Category Archives: catch of the day

catch of the day: my life in sourdough

In the world of “food television”, there’s not much I like to watch. I’m easily bored by cooking shows, get aggravated by nearly all reality television (thought I did have my Top Chef moment), and am wholly persuaded by Michael Pollan’s observation that more time spent watching food TV inversely correlates with more time in the kitchen (not to mention general culinary proficiency).

But I am an avid fan of culinary cinema, works that seek to tell a story beyond who can quickly bang out canapés for 500 guests and actually delve into the story behind the food—see Hiro Dreams of Sushi, Toast, or Kings of Pastry. That said, I don’t often have the time to watch a two hour film, and wish there were more short-form cinematic food programs.


Enter My Life In Sourdough , a just-launched cooking show by filmmaker Marie Constantinesco, a French transplant and baking aficionado living in Brooklyn. Admittedly, if there was an equation for things that are likely to please me, Food + French + NYC would be a pretty good bet. But there’s an elegance and quirky honesty to Marie’s work that speaks to both an intelligent, subtle French sense of humor (that I very much appreciate) and the wondrous absurdity of being young today in Brooklyn.

I had the pleasure to meet with Marie and speak about the series, her own experience with cooking and the differences between home-cooking culture in New York and France:

What inspired the series, and how did it come to be?
My Life In Sourdough was inspired by my love for food and film. I wanted to do a new kind of cooking show involving a narrative and decided to tell the story of a girl looking for food and for love in NY. Food was going to be the link between the characters. The series was developed as an independent study at NYU (I’m a thesis student in the Graduate Film Program) and we started shooting the series with a really small budget and a tiny crew of very talented fellow filmmakers.

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Is this your first foray into the food world?
Prior to the series, I had already been playing with food themes in previous short films (Too much strawberry jam, which involved an intense making out/bread kneading session) and I have been shooting food and blogging about food for a while—but food was never really the sole focus. So yes, the series is my first real food world adventure.
 
Any particular funny/interesting stories about the production of the series?
There are a few! From shooting at 6 am in Choice Green in torrential rain (It was literally raining in the store and, if you look close enough, you can actually see the rain in the scene with the made-from-scratch guy!), to feeding the crew prop food to save money (we used the pasta we made in the scene for lunch!).For episode 4, we also needed one shot in the waiting room of an ER. I scouted a grungy hospital, but there was a lot of security and I thought we would never get away with shooting there without permission. On the day of, we went in with a tiny camera. We sat down quietly, I hid the microphone in my handbag and we stole the shot in less than 10 minutes. The security guards couldn’t care less. 

What’s already in store for the future of the show/where would you like to see it go?
I’m planning on shooting another season in the fall in NY – it’s my favorite season on this side of the Atlantic and I can’t wait to shoot in corn fields and apple orchards. A season in Paris is also on my mind. Eventually I would love to develop the series in a longer format. I’m currently looking for producers and investors.
 
Are there any food films/series that you particularly like and respect?
I love In the Mood for Love, which is not a food film per se, but I particularly like the slow motion scenes where Maggie Cheung goes down the stairs to buy her daily dose of noodles. The sensual atmosphere that comes with slow motion was an inspiration for the food videos of My Life in Sourdough, shot by Chananun Chotrungroj who brought her great sense of framing and aesthetics to the series.I also really like Rachel Khoo’s BBC series, and while not a film, Clotilde Dusoulier’s series on French food idioms is quite fascinating!

When and how did you start baking?
I started baking and cooking fairly young, watching my parents cook. My Romanian grandmother was also a serious baker, and I would make hundreds of biscuits with her every Christmas. My first cookbook was called La cuisine sans maman (“Cooking without mum”), but my first cooking endeavors quickly became family gatherings over mini-disasters. I once attempted to make some powered sugar and mint syrup candy balls that would refuse to come into shape. My mum invited along the postman to help out, and the green liquid paste magically turned into candy—but they tasted horrible. 

The kitchen has always been a place of exploration for me. It’s the place where I go when I’m down, and I’ll make a rhubarb jam to cheer me up. The place I like to invite friends—to cook with me or eat the new cheesecake I’ve just made. It’s also the place where I can close the door, turn on the radio, and create something. I also love how you know very quickly when it’s working or when it’s a fail, and sometimes I wish making films would resemble that process.

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How would you compare home cooking culture in France vs. New York?
Typically in NY people have less time—they drink or eat their breakfast on the street, and tend to eat out or do take out for dinner. The tradition of home-cooked meals is not as rooted as in France, but it’s changing, as there is a growing movement towards home-cooking in NY, and farmer’s markets are becoming more and more popular.In France, where a croissant used to be the only thing that was acceptably eaten on-the-go, people now tend to devote less time to eating lunch. For instance, the two hour lunch break has often been reduced to one hour, hence more and more sandwiches eaten on the street. However, it seems that the tradition of family dinners remains somewhat unshaken, even though the communal table is often facing a television.

Eventually, the main difference is that in France, people are so obsessed by food that they can’t stop talking about it. Even in a “non-foodie” family, it’s not rare for a dinner conversation to focus exclusively around food. Reminiscing over extraordinary food experiences makes the best dinner conversation!

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catch of the day: soulmate

Back in December, I was raving about a travel start-up called Nectar & Pulse. Rather than reinventing the all-inclusive travel book, N&P founders Carina & Tanja have created an exceptionally curated and designed line of city guides based on a simple concept: soulmates.

The “soulmate” taps into an age-old travel fantasy. You arrive in a strange city where you know no one, but somehow bump into an engaging, charismatic local who eagerly offers to “show you around”.

For those of us who have lived this dream, we cannot imagine traveling any other way. And now, with Nectar & Pulse, you don’t have to – because they’ve lined up a bevy of interesting, creative, enthusiastic locals from across the globe to show you around. Including me.

I reached out to Carina & Tanja after reading about N&P in The Brander, and was thrilled when they selected me as one of their New York City soulmates. Check out my slideshow and interview about all things NYC on their site, or you can purchase a physical copy of my guide for only 6 euros.

A great thanks to my photographer sister, Lauren DeFilippo. Without her, neither this blog nor my Nectar & Pulse photo spread would be half as beautiful.

And of course – you can always check out my “Manhattan” tab for an extended list of my latest and greatest hotspots in NYC.

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catch of the day: barry’s tempeh

With one foot in the mainstream food world and the other in nutrition and wellness, my interest in all things edible can sometimes seem a little bipolar. So you can imagine that I get super excited whenever I come across anything that weds my craving for the tastiest eats with my passion for healthful cooking.

Cue tempeh. I first discovered this “fermented soyfood” last summer, through my work at a local nutrition school. I liked the dense, al dente texture, plus I dug its nutty and slightly funky flavor. That said, I never felt motivated to find a grocery store that sells tempeh and cook it myself, since I am a total omnivore and actually like tofu (which is easier to find).

Then one day, I was at the New Amsterdam Market (where magical things happen on a weekly basis), and I came across Barry’s Tempeh.  I curiously grabbed a toothpick’ed sample and was immediately gesticulating with glee. I somehow persuaded my photog’ sister (who doesn’t eat things like tofu) to try it, and even she responded with an enthusiastic “hmph, pretty good!”

I grabbed a business card, scanned the list of stores that currently sell Barry’s, and went on my merry way.

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve raved about an exceptional local product. But the thing is… I couldn’t stop thinking about Barry’s. So you can imagine my delight when, a few weeks later, I was strolling around Smorgasburg with and discovered Barry’s was offering not only samples, but also selling a killer asian cabbage/tempeh salad. Given the surrounding stands offering succulent barbecue and unique Latin American fare, the friend I was with definitely thought me a little crazy. But then again, he was asking for a second bite once he had tasted my tempeh…

So here’s what you need to know:

Places you can check out Barry’s for yourself?
-Saturdays @ Smorgasburg (N 6th & the Riverfront – Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
-Sundays @ New Amsterdam Market (South Street Sea Port)
-Sundays @ Community Market (5th Ave & 4th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn)

Or – check out this list of stores where you can purchase Barry’s (plus some restaurants where someone will cook it up for you!)

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catch of the day: rosaberry

It’s quite the modern dilemma. The food media has declared 2012 the year of the dinner party, and while you’re a gung-ho host(ess), you haven’t the slightest cooking skills.

“Just call me chef” (and Rosaberry’s Jenna in blue)

Then again, you’re a multi-tasker, a modern juggler of motivation and goals. So what do you do? Host an in-home cooking class/dinner party for you and your nearest and dearest. That’s where Rosaberry comes in.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rosaberry founder, Jenna Helwig, at just such a double-duty dinner in the Meredith Corp test kitchen. Our motley crew’s skills ranged from “totally intimidated by cooking” to “considering going to culinary school” – but Jenna beautifully catered to all levels of interest and expertise.

Northern Spy-inspired kale, butternut squash, toasted pepitas & feta salad

The menu was Spanish-influenced…

  • Almond-stuffed dates
  • Green gazpacho
  • Northern Spy Food Co-inspired kale salad
  • Shrimp paella
  • Smoky chicken & baby potatoes
  • Spiced vegan chocolate pudding

…and remarkably delicious. More importantly, it was easy to replicate. No foam or fancy knife skills necessary, just contemporary home cooking at it’s finest.

Jenna and our kitchen crew, posing for Parents Magazine.

That, for me, is the mark of a top-notch personal chef or recipe developer (Jenna, in fact, wears both hats) : the ability to transform current food trends into simple – but admirable – meals. Moreover, Jenna proved quite the personable chef. Supervising five chatty and debatably focused students, she neither raised her voice nor let us burn the rice.

The best part of such a meal? The communal sense of accomplishment. Beyond the joy of sharing a meal, Rosaberry reveals the pleasure of preparing food together. Don’t be surprised if it’s your best dinner party to date.

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catch of the day: elephantine

Being more of a wordsmith myself, I always am impressed with blogs that effortlessly tell stories through images. I discovered Elephantine through the author’s kitchen shop, Mignon Kitchen Co, and was instantly attracted to her foodie (and seemingly francophile) style.

What I like best about Elephantine is its not-entirely-posed aesthetic. Dishes are shot in preparation; mouthfuls, just moments before being consumed.

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Rachel’s training in design and appreciation of simple, grey days (influenced, I’m sure, by her Seattle stomping-grounds) pervades her motley assortment of posts – which feature far more than food. The vibe is more calm “staycation” than ravenous world traveler – a visual (re)treat in the truest sense.

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catch of the day: gentl & hyers

In New York, you encounter quite a few self-promoting artists – many to the point of cockiness, despite the overwhelming competition. But when you meet people who are truly talented, so comfortable in their own skin and creativity that they humbly approach you as “just another normal human being”, that is a truly exceptional experience.

Such was the case with Martin Hyers. My photographer sister and I were attending the Kinfolk social in Brooklyn, and struck up a conversation with a friendly neighbor in line for drinks. When he mentioned he was a photographer, my sister enthusiastically noted his name. It wasn’t until later that we discovered he was not only a lovely person, but one half of the exquisitely talented Gentl & Hyers.

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Photo credit: Gentl & Hyers Blog: Hungry Ghost (http://www.hungryghostfoodandtravel.com)

The couple’s work goes far beyond food, from travel to portraits to interiors. Their elusive aesthetic – captured moments that perch briefly before assuredly slipping away – renders all subjects equally beautiful.

Yet it is knowing that this remarkable art springs from graceful hearts and hands that makes it all the more gorgeous.

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catch of the day: interview with honest cooking

I’ve had the pleasure of contributing to the website Honest Cooking – winner of the 2012 Saveur award for “Best Group Food Blog” – over the past six months, and was recently interviewed for HC’s “Meet the Team” column. You can check out the original article here, or read it in full below.

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Learn more about Carly DeFilippo, one of Honest Cooking’s New York based contributors.
By Kalle Bergman

Carly is a Contributing Writer at Honest Cooking. Her interest in “food as culture” led her to Paris, where she studied French culture and culinary criticism. Currently living in New York, she works in the field of holistic nutrition and has contributed to publications including Vingt Paris Magazine and Daily Food and Wine.

When and how did your passion for food start?
I’ve been interested in food traditions and odd ingredients as long as I can remember. Growing up in an Italian family, my favorite moments were always the holidays on which we indulged in once-a-year treats, like St. Joseph’s Day sfinge. My eyes really opened however, the day I was offered Scandinavian reindeer jerky. I was about eleven, and it sparked an insatiable curiosity for the foodstuffs of various cultures. Studying culinary criticism and food culture in Paris only reinforced these passions.

My favorite quick breakfast – smoked salmon with labne spread on rye wasa crackers.

Do you think you have a specific cooking style or philosophy?
My style of cooking is ingredient-based, i.e. finding exceptional ingredients and developing recipes to feature them – even if it’s something I’ve never seen before! I also take a genuine interest both nutrition and the pleasure of eating, and enjoy developing recipes for “healthy(er) indulgences”.

What’s your favorite restaurant, and why?
This is an impossible question to answer – but I will tell you about my most amazing restaurant experience in recent memory. I was in Italy with my family, and we were sitting at wood table on a hilltop in Frascati (outside Rome), as the sun was setting. The restaurant was Belvedere 1933. The food was simple, but inspired: zucchini flowers, exceptional pizza bianca and a smattering of perfectly al dente pastas, followed by pistachio semifreddo and tiramisu. But despite the amazing food, I recall the sensation of eating moreso than specific flavors and textures – the pleasure of passing shared plates, sipping on local wine and laughing with my family as sky darkened, streaked with breathtaking hues of fuchsia, blue and gold.

What’s your favorite holiday from a food perspective?
Christmas Eve, without a doubt. Growing up Italian, we always celebrated the feast of the seven fishes. I’m fairly certain we never made it to seven, but I love the preparation and anticipation that always surrounded this meal. Not to mention that I am a huge fan of fish – the fishier the better.

My kind of market – the catch of the day in Kotor, Montenegro.

What do you think or hope will be the next big food trend?
I would hope that home cooking becomes increasingly popular, but – in lieu of that – I am a big fan of alternative dining. I would like to see more chef’s tables or special dining events at accessible prices, as well as interactive supper clubs, where groups of strangers get to know each other by cooking a meal together.

What’s your best tip for anyone who wants to improve their cooking?
Take an interest in practical skills – read up on how to stock your pantry, how to steam vegetables, how to cook a steak, etc. – and then practice! There is a wealth of information on the various food blogs and websites addressing technique. Also, try to find a cooking-mentor: a friend who loves cooking and who will let you watch them in action. There is nothing like learning directly, in-person, from a seasoned home cook.

Read more from Carly DeFilippo here.

 

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catch of the day: la tartine gourmande

Someone once told me, “when you shop at the market, you aren’t just buying a product, you’re buying into a story.”  I’ve always felt this was the quintessential way to describe why some food writers and artisans wildly succeed where others fail: their ability to tell a story about their lifestyle, their passions, their values – through food.

One blog (and debut cookbook!) I’ve recently discovered that so perfectly represents this “food as a story” model is La Tartine Gourmande.

Béatrice’s lush photographs of her international travels, and chou (sweet) stories of her daughter Lulu scampering about and discovering the magical world of food are nothing short of enchanting.  What’s more is her recipes are welcoming and accessible, relying on beautiful ingredients and simple preparations that will inspire even the most inexperienced of cooks.

I’m personally looking forward to mimicking her very thinly sliced apple and pistachio tarts.  Not to mention her elegant apple and quince tartlet, and her gluten-free apple and chia seed galette!  And that’s only what she’s whipped up with les pommes (apples)…

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catch of the day: emiko davies

When I saw Honest Cooking co-contributor Emiko Davies‘ food photography for the first time, my heart literally skipped a beat.

She currently lives in Melbourne – by way of China, the US and Italy – and her obvious interest in the relationship between taste and place pervades her work.  (Cue fantasies of elaborate home-cooked feasts in the Tuscan countryside.)

You can check out Emiko’s food photos here.  The wanderers among us will find her travel shots enthralling as well.

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catch of the day: cinemagraphs

Graphic designer by day, photographer by freelance – it goes without saying that my sister knows a thing or two about aesthetics.  But she’s really outdone herself with this new find.

Cinemagraphs, the creation of graphic artist Kevin Berg and artist Jamie Beck, crank up the quirk and the romance of a photo’s “moment in time”.  Still images come to life with a surreal quality that echoes the magical realism of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amélie).  The art thus becomes two-fold: not only framing a gorgeous initial photograph, but also selecting the details that are highlighted in motion.

The results are truly awe-inspiring – as breathtaking as they are innovative.  So don’t be surprised if flatscreen cinemagraphs become the picture frames of the future.

To see more cinemagraphs, click here.

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