Friday, December 28, 2012

High Tea at the Peninsula, Hong Kong

Why high tea at The Peninsula? What is high tea? What is The Peninsula? Well, high tea was for the working class who could not accommodate afternoon teatime into their schedules and was taken later on in the day. However, worldwide, the term "high tea" is now used in place of the traditional English afternoon tea. As for The Peninsula, it is the oldest hotel in Hong Kong and offers its grand colonial styled lobby for tourists, hotel guests, and high tea affectionados daily. 

So what's on the menu? In addition to a pot of tea (choices at The Peninsula range from Indian, British, to Chinese), the set menu comes with a three tiered selection. You start from the bottom level and work your way up to the sweeter and more delicate treats. At The Peninsula, the bottom layer was raisin and plain scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Then after some crumbly scones, which I just learned was pronounced "scons," the middle tier offered delightful finger sandwiches and several savory goods. In my experience, there is always some cucumber variation. The Peninsula also had a prosciutto with fig, smoked salmon on toast, a mushroom pastry, and a mini quiche. And finally, the top layer was a combination of rich chocolate desserts, fruity macarons, and others. 

At around $400HK per person, this can be quite a steep tea, but with Christmas carolers from Chinese University and live musicians, how can you not get into the holiday spirit? And for that price, though you are paying for the delicious snacks, you also get to soak in the grandness of the iconic lobby. 

Happy holidays! 

The Peninsula
Lobby, Salisbury Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Le Bernardin

It was my birthday yesterday, and I am now one year closer to my mid-twenties. In celebration, here is a visual post of when I dined at one of the greatest, Le Bernardin. I was there exactly a year ago, and it was a beautifully elegant birthday dinner with impeccable food and unforgettable company. If you enjoy seafood, Le Bernardin will not disappoint. Chef Eric Ripert flawlessly presents dish after dish of intricate combinations, using a global influence for his French cuisine. The service is a seamlessly choreographed dance and the dining room a spacious modern affair. Did I mention it holds 3 Michelin Stars and is consistently New York's best? I can't wait to come back! 

Amuse bouche
Nebraska Wagyu Beef; Langoustine and Osetra Caviar Tartare 
Black Pepper-Vodka Crème Fraîche, Pomme Gaufrette
Ultra Rare Yellowfin Tuna;
Spiced Dashi Gelée, 
Green Peppercorn – Iberico Chutney
Butter Poached Lobster Tail; Spiced Celeriac,
Earl Grey-Citrus Sauce
Baked Cod;
Artichoke “Barigoule” Perigord Truffle Butter
Lacquered Hiramasa;
Chayote Squash, Sofrito Broth
Crispy Black Bass;
Pickled Cucumbers, Black Garlic-Persian Lime Sauce
Greek Yogurt, Candied Buddha's Hand, Basil Seeds
Salted Peanut Caramel, Maralumi Milk Chocolate, Malted Milk Crunch

Petite Four

Le Bernardin
155 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Southeast Asian Inspiration: Massaman Curry

I don't make curry that often. It's a serious commitment to chop up multiple kinds of vegetables and invest in several kinds of spices. However, after having a bite of my fellow Indonesian nutrition classmate's curry a few weeks ago, I developed a craving for the spicy, sweet, savory, and coconutty flavors of Southeast Asian curry. 

If you're not really looking to commit to ounces of curry powder or if you have limited knowledge of the different types (like me), I suggest just looking for curry paste in Asian supermarkets. Also, instead of canned cream of coconut, I bought a box of coconut cream powder. It's so much more convenient, I use it whenever I can incorporate it into a recipe now! 

Massaman chicken curry
1-2lb chicken wings (feel free to use any other type of meat; lamb and beef are great alternatives)
1 small can massaman curry (already contains several other spices like cardamom, turmeric, cumin, tamarind) 
2 cups coconut cream
1 bundle Chinese long bean, cut
1 eggplant, cubed
2 carrots, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled
4-5 shallots, minced
2-3 stems of bay leaf
1 tbs ginger, slivered 
2 tsp lemongrass powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar 
1 tsp salt 
1 tbs chili paste (if you want it spicy; I used gochu jang) 
3 tbs vegetable oil

1. Before preparing all the vegetables, marinate the chicken in lemon grass powder, garlic powder, and cinnamon. (Optional: mix in a quarter tsp of baking soda) Prepare vegetables as you let chicken marinate. 
2. In a heated non stick pot, heat vegetable oil with garlic, ginger, and shallots. Once browned, add the can of curry paste. Once it is all incorporated, add a cup of the coconut cream and bay leaves and bring to a boil. 
3. Add the long bean, carrots, and potato to the curry. Bring to a low boil for half an hour.
4. Add the other cup of coconut cream and once it all comes to a boil, add the chicken and eggplant. Add salt and sugar. 
5. Leave at a low-medium boil for another twenty to thirty minutes or until the chicken is cooked.  

✓ fiber
✓ vegetables
✓ Vitamin A
✓ Vitamin C
✓ low sodium
✓ antioxidants

I served it with jasmine rice, but this would also go great with bread or noodles (Vietnamese style), and I could always use some roti canai (Malaysian style).   

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I just ate a Lunchable for the first time in a long time. This past semester, I collected data for the GREEN Project Lunchbox Study at Tufts, which is a school-based nutrition intervention designed to improve nutritional quality and eco-friendliness of the foods children bring from home to school. During my time with GREEN, I visited a handful of schools and looked at a number of lunches and snacks. There were a lot of standard ham and cheese sandwiches, a ziplock bag of grapes, or a fresh apple wrapped in a napkin. There was also a lot of Goldfish crackers, other packaged crackers and chips, and packaged fruit snacks. Some had ethnic choices like chapati and lamb curry, and there were also the nutrition students' favorites such as oatmeal with dried fruit and pine nuts. Oh, and when did everyone start drinking Capri Suns? 

So, to revisit my own childhood lunch days, I'm going to ignore for now that my elementary school used to cater from McDonald's, Burger King, and Joe's Pizza, and focus on one of my all time favorites, the Lunchables, which I noticed is still popular among 3rd and 4th graders today. Let me start with this: Lunchables are not cheap. They range from a little less than $2.50 to around $5 a pack, and you're not getting much substance. The Basics package contains 6 crackers, 6 slices of turkey, 5 slices of cheese, and 2 Oreos. Other options also contain a Capri Sun, or there is always the highly synthetic pizza choice or the ever questionable nachos. 

Let's do a quick look at the nutrition facts. 330 calories, 30% saturated fat, 24% sodium, and 16g of sugars. It could be worse, but we haven't even looked at the ingredient list yet which includes everything ranging from high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings, preservatives, and many terms I am rather unfamiliar with. Let's keep in mind that we're looking at a couple of crackers, turkey, cheese, and cookies. Why does the turkey contain so many ingredients that are so undeniably... not turkey? Also, the percentages I listed before are for a 2,000 calorie diet. Who eats these Lunchables? Kids, mostly. For those under the age of 14, it is recommended to consume about 1200-1600 calories per day. And fat makes up more than 40% of the calories in this meal, with 30% of total fat consisting of the "unhealthy" saturated fats. Also, this Lunchable did not come with a fruit drink. Imagine the sugar count if there was a Capri Sun in the mix, as well! 

Overall, parents, there are more nutritious choices for your kids out there. If you do decide to give them a Lunchables, try throwing in a fruit to supplement the meal so that your kids can get some extra fiber and vitamins. You can also make your own Lunchables by buying a cool compartmented sandwich box and just slice up some chicken breast or low sodium cold cuts, throw in sliced low fat cheese or some yogurt, add some whole grain crackers, and berries or carrot sticks... the options are limitless! 

I have a couple standing questions for Oscar Meyer:
1. Why is there one less cheese slice compared to the turkey and crackers?
2. When was double stuffed Oreos the norm? When did you decide to include those instead of classic Oreos? 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Doowee & Rice, Somerville

I go to Tufts, I take the Joey regularly, and I've passed by Doowee & Rice quite a number of times. I've come across a few reviews that claim Doowee to be the place to get your chicken and rice fix if you're missing New York, and that got me excited. I grew up in New York less than two blocks away from a mosque, so I eat quite a bit of Halal. Anyways... long story short: This place sucks.

Doowee's chimichurri chicken and rice

Short story very long: 
I went on GrubHub (FIRST TIME EVER, GUYS!) and saw that Doowee was rated most popular in the area, so I figured it was finally time to give them a try. I punch in my address, and it turns out that Eaton Hall (pretty much right uphill from the center of Tufts campus) was out of Doowee's 1.5 mile delivery range. Uhm. What? Doowee literally sits next to the edge of Tufts, and let me tell you that a walk across Tufts is definitely half a mile or less. 

Fine, so I made some phone calls. Given its proximity to Tufts, I figured this is where the majority of their clientele reside and that they should be somewhat familiar, if not willing to learn, about the simple geography of Tufts. I explained to the girl on the phone that I was at Eaton Hall, right above the library, at Tufts University, in Medford. She replied, "Sorry, I'm not from around here," and she gave GrubHub the benefit of the doubt and said she will not deliver more than a mile away from her store (note: it is listed as 1.5mi on Grubhub). So I Google mapped it out for her and told her that Doowee was 0.6 miles away from Eaton Hall if walking, and driving distance was exactly one point zero (1.0) miles away. 

So she had to give in because I was within range... if I sound really lazy at this point, please give me some sympathy, for it was 32 degrees F (aka freezing) outside, finals period, and I was using Grubhub for a reason! I then was about to give her my credit card information, when she told me that I had to pay in cash. Lady, how does that make sense? I can pay with card online, but I must pay in cash if I order over the phone? Whatever, so I suggested that I order over Grubhub, and I would call her back to make sure she received my order and that it was for delivery and not pick up. Done. And I called her. And she replied, "Yes, Linda, we got your order." For real? 

FOOD IS FINALLY HERE. Jen and I ordered a chimchurri chicken and rice and a spicy braised pork and rice. Sounds so mouthwatering good, right? Until we opened our boxes and saw two identical sauce laden mystery meat over rice. It both looked like chicken. It both tasted like chicken. Oh, they must have gotten our orders wrong. Oh well. Let's eat. 

The sauce was too heavy and flavorless. The rice was on the wet side, and it did not resemble the tumeric-yellow rice I grew to love in the slightest. I realize that this is a fusion restaurant and that they are not trying to duplicate the infamous chicken and rice, but this rice was just not doing it for me. Also, the uneven shreds of limp lettuce were drizzled with an inexplicably garlicky dressing. Jen noted that the pita was rather stale, and we both drank a lot of water after our meal. MSG? Salt? Who knows.    

Then the braised pork on rice came. The delivery man kept calling us and beckoning us to go outside, but we didn't realize it was to replace the wrong order. We were not informed, and we already had enough from less than half a box of the chicken. Nonetheless, we gave the braised pork a try. Thank goodness we didn't get this first. It was miserably dry. The magic that is braised pork is in the tenderness and juiciness (shameless plug) of the meat. No one wants to eat dehydrated pork bits, even if the rice is a bit on the moist side. 

Also, the chicken was $7.50 and the pork $8.50. They're overpriced to begin with, and their website stresses limited choices in exchange for high quality. Well, if this is the typical food quality at Doowee, then it's situated perfectly to be a late-night Tufts delivery hustler. Unless of course, your dorm is out of their 1 mile range.  

Braised pork and rice
DooWee & Rice
868 Broadway
SomervilleMA 02144

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter Fruit Salad: Pomegranate and Persimmon

Now that we live in a globalized society where you can pretty much get any fruit any time of year you want, I guess making a Winter fruit salad isn't too terribly exciting, though good luck finding a  persimmon in June. However, even in the fall/winter season, it is not accessible at all markets, and I'm sure many (or most) of your non-Asian friends have probably never tried one before, so this is definitely a conversation-starter and crowd-pleaser. For those of you that haven't tried it before, it's incredibly sweet, and it has both a crunch and a softer interior. To be honest, it can feel slimy and the cutting process reminded me of pumpkin because of the stringiness with the skin, but it's definitely worth trying. Mixed with the more acidic tones of pomegranate, and you have a nicely balanced combination that even looks festive! 

Sandro Botticelli, Madonna of the Pomegranate, 1487.
I have quite an emotional attachment to pomegranate, because I distinctly remember being first exposed to Greek mythology and Persephone the first time I tried the exotic fruit. More recently, I recall having a freshly pressed pomegranate juice (or two) every day I was in Istanbul (let me tell you that POM is nowhere close to being the same). However, as I was preparing the pomegranate, all I can think about was how intimate the experience was. Because of its bright colors and the abundance of seeds, I could not help but think of ovaries. Yes, the fruit and the seeds are an ovary of a plant, but this concept is exceptionally pronounced in a pomegranate, which is probably why it acts as a symbol of fertility and abundance in many cultures around the world including Greek, Islam, Persian, and Chinese, to name a few. It is also debated that the fruit of knowledge was perchance a pomegranate and not an apple, and in Christianity, portrayals of pomegranates are associated with the passion and resurrection of Christ (reference painting of Madonna and Christ by Botticelli above).

Pomegranate and Persimmon Winter Fruit Salad
8-10 persimmon
1 pomegranate

1. With the persimmon upside down, cut it into quarters. Then peel off the skin and cut each quarter into halves or thirds, depending on the size. Do this for all the persimmon. Place in a large mixing bowl. 
2. Cut the pomegranate in half and patiently pick out all the seeds. 
3. Toss lightly.

Nutritional benefits:
persimmon- high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and dietary fiber
pomegranate- packed with antioxidants, Vitamin C

Other Winter fruits: clementines, red grapes, cranberries, pomelo, star fruit, grapefruit, Korean pears

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brunch at Paramount, Boston

Sorry it's been awhile! Took quite a break after my Thanksgiving because I'm now heading into finals season for my last first semester at nutrition school! So to get everything back into full gear, I'm going to start with a post about my favorite meal of the day: brunch. 

Situated in the quaint, brick-laden neighborhood of Beacon Hill, Paramount is a well known neighborhood hot spot on weekend mornings. They have an order before you find a table policy, which actually pretty much always guarantees you a seat. However, I would recommend going for a very late brunch (as in after 1:30pm) because though there will be a table waiting for you if you go at normal brunch hours, you will still be doing a lot of waiting in line to order your meal. 

Since I do head there kind of late, I'm always tempted to order their lunch items, but I have yet to because breakfast is always preferred when available*. But yet again, I face the timeless dilemma of sweet vs. savory (note: SoundBites, Balthazar). However, Paramount has the solution for you (and your hangover) with the Hangover Special, which comes with eggs, sausage or bacon, toast, pancakes, and home fries.

For those who are more partisan, there is definitely ample selections of both. For sweet, I've had chocolate chip banana pancakes before, which were good, but not great. I could've used more chocolate chips, and their pancake batter is a bit on the cakey-side. 

They also have the usual breakfast sandwich choices, but if you are going breakfast sandwich, you might as well make a trip to Magnificent

My favorite by far (as in it is past 11pm, yet I am still so itching for this right now...), are the "huevos rancheros Mexican breakfast." It comes with two fried eggs, tomato -chili salsa (not unlike what you find on a Spanish omelet), sliced avocado, and grilled corn tortilla. However, I'm not the biggest fan of grilled corn tortillas, so I opted for the challah roll instead, which turned out to be the best decision ever. Can't wait to go back for this. 

Though many Bostonians find this place to be overrated, you must admit that if it's close to you, it's worth the walk. I don't know if I'd come here if I had an actual commute, but for my travelling distance, the food is hearty, and the digestive walk after brunch around Beacon Hill is always enjoyable. 

Hangover breakfast and huevos rancheros Mexican breakfast

Sausage egg and cheese on an English muffin

Chocolate chip banana pancakes

Leslie: Why would anyone eat anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?
Ron: People are idiots, Leslie.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to cut a butternut squash

The more I'm living by myself and in the kitchen now, I realize that there are so many fruits and vegetables that I have never handled entirely before (aka pineapple). So for anyone else out there who is just like me, here are five easy steps to maneuvering a butternut squash (or pretty much any cylindrical shaped squash or melon). 

1. Wash and observe. Since it is long-shaped, it makes sense to cut off the ends and deal with it lengthwise. 

2. After cutting off the ends, place it upright and cut it sagittally ( that term only used in anatomy?). Or to rephrase, cut it in half lengthwise. You want to always make a flat surface to work with (this goes for anything you're cutting). This way is most efficient and safest.

3. Scoop out all the seeds.

4. Cut the halves into several 2-3 inch slices. Then with the pieces laying on their sides, carefully cut off the thick layer of skin. Try not taking off too much of the meat layer!

5. Now that it is totally skinned, you can pretty much finish chopping up your squash into any shape you want to!

For ideas on what to make with butternut squash, why not try out this recipe of roasted squash with Italian sausage

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving ideas: butternut squash with Italian sausage

This one is easy. And once you start eating it, you won't be able to stop. Baking this squash brings out all the sweet flavors and intensifies the color, making it a very palatable and aesthetic ordeal. It's the perfect side dish that uses the hues, flavors, and ingredients of Autumn. The Italian sausage adds spice and flavoring to the squash, but to my vegetarian friends: please try this recipe without the sausage! 

And since this is a non-conventional Thanksgiving suggestion, I would of course recommend that you try this recipe whenever you get your hands on a butternut squash! 

Roasted Butternut Squash with Italian Sausage
2-3lb butternut squash, cubed (I bought it already halved, skinned, and gutted)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp thyme 
1/2 tsp salt 
4-5 cloves garlic 
1 lb Italian sausage, uncased and minced (I used hot, but sweet should work as well) 

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. 
2. Toss the butternut squash in a tablespoon of olive oil or until all the squash is lightly and evenly coated. 
3. Then season the squash with thyme and salt. 
4. Place in a baking dish (I used an 8x8in) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender. 
5. In a non-stick pan, heat about half a tablespoon of olive oil with the garlic cloves. 
6. Insert Italian sausage into the heated plan and cook until browned. 
7. Scoop sausage (leaving excess oil behind) into the baking dish with the squash. Bake together for 5 minutes. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wien, Austria

It certainly has been awhile since I've posted about my travels, but now that the Nor'easter has implanted thoughts of the imminent winter in us, I couldn't help but reminisce upon the last time I experienced such bitter cold temperatures.

Things I did not know before coming to Vienna:
1. Wiener = Viennese
2. They speak German. (Don't judge me.) 
3. There's a LOT more to the Habsburgs than Marie Antoinette. 

Vienna is the capital of Austria, and being the primary workplace of Mozart, it is now still most famous for the arts, for there is a rich collection of museums and concert halls. The streets are wide, the walkways pristine, and the Habsburg influence prominent. And just as importantly, their cuisine is hearty and their beers full-bodied. Having a freshly made schnitzel with a cold beer will warm anyone up from a brisk day outside. And though it may seem like there is a lack of youth culture or even young people walking on the streets during the day, an unexpected night at an underground drum and bass club will surely change your perception of Viennese culture. Though I was only in this city in passing, there is so much more here for me to explore, that I can only hope to visit again soon! 

In the middle of Stephansplatz

The immense silver wear collection of the Habsburgs 

Ottakringer beer

Yes, we all ordered Wiener schnitzel with potato salad. 

Mozart memorial grave at the Habsburg garden

Wurst on sauerkraut

Stuffed cabbage with sour cream

Habsburg Palace