From the Eagles dethroning the Patriots to the stock market volatility to fake tsunami warnings, fake Doritos news (see below) and more talk about this or that memo, it's been a busy week and it's only Wednesday. I can only imagine what the rest of the week has in store.
Just thinking about all of it is enough to make anyone want to find refuge. And I think refuge is what Sonny Simmons and Caroline Smith, the couple behind Onsen, a San Francisco Japanese restaurant and bath house, had in mind when they opened in what was once a mechanic's garage in the Tenderloin. You can dine, or you can bathe, or you can do both (but not at the same time) in this beautiful building and feel transported to somewhere less chaotic. I visited for the first time last Wednesday and loved the food, especially the chawanmushi. (The photo above is Caroline's hand-drawn sake flight list, which is also pretty charming.) I also discovered that the chef, George Meza, and I worked for the same chef at one point. Chef Hiro Sone, your family tree is pretty great.
Did you eat well during the Super Bowl (if you watched it)? I kept it simple with a beef-and-bean chili, but instead of cooking the chili with some beer for tang, I stirred in some yellow miso paste with the tomato paste. The idea came to me after listening to this excellent podcast by Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Marisa McClellan. Joy, who has been cooking nearly all vegan meals lately for health reasons, mentioned that miso has been one of the ways to get a deeper, umami flavor without meat. Even though I was using meat, I thought miso would give the chili a bit of that fermented tang that beer would deliver. The results were so promising that next time I'll try it with a meatless, beerless black bean chili.
FROM THE FILES OF WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???
Do you have a slow cooker? I grew up with an irrationally high fear that the family Christmas tree would one day burn our house down. The television show This Is Us must have had a writer on staff who had the same irrational fear as me—but regarding kitchen appliances, not trees. I don't watch the show, but essentially (spoiler?) a main character dies in a blaze caused by a wonky Crock-Pot. And now Crock-Pot is doing damage control by insisting it's impossible for this situation to happen.
And then this weird story cropped up about Doritos making more ladylike chips that don't crunch as loudly (because I guess this is embarrassing??) So everyone was super mad at Doritos yesterday, but it turned out that the company wasn't making chips for the ladies after all. The CEO made a dumb comment, and the company's social media team did damage control. I hope they get a raise.
On the flip side, the theme restaurant chain Medieval Times puts queens into power in place of kings.
SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT
I'll leave you with an idea from a piece I wrote for Plate magazine's Japan inspiration issue on cooking with koji, Japan's favorite mold. I was amazed not only how little I knew about the mold that is behind sake and soy sauce but also how it may even revolutionize how we marinate and age meat (if Jeremy Umansky has anything to do with it when he opens Larder in Cleveland). It may be only a matter of time before liquid shio koji becomes as common in our pantries as olive oil and soy sauce.
Call me koji crazy.