I am obsessed with kimchi. I think about the earthy, fermented, spicy pickle all the time. I know that some people find kimchi’s deep funkiness repellent, but I love it. Kimchi is one of the most common Korean condiments and is made with vegetables, chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger and salt. It is lightly fermented, sort of like sauerkraut, and then eaten as a side dish or used as an ingredient in Korean cooking. The kimchi most of us are familiar with is made with Napa cabbage.
Food trucks have always seemed like a good idea to me. You have a cute truck, cook a few interesting specials, and park where the business seems best. Everyone throngs to you when you tweet the daily menu and you work when you feel like it. Trucks have fewer of the brick-and-mortar problems of a real restaurant at a fraction of the cost. I even thought of doing a soup truck at one time, until I was reminded by my best friend that I don’t like to drive, I don’t like small spaces, and I cannot survive without air conditioning. The fantasy of a food truck is nothing like the reality of one.
If you want spicy, complex, and savory cuisine, Indian food will fit the bill perfectly. It can be chili-hot or creamy and mild, meaty or completely vegan, and diverse enough for even the most jaded palate to enjoy. I love the diversity of Indian cuisine, from spice-coated tandoori oven chicken to crispy fried samosas. One can spend a lifetime discovering its nuances.
About four years ago, my friend Michael Carmody sent me a text: “Hot homemade doughnuts and coffee, my house, right now.” Of course, I dropped everything and rushed over. He had made a lovely batch of buttermilk doughnuts with cinnamon sugar, hot and delicious, and fresh coffee to wash them down. Several other friends had gathered to try them and they were gone in minutes. Over the course of the next year, Michael made thousands of test doughnuts to share with his friends, perfecting his recipes and creating an underground doughnut sensation.
Okay, friends, get your GPS navigators set for 1714 East Northern Street in Wichita. At the end of your trip you will be at Usuluteco, a fantastic Salvadoran restaurant located just off Hydraulic, south of Pawnee. Salvadoran food is delicious, a recognizable cousin to Mexican cuisine, but with its own distinct character—a bit more subtle, without the same chili-garlic-tomato-cilantro bang of Mexican food, but perfect in simplicity.
I have been very sad this week. Two of my first and best mentors have died. Rich Vliet and Norma Sowell have been friends, teachers and touchstones for me from the very beginning of my professional culinary career. Both were incredibly supportive, delightful, determined people with vision. Both impressed me deeply and I’m going to miss them so much.