Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | May 16, 2016

At the 39th Annual International Food Festival

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | May 7, 2016

Polish Cooking Adventures Part 3: Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage)

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 30, 2016

A Visit to the Museum of Moving Image


By Ernest Barteldes

 

I can’t say how many times I have visited Astoria, but over all these years I had never had the chance to check out the Museum of the Moving Image, located on the grounds of the Kaufman Astoria Studios (it still an active facility, where shows like Sesame Street and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black are currently shot). The opportunity came last Friday, when Renata and I headed out there to check their various exhibits.

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The mold for “Mrs. Doubtfire” 

On the ground floor there were entrances for the two screening rooms (one of the movies shown that day happened to be “Purple Rain,” which has made its way into the big screen following the passing of Prince) and a cafeteria decorated with various vintage video games. As we walked up the stairs, some kind of large video game was being showcased as two guys narrated the plays by audience members.

As we walked through the noisy room, we checked out To the Moon and Beyond: Graphic Films and the Inception of 2001: A Space Odyssey, an account of early science fiction films that made use of advanced graphics – including designs that eventually made it to Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic.  There was also a screen with a loop from the film – it is incredible to see those images – cutting-edge at the time – seem lie crude compared to the stuff you see today, but you also get to recognize the baby steps that got us here.

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Publicity Stills of Paul Newman and Doris Day

In another room there were a series of publicity stills from actors of different generations, from the inception of film all the way to the early 60s – some faces were easy to recognize, such as Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, Clint Eastwood, Hattie McDaniel and Shirley Temple, but others were a bit harder – stars of the 20s and 30s that I had to look at the directory to find out. Right next was an exhibit of life masks of various actors who endured hours under plaster to get their costumes made – including Robin Williams (for Mrs. Doubtfire), Marlon Brando (The Godfather) and Jim Carrey (The Mask) – and also outfits worn in the making of various classics.

There was an installation called “The World of Anomalisa,” which featured two sets used on the eponymous stop-motion movie directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, and detailing how much work went to make two scenes that were in the film for mere seconds.  There were also computers where you could “create” your own stop-motion film (I did one moving my hand around, which I named “Hand, which can be seen below).

The largest exhibition was “Behind The Screen,” which showed us the painstaking details that go into making films and TV shows, going from early cameras used in silent movies all the way to cutting-edge digital technology, the creation of soundtracks (there is a cool interactive feature where you could make your own choices for features like “Independence Day” and “High Noon.” We learned a lot about the craft of making movies from those exhibits, and gained much more respect for the craft as we left.

There were several other smaller exhibits showcasing the history of cinema houses and also videogames – including how popcorn became a staple when heading to the Multiplex. We vowed to return soon – there will be a show on the life and work of Jim Henson  – the man behind the immortal Muppets.

 

 

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 24, 2016

Feeling the Burn: At the 2016 NYC Hot Sauce Expo


By Ernest Barteldes

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    The Carolina Reaper

Last year I discovered this annual event happening at Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Expo. Back then I went alone after not being able to convince anyone to join me. This time Renata and a couple of other friends joined us in trying some of the tastiest – and hottest – sauces on the market.

Many of the featured brands were the same that I reported on last year’s blog, including Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix, Tahiti Joe’s and Deception Sauces ( I immediately  scooped up a jar of their Aloha brand, a mild salsa made with pineapple and habanero peppers – a delicious concoction that goes well with tortilla chips), but there were a handful of newcomers that we were able to check out.

The first was Big Fat, which has some interesting mixes of different heat types. My personal favorite was the 408, which is moderately hot with a Jamaican jerk-style feel. Another one that got my attention was Bonfatto’s Tongue-Thai’d, a very spicy yellow curry sauce with a nice coconut base. I also grabbed a bottle of Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat habanero sauce, which packs a nice kick with good flavor. Also notable was Boca’s, a milder sauce with a Caribbean feel.

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    The Heat Index

     

We all tried some of the hottest sauces in the stands, but nothing could have prepared us for the Carolina Reaper.  Developed in 2012 by Ed Currie, of the PuckerButt Pepper Company, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, it is claims to be the hottest pepper in the world, packing a cool 1.6 million Scoville units (just to illustrate, Tabasco only packs about 5,000 units while Habanero has about 300,000 SCHs)

In 2013 there was a piece on the New Yorker that discussed these ultra-hot peppers, and they quoted a Maxim article by Steven Leckart in which he described eating one was “like being face-fucked by Satan.”

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    Tongue Thai’d 

When I approached Currie’s stand, I had the chance to briefly talk to him and compliment him on his efforts. I handled a sample of the pepper for a few seconds, and then walked over to one of our friends, who seemed like he was recovering from a seizure. He’d told me he tried “the hottest sauce on that table” and felt like he was about to die. I asked him which stand, and he pointed me to Currie’s.  “Holy shit, bro, you just had some of the Carolina reaper,” I said and walked right back and asked for a taste. Renata had a bit and then I put the spoon in my mouth.

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    Tahiti Joe’s 

There was very little flavor, and then the heat came. It was the most intense I’d felt since trying the “Suicide Wings” at a Myrtle Beach, SC restaurant (incidentally, the same city where the Reaper was first marketed from).  I took a few sips from my friend’s soda and ran to the concession stand for a cold drink, and the heat did not quit for about 15 minutes. I later found out milk was being handed out for free, and that came handy when I tried The Cobra, a sauce made with garlic, olive oil, basil and – yes, I am a glutton for punishment – Carolina Reaper.

We walked away with several bottles of my favorite sauces (I spent about $30) and then we all went for a bite at Karczma, a Polish restaurant a few blocks away from the venue. It was a nice meal – which I will report on some other time.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 9, 2016

Cooking and Partying at Home


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By Ernest Barteldes

 

I used to celebrate my birthday, like most New Yorkers I know do, at a bar or restaurant. After all, it is incredibly convenient because there is no cleaning involved and if the location is easy most people will come and it’s understood that at the end of the evening everyone is responsible for whatever they consume – leaving your personal cost very small.

We still do Renata’s birthday that way – the last time we held it at River Dock Café, a moderately priced place at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George that mostly specializes on seafood but whose menu also includes various other items. Being located at the terminal, our guests did not have to worry about directions – just step off the ferry and there you are.

I do feel, however, that a party in a restaurant or bar feels a bit cold – you sit around the table and talk to the people on your left and right and that is pretty much it – there are few shared experiences at all, and you don’t really feel like it’s a real party because most of the time you don’t even get to select the music. So I decided, a few years back, to have my own birthday at our St. George apartment (the only time we really have people over the entire year except for a few occasions when a couple or another drop in for a visit.

Some guests that live in Queens or Brooklyn tend to grumble about having to schlep to Staten Island, but my reply is that they only have to do it once a year – I would do (and have done) the same for them if they decided to host a house party at their own homes.

When I send out the invite, I ask guests to bring something to drink and tell them I am handling all the food. It does sound like a hard task, but over the years I have devised a system of looking for easy recipes that take minimal preparation time but with lots of flavor. I also cheat a little and get some frozen items from Trader Joe’s (their mini-pizzas are pretty awesome and go fast when served), so there is plenty to eat at all times.

This year I decided to make the theme a little tropical, and made some Maui onion dip (served with potato chips), spicy edamame, guacamole (with tortilla chips), marinated seafood (cooked, southern Italian style), Hawaiian sweet and sour ham (actually made with SPAM) with rice and also introduced a Hawaiian appetizer made with bacon, pineapple and a chili-based sauce that almost everyone declared the evening’s favorite – there was none left over at the end of the night.

There were a total of 16 guests who all arrived and left at different times. Some of them were not (for many reasons) drinking, so I had some soda and juice available. There was plenty of wine and beer, and some Polish guests were nice enough to bring some vodka – it was a fun night that even included some live music provided by yours truly and Gary J Moore of Allergic to B’s.

I just wish our apartment were bigger so we could have even more people over.

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Bacon-wrapped pineapple

(From Hawaiian Recipes)

 

Ingredients:

½ lb. sliced bacon, cut into thirds

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained.

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chili sauce

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wrap each chunk of pineapple with a piece of bacon and secure with toothpick. Place in a shallow baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, mayonnaise and chili sauce, pour over the bacon wrapped pineapples. Bake, uncovered for 25 minutes until bacon is crispy and sauce is bubbly. Serve warm.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 11, 2016

Sunday Breakfast: Going Brazilian


By Ernest Barteldes

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Due to our very different work schedules, Renata and I almost never have the chance to have a proper meal together during the week, so I try to make weekends special every time, combing through my various cookbooks and other resources (which includes a box full of almost ten years’ worth of Gourmet magazines (no, I don’t have the book with all the recipes yet – hint, hint). I try not to be repetitive since weekday boxed lunches I make every day are pretty easy and quick – there is no time for real elaborate meals.

I often reach back to the Northeastern Brazilian traditions I grew up with – I spent many vacations in the Fortaleza (where I also lived in for about a decade), a city rich with culinary traditions inherited by the natives of the region and also the different European cultures that settled there – a vast majority formed by the Portuguese but also the Dutch, Africans, Western European Jews and a few others that came to call it home.

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I still recall the many dishes that were always present in my Brazilian grandmother’s refrigerator – she always kept it stocked with many varieties of pudding and cake in addition to anything that the ever-present grandkids could make themselves for a snack or a light dinner. Many of these delicacies were firmly rooted in regional flavors – my grandfather had grown up in Sao Benedito, a small town in the hills of the state of Ceara –  place where you can – as I discovered firsthand – still find out where someone lives simply by asking around.

Those traditions did not only involve sweets – many included breakfast dishes unique to the northeast that few in southern states have ever heard about.  My grandmother was a particular fan of couscous, which has nothing to do with its Middle Eastern counterpart (the name probably has something to do with the Lebanese and Syrian immigrants that came to Sao Paulo in the early 20th century, but there is no specific documentation I could find about it).  Instead of bulgur wheat, this version is made with moistened cornmeal and salt and then steamed, but everyone has their own version.

 

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In Brazil most stores sell a steamer pot called a “cucuzeira” that is specially made for this dish, but you don’t have to travel there to get one – there are ways to go around it. Renata and I actually bought two of them in Fortaleza over our trips there – we also use it as a general steamer for vegetables.

My take includes shredded coconut and coconut milk, which gives the couscous a special taste, and it matches greatly with your favorite cup of coffee.

Recipe: Northeastern Couscous

(Cuzcuz de Milho)

Adapted from www.saborbrasil.it

Ingredients

 

Two cups pre-cooked flaked corn flour

1 teaspoon salt

1cup water, approximately

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup coconut milk

 

Preparation method

 

Mix the corn flour, shredded coconut and salt, together, in a bowl. Gradually add the water and mix well until all ingredients are moist and mixture has a crumbly texture. Let it stand for 10 minute. Fill the steamer pot half full of water.  Place the couscous mixture into the steamer basket and gently level the top without pressing. The mixture should remain soft to allow the steam to penetrate just right. Cover and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until it begins to release its aroma. At this point the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the steamer. Cut into slices, pour coconut milk over it and serve hot.

 

Add butter, molasses, coconut milk or milk (hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened), if you like. It is a very versatile side dish to vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, cheese, coconut and sweet courses.

How to steam couscous with a deep plate (or pot lid) 
Transfer the couscous mixture to a deep plate that has a larger diameter than the pot diameter. Wrap the deep plate with a clean cloth, making a knot on the bottom of the plate. Fill the pot one third full of water, bring to a boil and “cover” the pot with the wrapped deep plate (the couscous mixture must be facing downwards). Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve the couscous hot straight from the “cooking plate”.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 27, 2016

Winter Storm Jason: Snowed In + Soup


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By Ernest Barteldes

As many New Yorkers (and many other East Coast residents along the path of the storm) we were pretty much stuck inside the home the weekend Jonas hit (who knew a boy band namesake could wreak so much havoc?). Though the Staten Island Ferry reportedly soldiered on throughout the whole thing, there was pretty much nothing going on around town – some concert venues attempted to stay open in spite of the odds (Midtown Manhattan’s Birdland Jazz Club announced they’d have solo piano concerts, but I have no idea if they actually took place) but the city that never sleeps mostly fell into a slumber.

Aware that this might be a nasty storm I tried to do as much food shopping as I could before Friday – on Thursday afternoon I went to a midtown store to get a few necessities and on Friday I braved the long lines and crowds at Trader Joe’s in order to get everything else we would need as far as food and drink went.  After reaching Staten Island, I took whatever material we had borrowed from the local library and returned home to make a light dinner.

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The forecast was confirmed when we woke up on Saturday morning – heavy the gusty winds accompanied heavy snowfall, and we realized this would be no ordinary storm. We tuned into the news on TV (something we rarely do on weekends) heard that the government was placing a travel ban and restricting subways and suburban trains, meaning that even if we did want to head out we’d be restricted to local joints – something we rarely do.

Luckily I had planned a nice storm menu and made sure we’d be fully stocked for everything we needed – I planned a light lunch, a comforting Saturday night meal, a nice Sunday breakfast and of course our traditional Sunday dinner, something we have done since the beginning of our relationship and have tried to keep going ever since with few interruptions.

For most of the day, we binged on TV shows like Law & Order SVU, listened to lots of music and of course the guitars came out for some improvisational playing. In the afternoon we braved the weather and actually went out for a walk around the neighborhood – snow was up to at least two feet by then, and plows weren’t even thinking of coming around –  we ran into a few cabin-fevered folks who’d had the same idea, but after about 40 minutes we were right back inside.

Sunday proved to be another quiet day – my gym was closed, so we took care of a few things at home as we prepared for another work week to come along as we wondered why the hell these kinds of storms almost always hit New York City over the weekend – what, is God a New Yorker who expects us to work all the time?

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Recipe: Kale, chick pea and avocado soup

 

Ingredients:

1 14 oz. can have cooked chickpeas, drained

3 cups chopped kale

5-6 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 garlic clove, chopped

1 medium avocado, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil

Parmesan cheese to taste

 

Preparation:

 

Sautee garlic in olive oil until tender. Add broth, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add kale until wilted and add chick peas. Boil for 5-6 additional minutes. Serve soup topped with avocado and parmesan.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 11, 2016

Laying Low For New Year’s Eve

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 30, 2015

Our Christmas Dinner

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 16, 2015

Quiet Christmas at Home


 

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By Ernest Barteldes

 

Regular readers of this blog are quite aware that we don’t do the traditional “American” Thanksgiving of visiting families and stuffing ourselves with turkey and eggnog – we head out to the tropics for a good time under the sun.  Unfortunately, such a luxury cannot be had at Christmas, and since we have no family members within a 1,000-mile radius (the closest is in Chicago, and then Kansas –  after that it’s Brazil and Poland), Renata and I usually spend it just with each other, enjoying a plethora of international Christmas dishes from all our cultures and beyond.

It didn’t always use to be like this, though. Over the years, we either hosted a dinner for friends without close relatives around or visited with other friends who’d have us over, but we stopped doing that after a number of fiascos that I’d rather completely forget about (including a case of a guy who came over and went through an entire bottle of scotch and picked fights with other guests  before being ultimately kicked out of the apartment) we decided it would be better if we spent the Holiday on our own  with less stress and more tranquility.

mushroom-dumplings

The dishes we make are a mix of staples and new ideas:  Renata always makes her annual traditional Polish herring layered with potatoes, carrots, onions, mayonnaise, eggs and dill (there are many recipes out there, which vary from family to family –  they are so personal that I have found absolutely no equivalent online to date  – the only similar one being “Herring  Under  a Fur Coat” that also includes beets but probably tastes quite different due to that extra ingredient.  Other usual staples include  other traditional Polish  wigilia  foods such as “uszka” (pronounced ‘ushka’)  and beetroot soup, while I provide more international fare which might include  Portuguese oven-baked salted codfish layered with potatoes, onions and black olives and a generous amount of olive oil.

For reasons I really cannot fathom, we cook enough food for a small battalion and  take days to consume the whole thing.   I think this is the third or fourth year that we have done our little Christmas on our own, and we presently have no intention of changing that –  sure, it could be more fun being in a big party filled with people, but there is always the chance of something going terribly wrong – and  another weird Christmas is  something we really don’t want to be a part of.

Among the traditional Brazilian recipes I like to make is “rabanada,”  Portuguese  variation on the French toast that is commonly served at Christmas there – it’s made with sliced baghettes and a mix of  other ingredients – it is sweeter than its American counterpart, but it is also very enjoyable.

RABANADA

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Source: A  Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 loaf (8 ounces) French bread, cut into 1-inch slices

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon until blended. In a large shallow dish, whisk eggs and milk. Dip both sides of bread in egg mixture, soaking lightly.
  2. In an electric skillet, heat 1 in. of oil to 350°. Working with a few slices at a time, remove bread from egg mixture, allowing excess to drain, and fry 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Dip warm rabanadas in cinnamon-sugar to coat all sides. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 6 servings.

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