The week that was (28 January 2016)

Soap box:

- LA chefs Daniel Patterson (ex Coi and known for his modernist haute cuisine) and Roy Choi (LA’s food truck tzar) opened Locol in LA last week. Jonothon Gold went to check it out. It’s a great yarn ...

It started at the MAD Symposium in 2013 with Choi’s talk - A Gateway to Feed Hunger: The Promise of Street Food (watch it here). Choi suggested that with chefs currently enjoying unprecedented celebrity it was time to use that influence to “change the culture; to make sure that everyone in those communities had access to food as healthful and delicious as what they were serving their relatively affluent customers.”

A year later (at MAD 2014) Choi and Patterson announced their idea for Locol: “skate park feel, serving fresh, healthful cooking for about the price of a drive-thru meal - not a replacement for fast food, but a better version of it.”

Two years later, Locol has opened in Watts, LA. "Watts is at the center of what is sometimes called a food desert, which the USDA defines as "a census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.” Choi goes a step further: “In this neighborhood, in Jordan Downs, there's not just a lack of markets and places to go, there's a persistent institutional design, dreary furniture — it's just bleak. Good design is important. And the energy of Watts, this specific neighborhood, is on the block." (click the Jordan Downs link for a visual, it's straight out of the movies).

Gold went on to look at other chefs doing amazing things to better the community around them. I have mentioned some of them previously in this missive, but they're all worth looking at again (I have linked all the articles in his quote below). Go, get inspired:

“This is a key moment for chefs attempting to change the morality of the food chain. Massimo Bottura, perhaps the most influential chef in Italy at the moment, ran a soup kitchen for the homeless at the World's Fair in Milan last summer. Brooks Headley quit his job as pastry chef at New York's revered Del Posto to open the vegan fast-food stand Superiority Burger. Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York organizes events battling food waste, Jose Andres of Bazaar is involved with food initiatives in Africa and Haiti, and Michael Cimarusti of Hollywood's Providence launched a sustainable dock-to-dish program in Southern California. But perhaps none of the projects is quite so ambitious as Locol, which is making a stand against some of the most entrenched pockets of urban hunger in the U.S.”

It's early days for Choi, Patterson and the people of Watts, but right now it's working. And they have more planned. Nice one. 

- If you want to eat in Japan, read In Search of Japan's Hidden Culinary Revolution. It’s a beautiful, evocative article, delving into the cuisine but also the culture and the history that stands behind the food. There are many amazing ideas, starting in the capital, "... a marvel of consistent variation, ringing fluid changes of texture and flavor on those three little words that define the cuisine of this island nation at its heart: iso no aji, or “tastes like ocean spray.” Then there was a giant oyster “You freeze it while alive and then slow-cook it at low temperatures ... makes the umami come out.” Or, "tiny fish called an ayu, or “sweet fish,” which is fermented in the dregs of sake for three years to make the bones grow edibly soft."

And finally to the holy grail kanburi, considered the greatest white fleshed sashimi in the world. Why? "Because texture, along with temperature and flavor, are part of the “mouth moment” of Japanese cuisine, the challenge is to find a firm fish that is also rich in oil. Enter kanburi, which for that brief, miraculous period every winter, is both those things." How very delightful.
- If you want to drink wine, read this (short) article by Ryan Opaz: On Wine. A Tragedy. It explores something I have thought about for some time now, namely, why should wine be enjoyed any differently to food? Why do I feel less confident saying I like it (or I don't)?

Opaz encourages wine conversation, including among the most intense wine nerds, but begs: “Please do not assume that your new found knowledge is somehow absolute. Don’t assume that your finely honed palate is better than another’s. Definitely do not assume that your ideal wine is everyone’s ideal wine. It isn’t. We all have very different palates, cultural histories, childhood memories and favorite meals. We are not the same. There is no perfect wine. There is no right wine.”

What a cracking article. I found it via Mike Bennie, who noted, among other things: “We miss our cultural vernacular chasing down fine wine ideals. A fine thing, a great pursuit, but there has to be room for appropriateness; like a carafe, a tumbler and a piazza, we should celebrate and enjoy what fits well here too, alongside 'great wine'.” Hear, hear!
- Finally, in his presentation at MAD, Choi mentioned being “as happy as a clam”. I had never heard this phrase, but I like it, and thus share it with you.