So I just got back from Paris after finishing my 5-week course there, and I’m excited to be back. I’ll definitely miss a lot of aspects of Parisian life, but I also missed being in the U.S.
Even though French eating habits are currently evolving, the French eat differently than we do. Many of these French eating habits play a role in keeping their obesity rates lower than those in the U.S. For example, the French seem to dedicate time solely to eating, and they rarely eat outside of these times. They have a set breakfast, lunch, and dinner—breakfast usually being the smallest—and set aside time to sit at a table and enjoy the degustation of food. Most French people are not frequent snackers, and snacking remains a largely American habit. Oftentimes, dinners with my host mom would last up to two hours not because of the amount of food we ate but because of the conversation and slow-paced eating that occurred at the table.
Furthermore, the French seem to eat small amounts of food but with greater variety. Dinners with my host mom always consisted of an entrée, main plate, and cheese. She would also offer fruits as dessert. Throughout the course of dinner, I was able to taste a variety of textures and flavors and almost always left satisfied in terms of taste. I would never, however, leave the dinner table feeling “full.” Emotional satisfaction of eating without the copious amounts of calories likely plays a role in lowering average calorie consumption in France.
Ironically, the French diet consists heavily of fats and simple carbohydrates. My housemate and friend Bernardo often relied on a simple baguette and cheese for lunch, two French specialties. Baguettes always served as a vehicle or side accompaniment at dinner—though I myself did not divulge in this habit.
Parisians also have a habit of smoking. While in the U.S., smoking has diminished, Parisians believe smoking to be a la mode, or in fashion. Consequently, not a day went by without inadvertently inhaling second-hand smoke. Though smoking is inarguably detrimental to one’s health, and I do not at all recommend smoking, smoking does carry the side-effect of reducing appetite. That, coupled with a more active lifestyle attributed to biking and small portion sizes, the Parisians seem to stay slim.
Paris:la ville de les lumières, a city with almost more three-Michelin star restaurants—18—than the entire United States, itself, and a quality baguette on every block.
It’s been nearly two weeks since my arrival here for a French language program, and I think I’ve gotten into the rhythm of life in Paris. Before, coming I planned on trying to keep as much of my routine as I could while modestly assimilating into Parisian society. What does that entail? A subscription to a gym so I can continue weight lifting, aiming for eight hours of sleep per night, continue eating healthy (unfortunately, that means no unlimited baguettes or cheese degustations), signing up for the public bike transportation system, and tasting (at least just once) French delicacies such as macaroons, crêpes, and foie gras.
Life in Paris with this program keeps me as busy as ever. Between classes, homework, and mandatory excursions (guided tours), I barely find time to fit in my workouts and independent exploration of Paris. Right now, my daily weekday schedule consists more or less like the following:
Beginning time or window of time. Activity.
- 6-7 a.m. Wake up. Do work.
- 10 a.m. Class.
- 1 p.m. Gym & Lunch/Snack.
- 2:30-3 p.m. Afternoon obligatory excursion with class, or, on some occasions when we don’t have any excursion, independent exploration of Paris.
- 3-6:30 p.m. Get home and work.
- 8 p.m. Dinner
- 9:30 p.m. Work.
- 10-12 p.m. Sleep.
After a workout, I always treat myself to a carb-heavy treat. Generally, that means buying a crêpe sucre—a sugared crêpe—a baguette, or other baked good. This is because I train fasted, and after a workout, the body needs carbohydrates to repair muscle and replenish glycogen stores. Simple carbs are great for a post-workout snack because the body processes them quickly and can use them as soon as possible. Even when not training fasted, it’s a good idea to get 20-50g of simple carbs into your system after your workout (Note: By workout, I mean something that requires high intensity bursts of energy such as sprinting or weightlifting. Those are the types of exercises that will almost exclusively deplete glycogen stores and require an elevated amount of muscle repair.)
This past Thursday, I visited a hip breakfast spot near my gym called Clause. The interior is blanketed in white; the countertops look spotless. A large, rectangular blackboard spans the left wall as you come in; it features the day’s specials and tells you what’s available. On the right are small, two-seat tables, and a shelf of packaged foods and baking supplies. In the far-right corner begins a staircase spiraling upwards to the main dining area. On the opposite corner, visible from the shop’s entrance is a linear staircase descending towards the kitchen. In between the two staircase stands an open-air refrigerator stand keeping the day’s freshly made sandwiches cool. By noon, the rack is nearly empty save for a couple sandwiches and fromage blanks. Continue Reading →
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of sushi. I’ve eaten at numerous sushi buffets spanning across a couple states and stuffed myself to the brink of hospitalization each time. I’ve made faux tuna out of watermelon and even written a narrative for a food writing class at Yale about how I grew up afraid of sushi but came to love it.
To me, sushi balances a plethora of food qualities that you normally don’t see together except at high-end restaurants. Given small, traditional portion sizes, sushi tends to err on the healthy side, but it’s not a simple amalgamation of vegetables. Sushi provides delicate pieces of raw fish and presents them in an artistic, elegant manner. The variety of flavors can vary dramatically, letting the chef’s creativity shine, but the basis remains the same: raw fish bundled with extra ingredients wrapped in rice and nori. In America, sandwiches remain the iconic lunch food, but in Japan, sushi has a firm grasp of that role.
However, as much as I love sushi and appreciate its diversity, there’s a limit to how precisely my tongue can discern flavors or textures and my mind remember them. Perhaps it’s because I mainly eat at sushi buffets and always end up consuming more rolls than I can count, but I find it hard to come out of a sushi restaurant with a firm opinion on what roll was best and why it was so good. Throughout the course of dinner—or lunch—the variety of rolls all blend into similar flavor-texture profiles. There are crunchy rolls, sweet rolls, spicy rolls, and so on. When I dine at different sushi buffets or restaurants, the same phenomenon occurs and I stereotype sushi into these standardized flavor-texture profiles. Rarely do I come across a roll and say, “Wow, this is something different.” My reactions generally follow the lines of “Wow, this tastes great, but I can’t exactly say if it’s better than the roll I had at that other place.”
Miya’s Sushi helped me escape this “monotony”—if you could call it that. At Miya’s, you can find fresh, non-traditional sushi that combines ingredients you would never have suspected go well together—let alone, in a sushi roll. The chef/owner, Bun Lai, frequently catches fish used in the restaurant himself. I know this because I follow his Tumblr blog, through which he regularly posts today’s catch in the morning. By the evening, the fish or whatever edible that was caught is probably inside the bellies of several lucky diners. Lai strives to source ingredients locally when possible and keeps up with modern food trends. The chicken used in some of his rolls are organic, and he is currently in the process of transitioning rolls into gluten-free versions. The rice used in all of Miya’s rolls is a healthy amalgamation of brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, oat grains and flax seed. The complimentary miso soup oftentimes comprises of seaweed trapped a few miles from the restaurant, and the ginger, which is cut thick, includes traces of agave nectar. Miya’s, quite simply, is the healthy foodie’s mecca of sushi. Continue Reading →
Before I get into this story and review, here’s a highly informative article about eating sushi at a restaurant. Though in general, sushi and raw fish are healthy, the article presents some great tips about avoiding caloric bombs at sushi restaurants.
When you get to college, oftentimes, you’re bombard with numerous communities and organizations that want to consume your soul. They shower you with gifts and make promises of grand opportunities, but that all ends after freshman year. More often than not, the benefits drop stagnantly as soon as after the first month. One of the best programs I signed up for, however, is the Korean American Students at Yale’s (KASY) adopt-a-freshman program. Of course, I, along with my friend Jessica, were the freshmen to be “adopted” by two generous members of KASY, Sarah and James.
As a frame of reference, most cultural societies at Yale have a program like this where freshmen are adopted into a family, allowing them to ask upperclassmen questions and get a better feel for college. Other groups do the same. For example, Timothy Dwight college (TD), my housing community, has a similar program.
With my TD family, I shared two meals—one at a dining hall and another at a famous pizza restaurant. While the dining hall meal was free because I am on the dining plan, everyone who went to eat at the pizza restaurant split the bill. Note that my entire family didn’t actually go get pizza, about half of my TD family—three people—could make it. These meals were nice, informative, and fun, but they all occurred within the first couple months of school, and I haven’t gotten to know any of the people in my TD “family” well.
My KASY family, on the other hand, poses a completely different outcome. We’ve gone out for multiple meals at local restaurants—Thai Taste, Basil, Oaxaca Kitchen, and probably one other occasion I forgot. I’ve met up with my KASY sibling, Jessica, in New York City for a run and a meal. Jessica, James (the father in this family), and I surprised Sarah (the mom) with a late-night birthday cake on her birthday. James and Sarah—I couldn’t make it to this occasion—delivered Jessica food and gifts for her birthday. I received an iTunes gift card electronically over spring break for my birthday and Christmas. I could go on. Both Jessica and I are blessed to have ended up with such an awesome KASY family, and this KASY adopt-a-freshman program truly was one of the best, most-enduring perks of being a freshman.
The reason I bring up this story is because I want to quickly review a meal of Oaxaca Kitchen, which Sarah and I visited last week.
Sarah and I went on a quiet Sunday afternoon. There was only one or two tables occupied when we got there, and there are at least fifteen tables at Oaxaca Kitchen. The atmosphere feels festive, as the walls are peppered with aged cement, wood, and bricks. The lighting looks antique but not ancient. The place feels and looks like a cavernous bar, and I hope to come back during the night one day. Continue Reading →
So after a long hiatus from cooking anything sous-vide, I broke out my portable constant temperature water bath and got to work. The reason I decided to cook chicken sous-vide rose more out of convenience than desire for the perfectly cooked chicken breast—though the latter certainly was an incentive. Knowing I would have to cook for myself this month, I stocked up on a ton of healthy ingredients: frozen chicken breasts, broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, red onions, garlic, blackberries, grapefruit, greek yogurt, whole-wheat tortillas, quinoa, fat-free feta cheese, peanut butter, agave nectar, and Peter Luger sauce (not really healthy, but it’s my favorite steak sauce). Continue Reading →
I’ve got to be honest. I don’t read many books. I’m the type of guy who spends hours on end reading articles on NYTimes.com or cozying up with an extended essay in The Atlantic or New Yorker. Long-form books are not really my type. I think I may have ADD because books can never hold my attention. Despite all that, I devoured Danny Meyer’s semi-autobiographical Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business during the past three weeks.
In Setting the Table, Meyer articulates not what makes him such a great restauranteur but a successful CEO of a food service company. Meyer, who brought us restaurants like Union Square Café, Shake Shack, and Eleven Madison Park, emphasizes the importance of hospitality when providing others a service or product. He divulges a handful of tenets, which, if followed correctly, can lead to a loyal following behind a brand and stable, long-term growth of business.
Meyer begins by describing his childhood and the early roots that formed his interest in food and goes all the way up to the opening of his restaurants in MoMA. Continue Reading →
I get asked a lot what molecular gastronomy, or modernist cuisine, is all about, but I think molecular gastronomy is one of those things you have to see, feel, and taste to truly understand. I can say that molecular gastronomy is the cross-section of science and cooking, where chefs apply techniques straight out of a chemist’s playbook to food, but when you really get down to it, nothing beats tasting and feeling the results of culinary experimentation.
I can still recall the anticipation I had leading up to my first watermelon caviar experiment. It was like experiencing college for the first time. I had no idea what to expect even though I read so much about it. The transformation of watermelon juice to watermelon caviar is magical. Little, if any, practical reason exists in creating caviar that has the taste of watermelon, but the fact that one can pull off such feat and create unique dishes that surprise people presents a form of art and entertainment itself. Techniques like spherification, though they have some scientific value, serve mainly a cultural landmark and fascination. As a society, we are infatuated with trying new things, and while the field of technology produces new products and innovations unfailingly, culinary innovations trickle in more slowly. When Ferran Àdria first presented the spherification technique, it was a revolution that thousands of others began copying—including myself.
A similar experience can be had for watermelon “tuna,” which, again, takes watermelon and presents it in new light. The texture changes, and no food serves as a precedent.
Making watermelon tuna does not present as much materialistic obstacles as watermelon caviar. One simply needs a vacuum sealer—which can be bought cheap at the local grocery store or Amazon.com—and watermelon. (Note: The prices of vacuum sealers vary a lot, from as low as $6.99 for a hand-pump sealer, to a mid-range FoodSaver for about $70. You can go even higher with industrial-grade chamber vacuum sealers, but those are generally out of the price range for most curious cooks).
Watermelon tuna, tastes undoubtedly like watermelon but takes on a curious texture. It maintain a little bit of the crunch originally in watermelon but becomes flexible and slimy—like tuna. A bite into watermelon tuna gives off the familiar crunch of an apple but yields with no resistance to the force of the bite. The experience of hearing a food crunch underneath your mouth yet feeling your teeth sink smoothly into watermelon tuna exceeds imagination. One must try the watermelon tuna for themselves to truly experience the excitement.
The first time I went to Yoyogi Sushi, I came in with great expectations. My friends raved about it. Local publications raved about it, and even Yelp garnered favorable reviews. However, a glance inside the cramped restaurant shot bouts of doubt throughout my body. There was minimal décor. The menu looked greasy and worn out, and the wooden tables offered just enough room to shuffle around.
An adventurous foodie knows that a restaurant’s atmosphere does not tell all about its fare, so I decided to give the place a chance. I waited in line, watching a line of chefs busily compiling orders, and by the time I got to the front of the line, I decided on a combination of tuna and yellowfin rolls. An energetic old lady shouted my order in the direction of the sushi bar, and I saw one of the sushi chefs beginning on my order. His hands moved quickly and methodically, and I could tell from the mechanical precision of his actions that the sushi chef carried years of experience under his uniform. Comforted by what seemed to be quality craftsmanship, I handed over my debit card to the old lady. Continue Reading →
Gabrielle Hamilton, author of the New York Times best-seller “Blood, Bones & Butter” visited Yale today. She visited the food writing class that I am in and also lead an open dialogue about her career and her memoir. Although I did not attend the public discussion, I had the chance to ask her questions and talk with her in a more intimate classroom setting.
Hamilton came off as a strong personality, someone who is not afraid to voice her opinion and comfortable in her mannerisms. She laughed, she cursed, and she genuinely engaged in conversation. Despite her strong personality, Hamilton seems amicable, and I would not mind hanging out with and certainly not mind learning how to cook from her.
During the seventy-five minutes our class had with her, she answered questions directly and honestly. For example, when asked about food blogs, she told us that while she sometimes spends time reading them, she feels bad afterwards because that was time spent she could have used to do something more productive.
Here are the cliff notes of what I learned:
- Hamilton keeps items on the Prune menu even if it’s not their most successful item.
- School was like a vacation to Hamilton. Break from manual labor.
- Hamilton was completely compliant with requests from friends and family who received pre-publish text of the book.
- Seeing as Hamilton portrays her own flaws, she allows other people in her memoir to be flawed.
- Hamilton doesn’t think time spent reading food blogs or watching food shows is time well spent.
- Hamilton enjoys breakfast at Balthazar at 8 a.m.—before all the tourists get in—Peter Luger for steak, Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station, and Angel’s Share for a drink.
I talked to Hamilton one-on-one after the class discussion to get my book signed, and after I mentioned that I ran a food blog, a look of surprise ran across her face. “Were you offended by what I said about food blogs earlier,” she asked. “Not really,” I said sheepishly. “I understand what you mean. I used to read a lot of food blogs all the time, but it takes up a lot of time, and I definitely can’t do that during the school year.”
Hamilton asked me about Toastable, so I told her the link. I’m doubtful she’ll have the time to visit—or the desire—but it’s cool having been able to talk to such an accomplished person.
My friend Brian and I visited WD~50 this past Friday. It was my second visit to the place, and like I promised myself after my first visit, I ordered a la carte. As much as I enjoyed the tasting menu, the dishes were a tad bit too small for my comfort, and there was no way I was shelling out $140 on a meal. Continue Reading →