Tag Archives: Food

Japanese food that will keep you warm during winter

27 Feb

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Winter in Tokyo can offer some sunny days with beautiful blue skies, but it comes at a cost, with the average temperature hanging somewhere between 2 and 10 degrees Celsius. Well, you’ve been out exploring or maybe you were taking refuge in a museum for the morning, but it’s lunchtime in Tokyo and you’re hungry. Don’t stand out in the cold and wonder what to eat, read on for 8 Japanese foods that will warm you up during winter in Tokyo.

1) Ramen
Be careful not to burn your mouth, a hot bowl of ramen will certainly fill you up and warm you up at the same time. Chinese-style wheat noodles, meat, vegetables and a sheet of nori (seaweed) come together in a hearty broth. It’s the perfect meal for colder weather. Basic broths, such as miso or tonkotsu pork are always a safe bet, and usually, you can add in some condiments like garlic and pepper to bring it to the next level. Warm udon or soba, of course, might do a similar job (ask for “atatakai,” meaning “warm”), but a thick ramen broth, soft-boiled egg, and a fat slice of chashu (pork) really feels like a cozy hug. With a side of gyoza dumplings hot off the pan, you’ll be toasty in no time. Try a bowl of tantanmen, ramen with a spicy kick, if it’s especially cold out.

2) Nabe
The term “nabemono” or “nabe” covers all kinds of hot pot style foods, referring to soup-based meals made in a communal pot. When winter rolls around in Japan, it becomes time to whip out the nabe pot and eat together around the kotatsu (heated table). Warming for the belly and the heart, meat with vegetables and noodles cooked together in a hot broth is best shared with family or friends. Typically in restaurants, a large communal pot sits on a portable stove or one built into the table, and the nabe cooks in front of you and your dining companions while you chat. The longer your nabe cooks, the more intensely the flavors of the soup develop. Nabe has a really cozy image that goes hand in hand with cold weather in Japan.

3) Shabu Shabu
“Shabu shabu” is an onomatopoeic word in Japanese for the “swish swish” sound of dipping and flipping slices of meat in the boiling nabe broth. In this variation of hot pot, the meat comes in thin slices so they can be cooked quickly and then dipped into your choice of sauces. Some restaurants offer a pot with two or more sections so that you can have different types of soup. Bases range from miso and soy sauce to yuzu citrus, as well as other variants like spicy kimchi or creamy tofu milk. Adding in vegetables like green onions, kinoko (mushrooms), noodles, and tofu cubes makes for a healthy, tasty and toasty group dinner.

4) Sukiyaki
Another nabe variant, sukiyaki is a sweet-flavored nabemono that is cooked in a cast iron pot right at the table. Sukiyaki consists of meats, green vegetables, and different styles of tofu, simmered in a base soup made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Udon or mochi rice cakes are often in the mix too, as well as clear glass noodles made from konnyaku root, called ito (“string”) konnyaku. Daikon radish, to soak in the sauce, and a variety of kinoko mushrooms are also typically used in sukiyaki. Once it is ready, you are meant to eat the meat by dipping it in raw egg first!

5) Japanese Curry
Japan is more commonly known for its delicate flavors and subtle textures, but an unusual food that has developed into its own realm is Japanese curry. Often including hearty chunks of meat, carrots, and potatoes, it is really a perfect comfort food during the winter months. Homey and filling, curry rice often comes with your choice of katsu (a panko-coated cutlet) or agemono (deep-fried foods). Curry udon, a noodle alternative, also hits the spot on a cold day. To ramp up the heat, sprinkle some shichimi-togarashi on top (a chili pepper spice mix with seven ingredients). For the hardcore curry addicts, the chain restaurant Coco-Curry has stores spread across the city and allows you to choose the spiciness level. Not just by Japan standards, even the low levels from one to three pack a punch. Level 10 is truly not for the faint of heart, but apparently, if you can conquer it, you can keep the spoon.

6) Chukaman (Steamed Buns)
Bonus Tip: If you are on the run and need a hot snack, the chukaman, or warm steamed buns, sold at convenience stores are perfect for a little pick-me-up between meals. Nikuman (meat-filled steam buns) or kareman (curry-filled steam buns) are always tasty, but you can even get pizza flavored buns or sweet buns with anko (red bean paste) filling.

Level-Up Bonus Tip: Try the oden at the konbini and you’ll really feel like a Tokyo local.

7) Oden
Hang on, let’s just backtrack a moment. Convenience store oden? Are you sure?
Yes! If you’d like a hot snack on the go, try picking up some oden to-go. Usually, oden items are displayed in self-service stainless steel warmers near the registers. It’s warm and delicious, easy access, quite cheap and you just pay per piece.

So, let’s track forwards, what is oden?
Strongly associated with wintertime, oden is a soup-based traditional Japanese food. Inside a light dashi soup stock flavored with soy sauce, a variety of tofu, boiled eggs, and vegetables float are submerged and infused by the umami broth flavors. You can find fish cakes of all shapes and sizes too, and you can choose which individual pieces you’d like to try. Get warmed up by the soup, while enjoying the different intriguing textures of the separate ingredients. Of course, home-cooked oden is the best way to have it, but you can find it at izakayas and specialty stores too.

8) Mochi
Finally, if you feel like a little snack, grab some mochi. Mochi can be enjoyed any time of the year, but particularly during in the winter months, yakimochi is wonderful on a cold day at a temple or shrine. These pounded rice cakes are grilled usually over a charcoal fire, puffing as they warm. Starchy and filling, there is something about its gooey texture and winter that go hand in hand.

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Festival promises a day filled with fun, food and music

29 Aug

MIKE-DUPUY
The Penns Valley Conservation Association (PVCA) is hosting their annual outdoor event “Crickfest” this Sunday, Sept. 2, at the community park in Coburn.

The small village of Coburn is not much different than it was 50, or perhaps, 100 years ago.

Roomy Victorian style houses line the main street, and Penns Creek sits to the south side of the town, winding its way through this very rural part of Centre County.

Finding Coburn is fairly easy if you have a GPS, or even just a basic knowledge of the area, and most who make it there will agree that the journey to the little, old fashioned, looking community is a large part of the joy of visiting there.

The picturesque drive takes travelers through the lush, green, Penns Valley farmland, complete with ganders of not only the aforementioned Penns Creek, but also a spectacular view of its sister waterway, Elk Creek.

Coburn is typically a quiet haven, with the most activity on any given day coming from a group of locals making use of the park with a game of Ultimate Frisbee, but each year, on the first Sunday in September, that changes. Hundreds, and quite possibly upwards of one thousand, people flock to an extraordinary festival in Coburn where art, community and nature all come together on a small plot of ground on the backside of this one horse town.

The festival is simply called “Crickfest,” and it will blow your mind and refresh your soul in one swift, sun-covered, swoop.

This coming Sunday marks the 16th year for Crickfest, and as in years past, it promises to be a day filled with fun, food, and music, and will take place rain or shine from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All of the proceeds from Crickfest will go directly to fund the Penns Valley Conservation Association’s Environmental Education Classes that are taught in the Penns Valley School District. Each year since 2003 the PVCA covers the salary for a part time teacher to educate students about the benefits of preserving the area’s natural resources.

Crickfest 16 will be as terrific as the past 15, with live entertainment and delicious food.

Guests are encouraged to kick back and have a relaxing time and bring along their fishing gear, or just simply play in the beautiful, trout filled waters of Penns Creek. There will be kayaks near the creek’s edge to use at your leisure and an instructor to assist first timers.

As in previous years the menu features a broad selection of cuisines to suit any taste, with everything from barbecue to stew.

EcoVents Catering and UpTexas BBQ in Millheim will be serving up BBQ Brisket and pulled pork from their handmade, steampunk-esque portable roaster named “LeRoy.” EcoVents and UpTexas BBQ uses locally sourced beef and pork as well as local, in season produce and other foods.

For those who want something a bit spicier, Brazilian Munchies from Bellefonte, is cooking up some Brazilian Beef Stew and Pao de Queijo (cheese bread).

And if you are really adventurous, travel to North Africa as Nittany Catering, also from Centre County, offers up the classic dish, Morocco Tagine. This lovely, flavor-filled stew will be served in a waste-free, acorn squash bowl.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, the Sweet Creek Cafe will be on hand with an array of unique and delicious baked goods donated by members of the Penns Valley community.

Kids will find fun, educational crafts and activities in the Children’s Creativity Tent. Helpers will show children how to make hands-on art work using items from the environment.

Other stations for kids can be found around Crickfest with past year’s all around favorite being the “water bottle rockets.” And all youngsters will agree that it’s not Crickfest with out the duck and zucchini boat races.

Volunteers from the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey will be presenting a wildlife demonstration, and Millheim resident, Max Engle will be educating everyone on how to build a bat house.

Master Falconer, Mike Dupuy, of Middleburg, will give a falconry and birds of prey demonstration where he will captivate the audience through his knowledge of the age old sport.

Dupuy has decades of experience and is one of the nation’s top falconry/birds of prey experts. He is a very sought after public speaker who consistently draws his audience into his world by teaching them about the benefits of getting involved in falconry. Through the sharing of his personal experiences, he inspires and motivates others to follow their own dreams.

A musical variety show will begin at 11a.m. and will feature local bands and artists that include the Poe Valley Troubadours, Richard Sleigh, and the Unbanned. The final act of the day will be a Ukulele Jam with Mary Anne Cleary. Cleary invites those with ukes to bring their instrument and a music stand along to join in on a jam session.

As per Crickfest tradition, there will be a silent auction where bidders can try their hand at taking home a hand crafted piece of art or a gift certificate for local businesses along with many other wonderfully donated items.

The Penns Valley Conservation Association serves as a steward for the natural and cultural communities in the Upper Penns Creek watershed.

The event is free and open to everyone, from everywhere.

The best and worst cities for running a food truck

22 Mar

Want to start a food truck business? Head to Portland, Oregon. Or try Denver or Orlando.

Portland is the “most friendly” city in the country for food trucks, according to a new study of industry regulations released Wednesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, followed by Denver and Orlando.

Florida, Miami, Wynwood Life Street Festival, Belgian Waffle Food Truck

Philadelphia and Indianapolis rounded out the Chamber’s list of the five U.S. cities with the best business climate for food trucks, a booming industry that has quadrupled in size in the last three years alone. Food trucks generated an estimated $2.7 billion in revenue in 2017, up from $650 million in 2014, the study found.

“Food trucks continue to be vehicles for entrepreneurial opportunity and economic growth,” the study noted. “Government regulators, though, have been slow to adapt their rules to this new breed of entrepreneur.”

To drive that point home, the study also listed the five “most challenging” cities for food trucks: Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Seattle.

Obtaining a food truck permit in Washington requires “23 separate trips to local agencies,” the study found, compared to eight similar visits in Denver. Running a food truck in Boston costs up to $38,000 in annual regulatory fees; in Portland, the cost is just $5,000.

Food trucks face other challenges as well. In Minneapolis, for example, food trucks must park at least 100 feet away from a restaurant, 300 feet away from a commercial building, and 500 feet away from a “sports event,” according to the study, restrictions that make it harder for vendors to set up in prime areas with high foot traffic.

In some neighborhoods in Los Angeles, food trucks must move locations every hour. Some cities make it hard to obtain a food truck permit at all; the waiting list for a permit in New York is 15 years, the study found.

“I know people with food vending businesses in New York City and they’re on the waiting list for a permit for 20 years,” said David Schiaratua, who runs Frenchy’s Food Truck in Brooklyn, New York. Schiaratua said fighting parking tickets and other violations is a constant part of his job. “It’s not an easy business,” he said.

“In many major cities regulations for food trucks can be confusing, duplicative, and in some cases nonsensical,” Carolyn Cawley, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said in a statement.

The foundation, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said its 12-month study was the “most comprehensive ever conducted” of food truck regulations.

The research firm ndp analytics and Argive, a nonprofit that advocates for fewer regulations, contributed work to the study as well. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation said that the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group, and the National Food Truck Association, the industry’s top lobbying group, also assisted with the report.

The industry’s growth in recent years has caused tension with traditional restaurants, especially in cities like Denver with favorable regulations for food trucks.

“Some of our brick and mortar stores get a little concerned when some of the food trucks” park too close to restaurants, said Carolyn Livingston, the communications director for the Colorado Restaurant Association.

But Livingston said the explosion of food trucks was good for the broader restaurant industry.

“Any opportunity to raise the level of awareness about going out to eat is good for our entire industry.”

Ants in your pans – can I get the bug for eating insects

15 Feb

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Shortly before his Super Bowl performance on Sunday, Justin Timberlake held a listening party for Man of the Woods, his new forest-themed album. As journalists listened to songs about flannel, they were served woodsy canapes, including grasshoppers and fried ants. The caterer was Noma founder René Redzepi, king of the weird and foraged, who had been hauled out of his kitchen – Noma 2 opens this month in Copenhagen – to frighten the music industry.

Does the return of Noma suggest that edible ants are back? Promoted as part of the sustainable-food drive, insects are often discussed, but rarely eaten. Ants suffer particularly short shrift, probably because they are small, bitter and viewed as a novelty for events such as expensive album launches. They contain protein, but in the meritocracy of sustainability they pale in comparison to the I’m a Celebrity classic, the witchetty grub, which is high in protein and vitamin C and tastes like almonds.

The main issue with eating insects has been marketing – a problem that is coupled with a misguided ethnocentric feeling of revulsion at eating something we usually associate with filth and decay. But the idea of eating these leaf-dwellers shouldn’t gross us out – 2 billion people around the world regularly eat insects. So, should I join them?

I ordered a bag of wild black ants from the internet, and got stuck in, first following a cheese biscuit recipe from the website Crunchy Critters, and then adding them to a gin and tonic, as suggested by the chefs at Noma. The bitter, vaguely acrid flavour of the ants took me back to the late 1980s and the construction of my first ant tower. It was a considerable feat of engineering, given that I was four, but one that quickly descended into genocide when I decided to eat the ants. Then, as now, my main takeaways were that ants are sharp and lemony, something that owes, perhaps, to the varying levels of formic acid they contain.

For domestic consumption, you can simply hoover them up from your ruined picnic using a clean car hoover, freeze them, pick out unwanted twigs and dry them on a low heat in the oven. Dried ants are best served dipped in melted chocolate.

Redzepi did not invent the ant-as-snack, but through Noma they have enjoyed a robust if niche success as a garnish. Noma popups from London to Japan have seen ants sprinkled atop creme fraiche, placed on lettuce leaves and seasoning still-moving prawns.

At the listening party, they came doused with a blend of black garlic, rose oil and Timberlake lumbersexuality. Alas, this multisensory experience went largely undocumented, as everyone’s phone had been confiscated.

Already a place for chefs, bloggers and blaggers

24 Jan

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On entering Roganic, it was clear I needed a new false name for booking tables. “Mitford”, after my beloved Nancy (not her Hitler-loving fruitcake sister Unity) had lasted exactly four critical ambushes before being sussed and spread across hospitality’s intelligence network. Actually, that makes the chef grapevine sound far too chic and diligent. In reality, it’s just chefs lying about at 3am in mildewed underpants screaming, “That bitch!” into WhatsApp group chats.

But I live for this mayhem. I pitched up at Roganic on a Saturday night to find the staff suspiciously alert, with several of them huddled behind reception like the cast of Meerkat Manor sensing a Kalahari thunderstorm. Well played: it’s their job to find stuff like this out, after all. This restaurant, which is both the Second Coming of a much rhapsodised former pop-up and a spin-off of Michelin-bestowed Cumbrian mecca L’Enclume, opened just a month ago. Due to chef/owner Simon Rogan’s rep as a scene leader and striver for high standards, it’s already one of those places that chefs, writers, bloggers, blaggers and miscellaneous food chunterers are expressing vocal intention to visit in 2018. They yearn, they’ll tell you, to experience Rogan’s seaweed custard with caviar, his millet pudding laced with Stichelton and his scallop with gooseberry.

Well, that’s what they’ll say. My industry, like this column, thrives on hot air. My experience of reviewing ornate, long-haul, multi-course, Michelin-teasing, 50 Best-flirting dining is that few people truly want to spend their free time in them. Oh, they claim to, but that’s a lie. It’s not uncommon in any 14-course tasting journey to glance at the gargantuan task ahead and feel a bit like Terry Waite during his extended Lebanese sojourn: your captors are treating you reasonably, but you’d rather be home with a pleasant stew.

Not that Roganic’s staff are not joyous; in fact, they’re so affable, I’d let several of them move into my house. Or that the opening canape of a teensy preserved raspberry tart was not utterly gorgeous: it tasted just like a Robertson’s jam tart. A small, croquettish bundle of pork with eel blobbed with sweet hay cream was a delight, similar to a bunny rabbit version at Fera, Rogan’s previous joint in the capital. That was followed by a neat, palm-sized parcel of pickled kohlrabi stuffed with raw mackerel and wreathed with lovage. All faultless.

Still, after an hour, we still had 10 courses ahead, a task that felt all the more arduous because Blandford Street attracts some of the biggest tosspots in London. It has gorgeous restaurants – Jikoni, Carousel, Trishna and so on – but terrible people painted into a corner of blandness by their own spare cash. This isn’t the eccentric opulence of Chelsea, geed up by Russian and old British money, or Shoreditch, still riding on lost 1990s notions of hipness. This is Marylebone, where rich Harley Street neurologists eat dinner like Trappist monks, then go home to buy Mark Knopfler tickets.

Dinner has highs and lows, but then Rogan’s food is always a deeply subjective experience. It excites and then, minutes later, repulses. Perhaps that’s the point. A ramekin filled with an inch of cold, set seaweed custard appears. What fresh hell? But then a plate of salt-baked celeriac with spindly enoki mushrooms in puddles of whey is fantastic. (I spend the next day researching enoki, and conclude that celeriac with enoki should be on every vegan menu by 2019.) A porridge of millet thick with blue cheese and a clump of bone marrow comes in a mercifully tiny portion. But a small plate of butter-poached halibut with brassicas turns out to be quite wonderful.

Oddly for someone who lacks a sweet tooth, puddings were the stars of the show for me. A mini caramelised douglas fir tarte tatin was a bewildering work of apple architecture: what felt like a million tiny, dainty slivers somehow arranged into a coherent, edible artwork. A notably unpretty gathering of burnt milk ice-cream with a jus of blackcurrant resembled something unsightly that you might find on a pavement, but had us in raptures over its depth of fruity sweetness. It felt churlish to eat it, rather than put it in a glass box and charge a fee to behold it.

Can I cook like … Henry VIII

20 Dec

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Act like a king, get treated like a king: that’s one of the eyebrow-raising claims made in Robert Greene’s 1998 self-help book, The 48 Laws of Power. I’ve got my eyes on a pay rise, so I thought that eating like a king might help. And who could be more kingly than Henry VIII?

In the Tudor era, high society ate a great deal of meat – game, for the most part – and fruit. I hit two immediate snags: the first, as anyone reading this with even a basic knowledge of where their food comes from could tell me, is that there is a game season and February doesn’t fall in it. (Apparently, you have to give the pheasants a break from being shot at, so they can go away, get counseling and have babies for you to shoot at next year.)
Can I cook like … Andy Warhol?
Read more

Henry VIII got around this by having vast storerooms in which they hung meat in the winter months. I have a freezer but – while I have a surprisingly large number of strange things in there that I have either forgotten to label or that I have given labels so broad as to be useless (“leftovers” is the helpful message on one container) – there is no game. Fortunately, my local butcher procures me a pheasant.

But then I hit another roadblock: the bottom drawer of my oven commits suicide, leaving me with only the small top drawer. This, again, wasn’t a problem that Henry had to grapple with, because he had a number of roaring fireplaces to choose from and the actual cooking was someone else’s problem.

I invent a new dish: squashed roast pheasant. What you do is you take a pheasant that is slightly too large for your only working oven and, after drenching it in fizzy wine and butter to prevent it drying out, press it flat until it fits. Take it out every half- hour or so to apply more wine and keep it moist. I serve mine with fruit and grapes, Tudor-style, avoiding vegetables, because Tudor nobles regarded them as incredibly lower-class and also because my oven is broken.

The resulting meal is not at all bad, but I cannot imagine being willing to go to that much effort when a simple joint of roast beef is just as good and a hell of a lot easier. The problem with eating like a king, I realise, is that you have to be willing to cook like a serf.

Why restaurants want you to order food on your phone

22 Nov

food

An order placed by an app is shown on the screen Sept. 12, 2016, at the Eastman Egg restaurant at Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago. Eastman’s app technology allows a customer to order at any time and the food is prepared only when the customer gets close to the restaurant. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

The ability to order food with the click of a few buttons on a smartphone is becoming widespread — even fast-food companies are getting in on the action. But the technology — which in some cases tracks a customer’s location and times food preparation accordingly — can vary widely. And restaurants admit that some customers are still wary about the freshness of their food when ordering ahead..

“I think some users assume (their food) would be sitting on that counter for them because that’s how most in the industry do it,” said Eastman Egg founder and CEO Hunter Swartz, who focused on a mobile app as a cornerstone of the Chicago restaurant’s development. “As much as we had to educate the public about our food, there’s been just as much education for the app.”

Mobile ordering is becoming a critical piece of many restaurants’ plans because of what it can bring in improved sales. Customers spend more and visit more often, on average, when they’re using a phone to order their food.

The first restaurants to make mobile a big part of their business were the ones that rely heavily on delivery: pizza makers. At Domino’s, you can order just by texting an emoji of pizza or opening their app; no clicking required. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s have made big advances, too, and all three credit about half their sales to mobile orders.

Few restaurants are as far along as the delivery operators, but many have advanced their own apps by leaps and bounds to capture more customers on the go.

Starbucks launched mobile pay through its app a year ago, and it now accounts for about 5 percent of sales, Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said at a conference last week. That jumps to 20 percent of transactions at peak times at several hundred of its urban stores. It expects that number to accelerate quickly in the near future, as customers get more comfortable with the technology. A quarter of Starbucks’ customer payments already are made with its smartphone app.

Maw also said Starbucks’ app eventually will be able to use weather data to market different food and drink items to customers, like a pumpkin spice latte on a chilly October day.

In June, Dunkin’ Donuts debuted mobile ordering nationwide and Chick-fil-A launched a new app with mobile ordering capabilities. Taco Bell has had mobile ordering capabilities on its app since 2014, but sister company KFC doesn’t offer it. McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, has been testing its own mobile ordering system since the spring and has said that digital initiatives are a big priority in the near future.

Among fast-food restaurants, the frequency of customer visits increases by 6 percent and average spending per visit rises by about 20 percent when technology is used to place an order, according to a Deloitte survey released this week. Visits tend to increase because technology makes it easier to repeat an order automatically, while repeat orders of custom or upgraded drinks lead to increased sales.

In addition to an expected sales boost, the data collected from mobile ordering apps can shine light on the makeup of customers.