Exploring Arthur Avenue With Arthur Avenue Food Tours

by Anne Maxfield on February 12, 2018

Accidental Locavore Arthur Avenue BiscottiWandering Arthur Avenue in February might not be your first choice to explore this food mecca, but when Danielle of Feast on History Tours wanted to promote her food tours, I took advantage of the offer!

Going to Arthur Avenue has been on my list for decades and for whatever reason every promised trip has always failed to materialize.

But not this time!

For those of you not familiar with Arthur Avenue, it’s a trip back in time, with family-run Italian shops lining streets near the Bronx Zoo.

Our guide Danielle grew up in the neighborhood and started giving tours a few years ago.

She’s well organized and shares her enthusiasm along with tastes from all her favorite shops. That means you’re not stuffing your face with junk in tourist stops–just getting a taste of insider high points.

The hub is the covered central market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market.

Accidental Locavore Arthur Avenue Market CoffeeWe met there and enjoyed cappuccinos and biscotti while discussing the plan for the day and getting a little history of the area from Danielle. One of the things I liked about the tour was her gift of giving you just enough history to make it all interesting (and not so much that you’re looking for the exits).

After that, we went to the first of three (totally different) bakeries. This one was a traditional bread bakery, with beautiful loaves lining the windows and shelves. Addeo’s Bakery is known for their “addictive” chicola bread made with chunks of crispy cured pork. If you’ve ever had prosciutto bread, this simply takes it to a whole other level.

Accidental Locavore Arthur Avenue Bread BakeryYou’ll soon learn that anyone who is familiar with Arthur Ave. has their favorite shops and will defend them to the death. If you think you’re going to do one stop shopping fuggedaboutit—there are shops who specialize on each and every item on your shopping list. What all these shops have in common is that they’ve been in business for years, building up a loyal clientele, many of whom are also third generation shoppers.

One of the few shops that everyone seems to agree on is Borgatti Ravioli for their fresh pasta. When you walk in the store, you’re handed a card with the widths of pasta on it. Choose one of 9 different flavors of pasta and they’ll cut it to order–as wide or narrow as you’d like. If you’d rather have ravioli or manicotti, they’ve got that too and all the tomatoes or pre-made sauces you need for your pasta.

Accidental Locavore Arthur Avenue PastaIn between the second and third bakeries, we stopped at Joe’s Deli for tastes of their cheeses. In a world where everyone has the best mozzarella, I’d be voting for Joe’s. Smooth and really creamy, it was one of the best I’ve ever had. I was just sad that it was February with not a decent tomato in sight…

Accidental Locavore Arthur Avenue CheeseThe third bakery was Artuso’s where we had one of the few cannoli I ever really enjoyed. Small and freshly filled, there was the perfect amount of not too sweet filling to crunchy shell. Three perfect bites!

Accidental Locavore Arthur Avenue CannoliThere were stops to several other great spots on and off Arthur Avenue, ending up with a great Sicilian pizza back at the market.

Danielle does such a good job taking you to her favorite spots, that you’ll be armed with all the info you need to explore on your own. It’s certainly a tour I’d recommend to friends (and have) and would even take again, just for fun.

What I also learned, is that a cold Saturday in February, early in the morning is doable. After that even in 20° weather, and it’s a free for all.

My advice? Contact Danielle and set up a weekday morning so you can end up at any one of many great spots with a sandwich or pizza for lunch.

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Braised Lamb Shanks with Lots of Herbs

by Anne Maxfield on February 5, 2018

Accidental Locavore Lamb Shank With HerbsThis is one of those recipes that you struggle with seasonality-wise. While it’s most likely a winter recipe—braising lamb shanks until tender, the handfuls of herbs get a little costly when you can’t run out and grab them from your garden.

However, I had a few beautiful shanks from some local lamb that were crying out to be used, so I splurged and bought all (well, almost all) the herbs for this. This needs time, but it’s an easy recipe. From the NY Times Cooking this feeds 6-8.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Lots of Herbs

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 pounds lamb shanks (5 to 6 shanks)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion (white or red), peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, coarsely cracked
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 bunches scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped spicy greens such as mustard greens or arugula
  • 1 ½ cups chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup chopped mint or dill or a combination
  • ½ cup chopped tarragon
  • ½ cup chopped chives
  • About 1 cup chicken or lamb stock, or water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Fresh lemon juice, as needed (optional)

Accidental Locavore Herbs for Lamb ShankIn a large bowl (or Ziploc bag) large enough to hold the lamb, mix together salt, paprika and pepper. Add shanks and rub all over with spice mix. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours (or up to 24 hours) in the refrigerator.

Heat oven to 325°. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, over medium heat, heat a splash of olive oil. Sear the lamb in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, adding more oil as needed. Take your time with this, making sure to brown the lamb all over. Transfer browned lamb to a plate.

When all the lamb is cooked, add onion to empty skillet and cook it in the lamb drippings (adding a more oil if pan looks dry) until limp and lightly browned at the edges, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic, coriander, cayenne and allspice and cook until the garlic is very fragrant and opaque, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Pour in wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits on bottom of pan. Let mixture simmer until thickened and reduced by about a third (about 5 minutes). Add lamb back to pan and coat with the mixture.

In a bowl, toss together scallions, spicy greens, and herbs. Sprinkle lamb with half the herb mixture and set remaining half aside for serving. Cover pan and bake until meat is falling off the bones, 3 to 3 1/2 hours total, turning shanks every hour so they cook evenly. If the bottom of the pan starts to dry out before lamb is done, add a few tablespoons of the stock or water to moisten it.

When shanks are tender, transfer to a heated serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm. If you like, at this point you can tear the meat off the bones; or, serve the shanks bone-in.

On top of the stove, heat roasting pan over medium-low heat. If pan is dry, add remaining stock or water and bring to a simmer. (If drippings in pan seem very fatty, spoon off some of the fat.) Bring drippings to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits on bottom of pan.

Once the liquid is reduced to a thin glaze, add butter to pan along with all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining herbs (save those for garnish). Whisk sauce until smooth, then taste and add lemon juice as needed. Pour sauce over the lamb and garnish with chopped herbs. Serve and enjoy!

 

Accidental Locavore Lamb Shanks in PotMy verdict: This might be my new favorite way to do lamb shanks! The shanks were so tender and the combination of cooked down and fresh herbs was delicious.

I halved the recipe because I only had a couple of shanks. Didn’t buy parsley or chives, and just added more arugula and chopped some of the green parts of the scallions finer. Would probably not bother with the tarragon either if I wasn’t doing the whole recipe.

This could easily be done in a slow cooker or Insta-Pot (and that might be my summer choice when the herbs are all in the garden), but it was pretty easy in a Dutch oven. The only issue I had was that it kept drying out, so I added more wine and when that bottle was empty, went to water.

I served it over orzo, but couscous, polenta or rice would work well.

Since it was such a success, I did it a couple of weeks later with a leg of lamb. Everyone loved it and Frank said it was the best leg of lamb he’d ever had!

 

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Rockerbox Spice Company: Garlic and More!

by Anne Maxfield on January 29, 2018

Accidental Locavore Rockerbox Selling GarlicIf you’ve been at a local foodie event, you’ve probably come across Raema Rotindo and her array of spices—Rockerbox Spice Company.

Founded almost 6 years ago, Raema started experimenting with dehydrating garlic and running it through a food processor, making her own garlic powder. She quickly realized that her homemade garlic powder was much more intense and flavorful than the usual store-bought variety (which, can we all agree, is pretty awful). That’s because the jar you bought at the store a million years ago only contain about 60% actual garlic powder.

She started making batches of it for friends and family and trading it at food swaps. People started clamoring for it, asking her if they could buy more. With the purchase of a bigger dehydrator and a large order from Brooklyn Kitchen, Rockerbox Spice Company sprang to life.

One of the secrets to Rockerbox’s success is that it’s a pure product. All the chips and dusts are 100% product, giving you that great taste in just a pinch of powder.

In the beginning you could find Raema peeling mountains of garlic and onions to make her powders. It was taking 100 pounds of onions and 4 days of dehydrating to make 10 pounds of onion powder—that’s a lot of onions to be peeling! Now, she’s graduated to a co-packer where she oversees the production process for her expanding product line.

Accidental Locavore Rockerbox GarlicI’ve been using her garlic dust, garlic flakes and shallot flakes ever since I discovered her at a food festival. It was key to making the Magic Sriracha Sauce as delicious as it was!

Now I’m looking forward to playing with her black garlic and roasted garlic dust.

If you’re a fan of a classic French vinaigrette for your salads, you’ve probably diced up a half a shallot for a batch of dressing and let the other half die a slow death in your crisper drawer (sound familiar?). Keep her shallot flakes on hand et voilà, perfect vinaigrette!

All her products come in two sizes, which gives you the chance to try different varieties and come back for bigger jars of your favorites.

She’s expanded the product line to include things like tomato flakes and garlic-based spice blends like everything bagel spice and even a ranch mix, so you can make your own (better-tasting and better-for-you) ranch dressing.

The whole line is available on her website, so go indulge and let us know in the comments what you used it in!Accidental Locavore Rockerbox Garlic Set

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Silvia Restaurant: Global and Seasonal in Woodstock

by Anne Maxfield on January 22, 2018

Accidental Locavore Silvia Restaurant InteriorIf you’re looking for a restaurant in the Woodstock area, check out Sylvia. Silvia (named for owners Doris and Betty Choi’s grandmother) opened in August on Mill Hill Road.

There’s a big deck (open in warmer weather) and a discreet sign over the door.

Once inside, you’re looking at a big open dining room, an active, open kitchen and a smaller more intimate room with additional seating and a lively bar.

We were seated at a corner table near the bar, where we could see all the kitchen activity.

The star of Silvia’s open kitchen is a massive wood-fired grill (which was one of the deciding factors in ordering that night’s special—a massive pork chop).

Accidental Locavore Silvia Restaurant BBQ BeefWe started with the Grass Fed BBQ Beef. It was shredded beef to wrap in lettuce leaves and garnish with cabbage salad, kimchi, and topped with the traditional miso garlic paste. The beef was tender and flavorful. We all liked it a lot, but being veterans of many Korean dinners, would have liked the kimchi to pack more heat.

Frank ordered the Chicken Liver Toast, which looked great with its decoration of jeweled beets. He loved it, and we all really liked the horseradish mustard that accompanied it.

Although we scoffed at him when he ordered a salad (thinking it was going to be too much food), the Crumbled Caesar was a terrific riff on a Caesar salad. It featured a poached egg on a bed of escarole, studded with crispy shiitake mushrooms, Parmesan crisps and sourdough croutons in a Caesar dressing. We loved the crunch of the shiitakes and Parmesan crisps.  It was, as Frank said, “simply terrific.”

Accidental Locavore Silvia Restaurant Caesar SaladAs I mentioned, the pork chop special caught my eye. It was a massive 22-ounce chop from Chaljeri Meats, one of many local farmers they work with. It was perfectly cooked, tender and delicious, on a bed of grilled red cabbage. A terrific chop!

Accidental Locavore Silvia Restaurant Pork ChopMy friend went for the Pan Seared Arctic Char which came with broccoli rabe, grilled lemon, parsnip chips and charred leeks with a salsa verde. The sweetness of the fish went well with the bitterness of the broccoli rabe and the salsa was a perfect accompaniment to the char.

Frank got the burger, a tower of meat, shredded Brussels sprouts, cambozola cheese (think Brie meets Gorgonzola), caramelized onions with fries and house ketchup. The fries were good as was the ketchup, but he was way too full from the appetizers and salad to really do justice to his burger.

Portions were generous and everything we took home made for a great lunch the next day!

We didn’t have a chance (or the room) to explore the vegetable menu, but there were some very tempting dishes offered, ranging from pan seared Brussels sprouts to grilled shisito peppers and an ash-roasted kuri squash to name a few.

Accidental Locavore Silvia Restaurant Chocolate TorteAfter a fairly meat-centric menu, it was surprising to see the dessert menu veer towards healthy. There are 5 selections, with a seasonal panna cotta, a butternut squash pudding, a raw chocolate torte, a raw cashew key lime pie and a beet chocolate pots de crème. Both the torte and key lime pie are vegan, and gluten free. Frank had the chocolate torte, which looked amazing—dense layers of chocolate. He thought it was excellent! Because it was vegan and gluten-free, a mixture of nuts, dates and coconut oil replaced butter and the other usual suspects, so it was sadly off limits for me.

The restaurant has two main seating areas, we loved our seat in the bar room, it was cozy and surprisingly quiet even with a busy weekend crowd. If you’re with a family or in a larger group, you might want to opt for the livelier main dining room.

 

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