Archive for the ‘Food and Drink’ Category

Maine Men

In October 2009, two twenty-something guys opened up Luke’s Lobster— a seafood shack in New York’s East Village. Less than a year later, they expanded, setting up a second, larger Luke’s on the city’s the Upper East Side. Here, in a new GQ blog series, Ben Conniff reveals why he and Luke Holden quit their day jobs to dive into the shark-infested waters of the N.Y.C. restaurant business—and how they’re scrapping their way to the top of the heap

from GQ, July 29, 2010

One afternoon in July of 2009, my cell phone started buzzing. I had recently sent an article to a popular food magazine, and my editor’s name was blinking on my screen. I’d been freelance writing for some decent publications in New York, but money was still tight. My editor was writing to say she loved the story. She was even going to pay me this time. As soon as the story ran. Sometime in 2010. Exactly one year ago today, I opened my laptop and turned to the place where everyone goes when they discover something missing in their lives: Craigslist.

I was ready to stop writing about food and start making it. But no restaurants were looking to hire an Ivy League keyboard pecker whose only food-service experience was seven teenage years spent eating the merchandise at a Connecticut doughnut shop. Surfing Craigslist was a real Hail Mary, and that day it paid off: I came across an ad for a nascent lobster-roll business looking for someone smart, talented, and hardworking to help create something special. I was none of those things. But I was sure I could learn.

lobster-roll-in-hands.jpg

Luke’s Lobster roll

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Sails and Tails

Throw a proper Maine lobster bake–anywhere

from Tasting Table Everywhere, Jun 23, 2009

windjammer-lgThe water in New England is still a bit chilly for swimming, but no matter: When Yankees get sand between their toes, their first thoughts are not of sunscreen and snorkels, but of lobster and lemon butter.

Well-timed to coincide with the recent plunge in lobster prices, a new cookbook features a lobster-bake tutorial from the masters: schooner captains from Maine, the lobster capital of America.

Windjammer Cooking, by Jean Kerr and Spencer Smith, is a collection of recipes from the state’s windjammers: old fishing schooners that have been repurposed for passenger cruises. On every cruise, the captain anchors at a swath of sand and fires up an all-you-can-eat lobster bake.

Here’s how it’s done:
1. Cover the bottom of your largest pot or a galvanized-steel kettle with 2 to 3 inches of seawater (or lightly salted water). Position the pot over an open fire. Bring the water to a boil and add lobsters. Pile clams, mussels or other shellfish on top. Next, add a layer of onions, garlic and potatoes. Cover with a thin layer of seaweed and add corn (in the husk, but with the ends trimmed to save space).

2. Cover everything with a thick layer of seaweed, cover the pot and let steam for about 20 minutes. When finished, the potatoes should be tender, the shellfish should be open and the lobster meat should be white and firm. Serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.

Out of the Ashes

A winemaker turns disaster into a delicious barbecue sauce

from Tasting Table Everywhere, May 22, 2009

In October 2005, an arsonist set fire to a wine warehouse in Vallejo, California, ruining $100 million worth of wine from 92 wineries. Most winemakers left their bottles to the bulldozer; Julie Johnson just couldn’t let go.

So Johnson, the owner of Tres Sabores, an organic winery in nearby Rutherford, threw on a Tyvek suit and gloves and rescued all the wine she could. Her wines were “cooked,” as they say (though quite literally this time), and undrinkable, but she took about 5,000 bottles home to see if she could do anything with their contents.

She boiled down some Zinfandel and added produce from her farm. A few trials later, she emerged with a sauce, ¿Porqué No? Fire-Roasted Zinfandel Marinade and Grilling Glaze.

Named after one of her perished wines, ¿Porqué No? has the berry aroma and smoky pepper of the Zin, complemented with pureed persimmon and pomegranate and a spicy dose of serrano chile. Johnson left sugar and tomato out of her recipe, so the flavor is tangy and complex–and not at all cloying.

As its name suggests, the sauce has multiple uses: Johnson likes to marinate pork or chicken in the mixture, then brush it on again as the meat grills. Or you can try it in her homespun recipe, a lusty, blue-cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped burger (click here to download).

¿Porque No? Marinade and Glaze ($14 for 500 ml) is available at tressabores.com

State Plates: Connecticut/Yankee Pride

from Saveur Magazine, May 2009

THINK CONNECTICUT is one big suburb? Think again: its diverse immigrant communities, fertile farms, and vibrant university towns full of forward-thinking chefs add up to as rich a culinary landscape as that of many states three times its size.

Connecticut’s bounty is deliciously apparent on the menus of its most innovative restaurants. At the Dressing Room at the Westport Country Playhouse, the chef Michel Nischan offers classic dishes crafted with local ingredients. Our favorite: the chicken pot pie with jerusalem artichoke sauce.

LIFE AQUATIC

Whether hooked in the state’s rivers or coastal bays, Connecticut’s fish and shellfish draw crowds. Native delicacies include quahogs, the hardshell clams that star in New England clam chowder; plump bluepoint oysters; and bluefish from the Long Island Sound. In spring, Connecticut River vally residents welcome the season with shad bakes, at which the spawning fish is deboned, spread on oak planks, and roasted with salt pork over an open fire.

pepesAPIZZA!

New Haven’s Wooster Square has been synonymous with pizza (or as locals say, “appiza,” pronounced ah-BEETS) since 1925, when an Italian immigrant, named Frank Pepe opened a pizzeria that turned out thin-crust pies topped with just tomato sauce, oregano, and anchovies, perfectly charred in a coal-fired oven. In time, Pepe’s pies (shown above) became the gold standard in Connecticut (and, depending on whom you ask, the world); today, the signature version is topped with clams and chunks of garlic. Continue reading

Mexican Chocolate

from Saveur, April 2009

ibarraTraditional Mexican chocolate, with its intensely tannic, spicy flavor, is an essential ingredient for complex moles, or sauces, like the ones chef Rick Bayless makes at his Chicago restaurant Topolobampo (see page 70; a recipe for his pork with mole negro sauce appears on the previous two pages). Unlike European-style baking chocolate, traditional Mexican chocolate is never conched (rolled together with vanilla, sugar, and cocoa butter until it becomes smooth). Instead, the cacao beans are coarsely ground, toasted, and combined with cinnamon and ground almonds; then the mixture is molded into cylinders or disks. While the best Mexican chocolate is still handmade on a grinding stone, there are several good commercial brands widely available in the states. The most popular is Ibarra ($4.25 per 18.6-ounce box). –Ben Conniff

Agenda: Delmonico’s Opens

from Saveur, April 2009

1902December 13 Anniversary: Delmonico’s Opens

New York City, 1827

Italian immigrants John and Peter Delmonico helped introduce fine dining to America when they opened their first cafe, Delmonico and brother, at 23 William Street. Their Empire grew to nine locations but could not outlive Prohibition. The restaurant was raided by “dry” agents in 1921 and 1922; by 1923 it could no longer afford to operate.

The Penny Palate

I recently started a new blog called the Penny Palate, dedicated to eating and drinking cheap in New York City, at restaurants and bars and at home. In our current economy, it’s a classy site for the unabashedly stingy. Here’s a full description of the site from its about page:

from The Penny Palate

picture-11Please, sir, may I hear some more?

We know you’ve heard it before. “You have to be rich to do anything in New York.” Whether it’s a skeptical suburbanite or your I-banker friend who’s happy to drop the equivalent of your entire paycheck at swanky bars, there’s a pervasive sense that there’s no fun to be had in this city without paying a steep price. We don’t buy it.

The Penny Palate is devoted to rooting out the cheap food and drink that skeptics are too lazy to find. As Wall Street swirls deeper and deeper into the toilet, cheap restaurants are flourishing and more and more establishments are getting in on the action with “recession specials.” The heady days of the extravagant spender are past, and the hour of the penny pincher is here.

Our daily postings will tell you where to grab lunch when your wallet’s light, what bar serves up cheap drinks and free grub at happy hour, and even how to cook dinner and entertain without breaking your piggy bank. We’ll include special categories like a “Happy Hour of the Week;” “Tuck for a Buck,” which points you to great food for only a dollar; and our favorite, “The Circular Jerk,” epic journeys in food shopping and cooking led by the treasure map that is the circular.

We’re not talking Frank Bruni’s “cheap” $65 sushi special here. We’ll never recommend anything over $10, so when we say cheap, we mean it. So let’s raise a 2-for-1 pint to the thrifty New Yorker. This site’s for you.

Beerfest, Part II

beerfest

from the Playboy Blog, 11/7/08

After my thorough drenching at the NY Brewfest, I was happy to see that the Brewtopia Great World Beer Festival was being held indoors at Pier 92. Of course, Mother Nature responded with a gorgeous fall day. It also wasn’t particularly fortunate that I was hitting up the festival the morning after Halloween. This meant a long subway ride with a hangover vicious enough to make me question my will to live, and miss my stop. But once I meandered over to the Hudson, it took just a few sips before I was floating once more, and ready to get down to the business of picking a favorite.

Best beer: Tröeg’s Troegenator Double Bock

The Troegenator was a pleasant surprise: rich, warm, and malty but not overly sweet, a common failing that leads me to avoid double bock in general. It was also quite smooth for its 8.2% abv. The brew was a perfect complement to a tasty (though regrettably $8) bratwurst sandwich from Helmut’s Brats & Pretzels.

Worst Beer: Schmaltz Brewing Jewbelation 12

Mix one part Hershey’s chocolate syrup and one part Dubra vodka. Shake. I imagine Schmaltz’s recipe is a bit more nuanced, but the effect is about the same. The 12% abv is a plus, though.

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Getting soaked in more ways than one

from the Playboy Blog, 9/16/08

Mother nature kindly dumped barrels of rain on New York City last Friday. But that didn’t keep thirsty souls from flooding into South Street Seaport that night, where over 80 craft breweries had pitched tents for the third annual New York Brewfest.

There are difficulties inherent in attempting to write about a five hour long, all-you-can-drink beer marathon. It’s not easy to shoulder your way up to a bar through a crowd of guys twice your size in bright red Duane Reade ponchos. But looking back, my biggest problem is just remembering what the hell happened, especially on a night when any notes I may have taken quickly turned to mush. Here are the brief highlights I do recall…

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Potpourri, April 2008

Here are a few of the product write-ups I wrote for the April Issue of Playboy Magazine.

Scoot-Free

Few things are more depressing than watching your paycheck tick away at the fuel pump. Make the switch to a Vectrix electric scooter ($11,000, vectrix.com) and you can bypass gas stations permanently. Though designed more for getting around town than going cross-country, this is no sewing machine with wheels. It boasts a top speed of 62 mph, and its tight handling lets you weave through traffic jams. It goes 35 to 55 miles on one charge, and if you run out of juice, just plug the on-board charger into any electrical outlet and you’re golden. Plus, the scooter’s simple construction (250 parts compared with 2,500) for a gas scooter makes it a low-maintenance proposition. No gas, no oil, no problem.

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