Monday, March 30, 2009

Ranch Hand

This post is dedicated to finding food around the glorious Chinese supermarket, known to the public as "99 Ranch Market," but affectionately called "Ranch 99," by those who truly appreciate it. If you are from Southern California, then Ranch 99 runs through your veins, for you know that Ranch 99 sustains life on the earth. It sells a huge variety of seafood, Asian spices, frozen goods, ready-made foods, and other ingredients necessary for an Asian cook. Back in the old days, they used to mail you a 10% off coupon for your birthday and have a loyalty/frequent shopper card similar to those card programs with Safeway/Vons/Dominic's and Ralph's/Cala/Bell. I still have my Ranch 99 loyalty card, even though they discontinued the card program years ago. Only a crazed Ranch 99 fan would know these facts.

If you are a
Ranch 99 fanatic, you often will know about reasonable eateries near any Ranch 99. Here is the scoop on a recent discovery of mine near the Ranch 99 in Daly City, when I was particularly hungry.

After a rigorous hour of shopping with the beau at
Ranch 99 a few weeks ago in Daly City, our famished bodies could proceed no further. We therefore poked our hungry heads inside Majikku Ramen (a ramen restaurant located in the same indoor strip mall as Ranch 99) and decided to sit down to enjoy a bowl or two full of steaming, crinkled ramen noodles.

Since we were especially hungry, we started with a deep-fried appetizer of karaage chicken. These fritters (that are a Japanese version of America's chicken nuggets) never cease to provide me with oily gratification. The chicken chunks were battered and deep-fried until crisp and golden brown and served with a chilled and vinegary slaw.
Majikku's version of karaage chicken was quite respectable, for the oil was neither stale nor foul, and the tender chicken was steaming hot.

Next, the beau and I shared a large bowl of their house-special tonkatsu ramen, which was rich, milky, and infused with the creamy flavor of pork bone marrow. The ramen was topped with thin slices of pork meat, bamboo, a garnish of small dried nori rectangles, half a boiled chicken egg, red pepper slivers, and minced scallions.

We also shared a creamy beef curry, with two types of root vegetable: carrots and potatoes. The beef fell apart into tendrils like chipped beef or pot roast. The curry seemed like a standard version of Golden Curry from the package, but was satisfying nonetheless. The soft, crimped ramen noodles were a luscious accompaniment to the curry gravy.

After our impromptu meal, I rushed home to check out
Majikku Ramen online. I was surprised to see so many negative reviews on Yelp, since I thought that it was decent. Though a little on the pricier end of the spectrum for the quality of ramen, Majikku can deliver a satisfying meal for a hungry person who had been furiously shopping at Ranch 99.

Before I close out this post, I want to thank Phyllis from Me Hungry and Heavenly Housewife from Donuts to Delirium for presenting me with a "Sisterhood" award and April from the Life of an Everyday BBW for generously giving me the "I Love Your Blog" award. I wanted to pass the awards onto the following bloggers:

These ladies (and one gentleman, in the Duo Dishes) are true sisters (and a brother, again, I am referring to Duo Dishes), because of their encouraging comments, incredibly inspiring recipes and posts, and eye-popping photographs. They are beyond mere blog friends, but they are my blog family! Therefore, I wanted to pass along the Sisterhood Award to them, and thank them for their amazing blog content, unique perspective, and wonderful friendship. If you received this award, pass it along to 10 other bloggers!

As for the "I Love Your Blog" award, since I received it a while back, I wanted to recognize five of my older blog friends who have been with me from the very beginning of my blog. I also want to recognize a couple of new friends too. These bloggers may not all be food bloggers, but they have always left kind comments for me and kept me blogging, even when I vowed that I would give up. As for the two new bloggers, I love their style of blogging and their charismatic flair. These are great bloggers, and best of all, great people. If you received this award, pass it along to 7 other bloggers.

Keep up the good work, blogging (or reading)!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sinner's Steak Sandwich

Forgive me blog readers, for I have sinned.

I have sinned by making and eating this demon-infested sandwich, which is (1) slathered with a tremendous dollop of mayonnaise, (2) stacked with pieces of divine (yet artery-hardening) steak, and (3) overwhelmingly loaded with huge 1/4 inch slices of real cheddar cheese. Basically, the "demons" are full-fat mayonnaise, oily cheddar cheese, and red meat.

"If it is so sinful, then why make this sandwich?" Because!

Because it reminds me of my childhood. When I was a little girl, my Dad used to make us steak and mayonnaise sandwiches with the leftover steak in our fridge. To me, this sinner's steak sandwich is the ultimate comfort food.

I have some precise instructions on how to make this sandwich. You first need to toast the bread in a toaster, oven, or in a non-stick frying pan. And just use plain white or wheat bread here folks. Nothing fancy is needed. If you go the "oven" or "frying pan" route, do not use butter or oil. Just monitor the dry pieces of bread as they toast and turn them before they scorch.

Next, layer the toasted bread with thick slices of cheddar cheese and put the bread in the microwave for about 30 seconds. (I like to layer both bread slices with the cheese.) When the cheese is "melty" (meaning, it does not need to be fully melted), you are ready to add the mayo and the steak.

The key to this sandwich using a large ladle-sized tablespoon to heap an unhealthy amount of mayonnaise (small ice cream scoop-sized) all over the cheesy bread. Do not, I repeat, "do not" delicately smear a slight amount of mayonnaise on the surface of the bread. And do not feel bad when you are making this sandwich. If you imagine an electric guitar playing hard rock music in the background, you will feel much better about ingesting all that mayo and cheddar cheese.

Next, nestle slices of leftover steak into the little mountains and canyons of mayo on one open slice of the bread, and then put the entire sandwich together.

So your sandwich layering should go like this from the top to the bottom: (1) toasted bread slice, (2) melted cheddar cheese, (3) mayonnaise, (4) steak, (5) melted cheddar cheese, again, and (6) toasted bread slice.

It is not rocket science, but it is extraordinarily sinful, and making and eating this 'wich will definitely hasten a visit to the underworld. If you are looking for a healthy version of the sinner's steak sandwich, try (1) using whole grain wheat bread, (2) adding a mere tsp of non-fat or low-fat mayonnaise, (3) reducing the cheese by 1/2, and (4) removing all fat from the steak, before inserting it into the sandwich.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hot Pot, Translated Into My Language

When the beau and I went honeymooning in Europe, we took pains to eat what the locals ate. Thus, we refused to eat at eateries that served American, Mexican, or Asian food in Europe. First, such food was virtually guaranteed not to be good. Second, we could spend our money and fill the limited space in our stomachs with something much better, authentic European food. However, we did make a few slip-ups. In Switzerland, one evening, at a restaurant called Raclette Stube, we ordered their meat fondue, expecting an authentic "Swiss" dish.

When the meal arrived to our table, we were disappointed to discover that the meat fondue (which cost around 40 Swiss francs a head) or "fondue chinois," was simply a version of steamboat hot pot that is served in every-Chinatown, USA.

But thankfully, there were unique Swiss additions to the Chinese fondue. There were (1) creamy fingerling potatoes steaming in a towel-wrapped wicker basket; (2) sweetly brined cornichons (gherkins), pearl onions, and baby corns with a vinegary bite; (3) crisp Swiss potato chips, and (4) a beautiful variety of mayonnaise and aioli dipping sauces made with curry, dijon, and horseradish.

In addition to these interesting Swiss additions, I noticed several differences between Swiss "fondue chinois" and the "fondue chinois" that I eat in America. The Swiss restaurant did not provide a bowl or spoon to enjoy the meat broth in the fondue pot (I merely was given a two-pronged fork) and there were no vegetables, seafood, noodles, or meatballs to cook alongside the thin slices of meat.

My Swiss hot pot experience drew me closer to my own previous hot pot experiences, and reminded me of how I enjoyed hot pot at home the most. Furthermore, because of my rigid, cheapskate upbringing, my wallet has always been uneasy about restaurant hot pot. (If you're unfamiliar with hot pot, see my previous post on hot pot, here, where I explain this soup meal that you cook in and eat from a communal pot. You cook the quick-cooking raw meats and vegetables in a boiling soup, and quickly remove them to prevent overcooking.) A part of me cannot get over the concept of going to a restaurant to cook your own meal. Hey, I pay for someone to do that for me, and that makes me feel special for the evening!

I earnestly believe that hot pot is best done at home. Communal cooking encourages real social collaboration. I love seeing how ambitious guests take charge and step up to the plate--err, I mean pot! Hot pot can also be as mesmerizing as a Broadway production, replete with swirling steam emanating upward from the boiling pot and sizzling and spitting burner grates. But by far, the best part about entertaining with hot pot is that you allow your guests do the work, rather than laboriously toiling away with your back hunched over relentless, sweltering, and glowing spiral burners. Thus, by serving hot pot, you avoid any burn marks branded on your fingers and a lot of stress!

For hot pot, you need a table top butane bunsen burner or electrical hot plate. A table top heating source is a great investment for a working entertainer because it can be used for cheese and chocolate fondue and Korean barbecue (use a grill pan such as a cast iron pan that will retain heat for grilling, though). Such a table top heat source is critical for keeping the food piping hot, as any good caterer will tell you.

Although the "one pot" cooking method isn't conducive for catering to the whims of finicky eaters, check out your local Chinatown for "divided hot pots," which allow you to heat multiple types of broth in the same gurgling cauldron. Each divided pot section may hold alternative soup bases
such as (1) a light, refreshing, and cleansing broth or (2) a spicy, nasal-piercing, and magma-hued stock, seasoned with fiery chilies.

Simplicity prevails in hot pot preparation. Hot pot entails only (1) the making of a soup base, (2) the gathering together of ingredients for each person's dipping sauce, and (3) the cleaning and chopping the vegetables. Here are some suggested hot pot ingredients:

Stock Base - Lace your stock or broth base with the one or more of following pungent ingredients for a highly memorable flavor:
  • Fresh Ginger (Bruised)
  • Miso Paste
  • Cumin Powder
  • Dried Red Chilies (Whole or Powdered)
  • Szechuan Peppercorns
  • Star Anise
  • Five Spice Powder
  • Bonito Fish Flakes
  • Dried Taro Strips
  • Bay Leaves

Dipping Sauce
- Allow guests to dip their meat and other cooked hot pot ingredients in a variety of sauces made of three or more of the following ingredients:
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Honey
  • Chicken Eggs
  • Sa-Cha Jiang (Taiwanese Barbecue Sauce made of Anchovies)
  • Minced Garlic
  • Sliced Scallions
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Ground Sesame Paste (Japanese Goma)
  • Ponzu Sauce
  • Mayonnaise (Flavored with Curry Powder, Horseradish, or Dijon Mustard, in the Swiss Meat Fondue-Style)
Ingredients List - Next, the following ingredients should be the primary substance in your hot pot meal. Feel free to add:
  • Thinly Sliced Daikon Radish
  • Thinly Sliced Carrots
  • Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Enoki Mushrooms
  • Straw Mushrooms (Canned)
  • Soft Tofu (Blocks or Skin)
  • Cellophane Mung Bean Noodles (Individual Bundles)
  • Yam Noodles (Individually Self-Tied Bundles)
  • Udon Noodles
  • Shell-On Shrimp (Fresh or Dried)
  • Squid
  • Springy Precooked Asian Meatballs (Shrimp, Squid, Fish, Beef, Pork)
  • Thinly Sliced Meat (Beef, Lamb, Goat, Pork, Chicken)
  • Leafy Vegetable Greens (Napa Cabbage, Chrysanthemum Greens, Spinach)
  • Frozen Dumplings or Wontons

In the end, after assembling the ingredients and watching your guests cook their (and your meal) you should be greeted with a rich caramel brown-colored broth surrounded by tender sheets of thinly sliced meat (such as rib-eye) poached until small meat ridges have peaked and the edges have curled. With those visual meat cues, the meat is done and the guests are now free to steep their meat and vegetables in a sweetened soy marinade, and shower their hot pot meal with a generous helping of angular scallions sliced on a bias.

Depending on your other ingredients, you and your guests might also enjoy crisp patches of nori (seaweed paper) which become absorbent floating blankets, wispy tendrils of poached egg, smooth-skinned dumplings with soft and uniform pleats, or circular curls of pinkened shrimp.

So to review, here's the game plan for hot pot:
Step #1 Prepare ample amounts of broth ahead of time and keep it on a low simmer during food preparation. Keep a large stockpot simmering on the range and keep refilling the table top pot with the liquid contents of the large stockpot, as you run low on soup on the table top pot.
Step #2 Defrost the meat and seafood (if frozen). When purchasing meat for hot pot, look for meat with thick white segments of fat encompassing the edges or interspersed in the meat like gargantuan continents (in a meat map of the world). The more fat, the more luscious and rich the flavor of the soup and tender the meat.

Step #3 Prepare the vegetables and tofu by (1) washing and leafing the greens, (2) peeling and slicing the daikon and carrots, (3) chopping the garlic, cilantro, and scallions, and (4) dicing the tofu into bite-sized blocks.

Step #4 Lay out the ingredients for the sauces.

Step #5 Set up the bowls, chopsticks, soup spoons, and spider ladles or regular ladles. For a cute touch, you can even label the different plates of meat and place settings (to give the guests a sense of ownership during their hot pot cooking process). They choose what meats go in, and when, so hot pot is definitely "cooked" by your guests.

Step #6 During your hot pot dinner, give verbal instructions to the guests to move the cooked pieces of meat to a specified, cooler area of the pot, or another "serving" bowl entirely, to prevent cross-contamination. Also provide multiple sets of metal scalloped-edged tongs (or spider strainers, which can be purchased in a Chinatown near you), to be sure that no one person monopolizes the hot pot and to allow each of the guests to be equally involved in cooking.

Finally, some hot pot fanatics say that it is a "must" to have ready-made foods at the guests' immediate disposal because of the lag time of cooking hot pot. Therefore, following the Korean and Swiss traditions, you may offer multiple "pickled" side dishes (panchan) with your hot pot, none of which need to be prepared from scratch. Buy canned or jarred preserved vegetables, or think about frozen and microwavable versions of steamed buns. You can even order side dishes to go! But I think the pickled additions are the way to go, since they lend a palatable and acerbic crispness and pleasant vinegar tartness to accompany the warm and soothing hot pot soup. And the pickles are addictive and delicious little snacks easily pinched between the tapered ends of a pair of lengthened and slender chopsticks. Now, I am not one who generally extols the virtues of premade goods, but as an entertainer, you'll need as much assistance you can get, and if the assistance is from factory laborers or automated, mass-producing, pre-packaging food machinery, so be it!

The only drawback of hot pot is the multiple dishes that you'll need to wash after the night is through. The upside however, is that you will have amassed a plentiful collection of petite, shatterprone dishes, although disposal ware should do.

Hope these hot pot tips helped, or at least inspired you do have a hot pot party for your friends in the future!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Anti-Food Blogger

You are probably thinking, "What's up with the fugly food pictures in this post?"

Yes, they are less than attractive and yes, they are old (from September 2008). For a while, I was debating whether to delete them forever, but a recent sequence of events involving two trips to Southern California in the last week, encouraged me to post them.

These pictures are from a wedding I attended in Los Angeles. My friend's wedding was set on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus and she held her rehearsal dinner in Westwood, at Palomino on Wilshire Boulevard. It was a sweet and intimate wedding, complete with swing dancing, a breathtaking view of the sun setting on the architecturally stunning red brick buildings on the UCLA campus, and fun guests. But, I hesitated on posting these pictures in part because of my interaction with a certain type of person during the wedding events...

The anti-food blogger.

Allow me to explain the entire story. I don't usually try to publicize my blog in public circles, but if I meet someone who is really into food, I will often casually say, "Hey, it seems like you love fine dining/cooking/eating in general. I do too! I even have a food blog!"

Well, at the rehearsal for the wedding, that's exactly what happened and exactly what I did. But instead of the usual response of, "Wow, you do? What's the address? I will check it out" response, I was greeted with his, "I hate food bloggers" line.

After hearing his response, I was taken aback. After I asked him "why," he explained to me in a Mario Batali-type way, that food bloggers generally don't fact-check their sources or research their recipes, and often pontificate their unsubstantiated assertions to those who regard them as credible sources who espouse reliable facts. I responded to him that while the web is flooded with bad information and spam garbage, the internet as a whole, has increased the availability of good information, valuable opinions, and entertaining multimedia (images, video, and sound recordings) to the public and food blogs have done that as well. Also, internet users and blog readers are cognizant that not all information on the web is 100% accurate, and most people know that information on Wikipedia is not gospel or like the contents of a university textbook.

I don't think he was convinced by my answer, and I wasn't really swayed by his opinion either. But we continued our conversation about food blogs, and eventually, we simply agreed to disagree. Thankfully, by the end of the night, we both realized that we were both opinionated people, who actually did share quite a lot in common.

Nevertheless, I was a little riled up, and thus, neglected to really pay attention to what was on the special menu that
Palomino has given to our wedding rehearsal party. But here are the pictures and the menu descriptions of what I "think" the dishes were, and some food pictures from the wedding itself.

In clockwise order, these pictures are from Palomino: (1) braised beef short rib with mascarpone polenta, white beans cooked with rapini and pancetta, and gremolata; (2) capellini pomodoro, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and chiffonaded basil, and cooked with chicken, plum tomatoes, garlic, and Parmesan; and (3) prawn scampi cooked in a citrus-herb butter with capers and white wine, and served with garlic crostini and herb capellini.

And here is what I had at the rehearsal dinner and at the wedding, in clockwise order from the top: (1) ravioli made from fresh saffron pasta filled with lobster, bay scallops, and tarragon with herb mascarpone, from Palomino; (2) coconut shrimp and a selection of tea sandwiches, breads, and tapenades; (3) ahi tuna teriyaki encrusted with two types of sesame seeds; and (4) tapenades and breads.

After my discussion with this anti-food blogger friend, I gave a lot of thought to the purpose of my food blogging. Admittedly, I don't have a culinary school degree, but I love eating, and that is why I blog. What do you think about food blogging? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Arugula

If any one meal is synonymous with the bourgeoisie, it is "brunch," but not a brown bag lunch and certainly not Sunday supper. Although we are mired in an ugly recession now, I think that now more than ever, we should make a concerted effort to relish finer things in our lives every now and then, even those luxuries typically associated with wealth and excess. Therefore, we should enjoy those brunches where we can!

One amazingly easy brunch idea that literally entails a few minutes of cooking time, is scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and arugula. I adore the ethereal smoky finish that smoked salmon leaves behind on my tongue and the milky, custardy, velvety soft, and cloud-like "feel" of the scrambled eggs. The sharp, peppery "twang" in the arugula ain't bad either.

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Arugula
4 whole chicken eggs
2 to 3 tbsp of heavy cream
1 tbsp of cooking oil
4 cups of arugula
2 slices of smoked salmon

To make this dish, simply heat a non-stick pan on high heat, and pour 1 tbsp of cooking oil on the pan and heat the oil until it shimmers. Meanwhile, whisk up the eggs with a generous splash of heavy cream (or the 2 to 3 tbsp). Pour the egg mixture on the hot pan, and use a wooden spoon to move the cooked edge of the eggs as they begin to set. When the glistening scrambled eggs have set, but before they begin to brown, remove them from the pan.

Serve the scrambled eggs on a bed of peppery arugula leaves, and top the eggs with thin slices of chilled smoked salmon.

Okay, now that I have enjoyed this small luxury, it is back to eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me! I hope you take the time to splurge and treat yourself. We all need a break from clipping coupons and pinching pennies once in a while!

And also, I want to thank Savory TV for the lovely inspiration. Visit their gorgeous site to check them out!

Friday, March 13, 2009

... I Am ... A Terrible Procrastinator

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking, "Where the fuzz have you been?"

I've been a little busy, but happy to be back blogging! I have many old posts in the pipeline (such as two posts on steak dinners in NYC and SF, the rest of my pictures from my European honeymoon in November 2008, and etc. and etc.), but I actually have even older business to take care of! The other day, when cleaning out the hard drive of my "dead" laptop, I found these outdated, half-completed answers to two memes dutifully written up by Melinda and the Foodhoe. OMG, I am so sorry Melinda and Foodhoe, here are my answers, a few years late!

First, I am going to respond to Foodhoe's meme, which asks for my ten favorite food pictures of all time. I actually limited my meme answer to pictures taken after I permanently changed my post format to feature larger, watermarked pictures. Check out Tastespotting and Foodgawker to see some of my other "better" pictures. Here goes, my favorite pictures:

1. Sun-Kissed In-N-Out Burger from Southern California, from Why I Miss Summer in Southern California

2. A Freshly Fried Oyster and Catfish Po' Boy from Getting Dressed (Po' Boys) at Domilise's

3. Steaming Bowl of Chinese Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Row Mein) from The Beau's Three Favorite Words

4. Refreshing Vietnamese Fresh Summer/Spring Roll (Goi Cuon) from Fresh Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)

5. Hearty Oxtail Stew with Tomatoes, Celery, Carrots, and Potatoes from Therapeutic Cooking #2: Warming Winter Soup on a Budget

6. Glistening Pieces of Raw Okra from Hearty Gumbo with Shrimp, Andouille, and Okra

7. Evian Quality Water from a Public Fountain in Zurich from H. Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren & Kaffeerösterei

8. A Warm Grill-Marked Panini with Eggplant and Stringy Mozzarella from Working Eater Series: Mozzarella and Eggplant Panini Sandwiches

9. Mountain of Airy Chocolate Ganache-Filled Macaroons from Confiserie Sprüngli

10. Sausage Links at the Zurich Farmers Market from Farmers Market in Zurich's Central Train Station

Second, Melinda asked me to reveal seven interesting facts about myself. I actually already revealed ten really interesting facts already, so check out my previous post for the "really intense" details about me. I also previously revealed five, less interesting facts. Nevertheless, here are seven more facts, which are not as good, but at least I "tried!"

1. I crashed our family car into our home, breaking down the living room wall, when I was about ten years old. Hey, kids will be kids!

2. My husband is the most forgiving person ever. When we first started dating, he bought me a $800 brand-new point and shoot digital camera. Before that, I didn't have one. However, I lost it (including all the accessories) one week after receiving it at the Chinese Cultural Center in El Monte, California (if you are the thief, then give it back). My husband (then boyfriend), bought me a new one the following year. I know, I know. But hey, don't judge!

3. I rarely wear my wedding ring, for fear of losing it. See the answer to #2, for why.

4. My biggest celebrity idols are Keanu Reeves (early days, only) and Angelina Jolie. Thus, I am not a fan of good acting (because of Keanu), Gwyneth Paltrow, or Jennifer Aniston (because of Angelina).

5. I watched my first rated-R movie when I was six. . . . I said don't judge!

6. I never learned how to swim--but I lived in Arizona, so that figures. Please don't throw me into even a shallow pool. Please.

7. Unlike 99% of the rest of the "sane" female population, I diligently watch SportsCenter, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, and the World Series of Poker Tournaments because of my husband... And I even waited in line on opening day for the Star Trek ride in the Las Vegas Hilton!

I'm actually starting to like poker. But the fact that I continue to watch Heroes is simply insane. That show sucks the big one. The storyline has basically been in the crapper for the past three seasons. But I have my own little triumphs: he watches Sex in the City, Lost, and Prison Break because of me! What can I say, we love T.V.

Since these memes are so old because of my slothfulness, I'm not going to tag anyone outright. If you'd like, leave a comment and I will tag you!

Also, to round out this post, here are two wonderful awards recently bestowed upon me by my food blogging friends. The Kreativ Blogger award comes from Donna-FFW and Sophie, two highly "creative" bloggers, and the E for Excellence award comes from Taste Memory, a most "excellent" blogger!

I would like to give the E for Excellence award to:

Cooking with the Single Guy - Chef Ben's blog appeals to everyone. He takes haute cuisine and makes it accessible to people everywhere, from writing great recipes and restaurant reviews, to providing recaps on food reality shows, he does it all well.
Foodhoe's Foraging - Foodhoe elevates food to an artform. I love her amazingly written restaurant reviews, insider details to food events in the City, and down-to-earth and sweet demeanor.
Melinda's Kitchen Diary - Melinda's baking skill is really incredible, and her step-by-step instructions and stories are heartwarming and welcoming. Her beautiful personality shines through her blog.
Mmm-Yoso!!! - Kirk set the standard for excellent food blogs with his blog, and continues to post great original content and encourage new food bloggers with his kindness and generosity.
Monster Munching - Elmo's beautiful food writing is the best in the food blogosphere. His words literally transport you to experience his experiences, and taste what he is tasting. He should be awarded a Pulitzer!
My Tasty Treasures - Donna's "tasty treasures" (delicious recipes) are always served up with a generous helping of humor, fun, and vivaciousness. I have never seen a blog like hers, she is one in a million.
Sophie's Food Files - I adore her unique recipes and learning about new ingredients from Sophie. She has so much to teach because she is a very knowledgeable and skilled cook.

I would like to give the Kreativ Blogger award to:

Chow Times - Ben and Suanne put a lot of effort to write and photograph great recipes and travel stories. Their effort is clearly seen on their marvelous blog.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry - EDNBM is a fun-loving, skilled, and adventurous food blogger, who is just like Anthony Bourdain, but much, much better in every way!
The Epicurious Wanderer - Chubbypanda is bursting with knowledge about culture and food. His intellect is very impressive, and his sweet personality is even more impressive.
The Food Pornographer - TFP's pictures and honesty are so refreshing, and her blog shows her love for her family and partner, and newfound love of bento boxes!
Taste Memory - Ingar's compelling stories can bring tears to my eyes. Also, her mouthwatering pictures and stunning descriptions of food can make me melt into a puddle of desire. She is a wonderfully creative and beautiful blogger.
Wandering Chopsticks - WC is one of the most inspirational bloggers out there. She definitely is a food blogger friend for life. I love her original recipes, and her love for Vietnamese culture and food. She should be hired by Food Network because she loves teaching others about Vietnamese food and she is the most qualified Vietnamese cook on the blogosphere.
White on Rice Couple - Todd and Diane give a new meaning to "power food bloggers," for they do it all including twittering, video editing, cocktail mixing, banh mi tasting, entertaining, and even gardening. And they always post great content on their blog. Simply incredible.

Finally, I have heard some mixed thoughts by readers about the new "Internet Food Deals of the Week" feature. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Internet Food Deals of the Week

Here are good deals that I found for this week, feel free to check them out:
Also, for you home cooks, here are some deals on kitchen appliances:
And the economy is bad, and I know many of you are diligently looking for employment, so here is one final deal that might strike your fancy:

Friday, March 06, 2009

Missin' Mission Street Food Already

After being inspired by Single Guy Chef and the Foodhoe and their visit to Mission Street Food, I decided to test out the San Francisco hype and pay a visit to Mission Street Food for myself. And I just happened to visit on the same night as the San Francisco Chronicle, so if you want a legitimate piece of journalistic writing, hop to their site. But if you are willing to put up with my regular 'tude, then stay right here.

If you haven't already heard, Mission Street Food is a conceptually radical dining experience. Mission Street Food's head chef/owner/culinary mastermind Anthony Myint's aim is to serve high-end cuisine in an unpretentious and unconventional atmosphere at affordable prices. The food, by all means, represents the best of upscale dining. There's fresh produce and meat, and exotic and locally available ingredients prepared by trained or culinary school-educated chefs... But the ambiance is another story entirely. At Mission Street Food, be prepared to brave (1) sticky tables with utensil-scratched glass tabletops; (2) foamy elementary school ceiling tiles with large open gashes and yellow water stains visible even with the extraordinarily dim lighting; and (3) a seedy, graffiti-scrawled, and crime-infested street.

Previously, Myint was a line chef at the respected
Bar Tartine restaurant in San Francisco, but he allegedly gave up that well-sought-after gig to work on this pet Mission Street Food project full-time. In Chef Myint's own words, he wants to appeal to the "indie" food community through Mission Street Food. To this end, every Thursday and Saturday, he serves up haute cuisine at a Chinese dive, Lung Shan restaurant, which is otherwise deserted in the evenings. When he initiated this idea into motion, he rented out a taco truck and doled out gourmet cuisine there. Every Thursday and Saturday evening, Lung Shan transforms into a bustling eatery, where you can get an incredible underground restaurant experience. For many, this is a particularly appealing place because you can bypass the self-righteous and arrogant servers and are spared of their feigned courtesies (namely, those servers at One Market and Roy's). Furthermore, you can revel in the satisfaction of knowing that Mission Street Food is backed up by Myint's Bar Tartine pedigree.

Mission Street Food features different chefs and foods every Thursday and Saturday. Thus, Chef Myint gives sous chefs and line chefs from big name restaurants the opportunity at an intense cooking and serving experience, while offering the public fine dining at ridiculously low prices. Best of all, the profits from the endeavor go to charities.

I'm not going to go in further detail about the restaurant itself, since I've already dedicated quite a bit of verbiage to it already. I'm now going to talk about what
Mission Street Food stresses as most important. The food. The menu that evening was especially appealing.

First, my friends and I started with a creamy celery root soup made with melted leeks. The soup was imbued with the vitamin-like flavors of expensive saffron threads and decadent brown Strauss butter and was topped with (1) a verdant spoonful of stinging nettle-meyer lemon puree and (2) croutons made of
Tartine's walnut and green garlic levain (sourdough) knoll. The intoxicating fragrance of the saffron floated like a sweet cloud over the pool of soup. With each bite, I gently reached my spoon to swirl the pool of green puree further into the recess of my bowl. The lemon was not overpowering and almost undetectable. There was a mild, dissipating sourness accompanied by a warming, soothing heartiness.

Next, my friends and I shared the brisket sandwich. The brisket from San Francisco's
Broken Record bar was slathered heartily between a homemade buttery focaccia bun. The bread was fluffy and substantial and the best part of the sandwich, in my opinion. The sandwich came dressed with a sweet onion soubise (onions sauteed with cream), a surprisingly mild dollop of horseradish creme fraiche, and allegedly, a fennel pickle, which I didn't see or taste. Something in the sweet onion soubise made it surprisingly akin to the sweetness in shredded coleslaw. The tendrils of pulled brisket were saturated with cloying barbecue sauce, which I lovingly mopped up with a piece of the focaccia bun.

Onto my favorite item of the evening. Based on my whopping two pictures dedicated to
Mission Street Food's signature flatbreads, you can rest assured that I wholeheartedly enjoyed them. The toothsome, crispy, greased flatbread was reminiscent of a chewy Native American fry bread, and loaded with a generous helping of softened king trumpet mushrooms, cubes of triple-fried potato, garlic confit (which I believe is garlic slow-cooked in fat), and sour cream seasoned with charred scallions. Unfortunately, I scarfed down these flatbread tacos a little too quickly to isolate the garlic and the scallion flavors and textures, but the explosive tang of the sour cream against the crisp and doughy bread was enough to captivate my full attention.

Another surprising favorite was the Bolinas goat stroganoff. The stroganoff came dressed with supple slices of wilted and braised fennel, juniper, and deep-fried chevre dumplings. All in all, I was quite pleased by my first "goat" experience. The overall flavor of the goat is almost indistinguishable from beef and unlike lamb, there is no gamey lamb aftertaste. However, there was a little "toughness" from the meat and a lack of supple juiciness. However, the luscious and lubricating fat rimming the pieces of goat meat moistened my tongue and helped the meat to slip in my mouth quite enjoyably. The stroganoff came with pockets of softened fennel, which had absorbed the savory stroganoff cream sauce; thick pappardelle-like pasta noodles; and beignets made of dough and chevre. When I read "chevre dumplings" on the menu, I expected deep-fried mozzarella stick-like chevre, filled with oozing chevre cheese. Instead, the battered dumplings were thick with a dough and did lack the potency of electrifying chevre flavor. "Perhaps the dough had absorbed the chevre," I pondered.

To close our evening, my friends and I shared a seis leches cake with clusters of huckleberries, leaves of marjoram, and a drizzling of sauterne wine. This was my first experience with huckleberries. I found them to be similar to "tougher" blueberries with a tighter, more tense, more resistant skin, which was not as delicate as a nectarine, but not as tough as an apple's skin. The potent aftertaste of the miniature blueberries honestly reminded me of the gamey flavor of lamb. Unlike other tres leches cakes that I have had in the past, the seis leches cake did not exude milk from its spongy cake crannies when I cut off a piece with my fork. The cake was moist, but not overly so. The jarring flavors of the marjoram sang in my mouth and the sweet white sauterne dessert wine added a deft finish and a slap to my flushed cheeks.

Finally, my friends and I also shared
Humphry Slocombe's "secret breakfast." The frosty orb of cream, bourbon, and sugared coated corn flakes came with a faint taste of sweet egg nog, and coated my mouth in sweet milky fat.

I wholeheartedly appreciated this
Mission Street Food experience, and would definitely return again. And I hope you try it out soon. Check out their blog for more details on guest chefs for the week!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ka-Pow Salad!

This is my special "ka-pow salad."

When I say, "ka-pow," I am referring to the tremendous, unstoppable force that knocks an evildoer or villain to the floor, while simultaneously causing the sudden appearance of a spiky yellow cartoon bubble with large block Lichtenstein font that reads, "KA-POW!"

Yeah, this salad is pretty special in my mind.

I previously posted about how I "need" my salad to be a protein and dressing bonanza. This salad is sort of an exception, because the only protein present is a few paper-thin shavings of intensely-flavored dry pecorino romano cheese and a supple soft-boiled egg. Also, there is no real dressing, but rather a light drizzling of balsamic vinegar and the dust of freshly crushed black peppercorns.

But it is still "ka-pow" in the utmost sense.

What I love best about this salad, is penetrating the luxurious egg and allowing the molten yellow yolk to spill forth, and watching it cascade over and coat the surrounding nest of verdant spinach leaves. I love taking a bite of the salad and discovering I hit the umami jackpot either with a joltingly salty bite of Syrian green olive or of pecorino romano cheese. I also love the subtle sweetness of the blood orange and its deep crimson hue, which stains the green spinach leaves and the salad plate.

There is no real recipe for you today though. Just a few images and words with a hope that they will inspire you to gussy up your salads with special ingredients that do a one-two "ka-pow" on your tastebuds, like a soft-boiled egg, segments of blood orange, shavings of dry pecorino romano, or ocean-kissed Syrian green olives.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Internet Food Deals of the Week

After getting a little rest after that last monster post, I just wanted to share this week's good internet food deals:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Celebrating Mardi Gras, with Vietnamese Flair

I have been noticeably absent from the food blogging world for a few days, but I can explain! I have been feverishly preparing for my entry to Foodbuzz's 24, 24, 24 contest regarding my Mardi Gras celebration!

New Orleans is one of the most diverse "melting pot" regions of America, with heavy Native American, African, and French influences in its cuisine. As seen by novel New Orleans foods such as the muffaletta, the impact of many other cultures is also uniquely apparent in New Orleans cuisine. (The muffaletta is a part of "Creole-Italian" cuisine, which started when Sicilians began immigrating to New Orleans in the 1880s.)

After the end of the Vietnam War, a huge influx of Vietnamese immigrants came into the New Orleans area because of the presence of the Catholic church in Vietnam and the population of Catholic church sponsors in Louisiana. Therefore, recently, Vietnamese culture and cuisine has slowly been influencing the already diverse and historically rich culture in New Orleans. For this year's Mardi Gras, I wanted to celebrate all of New Orleans' cultures, with a particular focus on Vietnamese food. I believe that it is more important than ever to preserve the wonderful culture of New Orleans. Furthermore, although I just moved from New Orleans to San Francisco a few months ago, New Orleans is still in my heart and home.

Mardi Gras is a huge holiday in Catholic communities and the South (and it goes without saying, in New Orleans). Furthermore, although the cuisines of New Orleans and Vietnam are distinguishable, they are also surprisingly similar. Both have (1) a prominent focus on fresh, seasonal, and locally available ingredients, such as the seafood catch of the day and both cuisines have (2) an underlying and strong French influence. Vietnamese cuisine has inherited cooking styles and traditions from the Chinese during the Chinese occupation of Vietnam, and from the French during the French colonial occupation of Vietnam. New Orleans and Vietnamese cuisines have adapted and evolved throughout time, and will continue to do so. My unique approach to my Mardi Gras celebration is to honor tradition, and also celebrate diversity. Therefore, my ultimate Mardi Gras meal is a fusion of the two cuisines.

This year, in addition to serving the classic "N'Awlins" fare for a group of my friends, I also tried my hand at making some innovative Vietnamese fusion items. The foods on the menu for my party (and the links to the associated recipes and step-by-step pictures) are as follows:

Several of these recipes call for extensive use of peeled and cooked shrimp. Thus, here is a little primer, or "shrimpy" orientation on how I peel shrimp.

First, I like to purchase shrimp with the "head-on." I was taught that head-on shrimp stay fresher longer and retain more shrimp flavor. With large prawns (see upper pictures) and smaller shrimp (see lower pictures), the removal is the same. Just use your thumb and forefinger and carefully pinch off the head.

Next, starting with the underside of the shrimp (where the legs are and the shell is "open"), grab a hold of and peel off the shrimp's calcified armor. Use your pinched fingers to pry open the shell from the shrimp meat. The legs will fall off with the shell. You could also remove the legs first, with a pinching and pulling motion, and then remove the shell.

Finally, score a slight vertical line on the back of the shrimp, where the natural line of symmetry is located. Delicately open the incision and using a paring knife and a paper towel, remove the black intestinal vein from the shrimp. Don't worry about cutting the vein, but don't cut too deeply into the shrimp. And don't throw away those shells! You can use them for making shrimp stock later!

And now that we've peeled the shrimp, here is my first recipe for my Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 post, for Creole-Spiced Shrimp.

Creole-Spiced Shrimp
6 medium-sized peeled and deveined shrimp
1 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup of water
1/2 tsp of Creole seasoning
tabasco sauce, to taste

Heat the butter in a non-stick pan on medium-high, until melted. Add the shrimp, the Creole seasoning, water, and the tabasco sauce and cook until the shrimp is fully pink and firm and springy to the touch.

Please check out the other recipes (which are linked to above) that I wrote up for this Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 post. Just to recap, here are the links again:
Happy Mardi Gras and get to cooking! (Also, I just wanted to make a special shout-out to Wandering Chopsticks, for always inspiring me to get in touch with my roots and with her great Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 post on her Asian Fusion Thanksgiving!)
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