"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Enoteca Maria - June 19, 2011

I am an advocate of equality; I fight against discrimination. Let me expand this a little: I respect each and every kind of animal and each and every body part; and I disdain the generic, uneducated and, worst of all, hypocritical aversion that people have for certain parts of the body of their slain animals. A frog is as much alive as a calf, a chicken or a cow; and for all we know, a rabbit is just as sensitive as a pig. Moreover, the insolent ignorance, or the ignorant insolence, toward offal – the cast-offs - of the masses infuriates me: If you have already killed a chicken, respect the life it has given up for you and eat the damned feet, too. When you order that sautéed chicken breast or a roasted rack of lamb, you are ineluctably a part of the killing even if your hands are not bloodied. Would you condemn someone less if he merely paid for the murder rather than did the actual deed? Although the order of events are reversed here: the demise of the chicken that is served on your plate is not directly caused by your order which has been placed 30 minutes ago (most likely not, every since my grandfather stopped having a chicken coop), but your order will indirectly cause its kin to be killed for someone else’s dinner because your appetite for the chicken has shown that there is demand. Econ 101: Supply and Demand. Therefore, the proper respect a human being can show to the lives that are lost in order to be turned into coq au vin or honey-glazed pork chop is not to waste any and appreciate all – feet, brains, hearts, intestines and testicles. As a matter of fact, a sense of common decency demands it. And, I must say, these generally less desired body parts are, in fact, quite gustatorily desirable.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gentleman Farmer - May 28, 2011

For a farmer, even for a leisurely and a gentlemanly one, it seemed that his sense of season was not well attuned to the changes in nature. The menu was comprised of an eclectic selection of farm animals – pheasant, rabbit, snails, duck and foie gras – and wilder ones - venison, wild boar, bison and ostrich – although with today’s technology, I suppose you can just about farm almost anything anytime, except for an unsightly fungus called truffle. Nonetheless, a wild boar is quintessentially a winter dish, is it not?

This quaint restaurant used Laquiole silverware, which, despite being quite near the restaurant supply district, I doubt if came from any of the suppliers nearby, who had apparently never heard of a banneton. This was noteworthy and admirable: I am not fussy about the décor or anything in a restaurant that does not enter my mouth; however, silverware, not only do they enter into my mouth, they are necessary to transport the food into my mouth. And yet, the quality of utensils in New York is lamentable: plates are well-aged with multi-scratches and spoons and forks are self-bending even without the assistance of Uri Geller.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Goat Rising: Got RAW milk? – June 12, 2011

No, the animals do not always have to feed me; sometimes I feed them. Nor do I feed them with the ulterior motive of being fed in return at some point in the not-too-distant future. No, sometimes I do feed them – here, the baby goats - simply because they are adorable. I admit, however, “adorable” is an adjective that is seldom used in my vocabulary in describing something with four feet.

Mari Vanna: The Russian Yoshoku - May 26, 2011

Yoshoku is a lesser known type of Japanese cooking, which literally means “Western food”: it is a “traditional” fusion cuisine that has endured two world wars and continues to endear many diners. Yoshoku was an attempt of the Japanese chefs in the Meiji to early Showa period (the beginning of the twentieth century) to cater to the growing public demand for Western style foods, fueled both by curiosity and necessity, by mimicking and replicating foreign recipes to the best of their limited knowledge and resources. In the process of learning by trying, several recipes went through dramatic mutation, which resulted in something extraordinary and delicious and, thoroughly and uniquely, Japanese. The word, “Western,” especially during the early half of this period,* was almost synonymous with the word, “European,” which mainly referred to the following: French – which resulted in the national obsession with mayonnaise and gratin; Russian – ro-ru kyabetsu (rolled or stuffed cabbage) and borushichi (borsht); German - ton-katsu (pork cutlet); and British - shokupan (English white bread) and kare-rice (curry rice), to name a few. While yoshoku encompasses a diverse set of flavors and cooking methods, the unifying flavor is the invariable mellowness and gentleness of each dish, which induces a nostalgic tenderness that would bring tears to the most hardened criminals.**

* The earlier influences were from Portugal – which produced castella and tempura.
**In a stereotypical Japanese police drama, the cop would use one of the these two phrases to crack the suspects: “You mother is crying,” and “Do you want a katsu-don (pork cutlet over rice)?”

Given such historical context, should one be surprised by the similarity of flavors between the Japanese yoshoku and the traditional Russian cooking? After all, they are two branches of the same family; only one of them has run off to Japan and married a couple of other nationals and adopted to the new home country.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

O’Rourke’s Diner: Are diners bistros? – June 10, 2011

I had neglected, perhaps deliberately and ignorantly, the quintessential American dining institution: the Diners. I did not understand the raison d'être of diners, nor did I understand the fixation people had for diners. American food – raw or prepared – is, if euphemistically put, “unrefined,” and frankly, “bad” and truthfully, often “murderous” with all the additives and hormones. And yet, I confess that my favorite show for some time now, while on the elliptical in the gym, has been Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The show provides me with a shot of self-righteousness to boost the ever-declining morale and takes my mind off the painful fact that I am laboring on a ridiculous exercise machine like some kind of a marmot. Despite being my favorite show on Food Channel, I had never seriously entertained the idea of ever dining in any of the featured diners, well, not until being hit in the head by Hightstown Diner.

Are diners bistros? Belatedly, I have begun now to wonder whether I had been looking in all the wrong places in the U.S. in search of good food. Given my penchant for bistro over restaurant, and trattoria over ristorante, I perhaps should have suspected that real food might be found in diners rather than fancy restaurants, which seem to be equally plastic and Botox-ed up as many of their patrons in Manhattan.

Therefore, I went to O’Rourke’s Diner with one burning suspicion, which needed confirmation: Are diners the bistros in the U.S. that I have been searching for?