Archive for the 'video' Category

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New York’s Best Wedding Cakes and Fancy Fast Food

I wanted to share with you two videos that I am particularly proud of. I did them both recently for The Feedbag.

The first profiles Sylvia Weinstock, New York’s premiere wedding cake maker. She’s been in the biz over thirty years and is completely adorable. Her wares come at a price, however. She quoted $600 for a two-layer shower cake.

The second video I made with Erik Trinidad of While I can’t direct relate it to historical cookery, I wanted to share this video with you because watching Erik transform Chicken McNuggets into a high-end confit is just plain fun.

The Premiere of Food Party!

Although not historical, I wanted to make everyone aware of the premiere of Food Party, created by my food friends and colleagues Thu Tran and Zachariah Durr. Food Party’s first season on IFC debuts Tuesday, June 9 11:15pm ET/PT.

From the official press release:

“Food Party is a fantastical, food-centric series created and hosted by Brooklyn fringe artist, Thu Tran, and a motley mix of unruly puppets who serve as her culinary crew. Maybe best described as a psychedelic melding of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and The Rachael Ray Show with a dash of J-Horror vibe, FOOD PARTY is shot on location in a technicolor handmade, cardboard kitchen. Each episode is a new gastronomical adventure as Thu interacts with a cavalcade of puppets, humans, baked goods, vegetables, and other critters, and embarks on journeys to bizarre, unexpected lands. “

Be sure to check it out! And in the meantime, cruise by the official website.

Bacardi: The Original Mojito Since 1862?

From The Intoxicologist is in:

“BACARDI®, the world’s number-one selling rum, today announced the launch of a new multi-media advertising and marketing campaign that emphasizes the brand’s 147-year history and rum making expertise. Featuring an all-new BACARDI Mojito television spot entiled “Eras,” the campaign seeks to convey the message that the best Mojitos are made with BACARDI, the innovative rum brand first used to make this legendary cocktail.”

Take a look:

Permit me to nerd out for a moment.

1. Ok, I really dig the song.
2.  While they do a great job capturing the general ambiance for most decades, the costumes on the Victorian women suck.  Keep in mind the Victorian era spans about 60 years.    The costumes in that “era,” while individually beautiful, are some sort of amalgamation of the 1820s, the 1870s and the 1890s, and definitely NOT 1862.  Except for maybe the Col. Sanders looking dude. And who has ever dressed like that tart that gives him the eye at the end? (history nerds: are they doing the Virginia reel?)(update: confirmed. they are doing the Reel.)
3.  “Since 1862, the best mojitos have always been made the same way.”  Mojitos…in 1862?  When I saw this commercial for the first time during the Daily Show last night, I was hard pressed to believe mojitos had been around since 1862.  Not only have I never come across a mojito recipe, they aren’t similar to anything else imbibed at that time.  Except, perhaps, their distant cousin, the mint julep.
I first checked with our old friend Jerry Thomas (who’s book was coincidentally published in 1862.)  Not a mojito to be found.  I began to scour the internets.
From Wikipedia:

“Cuba is the birthplace of the mojito, although the exact origin of this classic cocktail is the subject of debate. One story traces the mojito to a similar 16th century drink, the “El Draque,” in honor of Sir Francis Drake. It was made initially with tafia/aguardiente, a primitive predecessor of rum, but as soon as Spanish rum became widely available to the British (ca. 1650) they changed it to rum.  Mint, lime and sugar were also helpful in hiding the harsh taste of this spirit. While this drink was not called a mojito at this time, it was still the original combination of these ingredients..

So while a combination of ingredients similar to the mojito existed, in the 19th c. it was being drunk by the Cuban working class.  Definitely not Victorian tarts in spangly dresses.

I’ve also read that  “The earliest “mojito” recipes…found are from 1931 and 1936 editions of a Sloppy Joe’s Bar Manual.”  Sloppy Joe’s was a famous bar in Cuba, where Hemingway apparently popularized the drink.

Bacardi was founded in Cuba, and it was known for refining what was a previously unrefined drink.  Rum was a dark pungent spirit; Bacardi classed it up by running it through a charcoal filter, creating a much lighter liqour appropriate for swanky bars.

And perhaps that’s what happened to the Mojito; it transformed from the rugged El Draque, to the gentile Mojito with the creation of Bacardi Rum.

Read up for yourself, and weigh in:

The History of Bacardi

The History of the Mojito

The History of the Cuban Mojito

Other Rum drinks from the 1860s:

Rum Punch

Rum Flip

Hot Spiced Rum

P.S–Nothing personal against mojitos.  They’re delicious.

Try This At Home: Make Yeast Appear–OUT OF THIN AIR!

This week has taken on a bit of a bread theme; I don’t have much experience with bread, but I’ve always been fascinated by it. It seems magical, the way the dough puffs and doubles in size. The smell of yeast dough rising has always been appealing to me.
But there was a question that had always bugged me. Before packets of commercial yeast, where did yeast come from? How did a woman living on the frontier in the 19th century make bread, the most basic and essential of items?
The other day I got the unique opportunity to hang out behind-the-scenes at Orwarsher’s Bakery, an upper east-side institution for the last 100 years. I had more fun with bread than I ever thought possible, and I also found time to ask them my burning question: where does yeast come from?
The answer? From thin air.
They told me: if you set out a bowl of water, flour, and sugar; yeast will come and live in it. That’s called your starter. Over time, you scoop out what yeast you need, and add sugar, flour, and water back in to “feed” it. In this fashion, a yeast colony can be kept indefinitely. In Orwasher’s case, their starter has been around since the bakery started over 100 years ago. So if you go into Orwasher’s today, you are eating bread made from the great-great-great-(etc) grandchildrens of yeast that was floating around in the New York air in 1900.
Kinda weird? A little, maybe. But also kinda awesome!
Additionally, Orwashers is reviving a very old (see: medieval) technique of bread making which involves building a yeast culture from grapes being fermented for wine. The resulting bread is dark and crusty, and looks like a loaf of bread out of a medieval banquet. They have several varieties available, and are great adorned with a smear of soft cheese or soaked in a bowl of hearty soup.
I’m giving yeast growing a try at home. I referenced an 1845 recipe for yeast, and I’ve set out a bowel of flour, brown sugar, warm water, and a little salt . I’ll keep you updated, and let you know what happens!

P.S.: I hung out at Orwarsher’s while doing a video for The Feedbag. See the video here.

Eggnog Goes Better With Booze

From Jeff via NPR: Many old cocktail recipes contain raw eggs, including this recipe for Egg Nogg. It’s a practice that died out probably around the time salmonella came into the picture. But never fear! NPR shows us that the alcoholic content of, in this case, Eggnog is enough to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.

Video: More Evidence That Eggnog Goes Better With Booze (NPR)

And for further old-timey cocktail reading (via Graham): Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails

Their cocktails.

“This site is dedicated to the Gin Fizz, the Widow’s Kiss, and the Singapore Sling – the drinks our mothers and grandmothers drank, the drinks we strive to save from extinction as a small measure of remembering those great women and their great cocktail parties.”

Flavoring as a Cause of Death

(Illustration: Zachariah Durr; Photo: The Daily Telegraph)

I’ve long been fascinated with a tiny, European bird called the Ortolan. One of the many interesting things about the preparation and ingestion of this bird is the manner is which it is killed: it is drowned in brandy. As the liquor fills the bird’s lungs, it flavors the bird in preparation for roasting.
That’s intense. Flavoring an animal before it’s even deceased? This video pretty much covers it all, from preparation to the peculiar way in which the bird is devoured whole. Be warned: it’s a bit gruesome.
An argument could be made that in current society we take certain steps to flavor our animals before we slaughter them. With beef, for instance, cattle are bred, genetically modified, and are fed different diets to produce an ideal flavor and fattiness to the meat. But only in historic cuisine, like with the Ortolan, have I found a reference to seasoning an animal before it’s slaughtered. I also came across this recipe for turkey in Statesman’s Dishes and How to Cook Them by Mrs. Stephen J. Field, 1890. She says:

“Three days before it’s slaughtered, it should have an English walnut forced down its throat three times a day, and a glass of sherry once a day. The meat will be deliciously tender, and have a fine nutty flavor.”

All of this boozing of poultry strikes one as a little obscene. I can only imagine that cuisine has moved away from ‘pre-seasoning’ because it could be perceived as an act of animal cruelty. But perhaps that shows a bit of our naivete, and how far removed we’ve become from our food in the last 100 years. In 1890, people were hanging out with their turkeys before Thanksgiving. I bet that careful care from life to death gave the turkey a spectacular flavor that is a world apart from our freezed meats; not to mention the sense of pride the owner would have, roasting the bird and placing it on the holiday table.

After all, it’s just food. Right?

And on that note, I encourage you to take the time to listen to this episode of This American Life. It’s a Thanksgiving show from a few years ago, and it deals with the sticky subject of where to draw the line “between friend and food.” It includes a segment on our friend, the Ortolan.

This American Life: Poultry Slam