Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bits and Morsels gives back

Chocolate heaven at the Francois Chocolate Bar.

As I was thinking about Thanksgiving this year, the variety of turkey-cooking techniques, and the thousands of restaurants that serve up turkey dinners, it just didn’t feel right to go about business as usual. I don’t know if it’s the recession, the wars, a sign of the times or our new President's emphasis on community service, but this year I wanted to give back.

I don't feel I am leaving you empty handed as there are hundreds of wonderful food columns dedicated to the art and sometimes the sheer gluttony of the Thanksgiving feast. Let them entertain you while I hopefully educate you about the Food Bank for New York City.
David Grossnickle, Director of Food Sourcing at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the Bronx.
Recently, I took a trip to the Food Bank warehouse in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. The warehouse is 90,000 square feet and resembles Costco, only larger. All of the food that is procured is then quickly redistributed to over 1,000 food assistance programs throughout New York City. David Grossnickle, the head of food sourcing, gave me a tour of the warehouse, explaining how the bar codes on the food packages make it possible to precisely keep track of inventory. This includes packaged, canned, perishable and non-perishable food.

A large portion of the food comes to the warehouse in bulk and needs to be broken down into sizes that can be delivered to the food pantries (one way to help is to volunteer to break down larger packages into smaller boxes). Saying the Food Bank warehouse is a large-scale operation is an understatement -- it was startling to learn how many New Yorkers require the food that comes from the warehouse. For a little bit of perspective, 1 in 5 New Yorkers relies upon the Food Bank for New York City. Considering that the unemployment rate in New York is up 75% from last year, this number is only going to increase.
The Food Bank For New York City's Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem.
After leaving the warehouse I stopped off at the Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem (which is run by the Food Bank), located at 252 West 116th Street. I met up with Jesse Taylor, Senior Director of Community Kitchen & Senior Food, who explained how the food pantry and kitchen operate day to day. A food pantry is sort of like a supermarket where people can come and stock up on the basics like milk and canned tuna.

This particular food pantry stocks local produce and plenty of healthy items. Those who utilize the pantry are low income New Yorkers and rely on the pantry to eat regularly. The pantry is comforting because visitors can choose exactly what they want and prepare it themselves in their homes. This is different from the soup kitchen as many of its regulars are homeless.
Jesse Taylor, Senior Director of the Community Kitchen and Food Pantry of West Harlem.
Nowadays, it’s common to see well-dressed New Yorkers sitting next to New York's homeless. All of the food served in the kitchen is high quality and lovingly prepared. And much of the food is flavored with fresh herbs that are grown in the kitchen’s herb and vegetable garden (sponsored by BNP Paribas). A general assumption is that those who benefit from donated food don't deserve good food. The fact is everybody deserves a hearty and nutritious meal. The day I was there dinner consisted of roasted chicken with macaroni cheese; it smelled great.

As I left the Community Kitchen in the late afternoon, scores of hungry New Yorkers were already starting to line up outside for dinner.
It’s easy to help:

• Donate food.

• Raise funds: Every $1 donation helps provide 5 meals.

• Organize a virtual food drive. The donation is virtual, the food is real.

• Spread the word: Wear your Go Orange button: Orange is the color of hunger awareness. The Go Orange button tells people you care about New Yorkers in need and that you’ve made a commitment to end hunger in New York City. To make a donation and to get your button, go to

• Volunteer. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, food pantry or in their warehouse. To volunteer contact Heather Joseph at

Recently the Food Bank for New York in collaboration with NYC Service launched an “Adopt a Food Program." The program will match individuals and volunteers with food pantries and soup kitchens throughout NYC. This great program will allow for a more sustainable year-round support system for these food agencies.

For more information and to register please click here.
The Food Bank's 90,000-square-foot warehouse in the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the Bronx. Where the food is sorted for eventual distribution to more than 1,000 food assistance programs throughout the five boroughs.
Clockwise from top left: The massive warehouse space; In the warehouse's freezer; Fruits and vegetable sorted into boxes; Onions and shallots.
Peanut butter. Meatballs in sauce.
All food packages have bar codes and can be tracked. One of the devices used to keep track of the food in the warehouse.
The pantry in the Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem. Canned proteins are important for the pantry.
Milk in the Community Kitchen. The food pantry distributes a lot of whole grain items.
The herb garden in the Community Kitchen. Salads and vegetables in the Community Kitchen.
The dining room of the Community Kitchen. Freshly baked bread.
Dishing out the food in the Community Kitchen. Dinner 2 go: roast chicken, corn and mac and cheese.
Every good deed should be rewarded. Of course the best reward is feeling good on the inside but a chocolate dessert from the new Francois Chocolate bar comes in a very close second. I’m very excited about the new chocolate bar on the fourth floor of Mauboussin at 714 Madison Avenue.

I prefer to take the stairs. Not only is it a workout before the chocolate gorge-fest, but you can browse the breathtaking Mauboussin jewelry on your way up.
Payard is inside the Mauboussin store ...
Mauboussin jewels.
The bar is more of a café with a few tables and loads of chocolates, macarons, desserts and drinks like coffee and hot chocolate available. I’m a fan of the verrines which are similar to parfaits. They are served in delicate glasses that you can take home when you are done eating (or licking clean).

It’s a real value especially since none of the desserts are over $7. The verrine du japonais is filled with chocolate and yuzu, which is a type of citrus. The yuzu cuts through the sweetness and makes the verrine light and sumptuous.
Francois Payard and Alain Nemarq. The George V.
Francois Chocolate Bar will be offering pecan tarts, cranberry cakes and other festive cakes for Thanksgiving. To get your cake by Thanksgiving, all orders must be placed no later than Tuesday 11/24.

For more information go to:

Francois Chocolate Bar
714 Madison Avenue
It's all about the chocolate in Payard ...
The chocolate bar! Bite-size and big mouth-size chocolates, and Macarons too!
A colorful selection of Macarons. The verrine du japonais.
Traditional dark hot chocolate ... good till the last drop.
Check out this video of people in China eating a fish that has been deep fried, yet is still alive and squirming on the plate. The video is shocking but worth watching. View with caution. [The Huffington Post]

If you are planning on using Libby’s
canned pumpkin ... you better stock up now because there is likely going to be a shortage. The recent rain storms have left the fields soggy and the pumpkins difficult to harvest. The pumpkin harvest wasn’t strong last year either, so they don't have much back stock. [NY Times]

We all have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my friends, my family, my dog and their good health. I am especially thankful for my NYSD family. I could not ask for better editors and mentors than DPC and JH. I am also thankful to the readers whom I love getting e-mails from. I wish everyone a happy and healthy thanksgiving filled with friends, family, charity, and great food.

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

Comments? Contact Jordana here