Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Picture Says...

Givenchy. Haute Couture.
Those three words are enough to give me cold sweats. Those three words make me want to dump my Mastercard into the hands of a sales associate for just one piece.
I often find the Haute Couture collections beautiful but painfully impractical and utterly unobtainable.
But this Givenchy Haute Couture skirt by Ricardo Tisci makes my credit card (and heart) go pitter patter. I love the richness of the black; the way that the waistline curves around the hips. I like the fact that the zipper pulls are works of art and not pieces of metal engraved with some obscure company's initials. Anyone can do a contrasting lining, but who does a lining like this? You get the sense that the inside of this skirt is as beautiful as the outside. (Very few things irk me as much as when the inside or back of a garment is neglected like a red-headed stepchild.) I spend 50% of my life arriving and 50% of it leaving. I'd like to look good both ways.

And so here is to fashion. And art. And dreaming...

(Photo by Karim Sadli in Elle June 2012, Page 286).

My Favorite Things...

As my 1.5 readers have noticed I have been absent from my blog for quite some time. A lot of it has been pure laziness, but some of it has been due to photos. I take terrible pictures. Yes... I am Asian, I hate rice, and I take terrible pictures. There I said it.

I look at my favorite food and fashion blogs, and I am blown away by the photography. And while some would argue that blogs are about "content", I want to see pictures. Well now that I have a phone with a semi-respectable camera, I can start working on my piss-poor camera skills. No one is going to nominate me for a photography award, but it is certainly better than anything my Blackberry could have coughed up from its HD card.

So now... finally I am going to share some of my favorite things. Yes... I'm branching out from just food. Don't get me wrong, I love food. Am actually obsessed, but I need to branch out. It might be good for my waistline.

So let me tell you about Ayaka Nishi. (
Ayaka Nishi is a young NYC jewelry designer. She came from Japan to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and after graduation she cut her proverbial jewelry teeth with Phlip Crangi and Justin Giunta of Subversive (a pretty impressive way to start). I first read about her in Elle or Bazaar... I can't remember which and since then I've been searching for her designs.

Her designs are handcrafted and seem to walk the fine line between nature and science. She has collections that are inspired by human anatomy, plant cells and cobwebs. Her pieces are delicate but not dainty; unique but not overwrought.

But I digress... I finally tracked down more of her items at Old Hollywood Moxie in Greenpoint. Tiffany and Maya let me try on everything; they were so nice and this store is a gem (more on them later). I think this little spine ring may want to come home with me one day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Chicken in Paris

For those of you that don't know, my pet name is chicken. And I am in Paris. I arrived yesterday in fact; and because of one screaming airplane baby, yesterday was largely a manic blur. My friend Pierre took me to see so many parts of Paris that I had never seen. My favorite by far was the amazing Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It is off the beaten (read tourist) path which is part of what makes it so lovely. It has a beautiful view of the whole city, and near the "top" you can grab a drink and watch all of the families and runners go by. Who knew that Parisians exercised?

But (and it was bound to happen) after 2 verre de vin (I could have used that word "verre" the last time I was in Paris) I went back to the apartment and bought 4 slices of jambon sec and a potato pancake and fell asleep... For 13 heures.

Back to today, I woke up in yesterday's clothes and promptly looked up a place to go for brunch. Chez Casimir was the hands down winner. It was close to where I was staying and The Accidental Parisian gave it a good review. It was in the less desirable neighborhood around the Gare du Nord, but once inside the grit of the surroundings melted away like a kilo of buerre on a hot croissant. The place was small and rustic and the maitre'd was also the bartender and the jambon slicer. In the middle of e small dining room was a buffet of different plates: lentils, tuna, pates, braised leaks, salad greens, escargot, betterave (beets), bread, butter, moutard and even more bread (bien sur). In a shiny red meat slicer there was jambon sec though the aforementioned bar tender/maitre'd seemed to take e meat slicing portion of his job lightly.

From the kitchen came a small cup of squash soup and a plate with a slice of baguette covered with saumon fume and butter. With that came a soft boiled egg with the brightest orange yolk and a dollop of whipped potato and olive tapenade. In America we put cream cheese on smoked salmon, but after this dish I propose that as a country we seriously rethink this and opt for butter. And just when I thought I was full, out came a small cocotte of beef and white beans

"There is a dessert buffet," the kind waiter said to me in English. How could this be? The French do not eat like us piggish Americans. But I looked around and sure enough all the thin Parisian girls had their plates loaded with desserts. And despite the fact that I am not a dessert girl a small vaguely French voice in my head whispered, "Well, when in France..."

The strawberries put the strawberries at Mountain Sweet Berry Farm to shame. THESE were strawberries. And so one half of a strawberry rhubarb crepe, two strawberries and a creme caramel later, I paid for my feast which was 25 euros, but I was none the poorer for having

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Love Letter to David Chang

The Momofuku's, in my mind, represent everything great about Asian food, American culture and downtown NYC. And so when Mark, a great designer and an even better friend, was granted a fellowship in Scotland to design for Glenlivet, we decided to have a going away party. What would the theme be? Well we all decided it should embody something that Mark wouldn't get a lot of in the next three months. And before you start guessing, the theme was Asian food.

And so Mark's going away dinner was my Love Letter to David Chang. Not in that weird groupie way that makes people take off their clothes. And not in that teenage squirt perfume on a note and fold it up and pass it in class sort of way. No this was my unabashed attempt at making Chang's thoroughly modern, utterly honest cuisine.

First course: Arugula, Pickled watermelon rind, Lardons and a Bacon Vinaigrette... this recipe without a recipe was in David's cookbook. What is better than bacon and watermelon? (of course you can consult my blog about Zak Pelaccio's famous dish)

What I like about Momofuku Ko is that after you eat your Chicharrone and amuse, they always serve 2 raw fish dishes. These are two of the best courses in the dinner. The first dish was a success. Scallop crudo, Sriracha Creme Fraiche, Yuzu Usukushi, poppy seeds, Chives and chive flowers.

The second was not such a success. It was actually a deviation from the world of Chang... it was inspired by Fedora's chef, Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly's amazing (lightly) cured mackerel with BBQ potato chips, sriracha and avocado cream. I whole heartedly recommend his version. I did not really recommend mine. We shall skip the picture of this course. It photographed the way I did in sixth grade. Poorly. Okay... without the perm.

Each spring, there is one farmer at the Greenmarket who sells wild asparagus. And while the debate rages on as to whether this truly a different species or just cultivated asparagus run amok, I took yet another cue from David Chang and set roasted asparagus above shiro miso butter and under a slow poached egg. My first attempt at keeping a dozen eggs at 140 degrees for the better part of an hour? Comical. Clearly, my technique needs some work, but luckily miso butter (like bacon) makes everything better.

After three appetizers, we were on to Bo Ssam. Eight pounds of pork shoulder with Ssamjang, Ginger Scallion Sauce, Lettuce Wraps, and thanks to Randi, Chinese Buns. I won't elaborate: I'll let the pork speak for itself.

At this point we took a brief break. But not for long. At Osteria Morini, Michael White's crew whips up a lovely torched grapefruit with demerara sugar and basil. Simple and utterly perfect. So our palate cleanser was a grapefruit granita (with a little raspberry thrown in for color) with basil sugar.

Of course no love letter to David Chang would be complete without a mention of Christina Tosi. She is the genius behind crack pie, compost cookies and cereal milk. And our dessert was cereal milk, avocado puree, candied cereal, and chocolate. It wasn't pretty. But it was gone by the time we were all done. And ultimately, even though the meal was not perfect, the friends and the cause could not have been better.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Food and Other Causes

I've had a strange relationship with food and my weight for my entire life. I was a chubby kid that wore pretty plus sizes. The one who had a Janet Jackson-esque wardrobe malfunction in a yellow tutu at the age of 6, effectively ending my budding chubby ballerina career. There was a point in my life when I was actually thin, but I still thought I was fat, and by the time I realized I was thin, I was fat again.

Come high school I wore a mother of the bride's dress to my prom and though I evaded the freshman fifteen, I succumbed to the third year thirty. It did not help that I was MVE (Most Valuable Eater) on my college soccer team. Some people got off the bench. I got in the cafeteria line, even going so far as getting cut off one day in the cafeteria line after consuming 13 cheesesteaks. When I returned to the table that day, my friends asked, "Where's your [14th] cheesesteak?"

"I got cut off, " I replied.
"That's amazing, " my friend John said.
"Why?" I queried.
"You made the cafeteria lady care."

And that was my first experience with eating as a social cause.

When I was in medical school, I ran into an old friend from college who asked me to dinner. And two weeks later, we were sitting in a sushi place in Tribeca called Nobu, dining on the omakase, and changing my life forever.

From then on I vowed to myself that I would only eat food that I loved and would not eat for subsistence. But alas, without the skills to cook anything but Spaghettios nor the wallet to buy anything more than one of the X-Large pizza slices that Hoboken is known for, I did not make good on my promise.

These days eating seems more complicated then ever. Do you eat local? Hyperlocal? Regional? Foreign? Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Pescatarian? Lacto-ovo-uh-oh-tarian? Are you steak only? Pork only? Kosher? Glatt kosher? Halal? Do you buy hormone free? Antibiotic free? Non-GMO? Monsanto? Do you eat for yourself? For the environment? For survival only? Do you cook? Order in? Go out? Drive through? Perhaps forage? Farm? Cultivate? Whole Food? Will that be Braised? Broiled? Raw? Super-sized?

You get my point. These days every bite matters. Every meal is a political, social, environmental, and health statement. For my own part, the most common question I get from cancer patients is, "What should I eat?" And though some suggestions can be made, the overwhelming evidence suggests that it is not what you eat once you are diagnosed, it is what you should have been eating for the last 50-odd years of your life.

And on this, day, when I am about 10 pounds above my happy weight and 20 pounds above my dream weight, and I'm toying with pragmatic pescatarianism and more time spent at the gym and Greenmarket, I still can't help but eat for the simple joy of the food, meal and the company. And if, along the way, you can make the world a little better, a farmer a little richer and the cafeteria lady care... well all the better.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving: The Return

And so it begins again. The holiday. Actually the poultry that really started this blog in the first place, is rearing its ugly (but often tasty) beak again. Yes... Thanksgiving is around the corner. As Thanksgiving has gone, I have battled turkeys countless times. I've wet brined. Dry brined. No brined. I've slow roasted. Fast roasted. Both roasted. I've started breast up. Breast down. Breast flipped more than Pam Anderson on a trampoline. And yet still, I've come to no other conclusion but this:

Turkeys were not meant to be roasted in an oven.

I'm convinced that when I hear my friends say, "My mother's turkey was SO moist! She didn't have to do anything, " that they are merely referring to the oil and salt injected poultry in the neighborhood grocery, which, while state of the art at the time, is the Thanksgiving equivalent of reading the last page of a brainless Candace Bushnell book first: it certainly saves you time, but can't be good for you.

Either way, this year the bird is getting braised. Yes you heard me: BRAISED. There will be no Norman Rockwell moment (but there never, in all honesty). Mark Bittman's braised turkey recipe is the recipe of the year if you must know; made ahead of time in all likelihood. And this year I will not get drunk and burn the brussel sprouts. And I won't give myself carpal tunnel ricing potatoes. No this year, will be a fun, injury free Thanksgiving. This year I'm putting this bird (and this battle) to rest.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Momofuku Cookbook

Last Friday, after wandering around the Greenmarket, I bought myself the Momofuku Cookbook. I bought it as a gift to congratulate myself. I'm not sure what I was really congratulating myself for. Making it through another week? Remembering to put on my sunscreen? Gaining 5 pounds while I'm trying to lose 10? Either way, I felt that I needed congratulations, so I bought it.
It is 5 days later, and I've read 80% of it straight through. I'm obsessed. I think what I like best about it, is that it is not a self-congratulatory tome. I've read a number of cookbooks. One, by a famous French chef, stands out in particular. The chef had another author write the prose and the intervening stories read like a seafood Harlequin novel.

"The tides roar in and Chef SoandSo decides he wants to make us all fish for dinner. As we all turn to go to the car, Chef SoandSo rolls up his pants and dashes into the water. He momentarily disappears under the angry gray foam. We gasp for a moment and then breathe a sigh of relief as he stands, victorious, with a 10 ton tuna in his right hand, shirt ripped open by the currents."

Okay, I know I'm exaggerating. But in my mind, despite the fact that Chef SoandSo is extremely talented, the dramatic stories overshadow the real star: the food.

David Chang's book, on the other hand, really comes off as a humble collection of recipes and the story of his restaurants is a super compelling mixture of luck, temper, hard work, and trial and error. Dropping a mixture of F-bombs, kimchee, and menu brainstorming into one book is pretty cool. Like Thomas Keller, he pays tribute to some of his amazing food sources: Bev Eggleston and Allen Benton. To dispel misconceptions about foie gras, he dedicates a couple of pages to his foie gras source, paying particular attention to the animals' wellfare. His true respect for the talent of Marco Carnora (Hearth, Insieme), Andrew Carmellini (formerly A Voce, now Locanda Verde), Wylie Dufresne (wd-50) and many of his own partners comes off as sincere deference.

Credit is given where credit is due.

My Smart Wine Friend (SWF) thinks that many of the ingredients are inaccessible as are the times and techniques which is true. These certainly are not Rachael Ray's 30-minute meals (thank goodness) and would be a challenge to put together on a weekday. But as a weekend project they are utterly tempting. I truly appreciate Chang's "ghetto sous vide" method. And though many cookbooks do not tell you what can be made ahead of time, Chang's book seems to recognize that while life may be "a la minute" not all cooking can be.

I totally recommend this book. Stay tuned for a demi-glace blog... yup had a major demi-glace triumph this past weekend!