That was some glorious weekend! For me, at least. I admit I felt guilty entertaining friends Saturday evening, with Mac smoke-roasting chickens while so many of my family and friends rode out Irene, including my sister Jill, who lives “down the shore” in South Jersey and spent her 50th birthday in evacuation land. (Yo, Jill! I saved you a thigh!) Here’s hoping that your friends and family come out of the disaster as unscathed as mine did, and that as floodwaters continue to rise and fall, everyone stays safe.
And now, on a much happier note, allow me to turn to that not-so-guilty pleasure: reading about eating. Yes, summer’s coming to an end (insert your “summer” joke here), but my endless pile of food-related material is never ending. And high on my list of must reads is this tasty trio.
You may have heard about Lucky Peach — the new food quarterly from New York-based chef David Chang whose Momofuku restaurants are the talk of the town whenever food-fetishists get gabbing about where-to-go-in-New-York. It’s not enough that they’re crazy for his Momofuku cookbook, now they can subscribe to his magazine.
Published with help from Chang’s travel-buddy and editorial other-half Peter Meehan (and not a few words that might have your mother washing your mouth out with soap), the premiere issue of Lucky Peach, initially sold out at $10 a pop (and now available on-line), is a one-stop shop for ramen fanatics. The entire magazine, blissfully devoid of ads, is devoted to the subject. Read it, and even if you never get to Tokyo to try the real deal, at least you can say you sampled the goods by proxy, with a regional tasting tour of ramen stops in Japan, a visit with New Yawk-talkin’ ramen royalty Ivan Orkin at his shop in Rokkakoen, plus weigh-ins with other heavy hitters who’ve hoisted their chopsticks to join in the conversation.
Among them is Ruth Reichl, riffing on the joys and the “oys” of instant ramen. And Anthony Bourdain, writing about Chang in “The Rise of a Ramen Boy.” I was fascinated by “Transmissions from the Orbital Desk of Harold McGee in Outre Space” — in which everyone’s favorite food-science geek gets geeky about alkaline noodles. And yes: there are recipes. Lots of them, including one whose big oops! has since gotten a Peachy-keen mea culpa (that’s 4 teaspoons of baked soda in those fresh alkaline noodles, not 4 tablespoons.
Armchair travelers here in Seattle might do well to get their hands on a copy of Lucky Peach and take it down to Showa, the newish izakaya in Fremont where there’s an armchair awaiting in the lounge and — thanks to owner Taichi Kitamura, who’s been toying with the recipe till he got it right — a bodacious bowl of ramen with your name on it.
I slurped this big bowlful Friday night at Showa (you may remember the place as Chiso Kappo). When he’s not perfecting his ramen recipe, owner Taichi Kitamura keeps busy at Sushi Kappo Tamura on Eastlake.
OK, so bad-boy chefs and ramen may not be your thing. Perhaps you’re looking for something more refined? Then please, by all means, get yourself a copy of Lapham’s Quarterly, Volume IV, Number 3. The Summer 2011 issue, a red ripe strawberry on its cover, is the most delicious thing I’ve read in years. I didn’t know a thing about Lewis H. Lapham, or his quarterly, until my fellow food commentator Dick Stein issued this edict: “Subscribe!” I did, and that royally curated look at food writing from a historical perspective — courtesy of everyone from Brillatt-Savarin to Charles Dickens to Michael Pollan, among others — earned a prominent place on my bookshelf.
And if you haven’t seen Bon Appetit’s September “Restaurant Issue,” currently on newstands everywhere, run, don’t walk: go get one. In it, you’ll find that the Pacific Northwest gets plenty of ink. “Foodist” columnist Andrew Knowlton named Seattle’s The Walrus and the Carpenter No. 3 on his list of “Best New Restaurants of 2011” — and good on him (and the fine folks in Ballard who made that so).
Local scribe Sara Dickerman offers up some great spots to eat, drink and ride ferries in her Bon Appetit story, “The Coast with the Most.” In addition to stops in Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., she introduces readers to some of my favorite spots in Skagit Valley and gives them a taste of what Blaine Wetzel’s doing at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island.
There are umpteen other reasons why the September issue of Bon Appetit gets my nod. And it’s not just the well-deserved inclusion of Seattle restaurants like The Walrus, La Bete, Brave Horse Tavern and Revel. How about some tips of the trade from some of the country’s foremost chefs? They’re offering great ideas for doing more with less (“You need four knives: one serrated, a slicing knife, a chef’s knife, and one for paring” according to Canlis chef Jason Franey’s mentor Daniel Humm). I appreciated the section on outfitting your kitchen with versatile tools (a sturdy baking sheet makes a great roasting pan). I heartily agree with the contention that the best home kitchens are small (come to my house and I’ll prove it), and I’m with Marcus Samuelsson who says, “Yes, you should splurge on the range” and suggests not an Aga, a Wolf or a Viking, but one you may not have heard of: a BlueStar.
Like Marcus, I heart my BlueStar, and I agree with Bon Appetit, who suggests that when it comes to being confident in the kitchen, “The Best Things Are (Sometimes) the Cheapest.” Like the leftover tomato cans I re-use as spoon rests and utensil holders. [photos/Nancy Leson]
I didn’t have to shell out $4.99 to Bon Appetit for this month’s restaurant issue. (I subscribe.) But I’d have been happy to do so, if only to snag some of the great recipes in it. I can’t wait to try to replicate my favorite Portland breakfast fare, the Burmese Red Pork Stew at Tasty n Sons (thanks a million, Bon Appetit!). And when BA asked Seattle chef Rachel Yang to answer the question “What do chefs cook at home?” she shared her fast and easy recipe for Spicy Pork with Pickled Kale. Which is fast, easy and spicy, though I’d suggest halving the amount of fish sauce called for and serving the pork with cold Korean noodles instead of rice, as I did last night.
That’s some spicy pork shoulder: easy to make, surprisingly tender, and better still with some spicy squid, fish cake or other banchan (Korean side dishes) like these goodies, purchased at my nearby Boo Han supermarket.
So tell me: What food magazines have you been cooking from — or reading — this summer? Any great recipes they’ve turned you onto that I shouldn’t miss?