Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! Unlike what the prominent American culture dictates, I always dreaded the giant turkey, the unforgiving cranberry sauce, and the overly thick or runny gravy. Even if it was all perfect and I got the dark meat instead of my 20+ older family members that gather each year, five bites in and I would get tired of the flat taste of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. This year, most of my family is in Vietnam, so I did not drive my mom down to have a large feast. Instead, this Thanksgiving became a culinary adventure that suited my taste a lot more.

For lunch, I made battered lobster fried with garlic and green onions, enjoyed with fried rice and a simple mustard greens broth. We shared a glass of red wine I bought when I visited Chateaunauf du Pape in the Provence region of France.

Then, not more than an hour after we finished, I began slow cooking the ragu alla bolognese. It eventually slow cooked for 4 hours. I decided to make it with the spaghetti with truffles. I wanted something with a bit more depth tonight and am saving the tagliatelle for tomorrow when my boyfriend visits. At the same time, I also used the rest of my red wine in making sangria (the wine was a bit drier than what I usually enjoy - more sauvignon taste profile and less merlot taste profile). The sangria turned out amazing; my mom didn't realize how much alcohol content is in sangria, so she got quite tipsy. Oops.

Last destination in Europe (super late): Paris

I found an amazing restaurant in Paris - one that I could go to everyday to eat, if I had the money. It is called Resto d'en Face (more info here: The owner and chef is a lady who goes daily to the local markets, find the freshest ingredients, and then decide her daily menu, so each day is different and just as fresh as the next. Thank you so much for the gastronomic pleasure! Below are the pictures from that restaurant, where I had the pleasure of going to twice.

foie gras with mango and mint - amazing flavor pairing!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Europe, Destination 6: Rome, Italy AND my recreation of oxtail stew

Rome was one of the places I was extremely excited to visit - I've been intrigued by antiquity for many years. With that said, I expected the trip to be more hectic, with food on the go instead of sit down restaurants. Boy, was I wrong. Rome was the place where I drank the most cappuccinos and marrochinos, the place where I had my favorite pasta dish in Italy - rigatoni with oxtail stew in tomato sauce, the place where I cherished my last bite of gelato, and the place where I had my all time favorite tiramisu. I stayed in Trastavere, which made it extremely easy to find amazing and comparatively cheap restaurants that served amazing food. So, when all said and done, I think I did Rome proud - I ate lavishly (while still on a budget, of course), I pondered the meaning of life as I immersed myself in ancient architecture, and looked at the city with a childlike wonder.
One of my cappuccinos, after I added 1/2 a packet of sugar and mixed it.

I was a bit curious as to how art was made with froth, so I used the butt of my spoon to make a fat bear... here's to hoping attempt 2 gets better.

Marrochino. My addiction.

The Oxtail Stew Rigatoni dish... not so pretty, sorry, I ate about 3/4 of the plate before I realized I would regret it for a long time if I didn't take a picture.

Fortunately, the full dish (oxtail stew rigatoni) is pictured and hung on the left. OM NOM.

My last gelato in Italy. Pistachio and Mint. It was a great way to end my last night in Rome.

You knew M and I couldn't go more than a week or two without Asian food... M's Katsu Don.

In my crazed stage of wanting to eat coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), I knew I had to make it for myself. VOILA! Recipe I followed is here: but instead of straining the vegetables out, I followed the restaurant's dish and kept the carrots and celery in. It was DELISH dipped with bread.

Sadly, I did not bring any Rigatoni iback with me. I did, however, bring back an assortment of other dried handmade pastas. The one used here is pappardelle cooked al dente with the oxtail stew sauce.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Europe, Destination 5: Bologna, Italy

Bologna. Pretty much the place where I gained all my volume… I had an amazing time eating all the food, touring the city for its artisanal shops and meeting amazing people who, for reasons I still don’t really understand but am grateful for, were nice enough to teach me part of their trade. The city itself was small – it took me about 45 minutes to leisurely walk from one end to the other, a bit more if I actually stop to stare at all the dried pasta shops, the shoe stores, the leather shops, and of course, the restaurants and cafes. I had amazing aperitifs… Go to Gamberini for aperitifs and delicious sweets. I still think about that marsala-rum cream puff… yum. Do buy their thick tart balsamic glace and eat their dried meats – I don’t think I will ever be able to stomach American made bologna again, not that I enjoyed it when I did eat it before the trip. Get their tagliatelle al bolognese. Actually, just get their pastas, made al dente, it was perfect for me. DEFINITELY DRINK ALL THEIR COFFEE DRINKS - my all time favorite was the amazing marrochino…mmmmmm… now to make one for myself once I find good coffee (regrettably, I did not buy coffee in Italy to bring back).

Europe, Destination 4: Milan, Italy

I admittedly did not eat as much in Milan - too much to do, too excited over ancient ruins, and too little time spent on figuring out where the good restaurants were. I did have some phenomenal pizzas, great cappuccinos, and some delicious desserts while I was at it, though. I did not know that when I ordered pizza (my first was a margherita) it would be a whole pizza. That was an extremely full first meal. My friends and I learned since then. Also, I loved the delicious foccaccia I had in Milan, but always forgot to take pictures when I did get them. So, in the last picture, I went home and recreated it for breakfast (Fried tomato and anchovy on a toasted foccaccia). The wine in the second to last picture is from a winery I went to in Avignon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Europe, Destination 3: Avignon, France

Southern France was a blur to me. All the food was great (okay, so the two things that popped to mind are tartines and kebabs…). I don’t think I had a single bad food my whole time there. The restaurants were small and quaint with delicious midi menus. Their rose wines tended to be lighter, but were still good. I went to two wineries – Tavel and Chateaunauf du Pape – both which were magnificent and I learned a lot about different grape varieties and soil types in creating different flavors in wine. Since everything was a blur, it is a bit difficult for me to actually tell you what was where. I took a picture of some of our meals and one of all the artisanal foods I brought back from Southern France. There was a great market called Les Halles literally 5 minutes from where I stayed and my friends and I went to Saint Remy where a lot of small artisanal shops had things I could not resist – like delicious pates, terrines and tapenades, truffles, honeys, and more…

(Above) was our homemade breakfast of chevre cheese, bread, arugula , and tomato from Les Halles