Hey, everyone! Happy August.
While I love coming up with new dishes, something that's been really inspiring to me lately has been the process of cooking classic recipes with the best possible ingredients. Some of my favorite dishes– things like cheeseburgers or chicken parm– have largely been perfected already. I don't necessarily have anything to add to the conversation from a flavor perspective, so instead I take the approach of seeking out the best possible ingredients I can find to form the building blocks of that dish.
Take a classic smashburger as an example. Recently I've made a few versions using local beef from Shirttail Creek, raw cheddar cheese from Dos Lunas, local brioche buns, homemade special sauce, etc. And it was the best damn burger I've ever had.
Certain dishes are so honed-in that they don't really benefit from much creative flair. And at that point the search for improvement leads back– as it always does– to the primary ingredients. I'd encourage you to try this approach next time you make one of your favorite dishes. Break it down into parts, and then find the very best possible components you can, sourcing fresh and locally wherever possible. Your taste buds will thank you.
What I'm Cooking
I put together a little thread showing how I like to make chicken parm. This dish never fails.
Another Cooking Playlist
A couple of months ago I tasked my friend Canyon Gutierrez with creating a cooking playlist for MTCC. Every dinner party needs a good soundtrack, and Canyon's playlists ensure that the musical vibes are taken care of so that you can focus on your cooking.
Amazing Mexican Coffee
If you read this newsletter regularly, you know I'm a huge fan of Masienda (I actually used to work there). If you're not yet familiar with them, you should check out their newly rebranded website. Masienda imports all kinds of heirloom and artisanal products from Mexico, from masa harina to beautiful kitchen tools. They work directly with small farmers and producers, and everything they sell is fantastic.
They just launched a new coffee collection in partnership with Buna, one of Mexico's best roasters. I've long been a fan of Mexican coffees, particularly from the Oaxaca and Chiapas regions, where I've had the opportunity to visit some of the farms. This coffee is excellent– the Alebrije blend has become my new everyday coffee. I highly recommend checking it out.
Things I'm Loving
This Tingly Seasoned Salt from Momofuku is awesome. I've used it on lamb kebabs, salmon, or even just sprinkled over an avocado.
I finally tried the Smoked Mushroom Garum from Noma. It's pretty interesting– smells kind of like smoked gouda cheese and tastes like a marriage between tamari and mushroom extract. I'm still playing around with it, but it's definitely a cool addition to the "ultra umami dark sauces" section of my pantry, along with soy sauce, fish sauce, and worcestershire.
More Masienda. They recently re-released one of my all-time favorite products of theirs– San Pablo Worm Salt. This flaky finishing salt contains pasilla mixe (my favorite chile pepper) and dried and ground agave worms. Trust me on this one– it's incredible.
Warwood Made is a small shop out of Austin producing gorgeous knives made with top-notch Japanese blades. I don't own one (yet), but I got to be hands-on with them recently, and they just dropped this stunning piece.
What I'm Reading
In 2017 he opened Vespertine, a kind of restaurant-meets-live theater experience. The building itself is meant to look like a futuristic spacecraft, the clothing worn by the chefs and servers was designed by Kahn himself, and the restaurant features a custom soundtrack composed by Texas band This Will Destroy You. The plateware, the drinks, and the food itself are all meant to evoke an otherworldly, futuristic vibe. It's not a neighborhood restaurant where you'll return as a regular– it's meant to be a fully immersive experience that makes dining out as exciting as a Broadway show. And I think that's pretty damn cool.
As Meteora’s director of communications Zara Ziyaee puts it: Vespertine’s cuisine imagines what food will look like 2,000 years in the future, and Meteora’s menu celebrates food traditions from 5,000 years past. What that means in practical terms is a heavy emphasis on dishes cooked with smoke and fire, meant to be dipped and stirred and eaten with hands, and shared amongst a group of friends. Ingredients trend biodynamic, organic, heirloom, and wild; many of them, like ice plant and redwood shoots, are foraged by Kahn himself, with help from Ziyaee and other members of the team. A meal is designed to be hearty and nourishing, especially relative to other restaurants in this tier of ambition—this is not tweezer food.
I'm eating there on Tuesday, and I can't wait.
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