Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I recently hit my big 4 - 0. It wasn't much of a big thing for me. I kept it simple and had a group of close friends out for dinner at my favorite Yakitori house in Little Tokyo, Kokekokko. A few of my friends also took me out for a breakfast of pastries and soft-boiled eggs at Le Pain Quotidien and then a crazy lunch of hot dogs at a new hot dog joint, The Infield. At the Infield, we ordered a good portion of the menu, but then the owner took over and treated us to his own choices, Wagyu Beef dogs from New Zealand, Chili Cheese dogs and for dessert, a Twinkie Dog. The Twinkie Dog consisted of a classic dog with a fried Twinkie as a bun topped with Cheez Wiz (geared to the late-night crowd). Crazy, yet not as terrible as it sounds. A bit overly sweet for me - it would've benefited from more Wiz. We did discover that deep frying Twinkies brings out how cloyingly sweet they actually are. You don't really taste it when they're straight out of the pack. Fry one and you won't be eating many.
Everything was great, but the day was really topped off by the most perfect birthday present I could receive. My wife presented me with a beautiful Bob Kramer, handmade 5-inch Utility knife with a Rosewood handle. It was especially great because she had gotten me a 8-inch Chef's knife from Kramer for my 30th Birthday. 10 years later, I get my second heirloom-quality knife. I've loved the 8-inch Chef's knife since I received it and have always wanted another, but there has been a backlog and long wait for his knives (currently 3 years). They are amazing pieces of art, well worth the wait and the cost. They are not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Kramer has been making custom kitchen knives for almost 20 years. The knives' handles are dense beautiful hardwood (usually Cocobolo or other exotic hardwoods if specially requested) with precisely inlaid metal detailing and the blades are forged with 52100 Carbon Steel, hardened in a six-hour long, seven step heat-treating process. Needless to say, they are sweet. They feel great in your hand, cut amazing, and hold a very sharp edge for a long time (I cut myself by barely touching the blade putting it into my knife bag - seems I always need to christen a new knife with a cut of my finger). The Carbon steel does need a little more care than a Stainless steel knife, but it's basic. Just keep it clean and dry. Clean well after cutting acidic foods or it will stain and could show bits of rust. All can be polished easily with some soap and a green scotch brite pad. You can see in the one picture my Chef's knife is showing some staining. I haven't polished it lately because the look doesn't really bother me, but I will.
I think that if you're going to cook and cook often, you need to have good knives. You don't need a gazillion different ones. I think the most useful ones to spend some money on would be a Chef's knife (6-inch or 8-inch) and a Utility knife (4-inch or 5-inch). After that, you could spend some money depending on your budget on any number of other knives. My other decent knives are a Carving knife (barely use) and a Boning knife (constantly use). Oh, and a cleaver, but I use that mostly for opening coconuts (probably should be using something cheaper for that).
Thanks again to my wife for such a thoughtful fantastic Fortieth Birthday present.