Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Case in Point

For a long time I've admitted to flipping first to the Style section of the Sunday Times. Check out "Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat."

They've got their ears perked, those Times reporters.

Friday, March 7, 2008

This Little Veggie Went to Williamsburg

A few weeks ago, in the name of raising funds for The Greenhorns (check out the trailer: http://www.thegreenhorns.net/home.html and give generously!!), I hopped on the M (who ever takes the M?!) and headed to a stop I'd never heard of, over a bridge I could only guess at, and mused about how happy it is to happen upon a new corner of the city-- one that makes the city you feel you know so well, seem like it is in fact another city altogether. I asked strangers for directions, and turned right on the corner. Above me the Williamsburg bridge was cloaked by night, across from me was Peter Luger. Wait, wait. I did a double take-- where was I? Really? Peter Luger, as in The? Indeed, thar she blew, and she's been there since 1887, so I am quite literally the new kid on the block.

I pressed on, a little smile now planted on my face. This would be a night of discovery. The address led me to a graffitied door which was propped open with a broom. A party called from the top floor, and little notes along the way urged me forth: "just a little more!" "follow your sweetie!" En haut a young woman in a wispy dress welcomed me in. There was a coat rack by the door, bouquets of twiggy branches framed the entry way. Where am I? I breathed, taking in the cement floor and the twinkle lights, the old industrial windows that looked out to the bridge and the train that was lit like the Polar Express as it chugged by. "You're in Williamsburg!" she laughed. Ah, yes, my forgotten Brooklyn neighbor...here among the young, the hip, the painfully artsy, ridiculously good-looking, and plasticly bespectacled, I found myself dying be a part of the fun. All I had to do was step inside.

At the bar I took a Bell canning jar from the box and requested a cup of "Le Cousin Rouge," one of three local wines on offer. The notes were fruity and inviting, a nice beginning to the evening-- nothing to knock you over, just a light "hello" in the tone of plain berry goodness. The guy next to me (tall, bearded, plaid shirt, terribly attractive) took a sip and nodded along with my murmurs of approval. "Yeah, you can really taste the earth in it," he said. And with that, the classic nod to the party surf, we stepped away to talk to others we already knew by name.

The crowd was fawning over a center table laden with no less than eight plates of local cheeses which were paired with bowls of strawberry preserves, chutney, and cherries that had been kept in brandy. We spread soft chevre on warm herb scones and dipped sticks of comte in a tangy salsa of peppers and fruit. There were little meat balls in one basket and freshly baked bread on a cutting board next to it. A dish of steamed spinach with curried eggs was polished off before I made my way to that end of the smorgasbord. There were nuts and berries spread out on the table cloth for decoration and for nibbling, carefully written tags by each dish announcing where its ingredients had come from, a blackboard listing the local purveyors who had donated the wine, the cheese, the nuts, the meat. There was a table with brochures-- an Eat Well Guide to Brooklyn, information on CSAs, and copies of The Greenhorns movie trailer. There was a "gift store" set up where you could buy Greenhorns stickers, or homemade packets of kombucha. I mingled with farm hands, the bearded Mast brothers of Mast Brothers chocolate, a cook from Diner who had volunteered to help out on his night off. I was introduced to Tom the Butcher who promised I could come by his place of business any time to watch him work (though Tuesdays are best, he emphasized, because that's when he dissembles the pigs). How could I turn an invitation like that down? Back in the kitchen someone was taking a turn at the pile of dishes, and even though speeches had been made and the purpose of the fundraiser had been officially stated, and the crowd was starting to thin, the appointed cooks were still at work.

In the spring issue of Edible Brooklyn there is an article about supper clubs. A new friend and I bonded over this exciting clue into the edible underworld of our boro. "How do we get invited?" we mused. The clubs are invite-only and very secretive unless you know someone who knows someone. My latest dream-plan is to create a local supper club-- forget waiting to be invited, we'll just start our own. As I shopped this idea around the Greenhorns fundraiser people were more than enthusiastic. They wanted to know when it was happening-- they were ready to write it down in their Moleskin planners. Daniel, the young guy working on development for the documentary, nodded in fast agreement. "I think that's where dining is headed in the next ten years-- back into the home." And as we gazed out at the crowd who had showed up and continued to linger his hypothesis seemed undeniable.

Daniel made his way to the center of the room and rattled off a good soundbite about going out into the community to dig up funds for the film. He then introduced dessert: we had chocolate bars from the Mast Brothers, homemade graham crackers, and there were homemade marshmallows too. "There are sticks in the bouquets by the door, and if you like, you're welcome to toast the marshmallows over the candle flames." Which is exactly what we did. Side by side, in a loft in the middle of the city we were kids at camp around a bon fire. S'mores have never tasted sweeter.

As I was starting to say my goodbyes a plate of garlic toasts smeared with mascarpone and pieces of fatty, fatty prosciutto made their way around the room. I had one arm in my coat already, I haven't eaten prosciutto in I can't count how many years, but I'd just met the butcher who had provided the meat, and he knew exactly where the pig had come from and what it had been fed. I happily took a bite...the gentle saltiness was luxurious with the creamy cheese. This is food you are meant to eat and enjoy, even if it comes after the end of the meal-- two weeks later I am still remembering precisely the way it tasted.

As I retraced my way to the subway stop I spied a discarded take home bag from Peter Luger, lost in a gutter under the bridge. Outside the restaurant itself what had been the 8 o'clock dinner crowd now milled around on the corner straightening their scarves and deciding that next time they would order the steak rare. I on the other hand, felt like I'd just descended from cloud nine. Sated and in awe of what my peers are producing-- both food-wise and art-wise-- I floated past the steak house crowd, and up to the elevated train stop. I wouldn't change a thing about the meal I'd just been served or the or the new friends, all local gourmands like myself, who had gathered together to serve it.

Lemons are for Inspiration

I went on a little shopping spree the other day and treated myself to a bowl full of Meyer Lemons. I knew they were in season just now, but a girl from Maine and Michigan hasn't had much of a chance to delight in these delicacies in her green twenty four years. When I was a kid I ate bodega lemons like oranges, sucking on little wedges, much to the cringing of my mother and babysitters and grandparents-- oh! those precious baby teeth were not long for this world!

My habit has mellowed out with age, but I keep staring at this splendid bowl of California Meyer Lemons, and every now and then I draw one to my nose...the scent is sweet and floral...while we continue to get rain and grey skies, I am dreaming of where these lemons will take me. Untouched just there on the kitchen table they offer a shocking promise, and I haven't even sunk my teeth into one yet.