Posts tagged ‘seafood’

January 24th, 2012

Japanese comfort food

“Eat as much seafood as you can!”  That, and “I love you,” were my husband’s parting words, when I left for Tokyo. What thoughts led to his advice? At least one, but probably all of these: if she eats lots of seafood in the land of seafood,
1) she won’t come home craving more.
2) I don’t have to hear her say “Let’s go for Japanese tonight!”
3) I don’t have to see/smell strange fish products in the house like this;
4) While she’s eating all of her favorites, I’ll eat as much American food as possible!

He’s wrong on 1), 2) and 3), but after seeing a breakfast picture he sent, looks like he’s right on the money for 4).
We all enjoy our comfort foods, but what do you imagine when you hear ‘Japanese comfort food’? It may be ramen, curry rice or macaroni gratins (Google it! It’s the Japanese answer to mac & cheese). Contrary to what you might guess, not all Japanese foods are healthy and based around seafood. Japanese cuisine does include some heartier dishes that people grow up with, that are as delicious as their American counterparts. But today, when looking for my comfort food, I wanted salt, not heavy.  So what was on the menu?Here’s what my mother prepared: from bottom left-counterclockwise: a bowl of perfectly cooked white rice; miso soup with daikon; squid in salted fish guts; spicy cod roe; and Japanese pickles.  It doesn’t look like much, but it’s truly an art to cook rice perfectly. You don’t just throw grains into water and boil.  You have to start with good quality rice that’s washed carefully. Then, the quantity and quality of the water and the method you cook and steam it comes in to play. Granted, the last two parts depend largely on how good your rice cooker is, but I’ve never had rice half good as this in America.

I’ll tell you more about awful sounding fish dishes tomorrow.  Until then, have another bowl of rice!

PS: PS: Do you remember what Iron Chef Morimoto requested for his last supper on episode 15 of Top Chef All-Stars?   If Antonia cooked something like my mother prepared for me, she would have won the competition.

August 12th, 2011

When LudoBites 007 bites

One of the inspirations for this blog is the continuing food complaint adventure I share daily, with my husband.  When we got married, I knew going in, that my husband and I had VERY different tastes in food.  Now, as a married couple, we would be eating virtually every meal together till death do us part.  How is that even possible when I like every kind of Asian food that he consistently hates?  I love fresh seafood dishes that he wouldn’t come near unless they were fried to oblivion.  I love complex European dishes while he describes them as pretentious, small-portioned foods, encircled by sauce, served with too many forks. If menu planning were up to him, we’d be eating American comfort food and Mexican food, seven days a week, which would be perfect for me, except for the fact that I hate heavy foods prepared with too much cheese, butter, cream or oil.
With that in mind, how do you think our dinner at Ludo Bites 007 went?  First of all, what is Ludo Bites?  LudoBites 007 is the seventh installment of the ever-trendy pop-up restaurant by Chef Ludovic Lefebvre.  Instead of having a permanent, fixed address location, a pop-up restaurant like Ludo Bites runs for weeks at a time using various restaurants around  town, chosen by the chef.  These days, reservations for LudoBites have been some of the most difficult to get in all of Los Angeles, so when I actually secured a spot for dinner for the two of us, I should have been excited, right?   Well, I was and I wasn’t.  My mind instantly flashed back to that time when I brought home fried chicken from Ludo’s famous food truck, and anxiously awaited my husband’s opinion.  His response after one bite?   “Not worth it.”  I was speechless.  For him not to finish a piece of fried chicken is really something.  The problem is basically that my husband likes less complicated food, while Chef Ludo’s is known for its layering of exotic, international flavors.  I had to cross my fingers as I could only imagine what might appear on the menu.

We arrived to a trendy and energetic scene.  When handed the menu, I was excited to see such savory dishes as “Squid, Ash, Chorizo”, “Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc”.   Many of the offerings had some kind of interesting Asian twist like “Foie Gras “French Dim Sum Crispy Kimchi, Sake-Black Truffle Cream”.  While I was excited and impressed, my husband wasn’t, which was obvious from his expression, that if could talk, would’ve undoubtedly asked, “How late is In ‘N’ Out Burger open on a weeknight?

We both had trouble selecting dishes, but for the complete opposite reason.  I had a hard time choosing from the amazing selection of seafood plates, while he had a difficult time finding something on the menu that was not a delicious sounding, exotic seafood plate.  He had to resort to doing something he calls ‘ordering by default’ which he describes as ordering something that you have to, rather than something you want to.  After a few minutes of debate, I picked the seafood dishes: Machkerel Escabeche and Egg, Sea Urchin; while my husband chose Roasted Beef, Horseradish Cream and Epoisse Cheese Risotto from the few non-seafood selections.

I loved the sea urchin and roast beef most.  The sea urchin was very rich and creamy, but not heavy, with a  texture resembling polenta.  This was definitely one of the most creative and delicious sea urchin dishes I’ve encountered.  I found the beef to be perfectly roasted, with a delicious horseradish cream balancing its flavor.  The cream itself was light on the horseradish, and had a potato-like flavor.  If these were the only two selections on the menu, I would have still been satisfied. But was that feeling shared by my spouse, across the table?

Well, I feared the worst, and I wasn’t disappointed.  My husband didn’t like one thing. Not a huge surprise.  What was a big shock, was that out of all the dishes, he took TWO bites of the sea urchin, instead of the one bite he gave everything else. While I hoped it was because he was beginning to develop a taste for sea urchin, his two bites were more likely due to the fact that the server had brought all the seafood dishes first, leaving him, sitting across from me with no choice but to hungrily watch me savor my food.

I enjoyed virtually everything, with the exception of the risotto.  I just don’t have the taste for the pungent epoisse
cheese.

For dessert, we ordered the Smoked Vanilla Bacon Creme Brulee, which came with Melon Gazpacho.  As we all know, everything is better with bacon, right?  Well, most of the time.  While it wasn’t the greatest bacon dish, it was very interesting, to say the least.  It was very, very bacon-y, with a nice balance of savory and sweet.  If you can imagine eating a smooth bacon cream for dessert, you’re almost there.  (FYI, there was no bacon bits in it)  While my husband finished his half (for the first time that evening), I know deep down, he would have preferred a tall piece of chocolate cake.  Alongside the Bacon Creme Brulee, was Melon Gaspacho.  I found the pairing to be confusing as, in my opinion, it didn’t go well with creme brulee, and was, in general, a little too acidic for my taste in dessert.

So while I enjoyed the adventure that was dining at Ludo Bites, I felt bad that my husband didn’t.  I find myself in this predicament fairly often, because he’s VERY picky.  I always tell him that he eats with his brain instead of with his taste buds, convincing himself he’s not going to like something like tongue, no matter how tasty it might be, purely on the basis of it being called tongue.  While he likes his comfort foods, and could eat the same egg breakfast 365 a year, I’m more adventurous and am always open to new flavors and combinations.  Do you have any suggestions for a restaurant we BOTH might like?  I’m serious, as they’re few and far between.  When we try something new or exotic, he usually sits in misery while I try to savor the experience, but it’s hard to, knowing your companion would rather be somewhere else. Why can’t he just enjoy the fact that he’s taken me somewhere where I’ve really enjoyed my meal?  Maybe it has to do with the fact that he’s about to leave the restaurant penniless and hungry with the arrival of the over-sized check for the undersized portions he took two bites of.

There’s a long, winding culinary road ahead of us.  Thanks for keeping us company.

 

July 29th, 2011

Fish out of water

Why did it take getting married for a Japanese girl to learn about Japanese culture?  What did I learn?  Well, for starters, our diet depends heavily on fish.  We eat fish for breakfast, bring fish to work for lunch, and, you guessed it, fish for dinner.  We use fish stock and eat fish raw, grilled, dried, fried, and even fermented.  If that weren’t enough, we even eat fish as snacks.  IWith that in mind, imagine my fish-phobic American husband’s horror when my father offered him a fish snack the very first time when they met.  My husband understands the honor code of Japan, if you are offered something, you take it and (pretend to) enjoy it.  Since that first meeting, my husband has tried many varieties of fish,  and has even found a few fish items that he likes tolerates (still not including fish snacks).Hawaii, as you know, is a beautiful island.  And, Hawaiians too, eat a lot of fish.  We spent our honeymoon there, and maybe as an act of love, my husband started to eat fish at least once per day while we are there. That’s quite an effort for a guy who needs to be forced to eat fish one or two times a year.  His reasoning?  On an island, the fish has to be fresh, which means, none of that annoying fishy smell.  Unfortunately, I agree with my husband on the smelly part, as many of the dishes at seafood restaurants in America do indeed smell.

We have a simple deal.  If the fish isn’t fresh tasting, I will resist my urge to make him try it.  So when I think there’s a chance of finding the freshest stuff, of course, we have to try it.  This was the case on our recent vacation to the Big Island, where we were thrilled to find a well-reviewed a food truck hat served only the freshest stuff.  Although it’s a truck, it is permanently parked on a lot next to a small fish market (which doesn’t smell) and seating was simply a few patio tables and chairs under a blue plastic tarp.  Imagine the exact opposite of a chain restaurant, complete with a vintage looking handwritten menu on the truck.  To order, you simply choose a fish and the way you want it prepared, and the owner herself, Dee Dee, cooks it right there for you.We picked Mahi Mahi, popular Hawaiian fish, known for its flaky meat like texture.  As I hoped, the fish was very fresh and tasty, which I could have told you without tasting a bite.  How?  My husband actually finished his first and to confirm its freshness, asked Dee Dee how long ago his meal was actually swimming in the ocean.  This morning,” she replied with a straight face.  Even though the dish was simply prepared (lightly breaded and fried), I would have a hard time duplicating it as I’d have to
1) move to Hawaii;
2) go to a dock to buy fish or
3) go fishing myself.
As I have no plan of moving to Hawaii, or waking up at 4AM, the only option I have left is to visit Hawaii as much as possible in attempt to convert my husband into a regular fish eater.  Who knows, with any luck, one day, he’ll be munching on fish snacks with my dad.

 

July 9th, 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly of Huntington Beach

The bike lanes along the pacific ocean are gorgeous.  Today, my husband and I visited his sister in Huntington Beach, and went for a nice bike ride.The only thing I ate today before leaving the house, was a couple of celery sticks with peanut butter, so, as you can imagine, I was starving after a 20 mile bike ride, and barely hung on as we waited for a table at a restaurant for over 30 minutes.  We went to Sandy’s Beach Grill, a new addition to the Duke’s restaurant group.  The atmosphere was nice with the 10 of us getting a table with an ocean view. The niceness stopped there though, and the storm clouds arrived.  First, no bread for the table.  I’m not usually a bread person, but like I said, after the bike ride, I was starved!  I was excited when the food came, as I was looking forward to the Crispy Skin Barramundi I ordered, which came with shrimp tempura and risotto, but sadly, the only thing to be found that was crispy, was in the title.  To make matters worse, the fish wasn’t seasoned.  That should have made me angry, but I was way too hungry to argue with anybody.  Besides, after a nice day at the beach with family why would I want to ruin an evening complaining about food?

If only that were the only problem…  My husband never got his steak!!  His sister ordered the same dish, and she got her food along with the other nine people in our party.  When I got my plate, I heard the waiter mention that his steak was overcooked, so he’d bring a new one in a few minutes.  25 minutes later, his food arrived.  Unfortunately, by that time, everybody was done eating.

I’m not a restaurant manager or waiter, but if I were entertaining friends’ at my house and there was a problem, I’d try to keep my guests from starving by feeding them chips or something light, and definitely update them on the ETA of their meal.  There was none of that courtesy from this restaurant.  Our waiter left us with the impression that his dish would come out soon, and he never came back until he finally brought my husband’s dish.

I felt helpless.  I wanted to share my meal, but we have a rule: “If the fish isn’t great, don’t share,”  Bottom-line, if I want my meat and potatoes husband to start liking fish, I better not give him anything that might turn him off.  I’m an optimist and a hopeless romantic and I truly believe that if I keep giving him a bite of fish here and there, he may start to enjoy it.  Actually, there have been a few successful experiments in the past.  He liked the fresh fish tacos we accidentally found in Maui– so much so, we went back to eat there 3 nights in a row!  So, the dilemma was clear: do I offer him a piece of bad fish and ruin my dream, or do I watch him starve in agony?  Although I hated to see the empty table space in front of him, I didn’t insist on him sharing my plate.  He starved in agony.