Saturday, November 18, 2017

Manifest Turns 4 on December 17th


Manifest, the popular new pop-up dinner in Durham, is holding its fourth event on December 17th from 3-6 pm at Ninth Street Bakery.  We have 50 spaces available for this event.

Unlike previous versions, this one will directly benefit local Latino mental health non-profit El Futuro. Also unlike previous iterations, we will be taking a holiday party drop-in approach. We will have fireplaces going, and you are welcome to come to the cocktail hour (3-4 pm), food service (4-5 pm), dessert and performance (5-6 pm), or all three.  The cocktail hour will feature complimentary Manifest limited edition IPA, wine for sale by the glass, as well as BYOB.

Manifest focuses on real foods prepared with ingredients from local farmers and ends with a live performance. Check out our Ten Commandments of Manifest below.

Dinner is served in a shared setting and offered at a reasonable price for value.

Manifest is at once old-fashioned and novel, marrying the old tradition of the country inn table to the modern culinary world, setting the way we eat now within the ways we ate then.

Manifest’s menus, different for each dinner, are full of variety, guided first by the knowledge that food can and should be both healthy and tasty.

We are committed to deriving flavor less from cholesterol and salt, and more from freshness of food and its combination.

We take chances and explore ingredients. We challenge convention and also abide by it, omnivorous in our cuisine and our interests.

Manifest is about more than the cuisine. The central experience of eating should be part of the larger one of dining: getting to know the people we’re sitting with, widening our frame of perception, taking in more than the food.


RSVP is on a first-come first-served basis via email to this address and pre-payment is encouraged via our online storeThe suggested donation is $25. All net proceeds will go directly to El Futuro.




The 10 Commandments of Manifest

1.     Communal tables
2.     Prix Fixe: A Planned, Rather than Selected, Variety.
3.     Priced So All Can Afford to Eat
4.     Health, Freshness, and Real Foods
5.     Facilitate Culinary Creativity via (Ingredient) Deconstruction
6.     Less Waste
7.     No servers, No Tipping
8.     No Cult of the Chef
9.     Use the Venue for Performance
10. Good Hospitality is Not a Service to Be Rendered but a Gift to be Shared

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Alex Ruch

Longtime regulars of the Bakery will notice that our crusty artisan breads have become especially amazing as of late.  In July, Alex Ruch, previously a baker at Bellegarde Bakery in New Orleans, came on with us here.  He actually baked with me back in the days when I ran the Berenbaum's bakestand.  He left for a post-doc at Tulane in 2012 and I was trying to recruit him back pretty much as soon as left.  His bread has made a huge step forward for NSB's quality, and I am extremely proud of him with every bake.  We have gained new wholesale customers as a result of these fine breads, and we will be looking to add on more in the months to come.
Alex leading a baking class 

    

The breads

             

Sunday, October 29, 2017

“Wheat is life, boy. Don’t let no silly bugger tell you different.”

- Christopher Ketteridge and Spike Mays, Five Miles From Bunkum, 1972

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Manifest Three: Pastrami and Ale

Mark Solomon, wine aficionado, addresses the group

Chris May, Adam Sobsey, and I have been curating a monthly dinner titled Manifest, which could also be titled Manifest(o), where we perform dinner and then perform a short reading spurred as a reaction to the food and restaurant economy.  The 10 Commandments of Manifest printed below should give you more of a feel for it.  Mark Solomon (pictured above), Fine Wine and Whisky Director at Leland Little Auctions, brought some vintage deadstock, about 15 wines.  Some were remarkable, others went down the drain.  Thanks Mark!  Also a big thanks to Dave and the crew at Red's Quality Acre and George and Lily at Lil' Farm for supplying the veggies and flowers.  Thanks to Alex Ruch for providing fragrant loaves of caraway-perfumed rye bread.  And Chris May put together an absolutely superlative New England IPA.  I can't wait for more brews from this aspiring brewer!  Email me at info at ninthstbakery dot com if you would like an invite to our next dinner.  Our menu:

Manifest

Menu 22 October 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

Loose Perfectionism

I have something I like to use with my managers and staff called "loose perfectionism".  Loose perfectionism is defined as while not judging too harshly any one given outcome, nudging the product and the process towards a goal of 95% complete satisfaction that is eventually consistent each time.  What this means to be is to not take it as such a moral blow or huge value judgement if you make a mistake.  Everyone makes mistakes.  The key is learning from them and correcting them with the end goal in mind.  So long as you have the end goal in mind, both in the palate's mind and in the aesthetic experience, you can drive this cyclical process forward to your goal.  Once achieved, the other key aspect is achieving consistency time and again through proper training, recipes, and protocols.  Iterative creative processes can be frustrating, so it is important to use the spirit of what Gilles Deleuze call the "rigourous and inexact" to guide you toward a superlative outcome.

On Yeast

Bubbly, natural yeast used for rising bread dough, is fickle.  I've spent years of daily feedings learning its ways.  If you decide to make a natural yeast starter from scratch, a typical feeding regimen from water and flour to yeast takes about three weeks.

There are many different starter concentrations and hydrations ("wetness" of the starter) to be used in your final dough. To name a few, there are "young" levains, sour starter, liquid levain, and salted bigas.

Looking back at my experimentation, I have found the following factors to be the key decision points in determining the final outcome:
  • Starter concentration by hydratation.
  • Usage of commercial yeast in place of or in addition to natural starters in rising.
  • Feeding times.  How many times per day?
  • Resulting cell concentration and cell "hunger" from feeding schedule.
  • How much starter to use by total dough weight.
  • Overnight retarding in bulk rise vs. rising in shaped form vs. using a same-day bulk rise formula



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ms Jacqueline


As many of our regulars know, Ms Jacqueline Wilkins has been out on extended medical leave.  Jacqueline is in many ways is the heart and soul of the Bakery.  When I think of generosity and love, I think of Ms Jacqueline.  Having worked at the Bakery for over twenty years, many of our regulars come in simply to see her and kibbitz with her. She has been saying every month that she will be coming back the next month, and now we are hoping for November for her return to the Bakery in a part-time capacity.  The Bakery wishes her the best for a speedy recovery and can't wait for her return.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pathological Progress

A lot of people don't understand me, and they tell me as much.  I often give away bread, pastries, tee shirts, hats, and cookies to our regulars and friends of the Bakery.  And it is not like the Bakery is so rich!  Before I owned the Bakery, I ran a sliding scale Farmer's Market stand on Hunt Street where we sold baked goods regardless of the customer's means.

The closest person to I have met who is like this is George O'Neal, owner of Lil' Farm in Timberlake.  He routinely gives away veggies to me and other friends, sometimes bartering, sometimes just to bless you with a bunch of mizuna or a bagful of new potatoes.

There is no real reason or logic behind charitable giving.  It's not a sales ploy.  It's not an exercise in morality nor has it a basis in religion.  It just feels good.  It's not something I decided on.  It's a pathology.

Just as you might give your children the last serving of food at the table rather than feed yourself, the pathology of charity is one we can extend to the whole world if we have the right perspective.  The delight of of the gift is unrivaled.  To be the giver can be as rewarding as being the recipient.  Try giving something away today.  See how it feels.

Precariousness

Is the world stable?

In October of 2016, I fell off my roof while cleaning the gutters.  What you realize when you are falling, is that the air is painless.  When you land, you feel nothing for a moment as your vision goes black.  And then the pain and trauma sets in.  I was lucky, I only broke my arm.  If you ever want to know what it's like to be a baker with a cast up to the shoulder, just ask me.  It was one of those situations where you learn to trust and train the people around you because injury has made you virtually useless.

I go back to the roof in my mind often, the moment of distraction, the phone ringing, the car passing by and blinding me momentarily with the sun reflected off the windshield, the thoughts of my girlfriend who I was trying to see later in the day, the podcast I was listening to from my phone, and finally the ladder slipping out from under my feet as I clutched, flailing, at the metal gutter.  The air was painless, and in a moment I went from my usual self to a world of pain as I went into shock and ceased to be able to use my limbs and struggled to breathe.  I was all alone, and though my neighbor saw me fall, no one rushed to my aid.  Nothing prepares you for shock.  I faced it alone, and only through the adrenaline rush and force of will drove myself to the ER, all the while trying not to pass out.

The world is in flux.  The world, like our lives, is more precarious than we think.  One moment you are doing the gutters, and the next you are asking a nurse whether your fist will ever be able to unclench.  Who will be there when you fall?  Is the world robust enough to heal from a shock?  What systems, what safeguards are adequate to traumas of our times?

On Table Bread

In the 80's, you couldn't go out to eat without a basket of bread showing up at the table. Now, it is a rarity as the cost of procuring good table bread has increased and many diners eschew gluten.

More importantly perhaps, what was once a means for prix fixe and fine dining restaurants to fill the bellies of diners before plating small servings, now the  rare presence of free table bread only prevents diners from ordering more plates.  At a local fine dining restaurant, when the bread service was discontinued in the 2000's, diners rebelled for three months, and then acclimated and simply ordered more to the expectant delight of the management.  Now bread has become an appetizer, and if you want the bread basket and the compound butter, you will pay for it, to the tune of up to $8.00.  One of the local restaurants that still gives away table bread (though the last time I was there it was unsalted, which tastes like a punishment) is Gocciolina - decidedly old school.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The $250,000 slice of rye bread

I like rye bread.  Good rye bread, chewy, with hints of caraway.

I would say I would pay, oh, about $250K for a good slice of rye bread.

"Madness?" you say?

But that's exactly what I did.

I bought a down and out regional independent bakery for the small hope of make a good slice of rye bread (and incidentally, it cost a lot more than $250K).

Why would I do such a thing?

Am I insane?

I have asked the same question.

All the turnover I've experienced, the mechanical breakdowns, the ingredient mis-orderings and frantic runs to Compare Foods to buy 25-pound sacks of sugar or a dozen slicing cucumbers, was all in service of baking a half-decent piece of rye bread.

At a certain point, the rye bread isn't the point, it is the ideal of transcendence through food, through reaching through the palate and re-creating something that only exists in your mind, if you could go back to your first Katz' deli experience in the Summer of 2000, and taste that rye bread, that corned beef, that brown mustard.

The rye bread is not at all the point.  The point is the pursuit of the rye bread, and the ability to share it with others, to give something to someone that they will never forget, for all the love and time that has crafted it.

Today, the Rabbi from Temple Beth El came over for a chat and I sent him home with a bag of hot ciabatta rolls.  Earlier, I had shown him how the ciabatta is loaded into the hearth oven, and about the "mother" starter (over three decades old and still kicking!) that rose the dough.  I hope he leaves and the ciabatta makes a little imprint on his mind at his family's table, for that is what bread has done for me.

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)