You Say Tokyo, I say Tokyo

After many hours in the air, over the Great Lakes, and then the Bering Straights, I find myself back in Japan: #9, #9, #9.  The trip over was chiefly somnambulant, punctuated by reading, “Savages,” watching, “The Artist,” and drinking beer and gin while sustaining myself on chicken.

It’s easy here if you embrace the rules: Hug them to death.

Late arrival and this A.M. early, jet-lag induced consciousness.  Soon it’ll be seeing Endo-san for unagi and then a stroll and then back on the plane only this time to Sin City.

Where is that?  Well, you might ask.

Get In, Get the Money, Get Out

The last time I went into NYC and out the same day was in my twenties.  I started that behavior when I was a teen: A play, a slice, the bus back to Chocolate City.

This time it was to video the very estimable Alfred Portale: Chef-owner of Gotham Bar & Grill.  I love this guy.  He was cool before chefs were cool, and his coolness was and is based on the work, the honesty, and the very beautiful ingredients used in his restaurant.

Prior, running late due to a two hour flight delay, I had to bag a much desired lunch at Boulud Sud with my lovely friend G.  Everyone should have a friend like G.  She’s just such a kick.  Smart and a kick, bonus!

But instead it was solo at the bar at Lupa.  Now that I’d never done before.  Eat solo at Lupa, I mean.  Grilled mackerel with grapefruit and oxtail ragu with garganelli.  Man, that is pure heaven.  I love this place.

After the shooting with Alfred, I walked uptown to meet Shoko, a.k.a Cool Miss Cool.  We ate at my favorite sushi place in N.A.: Sushi Yasuda.  Wow, right?  Hamachi, unagi, anago, etc.  The etc. was especially delicious.

Then it was a mad dash to Newark.


Languages of Love (Not)

Just like everyone else, I’ve been thinking about Spain, its imminent economic collapse, the ramifications on Europe, the rippling effect on American banks and employment and the Presidential election, and the implications for a possible surge even faster and greater than before from India and China whose anti-democratic ideologies might be part of the coming hegemony.

What?  You’ve been thinking about artisanal cheeses?  Neat!

Anyhoo, to quote Ma again, to rid my mind of the anxiety encroaching upon panic that is implicit in wondering about what happens next, I’ve been immersed in language tapes.  Give me a language based task any day.  It’s the perceptual, hand-eye stuff that throws me in a tizzy.

So: Having reviewed Japanese once again, I’m prepared to order food and drink, get directions, buy something, and say excuse me, please, and thank you.

That done, I’ve been studying Thai.  I’m at the point where I can say excuse me, no, the English language, the Thai language, and I understand.  That latter phrase, for a male speaker, sounds something like, “Kow-chi clop.”  The irony?  I don’t understand.

Meanwhile, it’s planning the next meal, Spain and languages aside.  That means: Boulud Sud and Sushi Yasuda.

And don’t say you don’t understand.  I do: Kow chi clop.

Who Needs Friends When You Can Have Good Ravioli?

Last night I cooked up an amazing batch of eggplant ravioli from Andy’s Italian Food & Deli on 256 Delaware Avenue in Albany, New York (518-463-2754).  Wow, delicious.  Boil salted water.  Cook up the ravioli and take out when they rise up.  They won’t be done, but that’s part of the plan.
In a frying pan, heat up about four tablespoons of good olive oil.  Add 1/2 a chopped carrot.  Stir.  Add a chopped garlic clove and a small, chopped red onion.  Stir.  When everything looks done, lower the heat from high down to the lowest setting and add 1/2 a container of Pomi chopped tomatoes.  Stir.  In about five minutes, add the ravioli and some shredded parmigiano.   Stir for a few minutes.
Place the ravioli in two deep bowls.  Add the sauce.  Add some chopped, leafy parsley, a chopped (sweet) radish, freshly grated parmigiano, and black paper grated to taste.
Dig in.
This beats going out: I find that the conversations with people my age or about my age tend to be about mortgages, retirement plans, their next trip, their last trip, their kids, our kids, their work, some uninformed but shared political or cultural opinion, a new book they want to read or have read, the new Wes Anderson movie, a spouse’s amazing dinner that’s better than what they ate in a restaurant, a new restaurant they loved or feel is overrated, and the weather: How hot it’s been, how cold, how unseasonable.  Clearly, I need new friends.
Until then: Albany Ravioli.
These two are friends.
These two boys are best friends. Friends for life! Stock Photo - 10641291
This is ravioli:
ravioli and basil Stock Photo - 10047267

Miso Crisis Narrowly Averted

Who doesn’t love miso might better be phrased: Who doesn’t love salt?  This wonderful soybean paste, which reaches a zenith in Japan, where it is sold from barrels in markets, adds deep flavor to just about everything.  Add a smidge to soup, stock, and even tomato sauce.  Smear a chicken or turkey before roasting.  Marinate a fish and then grill it.  The depth of flavor created is astonishing.

Miso in Japan can be found in lots of remarkable varieties.  Mild blond stuff, dark and speckled with barley, nearly black and dense with plenty of soy.

The problem is that miso has tons of salt.  The average tablespoon packs a minimum of 31% of what the feds call the daily allowable in terms of what is healthy.  Yow, right?  So while you’re happily smidging, smearing, and marinating, you are putting enough salt in your body to send your blood pressure through the friggin’ roof.  (And we all know what friggin’ means.)

That in mind, I have set about trying to come up with, for a start, a broth that might substitute for the miso.  Last night, thick lab glasses pushed up and over my forehead, safety helmet on, elbow length latex gloves holding the beaker and fixing the calibration, I watched with glee: MSA (Miso Substitute Achieved).

Now this is only a start, for broths, but soon I am confident that pastes will be created.

Meanwhile, here is what you do: Heat up a couple of tablespoons of canola oil under high flame.  Add a tablespoon of finely chopped ginger.  Add three chopped scallions.  Add four thinly sliced baby bok choy.  Stir.  Lower heat.  Add about a cup of water.  Add drops of sesame oil and white wine vinegar and about 1/8th a teaspoon of devil juice (soy sauce).  Stir.  Boil water.  Add noodles–udon, whatever.  Place noodles under cold water.  Put noodles in bowls.  Hit the broth with high flames.  Lower heat.  Add broth to bowls.  Top with vegetables.  Top with any protein you like: Pan seared red snapper, roasted duck, whatever.

Now we’re talking.

What is Terroir?

You might be the sort of person who looks for news about food in the Food sections of various media.  Not me: I look to the Business sections.  Follow the money, and you get the best stories.

In today’s NY Times: Charges of fraud roil the wine industry of Burgundy.  Now this may not seem so so so important, given the sense that within 120 days, max, Europe as we know it will fragment, collapse politically, and send the price of Brie soaring, but when the zenith of wine is seen as committing fraud, it reverberates across all industries.

Specifically, the Times reports: “The Burgundy wine industry has been in an uproar since news emerged last week that four executives of one of the largest wine producers in the region, Labouré-Roi, had been detained on suspicion of falsely labeling hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine.”

What these guys are accused of is adding wine to top off the good stuff and also mislabeling ordinary wine to jack up the prices.

More generally, the broader implications are that the pride associated with making great wine may be taking a back seat to our old friend, Profit.  Even more broadly, the question of trust comes up.  If you can’t trust the pinnacle of one of the world’s rarest, finest products, what is going on elsewhere in economies?  Are other products sneaking around the rules?

Of course, that’s what we call a RQ (Rhetorical Question).

The Road to Perdition in Burgundy:

The road to Chateauneuf in Burgundy on a beautiful summer day. Stock Photo - 10846593



One Good Broth Deserves Another

The Noodle Craving has taken on new dimensions.  And aren’t we all tired of protein driven meals in which the sides are kind of a nod to the Primary Care doc who insists on more green?

The solution is to look to Asia: China and Japan and the Southeast.  Here we are talking broths and noodles and veg and a smudge of protein.

It is so easy.

Here’s what you do:

Boil water.  When boiling, add udon or egg noodles.  Cook a few minutes until nearly done.  Rinse under cold water.  Set aside.

In a small pot, heat up a few tablespoons of canola oil.  Add a thinly sliced garlic clove, a quarter sized piece of chopped ginger, and a thinly sliced onion.  Stir until wilted.  Add two tablespoons of good quality Japanese miso: Blond, brown, or brown with barley.  Stir.  Add about 1 and 1/2 cups of water.  Stir.  Add whatever good vegetables you have on hand: Fresh lava beans,two  thinly sliced bok choy, kernels you have cut off a couple of ears of corn, etc.  Fresh chanterelle, bean sprouts, etc.  Don’t overdo it.  Lower the heat.

Get a good piece of fish, no more than 1/4 pound per person: Toro, red snapper, salmon, whatever.  Salt and pepper and canola oil on a plate.  Dip the fish in that.  Heat up a cast iron pan.  Pan sear the fish.  Remove from heat.  Let cool.

Put noodles in two bowls.  Add broth.  Add vegetables.  Slice fish and place atop the bowls.  Put a smudge of salt on the fish.

Total prep time: About 5 minutes.  Total cooking time: About 15 minutes.

Chopsticks, a spoon, and you are good to go.

You will need these:

Brown chopstick isolated on white background Stock Photo - 10462293


The Albany Report

One would think that after so many years of living in the East that I would have visited Albany, New York before this Friday.  Not so.  At last, I made it to the capital of The Empire State.

Prolonging the arrival, I took Route Two from Boston, through rural Massachusetts and Upstate, where, at the border, a northern vista near a hairpin turn showed me 60 miles towards Vermont.  So beautiful it was startling.

Albany seems to have a healthy mix of varying hues.  Burmese, African Americans, white folks, etc.  The architecture is simply lovely and at places dramatic as is often the case in capitals.  Lots of 1920s brick row houses, old school restaurants.

We found a wonderful place: New World Bistro.  A wildly eclectic menu served up by tat covered, cheery wait staff in a bar like atmosphere.  I’d go back in a heartbeat.  Sweetbreads with Egyptian hummus, a good, flatbread pizza, stewed beef with plantain.

The next A.M. it was buttered bialys at All Good Bakers where Elizabeth and Nick hold court.  A garlic scape scone.  All Good is right.  Dude with the Cat in the Hat tat on his right forearm was chill.

Followed by a long stroll on Delaware Avenue.  Must once have been an Italian neighborhood: A fabulous bakery, three first rate grocers.  Forty-five minutes later and I had eggplant ravioli and pappardelle.

It’s a city that attracts me.

Stock Photo - view of albany,<br /><br /><br /><br />
new york. fotosearch<br /><br /><br /><br />
- search stock<br /><br /><br /><br />
photos, pictures,<br /><br /><br /><br />
wall murals, images,<br /><br /><br /><br />
and photo clipart

Europe Is About To Collapse!

We haven’t seen anything like this in, what, 75 years?  It is gonna be ugly.  U-G-L-Y.  Here is what’s gonna happen in a matter of weeks or maybe a few months: Greece elects a government on Sunday that, nationalistic or not, creates the mood for leaving the E.U.  Spain, faced with astronomically high interest rates on loans and 20% unemployment, defaults.  The Euro, buttressed by Germany, disintegrates.  The clever Swiss and English see their currencies soar.  U.S. exports to Europe decline because no one can afford them.  Unemployment rises just in time for the November elections.

The good news?

We have really good micro-breweries in this country.  I had a couple of canned cold ones last night with delicious pizza from Upper Crust while watching Lebron go mad.  We also have very nice bakeries.

The beer and pizza and bread will come in handy soon…

Broccoli & The Supremes

Just like most of you, I avoid broccoli unless it appears when served with General Gau’s chicken.  Who General Gau was, whether the dish would be as popular if it was called Captain Gau’s chicken, or why I was ravenous for it yesterday?  Questions for another day.

That said, I see Justice Scalia’s point about broccoli.  It’s a pretty awful vegetable, and I love vegetables.  Want a green vegetable that’s good for you?  How about Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, or Savoy cabbage?  Better yet, head over to your local Chinese or Korean or Japanese grocery store and stock up on beautiful Asian vegetables.  The array of stuff is amazing and when stir fried quickly with smidges of garlic and ginger, tossed into a broth, tossed with noodles: Very satisfying.

So let’s mandate everyone to eat Asian.