Rooting for the little guys — Why I’ll always Shop Small.

My parents have had the good fortune of being small business owners in the town of Rye, NY since 1982 — just over 31 years.  They immigrated to this country from Korea and have worked tirelessly to do the best they could in every way: the best standard of food quality, the best service to their customers & community, and the taking the best care of their employees.

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As a result, their little gourmet specialty shop, June & Ho has become a landmark of Rye, and has been repeatedly been recognized in publications such as The New York Times and Westchester Magazine for its excellence.  My parents live their lives under the belief that sincerity and hard work will ultimately pay off in the end.

Just this week, a shiny new Whole Foods store opened in the next town, barely a mile away.  Needless to say a development like this can be devastating to a small business like my parents’.  It got me thinking about the importance of shopping small.

My mother, aka “Momma Park” always goes out of her way to purchase something from a fellow small business owner, be it a pharmacy, a cosmetic shop, for shoes, or even a book.  Items she could easily purchase cheaper, or more conveniently, elsewhere.  When asked why she goes to the extra trouble, she always says, “I like to support the local people.”

I’m always so lucky because I learn so much from Momma Park — this week is no exception. Sometimes it’s not always about convenience which – when you think about it –  has everything to do with yourself.  It’s convenient for you, saving time, money, what-have-you.  But sometimes, it should be about sincerity.  About support.  About community.  About appreciation that your town isn’t one strip mall of franchises.

This week has made me aspire to be like Momma Park and shop small, “to support the local people.”

I am confident that my parents will be able to survive this Whole Foods episode — just as they’ve survived the Cosi, the Starbucks, the Le Pain Quotidien franchise episodes before it.

While Whole Foods may have aisle-after-aisle of foods you never new existed, June & Ho has a secret weapon they’ll never have….we have Momma Park!  :)

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June & Ho, 70 Purchase Street; Rye, NY 10580.  914.967.1900

Basic Kale Chips: an Addict’s Tips & Tricks

after seeing a tweet from my friend Felicia Sullivan today, i got inspired to come home and whip up a batch of Kale Chips.

Kale definitely lives up to its “super food” title:

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. (from WebMD)

 ←even my dog loves kale!

Kale Chips are a fantastic snack food – especially if you’re vegan/raw vegan and you’re missing that salty crunchy snack. not only is it nutritious, the recipe for basic Kale Chips seems SUPER easy:

  • kale, de-veined
  • salt
  • pepper

i mean, can’t beat simple ingredients. but after making a few batches at home, here are some helpful hints from a kale chip addict that will hopefully make your DIY Kale Chips easier:

  • Cleaning: kale has so many beautiful folds & curly-ness — but that just means you have to be SUPER thorough when you clean it. dirt/mold/bugs tend to get stuck in the folds.
  • De-veining:  they always tell you to “de-vein” the kale, which usually means you pull the stem/spine away from the leaf.  i don’t know about anyone else, but that always results in me tearing the kale leaf – not cute.  SO, rather than de-veining (pulling the spine away from the leaf)  – just de-leaf it instead (pull the leaves away from the stem).  this is far more manageable and this way, you have more control to make sure each “chip” piece is of equal size (see next tip)
  • basic cooking principle: make sure each piece is the same size to ensure even cooking. we should never forget basic principles of cooking – even when making something as simple as chips.  as best as possible – try to make sure each chip/leaf is of equal size so your batch cooks evenly
  • coat evenly:  whether you’re making a simple Olive Oil/S&P Kale Chip recipe, or you’re doing a more fancy version with a nut-mixture, you must make sure that each chip/leaf is evenly coated. this will also help ensure it cooks evenly

whether you bake or dehydrate your Kale Chips, the above tips should always apply.  personally, i prefer dehydrating — even though it takes longer, i feel it retains more of the green kale flavor in the chips.  but either will do!

  • for dehydrator: lay out on dehydrator trays, dehydrate for minimum of 8 hours at 115°F.
  • for oven: bake at 300°F for approximately 20 minutes (or until crisp). let cool

hope these tips are helpful for my fellow Kale Chip Addicts! :)

GRUB: Café Boulud – Chef’s Tasting Menu (September 2011)

GRUB 411:

  • CAFE BOULUD, 20 East 76th Street, NY NY 10021; (212) 772-2600
  • www.danielbouludnyc.com
  • TYPE:  French, classic
  • PRICE:  $$$$$$
  • QUICKVIEW:  exquisite classic French cuisine, nestled in a quintessential Upper East Side scene.  After eating here, you know why Mr B gets all the props, but let’s just say you definitely get what you pay for.  (my wallet is feeling violated)
  • SEOULDIVA SAYS:  ♥♥♥♥♥ (but for $$$$$)

FULL REVIEW:

after owning and running a successful specialty food store in Westchester County, it’s no surprise that my parents are both huge foodies.  thus, selecting a restaurant for a special occasion dinner is never an easy feat. so i was stressing where to take them for their birthdays.

but one thing i’ve learned over the years — when in doubt, GO CLASSIC.

Daniel Boulud’s reputation precedes him – he is one of the most successful restauranteurs in NYC, and he has a reputation for excellence.  while his downtown burger joint was a questionable toe dipped in the casual water, i’d never eaten at any of his signature locations.

naturally, Momma & Poppa Park wanted to do the 7-course tasting menu. unfortunately, that meant the entire table had to do the tasting menu. when i told the waiter i didn’t eat meat, he said “is fish OK?”  (i reluctantly acquiesced).  then the waiter asked if anyone had any allergies — i told him i was allergic to dairy.  his panic was palpable.  LESSON LEARNED: it’s nearly impossible to be vegan at a French restaurant.  anyhoo…

  • the tasting menu came at a nice pace.  we were seated around 9:30pm and we were done around 11:30pm.
  • service was solid – attentive without being being a nuisance. plates were cleared as soon as we were done, but no hovering.
  • despite me being a special needs eater, they did their very best to accommodate me, which was very much appreciated
  • food presentation was impeccable and EVERY piece of meat was cooked to absolute perfection.
  • the plates were classic, but didn’t seem outdated – the flavors were clean and articulate.
  • the word of the day: MONEY.  everyone around us were clearly rolling in it, you needed to have a fair amount of it to eat there, and everything tasted exquisitely expensive.

overall, the dinner was a tremendous success.  the Parents Park were really impressed with the meal, which is not an easy accomplishment.  NO complaints!  but again – this is not a destination for the monetarily bashful. another lesson learned: you get what you pay for in life!

DISCLAIMER:  apologies for the semi-blurry photos…i forgot my real camera so had to shoot these with my phone!

PLATE-BY-PLATE

AMUSE BOUCHE:  Risotto balls.  unfortunately i didn’t sample these lovely delicacies, but Momma & Poppa Park enjoyed them!

COURSE 1:  Oysters….needless to say, i didn’t eat this either.  but apparently it was delicious….(still wanted to share the photo!)

COURSE 2: Maine Peekytoe Crab, Grab Gelée, Cauliflower, Lemon, Chives.  this was an exquisite dish – there was a lovely thin layer of puff pastry wrapped around the tiny log of peekytoe crabmeat. it sat atop a bed of minced vegetables, served with puff balls and some creme fraiche.

COURSE 2 (alternative):  Hamachi Crudo, radish, avocado, tomato, basil.  Poppa Park ate this one…he said it was deliciously light and refreshing.

COURSE 3:  Corn and potato soup with pan de mie toast with popcorn.

COURSE 3 (alternative): Eckerton Farm Tomato Gazpacho, prosciutto grissini, avocado, english cucumber, basil. this was a remarkably refreshing, light gazpacho. what really did it for me was the basil oil that was drizzled on top. swoon.

COURSE 4:  Tortelloni with shaved parmesan and mushrooms.

COURSE 4 (Alternative):   Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto, black summer truffles. absolutely delicious – very much appreciated that they made this alternative for me. i would have inhaled an entire plate of it.  the risotto was creamy (not from dairy, naturally), but still delightfully al dente.

COURSE 5: Striped Bass en Paupiette, pommes purée, baby leeks, sauce meurettethe Parents Park had this one – it looked unbelievable, though.


COURSE 5 (alternative):  Roasted Eggplant Ravioli, smoked ricotta cheese, tomato sauce, garlic confit.  for my almost-vegan 5th course, they made a lovely eggplant ravioli. unfortunately they forgot that ricotta cheese is…well, dairy.  fortunately, i was able to scoop the dollops off to the side of the plate.

COURSE 6:  Cherry Glazed Duck Breast, pommes amandine, wilted arugula, cipollini onions, sauce au poivre.  this was a mini version of their regular menu item – my parents were bowled over at how beautiful and delicious the dish was.  the duck breast was cooked to perfection.  very pleased.

COURSE 6 (alternative): Poached Maine Halibut, poblano peppers, shiitake mushrooms cashews coconut-red curry broth.  for my last savory dish, i got a delicious red curry halibut. clearly, this falls under the more contemporary category of dishes, and to that, i say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  i’m not a fan of watered-down anything.  as someone who personally loves a bold, rich-flavored curry, this didn’t cut it for me.  however, i will say the fish was PERFECTLY cooked.

COURSE 7:  Milk Chocolate Coffee Parfait, jivara mousse, feuilletine crisp, nougat ice cream.  by this point of the evening, i said “screw it” and just ate whatever they put in front of me (clearly any hopes of maintaining any type of vegan diet was completely foiled).  not really being a sweets person, this dessert was adequate.  if anything, it was too sweet, which was unexpected for a mousse parfait dish.

COURSE 7:
Dark Chocolate Mousse, pistachio crémeux, chocolate sablé, pistachio ice cream
.  this was an unexpected favorite at our table.  my mom & I (not normally huge chocolate freaks), adored this.  there was a delicious pistachio cakey-thingee underneath the sheet of chocolate…and the actual mousse was perfectly rich without being too decadent, and NOT TOO SWEET!