Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Eggs’

Goodness gracious is it difficult to find a decent greasy breakfast in Israel.  As delicious and healthy as the standard Israeli breakfast fare is (eggs cooked any way, but usually as omelet or scrambled – accompanied by a large fresh salad, dips/sides – tahini, feta, cream cheese, tuna, fish roe in cream sauce, homemade jams – and fresh bread), I have been craving something more typically American or even British.  Something with animal fat, a mixture of creamy yolk, bloody juice, and spicy carbohydrates.  Oh, the agony!  My kingdom for a proper fry up!  And I’ve been coming up empty.

Not that Israelis don’t try.  But the couple times I have ordered the “Steak & Eggs,” slowly cropping up on trendier menus, I have been so sorely disappointed to the point where these eating establishments should be ashamed of themselves.   I won’t name names.  Just be wary.  I’m going to keep ordering it until I can create a more comprehensive picture.  Honestly, last week I was presented with three pitiful strips of “steak” that was as thin, tough, and stringy as boot leather (I refer to the classic Charlie Chaplin sketch below), topped with 2 overcooked “sunny side up” eggs (the yolks were almost solid), all over “hash browns” that embarrassingly consisted of what I can only describe as a giant lukewarm mound of ordinary fries cut up into smaller segments before being fried – with absolutely no seasoning.  Sadly, the best part of this dish was its name – “The Texas Hold’em.”  As you might imagine, I politely complained, and still insisted I pay for the entire meal.  I don’t believe in something for nothing.  It wasn’t the delightful waiter’s fault, after all.

Send me your recommendations for restaurants to try!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I was starving after yoga this morning (Chandra Yoga Studio – amazing teachers & most affordable I’ve found in TA), and stopped at Loveat for a muffin and a free coffee (I had reached my ten!).  In  most religions there is some sort of prayer or thanks for the food, acknowledging some higher power, hard work, and sometimes the people that labored in order to make said food.  During my Vipassana retreat, we were told that each moment was supposed to be (at least an attempt) at meditation – as we were silent 24/7, mealtimes were interesting.  You contemplate every bite.  You think about where the foods come from (I do this a ton anyway, as you know), and more specifically, who had a part in creating them.  Of course, there are the cooks who put things together, the kitchen being a chemistry lab of sorts, to make the raw ingredients into something more delicious or often, actually edible (eggs must be cooked, flour cannot be digested without being worked, etc).

But where does everything come from?

Today, as I ate this delicious bran-pecan-cinnamon muffin, I thought about breaking the recipe of this one food item down, and seeing what it took to create this yummy pastry.

So here’s an ingredient list from a simple cinnamon-pecan muffin recipe I dug up online (courtesy of About.com):

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Some words on agriculture

Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the world.  Some US statistics: In the USA, an average of 516 workers die every year.  It’s also one of the most hazardous industries for young workers.  What does this mean?  Agriculture deaths accounted for 42% of deaths of young workers (17 and under) between 1992-2000, and more than half of these were children under 15 years old.  Over 1 million young people work on farms, their risk 4 times greater than in other work industries, with an average 27,000 injuries sustained every year.

Amazing that this is how we rely on one of the most important resources key to our survival.  These are US statistics, alone.  Goodness knows what it’s like in other countries.

Flour

Wheat harvest

Flour is one of the most important food products in the world, and most is made from wheat. About 20 billion bushels are grown during a year, and Canada, China, France, India, Russia, and the United States grow the most wheat.  Here is a great website that tells you about wheat-growing in brief.  There are four main varieties, some better for bread, others for pastries, and one for pastas, etc.  Dry, mild climates are best.  There are two harvests per year, as there is winter wheat and summer wheat.

After harvesting (big tractors and the like, see picture), the grain goes through a threshing process to separate the cereal grain from the inedible chaff.  Then it is taken to (usually huge) gristmills, where the wheat (or other grain) is ground by use of steel or cast iron rollers.  I imagine there is an intricate packaging process, and then there is worldwide distribution.  I can’t imagine the millions of people involved in bringing us just the flour that we use to bake bread and other baked items we depend upon (that we, in turn, built factories to outsource the production of which).  Because most like white bread, flours are bleached using chemical oxidizing elements.

Sugar

Sugarcane

Sugar is made from either sugarcane (70% of worldwide sugar production) or sugar beets (30%).  Brazil is the largest producer of sugar today, although more than 110 countries in the world grow sugarcane, and the EU and Ukraine are the largest exporters of sugar beets.  The cane is indigenous to Southeast Asia, with India being the earliest producer of sugar.  There are two stages to process the cane – first the milling (a long process), shredding, crushing, and collecting the juice – then cooking to extract the actual sugar.  Sometimes some bleaching occurs here.  The second part is the refining, cleaning and clarifying of the raw sugar with various processes (some chemical using acids), and a further bleaching. (Packaging, shipping, etc, etc, bla bla bla)

Baking Powder

Baking powder is a chemical agent used in baking, obviously, to make cakes and such rise without the fermentation that yeast produces.  It’s made up of (usually) sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and an inert ingredient like cornstarch.  Sodium Bicarbonate is produced in a lab, although it also is naturally occurring and can be mined.  The most common way to produce it is through the Solvay process, which is the reaction of calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, ammonia, and carbon dioxide in water.  Hmm.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a small evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka, and is now cultivated commercially all over South and Southeast Asia, the West Indies, Brazil, and parts of Africa.  The plant is grown for 3-4 years, then undergoes coppicing which means it’s cut low to encourage lots of little shoots to grow out of it.  The shoots are harvested, stripped of bark to get to the inner bark, the strips of which curl, then are immediately processed and dried carefully.  Timing apparently is really of the essence in this process.

Salt

The salt we eat is refined NaCl – Sodium Chloride.  It’s produced by drying seawater or by mining.  These are huge operations.  Salt used to be more precious than gold.

Pecans

Unripe pecans on tree

Pecan is a species of hickory, the word itself meaning “nut requiring a stone to crack” in Algonquin.  The trees are native to North America, and are one of the most recently cultivated crops in the world.  Even in American colonial times, the wild pecan was eaten only as a delicacy.  The US produces between 80-95% of the world’s pecans.   A pecan tree can live and produce edible fruit for more than 300 years.

Eggs

Usually produced by chickens, most sold are unfertilized (no roosters around), and hence don’t harm potential life.  That said, most egg-producing chickens (there are two breeds almost exclusively these days, those for eggs (layers) and those for eating (roasters), all native breeds almost overtaken).  These chickens live in terrible conditions, the minimum amount of room allowed (they never move), their beaks often broken to prevent them from hurting each other and themselves, disease runs rampant, and I can go on and on.  Free range eggs aren’t much better, when you look into it.

Milk

In the western world, cow’s milk is produced entirely industrially.  Huge farms, automated milking, hormones, antibiotics, the works.  The largest producers of milk are India, the USA, Germany, and Pakistan.  I hope that my milk comes locally – Israelis have a huge dairy industry compared to other countries of the same size, I think.  Then again, so much dairy used in junk food is powdered (“milk solids”)…and that could have come from anywhere.

Vegetable Oil

Lipids extracted from plants – today done chemically. The crude oil produced is not edible, and it must go through other chemical processes in order to create a type of fat we can actually consume.

Conclusion:

To make a muffin, my ingredients are grown or mined or chemically created and brought to me from potentially over a hundred different countries around the world.  It’s at least a couple dozen.  Hundreds of industrial refining processes are used, not to mention all of the packaging and shipping worldwide, on airplanes, ships, trucks, and probably even animal drawn (or human drawn) vehicles.  Other factories may have been involved in my home country to further cook or refine some ingredients.  Then the baker or bakery or industrial bakery bought these goods, and combined and cooked them to specification.  The process of bringing these elements together could have taken years for some of the ingredients.  Millions of people were involved.  Many, many of which were in grave danger and received very low pay for their labor.

It really makes you think.  Every time you bite into anything.  Anything.  You’re biting into the labor of millions.  Even if it’s a raw fruit.  Someone had to plant it, work the fields, pick the fruit, package, ship it, sell it.  My goodness.  For good or bad.  How divorced have we become from our food?  We eat blindly.  Absolutely blindly.  I cannot even find out where my rice (or most any other product) was grown.  My grocer usually doesn’t know where the produce came from.  It’s scary.

All that work.  Blood, sweat, tears.  Injury and death.  All for my overpriced morning muffin.

Read Full Post »

At the risk of losing my G-rating, I absolutely MUST share this video.  It’s one of my favorite film scenes from one of the best food movies ever made, a close second to Babette’s Feast, in my opinion.  If you haven’t seen it, Tampopo is hilarious, sensual, and smart.  I adore yolks and I adore fresh oysters, and if you don’t too after watching this (at least to play with)…well, you’re nuts!  Please share your favorite food-movie-scenes.  I would love to hear your recommendations.

Read Full Post »

The best croque monsieur on this side of the Mediterranean. Best croque madame, if we’re being technical.

I discovered a bistro less than a ten minute walk from my house.  It’s a tragedy it’s taken me this long to find it.  Gilad and Daniel located at 300 Dizengoff (corner of Yehezkiel just north of Nordau) is the closest thing to a real French brasserie I have ever seen in Israel.

Here’s the story of my first meal.

I decided on a long walk this Friday morning.  Tough week.  Sunshiny day.  Why not? I packed 3 books (you always need a selection) and headed north on Dizengoff (I usually head south).  Desperately in need of some breakfast, I knew there were some trendy places north of Nordau.  I didn’t expect what I found.  Jeremiah is a cafe that everyone knows.  It’s always full of hip people.  A place to be seen.  Not a place I’m comfortable with, but as I’d never been, I thought I might try it.  Before I got there, I passed Gilad and Daniel.  It wasn’t as crowded, and the people seated seemed a little more on the interesting side.  A waitress smiled at me as I walked by.  Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw that the far end of the exterior wall was covered in a Renoir print —  famous colorful cafe scene.  Immediate u-turn.

The menu features a breakfast crepe and the croque, of course, with main dishes including an incredible saur kraut and mixed meat dish, coq au vin, boeuf bourgignon, and an incredible looking couscous tagine.  Many “Israeli” dishes on the menu, as well (heck, it is Israel, after all), but these French dishes are perfect.  Down to earth, simple, well done.  No fancy dry brioche (a la Benedicts).

I had such a lovely time eating this croque madame, I cannot emphasize this more.  The cheese was perfectly melted and creamy and rich.  Mingling with the ham and the runny yolk I adore so much, I dreaded the end of the simple sandwich.  So much so that I photographed the very last bite.

It was a lovely day, a perfect meal, and I sat for an hour or more with a good cup of coffee and a hilarious book, Three Men in a Boat.  I highly recommend this bistro.  It’s the finest eatery in my neighborhood, and despite the fact that it’s very much a small neighborhoodsy cafe, the meal I ate was more authentic and satisfying than any I have eaten along the fashionable Rothschild Blvd corridor.  Yes, better.  I’d put money on it.

Read Full Post »

I was going to write a scathing restaurant review. I’ve written and rewritten it in my head for three days now.  I’m just going to go with what I have. Perhaps my anger has subsided. Or I realized how trivial it is to be angry at a restaurant over poached eggs.  Or not.  Here goes the post, in any case:

What I ended up getting...and I paid about $13 for it...pathetic.

Poached eggs are a perfect food.  I likes my yokes runny.  I like poached eggs on their own, over rice, over salads (Salade Lyonnaise being a long-time favorite), over toast, in sandwiches, on sandwiches.  You can basically count on any dish being vastly improved with the addition of a poached egg.

Restaurant rules I believe in and respect:

1) The menu is a contract (I had this drilled into me at culinary school)

2) The customer is (almost) always right (…and certainly be nice to them all at all costs).

Let us begin.

“Benedicts” is a popular eatery in Tel Aviv. They have two branches, both in very fashionable neighborhoods.  They are open 24 hours a day, and this is very very rare in Israel.  And their theme? Breakfast. Only breakfast, 24/7.

And it works.  It’s overpriced.  Very overpriced.  But it works.  It has this upscale American diner feel crossed with something vaguely European…like a pancake house plopped itself at a sunny indoor-outdoor cafe in Provence.  And as the name suggests…the signature dish is…Eggs Benedict.

Or is it? I’ve had it a couple times there.  I should have learned after the first time.  But you always have that thought…maybe it was a fluke last time…this time could be different.  Bottom line: it’s not real Eggs Benedict.  At the very least, even if you consider it a decent variation…it’s not well executed.

Definition of Eggs Benedict – 2 English muffins, toasted, topped with cooked ham or bacon (in good places stateside it’s often Canadian bacon), then topped with two poached eggs, all smothered in Hollandaise sauce.

Theirs rests atop thick cut slices of brioche, an eggy, buttery bread.  It doesn’t work.  At all.  It’s so thick, you don’t taste the bacon for the vastness of surface area below it.  It’s such a thick slice of bread, and such the wrong bread (it’s dense as hell!), that the egg yolk and sauce aren’t at all absorbed into it (something the spongy English muffin was born to do).  Personally – I think it’s irresponsible – I’ve made brioche and I know how many eggs go into it – AND with a Benedict – customers are essentially being served 4+ eggs, not just the two they think they’re eating. Finally, their Hollandaise sucks.  Big time.  It’s been a staple of the household I grew up in, and let me tell you, I don’t think their Hollandaise even counts.  There isn’t a detectable soupcon of lemon.  None.  And there goes the dish.

You’d think that would be my main complaint.  Wrong.

This post has probably gotten long enough so that nobody will read this far.  But I don’t care.  The main problem at Benedicts is their lack of customer service.  Every time I go, I never get what I want.  And they’re unpleasant about it every time.  I should have learned, and after this time, I have: just don’t go again.  So I won’t.

Here’s what happened.  I wanted the “Healthy Breakfast,” (no more crappy faux Benedict for me).  It said, “2 eggs any way you choose them” or something similar, and it came with salads and cheese and bread.  A healthy Israeli breakfast.  Fine.  The problem came when I ordered my eggs poached.  They said no, we don’t do poached eggs.  BS they don’t do poached eggs.

Long story short, after a long discussion with my waiter, and then a couple of long talks with the manager, it was clear I would not be getting my eggs.  Their explanation: Eggs Benedict is their signature dish.  They couldn’t go around serving poached eggs, willy nilly, when they wanted to maintain the poached eggs as only going with their signature dish.

Then why write, several times in the menu for other dishes, “eggs any way you want them?”  I say, breach of contract.  And even so, the customer is always right.  Would it have killed them to give me my eggs?  I was, after all, right.

I should have walked out.  And do you know what this spineless blogger did instead?  She ordered the Eggs Benedict — on their “normal bread” instead of their nasty brioche.  Because she just had to have poached eggs! It is, in fact, one of the few places in Tel Aviv you can eat them…but apparently…ONLY in a bad Eggs Benedict.

I vowed to write a scathing review and make sure all of my Israeli friends read it.  AND I vow now never to return.  Even though I’ve met the owner’s wife at a creative writing seminar.  Even though it is the closest restaurant to my house.  Even though some of their dishes are so-so.  Even though my doing this might not affect anyone else’s decision not to go (Israelis love the place – it’s a novelty – and they can get away with dodgy service because of it). Even though they’re the only ones open 24/7.

“Benedicts” has simply proven to be overpriced, mediocre, and arrogant. And there’s no fun in that, any day.  Any American iHop would have more business in Tel Aviv.  Their customer service certainly could run laps around what we get here.  So…I’ll just have to poach my eggs at home…as annoying as it is to do.

Aerial view of my breakfast. Never again.

One of the worst BLT's the world has known...also at Benedict's...falling apart bread, chewy lifeless flavorless cold bacon, you name it...my poor sister is the one being tortured here.

Read Full Post »