Archive for the ‘*TMonkey’ Category

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.

MERRIBERRY
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)
HUA HSU
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.

KANSHEFLE
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

HAMAMAMA
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

MEL
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!!!!

AYAGWA
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!

TMONKEY
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 101cookbooks.com 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.

ERIN GLEESON
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)

KAYOKO
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!

Umami Buzz

November 22, 2007

http://www.buzzfeed.com/buzz/Umami

Umamiventure Report: Sripraphai Thai Restaurant

November 12, 2007

UmamiVenture Archives:
Taste of Jackson Heights – 10/07
Red Hook Ball Fields – 06/07
Ocean Jewel Restaurant – 06/07

Saucing Pasta

October 18, 2007

There seems to be a war brewing (and if there isn’t I’ll gladly be the instigator). In one corner, we have Mario Batali, holding down the traditional Italian line that Americans drown their pasta in too much sauce, and in the other, Mark Bittman, who asserts that, Poppycock! that’s an old way of thinking, coming from the days when Italians were too poor to drown their pasta in sauce (I love the image of a family hanging up a herring and each member of the family taking turns rubbing their piece of bread on it for flavor).

I must admit, Bittman has a point (though I’d scarf down Batali’s pasta anyday over Bittman’s fairly lame-looking butternut squash and tomato dish). Do we need all those carbs? Shouldn’t we be eating more veggies rather than less? I also recently read in The Paleolithic Diet (I like any proof that eating meat is good for you) that uncooked flour (ie, al dente) is “poisonous.”

I also appreciate Batali’s position from a cultural standpoint: the Italians are probably referring to the fact that most people in America a) overcook their pasta and b) drown it in Chef Boyardee, Ragu, or even Classico (which was my fave back in the day), ie, sauces from a jar. Not a good look. Or taste.

So…are you ready for a revolution? Are you ready to have some pasta with your sauce?

Street-fish

July 27, 2007

Every morning, Bobby Fish parks his busted up maroon Dodge van at the edge of a Hess Express parking lot on West 207th Street. He unloads his signs and opens his Coors Light umbrella. “Bobby Fish,” the signs proclaim, “El Rey Del Ceviche.” People call him the King- it’s not just his own posterboard. (from Gothamist)

Sounds good to me! I’d eat there, if I ever made it past 125th. Anyone ever have it? Is it better than the Red Hook Ball Fields ceviche? Is that really is real name?

Don’t miss the comment battle below between the “hell to the no” camp and the “Your Purell covered bodies would rot at the first contact with some otherwise harmless bacteria” iron stomach camp.

I buy the argument that a fresh (and busy) seafood stand, even if it’s on the side of the road, is of comparable quality to most “seafood” restaurants. Then again, dude can’t get sued if someone gets food poisoning from his stuff.

Would you eat it?

Fear and Loathing in the Realm of Seafood-Lovers

July 13, 2007

WARNING: This post is not for the squeamish, overly sensitive, or the faint of heart. Skip this post if discussion of bodily functions offends you deeply. I’m serious!!!

I’ve mulled over in my mind, for almost a month, whether to blog about this or not. I wasn’t sure this was for Umamimart readers. Then TM forwarded me this link yesterday. Check out that fish.

It looks delicious right? And it’s being served at a fancy restaurant. But I was convinced: food-lovers need to be educated about the fish escolar!!!!

I have a deep appreciation for food. I am not super-picky nor super-gourmet, but I do get depressed if I am not eating good delicious food consistently. I am not an amazing cook, but I enjoy trying out new things, planning meals, and making food for friends and loved ones. It must have been a Wednesday night, in June. It was already hot in the city. I planned to make me and TM a fabulous fish dinner. I went to the market at Grand Central, and looked at their fish selection. I was hoping for sea bass, honestly, but it was so darned expensive. Then this caught my eye. Looks good, right?

The laminated article taped onto the display case is from New York Magazine, calling Escolar the “It” fish. I asked the guy how I should prepare escolar. “It is a very fatty fish, so you have to make sure you cook it all the way through,” he said, “I would broil it or bake it.” Sounded good to me, I bought two gorgeous fillets. When I got home, I got on the interwebs, to see if I could find a particularly appealing recipe. I googled escolar, and. to my great surprise, instead of pulling up a jillion recipes, I was faced with this, this and this:

“Escolar should not be offered on any restaurant menu. “Caution” is hardly the operative word. A friend and I each ate escolar at an upscale restaurant in New Jersey. The fish had been prepared superbly in modest portions and was delicious. Within twelve hours, my friend and I each experienced violent diarrhea. The unpleasantness was truly miserable. Following that initial experience, I explored various postings and other internet alerts. Trust me. This fish is vastly worse than ex-lax or castor oil. If you enjoy violent diarrhea, by all means, go out and order it.That was a comment posted by an anonymous person on a fish blog.”

OK so what to do? Here I was, planning to make a scrumptious dinner for my sweetheart, only to discover that the fish I’d purchased is known as the ex-lax diarrhea fish?! WTF?! What is a considerate person to do? I weighed my options. I could just toss this fish, and go out to get some pasta or something. But come on! How bad could this really be? I bought it at Grand Central Market, for crying out loud! And the chefs in the NY Mag article raved about it! And anyway, even if we did react to it, TM and I both have had diarrhea before — in fact we had both survived a pretty nasty bout of food poisoning together, and not that I’d want to relive that experience, but we are tough people, we could handle it! I ignored the warnings on the interweb and got to work.

It was a very simple preparation I settled on, finally — lots of lemon, salt/pepper and wrap the fish in foil, broil in the toaster oven for about 7 minutes per side. I forget what exactly I served with it — but when TM came home, we sat down for a DELICIOUS experience. The escolar was thick, moist, rich, so buttery. It tasted even better (fattier) than sea bass. It was cooked just right, and the lemon worked great. I tried to tell TM about what I’d read on-line, and my resulting trepidation about the fish, but he was so blown away by the wonderful flavor, I didn’t feel like ruining our lovely dinner with internet rumors.

The next day we got up and went to work. By the late morning, I was kind of in a panic. Along with my morning movement, there had a disturbing amount of ORANGE OIL (someone described it as pizza oil, which is exactly what it looks like) floating in the toilet bowl. I didn’t have any cramps, nor any diarrhea. But this oil was really frightening, and plus I noticed it was all over my underwear! Horrified, I got back to my cubicle and chatted TM, sending him this link:

10:20 AM me: have you had orange oil in your poo? TM:no, i had a perfectly fine poo thank you very much


3:42 PMme: this is crazy orange oil is coming out of my butt TM: for real??? oy that is not a selling point for that fish it tasted great though! me: i know! very richTM: OMG lemme go poop and see what comes out me: yeah take a close look3:43 PM seriously!3:46 PM TM: WHOA WHOA orange oil me: what TM: coming out of ass me: do you have it??? OMG OMG OMG TM: WTF LEAKAGE me: I KNOW TM: FUCK HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON??? me: OMG TM: HEEEELP3:47 PM me: the blogs were right, dude! fucked up, man
3:49 PM TM: what/ thefuck.3:50 PM TM: they should put a sign up at the fish monger3:51 PM “WARNING: MAY CAUSE ORANGE OIL TO SHOOT OUT OF ASS” me: HAHAHA For these reasons, escolar has been banned from consumption in Japan since 1977, as the Japanese government considers it toxic.3:52 PM TM: but that’s not necessarily true me: that it’s toxic? TM: wait so it’s a laxitive? me: well TM: it has “purgative” qualities if taken in small quantities purgative as in “violent diarrhea will ensue”3:59 PM me: Keriorrhoea, as opposed to diarrhoea, does not cause loss of body fluid and is therefore not life threatening. Not all people are affected by the wax ester. However, if it does, it causes significant discomfort ranging from stomach cramps to rapid loose bowel movements, with onset 30 minutes to 36 hours after consumption. Recovery is expected within 24 to 48 hours. do you have diarrhea? TM: great no4:00 PM just orange oil leakage me: this is what scared me when i was looking up recipes at home last night yeah me too it’s pretty disturbing TM: freaky me:
must expel orange oil


25 minutes

4:27 PM TM: i’m leaking!!!4:28 PM me: oh geez use a butt plug4:29 PM i was leaking this morning TM: i’ve never needed one until now! i think it’s showing through my pants! me: oh no, really?
4:30 PM TM: embarassing!4:31 PM me: that’s terrible, I’m sorry!!!!!!!!! 😦 (>_<)


16 minutes

5:46 PM TM:omg i just farted orange5:49 PM me: OH GOD5:50 PM i hope you have a tissue or something in your buttcrack


Escolar, the “IT” fish indeed. More like the “Sh*t” fish, if you ask me… anyways… You get the picture. Perhaps too vividly. TM was clear after a day, but I suffered through for another 2 days before I could relax about staining my underwear. And as much of a hedonist as I am, even the delectable flavor and texture of escolar are not reason enough for me to ever risk living through that experience again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I CAN HAS SETAGAYA RAMEN??

June 24, 2007

Aya: Hey Tmonkey,
boo

tmonkey: hey
have you recovered from The Banquet?

Aya: um I don’t even know what you’re talking about because I’ve had my memories from Friday night removed from my brain.

tmonkey: nooo
ok the movie was painful
but the ramen at Setagaya!
Can’t forget that!

Aya: hmmm seem to have a faint recollection….
ok jk how could I possibly forget?! SRSLY

tmonkey: omg u r such a dork
i mean, when we finally find the BEST RAMEN IN NY

Aya: WOW bold statement!!!!

tmonkey: some cat comes along and reformats ur hard drive

Aya: LOLCATS!!!! only eaten cheezbrgrs
ok ok — seriously…
I have heard that Setagaya is a chain restaurant from California and also from Setagaya in Tokyo (which, incidentally, is where my brother lives)

tmonkey: i thought chain meant it would be bad

Aya: I know, right?

tmonkey: but boy was i wrong!

Aya: OK let’s break it down

tmonkey: well, it started out kind of disappointing
gyoza?
NO
beer?
no liquor license yet

Aya: yeah, wtf, how can they be “out” of gyoza?!?

tmonkey: after that, i was like (to the waitress): “This ramen better be damn good!”

Aya: Yah, i think she was like, whatever, dude

tmonkey: i mean, we were all prepared for some serious disappointment

Aya: It’s pretty bold for a ramen shop to serve only one kind of soup

tmonkey: we = a big table of Japanese (and Taiwanese) ramen freaks
what was it? shio?

Aya: yes, shio (salt) flavor. kinda risky, considering most pp tend to favor the traditional shoyu flavor

tmonkey: isn’t that what i ordered?

Aya: no you got the chashu ramen, which basically means you got 2 extra slices of pork
the soup was the same: pale yellow color, looks light but full of flavor!

tmonkey: i love how there’s a whole different menu listing for ADD EXTRA PORK SLICES
anyways
the soup!
nice saltiness (not too much) but with good depth, and it was clear

Aya: yeah the description on the menu in bad engrish was hysterical

tmonkey: they put those three oils in it..

Aya: something like “look for the bamboo shooting on the top”
bangbang

tmonkey: oh yeah, i had some bamboo gunplay going on in mine
the noodles were AWESOME imho
al dente

Aya: u r such a dork
imho

tmonkey: shaddap
what, i like my noodles thin and al dente!

Aya: anyway the soup — made from dried shrimp, dried scallop, garlic, onion, chicken — was so full! and they added the scallop oil at the end,
very complex

tmonkey: it’s amazing how hard it is to get the soup right
momofuku you would think would be able to conjure up a good broth
(nope)

Aya: ugh

tmonkey: minca’s is too thick

Aya: i don’t know WTF they are doing over there, man

tmonkey: and everywhere else just has no DEPTH

Aya: minca is way too thick and salty

tmonkey: but Setagaya, I gotta admit, EXCELLENT

Aya: yes we are in agreement there.

tmonkey: that’s half the battle

Aya: the menu also talked about there being 3 different thicknesses to their noodles.
did you notice that?

tmonkey: not sure if i got that

Aya: me neither…

tmonkey: i was too busy slurping them into my mouth i didn’t have a chance to get my ruler out

Aya: but then again, we pretty much inaled that shit
hey
that’s what i said

tmonkey: jinx

Aya: stop stealing my thoughts

tmonkey: dork
anyways
the egg, halved and poached to perfection
delish
no piece of seaweed though
no fancy ginger

Aya: yeah. plus bamboo shotting — they had shredded seaweed (not nori)
shooting

tmonkey: what was that orange crumbly stuff on the scallions?

Aya: OHHH dried ground shrimp i thnk!

tmonkey: gave it some nice color

Aya: and packed a flavor punch

tmonkey: i liked the restraint and the humble presentation
it wasn’t trying to do too much

Aya: We should have order extra noodles

tmonkey: um, we should have just ordered another bowl

Aya: yeah second round!

tmonkey: hungry hippo

Aya: of course by that time there were like a dozen pp waiting in line to get in

tmonkey: yeah, we have to plan to be there at some odd hour to not have to wait in line, but you know
it’s totally worth it

Aya: yesh — and next time we’ll skip the crepes from next door that gave you the tummyache
and the poop poops

tmonkey: STOP

Aya: LOL
lolcats!

tmonkey: CAN I HAS SETAGAYA RAMEN?

Aya: I CAN HAS!

tmonkey: KTHXBAI

Aya: 😦
i don’t know why you insist on chatting with me when you’re sitting 5 feet away from me

tmonkey: because, sometimes there are things that are better said through chat

Aya: like what

tmonkey: like
i just farted

Aya: U NYERD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sent at 11:05 AM on Sunday

Ramen Setagaya

141 First Avenue
(bet. 8th and 9th Streets)
(212) 529-2740




Links to other Umami Mart ramen-related postings:

Grandmothers ROCK

May 29, 2007

What’s Cooking Grandma is a site about following around grandmothers and getting them to cook awesome food on camera. Almost better than watching reruns of The Golden Girls.

Watch Jackie throw down some scone. You can tell she’s made them a zillion times by the way she sticks her hand in the butter bowl and scoops out a nice fat handful by feel, and also by the fact that she has a bowl of (probably sweet local) butter sitting out in a tub at room temperature. And by the old man hanging around waiting for a fresh batch to come out of the oven. I’d be there too.

Speaking of Grandma’s home-cooking, there’s a fascinating piece in the Times about dabbawallas in India, basically a lunch delivery service that is like FedEx for grandmothers to get lunches to their hard-working sons.

“In India, where many traditions are being rapidly overturned as a result of globalization, the practice of eating a home-cooked meal for lunch lives on.

To achieve that in this sprawling urban amalgamation of an estimated 25 million people, where long commutes by train and bus are routine, Mumbai residents rely on an intricately organized, labor-intensive operation that puts some automated high-tech systems to shame. It manages to deliver tens of thousands of meals to workplaces all over the city with near-clockwork precision.

[…]The service is at once simple and complex. A network of wallas picks up the boxes from customers’ homes or from people who cook lunches to order, then delivers the meals to a local railway station. The boxes are hand-sorted for delivery to different stations in central Mumbai, and then re-sorted and carried to their destinations. After lunch, the service reverses, and the empty boxes are delivered back home.”

I’ll trade you my PB&J for your chapatis and dal and lamb vindaloo! God I wish I had an Indian grandmother so I could get in on this!

The Manifold Path to Lasagne Enlightenment

May 17, 2007

It all started with this recipe in 101cookbooks, which I love, but whose hype I had never succumbed to until one day last weekend, when I decided to make Aya a bon voyage lasagne (my girl loves her some lasagne) before her trip to Wiener-ville.

It’s a masochistic lasagne, a fact we learned later in the making of it, and perfect for me, as I tend to believe that pain is what makes pleasure possible, heightens it in the right mindset even. Of course, much of the pain I brought onto myself (and poor Aya, who was assisting me in this endeavor) as I ignored with impunity one critical direction, which I will tell you soon enough.

“This isn’t a lasagne path for the faint-hearted. Making a dish of this magnitude takes commitment and patience – and time. Plenty of it.”

See, it wasn’t just a recipe for lasagne. No, dear readers. This was a lasagne path.

It began with a question: How thin can the pasta be for lasagne? Clearly it has to be sturdy enough to hold the sauce and the cheese, but if you think about it, it’s not really holding anything. The truth is, those thick, bulky slabs we are used to in the archetypal lasagne are that thick to save the ordinary cook his sanity. Sure it’s easier when the pasta’s thicker. Easier to boil, easier to handle, fewer layers to build.

But what if you rolled out each sheet of pasta in a pasta machine, thin as a ribbon, as thin as angel hair before its filamentation? Then each bite would be light and fluffy, giving the sauce a chance to shine against the fat white cheeses. Imagine that! A light lasagne!

(Miss Heidi recommended buying the pasta fresh instead of making it yourself, and I agree. I also now would reiterate her point that it be freshly made, since the older it is, the drier and more crumbly and hard it becomes. Cracks will form and grow into massive fissures that will tear many otherwise beautiful pieces to shreds during the boiling and construction phase.)

My mistake? Ignoring this little hint: “I go to the 8 setting, one shy of the very thinnest setting.” See, my pasta machine doesn’t go to 9. It goes to 6, and, well, 5 sounds a long way from 8, so I decided to do one more pass to make it the thinnest it could possibly be. “The sheets should almost be translucent,” she continues. Translucent, yes…even more reason to put it through at the thinnest setting. Right?

Ooh, translucent (and already tearing)

A lavishly buttered dish and the first layer of sauce


Butter the dish, and ye shall be rewarded.
You can’t make too much sauce.
San Marzano tomatoes. Period.

The scene of a terrible battle, where so many were lost

Cut the strips into manageable rectangles roughly 4-inches in length.”
D’oh. Oh well…

The final creation

Trust me. It’s surprisingly light.


At the intersection of Cheese Grove and Tomato Lane.

Fat cutters
Baby arugula with shave parmesan and red onions, Basalmic and olive oil


Wait, are you blogging this?


Oh. Mygod. It’s, like, so surprisingly light!

Burrata + Oysters: The Reckoning

May 12, 2007

tmonkey lost his mind last night.

I came home from work at 10:30. The apartment was sweltering. tmonkey was walking around, sweaty, shirtless with a small knife. He mumbling something about mozzarella cheese. He had been blogging. I knew there would be trouble.

“Do you know how to shuck oysters?” he asked. I told him no. “This is going to be harder than I thought. These Malpeques are tight.”

There was some blood on the wet paper towels. tmonkey blood. Or maybe it was from the tomato sauce bubbling on the stove. Six perfect green-grey oysters nestled atop a bed of ice, taunting us. I took a knife in hand. That was the beginning of the end…

“Bye, valve.”

That’s what tmonkey kept saying as we pried open the shells. I could almost hear the little soft bodies screaming as we slid the cold blade in and forced open their shells. But I didn’t care. I was possessed. After we had readied them for ritual sacrifice, the grey oyster flesh glistening with lemon juice, we turned our attention to the Burrata. (At this point I couldn’t control myself. I was trying to scrape off the little remaining meat off of an empty shell with my teeth. I offered some oyster juice-laced shell to the little hairless Buster, but he was entirely uninterested.)

I had never seen this before. Inside the plastic container, a plastic bag, and yet another plastic bag, tied up with a mint-green ribbon. Milky liquid collected at the bottom of the bags. The cheese was heavy and white. tmonkey carefully unveiled the Burrata mozzarella and placed it on the cutting board. It looked like a creamy tumescent heart from some unknown mythical creature, about to burst. “Get the camera,” he said. His eyes were bulging. He had a clean knife. We wanted to keep a record of this moment. The first shot was completely washed out. I turned off the flash. The knife pierced the heart and slowly made its way down its surface. Almost immediately, a viscous cream began to ooze out. The engorged cheese-heart, fell open easily against the blade. The flesh inside was not smooth and seamless like the outside. It had the look of delicate sauerkraut, shreds of heavenly string, bleeding cream.

When I saw this, I suddenly realized what we had done, and what we were about to do. It was too much. We had gone too far. But there was no turning back.

The spaghetti was boiling. We had time to kill.

tmonkey took an oyster in his hand. With a fork he jabbed into the Burrata. He wound a long shred around the prongs, and twirling it just so, daintily placed it on top of the oyster. I did the same. We looked at each other, and took the shells to our lips.

Words fail to aptly describe this ineffable experience. How can I write about the texture of the oyster as it swirled around my tongue, escaping the clutches of my teeth? Or the salty firm meat of the Burrata, spreading its flavor into the corners of my mouth? The sensations were overwhelming, totally engrossing, and then, it was over, all too quickly. Leaving only echoes of the salt and sea. Guilt at such pleasure. The remaining oysters were dispatched one after another. It was all over in less than 10 minutes.

I cleaned up the debris. The kitchen towel soaked in oyster juice. Lemon seeds. Knives. The dissected cheese-heart. I saw the bowl of empty oyster shells capsizing amidst melting chunks of ice. In a desperate attempt to cling to the experience that was already now just a lingering memory, I put my right foot in the bowl, imagining myself stepping into the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean. I let the oyster juice soak into my skin, shells digging into my toes. Melancholy sets in, when something is over. But somehow I knew this would not be the last time…