Edible Brooklyn. Edible Brooklyn, a free publication, is a veritable road map of the restaurants, bars, co-ops, markets, grocery stores, and bodegas in the Brooklyn area and, unlike most food publications, has a pretty decided outlook on all things edible east of the East River. It's a tributary of the larger Edible Manhattan, but, appropriate to its readers, it has a bit more of a crunchy granola bohemian hipster feel. Here's the best thing about said funky little publication: they have fun and funky little events as well. A few nights ago, my fabulous husband and I happened upon one of these events at the Brooklyn Brewery and stayed to sit in on a series of lectures. Now, if the word "lecture" makes you think of college, florescent lights, and exams, I would say this was not the night for you. But, I must say that there was no exam, the room was dimly lit, there was beer, and before the night was over, Victor and I learned "How to Pickle, Ferment, and Jar" and made a few new friends. Not a bad evening of lectures.
Yes, PLEASE! Samples galore. I had a Horman's hot and spicy pickle, some grapefruit and smoked salt marmalade on foccacia, and some red ginger kombucha. All brilliantly tasty (believe it or not, including the kombucha). The best part, though? Each was served up by their respective makers. No second, third, or fourth-hand distribution. Hand to hand to mouth. I met and spoke to the creator and jam-master of Anarchy in a Jar (Laena McCarthy) as I munched on her, I must say, innovative jam. (I had missed her lecture in my tardiness, but I hear it was fabulous). She was sweet and engaging. I wanted to buy her products not only because the jam was to die for (and it was), but also because I liked and trusted her and wanted to support her business. I thought of the year-old Smuckers that was hanging out in my fridge and wondered: who made that? Would I like to talk to him/her? Would I trust him/her? Hmm. Literally . . . food for thought.
Kombucha Brooklyn and self-proclaimed "Kombuchaman" Eric Childs told us all about it - alternating pertinent home-kombucha-brewing information (kombucha should be fermented at a pH of 3.4 or less), disgusting details (you don't want to know), hilarious audience participation, and sips of his beer. Folks shouted out questions, laughed, and had a pretty generally fun time of it. Note to self: come to more of these kooky lectures - I could learn something.
After finding a friend, Jeremy Morgan, and his adorable partner and grabbing some more Horman's horseradish pickles (the best!), we settled in for a lecture on kimchi. Yeah . . . not as informative. Mr. Kimchi-lecturer, as the last of the evening, had sampled too much of the brown ale and was wholly unhelpful in the kimchi-making instruction. What he lacked in public speaking skills, though, he made up for in charisma. I didn't know whether we were laughing with him or at him, but he was hilarious! People were laughing, toasting, and yelling out words that he forgot; things like "table", "parsley", and . . . "kimchi". After a rambling account of God-knows-what, he sauntered off and we commenced finishing our own beverages. Folks milled about and chatted about co-ops, gardens, and sustanability. I realized that I was completely out of my crunchiness depth, but I had a great time with a lot of good people anyway. And, hey, I learned a LOT.
With every year that distances me from the institutions of learning that I attended, I exponentially appreciate the value of a good old lecture. Heck, I even turn on the history channel from time to time. Learning, I would venture to say, has become a little hobby of mine. If someone's going to invite me to sit in for free while they impart their knowledge (on any subject) to me, I am all the better for it. And if I meet new friends and they serve beer, jam, and pickles in the meanwhile, bust a move. Thanks, Edible Brooklyn. I'll be seeing you again sometime soon. Who knows. I might even attempt to make some kombucha someday. Maybe.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Victor and I headed over to 82 East 42nd street a few days ago and quickly found the train exhibit in the New York Transit Museum (which, by the way, is not a museum as far as I could tell - it's a place to hock subway-themed tchotchkes). It was sweetly adorable - just short of fabulous. The ceiling of the store was bedecked in hanging ornaments, lights, and holly while the model of midtown Manhattan stretched up to meet it. The painstakingly painted trees, pedestrians, trucks, and signs would have been even more endearing, though, if all of the trains had been actually running. Unfortunately, someone affiliated with the MTA was trying to save power because only one of the (I spotted four) trains was moving. The rest sat unimpressively dormant. Now, I'm a fan of a model train set, but a large part of the fun is that the trains move. Maybe we had come at the wrong time, I thought. Nevertheless, the display was at least cute, festive, and interesting. We walked around to the other side of the model and followed the train tracks from midtown, around a hill, and up to the North Pole where a quarter-sized Santa loaded gifts onto his sleigh. I wished again that all of the trains were running.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Sushi Damo, from the outside, looks as cold, grey, and unremarkable as the rest of the west side of 58th street. Located right across from the Time Warner Center, its facade blends into all of the other impersonal glass that is slowly encompassing Columbus Circle. Once I passed through the glass door and into the restaurant, though, it was a different story entirely. The interior of Sushi Damo is warm, cozy, lined with bamboo and black leather, and dimly lit enough to provide optimum lighting for a romantic evening. We were immediately and gracefully greeted by a soft-spoken young Asian hostess that gently led us (me and my ever-adventurous cohort, Hiatt) to a quiet corner table and brought us warm lavender-scented moist towels for our hands. I felt slightly like I was in a spa rather than a sushi joint. Our adorable server glided over, introduced himself, informed us that he was new, and proceeded to tell us that it was happy hour. Score! I ordered a $5 asian pear martini and perused the rest of the menu. Pretty classic Japanese. A little pricey, but not overly ridiculous considering what I'm sure the real estate near Columbus Circle is putting them back. If you're like me and you price a Japanese restaurant by its spicy tuna roll, this one was seven bucks. If that helps, I'm glad. If not, there's a priced menu online.
Anyway, after sampling my perfectly prepared pear concoction and chatting with Hiatt a bit, I ordered an avocado and mixed green salad, a spicy tuna roll (for comparison with other Japanese joints), and a fabulous creation called a Neo roll that featured yellowtail, jalapeno, and kaiware. All of it was tasty and artfully presented. The fish was fresh, the salad dressing was (as in most sushi joints) liquid crack, and most of all, the service was exceptionally attentive without being obtrusive. Sometimes I think that's key. Was Sushi Damo the best sushi I had ever had? Not quite. Was it close? Potentially. I'm a diner with which ambience goes a long way, so, because of that, I will be frequenting Sushi Damo (despite its slightly higher-priced menu). It was a far cry from the rudely bustling cafeteria atmosphere of Kodama and I was very thankful for both the anonymity of the table setup and the quietly bubbling zen music in the background. Hiatt and I had a relaxing and peaceful dinner in a warm and cozy atmosphere and while I still wouldn't think longingly of a Neo roll in a blizzard, I will definitely not shy away from another winter visit.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
A few words on the plan. My intention was to eat only raw (not cooked over 115°F) food that contained no animal products or animal byproducts for thirty days (not including Christmas dinner and one other pre-arranged dinner party - I didn't want to be a bad guest and I can't turn down my Mom's cooking). Why would I try something like this? Well, a few reasons. First, it's trendy and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Second, it's really freaking healthy - food loses tons of nutrients when we cook it. And, so, if we're taking out the nutrients, then we basically are eating empty calories and I might as well eat cream soda flavored Jelly Bellys 24/7, right? (Okay, maybe it's not all that extreme). Anyway, here's an example. In a 2005 study, the folks at the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that when you microwave, for instance, broccoli, it loses 97 percent of flavonoids, 74 percent of sinapics, and 87 percent of caffeoyl-quinic derivatives (I know, what the hell are these, right? Well, they're antioxidants. And they're kind of important). And that's just broccoli. And a third reason? Why the heck not? So, on December 1st, I set out to give it a try. How hard could it be, right?
Now, I wasn’t a perfect little raw vegan by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely cheated a few times. I had my lovely predetermined “free” dinner and ate my face off. It was so good . . . for about twenty minutes. And then, I felt absolutely disgusting. For the next twelve hours. Was it worth it, I wondered? I wasn’t quite sure. Much like the close talker with the halitosis at the holiday party, I felt like my body was trying really hard to get rid of my dinner as quickly as possible. The same thing happened every time I cheated. I had some of a friend’s nachos one evening in a moment of weakness and not only did I taste the (previously undetectable to my palate) chemicals in the cheese, but the texture of the food in general felt gummy. The same thing happened when I stealthily and guiltily munched the sliver of toast that came with my salad – it felt like it stuck to the roof of my mouth. What was IN this stuff anyway? My last and most extravagant cheat: Mom’s fabulous Christmas dinner. There was NO way that I would pass up her turkey, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and broccoli and cauliflower salad. I went to town. And then had some cheesecake to boot. It was Christmas, after all. Now, THAT was worth the icky feeling I had for the next twelve hours. But that's a once a year kind of meal. And worth the 364 day wait for it. But, by Christmas, I had learned an important lesson. For good. I realized that had been ignorantly eating, for the most part, processed CRAP for my entire life! And didn’t have any idea what was in ANY of it. Really, Michelle? I could tell you the calorie count of pretty much any food in the grocery store, but I couldn’t tell you if there was dextrose in the wheat thins or nitrates in the lunch meat. Wow. Another lesson I learned is that milk products are, basically, the devil. Now, I won’t go off on how NOBODY should be ingesting milk products EVER, but I will tell you that every time I did, I felt disgusting. Even the handful of butterscotch chips that I had on Christmas evening felt slimy. Wow. I officially didn’t like it. Lesson number two for the Veganista: no more milk. Like, at all. Like, ever. And not because I won't allow myself to have it. It's just that after a month without it, I really don't want it anymore.
So, I know this has been a long blog, but it WAS an entire month after all. And I kind of had a lot to say. And I still have more to say, but I won't bore you all with the novel-length version. I don’t have that kind of time. Or audience, for that matter. I will just say, though, that I truly believe that extremes can teach us a lot. And I definitely learned a lot. I learned that fresh, real food is exponentially better for me. Not that I didn’t know that before, but I now know that for myself. And, never underestimate the power of a lesson learned firsthand. Second, I know that there are some foods that I used to eat that my body really doesn’t like. I was forcing them down without really listening to the effects of their digestion (much like most of America). Third, chemicals taste like crap. I had a few jelly beans a few days ago and it was literally an assault to my taste buds. But I wanted to keep eating them nonetheless. Even though I didn’t like them. The chemical that the jelly bean company put in the mix that makes my mouth want more was working at full speed ahead. I stopped, thought, “This is not good at all”, and went for a handful of raw cashews. Much better.
Will I continue to be a raw vegan? Nope. I don’t roll like that. Will my diet in general be changed immensely by this experience? Absolutely. Perhaps I was crazy for radically changing my diet for a month. But, now, having been at both ends of the spectrum of eating, experiencing firsthand the ridiculously healthy and the overly unhealthy, I can now find a happy medium that works for me. I think that’s what it’s all about.