Shopping in Brooklyn can be a unique experience, each store its own world staffed by the designer/owner/manager who’s set up shop. Going into the final week before Christmas, I decided to do a quick tour of my favorites looking for housewares and kitchen gadgets, preferably utilitarian but with something more. After all, if they’re pouring out the same 1/2 cup of milk, why shouldn’t measuring cups come shaped like matryoshka nesting dolls or salt and pepper shakers as penguins for that matter? Here’s what I found:
With so many “best of” lists coming out not only for the year but the decade, it’s good to have a focus. Looking at the best of cookbook lists that are coming out, I realize that the year has gone by in blink and I have a lot of reading to do. From what I’ve seen so far, I’m happy that Francis Mallmann’s Seven Fires is popping up, hope to see Michelle Bernstein’s Cuisine á Latina included on more, and need to make jasmine rice pudding from The Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox, immediately.
Click here for Caroline Russock’s Cook the Book take on Serious Eats and here for Eat Me Daily’s roundup. Finally, just for fun here are the top 10 flash mob pics of 2009 in case you missed any.
I was excited to read about the opening of a store in Soho dedicated to the sale and promotion of Chilean gourmet food products and wines. I’m always searching for new ingredients and it’s good to have a new focus for my obsession. Puro Chile, a Hitchcock-sleek light box store on the corner of Center and Grand, is definitely obsession worthy. What’s most surprising is how warm the space becomes the moment you step inside. The staff is genuinely enthusiastic and the sparse room is dominated by a large tasting table at the center. Though they’re inventory is still growing, the shelves are lined with avocado oils and wine vinegars Read more
The first time I went to Kiosk to see their Florida collection I was apprehensive. A curated collection of objects brought back from their travels, I worried that, taken out of context and back lit in their Soho space, the cans of Materva and La Cubanita guava bricks would be all hipster irony and no heart. When I finally went, I loved it and was excited to hear they were hitting Portugal next. I’d only been there once in college but it’s still my favorite vacation of all time. For three days we drove along the southern coast only stopping to eat, swim and sleep. Like previous exhibits, Portugal. What a Beautiful Place! is small collection of shelves set up with light box view of a trip you wish you’d been on. With Avril au Portugal still floating through my mind, I wasn’t expecting to find so many practical why-have-I-not seen-this-before items. Here are a few pictures of my trip to their trip: Read more
I’ve wanted to write about El Palacio de los Jugos, Miami’s landmark-fruit stand, take out, pork corner-but didn’t now where to begin. The last time I visited I was a little surprised at just how out of place I felt there among the steady chaos. I hadn’t been home for awhile and felt shy of asking too many questions, showing myself for the tourist I had become. Luckily, Fernando, a regular who the woman at the counter tolerated with a grudging smile, was next to us. Unprompted, he pointed out the things we couldn’t leave without and in a few minutes we had fresh tamales, chicharrones de puerco, homemade guava paste and queso blanco the owners bring in from their farm. My friend Lydia Martin’s recent article for the Miami Herald, “Palacio de los Jugos: Where Miami Goes for a Taste of Cuba,” makes sense of the bustling market and tells the story of the family at its heart.
The moment I heard there was a copy of Les Diners de Gala, a collection of recipes by Salvador Dalí, at the main branch of the New York Public Library, I knew I had to go see it. Accustomed to the amazonian age where anything you want to read is in your hands in 2 clicks and 3-5 days, it was a few months before I made my way there. Passing the stone lions on the steps, the candelabras of the marble entrance, and a labyrinth of wood paneled reading rooms, I realized it was the perfect setting to delve into this particular cookbook which early on quotes Dalí:
I attribute capital esthetic and moral values to food in general, and to spinach in particular. The opposite of shapeless spinach, is armor. I love eating suits of arms, in fact I love all shell fish…food that only a battle to peel makes it vulnerable to the conquest of our palate.”
A few weeks ago, I went on a search for fresh masa through the Mexican owned grocery stores in Sunset Park. I was surprised that despite the growing Mexican population in New York, it wasn’t sold anywhere. Settling instead for masa de harina, the dried corn flour that can be reconstituted to make fresh tortillas at home, I actually thought of taking a closer look at corn grinders instead. If I couldn’t find fresh masa, how hard could it be to have my own corn nixtamalization set up at home? Was it a slippery slope? If I ground my own corn would end up churning my own butter? When I read this article in today’s New York Times about Tortillería Nixtamal which now offers fresh masa, I knew I had been rescued from a bad and expensive idea (for now).
I came across a small Kiosk installation for the first time at the Brooklyn Flea. They had cans of Jupina soda, Ricos meringues, bricks of espresso, La Cubanita guava paste, and orange gum balls exhibited together like a Cuban survivalist kit left under the Manhattan bridge. Asked to pick a handful of time capsule objects to explain Miami’s Little Havana circa 1985, I might choose the same ones (just adding a bottle of Royal Violets baby cologne for good measure). Read more
For months, I’ve had five untouched bags of farofa piled high on a pantry shelf. Not knowing how to use them but not wanting to throw them away either, I finally thought to ask my Brazilian friend, Claudia, for a recipe. When she started to recite the different ways it could be prepared, we decided it would be easier for her to come to my house next week to show me. She gave me a list of ingredients for our learning lunch with a warning to do no more than soak the black beans (lest I do anything to make them Cuban before she gets there). Excited, I went home to bring down the exiled farofa which was now…expired. It had obviously been trying to tell me something when it kept falling on my head each time I went into the pantry. Now that I had a plan but no farofa, I headed to Búzios in Little Brazil. Read more
New York City’s Chinatown offers everything you could possibly want while seeming completely inaccessible at the same time. That’s why I really wanted to take advantage of the market tour and Filipino cooking class offered by a member of my blogging group, Annette Tomei. Annette is a chef, writer and teacher at the International Culinary Center. Her blog, Wander, Eat and Tell, chronicling her travels and food experiences is always a push out the door, especially when she turns her attention to nearby neighborhoods I can explore with new eyes. One of her trips was to the Philippines to visit her brother-in-law Benjie’s family. While she was there, she spent time in a Filipino kitchen learning from four elderly women who shared their recipes and cooking knowledge in exchange for a promise that she teach it to others in her own country.
To that end, Annette planned today’s class. I met the group at the ICC and we walked over to Chinatown to pick up the final ingredients (and do some snacking you can read about here). The group was made up of Annette; Steven, our writing teacher; Hayley, another ICC instructor; Benjie and his friends, Luisa and Raqui. Food markets in Chinatown can be overwhelming so it was great to work our way through with a sense of purpose and Annette prepped guide. Looking the pictures now, it all seems so vivid. Before today I never felt like I could find the same spot twice, now I can’t wait to go back.
Rambutan, cherries, mangoes, lychees and mangosteens at Tan Tin Hung Supermarket. Read more