The headline says it all… what does one of France’s infamous raw milk cheese and kimchi have in common?  Plenty. Its bad reputation as a malodorous food, the live active bacteria cultures, the ripening process, fragility of its fermentation process, the continual misunderstandings just to name a few…

While reading the recent New York Times dining review of Má Pêche, I came across this excellent article that references Époisses, a highly regarded raw goat milk cheese. I couldn’t stop thinking about its similar characteristics with kimchi. Apparently, there is no dessert menu at David Chang’s latest restaurant but only this coveted stinky cheese is offered to cleanse your palate as a cheese course. Lovely.

Read more about Époisses (click here), an excellent article by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.

Redefining what eating ‘American’ cuisine is all about… I had one of unexpected blissful food revelations last Friday at the official opening of Food Hall at the Plaza.

Yes, Chef Todd English was there and the famous architect and so many who stopped by to celebrate. I was so impressed by how elegant but friendly the service was and as I began to see all the small plates food on the table from dumplings to pizza, oysters, burgers, tapas, sushi to kimchi — it suddenly dawned on me.

Instead of seeing all the ‘different’ foods, I saw the common thread of how we all meld together, MILKimchi at the Plaza Hotel alongside the world’s flavorful celebrated American cuisine. It made me so happy to know that eating American food is such a reflection of our lives and that there no boundaries to our minds and taste buds.

I would have never imagined how to write the path of how this simple idea of starting MILKimchi would have turned out. So many have responded so favorably to our products, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

During this past month, I have been able to share the story of our kimchi by filming all day for new show on Cooking Channel called Foodcrafters (will air late-June), made delicious grilled ‘kimcheez’ sandwiches for New Amsterdam Market fundraiser and today a new milestone, dropping off an order at the Plaza Hotel. Wonderful.

I don’t think I could have ever written a path like this… it is about the journey and these days that seem incredible — both the good and the bad. That’s what it’s all about.

It’s been a beautiful sunny week of spring weather here in NYC which inspired me to visit my Korean farmer who supplied me with napa cabbage and daikon last fall for New Amsterdam market.

After a long winter and severe snow storms in the North East, spring just seems to revitalize every pore in the body and spirit and makes you feel alive!

It was a two hour ride from Port Authority to West Town, NY which is in Orange County (coincidentally, same name as where my mom’s restaurant is in the O.C., Cali). It was a pastoral scene with rolling hills… just the kind of place you want to farm. She prepared simple, wondeful lunch before I took a walk around to see all the budding seedlings and blossoming of the earth.

It will be another 6-8 weeks before there’s fruit from the earth… what I witnessed in my city life dwelling existance is that nature still takes her time. First sign of spring doesn’t produce new crop. I can hardly wait for a new batch of seasonal produce to make local batch kimchi!

Spring has officially sprung in NYC, a gorgeous sunny Saturday at Dean & Deluca on Madison Ave… my wish has come true. When Eric, suggested that we put MILKimch on ice at our tasting this afternoon due to the warm weather, I was thrilled.

The champagne of pickles, on ice… made me happy thinking of those ice buckets of Champagne you see in France when you walk into any restaurant. It’s like a welcome mat for a wonderful meal ahead.

The effect of bubbling fermentation of kimchi made me think of it as a sparkling wine — sometimes it ‘pops’ when you open it, depending on how much fermentation has occured inside the jar.

I couldn’t help but think about having new recipes for the summer — cold soba buckwheat noodles with sesame oil and chopped up MILKimchi. Yum.

This past week was a road show out west — a day spent walking the Natural Food Show in Anaheim, MILKimchi launch and tastings at in LA and SF.

Being a newbie to specialty food trade shows, I’m never quite sure what I’m missing… I spent one of the three days walking the Expo-West, a natural food show. What I realized about this show was how BIG the natural food category really is and how much big dollars are behind many brands. I did have a chance to talk to industry veterans in food biz and did some walking around to meet interesting folks from a variety of foods and do some ever important socializing. We even had a big group of us ‘industry folks’ go eat at my mom’s famous sulungtang restaurant in Garden Grove.

With tastings scheduled to launch our newest account in west coast — Surfas in LA, The Pasta Shop in Oakland and Bi-Rite Market in SF, but I was unsure what to expect. Rather than risk the uncertainty of shipping proucts from LA to SF, I made sure that it had to arrive with me on my luggage… imagine my shock when my mom gave me old baby blankets! Yes, there’s something hilarious and appropriate about it all, they all arrived in one piece.

It was such a warm, welcome reception — not only did Californians know about kimchi but were so receptive and warm. I even did my first-ever tasting on the sidewalk on Guerraro Street in front of Bi-Rite Market. What a little piece of heaven and tasting frenzy of kimchi lovers!

I am so excited to a have MILKimchi and share it with so many people — now at three different regions in NYC, LA, SF… it’s like living a dream… a home coming and the bi-coastal genesis of MILKimchi has a wonderful new following of Californians.

Very exciting! MILKimchi’s debut as a special side dish at Porchetta is really taking off. In just two weeks, we are doubling our delivery as people are really enjoying the combination of the delectable pork and kimchi combination.

Despite two seemingly different provenance, Italian Pork Roast and Korean pickled cabbage, the flavor marriage is a perfect combination and New Yorkers are taking note. When I first had a bite of porchetta, I was reminded of the succulent pork belly dishes in Korean cooking which inspired me to ask if Sara Jenkins, the chef/owner at Porchetta to offer to her guests.

Who says you can’t meld the vastly different cusines to create a uniquely new tradition and sidedish. Rock on!

It was a chilly wintery afternoon when I received a spontaneous invitation for a private barrel wine tasting.  How could I say no?Thanks to my friend and drawing teacher, Rob Zeller, who was kind enough to invite me to tag along for a wine tasting in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

I’ve heard of his friend, Christopher Nicolson, who is assistant winemaker at The Red Hook Winery with two tour-de-force California winemakers (Abe Schoener and Robert Foley) who are making extraordinary wines using local, Long Island grapes. What a warm reception and welcome we received from Christopher who greeted us with a warm lunch of baked french onion gratin. Turns out that he, as well as Rob, are big fans of kimchi when I brought him a jar. After I asked Christopher questions about what ways to capture fermentation shelf life of kimchi, we spent much of our time talking about the grapes, local farms where they are sourced in L.I., wine making styles and why one wine maker will choose to work with certain grapes over another.

One wine maker will choose to work with botrytis riesling and another with petit verdot, both very unusual grapes to work with — unheard of it grown anywhere but even harder to believe in Long Island.  There were clone samples grapes of various kinds, a kind of lab of wine making, blending varietals to extract the essential characters of the grape’s soil/climate (terroir) or character of the wine style, like a fine sculptor chipping away at his marble.

We spent what seemed like a perfect afternoon exchanging over the craft of wines produced from the land which made me think a lot about the hand crafted nature of preserving cabbage and its fermentation phase. Christopher says so much about wine making is about patience. Waiting for kimchi to ferment doesn’t take 18 months, only a few days but I began to see the common thread between what seems like an unrelated product. He was so supportive of my kimchi-making, he promised me a new bottle of his Chardonnay which will be released in 18 months… wait, did I just get a bottle of wine for kimchi?!  Amazing.

Despite our busy schedules, it was a diversion that was much needed on this winter day… Rob said it was just like making art — a moment in time perfectly captured.

The month of November has been a whirlwind — opening two major retail accounts, kimchi tasting events and participating at our second New Amsterdam Market on November 22, days before the big Thanksgiving feast. It made me think a lot about what it means to belong to a community of food purveyors.

The size of market was bigger than in October, we were all there as small food purveyors who found value in creating and working within the community to bring locally sourced produce to the market. The direct exchange we had with our customers were amazing, having people taste our food and giving feedback, in a old world tradition of a marketplace where there is connection between the producer and direct consumers who will enjoy them.

It was difficult to anticipate how the kimchi would be received — I had the last few cases of the locally sourced ‘House Style’ Napa Cabbage but made a new batch of new Daikon kimchi especially for the market. Napa cabbage has a shorter growing season than Daikon and so I have access to a few more weeks. We sold all of the cases and I was pleased to see so many new customers embrace the daikon kimchi which turned out more delicious than the Napa ‘House Style’ Kimchi. The spicy flavors and sweetness of the local daikon pickled well together, along with the beautiful purple cabbage I used for contrast of color.

Although it is not easy to manuever and meet fellow vendors at the NA Market, my boyfriend N and I had did our share of stopping by to introduce ourselves and MILKimchi to a few folks. First, the oyster guys from Maine, then the Piggery who makes some delicious pate, The Cellars at Jasper Hill from N.H., Fresh Mozzarella from Naragansett Creamery in R.I., Honey from Manhattan Meadery, Phat Beets and Smokera from Rick’s Picks, Brooklyn Kombucha, Housemade Sausages from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats… what a way to celebrate the bounty of harvest!

It was amazing to discover so many folks who were curious about kimchi as we ‘swapped’ our delicacies with one another. It was a bit like a UN of food ambassadors — at the 11th hour, towards the end of the market, we were all thrilled to barter and support each other through this ‘live’ food community where ‘bartering’ was the new currency.

MILKimchi’s shelf space just moved up a few Saturdays ago, after some prodding and encouragement to Mr. U. at the Essex Market.

Now it’s at a much more visible, eye-level shelf and can be found next to premium staple items: milk, eggs, o.j., yogurt and now next to tofu.

Shelf space, especially one that requires refrigeration, is a premium in the retail grocery industry.  Because it’s refridgerated, kimchi always seems to be in the dairy section in non-Asian grocery markets, particularly in this case, next to the cheeses.  In Asian markets, kimchi is near other ‘related’ items such as tofu, miso paste and other refrigerated condiments so it doesn’t stick out like an odd ball.  If you walk into a Korean market, there are shelves and rows of different brands and types of kimchi, an entire refrigerated section full of the stuff.

When we started selling kimchi at the Essex Market, it started out in the dairy section, next to the cheeses. There are cheeses from Mexico I’ve never seen before, grated Parmesan, Kraft American single slices, Laughing Cow… it’s multicultural and varied.  A bit of a reflection of the market and the Lower East Side.

Then for about three weeks, MILKimchi was sitting next to the Velveeta, then the Laughing Cow, then it was upgraded to the top shelf, next to the Swiss Knight Cheese. Ever since the New York Times review was published, it found its current location next to premium staple shelf of milk, eggs and yogurt.

Ahh, the sweet climb up the ladder….

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