Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


San Francisco is for Nom Nom Nom

I'd been pretty convinced of New York's status as the finest food city in the States, but a few experiences last weekend have shaken that conviction a bit.

Out in San Francisco, I spent a fast-paced, food-focused weekend hosted by Foodbuzz, an online community of bloggers and food lovers.

Most of the activity was based around the Ferry Building, which is like a gastronomic Disneyland, especially on Saturdays when the farmers' market takes place there.

Mission Minis Cupcakes

So... what exactly does one do at a food blogging fest? I'd asked myself the same thing.

Apparently, you eat. A lot.


Foodbuzz set up a number of truly tasty events, from a gathering of top street food vendors (even now my mouth waters at the thought of the divine porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti) to talks and tastings by food producers (such as Sue Conley, a founder of Cowgirl Creamery) to a delicious closing-night dinner set up in the Greenleaf produce warehouse and set up by the talented folks at Outstanding in the Field.

In between the scheduled events, I met a lot of terrific people and enjoyed some of the culinary delights of the Bay Area. Some highlights:
My deepest thanks to Foodbuzz for putting together the wonder-filled event. Meanwhile, if you'd like a peek at the festivities (and all that tasty food) just click to find the photo tour here.

Miss Ginsu

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A (Modern) Jazz Age Cocktail

"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jazz Age Dancers

Say you find yourself standing on an uninhabited island among gaily costumed picnickers with a cocktail in your hand, a dance floor and orchestra before you, a pie contest to your left and the Dorothy Parker Society just behind you.

Pie Contest Here

Never fear. You're probably not dreaming or in a time warp. In fact, I'm guessing you're simply getting in on what more and more New Yorkers are doing this year — spending an afternoon on Governor's Island.

Spiffy Cars

In case you're unfamiliar with the place, my use of the word "uninhabited" isn't a typo. Governor's Island is officially a public park space, having been vacated by the Coast Guard after 1996. The park service folks clear out all visitors each night (which is a shame, because I'd move there in a heartbeat).

And what a public space it is... 172 lush, tree- and rolling grass-covered acres full of strange, abandoned apartment complexes, gorgeous Civil War-Era buildings, a fort (complete with cannons), and as of recently, an archaeological dig and a Water Taxi Beach.

But I digress. You were holding a cocktail and watching the flappers dance the Charleston, weren't you?

Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra put on periodic Jazz Age Lawn Parties on Governor's Island. Fun, no?

The one produced just today was also sponsored by St-Germain, makers of tasty elderflower liqueur with which one might, if so inclined, make mighty strong cocktails the likes of which you see in this photo.

St-Germain Cocktail

Now technically the Jazz Age took place during the era of US prohibition, but we all know there was still plenty of drinking going on. And, as it turns out, The St-Germain isn't terribly far off the classic Gin Rickey said to be favored by Fitzgerald — one of the most recognized spokesmen of the Jazz Age.

Anyway, I found it tasty, so I'll pass on the recipe to you, dear reader. (I'm sure the company won't mind. Corporate marketing departments are generally pretty happy about spontaneous viral exposure.)

The St-Germain
2 shots Champagne (or Sauvignon Blanc)
1 1/2 shots St-Germain Liqueur
Top with 2 shots soda water or sparkling water
Mix in a tall, ice-filled glass and garnish with a lemon twist

And by the way, if you're local and interested in zany events of this kind, Gov Island tweets, so it's easy to keep up with all the wonder and weirdness they have on offer.

To see more Jazz Age Lawn Party photos (including Michael Cumella's lovely gramophone) click here.

Miss Ginsu

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A Beautiful Bean Salad at the Brooklyn Food Conference

The call went out. And the foodies poured in.

The people who pickle and the people who vend kitchenware. The people who grow community gardens and the people who grow kombucha. The Slow Food people and the Just Food people. The vegans and the grass-fed meat vendors.

They came, they spoke and they distributed their recycled paper brochures.

Brooklyn Food Conference Expo

Disappointingly, the workshop I really wanted to attend (Permaculture: an introduction to ecological design systems fro sustainability) was stuffed to the walls with folks pouring out into the hallways of John Jay High School.

But the good news is, the lunch was delicious. The finest cafeteria food I've ever eaten in a high school cafeteria. (I realize that's faint praise, but it really is intended with the highest regard.)

Cafeteria Food at the Brooklyn Food Conference

Here you can see the tender mushroom quiche I couldn't keep my paws off (it was very much like the ones I make, actually) and the delightful bean salad. It had sauteed red onions and a savory sesame dressing. Simple and lovely, with a crunchy shout-out to spring.

You'll note that cafeteria serving tray is compostable sugar cane and the fork is fashioned of some kind of biodegradable corn plastic. Both went into the conference compost bins, although the napkin I used had to hit the trash can, for inexplicable reasons.

Though I can't share much of the food conference with you, I'll try to recreate that tasty salad for you here, dear reader. It seems like it'd be just the thing for a spring picnic: inexpensive to make and no worries of mayonnaise poisoning on a hot day.
Sesame Three-Bean Salad (Makes about 4 cups)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
1 cup fiddlehead ferns (or asparagus cut in 1" pieces)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 1/2 cups cooked beans (ideally, a mix of black, pinto and navy)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized skillet. Add the red onions and fiddlehead ferns (or asparagus, if using), and sauté, moving constantly in the pan for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Remove from heat.
2. In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce and vinegar. Whisk in sesame oil slowly to incorporate.
3. Mix the onion mixture with the beans and sliced tomatoes. Toss to coat with the sesame vinaigrette. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning with a little more soy sauce or cider vinegar, to your taste.
4. Allow the flavors to mellow for several hours in the fridge before serving.

Thanks to the Brooklyn Food Conference for sponsoring the event, and even more thanks to whomever cooked lunch. You, anonymous anonymous kitchen worker(s), made my day.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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Bee Sweet: A Bake Sale to Benefit Bees

What: A bake sale to benefit bee research (items containing honey encouraged!)
When: Earth Day: April 22, 2009
Where: At work, at school, out on the street
Who: You, perhaps? And anyone else who'd like to contribute.

Why: Thanks to dedicated research, honey bee populations seem to be on the mend, but the specter of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) still looms. Funding for more study will help our tiny pollinators thrive.

I'll be hosting a Bee Sweet bake sale at my office on Earth Day this year, with the benefits going to the UC Davis Honey Bee Research Facility.

I've also made a handy Bee Sweet graphic in case you'd like to join in and do your own bee benefit. Just click on the graphic below to get a printable PDF.

Bee Sweet
Click for the larger version.

This bake sale will also be a great opportunity to highlight honey as a star ingredient. I've found it's enormously popular for treats in Mediterranean cuisine, being the sweetener that happened to be on hand for hundreds of thousands of years.

Honey can be used in place of sugar in some recipes, but keep in mind: it's best to go conservatively at first, and the liquid in your recipe may need to be reduced. The National Honey Board has a few tips on usage.

I'll be posting a few honey-based goodies in upcoming days to get you thinking sweet thoughts, but in the meantime, here's a few honey treats from the archives:

  • Moist & Sticky Fig Cake
  • Honey Mead
  • Frybread
  • Hot Honey-Ginger Toddy
  • Sugarplums
  • Nutted Halvah

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

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  • 4.08.2009

    FoodLink Roundup: 09.8.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, Cupcake was checking out the annual International Pickle Festival on the Lower East Side in NYC. (If you're local, check it out next weekend!) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

    Where whale steak goes well with greens
    Save the whales? They're saving them for dinner.

    Will Cupcakes Be the Next Krispy Kreme?
    I just love the term "cupcake backlash."

    Harissa, mon amour
    "This is an ode to harissa. It's replaced my ketchup, my salsa picante, even (gasp) my Louisiana hot sauce." I could not agree more. Harissa rules.

    Budget Brown Bag
    The SanFran Gate gets some flack for their high-falutin' recipe ideas in the comments: "Nobody has both a tight budget AND so much leisure time as to make a child's lunch using 10-20 ingredients."

    20 fabulous European food festivals
    The Guardian tells you where to go... Pizzafest!

    New food links — and a new postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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    Tell me again why I'm here.

    terrible martinis
    Terrible martinis at the Time Out Eat Out Awards. Amaretto, vodka and lemon sour. Blorg. For the record, I really don't understand what's wrong with a standard olive-studded gin martini.

    Saxelby Cheesemongers
    Cheese Mongeress Anne Saxelby and the Saxelby Cheese Gang pose for their album cover.

    It's widely known that bloggers are the media's ugly stepchildren. Actually, it's worse than that. Bloggers are the stinky kids at the edge of the playground that the traditional media is eventually forced to select for their teams.

    Knowing this, I was (reasonably, I believe) torn about whether I should go to the Time Out New York Eat Out Awards last night.

    Good reasons against going: It's not really my thing. No plus one allowed. Not really dressed for cocktails. Knew I'd have to admit out loud that I, ahem, blog.

    Good reasons for going: Free drinks. A possibility of chef-spotting. Monday night.

    So yes. I sent in my RSVP. I printed my invite. And upon arriving, I went for my nametag. That's when I discovered I wasn't on the list. That's when it hit me: not only was I illegitimate media, I was illegitimate party-crashing media. Sad and sadder.

    After forcing me to spell out the name of my blog (rather more loudly than I would have preferred), they let me in (as a nametag-free pariah) and I was handed a drink. Well, kind of a drink. An exceedingly sweet martini that made me remember why I don't pay money for such beverages.

    The place was crammed with the NYC food industry... bar people, restaurant people, front of the house, back of the house. Made me wonder who was running the city's bars and restaurants until I remembered nobody goes out on Monday anyway.

    Feeling slightly ridiculous, like an underdressed interloper, I looked for someplace to ditch the "martini." The inner critic handed me twelve good reasons why I'd be better off at home. Just then, like a calming patch of blue sky in a sea of storm clouds, the crowd parted to reveal the good kids from Saxelby Cheesemongers in the Essex Street Market.

    And I knew I was safe. Why? Because people who care, deeply, about cheese, are also people who love the world's underdogs. They're the compassionate souls who would pick the stinky kids at the edge of the playground for their teams because they really, truly believe in the potential of those stinky kids.

    I know this about cheese people because cheeses are the food world's underdogs. They are funky, stinky, runny, barnyard-y, lumpy and sometimes covered in spotty molds. They're not pretty, shiny and colorful, like apples or immediately beguiling, like barbecue. Cheeses are not the popular kids. It takes a brave and loving soul to look beyond their surface textures. Truthfully, many cheeses need extra time and care to become exquisite. Not everyone has that kind of patience.

    Despite our earnest catcalls, Saxelby Cheesemongers didn't win the Reader's Choice Award for Best Cheese Shop. That honor went to Murray's. Again. The friendly folks at Against the Grain didn't win for Best New Bar, either. So after the show, the cheese losers, beer losers and one tag-along media outcast packed into cabs and sped away to Grape and Grain (the tiny, homey eatery next-door to AtG).

    We drank wine, we toasted each other and we ate, lavishly, by candlelight. We had a grand time. And at some point I realized the best reason of all to go to a food award night: It's a reminder that even in as large a city as New York, the community of dedicated food people is small and intertwined.

    As much as the restos, bars and food shops compete with each other, they also necessarily, support each other. Whether Murray's wins or Anne Saxelby wins, the community of cheese lovers grows. And I think that bodes well for all of us.

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    Fire, Sand & Wood-smoke

    Just in from WhiteTrashBBQ, it looks like there'll actually be something yummy-smelling on the East River (for once).

    If you happen to have some extra cash weighing you down, this actually looks tasty and educational — not to mention nice work for a non-profit and all that...
    We'd like to invite you to The Baron's School of Pitmasters! A first for New York City and a benefit for St. Mark Sports Association, sponsored by R.U.B. Restaurant.

    Paul Kirk, the legendary Baron of Barbecue, co-owner of NYC's R.U.B. Restaurant, Barbecue Guru, etc., etc., is coming to New York City to teach the Baron's School of Pitmasters.

    When: Saturday October 21, 2006 - Rain or Shine.
    Where: The Water Taxi Beach, 2nd Street and Borden Ave, Hunter's Point, Long Island City, Queens, New York.
    The What and The Why: This class is suited for the back yard BBQ enthusiast, the seasoned competitor, or those considering opening a BBQ joint (restaurant). The Baron will cover the basics of BBQing Brisket, Pork Butt, Pork Ribs, Chicken, and Sausage. He will also cover fire management, fuels, BBQ rubs and spices, BBQ sauce, contest presentation, among many other subjects.
    How much: $250 per person - CLASS IS LIMITED TO 40 ATTENDEES.
    What do I need to bring: You bring your cooker, fuel, cooking utensils and whatever you'd need to cook outdoors. We supply the rest. (Meat, spices, rubs, etc.)
    How do I get into school: Contact Robert Fernandez aka WhiteTrashBBQ or Matt Fisher aka The Hampton Smoker.

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    If I only had a brine...

    Happy Pickle Day
    Happy Pickle Day from missginsu's photos at flickr

    Pickle history
    Pickle history from missginsu's photos at flickr

    Lineup for Pickles
    Lineup for Pickles at Guss' from missginsu's photos at flickr

    Why is it that we nationally celebrate Christopher Columbus (a man generally acknowledged as a less-than-stellar individual), and not the pickle?

    I’m wondering, of course, because yesterday was International Pickle Day on the Lower East Side. People enjoyed informational displays, samples, cucumber-green balloons for the kids. It’s an annual celebration of all things pickled. Bread & Butters. Kim Chi. Chutneys. Sauerkraut. Oshinko. The good old kosher dill. How great is that?

    Pickling is one of the oldest known methods of food preservation. Pickles have sustained and enriched people’s lives across the globe for a few thousand years. They kept folks alive on long voyages. They offered something vegetal during those long, cold winter months on the plains. They dress up salads. They brighten sushi. They’ve made the Chicago Dog a stunning ballpark snack. Do they have a big day of observance and celebration? Of course not. Pickles get a sunny afternoon on a single city block.

    Columbus has parks, schools, streets, expensive statuary and a national bank holiday. As far as I know, Columbus was simply a sea-faring prospector. He reported back to the Spanish royal court about a continent that all kinds of people already knew pretty well, while simultaneously delivering disease and slavery to the people he “discovered.”

    What about public displays of pickle pride? I'm all for endorsing Pickle High School, Kim Chi Circle and West Gherkin Boulevard.

    Am I saying there’s direct correspondence between old Chris having a day of celebration and a sad underrepresentation in food preservation? Nope. Just want to point out the inherent lack of consistency at work in our government-sponsored observances. Why shouldn’t we link national celebrations to values that are thoroughly worthy of celebration? I also think Election Day should be a holiday, but that’s a topic for another post…

    You’ll never know whether one of your great forbearers was fed and nourished with pickles, but it’s likely. You may, indeed, owe your existence in some small part, to pickles.

    Pickles save lives.* Pickling evokes the technology of our ancestors. It represents thrift and good planning. And a jar of pickles humbly, eloquently symbolizes the concept of hope. Think about that the next time you twist the top on a fresh jar of pickles and hear the peppy pop. That’s the tiny, briny bang of pickled preservation... a noise I can't help but feel is worthy of pomp and fireworks.

    * As an added bonus, having recently watched a very silly customer service video at work, I can assure you that pickles not only save lives, they also inspire people to treat each other with common decency (a value that, sadly, may not be not all that common.) Go on… Give ‘em the pickle.

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    Ladies & Gentlemen, the BBQ will be televised...

    Oh yes, my friends... it's that time of year again.

    Here's my tips for surviving the 3rd annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party in NYC this weekend.

    The Susquehanna Tool & Die Company sweat in their costumes before hitting the stage.

    Don McLemore (Big Bob Gibson's grandson) slings smoky piles of pig at their mobile pit. McLemore, his wife, Caroline, and their son-in-law, Chris Lilly, have braved this madhouse event three years running.

    Eleven Madison provides chocolate-chocolate cupcakes with cow and pig sprinkles.

    Early attendees scarf down swine samples on the wing.

    1. Show up before it begins at noon. By the time the dinner bell rings, you'd better be in line. With cash. (There's always that $100 Bubba Fast Pass for those who have money to burn, of course... and if you happen to know any of those people, please be a doll and send 'em my way.)

    2. If you'd like to sample multiple 'cues (seize the day, people!), divide and conquer. Send someone out to each pit you want to taste. Have 'em buy multiple boxes.

    3. Bring your own bottle of soda or water (or, hey! lemonade!) in your bag. No sense in paying a premium price and then having to carry it around. You'll need your hands for barbeque.

    4. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.

    5. Bring a blanket and stake out a spot in the shade on the lawn. From there, you can listen to music, revel in your superior attack plan and pity all the poor, sweaty masses queued up for 'cue.

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

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