Category Archives: Food

Quiz: Know Your Groceries

Taste buds in food-savvy, well-heeled Berkeley and Park Slope, Brooklyn seem to have a lot in common, although not always as local, seasonal, carbon footprint-less or green as anyone would like to appear. For those who crave English milk chocolate or Japanese Calpis (Happy Refresh!), and know where to find it, you can get your junk food on because the packaging is funky and no one knows what it is. NJ and CA both have awesome tomatoes, but what about classic American high fructose corn syrupy deliciousness?

Can you identify which of these foods hail from the greater New York metropolitan area versus those of the San Francisco Bay Area? Some are accompanied by fierce, near teary loyalty, so  if you don’t know, then go enjoy your Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar elsewhere.

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A.) Twisty red licorice

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B.) Italian-American Coffee Drink

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C.) Refreshing childhood memory

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D.) Trip to the dentist

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E.) Fun at the neighborhood grocery store

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Craft-Based Statements

“I loved (the tea cozy),” said Christina Stork, founder of Article Pract, a knitting shop in Oakland. “I look forward to more craft-based statements.” The Daily Californian, Thursday, June 3, 2010

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense”. – Gertrude Stein

For Berkeleyites no longer nimble enough to climb trees, they can still get their protest on through guerilla knitting. I hate to use up “OMFG” as the title of a post so early in the history of this blog, but hearing this story, I wasn’t sure if it was time to move back to NY, or click my ergonomic Earth shoe clad heels in the air.

Back story: Gertrude Stein had been living in Paris for 30 years when a book tour brought her back to California. When she went to find her childhood home in Oakland, the house was no longer standing. In 1937, she published “Everybody’s Autobiography”, where she referred to the experience as “There is no there there”. OK, so everyone might not have access to Wikipedia, but that quote has since been taken out of context by some fellow Oaklanders , who see it as a slight to the city. I don’t exactly follow, but apparently there are those who are abreast of random literary quotes, but only enough to misinterpret them, then get all hot and bothered and go make bumper stickers about it.

Cut to 2005, the city of Berkeley commissioned a cheeky $50,000 public art work titled “Herethere”, which is installed on the Berkeley-Oakland border. On the Berkeley side, eight foot-tall letters spell out “HERE”, and on the Oakland side, another set of steel letters read “THERE”. Oakland residents grumbled about it, so it probably should have come as no surprise last month when a group of renegade knitters donned masks and worked through the night to cover the “T” in “THERE” in a *giant tea cozy*. When Berkeley city officials suggested the hooligan crafters remove the cozy, supporters set up camp to guard their handiwork of civic disobedience.

Gertrude Stein saw it as an end to childhood. Oaklanders see it as a racist slur. Berkelyites see it as $50K. Knitting activists see it as fun, biodegradable protest. The artists of the actual sculpture see the cozy as “creating a dialog”. The Parks Department sees it as defacing public art. Salt Bagel sees it as delicious fodder.

If there was any part of this story that could have been mirrored in New York, or anywhere else, this is where I think the two versions would begin to break:

Drinks Out With a Manhattanite

Regardless of the number of delicious vodka-based beverages I sucked down the other night, my headache the next morning could not be described as either “teeny” or “tini”. I’ve only managed a few benders over the past few years, so it should be no surprise that the night’s adventures in mixology were with a single friend, in town from the Upper West Side.

My friend, who has been to San Francisco on numerous occasions, is a capital M, capital S, Manhattan Snob. It was great to see her, but she spent much of the evening missing New York and bemoaning California. “At least we’re not in L.A.”, she said at one point. I felt like the mother pressured by a gum-chewing skeptic to explain how she loves each of her children’s unique qualities. Still incredulous: “I can’t believe that YOU, of all people, would move from New York to California…”  Judging by my friend’s expression as I tried to quantify my new found joy of hiking, I realized that I hadn’t really struck a chord. Similarly, my description of the weekend’s Maker Faire fell flat to this (impressively titled) employee of the Lincoln Center. She had abandoned her half-eaten meal in favor of a cigarette by the time I got to the “how cool it is to have such a year-round array of fresh vegetables” card.

The food was good, the drinks tasty, the service friendly, but when the packed hipster restaurant emptied out by 11pm, my friend gave out a sarcastic “What IS this?”. The dishwasher was mopping around our table when we finally took the hint around 11:40. She relayed that just last week she’d had to wait 45 minutes to get a table at a trendy Meat Packing District restaurant at 4am. I know the place well, and miss it on those rare occasions when I’m drunk and peckish for French food in the wee hours.

We hugged as I put her into a cab, which she was surprised to have hailed so quickly. “Next time let’s meet in New York”, she suggested with still leftover disdain.  I ran off to narrowly catch the last BART ride home of the night.

“I’m from New York!”

Have you ever noticed the city-savvy NYC denizens who can navigate the subway with their head in a book, nattily dress for any occasion, knowledgeably order dim sum for the group, cheerfully ease from their Italian butcher, to Korean tailor, to Pakistani grocer, and later hail a cab home – face back in book – are the same people who visit other cities and loudly declare that they don’t know how to get around? “Why would I know how to do that? I’m from New York!”

I have.

Why Salt Bagel?

Because I like them.

Bagels are as ubiquitous to New York as real sourdough is to San Francisco. You can get them anywhere, and they range from so-so to excellent. (You cannot get sourdough unfortunately.) The best I’ve had come from Terrace Bagels on Prospect Park West. They of course, make them every morning and they are good good: the slightest crunch gives way to dense, soft (if you’re lucky, warm), slightly doughy bread.

Apparently, you can’t get bialys anywhere else in the world.

All manner of New York proprietors run bagel bakeries, and all serve up a similar flavor and texture. The only other commonality these proprietors share is their pact never to pass along their recipe to non-New Yorkers. Seriously. Is it the water? I’m sure I am not the first to write about this serious issue, but this pact has caused a plague upon the rest of the planet. No matter what the heritage of bagel bakers in New York, most can produce a delicious bread product that looks, smells, feels and tastes like a bagel. Outside of the city, they have only really mastered the look.  It makes sense that flavors might change to match the local taste buds, like sun-dried tomato in San Francisco and green tea with pistachio in Tokyo (strange, but good), but I don’t understand why the texture can’t be matched.

If I ordered a croissant from a place called Les Meilleures Pâtisseries de Paris!, I’d expect buttery, flakey deliciousness, but in the SF Bay Area, there are a few misleadingly named bagel chains, like Manhattan Bagel and Noah’s Bagels, that haven’t developed beyond a rubbery Kaiser roll (which themselves are only a shadow of the delicious original Austrian semmel rolls…).

This isn’t to say that Northern California doesn’t have some of the best eats in the world; it’s just that they can’t get a good bagel down.