Monday, September 15, 2014

BEIJING (PT.1) : STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM

...Now we here! (But actually, though.)

I love China more every time I go back. Personally, I've found that the beauty of Asian culture is that it becomes more beautiful with each successive step of immersion. The older I am, the more knowledgeable I become, the more of the world I see—the more receptive I am to embracing China in all its horrendously humid glory. But in all seriousness, I've learned to appreciate the lifestyle of a people shaped by extraordinary hardships and joys and the mindset of a country evolving as it opens up to the world after centuries of isolation.

Honestly, when you truly seek to understand a culture so rich in history and deep in complexity, it will blow you away. Asian cultures assail the senses; there's just so much more of everything in terms of sights, smells, sounds, taste, and touch.

Culture is comparatively so much more underrated here in the States. At the same time, the US is beautiful in large part due to the plethora of cultures we have, but they're often diluted and overlooked by those who have yet to realize that the American identity is made more whole through racial reconciliation and crosscultural respect.

Alas, it'll take time.

Meanwhile, here is the beauty of history. And ice cream.

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Oh look, the least challenging level of the Great Wall! (Yeah, we go hard.)

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Hanging out at the Great Wall...literally (ohoho so clever).

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I don't think words can express the feels that came upon seeing this sight (aka the bottom right portion of the picture) at the peak of a long climb.

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Success never tasted so sweet - or refreshingly cool.

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Hands down the most satisfying ice cream of my whole summer.

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And of course, a selfie to commemorate ice cream well deserved a workout well done and history well preserved!

(I know you're wondering where the food is, but no worries, there will be many posts to come yessirrr.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

PISTACHIO BISCOTTI

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I know it's legit when my mother enthusiastically approves of something I make that comes out from the oven. (I say enthusiastically because she technically approves of most things I bake...but yunno, they're not always the wisest choices to my health-conscious mother. Love ya too, Mom!) 

I'm still kicking myself in the foot for forgetting to add in the grapefruit rinds, but 'twill definitely happen next time (read: once I get out of a community kitchen). And hopefully I'll also have some melted white chocolate on hand for dipping or drizzling. Or maybe also some cranberries or dried cherries (oh the possibilities). 

But what I loved about these was that the pistachio and vanilla alone were still enough to give it pronounced flavor, and the texture was perrrrrfect! Not rock hard, but solid enough to break off and sufficiently smooth for easy chewing. 

Recipe adapted from: Food.com

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon grated grapefruit, rind of
1 cup shelled pistachios, chopped (or almonds)
½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
White chocolate chips (for dipping)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Whisk eggs, sugar, butter, oil, vanilla extract and citrus fruit peel in a large bowl.
4. Gradually stir in dry ingredients and then nuts.
5. Form dough into a rectangular log (or two) on prepared pan lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake 30 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
7. Cool for 10 min (leave oven on), and use a serrated knife to cut log into diagonal slices of biscotti.
9. Bake until bottoms turn golden - about 10-12 minutes. Turn cookies over and bake 10-12 minutes more (or until desired hardness).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

EAST HAMPTON SANDWICH CO

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Fried Chicken + Jack sandwich: southern fried chicken, pepper jack, greens + cured bacon, avocado mash, jalapeño cream sauce. 

Served between white and black sesame brioche buns, sided with housemade potato chips, and speared with a skewer, this sammie is real talk. Though the sandwiches are on the pricey side, I got a solid mouthful of flavor and crispness (yay for lightly breaded yet sufficiently crisp chicken!) in every bite. The interior is reminiscent of a brighter, fresher Chipotle, and the oversized tomato red adirondack chairs outside are sooo cute for patio seating (scalding hot Texas weather permitting). 

I don't eat sandwiches all too often, but when I do...I make sure they're dang good. And East Hampton is definitely doin' it right.

East Hampton Sandwich Co.
Sandwiches, $$
7300 Lone Star Dr.
Plano, TX 75024

SIMPLE BIRTHDAYS

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This might be my new go-to formula for simple and quick gifts in college. I think we all lower our standards once the school year begins, and spontaneous or not, any food-related gift is a godsend. Add a toothpick, patterned paper, tape, and the neatest handwriting you can muster up in 2 seconds (for all y'all last minute preppers), and voila! Food, cute, and happiness. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

EMPORIUM PIES

(Bishop Arts District continued from previous post) Presenting...PIES!!! #southernpride #youknowhowwedo




I'm still a little surprised Emporium Pies is the only dessert-exclusive shop in Bishop Arts (excluding Dude, Sweet Chocolate...which I don't count since everything is prepackaged), but I mean I'll take it. The fact they they retail hipster coffee beans is also a plus.






If this apple pie were a bus, it would be a triple decker (and the perfect amount for the three of us to split!). Add vanilla ice cream, and it's more epic than the batmobile. Don't ask me why I'm comparing pie to motor vehicles; sometimes divinity cannot be expressed in terms of human logic. Next up, berry pies!

Emporium Pies
Pies, $
314 North Bishop Ave.
Dallas, TX 75208
http://emporiumpies.com/

Friday, August 22, 2014

ENO'S PIZZA TAVERN

Behold, my second excursion to Dallas's Bishop Arts District! Though it's quaint, I do see how it could get a little stale if you go too often within too short of a time window (I was really close to going a third time that same week, but thankfully plans were changed last minute). One thing that I'll never grow tired of is enjoying the attention that all of the food establishments give to their decor and design - this place has got distinctive branding branded all over it (man why am I so punny).





Honestly, I feel pizza places could do with less preset pizza combinations 'cause us average consumers are easily overwhelmed in this world of choices, choices, choices. Eno's list of 10 pizzas borders on a little much for my overeager and indecisive stomach, but all's well - I was very satisfied with our decision (The Pig Smiley). Brandon looks happy too, doesn't he?



I don't have a preference for thin or thick crust (I'll take any and all carbs), so long as what's on top tastes good. From the mild tangyness of the spicy sausage to the subtle sweetness of the honey, none of the ingredients were too heavy - resulting in perfect equilibrium of spicy, sweet, and bouncy!! (Those were the bounciest and cutest pepperoni I have ever seen.)


I looooove champagne vinaigrette. And cheese. And fruit. And assorted greens. Basically, I loved this salad (Arugula Pear Salad).


Eno's Pizza Tavern
Pizza, $$
407 North Bishop Ave.
Dallas, TX 75208
http://enospizza.com/

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

CHICAGO

Though I wasn't sure what to expect, Chicago was just how I would've imagined it. Combine old school charm, a long-standing tradition of performing arts, and iconic architecture and you get the Windy City (thankfully with perfectly light and breezy winds in the summer). On a more social note, Chicago's diverse demographics and hearty signature culinary dishes (of course with coffee companies and fancy places too) to make up quite the quirky city indeed.

All in all, 'twas an excellent choice for a weekend trip. Chicago, hopefully we'll meet again some day.

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Cloud Gate // The Big Bean - Major props to architect Anish Kapoor for designing such a photogenic - er, I mean beautifully sculpted work of art that reflects the city...literally. Plus I love those clean edges. (But really, it's shiny and skyline reflecting - an ideal formula for pictures ammm I right?)


Crown Fountain - Iconic interactive video sculpture. Instant toddler attractor.


Even the interior design of the hotel felt so very Chicago-esque.


Hittin' the streets!


Millennium Park - aka where all the cool landmarks are.



Architecture tour along the Chicago River - The perfect relaxing start to the day. We took a boat ride down the Chicago River (which flows through the city) and listened to the tour guide elaborate on the foundations and evolution of Chicago architecture and design. Suffice to say, I walked out with a newfound respect for the history of Chicago and the endurance of the people's commitment to art. 


Chicago Harbor // Lake Michigan - Walking alongside the pier gives such a sense of serenity.


Navy Pier - The morning was filled with beautiful view upon beautiful view.



Lake Michigan and more Lake Michigan!

Continue after the jump for more food, art, and miscellaneous experiences.

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!

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