Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Google Scores PhD in Tea House Cute

Now, I may not be a cuteologist in the same league as the experts over at cuteoverload or meomi, but I'd say I've done enough concentrated independent study to rate as a connoisseur of cute.

That said, Gmail users, I address you today. Have you seen the fantastically awesome cuteness that is the Gmail Tea House theme?

If not, I urge you to go to your Gmail account, hit the "settings" tab at the top-right corner of the page, select the "themes" tab at the end of the settings bar, and scroll down to the "tea house" theme.

Cute little fox in a grass hat. Cute peach trees. Cute Japanese garden. But wait... it gets even cuter.

Throughout the day, the little fox conducts his cute daily activities. At noon, the sun is high in the sky, and he's playing his flute for the ducks.

Later on, he might enjoy tea and cakes with a little monkey friend or tend his bonsai tree. As I cook dinner, the stars come out and he's making ramen just outside his adorable pagoda as the chicks peck the ground. Under the moonlight, he lights the lanterns. CUTE!

My little foxy friend eats his dinner.

Ace cute. The bus stop theme is pretty great too, but I compulsively come back to find out what the fox is up to. Bravo, Google.

We'll be to the regularly scheduled food blog tomorrow. Just had to share.

Miss Ginsu

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Food Quote Friday: Robert Stephens

Top Ramen Noodles, Chili Flavor

"Even now, when I do a slide show of the Geek Squad story, the first slide is a photo of ramen noodles. Because for me, ramen noodles are the international symbol for struggle.

All start-ups are like college students. They have nothing. They have hunger, they have desire, they have vision, and they can dedicate themselves to the business because they usually have no families to support. The absence of resources is the key to innovation."

Geek Squad Founder Robert Stephens in Escape Magazine

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A Tale of Three Ramen

Like a lot of American kids my age, I grew up with an imposter. Fool that I was, I loved it with an unreserved passion.

To my great shame, I still distinctly remember turning down countless opportunities for actual food in favor of plastic pouches of pasty-white ramen noodles.

Oh, how strange it now seems. I was held in a spell, rapt in blind adoration of a bunch of airy white bricks that magically transformed in hot water. Three minutes... and voila! Tender, wiggly noodles steeped one of eight or ten nearly indistinguishable monosodium glutamate flavor packets. Pure comfort-food bliss.

Despite a winning name, Top Ramen really wasn't the star player in my affections. For my personal ontology, noodle bricks weren't even in the same genre as the ambrosial Nissin Cup o' Noodles. Many happy childhood memories involve warming my hands atop the smooth paper barrier that retained precious steam for those three mystical moments between shelf-stable starch and ramen.

Now that I'm slightly more worldly, I know that real ramen holds very little resemblance to either the starchy brick or the salty cup.

I've come to discover that real ramen doesn't involve MSG packets. It isn't even really about the noodles. Real ramen is a sensual experience closer to poetry.

Between the pork and the seaweed, the mushrooms and the egg, the scallions and the broth, the noodle and the steam, real ramen is about comparison. It begins just breathing in the aroma of the bowl. Then the exploration: One bite is briny sea, the next is rich, savory earth. This one is bracing and vegetal. That one, creamy and smooth. This one is chewy, that one, crisp. Real ramen is revelation.

I'd intended to present a comparison of three Manhattan ramen shops, but I find myself torn between them.

Momofuku Ramen
Momofuku Noodle Bar (163 First Ave, near 10th St.)

Momofuku Noodle Bar, the critics' darling, was big, bold, meaty ramen with thick, sturdy noodles... a very American ramen experience. They make it with Berkshire pork and serve it alongside crisp Hitachino ales. It's luxe, crowded, efficient, expensive and oh-so-very NYC.

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Setagaya Ramen
Setagaya (141 First Ave., near St. Marks Pl.)

Ramen Setagaya is very clearly a US outpost of a slick Japanese chain. From a strangely mesmerizing wall display of Japanese food TV to the focused menu and overwhelmingly Japanese clientele, entering Setagaya felt more like a entering a teleportation device that dumped diners off in the midst of suburban Tokyo. The ramen, too, was transportive: tabletop to forest floor, rocky cliff and seaside farm.

Ramen Setagaya on Urbanspoon

Rai Rai Ken Ramen
(Rai Rai Ken Ramen House, 214 E. 10th St.)

Rai Rai Ken Ramen House is a dim closet behind a red curtain. Dark wood and a skinny ledge. The counter is high. The ramen is passed down from on high by a stoic staff of skilled young men. Chat with your companion. They're there to cook. The ramen is steamy, satisfying and dead cheap. Workers, students and hungry strangers approach needy and leave restored. This is a noodle shop for the proletariat.

Rai Rai Ken on Urbanspoon

Each of these ramen stops is within a stone's throw of the others. And each seems to represent a different aspect of the modern ramen experience. When I sat down to consider which might be considered the one true ramen experience, I really couldn't pick just one. It's situational.

Now, I'm no ramen expert, but I have a theory.

Setting the starchy grocery-store ramen aside as the phony junkfood it really is, the "best" ramen is less about single noodle bar or a single noodle bowl. It's really about the ramen bowl for who you are and how you're feeling at a particular time. Sometimes, the dark cave presents the right bowl of ramen. Sometimes it's the ramen on the slick countertop with the pretty servers.

So here's my thought: don't let anyone tell you they've got a line on the ramen. Top ramen is a state of mind.

Miss G.

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