November 30, 2014
Farm to table is so last year; the new movement is seed to table. If you really care about where your food comes from, you start at the beginning, with soil and seeds.
For most of human history, farmers raised regional plants adapted to the local soil and climate. The idea that we can all grow anything, anywhere, is a completely modern notion – and one that makes very little sense. Organic gardeners are beginning to understand that the sensible course is to plant seeds bred to thrive where they are planted.
Enter Fruition Seeds. These are organically grown open pollinated seeds raised in the northeast and intended for northeast gardeners.
So if you're trying to think of a great gift for a passionate gardener in the cold northeastern climate, you'd have a hard time coming up with a better present. There are lots of possibilities – from single seed packets to special collections for picklers or people interested in medicinal herbs. There are salsa and salad collections, and this lovely group of seeds to kickstart an organic kitchen garden.
November 29, 2014
A Wood for the Wise
People who obsess about barbecue are in a class by themselves. Blessed with patience, they spend endless hours standing by slow fires, waiting for meat to soak up the fine scent of smoke. They worry about every detail along the way, but their two main concerns are meat and wood.
Great barbecue demands smoke – and smoke demands wood. Not just any wood. Wood that burns clean. Wood that burns slow. Wood with character. Wood with flavor.
The most obsessive pitmasters I know order their hickory, pecan and mesquite from Gourmet Wood in Texas. The wood is dried so it burns low and slow. It comes in chunks or logs – and makes a very affordable gift. (A carton is $43.95 delivered.)
If you know someone who loves slow-smoking meat, they will be extremely grateful for this gift. Not just for the wood itself – but for an introduction to such a great source. If you're lucky, they'll invite you over to taste your share of this smoke.
(Care to call? The phone number is 1-888- GET-WOOD.)
November 28, 2014
The barbecue expert was skeptical when I told him I'd ordered the pulled pork online. Even when I said that is came from Elizabeth Karmel, who was responsible for some of the food at Hill County, he lifted an eyebrow. "She's a baker," he said. "Makes great peanutbutter and jelly cupcakes. But 'cue… maybe not so much."
Then I mentioned it was whole hog barbecue, made from pigs from a small farmer in North Carolina. I mentioned Ed Mitchell, one of my barbecue heroes. The expert was not convinced.
"Just taste it," I said, piling some of the warm pulled pork – bits from all over the pig – onto a potato bun, adding the vinegary cabbage slaw, shaking on another bit of the thin, piquant sauce – and handing it over.
"Oh!" he said. And then he didn't say anything else until the sandwich was gone.
This is the best Carolina cue I've had in a really long time. It come frozen – in dry ice – in impeccable condition; the shredded cabbage is packed separately, as is the bottle of vinegar sauce.
I bought the "The Piglet" – which is meant to make 8 sandwiches. Actually, it made more like a dozen. If you have some barbecue lovers on your list, I promise you they'll be happy to get some of this.
November 26, 2014
Steam Me Up
This traditional Japanese rice pot somehow makes rice taste better. And it goes easily from the stove to the table, where it sits looking serenely ceramic and incredibly lovely.
But that's not why I love it so much. These days I find myself steaming foods - from vegetables to seafood to dumplings – with increasing frequency. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a great steamer? Like most steaming enthusiasts I've got a cupboard filled with bamboo steamers, and I like them fine. They're useful. They're cheap. But they take up a lot of space and they're nearly impossible to clean.
If you have a conscientious eater on your list, someone who’s low on time and eager to steam, check out this beautiful rice cooker from Shed. It’s not cheap ($180), but its a truly beautiful object, a little piece of kitchen sculpture. And it's incredibly easy to clean.
November 25, 2014
Truly Fabulous Fruitcake
I know, I know – everybody hates fruitcake.
But not this one. Baked to order of locally sourced all-organic ingredients, this is the fruitcake you've always longed for. No red and green cherries – just lots of great dried fruit and nuts (it weighs two and a half pounds.)
Robin McKay first made these fruitcakes for her partners' English family. This year, for the first time, she's been persuaded to make more for her friends.
Order now, from www.robinskitchenview.com and you'll have fruitcake in time for Christmas. You won't be sorry.