What’s The Big Deal About Ramen?

Crowds gather early outside Totto Ramen in New York and by the time I took that picture I imagine the wait was an hour or longer. I like ramen as much as the next guy but I wouldn’t wait an hour for it. It’s a big bowl of soup with meat floating in it and noodles. I imagine a large majority of you shrinking back in horror at that sentence: “A big bowl of soup? With meat floating in it? And noodles? That’s like calling the Mona Lisa a bunch of oil paint slathered on a canvas!” Perhaps, but I understand why people line up to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, I don’t understand why people line up for ramen.

The Farewell New York Meals

Anthony Bourdain has said that, for his last meal, he’d want the roasted bone marrow with parsley salad that Fergus Henderson serves at his London restaurant, St. John.

It’s fitting then that, for my last meal as a New Yorker, there was that very same dish. Only it wasn’t prepped by Fergus Henderson; it was made by Gabrielle Hamilton at what’s come to be my favorite New York City restaurant, Prune.

Lucy’s Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies + Momofuku Milk Bar Cookies

I care about you, readers, and I don’t want you to go through this weekend without cookies. Everyone deserves cookies, especially on the weekend.

The cookies I’m going to tell you about may already be familiar to you. The first, Lucy’s Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, were cookies I told you about in December. Remember I went to a cookie party? And how I was assigned Pfeffernussen? And how my Pfeffernussen were a bit tough and unwieldy, but how the best cookies at the party–salty chocolate peanut butter cookies–were so good I tracked down the recipe for you? Well now I’ve made those cookies myself and they are still mind-bogglingly good.

Momofuku’s Ginger Scallion Noodles

Bow down before me, mortals, it’s time to face facts. David Chang is one of the most celebrated, important chefs in New York, right? Right. His cooking is hardcore and bad-ass isn’t it? It is. So what does it mean that a mere amateur like me, a tiny speck on the giant tapestry of New York gastronomy, not only created one of Chang’s signature dishes at home–his Ginger Scalllion Noodles–but that I did it so accurately? So triumphantly? So magnificently? It means, I surmise, that I am the King of Awesomeness! BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, YOU HEATHENS.

Momofuku Ko

If you live in New York and you’re a food blogger who writes about restaurants, it’s inevitable that, at some point, you must visit and write about Momofuku Ko, David Chang’s most celebrated and impossible-to-get-into restaurant. So many food bloggers, in fact, have visited Ko–among them, The Wandering Eater, Food in Mouth, The Girl Who Ate Everything–that the restaurant now has an official “no pictures” policy. This, I must admit, was a bit of a relief when I surprised Craig on Sunday, taking him there for his birthday; now I wouldn’t have to spend half the meal adjusting the aperture and manually focusing over plates of rapidly cooling food. For great pictures of dinners at Ko, click any of the links above. For a brief account of our time there, click ahead.

Lunch With Steven Shaw at Ippudo & Momofuku Milk Bar

On October 3rd, 2003, I shared my very first piece of food writing ever on a forum called eGullet. The post was called Charlie Trotter Superdud and it set off a storm of comments from hundreds of subscribers, some of whom were well known entities in the food world (Anthony Bourdain among them.)

After that happened, my friends told me I should start a food blog and that’s why this blog exists. So it’s quite clear that I owe something to eGullet and, more specifically, to its creator Steven Shaw. And yet we’d never met or had any contact until, years later, I met him at an offal tasting dinner at the Astor Center. Then we became Facebook friends. And, most recently, we met for lunch to talk about his new book, Asian Dining Rules.

Anatomy of a Dish: Momofuku’s Sugar Snap Peas

It’s difficult to improve upon a sugar snap pea. It’s nature’s candy: green, crunchy, juicy. It’s interactive: you peel away the thread and then throw it in your mouth. This spring, I became a sugar snap pea junkie–buying moundfuls at the farmer’s market and snacking on them all afternoon. The few times I cooked them, I sauteed them in olive oil or butter, sprinkled them with salt, a few grindings of pepper and called it a day. Sugar snap peas, like Lauren Ambrose, say, don’t need much enhancement. They’re beautiful as they are.

What’s a genius chef to do, then, to improve on something that needs little improvement? Enter David Chang. At Momofuku (the original) he’s serving a sugar snap pea appetizer that works beautifully. The peas are sauteed in miso butter (note the tan-colored pool at the bottom of the plate); topped with fresh grated horseradish and then thin slivers of radish. All of these components serve to enhance the sugar snap peas in ways, like good drama, that are both surprising and inevitable. In fact, I’d argue that this simple dish, a dish that doesn’t call too much attention to itself, showcases Chang’s talent in ways that his more elaborate dishes might not. It’s simple, it’s smart, and it’s seasonal. And it makes sugar snap peas taste better than they normally do which, at least according to this sugar snap pea enthusiast, is a feat worth celebrating.

Asian Penicillin

I have a stripper cold. I caught the cold from a friend who caught it from her boyfriend who caught it from a stripper. In addition to the night sweats and post-nasal drip, the pole-dancing is exhausting and if Annie Lennox’s “Little Bird” plays one more time I’m going to scream. At least the tips are good.

In the past, when I caught a cold, I headed straight to the East Village for my favorite cold remedy at the Second Avenue Deli. You can read about my last visit here. That last visit was truly a last visit: the 2nd Avenue Deli is no more. Their soup–the best chicken soup in the city, as far as I was concerned–was fragrant, potent, and completely curative: one sip and I’d automatically feel better. When it closed down, I grew deeply concerned about what I’d do if I caught a cold. Where would I go? What would I do?

The answer, surprisingly, was only one avenue away. There on 1st avenue is a soup just as potent, just as curative, and way more exotic. That soup belongs to David Chang, its served at Momofuku, and its listed on the menu as “Chicken Ramen.” The ramen, of course, refers to the noodles; but I’m here to praise the soup. Having made my own chicken stock before, I marvel at how miraculous Chang’s chicken broth is: it’s a deep golden color, it’s incredibly rich and it’s truly well-salted. One spoonful, and suddenly I started to question my allegiance to my own culture’s form of penicillin: do the Asians have the Jews beat? I’m not sure. But immediately I started to feel better, and now I know where to head the next time I get a stripper cold.

I’d say more, but Elizabeth Berkeley’s giving me the evil eye….

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