03/11/2009

homemade bagels

Homemade bagels and Aritisan baking at Fred’s Chicago


pizza by the meter

• Artisan Pizza •

Made from 100 % king Arthur Flour our dough is kneaded and Fermented in the true Neapolitan style. Our mozzarella is homemade and our tomato source imports directly from the san marzano valley.   The Olive oil is Monini made from 100 % Italian olives Spoleto Italy.pizza bianco alla roma


Trade Fossil Fuel for Human Fuel

03/09/2009

First appeared in Huffington Post

I’ve spent a lot of time this summer in beautiful, historic, depressed Sullivan County, New York, an area about 2 hours outside of New York City that’s better known as The Catskills. Except for the iconic 1969 cultural event that was Woodstock (actually held in Bethel, NY) the last heyday of this region was during it’s borschtbelt resort era: the 50’s and early 60’s (immortalized in the movie “Dirty Dancing”), when middle class New York families flocked there to the large hotels—The Concord, Grossingers, The Pines—for their summer vacations. Golfing for Dad, camp for the kids, cards for Mom. The towns of Sullivan County were thriving then. The big hotels and restaurants provided lots of jobs, and other local businesses did well too: dry cleaners, delis, bookstores.
The deregulation of the airline business in the 70’s ushered in the global economy we have today, and slowly killed the resort industry in Sullivan County. Suddenly it was affordable to travel to Europe, and in a jumbo jet it didn’t take all that much longer than driving north. The Main Streets of the towns all over Sullivan County slowly emptied and deteriorated.
We’re living with the effects of the global economy in more ways than one today. Look at the food on our tables. Here in New York, like everywhere else in America, our fruits and vegetables are flown in from all over: Florida, Texas, Mexico, California. They’re the products of globalized, corporate farming conglomerates that are accountable to Wall Street and their shareholders. These farming corporations are constantly finding new ways to produce abundant harvests faster and cheaper for better profits. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with profit. But corporate farms make their profits at a steep price.
For one thing, the growing methods of most corporate farms are not sustainable. Traditional, sustainable farming requires that crops be rotated from year to year, which enriches the soil but changes your yield (and hence your profits). Wall Street doesn’t like that kind of uncertainty, and so corporate farms use mono-cultural growing methods, which deplete the soil on a massive scale. In addition, the produce needs to be transported around the world, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels at a time when it’s clearly in our best interest to use less. So the cost of food has skyrocketed and food banks are running dangerously low. If that weren’t enough, throw in the salmonella that randomly contaminates our produce and is hard to trace because our food travels a path that leads all over the world. The fruit of NAFTA and globalization is, literally, poisoning us.
I look out the window at the rolling fields of Sullivan County and I see a solution. How about growing fruits and vegetables here in Sullivan County to supply the supermarkets, restaurants and schools of New York City? The price of gas is giving us the opportunity to begin a shift back to a local economy. Doing so would give us control of our own food supply, help us use less oil, and revitalize regions, like Sullivan County, which have lost local industries to a global marketplace.
A Wall Street day trader in the 90’s told me an axiom I’ll never forget: the market always gives you a second chance. Well, gas prices are giving us a second chance to evaluate our economy, our values, the very way we live. I say one solution is to grow our own crops, locally. Trade using fossil fuel for growing human fuel and in the process revitalize Main Street America


Artisan Pizza at Fred’s

03/09/2009

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  • img_04191

• Artisan Pizza •
Made from 100% King Arthur flour.  Our dough is kneaded and fermented in the true Neapolitian style.  Our mozzarella is homemade and our tomato sauce imports directly for the San Marzano valley.  The olive oil is Monini made from 100% Italian olives from Spoleto, Italy.

Margherita  $18
Mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil

Wise Guy  $21
Mozzarella, tomato and freshly ground hot and sweet sausage
and roasted peppers

La Bella Donna  $19
Sautéed mushrooms, roasted peppers, caramelized onions,
sautéed zucchini, mozzarella and tomato

Emilia Romagna  $24
Bianco mozzarella, Parmesan drizzled with 12 year-old Aceto Balsamico
Pizza of the year 2004 Naples, Italy

Prosciutto with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan Cheese  $21
Thinly sliced Parma ham, tomato, mozzarella and arugula

Maccelleria  $22
Mozzarella, tomato, soppresata, coppa and caramelized red onions

Robiola with Truffle Oil  $24
Ciro’s focaccia with Italian cream cheese and truffle oil

Focaccia Gene  $19
Italian tuna, arugula and sliced tomatoes with smoked mozzarella


Whole Food vs. Whole Foods

03/09/2009

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First appeared in Huffington Post.

Just out of curiosity, I typed “whole food” into my search engine the other day. I was careful to use lower case, no caps. I’m dyslexic, and I’ve depended on the fact that the postal system is always somehow able to deliver my mail, even when I’ve misspelled names, left off zip codes, and used my illegible handwriting. Using the internet requires a level of accuracy that’s really challenging for someone like me. One wrong letter on an e-mail and you get the dreaded “returned – address unknown”.
So I felt a little bamboozled when my search engine’s first responses for “whole food” were from Whole Foods, the national organic grocery chain. I did my part as a dyslexic member of society to type it correctly, and I was hoping something a little more generic would pop up first: perhaps the Wikipedia entry for “whole food”, which showed up much farther down the page. I guess commerce drives the car and Wikipedia “rides shotgun”, to borrow a phrase from my kids when they fight over who rides in the front passenger seat.
I don’t want to rag on Whole Foods. They definitely upped the ante with conventional supermarket chains, and we have them to thank for the fact that organic products are in most supermarkets these days. But Whole Foods is under fire at the moment for their globalization of the organic supermarket industry, and for the fact that, while they market themselves as an outlet for local farm produce, a lot of their produce comes from giant corporate organic farms in California and the rest of the world. The produce on their shelves burns as much fossil fuel getting to the store as anyone else’s, which raises the question of how much better than your local supermarket Whole Foods ultimately is. And it shows the increasing refinement of our dialog about responsible eating.
I personally favor the Wikipedia entry for “whole food”. According to them, “whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and refined, or processed and of course refined as little as possible before being consumed.” Wikipedia
goes on to specify that whole foods aren’t necessarily organic, but they share traits with organic foods, such as lack of chemically-assisted growing techniques and processing.
Green is the new black this season. Consuming foods that are sustainable, CSA-farmed or low-impact is in vogue, and for good reason. But I think that embracing the general concept of “whole food” is more important for the health and well-being of the average family than chasing whatever hot buzzword is currently floating around. There are simple things you can do, things that don’t require that you make a pilgrimage to a special organic market or attach an odometer to see how much mileage your produce has logged.
The Food Skinny suggests adopting a Whole Food Policy in your home. By that I mean, simply, that you do your best to make sure that all–or as much as humanly possible–of the food your family consumes is cooked from scratch and made from fresh ingredients, not processed items. Cooking your own food is the best way of knowing exactly what’s on your plate (and the best way to portion control!).
But a Whole Food Policy doesn’t mean you should never eat take-out or dine in a restaurant. Do a little neighborhood research and find merchants who cook the way you want to eat. If you don’t have time to make your own chocolate chip cookies from scratch, ask the owners of your local bakeries what’s in their products. You may be pleasantly surprised to find someone around the corner who’s baking wholesomely, without additives, corn syrup, or stabilizers.
When dining out, try to avoid chain or theme restaurants. Most don’t cook the way we do in my restaurants: using all fresh foods cooked to order. Many chain restaurant entrees are processed somewhere, frozen, and shipped to the franchises; they’re just finished on-site before they’re sent to your table.
As a part of your family’s Whole Food Policy, support your local merchants who cook from scratch with unprocessed, whole foods. If they go out of business, you’ll need to cook at home seven days a week. And that’s not very sustainable for the cook in the family!
The Food Skinny says that adopting a Whole Food Policy in your household by cooking as much as possible from scratch without processed foods, and supporting restaurants and bakeries who cook the same way, is a small, simple way to improve life and health for your family, and, ultimately, for the planet.


Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or You say Tomato, I say Salmonella

03/09/2009

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First appeared in the Huffington Post

It looks like the killer tomatoes got off easy. McDonald’s reinstated tomatoes on their menu over a week ago. Our cultural short attention span has kicked into gear; how quickly we forgive and forget. At my restaurants I actually do still have customers asking me why I have tomatoes on the menu. Since they’re organic, greenhouse heirloom tomatoes, and listed as such on the menu, I silently thank the hours I’ve spent in therapy and yoga, take a deep breath, and explain for the hundredth time today that those aren’t the tomatoes that can kill you.
But my customers are right to be concerned, and thank goodness a few people still are. We shouldn’t forget so easily, because then we’ll never get to the bottom of why we are being poisoned by our own food supply.
We shouldn’t be getting sick from eating healthy foods like tomatoes, or spinach, last year’s big scare (which, ironically, was announced the morning after my greens-hating youngest son was finally persuaded to try a spinach salad for the first time). Like the spinach incident, this year’s tomato scandal reads like science fiction. Twenty-three people in seventeen states have been hospitalized with salmonella food poisoning after eating raw tomatoes. The FDA is investigating and clearing states and countries. Seven of the people dined at the same fast food restaurant, which helps narrow it down just a little. The implicated vegetables are Roma tomatoes and “round” tomatoes (Um, the last time I checked all tomatoes were round.). At last report the FDA suspected that the killer tomatoes came from Florida or Mexico, which both have vast corporate farms. These farms grow food purely for profit, without much concern for the land. The idea is to grow as much as possible, as fast as possible; that’s not what true farming is about.
I do believe the FDA is doing the best it can to investigate this, and they have the brainpower and dedication to do it. Unfortunately, they don’t have the manpower, since their budget has been cut by the current administration, like every other non-defense government agency. The Bush administration must finally be realizing this; they requested an emergency $275 million dollar addition to the FDA budget for 2009. That must mean that even they are afraid the metaphorical levee is going to break. They’re right. It’s getting out of control. If our food supply is so vulnerable that we’re poisoning ourselves inadvertently, it’s not hard to imagine what a terrorist could do. One day, boom: “Atlanta (home of the Centers for Disease Control), we have a problem.”
Here’s an idea. Since we’re now being terrorized by produce, maybe the FDA should be funded by the Department of Homeland Security. Maybe then the FDA will have the resources to figure out how to keep our food supply safe and secure, and deal with the real issues that can turn a tomato into a killer.