How to be a Ninja | Knife Classes at Brooklyn Kitchen

chicken

Being a big home cook, I’ve learned the heard way that the first cut is the deepest. The combination of a dull blade and clumsy fingers is a recipe for disaster, I’ll tell you what.

Earlier this year, Ian and I wanted to up our knife game in the kitchen. After gifting him with a pair of beautiful but intimidatingly sharp chef’s and paring knives, I decided that knife skills classes wouldn’t be a bad idea, too.

After putzing online for a bit, I decided to sign us up at Brooklyn Kitchen. With two locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as a number of classes held throughout the month, it was an obvious choice. Besides, it was also the least expensive, relative to places like the ICC’s knife skills classes.Brooklyn Kitchen, Gotham West Side Market

For convenience’s sake, I opted for knife classes at the Gotham West Side Market location. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, this new market of shops and pop-up counters of grade A grub is not dissimilar to Chelsea Market, though not as big or crowded. Definitely a plus for the neighborhood, and for us, closer to my place in Harlem.

Tucked in the back of the market is Brooklyn Kitchen, which stocks not only foodstuffs but also a slew of kitchen supplies for chefs and bartenders, while in the corner is a working teaching kitchen. While Ian brought his knives so he could get the feel of them, it’s not required as the Kitchen provides them.

First things first: good food starts with good knife skills. It’s the first lesson any aspiring chef or culinary school student learns, in the kitchen or in the classroom. We got the fundamentals: parts of the knife, how to hold it and what to do with your other fingers. Mostly, you need a good grip on the handle and the blade, while your other hand assumes a bear claw position, so you don’t accidentally lob off finger tips.

Knife skills class, claw hand

Protect your fingertips: remember to bear claw.

Then comes the cutting. Leading with carrots, we perfected how to chop through starchy items without the amateurish sound of blade hitting board. We learned how to cut batons, plateaus, dices and mince, using celery, green peppers and onions, respectively. In two hours time, we became more confident through the guided learning, our technique that much better. In no time, Ian and I had cut through our veg—the perfect beginnings of a soup, which you get to take home.

While I’m not a knife noob, I left the class feeling a bit more polished in my skills. I benefitted from the instruction mainly in the efficiency of my cuts; it was a realization that I wasted so much veg because I didn’t cut it properly.

Our instructor, a gregarious working chef, also showed us how to properly used a paring knife, and what is offered at the second level of knife skills classes, which focuses on prepping meat. In less than two minutes, he broke down half a whole chicken, showing us the speed and efficiency of knife mastery (see lead image above). Ian and I plan on attending that class in the coming months, if only to prep for the impending zombie apocalypse. Hey, you never know.

Brooklyn Kitchen | Manhattan | 11th Avenue between 44th and 45th Street

 

Cheap + Authentic Tacos in the Heart of Bushwick

tacos Bushwick Brooklyn Mexican food

Real talk: there is a dearth of great Mexican food in New York City. Traverse the five boroughs and I can pick out a handful, maybe two, of really good food.

In a city teeming with Dominican, Puerto Rican and hell, even Spanish food, there’s such a noticeable lack of honest-to-goodness Mexican fare that it’s practically a cliche now. And we’re not talking Tex-Mex—delicious in its own right but most certainly not Mexican.

Hailing from Southern California and Chicago—both areas with a high population of the good folks from south of the border—I know my tacos from my taquitos, my nachos from my Doritos. There are days when my body just yearns for a grip of corn-tortilla-enveloped meat dripping in jus and oil, fairy-sprinkled with emerald green cilantro and diced onion.

Recently, I was having one of those body-cravings one day, which led me to a cursory Google search for “Bushwick tacos.”

Enter Taqueria Izucar. After reading this piece by the inimitable Robert Sietsema, I was compelled to go and get my taco fix.

Located underneath the rumbling above-ground M tracks on a busy stretch of Myrtle—a short walk away from the L train—this nondescript little joint is not much to look at. With barely any seating inside, this is the little taqueria that could. The menu rocks some classic double-tortilla tacos but you can also find cemitas (sesame seed-studded sandwiches stuffed with your choice of meat and cheese, avocado, chipotle and the tell-tale papalo, a flavorful and pungent herb found in all proper cemitas) and tortas (classic, hefty Mexican sandwiches of avocado, meat, lettuce, tomato and onion). Larger style platters are also available, but lez be real: that’s not what you’re here for.

What you want is the taco. The $1.25 taco. The simple, deeply flavored taco you just found in the middle of New York City. It’s like finding Shangri La, but for your mouth. tacos Brooklyn BushwickYou’ll find classic standbys like carnitas, al pastor (here, without its characteristic oily orange coloring) and chorizo, but don’t fear venturing out of your comfort zone for the lengua (tongue), suadero (veal flank) or oreja (pig ear). Behind the little window into the kitchen, you’ll see the cook whip up your alternately savory, spicy little disk, served with a heap of cilantro and a lime wedge or two, all on a no-fuss paper plate. Douse that bad boy in some of the provided salsa verde and you’re made.

Don’t be afear’d. The taco/salsa combo has bite, but man, it hurts so good.

Taqueria Izucar | 1503 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn, NY 

 

The Ice Geek Cometh

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Ever since that first classic cocktail passed my lips (an Aviation, if you gotta know), I’ve been enamored with cocktail alchemy. Though my home attempts are more miss than hit, it’s still a mental exercise in taste and skill. After more than a few botched tipples, all I can say is blessed be the bartenders, for nightly slinging balanced, flavorful booze.

It’s not all tinctures and booze in Candy Land, though. In the August issue of Wine Enthusiast, I dove into one of the most important ingredients in the cocktail biz: ice. I got a deep assist in the expert department from bar gurus Sother Teague (Amor y Amargo, NYC) and Charles Joly (The Aviary, Chicago). With their insight, I covered the major variations, from crushed to spherical, and even a cool ice pick to rock at your home bar. The piece is a geeked-out primer on the cold stuff; give it a read, if you’re so inclined.

Illustrations by Patrick Morgan

I can’t mention ice and cocktails without a bow and a hat-tip to noted ice master Camper English. His posts on the importance of ice and how to create diamond-clear cubes at home are legendary, and make for a fascinating read.

New York Minute: ‘Welcome to Night Vale’

Here, the crowd awaiting last night’s live Welcome to Night Vale reading, a modern take on classic pulp and sci-fi radio shows, outside the historic Town Hall theater.

The show was charming, charming, charming and so full of hahas! Give it a listen if you want old school radio play-realness, amusing wordplay and entertainment.

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…Long live Tamika Flynn and the Glow Cloud.

The Devil Made Me Drink It

Playful red wine

It’s Wednesday and I have the night to myself.

This is huge. Huge like whoa. My roommate is out doing her lovely I’m-young-and-fun-city thing, while Ian is working, selling wine like a boss before heading home to Queens. Hell, even the overfed cats are sleeping.

What to do, what to do… Oh look, Sablonnette’s Le Bon Petit Diable, sitting pretty in the wine rack. Problem solved.

This juice is my jam: made from biodynamically-grown Cabernet Franc from Loire, this devil-child is an easy-sipping glass of joy. I mean, just look at the label! Frolicking from couch to arm chair, probably sticky with pie and/or cookies and/or other things that make kids sticky, this Batkid is living the carefree life.

So is the stuff beyond the label. Floral nose with a cheerfully cherry palate. Bright, whimsical and young acidity. A slight glimpse at its naughty, cheeky natural wine origins.

I can only equate what’s happening in my mouth to the ridiculous and uncomplicated thrill of wrapping a towel-cape around my neck as a baby-person and kicking major bad guy ass, washing down the victory with a jelly-and-Wonder Bread sammich.

Cuz that’s how Batkid rolls. 

 

New Toys + Sunday Adventures

Last week, I joined the ranks of so-called “prosumers” and got my hands on a sweet new toy: a Lumix GF6 Micro 4/3s camera. While I’ve wanted to go the DSLR route, I don’t have the capital or the desire to lug a beast of a camera around me when all I’ll end up doing is posting to here/Instagram. At the same time, I didn’t want a dinky little toy camera that would produce grainy photos. Months of research lead me to Ruthie (yes, she has a name). Interchangeable lenses, lots of manual features, built-in WiFi (for, you know, Insta-ing): She’s packing the “just right” heat I’ve been looking for. While I’m still getting use to her, I am excited to get over the learning curve and blog about my goings-on around the city more. First things first, though: I gotta get over how self-conscious I get when I’m just out and about, shooting like a schmo.

Before I blather on for too long, here’re a couple of shots from this weekend. So far, so good.

Bicyclette rouge2 better

The bf and I recently decided to implement Sunday adventures, as it’s the only day of the week either of us really have off. Before heading out on the cultural leg of the day, we opted for a late breakfast. A quick gander at Google yielded Bo’s near the Flatiron, which promised brunch-y delights a la New Orleans. Score.

Quick tell: The restaurant opened back in October, ’13, but has only been offering brunch for the last 4 weekends. The room is airy, and when we went, it was relatively empty; definitely check it out before other brunchspotters get wind.

The order: Grilled romaine salad with cherry tomatoes, asparagus and Meyer lemon vinaigrette; biscuits and gravy; Bo’s breakfast sandwich (super tasty, but boring to photograph); cocktails were refreshing but had too much ice/watered down. Stick to the playful wine list.

I was dumb and asked to be seated in the back, even though there was so much natural light in the friendly bar area out front. As such, I was forced to play with low, yellow light. Womp womp. A bit of in camera color correction wasn’t so bad, though. The really subtle purple of my Bicyclette Rouge cocktail (above) is basically washed out; the below biscuits and gravy look oozy, but I ain’t mad about the composition. Note to self: always request a window seat.

Biscuits

In honor of National Library Week, we took a jaunt to the Morgan Library to check out the Little Prince exhibit, which was charming and enlightening. Did you know Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote it when he was in New York? Neither did I. Displaying the manuscripts throughout the gallery, the Morgan explores de Saint-Exupéry’s creative decisions in crafting his charming story about an alien prince. They wouldn’t let me shoot in the gallery (boo, hiss), but it’s still worth checking out; the exhibition ends April 27.

While you’re there, check out Piermont Morgan’s awesome three floor library (there’s a Gutenberg!) and his private study, which is straight outta True Blood. 

Morgan

This Guy.

Metro North Commute

Confession: I’m a train-napper. Get me on a choo-choo and within 5 minutes, I’m basically comatose. Commuting via train each day is an opportunity to get in some Zs before getting to the office. The gentle lulling, the calm rocking… it’s a bliss not unlike the last few minutes of a deeply relaxing yoga session.

While I’ve caught myself dozing off deeply in the past (snoring etc.), I have nothing on this guy. This is some next level shit.

Do you, dude. Do you.

Saturday Morning Flights of Fancy

I woke up this morning feeling some type of way, a kind of abstract restlessness I get when I feel like I haven’t done my share. The best way I can describe it is my sense of the absence of enough.

I’m sure you can relate? For me, enough is that sunrise just over the horizon, if only the horizon would get out of the damn way. Enough is that rabbit-shaped lure that speeds around a greyhound racetrack. It goes away when the race is over, but win or loss, the dogs have a taste for blood and want to beat the ever-living hell out of that shitty, manipulative trick of a machine. Continue reading