Dear Mr. Gold:
I know you have had a lot of wonderfully great meals. But when you don't get a memorable meal, what condiment(s) do you reach for first to spruce it up a bit, besides the old S&P, of course?
–OhmarGo, via Facebook
Dear Mr. Go:
Why omit salt and pepper? A great pepper, like the excellent tellicherry you can buy at Spice Station in Silver Lake, can make almost everything taste better. And while I'm not a salt geek — I still don't see the point of pink Himalayan rocks grated at table — I love the delicate crunch of a few flakes of Maldon sprinkled on grilled asparagus or even a scoop of gelato, and a pinch or two of Dario Cecchini's powdery, weirdly expensive herbed salt called Profumo di Chianti — you can get it at Cube, on La Brea — seems to amplify the flavors of roast meats.
I am a profound believer in the fresh Indonesian-style chile sauce called Sambal Oelek that you can find in any Asian market — Huy Fong is a decent brand — and I have recently become addicted to the spicy, numbing yuzu kosho, Japanese green chile paste spiked with the zest of Japanese citrus, which you can buy in little jars at any of the Shin Sen Gumi noodleshops or robata-ya. On every visit to Zankou, I try to cadge a few extra containers of the garlic paste, which is crude but extremely effective.