September 28, 2006
Nasty American versions of otherwise dignified foods are something of a national tradition. The Parmesan-in-a-can, mentioned above, is perhaps the best example—the greatest cheese in the world, reduced to sawdust. But I am an optimist. Look at American wine, coffee, and sushi, all of which have slowly climbed to palatability after decades of abuse. The American variations may never be exactly like their originals, but they have slowly become great in their own way.
If dumplings are to follow this path to made-in-America greatness, we must understand what plagues our dumplings. Let's start with the skin. As any serious aficionado will tell you, the skin makes or breaks a dumpling. It must be sticky, thin, and chewy at the same time—no easy feat. It's similar to the challenge of making perfect sushi rice or pasta.
Unfortunately, American Chinese and pan-Asian outlets are lazy and suffer badly from a "thick-skin" epidemic, resulting in dumplings that are tough and greasy. A thick skin can also lead to a soggy dumpling, which is the worst fate—imagine eating a sandwich that's been soaked in water.
The real problem with overthickness is that it destroys what I like to call the "magic ratio"—the science behind the art of dumplings. The magic ratio—a factor in foods from sushi to sandwiches—is the perfect ratio of protein to carbohydrate. The right ratio seems to activate some kind of pleasure center in the brain, bringing about calm and quiet elation. Some dumpling devotees describe dumplings, done right, as mildly orgasmic.
Blogging Your Food
San Francisco Chronicle has an amusing article on food bloggers and their cameras.
Once it was cell phones. Now cameras are becoming a new focal point in dining room etiquette. Restaurateurs and their staffs suddenly find themselves in a tricky pas de deux with what they describe as a blossoming number of camera-wielding patrons.
The marriage of food bloggers with the availability of small digital cameras and camera phones has given rise to often extensive photo essays of fancy meals. While cameras once signaled a diner trying to capture a happy moment, many restaurateurs now view them as the badge of a would-be critic. While the resulting photographs allow hungry Web surfers to preview their meals online, they also signal a new level of scrutiny for restaurants -- and less privacy for diners.
"It's basically something that's unstoppable," says Chris Cosentino, chef at Noe Valley's Incanto, who posts his own Web musings at Offalgood.com. "When somebody pulls out a camera, we know they're a food blogger."
Read the entire article.
September 16, 2006
Flipping Happy for Flip Happy Crepes
Crepes are all the rage in Austin now ever since Flip Happy Crepes a crepe stand run out of, what I'm told to be a converted Avion (not Airstream) trailer located in the parking lot next to Floribunda on South Lamar near Oltorf, opened late last spring.
Their menu has a nice selection of creative crepe fillings to satisfy any tastes. The prices may seem a bit high for crepes (even crepe stands in nyc are cheaper, although a nyc stand probably has more foot traffic than FHC does here in car-loving texas) but they are worth the money because they are stuffed to the brim with rich ingredients like gruyere and goat cheese, carmelized onions and every euro-lover's favorite, nutella. A savory crepe, dessert crepe and bottled drink can run you well over $10 (plus tip, if you are a nicey) which seems pricey for what is essentially street food served on a styrofoam plate. It's probably not a place you'll want to go to every day as it could break your budget as well as an artery or two, but is a great treat for those days when you are feeling French.
I'd like to see a savory option with an egg as a filling (perhaps a crepe complete) and for them to offer a small mixed greens salad with a light vinaigrette as a side item for the perfect lunch. But what pleases me the most about this stand is they serve the simple and classic crepe with butter, lemon and sugar.
Flip Happy Crepes
2041 S Lamar Blvd (in the parking lot next to Floribunda and Flash Back)
Wed - Sat: 11:00am - 2:30pm
Fri: 5:30pm - 9pm
Udpate: their online menu does say they offer a side salad with each crepe upon request. Magnifique!