Posts Tagged ‘vinegar’
Listed alphabetically by state, Joe’s Shanghai (鹿鳴春) was in the New York section of CNN’s ‘50 best Chinese restaurants in the United States‘. In the same block as Momofuku Má Pêche and Momofuku Milk Bar in Midtown, Joe’s Shanghai is a double storey ‘centre of exotic specialties’.
I signalled a table for one and was ushered upstairs. Bronze deer and potted bamboos decorated the bay window. A tiered sparkling gold and crystal chandelier was suspended above the vestibule.
A curious specials menu included New Zealand mussels, T-bone steak and rack of lamb.
A mound of cold egg noodles was drizzled with sesame dressing, topped with julienned cucumber and served in a scallop shell shaped dish. I slurped the cold sesame noodles (芝麻冷麵), a simple but appetizing celebration of Chinese carbs.
The traditional trio of ginger slivers, soy sauce and vinegar were stirred in a bowl for dipping.
Joe’s Shanghai is famous for their soup dumplings. Six crab and pork xiao long bao (蟹粉小籠包) were on a bed of shredded Napa cabbage (黃芽白) in a steaming bamboo basket. The delicate morsels were juicy and meaty, although the skin was a little doughy.
Noodles and dumplings were requisite sustenance for shopping in Manhattan!
With bravado we ventured to Spinasse on Saturday without a reservation. Their dinner service commences at five o’clock and I expected a short wait arriving at seven thirty. The restaurant was full with a wait list and the maître d’ recommended Artusi next door.
We were directed to the back where a corridor connects the restaurant and bar. Fresh pasta sheets were draped on rods across the windows of the spacious kitchen, ready to be hand cut.
Opened by Spinasse Chef Jason Stratton, Artusi is named after Italian cookbook author Pellegrino Artusi. Self-published in 1891, La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene (The science of cooking and the art of eating well) was a seminal recipe collection of Italian cuisine.
Hexagonal tiled tables line the floor-to-ceiling windows. The bar is at the centre of the room and there are two counter seating areas. Cylindrical shades funnel light for a soft ambience.
The cosy table was lit with a single tea light candle. Wines were served in carafes and flat glassware.
Categorised into stuzzichini, antipasti, primi and piatti di Artusi, the menu is designed for sharing. First was bruschetta with roasted cauliflower purée, toasted cumin and sesame. Spread onto thick slices of bread, it tasted like hummus.
Piled into an oval bowl, the roasted young carrots with pancetta, sage and garlic were a generous portion. Sweet and tender, the rustic root vegetable was simple yet scrumptious. This was the only warm part of our meal.
We ordered Columbia City Bakery filone not for the Ligurian olive oil it was served with but to scoop up the caponata, and mushroom and egg salad.
I had sampled the Artusi caponata at the Fall Comforts Taste the Season event and loved it. Described as eggplant and stone fruit caponata with pine nuts and cherry tomatoes on the menu, it was announced as squash caponata by the waitress and absent of eggplant and cherry tomatoes. I missed the smokiness of the eggplant but it was still a balanced dish.
And finally, shaved white mushrooms and egg salad with salsa ‘Apicius’ (a reference to fifth century Roman recipe compilation). Thinly sliced and liberally coated in a dressing of pine nuts, vinegar, honey and colatura (anchovy essence), it was a surprisingly appetising combination of flavours and textures.
The service was a little abrupt and we were coveting Spinasse pasta but Artusi was a casual alternative with light Italian fare.
I was exploring the Flatiron District after lunch at Shake Shack and I found myself at the entrance of Eataly. I stood on the sidewalk for several minutes, observing the speed of the foot traffic in and out. I finally walked in, thinking I’ll do a quick lap and exit.
All my senses were on alert. Cutlery clanging on china, diners conversing and shoppers ordering, the decibel of the din would be near noise pollution. The hum of human activity and the kaleidoscope of colours was a sight to behold. The aroma of freshly ground coffee wafted through the air. I breathed in deeply, to ease the anxious feeling of being enveloped in a large crowd, and to absorb caffeine!
I got lost in Eataly. Unlike IKEA, there were no arrows on the floor, no dividers for a path and no map. Directionally challenged, I weaved and wandered until I took a photo of every section and every restaurant.
The Eataly website lists twenty sections in their market and twelve places to eat. Below is a selection of them!
Wood fire ovens and counter seating at La Pizza and La Pasta for Neapolitan pizzas and al dente pasta.
Il Pesce serves fresh seafood including whole fish.
Paninoteca‘s chalkboard menu highlights regional specialties.
A pretty display of single portion cakes and tarts at Dolci.
With such a concentration of eateries, Eataly is ideal for progressive meals. Apéritif at Birreria, appetizer at one restaurant, main course at another, dessert at Dolci or Gelateria, and conclude with an espresso at Caffe Lavazza or Caffe Vergnano.
A stainless steel espresso machine is the centrepiece of Caffe Vergnano, a standing only espresso bar.
Caffe Lavazza is at the Fifth Avenue entrance and you can while away an afternoon people watching.
Cone, cup or to go, the Gelateria has three sizes and many flavours of gelati.
The market is well stocked with dried pasta.
Shelves are laden with sauces.
Marinated, stuffed and in brine, jars of olives aplenty.
A multitude of packaged biscotti.
Preserves and conserves of every fruit.
Chilled local and imported beer.
Sliced and packaged salumi.
Boxes of cheese wedges.
The butcher has some local and organic meats.
The requisite hanging and dangling salumi.
The bakery bakes daily on site.
Bags of flour are stacked high for handmade fresh pasta.
‘The mozzarella you eat at Eataly is never more than two hours old.’
I had a fleeting urge to roll one of these Parmigiano Reggiano wheels around Eataly.
The fishmonger’s seafood is ‘never frozen’.
The fresh produce are piled high in wicker baskets.
The greens and root vegetables are neatly presented.
Beautiful trays of mushrooms.
Some on vine, others wrapped in protective foam, the tomatoes were glossy and vibrant.
A curated bookstore on Italian culinary culture.
Basic dinnerware and glassware.
Melamine glasses and bowls in rainbow hues.
A ten point manifesto and a motto, ‘eat better, cook simpler’.
I left contemplating how local European style delicatessens and providores can compete with a corporate marketplace that is Eataly.
Posted Wednesday 03 August 2011on:
I’ve lived in cities all my life. While I spent my childhood in high rise apartment buildings, Mr S was roaming freely on a farm. I cannot garden except to water and I’ve drowned cactus and succulent plants!
The previous owners of our home in Sydney had a flourishing garden bed of garish tropical plants which Mr S dug up and dispose of over several weekends. The roots were deep and stubborn, and we hurriedly replaced them with Japanese maple trees and lilly pilly shrubs.
We returned from my first foray to a nursery with ceramic pots and herb seedlings. We had an abundance of basil but our chilli, cherry tomato and strawberry plants yielded only handful in total. The single chilli was mild, the two strawberries were fragrant and very sweet, and the three cherry tomatoes were juicy and flavoursome. I consider this a failure but at least the plants didn’t wither and die.
I had intended on waking early and baking scones but my plan was foiled by a long dinner and a late movie the night before. Instead, I bought some coconut macaroons and berry biscuits from Dahlia Bakery. With a chewy crust and a moist centre, the coconut macaroon was perfect with a cup of tea.
Although expensive, I have indulged in several bowls of Rainier cherries this summer. The golden orbs have a delicate and refreshing sweetness that contrasts with the richness of the crimson variety.
Shirley arrived with several boxes from Fuji Bakery. The plain white boxes protected an array of freshly baked goods. There was a selection of flaky croissants, including pain au chocolat, almond croissant and croissant café mocha.
On the left is brioche Suisse. Buttery and golden, the brioche dough is studded with chocolate and orange peel, and filled with Grand Marnier chocolate custard.
My favourites were the fruit pastries. Glossy and blowtorched, the fruits were thinly sliced, fanned out symmetrically and baked until soft and translucent.
In her soft and soothing voice, Margo traced the conception of the One-Block Diet to the cookbook. The Sunset magazine office is on five acres of land and the One-Block Diet evolved from exploring how to report on local eating. The challenge was to grow every ingredient on the menu to embody the narrative.
Margo pointed out that the flaw was to plan the menu first and consider the growing second. The intention of the One-Block Diet was to replicate a suburban backyard, to demonstrate to readers that they too can grow food as part of their lifestyle.
The commitment to growing and sourcing every ingredient from their one block garden necessitated research into seasonality and production methods. Pantry staples such as cooking fat, sweetener and seasoning had to be made. The initial idea was to grow corn for oil but the team soon realised the corn to oil ratio was beyond their five hundred square feet, and peanuts grow in a colder climate than California. Olive groves were planted on the Sunset grounds in the ’50s and the team cultivated the single tree that was within the border of the block.
Bees were kept for a sweetener and to pollinate the garden. Chilli and herbs were grown for seasoning. For salt, the team ‘imported’ sea water from ten miles away, and they were gifted a vinegar ‘mother’ to brew their own. The one-block diet philosophy was if it cannot be grown, they will transform locally sourced ingredients by hand. Margo listed salt, vinegar and cheese as easy to make.
Wheat, barley and hops were planted for beer and the team hand-picked six hundred pounds of Syrah at a local winery and crushed the grapes by feet. Wine making was intense physical work for two, three weeks and then the wine was aged for one year.
The staff was divided into teams (Team Chicken, Team Bee, Team Vinegar et cetera) and the menu was the road map. Unfortunately the olive trees were infested with fruit maggots and Team Olive had to ‘import’ olives for grinding and pressing.
It was a delight to hear Margo describe how ingredients were grown and produced. ‘Ground olives look like chopped liver’, ‘pressed olive oil is a bright vibrant green colour’, ‘if vinegar smells like furniture polish, throw it out’ and ’home made vinegar is strong and slightly fizzy, has to be diluted’.
Margo was animated when talking about the Sunset chickens, bees and cow. The entire team took turns to encourage the chickens to lay eggs with chants of ‘lay, lay!’. The free range farm fresh eggs were ‘velvety and voluptuous’, and every egg was different in shape and taste. Margo commented that it takes effort to standardise food for consumers.
The team visited a beekeeper who promised to ‘shift their paradigm’. ‘Humming, vibrating, electrifying’, bees are highly intelligent insects that are loyal, organised and industrious. The team also have a share in a neighbourhood cow, Holly the Jersey, who lives on a farm.
Margo spoke with eloquence and generously shared her passion. She explained how working closely together as a team to produce food has evoked an emotional response, a deep understanding for the ancient and natural rhythm of growing, nurturing, harvesting and eating.
Margo’s eyes sparkled as she declared it ‘profoundly satisfying to know how much of food is alive … it is our place in nature to create a habitat for other living organisms’. There is collective sadness when a chicken dies or a plant shrivels.
Margo has developed an appreciation for artisanal food and is more willing to pay for it now. As an example, the vinaigrette was made with four ingredients and it took one and half years’ of work to make.
Margo and the Sunset team are an inspiration. They were beginners and have documented their projects for readers to cook, grow, or both. Margo wrote with a quiet enthusiasm, a genuine love for her vocation. She happily detailed successes and disasters were narrated with humour. ‘Nature always leads, and a smart cook learns how to dance’ – this is the essence of Margo and the One-Block Feast.
I purchased the book and was gifted a small jar of honey from the Sunset bees. Hand-harvested, each batch has a distinctive smell and taste depending on where the bees have flown for blossoms!
Sincere thanks to Myra for hosting and to Margo for making the time for us at such short notice.