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Om curry with dill from LAcha Somtum in Thai Town.

I attended a highly educational and also highly entertaining Zocalo Public Square lecture about food fads on Monday, with journalist David Sax of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, and it got me thinking about foods that could easily become trendy. My fellow home-cook brother and I exchanged a few emails about it, and here’s my list.

Gochujang
My brother and I are both a little obsessed. Miso, MSG, and fish sauce have all had their moments in the food media spotlight as ways to add flavor, umami, and saltiness to food, so, we wondered, why not one of the most ubiquitous of Korean condiments? Among foodies, it’s not for lack of trying. Gochujang — also known as hot pepper paste or red chili paste or some combination thereof — is a thick, sticky paste of red chilis, sweet rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. It’s been in (near constant) use in Korea for about 500 years, since trade routes opened up in the far east, and it is traditionally fermented in the sun. To me, it’s equal parts sweet, salty, and spicy, felt in that order. Some ascribe a fermented stink to it, but I don’t get it. It’s no kimchee. Read the rest of this entry »

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A string trio in Central Park.

Almost a year to the day after my last carload of belongings disappeared into the Lincoln Tunnel and left Manhattan forever, I found myself approaching the island on the Z train from Jamaica with just a small suitcase at my feet, gazing out the window at the Empire State Building as I had on so many arrivals before. I’d always thought the best ways to experience the Empire State Building were from the observation deck on the 86th floor and from a great distance. Even from my apartment building’s rooftop on 29th and Lexington, just a few blocks away, it never seemed as tall and majestic as it did from Queens.

I needed to see New York again. Living there was never going to be permanent — I had eyes for California — but my fifteen months there inevitably felt like a negligible scratch compared to the deep etchings so many others leave on New York’s weathered surface.

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When I told people I was planning to move from New York City to Los Angeles, the reactions were often surprising, always funny.

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Lovely photo my mom took in Central Park I am using to signify “Looking forward to new beginnings, while also looking back.”

Well, guys, this is it! In June, I’m moving to Los Angeles. I’ll spend way too much time writing a self-aware, verbose, seemingly contrived evaluation of my time here in the next month. But right now, I just want to post my “To Do In NYC Before I Move” lists and solicit recommendations from friends and colleagues in the comments field for what needs to be included! Because this list might seem a bit short, I’m also posting my “I accomplished this!” list of my last 14 months of culture, dining out, and nightlife.

So please, recommendations! I’m not leaving until I’ve done everything I want to do, and that you convince me I want to do, in this city. And contributions to my “To Do In LA” list are also welcome.

Lists after the jump!

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Dynamite some rats? Not exactly. Take in some contemporary art? Exactly. And yes, I believe that would be the work of Banksy.

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Truffle egg toast at ‘Inoteca.

It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s just that I have a two inch strip of counter space for food prep. And I know I’ll have a good time when I go out with me.

These are two new-ish Manhattan restaurants, opposite each other on the island, that have been consistently amazing about accommodating this party of one.

(A quick reminder about my dining-out-solo habits: I almost always take bar seating or else I make a reservation, I tend to eat outside of the lunch and dinner rushes, I bring a good book, and I tip well.)

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How I learned to love avocado. Read on for my favorite summer soup in New York.

Growing up in my family, respect could be earned by making straight-As and liking weird food. My parents weren’t strict, as parents in the south go (because they weren’t from the south, probably), but we had to do our homework before watching television, and we had to try a taste of everything we were served. My parents lived in Hawaii early in their marriage, so my mom cooked a lot of Asian cuisine growing up. While I celebrated Shake ‘n Bake, I rejoiced over Thai curry.

I was actually the pickiest eater for most of our childhood years and arguably still am. (Today, it has to do with maximizing the chances that I’ll love my meal when I’m paying a lot for it, or when anyone else is paying a lot for it, and also with being sensitive to food politics.)

Being picky as a kid is to be expected, but as a teen, I was determined to develop a sophisticated palate. I weaned myself onto greens, bell peppers, eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna and chicken salad, hummus, tea, Mexican food, and finally beer, and now I love them all. Maybe a little too much. I refuse to get my Cholesterol checked on account of what I affectionately refer to as the Incredible Edible.

Avocado didn’t happen until I was 22, and I have gazpacho to thank for that. I can’t remember the first time I ate gazpacho –my mom probably made it, she made everything at some point– but I can tell you the two best gazpachos I’ve ever had.

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Afternoon lighting in Central Park…

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Reading about Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s new Midtown venture, Monkey Bar, situated in the Elysee Hotel, I was enticed. By some accounts, it’s his tour de force in Manhattan scene (if not cuisine?); by others, it seemed like a voyage to turn-of-the-century Bombay, an intriguing move, if of questionable taste. Ultimately, Ruth gave it the nod. And I love an adventure. Read the rest of this entry »

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After working for the Virginia Film Festival as a college student (and later a community volunteer), selling advertising for the Austin Film Festival, and staffing SXSW Film, it was a Very Big Deal to be able to go to the Tribeca Film Festival.

All of this I did on my own, of course–when have I ever invited people to see movies with me?–which means I also enjoyed dinner and cocktails in Tribeca as a party of one. Read the rest of this entry »

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