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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: Andrew Zimmern | Posted: 01/20/2012
Last week I was in Los Angeles for an upcoming episode of Bizarre Foods America, which premieres Monday night at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel. The first episode of the new season is all about The Twin Cities, and I couldn’t be prouder of the show, our local crew, the fans who came out to watch, and the local stars that opened up their farms and restaurants to us. More on that in a moment.
First a word about Los Angeles. Amazing. The food scene keeps getting better and better. Ink Sak, Michael Voltaggio’s little sandwich shop down the street from Ink is about as good as fast food can ever get. Cheap. Insanely high quality. Fast. Imagine a piece of honorably raised real chicken, seasoned, cooked sous vide, cooled, fried, and nestled on soft but crusty bun. Seriously, perfect. He also has homemade cookies, fruit vacuum-sealed with lime, chilies and salt, housemade chips . . . one of the most impressive things I have seen in a long time.
Ink blew my mind for sure, but with dozens of cooks, an amazing staff and given how talented and committed this young man is I wouldn’t have expected anything less. His sandwich shop is almost harder to pull off in a sense; it certainly is the best casual sandwich joint I have been to in years and sets the bar for every casual eatery I can think of. He has done what people say you can’t do and I was really impressed. I went down the street three times in two hours just to eat everything on the menu. I also ate everything on the menu at Ink. This guy can cook, my friends. Get there.
Chris Cosentino and I got to grab a serious meal at Nobu one night. I am not kidding when I tell you that his LA restaurant keeps getting better every year. The fish there is as good as any place on the planet. We had a mushroom and white truffle salad that was crispy and so fresh that I couldn’t believe what I was eating. It tasted like fresh bamboo shoots. We found out later it was one of only a few portions they get each year of a rare foraged mountain mushrooms. Crazy.
My pop up at Royal T Café went very well, lots of celeb sightings. Warren Sapp even stormed the kitchen to scare me into feeding him faster and with larger portions. It worked. And a huge thanks goes to Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station for giving me some amazing bacon ice cream to garnish my dessert that night. Anyway it was a great week on the left coast and special thanks to my pals Lee Hefter and Ari Rosenson who saved my ass during service and to have two guys with that kind of experience cook with you on the line, the whole night, and take the evening off from running their 30 restaurants around the world was the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time. Thanks, guys.
Wine tip of the year: Get on every bottle of Soliste "Out of the Shadows" Syrah, Bennett Valley California 2009. Dana Farner the insanely talented wine and bev director of CUT in Beverly Hills selected this wine for one of the courses for a 19-course menu of amazing proportions turned out by Lee and Ari. The occasion was a dinner our networks ad sales team put on for some of our best clients, and I have to say it might have been the best meal I have had at that restaurant. That is saying something since I eat there every time I am in LA. Wagyu tartare with black truffle, truffle sabayon glazed grilled lobster, beef short ribs with raita and cilantro chutney, bone marrow flan with caper salad, crab and lobster Louis, roasted beets, Grilled domestic and Japanese Wagyu tasting . . . insane. But the biggest raves of night came from the wine geeks at the table who went bonkers for what Dana described as a “dirty good” bottle. Go get some, and get to CUT next time you are in LA.
What you won’t see, and I am just heartbroken’ is all of what we shot at Green Ox with Mike, our compare contrast hot dog scene at Gopher Bar’ and Tilia. Hysterical. Nor will you see the durian tasting that the lads at Travail set up for me as a joke but ended up being one of the coolest examples I have witnessed of how great cooking can do amazing things with horrific ingredients. Truth be told, we had too much good stuff and most of what you won’t see will be in the extended play version that is aired overseas. Strange, but true.
Enjoy, let me know what you think.
Andrew Zimmern is a columnist for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.See bio
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