Thursday, June 28, 2007

Doughnut Plant in Tokyo

Fougoo and I knew that there were Doughnut Plant franchises in Tokyo, but we were totally stoked when we found a branch a few blocks from where we were staying. Of course, we had to go.
The store had a lot of the same doughnut flavors from the New York store including the classic Tres Leches, the Chocolate Blackout, Vanilla Bean, and the Valrhona Chocolate doughnuts. I think the cake doughnuts were a little smaller than the ones you can get in New York, but the raised ones were the same size.

We were in Japan for the Golden Week, and the store had a Green Tea Fair special, featuring a raised Green Tea doughnut, and Green Tea and Creme filled doughnut. The store, unlike it's American counterpart, also made bagels and served lunch in addition to the doughnuts.

We got several doughnuts to try. It was very Japanese of them to individually wrap each doughnut we ordered in it's own napkin.
I quite liked the green tea doughnut- it had a nice sweet flavor and went well with the yeast doughnut. Fougoo wasn't too impressed with their bagels, but hey, who wants to order bagels at the Doughnut Plant.

Berger Cookies

New York has it's Black and White cookie, but Baltimore is known for the Berger cookie. I don't think I've seen these outside of this region, but man are they delicious.
Imagine a tiny sugar cookie topped with a giant dollop of fudge. It's so rich and sweet that you can only really eat just one before demanding some milk to get it down.
So wrong it's right.

Farm Share produce

I went in on a farm share for the first time this summer. I'm sharing a 1/2 share with a friend (so essentially a 1/4 share) at Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville. Above is only a fraction of last week's haul - I didn't pile up the bags and bags of loose greens. It's forcing me (and occasionally redneckhunter) to eat my green things.

I find that I've fallen into a routine of how to cook them, though. Large leafy greens like collards, kale, and chard, I've been doing southern style, boiled with bacon or ham with some red pepper for kick and eaten with a little lemon juice. Small leafy greens like spinach or beet greens, I've been doing Chinese-style, sauteed in a wok with garlic. Last week I sliced and oven-roasted the turnips. We've had sugar snap peas, which I munch on raw, and arugula, which I like raw too but this stuff is so good it's almost too spicy to eat! Oddly enough, the heads of lettuce and bags of leaf lettuce pose the most difficulty for me. I just hate making salads! Last week, I actually sauteed lettuce in the wok (and I felt like my mom doing it, as Chinese really don't eat anything raw...) but luckily this allows for a vast amount of bulk to be consumed in a far condensed form.

The routine has already started to wane, though, and I think I need to look for more veggie recipes... will post any great ones I discover. Also, the girls (since I think we're all doing shares from the same farm) have decided that one of these weeks we will hold an Iron Chef showdown featuring kale or collard greens or whatever veggie we end up with a lot of - stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Crab Season

Summer in Maryland means one big thing for locals- Crabs!
When I lived elsewhere, I made it a point to come back to Maryland during this time of year because I had to get Maryland steamed crabs. Now that I live in Maryland again, I can get crabs many times a year.
It must be a vegan's nightmare to watch people tear apart these little creatures and consume every bit of their insides. I love it!
Personally, I think that my crab dissection technique is quite honed after 3 decades of destruction (WWF reference).

A couple of my guidelines are as follows:

1. go for the heavier crabs- more meat inside
2. once you start, avoid wiping your hands- the spice buildup on the fingers will flavor the meat as you eat it. just don't touch anything else especially your eyes.
3. eat all the crab- even the little legs- they are too expensive to waste.
4. mustard- it's like butter and egg yolk an in one delicious flavor- use it, eat it, relish it. do not fear crab gut.

These are pictures of what are called "lollipops" - a perfect single bite of delicious crab. The one on top is the big brass ring- the lump crabmeat! The bottom is the crab claw.
This meal was at Obrycki's, my current favorite crab restaurant- sure they don't use Old Bay, but I love it nonetheless.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Japanese Kit Kats- Dark Chocolate

The last Kit Kat we got in Japan was the dark chocolate version. Fougoo felt that this was the best of the batch, and I would agree.
They used genuine dark chocolate, and the bitterness went well with the wafer inside.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bali Nusa Indah, NYC

Last Friday, we went to Bali Nusa Indah, an Indonesian restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. It had been recommended by a Singaporean guy that one of my friends had met. The above appetizer is Cumi-Cumi Isi, stuffed squid with minced shrimp and java soya sauce. While very pretty, both brownie and I thought it was rubbery and chewy. Not only the squid was chewy but also the filling inside. It was the only criticism, though, in an otherwise great meal.

We much preferred our other appetizer/side dish, the Pepes Tahu, innocuously described on the menu as broiled bean curd with banana leaf. The soft tofu was the texture of slow-cooked scrambled eggs, seasoned with lemongrass, ginger and a little kick. I'm not even sure what else was in this - dried shrimp perhaps?

My second favorite dish of the meal was Ikan Pepes, broiled red snapper fillet with lemon grass sauce wrapped in banana leaf. You may think by the names and description that the 2 dishes above would be similar in taste, but they weren't. The tomatoey sauce for the fish was wonderful and the fillet was tender and flaky.

We also had Rendang Padang, beef simmered in coconut-chili sance and Tumis Cumi, stir-fried squid with black bean sauce.

Afterwards, we head down the black to Kyotofu for dessert and this pretty kumquat caipirinha.

Bali Nusa Indah
51 9TH Ave, NYC
(212) 265-2200

The quest for the perfect nori rice cracker

I had the best nori cheese rice cracker snack in Tokyo, and regret not being able to find bags of it to bring home...

I did find a similar, but not quite as good, variation at the Asian food market in Plainsboro. The cheese to cracker ratio was not as favorable in the flat version as it was in the round version. However, I did also find these pretty good almond cheese rice crackers.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Food and Design

In Tokyo, we went to the 21_21 Design Sight Museum in the new Tokyo Midtown area - the exhibit on view was Chocolate. Fascinating idea with chocolate as everything from the medium to the inspiration for design (Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures). Issey Miyake designed a chocolate collection in his Pleats Please line specifically for the exhibition, and I splurged and got a chocolate layer cake tank dress. I wore it out to Mother's Day dinner at Bookbinder's in Philadelphia, and my outfit ended up matching our dessert, Bookbinder's famous strawberry shortcake!

Havana Alma de Cuba, NYC

My friend and I have a set routine whenever I come up to the city to see her, which involves (mostly) window shopping and dining in her old neighborhood, the West Village. This time we opted for lunch at Havana Alma de Cuba. A really cute airy place, with vibrant murals on the wall and a nice garden in back. Above is our starter Tostones Rellenos, fried plantains with shrimp fricassee. The saffron-infused sauce was so good we protected it from the hands of eager busboys and asked for bread with which to sop up every drop.

Then we shared the Echon Asado al Estilo "La Floridita" -- roasted suckling pig served with cassava and fresh mojo. It was way more than enough for 2 people -- if you can believe it the photo above was taken at the end of the meal before I wrapped it up to take home to redneckhunter, a big fan of pig... The pork was absolutely tender, the cassava not too starchy, and the rice and beans were perfect.

Then, whenever I can, I have to order tres leches cake because I can't think of a single place near Princeton where I can get it. Not-too-sweet whipped cream frosting, moist cake made deliciously wet by the milk sauce, and the mango and strawberry sauces just cutting all the sweetness with a little tang. I was muy feliz!
Havana Alma de Cuba
92 Christopher Street, NYC
(212) 242-3800

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Japanese Kit Kats- Brandy & Orange

"For a Moment of Precious Indulgence"
These Kit Kats were not so good- a little too much brandy flavor.
This one came packed as 2 single piece packages. Interesting cross-section.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Japanese Kit Kats - Hokkaido Milk

So I guess Hokkaido ia famous for it's dairy products, and this white chocolate Kit Kat has milk from that island.
The taste was also very sweet, but also had a nice creamy flavor.

Yukhwe at Woo Chon, NYC

If you've read this blog before, you know that Woo Chon is one of our favorite Korean BBQ places in New York. Well, in the spirit of the previous post, I wanted to post a dish we tried last time we were at Woo Chon.
It's called Yukhwe - it consists of raw flank steak marinated in a caramelized soy sauce, mixed with Asian pear, and smothered in a raw egg. A challenging dish for those daunted by raw meat and raw egg, but the flavor- worth the risk of gastroenteritis.

Woo Chon
8-10 W. 36th Street (Cross Street: Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.)
New York, NY 10018
(212) 695-0676

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Perilla: Harold, Top Chef, and the Langostine

Cooking on television is a precarious institution; we can watch Martha Stewart beat eggs until dawn, but in the end we all want to stick a finger in the batter. The Food Network, morning talk shows, and every cook with a trademark have held sway by delivering familiar recipes on the little screen, but some shows have gone out on a digestive limb; Anthony Bourdain (this blog's patron saint) constantly wows audiences with his iron-clad stomach on No Reservations, and Top Chef put the back-room art of fine dining under a boom mic. Season Three of Top Chef debuted this week, and the energy I get watching the scrappy contestants and idolized (or wistfully idle?) judges invigorates me to get back to tasting what the senses have to offer. There's no better way to break this fourth wall then visiting the first official Top Chef outpost: Perilla, Season One's Top Chef Harold Dieterle's new West Village restaurant.

LBT and I scored an early reservation on a Thursday, and we ordered up some of the Specialties of Harold; spicy duck meatballs served with a raw egg (salmonella is for wimps), and the classic hanger steak that helped him coast through many TV contests; we added to this a satisfying mango and avocado crab salad.

Our server steered us towards the langoustine plate, which we agreed was the finest dish of the night; the New Zealand tails were served over red rice and greens with a gentle hint of sweet peppercorn. In fact, Harold's restaurant felt much more gentile then the surly, high-stakes kitchen of Top Chef. The staff maintained a cool, despite most of the patrons' neck-craning to get a glimpse of Harold. But as he proclaimed, he's not a "front of the house guy," though I did manage one glimpse of the elusive chef.

Perilla's menu is short and simple, and offers some pricey (but tempting) side dishes: we tried roasted potatoes (excellent salt!) and chinese broccoli and bok choy with pork belly. Like most West Village eats, we ate elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors, and quickly realized we were not alone in our TV-contest curiosity.

We finished with a chocolate cake with Keffir lime ice cream; and even though this was not Harold delivering the sweets, Perilla brought it home. The cake was perfectly warm and moist, and the cherries and pistachios complimented the whole experience.

At the end of the meal, we had asked to take our side dishes to-go. We almost forgot about them, when the server asked us to wait for a couple minutes before leaving: the kitchen had accidentally thrown away our leftovers, and "Harold was replacing them." We happily departed with a fresh new serving of gourmet potatoes and greens, a seriously classy TV dinner.

(Late note: I just found out that June 14th is officially Top Chef Day in the city of New York!)

Perilla Restaurant

9 Jones Street (btw. West 4 and Bleecker Sts.)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 929-6868

Japanese Kit Kats - Green Tea

So the Kit Kat is supposedly the #2 best selling candy bar in the world, and in some countries like Japan and the UK, Nestle releases limited edition flavors. Fougoo and I picked up a few when we were in Tokyo.
This flavor is green tea cream. I liked it a lot, but Fougoo thought it too sweet. I like the coloring of the bar a lot though.

El Azteca Restaurant in Clarksville, MD

I've become pretty particular about Mexican food since I lived on the West Coast for several years, and it's been hard to find particularly good Mexican places here in Maryland.
However, at the suggestion of some friends, we had dinner at El Azteca Mexican restaurant in Clarksville, MD. I must say, the food was pretty good.
First off, the salsa used for the chips was fresh, as well as being spicy. We started with an appetizer of Yuca con Chicharron that was delicious. Gotta love that pig skin!
I like to order Chicken Mole at Mexican places because a friend of mine told me it was a gauge of a good Mexican restaurant. El Azteca's Chicken Mole was pretty good. The sauce was great- nice, a little sweet and spicy. The chicken was a bit dry, and I wish they had had fresh corn tortillas, but being in Clarksville, MD I sense more people get flour tortillas there.
Another person in our party got the Chile Verde which was very tasty- the pork was nice and tender, and it had good flavor.
While, I still think Mexican places are superior on the West Coast, El Azteca will do.

El Azteca Mexican Restaurant
12218 Clarksville Pike
Clarksville, Maryland 21029

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Momofuku Noodle Bar

We grabbed lunch at the Momofuku Noodle Bar. It's gotten some press as Chef David Chang was awarded Rising Star Chef of 2007 by the James Beard Foundation.
The food was a mix of various Asian cuisines- Korean (the native culture of the chef), Chinese, and Japanese. We started with Berkshire Pork Steam Buns. They were served with cucumber and hoisin sauce- pretty good, the pork was great and fatty but I think the buns could have been more fluffy and would be great piping hot.
We followed the buns with the Honeycomb Spicy Tripe. This was my favorite dish. The sauce was sweet and spicy, and reminded me some of Mexican menudo, but with a Thai influenced flavor.
We also got Fried Veal Sweetbreads. This was also very good- the sweetbreads were tempura-fried and light, and were accompanied by a nice soy-chili dipping sauce.
We then had the Momofuku Ramen which came with Berkshire pork combo and a nicely poached egg. The broth was very light and clear, but could have had a little more flavor in my opinion. I liked the noodles, but they were thinner than I like. I did like the poached egg and appreciated the use of the Berkshire pork.
Personally, the meal was alright. If it weren't so pricey and the wait was less, I would have probably felt that the place is a better place to drop by next time in NYC, but it was just an ok experience. For ramen, give me Minca Ramen Factory any day, and I think Fougoo's parents make far superior buns.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

163 1st Ave
NY, NY 10003
(212) 475-7899