CHNY opened its 2016-17 season with the annual “Celebration of Our Members,” a chance for several members to share recent work in shorter, less formal presentations. The evening’s aperitif was cocktail maven Kara Newman, whose latest book, Shake, Stir. Sip. (favorably reviewed in the New York Times later that week). Newman regaled us with the history of the Negroni, a luscious, if potent, blend of equal parts of Campari, sweet vermouth and gin. Of course, there were tastings.
We then journeyed to Ancient Rome: Kiki Aranita and Chris Vacca met in grad school studying Classics and became hooked on cooking. Although they now run Poi Dog Philly (Ananita hails from Hawai’i), they have put their Classics training to the test in creating dinners based on Apicius and other ancient authors. Admitting the experimental nature of their work and the annoying tendency of classical recipes to omit quantities of ingredients, they allowed their palates to guide them to the final results.
Continuing through time, Victoria Flexner, proprietor of Edible History, her Brooklyn-based supper club, described her latest endeavor called “Renaissance Explorers,” meals highlighting cuisine on the Iberian Penninsula and in the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries at the moment of First Contact.
Constance Kirker seduced us with beauty, discussing her newly-published (and first) book, Edible Flowers, part of Reaktion Press’s Edible series. She brought a tray of deviled eggs garnished with the most exquisite nasturtium blossoms: although her talk explored the reasons why many people, especially men, are reluctant to eat flowers, we showed no hesitancy, devouring the natural works of botanical art.
Food historians are familiar with food rationing to support the war effort in World War 2, but new CHNY member Sarah Wassberg is investigating the less-known policies surrounding food conservation in World War 1. She treated us to a stimulating overview of her book-in-progress, which focuses on New York. We look forward to the book’s publication.
Our last speaker, Marcia Biederman, brought to vivid life Patricia Murphy, the proprietor of the ground-breaking Candlelight restaurant in Yonkers. Although little-known today, at her height, Murphy presided over a lucrative restaurant empire known for plain American food accompanied by always-hot popover. She pioneered a branding strategy not unlike today’s celebrities, with a perfume line and logo-bearing accessories. Biederman also has a book in the works.