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Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

Facing East

In Eating Out, Food on March 31, 2014 at 10:53

Doof Out

I went to Facing East for 2 items only — Taiwanese pork bun and fruity green tea.

The Taiwanese pork bun, or Gua Bao 割包, was an extremely additive snack.

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Gua Bao had a soft sweet bun with soy sauce flavored stew pork belly in the center, accented with fresh cilantro, Chinese pickled vegetables and sweet ground sweetened peanuts.

The end result was a party in the mouth both in texture and flavor!

The fatty and melt-in-your-mouth pork belly gave this super soft and quick disappearing texture as if we were eating ice cream.

The meat part of the pork belly gave some tender texture of meat to savor in.

The raw cilantro gave crisp and freshness to lighten up the fat, and the pickled vegetables gave a slightly softer crunch and more texture in the mouth to enjoy.

The ground sweetened peanuts provided a small granular texture in the mouth and the bun was soft and cottony.

It was as if there was layer after layer of different texture in the mouth to make Gua Bao extremely interesting.

The flavor and taste were just rich in this tiny little bun.

There was the soy saucy and earthy spice (star anise being one of them) flavor from the pork which covered the salty taste.

Cilantro offered the fresh and strong herby flavor, while the pickled vegetables was lightly sweetened and definitely offered the sour taste component of Gua Bao.

The sweet taste came from both the bun and ground sweetened peanuts.

While the peanuts added nutty flavor to Gua Bao , the bun gave a comforting sweet plain flour flavor to contain the full flavor party in the mouth.

Gua Bao was something that I LOVE but cannot eat too much of because I found it satiating, and Facing East made a fantastic Gua Bao.

Then, my favorite drink, fruity green tea.

L back: stir-fried A-vegetables -- L front: Hakka stir-fried wide rice noodle -- R: fruity green tea

L back: stir-fried A-vegetables — L front: Hakka stir-fried wide rice noodle — R: fruity green tea

I tired to duplicate this simple drink at home without much success, I believe it had to do with the green tea I was using.

The fruity green tea was made with, I believe Jasmine green tea, citrus honey and fresh chopped fruit.

The sweet, fruity, citrusy and floral flavor was very delicious both in hot and cold versions.

We tried the Hakka stir-fried wide rice noodle for the first time.

The predominant flavor of the noodles came from shallots and was very subtle with a hint of dried shrimp and chives.

It was a little bland for my taste but the rice noodle texture was fantastic.

All the noodles were cooked thoroughly and mixed thoroughly (one of my pet peeve was receiving stir fried rice noodles that were stuck together with some noodle pieces completely unflavored and were still white).

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L: minced pork noodle — R: fried yam pocket

The spicy minced pork (肉燥) noodle had great flavors of soy sauce with green fresh flavors from cilantro and green onions.

I appreciated the crunchiness from the slightly cooked bean sprouts, but the egg noodle unfortunately was overcooked and was too soft.

The yam pocket was tasty with soft mashed yam, mixed with small amount of ground pork and finely chopped Chinese mushrooms in a crispy soy skin pocket.

It was a great play of textural contrast between the crisp soy skin and soft mashed yam.

All-in-all, Facing East delivered reliably flavored dishes.

The star of the restaurant was still the pork bun.

My father had mentioned that it was difficult to find places in Hong Kong serving Gua Bao.

Aside from taking a trip to Taiwan, he would have to visit me to get his Gua Bao fix.

Facing East Taiwanese Restaurant 東來食府 on Urbanspoon

RockCreek

In Eating Out, Food on March 30, 2014 at 14:57

Doof Out

My friends had been telling me about RockCreek and I also saw them in press again and again.

With my parents visiting, it seemed like a perfect time to try this much raved restaurant.

I loved the architecture of the building and the cozy private dining room upstairs which I was just coveting perhaps for a great birthday party for someone.

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With the oysters-loving out-of-town guests, we once again ordered oysters.

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The oysters were very fresh, sweet and juicy but they were not all local.

At least one of them came as far as from Maryland.

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The grilled sardine salad was delightful.

It was mixed with little bit of greens and fresh herbs; fried shallots on top gave extra flavor and texture – original, crisp and flavorful with a hint of spring.

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Top: stuff pepper with crab — Bottom: spicy octopus

The stuffed peppers  with crab was creamy and sweet.

Even though the pepper flavor was very strong, the crab meat still held their ground with nice sweet crab flavor, bringing the ocean into dish.

The breading was just right, nice solid coating without being too thick and held onto the fillings really well.

The octopus was very spicy, tender and unique in flavor — a little smoky and just spicy hot!

The beans at the bottom helped cool the spiciness of the octopus.

It was such an art to make octopus this soft and tender — it was the softness of rice cake without the starchiness.

One interesting note about the menu was that it was predominantly filled with cooked fish.

There was at least 10 different cooked fish dishes; while most other seafood was in starters and small plates.

It was such a rare find in a restaurant serving so many different kinds of fish.

We got a whole roasted branzino, which was tender, sweet and lemony.

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Simply prepared, fresh and tasty.

The Icelandic char was a very mild white fish, which was prepared fantastically.

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Tender, soft, with crispy skin, and soaked up the flavors of the clams which were very fresh.

The dish was salted just right.

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Lastly, the Normande fish stew with clams, shrimps and cod.

It was flavored exceptionally with 2 unique ingredients: pernod and sofrito.

Pernod was a liquor which had licorice flavor.

Sofrito was a braised aromatics sauce, with onions, garlics and tomatoes.

The resulting fish stew was light but with rich flavors; along with the fresh seafood, it was a very wonderful plate.

RockCreek is a fish lovers’ paradise, and I will be returning soon!

RockCreek on Urbanspoon

Taylor Shell Fish and Dairy Free Leek Quiche

In Eating Out, Food, Home Creation on March 28, 2014 at 15:11

Doof Home

Made this dairy free quiche and loved it!

With a dash of tabasco, it was zesty and delicious!

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INGREDIENTS

2 leeks, cut out leaves and roots, slice vertically in half and slice finely

3 eggs, whisk

1/2 cup of soy milk

1/2 cup of coconut milk

1/2 lb of soft tofu, mashed to very small lumps and drained

1 pre-made Pie Crust (I use Trader Joe’s)

1/2 + 1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp parsley

1 tsp thyme

 

DIRECTIONS

Defrost pie crust at room temperature until completely soft.

Preheat oven at 380F.

Mush the tofu further, add salt, parsley and thyme.  Mix well.

Heat oil in high heat until smoky.

Add sliced leek and about 1/4 tsp of salt to cook until soft.  Remove from heat.

Roll out pie crust on a round baking pan.

Place leeks at the bottom, spread evenly.

Drain the tofu mixture further and spread evenly on top of leeks.

Add soy and coconut milk to whisked eggs and mix well.

Pour mixture on top on the leek and tofu layer, take care to fill spaces between tofu mixture.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 40 mins or until crust and top is golden.

Enjoy!

 

Doof Out

As a part of entertaining out-of-town guests, I was to showcase the abundance of seafood we had in the Pacific Northwest.

Found out that my guests loved oysters, we went to Taylor Shellfish Farm at Melrose Market.

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The small store was very simple, with kitchen at the back and a few tables in the front.

Customers could purchase seafood on the side — oysters, clams etc.

My guests, including my parents were in heaven!

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Gigantic platter of fresh oysters all locally farmed around the Pacific Northwest.

Amazingly plump, juicy and carried the taste of the sea with every one of the gem, large or small.

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We ordered half a crab and the meat was completely sweet, meaty and tender.

Geoduck was ordered sashimi style.

They were superbly sweet and crunchy.

Thinly sliced to perfection, every bite brought a whiff of the ocean.

L: geoduck sashimi -- R: geoduck chowder

L: geoduck sashimi — R: geoduck chowder

Taylor Shell Fish Farm export large amount of local geoducks to China.

This year, the Chinese decided geoducks from US, largely from Washington and Alaska, did not meet their health standard, which was largely disagreed by the Washington State Department of Health who routinely checked our shell fish for toxins .

Nonetheless, we now have large supply of geoduck to consume locally.

Two soups were available that day: oyster stew and geoduck chowder.

The oyster stew was creamy with great flavor, a little starchier than my liking.

The geoduck chowder, however was fantastic!

It was spicy with gradual built-up heat, lots of vegetables with fresh tomato flavors.

It contains lots of geoduck bits, mostly the softer non-trunk part.

The small bread roll accompanying the soups were delicious as well — sour dough with rosemary and large granules of sea salt, soft inside with a chewy and flavorful crust.

Taylor Shellfish on Urbanspoon

 

The Walrus and The Carpenter

In Eating Out, Food on March 26, 2014 at 11:08

Doof Out

The Walrus and the Carpenter is one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle!

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This small little restaurant is always packed, and I brought my parents there right when they opened at 4pm for dinner.

First off, fresh oysters!

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They were all locally grown – fresh, sweet, plump and juicy.

Each of the oysters had their own unique flavors, some had slight bitter taste, while others were sweet, and some tasted like sea water.

The platter came with vinegar and horseradish as condiments.

I had always like them as-is so to taste the differences in the types of the oysters and the freshness of the sea.

At 4pm, we also got the happy hour price and that was just icing on the cake!

We ordered a few more plates to try.

My favorite was this beautifully plated smoked trout with lentil.

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The lentils were soft and delicious, and the smoke trout was very tender.

I loved the smokiness of the trout — it was done just right, not overwhelming and yet imparted really great flavor.

Paired with the tartness of the well-flavored pickled onion, it was wonderful.

We had this unique soup which was an octopus consomme.

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When we had the brown broth, it tasted very light in flavor, just a little seafood flavor, and we could not even pin-point it exactly to be octopus.

My parents were not too keen with it.

Then, we broke into the egg with the soup.

The soft-boiled egg’s runny egg yolk was mixed with the consomme, and the flavor profile of the soup completely changed.

It became creamy, rich and somehow the egg yolk enhanced the octopus flavor in the soup.

Paired with little bit of mint, the flavor combinations was delicate, unique and amazing.

My mother loved French onion soup, and we tried the Walrus and Carpenter’s version.

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It was unfortunately still a little saltier than my liking.

Nonetheless, it was with very good flavor and certainly piping hot!

We had a fish toasts and also grilled sardine.

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The fish toast was excellent.

The smooth fish paste was mixed with nice herbs, taking the flavors of the fish to another level.

The thin sliced pickled onions gave another dimension to the dish in both flavors and texture.

The grilled sardine was my Dad’s favorite.

The sardines were tender, and did not have the fishy flavor that were normally associated with sardine.

Interesting texture was added to the dish with walnuts and fresh herbs.

I have been to the Walrus and the Carpenter many times and had never been disappointed.

Seemed like they had just become one of my parents’ must-stop when they come to the States!

The Walrus and the Carpenter on Urbanspoon

Eating in Curaçao, Dutch Antilles

In Eating Out, Food, The Caribbeans, Travel Food on March 24, 2014 at 10:40

Doof Out

I wish I could eat in each one of the country we visited on the cruise!

In reality, I knew it would be difficult to get my hands on local foods for one reason or another.

In the Bahamas, we were dropped off at a secluded part of an island basically ran by the staff of the cruise ship – no local food.

In Aruba, everything near the strip off the port was touristy.

There were quite a few eateries but they were serving sandwiches, pizza and pasta.

Colombia and Costa Rica were challenging because we only have enough time to tour but not enough to eat locally.

A Glimpse of Street Food Life in Cartagena, Colombia  L: fruit vendor -- R Top: sweet cookies snacks -- R bottom: orange juice vendor

A Glimpse of Street Food Life in Cartagena, Colombia
L: fruit vendor — R Top: sweet cookies snacks — R bottom: orange juice vendor

We got off at Colon in Panama for a very short stop.  To my surprise, on a Tuesday, most stores were closed around 4pm.  There were once again, eateries with pizza, Lebanese and Greek food on the main street – no luck again.

My one and only food adventure was at Curacao, Dutch Antilles — and it was wonderful!

Floating market

Floating market

We found a market where locals went to eat – a what a fantastic food journey!

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inside of the food market

inside of the food market

First, must try the famous iguana soup.

L: iguana bones -- R top: soup with extra hot pepper -- Middle bottom: inside of iguana eggs -- R bottom: iguana eggs

L: iguana bones — R top: soup with extra hot pepper — Middle bottom: inside of iguana eggs — R bottom: iguana eggs

Chunks of iguana meat were served in the soup with bones.

I was really out of vocabulary to describe the taste of iguana meat.

It was sweet and tender, not anything like any other meat that I had (DH and I joked that alligator meat tasted like chicken, and certainly not the case for iguana).

Our tour guide in Aruba once said that the iguana meat was healthy because iguanas were vegetarians.

I would assume that the vegetation on the Caribbean was so vastly different from ours that the meat of the animal would certainly tasted different too.

The bones were small and sharp, and looked more like fish bone (I believe I had the tail part) rather than mammals’.

When saw these little balls at the bottom of the soup and started chewing them.

I thought it was some kind of starch or herb, as it was very firm like a perfectly cooked whole ginko.

Turned out they were iguana eggs!  Super interesting!

They did not taste like any of the fowl eggs, and it had no yolk or whites to speak off.

My dad loved it so much that we had the shop keeper scooped us more from their soup pot.

The soup was  a light broth and very spicy, with some carrots and onions’’’’’’’’ in it.

The soup was extremely addictive and tasty, and tasted like a light chicken broth

Then, we had goat stew, called carni stoba, with funchi.

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The goat stew was delicious and the goat was very tender.

The funchi was even better.

It was basically locals’ polenta, and best polenta I had ever had!

It was creamy both in texture (not gritty) and in flavor (probably had milk or cream in the mix).

No corn mill cardboard taste to it but just hint of corn flavor.

Our first out of country polenta experience was in Romania, and DH and I both did not like it as it was bland and had the corn mill cardboard taste.

If all polenta was prepared this way in the Dutch Antilles, I would have this every meal!

My parents loved it too and I told my parents about this being the best and they would likely not enjoy other polenta.

Incidentally, that same night during dinner at cruise ship, they were serving polenta.

I gave my parents a bite of it and they both shook their heads…..

Kadushi, cactus soup

Kadushi, cactus soup

Lastly, must try the kadushi, cactus soup.

It was cooked with meat and was very slimy.

It was very difficult to eat with the spoon as the spoonful of soup would slip away from the spoon before it hit the mouth.

The flavor of the soup reminded of this Shanghainese soup that my grandmother used to make at home, we called it “yellow fish soup” — which was made with shredded fish meat, eggs and vegetable similar to spinach.

I was really surprise the cactus+meat reminded me of a fish soup!

The quite enjoyed the slimy texture but my travel companions were passing on the soup.

The fun part was what the soup did to my stomach.

I wasn’t full when I had the soup, and after I had the bowl, it felt like my stomach was about to burst!

It felt like the slimy starchiness just expanded exponentially in my stomach.

After no more than an hour, I was back to being hungry again!

The cactus starch did not last.

We continued to enjoy the colors of the local markets with its abundance of fresh fruit, fish and meats on our way back to the cruise ship.

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Eating on Cruise Ship

In Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on March 21, 2014 at 11:39

Doof Out

From the brief stop in Miami, we went to Fort Lauderdale to board our cruise ship to the Caribbean, Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia.

Life on cruise ship was interesting.

DH and I exercised crazily on board because we knew how much we were eating!

Food was accessible 24/7 among dining room, buffet, poolside snacks, afternoon teas and room service.

In general, the food on our cruise ship were flavored well, but we often times found them too salty or too sweet.

My parents enjoyed the atmosphere and service at the dining room, so we had dinner there every night.

The varieties of food they offered were fantastic!

It was, however, difficult to avoid dairy in the dining room.

Formal Night Dining Room Dinner L: filet mignon and lobster tail -- R Top: duck pate and caviar -- R bottom: escargot

Formal Night Dining Room Dinner
L: filet mignon and lobster tail — R Top: duck pate and caviar — R bottom: escargot

They tried to have an international appeal in the menu and I believe they did a good job.

Dining Room Breakfasts L: corn beef hash -- R top: Japanese breakfast with tamagoyaki, grilled salmon, rice and miso soup -- R bottom: Scandinavian breakfast with smoked salmon, pickled herring and hard boiled eggs

Dining Room Breakfasts
L: corn beef hash — R top: Japanese breakfast with tamagoyaki, grilled salmon, rice and miso soup — R bottom: Scandinavian breakfast with smoked salmon, pickled herring and hard boiled eggs

My biggest downfall was the ease to get my hands on desserts!

Dining Room Desserts L: molten chocolate cake -- R Top: fruit crisp -- R bottom: tropical fruit sundae

Dining Room Desserts
L: molten chocolate cake — R Top: fruit crisp — R bottom: tropical fruit sundae

My most memorable food moments on the ship was the tropical fruits.

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I was in heaven!

Fresh mango, dragonfruit and guava along with the usual pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew and berries.

They were of good quality and fresh!  I was looking forward to the fresh tropical fruits to show up again but they never did.

Another great moment was having Panama rolls.

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I did not know how authentic these Panama roll was.

In fact, I could not find it on the internet at all; it could just be something that the cruise ship came up with.

It was delicious enough — light dough outside filled with custard and probably apricot preserve.

They were light and sweet with some interesting texture bits on the top.

The other fun experience was to tour the kitchen of the cruise ship.

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Everything was very streamlined and organized.

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They had a chart on what every dish should have and how each should look like.

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We also got to observe fruit decorative carving.

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The skillfulness, creativity and efficiency was just fascinating to watch.

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The best part of cruising was the fact that all the cooking was done by others and I could just eat!

Eating Out in Miami

In Eating Out, Food, North America, Travel Food on March 19, 2014 at 11:40

Doof Out

Wow!  Sun and warmth in Miami, what a contrast to home and certainly a nice break!

Very grateful for the opportunity to finally visit the Everglades, rode an air boat and saw some alligators!

Best part, delicious Cuban food!

We went to the famous Versailles.

The place was ginormous and had its own bakery and corner for just a quick bite and coffee.

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I ordered the plantain soup and the cortadito.

The plantain soup was delicious and addictive.

R: Cuban sandwich -- L: plantain soup

R: Cuban sandwich — L: plantain soup

It was most definitely non vegetarian because it had small bits of shredded meat in it — probably why the soup tasted so good.

There were chunks of cooked plantain and fried banana chips on top, which made the soup’s texture very diverse.

The soup tasted mildly curried.

The cortadito was a Cuban espresso with milk.

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It was nice and strong, lovely roastiness and just with a touch of milk to add some smoothness.

I made DH order the Classic Cuban sampler, and I was so glad we got it!

Cuban Classic Sampler (clockwise from 3 o'clock): picadillo ground beef, tamale, fried plantains, cassava, roast pork and croquette

Cuban Classic Sampler (clockwise from 3 o’clock):
picadillo ground beef, tamale, fried plantains, cassava, roast pork and croquette

The best tamale I ever had!

I normally did not like tamales, somehow I really did not enjoy the corn husk flavor.

This tamale was without the corn husk flavor, soft, super flavorful with little bit of meat inside.

I could eat that all the time!

I introduced my parents to it, but they did not like it – I thought there really was no chance for them to like the regular tamales.

The black beans were very aromatic with shallots, and the picadillo beef was some tomato goodness; they both complimented the fluffy white rice greatly.

The ham croquette was to die for.

Soft crunchiness outside with nice creamy flavored mashed potatoes (which probably was mixed with milk or cheese) and ham in the core.

The roast pork was flavorful but was a little dry.

The cassava was most definitely an acquired texture.

It was similar to perfectly boiled potato slices in hardness but was sticky and pasty.

Sad to say that I was not a fan, at least not how it was prepared.

The fried plantains were sweet, with slight crisp and caramelization on the outer layer were very tasty.

My father loved Cuban sandwich (first introduction at Mojito Café in Seattle) but he was disappointed with his because it was uneventful and the sandwich did not have much meat.

However, he loved his café con leche.

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Milk was sweet and creamy, similar to a reconstituted sweetened condensed milk.

The coffee was just as strong as the cortadito which made it a fantastically delicious cup of coffee.

We finished off the meal with a Cuban flan — smooth, eggy and more rigid than usual flan; it was tasty with just right sweetness.

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Versailles Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Later that night after spending several hours at the Everglades, everyone was tired, and decided that we were going to get take out.

We went to El Palacio de los Jugos.

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Completely cultural shock as everything was in Spanish and the store did not offer English menu, even the store clerks were not very helpful because their English were not so great either.

It worked like a Panda Express Latin style – point and scoop.

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Luckily one other customer there was able to tell me what was good in the store and gave us some suggestions.

We got the Latin version of Chinese fried rice which was recommended and was amazingly good.

It was the standard fried rice but with huge chunks of chicken and ham, fried with eggs, onions and green onions, then topped with raw bean sprouts which gave a different dimension to the texture.

We got a shredded grilled beef fried with onions which had very good flavor but was a little dry.

Lastly we had this fish fillet which was delicious and tender.

Since this place was famous for juices, we got mango, papaya and tamarind.

The best tamarind juice I ever had – it was thick, sweet and tart and extremely strong tamarind flavor.

The mango juice was good too but a little unexpected.

It tasted a little green, similar to the green mango juice we had in Melaka, Malaysia with a hint of saltiness.

We got an empanadas and a guava pastry for breakfast next day.

The empanadas was delicious with ham and cheese and my father said the guava pasty was good – I could only took his word because we did not get to try it.

All in all, an eye-opening eating experience in Miami; I felt like I was transported to a Latin country.

Palacio de Los Jugos on Urbanspoon

Westward

In Eating Out, Food on March 17, 2014 at 11:31

Doof Out

Learnt about this new restaurant Westward in the magazine and brought my parents there for brunch.

What a fun place!

One of the best restaurant in recent year I would say!

It was tucked away in the quieter street near the mariner.

The view from inside the restaurant was not the greatest, but they most certainly made it up with fantastic food and whimsical décor inside the restaurant.

I loved the fire pit as a sitting area outside — lovely for those nice dry summer days we will soon get here in the Pacific Northwest!

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Inside of the restaurant was nautical themed, with an adjoining small store where they sold oysters.

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We ordered a few brunch plates to sample and share, followed by dessert.

We had clams, house-made wood-fired bagel and lox, and a Dungeness crab tartine.

My Dad really wanted fried eggs, so we ordered on the side for him as well.

What we concluded was that this place’s food was very unique.

I really appreciated their effort, subtle flavors and differences the chef brought into each dish to make their dishes distinctively theirs.

The fried eggs turned out to be the best dish and best fried eggs ever!!!!

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It said the eggs was with salsa verde and bread crumb; and there was way more in it then they led on to, most definitely secret ingredient!

The bread crumb tasted strongly in seafood flavor, as if it was soaked or topped with something shrimpy before it was crumbled on top of the fried eggs.

They were savory, slight salty, crunchy texture and just additive.

I could eat the spoonful of bread crumbs alone!

The clams were very fresh and cooked with potatoes, copa, leek and nettle.

The flavors were really great, and we soaked up all the clam juice and sauce with our bread.

The nettle and leek gave an interesting oniony and green flavors to the dish.

The cream in the sauce was not overdone and the spiciness of the copa came through and gave a zest to the dish.

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The house-made wood-fired bagel had great chewy texture.

The lox was fantastic albeit a little too salty for my taste.

The unusual part was the use of labneh, a middle eastern yogurt cheese rather than cream cheese.

Labneh delivered the sourness and flavor of a yogurt to this plate, and at the same time, imparted creaminess.

The addition of spices on top of the labneh packed some earthiness to the overall flavor.

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The Dungeness crab tartine was made with very fresh crab meat.

However, I felt the delicate flavor of the crab meat were overshadowed by the aioli and seaweed sauerkraut.

Nonetheless, it was still a very delicious dish.

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A shout out to the accompanying pickled vegetables in both the crab tartine and bagel.

There were pickled onions , cauliflower, carrots and cucumbers.

All have their own taste and flavor and extremely delicious.

Lastly, we ordered the Loukoumades – Greek donuts.

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They were super tasty, hot and fluffy dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

The best part was the honey, it was flavored with orange blossom that gave pleasantly fragrant floral and citrus flavors to the overall flavor profile of the dessert.

I will most definitely return to Westward again and looking forward to trying different dishes!

Westward on Urbanspoon

Water Kefir

In Food, Health, Home Creation on March 12, 2014 at 10:44

Doof In

<…continuation from Kombucha and Water Kefir>

My choice to brew water kefir was its huge range of acceptable temperature for brewing: from 39F to 86F, with the ideal range from 65F to 82F.

This temperature range worked naturally for our climate in the NW without any mention of encouragement of harmful bacteria growing in this range.

To me, that was safe and low maintenance.

…and I took the plunge, and it had been fun.

I got my grains from Keysands and I got the live ones (rather than dried).

The ratio for brewing was super easy to remember: 1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of kefir grains.

kefir grains at the bottom of pitcher

kefir grains at the bottom of pitcher

The kefir grains liked aerobic environment, hence I had it set up in a pitcher with cheese cloth on top, secured with a rubber band.

It took a while for the grains to “wake up” from their travel.

My first batch hardly had any activity and did not yield any extra grains after the first batch.

In subsequent batches, I could see bubbles actively forming – a sure sign that there was fermentation going on.

Every batch I brewed was supposed to yield double the starting amount of kefir grains; however, I had only been yielding about 1 tablespoon extra each batch.

I believe it was because I was brewing at the low-end of the desirable temperature range.

Turned out according to Keysands, I should add some refined sugar in my mix.

I used coconut and palm sugar that I bought from Trader Joe’s for my brew, which was 100% unrefined sugar.

By mixing little bit of refined sugar, there were more readily available sugar in the system for the kefir grains to digest.

Most instruction said that a batch could be done in 24 to 48 hours; however, I found the resulting drink still was too sweet for me, and I had been brewing them for 3 days (the longer a batch was brewed, the more sugars being digested by bacteria and yeasts).

I have also been playing around with second fermentation.

Second fermentation happened after the first brew was filtered and kefir grains removed.

Most of the time it was done to increase fizziness of the drinks; consequently, it was important to use air-tight containers.

If increasing fizziness was not important, I had second fermentation done in pitchers and the water kefir tasted perfectly delicious.

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Juices or fruits were added to give flavors during second fermentation.

My goal was to keep my kefir grains clean, so I did not add anything other than sugar and water in my first brew.

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So far, I tried dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried golden raisins, mango puree, guava juice, coconut and passion juice, Chinese sour plums and frozen cherries in my second brew.

My favorite was mango puree and guava juice because the flavors were stronger, while the dried fruit options seemed to have subtler flavors.

The Chinese sour plum was interesting since it made the brew sweet, salty and tart — a little foreign in the beverage, but also an element of surprise.

With my slow reproduction, I was able to give out kefirs grains to two friends so far.

I hope that as temperature warms up and with the addition of refined sugar, I could yield more grains to share with my friends.

The best part about kefir grains was that it could be consumed directly, and I would not have to run into over-producing problem as the kombucha mother.

The grains could also be stored in the refrigerator with some sugar water if a brewing break was needed.

I also loved the fact that the whole brewing process was not an exact science, and there were many trial and errors, adjustments and experimentation to brew for individual liking.

It had been fun journey!

Kombucha and Water Kefir

In Food, Food Product for Home, Health on March 10, 2014 at 10:12

Doof In

We used to drink a lot of store-bought Kombucha.

Kombucha was a fermented tea and sugar drink which contains bacteria and yeast.

Similar to the making of alcoholic beverages, fermentation of sugars yielded alcohol and carbon dioxide.

The amount of alcohol in Kombucha was very low (about 1%), however, some brands in the market still had warning labels on them.

Kombucha had its origin traced back to China before 1910.

There were many other health benefits from drinking kombucha such as easing joint pain and high blood pressure etc. but there were not enough evidence to substantiate these claims.

We drank it for the good “bugs” that would aid in digestion.

Since I could not have dairy all the time, and other yogurt had not been the best tasting (I had tried coconut, soy and almond milk yogurt), kombucha was a good alternative.

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DH liked the Bucha since it was sweeter, more added flavor with very low alcohol content.

I liked Synergy better as it was less sweet.

The kobucha flavor was more prominent and the company offered one high (black wrapping around the top) and one low alcohol version of their products.

Kombucha, however, were very expensive at the store.

I only bought them when they were on sale and it was still $3 a bottle for 16 oz.

I decided to look into brewing kombucha myself to reduce cost, and started research on home-brew kombucha.

I was looking into getting the “mother”, which was the bacteria/yeast mass for brewing, and a continuous system for brewing (similar to a water cooler with sprout to release brewed kombucha rather than batch by batch with lots of “mother” handling).

However, there was plenty concerns and warnings about keeping the brew within its desirable temperature range (74F to 84F) to discourage other harmful bacteria growth.

This desirable temperature range was really high for us in the NW.

My house was constantly heating at 68F.

I would have to purchase a heating mat for the brewing system – additional expense.

Furthermore, I could not quite figure out what I was going to do with the new mother from every new batch.

It could not be stored too long, and there were limited people I could give them away; I supposed I could sell them — but all seemed to be a hassle.

Then, when I went home to Hong Kong, my aunt introduced me to water kefir.

Similar idea to Kombucha, kefir were grains of bacteria and yeasts, and also provided probiotic benefits to human when we consumed it.

Some folks called the water kefir drink “the healthy soda”.

It was slightly bubbly tingling in the mouth, low in sugar, with a hint of tartness, alcohol and yeastiness.

There were milk-based kefir products at places such as Whole Foods in their dairy aisle.

The milk kefir and water kefir were different strains of bacteria and yeasts; and water kefir was attractive to me because it required no dairy.

All I need was sugar and water!

<…to be continued…>