A Taste Of The Place

NYRH-aleppo-sandwich.jpg

llustration by Rebecca Mock

Adam Davidson recounts the best sandwich he ever ate—a local specialty of the ancient city of Aleppo, Syria—and Dan Pashman sets out to re-create it.

Funk.jpg

Uptown Funk

In the last couple of months, Amie and I have focused on how to more effectively evoke the taste of a place. We have specifically been thinking about the future of a family dairy farm in Costa Rica. Click the image above to hear, in just under one hour, a story told by a few people we admire about how important taste can be to our experience of a place.

In addition to dairy, which is a shorter term initiative, we have been working with coffee for some years. All those years have been beta, which has worked well as a complement to our hospitality projects. Now we are preparing to go from beta to live. And that description of a sandwich in Aleppo, and the obsessional hunt to ensure that its very particular culinary heritage is not lost, is a motivational tipping point to get that coffee to your kitchen sooner.

We have tasted coffee from one of the regions of Costa Rica that gets less attention than others. And we have tasted the “natural” form of this coffee, which has very little in common with the monsooning accidental innovation in India but gives us a new way to enjoy coffee. And we have tried chilling it. Wow. We’re calling it Uptown Funk. Hopefully you can try it soon.

Progress Envisioned, Clabbered Cottage Cheese Looks Promising

27cottage-1-superJumbo.jpg

Clabbered cottage cheese at Cowgirl Creamery’s Sidekick Cafe at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

Apricots, Comfort & Inspiration

13ottolenghi3-jumbo.jpg

Apricots were often featured in the intricate dessert displays of 18th-century France. Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Two seemingly opposed ideas can, sometimes be compatible. For example, even though this post made me think about traveling to taste the place, I can also relate to Yotam Ottolenghi’s opening paragraph, entirely:

13ottolenghi-new-superJumbo.jpg

A tart made with poached apricots, marzipan, pistachios and pastry cream was inspired by the elaborate pastry-making at Versailles. Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

People tend to belong to one of two opposite camps: those who like their food to impress and surprise and those who want it to comfort and delight. These days, I find myself steadily drifting from the contrived faction to the comfort camp. This, I suspect, has to do with age and a certain wish to reconnect with my childhood.

But my interest in that other extreme was recently piqued by the exhibition “Visitors to Versailles,” which is on view through July 29 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I am hosting an evening there this month to celebrate the exhibition, and I asked a group of world-class pastry chefs to create highly elaborate cakes inspired by the court of Versailles. Continue reading

Food Items Not On Our Radar Until Now

180618_r32262.jpg

The razorbill Wellington at Koks, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Faroe Islands. Chefs wrap the seabird in a pancake and serve it with a sauce made from beet, elderberry, and rose hip.
Photograph by Anne Golaz for The New Yorker

The dish above is not one we would likely think to offer in our hospitality operations, which may explain why we have not (yet) developed any entrepreneurial conservation initiatives in the Faroe Islands. Nonetheless, this is the type of reading that makes a Monday morning full of thoughts of where to travel next:

Koks, the World’s Most Remote Foodie Destination

People are flocking to a Nordic archipelago to sample cuisine—like fermented lamb tallow—that challenges even the most adventurous palate.

By 

180618_r32263.jpg

The Faroe Islands, a mountainous archipelago two hundred miles north of Scotland, has a landmass of only five hundred and forty square miles, and is sparsely populated with fifty thousand people and seventy thousand sheep.Photograph by Anne Golaz for The New Yorker

The Faroe Islands, an austere, mountainous archipelago marooned in the North Atlantic two hundred miles north of Scotland, has a landmass of only five hundred and forty square miles, and is sparsely populated with fifty thousand people and seventy thousand sheep. But, looked at another way, the country, an autonomous outpost of the Kingdom of Denmark, is much larger: its territorial waters extend for more than a hundred thousand square miles around nearly seven hundred miles of coastline. Only one village, Vatnsoyrar, isn’t on the coast, and wherever you are on any of the Faroes’ eighteen islands you’re never more than three miles from the crashing, frigid ocean. Like the human body, the Faroes are mostly water.

180618_r32264.jpg

Fermented lamb, a Faroese specialty. “Fermented food is maybe the most important cultural heritage we’ve got,” Johannes Jensen, the entrepreneur behind Koks, said. Photograph by Anne Golaz for The New Yorker

The inhabitants of the islands, which were settled by Vikings in the ninth and tenth centuries, have always depended on sustenance from the ocean. But the local diet is surprisingly selective. The waters of the Faroes teem with edible creatures that the Faroese do not eat. They don’t gorge on the mahogany clams, buried in underwater sand, that can live for centuries. They ignore the abundant mussels that cling to coastal rocks, and consider langoustines and sea urchins to be revolting. It’s a favorite game among Faroese children to pick up sea urchins and hurl them at one another, because they make a satisfying splat on impact.

The Faroese do eat cod and haddock—masses of it, typically prepared in one of two ways. When eaten fresh, the fish is subjected to prolonged boiling (or “killed twice,” as some locals put it). Continue reading

Alternative Foodstuffs For Healthier, More Sustainable Meals

cauliflower-superJumbo.jpg

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Several of us who contribute here recently tested homemade pizza using the product pictured below, we pass the story along to our foodie friends, vegetarian and otherwise. Our thanks to Anahad O’Connor for this:

The Ascension of Cauliflower

Food companies are capitalizing on the low-carb, gluten-free trend by using vegetables like cauliflower to replace flour, rice and other simple carbs.

12sci_pizza-superJumbo.jpg

Pizza made with a cauliflower crust.

For Gail Becker, a former marketing executive who has two sons with celiac disease, finding gluten-free pizza that her kids could enjoy has long been a challenge.

So a few years ago, Ms. Becker started making her own, using a crust that contains cauliflower instead of white flour. Her sons loved her cauliflower creation so much that in 2016 Ms. Becker quit her job and launched her own company, Caulipower, which sells frozen cauliflower pizzas and cauliflower baking mix.

12sci_pasta-articleLarge.jpg

Cauliflower pasta looks like pasta made from wheat.

What Ms. Becker did not anticipate is how quickly it would catch on. Caulipower is now a multimillion-dollar brand, with cauliflower pizzas sold in 9,000 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and Kroger.

“One thing that we were very insistent on when we started our brand is that we reference cauliflower in the name,” said Ms. Becker, who lives in Los Angeles. “We want to celebrate the vegetable. We’re not trying to hide it or sneak it in.” Continue reading

The Spoon, The Fork & The Hand

Goldfield-Spoons.jpg

Photograph by Francis Amiand / Spoon /Pointed Leaf Press

Hannah Goldfield, in this short piece about the spoon, reminds me that Bee Wilson’s book about the fork came to my attention about three years into our Kerala, India experience. I tend to favor stories about the history of something taken for granted. When it is involves foodways, I’m in. Five years ago, when that book came out, I was firmly entrenched in a new way of eating, namely with my right hand and no utensils. Today, reading about the spoon, I can relate to the author’s preference because, given the choice between spoon and fork I will choose the former. Given the choice between a meal that favors one or the other, I will choose the spoon-forward meal. But if I am somewhere eating something that hands-on is okay, keep the spoon and fork off the table.

In Praise of Eating Almost Anything with a Spoon

The introduction to the most recent version of Emily Post’s Table Setting Guides includes the following mandate: “Only set the table with utensils you will use. No soup; no soup spoon.” Sounds pretty reasonable, as far as Emily Post rules go, but I beg to differ. Who says that soup spoons are only for soup, or should even be called soup spoons at all? I have long admired the way utensils are used in parts of Southeast Asia, including Thailand: the spoon is the most important instrument, held in the dominant hand and used to bring food—soupy or otherwise—to the mouth; the fork plays a supporting role, used only to push morsels onto the spoon, and chopsticks are generally reserved for noodles. I’ve been eating Thai food this way ever since I learned about the custom, dipping spoonfuls of rice into coconut curries, herding green-papaya salad, spangled with peanuts, chili, and tiny dried shrimp, into the curvature of a spoon. It feels elegant, efficient, economical—nary a drop or a morsel is wasted. Continue reading

The Foods Immigrants Offer

merlin_58349788_832d294e-bad8-4e32-94d6-96f61e9f8418-jumbo

Tacos at a restaurant in Nashville. Credit Christopher Berkey for The New York Times

Margaret Renkl, Contributing Opinion Writer for the New York Times, shares an opinion that I am, as a son of an immigrant, inclined to agree with. Even if I was not so closely related to the theme, it would still make sense to me:

Eating Without Borders in Nashville

NASHVILLE — Not quite two weeks ago, I was driving down Nolensville Road, Nashville’s “international corridor,” looking for a restaurant called Tennessee Halal Fried Chicken. In the passenger seat was John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and author of “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.” He was telling me that this particular approach to dining out, in one way of looking at it, could be considered a form of exploitation: “To patronize a restaurant of people who are different from you can be a kind of booty call,” he said.

This is an idea Mr. Edge has been considering for some time. The historically complicated nature of cross-cultural dining goes back to black-owned barbecue joints in the age of Jim Crow: “White Southerners patronized those restaurants,” he said. “They got in, they got what they wanted, and they got out.” Continue reading

Rehabilitation Of A Vilified Umamifier

Rosner-MSG.jpg

Ajinomoto, the world’s largest manufacturer of MSG, produces umami magic at its panda-themed headquarters. Photograph from Alamy

In the new issue of one of the sources we draw from weekly there is an article–An MSG Convert Visits the High Church of Umami, by Helen Rosner–that gives a refreshing splash of cold water on the face. My kitchen counter looks like the one she describes, sans MSG. And for the reasons she lays out. Always happy to be corrected, I recommend this to others who may have suffered the same culinary fate as me until now:

On my kitchen counter, to the side of the stove, there is a jagged skyline of jars and bottles, featuring the condiments and oils and spices that I use too often to ever properly put away. A few are ingredients so key that I buy them in bulk, storing the multi-kilo mega-packages in the back of the closet and decanting them for daily use into more countertop-friendly vessels: olive oil, kosher salt, and monosodium glutamate, or MSG. In one combination or another, this holy trinity ends up in almost everything I prepare—the MSG, with its savory chemical magic, is particularly useful as rocket fuel for dishes of raw fruits and vegetables. I whisk it into vinaigrette before dressing a salad; add it by the teaspoon to the relish of fresh plums and jalapeños that I make each summer; and, whenever I’m feeling snacky, sprinkle it on chopped cucumbers. Continue reading

Thinking Outside The Vegetable Box

03VEGDESSERTS2-superJumbo.jpg

Arugula tops a pecan pear cake with blue cheese mousse at Gramercy Tavern. Credit An Rong Xu for The New York Times

We try not to source from the same medium two days in a row, but an exception is made today, going from wind turbine technology to a rethinking of when and how to eat vegetables (thanks to Tara Parker-Pope):

A Surprising Way to Eat Vegetables: For Dessert

00VegCarrotSorbet-jumbo.jpg

At Blue Hill in New York City, colorful sorbets rely on the natural sweetness of purple sweet potatoes and carrots. CreditBlue Hill

Struggling to cut down on added sugar and get more vegetables into your diet? Take a lesson from some of the best chefs in the country and try eating vegetables for dessert.

Chefs are pushing the culinary boundaries of traditional desserts, reducing added sugars and experimenting with the natural sweetness of corn, carrots, fennel, squash, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. At the restaurant Gwen in Los Angeles, a deliciously sweet roasted artichoke, celery sorbet and green olives with crème fraîche cheesecake have appeared on the dessert menu. At Blue Hill in New York City last fall, diners delighted in the natural sweetness of a honeynut squash with ice cream, parsnip cake and naturally sweet carrot sorbet.

00VegCurry-blog427

A popular green curry ice cream sundae at Gramercy Tavern gets its kick from chiles, cilantro and lemongrass.

“We’re shooting for a pastry kitchen that doesn’t gratuitously use any sugar because there is so much natural sweetness in the fruits and vegetables we use,” said Dan Barber, the Blue Hill chef and co-owner who works with the pastry chef Joel De La Cruz to create veggie-focused desserts. “We like looking at vegetables in a new way.”

At Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan, pecan pear cake is served with arugula and blue cheese mousse. A grapefruit panna cotta includes cilantro and avocado, and a popular green curry ice cream sundae gets its kick from curry made with chiles, cilantro, lemongrass and other traditional Thai ingredients. Continue reading

Entrepreneurial Conservation & Armenian Foodways

04_preview_wide-17fa88f30bcf886db25337ed12b9accfbc084db0-s1400-c85

Motal cheese is a fresh goat’s milk cheese made primarily in remote mountain areas in Armenia. Cross of Armenian Unity/Ruslan Torosyan

We are on the lookout for stories that combine our interest in topics such as conservation, and entrepreneurship, and traditional foodways, and innovation (among other things) and this story touches on several of our favorite themes. Thanks to the salt team at National Public Radio (USA):

Armenia’s Ancient Motal Cheese Makes Its Way Into The Modern Age

In the mountains of eastern Armenia, about 75 miles north of the capital Yerevan, motal means change.

Motal cheese is like a business card for our region,” says Arpine Gyuluman, who owns Getik Bed and Breakfast in Gegharkunik. “[Because of it], we’re seeing more and more visitors annually.”

Motal is a white goat cheese flavored with wild herbs that is similar to homestyle country cheeses in Iran and Azerbaijan. Motal is prepared in locally made terra cotta pots sealed with beeswax ― a method that dates back at least 5,000 years. A little more than a decade ago, it was in danger of disappearing. That is, until a local university student named Ruslan Torosyan embarked on a personal crusade to save motal. Continue reading

Legume’s Lost Legacy, Found

180423_r31919.jpg

Rancho Gordo’s heirloom beans look like gems in a jewelry case. The company sells half a million pounds of them a year.Illustration by Cari Vander Yacht

180423_r31939

“My favorite bean is always the last one I ate,” Steve Sando says.Illustration by Cari Vander Yacht

If you only had read the first sentence in this story, you might move right on to something more promising.

Look at the author and look at the title, both familiar to those visiting this platform over the years, and it is certain not to disappoint. It is about this man to the right, and his culinary/cultural mission:

The Hunt for Mexico’s Heirloom Beans

Rare varieties discovered by Rancho Gordo’s Steve Sando have turned the humble legume into a gourmet food.

By Burkhard Bilger

The best meal of my life, or at least the most memorable, came from a can. I was thirteen at the time and living in France, so that may have had something to do with it. But I credit the beans. My older sisters and I were at a hippie camp in the Alps that summer, not far from the Italian border. My parents had stashed us there while they went home to Oklahoma to check on our house, which they’d rented to some graduate students while my father was on sabbatical. The camp was the cheapest one they could find, and they seemed to have done next to no research before signing us up. My mother just loved the name: Jeunesse du Soleil Levant, Youth of the Rising Sun. Continue reading

Yesterday’s Curry

Fish curry inflected with coconut is a staple dish in the coastal Indian state of Goa. It’s usually eaten accompanied by unpolished rice, fried fish and a dab of pickle. Once all the fish has been eaten up, the leftover curry is reheated over a low flame until it condenses and thickens. At that point, it is reborn as Kalchi koddi, which literally translates to “yesterday’s curry.” Joanna Lobo

Local food-ways have long been an interest on this platform, especially when spice is involved. Thanks, once again, to the Salt and Joanna Lobo for sharing this story.

Rice Rediscovered

merlin_133382781_2e684dde-7527-4a19-8880-d577f8e40ec9-jumbo

Upland red bearded rice, which grows in the Moruga district in Trinidad, turned out to be a missing culinary link between enslaved people in coastal Georgia and a group of slaves who were able to buy their freedom by fighting for the British in the War of 1812. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Salt & Pepper, Understood

saltandpepper1_wide-69509a468974fec99cd0fc28454d47916ac39998-s1300-c85

In European cooking, salt reigned supreme, and pepper was one of many spices used in heavily seasoned dishes. When they met, they were destined to be. Or, rather, it was destined that they would meet. Theo Crazzolara/Flickr

For this story, thanks to Natalie Jacewicz, a science writer based in New York City, and to National Public Radio (USA) whose attention to foodways is always welcome:

Salt and pepper shakers are so omnipresent on tabletops that adding a dash of the white or black stuff (or both!) is almost a dining rite. The seasonings pair well with just about everything and they go together like — well, salt and pepper. Continue reading

Flour Tortillas Praised & Decolonized Diet Delineated

Arellano-In-Praise-of-Flour-Tortillas

Recent Mexican immigrants deride them as a gringo quirk. Foodie purists dismiss them as not “real” Mexican food. But good flour tortillas can be revelatory. Photograph by YinYang / Getty

DYDBookCover2

If culinary etymology is your cup of chai, you may appreciate Gustavo Arellano’s post in praise of flour tortillas. Among the reasons to thank him is this book (click the image to the right to go to the source) that we had not been aware of:

More than just a cookbook, Decolonize Your Diet redefines what is meant by “traditional” Mexican food by reaching back through hundreds of years of history to reclaim heritage crops as a source of protection from modern diseases of development. Continue reading

The Craftwork Of Small Organisms

merlin_105802288_f62a8530-6c2d-46ae-ad3f-588b413aec3c-master768 (1)

Bacteria are responsible for the delicious taste of salami, although industrial microbes do not yield as tasty dried sausages as wild microbes. Credit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Fermented meat does not have the sound of mmmm to it, but we learn something new each day:

Actually, You Do Want to Know How This Sausage Gets Made

When you slice into a salami, you are enjoying the fruits of some very small organisms’ labor.

Like other dried sausages, salami is a fermented food. Its production involves a period where manufacturers allow microbes to work on the ground meat filling to create a bouquet of pungent, savory molecules. Traditionally, the bugs find their way to the sausage from the surrounding environment. But these days, industrial manufacturers add a starter culture of bacteria to the meat instead, much the way a bread baker adds a packet of yeast to her dough. Continue reading

Big Time Culinary Hydroponics

10farm1-jumbo (1)

At Farm.One, a hydroponic garden in TriBeCa, red-veined sorrel is prepared for a delivery. Credit Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

We have posted on urban farming and related topics numerous times since 2011, and hydroponics as its own topic of interest plenty of times as well. Culinary and/or gastronomic topics as related to agriculture are a magnitude of order more represented in these pages. Finally, they are combined for us in one amazing article, thanks to Alyson Krueger. If you only have time to look at the photos, those alone are worth the click:

Herbs From the Underground

Farm.One just opened an indoor rare herb and flower garden in a TriBeCa basement, and many prominent chefs are flocking to it.

10farm2-superJumbo

Katherine Chester, a farm hand at Farm.One, harvests for a morning delivery. Credit Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

In the basement of a loft-style building in TriBeCa that houses a vet, a dog swimming pool, an eye-and-ear infirmary, and a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, there is a working farm.

Farm.One is a hydroponic facility, which means that the plants do not grow in soil. Many of these farms are located indoors, in controlled environments, with artificial lighting.

merlin_130952510_55f499d3-d3da-473e-9c9b-329337b217c5-master675

Amazon neon cherry dianthus and neon rose magic dianthus. Credit Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

The new two-room space, which opened in November in a former cycling studio for high-altitude training and an old storage area, is only 1200 square feet. There is no fresh air or natural light; there is not even a window. Yet the venue can grow around 580 varieties of rare herbs and flowers (200 at a time) that supply New York’s top restaurants. Le TurtleLe CoucouMission Chinese Food, and The Pool get regular deliveries from Farm.One, sometimes several times a week. Continue reading

Cacao, Spices & Imagination

chocolate_dyptch_wide-b516bb95a47d1e00652f58b3dc29f210dc8f324d-s1300-c85

Left, a ripe cacao pod. Right, truffles from Midunu chocolates contain spices and flavors from all over Africa. Midunu Chocolates

Thanks to Amy E. Robertson and National Public Radio (USA) for telling the story of Midunu, a brief excerpt of which is sampled below:

One Woman’s Quest To Tell ‘The African Story Through Chocolate’

…While working in Senegal, Atadika joined forces with two more food-loving friends, and created a pop-up restaurant that was wildly popular. After dipping her toes in the culinary world for a couple of years, she finally took the plunge. In 2014, Atadika resigned from the UN, moved back to her native Ghana and began cooking full time.

Atadika started with catering and pop-up dinners. “It wasn’t my plan to do chocolates,” she says. “But whatever I do in food I look at in terms of adding value, and chocolate just kind of popped in, because we have this cocoa but we weren’t really processing it at the level we should be.” Midunu Chocolates was born. Continue reading

More Bottura Is In Good Taste

harlan_npr_massimobottura-11-of-12-_slide-f705261ab33908c73012b12b817380078d671b1f-s1300-c85

The finished product: passatelli in brodo, a traditional Italian dish perfect for a chilly day.
Beck Harlan/NPR

We long ago tired of the celebrity chef craze, and foodie-ism sometimes seems to have gone amok. But we do not tire of featuring this highly visible chef, as many times as he deserves it, because each time it is for a good cause. In this case the theme is recycled in this story on the salt’s corner of the National Public Radio (USA) website, titled Less Waste, More Taste: A Master Chef Reimagines Thanksgiving Leftovers:
harlan_npr_massimobottura-5-of-12-_slide-af0e2fa28613c9e6102cf54d4337875c0c020b3f-s1300-c85

Bottura kneads the breadcrumbs with some eggs, nutmeg and grated Parmesan cheese to create a dough for our pasta.
Beck Harlan/NPR

Food waste is a huge problem globally — starting with our own refrigerators. Over this Thanksgiving week, Americans will throw out almost 200 million pounds of turkey alone, according to figures from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But before you toss that bird, read on. We asked Massimo Bottura, one of the world’s best chefs, to help us figure out what to do with our holiday leftovers. Continue reading

Evolving Our Palates

bitter-master768

Bitter flavors have crept into the contemporary palate. Above, from left, Swiss chard, hops, bitter melon, aloe and wasabi root (all rendered in white chocolate) rest on a turmeric-dusted cube. Credit Photograph by Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi. Styled by Suzy Kim. White chocolate 3D food by Peter Zaharatos/SugarCube

Our palates are evolutionarily oriented away from these flavors, but we appreciate the opportunity to decide for ourselves when we might want some alternative sensations:

The Sweet Rewards of Bitter Food

MANY YEARS AGO, I had dinner at a restaurant in Chinatown in Boston — the sort of city where most non-Chinese people seeking Chinese food are in fact seeking what might better be described as American Chinese food: General Tso’s chicken, fried pork dumplings, “house special” lo mein; mild, comforting Cantonese dishes slick with sauce and loud with sugar, salt and the intense umami buzz of MSG. In an attempt to be adventurous, I ordered instead the most unusual thing I could find on the menu: beef with bitter melon. The waitress looked at me, her brow furrowed. “You don’t want that,” she declared. “You won’t like it.”

“I do!” I insisted. “I’ve had it before.” A little while later, she returned with a dish of beef strewn with crescents of a jade-hued, scallop-ridged, firm-textured fruit that looked not unlike oversize celery. The truth was, I’d never had it before. As advertised, it was bitter, in a distinctly vegetal way, with none of the fruity sweetness that the word “melon” would imply. I took a bite, then another, and another — in a different context I might have stopped, but my reputation was on the line. By the time I was finished, the melon hadn’t become more palatable, exactly, but my palate had changed. What had tasted like bitterness now tasted like pride. Continue reading