Archive for the ‘brooklyn fermented’ Category

Posted on November 13, 2011 - by

Sunday Provisions, or Why the Kitchen smells like a Barn

Every two or three months or so, a small group of friends and I—Chanterelle alums all of us—convene at a BYOB joint in town to catch up, chow down, and share good bottles of wine.  It’s usually Chinese, sometimes barbecue, and always a kick.

Tonight’s edition is kind of special. Actually, A LOT special, because one of those alums has offered to cook a meal for the group at his home, and that alum happens to be David Waltuck, chef and co-owner of that late, great Tribeca outpost of civility and refinement.

For the occasion it seemed appropriate to bring both wine and a small cheese course.  I ran into David near his home in the West Village the other day and found out what he’s making:  Cassoulet.*  Which means, of course, red wine. Something rustic, dense, autumnal.  Definitely French.  Madiran. Côte-Rôtie. Something Proveçal.  Maybe I can track down a bottle of Château Simone.  Have to think about that one, do a little research, see what I can spend.

The cheese, happily, I already have on hand. I had planned to visit Formaggio Essex yesterday, see what kind of weird and raw and stinky wheels they had picked up in Long Island City this week, but with the F and G lines amputated this weekend, and with the early sunsets putting the clamp-down on my inter-borough wanderlust, I hopped the B-67 to Bklyn Larder instead, and, after a quick hello to manager Tim Solomon—an Alabama native and likely the most cordial cheesemonger you’re  bound to encounter in the lower 48—I asked managing partner Sergio Hernandez for a run-down on the good stuff.

I’m pleased to report that the first item he mentioned, Vacherin Mont d’Or—seasonal Swiss, raw cow’s milk, rustic, wrapped in spruce bark—sent waves of contentment through my being.  I had come to the right place. Not always so easy to find, made only in the cold months—when high-elevation pastures, the flavor source for all those fabled hard, aged mountain cheeses of west central Europe, get a snow break—Vacherin Mont d’Or benefits from the (relatively) high fat content of winter feed: hay, preferably unfermented.  When ripe and ready, the cheese is spoonable, farmy, fruity, and bacony (the slightly smoky influence transferred from the spruce rind).

Sergio told me to keep the cheese out all night to ensure its spoonability. I complied. My roommate told me this morning that the kitchen smelled like a barn, “but in a good way.”

I remember long ago, in fall 2003 I think it was, I had dinner in the basement of Prune with my high school buddy Chris Loyd and my then-girlfriend Liz Thorpe, and I remember thinking how simple (and brilliant) it was that Gabrielle Hamilton served Vacherin Mont d’Or in whole wheels only, accompanied only by slices of apple and pear.  I loved that. And that’s how I am serving it tonight.

I’d like to write a bit more about the other two cheeses Sergio turned me onto—San Andreas from Bellwether Farms in Sonoma County and a new (to me) Swiss hard cheese called Holzhofer, aged by a woman named Caroline Hostettler, whose name Sergio uttered with no small reverence—but, alas, I have probably already written too much and I still have to get ready and purchase wine.

More to come.

*Every time I think of Cassoulet, I think about another David—David Pasternack, and the inimitable way he would announce it at pre-service meetings at Picholine on nights it was a ‘classic cuisine’ special. (This was a while back, when Dave was Terrance Brennan’s Chef de Cuisine at Picholine, before he went on to his own well-deserved stardom as chef-partner at Esca) “Alright guys,” Dave would say in his thick Long Beach accent, “tonight’s classic cuisine is Cassoulet… in the style of Toulouse!,” pausing for a second or two after ‘Cassoulet’ and elongating slightly the final vowel sound in ‘Toulouse’, dropping his pitch to a low guttural scratch at the same time, and sounding a bit like a late-period Serge Gainsbourg trying to sound like a South Shore fisherman.  Awesome.

Posted on May 21, 2011 - by

Some recent press for Brooklyn Fermented

Our last class, Fermented Spain, Wine, Cheese & Ham, was a great success. We were joined by wine writer Diane Letulle, who reviewed our class for the wine blog Catavino. The review can be found at:

Photo courtesy of Diane Letulle

Posted on March 6, 2011 - by

Speak, Edulis: San Sebastián’s Bar La Cepa and the Conscious Etching of Sense Memory


Having arrived in Spain a day early this year—to get a leg up on my jet lag and make sure I was available to greet everyone at the airport the next day (a control thing, I guess)—I decided to skip Bilbao and hop on a bus to one of my favorite places on earth:  San Sebastián, a little over an hour away.

In one of those fortuitous coincidences, my 19-year-old niece, Alex, happened to be crashing in San Sebastián while on an extended European sojourn at the same time, and, knowing she’d been away from home and family for a close to a year, I decided there was but one choice on what to do on our one evening together: go to Bar La Cepa.

Between my last visit to this gem of an eatery in September 2008 and the moment Alex and I turned the corner along San Sebastián’s Concha toward the city’s Parte Vieja, or old quarter, on that balmy Sunday night just a few weeks ago, my sense memory had probably meandered down these same narrow streets toward La Cepa at least a few dozen times.

My mission: to introduce Alex to two dishes very dear to me : revuelto de gambas (soft scrambled eggs with shrimp) and hongos a la plancha (boletus edulis wild mushrooms cooked on the flat-top).

Here was the rub: As long as I’ve known her—which is to say, all her life—Alex has never been a particularly adventurous eater, with a long-standing aversion to all products of the sea.  Following an instinct to keep her social circle to within a few blocks of her crash pad, and on a pilgrim’s budget, she hadn’t really ventured out of her safe zone much—geographically or gastronomically—and had certainly never thought of spend €12 on scrambled eggs.

But being that I was hungry and here for just one night, I didn’t really give her much of a choice.

When our plates arrived, she was tentative at first, but then quietly, methodically, she began to dispatch forkfuls of those buttery, mouth-melty eggs studded with sweet shrimp (I’m told the chef here insists that both eggs and shellfish have to be no more than two days from hen/water), with nearly the same enthusiasm as her uncle, the same incredulous shaking of the head, the same wondering, “how can somethings so simple be so good?”

Then came the wild mushrooms, golden and meaty, salty and autumnal.  In the center of the plate sat a tablespoon, in which sat a perfectly poached egg yolk—the idea being, of course, to tear the yolk membrane slightly, and allow the yolk’s runny contents to run fatty rivulets under the mushrooms, to bind boletus to bread when the dipping commenced.

The dipping of the bread, the shaking of our heads, the smiles continued. And then my realization: that, despite her childhood gastronomic prejudices, Alex was both fully conscious of—and entirely surrendering herself to—a completely unexpected moment.

And the fact that I was witnessing, and was in fact responsible for, a moment that would likely carve itself permanently into her own sense memory, whether she realized it or not, well, that too, was one for the notebooks.

Time felt no different. The bartender was annoyed that we ordered something of the flat top just as the cook was about to break down. The couple next to us lit up cigarettes while were still eating.

But something had changed, and maybe she knew it already.

An uncle can hope. And he can remember, too.