John Ash: Storytelling at IFBC Sacramento

August 1, 2016

John Ash IFBC Sacramento

 

Storytelling is an art. Unfortunately, many people self-proclaim themselves as storytellers on many a Linkedin profile, but if you have to tell the world you’re a storyteller…you’re probably not a good one. The best storytellers don’t think you’re interested in their stories; they feel like they’re rambling and are often apologetic. But, who in the world wouldn’t want to listen to a person share their most intimate conversations they had with some of the culinary world’s most respected and illusive icons?

John Ash is a natural storyteller. He opened his restaurant in Sonoma County in 1980 and is allegedly the first restaurant to cook in the California Cuisine manner; seasonal, local, sustainable. I was able to be under his spell at this year’s IFBC conference in Sacramento. And since I have only just met him recently, I can’t say if he’s always been this way or the art had been honed over time. His stories about the time he spent with Julia Child and the stunningly natural beauty MKF Fisher – one of America’s most popular food writers – were enough to bring the wide of eyes of wonderment I feel like I’ve lost over the years for food. Julia Child had already passed by the time I entered the culinary industry professionally, so the next best thing is to stand next to someone who stood next to her.

John kept me engaged the entire time – a much harder thing to do lately – and I really could have listened to John speak for much longer than he did. I hope I’m honored enough to have a chance to be in his presence again. There are not many like John Ash left in the world.

Puerto Rican Paste Magazine Essay Published

July 27, 2016

Puerto Rican Paste Magazine | In 2005, my ex and I had broken up and I was forced to move out of our Mission apartment and seek housing elsewhere. I went on the longest series of roommate interviews, ever. Each and every time I stepped into the blur of claustrophobic rooms for rent, a white man was the interviewee. It wasn’t until a tiny dancehall lovin’ Filipino student from Long Beach interviewed me that I finally found a place to lay my head. I’ve been grateful to Christine ever since.

Why am I mentioning this? Because after pitching this essay – about Puerto Rican familial foundation – around for one-year, it seemed like it was doomed for the same destiny had it not finally fallen into the peripheral vision of the food editor at Paste Magazine. She got me. She got the essay. I’m eternally grateful to her.

Click the photo to read the article.

Puerto Rican Paste Magazine maisonet

IFBC Sacramento 2016

July 25, 2016

ifbc 2016

 

It looks like I’ll be attending the International Food Blogger Conference next week in my hometown, Sacramento. Deeming themselves as the first ever conference for food bloggers, this conference “features high-quality educational sessions and personal networking opportunities.” Of course, their theme for the year is “farm to fork.” As Sacramento and the surrounding valley provides so much produce  to the US, Northern California producing 82% of the world’s almonds. If I have to hear the “farm to fork” term one more time, I might become homicidal.

One of the workshops within the conference is focused on “Questions the FoodTech Industry is Asking and How Bloggers Can Answer.” Companies throughout Silicon Valley are asking: how can we change food for the better and disrupt some of the largest industries in the world?  I never thought the world of tech, as I know it to be the “make the world a better place through gentrification” had a rightful place in the restaurant industry and this belief was confirmed during the Hapa Ramen, Nakato vs. Van Natta, fiasco.

Sacramento weather will be in it’s full summer glory, beaming down on those of us who will be attending the “pre-conference excursions.” It’s supposed to be 104°F on the day we set out for Capay Organic Farm. “Capay Organic is a second-generation, organic farm that got its start in the Coastal Ranges’ Capay Valley, 90 miles northeast of San Francisco. After more than 30 years of organic farming, Capay Organic grows more that 130 varieties of fruits and vegetables on 500 acres of certified organic land. The farm is now owned and operated by the second-generation farmers – Kathy and Martin’s sons – Noah, Thaddeus and Freeman. In keeping with their parents’ vision, the farm practices healthy crop rotation, encourages a diverse ecosystem around our fields, efficiently uses local water sources, and carefully selects produce varieties that grow well and taste great.”

All in all, I’m excited to attend my first ever food-related conference.

IMG_4269-farm-office-

 

 

The Puerto Rican Supperclub

May 30, 2016

Puerto Rican Supperclub

 

I’m not a morning person. When the East Bay Express’s Luke Tsai asked me if I was available for a tiny interview in the morning, I obliged. I tried not to stammer too much the next morning while he asked me questions about my little nothing in the apartment of a secret location where I’d be cooking. I was my usual self filled with sailor vernacular. My mother would not approve. The importance and the acumen for this Puerto Rican supperclub came across and the one and only other example of Puerto Rican food in the east bay was compared, “That’s what the guys at Borinquen Soul said,” when I mentioned the only place to get culantro was the Southeast Asian markets. I’m grateful for Luke’s phone call and his interest, truly. I’m thankful that anyone would grace me with their ear or presence, sit down at my table and eat my food. And pay for it! This isn’t coming from a place of “undervaluing” myself or having low self-esteem – a certain demographic keeps informing me that I embody both of these things – this is coming from humility and being humble. Maybe it’s a Latino thing. The world owes us nothing. And sometimes, even hard work doesn’t give you the break you think you deserve.

They started showing up after 5PM, Servsafe in eyeshot for everyone to see. It took no time for me to bring out their piña coladas, not on the menu, and little empanadas filled with picadillo and bacalaitos (codfish fritters).  I was busy in the kitchen with final touches and deciphering course timing by the din of voices spilling out from the dining room; quiet means eating, laughter means a few more minutes before the next course. By the time everything came to an end, almost an hour and a half had passed. People spilled back out and I collapsed into a chair and woke up an hour later.

Over the next few days, I felt unfulfilled. Like, the whole thing was missing something. I had asked for feedback; genuine honesty and for diplomacy to be pushed aside. No one had anything to say but positive remarks. How often are people you’ve never met in your life going to be completely honest with you? Haha. The goal now is to get someone in the dining room that gives the feedback I need before I decide to take over the Mission space this autumn.

It took a while to convince people to come out to the east bay and pay to eat in a tiny hidden location. Eventually, both events had sold out. Hopefully the next ones do as well. I’m looking forward to doing a full blown Christmas Puerto Rican menu this December, complete with pasteles and pernil. The menu will evolve over time. While most of the menu now is very ancestral and from my heart – with the exception of the dessert – I’ll start to reveal a more cerebral menu that includes some of the dishes I’ve been working on where I merge the similar flavors of Southeast Asia, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican Supperclub

The Puerto Rican Pop Up That Never Was

May 9, 2016

pig

“I don’t understand what you messed up. Everything was delicious,” Debbie said after I dropped off a delivery of food that she should have eaten in a decorated backyard in the middle of Oak Park.

It wasn’t that I was doubted my flavors. I was doubting that the first whole pig I had ever roasted was going to be finished by 3PM when the eaters started to appear. And I was right to doubt, because we didn’t pull the pig off the fire until 8PM. And had my menu only listed “roasted pig,” I would have invited attendants to sit around the fire for four extra hours, consuming piña coladas and eating miniature empanadas. But, it wasn’t just the pig that wouldn’t have been finished. I hadn’t finished the codfish fritters, the arroz con gandules or the jibarito patty melts.

The night before I picked up the pig and was up until 1:30AM making the beans, frying plantains, making and assembling the cake, making the meat and pastry and assembling the empanandas and salting the pig.

pig

My mother and I arose at 7AM and got to Oak Park at 8AM. Santana pointed to the chosen pole and said, “You can’t use a pressure treated wooden pole, it’s poisoned! Well, you could use it, but the poison would seep into the pig.” Are you fucking kidding me? Why couldn’t it be my grandma’s day when she would just get someone to cut down a limb from a tree and shove it up the bum? Then came to hunt for a pole to tie the pig onto. Easier said then done. I finally found a non-treated Douglas Fir closet pole at New Home Building Supply; an independent lumber yard in the neighborhood. It took hours to track down the pole, drive to and fro. I finally returned and then we proceeded to unsuccessfully tie the pig to the spit. No matter how tight the wire, when we turned the pole, the pig didn’t want to rotate with it! Took her off the fire and racked our brains (when I say we, I definitely mean Santana, Tim and my mother came up with the idea as I helplessly stood around looking for a corner to panic puke into) to find another solution.

pig

Nearly four hours later, they had came up with a solution to 86 the pole idea and swapped it for a frame. They slapped two two by fours together, screwed two smaller pieces to hinge the two by fours, stapled the chicken wire to the two by fours and then used some screws and washers. It worked! Santana needed to go to work, so it was down to my mother and I. It was noon we were expecting folks in 3 hours. I was supposed to go home, finish a batch of rice, the codfish fritters, fry off the empanadas, take out the tables from the garage and decorate. Having to come back to Oak Park every 30-minutes to help my mom turn the pig. But, I was already exhausted and completely stressed to the point of making myself physically ill. I made an executive decision to call the whole thing off and as soon as I said those words, the stress was gone.

By the time my mom and I threw our smoky scented bodies into our recliners like rag dolls, it was 9PM. We had spent 13 hours sitting pig side. In the end it had became my magnum opus; a rights of passage ceremony that came years too late. My grandma wasn’t here to remind my mother what to do, but at least my mother was here and she slowly remembered the steps as the sun sank behind the pop up tent Santana provided us. I felt like I had just given birth – metaphorically to those who have truly given birth – I was exhausted and teary eyed. And just like to a new mother, someone asked me as soon as I finished the pig, “So when are you going to have another one?” Can’t you just let this one sink in and leave it alone? The way I feel now, I may never roast another pig. But, who knows…I may roast another one next year for my grandma’s birthday, May 5.

Thanks to those who allowed me to deliver plates of food to their doors in lieu of a refund. I felt like you truly believed in me, it was very encouraging. I promise not to cancel my other dinners coming up within the next few weeks!

 

Kit Kat Croissant Recipe

April 2, 2016

 kit kat croissant

 

This kit kat croissant recipe really isn’t a recipe. I was lying in bed thinking about my visit to Paris in 2010; the moment where I discovered that Americans charge about quadruple what Parisians charge for the flaky delights known as pain du chocolat. That’s when the horrifying images appeared of spending days making a laminated dough, turn upon turn upon turn. No, thanks. Where could I find thin chocolate bars in order to make pain au chocolat, that wasn’t the internet? And really, the rest is common sense. I searched the internet to see if anyone else had combined these two, and sure enough, the Japanese were ahead of me. But, not by much. They had been combining the delicious chocolate (and matcha) wafers since late last year.

I’m only six months behind!

Kit Kat Croissant Recipe

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 27 minutes

Yield: 8 crescent rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 - 8oz can Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 2 King Size Kit Kat Bars

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven 350°
  2. Unroll the pre-portioned crescent triangles.
  3. Place 2 Kit Kat bars on the triangle and re-roll the dough around the kit kat. Repeat for the remaining crescent triangles.
  4. Place crescents onto a sheet tray and bake for 10-12 minutes or until croissants are golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Notes

OPTIONAL STEP: In a small bowl, mix together egg and a splash of water for egg wash. Brush wash onto crescents to achieve maximus golden colour.

1 egg + splash of water

http://eatgordaeat.com/kit-kat-croissant-recipe/

 

kit kat croissants