January 28, 2008

Pure Ingredients Cafe [Google MV]

I’ve always been good at finding healthy diversions from the workday and most recently, found myself garbed in a chef’s coat and toque at the Pure Ingredients Café, where I spent a morning as a culinary intern.

Each of the Google Cafes has its own rhyme and reason for existing. There’s Oasis with its dim sum, No Name with the healthy grilled meats and salads, American Table for its comfort food, and a number of other cafes to cater to your mealtime fancies. What drew me to the PIC in particular was its philosophy towards unadulterated, all natural, and all whole foods—no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, with everything from condiments to sodas are prepared in-house.

Over the course of four hours, I rolled sushi, battered and fried chicken, whipped up spicy hot chocolate cookies, gutted and butchered a number of chicken carcasses, and solicited hungry Googlers to try the yummy fish tacos. It reminded me a lot of my internship at the Hilton years ago, except that learning and having fun were the top priorities and providing manual labor, moreso an afterthought.

As an honorary Google chef, I learned that:

  • The tiny refrigerators necessitate daily deliveries of foodstuffs—ensuring freshness of the day’s bounty
  • We support local producers with corporate dollars that enable them to stay competitive against the WalMarts of the world
  • Making golf-ball sized balls of rice require me to overcompensate because in my world of proportion, everything should be smaller/shorter/lesser than what it actually is
  • Watching the mixer whip cookie batter into “ribbons” is strangely hypnotic and cathartic
  • Taking a cleaver to the drumsticks/wings is a great way to take out your aggression
  • Not to let all those smells of the kitchen make you overzealous enough to want to eat chicken straight out of the fryer. Resist the temptation!
  • To tap shoulders with a “behind,” to turn corners with an audible “corner,” and to give a “halfway” warning when fish tacos kept going like hotcakes

And most importantly, I learned that Mike tattoos on the side, Luis’’ favorite cuisine is Italian (in particular, chicken parmesan), that Jef had never been to Oliveto’s Whole Hog Dinner, and that Scott was actually one of the easier chefs to work for (for some reason I had envisioned a chaos of epic proportions a la Gordon Ramsay).

While my hands-on education in the kitchen will certainly serve me well in the year to come, I really walked away with an appreciation for the people who work behind the scenes. The smells of the kitchen snaking its way to your desk, the drumstick that was ungracefully ripped into shreds (my apologies for the defect), that involuntary mmms of approval–these and all the other unspoken currencies in my daily exchanges with the Google Cafes, finally materialized into something tangible. There is something to be said for the casseroles, ramekins, and stockpots of passion incarnate that you’ll sample on the server line, but there is nothing like seeing that passion at work.

My thanks to the kitchen staff at the PIC for being so hospitable to us fumbling interns, for being eager to share, and for reminding me to keep looking for that reason to get up in the morning (and to turn that reason into a living that'll make me a killing!).

January 2, 2008

Sushi Ran [Sausalito]

A photo montage of my most recent meal at Sushi Ran--a fabulous way to kick off 2008.

Cooked Food Selection

Nori-wrapped Ahi ($14), Grilled Calamari Tentacles ($4.5), and Shitake Mushrooms ($7.5). In general, mushroom dishes tend to be stellar at Japanese restaurants--Sushi Ran is no exception.

Raw Selection

Omakase Nigiri ($28 for seven pieces) and Omakase Sashimi ($29 for 10 pieces). Order either the Omakase Nigiri or Sashimi, but not both, since there are repeats across the selections.


Chocolate Bombe with Hazelnut Creme Anglaise and Bananas Foster. I've exhausted the dessert list at Sushi Ran and can vouch for the Trio of Custards in addition to the two shown above.

Sushi Ran
107 Caledonia Street
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 332-3620