Posted in Food Facts, Local Finds, Nerd Adventures

Sweet Summer Produce Baby!

Fresh produce lovers rejoice! Summer is in full swing and with it arrives its glorious bounty. Now is the time to truly ditch your supermarket produce section and hit the green markets and roadside farm stands.  And let me tell you- the local farm stands in Upstate New York and Long Island are overflowing with wonderful colors and smells. I went to one today that was pure food porn.  The tomatoes were so sweet and perfect and the blueberries, my dear, they tasted like a blueberry pie.  I can only assume that the farmers serenaded them every morning until they were picked. Often you pay a premium for these elevated earthy delights, but you will certainly  taste the difference.

You can also get involved with a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it’s one of the best ways to support your local farmers.  CSAs work by offering memberships before the growing season, which help ensure the farmer’s income for the year.  Green markets are great for business, but they can also be a gamble for sales.  Typically you either pick up or receive a box of whatever is being harvested that week.  You can opt for fruit and eggs too.  There are are even different meat and fish CSAs that have popped up. Usually sign ups are in April/May so you would normally be too late to participate in a regular CSA now. (Do sign up next season- check your local community boards or the Local Harvest site to find a convenient one near you.)

But…. Guess what FreshDirect just started offering? Non-membership CSAs! While signing up for a season membership is best for the farmers, the new FreshDirect option is a great alternative. One of the most exciting aspects of a CSA is that you can’t pick what you get, so you are forced to be creative and try new vegetables. Of course you will occasionally get that one vegetable that you dislike or are just confuzzled by (for me that’s kohlrabi) but that’s when you conveniently start gifting your neighbors or coworkers fresh produce…

So hit the markets or try out the new FreshDirect option and enjoy!

Posted in Local Finds, Nerd Adventures, Recipes

The Vineyard Project

From a young age I came to understand that three of the key components to my happiness involve great food, great wine and great music.  That holy trinity was born within my family’s kitchen, on many an evening spent with my father cooking dinner, sipping on whatever wine he chose and listening to the music he taught me to love. I came to fall in love with the world of food and wine on many separate occasions thereafter, but the seed was planted there.

            Our connection to wine was rooted more deeply than just an admiration. My Great Uncle Ben had had a vineyard in the Hudson Valley of New York since 1976. We grew up regularly visiting the vineyard, frolicking in the vines, learning about each year’s new creations and helping with the occasional harvest.  Here in the tasting room of Clinton Vineyards (named after its location in Clinton Corners, NY) I learned about how wine was made, about the méthode champenoise that my uncle used on our Sparkling Seyval and consequently why it couldn’t be called Champagne and about the wonderful experiment that turned into our famous award winning Cassis.  My father still likes to brag that our Cassis “beat the pants off of France” and naturally we mock him for telling everyone that.  Joking aside, it is truly delicious.

Posted in Local Finds, Nerd Adventures

A Local Sampling

BlackBird Ciders
BlackBird Ciders

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I went down to the New Amsterdam Market, my favorite market in New York City.  It used to take place every Sunday from the late spring to winter, but sadly due to a few unfortunate factors, it only meets sporadically.  Their next and last market of 2013 will be on December 15th from 11-5 pm.  Please go and support your local producers if you can.  If you love food, there is truly no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  This past market’s theme was Cider, a favorite beverage of mine and one that is apparently making a revival in our fair country (see the New York Times article). There were about 5 or 6 different cider produces present, but only one’s selection of ciders made it home with me.  BlackBird Cider Works featured a selection of four ciders, from dry to semi-sweet and sweet.  My favorite was the Red Barn Farm Style Cider, one that fell on the sweeter side.  I find often times drinkers who prefer a little sweet are often criticized for being unsophisticated. How dare you. There is no reason to be ashamed of enjoying a fabulous Muscato D’Asti, nor should one blush when he or she elects the sweeter of the ciders.  Well truth be told, there is a difference between sweet that is just sweet and sweet that is in balance with a range of complex flavors and uses its sugars to round them out to form a perfect giddy melody in your mouth.  BlackBird did just that.  Their ciders are reasonably priced as well. And while their orchard and tasting room are practically in Canada, they can be purchased in Rochester, Buffalo and now Brooklyn!

Sohha Yogurt
Sohha Yogurt

Another Greek yogurt?! I know what you are thinking, but Sohha Savory Yogurt puts Chobani and Fage to shame. These guys are so creamy and delicious that you will become an instant convert.  I dollop a big spoonful of their regular 2% on my oatmeal every morning.  They deliver in NY and are getting more distribution too!  Check them out.

So speaking of my oatmeal, a generous drizzle of these guys’ maple syrup is the final touch! Their honey is delicate and delightful as well.  Catskill Provisions actually just launched a Honey Whisky that is so well rounded that it appeals to even to the non-whisky drinker! I will be using a little bit of that and their maple syrup to make some maple-bourbon ice cream. Check out their website for all of their wonderful products. They have pretty good distribution in gourmet shops throughout New York as well.

Vermont Sail Fright Project
Vermont Sail Fright Project

These Vermontsters were by far the oddest of the vendor bunch at the market.  They were at the last market as well, fresh off the boat with all their products from Vermont!  They actually sailed down from Vermont to the South Street Seaport.  Among their goodies included a wide range of flours, produce, syrups, oils and many knickknacks. I previously purchased some flours from them and sunflower oil.  All lovely. This time I picked up a spaghetti squash that I roasted and tossed with a basil and anchovy pesto, capers and sun-dried tomatoes.  ‘Twas quite the yummy snack. Anyways check out their philosophy and see if they will be in your neck of the woods anytime soon:

Ledgenear Farm
Ledgenear Farm

Last but not least is another maple syrup producer. While I am very loyal to Catskill Provisions, Ledgenear Farm’s maple syrup is undeniably delectable.  It boasts a bold well rounded flavor that also seems to finish my oatmeal quite well. (Hey no one even said having options was a bad thing…)

So, go to the market on the 15th and regardless go shop local when possible- it tastes and feels better!

Posted in Local Finds

Product Review: Sir Kensington’s Ketchup

I have long struggled with my illicit love of ketchup.   Of course it goes on my burger (unless it’s Minetta) and my fries (unless I have a lovely mayo option).  And yes, I have been known to occasionally put ketchup on my eggs. Forgive me, but ketchup is rather tasty and so often can boost the flavor of something bland or fried.  Up until recently I used Heinz, the standard and household ketchup brand, because I really didn’t have a choice.  I struggled with this decision as Heinz is full of my least favorite ingredient, high fructose corn syrup. I would shiver a little each time I squirted the shiny red stuff out of the bottle with mild disgust as a stream of clear liquid pooled out onto my plate.  I ate it nevertheless.  What other options did I have? I tried a local New Jersey ketchup- First Field and I’m sorry to say it just didn’t cut it.  The flavor, the texture- everything was just off.  Then I was introduced to Sir Kensington’s and everything changed.  No more high fructose corn syrup.  Honey & Agave.  The texture is  smooth but actually resembles something that can be made by humans.  The flavor still maintains the lovely tomatoey sweetness that I expect from my ketchup, but is a bit more complex than Heinz.  The lime, pepper and spices all work together to make Sir Kensington’s into a condiment that I am now proud to consume.  You can find Sir Kensington’s at a number of classy retail shops as well as on the table of forward thinking restaurants. The price per jar ranges from $3.50 to $10 depending on where you go (I recommend Lobel’s market for the best price).  I know it’s a bit more than your Heinz, but if you care about what you put into your body, I assure you, it is worth the difference!

Posted in Local Finds, Nerd Adventures

GranYesla (that’s Yes for Granola)

Selection of the Day

If you live in New York and feel like schlepping to Fort Hamilton Parkway, it just might be worth the trek for this granola.  Brooklyn Commune, the home and mother to this beautiful sweet toasted oat child, is a bare but generally delightful place to enjoy lunch.  Their menu is seasonal and I don’t recall ever having a sandwich I did not thoroughly devour. I especially remember some lovely pickled beets (perhaps my favorite pickled thing) accompanying my sandwich. If you decide to take the trip, STOCK UP ON THE GRANOLA. I recently purchased a bag of Cranberry, Orange & Fennel Granola and despite my occasional aversion to fennel, I found it to be just delicious! The sweet tang of the honey and sugars mixed with the array of vibrant spices such as ginger and cinnamon made for a complete treat.  They have different ones virtually every time I’ve been there.  I recall a glorious fig and ginger.  They generally have a chocolate for you chocolate lovers and I also saw an African Peanut and Date.  A bag will run you $8 and it’s worth it because it is enough to motivate you to get out of bed in the morning.  I also eat for a special late night snack or just a pick me up.

Posted in Local Finds

Drinkin’ Local

Our Jubilee, Cassis & the SteamPunk Cider











A little fun fact, my family has a small vineyard in the Hudson Valley called Clinton Vineyards. It’s beautiful. Tucked away off the Taconic Parkway and just under a 2 hour drive from NYC, it makes for the most lovely day trip. It was always my favorite family trip.  My Great Uncle Ben started it in 1976 and we have been growing grapes and producing wine ever since.  I’m a big fan of our Cassis, black currant wine, and Jubilee, our “Champagne” Style Sparkling White Wine.  Coincidentally these two pair beautifully together to make a very classy Kir Royale. 


I helped my Aunt Phyllis at the Grand Tasting of 40 New York wineries last week at the Astor Center.  I tasted many wonderful wines, even some decent Pinot Noirs and interesting blends of Riesling and Chardonnay.  I must confess, I have a weakness for delicious sparkling hard cider with a hint of sweetness and I have been at a loss to find anything worth drinking from New York until now.  I discovered Leonard Oaks Steam Punk Cider.  It might not be giving France a run for its money, but its a darn good substitute here in the States.  Drink up New York when you can and even better- go visit your nearby wineries!  


Posted in Local Finds

Fresh is Better

Like to cook and eat well? Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)! Eight summers ago I joined Quail Hill Farm out in Long Island. The farm, filled with an abundance of beautiful produce, chickens and fresh eggs, has quickly become one of my favorite places in the world.  Being part of a CSA not only benefits you directly (as you receive the freshest possible produce) but you also help support sustainable agriculture.  There are many types of CSAs- some have produce and meat, others just produce- ones where your produce is delivered, others where you pick it up, or others where you in various degrees physically work in the fields for your food.  At Quail Hill we pick our vegetables and fruit. Let me tell you- it is one rewarding experience.  I always bring my friends with me to the farm and they always end up loving it. 

Now I realize that CSAs are not for everyone.  The most inhibiting factor is their price.  Quail Hill isn’t cheap, but it does provide me and my family produce for pretty much the whole summer and parts of the fall.  Think of joining as an investment for yourself and society: you get to be healthier and more appreciate of local produce and help pave the path to a more sustainable future.  Basically, if you can afford to: do it.  You won’t regret it, I promise!

Posted in Local Finds, Nerd Adventures

Fruits of the Sea (that’s how you translate seafood in French)

An oyster taste off at the New Amsterdam Market

If you are lucky enough to live near a body of water with treasure troves of sea critters, well now is the season to enjoy them. Bay scallops, oysters, lobsters, crabs and little neck clams o my!  From the beautiful New Amsterdam Market last Sunday to the tip of Long Island, great seafood abounded.

From briny to smooth, we tried them all!
Crabs and Lobsters to go
Beautiful Bay Scallops
They don’t get fresher than this!