Category Archives: Gear

creativeLIVE…in Two

So, today we had a really great Google Hangout with the folks at creativeLIVE and Foodista. We had excellent questions from the audience and it was a lot of fun as a warmup to my creativeLIVE workshop

One day left to enroll. It’s still FREE!

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Here is another stir fry from Martha. We’ll be talking about how to noodle around with noodles on Day 1. See you there.

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July 18, 2013 · 7:15 am

Patience…Rewarded

my_photoLike a lot of cooks I tend to travel with my knives in tow.  It is really convenient to have your tools with you but can be a drag to have to tote around a bulky knife case. I went in search of a leather knife roll that would carry up to five knives and a steel.  I wanted something soft and easy to throw into my luggage.  I went to most of the higher end kitchen stores as well as the chef supply stores on Bowery with no luck. I Googled and Yahoo’d and Twittered to no avail.

After days of frustration I came across a leather tool belt company in Australia named Maka Tool Belts and Leather Accessories.  They had exactly what I needed and I immediately ordered it.  At first I was excited and then immediately had buyer’s regret because I have been victimized on the internet before.  An overseas company, simple no bells and whistles website, my PayPal account would not work…all of a sudden I was filled with dread that I had just been had.  I really wanted my knife roll so I took a deep breath and decided to go against my instincts and have some trust and patience for once.

Three weeks went by and no word from Maka about my knife roll and my radar went back up…Where is it? Why did I give my credit card#? Why am I so impulsive?

I sent out an email to the company and began an email dialog with the company’s owner, Mick Kerkam.  I was really surprised by his quick responses and committment to customer care.  He kept me informed of the progress, explained the delays and even wrote me to see if the package had arrived on my end.

The parcel eventually arrived, it had been sent through the regular mail, and was covered in foreign postage.  The leather knife roll, made from very high quality suede and fastened with thin strips of kangaroo leather was perfect for my needs.  The craftsmanship was evident; it was obvious that Mick had put the same pride in his work that he did in his customer service.

So, if you are looking for a traveling knife roll or any other kind of leather tool products take a look at http://www.maka.com.au/products.php?cat=1 and drop Mick Kerkam an email…He’ll take good care of you.

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Cooking up some Bargains


I had a very charming encounter the other day at Broadway Panhandler, a gourmet kitchen store on 8th St. near Broadway. I was in the market for a large round casserole that I will be using in an upcoming shoot. I have several pieces by Le Creuset and was seeking another. As I was pondering my choices, many that were on considerable markdown, an older woman who looked really confused stepped over to me and opened with, “you look like you know what you are doing here, can you help me”? I, of course, obliged and asked her how I could help.

Judy, as I have come to know her, has recently begun to explore cooking again after a long absence from serious culinary pursuits. She recently donated her exquisite classic french copper cookware and several Le Creuset casseroles to a local thrift store charity. She explained that they had all become too heavy for her to manage and she needed some advice as to what she should replace them with. As I began explaining to her the virtues of All-Clad cookware the sales staff was initially pleased with my pitch. The daggers started to shoot from the eyes of one particular salesperson as I explained to Judy that there was little need to pay full price for All-Clad as there are always excellent pieces available at stores like Home Goods, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx at considerable discounts. She was obviously a life-long city dweller and had no idea what those stores were or where to find them. I explained that they were located in the outer boroughs and I got a chuckle from her expression that said to me that I was suggesting that she travel to Mars for cookware bargains.

The reason the closeout stores have these discounts is that the items may have some very minor cosmetic defects (like a scratch on the bottom of a pot) that prevents them from being sold at full price. I have obtained the equivalent of 3 full sets of All-Clad cookware and several cast iron enamelled casseroles by companies like Le Creuset and Staub at these stores. I also purchased 2 full sets of J.A Henkels Professional “S” knives, as well as other kitchen goodies there.

Let’s be honest, if you are a serious cook and really use your cookware, the first time you are frying the onions and garlic the pan is no longer out of the box new. Cookware is not for show, so take the pan with the scratch at a 20%-30% discount and feel really good about it. I know I do.

While we strolled and discussed cookware and TV cook shows and celebrity chefs from bygone years, Judy told me where she donated the cookware. I will unfortunately have to keep this place a secret as I tend to procure many of my props there and don’t want any foodie competition. I helped Judy with her purchase, paid for my own, and hustled over to the thrift store to see of I could secure some of Judy’s cookware. I was too late. It was all gone and sold at ridiculously low prices. I was disappointed to say the least.

My advice to Judy was to keep it simple. Get a good non-stick skillet, maybe in a few sizes. Get one four-quart and one eight-quart pot and a few smaller sauce pans. These basic items are the staples in my kitchen and as you try new dishes and experiment with various cooking styles then add pieces as you go.

Some other basic items you should have are a good roasting pan with handles, maybe 24×12, a few flat cookie sheets in various sizes and some cooling racks. These items will certainly be enough to cook most of your basic dishes. You can also venture over to Bowery and visit the plethora of chef supplies stores for some of these items.

With our economy on life support and most of us spending much more time at home and in our kitchen, finding some affordable, quality supplies is something we can all benefit from. Judy was happy to purchase at the discounts that Broadway Panhandler was offering that day. They were indeed great but if you have the patience (and the spaceship to travel to Mars) check out those other stores too and find yourself a gem.

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The Dreaded Conversation


One of the more maddening conversations we all seem to have with our friends, our partners, and even ourselves is the one that starts with, “what do you feel like eating”? In Manhattan, this usually means, “where do you want to go and eat?”.

The question is initially met with a pause, as anyone within earshot is waiting for someone else to make a suggestion. Then after the pause we have a round of, “I don’t know’s” and “where do you want to go’s” and then in the final stages of this we have the random suggestion that is met with wide spread derision and the obligatory response by the suggestor , “I didn’t hear anyone else’s bright ideas”. Then of course you end up at the local bar or pizza shop because you are now so angry and hungry you will eat your own arm.

So, a friend was coming to town with a yen to eat at local Italian spot, Supper, on E.2nd St. in the E. Village. Supper, on a weekend night (and that means from Wednesday on in NY) means wait on the sidewalk or at the adjoining wine bar for about 30-45 minutes for a table…and then pray that your entire party is there when they call you or you will lose your table. On this night it was about 12 degrees out, the wine bar was crushed and we had six people in our party. The wait was to be an hour+. Now, of course, the previously mentioned conversation was about to begin.

A few months ago, I made the inevitable artsy guy cell phone choice, switched to AT&T and bought an iPhone. I soon discovered the App Store and it’s endless number of both idiotic and banal as well as helpful and indispensable applications that can be uploaded to your iPhone. There I discovered something called Urbanspoon.

Urbanspoon is an application that uses the GPS device in the phone to locate your position and help you find a restaurant based on 3 criteria; neighborhood, type of cuisine and price. The interface looks like a slot machine of sorts and you can randomly “shake” your phone (either by pushing the button on the screen labeled “shake” or by actually shaking the phone). This activates the slot wheels of the three criteria and makes suggestions on a restaurant. You can lock any or all of the wheels into a specific spot, say, E.Village, Italian, $$$. That would give you suggestions limited to E.Village, Italian restaurants in the medium to high price range. Then when you choose a restaurant the program gives you the address, phone number and reviews. It will also interface with the GPS and give you directions.

Back at Supper on that cold evening, I was of course the first person in the crowd that everyone looked to for another suggestion and I drew a blank. It was the weekend and we were a big party, so I was really stuck. I whipped out my trusty iPhone, opened up Urbanspoon, got the wheels spinning and voila! within 20 minutes we had a table for six at Gnocco on E.10th St. on the north side of Tompkins Square Park. We had a lovely meal, some very good wine and a waiter with an Italian accent and that scruffy bad boy look that the ladies at the table were very pleased with. Score a win for Urbanspoon and me.

Urbanspoon has since been featured on commercials for iPhone and it’s App Store. I have used it both here in NY and anywhere I have traveled since acquiring my new digital companion. It has proven to be one of those indispensable applications amid the virtual forest of mind numbing diversions offered for the iPhone. I am not sure if it is or will become available for other cell phone platforms but since we all either have an iPhone or know someone who does, turn on to Urbanspoon, it will save you from ever having that “where do you want to eat” conversation ever again.

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