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Dead Poets Beef With Mushrooms

What is a mushroom? It’s not a plant or an animal. Technically, it’s a fungus that produces a fleshy body. This earthly gem’s elusive arrival into the woods, cemeteries or unexpected spots (like your front yard) can appear so quickly, so mysteriously, that it’s generated seriously opinionated public discussions over the course of the past three hundred years and beyond. 

Yes, some folks instantly think of the hallucinogenic varietals, the ones that thrive on the tops of stinky cow patties found in open pastures after a fresh rain. Would Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd exist without stumbling upon a toadstool or eight? Even Alan Ginsberg was known to consume them for inspiration when writing poetry. But beyond taking that type of trip, there are thousands of others, a few deadly, many delicious, and some that stink beyond the bottom of a pig’s trough. 

I love mushrooms and their mysterious place in the giant cubicle of culinary/cultural history, yet I can’t help but notice the choice words that some of my favorite poets and writers from the 19th and 20th centuries composed when symbolically describing those “fruiting bodies.” Herewith, my literary journey through the turbulent rabbit hole of epic opinions from some of our most famous word Smiths.

Take the Scottish bloke, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes (and the dude who rocked a serious hipster mustache until old age) for example, who once composed this ditty:

"…A sickly autumn shone upon the land. Wet and rotten leaves reeked and festered under the foul haze. The fields were spotted with monstrous fungi of a size and colour never matched before-scarlet and mauve and liver and black-it was as though the sick earth had burst into foul pustules. Mildew and lichen mottled the walls and with that filthy crop, death sprang also from the water soaked earth."

True, some mushrooms do grow and sprout from dead and/or decaying matter (you can find some of the tastiest mushrooms at the cemetery, near grave stones.) At this point, I’d forgive Sir Arthur a pass for the low blow commentary since he created one of our cornerstone detective characters, Sherlock Holmes. But then I discovered that even Percy Bysshe Shelley, British poet and heartbreaker, had a mixture of feelings surrounding them when he wrote, 

And agarics and fungi, with mildew and mould

  Started like mist from the wet ground cold

  Pale, fleshy, as if the decaying dead

  With a spirit of growth had been animated…”

I really started to question my literary heroes as I spotted this bit from D.H. Lawrence, early 20th century novelist, poet, painter, bearded babe, and all around lady-killer:  

How beastly the bourgeois is

  especially the male of the species-

  Nicely groomed, like a mushroom

  standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable-

  and like a fungus, living on the remains of bygone life,

  sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life than his own.


  And even so, he’s stale, he’s been there too long,

  Touch him, and you’ll find he’s all gone inside

  just like an old mushroom, all wormy inside, and hollow

  under a smooth skin and an upright appearance.

  Full of seething, wormy, hollow feelings

  rather nasty—-

  How beastly the bourgeois is!

  Standing in their thousands, these appearances, in damp England

  what a pity they can’t all be kicked over

  like sickening toadstools, and left to melt back, swiftly

  into the soil of England.”

Clearly, if I invited him over for dinner, chanterelles are out of the question. My fantasies of long walks in the woods with him might head south the moment I pluck a musty morel from the ground. 

In my quest, I started to wonder if it was all geography. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was from Scotland and Shelley and D.H. Lawrence were both British lads. I know that the mushroom was their three point shot for a slam-dunk in Debbie downer metaphors, but I continued to wonder if they ate them in real life after gutting them on the page. Perhaps British mushrooms and Scottish ones weren’t as tasty as the ones found in North America because of the climate and alkalines in the soil. 

So I turned my hopes to my American pal, Emily Dickinson, a gal who was rumored to rarely leave her house, to turn the negative opinions around. Surely, she would flip the script and have some positive feedback on these special edibles that seem to have grim reaper social status. Besides, she grew up in a state that has some decent mushrooms, if you look hard enough. 

Here’s what she had to say:

"Had nature any outcast face

  Could she a son condemn

  Had nature an Iscariot

  That mushroom—it is him.” 

It makes me wonder if much like D.H. Lawrence, she too, would potentially run for the hills if she came over to my house for dinner the moment linguine with black trumpets was served. Then again, she might have been the kind of person that was inseparable from Purell hand sanitizer on the New York City subway system, or might have struck up a love-affair with my favorite neurotic New Yorker, Woody Allen. 

At the end of my research, I came to the conclusion that I guess I couldn’t invite any of them to go out foraging with me. 

D.H. Lawrence is still a babe.



Ri-Ri vs. A-Rod battle it out for the hangover cure

Are you weirded out by these ad campaigns as much as I am? 

Norman Bates vs. Carrie (post-blood shower)

I mean A-Rod vs. Rihanna

                                                                             VS.

                                                                       You decide. 



"

I got butter knives, like you got butter knives…

I got a sixty-two, a black pair of goggles, Fila approachers…

the Bee Hives, the vultures and the roasters…

Can’t come through with wide cedar toasters…

"

Raekwon

Tags: battles



Queue up your own beats for the next time you get to cookin’ in the kitchen by clicking on the squares above.

Challah holla challah.

(Source: mandaflewaway, via d4t4b4s3d)

Tags: battles



Geaux Saints, Go!!!

A little food porn to put some gris gris into the voodoo I’ll be channeling for my home team:




WHO DAT!?


Do you know what it means?



The Path to Victory: One Bite at a Time.

obama-11obama-2obama-3obama-4obama-5obama-6obama-7obama-8obama-9

Obama Nation.



Check the Thyme, Yo.

Whether you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, or parts of the outer boroughs, we all need a little spice in our lives.

New Yorkers are food freaks: salting and sugaring hot peppers, dipping hot greasy bacon into vats of melted chocolate; creating vegetable caviar from that simple little mixture of sodium alginate, calcium chloride and vegetable juice, or roasting a pork on a spit in downtown Brooklyn; the necessity to experiment with food is broad but essential for many here. The question many often ask is: where the hell did you find those ingredients?

The answer(s): Sahadi’s and/or Kalustyan’s

Let’s begin with Sahadi’s: Located in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Sahadi’s has survived the many era’s of the neighborhood since 1948. This is the go-to place for those dried carob pods, sumac, preserved citron halves, freshly ground chick pea flour, homemade olives (there are hundreds of varieties), or those dried mint leaves you’ve been looking for. The staff (mostly dude’s who stare you down as you shop) walk you through the selection process, whether it’s grabbing freshly made feta cheese, picking out almond candies, or bundling up bulk bulgur wheat. Did I mention this place has dirt cheap prices? For a half a pound of garam masala, it costs you $2.00. 

This is an essential spot for me, as I load up on bulk Israeli cous cous, fava beans, ghee, and various spices that last me throughout the year. 



Let’s talk about Kalustyan’s: Located in mid-town Manhattan, Kalustyan’s has been providing New Yorkers with the ultimate selection of esoteric spices, pickling substances, chutney’s, honey, salt, and much more since 1944.

 

This is the place for pretentious food freaks who want to impress their colleagues, “Oh yeah? Well have you had Tongues of Fire beans dipped in mastic and fried?” Don’t be fooled people-they probably haven’t had them either (there’s too many items in this store to try everything in one lifetime). The best come-back for these obnoxious souls is generally something along the lines of, “No, I have not, but have you had the opportunity to taste flaming gelatin shot out of a canon to the tune of that old Engelbert Humperdinck song, “Spanish Eyes?” That response works for me every time. 

The storefront has a large bulk section with every type of nut, dried fruit, and candied who-ha you can imagine. The bulk beans section is pretty incredible, as there are hundreds upon hundreds of bean varietals. The Native American bean section is mind-blowing: Tepary, Rattlesnake and Tongues of Fire beans are just a few of the many ridiculous options.



As for spices, this place blows anywhere on the North American content off the map completely. Some of the basic spices offered at Kalustyan’s include grains of paradise (used in Brazilian cooking), file for that beloved gumbo, sweet Hungarian paprika, beet powder, and curry (there are over 35 types here, for various cuisines which include: Malaysian curry, West Indian curry and Jamaican curry). My recent purchase was a bag of granulated honey-honey that has been broken down into little balls the size of course sea-salt, perfect for finishing desserts, adding to a meat rub, or sprinkling on top of cheese. 

While Kalustyan’s can be slightly more expensive for particular items than Sahadi’s, there is a wider range of selection here. This is not to say that Sahadi’s isn’t equally as wonderful. 

The way I look at it is that these two institutions keep the island of Manhattan and the glorious land that is Brooklyn grounded by reppin’ the best products a food freak could ever ask for. 

Sahadi’s Importing Company

187 Atlantic Avenue

Brooklyn, New York

Phone: 718.624.4550

Kalustyan’s Orient Trading Company


123 Lexington Avenue


New York, New York


Phone: 212.685.3451 



The illest. East Coast vs. West Coast, Baby.



It wuz all a dream.

I used to read Word Up! Magazine. Salt’n’Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine. Hangin’ pictures on my wall, till’ the day I found the biggest Sake Hall. 

Yeah I know, that last line wasn’t part of the original. You know what this is. It was only a matter of time before we had the East Coast vs. West Coast Battle. Although I’ve been partial to Biggie since the 5th grade (thank you Hot 97), I happen to dabble in the occasional 2Pac.

Is 2Pac really dead? You know the answer. How is it that a rapper who has been “dead” for over twelve years keeps topping the billboard charts with new singles year after year? One who might be living in the Caribbean. Regardless, we love to constantly compare East Coast vs. West Coast rap. Do you like it hyphie or rough, playa? 

When I found out about a place claiming to be America’s first Sake store happened to be located in San Francisco, I felt a little bit like P-Diddy back when he was just Puff-Daddy (Biggie’s side-kick who would breathe the occassional, uh-huh, uh-huh, and, say what? into the mic). Feeling the need to back my beloved, Sakaya, New York’s very first Sake store, I took my glock (Iphone) to central San Francisco to see what these playaz be illin’ bout. 

Here are the cold hard facts: True Sake, located in San Francisco’s quaint neighborhood, Hayes Valley, is in fact the first American Sake store outside of Japan (or so they say). It’s been open for five years, and my oh my is it ever impressive. Carrying over 90 Sakes, it’s a complex venue, much like 2Pac’s heart (writing poetry and all… son of Afeni Shakur… full of lyrics praising women and slappin’ ho’s…mo-fo…).

Founder Beau Timken is a very wise man, as I have prophesied many a time that Sake is the next big American booze frontier. Not only is he a professional Sake taster, but he is also a professional Sake sommelier (queue up the back-up rapper sound, “uh-huh, uh-huh”). 

From first glance, the store is beautiful, with a multiplicity of possibilities for your preferred varietal(s) of Sake. Each bottle has an informational paragraph attached, providing tasting notes and suggested food pairings. There are even post-modern looking videos of the production of Sake!



My favorite Sake wasn’t in a bottle. It was keepin’ it real in a juice box, homie. There were almost too many choices at True Sake for me.



I waited to save Biggie for last. I mean Sakaya. Okay, so we’re realistically talking about two different types of animal here, considering Sakaya has only been open since December of 2007, while True Sake’s been reppin’ the streets for 5 years. Sakaya owner, Rick Smith (formerly of Food & Wine Magazine), has not only figured out one of the missing elements to New York City, but he has also strategically placed New York’s very first Sake store in the heart of the East Village (genius-there’s enough Japanese food for blocks on end). Although he has a smaller selection of Sake’s, Rick has a close working relationship with the Sake makers from whom he showcases.



Providing tastings twice a week, Sakaya’s tasting sessions are incredibly informative with an added bonus of hearing the Sake process from the horses-mouth (the Sake makers are generally in-store to talk about their product). 

But today’s battle wasn’t meant to end up in blood-shed like Biggie n’ 2Pac, R.I.P. The truth is, Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac Shakur are two of the most influential rappers in history. They used to be best friends… They were both born in New York City…



True Sake and Sakaya are slightly different birds, but are revolutionary stores as they are large contributors to the education and future of American’s interest in Sake. Thank God someone finally figured it out! It’s about time we stop drinking hot Sake for $2. If you’re gonna do that, go ahead and warm up a bottle of rubbing alcohol, homeboy.

Now go play back that Juicy track, babay, baby. 

Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.

True Sake

560 Hayes Street

San Francisco, California

Phone: 415.355.9555

Sakaya


324 East 9th Street


New York, New York


Phone: 212.505.7253 (SAKE)