The Best Salad Dressing

I haven’t logged into my food blog for months, but this is just too good to resist. The Take a Bao Tangy Salad dressing is to die for and I didn’t realize you can buy it by the bottle until today. And so I bought TWO! It usually comes with the 7 veg salad but today will be the first time I venture to make my own salad with the miracle dressing. I asked the chef what the secret recipe is, and he revealed that, in addition to gallons of sugar, the key ingredient – and what makes it so tangy – is the tarragon vinegar. It goes reeeally well with edamame beans!

Find your local Take a Bao here: http://www.takeabao.com

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Doug Aitken’s pre-Station to Station Food Happening

I’ve been helping curate the music for Doug Aiken’s upcoming “happening,” Station to Station, for the last few months and last night he invited us all over for culinary delights by underground San Franciscan chef Leif Hedendal. Along with Alice Waters, Leif is going to be conceptualizing the food for the train journey, which starts in New York on September 6th and ends in San Francisco on the 28th. Doug wanted to film Leif preparing his famous finger food as a precursor of what is to come, with the behind-the-scenes Station to Station crew reaping the delicious benefits!

Leif Hedendal

Leif Hedendal © Mara McKevitt

Doug filmed a conversation series for the Tate Liverpool Biennial at the end of last year, called The Source, and this filmed series will be a kind of sequel to that, with snippets of the interviews being streamed on the Station to Station website leading up to the Sept. event.

Doug Filming the Happening

Doug Filming the Happening

Here is a conversation Doug filmed with James Turrell at the LACMA last month, where Turrell’s retrospective is currently being exhibited: http://vimeo.com/69357924. One of the September stops will be in Winslow, near to where Turrell’s famous Roden Crater – an extinct volcano that he has been transforming into a work of art since the 1970s – is located.

The Station to Station happening will be a month-long moving target, travelling from coast to coast, with 9 official events and 2 surprise pop-up stops. At each venue, there will be musicians playing to Doug’s projections, art installations, whip crackers, extraordinary marching bands you couldn’t possibly have heard of, with food curated by Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters and last night’s star, Leif Hedendal.

The roster of artists who will be involved include Kenneth Anger, Urs Fischer, Olaf Breuning, Peter Coffin, Ed Ruscha, Meschac Gaba, Liz Glynn, Carsten Höller, Christian Jankowski, Aaron Koblin, Ernesto Neto, Jack Pierson, Stephen Shore, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Lawrence Weiner, and of course James Turrell – an impressive lineup, even for a contemporary art amateur such as myself.

The music will include collaborations by Sun Araw + The Congos, and the ethereal Charlotte Gainsbourg + Connan Mockasin, my favorite psychedelic artist of the last two years. If you haven’t already, I insist you check out this beautifully crafted – and very surreal – music video, from the New Zealanders’ debut album Forever Dolphin Lovehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7CaTJ2SvG8.

There will also be performances by Beck, Savages, No Age, Ariel Pink, THEESatisfaction, Dan Deacon, David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, Eleanor Friedberger, Nite Jewel, Handsome Family, Lia Ices & Twin Shadow, as well a plethora of names we have yet to announce😉

Back to the food… I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…. There weren’t any entrees but, as “finger food” implies, it was all bite size and yet substantial enough to have left us satiated.

Leif was kind enough to share his menu with me (see below).

Now I can’t wait for the full experience in September….

Here’s the Station to Station interview with Leif and his recipe for Sea Bream Cucumbers:

Pimientos

Pimientos © Mara McKevitt

Cucumbers with Raw Sea Bream

Cucumbers with Raw Sea Bream © Leif Hedendal

Leif Hedendal

Leif Hedendal

Doug Aitken in his Kitchen

Doug Aitken in his Kitchen

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Cucumbers © Mara McKevitt

Leif Hedendal preparing the finger food

Leif Hedendal preparing the finger food

Roasted Shitake with Uni & Bone Marrow © Leif Hedendal

Roasted Shitake with Uni & Bone Marrow © Leif Hedendal

Leif with Sam Falls, one of the Station to Station artists

Leif with Sam Falls, one of the Station to Station artists

Fried Quail

Fried Quail

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

Roasted Corn on Amaranth Leaf

Roasted Corn on Amaranth Leaf

Blenheim Apricot

Blenheim Apricot

Mulberries!

Mulberries!

Celebrating the Chef

Celebrating the Chef

pimientos de padron

cucumbers–raw sea bream-purslane-fennel-apple-dill-sorrel-lemon

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fried quail-surinam cherry-curry leaf-thai basil-kaffir lime-jalapeno-fish sauce

roasted shitake–uni–bone marrow-shiso-ponzu

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toast–lamb shank-ruby streak mustard greens-currants-marjoram-argan oil-sumac-preserved lemon

(braise: onion, fennel, thyme, red wine)

amaranth leaf-roasted corn-sungold tomato-radish-tarragon-basil-chives-vinegar-olive oil

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blenheim apricot-lime mint-anise hyssop

santa rosa plum-lemon verbena

mulberries

Melbourne

A friend of a friend kindly made a list of must-go-to restaurants in Melbourne for me and so far nothing has let her down.

We went to Cumulus Inc. (http://cumulusinc.com.au/) for lunch, where they encourage sharing food (my favorite!). The grilled Octopus appetizer was the best I’ve ever had. It was soft, not even slightly chewy, and mixed in with paprika, olives, basil and a few little dots of mayonnaise. We liked it so much my boyfriend had to order another portion with his main course!

Cumulus Inc Grilled Octopus

The biggest hit there was the multigrain bread, which I later read is, according to some, considered to be the best bread in the world. Again, Marius ordered another round! They don’t sell it at the restaurant but they did tell us where to get it from… and I have a little surprise awaiting Marius when he gets back from his King Kong rehearsals…

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http://bakerdchirico.com.au/

The coffee almost everywhere in Melbourne is top notch so it’s no surprise that The World Barista Championships & World Brewers Cup happens to be hosted in Melbourne this week. Baker D. Chirico, in Carlton, has teamed up with a cute little roasting house next door called Market Lane, where I got a yummee flat white, and a Specialty Coffee Map of Melbourne so I can explore the rest!

San Francisco Adventures

Day 1: The Ferry Building for oysters. Day 2: Straight back to the Ferry Building. I thought I’d impress my dad with breakfast at Boulette’s Larder but of course there’s no seating…only on Saturdays. Instead of tables, parked outside they did have a stand with thick, goopy hot chocolate and whipped cream, just like Angelina’s Hot Chocolate L’Africaine in Paris. I had this bright idea to buy one and pour it into a Blue Bottle coffee down the hall, but by the time I got to the other end of the Ferry Building to buy the coffee I’d finished the hot chocolate and ended up having to order a regular mocca instead. My father has slightly more will power than me and so he managed to fulfill my quest for the best mocca and ordered a macchiato which he poured into the remaining hot chocolate. Needless to say, it really was the best mocca ever concocted.

Ferry Building:

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Blue Bottle Coffee:

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Boulette’s Hot Chocolate with Blue Bottle Macchiato = the best Mocca imaginable:

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Instead of Boulette’s we ordered a Blue Bottle waffle. A woman in the line said they were so good we had to order two but it was so underwhelming we ended up throwing both of them away. I mean, a waffle with no whipped cream or toppings? = wrong!

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My father and I walked for about an hour from the Ferry Building to Nob Hill for the “best oysters in San Francisco.” Apparently all of Anthony Bourdain’s disciples had the same idea and it took us over TWO HOURS to get a seat.

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We met Mark Huebner in the line who kept us entertained. He told us exactly what we should order: Kumamoto oysters, the giant cherry stone clams and uni. He disappeared for a minute while we were queuing and miraculously returned with an Anchorsteam Pale Ale for me. As he was alone, he got to skip the line and generously kept bringing us out oysters as he felt so sorry for every excruciating minute longer we had to wait.

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My father got his food first and to my horror they served him 4 Cherry Stone Clams without telling us they were the last! Luckily, he let me try one before we’d realized or I would have had even more of a sense of humor failure. They had also run out of uni and it didn’t seem to matter what I ordered the server kept giving me what he thought I should have. I called him out on it though, and in the end I think I got both what he wanted me to have and what I asked for! We also ordered a crab salad, which was delicious, he let us taste the smoked salmon which perfectly melted in our mouths, I ordered all the different kinds of oysters while my father stuck to just the Kumamoto ones, we got 3 of the smaller clams each and I had my one giant cherry stone clam, which was a real treat as I’ve never even seen anything like it.

My ONE cherry stone clam:

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Oyster platter:

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I LOVED it but Saturday lunch time is probably not the wisest time to go.

Din Tai Fung – Authentic Soup Dumplings

This place is renowned for its Xiao long bao, Shanghai-style soup dumplings. Din Tai Fung made Jonathan Gold’s list of 100 essential restaurants and the fact that its in Arcadia has done nothing to deter its fan base. There is another identical restaurant around the corner, both are enormous, and yet they’re still more famous for the queues they boast than their food.

I’d never had one of these dumplings before. They’re tightly sealed with pork and a splash of soup inside which bursts when popped into your mouth. There are instructions as to how to eat them on the chopstick wrappers. You are served fresh ginger, vinegar, soy and chili sauce which you are instructed to mix together in the soy saucer provided. You pick each dumpling up with chopsticks, soak it in the dipping sauce, place it in your soup spoon and pop it into your mouth. You can also poke a hole in the dumpling first so that the soup oozes out onto the spoon instead of scolding your mouth.

They’re served 10 at a time in aluminium steamers – a challenge when you order just as many portions as there are people! I loved the texture but this place is not a vegetarian friendly restaurant. As a selective vegetarian I had to at least try the soup dumplings but the pork is really rich and fatty and so I decided to sacrifice the soup filling and switch to regular shrimp dumplings. And then they too arrived with pork! The steamed pork buns were the same, really delicious, with amazing texture, but they didn’t have that sweet barbecue sauce center that’s probably really inauthentic but also my favorite part. We got garlic green beans too which were really tasty and cooked just right.

All in all highly recommended if you love authentic international cuisine. And pork!

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Dinner By Heston Blumenthal

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Fig And Olive – For Lunch

Jason Chang is a regular at the Fig and Olive and so the perfect dining partner. He told me to order the truffle mushroom penne, but as usual, I decided I knew better and ended up eating most of his – as well as my own – meal. So it was hardly surprising when it took my stomach the rest of the day, and night, to recover!

The restaurant automatically brings you their specialty Rosemary bread with 3 different types of Olive Oil. The one on the left was my favorite, from Portugal. I love robust flavors and it was the richest with strong hints of pepper. The light, middle one was from North California and probably my least favorite and the one on the right was from Tunisia.

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To start with Jason insisted I try a selection of the crostini. You can either order 3 for $10 or 6 for $19.

We ordered the Crushed Tomato with Olive Oil; Proscuitto, Ricotta, Fig, Olive, Walnut; Mushroom, Truffle Artichoke, Parmesan. These were all divine. In fact, I could have just eaten crostinis for lunch. The tomato actually tasted of tomato, for a change, and the textures all worked really well together.

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I ordered the Striped Bass Papilliote, mainly because I couldn’t decide what to order and someone at the table next to us was eating it. The best thing about this dish is the preparatory show the server enacts in front of you. The fish is covered with cooking paper which the server tears into with a knife and fork and then rolls back to reveal the steamed striped bass filet and stewed vegetables. I hate dry fish and the texture was perfectly moist, although it was a little too salty and maybe a little too heavy to eat for lunch. It came with zucchini, eggplant, fennel, tomato, thyme, scallion and saffron served with olive oil mashed potato & chives – with a side of Arbequina Olive Oil drizzled over it.

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Penne Funghi Tartufo: Cremini and black trumpet mushroom, parmesan, parsley, scallion with white truffle olive oil.

This was reeeeally delicious, full of all the robust flavors you could want from a pasta dish. The only complaint is it was also a bit too salty – but on the other hand I love salt!

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