Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Found a Baker for my Future Wedding?

{E.Ho's attempt at cake decorating ~ June 2010}
So... I'm stuck in a self imposed dungeon (my desk or the library desk) most days till about early October. However, I do allow myself some time to check email and follow up with blogging stuff before I get into the grind. The other day I opened up my Gmail and one of the emails was from a good friend at work, E.Ho with the above photo attached. I was so confused... did she happen to find a photo of a cake with BT's (our mutual friend at work) and my name? She then divulged later that day that she's taking a cake decorating/baking class. And ... her goal is to make a 3 tiered wedding cake!!! I've been asked to start thinking about my potential flavor combinations. Ideas anyone?

The penmanship isn't too bad yea? So I guess I've found a baker for my future wedding?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Recipe: Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates and Manchega

{Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates and Manchega}
It was show and tell time at the group meeting for work last week and guess what? It was my turn to share! What's the gist? Well we gotta share 5 fun facts about ourselves. I was debating over what to share and then Becky inspired me to incorporate my foodie obsession into the show and tell. So I share my fun facts and to conclude, I brought in an appetizer platter to share with the group. 

I kinda came up with this appetizer a few weeks ago since I happened to have all these ingredients at home and was rummaging around to make a tasty snack. Viola... something fancy and satisfying. I love the combination of the salty prosciutto with the sweet medjool date and mildly nutty flavor of the manchega and of course my trusty white truffle oil to make it just a little more special. The Manchega can be found at Trader Joe's but I picked up a block from Costco since I go through cheese fairly fast. I really like how fast it is to make this appetizer/snack... when I'm craving for a quick satisfying bite I don't have a lot of patience.

  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Medjool dates
  • Manchega cheese
  • White truffle oil
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  1. Halve the dates and remove the pit. Cut the halves into smaller sizes if they are really large
  2. Shave some Manchenga cheese
  3. Top the open half of the date with a few shavings of Manchega and roll in a piece of prosciutto (just large enough so the ends overlap)
  4. Assembled treats. Drizzle with white truffle oil and crush black pepper to liking

Sunday, June 27, 2010

KOBE beef at Sushi Ota: San Diego, CA

{Real kobe beef from Japan ~ Sushi Ota ~ May 2010}
I think its is only appropriate that my first post be about a meal at Sushi Ota. Sushi Ota has 600 plus reviews on Yelp and has been heralded as “The” sushi place in San Diego. Some will say you can find better sushi at Kaga in Chula Vista, Kaito in Encinitas etc. but for me Sushi Ota is the place to go if you want quality food. Yes food, not just SUSHI!

Most people that eat at Ota consider it a sushi place and order the standard assortment of specialty rolls and nigiri and rarely explore beyond those experiences (for the first year of eating at Ota I also only ordered these items). Rarely do people order omakase (which is what I normally get). Additionally, I always sit with Robert aka Atsushi (unless he is in Japan) He has such a great memory of what I like and dislike and caters my omakase meal not only with what is seasonal but what would suite my pallet. I really encourage anyone that wants a dining experience rather than just a good meal to invest in the time (and money) to sit with a Robert a few times and order the omakase meal and develop a report with him. You will not be disappointed. With all that being said I wanted I only have pictures of one dish from my latest Omakase meal that I though was particularly noteworthy.

The last time Liz and I were in, Ota-san was being visited by a chef friend who travels the world with his client on his multi-million dollar yacht. He had just returned from Japan and brough Ota-san a few filets of Kobe beef. REAL Kobe. Not the wagyu beef equivalent that you often see from diners to high end steak houses (I think even Ota advertises there premium beef as Kobe even though its really wagyu!). Robert was kind enough to grab liz and I some pieces so we could enjoy this delectable treat. The meat was served on a Shisho leaf with a little of the Ota red dipping sauce. The meat is so incredibly marbled that eating more than a few pieces would either land me in the hospital or the restroom!

Friday, June 25, 2010

XOCO: Chicago, IL

{Wood burning oven toasting some tortas}
OK... last Chicago entry I promise!

On our very last day in Chicago, we had a few hours to kill before jetting back to California. What should we do? Hmm... why not find a cool place to eat and chill at? We decided to head back to one of Rick Bayless's place, XOCO which is next door to Frontera Grill. I think the open wood burning oven that greets you upon arrival is such a nice touch, its welcoming and just beckons at you to wonder what it is thats toasting away.

{Aquas frescas}
{Cucumber, lime and mint aqua fresca}
I decided to get the cucumber, lime and mint aqua fresca and a Choriqueso torta. The torta was rich, very well seasoned... a really nice combination of the chorizo and roasted poblano with the salsa. I'm not a fan of  once hot gooey cheese that turns room temperature and gummy. It's just the texture combined with the temperature that gets me so I wasn't so crazy about this torta by the end but EHK still really enjoyed it. The aqua fresca was a cool delight. Sipping away, it reminds me of a beautiful summer day.

{Choriqueso torta: Homemade chorizo sausage, roasted poblano, artisan jack cheese, tomatillo salsa}
{Pibil torta: Wood-roasted suckling pig with achiote, black beans, pickled onion, habanero salsa}
EHK decided to be daring and get the Pibil with the habanero salsa! Pork is a our friend especially in the form of a roasted suckling pig :). Another sandwich with some really nice flavors but the salsa, I dare say was too much for him to handle and I remember him gulping down his aqua fresca and then trying to steal some of mine. So stay away from the habanero salsa unless you can handle the heat or don't mind trying to put out a fire.

{Homemade Mexican vanilla soft serve}
For dessert, a plate of freshly made churros and vanilla soft serve. Though you have to order and pay for everything upfront, the staff was really nice about lagging on preparing the desserts so it wouldn't just be sitting around while we were eating the savory stuff. Again, the churros were a nice treat like we had after dinning at Frontera Grill and we saw all these people dipping their churros into a cup of soft serve so naturally we followed suite. The fragrant warm crispy pastry with cool vanilla soft serve combined is lovely treat... like an inside out  fried ice cream.

{Hibiscus and lemongrass aqua fresca}
{Seafood caldo: Shrimp, mussels, catfish, red chile broth, potatoes, grilled knob onions, pea shoots, cilantro, lime}
We stuck around for the caldos to be served since we still had some time. This time we ordered a hibiscus and lemon grass aqua fresca and seafood caldo. I love the crimson hue of this aqua fresca and the sweet tartness makes you pucker a little and awakens you. Seafood caldo came out piping hot and full of seafood goodies. The catfish nuggets were my favorite part of the soup and the lime did the job of helping to cut some flavorful broth.

We couldn't have asked for a better way to end our stay in Chicago than with this last visit. We definitely had a lot of great eats and sight seeing. I can't wait for a chance to come back again.

449 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Tu–Th: 7am–9pm
F: 7am–10pm
Sa: 8am–10pm
Su–M: Closed

* Breakfast served until 10:00AM
* 10:30AM to 11AM: Pastries and beverages only
* Tortas served after 11AM
* Caldos (soups) served after 3PM
* Churros served all day
* Takeout for breakfast (until 10:30AM) and after 3PM.  Beverages and pastries are always available for takeout.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spiaggia Cafe and the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Center: Chicago, IL

I haven't posted in almost 2 weeks as there have been quite a few celebrations to attend and also dealing with the frustration of my computer finally on its last leg. I've been debating over what I should get next so if anyone has suggestions please forward them. 

I really wanted to do a post on our experience in the Dinning Room at Spiaggia but my dinky camera really can't do justice to the meal lit by candlelight. We had a scrumptious 7 course tasting menu with wine paring of which the highlight was a lobster carpaccio. It was light and fruity and unexpected since I've never had lobster as a carpaccio before. By the end of the night I was stuffed beyond belief and I was told that the pairings would be tasting pours but they ended up being generous full pours. So... as you can imagine I had difficulty manning a camera by about the middle of the meal.

{Lobster Carpaccio ~ The Dinning Room at Spiaggia ~ Chicago ~ April 2010}
On our last evening we decided to dine at Cafe Spiaggia, the more affordable sister restaurant next door. Though it shared the same name sake and restrooms, the differences were very apparent as it lacked the pomp and meticulous service of its older sister. The gratis bread came out in a basket instead of a server coming by with his tray to ask us what types of rolls we were interested in. It also lacked a maître d who'd come by every so often to check on how we were doing. It's not like I was expecting the same types of special touches as we did walk out of Cafe Spiaggia for about 1/6 the cost of the Dining Room but it was still interesting to see the differences under practically the same roof.

{Carpaccio: Thin slices of raw beef with lemon, arugula, crispy capers and shaved 
Parmigiano Reggiano}
In retrospect, what we should have done was eat at the Cafe before we tried the Dinning Room. I realized I was comparing the experiences the whole night. I found the carpaccio for the night to be a lovely combination of flavors and the crispy capers to be a delight yet still yearning for the lobster carpaccio from the night before. 

{Paccheri: Hollow tube pasta with olive oil poached tuna, corno di capra peppers, olives, tomato and mint}
The paccheri was one of my least favorite dishes of the night. Honestly, the poached tuna tasted a whole lot like caned tuna... the stuff that comes out of a Chicken of the Sea tin. I love Chicken of the Sea when I'm making tuna salad but not when I'm eating a pasta dish on the Mag Mile. The Olives where too pungent for my taste and I think the tube pasta was rather large and clumsy for the dish.

{Tagliatelle: Hand crafted pasta with braised duck, leeks, Yuppie Hill poached egg and Pecorino Romano}
Tagliatelle was a pasta dish more to my liking and more on par with what I was expecting from the Cafe. The duck was nicely done. Pasta was al dente and not overwhelming like the tubes from the previous dish. Oh and who doesn't love a good poached egg? Mr.K thinks its very in right now to top just about anything with an egg. I find that breaking the egg is always a pleasure and the silky golden yolk just coats a pasta or salad dish wonderfully, giving it that extra little uhmph.

{Special for the night: Braised lamb over polenta and mixed vegetables}
The special for the night which was a braised lamb caught my eye. It probably should have just stayed that way and we should have just ordered something off the regular menu. I found this dish incredible gamy. I'm huge fan of lamb but the gaminess was a little more than I could handle. I don't think it was poorly executed... just not my taste so Mr.K being the good sport that he is helped to finish my portion of the dish.

{View from the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Center}
It was still a relatively early evening so we headed over the the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Center. I thank Hal for this suggestion. Instead of paying to go to the Hancock Observatory on the 94th floor, why not head up to the Signature Room/Lounge which is at the 95th and 96th to enjoy some drinks and a FREE view? Chicago at night from this high is lovely. Its's so flat and the lights seem to go on forever.
The Dinning Room at Spiaggia
Level 2
980 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Cafe Spiaggia
Level 2
980 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

The Signature Room and Lounge
The John Hancock Center, 95th and 96th floor
75 North Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Marketplace Story on Food Bloggers: Helpful or Disruptive?

{Confit de Cuisse de Canard: Crispy duck leg confit served with thyme skillet potatoes ~ Cafe Champagne ~ Seattle, WA ~ July 2009}
I'm an NPR junkie. I'm constantly sharing stories I hear during the day and I don't blame any of my victims for tuning out or ignoring my emails since I do share quite often. I think the stories I hear during my daily listening are way more relevant and contain more analysis than the local news. I think the news on the tube is usually littered with the latest celebrity scandal or something else that I rather not devote my time paying attention to.

So I was delighted when Marketplace did a story about food bloggers? Hey I'm a food blogger! What do they have to say about people like me?

The gist I got from the story is that there are mixed reviews about food bloggers. Some restaurateurs love the free publicity and others regard our kind with disdain as we don't have professionally trained palates. I'm not surprised by this story. I've experienced some proprietors who are excited  that I'm snapping away pictures when they learn I plan to blog about my visit and others that cringe at the knowledge that I am a blogger.

Really, I don't do this blog for the owner. I do this for myself and anyone who cares to stop by this site.  I agree with the blogger featured in the story, just focus on the food! If good food is coming out of a place, there's nothing to worry about as the people will keep coming back. I'm just a chick with an opinion on what I think is good... and bad food. I don't see the harm in sharing my thoughts. Is it really any different than if a friend called me up asking me about a recipe or a restaurant? Other than the fact that this blog is out there for everybody to read? I blog for pleasure, no real $ incentive, and try to keep my reviews fair and transparent about my actual experiences and thoughts.

I know what I like to eat... do I have to wait for a professional photographer and food writer to snap pictures and tell me what I should like? I don't think so!

The following link is a transcript of the story.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger! at Billy Goat Tavern: Chicago, IL

OK! Back to those few Chicago posts I still need to finish up. Being a fan of Saturday Night Live and burgers, can't leave Chicago without visiting Billy Goat Tavern right? Staying at the Intercontinental Chicago, we were fortunate to be a hop, skip and a jump away from this place. Its located on the lower level of Michigan Avenue, so its got that dark dingy feeling pretty much all day.

For those of you not familiar with the SNL reference, the tavern was honored as the reoccurring Olympia Cafe skit played by John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Loraine Newman. My experience at Billy Goat Tavern wasn't as outrageous as an SNL skit but it was still ... quite an experience. I actually think that the outlandishness of the skit rubbed off a little on the staff. But what do I know? I wasn't around to see what it was like before SNL put it on the map. Upon immediate arrival, the cashier yelled "Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger!, Cheeps! No Coke! Pepsi!" at us. Uhm ok... I guess I'm having a cheezborger? After perusing the menu, I think we were convinced to get the double cheeseburger. The cashier sized up EHK and suggested it... and well I can eat too!

Was the burger something to write home about? It was an okay burger, thin patties.. not overly juicy,  buns made up most of the burger, and ugh... raw onions. My heart still belongs to grilled onions and Rocky's. What I liked about the place was the novelty. Its a greasy joint, got the usual sports memorabilia and of course the antics of the staff. I'd come again for the entertainment and a bite to eat if I were in the neighborhood.

The Original Billy Goat Tavern
Near Tribune Towers and Wrigley Building
430 N. Michigan Ave at Lower Level
*other locations listed on the site*

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