Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Greetings from The East Coast

Hi everyone, sorry I’ve been on vacation hiatus from writing and I am currently running around in NY.  Here are a few rumblings and mumblings from my trip here:

-I missed and enjoy the cold.  No, seriously.  It’s in my blood.

-“People on the streets…dadadeedadee… people on the streets.”

-I have now eaten pizza 3 times in the last 2 weeks.  Not really shocking unless you take in account that I ate pizza 3 times in 3 months prior to flying out here.

-I couldn’t goat the guy from Sam Adams Brewery to serve me some damn Utopia.  He had charisma, but that does nothing for you when you don’t give it up.  That’s a lesson for the kiddies.

Here are some pics from the brewery:

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-No, we did not feed my niece any Sam Adams Boston Lager.  It was only IBC Root Beer.

-My niece Sophie is in the running for Cutest Baby Ever, but she doesn’t know.  Thank goodness.  My other niece, Madeleine, always knew.  You’re shit outta luck when babies know how cute they are.

-Today, I went to Eleven Madison for lunch.  It was exquisite and elegantly understated.

-Ramen Setagaya is still the king.

-“What I want, you’ve got that might be hard to handle.  Like a flame that burns a candle. ”

-I am a true believer that when you travel and plan all trips around good places to eat, you will inevitably have a successful and great trip. 

-Shake.  Shack. 

-No one in NY has put their stamp on becoming a signature coffee roaster of the city.  Blue Bottle in SF, Murky in DC, Stumptown in Portland, Intelligensia of Chicago/LA…what’s going on NY?

-NY is all of a sudden pooling up with an overabundance of underwhelming and overrated American-Mediterranean cuisine.  Please, cease and desist.

-I have not eaten a cupcake yet since getting here and I have no inclination or urge to.

-I can’t get into the Tim Burton exhibit at the NY MOMA.  Planning FAIL.

-Getting into PDT is annoyingly difficult, but what I don’t ultimately understand is why I can’t get easily get a good cocktail when I spend $12-$14 on one.  I miss drinking in San Francisco.

-I’d have to be all types of stupid to pay $7 for Hamachi Nigiri.  That is a “pass” on sushi in NY.

-Another thing that I “pass” on, designer Banh Mi.  I’m not sure I ever want to pay more than $4 for traditional Banh Mi.  It’s especially stupid considering I’ve had great classic Banh Mi in DC for less than $2.50.

-Still haven’t seen much offal or game in many restaurants – forget about trying to find out what farm it’s from.

-Bob Dylan’s Christmas collaboration with Los Lobos is a travesty of music.

-Few more days in NY, everything  seems to be building up for a big hurrah!

-Don’t forget the most important thing on New Year’s is a breath mint.  Don’t be that guy.

-Try to kiss and hug like you mean it: own it.

-I’m not making any resolutions, but hopefully I can genuinely try to continue to be fair, honest and good to as many people as I possibly can.  I hope everyone has a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do You Love Something Enough To See It Burn?

image A friend of mine alerted me yesterday to a NY Times article regarding the Buzzwords of 2009 – one of which happened to list the word: Aporkalypse.  I wasn’t so sure of exactly what he specifically meant by the term at the time, but the sound of Aporkalypse intrigued me a little.

Take a second and turn on your stereo.  Load “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies and absorb yourself in a clear stream of thought.  What would happen if there was a direct correlation between conventionally produced pork meat and a widespread disease/flu breakout?  What would happen if something like Aporkalypse became a reality?  What if we had to destroy the majority of the pig population in attempt to limit a spread of influenza?

I’m not much of an anarchist, but given that the scenario takes place, wouldn’t it be nice to get a shot to start with a clean slate?  Wouldn’t we get a chance to redevelop and properly breed classic heritages instead of massively over produced hybrid pigs of some kind?  Wouldn’t we be forced into sustainability out of fear of another massive outbreak?     Wouldn’t the realities of an Aporkalypse serve as the shining example and resounding alarm for true food reform?  Could true reform happen without making the smoking gun absolutely obvious?

 

Aren’t you curious?

 

Maybe just a little?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Favorite Guilty Pleasures

I think a lot of people often are curious as to how chefs eat at home.  And, to be perfectly honest, the cooking at home for chefs is likely to be a good deal better than a regular home cook’s attempts at putting together a dinner.  Unfortunately, that’s not normally the circumstances that food professionals seem to eat under.  If you cook all day and night, sometimes you just don’t have the energy to put the time and effort into the same thing at home.  Given the chance for dinner at home (rare for night staff), the meal at home can sometimes be the most egregious 3 minute slap-together hodgepodge you can imagine.  So I thought it’d be kind of fun to give you a honest window into my favorite guilty pleasures and after work meals.

 

In no particular order:

 

Insatiable Morning Craving: McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffin 

Yes, from the processed cheese to the slightly overnuked egg…oh sweet perfection.  I could probably eat 3 of these.  It remains as 1 of 3 things I can still enjoy from McDonald’s.  No, fries are not one of them.  Shocking, huh?

 

Favorite Late Night Four Minute Meal: Nissin Ramen w/ Over Easy Fried Eggs

I’ve timed out perfectly that while it takes 3 minutes for the noodles to get soft, I can effectively cook the eggs on the pan simultaneously without any wasted effort.  If there was ever an instant ramen hangover late night joint, I’d rock that station.

 

Favorite Mutant Habit: KFC and Costco Chicken

I get about 1 or 2 chances every couple of months to eat at either establishments, but I dare and challenge you to deny how good that mutant chicken tastes.  Seriously, $6 for a juicy rotisserie chicken.  It’s actually cheaper to buy the cooked chicken than a raw one at Costco I think.   

 

Favorite Processed Goodies: Tater Tots

Oh my crispy fluffy golden globs of goodness.  Tater tots are like human kryptonite because they pair crispy fried potato with memories of fun childhood indulgence.  Not enjoying tater tots might just be un-American.  I’m just saying.

 

Most Wrong Creation That Was So Right: Fried Rice Blanketed In Egg Omelet

Yes, I cooked fried rice with leftover pork parts and green onions, then I made a 4 egg omelet and wrapped the fried rice in there like it was a golden quesadilla.  Because some egg is good, but lots of egg is great.

 

I Don’t Know Why I Occasionally Drink This: Red Bull and Vodka

Everything about Red Bull and vodka is wrong.  Decent vodka is already tasteless, which means that the generic stuff is just shit.  Red Bull speeds you up and vodka knocks you back a little.  It’s like getting kicked in the nuts and enjoying it.  It sucks and I suck for somehow reasoning that this is a good idea on certain nights.

 

Sweet Lovin: Powdered Jelly Donuts

I love semi-fake fruit filled donuts.  The messier, the better.  The only negative thing about the jelly donut is when they go cheap on the filling.  Hate it when that happens.  I hate you for suckering me out of filling and I hate myself for wanting more. 

 

Worst East Coast Addiction: Dunkin Donuts Ice Coffee “Regular”

A “regular” ice coffee at Dunkin Donuts for non-East coasters is a coffee that is filled with cream and filled with sugar (I ask for splenda substituted).  East Coasters drink this because they enjoy the subtle hint of actual coffee in there.  It’s what you can call a sugary “half and half latte”.

 

Most Overindulgent Sandwich/Sub/Grinder: Hot Red Pastrami, Provolone, Lettuce, Tomato, Mayo and Ketchup

When I say pastrami, I don’t mean that lean black stuff.  I want the red shredded fatty good stuff and I want a ton of it.  The pastrami is seared on a hot plate and then cheese gets laid on top.  Everything goes into a long sub roll and then into an oven for toasting.  Ahhh, greasy goodness. 

 

Favorite Soda That No One Else Buys: Diet Sunkist

I think I contributed to 50% of their sales at one point when I was working a zillion hours.  I don’t know why, but after a long service, nothing appealed to me more than getting a Diet Sunkist soda from the gas station across the street.  Yes, I am likely the reason that Diet Sunkist is on your supermarket shelves.

 

Favorite Meal That Makes Me Feel A Little Dirty: Chorizo and Lengua Super Burrito

If you have not had a combination chorizo lengua super burrito, then you are missing out on a oral orgy of flavors and textures.  And when you finish this monstrosity, you will likely wallow in your own food coma and shame for a good 3 hours.

 

Favorite Thing That Nobody Else Really Wants To Eat: Crispy Fried Pig Intestine and Chinese Red Sauce Braised Chicken Feet 

Pretty much self explanatory.  The intestines are so good with a little sweet sour sauce.  The chicken feet are normally found at dim sum spots under the pseudonym “Phoenix Talons”.  People have issues with the texture, but I love that chewy little cartilage.   

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Awesome Food Art

Never saw this before, but I got this from a coworker today in mail.  Thought I’d share this with people.  Pretty friggin awesome.

 

 

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“Artist assistants stand next to 3,604 cups of coffee which have been made into a giant Mona Lisa.

The 3,604 cups of coffee were each filled with different amounts of milk to create the different shades.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

People Get Panties In A Bunch Over Cartoon Raisin Girl

Apparently, some people aren’t thrilled about the new Sun Maid Raisin girl because she’s too sexy.  I saw this little tidbit via sports website Barstool Sports.  See below:

But honestly, if you find that offensive, I think you need to stop having a reaction to fully dressed fake 3D models of raisin mascots.  Of course, no one objects to the St. Pauli girl, especially considering that she totally digs chefs like Chef Boyardee.  Seriously, I’m much better looking than that asshole. 

And if you REALLY want the queen of sexy food mascots.  Look no further than Campari, because without Salma Hayek – I’m not sure anyone really would drink this stuff.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Unequivocal Joy of Ramen

No, this is not a review.

It’s not even a think piece or a historical piece.

This is simply my way of securing ramen into one of the pedestal shelves in the corner of my heart – a place where everything stored is normally greeted with the type of hug that is shared only between intimate friends and ex-lovers.

All of this started with a very good bowl of ramen in Los Angeles and a hour long conversation between friends during our drive back to San Francisco.  Our argument was centered around the noodle thickness at the ramen restaurant we both visited separately.  As if by fate, I even received an invitation that very night for a ramen tasting party.   

Some people don’t understand the relationship.  For those people, I can only explain it as symbiotic.  Many people develop irrational fears with certain foods because of bad experiences and improper exposure, but almost equally, people often develop an irrational love for foods that are consistently present at our most emotional and developmental moments.  If you choose to label this as “comfort” food, you are more than entitled to, but I’m not certain that they are the same.  While comfort food may be items of homage that recall fond memories of mom’s culinary repertoire, it is not always intrinsically emotional.  I can only relate by telling you that the idea of comfort food is to ramen as “In My Life” is to “Tears in Heaven.”  It just possesses a different gravity.

Nissin_Ramen

To this day, I can still eat 3 packs of Nissin Ramen (seen above) easily in one sitting.  Personally, I love an over-easy fried egg and Chinese beef tendon meatballs on top.  The little blue robe blonde Japanese kid is a close personal friend and childhood fixture.  He’s been there more than most people in my life – cold wintery mornings, tough emotional times, drunken stupors, weekend hangovers and all types of mental breakdowns.  Of course as the years have rolled on by, ramen has taken new forms and risen to new heights.  In high school, I found out that ramen could not only be fresh, but it could also contain all types of wonderful tasty partners nestled in a big bowl of broth.  This was an epic discovery because on that day, my brain melted to soft jelly and my heart warmed to a feverish pitch.

My most recent discoveries (epiphanies sometimes) over the last few years have really pushed my expectations for a great bowl.  It has become a yearning and a constant search for something great – akin to the longing for a recognition of one’s soulmate.  With newfound maturity and a fully developed palette, ramen now has a different mystique.  The ability to properly critique (a happy byproduct of exposure and experience) has elevated the craftsmanship of ramen into art.  The noodles, the broth, the egg, the pork, the house selection of accompanying vegetables and the texture are all now subjected to a rigorous analysis stemming from the mouth to the cortex of the brain. 

I have to tell you that it isn’t all love.  This affinity to ramen is both a curse and a blessing.  The average price of a bowl normally sits at about $8-$9, which is not a lot of money for a meal by most people’s standards, but it becomes the weighing scale in determining how judiciously it was spent.  A bad bowl of ramen feels like it has come at a grave and heavy expense, but a great bowl of ramen may feel as light as pennies.  Not many specific items in the culinary world have such a well defined teetering seesaw scale.  Ask the likes of my former chef and friend Tim Luym and many other enthusiast chefs alike – and, they will tell you all about the inherent thrills and mind numbing disappointments that await at every ramen shop.  Sadly, the most common phrase that seems to come at the conclusion of most ramen meals is normally, “well, if they only did this…” or “the _____ wasn’t that good…” 

I won’t lie to you.  Success is a long drawn road.  You will come by failure upon failure many times in a quest for a good bowl.  You may even begin to believe it doesn’t exist.  Your search is one of desperation as you cling to merely the whisper of a recommendation that there may be good ramen…somewhere.  You will begin to take recommendations 10, 20, 30 or 400 miles away.  You even take recommendations 3000 miles away.  You may go as far as NY to find it, and – if you are like me, you schedule a block of time in your calendar just to eat it. 

Content people and those without this obsessive affliction may simply settle for a “that’s pretty good” type of place.  And, for most people who enjoy things on a comfort level, that’s perfectly fine.  But please understand that if you want greatness out of what you decide to keep as a constant in your life, you will have to work to achieve it.  And that work is sometimes fruitless, but ultimately, you will find that true love and devotion is rewarded.

And when it happens to find you…

it is nothing but satisfaction, redemption, relief and exhilaration.  It’s kind of feeling where the world begins spin around you without focus on anything but your tasty noodles.  Mesmerizing.

A truly tiring and wonderful drug.  It’s enough to make you want to pass out afterwards…

 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

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I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday. Sadly, I didn’t get much rest due to the 12+ hours spent driving to and from Los Angeles. It certainly didn’t help to have wrapped up Thanksgiving dinner at 12:30AM only to drive out at 5:00AM on the same day. But I regret none of it because I had a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with some very close friends as well as some very new friends as well. All in all, it was a dinner filled with food-coma induced silences and probably the raunchiest post Thanksgiving conversation ever (including using condoms as a hotdog condiment holder/dipper, toasted latex as bacon, and a late night chitchat phone call to a random 16 year old in Texas who was apparently looking for action on twitter). Mom wouldn’t approve. Anyways, Thanksgiving is about the company and the food, so a special “thank you” goes out to Peter, Angelo, Kai, Haruka, Violet, Ben, Gariff, Richie, Sky and Zhaira for being terrific company on this festive night.

The Food:

Cherry Wood Cold Smoked and Roasted Diestel Farms Turkey (17.8 lbs)

Rainbow Beet Salad with Yuzu & Meyer Lemon Gastrique

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ 18 Year Barrel Aged Balsamic

Fig and Sausage Dressing

Crunchy Pecan Crusted Mashed Yams

Creamy Mashed Gold Potatoes with Green Onions

Classic Apple Pie a la mode with BiRite Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Classic and Bourbon Vanilla Cranberry Sauces

Good Ole Gravy

The pics:

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Cherry wood fire and heart shaped turkey cleavage.

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The REAL butterball.

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The last of the fresh figs I could find anywhere…

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Jason Biggs Food Porn – Don’t lie, you know you want to.

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The lineup

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear readers, I am going to LA after Thanksgiving and frankly I've been inundated with a load of stuff prior to the big Gobble Gobble. So, I will share with you my trusty map of all the In-N-Out locations from San Francisco to LA via I-5. I hope you treasure it. I will be visiting at least a couple of these bad boys. When I get back, I can hopefully do a recap of my turkey, LA and other goodies. Stay warm and food comatose. Enjoy.


View In and Out En Route to LA. in a larger map

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday Test Kitchen – 11/18/09

Finally, I’m rolling out a prompt on-time Wednesday Test Kitchen. I really must say that there was only very minimal planning this week for what I wanted to make. The colder weather really dictated on how I wanted to approach these two plates. Both are hearty and best when hot.

I ended up with some really nice wild head-on gulf shrimp because I originally intended to make some Shrimp and Grits, but I had all this nice fennel, sausage and fumet stock hanging around, so I decided that a soup would be best. My roommates occasionally do a Tom Yum soup, but I didn’t want to mess around with spice blends or any packaging. I decided to make my own interpretation – which oddly ended up pretty close, but vibrantly more layered and brighter than your standard. With the exception of dried shrimp paste used in my Gold Cayenne sambal, there were no powders used. I threw in andouille and 4505 Meats Golden Dogs. Why? Because they have a spicy sweetness to them that tasted awesome when paired with the soup. That and it’s my soup, I can do whatever the hell I want to it.

The other dish was a creamy farro risotto. It was cold and I really felt like something warm and creamy. (That’s what she said. Sorry.) I was planning on cooking persimmons all week and blending it into savory, but I wasn’t inspired to pair it with meat that night. I just had no desire to cook meat. (Yes, it’s shocking, but it can happen.) I happened to have wonderful farro literally fall into my hands when I opened my kitchen shelf. It was meant to be. The dish really harkens back to the good old days of the Orson kitchen (really not long ago actually, feels like forever…) when there was a seasonal farro dish on the menu (once with cabbage stock and later with peach). What was wonderful about the presentation of the peach farro dish at Orson was really the complexity established with elements of savory and sweet. It wasn’t an established comfort food, but it was definitely a comfort dish. I partially wanted to recreate the philosophy of that dish, but at the same time, do nothing even remotely similar in terms of flavor combination. The dish gets finished similarly, but I guess nothing in the prep process or ingredient list was remotely similar except for lemon. I don’t think it’s a reinterpretation or copy, but I’d like to call it a tribute.

Onto the Menu:

Tom Yum Soup

-Fumet fennel shrimp stock, wild Gulf head-shrimp, 4505 Golden Dogs, Andouille, homemade Gold Cayenne sambal, finished with torpedo onions

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Pumpkin “Farr”-o Risotto

-brown butter sautéed persimmons, Meyer lemon, Andante Minuet and yuzu zest

*the yuzu zest adds to the depth of flavor and complexity, but I also tried a bowl with Meyer lemon zest, which meshed better into the flavor profile. Both were awesome as garnishes, but the yuzu was like the Veronica to the Meyer lemon’s Betty. Tough choices.

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