Friday, January 22, 2016


I was only aware of Redwood City, about 25 miles south of San Francisco, as the place where Neil Young has his home, his recording studio, and model railroad.  I certainly didn’t know that it was the home of a really good and unusual Japanese restaurant.  It is: in the form Kemuri Japanese Baru, which specializes in on-premises smoking, where I was taken by my pal Marco, who’s German, and his wife Mitsuko, who’s Japanese.

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of smoked food, and a bit of a culinary smoker in my own small way.  In fact the Kemuri smoker didn’t look much bigger than mine, though it did look more industrial.

Not absolutely everything on the menu is smoked - there’s a “ceviche” that’s blasted tableside with a blowlamp (I’m kicking myself that I didn’t have that), and the French fries aren’t smoked in themselves, though they are seasoned with smoked salt, and also crushed seaweed, which was a knockout.

And so we plunged into the menu: smoked pickles (no, I’m not sure how they came to be smoked):

Smoked devilled eggs:

Smoked monkfish liver – this was probably the highlight of the meal:

Smoked unagi sliders – the “buns” are made of rice:

And finally, though it should probably have come first – the Smoked Manhattan – apparently they put the glass in the smoker which sounds like a high-risk enterprise to me, but I guess they know what they’re doing.

I understand that Neil Young has given up alcohol, which may or may not be a good thing, though frankly I don’t imagine he was ever much of a Smoked Manhattan drinker.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


The moderate Peruvian food obsession continues. I was in San Francisco last week and had lunch at La Fina Stampa (1407 Bush Street), which to be strictly accurate styles itself as Peruvian and Spanish. It looks as though the menu gets a lot more ambitious at dinner, but I was very happy with the Saltado de Mariscos.  Hard not to love a cuisine that considers French fries an essential ingredient in a stir fry:

And equally hard not to love a front door that looks like this, which is where the feller at the top of this post comes from:

Later that same day I sat alone at the bar of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel and drink a solitary martini.  The barman mixed it in a chemistry lab beaker like this:

 which definitely added to the ritual if not to the taste, though it was a perfectly good example of the beast.

As I was sitting there sipping my drink, a woman came to the bar and said to the barman. “Give me the sweetest drink you serve.
The barman took it in his stride. 
“What kind of liquor do you like?” he asked.  “Vodka?”
 “Yeah vodka,” the woman said.   
She and I watched as the barman juggled various anonymous bottles, shook them up, and gave her a pale drink in a martini glass.  She went away to a table, apparently very happy.
“What was in that?” I asked the barman.
         He said, “Vodka, lemoncello, lemon juice, cheery liqueur and bar syrup.”
         “Yep,” I said, “that’s a sweet drink you’ve got there.”
         Though it now occurs to me that however sweet your drink is, you can always make it sweeter by adding some more bar syrup.  But why would you?

And then later in La Café de la Presse (352 Grant Avenue), a very reliable French restaurant, I was eating my steak tartar and on the adjacent table were two men and their female partners, but the women weren’t saying much as the men pontificated loudly about the state of American politics, which was not very interesting, and then they talked about the judges they knew, which might have been very interesting if you’d known the judges in question, but of course I didn’t. 
At that point I began to assume they must be lawyers, but then one of them said to the other, “I do what I call geo-financial engineering.”  I wasn’t sure that was a “thing,” but in fact a little light Googling reveals that geo-financial engineering is not only a thing but a registered service mark (as opposed to trademark).  You can look it up if you like, but again, why would you?

Monday, January 11, 2016


Thin and white for sure.  Duke-ish?

David Bowie at Max's Kansas City - looking like he's in need of a good meal, though he 

probably didn't get one at Max's Kansas City.

And back in the day when he used to eat them (possibly):


No resolutions or any of that silliness, but I’ve got a feeling 2016 may be a potato-positive year.  I went to my favorite Thaitown supermarket – hard to resist a supermarket with a sign like this:

And I bought various curiosities, though I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them.  I mean how could you resist the fellow on packaging like this? 

Well you couldn’t and I didn’t.  Papa seco is dried potatoes, and Peruvian of course, not Thai, and we know that the Peruvians have 3 or 4 thousand different types of potato, though the bag doesn’t say what kind we have here. They look like this at first:

The thing to do with them apparently is make carapulcra – which is a Peruvian meat and potato stew.  First you boil the papa saca, which reconstitutes them, so they look like this:

Then you make a stew.  The capulacra recipes I found suggested you could use chicken, beef or pork – I went with pork. You put in onion, garlic, cumin and chile powder, some  stock and white wine, and there you are – a basic exotic stew, though there’s still more fun to come.

Then – and here’s the beauty part - having made the stew you grind up half a pound of peanuts, and put them in the pot so the end result looks like this:

Some recipes suggest you can use crunchy peanut butter but I thought that would be so cheating.  And the end result looks like this (though I was left wishing I’d served it up on a black rather than a white plate).

Incidentally, as you probably know, that title “let the sky rain potatoes” comes from The Merry Wives of Windsor and is said by Falstaff.  He’s almost certainly talking about the sweet potato, and since the play is ostensibly set in the 15th century the mention of any kind of potato is anachronistic.  But clearly he's suggesting that the potato is an aphrodisiac.  If only.

Monday, January 4, 2016


There’s a file that sits on my computer desktop labeled “Psycho-gourmet Use?” – a cabinet, or perhaps larder, of curiosities, and the contents stay there for some time until I eventually use them in the blog or trash them.  These are generally not very serious things about food, sensuality and obsession, rather they’re the kind of flotsam and jetsam that float around the internet and I scoop them up for my own, and possibly other people’s amusement.  And so being the start of the new year I decided to clear out the file.  Much has been trashed but here’s what remains.

The Psycho-gourmet is a (slightly grudging) fan of Lindsay Lohan.  Here she is eating, or at least pretending to eat, a slice of watermelon:

And here’s Jane Fonda posing with, though not even pretending to eat, a potato:

And here is a woman posing beside allegedly the world’s largest cheese, and who could possibly eat a cheese that size?  Though I’d be prepared to make a start:

Sun Ra the Afro-futurist composer and keyboard player (and much more besides) has never has never been a completely open book to me, and I don’t know anything at all about his eating habits – except that George Clinton once said, “Yeah, Sun Ra’s out to lunch ... same place I eat.”  

But if he ever got an  urge for canned mushrooms, well he’d probably go for this brand wouldn’t he?

Right at the end of 2015 I found myself reading about David Hume – he of Treatise on Human Nature fame (there’s a new biography) – and again Hume is not a open book, but I do know that he did his great work at an early age and devoted much of his later life to food and eating – he was especially proud of his mutton and port recipe. 

Hume was described by a contemporary as: “broad and fat, his mouth wide, and without any other expression than that of imbecility…the corpulence of his whole person was far better fitted to communicate the idea of a turtle-eating alderman than of a refined philosopher.”   For him, turtles:

Then Frank and Bing in High Society – which was on TV over the holidays – blue curacao and cherry brandy – drinking champagne, and singing the lyrics of Cole Porter:

Porter, I learned recently, was the inspiration for the Seapea cocktail (“seapea” as in C.P.), sometimes known as the Seapea Fizz.  It was invented by Frank Meier, author of The Artistry of Mixing Drinks  - “the juice of one half lemon, glass of sweetened Anis ‘Pernod fils’; shake well, strain into fizz glass, add Schweppes soda water or syphon and serve.”

 Cole Porter also, improbably, hilariously, appeared in ads for Rheingold beer.  Swellegant, elegant indeed.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Happy New Year all round.

The glass is from the "Name Your Poison" set by Georges Briard - top mid-century designer of glasses, dishware etc.  I have always said that anything tastes better when drunk from a skull (or even a glass with a skull on it).

Interesting isn't it that we've adjusted so easily to the idea of having skulls around us on glasses, tee-shirts, sneakers and whatever.  But not all of Briard's designs sit quiet so happily with the current sensibility. He also designed this "Your Pickled Personality" set.

Is anything more fun than a Pyromaniac with a drink in his hand?