Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wine Dinner at Barbrix

Ever since its opening in May, I've been a huge fan of Barbrix in Sliverlake. The food and service are superb. And they always have the great vibe. No wonder it's always so packed! I love it so much and I always have such a happy time there.

Tonight was another fantastic evening at Barbrix with fantastic wines. I got together with wine friends and opened some very nice Burgundy wines.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
2003 Michel-Colin Deleger, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, "La Truffiere"... it was my wine. Light golden color. Very floral, butter, mineral, and honey suckle. Palate was so pure and minerally. Lemon curd, spice from oak. Long finish. So beautiful and great!

2000 Billaud-Simon, Chablis Grand Cru, "Vaudesir"...Golden color. Slight advanced nose. Rich ripe pear and citrus. No oak is used. Rich fruit was balanced with the high acidity and dry palate.

2002 Domaine Raymond Launay, Latricieres-Chambertin, Grand Cru...Ruby color. Aroma of brown sugar, dark berries. Fresh and meaty palate, steak tartare, spice. High acid. Nice balance. This wine can age many more years.

2004 Domaine Georges Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny...I've had the same wine before, so I was glad I got it right when tasted it blind! Dark ruby color. Floral aroma. Berries, animal, brown sugar on the palate. high acidity. Elegant.

2006 Domaine Bachelet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes...Dark berry, mocha, earthy on the nose. Very rich and complex on the palate.

1999 Domaine Humbert Frere, Gevrey-Chambertin, 1er Cru "Pouissenot"...Only 500-600 bottles are produced. Humbert brothers are cousins of Bernad Duga-Py. Traditionalist. Soft leather, dry fruit, on the nose. Palate is mellow with ripe berry and meat. Beautiful.

1998 Dr. Loosen, Erdener Pralat, Riesling-Auslese...Among the finest vineyards from Mosel. All south-facing. Candy fruit, honey, earth on the nose. Very rich fruit was balanced with high acid and minerality.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Best Ramen in California?

We often drive down to Torrance/ Gardena on Saturdays mornings to go to Torrance Farmers' Market, Meiji Tofu, Marukai, and then do brunch at Otafuku. That's our normal routine, but today, instead of Otafuku, we decided to drive down to check out Ramen California (24231 Crenshaw Blvd. #C) after the farmers' market.

This is a brand new ramen house by Chef Shigetoshi Nakamura, who is one of the most famous ramen chefs in Japan. It's his first US restaurant and where he is making an experimental attempt to create "California" style ramen.

I had their signature California Ramen (with addition of chicken) and was totally blown away!! It was truly amazing, and it's beyond fusion or ramen. I thought the ramen was a masterpiece of culinary art. The toppings consist of 20+ different kinds of organic vegetables. The chicken broth was so deep and complex. And the organic homemade noodles had the perfect texture.

My husband had the Masala Curry Ramen (with addition of chicken) and he loved it, too.


Kurobuta Pork Shabu Shabu

I love my donabe life. We did easy and healty shabu shabu with donabe at home the other night. I got the nice kurobuta pork slices, so it was a kurobuta shabu shabu night!

First thing you want to do is to get the dashi ready. For shabu shabu, you put a large piece of dashi konbu (dried kelp for dashi stock) with water in donabe. The kelp expands really wide once it's reconstituted. Ideally, for the better broth, you want to soak it for about 2 hours. But, if you don't have time, 30 minutes of soaking is fine. Then, you can put the donabe over portable burner at the table over medium-heat. Once the broth is close to boiling, remove the konbu.

Photobucket Photobucket
While heating the broth, I prepared the ingredients for dipping. I took very short time. I got the kurobuta pork slices, and thinly shredded daikon radish, carrots, scallion, and white shimeji mushrooms.

I normally serve two kinds of dipping sauces for shabu shabu to enjoy variation. Tonight was ginger-miso sauce, and salt ponzu.

Photobucket Photobucket
Once everything is ready on the table, it was time to start cooking. I first put the vegetables, followed by the pork. Once pork was cooked, I took both the meat and vegetables together and dipped in the sauce.

The end of the meal was zosui (Japanese-style soup risotto)! After cooking so much meat and vegetables, the broth becomes so rich in flavor, so it's always nice to take advantage of it and cook the rice or noodles in it at the end of the meal. I seasoned the broth with a little amount of soy sauce and salt, then put the cooked rice and eggs. Then, let it cook with the lid on.

Photobucket Photobucket
After a few minutes, there was a wonderful zosui.

I posted the recipe on toiro's website.

What a delicious meal with donabe!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wine dinner at Palate

Tonight was a celebration of my friend's 10-year business anniversary. We opened some really nice wines to celebrate at Palate Food + Wine. Here's tonight's list.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
1990 Dom Perignon...Golden amber color. Aroma of baguette, hay, earthy mineral. Soft elegant mousse, yet it still has the fresh dryness. Holding so well and balanced.

1998 Paul Pernot, Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru "Les Pucelles"... Pucelles is a vineyard next to Batard-Montrachet and Bienvenues Batard-Montrachet. Golden color. After 20+ minutes in the glass, the wine started to open up with the aroma of orange peel, honey, almond, very round and juicy with the noticablle acidity. Butter and spice on the palate. Very complex and there was so much goin on!

2003 Etienne Sauzet, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Les Perrieres"...Pale golden color. It finally started to open up after almost 30 minutes in the glass. Tons of minerals! Mint and butter on the nose, ripe fruit on the palate. Clean acidity. Long finish. Very elegant.

1998 Pierre Gimonet et Fils, Champagne Brut...(no picture was taken). Same wine as we had last Friday. This was equally beautiful. Soft and elegant mousse.

2001 Domaine de Comtes Lafon, Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu...This comes from the vineyard in Meursault. Vines are 30-60+ years old. Lush aroma of cherries and dark berries. Minerals like iron. Subtle spicy character. Long finish.

1998 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Santo Stefano, Riserva...Giacosa's "red" label! His riserva is made only in the great years. The wine showed the beautiful dry fruit and rosy characters after a couple of hours in the decanter. Very dry but soft tannin. Intense acid. Really pure texture with the very complex flavor.

2000 Alfredo Roagna, Barbaresco, Paje (Chinato)....This was enjoyed with the dessert. Chinato is an Italian fortified wine which is made with 10+ kinds of herbs and spices with a spirit which are added to Barbaresco (Barolo Chinato is also famous). The aroma of herbs, medicinal character. Mellow. Very sweet.

Photobucket Photobucket
It was a fantastic evening. The food at palate was great as always, too.

Yaki-imo with Donabe

"Yaki-imo" means the roasted whole Satsuma-imo (Japanese sweet potato). Japanese people, especially women including myself, love yaki-imo. I was so thrilled when I found out that you can make the really tasty yaki-imo with "Fukkura-san", which is the tagine-style donabe (clay pot).

All I had to do was basically just put the whole satsuma-imo in the tagine-style donabe (with the grate) and cook over medium-heat for about 1 hour. You don't even need to rotate it during cooking.

The result was outstanding. The interior had the ideal sweet density and I just couldn't stop eating. It was also great with the butter. Aaaah. It's my guilty pleasure.

I posted the recipe on toiro's website.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Let's Make Dashi with Donabe

While dashi (Japanese stock) is the essense of Japanese cooking, it's not well-understood by majority of non-Japanese people. The quality of dashi determins the quality of the dish you make. Making dashi might be considered as something "very foreign" and difficult for non-Japanese people, but it's actually easy to make the very good dashi at home!

The most important thing to know about making good dashi is to use the good ingredients.
Dashi can be made with just Konbu (dried kelp), Katsuo-bushi (dried shaved bonito flakes), Niboshi (dried small fish), Hoshi-Shiitake (dried shiitake mushrooms) etc., or combination of ingredients.

Instead of making dashi with a single ingredients, by combining ingredients ("Awase-Dashi"), the "Umami" (savory flavor) components can multiply significantly. For example, instead of making dashi with only konbu, if you make it with konbu and dried fish (flakes), the umami component grows 7.5 times more. If dashi is made with konbu and dry shiitake, the umami components will be 30 times more than the straight konbu dashi!

These are my standard dashi ingredients. I brought them back from Japan. The left is mixed dried fish (mackerel, sardine, and round-herring) by the company called Uneno, from Kyoto, Japan. Recently, I found out that Nijiya Market in LA carries the same product! There are other high-quality dried fish flakes (most common kind is bonito flakes) you can find at Japanese market or specialty stores in the US, too. On the right is dashi konbu (dried kelp for dashi). I use the konbu from Hokkaido. You can find high-quality konbu from Hokkaido and other Japanese regions at Japanese markets in the US, too.

On the side note, if you want to find a short-cut to make a good dashi, there is a good alternative. There are dashi bags (like tea bags). You can simply heat the water and dashi bag together to infuse. There are different kinds (different ingredients) made by different producers. You want to choose the high quality kind made with no additives. When I'm in a hurry, I use dashi bags also made by Uneno from Kyoto, Japan. It's a mixture of konbu, shiitake, and bonito flakes, which are all natural with no additives. It's so easy and the result is a very fine dashi! I also recently found that this can be found at Nijiya Market chain in LA.

Back to making dashi from scratch...Another very important fact is, for Japanese dashi, you want to use the soft water, instead of hard (mineral) water. Harder mineral water (most common in Western countries) is more suitable for Western-style stocks. I normally use filtered water to make dashi or rice, but if you want the best result, bottled soft mineral water is preferred. Volvic is soft, but Evian is harder and Vittel is even harder.

In toiro's website, I posted the recipe for "Awase-Dashi" (combination dashi) of Kombu and Fish Flakes. This is my home's standard dashi. So, please check out toiro's website.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
In this recipe, I use the Classic-style Donabe, "Hake-me".

Once you made dashi, it's perishable and you can keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days.

With the freshly made dashi, I prepared a very simple Kyoto-style "Kake-Udon", which means simple soup udon. A simple dish like this can best showcase the true flavor of dashi. It was sublime. This recipe can be found on toiro's website, too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Easy Delicious Smoke with Donabe

Cooking with different kinds of donabe is always so much fun. I can find so many different recipes for delicious dishes.

This time, I did smoking with the tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san". I never thought making smoked dishes would be so easy and fun.

On one night, I got cod filets and chicken drummettes. These were simply seasoned with salt and pepper. Then, it was basically smoked over a handful of the smoke chips (I used hickory) and a tablespoon of coarse brown sugar.

With this donabe (tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san"), you don't have to worry about the big smoke coming out to fill the kitchen. You can only smell the nice aroma from the donabe. Left in the picture is "Fukkura-san". Right is the donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san", in which I was cooking rice at the same time.

Photobucket Photobucket
After 45 minutes, they were ready. Both the chicken and the fish were so juicy and wonderfully smokey. I served them with the cumin lime rice, which I made with the double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san".

Photobucket Photobucket
The following day, I smoked more chicken drummettes with some boiled eggs.

I've posted the complete recipe on toiro's website. Again, it's so easy!

I'm becoming so addicted to "smoking" now. I want to try with many different ingredients. It's my new hobby!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cumin Lime Rice

When I was just bored the other day, I came up with this recipe. This rice dish will be a great accompaniment for the summer BBQ meat, etc.

I made this dish with the double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san". It's very easy to make.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Cumin, garlic and onions are sauted with butter. Rice was added. It was cooked with the chicken stock and tomato sauce. To finish, I added the squeezed lime juice and lime rinds. I posted the recipe on toiro's website.

Summer is here!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Homemade Tofu with Donabe

I made tofu by using the classic-style donabe again.   It's so easy and tasting the freshly made homemade tofu is the best thing.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
All you need is the donabe (classic-style), a quart (1 liter) of pure soy milk, and 5 teaspoons of nigari liquid.  Then, cook the soy milk and nigari mixture slowly until done.

You can serve it right out of the donabe at the table ("sukui tofu"), but if you like to drain the liquid before serving for a little firmer style, you can use the strainer and cheesecloth to drain the liquid first.  Tonight, I did the latter way by letting the liquid drain for about 30 minutes, then served in a bamboo basket.  We call the fresh unshaped tofu in a bamboo basket "zaru tofu".

I had the tofu with some sesame sauce and sliced shiso leaves, and it was fantastic!!

You can find the tofu recipe on toiro's website.