One Woman Kitchen: Allison Kave of Butter and Scotch - Queen of Baked Goods and Booze

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Allison Kave is this week's awesome guest on "One Woman Kitchen." The co-owner of the trendy "Butter & Scotch" in Brooklyn, where cakes and cocktails happily coalesce, she is the author of "First Prize Pies" and co-author of the "Butter & Scotch Cookbook." Once upon a time Allison may have been a successful gallerist and art historian, but now she's happier than ever as social activist, community-builder, brilliant conversationalist, and hipster restaurateur. Get ready for the world's best pie crust recipe and a kitchen tip of my own.

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One Year Later: 100,000 Meals

Photo Credit: Laura Landau Come volunteer with us!  Everyone is welcome.  CBE Feeds (at Congregation Beth Elohim, Garfield and 8th Avenue) in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Monday thru Friday, every week, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. For more info: rozannegold@mindspring.com

Like most chefs, I'm used to feeding people in good times.

But one year ago, I began a pop-up emergency operation in the second floor kitchen of a synagogue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and as of today, along with hundreds of volunteers, have prepared and delivered our 100,000th meal to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

At midnight after the storm, Andy Bachman, a social-activist Rabbi, fired off an email to his congregation: He was looking for a way to feed several hundred people at a nearby Armory for a few days. These poor souls had been uprooted from the city's nursing homes. Some were old, some were sick, and others in desperate need of a warm meal. I woke my husband and said...we need to do something. Credit card in hand, we raided our local Key Food and bought everything we could carry.

When we arrived at the shul, a platoon of volunteers was waiting. Within several hours, together we made 600 sandwiches. The next day, 1,000.

Everyone wanted to do something. We had few pots, pans or utensils but we managed. I asked everyone I knew for a dozen hard-boiled eggs and a loaf of bread. This simple request demonstrated the amazing power of community. Within 24 hours we were peeling thousands of eggs for sandwiches. Without everyone's involvement, we would not have been able to reach our goals those first few days.

Cooking was one thing, but how to get the food to those in need? Many people had little fuel in their cars and gas stations were shuttered. More volunteers became the beneficent commanders who located drivers and dispatched them to the most vulnerable areas. They ensured that our promise was delivered from that day forward.

The next day Rabbi Bachman made another request. In addition to 2500 sandwiches, he told us he wanted to prepare 500 hot meals. My husband ran home to get his cleaver and we bought and hacked up 150 chickens from Costco. We made mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and sent out cookies (and fruit when we could find it.) The next day, we did it again....and again...and again. We made sandwiches and cooked up whatever raw ingredients were donated to us. The chapel was filled with potatoes, onions and fresh green beans and canned vegetables. The upstairs ballroom, where meals were assembled, resembled an outsized army mess test. We cooked for 3000 hungry people that first Sunday after the storm.

We operated this way for months -- feeding people without homes, without kitchens, without power, people who lived near markets that had no food.

That's when it struck me: I realized that I never knew anyone who was truly, chronically, hungry. After all, at the age of 23, as first chef to New York Mayor Ed Koch, I knew more about catering political parties than hunger on the streets. Later, as consulting chef to the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World, I fed happier people in happier times, that is, until another tragedy took hold. But Sandy brought to my door the reality that people very close to my community grapple with hunger every day. Our kitchen, affectionately known as CBE Feeds, was able to lift some of that worry. Yes, with food and sandwiches -- but also with spiritual nourishment -- we showed up day after day, provided hope and connection, and proved that we cared.

The kitchen has become its own sacred space. Volunteers arrive from everywhere -- from Staten Island, Riverdale, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and from all over Manhattan, church groups from Ohio, students from Harvard Divinity School. During the Christmas holidays there were people from California and Washington State, from Israel and France.

In the beginning, Anne Hathaway heard about our efforts and came to lend support. And so did Natan Sharansky who'd heard how we'd helped the Russian communities in Brighton and Manhattan Beach.

Today we feed those-in-need in the Gravesend housing projects, hungry students at the Red Hook Initiative, abused women and their children at the Sea and Salt Mission, volunteer construction workers rebuilding homes in Coney Island, and displaced folks at Chips.

My main job is not to make sandwiches, but to honor everyone who walks through the kitchen door. We ask their names and are eager to hear their stories. One woman who touched my heart had lost her Far Rockaway home yet came every day to cook for those who were less fortunate. She felt lucky; she had a friend in Park Slope to spend time with. We didn't see her for awhile, her name was Alice, but then she came to the kitchen several more times. "We missed you," we all said. Do you have a home, now? No, she replied, but I still want to help. That was months ago. Miraculously, Alice appeared at the kitchen today. One year later, still no home, but still eager to make a chicken salad sandwich.

For those of you who pitched in after the Storm, you know that this work is its own reward. Some 2,800 volunteers have walked through our kitchen doors, and with amazing grace put on a hair net and gloves and, one year later, continue to prepare food for others, with little more than a thank you and a cup of coffee. The need is still great, so join us -- you might meet Alice.

For Illuminated Foodies and Cookbook Lovers: Come Join Me at "Brooklyn by the Book"

on Wednesday evening, October 24, 2012. I'm delighted to be part of a sparkling initiative created by two Brooklyn institutions -- Congregation Beth Elohim and Community Bookstore -- as they launch a new literary forum.  At "Brooklyn by the Book's" first food event, I will have the pleasure of interviewing the celebrated authors of JERUSALEM: A Cookbook and engage in a lively conversation about their gastronomic journey and culinary inspirations.  Hope to see you next week in Park Slope.  Share with all your Brooklyn friends! More information below (click to enlarge).

Cold SpaghettiOs and Tastes of the Week

The impending hurricane had us scurrying to a local supermarket in Jeffersonville, New York to gather some goods before we headed back to Park Slope. As suggested by camp officials, we brought our daughter home from French Woods one day early. "What to eat?" we asked ourselves, if we're to lose electricity during the storm. "Beans, "I said to my husband. "I'll make some beans."  "You can't," he replied, "nor can you make your morning coffee." (Our oven needs a jolt of electricity to work.)  "Wow, I thought."  Our daughter doesn't eat fish and we can't heat anything up, so what does one eat, I muttered, as we sauntered up and down the aisles.  I really had to laugh as we pulled baked beans off the shelf (cold? could be good!); canned corn, breakfast cereal, peanut butter, applesauce, mandarin oranges, and spaghettiOs.  Yes, we did. Other tastes of the week included:

Fabulous gelato at Grom in the New York's Greenwich Village:  espresso gelato and crema di Grom (with nubbins of corn biscuits and shaved chocolate).  A great marriage of flavors.  Luxurious texture.

Such a delicious feijoada and pernil (roast pork) -- washed down with a couple of glasses of pinot noir-like Zweigelt (from Austria) at Samba Cafe in Jeffersonville, New York.   More about that tomorrow!

Two wonderful salads at our daughter's camp! (French Woods for the Performing Arts.)  Roasted sweet potato and white bean salad (with a touch of vinegar and curry), and one of best couscous salads I've had.  Will try to get the recipe -- will feed 800!

A great seasonal summer tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella, wood-fired olives, and a credible Pizza Margherita at the Park Slope hotspot, Franny's.

Robust, savory, yum cannelloni filled with lamb and some unknown (but knowable) pungent cheese at Tarallucci e Vino on East 18th Street in NY.

Good white-and-yellow corn on the cob from Key Food.  Really.

And...a great, rare burger at Slainte (Irish bar) on the Bowery.  Decent house red.  Cheap.  Good fries.

Tastes of the Week

August 15  through August 21 A delicious, intense cafe cortado (espresso with milk foam) at the charming, tiny Italianesque coffee bar in Park Slope called Cafe Regular du Nord -- located on Berkeley off 7th Ave.   It is the only time I ever have milk in my coffee: I am a die-hard black coffee addict.  The cortado tastes like a special treat and better than dessert!

A wonderful salad of baby calamari and a sformata of polenta, gorgonzola and wild mushrooms at restaurant Da Andrea (across the street from the Quad Cinema where I saw Passione for the 2nd time!)  A glass of a good Montepulciano -- their house red wine.

An espresso upstairs at an adorable cafe called Adore (run by a Japanese man) whose customers are mostly Japanese.  A tiny secret on West 13th Street, where soups, sandwiches and other light food is also served.  It's a great place to hide, get hydrated, read, and stay cool.

Went to to uber-famous little pie shop in Brooklyn called Four & 20 Blackbirds.  The salty caramel apple pie and the strawberry-balsamic pie actually exceeded expectations. (3rd avenue and 7th street in Bklyn).

Not far from the pie shop, if you want some savory food before your pie, is Bar Tono which has style and good food.  Pizza looked good, so did my friend's burger, and my salad of wild arugula, roquefort, dried cranberries, and walnuts was delicious and ample.  (3rd avenue and 9th street in Bklyn).

Went to restaurant La Mangeoire on 2nd Avenue and 52nd street in Manhattan for the first time in over 30 years!   The 4-star chef Christian Delouvrier is cooking there!  Lovely stuffed sepia, calves liver with caramelized onions (you hardly find that any more!), Provencal vegetable tart, even chocolate mousse for dessert.  What a lovely trip down memory lane.  Gerard, the owner, is charming.

Another amazing coffee -- this time a "macchiato" -- an espresso with just a dab of steamed milk, on the rooftop of Eataly at the new Birreria.  A credible offering of paper-thin slices of coppa with good bread and olive oil, and excellent Prosecco poured from a magnum in a beautiful glass. Nice touch.

Great chorizos in dry sherry at Cafe Espagnol off 7th Avenue in NYC.  Such an institution, I've wanted to go for decades but finally did.  My husband and I shared a bottle of good Rioja and pork chops with peppers, onions and sausages (awash in an old-fashioned, finger-licking brown sauce).

A dish at home of succulent pork "tonnato" (it's usually made with veal) blanketed in a velvety sauce of tuna, olive oil, mayonnaise, white wine reduction, background perfume of garlic, rosemary and bay.  As a garnish, lots of capers and a unique touch of whole leaves of fried sage!  Really good!

Sherry, Anyone?

A little more than six months ago, Alessandro Piliego opened a sleek, inviting tapas bar, and decked the walls with Botero paintings and high shelves teeming with sherry bottles. The hanging rustic chandeliers cast a warm glow along the bar and caress the tall tables and high-back stools where one sips and sups small plates of Spanish food.  Located on the burgeoning end of Court Street in Brooklyn, near the now-famous Prime Meats and Buttermilk Channel, Alessandro named his place Palo Cortado, and I asked him what it meant.  Something new to me, although I am an avid fan of fino sherry, palo cortado is a style of sherry, slightly richer than oloroso.  To that end, he could have similarly named his tapas bar, Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Moscatel, or Pedro Ximenez, as each is a different type of sherry along the spectrum of very dry to very sweet. I was delighted to learn about this and even more delighted to drink it.  These fortified wines deserve more respect.  The varying descriptors of their flavor profile are rich and include, unlike wine, words like salty and nutty.  They are great companions to authentic, and not-so-authentic, tapas -- at once both piquant and lusty. It was fun to share the night with the food maven, Arthur Schwartz, whose birthday we were celebrating, and Bob Harned, who had not been to Palo Cortado since it opened.  They did, however, know Alessandro and had been to a tasting in the summer.   If I could order 5 servings of the patatas bravas for myself, I would have.  At $4 a plate, that would be bargain. They were exceptional: small cubes of perfectly fried potatoes laced with aioli and Rioja sauces.  We had delicious octopus (pulpo a la gallega) served with small potato discs and a pimenton vinaigrette.  Next came spiced lamb meatballs with mint-cucumber yogurt and preserved lemon, and piquillo rellenos -- small roasted peppers stuffed with chicken and cheese, served with a white bean puree and pepitas.  We enjoyed fabulous mixed olives and briny caperberries and acidic boquerones, which are marinated white anchovies with capers, garlic and parsley.  These two palate openers went especially well with the super-dry, and slightly salty, mineral-y, manzanilla that we had.  We moved on to a delicious full-bodied Rioja.  Instead of birthday cake, Alessandro brought something brilliant to try:  Medjool dates marinated in sherry with vanilla yogurt mousse and roasted almonds.  Happy Birthday Arthur, and muchos gracias to Alessandro.

I offer you one of my most radically simple and delicious tapas to serve at home.  Fatty and rich, these chorizos will taste wonderful with a glass of cellar-temperature Amontillado, or...Palo Cortado!  (located at 520 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY.  tel: (718) 407-0047). Grilled Chorizos in Red Wine In a shallow ovenproof dish (a small paella pan is great), slice 8 ounces chorizo or pepperoni 1/4-inch thick.  Place flat-side down, 1/4-inch apart.  Pour 1/2 cup red wine to come halfway up the sides of chorizo.  Preheat broiler.  Broil 6 to 8 minutes until crispy.  Spoon pan juices on top.  Sprinkle with finely slivered cilantro.  Serves 4