Thursday, February 21, 2008

Make no Misteak about it

Beefsteak. A word that strikes fear, envy, and hunger into the hearts of men.
This Saturday I traveled with a group of adventure-minded carnivores into the wilds of Bergenfield, New Jersey. A quick Zipcar trip over the GW Bridge brought us to the world of sweatpants, white sneakers, and volatile EKGs.

Tipped to the longstanding North Jersey Beefsteak tradition by the newspaper of record, we vaguely new what to expect. All you can eat beef tenderloin, dipped in butter; all you can drink soda and beer; french fries; stacks of grease-soaked bread slices; good times.
The event starts with a perfunctory iceberg lettuce salad (skipped by me in favor of reserving valuable beef-tank space), and some pretty solid pickles and black olives. Ten minutes later the first batch of thick-cut fries hit the table, followed closely by our inaugural visit from the beef tray--an oversized baking sheet stuffed with thinly-sliced grilled tenderloin atop baguette slices. Thanks to our Beefsteak veteran tablemates, we knew better than to eat the bread--instead you pool your group's slices in the middle of the table as an archaeological remnant of your bovine-ingesting efforts.

The beef does not stop coming until the diners give their final dismissal (or the room's collective sodium level reach code red). At this point, the evening's entertainment began. A local comedy-hypnotist took the stage, along with my buddy Mark, a willing volunteer, to put on a wholesome family show. One would think that after providing the attendees with about 4,000 calories of beef and fries each, the food availability would cease for the hour-long show. But then one wouldn't be thinking like a true Jersey Beefsteak host. About twenty minutes into the show, plates of cheese puffs, Doritos, and pretzels arrived on paper plates, and, alas, we polished them all off.

I really can't recommend the Beefsteak enough. The admission was only $35 (could you even get all-you-can drink Bud for three hours in Manhattan for $35?), the crowd was a lot of fun, the beef was real tasty, and the money went to support the local volunteer firefighters. A patriotic and gluttonous success all around.

[Special thanks to Fidel Gastro for the photos]

Eat Your Spinach, kids

It's Popeye the Sailor First Baseman. This just in from Deejay Egg on the West Coast. Prince Fielder, prodigious home run swatter of the Milwaukee Brewers, has recently gone vegetarian. Tipping the scales at 260 pounds, PF must be putting away quite a few Boca Burgers to keep up his trademark paunch. Read more here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CSA 101

I just sent in my first check for my local CSA a couple of weeks ago, and I'm already counting the days until the summer produce is ready. I'm lucky that there's a CSA pick-up location a couple of blocks from my house, and they happened to still be taking new members. But if you're looking for a local CSA and there isn't one, or they're all full, check out this Q&A on that gives the basic steps for starting your own.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Underground

Caseophiles, step right this way...Murray's Cheese now offers cave tours! I went on one Saturday.

There are four caves below ground, each with different aging processes and types of cheeses. It was pretty cool (Literally. I'm glad I had my scarf with me!). We learned all about mold and bacteria and the affinor's job as both artist and scientist. The aging process is fairly complex, though at times it is similar to what old people go through...think liver spots and sensitive skin masking a wise, complex interior.

Quite interesting, I'd recommend it. The cost is $10 for a 30-minute tour, and this includes a couple of samples.

On the way out, I purchased a bag of real Wisconsin cheese curds and had two of my fellow cave touring friends over for cheese and Belgian beer. This turned out to be the perfect way to spend the third Saturday of the month (which is when the tours take place).

Details at Murray's Cheese

Monday, February 11, 2008

Let the bacteria do the work

My yogotherm arrived on Friday, so I took it out for a test drive this weekend. The lady and I eat a lot of yogurt, and I generally don't care for all of the additives that most store brands contain. So I bought me some bacteria and some good Ronnybrook milk and got down to business.

The whole process is pretty simple--heat the milk, let it cool down a bit, then mix in bacteria and some dried milk powder and let it sit in the yogotherm for about 12 hours. My first try was a success, although a little runnier than I prefer, which is why I bought some Bulgarian bacteria too.

Overall, a successful mission, and the first of many bacterial triumphs to come.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Go, Go Kitchen Gadgets

I know a place where you can buy 18 different sizes of heart-shaped cookie cutters. Ga ga ga goo! But really, if you need a gift for the chef or baker in your life, and you find yourself in Midtown East (near the UN or the Japan Society), stop by Bridge Kitchenware. I discovered this family-owned, gadget-filled store not too long ago, and it’s worth checking out.

I’m definitely not alone in this thinking, as the place has been around for more than 50 years. The (sometimes dusty) shelves house an eclectic mix of earthenware, appliances, serving equipment, utensils...all sorts of good stuff.

Some of the basics you could probably find cheaper elsewhere, but if you’re looking to buy a unique (or slightly odd) tool for the kitchen, this might be the place. I picked up a nifty linzer tart cookie cutter set, as well as a tool to help cut onions (on first glance, I mistook it for a hair pick).

You’ll also find items like artichoke cookers, gelee molds, ravioli cutters, and percolator pots. They have a decent selection of pastry equipment too. It’s a fun place to browse, and every time I’ve been in there, the staff has been eager to answer questions (e.g. "What the flip is that for?").

If you search really hard, you might find a gem like the one I saw last week…a two-foot long pizza cutter that was in a jar marked Thanksgiving Special. You figure that one out!

Bridge Kitchenware

711 3rd Ave (at 45th St.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

How Now, Down Cow?

There are some days when I am not proud to be at the top of the food chain. The Humane Society has released video footage of the treatment of sickly cows known as "downers." Rather than euthanizing these cows, ranchers resort to extreme measures to get them to stand in order to pass USDA inspection, which means they wind up in the food supply, which means these cows will exact their revenge on unsuspecting diners. I'm hopeful that this investigation will put these ranchers out to pasture. How could you be such a jerk to cows? They're responsible for 50% of the food groups. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Once Bittman, twice shy...

Mark Bittman has a new blog over on the Times website. Bittman's recipes are great--they're vegetarian-heavy, simple, and use fresh ingredients. I recently made his Pernil recipe for a football party, and it went over like a sack of weed at a Willy Nelson show. I think he'll take this blog to good places.