A.G. Newsletter #21: A Kitchen Cabinet Purge, Good Donuts, A Classic Stroopwafel and Omakase at Ushiwakamaru

Hey Readers,

Over the past year, my kitchen cabinets had become engorged with strange spices that I purchased for my cookbook (most of them purchased on my trip to Kalustyan's) and weird trios of food that I bought for my web show, The Taste Test. So I had an Ethiopian spice mix, two kinds of Turkish chili powders, three kinds of honey, three kinds of peanut butter, and so on. And, as you can imagine, it became a bit unwieldy.

Which is why, yesterday, I cranked up my iPod ("Little Shop of Horrors" Original Cast Recording, anyone?) and took everything out of the cabinets and put it all on my kitchen counters:

As you can see, my cabinets became wonderfully empty:

And I was able to look at everything all at once and to decide what needed to stay and what needed to go.

It actually wasn't that hard: old lentils that I used as pie-weights? Gone. Big bottle of old olive oil with only a drop of it left anyway? Farewell. Dried chinese mushrooms from Chinatown that I thought were shitakes but weren't? Sayonara.

Once the unnecessary food was purged, I was able to place stuff back in the cabinets with this in mind: the items that I used the most I wanted to have the most accessible.

So, as you can see, in the left-most cabinet, I have, on the bottom shelf, the oils and vinegars that I use the most (I'm out of vegetable oil, but that would go in there), red chili flakes, black peppercorns, oregano, etc. [Keep in mind: I keep my olive oil, kosher salt and pepper grinder out on the counter.] On the middle shelf I have items that I use less often: honey, sea salt, white pepper, smoked paprika. And on the top shelf I have the really esoteric spices and items that I'll mostly use for my cookbook.

The shelf over the stove is all grains/carbs (spaghetti, pasta, polenta, couscous, farro, and two kinds of oatmeal):

And, finally, my baking cabinet:

I think that one is self-explanatory.

So it feels great! A neat kitchen is a happy kitchen. Now I just have to figure out where to put all the appliances that I have stuffed into my butcher block (the rice maker, the pasta maker, the food processor and the blender.)

On to different things....

We met our friends Jimmy and Raef yesterday at our favorite brunch spot in the West Village, Good. The place was packed beyond belief but we waited the requisite 30 minutes and this time, in addition to the Good breakfast that Craig and I like to order (it comes with pancakes, eggs, sausage and potatoes), we ordered these orange, sour-cream donuts to start:

Oh mama. These were served WARM and they were so crumbly and sticky and deliriously wonderful, I'm scared to know about them because I'll want to eat them again and again and again.

The day before, I went with Craig to the Brooklyn Flea in Ft. Greene (home of the best quesadilla I've ever had), and came across another sweet:

That's a classic stroopwafel; which, as you can see, is "a traditional Dutch waffle cookie with caramel filling."

Here she is, in all her stroopiness:

It was chewy, rather than crunchy, and had nice autumnal flavors. It's not something to go out of your way for, but if you stumble upon it, I wouldn't say "no."

Finally, after seeing "The Social Network" (which I really enjoyed) Craig and I tried to go to Tomoe Sushi (see this old post) for sushi but the wait was too long. And honestly, I've never loved the sushi there: I think it's too much fish on too much rice, especially when you try to eat it all in one bite.

For the past year, we've walked by a lovely looking sushi spot called Ushiwakamaru that's always packed to the gills (pun intended) with serious-looking sushi eaters. And whenever we go, the hostess refuses us a table because her reservation book is totally full.

On this night, though, she told us that she could have something for us in 20 to 30 minutes. We accepted and went for a drink at the XY bar (is that what it's called?) right there on Houston. 20 minutes later, the hostess called me and told me our table was ready. Jackpot!

Feeling a bit financially reckless (which neither Craig nor I can really afford to be) we decided to order the Omakase menu (that's where you let the chef choose). We did that on Craig's birthday at Sushi Yasuda and we enjoyed it so much, we figured we should do it here.

The nice thing about omakase at Ushiwakamaru is: you name your price. On the menu it's listed as "starting at $33" and the waitress directly asked us how much we wanted to spend. So we said $50 each and this, in turn, is what she brought us:

Let's see if I can remember everything that's there: from left-to-right we have fatty tuna, red snapper, shrimp, (?), mackerel, sea urchin, salmon roe and eel.

Needless to say, it was quite wonderful: very fresh-tasting with a perfectly balanced ratio of fish to rice.

But, as often happens in these cases, we were still hungry, so we had to ask for four more pieces each. This is what we got next:

Maybe it's because we were drinking sake, but my memory wanes here. The fish on the left, we were told, shouldn't be dipped in soy sauce because it was dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. The one second-from-the-right was a "very special part of the tuna." Otherwise, I'm at a loss.

Craig, a sushi fanatic, likes to order for himself, after eating a bunch of sushi, a piece of "unagi"--fresh-water eel--which is almost dessert-like it's so sweet and rich. I ordered one too:

And there you have it. Another week, another stroopwafel, another piece of unagi.

Thanks for reading this far; make sure to check the blog this week, I've got some really great posts up my sleeve!

Until next time...

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)

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