Companion Piece to Watermelon Feta Recipe, Read Blocks, Rocks, Sprinkled, 'Salted' Afternoon Talk in 2010

Time flies.

After sharing Watermelon, Feta on Salt Block recipe earlier today I thought I should remind those of you who missed it of my Blocks, Rocks, Sprinkled, 'Salted' Afternoon Talk with selmelier Mark Bitterman a while back.

It took place at his New York shop, The Meadow located 523, Hudson Street (pictured below).

Themeadows

Did not realize interview happened more than 2 and a half years ago.


Finally Serving 'Japanese Farm Food' February Interview with Nancy Singleton Hachisu

I met Nancy Singleton Hachisu, author of Japanese Farm Food (Andrews McMeel, Fall 2012) late February at Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg.

We chatted for a short hour.

I have to thank a day with 2 car washes for finally bringing our conversation to this screen.

Q: Nancy, what makes you a “stubbornly” independent foreign bride?

I came to Japan when I was 32. I lived in Belgium for high school abroad program and I also spent a year in Mexico. While in Belgium, I stayed with a family. We were told by AFS High School Abroad program that we had to assimilate. When you come to a country as a visitor you follow local rules. In Japan, I felt like I needed to stay the course by following heart of customs not letter. As a foreign woman who settled in Japan and married a local man, I felt pressure from in-laws and also had to learn how to manage duties from farm life.

Q: Family roots?

Family has strong connections with MIT and Wellesley. My father worked at SRI. We had a Japanese inspired home.

Q: Your husband is an egg farmer, what type of chicken do you use and eggs they produce?

This is a commercial free range egg farm with 2000 to 3000 chicken, Rhode Island Reds. It takes craftsmanship to run which my husband has gathered over 20 years. You can taste difference in eggs depending on what they are fed with.

Q: Before studying at Stanford, you lived in Belgium for a year. Were you itching for a change of scenery even prior to heading for Japan?

Not really, I moved from northern California to southern California, center is my house and farm in Japan. When I travel, I like to go back to same places. I need a sense of place, a community.

Japanesefarmfood

Q: Was your English immersion program called ‘Sunny Side Up’ because of your roots as an egg farmer?

In part, mostly because it sounds much better than ‘Nancy’s English Club’.

Q: What is your role in ‘Slow Food Japan’?

We do farm related events. Food creates a sense of community. We show how easy it is to eat local.

Q: Describe recipes featured in your book.

Food in ‘Japanese Farm Food’ is what my family eats. Salads are my favorites.

Q: Can you name couple of must have kitchen tools in your daily cooking?

First, a vegetable knife (carbon steel) light and easy to handle for soft things, second, a grinding bowl and a grinder, good for western dishes and essential for Japanese cooking.

Q: Besides fact that you live on an egg farm, eggs seem present at various times of your life

Yes, in good times as in times of crisis, I think of eggs as the ultimate comfort food.

Q: Dango balls caught my eye in your book, what is their place?

Dango balls are for guests. In farming communities, they are served with soy sauce.

Q: What should be served with tea?

Sweet and savory foods are both present as well as canned coffee and carbonated drinks.
In many homes, food is not always seasonal and less and less homemade

Q: Last, describe region of Japan where you live in a few words.

Region is semi-rural with mostly small towns yet not as pastoral as Vermont

Thanks Nancy for your time!


Simpler Approach for Leaner Times, Peter Gordon Back from New Zealand Talks 'Everyday' Food

He must have been one of the first people I interviewed at the time of the publication of Fusion back in 2010.

New Zealand born, London based chef, Peter Gordon latest book 'Everyday' is published by Harper Collins in New Zealand and Australia and Jacqui Small in the UK, no U.S edition yet– although as 2 of Peter’s previous books (he’s written 7 – he doesn’t use a ghost writer) have been published in the US he’s hopeful this latest will be picked up.

A few days after his return from New Zealand, I made a house call to Peter Gordon for an 'Everyday' conversation.

Q: Peter, you just came back from New Zealand. what were you working on there?

Actually for the first time in years, it was not all work. I spent quality time for the holidays with my partner Al who lives in Auckland and caught up with my family around Australia and New Zealand. Once holidays were over I had work to get on with - a series of tv commercials and media project that will be airing in June or July (8 episodes). We can talk about it more then but for now it’s under wraps. I also went fishing, foraging, diving for Paua (NZ native black abalone), harvesting sea urchins caught, cleaned and smoked over 100 eels.

Q: Your new book is titled 'Everyday', did you want to encourage people to eat (and cook) more at home?

During the week many people are pressed for time so I created recipes that could be prepared quickly with minimal shopping. The recipe for spaghetti toast for example uses canned spaghetti.  bread and butter – simple! Another dish is cauliflower roasted with olives and herbs. My aim was also to help readers stay on budget. Even with simplicity in mind, one will need to know how to cook to put these dishes on the table. It will also help on days when you lack inspiration to add a little zing to dinner.

Petergordoneveryday

Q: Do you think that cooking a meal at home for family or friends connects you more deeply with your food and where it comes from?

City kids often don't realize that chicken legs come from living things. Seriously – and don’t even ask if they know where meatloaf comes from. On a recent visit to New Zealand, I taught school kids to cook vegetable soup and oat biscuits – some of the kids had no idea what a bell pepper or zucchini was which surprised me. When friends with children visit, I often take them to nearby city farm one of a number in London.

Q: Was the intent of 'Everyday also to show that streamlined dishes with less ingredients can be appealing, exciting, tastewise?

My previous book 'Fusion' looked at history of food, origins, food travel, it was quite complex. 'Everyday' skips over that and is simply a book laden with 170 recipes – It is a simpler approach for leaner times.

Q: When was 'Everyday' published?

First in New Zealand and Australia in October 2012 followed in November by UK, there is no U.S edition in the works yet. I was cooking at The Frankfurt Book Fair at the end of 2012 and it’s obvious the book publishing world is in flux with movement towards more digital publishing. In U.S it can be hard to make your voice heard if you don't have a TV-cable presence.

Q: Do you see each book as a chance to share new favorites, discoveries?

I like the process of writing books. If I have time to focuss, I enjoy it. It is a way to communicate my passion for flavours and my interest in people.

Q: Are new ingredients, dishes, informed by your travels?

Absolutely – and especially so as I travel a lot with restaurants in 2 countries (NZ and the UK), and a consultancy in Istanbul with 2 restaurants. There is a tension though, because when a chef is away, is it wise to let people know you are not in your kitchen? On the other hand it’s impossible to be in all my kitchens at the same time. Travel has been highly influential on my cooking. 

Q: When you step away from your restaurant stove and travel, do you come back refreshed?

Never refreshed enough unfortunately. While in Ibiza recently, I stayed in a 14th century farm cottage owned by friends, shopped at local markets, cooked dishes using local ingredients. All very locavore! I stayed away from island's party crowd and it was definitely refreshing. Funnily enough, my friends are also good mates with Yoshi Takazawa of restaurant Aronia in Tokyo – he is hugely popular in Spain in the way so many Japanese chefs are.

Q: Can ingredients from various parts of the world be an invitation to travel to the source?

Food tourism definitely exists and most of my friends only ever travel to places where food will be a feature. I must have eaten almost everything, because I’ve not really experienced that many new ingredients in recent years (I’m always looking though) except perhaps for sea kale, hua (the stomach from black abalone – very seaweedy)... Currently in New Zealand, biggest trend is Mexican food and food trucks. In the UK, many restaurants have adopted a simpler, low key approach, tapas style menus.

Q: What was your biggest challenge in past couple years?

My latest venture Kopapa opened in December 2010 in Covent Garden. We expected the place to be full from day One. Instead we had a really difficult opening with some of the coldest temperatures in decades which kept the public away – and the airports were closed due to snow so tourists never appeared. Reviews went from Top 5 to worst. My food has always been like that though, polarising the reviewers. It is a touristy area with many people on their way to a play or a musical. You have to catch passers by attention and our blackboard menu was not doing that. We added familiar items like burgers and soft shell crabs and things steadily improved.

Q: How does your Covent Garden experience differs from The Providores?

At The Providores, we attract a lot of regulars from the neighborhood. Doctors, professionals and residents alike. The photographer Dennis Morris and his wife are perhaps the most regular, they come 10 – 12 times a week, for coffee and a muffin, a glass of wine, a quick lunch. There is no such thing in Covent Garden where our front door is 200 feet from Cambridge Theater where Matilda the musical is playing. 

Q: Besides impact of the economy, what else has changed on UK restaurant scene?

A lot of Gordon Ramsay chefs have left to pursue their own projects. Michelin star has somehow faded. Many more casual, or low key offerings, are opening – mostly for the good. Quite a few well known places have closed their doors due to the economic downturn. Use of Asian ingredients in non-asian restaurants is common, lemongrass pana cotta is an example. Mexican food is now quite popular. British had reputation for dull food. We are now in better place than 10 years ago both creatively and in dining room, less stuffy, less formal. Wine be the glass and carafe is common. It is better for lunch crowd as half bottles are hard to come by. Restaurants are meeting customers needs more. New places find inspiration both from brasseries and tapas bars.

Q: Are cocktails an important part of today's menus?

Definitely, for the holidays we created a cocktail (pictured below) combining Christmas cake mascerated with Brandy served in Martini glass and topped with whipped cream. Cocktails can be show pieces, eye catchers.And those that are fresh and fruity make a great aperitif and also help with revenue.

Photo (1)

Q: Are you still fond of Sherry?

I really enjoy a delicious bone dry or nutty sherry, even though it's a hard sell. Sherry suffers from perception as an old ladies drink.

Q: Getting back to 'Everyday' why is accent put on 'supermarket' ingredients?

While putting book together, we decided with editor that getting ingredients used in 'Everiday' to re-create recipes would not mean a trip to 'out of the way' specialty stores as it limits the audience. Not all chain stores get my vote yet Saintsbury and Waitrose have really spent a lot of time in expanding their food selection. 20 years ago, lemongrass would have raised eyebrows, pomegranate molasses or sumac the same. Nowadays less so and all are ingredients I use constantly and customers appreciate.

Q: On breakfast spread I received before we spoke, I see baked apples, figs, baked goods I cannot quite identify, did seasonality play a role in these choices?

Seasonality played no role in 'Everyday'. Chapters include Breakfast and Brunch, Soups, Pasta-Rice and Noodles. For breakfast-brunch items, baked apples are stuffed with toasted oats and honey, you have a raspberry, banana and avocado smoothie, in baking department, parmesan pine nut scones with balsamic butter, prosciutto and tomato.

1_Breakfast_1

Q: Also in breakfast-brunch chapter is 'Lamb Shakshouka', can you tell us about Shakshouka's roots?

Shakshouka is a North African-Jewish vegetarian dish. I’d eaten it often over the years, the first time in Australia in the early ‘80s. Recently I ate it in the company of my good friend Yotam Ottolenghi when we were in Israel. You eat it like a stew. Think of it as sort of a ratatouille with yogurt added and eggs on top. In Tel Aviv, a restaurant named Dr Shakshouka honors that dish.

Q: Let's conclude on a personal note, what part of London do you call home?

I bought a house in London Fields, East London, 18 months ago. Believe it or not, it’s the kitchen that needs a lot of work. I did the whole house up but ran out of funds before I could tackle it, which is actually fine as I’ve had time to decide what it really needs. Construction will begin late March so I will finally have an oven which works and get rid of the hole in the floor. Neighborhood is vibrant with lots of Vietnamese restaurants, the Broadway Market, a Jamaican Market. My favorite shops on Broadway Market are Fin and Flounder (a fishmonger), Climpson & Sons (coffee roaster), and Ole Hansen a Norwegian guy who smokes the most delicious salmon. 

Broadwaymarket

Thanks Peter for taking an hour of your time to talk 'Everyday' food. 

(* Book cover and Breakfast spread photos by Manja Wachsmuth, Cocktail image courtesy Peter Gordon, Broadway Market image from their website)


Eating for Health and Happiness, Fuchsia Dunlop 'Every Grain of Rice' Interview

January has been flying by since I caught up with Fuchsia Dunlop in her London HQ via Skype right at start of 2013.

Our hour long conversation revolved around the U.S publication of her latest cookbook Every Grain of Rice, Simple Chinese Home Cooking (W.W. Norton, February 2013).

Q: Fuchsia, where did your interest in Chinese food and China in general come from?

I got hooked on China through a sub-editing job at the BBC, then traveled to China, learned Mandarin. I was supposed to study minorities history then while in Chengdu got interested in Chinese cuisine which led me to study at Institute of Higher Cuisine in Sichuan.

Q: Homecooked meal you had at Mrs. Mao described in the introduction sounds like a feast, is it common in Chinese homes to treat your guests to so many dishes?

Yes, it is customary. It is also a way to offer a range of flavors over the course of the meal.

Q: What distinguishes Malabar spinach of Sichuan from regular spinach?

It is a completely different plant also known as Basella alba (from Basellaceae family, slippery and ancient.

Q: Can you describe what you call ‘eating for heath and happiness’

Rather than the idea of Chinese food we have in the West, it means a cuisine based on grains and vegetables, beans with bits of meat and fish to add flavor.

Fuchsia-cl

Q: What does Cassia bark add to stews?

Cassia bark could be called ‘poor man’ cinnamon. It is often used to counteract (balance) beef or lamb flavors and is often used in combination with star anise and cardamom.

Q: How similar and different are Chinese cured hams from European ones and how are they used?

Jinhua hams from Eastern China and Yunnan are 2 examples. They are seldom eaten raw. Most often they are added to enhance flavors (umami) also with bamboo shoots. Their role is similar to that of dry shrimp in other recipes. Small thin slices of cured ham are also present as a garnish.

Q: What is role of Chinese ladle?

Chinese ladle has shallower angle.  It works well to move various ingredients around the wok or add various  

Q; Among recipes in ‘Every Grain of Rice’ which would you suggest to someone not familiar with Chinese cuisine, a rookie?

Many recipes in the book are accessible and can be put together in 10 to 20 minutes, as long as you have the right ingredients.

Q: I discovered thank to you that chestnuts are a native crop of China, which recipe in the book puts them to good use?

I recommend the chicken chestnut stir fry. Use young chestnuts.

Q: Why are Garlic Stems a favorite of yours?

Their garlicky taste is softened by cooking. It makes for a great supper with bacon and rice. Chinese cooking uses the onion family a lot, for example yellow hothouse chives and flowering chines.

Everygrain

Q: What made Zhajiang noodles popular all over China?

It is a classic Beijing dish. Other regions created versions of it though with less intense flavors.

Q:  Is dessert not part of a Chinese meal?

Desserts can be found in Hong Kong or at banquets. For Chinese a meal is a journey of flavors. Chinese do not find grouping of sweets together compelling.

Q: You suggest German or Alsatian white wines as best pairing with Chinese dishes so why are red Bordeaux popular in China?

At grand dinners, sea cucumber, birdnest are served because they are delicacies with social cachet. Serving dry red wines like high end Bordeaux are status symbols, they are trendy.

Q: You also mention that fiery grain liquors are served at functions, are they hard on liver?

Lots of grain liquors are present at celebrations and business functions. Many transplants find it hard to deal with night after night of toasts. This heavy drinking is harder on men. Women can find ways to minimize toasts without offending their hosts.

Q: What type of oysters are found in Fujian and Guandong provinces?

I have to confess I am not sure.

Gastronomic tour china

Q: To conclude, What is your favorite regional cuisine?

There are so many exciting regional cuisines. Chengdu is exceptional. It is first Chinese city of gastronomy. Sichuan food has all price points. It is both varied and complex. You find hundreds of dishes, all with their own flavor,some scorched in oil, others fermented, a wide range of chiles, ginger juices, sweet and sour options. Another favorite area is Hangzhou for its water vegetables and fresh water fish.

(* Photo of Fuchsia Dunlop © Colin Bell, other photo courtesy Fuchsia Dunlop)


10 Toes Deep in Martini World, 'Shaken Not Stirred' Conversation with Jared Brown, Anistatia Miller

When I received a copy of newly updated paperback edition of paperback edition of Shaken not Stirred, a Celebration of the Martini(William Morrow, January 2013), I did not realize that its authors, Anistatia R.Miller and Jared M.Brown, have been part of the Martini culture since the mid 90's.

Jared is currently the master distiller for Sipsmith in London. I was introduced to Sipsmith by New Zealand born chef Peter Gordon, a couple years ago.

Jared and Anistatia run the popular site Mixellany which has also its own imprint.

In the week between Christmas and New Year, I had a 45 minutes conversation with Jared and Anistatia over an at times choppy phone line (blame it on their rural retreat in the Cotswolds).

Anistatia, Jared, How did your 2 decades long Martini adventure start?

We launched Mixellany's predecessor Martini Place on Halloween 1995 and within a short period of time reached 10,000 visitors which was amazing in the early years of the internet. Our popularity and the content of our site in turn piqued the interest of the editor of a book publisher who encouraged us to write 'Shaken Not Stirred'. Book was first published in 1996.

Have you always lived in the UK?

No, our work and interests has taken us over the years from Vancouver to San Francisco and New York with a number of other places in between.

Is there a big difference between new edition of 'Shaken not Stirred' and the original?

It is mostly a different book. Starting in 2006, we spent about 3 years on Ile de Bendor (near Marseille and Bandol, France) to direct the restoration of Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux (On this private island Paul Ricard erected a museum in 1958 dedicated to housing a “complete and permanent encyclopaedia” of wine and spirits). This project allowed us to do extensive research. Researching spirits in Europe rather than the USA gave us a different perspective.

Was your perspective changed regarding roots of the Martini?

Indeed, there is a presupposed American origin when in fact a first Martini was mixed in the USA but by a German bartender using a British gin and an Italian vermouth. It took place in New York in 1882.

What are the other first traces of the Martini on world scene?

Second major mention (after German bartender) was in 1887. First published recipe appeared in 1888 edition of Harry Johnson's Bartender's Manual one of the books accessible in Free Book Library digitized and searchable of titles in public domain.

What distinguishes original Martini from current ones?

The original Martini was equal parts Gin and Sweet Vermouth. Dry Martinis appeared in 1890. Vodka made major entrance on Martini scene in 1934 when Russia sent a big shipment of vodka to the U.S. There was prior mention of foreign correspondants mixing Vodka Martinis (7 to 1 ration) with an Irani substitute to Vermouth.

Is there one major change that took place in cocktail scene since the 90's?

A huge change with current generation is thar bartenders consider themselves as professionals on the same level as chefs are in the kitchen? They study history of spirits and drinks, learn from mentors as there are no equivalent to culinary schools for bar staff.

GibsonsBW

Did something happen as well in way drinks are served?Big change is in glassware where 12oz glass was common. It was a bad idea as drink will be warm once you get to bottom of it, unless you had a bad day and want to get quickly drunk. Good cocktail bars now use 5oz glasses. They are better for chilling and to keep concentration of flavors.

Is seasonality of ingredients also important to this new wave of bartenders?

Definitely, Brandy marinated cherries in Summer, Maraschino cherries used to be great before most became syrupy. During spring in England, some bartenders use leaves from beech trees to infuse Gin for 14 days. Fall and Winter i favor olives infused with Vermouth. Let's not forget the importance of Bitters. Many bartenders now make their own and hundred of varieties can be found. Bitters were very commonly used in Martinis until the 60's, especially Orange Bitters. They then were forgotten.

What is your perfect ratio for a good Martini these days and secret to a great tasting one?

I would say a 3 to 1 ratio. Best made with fresh Vermouth. While in France we made sure our fridge was well stocked with small bottles of Noilly Prat. A large bottle of Vermouth will not last more than a month once open. Its shelf life is extended to 2 to 3 months if refrigerated. A sign of a decent bar for me these days is if all opened Vermouth is refrigerated.

Why are some bartenders using no Vermouth when Martini is ordered?

It goes all way back to prohibition. After prohibition ended, Vermouth appeared less and less in Martinis because bartenders lost skill on how to use it.

What is your favorite vodka?

I go for a juniper flavored one.

What amazes you most about impact of 'Shaken not Stirred' book since original edition was published?

Most remarkable is how many bartenders have used book since 1996.

When did earliest mentions in print of the word 'cocktail' take place?

1798 in London (Gin based for most and Brandy based for the upper class), 1803 then 1806 in the U.S.

In what year was Mixellany launched?

In 2009 after me completed our restoration work on Ile de Bendor.

Martini trends of 2012?

People are going back to classic dry Martini. 50/50 is in top spot again.

Where do bartenders share their creations?

On Facebook, via Mixologist sites and also the United Kingdom Bartender Guild (UKBG) to name a few.

How important to the cocktail renaissance are micro-distillers?

They rekindled the excitement. Sipsmith for who I work was first distiller licensed in London in 200 years. Since then, 4 more came into existence. I also worked with Kevin Settles at Bardenay in Idaho when they got started.

What about Martinis and food pairing?

Fresh truffles should be used while in season like Christmas songs around the holidays. Try a Martini made with truffles infused in dry Vermouth for 5 days. It is perfect with beef dishes like Tournedos Rossini and of course dishes with truffles.

Reverse Martini pairs beautifully with Swordfish and Halibut. It was suggested to me by Julia Child who defied me to find wines that would pair better.

At home, I take Gin in open vat while smoking Venison. I keep Gin in smoker for 20 minutes and Gin picks up meat flavors. Result is very good in Bullshot or Bloody Mary or alongside Venison dish in a chilled glass.

Any favorite major brands of Gin and Vermouth?

For Gins, Beefheater is great for the price, then Plymouth. I think Hendrick's is good but expensive for what it offers. As for Vermouth i like Martini & Rossi which is made with same care as boutique Vermouth. I also like to use Lillet as an alternative.

Name your favorite boutique Vermouth?

In the USA, Imbue, very good and unusual, from Oregon.

From Italy, Carpano Antica from Turin, considered as top notch by many bartenders.

Also from Turin, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, superb and recently re-released.

Cocchi

You will find more Vermouth offerings in Mixellany Guide to Vermouth.

Can you now offer favorite boutique Gins?

I would start with Number 3 from Berry Bros (London).

Second, Bardenay from Boise (Idaho). It is highly rated and with limited availability.

A few words to conclude?

Let's not forget that Gin is not about experimenting but rather tradition. Some of the best ones were made 150 years ago. 

It was the most popular drink in 1820, popular enough that poems were written about it

Millerbrown

Thanks to Jared and Anistatia for their time. 

(* Gibson Martini photo by Jared Brown, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino label from Cocchi's site)


Provence has Lavender, Toulouse has Pastel, Carole and Nathalie sing Graine de Pastel beauty story

Thanks to Skype, I let Carole Garcia of Graine de Pastel enlighten me on the history, qualities and virtues of Pastel before my departure for Europe.

Siliques (3)

I continued the conversation with Carole and her partner Nathalie Juin at their Toulouse HQ above the first free standing Graine de Pastel store on Place St Etienne, a charming cobblestone covered locale a block off Rue de Metz.

Here is the result of both conversations.

Q: Carole, what was the genesis of Graine de Pastel idea?

We started with the idea of creating a company with regional roots, steeped in occitan culture and language and linked to pastel's historic heritage. Landmarks of Toulouse architecture like Hotel d'Asezat which now hosts Musee Bamberg were built thanks to wealth created in 16th century by the trading of Pastel, the pigment as a tinting agent for fabrics.

Hoteldasezat

Q: Was there a person you would credit as getting you going on this idea?

Carole's mother sent her a newspaper article in La Depeche du Midi that mentioned thesis written on medicinal and healing virtues of Pastel and it piqued her curiosity while we were both working in pharmaceutical industry?

Q: How did you take the idea of Pastel as health-beauty product a step further?

Nathalie did the research on Pastel's virtues, attributes. All in all it was a 10 year process, including 2 years of planning and 18 months of gestation. Tests were made on cosmetic and dermatologic values as well as bacteriologic issues. Our creations needed a 1 year shelf life to make sure that the attributes stayed what they were.

All my pics 2478

Q: Once all the legwork was done and product Graine de Pastel line was ready for market, did you start selling online first?

From the outset, we sold Graine de Pastel both in stores (Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marche, specialized shops, Harrods in the UK) and online.

Q: Is your line organic?

Our fragrances do not qualify as organic (what is called 'bio' in France) yet we adopted from the start natural practices. We do not use animals for our testing.

Q: Where do source your pastel from?

We get it from local Coop of growers near Pamiers in Ariege.

Q: When was your free standing store opened?

Graine de Pastel shop on Place St Etienne opened its doors in April 2012. We also have a small Beauty Institute upstairs offereing facial and body skincare as well as massages with pebbles from Garonne river and with Shells of Cocagne, all these by appointment only, Monday through Saturday.

Q: Outside Europe where is Graine de Pastel most sold?

Saudi Arabla, Japan, Canada and the USA.

Q: As we are now in the Christmas and New Year gift giving season, who are main recipients of your line as gifts?

First women, then friends and family who live abroad, third as business gifts, Graine de Pastel was one of the gifts featured aboard Airbus inaugural flight of A380.

Q: Name your most popular items?

Right now it would be Baume de Cocagne (Face and Body Butter) and Creme de Cocagne (Face and Body Cream).

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Q: To conclude, describe Graine de Pastel in 3 words?

Natural, green, affordable.

Our soaps start at 5 euros. We take terroir approach to personal care products.

Pleased to meet you Carole and Nathalie.


6 Cents Jamaicas Oysters to Beekeper Andrew Cote, Eating and Drinking New York, Robin Shulman Interview

From micro breweries in Brooklyn to beekeepers (including on the roof of the Waldorf Astoria) and urban farmers in Harlem not to forget butchers and fishmongers, New York City is buzzing with food and drink producers.

With Eat the City A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers and Brewers (Crown, July 10, 2012) Robin Shulman tells us parallel stories of today's players and New York's rich past feeding and quenching the thirst of its residents.

She took the time to answer a few questions.

Q: Robin, did idea of 'Eat the City' germinate in your head from the get go as combination of past and present in your narrative of food in New York City history?

From the time I started writing, I knew I wanted to tell the stories of the distant and recent past to show how we got to the present, and so I researched both present and past. Very little of what is happening today is actually new.

Q: Do you see a continuity in what is grown, produced, caught in New York now and what was as far back as 16th-17th century?

Certain aspects of the city’s ability to produce food are decided by geography. New York is a city of islands, so fishing and processing goods that come in through the port—such as sugar, coffee—are obvious ways of producing food. The climate and soil of the city are amenable to producing all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Immigrants have continually come to this place from many other places, and brought with them their own techniques and traditions for producing wine and beer and meat and every other food imaginable. So in surprising ways, there is continuity. That’s what I try to show in the book.

Q: What has been added to the mix in our 21st century?

Recently, I think, people have been making a more self-conscious attempt to create neighborhood-based, handcrafted foods. It’s something that used to exist in the city but is coming back in a new way.

Q: Besides 'Willie' and his vegetable gardens in Harlem, have other strong figures put their stamp on the city's food map?

Yes, I write about many of them!

Q: How does Tom Mylan manages beer and gin while teaching 'Dating with Butchery' classes at The Meat Hook?

You know, I never attended that class, so I don’t know.

Q: Is story on immigrant butchers from old Fourth Street Market tale of 'slaughterhouse in France that required apprentice to drink warm blood of first lamb he killed' true?

That’s his story, yes. It wasn’t possible for me to confirm this with the slaughterhouse where he was employed in the ‘40s, but other butchers talk about similar rituals. 

 

Q: Is Beekeeping as much a therapy, a way to stay grounded for Andrew Cote as it is a way to make a living? 

Other beekeepers mention tending hives as a way to stay grounded, but Andrew, a fourth-generation beekeeper, did not.

Q: Do you think cities like Newark or Camden would benefit from vacant lots being turned into vegetable gardens?

Those cities are already turning some vacant lots into vegetable gardens—as are cities across the country with vacant space.

Q: Are oyster eaters of today shocked when they learn that in 1800's oyster houses advertised all you can eat for six cents oysters named Jamaicas, Amboys and Rockaways?

I was!

Q: How powerful were the German beer barons that you portray in the book?

They were really at the center of neighborhood life. They were some of the biggest employers and owners of real estate. They were often involved in politics. Jacob Ruppert, one of the subjects of my beer chapter, became a congressman and also owned the New York Yankees, and his family also partnered in a half-dozen other semi-industrial concerns, and many local saloons.

Q: Can historical sights such as beer halls of past centuries still be seen around NY?

Yes, and there are still old breweries, especially in the old German neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick.

Q: Is anyone offering walking tours of the hotspots you feature in the book?

Several different tour groups offer historical brewery tours of the city. But for most of the other foods, not that I know of—not yet!

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I hope this fascinating book wets your appetite for New York edible treats.

The short Eat the City trailer video (above) puts a face on some of the people featured in the book.


Know Your Airline Before You Fly, My Chat with Air Berlin

During trip to Europe, I will be flying 4 airlines. 

I like to know my airline before I fly so I took the time to speak with Madeleine at Air Berlin U.S offices before I fly Air Berlin from Paris to Berlin early September.

Q: Margaret, when was Air Berlin created?

Air Berlin was originally incorporated in the U.S in 1978 by a former Pan Am pilot. It was originally a vacation charter airline offering flights from Germany to Mallorca and then added flights to other warm weather destinations.

Q: How did Air Berlin evolve from there to reach its present status?

After the fall of the Berlin wall, in April 1991, the German Air Berlin GbmH & Co. Luftverkehrs KG was founded and airberlin was set on its course as a German airline and the success story began.  The most significant phase of development took off in 2006 with corporate restructure (that is, becoming a British-based PLC) and a strategy for major, fast-track growth through merger and acquisition. The M&A program successively brought a range of other carriers into the business – dba, LTU, Belair, TUIfly and NIKI.  

Since March 2012, airberlin is also part of a powerful and global airline community, distinguished by a unique network with high standards of service. Flying without barriers and with a seamless product experience – that is what oneworld means to our passengers. The codeshare with American Airlines, another member of the oneworld alliance, allows airberlin to offer access to even more U.S. cities."

Q: As of now, which cities in the U.S does Air Berlin offers flights to and from?

We currently serve NY (JFK), Miami, San Francisco, Fort Myers, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Chicago will be added in March 2013.

Q: Which are the top 2 U.S destinations for Europeans flying Air Berlin?

New York, then Miami

Q: Besides Germany, where else in Europe are you drawing customers from for U.S flights?

The Netherlands, Scandinavia and Russia are our top 3 sources for passengers other than Germany. Spain is our largest market outside Germany.

Q: After Germany, which countries are U.S passengers flying to most?

I would say Austria and Switzerland. We are also seeing an increase into Croatia and the Adriatic in general as well as Budapest.

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Q: As of now, which cities in the U.S does Air Berlin offers flights to and from?

We currently serve NY (JFK), Miami, San Francisco, Fort Myers, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Chicago will be added in March 2013.

Q: Which are the top 2 U.S destinations for Europeans flying Air Berlin?

New York, then Miami

Q: Besides Germany, where else in Europe are you drawing customers from for U.S flights?

The Netherlands, Scandinavia and Russia are our top 3 sources for passengers other than Germany. Spain is our largest market outside Germany.

Q: After Germany, which countries are U.S passengers flying to most?

I would say Austria and Switzerland. We are also seeing an increase into Croatia and the Adriatic in general as well as Budapest.

Q: Can you share some 'special fares' you had recently in the U.S?

In May and June we had Los Angeles to Berlin RT for $1089 and we are now announcing Winter Travel fares starting at $698 RT.

Q: As far as amenities and age of the fleet where does Air Berlin stands?

We started a complete overhaul of our fleet in 2011 with new business class seating and adding on demand video in economy class. We use only Airbus planes for long haul flights and our 170 aircrafts average 5 years of age which allows us to show great fuel efficiency and a greener fleet which received OCHA awards.

Q: Other reasons passengers choose Air Berlin?

On time performance in Germany is very high and 98% of the time, members of our affinity program who want to redeem their miles are able to pick their first choice destination and date.

With our membership into the oneworld alliance, our passengers can enjoy convenient connections to a large network of flights to almost anywhere in Europe. Flying to more than 60 destinations in 40 countries, and serving over 35 million passengers per year, airberlin has become Germany’s second, and Europe’s sixth largest airline.  In cooperation with American Airlines, airberlin offers even more benefits to its customers. In addition to enjoying airberlin’ s nonstop service from currently six U.S. gateways to Germany, travelers can also take advantage of over 30 American Airlines departure cities in the U.S. and conveniently connect to an airberlin long-haul flight to Europe. The cooperation benefits frequent flyers by allowing topbonus and AAdvantage frequent flyer members to “earn and redeem” miles on either carrier.

Q: Besides Berlin (currently Tegel) where are your other hubs?

Our other hubs after Berlin are Dusseldorf and Mallorca and to a lesser degree Vienna.

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Q: To conclude, where does Air Berlin stands in the airline landscape between low budget and full service carriers?

I could best describe us as an hybrid, affordable with full service. On transatlantic flights, passengers get 2 meals with a choice of beer and wine and are offered an aperitif and an after dinner drink as well.

Thanks Madeleine for taking the time to chat with us.

I will share my firsthand experience flying Air Berlin from Paris Orly to Berlin Tegel in September.

(* Images courtesy of Air Berlin)


Earth, Wind and Fire, Water Too at Isonzo Delta Natural Reserve in Friuli

Wine is obviously influenced by the elements.

Keeping that in mind the Friuli Venezia Giulia chapter of Movimento Turismo Del Vino offers to take willing participants on Friuli Respecting Nature Tour, a 4 day outing built around earth, wind, fire and water.

Program in a few words:

"Explore the essence of Friuli through a four-day full immersion in nature in close contact with its four elements. Air: the fragrance of the sea breeze cooling the coastline. Water: the fascination of the embrace between the river and the sea. Earth: our mountains, our trails and our DOC vineyards. Fire: the thrill of a living fire warming the atmosphere in a winery and the glare of candles lighting Summer nights. And the fifth elementWine: the essence and the spirit of our territory, harvested with passion by the region’s growers."

Second day, Saturday (Water) starts with visit to Isonzo Delta Natural Reserve, an example of sustainable tourism.

Map of the area (below) shows various hiking paths one can use to explore the reserve where birdwatching is a prime activity.

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A walk around one of Italy's nature reserves for Green Day # 229

Previously:  Perfect Summer Lunch, Cucumber-Basil Egg Salad Recipe from Chicken and Egg

(* Image from the Isola Della Cona website)


Rebel Moliere to Coco Chanel Neighborhood, Forever Paris Chat with Christina Henry de Tessan

The main challenge for any first time visitor to the French capital will be what to choose to see and where to start.

Paris Metro is a good way to explore the city.

In Forever Paris (Chronicle Books, March 2012), 25 Walks in the Footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway, Picasso, Molière, and More, Christina Henry de Tessan maps some of the city's attractions and favorite spots of famous residents all within walking distance of a station de metro (subway station).

Christina takes us on a stroll around Paris in this Forever Paris chat we had 2 weeks ago.

Q: Christina, How did you select the various artists that were included in the guide?

It was a huge challenge to select who to include—and who to cut—but I finally settled on the following criteria: they had to have been influenced by the city in some way and/or have an influence on it. They couldn’t just be passing through, but needed to interact with the city in some tangible way. Second, there needed to be some evidence of how they lived or the legacy they left. I would have loved to include Gertrude Stein, for instance, but she seemed to spend most of her time holding salons in her living room, rather than venturing out. That made it difficult to build a walk out of her life. Third, I wanted the reader to experience variety—both in terms of types of artists and in terms of parts of the city. Edith Piaf could only have become who she was in Belleville. The artistic hive of Montmartre was vital to Picasso’s early success. Each neighborhood gave the artist something different, and I wanted to capture that.

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Q: Why is the most contemporary figure in your guide, Serge Gainsbourg?

I didn’t want to profile anyone who was still alive. People are entitled to their privacy. So I focused on people who wouldn’t be interrupted having their morning coffee. I also wanted to convey the many layers of Paris—that there are still places to go and experience Moliere, you can still dine at Napoleon’s favorite restaurant—as well as contemporary figures such as Gainsbourg.

Q: A few Americans, Henry Miller, Audrey Hepburn, Hemingway, made the cut, I don't see any Jazzman even though many of them called Paris their home, was it a deliberate choice?

No, not a deliberate choice. There were a lot of people who didn’t make the cut.

Q: Would Chanel or Picasso recognize their favorite haunts, their neighborhood? Do you think they would pick the same spots if they came back today?

Great question. Coco Chanel’s neighborhood is probably still similar in spirit to what it was when she lived there. The rue du Faubourg St. Honoré has been and still is a mecca for fashion. She might be shocked at the sorts of fashions she sees on display. But perhaps not. She was ahead of the curve all her life. One hates to think what Picasso would make of the tourist-swarmed Place du Tertre at the top of Montmartre. He would probably gasp in horror at the many artists doing on-the-spot portraits of visitors. And he likely wouldn’t recognize how gentrified and respectable it’s become. Back in his day, people moved to Montmartre because it was cheap. That’s obviously no longer the case.

Q: Why did you include Moliere?

He was such a rebel, and yet he managed nevertheless to secure the favor of the court. And he had such tremendous insights into human nature. His plays are a fantastic way to see what Parisian society was like back in the day.

Q: Did you personally visit every bar, market, bakery mentioned in 'Forever Paris'?

I did indeed. I didn’t necessarily get to spend much time in each one, but I walked every step of those walks and put a lot of time into figuring out the best or most interesting way to connect the dots. Some people made it easy because they spent the bulk of their time in one neighborhood, while others spent time all over the city.

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Q: Was your book’s small format chosen to fit in backpacks and coats so that people would actually browse it while they visit the actual places and not just consult it while planning their trip?

Exactly. I’ve written many walking guides to different cities that are in the form of decks of cards (City Walks decks). I think people like the simple and easy-to-follow preset itineraries in the cards. The same principle applies here: People don’t necessarily want to heave a five-pound Rodin biography around with them as they explore the city, but they can do their in-depth research at home (if they like), then bring along an easy-to-follow itinerary that gives them just enough information to bring the city to life. I wanted more than anything for this information to feel accessible, lively, relevant, not overly dry and academic.

Q: Will the book also be available as a Mobile (phone, tablet) application with interactive elements?

I hope so! It’s already available on Kindle. I hope the rest is in the works, but that’s up to the publisher.

FP_16_Gainsbourg
Q: Is Velib service (bicycle rental) available at all 25 'Metro' stops (subway)? Are some or most destinations best explored on foot?

I’m not sure that Velib is available at every stop. I think that Velib is brilliant, but that might not be the most practical way to experience these walks since Velib is really designed for brief use, to get from Point A to Point B, rather than as touring bikes. I think Paris is always best seen on foot, and I manage to do most of my research without ever getting on the metro. That’s the best way to discover not only the points of interest on the walks, but to make your own discoveries along the way.

Q: How many of your original picks did not make the final cut? Can you name a few?

I would have loved to include Gertrude Stein, but again, she didn’t seem to get out much (instead, all those famous people came to her). I wanted to include a fascinating Resistance leader named Jean Moulin, but he spent most of his time in hiding during World War II, so it was impossible to build a walk around him (that said, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, there’s a great museum dedicated to him on the roof of the Gare du Montparnasse). I also considered including Antoine de St. Exupery, but the highlights of his life really took place in the North African desert. I couldn’t figure out how to make a strong enough connection to Paris.

Q: If you were in Paris for a day, which of the 25 stops would you pick first?

So hard to say. For an idea of a perfect composite walk, you can check out my post on the subject, A Perfect Day in Paris on the Girl Friday website. 

But if I absolutely had to choose, I might start with Hemingway because he loved Paris so much and loved the same neighborhoods I do, or Julia Child because I love an excuse to browse the markets and eat well.

Thanks Christina. During my short stay in Paris this summer, I will surely visit some of your favorite haunts.

(* Top map Colette neighborhood, bottom one Serge Gainsbourg, images reprinted courtesy of Chronicle Books, all rights reserved)