Bahn Chung Collective

Last Saturday, for me, the food scene in Los Angeles was a group of people, sitting around tables, learning a new skill and living in diversity.

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous. It was a crowd I’m not a part of; people I share an interest with, but aren’t part of my social circle. Not even my social media circle.

Food has a way of opening its arms wide and gathering anyone with interest. The women who put this event together; especially Diep Tran, formerly of Good Girl Dinette, were gracious and welcoming and incredibly hospitable. Every element of the day was cloched in grace.

We gathered in groups of 8 around shaded picnic tables laden with prepared supplies.

I had been watching, on instagram, the daily task of preparing the elements for this event. All the ingredients were grown and raised locally, by friends of Diep; then prepped and soaked and cooked in the overnight hours of a hibernating commercial kitchen.

After a brief tutorial by Diep, we busied ourselves with the task of making 4 each. One of our table-mates discovered a great hack for “the flip”, another made perfect packages with tiny little bows. Everyone was working together, sharing tips, tricks, and supplies.

I was a disaster. My space looked as if a toddler had discovered a spoon for the first time. I learned that the foundation was most important. My tip: don’t try and cobble together leftover pieces of banana leaf for your casing; use the good leaves. People say sports are a metaphor for life; I would make the argument that banh chung can also fit the bill.

In the end, I had two really nice packets, one mezzo-mezzo, and one unmitigated failure. Imagine my relief when we were given a bag for each of us to keep our own separated. I had been concerned that someone, after working hard all morning, would be stuck with my handiwork at the end of the day.

The day was a bit longer than I had anticipated, but time did pass rather quickly. Our little group of 6 (we had been whittled down from 8 (a strip of sun was baking two of our tablemates), took the opportunity to share our stories. We exchanged insta handles, email addresses and best places to….We left with promises of visits and meetups and words of encouragement.

I also left with 2 perfect, 1 mezzo-mezzo and one blown-out and flattened pancake of a parcel. They came out of the pressure cooker, just as they went in; talk about a metaphor for life.

If you would like to learn how to prepare these, there are quite a few videos on youtube. While not the method we used, THIS one will whet your appetite.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that a writer and photographer from the New York Times were in attendance. The story should appear in Wednesday January 30th’s paper.

Pisa-Lucca in April–day two

Saturday in florence is like Saturday in any city. Locals pouring into town to do their weekend shopping and tourists milling about in large groups, staring upwards. Just an all around crowded situation. Which is why we got out of town. Pisa and Lucca the destination. Turns out, it wasn’t such a bad idea. The weather had turned runny just as we took our seats on the excursion bus. Rain began pouring down. I never think i am a fan of the organized tourist train/bus/walk, but i nearly always give them a try. I am hardly disappointed; except when it includes food. Which is a big bad bust, most of the time. Those i avoid, because as you know, I am all about the food. Speaking of which. We had steak and eggs for breakfast.There are no photos, because i forgot. By the time i remembered it didn’t look so appetizing. Just trust me; leftover bistecca fiorentina with a couple of fried eggs and hunk of bread, is money.
In Pisa we did a tour of the church, which is beautiful but dark. Too dark to take photos. Because in churches, you can’t wear a hat and you can’t use a flash. The real draw in Pisa is the tower. A leaning tower.I love all the great photos that people fashion; holding the tower up, grimacing under the supposed weight. They never cease to humor me.However, I rarely see this maneuver.
Someone kicking the darn thing over.It is funny, right? That is my husband. He enjoys a good laugh as much as I. We hooted over this one for hours.
Time for lunch. In a tourist town, where restaurants actually name themselves restaurant tourista, getting a good meal is a bit dubious. We found one just outside the main tourist area called Trattoria Bruno.
Mike’s penne pasta with rabbit and boar was outstanding.
rabbit pasta
My handmade pasta with porcini mushrooms was also delicious. The pasta so thin, you could almost see through it.
From Pisa we got back on the bus and headed to Lucca; a medieval city that is usually quite lovely.However, on a rainy Saturday with many of the venues closed for the afternoon,
there was little to see. After getting a bit drenched in the rain we stopped for a hot chocolate. In this part of Italy, hot chocolate is more like warm chocolate pudding, than chocolate water. You decide if it sounds better or not.
e poi
which means and then not the poi you eat in Hawaii, which is not Italian by any means. Despite having the same name
We visited a winery just outside of Lucca, where it turns out, they make the house wine for one of my favorite places in New York City. Sant. Ambroeus. When i was getting married
my dress came from vera wang. Before my first appointment and subsequently all my fittings, I would have coffee and a little something at sant ambroeus. So when the proprietor of this winery in Lucca off-handedly mentioned the restaurant I perked up with “on madison avenue!?!” Sje and i had a bonding moment. It is her brother’s place and all the “house wine” comes from here.
It is pretty good. A tasty drinkable wine. I was set to buy quite a bit, but then my new friend the owner gave me the name of their american distributor, so i wouldn’t have to pay for shipping. Which now means, i’ll probably buy a whole case.
After the wine and the food and the travel by bus, we were pretty wiped out and without plans for dinner. We grabbed a quick porchetta sandwich and called it a night. Actually,a night and half a day,since jet lag reared its ugly head. We slept about 12 hours. Waking up just in time to search out lunch….