Tag Archives | feature winter 2016-2017

kitartwhey

The Kitchen Artist’s Whey

A second life for a by-product

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAURA SILVERMAN

If, as editor and essayist Clifton Fadiman once mused, cheese is “milk’s leap toward immortality,” what then of the watery yellow substance left behind? Aside from recalling that Miss Muffet ate it along with her curds, most people have only the vaguest notion of whey, beyond its protein powder form which is routinely added to health shakes.

Whey is the liquid resulting from milk that has been curdled to make cheese or yogurt; it serves as an abundant by-product with which dairy purveyors must contend, so abundant that there has been talk in the past of processing whey into a biofuel. In a world currently embracing sustainable practices and nose-to-tail eating, it’s only fitting that whey should take a turn in the limelight.

The whey from hard cheese and yogurt production is sweet, but the kind produced from making soft cheese like ricotta is more acidic and can cause an overgrowth of algae that is potentially detrimental to aquatic ecosystems if it is dumped into our waterways. So lots of whey is sold, or sometimes given, to animal farmers. The pigs at Raven & Boar in East Chatham are fed grains soaked in whey from local cheese producers, including Twin Maple Farm in Ghent. There is also a growing movement to educate consumers about the taste and nutritional benefits of whey. At last year’s Bitten food conference in New York City, Homa Dashtaki extolled its virtues—rich in probiotics, enzymes, protein and calcium—and vented her frustration that it still has not really caught on with the general public. Her company, White Moustache, makes delicious strained yogurt and now sells its whey, in ginger and honeylime flavors and also as a plain brine in 3.5-gallon buckets for poultry (it’s a marvelous tenderizer).

My Whey

If you make yogurt or soft cheese at home, you won’t need to buy whey. Obsessed with paneer, that soft white cheese used in Indian cooking, and deprived of Indian restaurants where I live in Sullivan County, I had to whip up my own. The process is similar to many recipes for ricotta, though true ricotta is made by curdling whey from milk that has previously been curdled (“ricotta” means “cooked twice” in Italian). When you curdle whole milk with lemon juice or vinegar, you are actually making a kind of fresh cheese that the Indians call “chhenna”: masses of cloud-like white curds that split from the whey.

The curds can be whipped by hand or in a food processor to make a smooth and creamy cheese, or they can be drained until firm—in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or in a hanging bag made from a linen kitchen towel—and you have paneer. More importantly, for the purposes of this piece, you are left with plenty of whey.

Other cultures (Persian, Eastern European) have long appreciated whey as a refreshing and healthy drink. Try it chilled, flavored with fresh lemon and lightly sweetened. Or, as it’s served at El Rey Luncheonette in Manhattan, infused with fennel and tarragon simple syrup in a non-alcoholic riff on pastis, an anise-flavored aperitif. Whey is faintly milky with a wonderfully velvety mouthfeel that translates very well to cocktails, where it imparts the body and structure of egg white but with a silkier texture. This makes it a key ingredient in milk punch, a 17th-century sailors’ recipe that combines pineapple, spices, rum and other spirits into a smooth, potent and amazingly clear cocktail. Whey is also divine shaken with gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, a few drops of orange blossom water and lots of ice in a drink I call the Gin Blossom.

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Whey is faintly milky with a
wonderfully velvety mouthfeel
that translates very well to cocktails.

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Every Which Whey

Whey keeps in the refrigerator for weeks and has endless applications in the kitchen. An essential component in lacto-fermentation, the naturally occurring bacteria in whey help produce delicious pickles and sauerkraut. A couple of tablespoons added to the water for soaking beans breaks down the enzyme inhibitors and complex sugars that can inhibit digestion. Whey can be used in place of milk or other liquids in baked goods to enhance tenderness, and it’s ideal as a base for smoothies and soups of all kinds.

At Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where chef Dan Barber routinely makes magic with neglected ingredients, thinly sliced onions are slowly braised in whey until they collapse into a soft, sweet heap that’s excellent alongside roast chicken or piled onto a thick slice of grilled bread. Virtually anything braised in whey is enhanced with a smooth texture and savory undertone, including grains, meats and vegetables. Try simmering small potatoes in whey, then tossing them in butter and roasting until crisp. They crackle then melt in your mouth.

On the sweet side, whey can be combined with sugar and cooked down into a caramel sauce or combined with honey and frozen for a hauntingly delicious sorbet. Once you welcome whey into your life, you’ll be crying tears of joy over spilt milk.

RECIPES

CRISPY WHEY-BRAISED POTATOES

CHHENNA

GIN BLOSSOM

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Pork, Salt, Time & Place

Chef Cesare Casella relocates to the Catskills

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY MEREDITH HEUER

It isn’t a sprig of rosemary that chef Cesare Casella wears in his pocket; his signature accessory is a veritable hedge. When we meet, the greenery is jammed into the breast pocket of Casella’s brown corduroy jacket, its spiky branches causing the jacket’s soft fabric to jut in a conspicuous bulge. As we talk, a scent-cloud of crushed rosemary envelops us, its pineyness smelling of summer, despite the fact that it is now fall. Even as we walk down Hurleyville’s chilly Main Street, an aromatic puff of rosemary occasionally hits my nose, serially evoking (whiff ) Italy, (whiff ) sun and (whiff ) food.

Fragrant boutonnieres aside, no place can be further from Casella’s native Tuscany than Hurleyville, a quiet Sullivan County hamlet nestled among the remnants of the Catskill Borscht Belt resorts. Nowadays, no one is dirty dancing in Hurleyville. The only lingering ghosts of the Borscht Belt’s mid-century heyday are the clusters of abandoned and moldering tourist cabins dotting the outskirts of town. Yet here is where Casella is planning to site his new artisanal butcher shop and salami factory, Casella’s, opening this winter.

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Main Street Revival

Cesare Casella is the latest—and arguably the most famous—of the New York City chefs heading to the Hudson Valley. He is the former chef of numerous critically acclaimed restaurants in NYC, a James Beard Award–nominated cookbook author, the dean of Italian studies at the International Culinary Center and the owner of the import company Republic of Beans, Inc. Casella (and his trademark rosemary) have long made the rounds on national food television, appearing on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Top Chef, Iron Chef and After Hours with Daniel Boulud. Currently, chef Casella is a partner in Giorgio’s Salami, whose products can be found at Del Posto and a variety of high-end retail outlets, including Eataly in New York City and Chicago.

Although Casella confesses that he is a country boy at heart (he grew up in a restaurant family outside the city of Lucca), Casella’s presence here in Hurleyville—halfway between New York City and Binghamton—is still a bit shocking. In his elegant sing-song Tuscan accent, he admits that when he came to Hurleyville, this sleepy hamlet “was a ghost-uh town-uh.”

Hurleyville, previously a center for dairy farming in the region, is currently making huge strides to pull itself from the ashes of the Borscht Belt’s decline over the last 30 years, an effort fomented largely by the presence of the Center for Discovery. According to the center’s president, Patrick Dollard, the many-armed nonprofit is “a care program for kids with complex disease and disability.” Currently, the center houses and cares for more than 300 residents, roughly 50 percent of whom live with autism spectrum disorders. Casella heads up the Center for Discovery’s Department of Nourishing Arts (DNA) based on 150 agricultural acres spread over multiple sites in and around Hurleyville. These are collectively known as Thanksgiving Farm. On this land, the Center for Discovery offers educational and therapeutic programs for its residents. Additionally, the farm yields much of the food that the center serves to its residents and employees—nearly 2,200 meals per day. Thanksgiving Farm also sells some of its produce through the high-end restaurant distributor Baldor.

According to chef Michel Nischan, president and CEO of Wholesome Wave (and three-time James Beard Award winner), Thanksgiving Farm has proven a boon to both residents and chefs. Citing the successes of noted livestock industry reformer Temple Grandin (herself also autistic), Nischan notes that working with animals can “stop the madness” for people living with autism. The idea that Grandin asserts is that people with autism often share an intrinsic comfort level with animals because the two process thoughts on a sensory realm, rather than in a word-based manner. Then, there is the fact that Thanksgiving Farm is raising its organic/biodynamic produce—and, often, heritage breed livestock— on lush Hudson Valley pastures. Laughs Nischan, “They’re just raising really good pigs.” Nischan, who was the executive chef of the Dressing Room (Paul Newman’s farm-to-table restaurant in Westport, Connecticut) until it closed in 2014, notes, “When I was at the Dressing Room, we bought a pig every six or eight days from Thanksgiving Farm. They’re stupendously delicious pigs.”

For nearly a decade, the Center for Discovery has also been extending its influence into downtown Hurleyville. The nonprofit is buying and rehabilitating the town’s dilapidated buildings, then finding tenants like Cesare Casella, whose 210 Main Street factory site once housed the town’s Polish market. The center has also leased 218 Main Street to Hurleyville’s only gastropub, the Pickled Owl. It also owns the site for Wild Turkey Bakery and Market (238 Main Street), which vends products from Thanksgiving Farm. According to Dollard, the Center for Discovery is hoping to make Hurleyville “a really foodie town.”

Dollard’s plan is not exactly a moonshot, entrepreneurially speaking. In nearby Monticello, Indian billionaire Dr. Subhash Chandra is behind a $90 million Ayurvedic spa, resort, yoga and wellness center under construction on the site of the Borscht Belt icon Kutsher’s. Less spiritually minded plans are afoot for another Borscht Belt landmark in Monticello, the Concord. In 2014, New York State’s Gaming Facility Location Board granted permission to Empire Resorts to build an $800 million complex complete with casino, 18-story hotel, indoor-outdoor water park, conference center, cabins and hiking trails on the Concord’s former grounds. Casella (and the town’s other frontiering tenants) are betting that these two projects alone will funnel well-heeled tourists through Hurleyville’s newly rehabbed Main Street.

It is a surprisingly collaborative process
between chef and government. As
Casella describes it: “They test; I taste.”

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Pig in Place

Casella’s occupies a modest red-painted frame building at 210 Main Street. Its tiny, white-tiled storefront will serve as a butcher shop selling housemade salumi and fresh heritage-breed pork and pork sausages. Though Casella has also been associated with beef—his connection to the Center for Discovery began when a friend suggested he move his lone heritage breed Tuscan Chianina cow to Thanksgiving Farm—the theme of Casella’s in Hurleyville is decidedly porcine. The real action at Casella’s will be glimpsed through a glass panel behind Casella’s rustic retail shop tables, both of which were hewn from locally sourced lumber. Here, Casella will operate a small-scale salami factory with the noble—and somewhat moonshotty—aim to re-create the salami of Casella’s Tuscan childhood under the USDA’s most stringent control. Casella envisions that this small factory, which is slated to open in January 2017, will act as a proving ground for a much larger operation nearby.

“Today in the U.S. you can find great salumi, great salami. But what I wanted to create was in my memory from when I grew up in Italy, to create the same flavor. To do that, I need to start from the pigs and then work my way up.” He continues, “The problem is that the pigs here, they are smaller than the ones in Italy. There, you have pigs that are 400 pounds. At this moment, it’s very difficult to find the right pigs.” Obviously, Casella has explored buying Thanksgiving Farm pigs “whenever they have them,” but that program’s meat production is primarily allocated for the diet of its residents and employees.… Read More

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aquaman

Aquaman

Growing 5,000 sustainable shrimp in Newburgh

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEITH FERRIS

Shrimp do not grow in gardens. Nor do they grow in urban basements. Nor has much of Jean Claude Frajmund’s life direction been conventionally linear. Until now.

Born in Brazil to French and Belgian parents, Frajmund, founder of ECO Shrimp Garden in Newburgh, zigzagged through locations like Rome, Paris and New York, doing stints in the film, digital television, culinary and computer industries. Only his unwavering dream, spawned at the age of 16 on the beaches of Brazil, has remained constant. During a three-month trek, he would wade, early in the morning, into chest-high water with a partner to net more than 40 pounds of local shrimp. The fresh, sweet taste of the ocean shrimp was a sensation he would never forget, and he became determined to share such an experience with everyone, land locked or not. This was the path that brought Frajmund’s life circling round to an empty mattress factory in Newburgh—to grow shrimp in his inland, industrial garden.

The diminutive crustaceans in their
spa-like habitat unknowingly carry the weight
of Frajmund’s remarkable dream.

Jumbo Shrimp Problem

The United States is a shrimp glutton. Americans eat, on average, four pounds of shrimp per year—slightly less than the total amount of salmon and tuna consumption combined. Of all the shrimp eaten in the U.S., 94 percent are imported. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. importation of shrimp in 2015 was 585,826 metric tons, or nearly 1.3 billion pounds. The USDA reported an all-time-high imported shrimp haul in 2014, valued at over $6 billion. The demand created from the hoopla of low-priced “endless shrimp”–type promotions and readily available frozen shrimp at supermarket and chain stores has unwittingly caused a tidal wave of endless suffering and destruction for Southeast Asian exporting countries. The ravages are two fold—the mangrove forests and the people.

Mangrove forests are one of the earth’s greatest filters. Guardians of the shoreline, mangroves once covered three-quarters of the world’s tropical coastlines, with the greatest variety inhabiting Southeast Asia. Highly resilient, mangroves thrive in brackish water—up to 100 times saltier than any other plant can withstand. A powerful ecosystem, they hem the shoreline allaying erosion and entrapping many of mankind’s toxins from washing outward into the ocean. Defending seaward, mangroves buffer the horrific effects of tsunamis hurtling toward landfall. Mangroves are renewable food sources; they are, according to the Mangrove Action Project, “fish factories for the 210 million people who live near them and depend on them for food.”

Scientists have dubbed the mangroves “natural carbon scrubbers,” and research shows mangroves “sequester more carbon than any of their terrestrial counterparts.” What has put asunder these stalwart conservators? Shrimp farms.

The early 1980s saw the beginning of a new industry—highly profitable shrimp farms; outdoor ponds were built where majestic mangrove forests once stood. By 1996, Thailand alone had lost approximately 56 percent of its mangrove forests to such development. Like many poorly thought-out plans executed from greed and lack of foresight, the outdoor shrimp ponds quickly were revealed as unsustainable. Farmed shrimp give off ammonia; unless the water is purified and oxygenated, they die. Bacteria also form in the ponds, promoting disease; accelerated amounts of antibiotics have to be introduced into the ecoculture.

Augmented global demand for shrimp must be met in such a scenario; growth hormones, fertilizers, disinfectants and pesticides become inevitable. Compounding the issue is the fact that these ponds only are sustainable from two to five years. More mangrove forests are eradicated; shrimp are produced that are overdosed, pumped up, barely viable and have become the standard for the world’s dinner plate—a practice Frajmund calls “somewhat Faustian.”

Most agonizing are the human victims, the Southeast Asian people. Across the board, the general population suffers from the shrimp aquaculture because reduced mangroves also mean a reduced source of food, medicine and fuel. There is also a tragic hidden cost; purported to help wild resources recover from overfishing, the “blue revolution,” as it is sometimes called, of outdoor pond shrimp farming has ushered in widespread abuse such as rampant slavery, child labor, human trafficking and death. Migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Burma are bamboozled or shanghaied into lifelong slavery on fishing boats, which drag the sea bottom at illegal depths, producing bycatch of endangered species. The bycatch is not released but ground up as food for the shrimp ponds.

On shore, women and underage children are employed in pre-processing factories or peeling sheds. Here they can be starved, physically abused, overworked and have passports confiscated and pay withheld. In 2011, the Thai Frozen Food Association reported about 200 legally registered peeling sheds. Speculative reports assert there could be between 400 and 2,000 unregistered sheds. The U.S. State Department’s Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report gave Thailand a Tier 3 rating—the worst designation—in 2014 and 2015.

While unabashed destruction of rainforests and melting polar caps has dominated the news, sadly, awareness by the crustacean-consuming public about wrongdoings and corruption in the Southeast Asian aquaculture is extremely low.

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Eco-mastermind Jean Claude Frajmund in his humid lab teeming with thousands of shrimp

Upon entering the doors of the
ECO Shrimp Garden, the
temperature becomes balmy
and pleasantly humid.

Small Hope

It’s no wonder why Frajmund is adamant about his shrimp garden. To him, the very term “garden” connotes good food, while the aquatic variety of the term “farm” connotes bad food. He has spent the last two years actuating a 35-year-old vision. Now updated, he has expanded that goal to encompass current circumstances. Frajmund’s beliefs, integrity and determination convince him that he can help pioneer a three-pronged approach to protect humanity and the environment, provide jobs and produce an artisanal product.

Upon entering the doors of the ECO Shrimp Garden, the temperature becomes balmy and pleasantly humid. There is a constant sound of pumps humming and water eddying. Defying expectations, there is no discernable trace of fish odor from the 3,500 to 5,000 Pacific White Shrimp swimming in the blue-and-white-checked tanks. The diminutive crustaceans in their spa-like habitat unknowingly carry the weight of Frajmund’s remarkable dream.

The first of its kind in the tri-state area, the ECO Shrimp Garden indoor tanks are one of a small but steadily expanding number in the country. The Pacific white shrimp growing here are chosen for their sweet taste, ability to adapt to indoor tanks and potential to reach a desired market size. The 11-day-old babies, so translucent they look like ghosts, develop to harvest size in four to six months. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program gives this shrimp its “Best Choice” ranking. The 24 tanks and four nurseries they thrive in are fitted with an Indoor Zero Water Exchange Systems (IZHEA), a totally closed system. The tap water that fills the tanks is recyclable, chemical free, hormone free and pollutant free. Shrimp in these tanks will never know the hazards of mercury, oil and other contaminants that swirl in the ocean. The saline content in the tanks, perfectly balanced at ocean standards, is achieved with U.S.-produced ocean salt. Unless a tank is being filled, the water usage is no more than the average household. But the essential key to success is a recent development in aquaculture technology known as “biofloc.” Before its introduction, all of Frajmund’s extensive research was dead-ended.… Read More

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Everything is Transformed

A new era for Bartlett House

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROY GUMPEL

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“You should never sit comfortably in business; you must always be keeping alert, keeping current.” Lev Glazman snaps closed his eyeglass case and reaches for his sunglasses. When Glazman and Alina Roytberg opened their first neighborhood shop selling beauty products in 1991, neither imagined they would go on to grow the then Boston-based apothecary business into Fresh, a global beauty brand.

Flash forward to 2013, Kennebunkport, Maine, where a friend introduced Glazman to Damien Janowicz at a party. “The world shuddered!” Janowicz laughs. This fateful meeting connected two men both ready to merge their strengths into a mutual vision of hospitality. Glazman was impressed with what Maine Magazine aptly called Janowicz’s “polished ease,” a characteristic that had graced guests during his management of the properties of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection. “We discovered that we viewed the world in the same way, and we share a desire to act on our passions.”

Now all three business partners, Glazman, Janowicz and Roytberg, are a modern trifecta bonded by a sense of curiosity and inspiration, each one contributing expertise to their concept, taking the art of hospitality to a whole new level.

Should the word “hospitality” conjure up sterile hotel management courses or marketing acumen, think again. The team started out by spending a year developing personal mission statements and core values that drive their high-level concept. Before they found a physical space for their venture, they rooted themselves, and their business, within an intentional operational structure that demonstrates integrity, accountability and spirit.

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The bakery at Bartlett House

Historic Decision

Bartlett House, a four-story utilitarian brick building built in the 1870s along Route 66 in the town of Ghent, had operated as a railroad hotel for the New York Harlem and Hudson and Boston Railroads until about 1948. After the rail line was abandoned, the crowds disappeared and the hotel fell into many years of disuse. This national historic site had sat vacant for 11 years before Glazman, Janowicz and Roytberg laid their eyes on it. The building, complete with central location and 19th-century charm, was a perfect venue to house all of the components of their vision: a bakery, a dining room, offices and an apartment for team members. “When we saw Bartlett House, we saw our dream come alive,” says Roytberg. “It’s our hub of creativity, collaboration and companionship.”

Glazman’s eyes light up when he describes the experience of doing business together as a family thus far. Under Janowicz’s genial stewardship, business decisions are made according to what guests want. This approach is working—since opening in July 2016, there has been a line out the door for the straightforward but sophisticated, well-prepared food served out of their state-of-the-art kitchen and in-house European style bakery and café. The space is exceptionally warm and inviting and walks that line between country chic and rustic opulence.

If the promise of contentment does lie in the details, not a single one was overlooked during the complete redesign-build project undertaken in 2015. No corner was cut, and no compromise made during the revitalization of the rectangular, terracotta-colored brick landmark building. While the interior was gutted and restored to original quality, a quote from Antoine Lavoisier, an 18th-century French chemist, printed on the scaffolding cover read: “Nothing is lost, everything is transformed,” assuring passersby of the good things to come.

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The three house visionaries: Damian Janowicz, Alina Roytberg, and Lev Glazman

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The aesthetic of Bartlett House feels instinctive and immediate. The team has designed the new elements to feel as if they were in the building all along. The visuals knit together eclectic furniture and light fixtures in a way to re-create a landmark feel to the place. The colors of the Bartlett House exterior, brick, off-white and black, dictated the color palette for the interior, and the classic late-19thcentury American typeface lettering on the building is a recurring motif. To create the dining room wallpaper, Peter Fasano, a printmaker from Great Barrington, assembled a collection of vintage silkscreen blocks. Among them was a botanical design that was re-scaled and re-colored as the central element of the print. To deepen the texture of the environment, another wallpaper in the back of the café, this one made from recycled newsprint, adds a level of personality to the room and serves as a suitable background for an antique Dutch wall phone and the early century copper sconce. The ceramic tile used on the café counter brought a notable visual design code to life; the blossom print is utilized on in-house packaging and labels. The result is a space in which each piece of the puzzle has a rich individual tale grounded in the collective human story and history of the area. The tenor of the dining room and café is high; the quality of the materials provoke discussion and invoke travel.

The community is as proud of Bartlett House as the team is. People come to the Bartlett House as a weekend ritual, bring their guests and their families and leave feeling emotionally charged by the experience. “Like a love affair!” exclaims Glazman. Supporting the social and economic growth in their immediate community is a core principle of the company and taps into something the team feels strongly about: reciprocity. In hospitality, you take care of those you need, a demanding but ultimately enriching undertaking. The journey of bringing the building back to life was met with a very strong community welcome; one woman even came in with flowers to thank them for their thoughtfulness in reviving the structure and simply for being there.

Photographs of the Bartlett House by Walker Evans, the famed mid-century photographer and photojournalist, in the 1930s depict train tracks just meters in front of the front doors, telling of the town’s earlier days as a place shaped by the railroad and the traffic it brought. Ghent is a town with a visible sense of history, but what the revival of the Bartlett House has ensured is that functional yesterdays will have a beautiful future. Certainly from the food perspective, the central stopping place is better than it’s ever been.

Ghent is a town with a visible sense of
history, but what the revival of the
Bartlett House has ensured is that functional
yesterdays will have a beautiful future.

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Woolen blankets provided during the colder months for those that want to dine on the porch

Bread and Butter

Sitting empty for many years was good advertising for the Bartlett House. Word spread of the revived eatery, as irresistible aromas of baking traditions, including exquisite breads, and reimagined pastries, such as the pear rosewater muffin, began wafting out onto the streets of Ghent. Bartlett House has quickly become a destination for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. With a particular focus on sourcing locally, the establishment serves skillet dishes, soups, salads and sandwiches. Coffee and tea are an essential aspect of the Bartlett House experience. Dedicated to serving the best coffee beans they could find, the team selected to work with Sightglass, a San Francisco–based company specializing in sustainable harvests that ships freshly roasted beans weekly. A selection of 18 fine organic teas brings classic Japanese tea rituals to life, and makes for dynamic, aromatic moments.… Read More

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