Category Archives: NYC

MexicAsian Pico de Gallo

I’ve been hit by an attack of laziness since finals ended.  After pulling three all nighters, sifting through thousands of pages of research, writing 40 pages, completing an exam and working at baked through all of it, I kind of feel like I’m allowed to be a couch potato.  I was really looking forward to vegging out at my parents’ house in Connecticut, drinking lots of tea and spending time with the friends I grew up with—people I don’t see all that often but feel like family.  I’d also see my actual family—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and lots of cousins.  Then after Christmas, I’d head out for the highlight of my vacation: a return to South Africa, where it’s hot and summery right now, and more friends, family and good food await.

Well, I got to see some of my extended family, and some friends as well.  I had an amazing Christmas Eve dinner at Ferme, a restaurant where my friend Ian is the sous chef.  But when the weather reports confirmed that we were going to get hit hard with the blizzard, I packed up my bags, skipped my big family Christmas and headed down early to NYC to avoid getting snowed in.  And I’ve been here since then, holed up in a hotel room in Brooklyn.  I did venture out into the snow yesterday with Jing, grabbing a quick bite to eat and visiting some of my favorite Brooklyn spots from my old neighborhood (specifically Café Pedlar and Pacific Green Gourmet) and some new spots (Brooklyn Fare, which is not quite what I expected but is a welcome addition to the neighborhood anyway).  We retreated, though, when the wind gusted to 50 mph and it approached full-on whiteout conditions.   I’d never seen snow this bad before, and it didn’t bode well for my flight.  My initial departure was delayed, giving me a two-day holiday in Amsterdam before I’d be able to get on the next flight to Cape Town.  Then that flight was cancelled, and an alternate flight was found that would depart the same night and keep my Amsterdam mini-break intact.  When that was cancelled, the next best option was for me to fly out of Boston on Wednesday, two days after I was supposed to leave and a few hundred miles away from where I’m sitting right now.  Tomorrow I’m packing up again, heading back to Connecticut and then up to Boston.  So much travelling!  In the meantime, though, I’m in my hotel room, everything around me closed, all of my books read, and going slightly crazy from lack of things to do.  Not that I don’t love writing here at POR, but it’s been a bit more brain power than I’ve felt like exerting over the past few days … until now, because I’m out of options to distract myself (and rapidly exhausting even this one. Damn).

I give you, then, tomatillo and fuyu pico de gallo.  Inspired by a craving for pico but a genuine fear of winter tomatoes, I decided to use some other ingredients that aren’t quite as unappealing during the colder months: fuyu, which are actually in season now, and tomatillos … whose growing habits I know absolutely nothing about but always seem to be around the grocery store.  Pictures are scant because I made this at night when the lighting is very bad, but also because I didn’t think I’d post about this until I served it with frijoles negros, brown rice and avo the next day for lunch and was surprised by how nice it looked and tasted.  You could just as easily do this with shredded chicken, pork, shrimp (other meats will be too intense for the delicate flavors of pico and fuyu), or even tortilla chips, but I was in need of an actual meal, feeling lazy (do we sense a pattern here?) and meat averse.  I was so lazy I didn’t even cook my own rice, instead buying the frozen packets from Trader Joe’s, which I have to say are phenomenal.  The warm beans and rice, plus the heat from cayenne pepper, are all welcome in the cold, but the bright notes of citrus and fuyu add a clean, fresh element to the meal that helps to alleviate the short, grey days without making you feel weighed down.

Well, I’ve stretched out this post just as long as it’s going to go before boring all of you to death.  I promise, PROMISE that photographs of food and drink from South Africa are forthcoming—we have a picnic lined up at Boschendal that is definitely worth writing about, and I’m not lugging my camera and laptop halfway around the world and back again for nothing. Until then, wish me safe, on-time, hassle-free travels—and the same to you!

***

Tomatillo-Fuyu Pico de Gallo

4 medium sized ripe fuyu persimmons, diced

4 ripe tomatillo, diced

1 medium shallot, diced

juice of 1-2 limes (fresh)

approx 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (could also use fresh chilies/jalapeños but I didn’t have any)

salt to taste

 

Mix all ingredients together.  Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary.

I served mine over warm brown rice and frijoles negros, with ¼ chopped fresh avo.

 

To Market, To Market, Pt II

I love working morning shifts.  M Street is loud and chaotic during the day with tourists and it being the favored driving route of ambulances, fire trucks and delivery vehicles.  But at 5:30 or so when I head off to work, it’s quiet.  There are a few cars out but virtually no pedestrians, and you can hear the wheels of the few bicyclists whirring as they fly past you.  5:30 am is also awash with that rich blue light; you know the sun is there but it hasn’t quite peeked its head over the horizon just yet.  Then the sun rises in gold, violet and red, and the light shifts from it’s voluptuous blue to a shade that’s a bit starker, but no less pleasant.

Fast forward about 9 hours.  The chaos and energy of the morning (plus access to a really excellent espresso machine) has faded and I sit down and realize that I am really, REALLY tired.  This is not helped by the fact that I wake up periodically during the middle of the night in a panic, worried that my alarm hasn’t gone off.  Although I am feeling pretty delirious at the moment having lived through exactly what I just described, I’m determined to get this New Amsterdam Market post completed.  Today.  I think I’ve exhausted my descriptive abilities, so we’re going to do a mostly visually inspired tour of the market, which I will embellish as needed.  Here we go …

visual appeal

Everything at the market is visually beautiful.  In addition to whatever food is for sale, all of the vendors have these sort of rough/polished booths that, visually at any rate, really bring the market together into a cohesive whole.  I like to call this aesthetic “Brooklyn Rustic” because it reminds me of a lot of my favorite restaurants and shops there (including, but not limited to, Cafe Pedlar in my old neighborhood of Cobble Hill).  The lines and palette are simple and soothing, utilizing the industrial aesthetic of a city (note the metal) combined with materials like raw wood.

mushrooms

Among the (few) produce stands was one vendor selling rich, meaty mushrooms.  One thing I don’t understand is a dislike of mushrooms. To me, everything about them is appealing; their soft/crunchy/chewy texture, their rich taste, their versatility when cooking.  They’re also gorgeous to look at, too.  Something about their striated colors reminds me of the Painted Desert.

I can practically feel my mouth pucker as I look at these.

Another vendor was offering early-in-the-season apples. Tart and firm, these apples would be delicious on their own, with cheddar, or maybe baked into a galette …

duck, duck, mousse.

Next was a seriously yummy duck pâté (I forgot to write down the name of the vendor).  I’ve gone from being a serious vegetarian to being seriously interested in consuming everything animal related, but this particular flavor combination was very approachable and appealing for those who don’t always like the richness of pâté.

In the midst of this initial phase of exploring, it had been lightly drizzling.  Then suddenly, it started to pour.  The Brooklyn Bridge went from looking like this:

dry.

To this:

soggy.

Inches of water were pouring down some of the aisles between vendors, literally rushing over the bare toes of people who weren’t paying attention to where they walked.  But since the market itself was covered, no one was exactly going to leave.  Jing and I waded through one of the soggier aisles to sample Ruis bread, a sour Finnish rye flat round bread.  Although I don’t usually like sourdoughs, I am never one to say no to a sample, especially when that sample comes with cheddar and bright green cucumber.

finnish sammie.

I wasn’t disappointed, so I left with two (which I then prepared and ate exactly the way I tried it at the market).

although the bread looks hard, it's actually very soft and moist.

Next came Mast Brothers Chocolate, of infamous video fame.  These guys are obsessed with chocolate, and I do mean obsessed.  They bring their cocoa beans in by boat.  Sailboat.  They sort through their beans individually, and use a unique machine designed by a NASA engineer to separate the hulls from the beans (really, just watch the video).  And just look at the pretty, pretty packaging, designed by the girlfriend of one of the brothers and then carefully wrapped around each bar by hand.  Actually, by hand defines how the Mast Brothers do everything.  A trio of these were picked up for my dad’s birthday present.

mast bros.

It was still pouring buckets, with everyone taking shelter.  Jing pointed out this bicyclist trying (in vain) to stay dry across the street.  At least we were stuck where the food was …

waiting it out.

We dawdled around some more, looking at poached fruits stewed with cinnamon and other warm spices:

frutas and cinnamon.

and a creamy soft goats cheese hanging out in oil and bright green herbs:

chevre and green.

We stopped at Narragansett Creamery, where they were sampling ricotta with blueberries and honey.  It was so delicious and fresh tasting that I had to stop and talk to them, which turned into a huge conversation about where they should distribute in Mystic (where my family now lives part-time, and only a stone’s throw from Narragansett, RI).  These lovely people gave me a big tub of their lovelier cheese as thanks, which I baked into my not-a-cake-birthday-cake.

ricotta, honey and blueberries.

At this point, the rain had mostly abated and Jing and I fled the market, full of food and good conversations with people as passionate about making quality products as we are about eating them.  We may have come out on the other side a bit soggier than when we started, but all in all, there wasn’t a better way to spend a Sunday.

To Market, To Market

This past Sunday was the best I’ve had in a long while.  Sure, it was humid and my hair very closely resembled something like an electrocuted poodle, but I spent my whole afternoon wandering around the New Amsterdam Market in New York (fave city) with Jing (fave person, and also a fellow food addict).

The New Amsterdam market, located in the old Fulton Fish Market space in southern Manhattan, happens only once a month.  The highly curated market is strictly food based and focuses more upon local, artisanal producers, though there are a few farms represented there as well.  It’s complemented by the weekly Fulton Farm Stalls that run along South Street.

We started off at the farm stalls before diving into the craziness of the market.  Our first stop was at Spices and Tease, a (surprise surprise) tea and spice vendor.  Dozens of spices and unique tea blends were spread out in simple metal mixing bowls, with the colors lending some much needed vibrancy to the very grey day we had.

Some of the unique spice mixes for sale at Spices and Tease.

My stomach was growling loud enough to attract the attention of people near us, though, so I moved along and picked up some zucchini parmesan bread from the bakery stall next door.

Delicious.

It was soft, delightfully light and was delicately flavored, rather than overwhelmed, by tangy, salty parm.  The zucchini also added a delectable moisture, making the bread almost buttery.

Next came Guerrilla Ice Cream, and the super friendly owners Ori and Ethan.  As it turned out we got there before the ice cream did, so Jing and I camped out in front of the stand for about 15 minutes and chatted with Ori.  We learned a lot; Ori works in advertising by day while Ethan is a chef, formerly of Allen & Delancey.  The guys make their ice cream one quart at a time (so there are no stabilizers, preservatives, or other weird and unpronounceable things you find in store bought brands) and have crazy unique flavors with complementing toppings that they switch up on a near-daily basis.

The flavor offerings for the day ... mine was off-menu.

The flavors –and their quirky, smart names– are inspired by different revolutionary movements from around the world, as is their philanthropic bent (see sign above).  I had been told that there might be sticky rice ice cream with a soy-caramel sauce (hence the determination to be first in line), but it sold out the day before.  Instead I “settled” for creamy cappuccino ice cream lightly flavored with cinnamon and topped with walnuts and perfectly chewy raisins (I almost skipped the raisins but Ethan insisted that I’d like them, and he was oh so right).

If only raisins were always this enjoyable ...

Jing had a rich dark chocolate ice cream cut with tangy port wine undertones, topped with cashews and slices of frozen banana that were bruléed with brown sugar right before our eyes.

nom.

The flavors of ice cream were amazing, but what really won me over was the combination of textures.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I get cravings for textures of certain foods (kookaburra licorice and soft chocolate chip cookies with fat and slightly firm chocolate chunks being two of my top vices).  Regular ice cream just melts away into liquid in your mouth, and chocolate chunks, hunks of cookie dough or anything else added into the mix beforehand gets frozen into hard blocks that could crack a tooth.   The creamy mouth feel of Guerrilla was made even better against the soft crunch of walnuts, the pull of chewy raisins, the delicate crackle of caramelized sugar giving way to the resistance of lightly thawed banana.  And of course, it didn’t hurt that the guys didn’t get the least bit annoyed with us when we took a good five minutes (after our initial 15 minutes of stalking) to make flavor decisions. PS, they’re cute too.

Next came Sweet Tallulah, a lovely purveyor of equally lovely baked goods.  My eye was particularly drawn to a strawberry oat bread and her prettily packaged mixes (did I ever tell you I’m a sucker for packaging?).

real purdy.

Tallulah makes and designs all of the packaging herself and will change her recipes as needed based upon what looks best at the markets, guaranteeing top-notch flavors each time.  We promised to come back later to purchase the strawberry bread, but it sold out … until next time Tallulah!

Our last visit before heading into the market itself was The Amazing Real Live Food Co where, if I had been wearing socks, they would surely have been knocked off by the Charousse.  It’s kind of like the cheese equivalent of a Dragon Roll; inside you get a cultured, semi-soft farmer’s cheese, which is then smothered in ooey-gooey Camembert and neatly snuggled inside a bitter ash rind.

le Charousse.

If I didn’t have an epic bus journey back to DC, I would have bought one under the logic that it contains live bacterial cultures which are definitely good for me.  Unlike the cheese itself, which in more than moderate portions (self-control is not one of my strong points) is definitely not.  Especially when served on top of crunchy-soft fresh baguette with a little drizzle of honey and maybe some crumbled walnuts …?

Seeing as this post is about to rival Tolstoy for length, I’ll save the market itself for another post.  I also have one extra-special stop at the Farm Stalls waiting in the wings for its very own, very yummy post … so check back in soon!