This Little Piggy Went to Momufuku

On a blissfully lazy summer Sunday, I quickly jumped out of bed, put on my running shoes and hit the streets of NYC. I decided it would be in my best interest to get some exercise in before indulging in the feast ahead of me that night: the Bo Ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar---or otherwise known as a huge heap of roasted pork butt with a series of accoutrements! It has been something I have been eager to try for quite some time, but couldn’t seem to gather a group of 6-8 hungry pork eaters to partake in the delicious challenge. Luckily my friend Shari stepped up to the plate and organized a dinner with like-minded foodies where the Bo Ssam would be the main attraction!

So at 6pm our group of 7 gathered at Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village ready to chow down. If you didn’t know already (as he is a media-darling in the food world) the restaurant is owned by David Chang, a rising Korean American chef in the NYC restaurant scene, and Momofuku Ssam Bar is a great place to taste a variety of interesting Korean inspired dishes, served mostly in small plate form, great for sharing and group dining.

Since we were doing the Bo Ssam, we didn’t want to order too many starters, but we couldn’t resist getting a platter of the infamous steamed pork buns! One cannot go to Momofuku and avoid the pork buns…they are an experience in themselves!

After our appetizing bun teaser, we were ready for them to bring on the Bo Ssam! In Korean cuisine, Ssam, literally means "wrapped," and refers to a dish in which leaf vegetables (lettuce) are used to wrap a piece of meat such as pork, and eaten without utensils. The servers started to fill the table with a small bowls filled with colorful sauces, buckets of lettuce, sides of white rice and a platter of raw oysters in the half shell.

And then, as our eyes started to widened and our mouths began to drool a bit, the large, glistening mound of meat was set in front of us. It was magnificent!

It was a whole roasted pork butt, which was brined overnight in a sugar and salt mixture, and then slow cooked for several hours while being basted in its own juices. Once the meat was fall off the bone cooked, the skin of the meat was rubbed with brown sugar and salt and high roasted until it caramelized! Making it one tender piece of a**!

The servers then explained what was going on in front of us and how we should start: They advised us to take a piece of the Bibb lettuce, add a small amount of rice, then pull off some of the succulent pork meat (with skin) layer it on top of the rice, then add one oyster. The final step is to choose one of the three dipping sauces (kimchi, pureed kimchi and ginger scallion) to top off the wrap. The servers said we should try the wrap “naked” first, so we can really taste the flavor of the pork without the spice of the sauce in order to prep our palate. And so we began!

I tried a small chunk of the pork (since I couldn’t wait) while in the process of building my wrap…and it was amazing! Perfectly moist, juicy and seasoned! I could tell this was going to be a meal to remember. As I took the first bite of my wrap, I noticed the unique layer of flavors: the pork had the right amount of salt that complemented the minerality of the raw oyster, the rice was functional as it created texture and helped to bind the contents together, the sauce was the perfect blend of tang and spice, and the Bibb lettuce added a refreshing crunch. The ingredients worked together in unison making my mouth very happy!

After about 3 handmade wraps I reached my stopping point---I was stuffed! My eyes and mouth wanted more, but my stomach and brain said no way. I sat back and relaxed and took a look at the damage we all did on the little piggy, let’s just say there wasn’t much left of him. It seemed we were all in the state of pork induced food comas, but with big smiles on our faces. It was a fabulous Sunday Funday Dinner, one which I highly recommend if you get the chance. The complete Bo Ssam meal is $200 (about $25 each) and is meant to be shared amongst 6-10 people. A word to the wise: make a reservation at least a month in advance, as there are only about 4-5 reservations for the Bo Ssam per night.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Avenue (at 13th Street)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-3500

Cheers and Oink Oink!


Hot "Child" in the City

Today, on this brutally warm and humid day in NYC, I finally saw the movie “Julie and Julia!”

Since last year when I first heard about this movie, I couldn’t wait for it to come out, unfortunately most of my friends didn’t feel the same and were uninterested in seeing it. So on this particular afternoon I ventured to my local AMC as a lone-soldier and purchased a ticket to see the show…what better way to beat the heat than hiding out in a dark air-conditioned theater with a big bottle of cool water and a box of junior mints.

As I settled into my seat listening to the lame ads which now play at all movies, I started to think of how Julia Child has influenced my life. For as long as I can remember I have been intrigued by Ms. Child - as a youngster I would watch her show on PBS and analyze her very strange, yet endearing voice. She never ceased to impress me with her carefree attitude and her impressive culinary skills. I would tell my mom, that one day I would have a cooking show on TV just like Julia (which has yet to happen…but I guess anything is possible). I used to climb up on the counter top, pull random ingredients down from the cupboards and make some-sort of creation, then use my little brother as the taste-tester. In college, I actually attempted one of Julia’s recipes for my then new boyfriend: A Roasted Chicken and Broccoli Gratines. I was so nervous as it was a bit of an undertaking for me, but it turned out fine and was a great success….more than I can say about my relationship with him. When I first moved to New York City from California in 2005 I was lucky enough to attend the James Beard Foundation Awards, the theme was “a tribute to Julia Child”, the event featured a room filled with world-renowned chefs who cooked their favorite Julia recipes …it was amazing! So you see, I have had quite a filling past with Ms. Child, and I was excited to see how they would portray her life on the big screen.

Overall, I thought it was a great flick, there were a few small details that seemed a little “cheesy” (that’s Hollywood for you) but I found the movie a delight to watch…and also made me a bit hungry! Meryl Streep put on a wonderful performance that channelled Julia Child to the core. Yes, the movie was entertaining, but more than that, it actually inspired me. Here were two real women (Julia Child and Julie Powell) who were at a crossroad in their lives, not knowing what they wanted to do, but knew they had a passion for food! From eating it, talking about it, cooking it, and teaching people about it. This was very familiar territory for me, as I am too at a crossroad, not knowing what my next move is, but the one thing I do know for sure is that I am a total and utter foodie and I can’t imagine my life without working with it in some capacity. The story of these two women, made me feel hopefully that maybe I could also do something impactful in the epicurean arena, so I am now determined to find my niche in this delicious world! Keep an eye out for me friends…you never know where I might turn up. But for now, Bon App├ętit and happy eating!

Em a la Mode


Foodie Central

Application, check...Headshots, check....Bio/Resume, Check! Making sure I had all of my necessary materials, I hurried out the door for my big be the "Next Food Network Star"! At 2:57pm, I quickly jumped in a cab and told the driver to take me to W. 57th between 11th and 12th (on the way west side of Manhattan, otherwise known as BFE).

3:12pm, I arrived at CBS Studios and noticed a line of about 20 people deep outside the building. Just to make sure I was in the right spot, I asked a girl with a walkie talkie if the line was for the audition, she confirmed and directed me to the back of it.

As I took my place in the line I started chatting with a few of my fellow contestants, there was a guy from Australia (who looked a bit rough around the edges) and said he was trying out on a whim as he was a sous chef in Jersey and thought it would be an interesting experience. The girl in front of me was in finance and is trying to get out of the industry and into something food related. Another girl, who was a pastry chef, took the train in from Philly just to audition. It seemed everyone was anxious, yet excited to be there.

3:38pm, still waiting in line outside, and the weather was starting to change! A dark cloud was moving in and the wind was picking up. We all looked a little scared and hoped we would be moved inside before it started to rain.

3:42pm, the wind was crazy! It was blowing so hard that all of us in line were like birthday candles and it was a fat kid that wanted cake. My hair was everywhere (not the best time to be wearing lipgloss) and looked more like an 80's do vs. the smooth, sleek look I started with.

3:54pm, I was finally moved inside just as the rain started up (thank god)! I ran a brush through my mangled hair, signed in and was handed a number. Welcome to the audition contestant 289!

3:58pm: I was directed to a room where I was to wait until my group number was called. As I was getting comfortable, I overheard several conversations. A girl was complaining that she had been there since 11am and was still waiting. A guy was convincing another guy that his BBQ style was better. An Italian guy was trying to pick up on a few of the girls in the room. A woman was talking about her recent trip to Puerto Rico and was raving about the restaurant Marmalade (a place I've had the pleasure of dining last year, it was delicious). And a guy was trying to recruit a few people to join him for a drink at the Whiskey Trader after the audition. I thought to myself, a drink was something I could totally use about now, all this waiting was making me very thirsty! There were definitely some colorful personalities in the room from what I could see, so the competition could be tough.

4:26pm: Group 240-250 was called. I was getting close...or at least I thought.

4:55pm: My group was excited! We were taken to another room (ugh) and continued to wait until our number was called. I could see the interview/audition room so at least I knew it wouldn't be too much longer. My new "line" friends and I were joking around that we should come out of the audition room and scream "I'm going to Hollywood", like in American Idol...but the other people in the room didn't think it was too funny and gave us weird looks.

5:32: A man announced, number 289 you're up. That's me, I responded! This was it, my big moment to shine. I walked into the room, sat down across from the casting director and introduced myself. She asked me a few questions about my background, we chatted for a couple of minutes and that was it...the audition was over. It was much less intimidating than I thought. She walked me out, thanked me for coming and said if you hear from us by Tuesday you have made it to the next round.

5:41pm: I said goodbye to my fellow line buddies and left the building. It was definitely an interesting day; I met some cool people, practiced my patience, and took a chance! Who knows, you may see me on the Food Network soon...I'll be crossing my fingers until Tuesday!