Quick! Eat Here!

One of my favorite things in the world is a solid food market. I’m not talking about your everyday genteel farmer’s market, but a cheap assortment of street food with individual stalls that represent cuisines from around the world.

Until October 19th, you can experience a taste of New York’s best restaurants at affordable prices at Madison Square Eats in Madison Square Park’s Worth Square. Over 25 vendors have gathered in the square to offer a sampling of their menus at prices that typically range from $9-$16 ($16 for the Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Lobster Roll) for lunch entrees.
On a recent trip, I sampled the vegetable hummus wrap (not the technical name, but that’s essentially what it was) from Ilili. The pita was great but the inside was a bit dry in taste and flavor. One of my favorite things about Mediterranean food is the oozing of hummus and tahini which was nonexistent in this wrap. I hear the pressed chicken sandwich is the way to go at Ilili.

Vegetable Wrap at Ilili
Madison Square Eats

Despite the lackluster showing from Ilili, you can’t leave Madison Square eats without sampling the “balls” from Brooklyn’s Arancini Bros.  outpost. . You can’t do wrong with a fried risotto ball. They have interesting flavor combinations like white bean and escarole, nutella and banana, butternut squash and pine nuts, and what’s apparently their best- buffalo chicken and blue cheese. Below is a picture of the butternut squash and pine nut ball. Delicious!

Butternut Squash and Pine Nut Risotto Ball
Madison Square Eats

A lobster roll from the Red Hook Lobster Pound’s outpost is always a sure thing. Below is a picture from a visit to their location in Red Hook a couple of weeks ago.

Red Hook Lobster Pound
“Maine Style”

Please leave suggestion for other stalls to check out at Madison Square Eats in the comments below!

The Music Festival Food Revolution

Long gone are the days of corn dogs, funnel cakes, and wheat thin samples (I still loved you, Bonnaroo ’10) at summer music festivals. Thanks to the artisan food revolution that has taken shape over the past few years, food is now considered by many to be as much of an art form as music. Many of the summer 2012 music festival websites feature food vendors right alongside the musical artists, almost as if they were co-headliners of the event. Just last month, Googa Mooga was held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and attracted over 10,000 people. The high attendance level was not solely based on the music and food- this event was free of charge in a city where nothing is free. Nonetheless, the musical acts were easily trumped by the food vendors. Just as many people were clamoring to get a glimpse of April Bloomfield fabricate a whole pig as there were listening to The Roots perform their newest single, The Otherside. Included among the 73 food vendors were Blue Ribbon and their unmatched Fried Chicken, Alla Spina’s mortadella hotdogs with spicy pickled cucumbers and cabbage, and one my favorite hidden NYC gems: Num Pang’s Cambodian sandwich shop.

Veal Meatballs with Jasmine Rice, Basil, and Stewed Tomato Sandwich
Num Pang Sandwich Shop
Greenwich Village, NYC

At San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival in August, fried pork skin sandwiches (chicharrones) will be consumed with as much gusto as cheeseburgers at the 4505 Meats Stand. The Brass Knuckle will be serving their famous Snoop Dogg: a bacon-wrapped  hotdog with spicy ketchup furikaki, bonito flakes and slaw. Who says dried fish and hotdogs don’t go well together? The Bay Area’s best and most interesting food vendors will be jamming right alongside artists such as Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Fitz and the Tantrums, Skrillex, and Regina Spektor from August 10-12 at Golden Gate Park.

“Zilla Style” Hot Dog
4505 Meats
San Francisco, CA

These are of course just a few examples of food offerings at music festivals this summer. Check out the festival websites beforehand and be sure to plan out your meals to ensure you experience all of the food AND music this summer!

Click HERE for quick links to most of the 2012 Music Festivals.


Cook like a Pro: Summer’s Essential (and affordable) Cooking Tools

Ever wonder what to buy with that amazon gift card? Do you have a wedding coming up and need good gift registry ideas? Look no further-  I have identified the top five cooking tools needed to complete your summer kitchens along with links to a site that sells the item at a good price. This list is in order of importance.

 

1. Chef’s Knife

Most people overlook the importance of having a solid chef knife to rely on for all types of at-home cooking. This knife by Victorinox is a great value. Buying knives does not have to be a daunting task and more expensive doesn’t always mean better. Whatever knife you get, be sure to learn how to sharpen it! All knives will go dull after awhile and the steel (steel rod that is included in a lot of knife sets) does not sharpen the blade, but simply align the burrs.

Victorinox 10-inch Chef Knife with Black Fibrox Handle ($29.95)

http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-47521-10-Inch-Fibrox-Handle/dp/B0000CF8YO/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1339169756&sr=1-1

2. Whetstone (Sharpening Stone)

Caring about your knives means sharpening them. It’s a fact. The easiest way to sharpen your knives is to use a whetstone. This process is pretty simple but you need to make sure that you are doing it correctly or else you can ruin the edge of your knife. For the at-home cook, a good whetstone should be at least 250 grits. The units of grits indicates the fineness of the grain on the stone and therefore how sharp it will make your knife. It is best to start out with a lower unit of grits so that there is less chance of ruining your knife. Start out with a whetstone like this:

Kotobuki King 250+1000 ($30.00)

http://www.amazon.com/Kotobuki-King-1000-K-80-Combo/dp/B00200L90I/ref=sr_1_33?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1339171112&sr=1-33

3. Grill Pan

If you live in a city, outdoor BBQs and poolside parties don’t happen as much as you’d like. To get the grill marks that are needed for any great burger or steak, treat yourself to a grill pan. This is a great alternatives to outdoor grilling and will make for a healthier alternative to sautéing vegetables since less fat is required in the pan. If you are looking to cook steaks, fish, or burgers, start out by using the grill pan in order to get the hashmarks then finish in the oven. This will ensure that the piece of meat does not dry out and the inside cooks to the appropriate temperature. To cook vegetables in a grill pan, simple spray with non-stick cooking oil and you’re all set to go. Finish the vegetables with olive oil, lemon, salt and freshly grated (good quality) parmesan cheese.

Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Square Grill Pan ($18.97)

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Logic-L8SGP3-Pre-Seasoned-Square/dp/B0000CF66W/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1339172062&sr=1-1

4. Digital Instant-Read Thermometer

A food-safe thermometer is essential to any cook, whether you are a professional or at-home chef. Thermometers ensure that not only are meats cooked to the desired internal temperature, but they are safe for consumption. The summer is the perfect time of year to get yourself a thermometer to make sure that the steaks are cooked to your guests’ liking. Do not get embarrassed to temp your meats in front of friends- get embarrassed when you need to throw something back on the grill when it is not cooked properly. The appropriate internal temperatures for red meat (steaks/burgers) are as follows:

Medium Rare: 130-135 degrees

Medium: 140-145 degrees

Medium Well: 150-155 degrees

Taylor Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer ($12.00)

http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-9842-Commercial-Waterproof-Thermometer/dp/B00009WE45/ref=sr_1_3?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1339172405&sr=1-3


5. Salt & Pepper Grinders

In my opinion, there is nothing tackier then salt and pepper poured out of a cardboard container. If you are going to have people over to your home for a BBQ this summer, please provide salt and pepper grinders. They are relatively inexpensive and go a long way. (Note: a salt GRINDER is superior to a salt shaker) If you buy a salt grinder, be sure to refill it using coarse salt.

Starfrit Salt and Pepper Grinder ($16.99)

http://www.amazon.com/Starfrit-Salt-and-Pepper-Grinder/dp/B001HX3BUK/ref=sr_1_25?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1339173410&sr=1-25

What do you think of this list? Did I leave anything out? I’d love to hear your comments below!

Travel + Leisure Ranks New York 7th Best Burger City

The May issue of Travel + Leisure ranks New York City as the 7th best city for burgers. I hate to even bring attention to this “poll” but this is simply outrageous. The T+L editors need to take a little stroll ’round town and visit The Burger Joint and Corner Bistro and Minetta Tavern and Peter Luger’s and Rudy’s and Shake Shack. Only then can an accurate “polling” of the country’s best burger cities be created.

The Burger Joint
119 West 56th Street
(inside the Le Parker Meridian Hotel)

The cities that beat New York include:

#1 Providence

#2 Philadelphia

#3 Chicago

#4 Houston

#5 San Juan, PR

#6 San Diego

#7 Minneapolis/St. Paul

#8 Kansas City, MO

This list really begs the question, “Where is Minneapolis/St. Paul again?”

The complete Travel + Leisure rankings can be found here: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-best-burger-cities/2

Study Proves Eating Organic Food Makes You More Likely To Be A Jerk

In what a some have unofficially deduced for years, a study has proven once and for all that people who insist on eating only organic foods are more judgmental and selfish than people who eat conventional foods. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science concluded that consuming “organic foods reduce prosocial behavior and harshen moral judgements.”

In the study, participants were shown pictures of organic food and food deemed “comfort food” like brownies and other sweets. The  study administrators then gauged the partipant’s reaction to scenarios that suggested moral responses such as a lawyer’s presence  in an emergency room persuading patients to sue for their injuries. Using a numbered scale, researchers proved that those who preferred the organic food were more judgmental than those people who preferred the comfort food. They were also more reluctant to volunteer their time helping strangers, offering 13 minutes in comparison to the brownie lover’s 24 minutes. The study suggests that the people who prefer organic food fulfill their moral quota with their grocery store purchases. The lead researcher labeled it “moral licensing”.

Read the full study here: http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/05/14/1948550612447114.abstract

The moral of the story here? Think twice before you ask your server, “Are these carrots farm raised?” It may suggest more about about who you are than you think.

11 Things to Buy Organic

Ok, so this is not a story I wrote myself but an interesting find nonetheless. This article was written by Sara Reistad-Long at Health.com and lists the 11 most important items to buy organic. This list is not limited to food and some of the items and reasons why they should be organic may surprise you. I highly suggest you read this article in its entirety but if you don’t have time I have listed out the items below, following the link to the article.

11 Things It’s Best to Buy Organic

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20471167,00.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Beef

2. Strawberries

3. Cookware

4. Popcorn

5. Yard Pesticides

6. All-purpose home cleaners

7. Water Bottles

8. Food Storage Containers

9. Milk

10. Celery (!)  (and spinach, bell peppers, and potatoes)

11. Tomato Sauce

Put a (Synthetic) Cork In It

Since the introduction of synthetic cork in the early 1990s, great debate has erupted over its environmental impact and its effect on the quality of wine.  Synthetic corks initially entered the market in response to an increase in natural cork prices. Natural cork can cost a winemaker upwards of 50 cents each compared to the synthetic version at seven cents. Besides the price differential, natural cork carries a natural mold called TCA that can taint as many as 12% of total wine bottles according to Wine Spectator. Many argue that despite the increased price and risks of TCA contamination, natural cork is more sustainable and therefore the better choice for winemakers. Even though natural cork may be slightly more sustainable, synthetic cork provides an alternative that is better for the consumer and in the best interest of wine enthusiasts around the world.

 

Natural Cork Production

Most of the world’s natural cork originates in Portugal, with some manufactures growing cork oak trees in Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and France. The total acreage of cork forests is second only to the Amazon rainforest in terms of size and species diversity, totally more than 6.5 million acres. The cork made for wine is a byproduct of the tree’s trunk and can only be harvested once every 10 years. Since synthetic cork was introduced to the market, several studies have been conducted comparing the environmental impacts of natural cork and its synthetic alternative.

 

The Carbon Footprint of Natural Cork

In 2008, a study was released by PricewaterhouseCoopers that found synthetic cork to be nine times more damaging to the environment in comparison to natural cork. This study, as well as the findings of every other notable study that is readily accessible online, was commissioned by Amorim, the world’s largest cork manufacturer. This study conducted by PWC assessed cork’s environmental impact on non-renewable energy consumption, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, atmospheric acidification, formation of photochemical oxidants (which cause ozone layer depletion), the production of solid waste, and the loss of animal life. Of these factors, natural cork scored better on everything with the exception of water consumption.

While this study clearly examines the environmental impact of cork production it does not seem to consider the effects cork has on the environment after use. It is estimated that approximately 18 billion corks are produced annually, causing great concern for their recycling ability. Despite being the more “organic” approach, natural corks are very difficult to recycle for the same reasons that make them great wine stoppers. Because corks are designed to avoid the absorption of water, they are not compostable.

In 2005, Amorim launched a program called “ReCork America” through Whole Foods that aimed to educate the public about cork’s recycling ability. This program was introduced at Whole Foods’ Napa store and slowly spread through California and the Southwest. Recycling buckets were put on display for customers to drop off their used wine corks with the satisfaction that their waste would turn into the earth’s treasure. While true in that the corks were eventually going to be “recycled”, Amorim failed to effectively explain to consumers that the corks were to be sent back to Portugal to be resold again by Amorim to shoe, flooring, packaging, and insulation companies. After transporting the corks across the country, then across the Atlantic Ocean, the actual environmental impact of natural cork post-consumption is probably negligible at best.

The Carbon Footprint of Synthetic Cork

Synthetic cork is a compound made up of a food grade, high quality thermoplastic elastomer. Due to the food grade and high quality of molds in the material, synthetic corks create a TCA-free seal in the wine bottle. In accordance with the production of most plastic materials, synthetic corks are not biodegradable; however, Supreme Corqs, the largest producer of synthetic corks in the world, make recyclable corks for over 1,800 wineries across South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Unlike natural cork, synthetic cork can be collected and easily recycled along with other plastic materials.

The Effects of Synthetic and Natural Corks on Aging Wine

Most studies related to the effects of cork type on the aging process recommend that wines corked with a synthetic material should be consumed within 5 years of bottling. This is mainly due to the cork’s porous material that allows air to penetrate and enter the bottle overtime. As mentioned previously, it is impossible to purchase a “corked” bottle of wine that has been stopped with synthetic material. For wine that is meant to be consumed within the next 5 years, it could be argued that customers should demand synthetic corks to ensure they receive a TCA-free bottle. The positive attributes of synthetic cork far outweigh the negative for younger vintages of wine.

Natural corks allow for better aging of wine because of their complete airtight seal. Despite this advantage, wineries can lose thousands of cases of wine per year to TCA contamination from natural corks. It is impossible to predict what bottles are going to be contaminated, as it is a random occurrence that appears naturally in cork material.

Synthetic corks are the most logical choice for the majority of wines on the market today. For wines that are made with the intention of being consumed within the next several years, synthetic cork should be used to avert any risks associated with TCA contamination. According to wine expert Kevin Zraley, less that 1% of wine should be aged more than five years, suggesting that essentially all of the 18 billion wines produced annually should be corked with a synthetic material to preserve the integrity of the wine. The environmental concerns surrounding the use of synthetic cork are valid, yet the use of natural cork does not provide a worthwhile alternative. 

 

Sources:

Bonne, Jon. “Recycling Your Wine Corks.” The San Francisco Chronicle. 14 Nov. 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. <http://blog.sfgate.com/wine/2008/11/14/recycling-your-wine-corks/&gt;.

Easton, Sally. “Cork Is the Most Sustainable Form of Closure, Study Finds.”Decanter.com. 4 Dec. 2008.      <http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/485297/cork-is-the-most-sustainable-form-of-closure-study-finds>.

O’Donnel, Kim. Wine Cork Recycling and a Bigger Conversation. The Washington Post, 4 Mar. 2009. Web. 14 Oct.         2011. <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/mighty-appetite/2009/03/wine_cork_recycling_and_a_bigg.html&gt;.

Zraley, Kevin. “Myth or Fact? The Older the Wine the Better.” Web log post. Delish. 23 July 2009. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. <http://www.delish.com/food/zraly-wine-blog/myth-fact-ageability-of-wine&gt;.

 “Synthetic Cork.” Professor’s House. Web. <http://www.professorshouse.com/Food-Beverage/Wine/Articles/Synthetic-Cork/&gt;.