’s honest truth.

In promoting the health benefits of raw milk and the consumption of high fat diets, they rely on photographic evidence reminiscent of eugenics and, whilst complaining that pasteurization advocates rely on studies from the 1930s, distribute pamphlets boasting that “Galen, Hippocrates, Pliny, Varro, Marcellus Empiris, Bacchis, and Antithimus, leading physicians of their day, all used raw milk in treatment of disease.” Well, we’ve had some remarkable discoveries since their day: including the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.


Cast Iron: Buy it Used

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

I was reading through the New York Times Magazine this morning and came across their Recipe Redux feature, this week focusing on a braised chicken dish first published in 1969.  In their photographic explanation of the dish (follow the pop-up javascript graphic on the Times webpage), they say for gear, “A heavy, lidded frying pan is all you need.  Spoon out the chicken and juices directly from the pan.  This Staub 2-quart cocotte is $109.95 at”

While a frying pan would work, a dutch oven (the dish they describe as a cocotte, a French term that in addition to referring to a baking dish also means prostitute) is probably a better bet; either way, it is ridiculous, in my view, to pay $110 plus shipping for the cooking dish when so many perfectly good (quite possibly better) examples are available from tag sales, flea markets, and antique stores for $35-$50.

These pans are designed to last generations.  With a very few exceptions (very large or specialty pans that one can rarely find in a used state), there is little or no reason to buy new.

Word of the Day

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Apiary—n. An agricultural beehive, kept for honey and/or crop pollination purposes.

A couple reasons why I’m putting this up:

1) It’s a cool word, but one that’s little-known.  It deserves to get aired out and tossed around in conversation a bit more frequently.

2) It’s still a mystery why honeybee colonies have been dying off.  Stories about the mysterious bee deaths haven’t been in the news lately, but that doesn’t mean the problem’s over.

As a side note, the recent bat deaths in the Northeast have confounded researchers similarly to the mystery shrouding bee deaths:

Like the ”colony collapse disorder” that has afflicted honeybee populations in recent years, the syndrome has confounded scientists. It is unclear whether the fungus is the cause of the bat mortality or a symptom of it, because not all affected bats have the telltale nose ring. It is also unclear whether the fungus poses a health threat to people.

”Anytime you have a disruption in the system with one species dying, you don’t always know the ramifications of that death,” said Diana Weaver, a spokeswoman with the Fish and Wildlife Service. ”We don’t know how this spreads — if bats are spreading it, if other creatures can carry it — and we’re very uncertain right now about what’s going on.”