Gastropub Category

There’s no place like a [Korean] home…

Just when I’m getting cabin fever and feeling homesick, my photo archive reveals a treasure trove of pictures from a visit back home to Pennsylvania where my parents still live. I know it’s trite to say, but memories do indeed fuel the wonder only dishes from home can bring to the soul; especially when you come from a Korean family that loves to eat!

First let’s talk about what to me is the quintessential Korean dish (besides kimchee, of course), bibimbap. Bibimbap literally translates to “mixed rice.” It’s become so mainstream, you find it on the menu in the most unlikely of places. Even just today I discovered that Chicago’s famous gastropub The Publican’s Sunday brunch menu features a pork belly bibimbap!

Bibimbap works for so many reasons, not least of which is that when it’s made at home it takes no prep whatsoever. It originated from literally taking whatever leftover rice and banchan you had (traditional small dishes to eat with rice), throwing it all in a big bowl, adding lots of gochujang (bright red, sweet and spicy fermented chili and soybean paste) and a sunny side up egg (if you had it), and mixing and incorporating everything together until your arm hurt. Then the fam would each grab a spoon (somehow it seems to taste better with a long stem metal Korean spoon), and communally dig in! Even clean up is easy!

And just as layers of flavor permeate bibimbap, so does this dish speak to the rich agricultural history and resourcefulness intrinsic not only to making Korean food, but also eating it. At its core, it’s a no frills, hearty kind of eating spiced up with fire from plenty of hot chiles.

These photos were taken from Christmas 2011. We had a bunch of tasty banchan from my Mom and during a visit to my aunt’s house, a bibim party ensued with gusto! It’s always a special treat when my Dad decides to be the “Bimbim Master,” as we kids like to call him.

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This is the kind of spread waiting for me when I visit home. Gawd. Moms should be recognized as the ninth wonders of the world. All of this was made from scratch, yo.

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We also had some other memorable dishes from the visit including homemade Duk Mandoo Guk (beef soup with beef dumplings and rice cakes) and Guksu jongol (spicy casserole with noodles). Had to throw these in too because they are absolute pure comfort food for any Korean!

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Pure comfort indeed.

Smattering from the Big Apple: Part 1

Despite Jordan and I being inducted into the hall of fame of “mutant viruses of 2012” all in the same weekend, we still managed to enrich our food tasting repertoire.

Here’s part one of the smattering of yummies I indulged in whilst my mind endured a feverish delirium…

Joe’s Pizza
7 Carmine Street @ Bleecker

Of course the minute we landed we headed north into Soho and then Greenwich with one thing on our mind – a NY slice. Joe’s is a straightforward joint that is authentic NYC. The pizza tasted friggin’ great after a stuffy plane ride.

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Molly’s Cupcakes
228 Bleecker St

I was dying for something sweet afterwards and just kitty corner to Joe’s was Molly’s Cupcakes from Cupcake Wars fame.

Peanut Butter Nutella – Peanut Butter cake stuffed with Nutella and topped with Nutella buttercream. Uh, yum.

Chocolate Decadence – Chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse topped with ganache and chocolate curls. Seriously, this is ALL the chocolate you can stuff in a cupcake? Slackers.

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Murray’s on Bleeker
254 Bleecker St

This was a random walk-by then walk-through. I can never resist a deli counter with signs like “cave aged” above it.

I was lucky enough to get a taste of the paleta de bellota which I learned is the front leg versus the hind leg of the famous Spanish black Iberian pigs from which the even more famous jamon iberico is made.

It’s that beautiful cured leg on top of the counter that looks like its been chomped in the middle by Pac-Man.

It definitely wasn’t as melty as jamon iberico which makes sense given the part of the pig, but it had a straightforward, kind of more “working man” type meaty flavor – “working man” of course meaning only slightly lesser upper echelon of cuisine.

We also got some finnochiona which tasted like a kicked up sopressata and some thin slices of tasso ham. Did I mention that this snack was only about a half hour after leaving Molly’s?

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The Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St (between Hudson St & Greenwich St)

Although both our bodies were feeling the non-stop eight hours of walking creeping up on us (and catching up with a vengeance later), we mustered up our last bit of energy…to wait for two hours.

But, here are the dishes that made it worth it!

I thought the creamy Deviled Egg with the surprise of chili oil would be my fave, until I dived into the Chicken Liver on Toast. Damn.

Imagine a slathering of peanut butter and jelly on toast, but substitute the peanut butter for creamy smooth chicken liver, bulgogi-flavor, and a rich caramelized onion marmalade for the jelly. I’ve never had anything like it, and craved it almost immediately after I’d finished the whole thing.

But there was still, one more gastropub delight. Crispy Pig Ear Salad. Super crisp as you bite into them – the ears of course – melty fatty then slightly chewy. Good god.

It was pretty late when we hailed a cab outside of The Pig as Jordan liked to call it, but the place was still jumping when we left. We were wrecked but oh so happy with our food excursions for the day.

What awaits us on day 2?!