December 31, 2009
I’ve been a bit nostalgic these days, with the end of the decade approaching… any minute now. It’s a heavy load! The 00’s have certainly been a heartstopping (OBAMA!) slash heartbreaking (9/11) decade. Sigh. It’s over.
As I have thought heavily on the best films (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, dir. Wong Kar-wai), books (PATTERN RECOGNITION, by William Gibson) and albums (YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS, The Flaming Lips) of the decade, I naturally have pondered the best food moments. Tony Bourdain summed it up eloquently in his op-ed piece in the NY Times on Sunday, most notably applauding Jonathan Gold’s unprecedented Pulitzer. Holler.
The single most defining food moment in the last decade, imo? I’m gonna say the birth of the word, “locavore“– more as a concept, less as a literal term. Supporting independent farmers, CSAs, building your own garden, and shopping at your local farmer’s market is SO IMPORTANT, and is no longer a hippie cliche. In the next decade, I’d love to see the masses skip out on Whole Foods and frequent the farmer’s market more often. Make the effort!!! It’s worth it, on so many levels.
In my own personal life, I’ve had a hellava decade, full of wondrous, curious, delightful, and at times soul-churning food moments. I’ve thought long and hard about this– here are the highlights:
2000. Padova, IT. My first time in Europe, in a city I would call home for the next year. I ate so many goddamn pizzas that year, at a spot right around the corner from my dorm room. My favorite, to this day, is the tuna and onion, with an egg cracked on top right when it comes out of the oven. Ahhhhh. Pass the chili oil please!
2001. London. Leslie and I went to some fancy schmancy hotel to experience this thing they call High Tea. Of course, we order the real deal tea set– dainty, crustless cucumber sandwiches and all. We’re prepared to spend at least $100 each and dreading the bill, when the unspeakable happens: we find a long strand of black hair in the clotted cream. While this is something neither of us would ever complain about in our regular lives, we’ve heard about the high standards of British customer service and see how much we could push it. We walked out without paying a pound. Amazing.
2002. New Orleans. Po’ boys, Pimm’s cups, beignets. More important than ever to support this monumental food city, post-KATRINA.
2003. NYC. Family friends take me to the Grand Central Oyster Bar, on our way up to catch a Yankees game in the Bronx. While watching the cooks make lobster bisque right in front of us at the raw bar, we could see commuters rush to catch their trains in the mezzanine of the station. It is the quintessential New York City eatery.
2005. NYC. I meet up with my exbf at a downtown bar for the first time since the breakup, after months of no contact. So awkward and dreadful. Heartbreak. We part ways at the subway stop and I walk to Great NY Noodletown, where I cry (ok, ball) over a bowl of their wonton noodles, alone. Everyone looks over, but just ignores me, true NYer style. That bowl of soup, those NYers, and the city healed me that night.
2006. Voyage through India. As someone who never had much exposure to Indian food growing up, I was simply astounded by the depth and complexity of the cuisine. The marriage of spices, the hotness of flavors, and such vibrant, colorful vegetables at the market simply blew my mind (above pic taken at Crawford Market in Mumbai– I love the way the tomatoes and onions are perfectly lined up, and the vendor sits so silent, so still). In Nagpur, I had, hands down, the best yogurt of my life. It came in a ceramic pot and tasted of gold. On the flip side, I got violently ill from a yogurt drink I bought off the street in Mumbai. Mo warned me about the streetfood, but I wouldn’t listen!
2007. Yountville, CA. French Laundry. Course Four. The server came by and opened something resembling a jewel box. Spotlight! Inside was a nub of white truffle, no bigger than a baby’s fist. Full of concentration, she took the piece out of the box, and began shaving it meticulously over each of our dishes. She was moving from my plate to my brother’s, when something happened. She DROPPED the truffle onto the floor. CATASTROPHE!!! A frenzy ensued in the High House of Thomas Keller, and I heard one of the staff say something about throwing the piece out. HA!!! It was literally the cost of a small diamond ring. Priceless moment.
2007. NYC. I bought myself a Le Creuset dutch oven. It is green. Her name is Ruby. I use her often to make soups and bread. Perhaps my best purchase of the decade??
2008. NYC. My birthday. After a show at the Village Vanguard, @totallymatt, Solmaz and I cab it to Great NY Noodle Town where we feasted on noodles, dumplings, roasted duck and everything else on the menu. It was 2am. This place has always been there for me, in good times, and bad. I LOVE YOU GNYNT!
2009. Petaluma, CA. Erin and I went to a chicken farm to slaughter some roosters, to mark her entrance into the meat-eating world. Let’s just say it was TRUE BLOOD intense.
2009. SF. I convinced a vegan friend to try a piece of chicharron (fried pork rind). He knew exactly what it was– it was not a trick. Call it my powers of persuasion.
The most IMPORTANT food occasion in my life of the 00’s? Starting UMAMIMART, of course!!! Hard to believe it’s been almost three years, and it’s still going strong. Stronger than ever, in fact! I could not have kept this going for so long without all the UM dedicated contributors, and loyal readers. LOVE YOU ALL VERY MUCH.
Special shouts to my columnists, who write regularly, with such enthusiasm and love: Paystyle (Happy Hour), Yamahomo (ReCPY), Yoko (Tokyo JUNKtion) and Erin (Culinography). You all make UM a fun place to be.
2010. A new site– I promise. It will be Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. YESSS!!! Let’s do this. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! xxk (Cupertino, CA).