In 2008 or 09, I cannot recall the exact year, was when I ate chef Jeremy Fox’s cooking for the first time at Ubuntu in Napa Valley. Ubuntu was a vegetarian restaurant.
For the longest time I had a self diagnosed allergy to anyone / anything “vegan-vegetarian-lactose-glucose free-gluten free-[insert whatever allergy and or eating restriction]”. I mean… I’m Japanese. Eating restrictions and food allergies are non-existent in our culture, cuisine. (Technically every first world ingredient as we don’t eat pets: cats, dogs, goldfish, parakeets, etc., insects, and wild animals found in jungles…)
On one of my visits back home to the Bay Area I reluctantly went as I heard so many great things but I was skeptical. Vegetarian? Really? Well. Every dish was so delicious I contemplated turning vegetarian. Sadly since I lived in NY, I only dined at Ubuntu three times and boy did I regret not making the effort to head there more when I heard Jeremy Fox left in 2010.
Fast forward five years Ubuntu has closed. Jeremy Fox has been off the radar… until Lucky Peach did an incredible profile in their Spring of 2014, Issue No. 14: ‘Obsession’. (Lucky Peach by the way, is around $25 an issue in Japan. If you’re in the States, fork up $28 for an annual subscription). Lo and behold, the piece is online. Lucky you. It is definitely a must read for food lovers. Click this to read.
If memory serves properly, Marcona almonds and bagna càuda were two things I became obsessed with, thanks to Jeremy Fox. And on my second and third visits, I asked our server a trillion questions and notated the answers. Here are a few bits from my notes (recommended for advanced home cooks):
- Nori vinaigrette: grind the nori in a coffee grinder, blend with Dijon, extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar
- Jeremy Fox fancies Hawaiian black salt
- 4″ piece of honeycomb is equivalent to 2tbsp of honey
- play with mustard seeds (yellow, brown and stone-ground)
- don’t waste pods, sprigs and stems! (don’t be afraid to roast whole beans and serve without taking the beans out the pods, boil parsley stems, mash and process for a pesto, use cilantro sprigs for a more subtle accent, experiment, experiment, experiment!)