Sometimes the little things make you smile.
October 31, 2009
the candy harvest has come in!
ok, not the biggest take, but this is just the stuff i brought into share at work! there are a -lot- more peanut chews at home, and a variety of flavored dark chocolates i’m keeping for me and my love-interest to snack on while we watch horror movies and cuddle. (it’s fall!). i’m lucky i decided on veganism before i went shopping because i could have gone totally broke on candy.
inspired by Steve Almond’s Candyfreak, i found myself looking for Necco Wafers at Economy Candy, the only place i was certain i could find them. Almond notes in his book that Neccos, first manufactured in 1847, “were a staple of the Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War.” being ridiculous, i got excited about this because -i’ve- eaten and enjoyed neccos myself, and i felt a historical connection. i was also interested that the candy has a ‘clove’ flavor, an unusual (and occasionally maligned) flavor for candy, but something i actually like.
unfortunately, i discovered necco wafers have gelatin, which means that even vegetarian me wouldn’t have eaten them. So i turned my sites on other old-timey or unusual candies. And the peanut chews which are probably the most widely available vegan candy.
Original Turkish Delight:
this was a surprise, because every recipe for turkish delight i’ve ever seen involved gelatin, and i’ve never seen such a thing in a store before. i have in fact only had it once before, and my memory of it is completely free of what-it-tasted-like and totally full of how-awkward-i-was. they had turkish delight with nuts and stuff in it, but i thought i’d go for the plain. that’s just how i operate.
cubes of coagulated sugar and cornstarch, covered in powdered sugar. and yes, it was Delicious! it actually tastes -exactly- like marshmallows. -exactly-.
peanut chews are good times. the peanut to chocolate ratio skews extremely towards the peanut. and they are, so far as vegan chocolate bars go, pretty widely available.
Black Jack Gum:
i only bought this for the nostalgia factor. i didn’t even eat any. licorice-flavored black gum. but remember Twin Peaks? remember when you didn’t know what was going to happen and you were looking for clues and some hint and/or another led your mom to believe the secret was in Black Jack gum so she bought a bunch and you ate it and were all, ‘ew, mom.’ so there’s the nostalgia factor.
Joyva Raspberry Joys:
these are fruit jells enrobed in chocolate. a lot of people hate them. you also see them as ‘jelly rings’ in some of the stores around greenpoint (if not everywhere). i’m a fan myself and locavore bonus – they’re made in brooklyn. yay!
i got these for a specific spicy cinnamon candy lover here at the bkk. basically cinnamon mike and ikes.
Spicy Apple Ginger Chews
most mysteriously, the Spicy Apple version of Ginger Chews was actually a bit less spicy than the usual plain version. Ginger Chews, if you’ve never had them, are a pleasantly warm spicy gingery candy that sticks to your teeth like crazy. But you can’t stop eating them anyway. the company that makes them is called Ginger People, and the packaging features, what else, anthropomorphic ginger roots, occasionally partaking in a little canabalistic Ginger Chew eating.
they fizz! it takes a minute or so, but once the outer hard candy is compromised, a fizzy fun time starts. they are a bit sour, but not Warheads or anything. i found them a little disconcerting the first time, but my disconcertment has now turned to love.
Sen-Sen is really the reason i wrote this post. more of a (n unintentional) gag toy than a food really, Sen-Sen is “perfume for your mouth”. almost literally. this bizarre ‘candy’ was created in the 1890’s as a breath freshener, with licorice as the main ingredient. mint was apparently not considered, but the product really took off anyway.
i found the effect of eating what looks tiny black paint chips is not at all unlike spraying inedible perfume directly into your mouth. i can understand, i suppose, a world in which the idea of ‘perfume for your mouth’ would mean something that made you feel like you had perfume in your mouth. and a world where this made you think your breath was ‘fresh’. i mean, this is a world where, according to Wikipedia, cleaning your teeth involved tooth powders made “with chalk, pulverized brick, or salt as ingredients”. pulverized brick does not sound refreshing. but what i don’t totally get is this product continuing to exist over 100 years later, and being sold as a candy! but that said, one person i had try Sen-Sen, intending it to upset him, totally liked it. but he also likes lavendar flavored candy, so is clearly a weirdo.
so there you go. my candy rundown. have a Happy Halloween!
October 1, 2009
You probably didn’t hear about it, but the end of August saw an exciting culinary event: Hong Kong’s Best Milk Tea Competition. And it was very serious business.
Locally known as “Pantyhose Tea” because the long, silk filter it brews in resembles a stocking, Milk Tea is served with condensed milk (sans sugar) and some eateries even add a raw egg into the mix as a thickening agent. The beverage can be imbibed hot or cold and is a derivative of the traditional afternoon tea enjoyed by the British during their colonial rule over Hong Kong. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of trying Milk Tea, I’m guessing it is most comparable to Thai iced tea.
Have I mentioned already that Milk Tea is a Big Deal in Hong Kong? Not only is its preparation the subject of heated debate (milk or tea first? oh lord, which?) but there are actually criteria that help the discerning customer evaluate his or her tea.
1) “Smoothiness.” IE: How full-bodied and creamy is my tea?
2) Is there white frothy residue on the inside lip of my cup after the first few sips?
That white froth is an extremely important factor. It shows that the concentration of butterfat in the evaporated milk is high enough. Excuse me while I consider the gastronomical wonder that is butterfat.
Anyway. Milk Tea. According to fellow blogger Josh Tse, Hong Kong’s Milk Tea competition graced the headlines of all local papers the day of the fight… but I only learned of Milk Tea today (at least in this form; I’ve been a fan of bubble tea from first nibble). That said, thinking about this competition, and doing a little research about Pantyhose Tea on the ‘ol internet made me wonder about other regional competitions. We’re here in Brooklyn making soup, sandwiches, cupcakes, bodega dinners, etc… but what are they making in Poughkeepsie? Or Abu Dhabi? Or Heidelberg? Or Cleveland? Food competitions certainly hold our interest — the world over, it seems. So I’m curious: What interesting food-related competitions have you heard about/seen lately? What does your region/country/city/borough compete to eat?
Drop us a comment; we want to know. And if you’ve had Milk Tea (in Hong Kong or otherwise) we want to know about that, too.
One Blogger’s Milk Tea Experience
A Chinese news report about the competition (Again, this is serious business)
And finally, the Milk Tea Wikipedia entry, which I shamelessly cribbed from.
August 5, 2009
August is food science month here at The Brooklyn Kitchen! And in the grand tradition of discussing science on fridays (maintained by our favorite station, WNYC, through the syndicated show Science Fridays), we’d like to introduce:
FOOD SCIENCE FRIDAYS AT THE BROOKLYN KITCHEN!
Everyone’s a scientist when it comes to food! Baking is chemistry, fermentation is biology, choosing a pot is a question of physics.
Fridays in August, we’ll be conducting some fun food-oriented experiments. Come by after 4pm to hang out and talk science. Or watch this space for updates and results!
Food Science Friday Schedule:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 7 at 4PM: COOKING WITH THE SUN!
We’ll be baking cookies on a car dashboard, and if it feels hot enough, we’ll see if we can actually fry an egg on the sidewalk.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 7 – FRIDAY, AUGUST 14: CAPTURING WILD YEAST!
Yeast is everywhere! Strains of yeast exist right in the air around us, and we are going to catch some and force it to leaven our bread! On the 7th, we’ll set the trap, and we’ll visit it throughout the week to see what we catch.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 14 at 4PM: GRAMMAR SCHOOL SCIENCE FAIR FUN TIMES!
Capillary Action: Why do we water the soil instead of the top of the plants? Doesn’t gravity pull the water down? Well, no. We’ll be replicating your classic celery stalk capillary action demo.
Punk Rock Candy: Geology isn’t a science we routinely associate with food, (though of course soil and its health is everything about food) but here we go! We’ll be making rock candy, forming salt crystals and seeing if we can combine the two flavors for a sweet and salty rock food!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 21 at 4PM: IT’S ELECTRIC!
Tuber Town: We’re going to see what kind of kitchen electronics we can run with potatoes and citrus fruits!
Sparks!: Not the malt liquor! We’re going to see what sort of minty things we can get to spark in the dark recesses of our mouths.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 28 at 4PM: UP, DOWN AND OVER
How Do You Get An Egg In A Bottle?: We’ll demonstrate how temperature and air pressure interact to pull a hardboiled egg into a narrow mouthed bottle. The real question will probably end up: How do we get the egg out?!
Chemical Propulsion: We’re going to build a rocket to the moon. Well, maybe not the moon, but we are going to propel things short distances into the air using baking soda and vinegar.
Dry Ice Cream: Making ice cream always feels a bit scientific, especially the old fashioned rocksalt and ice way. But today we’re going to go nerdtastic and make ice cream using dry ice.
July 1, 2009
we just got a new book in: The Vegan Scoop by Wheeler Del Torro.
i was lucky enough to try some Wheeler’s Black Label vegan ice cream at the 2008 renegade craft fair in mccarren pool. it was great! i eat dairy ice cream occasionally (i’m not vegan. i’m a vegetarian with a vegan love interest, and i cook only vegan.) and i wouldn’t have guessed this stuff was nondairy. while there are some great commercially available vegan ice creams out there, a lot of them are noticeably ‘different’. but wheelers -will- fool your friends. and it was tasty! i only had chocolate, but it was a rich awesome dark chocolate. but despite rumors that Wheeler’s would be opening a shop in our own williamsburg*, so far as i know it’s still only available in boston, where they have an ice cream shop and recently expanded into a restaurant.
a few vegan ice cream cookbooks have just come out this year, which is great, since i only knew of one before that, Vice Cream. But i’ve definitely been highly anticipating Wheeler’s book. And now it’s finally here, and just in time for Ice Cream Month! I took my copy home monday. there are some super unusual flavors in here (in my experience anyway) like yam (not sweet potato. yam). i thought red bean at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory was unusual! there is also a wasabi ice cream. and shandy**. there’s regular stuff like rocky road and peanut butter too. and vanilla and chocolate.
the book sports a pretty thorough glossary of ingredients, broken up into several lists: basica (that is, sugars and thickeners), fruits/veggies, legumes and then spices. from thumbing through, it seems that all wheeler’s recipes involve a soymilk/soycreamer combo, but he encourages experimentation and includes a brief rundown of other non-dairy milks. my one complaint there would be that it’s hard to find non-dairy creamer that isn’t soy. i know there is something called ‘coconut cream’ (as opposed to coconut milk) but i don’t know if that would work. but i also know of a product called Mimicreme, which i’ve used for ice cream before, that is soy free and mainly cashews. i actually think it’s pretty awesome, and just found out you can get it at khim’s millenium market on driggs.
there are also quite a few recipes for things that aren’t ice cream, like fruit sushi and amaretto fudge. and one thing i do particularly like, as an information junkie of sorts, is the ‘tidbits’ of information about ingredients in the sidebar. not things you necessarily need to know, but great for those of us who like to know stuff. there are also quite a few recipes for things that aren’t ice cream with suggested flavor pairin including fruit sushi and amaretto fudge!
for the book club meeting tonight we read A Dilly of a Death, a pickle themed, texas-set murder mystery. so i’m making Wheeler’s Sweet Cucumber ice cream. it’s not pickles, but i don’t like pickles anyway. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
*while wheelers has yet to open an outlet in the big apple, 2 vegan ice cream parlors have opened in manhattan since last summer. Stogo and Lulu’s. both feature soy and non-soy vegan ice creams, but i can only attest to lulu’s: it’s great! still though, williamsburg could use its own vegan ice cream parlor. for now we’ll just have to settle for milkshakes from foodswings and the chicago soy dairy ice cream they serve at Vinnie’s and Penny Licks.
**from wikipedia: “Shandy is beer flavoured with ginger ale, ginger beer, lemonade, or other soft drink. The proportions of the two ingredients are adjusted to taste, normally half-and-half, although shandy that is sold canned or bottled is typically much weaker (about one part beer to ten parts lemonade).”
the ice cream is a ginger beer shandy. i had a can of lemonade shandy in scotland once. once.
May 31, 2009
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I recently picked up a few of these 1940’s government pamphlets about the fishing industry while searching for vintage goods.
This one has the more interesting cover, the other three (for other geographic areas of the US, were blue cover with white writing)
They’re basically an informative pamphlet, in true exhaustive government fashion, about the fisheries as they existed in 1943.
A quick look at the index on the first page will give you an idea:
But then the real kicker. Read the paragraph that appears in the FIRST PAGE! So much for conservation of the oceans being a “new” idea. I know that fishermen have been trying for years to both reap the benefits and conserve the resources, but the thing that I find most interesting is that this was published by the government. I guess once the war (WWII) ended and we needed more food to feed the expanding suburbs conservation was put on the back burner along with fuel efficiency, and any regard for the environment.
Well I guess we can all learn something from our pre- post-war, and pre refrigerated shipping ideas. Better to eat a greater variety and closer to home. hmm not a bad idea.
May 11, 2009
The only preface I’ll give is that I wrote this on my lunch break. So excuse the wild liberties I’ve taken with grammar and pretend that I didn’t receive my college degree (which in all fairness, as Harry can attest, is round not square) in Journalism.
There are a lot of cooking contests in Brooklyn. There’s the Chili Takedown (which will be followed by the Tofu Takedown this week), the Bacon Throwdown, a Chili Cook-off, Emily Farris’ Casserole Contest…the list goes on. All are great fun, usually involve a fair amount of alcohol and beat the usual way to meet people in this city. May 11th will mark the 3rd annual Brooklyn Kitchen Cupcake Bake-off, an event which has a particularly special place in my heart.
It was the spring of 2008. I was out of college exactly one year and like most post liberal-arts expats, got really good at feeding myself for free whenever possible. Gallery openings for wine and cheese, dumpsters for bagels, bars for peanuts and best of all, cooking contests. The cupcake bake-off was being held at the bar, Union Pool. I reasoned that paying for beer would be well worth the value of the 30-some cupcake samples I could score by entering. More importantly, I remembered what the prize was for Brooklyn Kitchen’s last sponsored contest, the Casserole Cook-off. It was a Le Creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven. A retail value of around $300. I rationalized that the Cupcake prize would most likely be a KitchenAid stand mixer. It had to be.
The week prior, I drew up my entry blueprints. The rules of cooking contests generally revolve around finding a balance between good, simple flavors with a clever enough presentation. Nobody likes a pretentious cupcake. I decided to keep the recipe basic and the design, well, quirky- without letting on to the fact that I had little experience in cake decorating, or the tools for it. Dirt cupcakes were born! Dark chocolate cupcakes (recipe courtesy of Elissa Strauss at Confetti Cakes) with chocolate frosting, dipped in crushed mint oreos and an earnest sprig of mint sprouting from the center.
Three and a half vodka tonics later I had sufficiently stuffed my face to the point that all cupcakes, from vegan PB & J to Mint Julep Buttercream, all tasted the same. There’s even an embarrassing YouTube interview with the ladies from the blog ‘Cupcakes Take the Cake’ displaying my sugar and alcohol induced delirium. I remember getting lots of compliments. But I also remember being kind of drunk.
Fast-forward to the witching hour. There were four winning categories, two winners in each along with a runner-up. Plain and Simple Decoration, Exotic Decoration, Plain and Simple Flavor, and Exotic Flavor. Winners were announced. Plain/simple flavor: nope. Exotic flavor: nope. Plain/simple decoration: nope. I hadn’t seen a KitchenAid yet, and I wasn’t sure that if there was one, it would be bestowed onto the runner-up of the last category: Exotic decoration. But perhaps mint springs grown in oreo crumbs would be exotic enough to warrant some free cupcake pans? Maybe fancy flour? And wouldn’t you know it, they were! The rest of the evening is a little blurry. I remember Taylor announcing my prizes. I don’t know what my expression was. I probably had a goofy grin on my face regardless. Peering into my brown Brooklyn Kitchen paper bag were three containers of sprinkles. Dragees, rather. You know, those gold silver balls for decorating that are, in fact, edible but no one believes you that they are because on the label it states pretty clearly that they’re not approved for consumption in the state of California. There was a cupcake pan in there too. It was pink. And silicone- for baking six large rose shaped bundt cakes. Courtesy of Martha Stewart.
No matter. I haven’t won much of anything before or since. Well, that’s not entirely true. About three months later, I had an e-mail from Taylor who was looking to hire at the Brooklyn Kitchen. I had printed it out and laid it down next to my unemployment papers I was meaning to file that week. Freelance blew and I was broke. I looked from application to application. On Tayor’s I had to list three facts about myself that would deem me qualified to hawk pots and pans (and poach pods). On New York State’s, I had to list my tax information. I chose to fill out the former. I thought about it and typed out my response: I make good popcorn, I take care of my knives…and I won your cupcake contest. Sort of.
I tried to remember if I had grumbled about my prizes. I was hoping I hadn’t. I really needed a job. Making a long story short, I’m typing this, one year later, from behind the register at the Brooklyn Kitchen while folding cake boxes for this year’s cupcake bake-off. I’ve been told what the grand prize is. I’m not bitter. In fact, I’ve been reminded quite a few times (especially when hauling cases of mason jars in the rain, followed by a firm pat on the back) who came out the real winner. Cheesy as it sounds, I really can’t argue.