Archive for the Taste buds Category

Roots, Feast of San Gennaro 2009

Posted in Taste buds, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Feast

Despite my Germanic last name, culturally I connect most with my Italian roots. My mother’s family is Italian (roots in Naples) and I grew up with Italian food and drink and the dismal Italian-American alteration of the Italian language. After studying Italian and becoming relatively fluent, I always wince  at some of the pronunciations. For example, some food and drink names:

Campari  became “Gambar.”

Prosciutto is made to sound  like “Brojzoot.”

Capicolla has been turned into the frightening “Gabaghoul” a meat best eaten at Halloween I guess. (Nobody pronounced “Gabaghoul” better than James Galdofini on The Sopranos. I loved when he would stick his head in the fridge and call out, “Carm, where’s the Gabaghoul?”)

Waiting for "Gabaghoul"

Waiting for "Gabaghoul"

Since once of my cats is named Cannoli, I can’t help but flinch at how it is pronounced by my mother and her generation: “Ganawl.”  For a crash course in Italian-American food pronunciation, I invite you to the superb Court Street Bakery in Brooklyn during Christmas or Easter for a lesson in Italian pastry pronunciation.

How about a delicious "Ganawl?"

How about a delicious "Ganawl?"

Yes, the gorgeous vowels of Italy seem to have been tossed away when my ancestors settled into New York after arriving at Ellis Island. On the other hand, I love the way sausage is pronounced “Sauseege.”

"Sauseege," I want the kind he had.

"Sauseege," I want the kind he had.

The Feast of San Gennaro

 If you are a New Yorker you know about the Feast. For a week in September what is left of Little Italy is filled with outdoor stands offering sausages and peppers, zeppole, brasciol, clams, over-priced daiquiris and other tasty bits. Games of chance abound, and for a dollar you can attempt to throw what feels like a small cannon ball into a basket to win an iPod – the stakes have been raised, because when I was growing up the prizes weren’t nearly as nice.

You can also buy lots of souvenirs at the Feast. Here’s where I am going to go off on a bit of rant. Italian culture is not what the souvenir stands are about. Yes, you can buy an Italian soccer team jersey, an Italian flag or a statue of Saint Anthony – “Saint Antnee” where I grew up. But you can also buy some real gems like a shirt with Don Corleone, Tony Soprano and Tony Montana on it, stenciled on like some unholy trinity. If you are paying attention you will have rightfully pointed out that Tony Montana shouldn’t have been on the shirt since he was Cuban. Fear not, there were also shirts with John Gotti’s beatific gaze on them.

One size fits all

One size fits all

How did we come to this? Now I know a Tony Soprano t-shirt is a lot more fun for some than, let’s say, a t-shirt with Dante’s picture on it – I mean Dante the poet, not Silvio Dante the Soprano’s consigliare. I fear a couple of things are happening. I’m not going to get all weepy because the Feast of San Gennaro was never a celebration of great Italian culture. Paperbacks of Petrarch, Mirandola and Machiavelli never were sold at the various street stands. CDs of Verdi and Puccini do not outsell Jimmy Roselli CDs. Fair enough.

But did we have to actively promote TV and movie mobsters as the sole representatives of Italian culture? What concerns me is what the tourists think. There are probably more tourists from Europe and exotic places like Iowa at the Feast than people of Italian heritage.  I know what my culture is really about and I can overcome the stereotyping. But I don’t like the fact that some grandmother in a tasteless sweatshirt and fanny pack visiting from Indianapolis goes home thinking she has experienced real Italian culture.

Dante?

Dante?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or

Dante?

Dante?

All that being said, I love the Feast. I ate sauseege, flipped through the Vic Damone and Jerry Vale CDs and spent time trying to win that iPod. But I also put things in perspective and went home to read some Tasso while eating zeppole. Tasso and zeppole, Cannoli approved.

Cannoli

Cannoli

Slàinte Mhath!

Posted in Taste buds with tags on September 17, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

dewars-whisky

I’m not a big fan of blended Scotch, but after a tasting sponsored by Dewars I’m ready to change my mind. The Dewars folks invited me to a tasting at Twelve 21 a high-tech event space in New York. It was a fun evening where a Dewars Drink Ambassador (I’m not making that up, that’s what the fellow identified himself as) talked about Scotch-blending and Dewar’s history.

John Dewar, pater familis

John Dewar, pater familis

I thoroughly enjoyed the pre-tasting gathering where I was able to order a Dewars on the rocks while picking at some tasty hor d’oeuvres. Hmmmm, lamb chops with herbs, fried porcini mushroom ravioli and beef filet with stilton.  The room was also sprinkled with local Drink Ambassadors, mostly comely women in stylish black dresses, I enjoyed that part of the evening too.  

Stylish black dress, regrettably sans Drink Ambassador

Stylish black dress, regrettably sans Drink Ambassador

I even got to blend my own Scotch using test tubes filled with Scotch infused with honey, vanilla, peat, etc. I’m not in the Scotch business so my blended liquid tasted like the bottom of a barbecue grill splashed with vanilla.

I sampled some Dewars 12 that is unavailable for sale. It’s the 12 year old Scotch that first comes out of the still. The Dewars folks then pour it back into the still for continued aging. Nice. Also got a taste of the finished version of Dewars 12 that is available for sale. To top it off the Dewars people gave each of us a silver flask – 5 oz. size which is ideal for morning drinking. Thanks very much!

Dewars_12

Slàinte Mhath! (cheers or the equivalent in Scottish Gaelic)

Hey bud! Taste bud, that is…

Posted in Taste buds on August 6, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Cracow on my mind

Heavenly elixir

Heavenly elixir

I fell in love with Żubrówka vodka while vacationing in Cracow. I remember first having it in a restaurant and liked it so much that I asked the server to write down the vodka’s name. Big laughs at my expense when I tried to track it down in a Cracow liquor store, turns out the stuff is sold in supermarkets. It’s tough to find here in New York, but I know a liquor store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that sells it.
Rasberry is my favorite flavor

Rasberry is my favorite flavor

Any visit to Greenpoint is worthwhile, but the Żubrówka source is another essential stop for me while hiking through Cracow,  Brooklyn and searching for spectacular Delicje cookies and Wedding Kielbasa.

 

Wedding kielbasa

Wedding kielbasa

CMZ

Hey bud! Taste bud, that is…

Posted in Taste buds with tags on August 2, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

 

Sublime scoops

Sublime scoops

 

 

 

 

 

Ciao Bella Dark Chocolate Jalapeno, my new addiction. Small spoonfuls please and life-affirming when eaten with a spoonful of their Dulce de leche.