Book Club: Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

For October the selected book subject for my online book club, The Kitchen Reader, was Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear.
Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear

I really enjoyed this book. First of all, it really worked out in terms of timing, as I cracked the book open in the airport. The first chapter, Scavenger, which was my favorite chapter of the book, highlights immigrant food and how interesting cuisine comes out of poverty and necessity eating. At the same time, the food of the poor people is now the food being seeked out by the New American gourmet for pleasure.

This chapter focuses a lot on Jonathan Gold (of the LA Times… their food section with their large gorgeous photos sadly has no comparison in Portland, despite all the foodiness we offer) and also Javier Cabral (of the blog The Glutster). Both Gold and Cabral food coverage stomping grounds are nooks and crannies of the very city my plane was heading towards as I read this book: one of the ultimate immigrant cities in the United States, Los Angeles.

I looked longingly out the window of the car after landing as we drove by Brooklyn Bagel Bakery (mentioned by Gold as the “single source of every good bagel in Los Angeles”) but reminded myself my sister DOES live here and I had time to visit again. In fact, while reading this book in LA, I ended up visiting two of Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants during my stay, Newport Seafood (a family favorite that I previously showed off their famous house lobster) and also Son of a Gun Restaurant (in this post here).

The San Gabriel Valley area of LA, referred to casually as SGV often in the book, is covered extensively in this same chapter of the book, highlighting the specialized Asian food in the area because regional cuisines remain intact, traceable almost to the villages of origin of the restaurant owners. The SGV is also referred to in other chapters of the book. Other Asian foods, particularly the wonder of Thai Town and all it has to offer, are also mentioned in this chapter and I enjoyed hearing the love for this authentic home-cooking.

Stewed Pork Hocks: I love it, and very common in Thai food. Would you eat it? Next, Kai Jiew Kai Mod – A Thai dish of egg omelette with ant eggs. Would you eat it?
Kai Jiew Kai Mod - a Thai dish of egg omelette with ant eggs at Sticky Rice, Chicago. Would you eat it?

I’m not actually that much a fan of LA as the traffic scares me and everything is so spread out, but the food, oh the food… It is worth coming to LA for a food vacation alone, despite the distance and traffic. Gold, who the book reports drives twenty thousand miles a year in search of food, himself admits it in the book: “I go into a fugue state, like the Aboriginal dreamtime, when you go on long aimless walks in the outback,” he says, “That’s how I feel driving on the endless streets of Los Angeles County.”

I took some notes on my phone as I was reading the book of places I might check out in the future. You might find yourself doing the same thing.

In so many ways, this book really is a love letter to the food in LA, which is refreshing since so often the focus ends up in New York City. The book does cover New York (in the second chapter, Grub, about purveyors of specialty food in the gourmet industry, particularly exotic animals and insects), and also Las Vegas (in chapter 3, Backdoor Men, about the suppliers of the outrageous and obscure ingredients from truffles to caviar to foie gras and the storytelling or conning that may be involved).

Inevitably though, the book always returns to LA and California (and also Gold, who is mentioned often in the book).

Foie Gras and Caviar and Truffles, oh my
Poutine foie gras from Au Pied de Cochon Tru's famous caviar staircase/ In the caviar staircase, only four of the steps were actually caviar, the rest are accompaniants like egg whites, egg yolk, capers, and chopped onion. My brioche toast had a little bowl of crème fraîche along with. French Laundry- Carnaroli Risotto Biologico, with Castelmagno cheese and shaved white truffles from Alba. The foam you see around the risotto is truffle oil, and after the white truffle was added it was finished with melted Vermont butter.

The book also presents interesting political and ethical questions. Chapter 4 (The Rawesome Three, covering those who want raw unprocessed food, particularly dairy) and Chapter 5 (Double Dare, questioning the FDA and food regulation and how that creates conformity, and the role of corporate farms in the need for rules and regulation versus small farms) makes book readers to think about the line of government’s need to protect versus consumer freedom of choice.

There are also questions about our cultural sensibilities and environmental and animal rights stands of what is ok to eat. Chapter 7, Guts, centers around offal and the many parts of animal that are wasted in the American meat industry, including profiling one the Offal Prince himself, Chef Chris Cosentino.

Sweetbreads with Glazed Bacon/White Polenta/Shiitake Mushrooms / PDC, or Fried Pig’s Foot (Pied Cochon) with vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffed with foie gras inside after deboning and then topped with foie gras. Would you eat these?
Sweetbreads with Glazed Bacon/White Polenta/Shiitake Mushrooms Au Pied De Cochon -  PDC, The namesake dish of the restaurant, fried pig’s foot (Pied Cochon), vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffed with foie gras inside after deboning and then topped with foie gras

On one hand, I side with this mission to honor the sacrifice of life and use whole animal. On the other hand, this chapter is where I was disgusted at some of the extreme food concoctions that clearly are challenges for a dining as sport and bragging rights. I can admire pig snout with escargot and watercress because pigs in nature like to eat snails and vegetation near streams. But, raw venison heart on a brioche made with pig skin, and mention of a goose intestine soup Consentino called “anal-tini” is a culinary dare that crosses to way too much for me.

The much more tame meat plate of Ox‘s Asado Argentino for 2 includes Grilled Short Rib, House Chorizo & Morcilla Sausages, Skirt Steak, Sweetbreads, or Roasted Marrow Bones appetizer at Little Bird Bistro
The much more tame meat plate of Ox's Asado Argentino for 2: includes Grilled Short Rib, House Chorizo & Morcilla Sausages, Skirt Steak, Sweetbreads Roasted Marrow Bones at Little Bird Bistro

Chapter 8, Off Menu, continues that line of thought of what is ok to eat and what is not, and what defines that line, as it tells the tale of investigating a restaurant serving whale meat and horse meat.  This was the most off putting chapter for me. Also mentioned in the book is eating dog, or live octopus. But, it did make me think about how casually, particularly in Portland, we eat pork… pigs are smart animals too. There are people who keep pigs as pet. Why is it acceptable to still eat them? I have to admit sometimes that line can be arbitrary… but at the same time, I can’t shake that line.

Meanwhile, Chapter 6, Haute Cuisine, is just wicked fun (and my second favorite chapter in the book) as it covers the wild wild west feel of food culture in exploring modernist cuisine and experimenting with food utilizing marijuana as an ingredient (with several hilarious tidbits and tales). Author Dana Goodyear observes, “Food, in the foodie movement, is often treated like a controlled substance”.

No, I have no photo of any food with pot in it. All I have is this playful dish by Homaru Cantu of “Roadkill of Fowl” which is a braised duck with beets. Notice the yellow dotted lines of the road and rice krispy maggots… Actually this was a really tasty dish.
Homaru Cantu dish of Roadkill of Fowl which is a braised duck with beets. Notice the yellow dotted lines of the road and rice krispy maggots Homaru Cantu dish of Roadkill of Fowl which is a braised duck with beets. Notice the yellow dotted lines of the road and rice krispy maggots

Overall, author Dana Goodyear has a very engaging voice and keen eye. In bringing her research/observational ride-alongs throughout the book, she describes the way people look and act in a way that succinctly embodies them. She tells specific side stories and uses metaphors and similes to really bring any subject or the way food looks and smells and feels to life in a way the reader can understand.

I already liked her when in the introduction, she described herself with this short story while simultaneously providing the credentials of why she was the right writer for this book: “My relationship to food is that of an acrophobe to a bridge: unease masks a desire to jump. A well-fed child with the imagination of a scrounger, I remember holing up in the back of the station wagon eating the dog’s Milk-Bones, which were tastier than you might expect.”

Dana’s writing includes profiles of  everyone,  both big and small in this adventurous eating world. The critics, the famous chefs and staff of famous restaurants or local pop-ups, the food suppliers both grand and small (from those in suits with exquisite butters and saffron to the tweakers who may forage your mushrooms), the food bloggers, other dining guest foodies eating with her, federal investigators… all are included in her scope of view.

Because of that diverse scope of anyone in the food scene is part of the story, the food culture that Dana depicts is rich with so many real characters that as a reader, you feel that the food world described seems very accurate in parting the curtain that a normal consumer does not know.

In observing the food scene, in particular some of the more extreme food combinations, Dana functions as our eyes and ears and grounds everything more in reality. She will admit when she leaves a pop-up still hungry and need to stop to get a hot dog, or that she’s impressed, or alternately that she is afraid for her health because of a dish.

In one example in the book, she explains “that dish –  quiver on quiver on quiver – epitomized the convergence of the disgusting and the sublime typical of so much foodie food. It was almost impossible to swallow it, thinking ruined it, and submission to its alien texture rewarded you with a bracing, briny, primal rush”

I waited 2.5 hours to eat at Sushi Dai in Tokyo. The one to the right, the clam, was still moving when the chef put it down.
Sushi Dai sashimi, Sushi Dai, Tokyo, Japan, Tsukiji Fish Market Sushi Dai

I shared a lot of photos of various foods that I thought tried to illustrate some of what was talked about in the book… are there any that you would eat?

Have you visited the food scene of LA, and did you know that the San Gabriel Valley of CA was such a hotspot for food?

What do you think of how Jonathan Gold, as noted in the book, subscribes to the following translation of the county health inspection ratings which are posted by law in every restaurant: “A stands for American Chinese, B is for Better Chinese, and C is for Chinese food for Chinese”?

And if insects were presented in some of the ways written in the book from the cooking competition at the Natural History’s Museums annual bug fair (most of the judges are children because of their openness to new foods):

  • bee patties for Bee L T sandwiches,
  • tailless whip scorpions in a tempura with spicy mayo,
  • fried wild caught dragonflies with sauteed mushrooms with Dijon soy butter,
  • Ugandan katydid and grilled cheese sandwiches,
  • a spider roll with rose haired tarantula (hair burned off, don’t worry – usually spider rolls are made with bottom feeding crab while spiders eat crickets that only eat grass- one young girl declared “It’s sushi. With spiders. It’s awesome”)

would you try it?

And, because I can’t think of any other time I could use these photos (which come from an exhibit on insects at the Seattle Pacific Science Center called Insect Village)… ha. The eating cookies with insects isn’t as far-fetched as you think. In my local paper, they just ran an article about kids pondering a mealworm chocolate chip.
Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit

I hope this has been an interesting recap/review of the book for you. For next month, the November book for the book club is Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni.

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Jinya Ramen Bar in Los Angeles

Shortly after arriving at LAX and being picked up by my sister/bride to be, we grabbed a quick and very satisfying lunch at Jinya Ramen Bar before we went off to pick up her wedding dress in Koreatown and then off to check into the house we selected to rent for the bridesmaids via VRBO. Before picking me up, the car had already gotten filled up at Costco with muffins, croissants, OJ etc to help stock our rental home.

But, we needed a little more fuel before we continued on, and Jinya Ramen provided that warm tummy to help us out.
Jinya Ramen Bar, at Mid-Wilshire in Los Angeles Jinya Ramen Bar, at Mid-Wilshire in Los Angeles Jinya Ramen Bar, at Mid-Wilshire in Los Angeles

It was ironic that I had just written a post about takoyaki and how it had been a couple years since I had it, but then within just this past few weeks I had an opportunity to have it twice!

This Jinya is in a small strip mall so there are several parking spaces you can grab right in front of the restaurant. If you come when it is busy, there will be a sign up sheet for you that you should add your name and party size ASAP. We arrived around 1:45, so after the lunch rush had already subsided, so we were seated within 5 minutes.
Jinya Ramen Bar, at Mid-Wilshire in Los Angeles

The service is quick, with us quickly placing our orders for their classic and best seller ramen, the Jinya Number 1 of Tonkatsu Black which includes pork broth, pork chashu, kirukage, and egg along with the regular expected ramen flavorings like green onion, dried seaweed/nori, garlic chips, fried onion and a ramen special that was a bit spicier with jalapenos. There are additional toppings you can also add to your ramen, varying from spinach to tofu to corn, wonton, chicken, bok choy, etc. They have 9 other ramens, such as those with chicken if you don’t eat pork, and even a vegetarian one.

Looking at this photo now, with the cooler weather and cold rains, I can’t help but crave some more ramen right now!
Jinya Ramen bar at Mid-Wilshire, their classic and best seller ramen, the Jinya Number 1 of Tonkatsu Black which includes pork broth, pork chashu, kirukage, and egg along with the regular expected ramen flavorings like green onion, dried seaweed/nori, garlic chips, fried onion

You can also get combinations with your ramen, such as adding on pork gyoza and salad, or california roll and salad, or a curry rice… At the Mid-Wilshire location, we opted not only for pork gyoza but brussels sprouts tempura.
Jinya Ramen bar at Mid-Wilshire, pork gyoza that you can get with salad in addition to your ramen to make a combo Jinya Ramen bar at Mid-Wilshire, brussels sprouts tempura

And we got takoyaki, or octopus balls!
Jinya Ramen bar at Mid-Wilshire, takoyaki or octopus balls Jinya Ramen bar at Mid-Wilshire, takoyaki or octopus balls

Besides the 3 location in Los Angeles, you can also find Jinya Ramen in Las Vegas, Houston, and Vancouver Canada, and I think there might be one in Seattle (Bellevue) as well?!

Jinya Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

Do you ever crave ramen on a cold rainy day? Where do you get your ramen fix at?

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Son of a Gun in Los Angeles

On my last trip to Los Angeles, when I had been throwing my sister’s wedding shower, we had driven by Son of a Gun on the way to Dry Bar and I vowed to return on my next visit. I made good on that promise to myself on this most recent trip to LA.

My main focus was to try the shrimp toast sandwich and their famous lobster roll. Besides anything with cheese, I would say a lobster roll tops my list that if I see it on a menu, I will order it. And, I am willing to travel and do what it takes for a good version of a lobster roll. The one at Son of a Gun has been listed as one of the top 5 lobster rolls in LA, which further fueled my motivation. The signage is not that obvious, but look for the red door.
Son of a Gun, in Los Angeles Son of a Gun, in Los Angeles

Son of a Gun is mostly a seafood restaurant, which is why the large sections of their menu are divided into Raw, Shellfish, Fish, and only 2 options for Meat and 3 seasonals which are salads. But, one of those options for meat is their famous fried chicken sandwich. The other, which we did not have room for, is the Country ham sandwich they offer.

Unlike the shrimp toast sandwich and lobster roll, this thing is massive, served with a buttery roll and spicy b&b pickle slaw and rooster aioli.
Son of a Gun, fried chicken sandwich, spicy b&b pickle slaw, rooster aioli Son of a Gun, fried chicken sandwich, spicy b&b pickle slaw, rooster aioli

Meanwhile, the shrimp toast sandwich and lobster roll are more palm sized, so like me, you can order 1 of each. The shrimp toast sandwich with herbs and sriracha mayo is small for the price tag, as is the lobster roll, but are intense in flavor. The shrimp toast sandwich you can conceivably cut in half to share a taste as it is a bit greasy, but you will want to eat that lobster roll, with its very buttery roll that is melt in your mouth, all by yourself.
Son of a Gun, Shrimp Toast Sandwich with herbs, sriracha mayo Son of a Gun, Shrimp Toast Sandwich with herbs, sriracha mayo

Remember, the lobster roll is only palm sized, unlike many other lobster rolls that are hoagie sized, so set your expectations accordingly.
Son of a Gun, Lobster Roll with celery, lemon aioli Son of a Gun, Lobster Roll with celery, lemon aioli Son of a Gun, Lobster Roll with celery, lemon aioli

One disappointment during our visit was that service was slow. We arrived there a bit later to avoid the lunch rush, around 1:45 pm. It took almost 10 minutes before someone finally took our order and bring our waters, and so we didn’t see any food until 2:10 pm (verified by the timestamp on my pictures). Only shortly after receiving our food, while still eating, the waitress came over to ask if us if we wanted dessert or anything else as they were closing the kitchen (the restaurant closes at 2:30 to complete lunch service), not that they had the menu in hand when they asked so we could look. There were literally only a handful of tables occupied in the restaurant, so I’m not quite sure why they were slow to get to us. We paid cash in order to get out of there quickly. Hopefully, this was just a one-off experience on a waitress’ bad day.

Son of a Gun Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

Similar to how I will journey to find a good lobster roll, is there certain food you will go out of your way for when you travel?

 

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Fall Foliage in Upstate New York

Well, here in Portland we went from a nice long summer that lasted until early October straight into the grey and rain of what would be late October. So, I wanted to share a few photos from when I was in upstate New York and enjoyed the beautiful fall colors there.

I was driving and there were so many times I wanted to pull over, the colors and views just were so fantastic, particularly on the highways with all the rolling hills when they were all I could see to my left, right, and in front for miles. There were a couple times on the more local roads I was able to get a few shots. I was told this wasn’t even their peak yet since there were still greens…

So here’s a reminder of some of the colors of fall that are out there, despite our gloomy gray skies here!
Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York Fall Foliage in upstate New York

Is there anyplace you go for fall colors? Particularly here in the northwest, I’ve had to get used to not seeing all the deciduous trees that I am used to from the Midwest and also from a few fall trips I’ve taken specifically to the East Coast like around New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina to see the colors.

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Eight Korean BBQ in Los Angeles

In the past 2 weeks, my baby sister got married! Although we were busy with some wedding details and also spending time with family and friends, there were also a few opportunities for deliciousness that I captured and wanted to share.

This first one is in Los Angeles, for Eight Korean Barbecue, which I think might also be known as Palsaik Korean Bbq (Palsaik means 8 colors). What makes this Korean BBQ establishment really stand out is that they offer eight colorful flavors of pork.
8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown

Like any Korean BBQ, you start with a whole bunch of little side entrees, also known as banchan. If you run out of any, just ask for a refill. What is particularly special about the banchan here is that the kimchee and sprouts as well as some of the veggies (you can see squash, mushroom below) are warmed up on the grill, intensifying the flavor.
Grilled kimchee and sprouts at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown Grilled kimchee and sprouts at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown

Before the main party, we decided to indulge with Prime Ribeye. Along with the banchan, there is also a salad (no picture sorry) and a seafood soybean paste stew that comes with the dinner of a Palsaik Set Menu. At the end, they make fried rice with the scraps. Seriously, I love how my sister rolls.
Prime Ribeye addition to our set menu at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown Seafood SoybeanPaste Stew that comes iwth the banchan and saslad at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown

The star though is that you can get a flight of eight different marinated Mangalitza pork belly flavors.
The flight of eight different marinated Mangalitza pork belly flavors at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown

The 8 flavors of pork you can try include
Eight different marinated Mangalitza pork belly flavors at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown

  • Wine
  • Original
  • Ginseng
  • Garlic:.
  • Herb
  • Curry
  • Miso Paste
  • Red Pepper Paste

Ribeye cooking:
Prime Ribeye addition to our set menu at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown Prime Ribeye addition to our set menu at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown

Pork cooking: They do the first 4 (Wine, Original Ginseng, and Garlic, which is in order left to right below), and then do the latter 4 (pictured in the rightmost photo).
The flight of eight different marinated Mangalitza pork belly flavors at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown The flight of eight different marinated Mangalitza pork belly flavors at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown The flight of eight different marinated Mangalitza pork belly flavors at 8 Korean BBQ, or Palsaik Korean Bbq in Los Angeles, Koreatown

The tables they have fit 5 to each grill, and the staff will come to take care of the grilling for you and cut everything into chopstick-liftable pieces. The stools are storage stools, so you can lift up the cushion so you can put your purse in them, and they give you an apron to wear so everyone can be equally stylish at your table while you dine.

Us in our aprons…

Eight Korean BBQ family

A photo posted by @smashhitta on

Everything was absolutely delicious. As much as I love Portland, some of the ethnic eating like Korean in Los Angeles is something we don’t have to the same high level, and I do miss it. If you are visiting Los Angeles, I always recommend eating at the various ethnic “towns”, including this place in Koreatown! It’s easy to park as they are in a mini-strip mall so they have parking right in front of the restaurant. The sign says Eight Korean Barbecue as you can see at the very first photo in the post, with a very happy pig.

Palsaik on Urbanspoon

Have you ever had Korean BBQ? What are your favorite things to eat at a Korean BBQ? Where do you get Korean BBQ in Portland?

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