For the Love of Chalk

Anybody who’s been with us since the first Egg In A Nest hopped up onto the counter like Bathsheba’s loofah, will probably have noticed that chalk and chalkboards play a big role in the life of Table on Ten. There’s something primal at work in the relationship between hand, stone and wall. When late-Neanderthal noticed reindeer running past the mouth of his cave, he etched his feelings rudely over the mantlepiece. Hittite housewives, having witnessed their husbands sucked up by tractor beams from flying saucers, would immediately reproduce the scene on the wall to avoid accusations of matricide when friends came round later for cold barley porridge. And the following conversation wouldn’t have been out of place in the troglodyte dwellings of ancient Cappadocia:

Byzantine Man 1: Have you heard the one about the Immolation of St Garibaldus?
Byzantine Man 2: Why don’t you scratch it on the ceiling?

Detail / The Church of Dark Sandals
The post-iconoclastic Church of Dark Sandals (detail)

Whilst we rarely use Table on Ten’s chalkboards for religious inspiration (unless it’s the worship of Yemana’s Nettle Balls), they are nevertheless a kind of ever-evolving expression of the fundamentals.

What’s on the menu (in chalk).
What’s not on the menu (chalky smear).
What’s on the menu instead (in chalk over chalky smear).

In an effort to introduce perishables into the Microshop, we recently acquired a sarcophagus-sized, mustard-coloured refrigerator and coated it with Rust-oleum chalkboard paint. What’s inside is stated on the outside. Where you might have expected to find the mummy of Tutankhamun, you can now find such items as local non-homogenized Crystal Valley milk, our Table on Ten soups ‘to go’, Last Harvest Farm free-range eggs, hickory-smoked bacon from Dan Finn Farm,  fresh greens from Burnett Farms, sweet pies from Four & Twenty Blackbirds and limited-edition savoury pies from Table on Ten. New stuff will appear – inside and out – as the seasons progress. And in every case we’ll chalk it up when it’s here, wipe it off when it’s gone. Like a metaphor for Life. The temporal nature of all good things.

The Fridge

Weekend Specials we try to render specially: on the board by the door, if there’s time and inspiration. Whether it’s about pies or soup or just the chicken-scratchings of a homily. It’s kind of our humble nod to the painterly Cappadocians, busily making beauty for beauty’s sake in some remote corner of an occasionally unforgiving landscape; and trying to do it beautifully.

The Board by the Door

Born Again | The Accidental Loaf

Ever since the inauguration of Friday and Saturday pizza nights, way back in our Pleistocene period (October of last year), we’ve had to untangle the weekly riddle of how many doughs to prepare. Weekends in Bloomville are unpredictable; forecasting who’ll bounce through the door seeking pizza is weird science. Multiple factors come into play. There’s the notorious weather of course. Then there are holidays, events going on in New York City, events going on around Delaware County, Facebook posts, word-of-mouth, who already popped in for lunch, sinkholes, bath salts, Acts of God, traffic, deer migration patterns, the phases of the moon, voices from beyond the grave and the life-cycle of the monarch butterfly.

Table on Ten proprietor attempts to calculate Friday pizza night attendance
Table on Ten employee attempts to calculate Friday pizza night attendance

Too few doughs and we’re those men with ping-pong bats on airport runways, turning away carloads of distressed customers who have driven across the county only to find the cupboard bare. Too many, and we’re on an all-dough diet until it’s gone. Because disappointed customers are by far the greater sin, we default to making more than enough and consequently being left with a few. But what to do with retired pizza dough? There’s little call for dough pot-holders and dough macrame is unwieldy and so 2010.

Then it struck us. What about … baking it?  I mean, call us crazy, but it’s completely amazing live sourdough, the blue-blooded end of an ancestral thread that stretches back through Brian and Kelli and beyond.

Sunday morning: we gathered at the kitchen table, emptied out the remainders and moulded them into different shapes and sizes. A light misting with water, dusting with flour and in they went. And out they came. Beautiful Table-made sourdough loaves. Just enough bite to give them presence, not so much as to claim your dentures or leave your cheeks bruised.

loaves

We are keenly aware that bread-making is an arcane art, with its own folklore, orthodoxies and mythological men in bronze helmets prancing about in front of ships. And we’re not claiming to have reinvented any wheels here. But what we have done is repurposed stuff that would otherwise have gone into the compost and come up with something natural, completely local and really tasty. We toasted up some slices and spread them with butter and meyer lemon marmalade. Delicious. And then we cut it thick, toasted it, and made it the base for Marmite Guacamole toast, a vegetarian staple of the lunch menu. The recipe is below. Come by and give it a spin on its new homespun platform. Marmite is for sale in the microshop too …

thick slice of hearty bread
Cowbella butter
Marmite
most of a ripe avocado
heavy smear of chipotle pepper
teaspoon of lime or lemon juice
few basil leaves, ripped
Frankies olive oil
fresh, cracked black pepper
crumbled feta
Maldon salt flakes

Lightly toast the bread, spread it with butter and a thin smear of Marmite. Put the avocado, chipotle, lime juice and basil in a bowl and mash it well with the back of a fork. Spread it thickly on the toast. Drizzle with the Frankies oil, sprinkle with black pepper, feta and Maldon salt to taste. Deluxe Version: before sprinkling on the pepper and feta, make a deep dent in the guacamole with the back of a spoon. Poach an egg. Lower it into the dent, flare the edges of the guacamole so it looks nested.  Sprinkle the pepper, feta, salt. Immediately before eating, break the yolk and let it run into the guacamole.

Marmite Guacamole Toast (Deluxe Version)
Marmite Guacamole Toast Deluxe

OSMOS | How To Make a Pie

Osmos | Issue 1
Osmos | Issue 1

It’s been no more than a couple of weeks since the persistent blanket of snow finally gave way to the browns and duns of a Delaware County spring. Perhaps it’s the soul’s innate capacity for self-preservation that stretches time, making it feel longer since winter’s bony grip was at our elbow. But now it’s official; spring has arrived and the redwing blackbirds will not shut up about it. Ramps are muscling up between the rocks and cyclists are blurring the backroads with spandex.

Odd that it was just February – six weeks ago – we were approached by our friend and unfailing pizza-night supporter, the astonishing Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, with the bones of a conceptual photo story based around Table on Ten, for the inaugural issue of her new Magazine OSMOS. Even as we excitedly listened to Cay Sophie’s proposal (probably with our arms in the wood-fired oven or one of the sinks) it became clear that she was thinking of something quite different from the kind of pieces we’d been involved with till then  – Wilder, Martha Stewart Living, Remodelista. No sunlight dappling the surface of potato pizzas or meticulously-casually abandoned forks for Cay Sophie. She’d seen a grid of pictures we’d posted, illustrating a journey around various farms picking up ingredients for a pie. We must have been in esoteric mood that day; the grid was more dreamscape than literal rendering of the journey, and it was that aspect – the landscape of the mind, perhaps – that Cay Sophie was interested in exploring.

With deadlines already pressing, London-based Danish photographer Henrik Knudsen flew from the warmth of California into the teeth of Delaware County’s lingering winter. For the best part of a week, he ploughed a furrow through our snow-bound corner of the county, up hill and down dale, calling in at producers Burnett Farms and Harpersfield Cheese, frequently scuttling into Table on Ten to borrow Inez so she could walk shin deep through snow, sit behind foggy windows, drive along deserted roads.

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An amazing few days: we cooked dinners, lit bonfires, gathered each evening to look at pictures and watch the storyline unfold. In some ways the process was quite natural – reflecting upon the familiar choreography of living and working in this landscape – and in other ways a complete departure. Walking slowly across a frozen field of corn stubble is something we all know. Walking back-and-forth across it a dozen times in the bone-chilling cold is somewhat less familiar. The narrative that emerged felt something like the lingering edge of a waking dream.

It was a privilege to be able to collaborate on a project of this stature with Cay Sophie (a force of nature in her own right), Henrik and Christian.  And what a thrill to see it out so quickly, just a few weeks after it was shot, beautifully printed and currently available on the shelves of the microshop. Here are a few pictures from the story; you can also see the whole piece as it ran in OSMOS in the Press section of the website.

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Moonshine Maple | The Finns of Glen Burnie

Wind from the North, the sap cometh Forth.
Wind from the East, the sap runneth Least.
Wind from the South, there is a Drouth.
Wind from the West, the sap runneth Best .

We have it on good authority that they’ve been making maple syrup in the northwestern Catskills since the Wabanaki spirit Glooscap plucked hairs from the belly of Grandmother Woodchuck and wove them into a magical bag. Dan Finn makes no claim of similar intimacy with the local ground-squirrels. Still, March-in, April-out, you’ll find him at that remote point where the circumference of Bovina bleeds gently into Delhi, sturdily manning the massive old wood-fired boiler in his sap-shed; alchemizing sugar from sap. Like Casey Jones. Steamin’ and a-rollin’.

Where Huff meets Glen Burnie
Where Huff meets Glen Burnie

Whilst the nuances of maple syrup production are delightfully arcane and embroidered with folklore, the basics are pretty straightforward. When the weather starts warming up in Spring (which could be as late as mid-August in Delaware County), sap in maple trees starts running from the roots through the trunk to the branches. During the cusp period when temperatures are above freezing by day but below by night, the sap runs up-and-down like a bellhop in a Paris hotel. Bore a hole into that vertical stream, fashion a little spout, hope something drips from it. Build a fire, reduce what you’ve gathered by boiling. Pour it on your pancakes.

In ages past, maple trunks would be punctured with sharp rocks, the sap channeled to hollowed out logs along conduits forged from birch bark. And though Dan offers us no such aboriginal prowess, he pretty much does things the old way. The boiler’s out back in the old shed, it’s the size of a 1970’s Sedan DeVille and is fired by wood. The sap is trundled down from 200 trees above the farmhouse behind an ancient tractor in giant metal drums. There’s PBR and 90’s music from a battered plastic boombox. Nobody’s reversing any osmosis on Huff Road. But it’s plenty hot in the shed, and Dan’s right there at the helm stoking the beast like Beelzebub pokering sinners in the fiery furnaces of Hell.

Moonshine Maple
Moonshine Maple

Our ramble with Dan has not been exclusively along the path of Moonshine Maple. We used his milk-fed Yorkshire Pork – in many cuts and consistencies – for the 10-Mile Pie, and his Highland Beef for the hand-numbered Steak and Ale Pies. In the days before Horizon Organic spirited all his Jersey milk from the hills and hollows of Glen Burnie, we’d go over to the farm, drink a beer, sample his artisanal cheeses (‘Danchego’) and listen to vintage Pavement cuts.

Now, along with Moonshine Maple, we carry Dan’s bacon in the microshop and use it in the bacony version of the Egg In A Nest. We’re also employing Moonshine’s more delicate sibling – maple sap itself – as the basis of one of our house-made sodas. Filtered and pasteurized, we carbonate it and pour it over ice. Sap, ice and a little Wind from the West. As elemental as can be.

Maple Sap
Maple Sap