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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Ethics of Ethnic Eating

I went to lunch at my favorite Vietnamese dive today, it's a small shop, on the corner of a busy road behind a gas station. I found it by mistake and now I can't stop eating there. As I was there, I watched as customers from all walks of life came in. A rastafarian and his Hindu-wannabe girlfriend, a local (Hawaiian) couple with their two babies as well as several Vietnamese patrons. I then watched as a woman and a man came in, she sat down at a vacant table, pulled out a bag of Taco Bell and ate while he ordered some Phö. I watched as the owner (who is also the host, waiter and cash register attendant) looked at the woman but decided to say nothing. I was offended. But then I have to ask myself, "why?" I mean, there are no signs indicating that you can't bring another restaurant's food inside. Maybe it's because I know the owner's wife is in the back kitchen, cooking her heart out, yelling in Vietnamese while her busy husband yells back. Maybe it's because I know that they never take a day off, and that each order is another dollar to pay the cost of raising a family with two small children on this expensive island. Maybe it's because I know that by the woman bringing Taco Bell into their restaurant, she was effectively saying, "I don't like your food."

I started to contemplate the ethics of ethnic restauranting. I know that when I go to, say, my favorite Indian restaurant, I come and eat as if I were a native. I don't turn my nose up at their cuisine, in fact, I try my best to eat it as if I were one of them, fingers and all. Same with Ethiopian, Thai and Korean restaurants. The list goes on and on. My goal is to come and experience their food, at their restaurant on their terms, with an open mind, open heart and open mouth. To me, it's simply an unspoken rule, like bowing when a monk bows towards you, or answering "si" when spoken to in Spanish (even if you aren't sure what they said.)

In the woman's defense, maybe she didn't know how rude she appeared by bringing fast food into this well-loved restaurant. Maybe she didn't stop to think of eating before, or after her friend ate there. And maybe, just maybe, when she brings someone to her mom's house for a hard earned, well cooked meal, she doesn't get mad when they bring Burger King instead...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Steak Au Poivre, Horseradish Garlic Creamed Potatoes

That was my dinner tonight. I know, for those of you who know me, you'll be scratching your heads in confusion because BRYANNE DOESN'T EAT BEEF! Or does she? I need to break down the facts to you before I continue.

It all started on a clear night in late December, 2008. I was attending a function for the G-3 Marine Forces Pacific, (ok, it was a company Christmas dinner...) at the infamous "Don Ho's" restaurant in Waikiki. There was a small, but plentiful buffet table featuring one chicken dish, a pork dish and a beef dish, with a salad and some desserts. I dutifully grabbed a chicken thigh, a side of salad and a small pear dessert and sat with a few friends. They all had beef on their plates. It was not just any beef, but a soft, pink delicate slice of meat known to carnivores as Prime Rib. I watched the creamy sourcream and horseradish sauce pour across the reddish center of the meat, and felt a sudden desire to have it in my mouth.

And that is exactly what I did. I ended up eating not 1, but 4 slices of prime rib that night. It was the first time I'd eaten beef in nearly 15 years. And, I loved every single bite of it. When, about 4 days later I flew to Seattle, I bought and cooked an entire prime rib roast in my girlfriend's kitchen, feeding not only myself, but her, her lover, her friend and her adopted homeless man. Everyone proclaimed me the queen of beef, a title I do not take lightly. :)

So, I have not eaten beef since then, (It was December 29th to be exact!) but today, had a hankering for some pure iron. While at the store, I searched aimlessly through the various beef cuts, not knowing what to look for, when I came upon a $20 packet of 2 thick, deep purple red filet mignon. If you are a foodie or a chef, let me explain, (and if you're not, I'm still going to explain) Steak au Poivre is not generally made with a thick steak like a filet mignon, but the idea is the same, so I called my technique au poivre, meaning, "pepper crusted."

I rushed home, peeled, chopped and boiled the potatoes and then, hand cranked sea salt into a neat pile, lovingly cracked whole black pepper corns in my mortar and pestle and then delicately brushed the gently dried meat with extra virgin olive oil. I then brutally shoved the fleshy flesh into the salt and pepper mixture, coating it's backside with every morsel I possibly could manage. (Then I rotated and repeated!)

I seared the steaks in a flaming hot cast iron skillet for 2 minutes each side, then popped them into a preheated 415 oven for 10 minutes, letting them then rest for 10 minutes on the stove. The results? Heaven in my mouth. I mashed the potatoes with sour cream, garlic and horseradish, then of course added some fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt. Then, I made a fresh sourcream horseradish sauce with chives to top the steaks.

When I cut the steak into meaty bits, and placed them into my mouth, I disappeared into a place called, "Bryanne's Beefy Land" where I could not be bothered with anything other than the hedonistic pleasure I was receiving on account of a dead cow. (Gross, I know...)

Just thought I'd share while downloading music...