Thursday, September 21, 2017


I happened to be read this, from the Oberlin Review of November 6, 2015:

Diep Nguyen, a College first-year from Vietnam, jumped with excitement at the sight of Vietnamese food on Stevenson Dining Hall’s menu at Orientation this year. Craving Vietnamese comfort food, Nguyen rushed to the food station with high hopes. What she got, however, was a total disappointment.
The traditional Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich that Stevenson Dining Hall promised turned out to be a cheap imitation of the East Asian dish. Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw.
“It was ridiculous,” Nguyen said. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”
Nguyen added that Bon Appétit, the food service management company contracted by Oberlin College, has a history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines.

Yeah well, you’re not going to get any jaded, culturally insensitive remarks or microaggressions from me, and I’m definitely not going to mention that the baguette was introduced to Vietnam by those filthy French imperialists.   

But life being as it is, a couple of days ago I found myself in Fred 62, a somewhat superior and not too hipsterish diner in Los Feliz.   And there on the menu was the “Pork Belly Banh Mi.”  The contents were listed as pork belly, ham hock, cilantro, pickled carrot, daikon, lettuce and sriracha, and it came in a baguette.  I ordered it of course – that’s a picture of it at the top of this post.  It was perfectly good, authentic enough for me, though you could probably imagine greater authenticity.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a jumping, rushing college first-year to tell me how offended I ought to be.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


I can't 100% swear this is authentic, but it does seem to be, it's on  the Hull Daily Mail website:

Hull man's fury over 'rip off' egg sandwich with not enough egg in it

The sandwich was for his poorly wife, who 'didn’t eat the rest of the day'

A Hull man says a sandwich company is "ripping off the NHS" because an egg salad sandwich for his poorly wife did not have enough egg in it.
Carl Simpson said his wife Maria, who is currently a patient at Hull Royal Infirmary was looking forward to eating the sandwich she ordered through the hospital's catering team because her condition means she can rarely eat solid food.
He said: “She’s had so many operations in the past and has no bowel so is mostly fed through a tube, but she really fancied a sandwich and was looking forward to eating that one.
"But there wasn't anything in it.
"It really upset her and she didn’t eat the rest of the day.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


You know how it is that first morning after you’ve arrived in a new place: you go out looking for breakfast, full of hope and optimism, ready to plunge into the new, alien culture, and somehow you end up eating in some incredibly peculiar place you’d never usually go to, that you’ll never go to again, eating food that you’d never usually order.  The place and the food may be perfectly good but it’s never what you were looking for.
And so on my first morning in Tokyo I staggered out onto the streets – thinking I was far too cool to eat in the tourist hotel – and I wandered around Shinjuku, monoglot, and with a map that proved to be even more confusing than the reality, looking for somewhere to have breakfast.  
I’d heard that the food halls of department stores were great places to find good food, and I managed to locate several department stores, but because I was wasn’t yet operating on Japanese time, I was far too early and the stores wouldn’t be opening for another couple of hours.  But, desperate and jet-lagged as I was, I eventually found a place that was open, a bright airy place in a mezzanine adjacent to one of the closed department stores.  It was a nice enough café, perhaps a little bit twee, and it was selling mostly cakes and pastries, and while I would have been happy to go native with rice and raw fish, I wasn’t really in the mood for moji or sponge cake.  In fact the only non-sweet thing on the menu was a croque monsieur, which I duly ordered.  It came with a ramekin of Japanese pickles and was rather good, but it wasn’t, by a million miles, the way I’d expected to begin my Tokyo food experiences. 

I was reminded of this at the weekend because I had another croque monsieur – I certainly hadn’t had one since that time in Tokyo.  This was at Figaro, a very decent, very authentic French café in Los Feliz.  Madonna did a photoshoot there for Louis Vuittton, like this:

The Figaro croque monsieur was a good and very large example of the breed (and yeah, that's a caesar salad on the side), but you know for all its Frenchness and authenticity, I don’t know that it was a whole lot better than the one in Tokyo.  I certainly could have used a ramekin of pickles.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


I continue my research into what restaurants do to their oysters.  T’other night I went to a more or less old school French bistro named Papilles in a mini-mall just a baguette’s throw from the Hollywood Freeway.  The oysters came looking like this:

That’s a glob of champagne foam on the top, and the green stuff is spinach.  There’s lemon juice in there too.  Did I need the champagne foam?  No not really but it wasn't a cause for complaint.
          The oysters were on the menu as a snack rather than a starter.  Starters included frogs’ legs – and when you’re in a more or less old school French bistro what else are you going to order?  These came with ”White Bean, Roasted Garlic, Parsley Pistou.”

Photo by Scott Peake - that's my shirt providing background detail.

Papilles is French for papillae – singular papilla - those tiny, nubbly things on your tongue that give it its roughness.  There are 4 kinds, 3 of which are associated with the taste buds.  They look like this:

Wise not to have illustrated them on the menu.  And this is what it looks like to be situated a baguette’s throw from the Hollywood Freeway:

Sunday, September 3, 2017


So another good one’s gone – Walter Becker (1940- 2017).

He was one of those characters whose music I loved and about whose private life I knew exceptionally little.

I suppose I was vaguely aware that he’d had problems with addiction and I knew he’d lived in Hawaii – what I didn’t know till I read the obits and the appreciations was that he moved there to quit his addictions and become an avocado farmer.  As detox programs go it’s a very novel one.

Beyond that I can’t find anything about his food habits or preferences – I’d guess that being an avocado farmer would pretty much make you hate avocados.

Of course there are of plenty of boozy references in the Steely Dan canon, from scotch whisky to retsina, from pina coladas to Kirschwasser.   Food makes fewer and less memorable appearances – a mention of salad in “Only a Fool Would Say That” – a reference to Mr Chow’s Szechuan dumplings in “Glamor Professions” and there’s Pretzel Logic, naturally.

But while on the search I did find a quotation from Donald Fagen about why he liked going out on the road with a band of young musicans:  "It's great hanging around with twentysomethings, they know all the good places to eat in town. I've been eating a lot of exotic food -- for me, at least. I'm more of, like, a grilled cheese guy."

Seems surprising.  If I’d ever given it any thought I’d have had Becker down as the grilled cheese guy, but like I say, I knew next to nothing of his private life.