The past few months exploded with culinary creativity and interesting goings-on, particularly in Central New England.
With so much culinary talent and such an array of interesting epicurean happenings in the central Massachusetts marketplace, we were forced to dedicate much of this issue to that sprouting region and I’m told every bit of research was delicious.
Take, for example, organic farming at Berberian Farms in Northboro (p. 11); there, you’ll find the freshest, most high quality produce available. Wondering which of your favorite local chefs use that local produce in their entres? Just check out The People’s Kitchen on Exchange Street in Worcester. (p.28) Chefs Nemeroff and Champagne are fresh-food focused and experiment with all kinds of terrific ingredients. The only rule: everything comes from local farmers. Supporting the local economy through best practices in farm-to-table is the perfect way to give New England diners the freshest, most innovative cuisine, such as Nemeroff’s 21-day-aged beef from the Double J Farm. An entre that goes perfectly with a Sallis Castrum wine, one of our picks featured in Wines of Distinction (p. 29). Low in sulfites and 100 percent Italian, you can’t go wrong with this exceptional bottle.
Let’s not forget dessert. Alina Eisenhauer, of Worcester’s stylish and delightful dessert bar Sweet, divulges her recipe for Bananas Foster (p. 18). Along with recipe, she indulges our curiosity, revealing the reasoning behind her methods. Itâ€™s clear why sheâ€™s been chosen as a featured chef on Food Network twice.
Oh yes, of course there’s always that drink before dinner, an aperitif of sorts. Why does the award-winning mixologist Dave Delaney ask, “What kind of day did you have?” Writer Jeff Haynes finds out first-hand in Something to Drink (p. 31).
Not in the mood to go out but still want something truly fabulous, colorful and unique? Award-winning Sushi Master ÂÂWilson Wang of Baba Sushi will teach you everything you need to know in ANew Way to Eat Sushi (p. 15). First-rate sushi right in the comfort of your own home; it’s simple, fast and beyond delightful.
Still have hankering for something a little on rich side that won’t ruin your beach body? You came to the right place. Healthy at Home by Elaine Pusateri Cowan (p. 23) is the place for inspiring and delectable dishes. I dare you to get through the Salmon Paradiso piece without salivating all over these glossy pages. Consider it a challenge.
Heat the oil to 365º in the deep fryer or skillet.
Slice the banana into quarters and wrap each quarter in a spring roll wrapper, fold the edges in, then roll up.
Place the wrapped bananas, flap side down, into heated oil and fry until crispy (about 1 minute).
Remove from heat and place them in a paper bag containing the granulated sugar and give the bag a shake to coat fried bananas.
Heat 1 cup of caramel sauce until it begins bubbling.
Add the rum and heat the mixture enough so it’s warm all the way through (it will bubble up and get foamy). Be careful as the mixture is extremely hot.
Alina opened Sweet Pastry Shop and Dessert Bar in the summer of 2008 and has been winning awards and critical acclaim ever since, including the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Worcester Living Magazine Best Dessert, the 2008 City Living Magazine Best Bakery and the 2010 Worcester Magazine Best Dessert.
Sweet was also featured on TV Diner and Phantom Gourmet and Alina has appeared on season one of Food Network’s Chopped and will be featured on season two of the network’s Cupcake Wars. Her recipes have even been featured in The National Culinary Review.
Where can you go to sample menus that include barbecued calf’s tongue or house-dried beef cheek sausage? What about getting a first-hand viewing of your meal being made? And then having a Q&A with the chef?
Only at The People’s Kitchen.
Located at The Citizen in Worcester, TPK is the ultimate foodie playground; eat, inquire and learn. Food aficionados can head into the kitchen and grill the chef on his methods; they can sample haute cuisine, keep it simple with some good old-fashioned comfort food or even try something a bit more exotic. Whatever the craving, TPK can satisfy just about any insatiable appetite.
Guests are welcomed to sit, eat, drink, be merry, and interact with Executive Chef Bill Nemeroff. Whether you have questions about sourcing meat or seasoning, inquiring minds are always encouraged.
In keeping with TPK’s honest and open policy, Foodies interviewed Bill as well as Chef Steve Champagne, all in the name of good, honest food.
Foodies: What’s the concept behind the name The People’s Kitchen’?
Bill Nemeroff: The idea for the restaurant was born out of the want to combine the culinary styles of Block 5 and Cedar Street Restaurant. We offer our guests menu honesty, a concept that many restaurants don’t adhere to. Simply speaking, The People’s Kitchen is a restaurant for the people.
Steve Champagne: The name also reflects a certain honesty in our product. We offer a tremendous value in high-quality food. Our steak prices are better than most steak houses or fine dining establishments, and the quality is superb. Our guests truly get an honest meal for an honest dollar.
BN: We allow our guests to come into the kitchen and ask questions and see the quality we present at the table. It’s their kitchen. Of course, at 7:30 on a Saturday night, it’s not the wisest idea to have a group of guests walking through the kitchen, but if they want a tour and are interested in seeing our 21-day dry aging process, we’d love to have them.
Foodies: How did you decide that 21 is the magic number?
BN: In order to properly dry age beef, the product has to be stored in a cooler at a particular temperature for an extended time. We tested different time periods: 7 days, 14 days and 21 days. By the end of our experiment, we determined that 21 days resulted in more tender meat; the enzymes break down the tissue in the meat, thereby naturally tenderizing it without the need for pounding, which can sometimes bruise the meat.
Foodies: Do you locally source your ingredients?
BN: We actually use a farm-to-table approach; we buy our meat from local farms that we’re familiar with. It’s important for a dining establishment to be able to source the best, freshest meat available from reliable and like-minded farmers.
SC: Buying directly from local farmers also allows us to see what’s available and in season. That way, we’re able to rotate our menu every day, offering diners what’s timely and fresh, something new and different each time they visit us. By buying local and buying fresh, we’re really able to take the handcuffs off so that we can experiment with new items that we, as chefs, want to try. (Steak Portuguese: New York Strip topped with pickled peppers, garlic butter and a fried egg). Offering our guests something new and different is what we love doing. After all, it is their Kitchen.
Foodies: Is everything local?
SC: At TPK, we source some great international cheeses. We’ve procured some delicious Cacciocavallo, a semi-hard cheese from Italy, and Red Dragon, a grain mustard-laced cow cheese from Great Britain. And there are always local favorites like the Smith Gouda from Semi Farm in Massachusetts and the Grafton Aged Cheddar from Vermont.
Foodies: Do you ever put your own spin on an international favorite?
SC: We create a sweet sopressata, in true Italian fashion with our own dry aged pork, and an offal sausage that is very unique and tasty. The charcuterie is really where the distinction lies for us. It’s such an investment; creating quality in this respect requires so much time.
BN: It really is; watching the meat cure, ensuring it ages properly, constantly checking the curing temperature and observing how the meat responds to the process. It’s completely worth it for me, though.
Foodies: Bill, what’s your favorite TPK creation to date?
BN: Our fried chicken. I’m a southern boy, and our recipe is the same recipe my grandmother used when she made it for me as a young boy. We use braised mustard greens, red eye gravy, and chicken that has soaked in buttermilk for three days.
Foodies: Three days?
BN: Oh, yes. It’s critical for the meat to absorb as much richness from the buttermilk as possible and it really increases the chicken’s ability to hold the batter, creating an intensely rewarding flavor.
Foodies: It’s clear that craft is important to you.
BN: The emphasis is really on simplicity and quality. TPK is a craft restaurant, from top to bottom and right down to our beverages we don’t carry big brands like Absolute vodka. We use small-batch, craft vodkas instead.
SC: One evening, I remember a guest asked for Southern Comfort. Obviously, we don’t carry it, but the guest was thrilled with what we did have an artisanal, craft beverage from a distinctive, unique brand. Because of that, our servers undergo extensive training and education, so they’re well versed in everything we offer, which inspires confidence in our guests.
Foodies: Do your guests ever get too confident? Have you ever had to compromise your philosophy, recipes or preparation methods at their request?
BN: We do our best in the kitchen to not say no. Sometimes, our ideals are confronted and we have to decide what we’re comfortable doing. We invest so much time and effort into everything we create, even in the sauce. So, the last thing we want is to see our creation getting covered in ketchup. In short, we do our best to select sauces and flavors that are intended to perfectly complement each other. We’re confident that our guests will agree when they taste it.
SC: But we do take requests and change our ingredients. After all, we are The People’s Kitchen!
BN: Absolutely. In fact, it’s quite common. We have guests who are vegan and request vegetarian versions of our intensely flavored meat dishes. By principle, we’ve created a protein-driven menu, but vegetarians are people, too. We accommodate them without any difficulty.
SC: But we are fairly eccentric in our approach to these dishes. Our chickpea, gluten-free burger is quite good and resembles the texture and tangy flavor of a traditional burger. It has a pasty, meaty quality that imitates beef, and it’s pureed for a tight consistency.
Foodies: What’s your culinary philosophy?
BN: Cook what you know. Don’t get influenced by trends and keep your integrity about what you’re cooking. Technically, know how to cook things. If you’re going to make steak, use salt and pepper, then add from there. With that said, I do like big and bold dishes and experimenting with world flavors. In that way, I’m kind of a sauce guy.
Foodies: Bill, last year you competed at the Worcester’s Best Chef and made it to the live, Iron Chef round. What dish got you there?
BN: I prepared a dessert in the image of a traditional savory, comfort-food favorite, a hamburger. In this case, it was a chocolate hamburger. For the hamburger patty, I used dense chocolate mousse; the buns were made of cream puffs; and the cheese was mango gel. I presented and plated the hamburger with a vanilla milkshake (insert photo here). that was comprised of almond milk.
Foodies: What was it like competing live, on stage in the final competition of Iron Chef?
BN: It was fun. I liked playing around with the crowd, but had to ask myself, Am I trying to win, or am I trying to do my best to represent the restaurant Cedar Street? In a competition like that, those are two very different things. It’s exciting and stressful; you open your mystery basket, look at the ingredients and wonder to yourself live in front of a thousand people. What in the world am I going to make with quail eggs and coco puffs? So, I just started to chop my ingredients, boil the water and halfway through, I knew what I was going to do. Sometimes it comes to you as you’re getting started.
Foodies: What are some of the differences between Cedar Street Restaurant, which you formerly owned and operated, and TPK?
BN: Cedar Street was a place where you’d dine once in awhile. TPK is a place where you can sit at the bar and have a croque madame about as often as you’d like.
Foodies: What’s next for TPK?
SC: I think we’ll be busy promoting some of the events we’re working on: Farmers’ Dinners, with tables of produce to educate the community, a pig roast with Bill’s southern recipes like frog stew, chicken soup, savage corn boiled outdoors. We’ll also have more wine dinners, whisky and game dinners and maybe a cooking series on the patio. We don’t want to move too fast. After all, we’re part of the Slow Food Movement, which is about eating with your friends and family, sitting down, re-connecting, and living again.
BN: There’s a reason why it’s called comfort food. Everyone can relate to it, regardless of economic or ethic persuasion. We believe in the concept of Vive La Food. This is how a restaurant should be, and how the food should be prepared for real people, by real people.
The People’s Kitchen at The Citizen Wine Bar is located at 1 Exchange Street, Worcester, Massachusetts. More information is available online at www.thecitizenwinebar.com/the-peoples-kitchen.php or by calling 508-459-9090.
National Archives Opens “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” Food Exhibit June 10, 2011
Groundbreaking exhibit explores nation’s love affair with, fear of, and obsession with food
Suggested Tweet: National Archives to allow food in museum space? Only as theme of new exhibit, of course! “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” opens June 10, 2011.
Suggested Facebook Post: What’s Cooking at the National Archives? Tasty new exhibit on food opens June 10, 2011. Groundbreaking “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” exhibit explores nation’s love affair with, fear of, and obsession with food
Washington, DC. . . On Friday, June 10, 2011, the National Archives will unveil a delectable new exhibition, What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?The Government’s Effect on the American Diet.
Unearth the stories and personalities behind the increasingly complex programs and legislation that affect what we eat. Learn about Federal government’s extraordinary efforts, successes, and failures to change our eating habits. From Revolutionary War rations to cold war cultural exchanges, discover the multiple ways that food has occupied the hearts and minds of Americans and their government.
Food-related holdings of the National Archives are surprisingly yet tastefully presented in this exploration of the government’s role in the American approach to food. What’s Cooking Uncle Sam? is free and open to the public, and will be on display in the Lawrence F. Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, through January 3, 2012. The exhibition was created by the exhibit staff of the National Archives Experience with support from the Foundation for the National Archives.
The Government’s efforts to inspire, influence, and control what Americans eat have led to unexpected consequences, dismal failures, and life-saving successes. Records in the National Archives trace the origins of the programs and legislation aimed at ensuring that the American food supply is ample, safe, and nutritious. The records also reflect the effects the government has had on our food choices and preferences. At turns comic (blindfolded turkey tasting experiments) and tragic (lab notes on toxic candy), these records reveal the evolution of our beliefs and feelings about food. They convey the desperate voices of depression-era farmers, and explain how the government got into the business of publishing recipes for ham shortcake and teaching housewives to can peaches.
Dig into “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?’ to learn the fascinating history behind the government’s involvement with food, and discover answers to the following:
What made canned meat, ketchup and candy so dangerous at the time of the Industrial Revolution?
Why did Frank Meyer, foreign plant explorer, go from the vast grasslands of Manchuria to the tiger-patrolled mountains of Siberia in search of new foods?
What did President Lyndon Johnson serve at White House State dinners?
Why were some government volunteers called the Poison Squad?
How can donuts improve morale?
What was Queen Elizabeth’s recipe for scones?
What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?offers visitors the chance to examine letters, diaries, photos, maps, petitions, films, patents, and proclamations from the food-related collection of the National Archives. Instead of a traditional chronological approach, the exhibition explores four broad themes: Farm, Factory, Kitchen, and Table.
Farm –Government has had a profound effect on the way farms are run and what they produce.Â The Department of Agriculture scoured the globe for new plant varieties, researched hybrid crops, distributed seeds to farmers, and controlled the prices of farm commodities.Â Learn how programs and legislation transformed agriculture in America.
Section highlights include:
A musical program in support of the Office of Price Administration performed by Pete Seeger and others.
Mug shots of the oleo gang.
Factory – Government’s attempts to ensure the safety of an industrialized food supply have changed the nature of foods, production methods, labeling, and advertising. Public outcry over swill milk, rancid meat, and substandard tea led to the Pure Food and Drug Act and the FDA. Food producers quickly capitalized on new regulations, touting their products as pure,enriched, and unadulterated. See how the government embraced advances in food technologies, performed research on food production, and secured patents for some of their methods.
Section highlights include:
Upton Sinclair’s original letter to Theodore Roosevelt on the hazards of the meatpacking industry.
Lab records and photographs of the “Poison Squad” research.
Kitchen – As scientists made discoveries about nutrition, the government sought to change the eating habits of Americans. Most efforts aimed to reform the homemaker through nutrition education and cooking classes.
Section highlights include:
Aunt Sammy’s (Uncle Sam’s wife’s) Radio Recipes.
Overcooking Destroys Vitamins World War II poster.
Table – Although many of its overt attempts to change our diets were unsuccessful, the government did succeed in changing and homogenizing American tastes in other ways. Meals served to soldiers and school children instilled food habits and preferences that persist today. The diets and entertaining style of the Presidents and First Ladies were also influential, as many Americans wrote the White House for recipes and incorporated Presidential favorites into their family meals.
Section highlights include:
Jacqueline Kennedy’s menus for State dinners.
President Johnson’s famous Pedernales River chili recipe.
What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? -related products — including a special exhibition catalogue, recipe books, apparel, and dishware — will be featured in the Archives Shop. All Archives Shop proceeds support the National Archives Experience and educational programming at the National Archives.
The National Archives is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Fall/winter Exhibit Hall hours are 10 AM â€“ 5:30 PM daily, except Thanksgiving and December 25 (through March 14).Â Spring/summer hours are 10 AM 7 PM (March 15-Labor Day).
For more information on What’s Cooking Uncle Sam? or to obtain images of items included in the exhibition, call the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.