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Meghan Turbitt’s new comic book, #FoodPorn, takes a love of food to the extreme
Eat your, er, heart out.
The most graphic page of Meghan Turbitt’s new comic book, #FoodPorn, has the 30-year-old redhead arrayed on a counter at Sushi Tatsu 2 in Brooklyn with edibles covering all the risky parts — so it's not too risky. Turbitt says she was inspired to ink the 32-page comic by dining experiences around her neighborhood. So she does.
A rather unsavory pizza-tosser at Rosco’s on Franklin Avenue becomes more attractive moment by moment as the gorgeous pie he’s constructing moves closer to her climactic devouring of it.
Less savory — but funny — is her memory of the name her mother used to call the plastic bins of corned beef hash at the diner the family owned in Warwick, R.I. “She used to call it her ‘Jeffrey,’” Turbitt told me when I interviewed her for my podcast New Books in Food “She kept it in these huge plastic bins like Jeffrey Dahmer did with dead bodies.”
Turbitt uses comics to do what the medium can do better than nearly any other: allow the creator to follow his or her id to its absolute expression. Diners are a tough business. Gallows humor is to be expected. And a childhood of eating Jeffrey seems an ideal way to spawn a comic book author. "I love corned beef hash," Turbitt laughed.
In Brooklyn’s Kosher Pizza War, Modern Tastes Battle Ancient Law
In a city as pizza-crazed as New York, pizza wars erupt with some regularity, from dollar slice joints battling for customers in Manhattan to a Mafia-tinted dispute over a stolen sauce recipe between a pizza shop in Brooklyn and another on Staten Island.
But perhaps nothing compares to a kosher pizza war, pitting 21st-century foodie-ism against the decidedly 19th-century world of an insular Hasidic neighborhood.
Two pizza restaurant owners, both Orthodox Jews, have become entangled in an only-in-Brooklyn lawsuit, not in an august courthouse, but in an obscure hall of justice known as the Rabbinical Court of Borough Park, which hears cases in a simple room above a synagogue on a residential block.
At the center of the battle are not prices or sauce recipes, but cryptic interpretations of holy law set down in ancient Aramaic thousands of years ago. Both sides have invoked rules dictated by the Torah and the Talmud, as well as a cookbook’s worth of interpretations of kosher rules and certification standards.
Armed with their arguments, the two pizza sellers appeared last month in rabbinical court, known as a beth din. There, things proceeded like a Hasidic People’s Court, with the judges — three rabbis — dressed in traditional all-black garb, facing the litigants.
At one table, the plaintiff: Daniel Branover, an owner of Basil Pizza & Wine Bar, a popular upscale kosher restaurant in Crown Heights that opened in 2010 and offers specialty pies as a menu staple.
At another table, the defendant: Shemi Harel, who this month opened Calabria, a pizza shop directly across the street from Basil.
With its graffiti-style décor and casual, pay-at-the-counter dining, Calabria is very different from sleek, modern Basil, where weekend diners often wait two hours for a table.
But it was Calabria’s menu that set off alarms for Mr. Branover, whose customers pay as much as $24 for individual pies.
Mr. Branover took one look and saw a threat to his thin-crust, sauce-laden business plan: Calabria was offering a similar product at a lower price, mere steps away.
“I just couldn’t look the other way,” Mr. Branover said. “He didn’t want his customers. He wanted my customers.”
While some may see this as mere capitalism, Mr. Branover considered it a violation of Talmudic law on unfair competition by a new nearby business — in Hebrew, hasagat gevul.
So he sued in rabbinical court, claiming a case of “one business hurting the livelihood of another business.”
Mr. Branover said he had helped transform dining in the neighborhood by opening Basil, where Hasidim, local Caribbean immigrants and newly arrived professionals could mix over good kosher food. Now here was this upstart interloper encroaching on his business.
“They did everything that was against Jewish code, and that’s the reason I went after them,” said Mr. Branover, whose partner at Basil, Clara Perez, said that Calabria’s owners had stealthily debriefed employees about Basil’s most popular pizzas and how to make them. She also accused Calabria’s owners of poaching customers while they waited outside for Basil’s tables to clear.
Mr. Harel dismissed the accusations as nonsense, saying that his restaurant’s look, menu and pizza were clearly quite different from Basil’s.
The case provides a window into a merchants’ dispute rarely heard in rabbinical courts, vestiges of a religious legal system established in ancient times and prevalent today in Orthodox communities as an alternative to the civil court system.
Beth dins are better known for mediating and adjudicating religious bills of divorce, kosher certifications and conversions to Judaism. But on occasion, they also rule on more enigmatic points of Jewish law, such as claims of ruinous competition.
In 2006, a State Supreme Court ruling upheld a rabbinical court decision blocking one Hasidic-owned bus company from copying another’s route schedule from New York to Washington. And in 1993, a group of kosher restaurants in Teaneck, N.J., asked a rabbinical court to stop a nearby restaurant from expanding and stealing its customers.
The pizza ruling was issued in mere days, in Hebrew, with certain citations of the Torah and the Talmud in ancient Aramaic.
The rabbis sided largely with Mr. Branover, finding that Calabria was so close both geographically and in food style that it jeopardized Basil’s livelihood. Calabria was told to switch to offering “regular pizza,” which the court defined as “New York-style pizza,” though it did not provide any further guidance.
Since the ruling, however, the case has fallen into a murky divide between ancient Talmudic law and the conventions of a classic New York slice.
To Mr. Branover, the ruling means Calabria must stick to basic pizza parlor rules: round pies, sliced into wedges.
Mr. Harel called the ruling unfair and mystifying. He said it would hinder his pursuit of the top kosher certification, critical to attracting customers.
To follow the court’s New York-style pizza edict, Mr. Harel said, he searched online for the best dough recipe that fit the bill. He quickly revised Calabria’s website to call its pizza “New York-style.”
But he continued to sell rectangular slices.
Mr. Branover accused Calabria of making nominal changes in a cynical attempt to flout the ruling. He is prepared, he said, to file a civil suit, using the rabbis’ ruling as leverage.
Mr. Harel said Calabria was a family business that cost “in the high six figures” to open and had required a sizable loan. Mr. Branover said that of his annual gross sales of roughly $3 million, pizza sales accounted for roughly $50,000 a month, but that pizza was his biggest attraction for customers.
In an interview, the rabbis who heard the pizza case said they had considered Calabria’s location, as well as Mr. Branover’s substantial investment in his restaurant and the reputation it had won.
While Jewish law does not oppose competition as a rule, “there were exceptional circumstances unique to this case, including the similarities in appearance and concept” in pizza offerings, said Rabbi Reuven Alt, the senior member of the Borough Park panel.
Like many rabbinical courts, the Borough Park panel is set up like a simple civil courtroom, akin to a traffic court in that it has no gallery, bailiffs or court reporter.
Cases have plaintiffs and defendants, and proceed in Hebrew, with witnesses, evidence presentations, questions from the rabbis and cross-examinations.
In the pizza case, the rabbis took the unusual step of visiting the restaurants, using an Uber car to drive them there.
“These are not people who hang around restaurants, but they got into the nuances of the different ovens and atmosphere,” Mr. Branover said. “They really did their homework.”
Mr. Harel said that Jewish law regarding competition applied only to merchants in the same profession. This case is different, he said, because Mr. Branover owns a profitable energy management company, Satec.
“It’s not his business it’s his hobby,” said Mr. Harel, 28. He called Mr. Branover a wealthy man “who got his ego hurt, and I’m a young man doing the only thing I know how to do.”
Mr. Branover said, “It doesn’t matter how much money I have the law applies to the business, not the businessman.”
Calabria, Mr. Harel said, has become a hit with customers because of things no one could contest in any court.
“The place is clean, and service is superb, and the ingredients are the freshest,” he said. “Nobody has a patent on that.”
Crown Heights, Brooklyn's Dining Scene Inspires Comic Book - Recipes
Stylist and author LaTonya Yvette lives with her daughter, River, 7, and son, Oak, 4, in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. She moved there while she was separating from her husband, and found that the secret to creating a comfortable home was to surround herself with things that had connection and meaning. (And to surround herself with a community of friends and family who seem to know exactly what she needs exactly when she needs it.) Here’s a peek inside…
Pendant lamp: Ikea. Sofa: Article. Floor lamp: World Market. Gold tables: vintage.
On inheriting the apartment: My friend Karyn used to live here, and when told me she was buying another house, she was like, ‘I need you at this apartment.’ We are both stylists, we had always connected on motherhood, we both have this kind of bear-clawy relationship around home, and the way that it needs to feel for our families. My husband and I were starting the process of separating, and Karyn knew deeply in her body that I needed a new space.
On Billie Holliday: I got the print at the Goodwill on Fulton Street. I am a huge Billie Holiday fan. If Oak had been girl, his name would have been Billie. While I love her voice and range, what I find really thrilling are her songs that can be read as a political act.
On being single: There are many nights when I’m nodding off on the couch and I’m like, ‘I could just sleep here.’ Then I think, it is my apartment, and no one is asking, ‘What time are you coming to bed?’ Being alone now is scary but also liberating. I’m happy my children got to see me choose what was best for everyone even when it was an uncomfortable choice.
“Feelings” print: Limited edition by Timothy Goodman, purchased at Tictail.
On having a dedicated space: When I started writing my book, Woman of Color, my friend was like, you need a desk. And then she found this one for me on Craigslist. I loved it, and it helped me write the rest of the book. When my marriage was ending, people showed up in ways that I hadn’t expected. They push you to the other side of whatever you’re going through and then you do the same for them.
On a family photo as artwork: I got this photo of us blown up with Framebridge. I like that it looks like a piece of art of New York City. This is 100% our real life. We are on the subway twice a day. You’d think the kids would be bored by now, but they still love it. They’re like wild animals crawling on me while waiting for the train.
Pendant lamp: Ikea. Table: West Elm. Orange chairs: West Elm. Rug: vintage.
On mix-and-match chairs: In my apartment (and this goes for my clothes, too), I like there to be a sense of off-ness. In my old apartment, we had matching dining chairs, and I was so bored. Even if things are simple, they can still be a tiny bit weird. The blue settee was from a neighbor who was moving. I was like, This is weird. I love it.
On entertaining: Our parties are always impromptu and they’re always potlucks, and there are usually like 10 people and 15 children. I’ll make a salad or cheese spread, and my rule for guests is, ‘Bring a bottle or a plate.’ That’s the easiest way to entertain. We always end up having too much wine and lots of food.
On open houses: What I need, what I need my kids to be raised around, is safe. It’s safe for them to share. It’s safe for them to grow. It’s safe for them to be. I enjoy having people over, and I think a lot of that has to do with a safe space mentality, making a home where people feel comfortable and respected. We do ‘Open House Sundays.’ I’ll tell people my doors will be open from this time to this time so just come! I love having a space for people to have fun and throw it down.
On radios: My grandmother lived on Classon Ave in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She had a tiny little apartment, and the radio was always on and usually tuned into Old Heaven 1580 or whatever the old Christian radio was. I love having a radio at home. The yellow dresser was from a neighbor who was moving, the same one who gave me the settee.
On a morning routine: Every morning, I burn palo santo in every room. It’s my ritual. I turn on music and brew coffee and burn the palo santo. The coffee and palo santo smells together are amazing. Since I wake up super early to work, I try to create an atmosphere that’s especially for me.
On small spaces: I was like, ‘How do you design a bathroom?’ You just get a weird shower curtain that’s cool and easy to clean. That’s it!
On showing up: Oak was born with a ventricle defect, and last year he had to have surgery that required him to stay home and rest for a month. My mom moved in with us for that month. She noticed that the wallpaper was starting to peel and one day was like, ‘Well, if you go get the paste I will redo the wallpaper.’ And she did. It was a beautiful thing. It makes me emotional because hanging wallpaper is very simple, but it was a way of taking care of me. I just think it’s important for people to show up in the ways that they can. It means a lot.
On writing letters to kids: When I was a kid, my mom used to write us cards as a treat. For me, even though I see my kids all the time, I’m always wondering, ‘Is there is something I’m not saying? Is there something I’m missing?’ So a letter is about filling these spaces, letting them know that I’m still thinking about them even if I’m not saying it. Or it’s about praising them. Or just saying I noticed that you did this, or I know you might be nervous about that, or thank you for being a great big sister to your little brother — just acknowledging something that I may not acknowledge on a day-to-day level.
On a pink bedroom: I had a pink bedroom for my entire childhood, so when I moved here and became single, I looked around the room and was like, ‘Yes, pink! You could paint the whole apartment pink, and no one’s going to say no!’
On dressing: I love getting dressed for myself. When I don’t dress up, that’s when my kids start questioning. I remember once when I didn’t dress up for like two days in a row, my son was like, ‘Are you happy, Mama?’ He was just checking in to make sure I was okay.
On sharing a room: I know eventually River and Oak will want their own space but right now they love sharing. It’s cute because sometimes they’ll say don’t love it, but any time one of them is in my bed, the other one will be like, ‘I want you to come back!’
On the bedroom theme: I like to think of them falling asleep in a peaceful forest every night. The lamp shines stars on the ceiling when it’s dark, and the blankets are naturally dyed with turmeric and flowers. Oak has a zebra over his bed, and River has a unicorn. My friend Jenna painted the mural in honor of the kids — you’ll notice it’s a river surrounding an oak tree.
Blue storage bins: Ikea. Circle mirror: Ikea, similar.
On bedtime reading: River has been really into the Addy American Girl series that her grandparents gave her. She’ll stay up and read. After cuddling them, I usually end up falling asleep in one of their beds.
On life right now: When I first started out on my own at 18, it was a struggle… then a door would open. A struggle, a struggle, a struggle… then a door would open. There was a part of me that was like, you have to put your head down and just do it. Now I have a backyard, and it’s so nice to crack open the kitchen door and let the kids free. They have scooters and bikes and draw with chalk. Sometimes I look back and think, Wait, we’re really here and this is our apartment. It’s insane.
Thank you LaTonya! LaTonya’s book, Woman of Color is available for pre-order. We can’t wait to read it.
Love, Nelly is a new bakery with Colombian-inspired sweets
The new business comes from the team behind Butter & Scotch bakery in Crown Heights.
By Emma Orlow Posted: Tuesday July 21 2020 , 4:25 PM
The team behind Butter & Scotch, the beloved Crown Heights bakery and bar (often known for its birthday cakes with feminist slogans) is expanding for the first time with a new sister concept elsewhere in Brooklyn.
The new bakery is called Love, Nelly and opens tomorrow at 53 Rockaway Avenue with a focus primarily on Colombian-inspired sweets. In addition, it will be home to an expanded production kitchen to support Butter & Scotch's made-to-order cakes, allowing the team to have more space than the Franklin Avenue spot affords.
The business is co-run by Keavy Landreth and Stephanie Gallardo . Gallardo&mdashwho, over the years, worked her way up through the Butter & Scotch kitchen taking on various roles&mdashgrew up in Kew Gardens, Queens, and the bakery&rsquos name is a nod to her mother, Nelly, whose recipes inspired many of the creations. &ldquo She was very excited, it&rsquos very sweet. It&rsquos also what makes it a bit more personable,&rdquo says Gallardo of the bakery&rsquos namesake and the drive to open her first spot of her own ( in addition to working at Butter & Scotch, she honed her pastry skills at places like A Voce under Missy Robbins, Poppy&rsquos bakery and Café Grumpy, among many others) . Growing up, her father worked in construction and helped build out restaurants in the area, allowing her to get a unique behind-the-scenes vantage point of the industry.
Inside Love, Nelly you&rsquoll find empanadas such as ones made with beef (seasoned ground beef, mixed with olives, eggs, and raisins fried in a traditional flour dough), chicken (chicken mixed with fresh corn, rice, tomato, and tons of cilantro in a fried cornmeal dough), or cheese (plantains, queso fresco, sweet guava paste baked together in a traditional flour dough) as well as other grab &lsquon go snacks such as Trinidadian doubles and cheddar cheese, sausage and jalapeño kolache (a nod to Gallardo&rsquos time spent growing up also in Texas). You&rsquoll also find summer-y raspas&mdashshaved ice with sweetened condensed milk and made here with toppings such as spicy mango, lime syrups, fresh pineapple, passion fruit or meringue. Cookies on the menu include ones such as alfajores&mdashhomemade dulce de leche sandwiched between two crispy vanilla cookies&mdashas well as cakes that are specific to the Love, Nelly outpost such as a birthday cake with orange and blue sprinkles, a dulce de leche cake and a tres leches version.
Luckily, the team hasn&rsquot had to shift its model too much due to COVID. &ldquoI do think we are very lucky that this was the business model we were going for,&rdquo says Landreth of the menu primarily focused on fast, casual bites. &ldquoIt&rsquos all very affordable but comforting food.&rdquo Gallardo agrees: &ldquoIn high school, I always had a thing of candy in my purse. I&rsquom all about road snacks. In New York, we're always on the go. Having something you can hold onto and bring in your pocket is something everyone needs for a little joy. Plus, we&rsquore all sick of doing dishes.&rdquo She also says she has plans to develop care packages&mdashalso inspired by her mom&mdashthat can be sent to friends and family during these isolating times.
Photograph: Lindsey Swedick
The team is also actively thinking about their role of as a new business on the Bushwick-Bed-Stuy border. &ldquoAs a white foodie, I think I have to pause and be like is this what I think it should taste like or did I just have it at a fancy restaurant run by a white chef? We have to listen to people who actually know these cuisines and constantly check in with ourselves,&rdquo says Landreth on the importance of Gallardo&rsquos expertise guiding the way.
For their first week in operation, raspas are 50% off and all proceeds are going to a local organization called Neighbors Together, located just a few blocks away, which helps end poverty in the area.
At the core of the business model is love. &ldquoWith Love, Nelly you&rsquore getting a sweet memo. There&rsquos the more authentic Colombian aspect of it, but I also want to have fun with [the bakery&rsquos offerings]," says Gallardo.
Photograph: Lindsey Swedick
Filmmakers Elina Street and Erica Rose are on a mission to document the LGBTQIA+ people and spaces shaping America’s food and drink culture.
When COVID-19 temporarily shut down their industry in March 2020, filmmakers and friends Elina Street and Erica Rose got to talking. Their last in-person drink had been at Ginger’s, a neighborhood bar in Park Slope that happens to be one of less than 20 remaining lesbian bars left in the United States. They started to wonder what might happen to these last few bars hanging on during a time when the nightlife industry was under unprecedented duress.
Within just a few months, Rose and Street had partnered with Jägermeister’s #SavetheNight campaign to create the Lesbian Bar Project, launched with a 90-second short film that raised over $117,000 to support lesbian bars across the country. They’re now working on a second, longer documentary that will be released in June.
In the meantime, the pair has just released the first installation of a new series (presented by EFFEN Vodka) that explores the idea of queer food. Kia Feeds the People, the first five-minute documentary, introduces the cooking and ethos of Kia Damon, a Brooklyn-based chef who’s in the process of launching a local community organization to fight food apartheid.
I spoke with the filmmakers about what drew them to these two topics, and why COVID made this work all the more urgent.
You released the Lesbian Bar Project in October. Was that your first collaboration as filmmakers?
Erica: Yes, that was our first collaboration. We had been friends before. It felt really right to partner for that project because we were both out of work, and we were both reminiscing about the last time we were able to be in a space together (that was at Ginger’s Bar in Brooklyn). And I think lesbian bars have been central pillars in our own personal development.
The PSA version of the Lesbian Bar Project was released back in October. We raised over $117,000 for the bars. And we’re gearing up for a new iteration of the Lesbian Bar Project this year, which is an eight-to-twelve-minute documentary through the lens of the bar owners, community activists, and patrons. The idea is that we’re looking at the central question of “Hey, there are less than 20 lesbian bars left in the country. Do we still need them?” We’re looking at the mitigating factors that have led to the disappearance, and, ultimately, we’re celebrating them. And it’s a call to action, because these bars have done so much for the community, and now we have to show up and support them.
You’ve mentioned that, at some point in the ’80s, there were reportedly about 200 lesbian bars across the United States, and now that number has dwindled into the double digits. Why is that?
Erica: There are a lot of factors. Gentrification is part of it. There are a lot of “gayborhoods,” but lesbians never really had centralized neighborhoods. You can argue that Park Slope was one, but it never really had the kind of permanence that Hell’s Kitchen has or that Boystown in Chicago has, or WeHo in LA.
There’s assimilation. I think, before gay marriage, it was central to be able to gather in these spaces where people were not only able to meet partners but they could also feel safe. And now that, ostensibly, gay people have a bit more power and visibility and tolerance in this country, I could go down the street with my girlfriend at a heteronormative bar and feel relatively safe. So I think there’s this cultural shift [toward the idea] that we might not need our own gathering spaces.
Then there’s the wage gap—two men have a higher income together than two women. There’s also discrimination against women-owned businesses. It’s harder to get a business loan, and it’s harder to get a liquor license.
And then there’s the move to online. Online dating was such a factor in this. A lot of how we’ve met people has shifted.
What was the process like, of finding those 15 featured bars that still exist?
Elina: It’s actually really hard, because a lot of those bars don’t necessarily advertise as lesbian bars. Because there are so few, they’re hard to find. When we started last March, there were a lot of articles published about the fact that there were only 15 bars remaining in the United States.
When we launched the campaign, we got a bunch of emails from places that call themselves lesbian bars. So we did some research, and when we reopen the pool fund, we’re going to add some new bars that we found out about through the campaign.
Another interesting thing about the PSA is that it was put together during COVID, so a lot of the visuals are these great archival photos. Did that archival research lead down any interesting rabbit holes that you want to follow up on with the new installation?
Erica: The piece opens with a clip from Mona’s 440 Club, which is argued to be the first lesbian bar in the country [in San Francisco]. It galvanized us to find archival material like that—never-before-seen, intimate [material] in these spaces. Because there’s little documentation about what these bars were like in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s.
Elina: It’s a really interesting trajectory, because the PSA was sort of nostalgic—reminiscing about the past. And now that we’re able to film in person, there will be more of the present-day in this new iteration.
In terms of filming, Kia Feeds the People was a big accomplishment to pull off during COVID—what was that like?
Erica: Production in general right now is hard. You have the factors of social distancing, COVID testing, making sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe to the extent that you can. It’s definitely hard to navigate, but we had assembled an incredible team, and everyone was pretty well versed in shooting during COVID.
Elina: They were really excited for Kia’s organization, too. That was a plus. Because our industry closed last year for a few months, and that was difficult, and now we’re hungry for work, but we have to stay very cautious. So when there are projects that are for a good cause, it brings everyone together, and it reminds us of the love we have for our art, which we sometimes take for granted after working in the industry for so long. But there was something really human and pure about this one.
So many documentaries where you see chefs cooking take place in studios or in restaurant kitchens, so it was kind of unique to see Kia cooking in an apartment, in a home setting (and then later at a neighborhood pop-up). Was that important to the story you were telling?
Erica: It was really important, because what we were doing was exploring the theme of queer food, and a lot of that is integral to a chef’s personal identity. We wanted to show the intimate side of her life that people don’t get to see. She’s so public-facing, and she’s so mission-driven, and we wanted to balance that with the quiet parts of her life. And that’s making breakfast for herself and her partner in the morning, having breakfast together, dancing in the living room—them being silly and carefree. And Kia’s queer identity is infused in her cooking, because she’s all about cooking for her chosen family and giving access to people who don’t necessarily have access to delicious and nutritious food.
Elina: When we talked about filming her in a bigger kitchen that wasn’t her home, she offered to do the pop-up, so that’s why we were able to open it up to the community and to the public. When Erica and I did some background research on where queer food really comes from, a lot of it was outdoor potlucks. It all ties in together with the chosen family theme, but also with what Kia’s doing with her organization.
Erica: It was really interesting looking at the history of potlucks and how queer women, especially, gathered. Yes, there were lesbian bars, which we’ve been covering in our other project. But a lot of times, there were socioeconomic divisions, and a lot of women couldn’t afford to go out, or they had children and didn’t have the time to. How they gathered was through food, and through community, and being in each other’s houses. And it was also a way to be somewhat under the radar.
We’re getting to a place now where there are all these pop-ups of queer food (Ursula in Crown Heights just did a series of queer pop-ups). It’s kind of taking that intimacy and that care that so many people had when they weren’t able to be visible and out, and bringing that into the restaurant scene today.
In addition to being the name of the documentary, “Kia Feeds the People” is also the name of the organization that Kia’s working toward opening to fight food apartheid in Brooklyn. How did you get involved with the project and with Kia?
Erica: I had read about Kia in a lot of places. Them did a really amazing story on her. She had won Chopped. She was all over the scene. When we were thinking about what queer food was, and potential subjects to capture, she was an obvious choice. She was somewhat of a savant, being a head chef at 24 and making her name, and she didn’t come from these revered culinary institutions. She really built up her name from her dedication and skill set. We reached out to her, and we had this beautiful initial conversation with her, where we just talked about identity and food and her backstory.
We hope to kind of have this as a series. In the way that Chef’s Table looks at different chefs, we want to look at different parts of the queer food movement, through different characters.
Do you have a sense of what more you want to do with the series?
Erica: We want to look at not just chefs but people who are reimagining food in a way that is uniquely queer, and uniquely able to give access and perspective, to tell a story through food. Hopefully there will be more this year.
BOOKS TO BUY, READ, AND COOK FROM:
Last week, we talked to Sheldon Simeon about furikake ranch, rainbow sprinkle mochi, and his new book, Cook Real Hawai’i.
In her second book, The Arabesque Table, Reem Kassis weaves together historical techniques and dishes with her own modern sensibility.
Finding Freedom is the memoir behind the The Lost Kitchen, the Maine restaurant with some of the most coveted dining reservations in the world.
Nadiya Hussain (of Great British Baking Show fame) is back with Nadiya Bakes, which is available for preorder now.
Summer’s on its way, and it’s time to get your tiki bar set up with Chloe Frechette’s Easy Tiki.
Main Street Theater’s Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue Is a Lyric Homage Confronting the High Price of War
Gerardo Velasquez as Elliot in Main Street's production of Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue. The play offers a moving portrait of heroism and sacrifice through one Puerto Rican family’s three generations of enlistment.
The first play in a trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue offers a moving portrait of heroism and sacrifice through one Puerto Rican family’s three generations of enlistment. Military service is one of high stakes, and every scene in Main Street Theater’s production underscores how tenuous life at war is—for both those fighting and for those left behind.
Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue tells the story of Philadephia-native Elliot Ortiz's tour in Iraq, his father's time fighting in Vietnam, and his grandfather's participation in the Korean War. The trilogy continues with Water By the Spoonful, which recounts Elliot's experience with substance abuse once he returns from war. The final play, The Happiest Song Plays Last, finds Elliot struggling to find meaning in his post-war life. While each of these shows are standalone stories, their true power comes from watching Elliot's complete arc.
The production at Main Street Theater is really a model of efficiency in terms of movement. In a 70-minute show with no intermission, I marveled at how much time was covered and how much material was woven into such a compact performance. Rebecca Greene Udden’s deft direction, Dylan Marks’s interesting set, which consisted of documents and letters that papered the floor and a garden of potted plants encircled by red brick steps, as well as Paige A. Willson’s spot-on costumes and Yezminne Zepeda’s decade-hopping sound design, all worked together to form a cohesive whole.
And the acting is excellent. I was thrilled to watch Luis Galindo in his role as the family patriarch, Grandpop, who served in the Korean War. I was delighted to see Pamela Garcia Langton as Elliot’s army-nurse mother, Ginny, rise to the challenge of playing a role over several decades. I loved the tough and cynical (yet comic at times) Rhett Martinez play Vietnam veteran Pop, Elliot’s father. And I was especially impressed by newcomer Gerardo Velasquez's take on title role of Elliot. His launching off to war, his endurance through violent and excruciating challenges, and his connections to his father and grandfather are totally believable and quite poignant, whether these moments are comic or tragic.
Velasquez really shines in the moments when he is being interviewed by the media regarding his time in Iraq. Reporters censor his salty language (which he calls “a Marine thing”) and water down his experiences to a more palatable form for popular consumption. The result is coverage that seems more like infotainment than of hard-hitting journalism on the wages of war. And perhaps that is one of the strongest elements of this drama: the way even our most painful moments as individuals and as Americans can be transmogrified into an entertaining features story, thus subverting the seriousness of war, and by extension, the sacrifices of those who serve. No interview ever captures the fraught moments of conflict, the conditions of cold showers and uncomfortable cots, or the steeliness of the ship, both literal and figurative.
Hudes, who was nominated for a Tony Award for her work on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, studied music composition at Yale University, so it makes sense that music is an important element in the show. The playwright incorporates the word "fugue," a type of composition where multiple voices perform tonal and stylistic variations on a musical theme, into the very title of the show, thereby giving the audience an idea of what is to come. The form and structure of the play—which includes monologues, dialogues, and the reciprocal reading of letters, between two or sometimes even three people—emphasize the give and take of the fugue's musical form. And, like the musical fugues, the themes of trauma, familial bonds and deferred healing, are expressed in different words and voices by the quartet of actors onstage.
(From left) Rhett Martinez as Pop and Luis Galindo as Grandpop in Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue.
Interestingly, the Latin root of “fugue” has forms that can mean both to flee and to chase—a perfect paradoxical truth for how the soldiers onstage have all sought military service in some ways yet also must flee the ravages of that service. But the most moving use of the word in the show comes from a less common definition, where a fugue is a state of disassociation, and according to the American Heritage Dictionary, a state “usually caused by trauma, marked by sudden travel or wandering away from home and an inability to remember one’s past.” As the characters offer stage directions in a robotic manner, this definition comes into relief.
My only quibble with Elliot is that it seems indebted to other writers who also have addressed the wages of war, both physical and psychological. From Phil Klay’s National Book Award winner Redeployment to Tim O’Brien’s well-known linked semi-autobiographical narratives in The Things They Carried, there seemed to be an echoing of their insights and language—especially the listings of items that soldiers carry with them, which is a hallmark of O’Brien’s work.
Even with these similarities, Hudes’ play has a lyricism, its action unfolding more as tableau of performances than a traditional play of exposition and climax as the soldiers’ stories braid and entwine inextricably from one another. In record time, Elliot pays homage to military families from the minute their soldiers depart for war all the way through the PTSD that so often haunts them and their loved ones years later.
In a Pandemic, Can Any Restaurant Story Have a Happy Ending?
On September 21, Isa Chandra Moskowitz dropped an earnest note into the rotten narcotic of election-season Twitter: “Hey journalists, I have a really good story about a restaurant that stayed in business during covid by doing a cookzine and switching to a delivery friendly menu. Pls reach out. Oh ps it’s my restaurant.”
Moskowitz, the vegan cookbook author, chef, and restaurateur, was tweeting from Omaha, Nebraska, where she opened her first restaurant, Modern Love, in 2014. She launched the spinoff in her hometown, Brooklyn, in 2016, and decided to head back to Omaha in March to tend to her original spot, where she’s been throughout the pandemic.
“I don’t know if it’s some version of doom-scrolling, and people just want to hear how terrible things are, but there’s not really a lot of positive coverage of how people in the restaurant industry are dealing with this,” Moskowitz told me a couple of weeks later on the phone. “I thought it would be kind of nice to share information with other businesses that are struggling or not doing as well as they could be, of how we’ve been surviving.”
‘I thought it would be kind of nice to share information with other businesses that are struggling or not doing as well as they could be, of how we’ve been surviving.’
Six months into the pandemic, Modern Love Community Cookzine still warm from the printer, Moskowitz floweth over with advice and encouragement for her restaurant industry mates. “Anybody who’s been through a brunch service can get through dealing with a Square rep,” she said (which someone should put on a shirt). But at the outset of the pandemic, “Both restaurants were doing well. They were profitable. Reservations were full. And we employed 35 people at each location. I was panicked about business but more like, ‘Oh my God if we don’t close, we’re putting everybody in danger.’”
Couple that with the dizzying reality of running businesses in two different cities with two very different outbreak levels — 11 cases in Nebraska versus 5,688 in New York state on March 27, according to The New York Times — and very different approaches to the pandemic reflecting the red and blue leadership. Indoor dining was prohibited in New York and permitted in Nebraska for months, “but there was no way we could open [for indoor dining] in Omaha. Even though it’s a blue bubble, it’s still pretty conservative: Just with the masks, people think it’s infringing on their rights.” Brooklyn remained closed, while Omaha — which already had takeout and delivery systems that needed some work — transitioned to takeout only.
Optimizing the website and menu for pick-up and delivery was key in stabilizing Modern Love Omaha. “We kept our bestsellers, got rid of our fancy stuff and swirly sauces, and figured out how to plate in to-go containers,” Moskowitz said. She retired the $26 hen-of-the-woods mushroom piccata glossed in an à la minute pan sauce, for example, and reworked the staple Mac and Shews — macaroni enrobed in housemade cashew cheese sauce — into a bowl format that customers could customize. When patrons griped the seitan-bean burger’s bun turned to mush in its steamy take-out tomb, Moskowitz auditioned dozens of alternatives. “It’s not like people are more forgiving now,” she said. “We still get fucking vicious Yelp reviews.”
‘It’s not like people are more forgiving now,’ she said. ‘We still get fucking vicious Yelp reviews.’
By mid-April, things were running smoothly in Omaha, and more crucially, her template could be exported to Modern Love Brooklyn — whenever it reopened.
Moskowitz didn’t see that happening anytime soon. This was when things were grim in New York, when headlines read, “Which coronavirus patients will get life-saving ventilators? Guidelines show how hospitals in NYC, US will decide.” and “‘A Tragedy Is Unfolding’: Inside New York’s Virus Epicenter.” Moskowitz watched from Omaha. “I thought we’d be closed for at least six months.”
In her past, she found a way forward.
Moskowitz was born in Brooklyn but reared in the punk scene of the Lower East Side. In 1989, she celebrated her Sweet 16 by going vegan and dropping out of high school to follow bands. “In the early days of punk, bands like the Sex Pistols were notorious for nihilism, anarchism, and epic consumption of drugs and alcohol — none of which would seem to lead to tofu and chamomile tea,” Julia Moskin wrote for The New York Times in a 2007 article about Moskowitz titled “Strict Vegan Ethics, Frosted with Hedonism.” “But as punk became more political (and as bands self-destructed) in the 1990s, many punks adopted a more profoundly rebellious stance: against drugs, against alcohol and against the whole habit of mindless consumption.”
In the same article, Moskowitz said, “Punk taught me to question everything. Of course, in my case, that means questioning how to make a Hostess cupcake without eggs, butter, or cream.” She honed knife skills by volunteering with Food Not Bombs, the activist collective fighting hunger and poverty through free vegan and vegetarian meals. “But I also learned to love Julia Child and Martha Stewart.”
‘Punk taught me to question everything. Of course, in my case, that means questioning how to make a Hostess cupcake without eggs, butter, or cream.’
Though her professional life gradually moved from music to vegan cooking — she hosted a cooking show on Brooklyn Public Access for a stint, and has spun 10 cookbooks from her Post Punk Kitchen blog — Moskowitz continued to nurture a subculture-steeped activist streak. “Being from this punk rock world, when something shitty happens, I feel like I have to do something positive in reaction. How do I solve this with food?”
‘Being from this punk rock world, when something shitty happens, I feel like I have to do something positive in reaction. How do I solve this with food?’
Inspired by the renaissance of activism-flavored collaborative and community cookbooks like Cooking Up Trouble, Feed the Resistance, and We Are La Cocina, Moskowitz came up with the idea for the Modern Love Community Cookzine. “I used to have these feminist potlucks and I would do a zine for that every potluck just talking about what’s going on. Zines are so immediate and more about the here and now than a magazine or a book.”
She assembled a ragtag editorial team of writers, editors, photographers, and illustrators and went to work on the cookzine, preselling hard copies for $50 and digital ones on a pay-what-you-can basis. With no marketing outside social media, 1,200 orders poured in, raising about $24,000. That money, along with a Paycheck Protection Program loan, kept existing staff on the books, paid zine contributors working from home, and funded the restaurant’s efforts with Chilis on Wheels, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that provides vegan meals to those in need, which allowed Moskowitz to hire and rehire more staff. “It’s interesting because we started the cookzine because we didn’t think we’d be able to reopen,” but as a vehicle to funding and staff, the zine became the reason the restaurant could reopen.
Moskowitz quietly opened Modern Love Brooklyn for pick-up in June, added a few outdoor tables in July, and now, both Brooklyn and Omaha are at about 90 percent of their pre-Covid revenues. Earlier this month, backers received their copies of Modern Love Community Cookzine, and true to form, it’s a vivacious collection of essays, recipes — black and white cookies, St. Lucia x Crown Heights vegetable patties, those Mac and Shews — and one beet-shaped activity maze. But it also shows the polish of a pro who’s been writing cookbooks for 15 years.
Moskowitz quietly opened Modern Love Brooklyn for pick-up in June, added a few outdoor tables in July, and now, both Brooklyn and Omaha are at about 90 percent of their pre-Covid revenues.
After the initial printing, Moskowitz will be selling $25 copies of the zine through the Modern Love website, where the digital version can now be downloaded for free.
“This restored my faith in people a bit, which is really hard to do right now,” she said. “For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m able to relax.”
A quick browse through the Edloe Finch website makes it abundantly clear that comfort and classic aesthetics reign supreme. Whether you're in the market for a luxe velvet loveseat or a coffee table that beautifully plays with geometric shapes, Edloe Finch is ready with an ample assortment of furniture. The furniture brand is the creation of husband-and-wife duo, Darryl and Jessica Sharpton who launched the brand as a way to combine their passion for furniture and construction.
The Making of a Food Magazine During Covid-19
Back in March, Shifra Klein was finalizing the annual Restaurant Issue of Fleishigs magazine. Then Covid-19 broke out and restaurants shut down, so the entire issue needed to be redone from scratch. She also shares her "vital recipe." Full Story
Back in March, Shifra Klein was finalizing the annual Restaurant Issue of Fleishigs magazine. Then Covid-19 broke out and restaurants shut down, so the entire issue needed to be redone from scratch. She also shares her "vital recipe." Full Story
By Shifra Klein, Editor In Chief of Fleishigs magazine
Everything in the pages of the new issue of Fleishigs magazine has a unique backstory related to the majorly unexpected reality we all found ourselves in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in March, we were actively finalizing the annual Restaurant Issue and it was going to be incredible. It was set to include meaningful content, delicious recipes, stunning photos and the forward-thinking state of kosher food today. As one of the immediate impacts of the coronavirus was the shutdown of most restaurants and many are still struggling to stay afloat we knew that the restaurant issue had to be postponed.
Rather than let the pandemic completely overwhelm us, we decided to strategically work some of our planned content into the Shavuos issue. You can read the story about Sage, the new-age ‘mom and pop’ restaurant and Chef Jazzie‘s insight into its making. She generously shared her most popular recipes, too. As we go to print, Sage is currently closed for dining, but is providing delivery across the city. Another easy choice to include was our step-by-step guide to gnocchi. It is super easy to follow and makes the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi from scratch in minutes. Plus, it is extremely versatile and can be served with almost anything. Our expansive Butcher’s Cut section features duck confit, the perfect pairing for gnocchi, which was originally inspired by Mike’s Bistro, a popular steakhouse in NYC.
Back in February, we hosted the organizers and vendors of the Brooklyn MRKT (an annual charity fashion pop-up created by the Anelis Group) at Wall Street Grill in NYC for a night of fashion and food. We were served top-tier food by executive chef Joey Paulino, who also shared some of his signature recipes for the issue. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn MRKT had to cancel due to the situation, and both vendors and Ohr Naava, the organization that Brooklyn MRKT benefits, lost thousands of dollars. I am most fascinated, however, by the strength shown by everyone involved and love how a story on food and fashion expanded to that of resilience and pulling through the unexpected.
We had also planned an entire feature with Danielle Renov, food blogger at @peaslovencarrots. She was slated to be guest editor this month and share a behind-the-scenes look into the making of her new book, Peas Love & Carrots: The Cookbook. The book’s release date was pushed from May to late July, due to printer shutdowns connected to the coronavirus. Although we had to scrap the feature for right now, we plan to have Danielle join us in July. In the meantime, she shared some of her favorite family-friendly meals that she’s made during quarantine from her home in Jerusalem.
The current situation has forever changed the way we approach and appreciate food. We learned how to make the most of what we have and be mindful of eating foods to maintain immunity and energy. Health coach Celeste Hackel delivers her Cook Once, Eat Twice approach that shares a common theme with cookbook author Rochie Pinson‘s feature, One Dough, Three Ways.
As Shavuos is fast approaching, we challenged ourselves to come up with an elegant feast that tastes amazing and is sure to impress (guests or no guests) all at a minimal cost. So, we reconfigured what a feast should look like and came up with one of our favorite meals ever.
The biggest change in perspective here at Fleishigs, however, is to really live day by day and take things as they come.
P.S. Banana cake and Dalgona coffee were probably the two most viral recipes in the past few weeks. I succumbed and hand-whisked quite a few batches of Dalgona (Google for the recipe) and enjoyed my fair share of banana cake. Here is my favorite one bowl, no mixer recipe:
Combine 2 mashed bananas, 2 eggs, ½ cup oil, ½ cup orange juice, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 cup sugar until fully combined.
Add in 1¾ cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
(Add chocolate chips or blueberries to the batter, if you’d like.)
Pour into a 9吉-inch baking dish.
Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
LIVER DEVILED EGGS
BY SHIFRA KLEIN
This recipe was inspired by Chef Yos’ duck liver deviled eggs. As duck liver is pricey and not so readily available, prepared chicken livers (such as Meal Mart) are the perfect stand-in.
½ cup store-bought broiled
⅓ cup Caramelized Onions
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Place eggs in a medium saucepan and fill with water.
Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
Allow to cool and peel. (It helps to peel under running water.)
Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks.
Place yolks in a blender or food processor and blend with the livers, onions, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and salt until smooth.
Lay the egg whites on a platter, and spoon or pipe liver-yolk mixture into the egg whites.
Serve with radishes, sprouts or your favorite condiments.
New York City's Big, Quirky Barbecue Moment
How Randall&rsquos Barbecue and Holy Ground add to the city&rsquos BBQ bonafides, helping cement a style that's distinctly New York.
Despite #BrooklynBBQ becoming the laughing stock of food Twitter earlier this year, New York City’s appetite for the wood-fired traditions of the Southern United States continues unabated. Smoldering for more than two decades, these cravings have steadily intensified like the gritty outer bark and ombre smoke ring of a low-and-slow-cooked beef rib, growing to encompass an ever-expanding variety of regional styles.
Poke around town and you’ll encounter Kansas City-inspired offerings at Harlem’s Blujeen and John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City, North Carolina whole hog wizardry from Bushwick’s Arrogant Swine, kosher Texas style 𠆌ue at Izzy’s Smokehouse in Hasidic Crown Heights, and a damn fine smoked cantaloupe sandwich care of the preservation perverts (watermelon ham, anyone?) over at Ducks Eatery in the East Village. Hashtags be damned, Brooklyn barbecue is alive and well at places like Hometown (Red Hook) and Fletcher’s (Gowanus), home to, respectively, some of the best lamb ribs and burnt ends in the city.
But two recent additions, Randall’s Barbecue and Holy Ground, seem to signal another evolution for Gotham’s BBQ scene, one that more broadly combines barbecue with established NYC dining archetypes.
First, a primer: It was ex-Vogue hairdresser-turned-pitmaster Robert Pearson who most notably sparked the dining public’s initial interest in true 𠆌ue. Like so many before him, the British expat fell under the spell of Texas barbecue on gustatory field trips throughout the state, bringing the Lone Star techniques he𠆝 absorbed back east and eventually moving his restaurant – first called Stick to Your Ribs, then Pearson’s Texas Barbecue – from suburban Connecticut to Long Island City in 1992. (His story is told in exhilarating detail by Robert Sietsema in the critic’s essential 2015 tome New York in a Dozen Dishes.)
Stalwart tourist trough Virgil’s Real Barbecue showed up in 1994 and has been doling out Memphis-style dry rub ribs ever since. Danny Meyer played another key role in getting New Yorkers hooked, opening the original Blue Smoke in 2001 and launching the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party a year later, luring pitmasters from near and far to Madison Square Park for sixteen consecutive summers. And in the last decade, especially, there’s been something of a barbecue boom, spawning niche events like Brisket King and breakout successes like Hill Country and Mighty Quinn’s – all further proof of barbecue’s reign.
So where is the city’s 𠆌ue culture headed? One possibility is Holy Ground, the subterranean barbecue joint masquerading as an old-school chophouse, which opened in Tribeca this summer. The restaurant sits at the bottom of a steep, winding staircase leading to a series of intimate, low-ceilinged chambers outfitted with plush red banquettes, low lights, and plenty of dark wood that look like they were built for the revelry of Prohibition-era rule-breakers. It’s a far cry from the faux-rural design favored by many other urban smokehouses.
Pitmaster Franco Vlasic, a DJ and model who also goes by Franco V., used to sling fantastic pulled pork and chicken sandwiches doused with fruity, mustardy North Carolina-style sauce in a Meatpacking District courtyard. In this infinitely more refined setting, his menu turns out to be a curious mix of Southern staples like macaroni and cheese and collard greens cooked in smoked ham stock gussied-up barbecue ranging from conventional spare ribs to a fancy beef rib carved and fanned out alongside the cleaned bone in steakhouse fashion and New American bistro fare including beef tartare, broccoli seasoned with the Japanese citrus-pepper condiment yuzukosho, and steamed mussels in a sherry-fortified broth decorated with nuggets of pork belly hot links. Although somewhat less seamlessly, Holy Ground approaches Southern barbecue in the way that Cote does Korean barbecue, merging two time-honored, meaty rituals into something entirely its own.