Into the Maguey Mountains

I’m partial to Del Maguey single village mezcal. And not simply because my pal, Michael, is a partner in the company. (Though he has winced on the rare occasion he has discovered one of his competitor’s products in my liquor cabinet.) The mezcals are complex and delicious, I like the backstory, the commitment to preserving tradition, and the Ken Price labels. But I would become an even greater advocate upon traveling deep into Oaxaca with Mike, visiting two of Del Maguey’s palenques (where the mezcals are made), and meeting the men who make them.

Wild tobala agave at the Del Maguey bodega

It was a bright southern Mexico morning when the car picked up Mike and me, freshly filled up on breakfast mole and huevos, to head south out of the city and into the agave countryside. The day breaks open like an egg, the light harsh and silver as the swords of the espadin, elevation halfway to the sun and soon you are shielding your eyes. The landscape is dusty and weedy and cactusy, not the way I pictured Oaxaca, punctuated with the bursting spikes of the agave that will define our day. More

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Go Away, Gastropub

I ran into a chef friend of mine at my son’s baseball game the other Sunday. I asked him what he was up to, and after a harrowing tale about his time as private cook for an online poker billionaire, he confessed he was putting wheels in motion to open a restaurant.

I asked him when, where and what. He wasn’t sure, but said he was scanning food trends for inspiration.

“Don’t do a pork belly bahn mi,” I said.

Gastropub burger with truffle fries

As serendipity would have it, I had also been discussing the possibility of opening a restaurant with a friend. A unique opportunity had arisen, and we were exploring it. Which got me to thinking about what kind of food I would serve. I would not serve a pork belly bahn mi. More

I Burned the Rice

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I often burn the rice.

Burned rice

It’s an unfortunate habit I have. Here’s how it usually goes down:

I’m making sushi rice. My sushi rice preparation technique, adapted from a recipe by Nobu Matsuhisa, involves bringing the rice to a boil, cooking it for five minutes at a regular temperature, then blasting it even more briefly with high heat, and then turning it off and letting it steam for 15 minutes. Where I go astray is usually in the last step, where I turn the heat on high, and instead of waiting the minute it’s supposed to take, wander off to do something else. (For example, the idea for this post came as I was working on another post when I suddenly smelled the rice burning.) More

Simplicity

A wet and drizzly morning of the sort we’ve been having lately, the usually dry stream that crosses our property burbling happily, the canyon veiled in gray and exploding in every shade of green, brought me back to a memory:

A child, a younger me, dripping in the rain — no umbrella, no boots, socks and shoes wet — setting leaves into the gutter and chasing them down the street. Joy: unrestrained, unmannered, untethered.

Simplicity.

rscz2194

In the kitchen, after a previous evening’s West/East mashup of spaghetti ai ricci di mare, Venetian carpaccio, spicy fried tofu and three different kinds of sushi, I craved simplicity on the plate, too. More

The Culinary Hug

My wife will, on occasion, get on my case about coddling my 13-year-old son, Flynn, with food. He’ll ask me to fix him a bowl of cereal, or put the butter on his waffles and cut them into bite-size pieces.

“He’s old enough to be doing that himself,” she’ll say. “When Kristen’s boys were that age….”

Teaching the boy about eating at the bar

Teaching the boy about eating at the bar

Her point of reference is inevitably her sister, Kristen’s, boys: “When Kristen’s boys were that age, they could [INSERT REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENT HERE].” It would seem as if Kristen’s kids could build themselves log cabins and kill and skin their dinner before they could crawl.

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