A glimpse into my world of food

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Aya's Kitchen: Cocktail Pairing

I have about eight more pork chops in my fridge right now because my friends brought them over intending to cook them a few nights ago but we had too much food.  I wanted to experiment with food and cocktail pairing so tonight I played around with bridging (used tequila in my food and in my cocktail.

The cocktail: a shot of tequila (Don Julio Reposado), 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, 1 cup of club soda, squeeze of lime, and lemongrass and ginger steeped simple syrup (to taste)

The food: Sauteed pork chop with onion/tomato/jalapeno/butter/tequila sauce, garnished with cilantro and scallion.  Season the pork chop and saute until medium rare- set aside.  Lightly caramelize the onions, add the tomatoes and deglaze with tequila.  Let it reduce, then mount with butter to make the sauce (season with white pepper and finish with some lime juice).  Meanwhile, slice the pork and then serve with the onion/tomato sauce and garnish with cilantro and scallion.

The accompaniment: shredded red cabbage with alfalfa sprouts (lightly dressed with olive oil, salt, black pepper and lemon juice.

This particular tequila has a white pepper aroma and when I smelled it I thought of pork.  I personally thought the cocktail paired really well with the food.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Aya's Kitchen: Whole Grain Spaghettini with Shrimp, Edamame & Eggplant

I made this pasta for a minor recipe contest on mixingbowl.com but didn't win.  It's a creamy tomato based pasta with shrimp, edamame and eggplant.  I don't like whole wheat pasta very much but I liked it prepared like this!


Whole wheat spaghettini 80 grams

Extra virgin olive oil 4 tbspn
Medium sized shrimp, deveined 10 each
Garlic clove, crushed 1 each
Tomato paste 1 tbspn
White wine ½ cup
Heavy cream ½ cup

Eggplant, medium dice 1 oz
Edamame 10 pods or ¼ cup
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated 1 tbspn
Salt to taste
Black pepper, cracked to taste

* Cook the edamame pods in salted water and remove beans from shell. If they are already shelled, then there is no need to do this.
1. Peel the shrimp and set the shells aside to dry (wipe off any excess moisture)
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium heat with the crushed garlic and when you can start to smell the garlic, add the shrimp shells.
3. Saute the shrimp shells until they are golden brown, then add the tomato paste. Be careful not to burn.
4. Add the white wine and scrape the bottom of the saute pan. Once the astringency is gone, taste it and make sure that it is not bitter.
5. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture through a sieve or anything that will filter the shrimp shells.
6. Bring plenty of water to a boil and add enough salt so that you can taste the salt.
7. When it comes to a boil, add the pasta and set your timer for 5 minutes.
8. In a saute pan, heat the rest of the olive oil on medium heat. Add the shrimp and season lightly with salt. Before the shrimp cooks fully, add the eggplant. Add a bit of the pasta cooking water.
9. Add the sauce you made earlier to the saute pan, bring to a simmer, then take off the heat.
10. After 5 minutes of cooking the pasta, taste a strand and drain a little earlier than the desired firmness.
11. Put the sauce back on low heat and add the pasta and edamame. Toss in the sauce and serve with the grated cheese on top

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dinner for my friends: oxtail, tripe, quinoa & goat cheesecake


This night's menu was local cheese from the Hudson Valley region, pickled asparagus, oxtail soup, quinoa salad, tripe alla romana with garbanzo beans, and goat cheesecake.  I had just gone to the Hudson Valley Food & Wine Festival where I purchased the cheese (a camembert type and farmer's cheese) and pickled asparagus (a real hit).

Tillen Farms green and white asparagus

 Oxtail soup is undoubtedly one of my favorite soups.  Some people don't like the fatty, slightly くせのある(gamey) oxtail meat but I think it makes a very flavorful broth and as we say in Japanese, ほっぺたが落ちそうになる(literally means "my cheeks nearly fall off" because it's so tender and melts in your mouth).  I added carrots, turnips and tomato to this soup.

Braised tripe is one of my favorite dishes as well.  I simmered this for a good 3-4 hours until super tender.  Plac the tripe in water and bring it to a boil, then drain it, and repeat the process at least two more times.  Cut it into strips and toss it in some olive oil with a crushed garlic.  Add a generous splash of white wine and reduce it, add canned crushed whole tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper.  Simmer until tender and adjust seasoning as desired.  Soak and cook chickpeas beforehand and add when done.

 Healthy quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, onion and yellow pepper

 Mario Batali's lemon goat cheesecake from the Babbo cookbook.  I will scan the recipe and upload it as soon as I get the chance.  I made the mistake of buying the logs of Coach Farm goat cheese so I had clumps of rind in the cake.  I still liked the cake, especially with the lemon syrup, but I don't think people who don't really liked goat cheese would be able to handle it.

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New York City Review: Tocqueville (Poorest service in town)

1 East 15th Street

I was brought to Tocqueville by my boyfriend back then for my 24th birthday in October 2009 and I can honestly say that I have never experienced such offensive service in a fine dining restaurant.  I have different expectations for service depending on the type of establishment.  When I go to a dim sum place in Chinatown, it's forgivable when the servers are rough around the edges, appear to be slightly rude and clear all the plates by piling them ALL on top of each other, because I'm there for the cheap, good food, not for the service.  This is not to say that there are no cheap restaurants with exceptional service because I have definitely been to plenty of places like that.

My point is, I walked into Tocqueville with the expectations I would have for any fine dining restaurant.  The Maitre de was very friendly as she walked us to our table in the elegant but stuffy dining room, but our server/captain (whatever he was) rubbed me the wrong way right from the start.  

Before I go on to explain the series of events that bothered me, I need to lay out the possible reasons for our poor treatment.  The clientele at this restaurant was much older (we in our mid 20s and the majority of people in their 40s, 50s) so it could have been agism.  Another possible ism: racism, because my ex was the only black person in there, and I was the only Asian (but lets be real, it wasn't a racial discrimination against me...).

We were not even offered the wine list and the wine glasses were taken away.  It infuriated me so I made it a point to order expensive wine.  Our server presented us with the menu with no explanation but I noticed that to the other tables, he properly explained the Green Market and Tasting menus.  When the runner brought us bread, he showed me the "brioche, foccacia, baguette" and some other bread.  He then turned to my ex and simply said "sweet, cheese, plain..." I was so shocked I couldn't hide my reaction.  I could be overreacting but I couldn't help but think that we were being treated in this manner because my ex was black.  Other little things that happened: our flatware was not set up when the main course was brought to our table, they cleared my plate as I was still chewing on my food, and they just seemed to be rushing us out...

It's a shame because the food was actually really good.  With the exception of my appetizer (braised veal tongue with farro- there were clumps of oversalted farro, did not like the celery leaves as garnish, and was expecting a warm salad), I enjoyed my meal.  The sea urchin angel hair was a little rich but delicious.  For our main courses, the scallop with foie gras, and lobster wrapped with pork belly were exceptionally good.  I was impressed with the freshness and quality of the ingredients but in the end the service just ruined the experience for me.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Japan Restaurant Review: レストラン よねむら/Yonemura Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

This one Michelin star restaurant really impressed me.  Located in the heart of Gion, a very traditional and touristy area of Kyoto, Chef Yonemura serves an undefined cuisine.  He strives to stimulate the guests senses using seasonal ingredients, soul of Japanese cuisine, and Western techniques.  We sat at the counter where we were fascinated to see the cooks work so harmoniously without raising their voices at each other.  We had eight courses for 13,000 yen (no need to tip in Japan!).  The service was quite flawless (though only one server could really speak English) and the Chef greeted us. 

 Magurozuke (tuna marinated lightly in soy sauce) with cheese: a very surprising combination but worked very well! It was served with a nice crispy little shrimp ball.
Hamaguri (ハマグリ)
Served with Hamaguri broth

Sea bream (鯛) sashimi

Sole (ヒラメ)with house cured ham, tapenade, ratatouille sauce (yum!) and the piece of fish you see on the bottom left is a lightly torched rim of sole.
Spring vegetable soup gratin: beautiful colors.  Not as heavy/filling as it looks.  A very gentle/やさしい dish.
Cold pasta with ホタルイカ(squid), uni, tomato gelee and 菜の花(spring vegetable similar to broccoli rabe).  We were told to try the pasta by itself first then mix in the toppings as desired.  A fun and extremely delicious dish!

Beautiful wagyu (can't remember where it was from) and タケノコ(grilled fresh bamboo shoot).  You can only eat fresh bamboo shoots during spring and they are especially good when grilled because it's so fragrant.
Very unexpected しめ(end of meal): curry! A very small portion :)
Very plain but well made roll cake.

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Travel Series: Siem Reap & Phnom Penh

In May 2008 I went to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  I was visiting Singapore but since my friends were working during the week anyway, I planned a short trip to Cambodia with my friend Michelle and her colleague, Hiroshi.  I always had an image that Cambodia was a dangerous place filled with landmines but since their slow recovery from political and economic crises, tourism seemed to be booming, especially with people visiting the Angkor Wat and other temples in Siem Reap.  I had never tried Cambodian food before so I was curious to see what it was like.

I chose a boutique hotel called Shinta Mani, that is aiming to achieve a sustainable tourism/business model.  A certain percentage of the room rate goes to charity.  It was a beautiful hotel and the employees were genuinely friendly.  Through them, I was able to donate money to build a well for a family and they actually brought me to meet them.

Minced pork with basil and vegetables (not spicy)
Pork curry (not spicy at all- rather sweet) and pumpkin casserole with shredded beef (kind of like a pumpkin custard on the top and filled with beef)
Morning glory paradise.  We ate a lot of kang kong in Cambodia- apparently it is grown in abundance (and I love it!)
Shrimp amok.  This was a very touristy place but good.  Amok is a Cambodian curry but it's not spicy at all- sweet and savory (from fish sauce).  I guess Cambodian food is similar to Thai food without the sour and spicy.

Buffet food at a traditional dance show we went to see.  The food was really not that good but we got to sample some typical Cambodian dishes.
The dessert was probably the best part of the buffet.  The pumpkin stuffed with coconut custard is meant to be a very common Cambodian dessert.  Overall the desserts were similar to Thai ones.  Sweet and slightly salty.
Buffet style again at the hotel we were staying at.  There were lots of salads (seafood, green papaya etc) and they were really tasty.
Typical fruit.  They had glutinous rice desserts similar to Thai ones (filled with brown sugar).
After a night at the bars we went to the food stalls to eat noodles.  So good! This one was with minced pork and fishballs.  Makes me drool...

Our lunch at a food market.  Cheap and delicious noodles (about 25 cents) and coffee.

Ponlok Restaurant, Phnom Penh
319 Sisowath Quay

I read about this restaurant in a Japanese guidebook.  There were actually more locals and we hardly saw any tourists (maybe it was just down season).  We had a waiter who was about 15 years old and he was hilarious.  There was so much to choose from so we asked him for some recommendations.  Family style of course, and we were happily stuffed at the end. 

Pepper crab!
Pigeon- doesn't look appetizing but it was good (not a lot of meat though).
Crab omelet
Fish soup
Marinated and grilled beef with sliced onions and tomatoes- we wrapped them in lettuce leaves. 
We didn't have to order dessert- they just brought a bunch of fruits and sweets.

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