Test Kitchen: TiGeorges

Haitian Rum Punch

I’ve said I knew who I was before but occasionally I think about the past. Right now I’m re-reading On Gold Mountain by Lisa See. I just finished her book, Shanghai Girls. Both books are set in LA’s Chinatown. The other day at dinner, someone asked me where I was from. Naturally I said I was born here. “What part?” Chinatown. “Oh, so your parents are immigrants.”

It’s kind of funny to think of them that way but yes, they were. But not just them. My great-grandfather, my grandparents and then my parents and their siblings. And according to my grandmother long ago, my great-great-grandfather as well. But where he ended up, I’m not sure. My grandmother always said my family were adventurers.

I do know that my great-grandfather and his brother started a Chinese bakery in Haiti. Then things get a bit fuzzy. I know my great-grandfather has married a woman right before he left China. He told her to adopt a baby and he claimed him (my grandfather) as his own. As far as I know, he never went back to China and met my grandfather when he was an adult coming to Los Angeles in 1949.

My great-grandfather “married” a Haitian woman. They had five children who later immigrated to New York. I would love to get to know this branch of my family. They apparently sent lots of pictures and letters to China but who received them? My grandmother took her two kids and my grandfather’s son from a previous marriage out of China when my dad was 7. They left before the commies took over was always the story I’ve heard.

I wouldn’t even know how to begin to construct my family’s history without any real dates, names or living family members who could tell me. On my grandfather’s tombstone are the Chinese characters for his home village. I can’t read Chinese (I was a Chinese school drop out) but one day I thought I would make a rubbing of it and have someone try to help me find this lost paternal family and particularly my Haitian family.

Until then, most people find themselves through food. And with Chef Georges Laguerre cooking at Test Kitchen for a couple of nights, I experienced what my great-grandfather ate so very long ago.

acra and pikliz

Acra is the national dish of Haiti. It’s grated taro with herring, green onion, bell pepper, onion, garlic, black pepper and parsley. It was very light and fluffy. It was served with pikliz, the cabbage and carrot slaw was flavored with habenero chile, salt, key lime juice and vinegar.

conch and deep fried green plantains

I was most looking forward to the conch this evening. Our menu said we were getting a six-course tasting but as it turned out four items were served in twos. When I saw the conch, I was trying to make sense of it. I thought it was the pikliz at first but what I was eating was very obviously meat. Eventually my brain (with the help of a server) made the connection. The conch was meaty, salty and not unlike the texture of braised pig’s ear. Not like seafood which is what I expected.

goat stew

I’m not entirely unfamiliar with food from the Caribbean. I have had Cuban and Jamaican food. And most recently food from the Island truck. I have to say, I liked the Island truck just a bit more for their goat stew and rice (TiGeorges’ rice isn’t shown).

mai tai

I really enjoyed the drinks at TiGeorges’ Test Kitchen. The mai tai was spot on. The rum punch and Chet Baker were probably my two favorites. There was also the Imperial Fiz that was on the lighter side for easy Island drinkin’.

sweet plantains

We ended with sweet plaintains.

My other Test Kitchen experiences:

Red Medicine

Ricardo Zarate’s Cebiche Night

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Los Angeles, CA 90035

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