Monday, March 31, 2008

Girls Cooking Night: Green

For our last girls cooking night on March 17, we went with a St. Patrick's theme and all made green food.

We started off with green-flecked scallop ceviche in a coconut milk base with avocado, chiles, and cilantro.

My contribution was a pureed asparagus and leek soup with just touch of cream.

Our main dish was a green curry with chicken, eggplant and snowpeas, with crushed basil and peanuts, over thick rice noodles, accompanied by a spinach salad with a bacon raspberry dressing.

We finished the meal with two great green-themed desserts: creme-de-menthe mint chocolate bars, and key lime pie with a delicious pecan graham crust.

Our recent new mom member made a really pretty green pea hummus. Sadly, baby kept her from being able to make it, but she participated by proxy with her shamrock-garnished dish.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Guy Savoy, Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas

Last month, Fougoo, Redneckhunter, and I were lucky enough to have dinner with our family in Las Vegas at Michelin two-star restaurant Guy Savoy inside of Caesar's Palace.
When we arrived at the restaurant, the esteemed chef himself, Guy Savoy greeted us at the entrance.
In the dining room we ate in, they offered the ladies each a small stool they could place their purses on. The wine list came with it's own podium. We had a bottle of 1985 Chateau Lafite Rothschild with dinner- probably the best wine I've ever had.

We knew it was going to be good from the start when we got the bread. Despite it's odd shape, it was amazing- a perfect crust, and delicious.

They started us off with several amuse bouches. The first was like a slider in a stick- a mini grilled beef inside a small toasted bread.

They also gave us a small container with vegetables like parsnips, poured some soup in it and then you pushed some cayenne into the mix for a "shot" of soup.

Afterwards, you could lift up the "cup" and underneath was another small bite on a taro chip.

For our starters, we were able to try a good variety of items, however the main ingredient prominent in all of them were black truffles- wow- so extravagant. I got the black truffle risotto.

We also got to try the black truffle soup- definitely a more stronger flavor of the truffle in this presentation. This came out with a cinnamon brioche.

The scallops were really fresh and sizeable in this other appetizer.

Redneckhunter and I, for our second courses, got the special, and big surprise, more black truffles. The dish was a turbot layered with truffles. It came with some little veggies and foam.

We also split an order of the foie gras which came with chestnuts. Delicious.

For an entree, I got the venison special.

My dad got the beef rib dish which was topped a piece of marrow.

Fougoo got the sweetbreads with guess what, black truffles.

For dessert, I wanted to have something light, so I got the citrus plate, with tea used to steam the items on the plate.

This was the very unique grapefruit terrine.
All in all, this was a pretty unique meal experience for us. Chef Savoy allowed us to even stop into the kitchen to see the staff at work.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Giant Mandoo, Insadong, Seoul

Our friend GH took us out again in the traditional Insadong neighborhood to this famous mandoo (dumpling) place. I wish this picture actually portrayed the size of these mandoo - like I had a Swiss Army Knife held up to them for scale. Each mandoo above was about 4 inches in length and 2 inches wide!

We had our mandoo in a big hotpot that cooked on a burner on our table - here it is in still-raw state -- raw beef, raw egg, enoki and other mushrooms, cabbage. While the stew cooked, we had cold noodles, bulgogi, and panchan.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Western Food in Korea Part Four: Brunch

A recent NY Times article wrote about how brunch is the hot thing in Korea, as result of the mandatory 5-day work week (down from 6) and the perception of brunch's sophistication brought on by such popular shows as Sex in the City.

Our motivation, however, for going to brunch in Korea was because redneckhunter's brother, having been stationed at Kunsan Air Force Base for months, missed real eggs and bacon that weren't rehydrated in an MRE!

We went to The Flying Pan Blue in Itaewon (the ex-pat district). I'm Asian, so I can say this without being racist, but I wondered if the name was a play on the Asian inability to pronounce "r"s...

For the first time in Korea, we had "Western" food that was indistinguishable from what we get back home. Plus it was really really good -- poached eggs with pesto over mushrooms and grilled sourdough, fried eggs over easy with bacon, banana pancakes, fig and ricotta pancakes.

Needless to say redneckhunter's brother was very very happy and vowed to go back every time he had leave off-base and to bring all his basemates. If the Flying Pan Blue suddenly notices an onslaught of U.S. Airmen as customers... well, we'll know why.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Western Food in Korea, Part Three

I've always loved Western-style bakeries in Asia. The bread dough favored by Asians is akin to challah - soft and buttery, light yet chewy. And the combinations of ingredients deemed appropriate for pastries is great -- corn, tuna, whatever!

We were lucky enough to have a "Paris Baguette" at the base of the building where we were staying.

Above is a vegetable breakfast pastry from there -- ham, red pepper, cheese, ketchup, and mayonnaise. To the left is a breakfast sandwich with egg salad, ham, and American cheese.

At a place in Itaewon (the ex-pat district) we got this breakfast wrap -- pieces of white bread with the crusts cut off wrapped around fried eggs, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise. Redneckhunter's brother thought it was one of the best egg sandwiches he'd ever had.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Western Food in Korea, Part Two

Can you believe there's poutine in Korea? We had to go into this place when we saw the menu outside.

We tried three kinds -- the poutine of course, nacho-style, and chili-cheese.  

The poutine didn't compare to Montreal of course, but was the best of the three.  Instead of curds, I think they used pizza cheese.  Sadly, the blandest of the three was the chili.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Western food in Korea, part one

Just as Chinese people who come to the States and eat at an American Chinese restaurant are baffled by the fortune cookies, so too am I amused by what they call "Western food" in Korea. Redneckhunter and I had this meal at one of the food courts in the Dongdaemun market shopping area, at the restaurant labeled "Western food."  Kimchi fried rice (above), and ohmu rice (below) -- basically a rice omelet.   The lattice work of condiments on my omelet was mustard and barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fusion dokbokki

I never got sick of eating dokbokki (rice cakes in spicy sauce) on the street. So much so that I even ordered it in a restaurant one night. Our friend Angus took us one of his favorite restaurant districts, Sinsa. Unfortunately the restaurant he wanted to go to was packed, so we walked down the street to an un-tried basement fusion pasta place.

First off, we were the only customers and we were escorted to a curtained "make-out" booth. Being an Asian female with two Caucasian males, maybe our waitress got the wrong idea about me....? Then we realized that the place had no picture or English menus. So the waitress begrudgingly translated each item. When she got to mine -- dokbokki with seafood, I said, oh, that's what I want. She warned me, it's really spicy... but I said that was alright.

It was like some Korean Mediterranean hybrid, full of mussels, shrimp, fish, calamari, crab, and boy was it spicy. The spiciest thing I had in Korea through our whole trip!

Now, I used to say the measure of a developed vs. third-world nation was in their toilet paper and ice cream technology. Well, South Korea is a developed nation and their toilet paper is fine, but what's with the cocktail-sized, single-ply, non-absorbent napkins? Like some sick joke, they have one of the world's spiciest cuisines, worthless napkins, and it's rude to blow your nose at the table! I didn't care, I couldn't help it -- it was a mouth-burning sinus-clearing 7 tissue meal for me!

Best Street Food in Korea

The ubiquitous street food in Korea is dokbokki (rice cake in spicy sauce). Everywhere you looked, you'd find a tarp-covered stall, a big pot of the red stuff, and a Korean woman happy to scoop you up a plastic-bag-lined bowl for you to eat with a toothpick on the sidewalk.

It was perfect sustenance for walking around in the bitter cold - and we had some good, and some not so good bowls of it.

But our revelatory food moment came at a food stand near the Namdaemun market, when we tried this variation of dokbokki, in which the rice cake tube was wrapped in pork sausage, stuck on a stick, and dipped in hot sauce.

It was amazing - by far the best thing we ate in Korea. Absolute perfection on a stick. The best foods are the ones you dream about, and this was definitely it.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Korean Table D'Hote

After Honolulu, redneckhunter and I kept flying across the Pacific to Seoul, Korea to visit friends. Our friend GH has been completely won over by Seoul and thinks Korean food is the best in the world. Strong words coming from a guy who has lived in Thailand and Vietnam!

He took us to a place in the traditional neighborhood of Insadong that served Korean food "table d'hote" style - meaning they bring you dish after dish after dish in a seemingly endless multi-course meal. The idea, he said, is that the table should break under the weight of the food.

Above was a salad to start with dried squid and spicy sauce.

I can't even list all the dishes that came - sashimi, soondubu (tofu stew), fish, vegetables, kimchi.

Redneckhunter loved the bulgogi which was sweet and delicious.

And as if this wasn't enough food, after dinner we went to a shoju bar (one that served fruit infused shoju for such girly drinkers as myself).

Most bars require that you order food if you are going to occupy a table, so we got a great kimchi pajun (pancake) to go with our apple and grapefruit shoju.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tommy's Italian Sausage, Elizabeth, NJ

Redneckhunter and I went up to Elizabeth to look at a used car. I had never really driven around Elizabeth proper, mostly just gone up to Ikea and never veered that far from the seaport. So it was fun to see all the ethnic places in downtown Elizabeth -- I'm convinced there are hidden gems worth going back for...

But we weren't that hungry and only wanted a snack, so we stopped for a sausage at the famous Tommy's. I thought I might as well get the combo to be able to try both a hotdog and a sausage. This ended up being a much bigger snack than I bargained for! When Tommy asked if I wanted everything on it, I didn't realize this meant not just grilled peppers and onions, but also fried potatoes! I pulled the potatoes off but the sandwich was still ginormous. By the time we got home and built my Ikea dresser, though, I had enough appetite for it...

Girls Cooking Night: Wraps

Last week's Girls Cooking Night theme was things that were wrapped, either in dough or other food wrappers. I made 2 kinds of meat pies. Above are my mom's gali jiao (curry pies). Inside is ground beef and onion with curry, outside is a pie crust-like dough, brushed with egg and baked for 15 minutes or so. I don't make them nearly as pretty as my mom does...

For our other appetizer, Kim made awesome dates stuffed with parmesan then wrapped with bacon - a 3-in-1 wrapper!

For main courses, we had Brownie's Asian chicken lettuce wraps - a lighter interpretation of the concept.

Debbie brought us Middle Eastern-style wrap-your-own-wrappers with chickpeas and cucumbers, and roasted eggplants.

My second type of meat pie were bureks from Eastern Europe -- phyllo dough wrapped and coiled, stuffed with ground beef and onion seasoned with loads of paprika and a little cheese.

Finally Kim and Marian rounded us out with dessert. Kim's ganache sugar cookies didn't end up being wrappable, but were delicious anyway. She brought extra ganache, and when you loaded the cookie up with extra chocolate, it was like an upscale Berger cookie!

Marian's crepes were delicious (though I didn't snap a picture of the crepe itself), but we stuffed them with berries, bananas and her delicious homemade lemon curd.