Tuesday, September 13, 2011

MO-CHICA - mindblowingly good

Mo-Chica is a fantastic Peruvian restaurant owned by chef Ricardo Zarate, a Lima native who sept most of his adult life cooking in high-end Japanese restaurants all over the world. The simply styled restaurant is part of the Mercado La Paloma complex south of downtown, and they have the best ceviche: cubes of sushi-quality fish in a thick acidic emulsion sharp with chile, soft and tart and spicy all at once, served with slivered red onion, giant-kerneled corn and a soft chunk of sweet potato. This is the best high-quality Peruvian seafood since Nobu. But there is much more to Peruvian food than just ceviche. The Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, African and Inca influences show in earthy, sensual and unusual dishes like 'Aji de Gallina' a chicken stew in a spicy, nutty cheese sauce. There's no way around: you have to check it out for yourself. I promise, you will not regret it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Michelin-starred chef Miguel Sánchez Romera nourishes the brain

I am always happy to discover amazing chefs that come up with new, intriguing ideas like Miguel Sánchez Romera, an Argentinian-born neurologist from Barcelona, who won a Michelin star in his quest for food that satisfies your brain.
Read the article that was published in the WSJ today: Cerebral Palate

Friday, May 13, 2011


With days becoming hotter, I have discovered a new obsession, the wonderfully refreshing Mexican coolers, the aguas frescas. I love their subtle flavors and the feeling that my body gets an internal moisture boost! My favorite is the cucumber agua fresca. Here's how I prepare it:


Makes 4 servings

1 medium cucumber
2 cups cold water
1 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Peel and seed cucumber and cut into chunks. In a blender blend cucumber with remaining ingredients until completely smooth and pour into a glass pitcher, chill, covered.  Stir  before serving.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I was warned that I would find it too noisy at 'Son of a Gun'. At my first visit yesterday, I not only found it too loud, but annoyingly loud. I was simply impossible to have a conversation with my dining partner. Not that I have the desire of eating out in a church-like atmosphere, I like lively, but too much is too much. What's the point of having dinner with a friend if you cannot communicate and end up screaming at each other? I should have counted how many times I shouted 'what did you say?'. Unfortunately, we had lost our reserved table and had to sit at the communal table, because we were twenty minutes late. But I doubt, that it would have been much better at a smaller table.

I could have been appeased by great food, and was excited to be at seafood place, a rare thing in L.A. But unfortunately, the culinary mastery was limited. I felt like having been served home-cooked dishes by a bachelor who tries to impress a girl, but lacks experience and technique. We both went for the citrus salad, avocado, fennel, arugula, as a starter. There were lots of sliced citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges, but so little avocado and arugula that I felt tempted to ask for a magnifying glass, and the fennel was completely missing. Too much citrus, guys! Way out of balance. This is not supposed to be fruit salad dessert. At least the seasoning was subtle and enhanced the flavors nicely.

After that we had mussels, Pernod, tarragon, fennel, toast. Those poor mussels were drowning in a thick, creamy, uniform tasting sauce. Where was the lemony-licory scent of tarragon? The anise-like taste of Pernod? Was there any starch mixed into the sauce for it too be so thick? And why salt the sauce generously when mussels have a natural salt content? And please don't make that toast so greasy! I would have liked the menu to mention the cream sauce, since I expected a light, mediterranean wine sauce. Ok, I could have asked, but it did not occur to me. It's always good to be given a lot of information to be able to make the right choice.

We also tried the Idaho trout, carrot, potato, caper dill butter. It was dry, boring and tasteless. Did they mention a caper dill butter on the menu? What can I say? Uninspired? Lazy? Do-not-care?

We gave the desserts a try and went for the frozen lime yogurt, graham crumble, toasted meringue. The yogurt lacked creaminess and was too sweet, but otherwise the dessert was ok and perfectly sized, the toasted meringue even very good.

As for beverages, I had a glass of 'Crémant du Jura' a sparkling wine from the French Jura region. I usually like the light Crémant, but the one served at 'Son of a Gun' was bad, real bad. Flat and tasting like cheap cider. And this for 18 Dollars a glass! My friend's Pinot Noir was good, but the 17 Dollars a glass were also quite steep. 

I liked the concept of serving small portions, for guests to playfully taste different dishes.

Still, my final verdict: the cuisine is too amateurish to be taken seriously.

Nice maritime-theme decor, though.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


A dear friend of mine just came back from Paris, where she had stayed a couple of months. She was living in an Arab neighborhood and bought lots of exotic spices in large plastic bags, and then filled used small Campari bottles with different spice mixes to gift her friends. Mine was hand labeled 'ras el hanout'. The spice mix is an old ingredient in the Moroccan cook's battery of seasonings. When I inhaled the mingled aroma, I felt like walking through a souk at sunset. Ras el hanout literally translates as 'head of the shop', and as the story goes, it is a blend of as many as 100 exotic spices. Usually it's made with fewer than 100 or even 40 spices. Some of the ingredients include cassia (a cousin of cinnamon), nutmeg and its lacy orange covering, mace, green cardamom pods, turmeric, allspice berries and sometimes paprika (like me version, hence 'rouge' for red). There is also long pepper that has a tingling effect on the tongue. The fiery rush that occurs when inhaling the spice mix comes from a pale dried root which appears to be galangal, a ferociously pungent member of the ginger family. When these very distinct ingredients are pulverized  to a fine powder and mixed, they create an aromatic blend that lends a divine perfume to dishes like tagine, stews, chicken or hearty meats. It's never used with fish, it would be too overpowering.
What a great addition to my pantry!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Dreaming of a rustic meal like 'Aelplermagronen' in an alpine chalet!


traditional alpine recipe

9 oz potatoes

9 oz straight hollow noodles
7 oz grated Gruyère cheese
3/4 cup cream
3 Tbsp butter
2 large onions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Boil in salted water. Add the noodles shortly before the potatoes are done (read the directions on the package first). The potatoes should be soft. Drain and arrange in alternate layers with the cheese in a deep baking dish. Pour in the cream and place in the hot oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet. Slice the onions and saute until they turn light brown. Spread over the noodles and potatoes.

Serve with apple puree or salad.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


As if I wouldn't have enough kitchen appliances, I am seriously contemplating getting a flour mill. I am done with commercial flour that has been chemically 'enhanced' and 'refined'. Stripped of the bran and germ, the berries have lost not only their nutritional value but it's wonderful range of rich flavors. Just about any grain can be ground into flour – imagine baking muffins made from barley flour, millet flour, rice flour, buckwheat or oat flour. And hearty pancakes. Or tasty artisan breads. Maybe homemade pizza? Sounds pretty exciting, don't you think?  I heard that there are manually operated mills as well as electric machines, and I would think it is a no-brainer to get an electric mill that will make flour in just a few minutes. And I will be part of the new food revolution that ultimately will lead food giants that feed us with unhealthy food into bankruptcy. Please, don't tell me that I am overly optimistic on this one...