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There’s a certain type of person who’ll go to great lengths to obtain perfection in the kitchen. Driven. Stubborn. And maybe just a little bit insane.
Two recent NPR stories demonstrate this amply, particularly Sunday’s All Things Considered piece on Jeff Varasano, the guy who showed a nation of home-pizza bakers how to break their ovens in the pursuit of a good pie. There was, of course, the famous snipping off of the self-cleaning-oven safety lock with garden shears, documented on Varasano’s blog. And then there were these incidents: “a drop of sauce once touched the oven’s glass window. The glass was so hot the cool drop of sauce caused it to explode. Another time, a clam he used for a pizza topping fell off the dough, ignited and burned a hole straight through the bottom of the oven.” Oh, by the way, this was during a dinner party. Varasano says he’s on a “first-name basis” with his oven repair guy.
The second story is from Weekend Edition and documents the obsessively accurate replica of Julia Child’s kitchen (pictured) at Washington DC’s National Museum of American History. Child used this kitchen, designed by her husband, Paul, to film three of her television shows, and donated it to the Smithsonian Institution when she moved from Massachusetts to California:
“The museum’s exhibit is called ‘Bon Appetit’ and includes Child’s beloved Garland restaurant range, cabinets in cool greens and blues, a dime-store dish drainer and her black KitchenAid refrigerator complete with magnets. They even brought her junk drawer.
“In its new location, the 14-by-20-foot kitchen appears exactly as it was the day museum staff took it apart in Cambridge — down to the jar of Skippy peanut butter on the countertop.”
Rachael Ray has a new line of cookware out with a wince-worthy name: “Oven Lovin’.” Still, the great big silicone-tipped handles on this nonstick loaf pan got our attention. A surprising number of loaf pans have teensy handles or are straight-sided, and are tough to fumble out of the oven with an Ove Glove. This one looks solid, grippy, and dependable for regular bakers of quick breads and coffee cakes.
A portion of the proceeds from the sales of the, ahem, Oven Lovin’ bakeware go to Rachael Ray’s kids-n-food charity, Yum-o! Yes, the name has an exclamation point, dear sweet merciful Jesus.
Rachael Ray Oven Lovin’ Loaf Pan, $14.95
That unseasonable cloud over the farmers’ markets these days is a devastating blight that threatens to wipe out tomatoes and potatoes across the Northeast. “I’ve been talking with the farmers,” says ChefJune, “and the situation is bleak for all of them. We’re going to have to be happy with cauliflower instead of tomatoes, and Jerusalem artichokes for mash and gratin rather than potatoes.”
For shoppers, though, the summer is far from a total loss. At the Union Square Greenmarket, the city’s largest, Norwich Meadows Farm has been selling amazingly good Middle Eastern cucumbers, ESNY says. Peaches and green beans from this farm in Chenango County have also been at peak flavor, according to ChefJune.
flaca scored some puntarella the other day from one of the Union Square farmers, along with a recipe for this Italian chicory: Clean the stalks, cut them into matchstick slices, crisp them in ice water, then dress them with anchovy vinaigrette. “It was absolutely delicious and I recommend it to everyone.”
Fruit-lover scrittrice has been feasting on wild blueberries, Tristar strawberries, and black raspberries from Greenmarket vendor Berried Treasures in Delaware County. windycity loves the sweet, fragrant peaches from Terhune Orchards in Dutchess County (eat them right away—“they don’t last for very long”). For fruit goodness by the jar, AlanMa recommends jams and jellies from Beth’s Farm Kitchen, especially sour cherry, strawberry-rhubarb, and triple marmalade (orange, lemon, grapefruit).
Before you hit Union Square, check out Lucy Wollin’s Greenmarket blog for the recent highlights. And kathryn suggests you get there before 10 a.m. to avoid the heat and the crowds. But whenever you can go, go. “We need to support our farmers all we can,” ChefJune urges.
Union Square Greenmarket [Union Square]
Broadway and E. 17th Street, Manhattan
A new entry in New York’s fleet of mobile eateries is Schnitzel & Things, which fries up Austrian-inspired meat and fish cutlets to order. Hounds who’ve caught up with this truck on its rounds around Brooklyn and Manhattan report thin, crisp, deftly fried chicken and cod (the other schnitzel option is pork). Beyond schnitzel, billhill has sampled a first-rate bratwurst sandwich with ’kraut.
bergengirl says her excellent chicken schnitzel got a lift from lemon juice and Sriracha mayonnaise, a not-so-Austrian addition heartily endorsed by the guys in the truck. This $9 platter was a generous meal that could almost have fed two, she adds. missmodular endorses the cod schnitzel and a delicious potato salad with scallions. bigjeff didn’t do so well with other side dishes; he complains of greasy, underflavored ’kraut and vegetable salads. His take-home lesson: “if it’s a schnitzel truck, just stick with the schnitzel.”
Schnitzel & Things [Citywide]
Board Link: Schnitzel truck spotted in Cobble Hill
Few statements have the marketing allure of “Banned in Alabama”; in a tiny little three-word nutshell, it says: “Hey! A bunch of intolerant rednecks can’t handle this, so you just know that it’s gotta be cool!”
So it goes with the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board telling stores and restaurants in the state to stop serving Cycles Gladiator wine because of the offensive label. The board cites nudity as its justification. But the truly shocking thing about the art nouveau label is how completely innocuous it is; if you’ve ever been to a museum and seen, well, anything even vaguely related to the human form, you’d write this off as charming but ultimately forgettable. The side boob and rear endage involved would garner a PG-13 from Hollywood.
The AP reports: “Bill Leigon, president of Hahn Family Wines in Soledad, Calif., said Thursday that visits to the company’s Web site have increased tenfold since news of the ban broke late last week, and callers from across the country have been asking where they can buy the wine.
“Because of the interest, he’s developing store displays that say ‘Banned in Bama’ and ‘Taste What They Can’t Have in Alabama.’”
The lamentable dearth of dosas around Grand Central is a thing of the past, scary_dog reports. Grill 44, a shape-shifting deli that recently transformed from Middle Eastern to Indian, rolls a fine one, he says: a crisp, tasty crêpe enclosing a delicious potato-onion masala. The cilantro and coconut chutneys and sambar that come on the side are “perfection,” scary_dog adds.
Grill 44 [Midtown East]
160 E. 44th Street (between Third and Lexington avenues), Manhattan
Board Link: Dosas near Grand Central!!
The “Name Our Holes” biscuit holes ad campaign may be backfiring for the Hardee’s chain of restaurants. While no doubt highly effective in communicating the company’s core values to backward-hat-wearing fraternity initiates and sports hooligans, the a-holes/b-holes/bisticles discussion seems to have annoyed just about everyone else.
That includes Hardee’s largest franchisee, Ben Mayo Boddie, who runs 350 of the restaurants. Slate runs down the two sides of the story (put briefly: “We have to shock people in order to sell food” and “Good Lord, you’re destroying our brand”).
There's more than one way to go. READ MORE
The fruity, dry, crisp, pleasantly-sour kriek ale from Cascade Brewing knocks the socks off that Lindemans you’ve been drinking. It’s reddish-copper, and tastes pleasantly of cherries without being sweet. There are very few krieks made in the States, which makes it even more special. This one starts out as a Belgian Flanders-style red ale, then gets refermented with fresh whole Northwest cherries and aged six months in French oak wine barrels. It might be hard to find retail, but going to Cascade’s brewpub sounds fun: It serves meat loaf and has magic shows once a week.
Cascade Kriek, $15.99