From the Archives: Blood Orange Smackdown

This post originally appeared on March 18, 2005

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On the left, weighing in at 6 ounces, is a Sunkist blood orange grown in California. On the right, weighing in at 7 ounces and sporting a paper wrapper, is a Bella Vita blood orange hailing from Sicily. Both were purchased at Agata & Valentina on New York's Upper East Side.

Aside from their state of dress (or lack thereof in the case of the Californian), both oranges look pretty similar on the surface. However, when sliced, they reveal their differences.

The California orange bears a thick skin, slightly dry flesh, and deep, dark ruby red color, while its thin-skinned, juicier, and sweeter Sicilian cousin resembles a typical orange marbled with more saturated orange tones resembling, dare I say, saffron. Both taste great, but I would hand the victory to the Californian in delivering on the visual promise of its moniker.

I was surprised at the difference between these blood oranges, particularly since this New York magazine article describes Sicilian blood oranges as having flesh "so dark it’s nearly black." This could not have been farther than the case for my (unscientific) sample, but, who knows when it comes to fruits and vegetables? Perhaps on a return visit or a trip to another store, I would find a batch of Sicilian blood oranges as dark as the Californian ones I picked up this week.

I made the most of my international blood orange supply, and against chef Jody Williams's wishes, I prepared her Insalata D’arancia using both varieties. The salad is fantastic and easy to prepare: sweet from the oranges, salty from the anchovies and olives, and crunchy from the onions, not to mention lovely to look at.

Make it now as a protest against this neverending winter.

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California blood oranges and Sicilian blood oranges are both $2.99 per pound at Agata & Valentina, 1505 First Avenue at 79th Street (212.452.0690).

 


From the Archives: To Market, To Market on Two Wheels

This post originally appeared on September 10, 2004

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We stayed in Vieux Montreal (old Montreal), the city’s historic core. Dating from Montreal’s founding as a French settlement in the 17th century, old Montreal has been lovingly preserved and restored since the 1960s after years of neglect. Today, the area is a major tourist destination, though a beautiful one (it beats Times Square any day).

Its narrow, cobblestone streets are lined with formidable 18th and 19th century buildings, a number of which have been converted into boutique hotels. Hotel Nelligan, Hotel Place d’Armes, and the St. Paul Hotel (where we stayed) retain their period façades, though their interiors have been largely overhauled with cool modernist design.

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From the Archives: Parsley Plus Garlic Equals Persillade

This post originally appeared on December 4, 2004

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Parsley and garlic are essential components in so many recipes. When the two are finely chopped together, they become persillade, a powerful mixture that brings enormous flavor to a dish when added just at the very end of the cooking process.

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From the Archives: A Slice of Belgium, West of the Hudson

This post originally appeared on September 9, 2003

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Cooperstown, New York, is a mecca for baseball fans, but there is another, albeit less-traveled, destination only a short drive away from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just a few miles from the center of town, but 3,624 miles away from Brussels, is the Brewery Ommegang, an outpost of artisanal Belgian beer making that bills itself as “the only brewery in America dedicated to producing all bottle-conditioned Belgian style ales.”

Ommegang, a Flemish word meaning “to walk about," refers to the Ommegang Pageant, an annual celebration in Belgium that commemorates a festival held in the 16th century by the Magistrate of Brussels in honor of King Charles V.

A wide archway at the entrance to the brewery, a pristine white oblong building located on a 136-acre former hops farm, marks two dates: 1549, the year of the first Ommegang Pageant, and 1997, the year that the brewery was founded by its original owners, Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, who have operated a business importing Belgian beers into the United States since 1982. They selected the location in part because of Otsego County's history as a major center for hops farming. During the 1800s, as much as 80 percent of the hops produced in the United States came from farms in and around Cooperstown.

Brewery Ommegang is modeled on Belgian farmstead breweries, which, in addition to brewing and selling beer, sell agricultural products as well as breads and cheeses based on ingredients used in the brewing process. The Brasserie DuPont in Tourpes, Belgium, is an example of the typical Belgian farmstead brewery. Brewery Ommegang does not produce any of its own bread or cheese, but shares its spent grains with local artisan bakers and cheese makers.

images/ommegangUnlike German beers, which are made strictly with malted grain, water, hops, and yeast, according to a German Purity Law dating back to 1519, Belgian Beers are typically infused with spices during the brewing process. Orange peel, star anise, ginger, coriander, and other spices provide a complex balance of peppery, sweet, and citrus flavors to the beers produced at the Brewery Ommegang.

The brewery produces three styles of beer (Ommegang Abbey Ale, Hennepin Farmhouse Ale, and Rare Vos Brabant Style Ale), all of which are bottle conditioned, which means they undergo two fermentations, the second taking place in the bottle, so that the flavor of the beer continues to develop well after it leaves Cooperstown. In fact, the brewery suggests cellaring the beer as one would store and age wine.

The brewery is committed to Belgian culture, as well as beer making, and sponsors events throughout the year, from a "Waffles and Puppets" celebration in October to an annual evocation of the Ommegang Pageant in July. Tours and tastings are offered throughout regular business hours.

Brewery Ommegang, 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown, New York (800.544.1809).