Category Archives: Restaurants

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen

Cider-Braised-Turkey-thighs-02

Cider-Braised Turkey Thighs

I first heard about the Sioux Chef about a year ago when I started following the Standing Rock posts in social media. For me, it’s been an awakening experience- seeing the world through the perception of the Indigenous Peoples of America. After following Standing Rock and the Tribes from North Dakota, I started seeing other Indigenous People from around the world differently. That missing element, the mysteries of the world’s peoples became clearer than I’ve ever known. I’ve always been drawn to different cuisines, native garments, languages, and travel- but for some odd reason I must confess, I’ve never liked American culture. America seemed to lack culture, despite it’s 200-year old history. It needed something beyond the surface.

Roasted-Duck-01

Sage and Rose-Hip Roasted Duck; Maple-Sage Roasted Vegetables; Wild Rice Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Chestnuts, and Dried Cranberries; Cranberry Sauce.

I’ve been rebellious against everything I’ve been taught for a reason- something was awfully wrong with the big picture. I finally found that missing element last year when I learned Thanksgiving is actually a celebratory feast of ransacking Native villages. It used to be celebrated all the time, throughout the entire year until Abraham Lincoln dismissed all the little Thanksgivings and turned it into a national holiday. I haven’t looked back since discovering this little secret and can’t help not getting as excited about Thanksgiving anymore. Instead, I prefer to celebrate the beauty of the Native cultures which brings me to introduce to you, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen cookbook authored by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley. Some of the ingredients were hard for me to source, so I remained to cooking the recipes with ingredients that are easier to find in my neck of the woods- Northern New Jersey. To my amazement, the recipes were easy, simple, and utilized a lot of the vegetables I’ve always used, except everything had an earthiness I haven’t sensed before. I can’t even begin to describe it- you can’t write it into words, it’s something you just sense. I recreated a Thanksgiving meal with a fresh killed duck ordered from Gofle Road Poultry Farm. The spices used include Juniper and Sage. Instead of cooking the traditional Colonial American Sweet Potatoes or Mashed Potatoes recipe, I made Wild Rice Pilaf. Here is where I started to recognize the Indigenous flavors of wilderness and fresh cranberries. The cranberry sauce from the cans and bottles seem rather profane compared to the fresh and natural hunters and gatherers version.

Amaranth-Crackers-07

Amaranth Crackers and a Bean dip I developed and made to accompany it.

At one point during this week long cookbook review process- I ventured outdoors to a nearby recreational park looking for acorns but to no luck, I was confronted by hissing squirrels and no acorn supply. I had amaranth in my pantry forever and never knew what to make with it. Here it is cooked (boiled) and then baked off in the oven for about an hour. The end result is a wholegrain cracker like you’ve never had before. I am seeing where the marriage of different cultures stems from after reading and cooking off some of these recipes. I envisioned the Indigenous tribes sharing the three sisters with the Colonists and enslaved Africans. I see the influence in Southern Cuisine, in Mexican cuisine, and throughout Latin American cuisines. It was an absolute delight to see the source of our cultural history and I can’t wait to discover more recipes in the future! You won’t find butter or cattle or even chicken recipes. You’ll find recipes based on the plants and animals that are Indigenous to America, just as they were before the mass immigration wave from Europe began. This cookbook will help you connect to where you’re living if you are here like I am, looking to find new ways of rediscovering your surroundings. For me this cookbook means more than a recipe collection. It’s a piece of America we’ve been longing for and missing. I’ve never felt more American than I do right now, embracing this Indigenous food with the native plants and wildlife that nourishes our bodies.

Summer-Vegetable-Soup-with-Wild-Greens-07

Summer’s Vegetable Soup with Wild Greens

The Sioux Chef is cooking off an Indigenous Feast at the Sioux Chef at James Beard House on October 27th. Tickets cost $135 for members and $170 for the general public. You can get a copy of the Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen cookbook via Amazon here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cookbook Reviews, Dinners at the James Beard House 2017, Recipes, Restaurants, Special Events, Spirit Cooking, Uncategorized

Ode to Kissena Blvd.

Lao Dong Bei girl

I was mesmerized by this cute girl the whole time we were there (from the moment I peered in)

My first dinner with the Insatiable Critic took place at Legend, a few blocks away from the bustling Chelsea Market. Although I’ve frequented many Chinese restaurants, I was no way whatsoever a pro at identifying any typical dishes. That was until I’ve befriended EthnoJunkie and Ling Tan.

Ling has taken me to a handful of dim sum and Malaysian restaurants in Chinatown. I owe my minute knowledge of dim sum to Ling, Szechuan to Gael Greene and Rich Sanders.

Since last year, I’ve gone to not one, or two, or three- but at least a dozen places with Gael. We were joined by TV/Film critics, book authors, and Citymeals patrons (you know- the ones with lots of mullah). I’ve played my part in the restaurant hopping adventures- taking everyone to my favorite Korean places scattered throughout NY (but that’s another story- I’ll write about the Korean stuff later on).

Our first Flushing adventure took place last year and we were led by none other than Rich Sanders who goes by the name: EthnoJunkie. He’s a fellow multi-tasker who’s a former music critic, a composer, holds a degree from Yale, and speaks about a dozen ethnic food languages. In other words- he may not be fluent in the language- but when it comes to food, he can get away with ordering what he wants, finding obscure ingredients in ethnic hoods, and can probably read the recipes in those foreign languages.

We visited the strip mall that used to be called Busy Bee’s back in the old days in Flushing and tasted what resembled large hand cut noodles immersed in cumin and lamb. Rich raved about this dish so much so- that I could’ve tasted the cumin all the way from New Jersey. I was underwhelmed (sorry Rich). The cumin got stuck somewhere in the back of my throat and I remember coughing some pepper and a noodle. I couldn’t stop overlooking to my right- where the Chinese vendors were hand -pulling noodles. I wanted to taste some of that- but we left all too soon- all underwhelmed.

Dining with Outlaws, Ethno Junkie, and Insatiable Critic Gael Greene with her posse of hot heads during our second Flushing dining adventure.

Dining with Outlaws (not pictured), EthnoJunkie, and Insatiable Critic Gael Greene with her posse of hot heads during our second Flushing adventure.

We discussed returning to Flushing many times after that first visit and alas the date finally arrived. I wished I drove a black SUV with tinted black windows (the ones where celebrities and politicians ride)- it would be so much cooler than the silver crossover Chrysler (a nice ride nonetheless). I didn’t expect what we were about to encounter, having been underwhelmed the week before at the China Café, MSG with sticky tables and all. How good can Flushing be? Is this worth the trip? I was skeptical too.

I do have a bit of a soft spot for Kissena Blvd. That’s the old route I used to take when I walked home from my elementary school down the block. As we pulled up to the locale- I scanned the area and got a severe case of flashback memories. It’s amazing how much one can remember from their childhood. Kissena Blvd means a lot more to me than a good meal (one that concludes what Szechuan food should really taste like no less).

Dear Kissena Blvd:

I love you and I hate you.

You helped me discover endless amounts of 25 cent wise potato chips, the deli ham and cheese on a roll with mayo, and dollar pizza when Italians were still rolling the dough. With five years of fifty cent Italian ices and juju candy from Walgreens I consumed instead of real food, not once- not until now did I discover what you truly have to offer.

I love you because you helped me discover American food, that includes everything that’s good and equally as bad. I hate you because I gained some massive weight (fifteen pounds = death to a teenage girl) as a result of eating those processed foods. I was naïve, I was young, and I trusted those packaged foods not only tasted great- but that they were actually good for you. Because of you Kissena Blvd., I spent an entire decade trying to undue what was done in just five short years living near you. I gave up meat during this time not knowing there are consequenses for doing that if you don’t know your body’s missing proteins. I hate you because I loved those processed foods so much that I couldn’t resist the urge to binge every weekend in my room full of junk food. I called myself a vegetarian without really eating any vegetables because they were simply too heavy and made me feel bloated. I was again naïve and none of it made any sense except that the forbidden foods made me feel weird. So Kissena Blvd., thank you for just being you. You didn’t know any better and neither did I. If it weren’t for you- I would’ve never discovered vegetables later on (with the help of the vegetarian haters I met at culinary school and the irony of becoming a vegetarian blogger for a year helped me with this process). I now love vegetables, so much so that I’m growing a garden full of my favorite ones.

It actually took about twenty years to undue (ten to undue/ ten to re-learn) what I discovered in flushing, on Kissena Blvd.

I recollect all the months I spent in our tiny Colden Street apartment where I cautiously experimented with ramen. Deconstructing the thing, crumbling its dry mixture, then mixing scrambled eggs, adding dried vegetables, sometimes cooking it once and often times twice to blanche out the oil. I eventually graduated by making ramen and rice balls finished off in the oven. Ramen was the first thing I ever cooked. That’s how I spent my days after school. An immigrant with working parents, alone in the kitchen, experimenting with what we had (not much of anything). I was eight years old and learned how to cook by experimenting.

A lifetime later- I can say my diet has come to a full circle. No more wise potato chips, occasional pizza and lots and lots of good ethnic food.

My parents eventually gave me twenty dollars to buy a cookbook. I didn’t know any good bookstores at that time so I got mine from Walgreens. By then I was 13, an eighth grader with a copy of Betty Crocker’s cookbook making my first Thanksgiving meal for our extended family.

We left Flushing shortly after that and I haven’t visited Kissena Blvd since. It’s amazing how fast 20 years can go by.

Dining with Outlaws loves the Green Bean Jelly Noodles with Bean Sprouts at Lao Dong Bei in Flushing NY

Green Bean Jelly Noodles with Bean Sprouts at Lao Dong Bei

While I was slurping through the Green Bean Jelly Noodles with Cucumbers and Bean Sprouts, I couldn’t help dissect the ingredients for a recipe. Luckily for me, our companion Ling served as the perfect translator and got Chef Li to spill out the recipe (at least most of it). Chef Li is an amazing man. He barely spoke any English- but his food spoke to us in our universal tongues: our stomachs. Our stomachs welcomed Chef Li. For me, this dish encompasses everything a noodle dish could be. It’s delicious, it’s refreshing, it’s not that heavy, and it’s very good for you except for the MSG that they put in there. In my perfect world, this green bean starch jelly noodle dish is my ramen reincarnated from a distant childhood. The chef and his wife duo are angels from my diet heaven who are now giving me answers to the ramen mysteries.

Dining with Outlaws tastes the Chinese Banchan at Lao Dong Bei

Radish and Hot Pepper starter (reminds me of Banchan)

They’ve also concluded that Flushing should not be a place where one discovers processed foods, but on the contrary- it’s rich diverse immigrant community has jewels to offer if you know where to look. The Szechuan food we had not only tasted great- but it was probably somewhat good for us too. If I could go back in time, I’ld explore Flushing’s immigrant establishments instead of the corner deli. I’ld trade in my juju candy for the lamb cumin that was cooked perfectly, as cumin on lamb should never be delivered in it’s fine ground form. It (seeds) should be perfectly toasted in a pan, married with black mustard seeds for a perfectly balanced bite. At least that’s the advise I got from Chef Barry Wine when I told him about our Flushing adventure.

I’ve got the recipe ingredient list for that noodle dish. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks testing it in my home kitchen. And before you know it, EthnoJunkie and I will be making it for our friends at an upcoming dinner party and guess who we’ll be making it for? Here’s a hint: some critical folks. So stay tuned….this adventure is not over yet.

If you’ld like to read Gael Greene’s review of Lao Dong Bei click here for the full monty.

Lao Dong Bei

44-09 Kissena Boulevard (Cherry Avenue)

Flushing, Queens

(718) 539-4100

Leave a Comment

Filed under April 2013, Chinese Food, Restaurants

Restaurant Reviews: Art Oddities at The Lodge Gallery with a Hidden Bar and Malaysian Delights at Nyonya

The Lodge

The hidden bar behind The Lodge Gallery

Although I normally prefer red wine or tequila cocktails, I didn’t mind the gin that night. It’s not my favorite spirit of choice- however considering it was a ginful open bar, replete with a charade of happy Hendrick’s hostesses trotting corseted A-line dresses, I didn’t mind it after all.

Artwork at the Lodge

Artwork at the Die Wunderkammer group show at The Lodge

I haven’t followed the contemporary art scene for about a decade but remembered how to play the game. As homage to the collectibles, Die Wunderkammer welcomed a room full of oddities. No wonder the artwork didn’t flow here, but was it intended to? From the life sized four legged vertebrae with optical designs, to the scary Asian monster painting (the most sellable), to the beaded double monkey sculptures with human features.

Artwork at the Lodge Gallery.

According to an art consultant, this was the most sellable piece.

Most if not all the works shown at Die Wunderkammer could’ve belonged to the same collector. In my imaginative world- he or she enjoys drinking inside dark obscured halls, their persona characterized by a pleasant and whimsical surface while haunted by its racy, perverted, and obscene daily thoughts. The gin cocktails are an escape from the mind and of reality. Thusly, this collector’s a lover of gin, it’s usual concoctions must be presented as icy cold with a touch of green olive, perhaps a cucumber or two to garnish it. And of course, they’re also a bit of a hoarder of things. Nothing’s quite curated in their drinking room…it’s the river which fails to flow. Our imaginary collector could be a real narcissist who loves their dirty gin, loves collecting beautiful people, and is usually found spending much of the daylight hours entrapped in a perfect world of chaos. Their disorganized thoughts of revenge, theft, and dominance never seem to subside….

Ling Tan

Here’s my usual muse, Ling Tan staring at the oddities.

Unfortunately my imaginary collector is nothing but imaginary. If you stick around long enough to see all the work here, you’ll be surprised by the veer bar/lounge “through” the blue curtain called Home Sweet Home. It’s been around for some time now, but it’s so well hidden- and unless you’re invited by a friend of a friend who knows about it, you’ld simply pass it off as just another store front. Upon passing through the curtains, I was greeted by New Yorkers who were dousing unlimited amounts of ravishing gin cocktails on the Henderick’s dime. I ran into some friends and followed them to the wooden corner bench/table next to the mystery novel window (where ghosts might appear and women jump off for suicide attempts). I slid into the back corner, next to the fresh air- then encountered my biggest mistake for half an hour. Can you guess what happens next? I was naturally cornered with no convo, none, zero, nope. No one spoke to me for thirty minutes. Everyone else was too busy closing in on some real estate deal- I was warned they were going to do that- so why did I follow them and get cornered? My que to move onto another scene was hinted at me after one of the guys (sitting opposite) asked me for his leather jacket (I was sitting next to it). After handing it over to its owner, I quickly noticed he checked the pockets (in a frenzy) for his wallet. Really? You think I’ld steal your wallet? You have some class sir, you’re obviously used to being in the company of some pretty classy folks. Should I be furious or understanding? After all- I did something similar on my way to there. Earlier that evening- I walked a flew blocks towards the gallery (from my car) with my DSLR clutched to my body, disgusted by the garbage pile up and paranoid of all the human alley cats I swore were hissing and prowling to snatch my baby up (camera).

I was feeling nauseous and overtly claustrophobic when rescue came along before I started to panic. I left with my friend who joined me for a bite at my favorite Malaysian place. We went to Nyonya, located at 199 Grand Street, sandwiched between Chinatown and Little Italy. This place only takes cash- but you won’t need too much of it to enjoy a multi-course meal. I frequent this joint as much as I can with whomever is willing to partake on a little curry meets Asia adventure. The coconut white rice is divine and I insist you ask for that version to replace the standard jasmine rice with the curry dishes. The sweet pineapple fried rice is pretty spectacular too.

Roti Telur at Nyonya

Roti Canai at Nyonya

The best appetizer my friends- is the Roti Telur Canai. It’s an Indian crispy thin, handmade bread with a mild curry sauce on the side priced at only $3.50 per order. One is never enough for two people. If you dine alone, that’s perfect- if there are others there with you- have everyone get their own. My Indian friend claimed the Roti bread is “as authentic as it gets”. The curried chicken on the bone is pretty close to the Indian original and reminded me of the Roti Telur Canai sauce. We also enjoyed a noodle dish, the Curry Mee with Young Tau Foo and a bean curd with vegetables.

Bean Curd Nyonya style

Bean Curd, Nyonya style.

I loved it so much that I returned the following night and savored my favorite dish (Roti Telur Canai) all over again. You can order an entire fish to share- which I’ve never had before but watched many large parties order it nearby. Appetizers range from $3.50-8.95 and entrees from $6.25-23.95. They serve a nice assortment of Malaysian non-alcoholic beverages, wine and beer. Come early, late, alone or with a crowd. It’s usually packed, whether it’s lunch or dinner. It’s casual, it’s delicious and you’ll never regret it. You might even have enough money left over to get dessert at Ferrara’s nearby.

 

Die Wunderkammer; Objects of Virtue

March 31, 2013- May 1st, 2013

The Lodge

131 Chrystie Street

New York, NY 10002

http://www.thelodgegallery.com

 

Nyonya

199 Grand Street

New York, NY 10013

Phone: (212) 334-3669

$ Very Good, Ethnic, Malaysian

Leave a Comment

Filed under Art, Dining with Outlaws, Hot on the Blog, March 2013, Restaurants, Speakeasies

Restaurant Opening: Barn Joo

Barn Joo: 893 Broadway, NYC

The view from upstairs

Spring is almost here…I can almost taste the sweetness of new desserts along with that scent of new restaurant openings- those show stopping events and the bitchy reviews by the bitter bloggers and critics thereafter. Before we know it, we’ll be swinging back into restaurant week- where some of us will casually pretend to be tourists for cheap dinners at $35.oo, though I seldom recommend it. I’m not missing the mid-winter blues either, as my foot’s finally healed after taking that unfortunate dive in the Flushing Corona Center parking lot while delivering gallons of homemade kimchi.

Opening at Barn Joo: Rina Oh, Ling Tan, Mie Iwatsuki

Rina Oh, Ling Tan, and Mie Iwatsuki at Barn Joo grand opening in NYC.

And here’s to giving Spring an early start with the first installment of restaurant openings. Say hello to the Korean pub called Barn Joo, located at 893 Broadway in the Flatiron district of New York City. It’s a multi-level drinking joint contained below the Verite Hotel, a boutique hotel by the same proprietor. The basement serves as a private clubroom replete with lounge tables and DJ booth, the main floor’s filled with more tables with a bar that’s perfect for happy hour gatherings after work, and last but not least- a private VIP lounge upstairs. We made an appearance with the usual gang, myself (Dining with Outlaws), the Insatiable-Critic Gael Greene, and Ethno Junkie: Rich Sanders, the fabulous Peter, and the former owner of the Quilted Giraffe- Barry Wine upon the first visit.

The main floor of Barn Joo with the owner, Charles "Tiger" Chong.

The main floor of Barn Joo with the owner, Charles "Tiger" Chong.

The menu’s quite small at Barn Joo- it’s a one pager, mostly small plates of Korean pub grub compared to the dozen or so pages filled with cocktails, beer, and liquor. At the opening night when I returned the following week with a different crowd of familiar Asian models- we were treated to a full house and sat in a private booth upstairs. The usual suspects were there- those who happen to attend any Korean restaurant opening in NYC. Seeing these private dining guests reminded me of Kristalbelli‘s opening last year.

Spiky Hat at Barn Joo

Restaurant openings plus spiky things are causing a deja vu experience.

The models, the manager, the K-pop fans were all there. This was indeed a Moving Feast with the familiar staff and opening patrons. I’m not complaining since the fried chicken supply seemed endless and we stayed till almost midnight indulged in heated conversations about revenge, marriage and playing mean girls in real life.

Barn Joo Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken perfect for sharing, although one order's never enough: one order per is the recommended dosage.

Formal reviews to follow later on…in the meantime you should give it a swing by with a few friends or foes and try a few soju cocktails and their Korean fried chicken.

Barn Joo

893 Broadway

New York, NY 10003

www.Barnjoo.com

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Dining with Outlaws, Hot on the Blog, Korean, March 2013, Restaurants