Supper Club: June and Travel

June brings the end of school and the beginning of summer in earnest.  In other words, it is actually a bit more hard to schedule a time that works for all three of us.  T was traveling in Europe and M was in Asia. We landed a date late in the month.

The outdoors was on my mind (even though we would be cooking indoors) and when I came across this recipe for paella, I knew that was what would lead the menu.  And indeed, it would practically be the entire menu. 

Menu: I settled on John Willoughby’s recipe called Paella of the Sea from The New York Times that seemed the right one for us.  I could make adjustments to manage T’s allergies and M’s non-meat diet.  Also, the garlic scape relish appealed to me as it would add texture and some brightness. 

I added some roast asparagus on top so it could be a one-pan meal.  

Paella of the Sea with Asparagus and Garlic Scape Relish

Drink: White Wine and Rosé

Dessert: Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake by Dorie Greenspan

Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake

The plate has a smiley face sun and it kind of looked like Pac Man sans one slice! I love this cake as it is so simple–light, moist and packed with orange flavor.

Conversation: Travel

My friends are amazing world travelers.  In fact, I met M over a plate of cookies at a holiday party in Tokyo.  And I was introduced to T by our mutual friend when I was traveling in Vietnam. 

M told us about her adventures staying at a ryokan near Mount Fuji; and inventive dishes like uni inside a tomato (!) and Japanese-style Chinese dishes aka 中華料理.

T shared pictures from her meal at 108 in Copenhagen. She joked that she had never eaten so many flowers. The images inspired me to get back to growing more edible blooms. 

This year, I traveled to Mexico City for the first time with a college friend. And while I went on and on about the rich culture, art, ancient ruins, it was the food . . . the tacos and tostadas at the food stalls, mangoes from the market, and enchanting dinners at Casa Virginia and another at Gabriela Cámara’s Contramar (that at 6pm, we closed the place for lunch).  My Supper Club friends’ eyes were glazing over all the while nodding and smiling. It was time to stop.

But oh, the spicy hot chocolate!

Weekend Cooking

As I have mentioned before, I love making menus. We had a friend, J, in town from LA and staying with us to attend a wedding, and I immediately peppered her with questions about food preferences.  While she is an omnivore, she was making more plant-based dishes. Perfect! I had a stash of recipes I was hankering to try.

Since J would be with us in the morning, I made two types of granola/cereal. My go-to recipe is one specifically to help with workouts which may or may not happen but I really like the flavor. The cacao nibs contain seratonin for mental focus; dates for immediate energy; oats to prolong muscle function; and flax and chia to enhance burning fat.  I added matcha to half the batch for the additional nutritional boost.

Matcha Cacao Pre-Workout Performance Cereal
Date and Cacao Pre-Workout Performance Cereal

Later in the day, I had mistakenly thought that there was a friends ‘n’ family dinner on the eve of the wedding and so was planning a simple lemon pasta. When I found out J would be able to join us, I wanted to make something a bit more substantial. I had the ingredients to make a salad from some of the greens from our CSA, gyoza and steamed rice. Menu set!

Arugula and Lettuce Tofu Salad with Ginger Dressing

I made a filling of ground beef, napa cabbage, ginger, garlic, chives and a bit of sesame oil. And then it was time to make the dumplings! We made about 50!

Beef Gyoza at Dusk

The next day, I was thinking about salads and had earmarked this one from Melissa Clark. I like halving most recipes I try for the first time to see if I like it.

Salad Close-Up
Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Currants and Frizzled Leeks

The oven-roasted leeks added more flavor than I expected. I really liked it and will definitely make it again.

Another recipe I had been wanting to try is one from the amazing Mokonuts duo — the Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies — as shared by Dorie Greenspan. I modified it with what I had on-hand and used currants instead of cranberries and chocolate chips instead of chopping up bittersweet chocolate. I also reduced the amount of poppy seeds as I admit I was nervous about the volume. Overall, the modifications still resulted in a super tasty cookie and I am keen to try it using the intended ingredients.

Rye, Currants, Poppy and Chocolate Chip Cookies (yes I had half of one before I remembered to take a picture)

A great weekend of cooking made possible by inspiration from friends!

New & Noteworthy

I was trying to picture where the newest establishment from Jody Williams and Rita Sodi was on Grove Street. The website notes that it is located “across the street from the couple’s other beloved restaurants,Via Carota, I Sodi, and Buvette.”  The other day, I was in a taxi lurching through the traffic lights on Seventh Avenue South when I saw the name, large and almost glittering (I think it was glistening from the rain). It is right on the corner and while it is small, like Buvette and I Sodi, it exudes something bigger.  It definitely had the personality of a corner restaurant! 

This week, I am moving Jiang Diner and  Maison Yaki which was recently reviewed in the New Yorker, and adding Ayada, a popular Thai restaurant in Elmhust, which opened up a second location in Chelsea Market.  I have missed the hole-in-the-wall Chelsea Thai which was there for 21 years before closing due to rent increases.  I would forge through the throngs of tourists the next time I am in the Meatpacking District for some tasty Thai.

New & Noteworthy (week of June 24)

Ayada  Opened late-June

Bar Pisellino    Opened mid-May

The Fulton    Opened mid-May

HaSalon    Opened mid-April

Le Jardinier    Opened late-May

Pastis Opened early-June

Rezdora Opened mid-May

New & Noteworthy

I pruned a few restaurants off the list, and added Jiang Diner and Rezdora. I kept Crown Shy on the list as I still want to go and Pete Wells just gave it a great review (though gave it his favorite rating of 2 stars); and New York Magazine’s Adam Platt loved it (86/100).

New & Noteworthy (week of June 17)

Bar Pisellino Opened mid-May

Crown Shy Opened mid-March

The Fulton Opened mid-May

HaSalon Opened mid-April

Jiang Diner  Opened mid-April

Le Jardinier Opened late-May

Maison Yaki Opened late-April

Pastis Opened early June

Rezdora Opened mid-May

New & Noteworthy

This week, I add the long-awaited reopening of Pastis. I literally have not met anyone that has not missed and had kind words about this restaurant. Resy shows reservation times for breakfast, lunch and dinner though, of course, dinner times seem to be booked through month’s end.

Like many New Yorkers, I have my own Keith McNally and Pastis story. After waiting for hours to get into the new opening of Schiller’s, a man approached our group, apologized for the wait and asked if we would consider going to Balthazar or Pastis.  We said Pastis. The man gave us a name to ask for, and when we asked his, he said “Keith,“ we all followed it with “McNally?!“ When we got to Pastis, our table was ready as well as a glass of champagne for each of us.  The quote from McNally, “I’ve learned that if you give a customer a drink on the house once a year, he loves you” is true. The warm welcome stayed with me as I chose to patronize Pastis for work meetings, casual meals with friends, and family gatherings – all stemming from that one glass of champagne.

I also am adding two diners I neglected last week, Golden Diner from a Momofuku alum that I have been hankering to try in Chinatown and the Diner at the Mercado Little Spain.  

As I noted last week, this weekly list is not comprehensive of every new place but a short alphabetized list of new places that I think are notable.  Restaurants that have been opened for more than three months will not be included.

New & Noteworthy (week of June 10)

Bar Pisellino Opened mid-May

Crown Shy Opened mid-March

Essex Market Opened mid-May

The Fulton Opened mid-May

Golden Diner Opened mid-March

HaSalon Opened mid-April

José Andrés’s Spanish Diner at Mercado Little Spain Opened mid-May

Kāwi Opened mid-March

Le Jardinier Opened late-May

Maison Yaki Opened late-April

Pastis (Opened early June)

Van Da Opened mid-March

Matcha, Matcha

I first tasted matcha in Japanese tea ceremonies.  I was about eight years old and my mother would allow me to join her. It was how and where I understood the wondrousness of sweet (wagashi or Japanese sweets) countered by bitter (matcha tea).  I loved it. Matcha is one of the trifecta often found in Japanese desserts (along with red beans and rice in some form) and now it seems to be everywhere. There is a long laundry list of its benefits, from being dense in antioxidants including EGCg which said to contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic health.  It also has a lovely calming scent.

A friend’s birthday was coming up and I knew she and her husband enjoyed matcha, so I began thinking about what kind I should use, and what type of sweets would be best for a party. I headed over to the Ippodo Tea Shop on E. 39th Street. I was told that it isn’t worth spending a lot of $ if the intended use is in cooking and baking so I went with Hatsu-mukashi. 

Hatsu-mukashi Matcha Powder

And after much thought, I then decided on a shortbread and some financiers–both easy to pick up and eat and hopefully a nice complement any other desserts at the party.  

Matcha Financiers

I used a Dorie Greenspan recipe I liked for Brown Butter Financiers and added about 1-½ tsp of matcha powder.  I buttered the pan too liberally so a brown crust developed which I was hoping to avoid to keep the little cakes cleaner looking, but the result actually looks kinda nice. 

Matcha and White Chocolate Shortbread

I used a shortbread recipe from Melissa Clark that is my current favorite. I added matcha and white chocolate.  I had also tested the recipe for a previous Supper Club so I knew it would work.

The baked goods were a hit and I love having some go-to recipes.

That said, I am still on the hunt for more recipes to modify to add matcha. I don’t particularly like matcha sponge cakes but I think pairing whatever it is with fruit would be yummy. Maybe a thinner cookie with vanilla ice cream and berries?

Side Bar: The Best of the Worst

I just read Ryan Sutton’s review of Wild Ink at The Hudson Yards.  The full headline for the Eater piece is “Wild Ink Is an Overwrought Yet Underachieving Fusion Disaster at Hudson Yards:  London-based group Rhubarb’s New York City debut goes wrong at every turn with Frankenstein fusion.”  Ah, this was going to be a good read.

While amazing restaurant experiences are wonderful to read, the horrible ones allow critics to really showcase editorial color and prowess. They are really, really fun to read.  The Sutton piece got me reminiscing so I am now sharing some of my own favorite worst restaurant reviews.  Here are a few of the standouts with a few priceless lines pulled from each review. The one by Jay Rayner of Le Cinq is literary genius.   

Frank Bruni, New York Times review of Ninja (2005, restaurant closed)

  • Ninja New York deposits you in a kooky, dreary subterranean labyrinth that seems better suited to coal mining than to supping.
  • Each party of diners receives its own nook, which quickly takes on the aspect of a jail cell.
  • You are greeted there by servers in black costumes who ceaselessly bow, regularly yelp and ever so occasionally tumble, and you are asked to choose between two routes to your table.The first is described by a ninja escort as simple and direct. The second is “dark, dangerous and narrow,” involving a long tunnel and a drawbridge that descends only when your escort intones a special command, which he later implores you to keep secret. I recommend a third path: right back out the door.

Pete Wells, New York Times review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square (2012, restaurant closed)

  • Did you discern any buttermilk or brine in the white meat, or did you think it tasted like chewy air?
  • Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?
  • Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?

Jay Rayner, The Guardian review of Le Cinq in Paris (2017, still has three Michelin stars)

  • The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a “spherification”, a gel globe using a technique perfected by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli about 20 years ago. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says. (ed: bold is is mine.I will never forget this line)
  • My lips purse, like a cat’s arse that’s brushed against nettles.
  • We’re told it has the flavour of French onion soup. It makes us yearn for a bowl of French onion soup. It is mostly black, like nightmares, and sticky, like the floor at a teenager’s party.
  • Pictures of plates are snapped. Mind you I also take pictures, but mine are shot in the manner of a scene of crime officer working methodically.

And finally, the review that got me waxing nostalgic about bad restaurant reviews, Ryan Suttons review of Wild Ink.  

  • I winced as I took a bite. Chefs infuse the meat with inhumane levels of sugar and salt  . . the pies are glazed in a creamy white-cheese sauce. It turns mealy and sticky quickly, causing the puffs to adhere to the plate like a gum on a shoe. . . In place of classic bulgogi, diners are treated to a veritable Frankenstein of a dish, an unholy triad recalling microwaveable Hot Pockets, airline Korean food, and hospital-quality Welsh rarebit.
  • General Tso’s sweetbreads, which are more akin to Heinz 57-flavored chewing gum than the Cantonese-American staple.

And the review starts and end with quotes from staff which is pretty incredible.  

  • My server suggested a few dishes on the Asian fusion menu, and then added, without prompting, that she could “not recommend the bulgogi puffs.” It was a curious statement. I hadn’t asked about the bulgogi puffs, nor was anyone nearby tempting me with their puffiness or bulgogi-ness. The waiter simply felt the need to warn me, preemptively, that a signature preparation was garbage.”
  • . . . let me end by paraphrasing the words of my honest bartender: I can’t recommend that you eat here.

And there you have it.  I never dined nor will dine at any of these restaurants but oh, the reviews were a complete joy to read.

Automation Bias in the Abstraction Age

As I dug into the meaning behind the term automation bias, I became more horrified. The benign definition is as follows: “Automation bias is the propensity for humans to favor suggestions from automated decision-making systems and to ignore contradictory information made without automation, even if it is correct.” (1)

Horror #1 because this implies we are now in an age where we trust the machine more than we trust instinct and fact. We ignore gut feelings and certainties because we think the machine knows better.  And as James Bridle most recently put it, “Automation bias means that technology doesn’t even have to malfunction for it to be a threat to our lives” (2)

Horror #2 because this concept is easily abstracted out of our day-to-day lives and its social impact.   I have written about the age of abstraction and the dangers of putting complex things in a black box. Black boxes are scary because the info they house are viewable to a select audience. (control)

Horror #3 because when you couple automation bias with black box abstraction, the path to the final source of truth is obfuscated. No single person has a full view. it’s unclear if we would understand everything even if we could see all the parts anyway (oh joy) — but being abstracted out of both logic and code erases all possibility. 

We need to be in the era of certainty and clarity not doubt and abstraction. 

New & Noteworthy

In a recent post, I grumbled about my satisfaction with new/hot lists for NYC restaurants.  As I was pondering about my ideal list, I recalled one that I used to refer to a lot was the “new“ list that used to be on the New York Magazine food area. It was simple: restaurant name and one-liner and if memory serves me, it was listed in order of recency.  Like a few spots on back-in-the-day, the feed or whatever was populating that list started to deprecate and over time, it was completely useless until it just disappeared.  But I liked it because was not overly editorially random nor injected with manufactured drama of up- and down-movements week over week.  

The prototype of my new weekly list will not be a subjective ranked list cloaked as “trendy” or “buzzy” but simply a short alphabetized list of new places.  The unsexy working name is “New & Noteworthy” and restaurants that have been opened for more than three months will not be included. I realized that whenever I recommend a new place to a friend, I would always include the website and links to a few reviews, which is what I will do here as well.

New & Noteworthy (week of June 3)

Bar Pisellino Opened mid-May

Crown Shy Opened mid-March

Essex Market Opened mid-May

HaSalon Opened mid-April

Kāwi Opened mid-March

Le Jardinier Opened late-May

Maison Yaki Opened late-April

The Fulton Opened mid-May

Van Da Opened mid-March