Wednesday, October 3, 2018

J Gold, Belated Obit

J Gold, the food critic who democratized the nation's palate, RIP. If you haven't seen City of Gold, this is a must-watch for any self-proclaimed foodie. In many ways I think of him in my travels to try every mediocre restaurant in Durham, tingling with those very mixed up feelings of futility, anthropology, discovery, banality, and a requisite amount of anticipatory excitement. May we all be as obsessed with something as Gold was with the cultural landscape of gastronomy.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/21/obituaries/jonathan-gold-dead-los-angeles-food-critic.html

Sunday, September 30, 2018

MTN Venice Ramen

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmzRtCcFE0l/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=aorsz6xtsx8z

little rocket man closes / a tribute to toast

one of my favorite menus from the now-closed little rocket man.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnWUP90AJ5A/?taken-by=littlerocketmandurham

the initial ideas for the menu were:

Carolina Jammer - ricotta, jam, herbs
Avo - Avocado, masala, almonds
Pan con Tomate - Cherry Tomatoes, olive oil, flake salt
Scuttlebutt - hard boiled egg, pimenton aioli, pickles, herb mix
(tribute to saltie)
Mama's Boy - Butter, Cinnamon, Sugar
use unsliced bricohe, unsliced country loaf

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

To Be a Baker

Image result for chad robertson
Chad Robertson

To Be a Baker

what does it take?

a personality type.
a calm neurotic

like chad robertson
tall and rangey
to be a baker
waking before daybreak, working physically hard before daybreak,
it's a push to the last loaf,
here you stand before the oven, to stand underground and bake bagels,
carry the flour back centuries to
your ancestors, with
poppy seed, sesame, and flax.  

It’s a blue planet,
Powered by calories derived from bread,
The technological revolutions,
In our Modernity,
There was bread,
Religious warfare,
And the bread as ritual.

An evolution,
Of bread and of society,
From bourgeosie to poverty,
In every neighborhood and shtetl.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Underground Man

"Er ligt in der erd un bakt beygl."
"He lies underground and and bakes bagels"
- Old Yiddish saying to describe a person depressed.

Task Switching

Baking is a controlled task switching exercise.  I might have three doughs to mix, one rack in the oven, three employees forming loaves, and a meeting about to walk in in an hour.  There is a necessary schizoid property to this that goes beyond your everyday short order cook kind of multi-tasking.  It is a sensation of juggling that ends up feeling like a runner's high.  Ernest Hemingway always liked to finish the day by leaving his last sentence unfinished.  To conceive of work as a flow, where one might drop in like a wave, is a means to be enmeshed in the world, and to achieve an immanence impossible in ordinary life.  The moment you tie up your apron like it was an obi, you enter into a world where you might as well be tapping a spiderweb with a tuning fork, and waiting for the resonance, set a whole series of events into motion.

Change is Person to Person

I never knew about Instagram until someone literally showed it to me on their phone.  Same for Snapchat.  Same for Google Maps.

Change is person to person.  If I put one loaf of good bread in a person's hands, that could be a transformation.  If we are generous, perhaps that could transform someone's day.  Maybe they will be generous with the next person they meet.  Maybe if we change the codes, and bake the good breads, we will feel the benefits of this difference.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ms Jacqueline Retires


Ms. Jacqueline has been on extended medical leave and now has decided to retire.  We will miss her dearly here at the Bakery.  Ms. Jacqueline Wilkins was the heart and soul of our operation for twenty-one years.  She started as a bread slicer in 1996 and moved up to eventually run the cafe and become head purchaser.  She has seen Durham and the Bakery grow and change over the years and has many stories about the old times before Downtown Durham became the bustling urban hub that it is now.  Her welcoming spirit and infectious warmth are unique.  She is one of the few people in Durham who might send off a customer with a "Have a blessed day" and it truly felt like a small blessing.  Ms Jacqueline intends to enjoy her retirement with her loving husband Theodore.  Humble as she is, she denied multiple requests from us to throw her a retirement party, so if you wish to send a message along, please contact me (Ari) and I can give you her email address.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fried Chicken Beard Award

With the closing of Nana's, and several years since Magnolia Grill closed, I have taken note of this shift away from white tablecloth restaurants and towards a culinary approach to traditional American Soul Food.  Franklin's BBQ won best chef in 2015, Rodney Scott won in 2018, along with a pastry win for Dolester Miles of Highland Cafe who makes traditional Southern desserts like Peach Blueberry Cobbler.  Some might say this turn began with David Chang winning Rising Star chef in 2007 (also nominated in 2006) with his ramen revolution.  Whatever the case, we are seeing a sociological shift here where once eating out was rare and mostly for the rich.  Culinary students were taught how to prepare charcuterie and foie gras with the expectation of working in a fine dining restaurant.  The restaurateurs of today are not opening fine dining restaurants - those are only for the super-wealthy (e.g. Alinea, Eleven Madison Park).  Restaurateurs of note are opening fried chicken spots and pizza joints

I think the takeaway from this is that good fried chicken is just as exalted as foie gras.  Fried chicken will never be refined (your fingers will still be greasy at the end), but diners now recognize the difference between KFC and something they are going to pay $16 a plate for.  They are not only purchasing the dialed-up, dialed-in comfort food, but they are enjoying it more than a stuffy meal that demands a jacket, tie, and certain degree of etiquette.  American foodways have experienced a seismic shift in the years since Iron Chef began on the Food Network.  New culinary celebrities are democratizing the food landscape and making room for ethnic food stars that previously only cooked in the shadows of restaurants like Nana's.  We are "enlightened" now to the use of local ingredients.   At the same time large swathes of North America still eat highly processed foods from big box store corporations.  Will the foodie revolution trickle down the demographic ladder as the soul food revolution has trickled up, or will the whole thing look in retrospect like Elvis appropriating an entire musical blues genre without apology, reference, or footnote?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Beer Pilgrimage: Hill Farmstead

I reconnected with an old friend from college, Shaun Hill, who has since become the bees knees of craft beer.  

His brewery, Hill Farmstead, was voted best brewery in the world according to Ratebeer.com in 2017, and has been voted #1 5 out of the last 6 years.

Normally I scoff at rankings as such, and was ready to be disappointed.  Instead, I can tell you without hesitation, that Hill Farmstead is the real deal, head and shoulders above other top-notch brewers that are doing unfiltered "hazy" beers.  He said that a customer came in and asked, "Do you have any New England IPAs?"   Which is hilarious because Shaun started what became that trend.  He was literally five years ahead of the rest of the pack.  And even though other brewers brew hazy now, they are not doing it with the intentionality and attention to detail necessary to craft at similar quality to Hill Farmstead.

In fact, the next morning after my visit, I woke up at 4am, completely humbled, realizing that nothing I will ever do in life, in bread, in art, will likely ever come close to the excellence Shaun has achieved in beermaking.

I have written previously about the perfectly realized chef in his philosophical domain in reference to Francis Malmann.  Shaun Hill is the first person I could say I met in the flesh who satisfies that criteria.  He is making beer perfectly in tune with his person and his philosophy, and the result is sublime.

In the hour and a half we spent together, it was clear that Shaun's nose is only part of the equation.  He is detail oriented on a level we normal folks cannot comprehend.  He is tirelessly seeking moments of transcendence in beer, and I was extremely proud to see him getting the recognition he deserved.  People spotted him in the taproom and came up just to say how certain beers really impressed them and congratulated him on the expansions to the brewery that he's made in recent years.

We spoke also about the future, and it's clear that Shaun is tied to the family land there, having purchased adjacent properties with hope of conserving the land and protecting its wildlife, trees, and watershed.  He seemed interested in the idea of responsible development in his little neck of Greensboro, VT, where perhaps people might find not only a dirt road leading up to a world class brewery, but an entire community of people sharing in the land and its beauty.

Some highlights:

"We brew 50 wine barrels worth of Anna, and I sample each one at the end of two years aging, and the one that makes my hair stand up on end becomes an Ann."  We tasted that beer - it's nuance and complexity was amazing.

Tasting a young unaged beer that would become this year's Leaves of Grass.

Harlan

Edward

A young Vera Mae for which the yeast had not even been dropped.  It's interesting that Shaun crowd-sources folks to pick the 60kg or so of dandelion needed for this beer.

Two pilsners, one aged, and one unaged.  These might have been some of the finest pilsners I've ever tasted.  I asked Shaun if he felt like he could compete with the pilsners of Germany and Western Europe - he said emphatically "yes".

Shaun showing us the barrel-aging program

Shaun and Ari

Ann

Beer Menu

Pilsner off the fermenter

A Hill Farmstead logo miche Alex Ruch from the Bakery produced especially for the occasion
The taproom

Retail to-go sales

Edward at The Bench in Stowe.  Literally a perfect pour

Monday, May 21, 2018