Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dental Wigs?

Walking around in downtown LA is one of my favorite things to do. You are guaranteed to see something extraordinary, often a drug deal or other bit of skid row "commerce" (I won't go into detail but you can be certain that I've seen a LOT of eye-popping activity). But a couple days ago I saw something so unique: a storefront offering something called a "dental wig."

Huh, now those are two words that just do NOT go together. And a google search yields only a handful of hits. According to one website, a dental wig is exactly what it sounds like: a wig for teeth; a fashion accessory, like shoes, for example. But these babies are not made by dentists, but instead are an impression made by the the consumer himself, then pressed into place "like a lego block." Of course. Makes perfect sense.

This might shed more light on the subject: a verbatim excerpt from the company's website (

What is Dental Wig?
Dental Wig or DENTAREL as a hair wig is a false tooth , a no medical, no damage , painless custom-made product , thanks to the oneself and only-use dental impression kit , international patented and copyrighted , which replaces missing teeth. Dental wig is an upscale product.

Remember, kids, you read it here first!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why the Mall scares me.

How much would YOU pay for a 17-course lunch?

Last week I read in Time Magazine about one of the country's hottest chefs, David Chang, and his mini-empire of restaurants in Manhattan's Lower East Side. The thing that caught my attention in the article was that his food is not only incredibly inventive and borderline bizarro, but it is accessible to and borderline cheap. The problem of getting a table remains, but we arrived at Momofuku Ssam Bar at 11:28 am, just in time to beat the 11:30 am rush when they opened the doors on Saturday. And yes, the tiny place was full by 11:35 am.

After a truly kick-ass meal (I won't call it a brunch because there was nothing breakfasty about it) that included items like steamed buns with pork belly, a ham & chicken liver terrine sandwich, pork shoulder scrapple with egg, and a salad of . . . ready? thinly sliced beef tendon with pickled green mango and spicy peanut thai dressing. (The waitress sweetly pointed to her heel when explaining where the "tendon" comes from- thanks a bunch for the visual.)

After lunch we went to the adjacent/sister place- Momofuku Milk Bar- for dessert. We were boring and had a piece of brownie pie, but even this casual bakery/fast-food place has some crazy offerings like Chorizo Challah, and salty pistachio ice cream topped with potato chips. Around the corner and down a block is a third Momofuku location, Momofuku Noodle Bar, which is downscale but also extremely cool.

I know this is all rather boring to read about, but A) I need to keep writing and this is the most interesting thing I've done this week, B) I'm still amazed by the fact that we got a table at Ssam bar and also obsessing over the wacky food we ate, and C) this is all prelude to my stopping by the 4th location of the Momofuku empire, Momofuku Ko.

Momofuku Ko has a tiny street presence, is barely marked and has dark tinted windows covered by a heavy (but artsy) metal mesh. Thinking it closed, I literally pressed my nose to the door. What a DORK. Here are some fun facts about Momofuku Ko:

1. There are 12 seats. Total. Actually, they are backless stools. All at a bar. The restaurant is entirely visible here. And no waiters. Just the chefs.

2. Reservations are allotted only via the restaurant's website, only exactly one-week in advance, and are snapped up in literally a matter of seconds/minutes.

3. Although the other restaurants post reasonable approximations of their ever-evolving menus, Momofuku Ko's was shrouded in mystery (but I was able to find the general outline, here), begging for further inspection.

4. Opened just this year, Ko has a cult following.

After smashing my face against the metal exterior to get a glimpse inside, I could see people inside and opened the door. The conversation with the unexpectedly nice hostess went like this:

Me: "Hi, can I see a menu?"
Too-skinny-hostess: "I'm sorry, we don't publish a menu."
Me: "Well then, how do people order?" (I'm waaaaaay too smart, of course)
Too-skinny-hostess: "It's prix fixe."
Me: "Well, then, how much?"
Too-skinny-hostess: "$160 for lunch and $100 for dinner."
Me: [stunned silence]
Too-skinny-hostess: "We also offer wine pairings." (as in, that will cost you extra)
Me: "Why does lunch cost more than dinner?" (because normally a $160 lunch would translate into something like a $250 dinner, right?)
Too skinny hostess: "Lunch is 17 courses."
Me: [confused look on my face, walk out, still processing this conversation.]

So, wait, if I pay $160 for lunch, I get 17 courses, but at dinner I only pay $100, so do I only get 10 courses and walk away hungry? And how much is the wine? Turns out you have to shell out an additional $50, $85 or $150 for the privilege of getting a buzz on, during your $160 lunch. Which you are informed will take three hours. For lunch.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bacon, Olive Oil and Bone Marrow: They're not just for breakfast, anymore!

Perhaps because there is so little variety in the food we presently have available (nearly three years into it, I'd kill for a fish taco!), we find ourselves being a bit more adventurous than usual when we do run across unusual offerings. And our frequent trips to NYC are feeding(!) this trend, big time. Perhaps these unusual ingredient combos have gone mainstream without my notice, but I still think they represent an exciting infusion of creativity into food that is accessible by Average Joes like us.

Perhaps it is a recession-favorite comfort food, but I predict that you will soon find bacon in common things like Ben & Jerry's ice cream. That was not a joke. Bacon's salty/greasiness actually pairs quite nicely with fatty sweets. Check out these examples I've recently seen:

BACON DONUT: You can bet this baby will be at the top of my eating agenda when I go to LA for Xmas. It's offered a very hip new diner downtown on the uber-sketchy block of 5th and Main at The Nickel Diner.

CHOCOLATE + BACON: Continuing with the bacon-meets-sugar theme, we have a $7.50 Bacon Chocolate Bar available at the super-swanky chocolatier, Vosges. Vosges gets bonus points, and almost warrants an entire blog entry, for its crazy ingredients like tobacco, curry, hot chili, and mushrooms. But more about Vosges chocolate later.

ANYTHING SWEET + BACON: As I was working up this blog entry in my little mind last night, reading an article in Time Magazine, I chanced across the reference that sealed its fate: A reference to a roving dessert truck taking NYC by storm that serves . . . chocolate bread pudding with a bacon crème anglaise, of course!

BOOZE + BACON: I don't know why this should gross me out any more than the above-mentioned things (which actually sound really TASTY to me), but a bacon martini just seems over-the-top to me. Can you imagine being on a date, or at a business dinner, and someone ordering this? Bizarre-o. Bacon does not belong in a bar setting. I don't care if it IS "candied."

Good ol' Olive Oil's lubricious qualities do not lend themselves to such compelling blog photos, but that is not to discount the subtle force of this ingredient.

CHOCOLATE + OLIVE OIL: Perhaps the tastiest piece of chocolate I've ever had was something from Vosges in SoHo called the d'Oliva. It is olive oil-infused chocolate truffle inside a white chocolate shell. But the magic comes in the form of the bits of kalamata olive sprinkled on top. Who would have guessed that those deep purple, super salty olives would be so freaking amazing on top of the perfect chocolate base?

GELATO + OLIVE OIL: Perhaps the most famous gelato place in NYC right now is Il Laboratorio de Gelato on the Lower East Side, an unassuming counter-window next to the popular Tenement Museum. Each day they offer just a small slice of their many, many flavors, and yesterday we got to try Olive Oil. How was it? Meh . . .

BONE + MARROW, Straight up: While having a nice brunch with some girlfriends in Tribeca last month, I chanced upon this item on the menu, amidst the various forms of eggs Benedict and funky french toasts: Bone Marrow. No, not "bone marrow infused omelet," not that it would make it so much more palatable, just . . . BONE MARROW. I almost ordered it, out of pure curiosity, but the place wasn't cheap and I knew no one else would be interested in sharing it. More importantly, one of the girls is a vegetarian, and I thought it would be quite rude to order up a stack of bones and suck out the innards, at least before noon.

I also caught it on the menu at a place in LA, Mario Batali's new Pizzeria Mozzo, so it seems to have gone bi-coastal.

Personally, I am hoping NOT to see Ben & Jerry's bone marrow ice cream at our local Wegmans any time soon. But hey, who knows? And, now that I think of it, Bone Marrow Lean Pockets might be . . . yummy?