I HEART BACON
Monday, September 28th, 2009

Momofuku Ko

consumed on 4/23/09

I’m in NYC visiting my brother and, per usual, he has a list of restaurants he wants me to try–with Momofuku Ko at the top. He warns me that it’s crazy hard to get a reservation, especially since they only have two seatings of 12 per night. Luckily, checking at 10pm on a Friday night turned up three open spots. Go economy!

On the night of our reservation we meet up in the East Village and find the restaurant on an unassuming street, marked only with the trademark peach. I sneak a shot of the door, as they have a strict no photo policy. Once inside we are greeted immediately and led to our spot at the counter. The restaurant is very small and centers around an open kitchen where three chefs are at work.

ko

We decide to splurge on the $100 (per person) wine pairings, justifying it with “when in Rome.” We start out with three amuse-bouches, all beautifully plated. The braised fennel on quark with hazelnut oil is a nice bite of fresh, but forgettable. The chicharon with togarashi is downright bad and akin to gas station pork rind snacks. Our last bite of biscuit with honey and black pepper is the best of the three, but overwhelmingly oily, sweet and dense.

Our next course of fluke with buttermilk, poppy seeds and chives arrives and our taste buds perk up. We both confess that the rocky start had us worried. The fluke is raw, thinly sliced and melts in the mouth. The combination of sour buttermilk and crunchy/nutty poppy seeds is intrinsically strange, but marries beautifully with the fluke.

The sea urchin with pea vines in dashi is gorgeous: bright orange urchin against dark green pea vines and cleverly disguised cucumber shaped like peas. I briefly wonder if they make a melon-baller that small or if someone cut them by hand. My brother and I are not fans of sea urchin texture, taste or smell, but this is creamy-sweet and wonderful with the cold, savory dashi broth and bright taste of  shiso. I look at my fork then back to the bowl of broth, wishing they served spoons with this course. I turn to my brother to comment and watch with abhorrence and jealousy as he tips the bowl to his mouth and slurps the remaining dashi. He sheepishly gives me a shrug that implies it was too good to waste.

Next comes hand-ripped pasta with snail sausage and crisped chicken skin in butter sauce. I think snails are repugnant and I don’t find them redeeming in the garden or on the palate. However, I learn that if you grind them into a sausage, mix them with spices and drown them in butter they can be quite tasty. The sauce is like a beurre blanc but without the wine or shallots; yeah, basically like a stick of emulsified butter on the plate (not complaining). This dish is rich, rich, rich and the added treat of crispy chicken skin garnish sends me over the top. Someone should market crispy chicken skin snacks. I would eat them morning, noon and night.

I’m overwhelmed with tastes, smells, sights and drink, but we plow on with a smoked egg with caviar, potato chips and sweet potato vinegar.  The egg has a wedge cut out of it, with caviar spilling out, like the egg has eggs. It’s so beautiful that we pause to ooh and ah… possibly a bit louder than intended. I think the chefs are smirking. The smoky egg splits open and barely cooked yolk combines with vinegar and crisp potato the size of garlic chips. It’s oddly comforting, like eating sunny-side eggs and crispy hash browns. I contemplate licking my plate.

I watch the chef prepare our next course:  pan-fried soft-shell crab with birred onions, celery noodles and fresh hearts of palm. I see him pull the apron off, snip the legs and slide the still moving crab into the pan. I hope my brother hasn’t seen this, but he casually asks if I’ve ever read “Consider the Lobster.” I don’t feel like debating the ethics of crustacean pain, so I change the subject until the dish arrives. According to the dictionary, birred means: “To make or move with a whirring noise, as of wheels in motion.” As far as I can tell the bed of onions on this plate are cooked down and “whirred” with a ridiculous amount of butter. Delicious. The celery noodles are long shaves of celery that resemble fettuccine. The fresh hearts of palm are miles better than the canned version, but kind of bland. I am usually disappointed with soft-shell crab; rarely is it crisp enough to mask the chewy shell. This fared better than most, but it’s my second least favorite dish on the menu.

Here is where I start counting how many dishes we’ve had, what’s left to come, and how much more I can eat without exploding. But it’s my favorite dish of the night: foie gras over lychee nuts, pine nut brittle, and riesling jelly. I have a thing for foie gras, my brother doesn’t. I offer to eat his portion; he declines. The foie gras is formed into a torchon, which is then frozen and finely shaved over the top of fresh lychee nuts and a sweet, crunchy brittle. Very odd, not in flavor, but in texture and temperature–chewy, crunchy, cold. Addictive. Giddy from wine, we affectionately refer to it as “meat sundae,” again rather loudly.

I flat out sigh when we get deep fried spare ribs with lots of different kinds of onions. I write “lots of different kinds of onions” because at this point I’m drunk and so full that my brain has stopped functioning and I can’t tell the difference between ramps, green onions, or Walla Wallas.  Is it good? Unfortunately yes, so I eat the whole thing.

Before the next course comes I visit the restroom to see if emptying my bladder will make more room for my stomach (it doesn’t). I return to find the beautiful and technically inventive guava ice cream with cream cheese crust. They make a quenelle of ice cream and dip it into a liquid cream cheese mixture, which evenly coats the oval and forms a semi-hard shell. I take only one bite… apparently, I do not like guava.

Our final course is black sesame ice-cream with lemon coconut curd and funnel cake. Eating black ice cream is a bit strange. It tastes dark, earthy and sweet. Not unpleasant, but it taxes the brain because the flavors are so diametric. The funnel cake is delicious/sweet/fried goodness. And also about the size of my head, so I only manage about a quarter of it.

I eat. A lot. And sometimes I even feel full. But this is I’ve-never-been-this-full-in-my-life-and-I-want-to-die full. I roll to the subway station and pass out happily on a cold, orange plastic-moulded seat.

biscuitsea urchin

smoked egg shaved foie gras

For $100 each (not including the wine pairings), this dinner felt like a steal; basically $10 per course. Ko also serves a $160 lunch, which is more tastes / smaller portions, but I bet you’ll still have to let your belt out a few notches. If you go, I recommend not eating anything else for the entire day. And if you’re planning on wine pairings, do not, I repeat, do not stop for cocktails before dinner.

P.S. Due to the no photo policy, my brother kindly re-enacted some dishes for your viewing pleasure.

Momofuku Ko on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Meat & Greet

Yep. Someone did it. Business cards made out of meat. Can’t wait to get mine.

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Train of thought leads to… train of dinner

I was out back looking at the tiny little tomatoes that are forming and wondering if someone has invented micro tomatoes yet (they have). Tomatoes the size of peas. Which led me to think of micro greens and sprouts. Which in turn made me think of Food Jammers.

Food Jammers consists of three brilliant, inventive and persistent guys who love food and power tools. It’s like watching friends sit around and talk about food, playing “what-if”, but then you actually get to see the follow-through.

In one episode, they want to make SuperFoods. Which in and of itself doesn’t sound that hard: get your seeds, pack them into jars and let them sprout. But they take it one step (or several) further and end up making a rotating carousel in which the seed jars move around a light source that simulates the sun.

In another episode, they are going camping and want a full thanksgiving dinner. By trial and error they end up freezing the turkey solid, slicing it with a saw, dehydrating each slice and reassembling it into a whole turkey (or something that resembles a whole turkey). And while it doesn’t exactly turn out as planned, it was fascinating to watch, and as a by-product, they end up making a kick-ass fruit leather jacket with the dehydrator.

The last episode I saw involved a food train that served up an amazing looking dinner. Each item was cooked in a hollowed out log and transported to the dinning area on a cobbled together track.

I’m lucky enough to have seen a few episodes because my brother knows them and has their dvds. But in trying to view more recent shows I’m dismayed to find out you can’t buy them, rent them or stream them (legally). You CAN get them via torrent, or if you’re a technical god and know how to spoof your IP so it looks like it’s coming from Canada, you can view them on foodtv.ca.  I suppose you could also plan your future trips to Canada, Australia or Latin America based on tv scheduling.

I wish, wish, wish American Food TV would pick them up. I really want to see the Hot Tub Shabu Shabu and the office filing cabinet smoker. If you too would like the see these, you can email Food Jammers at iwantfjonmytv@foodjammers.com or contact foodtv to request American programming. Please.

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Friday, August 7th, 2009

Celery Salt

Contrary to popular belief, celery salt is not ground up celery mixed with salt. Or maybe that isn’t popular belief but until I started thinking about it I had no clue what was in that strange, bitter, salty mix that is necessary for a good Bloody Mary.

Oddly enough, I came across an unorthodox recipe in Fergus Henderson’s, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.  I love this book, but it can be terrifying to cook out of: I’m not sure where to get fresh pig spleen and I don’t even know what a woodcock is. So when I saw a very simple recipe for celery salt I decided to give it a go.

His recipe calls for mixing coarse sea salt with freshly peeled and grated celeriac, refrigerating for two days, slowly drying it out in the oven and then grinding the mix in a food processor.

If you’ve ever worked with celeriac, you know that grating it is no easy feat. But it’s worth the effort. The resulting celery salt was delicate, yet flavorful and produced some of the best Bloody Marys I’ve ever tasted.

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Monday, February 9th, 2009

Top Chef #6: Casting Call in Seattle

I was asked by the “Magical Elves” at Top Chef to pass this along to you all:

Bravo’s Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series and the No. 1 rated food show on cable, “Top Chef,” will be returning for a sixth season. Open calls for chefs interested in competing in the high-stakes culinary competition series will be held in cities across the country starting this weekend. Additional casting information for these series is available at www.BravoTV.com/casting.

SEATTLE
Wednesday, February 11, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Canlis Restaurant
www.canlis.com

Good luck to my friend Scott Yockey Jones, who will be trying out!

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Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Bacon v. Mayonnaise

Bacon is so going to kick Mayo’s ass…

Mayonnaise v. Bacon

Mayonnaise v. Bacon

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Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Princess of Pork

Just three things to say:

1. OMG!!!
2. Why didn’t I think of this?
3. OMG!!!

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/09/24/porky-princess-tiara.html
http://theanticraft.com/archive/beltane08/porkprincess.htm

Thanks to Daniel for pointing this out.

Monday, June 9th, 2008

EGGS

consumed on 6/8/08

I’m on Whidbey Island for the weekend, driving towards Double Bluff when I see a simple, hand-painted sign announcing “EGGS.” I’m in a (modern day) foraging-for-food kind of mood so I pull up the drive.

I see a man in the window staring blankly out at me and wonder if I’ve got the wrong house. There are no signs indicating eggs, only a sign that reads “Hippies Enter Here.” I’m having a slow morning and it takes me a second to realize that it’s pointing to the only entrance to the house.

The first thing I see is an old, bearded man wearing a dirty wife-beater, tooling around in a Hoveround chair. The second thing my eye goes to is the naked lady wall calendar and I’m unsure if this is actually a place to by eggs. My attention is diverted back to the man when he says “I know what YOU want…”

My fight or flight instinct has been on the fritz lately and it kicks in. But before I have time to make a decision, the man follows up with: “EGGS! I got ‘em in dozen or 18-packs.” He then motors off into the back room with me calling after him “Eighteen please!”

I’m trying to avoid eye-contact with the lady in the calendar so I look up and find a really great collection of old beer cans lining the top shelves. I pointedly examine them until he returns.

He is carrying a styrofoam tray on his lap and smiling so much that I’m instantly disarmed and charmed. Before I can pay he opens the carton to show me a gorgeous array of pearl, green and brown eggs. He is obviously (and rightly) proud, which leaves me feeling honored that he is sharing his eggs with me. I hand over $7 and continue on to the beach looking for more adventures.

———————

The next morning I announce that I’m making fried eggs with hollandaise sauce. I was expecting enthusiasm but am met with silence. No one actually said “But, we don’t have any bread” or “That sounds weird” so I take their silence as permission to proceed.

Awhile back my mom found this great, fool-proof recipe for hollandaise that, oddly enough, is from a Cuisinart manual. It is SO easy, but I manage to fuck it up.

First my butter explodes in the microwave, coating every surface in a deluge of grease. Then the butter that’s still left in the dish cools too much, so when I pour it into the Cuisinart it doesn’t thicken the sauce. I switch to the stove top method, but with less than 5 seconds of heat it’s the consistency of spackle. My fried eggs are done at this point and since no one really wanted the hollandaise to begin with, I don’t attempt to fix it.

It turns out that crazy thick hollandaise still tastes great. Although it is weird to eat egg sauce over eggs with nothing else. The best thing was the color. The yolks were so fresh that they produced a hollandaise the color of marigolds. Beautiful.

607

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Monday, May 5th, 2008

Jammin’ Bacon

My mom likes to tell the story of my first Christmas as a toddler, in which I nearly hyperventilated while jumping up and down in my Johnny Jumper at the first sight of a wrapped present. These days I can usually keep my excitement under wraps, but when Josh from Skillet sent me a jar of BACON JAM I could feel my heart rate go up and my breath quicken. I was in the middle of a conversation which I quickly broke off when I spotted the package on the mail shelf. I tore into the box to find a small jar of dirt-colored paste. Honestly, it did not look appetizing, but that didn’t stop me from opening the jar right there in the lobby. I took one whiff of intoxicating bacon and plunged my finger right in.

This stuff is GOOD. Packed full of bacon, but also tempered with caramelized onions and a vinegary counterbalance that reminds me of chutney. I tried it on bagels with a bit of turkey (YUM), as a pizza base (YUM) and even stirred it into cottage cheese as a snack (YUM). I can’t wait to head down to Skillet and try it on their burger.

Thank you Josh!

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Saturday, July 21st, 2007

My savior has arrived…

And its name is BACON SALT.

I met with Dave, one of the geniuses behind Bacon Salt, a few weeks ago to try out the product. I was leery because of my past experience with Bacon Spray, but this stuff is the real deal. Completely tastes like bacon. And it’s fantastic on fries. And chicken. And maybe even licked straight out of the container.

The only thing to remember is that this is indeed salt, and unlike other things (i.e. bacon), you actually CAN have too much salt. So use it judiciously. But use it often.

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Saturday, May 26th, 2007

Spring Fling

consumed on 5/26/07

Another Dunn Gardens feast…

Risotto balls with mozzarella & peas
Asparagus with mayo verte
Shrimp cocktail
Puff pastry with sheep’s milk cheese, mango chutney & oregano
Beef crostini with celeriac remoulade
Lox crostini with lemon caper shallot butter
Chicken ballotine with morels (Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook)
Leek & camembert tartlets
Tuna sashimi on pita

And for dessert…
Rhubarb & marionberry tartlets
Lavender shortbread
Chocolate shortbread
Meringue cookies

And a selection of cocktails…
Chambord & prosecco with raspberry ice cream float
Strawberry & basil drink
Factory 75 (a French 75 taken with a Polaroid)

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

She writes! Well, kind of…

I might be the only one that finds this funny:
My first post in months (and months) is actually to guide you to another site.

Celia Cheng at Cravings recently interviewed me for her special feature on the year of the pig: I HEART OINKERS!!!

Thanks Celia! Happy (Chinese) New Year!

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Friday, December 1st, 2006

Panforte

It’s time for the annual Christmas gift making weekend with my mom and we’re making chocolate panforte. After a crazy week of wind storms my mom lost power, so we are cooking in my tiny apartment kitchen.

The first night we spent drinking too much, playing cards and trying to remove skins from hazelnuts. If there is a task that people are forced to perform in hell, it is probably this. It’s time consuming and slightly dangerous because it’s easiest when the nuts are really hot (resulting in several burns). The kicker? I’m highly allergic to the skin part that rubs off. Next year I’ll spend the money to buy hazelnuts that already have the skins removed.

The end product was over baked… Mom said something about a crumb test (like a cake), but they should be taken out when still moist in the middle. They turned out like large hockey pucks but I just told people, oh yeah, it’s supposed to be a cross between biscotti and a chocolate cake. I’m such a liar. But honestly, they were still delicious… just hard on the teeth.

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Disgusting AND Brilliant!

What happens when a vegetarian starts eating meat again? 30 days of pork.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandydale/tags/30daysofpork/

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Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Camp Handi Wipe

Consumed on 8/06/06

What do you get when you go camping with three foodie girls? An impossibly clean, homey and delicious trip. We ended up dubbing it Camp Handi Wipe due to the large number of cleaning products we went through trying to cook gourmet in the great outdoors.

First night we had:
Grilled Steaks with Bluberry BBQ Sauce
Gnocchi with Roquefort Cream
Zucchini Skewers

Second night:
Green Pea Ravioli with Truffle Butter Sauce
Grilled Scallops
Broccoli Rabe

 

The third morning we had a huge bacon breakfast which attracted a chipmunk. Unfortunately, the little guy was too curious about the leftover bacon grease cup and tipped the entire thing onto himself. It wasn’t hot anymore, but he basically coated himself in bacon grease. Poor guy!!