OMG! Omakase!

In Japan, “omakase” means “I’ll leave it to you,” or more precisely, “I trust you.” It’s a common phrase in fine sushi bars, when you put your meal in the hands of the chef and let him make you whatever he feels inspired to moment by moment.


In Topanga, “omakase” means my pal Don Schneider shows up at my house at 10 a.m. to drop off seven or eight different seafoods for a sushi dinner that evening, before he and family leave for a month to Israel to visit an ailing mother. He trusts me. More

Summer of Love

It was while browsing the produce aisle at my favorite Japanese market that I saw it — in a plastic container, settled on a bed of rice, a knobby black Perigord truffle.

Truffle-smothered Iberico pork shoulder steak

Truffle-smothered Iberico pork shoulder steak

I picked it up and regarded it enviously. The price was $34, which for a truffle slightly smaller than a tennis ball seemed surprisingly reasonable. But it was more than I felt like spending, so I continued on to the fresh seafood section. But while I shopped for hamachi and albacore, my mind kept returning to the truffle. When I picked it up, I’d been hit by the unique perfume that told me this was a summer French truffle rather than a fall Oregon truffle. There is no other smell on earth like it. More

Secret Weapon Ingredient #3: Dried Dashi Stock

The Japanese were the first to describe and isolate “umami,” the fifth taste (“savory”). When professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University identified umami in 1908, he did so working from the ingredients in Japanese “dashi” soup stock, made from bonito fish and kombu seaweed. The key components, it turned out, were ribonucleotides and glutamates.

From there, the Japanese got industrious and distilled those ingredients into their purest form — monosodium glutamate. MSG. Which, if you’re like most people, you avoid like the plague. But which winds up in nearly anything processed you eat in less conspicuous forms (most often as “natural ingredients”). More