Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thank you Nina for my Beurre Dish

image courtesy of

Check out this Beurre Dish from Anthropologie that Nina got me for Christmas. It's a beautiful balance of industrial chic and retro French. The top is much bigger than a regular butter dish, but I figure I can fit many sticks of butter in it... I love it! Thank you Nina!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

These look interesting...

From the Komforte Chockolates website:

"We saw that the chocolate industry was driving upscale and more sophisticated with every season. What was of more interest to us was doing chocolate that had fun, interesting ingredients with a "comfort" feel to them that a kid, a teenager and an adult could all understand and enjoy."

I can't wait to try these! Especially the ramen one...

via Design*Sponge

Monday, November 30, 2009

Grandma's Dumplings

Over the holiday weekend, my grandma made me some dumplings (some might be an understatement as I think she made around 200 of them). I kept asking her what she uses to marinate the filling (apparently just soy sauce, sugar and salt). Perhaps their simplicity is what makes them so tasty. The thing about restaurant dumplings is that they can be overwhelmingly meaty. My grandma's dumplings have pork, chives, mushrooms, wood ear, nappa cabbage, and dried shrimp. One of these days, I am going to make these dumplings for her.

What a cutie!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot Doug's

t-shirt from Hot Doug's
image courtesy of


While visiting Tara in Chicago this past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Hot Doug's. You see I've been a mission to find the best hot dog place EVER. I haven't been to Bark Hot Dogs over in Park Slope, but I have sampled Super Hotdog and I was mightily disappointed with the small dog and the skimpy toppings (even though we got delivery, I thought it could have been better).

Hot Doug's lived up to my expectations. I had traveled 45 minutes on the El, walked 20 minutes (even under a sketchy overpass!) to get there. When I arrived, there was a line out the door. This was at 2pm on a Monday. Plus, Hot Doug's is located on a corner between a somewhat-suburban street and an industrial park. Weird location, but people travel to this place. I heard the girl behind me saying to someone else in line that she and her boyfriend took a cab, and the cabbie got lost taking them there.

It was a difficult decision. I wanted to try The Dog, which is just the regular hot dog with all the trimmings, but then I started looking at all of the daily specials. I knew that my stomach couldn't handle both, so I decided to go with the The Hot Doug's B.L.T.: Bacon Sausage with Avocado Mayonnaise, Cherry Tomatoes and Iceberg Lettuce with a side of french fries.

Um, seriously, bacon sausage - the best of both meats! Plus, I love a good BLT.

As I sat on a stool by the counter waiting for my food, I looked around. Hot Doug's had an incredibly warm, homey feeling about it. Everyone was enjoying the food. The staff were happy, and everything seemed to run smoothly. I loved it there. No pretentiousness even though there were some really gourmet dogs (e.g. Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris)

When my food arrived, on a plastic red tray, I looked at my dog and thought, this doesn't look like much (maybe it was the iceberg lettuce? It never looks pretty). Then I bit into it, and I was instantly convinced. The one thing I find when cooking sausage is that the casing can get a bit tough; Hot Doug's sausage was perfect and easy to bite into. I could taste the bacon flavor, but it didn't overwhelm the sausage taste. It tasted just like a B.L.T., but in sausage form. YUM.

As I left Hot Doug's with my euphoric meat high (Can one get a meat high from just one sausage? Yes, yes one can), I thought about what other hot dogs or sausages I would sample when I came back. I would have to come back on a Friday or Saturday for their french fries fried in rendered duck fat (um, yum). I walked all the way back to the train with a huge grin on my face.

I long for a place like this in New York.

Hot Doug's
3324 North California
Chicago, IL 60618
Phone: (773) 279-9550
Open: Monday-Saturday 10am - 4pm
Closed: Sundays and Holidays

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The grits at No. 7

This weekend I had brunch at No. 7 (I had dinner there once before, but not brunch), and I had the most amazing grits of my life, which I am still thinking about right now.

It came served, unassuming, in a small white bowl. The description on the menu was "
Grits with Shredded Pork, Napa Cabbage and Swiss." One bite, and I felt like Anton Ego in Ratatouille: instantly transported to a time in my childhood. Where did I have this taste before? It tasted like a dish my grandma had cooked, but my grandmother has never made grits. Why did it then taste so familiar?

Grits I have had in the past have tasted like a vehicle for butter and cheese, but this was different. Was it made with meat broth? Is that what gave it the rich taste? It was so hearty, so warm, like sitting in front of a roaring fire at home during a blizzard.

The side of grits blew away the main that I had ordered (corned beef hash with fried eggs). After the last bite, I still hadn't pinpointed what it was that made the dish so special. It looked simple, yet had such complex flavors.

Friday, September 18, 2009

These ads are hilarious

Just saw these over at Eat Me Daily. I laughed out loud. The onions look stupidly happy, while the carrots seem out of it (except the ones doing the killing - they look just plain maniacal).

P.S. Was in Greece, but now I'm back. Planning posts about Food, Inc. and seasoning my new cast iron pot (ca. 1928), which I got at a flea market. It's so hard to find lard!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Liberté yogurt

image courtesy of Serious Eats

Naomi first introduced me to Libert
é yogurts a few months back. I was never much of a yogurt fan growing up and had only recently come to like Greek yogurt (for its thickness). I was skeptical of this yogurt from Quebec (do Canadians really know how to make yogurt?), but was blown away by its rich, creamy taste.

I've stocked up on these yogurts and been having them for breakfast everyday. You can say that I've become a wee obsessed. So far I've only had the Méditerranée k
ind (wild blackberry, lemon, and right now digging into peach and passion fruit - YUM!). I haven't had the low-fat or the six grains varieties, yet, partially because I love the Méditerranée kind, and I don't want the other kinds to taint my opinion of Liberté.

The only downside? They are a bit fattier than most yogurts (okay, they are really fatty), but one 6 oz. cup fills you right up and you'll be set until lunchtime.

Thank you Canada!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Petsi Pies

Sorry that it's been so incredibly long since the last post. Work has been so busy...

Lately I've been craving pie like nobody's business. I would make it myself...if I could get over my fear of making pastry dough. I haven't been the the Little Pie Company yet, but I haven't found my pie place in New York. Back in Boston, I used to frequent The Other Side Cafe (when they used to have pies - one of the manager's mother used to make them, but that manager has since left). Sometimes, late at night, I went to South Street Diner and had apple pie a la mode. Apple pie and strawberry rhubarb pie are my favorites.

Last Fall, I had the opportunity to go to Petsi Pies in Somerville, MA with my good friend, David. This is exactly the type of place that I wish existed in New York. A small shop that has freshly baked pies. They have pies in three different sizes: 6" that serves 1-2, 8" that serves 2-4, and 10" that serves 6-8. They also have savory pies and other baked goods, but we didn't try those. We opted to get a whole blueberry pie (they didn't have the small size, so we had to get the medium). You can also get slices, as well, if they have a large pie that has been cut already. We got slices of the apple crumb and sweet potato.

There's really nothing more satisfying than a warm slice of pie on a crisp Fall day. I was so giddy when I was in Petsi Pies. David and I sat in the small room off to the right, trying not to devour the pies before I could take pictures of them. I liked how you could see the kitchen from the ordering counter and how the whole place felt very homey, like the employees called all of the regulars by their first names.

The pies were heavenly - the crust flaky and soft, yet still retaining a crunch, and the filling flavorful and not too sweet. I read once somewhere that the secret to a good, flaky crust is using lard. If anyone has a good crust recipe, please post it in the comments section.

I'm headed back to Boston in August for David's wedding, and I can't wait to go back to Petsi Pies. When I get married, I think I'll have wedding pies instead of a cake...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gina's Fancy S'mores

I promised Gina to do justice to her creation this time in picture posting, especially after Baked Alaska Gate. I also shot a video (which is really just Gina torching the marshmallow and me zooming in and out of the ingredients, but you do get to see Gizmo, Gina's adorable Shitzu-Lhasa Aphsa mix).

Gina got the idea of making these sugar-coated marshmallow s'mores after making s'mores with some peeps leftover from Easter. Here, with regular marshmallows, she has dampened them slightly with water and rolled them in granulated sugar.

Instead of graham crackers, Gina used these Swedish cookies that she got from Ikea (she says that you can find them in most supermarkets). I liked Anna's Almond Cinnamon Thins better than the traditional graham crackers. The cookies were thin and crunchy, which provided a nice textural contrast to the soft marshmallow. Also, it seemed like the cookies had some granulated sugar within it, complementing the sugar that was coating the marshmallow.

We had a second round of s'mores using fancier, dark chocolate, but all agreed that Hershey's milk chocolate was better, in taste and meltiness (make sure to get the small, regular bar; one time I tried using a Hershey's king size bar, and the chocolate bar was too thick for the s'more).

Gina used her crème brulée torch to toast the marshmallow, but I'm sure it would work over a campfire as well. Check out that flame!

So, what is the final verdict? Before I tried Gina's s'mores, I was torn. In some ways, I'm a purist when it comes to food classics, and I think when people try to fancify the recipes, they can often ruin a good thing. Other times, though, it can really open up new avenues in taste. So, while Gina's s'more doesn't quite resemble the picture below, I am glad, because I think it may even be better. Brava!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Crème Brûlée Doughnut

At one point in my childhood, my parents owned a mini food court with three fast food restaurants. They ran Osaka, a Japanese restaurant, and rented out the two other spaces. One was Dunkin' Donuts (which eventually was rented out by Honey Dew Donuts) and the other was a sandwich place.

Evidently, I consumed a lot of doughnuts. My mom would bring back boxes of them after work since they were going to get thrown out anyway. My favorite was the Boston Cream doughnut, chocolate frosted and filled with custard. I definitely ate too many as a kid, so as I grew up I steered clear of cream-filled doughnuts choosing to go with glazed or maple frosted.

My first foray back into filled doughnuts was actually
Doughnut Plant's Tres Leches doughnut (a cake doughnut filled with three sweet creams, named after the Spanish Tres Leches cake). I was really skeptical of a cake doughnut, since I prefer the softer, glazed kind, but it became my favorite doughnut at Doughnut Plant.

Today, I went to get a Tres Leches doughnut, and gasped out loud, "They're sold out!" when I saw that there weren't anymore in the case. It may have been a blessing in disguise since I decided to the
crème brûlée doughnut. These were blogged about in the Times back in November.

The crème brûlée doughnut at Doughnut Plant may be a contender for my new favorite doughnut. Filled with smooth vanilla custard and topped with sugar that's been blowtorched (just like crème brûlée!), it's like a textural explosion in your mouth. It's soft, creamy and crunchy! Plus, it isn't as big as the regular doughnuts there, so you won't feel guilty about getting two.

P.S. I would call first if you are planning on going first thing in the morning. I read a post on Serious Eats that they went in the early morning and they weren't ready yet.

Doughnut Plant

379 Grand St. (at Clinton)
New York, NY 10002

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Everyone should buy this

So I went to Broadway Panhandler today to spend the rest of my gift certificate (thanks Dirk and Marcie!). I bought a pie dish, rolling pin and whisk a couple of weeks back and was going to go get a pair of tongs, but came across the JarPop.

I have this jar of olive tapenade that I've been trying to open for months now. Months. Sometimes I would feel really strong and inspired, and I would try to open it, but it wouldn't budge, not after running it under hot water or turning it upside down and tapping it on the table. It was really disheartening, especially if I was really hungry.

While I'm not always a fan of gimmicky gadgets, I thought for $4.95, that I could give it a try (the price tag said $7.95, but it rung up as $4.95. YAY!). There was only one left, a white one, so I couldn't buy a cool semi-translucent one, but you can buy one on Amazon.

JarPop opened the stubborn olive tapenade within seconds. I'm sold.

Apparently a Danish engineer invented JarPop for his mom who had arthritis. It has won numerous design awards, including the prestigious Danish Design Council award for excellence.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Two Apologies

Dear Readers,

I want to apologize for my absence. I have been extremely busy with work and had a bad cold. I will post something soon.

I also want to apologize to Gina. She seemed quite upset over my photo of her Baked Alaska compared with the photo of what a Baked Alaska should look like, even though I told her this was informational purposes only and not to spite her.

I made Gina a pie she requested for her half birthday. It was a layer of peanut butter mousse covered with marshmallow meringue and drizzled with chocolate ganache on a graham cracker crust. The meringue did not hold up well overnight so the pie looked ugly, but it tasted delicious.
I think next time I would put the chocolate in the middle because I have a feeling it made the meringue deflate. Gina invented this pie in her mind so I had to combine a bunch of different recipes.

Gina threatened to take a photo of the ugly pie and start her own blog (how cruel is that?), so I'm going to post some pictures of the meringue after I took it out of the oven so people will know what it really looked like.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is a self-scraping beaterblade attachment an extravangance?

This is the question I posed to some friends last week, to which I got really quizzical looks. I'm on the Sur La Table mailing list and they sent me an email about such blade, and how can one resist? Just look at the picture below and read the description.

You voted this as one of your favorites: Continuously beat, scrape and fold ingredients in your electric mixer in about half the time with the BeaterBlade. The flexible, high-quality, food-grade plastic eliminates hand-scraping bowls, unmixed flour on bowl’s edges and batter build-up on the blades. Patented ‘wing-system’ design acts like a wiper blade that continuously scrapes sides and bottom of the bowl while mixing.

Ingredients are thoroughly included and mixed, ensuring foolproof baking preparation. BeaterBlade scrapes even the dimple at the bottom of the bowl. Perfect for cakes, cookies, frosting, bread, compound butters, meatloaf, pie fillings, mashed potatoes, gum paste and more. Fits either 5-qt., 6-qt. or 7-qt. mixers. BeaterBlade doubles as a spatula. Made in the USA.

What really got me is that it even scrapes the dimple at the bottom of the bowl. At $24.95, and in these economic times, I can't really justify spending the money on such an object. Plus, it just sounds so pompous...

...but it would have come in handy for the coconut cake I made last week. Pictures below!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thank you Gina for the Baked Alaska

Gina made me a Baked Alaska for my belated birthday yesterday (which was also coincidentally the day after my half birthday!) I think that she resisted it for a long time since it is a really hard dessert to make. Subsequently she is requesting Bananas Flambe for her half birthday next month, which isn't so hard except for the fact she wants it to be already flaming when I get off the elevator at her office. Somehow I think carrying a dish of flaming bananas down Canal St. isn't going to go over so well...

What is Baked Alaska? Baked Alaska is ice cream (Gina used strawberry) on top of sponge/pound cake encased in a cocoon of meringue which is placed in the oven long enough for the meringue to brown. The meringue is a good insulator so the ice cream and cake still stay cold.

Unfortunately Gina had to take the Baked Alaska out early since the meringue was dripping and melting (she thinks it has to do with the sugar deflating the meringue) so the picture above does not really resemble the one below, even though it was still very tasty.

On another interesting note, according to the Wikipedia entry, no one really knows where Baked Alaska came from, but one theory is that, while on a visit to Paris, a Chinese master chef introduced the concept (with a pastry casing) to French chef Balzac of the Grand Hotel. Balzac then decided to substitute the recipe with meringue and renamed it omelette surprise.

What is the lesson to be learned here? The Chinese invent everything and other people take credit for it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl Ad: Cheetos

I really like Cheetos, but after watching this slightly creepy ad tonight, I'm less keen (an aside: has anyone ever tried Baked Cheetos? Not as good. I'd definitely eat the regular ones for 30 more calories).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Eat me daily: my new favorite blog

Brian introduced me to Eat me daily, a group food blog that just got started in October 2008.

Here's a blurb from their mission statement:

Eat me daily is a critical (and cynical) take on food, media, and culture, comprised of:

  • Commentary and criticism—not mean-spirited, but with teeth;
  • Aggregation of links deemed important, irreverent, redeeming, absurd, or plainly awesome;
  • And occasional features of the grown-up, long-format kind
It is smart, gossipy, and about food! They blog about television shows, food art, books about food, the feuds between chefs. I love it. Love it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

As a Facebook member, would you have done this?

I'm not on Facebook (stop trying to force me, Nina and Tara!), but I don't know if I would have done this.

Apparently, Burger King introduced a new application called "Whopper Sacrifice," in which if you delete 10 of your friends you get a free Whopper.

Facebook has disabled the application, though, because a notification sent to deleted friends informing them that they've been replaced by a free hamburger violated Facebook policy.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lemon Cheesecake with Shortbread Cookie Crust

Sorry that it has taken me so long to post these pictures. It didn't turn out so bad! There was some cracking on the top, but not noticeable (especially not in these pictures). I used more lemon juice and zest than the original recipe called for but the lemon flavor wasn't overpowering. I have made oreo cheesecake before and this cheesecake was definitely lighter and creamier (I wonder if this has to do with the water bath?)

Here's the recipe (modified from Epicurious):

For shortbread crust:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup finely ground shortbread cookies (I used Lorna Doone)

For cheesecake:

2 pounds cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs (room temperature)
juice and zest of 2 lemons

Make crust:

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes. Add flour and ground shortbread to the mixture and blend for 3-4 seconds until fully incorporated. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake the crust at 350 F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the crust to cool completely. Double wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with aluminum foil.

Make cheesecake:

(Optional: Soften cream cheese in microwave for 45-60 seconds).
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and smooth. Add the mascarpone cheese and sugar and continue to beat on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time. Blend in the lemon zest and juice.

Butter sides of springform pan. Pour mixture into the cooled crust.

Set the cheesecake pan into a roasting pan, and add enough water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of the cheesecake pan. Place in a 325 F oven for approximately one and a half hours or until the cake is set and the top is goldenbrown. Remove the cake from the roasting pan and place on a wire rack. Allow cake to cool slightly, take off aluminum foil, then place the cake in the refrigerator overnight.

Once ready to serve, carefully run a knife around the edge to loosen any bits. Unclip the clasp at the side of the pan and lift off outer ring. Use two spatulas to lift the cheesecake off the springform plate onto your serving plate.

Here are some cheesecake baking tips I found from various websites:

Mix filling until only combined. Do not over mix. This will prevent cracking on the top of the surface.

Make sure there are no lumps BEFORE you add the eggs. The eggs hold the air in the batter, so add them last, and mix as little as possible once they are in the mix.

Do not overbake the cheesecake. When perfectly done, there will still be a one to two inch wobbly spot in the middle of the cheesecake.

Happy Baking and Happy New Year!