Saturday, July 9, 2011


Choux cube!
When the Professor brought these home, there was a collective gasp, then silence. It was like looking at alien technology. Choux Cube. Of course. Japan, the land of French pastry appropriation, had taken the magical, cumulus cream puff, once so Marie Antoinette voluptuous, and contained it in the strictest 90 degree angles, like a slick Noguchi sculpture. Dang.

The pastry was still airy and tender. Inside, the cream was that alchemical mix of whipped cream and custard. The strawberry had little bits of fruit folded into the filling, and the lightest whiff of berry in the white chocolate glaze. The vanilla had the requisite flecks of bean inside, and actually the best of the glazes for its vanilla fragrance. Turns out, vanilla is all you need to convert me to white chocolate. The chocolate filling was lovely, of course, and not as heavy as you might think. So I think maybe I get minimalism now, because I suddenly want to wear all white and empty my home of everything but a few square pillows and a potted orchid. And boxes and boxes of cream puffs.

Look at them--like little office worker in their cubicles. Except you can eat them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

La Granata

Fresh tagliatelle with duck ragout--meaty ribbons of deliciousness!
I spent two phenomenal weeks in Rome and Venice on my honeymoon. With my in-laws. Most people would think that's a drawback, but most people don't have in-laws that know Italian food like mine do. The Professor's Sicilian mother was like a culinary sherpa, leading us from one life-changing meal to the next. So taking them out for pasta is a bit daunting, especially in Japan. Italian in Tokyo is often criticized as being too Japanese--loosely translated, that means not enough garlic, too light, and refined to the point of prissiness. Not so at La Granata. I took Mom and Dad to the Ginza branch last time they were here.

Uni cream pasta. Dreamy, dreamy, dreamy.
Long had I regaled my father-in-law with tales of sea urchin and cream pasta, and it didn't disappoint. The fresh uni is tossed with the pasta in buttery cream sauce, not cooked, so it maintains its flavor. (I actually went here alone last year to have this dish--to be alone with it.) Dad was already reeling from a plate of garlicky octopus salad and crusty bread dredged in said salad, but he cowboy-ed up and cleaned his plate.

Campanelle with mushrooms and grilled foie gras
Mom ordered the duck ragout over fresh tagliatelle, which was fantastic. The duck was all roasty and falling apart in the sauce. And you cannot beat those big, springy ribbons of pasta. I know because I forced her to switch plates. She'd been on the fence about the foie gras and mushroom campanelle, so I ordered it. I know. It was like throwing myself onto a grenade...a delicious grenade. It was revelatory. The foie gras was grilled and just the teensiest bit crisp at the edges, but creamy and tender inside. The butter, the cream, the mushrooms--all of it was amplifying the richness of the liver. This was the meal Mom was supposed to be having, and to eat it all myself would have been tampering with destiny.

I know foie gras is terribly cruel to produce, but must it be so? In the land of pampered Kobe cattle, couldn't we find a way to fatten a duck or goose that's more fun for the animal? Elvis died with a pretty fatty liver, so I'm thinking fried peanut butter sandwiches, biscuits, and vanilla cokes. We need to get some 4-H kids on that stat, because now that I've had it like this, I don't know if I can live without foie gras now.