Thursday, December 27, 2007

flaming culo hot sauce

since the summer I've been freezing all the habanero and serrano peppers that were growing on my roof, in anticipation of my second annual holiday hot sauce.

this year i went with a more traditional formula - last year i was messing around with coffee and molasses and whatever, it was good but not too hot.

the hot sauce that you buy in the store is usually fermented, they make a "mash" of hot peppers and vinegar and let it age in oak barrels for months.

having neither oak barrels or time, I opted for cooking my hot sauce which worked out great but my apartment was like a habanero gas chamber for the next two weeks, and my hands burned for about 2 days (gloves? what's a glove??)

flaming culo hot sauce

  • shallots, garlic, ginger, vidalia onions, carrots

  • habanero, serrano, red bell peppers

  • apple cider vinegar

  • white vinegar

  • salt, sugar

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Melrose Diner

I admit parts of South Philly are a little on the ugly side. Especially when it's cold and wet like it has been lately it's hard to find anything charming when its all kind of awash in grey. 

But amoungst these grey streets resides the Melrose Diner. Diners are never a disappointment, especially 24 hour diners. The Melrose already looks cool before you go in, with it's giant coffee cup sign on the outside. 
I went there for brunch and I was expecting some morning South Philly sass from my waitresses. Yes, they we're crazy ( I accidently got 3 checks?) but really really nice, like you'll always be "hey hon" nice. 
The food was regular diner food ( I will review cakes next time, which they are famous for) and came in the greatest dishware, of pink and white "toile". 

I plan on being a regular already.

Melrose Diner
1501 Snyder Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19145-3092
Phone: (215) 467-6644

Monday, December 3, 2007

Breakfast with Brielle

It was just really nice.

Vietnamese Deli

Vietnamese delis are great. Vietnamese hoagies to go, vietnamese coffees sitting and waiting for you to pick up and stir up the condensed milk at the bottom, and yummy strange jelly desserts for the taking.
I finally found one in Philly that I really enjoy. That's super nice and makes a great vietnamese hoagie and its only 3 bucks. They make there own mayonnaise which I also really enjoy. I picked up bbq beef, summer rolls, and this mochi rice dessert that's in this sweet ginger sauce and you pour coconut milk all over it. It wasn't as good as my grandma's but it was close enough. 

cheap and super good!

Nam Phoung ( in the supermarket corner of 16th and Washington )
1601 Washington Ave. 

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dessert Truck

In Hawaii there are no ice cream trucks. So whenever I see one now, I freak out and follow it. The idea of delicious things on wheels always intrigues me, so I flipped out when I found out about the Dessert Truck. 
Unfortunately I live in the Philly, so I can't readily get to the Dessert Truck, which has all non-pretention yet well made desserts all for 5 bucks. Things like warm waffles with nutella, bananas and sea salt or Creme Brulee from a truck sounds like the best things in the world to me.

It's on University Place near 8th on Tuesdays through Fridays from 6 till it's gone!

Thanksgiving 2007

Thanksgiving is a holiday I have mixed feelings about foodwise. I generally loathe the standardized Turkey day fare. It gets pretty boring, but otherwise I will eat the hell out of it. So this Thanksgiving we did it up in BK at a friends house.

My contributions

Roasted Ducklings - Simple Salt + Pepper seasoning with an apple stuffing
Apple Southern Sausage Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing. (Sweet apples and sage flavored southern stuffing..YES!!
Gouda Chive Buttermilk Biscuits
Cornbread (mine came out a little sweeter this time. More brown sugar)
Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Roasted Carrots with Thyme Butter

Oh and some Chocolate Chip Cookies for good measure.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


in Philadelphia if you wake up with a hangover at 3 in the afternoon and want heuvos rancheros, there's no where to go. not that we dont have fantastic mexican food here - just none that serve brunch to losers that want eggs at 4pm. So thank god for Bonita.

the story goes that the owners of the uber hip Diner in Williamsburg tried some of the food their mexican cooks had whipped up for staff meal - and asked them if they wanted to open their own place.

from the outside, Bonita looks like it could be any other taqueria, I was expecting an obnoxious minimalist decor with giant stainless steel ikea tables and maybe some art jerk's fake mexican jesus painting on one wall. but the hand painted window lettering promising "tacos y tortas" made my day.

the inside is diner style with a long counter and comfortable even when packed wall to wall with europeans and williamsburg hipsters. it's great to see new businesses celebrate the visual and culinary history of their neighborhood ...I can't imagine the same thing happening in Philadelphia when American Apparel and Whole Foods start popping up on Washington Ave.

the chips & guacamole took a while to get to us but I swear to god it was made to order- I dont think my own guacamole tastes this fresh. nice and simple too, not like your grandmothers guacamole with too much garlic, brown avacodos and giant chunks of tomato that break your chips.

the huevos rancheros were awesome - fried eggs, green salsa and that soft mexican cheese on top of tortillas, with big sides of mexican beans and chorizo. if you switched the ramones soundtrack with daddy yankee, replaced the ironic mustache hipsters with real mustache mexicans in metal shirts you could be in South Philly, except with better guacamole and breakfast until 5pm.

Bonita NYC
338 bedford ave
williamsburg, brooklyn

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

molecular gastronomy, deconstructed


as a cook and artist and connoisseur of anything over the top, i've been in awe of the recent "molecular gastronomy" trend, spending hours poring over the beautiful photos from Ferran Adria's El Bulli cookbooks. bizarre presentations, wild flavor combinations, throwing out all the rules and creating the culinary equivalent of dadaism. While I'd love to eat at El Bulli, it's in Spain and reservations need to be booked a year in advance. also I think dinner there is something in the range of 5 million dollars a person.

so the next best thing is Wylie Dufresne's wd-50 in new york, probably america's most reputable example of this type of cooking. after browsing wd-50's website - beef tongue with fried mayonnaise, corned duck with purple mustard, lamb loin with pretzel consomme - i was ready to take the plunge.

after ordering the 12-course tasting menu and a lemongrass/beet/sake cocktail, came the anticipated first course and the first huge disappointment.

surf clams with radish in watermelon vinaigrette or something, honestly don't remember because it didn't taste like anything. Maybe the 19 year old culinary school extern forgot to add salt?

next came the pizza pebbles with pepperoni, shittake chips and oregano. the plated looked good, the freeze dried pizza powder pebble had an interesting texture, and tasted exactly like... combos. the combos balls and pepperoni cream overpowered the shittake chip which I tried seperately, and it tasted... like a mushroom. next.

the knot foie plate was beautiful, a terrine of foie gras that is cut into a ribbon and somehow arranged into a knot, covered with mini rice krispie balls, baby tarragon and dots of sauce. definitely a wild texture and flavor combination, and this one really worked. thumbs up.

next is hamachi with grapefruit-shallot relish, tahini dressing and sea beans. the hamachi was just barely seared, enough to add some charcoal but not actually cook the fish. interesting play between the different flavors, definitely a winner.

the eggs benedict .. i was excited to try this one. looked beautiful and the fried hollandaise cube squirted delicious sauce out when you hit it with a fork. but the slow-poached egg yolk was cold and the texture was kind of gross. and for a deconstructed eggs benedict there was a lack of bread, except for the english muffin breading on the fried hollandaise.

I have no problem deconstructing or modernizing classic american food like this, it's actually one of my favorite things to see done and do myself. and while the flavors were right on here, the balance was way off. it was all egg yolk, not enough bacon chip - these fancy little crisps and tuiles that topped almost every dish look great in magazines and on tv - but paired with larger amounts of other elements, you can't taste them at all.

next up was the french onion soup. again I was excited to see Dufresne's take on a classic. it looked awesome- a small bowl of broth, gruyere cheese 'capsules', bread chips and caramelized onion paste. the gruyere cheese capsules exploded in your mouth, and everything together on a spoon tasted great.. although the broth was a bit salty and seemed to have a hint of soy, not too pleasant to eat after all the garnishes were gone. with a more traditional french onion soup broth this dish would have been damn near perfect.

cuttlefish with roasted squash and orange zest. the most disappointing dish of the whole meal. the finely diced squash was undercooked. the butternut squash puree that I make at work tastes better. couldn't taste it anyway, because the whole thing tasted like bitter orange rind. like taking a big spoonful of orange peelings out of the trash and chewing on it for 10 minutes . i honestly don't know how you can let something that tastes like this out of a kitchen.

next up- lamb belly with black chickpeas and cherry cucumber.
this was ok. presentation not as exciting as the others. cucumber shaved to look like noodles and soaked in cherry juice or something. probably a very complicated process that the server would have been thrilled to spend 10 minutes explaining to me. same problem as many of the other dishes, the balance of flavor was way off.

after two hours the whole novelty of hearing about the 'innovative' techniques is getting pretty tedious. seriously, making cucumber look like noodles isn't that clever.

dessert - first of three courses. poppy seed ice cream in a poppy seed tuile with cream cheese, roasted red peppers and more poppy seeds. at this point I'm noticing that everything from the dried powders to the ice cream has the same chalky texture. poppy seeds, big deal.

next is fried butterscotch pudding with smoked hazelnuts, mango and taro root. this was actually awesome. good textures, good flavors. thumbs up!

finally, last dish, white chocolate with white beer ice cream- great presentation on this one. it was pretty good, kind of a lot going on this plate with chips and powders and crumbs that didn't all go together. the fried butterscotch would have been a better finish.

then some petit fours, sweet potato pie and marshmallow, and we're out.


the overall experience makes me doubt the whole molecular gastronomy "movement" because the first rule of cooking, especially fine dining - should be that everything has to taste good, delicious even. doesn't matter if it's indian food, a hot dog from the street, fried chicken , thai-cuban-alaskan fusion or beef raised by branch davidians, fed champagne and lobster, dehydrated into a fine powder and downloaded into your tongue with nanotechnology. It should taste GOOD. and if it costs hundreds of dollars, it should taste AMAZING.

at the restaurant where i cook, there's a psychopathic drill-sargeant sous chef that makes sure everything we make is absolutely perfect, and tastes good. if it doesn't, well, that's when the pots full of scalding hot english pea risotto start flying past your head, and you might spend the rest of the night scrubbing the rotting, crusted week old saffron sauce off the side of the dumpster in the back alley. too bad he wasn't at wd-50 the other night.

while there was a few dishes that I liked, and everything looked gorgeous- probably more attention payed to the presentation of the dishes than anywhere I've ever eaten - the whole experience reeked of style over substance and horribly overrated hype. thinking of these guys prancing all over the food network while we work our asses off every night in a crazy, crowded kitchen makes me furious. possibly this "molecular gastronomy" is the silly fad that many of my fellow line cooks think it is.

maybe it was an off night.. possibly chef Dufrense is busy with other projects and his flagship restaurant is suffering. because I hope his rave reviews and acclaim came from food that tastes much better than what I had. I don't regret going, but wouldn't go back.


I recently ate at Amada for the second time - and I have to say it still blows every other "tapas" restaurant in the city out of the water. everything we ate was delicious, interesting and nicely presented.. which really doesn't happen that often, especially when you cook for a living and can't help but be insanely critical. lamb meatballs with manchego cheese, shortrib flatbread (pictured below-probably my favorite), clams with chorizo, baby squid, shortrib ravioli in broth, crab chile renellos, all fantastic.

217 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Still in the magical land of Copenhagen

Still in the world of Copenhagen with packs of beautiful fresh faced girls book it on cute bikes. And all the boys had light eyes and blonde hair and looked like underwear models.

These were the hot dog carts in Copenhagen. The hot dogs there were really long and skinny and kind of looked liked they were wrapped in crescent roll dough.

The most amazing tomato soup in this beautiful bowl that gave you the optical illusion that your bowl wasn't very full, when it was actually really deep. There was this pretty pesto drizzled into it with a dallop of creme fraiche.

The amazing design at the Ski Petri Design Hotel.

The amazing Nordic Asian Fusion food at the Ski Petri Hotel Restaurant. We started with a panko encrusted shrimp.

Delicious warm bread from a steamer.

Lobster bisque with a cabbage salad at the bottom and lobster dumplings.

Halibut with lobster tempura, over endamame and soy pepper reduction.

Something lovely about a sunny room and tea room service. Again bodum designed tea accessories and the steamed milk!

Most amazing seafood platter (smoked dill salmon, smoked salmon, pickled herring, salmon tartar, jumbo shrimp, and baby shrimp) at the seafood bar at the Copenhagen airport. With a side of creme fraiche and honey mustard. The pickled herring was DEELISH. The Copenhagen airport was the most beautiful and amazing airport I have ever witnessed. They had plastic bags ready for you if you forgot yours, and there was no line anywhere. Crazy, but people were actually nice and polite at the airport.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fried Chicken & Greens

so out of sheer laziness on a sunday morning I went shopping at the asian market two blocks from my house rather than walk the extra 10 minutes to the regular supermarket.

sometimes things like "blackened goat intestines" , "old chicken" and "dried fish innard & tripe meatballs" scare the hell out of me - not to say I wouldn't try any of those things...

but actually their fresh (not pre-packaged) meats & fish are pretty decent, and their produce is fresh, exotic & ridiculously affordable. for example, a bundle of lemongrass stalks that would be 9 dollars at your average overpriced "natural foods" megastore is 99 cents here.

so I breaded & panko crusted some cut up chicken breasts, fried em 'up in peanut oil and they turned out perfect. everyone talks a lot of smack about how peanut oil is the best for deep frying, and damn if it isn't true. the chicken got a perfect golden brown color and the taste is much cleaner than frying with vegetable oil.

served the chicken with some mustard greens sauteed in garlic & habanero peppers, and mashed potatoes that were about 50% butter. if I ever quit my day job I'll eat like this every day.