Every time I plan a trip to New York I have to try and go to some exclusive place to make the trip more of an experience and a definite time to remember. For the last 4 years I kept on hearing and reading about Momofuku. Great stories about Chef David Chang and the care and love he shows for each dish he prepares.
So what is Momofuku? It’s the name of his restaurant group, which is comprised of five restaurants:
noodle bar, ssäm bar, ko, milk bar & má pêche
Which one should I try to visit?
My trip is for only 4 days so the planning for a reservation had to be well planned out in advance.
The first four restaurants require no reservation, but I’m guessing there will be some waiting involved.
Ko is a restaurant that seats 12 and is basically a bar where the diners sit and face the kitchen.
After visiting the site and reading the FAQ section I realized that I would have to register to make a reservation on their online reservation system. Highly efficient I have to say.
Then I read further. Lunch is only served Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is a 3-hour event. Dinner is served 7 days a week and takes 1 1/2 hours. Reservations for lunch can only be made 2 weeks in advance and dinner one week in advance.
So lunch sounded like it was the meal to hit at Ko and I would have more chances to get a reservation if I started 2 weeks in advance.
The reservation system opens every day at 10am Eastern. Since I live on the West Coast that’s 7am for me.
To prepare to get the reservation I registered on the site and set my alarm for 6:55 am the following morning.
My alarm goes off the next morning and I queue up the site. A countdown clock shows with the amount of minutes and seconds before the reservation system opens up. I felt like I was waiting for the stock market to open.
7am hits and a drop down appears. How many diners? The selection shows 1, 2 & 4.
I select 2 and the screen refreshes to show a grid of dates and times. I see X’s and checkmarks. The check marks are the available times. I only saw one check mark so I clicked on it. A pop up window appears saying sorry someone already snagged that time.
Yikes! This is going to be tough. But it made me really want to get a reservation.
I did this for the next couple of mornings to get ready because I really felt like I could not make a mistake or no food for me.
I then pulled out the calendar to figure out which day I could start to try and get a reservation. It turned out to be a Saturday.
That Saturday I was up really early cooking for a Baby Shower and the alarm on my Iphone goes off. I see the screen and I rush to the computer. Five minutes before the reservation opens up. No problem.
The site comes up. I log in and I’m ready to go.
The clock is ticking down and I continually hit the enter button.
7 AM hits and the screen refreshes.
The magic question appears. How many? I click two.
The grid appears. I click to the next screen to get the first available date two weeks away,
I see Friday, 12:00 PM – Check Mark.
I click it.
Yes! I don’t get the Sorry Pop Up.
Screen refreshes I start screaming yes this is going to happen.
But wait another clock appears showing 180 seconds and it starts ticking down.
What? All of a sudden I feel like McGruber. You have to be kidding me.
The screen states that I have to enter a credit card number to secure the reservation. If I fail to make the reservation my credit card will be charged $150. I have 24 hours before my reservation to cancel.
Credit card? Where’s my credit card? I start yelling. Of course I can’t find my wallet with my credit cards. Get me a credit card I yell.. I need a credit card. My wife is looking freaked out at me saying what’s your problem. I yell credit card! Where’s your credit card? “In my purse!” she yells. I dive into the purse and luckily I find the magic card.
I rush back to the computer and this only took me 45 seconds.
I quickly and nimbly type in the credit card information like I’m saving the world if I miskey just one digit.
I click submit and the screen refreshes.
The confirmation screen shows and I am informed my credit card has been accepted. An email confirmation is on its way.
I scramble to get my email up and there it is.
Willy Wonka’s magic ticket. The email says print this up and bring it with you.
Print button hit. Print out generated.
Next stop New York City and Momofuku’s Ko.
Now I need to go out and buy the cookbook so I can prepare for the feast.
It’s spring break and the kids are out of school for a whole week. We’d really like to get away and find a place that satisfies all our needs.
The kids would like access to a pool, beach, and some sights.
The parents want a place where they can chill out and taste some good food and wine.
Our usual eating experience on family vacations is ending up at kid friendly places that offer the typical kids meal items: pizza, chicken fingers, and macaroni & cheese.
We’re trying to eat healthy nowadays right? So being someone that loves to cook we looked for a place that has great local ingredients and a hotel that provides a kitchen.
We found the perfect location at the Dolphin Bay Resort in Pismo Beach, California. It’s on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It has access to a great little beach that has tide pools. It has a great infinity pool. And most importantly each room comes with a fully equipped kitchen to cook some great meals. They even have 3 gas grills by the pool. How cool is that?
How many times have you gone on vacation and went strolling through some cool farmers markets specialty gourmet shops that has some great local cheeses and charcuterie? Then you realize that your hotel only offers a small bar fridge in your room that is usually packed with honor bar items like $5.00 candy bars and bags of peanuts. Now you can shop to your hearts content because you have the appropriate place to store and prepare your fresh items.
Since Pismo Beach is located in Central California on the coast we had access to fresh seafood, grass fed beef, excellent wineries, and fresh local produce. Now all we had to do was explore and find some great local ingredients to make some memorable meals as a family.
Cooking on the Road Tip…
Remember you’re not cooking in your own personal kitchen. Take it easy on what to buy and what to cook. At home I have almost every spice and condiment. On the road we needed to limit ourselves to salt, pepper, oregano, basil, olive oil, and vinegar. You can easily break the bank by buying spices and condiments. Plus if you’re cooking with really fresh ingredients you should be good shape with just salt and pepper.
So here is what I bought and cooked for the week:
The first night I found a great gourmet shop called De Palo & Sons Provisions that has wonderful imported Italian Pasta. So I made a basic tomato sauce with crushed plum tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, salt & black pepper. Boiled up some pasta al dente. Added the pasta to the sauce for a couple of more minutes to allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce and served it with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. On the side I made a salad of fresh lettuces, tomatoes, red onion, celery, cucumber and simple vinaigrette.
The second night I found a great pork shoulder, fresh tomatillos, and cilantro. So in an ovenproof stockpot I seared the pork shoulder on all sides and removed it to a plate to rest. Sauteed some onions and garlic. Added the tomatillos and placed the seared pork shoulder on top. Added some chicken broth and brought everything to a boil. I then placed it in a 350-degree oven to braise for 3 hours. I served it with some simple Yukon gold roasted potatoes.
The third night was Surf and Turf. A little ways up the coast is Avila Beach and they have a quaint little pier that has some great little fresh seafood markets. The important thing to ask is what’s local? Many fish markets are trying to be full service so they will fly in flash frozen seafood from around the world. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s always great to get something freshly caught to add to the memory of a memorable meal. So we went with some giant oysters from Morro Bay and with some great local Swordfish that was freshly filleted. For the turf we went with local Santa Maria Tri Tip.
I seasoned up the swordfish and tri tip with salt, pepper, oregano, lemon juice, and olive oil. Sparked up the grill and started with the tri tip over a medium flame for 45 minutes. Then added the swordfish and oysters for 10 to 12 minutes. When the oysters were done the shells opened up to show the beautiful oyster bathing in its own nectar.
This was a great way to keep the family involved, active, and engaged. Everyone had a role in preparing and serving the meal.
So for your next trip consider staying at a place with a kitchen and sourcing local ingredients. You’ll be surprised but you’ll be talking about vacation meals for years.
Great article in the New York times: