by Kaiser Saucier
I wanted Sake. I wanted Sake and sushi. I was in the mood for a taste of Japan right here in the Midwest. So, where can I go to get a taste of Osaka right here in the “frozen tundra?” The answer is Moto-i.
On the corner of Lyndale Avenue and West Lake Street, sits this Japanese boutique-style restaurant where flavors from the “Land of the Rising Sun” slice your taste buds like a Hattori Hanzo Katana (pictured below). Moto-i is the first Sake brewery in the country. Yes! I said ‘in the country.’ You might think somewhere, like L.A. or Miami, there has to be another one, but, NO.
Brewing Sake, or Namazake, is a tedious processes that requires the equipment, patience, and know how to produce a quality product. Many steps are taken to produce this fermented rice wine that is very carefully crafted here in Uptown. Five different styles of Sake are produced by stopping or continuing the production process at various stages. Offering small plates and noodle dishes made by chefs that are familiar with their art, makes the Japanese cuisine not only great to consume, but a visual masterpiece to observe.
Check out their website at www.moto-i.com And if you are in Uptown Minneapolis, stop by and have a Sake flight at the bar, if you can get a seat, to get a front row seat to watch their favorite sporting event, authentic Japanese Sumo Wrestling.
A Taste of Vancouver
Fresh seafood, artisan cheeses, and fresh vegetables are three main staples of our friends to the North. Relying on the land and sea to provide them with everything they need when it comes to food in most Canadian Provinces is not just a culinary trend, it is THE way of life for Canadians. The native ancestors who settled these areas, aboriginals, believe in farming these lands naturally and also raising and total utilization of animals or seafood.
Obviously, Vancouver is keeping up with all the culinary trends that “BIG FOOD” pushes through the land. Yes, you will see Tex-Mex, Asian, Creole, and Indian, but, all with a Canadian twist. Similar to the “California Diet,” Vancouver believes in fresh ingredients - shipped directly from their producers - and simple methods of preparation.
Vancouver’s hot spots are offering beef, pork, poultry, and seafood served with traditional side dishes that leave the consumer nourished and content. Fresh ingredients, recycled into its economy, provide Vancouver a very sustainable restaurant culture.
Granville Island Public Market is a food island, literally. Off the coast of Downtown Vancouver is an island where people go to buy meat, produce, cheese, berries, milk and, of course, seafood from local vendors. Mostly bikes and pedestrians line the walkways and small streets gathering local delectable’s in an environment like no other.
Artisan cheese shops, such as Mount Pleasant Cheese, offer up to 150 cheeses that buyers can usually sample at will.
Chocolatiers use local milk, as well, to produce blends that will seduce anyone to hop on a bobsled. Yes, that was my attempt at some cheap Olympic humor. Oh yeah, in case you are so engulfed in Jersey Shore (Ed. note: I think this may have been a rip at your editor.) that you haven’t heard about the Olympics, it is projected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Vancouver-Whistler area, “pumping up” the city as a future tourist destination.
Understanding that the lands they live on deserved the highest level of respect, Vancouver residents appreciate all that nature provides. Organic growers and local ranchers are redeemed for the great products they devote their time and knowledge to raise. Some farms have been in families for hundreds of years, many dating back to those same Aborigines that first began this area’s rich food culture. Nature providing for man is a religion of its own in Western Canada. So, go to Vancouver and experience the flavor and freshness of the land; but, bring a jacket.
Splat!! Watch out in February, things are flyin’. Things stuffed with stuff that some consider funky and weird, while some find it awesomely delicious. Mushrooms and shallots, breadcrumbs and garlic, spicy sausage and roasted pork. Splat!! Red balls of flavor flyin’ through the air. This way and that, some skinny some phat. All soaring here and there, red soft skins bursting on contact. It’s gonna be messy, that’s for sure. Messy as it may seem, the beauty is there for us all to see. And in Vancouver the Flying Tomato is all the rage. As it rises and falls, Splat it will go, and it’s called the Flying tomato, because of the fro.
Congratulations to Shaun White a.k.a. The Flying Tomato - Olympic Gold Medal Winner and all-around kick ass snowboarder!!
by Kaiser Saucier
If anyone was watching the Travel Channel in the last couple of days you might have seen a show called “The Chowdown Countdown.” This show boasts having the 101 tastiest places in the United States to “chow down” at. Wow! If “chowing down” means a fast track to a massive coronary, I’ll pass.
The show, in principal, is great, showing a dining niche in the respective markets. The spots represented every type of restaurant there could be: In Arizona a restaurant - adorned with hub caps, seated diners in actual school buses while they “chowed down” on 4 lb. hot dogs - was, appropriately, named “Home Wreckers.”
Another place in San Antonio makes a pizza 5 feet in diameter.
Other challenges include finishing 5 separate steaks within 1 hour (3 8oz. Filet Mignons, 1 12oz. Porterhouse and 1 16oz. NY Strip and 1 30oz butterflied miscellaneous steak); and a pancake spot in Montana where, if you can eat 5 1lb. pancakes, you get a T-shirt.
Now, sure, they are gimmicks to get people in the door, but, to me, it is a mockery of America’s food culture. Some of these food challenges, that are proposed for one person, could feed a family of 10 in a Third World Country!
To each his own. But the idea of eating a 7lb., six patty burger in one sitting is enough to make even the biggest eater puke. The show itself was very cool, seeing hole-in-the-wall restaurants famous for great meatballs, or awesome sandwiches, or a giant milkshake is great TV. But, understand—food trends like these are exactly what got our country one of the highest obesity rates in the world.
Now, I am not a “hater.” However, I am a conscious consumer, who shuns the idea of stuffing his belly in the hopes of winning a shirt, or naming the behemoth (fill-in the blank) I just consumed after me.
So, if you get a minute, check the show out, to see what has become as ‘American as Apple Pie’ - or, should I say, 4 apple pies topped with 7 scoops of ice cream, caramel syrup, butterscotch chips and some whipped cream.
Food … Integrity
There might come a point in a culinarian’s career where he is forced by the company that pays him, to maybe do something he or she does not want to do. Putting his professionalism or her ideals aside for a goal that might not be in their own personal interest.
Well, I have had my test; and I failed miserably. My first job ever was dishwashing at a local restaurant in my hometown. As time passed, I became a line cook; and as more time passed, I remained a part-time employee at that restaurant for 14 years. Me and the family, which own this particular establishment, have become great friends throughout the years. But, as my culinary knowledge grew and grew, their simple food remained simple. So simple that I began to wonder if I could continue making food that was too overpriced. Wondering if, one day, I was gonna pull a “Jerry Maguire” and FLIP OUT!?
Well, one recent Sunday morning, whilst working as a line cook for the busy breakfast service, I turned around to see something that astonished me. The owner was standing there with a video camera—filming me.
“Describe what you’re making to the camera,” he said.
I am a bit of a showman, so I humored him. Unfortunately for me, I did quite well.
“What’s this for?” I asked. His answer angered me. “It’s for the restaurants Facebook page.” Later on that night, I went online and saw it for my own eyes. There I was, on the page - holding an item and giving a 30 second summary - that I will be linked too. And the worst part, he wants me to do more.
The Dilemma: I do not want my culinary reputation misrepresented by dishes that, when broken down to basic food components, I do not believe in.
Am I am caught in a Catch 22? Do I continue pushing simple, cheap - yet, overpriced - food? Or, do I politely decline future cameos?
My ethics tell me that I cannot continue to smile for the camera, endorsing this place. I can’t bear to think that people will think of my face when they get their bill.
In a society where the internet is everywhere, I want my face to only be in one place, on the front of my head.
To be continued …
BLAND TO BOOYA!!
First, college in Indiana (Purdue University). Eggs, bacon and sausage with buttered rolls and a glass of whole milk. Fuel for him to grow into his body. Days of training, that needed fat, carbs, and protein, to build a foundation.
Then, professionally in San Diego. Fish tacos with guacamole, beans and rice. Fresh ingredients, in his early years, kept him quick and thirsty to grow. His stomach adapted; and his ascent was grueling.
Then he chose to change menus …
Finally, arriving in New Orleans. He got spice - Shrimp creole, cajun shrimp poe boys, and gumbo - made with the deepest brown rue. Solid heat, with a Southern/French charm, gave him the “stomach” to lead his city to the Super Bowl.
How your taste has evolved, Drew Brees - Super Bowl XLIV MVP