My recent dinner with Al Fresceaux, a pop-up in New Orleans! We had a great time! Al Fresceaux will host four more dinners with other chefs this year. Please check out their facebook page if you’re interested! This was the menu I created. 

Al Fresceaux 12.01.2012

Kao Tom Nam Yen rice with spiced ice cubes, salted fish, sauteéd chinese watercress and shredded eggs 

2011 Font Mars Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France

Pla Goong a shrimp salad with chopped green mangoes, shallot, coconut flakes, mint, lemongrass, dried Thai chilies, and toasted rice

NV Avingo Vi D’ Agulla, Catalouia, Spain

Moo Palo braised pork belly and rehydrated shiitake mushrooms with hard-boiled eggs, blanched spinach, and pickled carrots

2011 Domaine du Vissoux Pierre Chermette Beaujolais

Kanom Jiin

2010 Eugen Mueller Forster Marieugarteu Riesling Kabinet

Gang Fak Tong kompucha pumpkin with palm sugar and coconut broth

11.28.12 Dinner Lab Menu

I want to share my next Dinner Lab menu to you guys! This event sold out to the members so we never open it to the public. I’m very exciting to be cooking this dinner with Chef Francisco “Paco” Robert.  We’re creating a seven course Laotian meal together! We’re very excited and have been working really hard. This menu includes all kind goodness: oxtail, ducks, squid, shrimps, turkey, catfish, and pork ears! 

Salat Luang Prabang

Salad of ground turkey with toasted lime-cured baby shrimps, chinese celery, ginger, and spiced peanuts

Keng Bouad Mak Fak Kham

Silky coconut pumpkin soup with caramelized oxtail

Yum Makeua

Spicy grilled eggplant and calamari, roasted garlic and shallots, mint, and seseme seed

Khao Cari Ped

Turmeric laced jasmine rice with a curry of Louisiana duck, friend shallots, and scallions

Pa Pao

Lemongrass and coriander rubbed local fish steamed in banana leaves

Oaw Moo Sai Pakkat

Luang Prabang braised pork shoulder with Chinese mustard greens, limes leaves, dill, and crispy pork ears

Khao Neeo See Dam

Black rice pudding with toasted sesame seeds, cilantro leaves, mangos, and fried shallots

Here are some photographs of my latest dinner with Dinner Lab on October 3rd! Most of these photographs are taken by Matthew Hinton from NOLA.com/ The Times Picayune. I pretty much went to the website and dragged the photos to my desktop. You guys should go to the link below and read more about the event. If you’re planing to visit New Orleans, this would be a great event to go to!

Dinner Lab on NOLA.com/The Times Picayune and WWOZ Radio

"Pollan discusses America’s dilemma regarding food production and consumption and examines the ways in which Americans produce their food and make their meals, the subjects of his 2006 best selling book "The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals."

Produced by Bill Matthiesen ‘70, Berkshire Film & Video, www.bfv.com

Ted Talk

Ann Cooper talks about School Lunch in the United States. 

Watch a 5 minutes Youtube video about the Edible Schoolyard

by Chris Taylor

"Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight, and impress. It had the power to please me…and others. This was valuable information."

from Kitchen Confidential : Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdian

"In my country today, one doesn’t have to be very wealthy in order to have the services of someone who doubles as washing machine, dryer, garbage disposal, salad mixer, vacuum cleaner, and bed-maker, who responds with a human voice, and who even says thank you when she gets her meager salary. When I was a child, the servants’ lives and miracles fascinated me…I discovered Mexico through them, and not even Bernal Diaz del Castillo had better guides."

— by Elena Poniatowska, "A Question Mark Engraved on My Eyelid."  I passage is cited in Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story by Ruth Beharp.243

I asked the server what to get and he suggested this combination! The flavors combined perfectly! You must go if you’re nearby. Portland Bagelworks 500 NW 23rd Ave. Portland, OR 97210 (503) 227-2356

I asked the server what to get and he suggested this combination! The flavors combined perfectly! You must go if you’re nearby. Portland Bagelworks 500 NW 23rd Ave. Portland, OR 97210 (503) 227-2356

"Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect."

— from Kitchen Confidential : Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdian

I never post anything that didn’t taste good to me. You must get it with a cup of espresso. This deliciousness served at The Gaufre Gourmet food cart at SW 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97205 (503) 505-0232. 

I never post anything that didn’t taste good to me. You must get it with a cup of espresso. This deliciousness served at The Gaufre Gourmet food cart at SW 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97205 (503) 505-0232. 

I just got back from a trip to Portland, OR. I love the city! 

I just got back from a trip to Portland, OR. I love the city! 

My School Lunch Experience from Thailand to Berkeley, California

When I attended elementary school in Thailand, I had some of the best meals of my life. I especially remember delicious roasted pork shoulder— I ate plate after plate! One of the schools I attended in Thailand is in Nonthaburi Province. The school had a kitchen as big as a gym. Everytime I walked by, I saw chefs sweating as they cooked. They always seemed excited to show off the specials of the day to the children. Every day, my class sent six representatives down to the kitchen to get our lunches. Four students would carry two pots back to the classroom: one pot with some sort of a savory dish and another with the main staple, white rice or rice noodle. The last two kids would carry enough plates for everyone in our class. Every day, every class in the school would do the same. The students would set up a buffet line in the front of the classroom and then serve food to their classmates and friends. Once we ate, we all walked to the kitchen to wash our plates and utensils. First we’d scrape off the leftovers, then we’d dip our plate in soapy water and use soap to scrub it down, and then do a first rinse and a second rinse. Then maybe we’d have 30 minutes of playtime before afternoon classes.

When the students carried pots from the kitchen, served food to their classmates,and washed their own plates, they learned important social etiquette. When young students eat wholesome (and delicious!) food at a young age, they are more likely to continue the practice into adulthood. There is a saying in Thailand that the teachers and schools are second parents. If kids aren’t learning something at home, the school is the place. Things seem to be a little different with my experience in the United States.

In my college days, I started to read about school lunch in the U.S. Who would believe there are webs of politics, power, race, socio-economics, class, and culture behind the food that the children (and all of us) are eating. At Berkeley High School in California, where I attended high school, there were never more than a few hundred of over two thousand students waiting in line for lunch or breakfast. The food there actually wasn’t bad compared to other public school lunches I’ve tasted. But it still wasn’t good enough for the teenagers’ taste buds. Apparently it also wasn’t  “cool” to wait in line in the cafeteria so students often didn’t eat or left campus to find something else to eat. Local businesses in downtown Berkeley are packed during lunch hour with young folks trying to get burgers, cappuccinos, bagels, burritos, sandwiches, and chinese fried rice. Soda and chips were some of the most popular snacks.  

When I came to the United States, I started eighth grade at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California. Not surprisingly, I didn’t like the school lunches there; I didn’t like cheese, tomato, or bread— the pizza! The only time I really enjoyed my lunch was when my English and Math teachers took our class to the school garden, the famous Edible Schoolyard. I didn’t realize the significance of that school garden until years later when I was researching about school lunch in college.

The Edible Schoolyard is known as a prototype garden that aims to bring wholesome food back to children in schools. They want a real kitchen in every school and they want to bring produce from local farmers and not rely solely on the “market leftovers” from the USDA. They work to get their community involved with their children’s diet. They also integrate school gardens into classroom curriculums. That  was why my classes stopped by the garden a few times a year. That garden has a very nice homely kitchen. The times in the Edible Schoolyard were great because it reminded me a lot of Thailand: I got to cook fresh vegetables with soy sauce the way that I like. I felt comfortable in that environment. I learned later quite quickly that children around the country are not as fortunate as I am.

Even though I grew up surrounded by rich cultures of food, I used to love junk food like no other. I loved Twinkies, or the “Undead Snack” as Mark Bittman calls them.  I bought one almost every day for breakfast and savored eating it with a glass of milk. The white cream in the middle was so delightful. I had Twinkies for breakfast for years. Then I learned that Twinkies never go bad. They have no nutrients, only fat. Even worse, the cream in the middle isn’t made of dairy products. I freaked out; what could Twinkies possibly made of!? Why were Twinkies even allowed on the market?! And why were such products doing so well? When I was a kid, those questions obviously didn’t occur to me.

After reading what Bittman had to say and doing a little research of my own, it was clear that millions of people loved Twinkies as much as I did too. Children grow to be adults. The majority of adults today still don’t know exactly what they are eating. When I tell my so-called “adult” friends facts like, Your food is radiated! Your apples and tomatoes have been waxed! The water you’re drinking from that bottle is pipeline-quality, not fresh spring water like they advertised! They say no way! They freak out. They don’t believe it. They get mad at me. I get tired and just tell them to google it!

Now I think I will just invest in a few informative books and share them with my friends (I will include a list of books and links below). A lot of vegetables went through radiation to kill the basic bacteria so they would store longer and look pretty longer in the supermarkets. Did you learn the fact that bacteria breaks down organic substance (think poop)? I hope so! If you get your produce fresh from the farm, most of it will go bad in about a week. If you get your vegetables from California farms when you live in NYC, there isn’t much freshness in there from the harvest time to your table so they had to do something about it, i.e., kill the germs (and more). Apples just look so much more attractive when they’re shiny and reflecting the market lights, don’t they?

Now, how many of you have seen passion fruit in a supermarket? Rare, very rare. We don’t see it because passion fruit gets really ugly a few days after picking. When it comes down to it, supermarkets will have a hard time selling ugly-looking vegetables despite health benefits. Consumers simply won’t pick out something with a bruise, yellowish-coloring, or welted with some exceptions (like plantains). So many of us love passion fruit drinks (which are almost always loaded with sugar!) but would never know what real passion fruit looks or tastes like. I’ll tell you, it is beyond your imagination. The  beauty of the flowers nearly kills the eyes. The fruit is round, an oval shape, in a soft yellow or purple color. You break the semi-hard shell, and then start sipping the seeds. The texture of the seeds is similar to chia seeds, if you know what those are. The tartness of the fruit will make you shiver in a very satisfying way. (By the way, there isn’t even passion fruit in your “passion fruit” drinks; they are engineered flavors!)

(A passion fruit flower. )

(A giant unripe passion fruit, almost as big as my head!)

The school gardens and healthy lunches, to me, keep things simple in children’s mind. They were learning when they thought they had been playing outside and they want more delicious food. Another school I attended before I moved to Berkeley was in Chiangmai, Thailand. It was a local school of about 800 students. They had an agriculture program for fourth to seventh grades. Almost weekly, the whole class would go to the school garden. There was an old man who looked after the garden living in a hut there. He would show us how to do things around the garden. Our class weeded the garden, grafted fruit trees, planted seeds in the earth, and fed the fish in the pond. We were being kids, humbly following adult’s instructions and having fun. My favorite part was when we shook the coconut trees so hard so the fruit would drop. A couple of my classmates climbed the trees and got us more. We used a machete to chop off the hard coconut shell so we could savor the juice on a humid afternoon. Like the Edible Schoolyard, we got to be active, build teamwork, and create friendships. I miss those days.

Read more on…

Edible Schoolyard Project Berkeley, California (http://edibleschoolyard.org/)

Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, Louisiana (http://esynola.org/)

Food Politics by Marrion Nestle (http://www.foodpolitics.com/)

Food Radiation (http://whyfiles.org/054irradfood/2.html)

Fruit and Vegetable Wax (http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=175)

“Michelle Obama Reveals Her White House Garden Grows” by Marian Burros (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/us/politics/michelle-obama-writes-american-grown.html)

Passion Fruit (http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/passionfruit.html)

School Lunch Politics by Susan Levine (http://www.amazon.com/School-Lunch-Politics-Surprising-Twentieth-Century/dp/0691146195/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343978438&sr=1-1&keywords=National+school+lunch+program)

“Twinkies, the Undead Snack” by Mark Bittman (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/twinkies-the-undead-snack/)

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