Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quote of the Week: Eating with Fingers

“Be careful not to be the first to put your hands in the dish. What you cannot hold in your hands you must put on your plate. Also it is a great breach of etiquette when your fingers are dirty and greasy, to bring them to your mouth in order to lick them, or to clean them on your jacket. It would be more decent to use the tablecloth.”

—Desiderius Erasmus, “Treatise on Manners,” 1530

Hualalai Estate Kona Coffee

I woke up this morning and finished the last of my delicious Kona coffee that I brought back from Hawaii. As I listened to my last cup brewing I thought, what am I to do? How can I live without this amazing coffee? I examined the writing on the now-empty bag and noticed a Web site written on the back. Score.

When I was picking out my coffee in one of the many the ABC Stores in O’ahu I opted for the slightly more expensive, yet obviously better quality, Kona coffe from the Hualalai Estate. I chose it because it came in a vacuum-sealed bag, was 100% Kona, and 100% pesticide free. And it came in a gold bag (I’m a sucker for nice packaging). Little did I know that I would be entering into an unshakeable preference for coffee grown thousands of miles away. Apparently I’m not the only one since you can order an array of products from the estate online.

What I enjoy so much about this coffee is that it never has a bitter taste—only the fresh, rich taste of properly cared for coffee. According to their Web site, the Hualalai Estate started off in 1996 as a two-acre farm where a local teacher named Joel Cooperson began growing coffee as a hobby. Since then it’s grown to 150 acres of coffee grown on several farms throughout Kona.

The region of Kona is an ideal place to grow coffee because of excellent soil and growing conditions. Cooperson also explains how they process coffee to ensure a high-quality product. He notes that the farmers pick the coffee beans while they are still red, “which gives it its greatest full-bodied quality.” They pulp the coffee beans immediately, which keeps the coffee from developing a sour aftertaste. Then they rinse and dry the beans quickly before storing them in a dehumidified room. When it’s time for roasting they separate out the four grades of Kona coffee—Prime, No. 1, Fancy, and Extra Fancy—on a Gravity Table, and then they carefully roast the beans in small batches. They also offer a bean called Kona Peaberry, which they claim is absolutely superb. I was highly impressed with their basic Estate Coffee made of 100% Kona, but I opted for the Extra Fancy when I placed my order online.

The result is, as I mentioned, enough to make you want to fly to Hawaii to pick up an order. Luckily you can simply order online and have this perfectly grown, picked, and roasted coffee delivered to your doorstep. If you are a lover of coffee I highly recommend trying a batch from the Hualalai Estate. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Check out their Web site and descriptions of their products here:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

No Reservations in the Hudson Valley

For all you proud people of the Hudson Valley who love food and Anthony Bourdain but happened to miss his recent feature in this area, I’m posting the entire show courtesy of Youtube.

Join the infamous Tony as he travels up the Hudson and enjoys a hotdog delivered by boat and dines on freshly caught crabs in Verplanck overshadowed by Indian Point. Then it’s off to the Polish town of Pine Island in the Black Dirt region of New York where he eats traditional foods like kielbasa and perogies and drinks bathtub red vodka provided by someone in a parking lot. Next Tony heads to his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, to cook a meal in the kitchen with his friend and former judge on Iron Chef, Michael Ruhlman. After his visit to the CIA, Tony and Michael heads to the Rondout Bay Marina Bay Bar in Kingston for a few beers with the locals.

Then it’s off to Mohonk Mountainhouse, one of the premier spots in New Paltz, my own alma mater. He takes the approach of the oft-cited legend that Mohonk was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, and gives a brief but interesting history of the hotel. Although his creepy Shining-esque experience of Mohonk differs greatly from my own experiences of hiking and swimming with friends, it was still highly entertaining to watch him take afternoon tea as though it symbolized his descent into evil. Classic Bourdain.

Next comes my favorite part of the show—a backyard asian bbq with an instructor from the CIA when an amazing ten-year-old girl completely schools Bourdain like nobody’s seen before.

The dialogue went as follows:

Sierra: “For Christmas my dad got me a college neurology textbook.”

Tony: “Why?”

Sierra: “Because I wanted one.”

Tony: “Why?”

Sierra: “Because I went through a phase when I wanted to be a neurologist. Microbiology and nanotechnology is very fun.”

Tony: “You’re like the smartest person I’ve ever talked to on this show. How old are you?”

Sierra: “Ten.”

Tony: “You ought to work for this show, I’m telling you, you work harder than me and you know more than me. But it’s hard also.” [Sierra looks skeptically at Tony] “You’re not buying that are you? No.”

Sierra: “Ah, yes, sit on a plane for 18 hours in first class eating chicken and prime rib, and then going to foreign countries and walking around and eating great food and buying souvenirs. Oh yeah, that’s got to be a really tough job.”

Wow. Simply amazing. By the end of the show they’re taking turn swinging on Sierra’s rope swing, but you’ve still got to be amazed by the straight-forward words coming out of this girl’s mouth on national television. The whole meal is perfect, especially when the CIA instructor (Sierra’s father) says “If you’re going to live on the east cost, you’ve got to live in New Paltz.”

After New Paltz, a town where I do believe Bourdain should spend an entire show, he heads to X20 in Yonkers, where he dines with none other than Bill Murray. What’s best about this scene is that Tony admits is a totally spontaneous event—he’d never even met Bill Murray before in his life. And you can just read the awe and respect for Murray in Tony’s eyes throughout the meal. The meal seemed simply amazing as well.

For me, watching Anthony Bourdain in the Hudson Valley was the first time I watched his show and really didn’t care about the food he ate. It was amazing to watch him in a location not where I longed to be or had already visited, but to see him in a place I knew so well—to watch him discover an area that I’d already invested years of my life into. Overall, it was deeply satisfying and exciting to watch him travel around one of the best places in New York—the Hudson Valley.

If you feel any connection to the Hudson Valley, this show is definitely something you don’t want to miss. And for all you New Paltzians, well, apparently Bourdain dined at Mexicali Blue and had some fish tacos. They didn’t make it onto the show, but some lucky student at SUNY New Paltz did happen to catch him outside and interviewed him for the Oracle as he enjoyed their delicious fresh food.

Enjoy the show!

Quote of the Week: A Universal Experience

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

—James Beard

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quote of the Week: Cooking is Like Love

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

—Harriet Van Horne

Aphrodisiac Foods

Throughout human history people have sought out foods believed to increase potency, fertility, and sexual desires. Encyclopedia Britannica defines aphrodisiacs as “any of various forms of stimulation though to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations).In celebration of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a look at some foods commonly known as aphrodisiacs.

Although many foods are believed to be aphrodisiacs, few have been proven to actually increase sexual desire. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t add a little excitement in the bedroom. One thing to avoid is certainly heavy foods—if you have the itis (the drowsy feeling after a large meal), getting aroused won’t be exactly easy. Another thing to remember is that while a glass or two of champagne or wine can increase blood flow and lower inhibitions, too much can make you, well, wasted, and unless you’re a freshman in college, overindulging in alcohol is probably not the best way to heat things up with your partner.

There are a few main reasons why certain foods have been identified as aphrodisiacs. One is the visual aspect of the food—some foods, such as asparagus, avocado, oysters, and figs, have long been associated with the shape of male and female genitalia. Other foods were believed to increase fertility, and still others to enhance sexual desire. Some foods simply feel and taste sensual.

Basil is one food believed to both increase sexual excitement and fertility. It is also believed to create a general sense of wellbeing.
Chocolate is one the most famous of all aphrodisiacs, and it was referred to by the Aztecs as the “nourishment of the Gods.” Women around the world fall head over heels for chocolate, making it a classic Valentine’s Day and anniversary gift. It has been proven that chocolate releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, and in large doses is supposed to mimic the emotions of being in love. Unfortunately, the dose needed to create this sensation is much more than is physically possible to ingest. Well, we can dream. Dark chocolate, which has less sugar and dairy than milk chocolate, is definitely the better choice as an aphrodisiac. It also pairs nicely with a sexy red wine.

Despite garlic’s association with causing odorous breath, it is also known as an aphrodisiac. This particular food earns a spot on the list due to its intense flavor known to “heat” up sexual desire. The key with this one is that both partners should eat, and only in small doses.

Ginger, another stimulating flavor, is known to add a kick to your circulatory system, which increases blood flow to all the best regions of the body. Try making a cup of ginger tea with a little honey for sweetness or feed each other slices of crystallized ginger to stimulate the senses.

Oysters—my favorite aphrodisiac—have been known as a sex enhancing food since at least the second century by the Romans. They are believed to resemble the female genitalia, and legend has it that Casanova ate 50 oysters a day. And oysters simply feel sexy sliding down the throat. While oysters have not been scientifically proven as an aphrodisiac, sharing a plate of oysters and a glass of champagne with your honey can certainly add a little romance to any date.

Wine is another classic aphrodisiac. It increases blood flow, stimulates the senses, and relaxes the mind. Bringing a bottle of wine into the bedroom is certainly sexy, but again, try to avoid it in excess, unless, of course, you actually want to fall asleep.

In addition to the foods described above, other aphrodisiacs include almonds, vanilla, bananas, carrots, pineapple, truffles, raspberries, nutmeg, licorice, and fennel, among others. However you choose to spend this Valentine’s Day, I hope you get a chance to indulge in some of these sexy treats. And remember, bringing food into the bedroom can only add to the romance!

Check out this video for more commentary on aphrodisiac foods:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bake For You

If you’re looking to buy sweets for your sweetie, or just have your own sweet tooth you want to indulge, you should definitely check out Bake For You. This is the perfect place to get real, home-made, satisfying treats.

The Bake For You Web site describes itself as “a small independent baking business nestled in a commercial kitchen, overlooking Albany’s Washington Park.” They are “proud to use organic sugar, flour, free-range eggs, and Vermont butter” and “strive to use local products whenever possible.”

The menu includes cookies, brownies, and scones, as well as other treats like carrot cupcakes and pumpkin squares. How can you resist their signature cookie, the white chip and Craisin? Or the “Everything” cookie, which is loaded with oatmeal, chocolate chip, coconut, raisins, and nuts? How about an Earl Grey brownie? Or a lemon scone? All the flavors and ingredients are fresh and delicious. I highly recommend trying one of the holiday samplers for any event over the holidays—they are available between November 15 and January 2 and each comes with a variety of cookies, as well as bite-size brownies and macaroons. No matter what your guests prefer, everyone will be happy with the selection.

I’m a firm believer in being able to taste the time, care, and love that goes into cooking or baking food. With the treats from Bake For You, you can truly taste the joy that went into creating each item.

I had the opportunity to interview creator, owner, and baker of Bake For You, Linda Kindlon, to find out more about this delicious company.

What inspired you to start Bake For You?

I had a catering business for two-and-a-half years and closed. I decided to get a job not in the food business. After six months my mind was back to thinking of cookie and brownie recipes. People were still asking for some of my baked goods and I felt I still had a following. So in no time Bake For You was born.

How long have you been doing Bake For You?

I started the business in September 2009.

How and when did you learn to bake?

I was totally self-taught. I knew I really loved it when I had to get my baking badge for girl scouts.

What is your most popular baked good?

The most popular item is the white chip and cranberry cookie. You can’t eat just one!

What is your favorite to make?

I really enjoy baking everything on my menu, but if I had to choose my favorite it would be cookies.

Do you have any special treats in the works for Valentine's Day?

For Valentines Day I will have heart cookies. Some will be dipped in chocolate or a vanilla glaze and also raspberry jam hearts. All Bake For You treats can be wrapped and delivered. They make a wonderful gift for any occasion!

You can be a fan of Bake For You on Facebook, or check out the Bake For You Web site here, where you can place orders online:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quote of the Week: An Act of Love

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”

—Craig Claiborne

Saturday, February 6, 2010

“A Hole Lot of Flavor”: Puka Dog Waikiki

Oh, Puka Dogs—I traveled across oceans to eat you, to taste your delicious meat slathered in tropical relishes and spicy sauces all wrapped up in a toasted bun. For weeks before going to Hawaii, I dreamed of you Puka Dog. I talked about the moment when I would finally wrap my lips around you. After arriving I was tempted several times to venture to your little stand, but I resisted temptation until I had company to join me.

And then the day came, and you were everything I’d dreamed of. Some of you may remember that my motivation for trying Puka Dogs was from witnessing my culinary traveler hero, Anthony Bourdain, eat one on his No Reservations show in Hawaii. When I found out that there was a Puka Dog just minutes away from my hotel, I knew it was destiny.
As soon as my boyfriend arrived fresh off the plane, I dragged him over to the Waikiki Town Center so we could try our first Puka Dog together. Interestingly, the meat was not a typical hot dog, but it was a polish sausage. They also had a vegetarian dog option, but we both went for the polish sausage. On mine I got Hot Chili Pepper sauce, Kuai Special (mango) relish, and Lilikoi mustard. My boyfriend got the Garlic Lemon Original Secret Sauce and guava mustard.
So here’s genius of the Puka Dog—first of all, puka means hole in Hawaiian. Imagine taking a hot dog bun, but instead of slicing it down the middle creating a hole in the center. The bun is actually impaled on these spiky metal rods that put a hole in the bun and toast it from the inside. Then the sauce is squirted into the hole. The dog is inserted and it’s topped off again with some sauce. So you end up with a completely encased dog. This method could save the hot dog problems of the world—no more mustard, ketchup, or relish spilling everywhere! You could walk down the street chowing down on one of these dogs without a care in the world.
And the taste is absolutely delicious. The meat was definitely better than mystery meat hot dog (though that has its place in the food world as well). And the sauces were amazing. Whether you like spicy or mild, you can have your pick. First you start of with the Garlic Lemon Secret Sauce, which comes in Mild Original, Spicy Jalapeno, Hot Chili Pepper, and Hot Hot Habanero. Then comes one of the amazing tropical relishes—Kuai Special (mango), Pineapple Field (pineapple), Polihale Sunset (papaya), Coconut Beach (coconut), Waimea Canyon (banana), and Na Pali Cruise (star fruit). If you’d rather go for traditional rather than tropical flavors, you can also get ketchup, mustard (yellow, Dijon, or Hawaiian Lilikoi), and Guava sweet pickle relish. The sauces I tried were wonderful—even though they are fruit based, they are not overly sweet and the Puka Dog maintains a nice, savory flavor.
Until the rest of the world realizes the amazingness of the Puka Dog, it looks like you’ll have to travel to Hawaii to try one out. And it’s completely worth it.
You can check out their Web site here:

Puka Dog (Waikiki Town Center) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The 10 Hottest Women in the Food Industry

Padma Lakshmi, Cat Cora, Giada De Laurentiis, and other beautiful women—now this is newsworthy! Slash Food named the top ten hottest women in the food industry, and these women definitely deserve the recognition. The article comments that "There is just something sexy about a woman who takes big, reckless, greedy bites out of life; a woman who isn't afraid of fire, or knives, or licking her fingers." Apparently food is the new definition of sexy.

Check out the full article here: