Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New York Food Coma

As many of you know, Masa Miyake will be opening his second restaurant, Pai Mei Miyake, in June(ish). We will focus on Ramen, with a few other food offerings as well. The beer and wine list that we put together will be small, and there will be an emphasis on sake, and I’ll be behind the bar.
To get us on the right track, Masa took the restaurant staff down to New York City for a full day of eating noodles and drinking recklessly. It was an experience that I will never forget, that I feel very fortunate to have been a part of. This is how it went:

Day One

I decide to roll down a day early, as I don’t have to work on Saturday, to get a head start on the rest of the gang. I figured that I’d take the Concord Trailways to Boston, the Acela Train to NYC, and then meet up with the rest of the Miyake crew in the morning. As I was buying my bus ticket, however, the person at the counter went ahead and booked my whole trip by bus. I was going to stop her, until I heard that the total was about $100 less than the train. Fuck it, I’m only going one way, right? How bad could it be?
Due to “time constraints,” or the fact that I was “up until 3:30 a.m. drinking whiskey the night before,” I was forced to eat McDonald’s twice during the trip down. The first was a delicious sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle for breakfast, which didn’t make me feel that bad. The real damage was done by the fact that I had to rush to get on my connecting bus in Boston, therefore only having time to shovel down a quarter-pounder with cheese. Plus, I didn’t ask for fries but they gave them to me anyway, so of course I had to eat some while furiously washing everything down with mildly refreshing Dasani water.

I enjoy taking the Concord Trailways bus to Boston - it’s comfortable, roomy, and sometimes they show a really shitty movie like “Hoot.” I cannot say the same, however, for the Peter Pan bus from Boston to NYC. The seats are cramped, especially when the tallest passenger decides it’s a good idea to cram his goofy ass in next to you. This, coupled with my self-loathing from all of the McDonald’s, made for a very long ride.
I quickly put the journey behind me as I head over to my friends' - Sean and Emily - apartment to stash my shit and freshen up. I have a few glasses of wine to unwind, and then head over to my first stop, Momofuku Noodle Bar (171 1st. Ave).

The hostess seems to appreciate that I’m not a total fuck-head who assumes she has any control over how long it takes people to eat, so I’m seated fairly quickly at the bar, where I order a carafe of the:

Miyasaka 50, Yamahai Nama Ginjo, Nagano Prefecture, Japan.
Nice apple and pear flavors made this fairly full-bodied sake perfect to stand up to the rich and salty pork belly in the ramen.

I start with bar snacks – 7 spice chips and a soy sauce egg. The egg is what I would consider to be perfect bar food, as it was rich and salty with a nice crispy garnish. I move on to the Momofuku Ramen, which has pork belly & shoulder, bamboo shoots, and a poached egg among a few other treats.

The broth has got a really nice smokiness to it and the obvious elements are delicious, those being the egg and pork belly. Because this was my first stop for noodles, I had nothing to compare to yet, but this seemed to be a good start.
Dinner number two was at Craft (43 East 19th St.), where my pal Sean is head bartender. He greets me with an absinthe cocktail that he calls the “orange fairy,” a concoction that uses fresh apricot and orange to mask the potency of the absinthe. As I look around and peruse the wine list, it brings back all of the things I miss about high-end restaurants in the city. The problem with Portland is that even if a “high-end” place has great food and the right idea, they just don’t have the budget or the clientele to maintain something of this caliber. I would describe Craft’s wine list as “unapologetically ridiculous,” limiting your options in many categories to only the best, and most expensive available(not just because of the name, but due to the fact that they are actually incredible and rare wines).
As much as I would have loved to wreck a bottle of Silex from Didier Dagueneau (it’s the last you’ll ever get because he died tragically in a place crash), I realize that $330 is well out of my price range. I decide to mix it up and start with a glass of:

Champagne “Expression” Brut, Rene Geoffroy
Grower-champagne from the Terry Thiese portfolio that reminds me a lot of pear crisp. If you want a mass-produced wine from a large house that buys all of it’s grapes, avoid this.

I start with a few Barron Point oysters from Washington State to go with my champagne, which are briny and delicious. Then it’s time to get down to business with veal sweetbreads served with a fermented black garlic sauce. The portion was substantial here, remember this IS dinner number two, but absolutely fucking delicious. Next is the pork ravioli with pancetta, which is as good as it looks. Time for a few glasses of:

Von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett, Pfalz, Germany
Flavors of limestone and citrus compliment the acidity to cut through the richness of the sweetbreads and the pancetta in the pork ravioli.

I’m damn full at this point, but out comes a ridiculous assortment of homemade ice creams and donuts, with lemon curd and chocolate sauce for dipping. The donuts in particular, paired with the lemon curd, are outrageous. Sean closes up the bar and we head down the street to the Flatiron Lounge (37 West 19th St.) to murder some Don Julio Anejo tequila before going home to drink the three bottles of wine I brought down with me. They were:

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire “Clos Habert,” France
Off-dry Chenin Blanc wasn’t necessarily the most appropriate for this occasion, but nor were we.
Domaine Parize Givry Champ Nalot, France
Getting foggy… Did I remember to get bottled water?
Cantina del Pino Langhe Nebbiolo, Italy
Don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure we were watching “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Day Two

The only explanation for how chipper I felt that morning was how fucking excited I was to eat ridiculous food all day. I head out and meet up with Masa, Karl, and Will at Ippudo (65 4th Ave.) to get things started. Keep in mind they'd been up since 5AM driving from Maine. The d├ęcor is definitely on the trendy side here, with the staff yelling a lot to create a more authentic Japanese atmosphere, which seemed to make Masa cringe/laugh more than anything else. Personally, I was too distracted with all the pretty Asian waitresses to even notice…

Unfortunately, it was only 11AM and in New York you can’t get cocktails on Sunday until noon. We decided it would be a good time to get some hydration in and started with fried shishito peppers served with yuzu salt. We followed that up with their version of bbq buns, which were dough wrapped like a taco around bbq pork, iceberg lettuce, and spicy mayo. I literally could have eaten ten of these, but knew I had a long day ahead of me so I used restraint (sometimes I do this).
Next was the Ramen, I went with the Akamaru Modern with an added supplement of Kikuni, and holy shit was this good. They make their own noodles here and the pork belly was to die for. The broth was rich, meaty, and spicy. I declare that I could eat about twenty eggs with it, not knowing that I would get disturbingly close to that number over the duration of the trip.

We finish up and head out for a quick walk before going to a random bar for drinks. I thought it was funny that the stool I sat in had a picture of John Belushi above the bar directly across from me, which prompted me to order a shot of Rumpleminze to fuck-start my day.

Now that the engine is firing again, we head to Setagaya (34 ½ St. Marks place) for the second round of Ramen. This time we try the Shio (salt) style, which is lighter and a little bit healthier. The overall package wasn’t as good as Ippudo, but the eggs were absolutely perfect and it was nice to try a different style. We realize that we’re all getting a little bit full, and that we should drink some sake to rebuild our appetites.

Sobakoh (309 East 5th St.) is next on the agenda for soba noodles and tempura. We order a few nibbles to start, including some tamago (Japanese omelet), which I love, especially when it’s not stuffed with shitty nato beans (long story). I decide to try a Japanese beer called Echigo, which becomes the group favorite for the duration of the trip. A delightful pairing for the bottle of:

Dewazakura “Izumi Judan” Ginjo, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan
Refreshing and light with almost gin-like qualities, this sake is a perfect lunch choice.

For a main course I get cold soba noodles with ebi (shrimp) tempura. The noodles come with a soy-based dipping sauce that you add very hot water to at the end of the meal and enjoy like tea. I begin to insist that Masa hire strippers for the new restaurant, and change the name to ‘Tamporno,” to which he responds by politely changing the subject. I could have sat all day and eaten the fried shrimp paired with cold beer, but we still had quite a bit on our agenda.

It’s now about 3PM and we head out to Jersey to visit Mitsuwa(595 River Rd, Edgewater), an enormous Japanese Supermarket, which to me is quite possibly one of the most distracting places on Earth. There are massive isles of just about everything, be it miso, sake, or kitchen appliances (though not on Sunday, by law). I begin to realize that the three of us look like Masa's over-sized entourage, keeping him safe while he shops. It seemed that Karl and Will were up to that challenge, so I break off from the group and discover the product of the day (some kind of potato liquor drink):

While Masa waits in line to pay, Will and I purchase beverages to enjoy in the parking lot:

The ride back to the city involves forcing Masa to listen to a lot of Lady GaGa at very loud volumes - he acts like he doesn’t like it but I can see him tapping his fingers. It’s not quite time for dinner yet, so we duck into some random Irish Bar, or as Karl put it “anyplace with a fucking bathroom I don’t care I’m going to piss myself.” Beer and whiskey eventually make me a little hungry again, so we head over to Robotaya (231 East 9th St.) to sample a different style of cuisine – robotayaki. It’s a lot like sitting a sushi bar, except everything is grilled. Two chefs sit on perches and hop around gathering ingredients to cook, handing everything, including beers, across to you on a long paddle.

We order several things, standouts being dried skate fins grilled and served with Japanese mayonnaise, beautiful grilled asparagus with lemon, marinated cubes of fresh bamboo shoot, whole scorpion fish, and king crab legs. I think that this place is more about the experience, because the food is wildly expensive for what it is.
We drink more Echigo, and a few half-bottles of:

Kudokijozu Ginjo, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan
Definitely the fruitiest sake of the day, it’s flavor really shined when paired with the skate fin and mayo.

The final stop is one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to - Sakagura (211 East 43rd St). It’s located in an office building, and as you can tell by the pictures, it's very unassuming on the way in.

They’ve actually got a sake list about 250 bottles deep, with incredibly rare stuff that I’ve certainly never encountered before. We get an order of beef tongue, which is braised to perfection, along with a few other items. Ice-cold Echigo goes hand-in-hand with a bottle of:

Tedorigawa “Iki na Onna” Lady Luck Daiginjo, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
Even though I’d already imbibed quite a bit, I could appreciate this bottle. It was very creamy, with almost honey-like notes to it.

I look at my notes from this point in the evening and it just says:
“I Love Asian Women.”

This trip was worth every moment of the two-day hangover that ensued.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Food Coma Book Review #1 - The Barbie Party Cookbook

Thanks to Don and Samantha who own Rabelais Books in Portland, I've recently received one of the most amazing cookbooks I’ve ever laid eyes on: The Barbie party cookbook.

Not being one to keep a find like this to myself, I’ve decided to give you a play by play of the magic contained in these pages. This is sure to become a timeless classic in your collection.

If you look deeper into Barbie’s parties, however, you find a sordid tale of lust, deception, and criminality. We will explore that with my commentary (in italics) as well as suggested wine parings (also me) should you decide to take on one of her elaborate events.

The book begins with a foreword from Barbie herself, which is broken down into three sections: planning a party, Barbie’s kitchen rules, and a convenient cooking dictionary. I’ve included a few excerpts here -

Planning a Party

A really fun party requires a lot of preparation, so before you invite all of your friends, grab a notepad, pencil, and calendar, and then sit down with one of your parents to discuss your plans. You’ll need to decide on the date, time, number of guests, place, and theme.

I would sit down with Mom, she seems more reasonable about these kind of things. Remember, you don't have to be totally honest.


Try to choose a day that doesn’t conflict with another event, that is free for your parent(s) and that is okay with almost everyone you want to invite (there are bound to be friends who can’t come so don’t be discouraged). If you’re planning a slumber party, remember that you will need to keep two days open.

Politely remind your friends that if they decline your invitation, they will most likely never be invited back. Barbie would also like to remind you that most people get really fucked up at slumber parties, so give them an extra day to recover/apologize.

Number of Guests

The best parties are always those with your closest friends and a few new acquaintances, such as the talented girl in your ballet class or the twins who just moved in across the street! By inviting these people, you get to know them better and they get to meet new people. Send out your invitations or call your friends on the phone two to three weeks before the party.

Yeah, I think I’m busy that weekend... wait, the twins from the across the street are coming? They just moved in! Oh.... you know what? I’m totally available that day!


If you’re not having your party at home but at a beach, public pool, skating rink or park, talk to the people at the place you’ve chosen to find out if it’s okay to have your party there. In many instances, you would call the Department of Parks and Recreation. Let them know the day and time as far in advance as possible (some locations get very busy at certain times of the year). Check to see what costs, if any, are involved. Make sure your parents know about these arrangements.

I’m sure the nice people down at Parks and Rec would love to hear from a ten year old, and would be happy to discuss costs and availability. Once you’ve got an invoice lined up, it’s time to get your parents involved.


On the following pages are my ten best party themes! Choose one that would fit the time of year you’re having your party. the type of food you and your friends like to eat and any other activities that you already have planned for them. For example, if you’re having a summer birthday party I would recommend either the Ice Cream Birthday Party, the Summer Cookout, the Beach Party, or the Southwestern Fiesta.

This sets the stage, but first a few of my favorite kitchen rules from Barbie:

Before you begin to cook, make sure you can use the kitchen. An adult needs to be present to help you with difficult steps and to answer your questions.

I personally think it would be best if you begin your cooking projects at three in the morning, when all of the grown-ups are asleep. Shhhh! If you wake them up, they’ll just boss you around!

If your hair is long, put it in a ponytail. Don’t wear loose baggy clothing. Hair in your eyes and clothing that gets in your way can be unhealthy and dangerous when you cook.

You look like shit, which is dangerous in the kitchen.

Make sure little brothers, sisters, and pets are kept away from knives, the stove and other hot things.

You should also probably hide your cigarettes.

The last step before we get to the theme parties is from the cooking dictionary:

Make something wet by sprinkling small drops over it.

(insert caption here)

#1 The Video Slumber Party

Suggested wine pairing: I actually think maybe a bottle of good Lambrusco, such as Villa Corlo, would cover all of your bases here.

One stormy winter night, Skipper, Christie, Teresa and I made miniature pizzas and popcorn with two different toppings. Then we climbed into our flannel nightgowns, snuggled into sleeping bags and had a ball – watching movies and snacking away! The next morning I made French Toast Raspberry Jelly Sandwiches. Yummy!

Looks like Christie showed up in her wedding gown, she’d better be careful eating her mini-pizzas! These definitely do not look like flannel nightgowns to me, with the exception of maybe Skipper. Skipper had been complaining a lot about her weight, so I didn’t make her any pizza. The movies we watched were “Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS” followed by “Little Monsters” with our favorite, Fred Savage.

#2 Valentine’s Day

Suggested wine pairing: When pairing with sweet foods, it's best to go with even-sweeter wines. Pedro Ximenez sherry would fit the bill nicely here.

This year I sent out homemade invitations trimmed with lace and my girlfriends all wore shades of pink or red. It was a very romantic evening: We listened to love songs on the stereo. Ken was crazy about my ice cream cookie sandwiches; I loved the heart-shaped locket he gave me.

My friends started to feel a little awkward when they realized that Ken was the only guy at the party. He kept making comments like “Hey Barbie, why don’t you show your friends the locket again” and “maybe you guys should, I don’t know, play dress-up or something.” They soon took off and I thought Ken and I could finally spend some quality time, but he decided to eat too many ice cream sandwiches and complain about his stomach being upset from being “lactose intolerant.” Once again, Ken had ruined Valentines Day.

#3 Italian Festival

Suggested wine pairing: An Italian red wine called Aglianico has both the fruit and acidity to work with the tomato sauce and garlic bread - Di Majo Norante makes a good one called "Contado."

When you want to treat your friends to a really yummy, filling meal that is a jiff to make, try my dinner from Rome. I actually got the recipe for the tomato sauce from a chef I met while visiting Italy. Bon appetito!

As far as Ken knows, I never slept with the "chef," we just went out a few times. I tried to explain to Ken before we went out to eat, that I often get embarrassed when he dresses like he’s in the “Siegfried and Roy” show. This comment is greeted with, per usual, a plastic smile and lifeless eyes. I think I need a new boyfriend.

#4 Garden Tea Party

Suggested wine pairing: Champagne from a great producer such as Egly-Ouriet or Ruinart would be appropriate here.

When the roses are blooming and the afternoon sun is warm, dust off your patio and put some fresh-cut flowers in your vase. Then find a frilly dress in your closet and invite all of your friends over for tea, sandwiches, and girl-talk.

What seemed like a good idea at first has turned into just Amelia, the one I like least of the whole group, and I having forced small talk while shoveling tea sandwiches into our mouths to make time go by faster. I can’t believe all of those bitches said they were busy.... and where the fuck is Ken? I’ll bet he’s with Skipper, that skank. Worst. Garden. Tea. Party. Ever.

#5 Ice Cream Birthday Party

Suggested wine pairing: Brachetto d'acqui such as Rosa Regale from Banfi. Ice cream can be a little tough, so I think a good rule would be to pair with something you would pour over it.

Roll up your sleeves and put on your apron – you’re about to make some of the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted. Cookies N’ Cream and Super-Fresh Strawberry – both with my chocolatey hot fudge sauce – is bound to make your birthday fun, fun, fun! You may never buy store-bought ice cream again.

These bitches keep complaining about putting my fucking fudge sauce on everything, but I don't care. I remind them they can waddle their dumb-asses down to the Dairy Barn for some shitty soft-serve if they don't like it. I remind Julie that if she's going to come over with her "My Little Pony" looking hair, then she would have to deal with the fact that I color-coordinated the cones. Sometimes I don't even know why I bother throwing amazing theme parties.....

#6 Summer Cookout

Suggested wine pairing: something fruity and red from California, such as Stagecoach Vineyards Black Bart's Syrah, will go just fine with warm weather and burgers.

What’s a summer without a cookout? Well, when you taste one of my cheeseburgers you’ll wish you could cook out year-round. I like to finish this meal with a traditional favorite: S’mores! (This party could also be held at a campsite)

I'm not actually sure who's child this is but I DO know that I'm tired of feeding it. I think it might be a stray, so I feel bad for it. The other day I bought it a toy, which kept it occupied in the yard for several hours. I'm getting pretty good at this whole parenting thing....

#7 Beach Party

Suggested wine pairing: a zippy and fresh Sancerre from the Loire Valley such as Henri Bourgeois "les Bonnes Bouches."

This occasion is bound to be a splash – when you taste my Chickabobs and Pacific Salad you’ll feel as if you’re on a South Sea island. They’re the perfect food to enjoy with the surf, sun, and sand!

Ken seems strangely into Teresa lately, and he definitely has made some suggestive remarks to Christie. I thought completely emasculating him with the outfit I picked out would work, but he’s still ignoring me. Some days, I just feel like running him over with my Baja Beachcomber, and then standing over his lifeless body and telling him how much I hate all of the mean things he says to me in front of my friends. Instead I guess I should go make the fruit cups though, people look like they’re getting hungry...

#8 Southwestern Fiesta

Suggested wine pairing: If there's anything I drink with tacos outside of ice-cold beer, it's dry German Riesling. Try the Dr. Burklin Wolf Estate offering from the Pfalz.

It was a hot dusty-dry day, and we’d been out horseback riding over hill and dale. We were tired and thirsty, but most of all we wanted a meal that we could really dig into. That’s why I whipped up these mouth-watering tacos and quesadillas. They were gone in no time!

In a cowboy outfit that would make both Elton John and Liberace blush, Ken continues to embarrass me with every chance he gets. I think it's funny that Teresa doesn't seem to mind, but I think the joke will be on her when she finally discovers that Ken completely lacks any genitalia. In the meantime, that bitch can keep shoveling down the tacos that I MADE for her. Oh yeah, nice work not wearing any leggings to go horseback riding - I'm sure the horse was thrilled to have those abrasive hairy legs of yours slapping against it for several hours.....

#9 Halloween Magic

Suggested wine pairing: A Chenin Blanc called Montlouis from the Loire Valley will have the acidity plus the body to stand up to the grilled cheese and apple crisp.

For this devilish night I baked my bewitching Pumpkin-Raisin cookies and gave out half to trick-or-treaters. The rest I served at the my party and there wasn’t one left.

I couldn’t help but notice the look of disappointment on the trick-or-treaters faces as I shoved pumpkin-raisin cookies into their bags. I turned away from the door to find Ken, with his “Fisher Price: My First Bondage Party” mask on, making a face at me that implied “I told you so.” I replied that he looked like an “even-gayer Robin” and stormed away to put the rest of the cookies out for my guests. Later on I snuck into the closet and made out with Aaron, Ken’s football teammate , and it was amazing (because he had dressed as “Magnum P.I. for Halloween, and you know how I feel about the whole moustache thing).

#10 Winter Sparkle

Suggested pairing: A modestly-priced red Burgundy such as the Domaine Parize Givry "Champ Nalot" would be delicious with the mac, and the hot chocolate will cover you when it's cookie time.

Brrrr! When we all got back to my place, everyone’s toes and fingers were numb and our stomach’s were empty. After a hearty meal of scrumptious macaroni and cheese, we sipped homemade hot chocolate and nibbled peanut butter cookies. It was the perfect way to end the day.

I was in a pissy mood because my pink snowmobile shit the bed about 3 miles away, and Ken's useless ass wouldn't come pick me up. Now that I'm pretty confident I'm going to lose a toe, I guess I have to cook for these people so they'll stop complaining about being "chilly." When Ken gets here, I'm going to pour molten hot homemade hot chocolate into his lifeless plastic eyes and force-feed him my "chock-full of lactose" macaroni and cheese.

All pictures and excerpts taken from:

Vinitsky, Wendy (Foreward and Party Intros) and Helene Siegel (Recipes). The Barbie Party Cookbook. Los Angeles: Price Stern Sloan, 1991. Print.