Food & Sex & Everything in between

Food & Sex & Everything in between

It’s been said, by some, that food is better than sex. Food is certainly not better than sex, but some meals can and do come (pretty) close. And the comparisons are apt. The sensations, yes, the appetites, the insatiable hunger for something so perfect you feel you cannot get enough. When something so delicious passes your lips and you grip your fork, your spoon, the sides of your seat in pure and unadulterated ecstasy. Like honey that rolls slowly, dripping down chins and fingers. The sticky sweet. Honeycomb. Along with rank cheeses that assault the senses: Époisses and Limburger. Or along with more subtle cheeses that sit delicate at the back of the palate. Appenzeller Swiss and white cheddar. It’s a sweetness that fills your smells, your taste, you smell, your touch, with a different sort of of sensation. Something you crave. But savory is most necessary (as a paradox, perhaps, of food: the sweetness of dinner comes more from the umami. A richness, sure, but more from the complex flavors of which pure sweetness of sugar/dessert can not alone compare). Breathe in the smell of onions cooking in butter. There is something so very sensual about that smell. Add a touch of (that) honey for sweetness. Add the onions to your steak, cut thin and cooked rare. Have vegetables on the side. Have asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli cooked in oil with a little salt sprinkled on top. Have something from rivers or the ocean: Trout cheeks are the best part of the fish, as soft and nearly as rich as pork belly. Enjoy truffles and pickles and pate beforehand,...
Stars in my eyes: A food memoir

Stars in my eyes: A food memoir

Stars in my eyes: A food memoir by Ranelle Kirchner Avignon, France: April, 2007. Nearly 10 years have passed and yet I remember the day so vividly. I woke up in awe to the golden Virgin Mary statue. She stood proud, unadulterated, and poised at the top of the Palace where the Pope once lived. Although I’m not religious, I would admire it endlessly before and after sleep. It was my second-to-last day working at Michelin-starred Christian Etienne. I would set-up the boucher, meat, station each morning upon arrival, while sipping espresso Fabien had made earlier. If I showed up to work early enough (before the other chefs), Fabien would make me an extra shot. This day, however, when I arrived early I did not have the luxury of an extra espresso. I was surprised to find both Masterchef Etienne and Pastry Chef Alain walking through the kitchen gathering ingredients. This was not their daily routine; most days they would arrive within an hour of one another, never at the same time, and would go straight to their upstairs office. Rather than indulge in espresso, I instead went straight to my workstation to look through my prep list and organize for my day. Within minutes I was approached by Chef Etienne. He asked me something in French, but I could not decipher his question. He was a jolly, Provençal French Chef who often trailed in laughter while he spoke and always had the most intoxicating aura of black truffle essence. I felt embarrassed and didn’t ask to repeat the question. Instead, I simply said yes. Never would I say no...
When I think of food

When I think of food

When I think of food, it’s usually of the plate. The plate, clean. The plate, full. The plate, empty again but covered in crumbs, smears, leftover bits of whatever we were eating. Sometimes messy, sometimes elegantly so. The plate that will disappear to be washed and then used again. Washed by someone with wrinkled fingers forever reeking of sweat and the astringent cleaning chemicals. I think of the restaurant kitchen, and the long, often arduous journey that led to the plate in front of me on the table. Hands with knives attached down to the wrist as a natural extension of the arm. Chef’s orders. The cold line giggling, fryers spitting, everything so feverishly hot, everyone desperately sweating. I think about the food trucks lining on streets. 1: tamales, 2: burgers, 3: Korean steamed buns, 4: ice cream truck for dessert. A popsicle in the shape of Sonic the Hedgehog’s head and gumballs for eyes. Perkins was never the best brunch in town, but we went there anyway for 3AM unlimited coffee, 4AM omelets, 5AM bathrooms. This was in the Midway neighborhood. Midway is loud, dirty, fascinating, fun. Ethnic restaurants on every corner: Some of the best Ethiopian food in the city. Some of the best Thai food anywhere. My favorite (some nights) Chinese food at Peking Garden. And then Perkins, strangely, in the midst of it all against the backdrop of a decaying shopping mall and train passing by with heads leaned against the window. When I moved downtown it was Mickey’s Dining Car instead. I sit where Meryl Streep sat and imagine her there beside me. A man...
After we eat

After we eat

The meal, consisting of something from the garden, something from Lake Superior, and something that Ralf across the table killed with his hands for the pièce de résistance, is over. There was wine, but I’m drinking Alquimia Reserva tequila brought back from Jalisco. There was cheese; soft cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese with a funk that still lingers at the back of my teeth when I think about it. They say Chinese is the most sophisticated style of cooking, more so than French (the culinary gold standard in the West), Italian, Spanish… But it hasn’t taken hold in the Twin Cities. In Minnesota it is still mostly greasy takeout and fried rice. It reminds that the world is not so small yet that we have can anything and everything at our fingertips. Our general culture is still defined generally by city, state, region, country, and (all) the people living therein. And while big box grocery stores and delivery services have given us access to the things that don’t grow nearby (bananas, avocados, quinoa, walnuts, grapefruit…) much of the cuisine is still defined by what does. But humans are odd in their distinction of culture. Amish stores selling Amish wares, restaurants offering the “most authentic” to white people while calls of appropriation and insensitivity abound. We move around, and we take our culture with us. And then we take the culture of this somewhere new onto the next somewhere new. The Italians wouldn’t have pasta if Marco Polo hadn’t traveled east, and his descendants brought it through Ellis Island and across the United States. Now we have Asian noodles and Italian...
Lamb for Easter? Of course.

Lamb for Easter? Of course.

Kofta is a family of foods consisting of ground up or minced meat, seasoned and made into meatballs, patties and/or meatloaf.  Kofta recipes can be found originating from the Middle East to Southern Asia and while 85% of the recipes I’ve come across are meat focused, there are a handful of Indian recipes that substitute paneer, potato or starchy plantain to be vegetarian.  The protein used can be beef, lamb, pork, mutton, poultry and/or blend.  I love the flavor of good clean lamb, but pork’s ability to take on flavor is unmatched, and the gamey taste of lamb can turn people off.  I like to use a blend of lamb and pork.  This way I get the strong clean flavors I want of the lamb and spices but can easily please a hesitant crowd. We then we eat this with Raita (recipe below),  a cucumber-yogurt sauce that dances with the spiced lamb on your palate and creates a subtle tingle of love and harmony in your soul.   Lamb Kofta with Raita Yield: 4 servings Ingredients: 1 1/4lbs ground lamb 1lb ground pork 1/2c packed Fresh basil, medium chop 1 lemon, zested and zest chopped fine 1t cinnamon, ground 1t black pepper, ground 1t cumin, ground 1t clove, ground 2T onion powder 2T garlic powder 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1/2c breadcrumbs 2t salt   Directions: Preheat grill, fire up coals or warm oven at 450f.  (these are best grilled over charcoal or wood) In a non reactive mixing bowl or kitchen aid mixer combine meats, spices, salt, zest, eggs and then breadcrumbs.  Mix until spices are fully incorporated and...
Freshwater fish cakes: Honoring every piece of your catch

Freshwater fish cakes: Honoring every piece of your catch

Got any of last summer’s catch in the freezer?  Here is a great fish cake or burger recipe: A very simple base that you can incorporate into meatballs, burgers, fish cakes, and serve it with endless ingredients (from a burger bun and french fries to fresh Chinese broccoli and kimchi).  It’s a surefire way to utilize every piece of the fish you caught and honor its life. I go through a lot of Minnesotan Walleye at my day job, so  I started saving the belly meat or any small scrap and freezing it. After a few months, I would have 2lbs or so stocked up.  It really adds up! Don’t be a jerk and waste it.  #fishlipstotail   Freshwater fish cakes yield: 2 servings Ingredients: 1lb Walleye, Pike, Sunfish, Trout, Perch, or any other freshwater fish you enjoy 1 egg, lightly beaten 3/4c breadcrumbs, finely ground 1 lemon, zested 1T dill, chopped 1T tarragon, chopped 1T parsley, chopped 2t onion powder 2t garlic powder 1t black Pepper 1t sea salt 1/4c grape seed oil for frying (local option) Directions: Using a filet knife, clean the fish and discard any bones, scales, or white sinew in the flesh. Use your fingers to feel for any of this in the meat.  Then cut into 1/2 in pieces. Place all ingredients in a non-reactive mixing bowl and combine with your hands for 2min, or until everything is incorporated evenly. You can also use a kitchen aid mixer or food processor for this step. Once forcemeat is completely mixed, make a little tester meatball and cook it. Taste it for salt.  Does it...