World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: February, 2006

Sticky Gold

          Cabaneasucre

Today begins a series on maple syrup. Over the next few weeks all thoughts and writings will be turned toward this very American product.

One of the life’s simplest extravagances is maple syrup. People go crazy for this liquid and very edible form of gold. I have a Canadian friend who when invited to attend a brunch will ask, will there be pancakes? If so, she’ll arrive at the event open her bag and a jug of pure Canadian syrup is placed on the table—later it is tucked back into the bag. I also remember my Dad bringing home a very coveted gallon of maple syrup from a friend newly transplanted to Vermont. Don’t even think of passing the inferior stuff around the breakfast table. New Englanders can’t be fooled.

The production of maple syrup traces back beyond the Colonial period and into Native American culture. The North American Maple Syrup Producers bulletin suggests one legend involving a Native American chief who “supposedly hurled his tomahawk (probably in disgust) at a tree. The tree happened to be a maple, and sap began to flow. The clear liquid that dropped from the wound was collected in a container that happened to be on the ground below. His wife, believing the liquid was water, used it to cook venison. Following cooking, both the meat and the sweet liquid that remained were found to be delicious. Retracing how this occurred revealed that sweet sap from the maple trees was the only difference.” Another bit of New England lore suggests that perhaps the Native Americans discovered the sweetness of the maple tree by eating "sapsicles," icicles of frozen maple sap that form from the end of a broken twig. As the ice forms, some of the water evaporates, leaving a sweet treat hanging from the tree.

Contrary to public perception, production does not take place in winter. It takes place in late March and early April at the sugar shack, where feasts are held with traditional "cabane à sucre" (sugar shack) foods: pea soup; baked beans; maple-cured ham; oreilles de crisse (fried strips of salt pork), omeletes, and maple-sweetened desserts such as, crepes and grands-pères (dumplings poached in maple syrup). To round it all out at the end of the meal everyone goes outside for the traditional hot maple taffy pull, served on a bed of fresh snow and scooped up with wooden sticks where it hardens and can be twisted, sucked and chewed.

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Update #3 Int’l Food Blogs

Although it was just a short time ago that I provided an update this new batch if baked.  Here are 2 dozen international food blogs joining the world of food blogs.  I’ll update the master list shortly.

Argentina

Pomelo Pleasures

Australia

Benjamin Christie

Breakfast Blog

For the Fork & the Spoon

Kitchen on Clarendon

My Favorite Plum

Not Just Desserts

Sarah Discovers How to Eat

Sydney Food Diary

Taott!

We Do Chew Our Food

What I Cooked Last Night

Austria

The Flying Apple

Greece

Domestic Cat

Hungary

Chiles & Vanilla

Italy

Restaurants with umpf

Singapore

Nook Bistro

The Greedy Goose

Spain

Green Olive Tree

Switzerland

Dilek’ ce

Turkey

Portakal Agaci

Zen in the Kitchen

United Kingdom

Fiordizucca Goes English

Gastrochick

Lemon Soul

Rustic

Formaggio de Piedmont*

          Castelmag2

Central to the story, and production of cheese in this region is the town of Bra, in the province of Cuneo.  The area’s culture is built upon the history of the nomadic herdsmen who came across the valleys with their animals to the plains with their herds.  As a result there are many dairy farms and cheese makers in the area. Piedmont also claims eight DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin) cheeses so production is highly controlled, designated to a specific region that guarantees adherence to traditional methods.

One of those eight is Gorgonzola a fairly well known blue cheese here in the States. Another veined blue popular with Italians is Castelmagno, a nutty-tasting cow’s milk cheese from the region. It’s named after Saint Magnus and dates back to the 12th century.  So prized and valued it was used as currency to pay rent to the Marquis of  Saluzza for use of his pastures. Production is limited to 6,000 wheels a year with only 200 of this yield exported to the States.

The city of Bra, birthplace of the Slow Food movement, also carries it’s name on a few DOP cheeses include Bra Tenero a young, semi-soft cheese; Bra Duro which is age 3 months or longer, and has a bigger taste and firmer texture than it’s younger version.  Today Bra is the site for the Slow Food Cheese Festival.

Robiola di Roccaverano, is the only Italian goat’s milk cheese to possess the DOP label.  The goats are raised on the slopes surrounding Roccaverano.  Local lore on name origin is that the cheese was called rubeloe (ruddy) for it’s pinkish rind color.  It’s a traditional fresh farmhouse cheese.  Around Piedmont you’ll find it dressed with bagnet vert (green sauce) made from chopped parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, pureed tomato and a few anchovies.

Unique from this region is "Broos"  a strong and heat sinking stinking cheese made with a base of Toma della Langa or Robiola cheese with the addition of black pepper, chili pepper, grappa and dry white wine.  There’s a saying that farmers repeat to first time tasters that translates as ‘love is stronger than Bross.’ Certainly not for the shy cheese eater or those with timid tummies as many say "it has a hell of a kick" in taste and odor.  It is said to be the color of earth and is usually spread on bread like jam.

Tomino is a hard cheese made from partially skimmed cow’s milk that carries a sweet taste. Typically it is sold fresh, wrapped in paper. It can also be found marinated in oil with hot pepper or with aromatic herbs. A great melting cheese–think grilled Tomino cheese on toasted bread with nuts or fig spread.  Or how about a variation on Tomino alla piasata an elegant and rich open-faced sandwich of creamy cheese, oven baked mushrooms with rosemary on a bruschetta with a bit of truffle oil. 

So pick yourself up and go to the cheese shop or visit Artisanal Cheese where they are featuring a three cheese Piemonte selection for $49.  Or pop over to IGourmet where the selection is wide.  It just might be time to try out the Piemont version of Swiss fondue called fonduta made with melted cheese, milk, eggs, and of course white truffles.  Say cheese, please!

Image credit: Stock photo

Gusto de Piemonte

Table

Around the world attention is focused on snowboarding, ice dancing, alpine skiers, speed skaters and yes curling as all the Olympics continue in Torino (Turin) Italy . The Piemonte region, of which Tornio is the capital, is also a great spot for those with just dreams of Olympian style eating.

Cuisine of this region is a dynamic blend of Italian mountain specialties and strong Gallic flavors due to its nearness to France.  It’s no surprise then that in 1986 the Slow Food movement was born here. Piedmont has all the ingredients of a gastronomic feast–corn and rice grow in the fertile plains along the Po River; apricots, peaches, figs and kiwi in Cuneo and Langhe for the region’s prize, hazelnuts. The regional cuisine is a hybrid of Italian and fFrench translating to rich and hearty foods. In the south it is common to see trifola d’Alba (white truffles) accompanying some of Italy ’s best and greatest wines, Barolo and Barbaresco. Polenta is found in many a pot and it is celebrated annually at Il Polentone.

A traditional Piedmontese dining tavola boasts a huge amount of food traditionally six course beginning with antipasti. No less than four types and often up to 10 different starters including bagna cauda, a type of vegetable fondue. You also find meals accompany by grissini (breadsticks) which were created here all in the effort to aid the digestion of Prince Vittorio Amadeo II the duke of Savoy. Risotti are also very popular given that the area is the biggest rice producer in Europe.

Regional second course dishes mirror the French influence, such as brasato al Barolo (braised beef with Barolo wine) after marinating in Barolo wine it is cooked in a beef stock and served with a sauce along with polenta. There’s also bollito misto, (boiled meat dinner) served with the mostarda, a preserved fruit in a sweet-heat syrup infused with powdered mustard seed or oil.  It is a bit like a chutney and is one of the standard condiments served with boiled meats in northern Italy.  Origins trails all the way back to the condiment bars of the Roman Empire.

Angol

Pastas are many including taiarin (or tajarin) a narrow tagliatelle made with eggs from corn-fed chickens that produce near orange yolks which creates a visual feast when sprinkled with white truffles. Another is agnolotti (pronounced (ahn-yo-LOHT-ee), made with eggs stuffed beef, pork, or rabbit, and seasoned flavored with a bit of sausage, parmesan cheese and herbs. The name loosely translated as priest’s hats, are small half-mooned shaped ravioli.  There are many ways to prepare this dish either by poaching , browning with butter or with a creamy local cheese sauce such as Gorgonzola.  It can also be dressed up when made by hand, pulled together into little sacks called plin or agnolotti al plin referring to the tool used to seal the pasta sack. And don’t let this confuse you…a single agnolotti is called a quadratri.  Raising the question, “Is it possible to eat just one?’

And then there’s the cheeses and sweets…

Menu della Cena – Piedmonte

The Hunt for White October (Americans on a truffle hunt)

Image: Residenza del Sole , Italy (links to recipe for Brasato al Barolo)

Bicerin – Gusto de Torino

        Bicerin_a

I wrote this post over a week ago as it is related the Olympics. The longer I waited to post the more irrelevant it seem to become as others had the same idea.  But you know what, not so much.  Every post I came across had a different voice and angle.  So without further hesitation here is my version of the story. 

A renowned Torino specialty drink, not to mention a passionate favorite of many is the bicerin (bee-ched-REEN) . To simply call it new-fangled mocha would be wrong.  The drink is going through a bit of a rebirth on the Piazza della Consolata. According to a recent NY Times article the drink "returned in fashion about 10 years ago, with the recuperation of traditional and authentic foods."  Thank you Slow Food.

The elixir was created at the café of the same name and evolved from an 18th century drink made there called the “bavareisa.” It was a favorite of writer Alexander Dumas and many other writers of the city including Giuseppe Culicchia. The Italian contemporary writer once said that this drink is “served with such finesse here, that many customers would come risking the barrage of machine-gun fire in order to procure a chalice.” 

The name bicerin comes from the Italian word for glass, bicchiere, but in its diminutive form means "little glass". There are three ways to order this beverage:

  • pur e fiôr – coffee and milk/cream

  • pur e barba– coffee and chocolate

  • un pô ‘d tut– coffee, chocolate and milk/cream

The concoction is made of 3 equal layers of heaven, a bottom layer of espresso, topped with sweet Florentine hot chocolate prepared with water, intensifying the chocolate taste and topped with whipped cream.

It’s a heavily kept secret recipe in fact café employees’ lips are sealed by contract.  In 2001 the drink was elevated to the “traditional Piedmontese drink by the publication Bollettino Ufficiale della Regione Piemonte. Today it is often served in espresso cups personally I think it’s best served up in a glass in order to enjoy the mélange of dark liquid mixing together as you drink it.

Other relateed sites worth a look:

Cafés of Turin (via Exploring the Globe)

David Lebovitz post (such a tease with all this talk of chocolate!)

Faith Willinger’s Version of Bicerin

International Food Blogs

Now for the introduction of the International Food Blogs.  A few of us have built lists similar in nature. However, this one stands solely as an international one. For the past few months I’ve been using the following list to become more familiar with all the many, many (and growing!) blogs from other countries. Over time it became easier for me to manage the reading of these blogs based on a country orientation.  What you see here, is my working list.  However, this list will become a permanent fixture at World on a Plate.

So a few housekeeping items. First, this is by no means the be all end all. I’m certain there are more UK-based food blogs, as an example.  And there’s only 26 36 countries represented here, so this list will continually be updated. Second, if you are the owner of a blog listed here and would like to add a short description, say 10-15 words, let me know.  Also if I’ve mistakenly moved you to the wrong country, apologies, let me know! Finally, if you are a food or wine blogger residing outside of the United States and would like to be included please drop me a line at with your blog link, country, name and a short description. Or if you visit a site that should be included, well, sharing is a very nice thing to do.

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Algeria

Book of Rai

Argentina

La Majuluata (Spanish)

Australia

A Banana in Australia

A Few of My Favorite Things

Cat on a Bench

Chubby Cat Cooks

Cook & Eat

Eat Stuff

Esurientes

The Food Palate

Grab Your Fork

Man that Cooks

Occasional Epicure

Pink Cocoa Tabetai

Tian & Mark

Tomato

Writing on a Paper Napkin

Austria

Dinner for One

Canada

A La Cuisine

An Endless Banquet

Banlieusardises – Delicies (French)

Blog from Our Kitchen

Blork Blog

Cooking with Kilby

Crash Test Kitchen

Cream Puffs in Venice

Domestic Goddess

Eat My Toronto

Edible Tulip

Endless Banquet

Everybody Likes Sandwiches

Hungry in Hogtown

I Like to Cook

Jack and Jill Eat Out

Kayak Soup

Kitchen Savvy

Lex Culinaria

M. Cooking Diary

Nancyland

Once Upon a Feast

Pacific Palate

Pizza Ottawa

Pumpkin Pie Bungalow

Roast Chicken Reasoning

Seven Spoons

Truffle Mutt

Van Eats

Viva Epicurea!

China

Cafe of the East

Cha Xiu Bao

The Chopstick Chronicles

Cooking with Fire

Denmark

Food and Thoughts

France

A Moveable Feast

Banlieue Blog

C’est moi qui l’ai fait! (French)

Chez Christine

Chez Ptipois (French)

Chocolate & Zucchini

David Lebovitz

Food Beam 

Food Migration

French Kitchen Adventures

La Tartine Gourmande

Oswego Tea

Papilles et Pupilles (French)

The Wednesday Chef

Germany

Chili and Ciabatti (German)

Delicious Days

Food for Food (German)

Food Freak (in German)

Nosh

Greece

For the Love of Travel & Food

Guam (because it’s exotic to this American!)

Scent of  Green Bananas

Hong Kong

Eat Hong Kong

Ireland

Food Blogs from Ireland

India

Cooks Cottage

(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Mahanandi

Sailu’s Food

Israel

My Mom’s Recipes and More

Italy

All’ Italiana

Cavoletto di Bruxelles (written in Italian by Belgian-born Sigrid)

Over a Tuscan Stove

Gli Onesti Piaceri

Gusto Blog

Il Forno

Lucullian Delights

Papero Giallo (Stefano Bonilli, co-editor in chief, Gambero Rosso)

Rubber Slippers in Italy

Via Ritiro N.7 / Love Scily

Japan

Brown Bread Ice Cream

kiwish

Obachan’s Kitchen & Balcony Garden

Oyaji (based in NY focsed on ramen & somen)

She Who Eats

Korea

Korea Life

Zen Kimchi

Malaysia

Babe in the City

Eating Asia

Food Crazee

Malaysia Best

Masak Masak

Notions of aC

Pearl of the Orient

Mexico

Saveurs Mexicaines (French)

Netherlands

Culiblog

Mevrouw Cupcake

New Zealand

Bibliocook

Laughing Gastronome

On the Farm


Suburban Hippy

Winos & Foodies

Norway

Oslo Foodie

Peru

(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Philippines

80 Breakfasts

The Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans

Portugal

Ardeu a padaria (Portuguese)

Tasca de Elvira (French)

Scotland

Nami Nami

Singapore

All things spiritual, mythological & gastronomical

Aroma Cookery

Bossalicious

Cheat Eat

Chubby Hubby

Dim Sum Dolly

Eatzy Bitzy

Food Craft

Kuidaore

Min’s Food Journal

Nibble & Scribble

Only Slightly Pretentious Food

She Bakes and She Cooks

shiokadelicious!

Skinny Epicurean

Soul Cravings

Umami

Sweden

A Cat in the Kitchen

Anne’s Food

Nina’s Kitchen

Switzerland

I was just really hungry.

Thailand

Real Thai

Trinidad & Tobago

Petit Careme

Turkey

Veggie Way

United Kingdom

Cabbages & Kings

Chopstix

Cook Sister

Culinary Hags in London

Daily Bread

Eggs Bacon Chips and Beans

English Pastis

JamFaced

Little Fancies

Nathalie Bouffe

Passionate Cook

Pertelote

Zarzamora

NordJus (via Japan)

Traveler’s Lunchbox (American living Scotland)

Vietnam

Noodlepie

Sticky Rice

Update – World of Food Blogs

After five months of collecting, I have done it.  I have updated the ever growing list of  International Food Blogs.  The central list will be is updated now shortly.  I also need to include those that sent me links.  So if you sent me an email do not fret, tomorrow is another day.  I have to get to the Chinese New Year parade.

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Algeria

Book of Rai

Argentina

La Majuluata (Spanish)

Austria

Dinner for One

Australia

Tian & Mark

Canada

Endless Banquet

Everybody Likes Sandwiches

Hungry in Hogtown

England

Chopstix

Cabbages & Kings

Little Fancies

France

Chez Christine 

Chocolate and Zucchini

Food Beam

The Wednesday Chef

Germany

Food for Food (German)

Hong Kong

Eat Hong Kong

India

Sailu’s Food

Israel

My Mom’s Recipes and More

Italy

All’ Italiana

Lucullian Delights

Japan

kiwish

Oyaji (based in NY but focused all on Japanese Ramen & Soba)

Malaysia

Eating Asia

Food Crazee

Malaysia Best

Pearl of the Orient

Netherlands

Mevrouw Cupcake

Panama

Cooking Diva

Singapore

All things spiritual, mythological & gastronomical 

Bossalicious

Cheat Eat

Food Craft

She Bakes and She Cooks

Min’s Food Journal

Thailand

Real Thai

Trinidad & Tobago

Petit Careme