Monday, January 31, 2011

I Puked in Your Car...What's For Breakfast?

When I was waiting tables at this popular breakfast & lunch spot in the OC (don't call it that), the chef/owner, who also lived on the premises, was this crazy fucker who turned up The Pogues full blast on Sunday mornings, played the drums shirtless (and not very well) in his bedroom—of which tables 9 through 13 had a perfect view—and drank shopping carts full of booze on a regular basis, often with his sweet and also-deeply-alcoholic sous chef, Bumpy.

Several times a week, his friends would come to drink all the restaurant's booze and jump off the roof and perform other feats the guys on Jackass wish that they were stupid enough to. We girls would clock in at 7am in our overalls and bandannas, and be greeted by some disheveled hobo in the kitchen, slobbering all over the espresso machine in agony. One morning, after shooing one away and making proper cappuccinos for the gang, which included nearly all of the chef's childhood buddies and our whole kitchen crew, we learned that one of the high school chums had gotten mad at some point in the night and stumbled off to sleep in the sous chef's car.

He wandered into the kitchen as the first tables of blue hairs and rich housewives filed onto the patio for breakfast, and announced to Bumpy, "I puked in your car. What's for breakfast?"

Following are some of my favorite hangover foods, by region. Bumpy-approved:


Seoulleongtang (pronounced "So Long, Tongue"): beef bones simmered in water until it turns milky white - bland on its own, but you're supposed to add coarse sea salt, kimchi, chili paste, and whatever else they give you in the banchan dishes that come on the side. The marrow will restore you to life, and the water will hydrate you. Plus Koreans are so goddamned nice and quiet. When you're not related to them.


Pho (pronounced "fuh"): again, beef bones simmered in water, but with allspice and star anise and plenty of salt, so you get the most marrowy, baking-spicy, slightly fennelly broth you want to just fall asleep in. Add all the fresh Thai basil, greens (often mizuna), jalapeños, and sprouts you can; test the broth before mucking it up with plum sauce and Sriracha.
Order fatty brisket to further flavor the broth, but only plan to eat the eye round, ordered "on the side" so you can dunk it right before eating and not get that leathery consistency you get when it's been sitting in there too long.

Bun bo Hue (pronounced "bun bo weigh"): from the Hue region in Vietnam comes this soup with cubes of pinkish-brown floating in it. What is that, you say? Just eat it, it's good for you.
Okay, I ate it - it tastes like sausage, sort of, but there's something....tinny. Tinny like iron? Yeah, that's cause it's congealed pig blood. And it's delicious. But now you've puked on my shoes, you stupid drunk. So that's one setback to going bun bo Hue instead of pho for your hangover cure (but it's the only one).


Posole or Pozole: Yeah, yeah menudo. Whatever. When I'm three seconds from puking on your shoes, do you really want to show me a bowl of tripe? It looks like something a doctor left in you during surgery that you finally passed, but not before it fused with your own intestines and created a sort of hybrid tissue that longs to tickle your mouth with its freaky little fingers. Fuck menudo.

Posole is porky and dried-chile spicy and full of corny, earthy hominy. Fill it with cilantro and radishes and squirt it with lime. Don't dip tortillas in it unless you're really sure you can stand that much starch yet.

Albondigas: Means "meatballs." It's also got lots of squash, celery, carrots, potatoes, and onions in it - and whatever, really. Just use cilantro or get out. if you're one of those unfortunate people who was born with the enzyme that turns cilantro to soap in the mouth, I pity you, you poor bastard. Cilantro, for the rest of us, produces an ecstatic experience that is rivaled only by the finale of Bizet's "Carmen", combined with a meteor shower and oral sex, all at once.

Maybe you should get that fixed or something.


Congee: A velvet rice porridge designed to coat your insides with loving caresses, like a doting Chinese mother; not the kind that makes you hold your pee while you play Rachmaninoff to perfection. By the way, Tiger Mother? Whatever. Saw it when it was "Sybil" and it was just some crazy white lady. Which brings me to a critical analysis of white people: Chinese kids, it is widely held, flourish with this strict discipline. Whatever their emotional problems later in life, they certainly don't develop multiple personalities to deal with the trauma. Psssh. Lazy, soft white people. When I finally bless the world with my spawn, I will make them green-thumb baking wizard piano virtuosos with straight A's and a job at 15. You'll all appreciate it when your kids grow up to be whiny, lazy brats who can't commit to each other and are deeply depressed that they haven't become famous.

In other words, me. Thanks, hippie parents, for all that "emotional license."


Ramen: Not Top Ramen, you silly such-and-such. Get the handmade noodles and tonkotsu broth simmered all day with pork bones. Then pop a soft-boiled egg in 'er and so good make eye roll back! Add MSG. It makes you smarter. That's the "headache" you all complain about.

Eastern European/Ashkenazi Jewish:

Matzoh Ball Soup: Is there anything in the world as restorative as a broth polka-dotted with the schmaltz from a chicken's skin? It's a velvety hug from your bubbe, and its stern carrots seem to suggest a soup that's seen it all, and has learned that, at the end of the day, it comes down to roots. Root vegetables, your family roots, the roots of your faith. The farther down your roots go, the more unmovable you are when the winds come—like a potato, an onion. Also, take your elbows off of the table, you schlump.

Hit me with some more regional hangover cures.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chefs Have Awful Taste in Wine

It's true.

I've worked for a CIA-trained chef in California who drank 375's of Port like a little girl - yeah, he drank 10 at a click and would end up shooting someone in the ass with a BB gun, but still.

Your Pegasus called, little girl, it would like you to brush its glorious mane.

Another chef, a nationally acclaimed sushi savant, favored Rosenblum Zinfandel when I met him. He's since graduated, but with a slow and painstaking babystepping that he probably never, ever had to endure in his Japanese food training.

Just because you've got a preternatural sense for fish doesn't mean you're ready for Burgundy, Daniel-sahn.

The third chef...forget it. Beer. I love good beer, but this is about wine.

So when I come across shit like this:

"Chef Kent (Rathbun, of Dallas fame and Austin jeering) Recommends"

I wet myself with glee. Let's look at the flavor/texture profiles of his favorite wines, yes?

Amayna, Chardonnay, Leyda Valley, Chile 2006
Domaine Chandon, étoile , Rosé, Sonoma-Napa County
MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Gris, Sonoma Coast
Patz and Hall, Chardonnay, Alder Springs Vineyard, Rutherford
Roederer Estate, Brut, Anderson Valley NV
Rubicon Estate, Roussanne-Viognier-Marsanne, Blancaneaux, Rutherford
St. Supéry, Sémillon-Sauvingnon [sic] Blanc, Virtú, Napa Valley

So from this, I take it this guy's bag is a giant bucket of buttered popcorn topped with oak chips and a copy of Wine Spectator with which he can wipe his glistening craw.

Not a single Old-World-style wine among them, which has become, for me, synonymous with a lighter, better balanced, often subtler experience.

If I had more time and weren't just writing this to blow off steam between tasks on my steps-to-fucking-Shangri-La-sized to-do list, I'd thoughtfully consider the notion that chefs' palates suffer from an eventual blanding - a phenom that explains why so many guests find things saltier than the chef can taste. Anyone out there know the results of studies done to this effect? Like I said, I'm busy with an actual job. Let the geeks do the work and spittle all over my shirt while they tell me about it.

His red selection is even worse. I won't go into it.

The point of this instruction today is: Don't give a fucking rat's ass what the chef likes to drink. If it were up to him, he'd be passed out in the walk-in with an empty case of cherry Robitussin and an underaged Thai hooker.