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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Shh, I think I hear something. It… it sounds like distant fizzing and the faint jostling of aluminum. Why, it’s the sound of a billion cans of beer carbonating in anticipation of the three day weekend! Woooo!!!  Barbecues! Beer! Wooo! Why? I don’t care! Beer!

HappyLaborDay2

I didn’t realize we were due for a holiday weekend until about a week ago, and even then was confused (“Wait, when? Are you SURE? It’s Labor Day?? Really? Okay! Woo!!!”). Maybe I could retain information like this if I knew a bit more about the holiday. We’re celebrating labor, right? And beer?

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I am about to head out for a mid-day trip to Broadway Panhandler N.Y. Cake for the last of the wedding cake supplies. I will have the following nearly nonsensical shopping list on my person:

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Sweet, sour, salty, bitter… I’m sure you’re wondering what the roadmap of my typical workday mood decline has to do with food.

Incidentally, these are also the names of the flavors most familiar to Western palates. But as is the case in so many instances, Eastern civilizations have had knowledge of something slightly more sophisticated for centuries and the rest of us are now playing catch up. In this case, the topic is a fifth flavor and its name is umami.

Hola, umami

Hola, umami

Thanks to their cultural fondness for foods like seaweed and soy, Chinese and Japanese diners have, at least subjectively, known about this fifth flavor for countless generations. Even Brillat-Savarin hit upon it when he referred to “osmazome”, the “essence of meat” that he required for many soups and stews. And some time around 2007, this “new” flavor finally began to eke its way into North American vocabularies.

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Locanda Vini e Olii opened in 2001 and has been widely reviewed and visited by all manner of intrepid eaters. I am not exactly clearing away underbrush with my gastronomical machete here, but last night I visited the Clinton Hill Tuscan restaurant for the first time and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to tell you about it.

Locanda Vini e Olii

Locanda Vini e Olii

Without drawing out my own kidnapping plans I’ll just say that the restaurant is located in absurd proximity to my apartment. I could probably hear my dog barking from a seat on the sidewalk on a good/bad night. This is a plus for me, but not necessarily any credit to the restaurant, as my neighborhood – Clinton Hill verging on Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn – is no culinary mecca. Yet the dearth of Manhattanites is a comfort to a Brooklynite like me when coming upon a place like Locanda: tables are open for seating, the clientele as well as the service is unpretentious and there is no sense of urgency or sceney-ness to the experience. The focus is on the food, so the food had better be good.

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Poised on steady legs
First your poet begs
Several eggs.
Froth them to a mousse,
And then introduce
Lemon juice.
Shimmering like silk,
Aromatic milk
Of almonds will
come next, and next prepare
Pastry light as air
To coat with care
Each pretty pastry mould.
Which sweetly will enfold
The liquid gold.
Smile, a father, fond
Wave your fiery wand,
Bake till blond.
Melting mouths and hearts,
Mmmmmm, saliva starts –
Almond tarts.

Edmond Rostand (1868-1918) Cyrano de Bergerac, Act II (translated by Anthony Burgess)

The legend of Cyrano de Bergerac is familiar: man with disfiguringly large nose falls for a lady, persuades a dashing but daft gentleman to act as his mouthpiece to woo the lady, feeds gentleman lines of poetry from the bushes, lady falls for handsome man thinking he is the poet, comedy then tragedy ensues.

"Maybe you'd like some wine with your nose? Cheese."

"Maybe you'd like some wine with your nose? Cheese."

Edmond Rostand wrote Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897, roughly based on the life of the actual Cyrano de Bergerac who lived in France from 1619 – 1655. Fittingly perhaps, the image of Bergerac that Rostand presents to the world through his verse (the entire play is written in rhyming couplets) is a rather deceptive version of who the actual man was. So who exactly was the man behind the man behind the character of the man behind the other guy?

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Barack Obama, our nation’s 44th president, turns 48 today. Happy Birthday, Barack!

Mr. President, I haven’t known you for that long, but I am SO glad we ‘met’. You’ve quickly became one of my favorite people ever and I look forward to the year ahead and all of our wonderful adventu-… What? I’m sorry, you what?? You don’t like CAKE? I… oh.

Not a problem... Anyone know when Abe Vigoda's birthday is?

Not a problem... Anyone know when Abe Vigoda's birthday is?

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If you haven’t added yet added crêpes to your repertoire, carpe diem already. Crêpes have been around for hundreds of years. Originating in the Brittany region of France, the word crêpe derives from the Latin “crispus” meaning crisp. These days, crêpes are considered a national food in France and their popularity has spread via worldwide crêperies.
Full of nothing but possibility

Full of nothing but possibility

Mostly eaten indiscriminitely throughout the year, especially by teenagers and others in need of immediate snackage, crêpes have a special role to play on Candlemas in France. While we Americans are in the throes of the traditional Groundhog Day bacchanalia (or is that just me?), the French flip crêpes with the hope of earning fortune and happiness. Crêpe pan in the left hand, gold coin in the right, a successfully flipped Candlemas crêpe promises wealth in the coming year.

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