Monday, September 11, 2017

Frank Ferrell

On Frank Ferrell, by Mo Ferrell, the original founders of Ninth Street Bakery:

Some of you may know that he has always liked big projects.   And some have heard that he is working on a book that traces the earliest beginnings of Ninth St. Bakery.  Back to our roots of practice at San Francisco Zen Center and working at Tassajara Bakery.  He and friends Dan Howe and Elaine Maisner worked in the back baking and Elaine, cake finishing.   I worked in the front with customers and loading trays with pastries that sold like wildfire those days, 1977ish.  The bakery was in the Haight Asbury district. The bakery had a line out the door from opening till 2pm.

Of course the Bakers were up in the wee early hours, sitting meditation and then over to the bakery to begin mixing.

This life did shape the rest of our lives, and maybe why he still wakes at these early hours.  He hasn't actually started the memoir, but hopefully will write all the stories down as he remembers them now.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

They need to be told what they want

"Cooking for people doesn't necessarily mean cooking what they want.  It's a little bit like they need to be told what they want, so they can enjoy better than they thought they would." -- Hugue Dufour

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Manifest: Smoke

Smoke was the theme this time for our Manifest dinner.  Smoking food for communal meals is a tradition as old as human civilization itself.  Many thanks to Chris May and Adam Sobsey.  Chris smoked 40 pounds of meat!  Check out the picture of us below sliding a massive cutting board heavy with prime cuts across the farm table.  It was epic!  Thanks as well to the twenty-five guests who came and enjoyed this great meal for a value price ($25) and shared their own stories of making our community a more equitable and communal place.  Check out the post on the first dinner to read Adam's writing and get a sense for what we are trying to accomplish.  If you would like to be added to the guest list for future dinners, please reach out to us via email: info at ninthstbakery dot com.

MANIFEST

Menu 27 August 2017

Openers:

Marinated eggplant
Cherrywood-smoked tuna belly & grouper collar
Ninth Street Bakery breads

*****

From the smoker:

Beef Brisket (Texas post oak, salt & pepper rub)
Puerco Pibil (pork shoulder, banana leaf, annatto, citrus reduction)
Thai-style BBQ Ribs (baby backs, St. Louis rub, honey, nam chim kai)
Chorizo & longaniza sausage

Yucatan pickled onion
Radish mustard
Radish greens chimichurri

*****

Sides:

Smoked Carnival Squash
Smoked peaches with roasted squash seeds
Refrigerator-pickled cucumbers

*****

Dessert:

Burnt caramel buttermilk chess pie

*****

Produce: Li’l Farm, Red Hawk Farm
Fish: Locals Seafood
Pork: Fickle Creek Farm, Firsthand Foods, Carniceria Superior
Beef: Firsthand Food, Hoofbeat Farm, Walker Farm


Bless this food. Bless us all.

* * * * *

Manifesto
by Chris May



Barbecue, simply put, is the practice of cooking meat with fire. It is the oldest culinary technique we know. So old, we believe it began with the mastery of fire by our human ancestors, Homo Erectus. It is no wonder then, that with each great human migration, nearly every culture in the world has developed and perfected their own form of barbecue. Now, the techniques may vary— open grilling, clay ovens, earth covered pits. It might be called, Asado, Braii, Gogigui, Lechon, Mezze, or as my Peruvian ancestors call it Pachamanca, but the practice of patiently cooking meat and gathering with friends and family to share it, is truly universal.

Our menu this evening is an attempt to marry the familiar “American” barbecue with flavors and influences from other cultures. Specifically, honoring the cultures of the individuals that harvest, produce, and prepare our food here in the U.S.

Now I’d like to take this time to share with you some words from Andrea Reusing, A James Beard award-winning chef and the owner of The Lantern, a restaurant in Chapel Hill. From: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/07/30/539112692/a-chefs-plea

--

Inequality does not affect our food system — our food system is built on inequality and requires it to function. The components of this inequality —racism, lack of access to capital, exploitation, land loss, nutritional and health disparities in communities of color, to name some — are tightly connected. Our nearly 20-year obsession with food and chefs has neither expanded access to high-quality food nor improved nutrition in low-resource neighborhoods.

Only an honest look at how food gets to the table in the U.S. can begin to unwind these connections. Food workers, as members of both the largest and lowest-paid U.S. workforce, are in a unique position to lead these conversations. Many of us have already helped incubate policy change on wage equality, organic certification and the humane treatment of animals. But a simpler and maybe even more powerful way we can be catalysts for real change in the food system is to simply tell the stories of who we are.

Take immigration. Our current policy renders much of the U.S. workforce completely invisible. This is more true in the food industry than in any other place in American life. There is a widespread disconnect on the critical role recent immigrants play in producing our food and an underlying empathy gap when it comes to the reality of daily life for these low-wage food workers and their families.

Our state produces half the sweet potatoes grown in the U.S. — 500,000 tons a year — which are all harvested by hand. A worker here has to dig and haul 2 tons to earn about $50. In meatpacking plants, horrific injuries and deaths resulting from unsafe working conditions are widespread. Farmworkers are exposed to far more pesticides than you or I would get on our spinach. Poverty wages allow ripe strawberries to be sold cheaply enough to be displayed unrefrigerated, piled high in produce section towers. Nearly half of immigrant farmworkers and their families in North Carolina are food insecure.

When as chefs we wonder whether a pork chop tastes better if the pig ate corn or nuts but we don't talk about the people who worked in the slaughterhouse where it was processed, we are creating a kind of theater. We encourage our audience to suspend their disbelief.

The theater our audience sees — abundant grocery stores and farmers markets, absurdly cheap fast food and our farm-to-table dining rooms — resembles what Jean Baudrillard famously called the simulacrum, a kind of heightened parallel world that, like Disneyland, is an artifice with no meaningful connection to the real world.

As chefs, we need to talk more about the economic realities of our kitchens and dining rooms and allow eaters to begin to experience them as we do: imperfect places where abundance and hope exist beside scarcity and compromise. Places that are weakened by the same structural inequality that afflicts every aspect of American life.

--

In terms of food service labor, what does an ethical food economy look like? How do we take steps to change the status quo?

In ideal world, our society would recognize the true value of the labor that makes our food possible by fairly compensating and including/supporting the migrants doing this work in our communities. The cost of doing so would be passed along to us as consumers.

Unfortunately, a specific roadmap for completely changing the reality of our food economy does not exist, but there are a couple thoughts I would suggest we consider. 

Tonight, we are taking the first step by learning and being mindful of the food environment we participate in. The decisions we make as consumers can influence the market in which we operate. You can choose to eat at restaurants that pay a living wage, or that support community initiatives that help migrant workers. In most cases, however, restaurant wages are still the lowest in our country. The next time you eat at a restaurant, your tip can make a significant impact on your server and depending on the restaurant, cooks and bus staff.

To elaborate further on Andrea Reusing’s essay, there are other ways that we can support the under-represented, and under-resourced Latino migrants that make our food economy possible. I work for El Futuro, a mental health clinic just right around the corner from here that helps Latino families in our community.  Not long ago I remember one of our clinicians telling a story of a child client that was having some trouble in school. A family friend referred her to our clinic. This young girl was doing poorly in classes due to trauma experienced during her migration here. Her father, a food service worker, did not speak English and was not sufficiently equipped (time, financial resources) to help his daughter. Our therapists worked with this young girl and eventually her father, to build a strong support system at home and address not only her trauma, but her father’s as well. Today, she is thriving in school and working towards a brighter future.

El Futuro is one of several non-profit organizations serving the Latino community here that help to create a community of welcome. Organizations like these recognize the economic disparity and the insufficient access to resources that exists for our Latino neighbors. If you want to support and engage with those that make your food possible, consider volunteering with or financially supporting one of these Latino-serving non-profit organizations. 

El Futuro
El Centro Hispano
Urban Durham Ministries

Meat smoking begins at 5am

A place at the table






The main course


Adam Sobsey speaks to food culture and gastronomy

Twilight feast

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Andrea on Food Labor

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/07/30/539112692/a-chefs-plea;

Farm to Table

Eric Smith, artisan woodworker and farmer in Timberlake, NC, built us a fantastic 8' long farm table for our patio.  Previously, he has also contributed a table to Panciuto in Hillsborough and other local establishments.  We are stoked to have this piece of handmade furniture, crafted from salvaged boards.  The farm table brings people together - it is really a special way to share a meal.  This is the second table we have added to the patio, the first (about two months ago) from local craftsman Todd Levins.

I was able to do a short email interview with Eric, who happens to be a great writer and thinker as well as a carpenter:

When did you first get into carpentry? 

I started doing carpentry about 12 years ago in the small seaside town of Essex, Massachusetts. I was in my mid-20's and, oddly enough, working at a bakery at the time.

How did your skills develop? 

I had absolutely no experience when I applied for a job fixing antique chairs at Walker Creek Furniture in Essex.  My boss told me he was glad I was inexperienced because I would do things his way and not the 'right' way.  After gluing spindles, stretchers and back-splats together for several months, I graduated to fixing dressers and whatever else people would drop off at the store to get fixed.  Over time I began to gather the basic skills of woodworking and also a general knowledge of wood and how it's used to make useful objects.  My boss noticed that I had a flair for creativity and began to ask me to create 'one-off' pieces of whimsical furniture for the showroom, some of which were very well-received.  A few years later I was running the wood-shop where I had started out fixing chairs in the corner with only a handful of tools that I knew how to use.  

Tell us about your idea for this table in particular,  any technical details,  and any special considerations. 

I've always liked the atmosphere of 9th St Bakery - the big industrial expanses of floor-space, the unpretentious straightforward feel of a bakery interested in turning out delicious food and beverages, the location right in the cusp of downtown Durham.  I wanted to make a thoroughly sturdy table, both in form and function, to match the industrial scale of the place.  But I also wanted to make something warm and familiar in the way that bread is warm and familiar, and also inviting and down-to-earth. The design is simple, classic, dependable and, hopefully, not without a degree of rugged elegance.

Tell us about the wood that you used for it what it's made of, and where you found it?  

The wood for the table top is 'heart pine' and I got it at the Reuse Warehouse in Durham.  They got it from a 100+ year old tobacco barn a few counties over and milled it up into manageable thicknesses.  Heart pine is very resinous and thus holds up very well over time, as well as finishing to a lovely flame-orange glow when oiled.  The wood for the base is also mostly heart pine, the legs having come from a dumpster that I raided a few years ago.  The channel running up the sides were where the floorboards interlocked.

Tell us about your connection to the Ninth Street Bakery and the connection between the Farm and the Bakery

I've enjoyed coming to the Bakery in connection to Lil Farm's partnership with 9th St. in its production of Queen George's Ginger products.  Many late nights of filling jars with candied ginger and syrup, the radio blasting and my energy levels sustained by a steady supply of delicious baked goods, coffee, and the insistent cadence of the assembly line.  Visiting in the day time is a much different experience.  I've had some very lovely and calm moments sipping coffee on the patio watching Durham busily hum all around me.  It's awesome to see produce from Lil Farm end up in a fantastic soup or some other offering.  But the Farm can't take credit for the Mandelbrot - that's my favorite thing they make...except for maybe the Babka.  Or challah.  Hard to decide.

Eric inspecting his work

The table in action (in the foreground)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Manifestos

Adam Sobsey returned from a summer trip to France with a mission: to reimagine the moderately priced, high quality bistro food that is so common in towns large and small outside of the big cities like Paris.  This food relies on fresh ingredients, not processed food, and is prepared to order.  Tipping is not part of the culture (service/gratuity is included in the cost of the meal).  A sense of communality and community is the ethic of the bistro.

We discussed this over Mapo Tofu at Szechaun Garden and the possibility of creating a dinner around these principles (at the Bakery) on a recurring basis.

Adam's a writer, and I brought up the fact that really, what he was laying down was a manifesto about the state of our food economy and modern gastronomical habits.  His "day" job is as a bartender at a local fine dining restaurant, so these issues are presented to him literally five nights a week.

The manifesto was written and performed, the food was prepared, and the people enjoyed.  This was on July 30th.  Our next one is August 27th.  Check out the pics and video below.

To everyone who passively enjoys the food culture of the Triangle, I say check your passivity at the door.  Great privilege means that we have the onus to think actively about food culture.  I hope these events spur more discussion, more behavioral and consumer changes, more manifestos.  We have titled the event Manifest, and we hope you can join us.  Manifest will be unlike fine dining, and more like family meal, served family style, without tipping, for a moderate cost ($20-$30pp).


MENU

Pan amb tomaquet

Insalata caprese w/ hand-pulled mozzarella

Spicy yellowfin tuna “dragon” “roll” w/ shiso-celery leaf chiffonade
Accompaniments:
Proven├žal piment cabbage sort of like the kind we had at that place in Borough Market
Potato-cucumber salad in celery vinaigrette
Potato-cabbage wok-salvage

Sweet minty tomatoes

Ari’s 
tarte tatin

Yellowfin Sesame-Encrusted Tuna Loin Encrusted with Shiso and Celery Leaf

Adam and the fruits of the BYOB


MANIFEST
The common, recurring image of our present moment: a person sitting in a parked car, with the engine and the air conditioning running, using a smartphone, drinking a soda and/or eating fast food.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

back when bread was bread and bikes were a primary mode of transportation

smoked meat is the best meat

"There's something about having a smoked meat sandwich on rye bread with that yellow mustard. Smoked meat is delicious on scallops, it's delicious on liver, it's delicious with kidneys, it's delicious cold on its own with celery root.  It's not just a sandwich stuffer, we cook it, we do the Joe Beef liver with the smoked meat on it and three little slices of pickles -- it's wonderful food.  Smoked meat is the best meat. Of all the meats it's the finest of the meats."

David McMillan, Joe Beef, via Munchies

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Do you remember that time Hannibal Buress dropped in on Moogfest and stole the whole weekend?

at Motorco
hannibalburess_photoby_capblackard.jpg (806×518)
building a Moog

with Flylo

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Good bread was sufficient unto itself, at any hour of the day; it needed no accompaniment, not even butter."  -- Steven Laurence Kaplan, Good Bread is Back

Monday, April 24, 2017

Working Side by Side With Latinos

This is kind of a funny story.  I was working at Ninth Street Bakery in the Fall of 2009.  I was mixing bread and doing the oven work, baking off the loaves.  And one day, when baking the challah, I forgot to set my timer correctly, and the loaves came out 10 minutes too dark.  And the customer refused the loaves and requested replacements, asap.  So after a 10 hour baking day that started at 4:30am, I drove back from Carrboro to Durham to mix another batch.  Around 7pm, the dough was ready to shape.  Except I had never formed round challah before (it was Rosh Hashana time, when round challahs are traditionally made).  I asked Antonia, one of the bread formers (she knew how to make all the dough shapes), to help me.  Antonia, a native of Honduras, was helping me, an East Coast Jew, make challah for Rosh Hashana.  The irony was not lost on me.  The loaves were made and baked off for the customer.  But the image of standing there while Antonia instructed me stuck in my mind to this day.

President Trump seems to find the mere existence of Latinos, legal or otherwise, to be problematic.  If he knew who is on the job sites of America, or if he had worked side by side with Latinos, I wonder if he would gain an appreciation for their work ethic and skills.  As is typical for many restaurants, the Latino workers at the Bakery, all eight of them, are some of the hardest working and reliable employees I have.  To denigrate them rather than celebrate them is misguided and racist.

We are working with El Futuro to give away free cookies and coffees to patients who meet certain treatment goals.  This is a small and seemingly insignificant way to support the Latino community in Durham, but I think when Latino families come into the Bakery, it reminds me that all are welcome and that we (and by we I mean the service industry) have a collective responsibility to serve every race and income class.  I hope we can do more in the future.

More here on immigrants in restaurant kitchens: https://lifeandthyme.com/video/migrant-kitchen-ep1-chirmol/

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Take them by the hand

We had two new pastry cooks come on in February and our Assistant Manager Jacob and I have been hard at working training them.  The longer I've owned the Bakery (it's been about three-and-a-half years), the more I've come to value training.  It's said that the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden would teach his players on the first day of camp the best way to tie their shoes so they would never go untied in the middle of a game.  And that is precisely the point, that a successful Bakery, like most businesses, concentrates on the details and the thousands of micro-adjustments that add up to a perfect loaf.

Another great example is one from master baker Jeffrey Hamelman.  He recounts a tale of mixing Irish Soda Bread in Dublin in a converted pig trough.  At dawn the buttermilk would splash in and he would then be "up to his elbows" mixing the dough with the owner perched over his shoulder telling him to mix it more gently, with a light hand, so that the pastry would be soft and flaky instead of dense and hard.  Many days, I am like that owner, on the floor, showing our employees the best way to clean an 80 quart mixing bowl or to organize the walkin or how to properly cream butter.  It is highly repetitive work, but also rewarding.  When I can move on to another task and trust that recipes will be executed to (near) perfection, it is enormously satisfying and the Bakery is stronger for it.

How Long Does It Take to Learn to Bake Bread?

I sometimes get asked how long does it take to learn to bake bread.  

3 weeks to learn the basics.

3 months to gain a proficiency.  

5 years to gain mastery.  

But the learning never stops.   I learn something new about bread every week.   It is like a chrysalis endlessly unfolding or like a snowflake fractal growing at the cusp of its edge.  It is periodically frustrating, but it always brings me back with renewed interest.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Mural

Ninth Street Bakery recently invested in a new mural above our Downtown space.  I think it really brightens it up, and evokes our from-scratch mentality.  Our organic flour is milled locally at Lindley Mills in Graham, NC, so you know that our flour has been milled from whole grain and used within about two weeks!  That is the main difference between our product and factory-made supermarket products.  No preservatives, no additives, ever.

Before and After

Scott Nurkin, owner of The Mural Shop, is a one-man business.  He saw this project through from start to finish, initially brought in for the job by Julie Cohoon from Center Studio Architecture.  I got to speak with Scott on tape for a little bit to learn more about him and his muraling work.

What was your background in muraling and how did you get started?

I started at UNC in the Painting and Drawing program and got my BFA there.  As soon as I graduated, there was a muralist named Michael Brown who lived in Carrboro who was looking for an apprentice.

I apprenticed for him for 3 years, taking that job right out of school, not thinking I would stick with muraling forever. I spent the summer working for him, then I begged him to work full time which I did for three years, then after three years we amicably parted ways and I struck out on my own.

At the same time I was touring with a band (Birds of Avalon), and it afforded me to make some money and then head out on the road for months at a time.  I did that from 2003 till 2008.  Then the economy tanked, the band slowed down, so I had to figure out what to do next and I decided to commit to muraling full time.

I built a website, and slugged it out from 2008 to 2013, taking any job, whether it be hand-painting signs in peoples' garages or that kind of thing.  I was slowly building up a clientele and a portfolio and the last couple of years it has been pretty good.  For some reason the mural industry is booming right now, and it probably has something to do with street art becoming really popular, with graffiti writers turning into rock stars on social media....so by 2017 the business has been good to me.

How do you incorporate the creative into your commercial jobs?

I try to use my talent to understand what a client wants and shape that direction versus being like, "This is my one style."  I think my style comes out in everything I do though - for instance with Ninth Street, there is a tie in to wheat and breadmaking so that worked out nicely but another example for a job I was recently doing in South Carolina - there is a mixed use space there on top of an industrial cotton mill from the 1800s so all the art references cotton ginning -- I kind of pride myself on using my skills as an artist and what I like and what I reference and incorporating it into what clients want. I use my forces to steer the client, but ultimately it is the client's vision.

What was the process and vision for this project at Ninth Street Bakery?

So this one started a year ago.  The original concept was a wheat tie-in, and I took that idea and ran with it.  It moved from a single stem of wheat to a field of wheat given the linearity of the space and I thought something colorful and impactful would suit the space. So the idea was to do a huge impact right away so that as soon as you turn the corner, you can't help but go, "Whoa, what is that?"  Then there was the decision of doing realistic wheat versus some kind of cartoonish wheat and we ultimately did the realistic wheat because I thought it would be taken more seriously that way.

Luckily this one was so high up that I had a lift and the lift affords me the ability to move really fast up and over the space so I can touch the wall all across the several hundred square feet I had to work -- versus using a ladder where it's a lengthy process of gridding the image out and make sure all the lines are going exactly up and down, stepping back, etcetera.  So I didn't have to grid this one - it was a lot of using the eye on the stem work so that it looked balanced and fit the space and layering the color in.  I also used aerosol on this one which is not something I typically use a lot but I loved it, and I loved the way it responded to my vision of the piece.

So what's next for Scott Nurkin and The Mural Shop?

There is more work here [we are in discussion on a mural on the interior of the Bakery], and there is a project in Raleigh - an inclusionary project -- "Welcome to Raleigh, Y'all" in 16 different languages, to counter some of the political movements that the clients feel are not correct in our State. This is going up near Downtown Raleigh.

After that, there is more work at the cotton mill in South Carolina, as well as some big work for some small towns in North Carolina, Sanford and Carthage, so a lot is coming up.  In terms of expanding what I do, I just spoke with some people about hiring on some extra help, mostly office manager and backoffice help, so hopefully by 2018 we'll have some more employees and the company will have expanded.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Parking Downtown

In just a month since the new parking meters have gone in Downtown to increase revenue for the City, we have seen weekday foot traffic to the Cafe decrease an estimated 10-20%.  Apparently, just like the seniors affected in this article, there exists a whole class of people who would probably rather stay away from Downtown rather than pay a meter fee.  Before the meters, on-street parking was hard to come by, but not impossible. I imagine the folks that would rove around looking for a spot are now preferring to stay away rather than pay or go into a parking deck.  I just hope that there is a learning curve here and that folks slowly learn to use meters and start coming back.  I would hate for something like parking meters to impede the growth of the City.

I wonder if the revenue gained by the City will outstrip the daytime business lost for Downtown businesses like the Bakery.  What is the breakeven point?  Fact is that there are so many places for folks to shop nowadays that we still need to give incentives to come Downtown.  Just imagine what would happen if Southpoint Mall starting charging shoppers for parking to try to increase revenue?