The Inverted Flower
Wasps, specifically Fig Wasps, are the reason why this delicate fruit is available as a decoration for pastries, part of an elegant breakfast, or made into Fig Newton cookies. Wasps tunnel themselves into the fruit, detach their wings, nest their eggs, and allow for pollination to occur. We are simply eating the dissolved body of a wasp, how interesting! Because figs flower internally, other pollinators besides the honey bee, were brought into nature to get the job done. Who knew…
This mutual relationship is vital for the survival of the Fig Wasps and the production of Figs. So we owe it to those pesky bugs that sting like crazy; they are good for something.
It’s a nice thought, but no. These berries aren’t known to make wine, but they are however, related to blackberries and the many ways you can manipulate them. It’s common to see these plump guys, on the side of a highway growing wildly; so the next time you are in a summer road trip, traffic jam, take that time to berry pick.
Killing It with Cocktails!
Alcohol has a history all its own. From cocktails like the Cosmopolitan, to aperitifs like brandy and liqueurs like Fernet Branca, alcohol has been known to soothe the soul and warm the heart. The word “cocktail” has many derivatives. An article in Saveur magazine mentions that the word originated in the Hudson Valley region or somewhere amongst NYC, Boston, and Albany. Another story states that the term originated in New Orleans, where a beverage mixed with brandy was served in a French egg cup called a coquetier. Eventually, the nickname cocktay gave way to what we now know as cocktail. Today, alcohol is served everywhere. From bars to restaurants to concert halls and stadiums, it is threaded into American life. However, it wasn’t always simple to have a cocktail or any alcoholic beverage for that matter. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, there was prohibition. During this time, any establishment that sold alcohol unlawfully was referred to as a speakeasy. One of the oldest speakeasies in America, the 21 Club in New York, opened at the tail end of prohibition in 1930. Dozens of famous people have dined at the 21 Club throughout the years and are known to dine at the same tables upon return. The wine cellar is located underneath the building next door; which was its secret hiding spot during prohibition. Camouflaged doors and revolving bars have also helped keep the club undercover in the past. The wine cellar stores wine like Montrachet 1898 and Romanee- Conti 1880. Signature cocktails offered include Into the Woods made with Laphroaig scotch, black pepper, and peach and Changing Thymes made with Greenhook Gin, Aperol, grapefruit juice, and thyme. One classical drink offered is called the‘21’ Perfect Martini created with sweet and dry vermouth, bitters, and either Makers Mark or Bulleit Rye. They also named one of their beers on tap, Speakeasy Prohibition Ale.
If you are continuing out on the town, stop by the Blacktail, a Cuban themed bar inspired by the prohibition era. During the prohibition, some Americas escaped to Cuba for a cocktail getaway. According to the New York Times the Blacktail’s signature drink is a blend of many kinds of rum: Cana Brava, Bacardi Heritage, Banks 5 Island Blend Rum and Barbancourt white rum. And of course the Cuban themed bar offers a cocktail list including a minty mojito or strawberry daiquiri. Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon who also own America’s best rated bar, The Dead Rabbit, located in NY City’s financial district, own Blacktail. The Dead Rabbit is a sophisticated Irish Tavern. Accolades for this bar include, World’s Best Bar, Best Bar in North America, World’s Best Cocktail Bar, Worlds Best Cocktail Menu, International Bartender of the Year, and more. The Dead Rabbit has three levels: the Taproom, the Parlor, and the Occasional. If you are looking for an all-night adventure, the Taproom is open from eleven am until four am every day of the week. One of their famous offerings is a drink called Pop-Inns which is liquor mixed with beer. They are also famous for their vast collection of whiskey. Published in their alcoholic beverage manual include some drinks like Irish coffee made with Irish whiskey, heavy cream, and Demerara sugar which is said to taste like molasses and caramel. They also offer Maiden’s Blush consisting of raspberry cordial, lemon, absinthe and gin.
It is always fun to visit destinations with a lot of history behind. If you are seeking a timely adventure a few places to escape to for a night out with beer in one hand and an old fashion in the other would be 21 club of Nyc, Blacktail, and The Dead Rabbit.
Aphrodisiacs: The Valentines Day Love Potion
Of course, most of us are like minded when it comes to the topic of aphrodisiacs, especially with Valentine’s Day a few days away. Many of us can’t help but snicker at the thought of their purpose. Aphrodisiacs like fruits, spices, or liquors that evoke sensual feelings present a fun diversion for adult couples. There are many interesting assertions surrounding this topic including the nutritious benefits aphrodisiacs offer and their potentially controversial side stories.
It is a common theory that if a food looks like a body part or organ then it must be beneficial to that body part. Culinary Institute of America’s Chef and Culinary science professor Jonathan Zearfoss has studied aphrodisiacs, and in his work mentioned a theory called the Doctrine of Signatures. This idea means if the plant or herb resembles human body parts or organs then it will positively help those body parts or organs. CIA’s chef William Philips notes how avocados look like the cervix of a female and therefore assist in the menstrual cycle along with the antioxidant vitamin E. Upon further research this idea of avocados and reproductive health is dated back to the time of the Aztecs.
As for males, oysters are alleged to be of assistance in reproductive organs. Chef Phillips also mentioned zinc and oysters being good for men’s sexual health. Zinc was used as a supplement for male testosterone levels. Chef Zearfoss said that because oysters are usually eaten alive, the idea of “taking on a life force” may be a factor in why live oysters are seen as something more than just food. Saffron, the vibrant orange culinary delicacy is also essential for libido levels or sex drive. You can steep it in tea or do what Queen Cleopatra did, bathe in it.
There are also potentially harmful foods consumed for the perks that aphrodisiacs offer. Many of us in the culinary industry have heard about Fugu, the tetrodotoxin poison containing blowfish of Japan. To anyone’s surprise this malignant fish is considered an aphrodisiac because of the mouth numbing sensation it gives diners. Talk about taking risks! Yarsagumba found in Nepal is a fungus that grows on caterpillars and known for its amorous effects. Studies in Chinese medicine tell us that the fungus is boiled and consumed in forms of hot tea or soup.
There is controversy on the subject of aphrodisiacs, however. Chocolate is probably one of the best regarded to eat on any given day. And, because Valentine’s Day is only a few days from now it is interesting to bring about a controversial perspective some have on the topic. On the contrary of aphrodisiac history with chocolate, according to the New York Times article “The Claim: Chocolate is an Aphrodisiac” research found this to be a false assertion. Although chocolate contains tryptophan which induces serotonin and phenylethylamine a chemical released when you’re in love, there is not nearly enough of either in chocolate for it to have an effect on the body. This idea relates to other items people consume like spices and herbs. Although many herbs and spices offer health benefits they must be consumed in large amounts for them to have an effect on the body. Don’t let this research put a damper on your fun, but its good food for thought next time you consider eating colossal amounts of chocolate while watching romantic 1980s movies.
Sprout, micro, baby, mature; four vital stages in producing beautiful vegetables, fruits, and herbs. In recent years, scientists have found that micro greens are quite the super food, providing antioxidants and nutrients. In 2012, after studies from the United States Department of Agriculture were conducted, news was released stating that micro greens have increasingly higher nutritional value than that of the full grown plant. Apparently one of the best vitamins to gain in eating micros is vitamin C. For every 100 grams of micro greens, there are 20 milligrams of vitamin C. And, not to mention it’s more than twice the amount of vitamin C that would be found in tomatoes, our beloved summer fruit. Cabbage is surprisingly weighing in at 147 milligrams of vitamin C for every 100 grams of micro cabbage. And to compare that number of micros to 100 grams of full grown cabbage, there is 90 milligrams more vitamin C in the micros. Research also proved that the beta carotene (which reduces risk of eye disease) found in carrots is more nutrient dense in micro greens with 12 milligrams per 100 grams. Daikon radish micros are known for high levels of vitamin E; just a sprinkle over a salad will help you get the vitamins you need. Lastly, vitamin K produced during photosynthesis is abundant in amaranth greens, a vitamin that helps us maintain strong bones.
Who would think to place a micro green garden in the middle of the city of Poughkeepsie. The initial opening of his 100-acre space comprised of offices and gardens, was back in the Spring of 2015 when entrepreneur Brud Hodgkin’s decided to test the growth of hydroponic tomatoes and strawberries. The end result produced a bland product that was not sufficient for his gardening goals. So he decided to look into micro greens and found they value far more nutrients than expected. The idea of operating this nifty business on Maine Street Poughkeepsie is to increase commerce of the surrounding area, offer veterans and troubled youth with the opportunity to get a job, and to produce a product that has many nutritional benefits. Hodgkin’s invites camps and school groups to tour the facility and learn about the process of photosynthesis. The plants grow hydroponically under LED lights, in a compost produced by a company named McEnroe. The compost is a collection of food scraps that sits and cooks for three years before being put out on the market. The varietal of micros is grown in mesh containers covered in wet paper towel. The seeds which aren’t covered in dirt, are placed in a separate room to germinate at a temperature of 80 degrees and then he transports them under the LED lights to finish growth. The water used for the plants is sterilized by boiling and cooling, and noted not to affect the nutritional value. The cost to grow one flat of micro greens is about $10 and he sells them for $21 for an 8 oz. flat. Currently Hodgkin’s and his team produce 80-100 pounds of product weekly, with a goal to grow about 1000 pounds per week.
The Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie sell over 14 varieties of micro greens to 70 local restaurants, food markets, and elementary schools. Hodgkin’s is running a test at a local elementary school to see how kids react to eating these healthful micro leaves. Krieger Elementary school is experimenting on fifth graders, having them consume 1/3 oz. micro cabbage every week in a smoothie. The same value of nutrition is found in 2.5 pounds of matured cabbage. The end result of this observation is to prove that kids and elderly people can become more nutritiously stable off many varieties of micros. So before you shove micro cabbage to the side of your plate, let yourself reap the benefits of all the nutrition it provides instead.
Not so Bubbly Anymore
Weather is the first factor to consider when growing grapes for wine. Currently France is experiencing a climate change effecting the areas well known for wine such as Bordeaux, Languedoc, and Champagne. California is also dealing with the current drought. Soil type and structure, grape type, climate, and history of the surrounding area in which grapes come from is what makes each one individually different from any other grape. Just like fruits and
vegetables, climate change is vital to grape production, and will affect the soil in which the grape grows. These attributes are otherwise known as terroir; something that acquires flavor and ambiance through soil, ground, locality, or the place it comes from. How exactly will the weather patterns of France and California effect our future wine varieties.
Heavy rainfall, disease, and a delay of the spring and summer seasons caused the number of grapes picked to diminish. Wine makers in France noticed that high temperatures in recent years have caused low acidity levels and high sugar levels in their grapes. Wines like this tend to become more alcoholic with higher fruit notes; many claim that it’s not very tasteful. With over 300 million plus bottles sold from Europe, chefs, restaurateurs, and sommeliers alike are concerned about the depletion of certain wine grapes in years to come. Located above Paris, Champagne is the most northern of the wine regions in France. This sparkling wine is acclaimed for its beautiful bubbly succulence; a common drink on New Year’s Eve, wedding ceremonies, and graduations worldwide. Producers of Champagne think that this region of France is comprised of different influences making theirs so special. In the near future, region will lack a third of their product during harvest due to this negative weather decline.
Due to a cold spring and current summer heatwave in France, wine production will go down by 10% says BBC News. The grapes are high in sugar and without the capability to ripen properly. This is not the first time France has seen this weather outbreak, however in the 1990s, it was also a problem for wine producers. With recent hail storms, predictors say between 7000kg and 8000kg of grapes will result. With less champagne production there could possibly be a higher demand for it over the next few months with consumers knowing that it may run out fast. Champagne France experiences hot to warm climate from July thru October and sometimes spurts of cooler climate in the beginning of fall. When the weather is warm for an extended period of time, the Champagne producer can label it as a vintage wine because it is made up of grapes from that year within the same location. Non- vintage Champagnes are produced from a few varieties of grapes grown in the same or different areas of France. But, as for California they are also experiencing negative effects in viticulture (the cultivation of grapes for producing wines).
California’s struggle with viticulture is the current drought they are experiencing. This drought is the worst it has ever been in California in 1,200 years. According to Wiley Online Library the largest wine grape region in northern America contains 1.2 million hectares of land and 18000 hectares or vineyards. This region includes Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma. California produces almost two thirds of the United States wine and offers about 82,000 careers around the US, says Huffington Post. Wine producers are encouraged to find better methods of growing grapes so that they are not so dependent on water and can handle warmer climate. Unlike wine in France, wines in California are sold by variety not by region. Perhaps they will start to consider selling wine by region, to make it easier for the consumer to identify a wine when it goes off the market.
The world’s best wine grapes are stressed out. Climate change and varying weather conditions are on the rise all over France and California. Grape growers will have to assimilate other agricultural methods so that their crops won’t die out completely. It may only be a matter of time until the storm passes.
Knead Stretch Pinch: “Mozzarella!”
Perline, Chilegine,Bocconcini, Ovoline, and Rotundine as beautifully written, are the names of Italy’s mozzarella shapes. Perline is the smallest, working its way up to the larger, Rotundine. And interestingly enough, Bocca means mouth, with bocconcini symbolizing, the perfect ball of mozzarella to fit inside ones mouth. Whether we eat fresh mozzarella in a Caprese salad, or melt it into Pasta alla Norma, there are the many different sizes to choose from. To make mozzarella, the chef must gather milk (preferably whole), citric acid, and rennet (helps make the cheese sturdy); the ingredients are heated between 90- 105 degrees throughout the whole process. Once the milk mixture curdles forming a custard like consistency, it is nearly done. At this point you may start kneading the curd to form mozzarella and shape into its various sizes. Some may use the whole ball and stretch it out for a roulade (see above); this method, known as pasta filata, means to stretch the curd. And the term Mozara, comes from a fisherman’s term meaning to pinch the head off a fish. When making mozzarella, one must pinch the curd into the desired sizes and toss into an ice water bath. Buratta is a softer form of mozzarella, made in the same way as the delectable curd, with the addition of a few things. After forming the shape of the mozzarella, the chef takes a mixture of heavy cream and leftover mozzarella shards, and pours it inside the middle of the mozzarella.The ball is tied with a leek leave, securing its shape, and later removed once it has cooled. It can be served at room temp with EVOO, balsamic reduction/pesto, and crostini. The preparation of buratta came about, as a way to use the leftover pieces of mozzarella in the whey.
SEEKING A CULINARY IDENTITY
It is very common for younger generations to question their future endeavors. Many college graduates and adults, well into their late twenties, are still finding their place in the workforce, what they want to spend forty to fifty hours a week doing. There are those who even go to college for something totally the opposite of what they end up pursuing, only a few years into their futures. As for myself, I am happy to say I have somewhat of an idea of where I can see my future going, but only so far. It’s hard to tell people you don’t know what you want to do when your currently enrolled in a career specialized college. But, to be honest I don’t know. I am still trying to find my place in the food industry; what interests me the most about cooking every day. What’s it about plating food with tweezers and small serving spoons that intrigues me; or how excited I get to style food on a plate, stage it with props, and snap shots for you to see? Perhaps, I am on an inspiring journey, searching for my culinary identity.
Recently I read an article online about a person who was seeking their culinary identity, and it opened up my mind to something I never really considered before. I have always been curious to what exactly my cooking style was. I realized that, I am one of hundreds of culinary students, here at the CIA, finding their culinary identity. Exactly, that’s just the word to describe it! Culinary Identity is about finding your style through geography, culture, tradition, education, and trends in the food industry. Similarly, this concept can be used for any person finding their self in the world, what they have passion for, or their identity in the work force. But, as for chefs out there seeking their culinary identity, what is it that speaks to their style the most? Farm to Table American or classic French cuisine? How about presentation styles; are they into presenting food to an audience with more of a homey rustic approach or is it fine dining quality? Do they like small, intimate restaurants, that turn a table every 2-3 hours, serving guests tasting menus with miniscule portions, or do they like high volume production, catering to wedding parties of over two hundred people in one sitting? On spectrum of food media, perspective chefs may consider writing cook books, working for a food magazine testing recipes, or on Food Network in front of a camera crew. The options are substantial, and that may be why as chefs, we find ourselves in a frenzy over what we want to do. We often hope that miraculously we are told what we are going to like for the rest of our lives, so we no longer have to wait and wonder. But, in this life the only way you are going to find your passion is through trial and error, working, staging, experiencing, and be educated. “There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself”, a quote from Lemony Snicket, Horseradish.
Aspiring chefs may find it difficult to settle on what they see oneself doing in life. Most of the time a life of a chef revolves around a swinging kitchen door, other times they are traveling in box trucks unloading prepped food for a wedding on the beach, and sometimes they share their experiences and love of food in cookbooks and on television shows. With the countless options there are, you as a chef will find what you are seeking, and what exactly your palate for life is!
THANKSGIVING DAY GLUTTONY
Although Thanksgiving is long over and we are looking ahead to Christmas, I want to share this article I wrote for the Culinary Institute of America’s newspaper La Papillote. It focuses not only on the awareness of hungry people in our community but maintains a concentric idea about food waste. Even with Thanksgiving in our past this can certainly relate to the upcoming holidays.
One of Americas most celebrated holidays is right around the corner. It is an opportunity to feast on food that isn’t normally served any other time of the year. It is a time to spend with family often lives many miles away and only stop by once a year to fulfill the obligatory holiday traditions. Thanksgiving is one of those times that you look forward to for weeks leading up and then dread for weeks following. From turkey, stuffing, and corn bread, to apple and pumpkin pie, the options are absolutely endless. We stuff our bellies while throwing back a beer or sipping a glass of wine to help the last bits go down before taking a bite of something else.
Gathering around food with family and friends is tradition at holiday times, but we don’t always stop and think about the reason why we come together to eat. What is Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, and we celebrate those thanks in the form of food. We are thankful that we have a meal in front of us and thankful for our family, friends, health, and security. However, it is interesting that Thanksgiving is one day out of the year we come together around mass amounts of food to be thankful for our blessings. We should always be thankful for everything that we have, is the food purely symbolic of the first Thanksgiving? Are we giving thanks via heaping portions of food simply to satisfy societal norms? Perhaps the way we celebrate Thanksgiving has been blown out of proportion. It is ironic that we happily continue to stuff our faces on full stomachs, while millions of people around the world are thankful for what little food they have. And to think, there are still leftovers at the end of the day that all go to waste by the end of the week.
I have noticed how easy it is to get caught up in ourselves during the holiday season. We worry about grocery shopping, who to invite to dinner, cleaning the house, buying gifts, cooking and baking, doing the dishes, and finally resting after it has all been said and done. Many of us don’t stop to think about the people in our surrounding communities that cannot afford to eat at Thanksgiving let alone any other day of the year. The Natural Resources Defense Council states that Americans throw out $282 million of Turkey alone each year. This adds to an annual food waste of $165 billion. Not to mention the CO2 gas emissions equating to 80,000 car trips across the country and 105 billion gallons of water that went into turkey production.
According to the USDA Americans eat 46 million turkeys each year on Thanksgiving. With the average turkey weighing in at 16 pounds apiece that is roughly 736 million pounds. Three pounds of poultry, plus all the other food we devour. Whatever happened to eating five to six ounces of protein in one meal? Depending on the household, a Thanksgiving meal could provide enough food to last for a weeks’ worth of meals. It is a shame knowing there are homes that throw away leftover food at the end of the Thanksgiving meal. It is unfortunate that people don’t care as much about food waste, knowing that there are starving people in the surrounding communities.
“Dutchess Outreach was founded in Poughkeepsie to provide aid to struggling families in the area. The organization strives to meet the temporary, basic needs of the individual and families in the community, act as an advocate for need persons to meet their basic needs on a long-term basis and promote community awareness of social problems by generating support for improvement of the system’s response to human needs. The Beverly Closs Food Pantry, along with other programs such as Lunch Box, Act of Kindness, Children’s Clothes Closet and more have had a positive effect on community members.” https://hungrylikeafox.wordpress.com
The Dutchess County Outreach soup kitchen claims to prepare and serve 400 meals on any given holiday. On a daily basis they serve 220 meals for lunch six days a week, and then 200 meals at dinner four times a week. As culinary students living in Dutchess County we can find ways to use potential food waste and control production factors. I think that as CIA students we should be most concerned about these issues since we are surrounded by food all the time.
VODKA: How it’s made
I had the urge to rent four books from the food filled library at my school this past week. I am intrigued with each book, and what it has to offer an avid reader. The one that I decided to read first, is all about Vodka; history, different brands, recipes for disaster, and so on. Many people believe that this delectable spirit comes from potato, and although this is true, it does not only originate from this starch in nature. Vodka, like the famous Ciroc from France, is made with grape. Other labels such as Signature Vodka from Canada, are made with grains and herbs, and Romanoff Vodka from South Africa is made from Molasses. What’s more interesting, are the countries where Vodka was first sought, like Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Finland whom only believed to process the famous spirit from potato, grain, and molasses. Whereas in the western and Southern parts of Europe- Italy, France, and England- they insist on creating Vodka from corn and fruits, like apple.
How it’s made: Vodka is made by crushing the main starch, adding water, and heating it up to allow the starch to convert into sugar. Once this is done, a “Mash” is formed with the addition of yeast and thereafter, excess water and chemicals are removed from the ethanol, through distillation. During the distillation of the “Mash”, alcohol vapor is caught in long tubes and then cooled down, so that it’s compressed to alcohol.