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The Ear Bar

Out of the way, down by the Hudson River, is an old neon sign that’s supposed to read BAR but has been burned out on the curves of the ‘B’ forcing the word EAR.  It’s attached to a small two-story building that looks like a house that at first glance might have been a fisherman’s home, a sailor’s respite or something else entirely.  For all that it might have been, what it certainly is, is old.

I call it the Ear Bar, but the real name is the Ear Inn at the James Brown House of 1817.  Many places in New York, much to a history buff’s chagrin, claim the title of Oldest Bar.  Pete’s Tavern, McSorley’s I’m sure.  One thing is for certain:  Ear Inn can give them a run for their money.  Built in 1817 for a man named James Brown, a black man formerly of General George Washington’s merry band of miscreants, this house has been everything.  An inn, a bar, a restaurant, a home.  Currently, it’s a Bar and Restaurant with the title of Inn on the National Registry of Historic Places.  They do their very best to make you feel right at home.

The ceilings are old slatted wood painted white, the sorts of things you don’t see anymore.  While most bars that try to be “old-fashioned” put the punched tin atop their patrons, this low wooden ceiling gives the comfort and closeness of a neighborhood bar with the sense that sailors sat back there in the corner drinking their rum and cat calling the ladies that dared enter for a libation.  But I’m romanticizing a bit.

Above the well-stocked bar, there are bottles of varying sizes, shapes and colors, things that would have carried wine and rum to Davy Jones’ locker if it came down to it.  They look to have a thin film of dust on the insides that can never be cleaned.  It’s well earned dust from history that rests in there.

Their beer selection is surprisingly good.  You won’t find much in the way of craft beers, but they do have their own house ale, the Ear Inn Ale is well-rounded and just the sort of ale you want to be drinking if you’re in the mood for an ale.  Not too hoppy, but just enough to give you that twinge of bitter.  They rock the Yeungling and the Guinness (which, let’s face it, if you’re in a sailor’s bar that is as old as this one, you’ll probably want either the house ale or a Guinness) along with a couple of other small breweries on tap.

To top it all off, the food ain’t too shabby either.  They make a mean shepherd’s pie, their burgers are pretty spot on; the cheese runs gets a little burned and crispy.  In my book, that makes it. and I can vouch for the Tuna Melt, though there are better options on the menu.  Everything comes with a tiny little pre-bagged salad.  While you wait for your order to come, you can draw on the tables with crayons.  The wait for food is usually a little long, so it’s nice to have something to occupy you.

There are two TVs with sports playing, there’s no jukebox to speak of, just a radio or an iPod behind the bar, but it really doesn’t matter.  This isn’t a jukebox joint.  It’s a working class bar that knows what it is:  We serve beer and burgers to fellas on the job.

It’s a great place.  Do yourself a favor and go.  Take a date to one of the oldest bars in New York.  Show your mom and dad the place that was built for a Revolutionary War veteran.  It’s out of the way, off the Spring Street C/E stop down by the water but it’s most assuredly one of the anonymous places that make New York famous.

 

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Thanksgiving + Moving

Wow. There has been quite a lag over here in this little space.

The good news is we’re moving! The new apartment has ample lighting, and more importantly, it is safer. No more hiding the camera behind cavernous rows of homemade pickles to prevent it from being stolen (again).

Expect a recap of our Thanksgiving next week. It is bound to be a good one, because this year we have so much to be grateful for – the new apartment is near the top of this list…

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As Hannah has pointed out, there isn’t much about my childhood that isn’t idyllic. We lived on the mighty Susquehanna River, a two minute walk from a 1930s style movie theatre (kids were $0.50, adults, $2.00 for a night show. $1.50 for a matinee), right next to an immense forest that would defy any child not to play and explore in it, and it was all right in the heart of Pennsylvania.

It’s a beautiful state with a rich and fascinating history (birthplace of the nation, first woman governor of a state, etc etc etc), and it has its very own culture, quite literally. The Pennsylvania Dutch. The Pennsylvania Dutch are the hereditary result of German immigration to Woods of William Penn, and the reason those of us from PA talk different.

It’s a state filled with famous foods, like Shoo-Fly Pie (a pie made to be so sweet that it would attract the flies to the other end of the table at a picnic. It was never intended to be eaten. Until someone tried it), Cole Slaw, Pork and Saurkraut, Scrapple, and of course, the summer staple:

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Pickled Beets.

Ah, the Pickled Beet. Root vegetable, distilled vinegar (we Pennsylvanians are simple folk), a few spices here and there, toss in some eggs and Lord amighty, you have yourself a nice picnic side dish. I love pickled beets. If it were up to me, I would eat a whole batch of these in one sitting and never look back. But that is gluttonous and though I have the heart and mind of a glutton, my stomach just isn’t in it for the long haul.

I needed a recipe for the pickled beets and as I didn’t want to give away my mom’s recipe online, I called my friend JJ, who lives in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch territory: Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This recipe comes from Lancaster, PA. It is the recipe his wife uses and her mother uses. It’s about as authentic as you can get.

And no, I won’t give you my mom’s recipe.

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Pickled Beets & Eggs
Yield: About 2 Quarts (I only made a pint because, well, we didn’t have that many beets)

2lb Beets
2 C White Distilled Vinegar (for true Pennsylvania taste, use Heinz)
3 C Water
2 1/2 C Sugar
3 tbsp Mustard Seeds
3 tbsp Celery Seed
3 tbsp Salt
6 eggs

Hard boil your eggs. Peel. Let rest.

Poil your beets until soft and edible. Peel and slice. Combine vinegar, water and spices and bring to a boil. Add beets and boil for 10 minutes. Place in a big ol jar, with eggs. Cool and refrigerate overnight (until eggs are purple). Eat and enjoy.

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Call it “cliche”, “preaching to the choir”, “screaming from the pulpit”, or any other number of aphorisms, but once again, please let’s hand it to Michael Pollan in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine

As Matthias edits Nom! I can’t help thinking that maybe we can all do this – maybe as food enthusiasts, activists, and brave, young, culinary spirits, we can be the ones to rescue cooking from shopping.

Cutting tagliatelle

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Time was that a fella needed to eat on weekends when he was working a job in a television studio.  Glamorous as that sounds, being a cameraman for a six o’clock and eleven o’clock local news station three days a week with a retired English teacher as your only companion is not the world’s greatest job.  In fact, there is a seriously good chance that it’s the worst job ever.

Point is, a fella needs to eat between seven o’clock and the eight-thirty bumpers.  In Lancaster, PA, you have a few options.  You can go to the grocery store and buy an apple, some cider, a roll of questionable quality, and a hunk of cheddar.  You can bring something sketchy from home that had a good to GREAT chance of being spat in by roommates, or you can go fast food.

Sadly, fast food was the only option within walking distance that was cheap enough to let me afford rent.  Was it burgers?  Was it subs?  Was it chicken?  No.  No, it was Taco Bell.

I would go and order a supreme gordita meal and an apple cinnamon empanada, sit at a table by myself, and read a comic, or a book, or something sad and pathetic, all the while wishing my career path would take a drastic turn.

1 grind it up

Fact of the matter was, the best part of that moment, that time in the Taco Bell, sadly, was the taco sauce, those little mylar packets that you open with your teeth and squirt all over your pseudo-Mexican food.  It comes in Mild (sissy), Medium (perfect for me) and Hot (Hannah).  It had some tang and some heat and was just generally something that made the “food” palatable.  I always wondered how someone would make it.

Five years later, and uncountable packets of taco sauce consumed, I gave it a shot.

2 boil it up

I looked up how to make taco sauce on the internet and there were a whole bunch of things on how to make Taco Bell’s Taco Sauce, but I wasn’t convinced that I really should be making something with Garlic Salt, Onion Powder or The Blood Of Immigrant Children, so I decided with those general ideas and an immersion blender, I would concoct my own.

Feel free to make adjustments and create your own version.  I would recommend even adding a couple splashes of apple cider vinegar at the end for a touch of tang.

5 hot sauce suppertime

Matthias’ Taco Sauce

(yield: 12-15 oz)

  • 1 15oz can diced organic tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)
  • 1 medium onion diced (or half a large one)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or more if you like it hot)
  • Sprinkle of dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Canola Oil

Dice up your onions and throw them in a saucepan with a glug or two of canola oil and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat for about 15 -20 minutes, until they are soft and starting to brown a little.  In a mortar and pestle, finely grind the cumin and coriander. Toss in your garlic and let that cook for a couple minutes (remember, you don’t want that to brown; it’ll get bitter).  Add a couple dashes of oregano and stir it into the garlic/onion mixture, along with your cumin and coriander.

When you’re satisfied that this is all set, pour in your tomatoes.  Add the chili powder and cayenne.  Stir.  It’s going to dry up a little, but that’s ok.  Turn the heat to medium low and let it simmer uncovered for another 10-15 minutes.  When the flavors have all combined, take an immersion blender (or just ladle it into a regular blender, be sure to leave a small gap between the vessel and the the lid, lest you should risk explosion) and zizz it all up until you have a smooth, deep crimson paste.

It will last a little while.  Don’t worry if you don’t use it all at once.

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