Sunday, November 27, 2005

Web skipping, mind boggling

Retrace my steps on my journey, if you will.

First, I was looking for information on Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, when I ran across a website called which had some really incredible pictures and restaurant reviews. On the London restaurants page, I noted a reference to The Fat Duck, which is apparently the highest rated restaurant in the world.

The review of The Fat Duck led me to the blog of someone who interned in their kitchen for a few months. (It's a fascinating read, by the way.) Most of the action begins in April of 2005 but one particular entry caught my eye.

It mentioned a bizarre phrase: "meat glue". Say what? Googling this led me to an article on MSNBC, which mentioned a thread on eGullet, both of which mentioned a website for a product called Activa TG, a.k.a. transglutaminase.

Life is strange.

As a postscript, I recommend the for checking out pics of food for some of the high-end places you've dined at or of the places you'd like to dine at.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


So, we went to a vegan restaurant called "Herbivore" tonight. The vegetable sampler we got at the beginning came with three sauces, a lemon garlic, a pesto, and a tahini sauce that were all punchy, bold, and interesting. A good start, it seemed. The vegetables were well grilled, and held their flavors and textures properly. I ordered a Lemongrass Noodle dish, which was supposed to be grilled vegetables, noodles, and a lemongrass sauce.

I don't think I've had a restaurant go from decent to completely inedible in as short a time. The Lemongrass Noodles were basically rice noodles, the same vegetables from the vegetable sampler (not a terrible thing, but feeling a little one-trick-pony at this point) with some tofu, drenched in the most godawful sauce I've eaten this year, and probably the year before, as well.

The first thing that came to mind was laundry detergent. The second was LEMONGRASS!!! HOLY MOTHER FUCK!!! LEMONGRASS, BITCHES!!!! and then that was it. I ate the rest of the tofu, 'cause I needed to eat something, and it absorbed the least amount of sauce of anything else. THe noodles were utterly inedible, and the porous vegetables were the same. The sauce was so caustic and overpowering, I simply could not eat any more of it. The thought of another mouthful made me nauseous.

The sad thing is, (aside from Ei-Nyung's way over-peanut-buttery pad thai) most of the other stuff looked pretty decent. But holy crap, the dish I had was absolutely terrible. Terrible. Basically, it felt like the cook thought, "Flavor = good, therefore, more flavor = better," without actually ever bothering to *taste* any of his dishes. Where a great restaurant like Morimoto is all about harmony - making all the flavors balanced, and complement one another, this place was all about beating the living crap out of you with a single, bold flavor. It was like going to the symphony, and having a guy with an air horn blowing it in your ear for an hour.

Not recommended.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Spanish Tapas: Picaro

I visited Holly in her new apartment on Wednesday. After hanging out in her gorgeous Mission district apartment for a while, we walked out to find some place to eat. We stumbled upon Picaro and decided to feast there.

We ordered grilled artichokes, a red beet salad, grilled scallops, and grilled salmon. The grilled artichoke (accompanied by some light herby creamy sauce) was my favorite of the four. I can't say that they did anything particularly special to it, but I had never had grilled artichokes before, only boiled or steamed, and I am now a convert. Grilled is the way to go.

My second favorite dish was the grilled scallops with a side of spanish rice. The scallops were so juicy and favorful. For a split second, I thought about stealing Holly's skewer, but sanity prevailed, and I stopped myself from being a jerk over food. I save my jerkiness for other occasions. :D

The other two items were also very good. I had no complaints whatsoever. The food was prepared simply, with accompanying sauces that played the perfect supporting roles: not overwhelming the star but working to bring out the best in the main ingredients.

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for high quality tapas with clean flavor lines.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Braised Short Ribs, Part II

OH MAN! I rock. My short ribs from last night were so good. I'll try to write down most of the recipe so I can remember how I made it.

The solids:
  • 3 lbs short rib (12 pieces in a pack)
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into large chunks (maybe 6 chunks per potato?)
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1" or bigger chunks
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1" pieces
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5-6 large slices of ginger (each slice about 1mm by 1 inch by 1.5 inches?)

The liquids:
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons mirin (I basically overflowed the 1/2 cup measure)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs corn syrup
  • 4 cubes frozen chicken broth (I'd guess this was around... 1/2 cup?)
I actually went over on the soy sauce and mirin, but later decided the broth was too strong (great with rice though), so it could use less, so I've written down how much I think I should use next time.

I followed the same process as last time, except this time, I didn't add any additional liquids and just after bringing it up to a boil, I covered it and put it in the oven at 300 degrees for two hours, then lowered the heat to 210 for another hour. The reason was that it was perfect after two hours and I was worried about it losing too much of the texture if I left it on that high for that long, and Seppo didn't get home from work for another hour after that.

Every half hour, I tossed the contents around so that the braising liquid could get into contact with each piece of meat and potato.

Next time I try this, I think I'm going to try searing the meat in the pan first, rather than going through a boiling step. I'm also going to try dropping in some peppercorns.

This was a relatively easy-to-make, inexpensive dish, given the quantities of meat we end up with, so it might make regular rotation in our house.