Monday, March 30, 2015

Late night soju and seafood pancake

There is something heavy metal about Sik Gaek on Roosevelt Ave. in Queens.  There is an elbow to the eye socket quality.  The music is loud and the kitchen puts out an amazing pancake festooned with sweet shrimp and scallion and perhaps crab or lobster or briney mollusk.  The place is dark and there are polaroids of customers and sharpie testimonials all over the wood walls.  The famous dish is a seafood hot pot the size of an oil drum into which you dump gobs of living invertebrates that quiver and die and release their sweet sea juice into the boiling broth.  We opted for pancakes and some thick cut pork belly that was hefty and chewy instead.  We also abstained from the soju soaked watermelon which sends so many youngsters to the curb on Friday and Saturday nights to divest themselves of their hot pot freight.  We had already had our fill of drink.  I bought a shirt that smelled like a chip shop and wore it proudly days later without washing it.  It was like being wrapped in a 2 day old fried oyster robe.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Breakfast Machine

My brother lives in Queens and we visited in January.  One of the many delights of NYC, that hard city, was getting a wad of Russ and Daughters smoked fish to eat on black rye in the mornings before launching into museum oblivion.  

That's right. Bleary-eyed after a night blasted by the nearby thundering of the 7 train and the neighbor's small concert of all-night anime, what could be better than a cup of nespresso and a tender slab of nova lox or smoked sable on a dense plank of black bread?  Maybe a slice of mortadella (acquired elsewhere) just to make things sufficiently un-kosher. You can just get anything in New York City even while you are dying from the rent and the f-ing noise.  It's beautiful to down a bowl of the best noodles outside of Shaanxi and then go home and be unable to sleep because of the noise.  

Earplugs are no match for the 7, but, man, the food is phenomenal.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


I spent a lovely afternoon in Discovery Park last weekend in Seattle and was surprised to see these babies flourishing so early.  I think it's probably early even by north Washington standards.  I love the savory, almost meaty flavor of stir fried or simmered nettles.  There is a local patch we have been harvesting from for years. But it will be a month and a half before they are sprouting there and I was tempted to pick some last weekend.  I don't think they would have fared well on the drive back to MT.  Plus I had no gloves and gone are the days when we used to harvest them for hours with naked hands in the throes of an embarrassing idyll.  We thought we should allow the plants to envenomate us as a means of deepening our relationship with those nutritive leaves.  This would lead to numbness in parts of our hands that sometimes lasted up to 2 weeks.  

It seems the plant is coming into its own as a popular food source.  In a recent food magazine I saw that someone has started a web-order nettle operation.  Aside from parts of the desert Southwest, it is hard to think of areas of the U.S. where you can't find some species of wild nettles growing.  I was impressed by the abundance in Seattle.  It's a bit more challenging to find a good patch in arid MT.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Paseo, it's a mess

What the hell is that?  It's a sandwich.  Really, it is.  One of the sloppiest ever.  Grilled and roasted skin-on chicken thighs, inch wide ribbons of roasted onions, cilantro, aoli, jalapeños and a giant leaf of romaine on a chewy toasted baguette.  The bread cannot contain the heap of food.  From Paseo on Freemont Ave. in Seattle.  There was an hour wait in line outside in the sun.  I ate this while sitting on a stump in a park today, trying in vain to protect my clothes from stains.  The magnolias, forsythias and plums in ridiculous splendor.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Meat salad

There is a great recipe for peppercorn encrusted short ribs in last month's issue of Saveur.  It is a multi-day affair that involves brining the shorties, packing them in peppercorn paste, chilling them, slow roasting them, searing them and then crisping them in a hot oven.  The meat gets served with thin-sliced radish, lemon, olives, greenery (I used radish tops, kale shreds, celery leaves and a bit of dill), and an anchovy vinaigrette made from colatura, Italian barrel-aged anchovy juice (I used straight up anchovy paste).  It is a lovely combo and the ribs taste like essence of pastrami.  I thought the peppercorn crust might completely fall off during the roasting/searing/crisping rigmarole.  You do lose a lot of the pepper, and that's ok, because a lot stays intact and it makes for a pungent meal.