Friday, May 6, 2011

Tell the Government -- Don't Cut SNAP Benefits!

I recently wrote a post on hunger awareness and the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, i.e. food stamps) program. Now the federal government is considering deep budget cuts to these, putting thousands of children (and adults) at risk for poor nutrition. The local Fox news affiliate, KTBC, ran a story yesterday on the proposed cuts.

Please contact your state senators and tell them NOT to cut the budget. Click on each of their names, and it will take you to their website. Here's a sample (or, just cut and paste it) letter asking them not to cut SNAP; in Texas, contact Senator John Cornyn and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson

Please do not cut SNAP benefits.
The House Agriculture Committee recently promoted a proposal to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program instead of farm subsidies.

With Texas having the second highest rate of children in serious danger of hunger, this is not the time to make it more difficult for struggling families to feed their kids. Cutting SNAP will have only have a marginal impact on the deficit, yet send millions back into poverty, further delaying the economic recovery.

I believe that no child in America should go hungry, and I urge you to continue funding SNAP at its current levels and do all you can to protect programs that fight childhood poverty and hunger in the budget proposals for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011.


Yes, I wrote about Uchiko last September, but this is certainly a place that warrants more raves! Tuesday, late afternoon, one of my best girlfriends texted me and asked if I was free for dinner that night. Yes, I was free after 7pm. She was feeling fishy and fancy, how did I feel about either Uchi or Uchiko. I said I felt great about either one. She looked online for a reservation, and Uchiko could take us at 8pm. We both got there about 7:30, hung at the bar for a few, and the hostess seated us at the sushi bar. We were introduced to our sushi chef, Angela, who told us just to call out whenever we were ready to order. 

We studied the menu (and started with a very drinkable bottle of the Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling,) debating over personal favorites and the new, daily selections; picking five items to at least start with, we told Angela what we wanted. We got through the list, and she shook her head, and suggested we should do the omakase menu (chef's choice tasting menu) for the evening, because three of our five were on there. We easily agreed, and figured we could still add on some items as needed.

Our waitress started us off with the amuse bouche of the evening: sweet potato chips on what I believe was a pumpkin (or squash?) puree, that was silky smooth, but not strong in flavor.
Golden beets with Icelandic yogurt, honey and  greens was next; the beets came both roasted and in chip form.
Next the Uchi salad (not part of the omakase) -- baby romaine leaves served upright; it's a fun little thing to eat with your fingers! Followed by the hama chili -- yellowtail sashimi, thai chile peppers, and orange segments. The combo of all components together is amazing. The yellowtail is so mild and smooth, it will make a believer out of those who don't care that much for raw fish, namely, me. Though after also having yellowtail at The Slanted Door in San Francisco, I am now diggin' it!
Then there was yokai berry -- Atlantic salmon with dinosaur kale chips, Asian pear, yuzu, and candied quinoa. Loved the crunch and light sweetness the quinoa provided; I must figure out how to make it!
Needing a little extra protein (!), we asked for the tiger cry roll -- wagyu beef with yuzu koshu (citrus wine), with toasted rice. The beef gets a great grilled flavor, but is still medium rare, and it's a wonderful combo of texture and flavor. 
We added the tempura nasu, or Japanese eggplant, which has no typical eggplant bitterness or sliminess. Rather delightful little rounds, battered and fried, with sweet chile dipping sauce.
The ninjin bacon was up next; this was the dish I was anxiously awaiting. The pork belly I had previously at Uchiko is some of the best I have ever had. This one was prepared differently, but equally as fine. The pork is grilled, sliced and served with roast baby carrots and "pecan dirt"; the pork is so perfectly cooked, and not overly fatty. It has a great taste -- somewhat bacon-y, some just succulent goodness, the streaky meat that's seared getting a bit crispy, and the layers of fat melting with flavor. If you like pork belly, do not pass up whatever version they are serving.
Finally, the omakase dessert, sweet corn milk ice cream with polenta and corn crispies. I have to admit, I just didn't get this one, neither of us did. I didn't get enough sweetness or corniness in the ice cream, and the molded block of polenta had the texture of undercooked dough; there were dots of a gelee around the plate, which were lemony, but too astringent in a household cleaner sort of way. Angela asked what we thought of it, and I said honestly, it wasn't my favorite, but everything else was truly fantastic.
She offered to get us the ginger ice cream dessert of the day, and we declined, but when she offered to make us a half-portion, how could we say no? She described it as like an Arnold Palmer -- the half ice tea, half lemonade drink. This was a ginger sorbet, with an ice tea mousse, with a lemon ribbon, presumably made with agar agar, a gelatin made from seaweed. This was much more to our liking, though the texture of the mousse was a bit different.
Sitting at the sushi bar is a lot of fun, even if you are in semi-close contact with your neighbors, and you hear them asking questions to the sushi chef like "what's the nutritional content of the uni (sea urchin)?"  Really?? Anyway, the bar gives you a great view of the orderly chaos (only because there were so many bodies moving through there) that is the main kitchen, and of course a front row seat in watching the sushi chefs do their thing. I have to commend Angela, because apart from being the only female on the line, she was chatty, efficient, and appeared to be multitasking really well.

Uchiko is probably not a destination for those who aren't willing to be a bit adventurous in their eating habits. Great, more for the rest of us! But if you can appreciate some creativity in both ingredient combination and presentation, save your pennies, make a reservation, and head on over for a meal you won't forget for a long time.