Friday, October 30, 2009

Marche Moderne Review - South Coast Plaza

I was wandering through South Coast one day and stumbled upon this cute restaurant located upstairs, near the Nordstrom Department store. I took a peek at the menu out of interest and the tasting menu caught my eye. $20 for 3 delicious sounding courses. So, when I arrived home, I performed an internet search to see what reviews existed about the restaurant. Generally, really great reviews and people felt that it was a well-valued meal.

I was meeting a friend who was pregnant to look for some maternity clothes (fun!) and decided to meet there for lunch. After much debate, we decided to pass on the tasting menu since it didn't sound as appealing that day (the tasting menu changes daily) and not to mention, its hard to justify in my mind to spend that much for just lunch. We decided on sharing the "Cured & Homemade Teriyaki Confit Pork Belly with Chinese long beans, demi-glace a l'orange, and star anise jus" off the "Unusual" category of the menu and the "Merguez Sausage and Shrimp Tart with Fennel and Caramelized onion jam, Mint, and Fennel greens with an Emulsion of Cumin-Harissa" under the "wood-burning oven tart" category.

The pork belly was...okay. It reminded me of something my mom cooks on occasion, except, not as tender and delicious. The pork belly was a little bit dry/firm around much of the edges with a few small areas of really tender meat. It was flavorful but nothing special, nothing amazing. I'd prefer mom's pork belly any day because its not as pricey! haha. Moving on...

The tart -- well lets call it what it was a small pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven. The pizza had bold Mediterranean flavors. The sausage was likely lamb based so you'll have to like lamb with mediterranean spices. The shrimp in my mind, was a bit weird for a pizza topping, although it was well seasoned and tender and a good size. I know shrimp exists as a pizza topping and some people love it, but it just confirmed in my mind that its not my cup of tea....Although I was only sharing half of the small pizza with my friend, I could only eat about 2/3 of my piece before my palate was just overwhelmed and I could not swallow another bite. We both agreed that the dish was definitely not something we could finish off by ourselves because of the heavy flavors and were glad that we shared it.

To finish it off, I ordered 1 rose-flavored macaroon. I was still on my macaroon kick and it looked so cute in the jar from afar. i knew ahead of time that there was no way I could fall in love with this macaroon because flower-flavored food does not fit my idea of yummy, but, I felt like, why not give it a try despite my mild aversion. Why an aversion? Flower-flavored foods remind me of eating perfume/soaps...hehe. Anyways, thankfully it was lightly scented rose, so it was ok. The filling was nice. But I wouldn't order it again...(completely personal preference).

Bottom line-Would I eat there again? Maybe...I would try some other dishes (tasting menu). I'm willing to give it a second chance because its not that the food was just wasn't amazing for the price...but I am open to the fact that maybe we chose the wrong dishes.

Warning: Pork belly and Tart appear larger than actual size.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Carving Pumpkins!

Don't you just love the fall season? The pumpkins fill the fronts of stores, spiced cider bottles are on the grocers shelves, maple cookies, pumpkin it......This past weekend, the in-laws, my husband and I spent a crisp evening out on the patio carving pumpkins. I have to say, my hand was deformed like the claw-hand from Liar Liar with Jim Carrey for the rest of the evening, but well worth the final product. My brother-in law carved Jack, the Nightmare before Christmas, the hubster carved the boy in the bed, the sister-in law carved the little monster (the cutest!), and I carved the haunted house. Thank goodness for pumpkin carving tools. Pumpkin meat was flying all over the place with my carving style (i'm talking on the glasses, down the shirt, across the table), and hence, a good reason why I am not a surgeon. Heehee! After we carved our pumpkins, we sprinkled the insides generously with cinnamon, lit the candles, and smelled like.....Pumpkin Pie........delightful....

The best part of it all, was that it was reminiscent of the second date I went on with my husband before we were married. He planned this wonderful date where we picked pumpkins from a pumpkin patch and then went to his place and carved pumpkins. Good times....

I think we'll have to maintain this as a yearly family tradition

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Turkey Avocado Panini with a Spicy Lime Butter

Recipe a la Natalie C

One day, after a difficult morning, I called a colleague to see if she wanted to have lunch and commiserate. She was making lunch so she kindly invited me over. Well, needless to say, I was impressed! I loved the lunch so much, I figured I would make it again at home and blog about it! It is a quick and easy go-to lunch when you have nothing to eat. The best part of the panini is the spicy lime shallot butter, which is so easy to make and versatile since it can be used for many other things, such as fish (aka Dinner! yay!). So whip up some of that butter and store it in your fridge for other meals. Multi-tasking at its best!

All I did was visit my local favorite grocery store, Trader Joe's - Bought a bag of shallots (1.49), a bag of soft Hass avocados (around 3 dollars), Panini bread (3.29), roasted turkey breast (4.79), one lime (.29). With all of that, I could feed a few people, so its a much cheaper then heading over to Panera's where you're easily spending 10 dollars a person for lunch.

Once you smother on that butter over the panini bread and either toast it in your toaster oven or press it in the panini grill, you'll find that the bread develops this wonderful rich flavorful from the butter and has this lovely warm and toasty crunch when you bite into it. The avocado adds a wonderful additional layer of creaminess and depth, so be generous when you layer it on your panini (Natalie C added the avocado on both sides of the panini). Add a little side salad that is lightly dressed in a vinagrette (I'm currently loving the Ken's Steakhouse Lite Asian Sesame Ginger and Soy Dressing over Romaine lettuce and few diced green onions) . Voila. Perfect and easy lunch!!

Spicy Lime Shallot Butter
- 4 Tablespoons Room Temperature/Softened butter
- Few sprinkles of red pepper flakes
- Zest of one lime
- 1 tiny spoon of fresh lime juice
- 1/2 chopped shallot
- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Turkey Avocado Panini
1. Smear the Spicy Lime Shallot butter over the sliced panini bread
2. Toast in toaster oven until golden brown
3. While toasting, slice up the avocado
4. Once panini bread is done, layer on the turkey meat
5. Add sliced avocado
6. Eat away!!! *crunch crunch crunch*

If you plan to use a panini grill,i would toast the bread first, butter side up, even before you use the panini grill to toast up the butter side of the bread. Then add the turkey meat and press it on the grill. THEN add the avocado after you take the sandwhich off the grill...hope that makes sense....I was too lazy to take my panini grill out of the cabinet...hence, the toaster oven version. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Coconut Banana Bread with a Lime Glaze

This recipe/picture was 110% inspired by a wonderful foodblog that I discovered several days ago, called kissmyspatula. The recipe was for a Hurricane Ridge Banana Bread. Its made of a ripe bananas, toasted coconuts, toasted walnuts, and rum...drizzled in a lime syrup. It sounded so delightful that I had to give the recipe a whirl. Not to mention, the pictures of the bread was so beautiful that it inspired me to try and take better artsy food pictures for my blog. (what do you think? a little artsier? haha...ok i'm working on it...) So this entry is completely to her credit since why mess with perfection?!

As I was baking this bread, my beautiful American Eskie eagerly sat by the kitchen, waiting for it to come out of the oven. When I pulled it out of the oven, she looked at me wistfully, "please, just one bite", i could hear her thinking... She's a smart dog! She knows what smells delicious! Of course, I gave her a bite of the bread, which she scarfed down, but everyone else in the house loved it just as much, leaving me with only a total of two bites!

The only thing I did different from her recipe was that I baked them in these mini loafs, which I thought would be superfun and supercute to give as gifts. Because of that, I dropped the oven temperature to about 325 and baked it for only 25-30 minutes. In terms of my little tips from baking the bread -- watch carefully when you toast the coconut/walnuts...I burnt two batches...Second, i would add more coconut to the top of the bread to make it prettier. I'm not sure how hers came out such a lovely golden brown...mine looked more pale...but nonethess, tasted great. Following her recipe, made about 5 little mini loafs. If I was doing it again, I would double her recipe to make more!! And like she says in her post, don't even think about leaving out the lime drizzle....

For the recipe, I'll provide the link so you can see her website :)
Hurricane Ridge Banana Bread by KissMySpatula

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Black Sugar Mochi Croissants - 85 Degrees

i'm not much of a croissant lover. *gasp!* i know. Weird! Who wouldn't like that flaky butteriness? Well, me. haha. Its usually just a bit too buttery for me...My parents recently brought home a bag of pastries from 85 degrees (the new bakery rave in Irvine...i'm talking long lines at all times of the day. You'd think that they were giving their baked goods away for free by the length of the lines..i'll review this place at another time but this was the preview).

I remember scavenging around the kitchen that night for something sweet. One of the items in the bag of fun was this mochi filled croissant. Eck....I was desperate for something so I decided to just take one bite and throw it back in the bag.....Well one bite turned into a second bite until the whole thing was gone! Woot!

The croissant is coated in this sugary sticky substance, crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside, and filled with this yummy gelatinous substance that sort of reminded me of grass jelly. Its actually filled with a black sugar mochi. Did I just say black sugar? Yupyup. Annnnd, what is black sugar you may ask? Goooood question. I had never heard of such a thing! In fact, I didn't believe my parents that such a thing existed! I was thinking, black food coloring? But they said that black sugar was quite popular in Taiwan and something they would eat growing up. So, I did a little google search and apparently it IS popular in is a molasses-based sugar that looks black and tastes different from regular sugar. Anyways, the mochi center probably isn't for everyone but I actually loved it. Hence the picture of more mochi croissants purchased at a second visit!
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