Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Happy Mother's Day Dinner - Mom, the Eternal Ass Kicker

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner

Ever since I started walking, my mom was there to make sure I didn't get into trouble. She passed on mannerisms that her mom had pass, as well as providing the natural love, care and attention a mother burdens herself with. But we as children don't usually respond the way they want. That's why there is something called 'ass kicking'. It comes in many forms. Sometimes it makes you cry, sometimes it makes you angry and sometimes, it outright HURTS. My mom's method of shaping me into a proper gentleman... a feather duster. Not just any kind, but one made in Hong Kong. It looks soft, fluffy and purely for cleaning right? WRONG. You switch the ends of it and you've got the Chinese Ass-Kicker. Two things for the price of one – now that's a deal in any Chinese person's eyes.

I remember one time when I was 5. My sister and I were out in the front having productive fun, like throwing rocks over at the neighbor's yard. You kids nowadays have cooler things to play with like all-too-real video games and internet. Back then, we only had rocks and Garbage Pail Kids - take your pick. An hour later, after my sister and I had grown tired of chucking rocks into the neighbor's pool. I hear the most ear-deafening scream of my name.


The second I heard that, I knew very well where my ass was destined. My sister and I quickly scoured the living room of our tiny house and took refuge in a nightstand behind the couch. I looked over at my sister, who looked liked a deer in headlights. The door opened and it slammed. I could hear her footsteps in the living room and could hear her running around the house. Every time the footsteps got louder, my sister and I ducked our heads into our knees, shaking. FUCK. We were so fucked. And all of a sudden, I see my mom's face at the end of the nightstand. NO GOOD. She told us to get out and we sat there like still wildlife. MAN, we were so fucked. I eventually walked out and I can still remember the look on her face. NOT HAPPY. I admitted to throwing the rocks at the neighbor's yard because I was bored and didn't have those all-too-real video games and internet. Next thing I know, she's equipped with Mr. Feather Duster. And I looked over at my little sister who was really feeling bad for me. She looked so sad. I slowly turned around and closed my eyes. THE END.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner

Before you call any social workers, you'd be glad to know that after this one incident, I didn't get into any trouble until I was off on my own. No more visits to Mr. Feather Duster. My sister and I got our ass whooped as little kids, but we now understand the importance of it as adults. She meant well, as did my dad, who instead of using the feather duster, preferred his right foot. And we thank them both for keeping us in line.

So here we are on Mother's Day 20-plus years later. I'm married now to a woman I love dearly and on the path to starting my own family. Mom will become a grandma one day and will be there to see our children. But one thing is still on her agenda... kicking my ass. Not the feather duster way... but with health, work, saving money, buying a house, blah blah blah. It never ends. But its what a mother does. I have to say that my mom and dad are the biggest influences in my interest for cooking and nothing makes them happier than providing them with soul food. This year was different though... it was our first time doing a dual Mother's Day dinner for my mom and Jeni's mom.

We decided to do seafood as the dinner theme. Making me eat seafood as a kid was the bane of my mother's existence. I was food poisoned at an early age by some Chinese-style black clams and it traumatized for nearly 20 years. TWENTY YEARS without SEAFOOD. My sister used to shake her head and say, "you don't know what you're missing," while devouring something delicious like Chiu-Chow style garlic fried crab. Jeni and I got up early and headed to our favorite farmer's market in Hollywood. We had been so busy during the week that we didn't have time to plan the menu. But that's where farmer's markets come in handy. With some spontaneity and creativity, you can make a fine meal with the purveyed goods. Not to mention the freshness of the food.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner White Shitake Mushrooms

Some young shitake mushrooms. An earthiness that goes well with seafood.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner English Peas

Sweet, crunchy English peas - good enough to be eaten raw with a little salt and spice.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Fruit Bowl

Jeni made a delicious fruit bowl with the farmer's market fruit with wine and simple syrup.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Manila Clams

Manila clams from 99 Ranch Market. Not so Farmer's Marketish, but hey we're not rich.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Filleting Turbot

One of the hardest things for me is thinking of a fish to cook with. There are just way TOO MANY. Check out 99 Ranch and the filipino market, Seafood City, and you'll know what I mean. I wanted something light and remembered a delicious fish I had at Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 in New York. Olive-Oil Poached Turbot with Smoked Bulgur and Coffee-Saffron sauce. The turbot is a goofy-looking flat fish found mainly in the North Atlantic.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Carlsbad Blonde Oysters

I always pay a visit to Rob of the Carlsbad Aquafarm. He's a super nice guy that really enjoys watching people eat oysters. Not in a creepy way. He's just passionate about his seafood. I picked some Carlsbad Blondes because of their delicate cucumber finish. You can find him at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market on Saturdays and at the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Sundays. $10/dozen oysters.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Alaskan King Crab & Haricot Vertes

Alaskan King Crab, Poached Egg & Haricot Vertes Frisee Salad
I mixed the king crab with my favorite, smoked paprika, and the haricot vertes in some creme fraiche, lemon juice and S&P. Served it on top of some frisee with Jeni's citronette vinaigrette with a poached egg. The idea here was to crack the poached egg over the frisee and bring in the crab and green beans. It was very light and fresh.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Poached Egg

ED&B Mother's Day Dinner Manila Clams and Chorizo Sausage & Leeks

Manila Clams with Spanish Chorizo, Leeks & White Wine
You can't go wrong with clams + butter + wine. I sautéd some shallots, spanish chorizo, garlic and leeks and added the clams. Then I poured about a 1/4 bottle of white wine with some chicken stock and dropped in some butter. Cover the pot for a few minutes until you see the clams open up and stir them around, making sure all that delicious juice gets inside the clam shells. Note: I used to do this with Mexican chorizo and I think it tastes better with Spanish chorizo because it's more firm and spicy. Serve this with some toasted bread slices so your guests can sop up all that goodness.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Pan Fried Turbot & Shitake Mushroom, English Pea Spatzle

Pan-Seared Turbot with Shitake Mushrooms, English Peas & Spatzle
I originally wanted to poach this in olive oil and thyme but I didn't have enough olive oil. Instead we pan-fried the fish in a skillet. I had marinated the fish about an hour before in some olive oil, thyme, pimenton (Spanish chili powder) and S&P. The fish took about 5 minutes on one side over medium heat, just long enough for the skin to crisp up. I have to say, I have never had a more milky/moist fish like turbot. It is fabulous and highly used for its delicate flavor/texture and similarity to halibut. In fact, it's BETTER than halibut. Our moms were flipping out on this fish because they had never heard of it. The combination of the delicate fish, earthy shitakes, crunchy peas and buttery spatzle was perfect.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner Sauternes Cake & Fruits

Farmer's Market Fruit & Cake with Frozen Balsamic Vinegar Cream & Sauternes Syrup
We found this cake for $1 at 99 Ranch and just topped it off with fresh fruit and cold balsamic vinegar cream. This was an excellent way to finish off the seafood dinner.

ED&BM Mother's Day Dinner

To my mom, thank you for everything - love you.
And to my Mom #2, I'm glad we're one family now.

Eat Drink Style Carlsbad Aquafarm - An Oyster Purveyor

Carlsbad Aquafarm

My first encounter with a raw oyster was about eight years ago and I remembered feeling curious and anxious as I stared at this soft, slimy-gray creature that resembled a bodily organ. It was peacefully floating in a bed of salmon roe and fresh uni, and drowned by a nameless sake. It wasn't on the half-shell but it was definitely a real oyster. My friends passed the glass to me and we all held it up in a strange, gratuitous toast to friendship and whatever oceanic concoction brewing in my glass.

First, the taste of the cheap sake. Gross.
Second, an avalanche of salty salmon roe and mushiness that is uni. Mmmmm.
And finally, the soft foreign object that feels like an oblong egg yolk. *Gag*

This is the point in time where your brain has the finger on the gag reflex switch in your body. It will either project the foreign object as your eyes well up in tears, or it will let it go down smoothly like a fat kid on a water park slide. But instead of swallowing it all, I sank my teeth into that creature as though I hated it. And to my surprise, my eyes lit up in sheer happiness. This. Was. Delicious. I watched as my other friends uttered their enjoyment for that same oyster. The next question I asked was, "can we do some more?" We ended up ordering oysters on the half shell, not that circus bullshit in the glass. And it was that day that I developed an appreciation for one of the world's most unique, pure and delicious foods – the oyster.

To me, there is nothing hotter than a raw bar. Unadulterated food, tasty beer and good company – that's all that's needed for a good time. As an oyster predator, I love eating at Swan Oyster Depot and Bar Crudo in San Francisco, Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City and of course, Los Angeles's Hungry Cat. I also heard that Anisette in Santa Monica has a decent raw bar. But the problem is, eating oysters outside can prove to be a bad move during this recession. J wasn't too happy with my $90 tab at Grand Central Oyster Bar... a place that touts over 38 types of oysters and nearly 200 types of wine. Bad bad bad!

But I found an economic solution to one of my many bad habits. J and I were checking out the Hollywood Farmers Market for the first time a few weeks back and like a person seeing Machu Picchu through the sharp, jungle brush for the first time, I found what I was looking for: a vendor selling fresh oysters on the spot.

Carlsbad Aquafarm
, located in uh, Carlsbad, comes to the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Saturdays and Hollywood Farmers Market on Sundays. Rob of Carlsbad Aquafarms drives up each day at 5 am with a van full of seafood candy. On this day, Rob had four types of oysters on display: Catalinas, Lunas, Carlsbad Blondes and Endless Summers. In addition to oysters, CA offers California Ocean mussels, Sunburst clams, medley mixes and live scallops (call in advance and he'll bring the following week).

Carlsbad Aquafarm Catalina Oysters

The going rate for a half dozen oysters on the half shell is $15. Not good considering I can do at least 18 on my own in a single sitting. But thanks to candyman Rob, you can bring home a dozen oysters for only $9.99. That's $0.83 a piece vs. $2.50 a piece outside. For $2, you can sample any of CA's oysters.

Carlsbad Aquafarm Rob Shucking Oysters

Carlsbad Aquafarm Rob Shucking Oysters

Carlsbad Aquafarm Rob Shucking Oysters

Shucked Oysters

That day, I ended up buying 3.5 dozens of oysters and threw them in a cooler. I immediately called my oyster friend/ramen whore friend, Rameniac, and explained to him the deeds that needed to be done today. 2 hours later, Rameniac and his friend showed up. We headed over to Silver Lake Wine for something to pair with the oysters. George, formerly the sommelier at Campanile, immediately knew what to recommend. I told him the oysters were briny with a cucumber finish. He suggested these.


Muscadet Sevre Et Maine
What's interesting about this wine is that, like oysters, these grapes are grown in the area where the rivers meet the oceans. This is an area that is not too cold nor too warm, and for oysters, this is the optimal condition for proliferation. According to George, this is a favorite with shellfish.


Paco & Lola Albarino
I don't know why he picked this one. Maybe because the label is kind of cool and the fact that it's from the Basque Country. This one has a strong floral aroma which would be good with an oyster that is delicate in taste.

Before moving on, I wanted to talk about the 'process' of eating an oyster. I learned about this from the wonderful book A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America by Rowan Jacobsen, and it changed the way I eat oysters.

There are three things that happen as you eat an oyster.

(1) As you hold the oyster, you taste the liquor first. And it'll either be sweet or briny.

(2) You then use a fork to push the oyster into your mouth and then you chew 2-3 times. The second your teeth come down on the oyster, you'll experience a nice pop like the yolk on a sunny side up egg. You want the internal fluids to spill out and you want to feel its texture. And it'll be a sweet or creamy taste.

(3) Once the fluids mix with the liquor, there will be a final finish.

If you completely down the oyster and liquor without chewing, you've missed the whole point of eating an oyster. And the usage of lemon juice and mignonette is most ideal for eating oysters because saltiness/brininess is cancelled out by citric acid. Horseradish and hot sauce will mask the integrity of the oyster.

Endless Summer & Luna Oysters

Endless Summers
Rob remembered me and immediately offered this to me because he didn't have it last time I was there. If you go up to the photo with Rob holding the oyster shell, that's the Endless Summer. And it's huge. They are typically deep cupped meaning the oyster has more room to grow and has a lot more liquor, which people love or hate. Upon opening this, you can't help but back up a little. Although it's not as big as a Belon (shell the size of a hand!) or European Flat, this would definitely be in the 3-bite tier. I got the oyster ready for the 3-step process.

(1) Very briny liquor.
(2) Fresh, crunchy texture. Like a very weak bamboo shoot.
(3) Strong cucumber finish. Wow. The reason a lot of oysters will have a melon finish, according to Rowan Jacobsen, is that the starches produced in the oysters have the same molecular build as that of a melon.

Like the popular Kumamoto oyster grown in California and Pacific Northwest, these are mildly fruity and sweet. These are very easy to eat and usually considered the 'introductory' oyster. Lunas have a similar taste and to me, they are almost thinner and smaller than Kumamotos.

(1) Mildly sweet liquor.
(2) Soft texture. Not much bite.
(3) Light, sweet finish. These are small and have a very delicate taste.

Carlsbad Blonde & Catalina Oysters

Carlsbad Blondes
These oysters are called 'blonde' because their shell is more yellow vs. the green/brown shells you usually see.

(1) Mild, briny liquor.
(2) Soft texture.
(3) Very light metallic taste. But right away, a soft cucumber finish that isn't as pronounced as that of the Endless Summer.

These are similar in size to the Carlsbad Blondes.

(1) Mild, briny liquor.
(2) Medium texture.
(3) Soft cucumber finish.

Extinct Oysters

After an hour and a half, we had 39 oysters and 2 bottles of wine. And we could've had more. Much more.

Say hi to Rob and his candy of the sea on Saturdays at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and on Sundays at the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

What are your favorite oysters? And if you're from outside of Los Angeles, please share the names of your local oyster goldmines.

Thanks for reading.

Carlsbad Aquafarm
4600 Carlsbad Blvd
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 438-2444
Tours offered from M-F 8am - 5 pm

Eat Drink Style First Anniversary with Oishii Eats

Work has been nuts. And moving during this hectic month of work has proved that thing's couldn't be worse. But my highlight in July was cooking a dinner for our anniversary. I can't get into it, so I'll let J do the talking, or writing, that is. Congratulations J. This has been a frustrating yet rewarding year, and I thank you for being by my side.

***Note. If you start any more petty wars, like whether the overall tone of my photos is too yellow, your next anniversary dinner will be inspired by whatever coupons I find. Hehe.

Hama Hama Oysters with Mignonette

Crab Endive Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

Shrimp Ravioli with Salmon Roe and Mushroom Cream Reduction

Maine Lobster Crepe with Pancetta & Vanilla Bean Sauce

New Zealand Lamb Ribs with Lentil Quenelle and Mango Relish

Seared Duck Breast with Raspberry Guwerztraminer Reduction