Hi All – in case you haven’t heard – The Food Network is launching a Cooking Channel!
Exciting stuff! Let’s hope they’ll air it in the UK when I go back
Hi All – in case you haven’t heard – The Food Network is launching a Cooking Channel!
Exciting stuff! Let’s hope they’ll air it in the UK when I go back
Hi All – In perusing a few of my favorite foodie blogs, I thought of starting a new theme to focus on – reducing food waste. This shouldn’t be an entirely new focus for me since I had a “stern” talking to by my boyfriend for leaving him (for a few months in England) with cupboards full of various types of rice and canned goods. I know I’m terrible at this. I blame it on a few reasons:
So to counter act these weaknesses and also to use up all the stuff in our cupboards before adding to them, I am going to really begin seeking new ways to reduce food waste. They can be simple things like saving my egg yolks when I make an egg white omelette. Maybe I can use them for an egg wash if breading chicken. Or maybe I can use them to make an aioli or mayonnaise.
The specific blog I like to read that inspired this new endeavor is Viet World Kitchen. Andrea Nguyen is an author, freelance writer and cooking teacher who is also a contributing editor to SAVEUR Magazine. She always has great recipes for Vietnamese food and also many useful cooking tips.
One of her recent posts explains a great way to use unwanted chicken fat. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of this, but it makes complete sense! I knew to keep a chicken carcus to make stock, but didn’t think to render the skin and trimmed fat. Click here for her full post.
On this thought, I’ve seen a lot of cooks and chefs keep bacon fat. I think that’s a more commonly known trick though.. You could then use that fat for a number of things from quickly sautéing cooked pasta in it for ‘bacon essence’ or (I just thought of this and might sound weird) French Toast.. I now leave the fat from Chinese sausage in the pan when I make Vietnamese Fried Rice. It adds a bit more flavor and richness than plain old vegetable oil would’ve. Plus I like to tell myself it’s healthier than butter.. Of course the Brits are genius about using (maybe) unwanted fat. They traditionally roast their potatoes in goose fat. You can buy a can of the stuff for £1 or so, but here it’s impossible to find! Plus it’s more natural than margarine which I think people use too much of..
So stay tuned for more ways to reduce waste! If you have any ideas to share, please do!
As promised, I attended the Great Arizona Picnic yesterday as part of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival. This was one of those great summer events – even though it’s ‘summer’ (weather) here for the majority of the year. But it seemed like everyone was there – families, students, young professionals, retirees, and more. The event was held near Old Town Scottsdale and was expected to have up to 40,000 people attend. It was definitely well attended, but the great thing was that it never seemed too crowded. Lines were very reasonable, and there was always a place to sit. It really did feel like a picnic with lots of people lying out on the grass with blankets. There were 50+ restaurants and vendors at the event with a wide range of products and cuisines. I took lots of pictures to share, but keep in mind this wasn’t a gourmet food festival! There were actually a lot of ‘chain’ restaurants with booths there – from Kona Grill (they brought an entire fish tank!) to Sushi Roku to The Melting Pot. But there were a few artisan places like the Arizona Bread Company, The Gelato Spot and The Lollicake Company.
All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon – eating good comfort food, catching up with an old friend, and people watching
CLICK BELOW FOR THE REST OF THE PICTURES!(CLICK FOR MORE…)
Last weekend I attended my very first BBQ festival right here in Scottsdale. Something that I’ve learned about Arizona is that, due to its almost-year-round sunny weather, locals are really into putting on outdoor festivals. They range from various music festivals (jazz and blues, etc) to cultural festivals (Asian themed or just ‘international’) to foodie festivals. Although this was the first time this event was put on, it seemed like it was a success.
It was located down by the Scottsdale waterfront, across from Fashion Square mall on a large dirt parking lot with tents set up. With a $10 admission charge and $2 tasting tickets, it was a pretty decent set up. I liked that it wasn’t too spread out nor did it feel overcrowded. My cousin and I arrived around 2pm and there were still loads of people (the tasting ended at 4pm). We decided to just make our way around with no agenda other than to eat and get a cold beer (it was in the mid 80’s!). Our obvious approach was to go to the stands that had the longest crowds (assuming they’d have the best food).
First up was The Mission which is a modern, Latin restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale. They were not in the competition but were selling small versions of dishes from the restaurant. Tiff had already told me that I had to try this place as it’s one of her favorites. So we got the combo platter with a chicken taco, pork shoulder taco and grilled sweet corn. As we waited for our tacos the smells coming from the grill were intoxicating and made us all the more hungry. I must admit I am not a huge BBQ (sauce) person, but once you get that smell in your nose you really can’t say no. Plus you just think about the tender, smoked pork melting in your mouth and that memory reminds you that you’ll eat it even if you’re not hungry. As Tiff promised, the tacos were delicious. The pork shoulder taco is served with pineapple glaze, cilantro and cotija cheese. The chicken taco is served with oregano, lemon, aji Amarillo, cabbage and more cotija cheese. If you’ve never had cotija cheese, it’s a slightly salty yet mild Mexican cheese. The texture if very much like feta in that it’s firm and crumbly. One of my favorite ways to eat cotija is with grilled corn on the cob and lime juice. Both tacos were so refreshing and were packed with lots of flavor. I will definitely be making a trip to The Mission some time soon.(CLICK FOR MORE…)
As someone with a love for travel and culture, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been to American fast food chains in other countries. Sometimes it was due to being homesick (studying in Spain), but sometimes it was due to convenience (in some airport or other). Gradually it became out of curiosity to see what ‘special menu’ items they had in that country. And you know – it kind of seems like Americans are losing out!
When I studied in Spain (several years ago), McDonald’s sold Spanish beer and various tapas like croquettes. I soon realized that McDonald’s was considered a luxury since it was a bit more expensive than some local restaurants. Like they mention in the article, I remember a burger being served with pita bread at an airport in Greece. In the UK, they offer curry dipping sauce with your chicken nuggets. They also have a veggie burger that is delicious. I remember studying abroad in Paris in high school and going to a McDonalds with other students. I ordered “un sandwich de poulet” or in French a chicken sandwich. Oddly, the French McDonald’s employee did not understand me. Maybe it was my poor French but when I said a McChicken (in a very American accent)? He replied “Aaaah Le McChicken”!
In Hawaii (so I’ve heard), you can get a ‘big breakfast’ with spam and rice!
Am I the only one who finds this fascinating? To see what such a huge brand like McDonald’s or KFC comes up with as ‘local’. You know what’s unique to the US? Those McGriddle breakfast sandwiches (at least I haven’t seen them anywhere else). You know the absolute heart-clogging, cellulite-inducing sandwiches made with pancakes infused with syrup with sausage or bacon, egg and cheese in between? I won’t lie – they look good but they also look like they’d give me a heart attack instantly.
Anywho – hope you enjoyed these random little facts even if you don’t eat fast food. If you’ve seen any other cool ‘local’ menu items, please do share!
After my over indulgent week of eating out in New York, I was excited to come home and be able to cook for myself. I had felt so bloated and weighed down by the richness of it all. So I was looking forward to healthier eating habits.
Over the past couple months (other than the occasional foodie trip), I have been trying to change my entire approach to food. It’s been a slow, gradual process, but I have a few goals I’m working on:
The last point makes all of this difficult at times, but I’ve been fortunate to have my Mom on board while I’m living at home. I’m also particularly fortunate that the produce in Arizona is INSANELY cheap compared to the cities I’ve lived in (NY, LA, London). You can buy a large container of strawberries, on sale, for $1. And not just produce, meat and eggs are also much much cheaper. Sometimes chicken will be on sale for less than $1 per pound! I feel like I’m robbing these supermarkets, but there’s major competition in this region so they’re always offering deals! Aside from the large supermarket chain (Fry’s, Basha’s, Safeway), there are also gourmet or specialty stores like AJ’s, Sprouts or the more well-known Trader Joe’s (I’m very sad this isn’t in the UK by the way!). Fresh & Easy (owned by Tesco from the UK) has also been trying to break into this area, but doesn’t seem to be as popular. But since I’m a Tesco loyalist, I do love some of their products like their whole wheat pizza dough and ready-made meals.
So to meet some of my goals, I’ve been experimenting with different ingredients. Last week, I ate/cooked quinoa for the first time. This was really exciting since I’ve heard so many great things about this grain. It was strange though to cook something I had never eaten or seen in person. But, like a good girl, I googled it. :-) I was relieved to discover that it cooks just like rice (although I had guessed it would be more like cous cous).
So ever since I ate that Warm Farro Salad in Brooklyn (at Al Di La), I had been craaaving it. So I decided I would try to recreate it with the quinoa. I had some leftover grilled portobellos, red onion and extra arugula. Even though they weren’t the exact same ingredients as the Farro Salad, the main ingredients I had been craving were the goat cheese and the grains. So I chopped up some garlic and heated them up with the red onion and olive oil in a small pot. Then I added the quinoa and let it cook a little (as if it were risotto). Then added water and let it boil. I have to confess I struggled a little on this one. The quinoa soaked up the water SO fast, that I kept adding more and more. So from my research I knew that quinoa would expand a lot when cooked, so I wasn’t concerned when I saw how small the raw grains were. But once I started cooking it, I started to get a little worried when they didn’t really get very big. For some reason, I had this idea in my head that all the photos I had seen of quinoa looked much bigger than what I had in front of me. But when I look for more pictures now, I think mine turned out alright? Since no one in my family has ever eaten quinoa either, I didn’t have anyone to tell me. So please let me know if it looks okay!?
After it tasted like it was done, I put it aside to cool. I reheated my grilled portobellos and put to the side as well. Then I made a small portion of light red wine vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, kosher salt and black pepper. Then I tossed it all together. I squeezed a little more fresh lemon juice and added the arugula. The goat cheese was added once it was served onto the plate and voila! Warm quinoa salad with grilled Portobello mushrooms, red onion, arugula and goat cheese in a red wine lemon vinaigrette! And to my delight, it turned out delicious! The warm temperature of the quinoa melted the goat cheese and allowed it to blend with each bite. The portobellos added earthiness and the arugula added a nice peppery accent. All in all a success. But next time around, I want to try the butternut squash like in the Farro Salad and I’ll probably go lighter on the red onion (they were large slices because they had been grilled). I would also like to try it with feta or home-made ricotta some time.(CLICK FOR MORE…)
At last, my final post about my trip to New York last month. If you’ve read the other posts, you’ll know my dear friend Adi took me on a little culinary adventure. For two days we ate and walked our way around Park Slope, Chelsea, the West Village and SoHo. We re-visited some of my favorite places, went grocery shopping and checked out the new High Line Park.
But the highlight of my week-long stay in the city was not only a great experience, but was an exceptionally unique and intimate experience. The restaurant is Degustation in the East Village. The layout, itself, is a unique concept – a gourmet spinoff of a Japanese sushi bar. As you can see, it is a pretty small space that only seats 19 with all the cooking being done in the middle by four chefs. There was a grill/fry station, sauté station and plating area. It is categorized as a tapas bar due to its small-plate-style. While some flavors and ingredients are definitely Spanish, I would sway more towards American cuisine.
We had the pleasure of sitting in the far left corner of the bar next to the plating area. And we took full advantage of eyeing every single plate that was assembled. They even let us replace one of the dishes on the 5-course tasting menu. The chefs were really nice and accommodated all of our questions. Correction, he accommodated all of MY questions! But it was so much fun watching the intense concentration, the artistry, the flow. If one vegetable was plated facing the wrong direction, it would have to be thrown out and re-plated anew facing the right way.
For me, this is what made the experience foodie heaven. It was being so close to the action. It was seeing exactly why they call it Culinary ARTS. Each plate was the artist’s blank canvas. His mise en place (all the prepped items) was his paint palette. Even if the food had not turned out to be amazing, I would have enjoyed this experience. It’s one thing to watch sushi chefs but a whole other thing to watch a chef make such delicate, thoughtful food. (That’s not meant as an insult to sushi chefs, especially since my brother is currently training to be one!)
The entire restaurant, as Adi put so eloquently, was like a “finely choreographed song and dance”. Every plate was timed perfectly. The moment you finished your dish, it was removed in the most nonintrusive manner. And voila your new dish was placed in front of you. The waitstaff was very friendly and knowledgeable, and (at least when I was there) all the patrons seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
But now to the food. As I mentioned, we ordered the 5-course tasting menu but we also couldn’t resist trying the ham and apple croquettes. Croquetas are a classic Spanish tapa. It’s a small, lightly fried fritter and is usually made with ham (the Spaniards do love their ham!). It’s a wonderfully delicate little morsel of crispiness and creaminess. Having both studied abroad in Spain, Adi and I have had our fair share of croquettes. And I have to say that I never ever tire of them. How can you say no to something fried? Something creamy? Something with ham? The best croquettes are the ones that are almost fluffy and don’t leave you feeling greasy (like fried mozzarella sticks do). And Degustation’s version were perfect. The crunch, the explosion of flavor and gooey-ness. I could have eaten 50 more if anyone let me.(CLICK FOR MORE…)
Big thanks to my friend Teresa (FRESHisBACK) for sending me this NY Times article.
It highlights the fact that we’ve become a food-crazy era. A fact that is hard to deny when you think about how there is an entire network devoted to Food and with more foodie shows leaking into prime time on other networks. Chefs are no longer hidden away in the back of the kitchen. They have become uber celebrities or “TV personalities”. Even people who aren’t chefs become famous (like food critics and bloggers) and make us believe their opinions matter. And I tell you – if you haven’t figured it out already - this phenomenon is happening all over the world with some chefs crossing boundaries to expand their celebrity empire (i.e. Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, Marco Pierre White).
As I haven’t officially started school yet (or worked in the industry yet), I don’t quite know what the overall opinion is of these celebrity chefs. Or what the pros think of shows like The Next Food Network Star where “regular” people are getting their own shows without any formal training or experience. But I do know that I love food and I can’t get enough of it
I could sit and watch the Food Network or BBC’s Saturday Morning Kitchen on BBC iPlayer all day. And I know lots of people who would and do the exact same. I even grew up watching cooking shows with my mom after school long before the Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay days. I buy food magazines frequently too – often choosing them over my other guilty pleasure of gossip mags. I also get weekly emails from sites such as MyRecipes.com and CookingLight.com. Food is everywhere. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that it took so long for food to become such an entertainment phenomenon. But it makes perfect sense. Food appeals to all of us. And with the vast array of shows, magazines and websites out there, there is something for everyone. Whether you are a professional chef or can’t boil an egg, you are sure to find something that appeals to you.
Back to the article though.. The article discusses the trend of photographing food. Some people do it professionally and some do it as a sort of photo-journal of their daily life. Either way, it is becoming more and more normal or accepted rather. At first when I started this blog, I was a little embarrassed to be taking a picture in a restaurant (always with no flash). But I soon realized that no one blinked an eye. I’m getting better too, slowly, at capturing what I try to convince myself are artistic shots. But for my sometimes embarrassed boyfriend and friends, read this article and you’ll see I’m not the only one! I’m not even the worst of it! In fact, I think I feel a little more encouragement to go out there and snap some more. It just goes to show that with the power of the internet – even if you don’t think anyone is going to care, someone, somewhere, will end up on your site :-)
I find it amusing that this is my third post (there will be one more) about my 7-day trip to New York. Clearly I eat a lot. I’ll admit I went a little overboard. This is what happens when you’re a foodie and you’re deprived of New York. Thank goodness for the good weather while I was there and all the walking to offset it.
As promised, I’m writing about the rest of the comfort foods I enjoyed on my trip. (Please see previous post for comments on comfort food, if you haven’t already) Almost all of the places in this post were favorites of mine when I was living in the city. And I was absolutely delighted to find that nothing had changed. Quality, ambiance, staff – everything was exactly as I had remembered it. That’s something I adore about New York. When New Yorkers find a good thing, they make sure it sticks around for a long time. There’s a loyalty that seems to be inherent in the city. Once you find your favorite bar or favorite brunch place (what have you), you will be damn sure to go there as frequently as possible.
A quick note on the foods I’m about to share. They’re not in chronological order. And they’re in completely different categories of goodness. So please take each into consideration on its own. If you think about them all at once, the combination isn’t entirely pleasant.
First up – ZAITZEFF.
This place has great memories for me because it was literally around the corner from where I used to live in the Financial District. It was one of the first places I ate at when I moved to the city. And like all great neighborhood joints, I grew to have a really friendly rapport with the chef whose name I could never remember. Most importantly though, the food was TO-DIE-FOR.
Zaitzeff is a burger joint. It’s a hole in the wall with only a couple large wooden (park-bench-esk) tables. The one downtown seems to cater mainly to professionals who order delivery or only have time for take-out. But this means that the main focus is the quality of the food. Just take a look at what Serious Eats had to say (they agree with me).
This trip I wasn’t able to visit Zaitzeff at a respectable burger-eating-hour, so I went for breakfast. Don’t be mistaken. Their breakfast sandwiches sure beat any Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts sandwich any day. And their secret – what I have never had anywhere else – is the bun. A Portuguese roll. It’s like an English muffin but lighter and with a slight sweetness to it. I had a very simple egg and cheese sandwich but it was SO fluffy and really hit the spot. However, I left a little sad that I didn’t get a chance to have my favorite – the ½ pound Kobe burgers served PERFECTLY medium rare and juicy with caramelized onions, Vermont white cheddar, avocado, lettuce, tomato and bacon. But I borrowed one of the pictures from Serious Eats to share with all of you. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this burger since there’s much to talk about this post, but I do want to emphasize that in addition to the fantastic rolls this place uses grass-fed beef which makes the taste and quality of this burger THAT much better. So if you ever venture into the Financial District or East Village (this one’s open late), I highly recommend!(CLICK FOR MORE…)