rainy day hash

This morning amid the torrential downpour, en route to a shoot in Cobble Hill Brooklyn, I suddenly saw a bright spot in an otherwise grey day, Mile End (a Montreal Jewish delicatessen in Brooklyn). I had heard that Mile End had some killer brisket hash. I have had the cured smoked beef brisket sandwich on another rainy day... (rain being the secret to no line at Mile End). Let me tell you, neither the sandwich nor the hash disappoint!

We pulled up, ran in and got three orders to go to share at our shoot. It was all we could do to barely contain ourselves long enough to take this photo before diving in like the vultures we sometimes are.

Our brisket hash arrived in a toasty little brown box, steaming with tiny cubes of perfectly cooked potatoes and larger pieces of sweet onion accompanied by two sunny side up well-seasoned eggs and a pile of smokey meat. What's not to love on this otherwise gloomy day?

If you aren't able to make it to Cobble Hill, you can find them at the Brooklyn Flea on Sundays in Williamsburg.  

Mile End Menu 

I love a place with Lambruso and brisket!

 Copyright © 2011 Andrea Gentl all rights reserved



honey hoarder






Copyright © 2011 Andrea Gentl all rights reserved



I am somewhat of a honey hoarder. I say this to myself as I look at the many half used jars of honey in my cupboard that I have collected from all corners of the Earth.

I buy honey everywhere I travel. I have Bhutanese honey, Italian honey, French honey, Upstate New York honey, Mexican honey  and now Brooklyn Honey after the city has lifted a decade old ban on beekeeping in the city.

This hording would be ok if I just consumed all the honey I purchase, but you see… I like to keep some of the more special jars just to look at because they are so beautiful!

To me honey is the ultimate gift to bring back from afar; it is the sweetest way to later remember a  trip. It is available practically everywhere, you need only to open your eyes and it will find you.

I have jars of honey I have purchased simply for their sheer beauty. One of these is a small glass purchased at a famers market in the South of France. I admit to finally eating this honey, but I still have the empty jar, and the hand painted bee reminds me of that trip. Another I am particularly partial to is from France as well, and the typography and color of the honey made me swoon. It has long since separated out into two distinct and beautiful layers, and I have every intention of leaving it that way.

The most interesting thing about honey is the wide spectum of flavors and scents. Honey ranges in color from dark brown to almost black to the palest of whites and everthing in between. Some honey is dark and robust while others are the color of straw with flavors of maritime flowers and sea spray.

The flavor and color of the honey is dependent on what the bees are eating. The nectar of the flowers mixes with enzymes from the bee's saliva to create a sticky liquid that is honey. The bees then come back to the hives and deposit the liquid into the hives. The flavors come through accordingly. Honey is the perfect litmus test to the the bee's immediate surroundings be it herbascious or otherwise. Take for instance the the Red Hook honey, Bees where found to be producing red honey tinted with flavor of maraschino cherries because they were greedily drinking up the syrup from the Red Hook Brooklyn maraschino cherry plant! According to an article in The New York Times  Andrew Coté, the leader of the New York City Beekeepers Association, has said

“Bees will forage from any sweet liquid in their flight path for up to three miles,” Mr. Coté said. While he has not yet visited the factory, he said that the bees might be drinking from its runoff, and that solving the problem “could be as easy as putting up some screens, or providing a closer source of sweet nectar.”

The Brooklyn beekeepers were somewhat dissapointed to find that thier bees had produced a cloying dye riddled substance, but this just goes to show you how honey is the perfect example of surrounding environments. Hopefully the problem has been solved!

You can imagine that bees that frequent such a factory in Brooklyn will produce vastly different tasting honey than bees that live in sunlit pine forests of Italy or in the wide open wild flowered fields of Southern France or the windswept hills of Sardinia.

Bees are the ultimate mixologists. Local honey flavors can range from any of the following: sea, pine, chestnut, sunflower, truffle, forest, blackberry, mint, orange blossom, clover, eucalyptus, cardoon, millefiori, corbezzolo, and in the case of the Brooklyn bees... maraschino. These are only a few of the local flavors you might find if you choose to branch out beyond the good old honey bear.

For me, honey is a vehicle or the starting point for inspiration when it comes to cooking. I am usually first inspired by the  flavor of honey, then comes the food. You can't go wrong with a combination of fresh ricotta and honey.

A couple years ago I found the recipe below in Gourmet, and I have been making it ever since! It really couldn't be easier.




 I always start with this simple recipe. This ricotta is delicious in fresh pasta or on a crostini, it is really good paired with toasted semolina raisin bread or fresh rhubarb compote. be inspired and go crazy!

below I made fresh ricotta crostiini with millefiore (a thousand flowers) honey and thyme and coffee with chestnut honey. My friend Paola always starts her day with honey in her coffee.

All of the gorgeous handmade ceramics used in this shoot  are from the very talented michele michael of elephant ceramics.  Food inspires me but so do vessels...but that is another story altogether. Look for her very coveted sales on line and follow her blog at http://elephantceramics.blogspot.com/, be quick because she sells out fast!



Richard Ferretti's fresh riccotta from Gourmet 2006.

  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.

    Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.

    Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered; it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days

    Crostini with fresh ricotta, honey thyme and sea salt

    lightly toast some of your favorite rustic bread

    spread some fresh homemade ricotta on top

    drizzle with your favorite honey

    add a little herb, in this case lemon thyme

    and finish with a pinch of grey sea salt.


    If you read Italian pick up Dizionario Dei Mieli Nomadi from Liccu Manias, the leading authority on honey in Italy! I am definitely visiting his farm next time I am in Sardinia. 



    the greenhorns! / a documentary film about farmers in america



    A friend sent me this link because she thought I might be interested and I definitely am! The statistics of farms closing in Upstate New York daily is somewhat staggering. I feel connected to all these farmers but especially to the farmers in Upstate New York where I have a house and rely on many local small farms for my CSA and seasonal produce. Food is such a huge part of going Upstate, everything revolves around it. Dinner parties, potlucks, canning, and family dinners would not be the same without them. I have the greatest respect for these farmers who are struggling to make it in harsh economic times. Farmers are the people who work very hard night and day for you because they love it... and it is what they know. I grew up on a very small family farm in Massachusetts. We had a handful of Jersey's (Tuesday Well's, Elsie, Carnation, Buttercup and Dirty Face), goats, chickens, pigs, capons, ducks, geese, horses, two Scottish Highlanders, dogs, cats and one monkey. Let me tell you, it was an inordinate amount of work in the years that we ran it. Imagine your local cheese maker, or dairy farmer or your CSA farm and then imagine your local greenmarket or co op without some of these faces and vendors. it is a grim scenario. It is ironic that so many farms should be closing at a time when we are having a virtual food explosion. If you are  a documentary buff or interested in where you food comes from... come out and support! I bet you won't come away disappointed!



    see a description of the film below from their website

    The average age of American farmers is 57, and in New York State, a farm is lost to real estate development twice a week.

    If those statistics leave you wondering about who will be growing your food locally and sustainably into the future, you can learn all about it in a new documentary tomorrow night, and help support a new coalition of young farmers.

    The Greenhorns, a 4-year-old nonprofit whose mission is to “recruit, promote and support the new generation of young farmers in this ample and able 21st century America,” hosts the premiere of its namesake documentary at the Anthology Film Archives Wednesday night from 7 to 9 p.m. A panel discussion follows the 50-minute film.

    Tickets are $45 in advance and $100 at the door, with all proceeds benefiting the National Young Farmers Coalition, a fledgling organization created by and for the next generation of America’s farmers.

    The film, which showcases “a new generation of young agrarians who farm with their brains as well as their bodies,” will have additional showings throughout the summer; check The Greenhorns website for dates and times. 


    teatro del sale




     Copyright © 2011 Andrea Gentl all rights reserved





    Last year I had the occasion to meet and photograph the Italian whirlwind that is Fabbio Picchi. Picchi is the mastermind behind Cibreo, Trattoria Cibreo, Cafe Cibreo and  Cibreo Teatro del Sale, all located in the  Sant'Ambrogio neigborhood of Florence, quite near the Mercato di Sant' Ambrogio. The trio of restaurants are just doors apart, creating a little gastronomic empire.

    All the restaurants are worth a visit but the most interesting is Teatro del Sale, the private dinner club and theatre. Teatro del Sale is a members-only restaurant/theater/club housed in a former convento. Patrons are required to become a member for a minimal one time fee and then are treated to an interesting spectacle of food and theatre. The theatre part comes after dinner when the room is transformed and all chairs are pointed towards the stage.  The entertainment, which is organized by artistic director Maria Cassi, a famous Florentine actress (and Picchi's wife), can range anywhere from comedy, to a lecture on Bob Dylan's Music to the 1970's children's film, Pete's Dragon. It is ever changing and completely fascinating. Picchi and his staff in an open glass windowed kitchen, are somewhat of a show themselves as guest sit at long communal tables eagerly awaiting his food. In the kitchen they whirl around one another seamlessly preparing the evening's unique menu until suddenly and without warning Picchi charges out of the glass windowed kitchen and announces with great gusto and force whatever the primo piatti may be! Guests then rush the buffet table . After several courses and dessert, at 9:30 or so, the room is cleared for the theatre portion of the evening. Once you have become a member, you are part of the club for life barring that you don't lose your membership card which entitles you to private breakfast lunch or dinner at Teatro del Sale. You may feel free to stop by during the day to have a coffee or a pastry or lunch and to sit in the many comfortable chairs and just relax or eat. The shop is open to the public but you must be a member to partake in breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

    While at Circolo, pick up one chef's shirts or pants or handsome silk ties designed Picchi himself. There are also beautiful wine glasses from old recycled wine bottles for sale in his emporio/ piccolo store (and they ship!). His shop is full of sea salt and marmalades and pickled vegetables he has made himself!

    If you go to Caffe Cibreo in the morning after the market, do not miss the ciambella, an italian donut. There was a warm and enticing pile of them sprinkled with sugar when we were there. They are quite delicious. If you want to feel Italian you can order a caffe doppio and cornetto integrale con marmelata. 

    Try to go ahead of time to make a reservation and to join the club. Dinner is quite hectic and quite a draw so you should definitely cover the logistics well in advance!

    a note on Picchi's other resturants...

    Cibreo was his first restaurant, opened in the early 1980's . He does a lot of classic Tuscan dishes at Cibreo but no pasta, so be forewarned. If you want pasta go to Trattoria Cibreo, it is less formal and less expensive. 


    Don't miss the neighborhood hardware store in the square, it sells everything but the kitchen sink!


    Cibréo ristorante           


    Via del Verrocchio, 8r

    Tel. : 055 234 11 00
    Fax : 055 24 49 66 


    Chiuso Domenica e Lunedì. ( closed Sunday and Monday)

    e-mail : info@cibreo.com


    Cibrèo trattoria

    (detta il Cibrèino) 


    Via de' Macci, 122r                 

    Caffè  Cibrèo


    Via del Verrocchio, 5r

    Tel. : 055 234 58 53

    this week's menu









    For a complete Florence list see the file cabinet... where I will be adding a list of things to do in Florence over the next couple days.














    notes from the road/sicily


    Photographer Paola Ambrosi DeMagistris writes in from her travels in Sicily.

    This tasty "dentice" was dropped by the local fishermen as soon as we sat at our table at the "Ristorante la Combusa" in Castellamare del Golfo...the chef covered it in coarse sea salt from Trapani and cooked it for 40 minutes...thanks to the salt the fish was amazingly moist and kept all its freshness and flavors...nothing needed to be added...I just sqeezed a few drops of lemon and enjoyed it with an "insalata siciliana" of tomatoes, red onions, green olives and oregano...YUM!



    This is a great little restaurant right on the harbor in this tiny fishing village.

    Ristorante La Cambusa

    Via Don Leonardo Zangara, 67 91014

    Castellammare del Golfo Trapani, Italy

    39 09 24 30155