Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pulla and Chai

In our quest to keep winter away, to reduce the amount of times we yearn for the Lake Merritt farmer's market in January or the fact my sweaters were nearly all 3/4 length when we left California, we continue to seek ways to enjoy winter, embrace it, endure it.

In this vein, there's very little that an expensive version of a daily treat can't fix - chai from Chaiwalla (purchased at bklyn larder). At $19/bag I was skeptical for months, "can this tea truly be any better than the recipe I've been using for 15 years from Sundays at Moosewood?" It's different, and it's worth it. A tablespoon of tea and sugar (I rarely add sugar to my chai - only if it's in the recipe do I add enough of it) combined with a cup of hot water and a cup of milk - heat until boiled - and we have creamy cups of fragrant chai at our fingertips (and still less per cup than the 3.55 cups purchased anywhere from Cafe Grumpy to Starbucks).

Along with the chai, we've been spreading pieces of pulla thick with butter and crunchy with my barely ground cardamon pods and pairing them each weekend morning, afternoon, and after dinner. I've made this recipe twice, happier the first time than the second - I braided it less evenly, had to cook it longer, and it wasn't as moist when finished - throwing one loaf in the freezer for the few days it takes us to eat the first. It sits on my desk all day, the aroma tempting me, until I dig into it mid-morning with a cup of gen mai cha (already had my black tea for the morning and need to wrap my hands around something warm but not as caffeinated) before I head down to lunch duty.

The sheepskin sleepers, flannel sheets, flannel pjs, willingness to turn on the heat as soon as we get home and the jaunt to Hawaii have helped us weather our 3rd east coast winter since college, but these small treats actually help us look forward to starting a day that might involve digging out the car or darting black ice and puddles on our way out each day - and in the end, it's cheaper per experience than knocking out each pre-Oscar-film we want to see at the Angelika (or BAM).

A Cheese to take Winter Away

The weekend before the coldest week thus far in Brooklyn, we went into Bklyn Larder, asking Liam as we made our way to the cheese counter, "what kind of cheese do you want?" and he replied, "a cheese to take away winter." We passed this on to the cheese guy, and because people at Larder are kind and fun and whimsical and love cheese, he gave us suggestions.

We started with a few that had been paired with Brandy recently - Wildspitz, a raw cow and goat that was funky and creamy and had the most delicious texture and weirdest aftertaste that we were immediately smitten. Following we tried Coolea, something about gouda style and Ireland and a rich orange glow that also ended up in our bag. Before we left, we made a quick swoop for some Gruyere, say, 14 oz of it, with visions of fondue in our heads.

On an evening with our electric heat on and darkness that fell at 4:50, Liam took the lead in heating the Austrian wine, shredding the gruyere (and emmental that we picked up later for texture), and stirring it all together to pair with the carrots and potatoes that I'd steamed earlier, along with local granny smith, a few cornichon and half of a baguette. Except for the part where we didn't get the Sterno and set up the pot and attempted to keep it from congealing in the pan pictured above, it was incredible - cheesy without being too boozy, creamy without being too stringy, covering the potatoes like the silkiest raclettes we had in France. It was delicious enough that I brought it to work the next day, sitting in a meeting with a spoon and knife fishing hunks of cheese out of the separated liquid and inspiring envy from my staff - just the way to take winter away.