Chutney Fever

I was up in historic-but-hip Hudson, New York this weekend enjoying the charms of the Mid-Hudson region in general.  While in Hudson, I stopped in at Olde Hudson, a wonderfully select but spacious specialty food store – catering to the town’s sophisticated palate – on Warren Street, its main thoroughfare.

It was here I found, among many other treasures, a jar of Chutney Fever, specifically Date Cranberry Chutney ($9.99), on the shelves.  Firstly, how could I possibly resist a product called Chutney Fever?  Secondly, how could I pass up trying an organic product from the Fingerlake Region, from a town called Trumansburg, NY?  Obviously, I couldn’t, because here it is in my kitchen ready to be consumed.

If you’re in any way iffy on the notion of spicy fruit, consider the following.  Mexican salsa is technically tomato (a fruit) mixed with hot minced peppers, among other ingredients.  Thai green papaya salad so masterfully lends heat to refreshing and juicy papaya – it’s genius. Indian chutney goes further to mix fire with sweetness in a thick jam-like spread, and what you get is an intriguing blend that’s great on many different kinds of bases: protein – chicken or duck; dairy – yogurt or ice cream; or bread – naan or dosa.

We’ve all tasted a lot of mango chutney, but who’s tried date cranberry?  The dates give the spread body and richness, the cranberries give it zing.  Chutney Fever gave this blend just a touch of heat for kick.

If you don’t plan to be in Hudson, the easiest way to get your hands on this or other Chutney Fever products is to visit the CULINARY KIOSK for organic specialty foods.  There you can find many more varieties of Chutney Fever from Jae’s Organic Food, including Mango Mustard, Blueberry Orange and Apricot Ginger.  A three-pack is $19.99.

Happy hunting . . . Anne

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Analogue Life

How is it that Japanese culture produces the most sublime images, ceremonies, food and design but is also home to the coolest, most ahead-of-the-curve people?  I don’t ask questions, I just marvel.

Case in point:  there’s a shop called Analogue Life housed in the Mizuho Ward of Nagoya, Japan, where you can get the most contemporary household objects rendered with the most traditional of techniques and materials.  Here you can find the work of artisans such as Kenji Fukui, Shoji Morinaga and Yasuko Ozeki creating designs for the kitchen, tabletop and household using wood, iron, silk and clay.  Luckily for us, the shop is also online, enabling us to access these extraordinary designs wherever we live.

In the words of the owners and founders, Ian Orgias and Mitsue Iwakoshi:

“. . . contemporary Japanese designers working sometimes in collaboration with traditional craftmen have applied the traditions of simplicity, elegance, and harmony beyond those, to a variety of household goods. Analogue Life hopes to offer international customers a range of these well crafted, well designed products that reflects what is being designed and produced today by young artists as well as established master craftsmen.”

Take a look.

Cocel rice cooker

Akebi vine bag with cloth by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten

Nambu Tekki kettle, designed by Jurgen Lehl, produced in Nobuho Miya’s Kamasada workshop

Tall pitcher by Yasuko Ozeki

Hand-woven silk/cotton furoshiki by Tsuchiya Orimono sho

Kashiwan bowls by Kihachi

Copper scissors by Tajika Haruo Ironworks

Happy hunting . . . Anne

Nonna’s Table

From the kitchen of Ron Suhanosky, founding chef of Sfoglia, author of James Beard Award-winning Pasta Sfoglia and The Italian Table, you can buy fresh, hand-made pasta to take home and cook.

Has that sunk in?

It might take a few minutes, so in the meantime, let me tell you about Nonna’s Table, Suhanosky’s wonderfully intimate gourmet Italian grocery store at 163 E. 92nd Street off Lexington on the Upper East Side in New York City.

In a charming setting, Suhanosky serves snack-sized plates, sells pre-made pasta dishes and sauces to go, and offers a selection of Italian food stuffs curated with knowledge gleaned from years of cooking excellent Italian food – it can only result in a satisfying experience in your own kitchen!  On the grocery shelves and in the refrigerated cases you’ll find such treasures as buffalo mozzarella that’s flown in every Thursday from Italy; organic peeled roma tomatoes in glass jars from Puglia; a full selection of dried pastas from Faella, a brand he favors; jams, crackers and breadsticks; and hard-to-find items like Galil grape seed oil.  There’s a good selection of cured meats including finocchiona (fennel) salumi, porcini (mushroom) salumi, and cacciatorini (‘hunter’s’ salami, which is small, made for carrying) salumi.

Nonna’s offers a brief, daily menu of small bites that you can sit down and eat – a soup, a pizza and a sandwich, along with Italian sodas and espresso drinks.  Also available are fresh baked desserts made by Suhanosky’s mom, and you may find her – or other members of the extended family – behind the counter when you visit.  If you go to Nonna’s, do not leave without a pre-prepared dish of pasta that is, again, made fresh daily.

Although there is a definite ‘voice’ behind the offerings at Nonna’s Table, it’s really designed as a go-to spot for a customer who’s sophisticated or simply enthusiastic about great food.  When I visited, a local called to make sure a few pieces of the day’s pizza were put aside for him.  That speaks volumes to the kind of personal relationships built upon the delivery of high-quality products being nurtured at Nonna’s. It’s very local and very Italian.

Nonna’s Table is so authentic it doesn’t have a website, but if you wish to call ahead, the number is (212) 831-9200.  You can host a private event (on the smaller side) at Nonna’s, too.

Happy hunting . . . Anne

The Perfect Cookie: Pryaniki

I positively hate it when bloggers write “I’m obsessed with such-and-such,” because they probably say it more often than they mean it, and the phrase subsequently looses its punch.  But, dear reader, I will tell you unequivocally that I am obsessed with Russian pryaniki (also Romanized as prianiki) cookies.  They’re not fancy, quaint, or decorative, but the simplest things endure, and the pryaniki cookie has definitely stood the test of time and continents.

Pryaniki cookies are big – 3 inches in diameter – and soft like a black-and-white. The ones I get are frosted in a simple glaze so that they have a firm and crispy outer layer, absolutely custom-made for dipping in hot coffee or tea.  Great also with jam.

Traditionally these have been called ‘gingerbread cakes’ or ‘honey cakes.’  They almost always contain rye wheat and whiskey, and then some combination of honey, ginger, cardamon, anise, nutmeg and cloves.  But when purchased in the States, they’re often considerably lighter – simple yellow honey cookies.

My local bakery, Yusef Kosher Bakery II, at 64-17 108th Street in Forest Hills, makes them in enormous quantities.  I usually go for a package of eight, paying about $2.75.  I have not found them for sale online, but if you want to make a traditional recipe yourself, check out The Prianiki Project.

Happy hunting . . . Anne

The London Candy Company

It’s not just the accent that’s different, it’s the chocolate, too.

That’s what Jigs Patel learned when, traveling often between England and the States, his New York friends would ask him to bring candy favorites – Cadbury eggs, Kit Kats, Twix – back from London.  Everyone knows we have those familiar candies easily accessible right here in America, and so he started to investigate exactly why there was a marked difference in the flavor.  It’s not entirely surprising that with food originating from a different culture, the standards, and therefore recipes for confections (real sugar v artificial sweeteners, for example), are different there, and so the tastes of these familiar treats are not the same. Clearly there was a market in New York for British chocolates, so he started The London Candy Company, a boutique British confectioner.

You don’t have to be some kind of inter-continental chocolate aficionado to enjoy The London Candy Company.  It’s a lively and engaging shop, which, from the bright, colorful decoration to the enthusiastic staff, conveys an attitude of fun.  The merchandise is carefully selected and tastefully presented, quickly empowering even the not-so-familiar to get entirely familiar and make a selection.

One wall is covered in the aforementioned basics, namely, candy bars of all shapes and sizes.  There are also heaps of bags of other varieties of British favorites – drops and pops and puffy bites – tucked away under the tables, such as Bassetts liquorices, Maynards Wine Gums, and Maoam Chew Twos.

In addition to the mass-produced, grab-and-go candies, the shop also carries more expensive, high-quality confections.  Prestat, By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Purveyor of Chocolates, known for exquisite chocolate mints, is featured here.  From Prestat, the London Candy Company carries mints, Babes (chocolate covered fruit jellies), and milk chocolate wafers infused with Earl Grey tea.  There’s a selection from Mr. Stanley’s, another quite old and established house, including wonderful liquorices, butter toffees and Turkish delight.

You can stop in for a Robinson’s orange flavored barley water, a cup of tea, or a Stumptown coffee, and during my visit, there was a steady stream of locals doing just that. The London Candy Company has teamed up with artisanal ice cream makers, Je & Jo, to create specialized flavors fitting the theme of the shop.  Currently it’s Pimm’s Cup – named after a cocktail that’s somewhat akin to sangria, with the beloved fortified gin, lemonade, cucumber, mint and strawberries – it’s refreshing and decidedly British.  You can also pick up festive  décor for your next block party or informal tea.

Stop in, grab a bucket, ask questions and explore.

The London Candy Company, 1442 Lexington Avenue (at 94th Street), New York City, 212.427.2129

Happy hunting . . . Anne

exotic pillows

There’s a budding class of daring online retailers with a mission to bring the world – at least the material world – to you.  I’m happy to report that I’m seeing a lot of interesting decorative pillows out there with bright colors, bold graphics, and engaging animals, at a full range of prices.  If the reality is that you’re spending your summer on your couch watching DVDs of The Wire, well, a part of you can be gazing upon the Nile adorned in white flowing robes . . .

Quick round-up for you.  Click on the pics to shop.

Offered by new flash-sale site Zengerine, the red tiger pillow by ZWZ Home, $28.

Also from Zengerine, the Yaumati cushion cover by Hong Kong Memories, $22.

From Thomas Paul’s Bazaar Collection, the sassy Camel Linen Pillow (comes with the feather filler), $110.

I am all about John Robshaw.  Lots of soft, cozy stuff for the bed.  Here’s his Abu round pillow, $140.

And his hand-painted Cockatoos pillow, $110.

From the Amber Interior Design Shoppe, the Embroidered Pink Lumbar – perfect for your home Moroccan tent, $175.

Happy hunting . . . Anne

Arepa de Queso

I’ve often spotted these friendly little griddle cakes in the dairy sections of my local supermarkets.  Although they look easy enough to deal with I’ve never purchased any arepa de queso because I wasn’t sure  exactly what position they had in the course of daily cuisine.  Were they eaten at breakfast or dinner?  Were they sweet or savory?   All of the above, turns out, which is true with any long-enduring and satisfying food staple.

An arepa is an unleavened patty, formed five to eight inches in diameter, half an inch thick, made with corn meal that has been blended – or later stuffed – with a complementary ingredient, most commonly cheese.  You’ll see similar cakes throughout Central and South America, but the arepa is most closely aligned with Columbia and Venezuela.

The traditional, and rather labor-intensive technique for making arepa flour began with the soaking of kernels of corn, which were then hand-husked and ground down.  For the next step, and the point at which the process begins as arepas are produced today, the corn meal flour is boiled and dried and, having been pre-cooked, is more easily made into a dough, which is blended with water, salt, and perhaps milk, eggs or cheese.  The arepas can then be grilled, baked, boiled or fried.  When you buy them prepackaged, they’ve already been cooked and are typically simply heated up in the frying pan with butter.

Arepas are eaten for breakfast with a good slathering of butter or cream cheese – in Columbia with hot chocolate – and make a good afternoon snack.  They are also served at savory mealtimes with meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad, shrimp or fish.  Varieties include arepa dulce (sweet), arepa de coco (coconut), arepa catira (yellow cheese with shredded chicken), and arepa de perico (scrambled eggs), to name just a few.  The pre-prepared kinds that you find in the supermarket, generally $3 per package for four or six, are all about cheese – I found one style called arepa de queso y mas queso!  They come two patties stuck together, and you can either fry them individually (about two minutes per side), or put cheese in between two, cooking as you would a grilled cheese sandwich (about four minutes per side).

A flexible and extremely filling carbohydrate.  I guarantee you, one of these will fill you up.

If you want to make arepas from scratch at home, here’s a great, classic recipe at My Columbian Recipes, and pre-cooked arepa flour is available on amazon at a variety of prices, from $2 to $7.  Or you can order arepas pre-made in bulk at Delicias Andinas.

Happy hunting . . . Anne