A Fall Pie Party Potluck in NYC!

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Pecan Pie

On the first Fall weekend in October, a bunch of food bloggers showed off their pie baking and eating skills at an event that was fun, informative and filling. Pie Party Potluck was in its third year, hosted by Jackie Gordon and Ken Leung. I’m happy to say I schlepped a chocolate pecan pie on the subway, and it arrived in one piece.

Fall Spread

Pie Party Potluck was held at the ICE Culinary Institute‘s modern campus in downtown Manhattan. Appetizers made by culinary students kicked things off, along with beef and chorizo empanadas from Girl in the Little Red Kitchen to whet our pie whistles. Luckily, there were things to distract us from just eating pie for three hours straight. An ICE instructor did a demo on perfecting pie crust, and we also toured the new campus. It was a great excuse to see the new facilities. Did you know there’s a room just for roasting cocoa beans and making chocolate? Now you do.

With an overwhelming number of pies, each of us took home leftovers. Though much of the pie eating became a tasty hodgepodge of flavors, I truly loved the Restaurant Fairy‘s Curried Aloo Gobhi Pie. It was spiced just right, and the perfect hearty Fall pie. Nice work, Malini!

Fall Cocktail

Thanks to a lively and knowledgeable bartender, I learned about Mizu Shochu, a delicious and pure spirit from Japan. It doesn’t burn like most alcohol does, and it was great in a Fall cocktail of fresh apple juice, lemon juice and cinnamon syrup. It was great on its own, too, served with a cucumber slice.

 

Thanks to some other generous sponsors, there were cookware giveaways as well. For bloggers attending the event, Cabot Creamery provided dairy coupons, and King Arthur Flour gave us flour coupons for making our pies. Thanks to all the sponsors, and Jackie and Ken, of course, the potluck was a real hoot for everyone involved.

A spirited event with the Village Voice

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

The Village Voice’s Holiday Spirits Event
Studio Square
35-33 36th Street

Long Island City, Queens

 

Mixing a vat of Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Mixing a vat of Tito’s Handmade Vodka

 

 

The Village Voice hosted its first Holiday Spirits tasting event appropriately, on the night the prohibition act was repealed in 1933.  The event featured some of the best local distilleries in the New York area, most only established in the past two years due to a huge influx in the craft/micro distilling scene.

It is a great time to be a part of this movement and most in the business agree; this is not just a trend.  Representatives from Atsby Vermouth and Greenhook Ginsmiths both agree that the huge inrush of micro distilleries will serve to weed out the weak – whose product just isn’t up to par – making way for a new brand of the hard stuff.  Produced in small batches with quality ingredients and specialized distilling methods, now is a very exciting time in the world of alcohol.  This generation’s version of the bartender, the mixologist (and home cocktail enthusiasts alike) have upped the ante in search of the new and the better (or is it the tried and the true of decades past?), propelling their cocktail making to new heights (there is after all, only so much you can do with well vodka).
Highlights from the Village Voice event included tastings fromAtsby’s Vermouth, Greenhook Ginsmiths, and Dutch’s Spirits, all featuring a new, old-world take on their respective focus.

A festive display of Atsby’s Vermouth

A festive display of Atsby’s Vermouth

Atsby’s Vermouth changed the way I thought about what vermouth is and should be – a well-balanced liquor of fortified wine and botanicals.  Vermouth is no longer a hasty splash in my martini, but instead a drink to be sipped and enjoyed all on its own.  Atsby’s two styles of vermouth, the Amberthorn and the Armadillo Cake provide a pleasing drink, whatever your mood and are a nod to both the grungy underbelly of New York at the turn of the last century (Atsby’s – an acronym for the Assembly Theaters on Broadway) and to the present (and hopefully the future) – a time when the elevated cocktail has a place – something that we can be both proud to serve AND to drink.

Greenhook Ginsmith’s showing off their product

Greenhook Ginsmith’s showing off their product

The Greenhook Ginsmith’s also currently have just two products (and quality products they are); the world’s first beach plum gin (a local riff on England’s Sloe Gin) and an American Dry.  Both, the most fragrant gin I have ever encountered, sweet and inviting, due to a low temperature vacuum distillation process which preserves the aromatics in the alcohol and provides us a purer drink.  The stand out for me in this pair was the American Dry, which has since become a staple in my liquor cabinet (where I also quickly retired my tonic water).  Fragrant, smooth, and full of flavor – yet not for the faint of heart.

Dutch’s Bitters

Dutch’s Bitters

Dutch’s Spirits goes the moonshine and bitters route on the footprint of an age-old moonshine distillery in upstate New York.  Think Northerners are inept in the moonshine department?  Think again.  Dutch’s Sugar Wash Moonshine packs a punch and is quite the versatile drink (check out some recipes here).  I had the opportunity to try each of Dutch’s three styles of bitters with a bit of moonshine, and decided that I could see myself sipping on a cocktail with any of them.  The Colonial, Boomtown, and ProhiBitters each have a distinct flavor profile sure to spruce up your next cocktail.
There were so many more notable distilleries at the event, each with its own unique product – Scorpion Mezcal and Nahmias et Fils, for example – too many to list them all and too many to even try in just one night.  What I was most taken with the event was the passion which filled the room.  This micro-distillery (or whatever you’d like to call it) thing is still new enough that the scantily-clad promo girls aren’t the ones selling the liquor – it’s the men and women who have poured countless hours into crafting what they think is the perfect booze.   It’s their passion and their vision all while possessing the utmost respect for the rich history that comes with the territory.  The roaring 20s have certainly come back with a vengeance (sans the actual act of prohibition) and with it, the idea that we can enjoy the cocktail again.  Cheers.

A Celebration of Schmaltz at 92Y

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Michael Ruhlman loves fat.

Dumplings cooked in schmaltz

Dumplings cooked in schmaltz

Particularly, he is passionate about schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat. Though he’s “100% goy,” Ruhlman’s affection led him to write, The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat. He talked about this venture Monday at 92Y.

Ruhlman discussed how the fat was used for survival amongst Eastern European Jews, since oil was unavailable and lard was not Kosher. Schmaltz is essentially chicken fat and onion browned together. Ducks or geese were also used to create schmaltz.

It’s a rare gem, since it’s not something you can go grab from a store. Though you may be able to find it at a deli counter, it really should be made from scratch. It was an important staple in traditional Jewish cuisine, an essential ingredient used to hold together meals.

 

Chopped liver and dumplings

Chopped liver and dumplings

 

“We’ve lost sight of how fundamental [food] is,” he said.

The tradition of creating and utilizing schmaltz was almost lost once people started thinking it was unhealthy, Ruhlman said. He wants to keep the tradition alive, and believes it’s healthier than butter. He suggests using schmaltz to make latkes, kugel and fried potatoes.

The first time I had schmaltz was life-changing. I may have tried it as a kid, but I don’t remember. The moment I recall was at Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse in the Lower East Side. A classic old-school New York City establishment, this place gave me a glimpse of how my grandparents used to cook. (My dad’s mother was Roumanian.) Though my dad stared in fake horror as I drenched my bread in schmaltz, I’m sure he did the same thing when he was younger, and probably was probably jealous as I let the chicken fat and fresh bread melt together in my mouth.

Ruhlman is a huge advocate of cooking at home, and the idea of schmaltz represents something special to him.

I agree with his food ideology. Cooking at home implies that you know what’s in your food, as you’ve sourced the ingredients and created the results yourself. If you’re going to cook a chicken, you should use all the parts. Using the fat to make schmaltz is a fantastic way of utilizing the entire chicken, as is using the bones for stock. The point is not to waste things that can be used to create more food. After all, who doesn’t like more food? Don’t forget the gribenes, which are crispy chicken or goose cracklings. These are incredible and can be eaten as a snack or used to make chopped liver.

In moderation, fat really isn’t all that bad for us, even though many food companies and diet books have led us to believe it’s the enemy. We just have to remain aware of what we are putting into our bodies, and cooking for yourself is the best way to do that.

Half a Decade of ‘Putting the South in the Mouths’ of Murray Hillers and More – Review of Brother Jimmy’s BBQ

BY BETH KAISERMAN

181 Lexington Avenue (btwn. 31th. and 32nd. Streets)
Murray Hill
212-779-7427 / brotherjimmys.com/

Brother Jimmy's Celebrating Five Years in Murray Hill

Brother Jimmy’s Celebrating Five Years in Murray Hill

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in Murray Hill celebrated 5 years this August with a feast for the eyes, ears and belly. The BBQ chain has been around since 1989, but the Murray Hill location offers the “best combination of fun and quality,” CEO, Josh Lebowitz, said.

Since it’s a large space, people tend to eat and then enjoy drinks at the bar afterward, he said. Last week that scene was just part of a summer-style bash, complete with pork, booze, and a three-hour block party on Lexington Avenue that started at 4 p.m.

As a band inside played bar hits like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” guests outside enjoyed a whole hog served up by Chef Eva Pesantez, along with rib tips, corn, popcorn and cotton candy. And even though it might have been a little early for Journey, a wide variety of people enjoyed some free eats to kick off their night.

Simone Martins was on her way home with her husband and kids when they discovered the party. After all, the smell of smoky BBQ always signifies a great time. Though it was “a little spicy,” for her taste, Martins said it was a nice surprise after a day at work.

The typically bustling Murray Hill was rewarded for its devotion to Brother Jimmy’s, a neighborhood staple that’s obviously generous enough to show their appreciation. Cheers to 5 more years, and many more beers!

 

Other Brother Jimmy’s locations in NYC include the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Union Square, Midtown West, and a West Village to-go spot.

Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon

A Friulian Culinary Experience in New York

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

The Astor Center
399 Lafayette Avenue

East Village

 

Casa Vinicola Zonin hosted a second Italian Culinary Experience in New York City featuring SD26, Delverde Pasta and Zonin’s own Tenuta Ca’Bolani winery last week.  Chef Matteo Bergamini from SD26, a native of Northern Italy himself, prepared a menu highlighting Zonin’s wines from the Friuli region known for its stunning whites.

Representatives from both Zonin and SD26 families were present, including owners Tony and Marisa May of SD26 (and the former San Domenico).  Mr. May talked about his 50 years in the restaurant business, the careful consideration that goes into each item on SD26’s menu, and even his personal food preferences – a quality pasta being an integral part of any pasta dish.  As a restaurant with one of the most impressive wine lists in New York City – all visible on a touch screen tablet – it was only natural that the SD26 and Zonin families came together to create a Friulian inspired culinary experience.

 

Zonin’s flagship prosecco was served upon arrival – an important part of any day, we learned, in Italy and was enjoyed alongside a simple cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, sprinkled with a classic Friulian frico, or cheese crisp.

 

Steamed white asparagus with poached egg

Steamed white asparagus with poached egg

A decadent steamed white asparagus first course was topped with hollandaise and a poached egg, only to set the tone for a rich and hearty rest of our meal.  Zonin’s Pinot Grigio Superiore 2012 paired well with the dish, but was better standing on its own as a well balanced, fruity, fresh tasting wine.

Zonin2

Chef Matteo and Tony May

Chef Matteo prepared a light, yet decadent, lemon risotto with periwinkles in front of us while Mr. May and Jelena Meisel of Zonin quipped about the use of butter and cheese in a risotto (our version was without).  Zonin’s Sauvignon “Aquilis” proved to be an interesting pairing with notes of sage and grapefruit cutting through the risotto and causing me to return for bite after bite. 

Wild boar ragu with pickled raisins and pine nuts

Wild boar ragu with pickled raisins and pine nuts

Our pasta course introduced the first Friulian red of the evening and with it the Delverde pasta boys who kept the women in the room more interested than they have ever been before in pasta.  Delverde’s artisanal pastas are imported from a small factory in Italy made with top quality ingredients.  Compared to other dried brands, Delverde’s slightly rough texture helps sauce stick to the pasta and a more pronounced yellow color comes from ingredients that are true to Italian pasta making – that being said, our wild boar ragu served with Delverde’s flagship pappardelle was stand out and also holds the spot for my favorite pairing of the night with the Tenuta Ca’Bolani winery’s Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2011.  The deep red wine tamed the acidic pasta sauce and complimented nicely the pickled raisins that garnished the ragu. 

Quail with black fig

Quail with black fig

Our last savory course, a roasted quail with black fig with a light chicory pesto was accented by a Refosco, the “Alturio” 2007, a full bodied, spicy red. 

For Dessert, the Brachetto – the only wine of the night from the Castello del Poggio Winery known for its sweeter wines – was slightly sweet, crisp, and a refreshing end to the meal only made better by an apple tortino that’d I’d love to enjoy again and again.

 

Once again Zonin and their partners hosted a lovely and informative night of fine Italian wine and food where almost, just almost I could close my eyes and transport myself out of New York City to the breezy plains of northeastern Italy.

Award-Winning Daring Pairing: Short Ribs and Malbec- Recipe by Chef Gregg Drusinsky


Whether your looking for some bold original flavors for your next home-cooked dinner party or are seeking a rewarding culinary escape within the comfort of your own kitchen, Chef Drusinsky’s Five Spice Crusted Short Rib with Eggplant and Miso Black Garlic Jus Paired with Alamos Malbec can offer you just that.

This recipe recently won Chef Drusinsky first prize on ABC’s “The Taste.” Drusinsky and his co-contestant, Sarah Ashley Schiear recently hosted pop-up dinners at Old Bowery Station.

Check out http://openhouse.me/ to find out where fine dishes like this will pop up next.

Alamos

EGGPLANT:

 2 small eggplants

2 tablespoons sesame oil

Salt to taste

MISO JUS:

10 small shallots, sliced

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup sake

3 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 cluster maitake mushrooms

4 oz. smoked eel

2 tablespoons white miso paste

1 head black garlic, sliced

SHORT RIBS:

1 lb. boneless beef short ribs

2 teaspoons five spice powder

2 teaspoons smoked salt

3 tablespoons grape seed oil

GARNISH:

2 teaspoons ground bonito flakes

6 green onions, white end sliced, green tops cut in chiffonnade

½ bunch cilantro, small leaves picked

METHOD:

Char the whole eggplants over a flame until black and soft. Scoop out the insides from the skin and pulse in a blender with sesame oil; season with salt.

To prepare jus, sauté shallots and garlic in canola oil in a large saucepan until soft and aromatic. Add sake and reduce by half. Add chicken stock, soy sauce and mushrooms and cook for 20 minutes. Reduce heat and add eel; simmer for 10 minutes more. Pour mixture through a fine strainer to remove solids. Place miso and black garlic in a blender. Slowly add the mushroom broth, blending until smooth.

To prepare short ribs, season meat with five spice powder and smoked salt. Heat oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Sear meat on all sides; reduce heat and cook until medium rare. Set aside for 5 minutes then thinly slice.

To plate, arrange sliced short ribs over eggplant puree then drizzle jus around short ribs. Garnish with bonito flakes, scallions and cilantro. Serves 4-6.

 

 

 

Tennessee Whiskey for Lovers – Raising the Bar

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

So George Dickel is trying to break into the New York market? I think it’s about time another Tennessee whiskey rode into town.

Literally “Raising” the bar @ Dickel’s SoHo Party

Literally “Raising” the bar @ Dickel’s SoHo Party

George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey hosted a party last week in SoHo for the top mixologists in town touting their new offerings as well as showing off their tried and true recipes. Their new campaign ‘Raising the Bar’, does just that. It raises the bar, not necessarily on Tennessee whiskey itself, but on what most people know Tennessee whiskey to be; an already syrupy liquor best served mixed with cola. Dickel’s repertoire of four varieties provides a crisp, small batch take on Tennessee whiskey it’s George Dickel Rye, the newest member of the family.

The whiskey was surprisingly versatile with featured cocktails from some of NYC’s best ranging from a mojito-like ‘shake’ by Giuseppe Gonzales (Golden Cadillac) to a vibrant punch from Julie Reiner of Clover Club and even a twist on the Sherry Twist no. 2 from TJ Lynch (Mother’s Ruin). While each was decidedly inspired by the subject matter, Dickel’s products run the gamut from smooth and aged to earthy and spicy – all while remaining true to strict Tennessee Whiskey guidelines.

What sets Dickel apart?

Each batch of Dickel whiskey is chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, double distilled, and filtered through a charcoal mellowing process before aging making each batch of Dickel the same as the last. With only a handful of people working at the facility, Dickel prides itself on being a small batch, hand-crafted distillery producing only a tenth of its capacity last year. John Lunn, master distiller for Dickel is only the 3 third set of hands Dickel has run through since its rebirth in 1958 ensuring that Dickel stays true to its roots.

George Dickel 2

Frozen Mint “Shake” – Photo courtesy of George Dickel Whiskey

Frozen Mint “Shake” – Giuseppe Gonzales

• 1.3 oz. Dickel 12

• .75 oz. Lime

• 1 oz. simple

• Mint leaves.

• 1 Dash of angostura bitters

Blend until texture is thick. Pour into baby coupes. Garnish with mint sprigs. Serve with Long straw.

Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Mint sprigs

Tennessee Rose Punch - Julie Reiner

Tennessee Rose Punch – Julie Reiner

• 18 oz. lemon juice

• 6 oz. ginger syrup

• 12 ounces raspberry syrup

• 1 – 750ml bottle Dickel Rye

• 6 oz. Amaro Nonino

• 24 oz. Ruby Slipper tea (Serendipitea makes this)

• 18 oz club soda

Large block of ice

Tennessee Rose Punch – Photo courtesy George Dickel Whiskey

The Classy Mother – TJ Lynch

• 1.25 oz. Dickel Rye

• .50 oz. Gutierrez Colosia Oloroso Dry Sherry

• .25 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao

• 2 dashes Regans orange bitters

• 2 dashes chocolate bitters

Stirred and served up

Flamed orange peel and Luxardo cherry garnish

 

 

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon

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Francine Segan brings true taste of undiscovered Italy to 92Y

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Food historian Francine Segan gives lectures at 92Y and throughout the city. This time, some very special friends helped her discuss her favorite region in Italy, Ascoli Piceno, or what Segan calls the “undiscovered Italy.”

Stuffed olives

The town boasts mountains, a beautiful riviera, great food and wineries, Segan said. To provide the freshest possible taste of the town, Chef Emilio Pasqualini flew in to prepare foods for the evening. Segan experienced an amazing meal at his restaurant, Cantina del Picchio, where she had many Italian foods she had never tried before.

Vegetable pasta

On his trip here for the lecture, Pasqualini brought so many olives that Segan couldn’t fit all of them in her refrigerator. The night began with stuffed, fried olives and sparkling wine from wine company Velenosi. Pasqualini also assembled a vegetable pasta with string beans, mushrooms, garlic and fennel. After cooking each veggie separately in Segan’s apartment, the fennel water was used to create a bechamel sauce, and the dish was topped with delicious mozzarella and pecorino. The mozzarella was incredible — it had an amazing, just-salty-enough bite to it. There was also a tasty cheese bread (known there as “pizza”) and a tuna focaccia.

The proof was there in liquid form, too, as representatives from seven of the region’s wineries brought an assortment of wines for guests to taste. These wines use the least amount of sulfites possible, Segan said. (And apparently don’t cause hangovers!)

Piero Celani, President of the province, was there as well, truly showcasing the pride locals have for their home.

So what good eats did Chef Pasqualini enjoy here after trekking across the ocean with all those olives? Pizza, no. He laughed at the thought of it. But a burger from Shake Shack and a Tsunami dog from Crif Dogs hit the spot. He was impressed with the balance of flavors; it was still fast food, but had something more to it, he said.