Caught with your pants down?

Saw this at a fire station in Beantown and I had to laugh. Maybe he had a bathroom emergency or maybe it’s just part of preparing your gear for the next emergency. Seriously though, all due respect to firefights. It’s a tough job and only unsung heroes need apply.

boston1

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Seafooding in Connecticut – Day 1

Over Labor Day Weekend, the Yams, the Lobsters, and I took a road trip to Mystic, Connecticut for some fun, sun, seafood, and more seafood. Having never set foot in New England, I was more than eager add another state to my Facebook list of “Where I’ve Been”.  Being that my friends are my friends, the entire itinerary was built around food, specifically, lobster rolls and clam pizza.  In particular, I wanted to increase my reference points for good lobster rolls from the lowly number of 1. That and deep fried everything sounded like an artery clogging fantasy come true.

In between meals, we did so some sightseeing around the Connecticut coast and I fell madly in love with the small New England towns, their lush greenery and quaint, centuries-old colonial style homes contrasting sharply with the golden brush and new tract housing of California. The first stop was Guilford, a town founded in the mid-sixteen hundreds. With so many years of history to glean in a few hours, we opted to cruise our way through town and take a Segway tour from a store that rents and sells costumes.  It makes for an odd couple but I suppose if you wanted to dress up as Don Quixote as you segway through town, you could.

Segway Tour - fun and easy

Segway Tour - fun and easy

Guilford, it seems, has more old houses than a redhead has freckles.  Every home had a claim to the past, with a plaque near the front door proclaiming its age. 1867, 1793, 1714, etc., not to be confused with actual numbered street addresses. I wonder if there is a town hierarchy in places like these, the older your house, the more benefits you have. Maybe you get to be Grand Puba at the Elk Lodge or take the role of George Washington in any Revolutionary war re-enactment whilst the rest of the townsfolk play the defeated Loyalists.  Or at school, if little Jenny Zuckerman lives in a 1760 house and Abner Appleton lives in a 1832 house, she gets to line up first for lunch on fish stick Tuesdays.  And the what about the kid that lives in anything built in the early 1900s.  1909?  Give that loser a wedgie.

E.T. is the voice of public safety here??

E.T. is the voice of public safety here??

So after our segway trip, we were starving and headed straight to Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale restaurant in Madison, home of the best lobster roll that Les’ coworker has ever eaten. I could smell the sweet scent of lobster and fried shellfish the moment I got out of the car and that just set us salivate where we proceeded to order an obnoxious amount of food, a scene to be repeated often over the next three days.

The rundown for the first official road trip O’ seafood meal was: Fried clams, fried scallops, hot buttered lobster rolls, fried softshell crab roll, clam chowder (clear broth, very nice and light)…and for the vegetable food group — fries, onion rings, and cole slaw. Perhaps the wedge of lemon I squeezed over the seafood counts as well…I think.

Buttered lobster rolls are tasty but it needs the zing and tang that some celery and mayo would give it. Otherwise, I’d just skip the roll and devour the lobster.

Mmmm - softshell crab

Mmmm - softshell crab

Our next stop was Essex, another small New England coastal town with again, old houses and an idyllic setting. It bills itself as the “Best Small town in America” and I don’t know why but whenever I hear of the best town or best village moniker, I think of the movie Hot Fuzz.  There’s got to be something dastardly going on around here.  I bet you the grannies in the quilting club are secretly running an extortion ring, demanding protection money from the shopkeepers.  Having had our fill of colonial style architecture in Guilford, we just ended up sitting at a local park overlooking a small inlet marina.

seems so idyllic...what lurks underneath? muahahahahaha

seems so idyllic...what lurks underneath? muahahahahaha

We made it to Mystic at the end of the day (yes the home of Mystic Pizza, made famous by a then relatively unknown starlet named Julia Roberts!)

Mystic Pizza - Mr. Yam says it's good if you set your NYC thin crust prejudice aside

Mystic Pizza - Mr. Yam says it's good if you set your NYC thin crust prejudice aside

Forget the sights, it was all about dinner and we hurried to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough before they closed for the night.  I don’t know why they call it lobster in the rough. Maybe it’s because actually getting a plate of lobster in front of you is a rough experience because you have to drive down small dark streets and past moon lit cemeteries, and just when you think you’re lost, you find a giant gravel parking lot with lights strung up from a small shack by the dock. Or maybe it’s because you wait in a really long line and then sit at the tables outside. But the food was good and if you are suffering from deep fried everything shock, Abbott will bring you relief as everything here steamed.  You’re on your own if you drown yourself in butter.

Hello my little lobsters

Hello my little lobsters

The dinner tally was steamed mussels, clam chowder, lobster bisque, corn, lobster, and lobster roll.  The soups were disappointing but the rest of the meal was tasty.  Day 1 of the roadtrip was over and  I had already consumed more seafood than I had all summer long. The next two days would be taxing. Stay tuned…

KO’ed at Momofuku Ko

Yeah, I know, the title is really cheesy but I left my gift for words on the subway platform somewhere around Canal street after a banh mi chase. Anyways, for better or worse, this NY trip has pretty much turned out to be completely dominated by everything Momofuku and I feel like me and the Changer should become BFF or something. Although he probably wouldn’t want to hear what I have to say about his Southern style fried chicken at Noodle Bar or the grilled octopus at Ssam.

Over the course of 10 days, I went to Noodle Bar, SSam Bar, and Milk Bar (and PDT for the Momofuku dog) and have generally been satisfied with my visits but not blown away because the food was uneven, some great stuff and some so so.   I was starting to think that the hype was just a hype and we were all just following the Pied Piper out of town to drown in a river of kimchi and other pickled vegetation.

Let’s not mention the fact that the man did not make it easy for me to get to his food. Running to make a fried chicken reservation? No way, won’t catch me doing that again.  Anyway, back to Ko. JN had been monitoring the Ko reservation board for me and found a sitting for 9:30pm on a Monday night that very morning, but since I was helping the Korean move during the day, I decided I would be completely wiped out and I foolishly turned it down and spent the next three days lamenting the fact. But then, as luck would have it, I scored a last minute dinner reservation to Ko, which has a notorious reputation for being difficult to get into, something about 12 seats and only being able to reserve one week in advance (forget about trying to get into lunch). Someone out there with other priorities canceled his/her Friday night reservation, which I promptly snatched up around 11am on Thursday morning. I had been so used to seeing the red Xes that the green check mark nearly blinded me.  Even worse the countdown clock they give you is completely nerve wracking. You have 60 seconds to accept the reservation and then another 150 seconds or so to enter in your credit card information.

“Aaahhh!!!!! Where’s my wallet?!! Who else can I take to KO?! (JN shouts in the background, “Take Les! Take Les!”) Okay okay! What do I do?  Oh my God, oh my God, a hundred and twenty seconds left, security code? what?!” I ended my little hissy fit by texting a command to Les, “You are coming with me to Ko tomorrow!!” Like there was ever even a doubt that she would decline. We knew where our priorities lay.

We show up the next night and placed ourselves down at the the long bar where all the diners can watch the chefs mill about in a small cooking area. The experience is similar to sitting at a sushi bar and watching the chef prepare each course.  It’s great for voyeurs like me who like to watch their dishes being prepped and plated.  The bar at Ko is a zen like setting with random music coming from the speakers overhead mingling with the hushed voices of diners.  The lighting is clear and bright, a refreshing change to other fine dining establishments, because I can actually see my food and appreciate the visual presentation. Of course, with lighting seemingly made to be conducive for food photography, Ko has a no picture policy. And I am perfectly okay with it because at the end of the day, eating takes priority over blogging.

Here’s how the dinner proceeded.

Crisp, deep fried chicharon with togarashi salt was presented next to a dense yet fluffy black pepper biscuit with mirin glaze. I loved the biscuit/muffin thing because it was warm, crumbly, moist, buttery, and peppery. The mirin glaze was fantastic and added a touch of sweetness and tang. Chicharon was alright, I couldn’t taste too much of the togarashi seasoning but anything made of piggy and deep fried works for me.

Then we had a ceramic spoon containing a mouthful of fried calamari, pistachio puree, eggplant puree, and a little sprig of dill. Great texture and flavors together.

Up next was sliced raw diver scallop, crisp watercress chunks, crispy ham bits, with pineapple vinegar. The scallop was sweet and fresh and the ham added the salt the dish needed.

One of my favorite dishes was uni with shiso leaf in a cool dashi broth with charred grilled vegetables that I suspect are pea shoots/vines. I call them dou miao in Chinese.  The dashi broth was light and it was complemented by the smokiness of of the pea shoots.  In a flash of whimsy, they placed the pod of snap peas laid open on the dish and in the pods, were what appeared to be peas but were really just tiny little balls of cucumber.

And then the oft mentioned and blogged about egg dish. THE egg dish that I had heard so much about from Les. I can’t even begin to say how good it was. A smoked egg cut open so the yolk spills out topped with a briny dollop of caviar. Then it’s served with an onion soubise, tiny little chips made from fingerling potatoes, chopped chives, and a sweet potato vinegar.  This is a dish where you need to put a little bit of everything on the spoon to get the full impact. Oddly enough, it was like eating a mutant version of sour cream and chives/sour cream and onion chips if that makes sense and then egg and caviar flavor just float happily on your tongue.

In an homage to everything summer, they plated up a dish of sweet corn and sour cream ravioli in a buttery sauce of diced Spanish chorizo, corn, cotija cheese, pickled tomato, and lime zest. The sweetness of the corn mixed well with the soft sour cream and complemented the smokey, spicy chorizo. This is where I really appreciated the intimacy of sitting at the bar and watching the chefs (the one stationed in front of us was really cute! I was told I had to mention that.) prepare the meal. We watched the preparation of the dish from sautéeing the diced chorizo in butter and the plating of each layer of flavor with the corn, the cheese, the diced tomato. We could see and smell all of it, down to the faint whiff of lime as they grated it over the microplane. It really builds the anticipation for each dish and enhances the experience.

For our fish dish, we had grilled caper-brined baby trout, potato risotto, baby swish chard, and radish. The fish was melt in your mouth tender and the caper brine did not overwhelm the delicacy of the fish.

Of course we also had the famous frozen foie dish. Shaved torchon of foie over riesling gelée, lychees, and pine nut brittle. The treatment made the foie so fluffy and light and the remaining components added sweetness and bitterness to the dish which offset the richness of foie.  This is also another dish where you’ve got to put every ingredient in a spoonful to appreciate the overall effect. Les didn’t like foie so they gave her nicely cooked piece of bass with teeny little onion ravioli. She said it was good and I’ll take her word for it.

The final course before dessert was this amazing deep fried short rib on top of pickled pearl onions (the dude is sooo Korean, pickles everything he can get his hands on), a preparation of onion using some French word I don’t know (miqui or something, someone please educate me), grilled leeks, and my arch nemesis…a huge bed of pureed of scallions. If you’re looking for irony, this is it. As Les so eloquently put it,  the definition of irony is when the best dish of the night contains scallions and yet, you hate scallions. Take that Alanis Morissette! However, back to the subject. I ignored the evil greenery and focused on the delectable short rib. The skin was nice and crisp and any external fat was nicely caramelized. The inside was so tender and melt in your mouth, reminiscent of wagyu beef.

We had watched them trim the cooked short rib on the cutting board and both Les and I were aghast at the chunks of meat being cast aside and wasted. Granted, a lot of it was fat but a LOT of it was meat!!! I was so tempted to reach over and rescue those perfect, crackling, tender pieces of beef and help them achieve their life purpose of satisfying my tummy but decorum held me back. Plus I didn’t want to get banned from Ko as the Changer seems to like to have things just so, down to the music that plays in the restaurant…so I’m told.

The first dessert was animal cracker ice cream, diced peaches, and peach soda.  It really did taste like animal crackers and it was light and refreshing.

The final bit of the evening had a savory kick to it. Black pepper ganache with black pepper crumble,  macerated blueberries, and topped with ice cream made from olive oil and creme fraiche ice cream. I loved this. It was akin to eating yogurt with granola, a breakfast favorite of mine. And I do like ending a great evening with breakfast.

Ko completely won me over.  It was such a great meal — elegant, whimsical, creative, and absolutely delicious. There wasn’t a single dish that was subpar or that I didn’t devour to the last lick. I don’t know what kind of mojo David Chang has got swimming around in the water he drinks but I’ll gladly join his army and help expand the empire. We’ll deep fry and pickle everyone that gets in our way.

The invisible man sighting

IMG_2932

I saw him on a busy street, waiting for the green light to cross. Just because you’re invisible, doesn’t mean you’re invincible.

Midnight fried chicken run

What is it about this place that it makes people work hard for their meals? First an epic walk through the backwoods of tony Westchester County for a frittata, and now I’m running down rain-slicked sidewalks of the avenues at midnight to get some fried chicken. They make your you pay for your pleasure here apparently, and the form of currency is sweat.

Here’s the story. So the sharp cleavers of David Chang’s Momofuku Empire reach far and wide throughout the animal kingdom.  First the pig and its rear end was king and now the whole chicken has been brought onto the cutting board.  I was clueless until properly informed, but Korean style fried chicken is all the rage in NYC this summer.  Momofuku Noodle Bar serves it up in a set meal for six to eight people that is so popular, reservations are booked solid four weeks in advance.  Fortunately, my friends are all food fiends that JN managed to snag last minute reservations and corral six people (eight people is just too much competition for food). The catch? It was for 11:55pm on a Friday night.

Fried chicken at midnight? No problem there.  The girls and I decided to catch a movie before our chicken feast to pass time and our movie of choice was Julie and Julia. Naturally a movie about food would be a good prelude to a meal.  The only problem was, we didn’t realize the movie was about two hours long and it would be ending past midnight.  We were so enthralled by Amy Adam’s vulnerability and Meryl Streep’s exuberance that before we knew it, it was 12am and the there was still a duck left to truss.  Noodle Bar would only keep the reservation until 12:10am, even though the rest of our party had already arrived. The chicken wasn’t going to fry if we weren’t all there. The course of action was clear.  Let me publicly apologize to the couple sitting next to us whose seats we climbed past for our early exit. Girl, I’m sorry we woke you up from your sleep. Guy, I’m sorry you had to sit through a chick flick that you will probably have to sit through again because your woman fell asleep.

We were on the top floor of Loews and had to barrel down at least 7 flights of stairs. Owing to my recent dash through Midway, I lead the way and charged down the steps ahead of my three cohorts.  The clock was ticking and we weren’t about to lose our reservation over a few minutes. When we burst through the exit, we headed down the avenues, where I literally had to pull Les back from trying to cross a busy 3rd Ave against the light saying unconvincingly, “It’s not worth it! It’s not worth it!”

When the light changed, the foot race against time started up once more. Again, I was leading at first, dodging pedestrians and giant garbage bags (it was trash night) while praying that we would stay upright on the wet concrete.  But I was too ambitious and my poor estimation of the length of New York City avenues caught up to me and I soon tired somewhere between 2nd and 1st.  Then like a well-oiled relay team, I passed the baton off to Mrs. Yam and she sprinted pass me and rounded the corner, while we shouted encouragements from a distance. “RUN! Keep running!!!”

As we neared the corner, E and I decided to kick up a burst of speed and run for the finish, with Les as our anchor in the back.  The two of us were such adept runners that we completely missed the entrance and had to double back. (Actually, I forgot the address and having never been to Noodle Bar, I assumed it was the gaudy Asian looking place across the street with the crowd outside. But I should have known better because like Ssam Bar, Noodle Bar is minimalist and nondescript).

But we made it and marched through the doors with breathless joy and slight muscle fatigue (better tired legs than tired stomachs). We decided to oil our gullets with some of the famous Momofuku pork buns and a plate of Roasted Pig Tails with pickled Asian Pear. I didn’t eat the pork bun this time but the pig tails were nice and crusty with a tangy glaze. The pickled Asian pear were interesting with no hint of the sweetness that I normally expect in the fruit but went very well with the pig tails and its glaze.

Pork Buns

Pork Buns

Roasted Pig Tails with Pickled Asian Pear

Roasted Pig Tails with Pickled Asian Pear

Then the server brought out the condiments to build the suspense. Lettuce, shishido peppers (they tell me these are mild, but it’s a lie), radish, baby carrots, shiso leaves, basil, purple basil, mushu pancakes, and four sauces. The sauces were a ginger scallion oil (typical condiment for salt-water boiled chicken you find in Chinatown rotisseries), hoisin sauce, garlic jalapeno, and bibim sauce (similar to the stuff you squirt onto a bimbimbap). The intention was to eat the chicken Korean/Vietnamese style by wrapping the meat, lettuce, herbs and sauce in the pancake. The carrots and radish were palate cleansers that we could nibble on like Bugs Bunny.

Condiments

Condiments

The chicken came to our table in a giant heaping platter fried two ways: triple fried Korean style with a bibim glaze and Southern style with Old Bay seasoning. It’s roughly the equivalent of two chickens worth of food and we started our attack without hesitation, confident in our ability to devour the beast, especially after our brisk run.  I started with the Southern style and speared what I thought was a thigh, though it turned out to be breast meat, a surprising moist and juicy one. The crust was a lovely brown, searing hot and crispy. Being an expert in eating Korean BBQ or Vietnamese Bo 7 Mon, I was an old hand at the wrap-your-food-in-veggies style of eating. However, I wasn’t sure how well it would adapt to fried chicken but damn, I might never want to eat fried chicken any other way again. It was so good and I loved mixing in the shiso leaves and the garlic jalapeno sauce. The crispy chicken skin, the tender meat, the fragrant herbs and sauce, and the toothiness of the mushu pancakes made for a phenomenal mouthful.

FRIED chickin!!!

FRIED chickin!!!

Next, I worked on the Korean style chicken which was delicious, crispy, and the sweet heat of the bibim glaze just amped up the flavors. It was so tasty and amazingly not oily or burnt at all, even though it had been fried to high heaven. This was the table’s unanimous favorite as we all found the Southern style chicken to be a tad on the salty side. That and most of the Southern style was breast meat and we all preferred the juicier, less dense limbs.

I fully expected us to clean up the platter but there were at least six or seven pieces in our take out bag when we staggered out in defeat in the middle of the night.  I was slightly chagrined because not only did that chicken make us wait till midnight and become that guy in a movie theater, but it also caused us to sprint down dark, wet, city sidewalks.  No fowl has ever exacted so much out of me and I’m not sure I’ll repeat the process again. I mean, I am on the top of the food chain after all and the pecking order should be pretty clear.  Momofuku fried chicken, next time we meet, it will be on my terms.

Will walk for Blue Hill egg salad

Who is crazy enough to walk 6 miles in 90 degree heat and humidity simply for lunch at Blue Hill Cafe?

Me.

Okay I’m exaggerating. It wasn’t 6 miles. Only 5.9 miles but I used to be in finance so I know a thing or two about rounding up and approximating. Even so, that would be about a two hour walk and mostly on roads where I’m skirting the edge of the pavement, between a ditch and the front bumper of cars whizzing past. But there was that matter of a delectable egg salad sandwich and vegatable frittata, the memory of which propelled me forward in even my most dire moments.

The day was sunny and a fleeting breeze fluttered over my skin when I set out from Les’ house for my trek. There was some snickering and disbelief the night before when I announced my intentions.  No one walks in Westchester county, home of the Clintons, good school districts, numerous European cars, and ladies of leisure with Bugaboo strollers.  Plus the area is mostly sans sidewalks and thus not conducive to pedestrians. But since I wanted to revisit egg salad nirvana and I had no car, 6 miles didn’t seem so daunting. Pshaw, I said with bravado. I can do it.

Even when I rolled my right ankle with a wrong step on a rock, I was still undaunted. I trudged down the route, walking a good pace next to the white, painted line that marked the side of the road, casting a quick glance over my shoulder every once in a while to check for cars barreling towards me. It was okay at first. The heat didn’t seem so bothersome and I didn’t notice that my jeans were beginning to stick to my skin.  Pleasant thoughts filled my head as I admired the sheer greenness of everything around me, a rarity in California. Then as I kept going, the shade started to give way and I was constantly under the relentless sun while sweat started beading up on my forehead. It was still fine then as I playfully raced the recycling truck making its rounds at every doorstep.  With a quick exchange of smiles between myself and the cute recycling guy, I left them in my dust as I hit route 117.

By that point I was feeling pretty good and keeping up my pace.  It was close to 11:30 and I still had 3 miles to go.  Then the breeze stopped and the sun glared down at me. I don’t remember what was playing on my iPod but I do remember thinking that the earphones were keeping any scarce wind from reaching the inside of my brain. It was so hot. I walked on grass, on uneven dirt, uneven pavement, through coals and fire.  But I kept walking with a fierce determination only the deranged possess, all the while, cars kept driving past me, making an effort to maintain an 8 foot distance as they passed, drivers casting looks of irritation or incredulity at me. Hey nutso, no one walks around here. God gave us cars for a reason!

By the time I reached Bedford Road and the last leg of my trip, I was questioning my ambition and sense of judgement while my feet began to drag.  As Fabio from Top Chef would say, “I was sweating like a mountain goat at the beach.” Hadn’t the fortune teller told me just last week that I was smarter than the average Joe? Obviously he was a charlatan.  It was so hot and the humidity was pressing me to the ground as I dug my heels in and walked up the incline ( truthfully a teeny incline but it felt like Everest).  The trees had pulled themselves far from the road, and with it, the shade offering leaves. They were mocking me for my folly, I was sure of it. If I just gave up, could I just knock on the door to one of those air-conditioned homes? Would they take pity on me and let me in for a rest? I briefly thought about calling Les to pick me up instead of meeting me there but I wanted to have the bragging rights.  The gates to Blue Hill came to view as I rounded the bend, still dodging cars and strange looks. I picked up the pace, spurred onward by the thought of a soft, fluffy, egg salad sandwich.

I must have presented a bedraggled sight as I lumbered to the counter, red-faced and sweaty, but triumphant. Until the inconceivable happened. They did not have egg salad! The man there did not pity me and my little 6 mile odyssey. Not having egg salad was no travesty to him and he offered no explanation. I mean, how can you not have egg salad? There were plenty of chickens hanging out at the entrance?  Go lay a few eggs or I’m going to pour oil into the fryer you cluckers!

The salty beads of liquid that ran down the side of my cheeks were sweat not tears mind you. Defeated but yet indomitable, I settled for a crazy delicious vegetable frittata with blue potatoes, broccoli, and mild goat cheese.   I came, I saw, and I conquered 6 measly miles. but I won’t be walking there again. I’ll expand my carbon footprint and take a car like everyone else around here.

Vegetable Frittata

Vegetable Frittata

I'm hoping these are Dan Barber's sustainable foie flock

I'm hoping these are Dan Barber's sustainable foie flock

I learn a new word

I learned a new word today courtesy of a fellow rider on Metro North who was trying to pick up on a girl.

The word: Volumptuous

Pronunciation: \və-ˈləmp(t)-shə-wəs, -shəs\

Function: adjective

Etymology: Slang English, derived from Fergie’s song: my humps, my humps, my lovely little lumps: volumptuous

Date: 21st century

definition: suggesting sensual pleasure by fullness and beauty of lovely lady lumps, in particular when the lumps are placed in Seven or True Religion jeans leads to money spendin’ and screamin’ <volumptuous hotties>

Example of use in a sentence per the originator of said word:

“I want a tattoo of a Latina pinup girl, real sexy like, you know, volumptous.”