Some Plays on Lyonnaise

Among my earliest memories was peering over the counter, watching my mom make quick work of dicing an onion. While all the other boys enjoyed spectator sports and rolling around in the dirt, scarcely able to stay still, I found myself more at home in the kitchen, fascinated by the preparation and the transformation of…

Rethinking Sunday Gravy, the American Frankensauce

With fall around the corner, it’s time to start talking about warming sauces. And no sauce is as warming as the Italian-American classic of Sunday gravy, a sauce with deep roots in big city American culture, where Italian-American immigrants tended to settle. Although Sunday gravy didn’t originate in America, all Americans have heard of it…

Pasta Sauce, Improvised

Italians obsess over pasta (and for good reason). The subtlety of detail that goes into making excellent pasta–from the types of flour used to the liquid employed to make the dough to the well honed skills of kneading and rolling and cutting–can be a life’s work. In the U.S., however, it is said that all…

Toronto Dining

Years ago I lived in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. One of the many things I was stunned by during my time in New York was just how many people I met who were later (reluctantly) revealed to be Canadian. These Canadians, contrary to reports, weren’t any more polite, kind, generous or humble than the…

On Shaken Cocktails

On my first trip to Japan over a decade ago, I had just come off my final, glorious night out in Tokyo. With an early flight out the next morning, I was wandering around the Ginza neighborhood, hoping to stumble upon a taxi stand. Instead, I happened across a gorgeous, oak paneled, dimly-lit den of a bar with more bottles of alcohol against the wall than I had ever known to exist. You don’t turn down encounters like that in Japan as a rule.

Spices and Flavor Pairings

Many of you have followed up with me in curiosity about why I haven’t tackled spice flavor pairings, having already done the more complex work of building a spice blending paradigm and classifying every aromatic I’ve ever worked with into categories to make that paradigm useful in a general sense. I recommend that you read those articles, if you haven’t yet, before proceeding with this one. Now, in a similar exercise to how I approached herbs previously, I’m covering spices in the specific sense.

A Brief Guide to Chicago Chinese Food (Reader Question)

The question has come in concerning the conspicuous lack of a bar and restaurant guide for Chicago, my home town: You’ve made semi-themed dining and drinking guides for New York, San Francisco and Denver (of all places). Do you plan to do a similar guide for Chicago in the future? I’ve personally had little luck with most Chinese food…

The Quintessential Thai Street Dish

In soliciting feedback from some of my readers, one thing that has come up fairly often is that my recipes are a bit complicated. Although that’s a fair point, this website is not entirely geared towards novices. It’s true, there are some complicated recipes that I’ve developed and published. That said, there are plenty of easy ones…

A Guide to Spice Blending

The status of spice knowledge in the Western world has been entirely flabbergasting. The fact that no one in the West—in print or in person—has yet provided anyone else with so much as a theoretical framework around which to base a rigorous spice blending technique is shameful. It is, after all, not just important which spices you add to a dish, but also in what proportions. To date, everything where spices are concerned is entirely ad hoc; literally, chefs standing around, tasting their dishes and thinking, “I guess this could use a bit of clove.” I’ve searched and there is literally not much more available than lone chefs guided by vague tradition and his or her own subjective taste.

A Brief Introduction to Tacos

Tacos are a complicated game and what separates the bad from the good from the truly exceptional is going to basically turn on three things, by my view: The tortilla itself, the overall balance of tastes and what I call “mindful contrasts” within the taco filling and between the filling and the tortilla. What I…

Wu Xing: Your Guide to Balanced Taste

The traditional Chinese conceptual framework of Wu Xing (五行), which roughly translates as “Five Elements” and is rooted in Taoist philosophy, has not only influenced East Asian cultures across China, Japan, Korea and throughout Southeast Asia, but has been applied to seemingly disparate fields of study including, but not limited to, traditional forms of medicine,…

What To Eat & Drink In San Francisco

The following are some casual eateries and bars that I enjoy the most when in San Francisco. It strikes me as more or less easy to find information on fine dining, but finding places like these takes a bit more dedication. Enjoy!