Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mise en Place for 2011

My last post was in October, and the subject matter was totally indicative of how my life has gone since. Unbelievable excess and full-till-bursting, and then a huge THUD when I reached the bottom of my stress, moving into survival mode with time for nothing other than the essentials. But! Never fear, readers. I'm back. This food blog has been my "exercise writing" since 2006, and I don't intend to abandon it. No, sir-ee.

Therefore, ONWARD!

It's almost New Year's Eve, which means it's time to get stinkin' drunk and depressed about all the things I didn't accomplish in 2010, like being promoted at work, getting a raise, saving thousands of dollars, losing 30 pounds, getting my book ready for publication (not even getting it published - just ready!)—it's a lot to think about in the last week of December.

Fortunately, I accomplished some really wonderful things, too. I published a cover story in Orlando Weekly, registered for the Key West Literary Seminar in January (more to come on this), and re-entered the theatre world as the star of Tupperware Jubilee 2010 as the time-travelling Consultant, Marty McParty. I also survived my first semester as an English Comp I teacher, teaching 75 18-45 year olds was way harder than I anticipated, and managed to move into a pretty great place with my pretty great Cliff of three years now.

So, I guess 2010 wasn't so bad after all.

That being said, I can't imagine what 2011 holds. I have a few goals. The first one is to travel abroad again. My Cliff and I have plans to go to Vancouver to welcome the new MLS team, but I'd like to see Spain, too. I can't believe I never went, even after living in the vicinity for a year. I should have made time (perpetual regret). I want to eat things unavailable in the US again. I miss fumbling through language and being constantly surrounded by people fascinated with blonde haired girls. This year, Cliff and I will travel abroad.

By the middle of 2010, I also plan to have my manuscript READY to start sending to agents. If you're an agent reading this: please pester me to finish it. It will rock the food world. It will actually MEAN something to the food world.

I say that because I just downloaded a sample of Alan Richman's book "Fork it Over" and it was so boring, so "I'm a food critic, which is not as wonderful as it sounds...<insert gratuitous self-deprecation here>" that I couldn't finish the sample, let alone download the whole book.

I hope, when I am ready to publish, that my book speaks words that mean something.

I should shut up.

Other goals include: eating at Per Se in NYC, blogging at least once a week, cutting down on my sugar consumption. I'm just a sugar-holic. Those peppermint marshmallows I made for Christmas were INSANE.

Hello, 2011. I hope you're the Year of the Chef Hollywog.

Monday, October 18, 2010

English Lessons: WDW Food & Wine Classic

Last weekend, we (my Cliff, my chef friend Jen, and I) were invited to attend the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine Classic, aka: the food festival with the longest name in the history of food festivals.

Tuna tartare "nachos" with sriracha aioli

This is the first year of the event, and it's definitely not going to be the last. We had a wonderful time eating and drinking for seven hours straight. We started off the evening at a beer seminar, tasting seven trappiste beers from Belgium, Orval, Westmalle and Chimay (made by monks - I love anything monks make).

It was a great seminar, if only for the tasting, but next year I would love to see more of a classroom setting. That would discourage people who are just there for the alcohol and more people who really want to learn about beer (i.e. me).

"Pipettes" filled with horseradish, chilled shrimp

Outside in the quad, 20 different vendors set up with wine, food and cocktails from the Swan & Dolphin Hotel's four award-winning restaurants. There were an amazing amount of people there - I think I heard over 800 - and the event staff were only expecting about 300.

Beautiful desserts by Laurent Branlard 
Regardless, the food was top-notch (including our favorite tuna nachos, tartare on a baked tortilla chip settled on sriracha mayo) and we were sloshed by 7pm. By this time, we'd been eating and drinking for three and a half hours. We also loved the shrimp cocktail shooters by Todd English's bluezoo, the flagship restaurant for the Swan & Dolphin. Todd English is a tool, but I love his New American style of cuisine.

Shula's Steakhouse cooked to-order filets along with unremarkable creamed spinach. My long-held view that to get a steak cooked the way you want it, you have to order it one level down from what you really want. I love my steak med-rare, so I always order it rare. By the time it gets to the table, usually after sitting under a heat lamp for at least 5 or 10 minutes, it's med-rare. Just a tip.

Grouper, onion foam, shards, heirloom tomato
By 9:30, we were sitting down at Todd English's bluezoo, ready for an epic tasting menu experience. I loved the grouper first course (after an amazing amuse bouche of foie gras torchon with edible flowers and orange blossom honey).

Tuna tartare, cucumber blossom, preserved lemon
After five and a half hours of eating, the only thing getting me through this five-course tasting menu was the sheer beauty of the plating and how I couldn't bear to let such art go uneaten. After the monkfish, the Wagyu steak with butternut squash puree and the cheese course, I was tapped out. I've never felt so uncomfortable in my life, but the food I'd just eaten was perception-altering.

Brillat-Savarin and other stinky cheese w/honey, pecans

There's nothing like the elegant dance of fine dining to make one feel like royalty for a few hours. Todd English's bluezoo was all hype said it was. This is an Orlando restaurant I'd been wanting to eat at for a while, and after experiencing the gamut of the kitchen's talents, I'll be happy to fork over the $70 for another go at the daily special.
Wagyu steak, beet ribbon, turnip, butternut squash puree

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Put This On Everything: Sweet Chili Sauce

There's a new condiment in town. He's sweet, he's fiery and he's ready for all the food you can put him on. He's sweet chili sauce, and he's in it for the action.
Photo courtesy of Sweet Sensation

I rarely blog about specific sauces, but this particular condiment is a real favorite. Sweet chili sauce is a Southeast Asian wonder. Combining my three favorite characteristics of SE Asian food (sweet, salty and spicy), you just can't beat this stuff.

We live in Colonialtown neighborhood in Orlando; our streets are lined with Vietnamese and Thai characters on store front marquees. When a door opens, a breeze thick with five-spice and simmering stocks waft through. There's no dearth of this ultra-condiment. This week alone, I've used it for flavoring ground meat for burgers, marinating jerk pork and as a dipping sauce for tangy fried green tomatoes. I'm not one for hyperbole, but sweet chili sauce really does go with almost anything. I'd love to make it into an ice cream - I bet it would be amazing.

Sweet Sensation blog (in Croatian, but with English versions of recipes) has an excellent recipe for homemade sweet chili sauce, which I may use once my current bottle of "Taste of Asia" runs out. That could be any moment now. The measurements are in metric, but I'm sure Google Convert can help you out, American readers.

Sweet Chili Sauce

makes 230 ml

2 red hot chili peppers
3 large cloves of garlic
100g white sugar
180 ml water
60 ml white vinegar
1/2 tbsp. salt
splash of soy sauce
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. water

Cut the chili peppers in half and remove seeds. If you like it extra hot, keeps the seeds. Peel the garlic cloves and put them in a blender. Add chili peppers, vinegar, salt and sugar and puree. Pour the mixture into a saucepan, add water, soy sauce and fish sauce. Put the saucepan onto medium-high heat and cook until garlic and chili pieces are soft (4-5 minutes).

Combine the cornstarch and two tablespoons of water. Whisk the mixture into the chili sauce and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens a bit. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer to a clean jar, close the lid and refrigerate. This sauce keeps for a few weeks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fowl, Figs and French Cheese

It's raining in Orlando, and the cooler air is moving in after weeks of 105-degree days. I've been getting excited for Fall during the past few weeks, dreaming about wild mushroom risotto, butternut squash tagines and all the earthy and delicious things that the new season will bring. Mind you, I'm not trying to push summer away with its squash and tomato bounty that I've feasted on without abandon in the last three months.  But Fall, I have to say, whether the AP stylebook says it's a proper noun or not, is my favorite time of year.  At least until Christmas.

That being said, I'm on vacation this week (hence the time I have to write a blogpost) so I took the opportunity to make my favorite sandwich.  Yes, my dear readers, this is my favorite sandwich. It combines several things I love the most. Toasted multi-grain bread, French cheese and figs. By the way, figs are BOGO at Publix this week, if you happen to be lucky enough to have a Publix grocery store nearby.

Here's the startings of the perfect late-August rainy day sandwich:

Multigrain bread, raspberry jam, wedge of Brie, Brown Turkey figs, pile of sliced ham and turkey. On va commencer!

So, here we go.  Spread a thin layer of raspberry jam on both slices of bread. Then layer the turkey and ham.  Take a look at the cheese.  I want you to raise your right hand and swear that you'll  never skimp on the cheese. This is a $6 U.S. block of cheese. It's quality. You want the cheese.  You want the cheese bad.

Slice the cheese into good sized slice and layer on top of the meat.  Then slice the figs and layer those on top. There's a reason you layer it like this.  Don't deviate. It'll be worth it. Give it a good showering of fresh black pepper and sea salt.  It'll look like this when you're ready to grill.

Oh yes. That's the stuff.
Heat up a grill pan or, if you're lucky enough to have one, your panini press. Someday I'll own a panini press.  Perhaps when my Cliff and I move into our NEW KITCHEN.  Yes, I said it. Pictures to come.

If you are using a grill pan on medium heat, though, which is totally fine, use a heavy pot or, as I did, the lid of a ceramic/cast iron Dutch Oven to press the sandwich. This is what you should see when you flip the sandwich over, after about 3-4 minutes.
Grill marks = love 4evr. This is looking goood.

After another 3-4 minutes on that side, flip again and onto a cutting board.  Cut that baby in half.  The cheese should have melted and fused the figs and the meat together. That's why you layered it that way! Isn't that amazing! I didn't get an AAS in Culinary Arts for nothing, people. This should be a perfect sandwich.

Exhibit A: Perfect sandwich.
Voila! Bon appetit!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Perfect Southern Summer Salad

When I lived in Birminghan, my roommate and I went to the farmer's market at Pepper Place every Saturday morning before coming home to listen to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me on NPR and fry up some fresh Alabama eggs for breakfast.

One dish that came out of that beautiful kitchen, once featured in a home-improvement store do-it-yourself brochure, was a quintessential summer salad, marinated lady peas and heirloom tomatoes, tossed with balsamic vinegar and a slap-dash of golden olive oil.

The other night, while my Cliff spent the evening with one of his friends from college (they're both engineers, so I excused myself, understandably), I opened up a can of black-eyed peas and recreated a riff on that salad that comforted me so many times while I lived in the Deep South. It's a vibrant mix of Campari tomatoes, yellow pepper, black eyed peas, cucumber and sauteed shrimp with fresh herbs.  What more could a girl want, really?

The Southern Summer Salad
Serves 2, in the summertime

8 oz medium Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp unsalted butter

1/2 English cucumber, diced
6 Campari tomatoes, or plum tomatoes, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat butter over medium heat in a non-stick pan. Once the butter starts to bubble, add the shrimp.  Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until opaque. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine English cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, black-eyed peas, fresh herbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.

Divide the salad onto two plates and top with the shrimp and any butter left in the pan (trust me, the warm butter is a selling point). Garnish with fresh herbs.

Suggested pairing: 2008 Domaine de Paris rosé.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Cute Mascot Alert!: Blue Bird Bake Shop

Yesterday, Blue Bird Bake Shop made its debut in Orlando's ViMi corridor to open arms and open mouths. Whether you use a fork and knife, lick off the frosting and then eat the cake, or gobble both cake and frosting all at once, Blue Bird is, simply put, delightful.

The bakery has been well-known in Orlando for a few years, supplying Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria with their crave-worthy cupcakes. Now, we don't have to order a sandwich to get cupcaked. The Red Velvet flavor is a personal favorite, topped with cream cheese frosting and walnuts. Try the tri-colored Neapolitan, layered with vanilla, strawberry and chocolate cake, topped with strawberry frosting.  Each cupcake is $2.75, and a dozen of the delightful things run $30.
Alannah Myles sang about the wrong color velvet.
(Photo courtesy of Blue Bird Bake Shop)

The decor is absolutely adorable. I love the toile-esque brown and white wallpaper and the 20+ glass and ceramic bluebirds on the rustic 2x4 shelves behind the counter.  Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald serenade your sweet endeavor. And what about that mascot?  So cute, right?

Not to mention the compostable plasticware made from corn (who knew?) and the paper cups for hot drinks are 100% made from recycled material.  Love it. When you find yourself in a pinch for something sweet, Blue Bird is a lovely way to cap off the weekend...or any day, really.

Location: 3122 Corrine Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, (407) 228-3822

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That's the stuff...

Again, my favorite food makes it into my life: ceviche peruano topped with sweet-sour salsa criolla (that's the red onion part). My Cliff's father makes it better than anywhere I've paid for it, but this place, Ceviche House, comes pretty close.

It's really just too bad it's not a romantic food. Everyone knows when you've had ceviche peruano.  Especially the people you want to get close to.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Fan Base - For Me and my Ramen

Preliminary praise for Blogger: Blogger keeps adding such great little plug-ins.  Now I can put in page breaks and video?  These people are amazing.  Thank you, Blogger, for keeping up with the times (slowly but surely).

Since I last wrote, the World Cup has ended quite anti-climactically and to my dismay. Iniesta was offsides for that quasi-goal Spain scored.  Otherwise, that game was such a snoozer, I actually missed Uruguay's cheeky little punts and plays.  Forlan still looks like an SS officer, though.

Just look! He's offsides at the beginning of the play!

What a fitting end to a World Cup full of embarassing referee blunders.

Also, I'll be reviewing The Capital Grille in the next issue of Orlando Style magazine, due out in August, so keep an eye open for that.

I've gotten some great fan mail, too.  I had no idea I had fans!  You love me!  You really love me! Single, slow-moving tear falling gently on a rose.  Thank you so much for your love out there in the interwebz.  I started this blog back in 2006, so this is probably one of the first Orlando food blogs out there.  I don't update as often as I probably should, but, you know, I have a full-time job and a semi-active social life (read: Real Housewives was on) so I don't have much time.

That being said, I'm really happy that I've gotten comments from people other than my boyfriend.  Actually, he's never commented.  At least online.  But that doesn't mean he's not supportive!  (Love you, honey.)

I got a comment this morning from a chicky-poo who l-o-v-e-s ramen and wanted the recipe for the cold peanut soba noodles with tofu I made for The Blue Samurai (Japan's Men's National Team, which surprised everyone by actually performing better than the Team-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (ahemSpainahem)).  Here it is:

Cold Cucumber-Tofu Soba Salad with Peanut Dressing
Serves 2ish (maybe some lunch leftovers, too)

1 bundle soba noodles, cooked and chilled
1 English cucumber, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 package extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, cubed to 1"
1 tbsp. all-natural, peanut butter (preferably fresh ground)
2 tbsp. Newman's Own Light Sesame Ginger salad dressing (I love this stuff, and it's all-natural)
1 tbsp. olive or sesame oil

Heat the sesame or olive oil in a wok (or shallow pan) over medium-high heat.

Add tofu and stir-fry until browned on all sides.  If you don't want to fry the tofu, you can also bake it in a single layer at 400-degrees F until lightly toasted and brown. Set aside.

Combine peanut butter and salad dressing and pour over chilled soba.  Add browned tofu, cucumbers, green onions and cilantro to the noodles and toss to combine.

Serve on chilled plates and eat with chopsticks. It's really less delicious if you eat it with a fork.  Really.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Going into the Round of 16

Today was the final of the group stages and we have the Round of 16 participants, which kick off tomorrow.  Needless to say, I'm stoked for US v. Ghana.  Ghana plays a super-defensive game, but they've never scored more than 1 goal in a World Cup Match, so the first point is incredibly important for the US to score.  If we can score one, we can win.

That being said, I promised photos, and here they are:

Oh, soba noodles.  I do love you, especially with sesame dressing, fried tofu, cilantro and cucumbers.  What a delicious summertime meal.  Thank you, Japan, for soba.

For Japan's dessert, green tea mochi ice cream.  I've fallen in love with mochi, and I'm stoked that I can get it right down the street at Dong-A-Market.  The taro ones are delicious, but the green tea ones are beyond belief good.

Argentines are infamous carnivores, and chimichurri is probably the best way to dress up a good steak.  We'll see them pound the Mexicans on Sunday.

This is actually the remnants of Cliff's homage to Italy. That bottle of Sangiovese was wonderful with rigatoni and rich Italian sausage.  Consider this photo representative of Italy's current World Cup status: DONE.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Update: 9 countries down...

Looks like I'm not the only one using food as a comparison in this World Cup.  "Danish pastry or Sushi?" asks Univisionfutbol.com.

Italy and France are out.  I'd say that makes it a pretty good shot that someone else can win the World Cup this year since two of the seven countries who've won the title in the past aren't even going to be competing the Round of 16 knock-out phase.  I'm looking forward to an underdog victory - Japan? Portugal? - I'm into it.  I can't wait for the US to play Ghana on Saturday.  I wonder what I'll make...

That being said, I haven't updated with my pictures so far (I'll do it tonight).  I've cooked from:

1. Germany
2. United States
3. Japan
4. Italy (actually, my Cliff cooked this one)
5. Argentina
6. Chile
7. Mexico
8. Korea (North & South count together, but only here, not in history)

I think that's it.  I'll post the pictures tonight, but this has to be one of the most fun experiments I've done.  I don't think I'll make it to 32 countries, but I'll keep on trying until the Final.  Bon appetit, world!  Go USA!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Die Mannschaft Decides Our Dinner: Germany v. Australia

I've gotta hand it to Germany, they served up Australia on the barbie last night, 4-0.  It was a bloody bloodstained blood bath, it was.  A little sad for the team with the most ridiculous nickname: The Socceroos.

I'm going to have to get over my feelings about Germany.  In my head, WWII has stained the country forever as a fascist, racist place.  Their players have names like Schweinsteiger (Gestapo, anyone?).  They're called Die Mannschaft.  I mean really.  They sound evil.  But they did kick ass yesterday, playing better than anyone I've seen so far. 

In their honor (my prediction is that we see Germany in the final; I have spoken), instead of serving Vegemite sandwiches for dinner, I cooked up a good, hearty German feast.

Pork weiner schnitzel, homemade spaetzle (little German dumplings) and braised red cabbage with apples.  I've heard that you can buy a spaetzle maker, but really.  How many more times am I going to make spaetzle, I thought.  I'll just sweat to death over this boiling pot of water and force the dough with a spoon through the tiny holes of a colander.  No problem.

I had no idea it would be my Cliff's favorite part of the meal.  Maybe I'll go buy a spaetzle maker.

For dessert, a cherry galette.  From fresh cherries.  That I pitted myself.  Without a pitter.

Das dinner.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

THE Game: USA v. England

Not many people would characterise me as an ultra-patriot.  I'm a Democratic Socialist, a Francophile and an advocate for free information and health care for all.  But when the US plays those bloody blokes, I'm proud to be an American.

For all our faults (picking fights with countries we have no business invading, FOX News and Texas), I think I'd like to live no where else.  America is for idealists, and I'm a repeat offender.  :)

For our get-together on Saturday, we grilled outside and made some killer tri-colored cupcakes.  How much more American can you get?

I'm happy with the 1-1 draw.  It might as well have been a win after all that trash talking the English did.  I think the US deserves come good respect, even if the issue was goalie Green's butterfingers.

Have I mentioned how much I love frilly, sparkly toothpicks?  Thank you, Jo-Ann etc., for having a 50% off sale on patriotic toothpicks.

Coming up: Germany v. Australia.  I don't think they carry Vegemite at our local grocer, so we're going to go German - schnitzel, herb spaetzle, braised cabbage and apples.  There might be some cherry turnover in there...you never know.

UPDATE:  Ghana just beat Serbia, 1-0.  Definitely the most exciting game so far.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Game 1 Breakfast: Mexico vs. South Africa

I have to admit, I got a little choked up during the opening announcement of the World Cup.  Africa has so many problems that the world just ignores  most of the time.  It's unbelievable that for one month, all eyes will be on Africa.  I hope that the World Cup brings to light how much Africa needs the rest of the world.

I'm excited to explore food from all over the world during the next month, creating a dish from a World Cup Country every day.  I hope you'll join me and celebrate this amazing event.

As the game wraps up (we're at the 93rd minute as I'm typing), I have been really impressed with the 83rd ranked South African national team in this game against Mexico.  It'll end in a 1-1 draw, but the fact that S.A. scored on 17th ranked Mexico was enough for me.

The game started at 9:30am on Friday, so it was only proper that I make a breakfast to celebrate.  I'm no El Tri fan by any means, but I couldn't think of any South African breakfast. I'll work on that.

 But for breakfast, huevo rancheros it was.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bowl of Summer

Annie and I went out for sushi at Shin last night.  Since I'd written that post about Wa, I'd been craving raw fish.  Kinda like how going to food-voyeur site Tastespotting makes you want every dish on there.  Including the Nutella biscotti I spied this afternoon. 

Anyway, Shin was delightful - a real diamond right outside the mine.  Orlando has a bunch of really good sushi places, Saikyo, Amura, Wa, Seito, Shari - they're all lovely and fresh.  I just happened upon this dish of beauty for my appetizer.  The next time I go back, I'm going to ask for a double portion as an entree.  It's really delicious.  Check it out:

I love ceviche anyway, but this was just the paragon of the wonderful way that Latin and Asian foods intermingle.  Different cuts of fish - I think I counted 5 different kinds - play in the bowl with thinly sliced, mellow red onions, green, yellow and red bell peppers and a nice jumbo shrimp. The broth had a little jalapeno kick, which I really appreciated.  What a little bowl of summer.  I can't wait to have it again.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dinner at Wa

I'd heard glorious things about the toro sushi at Wa.  I'd also heard that it was unbelievably hard to find (the restaurant, not the toro, although both are true).  I'd also become acquainted with the wife of the man who owns Wa. 

Let me just tell you that this place is a gem.  It is an insane journey to find, tucked away behind the backstage area of Universal Studios in a basically vacant office complex, but the thrill of the chase is worth it after just the amuse.  Here, have some photos, will you?  They're not great, but you'll get the jist.

It's traditional to be served a small plate before your dinner (an amuse bouche, or "to please the mouth" en Francais) in traditional Japanese restaurants, so this was no surprise.  A tempura-fried crawfish tail with aioli and scallions was light and prompted the slightest salivation.  That's what an amuse  is supposed to do.

To take the edge off, I went ultra-girly and ordered a lychee-tini.  Redolent with fruit, sweet and tropical, I could have one of these with every meal.  So I had three.  Also, Wa's happy hour is fantastic - with every drink, you get a plate of edamame.  Perfect bar food.

I have to admit, it took me a while to decide.  The menu isn't long, necessarily, but everything looked so intriguing (and many dishes had words that I, now being humbled, wasn't familiar with!).  The fusion of French, American and Japanese cuisines was no more apparent than in this dish - crab-stuffed salmon paupiette.  Creamy, dreamy snow crab wrapped in an Alaskan sockeye salmon filet doused with sesame/soy glaze - it was a heavenly dish.  Really.  I'm getting all weepy.

I ordered another "small plate" from the menu so I could make the most of my experience and taste as much as possible.  This unilaterally seared snapper was crispy and buttery and drizzled with whole-grain mustard sauce and bok choy.  Oh, so amazing.  The saucier at Wa, whoever he/she is, is hitting it on the mark.  All of the sauces I tasted were perfectly seasoned and added just the right amount of acid to accent the freshness of the ingredients.

Let me tell you a little bit about toro.  It's a specific part of a bluefin tuna that's SO rare and SO perishable, it's almost impossible to find.  But Wa has it.  It's on the bottom row on the left.  It's unbelievably soft, fatty, buttery, it's just drop-dead delicious.  When you order it, for the love of Bejeezus, don't drench it in soy sauce.  Just eat it as is.  If I could compare it to something, it's like eating an avocado.  You know how when you eat an avocado it kind of coats your mouth with fat and you can taste everything you eat just a little better because of it?  That's what toro does.  Oh man.  That peice of sushi was well worth $7.

By the time dessert came around, I was already too enraptured to remember to take a picture.  The custard with kombucha squash was a little dish of joyfulness.  I may make it in place of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  I'd love to see an omakase tasting menu added to the repertoire at Wa.  Along with a decent wine list that features all the standards and a list of sake not to be sniffed at, Wa is a welcome addition to Orlando's restaurant list.

Wa Restaurant - 5911 Turkey Lake Rd. # 102 • Orlando, FL 32819  - Phone: (407)226-0234

Bigger than my Breadbox

Yes, I do actually have a breadbox.  It's blue, okay?

For a while, I'd been wanting to make bread.  Bread is so homey and warm and comforting and it makes your house smell so amazing.  I tried a formula for Pulla bread (a Finnish sweet cardmom bread) and it was a complete disaster.  Of course.  The yeast I used was who-knows-how-old and I'm pretty sure that's what doomed me from the start.  After a good friend, Chef Tom Beckman of Le Cordon Bleu Chicago (my culinary alma mater), sent me a new formula as the old one was...eh...como se dice...shitty...I tried it again.

Here are the beautiful results.  Thank you, Chef.  Thank you very much. 

My Cliff enjoyed the first loaf almost entirely by himself.  The other is sitting in our freezer awaiting this weekend's brunch and a smear of local tangelo honey spread.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

FroYo Paradise

There's a new froyo joint on the block...

It's called Menchie's and it's a delicious by-the-weight frozen yogurt paradise. If you have enough willpower to get through the candy mix-ins and can get to the fruit (I wish they'd reverse the order you encounter them...), this is a great way to indulge without indulging! I can't wait to go this weekend. The great thing about the by-weight price is that if you're broke, you don't eat as much. Who want's to spend $7 on a cup of frozen yogurt you're going to eat in a single sitting. $2-$3 is much better for the wallet and the waistline.

Favorite flavors:
  • FF Pistachio
  • FF Red Velvet (tastes like cake!)
  • FF Cappuccino
  • FF Cookies & Cream

Pile on the fruit, a few slivered almonds and you're good to go.

I love Froyo. Next to try: Mochi FroYo and Tutti Frutti.  Same concept, potentially just as amazing.

7339 West Sand Lake Road

Orlando, FL 32819-5295
(407) 601-7792

Coming soon...Kissimmee location (next to work!!), Winter Park Village and Whole Foods Plaza in WP.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Chicken in a Sleeping Bag?

I found this, while doing some research on foods introduced throughout the decades for a work project. Apparently these were HUGE in 2009. Guess I missed the memo on this one.

If you find these little nuggets with ketchup faces all tucked into their crescent dough beds cute and hilarious, rather than disturbing and hilarious, you can find the recipe HERE.

We Ate New York: Part the Second

On Day Two, we exercised our street food muscle.  As many fine dining restaurants as I've been to, I have to admit, my heart belongs on the street.  Street food is cheap, portable and usually tucks big, satisfying  flavor into a small package because when you're so pressed for time that you can't duck into a deli or sit down for supper, you've still gotta feel like you ate something.

I had a goal of finding some stir-fried chicken or duck feet while we were in Flushing, Queens.  I've heard about how wonderful it is the pick the meat off the feet, every bite a little more ducky and fatty - it sounded amazing.  So when we stepped up to the stand and ordered four "Duck Feet" for $1.50 each from the aged Chinese lady, she surprised us completely.  The woman pocketed meaty oysters of duck meat with crispy skin into fluffy steamed bread, added shredded cucumbers and scallions and squirted a healthy dose of sweet hoisin/five-spice sauce on top. 

These, my friends, started the day off right.  These little "duck feet tacos" as we dubbed them, won the title Best Street Food of the Day.

We ducked (pun intended) into what was labeled a "mall" but what was actually a Chinese food paradise.  This is what we found (above).  And this...(oh, my..)

And this...

At home in Orlando, we love heading over to Saigon Market or Lollicup in the Colonialtown neighborhood and snorking down a taro smoothie with tapioca boba beads.  The lavendar smoothie tastes like a combination of flowers and chocolate and is just so addicting (I may get one for lunch, now).  This counter (above) was a smoothie bar, yes, but when we ordered a taro slush, what the guy behind the counter put together was NOTHING like what we have at home.  I have little to no idea what 98% of the things in those bowls are.  Beans, jellys, creamy things...not much about food freaks me out, but, I'm kind of embarassed to say, this kind of freaked me out. 

The slush we got was made with fresh taro (it's like a sweet potato), not the taro-flavored purple powder we have at home.  It tasted vaguely of the sweet concoction we enjoy from Lollicup, but very, very different.  Cliff drank most of it.  I stayed away after my first few lightly chunky sips.

Siopao is a steamed bun usually served at weekend dim sum feasts.  It's sometimes filled with egg, roast shredded chicken, or char siu (roast, glazed pork).  We found these, though, at the stand next door to the 'duck feet taco' place.  They were filled with a savory, steamy sauce and a pork meatball.  On this windy, 35-degree March day, these were so warming and comforting.  And they were $1 for four.  Beat that, fancy Manhattan eateries!

At Tai Pan, a Chinese bakery that's made a sweet and savory name for itself, we stocked up on yeasty buns filled with dried, shredded 'pork thread' and sweet pastries including famous egg custards and sweet taro pastries.

Tai Pan Bakery, 3725 Main Street, Flushing, Queens

Before we took the train out of Flushing and into the city to meet our friend Van, who flew in from North Carolina, and to eat some more (tomorrow's pictures!), I got a little over-zealous and ordered something cool-looking but not so tasty (at least to my ignorant American palate).  I generally LOVE food-on-a-stick, but these fish balls, gelatinized fish meatballs, dipped in fiery sauce and served piping, were just too much.  I gave them to my Cliff, who eats everything.

And that's why I love him.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

We Ate New York: Part the First

Day 1:

When we got off the bus from LaGuardia, we didn't waste any time. 

La Casa del Pollo Peruano, 87-07 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, Queens

This chicken was perfectly seasoned with a blend of special spices I could never figure out, fluffy rice, beans and a fragrant purple-corn chicha morada.  The great thing about Peruvian chicken is that while it's on the rotisserie, the fat and juices drip from the top chickens to the bottom chickens, basting each chicken underneath.  Perfect after-travelling food.  The yellow stuff on the side was a secret hot sauce with aji amarillo (yellow hot chilies) and tons of ginger.  Que ricissimo!

Blue Hill, Frnt A, 75 Washington Place, East Village, Manhattan

Too soon after the melt-in-your-mouth chicken, we headed to Manhattan for dinner at Blue Hill.  Deliciously fresh and prepared with overwhelming love for ingredients, our food was comforting and homey; not at all pretentious and without much fanfare.  After having dined at many austere restaurants, Blue Hill was a breath of fresh air.  Service was excellent and courteous, and this appetizer, smoked Spanish mackerel with watercress, beet and smoked celeriac puree, was a perfect palate primer.

Maximo Pino Cafe, 504 Avenue of the Americas, East Village, Manhattan

We skipped dessert at Blue Hill for the opportunity to walk around the East Village (one of my favored neighborhoods, if only for the presence of the looming 4-story Strand bookstore) in search of something sweet.  My Cliff and I love frozen sweetness so much that this massive display of gelato was impossible to just ignore.  With flavors from classic stracciatella and tiramisu to buttered popcorn and kiwi, Maximo Pino Cafe was the right decision.  I've always heard that you can tell a good gelateria by its pistachio flavor.  This one was fantastic.

If you thought today was delicious, just wait for tomorrow.