This is the view from our country home in Dingman’s Ferry, Pennsylvania. We sold it today. We built it in 2003 with food photography in mind. It has high ceilings, white walls, multiple skylights and a chef’s kitchen. Many of the pictures you see here and on my website we made in this space. It’s sad to let it go both professionally and especially personally. Moving forward we hope the next space we take pictures in brings us as much joy as this one did. Everyone one of you who have looked at my pictures in the past 7 years has a piece of this place. Say goodbye today as we turn the page.
Category Archives: General
Pete Wells and I cross paths professionally quite often but each time I read the chronicles of his kitchen adventures with his son, Dexter, I realize how much I identify with his writing on personal level. I laugh out loud, I nod my head and hope that the other lunchers at Whole Foods don’t think I’m a danger to society. He truly captures so much of what it is like to be a father contending with setting the example of what is healthy and appropriate while holding onto taste and traditions. Food can be a treacherous landscape, especially for our children and reading Cooking with Dexter gives us an interesting and humorous take on one way to navigate our way through.
Photo illustration by Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford
R.I.P. Pillsbury Doughboy
Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community.
The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.
Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.
Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was considered a very smart cookie, but wasted much of his dough on half-baked schemes.
Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.
Doughboy is survived by his wife, Play dough, three children: John Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop tart.
The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.
I had a few revelatory experiences this weekend concerning where our meat comes from. As a former long time vegetarian, I have learned to compartmentalized my feelings about animals and the food they provide us. I try to buy meat from farms that treat their animals humanely, and avoid fast food chains that have made a mockery of the food industry. I understand our place on the food chain but do so with the utmost respect for the animals that are sacrificed for our benefit.
I was at a celebratory dinner for my brother on Friday night when his five-year-old innocently asked my mother what she was eating. She answered, “lamb”. My niece responded with, “What’s a lamb?”. I reflexively answered her, without looking up from my Porterhouse, “It’s a baby sheep”. I immediately received a shot in my side under the table from my brother, who reminded me that children don’t always equate food with the animals they come from. My niece, like many children, is a rather fussy eater and refers to meat by its color rather than its source. My daughter has a classmate that has been a vegetarian since kindergarten, ever since her mother told her where meat came from. I understand the sensitivity but it’s easy to forget since my own daughter is a ravenous carnivore who salivates when driving past the cow pastures on the way to our country home.
The following morning, I was at the Union Square Market preparing for my next assignment and in search of calves’ liver. I walked up to the farm stand and asked if they had any. The farmer’s response was, “Well, normally I wouldn’t, but we had a 10 month old that found herself caught in a fence and she had to be put down early”. Whoa!….I really didn’t need the back story on my dinner…and then I really understood my brother’s rib poke. I had a visceral reaction to the story…and I work with food every day. Our compassionate instincts, particularly for baby animals can be very intense and sometimes it’s better to keep our heads in the sand…just a little.
PS…I cooked and shot the liver of that poor, trapped, calf…and promptly gave it away to friends…sans the story
I need to take a short detour from our trip through The Big Easy for just a moment to share an important food story with you. Back in 2007 when I decided to begin this endeavour it was in honor of my great-grandmother and the sauce she created each Sunday that brought the family together.
It has been a while since the spirit of Sadie Milo wafted through my mother’s kitchen. There are reasonable arguments to be made that this kind of rich food has wrecked havoc on the cardiovascular systems of more than a few of my family members. My father has been under the watchful eye of Sadie’s most faithful disciple, who knows the power of the Sunday Sauce, and has kept it under lock and key for quite some time.
Dad has recently taken off some weight, gotten a bit more active and received high marks from his cardiologist…and down the gauntlet came. The man actually had the nerve to utter these words to a woman of 100% Sicilian descent, ” I bet you can’t even make the Sunday Sauce anymore, you probably forgot how.” The bravery he exhibited for 30 years on the hard streets of NY as an honored member of NYPD pale in comparison to what it took to play chicken with Antonina Theresa Fallucca Scrivani over her skills in the kitchen. I’m sweating now just thinking about it. The man has the 1,000 yard stare of a warrior and chess moves like Bobby Fischer. She took the bait and he escaped a flying rolling pin.
Dinner was to be served at the traditional Sunday Sauce hour of 2pm. At first, I was not keyed in to the significance of the timing but three steps down the driveway I smelled it. The aroma of simmering tomatoes with sweet and hot sausages, pork and beef braciole and of course the triple meat (pork, veal and beef) meatballs was unmistakable. Before greetings were even issued, I torn off a piece of the closest loaf of bread I could find and sunk it deep into the pot and used a quick blow of air to avoid anymore unfortunate scalding. I took that first bite and was transported back, back to those Sunday dinners on Lamport Boulevard. Mama was there, grandpa Andy, the Jimmys, the Antoninas, Uncle Charlie, Uncle Mikey, Aunt Chickie and Aunt Mary. They were all alive and well and woven into the fabric of what Sunday Sauce means to Italian families. One bite and I was there again, a chubby little kid who everyone doted on, trying to sneak a preview before the meal reached the table.
My mouth still full of that first bite, the remaining nugget in hand as I entered the living room to say hello and the first words I hear are, ” No fair “. This was in direct response to my remaining bite of Italian bread dripping with sauce. Of course, I unapologetically popped it in my mouth and smiled the grin of a first born Italian son enjoying his birthright…to be the first to sample his mother’s sauce. The first to greet me was my Uncle Jimmy, the last to hold the title of first born son, with a remnant of the old ways; a kiss on the cheek and a bear hug. A part of me really misses this tradition and wishes that it wasn’t fading away like the rest of the rituals of our grandparents.
There was an aura in the room today. It was a warmth and an energy that was generations of family past and present brought together to share food and tradition and laughter. I felt closer to my family yesterday in a way that I have not felt in some time. I guess it was all there, in that pot, bubbling and crusting on the sides where the marks of evaporated moisture ringed the vessel.
As the food filled the long dining room table, we laughed, and kidded each other and ate. I seemed to have more room today. My stomach allowed me to make this trip last as long as possible. My mother was elated and my thoughts went to my own daughter and niece and nephew and how pleased I was to share this meal with them. My brother’s little ones didn’t eat much but that wasn’t really the point. They shared in something that I am sure will resonate later in life. The experience goes well beyond the backdrop of a pot of sauce on the stove. But, it’s that very pot of sauce that is the connection to the past that will, for me, always reverberate the echos of voices in a heavy Sicilian dialect, a kiss and a bear hug, the rights of the first born son and the love of family sharing food that has generations of adoration simmered into every morsel. It was a timeless Sunday.
Upon leaving there were several containers of sauce lined up on the kitchen table. My bag was already packed full of all of the spoils of the day. I peeked in my sack, looked at my dad who was greedily eyeing the remaining containers, not so secretly hoping one of us would forget one behind. I asked my mother if the rest were accounted for and she gestured an assertive no. I reached over and grabbed one more container as my father’s glance followed me. He said, “Hey, you already have one in your bag.” I gave my my mother a chin-up nod and responded, ” This is your punishment for doubting my mother’s skills in the kitchen, such a transgression shall not go unpunished.” His dejected look told me that although his Sicilian gambit had resulted in getting a pot of Sunday Sauce, his lack of leftovers would be my mother’s checkmate.
I took my extra sauce and smiled, knowing that just like Sadie, my mother knew that in the end its love and patience and care that makes the sauce great and bonds us together… and that the first born son always has his mother’s back.
I spend an inordinate amount of time shopping for food. Funny enough, I have yet to be in the Bowery Whole Foods when the Top Chef contestants are whirling though the aisles, but I digress. I often get asked, “where do you shop?” The answer is fairly complex.
My response begins with another question, “what am I cooking?”. The basics come from one of four places; any generic supermarket, Whole Foods, Fairway and my local gourmet grocery store, Gracefully, on Avenue A. I would guess that anyone who takes cooking seriously in NY has a fairly similar list of places they visit for their staples and gourmet supplies. Substitute Zabar’s, Citarella or Dean and Deluca for any of the above.
Specialized items from specific cuisines usually need a bit more searching. I used to break into a cold sweat when I would see an ingredient included in an assignment that I had never heard of. This scenario can add hours, if not days, to prepping a job. I started keeping a list of places that I like, that carry items I struggled to find or that have certain exceptional ingredients.
For Indian and Middle Eastern spices and imported items I found a fantastic little shop on First Avenue called Dual Specialty Store (www.dualspecialty.com). They are located between 5th and 6th Streets. You will need to enter down from the sidewalk as it is technically in the basement. The array of items is staggering and on the off chance they don’t have what you need, they can order it.
Close proximity to Chinatown and it’s many unique shops and a familarity with the Flushing, Queens and Ridgefield, NJ Han Ah Reum Korean stores (www.hmart.com) and the amazing Mitsuwa Japanese Supermarket in Edgewater, NJ (www.mitsuwa.com/tenpo/newj/eindex.html) leaves me pretty well covered for all things Asian.
For meats and fish I have a few favorite places that I visit when there are items that are not supermarket available or need to be special cuts or rarities. For wild game (duck, wild boar, rabbit,wild turkey, etc.) I use Ottomanelli’s Meats (newyork.citysearch.com/profile/7117233/new_york_ny/ottomanelli_s_meat_market.html) on Bleeker. Now of course, Ottomanelli’s is a world famous butcher and anything you get there is great but in addition to that, their selection of game meats and wild fare is reliable, fresh and delicious. When I need a really well butchered roast or a cut of beef, lamb or veal that has to be exceptional I use Florence Meat Market (nymag.com/nymetro/food/features/9175/) on Jones St. Also, when I needed authentic Polish sausages for a Bigos dish last year, the J. Baczynsky East Village Meat Market (nymag.com/listings/stores/east_village_meat_market_and_deli/) was outstanding.
Whole Foods and Fairway Market in Red Hook, Brooklyn (www.fairwaymarket.com) have excellent seafood and I tend to largely get my fish there but, again, when it has to be something unique, exotic or just magnificent I really love the Lobster House (www.lobsterplace.com) located both at the Chelsea Market (www.chelseamarket.com) and on Bleeker St.
One of the finest resources I have found for locating farm fresh vegetables, seasonal produce and locally made breads and cheeses in the five boroughs is the Greenmarket organization. The Greenmarket organization coordinates all of the open air farmer’s markets in the NY area. They have a terrific website (www.cenyc.org) where you can locate a market near your home, their operational schedule, contributors, what produce is available seasonally and eco-friendly programs that they organize and participate in. I use this website constantly and keep the printed schedule and the map they hand out at the markets on my refrigerator.
I am very, very fussy about my bread. If I am not in my home town of Staten Island where I can go to Royal Crown Bakery (nymag.com/listings/stores/royal_crown_bakery) I like Amy’s Bread (www.amysbread.com), Parisi Bakery on Mott St. (newyork.citysearch.com/profile/32897564) and some of the loaves at Gourmet Garage (www.gourmetgarage.com) in SOHO. I am very confident that there are any number of other great bakeries in Manhattan but when it comes to bread I am a real creature of habit and tend to gravitate toward what I know.
So, there was a fairly long answer to a pretty simple question. Hopefully, when you are planning that next great meal and get stuck on that hard to find ingredient or it just has to be perfect, you are prepared. Now, I need to go to Whole Foods to stalk Top Chef contestants. Happy eating.
A making SundaySauce… reader made a plea to me this morning. She was distressed over the loss of Joe Ades. Mr. Ades is the fast talking Union Square Greenmarket vegetable peeler salesman who died yesterday at the age of 75. She thought a mention here on our site was fitting. I am more than happy to oblige as I have had many an encounter with Mr. Ades as I spend a fair amount of time at the market. Characters like Mr. Ades make New York more interesting and eccentric and he will be missed. Please follow this link to read more about the life and passing of Mr. Ades.
Photo Credit: Chad Schneider
I never really anticipated how having started a blog would require so much more than just enjoying to write about my food experiences. You have my sincere apologies if you were disappointed by the absence of making SundaySauce…but after a bit of a sabbatical I am ready to continue to share my thoughts on food and its place in our lives and with you all. Enough of that. Let’s talk food.
Since my last post, I have obviously not stopped eating, cooking or shooting food. I have instead been spending even more time in my kitchen and behind the camera. If you would really like to see what consumes most of my time you can visit the Recipes For Health column by Martha Shulman in the Health section of the NY Times website. This week’s installment is about cauliflower and all it’s health benefits. Follow this link and bookmark health.nytimes.com/pages/health/nutrition/index.html. There is a new recipe on the site every day and a new theme each week. The recipes are excellent, light and inexpensive to create. Most take less than 30 minutes to make and advanced prep instructions are always given. They are all cataloged and easy to find, print and email to friends. As most of us have indulged a bit too much over the past few months, Ms. Shulman gives us some really tasty options for our inevitable January diets.
So, I hope you are glad to see the return of the blog and that you will visit often. If you are not on the alert list please drop me an email at email@example.com. It’s nice to be back.
Many years ago, on Fourth of July weekend, I was staying at a bed and breakfast on Martha’s Vineyard. The inn was being run by a young couple not too much much older than I was. I became friendly with the young man who invited me and my girlfriend to a seafood dinner he was going to prepare. He was a trained chef and specialized in shellfish. He took me clamming, my first time doing so, and then to the market where we purchased lobsters.
While cooking, he showed me a neat trick where he stood the lobster on its front claws and face with its tail arching up over its head, sort of like lobster yoga. He stroked the lobster from the back of its neck down the back of its tail with his finger. The effect was that the lobster stayed in that position, almost in a trance, totally relaxed. He then whacked the zen lobster in the head with his chef’s knife before tossing it into the boiling pot. He told me that rather than chucking the squirming animal into the boiling pot alive and anticipating death that the de-stressed assassinated lobster yields a more tender meat. I am not sure if this actually worked, but to this day I have yet to have a more delicious lobster.
There was something else that I attributed to the flavor of that meal that was more easily replicated. Chef Hitman put a large piece of kielbasa in the pot of boiling water where the lobster met hit summer action movie ending. The sausage added a subtle but delicious flavor that complimented the tender (hypnotized) crustacean. Seventeen years later, I remember it vividly.
So this Fourth, if you are boiling up some lobsters, try the kielbasa in the pot even if you don’t know how to mesmerize a lobster before his execution.