Category Archives: Eating my feelings and paying for it

I’m Dreaming of a Malaysian Christmas…

When I found out that I was pregnant, the first thing I decided to do was renovate my apartment. I’d been talking about it since my husband and I bought it 3 years ago, but we never got around to it. Actually, I told my husband that I didn’t want to move into my apartment in the middle of nowhere upper east side unless there was an awesome kitchen and a washer/dryer in unit to tempt me, and he said, “No problem! This apartment doesn’t have any of that and it’s almost a mile from the subway. But don’t worry because it’s a deal and we’ll renovate to make it what we want!” And then every time I asked him about it after we moved in, he said, “Oh yeah, sure sure, we have to do that. I’ll ask around.” … … … That’s the sound of crickets chirping and classic husband inaction. So, jacked up on pregnancy hormones and all-day morning sickness (that’s how we do in the disaster world), I found my own badass contractor (plug for Paul O’Hare – best damn contractor in the world) and as I like to say, “gilded my upper east side cage.”

And I managed to cook some incredible meals for the 1 month I had before my water broke while I was googling “what does a contraction feel like?” Since then (3 months) I basically use my kitchen to make eggs in the morning. I did make Thanksgiving, which felt fantastic although it was dairy free because my son has colic and dairy seems to aggravate it… It was pretty tasty, but a truckload of cream and butter would have really made that meal. I now do takeout at least every other day, which is nothing new to the Upper East Side where very few people seem to actually cook. And yet, with all these takeout aficionados up here, the diversity and quality of takeout choices is lacking! There are some good ones that I will touch on soon (like my Cafe Evergreen weekend dim sum brunches), but there are also some dogs.

My Asian roots are crying for some spice! While my son is napping this morning (thank every deity in the book for that little piece of good fortune), I’ve been looking through my old pics of food and drooling. And right now, it’s a little Malaysian goodness that’s got my mouth watering and counting the days until my son is decently immunized so I can strap him to my torso and make the hike to Chinatown!

New Malaysia sits in an alley, behind another restaurant, right off Bowery, and yet STILL the place is always packed. My friend told me that it was a must try after scoffing at my recommendation of Nyonya on Grand St for Malaysian cuisine. I still enjoy Nyonya, which I like to think is just an acronym for “New York O’ New York-ah,” but it just doesn’t compare to New Malaysia.

My first craving is for a little Roti Canai – the same, delicious, but softer and doughier version of the Kati Roll wrapper served alongside a delicious chicken curry dipping sauce. Red curry spiciness with sweet and rich coconut milk perfectly balance the mild, flaky, and just a tad sweet roti. This is like buttering a croissant and dipping it in chocolate sauce… Asian style. There’s never enough roti to finish off your entire curry dipping bowl, so I always eye around the table to see who’s eating slowly or maybe even dieting so I can scare them into forking over a piece of their roti. It was easy while pregnant – who’s going to deny a pregnant woman food? Only a really bad person would do that – you know who you are. Another proven method of scaring food away from people is showing them your triceps cellulite and then explaining that you didn’t used to have those dangling sacks of fat before eating whatever it is you’re trying to weasel away from them. Unfortunately, my dining partners usually just ignore me and use their arms to circle their plates defensively.

My only complaint is why is the roti so damn small for such a generous portion of chicken curry? Not the time to be stingy here...

Up close and personal with flaky goodness

Next up are crispy and chewy fried and dried anchovies in Malaysian belecan sauce… because what’s yummier with your little bits of fishy goodness than some funky shrimp paste and chili seasoning? Nothing. This is one of those dishes that I think helps you figure out whether or not you’re going to get along with someone, like a good blind date dish. You’re either the type of person that looks these little fishies in their eyes, takes a deep whiff of that Chinatown back alley funk and thinks, “Awwwww yeahhhhh, I gotta get me some of this” or you’re that “other” type of person that I don’t usually associate with unless forced to. You know, the type of person that won’t eat anything with eyes or that smells a little fishy… the type of person that you usually catch grimacing and wrinkling their nose as they tiptoe through chinatown holding their pant legs up so they don’t step in anything… the type of person that I literally can’t talk to for more than 5 minutes without antagonizing in some way while my husband grabs my hand under the table, silently begging me not to make another food enemy the way I alienated his second cousin by telling her that Magnolia cupcakes taste like a combination of chalk and dirt, mashed together into a dry cupcake shape, iced with the overly sweet taste of sellout. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, you either like these little umami bites tossed with more umami goodness, complimented with sweet and tangy barely-cooked red onion crunchiness, or you’re a culture-hating nazi. Ok, maybe not a nazi, but we would not get along…

Fried dried anchovies in a shrimp paste sauce - like tasting Chinatown... in a good way.

If you can't eat this dish because the anchovy is staring at you, stop reading this post and this blog. Never come back.

Just keep swimming through your meal, because we’ve got bigger fish to fry… literally. You know what was shocking about my first time eating fish in a non-Asian restaurant when I was a teenager? The fact that the fish came on my plate vs. being served family style and also that its head was missing. No fish head? But then who gets to eat the fish eyeball? Listen, I know – you don’t have to be a nazi to not want to eat a fish eyeball. I will give you that. But all I’m saying is that a fish eyeball is pretty damn good. It has the texture of a stale gum ball – really chewy – but the flavor of really light but savory fish jerky. I’m not selling it, am I? It’s like durian – Westerners can’t stand the smell, but it doesn’t bother me at all because it smells like durian, which is delicious. At New Malaysia, order yourself any of their whole fishes, either fried or steamed. I like the deep-fried red snapper in jawa sauce. What is jawa sauce? It’s delicious. I kept asking the waiter and he would answer by pointing at the sauce on the fish. It’s like asking “who’s on first?” What is jawa sauce? It’s the sauce that comes with the deep-fried red snapper. I kept asking, he kept repeating that answer until I asked him if I was being punked and he just stared at me blankly. I googled it later and Jawa is an Indonesian island so I’m guessing jawa is not an ingredient, but just refers to the style of sauce.  All I can say is that this dish is damn delicious – the sauce has a meaty savoriness to it that’s so perfect with the crispy snapper skin underneath and the pale, juicy, flaky flesh.  It’s like wearing a perfectly cut and draped, sleeveless velvet cocktail dress to a holiday party.  At least I think it is – I usually show up at holiday parties in jeans with at least 3 shots of Don Nacho tequila warming my system.  Not anymore, though, cuz I’m a mom!  So don’t call social services on me just yet, people!

Do you choose the red snapper? Or what's in the box? If you get the movie reference, I heart you.

Can someone PLEASE tell me what's in the jawa sauce???

I hope your holidays were as delicious as possible!  I actually lucked out and my parents roasted and brought 2 ducks to my apartment this year, complete with potatoes and asparagus sautéed in duck fat and some sticky and wild rice stuffing that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  All I had to do was make some buttery smooth yukon gold mashed potatoes, an apple tart, and a deep dish caramel pumpkin pie… and those little tasks took FOREVER as my son decided to feast on his holiday meals every 1.5 hours:)

Stay tuned for my next post all about CHAMPAGNE!  Good news is that I’m back off the wagon, but the bad news is that I can only have 1 glass a day.  I know, some of you are shaking your heads and saying “I only have one glass a day because I’m uptight, blah blah blah” and judging me.  Well don’t.  Anyhoo, when you can only drink one glass a day, you reallllllly learn to pick and choose what it is you’re sipping.  So I called in a favor and picked my Christie’s wine expert friend’s brain for her top 5 picks under $50!  Let’s hope that my baby gives me the opportunity to post again before the New Year!

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Bless me father for I have sinned…

…it has been many weeks since my last blog entry.  And my last blog entry was a bit of a cheat since it 1) had nothing to do with food, 2) had no text in the body and, 3) was just a picture of our fiberglass shark, Frank, wrapped in Christmas lights.

Urging me into confession today are several of my former classmates from my FCI Blogging Class that got me into this whole mess to start with.  Under the tutelage of Blog Deity Steven Shaw, our merry band of Eat & Tell-aholics became real life bloggers, supporting each other’s daily posts with both feedback and love.  We were masters of the compliment sandwich: “I loved the picture of your pet shark; I wasn’t exactly sure what that had to do with food?; you really did a great job wrapping lights around his hammer-head.”  It was almost a year ago that we started this adventure together and I hear through the grapevine that a new class is about to start next month.  It has me nostalgic.

I was once a blogging machine, posting everyday to not just this blog, but the Cooking Issues blog.  Then something happened – I hit 100 posts and thought, “Ahhh, well now I deserve a break!”  In my free time, I got a job at Murray’s Cheese, and then I picked up another job at Murray’s Cheese while neglecting to give my old job away!  What a brilliant idea!  (If you missed the boatload of sarcasm there, I have only myself to blame for not keeping you seasoned to my typarcasm)

Well, it’s a new year, I’ve got a new job, and hell, it’s time for a new me!  (Yup, there it is again)  I’m going to start blogging again and I promise to blog every… er… um…  well, let’s just start with month for now and I’ll work back up?  Since my life consists of being at Murray’s, a lot of my posts (in the near-term) will probably be about cheese.  Cheese, chocolate, and some form of meat.  I might throw a vegetable in here or there just for good measure – something like a fondue-smothered piece of asparagus.  Or a waffle fry covered in fluorescent cheese and sprinkled with pickled jalapeno…  Still counts in my book!

So to kick off the new year, I’m going to tell you all about a little shop in London called Neal’s Yard Dairy.  And by little, I mean ICONIC.  I would love to say that Murray’s is the American version of Neal’s Yard, but we just are not there yet.  Neal’s Yard is THE affineur and essentially distributor/exporter of English Cheeses.  This week, the American Sales team of Jason Hinds & Raef Hodgson were kind enough to stop in at Murray’s and teach a class for us all about “The Territorials,” English cheeses that all made in a similar style that helps to really boost the acidity in cheeses.  Sometimes that acidity can be called “sharpness,” but it’s basically mouth-watering, tangy-good stuff.  These cheeses are more hearty and refreshing than funky and lingering.  They’re the type of cheeses that you imagine sitting in at least a 2lb chunk in a cool, country kitchen on a well-worn butcher’s block, waiting for someone in a chunky, cable-knit sweater to come in and hack a piece off with a mottled knife and throw it with a hunk of bread into a handkerchief before heading outside to brave the misty, English countryside.

Yes.  You’re right.  Perhaps I have seen one-too-many BBC soap operas.  Actually, it’s really more like I grew up watching one-too-many episodes of Two Fat Ladies (one day, I truly hope to be the fat one in the sidecar – she had the best gig in the world).  Regardless, cheese has a way of transporting you and helping you travel around the world from the comfort of your kitchen table (read: my couch with a plate on my stomach, 1/4 lb of cheese, and a paring knife).  You can TASTE the land, the rain, the care that goes into a good artisanal cheese and that’s magical.  It’s nothing short of experiencing that moment in Ratatouille (yes, the cartoon – that IS the type of blog you are reading) when Ego, the food critic, takes a bite of ratatouille and is immediately transported back to his mother’s kitchen.  Except instead, for Americans such as myself that grew up without easy access to artisan cheese, you’re transported to places that you’ve visited, read about, or watched on the old boob tube.

Jason & Raef spoke about how cheeses such as Caerphilly were made for coal miners and were designed into a thick format with delicious acidity, ripening into mushroomy gooeyness near the rind, in order to provide a good meal for miners who essentially ate at their desks… Imagine if your desk were deep underground and covered in coal dust?  I think you’d like a good bit of tangy cheese, too.  Having never been to a coal mine, I still adore Caerphilly and consider it one of my favorite cheeses.  It’s like being served a giant, homemade slice of savory cake – its driest, crumbly cake layer in the center being lemony and bright, melding into the outer cake layers that have been softened (ripened) into earthy unctuousness the way that a heavily frosted cake becomes sticky where the cake and frosting meet.

Basically, the cheese is DAMN good.  And when Jason & Raef came, they brought some with them for us to use in class!  Sadly, I don’t have  a picture of it because I ate most of what wasn’t plated for students.  And by most of it, I do mean ALL of it.  Down to the rind, it’s a fabulous cheese that I could eat 1/2 lb at a time.  What???  Don’t judge!  What I was able to grab a picture of is 2.6 lbs of Red Leicester…  the reason is that I am currently in possession of 2.6 lbs of Red Leicester!!!  Awwwwww yeahhhhhhhh!  That, my friends, is what I call a “cheese haul.”  Direct from Neal’s Yard in London (but available at Murray’s as well), it’s made from raw cow’s milk and legend has it is one of the oldest cheese-styles in existence.  Sure, it looks like cheddar, and it does have the nice acidity that a good cheddar has, but there’s something unique and distinctive about the lemony, citrus flavor that is wrapped in this incredible, cut-grass earthiness, and beautiful nutty-finish.  It’s got a crumbly, yet smooshable texture and is apparently great toasted up according to Raef, who happens to also be the son of Neal’s Yard Dairy’s owner, Randolph Hodgson.  As an aside, I’ve nicknamed him “Cheesus,” for he is the son of the Cheese God.

Cheese Haul: 2.6 lbs of Red Leicester

English cheeses are almost like pastries to me.  They’re so pleasing.  Something about the way the acidity cuts savoriness, the brightness of the cheese that makes the milk really come through, and the lack of intense pungency makes it satisfying in the way that a beautiful, not too sweet, panna cotta does.  This 2.6lb clothbound confection is going to be my dessert for quite sometime if I keep it wrapped in cheese paper in my vegetable drawer… Well, knowing me, it will at least keep me satisfied for the next week.

Thanks for reading and for the occasional, “Where the hell are you?” email:)  Happy belated 2010!

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8 Days a Week, I love me some Salumeria Rosi

When I still had my head deep in the FCI Food Technology dungeons, I had the pleasure of fighting for burner space with Alexis & Aaron of Salmueria Rosi.  I could always count on these two kitchen angels to lift my spirits with delectable Italian treats.  I would respond in kind by passing on 100 proof, bubbly cocktails.  They were at FCI developing recipes for Cesare Casella’s “new place” at the time.  That new place turned out to be Salumeria Rosi, open for almost a year now, and for almost a year now it’s been my go-to place for “small” plates of delicious Italian happiness.

The stunning ambience may keep you from appreciating how beautiful this place is in its simplicity.  Half of the store is a counter where you can order salumi, cheese, and pre-made Italian takeaway items.  The other half is elegant, modern dining perfumed with fresh rosemary sprigs tucked gently into crisp white, cloth napkins, serving appetizer-sized portions of modern-rustic deliciousness.  No droplets on plates.  No negative space.  Yet as you can see, the colors of the food itself are stunning.  Pictures can’t capture how much flavor is in each bite, though, and let me tell you, flavor is king here (right under Cesare himself).

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One of the best things that came with switching careers is not just becoming a better cook, but meeting incredible chefs who have that “gift” – it’s that ability to see food and know exactly how to prepare it, how to season it, in order to elevate it into something more.  Cesare, Alexis & Aaron are those people.  It’s a luxury to be able to have a place where you know that nothing served to you will ever be under-seasoned, under-cooked, under-loved.  It’s about more than just a delicious menu with fabulous Bresaola (which I can thank SR for making me obsessed with), it’s knowing that anything you order is going to be fail-proof.

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I always end up ordering with my eyes and not my stomach.  I think “small plate” and forget that 8 bread-and-butter plates make far more than one entrée-sized one.  Yesterday, I left my rain-soaked trek and was welcomed into Salumeria Rosi by a delicious bowl of Chicken & Parmesan broth with a poached egg and proscuitto.  It’s a little like heaven in a bowl, light in texture but rich in flavor.  I could literally eat it everyday (and kinda wish I were eating it right now).

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Our server, Rebecca, recommended that my friend Eunice and I try the anchovy-marinated broccoli.  I have a rule – if someone swears by it, you have to order it.  That rule’s definitely bitten me in the ass before, but not this time around.  Tender, chilled broccoli that burst into tangy, saltiness when bitten.  It reminds me of something I love that may sound odd, but trust me, it’s delicious: Chinese sautéed broccoli the next day — it’s cold, tender, and marinated.  Absolutely fantastic.  Salumeria Rosi’s version is spot on, but leaves out the greasiness.

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The basil & zucchini farrotto topped with thin slices of toasted almond was vivid and bright in both color and flavor.  How do you make cooked farrotto or risotto taste like you grew it in a garden?  Apparently, the answer is an incredible pesto that screams fresh basil with every bite.  The almost slices were genius – the natural, faint nuttiness of the farrotto is elevated by the crunchy almonds in such a decadent way.

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The capstone on an incredible meal was what I can only describe as Italian ratatouille.  Please don’t take away my francophile status, but damn, this version wins, hands-down.  I couldn’t finish all the perfectly tangy & savory zucchini, tomato goodness there, so I took some home and immediately started munching on it when I made it across the park and into my apartment.  As it cooled, this hint of spiciness came through that was absolutely illuminating.  I actually stopped, put the lid back on the takeaway container, and managed to control myself enough to save some for my husband.

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So please, friends, please make the trip to Salumeria Rosi if you have not already and then visit again and again.  I have an evil plot whereby Salumeria Rosi does so well on the Upper West Side that I can convince them to open up a second shop across the park a little closer to 1st Ave.  They deserve your patronage, but more than anything, don’t I deserve more dining options up here on the lonely UES???  Yes, I’m selfish.  No, I don’t care.  It’s a wash.

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Slow your Kati roll

I think I have Food OCD.  I go on food binges where I become obsessed with a particular dish or food item and crave it every second of everyday for weeks on end, sometimes even months.  Eventually, my cravings are satisfied enough that I can find a way to take it out of daily rotation… and put it into weekly or monthly instead.  Right now as I sit on my couch like the giant saddle bag with legs that I am, all I can think about is my new favorite lunch food – kati rolls from where else, Kati Rolls in the West Village.  (Oh, FYI – all these pics were taken with my iPhone!  And yes, there’s definitely a little Kati Roll left on my iPhone screen… and no, I didn’t consider licking the deliciousness off of it… who would do that???)

IMG_0055.JPGYou know what the problem with New York is?  An abundance of bad food choices.  You can throw a stone here and hit a bland place to eat, then have that same stone ricochet off that bland restaurant and hit at least 8 more that are even worse.  All I want to know is what’s wrong with seasoning?  Huh?  What’s wrong with salt?  If it weren’t for salt, I’d pass out several times a day… without the aid of alcohol.  Salt is delicious!!!  I promise!  Here’s my suggestion if your family has a history of eating bland foods: take one for the team and start introducing flavor into your diet now.  Sure, you may suffer the long-term health repercussions, but your children and your children’s children will thank you.  They’ll eventually evolve and adapt until, like me, they have a medical need for flavor or else they will pass out from blandness poisoning!  While the decor inside Kati Roll is simple as can be, the flavor that is pulsing out of this joint is anything but bland.

Flavor makers.  Flavor makers with a smile.

Flavor makers. Flavor makers with a smile.

Kati rolls are a good way to start.  Indian flatbreads (paratha) are toasted up on a skillet and then rolled and filled with ridiculously flavorful grilled, marinated chicken, beef, potato mix, paneer, egg, or some combination those with thin slices of red onion.  The toasted paratha alone are a delicious treat – it’s the perfect balance of slightly chewy and almost flaky with the very slight taste of tangy yeastiness.

Toasted, tasty, obsession-worthy paratha.

Toasted, tasty, obsession-worthy paratha.

Truly, one roll is plenty for lunch…  Unfortunately, because these damn things are so tasty, I always order two because I can never decide between my favorites: the marinated, grilled Chicken Roll or the spicy, tangy Aloo Masala Roll.  Two warm rolls wrapped in foil and served on a paper plate.  It’s not winning any plating points but I’ll gladly give up a visual show for warm, slightly sweet paratha wrapped around spicy, well-seasoned meat or potatoes with fresh, tangy onion slices.

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Hello delicious Chicken Roll.

Hello delicious Chicken Roll.

The only other roll I’ve tried so far is the paneer roll – also delicious, just not as delicious in my opinion.  Eventually, when I do tire of my obsession, maybe I can find a way to try other rolls.  Besides, with a menu like this, you kind of feel obligated to try every picture shown:

IMG_0045.JPGYou know what’s a terrible idea?  Blogging about the food that you’re obsessed with when you don’t have any access to it… and staring at pictures of it at the same time.  Probably one of my worst ideas yet, right after that time I tried to make a kale smoothie.  Don’t ask.  So one last picture for my self-inflicted kati roll torture to leave us all drooling with spicy aloo desire:

Aloo happiness.

Aloo happiness.

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Beat me or eat me!

No, I’m not trying to make my blog post titles more feisty and suggestive, I’m just quoting the t-shirt that I donned yesterday in an attempt to promote The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment while also interviewing contestants and spectators.  Sadly, I neglected to take pictures or sample all of the contestants’ dishes.  Instead, I’m going to defer to the good people at the Village Voice who covered the event in detail.

The 30-second rundown is this: cooks prepped, they came, they served, some conquered, and all laughed themselves to pieces at the cheese & grapefruit+vodka cocktail party.  Quick note: grapefruit vodka doesn’t really pair well with a particularly garlicky camembert.  That’s an aftertaste that just won’t quick.  My favorite dish, even if she weren’t my favorite competitor, belonged to Bonnie Suarez.  Her three cheese spicy cracker with a chilled tomato-ricotta soup chaser put CHEESE in the forefront and didn’t relegate it to a side flavor.  If you adhere to Iron Chef judging guidelines, then you know that if you luck out and your secret ingredient is cheese instead of something like a gingko nut, you count your damn blessings and make your dish all about the cheese.

After the after party, a mass gathering headed to Lucky Eight restaurant in Borough Park Brooklyn – my first time dining in both this incredible Chinese restaurant and this neighborhood in general.  Well, I was immediately stopped and asked for directions in Chinese which is funny because a) I’d never been there before and b) I don’t speak Chinese.  I used my handy iPhone to help communicate directions and even drew my newfound Chinese friend a little map to where she was going.  After dinner, we had to call for car service to get home as there don’t seem to be any taxis roaming about in Brooklyn outside of Williamsburg.  Here’s a little tip – if you ask a Chinese restaurant for the number a good car service and they nod, write down a number, but never really acknowledge you in English, chances are that your car service is going to be a multilingual experience.  Once again, my iPhone bridged the great divide and Chris and I managed to get home safe and sound.

Today, however, I am trying to get over what seems to be the onset of a mild flu.  My weapons of choice in this immune battle are gummy bear vitamins by the handful.  Let’s hope it’s not the swine flu…

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Calling all cheese curds!

If you read this post before 10PM on Saturday, you probably noticed the plethora of typos… you can thank my lack of iPhone typing skills for that.

Just a quick reminder to buy your tickets for tomorrow’s Brooklyn Cheese Experiment! If you don’t like cheese, beer, or good food in general, feel free to stay home…

Instead of my usual napkin rolling, I’m going to be helping out in a different way this year. My friend’s father, the iconic food commercial director and Greenwich restaurant mogul, will be filming the event and making a documentary about food competitors and spectators, and what makes our generation gather together in the middle of Brooklyn to go cheese wild. I will be the mic girl, walking around and interviewing everyone. Well, at least it’s not live, so there’s time to edit me down into something coherent. On my blog, I usually just use the backspace button like it’s going out of style.

Come mock my interviewing skills and watch as the camera add a cinnamon roll to each side of my face. Brooklyn Cheese Experiment! 1pm tomorrow at The Bell House!

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Well, well, well… Guess who added a poached egg to their ramen…

So Ippudo FINALLY added an egg that doesn’t have a green ring around its yolk.  I was surprised today when I ordered my usual Akamaru Modern (after a 45 minute wait at 6:15 PM) with an egg and was asked which egg I wanted: hard-boiled or poached.  Holy pork fat, Batman, I want the poached egg!

Um, big mistake.  Huge.  While it seemed like a great idea in theory, it just wasn’t executed well.  There were three of us and we basically had the Goldilocks scenario of poached eggs.  My friend Annette had one where the white was too runny and my friend Angela’s egg was nicely poached but cold in the center.  My egg was an interesting mix of a semi-firm half-custard yolk and that was all.  I literally had no whites, just a floating yellow orb of yolk hanging out in my bowl.  Most likely, Ippudo is now circulating eggs (aka “slow poached) and someone in the back is not re-therming them to a warm temperature for service and hasn’t gotten the hang of cracking the egg without damaging the fragile whites.

just a yolk.

just a yolk.

The other surprise is that the rich custardy yolk makes the broth TOO RICH.  It becomes almost uncomfortably slippery.  Who knew that the already rich and decadent tonkotsu broth could be made TOO rich and decadent.  I wouldn’t have believe it possible unless I had tasted it myself.  It overwhelmed the normally amazing, rigid noodles.

So in the end, jokes on me… I actually prefer a marinated, hard-boiled sulfer egg to the slow-poached option.

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