Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Discover Exotic & Delicious Eggplants at Local Greenmarkets

This is the time of year food lovers wait all year long for.

It’s the sweet spot of farm to table, pasture to plate, fin to fork, and, oh, whatever the myriad, au courant other ways to say “real food.”

The farmers and food artisans earned their due last week, celebrating their moment in the sun with National Farmers Week.  (Do we really need “just” a week or shouldn’t every week be Farmer’s Week?)

Like Daisy in the “Great Gatsby” who cries over the sheer beauty of the shirts, Greenmarket fans could well up at the imposing beauty of the season’s best.
There are boatloads of garden fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs spilling, tottering, towering.
Perched as pretty as jewels in a Tiffany window display, the seasonal temptresses affix their gaze from baskets, tabletops, and carts, winking at market shoppers.

According to the Farmer’s Market Coalition, “Since 2000, the number of farmers markets has grown 150%, from 2,863 markets to 7,175 in 2011.  These numbers continue to rise as farmers markets become fresh food mainstays for shoppers across all socio-economic, political, and ethnic ranges. Farmers markets bolster local economies, improve community health, and bring diverse groups of people together through a shared social space.” 
The number of jobs Greenmarkets provide were acknowledged recently by Rodale Press:  “Along with the USDA's new statistics, the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report finding that farmer's markets could be a much-needed antidote to high unemployment. Their economic analysis found that even modest public support for up to 500 farmer's markets annually would create up to 13,500 jobs in a five-year window, bolstering local and regional food systems. "On the whole, farmers markets have seen exceptional growth.”

Naturally, New York City has been a leader in the Greenmarket or Farmer’s Market initiative. In 1976, the Council on the Environment of New York City, and now is GrowNYC who established the Greenmarket program, which provides regional small farmers with opportunities to sell their fruits, vegetables and other products at open-air markets in the city.

The best known of these in New York City is the Union Square Greenmarket.

Many of the chefs in this reporter’s soon to be released book, “Long Island Homegrown Cookbook,” followed by the “NYC Homegrown Cookbook” helped contribute to the establishment of the NYC Greenmarkets. (
As did, of course, the father of today’s NYC Parks Department Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, Barry.  
It’s a fascinating story of fortitude, community, and love of food.

Union Square market is held Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays between 8 AM and 6 PM year round. GrowyNYC claims there are approximately 250,000 customers a week who purchase 1,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables at the market from the more than 140 regional farmers and artisanal food makers.

That is the stage set. Back to the seduction.

One cannot stop indulging in these adorable, curious, other-worldly, be-still-my-heart, tasty, vegetables and fruits.
No longer is it enough to secure or grow fresh produce.

Like shopping Bergdorf’s or Saks, where one knows, yes, there are dresses and shoes and coats.  But in those palaces of fashion, exist the likes of which one has not seen and must have.
So too, the Greenmarkets offer pulsating, ever-curious designs on the season. 

To whit.  Who could deny the cute as a puppy Fairy Tale eggplant? 
Or the Orange Turkish Eggplant? And how about those Sweet Kermit Eggplants?  They even boast a nickname: The Garden Egg. 

This is the new foodie frontier!
To discover not just fresh food – but curious, wonderful, sexy, veggies and herbs.
The kaleidoscope of colors is spellbinding. Worthy of a Mondrian painting.

Here’s a sampling at this week’s Greenmarket:
Rosa Bianca Eggplant
* Rosa Bianca Heirloom Eggplant is heralded as “one of the best tasting variety recommended by many chefs as creamy and mild flavor. Grill or roasting is recommended.” Or pan-cooked with olive oil and salt.  “Also makes great eggplant parmesan.” 

* The beautiful India Paint Eggplant has tender white flesh that is delicious grilled, baked, or pan-cooked with oil and salt.  
India Paint Eggplant

* The velvety royal purple baby sized Japanese eggplant is very sweet, creamy, and noted as the most popular.  There are no seeds, so the pint sized prizes can be sliced up and grilled or in a pan with a dash of olive oil and salt. 

*Kermit “… have a delicious meaty flesh and flavor with hints of mushroom and artichoke.  Firm flesh holds up well in curries and can be eaten raw or cooked.” Kermit is a multi-talent cosmopolitan!

    * Fairy Tale dwarfs have a sweet, succulent taste, no bitterness.  They are terrific pan-cooked or caramelized with a little olive oil and vinegar. 

      *  Orange Turkish Eggplant is the runway model of the new crop of eggplant beauties with its showy red and orange color statement.  Trouble is whether to cuddle them or cook them!  Nevia No, the vegetable farming artist and favorite of NYC’s master chefs at Bodhitree Farms ( at the Greenmarket, recommends slicing very thin and frying them – like potato chips!   This is an eggplant with a sense of humor and style.

      Inspired, this reporter bought more than enough of the cutey-pie eggplants for dinner -- like an expectant date hoping for that magic at Victoria’s Secret…
      Along with their equally exotic farm stand knock outs: the seasonal tomato: zebra, heirlooms, red and yellow. 

      Enamored of the jewel box eggplant and tomato collectibles, next step was to procure appropriate recipes to exploit their petite charms. 
      Voila!  Melissa Clarke’s Wednesday feature in the New York Times Dining section had a full page on eggplant recipes. (
      After Tweeting Melissa to ask if the Fairy Tales and Turkish eggplants could be substituted for the traditional purple globe eggplant and she confirmed “You can.  They should be great!”  Dinner was a go.  She’s a doll. (

      Enjoy a great summer of eggplant, food fantasy discovery!

      Wednesday, August 10, 2011

      Appetite City Premieres August 11, Hosted by William Grimes

      William Grimes has a lot to say about food and restaurants. 

      Grimes is a food historian, author, a former New York Times restaurant reviewer and host of TV’s new series, “Appetite City.”

      Based on the topics highlighted in his best-selling 2009 book, “Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York” the new TV series premieres Thursday, August 11 at 8:30 pm on NYC life (Channel 25). 

      An advance copy of Thursday’s show, which is devoted to Soul Food, reveals a fascinating format:  there’s a dash of history—intriguing sepia toned images and news footage; a pinch of celebrity chefs—Red Rooster Chef Marcus Samuelsson; and a dash of gastronomy historians: Sarah Lohman (
      and Frederick Douglass Opie (

      Grimes threads the food story strands peppered with the distinct, unique flavors of architecture, immigration, real estate, theater, interior design, politics, fashion and celebrities, to create a rich mix of New York history. 

      Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?  Food lovers will be addicted to Appetite City as they are to their local deli or corner cafĂ©.  After all, foodies do believe earth revolves not around the sun but around the dinner plate!  Future episodes explore the New York dining culture of Delis, GreenMarkets, Street Food, Oysters, Diners, Chinatown and Fine Dining.
      But the main ingredient that makes this program simmer is Grimes.  It’s his boundless knowledge of all things food.  He knows his falafel carts from his pizza trucks  -- and all things served on a white tablecloth.  He’s got the chops!  Viewers will discover he can lead them, Ken Burns-like through the past, yes, but he also can tempt culinary curiosity with the now, as he does with Chef Samuelsson and in upcoming episodes with 11 Madison and the GreenMarkets. 

      Appetite City presents the history of New York City through the culture of food.  The show is both a tasty time capsule and a delicious passport. 

      Be sure to tune in for the Appetite City premiere, Thursday, August 11 at 8:30 pm for the evolution of soul food, “from the glory days of Harlem” to today’s Sylvia and Red Rooster restaurants.  Appetite City can be seen on NYC life, Channel 25 and/or Channel 22 on Cablevision. Appetite City will also be available to watch online on the NYC Media Video on Demand player – and through the NYC Media app, available to download for free from iTunes.

      New episodes will be added each week.
      NYC life with its 1.5 million viewers per week is the “flagship channel” of the NYC Media network.  New York is diverse, exciting and smart: Gotham deserves this entertaining, quality content.

      Watch a promo here:
      Twilight @ Tavern: Film Screening
      Watch a screening of Appetite City under the stars. Appetite City tells the history of New York through its food. No advance registration. Free. All ages welcome.
      Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2011
 Time: 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM

      Tuesday, August 9, 2011

      Hungry For More? Food. Curated Season 2 Premieres Thursday, August 11th

      If you’re reading this, it’s a sure bet that Food and Drink are passions to be embraced at every chance possible. It’s a kinetic world of unbridled creativity, delicious, ever-changing choices that kiss the seasons and mirror a neighborhood's food style and culture. 

      Liza de Guia, Founder/Chief Storyteller, Food. Curated, NYC life
      For the truly food-obsessed, there is “Food. Curated,” hosted by the irrepressible, curious, food lover, story teller, host and good-food sherpa, Liza de Guia.  
      The new season premieres Thursday, August 11 at 9pm on NYC life (Channel 25). 

      Liza’s insatiable inquisitiveness about where food comes from and how good food gets made, is what makes the compelling stories in her food-focused series all the more unique.  
      “I love telling stories, “ she says with authentic, unbridled enthusiasm.  
      It shows.

      NYC life, the “flagship channel of the NYC Media network” recently held a premiere event at Tavern on the Green, offering a sneak preview of the new season’s episodes. 
      It was a perfect evening for an outdoor media event – a little like an old fashioned drive-in movie (no pajamas, though).    
       There was great seating, plenty of distinctive cuisines provided by NYC Food Trucks including Van Leeuwen ice cream (, who, along with the premiere episode’s food artisans, are among the “food elite” beguiling enough to have captured Liza’s eye and featured on Food. Curated.


      Food. Curated is like a big dining table Liza has set for her devoted food fans.  The show is not so much a how-to cooking show – although there is plenty of behind-the-kitchen-door prep and crafting that viewers crave. 
      It’s the unique stories of the food craftspeople and how Liza narrates their food struggles and triumphs that leaves one pleading, “more, please.”

      Born in Brooklyn, raised in Florida by her Filipino parents – she claims her father was kitchen obsessed and enlisted his kids as sous chefs. She was taught to taste everything, cook, and experience the flavors of fresh food. The family also traveled a lot: Asia and Europe especially, and she learned about cultures from food.  She returned to New York City suffused with a dream.  She loved photography and people – and food: the holy trinity of New York food culture. 

      For almost three years  -- until 2001-- Liza was marketing prime time shows at ABC TV.  As a natural storyteller and self-taught videographer, though, she wanted to produce the segments.  Further, after the attacks on the World Trade Center changed Gotham forever, she needed to hit the pause button. 
      Liza mapped out a world tour, traveling and tasting; mainly exploring. 

      In 2003, back in New York, she got her big chance at the Long Island start-up: Plum TV.  “I was at the right place at the right time,” she grins.  What’s that saying about success belonging to the prepared?
      Well, Liza had in fact researched the enterprise, met the owners in a parking lot and they hired her. 
      On the spot.  
      Watching Liza guide the viewer through the Food. Curated profiles, and better yet, meeting her in person as she bounds to a hello greeting and, immediately, I knew there was never any question that they would’ve said no.  She is pure, happy energy you want to pixie dust to make the world better!
      At Plum TV she was given carte blanche to cover what she wanted.  There was no doubt it would be food.  She soon became the food "it" girl for the channel, visiting farms and restaurants. 
      The feedback from the homegrown community told her they’d never known about the local crops or harvest, for example until they saw her show.   
      “It was here in Long Island – in the Hamptons -- that I connected with food on another level and it hit me:  this is what I’m going to do.”

      After Plum TV and a brief run at an environmental hosting position, she doggedly determined to return to her first lover: food.  And to do her own food series. 
      On her own.  
      In NYC.   (Just the biggest media market there is.... )
      Wow! That's conviction.

      However, much to her surprise, too many networks, media and food blogs turned her down, telling her no one would stick around for a seven-minute video piece about food, she later commented to the premiere audience.  But she would not let her dream dissipate like an ephemeral, frothy topping she’d soon be reporting on.  Oh, no. 

      What's a food narrator to do?  She launched Food. Curated solo in 2009
      She put together a modest budget, produced just five video segments and posted it.
      Then it went viral.

      “It’s an awesome thing to tell the real story of food: the doughnut bakers or ice cream or cheese makers. I love that sense of educating people to eat better. To make a difference,” she explains.
      It becomes clear Liza is not so much producing TV shows as much as she is on a mission.  This talented visual artist loves what she does.  She respects the food artisans, farmers, fishermen, and chefs.   
      That romance ignites the screen.  Make no mistake though, this is food entertainment as much as it is education.  
      And Liza does it all: once a week or so she is researching the food profile candidates, interviewing,  shooting video, editing, setting it to music, graphics.  
      It’s a sensory experience that has earned her two James Beard nominations.

      “My curiosity is so vast, I know I will never run out of stories to tell,” Liza says about her upcoming second season.  She notes she’s discovered the story of a North Catskill slaughterhouse kill floor, a pizzeria started by a middle-aged former tech consultant, Pauli Gee, and an ostrich farmer.  “I get my stories most often by eating somewhere delicious then I contact them and I’ll stick to them until they agree to be a featured food artisan,” this gregarious, over-achiever says.

      In her opening remarks to the audience at the food series' premiere at Tavern on the Green, she explains Food. Curated is less about food than it is about the people she profiles.  
      It's their stories she's channelling. 
      Like a Shakespearean protege, Liza has a keen sense of the drama and comedy inherent in timeless storytelling.  She profiles their struggles, challenges, and triumphs with respect and intimacy, as they pursue their dreams with a single-mindedness that is pure Horatio Alger.  
      That they more often than not fit Liza's profile of pursuing a passion and a dream is not a coincidence.  Her empathy enriches the narrative.
      She says she is inspired to create a kind of storytelling she knows from her favorite radio show, "This American Life." 
      The new Food. Curated show, airs 9:00pm, Thursday, August 11th on channel NYC life is available in the New York tri-state area on broadcast, cable and satellite channels, channel 25 on most cable systems and 22 on Cablevision.      

      It features husband and wife baking team Matt and Allison who create crazy good, flavors-that-only-a-sorcerer-could-imagine cupcakes (hello Creamsicle or Peaches & Red Wine): Robicelli’s cupcakes (, along with Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark Devine who make Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta cheese ( that you will wonder how you ever lived without – especially this time of year with just-picked tomatoes from the garden or Greenmarket some salt and a little olive oil; and Danny Cohen, creator and baker of Danny Macaroons ( who creates and makes coconut macaroons in flavors that are off the charts, including roasted almond, German chocolate and are gluten-free!  Danny also makes "naked" and cloaked biscotti

      Catch a Sneak Preview of Food. Curated here:

      Watch episodes from season one online at:

      Visit to learn more about the show and NYC life. The city brings truly great programming home.  This is welcome entertainment indeed, especially those culturally-curious viewers abandoned by too much faux reality tv.  Applause, Applause, NYC Media Network!

      In the future, Liza hopes she can produce full-length food documentaries, saying “food can be told in a story format.”  Tune in for Food. Curated and see how it’s done.