I use the term “man crush” with a certain degree of severity.
It’s a distinction left for the Anthony Bourdains, the Apolo Anton Ohnos, the Marcus Mariotas, and the Dave Francos of the world. It’s for the men who shattered barriers and punched adversity in the mouth.
It’s for those soul-patched national treasures who stood up to a South Korean short-track speed-skating powerhouse and out-leaned Ahn Hyun-Soo to take the highly contested 500m Olympic gold medal. Man crushes are for heroes.
I have a man crush on Michael Voltaggio. Even the cringe-worthy cameo on ABC Family’s Young & Hungry can’t detract from the Top Chef-winning, Ink.-owning, edgily good-looking wunderchef’s culinary badassness.
His greatest, and possibly most overlooked, move was opening up Ink.Sack—a modest sandwich counter adjacent to his restaurant. Ink.Sack is where 99-percenters who can’t afford an $85 tasting menu still get to have the Voltaggio experience—well, an abbreviated experience at best.
Ink.Sack serves ramped-up sandwiches with high-quality ingredients—cold fried chicken with house-made ranch cheese, banh mi with chicharrones—but if you ate blindfolded, you wouldn’t be able to tell Voltaggio from Panera. That’s a gross overstatement, and I’m disgusted with myself for writing it, but I’ll defend it to the death.
There has to be a better delivery system for Inked-out cuisine to get in your mouth, and I think the solution could be (patent pending) Ink.Wrap–a good backup plan I’m proposing for Voltaggio if working for new Top Chef champion Mei Lin doesn’t go smoothly. Imagine a take-away burrito stand that served up Voltaggio’s award-winning dishes from Ink., wrapped in foil and mashed into a 22-inch flour tortilla. With no seating and a high turnover rate, its overhead would be so low you could get your gastronomic burrito fix for $12 (that number is based on nothing).
My first prototype burrito is based off a dish at Ink.: wild salmon, tomato jam, dashi aioli, yucca. Mine isn’t as visually appealing as Voltaggio’s creation—I didn’t make use of negative space in the tortilla like he would have—but the flavors were damn solid.
I started off by making some dashi from Alton Brown’s recipe. If you can’t trust Alton Brown, who can you trust in the world, am I right? Plus, it gave me an excuse to eat ramen at Santouka when I went to grab bonito flakes from Mitsuwa. Reduce your dashi until it’s super intense, then splash it into a typical egg-and-olive oil aioli.
I didn’t overthink the tomato jam: Blanched, peeled, and diced a few hot-house tomatoes, sauteed them in butter, then reduced with rice vinegar, fresh ginger, and white sugar.
Then I took a salmon filet, seasoned it with salt and pepper, threw it on a searing hot pan—flesh side down first—and cooked it to an imperfect medium-ish.
I cut the yucca into shoestrings and soaked those in salt water to draw out some starch. After letting them dry out on a paper towel, I fried them until crispy and showered them in salt.
I wrapped everything in a tortilla, then came to the sad realization that this is just a deranged California burrito that bears no resemblance to anything passable as refined food. But, hey, like my seventh-grade basketball coach always said, “Life is a string of constant disappointments and then you die.”