Top 5 Tools In The Kitchen (not counting me)

Today I’m starting my ‘Cooking Doesn’t Have To Be A Chore’ series with a top 5 list of tools everyone should have in their kitchen. You might have your own list, but I promise, you can’t fail with this.

  1. A Steel Knife. Stainless? No, thank you. A high carbon knife will sharpen better, and stay sharp. You can tell the difference whenknife you go from stainless to high carbon. It’s like going from a Toyota Camry to a BMW 5 Series. Mine is a German Steel, but you also have the option of Japanese Steel, which is becoming more popular. Spend a few bucks and get a good knife. You’ll never go back.
  2. KitchenAid. There are a lot of useful tools in the kitchen and a KitchenAid 20140331_135710_zpsdirlno9jdoes what most of them do, usually better. There are a lot of other brands, but there’s nothing like a KitchenAid. Oh, spend another $20 and get the dough hook. Trust me on this.
  3. Cast Iron Skillet. You’ll see.
  4. Heavy Duty Soup Pan. We’ve all had the cheapies, but all you’ll end up with is a pan with a torched bottom.
  5. Ice Cream Scoop. I know, I could have said hand blender, can opener, or just about anything, but20140331_140217_zpswzg40zio of all the little handheld gadgetry we have in our kitchen, I love our ice cream scoops. They can do it all. Do you need the perfect amount of batter in that cupcake or muffin tin? Ice Cream Scoop. Do you need to scoop out a melon like a grownup? Screw the melonballer, get an ice cream scoop. Oh, it’s great for ice cream as well!

The Answer To It All. Hint: It’s not 42

Right out of the OTE oven

Right out of the OTE oven

Do you know what the problem with the world is today? No one knows how to bake bread. I’m not talking about throwing a mix into a machine and letting it go. I’m talking about baking real fucking bread. I’m talking about kneading the dough, letting it rise, kneading it again, and so on until you have a perfect loaf of bread.

There’s something about pulling a loaf of bread from the oven. A sense of accomplishment you can’t get from anything else. There’s pride in that loaf of bread.

I think we could make the world a better place if everyone would stop for a couple hours to learn the basic fundamentals to baking a roll of bread.

Just a thought.

The F Word

Lobster Bisque Pot Pie at Atwood in Chicago. A foodie wet dream.

Lobster Bisque Pot Pie at Atwood in Chicago. A foodie wet dream.

Okay, so there’s a bit of a stigma attached to coming out. I know that in certain circles, just the mere mention that you might partake in this particular lifestyle leaves you open to judgment from older or more xenophobic people within your community. The truth is, we’ve all experimented at one time of our lives or another and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. What you put in your mouth is your business.

No one ever said it was easy being a foodie. Hell, a friend of mine claims that the word, itself, implies a certain level of douche-baggery. But then, there are others who wear the term on their sleeves as a medal of honor. Something to take pride in and even heavily recruit for.

For the lack of a better word, I am a foodie. I know, coming out of the closet like that could have some serious repercussions, but

Breakfast at James Brown's Place in Rochester, NY. I've lived all over the country and haven't eaten as good as they serve it here.

Breakfast at James Brown’s Place in Rochester, NY. I’ve lived all over the country and haven’t eaten as good as they serve it here.

the fact of the matter is, I’ve known I was a foodie since I was little, but was ashamed to come out. Coming from a family who relished in bland, tasteless food, I knew deep within my heart that I would never be completely accepted if I did come out. But, seriously, who was I kidding. I couldn’t hide it. Sneaking off late at night for sushi and ordering anything that was covered in one kind of fish roe or another. Finding the subtle differences between the same varieties of carrots grown by two different farms 40 miles away from each other. Seeing the Garbage Plate for what it really is, a cultural icon, not just something to draw in tourists (I’m looking at you, Philly Cheese Steak). Yes, you heard that right, I am a foodie.

If you were to ask 100 different people what defines a foodie, you’re going to get 100 different answers. For some it’s something negative, but for others, its something deeper, almost personal.

Dolsot Bibimbap

Dolsot Bibimbap

For me, the only thing in my life more personal than than the food I eat, is my lady, Michelle, and even then, I did leave her for a cupcake once in Oregon. Yeah, a cupcake, and yes, I know cupcakes are a fad that need to leave quickly. Luckily she took me back after a stroll among the naked hippies and flower children.

I know I might be stepping on some toes, but there is nothing in the world, past or present that has the ability, including art, music, or even language, to define not only a culture, but a family, quite like food. My family may not speak German any longer and sure as hell can’t hold a tune, but you can bet your ass my mother is still making maultaschen and I look forward to making it and passing the recipe to my nephew Ethan when he’s old enough to get off his ass and cook (he’s a month old. Times a-tickin’).

Though there are quite a few similarities, being a food snob isn’t really the same thing as being a food snob or a gourmet, in my

Chicago Style Pizza.

Chicago Style Pizza.

opinion. Yes, I do prefer better, locally sourced ingredients, we do tend to lose all professional etiquette and turn into kids in a candy store when a slab of pork belly is placed in front of us, but I also get the same joy from a Zweigle’s White Hot or a pile of hash browns, chorizo and poached eggs loaded onto my plate smiling at me as if to say ‘Good Morning’. A foodie does not discriminate. If the food gives me the feeling I’m after, I go for it. Am I going to stop eating Tasty Cakes from Philly just because I have no idea what half of the shit in there is? Hell no! Tasty Cakes bring me back to a time and people I remember fondly when our company CO when I was in the Army would have them sent from his sister in Philly. Am I going to stop eating Garbage Plates just because I know it will probably kill me at some point? Well, as Michelle’s Uncle Sloppy says, ‘To eat is to live and to live is to eat”.

For me, eating is about new experiences. It’s about getting to know a city, a culture, a community, or a person on a more intimate level. For a foodie, what we eat shouldn’t be taken for granted. Though there might be the aisles of labels and logos you might be familiar with, its important to step out of your comfort zone from time to time. Learn about new tastes and where they come from. Let every time you eat become a learning experience. Keep trying new things, for with every bite, you’re keeping a culture alive.

Kinda Locavore In Rochester

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If you were to mention the word ‘Locvore’ to my Dad, chances are it wouldn’t even register with him as an actual word. You would probably get more of a reaction from him by muttering some sort of incoherent drivel in Cantonese or Mongolian, and for most people out there, it’s the same story. For most people, living as a locavore is something completely foreign, and it they are on of the few who are aware of what being locavore means, most aren’t willing to make the commitment. For most, stepping within the community for what we need is stepping outside of the comfort zone of what we want.

Though living in Rochester poses unique challenges (weather, my parents) for the Locavore, such as Michelle and myself, we have found that as we get to know different farmers, different manufacturers, and people who simply have unique talents, the transition to locavore that much easier. We’re not quite 100% there yet, but we’re well on our way.

I know I’m a minority when I tell you that we’re very fortunate to live in Rochester, NY. I’m sure Michelle won’t agree with that statement on days like today when it’s 30 degrees colder than it was yesterday and snow is blowing through the yard sideways, but she’s wrong. On days like today, it’s easy to forget that all around us is some of the most fertile land on this side of the Mississippi, giving us some of the most diverse and freshest foods in the nation, and a great lake filled with some of the greatest fresh water seafood you could ask for.

LocavoreOver the past decade, the Finger Lakes region, including Rochester, has experienced a rebirth of sorts. As the local small farm and organic movements are growing, locally owned, and locally focused businesses have been popping up everywhere we look. Restaurants and producers, such as Lento, Good Luck, Black Button Distillery, and Flour City Pasta as well as grocery stores, such as Harts Local Grocers are making a conscious effort to offer customers the best of what our region has to offer while others, such as Thread and Pistachio Press offer locally made products or produce their own right in store.

I know, I know. We can’t get everything locally. As much as we would love to, the idea of going locavore is something like obtaining 100% sustainability. Chances are, it’s not going to happen. Michelle and I like to consider ourselves locavores, but in all reality, we eat a good amount of food that isn’t local, but I can honestly tell you that a majority of it comes from within 100 miles of us. We feel that as consumers, it’s not only our right, but our duty to know where our food and everything else we purchase comes from. We go out of our way to meet and know who grows our food, and in many cases, they have become close friends. We support only local restaurants, and do our best to eat where locally produced ingredients are used, but even then, most diners buy what they can afford.

Okay, locavore is hard. I’m no saint, but I do urge everyone to at least give it a try for one month. Rochester, feel free to contact me about where you can find what you need locally. I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can.

Pickled Maters

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So, what you’re looking at is pickled tomatoes. To be more specific, they’re yellow pears and I forget the red variety of cherry, but they’re in there, just the same. I pickled them back in September not knowing what I would get out of it. I haven’t pickled tomatoes before, but they they looked great in the jar.

By the way, I pickled them just as I would pickle anything else. White vinegar, salt, distilled water, and some spices.

So, to be honest, they turned out quite good. The vinegar taste might be a bit overpowering, as there is already quite a bit of acid in the tomatoes, but it was quite good. They break apart rather easily, as well. This year I’m going to experiment with a few different ideas, including pickling them with hot peppers or with something super sweet. I don’t know. That’s the fun of producing your own food. Trying new things and going places you might have never thought you would go before.

Just a though for today…

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Write down every last thought that comes into your head. You never know what greatness you might be capable of. You might have an idea that could change the world, end hunger, and bring about peace one second and forget all about it the next when…
TOMATOES!!!

Top 5 Ways To Not Get Hit By The Drought In Upstate, NY, Or Anywhere

california

They say that California is experiencing one of the 10 worst droughts in over 500 years. They say that the drought in the west is comparable to that of the Dust Bowl, which devastated the United States food supply for nearly a decade in a time when America was already at its worst. From all accounts, we’re going to see food prices rise at least 10% in the next few months, and if the drought persists, we could see prices rise even more than that.

So, for most people, California is nothing more than LA, Disneyland, San Francisco, and there is some wine in there, somewhere, but for those who are paying attention, California produces nearly 50% of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables produced in the United States, including over 90% of the almonds, olives, raisins, walnuts, grapes and many other household items are grown by some of the over 80,000 California farms.

Never in my lifetime has it been more important to rethink the American food system. Not since the victory garden has growing ones own food as a supplement to buying only locally grown produce, meats, and dairy products been as important.

Here, in Upstate, NY, we are fortunate to have some of the greatest crop diversity in the country. I like to think that it’s due to our deep, rich soil, as well as the changing seasons. With a close-knit agricultural community, dozens of farmers markets throughout the entire region, including in our cities, everyone has the opportunity to buy local produce at prices comparable to that of the big chains, yet much fresher. Along with farmers markets, grocers featuring local fresh produce, meats, and dairy, such as Hart’s Local Grocers in Rochester, NY, are opening to give people throughout the cities more options than they would have at chains, who import a majority of their food from California, Texas, Idaho, and other western, south western, and mid western producers who are heavily influenced by the drought, which are giving the shopper an overall higher bill.

Here are the top 5 things we can do in Rochester, NY, and anywhere else, to make it through the drought in California

  1. Buy Local. I don’t say it enough. If I did, no one would be shopping at Walmart. Buying local ensures not only economic stability and sustainability, but environmental and social, as well.

  2. Grow your own food. I know people have all sorts of excuses as to why they don’t grow their own food, but as a friend of mine said to me back in my Army days, “Scott, an excuse is like an asshole. Everyone has one and they all small like shit.” Thank you, Cpl. Davidson. You’re the man.

  3. Share. If you grow too much, share with your neighbors. Chances are, they could use some fresh tomatoes! I know Terry next door loves our garden as much as we do!

  4. Pot Luck. It’s also a great way to commune with neighbors!

  5. Cut back. I know it’s hard to avoid everything that’s not local, but it’s a lot easier than you would think to simply cut back.

 

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