Eat Drink Style Restaurant Confidential #0: The Epiphany

It seems that everywhere I go, no matter what time of the day, my mind is constantly battling inner aspirations. I’ve always been very fickle with everything. Hobbies. Food. Music. Girls. It’s not a wonder that I become bored with things really easy. I’d work hard toward something and once it’s complete or gets ‘old’, I move on to the next. It may be that I have a short attention span? Or it may be a natural instinct for me to want to try as many things my life would allow me – you know, before the batteries run out. This fickleness definitely applies to my career choices.

When I graduated from college, I panicked. Growing up in a Chinese family, or even as an Asian American for the most part, there were only three, ‘acceptable’ career paths.

Was I going to be a doctor?
No. I suck at the Milton Bradley Operation game.

Was I going to be a lawyer?
I don't think i can help someone win $2.1 million.

Was I going to be an engineer?
Well, i did make fully functional beer bongs that could hold up to 9 beers at a time.

Mom and dad, I’m breaking all cultural ideals and going into advertising. Advertising? Wus dat? (Just kidding, my parents speak perfect English.) I want to be a part of an industry that devises clever ways to make you buy things you don’t need. Why? It’s fun to be a part of pop culture. There’s a little bit of celebrity hood within it. How many people do you know that can actually be proud of an annoying billboard you see everyday on your way back home from work? Anyway, after three years, I managed to complete my portfolio and finally got a job as an Art Director. Boy did it feel good to finally get to the top of the mountain.

Guess what? I love advertising, but I’m already tired of it after only a year and a half. It seems that I’ve traversed back down that mountain, only to turn around and raise my head up, gazing upon the new challenge. I blame it all on the Food Network. During the first three years, I fell into a comfort zone. I’d do the 9-5 like everyone. Go home. Eat. Sit and watch TV. Three years. And one day, with nothing to watch, I flipped to the Food Network. Alton. Tyler. Rachel. Emeril. Bobby. Anthony. Ina. Giada. Paula. Marc. Mario. I watched EVERYTHING and absorbed every bit of information regarding food. Soon after, I started cooking more, researching knives and pans and buying cookbooks. What has happened to me? I had created a monster. My very, own monster. I was a full-fledged foodie.

I had befriended a co-worker whose boyfriend works as a grill cook at a restaurant in Los Angeles. He was telling me how he had gone to college and settled for a sales job. One day, he resigned and jumped straight into the kitchen. Seven months earlier, he had worked up from the pantry to the grill - a huge step in the kitchen world. Last time I talked to him, his last words were, “Hey man, if you love it, just do it. It’s hard but it doesn’t hurt to try. You’ll never know if this is or isn’t for you, unless you give it a shot. I can get you in, but you have to want it. I cried because I got rocked by the chef, but it only fueled my passion for it.” He is a chef and a coach – all in one.

Two weekends ago, I sat at home thinking about the restaurant. My only option is to work on the weekends because I’m not divorcing advertising just yet. We’re still doing okay. I guess you can say this is going to a be an affair. Short? Long? Who knows. But man, seven days of work is mind-boggling. Working in the kitchen is going to be hard enough, but add another 40-50 hours on that. Fuck it. I’m doing it. I don’t anything to lose if it’s not for me. At least I tried.

I went into The Restaurant last Tuesday to meet with the Executive Chef. I had talked to him on the phone briefly and could tell he was stern. I knew he was giving me an opportunity only because of my coworker’s boyfriend. I knew he was already giving me a month-tops. Whatever. So I had prepared for the interview by mentally rehearsing the right things to say. Here’s how the interview went…

Me: So I heard you need some help in the pantry?

Chef: Yeah. When can you start?

(That’s it?)

Me: Um. Next weekend.

(Chef then starts scribbling on a fresh piece of printer paper.)

Chef: Meet here for orientation at 10 am. I’ll see you next weekend. Bring your own knives. We got a coat for you. Buy your own shoes and pants. I recommend that you don’t wear khakis or white jeans. (Who the hell wears white jeans besides girls? Aren’t those illegal for men to wear?)

Me: Ok.

Chef: Any questions?

Me: No.

Chef: Wait, what was your name again?

I’m serious. Total time: 5 minutes. 4 of those minutes went towards paperwork. I shook hands with him and as I walked away, I felt a knot in my stomach. I don’t know what the hell I just got myself into. Nervous? Anxious? Excited? Yes, all of that. As soon as I walked out of the restaurant, I approached the steps quickly - a perfect ramp for that memorable, slow-motion Toyota leap from the 80s commercials. I felt like doing that but I thought I’d save it for another occasion.

So this past weekend, it was time to gear up. I felt like it was a back-to-school sale. Pencils. Pens. Trapper Keepers. Jansport backpack. Mead paper. I bought my first pair of black Dickies. I figured I’d be safe as long as I’m not walking around the streets with them. Brought the ubiquitous Bed Bath & Beyond coupon to the store and bought some cheapie Calphalon’s. Who cares. They’re going to get f*cked up.

This Saturday, my life is going to change as I start my first day. Will it be for me? Or will it not? I’ll fill you in after this weekend. I’m just glad to know that there’s a fellow blogger going down the same path with me. Yoony of Immaeatchu is interning at the AOC winebar pantry. Like me. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Bacon. The Culinary World's Most Lethal Narcotic.

If you think about it, if there's one ingredient/food that really widens your eyes upon hearing the word, it has to be bacon (unless you're a vegetarian). You're at a restaurant and the waiter is going through his specials for the evening.

"Macaroni & cheese. Creamed corn soup. Baked potato skins."

Zzzzz. Boring. But what if you added the B-word to these all.

"Macaroni & cheese with bacon. Creamed corn soup with bacon. Baked potato skins with bacon."

Now things are interesting. I've come to the conclusion that bacon is a drug, you just don't know it. It'll be raising the eyebrows of every DEA agent very soon. Look at how this narcotic has spread through the nation, onto our plates.

Google's Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger (photo from
We all know that Google spends a ton of money on fattening up their employees with starch, carbs and fat so they'll forget how much they are actually getting paid. They've taken the cheeseburger to another level by sandwiching in between Krispy Kreme donuts and adding the Special B in. It pains me to even look at this image – my cholesterol just jumped up 200 pts without even trying it. A minor league team in Sauget, Illinois has also made a pact to entertain their fans with action, entertainment and a free ambulance ride to the hospital with their 1,000+ calorie burger which is sold at $4.50. Is $4.50 worth a $45,000 bypass surgery?

Nickel Diner in Los Angeles's Maple-Bacon Doughnuts
*Clenching chest. This pastry is highly reviewed by the Yelp army and it actually sounds good – if you're stoned. Try it here.

Voodoo Doughnut's Version of the Bacon Doughnut
Maybe my fellow foodblogger in Portland, Guilty Carnivore, can shed some light on what this does to the arteries. Check out Voodoo Doughnut's site.

David Lebovitz's Bacon Ice Cream
Ok now, I would actually try this. This would taste so good on nicely toasted brioche. Send me a gallon David! Visit David's site for the recipe.

Respect the Bacon Suit
How do I look? J actually thinks I'm wearing the standard tuxedo and bowtie for our wedding whenever that happens. She will have the surprise of her lifetime.

Bacon Lip Balm
The good people over at J&D's (Justin & Dave's) know how to kill two birds with one stone: why not remind yourself of the aroma of bacon while moisturizing your lips. Geniusly gross???

Archie McPhee's Novelty Store
And finally, some wacky gag gifts and novelties can be found here.

Feel free to post some links to any other insane bacon-related food or product. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style My Doppelgänger?

I received an email the other day with an interesting attachment. It's a photo of me in a snake shop in Taiwan and someone who looks like me. Crazy. Dress shirt, jeans, watch, camera strap. He even got the mosaic pixelation down in Photoshop too... level 8! Thanks to CL for this. BTW, it's not a miracle to be wearing the same thing as me. I only own one pair of jeans, shirt and uh, boxers.

Eat Drink Style The Coq Au Vin Recipe and Emeril – Chicken Cooked in Wine

I am an epicurean, which means, that day and night, my mind is somewhere in the vicinity of food and drinks. I use the three regular meals to get through my day. When I’m eating breakfast, I’m already planning what I want to eat for lunch. At lunch, I’m pondering my dinner course. And sometimes, after going out to see a band or to some other social function, I consider the possibility of eating a midnight snack. Usually something fried and savory. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t have a satisfying meal, I feel as if there’s a void and become irritable.

Most of us, I assume, have the Food Network on sometime of the day. Whether or not you’re actually paying attention to the show, it’s just so comforting hearing the language of food. Even if it’s the annoying “bam”, “EVOO” or “yummm” (Rachael Ray) sayings that have desensitized us. Yet, we force ourselves to endure such cheese, because we truly are pigs that live to eat. The second I get home, the Food Network is flipped on.

One night, I sat on the couch in a completely, vegetative trance, watching Emeril Live. The lame lines we’ve grown numb to, simply had no effect on me.

“I don’t know where you get your ______ from. But where I get mine, they don’t come seasoned.”

“Call your cable company and order Smell-a-vision right now!”

“Use your knob.”

“See, they’re getting happy.”

“Just needs about 80 cloves of gah-lic.”

Ugh. So repulsive. Nothing on his show ever appeals to me and I question his true ability to cook. Like most celebrity chefs, they’re just an act. A face. Does anyone really think Sandra Lee from Semi-Homemade can actually cook? Hear what Yoony of Immaeatchu and Slash Food bloggers have to say about Miss Lee. I think it’s awesome that Bourdain could give a rat’s ass about no longer working for the Food Network. If you’ve read his wonderful novel, Kitchen Confidential, you’ll feel the love he has for Flay and Legasse. In one part, Bourdain tells us how essential it is to have the squeeze bottles for final touches, stating that “Bobby Flay has been making Mexican food look like Haute cuisine for year with these bad boys.” Funny. It’s also interesting to note that Emeril has his show setup like a modern, monkey-lab experiment. He’s got everyone wired to a metal cap that sends out electric shocks every time he mentions the word ‘garlic’ and ‘pork fat’. And the crowd never fails to respond. Bourdain sums up Emeril’s crowd as basically “a group of barking seals at Sea World -- hoping for some of the crap that he cooks”. Hilarious. I’m pretty sure anyone fortunate enough to sit at his counter is told beforehand to pretend the food is remotely delicious.

But once in a while, he will cook something that does sound appealing. If it doesn’t involve 80 cloves of garlic, 2 whole blocks of butter and 1/2 a bottle of Rum, I’ll actually continue watching. For me, it was Coq Au Vin, a French stew consisting of chicken, vegetables and wine. Cooked and dredged in alcohol, this rustic farmers dish was a great way to combine ‘not-so-fresh’ ingredients for a Sunday brunch. The chicken meat falls off the bone beautifully and is lathered with gravy made from the wine and chicken broth. Yum. And the best part of cooking this dish is that you get to employ some pyrotechnic techniques known as flambéing with Brandy. Pure fun.

Ingredients for 4
12-14 drumsticks
1 bottle of cabernet sauvignon (my wine of choice. Use pinot noir for a sweeter overall taste. Say no to merlot. It’s way too dry and tannic.)
1 cup of brandy
2 carrots
1 large onion (or 20 pearl onions)
Crimini mushrooms
1 can of chicken broth
2-3 pieces of bacon
Bouquet garni (a sprig of thyme, parsley and bay leaf)
Parsley (garnish)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Here we go. This is damn easy, and adds a nice scent to the kitchen.

(1) Salt & pepper the chicken. Heat your pan and add olive oil and butter over medium heat. Next fry the bacon until all the fat has been rendered out. Once the bacon is crisp you’re good to go. Remove the bacon and add the chicken and make sure it’s been browned nicely over high heat. Don’t worry about the meat being undercooked because that’s what braising is for! Once it’s browned, reserve about 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat. You don’t want to overpower the dish.

(2) PAY ATTENTION. Remove the pan off the stove and add the brandy. Ignite the brandy and let the alcohol burn out for about a minute or two. Cool huh? Once the flames die out, set it back on the stove and lower the heat to LOW. Let it cook for a few minutes. (*Note. The reason professional chefs can add alcohol over direct heat is because they have high-ceilings, $10,000 overhead fans and FIRE EXTINGUISHERS.)

(3) Heat up a dutch oven or large stock pot and add butter/olive oil over medium heat. Get it nice and hot and add the carrots, onions and mushrooms with some flour for thickening/browning. (10 minutes).

(4) Now combine the chicken/brandy pan into the stock pot and add the whole bottle of wine, chicken broth and bouquet garni. Simmer for about 1 hour, or until desired tenderness of the chicken. The veggies should also be fork tender. Salt & pepper to taste and garnish with parsley.

Coq Au Vin can be served as is, or as I like it, with a plate of rice. I do have to maintain integrity for my people right? Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Mmm... Death Pockets!

Once upon a time, I relied on canned corn, corned beef hash, Shake & Bake, Cup O' Noodles, soy sauce, Sriracha and Spam as a source for sustenance. Canned was the way to go back then when you were constantly broke. I made the most out of everything. Some days, I would have Nissin Ramen without the soup, topped w/ sliced spam and canned corn. Shake & Bake-coated Spam with rice and eggs. Chili dogs consisted of Albertson's franks in a bun with a nice glob of Sriracha chili. Gross I know. I died a little during my college years. But on the paydays from working the on-campus, non-taxed jobs, I'd be able to treat myself to... Hot Pockets!!!

Weighing in at 4-5 oz, these are monumental achievements in the world of trashy food. Each one contains 403 calories, 22 g fat, 52 g cholesterol and 906 mg sodium. Nice stats. Unwrap, slap on the sleeve, nuke and enjoy. Who couldn't resist this buttery pastry filled with MEAT and CHEESE. Thanks to the innovative technology of the cardboard sleeve... you can simulate that deep fried taste. You had to time these perfectly in the oven... 15-20 seconds over the suggested oven time, and you'd get molten lava coming out of there. Watchout! I've burned the roof of mouth many a drunken nights.

Which Hot Pockets did you guys eat? It seems that Ham & Cheese and Philly Cheesesteak are always the ones included in the 8 for $10 deal.

I recently watched this hilarious clip on "Hot Pockets" - performed by comedian Jim Gaffigan. The whole Jim Gaffigan CD is a fun look at food and things related to it. Check out the clip by clicking on the image.

Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style An Evening of Excessive Estrogen

As a birthday treat for my friend HL, I offered to cook her dinner at her own place in WeHo. The last time I had dinner with her was nearly a year ago and felt it was time to wine & dine as we used to. Last week we discussed what kind of food would make her belly full. She proudly stated that she is not a picky eater. I proposed a few dishes and heard this in return...

"No squashes."
"No peppers."
"No mushrooms."
"No scallops."

Great, those are only four of my favorite things to cook and eat haha. After democratic discussions, we settled on a menu. Saturday, J and I spent the afternoon foraging for our culinary ingredients. As soon as we got home, we quickly prepped as much as we could. Although I'm used to bringing my whole kitchen to a client's place for catering, I really wanted to travel with the least amount of things. Cooking is never the hard part, it's the loading, unloading and cleaning that make it a strenuous task. We loaded up my plates, knives and food and drove down to WeHo.

HL's place is seriously a great place to have a dinner party. It really looks like a showroom from one of those West Elm catalogs. The kitchen was wide open and made moving around easy... and the guests were within sniffing distance. It's always a good thing to cook food near guests and stimulate their senses.

And just when I thought her place couldn't be more feminine, HL started to light candles. Like, more than you really needed haha. I counted... 1, 2, 3, 4... and a few more in the living room. Whoa. I felt like any minute, a seance would commence. It was me versus three girls.

As soon as we unloaded the groceries, HL and her friend M started pouring the wine. With nearly 6 bottles set on the table, there was going to be some serious drinking tonight. J had never met HL & M before but as most girls do, immediately started chatting away. While I cooked to the sound of sizzling hot oil and overhead fan whirring, I was slowly tuned out of their conversations. I could hear bits of pieces....

"Where'd you get those earrings?"
"I like your hair!"
"Forever 21."
"Sample sales."
"Romantic comedies."
"Oh boys."
"Oh my god."
"I love white wine!"

No offense HL, but I was so outnumbered. I could feel my b*lls slowly shriveling haha. I should've cooked in a football jersey and taken beer bongs every 15 minutes. After about an hour of prepping/cooking and many glasses of wine... we were all buzzed and ready to eat.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Yuzu & Miso Vinaigrette Salad
The first dish was a lightly-seared Ahi Tuna salad with miso vinaigrette. I started by seasoning the fresh block of tuna with salt, freshly ground pepper and coated it with black roasted sesame seeds.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Yuzu & Miso Vinaigrette Salad
Before serving the Ahi Tuna salad, I added a few drops of yuzu juice to the tuna for the final kick to the groin. This was a simple, yet tasty dish that even salad-haters would enjoy. The tuna was nicely seared... warm on the outside, cold and soft in the middle. Also, the addition of thinly-sliced scallions brings out the greens.

Sauteed Shrimp with Thai Coconut Curry
I really enjoy indian food, but cannot eat much of it because I can't eat too much spicy food. I decided to use a Thai-style curry instead, which tastes milder and sweeter. The sauce was made with coconut milk, curry powder, ginger powder, finely chopped cilantro, fish sauce and sugar. The shrimp was marinated in olive oil, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and S&P and quickly sauteed. The garnish is japanese red ginger and chopped cilantro. This was tasty. Next time, I'd like to grill the shrimp instead of sautéing it to get the nice charred taste.

New Zealand Lamb Ribs with Mango & Mint Relish and Saffron Cous Cous
I love lamb, but never get the opportunity to cook it often because my family and friends aren't big fans. Such a pity because lamb fat has such a refined, unique taste. Mmmm. Back at my apartment, I spent a good 30 minutes removing the lining on the lamb bones... a long and arduous task that my catering boss once told me, meant the difference between a good and bad cook. I thought hard about a sauce that would work well with the lamb in case it was 'too gamey' for the guests and read that lamb & mint go together like peanut butter & jelly. To make the dish sweet, I added mangos and jalapenos for another kick to the groin. I salted and peppered the lamb and added a spice rub I had made consisting of coriander seeds, ginger powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon. The aroma hit me as soon as I seared the lamb rack. Even the drunken chatterbugs stopped in their tracks to say so... and quickly resumed into more chattering. "Ok, so what were we talking about just now...?" I served the lamb medium over sauteed asparagus and saffron cous cous. Saffron rocks! The cous cous was light and fluffy and reminded me of cornbread. I liked this dish so much I helped myself to another 5 lamb ribs.

After 4-5 bottles of wine, we were still going. To top the night of estrogen with even more estrogen, HL served champage with blackberries. I had a sip and jumped back to my red wine. (I want to have children, someday.) Overall, I had a great time doing this dinner party and can't wait to do another one. Since then, I've regained my normal level of testosterone. Happy Birthday to HL and thanks for letting me do this! Thank you also to J for her knack for stellar food photography. I can always count on you to shoot.

Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Sriracha FAIL

On Sunday, I was down in Little Saigon for a monthly trip with J and her mom. While J was experiencing food coma in the car, her mom and I went to the market to buy a few goods. And I saw this...

a Sriracha bottle with not only a blue cap, but the icon of a horse/unicorn. Wait a minute! There's NO SUCH THING as unicorns in Vietnam, come on now. Where'd the rooster go? I took a closer look at the company, and it wasn't the original Huy Fong Foods based in Rosemead. This company Vi Hao Food Company took a stab at fooling customers with their version of Sriracha. For some reason, that baby blue cap doesn't look appealing to me – really reminds me of a baby bottle. Anyone try this sauce out? Can you imagine asking the waiter at your favorite pho restaurant:

"Excuse me, do you guys have the unicorn sauce? I can't eat my pho without it."

It doesn't sound right. But you know what, you never really see products out there with unicorns on it. I'm buying one.

Here's a message taken directly off the Huy Fong website:

"September 14, 2004

To our valued customers,

We would like to make you aware that we have discovered that there has been counterfeit Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Chili Sauce being sold. These counterfeits come in both 17oz. and 28oz. sizes. Since these products not only infringes upon our trademark registration, but also is produced for the main purpose of deceiving others into believing they are our products, we therefore want to warn you against purchasing this or any other counterfeits due to potential legal liabilities.

The counterfeit products are identical to our products in all regards, including the logo and wording on the label, except for the following distinguishable characteristics.

1. That taste is not identical to our product.

2. Below the green cap of our bottles, there is a protruding plastic ring, which is the same diameter of the green cap. The counterfeit product's ring is much smaller.

3. Our product's batch code consists of two lines printed with a laser etcher, which produces a clear, colorless imprint. The first line states the product/batch code (must start with an H) and the second line states the expiration date. The counterfeit does not have a product/batch code but has an expiration date that may be either be printed in black ink or or hot-stamped resulting in a colorless, blurry imprint.

4. Finally, our bottle has 'Huy Fong USA' embossed on the bottom of our bottle. The counterfeit does not.

The counterfeit products may not have been produced following quality guidelines, therefore consumption of these products may pose a health risk. In order to protect our consumers, we are respectfully requesting any information you may have regarding this counterfeit company. We thank you for your past and continued loyalty and your kind cooperation in this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Huy Fong Foods, Inc."

Somethings you can't stray away from – real Maggi, real 3-crabs fish sauce and real 3-lady rice paper haha. Definitely not the original rooster gangster.

For more FAILures, check out one of my favorite sites, Failblog.