Do You Take Your Cyder Fizzy or Scrumpy?

silvercross

 

It was at the Silver Cross Pub in London, near Trafalgar Square, where I had my first real English cyder.    Before then I had only experienced Woodchuck Cider, the cloyingly sweet American version of a true English cyder.   I wasn’t a cider fan.    I had been ‘carnival barking’ at a trade show in the Midlands all week and now was spending a fun weekend exploring London.  My somewhat hoarse voice needed something alcoholic to bring it back, and I had to kill time before seeing a show at the Trafalgar Studios across the street.

To my surprise I see a cider on tap, front and center of the bar, called Aspall Suffolk Cyder, which, oddly enough is the area in Suffolk England (Monk Stonham Aspall) from which my mother’s paternal line hails.    So I had to taste the drink of my Yeoman ancestors and  I asked the bartender for a pint.   After one sip I fell in love.  Like most English cyders, Aspall is a dry cider with a bit more bubbly than our versions.    It’s a heck of a lot more drinkable than most sweet American ciders.

So after getting back home, I totally immerse myself in English Cyder culture – well, to the extent that I can in Midwestern America.    I find another pub near the ancestral town on Facebook called the Nelson Head in Horsey-next-the-Sea in Suffolk UK, and friend them.

To my luck I find Aspall Cyder at Findlay Market Wines, and depleted their stock every time I went to Findlay Market, much to the delight of Michael, the owner.   Then a few years later,  the Party Source in Newport, Kentucky, started carrying a full line of Aspall Ciders, including my favorite Isabell’s Berry – a dry bubbly cider with a lingering aftertaste of redcurrent and raspberry.    It is so good to drink in hot weather.   Aspall recommends drinking it alongside gooseberry crumble, summer pudding, and white Stilton cheese – none of which are in my regular picnic repertoire, but hey, why not?

In the meantime, Cincinnati has gotten into the craft cider craze, like Rhinegeist’s Cidergeist line, including one of my faves – Bubbles – which is similar to the Aspall’s Isabell’s Berry, only with cranberries and peach.     Then, I a week or so ago I get an invite from Nelson Head Pub back in the UK for their Beer, Cider and Music Fest in September.        They had a list of about 20 cyders, categorized as ‘draught’ and ‘scrumpy.’

I had never heard of the scrumpy category, which included Weston’s Wyldwood and Gwynt ye Ddraig Pyder.   I found that there was a whole new category of cyder I needed to explore.

1513858_636828083048314_2082417089_n

Scrumpy is a term used to refer to cyders made in the West of England, particularly Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire.   It also refers to rough or harsh ciders made from unselected apples.   Today, however, it also refers to locally made small batch ciders from anywhere in the UK using traditional methods.

So now I have a list of scrumpy ciders to look out for at the Party Source, and I think I’ve got a wild hair to try to ferment some scrumpy cyder of my own!

 

 

Creole Cooking, Post Cincinnati

lafcadiohearn

Lafcadio Hearn, former Cincinnati Enquirer reporter and foodie extraordinaire.

 

I was walking toward Jackson Square along Chartes Street from the old Ursuline Convent and St Mary’s Church, where a brother and sister of my second great grandmother were baptized.    My love for the Crescent City now had a family connection, thanks to records made available online.    I wanted to see the statue of the Mother of Great Succor that my ancestors saw while they attended mass.   The Ursulines carried her from France to their convent in the early 1800s and she’s billed as the protector of New Orleans.      There’s a great painter in Jackson Square, Renee Perez,  who paints hundreds of images of her.

My third great grandparents, Johanna Reinsen and Peter Krebs arrived here separately in the 1840s from Germany, met, married,  and lived a block away from the touristy Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop on St. Phillips Street.    The small shotgun house they rented is still standing.    After two children they would take a steamboat up the Mississippi to the Ohio and settle in Newport, Kentucky.

I had fallen for New Orleans since my first trip in college.   I discovered more to love each time after that I visited.   This visit, two years ago, was my first return since Katrina.

Now I was headed to the Librairie Used Bookshop on Chartres to trace another Cincinnati connection.     I was looking for a copy of Lafcadio Hearn’s Creole Cookbook, written by him in 1884, when he lived in an apartment on Cleveland Street.  The book is considered one of the most significant cookbooks because it’s one of the first to identify a purely American form of cooking, specifically Creole cooking.   The magazine Garden and Gun just gushed about Hearn’s cookbook in a recent article.  Hearn had left Cincinnati in 1877, after writing for the Cincinnati Commercial, and was supposed to be paid by them to cover a story in New Orleans.   He never received that check.

An ancient brass bell and that wonderful musty smell of old books greeted me, as did the elderly proprietor.       After discussing Lafcadio, she told me she didn’t have any of his books, but recommended Arcadian Books up the street, behind the Cathedral.   I thanked her and walked the four blocks to the other store, where I found maybe the last available copy of Hearn’s Creole Cookbook for sale in New Orleans.

Hearn was a total foodie.   Unfortunately he didn’t write anything about food while he was in Cincinnati.   Probably, he was uninspired by the spare ribs, pigs feet and other simple boarding house fare he was able to afford.    He certainly would not have afforded a table at the St. Nicholas, where Cincinnati foodies at that time went for their haute cuisine.

I thought surely there would be some Cincinnati food connections embedded in his cookbook.   Maybe the connection between the Cincinnati nectar soda and the New Orleans nectar soda could be found in his cocktails section.    There was none.   John Mullane, who brought the nectar soda to Cincinnati had just returned from his training in Acadian Quebec, where he learned the flavor, in 1876.   And Hearn probably couldn’t have afforded to sit at the Mullane soda stand.       There was no recipe for rye bread, but lots of biscuits and east coast brown breads.   There were a few dishes he would have had in Cincinnati that made it in the cookbook, like canvasback duck, rabbit pie, and suckling pig, which the Cincinnati Germans loved and called Spanferkel, and was served at places like Mecklenburg Gardens.   There was a section on German sausages, which of course he would have had while in Cincinnati.   And there were a handful of recipes for real and mock turtle soup, which any tavern in Cincinnati in the 1860s and 70s would have had on their menu.

Before Hearn wrote the cookbook he fulfilled one of his foodie dreams — opening a restaurant.   He called it the “5 Cent Restaurant”, and opened with $100 he saved  on a sordid side street  at 160 Dryades.   He catered to the working classes, serving cheap biscuits and coffee, and other economical foods.     This area of Dryades was in the neighborhood of Marigny, where the European Creole men set up their “placees’ or ‘left-handed/second wives’  of African American, or mixed race descent.   Although not recognized as wives, they were institutionalized through contracts settling property to the woman and her children.   The restaurant lasted less than a month, from March 2 to 22, 1879, during which time he renamed it “Hard Times.”    His partner disappeared with the little cash they had, and their cook, leaving Hearn to shoulder the debts.

But then there were amazing Creole and southern dishes in Hearn’s cookbook.   I actually made a Green Tomato Catsup from his book when I returned home.   Mine turned out to be more like a chunky, vinegary jam, which was good.    I had to translate some old recipe terms – like what the heck is a peck of tomatoes?   New Orleans honors Lafcadio today with a Mardi Gras Crewe in his name, which chooses as it’s parade King from one of the many chefs in the city.

The great thing about the cookbook is how much Creole history and mystique is brought through the recipes.   Hearn had a fascination for voodoo and Creole culture – he might have been the first American food etymologist, connecting history and food culture.    After over a decade in New Orleans, Hearn spent a brief time in Martinique, and then to Japan, where he married and became a cult-hero writer of Japanese ghost stories.  His great grandson, a professor of Japanese folklore, visited Cincinnati and New Orleans a few years ago to trace the trail of his foodie ancestor.     Both the Cincinnati and New Orleans Public Libraries have wonderful Hearn collections, and a great exhibit of Hearn’s original work is now on display at the Main Cincinnati Library downtown.

 

 

Chako’s Kabocha Squash Bread at Covington Farmer’s Market

Kabocha

In my search for the perfect artisan rye bread this summer, I’ve found something even better – Japanese pumpkin bread!      Well, it’s actually the Japanese Kabocha squash, which  is referred to as Japanese pumpkin.  It’s sweeter than other squashes and pumpkins, but it still has that mild pumpkin flavor.

I found it at the small, but growing Covington Farmer’s Market this morning.     It’s made into a light, but decadent croissant-like bread by Japanese immigrant,  Hisako “Chako”  Okawa, who  has a tent at the market.    She was classically trained at the Cordon Bleu Institute in Japan, so while her breads are French forms, they are Japanese influenced in their lightness and ingredients.    Chako came to Covington in 2015 to be by her son, who lived here at the time.   He has since moved on to Seattle.

She does have a rye bread – although its mixed with millet flour, chia, cranberries and nuts, but has a lighter fluffiness than typical German rye breads.

It’s her Japanese pumpkin ‘croissants’ that are her signature.   They also have a light fluffiness like the rye breads, with mild, but contrasting  flavors.     Unlike a croissant, you don’t get the insane butteriness, but the light sweetness of the pumpkin brings the decadence.

 

19400221_1796240294021512_6263298627769839023_o

Chako has done pop up restaurants, offering contemporary Japanese cuisine, but plans to open her Chako Bread and Cakes in the Creperie on Pike Street on the other side of the railroad bridge, across the street from the old Sam Dragones Confectionery in Covington.

In addition to her genius breads, Chako also shares her knowledge of French pastry in her monthly classes.    I  am sure to be found in one of her upcoming classes.

 

 

Cincinnati’s Key Ingredient in the Buffalo Chicken Wing

IMG_5640.jpg

 

You know a food has reached iconic status when it becomes a potato chip flavor. Such is the case with Buffalo Wild Wings.   In only about 50 years it has become the American Hot Sauce. You can even get it as a pretzel flavor with Snyder’s of Hanover Buffalo Chicken pretzel bits.   Nearly every fast food brand has had a Buffalo Wild Wings sandwich.   Arby’s has a Buffalo Chicken Slider now as a limited offering.

 

On the drive back from Ontario to Cincinnati, your first stop on the other side of the border is Buffalo, New York, the city that birthed this beloved Buffalo Chicken.   And its creator is called “The Real Mother Teressa” in that area.   That’s none other than Teressa Bellissimo, who in 1964, as the story goes, created the Buffalo Chicken Wing at her Anchor Bar on 1047 Main Street in downtown Buffalo, which she owned with her husband Frank.

anchorbar

Back then, chicken wings were a throwaway bit of the chicken. They were used to make chicken stock for soups, and then tossed.   The story is that one night, Teressa’s son, Dominic, and his college buddies showed up at the Anchor Bar unannounced, and she needed a quick snack to feed them. So, she broiled the chicken wings she used in making the soup, and then created the now famous hot sauce to coat them with.     She pulled the celery they served on their antipasto platter and served them with blue cheese dressing on the side to cool that zing of the hot sauce.   Later she would deep fry the wings and then coat them with the sauce, whose signature ingredient was Frank’s Red Hot, the most popular selling hot sauce in the world, to this day.

Teresastatue

Teressa Bellissimo, the creator of the Buffalo Chicken Wing, and her statute in front of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.

 

Her son Dominic, in 1980 told the New Yorker a different story. He claims he was tending bar that night in 1964.   But it was a meatless Friday for the mostly Italian Catholic Buffaloians at the bar. This was pre-Vatican II times, when the Catholic Church removed meat abstinence from every Friday to only the Friday’s during Lent.   Dominic wanted to do something nice for the bar customers at the stroke of midnight when they could eat meat again. So, he asked his mother to make a snack for them.

dominic_bellissimo_0

Teressa’s husband, Frank told a third story.   Such is the case with origin stories.     Each family member has a bit different version.     There was a misdelivery of wings instead of backs and necks that they used to make the spaghetti sauce.   He told his wife to find a use for this unexpected supply of chicken.   Well, whatever the real story, Teressa is the creator, and the Bellissimo family created the market demand that would strut the chicken wing into a premium product, and not just a soup stock ingredient.

 

And, the Buffalo Chicken wing also created a demand for Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, which until 1969, was made in Cincinnati by Frank’s Tea and Spice Company.   In 1918, Jacob Frank, went to Louisiana to learn the pepper business and find makers of a hot sauce based on the cayenne pepper, not the tobasco pepper used in Tobasco Sauce.   So, he partnered with Adam Estilette, from a Cajun farming family.   Together they set up a pickling plant in New Iberia, Louisiana, to process the peppers they grew, which were then sent to Cincinnati, where they were aged with vinegar and other ingredients in oak barrels and then processed into the sauce.   The first bottle of Frank’s Red Hot hit the shelves in 1920.   After Adam’s death, his sons Frady and Grady took over the arrangement with Frank’s.

franks2

 

The Frank family sold the company in 1969, and Frank’s Red Hot brand was sold in 1977 to Durkee Foods.  As of today – July 19th – Frank’s Red Hot is now owned by U.S. spicemaker, McCormick and Company, which just bought the food division of UK based Reckitt Benckiser for $4.2 Billion.

American Wedding Cake – Mid Century

weddingcake.JPG

My parents original wedding cake, made by my grandfather and uncle, and a re-creation at their 50th Anniversary Dinner.

 

The planning started about a month ago.   I called the restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where we were to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary dinner.   It was the fifty story Skylon Tower, overlooking the Falls. My parents had eaten there on their honeymoon in 1967, the same year the Tower – a symbol of mid-century prosperity – was built.   It was our hope to recreate a tier from my parents’ original wedding cake.   It would have their original topper and integrate some of the same decorations.

skylon

The Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

“We have white iced cheesecakes,”   the Skylon kitchen manger told me, and gave an ear popping price.   So we decided to look into ordering from an outside bakery and carrying it pre-decorated into the restaurant.   We thought that would give us more quality control to recreate the cake. That turned out to be far too complex logistically, so we called the restaurant again. This time, they told us that tiramisu was the only available cake flavor.   Finally, the week before, we called to confirm the order and were told it would now be a raspberry sponge cake.   Ok, we thought, as long as the cake was white iced and our specific décor could be integrated, whatever flavor turned up at dinner would work.

In the end we did get a delicious raspberry flavored, whipped-icing cake.   The restaurant very graciously used the sugar daisies and the white chocolate swans my sister handcrafted and carried up in their cooler to Canada. With these design elements, we were able to make the cake look very similar to their original wedding cake, which was a delight to my parents.

So we asked mom and dad what flavor their cake was.   Mom replied, “It was a simple white sheetcake.   Back then (in the 1960s) wedding cakes didn’t have all the complex flavors they do today.”

 

But as a baker’s daughter our parents’ wedding cake was anything but simple, aside from the flavor.   Their cake was a whopping six-tier menagerie of confection.   It was mounted with swans, sugar wedding bells and sugar buttresses holding blue roses, each layer with a different icing design. My grandpa, the baker, had made very nice  cakes for his friends, and extended family.  But this cake had to be a showpiece.   After all, it was the most important cake a baker could make – his own daughter’s wedding cake.   Grandpa used a photo of my parents’ wedding cake in his bakery advertisements until he closed it in the early 1970s.

1960sweddingcakes

Some of the wedding cakes my grandfather made in the 1960s.

Dad and his groomsmen wore white jackets with black pants, while my mother wore her Jackie Kennedy bouffant hair style, and a pillbox hat with veil also popularized by the First Lady. My maternal grandmother wore ivory satin, while my paternal grandmother wore a dress and pillbox hat a shade darker than the baby blue the bridesmaids wore.   All these colors were integrated into the cake.

 

Wedding cake designs at mid-century were all about the outside.   It was form over flavor. Over the top flavors were not the norm for the standard American wedding.   My uncle, who decorated my parents’ cake had gone to decorating classes to learn sculpting with gum paste and other techniques.   The story was that Grandpa and my uncle dropped one of the cake tiers in transit and had to make some on-site triage repairs.   Setting up and leveling a six-tier wedding cake seems to me to be a game of Jenga – the builders needing to possess architectural genius to get it right.   But the cake didn’t topple over, a testament to the longevity of their union.

 

So when did wedding cake flavors expand and what started it all?   The lavish celebrations of today didn’t become popular until the 1970s.   Weddings before 1960s rarely had a full dinner reception, most served cake and punch only.   Some were even held during the week, as opposed to the weekend.   As weddings became more complex into the 1980s, the cake flavors began to mirror that trend.   Cake tastings to decide between tropical mango or raspberry cream, became a favorite part of the planning process.   As retail grocers bumped out the mom and pop indie bakers around the country, those left began to focus on cake decorating as a survival mechanism.   Unique flavors, as well as decorating prowess, became a way for them to differentiate between the retail commercial bakeries and their other indies who were still holding on.   Wedding cakes became smaller, and the outsides became more simple, as the inside flavors became more interesting.

 

In the end, does the flavor of the cake really matter? Do people really remember the type of cake they stuffed their faces with at weddings? Most probably remember who got drunk and jumped into the pool or who danced the wildest. What is important is the life the couple creates for themselves and the family they build.   My parents’ cake may have been vanilla, but the family they created is anything but.   We are a complex blend of sweet, spicy, savory and fruity, all wrapped up into one crazy unit.

Taft Ale House and Their Candy Bar Beer on Beer Mixtures

260x260_Culebra-150x150÷260x260_CaptianM-150x1501200px-Almond-joy-broken

 

This Father’s Day we took Dad to the Taft Ale House after a great tour of the ancient lagering tunnels under Over-the-Rhine.      I think the beers at Taft Ale house are some of the best of our local craft brewers.   They’re not trying new flavors of beer just to be weird.  They actually put a lot of thought into their flavors and  produce well balanced, unique brews.   Some of their beers even compliment each other.

This visit was the first for my brother and his family so they decided to order a flight to get a variety of tasting in.   My sister was deciding between Maverick Chocolate Porter, made with local Maverick Chocolate cocoa nibs, and the Culebra Cut coconut -infused American Brown Ale.    The waitress said, “Well why don’t you just order both – we can mix them.  It tastes just like an almond joy candy bar.”   And amazingly it did – my sister was sold.  So were the rest of us.

The Black & Tan is probably the oldest of these mixed beer cocktails.   It’s the mix of a stout and a pale ale that gives a two colored, layered beer, because of the differing viscosities.      These are not shandys or radlers, which are the mixture of a beer with a non-beer liquid like lemonade or grapefruit juice.    And, to my knowledge, there are not beer on beer mixtures that are designed to taste like a candy bar.   I think Taft has something unique here for the craft brewing industry.

So the next time my sister went to the Taft, they were out of the chocolate porter, so the waitress recommended she mix the Nellie Key Lime Caribbean Ale with the coconut ale.   Again with an open mind, she took the reco and loved it.    This would be similar to the taste of a coconut haystack candy  or the white chocolate birds nest candies that Graeter’s makes for Easter.

One of my favorite brews Taft’s makes it their Louisa Kriek -a sour beer made with tart cherries,  around Christmas time.   All this beer mixing got me to think – if I mixed that with the Maverick Chocolate Porter, would it taste like a cherry cordial?   Well, I can’t wait till Christmas to find out.

Ohio’s Bratwurst-Kielbasa Line

home-baner-img1.jpg

In Cincinnati we have pride in our local sausages, some of which are an endangered species, as only a few German butchers still make them.   There are only a few like Avrils that still make our local Hamilton or Leonia sausages.   Only one – Stehlin’s Meats in Colerain Township – makes the Johnny-in-the-Bag sausage, a local variation of the German blood sausage, beutelwurst.   The Cincinnati brat is unique to our area, more similar to the Bavarian weisswurst than to what anyone else in America associates with a bratwurst.   And the Donauschwaben society makes their unique sausages only once a year for Schwabenfest.

 

But what about other Ohio native sausages? We certainly have a legacy of sausages in the Buckeye State.   English immigrant Harry Mozley Stevens, a native of Niles, Ohio, is said to have created the American hot dog in 1901 in New York City, with the ‘dachshund’ sausages’ he served at a New York Giants baseball game.  He couldn’t spell dachshund so he just started called them hot dogs.

 

There is a trail of several Ohio cities that have signature sausages known regionally or nationally.   They all happen to be cities that had large periods of Germanic or Eastern European immigration.   There is an Ohio Bratwurst-Kielbasa Line – the Mason-Dixon line for sausages – where sausages start to have a more Eastern European influence than in Southern Ohio.   It’s roughly a line that can be extended from Route 30 between Findlay and Mansfield across the state.   One step over the line means a difference in sausage spice – the German sausages are spiced with nutmeg, ginger, or mace, while the Eastern European sausages have more paprika or garlic.

 

The only exception to the Germanic-Eastern European sausages are the Sicilian sausages in Lima, Ohio.   In the 1920s a group of Sicilians from the town of Caccamo settled in Lima and founded restaurants. Lucky for the Lima natives, they brought with them their centuries old salsiccia or sausage arts.   The village of Caccamo to this day has an annual Sausage Festival in October.   Back in the day, you could get the all pork, anise and wild fennel sausage at several restaurants owned by the large Guagenti family – the Alpine House, the Milano Café, and the Milano Club. You can still get the traditional Sicilian Sausage from the fourth generation Guagenti owners at the Milano Cafe.   A branch of this family has migrated to Cincinnati, and one can only hope we see their homemade Sicilian salsiccia in a food truck, festival, or family gathering soon!

 

Columbus, Ohio, has the Bahama Mama sausage, made by Schmidt’s Meats in German Village.   They can be found at Oktoberfests spanning Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus.   The sausage is a chopped, never-ground pork and beef sausage with spices, smoked over hickory wood.   Celebrating their 100th year anniversary last year, Schmidt’s was founded by Frankfurt-German immigrant Johann Fred Schmidt.   The Bahama Mama name came from the current owner’s uncle, who was a wild guy that spent a lot of time womanizing in the hot Caribbean Islands.   Somehow the words “Hot Bahama” and “Bahama Mama” came up and soon they had a really good tasting sausage with a weird name.

slide3-v1-883x510

The Waldorf Sausage, an all pork, smoked sausage is native to Dayton, Ohio.   William Fock and Son’s Meats, founded in 1875 by German immigrant Bernadina Fock, was the first to create the sausage, and several local meat markets still make the beloved local sausage to serve at the fish frys of several area Catholic Churches, even though Fock’s is no longer in business.

untitled

Moving northeast of Columbus, the town of Bucyrus, Ohio, has dubbed itself the “World Capital of Bratwurst,” with its Bucyrus-style pork sausage spiced with mace, nutmeg, ginger, and black pepper.     In 1967, the town started its Bucyrus Brattwurst Festival, at that time with eight local producers. Now, only Carle’s Meats, founded in 1929 by Harry and Alta Carle, makes the Bucyrus-style bratwurst.

slider5

slider1

Trail Bologna is an Ohio Amish creation from the town of Trail, Ohio, in Holmes County.   Michael Troyer invented the beef bologna sausage in 1912, and the fourth generation of his family continues to produce the bologna.   The Troyer Amish are known to be the most conservative sect of Amish in America.   Michael’s ancestor, an Amish bishop, broke from the sect over the lengths of hat brims.

trail

Toledo, Ohio, in the northwest corner of the state has its famous Tony Packo Hungarian hot dog.   There’s no such thing as a Hungarian hot dog, but Tony Packo Sr. created the beef, pork, and garlic blended link in 1932, based on his Hungarian ancestry.   Their “hot dog” is really based on a Hungarian sausage called Kolbasz, similar to the Polish Kielbasa, about twice the diameter of a conventional hot dog. At Tony Packo’s Restaurant, it’s served on rye bread with chopped onions, mustard, and Tony’s meat sauce.     It was brought to national renown when it was referenced in an episode of M*A*S*H by the character Corporal Kiplinger, played by Toledo native, Jamie Farr.

tile_packos_large

 

 

Moving east along Lake Eire to the greater Cleveland area, Kielbasa and eastern European sausages are king.   There’s a local smoked Slovenian sausage, made by legacy butchers like Raddell’s or Azman and Sons.       The local kielbasa even spawned a local sandwich, called the Polish Boy, a bunned kielbasa sausage with cole slaw, French Fries, and BBQ sauce.

2010_0820_HDOW_art500

So this summer, forget about the Bourbon Trail – eat your way through the Ohio Sausage Trail and cross the Bratwurst-Kielbasa Line.