Ethiopian Options

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I have stated my own preferences for certain pros critiquing and explaining food and the places where you can explore it anew. I have recently been appreciating those like this one–not least because I love Ethiopia, and its contributions to humanity, and in general I am an Ethiopian diaspora fanboy–by the newer reviewer, Nicholas Niarchos and look forward to his providing many more. I am happy to see in the image accompanying his review what appears at first to be popcorn on the lower left, but is more likely a lightly toasted version of a superfood we came to favor when in Ethiopia, (speaking of superfoods):

A Vegan Ethiopian Feast at Bunna Café

The absence of meat and dairy isn’t obvious while you’re there, but when you leave your step will have a new spring in it.

Continue reading

Super Food, If Not Superfood

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The Good Sort. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Our preferred blank canvas, at least in the morning, has been oats when we have developed new restaurants recently. And we have tended to look at superfoods when we do our scouting and conceptualization for new menu ideas, and that is about food that (we try to ensure) provides health for both humans and the planet.  We have not put congee on any menus, nor has it even been on our radar, but perhaps it should be:

Congee Is the Original Grain Bowl

By Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite

Congee, also known as jook, or rice gruel, has long been the breakfast of billions in China — filling, cheap, energizing, and easily digestible, fit for infants and nonagenarians alike. Some swear by it as a post-exercise pick-me-up; others as a superb hangover cure. Its soothing properties are considered so powerful that congee is even served at funerals. Continue reading

Cabinet Of Curiosities

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We link so often to contents of this magazine, occasionally for in-depth profiles and often for items posted only on their website; but their covers tend to be particularly poignant visual cues. Those  of us who post here think of and refer to our WordPress platform as our cabinet of curiosities so this week’s cover captures our attention more than most:

“I drew a bookshelf, and the lines made me think of the streets of a map,” Luci Gutiérrez says, about her cover for this week’s issue. Another inspiration for her image: Wunderkammern, the cabinets of curiosities created in the Renaissance to display collections of extraordinary objects. “I don’t have this particular piece of furniture, but I wish I did. I keep strange and pretty objects,” Gutiérrez says. “It can be a chocolate paper wrapper or a Japanese mask. . . . they provide me with a way to remember the place they come from.”

Vermontini & Other Delicacies

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Braun Hughes, a cook, center, stokes a fire while another cook, Andy Risner, keeps watch. Drew Anthony Smith for The New York Times

Last week at Chan Chich Lodge we had guests from Vermont who were on their 6th visit, the first having been back in 1998. This couple started at dawn each day and while primarily birding they witnessed plenty of the other wildlife. Each sunset they enjoyed a classic dry martini with olives, and some conversation with Migde (yes, that is the spelling, pronounced mig-day) the bartender.

By the end of the week watching their sunset ritual, I had the image of a martini we might create in their honor. Instead of their favored olives we would put a few small cubes of chilled Harrington’s of Vermont smoked ham. Perhaps just to humor me, they said they would like to try that during their next visit. In the last few days I have been looking into the matter and I can find no evidence that this is a good idea.

I can also find no evidence that it is a bad idea. So I am continuing the investigation. And today I am happy to see a review related to another form of smoked meat, quite different from that of Harrington’s, in this case at a restaurant in Texas. Pete Wells now holds my attention better than any reviewer, on any topic. Anthony Lane, for a long time, held it on the residual strength of the laughter produced by one film review in 2005; his predecessor Pauline Kael also held it a long time before that. In the era of crowd-sourced reviews, the professional is still relevant for a reason. Today’s restaurant review is a case in point:

AUSTIN, Tex. — “How much brisket are you having?” Continue reading

Model Mad, Enlightened

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The true élite of modern societies is composed of engineers, mechanics, and artisans—masters of reality, not big thinkers. Illustration by Leigh Guldig

One of our favorite essayists (for exemplary reasons, see here, and here, and here) makes a compelling case for our taking a good look at the foundation of our assumptions, in this age of model mad.

His several essays in the months preceding and following the 2016 Brexit referendum and the USA election were impassioned, but this one in the form of a triple-book-review hits the mark the best, reminding us of the basic premises of the Enlightenment and how that matters now more than ever:

Of all the prejudices of pundits, presentism is the strongest. It is the assumption that what is happening now is going to keep on happening, without anything happening to stop it. If the West has broken down the Berlin Wall and McDonald’s opens in St. Petersburg, then history is over and Thomas Friedman is content. If, by a margin so small that in a voice vote you would have no idea who won, Brexit happens; or if, by a trick of an antique electoral system designed to give country people more power than city people, a Donald Trump is elected, then pluralist constitutional democracy is finished. The liberal millennium was upon us as the year 2000 dawned; fifteen years later, the autocratic apocalypse is at hand. Thomas Friedman is concerned. Continue reading

Accentuate The Positive

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On the flip side, the study found that diets containing low amounts of nuts and seeds were linked to about 9 percent of deaths from heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. John Lawson/Belhaven/Getty Images

All things in moderation. If you follow that general rule, this article may not be of interest to you. But for most of us, the salt’s (thank you National Public Radio, USA) item for us today is worth a glance. After you collect some stardust, sprinkle it on a handful of nuts:

…We know, it may be tough to cut back on foods you love. Bacon is so alluring to many that it has even been called the ‘gateway’ to meat for vegetarians!

But, here’s the flip side: The researchers also found there’s a significant risk in eating too little of certain healthy foods. So, think of it this way: You can start consuming more of the foods that are protective… Continue reading

Music That Inspires On Multiple Notes

Musicologist and conductor Laurie Stras

While I personally don’t focus on organized religion, I can’t deny the power of sacred music to uplift my spirit. This story of inspired Renaissance composition and modern-day curiosity resonates with historical sleuthing and musical puzzle solving.

Click on the Sound Cloud musical links, close your eyes and breathe deep.

Sisters doing it for themselves: radical motets from a 16th-century nunnery

Eight years ago, leafing through a bibliography of 16th-century music prints (like you do), my eye was caught by the title of a motet: “Salve sponsa Dei.” “Bride of Christ,” I thought. “Must be for nuns!”

It was one of 23 anonymous motets published together in 1543, so I did what any self-respecting nunologist would do, and ordered a reproduction of the book. As I put the motets into a usable edition for modern singers, I found they were unlike any other 16th-century music I’d ever seen. They were dense, intense and sometimes startlingly dissonant.

The music – for five equal voices (of unspecified sex) – is astonishingly beautiful and yet strange, radical even. These works had lain unsung and unloved for almost four centuries, mostly because they were anonymous. These days, anonymity suggests that whoever created the book, music, painting or whatever was not important enough, or the product is not good enough, for anyone to care who made it. But in the 16th century, anonymity was also an important way for members of the nobility to disguise their participation in commercial ventures that were considered beneath them (which is why Gesualdo, a prince, published his madrigals anonymously).

But Virginia Woolf was right when she said: “Anonymous was a woman.” Continue reading

Sense & Sensibility Off Grid

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“Sanditon” is robust, unsparing, and alert to all the latest fashions in human foolishness. Illustration by Rutu Modan

It has been nearly two decades since we adopted and adapted the two words, made meaningful as a study in contrasts and complementary values by a favored novelist, to remind us of what we are out to accomplish.

In recent weeks at Chan Chich Lodge the senses have been stimulated by wildlife sightings. Meditation on and in nature seems to fix, if momentarily, everything.

Apart from those meditations our guests find time to relax in a hammock, reading. Whether on paper (we prefer its off grid feel), or even on modern devices (on which there are some clear advantages) reading is a perfect complement to the day’s action. The quiet contemplation is a perfect counterpart to the nature excursions, so we are pleased to see Jane Austen has more to say than any of us knew:

On March 18, 1817, Jane Austen stopped writing a book. We know the date because she wrote it at the end of the manuscript, in her slanting hand. She had done the same at the beginning of the manuscript, on January 27th of that year. In the seven weeks in between, she had completed eleven chapters and slightly more than nine pages of a twelfth—some twenty-three thousand five hundred words. The final sentence in the manuscript runs as follows: Continue reading

Impossible’s Intriguing Inclination

Impossible.jpgMeatless is not even a concept yet for some, but we’re working on that. Many of us contributing on this platform have already started taking it seriously even if not totally converted–reducing meat consumption rather than going all out vegetarian, let alone vegan–for all kinds of good reasons.

We have already expressed our interest as best we can without having yet tasted one of these, but thanks to this Guardian review we are now a step closer to the impossible. We do not need to have tasted it to have high expectations and hopes to match the ambitions of the company:

Impossible Foods is on the cusp of big things. But as the company lines up its first burger chain, it still needs to show it can convert the meat-loving masses Continue reading

Cacao’s Curious Clues

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A view from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory in São Sebastião do Uatumã, Brazil. A new study examines correlations between plant species in the forest today and archaeological finds. Credit Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Different day, different location, and our interest in cacao is  piqued again:

How the Amazon’s Cashews and Cacao Point to Cultivation by the Ancients

By

Scientists studying the Amazon rain forest are tangled in a debate of nature versus nurture.

Many ecologists tend to think that before Europeans arrived in the Americas, the vast wilderness was pristine and untouched by humans. But several archaeologists argue that ancient civilizations once thrived in its thickets and played a role in its development. Continue reading

Liquid Renaissance

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Sullivan Doh, owner-mixologist at Le Syndicat in Paris.Credit Charissa Fay

We are pleased to read of Mr. Field, in some ways doing in Paris what we have just noted happening with cacao in the Caribbean–a kind of renaissance of beverages that is also on our agenda in Belize:

The Slow Rise of Craft Cocktails in Paris

By

28tmag-cocktails-slide-Q0D3-master180.jpgIn her new book, “The New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement” ($30, amazon.com), the writer (and T contributor) Lindsey Tramuta documents the creative and cultural shift she has witnessed in the city in recent years. Below is a passage on the rise of craft cocktails there.

To say that cocktails are a new phenomenon in Paris is to overlook a culture of distilling liquors dating back to the 1800s, one that gained greater traction more than one hundred years later during American prohibition, when newly unemployed bartenders came to Europe in droves and landed in some of the continent’s best hotel bars. Continue reading

Reviving Cacao

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Cacao pods ready for harvest at the Loiza Dark Chocolate farm. Courtesy of Loiza Dark Chocolate

Thanks to Dan Charles and his colleagues at the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA) for telling us about that something speaking to Mr. Vizcarrondo; we, working in Belize, working on farm revival among other things, also hear that something and we are inspired to hear of others who hear it too:

The dream of reviving Puerto Rico’s chocolate tradition took root in Juan Carlos Vizcarrondo’s mind years ago.

He’s always been obsessed with flowers and trees. As a boy, he planted so much greenery in his mother’s backyard, there was hardly room to walk.

But in his thirties, he started planting cocoa trees, with their colorful pods full of magical seeds. “Something told me, just keep planting, because nobody has it! It’s so strange, nobody has it!,” he recalls. Continue reading

Eat Your Vegetables, If You Can Find Them

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Vegetables were rationed at supermarkets in the U.K. due to poor weather conditions in Europe. Here, lettuce, broccoli and zucchini were rationed at a Tesco store in London. Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and the folks at the salt for this story about the implications of vegetable shortages in the UK:

It started in late January. At my local grocery store in South London, salad seemed to be just a few pence pricier than usual. But I didn’t think much of it.

Later that week, the same market had conspicuously run out of zucchini. I’m not particularly fond of it, but I lamented for the carb-conscious yuppies who depended — and subsisted — on spiralized zucchini spaghetti. How would they cope? Continue reading

Model Mad, Icon

 

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A new anthology of the work of Harry Belafonte, pictured here in the nineteen-forties or fifties, reiterates his standing in American music. PHOTOGRAPH BY BETTMANN / GETTY

There was an editorial a few days ago that alerted us to the birthdays of two buddies, each on icon in his own right, who have 70 years of solidarity in the tough times, and best of times too. It also alerted us to the time since our last post with the model mad theme, so here is one more:

HARRY BELAFONTE AND THE SOCIAL POWER OF SONG

By Amanda Petrusich

Sixty-one years ago, in 1956, Harry Belafonte recorded a version of the Jamaican folk song “Day-O,” for his third studio album, “Calypso.” It opens with a distant and eager rumbling—as if something dark and hulking were approaching from a remote horizon. Belafonte—who was born in Harlem in 1927, but lived with his grandmother in a wooden house on stilts in Aboukir, a mountain village in Jamaica, for a good chunk of his childhood—bellows the title in a clipped island pitch. The instrumentation is spare and creeping. His voice bounces and echoes as it moves closer. It sounds like a call to prayer. Continue reading

The Future Of News

2503_cover_beigeThe purpose of this, where I am typing this just now, is to share information. Sometimes that information comes in the form of a personal story, which is highly subjective but informative about the challenges, the innovations, and accomplishments related to conservation and the wellbeing of communities around the world. We depend on the New York Times for this kind of information every day, and more days than not we link out to stories they publish related to the environment, community, or other topics of interest on this platform; so this story matters to us:

ARTHUR GREGG SULZBERGER doesn’t remember the first time he visited the family business. He was young, he says, no older than 6, when he shuffled through the brass-plated revolving doors of the old concrete hulk on 43rd Street and boarded the elevator up to his father’s and grandfather’s offices. He often visited for a few minutes before taking a trip to the newsroom on the third floor, all typewriters and moldering stacks of paper, and then he’d sometimes go down to the subbasement to take in the oily scents and clanking sounds of the printing press. Continue reading

Truffle Entrepreneur, Immigrant Son’s Success

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Ian Purkayastha, the twenty-four-year-old wunderkind behind the luxury-food company Regalis, aims to “demystify this bourgeois product for a new generation.” PHOTOGRAPH BY KRISTIN GLADNEY / WIEDEN+KENNEDY

It could just be that I have had a nearly two-decade love for truffles; or the storyline combining entrepreneurship, economics and food, a mix that I favor; or maybe my being the son of an immigrant explains my response to this post at the New Yorker’s website; probably it is because I can almost picture my own son in such a story, in a parallel universe; whatever, enjoy:

HOW A TEXAS TEEN-AGER BECAME NEW YORK CITY’S PREMIER TRUFFLE DEALER

On a bare side street in Long Island City, Queens, beside Oh Bok Steel Shelving & Electric Supply, the Regalis luxury-food company keeps its goods. Upon entering the warehouse through a small red door, a visitor is immediately greeted by an intoxicating and pungent scent: the unmistakable, and nearly indescribable, odor of truffles. Continue reading

Small Dairy Farm & Value Creation

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Kevin and Ranae Dietzel, owners of a small dairy herd near Jewell, Iowa, named their signature cheese after this cow, Ingrid. Amy Mayer

A lovely little piece from the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA), that illustrates again how the production of artisanal cheeses can add value, in this case to an otherwise economically challenged farming enterprise

On a clear, cold winter evening, the sun begins to set at Lost Lake Farm near Jewell, Iowa, and Kevin Dietzel calls his 15 dairy cows to come home.

“Come on!” he hollers in a singsong voice. “Come on!”

Brown Swiss cows and black Normandy cows trot across the frozen field and, in groups of four, are ushered into the small milking parlor.: Continue reading

Librarian’s Librarian

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The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, believes in citizens’ right to access information. “It should feel very special because it is very special,” she said, of the Library. “But it should be very familiar.” ILLUSTRATION BY BEN KIRCHNER; PHOTOGRAPH BY LEXEY SWALL / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX

It has been too long since our last shout out, among dozens starting in 2011, to libraries and librarians, so we are thankful for this opportunity with a brief excerpt from the middle of this post on the New Yorker website:

THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS AND THE GREATNESS OF HUMILITY

The values of Dr. Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first person of color in the position, can be seen in every aspect of the institution she runs.

…Mention her name to a New York Public Library staffer, and there’s a frisson of excitement; at her raucous and bustling sendoff in Baltimore, a high-school librarian, quoted in the Washington Post, called her a “rock star.”…

Chef Ram At Chan Chich Lodge

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Chef Ram and I have multiple chef colleagues and foodie friends in common, but this is the first chance that he and I have had to work together. I have been looking forward to this opportunity for quite some time.

He will be expanding and strengthening the farm to table program that Chan Chich Lodge started nearly three decades ago. He will work primarily with Amie, whose success with food programming (and places where that food is enjoyed, which has also been widely appreciated) in India since 2010 made sure that the projects got attention. You will see those ideas here, so stay tuned. Continue reading