Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Tale of the S'Meeps!!!

I remember the Easter season as a kid.  In New England it meant warming weather, melting snow and hints of green.  The week leading up to Easter would mean a vaguely-remembered Rankin-Bass show about Peter Cottontail and the main event, The Wizard of Oz.  Good Friday was mournful for some reason I didn’t fully understand.  And then came the big day.  The Easter Bunny had come the night before leaving behind jelly beans, chocolate and hopefully some marshmallow Peeps.  Dinner was always ham , frozen, wilted spinach with vinegar and scallop potatoes.  I do remember the potatoes fondly…

This year we added a life-altering dessert to the mix.  I am serious... this is big.  You are going to hear this, wonder why you haven’t done it, print this, and do it next Spring – or maybe next weekend!  Do not continue reading unless you’re willing to increase you sugar intake soon.  Do not continue reading this if you’re overly concerned for your health.  Absolutely stop reading now if you have kids that get hyper with sugar and you wish they would not.  Just stop now.

Still here?  Cool.  Here’s what we did… and in full disclosure, this was not my idea.  This is the doing of my future sister-in-law – all her invention.  First, in classic urban fashion, my brother-in-law started a fire in a bucket.  When was the last time you did that on Easter Sunday?  Want more?  Ok…next we got out graham crackers…ok…you might think you know where this is going…but wait.  Then we got one chocolate bunny, a hollow one, and busted it on a plate and then, you guessed it, opened a box of Peeps.  No…we opened two, one pink bunnies and the other yellow chicks.  Yes indeed….we made s’mores and turned them into S’MEEPS!!!!  But listen…there’s a real beauty in this.  That sugary, colored crust on the Peep caramelizes over the flame like you wouldn’t believe.  And it gets so hot that it instantly melts the thin milk chocolate of the bunny.  And when you squeeze it all together on a cracker the marshmallow oozes out through holes in the crust of the Peep.  This is amazing!

I love s’mores, but this takes it to another level.  And now we have a new Easter dessert tradition!  Long Live The Easter S’meeps.   

The Egg

What is the world’s most perfect food?  Cheese, bread and beer all run pretty high on the list for me.  Their simplicity, complexity, variety and sheer joy I get from them far exceed almost all other foods.  But the egg?  Now that is a perfect food.

Consider that it is produced naturally and comes in its own biodegradable container.  Consider the variety….quail eggs are petite, ostrich eggs are gigantic, and they’re all edible.   Look at the sheer beauty and simplicity.  Slightly white translucence contrasts against the golden brightness of a yolk. 

There are fruits and vegetables that could challenge the egg for aesthetic beauty and design, but what of versatility?  An egg could be eaten raw if you are careful of its sourcing. (But I am not encouraging that – that’s my legal disclaimer) It can cook quickly and become sticky and creamy as in carbonara.  An egg can be fried sunny-side up to create a wonderful contrast between opaque white and golden yolk.  It can be flipped while frying to create a white disk centered by only a hint of gold.  Scrambled and you have golden happiness.  Boil an egg for 7 minutes and get a beautiful, creamy soft one, or go a few minutes longer and see it hard-boiled and get something you can put aside until you need it.  You mix an egg with flour and it will help cakes puff up.  Mix it with cream and some veggies and get an omelet.  Mix it with mayo and make a sandwich.   Poach it for clean, stark whiteness and golden deliciousness.  Eggs are amazing!

What about texture?  An egg can go from sensuous creaminess to slice-able firmness in minutes.  Compare a soft-boiled egg to a whipped egg for scrambling to one used for sushi.  That’s the same natural resource!        

What food has greater historical, cultural, even biological significance?  Why Easter eggs?  Eggs are symbols of birth and fertility.  What is spring but a time of rebirth and fertility, and Easter is ultimately a spring ritual repeated in various forms by faiths and cultures the world over.

So as you gorge yourself on eggs today or anytime this spring, consider this amazing gift from nature as the ultimate packaged food. 

I hope your yolks look like sunshine today.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I was late in high school or maybe even college before I tried sushi.  The thought of it sounded delicious to me, and it sure did not disappoint.  In the 25 years since I have had sushi as often as I could afford it.  And I don’t mind admitting that I like it all…I am not picky.  The stuff at the grocery store?  Love it.  The places with the laminated placards and checklists?  Happy as can be.  A fancy place in San Francisco’s Japan Town…thrilled.  And I am a bottomless pit when it comes to sushi and sashimi.  Some people can eat pizza without ever getting full.  Some can consume entire bags of Doritos.  Me…I don’t ever remember being satiated by sushi.  I just want to keep eating and savoring each and every amazing bite.  The only limit for me seems to be cost. 

Fortunately, there’s a movie that will allow me to “eat” my sushi as often as I want at low cost.  I recently watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi to satisfy a craving for a documentary and raw fish.  One of the things I have always appreciated about sushi was its aesthetic.  Presentation is a priority for all foods, but it seems absolutely vital to sushi.  This movie, using music, dialogue and of course visuals really captures the sushi aesthetic and amplifies it.  My craving is worse now.
Jiro is an 85 year old sushi chef/restaurateur in Tokyo.  He is the oldest Michelin-starred chef in the world.  His restaurant is simple, sparse and really nothing at all to notice from the outside.  But his methods and care for each and every element are extraordinary.  His staff preps the seaweed over hot coals, fans the rice to cool it to just the right temperature, carefully and elegantly slices each piece of fish guided by history, tradition and optimal flavor and texture possibilities.  At the counter Jiro preps each individual piece of sushi with grace and delicacy, custom sized for each guest.  Caring for each and every element – temperature, texture, even seating arrangements – Jiro has created one of the world’s greatest dining experiences. 

But there’s a subplot that ends up emerging as the real story.  Jiro’s two sons have worked for him.  The younger of the two has struck out on his own, creating his own restaurant.  The eldest, however, remains Jiro’s apprentice at the age of 50.  His dedication and devotion – or is it obligation? – to his father and his work is the real conflict in the film.  By the end it is clear that he loves and admires his father, carries the heavy burden of one day taking over the restaurant, and is, in fact, the current architect of all the ingredients while his father gets the spotlight.  It is a fascinating exploration of familial commitment.  By the end I was comfortable believing that the son knew his influence and had confidence that he could skillfully take over the restaurant when his father passed.  Further, I know Jiro knows it; but Jiro is the sort that will die the moment he gives up his passion, so he continues to work. 

For a foodie and sushi lover, there’s much to enjoy and fascinate here.  The pictures of Jiro’s creations are stunning.  Watching the steps and detail involved in making profoundly wonderful sushi are inspiring.  Every element is an art…rice prep, seaweed, fish selection and prep, cleanliness of every plate, arrangements of settings.  Jiro has thought of everything right down to how to place the sushi on the dish depending upon whether the diner of right handed or left handed.  I found the acquisition of high-quality ingredients intriguing.  Jiro has one source for rice and only he gets the rice – the seller sells it to nobody else.  The scenes of the fish market in Tokyo are enthralling.  I would love to have someone explain the tuna auction to me.  The varieties of sea life available were incredible.  I want to try all of it. 

After watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi I cannot help but wonder what eating would be like if we put such care into all we ate.  First, I bet we would eat less.  But then imagine the sensory experience it would be.  Would it be exhausting?  Invigorating?  I don’t know, but I love knowing that there are artists out there like Jiro.  They make our world a more interesting place.        

Monday, March 25, 2013

New Facebook App for Foodies

Some very exciting news from the world of online restaurant reviews.  Come check this out...and I look forward to seeing you over there.

Come sign up for LikeStream because you want great restaurant recommendations from the friends and experts you trust and want to hear from. Who better than a passionate local with a point of view, to help you discover more hidden gems? 

Please welcome the first of our knowledgeable and adventurous local foodie experts to help you in your quest for new dining experiences.

Michelle Syracuse is the author of a tasteful blog called Gather365. With the motto of "Go forth, Gather, Eat good food", she engagingly narrates her dining experiences in and around Oakland and San Francisco. Best way to describe Michelle's choices and reviews - down-to-earth, warm and thoughtful.
Mark Janda is the author of a thought-provoking blog called It Takes A Kitchen. Mark is a history teacher with a penchant for exploring new food and dining, so you can imagine the learning and adventure that comes from following his reviews around his hometown of Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Europe.

Sign-in, go to our "foodies & friends" page and follow them from our "famous foodies" tab to see their reviews in your search results.

p.s. A local expert foodie yourself? or know of one? Just let us know, we would love to promote you or your friend on our famous foodies page!

You heard right. 3 restaurant reviews + 1 creative short bio + 1 profile photo (see example below), and you are in! The most creative bio entry along with the most number of reviews submitted by April 21st will be awarded $250 towards a dinner at one of our many recommended restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area! 

Here's what to do...

Sign up or go to the app from your desktop.

For the bio and photo, just go to the "Settings" page and click on "More about you!" to to add a photo and a short bio (six words or less!)

For the reviews, set the "Where" field to the appropriate city e.g. San Francisco and then search for your restaurant by name.

We will review all the entries that meet our criteria by April 21st and come back with a winner. So how about it? It's all pretty straight-forward, but here's the fine print if you need details.

That's it for now! Thank you for supporting LikeStream and keeping those reviews coming.

Don and Shirish (Co-founders)