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Turtle Soup with a bit of Sherry. Tastes like beef.

Salmon with shrimp, spinach & crabmeat over risotto with dill cream sauce. Not my mamas salmon.

Crepes with a cream cheese, brandy pecan stuffing with strawberry sauce...if you like that sorta thing

Everything is set up for an Indian wedding

I forgot what this is called, but it looks pretty cool

Brie wrapped in puff pastry with a fleur-de-lis

I co-worked the shrimp and grits station at the wedding. It's no wonder why it was the favorite dish of the night.

sesame-crusted tuna hors d'oeuvre

The Court Of The Two Sisters. Boy, was this outdoor seating a find!

chicken breast served over potato mash and steamed asparagus, topped with lump crabmeat and tasso hollandaise. French has never tasted so light!

I got down with my soul at Lil' Dizzy's. I guess that's what was making those strange sounds from my stomach later. Just kidding. Sorry about the bad picture, I didn't like the meal enough to spend the time editing.

Muffalleta featured on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. This was the half size. Half a boat! It's basically an italian sub with some olives.

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Rabbit and Dumplings at Cochon. The chef is a James Beard Award winner. I watched the dish bubbly in a blazing wood-fire oven. It was served to me in a skillet, rich and satisfying.

At the Roosevelt, I worked on salmon roullades, rolls of smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye bread with microgreens and dill, for a wedding.

Weirdest hors d'oeuvre ever. crab and mango salad in a curry-flavored cone.

Run-of-the-mill day in the French Quarter

impromptu mini street parade. I don't think any streets were closed off

A multitude of blinis topped with creme fraiche and caviar, garnished with brunoise chives, egg whites, egg yolks, and shallots for an event

pork pate for the breakfast buffet.

strawberries and prosciutto at brunch buffet.

Ceviche. Luckily, we have a peruvian in garde manger.

carpaccio with pickled red onions, parmesan, and spinach chiffonade.

What a spread!

Shrimps and ersters. Did I mention it's all-you can eat?

The Blue Room. I really don't want to list all of the famous musicians that performed or got there start here.

Rabbit tagliattele from John Besh's Domenica. I can't remember if I enjoyed it; I ate it too quickly

He can pull off "pizze" too.

Olivier's. Best corn bread I've ever had. I asked the waitress if she could get me the recipe. She went to the kitchen, returned, and said, "We use the Jiffy box recipe." So disillusioned.

Duck breast and plum port sauce at Oliviers. It was overcooked and the sauce tasted like artificial jam. I sent it back.

Much better! Half roasted chicken and corn maque choux. Good homestyle cookin. Lay off the dried herbs though!

Meatloaf at Besh's American Sector. Made with brisket, cooked low and slow, and mayhaw—like a cranberry, but less tart—tomato sauce with mashed potatoes, gravy, and crisp haricot verts.

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My first cooked oyster from Felix's as per the Roosevelt's concierge recommendation! Broiled to perfection in a butter sauce. The creamy oysters melted in my mouth and bursted with flavor. I only ate the borderline stale bread to sop up the butter.

Red fish at Mr. B's. Grilled simply with asparagus and roasted potatoes, it was bland and not satisfying. Considering how much I paid, it was a major disappointment.

Linguini pasta tossed with fresh spinach and garlic in a garlic scampi sauce. well-seasoned fried oysters were perfect when eaten with the pasta.

No. I do not want a foot massage. I feel like when one asian starts a business, the rest have to follow suit. There are tons of these in NOLA

Napoleon House invented the Pimms cup. The restaurant looks like an 18th century home with a beautiful outdoor square. The Roast beef Po'boy with debris was the first thing in my life that I enjoyed because of its messiness.

Beautiful. Right? And to think people are nibbling on bruschetta a few steps from bourbon st.

The only problem I had with Napoleon House. He's no longer living so it's time to update the Napoleon-size bathtub

I get to work here? I think I'm gonna like it here, Annie. Italian mosaic by the way. It also took two men 18 months to polish the chandeliers

I'm spending time here by the way. August treats salads like the Buckingham Palace Gardens

Can I have fries with that?

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 93 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 270 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 744mb. That’s about 5 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 15th with 56 views. The most popular post that day was Food News: It’s Me!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, informationlossweight.com, en.wordpress.com, android-vs-ipad.co.cc, and statistics.bestproceed.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for diary of my stomach, oxtail stew, ristorante battibecco, flanken short rib pieces, and battibecco restaurant.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Food News: It’s Me! July 2010
2 comments

2

Penne with Marsala Cream sauce June 2010
3 comments

3

Ristorante Battibecco July 2010

 

4 Pain In The Butt Oxtail Stew August 2010

5

Roti Mediterranean Grill: A Taste of Intelligence October 2010

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I was lucky enough to have the chance to watch and even help out on the line. I mostly grilled Ryan, the Suaté I chef—expediter on the line— with questions. He is a  26 years African-American with a kind and welcoming demeanor. He’s moved around a lot in his life because his father was in the military. While he was sautéeing scallops, he told me that what he does isn’t all that difficult; “you just have to stay ahead and don’t get yelled at”. If only Wes took this advice to heart, a young Asian with a mischievous tendency to tease and joke around. Apparently, he gets yelled at the most.

The first thing that I remember was the extreme heat of the line. There was no doubt that this was caused by the furiously, flaming wood-burning grill, the multitude of constantly running burners, and the sizzling salamander that roasted your eyebrows overhead. But the real heat, the engine of the machine, was the pure movement and activity in the kitchen.

I remember being in a state of confusion because I saw dishes being made and plated without hearing them ever being ordered. I saw grilled fish and sautéed scallops being left unattended yet were flipped at the perfect time. Yes, the cooks feel the scallops for doneness, and, yes, they check for the correct caramelization or grill marks, but, for the most part (according to Ryan), “you just know”. I’d like to know if there’s an internal buzzer that sounds every time a steak is ready to be removed from the oven or the pasta is al dente. It’s now getting to the point that, I believe, if you were grilling steak miles away, Ryan would be informed that the steak had reached medium-rare.

The system is very organized. When an order comes in, chef JG or chef Dane relays the order into the walkie-talkie. Forexample “order simple salmon”, “order two tuna”, or “order two steaks, medium”. The cooks get everything ready so that when the chef says “Drop two tuna”, it can be quickly seared and served. Another phrase—which took me a while to understand—is “all day”. When JG says “two scallops all day”, he means that Ryan only needs to be making the scallops at that point in time.

My favorite dish that Ryan makes involves braised gem lettuce, gnocchi, sautéed scallops, sage brown butter sauce, and bacon. He also makes pepper crusted steak with mushrooms, roma beans, and onion rings. His “Lobster App” is steamed clams with homemade pasta in a creamy tarragon tomato sauce with poached lobster and fava beans. However, the dish that I want to try most is the tuna encrusted with cumin, cocoa nibs, pepper and sea salt, served rare over a corn-meal tortilla, mole, chayote relish and guacamole.

I was able to help a little with these dishes. I cleaned plates for presentation, plated the gnocchi and scallops while Ryan plated the sauce, grabbed anything needed from the back, and sliced the tuna, which I, believe it or not, was able to mess up at first. I thought a delicate back-and-forth motion would cut through the rare tuna efficiently, but I was told not to saw the tuna by the chef. This creates jaggedness in the presentation. Instead, just one slice forward and one back should create a smooth cut.

Around eight o’clock, a proverbial dark, ominous cloud covered over the kitchen. Indeed, we actually lost power for a second from the storm outside. As the heavens opened outside, orders rained down from inside. Plating up about 25 dishes for a large party set the kitchen behind and Chef JG was enraged. The area where the food was to be set was overflowing with plates, yet we couldn’t get them out fast enough. Ryan was running out of mise en place for the fish and organization gave way to chaos. Attempting to help, I got in the way of the tornado—the kitchen being extremely long and narrow— that was chef JG and was told to stand in a corner: “You don’t know what you’re doing yet”. I received the brunt of Ryan’s frustration as well.

I remained in time-out, wanting to leave to be out of the way, yet knowing that I needed to see this aspect of the restaurantservice. I also new that I could be a help. So, I gradually started to help plate gnocchi, to grab some spinach for the simple swordfish plate, to cut four tunas, nearly squealing from the burns on my fingers, and to try to salvage hastily prepared dishes with a towel.

I was soaked after the storm, but with sweat. I had about two cokes while I was there and about six glasses of water when I got home. Apparently, you get used to the heat. Ryan asked me what I thought of the line so far. I replied, “I like it. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t, but what you do is much more amazing than you think”. I think Ryan may be tough, yet I still think he feels the burn of sizzling tuna on his fingers, the heat of a 100 degree kitchen, and the disappointment of being lambasted for running out of onion rings.

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I gathered my tools as I’ve been instructed: one big ladle, one small ladle, two big whisks, a slotted spoon, plastic containers, towels, towel cleaning liquid, and a cutting board with a wet towel underneath to prevent slippage. Just as usual, veal stock was simmering away; it is the base for all brown sauces at Kinkead’s. While I was waiting for my daily instructions for the chef, I asked another worker to show me the correct way to sharpen a knife. When Chef JG saw me with his knife and the sharpener, he sternly said “Don’t sharpen my knives; they’re plenty sharp…I’m very anal about my knives”.

I spent the day making chinese steamed buns. I also made an oyster dipping sauce and was told to multiply by four. After finishing the math, I did my best to measure all of the ingredients correctly. When I said we were out of oyster sauce, the chef asked how much I put in. I replied, “2000 grams”. “Woah!”, he said, “I told you to multiply it by two, not four.” Instead of arguing, I just thought of the rules:

  1. The chef is always right.
  2. When the chef is wrong, refer to rule number one.

I also came in the next day and worked with executive sous chef Dane. Dane is a young African-American with a propensity to curse. When I pointed out that the calendar for family meals said “Thai fried lice”, he muttered something about “stupid mexican bitches”. His disclaimer was that “A lot of shit gets said in a kitchen…more than any other place”.

I began to cut 16 pounds of butter for various sauces. Chef Dane told me that the way I was doing it would take all day. Instead of cutting the butter in small batches, it is much faster to quarter every stick and then cube them all at the same time. I told him that this sort of thing seems obvious to him, but, to me, it’s all new. I’m gradually learning how to pick the right tools for a certain job and the quickest and most effective techniques for performing a task. Chef Dane agreed and said that many believe that chefs are some of the smartest people. There’s definitely an obsession with efficiency and speed that separates the chef from even the smartest engineer.

Dane was making polenta with chicken stock, cream, butter, and parmesan cheese. I said something like “Is that going on the low-cal menu”. He chuckled and replied: “If you’re looking for light food, don’t come to Kinkead’s.  The restaurant is very innovative, yet has retained many French aspects. I asked him about Bob Kinkead and he said that he stops by occasionally. Apparently, he’s a great guy and loves to tell stories about how he used to dine with Jean-Louis Palladin—one of the most famous French chefs in American history. Interesting fact: Palladin’s most famous restaurants was in the Watergate. However, Kinkead’s doesn’t operate like a French restaurant. The French brigade system distinguishes chefs by dish components. There are sauciers, rotisseurs, and positions for almost every task imaginable. Once a dish is made, it is almost always tasted by the chef de cuisine. Kinkead’s has neither the space nor the capital to pull this off. That system takes an insane amount of cohesiveness and synergy.

We made a cure for beef, a necessary step in the making of pastrami. The key ingredient is Sodium Nitrate, a chemical that’s used in fertilizer, pyrotechnics, smoke bombs, glass, pottery enamels, and rocket propellant. I really hope we were using it as a preservative for beef. Anyway, the vibrant pink color of the chemical is what gives pastrami its deep red color. I asked him if he had any blue Sodium Nitrate we could use. He said no.  We also made basil oil. The key is to blanch the leaves in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This releases the chlorophyll, giving Kinkead’s basil oil its vibrant color. The basil is then blended with oil and strained through cheese cloth.

A pastry chef was making brioche. She measured all of the ingredients on a digital scale. If the scale read 201 grams and she needed 200, she would pick out sugar and flour granules. Conversely, when a cook measures—like Dane—he/she usually has a different approach. Dane placed a big container on the scale and added all the ingredients, setting the scale to zero after each one. In brief, perfection didn’t matter. Each chef shows a love for food in their own way. One has a greater respect for ratio and the meticulous precision that the baked good requires. One has a physical connection and tastes as he/she goes, until a harmony is reached between food and palate. In my opinion, baking and cooking makes a key distinction in personality type; almost all people lean to one side of the spectrum. I consider myself on the cooking side to the extreme. I’m not saying that there is no overlap between the concepts and intricacies of both arts, yet there is an innate difference in both personas that I would like to explore.

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Today, I went to Saigon Bistro, a restaurant in Dupont Circle, to eat Pho. For those that have not had or heard of pho, let me begin with the pho-ndamentals of the dish. It is, essentially, a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef or, sometimes, chicken. The broth is made by simmering beef and spices and is served with various garnishes. Ours came with bean sprouts, limes, thai basil, and hot peppers. The French occupied Hanoi, Vietnam in the 1880’s and may have influenced this dish. The Vietnamese rarely used beef until the French introduced their pot au feu. You can see that this may have influenced Pho’s name as well.

Saigon Bistro’s Pho is made with either fully cooked brisket or rare beef. The thin-cut pink beef is moist and velvety to the palate. The rice has a delicate, but deep, beefy flavor and one can personalize their dish by adding different amounts of sriracha, hoisin, thai basil, and lime. Jordan went all out on the lime, Karen got her money’s worth with the sriracha, and I prefer a leaf pile of thai basil. It’s pho-n to eat because you can slurp the warm broth with your spoon, eat the rice noodles with your chopsticks, and crunch on raw bean sprouts with your hands, simultaneously. After a great meal that was both satisfying and light, we left Dupont circle feeling pleasantly pho-lfilled.

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Fry Captain


Fry Captain is the one and only food truck dedicated to the celebration of the french fry. With milkshakes that can make your knees buckle and fries that make Five Guys look like five sissies, Fry Captain takes good old American grub to a new, scrumptious level. Where else could you have amaretto biscotti milkshakes, cajun-spiced fries, and truffle ketchup dipping sauces? And it gets even more farfetched. Shake flavors include: sea salt and olive oil, cinnamon, pistachio, avocado, and honey-lavender. Some featured dipping sauces are marshmallow, nutella, mango chutney mayo, and a sriracha and sesame mayo. Don’t worry; all of these flavors have been tested for taste. For the health-conscious french fry eaters, there are sweet potato fries. For the health-oblivious fry eaters, you can have french fries deep-fried in duck fat for an extra $1.50. For more information on the menu and daily locations, visit frycaptaindc.com.

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Opening just 20 days ago, Red Hook Lobster Pound is as fresh as their seafood. They began selling lobster in a store in NY; now they’ve brought these crustaceans to D.C., where hungry people throng the truck. Red Hook tries to keep a very simple menu, preparing a few items extremely well. Their rolls are made from Maine lobster that is picked up in person multiple times a week. They prepare it in a warm, buttery, grilled roll with homemade mayo, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, sea salt, white pepper, and celery for crunch. Red Hook Lobster Pound’s passion for quality food, dedication to cleanliness, and devotion to customers are all exemplifications of “lobstah love”. Ironically, “the poor man’s food” is now the rich man’s delicacy, yet this truck is frequented by students as well. It may be the delicious maine root sodas, the catchy tunes, or the flat-screen displaying scenes from Maine. Most likely, it’s simply delicious food with no exaggerations. If you’re already hooked and want more information go to www.redhooklobsterdc.com.

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Takorean has brought the West Coast Korean taco craze to D.C. with their new food truck. Takorean features fusion street food that melds the flavors of Mexico and Korea—all with a D.C. twist. Opening last August, this truck has gained a tremendous following. Their mission is to provide healthy meals at reasonable prices while giving back to the community through local charities. You can have Bulgogi steak, caramelized tofu, or marinated chicken tacos with fresh and crunchy slaws, all topped with Sriracha, lime crema, fresh cilantro, and sesame seeds. TaKorean serves vegetarian and vegan options as well. Takorean works hard to create a balance of flavors, where no one taste overpowers the next. They also ingeniously serve each taco in two corn tortillas to minimize mess and maximize texture. How’s $2.50 a taco or three for $7 for a reasonable price?  For daily location information, check out their website at takorean.com.

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My roommate Jordan and I made something simple for dinner. We roasted asparagus, green peppers, onions, zucchini and corn with salt, pepper, and fruity olive oil. Try 375º until the onions just start to brown. Our grilled cheese was made with muenster and shredded mozzarella cheese. We heated a grill pan to medium-high and buttered the bread. We grilled one slice on both sides to make a grilled cheese that was impossible crunchy. The two cheeses melted together in texture and flavor and the vegetables were perfectly seasoned and deliciously simple. It beats the cafeteria!

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The mind behind Sâuçá, an ex-banker who traveled the world, decided to bring his love of exotic street foods to the curious palates of D.C. locals. Sâuçá distinguishes the different foods of the world by separating them into broad regional categories. On any given day, Sâuçá has menu options representing Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, Vietnamese, Argentinean, American, Asian, and European foods. To say that Sâuçá is eclectic is an understatement; they even boast a whopping twelve different sauces. Although the sandwiches are rotated, it is likely that there will always be a dish from your favorite region.

I ordered the Mexican fish taco; “a splendiferous grilled fish caressed with mango pico de gallo, cilantro, and hot chili sauce”. To be blunt, even for an English major, the idea that fish can be “caressed” by pico de gallo is absurd. Frankly, I don’t really want to know what their doing to the fish inside the truck. The grilled flatbread was hot and flavorful and the flavors were complex and strong inside. Yet I did not expect the fish to be shredded. It gave me the feeling that Sâuçá was either being cheap or trying to mask the second-rate quality of the fish. The former seems unwarranted since the taco was $7.50. Although there was little to no hot chili taste and the mangos weren’t even ripe enough for a monkey, the food was hot, tasty, and satisfying.

The Sâuçá truck is hip and well-equiped with a monitor and speakers for worldly music. At Sâuçá, you can “Eat the world” and still want more. For more information, visit their site eatsauca.com. It’s important to support these food trucks and their ideologies. With lots of rigid city regulations limiting where they can park and for how long, Sâuçá needs all the devotion that it can get. The manager even mentioned that customers frequently save parking spaces for them and occasionally put money in the parking meter when they forget—all it takes are a few tickets to really ruin business. For food’s sake, please take a walk down the street and experience the world.



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On January 20th, 2009—inauguration day—a revolutionary phenomenon occurred in Washington: a food truck was born. However, the fojol bros. of Merlindia—far from a real place—is not your average food truck. Just as the owners, the Merlindia concept seemed to grow and develop alongside D.C.. Without the diverse palates that make the district such an innovative gastronomic site, this truck would probably be another hot dog stand. Merlindia’s essence seems to parallel Washington’s; one of unmatched pride for the quirky mélange that is D.C..

Their motto: “Traveling Culinary Carnival” seems all too fitting. One doesn’t expect to see White males in Indian garb, impossibly curly mustaches, and culinary innovators that double as philanthropists—portions of proceeds go fund local at-risk youth programs.

What the brothers use in gas they make up in environmentally-friendly products.The trays, cups, sporks, bottles, and bags are made from products that are disposable, biodegradable, and even compostable.

After waiting in a—according to brothers— “short” line of 20 people, I tasted the food. I tried it all. I ordered ultra-tender, yet slightly fatty Butter

Chicken and Palak Paneer (a dish of stewed spinach and mild cheese cubes). This was the best I’ve ever had. My roommate ordered curry chicken in a rich sauce and lentils which tasted like a spicy gruel. Soft, yet flavorless basmati rice came with the meal. We also ordered their famous mango lassi pop—smooth and refreshing. Our dishes were each an economical six dollars. Nonetheless, we had a restaurant-quality Indian feast for a fraction of the price.

Though I stained my pants and soiled my reporter’s notebook, the spicy Indian meal was well worth the trip.  Visit their site fojol.com or visit their twitter page for more information on their daily locations. Eat there tomorrow; you won’t be sari.

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Tour and Tasting

Today I started my apprenticeship at Kinkead’s restaurant in D.C. I received a chef’s jacket and was given a tour of the restaurant. The restaurant is big and luxurious and has a main kitchen and a prep kitchen. The main kitchen is called “the line”. As he was showing me the place, Chef Jeff snacked on chocolates or small cookies—executive chefs have no time for a real breakfast. We filled the fryers with soybean oil because french fries needed to be blanched. We also stopped by the ice cream machine, which was churning out honey-flavored ice cream. I tasted a bit of the honey comb that would be folded in. It was crispy and tasted strongly of honey and butterscotch.

He showed me the walk-in used solely for fish and the one for the rest of the comestibles. Luckily, local heirloom tomatoes were there. Apparently, these tomatoes are grown by an old crazy woman who sells them a her door. The chef let me compare them to the standard genetically modified tomato. One was juicy, sweet, and had a well-rounded and balanced flavor; the other was grainy, colorless, dry, and acidic. The crazy woman knows what she is doing.

I watched chef Jeff make a Buerre blanc which literally means “white butter”. He sweat shallots and mushrooms in a mixture composed of 2 parts champagne vinegar and one part white wine. He seasoned it and added thyme. After it reduced, he added cream and lots of butter. The sauce is done when it reaches a “Napé” consistency—he demonstrated this by coating the back of the spoon with the sauce and drawing a line with his finger. The line remained for a few seconds. He did all this while singing along with the pop music in the background. I asked him if he was a morning person. He responded: “Morning and night. You have to be”.

He also made a Buerre Monté. This is amazing because by just boiling a little water and slowly adding cold butter, the sauce can remain emulsified for long periods of time. Although the sauce can be used for many purposes, Kinkead’s poaches lobster in it. Then, Chef Jeff let me taste Kinkead’s homemade sourdough bread. It was crispy, light—but not airy—, and tangy. I asked him if I had permission to taste anything I wanted. He quickly responded: “No, I don’t want you eating the lobster”.

I Get To Work

I worked in the prep kitchen, mainly putting together “family meal” which is served before the dinner service. I learned how to truss a chicken. I felt like a 3rd-grader who still can’t tie his shoes. I filled the cavities of the seven birds with sage, rosemary, and thyme, seasoned with salt, and roasted for 45 minutes. The sizzling chickens needed to be transfered to a rack for cooling. Using only two small towels, I had to remove seven whole birds from the oven while molten juices sloshed precariously on the wobbly sheet pan. Luckily, I escaped with only a minor burn from the oven doors. More importantly, the chickens were not burned, but were cooked perfectly. I then butchered the chickens. After chicken number six, I began to get the hang of it.

Another component of family meal was a red-bliss potato salad. The potatoes were already ready, but we still had to boil eggs. Once the cold water came to a boil, we then covered it for 8 minutes. These were chopped and mixed with the potatoes along with chopped scallions, celery, onions, creme fraiche, mustard, mayonaisse, worcesterchire sauce, tobasco sauce, chopped parsley, and blended pickle chips. It was while making this that I realized “clean your station” would be a phrase much spoken that day. I hope to some day realize how to cut an onion and keep the cutting board clean at the same time.

I also prepared the marinade for fried chicken. We seasoned the chicken with celery salt, spanish paprika, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Milk was the wet component of the marinade—normally they use buttermilk. I suggested that he add some white vinegar—this effectively mimics the flavor of buttermilk. He agreed, but didn’t do it. The chef wasn’t around for much of the process, but he always seemed to show up in time to tell me to clean my station.

I diced lemongrass and julienned ginger for a Thai coconut curry. It was whilst cutting the lemongrass that I learned a valuable lesson. “Let the knife do the work”, said Chef Jeff as he demonstrated the slicing motion that is important while chopping. These went into a concoction that was so fragrant that I stood over it and just smelled for a minute. Unfortunately, I was in charge of taking this pot of extreme proportions and blending the whole thing in a medium-sized blender. The chef showed me how to use the blender to purée the scalding liquid, by covering the open hole with a towel. “This is very dangerous”, said Chef Jeff as he handed me the towel and walked away. Then I had to strain all ten gallons of the stuff using a mesh strainer and a ladle.

The last component of family meal was plain sliced fruit. I cut cantaloupe, watermelon, and a crenshaw melon. This melon melted in my mouth and had a cool mellow flavor—maybe my description is melodramatic. I ate family meal and then left. There was nothing more for me to do. Chef Jeff told me to return next Saturday. I can’t wait to go back and, maybe, my burn will heal by then.

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“Chai-Oh-Tay”  is a plant that belongs to the gourd family. It is also known as a Mexican squash. It is pear-shaped, green, and has a texture similar to water chestnuts or potatoes. Some say its texture is like cucumber. I disagree. Nonetheless, it has a great texture and can be eaten raw or cooked. It lacks substantial flavor and is usually marinated in lemon or lime juice. I found it at the market and had to try it, so I could put a taste to the name. I wanted to try it cooked and raw.

Chayote Salad:

I just julienned the chayote (very thin strips) with similarly cut celery and carrots. I tossed the vegetables with minced red onion—the one I grew—, olive oil, lime juice, fresh chopped mint, and minced ginger. A little salt and fresh pepper and you have a simple, light, crunchy salad.

Sautéed Chayote:

I sautéed Chayote cubes in olive oil—you could use butter—with garlic, my homegrown white onions, fresh parsley, lime juice, and Old Bay seasoning. I will admit, when cooked, chayote has the texture of a cucumber. I’m partial to the raw chayote. I will buy it again to add great texture to salads.

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It’s Quenepa!

Today at a great market in Trenton, I saw the fruit that I had tasted in Mexico (see earlier post on Guayaba). The package read “Quenepa” from Dominicia. As soon as we got in the car, my dad and I tasted it. They were almost as good as the one in Mexico. I broke the leathery green peel with my thumb and out popped the the fruit. Luscious, light, pink-orange, yet slightly translucent pulp envelopes a large pit. One just sucks on the pit, while the gelatinous and juicy pulp clings to the pit. Eventually, the flesh becomes overly fibrous. I think it tastes like lemonade.

The Quenepa has many other names. One of the most common is mamoncillo. Other names, depending on the country, are ackee, mamón, chenet, gnep, guaya,guinep, skinnip, genip, ginnip, kenép, genepa, xenepa, kenepa, Spanish lime, and limoncillo.

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My potatoes are twins

I guess they're best spuds

I wanted to check on my potatoes. You can imagine my surprise when I saw this one. I heard that potatoes eaten immediately after they’re picked are fabulous. Let’s see.

Red and white onion. They're small, yet fragrant

I learned one thing about homegrown onions: they really make you cry when you cut them! These onions had triple the onion flavor. What a concept: onions that taste oniony.

home fries and onions

Homey homemade home fries with homegrown potatoes and onions. It’s a home run! The difference between these potatoes was the moisture. With no time for water to evaporate, these potatoes are not as starchy or dry as your supermarket varieties. If you ever get a chance, taste a fresh, raw potato with your nose closed. Without smell, the taste and texture is identical to that of an apple. When you cook your own vegetables, you don’t only taste the butter, olive oil, and seasoning; you taste the product of months of working, weeding, watering, and waiting. I can see the connection that farmers have with their produce. You are what you eat. Surely, they must relish in the fact that only they are handmade.

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1. Fast-Food Breakfasts: Why are fast food companies so fond of lumping all aspects of a breakfast into one bite. Dunkin Dougnuts now has bits of sausage wrapped in pancakes. Have you ever seen someone, while eating breakfast, rip off a piece of pancake, wrap it around a bite-sized sausage link, and consume it? Just because two ingredients make a great meal doesn’t mean that they should be eaten together. Fried chicken and waffles; good combo. Yet I once tried a chicken flavored waffle; unfortunately, not so wonderful.

2. Bloody Marys: I could understand dipping jumbo shrimp into it, but drinking it? Never.

3. Mint ice cream: I know that a lot of people love this flavor, but it’s disgusting to me. The only time I don’t mind that flavor in my mouth is when I’m brushing my teeth. That’s what it tastes like to me. I bet if Ben and Jerry’s introduced a Listerine flavored ice cream, people would rush through the doors. No wonder sugar-crazy children get cavities: they think ice cream is a dental hygiene substitute.

4. Croutons: You should think twice before eating these arbitrary cubes. They are emblems of a culture where starch must be eaten in every dish. We halfheartedly drop these flavorless toast bricks over salads and soups. They undermine the healthiness of the salad and the innate texture of the soup. Why pay money at a restaurant to eat stale bread?

5. Palate cleansers in the middle of a meal: This is a paradox that I can’t explain. First, If you are serving something so vile, so displeasing that you need to immediately serve a “palate cleanser”, you need to rethink your occupation. Second, doesn’t the palate cleanser taste remain in your mouth? Should their be a palate cleanser after the palate cleanser? If you ask me, the palate cleanser is solely an excuse to eat sorbet in the middle of a meal.

6. Cheddar peanut butter crackers: What I don’t understand is why they taste good.

7. Parmesan cheese offered by Italian restaurants: I have no problem with parmesan cheese. In fact, I love it. But I do not like when Italian restaurants hand you the dish and offer to sprinkle it on top. Without even trying my dish, I don’t know if it needs the cheese or it doesn’t. At least come by after a few minutes. If I’m at a very nice restaurant, I think the chef should be able to decide whether or not the plate needs a mountain of parmesan. Furthermore, sometimes you have to tell them when to stop. Sometimes, I wonder how far they’re willing to go without a signal of termination. Maybe, the whole table would be covered by the time he stops.

8. Hard Taco Shells– I’ve never consumed one successfully. Due to their inefficient shape, the shells can hold very little; one has to fill each shell to the brim. However, they are incapable of standing freely like a bicycle without a kickstand. Consequently, if you plan to take a drink or eat some rice, you’ll have to relinquish some filling because it will escape. When you think you’ve conquered the hard shell, it fractures and, before you know it, you have a plate of nachos in front of you. I always say to myself: “Why’d I go through so much effort in the first place.

9. Refried Beans: They probably tasted better after the first fry.

10. Mint Jelly: What is it and why is it in my fridge? Although its neon green, kryptonite color resembles that of antifreeze, the actual substance defies comparison. My mother LOVES it with lamb; she says it brings out the lambs flavor. But I did some research; mint jelly was originally used in the olden days with muttons or older sheep. The taste of these muttons was so strong and mint jelly helped to disguise the flavor. But I’m not going to tell her that; I don’t want the jar in the fridge forever.

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“¿Que tipo de fruta es esto?” I said, attempting to communicate to an employee at my hotel’s buffet. “Guayaba” was his answer. He told us that Guayaba is a common fruit in Mexico and that it is similar to lemons and limes. It looked like a small, unripe tomato. It was sour and had unpleasantly hard seeds inside. He said that when they’re ripe, they have a delicious combination of sweet and sour.

I wanted to taste a delicious combination of sweet and sour, so I took it upon myself to, for the remainder of my stay in Riviera Maya, ask every Mexican where I could find fresh Guayaba. Hopefully they were able to understand my false pronunciation of the name: “Wayaba”. I pictured myself in a produce market unknown to most tourists, yet full of luscious fruits.

Finally, in Playa del Carmen, on their 5th avenue, I saw a family of locals with a branch that held 6 or 7 fruits that seemed like tiny kiwis. I said “Que es eso”, pointing at the fruit in her hand. She said “Guayaba”. She must have sensed my excitement and generously extended the arm with the fruit towards me. I wasn’t sure if she wanted me to take one, but I plucked one fruit from the branch. I said “How do you open it” and they stared at me blankly. I think they  understood my English, just didn’t know how to explain something so simple. I tried to peel it with my finger, poking it into the hard flesh. “Pop”! Out rushed a blob of pinkish goop. “Wooah!”, I said. They chuckled. I popped the goop into my mouth. I was sucking on the pit, with moist fruit surrounding it like the pit of a mango. It tasted exactly like the flavor of a whole glass of lemonade, condensed into a bite-sized fruit. The perfect combination of sweet and sour. After I said “delicioso” and thanked them, we walked away.

This fruit was like a Mexican Lollypop. The bright, tangy flavor remained for an infinite amount of time and I wished my family could have tried it. Playa del Carmen is huge and they had simply pointed in a direction when we asked where the fruit was. At the end of our trip, I asked our driver where we could stop to find Guayaba. With confidence, he said  “only Wal-Mart”.

Apparently, Guayaba is just Guava, but what I tried looked nothing like Guava. Plus, on the internet, nothing came close to resembling this fruit. I’m confident that I tried one of the seven only true Guayaba in Mexico. And I certainly didn’t find it at Wal-Mart.

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Food News: It’s Me!

Check out this URL to see the front-page article written in the Lawrence Ledger that’s all about me and my blog:

#mce_temp_url#

http://centraljersey.com/articles/2010/07/14/the_lawrence_ledger/news/doc4c3e53b87e5b4090089599.txt

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