31 December 2013

Minado Sushi

I can't decide whether I like "traditional" sushi or newly invented crazy sushi. On most days, the plain salmon nigiri or salmon + avocado maki suffice to make me happy.

Yesterday and over Thanksgiving break, my family and I went to Minado and they have very bizarre sushi varieties. It was quite interesting.

 The above include a fried piece of Spam sushi (the one with the nori wrapped vertically around a fried rod), an oddly-sweet kiwi sauce roll (neon green sauce), a slightly off scallop sushi, a fried chicken sushi (between the scallop and seaweed salad ones), and some others that I don't remember. I recall there being some bell peppers in some of the sushis, and one of them was avocado, salmon, and Washington apple. I initially couldn't figure out what the apple was, and guessed melon. Funny how when a cube of food is put out of context, it is difficult to pinpoint what it is. The Spam one was just bizarre and the kiwi sauce was bad (but my brother enjoyed it).

This was from Thanksgiving. One of the rolls  (the one with the leafy stuff) was the Texas roll and it had a chunk of cooked cow. I don't recall what the other rolls included. Their spicy mayo sucks. Too much mayo and not enough sriracha.

Overall, it was quite fun trying out all these bizarre and novel rolls.

29 December 2013

Interview Travelling (Seattle WA, Madison WI, San Jose CA)

This semester was crazy because I was interviewing for a job, which involved quite some travelling. In this haze, I somehow managed to visit a whole handful of airports and hotels. The places documented here include Seattle, Madison, and the Bay Area.

I had a nice breakfast at the hotel. I know that it's not the fanciest but it beats most of the breakfasts and lunches I've had all semester (wow, I sure have been neglecting my ... life). I mean, hot food! More than one item in my sandwich!

I went to downtown Seattle after my interview and got some pumpkin and coconut gelato at Gelatiamo. I didn't particularly enjoy the pumpkin one because it felt too heavy. I got to sample the rice gelato, which was delicious (but I wasn't in the mood for it). They had all these beautiful baked desserts but I really wasn't in the mood. I languidly walked around downtown chomping on gelato, checking out people going to dress-up/Halloween parties. 


I went to dinner at The Crab Pot with a friend I hadn't seen in almost exactly 7 years.  The Crab Pot is famous for, well, the crab pot.

The bread was really dense and hard to chew (or I was just tired) and the entire place was happy and rowdy. We were given mallets and cutting boards! Bibs! I did not wear the bib because it just felt over the top. The food arrived in a giant bucket and was poured onto the table. Cleanup was therefore very easy. What a feast! I really enjoyed the corn, mussels, clams, and sausage. There was a lot of overcooked shrimp, but the crab was good. Everyone was super nice and I found the place unique. I would definitely go there every time I visit Seattle in the future.

The SeaTac airport has the best restaurant ever - Anthony's Fish Bar!! This place made me so happy! I got delicious clam chowder and mediocre Alaskan rockfish taco with mango (awkwardly sweet and fishy, while also savoury).

 Cold rockfish taco on the plane, while attempting to study.

An airport store had quite the selection of candy (blurry due to my phone camera).

I had a layover in Minnesota, where I bought some candy corn gummies (which tasted like generic gummies) and a "Montana bar", which was actually just a oaty bar covered with chocolate and coconut.

Madison, Wisconsin
At the layover in Cincinnati, I got a turkey club from the Wolfgang Puck restaurant/bar. I find it humourous that Wolfgang Puck's name is being used in restaurants at airports, since I associate airport restaurants with... well, solely Burger King or restaurants along those lines.
The sandwich was ok.

I had a super fancy breakfast at the Concourse Hotel on the morning of the interview, but I was too nervous to enjoy it. I had an amazing meal during my interview!

Bay Area
My first flight got delayed so I had some time to check out the crochet cakes in display cases at the Philadelphia Airport. They are really nice and I think I would make some when I have time.

In N Out Burgers!! Whoo! Our cab driver was really nice and we made a pit stop here (latent dream come true!) and I wanted to buy everything. I got a chocolate shake that I had to chug down because I forgot that I wasn't allowed to take this through airport security (I had made the same mistake in Seattle where I bought some coffee right before entering security).

The burger, fries, and In N Out sauce packets did make it through security! Huzzah! I got to eat them both cold while waiting for my flight. At that point, I wasn't even hungry. The burger was fantastic.
 The animal fries were not that good. They were really soggy, possibly due to it sitting in a paper bag for half an hour, but I was not impressed.

I had a layover in Phoenix, where I found the presence of "Icelandic water" quite funny. The airport was completely packed with people, even though it was one in the morning. I was tempted to get a pumpkin shake but at that point I just felt exhausted and thirsty. Deflated would be a good word, and the only thing I wanted was to  sleep horizontally, undisturbed for 15 hours.

24 December 2013

Pinwheel Cookies

Oh, it's been a while. So much has happened and much delicious food and little alcohol (huzzah! I can legally drink now!) has passed through my digestive system. And now starts the frantic trying-to-stuff-as-many-posts-into-2013-as-possible. Today, I will talk about making pinwheel cookies. Below are 93 cookies.

I made nutella + jam + dried fruit pinwheel cookies in 2007 or 2008 and they turned out pretty hard and sweet. I guess they were acceptable. I don't recall how I rolled the cookies though, since I don't recall it being a tedious task. Last night, however, rolling the cookie logs took way more time and gnawing away at confidence than I anticipated.

I made a double batch of this typical sugar cookie recipe, which yielded about 100, or 8 dozen cookies and end bits that the little ragamuffin (my sister) nibbled up raw. I left them in the fridge overnight and baked them this afternoon.

Ingredient Changes:

-- 2 cups of sugar instead of 2.66 cups
-- 2 handfuls of melted chocolate chips in half the dough, yielding a light tea+milk type of brown rather than a dark brown.

Regarding the Method:
I don't have parchment paper. I reused an opened-up cereal bag, which worked pretty well as a cookie log wrapper. Unfortunately, the dough was really soft so it was hard to move around. Flouring the surface really helped.

The first method included rolling out both doughs and then folding one on top of the other, and peeling the plastic back. This sort of worked but was really tedious.

I also tried just squashing chocolate dough onto the rolled-out vanilla dough but that was also tedious. Most of the logs (I ended up with three 30-cm-ish logs, each yielding >30 cookies) were just really squishy due to it being a balmy room temperature. Most were done using the roll-two-blobs-and-smoosh-together method. Even though the doughs were not rolled into perfect rectangles, with some trimming and squishing around, I ended up with dismal looking logs, that, the next day, magically sliced into artistic pinwheels. I put two of the logs in a plastic bread bag and kept the other one rolled up in the cereal bag in the fridge.

Next time, I will probably chill the dough for an hour rather than for 20 minutes. A lot of the rolling was done by eye, and my cookie sizes ranged from Oreo-sized to Navel orange-sized.

How surprising! They actually look beautiful!!
The cookies were sliced at about 7 mm ? and baked on the middle rack of a 350 F oven for exactly 10 minutes. It turns out that the bottom rack is no place for a cookie-to-be, and a aluminum foil pan yields a longer cooking time for the cookie. So, I stuck with the cookie sheet I got for my 15th birthday that is still intact and loved.

Perfectly cooked and no burned edges!

The spots on the cookies are chocolate chips that did not melt completely.

The cold logs are only sliced immediately before placing onto the pan and baking. Although I buttered the pan with a butter wrapper for the first batch, subsequent batches did not require any pan-buttering. The trick is to swivel the cookies off the sheet as soon as the sheet is taken out of the oven. At this point, they don't stick to the pan. This means very hot fingertips and quick scooping of cookies onto a spatula, and then the cooling rack (or directly on, if you like hot fingertips).

The cookies do expand a bit during cooking and unfortunately I had to squish some cookies together because I didn't want to bake a batch of only 3-5 cookies.

Look at this stack of equal-diameter cookies!

28 September 2013

The Irish Embassy Pub & Grill

I am an embarrassment to Ireland. How can I be Irish and, well, culturally and ethnically not? All I have is a piece of paper that I've only seen once in my life saying Hey, This Person is Irish. Which reminds me of this goal I had a while back: I should be at least culinarily aware of Ireland.
...but I'm not, really.

So back to history. Over a month ago, I was in Toronto for vacation and we were wandering around downtown after having an extravagantly happy time in Centre Island (THERE WERE BUNNIES!!), and we happened upon a Guinness sign on a building at an intersection, and my mum noticed the word Irish (one of the handful in her English vocabulary). As it turns out, it was The Irish Embassy (Pub & Grill)! Now, it was nearly 4:30 pm, so we decided to have an early dinner. Come to think of it, we might have skipped lunch that day. It's all a blur now.

Of course, Guinness is beer and I don't talk about alcohol on this blog (but I'm going to be legal in the US soon, so, would this change?), but my mum encouraged me and my brother to have a Guinness (Irish culture shot, all in one!) because we were in Canada. I found this extremely comical and absurd. Have beer? With the family? At 4:30pm? In Toronto? So, *giggles*...but no.

Now I wonder whether I should've, because the next time I get to have a Guinness will be in a fortnight when I turn 21.

So, The Irish Embassy! What a place! High ceilings, clear menu, posters of Irish cottages and castles next to the bathrooms, green doors, bar, clean tables, and giant goblets (for the Guinness)! I felt like I was in some sort of wonderland (or maybe I was just tired). There's something vaguely nostalgic about all this, even though I've never actually been to an Irish castle or cottage. Perhaps I'm wondering about the life I could've had. Overall, I had a wonderful experience.

We ordered Irish poutine (what a mix?), cottage pie, and lamb stew.
The poutine had no gravy - it was all mayonnaise, cheese, and salty pig bits. It was tasty and probably the least authentic Irish thing on the menu, which was fine.

Stew. My mum said it reminded her of when she lived in Ireland. I don't like how the flesh was overcooked.

Cottage pie: my favourite! It also came with an assortment of veggies!!

27 September 2013

Estia - Restaurant Week

Despite having lived in Philadelphia since 2010, as of the 15th of September, I still had not participated in Philly's Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week always seemed too expensive and time-consuming to be worth the food, and I was right.

However, that doesn't mean that dinner at Estia, a fancy but laid-back Greek restaurant, was not enjoyable. Quite the contrary! It was one of the best social events of my college life, shared with the group of friends who frequented my dorm's computer lab. Yes, apparently, solid friendships can form among strangers when we all spend 10+ hours a week in a computer lab for 2-3 years. Especially when they nonchalantly walk in on me passed out over my computer science notes.

The food was delicious, and the atmopshere and service were excellent. The walls were decorated with giant chunks of rock, and there were linen curtains at the booths and an open kitchen.

Appetizers included grilled octopus (fresh, fleshy, and slighty charred tasting), or salad. The grilled octopus also had some endive triangles, which was pleasant because it is not a leaf I commonly find at restaurants.

 The main choices were juicy (also slightly charred) lamb with a sauce I didn't like, an entire almost-deboned fish, or a vegetarian dish that the server did not recommend. 

Dessert was either honey semolina cake or baklava, with exactly 1 raspberry (although, possibly by accident, my friend got both a raspberry AND a blueberry). The honey cake was disappointingly dry and crumbly, and the gelato did not make up for it.

Restaurant Week meant that we could get a dinner meal for $35 (appetizer, main, dessert), which ultimately amounted to around $46. Yummy.

22 September 2013

Cinnamon Rolls

I am awfully backlogged with posts. I still have a whole bunch of foods from IFT, Ithaca, Toronto, and the rest of the summer to discuss! Unfortunately, I am in the midst of projects, jobs applications, job interviews, and studying for the GREs (but actually not, because I still haven't gotten through one practice test yet).

For study break a few weeks ago, I made cinnamon rolls for the first time. Although the recipe gave a serving size of 12-15 rolls, I ended up with 16 (I mean, how do you cut 15 evenly-thick rolls?) in each batch, giving 32 rolls overall.

The residents devoured the rolls like vultures fighting over one chubby mouse.

I didn't make any icing because it would've just been messy, and there would've been fifty students strolling around making doorknobs sticky. For the two batches, I think I used around 21 g of active dry yeast, and twice the amount of sugar in the dough (since there was no icing). As it was over 80 degrees in my room, I let the butter soften at room temperature, and the buns rose pretty quickly.

This is my kitchen, work desk, dining table, closet, bookshelf, and bedside table. My goal is to keep it scrupulous and clean/sanitized all year.

The fun part! I pressed out the dough (no rolling pin) so that it was about 7mm thick.

The rolls rose a lot! I didn't grease the foil pan, yet the buns came out pretty easily, no doubt due to the butter in the rolls trickling out while baking.

Mmmm. All I got were some crumbs (and a loud marriage proposal, that, of course, was just a disguised compliment)...but that's perfectly acceptable, because I have the skill, so I can make 1024 more, if I really wanted to.

05 August 2013

Bounty Bar

Bounty bars are very simple. They're like Almond Joys but they lack the almond, and they have their logo and palm trees stamped on their bottoms. I guess they're the Commonwealth equivalent to Almond Joys. They have different ingredients, too. I like their wrapper more, though.

02 August 2013

Flesh Products from the IFT Expo

Am I surprised that there weren't many animal flesh products at the IFT Expo? Most of the samples were attempts to make cereal/candy/chocolate/desserts more "healthy". However, there were some snacks that showcased the lastest in animal flesh preservation technology. There was also a booth that was giving out plates of cooked animal flesh which was extremely delicious, but their marketing seems to have failed because everyone was standing in line obtaining a plate of grilled meat, disregarding the company name, and not signing deals. Or maybe I didn't notice because I'm ignorant.

1. Plate of Scrumptious Grilled Animal Flesh

2. Beef Sticks

These were very flavourful but had a peculiar texture. The casing was typically chewy, but the filling can be described as a combination of sawdust, tuna, and pork floss. This may have been due to the oleoresin? I would've expected a more cohesive or gelatinous texture. Despite this, they were delicious.

3. Teriyaki Jerky

This was unusually sweet and rectangular. It had an arid texture that warranted reluctant chewing.

01 August 2013

Chips Chips Chips

So how is the world of chips (crisps) doing today? From the IFT Expo, IFTSA Mixer and Dominick's, I managed to scanvenge a whole stomachful of new flavours and types of chips and now I have to admit that yes, apparently I do collect interesting chip wrappers (I've been in denial about this for the past 3 years).

1. Munchos Flamin' Hot Chips
These are radioactive in terms of color and taste. After a few dozen of them, my fingertips were tainted pinkish-red. The chips are really thin and spicy (possibly the spiciest I've ever had, but that doesn't mean much because I don't go on a quest for spicy chips) and lack pretty much any other flavor.

I had a trade sample! Unfortunately, I now have lost the wrapper :( I wonder what I'm going to do with the current wrappers and Pringles/Stax canisters in my collection, which currently includes cucumber, lemon tea, blueberry, steak and fries, dill pickle, and seafood.

2. Ruffles Max Flame Grilled Steak Chips

These taste slightly burnt and steaky, as expected and offer an addictive fragrance. The wondrous smell of them linnnngers on me now...I hope you know, I hope you knowwww that steak chips are tasty and limited edition...It's personal-sized, for myself and I, we've got some pigging out to do...

3. Doritos Dinamita

What a novel shape - rolled tortilla straws! Unfortunately, I did not have any cocktails, gazpacho, bruschetta, or chowders to sip with them. These were mildly spicy and offered a punch of green pepper (although the package claims that it is red pepper, all I feel are bursts of green bell pepper). These are so entertaining to eat!

4. Seneca Apple Chips

I feel negatively towards this product because an entire scrumptious apple is likely less than 100 Calories and fat free, while this meagre package of 5 g fat prompts the (cliche) joke "Who put some chips in my container of air?"

Sure, it's tasty, but it lacks any sort of caramel flavour. And sure, maybe this snack can prompt kids to eat more "fruit" (does this even count as a serving of (fresh) fruit, though?) but I dislike the marketing techniques and the fact that there is packaging. Fried apple in a packet. Other products on this line include fried pear in a packet.

An apple is just less convenient, right?

5. Peppadew Sweet & Spicy Potato Chips

These are sour. Like, pickle sour. But, after frantic chewing, the potato starch itself is sweet. They're also pretty spicy and umami. Absolutely delicious!

6. Limon Cheetos
Well, these are lime flavoured but I had been under the impression that "limon" is "lemon". I forgot to take pictures of it. The Cheetos smell like barbecued or rotisserie chicken. You know how Cheetos are bright orange? Well, these are bright red. They taste sour (like lime) and spicy, but are NOT cheesy.