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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Recipe: Creme Brulee

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I’m a sucker for creme brulee and I try to order it wherever I can. However I do think its usually overpriced. C’mon… ~$8! There are certain things that I’m willing to splurge on such as a delicious slice of torte from Extraordinary Desserts since I think its a little too hard for me to come up with anything that even remotely close to it. Creme brulee is a different story. I’ve been reading different recipes and it seems simple enough so one day I bought the ingredients, ramekins, and a creme brulee torch. Low and behold… out came a tasty decadent creme brulee.


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  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks, graded large
  • 1 or 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped or 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra to caramelize top



  1. Vigorously whip egg yolks with sugar with a whisk or electric mixer until the mixture because light in color and sugar has dissolved a bit; set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine heavy cream with vanilla beans which have been carefully split down the center, its fragrant black seeds scraped from the pod and both combined with the cream or just add the extract to the cream. Bring the mixture to a simmer, when small bubbles have formed around the edges of the cream it is ready.
  3. Gradually pour the cream mixture into the egg/sugar mix, whisk gently by hand to combine. Strain custard through a fine mesh strainer, retrieve vanilla bean and place it back into the custard. Chill and cover mixture with a sheet of plastic wrap, pierced several times to release any steam( chilling mixture overnight will let the flavors develop and allow custard to thicken a bit).
  4. Preheat oven to 350*F(180*C). Place individual ramekins in a baking pan, deep enough to allow the water to come half way up the ramekins.
  5. If you used vanilla bean, remove them from the custard mixture( can be reserved for another use) and fill ramekins 3/4 full. Place pan in preheated oven and pour hot water in baking pan so water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover pan with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, sealing edges to retain steam. Cook 40 to 50 minutes or until custards are set. TO test for doneness, gently shake the individual ramekins; if center is still a bit liquid-like return custards to oven and continue to cook, checking ever 5 to 7 minutes, until it had just set , with a small area in the center, the size of a quarter, still a little loose.
  6. Remove ramekins from baking pan and chill custard in refigerator several hour or untill chilled through
  7. To serve put a thin layer of granulated sugar on top of each custard. Using a torch, caramelize sugar working from the outside in towards the middle keeping the torch in constant motion. Sugar should be golden brown and caramelized never black. If burnt, let sugar layer cool a few minutes than peel it away with a paring knife and begin again. Alternatively you could caramelize the sugar under a broiler, keeping a careful watch over it and rotating it to cook evenly.
Makes 4-5 ~8oz individual creme brulees

Recipe: Vanilla Almond Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies

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This is my tried and true cookie recipe. It never fail to impress. Make it for somebody you care about, your coworkers, whoever and they’ll love them and you of course. ;-)


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  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • jam of your choice
  • sugar in the raw
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar until smooth. Mix in vanilla and almond extracts. Mix in flour until dough comes together. Roll dough into approximately 1 1/2 inch balls, dip top part in sugar in the raw. Using finger or knuckle make a small hole in the center. Fill center with some jam.
  3. Bake for 14-18 minutes in preheated oven or until lightly brown. Let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet
Makes approximately 40 cookies

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Old Bear: Rome, Italy

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The first time I ate at Old Bear I was bit turned off. Perhaps it was kinda late already and I was feeling sleepy or maybe the bread tasted a little stale or maybe some of the company was unpleasant. Whatever the reason, the second visit changed my mind about the place because of the oh so tasty Spaghetti Carbonara. I ended up eating dinner at this place for over a week. The prices are good, the service is super friendly and the portions are fit for a king.


The antipasto appetizer plate was quite a smorgasbord of Mediterranean treats. However, I don’t feel like we appreciated it enough. My favorite items on the plate was the fresh tomato bruschetta and the handmade fresh mozzarella. The sweet juicy tomato pieces dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper on top of crusty bread was such a delight. Though I would have preferred the bread to be more softer. The mozzarella reminded me of Obika, it wasn’t as good as there but it was still delicious. Tasting all these fresh ingredients really inspired me to cook more at home when I came back and feature more fresh ingredient in my dishes.


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Ahh the spagehtti carbonara. This dish could have sigle handedly caused me to gain a few sizes had I not been walking around so much. Ummm… noodles tossed in panchetta, garlic, heavy cream and parmasan cheese.. need I saw more? This bugger was responsible for me coming back to have dinner at the same place for like a week.


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Before tasting these roasted potatoes I was a firm believer of drench my tatters in ketchup. However Old Bear doesn’t offer it as a condiment so I tried it plain. Quite yummy just roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. I tried making them back at home with baby red potatoes and they were just a delish.


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Paella Valencia…so yummy but salty too. I learned quite early that the Italians like their dishes heavily salted and this dish is no exception. I found the rice a little salty yet the seafood was quite tender and tasted just right.


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Lasagna all Bolognese. What impressed me was the noodles were cooked so perfectly…just the right firmness. The filling was not too overpowering as was my experience with several lasagna dishes I’ve had back at home. It was a light meat sauce with some ricotta cheese.


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I’ve never really been a fan of lamb until I tried these lamb kabobs. The light seasoning of rosemary was both aromatic and tasty.


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The ricotta cheese cake was quite delicious even though Cassidy thought it was too sour for her taste. It was very tender unlike the firmer texture I was accustomed to. The glazed strawberries went well with the lightness of the cake.


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The Old Bear 
Via dei Gigli d’ Oro 3
Roma, Italia 00186
p: 06.68210009
7pm-3am
http://www.oldbear.it/

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Obika: Rome, Italy

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Obika is an interesting take on what we Americans normally associate with sticks of cheese that we munch on in our lunch boxes as kid. Think sushi bar but for Mozzarella cheese. Wild ehh? Mozzarella is just about prepared in any way you can imagine here. I ended up coming back to this place like 3 times just for the Mojito. The Mojito is a little pricey( 8,50 euros) so try to come around happy hour when you can get a drink of your choice and eat from the buffet which is an array of cheeses, meats and light pastas all for 8 euros.
One time my party and I came late(after happy hour) so the owner decided to make some plates of the items from the buffet for us to try. This was only one of the plates and the other side of the table got a different plate of items also from the buffet.


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Ahh… the mojito. It makes me sad that this is the best mojito I’ve ever had which means I’ll have to come back just to be sipping away at one of the best damn mojitos ever. A cool thing is that instead of stirring in the sugar, they add sugar in the raw or coarse large grained sugar that won’t dissolve as easily so you can stir and control how sweet you want your drink to be.


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Obika
Via dei Prefetti
Piazza di Firenze
 p: +39066832630
8am-12pm
Happy Hour: 7:30pm-9:30pm on weekdays.
http://www.obika.it/

Super Pizza: Rome, Italy

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I often went to the Despar Market to load up on drinks and snacks but rarely took a look at Super Pizza a small pizza stand that is tucked in between a niche of the market. One time, about 2 weeks into the program/trip Albert had mentioned to me when we were on the way to Pompeii that he had gotten some supplis to munch on for the long day trip. I kept that in mind and ended up visiting there with Adrienne about a week or so later. I’m kinda kicking myself in the head for not having visited earlier. The have an assortment of fresh baked focaccia style pizza as well as tasty supplis. Suppli is simply seasoned risotto rice with gooey mozzarella in the middle and often times meat in the middle, breaded and fried crispy. It is such a treat to bite into one and find the stringy cheese. For some reason eating this reminds me of childhood and eating a Lo Mai Gai( lotus wrapped rice). I’m suck a sucker for just about anything rice. They charge by the weight for the pizza which they fold into a sandwich for you so it can get a little pricey depending how hungry an eater you are but a pretty hearty slice is about 3-4 euros and they charge 1euro per suppli. Be a regular and talk with the nice girl that works there and she’ll hook you up sometimes with some free suppli or an extra large cut of pizza.

OooOoo…look at the tasty pizza.

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But what really drove me to come back and still gives me some of the fondest memories of simply sitting around and people watching by the Pantheon were these tasty little morsels.

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Super Pizza
Via Giustiniani
(between the Despar market space)
(between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona)
Rome, Italy

Babington's English Tea Rooms: Rome, Italy

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I know it sounds odd to want to go to an English tea room when in Rome. However this place is located in the historical Piazza di Spagna right across the Spanish Steps from the Keats and Shelly house so I felt a little inclined to visit a little piece of late 19th century history. Babington’s was nicely decorated in decor of the era. What also drew me to the place was a review that was raving about the Shepard’s pie. Unfortunately we sat down and then were told that the Shepard’s pie was out of season. I feel terribly guilty about leaving when already sitting down so we stared glass-eyed at the extremely overpriced menu…. 18-20 euros for a sandwich?!? I decided to go with the “High Tea” which was a surprising 36 euros. It consisted of the house tea, assorted sandwiches, assorted cookies and crumpets.

I can’t seem to find a picture of the tea on my camera. However, it did come in a fancy silver teapot, the house tea was quite fragrant and it came with the usual condiments of sugar, lemon and cream.

The assortment of sandwiches was a little on the skimpy side. I was hoping to see a buffet server of some sort stacked with all the sandwiches I could dream of. Wouldn’t you for 36 euros? Also the the sandwiches weren’t as tasty as I had hoped.

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The cookies were rather unimpressive. Perhaps it was just the initial experience with the tea sandwiches that already turned me off but for some reason I thought that Costco cookies were even better. Not to say that Costco cookies are bad its just that high expectations come with a high check you know.

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One of the hot buttered crumpets. I was really hoping to get some jam but it never came. Hmm…it tasted like a hard tasteless English muffin.

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It was nice visiting Babington’s Tea Rooms however the food wasn’t all that impressive and the price considering what it is was less than appealing. I say if you want to have a nice tea but are willing to giving up the some of the formalities…Hutington’s Library’s Rose Garden Tea Room up in the Pasadena/ San Marino area has an awesome value… for $20 there is a limitless buffet of tasty sandwiches, salads,delectable desserts, fresh scones and tea. You just need to make a reservation about two weeks in advance (626)683-8131. Also a thing to note is that the Rose Garden Tea Rooms price is on top of admission into the gardens so be prepared for a somewhat pricey but well worth trip. http://www.huntington.org/Information/NewTeaMenu.htm

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Babington’s English Tea Rooms
Piazza di Spagna, 23, 00178
Rome, Italy
p: +39066786027
f: 3906791532
http://babingtons.com/english/movie_eng.html

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Miscellanea International Student Pub: Rome, Italy

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I have to owe Scott for introducing me to this wonderful little pub that really helped me out with staying under budget while I was in Rome. This pub is tucked in a little alleyway so you may have to ask around to find the place but it is well worth the effort. The food here is very reasonably priced for a student’s budget and the drinks are actually discounted at lunch. What kept me coming back like Scott was the roasted turkey sandwich. Its roasted turkey with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and romaine lettuce in between two tasty slices of rustic bread. This sandwich is actually better to go as they season the lettuce already and it’s kinda tough to do it when they present your sandwich already assembled. One thing that Scott was raving about that I only got a taste of and never really got to try was the Fragolino.. strawberry wine. I’ll be sure to have a glass if I ever go back.


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Via Pastelle
Pantheon Area
Rome, Italy

Nerbone: Rome, Italy

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Walking through the quaint streets of Florence was a nice change from the bustle of Rome. It is quite easy to work up an appetite visiting several of the museums and churches that dot the town. After going to the Academia and gawking at the David we were quite famished. We decided to walk back the Mercato Centrale that we had passed by on the way from the train station. We were astonished to walk in and find two floors of basically any ingredient an Italian cook could dream of. The place was organized into several small stalls like a little open market. We let our nose guide us and soon found our way to Nerbone… a small food stand famous for panino bollito( boiled beef sandwich so we decided to try that. Man was it delicious! The bread was quite crusty which the Italian seem to be fond of and the beef was incredibly tender and flavorful. The guy making my sandwich added a green and red sauce which added a delightful kick. There surely is nothing like simple, down home, no frills food.


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Nerbone 
Mercato Centrale 
S. Lorenzo
Florence, Italy 
p: 055 219949

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