The Year in Foodstuffs
by Andrew Zornoza
Ferris Acres Creamery — Sweet Cream Ice Cream
Are these girls having fun, or what?
Bethel, Connecticut has long been the home of Dr. Mike's, one of the great American ice cream shops. The doctor abruptly lost my business last year: just a quick jaunt away, on a straight stretch of Sugar Road, surrounded on either side by fields redolent of cow dung, is the Ferris Acres Farm and Creamery. In a small, unpretentious shack manned by stout armed, affable high school students, ice cream is served in generous portions from March to November.
Don't let the sprinkles and whipped cream and hordes of little leaguers deceive you. Ferris Acres is currently producing one of the greatest gastronomic delights available on this tiny planet -- a simple, exquisitely fresh mixture of cream and sugar: Sweet Cream Ice Cream.
Known as nata in Portugal and Spain, but produced only as a base flavor in France and America (though if you find Philadelphia-style ice cream you may be close) this ice cream tastes like nothing but pure, sweet, rich, dairy. In the mouth it first gives like tender taffy and then melts like whipped butter. Here the small farm New England dairy cow (a species which is sadly declining) has reached its apotheosis of expression.
The ingredients at the Creamery are impeccable. When you sit at the picnic tables you can watch the cows munch on the grass while you munch on their cream. Cow to mouth distance is obviously minimal.
Ferris has a whole range of flavors. Chocolate Whooper, Cow Trax, Campfire and Route 302 Chocolate Moo among them. All are excellent and each belongs to a different mood. The Black Raspberry is perfect and so is the Dark Chocolate Espresso. But it is the Sweet Cream that culinary archivists will be storing in their deep freezers for decades.
For a dinner party dessert, heat a cup of sugar in a heavy pan, add a cup of cream and stir constantly until you've got a dark caramel. Put two scoops of the Sweet Cream Ice Cream in a martini glass and drizzle with the caramel sauce.
Another bonus: just down the road from Ferris is the Holbrook Farm, where you can still buy unpasteurized (raw) milk.
Birrificio Doppio Malto — Xyauyù Riserva Teo Musso 2005
Below is a photograph of Teo Musso, who I can only begin to describe to you as an affable cross between Mark Cuban and Vincent Gallo. For two years running, Mr. Musso has made a beer so honeyed, so deliciously sweet, so heavy on the tongue that is would be better classified as a port. Only the slightest tingle on the tongue betrays a palimpsest of carbonation.
About as far from Rome as Joyce was when he wrote Ulysses in Trieste, Teo makes his masterpieces in Piozzo, Italy, at his home-base Birreria-Baladin. Pronounced She-ah-you, Xyauyu is a genre-bending experiment, produced using a combination of brewing techniques and the solera method used in sherries.
Hallertau Hamsbrucker, Spalt Selct and East Kent Golding hops, caramalt, water and yeast burble along at primary fermentation for 25 days. Then the beer is strained and allowed to oxidize through the use of a permeable membrane -- the brewmaster can remove fluid from the bottom of the barrel and add fresher brew from the top. The gold label Riserva has been left in the tanks the longest, for close to three years, until almost all traces of carbon dioxide have gone. This leads to a beer as still as maple syrup (no head here) and with a zoomy 14% level of alcohol. Each bottle is fittingly fitted with a cork rather than a cap.
Xyauyù Riserva can be found in more adventurous brew pubs and brew shops. Thanks to Julian's owner/manager/empresario Brian Oakley for procuring the ThisRecording staff an extra bottle. If you're in Providence, Rhode Island, you may be in luck. The always excellent Julian's currently has bottles -- tell Brian we sent you.
Parador de Mar Menor — Arroz de Caldero
Do you remember the Polly-O's string cheese commercial?
"Hey, Fred! Gimme a pizza with extra cheese!"
"...and hold the tomato sauce!"
"Hold the tomato sauce?"
"...and hold the crust!"
"Hold the crust?! Hey, Jimmy... gimme a cheese with nuttin!"
A Caldero is a paella that has no meat, no seafood, no vegetables. No snails, clams, mussels, peas, onions, peppers or rabbit. No chorizo. It is brown, soupy, the consistency of risotto: but in appearance, not nearly as attractive.
It is just rice. Of course, it's not that simple. Arroz de Caldero is made with a broth cooked from dawn to dusk in a pot Macbeth's witches would covet. Whitings, mullets, sea spiders, angler tails, John Dorys and Dorada (Bream) are stirred, crushed, and patiently observed while they simmer in their juices suspended on a tripod over a wood-burning fire. The jovial and skilled Caldero cook can do two things while his guests wait for their meal: A) effortlessly dole out his homemade horchata B) pick out the fish heads at just the right time, cutting out the cheekmeat and balancing it on an outstretched paring knife for nibbling.
The end result of the stewing process is a stock so intense, so rich, so of the meat of the sea that the calasparra rice it rehydrates needs nothing added. Nothing except a dollop of sharp garlicky alioli to cut the flavor for contrast's sake.
The best arroz en caldero is made on the sunny Costa Calida of southeastern Spain. A glass bottom boat can be chartered from Santiago de la Ribera or Las Narejes and will take you across the Mar Menor -- a small saltwater sea once visited by Moor princes, but now more known for its windsurfing. Call ahead to the Parador in Vivero to see if they are making Caldero. This parador (paradors are government supported hotels located in historic locations) is stunning, with an outdoor bar, a patio that fronts the Mediterranean, and views of the sea. Distant wakeboarders and the jagged edges of the Sierra Minera mountains frame the background. In the foreground, the man below sits in his van smoking a cigarette.
He already will have 3 stock pots going.
His horchata is in a cooler waiting for you, the cheekmeats still burbling away in the stew.
There is coca-cola at the bar.
Extra Small Sweetwater Oysters — Hog Island Oyster Company
Fifty-six miles from the French Laundry, through sinuous curves and unprocessably gorgeous coastline is the Hog Island Oyster Company. Avoid the outposts at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal and elsewhere -- get these pacific bivalves in situ. An oyster needs to be cold, alive, and pulled straight from the sea.
At Hog Island's Marshall location, oysters are grown tied to racks of re-bar set in directly in the Tomales Bay . The tides of Tomales bay keep nutrients flowing to the oysters and keep the shells curving into the distinctive crennelations, cupping the sweet meat inside.
At Hog Island you will be given a cafeteria tray, a rubber glove and an oyster knife. Bring a bag of Cape Cod potato chips and a bottle of Sonoma champagne. Don the glove and grasp an oyster, cupped side down. Find the hinge of the oyster and slip in the knife. Twist as you cut the muscle and lift away the top shell. Use the knife to free the still shivering oyster and slurp the whole thing down.
Andrew Zornoza is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the author of the photo-novel "Where I Stay," available from Tarpaulin Sky Press in 2009. His stories have been published in Confrontation, Porcupine, Capgun and elsewhere, with work forthcoming in Gastronomica, H.O.W. and SleepingFish. His latest story is available here. You can e-mail him at azornoza at gmail.com. He lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
“Pork Roll Egg and Cheese” — Ween (mp3)
“New York” — Cat Power (mp3)
“Button” — Shugo Tokumaru (mp3)
"Give me Daughters" — Jonathan Fire*Eater (mp3)
"Ice Cream Man" — Tom Waits (mp3)