Olives have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years, long before the canning industry, grocery stores, and martinis came into play. But a few decades ago, your average American knew only a few varieties—some were green, some were black, some were pitted, and the best ones were pimento-stuffed...and that was that. Today, we dig a little deeper into the diverse and versatile world of olives.
How do you taste olive oil? What does extra-virgin really mean? What should you look for on a label? We tackle all of these questions and more with Eataly's resident oleologist, Nicholas Coleman.
Nowhere is better to bask in the wealth of handmade USA cheese than in Vermont, a true cheese-lover's paradise. It's the state with the highest number of artisanal cheesemakers per capita: over 40 of them. And many of them are making some decidedly fine cheese. I would suggest trying all artisanal Vermont cheese that you encounter, but to help narrow things down, here are some wonderful ones with which to begin.
Why do so many people say they hate goat cheese? Is it because they've been inundated with inferior, chalky grocery store goats? Is it the gamy funk? Is it the fault of the goat, the poor humble goat? Here are 7 goat cheeses that will change your mind.
Irish cheeses are defined by erratic weather and wild landscapes. With no rulebooks and a history of tiny farms doing their own thing, the Irish cheese landscape is one of small volume, seasonal products, and funky finds. This makes discovering Irish cheese a particularly rewarding endeavor for cheese lovers. Here are 6 farmstead cheeses to look out for.
Though I left Columbia and New York to work in restaurants in elsewhere, I've ended up right back near my old Columbia stomping grounds. Here are my old faves and some new loves for bagels, coffee, brunch, and some great comfort food.
A whiff and a bite of meaty, oozing Taleggio or a sweet, creamy Robiola is proof the French have no monopoly on cheese triumph. Here are some stellar, beloved Italian cheeses that ought to be part of your repertoire.
The French enjoy a lot of cheese. And more importantly, they are deeply connected to and proud of their cheese. As well they should be! They have a rich and storied cheese history, a deep-rooted culture of cheese, and more than a thousand cheeses in their lexicon. These are the nine you should absolutely know.
I remember when the Whole Foods opened in Baltimore when I was a kid. I wasn't so interested in the pricy, pretty peaches or the 365 brand cereals. But the free samples? I was sure interested in those.
Go crazy with creamy cubes of tofu, balsamicy chicken, avocado, sweet peppadew peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, crunchy sesame sticks, blue cheese—whatever your heart desires. And since my heart tends to desire everything, I usually end up with a giant, expensive salad.
Before a few weeks ago, I gave merchandizing about as much thought as bird watching (zero). Then I learned that merchandising is the art of staging a store to attract customers to specific products. And in grocery stores, where thousands and thousands of foodstuffs compete for attention, merchandizing is a big deal.
With the economy hurting, private label sales are booming. Why buy the big brand pancake mix when the store brand alternative costs half the price? Especially when the ingredient lists are virtually identical.
With my new apartment kitchen cabinets nearly empty and my heart clamoring to get busy in the kitchen, I know it's time to embark on some hardcore grocery shopping. I recently realized I had no staples besides a small box of what I had carted with me from my former home—some flaky Brittany fleur de sel, Valrhona cocoa powder, a canister of steel-cut oats, and a few stray bags of soba noodles. Here is my current shopping list.
Some days I am in jeans and sneaks running around the stores, hanging up signs on ladders and telling customers where the oatmeal is; or giving out umbrellas to VIPs and helping orchestrate a teen cook-off. No two days are alike. I get to do a lot of writing: waxing poetic about standing rib roasts, or Catalan olive oils, or Basque cheeses, or frozen veggie burgers.
We plot what we will eat next. We daydream about what we ate yesterday. We set our sites on the perfect ice cream cone, the ideal curry, the ramen to put all other ramen to shame. A great meal brings brightens us down to the soul, inspires us, elates us. And we delight in its details and myriad components—the shopping, the planning, the prepping, the cooking. The sights and smells and flavors; the conversation and nuance and joy and possibility.
It's often easy to see what a grocery store is all about the moment you walk through the doors. I remember my first time in Dean & Deluca as a bright-eyed, food-loving child. The beautiful, impeccable sculptures of perfect fruits in wicker baskets. The precise, long rows of fancy chocolates. You know what's on the other end—the "value" places with nary a bell and whistle, the supermarkets that are cheap.
This is my first grocery store opening, and I'm most awed by the scale. Even the larger restaurants where I've worked have been like families. Everyone knows each other and more than enough of each other's business. At my restaurant openings, the VIPs were friends of the owners, neighbors, perhaps a big deal chef around town. Here we're talking Mayor Bloomberg. It's a whole 'nother ballgame.
After three long years of writing about my restaurant endeavors in the Served column, that chapter is officially ended. For now, at least. Now there's something new. Grocery world. And I'm crowning myself Grocery Girl.
I am still without a job title, but I have a mission, a first project. I will be composing signs for our cool products and making sure the signs and the products get to live together for all the world to see. This seemed at first like a small task—until I saw the spreadsheets. We're talking thousands of products.
Starting, growing and owning a small supermarket chain is certainly infinitely more high stakes than working behind the cheese counter. But compared to waiting tables or cooking on the line, my cheese countering has been a sunny walk through the park. Here's why.
People are afraid of cheese. It's usually older customers who ask about low calorie, low fat, or low sodium cheese. My coworker is from Italy, and no amount of fat free cheddar-buying ladies can help him wrap his head around this "light" cheese phenomenon. "It doesn't make any sense. Cheese is fat," he ponders. "Fat free cheese is like meat-free beef!"
The routine is as follows: pack and process cheese, help customers decipher between Sbrinz and Tomme du Jura, find out for a distressed mom where we have sauerkraut ("but not in bags!!"), weigh out precisely 1.2 pounds of pot cheese for an ancient lady with a big smile, field calls from cheese wholesalers, nibble on caramelly Piave, dole out samples of Etorki, joke with guys at the deli counter next door.
The first staff meal I concocted: tuna burgers, wasabi mayo, leftover buttery buns, and a salad with every veggie I got my hands on. The waiters and cooks loved it, and I felt the glow of validation. I had arrived in the world.
"Try everything!" my fellow cheesemongers told me. "That way when people ask, you'll know." The best way to learn about cheese is to eat it. In fact, it's the only way. So after two weeks behind the cheese counter at my new job at a great NYC grocery store, I have a severe case of cheese belly.
The cheese manager threw me a white chef's jacket and a baseball cap emblazoned with the store's logo, and I got to work. I wrapped up buttons of ash-coated chevre in slick bundles of plastic, labeled and dated them, stacked them symmetrically on the shelves. I scooped up feta and feta brine and weighed out the packages. I built beautiful sculptures of goat gouda, and comte, and sheep's milk yogurt.
Add the creamy yolk of a gently poached egg to blanched and lightly charred young asparagus dressed in butter and soy—that's it. Hearty and salty in the best way, the kind of plate that makes it easy to think about becoming a seasonal vegetarian because, really, who needs steak when you have perfect asparagus and runny poached eggs?
I want us to be the best restaurant in Philadelphia. We already have the most stunning garden. My goal: best food and best service. Not best Farm to Table. Not best Fine Dining yet Casual Unpretentious Atmosphere with Molecular Touches. Just a really solid, wonderful restaurant that gets better every day. A place to come to on any given night, or to celebrate something special, and leave feeling really good. Is that possible. And if so, is that enough?
I blog by day and wait tables in a New York City restaurant by night. I'm excited to bring you Served, dispatches from the front of the house. Enjoy! D. was the effervescent wine director at an awesome restaurant nearby, and a regular at my place. A year ago, D. sat at the table by the cheese case, waiting for his girlfriend. He had just finished work and was bursting with energy. I, on the other hand, was fading fast. I poured him a glass of aglianico and we chatted. “Do you have Christmas Eve plans?” he inquired. I didn’t. Five minutes later, that had changed. Feast of the Seven Fishes The Feast of the Seven Fishes, also known as...