Saturday, February 28, 2009

Warm Chicories Salad with Poached Egg, Bacon and Kumquat

We've been making a new salad recently, after trying it at Nopa a few weeks ago. They still have a version of it on the menu.

The basic idea is to combine warmed up chicories, either endive or radicchio (or both), with bits of smoked bacon, thinly sliced kumquat, some of the bacon cooking grease (or oil olive for a healthier option) and a poached egg (the yolk makes the salad). It's a fantastic combination. We briefly warm the chocories up over low heat in a pan and combine the bacon, bacon grease, olive oil and kumquat with a little salt and pepper. Simultaneously, we poach the eggs, and after plating the salad, top off each plate with a single poached egg. It's a warm, tasty salad, perfect for an easy weekend lunch or brunch.

More Momofuku

Yes, you can call it an obsession.

The last few trips I've made to New York, I have insisted on dragging my friend, Dan, to Momofuku. My most recent trip was no exception, well, except that I insisted on taking him there twice, two nights in a row.

Tuesday Night, February 24, 2009
Dinner, Momofuku Ssam Bar
New York, New York

Dan and I arrived early, at about 6:45, and the restaurant was nearly empty. We sat side-by-side at the main long table running down the left side of the restaurant (I suppose you could think of it as a "bar," though half of table seats diners on both sides and looks more like a high table than a bar). The menu, which proclaims itself not at all "vegetarian friendly," looked as decadent as ever. The best way to describe the menu is as an unabashed homage to fat, rawness and strong, rich flavors. Pork is the dominant feature of most dishes, though the menu includes an impressive offering of raw oysters, fish, shrimp and sea urchin (I tasted the uni with tapicoa and whipped tofu on my first visit to the restaurant a year and a half ago).

We started with the steamed buns, which are unlike any other bun I've ever tried. Instead of what I think of as a traditional round, sealed-off Chinese bun, the Momofuku buns are crescent shaped and more like soft, thick tacos or pitas than anything else. Stuffed with slices of braised pork belly along with a layer of rich, salty hoisin sauce, cucumbers and scallions, each bite was a welcome reintroduction to David Chang's inventive and pleasurable cooking.

Next, we ordered a special dish of mussels steamed in a salty unfiltered sake broth with bok choy. Served with lamb sausage focaccia for dipping, the sauce made for one of the most unusual and flavorful versions of steamed mussels I've ever tasted. We also ordered a charred squid salad, dressed with ginger, scallions and mizuna (a Japanese mustard green). This was the weakest and least interesting dish. An order of lamb torolloni, however, turned out to be a beautiful pasta dish served with black garlic, pine nuts and rocotta cheese.

Our final plate was lamb sweetbreads, which were served with chestnuts, king oyster mushrooms and radishes. A truly amazing combination of flavors, the chestnuts and mushrooms combined with the sweetbreads to make a rich, thick, deep and dark sauce that coated the tender sweetbreads. The texture of the fresh radish contrasted nicely with the softness of the other ingredients. It was a superb dish. We drank a J. Christopher white wine from Oregon with the meal.

For dessert, we walked next door to the new Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar, where we tried the Cereal Milk soft serve ice cream (yes, it tasted like the leftover cereal milk) and marshmallow cereal milk, which I preferred for its tartness and slightly green color.

Wednessday Night, February 25, 2009
Dinner, Momofuku Noodle Bar
New York, New York

The next night, I once again dragged Dan out to try the Momofuku Noodle Bar, which was the original Momofuku restaurant. It looks almost identical to the Ssam Bar, but the menu is smaller, more modest, and features primarily noodles and ramen. Like the Ssam Bar, pork is the favored meat at the Noodle Bar too. We could not resist ordering the pork buns again. They were identical to the ones we ate the night before, though no less pleasurable and tasty. We could have ordered chicken buns, made with the darker chicken leg and thigh meat and crispy chicken skin, but neither one of us could resist the pork belly a second time around.

We also tried the Momofuku Ramen, a bowl of hot ramen noodles served in a pork broth with shredded pork, pork belly, scallions and a poached egg. It was as rich and enjoyable as it sounds. Finally, we shared a braised beef shank, which was served with carrots and turnips and topped with freshly shaved horseradish. The beef was soft, tender and perfectly braised. I enjoyed the horseradish, but the dish was fairly predictable and not as inventive as I would have hoped for. We drank a bottle of Gruner Veltliner with the meal.

For dessert, we tried the only dessert option available on the menu, a swirl of vanilla wafer and banana soft serve ice cream. I loved the vanilla wafer flavor in particular. On the whole, it was a very good meal, though none of the dishes topped the creative mix of flavors from the night before.

Walking out of the Noodle Bar, we walked past Ko, which I would love to try some day soon. I peaked in the small porthole window in the front door and gazed in on the twelve lucky diners enjoying their meals. It was a sight to keep my Momofuku obsession alive until my next trip to New York.

Dessert Update

Despite the respite from blogging, I have not taken a break from cooking or baking.

Here are some photos of a few successful desserts:

Malt Ball Cake, Version III (earlier versions here and here):

And my mother and me cutting the cake:

I also made a butternut squash crostata from a recipe created by the pastry chef at Delfina Restaurant in San Francisco:

And, I made the easy and Thomas Keller's always delicious lemon sabayon tart last weekend:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Three Stars for Momofuku Ssam Bar

As you may recall, I absolutely love David Chang's restaurant Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York. I've eaten there twice, once about a year ago and once again early in October when I was in New York for one night for work (past postings about Chang and Momofuku here and here).

My last meal there was an amazing. My friend Dan and I ordered pork buns, meacham country ham from Kentucky, pickles, roasted wild stripped bass with Jersey corn, chanterelles, pancetta and lima beans, pork shoulder steak with zucchini and buttermilk dressing and a strawberry shortcake made with corn bread, strawberries and creme fraiche.

The pork bun, the fish and the strawberry shortcake were phenomenally good. The buns are perfect, the fish with the corn, chanterelles and lima beans was amazing and I loved the play on succotash, and the combination of non-sweet corn bread, strawberries and creme fraiche for dessert was inspired. It was all seriously delicious. The atmosphere of the restaurant was loud and cramped(we were seated next to two very loud guys who we ended up befriending over the course of the meal), but the good food makes putting up with the noise and cramped quarters worth it. Also, much to my surprise, we were seated immediately. I had expected a long wait. It was a truly great meal, and I highly recommend a stop when in New York.

Also, check out Frank Bruni's review of Momofuku Ssam Bar in which he gives the restaurant three stars today. I also recommend watching this short narrated slide show of the restaurant and food while Bruni talks about the restaurant.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Opening of the Dining Commons for the Edible Schoolyard

Lou and I attended the opening of the new Dining Commons at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley yesterday.

The Dining Commons is a new, open eating space for the 950 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at King Middle School. In addition to feeding the students at King both breakfast and lunch, the kitchen staff also prepares meals for all the other schools in the Berkeley Unified School District.

The commons completes the plan to integrate the school's lunchroom with the Edible Schoolyard, an instructional garden on the school grounds where students participate in experimental learning in the garden. The work and learning in the garden connects to formal academic instruction in the classroom, and the commons is the eating place where the kids can eat fresh, healthy food. Both the Commons and the Edible Schoolyard are incredible projects of the Chez Panisse Foundation.

Before the lunch began, we toured the garden. The lunch menu included yellow lentil soup with spicy yogurt, roasted organic chicken (not from the schoolyard coop!) with herbs from the Commons garden, garlicky potatoes, grilled fall vegetables, lettuce salad and fruit and cookies tisane.

My photos from the day follow.

Two of the garden teachers welcoming a group for the tour:

The chicken coop:

A view of the garden:

Inside the commons (it looks nothing like a cafeteria):

Another inside view from our table at the start of the program:

Back in the garden:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Urban Farming

While I'm posting again (sorry for dropping off the face of the earth), I'll mention this story about Will Allen in Milwaukee, who recently was awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation genius grants for his work running a non-profit farm, Growing Power, inside the Milwaukee city limits.

It's an inspiring story of this man's commitment to providing fresh, natural and locally grown food to a poor urban area where fresh produce is often in short supply. Allen's urban garden has become a focal point for urban renewal, volunteerism, creativity as well as a showcase for composting, gardening and the joys and pleasures of fresh and natural food. Will is practicing food justice at its best.

Bi-Rite In the News

There are two stories out this week on Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, one of my favorite grocery stores in the city. The Chronicle ran a story yesterday and Edible San Francisco has a story in the just-released October issue. There was a posting about Bi-Rite on the Ethicurean today.

I'm a big fan of Bi-Rite's commitment to selling locally grown and organic food, and these stories highlight owner Sam Mogannam's leadership of the store and his decision to buy a farm in Sonoma to grow some of the fresh produce sold in the store. It's a great idea, and I'm glad he's getting some publicity and some commercial success for his efforts.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What I've Been Up To Lately

I've been sick for most of the last two weeks, so my apologies for not posting.

Lou, Amy and Jen did take me to a fantastic birthday dinner at Ubuntu in Napa, which I'll write more about soon. Lou also surprised me earlier that day with a private tasting and vineyard tour at Quintessa. All I can say now is, wow. They make a truly amazing wine.

Be sure to check out this report from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which Mark Bittman wrote about on his blog yesterday. I haven't fully digested the report yet, but it seems to make the point that despite rising prices for food Americans still pay very little for food compared to other countries. Very interesting.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A New Report on Wasted Food in Britain

Here is an interesting story from the Times of London on a new government report that estimates just how much food the British throw away uneaten annually. It's a staggering 1/3 of all food purchased.

LA Times Opinion Piece About the Farm Bill

Daniel Imhoff has written a great summary in today's LA Times of what's wrong with the soon-to-be-passed Farm Bill.

My sister gave me Imhoff's book, Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill, for Christmas, and I think it's an extremely helpful book for better understanding the history, composition and consequences of the bill. What Imhoff does not explain, however, is how citizens can come together at the grassroots level to apply political pressure to elected officials to change the Farm Bill and demand better food policies. I'm giving that some thought.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Artichoke and Pea Risotto

Lou made a fantastic baby artichoke and pea risotto tonight. He sauted the artichokes and then finely chopped them before blending them into the risotto with the peas. It was, as you might expect, rich and creamy; a truly spectacular meal.