Staff Anecdotes

Let’s talk about meat baby, Lets talk about Sal-u-mi!

This spring we’ve increased our online selection of salumi. To help our customers navigate their way through our new offerings, here’s Bklyn Larder Monger Phil Hofius. 

At the shop I often hear from customers that are confused by the difference between “Salami” and “Salumi.” To the uninitiated, the two words might seem interchangeable, just a preference in pronunciation (i.e. “You say Salami, I say Salumi”). But there is in fact a delicious world of difference in swapping an “A” for a “U”.

Phil and some of his favorite salami!

Phil and some of his favorite salami!

“Salumi” takes its meaning from the Italian word for salt (sal) and refers to a number of cured and cooked meats such a prosciutto, mortadella, bresaola, lardo, coppa, and—you guessed it—salami. The one thing connecting all of these products is their reliance on salt for flavor and for curing, which we will get to shortly. So when we talk about “salami,” we’re talking about just one particular type of “salumi,” albeit one of the most popular and one that has been embraced by larders across the globe.

Every one of the countless versions of salami is a variation on the following formula: spiced and salted ground meat that has been extruded into an elongated, thin casing (traditionally, cleaned intestine) and left to ferment and air dry. While this means the meat in salami isn’t cooked, but that doesn’t mean that it’s raw. When made with the freshest and highest quality ingredients and aged in a controlled environment, salami is completely safe to eat and completely tasty.

Like many of the world’s best foods, salami’s (and salumi’s) popularity grew out of necessity. In the dark ages before modern refrigeration, meat had to be preserved to keep it from going rancid. Salting and adding healthful bacteria cultures to meat before hanging it in a temperature and humidity controlled environment makes the meat more acidic and extracts moisture from it, making it inhospitable to pathogenic bacteria. This process also gives salami their signature tanginess, which makes them a perfect accompaniment to cheese, wine, eggs, beer, pickles, or bread. You name it; there is a type of salami that pairs with it!

Salami!

Salami!

The specific flavoring of any salami usually depends on the region it comes from. Toscano, which comes from Tuscany, is heavily salted and features garlic, whole black peppercorns, and wine. Saucisson Sec originates in France and also features garlic and pepper but some variations contain dried fruit, nuts, liquor, and even bleu cheese. Spanish chorizo is spiced with paprika, giving it its signature smokiness and deep red coloring.

Everyday at Bklyn Larder, I’m surrounded by an assortment of salami that are perfect for charcuterie plates, wine or beer pairings, and picnics. Here are a few of my favorites along with some other goodies I love to pair them with:

Charlito’s Campo Seco: This rustic, tradition country salami is simply comprised of heritage breed pork and fleur de sel. It’s a crowd pleaser that even the choosiest of eaters will enjoy. Slice it up and gnaw on it along with your favorite crusty baguette and mustard or try plating it with a wedge of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and some of our house-made Preserved Fruit to amaze your guests before your next dinner party.

Olli Salumeria Molisana: With a strong combination of black peppercorns and robust garlic, this variety is the classic recipe from Molise region of southern Italy. I prefer to pair it with some flakes of our beautifully fruity Piave Del Sapporo for an Italian charcuterie and cheese spread or bring it out to the park with a loaf of rustic bread and some spicy pickles for an afternoon picnic.

Oli Salumeria Toscano: one of our new online selections!

Olli Salumeria Toscano: one of our new online selections!

Olympic Provisions’ Chorizo Rioja: Made with antibiotic-free pork in Oregon this salami is spiced with sweet and smoky paprika, garlic and oregano. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a tangy Spanish manchego! Chorizo also gets along famously with seafood, so remember to stock up on some amazing sardines or anchovies and kick your next tapas platter up a notch.

With so many unique varieties of salami to choose from, you can count on at least one being the perfect addition to your larder. So come into the shop let me or one of my fellow mongers find the right salumi for you!

-Phil

A Consideration of Cornmeal

Check out the pastry case!

Initially, Bklyn Larder was created as a cheese and provisions shop. Yet, in recent years—thanks to some stellar talent in the pastry kitchen—, our pastry department has gained a national cult following. To take you behind the scenes of the operation is Bklyn Larder’s own Mariana…

I’m still new to New York, a decisive flaw that can be read in my excitement every time I ride the subway and in the frustration I express when my mail is surprisingly difficult to track down. That said, I’m not nearly so keen on exploring the thrilling potential of public transportation at 6am when I head off to a morning shift at Bklyn Larder. What makes the trip worth the taking lies in a particular blend of coffee and conversation that brews before opening the doors. This and, among the rest of the jewels the store has to offer, the fact that we’ve got a pastry kitchen that’s already warming up the shop as I brace myself against the morning chill.

We bake our scones fresh every morning!

We bake our scones fresh every morning!

Cue pastry chefs Amelia, Meg, and Caitlin. The first two ladies are working on the morning I arrive to shoot the team in action. I smell buttermilk biscuits, scones, muffins, gougères, and doughnuts in every corner of the store. Try working at a place like this with a sweet tooth like mine; I feel like a martyr every time I bypass a caramel square for a helping of kale. A few of my favorite sweets, the pistachio cake and almond cake, make an early appearance in the kitchen. Amelia brushes egg wash on the crostata. Meg preps the scones. Share with me my struggles.

While the sanctum of kitchen recipes prohibits my publishing the make and model details of our beloved pastries, I can describe for you the quaint history of our sweets, my personal attachment to one particular pastry, and a few tasting suggestions. Welcome the star of today’s show, the polenta cake.

Crostata time!

Crostata time!

Born in November of 2013 in the pastry kitchen of the Larder, the polenta cake gave purpose to a fresh cranberry relish that still needed a home. The warm cornmeal delicacy, kin to the sweetest of pie custards thanks to its cranberry, lime, or lemon curd, as well as classed with savory after-dinner treats given its malty polenta batter, stands out among our more traditional treats. Closer to cornbread than traditionally prepared polenta, this cake does a fine job of maintaining a “rustic” sweetness as opposed to a sweetness predicated on fresh baked fruits or powdered sugar dusted almonds. I use the quotes around rustic in reference to a recent article describing our pistachio cake, whose similarly toned-down sweetness won accolades from Tasting Table’s cake-gurus, but the term makes sense. When we compile a list of traditional cornmeal dishes, at least in the States, we’re drawing on recipes from the first colonial villages, from frontier days, from the depression era, from the Deep South and the rural north – put simply, from impoverished people and times. Even the names we associate with cornmeal products sound rustic – grits, grit cakes, cornbread, hushpuppies, porridge, fried mush, spoonbread – and yet I hardly mean to imply that cornmeal produces as poor a meal as its status as an international staple grain might suggest. Quite the contrary. Bessie Murphy, writing pre-1920, hit the nail on the head when she penned her book “Cornmeal for Breakfast, Supper, Dinner”; it’s one of the most versatile of ground grains and easily one of the most rich in both culture and flavor.

We’re most familiar with breakfast options in the States, where we commonly find it given the porridge treatment, with butters, creams, and sugars, or otherwise cooked down with cheeses, salts, potatoes, and meats. As grits or polenta, it’s served with anything from red peppers and shrimp to smoked sausage and pulled pork. Oven-baked cornbreads can range from the ultra-sweet muffins my mother used to make to the full-kernel and cheddar cornmeal biscuits they bake with such perfection in Savannah. In Europe, cornmeal was similarly used to produce that gruel that everyone imagines prisoners eating in the medieval ages, but plated with cuttlefish, baked plums, porcini mushrooms, or even (er, don’t look up these ones if you’ve a sensitive eye) small songbirds and frog stew, polenta can be quite the delicacy in nations like Italy and Croatia. I grew up on my great-grandmother’s specialty – fried mush. Strips of polenta fried on a griddle and served with a lot of butter and a small dose of sugar? That one comes straight from the poverty of the early 1930’s, and yet my brother and I couldn’t get enough of it, even when we had our fancy frozen waffles and dad’s omelets as alternatives. In Austria, children eat a similarly sweet polenta dish, only dipped in café au lait. Hm.

So this is all to say cornmeal can arrive in an incredibly diverse collection of really fantastic dishes. Why even bother with another cornmeal-based product from Brooklyn?

Polenta cake and tea!

Polenta cake and tea!

Ours is rather simple, and it’s likely been done before. But what you’re missing out on if you’ve not given this cake much thought is a subtlety of texture you won’t find in a cupcake or a muffin. That perfect amount of lemon curd, or that rare raspberry, is juxtaposed delicately against a crisp, malty edge, dusted with only enough powdered sugar to make the bread glow. The soft center that, when still warm from the oven, falls apart as if it’s been training a lifetime to offer the perfect bite, expresses a re-envisioning of cornmeal in our kitchen so delightful you simply cannot pass it up.

I suggest sitting down to cup of tea and our polenta cake (I pair our molasses ginger cookie with hot coffee). Make it sweet, iced, and mild on a summer day or hot and black on a chillier fall morning. Bellocq’s Earl Grey with blue cornflower, which you can also find on our shelves, really works magic as a pairing. I’m tempted to try warm, mulled cider or wine once winter comes along, because there’s something about the sweet heat of a full-bodied drink that renders this simple baked good a rival to any English shortbread or delicate coffee cake out there. Take your time enjoying its hidden complexities, especially as it’s not overly sweet. In the same way you wait for the lavender in our cupcakes and the anise in our scones, wait for the savory warmth of cornmeal and the familiarity of a grittier texture in the cake. Push that same savory profile and coarseness against the melting, cloying tang of the custard. It’s subtle, but phenomenal. Yet, for all its internal battles between the sweet and the savory, our polenta cake leaves no trace of salt or sour on your palate once you’ve (unfortunately) finished the treat. Intersperse the bitterness of a black tea throughout, and you’ll be as golden as the cake itself.

It’s rustic – there’s no doubt about its simplicity and lack of serious luster – but it’s a small kind of perfection. Let me know if you enjoy it as much as I do. It even served as my birthday cake this year, the first one I enjoyed in New York, and I’m serious about my cheesecakes and pies. Here’s to warm polenta cake and seasonal fillings as fall quickly brushes up against us!

-Mariana Satterly

My First Gluten-Free BLT Brought Tears to My Eyes!

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Clair and her new favorite item!

We officially have gluten-free bread on our menu! To tell you all about it is Clair, Larder’s resident gluten-free champion.

Being gluten-free has fast become part of everyone’s vocabulary. But for some people it’s not part of a diet trend or fad. It’s a way of life. Not being able to walk into a sandwich shop and order off the menu is a bummer. But not any longer!

Larder has heard your pleas for a gluten free option on our sandwich menu! We have started carrying a wonderful focaccia from Krumville Bakeshop, which opened in 2009. They bring high quality gluten-free baked goods to those of us who really miss bread (I really, really miss it).

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Krumville Bake Shop Focaccia!

Antonella bakes the bread in a 100% gluten-free facility with non-GMO ingredients and organic products as much as possible. We are really excited (especially me) to be bringing this delicious option to you.

I can’t tell you how happy I was when I ordered my first BLT! Watching my coworkers order sandwiches everyday made me so jealous. Now I can order any sandwich I want. And man that first BLT brought tears to my eyes.

And for only $1.50 extra on your sandwich, it’s a definite plus for your wallet too. If you are looking to buy the full loaf of focaccia, we are currently selling it in our bread department for $7.00. So stop on by and try it!

-Clair Widmaier

Dairy Nostalgia: Arethusa

If you’ve stopped by the Larder recently you may have noticed something new in our cold case: a line of dairy products with the most picturesque, adorable packaging of all time. Where are we getting this new line of products? The Larder’s Doug Bermingham has the details. 

Their amazing sour cream!

Their amazing sour cream!

If you’re like me, you become instantly attached to a dairy product that feels “wholesome.” The Larder has recently started carrying products from our friends at Arethusa Dairy, located in nearby Litchfield, CT. Arethusa’s motto, “Milk Like it Used to Taste,” pretty much encapsulates the experience. Their products certainly taste true to nature, with the added bonus of instilling in us a nostalgia for flavors many of us may never have experienced.

Arethusa has some claim on these feelings.

Simply, plain whole milk yogurt.

Simple, plain whole milk yogurt.

They’ve been a dairy farm for over a century. The early owners of the farm, the Webster family, were one of the first dairies to offer door-to-door milk delivery so commonly associated with small town living.  This return to simpler times is reflected in their pastoral packaging, which is devoted exclusively to the depiction of healthy cows standing outside a charming, clean, and stable white barn.

mmmm... Chocolate Milk...

mmmm… Chocolate Milk…

In recent years, additions of purebred Holstein and Jersey cows earned Arethusa numerous accolades from the Champion World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin, both for their products and breeding.

BKYLN Larder will be hosting an Arethusa tasting on Sunday, March 23rd from 2-5pm. Come by and check out our new Arethusa products:

  • 1% Low Fat Yogurt (Vanilla and Maple varieties)
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Sour Cream

Like many “local” brands, Arethusa aims not just to develop quality products, but to ensure they’re business maintains local interests. “The owners of the company try hard to recruit local talent and grow the business with our neighbors,” says Elena Santogade, an Arethusa representative.

Two varieties of yogurt, Maple and vanilla.

Two varieties of yogurt, Maple and Vanilla, in a small snack size. Perfect for those who do not get their daily calcium via chugging chocolate milk… like Doug…

“Additionally, we make it a point to buy as many components of our cows rich diet from local farms as much as possible.”

Their specially developed feed, or Total Mixed

Ration (TMR), has a higher variety of hay that results in the feed having a higher a nutritional value. They also refrain from using stabilizers or preservatives in their yogurts and milk.

To learn more about their process, check out this great interactive graphic on the Arethusa webpage: http://www.arethusafarm.com/dairy/process/

And don’t forget to come check out Arethusa at BKLYN Larder on Sunday, March 23rd from 2-5pm!

-Doug Bermingham

Tranquil Tuesdays: Tea Best Revealed Slowly

If you’ve been into the Larder lately,  you’ve probably noticed that we have a hot new tea on the shelf. Where is it from? What makes it amazing? How should you steep it? Bklyn Larder’s Rosie Pereira has the scoop. 

Tea snob? Present!!

People, I admit it.  I thought I knew a lot about tea. I’ve been drinking tea for years, I have morning tea and evening tea, I even carry around a tea thermos with me everywhere, kind of like a security blanket. (Let us agree not to read into this, ‘kay?)

But then I tried tea from Tranquil Tuesdays— and I realized the tea world goes way beyond my thermos sidekick.

Rosie clenching her tea mug, she won't make it through the day without it...

Rosie clenching her tea thermos. She won’t make it through the day without it…

With Tranquil Tuesdays, you don’t just get a cup of tea, you get an opportunity. You get to taste a quality of tea that doesn’t usually make it out of China. You get to drink tea like the Chinese do!

Hate to break it to you, but in the U.S., we drink tons of flavored tea. Even your beloved earl gray is flavored with bergamot. Tranquil Tuesdays is the real deal: tea, just as it is in all its glory. (Cue the Bruno Mars song here!)

For instance, while nowadays, white tea is harvested in many parts of the world—Nepal, Thailand, and India—Tranquil Tuesdays’ White Peony comes from the Fujian province—the centuries-old home of white tea worldwide.

White Peony, which comes from the tea’s first flush, is delicate, slightly sweet, and hard to mess up (doesn’t become super-stringent if steeped a bit too long).

Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong Tea

Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong Tea

Charlene Wang, Tranquil Tuesdays’ founder, describes her teas in terms friend types.  She says, “When things are crazy, you want to hang out with your chill friend. That’s White Peony – gentle, quiet, reliable.”

And she says, if white peony is your chill friend, Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong is “the one who is always doing something cool…” She calls it “a taste explosion” and it’s a good one to understand Chinese tea drinking. You are supposed to re-steep, people!

The two types of tea we have here at the Larder. The darker leaves on the right are the Oolong, the leaves on the left are the White Peony.

The two types of tea we have here at the Larder. The darker leaves on the left are the Oolong and the leaves on the right are the White Peony.

In traditional Chinese drinking culture, you don’t fill your cup, (just like with wine), you pour some, drink some, re-steep, pour some, drink some more, etc. Wang says the oolong tea can be re-steeped 3-5 times, each with a different flavor profile. (Do the math. This means at 3 grams per cup, one 30g-tin can get you 50 cups!!!)

When you drink this way, you’ll find that different flavor notes come out in each steeping. Round one of Phoenix Honey Oolong may be more floral, round two, more nutty, round three, more citrusy.

Wang says that even though China is known for large-scale manufacturing, the majority of the tea industry still relies on family-owned farms that hand-pick leaves and hand-process them in small batches.

White Peony White Tea

White Peony White Tea

And, just as there is famous French wine terroir (think Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), there are also famous regions in China for tea. Phoenix Mountain, where this oolong comes from, is one

of these great tea regions of the world. To select her tea, Wang traveled through Phoenix Mountain, sampling tea from a variety of producers in the area. When she sipped Phoenix Honey Orchid, she knew she had it – a whole flavor profile that most people never get a chance to try.

Bottom line, if you want a tea that tastes like tea, try Tranquil Tuesdays.

Rosie gazing into the future... she sees Bklyn Larder Blood Orange Cake...

Rosie reads her tea leaves. Looks like blood orange olive oil cake is in her future..

But, if you need another reason, try this. Tranquil Tuesdays is a woman-owned business whose aim is to help disadvantaged Chinese women. So, whether you are simply buying a gift, or having your friends over for tea, remember that by serving Tranquil Tuesdays’ teas, you are helping train and employee women in China in a meaningful way.

Ready? Set. Sip!

-Rosie Pereira

We currently sell Tranquil Tuesdays Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong Tea and White Peony White Tea on our website and in our store.

To learn more about how to steep the perfect cup of tea, visit this blog post by Tranquil Tuesdays.