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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Mindspritzers

When we consider the nature of consciousness, it's funny to look back at ancient mankind and realize they were closer to the truth than the so-called moderns, many of whom viewed ancient man with condescension.  Let us take the ancient Israelite religion as an example.  The ancient Hebrew "nephesh," the word for what might be called consciousness today, meant literally breath, an animating breath that brought the body to life.  Thousands of years later, scientists talked about the brain, neurons, synapses, all of that.  But we know it's easier and better to conceive of the mind as a mist, not contained within a brain, but spread throughout space, yet able to concentrate in smaller pockets, and not just that, but able to concentrate in multiple places at once.

It wasn't just the ancient tribes of Israel that sensed the true nature of things.  As another example, many of the Buddhists also had a much better picture of reality, while the mass of men led lives of quiet ignorance.  One of the Buddhists who was on to something once said "the biggest illusion is I'm in here and you're out there."

But as far as we can tell, it wasn't until the year 3,027 (to go by the calendar used at the time) that man really learned of mindspritzing.  Yes, there had been isolated moments prior to that - in dream states, through meditation, drugs, etc. - but not until 3,027 did what we know as mindspritzing enter the human world.

The first man to mindspritz was...

To be continued...

Monday, April 15, 2019

Medieval Bread

Sweeping vistas, oh the vistas.  You float north past the fjords and njords, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, it's all there.  Heavenly Denmark, smoke pouring out of the chimneys into the foggy morning air.  The hearths are blazing with baking bread!  Dark, brown, baker's ryes.  Hearty peasant loaves, sourdough starter you better be sure.  Rolf!  Achectern fie der shwopzein rye!  Rolf hands me a rye loaf and I chew off a piece and savor the rich peasant bread.  I then ask for a proper slice with pickled herring and beets.  The aromas of medieval bread pervade all.

Great Northern Food Hal
Grand Central Terminal

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Two Poems (updated)

Last Title Was Stupid
Sometimes I become so despondent,
So sick and sad.
I don't care about anything.
The universe will end up destroyed, 
Or a black, empty expanse.
Then all I want to do is eat stroopwafels.

OR

Untitled
Sometimes I become so despondent,
So sick and sad.
I don't care about anything.
The universe will end up destroyed,
Or a black, empty expanse.
Then all I want to do is eat stroopwafels.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Two poems

Fire and Ice
Sometimes I become so despondent,
So sick and sad.
I don't care about anything.
The universe will end up destroyed,
Or a black, empty expanse.
Then all I want to do is eat stroopwafels.

OR

Untitled
Sometimes I become so despondent,
So sick and sad.
I don't care about anything.
The universe will end up destroyed,
Or a black, empty expanse.
Then all I want to do is eat stroopwafels.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

2. Fermentation

The pods are picked, and now is time for beans to turn alive.  Hundreds - thousands, even - of the precious pods are laid out in the sun, and microbial yeasts develop and devour some of the compounds.  Yes, my funny little microbes: eat!  Complex flavors are starting to develop.  Notes of caramel, fruit, garlic.  Full-bodied aromas waft through the hills, and little children smell the air and look up to the heavens and wonder: why did god create cocoa, and can I please have a Hershey's? "No, mi amor!" says one mother.  Hershey's is for the gringos, for those who don't understand.  Don't understand what?  That the mystery of the universe is revealed in a fine bean-to-bar chocolate. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Chocolate Obsession

How is chocolate made?  Seems like a simple enough question, but there are no simple questions, and there are no simple answers.  An extensive survey of the internet reveals dozens of explanations of the process and dozens of step-by-step visualizations.  They don't all match.  The big confusion is between steps 6 and 8 below of my most recent list of how chocolate is made (as best I can tell)
  1. Harvest
  2. Fermentation
  3. Drying
  4. Roasting (low and slow)
  5. Winnowing (cracking the bean) - reveals the nib, a pure cocoa bean
  6. Grinding
    • nib ground into cocoa mass (aka cocoa liquor)
    • further worked into cocoa solids (powder) and cocoa butter (fat)
  7. Conching - further refinement of rolling, kneading, heating, and aeration
  8. Tempering and molding
Below is a narrative explanation from Mast Brothers of how they make chocolate, and we all know these are honest, traditional chocolate artisans.

"We begin by literally hand-sorting every bean, ensuring our impossibly high quality standards are met. The cacao is then lightly roasted in small batches. A clean winnow gently removes the shells from the 'nib'. The nibs are slowly refined under a granite stone wheel for nearly three days while we slowly incorporate the other ingredients.

The finished chocolate is poured into bar shaped moulds, cooled, set, and then wrapped. Our signature papers wrap the chocolate using antique equipment, repurposed to our custom style, and then labeled. Now the chocolate is ready to be shipped!"

Here, then, would be the Mast step-by-step list:
  1. Literal hand-sorting of beans
  2. Small batch roasting
  3. Winnowing (cleanly and gently)
  4. Granite stone refining and inclusion of other ingredients (grinding? conching?)
  5. Mould, cool and set
  6. Wrapped in signature paper with antique equipment 
As you can see, the Mast list, seems to include in what other lists is sometimes "grinding" and "conching," which seem to be separate processes.  But what separates grinding and conching? ??

Saturday, March 9, 2019

1. Harvest

The hot sun, the pulsating nuclear furnace, blasts heat onto the hills of Nicaragua.  The rich, fertile soil.  It nourishes the cacao trees, on which the special pods sprout.  Later, a fine morning mist refreshes the pods.  Later, it's time.  "Vamos, hombres!"  The men move with delicate, precise force: thrashing the pods from the trees with sharpened machetes.  You can hear the glistening machetes swooshing through the air and then slicing the pods and the slight thump as the pods hit the ground.  All the pods are collected, and the sun stays but the hills turn their backs.

Chocolate Obsession

  1. Harvest
  2. Fermentation
  3. Drying
  4. Roasting (low and slow)
  5. Winnowing (cracking the bean) - reveals the nib, a pure cocoa bean
  6. Grinding
    • nib ground into cocoa mass (aka cocoa liquor)
    • further worked into cocoa solids (powder) and cocoa butter (fat)
  7. Conching - further refinement of rolling, kneading, heating, and aeration
  8. Tempering and molding

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Chocolate Obsession

1. Harvest
2. Fermentation
3. Drying
4. Roasting (low and slow)
5. Winnowing (cracking the bean) - reveals the nib, a pure cocoa bean
6. Grinding - further refinement turns nib into cocoa mass (aka cocoa liquor)
7. Conching - further refinement of rolling, kneading, heating, and aeration
8. Tempering and molding

Friday, February 22, 2019

Chocolate Obsession

1. Harvest
2. Fermentation
3. Drying
4. Roasting (low and slow)
5. Winnowing (cracking the bean) - reveals the nib, a pure cocoa bean
6. Grinding - turns nib into cocoa mass (aka cocoa liquor)
7. Conching (further refinement) - rolling, kneading, heating, and aeration
8. Tempering and molding

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chocolate Obsession

Choice lines from coverage of Mast Chocolate, a Brooklyn-based cacao, bean-to-bar shoppe.

"About five years ago, I heard a Brooklyn butcher with an M.F.A. describe the look in his neighborhood as “country gentleman.” He meant: elaborately antiquated facial hair, tweed, monocle or pocket watch, top hat or hunting cap, somewhere on the spectrum between Willy Wonka and D. H. Lawrence’s gamekeeper. Probably this person was eating a home-brew pickle, on his way, via leather-handled bicycle, to try some fire-escape charcuterie paired with small-batch heirloom cider."

"The brothers Mast, Rick and Michael, are chocolate-makers as Wes Anderson might have written them."

"As the kings of craft chocolate, they were not humble. “I can affirm that we make the best chocolate in the world,” Rick Mast said, in an interview with Vanity Fair, last year."

"It has thrown into question not just the provenance of a chocolate bar, but the predilection for such goods, with perhaps larger implications for the picked-by-hand, farm-to-apartment movement, underscoring the fact that claims of homespun authenticity are not regulated, or often verified."

"When expert tasters bite into bars, they look to see if the chocolate is, in Yuh’s words, 'true to the bean.'"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Continuing Garlic Investigations

My investigations the other day troubled me and made me melancholy. Is garlic sweet, savory, both, or neither?

There are sweet things - nothing need happen for the sweetness to be apparent. A strawberry is just sweet.  Are there savory things which are just savory? Beef you might say? But no! The beef will not taste savory unless heated, or without sodium. Same for anything else one can think of as savory. So we must conclude that sweetness can reside as a self-manifesting property that certain foods posses, whereas savoriness only obtains from a process, be it through heat or interaction with another substance. Considering an interaction, the second substance added, for the same reason, cannot possess savoriness in and of itself, but only through interaction with the first substance, by which a reaction occurs, producing the quality of savoriness.

To return to the matter at hand - garlic - it must be the case that although sweetness can exist as an inherent quality, and savoriness must always be through a process, there is at least one substance - that substance being garlic - in which sweetness is not inherent but obtains through a process, as well. And not only that, but this very same substance - garlic - can transform into both sweet or savory!
Moral of the story: I want garlic bread.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Garlic Investigations

Garlic is savory or sweet or both? Or it depends on what is done with the garlic - if you roast and add honey for a spread it's sweet, and if you sautee with salt and olives for a tapenade it's savory. Adding an ingredient - salt, honey, sugar, etc. - is one thing, the mode of cooking - roasting, sauteing, frying, poaching, dehydration, etc. - another thing. And if we say the savory or sweet is within, and either ingredients or preparation or a combination brings out the sweet or savory, is there any real distinction here?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Obese Watermelon

Whose garlic this is, I think I know.
I taste the garlic within, all over the pommes puree
Spread like a nubile crocodile
The garlic flavor pervades.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Garlic Betrayal

Newer version - Updated 3/2/19 at 5:10pm
You say:
I'm busy -- work, drinks with clients.
But I will make you a most marvelous stew
Of chicken and fresh garlic!
Later:
I eat the savory stew, alone, and it tastes good
But where are the bulbs of garlic?
Later you tell me you never used fresh garlic
But the dehydrated, powdered variety.


New version - Updated 3/2/19 at 5:00pm
I'm busy:
Work, drinks with clients.
But I will make you a most marvelous stew
Of chicken and fresh garlic!
Later:
I eat the savory stew, alone, and it tastes good
But where are the bulbs of garlic?
Later you tell me you never used fresh garlic
But the dehydrated, powdered variety.

Original version - 12/12/18
I'm busy, you know
Work, drinks with clients, you know.
But I will make you a most marvelous stew
Of chicken and fresh garlic!
I eat the savory stew, alone, and it tastes good
But where are the bulbs of garlic?
Later you tell me you never used fresh garlic
But the dehydrated, powdered variety.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Chronicles of Fresh Garlic

'Twas a bitter cold December eve in Times Square.  People were getting off work, heading home.  Others were going to shows.  I walked past a pizza parlour and did a double take: "now what do we have here!?"  It looked like an old-fashioned New York City pizza parlour! Various of various shapes and colors lined the window.  I entered.  There was a fresh-looking pepperoni pie, and I ordered a slice.  And there was a grandma pie, too.  What is that brownish-greenish substance that appears to top the pizza, I wondered.  Could it be?  Only one way to find out: I ordered a slice.  The pepperoni slice was fine -- a decent enough iteration of a New York slice.  Then the grandma slice arrived.  I closely inspected the brownish-green concoction that topped the sauce and cheese.  Certainly there were herbs interspersed within the substance, but what was the bulk of this substance?  My instincts were correct: the pizza was drenched in fresh garlic!  Never have I seen so much chopped, fresh garlic on top of a pizza!  Perhaps there were some breadcrumbs, adding the brownish hue, but mostly garlic pervaded. I took a bite and my eyes rolled back into my head -- I was in fresh garlic heaven.*

Patzeria
West 46th Street
*In all honesty, the grandma slice had way too much garlic  - I don't recommend it

Monday, December 3, 2018

Poetry Corner

"Why?"

There is a 7/11 across the street.
They sell stroopwafels.
I imagine going
Everyday
And buying 20 stroowafels
Everyday
And eating all of the stroopwafels
Everyday.
Perhaps a tea or latte to go with them?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Thrill of Fresh Juice

Sometimes do you get down in the dumps?  You want to smile but you just can't!  Well I have the perfect remedy:  get thee to a juicery!  Sometimes the act of stepping out of your shitty, overpriced Manhattan apartment and walking to a local juiceria or pressery is enough to get you back on track!  But if that's not enough, once you enter a local juice house, the fresh aromas are enough to help even the deepest melancholia!  A green juice, perhaps with some citrus,  perhaps some mango?  Give me the thrill of the juice and I'm a new man.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Traditional Beef Dinner

It was a bit cold and damp, and I had spent Sunday in my study considering the mind-beef problem.  A perfect night to go to the local chophouse, no?  Yes!  I called Billford, my executive assistant and companion, and asked him to meet me at the local chophouse.  Fast forward a couple of hours, and there I am with Billford at our usual cozy corner booth, plush red leather, oak panels, warm lighting, chophouse fumes wafting. 

"What will it be tonight?" I ask Billford.  "Well, I do believe tonight would be an excellent night for a filet mignon in a pepper sauce!" says Billford.  "Ah, my good man, you really do surprise me. Just moments ago you said you were jonesing for the most flavorful beef you can imagine! Did you not say that?" said I.  "Why indeed I did!  What of it?" Billford gurgitated.  "Well, dear heart, a porterhouse or ribeye has MUCH more flavor than a filet.  If you're looking for a tender beef, then by all means proceed with a filet.  But you have twice affirmed your interest in FLAVOR, and if you speak the true state of your desire, you must not order the filet and instead go with a cut with much more marbling."  Billford sat astonished and then spoke: "My dear fellow!  You are quite right!"

The beef was ordered (porterhouse for two), as were sides galore.  Shrimp cocktail? Check.  Wedge salad?  Check.  Thick cut bacon of course.  Potatoes au gratin AND house cut fries?  You better believe it.  And, it goes without saying, extra fresh garlic for the table!  We sat in heaven, spreading garlic over the food and our faces, ravenously attacking the beef and carbs.  At one point I lost control and started screaming "garlic! garlic!"

Eventually I returned to my senses, but not for long. I came out of my garlic delirium to quickly find myself in a creme conundrum.   Billford had ordered us hot fudge ice cream sundaes with fresh schlaag, and who am I to abstain from freshly whipped creme, even in the condition I was in?  The vanilla ice cream and hot fudge blended together in a cacophony of bliss.  Sliced, toasted almonds added crunch and delicate flavor, and, and, of course there was the fresh creme, blanketing the sundae pleasures in its rich, velvety bosom.  The last thing I remember that night is slipping into a peaceful, deep sleep.  Yet the aroma of beef and fresh garlic was there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Traditional Beef Dinner

Oh help me I need some beef!  I shall go to my local chophouse for a traditional beef dinner!  A porterhouse?  An unctuous ribeye?  One of those, most likely.  Perhaps a simple preparation, broiled with salt and pepper?  Once the beef arrives at the table, shall I rub roasted garlic all over the meat?  The pungent, bulbous garlic melts over the tender, charred flesh.  I partake of a bite of beef: the unctuous, rich, mineral taste pervades and the beef melts in my mouth.  But wait!  Perhaps I'd rather have the beef cooked in a cast iron with bulbs of fresh garlic? In other words, perhaps I would like the garlic involved in the preparation and basting of the beef, rather than as a post-production condiment?  I don't know, but William, my waiter, will steer me in the right direction, no doubt.  I'll order my beef with the house potatoes -- hashed, browned in duck fat, served with pickled pepper relish.  But wait -- do I want the hangar steak?

The Grill
Midtown

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pleasures of the Pie

Went to two tavern style pizza houses this weekend: Lynwood, Cafe in Canton, Mass. and Colony Grill in Stamford, CT.  Both great.  Perhaps I like Colony Grill more?  Yes I do like it more.  The pizza with hot oil and onions is REALLY GREAT.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

My Favorite Movies

Quick list, not thinking about this very much, just putting this out there, in no particular order...
  1. Being John Malcovich 
  2. Fargo
  3. No Country for Old Men
  4. There Will be Blood
  5. Gettysburg 
  6. Last of the Mohicans
  7. Casablanca (is this really one of my favorites, or am I putting this here to seem classic and cool?)
  8. The Ten Commandments 
  9. The Godfather (perhaps also Part 2) 
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey 
  11. Paths of Glory 

Sophie's Choice

How hard is it not to have a macchiato and pastry every morning?  Answer: VERY HARD.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Dispatches of the Food Media Elite

Like, oh my god.  This week is going to be super cray.  Danny Bowien is opening up a new Mongolian noodle parlour in Inwood, and April Bloomfield is opening a new bistro in Prospect Heights.  Not to mention I need to write my regular weekly roundup of recaps of critical reviews, plus my regular weekly update on minor openings and closings, plus I need to update the Top 50 Hottest Restaurants in Manhattan (and the other one for Brooklyn), plus my 10 other required filings.  Like, seriously?  But I love this, I love this world of food.  Oh, I need to, like, write a tweet directed to some hot food media person that shows I'm funny and sweet, congratulating that hot food media person on some incredible accomplishment, like being promoted to chief Staten Island correspondent.  That person so deserves it!  But not really - it should have been me.  But seriously, food is important.  It tells us who we are and who we want to be.  Because I'm a food writer I can write with authority about the meaning and politics of food.  Oh my god! Ok, gotta go meet someone for drinks but don't worry I'll tweet it!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Mystery of Sal & Carmine's

In the summer of 2000 I moved to New York, my first apartment on West 98th Street near Broadway.  I walked around my new neighborhood and one night happened upon a slice shop with neon signs, signs that beckoned to me.  I entered.  I ordered a slice.  It was great.  An incredible New York slice, with salty, tangy cheese.  The two Italian men manning the shop were efficient and gruff, one slightly more pleasant than the other.  I had had my first Sal and Carmine's experience.

Sal (the more pleasant one) passed away in 2009.  Sal's brother Carmine, and grandson Luciano, continued making some of the best pies in the city.  Carmine, sadly, seemed to decline, but he was usually there.  Luciano carried on the tradition.  Around 2013 I left the neighborhood, but would return now and then for a slice, and Luciano was always there. 

Fast forward to late May of this year.  I went to Sal and Carmine's, and upon entering, Luciano was nowhere to be found.  There was a man I had never seen manning the pizza oven, and a young lady (who was way too friendly for Sal and Carmine's) taking orders.  Normally at Sal and Carmine's, there would be maybe 3 or 4 pies, often less, sitting on the counter, waiting to be ordered.  This time, there were far more, including a white pizza with globs of ricotta.  I hesitatingly ordered a regular slice, but something wasn't right.  In recent years I did notice that Luciano had people working for him, but Luciano, the heir, was always there.  Was he taking a day off, and leaving the shop in the hands of others? 

I took a bite of the pizza, and it just wasn't the same.  The crust was not the same.  The cheese didn't seem as tangy.  It wasn't a bad slice, but it didn't possess the Sal and Carmine's greatness.   Interestingly, I noticed new pictures placed on the wall, pictures of Sal, Carmine, and Luciano.  But where was Luciano?  I started to feel queasy.  Had Luciano sold the family business?

Yesterday I returned and, again, Luciano was nowhere to be found.  The same man who had manned the oven the previous time was there, this time alone.  There was the white pie, and also a pie with lots of veggies on it, a pie that would never have been sitting around in the Sal and Carmine, or Luciano days.  "Where's Luciano?" I asked?  The man said something about not seeing him recently.  "Does Luciano still own this place?" I followed up.  The man seemed a little nervous and said "yes."  Perhaps Luciano does still own but has completely walked away from the operation?  Or perhaps the business has been sold?

All I know is that Sal and Carmine's feels different.