Monthly Archives: May 2011

Tonjiru and Nanohana

Tonjiru and Nanohana, Rice and Pickles

The Asian recipe for this week is Tonjiru – or, Japanese pork and miso soup with root  vegetables.  I’ve made it a couple of times and love its ease, tastiness and generally healthy (are pork belly and “healthy” allowed in the same context?) contents.   I also like this soup since it’s so flexible, and you can add or subtract ingredients to your liking and taste.  For instance, the version below uses sato imo, or taro root instead of potatoes, and omits goubou (burdock root). Instead of just using Akamiso (red miso), add a little of the sweeter Shiromiso (white miso) for balance.  Also, the amounts below are estimates, so please adjust as necessary.   The rest of the meal included nanohana no karashi, or broccoli rabe/ rape flower with mustard dressing, rice of course, and pickles. Continue reading


The Monk’s Kettle

Excellent Fries and Beer

I’ll admit it.  I’m a total beer nincompoop.  Yes, there are beers I do like, though, and are high on my list of favourite beverages.  Might I be called an aficionado? That seems to imply a level of knowledge and savvy that I definitely don’t possess.  Beer enthusiast? I don’t drink enough beer for that.  To own that I practically know nothing about beer (except that it some of it tastes good) seems a bit retarded if one is going to a place like Monk’s Kettle, where there could be as many as  28 options of draught beer alone and pages and pages and pages of different kinds and styles of the liquid, from Lambics to small beer to porters and dubbel, tripel, and quadrupel Belgians!  My visit to Monk’s Kettle felt rather tantamount to casting pearls before swine, or cream-of-mushroom bean casserole before Thomas Keller, or er… something along those lines… you get the drift…   Anyhow, despite all this, I will still have the temerity to say that Monk’s Kettle is currently high on my list of Happy Places (and by this I mean awesome establishments in my hometown that serve amazing food and drink). Continue reading


Strawberry Season

Oooh mah goodness, soooo good!

Strawberries, Balsamic and Cream

We seldom make dessert at home. I’m not a baker, and would rather prefer to spend my time cooking up savouries rather than sweet things.  But the husband has a sweet tooth, and this has helped us get creative with some quick-to-make items that can easily satisfy that after-dinner craving.   Continue reading


Spring Morel Dinner

Farro with Morels and Spring Vegetables

Those of you who know us are aware that DD’s been an avid mushroom forager for a couple of years now.  Through our friend Brian, DD became the proud owner of the seminal Mushrooms Demystified, Mycologist David Arora’s 976-page tome on possibly everything you may want or wish to know about mushrooms in the U.S.A., with a focus on the West Coast.  DD also has Arora’s pocket-book-sized version, All the Rain Promises and More, and has liked it so much as an introduction to mushroom study that he’s given it as a gift on several occasions.  Over the past 2.5 years, my husband has lovingly and obsessively pored over these now dog-eared books, and is pretty much able to identify many fungi based on observed characteristics (cap colour, kinds of gills, whether it stains when bruised, smell, etc.).  DD has successfully foraged for our favourites – Porcini, Chanterelles, black trumpet mushrooms, even Matsutake and many other not-so-prized specimens in-between.  Morels have been his white whale, and until this past weekend, efforts to find them have proved sorely unfruitful.  But, thanks to Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, DD finally struck morel gold on Saturday. Continue reading


Sean Brock Dinner at Plum

Plum Restaurant Oakland

We’ve been meaning to check out Plum for a while.  Having visited Daniel Patterson’s Coi on a couple of occasions and Il Cane Rosso for lunch several times, we were fans, but Plum remained distant, literally and figuratively.  We are ridiculously lazy, and – perhaps psychologically – find it difficult to make it over to the other side of the bay. But when I heard that Sean Brock was coming to cook at Plum, I immediately booked a reservation.  Chef Brock’s reputation, it seems, has been growing in leaps and bounds, first garnering accolades for taking the helm at South Carolina’s McCrady’s, bringing modern techniques (à la Ferran Adrià) to the genteel old American South, and then opening Husk which is dedicated to using historically southern ingredients:

“At McCrady’s, Brock uses exotic ingredients such as tonka beans, soy powder and liquid nitrogen. At Husk, there will be strict rules about what can be served. Every item must be grown in and have historical relevance to the South. That means no salmon, no olive oil and no balsamic vinegar, among other things. But there will be sarsaparilla-glazed pork ribs with pickled peaches, wood-smoked chicken with Rev. Taylor butterbeans and chanterelles, and breads made with antebellum flours. “I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m trying to educate,” Brock said. “But I need rules. Otherwise, I’ll be reaching for the olive oil. And if they taste olive oil, they’ll think that’s what Southern food tastes like.”

–By Jane Black, Washington Post Staff Writer, “Sean Brock re-imagines Southern cuisine.”

In 2010 Chef Brock won the James Beard award for Best Southern Chef. Continue reading


Ryori Ryokan Hanaoka

Kaiseki Meal at Ryori Ryokan Takayama

Staying in this quiet mountain town and at the wonderful little Ryokan was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  The fact that we decided to visit Takayama at all was of course, all due to Paul and his indispensable travel blog.  Ryori Ryokan Hanaoka was just the icing on the cake.  Takayama is in Central Japan, in the Gifu Prefecture.  It boasts a well-preserved old district, with beautiful machiya (merchant townhomes) as well as numerous centuries-old temples and shrines, many of which are accessible via a 3.5km loop north of the main town.  The Ryokan is truly a short little trot from the JR Takayama Station – all told, some 5-6 blocks away by foot.   Note that the proprietors adhere to checkin time, which is at 3pm sharp, though they will gladly hold your luggage for you prior to checkin. Continue reading


Roan Kikunoi in Kyoto

Chef Maruyama-san and Chef Yoshihiro Murata-san.

“For whatever reason, modern Japanese have maintained their deep emotional linkage with the annual shifts in climate, ingrained from ancient times whether cultivating crops or fishing on the coast.  So much is this connection the heart and soul of a cuisine, that when I am asked, “What is kaiseki?” I often have  a very simple answer.

“It is eating the seasons.”

— Yoshihiro Murata, Kikunoi

Roan Kikunoi, according to the 2011 Michelin Guide for Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, was created by Chef Murata as a somewhat more  affordable option for the younger set as compared to Kikunoi Honten, his flagship fine-dining restaurant that’s garnered 3 Michelin stars.  His other outpost in Akasaka, Tokyo, won 2 stars and admittedly Roan Kikunoi has 2 stars for itself.  Though quite a high bar, lunch here is also possibly one of the best deals for sampling kaiseki in Kyoto.  Chef Yoshimi Murata has been something of an international celebrity, recently receiving accolades from Noma’s Rene Redzepi (best meal), providing consulting advice to Singapore Airlines for in-flight meals and releasing a gorgeous English cookbook that garnered him a James Beard nomination.  He also appears to somewhat controversial in Kyoto, as evidenced by this discussion string on Chowhound. Continue reading


Pork and Clams – Surf and Turf

Porco com Amêijoas à Alentejana

Surf and Turf.  Land and sea.  Mar y montagña.  A classic pairing that seems to always work so well… I’ve loved this dish for a while now, having stumbled upon the recipe posted on Leite’s Culinaria several years ago… but this dish it seems, has a long and venerable history, originating out of the Alentejo region in Portugal.  The best description I’ve read of the region comes from this personal account by Miguel de Almeida at West Coast Cooking.  His recipe is slightly different from the one I used; indeed, there seems to be an infinite number of variations one can take with this beautiful dish.  At its base it’s hearty, easy and comforting; however, it doesn’t quite work well if you want to gin up a quick weeknight meal.  You want a bit of time for prep and leaving the pork ample time to bathe in its marinade (overnight is ideal), so it’s probably best to attempt this over a weekend or when you’ve got some time.

Oh – and you’ll want to use some sort of stew pot or large-ish dutch oven for this dish. Continue reading


Pickled Quail Eggs

Pickled Quail Eggs, Alembic recipe

One of our favourite bar bites ever are the pickled quail eggs at the Alembic.  If you’re starving, and find that you possibly can’t wait for the five awesome dishes you’ve just ordered to start to arrive, take heart – you’ll be grateful when these are set quickly in front of you. They arrive almost instantaneously, scooped up from a large jar behind the bar.

As DD narrates – he once (after a particularly stressful day), consumed no less than a mean dozen in a sitting, interspersed with some very good cocktails. And, characteristic of my husband in all the time I’ve known him – once he’s got his mind set on something, that thing is as good as done.  Continue reading


Oh Osaka!

The Dotonbori

A bedazzling, maddening, whirlwind.  An overstimulating experience.  New York Times Square on steroids.  Bright lights, big city magnified to the Nth degree.   Seas of humanity pouring through the arcades, the endless covered shopping walks, the subway tunnels.  Hawkers along the Dotonbori soliciting business, the collective staff in shops and establishments shouting “Irrashaimase!” as you walk in, cacophonous choruses of welcomes… Girls in uber short skirts and skorts (no matter how frigidly the wind blows) and uber seductive over-the-knee socks or tights…. Big eyes fringed by lashes that go on and on; pouty lips – almost anime-like, life following art/ artifice.  Food is not a problem here, nor drink, as long as one has yen in their pocket.  There is food and drink everywhere, any time of night or day.  This despite the fact that establishments are not always outwardly welcoming, at least to these western eyes.  The shoji are closed, windows papered – it’s sometimes difficult to see how full or how empty an establishment is… but the bright plastic food beckons, the exaggerated character mascot beguiles with its kawaii. Continue reading

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