Archive for December, 2007

Katz’s (NYC)

December 29, 2007

Screw WD-50, Katz’s is the LES’s finest food institution.

You start off light with some french fries.

Nibble on their two kinds of pickles, fresh cucumber and your extra vinegary deli staple.

I always get the matzo ball soup. A huge glob of pillowy, chicken fatty goodness.

Knoblewurst? WTF is that. I don’t know but it tasted good!

Of course, the pastrami sandwich. Slather that grainy mustard on!

Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-2246

Kyotofu (NYC)

December 29, 2007

Sis diagnosed herself as having pre-diabetes so we decided to go to a dessert place, of course. Kyotofu had been NY Mag’s pick for cupcakes so we headed uptown to 9th Ave and 49th St. I liked the look of the front of the restaurant, very cutesy and white and homey. But the back area was kind of cheeseball with white huge cushions along the walls. We decided on the Kaiseki prix-fixe with sake pairing. But I wanted to try the savoury dishes first.

This clay pot was brought out with soy milk. The very cute waitress explained that after she added the starter, we would have to let it heat for 20 minutes. For some reason the carrot pickles tasted like ACETONE NAIL POLISH.

Very soft tofu with a gentle taste. Sprinkled with wasabi powder, it was mild yet kind of rich. But I think I was slightly allergic to it because my ears started feeling itchy and my sister too!

These were “Chicken tsukune sliders.” I have never eaten a real, beef hamburger before but I love all things faking burger-ness. These were half dollar sized bites of plainness. BLAH.

“First course” was a sweet dessert tofu with black sugar syrup. Just lightly sweet enough and tasted slightly of almonds, this was so nice! This was my fave.

Second was a trio of small bites. Tofu cheesecake on the left with vanilla creme on top. Some kind of nut (?) ice cream with caramel and toasted, crunchy grains. Chocolate cake with berry sauce. The cheesecake was strangely too sour but some bites tasted fine. The crust tasted of sesame which is always nice with tofu. The ice cream was creamy but a bit too hard, although nice with the contrasty crunchiness of the grains…the caramel was way too sweet. The chocolate cake was just blah but I don’t like chocolate cake in general. The sake they served with this was a “dessert sake” and was way too sweet! I don’t really want to drink sugar while eating sugar. That’s gross.

Chocolate covered ginger, green tea choco, yokan. First two were run-of-the-mill, yokan was very very bland and had a more jello-like consistency than I am used to. The sake pairing was 1 glass (very FULL glass) per course, and for the small portions I think it was too much. But the price is very good and the afternoon menu is even cheaper. Overall, Kyotofu is a very feminine, cute and nice place to go to with a couple of your girlfriends. The dishes with tofu were better than the dishes without, and the sweet was much better than the savory. But maybe that goes without saying….

A couple of mini cupcakes to end your dinner. Actually, I totally wanted to go eat french fries.

705 9th Ave (btwn. 48th & 49th Street)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 974-6012

I need a bigger kitchen/chocolate OD

December 29, 2007

So, I have a couple of weeks off of work finally and I’ve been sitting on my ass for the last week watching a Twin Peaks marathon on DVD, playing with my new Nintendo DS and eating a bunch of mochi every morning. Don’t even ask me what day it is. Kayoko, who is kind of doing the same, but watching Lost, actually got me off my ass the other night to go to Mitsuwa in Jersey again. Anyways, I thought I would blog some of my cool new kitchen/food stuff that I got for Xmas because I have nothing better to do. I really need some more space in my kitchen.

First, from Mitsuwa, I found Royal Milk Tea mix! I never knew this stuff existed. So much better than the bottled kind. I’m going to have to get some more of this. I have a hard time choosing now between this, my PG Tips, my genmaicha and my blueberry tea – such a predicament. I also got a crap load of shoku pan at Mitsuwa to use for french toast and some wagashi from Minamoto (even though the lady that works there is a total bitch).

Second, from my mom, a set of crock pots so I can make chili and onion soup. Anyone have a good recipe for onion soup?

Third, from my dad and stepmom, a set of 4 snowman mugs and matching spoons (how cute). I’m sure I’ll carelessly break all 4 of them in the next few months. I should just bring these into work for cute factor/conversation pieces…..

Fourth, a duo of hot chocolate and a “hot chocolate maker” contraption. I have to say though, I had some Jacques Torres hot chocolate a couple weeks ago at work and I’m pretty much set on hot chocolate for the rest of the year…it was soooooo rich and frothy (and $$ – at least I got to see the man when I was in his store). I think I have enough hot chocolate to last me a long time because I also have a bunch of hot chocolate from last year in my cupboard. I may need to bring these into work. And my JT hot chocolate is just sitting on my desk at work and I know I’m going to throw up in my mouth a little when I first see it because I’m really so tired of hot chocolate and chocolate in general and there’s nothing I can think about that’s worse than going back to work than going back to work and having to look at more chocolate. I should just top the whole experience off by watching one of those videos ayagwa keeps sending me as I sit down at my desk. This all leads me to the next item, peppermint and chocolate cookies from Williams Sonoma…I have to say, these are REALLY good. I have to try and refrain from eating the whole tin.

The hot chocolate in the picture, by the way, is some more chocolate that I got for xmas and on top of a quiche dish from my mom.

Last, I got some new flatware from Target. All of my current flatware is rusting and falling apart. Not good. And I know that’s really gross. I’ve even resorted to buying sets of plastic spoons every time I go to the bodega (which is why my nickname is now “spoons”). Also have a set of knives on the way.

So, yeah, Christmas was good in the kitchen items and chocolate departments….hope you all had a good one and happy new year!

Top 5 Food Moments of 2007

December 24, 2007

Manolha Dargis says (in her own top 10 list of films of the year), “Top 10 lists are artificial exercizes, assertions of critical ego, capricious and necssarily imperfect.” Well, how about a Top 5? Can that be any more meaningful?

Sure, why not– I think that Top lists are a fun way to exercize your brain, reaching back into the crevices of your memory to sift through the last 365 days. It’s pretty incredible actually– in terms of food, the possiblilities are endless. I asked UM contributors to send over their Top 5 Food Moments of 2007, where anything goes– meals, restaurants, kitchen accessories, ingredients, books, films– essentially, whatever they wanted to include (whether they had blogged it or not). I assure you that this is no easy task, but here they are.

1. Alan Wong’s 7 course tasting menu with wine pairing (is there even any doubt that this was the meal of the year???)
2. Chez Panisse kitchen tour
3. Draeger’s Cooking School!
4. United States of Arugula (so what if it was published in 2006)
5. Bodum Assam glasses (A housewarming gift from Kayoko, great for everything from coffee to ice cream)
The Top 5
5. Hudson Valley tomatoes.
4. Macallan 25.
3. Leeks.
2. The lunchtime burger at Prune.
1. Everything at Laduree.

The Bottom 5
5. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
4. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
3. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
2. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
1. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.

1. The Next Food Network Star (Season 3) – the surprising last-minute resignation of JAG, and the upset victory of Amy over Rory. this was truly must-see tv.

2. The rise of the “localvore” / eating locally.
3. Stacy’s pesto and sun-dried tomato pita chips – not sure when they came out, but in 2007 I began eating an entire bag everyday.
4. My dinner at Brown cafe, which included the best wine I’ve had all year: 2004 Castello della Paneretta Chianti Classico.
5. Jonathan Gold’s Pulitzer Prize – the first time the prize has been given to a restaurant critic

1. Spicy Mina
2. Sushi of Gari Omakase w/ dad
3. Wu Liang Ye’s Double Cooked Fresh Bacon ** With Spicy Capsicum
4. Go Go Curry w/ Mel & Kakabori
5. Spicy & Tasty Dan Dan Noodles & Sauteed Pork

1. Green tea chocolates from Tafu
2. Republic of Tea Wild Blueberry Black Tea
3. Konbini on 47th
4. Watermelon flavored hi-chew
5. Mochi Maker!!!!

OK the thing about me is that I am not just interested in the moment of consumption, but the process of getting there, and the event of the eating. I went to a lot of fancy restaurants, oyster bars and the like this year, but in the end, they don’t make a lasting impression on the heart stomach. So I would say my top five most memorable food experiences of 2007 were:

5. What about those awesome lunches at work, the series of home-cooked lunches made by JS co-workers, from Yamahomo’s beef tongue stew, to Futoshi’s curry, and my own Yum Woon Sen! Loved the sharing atmosphere and cut down on lunch costs too!

4. Oh wow definitely the Umamiventure to the Red Hook Ball Fields. That was hella fun NY summer activity! So much to experience, so many different foods, so many fun people, the great weather, the soccer, awesome times.

3. BEST RESTAURANT of the year for me was Aurora in Williamsburg. I went there this year for the first time, after hearing about it from others and it was amazing. Beautiful space, especially if you get the garden during the warmer months, nice rich wood interior and reasonable prices for delicious foods: octopus, hand-made pastas. A very close second would be Cafe Falai on Bowery. Loved the menus in the envelopes. yum yum yum.

2. Tmonkey and I did a colon cleanse together in the autumn, as our romantic activity. We kept track of our bowel movements and physical changes down to the finest details and shared these with each other. It was a fascinating process of fasting that stripped down the cycle of appetite -> consumption –> digestion, and realized that so much of what we experience as hunger is psychological. After 5 days of fasting my skin was clear and beautiful and I felt terrific – AND amazing things had come out of my body. O Boy. I also learned that what is as important as the fasting is how your BREAK the fast. I f*cked this up royally, but will make sure to pay more attention to this when I do the 10-day fast in the spring.

1. Helping to create and eating the ultra-thin million layered lasagna made by my dearest Tmonkey — just divine!!! Kayo was there too!

5. Mozza, Batali’s new eatery in LA. Went out to LA on business, had a friend whose boyfriend was the bartender there, and thus got the royal treatment. Incredible grilled octopus. Amazing amaro tasting flights at the end, free because amaro is apparently not legal in the states.

4. There’s nothing scientific about my selection methodology for this btw — I’m just picking food moments that actually lodged themselves in my brain. One of these moments was when I was in Guadalajara last month, my friends there took me to an open market (well it was covered with a roof, like Essex Market) and sat down at this stand where this young guy was cooking up a storm and I asked him what I should order, what their specialty was, and he hooked me up with this dish called “chafaldrana”, which was basically this seafood quick stew (tomato based) with tilapia (I think), octopus, scallops, and shrimp served with rice, onions, slices of tomatoes, tortillas, and these cute little mini-avocados. It was made “a la minute” right in front of me. I got it on tape — will upload pics and vid soon. Amazingly fresh and delightful.

3. Thousand Layer Lasagne: I was inspired by the recipe on to make this lasagne which requires you to roll out fresh egg pasta dough into incredibly thin layer. I usually don’t make recipes like this (which warn you that a super-herculean effort is required) sight unseen, but Aya made me do it. Actually it turned out to be pretty fantastic, but I’m wondering how much of it was because of the incredible amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of it. I think you can taste those things.

2. Another Mexico moment: I was in Jalisco, the state where Tequila comes from. It was a few hours from the Pacific coast, and my friends took me to a lake called Santa Maria de Oro, which was surrounded by mountains on all sides. There was a lone restaurant at the base of the lake, and pretty much the only thing they served was chicharrón de pescado, which is basically fried fish, which I presumed to be from the lake itself. It came with a pink-ish colored mayonnaise, cucumbers and tomatoes, and tortillas, which made me realize of course, that these were actually fish tacos!!! Amazing ones, at that. Again, I’m sure the ambience had something to do with my memory of this — perfect 80 degree weather, eating them after I had kayaked out to the middle of the lake and swum in the perfectly warm, clean water. Yeah…

1. When Aya and I were doing our week-long colon cleanse, I experienced delusional hunger pangs, fantasizing about various random foods (the most hilarious was when we were in the subway standing next to a dumb Arnold’s bread ad with a ham sandwich and Aya looked at me and intoned with a zombie-voice, “Ham sandwich….”), but near the end I couldn’t get my mind off Franny’s wood-fired oven pizza. So the first real meal we had after coming off of the cleanse was there, and chalk it up to delayed gratification and wish fulfillment, but damn if we didn’t have a bacchanalia that night (grilled octopus, sausage pizza, orichiette, and for dessert…ANOTHER pizza — our waitron did a double take when we ordered that one). I count that as a double dinner, and any double dinner should be memorialized in my book.

1. Dinner at the Core Club prepared by Dan Kluger and pastry chef Rob Fitzhenry

2. Dinner on the house at Maremma, courtesy of the amazing and wonderful Cesare Casella.
3. Olive oil bon-bons at the James Beard Awards

4. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner in Santa Barbara in Aunt Janet’s ocean front kitchen.
5. My 1st shoot for the NY Times Dining section, The Kingswood restaurant, NYC.

Runners Up:
– Wylie Dufresne’s presentation at the Star Chef’s Congress, NYC.
– Blueberry picking in Vermont
– Jack’s Saturday morning brunch while listening to “This American Life” (below)

1. Sripraphai Umamiventure, all the way. Those drunken noodles were just out of this world, and I still dream of the fried watercress salad. Tmonkey and Ayagwa’s inspiring video immortalized the meal perfectly. It was one of those amazing meals where every single one of our 10 or so dishes were delicious, and, despite the fact that many people were meeting for the first time, we all left feeling as we were eternally connected through this one meal. Now THAT is the power of a good meal.

2. My meal at Taverna dei Consoli trattoria in Assisi, Italy. I was alone in the city for a night, and the hotel man recommended the place in the piazza. I never did figure out if this joint was what he was talking about, but it’s where I ended up and had the best dinner of my trip. They were about to close up shop but they indulged my hunger anyway. Fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms and a pork chop in a balsamic and prune reduction. Ooh la la. I went back for lunch the next day and had the same! This year, I learned to appreciate eating out alone, which is something I never did before. There’s something really meditative about it.
3. Lunch with Jose, Marta and her family at her apartment in Madrid. Nothing like Spanish homecooking— albondigas and boquerones filled with love.
4. Introduction to Shanghai Cafe by Tmonkey. It was love at first bite. Cravings for these incredible soup dumplings haunt me at all hours of the day– their steam, their scent, the marriage between crab and pork dipped in a vinigary concoction (the key: the crab does not dry out the way they do at Joe’s Shanghai, or any other “venerable” soup dumpling establishment). My dream meal is an order of the dumplings, and their lo mein, which are really thick udon-like noodles. It is by far the restaurant I frequented the most this year.

5. My chicken bag!

Runners up:
– The secret sea side shack Ayagwa introduced me to at Rockaway Beach
– Fresh northwest oysters and the cute bartender at the Seattle Airport
– The sardines from Don Quixote Restaurant at the Atlantic Antic street fair
– Leslie and Alex’s 4 hour wedding meal at Osteria Le Logge in Siena
Vintage Pyrex mixing bowls I bought from Yamahomo
– The “best cappucino in Italy” cafe in Roma

Aside from my top 5 (er, 11), the launch of this blog was perhaps the most meaningful food moment for me this year. I look forward to a plethora memorable food moments in 2008– too much for me to blog I am sure! Thanks to everyone for reading, contributing and commenting in UM’s fantastic first year.
Happy, happy holidays to you and your family, and always, happy eating!

Gift This: Best Pears in the World

December 21, 2007

Roach’s dad sent her a box of these gorgeous “Royal Riviera Pears” which can be ordered online here. They are absolutely the sweetest pears I’ve ever had- juicy, silky, delicious. We think they are from Oregon.

Mel was kind enough to give me three! We just can’t get enough. Each pear have their own unique shape- no two are exactly alike. One is your regular Andy Pipkin– chubby and stout, another is all curves– the perfect 34-24-36. They are beautiful!

Aya just ordered a box for her bf’s parents. The perfect gift!

Momofuku Again

December 21, 2007

I haven’t been to here in so long because I get scared by the mad groups of Asian Americans and the Bridge and Tunnel type couples. But my friend really wanted to go and of course I’m all up for ramen at any time.

We started with shrimp and grits. It had some fancy adjectives attached but I already forgot what they are. This was a really weird combination. There was crispy bacon and a COLD poached egg. I ordered it because it sounded weird and it was. But not in a good way. We also ordered those pancakes that are like Peking duck and have hoisin and cucumber along with the Berkshire pork inside. I definitely think those are the best item on the menu.

My friend got the original Momofuku ramen but I ordered the duck leg ramen because it, again, sounded weird. I guess I assumed the meat was off the bone but actually they expected me to tear it up with chopsticks. Which proved impossible. Unremarkable broth, no memma/bamboo…everything was sort of blah. Fatty duck skin doesn’t do so well when dunked in broth.

Hitachino White Ale was so good though! I would have done better just to get the pancakes and beers. I think this place is just decent but definitely not worth the line and the loudness. Going at a weird and inconvenient time like 3 pm, which I have actually done before, is the best solution. The chef was cute though.

163 1st ave
New York, NY 10003

Kimchi Jigae, Faking French Style

December 21, 2007

My sis sent me a couple pots for Christmas. Which sounds really sad but I like to roll like Martha and they are actually ideal presents for me.

But being 11 pm I didn’t have time to go buy ingredients. So I made kimchi jigae/stew. In a Le Creuset pot. Whatever…

Start with fatty pork slices in a dry pan over medium low heat. I just keep a few frozen slices in the freezer to use for this.

When your apartment smells horribly animal-y, add sliced garlic. A lot of it.

Add cut up kimchi and stir. The more funky the better. Somebody once told me there is some kind of kimchi that is fermented for years. But that’s just plain nasty. Funky is good but kimchi that starts smelling like cheese is so not it.

Now this is when you add powdered dashi or actual dashi broth. I have dried anchovy, dried shrimp, konbu, mussel and shiitake mushroom powders that are ground up. I keep them in individual ziplocks in the freezer and use them for soups. I think this is way better than that MSG-laden powder with the blue fish on the packaging, you know what I’m talking about. So anyways add whatever you want.

Add water and simmer for however long you feel like but the kimchi should become kind of translucent. I also add ddeok, or rice cakes.

I use these because they’re cute.

Okay so you end up with something that looks like this. I added sweet potato starch (??) noodles (it smells horrible when you are boiling them) and green onions.

I also made my favorite rice:

1/3 brown rice, 1/3 mixed grain wild rice, 1/3 white. I also buy these Japanese 13 mixed grains that are portioned into individual packets. Add a splash of sake and it tastes SO FREAKING GOOD.

Yeah so I started making this at around 11 and ended sometime around 2 am. Whatevs, it was good! I also just made up this recipe so anything goes. Tuna in olive oil or spam is also a good addition.

Homemade Marshmallows and Hot Cocoa Mix

December 20, 2007

I received this wonderfully toasty and decadent package of holiday cheer from my dear friend Christy (who got married this year!). Isn’t it lovely? She used a Martha recipe for the marshmallows and created the cocoa mix herself!

Looked at the jagged edges of the brown paper! The candy cane striped ribbon! This proves that no matter what, it’s the little details that matter. It’s a little bag of love- isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Vegging Out on Raw

December 20, 2007

To taste a tiny tidbit of toro is to tease the tastebuds
. I mean I get this insatiable hunger for it once I get a taste, recovering alcoholic style.

Speaking of the raw, my friend and I went to Mitsuwa in Edgewater and picked up a few things for a snack. Well, I mean after we ate there. This was just a TV-watching-mindless-eating type of thing.

Uni, ikura and homemade spicy tuna over rice. Extra roe in the tuna for that seductive crunch. Oops I forgot that we made hamachi collar and pajeon, ie green onion and seafood pancakes, as well.

We stopped there because sometimes we did not want to pass the Orson Welles-level point of gluttony.

The Umami Reader, vol. 009 – The Matt Edition

December 19, 2007

Noteworthy readings and eatings, all via Matt K.:

  • World class chefs mouth off about what they will be scarfing down at their last supper
  • Urban Rustic, a “modern foodie emporium” opens in Williamsburg (all 2600 sq. ft.!)
  • Williamsburg hangout Marlowe and Sons featured in a Ford SUV commercial

(incidentally, I asked the guys from M&S if they made a lot from this commercial, to which they replied, “Not enough.”-ka)