Posts tagged ‘mustard’

August 10th, 2011


I’ve always thought pretzels were a sad replacement for potato chips, when it comes to the world of snacking. To be fair, pretzels do beat out ‘baked’ chips, but just barely.  Did we have Pretzels in Japan?  I don’t remember seeing them when I was growing up, but there was the similarly named snack, ‘Pretz’. Other than the similarity in the name, the two snacks will never be confused for one another. 

The Japanese ‘Pretz’ is longer and skinnier than its twisted American cousin.  It has a tan color, and comes in flavors that Americans would never want nor expect in their snack food.  The best example?  Have you ever eaten a salad flavor snack?  For the uninitiated, it’s crisp and mildly salty, with a nice buttery taste that has a bit of a consomme taste… not quite ‘salad’, I know, but still tasty.  With only ‘Pretz’ in Japan, you can imagine how hard it was for me to explain what American pretzels were like to a Japanese audience.  You’re probably thinking, ‘How often do you need to explain pretzels to Japanese people?’  The answer: every time a US President almost chokes on one.  (which is once…so far)

While hard pretzels aren’t my snack of choice, I do love soft pretzels. I had my first one in Pennsylvania Amish country, which is about 2 hour drive from Manhattan.  It was warm, soft and drenched in butter. I still remember how delicious it was and the instant I wiped my buttery fingers clean, I began planning my return trip to Amish county for another one.  I would’ve saved me a lot of time and travel had I known back then that every American mall has an Auntie Anne’s ready and waiting.  And yes, in Manhattan, there are street vendors everywhere, selling these savory delights, I’d eat them, but it’s rather dry (read: no butter).  By the way, Auntie Anne’s is now available in Japan as well.

The small, dry, pretzel has evolved into something wonderful: pretzel bread.  They’ve made the rounds from farmer’s markets to Whole Foods, and are even turning up in restaurants.  When we went to a nearby gastro pub, the Local Peasant, we decided to order their pretzel with truffle butter.  My husband, who is a self claimed bread snob, always complains that he loves pretzel bread but laments that it can be too salty, even if you scrape off the excess.  How did the Local Peasant’s pretzel fare?  It was pretty good; the doughy texture soaked up the truffle butter nicely.  So the bottom line, hot and doughy–fantastic; small and crunchy–well, to quote our greatest philosopher, Seinfeld,”These pretzels are making me thirsty.”

July 3rd, 2011

The best hot dog

While enjoying hot dogs during a game at old Yankee stadium (I love the Yankees; my husband loves the Dodgers), my husband disappointed at the condiment selection, described New York as ‘spicy mustard town’.  His choice: plain, regular, middle of the road French’s yellow mustard.  Add one spice or tinge of flavor to the mix and he’ll throw away whatever food it sits on.  So when he first got a chance to try all the best New York has to offer a Jewish guy from California, like hot dogs, knishes, and pastrami, he had to do it without a favorite condiment by his side. Luckily for him, times have changed; Yankee stadium now has yellow mustard, which for my husband, is delightfully neutral in its spiciness, but with a refreshing mild sourness.

In Japan, there are two basic kinds of mustard: Japanese yellow mustard or dijon mustard.  The former is very hot and has a good kick to it.  Just like with wasabi, we use it sparingly.

Whether Eastern or Western, condiments should be used with care so that you can really enjoy the taste of the hot dog itself.  If your hot dog is not impressing you with its fantastic flavor or reminding you of that day at the game with your dad, you need my trick.  But first, the theory:  A $1.50 hot dog from a street vendor and a $6.75 hot dog at a baseball game taste different.  It is not the price making the difference nor is it the ambiance of the stadium.  The secret?  It’s actually the steaming effect of its wrap.  When you buy a hot dog from a street vendor, most likely you eat it right away, but when you are at stadium, it comes wrapped in foil where it’s benefits from a bit more steaming.  You then put on your favorite condiments, wrap it up again and take it to your seat.  Without knowing it, you’ve steamed that dog for an additional 10 minutes or so.  While wrapped, heat radiating  from the hot dog works to blend the condiments and transform a dry bun into a soft and moist, but not soggy, roll.  The flavors have a chance to get acquainted before your first bite.  By the time you dig in, the party is in full swing and everyone’s invited.  To recreate the good times at your place, try this:

1) Grill. (if not available, use your toaster)2) Wrap the hot dog with condiments of your preference on it.  Set the table, take dirty dishes to sink, tell everybody their dogs are ready…3) Plate with side of kale slaw (recipe here),  unwrap, and enjoy your 4th of July!!!