Thursday, July 30, 2009

What’s Up Doc?

The mini is back. Not the mini-skirt sadly, but teeny, tiny carrots.

These tender, diminutive carrots are proliferating at Restoration Farm and they couldn’t be more precious. These sunny little crunchers just make you happy. One CSA member squealed “How cute!” the minute she laid eyes on them.

I decide to milk the “cute factor” for all its worth. I leave a little shock of green on the top of each and steam them for about 2-3 minutes, so they stay crisp and spunky.

The warm carrots are dressed in marinade adapted from “The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest” – mix ½ cup of honey, 2/3 cup of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds and 1 teaspoon salt.

The carrots are chilled in the marinade and then served on a bed of lettuce as an adorable first course.

Cute, huh?

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Burger Truck, the Burger Babes and the Great NYC Cattle Roundup

We’ve been tracking the vehicle’s maneuvers on Twitter, but it has remained elusive. Until now.

The celebrated La Cense Beef Burger Truck has been sighted in various midtown neighborhoods, but never our own. It was beginning to sound a little like the legend of Sasquatch. And, it’s been a bit frustrating to read tweets about working stiffs on Park Avenue storming the truck while those of us in the mid-50s have to settle for PB&J.

Then, Zany spots the morning tweet (or should it be a moo?). The Burger Truck will be positioned within a ten minute walk from the office. This day just got so much better!

Zany is elated. She is intoxicated by the thrill of the chase. “We’re on a New York safari,” she says. “We’re on the hunt.”

Mad Me-Shell’s carnivorous instincts are in high gear. Barely have we reached the corner of 58th Street and 8th Avenue and she screams, “There it is!” unable to contain herself.

“I’m like a sniffing police dog,” she admits. “If there’s grilling meat anywhere around, I will smell it.”

The brilliant blue truck looks like a slice of the big Montana sky. It is High Noon, and we approach the window. Brian is at the window, and is quite willing to round out our culinary experience with a few Burger Truck campfire stories.

“What we’re trying to do is raise the awareness of the New York public of natural, 100 percent, grass-fed, Black Angus cattle,” he says. “The best way to market your product is on the streets of Manhattan and if you bring your product straight to the people on the street, you can’t go wrong.”

We’re just glad he picked a good neighborhood.

We’ve heard rumors about how one must eat a La Cense Beef Burger, and we ask Brian to confirm. He tells us the proper etiquette is to consume the burger, just about naked, minus condiments.

“The burger on the bun with the caramelized onions is delicious,” he says. “What you want to taste is the quality of the meat, not the ketchup.”

We carry away our bags filled with three burgers on sesame buns, topped with American cheese and caramelized onions, with pickles on the side. We also make a point of grabbing the “frequent user” cards.

We pick a spot to dine near the fountains of Columbus Circle. “You have to enjoy it in the great outdoors,” says Mad Me-Shell. “You have to be one with the cow.”

We unwrap our burgers and inspect the goods. First impressions matter. “Hurry up and take all your pictures,” urges Zany “There’s not gonna be much left soon.

We succumb.

“It tastes like you’re eating a steak,” says Mad Me-Shell. “I feel like I could saddle up my horse and head back to the paddock after eating this.”

She’s right. The burger is perfectly cooked and tastes almost buttery, with a slight hint of charcoal. The savory and sweet caramelized onions are alarmingly tasty.

I try to calm my racing pulse and make a little polite mealtime conversation. “I feel the rumble of the subway underneath us,” I point out.

“I think that’s your stomach asking for more,” says Mad.

We literally wolf down our burgers. The time is now 12:16 PM. From placing our orders to post-meal gratification, a mere sixteen minutes have elapsed.

“That was good,” murmurs Zany, her voice just a little thick with protein pleasure.

“Can we take a field trip to Montana?” asks Mad.

That kind of says it all.

Zany is now struggling with post-truck food depression. “We’ve got nothing to look forward to,” she moans. “I need adventure.”

She might just get her wish, as I hear that Mad Me-Shell is now tracking a mysterious Schnitzel Truck which will soon take to the streets of Manhattan …

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Kalestrom

While the Northeast has been battered with rain this summer, there is a healthy “kalstrom” underway at Restoration Farm.

I confess that I am a “kale convert.” It took me quite a while to warm up to some of these leafy greens. I’m pretty adventurous, but I just didn’t know what to expect. So I’d always default to what I knew. Was I missing out!

Kale has an earthy, almost “meaty” flavor. I have found that a simple stir fry of kale in garlic and oil makes a satisfying meal. Kale is a member of the cabbage family, and has been around for a while. It was a favorite in ancient Rome. Kale is rich in vitamins A, C and calcium and high in protein.

Now, I’m hoarding kale. I don’t want a bit to go to waste. So, if I’m not going to eat it immediately, I steam the deep green leaves for no more than three minutes, and then shock them in cold water.

Next, roll the leaves in a clean dish towel to absorb the excess water, place them in a zip lock bag and store them in the freezer. That means there is plenty of kale on hand to add a wild touch to recipes like this rich, flavorful frittata:

Frittata with Onion, Kale and Italian Dry Sausage

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
¼ pound Italian Dry Sausage or other hard sausage, sliced in rounds
1 bunch kale, cleaned, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
8 eggs
Chopped, fresh parsley

Preheat the broiler. In a large, non-stick, oven-proof skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until golden. Add sausage and continue to sauté until softened.

Add the kale and sauté briefly until bright green and wilted. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, cheese and chopped parsley in a separate bowl. Turn the heat on the frying pan to medium-low and add the egg mixture. Let the eggs set between 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the pan slightly from time to time to allow the eggs to set. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the eggs are completely set for 10 to 15 minutes. Finish the frittata under the broiler, and heat 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Hang on for the inevitable kalestrom. Your taste buds won’t know what hit them!

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Midsummer Night’s Pizza

I dream of zucchini pizza. There’s something magical, even Shakespearean about it.

Each summer I can’t wait to slice those paper thin disks of bright yellow and green and scatter them over yeasty dough. Sure, I’ll make lots of zucchini bread, and zucchini soup, but there is absolutely nothing better than dining on the deck as the sun sets and the sky turns pink, with a glass of red wine and a thin crust pizza bursting with the flavors of summer.

The zucchini and summer squash are erupting from the ground at Restoration Farm. It’s almost as if Puck himself has given them a little bewitching boost.

My pizza is piled high with the best of Restoration Farm – zucchini, summer squash, newly harvested garlic, and kale. The zucchini is sweet and crisp, the kale slightly bitter, and the garlic, toasty and mellow.

Restoration Farm’s head grower, Dan Holmes tells me things are looking good for the berry patch. I steal down the tree lined path to take a look and the signs are encouraging:

Can a luscious berry tart be far off?

Visions of summer berries begin to fill my head, for the summer squash may soon be no more yielding but a dream.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 12, 2009

LiV Vodka and Rich Stabile’s Potato Field of Dreams

Long Island’s original vodka is distilled from 100 percent potatoes.

When Rich Stabile’s family summered on Long Island’s East End in the 1970s, the North Fork’s wine industry was just taking shape. But, at an early age, Rich had his eye on another iconic agricultural product – the Long Island potato.

“I was always struck that there were all these potato fields and wondered, Why isn’t anyone making vodka out here?” Rich says. The question stayed in the back of his mind for years.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009. Rich is President of Long Island Spirits and we are talking in the company’s newly-opened tasting room, located in a majestic, refurbished antique barn in the community of Baiting Hollow. Long Island's only state-of-the-art distillery is housed on the ground floor. Visible from the back balcony is a sweeping panorama of one hundred acres of potato fields. And, the signature product sold by Long Island Spirits is LiV (rhymes with five) Vodka, distilled from 100 percent potatoes.

Rich Stabile is President of Long Island Spirits, which produces LiV Vodka.

According to Newsday, potatoes were once the dominant crop on Long Island. Records show that in 1945, there were 72,000 acres of potatoes in Nassau and Suffolk. But over time, suburban growth and unfavorable economics began to encroach. Many Long Island vineyards were actually planted on former potato fields, reviving a flagging agricultural economy. Farming has shifted to flowers and ornamental shrubs, yet even today, commodities like potatoes and duckling still retain a kind of legendary status on “the Island.”

The Long Island Spirits tasting room opened in May 2009.

Under Rich Stabile’s direction, Long Island Spirits is likely to spur a renaissance for the humble spud. He is genial and obviously passionate about his business.

“For me, the Long Island potato is such a unique commodity,” says Rich. “It’s one of the best potatoes available in the world, actually, and it’s got a perfect starch content to make vodka, so I wanted to take advantage of that.”

Long Island Spirits processes 25,000 pounds of potatoes each week.

Initially, he took a different path, working in electrical engineering, the semi-conductor industry and several start-up companies. As he traveled the world, he would visit wineries and distilleries for pleasure. The experiences stoked his entrepreneurial spirit.

“I was fascinated by distilleries because there’s year-round activity where, with a winery, there’s a flood of activity for eight weeks.”

He educated himself further, with classes at Cornell and additional training. “I really immersed myself in understanding spirits.” Soon, he’d assembled a formal business plan and partnered with a childhood friend, Dan Pollicino.

Of course, if you build it, they will come.

“We’re ecstatic with the response we’ve gotten from the market,” says Rich. Since its introduction last year, LiV is now distributed in six states with more anticipated. The vodka was named “Best in Class” at the NY Spirits Awards and was given a score of 92 by “Tasting Panel Magazine.”

Long Island Spirits is based in an exquisite renovated barn in Baiting Hollow, NY.

He walks me through the production area. There are huge sacks of tawny-skinned potatoes piled against the wall.

“We go through about 8000 pounds of potatoes a day,” he says. “It helps for sustainability out here and keeping an alternative market for potatoes.”

The potatoes are ground into a fine mash and heated with water and enzymes, which initiates the breakdown from starch to sugar. From the outset, the head distiller is always monitoring the mixture from a taste perspective. The mixture is then moved to a fermentation tank and cooled slightly.

“At that point we’ll add yeast, and that begins the process of turning the material into a potato wine, if you will. Up until this point, it’s very much the type of process you’d see in a winery.”

After several days, the mixture is transferred to the still. Rich points to two 650 liter copper stills with towers that reach to the roof of the barn.

“What makes us different is we have rectification columns, and this allows you to legally make vodka. You need to bring vodka up to over 95 percent alcohol before you can blend it down. So we do a triple distillation.”

The final bottling is completed by hand and the result is a truly unique product. “It’s got a different viscosity. Less than one percent of all vodkas are made from potatoes because it’s a much more expensive process,” he explains. “Eighty percent of a potato is water, so you’re starting out with much less of a starch-based element to begin your fermentation process.”

A bottle of LiV Vodka evokes the ocean off Long Island.

A bottle of LiV Vodka is distinctive – crisp, clean and elegant, adorned with a cool blue and white label.

“We wanted to be about what’s inside the bottle, plus we wanted to convey the image of Long Island being an island itself,” Rich explains. “So there’s actually a light blue and a dark blue transition, from the top to the bottom of the bottle, showing the depth of the ocean.”

And, if a young Rich Stabile took notice of the burgeoning Long Island wine industry, it may well have influenced his nuanced take on Long Island vodka.

“One of the first things you’ll notice that’s different is the "nose" on our vodka,” he tells me. “It has almost a citrus, floral scent to it, where a lot of other vodkas are almost ethanol. The other distinctive characteristic is the mouth feel. It’s got a buttery, almost creamy feel in the mouth. And, that viscosity is very evident. You have vanilla, anise, and some people taste banana. It’s got a very nice, soft finish with a very light burn.”

Long Islanders can be a tough audience, but they have welcomed LiV Vodka with enthusiasm. “They’re very proud that we have a world class vodka distillery here,” Rich says. “We’ve build such a strong, loyal following.”

That’s likely because Rich has created the quintessential local product. He’s managed to distill the essence of his life experiences, his talents and the agriculture and landscape of a region and capture it in a bottle of LiV Vodka. He says it’s a dream come true.

“I love getting up in the morning and coming here,” says Rich. “I love the beautiful aromas that come out of the distillery. It smells like mashed potatoes when we’re fermenting. Every day just seems to get better.”

Several signature cocktail recipes have been created using LiV Vodka and Rich says the “Hampton Classic Cocktail” evokes the essence of Long Island.

Hampton Classic Cocktail (used by permission from Long Island Spirits)

1.5 oz LiV Vodka
1.5 oz Cranberry Juice
2-3 mint leaves
½ tsp. sugar
1/3 lime


In a mixing glass, muddle mint, lime, and sugar. Combine with LiV Vodka and Cranberry Juice and shake with ice in a shaker. Strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice, and finish with an orange peel.

Long Island Spirits is located at 2182 Sound Avenue, Baiting Hollow, NY 11933

©2009 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Foraging in Schoharie, New York and Wild Watercress Soup

Peter Pehrson dons a baseball cap, pulls on a pair of shiny black rubber boots and removes a recycled mesh potato sack from a storage cabinet. It is time to search for ingredients for dinner.

I am a complete neophyte when it comes to foraging. My innate hunter-gatherer skills consist of an aggressive “slam and shake” technique I’ve perfected when the M&Ms fail to fall out of the vending machine.

Almost anyone you meet in Peter’s community of Schoharie, New York will tell you that the area is known as the “bread basket of the American Revolution.” The soil is incredibly fertile and residents have taken great pride in what they grow for hundreds of years. The bounty of Schoharie is found, not only in the cultivated fields, but in its wild and natural places.

The place formerly known as Watercress Farm.

In literary archetype terms, Peter might be described as a wanderer or an explorer. He has lived in a tenant farmhouse on the property for three years - next to a coop of majestic Rhode Island Reds - and he seems to instinctively know the land and its resources, pointing out edible flora along the path as we walk. He leads me down a steep hill through tall grass to a crystal clear stream.

“This place was once called Watercress Farm," he tells me. He wades down into the stream, towards a lush island of vegetation. He works quickly, pulling out clumps of watercress leaves that have been nourished by the cold water. Soon the mesh bag is filled.

Peter Pehrson forages for wild watercress.

He pulls out a sprig and examines it. “Let’s make sure there are no frog eggs on this,” he says. Such are the hazards of foraging.

He offers me a bite of the watercress. The leaves have a sharp, peppery taste. The bag is bulging with greenery. Some is used to flavor a hot rice dish served at dinner that night. Once cooked, the watercress takes on a milder flavor. Some of the remaining watercress is packaged up in bags and sent home with me.

Wild watercress is quite perishable, so I work quickly. Back home in my kitchen, I cook up a large pot of Wild Watercress Soup, a brilliant emerald-green puree of watercress, potato and onion cooked in chicken broth. The soup tastes incredibly vibrant and alive, a bit like spinach and pepper, a bit like the valley of Schoharie. A good foundation recipe for watercress soup can be found here.

Peter has become a vocal advocate for local food and preserving the harvest in Schoharie. He and a dedicated group of individuals are working hard to establish a cooperative cannery in the area, where farmers and gardeners would bring their bulk produce and have it preserved in glass jars and cans. Their vision is to add value to the local economy, but also extend the life of Schoharie’s most prized resource – its locally grown produce.

Peter has done home canning for years and says that the process addresses a very basic human desire. “Everyone has a drive in them to provide for themselves,” he says. “I want enough in the winter, so that I can enjoy the summer in a jar.”

At one time, local canneries were far more common in communities. As more focus is placed on the importance of locally grown food, there is a national resurgence in home canning, and a number of local community groups are hoping to follow the lead of the team in Schoharie as they pursue their vision. You can learn more about the proposed Schoharie Co-op Cannery and their plans at their website.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 03, 2009

Three Years for Culinary Types

Once upon a time, there was food.

Food is the one narrative that connects us all. Culinary Types turns three-years-old today and it is my sincere hope that when you visit this place, you’ll encounter a tasty dish, an exceptional epicurean, an adventurous eater or a compelling chef, but most of all, a good story, seasoned just right.

To celebrate our third anniversary together, I present a tasting menu of my favorite “culinary types” from the past three years:

The Romance of Cake

Vintage Cookbooks

Summer Memories

Shopping for the Perfect Pantry Item

The Hand of Friendship, The Art of Breakfast

Heirloom Baking on Long Island

A Weekend in Cheese Boot Camp

Croissants in the French Countryside

Food & Storytelling in the Hudson Valley

A Spirited Business

Food on the Road

A Small Goat Dairy in the Heart of Long Island Wine Country

Ancestral Baking
Thanks for your support and thanks for reading!

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved