Monday, November 22, 2010

Hot Doug's

"This place convinced me the Chicago red hot is, in fact, superior to the New York hot dog. And it's home to two great innovations in American gastronomy: the "foie gras dog" and the weekends-only practice of cooking French fries in duck fat. It's proof that food doesn't have to be expensive to be great." ~Anthony BourdainAnthony Bourdain declares that Hot Doug's is one place you need to go eat before you die. This place has been featured on the Food Network and Travel Channel numerous times, that's how much this place is hyped up.
As a foodie who just moved to Chicago, I just had to try it.
This little hot dog joint is not exactly in a convenient location, it's kind of on the outskirts of the city. We got there on a Monday morning when the doors opened at 10:30. I got to order my hot dog without any wait, but within minutes there was a line out the door.
The restaurant has a retro feel to it and has lots of hot dog memorabilia all over the walls. It's a lot of fun to look around at the silly decorations. The menu is pretty hilarious with items like "The Keira Knightley" (a spicy hot dog) or "The Elvis" (smoked and savory) or "The Salma Hayek" (a really really spicy hot dog).I opted for "The Dog," a classic Chicago Dog with tomato, pickle, and celery salt. It as a good, solid hot dog for $1.75. mmmmmmmmm.
I wasn't allowed to eat processed meat while pregnant so hot dogs were at the top of my list of things I wanted to eat once my baby was out! I honestly missed eating hot dogs more than sushi... haha. Hot Doug's
3324 North California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618-5848
(773) 279-9550

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bento Boxes

Now that we've settled into our new home in Chicago and Hubby is starting to get used to his new job, I've been cooking more. Lately, I've been packing a bento box for Hubby's lunch everyday. Bentos are so much fun and I plan on continuing to experiment with Hubby's lunches! :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I hate to let food go to waste, so I started panicking when I saw my extra ripe bananas. I didn't want to eat the mushy things so I decided to make banana muffins with a little twist.
I'm not a huge banana bread fan, but chocolate makes everything taste so much better!

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA MUFFIN RECIPE
Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1-1 1/2 c. (3 lg.) ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
Salt to taste

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 18 muffin tins or line with paper. Mix butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add bananas, milk, vanilla and eggs; mix well. Add flour, baking powder and baking soda. Salt if desired. Mix until moist. Add mini chocolate chips and walnuts. Fill tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

M.I.A

Sorry I've been M.I.A from this blog. I've been missing because I just gave birth to my baby girl!!! She is one month old tomorrow. Life has been busy busy with the new baby and we've been packing up everything because we are moving to Chicago in just a few more weeks. I'm at a changing point in my life with the new family addition, a new job for hubby, new city, and hopefully lots of new friends! I promise many more foodie updates once we settle down. I'm excited to try new recipes, explore the farmers market in our new neighborhood, and try a bunch of new restaurants once we move!
xoxo

Friday, July 16, 2010

Craft

I'm 9 months pregnant right now and due any day. I'm so tired of being pregnant and feel more than ready to meet our little girl.
Yesterday, hubby and I decided to go on one last grown up date before our baby arrives and the two of us make three! We wanted to go to a romantic place with good food that was close to home so we decided to have an early dinner at
Craft (which is walking distance from our house). It was my first time trying this place and I was thoroughly impressed! If you watch "Top Chef" you know Tom Colicchio, and I was excited to hear that he is the chef/owner of this beautiful restaurant with spectacular food. First off this restaurant gives quite a few freebies! Yes, I said FREE. When you sit down at the table they bring you a free amuse bouche (bite-sized hors d’œuvres). The amuse bouche of the day was a cool cucumber soup with crème fraiche, which was light and a perfect way to start our meal.

For my drink I had a virgin cocktail: strawberry ginger beer with mint. It didn't have any alcohol in it but tasted like a real cocktail so I was happy! :) Everything here is served "family style" so we ordered a few dishes to share. I loooooved the potatoes gratin. I know it's not a complicated dish, but damn... how did they make it so good? The cheese on top was so crispy and fragrant. And there was a perfect amount of cream and garlic. yummmm.
We also had the mixed mini lettuce salad with radishes (which I forgot to take a photo of). The dressing and pickled radishes were so fresh and tasty. Another appetizer we ordered was the Anson Mills grits & cheddar. It was simple and went well with our main course.
For the main course: braised beef short ribs that just melt in your mouth! So soft, tender, and with the perfect amount of sauce. It doesn't look that appetizing in the photo but it was divine!
For dessert amuse bouche they served us a hazel nut panna cotta which was so creamy and yummy. I felt the need to indulge a little more since this would be our last fancy dinner in a long time so I also ordered dessert after all that food!
I ordered the corn crepes with corn ice cream and blueberries. I thought this dessert dish sounded really interesting and promising but honestly it wasn't very good. Hubby and I didn't even eat half of this dessert. It tasted like frozen corn soup and it just didn't taste like dessert. There was cream corn or something inside the crepes and it was weird... I was disappointed in this dish but the freebies to come really made up for it.
Let me just say that the service here was stellar. The waitress was really attentive and brought a pillow for my back when she saw how pregnant I was. When we told her that we were due any day now, she brought out a chocolate cake at the end of the meal with a candle in it. (and wow was that cake good!)
After we paid the bill the waitress boxed up MORE of our free dessert for us because we couldn't possibly eat any more! These amuse bouche desserts were an assortment of mini macrons, chocolate cherry truffles, and white chocolate cookies. THEN they even gave us corn bread muffins to have for breakfast the next morning. The freebies were just out of control! And I loved it.
Our last dinner as a childless couple was so special and we can't wait to meet our little girl soon!

CRAFT
10100 Constellation Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 279-4180

Monday, June 21, 2010

Baby Shower Food!

My family threw me the most wonderful baby shower last weekend! It was a big shower with about 65 people. I had so much fun!!! I just wanted to share with you the wonderful food we had at our shower!My sister and I made our own "Edible Bouquets" in little plant pots. They turned out really cute and were a big hit. These are fun and easy to make and are great for parties and showers.The cupcakes were catered by a pastry chef and were cookies n' cream cupcakes. S0oo cute and sooo yummy!

We also had a gourmet taco truck catering company at the party. OMG. The tacos were so good. I highly recommend SOHO taco catering if you live in SoCal.
Not just the food, but the company, decorations, and games were all so perfect! Our baby shower was spectacular and is something I will never forget.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

MILK

My friend told me about a cute little ice cream parlor in LA called Milk. She spoke of an ice cream sandwich with a big glob of ice cream in between two macaron shells. I had to try this place for myself.
This place is a fat kid's (my) dream come true. Supposedly they have sandwiches and salad here too, but I wasn't paying attention to any of that stuff. They got a big selection of baked goods, milkshakes, ice cream, bonbons and other sweets!
I figure since I only have about a month of pregnancy left, I might as well take full advantage of it and eat the fatty stuff while I can. Once I have the baby, I need to whip myself back into shape you know?
The ice cream sandwiches were pre-made and waiting patiently in a glass freezer for me to gobble up. I had the cookies n' cream sandwich with the chocolate macaron shell. OMG... why have I not been here before? This is seriously the best ice cream sandwich I've ever had. The chewy shell with the creamy ice cream is pure genius. Genius, I tell you.

MILK
7290 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Tel: (323) 939-6455

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tea Time in Tokyo

I still haven't gotten around to posting everything from our trip to Japan last month. One thing I love about Tokyo is that there are cafes everywhere. And not just boring places like Starbucks or Coffee Bean. There are plenty of cafes that offer a variety of cakes, pastries, teas and coffees. We wandered around for a little shopping in Ginza and took a break for high tea at a fancy little cafe called Tsubakiya. I just love having tea with dainty & elegant tea cups. I was excited to have my freshly brewed tea served in Royal Copenhagen china.
This cafe was no joke. They were very particular in the way they brew their coffee and tea. There was a professional barista behind the counter looking like he was conducting science experiments. The cafe has a retro European feel to it and was really calming after a day of walking.
With my lemon tea I had a cherry blossom chiffon cake that was so modestly scrumptious. It was light and airy with a floral undertone to it. Hubby of course had his favorite, rare cheesecake. Everything was so perfect and delicious! I wish we had more cafes like this back home!
TSUBAKI-YA
東京都中央区銀座7-7-11 管原ビル 2F・3F
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: 03-3572-4949

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mother's Day Dinner

Sunday, May 9th was mother's day. It's become a sort of tradition in our family to cook mom dinner on mother's day. I know it's usually breakfast in bed for mom on mother's day. But a fancy homemade dinner just seems more special to me since dinner always takes more time and preparation than breakfast usually does. Hubby, bro, and I spent the afternoon slaving away in the kitchen that Sunday. It was the least we could do for the best mom ever.
This mother's day, hubby came up with the fabulous idea to pamper my mom with fancy caviar and champagne!
So for appetizers we had a cheese plate, mini toast crackers, caviar, champagne, and Grey Goose vodka. Very fancy indeed.
For our side dishes we had artichokes with garlic butter, french bread, and cheesy mashed potatoes.
The main course was ginger-scallion crusted salmon with ponzu butter sauce, served on a bed of cucumber salad. I didn't really know what to make for dinner so I simply googled "best salmon recipe ever" and this recipe popped up on allrecipes.com. The recipe did not disappoint. It was a fusion dish with a Japanese twist and tasted like something you might order for $20+ at a restaurant (if I may say so myself). Only the best for mom!

GINGER SCALLION CRUSTED SALMON RECIPE
(borrowed from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
  • Cucumber Salad:
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mirin (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • 2 cucumbers, halved, seeded, and cut into very thin slices

  • Ginger Crust:
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh ginger root
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil

  • Salmon:
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 (8 ounce) center-cut salmon fillets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • Ponzu Butter:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons ponzu sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions:
  1. To make the cucumber salad, stir together sesame oil, dill, rice vinegar, mirin, and sesame seeds in a glass or plastic bowl; add cucumber, and toss until well coated. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
  2. To prepare the ginger crust, stir together the ginger, green onions, and garlic in a sturdy, metal bowl; set aside. Heat 1/4 cup peanut oil in a small saucepan over high heat until it begins to smoke. Remove from heat, and carefully stir in the ginger mixture; set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season salmon fillets to taste with salt and pepper. Sear salmon until golden brown on both sides, 30 to 40 seconds per side. Transfer to a plate, and wipe excess oil from skillet. Spread honey over top of fillets, then evenly spread with reserved ginger crust.
  5. Replace salmon into the skillet, and place into the oven. Bake until the center of the salmon turns opaque, 6 to 7 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir in shallots, and cook until softened and translucent, about 2 minutes. Pour in white wine, then simmer until nearly evaporated. Add the ponzu sauce and heavy cream, reduce by 1/2. Remove from heat, then whisk in cold butter pieces until dissolved; season to taste with kosher salt.
  7. To assemble the dish, season the cucumber salad to taste with salt. Divide the salad evenly onto four plates, spreading it out into a 4 to 5-inch circle. Drizzle the ponzu butter onto the bare area of the plate, around the cucumber salad. Place a salmon fillet, crust-side up, on top of the salad, and serve.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Al Dente

While in Japan, hubby must have his "Al Dente" fix. Al Dente is his absolutely favorite pasta restaurant since he was a kid. This is where his carbonara spaghetti obsession all began.
It's a tiny little place that is on the 6th floor of the Sony Building in Ginza. The restaurant probably only seats up to 20 people or so. You get to watch the pasta chefs whip up your dish as you sit at the bar.
The green pea salad is simple and yum. I tried to recreate this dish at home once but failed miserably. I don't know how I messed it up, but I think it's basically garlic, olive oil, green peas, salt and pepper. I have to try making this again.
Without looking at the menu, hubby knows that he must have his carbonara. He usually orders the "oomori" which means extra large portion! This is the dish that he dreams of and craves when we are back home in the states. After he slurped it all up he said that it wasn't as good as he remembered. I guess after hyping it up after all this time he expected more? haha. The carbonara here uses minimum amounts of cream and maximum amounts of egg so it's quite different from the carbonara we make at home. Still, I thought it was pretty darn good.
I had to have the spaghetti in meat sauce. For some reason, spaghetti in Japan tastes very different than spaghetti in the states. I think it's a little sweeter and a little lighter. Preggo me, always hungry, slurped the whoooole plate up.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sakura

We arrived in Japan just a few days ago as the pale pink flowers of the cherry blossom trees in Tokyo began to bloom. Japanese people love Sakura (cherry blossoms) because of their fleeting beauty, a reminder of how short and fleeting our very own lives on earth are. Sakura are in full bloom for probably just about a week, so I was extremely excited that this year I would get to see them during our trip to Japan! I've been to Japan dozens of times but I've only experienced the glory of the cherry blossoms once before, so it is very special to me that I get to see them again this year. We took a nice long walk around the Tokyo Imperial Palace yesterday. The parks and areas around the palace are said to have one of the most picturesque cherry blossom scenes in Japan.
Not all of the cherry blossoms were completely blossomed yet, but it was pretty close! The parks were packed with people enjoying the pretty pink flowers.
Everywhere I looked was insanely gorgeous! gorgeous! gorgeous! It's no wonder this country is so obsessed with Sakura.


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