Friday, December 30, 2011

Bay Area Soy Milk

One of my favorite morning rituals during my xmas week off in the bay area is to drink this delicious soy milk from Hung Vuong Tofu (1741 Berryessa Rd, San Jose, CA 95133). They have a ton of tofu products and their soy milk is made fresh daily. Great tofu flavor and sweet enough without over powering the tofu flavor.

Definitely the best I've ever had in the states, but my benchmark for soymilk is still the phenomenal World Soymilk Magnate in Taipei - ain't no one touching that place.

Bay Area Bubble Tea

With a ton of Asians out in the bay area, the brother in law felt it appropriate to show us what the bubble tea is like out here. I think we're finally getting some solid stuff out in NYC, but Fantasia Coffee & Tea (528 Barber Ln, Milpitas, CA 95035) was pretty damn great. The bubbles were not only perfectly chewy but the taro flavor was mind blowing. Not that crayola color purple powdered stuff that everyone knows. This place uses real taro to flavor the milk, so the color is still white with bits of actual taro inside. Pretty damn awesome.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Fremont Diner - Review

The Fremont Diner - Dude Grade: A
2660 Fremont Dr
Sonoma, CA 95476-9537
Phone: (707) 938-7370

During our xmas vacation with the wife and the in-laws, we decided to make a trip up to Napa since the in-laws have never been to wine country. Referencing our trusty blog, I remembered Porthos raved about this joint called Fremont Diner up in Sonoma so I figured why not give it a go. Phenomenal idea - this is comfort food done to a level 11 - meaning it don't get no better than this m eff'n joint. Uber highly recommended.

Our Menu
Hush Puppie ***
I've had quite a plethora of hush puppies over the years, but nothing prepared me for these wtf delicious little bites. Lightly fried on the outside and insanely soft on the inside - almost like the lightest beignets bursting with this buttery flavor. Dipping these puppies into the remoulade sauce and you have an insanely addictive homerun.

Basket of Biscuits ***
Another completely shocking wtf moment with the best biscuits I've ever had. These were oddly light as a cloud, but very substantial at the same time. The flavor on these things were off the charts delicious too. Then, add a jam that had the consistency of maple syrup with it's own awesome flavor and some excellent butter and you get a flavor wmd.

Chicken & Waffle ***
I do love me some fried chicken and I've had a ton of it, but this may rate as the best one I've ever had. Everything I want in a fried chicken is completed here - great flavored crust (check), huge crunch (check), big chicken flavor (check), and uber moist (check). This crust was insane - perfectly seasoned and so thick and crunchy - felt like it was almost triple dipped. The waffles were solid too and adding maple syrup and butter was definitely over the top awesomeness. Oddly enough, these were by far the best chicken and waffles I've ever had putting a lot of versions I had in Harlem to shame.

Mac & Cheese *
These were solid with some good cheesy flavor and nice creamy texture. Although very delicious, I would have liked a bit more cheesy flavor and the mac to be a little more al dente. Still pretty damn fun.
Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (A+) – I love me some American comfort food and I honestly think it'll be pretty tough to top this. Even the coffee was friggin phenomenal too. The in laws ordered some other dishes that they loved also, but I didn't want to stop everyone from eating to document what they had.
  • Service (A) – Waitresses were extremely helpful / pleasant and the food comes out pretty quickly.
  • Atmosphere (B+) – The brother in law made the decision to get there early based on some internet comments on how popular this place was and it was a wise decision. We got there at 10:30, but our party of 5 didn't get seated till 11:20. Inside is insanely tiny - 5 tables in the back and 1 in the kitchen (we were lucky to get the kitchen seat). There are plenty of outdoor seats which makes sense since you can order take out and eat outside. The place is in the middle of nowhere with chickens running around and you're surrounded by beautiful sonoma county - a definite plus. Sitting at the kitchen table was pretty awesome watching the one chick and latino chef rock out all the dishes. Pretty amazing that with just the two of them they were kicking so much ars. They're on a mission though so don't expect any smiles or friendly banter - they had a ton of work to do and kicked ass at it.
  • Price (A) – $75 for 5 people which was 100% worth it about $15 per head.
Closing Comments
Whenever I'm back in the bay area, I always need to go to Swan Oyster Depot and I think this place will be added to the list. If you're in the area, you are crazy to not check this place out. FYI - this is another reason why you can't trust random internet reviews. Some yelpers said it's not worth the price, but they are eff'n crazy. You're not getting these quality biscuits and fried chix at some cheap ass diner. This place just eff'n rawks.

Bay Area Xmas 2011

Spent xmas day with the wife and the in laws visiting all the beautiful sites in the bay area. Definitely love it out here - really beautiful and everything seems pretty damn convenient.

One of the pit stops we made for lunch was at Skyline's Cafe (87 Skyline Plaza Blvd, Daly City, CA). For $20, you get your pick of 3 courses + soup. A pretty damn ridiculous deal for decent Cantonese food.

To round off Xmas dinner, we rocked Spices Restaurant (929 A Edgewater Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404) for a Szechuan xmas meal. Nothing says xmas to me like deep fried fish in a sweet/sour sauce ;) Pretty solid stuff although my US benchmark Wu Liang Ye still reigns supreme.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Roast Chicken

I found some "Salt from Mallorca" in the pantry today so i didn't have
to use my usual bouquet garni or Herbs de Provence for the chicken.

Evenly season the bird(try to find yourself the the cleanest bird out
there), and roast at 375 degrees F for 90 min. Let rest for 10 min
before you slice and Voila, you have a restaurant grade chicken dish
at home.
Yes, it's that simple.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Villa Pizza

Hitting up Villa Pizza in Holmdel is always a highlight moment.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

$3 Macaron

I'm not a huge macaron connoisseur, but there's been some buzz in NYC about this famous macaron joint from Paris opening up in NYC. My wife ended up waiting an hour at Laduree in the upper east side to pick up these pastries.

I don't quite get what the fuss is all about. I'm not a huge fan of overly sweet desserts and this was definitely too sweet in my opinion. The texture and flavors are excellent minus the cloying sweetness. Definitely not worth the hour wait or the $3 cost per macaron. Not sure how this joint is in Paris - guessing they're dumbing things down for Americans by sweetening things up.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

First time making Swedish Meatballs and they came out pretty fun. Soft and uber satisfying with the cream sauce and the lingonberry preserves. The surprise to these are they are made with a bit of honey which makes it very addictive.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Momofuku : Pork Buns

Undoubtably one of the culinary highlights of NYC.
Granted its not something you have weekly, but once in a blue moon,
take that stroll down to the east village and treat yourself to
something that's clearly influenced hundreds of restaurants through
out America.

These heavenly Pork Buns always deliver.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Midtown Lunch

Getting your Japanese ON for $13.
Great lunch deals at Aburiya Kinnosuke in Midtown East Manhattan.

Not bad at all folks. Rice, Whole Fish, Pickles, Soup and Braised
Veggies and Beef.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Asian Simplicity

Cooking a meal on a work night means I want something quick and flavorful and Asian is a great way to go. One of my favorite Asian things to cook is vegetables since you have such a wide variety to choose from - I can only take so many squash varieties during the fall/winter.

I decided to make some napa cabbage and it's so friggin easy, healthy, and delicious. Peanut oil over medium heat, cook garlic until fragrant (not browned), drop cabbage in and stir immediately so garlic doesn't burn. Salt and white pepper immediately. The key here is the amount of salt - you need to push it to the limit where it brings out the natural sweetness of the cabbage without being oversalted. Start slowly, taste and reseason...simple. Also, you need to cook it where it's soft, but not mush.

For the protein component, I decided to rock some jidori chicken (bone in) dusted with chinese five spice, japanese leeks, and a mix of japanese mushrooms. Again, dead simple and crazy flavorful. The gravy this thing makes is friggin awesome - shred up the chicken and combine with some white rice and the cabbage and you got a delicious healthy meal.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lasagna 101

I have never made Lasagna before but for some reason, I had a hankering for it.

A staple of many American kids growing up, the sudden chilly weather
had me a little nostalgic for something hearty and Jersey-ish.

For those of you who know Aramis and I, we grew up in the Jersey
suburbs with a lot of Italian American kids. Every now and then, we'd
stay over and have dinner at our friend's house and Lasagna would be a
pretty common treat our Italian "mothers" would make.

So out of no where Sunday morning, I asked my co-worker for some
pointers because she makes a killer Lasagna as well and Immediately
went to the store to pick up the ingredients.

Keep in mind, this is a ricotta filled Lasagna and not the more
traditional besciamella (bechemel) Lasagna you would find on Norther

Ingredients :
Lasagna Pasta
2# Bison Ragu
15oz Ricotta Cheese
1# Mozzarella Cheese
1/4# Parmesan Cheese
2 Egg
6oz Frozen Spinach
9x13 Baking Caserole

You layer it to your liking, cover, bake at 375 for an hour, uncover
and bake another 10 min and Voila!
Dinner for at least 6.

I can't wait to try it again and switch up some ingredients.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beef : It's what's for Dinner

It's no surprise I love Steaks. As a matter of fact, I was recently asked what I'd request for my last meal if I were ever incarcerated. And to be honest, it would be very hard for me to not request a Big Juicy Steak. Primal instinct demands bloody protein I think.
I'm certainly not above it all and think Vegetables are a good source of nourishment. It just doesn't make sense to me. I intend to use my incisors til I die.
But let's leave that for another day. Today, I want to talk about my Steak.

Here are my simple instructions to turn a home cooked meal into a restaurant experience.

Take a great cut of Beef. (In this case, a dry aged, CAB Prime NY Strip Loin)
And Season it. I went the pan sear method, so I dusted it with Wondra.

In a hot pan, sear all sides of the protein. 2 min each side and remove and let sit.

In the same pan, deglaze with a decent red wine. Reduce by half and add chicken stock. Then add either Demi Glace or some kind of Glace (Veau or Poulet) and mix to incorporate well.


To finish the sauce, add a dallop of butter. In this case, I used Truffle Butter.
Remember to cut the heat and let the butter emulsify into the sauce by mixing with a wooden spoon.
You are looking to achieve "Nape".

In a new pan, heat up some olive oil or better yet, butter and sear the rested steak one more time to really put a nice crust on it.

Take off and let rest one more time. 5 min should do.
At this time start plating and conjure up today's presentation.

Slice on a bias and lay the glorious medium rare steaks onto the plate and spoon over your red wine reduction truffle sauce.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jewel Bako - Review

Jewel Bako - Dude Grade: A
239 E 5th St, New York 10003
(Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave)
Phone: (212) 979-1012

Ever since Chef Yasuda decided to leave NYC to go on his ronin mission to become the #1 sushi chef in Japan, I haven't had phenomenal sushi since his departure. Porthos has been talking about Jewel Bako for a while now, so I decided I have to see this place for myself. Needless to say for all things sushi Porthos is better than any michelin, ny times, etc guides. This place is phenomenal and for the price point I think definitely my go to sushi joint for higher end stuff.

Our Menu
Sushi Omakase **
Sushi here is at an exceptional level, but it is quite different from what you get at Yasuda or the delicious Gari. At Yasuda, it was an ethereal experience where the fish had such amazing flavor and texture and the rice was perfectly balanced. The sushi here is also very delicious, but there are lots of things going on flavor wise. You'll notice salt, bitterness, some sweetness depending on the fish. It's not drowning in sauce by any means, but very delicately done.

One of my favorite pieces of sushi was this mackerel which was made into a paste with ginger and scallions - reminded me of the chinese ginger/scallion sauce served with boiled chicken. Lights out good.

Other highlights included this live lobster which was tasty, but what floored me was the miso soup made out of the lobster heads. Amazing flavor.

Finally, this urchin and scallop dish was a pretty ridiculous wtf moment. Two of my favorite things combined perfectly with rice and some nori on top. The chef here rocks the torch on the uni and scallop briefly so you get this smokey thing going on and he puts more fresh uni inside also - a huge sweet, meaty, smokey combination and oh so satisfying with the rice.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (A-) – Phenomenal sushi that is definitely inventive and very delicious.
  • Service (A) – Typical Japanese service - very professional and very attentive. The chef was extremely nice to us.
  • Atmosphere (A) – Kind of a weird cavernous place that has these rounded arches for ceilings - a great date place. All the way in the back is the sushi counter and it's brightly lit. The place was completely full on a Thursday 9:30. We were seated immediately and closed the place down.
  • Price (A) – $125 for everything which is a great deal for NYC omakase sushi - especially for this quality
Closing Comments
As I stated before, this maybe my new go to sushi joint for the exceptional quality and reasonable price. Although Yasuda and Jewel Bako's sushi are completely different, I still feel Yasuda is king for me. No idea how his joint is without the commander at the helm though, but I will definitely have to check it out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

East Restaraunt

Located on 44th between 2nd and 3rd, this is now one of my favorite
Japanese Joints to hit up when you are in Midtown East, and just don't
feel like Soba Totto, Sakagura, or Aburiya Kinnosuke will do. It's
when you crave comfort food and instead of running home to prepare a
meal, you dish out a few dollars and go free willy on the menu.

This is your typical Izakaya where the food is solid and doesn't come
with attitude. There are no ring molds or espuma cans in the kitchen.
This is straight forward Japanese cooking. And at a very reasonable
fee, you can walk out completely satiated night after night.

This was my receipt with the wife. She told me Lunch meetings cost her
way more. LOL.
Completely satisfied.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Le Singe Vert - Revisit

Stopped by Le Singe Vert again with my cousins and the kitchen knocked it out of the park as usual. Food all around was incredibly solid - like a perfect representation of bistro food. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but everyone was starving so we all started eating and sharing plates right away.

Our Menu
French onion soup gratinée **
I'm a sucker for french onion soup and this was great. Big onion flavor with a delicious cheese.

The chefs here know how to handle game meats and it was pretty heavenly. Duck was perfectly cooked and the sauce was a perfect match - still thinking about that delicious duck flavor.

A dish similar to the duck - huge beef flavor perfectly cooked paired with a nice rich sauce. Oh yeah - and they serve bone marrow here as a side for the dish. Ridiculously delicious.

Very satisfying hearty dish especially for the cold weather. Creamy beans that are still al dente with pork belly, duck confit, and a ridiculously delicious sausage.

I love stewed meats and this was pretty insane. Lamb was literally fall of the bone and melt in your mouth delicious - especially with the huge wine sauce that it was stewing in.

Special En Croute ***
I have to admit - it's good to know chefs in the kitchen and this is one of those reasons. This dish consisted of blood sausage, quail, mushrooms, and maybe pork wrapped in puff pastry. This was maybe one of my top 5 favorite food memories this year - totally bringing me back to the amazing Au Pied de Cochon. Total WTF amazing...

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Hot Pot Sundays

December is finally here upon us and what better way to stay warm than
a little Hot Pot.
This version I made isn't your typical spicy Szechuan style Hotpot.
More subtle in flavor.
Keywords : Dashi, Umami,
Probably a little unorthodox because I'm using a lot of Japanese
cooking principles to extract the umami from the ingredients. But that
said, some of the spices I used are influenced by Chinese Herbal
Medicine. Ingredients that are thought to help blood circulation and
keep a body warm in the winter.

Hot Pot : Chicken Drumsticks, Shiitake, Ginger, Onions, Nappa Cabbage,
Chinese 5 Spice

When I serve the dish, I will accompany with a little Yuzu Kosho or
Singapore style Shrimp Chili Paste.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sushi in Miami

Those who know me know I'm big on Tradition. But lately, innovative
plating and cooking has made me a believer in (and I hate this word
even more) "Fusion".
Who would have ever thought Mayonnaise, chili oil, and the oh so
creamy avocado would make their way into a sushi roll.

When it's good, it's good.