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To the Cheese Cave, Robin!

Next Monday, June 1, at 6:30pm I’m going to be heading over to that bastion of French cuisine and fromage, Artisanal, to teach a class called “Cooking with Cheese with Dirt Candy.” I’m going to be showing folks how I use cheese at Dirt Candy, how to combine cheese and vegetables in ways beyond melting cheese over the top of them (because melting cheese over the top of anything is always the best solution) and answering questions about vegetables, restaurants and whatever people want to know. I’ve never really taught a class before, and I’m a pretty casual person, hardly a strict teacher, so I’m extremely nervous and I just hope I can give people their money’s worth. I think I’ll do a quick show of hands at the end and if people don’t feel satisfied with the class then I’ll do a fancy knife dance or light myself on fire while holding Roman Candles or something else equally spectacular so they’ll feel like their tickets were worth it.

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But the best part of this class for me is that I just got to go inside Artisanal’s cheese caves.

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The stinky cheese cave.

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Ten Minute Limit

Some people may have noticed that when you book a table at Dirt Candy on Open Table you’ll see a note stating that if your party has not arrived within ten minutes of your reservation we may not honor it. Nothing makes me feel like a crabby old person, standing on my front porch and yelling at those darn kids to get off my darn lawn, than making a rule about reservations but, unfortunately, with only nine tables we’re so small that if a table doesn’t show or if they show up forty-five minutes late (it happens) it screws up the dining room for the rest of the night.

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Taste of the Nation

Hey, look! On Wednesday, we did Taste of the Nation!

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The more things change…

I recently came across the Encyclopedia Britannica vol. 11¬† which was published in 1911, and I looked up “vegetarianism” to see what it said. To my surprise there was a lengthy entry and apart from a few details, it could have been written yesterday. I’ve reproduced it below and, while there are a few inaccuracies, it’s a pretty amazing look at how little vegetarianism has changed in the past 98 years. Technically, I’m not a vegetarian myself, and I’m not advocating anything here, but a lot of people seem to think that vegetarianism, and the claims for its benefits, suddenly sprung into being out of thin air back in the 1960′s. But look back through the history of New York or any large city and you’ll find vegetarian restaurants and societies reaching back into the 19th century.

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In the first paragraph alone this 98-year-old Encyclopedia entry talks about raw foodists and frutarians and later you learn about the huge number of competing vegetarian publications (two of them dueling over the title of The Vegetarian), claims that a vegetarian diet can cure cancer, the frequently-made argument that¬† “…an acre of cultivable land under fruit and vegetable cultivation will produce from two to twenty times as much food as if the same land were utilized for feeding cattle…” and the skill shown by vegetarians in walking races. Not surprisingly, the entry is written by Josiah Oldfield, a Senior Physician of the Lady Margaret Fruitarian Hospital. Yes, in 1911 there were fruitarian hospitals.

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Taste of the Nation

This coming Wednesday, May 20, Dirt Candy will be participating in Taste of the Nation up at the Roseland Ballroom. Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, Eleven Madison Park and Dirt Candy, along with a ton of other restaurants, will be manning booths and giving away free food to all ticket holders. While tickets are pretty expensive ($375 for VIP treatment, $275 for riff raff) the proceeds go to groups in New York who fight hunger, among them City Harvest, Food Bank for New York and Just Food.

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Full details:

Taste of the Nation

Wednesday, May 20 at the Roseland Ballroom 239 West 52nd Street (btwn Broadway and 8th Avenue)

VIP doors open at 6:30pm, general admission at 7:30pm

Website and ticket sales

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Demand at food banks was up 30% in 2008, and it looks like it’s going to be up again this year. 72% of food banks are unable to meet the growing demand for their services this year, and over 50% are considering cut backs in order to deal with the influx of people at their doors. And, let’s all be honest, the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. So while the ticket prices are steep, this is something small Dirt Candy can do to help put food on the table of those who need it. Even if you don’t come to the event, consider making a donation to City Harvest, or any of the organizations participating in Taste of the Nation. I recommend City Harvest in particular because it works with restaurants to take food they’d normally throw out and directs it to hungry families all over the city. Thanks for reading, and if you’re at Taste of the Nation, please stop by our table and say “Hi!”

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Tofu Taken Down

I mentioned the Tofu Takedown that took place a few days ago, and now tofu has been taken down, the winners announced and pictures are up everywhere.

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The most comprehensive coverage is over at the Takedown site itself, but just to recap, the big winner were Sara Morrison’s Ethiopian Empanadas which took the judges’ and the people’s choice awards.

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Full coverage and pretty pictures.

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Foreign Desserts

Something that’s come up a few times at the restaurant is people bringing in outside food, usually dessert. I totally understand that if it’s a birthday or a special occasion someone might want to bring in cupcakes or some such….but tell us! Whenever there’s a reservation, I usually confirm it by phone beforehand so that’s a perfect time to talk about the totally amazing six-foot-tall, twelve-tier cake you want to have served to you at the end of your meal. When you make a reservation via Open Table there’s a space for notes, and you can enter it in there. Or you can call me and tell me before you show up. But we have to know.

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Hi, it’s my friend’s birthday and

we brought in a little something…”

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Onion Soup

People sometimes ask me how I come up with the dishes here and I hate that question. It’s the equivalent of asking an author where they get their ideas, forcing them either to be overly-cute (“A factory in upstate New York.” “I’m in the idea-of-the-month club.”) or vague (“They just come to me.”) neither of which is very satisfying for the person asking the question. But for the onion soup we just put on the menu, I know exactly how it got here. First off, I was fooling around and made the broth largely by accident. It was one of those, “I wonder if this’ll be disgusting and weird?” kind of experiments and the result, instead, was delicious and awesome. The broth is a deep caramel color with an intense smoky and sweet onion flavor I’d never had before.

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Then I was thinking about onion flowers, also known as blooming onions. Primarily found at Chili’s and Outback Steak House they’re giant vidalia onions cut in a weird pattern and then deep fried and served with a dip, like the mutant off-spring of an onion ring and an onion loaf. I love junk food and I was wondering if there was a way to take this concept (blooming onion) and do something more refined with it. And then I realized I could apply the blooming onion technique to tiny little pearl onions so you’d get more onion flavor but be less overwhelmed by fried breading. I originally wanted to serve the blooming pearl onions on a skewer and stuff them with cheese, but I couldn’t guarantee the shape of the onion every time it was fried and the cheese had a tendency to fall out. Plus, they wouldn’t sit right on the skewers.

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Outback Steakhouse’s blooming onion.

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Tofu Takedown

I don’t usually post links to other people’s events, but this one’s too good to pass up. This Sunday, May 10, the Highline Ballroom will witness the fury of the Tofu Takedown. It’s the city’s only full contact, competitive, tofu-based bloodsport. Not to be missed. (I’ll miss it, because Sunday is my day off and I’ll be sleeping, but you shouldn’t miss it.)

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Full info is up over here.


Googled!

So yesterday we were invited to be guest chefs at the Google cafeteria. This is kind of cool because I spend an awful lot of time on Google, it’s my homepage, and now it’s inviting me to over to cook? “Bye everyone! I’m going to the internet’s house to make it dinner!” This is also kind of not cool because prepping to make 400 portobello mousses and 400 crispy tofus is a lot of work for the three of us (myself, Danielle and Jesus). So this Tuesday, not only were we doing the normal prep for the restaurant that always starts the week, but we were prepping for the Google event and then again, Wednesday morning, we’re prepping like crazy for Google. Both days I wound up opening the restaurant an hour late because we just didn’t have enough time to get ready for dinner service.

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Imagine 12 more trays like this of tofu.

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Prepping this much tofu and mousse gets you into a state of tofu and mushroom zen where you’re just prepping, prepping, prepping and time and space collapse on themselves and your consciousness expands and then you look up and you still have 300 more plates to prep. But finally, Wednesday morning, we loaded ourselves and our tofu and our mushroom mousse in a cab and headed over to Google. What was it like? What did it look like? I have no idea. We were like those SWAT teams in movies that suddenly break in through the windows and yell “Go! Go! Go!” while running around in their black hoodies and bulletproof vests. All I saw was the kitchen and the stoves. Jesus decided that it was his job to keep us on track.

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“Look how big this kitchen is. We need GPS to find our way around!”

“Shut up and cook,” Jesus says.

“Look! It’s a giant picture of me on the wall. That’s weird but kind of cool.”

“Shut up,” Jesus says. “Make the mousse.”

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Racks of veggies waiting in the

Google kitchen for us to

turn them into green ragout.

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Notice the circled box of baby bok

choy. They will come back to haunt us later.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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