If you’ve been reading this blog for more than, oh, five minutes, you probably know that I am unabashedly inspired by/live vicariously through Anthony Bourdain. No Reservations is one of the two television programs that I watch regularly, and I’ve devoured his books.
So when I was gifted tickets for this past Saturday to a reception and dinner at E&O Trading Company to launch his new book, I was ecstatic. And what’s more, dinner was being prepared by Chris Cosentino of Incanto, Alex Ong of Betelnut and Tim Luym of Poleng Lounge.
Anthony Bourdain in person is much like he is in writing or on television – well spoken with a touch of humored snarkiness, and really tall. I was pretty nervous approaching him, seeing as how I was the first person pushed forward to get my book signed, so I didn’t chat him up as I’d intended. A few glasses of champagne later, however, I went up to him and asked him to consider visiting Iran for his show. He lit up and said it’s at the top of his list for countries he wants to visit and his crew is planning on it for the fifth season. We spoke about that and his visit to Beirut for a a while and let me tell you, I was giddy inside. Giddy enough that I went back a third time and asked him for a photo:
Tony, if you’re reading this, call me, okay? We can go to Iran together. I’ll show you around the best eats. My grandmother cooks a mean ash-e reshteh!
After we snacked on hors d’ourves of fried corn fritters, stewed oxtail, seared scallops, deep-fried tripe with citrus salt, and peanut-ginger bites, a pleasantly buzzed Anthony gave a brief speech on how inside every great cook there is an old Chinese man. He made a couple of jabs at Rachael Ray and her ilk, and we were seated for dinner.
The lighting was too dim to get any presentable photos of the banquet-style food, but we were served the following:
King salmon with serrano peppers, kaiware sprouts, and Meyer lemon ponzu
Green papaya rainbow salad with kaffir lime nuoc mam dressing, pomelo, green mangoes, and toybox tomatoes
Kauai prawn rendang with spicy coconut kaffir lime sauce
Shanghainese red cooked pork belly with jasmine rice “jook”
Hot and sour braised short ribs in an aromatic broth, chilis and mustard greens
Whole roasted stuffed pig trotter with savoy cabbage and mustard
Long life braised E-Fu noodles with conpoy, Dungeness crab, straw mushrooms and Chinese chives
Celebration jasmine rice with aromatic spices and fresh turmeric
Fresh market vegetables, stir-fried Nonya-style
The company around us was great, and we were delighted to have discovered like-minded people who understand the importance of offal and stinky tofu. Afterwards we moved on to dessert, which included:
Grapefruit foam soda
Lemograss chocolate lollipops
Mock pork belly (made of yams)
Alex Ong provided everyone with artisanal Filipino sea salt to take home, and the chefs were friendly and gracious enough to sign my menu and take photos too:
It was an amazing evening. I’m still glowing and can’t wait until the next time Bourdain is in town. Hopefully next time he’ll give a longer speech and you know, take me up on my offer as his tour guide. So what do you say, Tony?