TFL Garden

Here we go again with the ugly iPhone screen shots but again, I’d rather get this up via my phone then sit in the queue as a draft. Because once I save as a draft, I procrastinate and when I put it off, I forget about it, blah blah blah. Anyway. Today, I stumbled onto The French Laundry’s gardener (farmer?)’s Instagram page and it is so lovely.

I learned the produce farmed in the garden of course goes to TFL first. I should hope so, the meals there are so expensive. The produce TFL doesn’t need goes to Bouchon and Ad Hoc in Yountville! Ad Hoc is and has always been my favorite of the Thomas Keller’s family of restaurants. The idea for Ad Hoc came from the family meals at TFL and now is its own successful establishment. The fried chicken there is really, really, really delicious. Bouchon is a typical French bistro. I actually like the food at Bouchon Bar in Beverly Hills. They have a Sunday roast for $30 per person that is super tasty.

Aaaaand here I go again blabbing about food.

The garden’s entire Instagram feed is great. They upload photos of all these fruits, vegetables, even herbs I’ve never seen before. They have six beehives and a chicken coup. There are three different colored chicken clucking around. They are so fuzzy and cute. They also feed the chicken greens vs. corn, which make the eggs and meat taste better.

Sure, farm-to-table may be a buzz word. And sounds all tree-hugger-granola-ish but the high prices of TFL are partly due to paying the staff that lovingly grows and tends to the foods served there. When lots of love and care go into growing and farming, the foods really taste better.

The feed itself is worth a look – even if you aren’t into farm-to-table. It’s great to see the U.S. embrace respectable farming, like the Japanese have done for centuries.

TFL’s Insta is here.

Also, I had to include the chicken coup’s video screen shot because the caption was so endearing!

Why Katsu is Always Served with Cabbage

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Katsu is always served with shredded cabbage and there is a reason for that. Cabbage contains methionine S-methyl sulfonium (MMS) or commonly referred to as Vitamin U. Vitamin U does not meet the classic definition of a vitamin but the term was coined in 1950 by a Garnett Cheney for uncaharcterized anti-ulcerogenics in raw cabbage. Or simply put, Vitamin U is found in cabbage and it helps with normalizing gastric and intestinal functions. When eaten with katsu, the cabbage aids in digesting the deep fried goodness and helps prevents ulcers, heart burn, etc.

But all the scientific stuff was by chance.

Katsu has been around in Japan since the late 1800’s (the Meiji era) when Western influenced foods were beginning to be incorporated in Japan as yōshoku 洋食 to feed explorers and foreign military personnel. Julienned raw cabbage was pioneered by Ginza’s Rengatei. They were the first to replace misc. cooked vegetables with cabbage.

Rengatei has been around since 1895 and is still open. Not sure how the food tastes as I’ve never been, but it may be fun to taste classic recipes of Western style foods that are still popular to this day.

Ginza Rengatei 煉瓦亭
Drop this into Google Maps ↓
〒104-0061東京都中央区銀座3丁目5-16
Hours:
M – F: 11:15 am – 9 pm
Sat and Sunday: 11:15 am – 9 pm
Sundays have a break from 3 pm – 4:40 pm where they do not serve food

Sources 1, 2, 3

My Mom’s Perfect Instant Ramen

I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area long before the Asian invasion. At school kids made fun of me for eating ‘gross’ sushi. My mom packed bentos which was super weird. Rice? Who eats that? Me. That’s who. I remember feeling sorry for myself for being born to immigrant parents. Why was I forced to speak Japanese? Why did we have to take shoes off at home? Why couldn’t we eat fish sticks for dinner every night? Oh woe is me.

As tragic as my life seemed, my mother had her own struggles with food too.

Our family was fortunate to arrive to California (from Canada, where my brother and I were born) when the Japanese economy was booming. There were many Japanese companies head quartered in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley and a robust Japanese community.

Lucky for us the Japanese culture is very food-centric. Because groups of very important people from Japan were forced to live abroad to head international branches, foods and ingredients from Japan were quickly exported and made available for purchase. There was even a tofu man who moved to California, built a mini tofu factory and distributed fresh handmade tofu on a truck.

Despite our good fortune living in an area and time where almost all basic ingredients needed for Japanese home cooking (including fruits and vegetables) were accessible, my mother would endlessly complain. What is wrong with this daikon Japanese radish – why is it bent like this? The skin on these nasu eggplants are too tough. Why can’t we get yuzu here? What is wrong with the quality of [beef, chicken or pork]. The fish sold here smell. Why are they not fresh? Why aren’t there more choices for [konbu, katsuobushi, niboshi, sake, mirin, vinegar, soy sauce, miso, salt, insert whatever condiments and seasoning]. On and on the complaints would continue, every day, when grocery shopping. I immediately learned to tune her out and just nod my head in agreement.

My mother was a pretty smart person and an incredible cook (her older sister, my favorite aunt, was the best — she was the one who taught me to cook but that’s a story for another day). And even if most of the foods and ingredients were so terrible they are insulting she said, as the resourceful person she was, found clever ways to hack recipes to transform these bastardized foods and ingredients into sufficiently palatable dishes. Looking back, she was indeed, pretty amazing. 

One of the most memorable is her modified instant ramen. There are hundreds possibly thousands of delicious instant or semi instant noodles in Japan. Back in our time, the availability was limited, especially abroad. Since our decent ramen options were extremely few, my mom had no choice but to use what was available, and here is her recipe.

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Chef Seamus Mullen’s Blueberry Almond Smoothie

Pardon the ugly phone screen shot but I’m not in front of my computer and just had to blog this *now*. Otherwise I procrastinate. And once I put it off I forget. Which usually means I never ever post it. Okay, I’m done with the justifying.

At any rate, I really love Instagram and every food enthusiast should too, It’s the best source to find recipes, new restaurants, take a peek at the inner workings of restaurants, see private lives of our favorite chefs and other food industry people. I really, really love it when chefs post recipes of what *they* eat.

Back when I lived in NYC, Boqueria was a super popular tapas place. In 2012 (I believe – too lazy to google), the head chef Seamus Mullen opened his own restaurant Tertulia in the West Village down the street from where I lived. I used to go at least once a week.

The other day I downloaded the Google Photos app for my phone, which pulled up all sorts of gems. This Tertulia photo was one of them ↓

I posted it on Insta and since my photos are geo-tagged I was able to pull up other (recent) photos from Tertulia and somehow ended up on Chef Seamus’ Instagram. From there, I noticed a post for a smoothie and when I clicked on the photo, saw he wrote the recipe in the comments.

So here it is:

Chef Seamus Mullen’s Blueberry Almond Smoothie

1 c. frozen wild blueberries
1/4 c. almond butter
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 avocado
2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1 handful of dark leafy greens or parsley
Pinch of sea salt
Some ice cubes

Throw above in a blender. Done and Done.
Chef Seamus also mentions he preps this the night before.

You’re welcome.
Follow his Instagram here

Tertulia
359 6th b/w W. 4th and Washington Place
NY, NY 10014

It’s next door to Soto and around the corner from Dan Barber’s Blue Hill and Mario Batali’s Babbo. Damn, I lived in an amazing neighborhood and miss NYC so much.

Destinations with the Best Food

Bowls of Taiwanese noodles via CNN

CNN polled FB and the people have spoken: “Top 10 Destinations for World’s Best Food”. Surprisingly Asia dominated the list. Maybe there are more Asian Facebook users. Or perhaps the people willing to take polls have a bias towards Asia? Who knows what the answers are, but it’s nice to see so many regular people take a fancy on Asia.

The winners in order:

  1. Taiwan
  2. Philippines
  3. Italy
  4. Thailand
  5. Japan
  6. Malaysia
  7. Hong Kong
  8. India
  9. Greece
  10. Vietnam

In Asia, I’ve never been to Taiwan or Vietnam but I can say:

Philippines: the Southern region has amazing food (Davao, Boracay) — lots of seafoods — and their take on ceviche called kinilaw blew me away. The adobo (Filipino staple) even tastes better when cooked down south. I think it has to do with the fresh ingredients available to them. My favorite ex boyfriend’s recipe for adobo and kinilaw is here.

Thailand: Last summer I spent a few weeks in Bangkok and loved every second of it. I was extremely impressed with the food. There’s a sort of food movement happening there and lot of ex-pats are contributing to the food industry with a focus on sustainability.

I was invited to a dinner event where Seven Spoons, an establishment owned by Americans and serves Mediterranean style food, collaborated with a craft beer distributor (Beervana) and local organizations / non-profits helping Thailand’s food ecosystem. For example, this dish:

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4th Course: Crusted Snapper with Lao dragon nut, paired with Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA

The Lao Dragon Nut was foraged in the deep forests of Northern Thailand. In rural areas, there are lumber poachers. Lumber poachers are locals who illegally cut and sell trees (mainly Siam rosewood) to the blackmarket of wood — mainly China. One of the organizations working to prevent poaching, takes poachers, teaches them how to forage rare foods and the org distributes to restaurants. Seven Spoons held the special dinner specifically to highlight these organizations and their efforts.

At the dinner, I met lots of people from the Bangkok food scene, and also learned what the chefs are experimenting with ex: hydroponics. And that’s just one of the many instances of Thailand’s surprisingly exciting food scene.

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Tonkatsu Suzuki

Tonkatsu deep fried pork cutlet in Japan falls under two categories: fancy and not fancy. The katsu popular with people from abroad, falls into the former category. Special cuts of pork from this one of a kind pig, raised in some mystical farm in the deepest parts of Japan. I even heard there are specialized katsu restaurants which imports ibérico pig (sorry, too lazy to google if it’s true or not).

Now while all the fancy katsu places like Butagumi, Maisen, Bairin, etc. are great, I place more value on traditional katsu and look for tastes and characteristics that have been carried on for almost a century (katsu has been around Japan since the 1800’s).

For me, it’s about how the breading tastes, the balance between the breading to meat ratio, deep frying techniques, the side dishes and of course, the cabbage — if the cabbage is julienned senngiri finely. As for the meat, standard pork in Japan is already high quality, so long the meat is tender, juicy and fatty but not too fatty, I am a very happy katsu eater.

Like sushi, ramen and yakitori, there are hundreds and thousands of katsu eateries, in which the master what we call chef-owners of restaurants and bartender-owner of bars has been focused on cooking katsu for decades.

Only one of these, is Tonkatsu Suzuki in Shirokanedai. Located under an expressway, Tonkatsu Suzuki is a good 10 minute walk away from any of the closest stations.

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Julia Child and Jacque Pépin Poach Eggs

And the obsession continues… With eggs and, Jacques Pépin, Julia Child. I posted tips from Julia Child on poached eggs a while back but since I stumbled onto the video on YouTube, decided to share it here too. As an added bonus, Jacques Pépin is poaching eggs his way alongside Julia.

In the video, Julia uses a “mechanical device”. Jacqués does it the old fashioned way and this clip just makes me smile so much. Such an invaluable piece of history preserved online. Thank you, YouTube!

Julia’s mechanical device by the way, is not mechanical at all. It’s this little metal thing that holds the egg in place as it poaches. So cute. The video was shot some time in the 80’s and Ms. Child mentions how they are hard to find now. Well. Lo and behold, in 2015 they aren’t as hard to find (if you are in the U.S.) Williams-Sonoma carries them for $6.95 each. Buy them here.

You’re welcome.

Jacques Pépin: How to Chop Garlic

Master chef, legend, and one of the original food television superstars (pre-Food Network) Jacques Pépin’s knife skills are so elegant. Here, he purées garlic with his knife – no processor. I spend more time than I care to admit watching Chef Jacques cook. He is so soothing.

I also love this clip of Chef Jacques on the Rachael Ray show teaching cutting techniques. I hate how it’s on Aol (takes forever to load) but here it is: watch here.

Bonus:
Here is Jacques Pépin’s Classic Vinaigrette recipe. As summer approaches and our salad intake increases, double or triple the recipe, store in a jar and use within two weeks. This tastes identical (or even better) than the $6 bottled dressings bought in stores.

2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup wine vinegar (red or white)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a jar. Shake well before serving. Keeps refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

How to Tell if Your Sommelier Knows Wine

I’m honest when I dine out. It took me some time to get here. I was raised in the era when the food revolution was just starting in America and growing up, I have vivid memories of my mother constantly reminding me that most American restaurant staff cannot be trusted. So much so, my mother would research before going to a restaurant. Those days, the internet was non-existent (late 80’s, early 90’s) and she made me call restaurants to have them fax menus and wine lists before we made reservations. Looking back I wonder what those fine dining establishments thought of a child with an obvious kid voice, calling to request menus.

In my mid 20’s, I was dining out more and more without her and by this time, the internet was the norm. Out of habit, I would look up menus, specials and wine lists online. One day I got tired of all the effort and made the leap of faith to start trusting restaurant staff.  It changed my life. Ordering was now fun instead of stressing out if my choices and recommendations were good enough. Thanks mom. Perhaps my positive experiences are because I ask one or two preliminary questions to show I’m not a novice diner but most restaurants — especially fine dining establishments — employ staff that pick up on unspoken cues (manners, etiquette, body language, etc.).

Wine, though, is a different story. There are hundreds and thousands of wine flavor profiles and wine is such a personal choice. For modern diners, wine has become such an integral part of meals, picking and choosing while dining with important people causes anxiety. Frankly, I’m not that knowledgable and my wine knowledge was built through what my mother taught me, years of dining out and dating men from various parts of the world. It’s true what they say by the way, the French really know their wines. 

Repeating mistakes, I’ve picked up key words to communicate to the sommelier my preferences. “I love heavier reds and prefer French and Italian over California reds. Malbec, Côtes du Rhône, Syrahs, Barolo, Barbaresco are my safe reds. Côte-Rôtie, Léoville-Las Cases and Tignanello are some of my favorites.” And even then, I’ve had more misses than hits when it comes to wine.

The simple solution here, is for me to learn wine but I can not be bothered — there is still so much more I want to learn about food. So imagine my delight when I stumbled onto this piece: “10 Ways to Tell if Your Sommelier Really Knows Wine”

Here are some several of my favorite points:

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World’s 50 Best: Conclusion 

What a douchebag — who does this blogger guy think he is? The above photo was found on Christian Bau’s Facebook (thanks AJ, for sending!). Christian Bau is a Michelin three star chef and restaurant owner from Germany. Apparently some self important guy who writes a Metro blog sent a name dropping email with absurd requests. Good for Chef Bau for posting this to the public.

Separately, NYT’s Julia Moskin’s responded to my inquiry (see below image)

World_s_50_Best_Restaurant_Sponsor_List_
I still haven’t figured out how and why:

  • only chefs seem to place so much weight on it Ex: Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Massimo Bottura, Eric Ripert, René Redzepi, et al., inundated Instagram with photos from the venue. Joël Robuchon had an online meltdown and David Chang, who is present at almost all major food events was missing. (Momofuku Ko dropped from the top 50 in 2015 btw)
  • why weren’t food industry veterans and heavy weights like Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl, Alice Waters, Dana Cowin, Andrew Rapoport, Dorothy Cann Hamilton… even Tyler Brûlé who is based in London not present? And why don’t they talk about this list?
  • Paris and Tokyo that dominate Michelin are largely overlooked. There are 516 Michelin 1-3 star restaurants in Japan, 594 in France. Yet the list noticeably includes an imbalanced number of establishments from Spain and “partner countries”: Peru, Mexico, Singapore. I wonder if Thailand is a “partner country” along with some of the Nordic / Western European countries (Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium. Austria, etc.) are too (or lobbied by the sponsors, that are mainly European companies)

Why is it, that the only Japanese restaurant in the top 10 serves French food and the only kaiseki comes in at #29 — and located in Tokyo, when everyone who knows food, knows Kyoto is the king of kaiseki. There also isn’t a single restaurant from France in the top 10.

Along with the list’s obvious problems (arbitrary, subjective, etc., even a jury member of the list is quoted as saying so) it boggles the mind how they invite Internet famous bloggers and “foodies” with close to zero credibility except massive online audiences to participate in voting. Just that alone makes it so strange how this list is so credible.

But, for the life of me, I just cannot understand how this organization is able to receive sponsorship dollars from tourism budgets of random countries without disclosing to the public. How many partner countries are there and what are the exact dollar amounts they are receiving? Why don’t more people involved in the food industry openly question this or am I the only one wondering? Why do certain chefs empower this organization? How and why did this list get to be so powerful? How much advertising dollars are they spending to woo the masses? How much of the ad spend is carried by the sponsors and partner countries? What is the return on investments? Does tourism really increase because of this list? If so, what are the %s?

On and on the questions continue; everything about this list is weird.

Conclusion: to quote my friend AJ who sent the above image, “W50 List is just like F1. People pay to play.” …which makes this list another Yelp: silly and useless but there is a place in the world for it.

Fin