Thursday, December 1, 2011

when life gives you a stalled crabbing season, make it a weekend trip

well, thank goodness the actually significant lock out has been resolved. most every year, there seems to be some sort of posturing done between the crabbers and the wholesaler but they usually stamp out the details before the very important local san francisco crab meal night, thanksgiving.

this year they didnt. talks stalled till just this week. we finally have some commercially caught dungeness crab in our markets!

of course, stalled talks didnt stop us from having some of these ill fated tasty creatures....

some of our buddies LOVE the outdoors. we love to hang out with these guys because theyre always doing something, whether its racing around local racetracks on motorcycles, fishing in the bay or like this particular trip, crabbing and having a little picnic.

we were supposed to go up with them when the recreational crabbing season started, but we didnt make it our.

we missed out. they pulled limits. but we did get to share in the bounty. fresh crab right when the recreational season starts... thats a good beginning to the dungeness crab season.

we wanted to make sure we were there for next visit. and we were.

a little bit north of the oyster farms in tomales bay is lawsons landing. its a recreational area with rv/camping, fishing and crabbing. clam digging is very popular out here also. we will most definitely be here when the clam digging gets good.... geoduck (mirugai) hiding out? yeah, we are there.

you couldnt ask for a more picturesque view. kids playing in the sand. calm clear water in front of you. dungeness crab being pulled from the pier and boats coming in setting traps or bringing the latest haul in....

unfortunately, i must have brought some bad luck with me because our haul wasnt as good as our buddies last trip, but you really cant go wrong here. a bad day at lawsons landing is better than any day behind a desk. and no fear, cause the oyster farms are right down the highway. a little past nicks cove, you hit hogs island. grab a bag of oysters or two, and youre just fine again...but who really cares. how often do you get to be a crabber?

maybe it wasnt all my bad luck. the fishing reports out of lawsons landing says the crab haul was great in the beginning of the season, but since tapered off.

stuck sitting on the couch, watching tv on a sunday afternoon wishing there was some fresh dungeness crab around or out on the water on tomales bay? no brainer.

and i got an idea.... setup a camp sight, bring bikes to get you from one spot to another, bring the caja china, throw in a whole pig, toss in crab traps, catch a halibut, dig out some mirugai..... FIND SOME SEABEANS!!.... cook up a storm and enjoy the night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

man, the busy season kicked my butt

so my day jobs busy season is just about to start to wrap up. it really did kick my ass. of course i did make sure to take time out to enjoy life and tried a bunch of new things, but i cant believe more than a month past without a blog post. i gotta keep this thing up and running. more effort stat!

so im excited about thanksgiving. im finally deep frying a turkey... actually two! of all the times ive used my turkey fryer for all sorts of reasons, ive never used it to fry a turkey.


Friday, September 23, 2011

dude, seriously, i almost died on that mountain!

ok maybe not, but i thought i was dying. lack of oxygen. altitude sickness... hurry call in the helicopters.

at one point in my life i was in shape. now the only shape im in is round.

but as im quickly approaching the mid 30s, i decided its up to me to get back in shape.... everything is up to me. if i want to succeed, i need to chose to succeed. if i want to get into shape, i need to go out and do it.

someone told me recently during a conversation about starting a new business, if you strip down everything to its basics, the only reason people dont start their own business is fear. if you want to do, theres no other real reason anything will hold you back.

so i went hiking.

koreans love hiking. i had no idea until i started working in korea back in 2000. went on a couple hikes. i went in shorts, some airmax 95s, a tshirt.... them natives came all out, hiking boots, collapsible sticks, backpacks.... they looked like swedish koreans. i think i now understand why they like it so much. its not just a faddy exercise. its not just another reason to eat and drink somewhere cool.... its the mental challenge at any level you set for yourself.

and playing dress up is fun, no?

mission peak in fremont ca isnt something that should "kill" anyone. but when you havent done much training wise, it can be a bit challenging. i wasn't really prepared for it, drinking the night before probably wasnt a good idea either. i didnt bring enough water... mentally, i was there though. kinda. just needed a push.

the hike up wasnt that bad... well at least until you reach that rocky trail that leads you to the summit. then i started to feel the 2500 feet altitude change! i was almost completely spent. the last 500 feet or so were the hardest of the hike. i took a few steps, then a minute to breathe. rinse lather repeat.

on the way down, i had even more trouble breathing,  got extremely light headed, started seeing stars..... i wanted to sit there and just sleep.... good thing i had my trusty trainer aka better half with me. now i want to be able to say she was comforting me, asking me if i was ok, if i needed help...... but that just wouldnt be true. she did what she was supposed to. she got me off my ass and forced me to start hiking down. the altitude WAS getting to me. a few hundred feet down, i started to feel much better. then a few miles later, when i got winded again, she pushed me down more.

i swear, close to the bottom of the hike, i started to do some serious lamas breathing. little kids, seniors.. all doing this hike were looking at me like WTF did that poor guy just go through.

i LITERALLY had to force each and every step.

i had to ask some random older gentlemen for some water. he took one look at me and hes all have it all!

after the hike, i had this complete content feeling. sure it was a "moderate" hike, but its something i wouldnt normally do and it was something i really had to push my out of shape self to complete. its something to be very proud of.... (i redeemed myself somewhat the following weekend with a 9 mile hike (no elevation change), where i did just fine... )

it didnt matter that many of the people around me finished the hike faster and without all the drama.

i did it.

ive come to realize this is very key in life.

it doesnt matter some 25yr kid made 100million dollars with his totally useless internet company and youre still stuck at your 9-5. the important fact is that you are doing your 9-5 the best you can.

it doesnt matter if a new business idea fails or succeed, the important thing is that i do it.

(insert 100 more cliches here)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

you really cant get more homemade than this

nice laquered tray of love from mom

you really cant get more homemade than this.

the peppers were grown on the "buh ran dah" or veranda or patio for you that dont speak engrish, in korea.

the daeng jjang was made by my mom. she cooked the soybeans, made meji and tada, homemade daeng jjang.

these peppers and kaen neep were preserved in this homemade daeng jjang for seven months.

now i know you can find ban chan at the local korean market.... but this? like comparing local organic milk with powdered milk.... like dominoes artisanal thin crust pizza.

i just had to share this.

i like visiting my mom.

Friday, August 19, 2011

another year another beer, but SUPRISE!

i remember i used to make a huge deal about birthdays. whether it was my own or someone elses, i would make sure theres some celebrating.

i used to think you had to do this.

one of the main reasons was because you never know if you were going to be around for another one.

well, ive been around for about a dozen more birthdays. maybe ill be sticking around for a bit longer.

i started making less and less a big deal about myself for my birthdays and focused on others. i started a short lived (maybe renewed next year) tradition where i would gather up about 100 or so friends and hold a fund raiser centered around food, benefitting our local food bank.

this year, i kinda wanted to keep things quite. i actually just wanted to spend a nice quite weekend with my lovely girlfriend, maybe go out of town. have a nice little dinner...

as you can imagine, i was pretty happy when she told me we were going to have a nice quite little birthday celebration, something during the day then dinner at TFL.

first off, she totally was feeling the vibe i was giving off, i wanted to do something a bit quite. secondly... she got a reservation at TFL!?!?!?! wow.  how the hell did she pull that off and right on my birthday too! this is looking real good!

well, even though i was very curious about the day time activity and how she managed to score a TFL reservation, i didnt snoop around for more information. i trusted her. and i wanted things to happen organically. she said the day time activity will be fun, then a nice dinner. simple. done and done.

the morning of, we wake up and drive to napa. maybe i shouldnt have drank so much at home the night before. im praying the day time activity isnt something active. please god, no mountain biking, horseback riding. the drive up alone, i felt like digusting yellow bile was swilling around in my stomach like a toilet flushing, just waiting to explode. at times, i felt like the inside of a magic eight ball.

we make it to our destination. we drive into what seems like an office park.




the meritage resort and spa! dude. score!

ive never been here. im excited... oh wait, whats this? a spa in a cave? ok this is getting very interesting.

we proceed into what is perhaps the coolest spa i have ever been to. yes, its in a cave. we check in. relax. then we are escorted into a room for our couples massage. almost instantly, im off into pampered lala land. man this couldnt get any better. no active crap. stomach is settling in. its been forever since i got pampered.... im thinking. man, this woman is just a little pint size full of amazing.

after a super relaxing couples massage, we decide to relax by the pool, grab a small bite, grab a glass of wine.... im telling you. at this point, there is not a care in the world. got an amazing woman by my side, hella relaxed, nibbling on some shrimp cocktails, having some wine....

everyday should be like this

we relax poolside for a couple hours.
im told there is one more thing we need to do before our dinner at TFL.... WOOHOO DINNER AT TFL!!!

we drive into yountville because she informs me there is something to pick up at ad hoc.... im thinking wtf?!?! pick up something at ad hoc?... are we eating a small bite before dinner at tfl? does she know its going to be like 7 courses of full on food awesomeness in yo mouth?

we walk into ad hoc.... did i mention i love ad hoc? i love the concept. i love the food. i love the atmosphere. i had the pleasure of dining here since they opened up and during the fours years ive been eating here, i have NEVER had anything close to a bad meal. everything has been great to amazing.

i love that ad hoc takes any dish and make it the best they can possibly make it. the thomas keller lineage shows through.

anyways, we check in with the front desk. i see a packed house... its always packed here. its so popular now i had a tough time making reservations the last few times... damn stupid yelpers.

she escorts us outside to the back for some reason... oooh, thinking maybe we are going to addendum. i havent seen the take out window in action, ooo we are picking up some world famous ad hoc fried chicken to go!


damn you


there is a giant table set up in their garden.

30 or so of my closest friends old and new. all here. on my birthday. surprise birthday dinner for me. at ad hoc. one of my favorite places in the world.

it was more than i could handle. seriously. im already not great at accepting simple compliments and even though i may seem like the type to be loud and very much the center of attention, when it comes to true attention, i get all flustered and weird. it took me a good 30 minutes or so to let it all absorb in.

my girlfriend planned and organized a surprise dinner for me, in yountville, at ad hoc, special dinning area and all, with a gang load of my closest friends..... i know how hard it is to get a dinner set up in the same city for a handful of people. how the hell do you get hella mofos up into the napa valley, keep it all a surprise and pull this off?

words escaped me most of the night.

 i went around to talked to these amazing people that came up to do all this, all the while an amazing meal being presented by the wonderful staff at ad hoc. chef david came up with a few special things here and there for our dinner and i have to say, yes, it was good. really good. i loved hearing some of the things people were saying about the food. some of the most simplest things were the highlights for people. we forget how good a bean can actually be, not just because it was cooked and prepared perfectly, but because it started from when that bean was growing.

pole bean and potato salad

tomato gazpacho
beef carpaccio with porcini mouse
fried soft shell crab.... OMFG GOOD
world famous ad hoc fried chicken
saffron risotto
grilled short ribs
no dinner is complete without cheese
a couple from the selection
dinner was amazing. obviously. the drinks were equally amazing. paired up wonderfully with the meal. i was so happy to see my friends enjoy a meal with me at one of my absolute favorite places in the world.

two hours or so into dinner, i began to think of some things that almost made me tear up.

i lived a long three decades or so. not particularly a hard life by any means, but a long one nonetheless. and through all the transformations ive had in my life, i always held on to the notion that i am a good person. i always thought of myself as the type that tries to leave every place slightly better then when i arrived. there have been many hardships as of late and no matter how strong you are inside, they do wear you down.

this night, it made me feel as though i had lived a good life. i may not have my name in forbes, i may not be a famous chef, i may not be particularly rich, but as stupid as it may sound, i am rich in life. i have an amazing woman that organized all this for me. i have amazing friends that helped with the organization and took time out of their busy lives to come out and be here for this.

it really made me truly happy. one of those rare moments in life where everything makes sense.

it was getting a bit dark now and it was about time to go home. dinner was amazing. my friends are amazing. my woman? well im sure you know how i feel by now.

oooooh whats this? a seperate dessert from what ad hoc is serving? OOOOOOO LOOK AT THAT! dude, my woman is hella funny. she knows i dont really do cakes, sweets, desserts. my idea of dessert is coffee, sambvca, a late harvest (fill in the blank).....

she got a whole suckling pig for dessert!! score!!!!!

wait what.... thats not a suckling pig.... wait what?!?!!? THAT IS A CAKE?!?!?!

holy crap me!

YES this is a cake! the evening was settling down, then this bad boy pops out. the table was again buzzing with life. my girlfriend had some how found a cake that could impress a group of people that are not easily impressed. everyone had to take a second look. even the staff at ad hoc had to take a second look.
this whole thing is edible. its a red velvet cream cheese cake. those apples are rice crispies.

incredible. absolutely stunning. just look at the stupid doofy grin i have on my face. i couldnt believe it. now course if you want one of your own, well, the girlfriend did her homework finding the right person to do this. obviously she found someone with amazing talent. debbie does cake .debbie does amazing. im still shocked when i see this picture. just look at that!

what a way to end the evening.

its pretty obvious, i had an amazing birthday, a birthday i wont ever forget. its truly one of those events in your life that you will recall on your deathbed.

life should be full of these types of memories.

surrounding myself with good people, doing what i need to do in my life and most importantly finding someone that shares that goal with me, i think i am well on my way to ensuring my life will be full of these types of memories.

chef david cruz, thank you for an amazing meal

special thanks to seb and simone of s + s gastro pub for helping out with everything. even cooking me a seperate special bday dinner the week before to throw me off. you guys are great friends.

special thanks to chef david cruz and all the amazing staff at ad hoc for an amazing meal with patient and attentive care.

thanks to all my amazing friends for making the drive out and celebrating with us- sammy, aycin and averie, chum, will and jocelyn, jason, hendizzle, tom, tiffany and jeff, thai guy mike, dave, cheryl, kristen and aaron, elaine and dave, arnold and christel, aaron and jennifer, kevo... thank you for taking time out to come be part of this.

and to my special little pint size woman of awesomeness. words can not express my gratitude. if i can make you feel half of what i felt that evening, you will never have a bad day. thank you for all that you have done, for who you are and what we will do.

oh wait, did i mention there were party favors?

bacon marmalade anyone?

wait so were NOT going to the french laundry?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

i dont want no sunshine rainbow catepillar out my ass rolls

i was asked by a reader to write a post about my thoughts on fusion cuisine.

oh lordy. people that know me well would say dont ask me to talk about ANYTHING because i will ramble on for hours.


ill try not to ramble too much.

ive said some contradictory things about this subject.

i have been quoted saying exactly what this title says. but let me explain why i said it. when im going for a nigiri experience with a well seasoned sushi chef, dont give me a sunshine roll.

but theres nothing wrong with rolls in of itself. when done properly, they are some damn tasty rolls. one of the best tasty sushi treats ive ever had was a spicy tuna roll. no joke. it wasnt bad tuna masked with mayo and spicy seasoning, it was good tuna, spicy, rolled up with some rice. it had a purpose. to be a tasty roll.

some restaurant owners think "fusion" is a gimmick to bring people in.

that is the wrong approach.

the blending of food and cultures is a good thing. the first time i bit into a chicken tikki masala burrito, it blew my mind. why didnt i think of this? this is brilliant!

ive also been to places that throw down a white table cloth, serve wine and smear some sriracha on a plate, serve mediocore (fill in the blank) asian dishes... all done by an white chef and call it fusion. not to mention a $30 a plate price tag.

wrong approach.

ive also been to places that take traditional japanese dishes, use what is considered to be western cooking techniques and make beautiful music.

i walk out stuffed and amazed with what people can do with food.

"fusion" is a term thrown around too much, usually referring to really craptastic food.

but as a category of food, theres nothing wrong with it. much like the term "foodie", i kinda hate it. foodie usually refers to someone who thinks they know food, who uses their limited knowledge of food to make themselves feel superior to someone who doesnt. thats not a foodie. thats an asshole. its sad that so many people adopted the term in the wrong way, that it became the n word.

food, like everything important in life, should have a purpose. the purpose will define what you are.

Friday, July 15, 2011

i feel so parental. adopted an olive tree.

so for christmas, my amazing woman and bibimblog cofounder got me something way outside the box.

i like outside the box.

through this company nudo, she adpoted an olive tree somewhere in italy, on some small farming collectives grove... a tree is being adpoted, or more accurately put, sponsored by me. this also get me a couple shipments of the olive oil produced from olives grown in that grove.

first reaction was like, whoa, thats freaking cool! i never heard of that. what a cool gift to find someone really into supporting local small businesses and has a love of cooking...

then, the dark side of me peeps out and i started to think, what a scam! sell "adoption" papers to people all over the world, saying youre helping sustain a small farm... then bail out to some sunny tropical island!

well, i fight off all thoughts that this is a scam and i focus more on the idea that this is a brilliant way for to help subsidize costs for small farms trying to fight back big corporate farms.

its been about six months since i received those first adoption papers and i finally received my first shipment of olive oil. it included a small note stating what i was thinking before.

apparently the olive oil industry is plagued by big corporate farming also. they get companies that come in, suck every penny out of the land, take every short cut possible and maximize profits. hell, olive oil "made in italy" doesnt even have to be made from olives from italy, just bottled there. high quality olive oil should be cold pressed.... big corporate farms use heat to extract more oil, ending up with an inferior product.

well, i had my doubts about this adoption program and even though im no olive oil expert, having tasted some good locally made products, (did you know that theres a restaurant in mill valley that has a olive oil press in use right IN the restaurant?) i was quite impressed with this olive oil.

i have to be honest, this is probably some of the best olive oil ive ever tasted. bright, complex, interesting... its really good stuff.

worth the price of adoption? yes. of course you end up paying a bit more than you should for good olive oil, but knowing that you helped a small local farmer stay in business just a bit longer, fighting off evil corporate farms? thats worth the premium.

if you want good food, you need support small farmers who dedicate their lives to producing quality ingredients.

good job homie, good job

damn, i use super frou frou cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil. im so hella san francisco.

Friday, July 1, 2011

seoul sausage

so a buddy of ours moved down to los angeles and started up a business making these hybird sausages.

i thought it was a good idea.

then about a year later, i finally tried them.

ok, correct that, hes freaking brillant.

seoul sausage company. the name hints at pretty much what it is. korean bbq, kalbi, bulgogi, ddae jee bulgogi..... these things all come to mind. ok, so you stick them meats into sausage form.... i get it.

no you dont.

its not until you actually eat one until you really get it.

so homie needed a hand with some manly man work stuff and i just happened to be available, actually, one of my employees was. i was probably working or something... no really, i do work.

he gave a little ice box full of some of his goods in return. nice.

so one night, i pull a few of them sausages out and decided to try them.

i never couldve imagined ten years ago that i would be eating kalbi in tube form

i had a pot of al chi gae (spicy pollack roe stew) going so i just popped these two bad boys into there to simmer a bit. hell, if a brat could benefit from a hot beer and onion bath, kalbi in tube form should do well with its other brothers.

fully cooked? yes. done? no.

these guys need a bit of color. into the broiler they went. a few minutes on each side.

*basic cooking info warning!!!*
so why didnt i put them into the broiler in the begining? well, other than the tiny bit of seasoning a hot bath in the al chi gae might give, simmering it under lower heat help thoroughly cook it. if i have put it under a high heat broiler, the outside would be burnt and the middle raw. pretty easy stuff.

now theyre ready

wow. delicious. super tasty. totally get that whole kalbi thing going. the spicy ddae jee bulgogi one was freaking good too. 

i just kept thinking, why didnt i think of this? this is super tasty... and the real brilliant side of this whole thing? this is super round eyes friendly.

ive had a lot of round eye friends tell me its quite intimidating walking into a korean restaurant. unfamilar foods. not the friendliest staff.... strange scents... wait you cook your own food?....

well this is korean food in a round eye friendly form. everyone knows hot dogs. round eyes would go nutz over this. easy to eat. no chopsticks. in a form they are used to. flavors they want to explore.

mr seoul sausage. i salute you. good job. good luck. and its awesome you can do what your doing. go on with your badass self.

Friday, June 24, 2011

ch, ch, ch, chia.... seeds?.... health food?

so i caught a bit on local tv about local companies that made a big impact in popular culture..... yeah, the san francisco bay area has got a few of them....

one of the surprising ones.....joseph enterprises.

while the companys name might not ring a bell, nor the underdog story of the owner making it big.... some of their products, i bet you bought them while you were hella drunk one night in the dorms.



yes, they have a chia obama and joseph himself presented one to obama.

and my personal favorite that i use almost everyday, the ove glove!

well anyways, joseph was talking about the crazy random chance encounter he had at a random anytown usa mart were he was introduced to a clay pot you spread some seeds on........ the pottery that grows... and worldwide success it became.

you know you had one.... i had four or five through the years. ive spread the seeds on walls.... in bathrooms... yeah they grow!

towards the end of the segment, joseph was saying that hes taking the chia brand into a whole new market.... wait what? health food?

yes. chia seeds are nutritious. very high in omega 3s..... yes. you will be eating ch ch ch chia seed products very soon. you heard it here.... you WILL BE EATING CHIA SEEDS!!!!

the other day, we were grabbing random drinks from whole foods...... grab something i thought was pomegranate juice...... oh no...

whats this?

yes, this is a chia seed drink.... rehydrated chia seeds is one of the main ingredients..... yes rehydrated chia seeds... like when you put your seeds in water for your chia pet!!!! hahahah well, im sure they roast the seeds first or something.... chia pet in your stomach?

so how was it? well the juice itself was good. the chia seeds? as my lovely tasting assistant told me... its like tiny boba....

yes. chia seeds. the health food, white people boba.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

how not to get your ass kicked by the police (tm chris rock)

let me just start by saying this... and i have been saying this for many years now.

america as a society is going down a very dangerous path. we are blindly giving away our rights as free citizens. we are blindly accepting illegal searches when we fly. counties left and right are passing laws allowing law enforcement to illegally search our homes....

people who are part of this movement say, if you arent doing anything wrong, why would you worry?

there are hundreds of cases every year, but let me illustrate the point that we can not allow our rights to be systematically take away with a clear cut example.

an avid bird watcher was arrested for possession of marijuana. she was carrying some dried sage to burn to purify the area where she was bird watching and to thank nature for providing its beauty. an ignorant cop gives her a ticket for possession of marijuana because his field test said it was. (note, the field test we pay for with our tax dollars showed this dried sage to be an illegal substance to further use our tax dollars to pursue the matter)

it shouldve ended right there. someone shouldve followed up and realized this was all bogus and the cop shouldve been reprimanded. instead, the da on the case, lies about sending it out to a third party for further testing, states on record that testing had been done and that the dried sage was in fact found to be marijuana and sends officers to arrest the bird watcher in front of her coworkers and clients. she is striped searched, body cavity searched, sent into jail and had to wait until her husband was able to bail her out.

it has been proved the da lied about testing the dried sage with a third party. it has been proved that the da lied. but according to the law, he is immune from any wrong doing as he is just doing his job. he did not do anything wrong.

but that being said, some of us free citizens act like complete morons that should be stripped of our rights.

im not saying this kid is.

im not saying the flight crew nor leo acted in such a way to systematically rob this poor little kid of his rights.


so there was a kid recently who got kicked off a plane flying from sfo to new mexico. now, i wasnt there to see what happened and even if i was there, eye witness testimony can be very biased so my account of what happens can be all messed up anyways.

from all the accounts you can read about or from the little bit of video that was recorded of the incident, what you can gather is this.

a kid walks into the plane with his sweats down passed his ass. hes wearing skin tight shorts. someone from the flight crew asks him to pull up his pants. the kids gets smart mouthed. the pilot asks him to pull up his pants. the kid get smart mouthed.

hes bounced from the plane.

one might argue, fuck the flight crews. we are giving them too much rights to run their planes like a prison. people have been bounced off the plane for saying "what the fuck took so long" when a passenger said it to another passenger after a long delay. a member of the flight crew over heard it. called the police. man is arrested. similarly, this kid did nothing wrong.

one might also argue, the kid did not do anything wrong, its perfectly reasonable to say his hands were busy holding his luggage, and the flight crew was creating an uncomfortable environment for him and he was protecting his rights.

ill just leave you with these wise words from chris rock.

Friday, June 17, 2011

dont be afraid to try something new, turkish sunflower seeds?

so the better half and i were strolling down the aisle at berkeley bowl west.

whats this? turkish sunflower seeds?

i love sunflower seeds. ive always been a fan. toss a handful in your mouth, crack them open. spit the seeds.

prior to my convincing, the gf didnt really understand why people ate them.

after a few handfuls, she was hooked.

so we were walking down the aisle and this reddish silvery bag catches her eye. we had to get them.

glad we did.

these arent like the sunflower seeds you find at your local gas station. first, they arent as small and plump. these are pale in color, long and slender. at first they were a bit harder to manipulate and eat, but you get used to it.

the seed themselves tasted WAY better. not sure if it has to do with the fact that the ones we are used to are mass produced, corporate bad people brand sunflower seeds, but these turkish ones were much better.

and these are WAY less salty.

just goes to show you, trying something a bit different is a good thing. surprise yourself. do something interesting everyday.

handful of genre changing meals, sushi edition

i dont claim to a sushi expert by any means.

i remember when someone told me that eating uni is newer in japan than eating mcdonalds. i guess i really dont know my edomae sushi from deep fried tempura sunshine out my ass rolls covered in spicy mayo sauce.

but i do know what my personal experiences are and i know what i like.

growing up, like most children, i had weird eating habits. my mother is an amazing cook and what i attribute most of my knowledge of all things food to. however, growing up, my mother usually had to make accommodations for me. like when everyone else is enjoying her amazing food, im in the corner eating white rice with nori and tiny bits of american cheese.

and while everyone is eating at a family friends amazing sushi restaurant, im in the corner eating ebi, no wasabi.

i just didnt like the idea of raw fish. ewwwww. but could you blame me? i was like 6 yrs old. what 6yr old wants raw fish for lunch?

of course through the years, i dabbled a bit in "sushi". i had a few "go to" orders of sushi to go along with some "go to" drink orders that made me look like i knew what i was talking about. but it was all just really superficial. no depth at all.

but this isnt what i want to talk about today.

what i want to talk about are the meals that totally changed things for me. im talking about meals where your foundations of all things you knew were shook down to the core and you had to reevaluate things.


if you liked sushi and were around the silicon valley during the time when people got bmw z3s for signing bonuses, if you were worth 10 million dollars at one point but you live with your parents now, if you thought you were going to retire at 35 because your stock portfolio was going through the roof because you owned hella shares in companies that gave free deliveries for items that weighed 100 pound but only cost $5...... then you must have eaten at sawa sushi.

i was in college at the time and was surround by paper millionaires.

i was fortunate enough that one decided to take me to sawa sushi. he was a regular there so i didnt get the whole sushi nazi attitude from him that the chef/owner is known for.

all i got was an education in sushi.

by this point, i was regularly frequenting all sorts of restaurants. i was also trying my luck cooking things to varying degrees of success. however, i was your typical kid. i thought i knew everything about everything. i had built up a repertoire of all kinds of sushi... well, at least i thought i did...

little did i know that going to the places your parents go to eat doesnt make you an expert in sushi. memorizing a laminated sushi menu doesnt make you an expert.

the omakase meal that was served at sawa that day was mind boggling good. although i may be a bit more knowledgeable now, back then, i really didnt understand why the hell was everything so damn good. what the hell is that? why does this taste so good?

this was not the sushi i ate when i went out on dates in college. wtf was going on?

this meal made me realize real quick, i dont know shit.


a family friend wanted to take me to dinner. he asked if i liked sushi. mind you, beyond the korean style "hwe" sushi, where you get super fresh (usually either just caught, or pulled from a live tank) white fish and eat it with a spicy dipping sauce and/or with leafy green wraps, i have never eaten sushi in asia.

needless to say, i was pretty excited.

i knew things were going to be a bit different from the usual meals i would eat. this is the first time i have eaten at a place where the chef proudly presents for all his diners to see all sorts of plaques, degrees, certifications on the wall..... well actually i take that back. my korean barely passes for literate. my hiragana and kanji? even worse. so even though my dinner companion and the chef both said those were meaningful documents, it could have said proud finger painting graduate for all i know.

even though the chef was pretty much silent to the rest of the customers, when i asked a question or two, he let a small grin escape and answered, yes, i find all my fish every morning. no, we dont have any of those dreadful american style makis here. yes, these knives are very sharp. i think it was somewhat funny for him to have a diner so innocently interested in what he does. by korean standards, i was a grown man at that time and shouldve acted as the cold, emotionless, joyless ahjushi diner who should eat, talk business to my companion and leave. (well until you got drunk later in the night at another place. then you can belt out some crazy korean love songs at the norebang, with your neck tie tied around your head)

i dont think the chef was used to a young man that was really interested in his art. but he happily answered all questions i had.

apparently the chef was born in japan. he was a jae il kyopo, a japanese born korean. he grew up there. he learned his art from a young age. he earned his stripes there. he opened up his own place in seoul. he seemed happy to see an american born korean taking an interest in what he did. he explained that it took years for him to learn how to make the rice just right. the cooking, the seasoning and equally as important, the smacking and forming of the rice to make the vessel for the fish. this was the first time i was ever taught that the rice is equally as important as the fish you are serving.

and the fish that was served? it was a rainbow of delights. local white fish with just enough chewiness and bite to make you remember you are eating sushi in korea. treats from all over japan, fishes with names i can hardly remember but i still remember the taste. this was also the first time i learned that "tuna" isnt just tuna. theres different species, different cuts, but most importantly, different grades of tuna. fish from a few time zones down, to the left to the right... all masterfully presented on perfected rice.

a chef took his years of experience, knowledge and crafted for us our orders. i delightfully ate it all up.


by this time in my life, i have spent years and years eating, cooking and learning about food. though i wouldnt say im an expert by any means, i have spent a good majority of my time eating and enjoying food.

when it came to sushi, i had gotten pretty deep into it now. i even understood many aspects of the distribution channel for the majority of fish bought in my area. i knew that most restaurants got all their "fresh fish", as many have written in their yelp reviews, from pretty much the same place. there were, according to the all knowing mind of me, a handful of chefs that took the effort to seek out their own fish sources.....

i also knew there was a ranking system you could put pretty much all sushi places in....

worst were the chinese sushi places. this is what you would call the high school sushi eaters joint. cheap fish. cheap bento boxes. barely passable.

then came the korean owned sushi places. some were decent. some were great. most, so so. enough quality to there to justify a certain price point so the owners can lease their s class mercedes.

on the top were japanese owned places. locally, in san francisco, they were the murasakis, the kiss, the okinas.... the few handfuls of small restaurants that the chefs took real care in presenting you a meal....

in my all knowing mind, hell, with my all knowing knowledge of everything like ike jime, distribution chanels.... i gotten pretty jaded (and perhaps a bit too cocky) as an eater.

roger at zushi puzzle smacked that back around to a place that my quest for knowledge should be at. basically, he shut me up. eat your food and enjoy it.

wait, this a chinese sushi chef/owner place? wait, this place is in the marina? (a predominantly white, two polo shirt wearing, sorority girl cackling neighborhood)......

i was wrong on all fronts.

does it matter what nationality the chef is?

does it matter who the patrons are?

what matters is the food.

i dont know when nor why it started, but as my knowledge of food slowly rose, so did a certain level of arrogance. it really didnt matter how much i learned about sushi. sure i came a long way. sure i knew more than the majority of diners. sure i knew more than most sushi joint owners....

but did i know enough for me to be so smug about it? was i going to stop and call it a life?


sometimes you need a wake up call.

roger spends the time to find interesting, different, delicious fish. he doesnt go through the normal channels. that would be boring. he finds his own. he puts his twist of fun and humor mixed with his love for the art into his dishes.

i walked away from the sushi bar with a new appreciation for things. sushi did not get boring. i did. i let myself think to know what to expect. i barely scratched the surface of things and i let myself get stagnant. roger and my meal at zushi puzzle help me snap out of it, find my way again and once again, eat with a passion.


this was special.

like really special.

i found this place on handy dandy yelp. a few of my friends who i trust when it comes to these things spoke very highly of yohei and even though it was miles from tourist beach where we were staying, it was worth every last drop of gas getting there.

random strip mall in the middle of what looks to be an industrial area. walk in, plain simple. basic. nothing fancy. a bunch of old folks, locals looks like. staff, old japanese folks. we take a seat by at the bar.


what happened next was a barrage of flavors, taste and texture that put a smile after every bite. the chef didnt speak much english but he spoke the language of food. local, inventive, skilled. thats how i would describe this meal. there was no pretension. there was no fluff. there was an old japanese dude, a simple hole in the wall restaurant and amazing food.

this enforced my opinion that food does not have to come with white table cloths. great food comes from people who put the love and care into it.

this meal enforced my opinion that great chefs dont have to be the one with a restaurant empire.

this meal enforced my opinion that food is a common bond and that it crosses all borders.

when the chef presented young locally caught abalone with uni and a shiso leaf... he couldve been a deaf mute for all purposes. i understood what he was saying. we learned to communicate because i was listening to what was being said.

i was coming into my own. i was getting comfortable with sushi. my journey so far brought me to a point that i could sit at a sushi bar, an ocean away from my home, with a chef thats doesnt speak my native tongue, and hear what was being said.


this isnt the holy grail of sushi.

though during the meal, i just might have thought so.

another hole in the wall restaurant in a random ass strip mall. next to a taco shop, next to a coin laundry, next to a vons.

i couldve drove by this place a thousand times before i would have tried it.

bare bones interior. theres really nothing but tables, chairs and a sushi bar.

there were super standouts like cold raw squid noodles with uni and a touch of truffle salt... and yes, it was amazing, but what struck a nerve with me here were the "plain" dishes. a simple king salmon with a slice of kelp. a piece of aji.....

slight side bar here, one of my all time favorite restaurants is a place called ad hoc. their approach is simply make a dish with the best ingredients you can find and prepare it in the best possible way. its quite simple really. thats the beauty of it.

sushi zo. a simple king salmon. it made me reevaluate what i know about good food. for some strange reason, i had blown off salmon as an ingredient for quality sushi. it was thrown in with the world of over sauced, over fried rolls... and yes. a majority of places, this will hold true and i should be aware of it, but i should also be aware that you still can make amazing things with it. just because everyone else was doing poorly with it, it doesnt mean you have to.

even though i was continually evolving my idea of what food is, perhaps every so often, out of habit, out of routine, out of what i considered to be truths, i hit a speed bump.

the chef here reminded me, if you put the care and love into something, into anything. it will show. even a lowly piece of king salmon.


so its 2011, im a 30 something year old. ive tried sushi in a handful of countries, at hundreds of places. my tastes  and approach have been evolving mostly for the better and sometimes for the worst. what now?

my journey in all things sushi, my journey in all things food has been a direct analogy for my life.

the way i thought of and appreciated sushi/food was directly tied into the person i was. but was the way i saw food influencing the way i thought about life or was it the other way around?

i dont think that mattered. they will be forever tied together for me.

writing all this down, i see my journey as a person.

i will make mistakes. i will adjust. i will learn. sometimes i will stall. sometimes i will accelerate.

sometimes, i just need a slap in the face to realize whats going on and where i need to be.

i dont know everything. not even close. i dont think i ever will. but that doesnt mean i wont try to keep learning. its not really the end result thats important. we all have our own end. its the way we get there thats important. there will be important figures along that journey that will shape the journey itself. thank them. appreciate them. there will be important lessons. remember them.

so what now? im going to keep learning.

(that means im having lunch)

Friday, June 10, 2011

roasting it up

so i had a chance to try this out for myself. ive done a good job delegating this tasks many ties, but it was about time i try this out myself.

picked up the roaster pig. injected some marinade, prep and cook. 

i made a couple mistakes, tried to compensate and it turned out semi decent.....

its about to time invite some peoples over and do this larger scale. 

sounds fun. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

fiddlehead ferns, aka wtf do i do with this? learn a technique, cook a million things

waaayyyyy back when, when i was in sunday school, one of the first parables i learned was about jesus teaching someone to fish or something like that.... wait i got that so wrong. ok. i can give you a fish or i can teach you to fish. thats it..

one second on religion. i dont care if you are religious or not. here are the most important things you should get out of any religion. first, know that religion killed faith. humanity and its shortcomings and faults made faith into something its not. whoever the higher being may be, they are up there facepalming going, i cant believe you morons. i left it so simple but you ruined everything. second, its a guidebook to make your life better. its not a guidebook to tell someone else how to live.

anyways, sorry about that. it had to come out. probably because im bitter because im still on this god forsaken earth after the rapture. damn its may 21st 2011 and im still here with you assholes. greeeeeaaaat....

well similarly to the fish and fishing analogy, you can read a recipe and follow it step by step and learn to make a dish. thats great. nothing wrong with that. but i have an alternative, something i always talk about. learn techniques and you will exponentially grow your cooking vocabulary.

here we go.

so i was at berkeley bowl the other week and i noticed something interesting in the produce section. fiddlehead ferns? now i had a few years of my life where i was knee deep into horticulture. my handy dandy pacifc guide to trees and shrubs was always in my backpack and i would randomly identify things by their leaf patterns, fruits and flowers. when i saw fiddlehead ferns in the produce section i was, ummm stumped. you eat fiddlehead ferns? interesting.

of course, my foodcentric friends.. .no more than a couple days later, a buddy had a picture of a dish she made with fiddlehead ferns!

i picked some up the other night. had to try it myself.

now do i know anything about cooking fiddlehead ferns? not really. how do i approach this?

so heres something i learned awhile ago. you grab some basic ingredients, heat up some oil, add some aromatics, toss in some oyster sauce, add your veggies and its tada! its delicious. almost any green veggie will work. this is simple technique to make literally hundreds of dishes. you just need to adjust it slightly for the veggie youre using.

ok so i grabbed some basic ingredients i had in the frig. some firm tofu from hodo beanery, garlic, onion and green onion.

this fiddlehead fern is NOT a leafy green. it wont cook very fast in a pan while your stir frying everything. so what did i do? well first i trimmed of the thicker end of the fiddlehead ferns. then i blanched it in boiling hot salted water.

then i put it under cold water to stop the cooking process while i worked on the rest of the dish.

i added some olive oil to a hot pan and seasoned some tofu chunks with salt and pepper and started the cooking process for these.

why am i cooking this tofu first? well hodo beanery firm tofu is FIRM. this wont crumble up while cooking like other tofu you may have worked with. this is really tofu steak.... i really love hodo beanery products GOOD stuff. and i also like a nice sear on the firm tofu. it builds flavor and adds a nice texture.

i take this slightly seared tofu out and put it on a plate while i address the rest of the dish.

i threw in the aromatics, the onion and garlic. a little sesame oil here, some salt there , some black pepper..... ooh i had some shichimi on the counter so i tossed some in. why not? i let this sweat for a bit *basically cook a bit under med heat*

and the binder that make this technique work for all things green leafy veggie? oyster sauce. i toss in about a table spoon.

oh wait, did i have some left over ground turkey? might as well toss that in to. its not like this is a recipe or anything.

i heat everything threw and i put in on a plate while i worked with the fiddle heads again. at this point, the fiddlehead ferns are trimmed, blanched in hot salted water and chilled to stop the cooking process under cold water. now its time to get them cooking again. i heat up the pan again, add in some sesame oil, toss the fiddlehead ferns in and season with salt and pepper.

now i finally add back all the other ingredients, including some green oinons i was saving for last and heat and toss around for one final time.... and this dish asked me to splash in some ponzu. i obeyed.
then tada!

this is the first time i ever cooked fiddlehead ferns. i used a simple asiany technique to try out this interesting veggie. what do i think of fiddlehead ferns? they are very interesting indeed. texture like okra, flavor similar to aspargus.

what should you take out of this? well, never be afraid. you build up your cooking vocabulary. when you see something you dont know too well, adapt it to something youve done already. this technique will work great with snow pea leave, pea srouts, green beans........ its a helpful tool to learn something new, try something new and keep building up that cooking vocab of yours!

Friday, May 20, 2011

day time drinking aka my other full time job, wait what locally made whiskey?

well not so much anymore. i got all responsible and stuff as of late. long gone are the days of playing who can get the most passed out drunk fastest at 10am. long gone are the days of "can i get four grey goose chilled please... no, in one cup."

but that doesnt mean you still cant have fun.
the other day, i had an opportunity to do something ive always wanted to do but just never got around to it.

anchor steam brewery tour!

anchor steam brewery has been an sf local since sf was a city. its old school sf.

personaly, i love anchor steam beer. i always have. after this tour and tasting.... theres more to love.

the tour itself was pretty informative. im kind of a history buff and i love trivia. i am the king of useless information. but i did not know the theories behind the name of anchor steam...

on our tour, joe was our guide. homie knew his stuff. we started off in the tasting room, im assuming partly for logistics as well as for the teaser effect. joe introduced us to the history of the brewery, its owners, the building.... and where anchor steam is heading now.

i learned quite a bit from this little quick and dirty history lesson. who knew anchor steam had an award winning small distillery onsite? rumor has it, it will soon be more widely available. their award winning whiskey had me REALLY intrigued. a local whiskey thats supposed to be good and i havent heard of it, let alone tasted it!??!!? i need to find some!!! wait, how small production is it? oh.... ok, thats why i never tasted it.

anyways, keep an eye out for anchor steams single malts! you heard it here first. if you see it anywhere, grab some.

so back to the tour. we walked through the first set of doors into a room with three huge copper containers. this is where it all starts. magical ingredients mixed and heated up with magical sf tap water. the first step of the magical process begins.

the tour proceeded and we saw where the magical mixture of ingredients goes through the different stages of frementation....

and one of my favorite stops of the tour. the hop box room.... yeah. hop box. did you know the hops used to make beer is a distant relative of cannabis? yeah. go to a hop box room and see why the brewers give it the nick name hop box.

i loved the magical bottling room. watching each of those bottles fly by, for a moment i thought about the life of each of those bottle. where it started from. getting filled. sent of to a loving adoptive parent.... almost brought a tear to my eye.

we were led downstairs to the cooling rooms. this is what i think of when i hear a brewery. giant containers of cold beer. ahhhhh yeah.

after a very informtaive 20 30 mintues or so, we were led back to the room where it all started. the tasting room. ahh man. this is gonna be good.

and it was.

we were led through all the current offerings anchor steam had to offer, from the lighter summer beers, to the their foghorn that makes a man out of anyone.

do yourself a favor. go to their website. sign up for their FREE tour. make a nice afternoon out of it. its worth a try.

now i have anther motto to go along with one of my heros fmaous words...

"to alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of lifes problems"
homer simpson