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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Garlic and Sapphire, Crumble and Flake

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on June 11, 2014 at 10:52

Garlic and Sapphire by Ruth Reichl

This book was absolutely eye-opening and an extremely fun book to read, especially for food nuts!

It told the experiences of the author, Ruth Reichl, when she was the restaurant critic for New York Times.

I would have never guessed that multiple disguises, with different personalities would be involved in writing about restaurants!

The author wrote in details of her encounters with people around her, the services and attitudes she received as these alter egos.

All the work to make sure she had a full spectrum and clear understanding of each restaurant she was writing about — and what a contrast to the tweeting and instantaneity of today’s society!

Ruth went to each restaurant at least 5 times before she wrote a review, and made sure she was not recognized in some of those visits — inevitably the New York Times critic would be treated far superior with better table and services, bigger and fresher portions of food and larger berries on desserts.

It was fascinating to read about those encounters when she dressed up as an old lady, or someone who did not seem to be rich, or a blonde.

It gave me to jolt of a reminder that how quickly we tended to judge people in general — is it right or is it wrong?  something to ponder on.

Personally as a food blogger writing about my restaurant experiences, this was a bible.

Particularly the inclusion of the actual reviews that Ruth wrote.

They opened my eyes to how descriptive writing could be; and to experience as if I was sitting in the restaurant having that exact same meal the author was writing about.

The power of descriptive writing — something I am slowly learning — and does not come natural to me especially all my experience are in technical scientific reporting.

The book also contained recipes for times when we wanted to roll up our sleeves!

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Finally stopped by Crumble and Flake on Capitol Hill — I was speechless!

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Their pastries were really delicious!

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I tried the chocolate croissant, lavender cherry scone, double chocolate brownie, cream puff and canele that day.

Since it was difficult to park around the shop, I did a dash and run while DH waited outside in the car.

First thing I ate when I ran back to the car was the cream puff!

Couldn’t let it get soggy!

These cream puffs were amazingly yummy and they were filled-to-order.

They offered classic flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, blackberry etc. and they particular day, they had yuzu — I immediately went for that!

The cream puffs had crunchy tops with crystalline sugar, but bready and chewy inside.

The yuzu filling was this dense pastry cream which was very nice with just the right amount of sweetness and the lovely scent of sweet grapefruit.

This definitely made Beard Papa paled.

The chocolate croissant was very flaky — as the store name!

It had a generous amount of chocolate, buttery with many layers to savor on.

The scone was another buttery treasure with mild lavender and plump cherries.

I applauded the perfect amount of lavender used in the scone — it tasted just a hint of floral without the soapiness or perfumey scent when it was overused.

Sugar on top of the scone gave the crunch on the overall dryer and denser yet tasty scone.

It was lavished with cherries in it which I loved!

I just wish the scone would be bigger!

The Canele was amazing!!

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Tiny little treat, they only made them on the weekends.

It had a crunchy hard outer shell tasted like it was made with burnt sugar and the inside was moist, custardy, heavenly laced with vanilla and rum.

It was very eggy which was ultra delicious and tasted just like the custard in bread budding except quite a bit chewier in texture.

The double chocolate brownie was incredible.

It had strong dark chocolate flavor without the sweetness.

It was not chewy in texture but much softer and gentler in the mouth.

It almost boarder to be chocolate mousse instead but it had the rigidity to stand on its own and sustained the car ride home in a bag.

These awesome treats were pricey, they were $3-$4 a piece in small sizes.

What we were paying for was delectable art work.
Crumble & Flake Patisserie on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

 

 

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Fed Up with lunch and Fake Cheese

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on March 6, 2014 at 11:20

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Fed Up With Lunch Book Cover

Finally got around to read Fed Up with Lunch — and what an additive book!

The book documented the journey of the author, a speech pathologist from the Chicago public school system, secretly and diligently blogging about her consumption of school lunch for a year.

She accidentally stumbled into school lunch and realized how bad the quality of foods were, and decided to take pictures of the food she consumed every day.

The book included some of the pictures of these foods, and I was at awe: mysterious formed meat, fried food, frozen desserts high in sugar (high fructose corn syrup!) and lack of fresh fruit and vegetables.

A lot of the food served in the author’s school district were frozen foods and it was difficult to find the list of ingredients for these foods.

USDA’s guideline did not help children’s cause either as the guideline allow fries to be counted as vegetables, fruit juice was counted as a fruit requirement.

She also found out that children at her school did not even have enough time to eat lunch even if they wanted to.

The author concluded that both low nutritional value of the food and lack of time to consume lunch contribute to the reduced learning ability due to lack of energy (or hyper when too much sugar was consumed).

Her blog was very successful and created tremendous amount of discussions and brought school lunch program to the limelight.

She went from anonymously blogging about school lunch to becoming an advocate for better school food for children.

She was interviewed by TV, radio shows to spread the word of her cause.

The book included how everyone could get involved, and become more educated about the food that was served in the school system.

I found this book very inspiring and it showed the potential of grass root movements.

To folks with children, this book brought awareness to the food children were consuming at school.

To educators, this book brought awareness as how nutrition might be affecting the way children learn.

To the rest, I believe this book was still relevant as it tied into health care reform and economic productivity.

If children did not have good examples on how to eat well, they would likely carry the habit throughout their lives.

Potential health issues down the line and increase amount of people dependent on drugs and health care.

The potential reduced learning ability put us behind in this competitive world, and needless to say actual drop in productivity if the children continue on with the poor eating habits as adults.

I believe this topic touched on everyone whether or not we are directly involved with children.

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The challenge I found cooking vegan or vegetarian without dairy was mouthfeel.

Shy of making cashew cream/cheese, there really was not many substitution.

When I saw Daiya, I caved.

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A vegan cheese that claimed it would melt and stretch.

The food science training had kicked in and I was very curious about this product.

I bought their cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Ingredients was not simple, which was to be expected.

It was mainly made with starch and oils, along with pea protein etc.

Initial observation: it did look like shredded cheese.

I only used the mozzarella so far, and once opened, the aroma was a little off.

The mozzarella smelled buttery, and not in a good way; it reminded me of the microwave popcorn, but weaker.

I proceeded to used it in my baked pasta, anticipating the melty cheese that I had so much longed for.

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The above picture depicted the baked pasta being in the oven at 380F for 20mins.

Upon looking at their website, the company said that their cheese held their shape so they would not look melted but it was indeed melted.

My experience was that it did not melt enough to produce the same effect from cheese.

The buttery flavor of the mozzarella still bothered me a little as it did not seem natural.

All in all, I was disappointed with my first go.

Perhaps I would try it in different application with larger amount next time.

There was also hope with the cheddar cheese.

Verdict on the mozzarella: I would not buy it again.

The product being “unnatural” and did not mimic mozzarella enough (which was a tall order), it was a poor substitute and I would rather skip the cheese.

Almond Ice Cream and Hamburger

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on September 23, 2013 at 15:44

Doof Home

We found “Almond Dream” almond ice cream at local PCC.

It was delicious!

Technically it was a cheat during detox because the second ingredient on the list was organic cane sugar.

We decided to turn a blind eye.

I liked the fact that it was made with real almond.

I had a bunch of gums in the ingredient list, but it would be unavoidable given that there was no egg and no dairy.

We chose vanilla bean, as the other flavor offered was chocolate, which we could not have.

Color of the ice cream stood out different from conventional vanilla ice cream as it was beige with brown specks.

Vanilla bean flavor was natural, fragrant and pleasant.

It had a hint of almond nut flavor throughout that was roasty and tasty.

In fact, the roastiness of the almond conjured the illusion of consuming chocolate!

Aftertaste was predominantly almond, very nice.

Texture was decent.  It was dense, solid and creamy.

The ice crystals were a little bigger than good conventional ice cream.

Certainly not too distracting from the enjoyment of this fantastic vegan dessert!

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Hamburger: A Global History by Andrew F. Smith

In 1920s, a hamburger cost 5 cents.

It was refreshing to learn that White Castle was the very first burger chain in the US!

Aside from stating the then and now of the many burger chains such as McDonald’s Burger King, Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr. etc., this book also talked about the history of hamburger itself.

The evolution of the chopped meat into potable sandwiches.

Apparently Salisbury steak was the early version of grilled beef patties, and the name became popular during World War II to replace the less than patriotic name “Hamburg steak”.

Hamburg steak was brought to the US by German immigrants as early as mid 1800s.

It took almost 20 years before Hamburg steak became a sandwich to fulfill the need of easily consumable food for the industrialized America.

I love the cut-throat story in the book about the original McDonald’s brothers who started McDonald’s in CA in 1930s only to be pushed out by Kroc, who eventually owned the McDonald’s franchise as we know of today.

The last part of the book talked about the different flavors of burgers around the world.

The adaptation of burgers to different cultures such as chicken and vegetarian burgers in India, minced lamb and lentil burger in Pakistan.

Competitions from high-end restaurants to serve burgers that cost anywhere between $30 to $5000, with truffle, kobe beef, foie gras and champagne.

These were just some of the tidbits from this well-researched book.  Check it out!

Mandarin Buffet and Tea

In Books, Eating Out, Food, Food Media on September 13, 2013 at 12:33

Doof Out

My last hurrah before starting detox last week was going to Mandarin Buffet and Grill.

It was the Chinese me realizing that I could not have soy sauce for many weeks.

I did not give much thoughts to All-you-can-eat Chinese Food Buffet before.

Since Mandarin Buffet has opened its door, I have been back quite a few times.

The visits usually coincided with my Americanized Chinese Food cravings.

Lunch for about $10, the food is decent.

The restaurant charges a higher price for dinner, but they incorporate seafood dishes at night.

What I love is that they have a large variety of food.

An appetizer bar usually with some salads: lettuce greens, cold tofu, seaweed salad etc.

Sushi bar with lots of rolls (too many of them have cream cheese).

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Mongolian grill type bar with self-serve meats, vegetables, noodles and sauces where the cook will make the dish for you behind the grill.

Hot entrée with meat and vegetables, soups (usually 4 kinds), rice, noodles, a few steamed dim sum and usually a few American food such as fries, pizza, garlic toasts.

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For desserts: self-serve soft serve machine, strawberries or marshmallow for chocolate dip, cakes and fruits.

It is safe to say that most everyone can find something to eat there (as long as they are not on my detox diet).

They are doing brisk business, so most food at the Buffet bar stays hot and dishes turn over quickly.

My specific mission there:  satisfy craving for hot and sour soup (vegetarian).

Then, I went for salt and pepper chicken wings (they did not have that for my last hurrah.  A little disappointed.  However, they made salt and pepper tofu which I also love).

Then, I picked out broccoli from either the orange chicken or General Tso’s chicken and from the broccoli beef.

Filled up the rest of my plates with dishes like eggplants, fried rice noodles, stir fried Bok Choy and little bit of other hot dishes if they looked good!

Mandarin Buffet & Grill on Urbanspoon

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Tea: A global history by Helen Saberi

So much to learn from this book!

The book is broken down by regions in the world.

Chapters devoted to China, where tea was originated.

Followed by other Asian countries that had tea steeped deeply in their culture such as Japan, Taiwan, Korea.

It talked about how tea traveled through Silk Road and Tea Road to the Mediterranean, Russia, Middle East.

Importation of tea into Europe, America and India.  The history of tea crop in Sri Lanka.

Teas were prepared differently in different parts of the world.

For example, most striking to me was that tea was prepared with milk, butter and salt in Tibet with a churn.

I did not know that the words “tea” and “pekoe” were phonetically Chinese!

In both Cantonese and Mandarin, the word for tea is “Cha”, which is closer to “Chai”.  I have always thought that “tea” was an English invention.

Turned out the word was based on Fujian dialect “teh”, and it was a word that I grew up with!

The book also contained information on tea tree types; the processing technique for tea leaves yielding the different types of teas such as oolong, white tea or scented tea such as Jasmine.

At the end, the book contained several tea recipes.  From the preparation of Moroccan tea (tea with mint) to tea jelly, green tea ice cream and Chinese tea eggs.

I am going to make the tea loaf (tea, orange, cinnamon and raisin) after detox!

Chocolate Covered Cherries and Pizza

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on September 5, 2013 at 10:09

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Chukar cherries are my long time love!  First encounter — ages ago at Pike Place Market.

They are pricy but really delicious.  Both fruits and cherries are of high quality.

On our way back from the wine country, we stopped by Prosser, WA – the location of Chukar’s head quarter.

I was hoping they would have plant tour but it was only retail store.

They were very generous with sampling.  We got to try multiple chocolate covered fruits and nuts, some sauces and chutney/sauces as well.

Normally I purchase my Chukar’s at REI, where you can buy bulk from a self-serve kiosk and they charge by the oz.

My favorite is Black Forest Cherries.  The lovely melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate was covered with bitter cocoa powder; inside a very moist chewy Bing cherry with slight amaretto flavor.  It tasted like a Black Forest Cake except the textural difference.

SInce I was at a retail store, I decided to buy other flavors that REI did not offer.

I got the Tangerine Cherry which was citrus flavored chocolate with cherry, and the organic chocolate covered rainier cherries.

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I felt that there was too much citrus flavor on the Tangerine cherries and it over powered the cherries.

The Rainier cherries had subtle flavors to start with.

It was a waste to coat them with chocolate as the yummy dark chocolate unfortunately overpowered the Rainier cherries.

I never tasted their pecan before (even though it was available at REI, there was no free sample) until the shop keeper gave us a sample of the cocoa pecan and also the honey pecans.

WOW!  The pecans were crunchy with very nice roasted flavors.

They were also coated with some praline for extra caramelized sweetness and crunchiness!  The honey version tasted similar to Almond Roca except it was pecan.

I could not resist the deep dark chocolate and went for the cocoa pecans.  It still had the praline layer so they were definitely crunchy!

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Pizza: A Global History by Carol Helstosky

This book was part of the Edible Series.

I did not know that historically, pizza was for poor Italians in Naples.

Pizza was also sold by how much people could afford.  More money, bigger pieces.

Short history aside, the book spent quite a bit of time talking about the standardization of pizza in the US and around the globe.

Domination of Pizza Hut and Dominos; how these companies started and what they stand for today.

How Italians had attempted to define pizza, and how flavors of pizza were adaptable to different cultures and each country had their own twist.

I loved that a few recipes of pizza were given at the back of the book (even a recipe of pizza dough with lard!).

I enjoyed the mention of many different “pizza” around the world: Korean pizza cone; and the author included Okonomiyaki as a kind of Japanese pizza (I personally disagree with this inclusion as the origins of the two were vastly different)

However, I found myself skimming a part of the book when the author repeatedly wrote that pizza was for poor people, and it had grown beyond that and was consumed by the masses in many different ways.

Another quick read.  I was not learning as much from this book as the “Lemon” book.  Hopefully the “Tea” and “Hamburger” books will be better!

Cakes and Lemon

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on August 14, 2013 at 15:52

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My friend (thanks FT!) introduced me to a small Japanese bakery called Fumie’s Gold in Bellevue.  I believe I had the best cake ever in Seattle area!

They were serving up at least 8 kinds of cakes on Sunday when we were there.  The shop keeper told me that they offered different flavors every day.  We had green tea tiramisu, chocolate gateau, strawberry shortcake and banana cake.  I was in HEAVEN!

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First and foremost, the sweetness was just right.  The cakes were truly at Asian sweet level.  My favorite was the strawberry shortcake.  fresh strawberries with very fluffy eggy cake.  The whipped cream was fresh with great airy texture and lightly sweetened.  The chocolate gateau was rich, very chocolatey but not heavy.  It was made with good quality bittersweet chocolate.  I was worried it would be too sweet with the large amount of powder sugar on it, but it was needed to balance the bitter chocolate.

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I went again yesterday.  There were the regular tiramisu, lemon cheesecake, fruit tart and strawberry chocolate shortcake.  The tiramisu were excellent.  They were super creamy and rich.  Both cocoa/coffee powder in the regular and matcha in the green tea version were unsweetened and strong.  It made the cup very flavorful,  The fruit tart’s crust was crumbly when the fork went through and the custard was.

I found myself prefer Fumie’s Gold over Hiroki on the Seattle side.  I am awaiting the next time to check in and explore new flavors they offer!

Fumie's Gold on Urbanspoon

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Lemon: A global history by Toby Sonneman

What a wonderful little dense book!  This book is part of the edible series from Reaktion Books.  It contains all kinds of random facts, history, story, even recipes and cooking tips on lemon.  I love that there are many pictures of historical values — old lemonade advertising from the 50s, lables from lemon crates in the early 1900 and pictures from lemon sorting plants in 1900s to name a few.  The book talks about origins of lemon, how the plant spread and its usage over time.   It was a lovely short, educational read, and I intend to read all the other food items in the series as well!

Yes Chef and Sprouted Rice

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on August 5, 2013 at 15:13

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Yes Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson

It is an enjoyable light read.  Chef Samuelsson’s background is very interesting.  He wrote about how his upbringing in Sweden with a grandmother who was a fantastic cook, his fishing trips with his father and all the Swedish food he helped to prepare had formed a base and love for his cooking.  Layered on his experience in Europe and on cruise ships when he had decided to be a chef.  The book revealed the hard life of a chef and all the interesting characters that he met over time.  The cruise ship experience led him to explore foods from the Caribbean and Asia.  He also wrote about finding his root in Ethiopia and had melt those flavors in his cooking as well.  All these worldly flavors had come into his cooking today.  The best part of the book was when he talked about inventing his signature dish — a foie gras ganache.  It was very creative!

I regretted that we did not visit his restaurant Red Rooster in NYC when we were there earlier this year.  Now I am really intrigued with his flavor combinations and really want to experience his food!  He has inspired me and I have on my to-do list to visit a spice store to try out exotic spices from around the world!

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Costco has a sprouted rice with quinoa that I love adding to my brown rice.  It is quite expensive ($9 for the bag) so I am using it in 1:2 ratio with regular brown rice to make my rice more nutritious.  The grains are soft and feel fluffier than regular rice.  For the longest time, I thought quinoa was a grain but I had just recently learnt that it was not!  Quinoa is a seed, which has closest tie to spinach!  It is packed with protein, fibers and iron — just have to be really diligent in rinsing quinoa before cooking otherwise the dish will have a very chalky pleasant flavor.  Sprouted rice are good for us due to the soften fibers, which allow direct access to nutrients in the rice.   It also activates enzymes that are normally dormant in rice.

Ewe cheese, Bolani and Chinese Cook Books

In Books, Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home on July 25, 2013 at 16:42

Doof Home

Had Ewe cheese for the very first time and it was so out of this world!  Bought the cheese from Calf and Kid in Seattle and they have a large selections of cheeses and some very unique ones.  “Ewephoria” was the cheese I got and it was addictive as advertised!  The cheese was from Holland and it was in the gouda category.   It was very smooth, nutty, and with a hint of cereal flavor.  It was not gamey at all.  Reminded me a little of Manchengo except a lot creamier and minus the sharpness.

Costco is selling an Afghan Bolani.  Bolani is a wheat based vegan flat bread with vegetable fillings.  Costco is selling ones with spinach, pumpkin and spicy potatoes.  The ingredients are clean and they are delicious!  They also sell the sauces that compliment the Bolani — eggplant pesto, cilantro pesto, sweet jalapeno, sun-dried tomato pesto, basil pesto and curry lentil.

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Highly recommend these 2 Chinese cookbooks:

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I generally don’t read cookbooks — open cookbook, flip for a recipe that is appealing, follow instructions, and put cook book away.

I READ these 2 books like novels!  Every recipe has tips on preparing different ingredients, and tricks to make the dish better (softer meat for steam meat, how to make congee smooth, how to pick crabs etc.).  The recipes are very authentic Cantonese and easy to follow.  Better yet, it is in both Chinese and English!

The 2 chefs who wrote the books are decorated Hong Kong chefs who are teaching at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education.  Anyone who loves to cook authentic Cantonese Chinese Food will find these 2 cook books very useful.

Without a trip to Hong Kong, I was able to find the books available on Yes Asia