Friday, January 12, 2018

Team Spotlight: Felix


Most days you will find Felix in the back pastry room at NSB crafting any of the pastries enjoyed at the bakery - bear claws, danish, cinnamon rolls, croissants - Spanish tunes playing in the background. In fact, Felix trained me in pastry preparations on my first day at the bakery. For hours he laminated and cut dough while I formed and trayed. He may not be a man of many words, but when I requested a change to a Reggaeton station, he obliged, and teacher and student quietly bonded over Latin dance beats. Having only joined NSB 7 months ago, Felix has already seemingly mastered his craft, knowing the distinct process of each pastry by heart. He represents one more example of how our each individual makes the Ninth Street team special - kind, patient and willing to teach.

If you have time this weekend, come sample some of Felix's fine work at the bakery or at either of Durham's Saturday Farmers Markets.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Pete Wells Takes the Pulpit

"Some of the mythology of food culture died last year, I think. The chef as avatar of sensual indulgence; restaurant work as a demimonde where rules dissolve in a pleasurable after-hours haze..."

From: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/dining/sexual-harassment-restaurants.html

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Team Spotlight: Taylor


Author's note: In celebration of a successful year and in anticipation of a new year full of growth and camaraderie, we want to begin 2018 by introducing you to the members of the NSB team.  From our 'family' to yours, we look forward to seeing you soon.

Taylor never planned on becoming a baker.  However, three years ago when she received an unexpected job offer in the bakery at a local specialty store she accepted  and hasn't looked back.  In the years following, a string of fortunate opportunities have allowed Taylor to learn and grow across the spectrum of bread, flaky pastries and cakes (you can check out her creations on Instagram - @taylorsbakedgoods).  In August 2017, Taylor's journey led her to the Ninth Street team.

To say that Taylor has her hand in a majority of the baking at NSB is not an understatement. Taylor fills her weeks with responsibilities ranging from prepping dough to forming pastries to slicing bread.  Most recently, she has been appointed the principle cruffin baker.  If you are new to the cruffin concept - a flaky croissant dough baked in a muffin tin, rolled in sugar and filled with pastry cream - I suggest you do your research at the bakery or farmers' market ASAP.

As if her weeks weren't full enough, on Saturdays you can also find Taylor at one of the Durham farmers' markets.  It has been during these early weekend mornings at the NSB stand on Hunt Street that I've gotten to know Taylor.  While she has taught me the secret touch needed to set up the tent and the best method to display the bread, she also served as my introduction to the culture of the bakery.  Taylor told me that far more than at her past positions, she enjoys the good team and friendly coworkers at NSB.  Ninth Street is a bakery that accepts individuals at all levels and allows them to work at their own pace - as long as they put care into a quality product. With those traits in mind, I can't think of a better ambassador for the team.

Here's to you, chef.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Team Spotlight: Ronnie


Author's note: In celebration of a successful year and in anticipation of a new year full of growth and camaraderie, we want to begin 2018 by introducing you to the members of the NSB team.  From our 'family' to yours, we look forward to seeing you soon.

INTRODUCING RONNIE

"Treat your coworkers like family," Ronnie told me when I requested advice on the best way to integrate into the Ninth Street team.  We were walking through the process to open the bakery's cafe on an unseasonably warm Sunday morning - one of my first days.

As a one-year veteran of NSB, Ronnie has become the primary closer for the cafe.  You can find him there most days. It didn't take long for me to witness Ronnie acting on his own advice. He exercised patience, leading me to the back-up stock of napkins, and then to sugar and then reminding me to keep an eye on coffee levels.  There was only kindness as he answered and re-answered my questions.  Ronnie extends this same willingness and enthusiasm to our other colleagues - taking on whatever additional tasks need to be accomplished during down-times at the cafe and even filling in for delivery drivers when needed.  This is what Ronnie says he likes best about Ninth Street - never feeling stressed because the team is willing to help accomplish whatever needs to be done.

While soft-spoken, there should be no doubt that Ronnie has become an expert in all things related to the cafe.  He can gracefully and succinctly compose any sandwich order before I can even find the listing on the menu.  Ronnie shares his knowledge to offer suggestions and guidance based on dietary preference or craving.  Looking for something sweet?  Ronnie's favorite is the blueberry cream cheese danish.  And next time you stop in for lunch, be sure to catch Ronnie behind the sandwich counter and ask him to whip you up another favorite - the Italian.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Oysters and Barbecue: Joseph Mitchell

“It’s hard to believe nowadays, the water’s so dirty,” he [Mr. Hunter] continued, “but up until about the year 1800 there were tremendous big beds of natural-growth oysters all around Staten Island—in the Lower Bay, in the Arthur Kill, in the Kill van Kull. Some of the richest beds of oysters in the entire country were out in the lower part of the Lower Bay, the part known as Raritan Bay. Most of them were on shoals, under ten to twenty feet of water. They were supposed to be public beds, open to anybody, but they were mainly worked by Staten Islanders, and the Staten Islanders considered they owned them. Between 1800 and 1820, all but the very deepest of these beds gradually petered out. They had been raked and scraped until they weren’t worth working any more. But the Staten Islanders didn’t give up. What they did, they began to bring immature oysters from other localities and put them on the best of the old beds and leave them there until they reached market size, which took from one to four years, all according to how mature the oysters were to begin with. Then they’d rake them up, or tong them up, and load them on boats, and send them up the bay to the wholesalers in New York. They took great pains with these oysters. They cleaned the empty shells and bottom trash off the beds that they put them on, and they spread them out as evenly as possible. Handled this way, oysters grew faster than they did all scrouged together on natural beds. Also, they grew more uniform in size and shape. Also, they had a better flavor. Also, they brought higher prices, premium prices. The center of the business was the little town of Prince’s Bay, over on the outside shore. There’s not much to Prince’s Bay now, but it used to be one of the busiest oyster ports on the Atlantic Coast.

And once a year, to raise money for church upkeep, we’d put on an ox roast, what they call a barbecue nowadays. A Southern man named Steve Davis would do the roasting. There were tricks to it that only he knew. He’d dig a pit in the churchyard, and then a little off to one side he’d burn a pile of hickory logs until he had a big bed of red-hot coals, and then he’d fill the pit about half full of coals, and then he’d set some iron rods across the pit, and then he’d lay a couple of sides of beef on the rods and let them roast. Every now and then, he’d shovel some more coals into the pit, and then he’d turn the sides of beef and baste them with pepper sauce, or whatever it was he had in that bottle of his, and the beef would drip and sputter and sizzle, and the smoke from the hickory coals would flavor it to perfection. People all over the South Shore would set aside that day and come to the African Methodist ox roast. All the big oyster captains in Prince’s Bay would come. Captain Phil De Waters would come, and Captain Abraham Manee and Captain William Haughwout and Captain Peter Polworth and good old Captain George Newbury, and a dozen others. And we’d eat and laugh and joke with each other over who could hold the most.

“All through the eighties, and all through the nineties, and right on up to around 1910, that’s the way it was in Sandy Ground. Then the water went bad. The oystermen had known for a long time that the water in the Lower Bay was getting dirty, and they used to talk about it, and worry about it, but they didn’t have any idea how bad it was until around 1910, when reports began to circulate that cases of typhoid fever had been traced to the eating of Staten Island oysters. The oyster wholesalers in New York were the unseen powers in the Staten Island oyster business; they advanced the money to build boats and buy Southern seed stock. When the typhoid talk got started, most of them decided they didn’t want to risk their money any more, and the business went into a decline, and then, in 1916, the Department of Health stepped in and condemned the beds, and that was that. The men in Sandy Ground had to scratch around and look for something else to do, and it wasn’t easy. Mr. George Ed Henman got a job working on a garbage wagon for the city, and Mr. James McCoy became the janitor of a public school, and Mr. Jacob Finney went to work as a porter on Ellis Island, and one did this and one did that. A lot of the life went out of the settlement, and a kind of don’t-care attitude set in. The church was especially hard hit. Many of the young men and women moved away, and several whole families, and the membership went down. The men who owned oyster sloops had been the main support of the church, and they began to give dimes where they used to give dollars. Steve Davis died, and it turned out nobody else knew how to roast an ox, so we had to give up the ox roasts. For some years, we put on clambakes instead, and then clams got too expensive, and we had to give up the clambakes.

From: Mr Hunter's Grave, Joseph Mitchell

Monday, December 18, 2017

Manifest: Holiday Edition

Thanks to everyone who came out for Manifest: Holiday Edition at the Bakery on Sunday.  We raised over $600 through your generous donations to El Futuro.

Big ups to: Dave Henderson and the Henderson Family Singers for providing the musical entertainment; George and Lily and the Lil' Farm for bartering firewood and veggies; Alex Ruch for baking the beautiful hearth breads; Mel Benson for the fantastic photos; volunteers Courtney, Heather, Finn, Grace, and Mel - we definitely couldn't have done it without you!

Keep a look out for our next dinner coming in February?!

The manifests and menu are reprinted below for you to enjoy.

Peruvian Chicken and Potatoes

Finn

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Best of 2017

Best:

Food Pilgrimage: Gjusta Bakery, Venice, LA

Beer Pilgrimage: The Veil, Richmond, VA

Baker Instagram: Zak the Baker

Food Truck: Soom Soom Pita Pocket

Unheated Grocery Store: Li Ming Global Mart

Pop-up Dinner Series: Manifest

Triangle Food Blogger: Bites of the Bull City

Regional Beer: Surf Wax by Burial (Asheville, NC); Yield by Brewery Bhavana (Raleigh, NC)

Cookbook: Baking School, by Justin Gellatly

Beer Label: Grimm Liquid Crystal

Anticipated Opening for 2018: East Durham Pie Company

Only in the Triangle Moment : Fall Sunbath at Sennett s Hole

Opening: St. James Seafood

Mexican: Tacos Don Fily, Green Flea Market, Durham

Progressive Blogger: Aaron Mandel, Clarion Content

NSB Charitable Initiative: El Futuro Cookie Giveaway

Progressive Food Writing: Adam Sobsey

Soups: Guanajuato

New NSB Product: Alex Ruch's Country Loaf

Restaurant as Time Machine: American Hero, Roxboro St., Durham

Turkey: Fern Creek Farm

Health Kick: The Ramadan Diet Plan

Food Inspiration: Francis Malmann

Farm: Lil' Farm; Red's Quality Acre

Rediscovered Food Writing: Serve It Forth by M.F.K. Fisher

Song: Story of OJ

New NSB Gear: NSB Hawaiian Five-Panel

New Furniture at Ninth Street: Farm Table by Eric Smith

Instagram Foodie Pic: Durham Hotel Sandwich with NSB Ciabatta

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mallmann


I was very moved when I watched a Chef's Table episode of Francis Mallmann.  Mallmann, an Argentine, is one of the most famous celebrity chefs of Latin America, a longtime on-camera personality like Julia Child and has been inducted into the International Institute of Gastronomy along with other great chefs like Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud.  The Chef's Table episode depicts Mallmann cooking various dishes on his property on a remote island of Patagonia using primitive fire cooking techniques.  Here was a chef who not only produced great food in a dramatic way in beautiful scenery, but seemed to have a philosophical system that matched the cooking's intensity and complexity.  In every scene, he not only talks of the food and his methods, but the attributes which the different heating methods evokes, the femininity of fire, the ways in which he cultivates his employees, and so forth.  Here was the chef as fully realized philosophical being, independent of the constraints of modern restaurant gastronomy, independent of the pressures of capitalism and the money-making of food.  Smoking his cigar and sitting by a massive bonfire, he appeared rather content to be thousands of miles away from the nearest Michelin-starred restaurant.

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

"If you do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting the person you did it for know it was you or anybody else know what it was you did or in any way shape or form trying to get credit for it, it’s almost its own form of intoxicating buzz."  - David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

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.