Archive for the 'CIA' Category

02
Dec
10

Natural Village Cafe


Warm, welcoming, classy, delicious… these four words give us a faint idea of my impressions of Natural Village Cafe (2 Avenue I – across from Shoprite Supermarket – Brooklyn, NY 11218; Tel: 347.492.5337 or 347. 417.6424). The restaurant is cholov Yisroel and pas Yisroel, with a mashgiach temidi and under the certification of Harav Meir Goldberg of the Va’ad Hakashrus d’Flatbush.

Upscale atmosphere, organic fare, beautiful and healthy in every possible way...

Nina Shapir, who presides over this eatery is truly a fascinating personality, the personal journey that changed her life and motivated her to open this establishment is full of commitment and dedication.

Fourteen years ago, Mrs. Shapir – a very young mother of three – found herself sick and unable to move, unable to cope. It was not a question of being financially overwhelmed, any such concerns were well taken care of. Medical tests and treatments produced no positive results, on the contrary things inexplicably kept getting worse. She met Harav Chay Azoulay, from Herzliya, who told her the real malady was not physical but rather one that affected her neshama. After some thought, trying to make sense of Rav Azulay’s words, she went on a detox diet with the help of healthfood stores, intent on ridding herself of all negative energies. This decision was followed by six very hard weeks before she saw any measurable improvements but soon after she was her old active, curious, intelligent, enterprising self again.

At this stage, Nina decided to help others who, though similarly afflicted, may not be aware of the real source of their health troubles. She went on to study Healing Arts at The School of Natural Healing in Utah from which she graduated. Seven years ago her first organic restaurant opened its doors. Her partner, however, was not frum and it proved frustrating eventually Nina bought her out. In 2008 she moved to the present location which combines her personal philosophy, her exquisite sense of aesthetics and the true love of a foodie for superb fare. She also has an an office adjacent to the restaurant where she treats the many in search of natural healing.

The restaurant sports geometric patterns on its walls and ceiling, with warm earth tones that give us a clue to the owner’s style and personality. Chef Bobby Brabaloni is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America – America’s foremost Culinary School – a fact which becomes obvious when you see the presentation, smell the aromas and taste the wonderful flavors.

My companion and I started our early dinner with a dish of Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

It consists of white mushrooms with sauteed onions, creamy pesto sauce, melted mozzarella and feta cheeses with a kick of chopped parsley. It was a perfect opener to a memorable meal.

We segued with their Village Pizza

Village Pizza

It came in a sesame crust, red onions, mushrooms, two types of mozzarella cheese and their very own red sauce. I know pizza, I’m a pizza addict and I must confess this one ranks among my favorites. My companion also found it delicious.

Next we had their Salmon Salad…

Salmon Salad

A superbly tasting salad fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled salmon, pan sauteed red inions, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms with a subtle teriyaki sauce. A fitting crown to our meal!

Wholesome food, warm ambience, reasonable prices, a nice bakery on premises… I know I’ll be back again and again.

CS

Natural Village Cafe on Urbanspoon

06
Aug
10

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 3


[My good friend, Eran Elhalal, gives us the third and last part of his Intro to Cheese.

Eran Elhalal is a chef/Entrepreneur working in Manhattan. An Honors Graduate of the  Culinary Institute of America,  Eran was Executive Chef of two Manhattan restaurants in the past few years and consulted several others. He began educating customers about food and wine pairing and cheese in 2007 while working as the Chef at UES’s BarVespa.

These days, Eran talks about food and wine pairing as the chef for the panel of Meetup, a wine club, dedicated to introduce and educate the American public about Israeli wines. Photos: courtesy of Eran Elhalal.

Not every type of cheese described below is, so far, made for the kosher consumer. That situation, however is changing fast as various distributors (here and here) and manufacturers are constantly introducing new and delicious cheeses into the kosher market. CS]

“How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?”
Charles de Gaulle

Trying to Categorize Cheeses

There is no one set of rules by which to categorize the world’s cheeses. After thousands of years of cheese-making , we still are unable to agree on one set of rules, and here is why:

  • Some factors are very difficult to quantify – for example the classification relying on smell. Detection and rating vary from person to person depending on how accute their sense of smell is. No one category can address all types and nuances. For example, Classification relying on rind alone, puts hundreds of cheeses with no rind in the same category.
  • Another example is classification by aging, it would put a Danish blue cheese and a Farmhouse Brie in the same category. Traveling between different categories- Cheese is a living thing. Every cheese is released with a certain fat content and certain water content. As the cheese ages these percentages change due to water evaporation. Hence, the same triple creamed cheese , tastes much more pungent a month after you bought it! Moreover, a cheese that was classified as Semi-hard like a dutch Gouda will turn rock hard as it ages.

Knowing this, we can now learn to pickout, describe and appreciate cheeses using the more common categories for classification:

Queso Manchego - Spanish sheep's milk cheese, has a wonderful and unique bite to it

 

 

Texture

Classification determined by water content:

  • Very soft – 80 % water, spoonable, includes most fresh cheeses like Cottage cheese, Chèvre, Labane.
  • Soft – 50 %-70% water, spreadable, includes the double and triple creamed cheeses (Brie, Camembert, Robiola, Taleggio, Colummiers…), but also some Feta cheeses (cow’s milk mainly).
  • Semihard – 40%-50% water, sliceable, includes Edam, Gouda, Manchego.
  • Hard – 30%-50% water, very firm and dense, includes Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, Piave, Ossau, Iraty, Mimolette
  • Blue -40%-50% water, a classification within the semi hard group of cheeses, may be sliceable, spreadable or crumbly, includes all blue veined cheeses, like; Valdeon, Cabrales, Roquefort, Gorgonzola

 

 

Noordhollander Gouda - Yes, there are some delicious kosher variations of this cheese

 

Aging

Length of aging prior to release:

  • Fresh – Un-aged, produced and released, include Cottage cheese, Cream cheese, Chèvre.
  • Brief Molding period – 2 weeks-10 weeks, produced and allowed to take shape in a mold ( tub or basket), or for the rind to bloom, includes Feta, almost all blue cheeses and bloomy rind cheeses (Grayson, Taleggio, Brie…).
  • Aged – Anywhere between 2 months and 5 years, depending on the cheese, produced and allowed to mature until the cheesemaker deems it fully aged and flavored, includes all hard and semi hard cheeses,like; Parmigiano Reggiano, Idiazabal, Pecorino, Cheddar, Gouda

Type of Milk

Classification by what animal produces the milk:

The most common are Cow, Goat and Sheep (ewe), but there are also cheeses made with a mix of milk from different animals, and even cheeses from Buffalo, Moose, Camel or Yak’s milk.

 

Taleggio

 

Smell

Classification by degree of pungency:

A very difficult classification,works mainly for bloomy rind cheeses like – Taleggio, Robiola, Camembert, Brie

Methods of cheese-making

Classification by main cheesemaking traditional methods:

  • Fresh Cheese – Unaged or matured, includes some slightly pressed cheeses(Feta),whey based cheeses that are only strained (Urda, Ricotta) and the spoonable, Cottage, Cream cheese, Chèvre.
  • Pasta Filata Cheese – The curds are cooked, then streched and folded repeatedly before molding or shaping. The cheese is then ready to eat or may be ripened further and even smoked (Mozzarella, Provolone, Paneer, Kashkaval).
  • Unpressed Ripened Cheese – The curds are minimally cut and allowed to drain . They are then ripened with mold or bacteria on the cheese surface (Camembert, Brie, Taleggio…) or using a starter culture that is applied to the surface or inoculated into the cheese (Stilton).
  • Pressed and Ripened Cheese – The curds are pressed before ripening. Examples: Manchego, Idiazabal, Cheddar.
  • Cooked, pressed and ripened – The curds are cooked in whey, then milled, molded and pressed. These cheeses are aged for up to 5 years (Parmigiano Reggiano, Piave, GoudaEdam, Emmental…).
  • Processed – After the initial cheesemaking process is complete (see 2nd part of this series), more milk and emulsifying salts are added, food coloring and preservatives. This yields a very consistent product, yet rather unhealthy. Unfortunately, these cheeses, sold in blocks, slices, tubes and even sprays are the most commonly consumed types in the US. (American cheese, Kraft singles, Cheez Whiz ….and other such varieties of poor excuses for cheese!)

Rind

 

 

Dutch Gouda -Uses an artificial wax rind, to lock in moisture and deepen the flavor as the cheese ages

 

Classification by type of rind:

The rind of the cheese controls the rate of water evaporation from the cheese, oxidation of the surface and escape of gases from within.

  • No rind – The cheese is produced and packaged or at most strained, salted and packed. Includes all fresh cheeses like: Ricotta, Urda, Cream cheese, Feta
  • White mold rind – The mold grows on the surface and is edible. The rind is sometimes brushed away a number of times throughout ripening, so the cheese will develop a thicker rind. The mold is white at first but as the cheese ages it darkens. Includes: Camembert, Brie, Robiola Bosina.
  • Washed rind – the rind is washed with alcohol, usually Marc (Grape pomace Brandy) or wine. The alcohol dries the surface of the cheese and the white bloomy mold turns pinkish/Orange. The rind is moist and a has a slightly grainy mouthfeel, thus it is not usually eaten. Includes Taleggio, Robiola Pineta, Grayson, Pont I’Eveque.
  • Natural dry rind – The rind is in fact the dry outer surface of the cheese. The rind can be brushed, scraped, oiled or wrapped in cloth depending on the desired result. The rind is inedible, types include: Parmigiano Reggiano, Cheddar, Piave
  • Organic rind – Leaves, spices and herbs applied to the surface of the cheese after its made. The reason is to impart flavor and protect from insects traditionally (Fleur de Maquis, Corsican ewe’s milk cheese rolled in herbs & Juniper berries, or Majorero Pimenton – rolled in smoked pepper). another reason is to lock in moisture. Examples include: Valdeon, wrapped in sycamore leaves; Banon, tied in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia.
  • Artificial rinds – Added after the cheese is made. Rind is generally inedible. Includes Gouda, Edam (wax rind), Cheddar (plastic) and ash edible in St. Maure (for example).

So… these are just the main categories. When I describe a cheese, I try to use all the categories that apply most, focusing on the ones that characterize the paricular cheese category more than others.

One last example. Morbier

 

 

Morbier cheese

 

Origin: Comte region, North East France
Milk: Raw or Pasteurized Cow’s milk.
Texture: Semi hard (40 %-50% water), sliceable.
Method of cheese-making: Pressed and ripened,with a layer of ash running through the center.
Smell: mild pungent
Rind: Natural dry rind,brushed for firmness.
Aging; 2-3 months
Fat content: 45 %
Interesting facts: This cheese was traditionally made for consumption by the cheesemakers themselves. Leftover curds were put in a tub, then covered with ash to repel insects, while waiting for additional leftover curds from the evening or the next day.

Eran Elhalal

RELATED POSTS

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 2

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!

Les Petites Fermières plus Organic and Kosher

Naturally Kosher

23
Feb
10

Abigael’s on Broadway


Abigael’s (1407 Broadway – at 39th Street, New York, NY; Tel: 212.575.1407) calls to mind the posh elegance of the bygone era where films like My Man Godfrey, with William Powell and Carole Lombard, were set. It is a classy, sedate and uniquely appointed restaurant. Yet… the simple but rich atmosphere and decor, are not all that attract the eye and whet the palate at Abigael’s… The dishes are inspired and delicious!

Partial view of Abigael's main dining room

I met Chef Jeff Nathan in the small private library (one of various party rooms at Abigael’s). There, amidst the Soncino Talmud and the Encyclopedia Britannica we discussed what precipitated his becoming a Chef. As a member of a generation where every Jewish parent dreamed of “my son the doctor” or “my son the lawyer,” Jeff Nathan journeyed against the grain and, after a stint in the US Navy, attended the Culinary Institute of America. Driven to transcend and surpass, as in all else he ever attempted, chef Nathan dominated the competition and graduated at the top of his class in 1980.

Since 1998 he has been the chef/host of PBS’ “New Jewish Cuisine, the only international gourmet Kosher cooking series, which is seen in four countries and translated into three languages.” He is also a kosher and restaurant consultant to various food and wine producers.

I started the meal with with Abigael’s Ultimate Sushi Platter which consisted of three sushi rolls.

Ultimate Sushi Platter presented with a soothing, drip fountain

The three rolls are: Tempura Trio (salmon, tuna, and fluke, tempura fried, with avocado, masago and scallions), Broadway (seaweed roll with tuna, yellow-tail and salmon, cucumber, avocado, Japanese dressing and masago), and Green Tea (yellowtail and avocado, topped with salmon, spicy tuna tartar and sweet wasabi soy sauce). Though fish and sushi are but a recently acquired tastes of mine, I did find the platter beautifully presented and deliciously toothsome to eat.

I then tried their Smoked Brisket Eggroll (Texas style, with barbecue vinaigrette and a chipotle potato salad). This dish fully demonstrates the creativity of Jeff Nathan as he metamorphoses the quintessentially traditional Brisket with a saucy bold new flavor and crispy exterior. Flavorful, as my mother used to say, ta’am fun ganeiden!

I followed that full flavored brisket with the Crispy Asian Chicken (crisp fried and tossed with spicy chile sauce, served with sweet and sour sesame-cucumber slaw).

Crispy Asian Chicken

Presentation was again an eyeful and the taste was quite savory.

A Latin American bred carnivore to the core, I loved the Argentine Smoked Short Ribs (house smoked rib tossed tossed with BBQ vinaigrette and chimi churri with scallion whipped potatoes).

Argentine Smoked Short Ribs

The ribs were succulent, heavenly smoked and spiced, cooked to tender perfection. The scallion whipped potatoes… just right!

Great dinner, in a great atmosphere, though missing Carole Lombard or Myrna Loy by my side, but life… isn’t perfect, could I really ask for more?

CS

Abigael's on Broadway on Urbanspoon

21
Jan
10

The Making of a Corporate Chef


Chef David Kolotkin is no stranger to these pages, but every time he reveals more and more about the Chef’s art. This time I went with him to Manhattan’s Union Square Farmers’ Market.

Chef David Kolotkin looking at mushroom varieties

We looked at tomatoes, cucumbers and some interesting varieties of mushrooms as the Chef explained about their flavor nuances, how the various types differed from each other. Next we turned to stalls carrying mesclun, arugula, and a few other salad greens. I really got an education today! Before we left the Chef picked up about four pounds of fresh Jerusalem artichokes for The Prime Grill.

But who is David Kolotkin? What makes him tick? He was barely in his teens when his interest in cooking first manifested itself. His mother had taken him to a restaurant where the food was prepared table-side. David watched fascinated and decided right there and then that one day he too would join that profession.

After high school he attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America from 1991 t0 1993, he then went on to apprentice at the legendary Club 21Club 21 was a favorite meeting place for many of the rich, the famous, powerful politicians and entertainers. After a while he resumed studies at the CIA and returned to Club 21 for another 3 years.

Leaving Club 21, he became sous chef for the Restaurant Associates operated, very exclusive, Trustees Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From there he went on to to become sous chef at Windows on the World, which occupied the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower at the World Trade Center.

After 9/11 he landed at The Prime Grill (60 East 49th Street; New York, NY 10017; 212.692.9292). He left in 2005 for his own venture in Miami, it didn’t work out and on his return to New York he worked for famed restaurateur Kenneth Uretsky, whom he knew from his RA days. Mr. Uretsky hired him for his Butterfield 81 restaurant. In 2007 he went back to The Prime Grill. Since then while still primarily at The Prime Grill he went on to became Corporate Chef for Joey Allaham’s restaurant ventures, including Solo and soon to open up Prime Ko, an upscale Japanese steakhouse.

Unlike others in his profession, Chef David is no prima donna, he puts on no airs, is well aware of his self worth without any need to toot it around. He’s totally dedicated to his profession and the people at his restaurants. Is it any wonder that he rose in the ranks?

CS




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