Sunday, October 22, 2017

Chimay

If I were to ask you to name a Belgian Trappist beer, I bet you’d say Chimay. But I also bet you don’t know all that much about Chimay. I certainly didn’t until I met the utterly charming Luc “Bobo” Van Mechelin, US brand ambassador. We sat down over a beer or two so I could learn more about all things Trappist and Chimay. 

Trappists originally came from La Trappe in Normandy, but were expelled from France by Napoleon and settled in Belgium. Today there are 170 Trappist monasteries around the world, and 10 of them are in the US. In Belgium Trappists first made cheese, but then began making beer (they still do make cheese). In 1992 six Belgian and one Dutch Trappist monastery came together to protect the designation, “Trappist beer.” They agreed that to be a Trappist beer it must be brewed inside the walls of the monastery, there can be no commercial investment and 90% of the net profits must be given away to charitable causes. Chimay has given proceeds to support orphanages, schools and clean water. 

The Trappists of Chimay are particularly intellectual and have an impressive theological library. The Chimay Trappist monks arise between 3:30 and 4 in the morning and pray seven times a day. They are vegetarian and maintain silence in the monastery. Their beer takes 3-5 days to ferment and the yeast used to make it was lost during World War II (it took 3 years to recreate it). Unlike other beers, no imagery of monks is used on their labels out of respect for the monastery. 

Chimay was introduced to the US in 1983 and really took off in ’97-98 and is currently available in all states. Chimay makes about 300,000 cases and the vast majority is sold in Belgium, only about 25% is exported to the US. There are 4 kinds of Chimay beer you are likely to find: 

Chimay Gold — a pale ale, it has the aroma of hops and spice. It’s made from water, malted barley, sugar, hops, yeast, bitter orange peel and coriander. It’s 4.8% alcohol. 

Chimay Premiere — the oldest brew, a double, it has more malt and has a slightly sweet flavor of fruit and spice. It’s red colored and is 7% alcohol. 

Chimay Cinq Cents — is a balance of dry, floral and bitter and is a golden blonde color. It’s a tripel, made with triple malt and a higher alcohol level, 8%.

Chimay Grand Reserve — was originally brewed as a Christmas beer. It’s dark strong ale and has earthy, spice and caramel notes. It has the highest in alcohol at 9%.

Disclaimer: My thanks to Chimay for inviting me to learn more about their beers and try some samples. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 


Saturday, September 09, 2017

Ramen Summit at J Pop Festival 2017

Kaz Tsutsumi showing off ramen noodles
Part of the annual San Francisco celebration of all things Japanese, the J-Pop Summit is the Ramen Summit. There are five different ramen shops offering a different style of ramen. This year I tried each of the bowls. And so can you! Tickets are still available for Sunday September 10, 2017 for the J-Pop Summit and the Ramen Summit is located outside the entrance. Each bowl is $8, and definitely large enough to share. Here's my take on each bowl featured this year.

This Hakata style ramen is one of my current favorites. I really love the creamy texture of their tonkotsu and their ultra thin noodles which still manage to remain al dente. It’s made under the guidance of Kaz Tsutsumi, who has been a ramen chef for 11 years.

Marufuku has a shop in Japantown in the old Sapporo-Ya space. I wrote about it for Tasting Table, it was one of my picks for cheap eats. Their noodles are custom made by Yamachan

Yoroshiku is a ramen shop in Seattle, Washington and serves 150-200 customers a day. The ramen they served is Sapporo style, from the North of Japan.

It’s made with a blend of red and white miso. It’s sweet and spicy, not too salty and comes with fresh corn, scallions and bamboo shoots. I liked it very much. Their noodles are custom made by Yamachan
The ramen at Orenchi Beyond is tonkotsu style but “beyond.” What does that mean exactly? A
boosted flavor thanks to garlic, fish powder and shoyu.

Their classic style is shio and is served in Santa Clara. But in San Francisco, it's an over the top style ramen that's the signature bowl. The noodles are the thickest I've ever seen, almost like linguine. I liked the topping of mizuna and crunchy garlic chips. Their noodles are custom made by Yamachan
This is perhaps the most unusual ramen, it’s served with a dashi broth. It’s intensely
flavored but still light.

The noodles are a bit thin but thicker than those at Maufuku. It's less of a gut buster bowl of ramen. Their noodles are custom made by Yamachan
A year and a half ago this ramen company with 200 shops in Japan came to San Francisco. Their specialty is chicken ramen. In Japan they have their own farm, but here they source the chicken locally.

The ramen has a tender chicken meatball, chunks of bamboo and a tangy yuzu garnish that complements the ramen, but I found the ramen a bit too salty for my liking. Their noodles are custom made by Sun Noodles

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

LUCKYRICE Feast & Interview with Danielle Chang

The number eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture, and the more eights the luckier. This year represents the 8th anniversary of LUCKYRICE, an Asian food festival and it’s being held on September 8, 2017, general admission tickets are $88. That's a whole lot of luck!

While this may be the 8th year, it’s also in one way the first. It’s the first year of a plant based edition feast. This is noteworthy because if you go to chef gala events you see a lot of the same kinds of dishes and they aren’t plant based. Tuna tartare is popular, a seared scallop, perhaps something with pork belly or foie gras will make an appearance. But as dining evolves so too do these events. In San Francisco some of the finest restaurants are focusing more on vegetables than ever before. I spoke with LUCKYRICE founder, Danielle Chang to learn more about the event and the second season of her PBS show, Lucky Chow.


How many galas and "feasts" have you produced?
In the eight lucky years that I’ve been at the helm of LUCKYRICE, we’ve produced over 100 curated events that spotlight Asian culture through the lens of food and drink.

Why did you decide to do a plant based theme and why in San Francisco?
I think when people think “Asian food” they’re still thinking mystery brown sauce, rice and packaged ramen noodles. I wanted to really spotlight Asian cuisine in an entirely unique way with this plant-based menu so people could really experience and taste the evolution of Asian cuisine in America and embrace its green potential, it’s come a long way! No General Tso’s chicken here.

What dishes and ingredients are you particularly excited to see showcased at the event?
With a fabulous line-up like this one, I think it’s hard to pick just one but I’ve definitely got my eye on the Pinakbet Onigiri with Stuffed Garlic Fried Rice Ball with Kabocha Squash, Green beans, Eggplant, Okra, Vegan Bagoong, Nori seaweed from Buffalo Theory in collaboration with Alchemy

How did this season of Lucky Chow and your visits to farms in particular influence you and your future plans?
Since so much of the Asian-American immigrant experience is rooted in the soil of Bay Area farms, it makes sense to pay homage to that history while celebrating the new culinary expressions being created by the younger generation. And, while filming season 2 of my PBS show Lucky Chow, I was so inspired by the featured local farmers, like Kristyn Leach of Namu and Ross Koda of Koda Farms. They, like so many other Bay Area residents, are committed to seasonality, locality, and innovation in sustainability.

Does Asian food fit into the "vegetable centric" trend in dining?
From mizuna to bok choy, people will walk into an Asian grocery store and run the other way when they’re confronted with the different varieties of Asian greens and vegetables because they’re intimidated, begging the questions, “what do I do with this?” or “how do I cook that?” There’s still a lot of unharnessed potential when it comes to Asian cooking fitting into a “veggie centric” motif. I think we can only expect to see more and more chefs and restaurateurs seeking out Asian vegetables as they’re expanding their flavor palates and looking for something “new.”

Thanks Danielle!

Here's the full line up of tantalizing dishes from some really outstanding restaurants:

Roasted Eggplant & Shiitake Mushroom Rice Noodle Roll, Marinated Cucumber, Spicy Soy Vinaigrette

Char Koay Kak
Salted Duck Egg Bubur Chacha with Fermented Black Sticky Rice

Local Brentwood Summer Tandoori Corn & Grape Salad with Chaat Vinaigrette

BUFFALO THEORY COLLABORATION WITH ALCHEMY
Pinakbet Onigiri: Stuffed Garlic Fried Rice Ball with Kabocha Squash, Green beans, Eggplant, Okra, Vegan Bagoong, Nori 

Lemongrass and Vanilla Bean Sticky Rice Pudding: Heirloom Kokuho Rose® Rice, Coconut, Tropical Fruits

Beijing Dumpling

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pickled Cucumber & Kani Miso Yuzu Dressing

M.Y. Veggie Bundle

Heirloom Tomato Salad: Nori Green Goddess Dressing, Creamy Tofu, Nori Cracker, Shio Kombu, Avocado, Cucumber, Ponzu, Micro Shiso

Truffles: Vietnamese Coffee, Passion Fruit, Jasmine Tea, Durian 

DRINKS & COCKTAILS
Toki Highballs by Suntory Whisky Toki
Sake by Mutual Trading Co. 
Boba Guys
China Live: Effen Vodka, Ginger & Cucumber, Fresh Lemon, Peated Scotch & Sparkling Wine
Anzu: Hornitos Reposado, Agave, Grapefruit Juice, Lemon Juice, Green Chartreuse, Habanero Tincture, Soda
Asahi Beer

I hope you'll join me at the LUCKYRICE Feast:

September 8, 2017
Bentley Reserve, from 8-10 pm

 Purchase your tickets today

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cauliflower Hatch Chile Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

There are certain dishes that no matter how many times I make them, I’m always looking for a better recipe. Macaroni and cheese is one of them. You know a good macaroni and cheese when you taste it. For me, it’s rich but not oily, gooey with melted cheese and with no graininess to the sauce. It’s also got a little sharp edge to it. I usually start with a bechamel, but I’ve never been convinced that it’s the perfect sauce base. 

I eat a lot of cauliflower and I’m by no means the first to discover that pureed it can stand in for all kinds of creamy sauces. For this recipe I was inspired by two recipes, one from Mark Bittman and another from Michelle Obama. Yup. Michelle Obama. It’s a recipe that is floating around the internet but I really couldn’t find very many comments from readers who had tried it, so I just went for it. The whole grain pasta and cauliflower addition make this a healthier recipe than some, but I still wouldn't call it healthy. 

My version of this recipe differs a bit from the Bittman recipe in that I use more cheese and a bit of milk. It differs from the Obama recipe in that I use macaroni, not penne and I used a bit less milk. Lots of recipes use different styles of pasta, but there is a reason why this dish is called "macaroni and cheese" it's because macaroni really is the best shape for it. I also flavored my mac and cheese with dry mustard and roasted Hatch chiles. This year for the first time I used mild chiles. My recommendation? Combine a little bit of hot or medium hot chiles with some mild ones to get plenty of chile flavor and just a hint of heat. This recipe is infinitely adaptable, skip the chiles, add more, or use whatever chiles you like best. 

Note: If you prefer a mac and cheese with a baked cheesy or crusty top, feel free to add one! I’m generally too lazy to bother. 

Cauliflower Hatch Chile Macaroni & Cheese 
Serves 6 - 8

Ingredients

1 pound whole wheat macaroni
1 pound cauliower, about 1/2 large head
1/2 cup milk 
1 teaspoon dry mustard, or more to taste
1 pound shredded melting cheese (I used a combination of jack and cheddar)
1 1/2 cups diced roasted peeled and seeded Hatch chiles, or more to taste (hot, medium, mild or a combination)

Instructions

Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente then drain and set aside. In the meantime, boil or steam the cauliflower. When tender transfer the cauliflower to a blender along with the milk and dry mustard and puree.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in the cauliflower puree, cheese and chiles and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Taste and add more mustard or chiles if desired. Serve immediately

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Mollie Stone's Markets and Melissa’s produce for giving me a 5 pound carton of roasted chiles. If you live in the Bay Area  there’s still several more dates during 2017 to attend a chile roast and stock up.