My take on the David Brooks “I’ll have a side of white privilege” covfefe

New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote a piece on white privilege in which he pointed out all the ways American society is subtly tilted in favor of people who are already well off, so they and their offspring can become more so. As proof, he cited the discomfort that a friend “with only a high-school degree” experienced when they went out to lunch together.

The friend didn’t know what to make of sandwiches with names like “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata so this was presumably an Italian deli like we have in upstate New York. So they regrouped and “ate Mexican”. I’m hoping this was not Taco Bell but an actual Mexican café with foods and ingredients like tortas, cotija and ideally chapulines, which presumably would have been just as unfamiliar to Brooks as the Italian names were to his guest.

The missed opportunity here was for Brooks to introduce his friend to a new experience, describing the foods and perhaps equating them to the things she enjoys and was familiar with. (A torta, for example, is a lot like an Italian sub, but with mayo and avocado instead of oil and vinegar dressing.) Because sharing food is a prime gateway drug to opening one’s eyes to a different culture.

One could argue that white privilege generates a feeling of self-confidence that would make it easier for Brooks to try something new than for his friend, who’s probably had some rough experiences in her life in which she did not appear to fit in. That should be true, but in my experience it isn’t. Upper class white people I’ve known are often very uncurious and wary about unfamiliar foods and restaurant environments; their loss. While the folks you’ll find in a barbecue stand in Texas, spanning multiple ethnicities and I am pretty sure education and income levels, delight in discovering new tastes.

So, instead of asking your friend what they are comfortable eating like this critic suggests, tell them you’d like to share a dining experience that’s special to you, explain why you think they’ll like it, and listen carefully to any concerns. Then adjust the dining experience accordingly. You’ll both be better off as a result—especially if you are the person with the high school degree, broadening the horizon of a privileged but sheltered person with an experience they would never dare on their own.

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More nuggets and nibbles from the Summer 2017 Fancy Food Show

Mother in Laws Kimchi

Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi at Summer 2017 Fancy Food Show (that’s the actual MIL on the right)

Korean! That’s the food trend that is about to come into its own, if the many Korean-focused exhibitors at the Summer 2017 Fancy Food Show are any guide. We will finally replace sriracha with gochugang, stock our fridges with two or three varieties of gut-healthy kimchi, and rub our ribeye with custom spices to turn them into bulgogi. It’s about time.

Jerky was everywhere at the show, including an inspiring kelp version from Beyond The Shoreline. (They’re about to launch a kickstarter-like funding drive on Pieshell.com, which says it is “crowdfunding for food+beverage”). Also everywhere: cold-brewed coffee, including on-tap versions that are infused with nitrogen for an extra wake-up boost.

Cold Brewed Coffee

Cold Brewed Coffee was everywhere.

Fat Snax is a high fat cookie developed at the CommonWealth Kitchen in Brooklyn. They replace sugar and carbs with just more fat for “keto and paleo friends”. Tasted okay… but I think most commercial cookies are already pretty high fat. Developed at the same incubator, and possibly less healthy, is Boonbox. It starts with jerky then adds freeze-dried or dehydrated veggies and fruit for a complete meal you can eat in your cubbie or bunker. Tasted good, but I wanted more food right after.

On the completely unhealthy but delicious side, Laceys are a product I would definitely buy myself. If your problem is deciding between cookie and toffee… why choose? These guys offer “crisp toffee wafer cookies sandwiched with deliciously rich melted chocolate.”

Bursting Boba

Bursting Boba!

Perhaps, like me, you have been taking the bubble tea phenomenon for granted. But somebody has to provide the equipment and the training to make the little nuggets at the bottom of the drinks. That would be Goleadway.com. Most bubbles are made of chewy tapioca in a different flavor than the tea. Their new Bursting Boba is hollow, created through the alginate spherification technique, and bursts with flavor (“like caviar”) when you bite into it.

On a side note, I highly recommend the Sheraton Four Points on 40th St if you can get a good rate for a stay. It’s within walking distance of Javits (much faster to walk than travel on a shuttle bus) and has had a recent renovation. Across the street is the imposing, but not scary, Port Authority bus terminal and there are many places to eat wihin steps on 9th Ave. I paid $135, not including tax, which is a great rate for summer in NYC. Note, there is another Four Points nearby but stay at this one—much more interesting neighborhood.

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Healthy trends at the Summer 2017 Fancy Food Show

The floor at Summer 2017 Fancy Food Show (this photo encompasses about 2/3 of the top floor, and there’s another floor below)

It was easy to spot the predominant trend at last week’s Fancy Food Show in New York: aggressively healthy products as in paleo (minimally processed, in the tradition of our hunter/gatherer forebears), probiotic (promoting a healthy gut, usually through fermented ingredients), superfoods (rich in components to fight disease) or all of the above. Such items have appeared in years past but they didn’t taste very good and retailers didn’t seem eager to embrace them. This year, perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point.

Snow Monkey founderS with their dairy-free iced dessert

Snow Monkey is a good example. Founded by three female athletes who met at Boston University, it reinvents ice cream without the dairy, using pureed bananas and apple as a base to which goji berry or cacao are added. It’s packaged in pints that reminded me of Ben & Jerry’s. I told them it tasted like energy bars turned into ice cream. I liked it. They took the chance of renting an expensive booth on the main floor (most startups are in the basement) and were attracting lots of traffic.

Beetroot Ketchup

Desiree Parker of Ireland’s Foraging Fox, showing Beetroot Ketchup

Beets are a thing… in smoothies, as a nutritional powder, and especially in Foraging Fox Beetroot Ketchup from Ireland which is really, really good. (They’re looking for a US distributor. Above link goes to their importer.) And so are bees… not to eat per se but as bee pollen or honey products to drink, rub on your face or cook with. We love bees, so let’s support them so they don’t die out. And coconut… lots and lots of coconut made into ice cream, energy bars or just sold as coconut water.

Bees

Bees were everywhere at Summer 2017 Fancy Food Show

Water is, by the way, the fastest growing category according to analysis presented by Gary Lockwood from Mintel. And there was lots of it on hand, including Nothing water from Norway that… tastes like nothing, which is their main selling point. Mintel says local, non-GMO and eco-friendly are the three attributes consumers say they want most in their foods. Organic and fair trade are not on the list, but maybe it’s because people think those will come naturally if a food has the other desired characteristics.

Nothing Water

Nothing Water

And gluten-free? Consumers didn’t mention it in their top five, which may be a problem because producers surveyed said gluten-free would continue to be a growing category. Can we hope a shakeout is finally coming? I respect people with true celiac concerns, but also spot pandering in the many “grain free” products at the show. Some of these truly were different (like Siete tortilla chips, made with cassava and coconut flour) but others contained flaxseed and chia which are seeds, i.e. grains, like wheat.

On a side note, as a baker I was irritated by the many “ancient grains” products which don’t specify exactly which “ancient grains” are included. To me, this concept describes einkorn, emmer and other (gluten-containing) grains which are wheat in its ancestral form, before genetic manipulation began. But flaxseeds and oats are often included in the mix. Consumers think they’re getting something that doesn’t really exist.

Next time, a few micro-trends and discoveries that don’t relate directly to heath.

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Recipe: 4th of July Hamburger

4th of July Burger

4th of July burger with cheese between two patties

Burnt My Fingers has never published a hamburger recipe, because we tend to improvise with what is on hand and tweak as we go. But this 4th of July hamburger demonstrates a couple of basic concepts, and it’s delicious. First, onion is incorporated into the burger grind along with a hearty dose of umami so the meat is crazy good before you add the first condiment. Second, I experimented with my fellow blogger Daniel B’s predilection to serve a double cheeseburger with the cheese melted between the two patties. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Makes 4 individual patties or two double cheeseburgers.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef, 85% lean preferred*
2 T Toné or other dried onion**
2 T beer or water**
1 T Worcestershire or fish sauce
1 t salt
½ t pepper
Panko, breadcrumbs or beaten egg as a binding component (if needed)
¼ lb cheddar cheese, sliced to fit the burger

Method: in a bowl, soak the dried onion in beer or water for 10 minutes or longer. Add other ingredients, except the binding component, and thoroughly mix with your hands. If the meat is very lean it may be crumbly; if so add breadcrumbs, panko or beaten egg to bind it. Separate into four balls and mash each into a 6 inch patty. Fry in a cast iron pan for a few minutes until bottom has shrunk and released a good amount of juice; flip and do the same with the other side. When the meat has cooked down and is crispy, add the cheese slices on two of the patties and cover with the other two patties***. Cover the pan and cook a couple more minutes till the cheese is thoroughly melted and oozing out the sides. Serve immediately on toasted bun with your favorite condiments.

*The fat content makes a big difference. 90% is too lean and tends to fall apart; 80% is greasy and gets all over your hands. 85% is the way to go.
**If dried onions aren’t available, substitute 1 medium onion and chop it VERY fine so the bits don’t fall out of the burger as it is cooking.
***Daniel claims the melted cheese between the fatty patties is a superb tasting experience, but to me it throws off the meat/vegetable balance. I prefer a single cheeseburger with the works. You decide for yourself.

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Edwards Surryano ham… it’s back (almost)!

Edwards Surryano Ham

Edwards’ Keith Roberts with test-run leg of Surryano ham

Tucked away in the regional food aisles of the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show was something mighty exciting: an authentic leg of Surryano ham from Edwards Smokehouse of Virginia. As I’ve mentioned previously, Edwards’ main smokehouse burned down and has been rebuilt, but due to a self-mandated 400-day curing time the Surryano (as in, Serrano-style hams from Surry, VA) won’t be available for a few more months.

However, national wholesale sales manager Keith Roberts informed me they’ve been quietly QA’ing the new smokehouse for several months and he felt the new product was close enough that he could bring it to the show for select tasting. (The samples were tucked away behind the counter; the ones in the photo are a less-aged ham.) What did I think? I chewed a morsel and my eyes rolled back in my head. It had the perfect balance of salt and smoke but, beyond that, it was incredibly tender like a fine-grained filet mignon. How the f* did they achieve that? I now understand why Surryanos cost far more than other hams and will scheme to get some when I can.

Edwards Meets Fermin

Roberts greets a competitor from Jamon Fermin in the Iberico region of Spain.

Roberts and I proceeded to some ham talk in which he informed me they had recently conducted a blind tasting for chefs and other stakeholders, with their hams and those from a number of local and international competitors, and it was striking how many hams could be immediately identified on the palate. There was Benton’s from Arkansas, which makes no secret of its aggressive smoking (by the way, these folks did a beautiful job of making things right for our reader who had an issue with her ham) and Nancy Newcomb from Kentucky, a name new to me I want to investigate.

As we talked we were joined by a woman who listened for awhile and finally said she had to identify herself because was a competitor, a partner in Fermin Serrano hams in Spain. I left the two of them to plot the takeover of the world with flavorful hams. If all goes well, and I suspect it will, Surryanos will be available in time for 2017 holiday ordering.

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The best exhibitor at the Fancy Food Show has a local (Albany) connection

Food Matters Agin

Food Matters Again booth at Summer 2017 Fancy Food Show

I just got back from the Summer Fancy Food Show at NYC’s Javits Convention Center. I go to this show to see what’s new and keep up with trends in the food industry, but I also take personal pleasure in grabbing a few nibbles here and there. A lot of very, very high quality cheese and charcuterie was on offer, which invited comparative tasting across several favorite categories. And the winner, across the board, was a Brooklyn importer and distributor called Food Matters Again.

Sacre Bleu! Eric turned me on to this astonishing mountain of bleu but the name is covered by the sign holder!

Cheese Porn

Cheese Porn at Food Matters Again booth (if you click through to the higher rez version then blow it up you can read most of the labels.

According to the minimal info currently available (the website is under construction), FMA was founded by a long time cheese monger and recently added cured American meats. The selection and affinage was unbelievable… magnificent funky specimens, perfectly aged, presented at the peak of ripeness. My personal favorite was a 10-month Gourmino (love anything Gourmino) Schallenberger, but I could have stayed there gobbling one toenail-tasting tidbit after another till they dragged me out.

And about that local connection: roaming the booth was none other than Cheese Traveler’s Eric Paul. As it turns out, Eric already sells many of these cheeses in his shop and is about to become a local distributor in the Capital District. He doesn’t (currently) have the Schallenberger, but he guided me to a similar-tasting Gruyere d’Alpage which comes from the highest mountains in Switzerland where there is less grazing traffic so the grass grows especially lush and sweet.

Eric Paul Food Matters Again

Eric Paul at FMA booth at 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show

Stay tuned for more reports from the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show.

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Recipe: Best-Way Texas Caviar

Texas Caviar

Texas Caviar

Cue angels singing. “Texas Caviar” is a bean salad featuring black eye peas doused in vinaigrette. The original was invented by Helen Corbett, the James Beard of Texas, and popularized at the legendary Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room. Today there are infinite recipe variations, but I will modestly proclaim this is the best. It’s based on our excellent KFC bean salad but with a couple of regional twists. Serves 12.

3 c cooked black eye peas (they should be cooked until just tender, not falling apart)
½ c chopped green/yellow pepper
1 finely chopped jalapeno with seeds and pith removed, about 1 T
3/4 c chopped onion, red preferred
3/4 c chopped celery
¼ c pimento or roasted red pepper, finely chopped (optional; this is for appearance, not taste)
6 T cider vinegar
6 T salad oil
3 T sorghum (highly recommended), honey or maple syrup
1 T fish sauce (use Worcestershire if you don’t have fish sauce)
1 ½ t salt
½ t black pepper
1 clove chopped garlic

Method: combine vinegar, oil, sorghum, fish sauce and salt and pepper in a serving bowl; whisk until emulsified. Mix in all other ingredients and toss to evenly distribute the dressing. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

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Father’s Day sausage: Rolf’s Pork Store vs. Chester’s Smokehouse

Rolf’s sausages, clockwise from upper left: teawurst, head cheese, tongue sausage, smoked liverwurst

Residents of New York’s Capital District are fortunate to have access to several eastern European-style delis. Two of the best-known are Rolf’s Pork Store in Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood and Chester’s Smokehouse near Honest Weight. I generally stop at the latter because of my traffic patterns, but for a Father’s Day sausage treat I decided to put together a deli platter with meats from both. I also got comparative tubs of German Potato Salad to serve with the Vincent’s Cole Slaw and KFC Three-Bean Salad we were making at home.

German potato salads. Chester’s is at left.

A taste test of the potato salads gave a slight edge to Rolf’s because of the extra amount of gravy to slurp up. The flavors were very close and the main difference was the house-cured bacon used by each. That’s the only head-to-head comparison. At Rolf’s I got teawurst, smoked liverwurst, head cheese and tongue sausage; Chester contributed his veal loaf, Westphalian ham and a couple of cheeses. The flavor profile of Chester’s gravitates to warm pickling spices like mace, clove and bay leaves; at Rolf’s it’s paprika.

Dads Day Table

The Father’s Day table, ready for action.

The winner was definitely our stomachs, till the post meal lethargy set in. Fortunately it was a perfect day for a hike in Spa Park to work it off, followed by a swim. Summer is good in Saratoga, at least until the next deluge hits.

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Recipe: Cuban-Style Black Beans

Cuban Black Beans

Cuban-style black beans

Last time I made these I used the Instant Pot and they were ready in under an hour. Convenient, but I prefer to cook on the stovetop because I can regulate the amount of water. Depending on how much water you use, these Cuban-style black beans could be almost dry (not recommended), nice and saucy or even a black bean soup (for that, remove a good amount of beans at some point, purée, then return to soup). Serves 4.

Ingredients:
1 c dried black beans
Water
4 bay leaves
3 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ onion, peeled
½ t dried oregano
¼ c chopped green pepper
1 t salt

Cubano Sandwich

My Cuban prep was inspired by this Cubano sandwich recipe, which I found on ChefSteps.

Method: soak the beans overnight in a generous amount of water, or else bring them to the boil, then turn off and let set an hour or more. After soaking, add bay leaves, onion and garlic and 1 T olive oil and cook over low heat until very tender. Remove bay leaves, onion and garlic; add 2 T olive oil, salt and chopped green pepper and cook a little longer. Adjust seasoning and serve with/over white rice. Garnish with lemon slices, if you like.

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Dominic Colose and the restaurant alternative

Yawning Duck Paella

Chef Dominic Colose at work on paella

The other night I tried the new Mediterranean menu from Dominic and Jennifer Colose of Yawning Duck. Flavors were bright, complementary and perfect for summer. But Chef Colose, recently of Chez Nous in Schenectady and before that the Wine Bar in Saratoga, is not offering this meal in a restaurant setting. It’s only available through catering or one of Yawning Duck’s special projects.

Colose left the restaurant business for personal and family reasons, as he explained in his blog. But his timing may be fortuitous. Across the U.S., same-store restaurant sales were down 2.4% in 2016, even worse at “casual dining” places like Applebee’s. As usual, the slump was blamed on millennials, who may not have the time or inclination to pay for sit-down service when they can get a quality “fast casual” meal at Chipotle for a fraction of the price.

Yawning Duck Sardines

Sardines en escabeche

To me, paying to eat someone else’s cooking is a price/value decision. It’s been a while since I dined at Applebee’s (the one in my town closed some time ago) and I mainly went for the salad bar, which came with a budget lunch entrée (a hamburger as I recall). You’re not going to find me spending a good chunk of my evening eating a formulaic meal served by indifferent staff and paying an upcharge for the privilege.

Yawning Duck’s catering is a restaurant alternative. Chef Colose stressed to me that “personalization” will be the factor that sets him apart as a caterer. If you host an event, you will have the food you want and you will be happy and your guests will be satisfied. Not having an event? Then come to one of their biweekly wine dinners or a pop-up like this one, happening Saturday June 17 at Rare Form Brewing in Troy.

I also like the idea of the “fast fine” concept which Wall Street Journal reporter Jane Black wrote about the other day. The food is at a fine dining level, but you order at a counter and pick it up when it’s ready. This leads to lower prices because there are fewer staff. Her example was Made Nice in Manhattan, where the chefs are serving dishes developed at Eleven Madison. Jane, a millennial, liked it a lot. Her father resented the lack of service. I may check it out when I’m in NYC for the Fancy Food Show in a couple of weeks.

Yawning Duck Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil Cake

Back to Yawning Duck, their tapas-style menu works really well for catering because most dishes can be enjoyed hot, at room temperature or slightly cooled. I tried roasted artichokes, sardines in a mild escabeche, potato and octopus salad as well as standbys like paella (with snails!) and gazpacho. My favorite items were a zucchini salad with mint and a hearty olive oil cake with dried cherries and pistachios. Definitely ask for these two if you engage the Duck. (The name came from a lazy quacker which joined them one day when Dominic and Jennifer were having a picnic in Congress Park, and seemed to embody an ideal attitude toward life.)

Serendipity Arts Studio

Yawning Duck will host wine dinners for 12 at this table in Serendipity Art Studio. Price per person estimated $75-$125 including wine pairings.

Serendipity Arts Studio, where the preview was held and where Yawning Duck will host biweekly wine dinners, provides hands-on cooking classes which are geared to your needs and interests—including children’s classes and special needs classes. Chef Colose will be teaching here among his other balls in the air. The kitchen and prep area is generous but contains mostly the same equipment you’d find in a home kitchen, which makes it easier to replicate your findings.

Soon it will be tourist season in Saratoga, and throngs will have a long wait for mediocre food served by temporary help. It’s a bubble; after Labor Day more than one of the new places is likely to close. I predict that Yawning Duck will endure.

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