Archive | November, 2010

Brooklyn Farmacy

29 Nov

The 'Jerk' on the servers t-shirt referes to the action of jerking the soda fountains pump.

The Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain is one of a growing number of old school soda fountains that are slowly repopulating New York, albeit on a small scale. This classic institution remains etched into New Yorkers memories and while the Soda Fountain died in the 1970’s the memory lives on.

The grand age of the soda fountain began in the early 1900’s with the advent of the Liquid Carbonic Co. founded in 1888 by Jacob Baur. Being a Pharmacist he marketed the Carbonic Soda Fountain to the people he new best, hence the connection between drug stores and soda fountains. From here it was the Prohibition of 1919 that really gave impetus to this burgeoning trend-“The bar is dead, the fountain lives, and soda is king!” (John Sommerset 1920, Drug Topic).

Without beer and liquor it was the Egg Cream, Cherry Lime Ricky and the Root Beer Float that helped to fill the social vacuum left by Prohibition. The Pharmacies soon became a place for people to enjoy a guilt free treat while socialising with friends and family.The Brooklyn Farmacy has sympathetically recreated the tradition.

The store was in fact previously a pharmacy, hence many of the features are original. With it being common place for the drug store shelving to be filled with the remedies of the day, they have cleverly swapped pharmacuticles for many of Brooklyn best known food producers. Hence you can find products from several different Brooklyn pickling companies, P&H syrups, Good Batch Waffles, the Brooklyn Salsa company, and Early bird granola. Many of the ingredients in the classic drinks and dessserts are also supplied by Brooklyns finest.

So after the history what about the product?

This to most New Yorkers probably borders on sacrilage, but it has to be said. Milk (0r any dairy product) and soda should never be mixed. It is a ghastly combination, something that is more akin to a joke shop dare than a tasty beverage, so all those egg creams and root beer floats are best avoided. The desserts however fare much better, an ice cream sandwich made with caramel waffles and topped with caramel sauce tasted as good as it sounds. The ice cream sundaes were equally as appealing. The menu contains many classic American treats and on my next trip I look forward to trying the pies and house made Twinkies.

The Brooklyn Pharmacy is a great window into the past yet manages to support the cornerstone of ‘The New Brooklyn Cuisine‘ that is the mantra of farm to table, local, seasonal and sustainable food.

My advice is if you want to see a real piece of New York cross the bridge and check out one of the many excellent restaurants in Brooklyn and then head over to the Farmacy for a sweet treat and a true piece of nostalgia.

Thanksgiving

26 Nov

This was the Apple and Salted Caramel Pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds that got me out of bed at 6.30am.

and YES! it was worth it.

It was a delicious pie and the perfect end to a meal and a day. This being my first American Thanksgiving it seemed only right to keep it traditional. We spent the day at our friends place eating, drinking and being entertained by eighteenth month old Beckett. The turkey was great having been brined the night before, (although I did not notice much difference) and then steamed in ‘Turkey bags”. We had all the traditional trimmings, mashed potato, greens, gravy and sweet potato. I should mention the sweet potato was a Southern version cooked with candied pecans and vanilla, nice but more like a dessert than savoury side. I also baked some bread in the  morning, check out the interesting shapes.

The bread baking was all a bit hurried as I ran out of time and space in the oven. The S-shaped bread came out really well, unfortunately one of the breads slipped as I was putting it in the oven, hence the hook end. The straight one was upsetting as it came out perfectly until I rested it on the bottom of the oven and burnt it. Luckily they all tasted good and were perfect for using up left over turkey as sandwiches.

On the run

25 Nov

This is my first mobile blog, not something I was planning on, but it’s 7.30 am and I have been queueing for about 40 minutes to get our Thanksgiving pie.

Not sure how but I have WiFi and while I know I am definitely going to get one of the first come first served pies they do not open the doors for another 30 minutes.
I ve read the depression inducing news of the first day of the Ashes, soaked up the euphoria of Spurs qualifying for the knock out phase of the Champions League so now to blog.

You may have read about the Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie shop in an earlier blog. If not these two sisters are nuts about pies, making everything from scratch to their grandmothers recipies. In their wisdom they decided not to take orders but sell on a first come first served basis, hence the line.

I got here about 6.45 am and am 12th in line. They helpfully posted on their website that they had sold out in 2 hours the previous day with the line starting at 7am so I judged correct.

As soon as I get home I will post picture of said pie.
Oh the smugness as every person who arrives, surveys the line and contemplates Thanksgiving with no pie!

Burgers Part 2

24 Nov

Little Owl Bacon Cheeseburger

This is my favourite burger in all NYC.  It’s difficult to say that it is the best as there are so many that I have not tried, but undoubtedly if I had to choose the last burger I was ever going to eat this would be the one. I believe with burgers you can pretty much discount the setting, whereas the experience of most meals will depend to certain extent upon the company, the location or the service, a burger stands apart, it can be enjoyed in the least salubrious circumstances and still be elevated to a thing of beauty. Hence it is hardly worth mentioning that The Little Owl is a fantastic restaurant, serving seasonal American cuisine. It has a short but appealing menu and the only criticism you can level against the place is that it is so tiny you are often sharing conversations with neighbours either intentionally or not.

Burger and Barrel Cheeseburger

The Little Owl burger is of the pile of these latest entrants, however notable mention must go to Burger and Barrel (see above) for a very good burger. I am not sure what came over me when I ate there but I did something very rare, that is, I neglected to add some of Heinz’s favourite. The burger did not suffer for it. Its natural juiceness combined with their ‘special sauce’ made it work all on its own.

5 Napkin Bacon Cheeseburger

This was a giant burger (10 oz), very juicy but lacking slightly in flavour, it was let down by very poor fries. 5 Napkin has been on my list for a very longtime, and although a good burger I felt a little underwhelmed…..

5 Guys Fries....this was a small portion!

The 5 Guys experience was another let down. Having read that this was the East coast equivalent of the famous IN n OUT BURGER from LA I had high hopes. The burger was ok, but as you can see not much to look at. The patties fell apart far too easily and never having been a fan of the double burger due to its flimsy nature this held true. As a kid I would always order 2 or sometimes even 3 hamburgers over the big mac. The 5 Guys burger was also more expensive than Shake Shack and not as good. Where they do score serious points are with their fries. definitely the best fast food fries I have ever had, and good enough to put plenty of ‘proper’ restaurants to shame.

In conclusion, thus far Little Owl comes out on top, Shake Shack is ahead in the fast food rankings and Burger and Barrel gets special mention for its ability to thrive without ketchup.

Click here for a link to some burger porn….enjoy.

And if you are not desperate for a meat fix after having read all this then there is something wrong!

AND ONE LAST THING>>>>>>>>>>>

The doughnut burger, vanilla glaze bun filmed with tres leche and blackout cake doughnut....All courtesy of the Doughnut Plant.

And in case you thought I was bad, this was just a joke, but check this out.

Hooked

21 Nov

This post was originally meant to be about Baked one of New York’s top bakeries, but it got somewhat hijacked by my rediscovering the area known as Red Hook in Brooklyn. I set off to discover what sweet treats Baked had in their actual store having been eating their Chocolate cloud cookies and brownies which they wholesale throughout the city. My only other previous visit to Red Hook took place on a sweaty August evening last year when i was less than enamoured by the industrial landscape i was forced to trek through to get to our dinner reservation. Having moaned most of the way there (we were going to The Good Fork, an excellent New American restaurant deep in the Hook) i remembered passing the shuttered bakery and noting that i had to return in daylight hours to see what magic they were creating in their own place.

It’s still very pretty here in New York at the moment, the sky is a lush blue and the biting cold of winter is being held back by the low winter sun, although step into the shade and you are quickly reminded that it is late November. It’s a good couple of miles down to Red Hook and although there is a bus i prefer the walk. I worry i am becoming a believer in the idea that the journey is more important than the destination, that said, right now i have all the time in the world to enjoy the journey so the destination becomes a little less meaningful. Along the way i realise what it is that attracts people to this somewhat ugly and remote part of town.

It is true that there is an Ikea in Red hook but for me this is another glaring warning to avoid the area. Can anyone tell me they long to live near an Ikea store?!? The only other amenity is the Fairway store down by the water. Normally large supermarkets are eyesores of the highest order but this one is housed in the most amazing Pre-Civil War warehouse. Its right on the water and the bay looks out onto the Statue of Liberty.

Its pretty special for a supermarket. I couldn’t help but take a look around, the place is vast and has all kinds of sections, including ‘British Favourites’ where i found some treats to remind me of home.

Anyway, supermarket and Ikea aside, on the surface there is little of use or beauty in the area, however i think that this is what attracts me. The place is definitely residential in the sense that lots of people live here, but it retains a very urban and industrial feel to it. The docks are still working and every street off of Van Brunt (the main drag) is full of warehouses, work shops and small businesses. The scattering of restaurants, galleries and up market wine stores are heavily outnumbered by the daily activities of working men and women.

So photo tour of Red Hook over i will come back to Baked the original destination of my journey. The bakery is pretty well-known throughout the country having had the Oprah seal of approval, backed up by two cookbooks full of amazing recipes and pictures. My blogging friend over in Berlin Foodieinberlin will testify as she is baking her way through, me, i prefer  just to eat.

I mentioned the cloud cookies, a kind of puffy double chocolate chip cookie with chewy centre, and the brownies are excellent, but i wanted to try some of the things only available in store. I ordered a small hot chocolate which when it arrived was in fact the largest beverage i have ever seen, it was very rich and reminded me of the most incredible hot chocolate in the world from Cafe Angelina in Paris (this blog post says it all), although not quite to the Parisian standard. I also took away some apple pie bar, which was very good, and brookie which is a cookie baked in a brownie, which probably sounds better than it was.

All in all the journey was greater than the destination, but this should not detract from the bakery which sells some of the best cakes in all NYC, and if you are looking for a gift for a pastry baking friend i can recommend either of their books.

The Fall

18 Nov

I always thought of ‘The Fall’ as September maybe tripping into October, but i guess this maybe one of those childhood things that made me think that the sun always shone on the weekend. Now its mid November the leaves really have turned and they are falling fast so i thought it made sense to go and catch the them before the long hard winter presses in.

The West Village is a place i enjoy, its full of restaurants and narrow streets where the grid that is NYC momentarily disappears and you can get lost, and in that sense it feels a little like London. The village vibe comes from the scale of the place, there are no tower blocks, the streets have names rather than numbers and on every little corner and in-between you can find an interesting store or a little cafe to while away some time. I headed over, camera in hand, and the idea to test out NY Magazines pick for the best falafel. I am no expert on this matter but it is one of those foods that is so universal that you’d struggle to find a city in the world that didn’t have a falafel stand somewhere.

Taim meaning ‘tasty’ in Hebrew has a lot to live up to, not only hyped as the best in all of NY but with a name that shows no lack of confidence in itself. Upon entering i instantly knew it was an Israeli enterprise, the attitude of the server giving it away. The place is tiny, to the point where you walk in and you are instantly standing at the counter, it also seems as though it’s always packed so no pressure when you enter and are immediately asked for your order!

Seeing the panic on my face the server allowed me a second to at least check out the menu, although truth be told what else are you going to order at a Falafel joint. I went with the traditional, although the harissa version sounded good too. Just in time i remembered to add the all important pickles and schug (a chilli sauce often added to falafel). The bar inside was full so i opted for takeout using their handy outside bench and began happily scoffing away, i only remembered to take the picture when i realised that i could probably put the whole thing away in about 60 seconds.

In my opinion it exceeded its brief, it was tasty and then some. I cannot get too carried away, as i said earlier i am no expert, but it is definately one of the best i ve ever had. It was fresh, the balls of falafel still hot, good hummus, crunchy salad and the all important pickles and chilli sauce all wrapped in a warm pita….perfect snacking.

Eating over i headed towards Washington Square Park to soak up the autumnal atmosphere and take some photos, so here goes.

I recommend checking out this music video while looking, i am loving this right now!!! http://vimeo.com/13838877

PIZZA 101

14 Nov

The week has all been leading up to one thing for me, Pizza.

Although i did have a short stint as a Pizzaiolo back in 2005, i never learnt how to make the pizza dough, only the stretching, topping and cooking, so this was my chance to complete the circle. I will say now that the last week has been one of the most enjoyable learning experiences of my life. Apart from some first day nerves when i began to panic that my teacher may be some crazed kitchen animal who would take exception to my trainers and beard, (both of which were expressly forbidden in the handout i was given at induction) the week has been fantastic. Everyone was friendly we had a great teacher and i am left with the feeling that i have a real grasp on the basics of bread baking, oh and a full freezer and a really large belly!

Pizza is one of those universal things, it combines all the important food groups, bread, vegetables, dairy and preferably some meat too. Hence i believe it deserves a full explanation.

Please see my step by step guide to making pizza.

1.Gather your ingredients, 500g strong white flour, 340g cold water, 10g salt and 5g fresh yeast

2. Add the fresh yeast and salt to the water and begin to dissolve (it does not have to fully dissolve just enough to help the process).  Then add to the bowl of flour.

3. Using your hands, or if you have a dough scraper begin to slowly mix all the ingredients together. The idea is to incorporate all the flour and water together so that it begins to form a messy ball. The best method is to slowly fold the ingredients together from the outside in, in a circular motion, it helps if you keep moving the bowl as you go.

4. Once it has come together into the sticky ball seen above it is time to rest. Cover and leave for around 45 minutes.

5. After the dough has rested it is time to begin kneading. This is a more gentle process than i imagined. We are essentially folding and rotating the dough until it becomes stronger and ‘springy’ to the touch. The dough will be sticky so put some flour on the work top and your hands and gently fold the dough in half, rotate 90 degrees and fold again, keep repeating this process until you reach the desired consistency (springy). It should be approx a 5 minute process. It is important not to over work the dough, however a longer resting period after this process will help remedy over worked dough.

6. At this point you have a choice you can either ferment the dough for one hour at room temp and then refrigerate overnight, or leave it out at room temp for 3 hours, or even freeze it. (you could then defrost overnight allowing it to ferment at the same time) The longer the dough ferments the more flavour and structure it can develop. Beware you can over-ferment, leaving the dough unworkable. If it is a very warm room/day perhaps better to leave for longer in the fridge or shorter period at room temp.

Either way wrap the dough and put to one side.

*SEE POINT 9 RE: OVEN

7. Once the dough is fermented you can begin to divide and shape the dough ready for stretching and topping. First divide the dough into the desired size. This recipe makes at least 3 12″ pizzas but you can play around with sizes depending on your oven/pizza stone. To give you an idea 150g  dough stretches to a approx 9″ thin crust pizza, the larger the pizza the harder it is to handle so smaller is probably best until you master getting it into the oven.

Flouring the bench take your weighed dough and pinch a corner and fold into the centre (this is not an exact science the idea is to pre shape the dough into a ball to help in the final process), turn the dough  90 degrees and fold corner into the middle repeat until you have gone a full 360. Then cupping your hands drag the dough towards you, turn and repeat a total of 4 times. The dough should now have formed itself into a mini ball, (the underside will not be perfectly smooth).

8. One more rest for 30 minutes and it is ready to be stretched, topped and cooked. The resting is an important part as it allows the dough to regain its lightness after each handling.

9. Well before you are ready to start stretching your dough you should have your oven cranked up to full heat, ideally with a pizza stone inside. If not you can use bricks or a slab of marble/granite, just beware it is liable to crack due to the heat! Anything that you can put in your oven to help retain heat is also useful as pizza is best cooked at as higher temp as possible. If you have a cast iron pan just stick it in the bottom of the oven, the heat it retains will help counter act what you lose when you open the oven door to slide the pizza in. An oven thermometer is also useful as oven thermostats tend to be inaccurate.

At this stage all your ingredients should be lined up and ready to go.

If you are using fresh mozzarella, buffalo, or cows, be sure to dry it on some paper towels first, the large amount of moisture they contain will make the pizza soggy.

Also if you are putting fresh basil on your pizza, either bury it under the cheese or better still add after the pizza is out of the oven.

Do not over sauce the pizza as this well increase the chance of it sticking to you board or oven and ripping leaving you pizzaless.

10. I did record a video of this but am having trouble importing so for now you will have to make do with an explanation.

You can drop a piece of dough into some flour, remove and place on your bench. using your fingertip gently mark a crust all the way round the edge.

You then need to pick the dough up and rest it on your knuckles and begin to stretch, as you rotate the dough on you knuckles gravity should begin to help and the dough will start to stretch as in the picture, remember depending how much dough you portioned will govern the size of the pizza, do not try to stretch too thin.

once you have the size of dough you want place onto a well floured surface ready to slide into the oven. Ideally a pizza peel, but you can use a wooden board or even the bottom of a baking tray. The thinner the edge the easier to get in your oven.

The key here is a well floured peel and speed. If your pizza base begins to stick you can try to get more flour underneath but it becomes very tricky once it starts to stick. A quick flick on you peel will tell you if it is stuck or not, the whole pizza should be free to move. Lightly add sauce and any toppings, again be careful a spot of spilt sauce on the peel in the wrong place will spell disaster. Once your are loaded up and sure your pizza is free to slide off it’s over to the oven.

You need a quick push-pull motion to deposit the pie into the oven, and your there!

As you can see, there is very little difference between the pizza made in class and the one at home. The charring seen on the crust of the class pizza is only achieved at 500F plus, but the texture of my home pizza was excellent. Very crispy crust with good rise and as you can see the stone really helps colour and flavour the base.

Have fun trying at home and send me pictures of your results…….