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Food, age and pregnancy

Food, age and pregnancy


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It is known that with age pregnancy becomes more delicate. Traditionally women had children in their 20s, but more are waiting until their 30s and 40s to  become pregnant. Because of this, medical care has improved and pregnancies for older women are less risky.

However, after giving birth, a woman still needs to be healthy. Losing the baby weight is one of the first steps to getting back into a healthier lifestyle and older moms may find it harder to shed pounds. Research has been done in the U.S. about the relation between pregnancy weight gain and birth weight, as well as the median age where weight gain is most common.

A 2008 study by doctors Alison M. Stuebe, Emily Oken, and Matthew W. Gillman, from Boston, Mass., showed that women between 25-30 years of age had the highest risk or retaining weight and becoming overweight after their first pregnancy. A newer study supported by the National Science Council in Taiwan and published in the British Journal of Nutrition this August, also found that women aged  21-39 had higher body weight one year after birth.

But there are different factors that may affect weight gain and weight retention. Doctor Sally Ann Lederman, whose research focuses on pregnancy and lactation, said that although age and metabolism play a role in pregnancies a woman’s lifestyle is equally important.

“You have to consider previous weight management problems, health choices and whether it is a woman’s first pregnancy or not,” said Lederman. “Ultimately it isn’t dictated by your biology, it’s dictated by your lifestyle, the effects postpartum and the choices you’ve made through your life.”

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Two Brooklyn neighborhoods, two recycling habits

Two Brooklyn neighborhoods, two recycling habits

In Bay Ridge, 59% of all waste is recycled.

In Bay Ridge, 59 percent of all waste is recycled.


In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, six different garbage cans, among them three recycling cans, neatly line up in front of every two-story tall private house. A woman comes out of one of them , holding two small black bags and a big blue one. She meticulously puts the bags in their respective cans.

Fifteen subway stops away, it is a different scene. Black, 6-foot-long garbage bags pile up on the curb, in front of the Marcus Garvey public housing complex that is towering over Brownsville, Brooklyn.

A metal door opens and a 5-foot-tall woman comes out, slowly pushing a cart with two big half-opened bags. When she arrives at the pile of garbage bags, she heaves one bag after the other on top of the quavering black tower.

This woman, smaller than the cart she pushes, is in charge of putting all the trash of the building out on the curb. “Everyone just throws everything together and I take it out,” she said simply. She doesn’t want to be named.

A new survey by the Sanitation Department of New York City showed huge differences in the recycling rates of neighborhoods in Brooklyn. In Brownsville, only 24 percent of the overall waste gets recycled, compared to 59 percent in Bay Ridge. In a report from 2005, the New York City Sanitation Department wrote that the realistically achievable diversion rate for the whole city would be about 24 percent.

“I think the reason why Bay Ridge is doing so well is because our community is predominately comprised of one- and two-family homes,” Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, which includes Bay Ridge , said in an e-mail. “Recycling becomes a family affair.”  According to the census of 2000, about 60 percent of the neighborhood’s households are families.

And some neighbors in Bay Ridge do seem to help one another out. “I’m never exactly sure how much I have to separate, you know, the paper from the tin cans or paper cups from plastic items,” said David Gaddas, a resident of Bay Ridge, a little embarrassed. “A family in my building actually makes sure everything is in order and takes care of putting the garbage on the curb and everything,” he said. The tall young man with fashionable square glasses is quite happy about the extra help in his three-floor building. He knows that there is a fine for improper : According to the New York City Sanitation department Web site, fines start at $25 and can go to $500, depending on the nature of the violation.

Rules about what is recyclable and what not are indeed very precise.  Cardboard egg cartons are fine and recyclable; so is glossy paper. Paper cups, napkins and tissues though, are not acceptable in a recycling can. Metal cans should be recycled, but not the plastic container of food from a deli.  Getting the recycling sorting right does seem easier if more people watch out for one other.

But neighborly help can also be tightly controlled. “Here people are very strict when it comes to recycling,” said Ewa Navarro, who also lives in Bay Ridge. “If I do put something in the wrong place, my neighbors will call me up and make me aware of it. If you do it too often, they will tell the landlord.” The blond woman lives in a three-apartment building, and she said she understood that her neighbors cared a lot about the issue. She was trying her best, she said.

The landlord is the one held responsible by the city in case of a recycling violation. The tenants are not. But in Bay Ridge, landlords check on their tenants. “The owner of my building is obsessed by recycling,” said Diana Segura, who lives near the junction of 68th Street and Fourth Avenue. “He checks a lot and often reminds me of it.” The young mother of a 3-year-old is not bothered by the control and doesn’t think that it is strict. “I am always careful because it is important,” she said.

Information about recycling is often stressed in community board meetings and people get involved. “School District 20 has done a superb job in educating children on the importance of recycling, “ said Beckmann. “Many students actually enter a contest run by the Department of Sanitation called the Big Apple Award.” Recycling material, stickers and flyers are always available in the community board office. “Residents regularly come into the office to ask for information,” Beckmann said.

Such information also is available at the community board of Brownsville, where only 24 percent of all waste is recycled. “We make it known that we have literature here, so that people can come if they want,” said Viola D. Greene-Parker, district manager of Brownsville.

“Although recycling is in effect, we find there are a number of property owners that are not recycling as they should,” Greene-Parker said, “We are still at the bottom, comparing to other communities citywide.”

According to a study by the New York City Sanitation Department, recycling rates are directly connected to income and population density. If more people live in one building and their income is lower, they will recycle less; if fewer people live in a building and their income is medium or higher, they will recycle more.

Brownsville has the highest concentration of low income public housing facilities in New York City. The neighborhood has 18 housing projects, representing a total of 98 buildings, ranging from four stories to 25 stories.  In the three Marcus Garvey buildings on Amboy Street, there are 321 apartments and an estimated 847 residents.

In such buildings, as in many apartment houses, trash is deposited in a chute through a door on each floor.  Once on the ground floor, staff takes care of it and puts it on the curb. Because of this construction, there is no space for recycling cans that might remind tenants to use them.

Raegene Valogean’s grandfather lives in such a public housing complex. “There are no recycling cans or bags. You just stuff everything in one bag and throw it down the chute,” she said.

There are also problems, however, with houses where fewer people live, she said; it is not only a public housing problem. “They are not conscientious, that is all,” said Greene-Parker.

Denise Shannon lives in a private house. She said she has just started recycling, but is having problems with it. “It is just too difficult. It is just too much. It takes much longer to fill the garbage now,” she said.

Other smaller public housing facilities look more like private houses. Shirley Abraham, a resident in a three-floor public housing building, said she recycles although she doesn’t have any cans in front of her door. “I put the trash in different bags and then I just put them on the street on Sundays,” she said.

Recycling practitioners have also found out that households with lower incomes produce less recyclable waste in the first place. They buy cheaper, bigger packages, but they go shopping less often than households with higher incomes that tend to buy smaller units, but in bigger quantity. Lots of small bottles are an example of what the wealthy tend to buy.

So if the recycling rates in Bay Ridge are so much higher than in Brownsville, it could also be partly explained by the fact that they have more recyclable waste on the whole.

In any case, the issue is taken seriously in Brownsville. The community board offers regular meetings to learn about recycling. “Every so often we have meetings with a speaker from the New York City Sanitation department coming in,” said Greene-Parker, “ He talks about the consequences of not recycling.”

The district manager said she does not know why inhabitants of her area are not recycling. “They should have all the appropriate cans,” she said. But she is not sure.

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In downturn, Harlem sees hope in opening restaurants

In downturn, Harlem sees hope in opening restaurants


(Photos by Vadim Lavrusik)


After running a small cupcake shop in the West Village for three years, Tonnie Rozier decided to come back to his roots by opening up a second shop in Harlem.

Rozier, 40, said he hadn’t considered opening up a shop in Harlem because the rent always seemed so high. But when a friend approached him with a location off Lenox Avenue in Central Harlem last spring with a great rent price, he couldn’t resist.

He considered the fact that he was taking a risk with the recession taking a toll on small and big businesses alike. But Rozier was looking further ahead, and already noticing new businesses moving into the neighborhood. And it was a homecoming for the Harlemite who grew up and has lots of family there.

Tonnie’s Minis Opens in Harlem (Audio by Vadim Lavrusik)

“Harlem has been on its way back for many years now. And I saw the vision, but never thought it would become what is has become today,” Rozier said.

Though there’s more than 40 cupcake shops in Manhattan, Tonnie’s Minis is the first in Harlem. But it’s not the only first for a neighborhood that is seeing new food businesses (map) opening up and the community buzzing that these are signs of economic recovery.

Part of the buzz stems from new jobs that these new restaurants will create. Applebee’s alone is hiring 250 new workers for next week’s opening off 125th Street. The neighborhood is also awaiting the openings of several restaurants off Lenox Avenue, including a Jamaican and soul food restaurant called Jams, rotisserie chicken shack Spinners, and OneBar, a high-scale bar.

Though the exact number of restaurants opened in Harlem in the last year was unavailable, Community Board 10 has approved 49 liquor licenses so far this year.

Franc Perry, chairman of Community Board 10, which represents Central Harlem, said though he didn’t want to jump to conclusions on what that means, he certainly is optimistic about the opportunities it brings into Central Harlem – a neighborhood with an unemployment rate topping 20 percent. The city’s overall rate is 10.3 percent.

Though there has been a spurt of restaurants openings in Harlem, Andrew Rigie, director of operations at New York State Restaurant Association, said there is no doubt that the economy has still created a dip in restaurants’ sales. People are cutting back on going out, and one would think that Harlem would be worse off than other neighborhoods with such a high jobless rate. Though more new restuarants are opening, those that have been open longer have better chances of weathering the stark economy because they already have a customer base, experience and operating capital, Rigie said.

Harlem welcomes ‘Eatin’ good in the neighborhood’

So why would anyone want to open a restaurant during such economic turmoil, and why in Harlem? For Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple-Metro, which operates 34 Applebee’s locations in the New York metro area, the answer is simple. Demand in Harlem, plus cheap rent, a dash of risk, and years of experience is why Tankel is opening an Applebee’s on 125th Street.

“I think it is an underserved community,” Tankel said. “There are few places there right now where a large group of people can go in and sit down and get some good food for a reasonable price.”

Damaa Bell, who writes the UPTOWNFlavor blog on food news, said she thinks the new Applebee’s will be successful in Harlem because there is a shortage of restaurants that can accommodate large groups.

“When you think of dining in Harlem they are often small venues that can accommodate up to 10 diners max. An Applebee’s would be popular with families,” Bell said.

Bell points out that an Applebee’s just opened in the Marble Hill area has been successful because it is the only eatery of its type in the neighborhood, which she says is similar to Harlem.

Tankel said he also hopes he can attract some late-night customers. Though many restaurants in the area close around 9 p.m., Applebee’s will be open until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends. He acknowledges that maybe there is a lack of late-night demand or owners worry about crime, but said that is something he will have to re-evaluate after seeing how business goes.

“We’ll see how it pans out because we’re not immune to the economy, but we’ve definitely made the adjustments,” Tankel said. Though sales are down a bit at some of his locations, Tankel said they attract people by offering them value deals like bundling menu items with a $20 deal for an appetizer and two entrees. This keeps the total bill higher for the restaurant, but is still a good deal for the customers, he said.

On Tuesday, the restaurant’s hiring center was full of people filling out applications for the 250 full- and part-time positions available. The Labor Department reported Friday that the national jobless rate had dropped from 10.2 to 10 percent, the strongest report since the recession began – a glimmer of hope for those that have recently lost jobs.

Jeffrey McCaskill, 20, stopped in between classes at The College of Technology to fill out an application for a cook. McCaskill, who is currently unemployed, said he needs to get a job to help pay the family bills.

He’s predicting the restaurant, which sits at the corner of 125 Street and 5th Avenue, will be really busy despite the downturn.

“Sure people are struggling, but I think you’re starting to see more places opening up and they’re starting to build again,” he said. “It’s great. It gives a chance for people to get a job.”

McCaskill is one of 5,000 people that had filled out applications as of Thursday, according to Tankel.

“I hope I get it,” McCaskill said.

Real estate and a developing neighborhood

Though Tankel had been looking to open a franchise in Harlem for about six years, each time a potential location came up he was faced with obstacles in construction or price.

However, with the drop in real estate prices, rents in the neighborhood have gone down dramatically too, which is why Tankel took advantage of the location, he said.

Charles Belanger, a real estate broker turned restaurant owner, knows that better than anyone.

“The market obviously collapsed,” he said. “So I went into the chicken business.”

Belanger, who was a broker for more than 20 years in Manhattan, took his store front real estate office off Lenox Avenue and turned it into a rotisserie chicken and sandwich shop. On Thursday, he was working on cleaning the entryway of the shop on its first day open. Customers slowed to see what the new restaurant had to offer, some eyeing the side real estate office signs still visible from its previous incarnation..

Belanger already had the location and didn’t want to just give up on the space. A food business made sense for the neighborhood, he said.
“People gotta eat.”

Because it is a low-income neighborhood, he said it wouldn’t make sense to open an electronics store, which would be difficult to compete with a big box store that gets its products less expensibely from overseas.

“You can’t ship a roast beef sandwich from China though,” he said.

Belanger said he decided to stay in Central Harlem because of the growth in real estate development and businesses the neighborhood has seen in recent years.

“Harlem does have a bright future,” he said. “It’s an area in Manhattan that has seen a lot of growth in recent years.”

He said a combination of factors like city tax breaks contributed to the growth. Also, The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Corp. has given $2.5 million in loans over the last 12 years to restaurants in Harlem, giving them the necessary cash to get started.

But most residents will point to the Clinton Foundation’s move into the neighborhood and its sweeping efforts to improve the neighborhood. Last year, the foundation launched the Harlem Restaurant Program, which used public funds and tax incentives to teach restauranteurs in the neighborhood better business skills.

Richard Howard, who stops at Rozier’s new cupcake shop almost eveyday after he picks his kids up from school, said ever since Clinton’s foundation came to Harlem a lot of new businesses moved into the neighborhood.

“I think that Harlem has kinda become the new mecca of new businesses,” Howard said. “It’s becoming like a SoHo or Delancey street. Well, now it’s Harlem.”

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Brooklyn supper club shakes up traditional dinner party

Brooklyn supper club shakes up traditional dinner party


New York City may not seem like the ideal place to open your home to total strangers, yet Kara Masi does it about twice a month. She even feeds them.

For the past two years, Masi has been hosting the Ted Allen and Amy Sedaris Supper Club (the name is merely inspired by the celebrities, as they don’t actually have any affiliation) where she cooks for the eight or so guests who fill the dining room in her Fort Greene apartment.

Supper clubs are a trend that has been taking place for a while, though people might not be openly talking about them.  A sort of modern take on the speakeasy, supper clubs (also known as guerrilla or underground restaurants) are characteristically covert.  While there are a few different types, the majority of the clubs require an e-mail query from an interested diner, who then waits for an invitation, which includes the location of the event, often held in someone’s home.

For Masi, guests are usually a mix of friends and strangers, people who’ve heard of the club from her Web site.  She alerts people to a date, provides a menu and a recommended price and people can make reservations online. On October 29 she held a dinner in time for Halloween, informing guests about a week prior.

Cathy Erway, author of the blog Not Eating Out in New York, wrote in a post in April that city regulations, such as business licenses and health codes, are why “most supper clubs call their dinner prices ‘contributions,’ and operate on a somewhat hush-hush level.” While not all clubs operate the same way, many have a “recommended fee,”—about $30 or $40—that covers the cost of food and beverages yet isn’t meant to turn a profit.

Masi has always loved to cook and after admitting to her friends that she couldn’t afford to always prepare them the meals she wanted, they quickly offered to pay. As a result, the supper club was born.  “It’s fun to be able to try out new recipes and cook really great food for other people,” she said.

Thursday evening’s event had a Halloween theme, with guests dressing in costume and the “creepy” inspired menu.  The guest chef, Scott Gold, was dressed as a pirate and Masi was decked out in a retro-print dress and an Afro wig that added at least two inches to her petite stature. Gold, a food writer and author of “The Shameless Carnivore”, is a close friend of Masi’s and he had created the menu on the theme of brains and bones.

The six-course meal, which cost $40, included Zombie Brains (pan-friend calf brains served with a bloody mary sauce and lemon aioli), Skeleton Bones  (roasted bone marrow with parsley salad) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (grilled calamari over squid ink linguine).  Dessert was, of course, Devil’s Food Cake.

Redrum punch was the cocktail of choice, a potent and sweet concoction, meant to take the edge off.  “The best idea anyone running a supper club ever had was to start off with a really strong drink cocktail and get your guests nice and hammered,” said Gold. “’Cause then they love the food no matter what,” Masi chimed in.

Liquid courage seemed to be needed by some of the guests, nervous about the meal.  Eliana Menzin confessed that she didn’t eat red meat or poultry and wasn’t keen on the notion of calf’s brains. A private primary schoolteacher, Menzin heard of the club through word of mouth and looked it up online.  Although hesitant about the meal, she didn’t regret coming.  Dressed as an International Woman of Mystery, in an all-black costume with an electric blue wig and a Mardi gras mask, Menzin was into the spirit of the event. “Everyone’s really friendly,” she said. “It’s great.”

Dressed in a flapper girl costume, Marisa Malone commended the meal.  An actress from Brooklyn, she also heard of the club through friends and especially loved the bone marrow.  Moreover, the meal as a whole, she said, “hit all the high notes.”

Despite some trepidation, almost all of the guests tried all of the courses and the chefs were granted rave reviews.

At the end of the night, after the last bone had been scraped clean and the last drop of Redrum had been downed, Masi reflected on the stacks of dirty dishes on the counter. “I loved that everyone loved the food, that’s always my favorite part,” she said.

Masi admitted that her menus usually consist of more traditional fare, such as steak and fish.  However, she likes to experiment. “I don’t feel though that after this experience, I feel converted to having unusual food on my menus.  But I think it was a nice special occasion.”

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A tour with Meals on Wheels in Washington Heights

A tour with Meals on Wheels in Washington Heights

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The tricks and tips of food styling

The tricks and tips of food styling

Food stylist Brian Preston-Campbell carefully brushes sauce on to lamb chops about to be photographed for Departures magazine. (Photo: Tom Schierlitz)

Food stylist Brian Preston-Campbell carefully brushes sauce on to lamb chops to be photographed for Departures magazine. (Photo: Tom Schierlitz)


Food stylist Brian Preston-Campbell has some words of comfort for those struggling to get their Thanksgiving turkeys looking as plump and brown as the birds in their cookbooks. Those birds, he says, “are still fairly raw on the inside.”

The shiny brown birds that dominate magazines and books every fall are often the work of a food stylist’s paintbrush, one of the many tools Preston-Campbell carries with him in a metal briefcase to studios across New York. He also takes butter tweezers, a scalpel and a butane torch.

The trick with turkeys, he explains, is to roast it quickly at a high temperature. Then, brush the skin with a mix of water, soap and the supermarket-bought browning agent, Kitchen Bouquet. The bird might be Jell-O inside, but its outside is golden, moist and ready for its close-up.

Behind every great, stomach-teasing picture of food, there is a great food stylist and photographer. As models must be primped for the flashbulb, slabs of steak, gourmet cupcakes and martinis must be styled for food magazine pages, billboards and their own packaging. And just as with fashion, there are tricks to the trade.

“People eat with their eyes,” says Preston-Campbell, 38. “One of the first things they teach you at culinary school is that presentation is the first impression on someone when you’re preparing food for them.”

He started styling food a decade ago after 11 years working as a chef. His last kitchen job was as chef de cuisine at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in the Flatiron District, and he found the work grueling. “I had 18 employees and they were a pain in the arse,” he says.
The difference between presenting food to eat and food to be photographed is that “you need to think of how the camera will view the food,” he says.  An overhead shot is styled evenly, he explains, while a shot taken from 45 degrees above the dish, the angle at which most people view their food, will be less even.

On a trip through Chelsea Market, shopping for the ingredients for a chicken hash and lobster bisque he will be styling for the New York Times magazine, Preston-Campbell describes his job. “You’re more or less shopping for, preparing and cooking idealized food for the media, whether it be magazines, newspapers, TV shows, commercials, or anyone else who needs food in their production,” he says.

For a job like that the New York Times shoot, a stylist is booked for “shooting days” and “prep days.” The client sends through recipes and the stylist offers feedback. The stylist then shops for the food, stores it at home or the photographer’s studio – most food photographers have studios with large kitchens, tables and refrigerators – and cooks and presents the dishes to be photographed on the day of the shoot.
“I think what differentiates a food stylist from a prop stylist or a wardrobe person is that we don’t just go and buy the thing that’s being photographed,” he says.  “We have to buy the raw materials, prepare it properly and make sure that it looks good – usually with only one chance to get it right.”

What looks good in food styling is always changing.

Romulo Yanes, for the last 26 years the only staff photographer on the recently closed “Gourmet” magazine, says magazine food was styled in a “very commercial way” in the 1980s. “It was lit and styled to look in the past more plastic,” he says over the telephone from his home in Morristown, N.J.

Preston-Campbell describes the old look as “over stylized, as if everything’s placed exactly and you can tell there’s been five meetings for each carrot stick placed on the plate.”

In a nod to all things organic, local and slow, food is styled today to look unfussy and realistic. Preston-Campbell calls it “making it look accidental when it really isn’t accidental.”

Ingredients are laid out on Preston-Campbell's prep table. (Photo: Tom Schierlitz)

Ingredients are laid out on Preston-Campbell's prep table. (Photo: Tom Schierlitz)

Kirsty Melville, head publisher at cookbook publisher Andrews McMeel, says photographers are increasingly using natural light. A native of Melbourne, Australia, she says Down Under cookbook queen Donna Hay’s simple, natural photography is having an influence on current US styles. “It’s brighter, with strong colors, but still very natural,” she says.

Hay, in an email from her office in Sydney, says she strives to create food that the reader can easily reproduce. “The way we style at the magazine is straight from the kitchen to the plate,” she writes. “We’re not about reviving cold food for a shoot – we work fresh and fast and we don’t use tricks, paints or colors.”

Yanes likes the move towards reality. “When I am most successful in photography is when I can make a dish come to life for people, like it’s sitting on your kitchen table. One of my biggest things is to have the food be believable and natural so someone doesn’t look at the food and say, ‘It looks so good, it’s fake.’ That would not be a compliment to me.”

The change has been far-reaching. “The other day I passed McDonald’s and they had photography of hamburgers that actually looked good,” says Yanes. “It wasn’t those pristine, perfectly placed lettuce leaves, and the buns, and the super, super juicy burgers that were beyond real.”

Melville says a publisher is ultimately looking for the style of the photography to match the food in the recipes. “Photography is an expression of the style of the food, which is in turn an interpretation of the voice of the chef or food writer,” she says. A particular challenge for her was Andrews McMeel’s book, “The Amish Cook At Home.” Melville wanted pictures reflecting Amish family life, but could not show faces. Instead, she and the photographer decided to use hands, rolling dough and cutting vegetables, in the images.

Hay agrees that the image must match the story. “Each story we do is thought out from the theme to the color palette, background and story,” she writes. “And because food is one dimensional on the page – you can’t touch it or smell it – it needs to have what we call ‘yum factor.’”

Glossy or gritty, the job of the stylist and photographer is to make food look good – no matter what – and photographer Yanes has his own turkey story to share.

Shooting outdoors in upstate New York, Yanes and his team discovered that the oven they were supplied with was not large enough to fit the turkey they had to cook. Luckily, they had one they prepared earlier: a shriveled bird cooked three days before to use as a stand-in.

The team “doctored up” the ageing turkey, already stinking in the July heat, and singed the skin with a butane torch to get rid of wrinkles. “The skin just kind of perks up right away,” he says, laughing. “You would never have been able to tell in the photograph and it wasn’t retouched or anything.”

The only other time Yanes has ever faked it was while shooting a mango rice pudding on a beach in Hawaii for “Gourmet”. Missing the bottle of cream he needed to finish the dish, he substituted sunscreen.

Such substitutions are common in styling. Steam, difficult to capture on camera, is commonly faked with cigarette smoke; garment steamers with a hose attached to steer the vapor and, notoriously, soaked tampons, microwaved and placed behind the dish to be shot.

There are even those who devote themselves to such fakery. Tom Trengrove, who sells everything from fake sushi to blackberries made from resin from his Trengrove Studios Web site, says his company has developed “products that make photographing transitory kinds of things, like ice and foam, more stable.”

Preston-Campbell used carved acrylic ice cubes from Trengrove, for a recent Grey Goose print campaign. The shop’s most popular products are ice, ice powder (used to put a frosty surface on a can or glass) and “Foam Booster,” added to beer to keep the foam from going down. You can even buy a small droplet of solid water for $12. “In this business, reality is defined by whoever’s paying,” says Trengrove.

But stylists, photographers and the mad scientists who assist them, have increasingly fewer reasons to use their tricks. While cookbook sales are up, with many economists suggesting people are cooking at home, magazine sales are down and people like Yanes and Preston-Campbell are finding work scarcer. “It’s much easier and cheaper to get it on the Internet than to go and buy a glossy magazine for $6,” concedes the stylist.

Yanes says the closing of his longtime home, “Gourmet,” which defined food styling trends since it launched in 1941, is devastating. “I think it was a mistake,” he says. “They were the first American publication to cater to gastronomy and it just seems like a terrible loss. You don’t close “Vogue”, “Vogue” is fashion. “Gourmet” is food.”

Preston-Campbell stays hopeful. “There will still be a demand for food stylists in the future even if all the editorial content and food advertising move to the web,” he says. “Food imagery still needs to be created regardless of the medium.”

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Mozzarella Secrets

Mozzarella Secrets


Ninety-one-year-old Georgiana de Palma knows how to make good mozzarella. She learned to make the cheese at Tedone Latticini Diary Products, the store her parents opened in Brooklyn in 1922. But she’s not ready to give up her cheese making secret to just anyone.

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Controversy calms for Harlem’s Obama Fried Chicken and Pizza restaurant

Controversy calms for Harlem’s Obama Fried Chicken and Pizza restaurant


Obama Fried Chicken and Pizza in Harlem renamed its restaurant after President Obama after he was elected. (Photo: Vadim Lavrusik)


The bright red signs reading “Obama Fried Chicken & Pizza” still hang proudly atop the fried chicken store in Harlem, while inside, the new name is written on tape covering the original name,  “Kennedy Fried Chicken.”

For those not from the neighborhood, it’s still a sight to see, said Mamadou Diallo, manager of the store at 116 Street and Nicholas Avenue.

“Tourists driving by always stop to take pictures in front of the restaurant,” the 32-year-old said.

But after causing a stir last spring by renaming the fried chicken restaurant after the first black president, people in the neighborhood have gotten used to the new name and questions of cultural identity have faded away.

“Things are pretty quiet now,” Diallo said.

After President Obama was inaugurated, several New York City establishments renamed or began naming products to pay homage to him. In Brooklyn, a shop opened named Obama Beauty Supply; the Sixpoint Craft Ales brewery named a beer after Obama; and then came Obama Fried Chicken in Harlem and Brownsville.

The Harlem restaurant was tied into an uproar with community leaders in Brooklyn, including Councilman Charles Barron and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who held rallies protesting the name as being stereotypical and degrading toward African-Americans.

Harlem’s Obama Fried Chicken, which operates under a separate owner from the Brooklyn location on Rutland Road, took its signs down for about a month, said Diallo. Then other members of the community complained, he said. But after checking into possible legal issues with having the name, the signs went back up. The Brooklyn owner kept his signs up because they cost $5,000, according to a New York Times report. Diallo said his signs cost only $500.

“You’re never going to make everyone happy,” Diallo said.

Apparently, many who were offended by the signage at first have warmed up to it.

Stopping into the restaurant recently, Ebony Brown, 26,  said she thought the name was ridiculous at first.

Though the signage outside the restaurant have been updated, inside the old "Kennedy" in Kennedy Chicken is taped over. (Photo: Vadim Lavrusik)

Though the signs outside the restaurant have been updated, inside the old “Kennedy” in Kennedy Fried Chicken is taped over. (Photo: Vadim Lavrusik)

“Everyone was excited with Obama’s win, naming their kids after him and all sorts of stuff. But when I saw this, you know, naming a chicken spot after Obama just reinforces stereotypes of us black people,” said Brown, who lives in Harlem. “It’s passing by now, though.”

In a New York Daily News poll, readers were asked whether the shops should be allowed to use Obama’s name. A 68 percent majority selected the option: “Sure, it’s capitalism.” Others are indifferent. For Calvin Bowers, good food is good food, he said. Bowers works as a super across the street from Obama Fried Chicken and said he’s been going there “for five months straight, every day.”

Bowers said that as a black man, it doesn’t make a difference to him who it’s named after and what stereotypes people think it puts off.

“I am just trying to get something to eat,” he said. “You can’t beat it.”

Some African-American cultural sensitivities aren’t always as obvious to business owners from other parts of the world. Diallo, who emigrated from Guinea, Western Africa, in 2000, said the owner simply liked the new president because of his African heritage. As far as connecting fried chicken and a black president, Diallo said in his country many tribes are associated with different foods. His tribe, for example, is associated with eating lots of yam.

“If you go to a Hispanic area of town, you’re going to see a lot of tortillas, and that sort of thing,” Diallo said. “Well, then what’s the big deal?”

A lot of the criticism also came from people saying the restaurants were exploiting Obama’s name for profit. But Diallo said the Harlem business has stayed the same.

He also points to the many other products that took on the Obama name after he was elected, like Change Hot Sauce, which bears a drawing of Obama and was made as a limited product by Garden Row Foods in Illinois. The company sent the restaurant a sample, saying it could make more if the restaurant wanted to buy it.

"Change" hot sauce was send to Obama Fried Chicken and Pizza after they renamed. The company would not say whether they have sold the product or not. (Photo: Vadim Lavrusik)

“Change” hot sauce was sent to Obama Fried Chicken & Pizza. The company would not say whether it has sold more of the product. (Photo: Vadim Lavrusik)

A worker at that company, who would not give his name, said Garden Row makes lots of different hot sauces for different occasions and this was no exception. He would not disclose whether they had sold any of the Change hot sauces or not.

But even though Diallo said business is the same, it at least draws some new customers.

Amin Nuani, 32, came into Harlem’s Obama Fried Chicken after seeing the name.

“Wow, it was the first time we saw something with Obama’s name on it like that,” Nuani said. “I think something with his name on it will definitely draw people in, especially in Harlem. But why not, he is our president.”

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Day of the Dead starts at the bakery

Day of the Dead starts at the bakery


Mexican bakeries all over New York City are preparing pan de muerto, Spanish for bread of the dead, for the Day of the Dead celebration on Nov. 1. But Panaderia Caotzingo on 76-11 Roosevelt Avenue in Queens is anything but dead during the week before the holiday as customers bustle in and load trays with pan de muerto fresh from the oven. Baker Sergio Rodriguez, 22, makes 270 pieces of dome-shaped ‘’dead bread’’ each day, sized as small as the palm of a hand for $1.50, or bigger than a grown man’s face for $12. The sweet, cinnamon-infused bread is decorated with bits of cooked dough shaped like bones.

Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) has been celebrated by Mexican Indians for centuries. To them, it is the day the dead come back to visit the living–friends, relatives, and loved ones. Often, Catholic families make offerings at the graves of their loved ones, leaving them their favorite food, or even their favorite vice, be it cigarettes or alcohol. But they always leave pan de muerto, says bakery worker Yessica Rodriguez, 23, who is originally from the 300-person Southern Mexican town of San Jose Chilipa.. Rodriquez’s grandmother on her mother’s side died six years ago; each year, her family back home takes the 25-minute walk to the local cemetery.

When they arrive at the cemetery, located between mango trees and a cornfield, they make a velvet shrine and lay offerings of bean and chicken tamales, chocolates and purple flowers—any kind, as long as they’re purple. Her late grandfather gets a single Marlboro Red cigarette. When Rodriguez dies, she says she would like to have an offering of bean and chicken tamales, just like her grandmother. But she’s too busy to think about death right now—she must finish a sale to Cristian Moran, 26, from Guerrero, another state in Southern Mexico.

Moran has lived in the United States for six years. His grandfather died one month ago, but instead of going to Mexico, he sent $200 to relatives back home. He said people don’t celebrate Day of the Dead in New York City as much as they did in his hometown.

Bakery manager Sergio Najera, 54, agrees. Most Mexicans who die in New York City have their remains sent home, he says, so there is little reason to celebrate in local cemeteries. Adults tend to honor the dead privately, and children have another tradition to enjoy: Halloween.

Zeltzin Rosendo, 10, is excited for the 31st of October.

“They give you candy on Halloween and you get to get dressed up,” she says, standing next to the window displays that shows off piles of pan de muerto to people who walk past. She is not a fan of putting food on graves.

“That kind of creeps me out a bit,” she says.

Her brother died in the womb this past year, and this will be the first time they lay an offering to him. They will leave him pan de muerto.

Some people prefer neither Halloween nor a Day of the Dead in America. Queens resident Enrique Jimenez remembers his childhood experience with pan de muerto as he makes a quick visit to the bakery.

“I would buy the bread when I was little, or my mom baked it, but not too much anymore,” he says.

This year he will gather with his cousins and his brother, who is bringing pan de muerto from Mexico.

“This bread has a different flavor,” he says. “The original flavor is from Mexico.”

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Posted in Business, Diversity, Featured, Immigration1 Comment

Sundays at the Brooklyn Flea are for eating

Sundays at the Brooklyn Flea are for eating

At the Brooklyn Flea Market under the Brooklyn Bridge every Sunday, food entrepreneurs sell their wares alongside some of the nicest junk you're likely to get your hands on.

At the Brooklyn Flea Market under the Brooklyn Bridge every Sunday, food entrepreneurs sell their wares alongside some of the nicest junk you're likely to get your hands on. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)


Set up under the Brooklyn Bridge every Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea is home to probably some of the nicest junk you’d ever be able to get your hands on. But among the stalls selling old records, shiny baubles, vintage bird cages, Victorian brooches and ethnic rugs, food vendors sell their goods to hungry shoppers.

Relatively new to the food business, these entrepreneurs, many with small shops elsewhere,  set up their stalls in a bid to introduce the public to their goodies.

On Oct 25, the Brooklyn Flea was abuzz. Amid families with their children in tow and the antiques, oddball junk jewelry, cupcakes, candy, chocolate and creamy Ricotta cheese were fast being sold.

Martha Stewart was spotted with her TV crew lolling about the flea. She stopped at the Brooklyn Blue Marble ice cream stall and tried a taste of chocolate chip.

Her response was a definite “mmmmmm.”

Martha Stewart with her TV crew at the Brooklyn Flea. Stopping by at the 'Brooklyn Blue Marble' ice cream cart, Stewart let out an audible ‘mmmm’ as she ate a scoop of ice cream.

Martha Stewart with her TV crew at the Brooklyn Flea. Stopping by at Brooklyn Blue Marble ice cream cart, Stewart let out an audible “mmmm” as she ate a scoop of chocolate chip. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Daniel Sklaar of ‘Fine & Raw chocolate’ used to make and sell chocolate from his kitchen till the FTA’s regulations were tightened. Selling his goods online and at the flea market for two years running, Sklaar considers himself to be an ‘artisan’ of chocolate and makes fresh batches on a weekly basis.

Daniel Sklaar of Fine & Raw Chocolate used to make and sell chocolate from his kitchen until FDA regulations were tightened. Selling his goods online and at the flea market for two years running, Sklaar considers himself to be an artisan of chocolate and makes fresh batches weekly. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Having worked at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates previously, Liz Gutman met Jen King at the French Culinary Institute and decided to launch ‘Liddabit Sweets’ in April this year. “Jen and I had talked about going into business together for a while”, Liz says. Producing for wholesale and catering for weddings, Liz and Jen set up their sweet stall at Fort Green in Brooklyn every Saturday.

Having worked at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates previously, Liz Gutman met Jen King at the French Culinary Institute and decided to launch Liddabit Sweets in April this year. “Jen and I had talked about going into business together for a while,” Liz says while adjusting her glasses. Producing for wholesale and catering for weddings, Gutman and King set up their sweet stall at Fort Greene in Brooklyn every Saturday. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

“This is my bread and butter”, says Betsy Mark Devine of ‘Salvatore Bklyn’ with a smile. Mainly wholesale producers of cheese, Devine and her partner Rachel have been selling homemade cheese, particularly Ricotta cheese for two years and have a stall set up at the Brooklyn Flea every Sunday.

“This is my bread and butter,” says Betsy Mark Devine of Salvatore Bklyn with a smile. Mainly wholesale producers of cheese, Devine and her partner Rachel have been selling homemade cheese, particularly Ricotta, for two years and have a stall set up at the Brooklyn Flea every Sunday. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Keavy Landrith specializes in little morsels of delight – teeny cupcakes that look almost too pretty to eat. With degrees from the Culinary Institute of America and The French Culinary Institute, Landrith initiated ‘Kumquat Cupcakery’ two years ago. With no retail location, Landrith says her business went into full bloom after her cupcake hobby began verging on pure obsession. Catering for parties and events, Landrith works from a rent-out kitchen. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Keavy Landrith specializes in little morsels of delight -- teeny cupcakes that look almost too pretty to eat. With degrees from the Culinary Institute of America and The French Culinary Institute, Landrith initiated Kumquat Cupcakery two years ago. With no retail location, Landrith says her business went into full bloom after her cupcake hobby began verging on pure obsession. Catering for parties and events, Landrith works from a rent-out kitchen. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

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