Sunday, April 13, 2014

Music Blossoms at Restoration Farm

They call it agri-“culture” for a reason. The modern neighborhood farm nourishes not only the body, but also the soul, and works to cultivate a sense of culture and community among its members.  

Music draws people together, and has always been present at Restoration Farm. Strains of jazz, folk, and rhythm and blues – offered by local ensembles – always accent the family-style potluck dinners held in the field. But now, we’ll be harvesting music even more frequently.
Lettuce Entertain You With Tin House Music at Restoration Farm

Tin House Music at Restoration Farm will offer live concerts at the farm all summer long. The venue is the multi-purpose tin storage shed erected by Nassau County this past winter at the entrance to the farm at 140 Bethpage-Sweet Hollow Road in Old Bethpage.  Sunday concerts start at 2:00 PM with an open mike hour, followed by the scheduled performance.  
The Tin House at Restoration Farm
It’s long been a goal of head growers Caroline Fanning and Dan Holmes to launch an arts and education program that enhances the multi-sensory experience at Restoration Farm. As one who is rarely without music playing, I’m excited about the addition of the Tin House Music series to the rhythm of the farm.  
Head Growers Dan Holmes and Caroline Fanning
The monthly concert events feature an array of home grown bands and performers:

May 4 – Miles to Dayton blends elements of folk, rock, classical and funk

June 1 – The Live Cultures plays original and traditional folk music

July 6 – The Carrie McQuade Trio performs rock, pop, soul and classics

August 3 – Long Island Bluegrass Quartet is an acoustic music group

September 7 – Kerry Kearney is a guitar slide master 

Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at or email to reserve.     

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Roots Bistro Gourmand: Rustic Fare Meets Cutting Edge Gastronomy

Chef Philippe Corbet and Chef James Orlandi are shattering assumptions of what a restaurant “should be.”         
Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fried Chick Peas
The co-owners of Roots Bistro Gourmand in West Islip, Long Island have deep respect for the roots of cooking, but aim to transform the traditional bistro experience using techniques of New Age gastronomy.   
Seared Sea Scallops with Wild Mushroom Mousse
Dining at Roots evokes the charm and flavors of French country cooking propelled into the future with gastronomic tools like foams, emulsions and vacuum sealing. In the words of Corbet and Orlandi, the Roots experience “juxtaposes high end cuisine with humor and accessibility.” 

Read my profile of Corbet  and Orlandi here in Edible Long Island’s Spring 2014 Innovation Issue.  

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar

My cousin Paul Crosby – Renaissance man, food artisan and master forager – has been at it once again.  His latest locally sourced, hand crafted product is Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar, made in Leicester, Vermont. 

I had always just assumed that acorns were not edible.  When I express some (slight) skepticism to Paul, he sets me straight.

“People have been eating acorns forever!” says Paul.  “I’m sure acorns were on the menu at the first Thanksgiving.”   

Indeed, there is a wealth of information available online about foraging and processing acorns, and quite a history of use, particularly among indigenous populations. Acorns are high in tannins, a natural substance found in most plant species.  Tannins are the source of the slightly bitter aftertaste found in coffee, tea and wine.  But, too much tannin can lead to a tummy ache. In their raw state, acorns can be quite bitter because of the high levels of tannins, and must be processed before consuming.  

Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar is bright, bold, and acerbic with a crystalline, amber color. It’s a strong flavor personality and could overpower more delicate foods, but would pair nicely with robust, confident flavor profiles. Paul has made a simple dressing using Vermont Maple Syrup and Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar. He’s also mixed maple syrup with the vinegar to make a sweet and tangy glaze for pork loin or lamb.  
Paul Crosby forages for white oak acorns each autumn
To produce his Vermont Acorn Vinegar, Paul starts by foraging and he doesn’t have to stray far from home. “Every fall I gather as many fallen white oak acorns as I can from my property leaving a few for my furry friends. This takes hours and last through October. Once collected they are dried and stored in a cool dry area away from the squirrels. Dried acorns will last over a year if stored properly.”

Then begins the process of turning acorns into vinegar. “When I get ready to start a batch I crack up to 2 cups of dried acorns,” says Paul.  “I sort out the bad ones and put the remaining acorns in a bath of hot water to release the bitter tannins. This is done three times usually to release all the bitterness. I then taste one to make sure the flavor is right.”

The acorns are now processed and ready to infuse in a gallon of white vinegar. This usually takes up to three weeks.

“At this point the flavor and color should be nutty and straw colored,” says Paul.  “After three weeks the vinegar is filtered and put into a pot to boil, and sugar is added to the batch just like the elderberry vinegar recipe. It's boiled for about 10 minutes, filtered and then bottled.”

True to the spirit of foraging, nothing gets wasted. 

“Now you would think at this point, I would throw the acorns away,” says Paul.  “Wrong!  I take them along with a little acorn vinegar and pickle them with the standard pickling spices. They are aged for up to six weeks before eating and taste very nice.”

The website “Eat The Weeds” has a fascinating story on acorn consumption through the centuries, and reports they are high in nutritional value. According to the site, a white oak acorn is 50.4 percent carbohydrates, 4.7 percent fat, 4.4 percent protein, and 4.2 percent fiber. A pound of shelled acorns contains 1,265 calories.  

Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar is available for purchase online and sells for $12.00 a bottle.   (I received one bottle of Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar from Paul to use in preparing this post)  A number of Vermont restaurants are also using the vinegar in menu items.   

If you prefer your acorns as lawn art, feast your eyes on the world’s largest acorn and just imagine the size of the squirrel that would take a bite out of this!  
Photo Source:  Eat the Weeds

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Raining Katz and Dogz

It’s been so cold that food trucking has been prohibitive. So it’s been quite some time since my college roommate Ford McKenzie and I stepped out for a noontime bite to eat. 

Then, out of the blue, he suggests we grab lunch. I suspect he is secretly jealous of my BFF Amanda and the fan base she has built as a recurring guest star on “Culinary Types.”  Personally, I’m not choosy – the more scintillating sidekicks the bigger, as long as they’re entertaining.
Ford pings me that morning for lunch details. I suggest the new deli truck “Katz and Dogz” which I spot that morning parked on 55th and Broadway.  It promises a Jewish deli on the streets of New York.  

“What hotels are in the area?” Ford asks. Please note, that it is now just assumed that when we get truck food we are going to a hotel lobby to dine.  I offer a few suggestions that Ford summarily dismisses as too small or not hip enough.  I should know better than to take on the fine dining aspect of the lunch adventure.

Ford and I rendezvous at 55th Street and Broadway shortly after noon. While I have assumed that Katz and Dogz is affiliated with the famous Katz Deli of New York, Ford informs me that this is not the case at all and the K&D team is actually Brooklyn-based. “So much for truth in advertising,” Ford remarks.

Ford is dressed urban urbane. He’s wearing a black leather jacket from Botticelli, black mid-1960s Ivy League style pants, JM Weston penny loafers, a white button down shirt from Maxwell’s of Hong Kong, Bulgari stainless steel watch, and socks and underwear from Target (Or so I’m told.  I know. TMI.).  As I aim to snap a photo he says, “Don’t make me look fat.”  
Now to the food.  Katz and Dogz promises a dining experience that will rock your world.  
We queue up to place our order.  I notice that one member of the K&D team is slicing pastrami paper-thin using one of those circular meat grinders.  If not for the automobile fumes, it would really feel like a deli. Ford orders the Pastrami Paradise on Rye with Mustard and a side of macaroni salad. I order the Rueben Orgasm with Russian dressing on Rye (which sounds way too racy for lunch) with a side of potato salad.  
Ford has come prepared for a covert dining operation.  This is the first time we’ve lunched on the west side and he’s a little uncertain of the landscape.  Will we get easy access to lobby dining, or will west side hotel security be more stringent?  So, all of the food gets concealed in a canvas bag allowing us stealth entry to the hotel of our choice.  
Ford offers two options for our street food, indoor picnic.

“The Novotel in Times Square has a view,” he adds with a glint in his eye. 

“Sold!” I reply.  I’m a sucker for a good vista.  

“I had a feeling,” Ford says and we are on our way.
The Novotel on 52nd just off of Broadway has recently been remodeled, and is promoting itself as a Four Star hotel.  It sounds like just the right spot for a pastrami lunch.  We enter on the street level undetected.  There is just a bellman’s desk and whole bunch of luggage cluttering the immediate area.  I try to look inconspicuous but I’m wondering if the bellman can detect a hint of pastrami as we breeze past.  

The lobby is actually on the 5th floor, proof that lobbies are no longer at street level and you can’t count on anything anymore. No underachiever, the lobby bar is called “Supernova.”  
It is a stunning, high tech environment dotted with computers and tables that simulate the effect of ocean waves. Very scenic and somewhat overstimulating.  Note how the computerized water pools around the lunch sack.

I notice that there’s even a soundtrack. We are on Broadway after all. The ambiance is punctuated with a peppy selection of show tunes, jazz and reggae.  

Ford removes the pastrami and corned beef contraband from the lunch sacks. The pastrami is sublime – silky, and perfectly spiced without a hint of grease.   Within moments, it has vanished.  
I’m really not sure how to assess or describe the orgasmic qualities of a Reuben Sandwich. I probably need to spend more time in Times Square.  However, I can tell you that it is quite tasty, and the Swiss cheese and sauerkraut adds a nutty, piquant touch to the Dagwood-sized sandwich.  
The side salads are less than impressive, but the massive sandwiches overshadow any disappointment there. It looks like a lot of food, but within minutes, we seem to have inhaled it all. We’re growing boys, I guess. 

With our ocean wave tabletop cleared of all food, the only thing we haven’t done is checked out the view from the wrap-around outdoor balcony. 
If the Reuben is orgasmic, the view from the Novotel is indeed thrilling, offering a sweeping view of the best of the Great White Way.  
As Ford and I part ways, I return to work defying gravity and humming the theme from “Rocky.”

Late that night, I am scanning the news headlines online and come across a classic David and Goliath smack down. That afternoon, perhaps as we were gorging ourselves on pastrami and corned beef, Katz’s Delicatessen slapped the Katz and Dogz food truck with a lawsuit, claiming the food truck is making money off the deli’s brand without permission.  

I forward the NY Post article to Ford.   He responds with his typical brand of understatement. “Legal or not, it was mighty good pastrami.”

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved