Monday, January 31, 2011

Shochu Shochu!


          This weekend was one of overindulgence, but aren’t they all? I think I have a pretty good handle on my intake during the week.  I eat healthy, low calorie, energy promoting foods, but on the weekends, I will eat whatever anyone puts in from of me, be it hotdog, burrito, a whole pizza...Every weekend, I undo all the work I put in during the week.  Prehaps I'm a little too passionate about food.  This Morning I am repentant. 
Not all was wasted.  Saturday morning I made a simple, delicious and nutritious breakfast consisting of coffee from D’Amico (this place is awesome!), scrambled eggs, toast and smoothie, with a few flavorful touches. 
Here are the recipes portioned for two:
Eggs:    Two organic, cage-free, vegetarian fed eggs
            ½ avocado cut into ½ inch square, bite-sized pieces
            6 cherry tomatoes, halved
            Two tablespoons nonfat cottage cheese
            Two green onions diced, only the green shoots
            Pinch salt
            Pinch pepper
            Pinch Pepperika
            Pinch dried basil
Whip cottage cheese, eggs and herbs together in a bowl with a wire whisk until creamy.  The curdy texture of the cottage cheese should just about vanish into the eggs.  I prefer fresh herbs, basil in particular, and have been trying to grow some in my kitchen.  This winter has so far been so grey and cold, very little available sunlight, that it simply refuses to grow.  My basil has Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It’s depressed.  So I used dried basil.
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet to medium heat.  Pour in egg mixture, add the avocado, tomato and green onion, stir.  Do not over stir the omelet.  I use a spatula to insure the avocado and tomato remain in firm, bite-sized pieces.  Cook to taste.
Smoothie:  One cup nonfat organic yogurt
                   5 small peeled carrots
                  2 bananas
                  ½ cup frozen blueberries
                 2 tablespoons wheat germ
Add all to blender along with some fruit juice (I like cranberry or carrot.  But real fruit juice, not ‘juice cocktail’ or ‘fruit juice drink.’  Should be 100% juice) or skim milk to liquefy smoothie.
The toast is a homemade whole wheat bread with whole oats and molasses.  I made it earlier in the week.  The next time I bake some, I will include the complete recipe.
Sake at Hatchan Bar
As for Hatchan Bar, it was lovely.  Having been a restaurant insider for so long, I’m sometimes uncomfortable with full service dining.  I spend too much energy critiquing and sometimes forget to really enjoy the meal and the company.  I much prefer to have cocktails and conversation, ordering a large variety of food as I go, trying a little bit of everything.  No pressure.  Hatchan bar delivers this type of atmosphere.
Me, Tim, my brother Nate and his wife Chih-Yu.  I'm enjoying the barley shochu in a handmade clay cup  Textured with sand, these cups feel old-world.

Connected to East Restaurant, the bar itself is long and narrow, no tables, all seats at the bar, providing an atmosphere that’s both communal and comfortable.  The clientele are mostly regulars, each knowing the others and the bartender, Remi.  The menu is a variety of al la carte skewers, dumplings and sushi.  We tried the dragon roll, oden, chicken meatball, vegetable dumpling and green pepper wrapped in bacon skewer.  All were very good.  The dragon roll was delicately flavored with firm salmon, salty eel and rich, ripe avocado.  The chicken meatball was served on a stick (I love meat on a stick!) and full of flavor, with a little sweetness and earth, like the best chicken sausages.  The green pepper skewer was also a standout, maintaining a firm, char-grilled texture to the pepper itself, along with the crispy bacon shell.

Dragon Roll

Most importantly, Hatchan Bar introduced me to Shochu.  Shochu, meaning “burned-alcohol,” is a Japanese beverage dating back to the 16th century.  Recently, it has become increasingly popular, with sales surpassing that of sake beginning in 2003.  Shochu is similar to sake, but is made from many varieties of ingredients (Hatchan listed rice, brown sugar, potato, barley, citrus and more on their menu).  And shochu is higher in alcohol content than sake or wine.  I tried the citrus, but eventually asked Remi to recommend a barley shochu.  The citrus, preferred by some members of our party, was very light and reminiscent of sake.
“I like a really clean taste.”  Chih-Yu, my brother’s wife, told me of the citrus shochu.
The barley shochu tasted of oak and hops, much like American bourbon but lighter and refreshing.  It was the perfect complement to the oden, which sounds like it might be a Viking god, but is actually much less menacing, consisting of Japanese dashi broth, tofu, boiled egg and spicy mustard.

Chih-Yu with two varieties of oden
Tonight I think I'll make dinner, something healthy.  As of yet, I have no idea what that will be.  I'm obsesssed with green onions and kale, lately.  Maybe it will be a dish including one or both ingredients.  Stay tuned...

Friday, January 28, 2011


Today is the day I begin.  This is my food blog.  Funny, now I can’t think where to begin. 
I’m an evil dictator of taste.  Ask any of my friends.  I review restaurants and meals, prepared by me, constantly, vocally and all too often honestly.  I’m passionate and overly verbose when it comes to food and service experiences, even wine and cocktails.  Yet now I don’t know what to post.
For the past 10 years I worked in the restaurant industry.  I began at a little, local-favorite sandwich shop in Missoula, MT, called Worden’s Market.  From there, I had the good fortune to be hired by the Hilton Hotels Restaurant just after a renovation.  I was lucky because corporate restaurants provide incredible training to their staff.  Mine was an intensive, two month program before I ever even set foot inside the new restaurant.  I don’t think it was supposed to be quite that long.  There were some construction delays, but it was useful nonetheless.  We went over menu descriptions, tasted and discussed all the food, learned about wine and proper cocktail service.  The training even covered lessons like, “Never, under any circumstances, address patrons, especially female patrons, as ‘you guys.’”  I was only 17, but the world of food culture had just become exponentially bigger for me.
Over the next decade, I expanded my knowledge, moved to the Bay Area, CA, and New York City, traveled to Napa, Mexico, Cuba and Italy.  I also moved up the ranks, learned more and more, managing restaurants of different varieties.  Basically, I hung around with other people who were also immersed in food and beverage.
Now I work for a small publishing house in NYC, but I haven’t forgotten the skills honed in my previous career.  I have a habit of subjecting anyone who’ll listen to my experiences and opinions.  The idea behind this blog is that I will share my experiences in food, with fellow searchers on the quest for tastiness.
Tonight I’m meeting my brother and his wife for dinner at Hatchan Bar on East 44th...