Climb Every Radish

People climb Mount Everest "because it's there." They run triathlons. They collect rabid weasels. Why do they do these things? Because they love the challenge. And that's what this new dessert is all about. The Beignets with Watermelon and Watermelon Radish Jelly, Sour Radish Sugar, Watermelon Jellies, Radish Sherbert and Watermelon Sorbet is my Mount Everest. It's my triathlon. It's my rabid weasel collection.


What was the thrill I was seeking? What was the danger? I wanted to make a dessert out of a vegetable that no one wanted to eat for dessert. I had made a broccoli dessert for Iron Chef America and it had worked out better than I'd anticipated. Now I wanted to really push myself. Besides broccoli, what was the one vegetable that would never appear on a dessert menu? What was the unlikeliest vegetable to be ordered at the end of a meal? What was the insurmountable challenge for vegetable desserts. The answer came to me almost immediately.

The radish.

To figure this one out, I had to think about radishes differently. Ginger isn't a vegetable that you'd necessarily associate with dessert, but these days you can't find a dessert menu without ginger being all over it. I had to think of radishes as ginger because they have the same bracing, spicy bite. Divorced from their texture, radishes have a snappy sweetness with a hint of pepper. What would complement it? I needed something to make it mellow out, that would bring a little creaminess to its sharpness. That's how the radish sherbert wound up on the plate. It's got a bit of a bite, a rootsy, earthy crispness, but it's toned down to normal human levels by a creamy mellowness.

Then I realized that if I was going to make people eat radishes for dessert, I had to make them fun. I needed doughnuts, because who doesn't like doughnuts? So the beignets appeared and I quickly realized that if I was using radishes, one of my favorite kinds was the watermelon radish and so that meant that there was a connection to justify using watermelon in this dish. So the beignets became miniature jelly doughnuts filled with watermelon radish and watermelon jelly.

A quick radish powder to give a little extra pep (that's it dusted all over the plate like ruby red snowflakes) and I wanted to see if I could make a candy that was like a Gummi Bear but sour, and so the three watermelon jellies appeared.

This dish lurched out of the lab and onto menus about a month ago, and so far people are loving it. But it is also protected by selection bias: if someone's enough of a thrillseeker to order radishes for dessert, they're exactly the kind of adventurous eater who's going to love this dish.

Now that I've scaled this mountain/run this marathon/collected this weasel, what challenge is next? How do I keep myself entertained? Running Dirt Candy is never boring, but I think of it as my own personal culinary lab and I've spent the last four weeks trying techniques in secret, ordering bizarre equipment and getting ready to step up my game for the Fall. So keep eating here, because if you thought you'd never eat radishes for dessert before, wait until you see what's coming up. In the testing stages right now? Eggplant cotton candy.


We're Number A! We're Number A!

Getting a B from the Health Department was a huge bummer for me. Partly because I was a good student who has a Pavlovian drive to score high on any test and partly because the new letter grades are a deeply subjective process that seems designed to increase revenue to the city. I was too naive to hire a lawyer right off the bat (which is what smart restaurants do) to fight my B and so it hung around my neck like a Hester Prynne's scarlet A (which was sewn on her dress, but you get the picture...). Then, last week, at 9pm, right smack dab in the middle of a busy service a Health Department Inspector came barreling into Dirt Candy catching me totally off guard. I was ready to get physical and drive her away with my tiny fists, but she was relentless and conducted an inspection of Dirt Candy against my will, bringing the dining room to a screeching halt. And the result A!?! It was a really nice surprise for me since I fully expected to get a B again.

Photographic proof!

So the next time you eat at Dirt Candy realize that I've been studying hard and brought up my grades. You're dining in an A + establishment now! I'm sure everything already tastes better!

More Deli Art

The ketchup genius at the deli a few blocks from Dirt Candy has been hard at work again. Check out their latest masterpieces!

Hell, yeah! Love! Love is awesome!

Love...USA? Okay, sure. Patriotism! I can dig it!

Love 275? 275 heart? What is 275? This one is baffling.I can't unpack the symbolism. But still: Ketchup Art!


Group off!

I know that everyone loves a deal, and I've spent my fair share of time watching in awe as eXtreme Couponers get $640 of groceries for $5.41 on TV, but I am really, really getting tired of being cold called almost every single day by phone bullies from sites like Groupon, Living Social and Blackboard Eats. The calls always go exactly the same way. They recite some rote boilerplate about all the amazing things they're going to do for my business, I tell them I only have 18 tables and don't want to use their services but thanks for calling. Then, inevitably, they get angry and confrontational and say, "Why? That's not very smart. We can make you a lot of money." I tell them that business is great, and I don't want to use their services, but thanks for calling. They say, "Then you'll probably fail," or "Everyone uses us and you should too," or "You're just throwing away money," or some variation thereof. Again, I thank them for their concern and ask them not to call me anymore. They hang up (or I hang up on them at this point) and, inevitably, I get a call from them one week later, trying to shake me down again.

I have nothing against these companies, and I bet they work like a dream for a lot of businesses, but mine's not one of them. And yet every day they wear me down and wear me down and as much as I try not to hate them I think that if I met someone who worked for one of them at this point I probably could not resist smacking them in the face with a hot pan. I could just hang up on them, I suppose, but I guess I don't have it in me to be rude like that on the phone. Seriously, if you work for one of these companies and you happen to read this, please let your people know that the more they call me the greater the chance is that I will eventually seek out an old witch to put a curse on them so that their tongues grow thick, furry mold so they can never talk on the telephone again.

"Ooo...50% off full body waxes? I am so there!"