Archive for ‘american food’

June 26th, 2016

スモーガスバーグLA デビュー!

スモーガスバーグ、と聞いてどこかで耳にしたことあるなあ、と思う方。もしくはそんなの昔から知ってるよ〜、ブルックリンの屋台村でしょ?とおっしゃる方。その通りです。2011年にNYブルックリンでスタートして以来人気が絶えず、ラーメンバーガー等様々な話題のある食を生んできた大人気野外大型屋台村です。そのスモーガスバーグがロサンゼルスに先週日曜日、6月19日にデビューしました。出店内容は9割、地元ロサンゼルスのお店で、市内にお店を持っている所も有れば(Pizzanista!)、イベントやファーマーズマーケットで少しずつ人気が出て来てるお店(Mamamusubi)、また、ニューヨークからはラーメンバーガーやロブスターロール、そして今、インスタグラムされまくりのレインドロップケーキ(今年のクロナッツか)など様々。初日は父の日だったせいか、家族連れからブロガー、カップル等多くのアンジェリーノ達が猛暑にも負けず(35度!)集まり盛り上げてました。

 

50軒近いユニークな食べ物屋さん、飲み物屋さん、デザート屋さん、どれから試してよいのか迷います。友達とたくさんで行ったとしても全部制覇するのは難しい、ので、以下、ロサンゼルスのメディアのおすすめです。コメントは私のものですのであしからず。また、私のおすすめも最後に追加しておきます。

まずは大御所ロサンゼルスタイムス紙より

Bub and Grandma’s Bread ダウンタウン周辺で精製された小麦粉を使ってパン職人の焼くバゲットやサワードウ。クラストが固くて中がしっとり。生きてるパン食べてる!という感じです。

Burritos La Palma 先日行われたタコス祭り(Tacolandia)でベストに選ばれたブリトー屋さん。手作りトルティーヤが売り物です。スパイシーなサルサとモチっと小さめのブリトーは王道B級グルメ。

Califas Taco ロサンゼルスの人気タコス屋さん、Mexicaliと新しいラテン風ステーキコンセプトのレストランSalazarのオーナーのスモーガスバーグだけで出す「フライドポテト」とタコス。

Guerrilla Tacos 新鮮なウニや刺身、フォアグラ等を使ったグルメなタコスをフードトラックでカジュアルに楽しめるので人気。高級素材とストリートが融合したこれぞロサンゼルス、なタコスです。

Maury’s Bagels ベニスにある人気レストランGjustaで働いていたシェフのはじめたベーグル屋さん。スモークサーモン等もGjustaのものなので味に間違いはないはず。ベーグルは「モチッとして味わいある」らしいです。

Porridge + Puffs 今、ロサンゼルスで小さなブームのフィリピン料理。ハリウッドにある同名レストランの出すフィリピン風お粥。半熟卵やピクルス等で見た目も味も一工夫されてます。

Rucker’s Pie ここも上記Gjusta出身であるペイストリーシェフのパイ屋さん。季節のフルーツをふんだんに使って一人分の小さいサイズからファミリーサイズまで色々。クラストは言うまでもなく、さくっと、しっとり。

Ugly Drum Pastrami パストラミサンドイッチとパパイヤスラーピー(Slushyと呼びます)だけで勝負してます。パストラミは蒸してあるのをその場でちょっとずつ切ってくれてジューシー。スラーピーはNYのホットドック屋、パパイヤキングのパパイヤドリンクにインスパイアされたの?と聞いたら「ニューヨークで飲んだ事ないんだよ」と言われちょっと悲しかったですが、本物のパパイヤが入っており、本家より美味しいです。

情報紙 LA Weekly

Amazebowls: ココナッツを半分に割ってその中にアサイボールを入れ、ボール(ココナッツ)ごと食べられるおしゃれでヘルシーなスイーツ。可愛い見た目はスナップチャット、インスタグラムでの自慢になること間違いなし。アート地区とベニスに近日お店オープン予定。

PopdUp: ハイビスカス、ブロッドオレンジ等、ユニークな味で体によい素材を使って作ったオリジナルシロップのドリンクをグラスのジャーで。甘さも控えめなので暑い夏にはピッタリ。コーヒーゼリー等、トッピングもアジアっぽい。(オーナーは日系人の方)

The Jolly Oyster: 自然との調和を大切にしたベンチュラ地区にあるオイスター専門店。生のオイスターをスパイシーかハーブのソース、そして小さな粒のフィンガーライムで頂きます。日系人の多いトーランスにもお店あり。

Paloma’s Paletas: 蝶ネクタイをした売り子のお兄さん達が素敵なアイスキャンディー屋さん。ピンクレモネードやココナッツ等、パステル調の色で楽しいです。パレタスとはスペイン語でアイスキャンディを意味します。

Belly & Snout: ホットドック屋さんですが、トッピングにアドボやオックステール等がある、ここもフィリピン風。ロサンゼルスで一番多いアジア系って、実はフィリピン系の方々であり、アメリカ国内で最もフィリピン系が多いのはロサンゼルスなのです。

Red Hook Lobster Pound: ニューヨークのスモーガスバーグでも人気のロブスターロール店。ロサンゼルスのロブスター屋さん、Lobsterdamus もグリルしたロブスターを出しているので食べ比べはいかが?両店ともメイン産のロブスター使用。

Raindrop Cake: 日本の水信玄餅にアイディアを得て作った「雨粒のケーキ」とはすばらしいネーミング。今年のヒット商品であること間違えなし。水を固めただけ、とか黒蜜が美味しい、等アメリカ人の感想は様々です。

Porridge + Puffs  上記タイムス紙をご参照ください。

Calo Provisions: ポークの「出汁」と椎茸の「出汁」ベースの選択肢があるメキシコ風スープ、ポゾレとラテンのちまき、タマレが売り物。ロサンゼルスの食文化の融合が見られます。

Good Gravy Bakes: アメリカ人の大好きなビスケット、日本で言うクッキーの様なビスケットではなく、甘くないスコーンに10倍くらいバターを足したものをビスケットと呼びます。南部の朝ご飯には欠かせません。LA Weeklyさんはおすすめの様ですが、これは私もアメリカ人の夫も一口食べて、不味い、と捨ててしまいました。ビスケットはさくさくでももちもちでもしっとりでもなく、グレービーと呼ばれるホワイトソースも味が中途半端でした。

Rucker’s Pie: 上記タイムス紙をご参照ください。

気づいた方もいらっしゃると思いますが、ロサンゼルスなので多くはメキシコ風。様々なバリエーションのタコスが多かったです。また、ニューヨークでは割とアジア系食が強かったのに比べ、ストレートなおにぎり屋さん、ヌードル屋さんとタイ料理以外、物珍しいアジア料理はなかったです。フィリピンがアジアを代表してくれてるのでしょうか、上記のお粥以外にも焼き鳥っぽいお店が有りました。また、ビアガーデンもありますので、飲みたい方はIDをお忘れなく。ビールの飲めるのは区切られたエリアのみ。未成年は入れません。

私が美味しいなあ、と思ったのはBub and Grandma’s Breadのパン、NY発の手作りモッツアレラチーズをパン粉をつけて揚げたBigMozzのモッツアレラスティックです。チーズの新鮮さが味わえる上、ディッピング用についてくるトマトソースにコクがあり気に入りました。また、思わず買ってしまったのはThe Sprouted Nutのナッツ。水につけ、発芽したところで低温乾燥しているので火をくわえてないので栄養価が満点の上、クランチー。ヘルシーなスナックにぴったりです。食べ物以外にも古着、アクセサリー、家具等色々おしゃれな物売ってます。

その他の屋台リストはスモーガスバーグLAのウェブサイトをご参照ください。

さて、場所はロフトチックなオフィスビルのあるRowDTLA。すぐ横にはAmerican Apparel のビルも有り、この一角だけおしゃれなのですが、一歩外に出るとあまり安全を感じられないのでご注意を。車で来る方は2時間まで無料の駐車場が敷地内に有ります。入り口はAlameda StとBay Stの交差点。Uberなどを使う方はダウンタウン、Alameda & Bayと言ったら連れていてくれます。毎週日曜日朝10時から夕方6時までです。因に日曜日以外は会場は野菜等の卸し市場です。

May 26th, 2014

Bread and Chawanmushi

Everybody has a favorite carb.  Depending on my mood, my favorite carbohydrate is either Japanese rice or noodles.  My husband?  His choice is predictably, bread.  One time, I left him to fend for himself for his meals, and found out later, that he ate two baguettes by himself in a day. I like the smell of freshly baked bread and eat it at restaurants, but I never brought a baguette or any bread home before I started dating my husband.  One of our first dates, we went to a restaurant which name contains bread and bar for lunch.  Two of his favorite words.  We ordered a bread basket, expecting lots of freshly made warm bread.  Unfortunately, they didn’t deliver anything close to our expectations as we got scraps of bread pieces.  Right there, we established the unspoken code of “NEVER ORDER THE BREAD BASKET”.

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Bread Plate | Faith & Flower

Fast forward five years to the current day where we just realized that we’ve ordered a bread basket twice in a few week…and even more surprising, one was my idea.  Faith & Flower, a rustic Californian restaurant opened near our home, and a few weeks ago, they started offering brunch.  The menu offers a variety of interesting selections.  You can get something familiar like twice cooked potatoes or something exotic, like “Chawanmushi”, which is coincidentally my favorite dish of all time.  It’s a traditional Japanese savory egg custard made with eggs and seafood stocks, but at Faith & Flower, it’s made with lemon dashi and chicken confit.  The brunch also offers their signature dishes,  “Eggs Benedict Pizza,” and “Oxtail Agnolotti.” Both are available on their lunch and dinner menus as well.  I usually order something interesting so I was deciding between their handmade ramen or their Chawanmushi, but since my husband ordered the potato, fried egg and a bread plate, I picked a protein instead of a carb.  Western style Chawanmushi.

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Chawanmushi | Faith & Flower

The bread plate came with a couple of slices of chewy and hazel nutty oatmeal bread, right out of the oven (with the proof being a slight burn on top) croissants, and a pistachio bun with butter and homemade berry preserves on a pretty French antique looking plate.  Very pretty. Even prettier: the bread.  All three kinds of unique, fresh and warm bread made me happy, but the highlight was the pistachio bun.  It was soft, moist and had the perfect density, with a pistachio creme and citrus zest on top.  We were hooked.  Everything that came after was good, but my husband and I were already discussing how we could come back the next day and get this bread plate again. Fortunately or unfortunately, one of us has to work on weekends for while, so we didn’t get to revisit this gorgeous plate of bread for a couple of weeks, but we did talk about it a few times, so that counts.  All that changed this Sunday while I was making us brunch.  I made a call to the restaurant and ordered the bread plate to go.  I had to, because now, I understand the beauty of good bread.

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Pistachio Bun | Faith & Flower

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Crispy Egg | Faith & Flower

 

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Crispy Twice Cooked Potato | Faith & flower

 

 

January 7th, 2012

When size meets taste…

A friend of my husband’s sent him this photo.

It’s a hammered pork sandwich from a restaurant in Las Vegas called Hash House a go go.  What made a mere sandwich so noteworthy?  The plate is as big as 3 adult faces!  On a recent trip to Japan, this one picture helped bridge the language gap as my non-Japanese speaking husband was able to ‘wow’ my Japanese friends and family with it, as they marveled at the sandwich’s size.   Both amused and appalled, Japanese people already think American portion sizes are huge, but this picture was beyond their imaginations.  Immediately, they asked if this was something we ate in the States everyday.  I knew the answer they wanted to hear, was ‘yes’, as that pretty much goes in line with how they already picture America–huge EVERYTHING, but the answer, as you could guess is a realistic ‘no’.  Sure, compared to Japanese food, American portions are usually twice as big, but to find truly huge portions like that, you have to do a bit of searching.

When we were in Las Vegas, my husband suggested we go to Hash House a go go, for breakfast.  I was reluctant because usually the best part of a big portioned meal is its size and not its flavor.  Also, call me a snob, but who’d believe a restaurant found in a dingy casino on the strip would be good?  As we walked over, I was thinking, “There are many, many great places to eat in Vegas, but marriage is a give and take.”  Since he took me to a four star restaurant the day before, I should let the next meal choice be his, right?  My stomach clenched in horror as I realized that my next stop would be home to something I’m still learning to appreciate, big portioned, hearty American food.

Talk about surprises!  Oh my goodness.  Fried Chicken with bacon (!!) waffles, where the waffles and chicken were bigger than an adult male’s enlarged heart.  But what about the taste?  The waffles were delicious; very dense, yet fluffy, and not airy at all.  It tasted great with the fried leek garish that came with it.  The fried chicken was delicious, with a moist inside and crispy outside, and as an added plus, it was kindly de-boned!!  Sure, having actual strips of bacon instead of bits, baked into their waffles and preparing well seasoned fried chicken shows that the chefs cook with care, but serving de-boned chicken demonstrates that bit of extra love that’s so often lacking.  Without a doubt, I can say that this is possibly some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.  I’d never thought I’d say this, but I’m so glad my husband took me to that diner in that run-down casino!    Since we got back, I’ve semi-seriously suggested several times, that we drive to Vegas just for one more taste.  I found there’s the original location in San Diego, which is shorter drive from Los Angeles… totally doable.

Sure, they might laugh at a picture of what I’ve just described, but would Japanese people actually like this dish?  The one hurdle to overcome is the combination of sweet and savory, which Japanese people usually don’t like.  In this case, serving fried chicken alongside maple syrup might seem scary at first, but with a dish like this, I’m confident that this huge plate of food will please their senses of taste as much as it dazzles their senses of sight.  Viva America!

December 25th, 2011

Christmas food

As my brother and I got older, we graduated from KFC to sushi for Christmas.  Nothing traditional about that.  Japanese people in general, like to eat something special on Christmas; it could be paella, it could be tandoori chicken.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this survey I saw in a Japanese magazine!

Like I mentioned yesterday, the number one food Japanese people want to eat on Christmas day is fried chicken, followed by: #2 Roast beef, #3 Pizza, #4 Fried potatoes, #5 Sushi, #6 Tandoori chicken, and finally, #20. Garlic toast.  Pretty random, isn’t it?  As a Japanese person who has been living in America most of my adult life, I don’t understand this list either.  By the same token, as a foreigner living in America for over 20 years, I don’t understand why people eat the same food on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are both within a month of each other.

My husband is Jewish, so this year, we decided to go for a traditional Jewish Christmas dinner, Chinese food.  This year, we were in New York City on Christmas day, so we hopped in a taxi to my favorite Chinese joint, Congee Village restaurant.  Turns out our plans weren’t all that unique.  When we arrived, we were told the wait would be 45 minutes, but after converting ‘hostess’ time to real time, our wait turned out to be an hour and a half.

I asked my husband what I thought was an obvious question: Did you grow up eating Chinese on Christmas? Surprisingly, his reply was a simple “no”. While he knows the stereotype, Jewish people eating Chinese food on Christmas was something he never experienced first hand; only on tv. But then again, he doesn’t like spicy mustard, so maybe he’s not completely in line with all the Jewish customs.  It must be a tradition as there’s even a 1992 study of Jewish people and Chinese food by sociologists!  Plus, the Chinese Restaurant Association officially thanked Jewish people for their patronage on that special day of the year!  It must be true…I saw it on Facebook!
Maybe my husband’s Christmas tradition is tainted by the fact that he prefers anything to Asian food. As for me, I hope this Chinese food on Christmas tradition will continue because I love those ultra-rare occasions when my husband enjoys Asian food with me.  At least I can eat well ONE day out of the year!  Happy holidays!

November 30th, 2011

Game day food

I remember seeing my father watch the Tokyo Giants baseball game every night during the season, but thinking back, I can’t remember whether or not there was a special game-time snack he’d typically enjoy.  Why am I thinking about this all of a sudden?  Let’s just say I’ve noticed that things are a little different here in the U.S. when it comes to sports.  Here, people treat ‘the big game’ like the Fourth of July.  No game-day celebration seems complete without multiple varieties of chips, dips, wings, and burgers.  Seeing a real American tailgate party looked like a lot of fun.  (the food that is, not the sports-watching).

My husband is not a crazy enough sports fan to paint his face (thank goodness!), but there are a few games that he’d hate to miss.   I’ve sadly learned that in the fall, Saturdays have to be planned around college football.  On the most sacred Saturday of them all, Los Angeles is split in two, as sides are taken for the big UCLA vs USC game.  Last weekend was that very Saturday, and like all true sports fans, my husband wanted a snack.  My solution–an open faced mushroom ragu sandwich.  He liked it, but confided in me that he was craving a continuous series of little snacks.

Continuous?  Although I immediately thought of buffalo wings, I remembered that our Thanksgiving dinner was not that long ago, so maybe those wouldn’t be the best choice.  Hot dogs?  Continuous hot dogs would probably kill you, so maybe that’s not an option either.   Finally, I came up with the perfect plan:  mini corn dogs.  I grew up loving corn dogs, except back home in Japan, we called them “American dogs (American doggu)”.

To prepare the small snacks, I used a Japanese takoyaki pan (similar to this half sphered pan from William Sonoma), which was nice, because it let me avoid frying.  The ingredients were simple: wholewheat pancake mix and chopped organic hot dog meat.  I can’t claim that it was entirely healthful, but as far as continuous snacks go, I think I did o.k.

Did he like them?  Well, this year as a UCLA fan, his only smile came from the snacks!  A 50-0 loss! Ouch!  There’s one more game this Friday.  Will he root for the UCLA Bruins or the American Doggus?  We’ll have to wait and see.

November 25th, 2011

The day I acutally enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner

I must have done it right, because It’s the day after thanksgiving, and I’m still full.  Sure, half of America is saying that right now, but for me, it’s the first time I’ve ever uttered those words AFTER Thanksgiving.

You see, I don’t like turkey.  Let me rephrase that, I used to not like turkey.  For some reason, every time I ate it, there was this strange “turkey” flavor that I couldn’t get over.  But, something happened at dinner yesterday that not only changed my long-standing opinion of turkey, but actually made me say the following four words, “I love this meal!”

There are millions of restaurants out there, but how many of them do you go back to over and over, every time leaving happy? Not many.  Stefan’s at L.A. Farm is our exception.  We always leave satisfied.  It’s hard to believe that from one restaurant, I’ve discovered so much great American food.  Now, I can proudly add Thanksgiving dinner to that list.  While the entire meal was delicious, a few dishes, on their own, actually changed my opinion on Thanksgiving dinner.

As I explained yesterday, my husband picked Stefan’s for our first ‘restaurant’ Thanksgiving dinner from just looking at their menu.  Why did he pick Stefan’s?  The menu offered the straight forward, classic Thanksgiving meal he was hoping for: roasted turkey, gravy, stuffing, yams and yes, mashed potatoes, which he believes is a must dish for Thanksgiving.  Judging from their regular menu, I was expecting a good meal, but I have to admit, I was reluctant that I had to eat turkey as a my main dish.  As we were driving to the restaurant, I even said to my husband “if I don’t like the turkey, we’ll just stop at a Japanese noodle shop later.”

Surprise, surprise, I actually loved turkey!  Instead of that strange taste I was expecting, I enjoyed only flavorful tender meat.

Another dish I don’t like is yams.  It’s usually served either very, very sweet, and/or too watery.  The texture of the marshmallows placed on top usually doesn’t sweeten the deal for me either. With a combination like that, you can imagine that the idea of candied yams is not at all appetizing for me.  But tonight, Stefan’s baked yams with marshmallows completely won me over.  The marshmallows were slightly crunchy and the yams were cooked sweet, but in a very delicate degree.  Finally, it made sense that these two should be served together, or should I say, three, as the dish went well with the turkey!

It’s hard to believe that it took me a quarter of a century to truly appreciate the Thanksgiving meal.  So to honor the tradition of Thanksgiving, let me say how thankful I am that my husband insisted on picking a restaurant with mashed potatoes.  I’m also thankful for Chef Stefan and his staff who always treat us like family!

November 24th, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Every year, as if he forgot, my husband asks: If we were in Japan during November, would I be able to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal?  My answer, ‘yes, and no’.  The side dishes would be a snap, but the turkey itself, would be a more difficult issue.  Japanese people don’t really eat turkey, and finding it in Tokyo would probably earn me a long trip to what we jokingly call ‘Americatown’, where restaurants and stores are mostly geared to tourists who need that quick burger to re-energize before exploring the rest of the city.
Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the taste of turkey, I have grown to love cooking the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  My husband proudly states that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, and when asked to explain, will offer you three points:  you get a great meal, there’s football on tv, and if you’re a guy, somehow, you get out of cleaning up.  He does make a solid point.  As if I needed more convincing, he adds that during his bachelor days, there was an added advantage: you get all the leftovers!  He’s lucky he married someone who loves to cook, because now his leftovers are already in the fridge, with three exceptions: cornbread stuffing, wild rice stuffing and pumpkin mac and cheese.  There’s an old rule of cooking that states that in order to have leftovers, you must actually leave some over.  That just doesn’t happen, as we devour these three sides every year.  At least stuffing is good for you, right?

This year, though, would be different.  With his parents out of town, we decided on our first ever ‘restaurant Thanksgiving’.  I carefully picked a few restaurants to choose from, with a few guidelines in mind.  Since it’s an American Holiday, I avoided Italian and French, and steered towards chefs who cook American cuisine.  And since this is the one holiday where eating two desserts is seen as a badge of honor, I had to find a place that would offer more than just a slice of pumpkin pie.

I finally found a few places to choose from.  So he wouldn’t be biased, I covered the names of the restaurants, and just showed him the menu.  I was surprised as he immediately rejected half of the restaurants by uttering this question, “No mashed potatoes?”  There it is.  I never realized mashed potatoes were such a crucial component to the Thanksgiving meal.  As long as there’s cooked turkey, cranberry sauce and some kind stuffing and yams, isn’t the rest optional?  Apparently not.   What do you think?

Maybe I just watched the wrong American movies growing up, because I also, mistakenly thought that mac and cheese was a popular and traditional holiday menu item.  When I made it each year, people loved it, but, while checking a few menus, I saw that almost none of the restaurants offer mac and cheese.

So, after multiple mashed potato and dessert dilemmas, we ultimately decided on our tried and true favorite spot where the people are friendly, the cocktails are strong, and most importantly, the food is delicious.

(I’m secretly going to be mad if he doesn’t eat his mashed potatoes.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

October 22nd, 2011

Chicken Milanese

When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, my husband quickly replied, “Homemade Chicken Milanese with Mashed Potatoes.”

Not a bad choice.  In fact, I’m guessing his menu pick is a popular selection around the world, as it seems every culture has developed some version of fried, breaded meat.  Japan is no exception.  One of our classic dishes is called katsu (derived from the word ‘cutlet’), and inside the crisp breading, you’ll usually find pork.  Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and breaded in panko before it’s deep fried, Katsu is my husband’s go-to meal when we are in Japan.  For him, this is one of very few Japanese dishes that he finds not only tasty, but satisfying.  It usually comes with side of sliced cabbage, rice and soup, and all these components are designed to compliment each other.  So imagine my father’s surprise when he first saw my husband eat katsu and skip the rice!  Unheard of!

Growing up with only pork katsu, chicken or beef versions of the dish are relatively new to me, but as they say, the more the  merrier!  With or without rice, I love them all.

So how did I make his birthday meal?  I brined the pounded chicken breasts in cold chicken stock with garlic, salt, black pepper and chili flakes for a couple of hours. Next, I dipped the chicken in egg and coated it with parsley and Panko (yes, I know it sounds exotic, but the trendy Panko is just the Japanese word for bread crumbs–sorry to burst your bubble) and fried it in canola oil.  Instead of rice and cabbage, my side dishes were mashed potatoes, boiled broccoli rabe, and arugula and tomato in lemon and olive oil dressing.  Normally, I would’ve put the arugula salad on top of the Chicken Milanese, but after pounding the chicken breast, it acquired the shape of a perfect heart that I didn’t want to hide with vegetables.
Why Chicken Milanese in the first place?  Was it a craving for fried food?  Maybe, but I’d like to think it has something to do with the fact that he ordered it on our very first date!  Happy Birthday indeed!

October 18th, 2011

One leftover meat, two dishes

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto;
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
Let’s call the whole thing off.

Actually, my picky husband probably wouldn’t eat tomahtos either…

Our eating life was easier when we were dating, because I cooked what he liked–American comfort food.  He loved my cooking, which made me happy, of course, but as soon as I got home, I couldn’t wait to taste a few of my favorites from the world of Asian cuisine.  When dating turned into ‘living together, it became obvious that I would have to find a way to make food that both of us could enjoy without either one of us having to sacrifice.  They say necessity is the mother of invention, and creating a menu for two picky eaters that wouldn’t take up all of my time, turned out to be a mother of a task to perform. 

Here’s an example of how a few variations can satisfy two hungry lunchers using the same main ingredients; meat, lettuce, and rice.  On the left, with an egg, is MY lunch: a beef salad bowl with rice.  To create the flavor I love, but my husband will probably hate, I seasoned the meat with soy sauce, garlic and Sriracha.  For his sensitive palate,  on the right, you’ll find the same ingredients rolled into a familiar and comfortable burrito, with beans, salsa and sour cream on top.

How much extra time did it take for me to make two meals instead of only one?  Probably an extra three minutes.  Isn’t it worth 180 measly seconds to enjoy a rare lunch together where both parties are happy with their meals?

October 9th, 2011

Burger (on Yom Kippur)

It’s not that I forgot (ok, yes I did forget…but that’s not the point) that it was Yom Kippur, but it’s just that I’m still new to the Jewish culture.  After I came home from long hours of work preceded by short hours of sleep, the only thing that registered in my mind was ‘hungry’.  Plus, wouldn’t you agree that a good burger beats a day of fasting and atoning?  At least my Jewish husband agreed, so off we went to our favorite burger joint, Blue Dog Beer Tavern.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve watched at least one episode of a show, most likely on the travel or food channel, that claim to have scoured the globe in search of the best hamburger around.  Never left off the ultimate list is Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, which is reputed to be the originator of the American hamburger, serving them just as they did when Grover Cleveland was president (1895).  In tribute to faceless and nameless genius, I honor whomever first transformed the original German hamburg steak into the classic American hamburger, because no matter how much American cuisine is elevated, I’ll stick to a good burger on the ground floor.

While I would love to, it’s impossible to eat burgers every day without buying heart medication in bulk at Costco.  How about turkey or veggie burgers?  Well, they’re fine, but do they really replace the aroma and taste of that charbroiled, juicy beef patty?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never salivated in anticipation when a piece of soy falls off my veggie patty and sizzles against the coals.  By the same token, when I do splurge on the real thing, I want the best; not a 59 cent menu special that hopes melted cheese will cover up heinous beef sins.   For this reason, I wish every neighborhood had a joint like the Blue Dog, where you can relax in a casual setting, with a great beer and an even better burger. 

When I moved to America, my burger standards weren’t as high as they are today.  Back then, I thought a diner burger was the best you could do.  I’m sure you’re thinking you could do better than Denny’s at that place around the corner, but if you would have grown up in Japan like I did, you would have seen a dismal variety of burgers.  We looked up to McDonald’s as being the perfect American burger, and modeled after that, opened our own Japanese burger chains.  Since those unenlightened days, I’ve learned a lot about what makes one burger better than another.  Most important, the best burger is the one that’s the least processed.  Find a place that grinds their own meat and forms their own patties and you’re in business.  Add grass fed instead of corn fed beef and you’ve really got something delicious.  So, not having sinned too heavily this past year, I used this year’s day of atonement, Yom Kippur, to atone for all those lesser quality burgers I endured during the learning process.  If you’re going to eat on a day devoted to fasting, at least eat something great.  Blue Dog was the answer to my prayers!