As you may know, I love food, and I love to try new things. If I see a vegetable I’ve never heard of, I’m probably going to buy it, and I’m not a great cook because I keep experimenting with new recipes, never perfecting what I know (don’t worry, every recipe on this site has been made at least twice, (which might explain the delays between postings)). So in the spirit of adventure, here are a few food products I’ve recently discovered.
Found in the Syracuse area:
I had a really fantastic day today, full of culinary adventures with good friends. At Syracuse’s Italian Festival, I had a nice plate of calamari.
They weren’t frying to order, but instead of giving me a plate of sad, soggy, used-to-be-good food, they embraced the softness of the crust by adding soft, cooked, spicy red peppers and a delicious balsamic sauce, then lettuce for a crunchy textural contrast and to soak up the dressing.
And, if you haven’t been to the CNY regional market yet, you really have to go. It’s wonderful, and it runs all year. The produce is beautiful:
Including some sure signs that fall is here:
And there are some great, local, prepared products as well:
Meadowood farms in Cazenovia, NY makes an absolutely stellar sheep’s milk feta cheese—creamy without being too soft, crumbly without being too hard, and tasting amazingly fantastic. It’s won some awards from the American Cheese Society, and it absolutely deserves them.
Cheeky Monkey is a small business with a cult following in Syracuse. They make a spicy tomato garlic dipping oil (there’s a less tasty, less spicy version as well), which is essentially a chunky, oily dressing (emulsified with a bit of vinegar). It’s delicious, and adds a lot of flavor to sautéed vegetables (it was great with fennel, celery, onion, and scrambled eggs) or a quick sandwich (delicious with turkey, tomato and cheddar—bacon would have been welcome at that shindig, as well).
The Brooklyn Salsa Company’s products are a bit more widely available, and their Curry salsa is absurdly delicious. Granted, I’m a sucker for a well-balanced spicy curry and for coconut milk, but it is really good. Use it as you would any salsa (as a dip for chips, as a topping for some unusual pork and/or potato tacos) or mix it in with a dish—it was wonderful with some sautéed corn, tomatoes, onions, and ground lamb.
Found in Ohio, at most Krogers supermarkets, and scattered around the country:
On the trail, I met two good friends from Cincinnati (miss you Pixel! Miss you Chatter!) who turned me on to two amazing Cincinnati specialties:
Skyline Chili is pretty synonymous with Cincinnati, and it’s scrumptious. It’s available canned, and has a much different texture than the chili you’re probably used to. It’s more loose and liquid, like a normal chili that hasn’t been cooked long enough. However, the texture works great in a number of Cincinnati specialties—it’s closer in texture to a tomato sauce, so it works great on (hilariously named) pasta dishes, and it oozes together with lots of other fatty ingredients in one of the all-time great tailgating recipes. When I tasted it, I knew it reminded me of something, but couldn’t quite place it. Then, when I found a “copycat” recipe online, I realized that it reminded me of Rick Bayless’s life changingly good recipe for stuffed chilis, specifically the tomato broth spiced with cinnamon. The combination of tomato, cinnamon, and ground meat is central to both dishes, which both have wonderful complexity and depth of flavor.
Graeter’s Ice Cream is too good, it’s just too damn good. They still use the old small batch French Pot method of ice cream making, which makes for ridiculously creamy ice cream, and their ingredients are top notch, including a choclatier-quality milk chocolate which they pour into many of their ice creams as they are being spun, resulting in some huge shards of lovely, rich chocolate as well as little flecks in every bite. I would do some unspeakable things for a pint of Black Raspberry chip, right now.
Found in Syracuse and beyond:
Topher Lawton pointed me towards Lawry’s Seasoned salt. The primary flavors are onion and celery, which classically go with kinda everything. It was great in a burger, great on a toasted mozzarella and carrot sandwich, and turned microwave popcorn into greasy handfuls of heroin.
Biscoff Spread (a.k.a. Speculoos spread in Europe) looks like and has the texture of creamy peanut butter but tastes pretty much exactly like Graham crackers. Why are you still reading this. Get in the car, it’s at Wegmans. Great on toasted cinnamon raisin bread.
Dogfish Head makes some very, very good beers, some OK beers, and some pretty terrible beers. Punkin’ Ale is one of their best, and it’s only available in the fall. I saw it at the store and it was in my cart before I even had time to get excited. But, since then, I have gotten deliriously silly with excitement. Drink one and taste the leaves changing.