Spirited Artisans

 

After states lifted Prohibition-era distilling bans a few years ago, craft spirit producers started to crop up in cities all over America. Jamie Feldmar reports on the comeback of the urban distillery.

 

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Move over inner-city farmers, rooftop beekeepers, and backyard chickens. It’s time to meet the latest urban industry: moonshine.

 

Well, not exactly; it’s legal. In recent years, a growing number of craft spirit producers have been building aboveboard distilleries in city centers, eschewing wide-open spaces in exchange for the opportunity to connect directly with their customers. Inspired by the do-it-yourself philosophy of the local-food movement, they’re injecting that same spirit into, well, spirits.

 

During Prohibition (1920–1933), moonshiners illicitly distilled corn mash into low-grade liquor with a smell and taste so strong it’s a wonder anyone wanted to smuggle it at all. After the repeal it became... Read more >

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Eating to the Extreme: How Broadening Your Culinary Horizons Can Help Improve Our Food System

Andrew Zimmern

This piece, written by JBF Award winner and television host Andrew Zimmern, originally appeared in the February/March 2012 issue of JBF Notes, the James Beard Foundation's member newsletter. Don't miss out on future articles; become a member today!

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Extreme cuisine. Oddities. Fear Factor food. These are terms I hear almost everywhere I go. They are whispered in the corners of rooms by squeamish skeptics who make me out to be some kind of culinary pervert.

Long before my show Bizarre Foods was ever conceptualized, I was excited about jungle markets and the amazing foods I found there. I had traveled a lot as a young child and knew that a tiny, whole-roasted piglet I encountered abroad tasted way better than the dry... Read more >

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Reflections on a Delicious Legacy: JBF Celebrates 25 years of Shining a Spotlight on Chefs

Adapted excerpt from the introduction to The James Beard Foundation’s Best of the Best: A 25th Anniversary Celebration of America’s Outstanding Chefs

This article is excerpted and adapted from the introduction to The James Beard Foundation’s Best of the Best: A 25th Anniversary Celebration of America’s Outstanding Chefs, which is being published this spring. Preorder your copy today from our Amazon store.

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Looking back on the past 25 years, it’s hard to believe how much American food and food culture has evolved. When the James Beard Foundation was founded in November 1986 by Peter Kump, Julia Child, and other friends and colleagues of James Beard, no one could have imagined that there would one day be two 24-hour television networks devoted to food programming. It would have been

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Voting with Your Forks: How We Can All Have a Positive Impact on our Food System



Insufficient access to fresh food. Childhood obesity. Eroded soil. Many of us know that our food system is rife with problems, but aren’t sure how we, as food shoppers, cooks, and eaters, can bring about change.

The key, according to Karen Karp, president of NYC food business consultancy Karp Resources and a partner in planning the recent JBF Food Conference, is to focus on making progress—and remember that we won’t solve these big problems all at once. “Sustainability is a journey, not a destination,” says Karp. “That kind of thinking can really instigate some change.”

Our 2011 Leadership Award recipients and members of our advisory board agree that there is a lot we can all do. Here are their suggestions.

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“Cook. If you don’t cook your food it invariably gets cooked for you. It gets processed and it gets manipulated. And when that happens you eat less nutritiously. And the environment suffers. And

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An Autumnal Cheese Primer

An autumnal cheese primer from chef Matt Jennings and the James Beard Foundation

Sure, fall’s harvest brings tons of great produce, but as JBF Award nominee, chef, and master cheesemonger Matt Jennings explains, it’s also the peak season for cheese.

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You can tell a lot about your cheese from how it tastes, and the flavors of true artisan American cheeses are as varied as the seasons in which they’re created.

It’s a well-known truth in the tight-knit world of professional cheesemongers that autumn in particular brings a bounty of small-production cheeses from farms and producers across the country—each with a distinct flavor profile and a story all its own.

While it can be hard to choose, here are some of our favorite cheeses to purchase and consume in the autumn months.

Vermont Shepherd // Vermont Shepherd Farm, Vermont
Vermont Shepherd, an American raw-milk classic, is created by David Major... Read more >

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Twitter Travelogue: Eating Across the Country in 140 Characters or Less

 

by Jamie Feldmar

 

@WanderingFoodie25 / 9 April
Gearing up for cross-country road trip. Bringing extra suitcase for edible souvenirs. Not looking to repeat Ferry Plaza fiasco of ’04.

 

@WanderingFoodie25 / 10 April
Hitting the road from NYC. East Coast send-off: bagels and lox from Russ & Daughters. Thanks @LoxPopuli! #illmissyou

 

@WanderingFoodie25 / 10 April
Side note: are there any good appetizing shops in Middle America? #doubtful

 

@WanderingFoodie25 / 10 April
Approaching first stop, Pittsburgh. Love @PrimantiBros sandwiches as much as the next, but anyone have any recs for something a little lighter? #nooffense

 

@PittsPicks / 10 April
@WanderingFoodie25: Try @BonaTerra on Main St—would tell you what to order but the menu changes so often I can’t #justdoit

 

@WanderingFoodie25 / 10 April
Great din @BonaTerra—quail with rhubarb compote, who would have thought?! Tx @PittsPicks!... Read more >

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Cool Apps: JBF Editors Pick Their Favorite Food Apps and Sites

BF Editors Pick Their Favorite Food Apps and Sites

Yelp Monocle
We might not always count on the reviews, but the ability to hold up your phone to find out what restaurants are in the vicinity lets you weigh the best options based on where you are at that very moment.

 

Gourmet Live
Proving that you don’t need coated paper stock to offer exciting features and mouthwatering photography, Gourmet is getting a new life.

 

Oysterpedia
This app from NYC’s Mermaid Inn restaurant lets you read about all kinds of East and West Coast oysters and store
info about your favorites to reference each time you hit up the raw bar.

 

YouTube
It’s not an app, but if you’re curious about a particular cooking technique, chances are you can find a video of someone demonstrating it. A few months ago we wanted to make handmade cavatelli, and we found a clip of a journalist making them with her Southern Italian grandmother.

 

Instapaper
This is... Read more >

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Making It: Food Entrepreneurs Turn Their Craft into a Career

 

After Kris Swanberg lost her job as a high school teacher in 2008, she spent the summer, as many of us might have, drowning her sorrows in ice cream. Except that she wasn’t just eating ice cream—she was making it, pint after pint, in a KitchenAid ice-cream maker she had received as a wedding gift.
 

Word soon spread among Swanberg’s friends and neighbors, and within a matter of months she was selling small batches of her ice cream to a local grocer. Two years later her product, Nice Cream, is available in 20 Chicago-area locations.
 

Though Swanberg’s story is singular in many ways, her decision to become a small-scale food producer is not. The recession and a surge of national interest in cooking and culinary crafting have prompted more and more people to start their own food businesses, according to Louise Kramer of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
 

But exactly how do amateur food artisans take their passion from hobby to career... Read more >

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Member Profile: Dano Hutnik, the Ultimate DIY Chef

Dano Hutnik

Long before it was de rigueur to have an in-house charcuterie program, a housemade bread basket, and an in-house forager, JBF professional member and frequent Beard House featured chef Dano Hutnik was harvesting, canning, pickling, stuffing, and curing just about everything on the menu at Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca, the restaurant he owns with his wife, Karen, in New York’s Finger Lakes region.


“I like to cook, so I don’t buy things, I make,” Dano explained in his lovely Mittel-European accent as we sampled his pork sausage with garlic and housemade paprika and slices of his three-month-aged Gouda with more of that intoxicating paprika (Dano started making his own cheese six months ago).


“When you’re out in the country and there are all of these raw ingredients, you just want to use them,” he says. And use them he does—in his homemade mustards, canned... Read more >

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Mobilizing: Can Chefs Get Chicago to Green-Light Food Trucks?

Chef Matt Maroni's food truck, the Gaztro-Wagon, parked in downtown Chicago

On the final day of the 2010 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Mobi Munch—the country’s “first mobile food service infrastructure company,” according to its website—drove its slick prototype onto the “Food Truck Spot” pavilion. Attendees drifted in and out of the crimson red vehicle, which was souped up with gas heat, waste containment, and a POS system. A banner overhead rallied: “Take your eats to the streets with Mobi Munch!”

If an entrepreneur had been moved to buy the truck and speed off to launch his own itinerant eatery, he wouldn’t have made it beyond the parking lot: food trucks—specifically those from which chefs both prepare and serve food—are illegal on the Windy City’s streets. (The city does permit mobile vendors to sell prepackaged goods that were cooked in a

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