I’m On A Roll! Or, The Painfully Punderful World of Sushi Making

I love salmon nigiri, I love cucumber maki, I really love shrimp tempura and avocado hand rolls and, as the mini button says, I love Yelp.  Thanks to the brilliant folks on the Yelp team here in London, I got to attend a sushi-making class at the brand new location of the paper crane-bedecked, double-fried soy garlic ginger chicken-producing Tsuru Sushi.  In case you’re wondering, I also love paper cranes and all things double-fried.

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San Francisco Eating Happy Times at the Ferry Building Farmers Market

I spent what might be the ideal local/urban/farming/foodie Saturday in San Francisco during my visit last month.  Ferry Building Farmers Market + Alemany Farm + dinner with friends to feast on all our accumulated goods = serious eating happy times.

It started at one of my favorite places of porkaliciousness on the planet, the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market…

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Almost 99 Bottles of Wine on the Wall…and Nearly 99 Courses to Follow.

Imagine a world where your bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich comes in one surprising multitextured bite of  Essence of BLT. Where Death of Elvis is a completely bizarre and completely delectable mouthful of  solid yet somehow softly melting banana, peanut butter, nutella and jam.  Where the cheese never seems to end and where the wine flows like the water dripping from the ceiling…

It sounds like Wonderland, but don’t be fooled by the 7 foot tall cross-dressing Alice in spectacularly tall heels opening the door. It’s 99, a pop-up restaurant run by friends Whetham and Dave, who have combined their impressive and inventive artistic, hosting, and culinary talents to create a spectacular and stomach-busting evening of performance, gastronomy and often a topsy-turvy combination of the two.

I was honored to be invited along to help out in the kitchen on the final night of 99’s first run. Donning pristine chef’s whites in the kitchen of their Victorian mansion in Hackney, I joined chefs Dave and Hugo to whip, dip, bread,  layer, chop, and see the magic happen behind the scenes.

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Tartine Bread and Cowgirl Creamery Food Porn

It might just be the best bread in the world.  A warm, soft, tantalizingly nutty sesame loaf, fresh from the ovens just after 5pm…

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The Questionable Legality of Open Flames in the Backyard: Twelve or So Hours of Epic Roast Beast

We promised pig photos, and pig photos you’re going to get. Be forewarned though; spit roasting a 50 lb pig in the backyard is not exactly a pretty process, although it ends in lots of happy deliciousness. If you’re squeamish about meat, weird animal parts, nose-to-tail eating, or happen to be (gasp!) vegetarian…you probably shouldn’t click the button below. But if you’re curious about how to roast your own whole pig on a bed of charcoal in your backyard, then choose the blue pill and take the plunge into our carnivorous world…
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Mom, Dad and BeanPie Turn 150. We Celebrate with Roast Pig, Crack Pie, and Butter.

It was a grand occasion in the Li family household on Sunday for an epic once-in-a-lifetime event: the 150th birthday party! Once-in-three-lifetimes, to be exact – it was a springtime celebration of our mom’s 60th birthday, Irene’s upcoming 20th birthday, and our dad’s upcoming 70th. Obviously, 60+20+70 = BADASS PARTY TIME. And no badass party would be complete without roasting a 50 lb pig in the backyard.  Or grilling a 30 lb fish. Or baking 10 desserts, including 4 crack pies. Or making 3 kinds of homemade pickles. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of beef brisket, pulled chicken, barbecued ribs, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, three bean salad, collard greens, and sandwich rolls from Lester’s Barbecue and three sheet trays of cornbread from Andy’s restaurant Harvest.  And an accompanying approximately 20 cubic feet of alcohol. How else would you celebrate such a once-in-three-lifetimes occasion?

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Rambling Restaurant at the Market Estate Project

We’ve cooked in old train depots and darkened car parks and city centre squats and sprawling warehouses. Last week, Rambling Restaurant added a soon-to-be demolished 1960’s North London housing estate to the list of odd and unusual venues, swooping in just ahead of the wrecking balls.  In the amazing Market Estate Project, artists from around the world took over empty flats to create imaginative, engaging, thought-provoking and awe-inducing installations ranging from short films to death-defying performance art to covering entire apartments in building plans or blue plastic.  We were honored to be a part of the day by cooking up all sorts of meals and snacks for people involved with the project.

Sarah and foodrambler conjured up massive pots of beef rendang and aubergine and sweet potato coconut curry with rice and creamy cool banana chutney to fill up the many volunteers before their very very cold outdoor shifts.

Once people began trickling in, we Rambling Restaurateurs turned our attention to making canapes for visitors and staff and lucky wanderers. Homemade chickpea and beetroot hummus on crackers, carrot and cumin dip on crispbreads, mini onion quiches, and Michelle’s famous fried-on-the-spot fish and chips.

In between dishing up cute little newspaper cones and assembling sandwiches for staff sustenance, we found some time to explore the incredible and inspiring works of art. Like an entire flat – bedroom, living room, bathroom, balcony and all – transformed into an enormous blue plastic balloon:

And another apartment entirely papered over, top to bottom, in building plans:

More art photos and some thoroughly inauthentic banh mi sandwiches after the jump…

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“Doesn’t Everyone Spend Saturday and Sunday Nights in the Kitchen?”: The Deadpan Entree Smackdown

We on the Deadpan/Ithaca FamilyStyles Team – you know, that ruggedly good-looking bunch – always love a little bit of competition. You can usually find us going to war with Bananagrams, settling Catan with all the imperial zeal of Cortez or Columbus himself, or quizzing each other on random yet seemingly important information (think real-life Sporcle): name as many pokemon as you can! List the members of the nightshade family! Extoll the virtues of kosher salt! You get the idea.

So, it was only natural that when it came down to figuring out an entree for our first Deadpan event, we decided to compete for it, with a facebook event, scorecards, and of course, hours upon hours in the kitchen. Once again taking advantage of Hilary’s generosity and five-burner Electrolux stove, we went to work.

Max Hull is a photoshop god

I’d say each one of us totally and completely brought it. Pictures and results after the jump!

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Butternut Squash Polenta and Other Mayhems: Deadpan Restaurant’s Opening Nights

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Amin is now gallivanting in Dresden, and Judy has proven a valuable addition to our kitchen cohort. We at Deadpan Restaurant had our opening debut a few weeks ago, and then a repeat event this past weekend. It was, in a word, insane. Five dishes, 12 guests per event, hours upon hours in the kitchen, and I don’t think I’ll ever look a pot of polenta in the eye again.

Let’s talk about the menu. Since we’re new at this whole restaurant thing, we haven’t really figured out how to simultaneously serve a secret supper and photodocument it, so bear with us on the pictures!

We started with a red wine oxtail and beef tongue stew, served as chilled, jelly hemispheres, with a layer of homemade Momofuku pickles on a toasted baguette round.

Probably the most challenging dish of the evening, our tongue-and-tail amuse bouche was cast in a mold designed and cut by Amin. Pretty cool, huh? We value the use of all parts of the animals we eat, and wanted our guests to do the same. To our surprise and delight, nobody tried to escape the event while we described this dish, and everyone cleaned their plate! On a side note, those pickles are so addictive and delicious – definitely at the top of my these-are-so-easy-to-make-i’ll-never-buy-them-again list.

For our starter, we served the dish that has been our pride, joy, and near-undoing for the last several months: pork belly with butternut squash polenta. Cured for two days in a mix of brown sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black pepper, and then braised for upwards of three hours in a pot of chicken stock and Delirium Tremens (famed as the best beer in the world), this local pork from Autumn’s Harvest Farm is tender, buttery, and melts in your mouth. The butternut squash polenta is cooked on the stovetop and then baked (or is it fried?) on cast iron with a lot of butter. We made our sauce out of a reduction of the braising liquid and some Cornell Orchards cider. This isn’t actually the pork belly we served, but an earlier incarnation that looks mostly alike:

We also served some cider mulled with the same spice mix that we cured the belly with. Still with us, even through the bad flash photography? Our other three dishes, after the jump…

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Adventures in Newcastle: Beautiful Views, Beautiful Tarts, and Beautiful Things Involving Goat Cheese

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip up to Newcastle upon Tyne for The Go Game and there were so many beautiful things to see in the city.

Beautiful Thing #1: The view of the River Tyne, including the Tyne Bridge and the Millenium Bridge, from the Viewing Box of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

And the reverse view of the BALTIC, an old flour mill, from the Millenium Bridge. If you happen to be anywhere near Newcastle, go see Damien Hirst’s fascinating exhibition Pharmacy and marvel at the view.

Beautiful Thing #2: The plum tart from the charming and brand new six-week-old BUEE Cafe and Bistro at Side Cinema.  I actually didn’t eat it; we went for the pecan pie and the raspberry cheesecake baked by the chef-husband of the proprietor-wife instead – more on that in a bit – but it’s a thing of beauty all the same.

Beautiful Thing #3: The goat cheese and roasted vegetable pizzaiola from Cafe Royal, a gem of a cafe amidst the shops of the city centre featuring artisanal bread from their own bakery.

So much to see in Newcastle and so much to eat! Let’s take a closer look at our two exciting foodie finds…

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