December 3, 2013
There were a lot of impressive speakers at last September’s Seed Conference at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, including Ferran Adria, Dan Barber, Alex Attala, Sean Brock and Glenn Roberts. But the person who impressed me the most was Frank Morton, who’s been raising salad for chefs since 1980 at Gathering Together Farm in Oregon. He spoke so passionately about conventional seed breeding that I began surfing his website, reading the essays.
But Morton doesn’t just raise salad for fancy restaurants; 15 years ago he and his wife created Wild Garden Seeds, and since then they've been selling their organic seeds all over the world. The catalogue is amazing: they offer 82 kinds of lettuce, 9 kinds of kale, 18 kinds of mustard, 5 kinds of quinoa, huazontle… the list is very long.
They’re constantly adding new vegetables to the list. This year’s great find is this Pandero Lettuce:
"With a single cut, these mini-head type romaines create instant salad mix."
If you know a passionate gardener, a gift certificate would make a wonderful present; they start at $12. Actually, just turning a good gardener onto the site would be a gift all by itself.
December 2, 2013
For the serious food photographer
Every time I pull out my IPhone to snap a picture of some dish I’m reminded of what a terrible photographer I am. My food always looks so pale, so unfocused. That’s why I’m counting on one of my friends to give me one of these for Christmas.
According to everything I’ve read, this neat little Orbit Pro camera attachment can turn even clunky photographers like myself into instant wizards. It’s got a whole slew of lenses: fisheye, macro, telephoto, wide-angle. It’s small. It’s been very well reviewed. It’s only $239 – and if you buy it today, on cyber Monday, you get a $75 break and free shipping.
Come to think of it, why am I waiting for someone else to buy me one?
December 1, 2013
Everyone who’s ever used sous-vide equipment understands the problem: the food comes out looking wan and rather sickly. The solution has always been a blow torch, which gives pale food a lovely tan. But there’s a problem: torches were invented to weld metal, not cook food, and they impart an unpleasant flavor known as "torch taste". Enter the Searzall. It turns an ordinary blowtorch into a fine piece of cooking equipment.
When Dave Arnold, founder of Booker and Dax, was teaching sous vide technique at the French Culinary Institute, he set out to solve the torch taste problem. His Searzall is still in the testing process, but prototypes have been tested by an impressive number of chefs, starting with David Chang and his team at Momofuku and going on to:
- Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 and Alder
- Nathan Myhrvold and the Modernist Gang
- Paul Adams Online and Food Editor from Popular Science
- Nils Noren from Red Rooster
- Mark Ladner from Del Posto
- Michael Natkin, popular vegetarian cookbook author
- Daisuke Nakazawa of Nakazawa Sushi
- Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern
Now there’s a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. Kick in $65 and you can offer your friends the very first Searzalls off the assembly line. The final product’s not due until June, but if you pledge by December 15 you’ll get a special holiday card to send your friends the good news.
Of course, if you're looking to really impress somebody, you might want to up the ante. For $1000 your friends can jump the line with one of the hand-made pre-production prototypes that will go out in January. (That also gives them the privilege of becoming part of the feedback team.) And for $5000? A day in the Booker and Dax lab with Mr. Searzall himself, Dave Arnold.
November 30, 2013
Vintage Menu Cards
My favorite find on last year’s gift guide was the vintage menu posters from Cool Culinaria. If you haven’t already found this website, you have a pleasant treat ahead. Browsing the blog I see it’s grown since last year, adding impressive additions from two famous menu collectors, along with an expanded cocktail collection and a really wonderful new group of Chinese restaurant menus.
But their newest offering is a collection of vintage menu cards, that would make absolutely ideal presents for almost everyone who still employs a pen.
Boxed in sets of ten, the cards are grouped in sets from
If you’re looking to please people who aren’t urban dwellers, there’s an American collection, which has cards from all over (including Pullman dining cars), a collection from the West, and a fantastic drink and cocktail collection that should work for just about anyone else.
At $19.95, it’s a thoughtful way to remind friends that you’d like to hear from them once in a while.
November 29, 2013
The Perfect Gift for Tomato-Lovers (and isn't that all of us?)
I met the Tomato Independence Project people in Boise Idaho last fall, and fell in love with both their project and their tee-shirts.
Their goal: Making sure that 20% of food consumption in the Treasure Valley of Idaho and Oregon is local by 2020.
Their method: For starters, encouraging everyone to grow their own tomatoes.
Since the average American eats more than 90 pounds of tomatoes every year, it seems like an obvious place to begin. As they say in Boise, “life’s too short for tasteless tomatoes.”
Their tee-shirts: Pre-shrunk, made of organic cotton, not available anywhere else.