saving endangered species

Industrialized farming’s profit-driven methods of breeding are starting to produce genetic weaklings. There is a flip side to this. Meet Jeannette Beranger of American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, who made a fascinating and enlightening presentation at Astor Center on August 17. The topic: Bringing Heritage Breeds Back to the Farm and Table. Preserving these ancient and hearty strains is of the upmost importance, and not only as a way to keep the big breeders on track. Jeanette shared her hands-on knowledge of these historic breeds’ personalities, habits and preferences, and showed how raising these animals as part of a system of give-and-take with the environment is loaded with benefits. Geese make great security guards, chickens take care of pest problems, horses and oxen pull plows, and with sheep and cows you need never worry about grass cutting.
These breeds have naturally evolved to be resistant to disease, are suited to their environments and offer a purer food source. See the website for details about the animals, and which ones desperately need saving. Chefs (and diners!), you can support this organization by becoming a member, or by becoming familiar, and ordering, your local breeds. The newly launched classified section on the website, can connect you to sources or you can call Jeannette at 919-542-5704 x103.


CASA MONO: mi casa NO es su casa

I live a few blocks away from Casa Mono. When I first moved into the Gramercy area 4 years ago, I spotted the restaurant and thought it was beyond charming—a perfect spot on Irving, lots of windows, cozy interior. Unfortunately, its not one of those places you can just walk into, so I visit at off-times, usually late at night. Recently, when a chef visiting NYC asked me for places to go, I did not hesitate to suggest it. Late afternoon on Sunday, we met for some wine and tapas (see photo), some pulpo, some croquettes. Esteban chose a great wine. We each had 2 glasses. When we decided to split a third, before taking off, something odd happened. We were asked to leave, i.e. go next door if we weren’t going to order more food. The restaurant was practically empty. Casa Mono, why so mean? I want to love you, but don’t feel the love in return. Correct me if I am wrong, but weren’t tapas created as little side dishes to wine?


clubby standards

I recently had to have an extended working meeting in the meatpacking district, so thought The Standard Hotel might be a nice place to situate myself and a colleague. We stationed ourselves in The Living Room, which overlooks the outdoor tables, and were pleasantly hosted by the staff over the course of the afternoon. It truly made for a productive meeting, as there were provisions for laptops and, to boot, a nice selection of food and wonderful mojito sans alcohol. When I eyed The Standard Grill, which is the restaurant adjoining the space, I fell in love with the nostalgic, clubby design, and promplty made a reservation for that Friday night. Photo above shows the bar area and the substantial chilled lobster salad. To see more photos of the dinner at The Standard Grill click here.


Scandinavian BEAUTIES

I am usually attracted to anything round or dotted, something about circles excites me. So naturally, when I saw these carafes, I immediately wanted to know more. Design House Stockholm offers these blown-glass pieces which can be used as a pitcher with stopper, a wine decanter, or a vase. When the stopper is not in use, it can still act as part of the design, only securely stationed underneath. The stopper actually has one flat surface, so that it will not roll. See the website for more designer tabletop items—there are a few more things on there that would come in handy, like the lacquered Gourmet Tray, which rotates, or the Bono Bowls, whose stark white look is accented with thin black lines.


low-cal dessert SUBSTITUTE

My trainer, Steve Zullo, of Sal Anthony's Movement Salon, turned me on to this. One of the bonuses in working out in a former German Rathskeller, is that Steve and I repeatedly discuss dieting tips and eating to train. If you love coconut, as I do, you must get yourself a pack of this gum. The taste is really super—just like you are eating a coconut, and mellows without the rubbery end-taste. We agreed that it’s a great way to address sugar cravings, and take care of your teeth at the same time. See the adorable Trident website for amusing videos, and facts on whitening.


Apotheke: an uncommon cure

Apotheke’s Orson Salicetti is developing cocktails with the a mind of a chef. His culinary influence stems from his youth in Venezuela, where he began working in his mother’s restaurant at the age of 15. With his trained palette, ingredients like cherry tomato infused gin, and adding a slice of bell pepper as garnish make perfect sense. His latest experiment, a house-made Vermouth, was inspired by apprenticeships in small towns in France and Italy, whose residents would heat wine with local botanicals, fruits and herbs, creating distinctive local tastes. Also in the works is a citrus-oregano infused Mezcal. I got to have a taste of the works-in-progress. In the photo above, Orson makes a dramatic display of heating a glass of Absinthe, which, I am here to say, went down smoothly and appealingly. This is what I call good medicine. See more photos of the cocktails and Apotheke here. If you’ve got a surplus of cherry tomatoes, try this recipe:
INFUSED GIN by Orson Salicetti
1/2 bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin
30 cherry tomatoes, pierced with a skewer
36 basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
Put gin into a pitcher, add tomatoes, basil and peppercorns. Pour mixture into a glass vessel and seal. Allow to soak overnight. When mixing in cocktails, muddle approximately 6 cherry tomatoes per serving, before adding other ingredients, to get all the rich flavors.


stomp your way to the top

Be sure to tune into a new reality show on PBS. Yes, even PBS cannot resist the temptations of pushing participants to their limits. This show will feature 12 contestants, who all share a passion for wine and winemaking, and compete to win the chance to create their very own wine label. Check out the website for details. Season One begins in September 2009. You just missed casting for Season Two, so you have time to hone your skills and knowledge and go for a spot on Season Three. See more photos from the launch party at Rayuela here.


a culinary B + B in Portugal

When my British friends Andrew and Rupert decided to open a B+B in Castro Marim, Portugal, I knew it would be something special. I had the opportunity to live with them while working for a publisher in London a few years back. To say I was pampered by Rupert’s hospitality and cooking and Andrew’s magnificent company and dry sense of humor, is just the tip of the iceberg. Between their gardening skills and culinary feats, I can attest you will be wowed, and will have vacationed properly. For more proof, see the write up in today’s Times Online UK Edition and be sure to visit Andrew John Roberts Facebook page for an ongoing, intimate look at their garden and life in the Algarve.


Tres Generaciones Tequila Cocktail: heat wave rescue

Get ready for actual August weather, arm yourself with a Sweet Breeze. I suggest you substitute this cocktail for your next Margarita—it’s just as refreshing and loaded with low-cal summer fruits and sweetended with agave nectar, which works perfectly with tequila. The Tres Generaciones Reposado Tequila is also great for sipping on its own. A stimulating peppery blast then mellows pleasantly on the tongue. Stay cool...see more pics from the tequila tasting here.
Sweet Breeze
1 diced strawberry
1 segment ruby red grapefruit, remove skin
2 large basil leaves
1.5 oz Tres G Reposado
.5 oz Agave Nectar
2 oz fresh lemon sour mix
juice from half a lime
Muddle the strawberry, grapefruit and basil. Add rest of ingredients, shake, strain into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with skewered grapefruit segment wrapped in a basil leaf.


intoxicated zodiac candle: keep on using me...

I am all for multiple usage—reversible clothing can actually make me giddy. Or that time a balsamic vinegar bottle made the perfect vase for my bathroom. Here’s a candle that does more than the average. Intoxicated Zodiac starts out as a soy candle, and when finished, can be used as a glass to house a cocktail based on your astrological sign. For me, an Aquarian, they suggest The Flowering Quince: vodka or gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and quince jam. Recipes are based on Nicholas Culpeper’s medieval astrology that categorized herbs, flowers, and fruits into Zodiac signs. If you want to know more about this radical botanist from the 1600s, you can see his entire book online.


the new ECONOMY: Veritas' bar menu

Who could predict that there would be such delicious perks in these unpredictable times. As New York restaurants are extending their “restaurant week” menus to a month, there seem to be bargains everywhere. Last Friday, me and the gang checked out Veritas’s bar menu, whose elaborate entrees are under $20. You absolutely can’t go wrong. Photo shows the Seas Bass with a chorizo crust, with peppers, onions and tomatoes below, and a lemongrass emulsion. I will have to find out how they made that chorizo crust, as it added an intensely smoky, spicy touch with each bite. See more photos from our night here.


light and luscious OLIVE OIL

If you are hankering for a selection of delicious bread and the most amazing olive oil, head over to Aldea in the Flatiron district. It’s beautiful bright yellow color adds to the dipping splendor, and announces its delicate taste. Our server told us that everyone was asking about it, and slipped us the name: Arte Oliva from Spain.


all is beautiful at LE BERNARDIN

Excellence abounds everywhere you look at Le Bernardin. I can't wait to go back and feast my eyes and appetite! See more of what we sampled here.