Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

San Francisco is for Nom Nom Nom

I'd been pretty convinced of New York's status as the finest food city in the States, but a few experiences last weekend have shaken that conviction a bit.

Out in San Francisco, I spent a fast-paced, food-focused weekend hosted by Foodbuzz, an online community of bloggers and food lovers.

Most of the activity was based around the Ferry Building, which is like a gastronomic Disneyland, especially on Saturdays when the farmers' market takes place there.

Mission Minis Cupcakes

So... what exactly does one do at a food blogging fest? I'd asked myself the same thing.

Apparently, you eat. A lot.

Appetizer

Foodbuzz set up a number of truly tasty events, from a gathering of top street food vendors (even now my mouth waters at the thought of the divine porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti) to talks and tastings by food producers (such as Sue Conley, a founder of Cowgirl Creamery) to a delicious closing-night dinner set up in the Greenleaf produce warehouse and set up by the talented folks at Outstanding in the Field.

In between the scheduled events, I met a lot of terrific people and enjoyed some of the culinary delights of the Bay Area. Some highlights:
My deepest thanks to Foodbuzz for putting together the wonder-filled event. Meanwhile, if you'd like a peek at the festivities (and all that tasty food) just click to find the photo tour here.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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11.14.2009

Day 21: A Festive Frybread

This post marks Day 21 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Since today marks the first day of Hanukkah (as well as the shortest day of the year), I thought it'd be appropriate to commemorate the miracle of the oil with a frybread recipe... a treat for anyone, really.

It's interesting to note that just about any culture that eats bread has its own version of frybread.

The classic Donut. Southern Hushpuppies. South American Sopaipillas. Spanish Churros. Indian Poori. Japanese Tenkasu. Chinese Youtiao. Eastern European Pirozhki. Kazakh baursak. Israeli Sufganiyot... and so on.

Frybread and Wojapi

I'm assuming that the universality of the method has to do with:
1.) accessibility — not everyone has an oven.
2.) ease — whip it up in minutes; all you need is a pot of hot oil.
3.) tastiness — just about anything tastes good when fried.

Since I grew up attending a lot of powwows and rodeos, frybread was always a part of my cultural landscape.

Frybread tacos. Frybread and honey. Frybread and cinnamon sugar. Frybread and wojapi (see below for more on that).

After all, it's the official state bread of my people. (Not to mention the source of some controversy.) While it's certainly not an everyday food, frybread is most definitely a tasty special occasion food.

My favorite recipe for frybread (sometimes called bannock) is a Chippewa version that's made with meat drippings... mmm! It's really best when it features that savory angle, but if you can't take the meat, I've got a reliable (albeit less umami-filled) substitution.

Wojapi (WHOA-jza-pee) is a delicious dark berry sauce that's sometimes served as a dipping sauce with frybread.

The stuff I ate as a kid was almost always made with wild chokecherries, but you could easily use little wild plums or blueberries or blackberries or whatever dark fruits you happen to have around.
Very Basic Wojapi (Makes about 1 pint)
2 cups of dark fruit/berries
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1/8 cup water

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine fruit, sugar or honey and water.
2. Simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3. Serve immediately or, if using cherries or plums, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before removing any pits or seeds. Then rewarm to serve with hot frybread.
I like to use canola oil for frying because it doesn't smoke as readily as many other oils, but use what you have and try to monitor the heat so your oil doesn't burn.
Savory Frybread (Serves 4-6)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp meat drippings (or substitute 4 Tbsp milk + 1/2 tsp salt + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil)
3/4 cup water
Extra flour (for kneading)
Melted lard (preferably) or Canola oil (for frying)

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
2. Add the meat drippings (or milk/salt/oil) and water. Mix well.
3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly.
4. Pat the dough out into a 1/2" layer and slice into 2" strips or squares. If you're making tacos, cut larger pieces and puncture each piece in its center for ventilation.
5. Pour the frying oil in a deep skillet or heavy-bottomed pot so that it reaches 3/4" to 1" up the side of the pan, and set a paper towel-covered wire rack on a baking sheet (for cooling the hot frybread).
6. Heat the pot/pan until the oil is between 350°F and 375°F — at this point, a small dough ball dropped into the oil will immediately begin to bubble and cook, but the oil won't be smoking. Maintain this temperature throughout frying.
7. Carefully drop the dough into the oil with metal tongs, one or two pieces at a time.
8. Cook dough 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Move cooked frybread to the prepared cooling rack while you fry the rest. Serve warm with honey, cinnamon sugar, wojapi sauce or traditional taco fillings.

If you don't have the time (or the berries) to make wojapi, you can thin down some berry preserves with water and adjust the flavor with a little lemon juice to give the sauce a balance of sweetness and tartness, to your taste.

Holiday Cheer!
Miss Ginsu

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12.21.2008

Day 6: Holiday Party Taquitos

This post marks Day 6 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

There's nothing particularly holiday-centric about these little tacos other than the fact that they're red, green and festive. But color counts for a lot, and these are just so good, I can't hold back on sharing them.

We had them for dinner recently (and definitely will again) but I think they'd be fantastic as party eats, since it's easy to make fillings in volume ahead of time and let people go crazy making their own bites while you socialize.

Green Caper Salsa

The secret is in the sauce. Sure, you can go buy something in a jar, but it's never going to taste as fresh and vibrant as what you make a'la minute.

So let's get to the sauce first. I discovered a version of this sauce in Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible. (He called it a French West Indian Caper Sauce and used it with grilled snapper.)

I changed a few things, tried it with fish tacos and was immediately hooked.

It's a beautiful shade of green and has a zippy, lightly briny flavor reminiscent of Veracruz-style coastal cuisine. Easy to make. Also good with chicken, beef or pork... It's a keeper for sure.
Caribbean Caper Sauce for Taquitos(Makes about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic
1 shallot or small red onion, halved
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
2 Tbsp drained capers
1 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeded
1 to 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Put garlic, shallot/onion, parsley, capers, jalapeño, lime juice, vinegar and olive oil in a blender and purée smooth.
2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I'd also recommend a red salsa to keep the red and green theme going. You could make one with fresh-chopped tomatoes if you have good ones, but since tomatoes tend to be less wonderful in the winter, I have a recipe for roasted red peppers.

Roast the peppers yourself or buy 'em in a jar... This recipe works either way.
Roasted Red Pepper Salsa (Makes about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic
1 shallot or small red onion, halved
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
3 roasted red peppers, drained if necessary
2 Tbsp drained capers
1/2 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeded
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Put garlic, shallot/onion, parsley, capers, jalapeño, lime juice and red peppers in a blender or food processor and pulse to achieve the texture you desire.
2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once you pour these lovely salsas in bowls, all you have to do is set out a bowl of shredded cabbage, maybe some sliced limes and cherry tomatoes, a packet of small-size tortillas (heated, of course), a bowl of sour cream and a protein of some kind... maybe some shredded chicken, pork, beef or beans, or a plate of grilled fish.

Voila!... Holiday-ready taquitos!

Feliz navidades, mis amigos!
Miss Ginsu

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12.06.2008

Mmm... Mercadito Cantina

I've never really been wild for flan. It always just seemed like some soggier wanna-be dessert next to the perfection of the divinely crisp 'n creamy, burnt-caramel goodness embodied by the crème brûlée.

And there's so many bad examples of flan out there in the world. But having just recently eaten at Mercadito Cantina, I have seen the light. I am now a flan convert (not that that's going to do anything good for my cholesterol level).

Dos Flans

J happens to have a friend who works there, and seeing as how the place opened months ago, we were loooong overdue for a visit and a taste-test of their fish tacos (so dear to my heart and tastebuds).

After our dinner (which I can't praise enough, by the way: so. very. tasty.), we were sent a duo of dense little flans. Vanilla and Goat's Milk. My goodness, people. A well-made flan is a smooth, rich, decadent delight. A real treat.

Michelada

After freshly-made guacamole, killer salsas, a michelada that rivals my own, excellent fish tacos and sautéed mushrooms with huilacoche (not to mentioin generous bites of J's outstanding pulled pork taquitos), I was so full I couldn't even bear the thought of dessert.

And then it appeared... the little platter of tasty flanitos. One bite, thought I. But oh, mama. They broke my will. (Oh, what a thrill...)

Iban and the cooks

That said, if you want to visit for yourself, you'll have to be crafty.

Word is already out, and true to New York standards, the place is not roomy.

We went on a Tuesday, and they were well-filled by 8 p.m. I don't even want to see the crush on Friday. Early dinners and brunches may be a better bet.

4 spoons

Mercadito Cantina
Mercadito Cantina on Urbanspoon
172 Avenue B
East Village, NYC
212.388.1750

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9.23.2008

All-American Road Trips: Denver

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

The Big View

Flanked by mountains and ringed with highways, it's easy to get lost in Denver's strip malls, chain restaurants and outer-ring developments, but once you find your way to Colfax Avenue, you're on the road to dining with the locals.

I was suffering from a dreadful cold on the trip, so we didn't get out to the bars at all, but there were a couple of spots that came highly recommended by my buddy Alex (a former Denverite):

My Brother's Bar: "A classy spot with fantastic burgers (try a JCB burger)."

The Cruise Room: "If you're staying right downtown this is a good bet for cocktails, though the crowd can be a bit obnoxious on the weekend."

The Bites

Jack Daniels Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Just blocks from the Botanical Garden, Liks Ice Cream is a friendly neighborhood joint that features homemade ice creams and sorbets alongside umbrella-shaded outdoor seating. If you're not up for ice cream, the iced coffees and chai seem like a good bet. I had the Jack Daniel's Chocolate Chip, which tastes lightly alcoholic and quite creamy... very much like an iced Bailey's.

Though it's not exactly a cafe, I'm a book junkie, so the Tattered Cover gets a happy mention. Good coffee, tasty-looking pastries and, of course, books! They have several locations, but why not go to the historic LoDo locale? It's huge, comfy, welcoming and chock-full of high-quality staff picks to help you snag a winner or two among the hundreds of selections on the shelves.

Pete's Kitchen

Serving 24 hours daily in a slightly seedy stretch of Colfax Ave, Pete's Kitchen is a classic greasy spoon. My friend Alex recommended it for the chicken-fried steak. The "how ya doin' hon?" staff all seem sweet and genial, if harried. Pete's has been an institution since 1942, so you're here as much for the history as for the gyros platter with fries.

Side Dishes at Domo

If you don't make a reservation, you're going to endure a long wait at Domo's country-style Japanese restaurant. But the lobby is large, the decor is warm and engaging, and you can spend a few minutes walking through the various rooms and gardens. I didn't get a good sense of their fish craftsmanship, but their Wankosushi(TM) combo helps to offer sushi newbies an easy way to navigate various classics by offering a pick-three (or pick-five) small-plate option that arrives with miso soup and an array of kitchen-selected side dishes. It's filling, fun and approachable.

Tacos Platter

El Taco De Mexico strikes me as the kind of place that once featured great food at fantastic prices, but now that it's been listed in a few national publications, they've raised the rates a bit. That said, it's still a good lunch spot. The neighborhood seems like one that's recently been reclaimed by a handful of small, arty businesses, so it's nice for a little post-taco stroll. Order in Spanish or English. The staff is fluent in both. You'll sit with the locals, sip horchata and chew your burrito or tacos in a busy, but tidy, diner booth.

The Takeaway

Denver, Denver everywhere, but I never once saw a Denver Sandwich. The classic Denver Sandwich is essentially a western-style omelette on bread. If you're going low-carb, just skip the bread and eat the omelette. This would also be nice with a slice of cheddar or a spicy pepper jack melted across it. Mmmm...

Denver Sandwiches (Serves 2)

4 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp butter, melted
Dash of salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup ham, diced
1 green onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 slices good-quality bread

1. Beat the eggs, milk, melted butter, salt and pepper together until blended. Add the ham, green onion and green pepper.
2. In a heavy frying pan or skillet over a medium flame, heat the olive oil.
3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, creating an even layer.
4. Cook about 3-5 minutes, lifting the edges to allow excess egg run underneath.
5. Run a spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the eggs. Turn the omelette carefully, and cook another minute or two on the other side. Slide onto a plate and cut in half.
6. Toast and butter the bread, using half of the omelette for each sandwich.


Tattered Cover Book Store
1628 16th St
303.436.1070

Liks Ice Cream
Liks Ice Cream Parlor on Urbanspoon
2039 E 13th Ave
303.321.2370

Domo
Domo on Urbanspoon
1365 Osage St
(Just off W Colfax Ave)
303.595.8256

Pete's Kitchen
Pete's Kitchen on Urbanspoon
1962 E Colfax Ave
303.321.3139

El Taco de Mexico
El Taco de Mexico on Urbanspoon
714 Santa Fe Dr
303.623.3926

Cheers,

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4.30.2008

Dear Miss Ginsu: Williamsburg eating suggestions

To: Miss Ginsu
Subject: W'berg suggestions...

So I just read some scathing reviews of Black Betty's – rude service, dirty, etc. I've only ever had a beer in the bar, so I'm not sure how spot-on the reviews are. Have you ever been? Do you have any other suggestions for fast, simple food my family and I can chow on pre-show?

Thanks!

-T.

Draught Pulls at Fette Sau
Menacing draught pulls at Fette Sau

To: T.
Subject: Re: W'berg suggestions...

Fast and simple dining in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Well, I feel that Betty's spotty these days. She used to be good, but I've also gone in and seen her put out really lame food.

Instead, you may wish to consider...

Bozu is very tasty, with fun decor and playful maki rolls and Japanese apps, but it's not terribly cheap.

I like Diner and its cousins down the way, Marlow & Sons, which has nice wine and oysters and the good, simple Mexican fare at Bonita.

You might consider M. Shanghai Bistro. They can accommodate a group.

I really like Dumont and Dumont Burger. Dumont Burger is more of a bar. Dumont is more of a bistro.

I highly recommend Fette Sau for smoky BBQ, great beer and a warm group seating, though you're going to drop some dollars there, and you'll want to show up at opening time to ensure yourself some table space, especially on inclement days when the outdoor seating is a no-go.

For simple French fare, Fada is very nice. (Particularly in the summer when the tall windows open and one has a glass of wine in hand...)

Falafel Chula and its little friend Taco Chulo are tasty and very casual, so if kids are involved, Taco Chulo might work especially well.

You can get Southern U.S. at Lodge and now Egg does evening menus (also Southern-ish).

I've loved the dingy Paris cafe vibe, the music and the panini at Moto (and the atmospheric J/M/Z train running overhead) but some of the servers have been a bit aloof.

Northeast a bit (in Greenpoint), I like The Queen's Hideaway, which is fun and tasty, but it's not so quick. It's more a sit down, eat and chat spot than a pause, eat and run place. But keep it in mind if you happen to be in the 'Point.

Bottom line: I like all of these places better than I like Betty. Betty's for drinkin' and dancin' these days...

Happy dining!

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3.04.2008

Oh! Sweet. Fleeting. Spell...



Brunch is a safer bet if you really want to score a seat.

Barrio Chino on the NYC Lower East Side:

  • A rich, smoky reposado tequila, flanked by sangrita, mango and jicama.

  • Exposed brick walls that float fancifully suspended cocktail umbrellas.

  • A cool mojito with coconut. Take it sweet or savory. They mull your mint and pinch your juicy lime wedges to order, naturally...

  • Fish tacos the like of which you haven't seen since that week on the Yucatán.

  • Sangria that rolls heady and silken across the tongue with easy, even balance such that a first sip is enough to renew your sense of wonder at how people can drink — much less claim to enjoy — the world's lesser cocktails.

Arrive at 7. This laid-back shop of delights is all yours. But don't get smug. You'll find your little treasure must be soon be shared with the rest of New York, all of whom will attempt to press their shapely frames through the door within two hours' time. Sip your nectar slowly and savor the moment while you can.


Barrio Chino
253 Broome St.
(Btwn Orchard & Ludlow)
212-228-6710

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6.29.2005