A Preview: Cook Out NYC and Kimchipalooza

Today, Alex and I got to shmooze with a bunch of fellow food writers at a preview party for next weekend's Cook Out NYC.  Who would have thought we'd be hanging out at a dark basement bar/restaurant on a weeknight?  The event was a lot of fun and I am pumped for Cook Out NYC!!  Boy, do we have a treat in store for you, dear readers of Veritasty!

The evening began with people trying to ply us with alcohol: fancy Belgian beers and the like.  I'm not so much a beer person (and I didn't want to start glowing) but Alex had a strong, smoky-flavored ale that he enjoyed very much.  To me...it tasted like bitter liquid bread (which is what beer is, I suppose!). Not my cup of tea.  To accompany the free-flowing booze, we had little noshes like a meatball slider and a chorizo hot dog.  The meatball was very successful and delicious.  It was just like a hamburger patty, just chubbier and ball-shaped.  It was impressively juicy and topped with a bunch of sweet caramelized onion.  The chorizo was served like a hotdog and topped with a slaw that made the whole thing seem like bahn mi.  It was tasty, but the chorizo was very overpowering with spice and meatiness...which, isn't a bad thing.

The other part of the evening was dedicated to a unique cooking demonstration from the creator of Mama O’s Kimchi, Kheedim Oh.  A bunch of us were gathered in a back room at Jimmy’s (side note: I could imagine renting out this room for an intimate dinner party or something, it was a really chill ambiance…gears were really turning in my head…) in front of a table laden with cardboard boxes of cabbage, canisters of salt and sugar, and big ol’ metal pots.  I was kind of undecided about this demo: sure, I’ll sit through it, but will this information ever be useful to me?  I will admit freely that I was not really a fan of kimchi…UNTIL NOW!  Thank you, Mama Oh!

Kheedim walked us through the kimchi making process, simplified enough for the non-Korean home cook in need of some pungent, spicy pickled veggies.  My summary goes a little like this (Korean folks, correct me if I’m mistaken).

First, quarter the heads of cabbage and soak overnight in salt water with the approximate salinity of seawater.  Then, after the soak, take out the limp and soggy cabbage quarters and chop into bite-size pieces.  Next, the spicy mix: puree lots of garlic, extract the juice from lots of ginger, freshly squeeze a few limes for a unique twist on the original (added brightness to counteract the funkiness of the rest of the ingredients), salt and sugar to taste.  Into the spice mix goes a crapload of hot chili powder (Kheedim vaguely poured in this scarlet powder from an unidentified plastic bag) and mix until it forms a paste.  Add chopped scallion/green onion and cilantro.  Finally, incorporate the spicy paste with the chopped cabbage, et voila, you have kimchi!


This was my first live cooking demo and it was really interesting and fun.  When he opened a tub of brined cabbage, I felt the wave of the day-old soaking-in-salt-water cabbage stink waft through the room; we all crinkled our noses and made faces at the smell.  Then, when he chopped the ginger, I felt instantly transported back to my own kitchen to an earlier time, when I was younger and did my homework on the kitchen table while my grandma prepared dinner every night.  She would mince ginger to cook with steamed fish to get rid of the fishy (saang) taste.  To this day, I’m still not a fan of ginger, but the smell was definitely intoxicating.  Incidentally, I took part in this cooking demo: Kheedim picked me from the small audience to help him squeeze lime juice (good thing I’ve been going to the gym; those were some very-thoroughly squeezed limes!).  Alex and I both started tearing up after the green onions were thrown into the mix: our eyes started stinging since we were sitting up front.  When the spice mix was coming together, I was reminded of my friend's house and the many annual sleepovers we've had there and the endless memories and company of good friends.  Wow.

And then it came time for tasting!  I was afraid because we were warned that the spice mix had ghost pepper (a big "OOOOOH" from the crowd of foodies), the hottest pepper in the world (a big "OOOOOH" from the readers of Veritasty). My piece of kimchi was crunchy and tangy with a warm spice afterwards.  I didn't eat any more then, but when I got home, I snuck a few more pieces before bedtime.  Finally, I understood what Kheedim was talking about when he said he had kimchi cravings.

The preview was fun...but now I'm pumped for the real thing next weekend!!

Special thanks to Jimmy's No. 43 and Vanberg and Dewulf.