Saturday, September 30, 2006

Menudo at Tortelleria and Tacos in Baltimore

A guilty pleasure of mine is Menudo. A Mexican dish, it's basically a soup made of tripe cooked for a long period of time with chile peppers and spices. You add onion, oregano, and lime juice to the soup and eat it with some corn tortillas. So good, but not so great on my cholesterol level.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fusion tacos

In an attempt to eat up food in our fridge, I made two types of tacos with some non-traditional fillings. Even though I learned to make tortillas from masa and roll them by hand last night in my Mexican cooking class, I still had about half a kilo of tortillas in my freezer from Tortelleria and Tacos in Baltimore that I had to use up.

Besides cheese, tomatoes, and guacamole, I sauteed chopped onions with char siu (Chinese roast pork), seasoned with some honey and soy and spiced up with red pepper flakes.

For the other ones, I sauteed up ground pork with sun-dried tomato tapenade from Metropolitan Bakery in Philly. The tapenade was nice and basil-ey so just some black pepper and herbs de provence were the only other spices added.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Jell-O Cupcakes

Inspired by Rose's in Hampden, I decided to make my own Jell-O cupcakes for my friend's Ghetto Housewarming/Going Away Party (I won't go into the details of how one can throw a simultaneous moving in-moving out party). At any rate, the Jell-O of choice was cherry flavor -- about 1/2 the pack went into the batter. And instead of Reddi-Whip as frosting as they do at Rose's (which I didn't think would last through hours at a party), I dissolved the other 1/2 the Jell-O in hot water and mixed that into a basic buttercream (sweet butter and confectioner's sugar). Finished off with colored sprinkles of course!

Witherspoon Bread Company, Princeton, NJ

Everytime I go into here - with its racks of loaves, baskets of croissants, and case of sweets - I get indecisive and wish I could order one of everything. N. is a fan of the sausage fritatta sandwich - at $2.50 one of the best deals in town.

Today I was in a sweet mood, so I got a ficelle with nutella and mascarpone, and a chocolate brioche. The brioche was a bit too dessert-like for breakfast, but the ficelle was just right - crusty chewy bread with a thin layer of sweet hazlenut and cheese. On my salty mood days I like their walnut and blue cheese bread or grana cheese bread.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Caffe Swish, near Columbia University

The NY Times food section a few months back did a little neighborhood overview of "new" Harlem, and mentioned Caffe Swish, even though I don't really consider this area Harlem anymore. It's even more Columbiaized than when I lived there 10 years ago. A couple of bartenders I knew tried to dub the neighborhood SOHA (SOuth of HArlem), but it never really caught on. The neighborhood has just too many annoying college kids to ever be cool for hipsters. I think Soha, the bar, still exists though on Amsterdam Avenue.

At any rate this Pan-Asian joint was OK -- didn't blow me away but decent and cheap. I have no idea if they are sister restos with the downtown Swish Cafe. I guess their signature is shabu-shabu (Swish for the swishing of dipping meat in broth), but it was a balmy Saturday evening, so a bit too hot for shabu-shabu. My cousin had this fusion dish above -- grilled chicken and mesclun, served sandwich-style between scallion pancakes.

Other dishes ordered included miso ramen with salmon, and a Thai duck dish served in a basket over an open flame. Thankfully I didn't get E.coli from the spinach in the ramen.

(212) 222-3568; 2953-55 Broadway (115th Street)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lower East Side, 5 Years Later

I lived in Lower Manhattan during September 11th, and one of my strong memories was a meal I ate only a few days after the attack. My brother had surprised me and journeyed into New York by train, despite my warnings against doing it, and I was so frazzled that I left my office in the middle of the day, and took him home. That night, not knowing what to do, we went to a restaurant nearby, Prune. There was something satisfying to sit together and have a civilized meal, and I felt calmed after eating, probably the first time in days. Moreover, the staff at the restaurant thanked us very sincerely for coming out, and keeping them afloat in that difficult time.

Today I found myself having lunch on the same block as that dinner five years ago. The kiosk near the F train has turned into an extension of Veselka, a East Village Ukranian diner. I enjoyed a kielbasa and fresh saurkraut sandwich on cibatta bread, eating al fresco on this strangely beautiful and haunted day. I was reminded that meals are a good time to gather people together, and I think I need to get some dinners with friends and family soon.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Super Star East Chinese Buffet

So like everywhere else in the US, Princeton (well actually West Windsor) has one of those big box malls with the Wal-Mart and Home Depot and Target etc. And as in most of these places, there's an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Now lest you think I pooh-pooh a place like this just cause I'm Chinese, I actually love it.

Of course they have crab rangoon and General Tso's chicken, but they also have tons of stuff that clearly are catered to Chinese people like whole fried little fishes, shrimp with heads on, ti pang (roast pork butt), chicken feet, and tripe stew. (Again, sorry for the crappy cell phone pics). Mostly I like going for lunch on weekends, solely for 2 items: the congee with 1000-year-old egg and the sesame sticky rice balls in syrupy soup (tang yuan) for dessert. I think I once ate 3 bowls of the former and 2 bowls of the latter.
Unfortunately we went for dinner tonight, so they didn't have either of my two favorite things, those being breakfasty dim-sum dishes. I'll remember to bring my camera next time I go for lunch. I had to settle for a close second in favorite type of Asian dessert -- dou hwa (silky tofu with honey syrup). Not quite as good as the dou hwa window vendor on Mott Street in Chinatown NYC, but I think part of that appeal is just getting it scooped up steaming hot from a giant wooden bucket and eating it on the street.

Super Star East Buffet, 311 Nassau Park Blvd, Princeton, NJ 08540 (Here's a tip: avoid the sushi. Also another touch that felt just like Asia with all its glorious cutesy cheesiness -- when it's someone's birthday they blast "Happy Birthday" sung by little kids "It's a Small World"-style over the PA system!). Don't know the name or address of the dou hwa window, but just walk south down Mott Street from Canal and keep an eye out for the window on the East side of the street before you get to Pell.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tomatoes Out the Wazoo

So despite my un-green thumb and the overeager weedwhacking of the lawn guy hired by our landlord, we managed to grow tomatoes this summer. Of course this meant a valiant effort to eat tons and tons of tomatoes -- lots of homemade sauce for pasta and enchiladas, and lots of caprese salads. My grandmother ate a tomato and drank a glass of milk every day and she had great skin and jet-black hair till the day she died. Maybe she was on to something there...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Noah's On the Side

Near my friend's home in Elicott City, MD, and a block down from the Canopy Pit Beef place is a great food shop called Noah's On the Side.
It's run by a husband and wife team: he's a gourmet chef, she's a pastry chef. They do catering from the shop, but you can also come in for some amazing sandwiches and side items. The menu also changes week to week depending on their ingredients, so you may not get the same sandwich twice.
My friend Al's favorite item is their London Broil. It's served rare, of course, and it's marinated in brown sugar and espresso, giving it a uniquely sweet flavor.
Tonight, I ordered a roasted pork loin sandwich with fresh mozarella, broccoli rabe, and basil puree on rustic garlic bread. I particularly liked the bitterness of the rabe- it was reminiscent of the "ku" flavor of certain Chinese vegetables- nice pairing with the other parts of the sandwich.
I also got a side of garlic creamed spinach, and for tomorrow, I got a side of sweet pea and ginger risotto. I sampled some of my friend Kristen's organic quinoa with blueberries and cashews, and her sweet peas, wild mushrooms and farmer's cheese.
Yummy for my tummy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Venison sausages

So to add to the massive amount of meat already in our freezer... my boyfriend's friend the hunter needed to clear out his own meat locker before this deer season and gave us a cooler full of venison. For Labor Day grilling, we cooked up venison hot dogs (right) and venison kielbasa (left). The kielbasa looked like a giant curled turd before it was cut up (I spared you that sight), but was lean and spicy with just enough game flavor to let you know you're eating Bambi. Yum!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Food Down at the Ocean, Hon

What a Labor Day Weekend at the ocean. Despite Ernesto drenching us Friday night, it was still a wonderful time eating and lounging.
We went to the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, and shared the crabcake feast- 5 all lump 5 oz crabcakes with fries and slaw. For those unschooled in blue crab meat, the lump meat is the best part of the crab. The good stuff!

A visit to Ocean City's boardwalk would be incomplete without a visit to Thrashers, quite possibly some of the best fries you can get anywhere. Made from fresh cut potatoes, not frozen, they are fried in peanut oil to order.
They provide no ketchup, instead you sprinkle salt on and generously douse with apple vinegar. So good. Marylanders do like Old Bay, but it would not be the Thrashers way.

Today, we spent the afternoon in Rehoboth Beach, DE before heading back home, and we happened upon a great fish and chip place called go fish! We had tasty beer battered fish & chips here, and they were pretty delicious.

I got a side of the mushy peas as well. Another person in the group added a fried, battered sausage to his meal, and we all had a bite. Great place to check out when down on the ocean.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dessert meals in NYC

Sometimes when I'm grazing solo in NYC, I just eat what I want to and end up having dessert meals. Yesterday, after seeing the Anglomania exhibit at the Met, I head down 2 blocks to the Lady M Cake Boutique at 78th and Madison. My parents discovered the original Lady M in Tokyo and fell in love with their signature dessert: the milles-crepe, 20 crepes layered with "ethereally light and creamy custard." The hint of burnt caramelized sugar blowtorched on the top is divine. My dad has been trying for years to recreate this -- his personal spin on it is mixing matcha (green tea powder) into the cream.

I then head down to Union Square where I was going to eventually meet my friend, but in the chow tour, the destination was The City Bakery. I love love love the pretzel croissants -- a perfect hybrid: denser and chewier than regular croissants, but still with all those buttery layers; salted on top like a pretzel, but flaky like a croissant. The pretzel croissant inspires such devotion, that it actually has it's own website.

So feeling a bit more in the mood for actual food food, I did actually get a small plate from the salad bar -- for a white establishment they do tofu alright there, not bland like white people usually do, for one thing they use the dried smoked tofu that i like better. Then I got a 1/2 dozen of the melt-in-your-mouth mini peanut butter cookies to bring over to my friend's place.

And this was from NYC earlier in summer, though I never blogged about it. Another grazing lunch where we split a sandwich, so that we could get dessert (the dessert and coffee cost more than our actual lunch): blueberry pie with an oh-so-flaky crust and super-gingery ginger sandwich cookies with hazelnut cream from some place on 10th Street who's name escapes me. Irene if you read this, please help me out.

Cameraphone meals

I'm gonna apologize ahead of time for these bad pics, but these 2 recent meals were worth mentioning:

First up is the Spanish restaurant Malaga in Trenton. For a while there, my friend Steph was going there 3 times a week... This pic is of her favorite dish, the langostinos -- I don't think the photo conveys the size of those suckers! That night I had the mariscada, a spicy seafood stew, and N. had veal scallopini. Everything was delicioso and way too much food to finish. Dessert was of the wonderfully cheesy Jersey Italiano variety, most likely delivered from some factory in Newark: tiramisu in little plastic cups, the sorbet served in the frozen fruit itself, spumoni and tartufo, you get the picture.

Next meal of note was Woo Jeon in Edison, NJ. Here's the wide array of panchan we got: kim chee, watercress, broccoli, fish cake, gelatinous mung bean cake, bean sprouts, seaweed, daikon... We ordered the jaeyook gui (spicy pork barbecue) though because we only ordered one portion, we couldn't cook it ourselves on the hot grill. Next time I go, I'm gonna bring 1000yregg and try the tongue BBQ. We also got a hotpot stew with seafood, sticky rice cake, and noodles which were wonderfully dense and chewy, and jap chae. Andrew, one of the gregarious sushi chefs from Sakura Express in Princeton, happened to be sitting at the table next to us and so nicely sent over a soon doo boo (spicy tofu stew) to our table. The tofu was so lusciously silky... it blows Sushi/Bagel's out of the water...