Friday, February 8, 2013

Blizzard 2013

"They" are calling for snow in the northeast.  New England is supposed to get pummeled.  Philly may get 12 inches...or nothing.  I remember as a kid how they would predict the weather and get it wrong most times.  It is usually spot on now a days.  Technology is the reason, I assume.

Anywho, when I start to prepare for the shut in, I start thinking about two things.  1.) What am I going to cook all weekend, while we tuck inside and 2.) I wish I were somewhere warm.  I have already decided that I will make short ribs and polenta and I wish I were in Brazil.  Rio to be exact.  I love Rio. A few years back, Manny had the opportunity to go to Brazil and play with the youth academy of the professional Brazilian soccer team, Fluminese.  It was incredible.  He lived with the team on their secluded campus and we camped out in Rio, on the beach.  It was July, but this was their winter.  The temps were in the 80s and it was incredible.  We have a very good friend who's wife is Brazilian.  She's lovely, but I always had trouble reading her.  After a day in Rio, I got her.  She was simply incredibly laid back and warm, not simply quiet and shy.  Brazilians are amazing.  The country is amazing.  The food is absolutely amazing. Amazing.

I could tell you a million stories, but the best was when I accidentally led my entire family into the favelas.  It was one of our first nights.  I had been told by a friend to go directly to one of those churrascarias.  She had recommended Porcao.  I did not have a proper map and took the one from the hotel and determined we could walk there.  Our hotel sat on the edge of Copacabana Beach & Ipanema Beach.  Porcao was in walking distance.  It was a chaotic walk and I determined the path.  As I led my family past the group of teens smoking pot and took the long steps up the hill, you think I would have thought twice.  Nope.  Arriving at the top of the stairs was a different world.  Motorcycles whizzed by, music poured from open windows, small kids ran down the street without shoes or shirts and stray dogs were running about.  Large groups of young men catcalled.  This was not a safe or welcoming place. John leaned in and told me that this was not the way to the restaurant.  I told him that I think we can walk to the end of the block and walk back down the steps.  We reached the end of the block and there were no steps.  A man approached and started barking at us in Portuguese.  We did not speak and just walked quickly away.  John whispered, "Let's retrace and go back."  Michaela grabbed my hand and expressed fear.  I told her not to talk and to relax.  We walked back down and arrived at our restaurant in a few minutes.  All was good.

Rio is like any large city.  Good parts and bad.  The topography is breathtaking.  It is a truly special place.  Brazilians are warm and friendly and their food is spectacular. I love it there and cannot wait to return.  Every day John insisted that we go to a juice bar.  The best one in Rio is Polis Sucos.  We visited at least twice a day.  For juice or a sandwich.  It is exceptional.  You find fruit there that you cannot find here.  My favorite was called Caju.  They translated it to Cashew.  It might have been the fruit that yields cashews.  Not sure and I have never been able to confirm this.  It tastes like if an apple and a grape had a baby.  Truly delicious.

So if you are holed up due to the weather, think of Brazil.  Eating feijoada and acai smoothies.  Think of the Cristo and playing on Ipanema Beach.  Go out and buy a bottle of Leblon Cachaca. Think of the ice cold beer and the gorgeous graffiti.  Have an ice cold Brahma Beer.  Cheers!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Artic Temps = Slow Cooking

It is crazy cold in Philly.  The Schuylkill River has a layer of ice.  A LAYER OF ICE!  Ca-razy.  I look semi-homeless with all my layers.  I usually look semi-homeless.  I am so freaking cold. We have a really old house that does not retain heat well.  It was built when Lincoln was in office and the windows are horrible.  I actually went around a few weeks back with packing tape and taped the "leaks".  We are always wearing hats and scarves and Arcteryx jackets.  It is awful.  On the weekends I tend to cook all day.  The house fills with delicious smells and the kitchen is warm. We start the day and hang about the table as I chop and saute and stir and bake.  In the past two months I have made some real winners.  Duck Confit, Beef Bourguignon, Calabrese Ricotta Dumpling Soup and French Onion Soup.  REAL, 6 hour long, onion soup with crouton and comte.

Let's begin with the onion soup.  I roasted the bones and veggies and made stock.  Very good.  Then the onions.  On low low heat, stirring...stirring...stirring...6 hours later.  Pretty, no?  It was laborious.  We sat down that evening to eat.  I even have those adorable soup bowls with the lion's head.  I have made onion soup before, but not with my own beef stock.  Everyone dug in.  John declared that it was "too rich" and maybe "too herbaceous".  So fucking annoyed.  With me, not him. I think I added too much thyme to my stock.  I don't know about you, but I get super irritated when I spend this much time and effort and a tiny little detail blows the whole thing to hell.  I know, I know...  I cannot help it.  It won't stop me.  I will keep going.

Okay, now duck confit.   It takes three or more days.  I will be honest, I LOVE LOVE LOVE duck confit, but I will have to wait to repeat this effort again.  Having your house smell like duck fat for days and days is awful.  I woke up on the third day and almost cried.  The aroma hung in the air like cat hair on black wool pants, refusing to leave.  I felt like my pores were filled with duck fat and I was breathing duck fat air.  I actually thought about Village Whiskey.  They serve duck fat fries and I was sad for their chefs.  Poor souls smelling that day in and out.  Going home to their significant others smelling like that every day.  Maybe their dogs are appreciative.  Oy.  Anywho, duck confit is a day of herb-saltage (new word that means curing), a day (or overnight) of rendering fat and cooking in fat for what feels like forever.  Then at least a day submerged in fat (preferably a week or more) to age.  Then you sear the skin to crisp and warm it in the oven.  The whole house smells like duck fat again. It is too much.  I love duck confit.  Ample time must pass between confitting (pronounced "kon - feeting").  Our aging in duck fat does seem to bother my kids.  They loved it.  I packed the leftovers in their school lunch the following day.  One friend pronounced it "nasty" and not in the good way.  To each his own.

Last up was a delicate soup of chicken broth and ricotta dumplings.  Lovely and oh so temperamental.  I saved the chicken from the stock and made chicken salad for the kids lunches.  The dumplings were a challenge.  I had to add those little balls to the perfectly simmering broth.  Too lively....disintegration!  A Goldilocks dish.  It was delicious, but John announced that it was not enough to make an entire meal.  A starter.  Too bad people cause that was all I had.

So, next up on Saturday is my oxtail ragu.  Maybe I will make my own pasta.  Have not decided yet.  Spring is just around the corner.  I must get in all these all day dishes.  When the weather warms, who wants to be inside?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Let's Talk About My Obsession

Let's talk....  Mangosteens.  Any idea?  Let me give you some information.

"colloquially known simply as mangosteen, is a tropical evergreen treebelieved to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas of Indonesia. It also grows in tropical South American countries such as Colombia, where the tree has been introduced. The tree grows from 6 to 25 m (20–82 ft) tall.[1] The fruitof the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, and somewhat fibrous, with an inedible, deep reddish-purple colored rind (exocarp) when ripe. In each fruit, the fragrant edible flesh that surrounds each seed is botanically endocarp, i.e., the inner layer of the ovary.[2][3]"  

This is from the Wiki.  I am completely obsessed.  Have you had them?  Fresh?  No?  Too bad.  Seriously.  I pity you. 

Story - John and I stole away to jolly old Londontown way way back.  It was a short trip and some of my besties gave recommendations and some arranged reservations.  Being in the fruit biz, so to speak, I am always curious.  Durian, you say?  Illegal in some parts, really?  Give me some of that!  A trip to Brazil was really a fruit hunt.  Some go on safari, I go to juice bars in Rio. Same.Same....  Back to Ripper's stomping grounds.  I was directed to visit Harrods.  "Do not bother to shop for clothing.  Just go straight to the food court.  It should not be missed."  This advice came to me by a very close friend who should be trusted.  We found Harrods and it is a sight.  After some searching and weaving, we arrived to the Willie Wonka-esque site that is the Food Court at Harrods.  Quite a show.  As we sometimes do, we split up.  John wandered off idea.  I found my way to the produce.  The plums, the peaches, the cherries, the....WTF?  are those Mangosteens?!!!!  I leaned in.  "Mum?  Can I be of assistance?" said the poofy hatted young Brit behind the glass.  "Why yes.  Are those mangosteen?"  

"Definitely."  She then reached into the case, pulled a plump purple ball from the pile and dug her nails into its flesh.  She handed me the halved fruit with its gleaming white treasure revealed.  

"For me?"  I took the fruit.  "Do I just..?"
"Just pop it into your mouth and savor.  Just the white part.  Be mindful of the pits."
"Thank you.  I just cannot tell you how excited and scared I am."
"Don't be.  It is enjoyable."

It was a moment.  I should have been alone.  The heavens opened and angels sung.  "AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH........."  

I purchased 10.  No idea how much they cost. Don't care.  I handed over my credit card and took my little sack and searched for John.  London was waiting.  We walked the day away and finished the day at a Kabob shop.  I thought about the fruit all. day. long. We stayed at an adorable hotel in Chelsea.  Our little suite had two floors.  The top floor had a couch with a desk and tv.  Not glamorous, but comfortable.  I sat on the couch and eagerly spread out my booty.  "JOHN!!!  I am going in!"  He sprinted up the stairs.  Five for him and 5 for me.  I demonstrated how to eat the fruit.  He placed the first in his mouth and I awaited his response.  

Me:  "Well?  Thoughts?.....  Come. On!  John...."  He was killing me.
JR:  "They're...good."
Me:  "Shut up."
JR:  "Okay.  Really good.  Cannot figure out their profile, but I enjoy them."
Me: "Really?  I say they are a game changer.  Seriously.  They have changed my life."
JR:  "You really are a freak sometimes."

Yes, I am a freak.  Two days later we returned to Harrods.  John handed me some cash and I went straight to the mangosteens.  I purchased a pint of cherries and 10 mangosteens.  Upon realizing that I did not have enough queens in me pocket, I gave her my card.  I found JR.  I thought I was clear when he simply asked if I had any cash to get on the tube.  When I handed back the original amount he asked the question.  I had paid $60 for 10 mangosteen and a pint of cherries.  You have no idea the hell I paid.  

Dan scored 11 cases of mangosteen from John Vena at the docks.  I took home about 15 individual 'steens and eagerly fed them to my spawn. Michaela pronounced that they looked like Voldemort fetus, but enjoyed them none the less.  The boys requested the fruit for their lunches.  Sev even gave one to his teacher.  She is from Kenya and had never laid eyes nor ears on them.  They will be at all the cafes this week.  Mangosteen Sorbetto.  Get it while it's hot!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Peace Y'all

 Well, well, well....It is 2013.  I love a beginning.  I love an ending, as well.  I thought about y'all and how during the last 10 years, you have been there for Capo.  Your support lead us to be noticed (and named #1) by National Geographic.  It is humbling.  What will the next 10 bring?  The Capo team went to their family and friends' homes for the holidays.  We celebrated with our annual party at Capoyunk. The ending of the year is so emotional.  For some (most), having your family around makes it more so.  We flew to New Orleans, as we do every December.  John's sister hosts the entire Reitano clan.

We hit our usual haunts.  Casamento's, Parkway Tavern, Patois...  We tried some new - Domenica in the Roosevelt.  Patois was my favorite this year.

Surviving the end of the world was pretty awesome.  2013 will be an exciting year for us!  So much in the pipeline.  Recently a friend approached me and wanted to confirm a rumor.  He had heard that we were selling and jumping ship.  Not true.  Although, the banks are not lending and we cannot grow.  We are looking to grow and spread our wings.  Bringing on partners is technically selling part of your business, but we are not looking just for money, we are looking for true partners.  Partners who will share our vision to share gelato to the world!  Partners who understand our passion and share it.  Partners who can help us and love the quirky aspect of Capo and will stick to our Philly roots.  Partners who can help us strengthen were we are weak.  Partners like this are not easy to find.  So much to look forward to.  My farmer wants to buy more cows and hopes that we can help him out.  I hope we won't disappoint him.

I thought about y'all and I was filled with content.  All your wonderful wishes and your continued support.  Thank you.  Thank you for an incredible 10 years.  May the best oyster shucker in the country throw you a Louisiana oyster and you catch it!  Peace y'all.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It Is That Time of Year

I rarely post anything until after the holidays.  It is such an insane time.  Right now I have a break from packing internet packages and needed to sit down for a spell.  I love that phrase, "for a spell...."  I plan on keeping you updated with pics from New Orleans during the next week.  Although the pictures of my oyster loaf from Casamentos or my gumbo from R&O are enviable, y'all must think we eat the entire time.  We don't.  We also drink.

Every year we rush to put up a tree prior to leaving. This year was no different.  Our tree is not one to grace the cover of some magazine.  It is filled with mementos and gifts - the ugliest being Manny's 1st grade ornament that is simply a piece of wood glued with dried beans, macaroni and straws.  It is super ugly and up there.  Sev gets the "First One To Break An Ornament" every year.  I wish he wouldn't.

When John and I were fresh parents, we took Michaela, who had just started running (15 months) to Neiman Marcus.  We did not own a single ornament.  On the advice of some friends, we were told that NM was the place to go.  We needed to begin to create traditions for our new family.  Our small family packed up the car and drove to the Main Line.  We arrived at NM and went straight to the home section.  Michaela was a handful and therefore our time was limited.  The store was warm and crowded and the smell of cinnamon was heavy in the air.  Loud festive music was pulsing.  The ornaments were gorgeous.  Michaela babbled to no one in particular while bolted into her stroller.  We decided quickly and managed to lasso a sales associate.  We selected about 20 ornaments and a beautiful star for the top of the tree.  All seemed to be going as planned when Michaela started to convulse. Her chest thrusting forward as Kane's did on the Nostromo.  She started to twist her face and body, pulling her knees high, pulling at the constraints and finally bellowing, "OUT!  OUT!!! OUT!!"  Our trusty oblivious sales clerk was lovingly wrapping our precious glass ornaments and placing them in a beautiful cream box with care.  All 20 of them.  Instead of her chest bursting open to release the demon, her face turned red and she full out screamed "MA! OUT!  MA MA MA MA! OUT!"  Running the stroller in circles weaving through sloth-like people was not cutting it.At this point John and I started to discuss strategy.

John, "This is torture.  Should we bail? We are officially 'those' people."
Me, "We cannot.  He has already wrapped about 5."
John, "At the rate he is moving, we are going to be here!!!"
Me, "I am going to take her out and walk around.  Be back in 10."
John, "It is too hot.  Why is it so hot?  Why does it smell like a gingerbread man farted in here?"
Me, "Awesome, I have two toddlers..."
John, "(CENSORED)"

Unwisely, I released the beast from her chains.  Before her little feet could hit that perfectly polished marble floor she sprinted.  From the ceiling hung the assorted ornaments by gorgeous ribbon.  The ornaments were placed at various levels, the lowest falling at knee height creating a split in the room that was wall, really.  The beast had them in her sight.  Her arms stretched above her head and giggling madly ran through numerous people and yes, through the ornament wall, as one would run through strung disco beads.  Her little fingers hitting the delicate painted glass.  I was right behind her.  I gasped.  I frantically tried to stop the swinging ornaments. John ran around to the other side of the wall of ornaments as the beast stopped and turned.  Her face was rapturous, mouth agape in joy and arms stills spread, she slowly and unsteadily turned and readied her self to run back through.  Just as she took her first step, John swept her up into his arms football style, and marched out of the home section calling back, "You wait.  Meet you out front."  The beast roared, "NO NO NO NO NO!!  MAAAAAAA!"

Sev has broken about 25% of those original ornaments over the years.  He is impulsive and well, let's just say it, clumsy.  It drives us mad. We have never made it back to Neiman.  I have started to purchase ornaments while traveling to commemorate our lives.  Hand painted ornaments from Sicily, stuffed dragons from San Fran's Chinatown and glass crowns and martini olives from New Orleans.  About 10 years ago a friend who no longer has a Christmas tree as she travels, gifted a gorgeous ornament that she purchased in the 50s.  It is the gorgeous specimen above with the red rounded flower.  Since then, I search for old ornaments at thrift stores and flea markets.  They are hard to come by.  Gnome Chomsky (get it?) here was a gift from the beautiful talented Kamala.  I miss her.  She made that!  As beautiful as those NM ornaments are, my favorite are the gifts, the kids' monstrous creations and the travel ornaments.

We leave in a few days time for the Big Easy.  I am looking forward to seeing my family and eating large.  My beautiful nephews are growing at a pace that frightens me.  It will be a very short trip this year.  So much going on in the new year.  Cannot wait to share the news.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's Cold and Damp and I Just Want to BBQ

It is chilly and damp in Philly.  A typical December day.  I keep looking out the back window at my Big Green Egg.  I love that thing.  I cannot tell you how many people around these parts look at my Egg with a puzzled look.  "What the...  What is that?  It looks like an alien pod or ...something."  Oh that!  That's my super awesome BBQ and smoker.  It took John several hours to assemble (he's not all that handy AND he's a perfectionist. Perfect storm).

When the Green Egg first arrived I could not really understand its power, its bravado, its general staggering magnificence.  I smacked some burgers on the grill, maybe some seafood.  Standard fare, really.  Then I accidentally got it up to 800 degrees and melted off the felt gasket.  That blew.  800 degrees prompted pizza.  A little too smoky.  Which got me thinking.  Smoky....  I pulled out my BBQ book.  I read, I studied and I became determined to tame this beast.  It's easy to get the temp up, but how to get it to a slow smolder.  Air was the answer and playing with it was my task.

I was ready.  I purchased a bone in pork shoulder.  Roughed it up and smacked it around with some salt, brown sugar and hot  pepper.  Got the Egg ready and added some soaked hickory chips and produced thick smoke.  In went the shoulder.  Two hours later, out went the charcoal.  Not a complete bust, as the shoulder eventually cooked, although it was dry and squeeky.  Know what I mean?  Some homemade BBQ sauce masked its imperfections and my choice of a brioche roll was not quite right.

After numerous tries, I got it down.  Don't give up, friends.  A promise is a cloud; the fulfillment is rain, said someone smarter than me and I am using it to suit my meaning.  I knew that if I kept at this Egg, it would yield something magical. I did not give up.  Eventually I arrived home, baby.  I used some super squishy yeasty rolls I purchased at a deli in Jersey that had little burnt onion pieces.  So delicious.  The meat was juicy and smoky and well, incredible.  The Egg did its job. It just needed some love and appreciation.  I had a Ferrari in the back yard and I was treating it like a 1985 Toyota Tercel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

R Months = Oysters

The weather has definitely taken a dip.  I woke up the other morning and assuming it was another warm summer day took the dogs for a walk in flip flops.  The air was cool on my arms and toes.  I look forward to the season's changes, but being in the "ice cream" business, I always worry.  The cooling temperatures are challenging, but I love wearing sweaters and we can drink hot chocolate and eat soup.  Fall means apples, pears, quince, pumpkins and black walnuts for gelato and sorbetto. It is a good thing.

John's birthday was yesterday and it was not the usual affair.  He requested (at my insistence, as the "honey, I don't care what you make, as long as we are all together..." line was not cutting it.  Choose motherfucker, so I can get to work) gnocchi and a red velvet cake.  I could not find red food coloring.  Living in Philadelphia limits my shopping options.  I have Whole Foods and corner stores in my neighborhood.  Neither carries red food coloring. I had to drive to the burbs for it.  Additionally, it was "back to school" night, Manny had soccer practice and Michaela had a soccer game.  Not a whole lot of time to bake a cake and make gnocchi.  By 5:45 it became apparent that I could not get it done.  I called John.  "Oysters."  That is all he said.  "Oysters."

Sansom Street Oyster House.  We ordered Kusshi, Fanny Bay and Little Shemogue oysters.  3 dozen.  We each had 2 Bulleit old fashions, and a bowl of clam chowder.  I love this restaurant.  The oysters are excellent, the drinks are excellent, our waitress was excellent and it is really a beautiful space.  Big and square, yet it manages to feel warm and quirky.  The walls are painted brick and covered with antique oyster plates.  We bumped into old friends, who live around the corner from the restaurant.  They are there often. He stated that he imagines that the plates came from some old woman's collection.  I added that she had a drawer filled with small silver oyster forks, that she polished once a week.  I think I may have to add oyster plates to my obsessive mind.  Ebay, here I come....

John and I stepped from the warm oyster house into the cool early fall night air.  We were going to walk home, but realized how exhausted we were.  The old fashions were clouding our heads and our feet seemed so heavy.  It was a nice birthday dinner.  Sev returns at the week's end from his camping trip.  I will make gnocchi and red velvet cake.  Fall is good.