December 12, 2008

Little Shemogues

Jody Feigenbaum from Delaware Valley Fish called me a few months ago to see if we were interested in buying oysters from her company. She had attended one of my book events and thought Fork might be interested in the oysters she and her husband were harvesting from New Brunswick. We had been serving predominantly West Coast oysters for a while, so I was open to trying Jody's for a change. Besides, I had just returned from Paris where I discovered a wonderful boite in the 6th called Huiteries St. Regis. It was a very tiny spot that seated only 15 to 20 people at maximum capacity and served oysters and fruits de mers exclusively. I enjoyed the best Belon oysters I've ever had; they were so briny and plump. After that trip, I definitely had a palate for good oysters.

Jody and her husband Mitch arrived the other morning with several boxes of oysters and an oyster knife. It was a little early in the day for oysters, but we tried them anyway. First we had the Little Shemogues (She-mo-GWEE), which the Feigenbaum's and their business partner Barry Kratchman own and harvest themselves. Then we sampled their Peacock Cove oysters, which come from southeast New Brunswick. Both are equally delicious, but we opted for the Peacock Cove as they proved to be a real treasure of the sea and boast a high salt content. Fork is thrilled to add these delights to our menu, and I hope you enjoy them. To learn more about Little Shemogue Oyster Farm, check out their website at

December 7, 2008

Ciao bella gioia

Fabrizia Lanza, the daughter of our dear friend Anna Tasca Lanza, visited from Sicily to help us prepare a Sicilian holiday dinner: Dinner of the Seven Fishes. Interestingly enough, upon Fabrizia's arrival I learned that the dish is not a Sicilian tradition, at least not for Fabrizia who knew anything about. Fabrizia eats turkey for Christmas, just like many of us! For me, the highlight of the dinner was the baccala e patate zafferano (salt cod with braised saffron potatoes), which was served with a mint sauce.

Our dinner on Saturday night was probably the highlight of the trip for Fabrizia. We made our way down to Kim's Barbecue as a motley crew comprised of our Vietnamese chef Thien, Kaitlin McCann (one of Thien's new understudies), Fabrizia and her boyfriend Gianni (who speaks very little English), my boyfriend Wayne and I. Kim's Barbecue is a very ethnic restaurant. Many of the servers don't speak English, but since some of the servers are Chinese Koreans who left China during the Communist Revolution, I can typically order in Chinese (my mother tongue). The conversations at the table were crazy and confusing. Picture this: Wayne, who spent three months in Italy, was conversing with Gianni in limited Italian. Gianni was speaking to Thien in broken French. And I was speaking Chinese, Italian, and French, all poorly at best! What a sight we must have been. The one thing we had in common was a great bottle of wine that Thien brought, which certainly helped to forgive any misunderstandings that were created at the table that night.

November 9, 2008

Comfort Food

I can't imagine life without my family, which is why I have always tried to create a "home" at Fork for our chef Thien Ngo, who was orphaned during the Vietnam War. Although Thien would share stories about his adopted mom, he maintained an aloofness that he only recently explained to me as a self-defense mechanism.

When the First Person Arts Festival approached me about hosting Kim Sunée, author of Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home, I was intrigued as I wanted to hear her life's story and how she got into cooking. Kim was born in South Korea and adopted by American family in New Orleans. Thien was also adopted, though by director of the adoption agency in his home country Vietnam. Although Kim and Thien's stories are much different, there are significant parallels. Chief among them is that both found comfort through cooking. When Thien learned that he would be meeting Kim, he became very nervous, fearing that he might lose control of his emotions hearing Kim's story. Kim's friendly, warm, and caring nature helped to smooth out the meeting. Thien's wine consumption probably helped a bit too. The meeting went well, and I think that we all gained something positive from the experience.

Interestingly, we only featured one item from her Korean heritage for brunch, the Kim Chi Soup.

Kim Chi Soup from Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home (Grand Central Publishing, 2008)

1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 teapoons fresh-grated ginger
6 cups chicken or pork stock
2 to 3 cups cabbage kimchi
4 green onions, sliced
garnishes: fried ginger, fresh green peas, sliced rice cakes, korean red chili paste or sambal oelek, sliced nori, a drizzle of sesame oil

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and add to pot. Let pork brown about 8 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and stir. Add stock, stir, bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low. Skim fat as it starts to simmer and froth. Add 1 to 2 cups of kimchi, stir, and let simmer about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until pork is fork tender. Stir in green onions and remaining kimchi (if desired). Taste and add more salt, as needed. Server with garnishes, if desired.