Monday, March 30, 2009
Stone-Buhr flour company's website introduces eaters to farmers... Josh Dorf (pictured here from the NY TIMES) created the Findthefarmer.com website after he bought the Stone-Buhr flour company. Eaters want to know their farmers.
read the whole article:
Friday, March 6, 2009
"The most exciting time of the workday is taste testing products which have been fermenting and aging for as little as two weeks to as much as a year. Fresh sauerkraut made in October and sampled in the dead of winter tastes like nothing else. It really hits the spot." Seth told Lisa in an interview.
Seth's Kraut Cellar currently produces the following lacto-fermented vegetables: plain sauerkraut, caraway sauerkraut, curry sauerkraut, jalapeno sauerkraut, ruby sauerkraut, ginger carrots, kim chee, dilly beans, and pickles. Check out the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store or sellers of local food products near you to try it out these treats yourself. Learn more about lacto-fermented vegetables here.
To read the complete interview
"These Brooklynites, most in their 20s and 30s, are hand-making pickles, cheeses and chocolates the way others form bands and artists’ collectives. They have a sense of community and an appreciation for traditional methods and flavors. They also share an aesthetic that’s equal parts 19th and 21st century, with a taste for bold graphics, salvaged wood and, for the men, scruffy beards.
For the whole article
Brooklyn’s New Culinary Movement
TO get the slightly battered convection oven for their new Brooklyn chocolate factory, Rick and Michael Mast traded 250 chocolate bars.
The chocolate is as good as legal tender for Andrew Tarlow and Mark Firth, owners of Marlow & Sons, the restaurant and specialty shop that bartered away the oven. “We can’t keep it in stock,” Mr. Tarlow said. “It sells better than anything else.”
About two years ago the Masts were trading truffles for beers at a local bar. Now Mast Brothers Chocolate has a national following as one of the few producers in the country, and the only one in the city, to make chocolate by hand from cacao beans they’ve roasted, in that oven. These days, with a kitchen and a bit of ambition, you can start to make a name for yourself in Brooklyn. The borough has become an incubator for a culinary-minded generation whose idea of fun is learning how to make something delicious and finding a way to sell it.
These Brooklynites, most in their 20s and 30s, are hand-making pickles, cheeses and chocolates the way others form bands and artists’ collectives. They have a sense of community and an appreciation for traditional methods and flavors. They also share an aesthetic that’s equal parts 19th and 21st century, with a taste for bold graphics, salvaged wood and, for the men, scruffy beards.
Rick Mast, 32, said he and his brother were initially attracted to the borough because it was cheaper than Manhattan. “But now I think the real draw is the creativity,” he said. “In Brooklyn, to be into food is do it yourself, to get your hands dirty, to roll up your sleeves. You want to peek in the kitchen in the back, as opposed to being served in the front.”
Gabrielle Langholtz, the editor of Edible Brooklyn, which chronicles the borough’s food scene, said it has grown along with the arrival of what she calls the “new demographic.”
“It’s that guy in the band with the big plastic glasses who’s already asking for grass-fed steak and knows about nibs,” Ms. Langholtz said.
“Ten years ago all of these people hadn’t moved to Brooklyn yet,” she added, comparing Brooklyn today to Berkeley in the 1970s. “There’s a relationship to food that comes with that approach to the universe,” Ms. Langholtz said. “Every person you pass has read Michael Pollan, every person has thought about joining a raw milk club, and if they haven’t made ricotta, they want to.”
The prevailing attitude is anticorporate, she said.
“Pre-industrial revolution tactics with food,” is how Frank Castronovo describes what he and Frank Falcinelli are up to at Prime Meats, a restaurant, specialty shop and butcher they are starting in Carroll Gardens, as well as Delightful Coffee, a cafe that will share a warehouse with the new Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Red Hook.
Along with butchering whole animals, Mr. Castronovo and Mr. Falcinelli, the owners of Frankies Spuntino restaurants in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan, will be making their own charcuterie at Prime Meats.
“The whole process, truthfully, will take a long time.” Mr. Falcinelli said. “The aged stuff will take a year to understand. Pâté will take a few months.”
Most of the artisans started simply and have stayed simple, like Salvatore Bklyn, makers of a superbly light ricotta. “We were selling it out of the back of a truck,” Betsy Devine, who makes the ricotta along with her partner, Rachel Mark, said of their first retail efforts. Now their product is in eight stores.
They learned their craft on a visit to Tuscany. The Masts essentially taught themselves. Others, like Tom Mylan at Marlow & Daughters, a butcher shop opened in December by the owners of Marlow & Sons, found mentors.
Mr. Mylan apprenticed himself last year at Fleisher’s, a highly regarded butcher shop in Kingston, N.Y., where he slept in the owners’ TV room for a month and a half.
At Marlow & Daughters, all of the butchering is done in plain sight. “We do this out on the floor because we want you to see the difference,” Mr. Mylan said. “We can tell you it’s all local, and it’s all pastured, and buzzword, buzzword, buzzword, but until you take out a whole animal and put it on the table people have no idea what it means to bring really good meat into the city and break it down.”
Mr. Mylan also teaches butchering at the Brooklyn Kitchen, a kitchen supply store in Williamsburg. He demonstrates with a whole pig. Every student goes home with six pounds of fresh pork.
“The classes have turned out to be much more of a success than I imagined,” said Harry Rosenblum, who opened the Brooklyn Kitchen with his wife, Taylor Erkkinen, in 2006.
Next month, Bob McClure, of McClure’s Pickles, will teach pickling there, and later this spring the Masts will teach chocolate-making.
“We’ve become something like a community,” Mr. Rosenblum added, explaining that the store holds the occasional potluck and has a food literature book club. When baking no-knead bread in Dutch ovens was popular a couple of years ago, customers who bought the pots often returned with gifts of freshly baked bread.
The Brooklyn Kitchen carries major brands, but it is the sole retailer for knives from Cut Brooklyn, a local specialty knife maker.
“It’s difficult to keep those guys stocked,” said Joel Bukiewicz, Cut Brooklyn’s owner and solitary employee. “It’s like sweeping a dirt floor.”
Maybe that’s because Mr. Bukiewicz takes 10 to 12 hours to fashion one eight-inch chef’s knife. In an average week he will make between four and six knives. He first learned how to make hunting knives in Georgia, and started creating kitchen knives in his small Gowanus workshop in 2007.
“There’s an appreciation here for craftsmanship and people who work with their hands,” Mr. Bukiewicz said. “I had no idea there was going to be this convergence of artists, artisans and food culture in Brooklyn.”
To design a boning knife, Mr. Bukiewicz has been sitting in on Mr. Mylan’s butchering classes and taking note of how his hands move.
That sort of collaboration is common.
Two weeks ago Sixpoint Craft Ales, in Red Hook, introduced Dubbel Trubbel, an ale made with cacao nibs from Mast Brothers Chocolate. Sixpoint Craft Ales already brews Gorilla Warfare, an American porter made with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from Gorilla Coffee, the Park Slope cafe and roaster. At Wheelhouse Pickles, based in Park Slope, Jon Orren uses wort, a byproduct of brewing from Sixpoint Craft Ales, to flavor his Ploughman’s pickle, a mild, earthy relish made with Greenmarket root vegetables.
And McClure’s Pickles, of Williamsburg, is making a strong, grainy mustard with Brooklyn Brewery’s Brown Ale. (Mr. McClure, by the way, sometimes pays his picklers in pickles.)
Local store owners play an important role, more collaborators than simply merchants. Urban Rustic, Spuyten Duyvil Grocery, Blue Apron Foods, Bedford Cheese Shop and Marlow & Daughters all make a point of carrying Brooklyn-made foods.
Stinky Bklyn, a cheese shop in Carroll Gardens, carries wild boar pâté made by one of the salesmen at Smith & Vine, its sibling wine shop across the street. Robert Fischman, the fishmonger at Greene Grape Provisions in Fort Greene, sometimes sells fluke or striped bass he catches himself on one of the charter boats that departs from Sheepshead Bay. And later this spring the owners of Franny’s restaurant in Prospect Heights will open Bklyn Larder, which will sell salumi cured in-house.
Steven Manning, a manager at Urban Rustic, said he wants to make things easy for local food makers.
“There’s no red tape,” Mr. Manning said. “It’s, Give me the chocolate, here’s your money.”
Another culinary stage is the Brooklyn Flea, the Fort Greene flea market, now in winter quarters in Dumbo.
“I try everything that’s served there,” said Eric Demby, one of the market’s founders, recounting the time he slurped down six bowls of soup in one sitting.
“There’s an opportunity to be recognized, not just locally but nationally,” Mr. Demby said, explaining that Salvatore Bklyn created chocolate- and lemon-studded cannoli specifically for the market.
Not everyone who tries out is a star.
“The longer I do this the more I get a sense of who’s doing this for fun and who’s doing this for a life’s pursuit,” Mr. Demby said. “The ones who are doing it seriously are the ones who wait before they approach me because they want to make sure they have it right before they come to the Flea. The ones who are doing it for fun are the ones who think it’s a glorified bake sale.”
Some sellers at the Flea make sporadic appearances, like Plan B Foods, which sells caramelized onions in a jar. Now the onions are available at Greene Grape Provisions.
Others are regulars, like Mr. McClure and his brother, Joe, and Daniel Sklaar, a former financial analyst, who produces Fine & Raw, a velvety, complex chocolate made with unroasted cacao beans.
“I love being a part of this community,” said Mr. Sklaar, 28, noting that Fine & Raw’s packaging was created by a lingerie designer paid with chocolate. “Brooklyn is always in beta testing.”
But for all the momentum, most members of this food movement are taking time to refine their crafts.
Even though they could more than double their output to 2,000 bars a week, the Masts don’t have a timetable for increasing production in their new factory, a tastefully raw space with exposed brick walls and a counter salvaged from a 100-year-old Pennsylvania ice cream parlor.
“We’re not sure how a micro-batch chocolate factory is supposed to run,” Rick Mast said. “We’re going take our time and let it evolve.”
As Michael Mast, 29, said, “Slow growth, slow design, slow food. Slow, but without being flaky.”
The mantra is similar at Prime Meats, which has been opening in stages since January.
“It’s going to be incremental,” Mr. Castronovo said. “But when it’s ready you’re going to totally trip.”
The East Coast of Berkeley
Here are ways to find the Brooklyn artisans and merchants in this article.
BEDFORD CHEESE SHOP 229 Bedford Avenue (North Fourth Street), Williamsburg; (718) 599-7588 or bedfordcheeseshop.com.
BLUE APRON FOODS 814 Union Street (Seventh Avenue), Park Slope; (718) 230-3180.
BROOKLYN BREWERY 79 North 11th Street (Wythe Avenue), Williamsburg; (718) 486-7422 or brooklynbrewery.com.
BROOKLYN FLEA 76 and 81 Front Street (Main Street), Dumbo, through March; starting in April, Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, Lafayette Avenue between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues, Fort Greene; brooklynflea.com.
BROOKLYN KITCHEN 616 Lorimer Street (Skillman Avenue), Williamsburg; (718) 389-2982 or thebrooklynkitchen.com.
CUT BROOKLYN cutbrooklyn.com.
FINE & RAW fineandraw.com.
GORILLA COFFEE 97 Fifth Avenue (Park Place), Park Slope; (718) 230-3244 or gorillacoffee.com.
GREENE GRAPE PROVISIONS 753 Fulton Street (South Portland Avenue), Fort Greene; (718) 797-9463 or brooklyn.greenegrape.com.
MARLOW & SONS 81 Broadway (Berry Street), Williamsburg; (718) 384-1441 or marlowandsons.com.
MARLOW & DAUGHTERS 95 Broadway (Berry Street), Williamsburg; (718) 388-5700 or marlowanddaughters.com.
MAST BROTHERS CHOCOLATE 105A North Third Street (Berry Street), Williamsburg; (718) 388-2625 or mastbrotherschocolate.com.
MCCLURE’S PICKLES mcclurespickles.com.
PRIME MEATS STORE 187 1/2 Luquer Street (Court Street), Carroll Gardens; (718) 254-0327.
SALVATORE BKLYN salvatorebklyn.com.
SIXPOINT CRAFT ALES 40 Van Dyke Street (Dwight Street), Red Hook; sixpointcraftales.com.
SPUYTEN DUYVIL GROCERY 218 Bedford Avenue (North Fifth Street), Williamsburg; (718) 384-1520.
STINKY BKLYN 261 Smith Street (Degraw Street), Carroll Gardens; (718) 522-7425 or stinkybklyn.com.
URBAN RUSTIC 236 North 12th Street (Driggs Avenue), Williamsburg; (718) 388-9444 or urbanrusticnyc.com.WHEELHOUSE PICKLES wheelhousepickles.com.
It’s Organic, but Does That Mean It’s Safer?
MOST of the chicken, fruit and vegetables in Ellen Devlin-Sample’s kitchen are organic. She thinks those foods taste better than their conventional counterparts. And she hopes they are healthier for her children.
Lately, though, she is not so sure.
The plants in Texas and Georgia that were sending out contaminated peanut butter and ground peanut products had something else besides rodent infestation, mold and bird droppings. They also had federal organic certification.
“Why is organic peanut butter better than Jif?” said Ms. Devlin-Sample, a nurse practitioner from Pelham, N.Y. “I have no idea. If we’re getting salmonella from peanut butter, all bets are off.”
Although the rules governing organic food require health inspections and pest-management plans, organic certification technically has nothing to do with food safety.
“Because there are some increased health benefits with organics, people extrapolate that it’s safer in terms of pathogens,” said Urvashi Rangan, a senior scientist and policy analyst with Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “I wouldn’t necessarily assume it is safer.”
But many people who pay as much as 50 percent more for organic food think it ought to be. The modern organic movement in the United States was started by a handful of counterculture farmers looking to grow food using methods that they believed were better for the land and produced healthier food. It was a culture built on purity and trust that emphasized the relationship between the farmer and the customer.
By 2002, those ideals had been arduously translated into a set of federal organic regulations limiting pesticide use, restricting kinds of animal feed and forbidding dozens of other common agricultural practices.
To determine who would be allowed to use the green and white “certified organic” seal, the Department of Agriculture deputized as official certifiers dozens of organizations, companies and, in some cases, state workers.
These certifiers, then, are paid by the farmers and manufacturers they are inspecting to certify that the standards have been met. Depending on several factors, the fee can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Manufacturers who buy six or seven organic ingredients to make one product are especially dependent on the web of agents.
If agents do a thorough job, the system can be effective. But sometimes it falls apart.
Texas officials last month fired a state worker who served as a certifier because a plant owned by the Peanut Corporation of America — the company at the center of the salmonella outbreak — was allowed to keep its organic certification although it did not have a state health certificate.
A private certifier took nearly seven months to recommend that the U.S.D.A. revoke the organic certification of the peanut company’s Georgia plant, and then did so only after the company was in the thick of a massive food recall. So far, nearly 3,000 products have been recalled, including popular organic items from companies like Clif Bar and Cascadian Farm. Nine people have died and almost 700 have become ill.
The private certifier, the Organic Crop Improvement Association, sent a notice in July to the peanut company saying it was no longer complying with organic standards, said Jeff See, the association’s executive director. He would not say why his company wanted to pull the certification.
A second notice was sent in September, but it wasn’t until Feb. 4 that the certifier finally told the agriculture department that the company should lose its ability to use the organic label.
Mr. See said the peanut company initially appeared willing to clear up the problems. But he said the company was slow to produce information and then changed the person in charge of the organic certification, further delaying the process.
He said his organization finally decided to recommend suspending the organic certification after salmonella problems at the plant were exposed.
Although certifiers have some discretion in giving organic companies time to fix compliance problems, Barbara C. Robinson, acting director of the agriculture department’s National Organic Program, said her agency is investigating the gap between the first notice of noncompliance and the recommendation that the peanut plant surrender its organic certification.
To emphasize that reporting basic health violations is part of an organic inspector’s job, Ms. Robinson last week issued a directive to the 96 organizations that perform foreign and domestic organic inspections that they are obligated to look beyond pesticide levels and crop management techniques.
Potential health violations like rats — which were reported by federal inspectors and former workers at the Texas and Georgia plants — must be reported to the proper health and safety agency, the directive said.
“For example, while we do not expect organic inspectors to be able to detect salmonella or other pathogens,” Ms. Robinson wrote, “their potential sources should be obvious from such evidence as bird, rodent and other animal feces or other pest infestations.”
Even some certifiers say that while their job is not to assure that food is safe, taking account of health inspections will help consumers.
“It’s a reassurance that they have another set of eyes, and more eyes is always a good thing,” said Jane Baker, director for sales and marketing of California Certified Organic Farmers, a nonprofit certifying organization in Santa Cruz, Calif., and one of the largest and oldest in the country. “But let’s not confuse food safety controls with the organic side of things.”
Organics has grown from an $11 billion business in the United States in 2001 to one that now generates more than $20 billion in sales, so the stakes for farmers, processors and certifiers can be high. But the agency overseeing the certifying process has long been considered underfunded and understaffed. Critics have called the system dysfunctional.
Arthur Harvey, a Maine blueberry farmer who does organic inspections, said agents have an incentive to approve companies that are paying them.
“Certifiers have a considerable financial interest in keeping their clients going,” he said.
Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more skeptical about certification, said Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, a market research firm.
Some shoppers want food that was grown locally, harvested from animals that were treated humanely or produced by workers who were paid a fair wage. The organic label doesn’t mean any of that.
“They’re questioning the social values around organics,” Ms. Demeritt said.
The Organic Trade Association, which represents 1,700 organic companies, wants to shore up organic food’s image. This week it’s beginning a $500,000 Web-based campaign on the benefits of organic food with the slogan: “Organic. It’s worth it.”
Supporters of the National Organic Program think additional money in the recent farm bill will help improve its reach.
And great hope is being placed in Kathleen A. Merrigan, director of the agriculture, food and environment program at Tufts University, who was appointed the deputy agriculture secretary last week. Dr. Merrigan helped design the national organic standards, and is seen as a champion of organic farmers and someone who can help clarify and strengthen federal food laws.
Meanwhile, consumers remain perplexed about which food to buy and which labels assure safer and better-tasting food.
Emily Wyckoff, who lives in Buffalo, buys local food and cooks from scratch as much as possible. Although she still buys organic milk and organic peanut butter for her three children, the organic label means less to her these days — especially when it comes to processed food in packages like crackers and cookies.
“I want to care, but you have to draw the line,” she said.
But the line stops when it comes to basic food safety.
Recently, a sign near the Peter Pan and Skippy at her local grocery store declared that those brands were safe from peanut contamination. There was no similar sign near her regular organic brand.“I bought the national brand,” she said. “Isn’t that funny?”
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I had the opportunity to get in touch with Seth again, to learn more about the Berkshires krauter.
LF: How did you become interested in sauerkraut and lacto-fermentation?
ST: I became interested in sauerkraut and lacto-fermentation in the fall and winter of 1998 when I was an apprentice at Hawthorne Valley Farm. There were a few pounds of leftover storage cabbage. At the time I had read about different food preservation techniques and they all seemed very fuel intensive. At about the same time I tried raw sauerkraut for the first time and I had a "Eureka" moment. I had to try to make it myself. Fermented vegetables seemed so alive and tasted so good compared to canned or frozen (or even fresh Californian) vegetables. I had grown up in New York eating raw sour pickles without it even registering; all of a sudden it clicked, and I had a goal in mind.
A typical production day (3-4 days a week) in the fall involves prepping hundreds to thousands of pounds of vegetables (with 1 or 2 helpers), shredding these vegetables, and packing them into barrrels with salt and spices. Such production days can take 8 hours. We have made as many as seven 300 pound barrels in an 8 hour shift. That's a lotta cabbage! In the late winter and early spring months we pack sauerkraut 2-3 days a week, depending on orders, so things are not as hectic as in the fall.
The interest in lacto-fermented vegetables has increased over the last ten years. The Weston A Price Foundation seems to have had a lot to do with this resurgence of fermented food in general, as well as raw milk, and grass raised livestock. With this interest in lacto-fermented vegtables I seem to average quite a few phone calls a week. I have advised and consulted other kraut upstarts as well.