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This Week’s Five Best Food Events – 2/9/2015

Mother nature has been a beast these last few days — time to throw on another layer and head out to eat and drink. Consider one of these five events.

Cutting Edge Food Trends, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Monday, 7 p.m.

Is matcha the next big thing? When will bugs join bread as a must-have when visiting the grocery store? Andrew Zimmern brings his culinary expertise to the Upper East Side for a discussion on food trends. The traveling gourmand will also be joined by Food & Wine editor in chief Dana Cowin as well as food historian Francine Segan. Reservations are $30; secure them through the Y’s website.

Beer, Pickles & Cheese, Jacob’s Pickles, 509 Amsterdam Avenue, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Spread the love pre–Valentine’s Day with a fundraiser organized by the West Side Campaign Against Hunger. Guests can snack on pickles, cheeses, and a variety of beers from Long Island’s Barrier Brewery during the tasting. Tickets start at $50; secure yours through the event website.

Beard on Books, James Beard House, 167 West 12th Street, Wednesday, 12 p.m.

Food academic Dr. Libby O’Connell explores how dietary cravings have been shaped by cash, technology, and social innovations during this informal gathering. The discussion includes trivia, recipes, and complimentary snacks and beverages. A suggested donation of $20 is encouraged.

A Chocolate Love Affair, The Access Theater: The Gallery, 380 Broadway, Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m.

Who needs an intermission when a chocolate tasting is part of the show? This interactive performance led by chocolatier and artistic director Megan Sipe allows guests to move around the theater and become part of the show. Most importantly, it explores the impact of chocolate on the five senses. Chocolate will be served by dancers at moments throughout the night. Tickets start at $30.

Tiki Night, Spirited, 638 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, Friday, 7 p.m.

Airline ticket to Hawaii too expensive? For $20, guests receive a tiki cocktail and pupu platter, and can purchase additional tiki cocktails for $10. Cocktail aficionados can also chat up the authors of Brooklyn Spirits: Craft Cocktails and Stories From the World’s Hippest Borough. You’ll need to make a reservation.

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In Flushing, Myung San Plumbs the Depths of Fermented Korean Comfort Food

“We’re known for fermentation,” confides Hoon Beam Cho when I ask him if I missed anything on my first visit to Myung San, a Korean comfort-food restaurant on the outskirts of Flushing in view of the Broadway Long Island Railroad Station. The cordial host is referring to cheonggukjang, a malodorous fermented soybean mash that’s used to make a pungent brew of the same name, affectionately dubbed “dead body stew” thanks to its smell. It should come as no surprise that TV personality Andrew Zimmern has consumed the dish in its homeland of southwestern Korea on his show Bizarre Foods; the man couldn’t get enough.

I’ll admit that I was not so immediately moved. When more than two tables order the soup — with its musty, rust-colored kimchi broth murky with bean paste and punctuated by cubes of semi-firm tofu — walking into the spare 26-seat space feels akin, at least olfactorily, to entering a shipping container that doubles as a poorly ventilated hot yoga class for Medieval Times knights. But then you take a deep breath, unsheathe your individually wrapped silverware bearing the restaurant’s name, and plunge spoon-first into a world of fermented funk. There’s a pervasive nuttiness that’s cut by a sharp, almost cheese-like saltiness. The dish’s edge softens as you eat, its tempestuous flavors settling into a low hum of rotten musk. Fermented proteins are the Nicolas Cages of the chef’s larder, captivating in their ability to at once confound and delight.

Cho runs the restaurant with his sister Young Hee, the two of them greeting diners, passing out menus, and distributing banchan, the complimentary snacks that start nearly every Korean meal. At Myung San, the spread can include vegetables such as marinated eggplant and matchsticks of young radish kimchi, pan-fried tofu with chile sauce, miniature dried and candied anchovies that taste like sweet and salty fish jerky, and kimchijeon, a scallion pancake tinged orange with kimchi that’s both crisp and a bit gummy.

While the kids manage the dining room, the kitchen is Mom’s domain. As both owner and chef since the restaurant opened in 2003, Gap Soon Cho cooks a lengthy roster of soups, stews, grilled meats (including pork belly on a gas stove), and stir-fries. And though the restaurant is beloved for its uniquely assertive stew, Cho holds an equally endearing command over more recognizable Korean fare, like a ssambap spread of slightly chewy pork belly cooked in gochujang, a fermented chile paste that adds heat and depth.

Spicy, sizzling pork makes for a fine perfume compared to the cheonggukjang, but even more alluring is Ms. Cho’s plated Eden of fresh vegetable and herb ssam, an array of flora any botanist would envy. The display comes piled high with lettuces, bulky sheets of napa cabbage, fiery tubes of green chile pepper, cilantro, perilla leaves, and a trio of greens: dandelion, chrysanthemum, and boiled and chilled collards. Ms. Cho grows much of it, supplanting the rest with produce from Asian grocery H Mart. This is anti-dare food, and yet it still feels exciting assembling different combinations of flavors from the verdant assortment. Layer a leafy green with rice, herbs, meat, and a spoonful of ssamjang sauce buzzing with scallions and fresh sliced chiles, fold, and chomp away. The order includes a small bowl of tofu stew flavored with doenjang, cheonggukjang’s milder, longer-fermented cousin (fermentation actually mellows the harshness of the soybeans), which shows up in a vast number of Korean dishes.

There are no tables for two at Myung San. They would be dwarfed by the massive trays of jeongol, stew-like casseroles on steroids that feed six easily and cost upward of $40. They overflow with proteins both animal and vegetable, including spicy duck, swellfish, and tender goat meat crowned with perilla leaves. Less grandiose but no less satisfying is tteok manduguk, a milky, starchy soup made from pork bones and brimming with chewy, glutinous rice cake slivers, strands of cooked egg, and coarsely chopped pork and vegetable dumplings. Forget chicken; this is pork soup for the soul.

In the late afternoon and into the evening, saucers of makgeolli, a cloudy white alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice, begin to appear. The restaurant serves two kinds: a sweeter, fizzier brew from Kooksoondang brewery in Korea, and the locally produced Dudukju brand made in the Catskills, at Kim’s Farm Resort in Wurtsboro. Dudukju has a resolute dryness, its sweetness and carbonation muted like Spanish Txakoli.

Myung San offers no formal dessert, but Gap Soon will cut up a mean fruit plate upon request. All growing boys and girls can appreciate that.

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Andrew Zimmern Launching Food Truck, Anita Lo Hates Cafeteria Food

Columbia University’s magazine interviews Anita Lo and reveals that she started cooking because her college cafeteria was really gross. “‘At the time, Columbia’s was known as one of the four worst university cafeterias in the country,’ says Lo. ‘I wasn’t giving in.’ She moved off campus after her freshman year and learned to cook, starting with her childhood recipes — a mix of curry, laksa, chicken paprikash, and Chinese dishes — with the occasional splurge on lobster.” [Columbia University Magazine]

Zach Zamboni, Anthony Bourdain’s cinematographer talks about a day in his life: “Scouting a restaurant has us looking like wayward mental patients. Slowly wandering around the dining room staring at ceiling, whispering and subtly gesturing. Determining the best table to shoot presents a dilemma: maximize the depth of the restaurant, making for nice backgrounds, and we have to sit in the darkest spot.” [Huffington Post]

Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant will have 500 seats. [Eater]

Jeffrey Wurtz
has been appointed the executive pastry chef at Le Cirque. Wurtz’s creations can be sampled beginning September, as Le Cirque unveils its fall menu. He has worked for Chef Joel Robuchon at L’Atelier and most recently was at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco where he oversaw and developed the hotel’s overall pastry program.

Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern will be launching a food truck at the Minnesota State Fair. Called AZ Canteen, the food is inspired by his global travels. Some dishes: cabrito butter burgers, crispy pork belly with green papaya salad, and griddled veal-tongue sliders. [Eater]

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Under The Toque: Danny Bowien Too Successful, Andrew Zimmern On Almost Eating Foreskin

Danny Bowien talks to the New York Observer on being a really successful chef..and (sort of) complains: “You become a chef and it sucks…because you don’t get to cook anymore. Like you’re basically just managing, doing paperwork and making sure your dishwashers show up.” [New York Observer]

Apparently Andrew Zimmern almost had to eat a baby’s foreskin: “In Madagascar, a guy almost handed me the cut foreskin of his grandchild to eat. I was dripping cold sweat down the back of my neck, like ‘Oh my god, what do I do?’ Had he passed it to me, I probably would have eaten it.” [The Braiser]

Eater interviews chef Mark Ladner of Del Posto, who talks about sticking to tradition: “We are decidedly traditional. Now fun is the new thing in lots of restaurants, many of them on the San Pellegrino list. That may work in a boutique restaurant full of foodies, but that’s not the restaurant we have here. We cater to clients who are adults and want what they want.” [Eater NY]

As we reported earlier this week, chef Sara Moulton has been hired by the Associated Press to write a weekly food column on healthy eating. [Fork in the Road]

Todd English’s ex-fiance Erica Wang was busted for shoplifting at Ralph Lauren, where she worked. Wang has since fled to Hong Kong for privacy. She also took a deal to avoid jail time, which involves community service and anger management classes. [Huffington Post]