Readers of last week’s food page will have noticed I had been to McKinney & Doyle from the spotlight I wrote on “Jerry Aron’s favorite soup” which immediately became a favorite of mine as well. As a matter of fact I loved everything I tasted that day, so this week I went back to interview Chef-owner, Shannon McKinney.
How did you become a chef? Throughout high school I worked in a deli. The kind of deli that made food, not just cold cuts made elsewhere. I discovered that I loved cooking. I used to cut school and watch the Galloping Gourmet, and then make whatever he made for our family dinner. So when I asked what I should do professionally, my boss at the deli told me “You keep coming back to food.”- why not make it your career. So I applied to the Culinary Institute inHyde Park and graduated in 1984.
I stopped in at “La Puerta” last week and was pleasantly surprised by the food which has much improved under chef Nikki Mummolo. I enjoyed the carne asada and the light and fluffy empanadas but the break out dish was clearly the Tuna Ceviche made with Ahi Tuna, orange segments, tomatoes and red onions. Ceviche is probably the best ration of low calorie/high flavor food that exists so when we find a good one- it becomes a must!
Gerard found a reference to this rice as being the Best in the world, so he immediately invested $26+ shipping to buy a 10 pound sack and have it sent to us. The sack sounds daunting but it is conveniently equipped with a zipper that allows you to take a cup of rice at a time without spilling any. I was quite taken aback because normally Gerard does not like rice. But this one he does, And so do I. It may or may not be the “best in the world”, but it is the best I have ever eaten. The elongated and slender kernels are unique for their buttery and nut-like flavor. The rice is aged for six to ten months to heighten its distinct flavor and aroma. These fluffy grains are used ideally in biryanis – which I now intend to learn to make.
Last Wednesday I attended an evening at the Cooper Union’s Great Hall with Leonard Lopate interviewing some of the most “célèbre” French chefs who have made their success here in the Unites States: Jacques Pépin, Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert. Readers will recognize that these last two are friends of ours and have been interviewed by me in the past (their interviews are archived on our website). But I am also a big fan of Leonard Lopate, as are most listeners of WNYC. The great revelation of the evening, for me, was the delightful sense of humor of Jacques Pépin. Below are some questions and answers that I felt worthy of repeating.
LL:What made you become a chef?
Beef tri-tip, which has traditionally been ground into hamburger, has recently been recognized by meat lovers as flavorful yet low in fat and—as a bonus—for the most part relatively inexpensive. It is about 2 pounds of beef that sits at the bottom of the sirloin. Because tri-tip is lean, it will dry out if overcooked, so use it for rare or medium, but not for well done, because it is far too dry. I found it at Quattro’s.
The month of May has been a good one so far for our village retailers. The paint sale at Reardon Brigg’s is attracting home improvement amateurs and contractors alike. With 30-50% off, the stock is dwindling but there are still some bargains to be had. Millbrook Floral Design reports a great Mothers’ Day and is gearing up for Prom this week. When buying flowers be sure to mention if you want them in full bloom right away or prefer a bouquet of pretty buds that will bloom later and last longer. The Millbrook Pharmacy is happy to report that many of our local residents have been in and switched their prescriptions back to them. Their shelves are cautiously being stocked with the specific products we want to buy. Speaking of shelving, the new sleek black shelves at Marona’s make the place look and feel more modern, but the store still features old fashioned customer service by the familiar friendly faces. I have noticed that the new shelving has provided room for some new gourmet items, which makes trips elsewhere necessary less frequently - for me anyway.
One of the most important features for foodies in the Hudson Valley is the wealth of fresh farm food available to us through our farmers’ markets. In our area these weekend markets offer a wide selection of fresh produce, dairy, locally raised meat, prepared foods, and handmade crafts. Shopping the market is a great way to meet the neighbors, enjoy some festive music and
celebrate the seasonal bounty of our communities. I visit at least one each weekend—sometimes more.
FRIDAY AFTERNOONS Amenia Farmers’ MarketWhen: Fridays, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., May 17–October. (The Amenia market has winter hours on Saturday mornings, indoors.)
Both still bronzed from their vacation in Tuscany, Beth and Buffy hosted the MBA’s highly successful mixer last Thursday, serving as a refreshing reminder that Babette’s Kitchen now serves beer and wine. The members also enjoyed a variety of delicious hot hors d'oeuvres. Earlier that day I sat down with Buffy to learn what new ideas they picked up in Italy. She related just how tasty the fresh vegetables were and remarked on how inexpensive simple, good-quality food is: lots of salads, fresh soups, frittatas and fresh pasta dishes featuring luscious and healthy legumes, such as fava beans, and many other veggies. Most surprising was a very hard to find vegetable native to Italy called Agretti.