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Tripe Tacos: From one stomach to yours

By CHASEN MARSHALL

It’s hard to turn down an authentic looking and smelling taco. Beef and chicken – just keep ‘em coming! Nearly anything in a tortilla with a few key toppings is probably digestible. What about goat and pork stomach lining? Hmm, second thoughts.

A delicacy in most cultures, tripe is the edible offal from the stomach of various farm animals. In Italy it’s topped with Parmesan and pan-fried. In some Chinese restaurants it’s served in a soup. At Tehuitzingo Deli & Grocery in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s fried and topped with a secret seasoning and served on a flour tortilla with diced onions and cilantro.

Tehuitzingo is a small hole-in-the-wall joint festooned with a Mexican flag on the awning out front, and a green, white and red color palate throughout. Inside, a cooler full of Mexican cerveza, and a window at the rear of the store, manned by a small dark-skinned woman wearing an apron bode well for the ambiance, at least.

Tripa and sangre, as they appear on the menu, are pork tripe and goat tripe – to be clear: the lining of the primary digestive organ of a pig and a goat. The visual difference between the two couldn’t be more different. The goat meat was dark and resembled charred ground beef, whereas the pork was lighter in color and looked like half-cooked calamari. Both had a salty taste (though it may have been the seasoning) and were difficult to stomach at first (mainly because of the idea that it was going from one stomach to another). After the initial shock, it tasted like most any well-dressed Mexican taco that can be found at a small stand south of the border.

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Finding the fountain of youth in your grocery store

By CHASEN MARSHALL

Looking for a real-life alternative to the fountain of youth? Nutritionists recommend eating.

But not just anything will do. While coffee and energy drinks may provide a temporary heightened state of liveliness, they provide little to no nutritional value to the body.

“Food can create energy or it can destroy it,” said Ronna Corlin, a nutrition coach from Hartsdale, N.Y. “It’s important to eat foods that will help you age with vitality.”

The search for the fictional fountain of youth is a never-ending process. Some find it in athletics, others through artificial enhancement. Some swear by skin creams. But regardless of age, gender or background, a popular food talking point with this subject among nutritionists, health-conscious consumers and the media is so-called superfoods, those foods that offer the greatest health benefits. Common superfoods include blueberries, cinnamon, cruciferous veggies, garlic, ginger, nuts and watermelon.

“The key is to eat foods from their natural state, foods that are alive,” Corlin said. “Foods from the wild that ran freely, fell from a tree or grew from the ground.”

New foods are constantly being unveiled for their nutritional value, whether it is an international fruit that makes its way to the U.S. market (like acai from Brazil) or a food that food scientists realize has a greater positive effect than previously believed (pomegranate). The most recent superfood to enter the discussion is the goji berry, or wolfberry, which is native to southeastern Europe and Asia. The packaging for a goji berry product at Whole Foods in New York City says fruit is said to be “rich in age-defying antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.”

“My nutritionist just recommend them to me, today actually,” said Giovanna Braga, who had a large bag of raw goji berries in her grocery cart. “She told me I needed an iron supplement and said that these were supposed to be great. So I’m curious to see how they are.”

According to one food expert, superfoods aren’t the answer. If a person is truly in search of changing life through food, it needs to come from a well-balanced diet, incorporating all the key foods.

“People like to buy into the hype about acai as the next superfood or pomegranate, but that’s all marketing,” said Stefanie Bryn Sacks, a culinary nutritionist from the New York area. “Mostly people just need to be educated about healthy food choices, a balanced diet, instead of a few key foods.”

And it does help to consult the experts on this subject. There are an array of books and resources online, but as with anything one puts into their body, people should do their research. While most healthy foods are universal, what works for some groups won’t work for others.

“The elderly usually don’t have enough intake and then they have absorption issues, so we will recommend supplements,” said Jennifer Fix a dietitian at the UCI Medical Center in Irvine, Calif. “Their appetite isn’t what it used to be, so we have to find alternative sources for nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folate.”

Consumers like to believe the hype that surrounds the foods they hear about on talk shows, blogs or from their friends. But healthy living does require some research and a greater approach than one or two key foods.

“It’s a much bigger picture than most people think, there is no magic bullet that will make everything better,” Corlin acknowledged. “It’s about finding balance in one’s life, which seems simplistic, but most who take that approach experience a shift.”

According to Corlin, figuring out what works often requires listening to the least likely of sources.

“People have tuned out listening to their own bodies,” she said. “Your body is going to tell you a whole lot more about yourself than the experts.”

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Not everyone is stopping to smell the produce

Not everyone is stopping to smell the produce

Though more than 200,000 people pass through Port Authority on a weekly basis, the new Greenmarket there has received minimal attention.

Though more than 200,000 people pass through the Port Authority Bus Terminal on a weekly basis, the new Greenmarket there has received minimal attention. (Photo: Chasen Marshall)

By CHASEN MARSHALL

Though it’s rush hour in New York, the crowds inspecting the tables at the Tucker Square Greenmarket are sparse. The sidewalks are bustling with activity, briefcases and purses swinging in unison with strides, but few people are stopping to inspect the line of fresh produce or other items available on this cold and windy Thursday afternoon at the open-air market.

“It does get frustrating,” said Ron Binaghi III, who’s at the market on behalf of his parents’ farm, Stokes Farm. “People will maybe slow down a second and see what we have, but most continue on their way. I have some people who I know by name, I know their kids by name – we’ve been here for seven years – and that’s great because we’re all about building that relationship between us and the customer, but lately we’ve been selling just enough to break even.”

Greenmarkets in NYC are going on 33 years of existence in 46 locations, spanning the five boroughs. Though the markets have proven vital in bringing fresh and locally grown products to the marketplace for healthy and food issue-conscious consumers, there’s still a notable divide between the number of buyers at the markets and the local grocery store.

According to their website, Greenmarkets intentionally place themselves in highly trafficked areas for obvious reasons, but according to the people behind the tables, traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into business.

The new market at the Port Authority Bus Terminal is a perfect example. Indoors and therefore safe from inclement weather, the terminal is the world’s busiest with as many as 200,000 passengers passing through on a weekly basis. But on Thursday afternoon there’s only a handful of customers for Choi Wah Wong and her Katchkie Farm coworkers to tend to, and most of the potential customers are lured by the free samples.

“This is what I like to call an incidental market,” said Wong, who’s worked with Katchkie for two months. “People smell the sweet basil or whatever our chef may be cooking up and they may wander over. We have a pretty steady flow of customers, but nothing like Union Square or one of those popular spots.”

The Port Authority market opened for business in early summer, and though it’s one of the few healthy food alternatives in the area – they offer a selection of prepared sandwiches, pastries, fruits and vegetables – they’ve yet to experience much in terms of consistent business.

“We have been getting a lot of ‘where is the bathroom’ questions, but we’re also getting more and more people that notice us and are stopping to check out what we have, and that’s when we try to talk to them and be friendly and answer any questions they may have,” Wong said.

Over at Tucker Square, Ruth Formanek is tightly tucked into her periwinkle North Face coat with a glove on one hand and a bag of produce hanging from the other. She walks unobstructed along the Stokes Farm produce tables, squeezing Heirloom tomatoes and inspecting white onions. She purchases a few items that she intends to include in her dinner.

“I saw Food, Inc. recently and I quit eating meat afterward,” said Formanek, who’s lived in the city for over 70 years. “So this summer I’ve been shopping here a lot more. It isn’t always the best produce, but its better than buying produce that’s been sitting in a basement like at the supermarket.”

While those who utilize the easy access to the local and fresh grown produce seem delighted with the Greenmarkets presence, the room for growth is apparent in the crowds. But the farmers intend to keep coming back as long as the city will let them, according to Binaghi.

“We have a tight knit group of farmers out here and all of us know that a big part of this is just educating the customers. We have schools and restaurants that bring groups through here, so that’s helping. Right now our business is probably half regulars and half whoever walks up. If we can get the locals and regulars up to 85 percent, we’ll all be doing well.”

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