Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

the lowly legume


the interior of las cuatro milpas in san diego's barrio logan appears mostly unscathed by the passage of eight decades and is bigger than it appears from the outside, the better to accommodate a fully functioning tortilleria. did you know that a milpa is a field most often used for a class of traditional mesoamerican multicrop agriculture that only infrequently includes wheat as a crop? nonetheless, the handmade wheat tortillas, correctly scorched, are superb—as good as, or even better than, the lightly fried corn tortillas used for tacos. but the real winner is achiote rice with thin-skinned, delicate-textured beans. you will not regret asking for an adult-sized bowl, especially if you cover it with a drift of chopped cilantro while the cash register operator is distracted.

las cuatro milpas, 1857 logan avenue, san diego.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

quiet innovation

– the sauce is very good. what is it?
— it is six-year onion vinegar!
– what do you mean? this is six years old?
— no, half. every year we make the onion oroshi, with vinegar and mirin. but at first the onion is very hot, not good to eat. after one year, it is better. i take out half to use and put in new onion, vinegar, mirin. next year, i take out again half. six years now. it came with us from the old shop.
– you have an onion vinegar solera.
— you want recipe?
– sumimasen.
fresh onion sweetness without the heat, the richness of long-cooked onions without distracting caramelization, balanced by a rich acetic acidity: a smart japanese cousin of faviken's sour onions cooked in whey, and the unexpectedly correct match for well-aged maguro.

a thread running through lunch was the elegant use of ingredients: sayori nigiri chased by a skewer of its torched skin, kuruma-ebi dressed with a sauce of its brains. the shari was successfully iconoclastic—sasanishiki very al dente, each grain with a dot of crunch at its centre, pale pink and bran-scented from being dressed with a mixture of the traditional rice vinegar and the dark red vinegar made from sake lees.

discovered by the purest chance, but a worthwhile place to observe how a confident chef produces new, wonderful, and good-humoured food without having to make a big fuss about it.

the book

sushi shin (鮨心)
minamiazabu 4-12-4, platinum court hiroo 1F, tokyo

Thursday, February 26, 2015

a good sandwich

is hard to find, but is simple nonetheless: good bread, correct ingredients, appropriate proportions, proper assembly. the aggressive toasting job is a particularly nice touch.

embassy east
285 hoxton st, N1 5JX

Sunday, February 22, 2015

at bar liber

fig in passionfruit syrup, cream cheese, cracker. and a good bamboo. owner and sole employee fuminori umeda says: "i make it myself. it is very simple: fig in the syrup, kurimu cheezu on the cracker. it is done." just so.

motoyoyogichō 11-1 1F, tokyo.

Friday, February 20, 2015

at henri milan

S&X 2013
sebastien xavier is domaine milan's cellarmaster, and S&X is his personal cuvée (monocépage grenache noir).

Monday, February 9, 2015

a noodle vernacular

while ramen currently absorbs the entirety of the world's available noodle cognitive capacity, the singaporean vernacular noodle tradition—itself a subcategory of the south-east asian noodle tradition—carries on mostly unperturbed. all over the island, for practically nothing, you can buy a bowl of briefly cooked noodles from what will often be a specialist stall that has served nothing else for many years. the noodles will come in soup or dry with a broth on the side, as you please, dressed with your choice of various semi-standard configurations of proteins, vegetables, and sauces.

those who love noodles order theirs dry to prevent them overcooking in hot soup, and they choose the flat alkaline noodle called mee pok which distinguishes between the cook who gets the timing precisely correct and the cook whose noodles are an overboiled, gummy mess.

top to bottom:
  1. mee pok with beansprouts, poached prawns, chili sauce, oyster sauce, blanched pork shoulder, kailan;
  2. mee pok with sliced fried fishcake, sliced shiitake, blanched ground pork, chili sauce, jinjiang vinegar;
  3. mee kia with poached prawns, dried shrimp, fresh shiitake, long bean vine leaves, garlic, minced pork balls;
  4. mee pok with sliced poached fishcake, black soy stewed shiitake, jinjiang vinegar, ground chili and garlic, lard, pork and fish balls, ground pork, lettuce.

prawns and pork
bak chor
prawn and kc
bak chor

it is not only the ramen otaku and the italian grandmother who can produce noodles of precise texture and refined flavour combination.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

sandwich design

narisawa sandwich

yoshihiro narisawa's idea of a vacation is opening a domestic ingredient-driven kitchen car (= food truck) at tokyo midtown's winter outdoor ice rink. all meals conform to one format—a hefty soup and a sandwich—but each day you can choose from three soups and three sandwiches highlighting different ingredients sourced from around japan, plus some daily specials and a small but nice sake selection. for sandwich perfection, bread of the correct texture is paramount. their very good bread, made from 18 seeds and grains including wheat and rice and mostly milled but with some fully hydrated whole pieces, is tender-crusted and -crumbed and made even better by being toasted on binchotan. this particular sandwich was stuffed (not over- or under-stuffed) with salad leaves dressed in rice vinegar and olive oil, carelessly shredded and parcooked carrot, thin shavings of akita pork shoulder marinated in salted koji and finished on binchotan, with a peanut and miso sauce.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

by the river

by the river
at the cavenagh bridge, in the shade cast by the old core of the financial centre, a vernacular frozen confection: sweetcorn ice cream between wafers, from one of a dwindling fleet of handtrucks insulated with styrofoam and sawdust and cooled with dry ice.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the magic is back


a bottle of frank cornelissen's contadino 4 from the 2006 vintage opened in new orleans in 2012 was one of my first conversion wines: a bottle that changed my mind about what to drink and why to drink it. ashy, fizzing, the colour of rhubarb stems, the scent of ripe crushed raspberries and cider, the flavour of basalt and cinders. it was a magic bottle, and each case of contadino would have, if you were very fortunate, a single magic bottle. (often it would have no magic bottles but many undrinkably acetic ones.) nonetheless, i lavished hard-earned doubloons on more contadino from various later vintages hoping to replicate that first experience. no luck. with each successive vintage, contadino remained a crazy patchwork long-macerated blend of red and white grapes but slowly became more extracted and stable. reliably tasty; no longer a catalogue of wine flaws with the potential to be confusingly and improbably delicious.

but the magic is back with last night's bottle of cornelissen's susucaru 6 (vintage 2013)—one of a pair which traveled from etna to cambridge ma to london, to be opened on the spur of the moment at the remedy. the other bottle was undrinkable but i drank it anyway. vive la variance.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

a philosophy of practice

the bear pond espresso technique:
  1. Pure water must flow equally through the total espresso bean. 
  2. Like water, coffee beans are natural resources and must not be wasted. 
  3. Like the mind, equipment can be dimmed, so all equipment must be cleaned until like new.
[found at kauffman mercantile; also see no. 8 bear pond]

Thursday, November 13, 2014



faggots, with prunes, turnips, and turnip greens. a very small, crisp-crusted duck and orange pie with a fine tangle of pickled red cabbage. cauliflower and nutmeg croquettes. potato soup with small cubes of eel. buttermilk pudding with a dark gingersnap and poached quince.

while the prospect of winding over to bermondsey is grim on the one hand, on the other i leap at any opportunity to have a meeting at 40 maltby street, one of the early examples of a stream of london retail innovation whose kitchen—run by steve williams—turns out gentle, confident plates of nearly perfect restraint, proportion, and execution.

as you can see, this was not a grouse.