Let me catch you up to speed. One of the reasons I’ve been jetsetting like a loca this past week is because last week, we (at Restaurante Martin Berasategui) traveled to the Big Apple to give a six course degustation for select guests at Bar Basque.
Pardon the recent blogging hiatus, but I’ve been playing tour guide with ma famille so brace yourself for a series of food adventures, beginning with Paris. Olala, j’adore Pair-EE.
Even in culinary meccas such as NYC, Paris, and San Sebastian here, you can come across bad food. I’m referring to the left-out-to-dry-then-reheated-to-oblivion tortilla, the infamous burnt coffee found throughout Europe, the two-day old what they call baguette but what I call a poor attempt at bread baking/bread reheating and the frozen fried calamari (in a town known for its fresh tentáculos!) I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing every now and then when I am uncareful. True story. I thought it might be useful to map out the reliable establishments I’ve come across in the past five months here. I’ve even recommended what to order and where to get it, [so stray at your own discretion].
After a long week of work drafting business plans and letters for Martín Berasategui, all I wanted was le weekend sans ordinateur. To kick off my non-manic monday, I started with perfectly grilled txipirones at Bar Jean in Biarritz. This defines “bien marcado.” No-nonsense, get-it-right-or-don’t-do-it-at-all, garlicky goodness:
As much as I love the ever-verdant País Vasco, it was a nice weekend getaway to spend 24 hours in the concerte jungle of Spain, formally known as Madrid. I had a few friends to send-off to China and Mexico, but not before enjoying a beautiful afternoon on the court:
Spain vs. China
2010 was a glorious year in food and travel for me. I am very fortunate [and forever indebted to those who made it possible] to have experienced all the delicious journeys I did. Here’s a look back:
The tastiest, crispiest-skinned pork chop:
The freshest ikura (with edamame soy beneath):
Best intermezzo (passion fruit custard, XO rum granité, coconut foam):
Joël Robuchon, NYC
The best taste-bud-numbing spicy (lazi ji 辣子):
Favorite ‘cold’ dish veggie-seafood medley (dashi jelly with sea bean, bell pepper, zuchini, tako, white fish):
Best shaved-ice, a.k.a. mountain of ice with various bean and gelatinous toppings:
Best gelato (or in this case, lemon sorbet):
Best drinks (my favorites include: 1919, French 75, Old Cuban, Sazerac…just to name a few):
The ultimate naan bing (okay this was actually 2009 but I’m still remembering it!):
The best banh-mi sandwich [aptly hidden inside a convenience store on Larkin Street]. Don’t forget the jalapeños!
Saigon Sandwich, San Francisco
El mejor jamón [bellota]. Que rico:
Bar La Cepa, San Sebastián
Crispiest sea-bass [with safffron emulsion]:
The French Laundry, Yountville
The coolest gougère [pillow]:
Meadowood, St. Helena
Best cheese course (chevre, roquette, pain et miel confiture):
Une Table au Sud, Marseille
Favorite dessert [an ode to Alex Stupak] (vanilla-mango ice cream, yuzu, spruce):
Best ma soy (house soy sauce), anago and bonito [an ode to Yasuda-San] :
Sushi Yasuda, NYC
Best pasta (Fresh cut semolina spaghetti, crab, Santa Barbara sea urchin, basil):
Tastiest post-dessert treat (Olive oil ganache):
Best offal (Tête, langue et cervelle de veau croustillante, pommes vapeur et sauce gribiche aka crispy head, tongue and brain of veal with boiled potatoes and gribiche sauce):
Café Constant, Paris
The juiciest, most tender pork bun (“Chairman Bao” with Berkshire pork, haus relish, Taiwanese red sugar, crushed peanut, cilantro):
The tastiest non-standalone-uni dish (Santa Barbara uni with black soy bean yuba in shiitake broth):
The ultimate beef [flap meat] roasted over an open pit (Annual Portuguese American festival held in August):
Portuguese American Recreation, Woburn
The best chocolate tart (smooth, velvety, deep):
Les Cocottes, Paris
Family, friends, food and great fun. The pictures say it all. Here’s a look at Christmas 2010:
Not exactly the typical Christmas dessert, but who can say no to strawberries?
Looking at you looking at me:
Grandma did not get run over by a reindeer:
Cousins reenacting a goofy childhood photo:
Then I headed to New Jersey for some food, babies and new year’s eve festivities:
These boys are so well-behaved at such a young age:
Chinese speaking French on NYE:
The boy likes chocolate mousse [faite sans balance! olalalala…c’est illégale!]:
Mats’ secret to being the ‘favorite’ parent:
Olly and Papa
Then I headed to NYC. Well, more like Brooklyn:
The trip to NY’s most populous burrough was all for this:
I’d been meaning to check out Fatty Cue after all the press it’s been receiving this year. If people in ‘the industry’ [as we call ourselves] like it, it’s usually good, right? In this case, yes. Finger-lickin’, lip-smackin’, “BBQ.” More like Asianified-BBQ but de-rish nonetheless. We had the pork ribs [pictured above], lamb ribs, Pork loin and Porkslap beer (because they threw a party the night before and ran out of Beer Lao. Booo). I prefer either of the ribs–stronger flavors, great seasoning and texture. Seating is tight, portions are small and come on cheap-o Chinatown plates, but if you’re hankering to snack on some meat with Southeast flavors and you’re in the ‘hood, head on over. I also love their assertiveness with the spicy fish sauce and thai chili. Bangin’. Restaurants usually shy from [real] spice.
As I said, this was a meaty snack. Keep in mind it was 20 degrees F outside, aka perfect ramen weather!
I waited patiently in line for 20 min or so for a steaming hot bowl of spicy ramen. I tried the Totto Spicy Ramen as well as the Totto Chicken Paitan Ramen (the first two items on the menu). Both delicious. Compared to Ippudo, the noodles are a bit thinner but maintain their QQ. The broth was rich, deep and chicken-y, without MSG and without the after-mouth-feel of thick and nappy. Know what I mean, ramen lovers? Sometimes you get that Ippudo (that other red-and-black-themed ramen joint), on an off-day I suppose. Oh and having been in Europe for the past month and a half, I must say the spicy bamboo shoot side is quite spicy! (deserving of its 5 chilis on their chili-meter on the menu) Hmm…perhaps I should try it again after living in China for a month and a half. I bet it would be ‘mildly spicy.’
For dinner I had quail at Café Boulud. Perfectly-cooked-pink. The waiter claimed it was not sous-vide but I still don’t believe him.
My first NYC food truck experience. Waffles remind me of snowboarding and eating chocolate-drizzled waffles at the bottom of the slope at a Waffle Haus because waiting in a long line of skiers and snowboarders is not as fun as eating a hot, chocolatey waffle when you’re super cold and need to recharge. They also remind me of the gofre vendors in Madrid that sell waffles in the subway stations. The aroma of gofres after disembarking a crowded Madrid metro car > over-perfumation of Spaniards on metro.
The best [and so far, only] yakitori joint I’ve tried in NYC. It’s not Toriki, but hey, we’re not in Tokyo. And it’s still freaking good! Try the soft bone, chicken skin and giblets!
Chase that with a bowl of hot or cold soba. The tempura was warm and crispy, although my slice of fried lotus root was sliced too thick, therefore it was difficult to chew. Other than that, the soba noodles were the right amount of QQ, the broth smoky and full of bonito-goodness without being too salty. It’s different from Soba-Koh; the noodles are a bit thinner but they’re QQ nonetheless so pas du problem. I’m definitely coming back for more!
More to come…