Wednesday, July 23, 2014

GOODBYE AMERICA, HELLO CHINA

I'll be MIA on the blog until I get back from China/Hong Kong (leaving tomorrow), so just a heads up that there will be no posts until the second week of August ish.

Goodbye sweet land of omnipresent a/c, hello sweet motherland of unlimited streetside eats and developing city life in its prime!

THE BEST CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING


{I've decided to start sharing more recipes! And per usual college student instinct, I'm also a believer in simplicity and convenience when it comes to making food (like so), so here goes.}

Though I used to hate carrots when I was younger, carrot cake was always a dealbreaker for me. That was also probably because you can't really taste the carrots beneath all the other oily raisiny creamcheesy goodness it's jumbled together with, but sure, I'll take that measly portion of Vitamin A if it means sweet soul satisfaction in the form of caaaarrot cake. 


Okay I know this picture is very similar to the first one, but I really liked the simplicity of the plain tops too. Don't mind me.

I brought these cupcakes to church and they were conquered pretty fast, so I think it's safe to say these were winners (huzzah!!)...though any carrot cake will always be a winner in my book by virtue of being carrot cake. Sorry, have I said carrot cake enough times yet? Man, I love carrot cake. 

Recipe adapted from: Pinch of Yum

For the cupcakes
1 cup flour
 cup white sugar
 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups grated carrots
⅔ cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup raisins
½ - 1 cup walnuts, chopped (divide between batter and topping)

For the frosting
4 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons butter
 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium size bowl. In a larger bowl, combine the eggs, oil, grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet, stirring until just mixed.
  2. Grease a muffin tin or use paper liners, and fill each well ⅔ full. Bake for 13 minutes (8-10 min if mini muffins), check 'em, and add time (prob just a couple min) if necessary.
  3. While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. Blend the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Transfer to a plastic bag (with the corner cut out) or similar tool for piping. Sprinkle tops with remaining chopped walnuts.
  4. Eat it. Love it. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

ARAMI

nabeyaki soba - shiitake, pea tendrils, ebi tempura, kamaboko, egg
clean & simple
agedashi tofu - fried egg tofu, soy-dashi broth, bonito, kizami nori 
yummies
chef's choice sashimi & nigiri
oysters - prepared selections from east and west coasts
nabeyaki soba & arami ramen
unagi donburi - freshwater eel, yuzu ikura, sweet soy, benishoga
This was hands down one of the best meals I've ever been treated to and my most meritable Japanese restaurant experience to date. To sum it up in a few words: authenticity and craftsmanship. Or zen for a lot of yen (as aptly phrased by Zagat haha).

It's usually a good sign if the front entrance is quiet and unassuming (seriously, it's minimalist at best - we passed over it the first time thinking it was an abandoned storefront), and the front door was only the first of many indicators of a restaurant committed to excellence (okay, except in the sphere of streetview aesthetics). Bummer that they ran out of seating in the more ambient back area, but at least we snagged the last table in the front complete with a pleasant and knowledgeable Japanese waitress.

Anyhow, to the food! The oh-so-delicate agedashi tofu, the delightfully fresh sashimi, the tangy oysters, the smooth and chilled soba, the chewy and structure-retaining (a personal requisite for satisfying rice) donburi rice...talk about a feast. Where each entrée served is a work of art to boot.

Arami, it's unlikely we'll meet again, but you shall at least be a dear memory of a sweet summer fling.

Arami
Japanese, $$$
1829 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

Saturday, July 12, 2014

ODDFELLOWS

Ah, there's nothing like (affordable) brunchin' in the Big D. Cue the plaid button downed waiters, homey wooden furnishings, and of course quality black coffee...all culminating in the glorious Oddfellows!



The coffee bar takes up an entire wall of the restaurant. That's dedication, y'all.



Unpolished wood always has a way with making things seem quaint and charming.


These guys take their coffee seriously - it's on the acidic side yet still rich.


Cider braised french toast - simple and satisfying. 



Suffice to say, I'm glad Oddfellows' weekday breakfast menu is essentially the same as their weekend brunch menu - at least I know I'm not missing out on much food-wise, and I'm fortunately missing out on the brunch crowd people-wise. And its location in Bishop Arts District adjacent to the free parking lot? Prime. 

Oddfellows
Coffeehouse/Diner, $$
316 W. 7th St.
Dallas, TX 75208
http://oddfellowsdallas.com/

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'M ON A BOAT


So that one time I shot an advertisement for Sperry Top-Sider...yeah just kidding. Let's try that again.

So that one time (well, more like lots of times) I woke up early during camp to go shooting, finding the little dock get-up as a backdrop more than excited me after a period of pretty-but-honestly-nothing-too-special landscapey pictures. 

Retreats like these always prove their virtue, both for the soul or for the sparsely filled landscape pictures folder on my computer. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

ALMOST RED, WHITE, & BLUE




Banana Republic dress // H&M shirt // China shoes // H&M belt // J.Crew necklace

Coral, white, and blue anyone? And yes, I ended up untying my shirt because I realized I didn't want to potentially deal with unraveling shirttails during 4th of July festivities. Plus you can never be too casual in the good 'ol Republic. 


I had to throw it back to last year's July 4th, which we spent in Taiwan (my church was there teaching English on a mission trip) and which was also a great reminder that no distance could ever separate us from the great love of 'MURICAAAAAAAA! (I also remember being secretly scared we would be chased out of that oceanside shaved ice shack for our obnoxiously nationalistic pride.) Nothing like some Americans making our very conspicuous mark amongst the expanse of barely legible scrawls covering the wooden tables and walls.

Happy Independence Day, y'all. May this privilege be something we always remember and always take meaningful inspiration from.

TOASTED SESAME GINGER SALMON



So I was bored the other day (er, maybe like a month ago) and spontaneously decided to make salmon. You could also say I was a little overexcited about the white sesame seeds I had recently purchased for another recipe. (Because white sesame seeds automatically translate to salmon topping? Sometimes I don't understand where my own instincts come from.)

I must say though, this recipe was a little underwhelming - not that it was bad, but it was pretty average. I guess I should've known that it was going to taste pretty much how it sounded...a generic "Asian" style dish overdoused with overly sweet sauce. At least I added in some onions - unlike some things in life (ahem, Americanized Asian food), caramelized onions will never fail you.


ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds raw salmon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
4 green onions, sliced

sesame ginger honey glaze
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

directions:
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl or baking dish, combine olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar and whisk well until combined. Add salmon to the dish or place everything in a ziplock bag, then refrigerate and marinate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the broiler in your oven. (Or preheat your grill, etc if you prefer to use something else.)

Remove salmon with kitchen tongs and place directly on the wire rack. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper, then place directly under the broiler. Cook for 10-12 minutes, depending on the salmon's thickness (our's was just about an inch thick), until opaque and easily flakable with a fork. You can flip the salmon halfway through cooking if desired.
Remove and serve immediately, with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, green onions and the glaze below.
sesame ginger honey glaze
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour over salmon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

AQUA SHOES & AQUA BRIDGES


AE top // Forever 21 shorts // BCBG shoes // J.Crew necklace // Kate Spade purse

Sorry for the rather sporadic posting this past month - I've been traveling every week so it's been a little crazy to say the least. 

Anyhow, since last Wednesday was our only free day after landing in DC for my sister's wedding, I took Erin around on an intense speed sightseeing tour. Cue the comfy touristy outfit! 

I've basically been livin' in this shirt all summer long. Easy, breezy, beautiful, Cover Girl - it's the perfect flowy shirt to throw on whenever convenient (read: all the time). And I usually don't buy clothes from AE anymore, but when I do...it's during the 70% off clearance sale! Yeeeeaaahh man. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE


Of course I would wake up at 7am Sunday morning, forsake the enticingly soft hotel bed, and trek over to a coffee shop with my laptop...all while on vacation. But friends, this is not your average cup o' joe. This is the Intelligentsia experience, which I had luckily discovered the night before to be headquartered in Chicago (it's times like these I truly believe in the beauty of using 4G to find food smartphones).




At the same time, that's not to say it was wowza life changing straight from the moment I walked in, but Intelligentsia has all the key factors to the quintessential coffee shop experience. Low key industrial decor (to reflect the structure of nearby Millenium Park), consistent juxtaposition of metal and wood, and illuminated abstract artwork adorning the walls - yep, they've already got decor down.


I'm definitely investing in specialty coffee beans once I get back to school; sustaining through the year with Starbucks beans was nasty rough to say the least.




I really wish I could say more about the coffee itself besides the fact that it was solid. Lattes always get to me with the aesthetic appeal, but I very much prefer black coffee. I mean lesbireal, you can actually taste the flavor. You can tell if it's deep and hearty or acidic yet rich - but once you add milk, it throws off the whole equation. I've decided my resolution from now on will be to order drinks with greater coffee-to-milk ratios if I don't get black. At least my morning bun (with orange zest!) was tasty. 

And of course, the baristas are great. My DSLR always labels me as a pretty conspicuous tourist, but I sensed zero judgment here (huzzah!). The barista who served me (the one in the black shirt in the picture lol I'm so creepy) had a friend who went to Georgetown and was moving to Argentina (forgot why), so it made for moderately interesting small talk to boot. 

And can I get a holla for that student discount? (My mind when I saw the sign: as;ldfdskljf yas they understand us!!)

Intelligentsia Coffee
Coffee & Tea, $$
53 E Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60601