What should I ask Mark Miller?

I’ll be interviewing Mark soon, at a private venue, no public event, but for eventual release in the Conversations with Tyler series. Here is a short bio of Mark. He is credited as being the founder of modern Southwestern cuisine, and he was the driving force behind Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe and Red Sage in Washington, D.C. He has written numerous books on food, including the very best books on chilies. He is a supertaster, and more generally one of the world’s great food minds and a truly curious and generous soul. He also has a background in anthropology, cooked for Chez Panisse in its early days, and is one of the best-traveled people I know. Do you want to know what is/was special about chiles in Syria, or how many varieties of soy sauce you can find in one part of Hokkaido? Mark is the guy to ask.

So what should I ask him?

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and ask questions.


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Three Manhattan Places

A few places to eat in Manhattan:

Hatsuhana, very expensive sushi but outrageously good, (web site) 17 E. 48th Street. (TripAdvisor | NY Mag | NYT)

Then try LoLo’s Seafood Shack up in Harlem (web site), 303 W. 116th Street, I liked the ribs and the smelts best. (TripAdvisor | NY Mag | NYT)

Also very good is Le Colonial, (web site) 149 E. 57th Street, Vietnamese more or less, best caramelized chicken I’ve had. (TripAdvisor | NY Mag | NYT)


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Afghan Bistro

Afghan Bistro, web site, 8081-D Alban Road, Springfield, VA, 703-337-4722 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

The best Afghan food I’ve had, get the Aushak, kadu, and eggplant.


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Taco Ssam

Taco Ssam, 6017 Leesburg Pike, Baileys Crossroads, Culmore Shopping Center, Falls Church, VA, 703-347-6969 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | Arlington Mag | Ylp]

Mostly Mexican, with some Korean mixes, such as fusion tacos with bulgogi and spicy pork. Overall I quite like this place. Only six seats at the counter, and a cool vibe, not really a mom and pop in terms of presentation although I believe it is nonetheless a mom and pop. For Mexican food, and tacos, I would put it at the bottom of the top tier in this area, which these days is pretty good. Oddly, what misses are the Korean fusion dishes – the flavors don’t gel and they just taste like weird tacos. Stick to Mexican, and get there early, and you will have a rewarding and repeat-worthy experience.


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Nazca Mochica

Nazca Mochica, web site, 1633 P Street NW, Washington, DC, 202-733-3170 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | WaPo | TripAdvisor | City Paper | Ylp]

I’ve been here twice, once in the downstairs bar area, the second time upstairs in the main dining room. It is nice to see DC have another good Peruvian place that goes beyond chicken. I enjoyed everything here I tried, but overall I say your best course of action is to order as much of the ceviches as possible. Good quinoa. Worth having in the repertoire, but doesn’t quite succeed in being DC’s definitive Peruvian place in the way that maybe it could have.


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Lima, Peru bleg

Your assistance is humbly requested, noting that the shortness of the trip will prevent any significant excursions outside of the city. Do note I have been there twice, though not in the last nineteen years or so.

I thank you all in advance for your suggestions.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


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Is KOKS the best restaurant in the world?

KOKS, web site, Í Geilini 13, Tórshavn 175, Faroe Islands [Fodors | TripAdvisor]

I am told KOKS is a Faroese word for “adding something excellent,” though there are varying accounts of the translation. In any case, in terms of originality, purity of concept and vision, execution, service, and also view — taken as an integrated whole — I can’t think of any restaurant experience that comes close to this one. Noma in Copenhagen is a pale memory in contrast, as are the Michelin three-stars in San Sebastian. KOKS is still unspoilt and on the way up, and the guiding star is the very young and extremely personable Poul Andrias Ziska.

It has been written up in the New York Times and Guardian for its innovative take on Faroese cuisine, though both articles are now out of date. The dining room seats only 20, and Ziska is also the pastry chef, with no loss of quality. You’ll find photos and food descriptions on their Facebook page. Here is the shaved horsemussel on dried cod skin:

KOKS, shaved horsemussel on dried cod skin

Here is one recent review:

Its cuisine style is earthy and refined, ancient and modern. Instead of the new, it emphasizes the old (drying, fermenting, pickling, curing and smoking) with a larger goal of returning balance to earth itself. At KOKS, the cuisine is about seasonality, seriously engaging with agriculture and history and of making age-old food delightful to modern palates…

Poul continues to simply enjoy the uniqueness and richness of the Faroe Islands. Fan of ræst, (local preservation method) he supports and defends this technique that captures and boosts flavour.

I can agree with this assessment:

And finally (and I have to say the best dessert I’ve ever had), dulse seaweed served with chocolate crumble, fermented blueberries and dulse mousse. Sweet, a bit tangy, a bit crunchy, silky-smooth on the mouth and simple heavenly. My marathon reward ended on a very special note.

I am willing to go out on a limb here: it is probably the best restaurant in the world right now. It alone justifies a trip to the Faroe Islands.

Addendum: Etika, also in the Faroes, has some of the best sashimi I’ve eaten, recommended as well.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.



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Al Hamra

Al Hamra, web site, 4230 Annandale Road, Annandale, VA, 703-256-1906 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [zabihah | Ylp]

Wow, did I love this place. A mix of Middle Eastern and Pakistani, the owner is from Pakistan. I’ve only gone once, and tried three dishes, still I feel it is worthy of an immediate report. The best chicken Haleem around, by far. Superb Biryani rice, maybe also the best in the area. And the hummus was a knockout, made from actual fresh beans soaked overnight. The proprietor is also very friendly and knowledgeable. They offer yet more Pakistani dishes through their catering service, let’s hope they make it to the main menu as well, I wonder if you can access them by calling ahead? Go, go, go!


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Fatouche, FB, 1109 West Broad Street, Falls Church, VA, 571-366-0561 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | TripAdvisor | zabihah | FCT | Ylp]

Yes, Iraqi, though it is mostly standard kabobs and Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus. There is a greater presence of lamb shank as special Iraqi dishes, however. I put their standard “Iraqi kabobs” in the top tier of the area’s kabob restaurants, say the top 15 percent. I put their rice as the very best around, not counting the Persian specialty rices with extra ingredients. The hummus and falafel are at about the area average, OK but nothing special. Nonetheless it is worth having this place in the repertoire, friendly atmosphere too. Yana took me here, I am glad she did.


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The culinary culture that is San Francisco

I am all in favor of San Francisco’s $13 per hour minimum wage (which rises to $15 by 2018), plus mandatory paid sick leave, parental leave and employer health care contributions. But labor costs at restaurants are inching past 50 percent of total expenditures, an indicator of poor fiscal health. Commercial rents have also gone bananas. Add the ever-rising cost of frisée and pastured quail eggs and it’s no wonder that many restaurants are experimenting with that unique form of sadism known as “small plate sharing,” which amounts to offering a big group of hungry people something tiny to divvy up. Even nontrendy joints now ask $30 for a proper entree — a price point, according to Mr. Patterson, that encourages even affluent customers to discover the joys of home cooking.

That is by Daniel Duane for the NYT, on how Silicon Valley shapes the northern California dining scene and it is of interest more generally.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments.


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