The Vertical Farm

A glimpse into the future?

I just finished what may have been the most exciting book I’ve ever read: The Vertical Farm by Dr. Dickson Despommier.  Not a thriller – not even fiction –  it’s the future of agriculture.

And it’s mind-blowing.

You may be wondering how a topic as dry as agriculture could make for such a great read.  The answer’s pretty simple: whether we know it or not, with regards to our natural environment, humanity has always been the conductor of a runaway train.  While we’ve been off track since the beginning, the point of impact is in view and coming up fast.  But even on the eve of disaster, vertical farms may be the way to solve all of our environmental crises in one fell swoop.  It sounds almost too good to be true, but Despommier’s ideas come off as air tight and clear as day.

I know almost none of you will end up reading this book, but trust me you should know the information because it’s about to change the world.  After the jump are my quick and dirty book report and a video on the subject by the author.  Check them out – it’s important.  Continue reading


The Beer List: What is an American Ale?

Look at this week’s Beer List and you’ll see quite a few domestic styles.  American Pale Ale, American Red Ale, American Brown Ale, American Strong Ale – there’s a little of everything on there.  Still, despite the beers’ common lineage, I didn’t sense any distinguishable motif.  No one element tied them all together.  It was sort of sad – in the wake of the colorful diversity of Belgian ales, “American” seemed to be more of an empty modifier than a meaningful distinction.

That is, until Christmas Eve.  That’s when I very unceremoniously cracked open a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with dinner.  Expecting a nice reliable standard, what I found was a window into the meaning of the American Ale.   Continue reading

Holiday Cocktail: the ‘Phireside Fizz

Thought I’d share the holiday cocktail I’ve been making at work.  Making the cranberry juice is a little involved, but it’s worth it if you’re looking to make something special.

The 'Phireside Fizz

Cranberry Ginger Juice

  • 2 bags of fresh cranberries (12 oz each)
  • 1 cup diced ginger
  • about 2 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 4 cups water (3 initially and 1 for the fennel)
  • 1.5 cups sugar

Put the water, cranberries, and ginger in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Dice and blend the fennel bulb along with the cup of water and add the resulting puree to the pot.  When the cranberries begin to break down, add the rosemary.  Keep cooking until the cranberries are almost completely broken down.  Then take the mixture and strain it.  Stir the sugar into the strained juice and cool.

The ‘Phireside Fizz

  • 3 oz cranberry juice
  • 1.25 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 1 oz of dry prosecco

Shake the cranberry juice and gin with ice (or chill both before and combine).  Pour the prosecco in a flute and top with the cranberry/gin mixture.  For garnish, I fasten a cranberry with a sprig a rosemary to the rim of the glass.  Enjoy the drink at home, or visit me at Stuzzichini to try it out!

The Beer List: Belgium, the Land of Opportunity

belgian beer

The size of Vermont, it's basically the world capital of beer.

Remember learning about German beers?  About the strict laws of the Reinheitsgebot and the general refusal to deviate from classic styles?  Belgian beer is pretty much the exact opposite.  Think of it as Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – imagination is paramount and nothing’s off the table.

Because of the creativity of Belgian brewers, it’s hard to pin down distinct elements about the beer.  But for the most part, here’s a quick and dirty fact list:

Belgians at a Glance

  • The particular yeasts used are very important and impart distinct Belgian flavors – often spicy and fruity.
  • In addition to the classic ingredients (malt, hops, water, and yeast) plenty more is thrown into the mash.  Fruit, herbs, spices, other grains, and “the unknown” are all fair game.
  • In general, Belgian beers aren’t that bitter.  Hops are used to support flavor profiles, not to create them.
  • Sourness is showcased in many styles, unlike beer from most other countries.
  • They’re really made to be enjoyed as and with good food.

Bacteria welcome!

A classic example of the carefree imagination of Belgians is the Lambic.  To make true lambics, brewers leave the lid of the mash pot open (normally it’s sealed tight to protect the beer) and literally give any bacteria floating in the air an open invitation to jump in.  The result is funky, sour, and a little different every time.  The complete opposite of German lagers, and a very refreshing spin on things.

This week, I had a few fantastic Belgians that really showcased the style. Check them out after the jump.  Continue reading

My Failed Experiment: Partridge in a Pear Treacle

Two weeks ago – the same day I ate dried bugs – I stumbled upon another of Chinatown’s grotesque oddities: fresh partridge.  (Fresh, of course, meaning dead and for sale.)  I’d never seen partridge eaten before, and I’d certainly never thought of having one myself.  But with Christmas around the corner, the thought of turning the birds into a meal was inescapably appealing.  Obviously it would have be served in a pear *something*, but what would that *something* be?  Partridge in a Pear Demiglaze?  Partridge in a Pear Tortilla?  After much googling, the answer became clear: Partridge in a Pear Treacle.

Treacle, I learned, is basically British molasses. All I’d have to do is prepare a treacle/pear sauce and douse the birds in it before roasting.  Simple.

Or so I thought.  Continue reading

The Best Bread I’ve Ever Had

The Cranberry Pecan Sourdough

… is the Cranberry Pecan Sourdough from Our Daily Bread.  It’s a sweeping generalization, but I seriously can’t think of anything that tops it.  The sourdough is nice and flavorful – a little sweet, a little tart, a little nutty –  crackly on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside.  It’s great toasted, as a sandwich, for French toast, or as is.  To put it bluntly, the ish is delish.

Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread at the USFM

Our Daily Bread is a little café/bakery located about 3 hours north of Manhattan, in Chatham, NY.  But no worries – if you live in the city you can get their stuff at the Union Square Farmers Market.  So far, I’ve only had their Cranberry Pecan Sourdough (we’ll call it the Cran ‘Can Sour, for short) but there’s a lot that looks good.  If you’re at all able, try these guys out.  Trust me – it’s that good.

Also, after the jump is a tasty sandwich idea using the sourdough.  I’ve had it every day this week.  Continue reading