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Gastronaut Jones: A Food Blog by Jarrett Hann of Animal Tropical

Categories: Blog Watch, Q&A
jarrett_hann.jpg
Photo by Christina Villamor
Ever since we discovered the food blog Gastronaut Jones, we've been intrigued. Not only do we love the name, the blog chronicles some interesting kitchen experiments. Think pork skin cannoli, pig's tongue confit and more approachable dishes like butternut squash gnocchi. The man behind it all: Jarrett Hann, vocalist and bass player for the local band Animal Tropical. We talked to him about his blog, cooking and Miami's food scene.

Name: Jarrett Hann

Blogging Since: April 2009

Day job: Genius Administrator at the Apple Store and freelance musician.

Hometown: Born in Miami, El Portal. Grew up in North Miami, both West of I-95.

Reason for blogging: Feedback, documented passion, comparison, shared knowledge, community. Showing those who don't already know that food is more than sustenance. It should be treated with the same respect as art or music.

New Times: Who's Gastronaut Jones?

Jarrett Hann: No one. I'm Jarrett. Gastronaut Jones is what I named my blog. It has a fairly nice ring to it. I don't see it as an entity or alter ego. If anything, it's my ego, identity and ideas towards food through text and pictures.

You document some serious kitchen experiments on your blog. What's your culinary background?

I worked at Heelsha for about six months a few years ago, because it was some of the best Indian food I have ever had and wanted to learn how to make it. That's about the extent of my culinary background. By that point I was already documenting my ideas and dishes for my own use. Everything else is home research and tasting whatever I can. Thinking outside the bun.

When do you normally cook?

I try to everyday, whether I'm making lunch for the next day or composing a detailed dish or just trying to empty out my fridge.

What's your favorite dish from your blog?

I suppose the pork belly with watermelon rind kimchee and watermelon with three herbs, mostly because nothing really went to waste and the watermelon rind kimchee is one of my favorite items. It was the first time I had made it. I was very proud of that ingredient specifically and have been making it consistently ever since, trying to improve and expand the flavor and different ways to ferment and preserve it. Olive-brined chicken thigh with favas and white-chocolate potato puree was a close second.

What didn't work so well?

The coffee and potato skin-crusted New York strip with strawberries and bleu cheese panna cotta only due to technical difficulties. I know the flavors are good because I've made it before with bleu cheese mashed potatoes and fresh strawberries with basil. I wanted to elevate it somehow without losing its integrity. The flavors were still good, but I plated the panna cotta too soon and should've cooked the gin before macerating and I completely forgot to plate the confit potato. But I mentioned all of those obstacles in the post; I'm not out to fool anybody, this blog is also about learning and how errors are a gateway to improvement.

What's your favorite music to cook to?

Shuffle on my iPod is usually a fun way to discover great songs or those that I need to delete. However, it's hard to press next with wet hands. Prefab Sprout, Steely Dan, Chico Buarque, Lambchop, Caetano Veloso and Sleepy Jackson just to name a few, as well as filtering through tons of classical music. I also enjoy a podcast here and there.

You have one meal left in Miami. Where would you have it?

A near impossible question to answer but I'd say: a bowl of soto betawi with half salty duck egg and a soda Gembira at Bali Cafe or omakase at NAOE (just because I have yet to do so). Is this question referring to my death, or if I'm oddly exiled from Miami? Cause I might get some morcilla and queso frito from Yambo, a medianoche from La Palma and salt and pepper squid from Tropical to go. And if I'm dead, I'll visit the deceased restaurants of the county that I wish I could still visit. Ay Mama Ines and Heelsha have the ability to transcend me even further.

What dish or ingredient would you like to see less of in Miami restaurants?

I hate glazes. Salmon with teriyaki, pomegranate or mango glaze plopped on a stupid over- refrigerated salad. There's too much faux ethnicity in exoticizing poorly chosen ingredients and upscale for the sake of being over-priced T.G.I. Friday's inspired cuisine. That and mediocre beached "japanese" food -- I prefer to call it douchy.

If money were no object what culinary splurge would you indulge in?

I'd like to find some unlisted underwater island off of Fiji or Christmas Island or somewhere I will be served endangered animals and impossibly foraged produce by burnt chefs with felonies and eyepatches. Since that doesn't exist, a one way ticket to Chicago and a stomach pump will do just fine. A very difficult question. Scandinavia, Hong Kong, Spain, Tokyo, Nigeria, Australia, Italy, Mexico, Canada all deserve their own plane ticket-stomach pump combo deal.

What are your predictions for Miami's food scene in 2011?

Good things. Just within the past six months it has been expanded by some exciting contributions. More places will be open late. More variety in popular areas. Casual Asians are paving the way and running things currently, not actual casual Asians but young American chefs inspired by such cuisine. Miami being at least a speck on the fine dining culinary spectrum. More renowned restauranteurs stomping their way through -- in a positive way -- Daniel Boulud just opened his bistro and I heard murmurs about Jose Andres planning 'round here.

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