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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The celebrity chef phenomenon. I don’t like it. In particular, Bobby Flay. Something about his voice and demeanor. But save that talk for another rainy day.

Driving or walking by K Street, I’ve noticed, for a while now, “Bobby’s Burger Place”. Oh hell no, I thought. There it was, one the latest expansions of the vast culinary empire of America’s best-known celebrity chef. But every burger deserves a tasting, even if it means pitching in my share to Mr. Flay’s evil empire. Burgers are serious business and should not be swayed by personal opinions and emotions regarding their surrounding politics, values, situations, backgrounds, and even chefs.

So I walked in.

Skip the ambiance and interior (although the long, wavy snake-like “bar” was worth a glance), and get to the burger.

I love avocados and anything made with avocados. Hence I ordered Bobby’s “L.A. Burger”, my eyes still voraciously staring down the other not-lucky-enough-to-be-chosen-today options. Everything with avocados seems to be called “California something” or “L.A. something”. But guacamole and juicy beef patties go well with each other, so L.A. it is.

The guacamole itself (or I think Bobby called it something else) was great. Rich and creamy, with just enough kick and lime juice. The patty was made with high-quality meat, and it was cooked right to a medium (warm pink center). But it could have used more fat. Bland, I would say. Burgers need a bit more fat dripping from them.

Bobby had laid out his own “Burger Sauce”. Intrigued, I gave it two or three taste tests. I wasn’t as pleasantly surprised as I had hoped, as the sauce just seemed like a last second mixture of standard BBQ sauce and a few other jars in the corner of your pantry.

As I walked out, I realized that I should have taken some shots of the sweet potato fries. Because above all, from Bobby’s Burger Place, Bobby’s sweet potato fries shined outright. I don’t know what kind of oil he fried them in, but Bobby’s fries were perfectly crispy on the outside, moist and vaporize-in-your-mouth silky inside.

Bobby, good work on the fries.

 

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If coffee is the highlight of a three-course meal, that says something. About the coffee.

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The interior is refreshing, with generous splashes of white decor and sparkling glass and stainless steel. Out in the calm Sunday streets, slight bits of rain drizzle here and there, but the rays of sunlight beaming through the tall windows bounce across all corners of the quaint and modern dining area.

Anyone with any taste in jazz understands how despicable “smooth jazz” is, also affectionately known as “elevator music”. If one was in a pissy mood, if the clouds were gushing rains instead of drizzling, if St. Regis Hotel’s Adour’s executive chef wasn’t known for his immaculate cuisine, then yes, what rings in my ear could be classified as elevator music. But not today. Today, the same tunes shall be ordained as “chic” and “modern”, to accompany the furniture and ambiance.

The quality of a restaurant’s bread basket is indicative of its overall sophistication, and this batch is divine. Perfectly crusted, just enough salt, nutty aroma, two types of butter. Don’t even need olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bread for bread’s sake.

Monkfish is not something you see everyday on menus across town. The creature’s cursed appearance may alienate cooks and foodies alike, as its alien-like countenance does not exactly spell out haute cuisine. But i kid you not, monkfish, when handled and cooked correctly, offers some of the most delicate and flavorful eating excursions known to our species.

The best parts of the beast are not its flesh, but its skin, cartilage, and everything gelatinous in between (in fact, the liver of the monkfish is the most prized delicacy, but too rare to expect at Adour). The white flesh is firm but mild in itself, and tastes best when eaten together with the skin.

Woe is me, there lies a white fillet with no skin, no gelatinous goodness. The portion is pitiful, but I have hope in the yellowish golden sauce caressing the sorry fillet and entourage of greens. And I am not disappointed. The mustard seed-based sauce is superb, with just the right amount of acidity to enrich the otherwise bland fish. And the perfectly cooked pearl onions are a bonus.

As I always preach, the first sip of coffee is most critical. It is the alpha and the omega; it tells all of the rest of the cup and the pot. My first taste of La Colombe, and I am transported to Corsica. Cocoa darts out first, then various notes of nutty and fruity flavors. Bold but not burnt like Starb__s. The depth of flavor is profound. The acidity is just enough to dance around on the tip of your tongue, yet still strong enough to enclose your tongue and drench it thoroughly. The aftertaste is light, automatically sending your hand and mouth for sips to come.

The chocolate and hazelnut praline is the perfect compliment to this perfect cup of liquid gold. Alternating between forkfuls and sips, my mind wanders, to nowhere in particular.

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I lay down my cotton napkin and push my chair in like a learned gentleman. Monkfish or no monkfish, I say to myself, long live La Colombe.

There’s something relieving about pounding a wooden mallet on freshly steamed Maryland blue crab. In season, just caught out of the Chesapeake Bay, plump with savory meat with just the right amount of sweetness, the females with bright orange roe, and of course, plentiful tamales, the sexy mixture of green crab innards and organs.

Our SUV just made a sharp right turn, into a narrow two-lane road, seemingly leading to a residential neighborhood covered in ancient trees and shrubs. As we were searching for one of the most well-known crab houses in the area, I was expecting a bustling seaport, a dock overrun by streaming tourists and tour buses. The trees and shrubbery were a pleasant surprise.

The drive through the greenery was nostalgic, conjuring distant memories of from my childhood, when Grandpa took me through the mountains of rural Korea, in search of the best goat stew the country had to offer. The narrow roads, the trees and shrubs, and the anticipation – all was simmering in the cupboards of my mind.

Finally, we break out of the green tunnel, and there it was, the infamous crab house. The crowd was light, the parking plentiful. The old building sat right on the Bay, and as we jumped out of the SUV, the whiff of the Bay stormed into our nostrils.

Smothered in Old Bay seasoning, a dozen fresh blue crabs were strewn out in front of us. No plates, and only the absolutely necessary silverware. A large sheet of brown paper to cover the table and on go the crabs.

Grab the crab, and first tear open the lid to dive into the tamales. A spoon might be necessary here. The green mixture tastes of the ocean floor, of minerals and sea salt. The innards hone the absolute essence of the grab, all in one. As they spread onto your tongue, the sweetness and slight bitterness combines perfectly. Earthy.

Grab the claws, grab the mallet, and pound away, but not too savagely. You mustn’t destroy the tender claw meat. A dash of melted butter maybe? Don’t go too heavy on the cocktail sauce or the malt vinegar. As for me, the natural sweetness of the claws are heavenly as a solo act, untouched by man-made condiments.

The leg and body meat come last, and the seasoning has penetrated perfectly. Through late August and September, the Chesapeake crabs are plump and flavorful, and quite filling.

Walk out a content man. Plentiful crab and Diet Coke packed chaotically in my belly, the Old Bay scent permanently etched into my fingertips, the ever so slight residue of butter on the corners of my mouth – oh the satisfaction.

We drive out, bidding farewell to Cantler’s, already gazing towards next season’s catch.

The package arrived a few days behind schedule, and my anticipation had reached its limits. I tore open the box, and there it was, my first Lomo lc-a camera. What a thing of beauty it was.

That was seven years ago. Day and night, my Lomo was on my fingertips, accompanying me to mountains, lakes, restaurants, parking lots. What attracted me was Lomo’s portrayal of color.

The Lomo soaks up primary colors in their most complete and robust form, to later spit them back out in the most dream-like manner. Some cameras are better at spewing reds, others are better at greens and blues. Handled correctly, you obtain the “tunnel effect”, where the focus is sharpest towards the center of the shot and and edges are darkened and blurred.

I haven’t touched my Lomo at all lately (years). As I rummage through some old shots, the Lomo’s portrayal of the sky still shocks me as inspirational, genuine, majestic, warm, cold, cunning, thoughtful, provocative, pure and dreamy.

So I share with you some of those cuts.

The sky is said to have a thousand faces.

I actually considered becoming a journalist.

Or, more accurately, I considered majoring in journalism in college. Working as an editor for my high school yearbook was a kick-ass job – the endless bagel runs, the pranks, the drama, even the weekend late-nighters. Perhaps that’s what drew me to journalism school. Nevertheless, I chose business management as my major (sigh) and went to law school (sigh). I am not saying I have regrets, for I like to consider myself as forward-thinking, not past-fretting. But after of four years of management courses, three years of law school, and a tiny bit of experience in the real legal world, I guess I have sort of a crush on journalists and writers. I envy the ability and luxury to create free-flowing works with words, with an ever-abundance of topics and themes at their disposal. Words are powerful, and journalists and writers wield those words.

Then I come across something like this: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/business/media/journalists-plagiarism-jonah-lehrer-fareed-zakaria.html?_r=1&src=dayp

David Carr states it beautifully. “It may not have made a difference: journalists are tasked as seekers of truth. Fabulists find the truth quotidian and boring, insufficient to convey them to the renown they seek.”

There is a fine line between lying and colorful reporting. Plagiarism and journalism should not be mentioned in the same sentence. Come on! As Carr points out, social media heat and blog traction have been launch pads to journalistic fame and glory. But let journalism be journalism – seek the truth, and when you find it, tell it as is. The so-called “fabulists” would be the end of journalism as we know it. It’s reminiscent of all the celebrity chef havoc that has ballooned the current Food Network empire and has watered down cuisine to delis and barbeque (not that there’s anything wrong with delis and barbeque). And cupcakes (Cup Cake Wars, are you kidding).

Journalists and columnists are the brethren of a beautiful profession. Don’t ruin it for your own fame and glory. And don’t copy and paste.

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