Halen Môn Anglesey Sea Salt

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The Island of Anglesey is blessed with some of the most scenic and spectacular coastlines in Wales.  The seawater around the island is clean, pristine, and rich in nutrient-dense trace elements and minerals.

Seventeen years ago, aquarium owners, Alison and David Lea-Wilson came up with the idea of using this precious natural resource, which was already an integral part of their business, to produce high quality sea salt.  In 1999, the couple started supplying their sea salt to Swains, a local butchers in Menai Bridge under the brand name Halen Môn.  As they developed their fledgling business, Alison and David honed their craft and perfected their skills to become expert sea salt producers.

Fast forwarding to 2014, Halen Môn has grown into a national and global brand whose products are enjoyed by both chefs and food lovers alike.  The company’s gourmet sea salts and associated products are stocked by delicatessens and purveyors of fine food around the UK.  As well as producing their signature Pure White Sea Salt, Halen Môn also produce a comprehensive range of versatile flavoured salts in flavours such as umami and vanilla.

Akin to other exclusive foods and culinary ingredients that are indigenous to specific geographical locations, ‘Anglesey Sea Salt’ was recently given Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.  This special legal status recognises Halen Môn as having unique qualities that are linked to its origins and the way it is made.

I spoke to the company’s co-founder Alison about Halen Môn and the story of their Anglesey Sea Salt.  You can hear the interview in full by clicking on the play button below.

halen mon sea

Roxbury Mountain Maple

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Dave Holscher and his daughter Rebecca

Maple syrup is famed throughout the United States, Canada and beyond as being a perfect accompaniment to pancakes and waffles.  It is a versatile, nutrient-dense amber nectar that has a deep, rounded flavour that is more complex than the pure, refined sweetness of sugar.

On one of my many visits to New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket I came across a unique family-run maple syrup producer from upstate New York.  Based in the idyllic Catskill Mountains, Roxbury Mountain Maple is run by Dave and Linda Holscher, and their eight home-schooled children.  While I was at their market stall, I met Dave and one of his daughters, Rebecca.  After I sampled their scrumptious syrups, Dave told me the story of their business, as well as about how sap from maple trees is transformed into maple syrup.

What kind of trees is maple syrup produced from?  Maple syrup is produced from the sap of sugar maple trees (Acer Saccharum) that are grown in Canada and the North Eastern states of the United States.  Sugar maple trees, as their name suggests, have especially sweet sap (2-5% sugar) compared with other varieties of maple trees, which makes them perfect for producing delicious maple syrup.

So, how is maple syrup made?  The production of maple syrup is a labour intensive process that involves a combination of reverse osmosis, boiling and the reduction of maple tree sap.  Dave told me that it takes a staggering 40-50 gallons of tree sap to produce every gallon of maple syrup.20140818_121651
As well as selling four grades of syrup, Roxbury Mountain Maple also produces a selection of maple-based products such as maple candy, maple sugar and a spreadable maple cream.  Here is a selection of these moreish goodies to whet your appetite.20140818_121748 20140818_121716

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Maple Candy

Interviewing Dave really gave me food for thought, and increased my love and respect for maple syrup.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.

After Dave finished speaking to me, his daughter Rebecca took some time out from the market stall to give me her take on how helping to establish and run the business has played an invaluable part in both her education and family’s life.  You can hear our conversation by clicking on the play button below.

Kossar’s Bialys

While on my way to visit Pizza a Casa pizza school in New York’s Lower East Side (see previous blog post), one of their neighbouring storefronts caught my eye.  With the name ‘Kossar’s Bialys‘, and taglines ‘World Famous Bakery’ and ‘Since 1936’, the curious foodie in me felt compelled to make an unplanned stop to investigate what lay behind the doors of this most intriguing shop…
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As I entered Kossar’s, I was greeted by the enticing aroma of freshly baked bread and the welcoming vision of an array of bialys, bagels, pletzels and bulkas.

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During my visit to Kossar’s, I spoke to the business’ owner and proprietor, David Zablocki. He told me the story of Kossar’s and how they became established in 1936 as a family run bakery who specialised in baking bread from Bialystok, Poland.  The round breads with a central indentation that they produced were known as kuchen or bialys, and were an everyday staple bread eaten by the Polish-Jewish community of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

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Bialys

Fast forwarding to 2014, Kossar’s is now the oldest bialy bakery in the United States. They have an enormous amount pride and passion about their breads, as well as about upholding the traditions of Polish-Jewish baking.  As per these time-honoured traditions and techniques, Kossar’s lovingly handcraft their bialys and bagels with the aim of reviving the true authentic taste of these breads for new generations of food lovers.

You can hear my interview with David by clicking on the play button below.

 

Pizza a Casa Pizza School

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During my foodie explorations of New York City, I have tasted and experienced many of the city’s delicious culinary treasures.  But, how could any trip to the Big Apple be complete without looking at one of this gastronomic metropolis’ quintessential foods?  So, which food am I talking about? Of course, it’s pizza.

Pizzas were first brought to the United States in the late nineteenth century by Italian immigrants.  From the latter half of the twentieth century onwards, their popularity nationwide has skyrocketed to the extent that New York, in common with Chicago, has adopted its own unique style of pizza.  Whereas Chicago style pizzas are thick crusted, deep dish pizza pies; New York’s multitude of pizzerias produce large, hand-tossed, thinner crusted pizzas.

While wandering around Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I discovered New York’s best kept pizza lovers’ secret: Pizza a Casa.  Pizza a Casa, which translates from Italian as Pizza at Home, was founded by Mark Bello four years ago and is a pizza school that teaches home cooks how to make their own pizzeria quality pizzas.

Mark took some time out of his busy teaching schedule to tell me the story of Pizza a Casa.  He also gave me some insights and tips about how to make a perfect pizza.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.

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Claire’s Corner Copia

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Based in the heart of Yale University, Claire’s Corner Copia has been serving nourishing, delicious vegetarian food to New Haven’s students, workers and residents for almost four decades.  As one of America’s oldest vegetarian restaurants, Claire’s is in the unique position of having borne witness to the evolutionary journey of meat free and plant based diets in the United States.

Claire’s Corner Copia was founded and established by Claire and Frank Criscuolo in September 1975.  From the outset, their missions and visions have been to serve their customers homemade real food, and to work with and be part of the New Haven community.  Thirty nine years on, Claire’s has remained faithful to these noble ideals and is a much loved New Haven gourmet foodie institution.

Their menu offers diners a diverse selection of breakfast dishes, main courses, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and hot and cold beverages.  Also, no trip to Claire’s is complete without a decadent piece of cake from their sumptuous dessert counter – the signature Lithuanian Coffee Cake is truly legendary.  All dishes are prepared using high quality ingredients, and sustainable, locally sourced produce make them taste extra special.

As a highly skilled chef and successful restaurateur, Claire has shared her culinary expertise with home cooks by writing four cookbooks.  The latest of these books ‘Welcome to Claire’s’ was written to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Claire’s and contains recipes, anecdotes and reflections from the restaurant’s fascinating history.

Welcome to Claires

So, how did I discover Claire’s?  When I was a university student in the mid-1990’s, I spent a memorable summer holiday working at Claire’s.  Fast forwarding twenty years, I make a foodie pilgrimage to New Haven every time I visit the United States.

During my trip to New Haven this summer, I spoke to Claire about the history of Claire’s, as well as about their food and 40th anniversary celebration plans for next year.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.

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