A local chef wants to send women back to the kitchen, school lunch gets a makeover, and hot chocolate to die for.
Back to the Kitchen
Eve Felder encourages females to seek culinary careers
When I heard that the group Women Chefs & Restaurateurs had selected Eve Felder as the recipient of its first Educator of the Year Award, I wasn’t surprised. Felder is currently the associate dean for Curriculum and Instruction for Culinary Arts at the Culinary Institute of America — an appropriately long title for a position that encompasses everything from curriculum development to faculty evaluations and student concerns. I first met Eve in 1994, the year she joined the CIA’s faculty as an instructor.
At the time, she was overseeing the preparation of spit-roasted, pasture-raised, grass-fed lamb, which was accompanied by organically grown produce from nearby farms.
But you have to remember — this was 1994. Grass was what grew in your backyard, farmers were selling out to developers, and the oh-so-trendy farmers’ markets (which we now all love) were still a thing of the future. Yet there was Eve, setting the stage for what would become a culinary and agricultural renaissance in the Hudson Valley and, at the same time, making sure that her students understood that their careers in food and hospitality could be grounded in more than standing behind a stove.
“We are in this valley, and love this valley,” she once said. “And it is imperative for us to be part of it. There is a unique terroir [here], which means what we produce and grow will be special to this place.”
Felder graduated with honors from the CIA in 1988 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology in Charleston, South Carolina (her hometown). She worked alongside Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, then traveled throughout Europe, the Far East, and North America studying the historical connection between culinary traditions and agricultural practices.
With so many women now graduating from culinary programs, Felder has a new goal. “My challenge,” she said in a recent interview, “is how do we create a work balance so we’re able to have productive, happy employees.”
Even with three young daughters at home in Red Hook, Eve continues to set industry standards, find the time to raise chickens and bees, and oversee an extensive vegetable garden. “Come to teaching,” she encourages women. “That’s my rallying call. It’s up to us to mentor the next generation.”
— Jan Greenberg
Brand New Bubbly
Finding the right drink for the right occasion seems to be something of an art these days. And if you’re searching for a nonalcoholic beverage? Well, that’s even more of a challenge. But now there’s Twelve. Created and bottled in Red Hook by Table Drink, Inc., this new sparkling beverage allows the teetotalers among us to raise our glasses in style at the next cocktail party. Sold in an opaque bottle, Twelve doesn’t stand out as a nonalcoholic drink, and might even be confused with a bottle of Chardonnay if it’s kept chilled in an ice bucket. The recipe for the bubbly concoction includes a combination of organic white, green, and black teas; carbonated water; and a helping of herbs and natural juices. While the tea flavors dominate, a refreshing hint of fruit hits you the instant your lips touch the glass. Those on a diet have an additional reason to imbibe this fruity drink: Twelve has only 60 calories per eight-ounce serving (compared to 88 calories for the leading cola). Should you feel the need for alcohol, an added dash of rum or vodka only enhances this sweet treat. And at $14 for two 750-milliliter bottles, Twelve can be enjoyed without breaking the bank. It is sold at Rhinebeck Health Foods, Adams Fairacre Farms in Kingston, or online at www.chefswarehouse.com and www.hellodelicious.com. Cheers! — Joseph Climek
Food for Thought
A new Rockland Country Day School program puts the focus on healthy foods and farming
“You can’t believe what children eat for lunch,” Julia dellaCroce says with horror. She’s talking about the students she sees at Rockland Country Day School in Congers, where she heads a pioneering program that aims to feed young bodies and minds with healthful foods and information on sustainable, natural farming. But she could be talking about most kids in the country.
“One nine-year-old had Ritz crackers and ketchup,” she fairly screams. “That was his lunch. No fiber. No protein. No vegetables. No real food. And it’s not just what they aren’t eating, it’s all the toxic things they are eating: the preservatives, the colorings, the pesticides, the antibiotics, the hormones. It couldn’t possibly be nourishing for their brains and bodies. It’s quite shocking.”
DellaCroce — a consultant, teacher, and writer — is passionate about healthy eating. She had been thinking about creating a program that would integrate nutrition, food, and cooking education with freshly prepared home-cooked meals and community outreach. So had Dr. Lee Hancock, interim head of RCDS, who wanted to offer a school lunch program based on the school’s goal of advancing character education. Says dellaCroce:
“It’s a perfect marriage: an integrated program that’s not just changing the lunchroom, but also the classroom.”
There are three parts to the program, she says. First, the lunch menu has been rewritten. No more Sloppy Joes or reheated pizza. “The menu is based on all fresh foods, no processed foods whatsoever,” she says. “We try to keep things local and cook real food. Not gourmet food, real food.”
Next, she developed a curriculum for teaching nutrition and sustainability, which includes planting a garden on campus to teach kids about the life cycle of growing food. “The garden is a classroom for the children,” she says.
DellaCroce also started a Community Supported Agriculture program (or CSA) for both the school and the community at large. RCDS receives weekly food products through Dines Farms in Greene County. The CSA helps students learn about small farms and their cultural importance. And residents from Greene County to Brooklyn can also buy food from the CSA (with three percent of the profits going back to the school).
It hasn’t been easy changing years of horrible eating habits, dellaCroce admits. “We got a lot of flack about no chicken nuggets on the menu,” she says. There was also one little boy who would eat nothing but hot dogs. “We don’t have hot dogs on our menu,” she says. “He was looking around, and saw his friends eating salmon. He had never had it before. So he tried it. Guess what? He liked it. And now he probably will continue to eat salmon. It’s a very slow process, but that’s how it happens.”
For more information, visit www.rocklandcds.org.
— David Levine
New guy in the ’Gunks
The landmark Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz is already renowned for its stunning vistas. With the recent introduction of new executive chef Jim Palmeri, the resort also hopes to be known for its commitment to sustainable eating. Palmeri most recently worked at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, whose critically acclaimed eatery was named one of the country’s best new restaurants in 2005 by Esquire magazine. “The modern American dishes I’ve developed make use of the fresh local produce, as available,” says Palmeri, who will also preside over the resort’s culinary theme weekends, including this month’s “Art of Chocolate” on February 8-10 (visit www.mohonk.com for more information).
Heavenly Hot Chocolate
Along with the icy temperatures and bitter cold winds of the winter months comes at least one good thing: hot chocolate. Columbus discovered the Aztecs sipping a drink made with cocoa beans; he was the first to introduce the chocolatey substance to the Spaniards back in 1502. Originally, it was rejected because of its bitter taste, but eventually, the beverage — created by adding sugar, spices, and milk — spread throughout Europe’s upper classes. Today it is not only a favorite among children, but has become très trendy among adults, popping up on dessert and bar menus at well-known restaurants in New York City and beyond. Some serve it with a dollop of peanut butter, or infused with chile powder, or with homemade marshmallows. The body-warming beverage is not only the best remedy after a long day of work (or sledding, or skiing). Studies show that this delectable drink is actually good for you: Researchers at Cornell University claim that hot chocolate contains more disease-fighting antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of tea or red wine.
Here’s how the experts at the CIA make it:
Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici Hot Chocolate
Yield: Five cups, or about six servings
2 Tbsp. Dutch processed cocoa powder, ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, ¹/8 cup corn starch, ²/3 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped,¹/3 cup Gianduja (hazelnut-flavored) chocolate, chopped* ,Pinch of kosher salt, 1 quart milk or half and half (for an even richer flavor)
1. Mix all ingredients together in a two-quart saucepan
2. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a gentle simmer
3. Remove once it starts to boil and serve hot
*You can substitute more bittersweet chocolate for the Gianduja chocolate
Chef’s notes: Spice up the hot chocolate by adding a pinch of ground chile pepper or smoked paprika. If you prefer it less sweet, omit some of the sugar.