Thursday, August 27, 2009

Curry Corn Chowder - Recipe

A week or two ago, I posted about this Curry Corn Chowder that I loved at the Oxford House Inn in Maine. I decided to try and recreate this dish. Its not exactly perfect yet, but it was still enjoyable and worth trying if you love corn chowder and the flavor of curry.

2 strips of bacon
1 box of chicken broth
1 bag of frozen corn
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of tumeric powder
1 chopped onion
2 handful of potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup of flour mixed with a little water
little basil for garnish

(can consider adding heavy cream. many chowders have heavy cream or half and half. I thought it was creamy enough so I didn't add any.)

Curry Corn Chowder with Bacon (Inspired by Oxford House Inn)

1. Fry the bacon until crispy. Set aside on a plate with a napkin to soak up the oil.
2. Use the bacon oil and fry the chopped onion with the 2 tbsp butter. Onions should become translucent
3. Add the 1/4 cup of flour mixed with a little water into the onions (cook for few more minutes)
4. Add 1 tsp curry powder and 1 tsp tumeric powder
5 Add in chicken stock and bring to a boil
6. Add about 2 handfuls of peeled potatoes to the stock and cook for 10-15 minute or so till the potatoes are soft/cooked
7. Add corn into pot and boil for a few more minutes
8. Use hand blender to make it into a thick chunky soup

Spoon into bowl. Sprinkle with the thick crispy bacon. Garnish with a touch of basil. (Or, even better, if you have some basil oil, put the basil oil into a squirt bottle and put a little swirl on top of the soup for an even greater presentation effect)

Let me know if you like it! Do you think it needs more heat (spice) ? :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Plum's Cafe Review for Brunch - Costa Mesa

Plum's Cafe is this great place tucked away in a strip mall that I discovered a few years ago. On weekends, the place is packed, and rightfully so. It is one of the best brunch places that I have been to in SoCal. Its a bustling environment filled with indoor seating (where you can appreciate awesome local artwork) and outdoor seating. I have tried a myriad of things at Plum's and have always been generally satisfied. 

Some of my favorite dishes include the Raspberry Pancakes with an Orange Marscapone Cream, Coconut French Toast with Fresh Strawberries/Papayas/Bananas with Orange Butter and Maple Syrup, Oregon Pepper Bacon, Alderwood Smoked Salmon Hash, and the Santa Fe Eggs Benedict. 

The Raspberry Pancakes are a must-try, at least once, since it is not your typical pancake with only fresh fruit and maple syrup. The pancakes are fluffy and layered with fresh raspberries and drizzled with a raspberry sauce...but the real kicker is the marscapone sauce they use that is melted all over the warm pancakes. Okay, who does not love marscapone? (think tiramisu)...It is this creamy, sweetened wonder that feels like your eating a decadent dessert. Oolala. Have it with a cappuccino or a coffee to balance the sweetness and you're practically in heaven.  

The Alderwood Smoked Salmon Hash is also really wonderful.  You basically have this giant hearty plate of breakfast potatoes/peppers/onion hash with pieces of smoked salmon that is slightly cooked as it sits on warm hash as well as 2 poached eggs (one of my favorite ways to eat eggs) gently covered in a hollandaise sauce. You break into the poached egg and the yolk slowly but surely oozes onto the potatoes! Yumm! The smoked salmon is a slightly fishy but has a great smoked flavor as well as a hint of some acidity (which I love).  Ok, now I'm getting really hungry thinking about it....

Some of the other things I've tried, but did not love as much was the Cheddar and Chive popover (probably ruined by the Jordan Pond popover experience I reviewed earlier) and the French Rolled Omelette (a little bland for me....). 

All in all, a solid place for brunch and somewhere I will frequently return to eat...

Plum's Cafe
369 East 17th St
Costa Mesa, CA

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Pistachio Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache

I attempted to make french macaroons this weekend. Attempt is the operative word here. I must say that I was overall really satisfied with the result! The only thing is that this is a labor of love and takes a really long time....These were not as puffy as some macaroons I've seen, but pretty darn close!! They actually tasted quite similar to the ones I ate from Paris In A Cup. Honestly though, I don't have a true standard to compare it to since I've never tried macaroons more than twice (my first experience was at Bouley, which I don't remember it well other than that I loved the taste and my second experience was at Paris In A Cup...

Okay, so the hard part of making french macaroons, which i mentioned in my earlier post, is that there are SOOO many versions of the recipes out there with each person convinced that their method would result in the most successful macaroon. This just resulted in more confusion por mwa...Anyways, so I sort of melded various versions, which maybe wasn't the best idea, but nonetheless, they turned out pretty good anyway. My family enjoyed it, although they could have been just appeasing me. haha!

My main inspiration was from a modified version of Tartelette's Pistachio Macaroons, adapted from Stephanie Glacier. 

The night before, I cracked three egg whites. I initially was going to leave them out overnight like many recommend. (I read that there are supposed to be antibacterial properties of egg whites? i don't know about that...) Well, after about 1 hour, I became nervous and thought gross! So then I put it into the fridge. 

The following morning, I became a little ball-sy and decided to take out the egg whites again and leave it out till I was going to bake it. 

Later in the afternoon, I created the green colored sugar with:
25g granulated sugar (approximately 1/4 cup) with 2 drops of green coloring and 1 drop of yellow coloring. I then whisked very vigorously, breaking up the clumps of colored sugar...It ended up creating this nice light green color. Awesome!!!

I then ground in my food processor approximately a little bigger than 1/2 cup of the Trader Joe's raw whole pistachios, 1/2 cup of the Trader Joe's almond meal, 2 cups of powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. (It was supposed to be 2 cups + 3.5 tablespoons of powdered sugar but I ran out of it...oh well. its too sweet in my opinion anyways. Annnd, the vanilla extract amount was random..I was too lazy to look up how much to put in, but i did read that adding vanilla to the mixture can help minimize the oil leakage from the nuts??). Looking back, I feel like there was quite a bit of pistachio oil leakage...Not sure how to rectify that...

I added the 3 egg whites to my mixer and whipped till fluffy, while slowly adding in my green colored sugar. All the recipes said to mix the eggs until glossy or shiny. I was having a little difficulty appreciating the shiny texture...So i whipped for quite a while...and thought, ok, maybe this is what shiny is supposed to be. (It reminded me of shaving cream...). I maay have overwhipped my egg whites?? Anyways, I then folded in the nut/powdered sugar...Counting the strokes...About 50 times. 

Then I filled the pastry bag (Wilton's decorator bag's 12 inch, #12 tip, coupler) with batter. Piped them onto a silpat (that is onto of a cookie sheet) with about 1 inch diameters, which spread into larger circles and let them rest for 30-40 minutes to develop a firm shell. (Some said 20, some said up to 2 hours). I also put the other half on parchment, which was kind of difficult to remove after baking, although I did use a wet warm towel underneath which helped the removal. Silpat, WAAAY better. 

Then I preheated the oven to 315 degrees. When i guessed the oven was at 315 degrees, I then put the silpat on a baking sheet, onto ANOTHER baking sheet since all recipes called for putting it on a double cookie sheet to help with more even cooking. I put it into the oven and stared into the oven intently. I watched them rise (yay!)..but it ended being only a little rise (BOOO!). I then saw the little "feet" grow (YEEES!!! I clapped happily. A sign of successful macaroons!!). Timed it for 10 minutes at 315.  I cracked the oven open and saw...slightly yellow tops. Oops...probably baked too long. So I pulled them out, although I was intending to bake them for a total of 12-15 minutes as the recipe had mentioned. Maybe my oven should be at a lower temperature? I don't know. So, I was excited that there was a hard shell and little feet, but...alas, they were a little flatter than the pictures. Buggers. I let them rest for only a few minutes and tried to quickly remove them from the sheet onto a plate. Unfortunately, many broken macaroons....

After the little macaroons cooled, I made a filling. I was originally going to use a white chocolate ganache, but decided to make the chocolate ganache instead because I felt like the macaroons were a bit too sweet already (but yummy!!!). The chocolate ganache is made of a semi-sweet chocolate. I had already ground another 1/4 cup of pistachios. Heated 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream just until a boil. Added it to 1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and 2 tbsp room temp butter. Whisked away and then added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. After this cooled (in fridge), i smeared a macaroon with the chocolate ganache and topped it with another macaroon! 

Voila! Crispy shell, chewy inside with a wonderful flavor of pistachios, filled with a semi sweet chocolate ganache. Success! Will try other flavors in the future and hopefully learn some more techniques with some more reading... 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

French Macaroons - Paris In a Cup Review

I first fell in love (at first sight) with macaroons while flipping through wedding magazines. I always thought they were the cutest little desserts with a myriad of tantalizing flavors in fun colors. I was finally able to taste these little beauties several months ago during my trip to New York at Bouley restaurant. Ah, it was love at first taste. Heehee. I am somehow just enamored by the crispy outer shell, chewy semi sweet almondy inside scented with the flavor of that macaroon, and the sweet layer of "stuff" that is smothered between the two layers (like chocolate ganache, vanilla buttercreams, white chocolates, jams...). Recently, I stumbled upon the Delicious Life Blog (great site by the way) and saw...ah beloved macaroons. Developing an ever growing intensity of craving another taste of a macaroon, I started searching for recipes online...

Well, the recipes seemed like a huge undertaking. Many of the recipes are written in "grams" (i don't have a scale) and you would not believe the variations...everything from keeping the egg whites out to using it fresh, to letting the mixture rest, mixing the right amount of strokes, turning up the temperature of the oven up and down, icing or no icing sugar, granulated versus castor sugar...OI!!!! The overwhelming sentiment on the internet was that these things take lots of time and effort with many failed attempts.... Feeling a little defeated but drooling over the idea of eating one, I finally had a DUH revelation...Find a store that sells it! I was thinking that I would have to schlepp to LA...but I don't because there is....Paris in a Cup in Old Towne Orange! The few reviews of some fellow macaroon lovers of the cafe were positive. So, I decided to wander there after work one day since it is so close! The place is absolutely adorable! The front of the store has the glass case selling the macaroons as well as chocolates and desserts, plus a variety of cute gift boutique-y french items.

Paris In a Cup sold two types of macaroons...The "bigger" macaroons, which were probably about half a credit card in diameter, were supposedly more chewy according to the store clerk and the "lighter" macaroons which were even smaller but with more flavors. The lighter ones I believe were from some outside company. Anyways, I decided to try the bigger ones love chewy sweets. They were $2.00..A bit pricey for the size. (The other lighter type was 8 dollars for 7 tiny macaroons). The four flavors of the bigger macaroons were passionfruit, chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry. It was packaged in a cute little chinese take out box and placed in a pink bag...Yipee!!! So, I rushed home, snapped a few pictures..

Eagerly awaiting to try these babies.....
With my steaming cup of coffee by my side, I grab the orange macaroon. First bite, passionfruit explosion! Crispy outside as it should be. Chewy inside with every bite shouting passionfruit. Very nice. Love it! Coffee sip, clean palate. Mmm...Next, chocolate...Rich flavor. Perfectly crispy outside again. Chewy...Almost reminding me of a cross between a chocolate cookie/brownie/chocolate truffle, but not as sweet and definitely lighter in texture. Good, but weirdly not satisfying...Why??? I rack my brain because it tastes good. Ahh! I know! Its because I am not craving chocolate.. (I know right? who doesn't crave chocolate all the time??). Okay, few more coffee sips...Next, vanilla. Ahh, perfection!! (I would have to say that this was one of my favorites, along with the passionfruit). I love practically all things vanilla bean....Absolutely delightful, especially with the vanilla white chocolate tasting center? Me want more!! Oh well...And finally, the raspberry macaroon. Such a pretty shade of pink buuut not my favorite for flavor because the jam in the middle tasted faintly floral to me. I am not a fan of flowery flavored things in my food...

Well, it is one of my missions in the next few weeks to try and make some of these lovely little creations. I will hope for the best and will share with you the journey when I do try...I can't wait to make some so i could eat more since buying them are way too expensive to make it a habit!!!

Location: Paris in a Cup
Address: 119 S Glassell St. Orange, CA

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream Store Review - Bar Harbor, Maine

After dinner one of the nights we were in Maine, we decided to look for an ice cream place. I found on Yelp, the Mount Desert Island Ice Cream store with rave reviews. What caught my attention was the reviewers comments on all the unique flavors the store offered (lobster ice cream--can we say eww?, salted caramel, bay of figs, squash, mango passionfruit sorbet with chili oil, neato doritos, stout?). Wowser!! I'm game for crazy flavors! So we trekked from our inn all the way down to Bar Harbor to try some some of these C-R-A-Z-Y ice cream flavors. 
The night we were there, some of the crazy flavors they offered were salt caramel, blueberry basil sorbet, grapefruit tarragon sorbet, chocolate wasabi, ginger, thai chili, blackstrap banana, strawberry champagne sorbet, cosmopolitan sorbet... They offer up to 3 samples...So i tried a sample of the chocolate wasabi. Actually quite good! You first taste chocolate, and then BAM! The wasabi hits your taste buds! Totally interesting. Not sure if I could handle a whole cone of that level of heat though. Next I sampled the ginger. WOH GINGER explosion! Too potent for me because of the intense spiciness of the ginger. But if you love ginger, this is for you! Last, I tried a sample of the thai chili, feeling a little uncertain as to what to expect. Will it taste like hot sauce? curry? actual chilis? Well, it felt like my mouth was full of peanut butter/chili sauce. Actually, what it really tasted like was a satay sauce (the kind you would dip chicken into). Weird. Not my thing. Couldn't finish the spoon..ew! Ok, so now I was left with a big decision...what do I actually buy after sampling those weird flavors? Ah sigh, I was gutless! I was worried about going for a bizarro flavor that I would hate and waste my money on. So, I ended up trying the blueberry basil sorbet, grapefruit tarragon sorbet, and strawberry champagne sorbet. I enjoyed the blueberry basil sorbet although you really have to like basil because it is quite prominent. The grapefruit tarragon was also delicious. The grapefruit was not too tart, light, and really refreshing. The strawberry champagne sorbet tasted like Haagen Daz strawberry sorbet with a hint of the champagne. Not terribly exciting but solid. Overall, I had a really fun experience there. I would go back for the novelty of trying more of their unusual flavors since they obviously change their flavors frequently. 
Ok, so I didn't have a good photo, so I uploaded a video...its just of the ice cream, so no point to really watching it :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Oxford House Inn Review - Maine

We stayed at this cute little bed and breakfast inn up in Fryeburg called the Admiral Peary House. Because we stayed there for 3 nights, we were given a complimentary dinner (appetizer and entree) at the Oxford House Inn across the street. We arrived rather late into Fryeburg so we were only able to get a very brief glimpse of the beautiful backdrop out the back window of the distant mountains.. 

For our appetizers, we shared the Curried Sweet Corn and Smoked Bacon Chowder and the Garden Tomatoes and Housemade Fresh Mozzarella with toasted garlic, basil pesto, and an aged balsamic. The chowder was absolutely delightful!!! It was a slightly thickened hot soup that stimulated all different areas of your tongue..from the saltiness of the cripsy thick cut bacon bits, the wonderful sweetness and creaminess of the corn chowder, and the spiciness/heat of the curry...I was practically in foodie heaven...We then finished with the fresh juicy tomatoes, tender mozzarella which apparently the chef makes himself, covered in this yummy sweet pesto, strips of fresh basil, and a tangy thick yet sweet balsamic. 

Then onto the entrees, we shared the Grilled Black Angus Filet Mignon and their Seared Sea Scallops. The steak was a Grilled Black Angus Filet Mignon with Roasted Shallot mashed pototoes, which was perfectly cooked to our liking.  Juicy and tender on a bed of super tasty potatoes and grilled summer veggies. The most amazing part about the dish was that it had these super thinly shaved leeks (probably grilled) on top of the steak, that tasted like crispy onion rings! We also shared the Seared Sea Scallops with Smoked Bacon and Manchego Brown Rice Risotto, Frenched Beans, and Preserved Lemon Vinagrette. This dish was solid. Sweet large juicy scallops with a nice creamy/salty risotto. 

And for dessert, we tried their Oxford House Ice Creams and Sorbets (pick 3). We tried the Belgian Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, Blueberry Sorbet, and Peach Sorbet. It was served alongside peanut brittle and a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie with macadamia nuts. YUM! My favorite flavor was the blueberry sorbet. Sooo wonderful! The blueberry flavor was incredibly intense and not too sweet. Quintiessential Maine. I have to say that I did not love the peach sorbet...Kind of blah with little flavor. The chocolate ice cream was good but a little sweet for me. 

In the end, we loved this place. Amazing service. Amazing food. And above all, most of it was free! (Sort of...since we did pay for the B+B).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fore Street Review – Portland, Maine

It was so difficult for us to decide where to eat in Portland Maine because there was a surprisingly large selection of restaurants with renowned chefs that have won prestigious awards. We ultimately decided on Fore Street because of the Chef receiving a James Beard award, the reviews of the restaurant, as well as the purported amount of food given per dish.

We started our meal with the Sweet Corn and Summer Squash Salad with Garden Lettuce, Pole Beans, Pancetta, and a Buttermilk Dressing. The concept of the dish was great, but whoever prepared our salad must have accidentally been salt shaker-happy and unfortunately oversalted the dish. Each bite was like licking a salt lollipop with a hint of salad. Ruined the dish but I can imagine enjoying the dish if it weren’t for the salt. When asked about how the salad was, I commented how it was a bit salty. Being a top-notch restaurant, the server was super apologetic (which made me feel awful for telling her) and was more than willing to ask the kitchen to remake the salad but I politely refused since I didn't want the food to go to waste. Instead, they provided a box of their truffles at the end of the meal, which was super nice of the restaurant...Maybe next time, I should be quiet about how I truly feel about a dish since it made me feel bad that they made such a big deal about it. oh well...

For my main course, I ordered the Mulard Duck Breast with Purple Pole Beans, Whole Grain Mustard, and Oregano. They redeemed themselves with this dish. The duck was this transcendent taste of perfection. It was this wonderfully smoky grilled, rich, perfectly salted, tender, juicy slices of duck covered in this crispy flavorful duck skin (with very little fat). Ahhhh --Such wonderful memories.  Even my hubster, who doesn’t even like duck, thought it was delicious. This duck trumped Bouley’s duck by a long mile. It was served with these lovely crispy pole beans (although they weren’t purple) and sliced shallots generously tossed in a potent whole grain mustard. I LOVED MY DISH!!! My husband ordered the Hanger Steak with Marinated Grilled Sweet Onion and Fresh Herbs which was also well-flavored, tender and juicy. I have to say though, if I had to choose between the steak or the duck, I would go for the duck. 

All in all, a wonderful experience. This restaurant is supposedly really well known for their desserts. I was soo full from dinner so I didn't try anything. Next time....

Rating: 5 stars, despite salad mishap since they were so great at rectifying it (for expensive category)

Service: 5 stars

Would I go back? Absolutely! Highly recommended

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Popovers - Jordan Pond Restaurant Review in Maine Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is absolutely gorgeous and if you have a chance to visit Maine, it’s a must-see. Halfway through the park, there is a restaurant famous for popovers called the Jordan Pond restaurant. (What's a popover? It's a hollow-roll that is made of egg batter that spills over the sides of the muffin tin when baked in the oven -- hence POP OVER! :)) The outside seating was unfortunately full so we had to sit inside, but if we did sit outside, we would have had the benefit of eating these popovers while taking in the spectacular views of the mountains and Jordan pond.

I’ve had some good popovers at the Popover Café in NYC so I figured, how good could these be? But, we were hungry for a little snack so we decided to stop in. And oh boy, am I glad we did. These popovers were, in one word – ahhhmazing. Popover Café, move over! These puffy creations were served piping hot, flaky, with a barely burnt (which I loved) flavor of slightly sweet eggy cake dough that was crunchy and chewy in all the right places. (For the Chinese people who have eaten egg cakes from the egg cake lady in Chinatown, it kind of tastes like that, but a lighter fluffier version...yummy) The popover was absolute perfection, especially when smeared with their strawberry jam. All you could hear was my husband and I “MM-mming” the whole time as we devoured the popovers. Ahh, how I will miss you while I’m in California. But, I did get the recipe. Hopefully they divulged all of their ingredients. I will give it a try sometime in the future and share it with all of you if they work out. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lobster Rolls - Maine

Sorry for the short hiatus. My husband and I went to a friend's wedding out in Maine and we decided to turn it into a mini vacation. We just returned and I'm super excited to blog about our food adventures in Maine (just in case you ever visit and want to hit up the spots that we ate at. :))

On to the food....

I. Love. Lobster.rolls. After leaving the east coast for the west coast, I haven’t had the luxury of eating lobster rolls (tear drop). (Does anyone know of any places in Southern California? If so, send me a message!) The last time I was in New York City, I was able to eat at Pearl Oyster Bar, which has faaantastatic lobster rolls. In fact, it rivaled the best lobster rolls I ate in Maine, except that the price is double in NY. In my week-long stay in Maine, I had 3 lobster rolls, 1 lobster stew, and 2 full lobster meals (one courtesy of a fabulous wedding). Yum. Except for the fact that I have probably exceeded my mercury level consumption....Mercury toxicity anyone?

Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster
(Freeport) was the first place and as of now, is the best place for lobster rolls on our mini lobster adventure. The place was mobbed with people. When we ordered our lobster roll, they informed us that it would take 40 minutes…wait, 40 minutes! Wah?! Well, it was worth the wait. This roll was the most generously filled with super fresh & sweet lobster, with minimal amounts of the mushy end-claw meat and scant mayo (perfect). It's like eating a whole sweet lobster on a bun, without all the work. My hubster also tried the famous lobster bisque, which he loved. I also bought a chocolate whoopie pie based on a few yelpers recommendations. It was quite generous in size, pretty good in taste, but not my favorite in terms of texture…The chocolate cake part of the whoopie pie was rather firm and dry (looked strangely like a portobello mushroom from the outside) and filled with this really sweet white cream that tasted like frosting.

Next place was called the Lobster Shack Restaurant at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth. We shared a lobster roll and fried clams. Of the 3 lobster rolls we tried, this was agreeably the least favorite because the lobster was smaller in quantity compared to Harraseeket’s, a little “fishier” in taste, more of the mushy-end claw meat, and a giant dollop of mayo that infiltrated our lobster roll despite trying to scoop it off. The unbeatable feature of this site though was the location. There was a beautiful view of the ocean and lighthouse and also plenty of seating. Fried clams were good. The mini blueberry pie was quite tasty as well – a sweet cinnamon crumble topping with a not-to-sweet blueberry filling, surrounded by a basic pastry crust.

On our last day, we tried a lobster roll at Bob’s Clam Shack in Kittery off route 1. Of the three rolls, this would be number 2 in terms of taste. I somewhat regret not being able to try the two other famous lobster roll places since we drove by both but were not hungry at the time (The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport and Barnacle Bill in Ogunquit). But, Bob’s Clam Shack was good. There was a good amount of lobster meat on the bread, minimal mayo, crispy fries, and a nice giant pickle. I had quite a bit of that mushy-end claw meat throughout my roll.... But the flavor was still great and there was minimal mayo so I was overall happy with the meal.

One of these days, I’m going to have to try and make a lobster roll and take it on a picnic to the beach. 

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