Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Challenge: Goodbye, Meat!

I've always said I could be vegetarian if I wanted to. I normally don't cook with any meat (out of pure laziness and frugality), and I enjoy a lot of vegetarian food. While I wouldn't choose to be vegetarian forever, I thought I would try it out for a month.

January 2010 seemed like a good trial: no more holidays so I could control what I eat, the start of a new year always carries with it some increased motivation, and I just watched Food Inc a few weeks ago and have been slightly paranoid about meat. While the documentary didn't stop me from eating at ghetto Chinese restaurants during Christmas weekend, I did manage to resist ordering a burger at In n Out (only ate animal fries... a first!).

I think I'll be able to last, and my little sister even offered a big bag of lentils as my prize, since they will surely be a main source of protein now. Any other wagers?? Let's just hope I last more than a week =P I originally wanted steak or a burger as my last meal, but since San Tung is slated for NYE dinner, I will just have to see that nice juicy beef on Feb 1.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cynthia + Elvin

Photo courtesy of Kevin Wang

Cynthia is one of my best friends, so it was definitely a busy fall/winter organizing wedding events and putting together a candy table, let alone normal bridesmaid duties! It was a special day though, and it was a relief that everything came together so well in the end.

I made a few things - the usual truffles, fleur de sel caramels, truffle lollipops, marshmallow lollipops, custom pocky sticks, cookies... you would think a candy table wouldn't cost much compared to a dessert table, but if I had actually bought those things, especially when those caramels will go for $1/piece... man. I would be broke.

The sheet hanging in the back is covering a gigantic TV.

Photos below courtesy of Mike =)

After the jump are a few more photos... they're from Luna Photo, the official photogs for the day. Very bad quality because I don't have the actual files, but I just wanted to share because they captured some great shots that I wasn't able to get from anyone else's camera! They're a super friendly team, and they definitely captured some beautiful photos of Cyn (and Elvin I guess).


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Real Real Korean Tacos and Some Snake


The last time I was in LA it was only for 24 hrs and Kogi was closed. The last time before that, I was in the OC for a wedding and couldn't leave. The last time before that, Kogi did not exist. Well, it's about bloody time! With my luck, the truck wasn't even operating because of Thanksgiving, but at least the douchey Alibi Room was open.

Tacos and quesadillas: the only pictures I took because Curtis started pretending he didn't know me

And yes, it does live up to the hype. The tacos were really good and nicely topped with some kind of sesame slaw. The quesadillas also won me over - the black jack quesadilla wasn't much of a stretch, but the kimchi one definitely proved that cheese and kimchi can, in fact, go together well. I would've tried more (sliders, burrito), but I was trying to save my stomach for...

Wurstkuche, downtown LA's answer to the sausage beer garden. With "exotic" options like rattlesnake/rabbit (really tough) and alligator/pork, the real draw is the warehouse-like atmosphere with rows and rows of communal tables lined with brown paper. Fun place despite the Lykke Li remixes and drunken 21-yr-olds.

I've never been a lover of LA, but there's plenty more to come after Christmas...!



My mom's birthday is only a week before mine, so our family always celebrates them together at a nice restaurant the weekend after Thanksgiving. Being in LA, Providence was the logical choice: aside from the chef's recent appearance on Top Chef Masters, this new American seafood restaurant was just awarded 2 well-deserved Michelin stars. Plus, my sister had been twice and saw Hiro once... who doesn't love celebrity sightings??

We were lucky enough to snag the chef's table - a private booth looking into the kitchen. It was really great being able to peek in, even if it was just the plating side... and the lighting from the kitchen was great for photos =) It reminded me of Le Bernardin - very clean and focused, which definitely showed in their food. We got the full tasting menu of 9 courses, and I must say that it was definitely one of the best meals I've had in a long time! I was really impressed from the start - knowledgeable and warm service, and delicious bacon brioche and nori focaccia. Mmm even the bread was memorable!

Amuse: "gin+tonic" -- frozen gin gelee with the squeeze of a lime, "mojito" spherification, carrot soup in a mini stein (random)
First course: kampachi, rice crackers, creme fraiche, coriander flowers (delicious)

Sea urchin with egg yolk, brioche croutons ("deliciousness in an egg shell"); hokkaido scallop w/ chanterelles and bacon in a butter sauce

Striped bass w/ burdock and wine butter sauce; salmon w/ shaved truffles, wilted spinach, buckwheat (every component was delicious, and my mom and I agreed that this was the best cooked salmon we've ever had!)

Veal (I believe it was cooked sous vide at 140 for 2 hrs) w/ sweet onion puree, hazelnuts, other stuff (delicious); palate cleanser - cucumber sorbet w/ juniper berry yogurt (the yogurt had a really surprising tart pop, a perfect pairing to the cool sorbet)

Of all things, I forgot to photograph the dessert, a mexican chocolate "bread pudding," with an avocado banana puree, corn tortilla ice cream, and tortilla streusel. While the bread pudding didn't actually use bread (devil's sweet cake, according to our waiter), it was definitely a concept I've been meaning to try -- custardy cake, who wouldn't? The puree had a bit too much banana, but the ice cream and streusel were really impressive and added so much cohesion... delicious cohesion!

I obviously really enjoyed my meal here, as evident by the number of times I used the word "delicious." My only real complaint is that almost all the sauces were butter-based, and it would've been nice to see a bit more variety. However, that is the most nitpicky of complaints I can think of which just goes to show how great everything was. =)



November is always insanely busy, even before Thanksgiving. This year... bachelorette in Napa, 24 hrs in LA, Mike's birthday + his family visit, lots of potlucks, Mom's birthday, my birthday!

Dinner at Redd: not as amazing as I thought it would be, but it was a solid meal

San Tung and Zuni - SF classics

Dishdash lamb marinated in yogurt... amazing and much tastier than 53rd+6th halal cart; Citizen Cake pudding pop... chocolate overpowers all other flavors
Other things...
Savory bread pudding
Zankou chicken
Soup galore: butternut, split pea w/ ham, lentils + chard


Monday, November 09, 2009

You're A Wolf

Alice and I finally tried MSF's latest venture - lunchtime burgers served out of a corner in Duc Loi supermarket. After walking past the beautiful swan squash, Kern's horchata, and bottles of Mad Housewife, we patiently awaited our fried chicken sandwich and beef burger.

Now friends, this is no Bakesale Betty fried chicken. It's difficult to tell from the photo (greasy hands) but it ended up being exactly like the fried taro balls you can find at most dim sum restaurants. Kind of furry and full of oil, this sandwich was overwhelmed by the friedness and we could barely taste the chicken. We both regretted eating our entire halves after the meat sweats began.

However, Mission Burger was more than redeemed by its true star, the burger. Different cuts of meat from Harris Ranch were ground into a very coarse and perfectly molded patty. I don't think I've ever had a burger with such a coarse grain, but perhaps it's to maintain the integrity of the meat (who knows, it's SF).* The caramelized onions had a good amount of char on them which gave a lot of flavor, but almost overpowered the meat. As a whole however, the burger was delicious and I wish I had gotten only that.

We capped off the meal with a cookies n cream cookie from Anthony's Cookies. $1 is a bit steep for a small cookie, but hey there are bills to pay.

* Their explanation: "granulation is our term for the process popularized by Heston Blumenthal, a michelin 3-star chef based in London. Blumenthal combines strands of ground meat to create a loosely grained 'meat column' (not Blumenthal's phrase), then slices the column into patties. The result is, well, a delicacy."


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tea Party

Right when I came back from NYC I had to prep for a bridal shower that I was throwing. Unlike most wedding-related events, I spent most of my time on the decorations/favors/everything else and not so much on the food. However, I did manage to knock out a few things the night before. It was a tea party brunchy lunch, so aside from your standard tea sandwiches and deviled eggs...

- cheddar dill scones (barefoot contessa's recipes are perfect shower food)
- olive oil rosemary cake
- mushroom, leek, and gorgonzola quiche
- green tea cupcakes w/ cream cheese frosting
- earl gray tea cupcakes w/ orange blossom buttercream

Most of these are not firsts, but quite fitting for bridal shower fare. The favors were jars of swedish fish (the bride loves her gummies). After the jump are many photos of flowers because I was just so proud that my lack of flower arranging abilities produced such satisfactory results. =)

Photo of favor jars by Jennifer Chen

Photos courtesy of Teresa Wang unless otherwise noted


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Good Girls Gone Bad

New Yooooooork. I need to go here less often! Let's start with the best:

: This Robert DeNiro co-owned Italian restaurant in Tribeca has been getting a lot of hype lately, and luckily for part of my trip I was staying within walking distance so the cold rain wasn't a huge deterrance. Almost everything we had was delicious, and even with such recent raves it was actually very chill and down to earth.

Popular sheep's milk ricotta; super juicy shredded porchetta > Roli Roti

Pastries were a bit on the dry side, so they would've gone well with coffee (olive oil coffee cake, fig-almond muffin, huckleberry pistachio cake); Grandmother's ravioli which had an off/gamey flavor, and pumpkin sage brown butter agnolotti which was perfect; yummy lamb meatball sliders

SETAGAYA: East Village ramen joint that I really only went to because it was just down the street from where I was staying for the other half of my trip and because it was super cold and I wanted hot noodle soup! The broth was very oily, and my pieces of pork were almost all fat. Not going back.

: There's a choice of "Small, $8" or "Regular, $14." What they don't tell you is that their "small," is really half of a regular, where the regular is the size of a gray's papaya hot dog. Nice blend of herbs on top, nice chunks of lobster, buttery roll, but you can find lobster rolls in the bay area for triple the size at the same price and quality.


: During part of my trip I took a little stroll through Hell's Kitchen and picked up a loaf of bread, a mascarpone/dried fruit pastry similar to a danish, and a slice of potato pizza. The style was very Californian, but Cheeseboard > Pizzetta 211 > Sullivan for pizza, sorry.

: They have a very popular falafel, and it was tasty and loaded with lots of toppings. However, Taim > Mamoun's (value) > Azuri > Oasis in SF

: my friend wanted to go, so I took the chance to try their seasonal rice pudding pie + caramlized apples. Nothing special.

: tasty, great service, deceptively filling

Gray's Papaya for a quick snack

53rd/6th HALAL CART: I had never gotten a chance to go before, but I happened to be in the area and decided to be late to my scheduled dinner =P The things I do for food! Arrived 5 min before their scheduled opening time, and got in line after the 40 ppl already there. Chicken/lamb over rice... good late night food, but nothing to go out of your way for. Comparable to the former Meesha's in Berkeley, which sadly changed ownership =(

Chicken + rice in a Bergdorf bag... gotta roll in style you know

MILK THISTLE: I didn't actually go to the farm of course, but some time ago I had a brief mini obsession with milk and wanted to see how the lauded milk of the east compared to our very own Straus. Verdict? Straus > Clover > Milk Thistle. You just can't beat CA when it comes to fresh flavor! These are really great videos though.

MFK MILK BAR AGAIN: My cousin raved about their English muffin breakfast sandwich, so I woke up relatively early on a Saturday morning to get it. It's all about the melty yolk, but is really an artisanal version with some pea sprouts and some minimal pork bits. Surprisingly light, it was definitely not the I-feel-like-I'm-going-to-die-satisfying like Il Cane Rosso's. The volcano, on the other hand, was mostly potato and not enough cheese. This will really sink in your gut.

Layers of potato gratin wrapped inside baguette dough

CAFETERIA: My friend goes here often since it's close to her office, and as expected it was filled with models, fashionistas, and gays. Bacon mac n cheese, braised short rib tacos with a refreshing touch of butternut squash, and a side of spinach to ease the guilt. Bigger portions than you would think!

ABRACO: NY's coffee will never stand a chance against the west coast, even with BB alum.

RUSS + DAUGHTERS: wanted to get some fish, but was too full of fried chicken that I just got one piece of rugelach, mostly because I wanted to compare it with the version I used to make

Olive cookie from Abraco + rugelach from Russ & Daughters

GRAPE AND GRAIN: chill bar in Alphabet City where the "grape" side is wine-focused, and the "grain" side serves mostly locally brewed and crafted beers.

MFK NOODLE BAR FRIED CHICKEN LUNCH: this elusive reservation was my first meal of the trip, and our party of 4 made a feeble attempt to put a dent in what could really serve 10 people. We got about 2.5 whole chickens, made in two styles: triple fried Korean style, and southern. Korean was definitely better because of the extra crispy and light skin, whereas the southern style was breaded too heavily and each piece kind of looked like a big brown rock. We were also given sauces and things to eat the chicken as ssam. My favorite combo: korean style chicken + shiso leaf + mint + lettuce + jalapeno garlic sauce in a flour wrapper.

Bars are dark; veggies, herbs, and sauces

Definitely needed the wet wipes

CALLE OCHO: This UWS latin restaurant was mostly chosen for its massive size (party of 20 holla) and proximity to where we were coming from. Nothing special, except the "bread" ended up being these rolls that seemed to be made out of rice flour, so they somewhat resembled fried mochi balls. Spread on some black bean dip and you have something surprisingly awesome.

PDT: "Please Don't Tell" is a speakeasy adjoining Crif Dogs, where the entrance is through a phone booth inside the dumpy hot dog joint. A bit kitschy, but you have to admit that the phone booth is pretty neat. Drinks are your standard mixology type, but the real treat is their "guest chef" dog menu. We tried just about all of them including the hyped Chang dog with kimchi (I think Asia Dog is better), but I really liked the John John Deragon, which essentially tasted like a bagel with cream cheese.

OK, I'm officially Chang'ed out.