Tag Archives: brooklyn

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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eater’s digest: bklyn larder

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

By mid-summer in New York City, the average food lover has spent plenty of time outside—grilling hot dogs, veggies and ribs; packing improvised picnics of bread, cheese and wine. By now, your “signature salad” may seem a bit redundant, or the humidity may have you researching a raw food diet. In other words, it’s the ideal time to let someone else do the cooking. And for that, there’s no better place than Bklyn Larder.

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Started by the same team behind renowned Brooklyn pizza spot, Franny’s, Bklyn Larder is not your average boutique grocery store. Community-focused in its vision, the Larder is a seasonal, local and eco-conscious shop, with much of their day-to-day produce coming from the nearby Grand Army Plaza of Union Square greenmarkets. The bread is also locally selected from some of the city’s best artisans—Grandaisy, Bien Cuit and Orwasher’s.

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Heirloom tomato and cucumber salad with fresh oregano and red wine vinaigrette

This savvy approach to sourcing translates into incredibly fresh and photogenic food, from an heirloom tomato and cucumber salad to an organic berry tart with vanilla pastry cream. It’s worth noting that the Larder also specializes in cheese, so whether you’re looking for local, raw milk, aged imports or a taste of each, the shop is stocked with an excellent selection.

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Organic berry tart with vanilla pastry cream

One of my favorite seasonal bites was an English pea salad with farro and dill buttermilk dressing, a cool and refreshing spin on grains.

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English pea and farro salad with dill buttermilk dressing

I also appreciated the aged prosciutto da parma from Pio Tosini, which beautifully complemented the naturally leavened, tangy dough and dark crust of a Bien Cuit baguette.

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Pio Tosini’s exceptional prosciutto di parma and raw cow’s milk blue cheese from Blue Cellars at Jasper Hill

For those in more of a rush, the shop has wrapped sandwiches to go, prepared with such care that the words pre-made seem misleading. On the contrary, if you’ve time to peruse the Larder’s provisions, the thoughtfully curated goods extend to hard-to-find grains, tinned fish, oils and chocolates. I especially enjoyed the exceptionally creamy walnut and honey White Moustache yogurt that I spotted in the dairy case.

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A range of refined grains are among the Larder’s pantry staples.

For those too far removed to enjoy the Larder in person, you can still snag a pint of the shop’s prized gelato and sorbetto, which recently became available for nationwide shipping.

Don't forget dessert: from their signature gelato and sorbetto, to these beautifully brûléed s'mores cupcakes, the shop's not short on sweets.

Don’t forget dessert: from their signature gelato and sorbetto, to these beautifully brûléed s’mores cupcakes, the shop’s not short on sweets.

So whether you stop in to prep a simple picnic, cater a house party or stock up on top-notch staples, Bkyln Larder’s the type of shop that will have you lingering, daydreaming, yearning and scheming. You might even find yourself asking the happy, helpful staff if they’re hiring.

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supper club: a seasonal spring dinner

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

While summer may be the pinnacle of fresh produce, spring is the season I love the most. It’s the season of bitter vegetables, detox from our hearty winter stews, casseroles and soups. From artichokes to asparagus, fiddleheads to ramps, this is the season of green—and I’m just eating it up.

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To share my enthusiasm for the budding flavors of this season, I invited a dozen of my nearest and dearest, including my favorite Brooklyn baker: Molly Marzalek-Kelly. I met Molly through my very first supper club, as she was a good friend of the dinner’s host (I was freshly moved into my BK apartment, and had barely unpacked). When I luke-warmly accepted his invitation to have someone else bake, I had no idea that I would be meeting such an incredible talent. Molly is even sweeter than her baked treats (which I love, because I prefer my desserts on the less-than-tooth-decaying end of the spectrum). Her attention to detail and instinct for fresh flavors is admirable, and I can’t recommend enough that you all take a trip to visit her at BAKED in Red Hook.

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Anyway, back to the menu:

Sourdough Miche and Sunflower-Rye Loaves from Bien Cuit Bakery

Flaky Ramp Tart

Mixed Baby Green Salad with Candied Walnuts and Broccoli Raab Flowers

Roasted Tarragon and Preserved Lemon Chicken 

Thyme and Garlic Roasted Carrots

Grilled Vegetables: Radicchio, Asparagus, Favas, Baby Garlic

Dessert: Lemon Curd Meringues, Rhubarb Pie and Rich Chocolate Tart
(paired with Grapefruit-Champagne Sorbet, Fresh Mint Ice Cream & Orange Cardamom Sorbet)

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eater’s digest: googamooga 2013

Photos by Eric Isaac

The dust is starting to settle after GoogaMooga‘s second annual food and music festival, and I can’t help but think of LL Cool J’s oft-misused catch phrase “don’t call it a comeback.” After the onslaught of criticism about long lines and insufficient amounts of food at GoogaMooga’s first run, I returned to this year’s food and music extravaganza with tentative optimism. And until 12:15 on Sunday morning, I was ready to write an article on how, this year, the event had finally earned its name of The Great GoogaMooga.

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Sure, the sound on Friday night could have been better, and yes, Saturday’s weather left something to be desired. But on the whole, the food I ate at GoogaMooga was among the most satisfying I’ve had at large-scale, multi-vendor food events. The notorious lines were short, bordering on non-existent. And Saturday’s musical acts at the Joe’s Pub stage included some of the most promising local bands in New York City.

So after frankly acknowledging the fact that attendees, the musicians and (especially) the food vendors were blindsided by Sunday’s last-minute cancellation, let’s talk about the first two days of the festival.

Friday’s beautiful weather had everyone in high spirits, with early arrivers singing along to The Darkness, laughing as they realized they knew all the words. The smell of barbecue was in the air, shoulders were bare, and a surprising number of toddlers donning adorable sound-muffling headsets danced along with the mostly 20/30-something crowd.

Grilling oysters at Maison Premiere

I kicked off The Flaming Lips’ set with a round of Maison Premiere‘s grilled oysters, their brine laden with a gorgeous herb butter and aroma of char. Serving oysters at an outdoor music festival may seem more Hamptons than “hipster”, but at GoogaMooga, quality was king. Even the stands selling sliders upped the ante, as with Umami Burger’s fragrant, truffle-infused beef patty.

Another unexpected element: healthy food options. At Back Forty, Chef Michael Laarhoven served up a harissa smoked lamb over a refreshing pickled vegetable and quinoa salad with spiced yogurt. Sufficiently filling for an evening of drinking, but leaner than your average summer bbq fare, it was my clear favorite dish at the festival.

Back Forty’s smoked harissa lamb dish

Midway through the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ performance, I had a hankering for something sweet, so I headed up to the Melt Bakery cart to check out Chef Julian Plytner’s latest concoction. I’ve tried many of his flavor pairings before, but I was especially impressed by the sugar-sprinkled chocolate cookie with malted chocolate rum ice cream. Alcohol isn’t my favorite flavor in dessert, but Julian had crafted a just-adult-enough ice cream sandwich, mellowing the chocolate flavor to let the malt and rum subtly shine through.

On day two, the drizzle had us feeling indulgent, so we started the day with dessert from Red Hook’s BAKED. Head Baker Molly Marzalek-Kelly couldn’t have been more friendly, as she hawked her sweet and salty brownies, as well as “brooksters” (the love child of a brownie and a chocolate chip cookie). We eagerly gobbled up the brookster and used our remaining willpower to hold onto the brownie, which later proved to be one of the most moist and delectable I’ve ever eaten.

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For lunch, we opted first for Red Hook Lobster Pound‘s chilled Maine lobster roll, with a bright, mellow sweetness that helped us imagine sunnier times. Looking for a warmer dish to follow, we ran into Chef Dan Holzman of The Meatball Shop, expediting to ensure that each of his MBLT sandwiches had exactly the right amount of mayo. To say the least, we were grateful for his attention to detail. Having recently been impressed by Pok Pok‘s showing at the Lucky Rice Night Market, we settled on Chef Andy Ricker’s “phat thai.” Unusually egg’y, with crushed bits of dried shrimp, tofu, tamarind and fish sauce, it had a delayed spiciness and complexity of flavor that couldn’t have been farther from takeout food.

By Saturday’s end, we had already dreamed up a last-ditch list of the dishes we wanted to try on Sunday. Jeepney‘s pinoy corn and chori slider. DBGB Kitchen & Bar‘s Käsekrainer sausage with ramps, spring onion and mustard. Northern Spy Food Co‘s fried eggs with kale and potato hash. Big Gay Ice Cream‘s vanilla with bourbon butterscotch and cardamom and cacao nibs. (That’s the short list.)

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Really, the tragedy of GoogaMooga’s cancellation on Sunday wasn’t the fact that it was poorly communicated (There was already a delayed opening when I arrived at 11:30, and nothing was announced on social media or their website. The cancellation itself came nearly 90 minutes after the scheduled opening.) The rain was constant, and despite our “make it work” game faces and weather-appropriate outfits, we still were chilled to the bone. The real tragedy is that the very vendors who killed it on Friday and Saturday were faced with a major financial hit to their bottom lines.

I’m not sure what the future of the festival holds, and I’m not one to suppose I know enough of the details about Superfly’s event planning tactics and policies. What I do know is that there is an amazing number of small food businesses in this city and that they’re not only incredible at serving food on their own premises, but they’re also dedicated enough to surpass our expectations off-site, in challenging weather, faced with potentially ungrateful crowds. That’s the story of GoogaMooga I’d like to remember. So maybe we should “call it a comeback.”

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seen and heard: food book fair

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

This weekend, writers, chefs and other food enthusiasts converged on Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel for the second annual Food Book Fair. This Brooklyn-based series of panels, cooking demos and food tours examined culinary innovation in food policy, media, trends and design, through the specific lens of food publications.

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen

The fair kicked off with a cooking demo at Pure Kitchen, featuring self-taught blogger and cookbook author, Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s story is an unconventional one, having jumped into the blogosphere far before it was a full-fledged industry. With creative recipes—like “popcorn cookies”—and indulgent photography that feature her homespun style, Perelman is the quintessential example of a blog-to-book-deal success story.

Deb Perelman's "popcorn cookies", ready for baking.

Deb Perelman’s “popcorn cookies”, ready for baking

Another interesting session considered “Food + Foraging”, with Aska Chef Fredrik Berselius and professional forager Evan Strusinski. The two had a surprisingly non-dogmatic approach to foraging, with Strusinski, in particular, bristling at the trending term. As we munched on samples of locally found ingredients, it was an opportunity to consider the collective weight of terminology and how it influences our perception of individual purveyors or chefs.

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Locally foraged ingredients

Other talks related more specifically to publications, such as “Cookbooks + Art”. The trend of chef-driven texts was discussed in most depth, in particular by panelist Anne McBride. In recent years, the importance of a chef’s perspective has overtaken the historic prerequisite of producing a highly useable, instructional guide to cooking. Publishers are now willing to take chances on chefs whose food is unlikely to be replicated by home cooks, which has led to the production of such magnificent tomes as Modernist Cuisine or Heston Blumenthal’s Big Fat Duck Cookbook. Design, in turn, has shifted to support these more personal, artistic statements of chefs, and not only on the high end of the culinary industry.

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Design was also a large part of the focus at “Foodieodicals”, a day-long fair of printed food magazines and pamphlets from around the world. From the highly-saturated style of Tokyo’s inexpensive, newspaper-like Rocket, to the scratch-n-sniff whimsy of Swallow Magazine‘s latest issue, the range of perspectives of what a magazine should look or feel like was endless. As far as the content, it ran the gamut from editorial, to literary and even intentionally “nerdy”, as in the case of Cereal, whose content most caught my eye.

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There was a food publication for all levels of kitchen proficiency and palate training, a spectrum that represented our growing insatiability for food, distanced from the actual plate. Based on some of the edgier publications presented by the weekend’s panelists, such as Christopher Lopez-Thomas of White Zinfandel, we can only expect that the industry will continue to grow in unexpected ways, creating not only new styles of content, but also innovative designs that further explore our relationship with food.

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supper club: springtime italian

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

After spicing things up in February with a Mexican supper club, March seemed a time for returning to the familiar. For me, that means Italian food and, in this case, an opportunity to put an innovative spin on the flavors of my youth.

For this back-to-basics occasion, it seemed fitting to invite the “family”, a rambunctious group of New York friends who have grown closer than most blood relatives. Silly, selfless and as indiscreet as they come, I knew we were in for a delicious and rowdy evening.

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Greeting friends with friselles.

First came the friselles, little pepper biscuits that have become one of my signature dishes. I often give these savory, crumbly cookies as housewarming gifts, so they seemed the perfect greeting for my guests.

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Homemade ricotta, oven dried tomatoes and DIY crostini

Next came crostini, sesame toasts layered with homemade ricotta and oven dried tomatoes. The tomatoes, simple as they come, were instant hits, which guests used to garnish everything from salad to savory dishes.

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My grandmother’s famous walnut and anchovy pasta

Then came a simple escarole salad, dressed with garlic, oil and anchovy dressing. My favorite briny fish served double duty, tying the salad to my grandmother’s signature pasta dish: linguine with anchovy, walnuts and parsley.

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Curiosity got the best of us in between courses.

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Sicilian meat balls with pine nuts, currants and parsley

After pasta came the main course, Sicilian meatballs (ground pork with pine nuts, parsley and currants) baked over a bed of radicchio. Alongside it, I served spicy broccoli rabe with bread crumbs and thinly sliced, roasted-going-on-blackened winter white vegetables (cauliflower, celery root, fennel).

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Broccoli rabe and winter white vegetables

Relaxing on the couch before dessert.

Relaxing on the couch before dessert

Then came dessert, a blood orange olive oil cake topped with blood orange/honey compote and home-whipped cream. It was the perfect, bittersweet end to this especially nostalgic supper club.

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Blood orange cake/compote, with home-whipped cream

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Laughter and love on our notoriously comfy couch.

A last round of drinks, and it was nearly midnight. That didn’t stop the stragglers however, who challenged me to highly competitive game of Connect-4, the most intense (I’m sure) that my local dive bar has ever seen.

Thanks again to all who made this such a special night. You truly all are family to me, and I look forward to hosting you again and again.

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eater’s digest: al di là

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

One of the great misconceptions that people often have is that I’ve eaten at all the restaurants in my neighborhood. The truth is, if I’m near home, I’m usually cooking. Moreover, something nearby is no more likely of an edible destination than others, as I’ve never been shy about traveling far and wide for the perfect bite.

That said, moving to South Brooklyn has opened the flood gates to an entirely new world of local eats. Though I still spend a hefty chunk of my paycheck on groceries at the Coop, the unique culture of small business in this borough has inspired me to spend more time outside my kitchen. And so it was that on a recent weekend I arrived at Al Di Là.

Soup of the day.

Soup of the day.

Now, eating Italian food in restaurants is a tricky thing. Raised on la cucina della nonna, I typically opt to explore more obscure cuisines on my restaurant outings. To boot, if I’m dining with the discriminating palates of my parents and sister, the bar for a “pasta joint” is set pretty high. But as I’ve eaten in more and more of the excellent Italian establishments in NYC, I’ve come to appreciate the perfection of truly al dente pasta or the difference between everyday minestrone and a masterpiece.

In this ever-crowded genre of restaurant fare, Al Di Là inches ahead with grace and little fanfare. The dining room is a quirky spin on bistro chic, with a red/maroon and gold aesthetic that repeats in the wall paper, curtains and painted-to-look-vintage tin ceiling.  The dishes echo this unassuming – yet distinctive – charm, with slight details that consistently offer something more than expected.

Spaghetti carbonara.

Spaghetti carbonara.

A mild mandolined salad of white winter vegetables was refreshing, elegant and crisp. The soup of the day contained everything but the kitchen sink, and yet achieved a refined balance – in particular, the contrast of bright, just-wilted greens with the slow-built flavors of meat stock. The pastas, too, were an upgrade on the classics. The carbonara tasted distinctly grown-up, with pronounced, lingering notes of white wine and far-superior-to-your-average bacon. An indescribably delicious cavatelli with cauliflower ragu had me bartering “a-bite-for-a-bite” so often that I surely ate half of my sister’s plate.

Cavatelli with cauliflower ragu.

Cavatelli with cauliflower ragu.

These are the meals that inspire me as a cook. The dishes that remind me that ingredients, timing and the tiniest dash of creativity are the difference between great and phenomenal. The days where we laugh ourselves silly, sopping up every last bit of sauce with our bread. The ones where we walk out of the restaurant not stuffed, but satisfied – knowing we’ve truly shared a meal.

Al Di Là
248 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718.783.4565

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behind the knives: urban oyster

One of the most exciting aspects of working in the contemporary field of food is the constant influx of unique projects and organizations. Among them, Urban Oyster, a Brooklyn-based tour company that serves up edible adventures across New York City. From craft beer crawls to the ethnic fare of the city’s many immigrants, founder David Naczycz and his staff of knowledgeable, passionate guides are revolutionizing our understanding of the city’s food culture, one tour at a time. 

Brewery-Winery-Distillery_036What was your involvement in the food world before launching Urban Oyster?

I was a consumer only, a lover of eating and drinking. One of the reasons I liked living in NYC was the amazing selection and quality of food you can get here. Otherwise there was no professional involvement. I did wait tables in high school and tended bar for a year in my mid-twenties but both those stints were not at places that served haute cuisine.

Where did the name Urban Oyster come from, and what distinguishes your tours from others?

Our company name was really inspired by the story of oysters in the city. New York used to be the main supplier of oysters for the entire world (You can read about this in Mark Kurlansky’s great book, The Big Oyster). The harbor was a very rich marine environment in pre-industrial NY and was teaming with all kinds of sea creatures and millions upon millions of oysters. They became a staple food of the city and were so plentiful that they even poor people could afford them. The first street vendors were oyster and clam vendors, and they were a treasure of NYC. However, years of over harvesting and pollution eventually killed the beds, and by the 1920s commercial fishing of oysters had ended in New York harbor.We created Urban Oyster to connect people to NYC’s neighborhoods and local businesses. The city has tons of amazing neighborhoods and businesses but we are starting to see them disappear underneath a tide of multi-national retailers, banks, etc.  When we read Mark’s book we thought the stories were very similar. No one set out to destroy oysters.  People just didn’t realize the impact of their actions. So our goal with our tours and events is to inform people about exemplary small businesses and how we can support neighborhood commerce. That way, NYC communities and small businesses won’t go the way of the oysters.

Urban Oyster guide Allison Radecki and one half of Stinky Bklyn's husband/wife team, Patrick Watson.
Urban Oyster guide Allison Radecki and one half of Stinky Bklyn’s husband/wife team, Patrick Watson.

On the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill tour, I was impressed with the genuine relationships my guide had developed with purveyors in the community. How do you select the sites you feature on the tours, and what is your process for forming those intimate relationships?

We look for a number of things when determining what to feature on our tours. The focus is always on a neighborhood so we look for unique stories that are within walking distance of one another. For the stops, we pick the ones that we think best represent the community and also the ones that we think people will enjoy most. We feature some of the most delicious food purveyors and products in the city, however it’s not our goal to be another arbiter of who is the best of this or that. Rather, our tours are designed so that you get to discover outstanding small businesses and the stories of the people that own and operate them. Stinky Bklyn is a great example. They are an amazing cheese monger, as well as a gourmet shop. Are they a better than say Murray’s or some of the others in the city?  We let our tour goers decide that.  But you will meet the people behind the counter, learn about how the owners Patrick and Michele have contributed to Smith Street becoming a food destination, and learn why it’s important to have small, local cheese and charcuterie shops.

Cobble Hill's 61 Local manifests its philosophy with a map of local purveyors.
Cobble Hill’s 61 Local manifests its philosophy with a map of local purveyors.

The neighborhood’s history was also a significant aspect of the tour, and not just in relation to how it shaped the food culture.

We never wanted to be one-dimensional as a tour company. Our tours are the most complete that I know of, including history, food, drink, architecture and more.  The reason being that we try to give people the most complete picture possible. How can you appreciate the new places in a neighborhood without knowing the culture and history that they inherited and were influenced by?

What have been some of the most surprising aspects of organizing food tours?

To be honest, each step in the process was new to me as I hadn’t run a tour company before or even worked in the travel industry. I think the most surprising moment came with our first tour – the Brewed in Brooklyn Tour – about the beer industry and its past and present in Brooklyn. We assumed the tour would be most popular with men due to its focus on beer. However, 75% of our tickets for that tour were purchased by women. This is true of all of our tours. Often they are often bringing their boyfriend, husband, father, etc. but not always. What we soon learned was that women are more inclined to organize and plan outings for couples or friends. In our case, that’s great, because part of object of our tours was to introduce new things to people and many women have discovered a love for craft beer on our beer themed tours.  I’d much rather give a tour for them then for a bunch of beer snobs any day. I prefer to preach to the un-converted.

The famous "lobster tail" pastries at Caputo's Bakery in Carroll Gardens.
The famous “lobster tail” pastries at Caputo’s Bakery in Carroll Gardens.

How do you see Urban Oyster and other forms of alternative food education playing a role in the contemporary food movement? 

Tours are a great educational tool and, frankly, they are under-utilized and under-appreciated by the food industry.  People turn to tours for fun, which is how all learning should be, so you get a lot of people that are not familiar with issues like local production, biodynamic food, slow food, etc.  The key for the food movement is to move beyond people who are informed and provide that information to a wider audience, in the hope of changing some patterns of consumption.There is always more for us to cover, and we are working on new tours and events that will expand us into new locations and new types of food. But, in the end, all of it is the same: encourage people to buy and eat local by connecting them to small purveyors and sense of community. Whether our guests live in the neighborhood – or are visiting from Kansas or even another country – we hope the value of local commerce is something they can take with them.

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supper club: october

As Hurricane Sandy bears down on Brooklyn, and the threat of losing power increases, it seems an appropriate moment to think back on friendlier times in my Park Slope apartment.

I moved into my new place just days before the September supper club, which a friend generously hosted at his Williamsburg home. October was thus the first time I cooked for a crowd in my new digs, making for an extra-special occasion.

The food was seasonal, spiced and veggie-centric. Guests were a delightful, motley crew – from a food editor to a jazz composer, a couple math geniuses and a few French friends-of-friends. Check out the pictures below, as well as the full menu.

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Menu

Whiskey and sparkling cider cocktail with lemon, rosemary and apple slices

Pear, walnut and homemade ricotta crostini

Celery, date, walnut and pecorino salad

Roasted tumeric-lemongrass chicken (a la Zac Pelaccio)

Mashed cauliflower with chives

Za’atar roasted carrots

Thyme and garlic roasted brussel sprouts with toasted almonds

Quick curried crumble with homemade yogurt

*Special thanks to Madeleine and Melissa, dear friends and photographers.

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eater’s digest: brooklyn crab

I’ve always been the type who is eager for fall, who looks forward to long pants, chilly outdoor evenings and the chance to take a bike ride without breaking a sweat.

That said, since the temperature dropped 20 degrees (overnight), I’ve been mourning the loss of my New York summer. And, in specific, craving a return to my favorite seafood shack, Brooklyn Crab.

Luckily, the crab shack is open year-round, given the happy heating of the upstairs deck. So now seems as good a time as ever to get a bit nostalgic. To lean back into the not-so-long-ago days of ‘yore, when we biked, boozed and bean bagged away our steamy Sundays in Red Hook.

…And to imagine another side of Brooklyn Crab. A hood-and-boots, hot toddy game of corn hole. Followed, of course, by a round of whole bellies and the impressive Brooklyn Crab Royale.

The pre-game (literally). Corn hole at Brooklyn Crab.

Enjoying some of the many boozy options on the breezy upstairs deck.

Consulting the extensive menu.

The fresh, briny house oysters.

Fried Ipswich Whole Belly Clams

The overflowing Crab Royale: lobster, king crab legs, snow crab legs, jonah crabs

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Filed under eater's digest