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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dining Guide to the Lower Eastside

I was in NYC in the beginning of November helping set up the New West KnifeWorks store at the Holidays Shops in Bryant Park. The store will be open through New Years.

For accommodations, I decided to try the adventures of Craigs List. Early November, every year, is the time when I am at the depths of poverty having spent every penny I have in building up the knifeworks inventory for the Christmas Rush. So I was looking for a bargain. I found a place on the Lower East Side, 9th St between 1st and A. Awesome spot in the city. It was $90 a night. Being as this is so inexpensive, I was crossing my fingers when I arrived that I wasn't going to be staying in a festering flop house.

Upon arrival, I was very pleasantly surprised. Though scrappy, the place was very clean and had the downtown loft sensibility that someone whp lives in Wyoming finds nothing but charming. The proprietor Jeff Long is a great asset to this establishment. He has lived on the Lower Eastside since I believe early 1800's and in the 1970's he was in a well known "no wave" rock band. In 2009, he appears to have mellowed from his rockstar days and is one of those NYC sages who seen and done it all in the city. Which for an "urban cowboy" right off the plane from Wyoming this was a huge plus.

Here's Jeff's email if you are looking for a place to stay.
Here's an article about Jeff's Place:

One stress I had on my trip to NYC was that I had not done much research on where to eat while I was in the city. When I am in NYC eating is number one on my agenda. Also, being tight on cash, I wasn't ready to plunk down on the well known, extremely expensive NYC standards.

After Jeff settled me into my room, I immediately began to grill him about local eating establishments. I was instantly gratified to learn I was in the presence of a class "A" foodie. He claims and I don't doubt, the Lower East Side has the best restaurants on the East Coast. Not only did Jeff have recommendations but he has a dining guide he has compiled after years of seeking out the Lower East Sides finest. As you might guess, as proprietor of a $90 dollar a night place, his isn't a list of the fanciest, fine dining establishments but the real deal, no fuss, best food you can buy anywhere for any price. When I am in NYC this is exactly what I am looking for.

Unfortunately, setting up the store turned out to be a marathon of epic proportion, so I wasn't able to sample as many establishments as I would have liked. I did eat at enough though to guarantee this list will fulfill your wildest dining dreams when you are on the Lower East Side of Manhatten. I can't wait to get back to NYC to sample some more.

Here's the list:



-Associated--2nd ave between 6th and 7th.st.- Key Food; ave A at 4th st.

-Asian supermarket; 9th st. just east of 3rd ave(bowery), next to "Rock around the Clock" restaurant. take elevator to 2nd floor

-Key Foods Ave A & 4th st.

-Whole Foods, 14th st. right across from Union Sq.

-Trader Joes, 14th st. just west of 3rd ave Excellent Market!!

-A & P Market; 14th st. between 3rd ave & Union square

-Whole Foods(new) Houston st. & 2nd av

-Trader Joes(New!!) 14th st. just west of 3rd ave


-Commodity market-- on 1st ave between 10th st. & 11th st.


-Union Square; mon, wed, fri, sat

-St. Marks Church Plaza(2nd ave & 10th st.); tues, & ?

-Tompkins Sq. along ave A between 7th & St. marks; sunday


-**"Takahachi" ave A between 5th and 6th; EXCELLENT Sushi.. not expensive****HIGHLY recommended**** (I ate here. Huge chunks of super fresh fish. Stuffed with Sapporo $25)

-**Resto Flea market-- French Bistro, **very good food**..great ambience!! **Recommended** not too expensive--Avenue A between St. marks st. & 9th st.

-Mini Thai-- Very good Thai restaurant; Ave A, between 6th st. and 7th st. Not Expensive!!!

***-Nori.....Extremely high quality Japanese Bistro/Restaurant/Sushi bar.....has $1. per piece sushi special Highly Recommended...2nd ave, just south of St, Marks, west side of street

-Belcourt-- 84 E 4th St..great food!! + ambience...French

***-Thai-- Recommended! tiny little Thai restaurant....Extremely good!...best Thai downtown...on 7th st. 1/4 block east of 3rd ave, downtown side of street

**-Asian noodle/soup bar "Momofuko"(sp.?) 1st ave between 9th & 10th streets... on west side of 1st ave.

-Katz's Deli; original NY Jewish Delicatessen from 1920's. Ludlow & Houston..... aaaamaaaaazing place! best corned beef, brisket and pastrami sandwiches in NYC. get sandwich from counter(not waiter service).. tip the counter man $1. before he makes sandwich-- he'll bring you some slices of meat to taste; corner of Houston st. & Ludlow

-Paul Hamburgers; great burgers..** ..CHEAP....2nd ave, just south of St. Marks pl.

-Holy Basil: **recommended** excellent Thai food ...2nd ave, between 9th st & 10th st...west side of street

-Birdies: organic Soul Food; 140 1st ave between 9th st. & 10 st.

-Typhoon: Very good Sushi + Asian Tapas at medium to low prices; st. marks just west of 1st ave

**-Matilda; very cool half italian /half mexican restaurant..Great Chefs! 11th st. between ave B and ave C...closer to ave C

--Olivia...bar or restaurant...****HIGHLY Recommended**** pan latino/basque food ..very good... live cuban Music almost every night. SW corner of 1st ave(Allen st.) & Houston st. (below Houston st., 1st ave is called Allen st.)

-"GO", lively, arty, good food ****HIGHLY recommended****St. marks between 2nd ave and 3rd ave(sushi + grilled salmon + miso soup + veg's + salad for $10.50. or just sushi for $8

-**Mara's Homemade... 6th st. between 1st and 2nd ave(closer to 1st ave). Homemade New Orleans style cuisine + Arkansas smoked barbecue + great Sandwiches

- Pan-Asian,"New Wave" restaurants; large, lively, fun places... very cheap. There are 3--- all on St. Marks str. between 2nd and 3rd ave. 5 St. Marks, 9 St. Marks & 25 St. Marks

-Marions-- **NYC Landmark** very cool and classy art deco place... hangout for Audrey hepburn, sinatra, cary grant, etc. in the 50's... restaurant and bar.. . reasonable prices.. on Bowery between 3rd and 4th st.

-Via della Pace-- ***Recommended; Great Italian Bistro!!!! Indoor & Outdoor. great food, great ambience--not expensive.. 7th st. , just west of 2nd ave

-Mancora --peruvian... gourmet latin american food...cheap... delicious CEVICHE.. 6th st. & 1st ave

-**Sharaku Japanese -- Very Good Sushi and all japanese dishes....9th st/stuyvesant st. just east of 3rd ave...downtown side of street

-**Jules bistro; French restaurant/bar with live music****HIGHLY recommended**** St. Marks between 1st ave & 2nd ave, north side of street ( GREAT MUSIC, FUN ATMOSPHERE, THE PATE WAS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I'VE EVER HAD)

-Jeollado-- Sushi-- brilliant sushi rolls!!! very cheap; East 4th st. between 1st ave and 2nd ave; downtown side of street

-"LITTLE INDIA"; many cheap Indian restaurants on east 6th st. between 1st ave & 2nd ave; choose one with Live Indian music

-Typhoon ...excellent japanese sushi bar and restaurant....not expensive...geat food...bargain specials sunday-thursday...St. Marks,just west of 1st ave

-Royale.....great hamburgers ....Restaurant + Bar + outdoor dining area...ave C between 9th st & 10th st

-***Schiller Liquor Bar...***highly recommended... restaurant & bar....131Rivington st @ Norfolk st Lower east side

-Izochan-- petite, gourmet mexican food... Excellent!.. around 438 e. 9th st. between 1st ave & ave A

-Mamas.. .."arty" east village hangout. CHEAP.. full dinner = $10.

-i Coppi.... just down the block(towards "A" on 9th st.) EXCELLENT!!! italian food. beautiful place + has very nice rear garden. more expensive than others. best Pizza in NYC

-7A......... moderate to low priced everything-- lots of fresh fish & pasta every night. great cheap breakfast special til 11:00 am... corner 7th st. & ave A

-Clinton st. Baking & rest. *Recommended* Trendy , attractive place.. VERY !! good food!@! Ave B becomes Clinton st. beginning at Houston st. ......restaurant is just a tiny bit south of Houston st.

-***Petes....Tuesday Night Prime Rib Special...super bargain...whole prime rib dinner for $16. at one of NYC's oldest restaurants...corner of 18th st & Irving place

-Cafe Mogador.....best Cous-Cous in NYC +++ lots more. good place.....st marks between 1st ave & ave A, uptown side of street. sometimes live music wednesday night/ ( GET THE Mediterranean BREAKFEST. MY BROTHER LOVES THIS PLACE TOO. I'VE NEVER HAD HUMMUS THIS GOOD.)

-Casimir...great french Bistro with garden..good music...ave B between 7th st. & 6th st.

-Gena's; tiny place--- home cooked Dominican food-- DIRT CHEAP & very good. 1st ave(east side of st.) between 12th and 13th

-Neptune, 1st ave between 11th and 12th (HAS REAR GARDEN) cheap!! Eastern European cuisine

-Max.. italian...cheap & good...very lively...garden!! ...ave B between 3rd and 4th streets

-"Chubis" (spelling?) great tiny little french bistro. excellent food, excellent space. on Clinton st., just south of Houston

-"Paquitos", 1st ave , between 8th and 9th st. EXCELLENT!! Mexican food. cheap! try "Maria Burrito" & "Quesadilla Paquito"NOTE: there are 2 Paquitos right next to each other-- go to the one on your left. (the one on your right is bit more elaborate..more expensive.... but has a fabulous rear garden... great for summer)

-**Westville EXCELLENT food..all types...very fresh!! BARGAIN prices...corner of Avenue A & 11th st.

-"Cafecito" ave C between 11th & 12th fun place. Cuban food. Very good quality!

-4 Roses; CHEAP!!! Italian food; homemade lasagna + bread & salad $7.50; 1st ave between 10th & 11th

-Rai Kai great little asian Bistro..Not Expensive!! 214 E. 10th st.

-Arturos. Italien + pizza -- Old NY place!!!-- live jazz every night; ****HIGHLY recommended**** corner of Houston & Thompson street.

**-rue B-- french Bistro & bar.. light food... live music every night; Ave B between 10th st. & 12th st.; west side of ave B

**-Esperanto--Latin/french/american great place + outdoor terrace...****HIGHLY recommended**** live music some nights-- 9th st. & ave C


-Aquarius; Excellent cuisine/great ambience 6th street just east of 1st ave

-Organic cafe; all organic!@! 1st ave between 7th st. & st marks, west side of street

***-Lan Vegetarian Vietnamese Highly Recommended!!! 6th st. between 1st & 2nd ave...closer to 1st ave..south side of street

***-Counter -1st ave between 6th and 7th st. west side of street. VERY cool "arty" veg restaurant and Bar.Also great Ambience

-Dirt Candy; new world class vegetarian restaurant. Very attractive!! 9th st between 1st ave and ave A, south side of street

BRUNCH (Sunday)

-Rue B, **Fantastic** sunday Brunch... not expensive; Ave B between 10th st. & 12th st.; west side of ave B

-Resto Flea Market...great brunch!!! ave A between st. marks & 9th st..

-i Coppi; Great.. more expensive .. worth it!!! 432 E. 9th st.

-Belcourt... Extremely Good...great ambience.. 84 E 4th St corner 2nd ave


-Gruppo- ave B between 11th st and 12th st...great thin crust italian pizza...cool ambience!

-Arturo's Classic NYC place--**Highly Recommended** hangout of the original village bohemians, great pizza/ambience + live jazz every night -- corner of Houston and Thompson st.

-Franks Pizza; great pizza Bistro!!! great ambience---- 1st ave between 1st st. and 2nd st.

-Posto-- 18th st. & 2nd ave OUTDOOR TERRACE-- excellent thin-crust pizza

-Luzzo's 211 1st ave**Highly Recommended**(near 12th st.) great pizza-- eat in or deliver 212-473-7447

-I Coppi on 9th st. about 1/2 block east... could be best pizza in NYC.. it's the real italian thin pizza.. more expensive.

EAST VILLAGE POLISH/UKRANIAN RESTAURANTS--great home cooked style food(some american style, some eastern european style) very! cheap. + all places have very cheap breakfast specials

-Vaselka....9th & 2nd av

-Ukranian home rest. **hidden**(on 2nd ave, next to Vaselka.....go through glass doors... rest. in rear....very old-style & untrendy(few people know about this place), for dinner only, like being in eastern europe. very cheap full course home cooked dinners!!!

-Neptune..1st ave between 11th & 12th.east side of street..has garden in rear!!

--Little Poland... 2nd ave & 12th st

-Polonia... serves "grits" or kasha Varnishka with breakfast 1st ave between 6th & 7th... **RECOMMENDED** Excellent large, homestyle, stuffed Roast Duck complete dinner with vegetables & potatoes every saturday & sunday night. $11.

Breakfast specials

Poland 1st ave between 6th st & 7th st

- "7A" 7th street and ave A

-"Neptune" 1st ave between 11th and 12th (has Garden)

-"Vaselka", 9th st. and 2nd ave

-"Polonia" 1st ave between 6th and 7th

-Little Poland... 2nd ave & 12th st

-"Life cafe", 10th st. and ave B

Bistros/Clubs with live music

--***Chez Jules--St. marks between 1st and 1nd ave--great french food!!, live music every night. eat or bar. very good place-- like being

in an attractive parisian bistro

-Arturos... great place!(see above)

-***Grisley Pear***... live Bluegrass music every wednesday night VERY good! **highly recommended!*!... 107 macdougal st. ...between bleecker and w. 3rd st.

-***Olivia*** - houston and Allen st.(1st ave) live afro-cuban music(best in NYC!) sundays and wednesdays. great food, great ambience;

eat or bar

-****esperanto-- ave C & 9th st. **Highly Recommended** live music almost every night. great food.. terrace..bar cool place!!

-NU BLU-- Arty bar/club on 2 floors-- excellent DJ.. sometimes live music; ave C between 4th & 5th (no sign... you'll see people in front of the


-Jimmys Bistro... restaurant & live Jazz 43 E. 7th st. call 212-982-3006 for schedule and/or reservations

-Louie's-- jazz bar on 9th st. bewteen ave B and ave C

-Xunta... Tapas bar... very lively, live music some nights... 1st ave between 10th & 11th streets

-Forbidden City....Pan-asian... live salsa band sunday nights.. world culture,crowded, food or bar

-Detour-- bar on 13th between 1st ave and 2nd ave live music every night!!@!

-Rue B-- live music every night... ave B between 10th st. & 12th st.

- "C" on ave C around 12th st. live music every night, mainly jazz


-American Copy center ...10th st. , just east of 2nd ave

-Cafe Pick-me-up 9th st and 1st ave

-Cafe ...1st ave and 3rd st.


-10th st. & 1st ave great croissants & coffees!

-Cafe Pick-Me -Up.. corner of 9th st and ave A ..Very Nice!! good food/good coffees...right on the park

-Ciao Cafe E. 12th st. a little east of Ave A **RECOMMENDED great cafe + sandwiches, etc.

-cafe reggio... original greenwich Village cafe.. still great.. McDougal st...just south of W. 3rd st.

-Cafe Dante-- same as above... Macdougal st between bleecker & Houston street

-cafe pick-me-up... 9th st. & ave A

-Cafe De Robertis ...1920's original Italian Cafe!!...1st ave between 10th st and 11th st


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I came across currants in the Nourse Berry Farm catalog from which I have bought strawberry plants in the past. They caught my attention because they grow in Zone 3. In Jackson Hole, where we have two seasons, winter and the 4th of July, we'll eat anything that can survive the winter. I can't say for sure that I had ever eaten a currant. When I cooked in restaurants, I recall seeing dried currants but I can't recall what we did with them or how they tasted. I mostly remember their being mentioned in various works of English literature. I certainly had never seen a fresh one. I thought, if they will actually grow in Jackson Hole, and they're good enough for the Queen, I might as well give them a try. So three years ago I planted eight bushes of different varieties. It took the first two years to get them established. This year we got a significant amount of fruit.

The currants grow like mini grapes. In tight beautiful bundles near the ground. The berries have a tart, earthy taste. Some are quite tart and better for mixing with food. We found the lighter colored pink and white ones to be the tastiest for fresh eating. The varieties are called Blanka and Pink Champagne.

Normally, we only have moose in the yard in the winter but we did have one moose slip in and prune the currant bushes this summer. You can see nibbled branches in the photo above. Fortunately the moose just had an appetizer and didn't do any significant damage.

Though the kids were skeptical of the tart flavor at first, after watching them grow, picking them and playing with them, they were eating them by the handful. It is amazing how many unusual things kids will eat when they see them growing in the garden.

I am still experimenting with different uses for these abundant little gems. Countless references to jellies, jams and desert sauces in English literature come to mind. The other thing that currants seem to be exceptional for is mixing with meats. The sweet, tart, earthy flavor seems to make a strange kind of magic together with meat. Whether added to a braise, used in making a savory sauce or mixed into a chicken salad, as I did in the recipe below, they add a certain special flavor I have never experienced previously.

Coyote Loop's Freshest Chicken Salad


Two handfuls of leftover roasted chicken chopped (Wyoming Chicken Ranch Range Fed).

1-2 whole green onions or shallots chopped (garden fresh).

Two handfuls of baby to teenage mustard greens chopped (garden fresh). Arugula is lovely here instead.

1 1/2 handfuls of fresh currants. I've used some that I froze as well. They work fine.

1 T mayonnaise

Generous slather of olive oil

Salt and pepper

Mix it all together. YAHTZEE!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Morel Mushroom Hunting

Morel Hunting

In the ongoing quest to feed the family using local, natural products; morel mushroom hunting has become an annual right of late spring in Jackson Hole. The hunt for mushrooms is a mystery for many varieties of mushrooms. The location of good patches is a closely guarded secret. In some years the right combination of weather will cause them to spring up all over the valley. Most years, though, it is a frustrating sometimes feudal effort to locate them in just the right time and place. There is one sure fired method that one can always count on in the Rocky Mountain west and that is forest fire burn areas. The spring following a forest fire you can always count on there being a lot of morels. You still have to wait for the right moment in, the complex matrix of weather events that tell the morels when to pop up but when it is on, it usually way on.

In late June, the word came down from some other mushroomers in Jackson that things were happening in the in the New Fork burn area near Pinedale,WY. This had been a big 40,000 acre burn last summer. At 40,000 acres it not a big deal to keep it a secret. There were plenty of mushrooms for everyone.

Early the next morning Marc Hirshfield and I loaded up in his truck with USGS maps and headed for the burn area. Marc is the owner of Betty Rock Cafe and and a partner in the Rendezvous Bistro, two of Jackson Hole's best dining institutions. It took a couple hours to get to Pinedale and navigate the maze of Forest Service roads to find our way into the depths of the burn area. Before we had even unloaded and geared up for hunting, I found my first morel.

Walking through a heavy burn area is like no other place I've been. There is a strange beauty to it. This area was totally lifeless except for morels.

For the first couple of hours we collected many mushrooms here and there. Any normal time it would be considered good harvesting. Being that we were in a burn area though I was looking for the motherload. Just as we were starting to head back to the truck to drive to a new spot we struck gold. All of the sudden there morels as far as you looked in any direction. The next three hours were spent picking the morels as fast we could crawl or bend over and cut them off.

As our backs began to get sore and our bags got full, it became time to head for the barn. Once we got back in cellphone range we called ahead to let friends and family know to meet at Marc's house for a morel feast.

There are limitless uses for morel mushrooms. There subtle earthy flavor and unique texture make them wonderful in many dishes. When they are fresh out of the woods it doesn't take much and you don't need to mess around with them to make them taste great. Since we had a hungry group of mushroomers waiting for food we didn't have time to get fancy anyway.

We started the evening with appetizers of straight morels sauteed with a generous about of olive oil, salt, and a finely chopped rosemary, green onion and garlic tops plucked fresh from the garden.

The main course was pizza's on the grill. My latest advancement in my never ending quest to make the perfect pizza is letting the pie dough age in the fridge for many days. The batch we had that night had been festering for a week. I think it develops some kind of sourdough phenomena. I don't know the details but I know is it gets soft, stretchy and delicious.

Pizza dough recipe:

8 cups of flour. I used a high gluten, all-purpose, all natural flour from Montana Wheat. You can use half semolina or whole wheat.

2 tablespoons Honey. Sugar or maple syrup ok.

2 cups tepid water

2 teaspoons salt

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

I use my kitchen aid with a dough hook. Add water or flour as needed to get the dough to form. Finish with some kneading by hand. I put the dough in the fridge in a bowl or ziplock with some olive oil rubbed all over it. Let it proof in the fridge for 1 day to a week. You can let rise traditionally out of the fridge for same day use.

We made a couple of different pizzas using mozzarella, goat cheese, prosciutto, chopped scallions, chives, garlic greens and different herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage.

A few techniques I use for grilled pizza.

1. Roll out the dough thick or thin. (Having grown up in central Ohio,one of the under appreciated thin crust pizza centers of the Universe, I like thin crust). Marc who serves pizza in their restaurant can throw and spread the crusts by hand but I need a rolling pin.

2. Slather the pie in olive oil and grill one side. Lid down. Careful not burn it!

3. Saute or grill the mushrooms. I have a mesh screen designed for cooking pizzas on that is great for putting the morels on the grill without losing them. Toss them in a bowl with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and herbs.

4. Put toppings on the grilled side. Put a little salt on too.

5. Put the pizza back on the grill lid down. If you can turn off part of the grill or move coals to one side it is best to put the pie away from the direct heat so it has time to melt the toppings before the bottom burns.


Coyote Loops freshest salad. Watermelon and you have a feast!

Moreling Tips:

1. Find an experienced mushroomer. Charm them into taking you hunting.

2. Collect mushrooms in a mesh bag so the you distribute spoors around while you are hunting. More morels next year!

3. Cut the morels off a little above ground level with a knife. Pulling them out of the ground disturbs the mysterious underground network of mushroom life. It also keeps you from getting a lot of dirt/ash in your mushroom sack. I like a fairly long 4-5 inch one handed opening pocket knife. If you need to use both hands to open the knife it slows down the picking or encourages you to walk around with the knife open which can lead to stabbing yourself when you trip over an unnoticed rock.

4. Don't wash the mushrooms. They are like little sponges. You want them to soak up yummy not water. You can brush them off. I find that them shaking around the mesh bag does a fairly good job of cleaning. I don't worry much about eating a little dirt and ash from the middle of nowhere in the Wyoming wilderness. Compared to the innumerable unknown in ingredients in a McDonalds meal, a little dirt doesn't seem so bad. Terroir baby.

5. Mushrooms can be eaten fresh for several days. As soon as they start to go bad they should be frozen or dried. I dry them for a few hours in the oven with the door open at 150-175 degrees on my mesh pizza trays. They should be like crunchy Styrofoam when they are dry. MAKE SURE THEY ARE FULLY DRY BEFORE STORING IN AN AIRTIGHT CONTAINER. I had one batch that wasn't fully dried and lost about 20% due to mold. TRAGIC!!

6. Reconstitute in water for a couple hours before using. They will be almost as good as new. Use them in any recipe that calls for mushrooms.

A few favorites of mine are:

1. Handmade pasta with sauted morels, herbs, garlic and olive oil and/or butter.

2. Braised chicken with wine and morels.

3. Stir fry with pork, morels and garden fresh vegetables.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Coyote Loops Freshest Salad and Hand Cut Pan Fried Croutons

I made this salad the night of my epic battle with the irrigation ditch to show off the cutting ability of the Super Bread knife after shredding with the willow roots. (link to Tales of the Super Bread http://newwestknifeworks.blogspot.com/ ). This is also probably my favorite thing there is to eat. Especially in the spring after a LONG winter in Jackson Hole of eating store bought vegetables. (Spring Jackson Hole is that time in June when we get a few days of warm weather. Often we just skip spring all together and go from winter right to summer, which you can always count on starting on the 4th of July. Unless it snows.) Fortunately, lettuce loves cold weather. Jackson Hole, which I normally think of as one of the least hospitable places in the US to grow stuff, is great for lettuces.

The recipe for this salad is very simple. Take whatever looks good from the garden and eat it. The point of the recipe is to encourage you to plant a garden. I guarantee that this very simple salad that was picked and served in less than a half hour will taste better than any salad the you can buy in a restaurant anywhere. Besides the incredible flavor the joy growing and preparing your own food can’t be beat.


1. Mixed lettuces. I eat all my lettuce when it is a baby (about 6 inches or smaller). It is oh so tender and lovely. Fresh out of the garden it is still crisp and delicious not flaccid and half rotten like store bought baby greens. This salad was a mix of arugula, baby mustard greens and several romaine varieties with fancy French names that I got from Seeds of Change. http://www.seedsofchange.com/ I like the appearance, texture and flavor of romaine very much so I plant a lot of it. In this salad I also thinly cut a couple of aspargus spears that had shot up in the garden. I thought they added a nice crunch. My wife didn't like the uncooked flavor

2. A big three-finger pinch to small handful of garlic, chive and shallot greens coarsely chopped. These are also popping up in the garden. Everything is still small this time of year so I just cut green stems off a few different plants.

3. A generous dollop of olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, solid pinch of salt and course ground pepper.

Mix it together right before serving before you add the croutons.

Hand Cut Pan Fried Croutons

These are fast, simple way to use up old bread and add a delicious crunch to any salad. You can use any kind hardish bread. French baguette, ciabatta, whole wheat, dinner rolls, anything but wonder bread seems to work. I actually like to use bagels best of all. I didn’t have any around the house when I made this so I used a small baguette.

The standard for making croutons is to roast them in the oven. I find using the oven method often dries the bread out to much and you end up with a crouton that is to crunchy and almost cuts the roof of your mouth. With the pan fry you get a crisp, crunchy outside but still little chewy inside that can’t be beat.

Here’s how you make them.

Slice bread into thin slices. Depending on the size of the bread, I may stack the slices up and then slice them again into some nice, bite size shape. You need a sharp, long serrated knife to get a nice thin cut. If don’t have one, I know where you can get a good one.


This the Super Bread I used in the battle with the irrigation ditch as of yet unsharpened. Though it cut the bread well. I did hone it on my DMT diamond steel for about 30 seconds after this. I like to keep it really sharp.

Bread sliced under the watchful eye of Sous Chef Bucky

Throw the slices into a cast iron skillet or French steel pan.

Then turn the burner on high.

Pour a generous amount of olive oil on top.

A nice pinch of salt and a couple twists of pepper.

Stir or flip the contents until nicely mixed. Spread the croutons out evenly. I like to us a pan large enough for one layer of croutons. Don’t worry too much about them being neatly spread out and all having perfect contact with the pan.

Your first time you can stir them occasionally or, if you have the skill, flip them using the pan. Until they have a nice toasting on the outside. They can be very lightly toasted but still crisp or dark brown almost burnt. I prefer them all of the above which is what you get when you don’t worry about them being to evenly spread out in the pan and you use the advanced technique.

The advanced technique: What I do now having made them many of times is put them in the pan then turn it on. By the time the pan has gotten nice and hot and they are golden brown on one side. I give them a quick flip in the pan, turn it off and forget about it. When everything else in the meal is prepared. I pour them on top of the salad; toss them in still a little warm. Delicious!

( Here’s where the picture of the salad with the croutons mixed in goes. Unfortunately, being as this is the first New West recipe blog attempt and there may have been too much PBR and wine used in the filming of this recipe. You will have to use your imagination in what it all looks like together.)

Gardening notes:

YOU SHOULD PLANT A GARDEN. Our family’s grocery bill goes down 60% in the summer due to gardening. If you do the math, on what I save in grocery bills I make $50-$100 per hour in the time I spend in the garden. It is so easy. Besides sharpening implements (link to sharpening page) and building a fire this one of the first things mankind figured out how to do. People spend way more time on their lawns and landscaping than I do on my garden. MOST IMPORTANTLY: The freshy, freshy food from my garden, simply prepared, tastes better than anything I have ever had in a restaurant and I’ve eaten at some good restaurants.

Tips on Planting Lettuce

1. Plant early and often. I plant fresh lettuce seeds every week or two. That way there is a fresh supply of baby lettuce all the time. Arugula grows really fast and bolts quickly. June 10th I’ve already planted it 4 different times. No big deal 5-10 minutes once every couple weeks.

2. I seed lettuce very heavily spread evenly through out an area. No rows. I find it keeps down weeds, stays moist and doesn’t need watered as much. Most importantly, the lettuce grows really tightly and compactly together. When you pull one out the others quickly fill in any open space. A small space turns into the lettuce version of the Horn of Plenty.

3. Corey’s planting technique. Lettuce seeds like to be basically on top of the soil. Most seed packs say 1/8-inch depth. Spreading an 1/8 of soil on top of seeds is not very easy. What I do is sprinkle the seeds heavily (think like planting grass seed) in a well-tilled mostly flat area. With my fingertips just lightly scratch the surface. Visualize lightly scratching someone’s back. Be careful not to push the seeds all together into one spot while you are doing this. I then give the surface a firm pat down with the flat of my hand. (Play the bongos). Add water. Nice light spray not a fire hose or the seeds will get washed all into one place.

3. I like to mix two varieties together. Lots of the time a green and a red variety. That way if one variety doesn’t feel like growing for any of the myriad of mysteries of why plants do what they do, you are bound to get one variety to go off.

4. Try to keep the seeds wet for the first week. This is the only thing that takes some diligence. It will work to some degree no matter what but you want the lettuce to really come up densely this is the key. In the spring this is easy if you live somewhere where it rains a lot.


The Bread Knife Showdown

The Blade Show in Atlanta, GA put on by Blade Magazine is the largest knife show in the world. Even though I have been making and selling knives for over ten years I never attended the big daddy of them all before. I figured it would be a bunch of rednecks buying knives to stab each other with. Actually, in some ways there was plenty of that but it was also so much more. The highlight by far was seeing all the work by the makers of one of kind hand forged knives. I have traveled the country for ten years doing the countries best Juried Fine Art and Craft Shows and I can say without a doubt that the guys at the upper end of making hand forged knives are at the highest level of skill and craftsmanship of any medium in any art form in the country. They work they do is absolutely incredible.

One reason I wanted to attend the Blade Show is that every year they give awards for the best in many categories like best folding knife or best hunting knife. I started producing my new Super Bread knife this year and I really wanted to see how it would stack up against what else was out there. The awards are given out a banquet on Saturday night. I accidentally stumbled into sitting at the table with the Spyderco Co. I chatted with Sal Glesser and his family and top staff. Really cool. The first knife I ever bought was a Spyderco and I’ve carried one in my pocket pretty much ever since.

Alas, when the award for kitchen knife of the year was handed out they did not call my name. It went to Chris Reeve a true legend in the cutlery world and maker of some of the finest small production folding and fixed blade knives in the world. He brought out a line of kitchen knives for the first time this year. The knives looked pretty cool in the display case but to my expert eye they looked a little suspect in the performance category.

I wasn’t surprised not to win. I actually expected the award would go to Shun/ Kershaw’s new Bob Kramer line of kitchen knives. They had a PR coup de taut with an article in the New Yorker Magazine in November. It being my first time there and being that my colorful handles may be a little to light in the loafers for the stab each other, tactical knife crowd, I was a long shot at best to win.

A quick note on by brothers of the redneck. I grew up with chickens and horses, drove a tractor, wear carharett's, chew Copenhagen, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and whiskey and have been known to get a sunburn on the back of my neck while fishing, so when I slander them, I do it as only a brother can.

After the banquet is some classic drinking in the bar at the Waverly Hotel attached to the convention center. It is known as “the pit” because the bar is sunk into the floor. You will walk by a table and there are 6 guys sitting there with 4 or 5 knives sitting in front of them like the are playing poker for blades. You might also see a guy walking around carrying a sword. Legend has it that as many important knife deals happen in The Pit as at the Blade Show. It is certainly true that you can have drinks with all the legends of the cutlery world in one night.

Well, after a few whiskeys, I started to get a little ornery and started talking some smack about the Kitchen of the Year Award. One thing led to another and I ended up throwing down the gauntlet to Chris Reeve. In true Wyoming Cowboy style, I challenged him to a bread knife showdown at high noon the next day at the blade show. This did take some courage and a few whiskeys. Not only is Chris Reeve a legend in the knife industry but is also a very large, somewhat salty, South African expat with a “special forces” mystic. He took it in the good fun I intended and we had several cocktails to cap off the night. I’m sure he thought it was all bar talk, little did he know I went to bed with a plan.

I awoke the next morning feeling like one of my redneck brothers had actually stuck one of their tactical knives in my head. I needed vindication and a little hangover wasn’t going to slow me down. Chris was waffling a bit in the morning but I knew his pride wouldn’t let him back down. So here is the contest that I pulled together.

Three Judges:

Rene’ the Executive Chef from the Waverly Hotel. Complete with chef coat and French accent

Jim Schlender Publisher of Blade Magazine

A Women from the audience who was a self described avid home cook.

The contestants

Chris Reeves slicer “2009 Blade Show Kitchen Knife of the Year”

Kershaw/ Shun Bob Kramer Bread Knife. This is the latest offering from the Seki, Japan based manufacturing juggernaut. They have dominated the kitchen cutlery market for the last 5 plus years. Certainly the odds on favorite to win.

At the last minute Murray Carter went from being a judge to entering a 7-inch straight edged Santoku shape. Pretty brave since that is a very small knife for a slicing contest. Murray is the most famous maker of one of a kind hand forged traditional Japanese Chef knives in the US. He definitely added another level to the legit factor of the contest.

New West KnifeWorks Super Bread.

As the new guy, I was siked to just be hanging with these boys.

The challenge

Each judge cut a tomato, a ham, a hard ciabatta bread and a very soft challah bread with each one of the four different knives. They rated how each knife cut each different food on a scale from 1-5. The highest possible score was twenty points per judge for a total of sixty points.

I would say it was equal parts determination and luck that what started out as drunken bar talk turned out to be a pretty legit contest.

Final score was as follows out of a possible 60.

Chris Reeve slicer: 37

Murray Carter Santoku: 42

Kershaw/ Shun Bob Kramer Bread: 50

New West KnifeWorks Super Bread: 55

What can I say? Victory is sweet. Some other highlights were that it was photographed and videoed by Blade Magazine. The Show organizers liked it and want to take it another level next year.

Since I hosted the whole thing in Chris Reeve’s booth, I can’t say enough about what a good sport he was and I am a little nervous about what he may cook up for some payback for next year.

link to the super bread

Tales of the Super Bread

Epic battle of man versus nature turns into opportunity to test the Super Bread knife.

My ½ acre property sits in the middle of old ranch land in Jackson Hole WY. Some is still ranch, most is smaller Gentleman’s Ranchettes. Irrigation ditches dug mostly by hand in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s run throughout the area. Due to many years of neglect, the later 5 years on my watch a large willow tree’ s roots had grown over a culvert in the irrigation ditch that runs under my driveway. Legally property owners are responsible for the water being able to flow through their property.

This year the roots had grown so large that they were obstructing the flow so much that it was flooding much of my upstream neighbors lawn. The water started running through the ditches a couple of days before I was to depart for the 2009 Blade Show in Atlanta, GA. It takes a few days for it fill and flush the winter’s debris. Not until I was literally leaving did it become clear that my roots were backing water up into the neighbors yard.

I made a few feeble attempts to clear it with a pick and pry bar. I quickly realized I would need power. I got a neighbor who has a mini backhoe to come and clear it the next day and I left town.

My neighbor came over as promised and dug a deep trench clearing out the front of the culvert. Unfortunately that only revealed the fact that the roots had grown deeply into the culvert and some of the willow root mat that he had scraped free had gone into the culvert and plugged it entirely. Some valiant neighbors pitched in and cleared the blockage and got it back to original poorly draining state.

My kind and understanding neighbors waited patiently in their new wetlands for my return a few days later. After trains planes and shuttle buses I returned to Jackson at 2:45 AM. The next morning I was overwhelmed with work from being away and was under the understanding the problem had been taken care of. At 5pm my neighbor came over wearing waiters. He had shut off the ditch and was going to work on my culvert. I was of course embarrassed and immediately threw on my waiters and got out every tool in the barn that might allow me to clear the roots.

The lower two thirds of the 30-inch pipe was a solid mass of willow tree root. It was like a giant SOS pad with quarter inch to half inch steel cable running through it. Heavy strikes with a pick or digging bar would mostly just bounce off.

With the help of some neighbors, I worked until dark in theigh deep water and managed to clear the culvert to about three feet deep into it. It was a little discouraging in that the deeper we got into the culvert the deeper the roots seemed to be going.

The next day in the full light of day I was able to make a more accurate assessment of the situation. We had successfully cleared three feet into the pipe. Unfortunately, it was clear that the SOS pad ran a total of 12 feet deep into the culvert, so another 8 feet needed to be cleared. The other problem was that I couldn’t reach any farther into the pipe with the various digging tools I’d been using.

Peak run off on the Snake River and several days of rain were compounding an already bad situation. The irrigation ditches on the West Bank of the Snake are a warren of trenches and headgates that cowboys have been digging for over a century to provide flood irrigation to their hay fields. No single person knows where they all are. By turning off the water in my ditch I was sending the water off into other ditches. It was only a matter of time before an angry rancher in his pick-up would be coming over six guns blazing or more likely a 2nd home owning dude rancher in his range rover with a lawsuit. Time was of the essence.

A backhoe and new culvert was the obvious solution. There was just not enough time to put the logistics together. Not to mention the several thousand dollars that would have been involved was not exciting. My neighbor and actual born and raised Wyoming rancher described some strange contraptions he had seen engineered for the task. Though I do have “an awesome set of tools” in my knife shop the idea of designing, building and testing the ultimate tool for the job again didn’t seem like it would work with urgency of time involved. The water was still rising!

Though I am sure ridiculous situations like this happen in every region of the US. This to me was the classic example of a time when a cowboy is faced with a big problem and there is no one to call for help. Two iconic Western phrases came to mind “Cowboy up” and “gitter’ done”. It was clear there was no alternative but to go frogman into the pipe.

Though I think there is no formal training program for working in a 30 inch pipe two thirds full of freezing water that was snow a couple days before. I was well suited for the job. Years of whitewater kayaking, training in cave rescue as member of the local search and rescue team and of course years of working with a kitchen knife did have me well prepared for one of the nastiest, silliest, situations I’ve had to tackle in a lifetime of ridiculous activities.

All that was left was to figure out what tools I would try out for the hand-to-hand combat with the Willow root mass. The nice Swedish hatchet I use for hunting was an obvious possibility. Having just arrived home from the Blade Show and a decisive victory in the Bread knife/ slicer showdown, I knew my new Super Bread knife would be the most likely tool to have any luck against natures SOS pad. (click here for the full story on the Bread Knife Showdown http://newwestknifeworks.blogspot.com/ )

After layering up in all of Patagoina’s finest wading gear and a headlamp I crawled/ swam into the pit. (A quick technical note, if you find yourself in a similar situation in the future I would recommend a full wetsuit, probably a 4/5 of 5/6. Waiters are great for standing in water but full submersion, not so much.) After a few deep breaths to brush aside the confined space, drowning panic, I was ready to get to work. I immediately realized there wasn’t nearly enough space to swing the hatchet, so it was Super Bread or nothing.

I made few initial stabs into the mat and was pleasantly surprised that the super bread sunk right in. I then made some long slashes to try to cut some chunks lose. It passed through the mat like I was Luke Skywaker wielding a lightsaber. At this point, I started to get excited. This beast had turned back a 30 pound digging bar with 200 pounds of Ohio corn-fed, born again cowboy on the end and the super bread was going through it like it was tofu.

I’ve only been making the Super Bread for 6 months and I don’t have any seconds or returns yet so I had to use a brand new unused one. Brand new they are wicked sharp. The question was how long the edge would hold up. I had 8 feet of SOS pad and steel cable to shred up. My knives have exceptional edge holding but I figured at some point in the project I would need to at least touch up the edge. Again, I was very pleasantly surprised. I was able to cut a 2ft x 2ft x 8ft channel through the root mat without any sharpening. I could feel the cutting edge slowing down a bit by the end but it still cut through nature’s steel wool with ease.

An hour after I started the culvert was clear and there was nothing left to do but dry off and celebrate with a Pabst Blue Ribbon!

So besides being the finest bread knife and all around slicer you will ever own, if you run into a twenty year old mat of willow tree roots it will work nicely on that as well.

Check out my recipe for Coyote Loops freshest salad with hand cut, pan fried croutons. I cut the croutons that night with same Super Bread unsharpened from the days work.

Link to Coyote Loops Freshest Salad: http://newwestknifeworks.blogspot.com/