Me. My Town. And Irene. A summer for the ages.


http://www.wilmingtonvtfloodrelief.com/

http://drvhumanweb.org/  TO DONATE OR FOR EMERGENCY FUNDING CLICK HERE!

I decided to not put pictures of the flood damage on the blog. I’m sure you have scene enough.

The summer draws to a close. and it took a disaster to get me back at the computer screen squinting through my duct taped, faded Ralph Lauren frames to peck away at a measly 15 wpm (tops) in an attempt to regain my self-proclaimed title as a blogger. The disaster of the tropical storm Irene will be forever etched into my memory. There was very little wind, just hours and hours of steady rain. The devastation is immense and will take its actualized toll in the forth coming months. for more information on the floods of Irene or to help the residents and businesses,  Please Click here! I have friends who were affected and I pray things in the town of Wilmington and all over Vermont, get back to a sense of normalcy.

Wait. Dd I just say Wilmington? Last most of you heard I was at the helm of the Putney Inn. Working and gleaning from the bounty of the farms of Wyndham County. I apologize For my lack of updates on my to-ing and fro-ing. I guess I have some filling in to do.

This was to be the year that I made a solid reputation in New England as a respectable Chef providing high quality, world-class grub to locals and travelers alike. I established a wonderful network of farmers to drive my cuisine and the rep was starting. My departure had ABSOLUELY nothing to do with the owners or the property. I was given free rein to develop and create menus according to my whims and  palate. But the property was a large one. Banquets out the wazoo! And busses of tourists flocking to peep out the colorful canvas of de-naturing leaves is totally not my speed. The restaurant is still a great place to grab a bite of yummy food in southern VT and is the perfect spot to hop off of rt 91 at exit 4. www.putneyinn.com. that being said I prefer an ecosystem that caters to the expectations of dinners who are looking for THE SPOT.  So, after three offers, trails, (trying out in the kitchen) mystery baskets and negotiations, I accepted the job at what I see as being THE SPOT for me. Is it a Relais Chateau, on lake Champlain, brand spanking new with shiny never before used appliances and small wares? Absolutely not.  Is it 100 percent committed to the sustainable, farm to table, nose to tail ideology? Yessssss! (Very Important) The Wilmington Inn is in so many ways is a dream come true. The lack of the brand spanking new stuff gives it a few dings in my book but all in all, pretty close to perfect. Since we have been closed off from the rest of the world due to poor roads and mass construction vehicles, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my decision. This reflection has a reoccurring theme; community and farmonomics. Click here for more info on farmonomics. This view of the owners (along with many others) and  their commitment  mirrors my outlook super eerily. The fact that John kicked the shiny silver truck off the property with the purchase of the Inn and wants to ink the menu with “SYSCO free since 2010” is pretty slick.

These times of crisis it is important to realize our role in our communities and how we spend our money seriously affects our neighbors. In Vermont the slinging around of terminology like “buy local” is for the most part not a marketing ploy, it’s the real deal. (I can name some posers in a private convo off the record if you like) When we put a face to the producer of our product and put a face to the consumer it is more than just a business transaction, we now have a connection. When we know that Westminster Organics is Paul Harlow and family and they stand to lose a nice amount of coin in crops (250,000 in crop damage) we should  do all that we can to help.  That amount does not include property damage, loss of jobs to employees, and the fact that they have to wait four months before planting again. Buying local is the least we can doand it directly effects helps the Harlow family and all of their employees. What about Jonathan Wright of Taylor farms? in Londonderry? It is a baig chain grocer  or sysco telling you that they are discontinuing an item and you keep shopping blindly. It is painful to know that after baling hay for his grass-fed cows the flood washes a huge chunk of food for his livestock. This is the reality. when we buy Taylor Farms Gouda from the store, we are helping Jonathan Wright.

I am stoked to hear about all of the people helping get the Brattleboro farmers market up and running within a week! After first the first reports said a new location may be necessary? AMAZING! I wish I were there this saturday to see the swarm of like-minded community based folks (some a little weird) helping support the ever so needed local economy. I was helping along with a host of other residents (and non) rebuild the tourist economy based center of Wilmington which was decimated by the flood. It is a site to see. People working together is a beautiful site. There are many things going on in the valley to assist the businesses affected. I even here murmurs of a star-studded benefit concert for those without flood insurance being in the works. The Wilmington Inn is putting up five bucks from every entre to the flood relief, Chris and Steve of Apres Vous are looking to open next week and open for breakfast and lunch to give some of the folks of DOTs Dinner (a darn near monument) employment. It is nice to see a community at work.

The craziness of starting a new job has kept me away from my blog. The craziness of this storm has just revealed to me how relaxing and a release it is to share my thoughts. My unplanned time of reflection has totally fortified my ideology and commitment to the support of the small farms and producers and has given me more incentive to work at my craft and offer some of the best cuisine in Vermont. I must admit, I was not too fond of the touristy feel of the town of when I first arrived. However, the spirit of  community is in the air and I welcome all of you to Wilmington!

Next up is my garden, my foraging and some new farm visits!

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If my knives Could Talk…. A Chefs Journey


The other day I was surfing the net I came across a beautiful Togiharu Hammered Textured  Damascus Gyutou on korin.com. This blade will have the privilege of piercing the flesh of locally raised ducks, from Guilford, rabbits from Dummerston and lamb from Putney. (just to name a few). I started to think about what my other knives experienced outside of the case. And what they witnessed. I then realized, that each knife would have a story to tell. as would I. These thoughts developed into what you are reading now, a journey of chefs’ blades. Every knife would go through its own break in period while witnessing their owners’ trials and triumphs. Some would inevitably become obsolete in a chefs arsenal, and merely act as a reminder of one’s beginnings. Some would be lost, stolen, and even abandoned. As these stories are chronicled, I would like to take you with me on my journey of knives and give you a few tips as well.

Chicago Cutlery http://www.chicagocutlery.com/ (please don’t go to this page)

*warning going to this page may seriously stunt your professional growth*

The beginning of my cooking career starts before I enrolled into culinary school at the International Arts and Sciences Institute in Chesterland Ohio. My first gig was at a run of the meal (pun) restaurant and Pie shop in Cleveland hts.  This restaurant used Chicago Cutlery Knives.  Weighing in at a whopping five pounds and this baby is equipped with a plastic handle that is sure to callous the crap out of your hands and give you a serious brachioradialis work out!  Can you say..Popeye arms?!  These knives were are and always will be absolutely horrid. I am sorry to say this but if you currently are wielding a Chicago Cutlery knife, you just are not seriously that into your craft These were “sharpened” at a grinding company weekly until there was no more blade left to grind. In fact, one of the things I look for in a kitchen is if they have a knife service. This is definitely a red flag. Of course at the time, I thought these were professional grade. I am trying to think of a suitable application for these types of knives but I just can’t! My advice, STAY AWAY! And don’t send your good knives to a grinding service, this will only destroy your edge and make it more difficult to attain a professional edge. Learn to sharpen your knives with a wet stone. It will give you a true connection with your blade and you will learn the strengths and weaknesses of each one that you own. Oh yeah, if you are ever in NYC, stop by Korin (57 Warren Street New York, NY 10007), and ask for a tutorial with the master knife sharpener, its super amazing!   Chefs; basically you need to ask yourself one question….If you were a samurai, would you be wielding a plastic handled, heavy, clunky sword?  NO!

Kyocera https://secure.kyoceraadvancedceramics.com/index.html

After “Estimating Tributary Habitat Using GIS Data Bases” with DR. Koonce of Case Western Reserve University, it became to be clear to me, that I am definitely not a lab rat. My childhood dream of being on the discovery channel was fading, and I turned towards the field that had been putting me through college, Culinary Arts.  After working in a couple of unmentionable restaurants I started to read about some great chefs, started watching the once respectable Food Network, and practicing out of cook books. This became my focus. Since I was homeschooled, it is fairly easy for me to self educate and to become informed. Now, the Food Network at that time was full of wonderful chefs, was not a popularity contest, and Sara Moulton didn’t need to use her cleavage to sell her awesome show.  (Fooey Network) This was the moment I was smitten by the Kyocera ceramic knife that Chef Ming Tsai used on his East Meets West  show.  His was black and super cool, mine is now dull and chipped along the blade thanks to my wife. How did this knife end up at home? Well, the decision was made to take one for the team and donate my knife to the household where an adequate knife presence was seriously lacking.   Within a month the tip had chipped off and my beloved knife had incurred some serious battle wounds, now resembling something closer to a serrated knife.  She still swears up and down (even in its current state) that it is the best knife ever, especially when cutting tomatoes.   We love the fact that it stays sharp for darn near forever! And when it does dull, you send it in for ten bucks. We have neglected to do this seeing as though ten bucks usually buys some cool ingredients instead.   The huge downside of this knife is that they do break and chip.  One of my Chef buddies actually shattered his.  I was so excited after entering my culinary profession, and I longed for this blade but never ponied up the coin to actually purchase it.  I was however fortunate enough to I win it in a cooking competition at the botanical gardens in Cleveland.

Wusthof http://www.wusthof.com/desktopdefault.aspx

The first knife I bought was a Wusthof. It was in the kit of other knifes used in culinary school. I was so excited and proud to walk around with my knife kit. I wanted to be the fastest chopper in class. This inspiration surely derived from my love for the PBS cooking show by Martin Yan “Yan Can Cook”.  Just as sure as Yan could cook, I could chop.  Fast.   This was definitely noticed by my instructor chef Tim, and I LOVED it.    After enthusiastically accepting an assignment of bailing out my classmates on some prep work, I proudly wielded my freshly honed German engineered beauty, right into my thumb.  This incision was a precursor to three stitches, and a story that I always tell my interns.   “If you want to gain speed in chopping it is almost inevitable that you will cut yourself.”    Call it a muscle memory exercise.   Back to the knife…This blade goes from the tip all the way to the base of the handle which gives it nice balance.  Balance is a quality which is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY to look at when buying a professional grade blade.  This is one my heavier knives and frankly exists now solely for the purpose of reminding me where I came from.  It is a good entry-level professional blade.  There are some higher end ones that are really nice but not my cup of tea anymore…I now prefer a Japanese blade. I should also mention that all of the other knives in my cooking school kit are NEVER used. I find that I can filet a fish, tornade potatoes, and break down a bird, all with  one quality blade.

J. A. Henckels http://www.j-a-henckels.com/en-US

You may notice the absence of a knife on this cutting board.  He is the Sanktoku, by J.A. Henckles, a German-made Japanese style knife with hollow ground.  Hollow ground is a knife blade which has been ground with a beveled edge along the cutting edge of the knife.  This creates a smaller surface to make contact with the food, to help prevent the food from sticking. (Allegedly). I feel like i was duped! The food totally still stuck to this blade! (for true no potato stickage, snag the Glestain, i’ll get to that baby in a sec) At that time, EVERY young chef was all about the santoku. I wish I could find this knife. (Not for the performance obviously)  I wish I could go into 4700 Lakeside Ave. and reminisce on the days of Crust and Crumbs Bakery & Café.  This story is almost like a love story…and it hurts my heart to even think about it. Left behind in a “dream differed”…alas, the Crumb:  My first love.   My second knife.  My dream of a restaurant that was so close to re-opening then the dream dried up like a “raisin in the sun”.    If only I would have listened to those who said “Stay.”  Where would I be?  Closed to reopen in a new and bigger space that never came into fruition.  Unfortunately this knife is still stuck in the old crumb building, amongst old favorite cook books.  Our plan was to open the new Crumb and make some loot so we could go back and settle our debt with the landlord and get back all of our stuff that was comendeered.  Obviously this hasn’t happened yet, although sometimes my delusions of grandeur lead me to believe this still may happen someday.  I opened Crust and Crumbs when I was 23, after deciding to go the culinary vs lab rat route.  In my eyes, The Crumb (as it was dubbed by my regulars), will always be a success.  It was here where pivitol introductions were made.  My landlord knew Brad Friedlander who gave me sound business advice that I still use today. He also introduced me Jonathan Bennet who I worked under at Moxie the Restaurant. This is where I began to truly hone my skills and became SUPER into perfecting my craft. It is also the first time I sharpened my knives REGULARLY, and feasted my eyes on what is still not only a show stopper, but a great blade as well. Lady’s and gents, the Glestain Indented Blade…

Glestain http://korin.com/Brands/Glestain-Indented-Blade

This knife is TIGHT! The design is wonderful and the blade is a razor-sharp one that stays that way for pretty long time. It also is excellent at preventing all of your thinly sliced veggies from hanging around on your blade as I mentioned earlier… I left C Town and I was off to NY in what my family likes to call an “Izzy Whim Worlwind”.  I had no money, no apartment, no food.  Just a sweet stage gig at one of my chef heroes flagship restaurant Charlie Palmers’ Areole.   (By the way a stage position for those of you who don’t know is basically when you work for free, to gain experience and knowledge).   That’s right! This field is full of people who can afford (or have hella connections) to work unpaid in Top Michelin rated restaurants across the globe, growing in skill and buffing up their resumes. Well, I was and still am not one of those guys. (hmmm… this type of privileged network could contribute to why minorities are just a tad under represented in culinary arts…).  Anyway, I knew that this was going to be huge for my professional growth. I guess it’s not completely fair to say I had no apartment no money or food because I did have some wonderful friends who let me sleep on their floor, supportive family who sent me whatever they could scrape together, and a wife to be who would mail me packages of food and some money, a small subway map, and provided me with hours of company via the cell phone.   I remember those conversations vividly. She wired me some money because she was sick of me complaining about being hungry…(I only ate staff meal at the restaurant, unless it had pork in it, and on Sundays when I was off I wouldn’t really eat unless my awesome friends Dominique and Carol would feed me)…anyway, so she wired me some money and expected me to buy some food with it…and to her chagrin, what did I get?  This amazing knife, and some cleaner, neater looking chef jackets.  I remember eyeing it like a kid in a candy store, in that beautiful case, in a store I had no business being in because I really should have been buying groceries.  My only complaint about this knife is it is machine-made as opposed to the other hand forged Japanese varieties which I am truly fond of. This knife is a real beauty sharpens well and will always be in heavy rotation.

http://korin.com/Brands/Glestain-Indented-Blade

Misono http://korin.com/Brands/Misono_2

So, I did get offered a job at Aureole (a dream come true actually) …working under one of my hero chefs and his all-star crew…but something told me to come back home.  I had my kids at home, my wife to be and it really looked like my dream of the new Crumb was going to come true. Man! I still dream of being open in the beautiful Asian Town Center on 36th and superior. Café by day, bistro by night. Working with some of the coolest artist in the city… Anyway, I went back to Cleveland, reunited with the family, got married and got to work on the Crumb re-opening.  But in the meantime I needed cash, money, coin, dinero, loot, what ever you tag it as, I was lacking it. Just as my knives serve as a tool for memory recall, my jobs (and the Chefs that run them) are so important to the Chef that I am today. I found this job at Scott Kim’s Sasa Matsu in Shaker Square. Loved it! I was allowed to give my imput in the menu and learned so much from the most diverse bunch I have ever worked with. Korean, Chinese, Peruvian, Japanese, and your typical American mutt, working together making some yummy food. I remember busting out my knives so proud.   At this point all I REALLY knew about cutlery, is keep it sharp. How I chose a knife was solely based on how cool it looked. At that time I had a gorgeous, respectable shun blade designed by Ken Onion. http://www.kershawknives.com/

THESE KNIVES ARE FANTASTIC! (super pricey too) Its rocking abilities are perfect for slicing super thin and chopping herbs in a text-book fashion. I witnessed Scott Kim cooking with chop sticks, rolling perfect sushi rolls and dissecting fresh whole fish with an unbelievably razor-sharp knife. He didn’t have a Misono, but it was hand-made and I liked that. This is when I found my favorite, super thin, ultra light crazy sharp, rustic looking blade crafted by a company with 750 plus years of forgery. I am curious to see if my Togiharu will replace my Misono as my all-time fav. I highly doubt it. It will definitely be used the most this summer slicing through many a flora and fauna. It will temporarily soothe my addiction to have the coolest “shanks” (knife) in my collection. One thing is for sure, the knives will continue to witness the growth of a professional Chef as I continue on my journey to create super yummy food.

The Very First One (again) with hopes of many more


Hello Foodie cyberspace…it’s been way too long!  So much has happened I do not know where to begin.  I guess I should apologize for my lack of blog but there is good reason I haven’t written in forever. Well maybe not forever, but it definitely has been a while since my lame submission of two entries over a year ago. But for all of those who commented I appreciate you and offer you my apologies. This time around I am committed to at least an entry a week sharing with you my experiences, recipes and answering any questions you may have regarding food and cooking.

In case you haven’t heard, my baby…my pride and joy…my years of hard work might as well be thrown into a trash can, no better yet a trash compactor.  The Crumb.  The awesome -about to open- new and improved- crumb; crumbled before it could ever open. You know when you get your heart broken how long it takes to heal?  And how thinking about it, or talking about it is just like rubbing salt in the wounds?…  Well that’s what happened to me.  I got my heart broken, stomped on, crushed, pulverized …like it was beaten with a meat mallet and jaccarded for about a year.

It’s a long story and maybe someday I will have the strength to write about what happened, but not today.  Let’s just say it is on what seems like an indefinite hold unless I somehow stumble across some boku bucks…And since I am not a gambling man, a silver spooner or a magician, I do not see that happening in the near future.  I am sorry for getting you all excited about it, but believe me I would not have added logs to the excitement fire if I thought it was going to smolder and go out eventually.

That’s all for now, if you would like more details feel free to post a comment and I will be sure to respond. Or just write me about anything; recipe requests, what you’d like to see on this blog, or a recent restaurant encounter.

Until next time,

Peas Out Yo.

The Very First One!



I know! I know!

For those of you who know me, know I was a serious hater on social media.  I hated on myspace, facebook, twitter, blogging, etc.   But what do they always say?… People change Izzy, people change.  So, I changed.  I left my job, my restaurant, my home, my wife to be.   I moved to New York to work for free under a Chef I have always admired.  I couch surfed there for 3 months, completely broke and only eating cereal, oreos, and family meal on the days I worked.  After the 3 months I was offered a position, and I reached a crossroad. I had always wanted to work at a top restaurant in the country and here was my chance. At the same time my own restaurant back in Cleveland was in a stage of metamorphosis, and there was a fat chance that my fiance (the Vermonter that she is) would move to an even bigger city. So my friend paid for my one way ticket home and even when I got there, I still did not know what my plan was. I asked God for guidance.

Lo and behold in a matter of months I got married, and employed at a sweet new Japanese restaurant, gaining experience culinarily and in life. I used to tease my wife about being on facebook, and here I am, blogging….. Blogging!? Are you serious?…. So I might as well talk about some interesting things going on in food and cooking (I will even talk about that great book by Harold McGee). As the title states this is the (First One).  So give me some time to gather my thoughts, tell you a little about me, my career, my cooking style, my companies. I also want to fill you in on the restaurants and chefs I’ve loved working for and those I…Well you know, those ones I wasted my time energy and talent on. Keep posted to find out what’s in store for Ismail the Chef, and while you’re at it please post your comments, or send me a message/questions.   Give me some of your ideas on topics you would like to discuss and tell a friend about my blog.