Monday, December 24, 2012

Week 86

The Product: Bialys, Empanadas de Pina (Puerto Rico!), Jamaican Hand Pies, and Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Our Awesome Customers:  Many thanks to all of our customers who patronized us in 2012.  We could not be what we are without you.  Big thanks this week to Margaret F., Beth F., HM, Adam S., Annie, Harriet+1, Willie, Dave, Leah, Tom B, Joel&Megan et al.

Da Crew: Many thanks this entire year to all our crew and volunteers.  Thanks especially this week to Andy, SZ, Chef Matt, Jamie, and Val.

Andy modeling his vintage store throwback Y2K New Year's Eve sweater

Food Sighting of the Week: Man spotted on Chapel Hill Street pulling a half-keg on an open bike trailer (to a party at the Scrap Exchange as I later found out).

New Stand at Market: Shelly the mini-cheesecake lady set up next to us on Hunt Street with sweets and a big old gallon of milk set in ice from Homeland Creamery.  If you come by in 2013, give her a shout -- she's very friendly!

Coming in 2013: More blogging and baking, and always thinking about expanding our operations!  We're looking forward to trying more pumpernickels, maybe adding some vegan soups, and further perfecting our babkas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Reason Why You Should Eat Kale for New Year's

Besides bringing prosperity to those who eat it on the first day of the year, did you know that kale is a good source of vitamins A, C, K, folate, iron and calcium? These vitamins and minerals are important for the healing of gastritis (stomach irritation).  So skip the Nexium, Pepcid AC, and Zantac on New Year's Day and instead head for the leafy greens and a hot plate of Hoppin' John.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie

Our crew member Val brought us this recipe.  It worked out magnificently.  Here is her description of where it comes from:

You can't call it Derby Pie. . . .There is a lady in Kentucky who will come after you if you call it Derby Pie.  She has a lock on the copyright. . . .So we call it Chocolate Chip Walnut Bourbon Pie. But really, we should call it "David's Pie".

My high school friend David works in the same building as the famous Old Ebbitt Grill in downtown Washington, DC. Over the past seven years, "OEG" (as they say) has become his "Cheers". You walk in and all the bartenders say, "David!" then proceed to pour his favorite seasonal beer.

In early November, I met David and his fiancee Molly for dinner at OEG. I found them in the crowded historic bar one day after the election. After complimentary drinks, we headed to our table. As a former server, I would love to have a job a OEG. No table is ever empty for more than 2 minutes. People wait like bees in the lobby. I could pay my rent in tips from one night's work. After an amazing dinner and glorious conversation, we were presented with dessert menus. David, of course, knew every dessert better than his best friend. He reviewed each one, then insisted on trying the Chocolate Chip Walnut Bourbon Pie. It was the best one. We talked about my pie making, my pie baking, and my pie eating. Molly chimed in that last year at Christmas, David bought pies directly from the chef. He took them home for the family. With my eyes all aglow, I asked, "Can you get the recipe?"  David blushed and said, "I will try".

I will tell you our version isn't exactly it. But it is very very close.

After dinner that night we took the elevator all the way up to the roof and walked out onto the blustery deck, pressed our faces against the bulletproof glass, and decided the Obamas were still celebrating in Chicago.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best and Worst 2012

In the spirit of the countless "In/Out" lists that populate magazines during late December, I have assembled some of our own.  Take a gander and comment as cordially as you see fit.

[All opinions are of the author only]


New Food Truck: Porchetta
New Bakery: Loaf
New Cafe: Hummingbird Bakery
Triangle Twitter: Triangle Localista
New Food Stand: Monuts
Triangle Food Company Mascot: Esme (This and That Jam)
New Restaurant Space: The Cookery Front Room
Anticipated Opening for 2013: Cocoa Cinnamon
Food Blog: David Leibowitz
Jewish Pastry Pic: (Chocolate Rugelach via David Leibowitz)
Radio Food Shows: The Splendid Table; Taste Matters
New Cookbooks: Faviken; Bouchon Bakery
Celebrity Takedown: Pete Wells on Guy Fieri
Foodie Movie: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Internet Pie Pic: (Blueberry Anise-Hyssop Pie, Tarts by Tarts, DC)
Internet Food Videos:
Food Article:
Kitchen Gadget Purchases: OXO POP Container for holding compost; OXO Immersion Thermometer
Triangle Vegan Chef: Matt Props
Berenbaum's Hand Pie: Thai Peanut
New Products at Berenbaum's: French Coconut Tartlets; Bialys
Berenbaum's Customer Reaction: The woman at the South Durham Market who unapologetically dropped f-bombs throughout her multi-sentence praise of our tartlets.


PR Move: Durham Farmer's Market trying to boot the food trucks/stands from Hunt Street.
Restaurant Closing: That aspiring New York deli that tried to make it on 54 in Chapel Hill -- I already forget its name.
Opening: The Cupcake Bar, Durham.
Food Business Closing: TROSA Grocery Store
Moment for Locavorism: The day Reliable Cheese announced its closing.
Food Trends: Pickled Ramps; Extreme Foraging; International Destination Restauranting; "Rediscovering" Brisket
Berenbaum's Customer Reaction: Mr. M who tasted Ruch's Famous Kimchi, found it offensively spicy, and spat it into his hand and then threw it into the street.  This was also the best compliment imaginable for the kimchi, as kimchi that doesn't offend somebody's palate is probably weak tea.

Week 85

The Product:  Going against the grain of Jewish Holiday Foods, we made a "authentic" Stollen on Saturday.
Our Stollen was unlike the Stollen that you would find at other outlets this holiday season. We aimed to produce Stollen that was more like what you would find in 15th Century Saxony ( What that means is that the prior to the production of refined white flours, whole grain flours (coarsely milled whole wheat flour) was likely used. Hence, we used 70% wheat flour which is more hearty. Also, prior to commercial yeasts, natural starters/yeasts were used, giving a long rising time to the bread, and greater depth of flavor. We used a natural leaven, with just the slightest bit of commercial (fast-rising) yeast to assist in the rise.  The result was pleasing, and we received many compliments.  The only elements that I missed were the candied orange peel and candied lemon peel which I could not procure.

One of our bike delivery customers followed up with an email after tasting the Stollen:
"OMG -- this is THE best stollen I've ever had, quite similar to the ones I enjoyed a couple of years ago when visiting Germany right before Christmas.  Great texture, nice subtle sweetness...  I've frozen the other two for Christmas morning."

60 pounds of Stollen dough, filled with brandied raisins and almonds, butter, and eggs

Customers from Awesometown: Madrienne and Mark, Kevin and Esme, Joel and Megan et al., Adam and Chris, George, LD, the Stock-Hoffmans, JB et al., RML, Claire and Mike.

Mmm...Stollen.  RML with his giveaway.

The Infamous Crew: Mant thanks as always to Jamie, Chef Matt, Val, Andy, and SZ.

Brunnnncccchhh: Chef Matt's Vegan Brunch Sunday morning at Ninth Street Bakery was a big hit.  Here is a pic of the line going out the door.  I look forward to seeing more of these!

Berenbaum's Holiday Party: Thanks to all who made it out Sunday afternoon/evening for an epic 2nd Annual Berenbaum's Holiday Party.  The house was filled with tots and babies large and small, crew members, patrons, and friends.  We consumed or gifted four quiches, eight Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pies, two Pumpkin Pies, numerous tartlets and vegan hand pies, pan con tomate, raw bok choi salad (greens bartered from Lil' Farm), and ten Stollen served with house Tangerine Marmalade.  Ben F. brought a wonderful pint of spiced bread and butter pickle slices, Annie S. brought awesome homemade caramels, and Lindsay P. brought an inspired Elderberry Ginger Tea Kombucha.

The Holiday Table

This week: Last weekend of the year, I am thinking of bringing it all back -- bialys!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


This holiday season I've seen a lot of latke articles and recipes pop up.  Most things I would consider blasphemy.  Here are some pointers from this side of the stove:

  • Hand-grate the potatoes using the fine-grate side of your box grater.  NOT THE COARSE GRATE SIDE; NOT THE FOOD PROCESSOR.  You can taste the difference.
  • DO NOT USE FLOUR.  Use matzo meal.
  • DO NOT ADD A THOUSAND EGGS TO THE MIX UNLESS YOU WANT A FRITTER.  You only really need 2-3 eggs for five pounds of potatoes.
  • You can use pretty much any kind of potato you want, but I prefer ordinary white potatoes.  Hook a farmer up and buy them at the farmer's market.
  • Don't forget the onion.  About 2 medium-sized onions, again fine-grated (you gotta cry a little bit), per 5 pounds potatoes.
  • You don't need a ton of salt.  Hold yourself back here.  About 1.25-1.5 tablespoons per 5 pounds potatoes.
  • The order: peel potatoes; grate potatoes (push the potatoes under the potato liquid so they don't oxidize too much); peel onions; grate onions and add to potatoes; drain potatoes and onions (some people say not to drain completely or to reserve the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl); mix in eggs; mix in salt; mix in matzo meal.  Fry small latkes in hot oil so that they don't fry for more than 6 minutes total - if it's taking longer, you can turn up the heat slightly, but don't burn them or leave the middle uncooked.  Remember that the oil temp will decrease as you throw more latkes into the pan.
  • It's important that you are both self-deprecating and secretly egotistic about your latkes.  Otherwise you'll never bother next year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Week 84

The Product:  This week, we had Caramelized Banana Sweet Vegan Hand Pies, Smokey Mushroom and Leafy Greens Savory Vegan Hand Pies, Chocolate Babka, and Cinnamon Raisin Babka.  When Chef Matt originally asked me what I thought of a banana hand pie, I admit I was unsure how the flavor profile and texture would work.  But trusting Matt's intuition has always been a wise move -- the starchy sweetness of the pies combined with a light spice mix made it great.  Also, the Smokey Mushroom and Greens is fast becoming a fan favorite (behind the Thai Peanut?).

Da Crew: Profuse thanks to our spunky hardworking crew: Jeff, SZ, Chef Matt, Andy, and Val.

Customers From Awesometown: David L., Aaron, LD, JCD.

Zabar's Coffee: For a limited time, we will be serving quintessential "New York Street Coffee", a light nutty easy drinking roast from Zabar's.  Not as local as our usual (and great) coffee from Jessee's (Carrboro), Zabar's house roast reminds me of the way Dunkin' Donuts coffee used to taste before they became a mega-corporation and franchised the business outside of Massachusetts (it's now more watery and less flavorful).  If you are drinking light roast (which seldom happens here in the Triangle), I highly recommend some kind of dairy/nondairy creamer, plus sugar if you swing that way.

Track of the Week (Selected by Chef Matt):  We saw this show Saturday night at Motorco with Chef Matt and friends.  Lee Fields destroyed it.

Bonus Track of the Week Celebrating Chanukah, Festival of Lights: 

Coming This Week: Pints and half-pints of honey harvested from Old West Durham!

Brunchification: I know Chef Matt is going to be pissed at me for upping his Vegan Brunch next weekend (he's trying to do a "soft-opening"), but I would be remiss in not cataloging this event in the annals of Berenbaum's family history.  Let's hope it's a fantastic success.

Monday, December 3, 2012

On Mission Chinese

"Mission, by contrast, adheres to no discernible set of rules and has to be experienced to fully appreciate its complicated appeal."

"'Sichuan peppercorns,” GQ’s Brett Martin astutely observed, “are essentially drugs.'"


Week 83

The Scene: The first day of Winter Market is always special.  We get another two hours of sleep (markets open at 10AM instead of 8AM), the air is crisp, and the customers are generally our regulars as the DFM now lacks its spring/summer fruits and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes).  The sun came out and no jacket was needed despite it being the first day of December.

The Product: We brought Pumpkin Chai Hand Pies, BBQ Tofu Hand Pies, and Irish Soda Bread.

Our awesome patrons: Anna, EC &SMG, Marybeth and Allen, HM, Annie&Andy&Miriam, Alila, Charles and Fantine, Leah, Ian, Milton, Franklin & Frances, Erik.

Da Crew: Many many props to our crew: Andy, Val, Chef Matt, Jamie, SZ, Sara & Jeff.  Extra thanks to Chef Matt who prepared our vegan fillings despite the passing the day before of his beloved dog, Miles, RIP.

Berenbaum's Holiday Party: We will be hosting the 2nd Annual Berenbaum's Holiday Party this year at my house on December 16th.  We do this to express our gratitude to customers, friends, and staff who have made 2012 a great year.  Please email me at berenbaums at gmail dot com if you would like an invite with time and location.