January 5, 2012

Songs/Meals of the Year 2011 [pt. 2]

The rest of the best with selected songs. Full mix still here (same mix as last post).

Disco at Christmas pt 4

Disco at Christmas pt 5

8/13 - Mission Chinese: Spicy Good Hell
Tuneyards - Powa
Sichuan pickles
Celia, Sam, Nate, and I went to Mission Chinese for dinner with a promise that it was one of the hottest restaurants in the country. Faced with an hour wait we retired to Hog and Rocks for better beer than the last time we went and a pot of cheese. Returning, we realized we'd been skipped. Fortunately Nate knew a server, and standing outside we celebrated seeing her spread her arms for a hug. We were in. Over the course of a frenzied two hour spice festival which Celia later described as "being in a red tinted [positive] Chinese hell", we ate fried pork belly, tea smoked eel, veal ribs, thrice cooked bacon, among other things. Nate's server friend brought us all of the things we didn't order, because she wanted us to try them :) which warrants, for the first time and last time, the use of a smiley face on this blog.

9/23 - Chez Ruby-isse Bourgeois Birthday Dinner
 El Coco - Mondo Disco
Le table
Catherine's birthday involved the following menu:

Amuse Bouches:
(1) Tomales Bay Oysters in the Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce
(2) Baked Garlic with White Cheese and Peasant Bread

(3) Corn Soup with Poblano Chiles 
(4) Carrot and Shallot Soup with Chervil Cream

(5) Charcoal Grilled Loin of Pork with Grilled Leeks and Red Peppers
(6) Potato and Wild Mushroom Gratin
     (6a) A vegan entree: not Alice Water's specialty...ideas anyone?

(7) Warm Salad with Tiny Escarole and Lettuce
(8) Tomato and Rocket Salad

Cheese Course:
 (9) w. Figs and Walnuts
(10) +A good selection of fine cheeses (at least four or five -soft, stinky, Alice says good to have a theme to compare)

(11) Poached Pears and Figs in Zinfandel with Cassis Cream
(12) Apple Tarte Tatin with Apple Cider Sherbet
Andy, Tom, and Celia working on the Pork Loin + Potatoes

Wow! And she didn't have to make any of it. A brilliant idea for gourmets on special days. Sometime after this meal I learned what amuse bouche meant. Mouth amuser, love it...  The guy who made the potatoes followed Alice Waters's recipe which involved soaking and then drying the potatoes with a cheesecloth repeatedly. He said the result tasted like crap, so he whipped something up involving putting potatoes and cheese in the oven. Probably the best course, in my opinion. Good thing we ate at Chez Rubyisse and not the other one. Celia and I brought cheese, which was successful, coming off our European education. Andy commented that if most people really love all but one of the cheeses (due to unreal stinkiness), and everyone else love all of the cheeses, then it means the cheeses were a hit. Wise words. Following this dinner, there was again a DJ dance party, and again, it was a good idea. Even after someone (was it you?) turned a hose on full blast through the window. Unsolved mystery.  There were also many times as many desserts as you see on the menu.

11/10 - Dia de los Cumpleanos
Taana Gardner - Work That Body
Churros served fresh in front of the Mayor's Mansion
 A third bday. Celia and I created an enchilada shmorgasbord for her 24th. We served habenero pineapple tilapia, chicken mole, traditional sweet potato pinto bean, and chili verde spinach goat cheese black bean. All in enchilada form. For the second year running we composed a giant long table through the front of the Mayor's Mansion, though this year no one died or screeched in a Southern accent. The event was topped off by a surprise. I snagged Israel whose Rico's Churros are famous out on 40th and Foothill. We carried a plate of churros ricos y calientes into the house with candles, and then voyaged out into the front yard to begin the process of trying to keep up with Israel as he fried beautiful lengths of homemade dough without end. Ultimately we were overwhelmed and everyone settled for taking giant bags home for snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner the following day. Again, for the second year running Celia succeeded in knocking everyone out with the pure intensity of her celebration of choice, and the party was over by ten thirty, which was good because we needed to lie down.

12/17 - Food Drama pt 2: Holiday Sandwiches
Janet Jackson - When I Think of You
Topping off Wiley's BMCB
Menu from the Food Drama pt. 2

thai style carmelized scallion and pineapple
sweet potato roasted pecan and golden raisins

'veggie lasagna' - roasted eggplant garlic and zucchini - mozzarella and marinara
bacon-egg-an-cheese - cilantro pumpkinseed pesto - english muffin
bloody mary corned beef - pickled onion and radish - rye roll - celery

          [can't remember, nice work though, Wiley]

Food shot: Bloody Mary Corned Beef  'plated' tableside
Corning the beef meant leaving it in a ziploc in a brine for two weeks. Piece of cake! This was a great 5 course meal to host (each sandwich was one course) because I made the sauces in advance, and all that I had to do between feasting was build up the sandwiches and heat the sauce. Per Eric the Psychologist (my food guru)'s suggestion I served the sauce 'tableside', meaning everyone had their plate ready, and I just ladled the steaming sauce on top. I chose this meal over the first Food Drama because it was more relaxed for me, and the food was more fun. Eating a multi-course meal while sitting on a couch in a 'studio plus' is hard to justify. I think that the Food Drama pt 2 was successful in making a case for it though. Since then I have obtained a nice round folding table that will be the site of FD3. A final note: none of the bread fell apart, which was an initial concern. This may be because we ate everything quickly, unimpeded by the insane fire of real Tortas Ahogadas. Some people even used but a single paper towel. Over the course of the night we learned about TaskRabbit and Flow from Wiley. Both basically involve getting other people to do stuff for you. TaskRabbit in particular smacks of servitude as people attempt to outbid each other until finally someone is doing someone else's laundry for $1.50. Maybe I will TaskRabbit a sous chef for the next Food Drama.

12/30 - Lukshon New Year's Eve Eve
Tom Tom Club - Genius of Love
Talking Heads - Making Flippy Floppy
Lukshon Chicken Pops
In LA I learned a new word for Christmas/Hannukah/Pagan gift giving and celebrating. Apparently Luke's family has always just called it 'end of the year presents'. One of Celia's end of the year presents for me was a trip to a nice restaurant in LA. We originally considered Animal, but I quickly admitted to myself that Celia would not be able to eat anything on the menu. Instead we chose Lukshon, invited the rest of Celia's fam, and cancelled the cashing in of the end of the year present. Going with a larger group was excellent. We each order a couple plates and then they came fast and furious, some paired, some alone, always perfectly timed. The chicken pops were a blast and I'm planning to imitate the Chinese style pork belly. Most impressive, however, was the water service, which involved at least 5 bussers and servers correctly pouring the water of our choice (sparkling or still). Gretchen even switched from one to the other, and the next guy to stop by knew without asking. A miracle! Another mystery was how they knew which bottle was not sparkling, until we saw that one bottle had 'not sparkling' printed on its side. Plus, our waiter had a serious 90s MTV veejay thing going on with bleached white teeth. A very positive and encouraging dude. By far the best service I have ever received in a restaurant. As Eric the Psychologist says about fine dining, 'They treat you better than your own family ever would'.
(Thank you to Gretchen and David for the meal!! And to Noel for desiring the same things as me on the menu.)

Donna Summer - Lucky

Feeling good about future prospects. I'm looking forward to continuing to eat good meat and produce from the farmers market, buying eggs from Becca's friend Val, checking out a few more fancy schmancy restaurants, buying a few more cooking utensils (good pan, good pot, steamer, wok, meat grinder, slotted spoon), going back to NOLA, continuing the Food Drama series, potentially starting a Food Drama blog (in lieu of some quality???!), Andy's chicken and waffle bday brunch, 3cheeseketeers, family meals, having people over, eating at your house, getting taken out to dinner and vice verse, doing specialty food weeks (right now its Hunan week), and eating after cycling.

January 4, 2012

Songs/Meals of the Year 2011 [pt. 1]

'Steak le Cheval' (southern France)
 Meals with selected tracks. Full track listing below. Full mix here.

Disco at Christmas pt 1

Disco at Christmas pt 2

Disco at Christmas pt 3

1/14 - Lobster Disco
 Felix - Tiger Stripes
Rock lobster!
Andy's annual birthday party involving intense food consumption. This past year it was lobster + an incredible amount of incredible other foods. I remember the deserts being the bomb too. For some reason we thought it would be smart to have a dance party after stuffing ourselves. We were right.

3/14 - Anniversary Eating Festival + Super Flu
Change - A Lover's Holiday

For Celia and I's annual anniversary we headed up to Sonoma and rented a room at a B&B in Jenner. I immediately came down with the Super Flu, which ended up lasting for two weeks. This happened in part because I lowered my body's defenses with a day of wine tasting, burritos, burgers and Blimey the Wanker at the Stumptown Brewery, and dessert and whiskey at the River's End. I was able to eat so much because my brain had disconnected from my body, so I was utterly impressed with Celia's ability to chow.

4/2 - 3 Cheesketeers Round 1
Dinosaur L - Clean on Your Bean #1

A series of emails resulted in the first of a rotating series of Beer and Cheese tastings with Nate and Gabe. I hosted the first on my landlord's second story porch with IPA and cheddar, Porter and Gruyere, and cherve and gueze. We talked about life and food. Rebecca Black had recently become a sensation and Nate alluded to a theory, a 'very dark' theory, about the hit song, but never revealed what the heck he was talking about. Subsequent tastings involved bringing cheese to Beer Revolution (Gabe) and hitting up a high end cheese cafe in the Mission before retiring to Nate's apartment (Nate).

4/20s - Spring Break Food/Brewery/Bike Tour
Wayne Wonder - Dreamland
Sign at defunct vineyard
Eric and I mounted our trusty steeds and headed first south to Santa Cruz to the Seabright Brewery and then a sumptuous Passover Feast. We were driven North and then departed from my house in West Oakland straight to Napa. We rode through the valley, hit a brewery there, camped. Headed to Healdsburg for Bear Republic: 3 beers each, giant burgers, appetizers, and then 15 miles through the rain to Santa Rosa. Russian River Brewing Co and pizza. Hop Kiln in Sebastapool on a great loop through Guerneville and the River Valley. Finally we rode south to SF, leaving Santa Rosa only to discover that Petaluma was very close and the Lagunitas brewery was closed?! They were persuaded to allow us to drink a big bottle of breakfast stout to fuel our legs for the 65 mile day. Descending into Nicasio Valley looked like the land before time!!

6/11 - Fried Chicken/Corn Dogs at Dirtfoot Farm
Indeep - Buffalo Bill
Ian getting ready to fry

The title more or less explains this. Ian didn't kill anyone or burn down anything with the deep fryer. I think the corn dogs were the best I have ever had. Nothing like fried good food walking around an urban farmstead.

7/? - French Dinner Parties
Chic - Est-ce que c'est Chic
El Coco - Dancing in Paradise

L to R: Catherine (UK), Bernhard (DE), ? (B)
Celia and I rode through much of Western Europe on our bikes. The food was good everywhere of course. In France we were treated to at least 3 dinner parties. Our various hosts planned ahead, invited bike friends and neighbors and served it up right. The highlight of every meal was the cheese, served after a couple of courses, and before dessert. To reprise a quote: "I'm sorry, but I must have wine with my cheese" (Pierre, after we had earlier decided to just drink beer).

Disco at Christmas Track List
weldon irvine - pogo stick
wayne wonder - dreamland
ponta de lonca africano - jorge ben
kid creole &coconuts - i'm a wonderful thing
tom tom club - genuis of love
yella - yella!!
disco 4 - he's santa claus
indeep - buffalo bill
tuneyards - powa
bernard wright - video generation
mean machine - disco dream
dhar braxton - jump back (set me free)
janet jackson - when i think of you
change - a lover's holiday
prince - boys and girls
el coco - mondo disco
chic- est-ce que c'est chic
dinosaur l - clean on your bean #1
katie kissoon - you're the one (you're my number one)
taana gardner - work that body
talking heads - making flippy floppy
donna summer - lucky
felix - tiger stripes
el coco - dancing in paradise

September 20, 2011

Mission: Unknown [Chinese]


It is thrilling the way a song or place pops up. It was something that we did not pay any mind, and then it has suddenly become immensely important. The transitional moment occurs in the rhythms of course. Walking city streets we have passed it many times, or at least passed its grave or its newest home. Later on we realize that it was there all along. Instead of being the last song on the New Year mixtape for Misson St. we had actually burned the CD backwards and it was put there as the first track, by some food god. We look around wondering if the genius who arranged this mix, intended for driving from New York City to New Haven, CT,  was messing with us. Rather than petering out the process becomes intensely focused, building, first numbing your tongue and body with distinct peppercorn rhythms, then burning the crap out of your face with its 1000 chili melody.

At Mission Chinese they play gangsta rap, and the ambiance feels like a positive version of a dark, red, enchilado hell. Everything is recommended and water is all you will need. Stay for the whole song.

January 25, 2011

Loui's Restaurant in Providence, RI

Darlene - Doc Box and B. Fresh, 12" (1990)
Easy Groove - B. T. O, 12" (1977)

The connection between popular music and popular breakfast joints works as follows: someone suggests a preference to you, you are hesitant, you go or listen, you are uncertain, you go or listen again, and after much uncertainty you find yourself more or less in a kind of love. Then it becomes your shared moment with your loved ones in turn.

That is all fine. Poker Face and a familiar breakfast have plenty in common. Far rarer is the restaurant that changes you in its changes. It is not so much that you become used to it, or that you accept the grease and the often-cigarette-laden toilet. Nor even that you find these things comforting, familiar, and reliable.

[You have to listen to the entirety of Darlene, by the way.]

There are the comfortable restaurants and songs, and then there are the ones that abruptly change you. Its not that hand-handled homefries are familiar, it is that you find yourself wanting them. Not that water with no ice in little school style plastic cups is appealing, but that you have to have it. Suddenly you burst forth, not lulled by the monotony of the normal, but freed by the strange. The dinner for breakfast option. The huevos rancheros covered with cold cheese and salsa. The hot dogs at 6:30am. The mimosas. The honeydew. The homemade granola, bread, muffins, hot sauce, and the Aunt Jemima's syrup.

It is the cornucopia of the first Thanksgiving briefly transformed into a Prince song, eaten, and then turned back into natural crap. It is country music written by George Clinton. Having eaten, and now leaving the restaurant, your feet fall heavily onto Brook St. and you realize you are a modern man, and that Loui's is the most modern food you have ever eaten.

January 9, 2011

Champagne When We Thirsty

A central concept of the French Laundry, a 3 Michelin starred restaurant in Napa, is that of diminishing returns. That is to say, your first bite is your best bite, and the rest of the course is rapidly driving your tastebuds into boring town. This means that they serve really small plates, and the flavors pop like the snares do.

This may be a scientific fact. A biological outcome that is derived from the enjoyment of difference. Sure, sure. Everything different is fun. Unfortunately, that means food is pretty boring stuff. It is the music-loving equivalent of a high school dance. The new, popping song comes on and the kids go wild with recognition, and because of the newness. The song is uncanny, in that it is the familiar made unfamiliar. It is something your mouth could make up, but did not so far here, on this dance floor, with these people.

Songs can be just the same. "Juicy" comes on and everybody puts it in their mouth like foie gras that is oh-so-familiar. Everybody raps about "when Christmas missed us" as though they ate things like this on the regular. Soon though, they realize that the beat is a little slow, nobody learned the words to the third verse, and super fatty liver is weird to chew on. The returns diminish.

Thomas Keller (owner/creator of the French Laundry) is like a DJ at a high school dance. He excites with snippets of the very best, and leaves you no time to drag your feet or your tongue. Conversely, a DJ who plays Arthur Russell's Dinosaur's "Kiss Me Again" (1978) is like a chef who feeds you things you have never heard of, and then when you eat them they do not stop tasting good, and in fact taste even better as you chew, so that by the end of the course you are dancing.

Experiencing even a high school dance of food is supposedly quite astonishing, as is listening to Dinosaur's 12" single on vinyl in the rustic French setting of a discotheque. May we all be so lucky as to do one, or the other, or both, in this new year.

What I mean to say is that there is something that resonates in "Juicy" for all of us, just in the same way that anyone could be awed by the pate at the FL. There are things in life that represent the distance between where we started and where are. $700 dinners. Champagne. Rare disco. It was all a dream...

December 26, 2010

Ho ho ho, yo!

Download the annual year-in-review mixtape from Some Quality and me, Rich JC.

Coolin' at Christmas

--Track List --

toni tone and tone - coolin at christmas

sista nancy- bam bah

billy preston - gold finger

sly and the family stone - run, run, run

edwin starr- ca soul

roy ayers ubiquity - better days

cookie and henry monster- circles

bobby marchan - disco rabbit

naughty by nature - holidaze remix

bto - easy groove

missy elliot - i can't stand the rain

rose royce- ooh boy i'm into you

lmfao - i'm in miami bitch

humpback interlude

eastbound expressway- never let go

idris muhammed - see saw

marvin gaye-a funky space reincarnation

raydio-you can't change that

impressions - i saw mommy kissing santa claus

bill summers - straight to the bank

betty padgett- sugar daddy

electric man lionel davis - electric man

ramsey lewis - soul man

m i a - mango pickle down river

ramsey lewis - up tight

cerrone - black is black

December 12, 2010

Grilled Lobster

Mary Jane - Stonefire Band, Grilled Lobster (1984)

2:30 AM on the streets of the Mission in SF California.

Bacon wrapped hot dog.

You see what I'm getting at?

The BWHD, as we quickly learned to call it, was as light on its feet in the mouth as the persistent drums, 'roaming all over the place'. The grilled onions and jalapenos the horn hit progression found only on the downbeat. The lines of mustard, mayo, and ketchup the unfailing chorus. Uncomplicated. Complete. Some would say perfect... The contents unGoogleable, the experience unforgettable.