April 27, 2014

Navigating a Sea of Print at the Food Book Fair

Yesterday I made a trip to Williamsburg for the Food Book Fair. I only had time for one of the many enticing events on the menu, so I chose an event called Foodieodicals (no comment on name choice!), which took place in a basement room of the Wythe Hotel.

Who knew so many people, ranging from indie entrepreneurs from Scandinavia to hipsters from Rochester were creating food-related texts? There were gorgeous magazines on food and art, food and music, food and farming, food and women, you get the picture. It was enough to boggle the the mind, even one that has been covering small-batch, sustainable, locavore and artisanal food for a while now. Here is a pretty random list of some of my favorite people and publications:

Norwegian illustrator and coffee aficionado Lars K. Hulse (now based in London) created a cheeky guide called A-Z Coffee: A Kickstarter for Geeky Coffee Conversationsformed the design company Kaffikaze (stated goal: to spread "Extreme Coffee Enthusiasm) and brought with him an illustrated skateboard and many whimsical illustration. And he didn't even seem over-caffeinated; he was the picture of calm amid the crazy crush of writers, photographers, editors and publishers.

I flipped through an issue of Chickpea magazine, a quarterly published by Rochester residents Cara Livermore and Bob Lawton, which promotes a "whole-foods, plant-based way of life." In addition to being lovingly designed and featuring recipes for dishes like vegan raspberry chocolate chunk buckwheat bundt cake, I was floored to find an article by Mar Calpena on calçots in the Spring 2014 issue. Most people, Livermore told me, have never heard of these Spanish spring onions, which are treated with cult-like reverence in Catalonia when they emerge from the ground every year. The amazing thing is that I had just written about them in this Walking and Talking post. Weird, huh? The universe (that is, the one that Chickpea and I inhabit) is having a calçots moment. You can view the calçots article, and the entire issue, here.

On my way out, I spied a publication called The Runcible Spoon, described as "a zine about food and fantasy." The Runcible reps for some reason thought I would enjoy an edition called "The Cheap Issue," though it didn't seem like a particularly ripe area for fantasy. But they were right. I loved entries like this one by Becky Lettenberger about soup as a great source of cheap eating. Here's the recipe for cheap soup for college students: "Cook some ramen you stole from your roommate as directed, add a can of whatever beer you have available, fill a shot glass with the mixture and top with crushed potato chips. Chase with a swig of Barton's vodka. Repeat as necessary." That's resourceful college living!

April 3, 2014

At Barcelona's Llamber, Savoring Spring Green Onions

Ensconced in the back room of Llamber, a fine "gastronomic" tapas restaurant in the Born district of Barcelona, we made short work of these delicious grilled green spring onions. A meatier version of our scallions, they're known as calçots and are mild, sweet and so good.

The calçots from a certain region of Catalonia are so revered that they bear the label of EU Geographic Indication, bestowed on products that are unique to a region and pregnant with terroir. Their annual harvest sparks a celebration known as calçotadas, which involves throwing a bunch of calçots on an outdoor grill with big hunks of meat. The onions are grilled until they turn back, at which point lusty diners rip off the outer leaves, hold them by the stems, sweep them through the grainy romesco sauce that accompanies them, and devour them from the bottom up.

Scattered with sea salt and eaten with thick slices of grilled meat, you have the best family outing possible within a 30-minute drive from Barcelona. The hostel-type mountain houses that hold calçotadas grill all year, round, our server told us, but the biggest season is when the calçots are newly picked and you can eat at outdoor stone tables, drink a full-bodied Tempranillo or sparkling cava and feel glad to be alive. Worth planning a trip to Barcelona around, I'd say!