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Posts Tagged ‘bent spoon’

I haven’t had a second to write since I pulled the Easter bread out of the oven! This is a first, and I’m not jazzed about it. Being a contractor means you’re never bored and always busy. Which, as any contractor can tell you, is simultaneously great, and blows. Today was the first day in months that I haven’t gone Mach 2 with my hair on fire.* I’ve been so happy to relax a little, to start cooking again (brownies for my teenage cast and crew)…

Three sticks of butter plus cake flour mean they’re essentially a semi-solid.

to eat ice cream (hoooo doggy. Twice this week, actually, and both bloody spectacular)…

Chocolate-orange and coconut ice creams plus hot fudge sauce, all homemade, at the bent spoon in Princeton.

My beloved peanut butter moose tracks, greedily gobbled an hour ago.

I am unusual in that I am oddly, inextricably connected to nature; I must see and smell and touch everything new each season. This past month I missed my ephemerals. I only barely nuzzled the Kwanzan cherry blossoms before the rain took them down. I’ve never missed these, and the lack of them has affected me powerfully, like trying to breathe with the only one lung’s capacity. Subtracting them has not been not healthy for me.

But I’m dreaming about visiting the farm (finally open), foraging (wisteria right now, and much more to come). And I had the loveliest surprise a couple of days ago:

I thought I had missed the lilacs, too, blooming so early this year. Drove in between rushed errands to try to find some blossoms that weren’t spent so I could bury my nose in them, and didn’t have much luck. Then I happened upon a huge, lush group of bushes next to the art building at my alma mater, where I was finishing a prop contract. The school is at the opposite end of the state, and I’d forgotten that flowers there bloom later. The wind off the lake blew their fragrance around me before I even saw them, fresh and sweet as could be. I remembered the strange miracle of more: my theory that whatever we miss, somehow the universe makes it back up again. And then some.

*Gratuitous Top Gun reference.

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In late winter into early spring, the warmer days and cold nights cue maple trees to get their sap moving up into the branches for bud production. It’s also the brief window of time in which maple syrup producers work night and day to get sap extracted from trees, boiled down into syrup, and bottled. They’re scrambling this year, because the extended cold weather here on the east coast of the USA has pushed off the season. Once spring weather hits, it’s over for the year.

Yesterday I went with my sister and brother-in-law to the western end of New Jersey where maple syrup collecting is a hobby; we don’t have scads of sugar maples (the variety that produces the sweetest sap) the way our northern states and Canada do. Shame, because I could totally see myself doing this for a profession, despite the fact that I was crap at science.

In the meantime, groovy class. Bundle up.

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Allison the instructor showed us three pots of sap in various stages of reduction. You want to get the water out, to get down to the essence of this stuff. This is the sap after just a bit of boiling; it’s faintly tinged with brown.

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Here’s another pot of sap after longer boiling.

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This one’s almost ready to rock.

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Next we headed out to the sugar bush, the name for the cluster of tappable trees. Although, a woodpecker got to this tree first.

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A 100-year-old sugar maple, with ancient tapping scars.

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Another old tree. Sap running down its bark many years ago stained it black.

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Sap bucket.

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The sap is clear, icy cold, and very faintly sweet. We got a taste of it coming right out of the tree. Bloody awesome.

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A bucket lid keeps out random things that float in the air. Wild coincidence that Canadians made these, huh?

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An old-fashioned hand drill. Far cooler, although much less efficient, than a power drill.

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It has a wooden handle and knob. How cool is this thing?

The syrup in the jar at the top is the product of trees tapped right on the property; it’s single-origin (from one region) syrup. It was offered for comparison along with a commercially-sold brand of pure maple syrup and a popular brand name featuring brown-tinted corn syrup and a woman in a babushka. I thought the syrup made on the property was the best. But admittedly I gave the babushka the snub.

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Oh, and then since we were only 20 minutes outside of Princeton, we hit the bent spoon, which, as I posted to my friends, kicks every ice cream ass there is. The proprietors do their own tapping of local resources whenever possible, supporting local farmers and growers. This is chocolate Port and coconut ice cream. A knockout.

 

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“There’s a Jazz Festival at Governors Island in late August,” my sister said.

All right.

“Oh, and there’s going to be a major food event at the New Amsterdam Market—something like a dozen vendors will be bringing their homemade ice cream for public tasting.”

You guys know me by now, right? Show of hands—who thinks I went?

I put on a thirties-style dress and matching jacket, white gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat. When my sister, brother-in-law and I got to the Market, a guy stopped me and told me I looked like I just got off the Titanic. Which really doesn’t makes sense, seeing as no one got off the Titanic.

But there was food to be eaten. I didn’t argue with him, and instead did the intelligent thing: I took off to buy a fruit tart.

Ahoy.

Pie Corps is a one of the nicest ideas I’ve ever heard of: from-scratch pies, tarts and hand pies, and a dizzying selection on their one little stand. The below knocked me out. It’s a s’more baked as a tart, with a graham-cracker crust, a layer of ganache (a chocolate/cream icing) and toasted marshmallow fluff bruleed on top. Killed me that I didn’t try it, but it was giant and I wanted to save my dessert appetite for ice cream.

Guess what's inside?

Instead I got the below, an Eccles tart, named after a city in England. It’s a wonderfully flaky crust filled with raisins, brandy, nuts and other things that taste Christmasy together. I know, I should have had lunch first. But one of the best things about being a grownup is that no one makes you.

Next stop was to Hudson Valley Duck Farm’s stand, behind which stood a smiling guy. Well, he sells duck salami. Rich, gamey, salty, tender. Prettiness on a stick.

Jewel-like heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Okay, okay, time for actual lunch. Worth the wait when it’s Luke’s Lobster’s half crab sandwich: bun spread with melted butter, doctored-up mayonnaise, and cold, shredded sweet crab. Oh heaven.

Couldn’t believe it—they were selling sarsaparilla! If you’ve never had it, this comes from a root, like root beer does. (Really? What gave it away?) and it tastes like a lighter version of root beer. Awesome, kicky, bubbly—not syrupy or too sweet. I pronounce it sass-pa-RILL-a, the way the voice-over guy from Schoolhouse Rock did back in the ’70s when he sang about pronouns: “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.”

So here’s how the ice cream thing went: You buy a bunch of tickets, and one ticket gets you one little baby ice cream. Most of the flavors were made with locally-sourced ingredients, which always makes me happy. It’s an all-around win: the farmers and purveyors don’t have to go far, the produce can be picked at its most delectable ripeness, and we get to taste, and can take pride in, what we grow right at home. We ate ice cream made with wild beach plums from south Jersey,  from sweet corn grown in Flemington, from homegrown chocolate-mint.

We smiled all the way home.

Rapidly-melting ice cream shot with my sticky fingers.

Two happy customers.

bent spoon (Princeton). I loved their salted caramel.

Beach plum ice cream--tart and yummy.

Buttermilk-espresso cookie ice cream.


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