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Affordable Wines for Gift-Giving: White and Sparkling
As more and more Americans enjoy wine, giving wine as a gift has also grown in popularity. As usual there is the feeling that you need to spend a lot if the wine is to be appreciated. This absolutely should not be the case! With a little thought and a sense of adventure you can find a tremendous number of interesting wines which will awaken the curiosity of even the most demanding of palate. And they won’t break the bank.
Dec 11, 2008
Good Product: Trader Joe’s Wild Rice
When we talked about our love of wild rice a few months ago, several of you mentioned buying it at Trader Joe’s. We looked for it the next time we were in the store, and sure enough, there it was!Finally, here is a relatively inexpensive and readily available source for one of our favorite grains. One 16-ounce bag goes for $4.99 – a good deal for this grain, we think!The rice grains are dark, slightly glossy, and uniform in length – all good signs of quality wild rice.
Dec 8, 2008
Oliviera: The Best Olive Oil We Know
This is just one of the many things we learned about olive oil from Nadim, a passionate advocate of good, local oil. He owns a tiny restaurant and shop in Nice’s old quarter. His two-person staff cooks every meal in an open kitchen with one gas burner and a broiler in a kitchen half the size of my own. And while these meals are invariably transporting and delicious, the real star at Oliviera is the olive oil.
Dec 5, 2008
Farmers’ Market Report: CrosnesNew York
The Union Square Greenmarket was pretty apple and squash-heavy this morning (no clementines yet here in New York) but we did find one unexpected gem. What are these caterpillar-like vegetables?They are called crosnes (pronounced CRONE), named after the town in France where they were first grown after being imported from China. They are also called Chinese artichokes.
Dec 5, 2008
Look! Wax-Dipped Pears in France
Here’s a small, colorful note from my time in France last week. At the market some of the pears had dabs of something bright and scarlet on top. What was it?It turns out that all of the stems were dipped in wax to seal them. My market tour guide, Rosa Jackson, told me later in the week that this was done to keep the pears from ripening too quickly.I’ve never seen this done in the States – have you? Does anyone know why keeping the stem sealed prevents ripening?
Nov 20, 2008
Look! Apple Chart in Union Square
In addition to all the Indian corn, we saw this on our trip to the Greenmarket. It’s a cute guide to all the different types of apples sold at the market, with details on how each tastes and what it’s best used for.
Nov 14, 2008
Cheap Wine: Best Pinot Noir Under $20
Since the movie Sideways in 2005, sales of Pinot Noir have skyrocketed throughout the world and especially in the United States. Unfortunately, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, it is difficult to make high volume, inexpensive Pinot Noir that still smells and tastes like Pinot Noir. So can you get quality at under $20 a bottle?
Nov 6, 2008
Look! Dry Ice at the Grocery Store
We don’t usually see dry ice at our grocery store, so we were surprised to see it at a Ralph’s in Pasadena. Dry ice seems like a specialty good, hazardous and unusual, so we started wondering why it would be available so freely.Turns out there’s a lot you can do with dry ice.Dry ice isn’t just used by fishpackers and ice cream sellers – even though that is one of its primary uses. Dry ice can keep food cold and frozen for days.
Oct 22, 2008
Summerset Farm: Santa Ynez Valley, CA
Lured by the sight of thousands of colorful winter gourds, we made an impromptu stop while driving through the Santa Ynez Valley last weekend. We found ourselves at Summerset Farm, a produce stand located just north of the towns of Solvang, Santa Ynez, and Los Olivos. Although the Valley is best known as wine country (this is where the film Sideways was set), at Summerset Farm the focus is on organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Oct 15, 2008
Look! Arborio Rice at Trader Joe’s
We’re not sure if this is a new product or if it’s been there all along, but we were excited to discover arborio rice on a recent shopping foray to Trader Joe’s!Arborio rice is a key ingredient – arguably the key ingredient! – in Italian risotto, and we often have trouble finding it outside of gourmet food stores. When we do find it, it’s often of dubious quality and fairly expensive.
Oct 7, 2008
Fair Trade: Cocoa
Although we do our best to eat local, some things are just grown too far from home. One of these foods is cocoa, most of which comes from the Ivory Coast region of West Africa, as well as Central America. Sadly, the reality of the cocoa industry is not as sweet as the final product we enjoy here at home. The good news is, even though this is occurring thousands of miles away, Americans wield a tremendous amount of buying power.
Oct 3, 2008
Good Product? Spanish Saffron from Trader Joe’s
We spotted these small jars of Spanish saffron at Trader Joe’s the other week, and we’re curious how this saffron holds up in the kitchen. Has anyone tried it?Normally something of a luxury item, these jars were only $5.99 for one gram (about a third of an ounce). This price seems a little too good to be true, frankly, and made us wonder about the quality.For those who may not know, saffron is the stigmas from a particular kind of crocus flower.
Sep 26, 2008
Source for Stone-Ground Grits: Anson Mills
And since we’re writing about grits, we thought we’d give you a good mail-order source for an exceptional, stone-ground variety. Anson Mills in Columbia, SC, grows organic, heirloom corn and sells their products to chefs all over the country… We’ve never ordered from Anson Mills, but we’ve read good things.
Sep 25, 2008
Where To Buy Spices In Paris: Goumanyat & Son Royaume
When visiting friends who like to cook and bring back edible souvenirs ask me where to shop for spices, I always send them to Goumanyat & Son Royaume, a treasure trove of high-quality spices on the rue Charles-Francois Dupuis near République…Run by Jean Thiercelin (who speaks English, by the way), Goumanyat has been in the fine food business for seven generations. This is where chefs like Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon shop for high-quality spices.
Sep 22, 2008
Farmers’ Market Report: Fresh Dates Los Angeles
Last weekend, we found branches full of fresh Barhi dates at the farmers’ market. While we were sampling the crunchy young fruits, the man who grew them urged us to peek around the corner…Along the sidewalk, just behind the Dates by Davall stand at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, are several date palm trees, laden with green fruits. Although we’d seen such trees around town before, we admittedly had no idea they were the same as the dates we snack on.
Sep 17, 2008
Store Review: Lehr’s German SpecialtiesSan Francisco
If you’re in San Francisco and you have a hankering for Kinder eggs, elderflower syrup, some spaetzle, and a copy of Der Spiegel, have we got the store for you.In Noe Valley at the corner of Church and 28th, just a stone’s throw from the MUNI J-Line is Lehr’s German Specialties, a quaint little shop on a quiet street in San Francisco flanked by Victorian row houses. They have tons of German candies – Kinder eggs, marzipan, and other German chocolates.
Sep 12, 2008
Supermarket Wines Review: Top Wine Picks from Trader Joe’s Wine Store in New York City
Trader Joe’s – the name synonymous with ‘Two Buck Chuck’, the $1.99 wine from the Charles Shaw Winery in California – also carries a broad array of wines priced anywhere from $2.99 to $60, and wines from respected regions in California, France and Italy.Having had several conversations with non-wine-geek friends about the virtues of the wine selection at TJ’s, I decided to pay the store a visit and check out the wines.It was a Sunday afternoon.
Sep 11, 2008
Eating Well From The Corner Store: Bodega Party in a Box
There is always chatter about improving neighborhoods by opening up more farmers markets and making them affordable for all. Nothing wrong with that. But what about turning around the thinking behind bringing fresh, nutritious, affordable food to all by considering the bodegas that dot so many corners of the neighborhoods that need this kind of food most?That’s what The Neighbor’s Project is doing.
Aug 19, 2008
LA Farmers’ Market Report: Peaches and Goat Cheese
Our favorite meal of the week is also the simplest one. Every Sunday, we make post-farmers’ market sandwiches using ingredients from our trip to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. The components change from week to week depending on what’s in season and looks good to us that morning, so the sandwiches are absolutely fresh and alive with flavor.
Jul 23, 2008
Hot or Not? Wine “Juice Boxes” for Grown-Ups?
In Mary’s post on American wines for the 4th of July, we honed in on her reference to Three Thieves Bandit’s wine packaged in juice box containers. We can’t decide whether this is a fun way to enjoy wine outside or if it crosses the line.What do you think?On the one hand, most public parks have rules about open containers, and these juice boxes neatly side-step the issue.
Jul 11, 2008
Product Review: La Tourangelle Roasted Walnut Oil
La Tourangelle produces a wide range of unusual nut oils: roasted pecan and pistachio, toasted pumpkin seed, avocado. If my life were different, I’d buy them all and spend the rest of my years bathed in their roasty, toasty deliciousness.But given the price, the size of my kitchen and the fact that oils don’t stay fresh forever, I’m forced to narrow it down to just one: Roasted Walnut Oil.
Jun 27, 2008
Product Review: Goat Butter
I first had goat butter at Bar Tartine a few years ago, where it was served as an appetizer with radishes and salt and a very nice glass of sparkling rose. Swoon.I was smitten and wanted to know more, but I’m easily distracted and forgetful so it’s taken me this long to finally bring home a 1/4 pound stick from the grocery store.
Jun 23, 2008
How To Choose Good Cheap Wine from the Big Brands: Cabernet Sauvignon
We’ve all been there. It is 6:30pm and you get a call from a friend inviting you over for a casual dinner. Your only option is the supermarket or local grocery store. The shelves are lined with the well known big brands. How do you decide which Cabernet Sauvignon is best for you?Research shows that packaging and label design have a significant influence over what wines customers buy. But if you are also interested in the taste how do you decide which is better?According to A.
Jun 19, 2008
LA Farmers’ Market Report: Garlic Scapes and Blossoms
The Hollywood Farmers’ Market is bustling even more than usual these days, as shoppers take advantage of the early summer sunshine and produce. Tucked between stands overflowing with stone fruits and strawberries are other, more delicate and fleeting specialties: garlic scapes and blossoms.Garlic scapes are the tender young stalks of hardneck garlic plants, cut in late spring and early summer to encourage bulb growth.
Jun 11, 2008
Good Product: Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe’s
This colorful Trader Joe’s vinegar first caught our eye a few months ago, but we kept passing it by in favor of practical pantry staples. Every so often, we’d pick it up and almost put it in our basket, only to place it back on the shelf with a sigh.Then we were hungry for a citrusy, vinegary salad to go with the breezy warm weather this past weekend, and we decided enough was enough!This vinegar hits the balance of sweet and tart exactly right.
Jun 4, 2008
Good Question: Where Can I Buy Frozen Fava Beans?
Kathryn took the above photo at an outdoor market in Europe, where fava beans are fresh and in season. They are in the US as well, but they do require some laborious shelling. Reader Virginia is looking for something easier to prepare a quick, beloved Spanish dish. She writes:Recently we were in Spain, where I had the most delicious dish of “habas finas con jamon serrano y huevo frito,” in other words, “baby fava (or broad) beans with cured ham and a fried egg.
May 30, 2008
Rosé Wines: Versatility and Affordability in a Glass
I just love rosé wines. I get so excited at this time of the year, as the new vintage arrives on the shelves, and I know that I have a whole four to five months to enjoy them. Over the past four to five years sales of rosé wines worldwide have exploded. Call it the Rosé Renaissance! Whatever, it’s great. Despite this I am still surprised when people tell me again and again “I don’t like rosé wine”, “I never buy rosé wines”.
May 15, 2008
The Spice Shop in London
Bleinhem Crescent is a fabulous little London oasis for the home cook, with the Books for Cooks bookshop/café and The Spice Shop right across the street.The Spice Shop is a London institution, the city’s best address for sourcing literally any spice from anywhere in the world.The Spice Shop also ships its spices and spice blends internationally and has online ordering. But you have to walk into the shop to get the heady hit of spices that greets you when you walk in the door.
May 9, 2008
Olive Bars vs. Pre-Packaged Olives: Which Do You Prefer?
So many grocery stores now have olive bars, with big barrels full of olives sold in bulk. They are great when you want a mix to serve as appetizers, and although some people get squeamish about germs (yes, we’ve seen people use their fingers), we don’t tend to.Recently, though, we picked up a container of pre-packaged, Kalamata olives at a store that didn’t have an olive bar.
Apr 25, 2008
Look! Local Ostrich and Emu Eggs at Whole Foods
We don’t visit the local Whole Foods very often, and we hadn’t inspected their loose selection of local eggs very closely. So we were in for a shock when we wandered over last night and realized that those giant greeny-blue ovals weren’t out-of-season melons, but honest-to-goodness emu eggs. What’s more, they’re local. More photos of outlandish eggs, fresh from the farm, below… Does your Whole Foods have a local egg bar?
Apr 23, 2008
What is Kewpie Mayonnaise?
Kewpie mayonnaise was prominently mentioned in Wednesday’s Times Dining section article on MSG and its ubiquitous presence in processed foods. We only knew Kewpies as those eerily big-eyed dolls – what was this mayonnaise? According to Kewpie’s official website, mayonnaise was first introduced to Japan in 1925. Since then, Kewpie mayo has been one of the predominant household condiments there. People often use it on vegetables and as a salad dressing.
Mar 7, 2008
Sun Fat Seafood: San Francisco Market Review
I’m reluctant to talk about my favorite seafood market in San Francisco, but my mother taught me to play nice and share. And what a gem this place is!Hours: Mon-Sat 9:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Sun 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.Deep in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, Sun Fat Seafood Company is the kind of family-owned business where they remember the names and faces of their regular customers.
Feb 19, 2008
King Arthur Flour – The Baker’s Catalogue: Online
As bakers we appreciate great quality, attention to detail, and well-informed resources. Baking can be intimidating and confusing – especially when something goes wrong – and we love stores and resources that can educate as well as inspire. This is exactly why we love The Baker’s Catalogue Online Shop from King Arthur Flour.The Baker’s Catalogue is a full resource for bakers.
Jan 18, 2008
Good Question: Where Can I Find Squash Blossoms?
Dear Kitchen,Last September, I was in Italy and tried Fiore di Zucca. I think that was pumpkin blossoms stuffed with ricotta and baked. I became obsessed and now I’m craving them.When are squash blossoms in season and does anyone know a place in NYC where I can buy some?Thanks,Rachel (To All Good Questions)Rachel,Thanks for your question. We’ve experimenting with squash blossoms this summer. Look for them at the Yuno’s Farms stand at the Greenmarket near the UN on Wednesdays.
Aug 30, 2007
Try Full Flavored Flat Beans
Italian flat beans, also known as Romano green beans, are in season now. These beans are flat in form, but not in flavor. Compared to standard green beans, these beans have a bright, slightly sweet flavor and more meaty texture. “… More green-tasting, more alive-tasting than other beans,” reports Veggie Venture. We blanched our flat beans in salted boiling water and then finished them in a frying pan with some olive oil, garlic, and chopped fresh tomato.
Jul 17, 2007
Good Question: Where to Find Whole Citron?
When I lived in California our local “health food” store carried whole citron. I would buy it by the pound and chop it myself for my fruitcake recipe. They stopped selling it saying there wasn’t enough call for it and it would eventualy go bad. It seemed to be preserved in some way, but it was not in that horrible syrup that is in the chopped variety sold in grocery stores. I would really like to find some. It makes the very best fruit cakes. Do you know a source?
Feb 7, 2007
Grand Central Market: Penzeys Spices
Your spice collection needs a little attention this week. As the seasons change, inventory your spices to make sure you have everything you need on hand: bay leaves for stocks, cinnamon and all spice for pies, and how about some cloves, cardamom and mace for mulling wine or cider?I made my check list and went to Penzeys Spices in Grand Central Market.Cinnamon was first on my list.
Nov 7, 2006
Ronnybrook Farms: New York, NY
Going to the dairy seems so retro, but just take a taste of the milk from Ronnybrook Farms and I bet it will become a part of your future. Ronnybrook’s milk tastes seriously better than the grocery store stuff sold in plastic bottles and paper cartons. Glugging truly farm fresh milk from a thick glass bottle into your morning coffee and cereal is so satisfying. Ronnybrook milk is a small way to indulge yourself every day.
Oct 24, 2006
Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food
Rancho Gordo grows and sells New World foods – beans, dried spices, chiles and corn. The beans are grown in Northern California from heirloom seeds that company founder Steve Sando scavenges in trips to Latin America. If you don’t eat beans like these then you don’t know what you’re missing. They’re utterly delicious, an easy source of protein.You can buy through their online store, or check out their Northern California market schedule.
Sep 27, 2006
New York Store Review: Kalustyan’s
Kalustyan’s is filled with spices, dried beans and fruit, teas, sweets, cookware, and many other surprises from soup mix to nuts. There’s also a counter upstairs serving falafel sandwiches, hummus and a selection of cheeses.The store is an excellent source for cooks faced with recipes that ask for hard to find spices like black cumin seeds or nigella, but the store’s strong spicy smell and tight aisles can quickly start to feel overwhelming.
Aug 22, 2006