Archive for September, 2008

I Won’t Be There, But Maybe Others Are Interested

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Hi, I’m writing to you from the Adult School of Montclair and I’m hoping you can help spread the word about an upcoming lecture we are hosting on the raw milk movement. Sadly, registration for this program is currently low and we may need to cancel if we don’t get more sign-ups. We’d really appreciate if you could give us a mention on your blog and if you happen to be in the area, we hope you can join us.

Thanks,

Jonathan Hayter

Jonathan–

I’m not sure you really want my publicity–after doing exhaustive research on raw milk including tasting, farm visits, and a visit to the Turner dairy, plus a heck of a lot of reading, I came to the conclusion that it’s just not safe for city-dwellers who are importing it long distances to drink, especially if they won’t be using it quite quickly.  Even if bacterial counts are low on purchase, the milk is  a fertile breeding ground for pathogens, the most insidious of which is listeria, which is virtually omnipresent.

Not only that, but the claims made by the raw milk advocates tend to be a bit outlandish, especially when they gather the credible (enzymes that are killed in the pasteurization process aid in digestion of milk, thereby making raw milk something that even the lactose intolerant can tolerate, eg) with the incredible (it cures everything that a snake oil salesman says his product can cure) and the outlandish (pasteurization proponents, they claim, rely on outdated studies; whereas pasteurization proponents that I have read cite studies from as recently as the late 1990s, perhaps more recent, whereas the Weston A Price people rely on studies from the 1920s-1930s and even cite a list of doctors who lived in an era when the sun was believed to revolve around the earth as “leading medical authorities of their day” who advocated drinking raw milk (I might point out that pasteurization didn’t exist in their day for them to be able to differentiate between pasteurized and raw milk; in addition to which there have been remarkable advancements in medical technology in the intervening years since they kicked the bucket.  Read more of my thoughts on the topic by browsing my milk category.

Nevertheless, I am an advocate for folks getting all the information they can for themselves and reaching their own conclusions, so here are the details of the lecture:

Slow Food for Thought: Raw Milk
Monday, 7-8:30pm, November 3 @ George Inness Annex, Montclair High
School, Chestnut St & Park St., Montclair NJ 07042

Join a champion of raw milk who will demonstrate the happy fact that raw
milk tastes better. Learn why it is better for your health and better
for the planet. Taste flavorful foods prepared with milk from grass-fed
animals.

Presented by Kirti Rahi, chef/owner of Piquant Bread Bar & Grill, New
Brunswick, NJ. Tara Bowers, Director of the grassroots group Foodshed
Alliance.

Registration is available online at www.adultschool.org.

Any epidemiologists out there who want to go and provide the speaker (and audience) with their educated vantage point would have my blessing (though probably not Mr. Hayter’s).

Really Good Tomato Soup

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

When it comes to most foods, admittedly, I’m a food snob. Not that I require my meals to consist of eight courses composed of the bestest of ingredients flown in from around the globe; but rather that I require my meals to be created from honest ingredients, well crafted, and consist of actual food (not processed food products).

My tendency toward snobbery is even more pronounced when it comes to tomato soup. I grew up eating a delicious pureed soup made from fresh tomatoes from my parents’ garden. When, on occasion, as a young child I was offered a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup, I was convinced that the stuff in the dish in front of me couldn’t possibly be what it claimed to be, because it just didn’t taste good and had completely the wrong consistency: all watery with no texture to it.

So, of course, I now make my own tomato soup so that I can enjoy the delicacy the way it was meant to be eaten: from peak season tomatoes handled with care. It’s basically my mom’s recipe with a few of my own changes made to it.

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Winery Off Beaten Path Well Worth a Visit

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

In Cabot, PA, 3.5 miles off of Route 356, John Ricchuito makes wine from purchased juice. His Winfield Winery is only a couple of years old, but the quality of his wines makes his operation well worth a visit.

Less than an hour from Pittsburgh, Winfield Winery has an unassuming facade. Truth be told, I rolled my eyes as I drove up the gravel drive that leads to the winery’s rear entrance. I felt like I was approaching somebody’s basement, and I expected that perhaps this would be one of those awkward winery tastings where, at the end of it, I purchased a bottle out of embarrassment in order to avoid telling the vintner what I really thought of their work.

Instead, I was intrigued from my first sip. The Traminette is pleasantly crisp, striking your tongue front and center and rolling toward the back of the mouth with hints of citrus. Its full body and bold flazor would make it a natural accompaniment to roasted pork, especially if the pork were finished with a fruit sauce. The Pinot Grigio was somewhat more subtle, but was dry and refreshing; I expect that it would match nicely with poultry or white fish. The Seyval was a bit sweet for my tastes, but offered a hint of peaches that I can see how some people would enjoy.

The Cabernet Franc was the best of the red wines that I tasted. A hint of pepper in the finish would make it a natural choice for beef or lamb. Mrs. Ricchuito, who was pouring the wine, said she prefers their Noiret as a steak wine, proclaiming that she tastes pepper in it. I found the Noiret to be more tanniny than peppery, but thought it was sufficiently complex to buy a bottle. Their Chambourcin was soft and fruity with hints of black raspberry. Though quite pleasant, it tasted a bit young to me. I have a feeling that it will improve with the benefit of a little bit of time in the bottle. Of all the wines I tasted, there was only one that I did not prefer. the Merlot finished with a strong and detrimental acidity that erased any sort of pleasantness it offered on the front half.

Though small of stature, Winfield Winery has more offerings than many larger places. Their full list of offerings includes 10 reds, 9 whites, 3 blush wines, and 9 fruit wines. The obvious competence with which the wines I tasted were crafted bodes well for the rest of their offerings; and the breadth of choices means that they should have something to everyone’s liking… except for champagne drinkers.

Journal of Taco-Building Science, vol. I issue 1

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I’ve had two great leaps in my understanding of the best way to build a taco.

The first came in 1999, when I was on Semester at Sea and the cafeteria had a taco day for either lunch or dinner pretty much every 2-3 weeks.  It was one of the most popular menus that they produced, and people would line up around 2 corners for it.  You’d brace yourself against the wall if the seas were rough, or just rock with your knees against the gentle swells if they weren’t, and look forward to getting your tacos.  But when you got to the front, you realized what the hold up had been: everyone was trying to assemble their tacos at the buffet line.  And because, of course, everyone has their own understanding of what order the ingredients ought to  be stacked and why, traffic jams could develop as everyone tried to get the cheese or the tomatoes or what have you all at the same time.

After going through this ordeal once or twice, I realized how to circumvent the log jam and still be particular about how I built my tacos.  When I got to the front of the line, I’d fill several small dishes each with one of the components.  Then, I’d have a miniature version of the taco bar at my seat, where I could build each taco to order.  Not only that, but I eliminated the problem of taco-spillage: an inevitability if you set a finished taco on your plate.  It was a two-fer: shorter wait and better tacos, all in one blow!

My second epiphany came today as I finished my 4-taco lunch.

My order of taco assemblage has been the same for years: meat first, then cheese so it might melt over the hot meat.  Lettuce next, with sour cream following if it’s available; the two of them serve as an insulator layer to keep the liquid from the tomatoes (if they look good) and/or salsa from draining through the meat and making it chill too quickly.  Olives, avocados, and any other nice-to-have ingredients also go in the top layer.  They might be crowned with a second layer of cheese, on occasion.

Today, though, as I polished off my fourth taco, I started thinking: the delay between putting the meat into the shell and adding the cheese causes some inevitable cooling of the taco meat.  And I thought, what if the meat didn’t have to go in the shell first? I mean, seriously…we all do it without even thinking about it.  But what if we put the cheese in first?  Then, the meat would be at its hottest possible temperature when it hit the cheese, and the cheese would experience a higher degree of melting.  The melted cheese might even be able to serve as an insulator layer between the meat and the taco shell to help retard taco shell sogginess.  We have the potential to achieve a higher level of taco quality on two levels, simply through making one small change to how we stack our layers!

This is a development that I predict could rival the development of using caulk guns as sour cream squirters….

Reader Poll:

How do you stack your tacos?  Why do you follow this order?  What’s need-to-have, and what’s nice-to-have when it’s taco night in your house?

Metonymical Barns

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I was browsing through the Sunday Times today and I came a cross this fascinating examination of the disappearance of the barns that used to serve the small farms.  As the farms are snatched up by agribusiness, the barns get in the way.  They’re purposefully eradicated, or neglected until they crumble.

This is a deft use of metonymy, the rhetorical construct whereby an issue is illuminated by a symbolic examination of a related object, and Monica Davey uses it to great effect in this piece.  By tugging at the loose threads of the crumbling barn, she reveals the crumbling status of the agrarian class and the concentration of resources into the hands of the few and the wealthy, whom, it seems, often place higher priority on their potential gain than they do on families: as Davey writes, “Some here tell of people who call the widows of farmers who have died days or hours earlier, hoping to secure land.”

The conglomeration of our food production leads to reduced quality because the larger volume leads to decreased attention on the details; reduced options because the big guys are going to tend toward mono-cropping; increased reliance on chemical additives because farming untold acreage of a single crop reduces soil quality and is often only viable through production of a modern, spray-resistant hybrid varietal; and reduced security because the land that used to support several families now is tended by a relatively small number of individuals and their “air-conditioned, G.P.S.-equipped combines and tractors.”

Every time you shop for produce and wind up with pretty peaches that taste as fake and plastic as they look; sculptured tomatoes that have white interiors that taste like rice cakes (and are almost as hard); eat a sweet that gets is flavor from high fructose corn syrup… think of the barns, think of the families, think of hte lifestyle that’s being eradicated with the quality of your options—and make an effort to go to the farmers’ markets, to the roadside stands, to the orchards in your area and buy your food from the families who are still farming so that they can still farm in the years to come.

Or else, the barns may continue to dwindle and die.

Rosenborg Bakeri

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Aurora and I tried pastries from many places while we were in Norway (okay, so I tried more than she did): coffee shops, several different grocery stores, and bakeries. By far, the bakery that most impressed us was Rosenborg Bakeri, in the Rosenborg neighborhood of Trondheim.

The bakery is just a couple of blocks from our friends Troy and Carin’s apartment where we were staying, but somehow it took us until our last couple of days in the country to realize that it was there, because it was the opposite direction from the apartment than we had walked for the first several days of our visit.

When we finally made it to this chic neighborhood cafe, we were impressed by the breadth of their selections and spent several minutes in front of the display case trying to decide what to order. Finally, we settled on three from the “buy 2, get one free” selections. At 22 kroner per pastry (about $4.50), they were downright reasonably priced for Norway, where in general you can expect things to cost about twice what they would in the states. We opted to get 2 of the pastries for eating there, and one to go–and in so doing added a hefty surcharge onto the price of our pastries. We’d learn later that anytime you dine in in Norway, you pay a hefty tax for the services provided; but if you purchase something to go, it is taxed at a lower rate as a foodstuff.

Oh well. The atmosphere of sitting outside on the deck in fromt of the bakery was worth the extra several kroner. I opted for the raisin roll (the raisins are tough to see in the picture, but they were there), which Troy told me is a ubiquitous Norwegian breakfast, especially if slathered with liberal amounts of butter (I took him up on his serving suggestion). The roll was spiced with a slight hint of cloves, which made for a very pleasant touch.

Aurora got the pastry with the vanilla-flavored cream, which was colored yellow. She was surprised that this filling was vanilla-flavored (she expected lemon), but was not disappointed. The pastry was flaky; the filling was sweet–a perfect combination.

The third pastry, which we wound up eating as we sat there even though we had purchased it to go, consisted of a flaky pastry dough covered with nuts and sticky sweetness, topped with a lemon fondant. It, too, was spectacular.

The next morning, we left Trondheim for a weekend exploring beautiful Geiranger Fjord.  It was a spectacular weekend filled with beautiful vistas of towering mountaintops that descend immediately to sea level, their expanses dotted with waterfalls and small villages.

The range of sights and tastes we found in the fjord made up for our not being able to make a return visit to Rosenborg Bakeri before we had to leave Norway to come back home to the states–but just barely.  The pastries were that good.

Rosenborg Bakeri is located at 10 Rosenborg Gate, Trondheim, Norway.