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Dehydrated Cauliflower

When I was coming up with my cauliflower dish I was determined to cram as many different flavors of cauliflower into it as possible. Unfortunately, cauliflower has a bad rap because it’s often steamed or stir fried which I don’t think really does it justice. If you want to taste cauliflower at its best you need to roast it. Roasting brings out the sugars and breaks up its texture which can sometimes be overwhelmingly one-note (all crunchy or all soft). With the cauliflower dish I already had battered and smoked cauliflower and I really, really, really wanted to get the flavor and texture of roasted cauliflower in there. But it made no conceptual sense to just throw some roasted cauliflower onto the salad. The solution? Roasted and then dehydrated cauliflower.

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Meet Our Wine Zoo: La Stoppa Macchiona

We don’t have much room to store cases of wine, so rather than offering people the same old list of Syrahs, Cabernets, Chardonnays, Pinot Grigios and all the rest of the usual suspects we thought we’d make up a wine list of the strangest and most unusual wines we could find, sort of like a wine zoo for exotic animals.

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New = scary. New = weird. New = difficult. And nothing is regarded as weirder, scarier or more difficult than natural wines. They’ve become a huge trend in Europe in the last 5 years, with some bars and shops in Paris devoted solely to natural wine, or vin naturels as they call it in their crazy, mixed-up language that has a different word for everything. Natural wines are louder, funkier, stranger and vary more bottle to bottle than “industrial” wines and to enjoy them you sometimes have to completely and totally recalibrate your palate. I’ve been looking for one to serve at Dirt Candy and finally I found one that is different, but not so different as to be off-putting. It’s a wine that has all the crazy funkiness of the best natural wines, but it’s also accessible. If you’re comparing wines to bands, this is an entry point, the way the Cure is an entry point for post-punk or Philip Glass is an entry point for minimalism. You wouldn’t throw someone into a severely and rigorously minimalist composer like La Monte Young without easing them into the water with the more accessible Philip Glass, first.

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And so the La Stoppa Macchiona is a way to ease people into the funky, crunky joys of natural wines. It’ll stun your palate, but it won’t kill it.

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This is a wine designed to convert you. It’s exactly the kind of wine I’ve always wanted to sell at Dirt Candy: strange, different, unusual and not for everyone. It’s a high maintenance wine, and it can be overwhelming, but if you give it time, and approach it on its terms, it’s also extremely rewarding, like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

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My drink box is full of natural wine.

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Chinese Celery

When I used to order celery, my purveyor always asked me, “American or Chinese?” I always ordered American, but one day I ordered Chinese just to see what it was like. It turns out that this is Chinese celery:

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More Chinese celery porn after the jump.

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Spring dishes are coming…

Just a quick photo of a work in progress. The first spring/summer dish: cucumber! There’s coconut-poached tofu in there, but everything else on that plate is cucumbers, including the little fried bits (those are fried pickles).

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More to come, and this is still being tweaked. But I was SO happy to get that sauce the brightest green I could make it (it’s a shiso galangal sauce).

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Unwrapping Modernist Cuisine

For those who don’t know what Modernist Cuisine is, I’ll fill you in. For those who came here for the box porn, just slow down for a minute so everyone can catch up. Modernist Cuisine is a self-published cookbook from Nathan Myhrvold, former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, and a guy who holds something like 100 patents. A few years ago, on his own dime, Myhrvold, Chris Young, Maxime Bilet and a staff of 20 decided to reinvent modern cooking. The result is Modernist Cuisine, a six volume, 2,438 page cookbook that sells for $625 (you can get it on Amazon for only $461.62). You can read all about it on their website. It’s been an object of much speculation and desire, and multiple delays have caused pulses to race and palms to get sweaty as the actual street date nears. I pre-ordered my copy months ago, and last night I came home to find a giant box waiting for me.

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Box porn and a look at the book itself inside.

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Herbivoracious

Last week, for some unknown reason, a grown man left his wife and children in Seattle and came to intern at Dirt Candy for three days. Normally, this would be the warning sign of an impending nervous breakdown, but in this case it was totally normal. Michael Natkin writes my favorite vegetarian blog, Herbivoracious, he has a book coming out, he’s staged at a lot of restaurants and so when he contacted me wanting to stage at Dirt Candy I was more than a little flattered.

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The thing I like about Herbivoracious is that Michael makes real, restaurant-quality food at home. He’s not aiming to make a simplified home cook recipe, he doesn’t cut corners, and he doesn’t dumb down what he’s attempting. He’s using new technology, and really busting his hump to try to pull off high-end vegetarian cooking at home – the kind of stuff a restaurant would put out without feeling any need to apologize for. It’s hard work, and it’s probably really difficult to do over and over again in a home kitchen, but every week he pulls off a recipe that I would have previously assumed was overly ambitious and too hard for someone working from home.

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Michael staged here for three days and wrote up his experiences on Herbivoracious and it’s the best description of what an average day is like at Dirt Candy that I’ve ever read. I was sad to see Michael go. He was a great intern because he’s staged at enough restaurants to know how to evaluate the work that needs to be done and he knows how to start doing it. Free and competent? It was a winning combination.

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But what really gives him a place in my own personal heaven is that he speaks up about responsible reservation-making:

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Dirt Candy seats just twenty people, and usually does three full turns every night, so at most sixty diners can eat. A six-top that no-shows and isn’t replaced by walk-ins is 10% of the business! Chef Amanda answers the phones herself, re-confirms every reservation, and manages the timing so that no-one ever has to wait for their table. They can’t. There isn’t any place they could possibly stand. Keep this in mind the next time you make or break a reservation (at Dirty Candy or anywhere else)…

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Michael’s piece is a must-read if you’re interested in what it’s like to be in the Dirt Candy kitchen.

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Read Michael Natkin’s experience at Dirt Candy in all its glory.

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Crystalized Ginger

I’ve always love crystallized ginger. It’s everything good about ginger, but the added sugar rounds out the flavor and tames it, making it less aggressive. I love ginger, but sometimes it tastes a bit like mace – the personal defense product, not the spice – and its flavor is so clean and razor sharp that sometimes it cuts through other flavors no matter how little you use. But by adding sugar to it, crystallized ginger rounds out those sharp edges and gives it more depth. As cinnamon is to red hots, so is ginger to crystallized ginger.

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The Final Family Meal Fotos

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It’s hard to say goodbye to the year-long family meal photo project, so I’m cheating in this last entry. Instead of putting up pictures of the last 6 family meals, I’m putting up pictures from the last 2 weeks of family meals. After the jump there are some super-special family meal photos, including two surprise guest chefs, Jesus’s final family meal and a family meal that has never been shown on this website before.

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Tuesday: fried rice with spicy, fried yuba skin on top.

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More excitement after the jump!

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Winning is fun!

This week’s New York Magazine is their “Best of” issue and they did a round up of the best vegetables in town. Along with Dovetail, ABC Kitchen, Torrisi and a few more, Dirt Candy wins “Best Carrots” for our barbecued carrot buns. They say:

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“The vegetarian answer to Momofuku pork buns: dough tinted with carrot juice, a barbecued-carrot filling, and a carrot-hoisin dipping sauce.”

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Yay! It’s been a tough winter and this is a really nice way to start the week. The full list of “Best Veggie” selections can be found here.

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“Hm, I will have to check these carrots out.”

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I Am a Happy Hooker

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There are no two ways around it: Dirt Candy runs on hooks. The kitchen is tiny, I’m always running out of storage space and the dishes we make are complicated and require a ton of different equipment to get them on the plate and so everything has something hanging off of it. I’m always looking for new places to put hook, and hanging hooks makes me happy. I have become, unfortunately, a happy hooker.

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More hooks just after the jump! It’s a hooks-travaganza!

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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