Sunday, August 30, 2015


Brian Horn, a public relations expert, said that Consumer Reports tested 458 pounds of ground beef from across the nation and found more than 80% contained at least two types of dangerous bacteria.  “Interestingly, beef that was produced conventionally (on feedlots, with antibiotics) had twice as many superbugs as beef that was sustainably produced.”

The Consumer Reports’ investigation comes as food poisonings are striking an estimated 48 million people in the U.S. each year with beef being a top cause of outbreaks. Compounding the issue, Americans often prefer their beef on the rare side. The grinding process used to produce ground beef can distribute bacteria throughout the meat and if it’s not cooked properly through to the center, the potential for getting sick increases. 

Reports suggest that no matter what ground beef consumers buy, cooking it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit should kill harmful bacteria. “Meat should be stored properly before and after cooking since bacteria can multiply rapidly at temperatures above 40 degrees. If you’re reheating leftover burgers or a casserole with ground beef, get it to 165 degrees.”

You probably don’t realize it, but steaks and other cuts of beef that you buy in grocery stores or restaurants may have been run through a machine that punctures them with blades or needles to tenderize them. Unfortunately, the process also can drive bacteria like the deadly pathogen E. coli O157:H7 from the surface deep into the center of the meat, where they are harder to kill. That can increase the risk of illness for people who eat that beef rare or medium rare.

Restaurant owners are not going to reveal the goings on of their purveyors.   However, there is something you can do when purchasing your meat.  Go to a butcher.   Years ago, that is what we did.  Ottomanelli Brothers have a few places in Queens, one of which is located in Woodside at 61-05 Woodside Avenue. 

Frank insists that when you want ground meat that you see the piece you’re getting so you can just the freshness.  We looked at Prime Chuck Steaks, top grade only and nicely trimmed with just enough muscle and fat.  “Ground beef that you buy in supermarkets are packaged with oxygen, carbon monoxide and nitrogen.  The small amount of nitrogen makes the meat look fresh.  The government wants the stores to place a sign on the packaging saying that the color of the meat does not indicate the freshness. The meat can be there for 20-30 days and still look fresh.  If the meat turns black a few minutes after opening you can certainly tell how old it is.”

Perhaps you want a combination of chuck, brisket and short rib.  You’ll get to see each cut. Although you can get this combo via Fresh Direct, using Pat La Frieda, you don’t get to see the actual meat being used. Burgers are 6oz at $6.99 lb. and have the sealed packaging.  Ottomanelli  does have premade 8 oz burgers, freshly prepared each day, all costing $6.99 per pound.  Beef are a combo of cuts.  Turkey burgers (with spinach and feta cheese), chicken burgers and lamb burgers are pre-seasoned. and deserve an "OMG"/  A test of a good burger is to NOT pile it up with stuff.  Have a salad of arugula, cilantro, scallions and cucumber on the side. Drizzle with olive oil.  You should be able to taste the burger itself. 

I tried the ground prime chuck and it was amazing!  I loved the turkey, chicken and lamb burgers perfectly seasoned and with no bun. 

As for fast food burgers, Fuhgetaboutit!  Do you think that they can sell burgers for $1?  If they are “all beef”, you don’t know what part of the animal is actually is.  If not, say “hello” to soy fillers. 
Cost wise, the 8 oz burger will run about $3.50 or you can break it up in two 4-oz burgers at $1.75 for each. Buns are great for being able to pick up the burger in your hand, but not the most nutritious , unless you buy Dave’s Killer Bread. 

While you’re there buy a fresh mozzarella coming from the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx.  The company starts from the milk, first making the curds.  If you are a lover of bacon (aren’t we all), there’s nothing like slices of fresh bacon without nitrates or nitrites. 

If you want the best meatloaf, get a combo of beef, veal, pork and your favorite recipe.  A can of Italian San Marzano tomatoes will make a hit.  Manga!

Monday, August 24, 2015


Learn the story behind your morning cup of Java.  From seed to mug, production to consumption, coffee has shaped the lives of thousands of individuals worldwide. Working with Geoff Watts, famous green-buyer, the filmmakers travel to America's most populous coffee-drinking cities and to producing countries, interviewing connoisseurs and farmers alike. With a focus on the social and cultural landscape of coffee, Caffeinated is a new movie that gives the coffee consumer unprecedented access to the farmers responsible for growing that perfect bean, and the producers responsible for brewing that perfect cup.

Caffeinated, directed and written by Hanh Nguyen and Vishal Solanki doesn’t focus on the experience of having caffeine.  It’s all about the experience of the aroma and taste  In fact the goal is to find the perfect coffee that when reaching your cup smells just as great as the waff you get when the coffee beans are first ground. 

Coffee is actually a fruit grown much like cherries and picked when ripened to give the sweetness.  Instead of a pit, there is a bean and the result all depends upon the farmers and those that roast the beans.  

The origin of coffee is said to date back to Ethiopia where they would have coffee ceremonies first in the household and extending to the village.  Ceremonies were conducted by the women in the home.  Drinking coffee became a social experience and apparently still is. 

Hawaii is the only place in North America that coffee is grown as the tropical band around the Equator, along with mountains at 6,000 lend the perfect atmospheres. 

Coffee tasting is almost like tasting wine.  You smell the aroma and then taste it black by slurping; sipping with air.  That means no sugar or milk. 

Espresso began in Italy where workers did not want to wait for the 5 minutes to brew.  Here you are forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans.  Although espresso has a larger amount of caffeine, the amount you drink is much less that a cup of regular coffee.  Acidity content is less as well.  In 1901, the Italian inventor Luigi Bezzera came up with a workable solution. Pavoni manufactured the first espresso machines in 1905. 

There aren’t many places in Queens that actually roast the coffee beans.  One of the largest is Fairway Market with one location in Douglaston.  There is a huge variety of coffee to choose from regarding location, flavored and both caffeinated and decaf. 

Native Coffee Roasters is located in Astoria but is not open to the public.   They roast small batches: El Salvador; NYC Diesel; and Colombia.  They have locations in Queens where you can buy the coffee.  Check them out at

Coffeed comes out of Long Island City.  Their flagship location at 37-18 Northern Blvd.  features a full-service cafĂ©, a roasting facility, a bar with local beers and wines, and the Brooklyn Grange’s acre-sized rooftop farm, source of much of COFFEED’s produce.  It is also where they test, cup and experiment with different beans, techniques, and technologies.
The 3000 sq-ft space has ample seating and has played host to events of all types and sizes, including roasting classes, charity fundraisers, open mic nights, movie screenings, and even a wedding proposal.  Now that’s a coffee house!  


Due to a disabling situation I have been getting my groceries delivered. It puts me in the situation that I am depending upon the store or company to do my shopping.  I had high hopes for Fresh Direct until lately. Yes, they do take off the cost if you have issues with the items.   However, what’s the point if most of the items have issues and I still need my groceries.

The first time I ordered artichokes, they came out perfect.  Totally closed, no brown spots, no pointy leaves to stab you, meaty stem, and when cooked, the “hair” on the top of the heart didn’t even have to be removed.  Not so now.  They are already brown, bitter near the stem which you can’t even use.  I don’t know if all artichokes that you buy everywhere are coming from this same company out in California.  Perhaps they need to change the company or they just don’t care.   Then again, is the person “shopping” choosing the best there is?

My last order had a bunch of bananas…Dole.  It came not just in the plastic bag, but was engulfed in some kind of rubbery paper.  As usual, I put the whole thing on my counter to ripen.  A few days later, I tested to see if they were ripe.  Opening the cushy thing I noticed one loose banana.  I thought that perhaps an extra banana was added due to there not being enough in the bunch.  I put that one in the fridge to eat.  Later, I took the rest and threw it in the fridge vegetable bin.  The next day, wanting another banana, I was about to open the plastic bag but there was a hole already in it.  Inside, one the bananas was separated from the bunch.  I tasted it and it was mushy, not like soft due to being overripe.

I thought I’d save a bit on fish by getting the small chunks of fresh fish.  “Whatever is in the catch” as they say.  It’s supposed to be mixed according to the website and photo.  I did it a few times and concluded that I’m getting the sort of leftovers from when the fish are trimmed, like the part of the salmon closest to the skin.   I can taste this when I cook it up. 

I tried an avocado that wasn’t a Hass.  It didn’t ripen until 6 days later, was already brown on the outside and tasted awful.  

Ready- made food. Oy!  They have a kitchen and access to fresh foods.  Yet, it is obvious that they use canned or jarred vegetables.   One salad had a hard- boiled egg.  They used eggs that are pre-hard boiled and containing some solution.  Deli meats.  Pre-cooked bacon.  Enough with the additives!!  What’s “fresh” about that?

I did a comparison on dates with Ronnybrook Farms milk.  Sell by date was less than two weeks whereas getting it at the Green Market in Forest Hills had a longer date.   Hmm…they are coming today to replace pork chops that had a “best if used date” 3 days away from the evening it was delivered.  Package is weighing 1.37 lbs. vs the package being picked up weighing 1.78 lbs.  Not getting charged for the switch but price is higher due to their raising the price. Not my fault.  Customer service must be getting tired of my voice.   

I had been ordering ground beef with the Pat LaFrieda name on it.  Now I find out that the meat you find in your supermarket that is sealed is injected was gases to make it look fresh.  No law saying that it has to be labeled.  I think it’s time to go to the butcher and do my own cooking.   More problems with store bought beef. Tune in next week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


We have a special preview screening coming up at MOMI. It’s Queen of Earth
With Elisabeth Moss and Director Alex Ross Perry in person on Tuesday, August 25, 7:30 p.m. Starring  Elisabeth Moss, Patrick Fugit, Katherine Waterson. Catherine (played in what Variety calls “an utterly fearless central performance by Elisabeth Moss”) has entered a particularly dark period in her life. Following her father’s death and a bad breakup with her longtime boyfriend, she decides to spend a week recuperating in the lake house of her best friend, Virginia. However, fissures between the two women begin to appear, sending Catherine into a downward spiral of delusion and madness. Tickets: $25 public/$15 Museum members at the Film Lover level or above/Free for Silver Screen members and above.

In fact MOMI is presenting an Alex Perry series August 22-25.  Screenings take place in either the Sumner M. Redstone Theater or the Celeste and Armand Bartos Screening Room . Unless otherwise noted, tickets for MOMI screenings are $12 adults ($9 seniors and students / $6 children 3–12) and free for Museum members at the Film Lover level and above. Advance tickets are available online at . Ticket purchase includes same-day admission to the Museum’s galleries.

Saturday, August  22, 4:30 P.M.
With Riley O'Bryan, Kate Lyn Sheil, Bruno Meyrick Jones. In his feature debut, Perry was loosely inspired by Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Taking place just after World War II, the film follows the shambling young soldier Tyrone S. as he wanders through the forest looking for German V2 rockets and encounters a number of inexplicably figures, including an eyepatch-wearing Englishman, a garrulous octopus, and the girlfriend he left behind to join the army.

The Color Wheel
Sunday, August  23, 3:00 P.M.
With Carlen Altman, Alex Ross Perry. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend and former professor, aspiring TV weathergirl JR calls on her estranged younger brother Colin to help retrieve her possessions at her ex’s apartment. What follows is one of the most uncomfortable road movies ever, as the two equally despicable characters incessantly pick on, undercut, and attack one another.
Listen Up Philip
Sunday August 23, 5:30 P.M.
With Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce. Feeling alienated by the pressures of the New York literary world and the girlfriend who financially supports him, the narcissistic and self-involved author Philip Lewis Friedman seeks refuge in the country home of his equally self-obsessed idol, the older, more established writer Ike Zimmerman.


Although I am not an avid coffee drinker, I do love the aroma of fresh ground coffee as well as the taste.  Caffeine is not my style as it kind of makes me shake.  Forget a morning cup and evening keeps me up.   I can deal with it during the afternoon having eaten.  Cold brewed coffee is the best.  There is less acidity.   Better than instant coffee is a cold brewed concentrate from Califia Farms.   A 32 oz container yields 8 standing cups.  I happen to love coffee milk, if you know what I mean. 
Ronnybrook Farms has coffee milk, but I like to prepare it myself.   Therefore the 32 oz. container yields at least 12 cups.  With Ronnybrook Creamline that is not homogenized, I find it unnecessary to add sugar. 

Califia Farms have other products, much of which is about almond milk.  I decided to do a test with their Barista Blend.  I find that milk made from anything other than coming from a cow, has the taste and consistency of skim milk.   I can handle a reduced fat, but that is where I draw the line.   The challenge is Califia Farms Barista Blend of pure almond milk.  I shook up the container and poured a small amount into a glass.  Much to my surprise it had the consistency of close to whole milk and sweet.   I would actually have no problem simply having a glass.  They say that you can use almond milk as a substitute for cow’s milk in regards to cooking. 

Here’s an idea.  Combined the Barista Blend with cardamom (use a spice grinder to crush or powdered cardamom), and vanilla extract in a pot.  Cook until almost a boil and add a combination of corn starch mixed with cold water.  Add and stir to thicken and you will get a yummy tasting pudding!

I did a test of sweetened coffee with the Ronnybrook and  Califia with unsweetened coffee. I found both to be excellent but just a bit difference in taste.  Their almond milk is a great substitute.   I have yet to try their creamers or flavored almond milk.  I did sample two of their juice drinks called Agua Fresca and OMG. Watermelon Ginger-Lime and Strawberry Basil.  The Citrus Juice line had Tart Cherry Lemonade (Meyer lemons are used). 

Here is what they say about the juices.  “The fruit from our family farm is squeezed at our juice plant and directly bottled there, too – it is pure squeezed and made with only all natural, premium ingredients. Our California Orange Juice is made with mostly not from concentrate orange juice with some orange juice from concentrate mixed in to add balance to the seasonal taste variance of the orange crop. Our Lemonade is not made with juice from concentrate, and our Limeade has some lime juice from concentrate added to it for flavor consistency.”