I HEART BACON
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

PORK FEST

I have to give a shout-out to my new hero, Daniel.

Daniel recently hosted the pork fest to end all pork fests with over FORTY POUNDS of pork—and he even made porcine desserts. This was the incredible menu:

  • Brined pork tenderloin on crostini with a puree of sweet potatoes and bacon
  • Mini pork burgers made with Italian sausage and potato rolls
  • A beautiful smoked ham hock terrine

Yes, those were just the appetizers…

  • First Course: Boiled bacon with a star anise, coriander & cinnamon rub and a port & honey glaze
  • Second Course: Pork belly braised in chicken stock and soy sauce (this sounds a little like the incredible Su Dong Po pork I made a while back)
  • Third Course: Pigs head (sweetbreads, tongue and ear) fried in butter
  • Fourth Course: Pork loin roast stuffed with bread cubes, bacon, garlic, rosemary and parsley

Are you salivating yet? But wait! There’s more…

  • Fifth Course: Sixteen chop crown roast
  • Sixth Course: Roasted and salted pork shoulder

And now for dessert…

  • Dessert One: Pierre Hermes Suzy’s Cake with toffee bacon and caramel ganache (yes, I said TOFFEE BACON)
  • Dessert Two: Bacon brioche pudding with a sugar bourbon glaze

Pictures and a detailed account can be found here and here.

Bravo Daniel. Next time, I’d like to be invited ;-)

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Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

Dim Sum @ Monsoon

consumed on 9/11/05

After reading Viv’s write up and then Laura’s review about Monsoon’s new dim sum menu, I was excited to check it out. It’s been years since I last ate at Monsoon, but I can still vividly recall their incredible wok-fried Dungeness crab in spicy, garlicky, black bean sauce. I’m not sure why Monsoon fell off my radar—especially because it’s only a few blocks away, but it was high time for a reunion.

Monsoon’s website said they opened at 9am for breakfast service, so I arranged to meet some friends there at 9:30am. Unfortunately, Monsoon doesn’t actually open until 10am. We sat across the street at Fuel to wait. It felt a little bit like stalking.

At 10am we rushed back across the street to claim a table front and center. I had forgotten how cute the place is—very stark and modern, but in a comfortable way. I was feeling a little groggy from the night before, so we ordered a round of green apple mimosas. They appeared to be “fresh squeezed” and the green apple was sour and bright (i.e. not artificially flavored). Something in the apple made the champagne foam up in a strange way, but they were delicious.

The menu had a short but sweet selection of dim sum items ($4 per basket) along with a few more traditional breakfast plates. We were here for the dim sum and ordered practically one of every item on the menu:

  • Vegetable potstickers – A traditional pot sticker, perfectly steamed and sautéed, although not very interesting unless dipped in its salty, tangy sauce.
  • Steamed bbq pork buns (hum bow) – These looked beautiful, but tasted off. I prefer the sweet and savory hoisin-based “bbq” filling, but this filling tasted bean-based and was dry and chalky.
  • Shrimp dumplings – Perfectly formed dumplings with translucent skin. The shrimp filling was sweet and fresh, but the skins were undercooked or too thick. The result was terribly sticky and chewy dumplings.
  • Pork shui mai with dried shiitake mushrooms – There were very pretty and topped with some sort of roe, but they tasted somewhat bland and non-descript.
  • Crispy shrimp Chinese chive wontons – Large, round patties of minced shrimp and chives, wrapped in a rice dough and fried until crisp and lightly browned (nothing like Chinese wontons). These were savory and juicy; by far my favorite item we tried.

We also ordered one breakfast from the non-dim-sum menu: Duck Eggs with Shallot and Chanterelles ($11). In theory, this sounds amazing. In practice, it was somewhat bland. The duck eggs were creamy and fluffy, but I wanted them to taste more exotic. I also wanted more Chanterelles in the eggs.

Overall, the breakfast left me wanting for a trip to Sun Ya. I missed the noisy, crowded room with the carts of steaming goodies rattling by. I missed the sometimes fatty and sometimes grisly dim sum. More than anything, I missed the flavor. Monsoon dim sum seemed a bit toned down and flattened for the American palate, but it would be a great place for dim sum beginners… or the culinarily squeamish.

Which isn’t to say that I wouldn’t go back. I really do want to try the pan fried daikon cakes (which looked amazing), the duck congee and the Vietnamese soups (pho). Also, for dessert we happened to have one of the best (coconut) flans I’ve ever tasted. That alone would be worth a trip back. Plus Chef Eric Banh is very, very sweet. And smokin’ hot.

Actually, what I’d really like is to return for dinner; this seems to be where Monsoon excels.




Monsoon on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

Bacon eating bacon

Yet another funny (and disturbing) bacon t-shirt for my collection:
http://www.threadless.com/product/345/You_Are_What_You_Eat

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Thursday, November 10th, 2005

Cooking Club: Asian-Fusion

consumed on 9/9/05

It was finally my rotation to host the Cooking Club and pick a theme. I kept vacillating between Asian and French—two of my favorite cuisines, until it hit me… why not do both? I know purists hate the term “fusion”, but how can blending the best qualities of two cuisines ever be a bad thing? For my theme I wanted to focus on French preparations with Asian flavors.

We started out the evening with R’s incredible and usual cucumber-ginger sake drinks. The most accurate word I can use to describe this bright and tasty drink is “refreshing”. Accompanying the drinks were light and savory crab tartlets with lemongrass, recipe courtesy of Ming Tsai.

For the main course I made my favorite fish recipe: Grilled Halibut with Cilantro-Lime Butter. The fish is marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil and then it’s sauced with a beurre blanc spiked with ginger and cilantro. Common sense tells me I should be proper and modest about my own cooking, but this fish was SOOO good. I would actually choose this fish over bacon. Seriously. It’s that good. Although, I can’t take all the credit—the halibut I bought from Mutual Fish was incredible and impeccably fresh. (I heart Mutual Fish in a big way.)

The sides dishes consisted of K’s Arugula Salad with Lemongrass Vinaigrette & Goat Cheese and M’s Crazy Coconut Noodle Toss. The noodles were a little crazy—and by crazy I mean rich. They were delicious but appeared to be soaked in coconut milk; I could only handle a few bites. The arugula salad was surprisingly flavorful considering the simplicity of the ingredients. I absolutely loved the sweet and lemony vinaigrette. It was a perfect paring with the peppery arugula and tangy goat cheese. I’m not even a goat cheese fan, but this recipe is definitely going into my collection.

For dessert, B brought a Ginger Cake with Cardamom Cream (another Ming Tsai recipe). First of all, I’d like to say that gingerbread should absolutely be a year-round food; why has it been relegated to just the holidays? This cake was fantastic—tender, rich and studded with chunks of candied ginger. The paired topping of cardamom whipped cream elevated it to heavenly status.

Check out the whole menu with recipes at Culinary Fool’s site:
http://spaces.msn.com/members/culinaryfool/Blog/ cns!1pYNGy2haD1h_titL1O7uNXQ!1206.entry

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Monday, November 7th, 2005

Pig is Big

Josh Friedland, of The Food Section, just published a nice homage to pork in The New York Times article entitled Pig is Big. It touches on everything from Berkshire/Kurobuta pork (Berkshire bacon is incredible, BTW) to bacon bracelets to pork inspired art to the ingenious and lovely Wake n’ Bacon.

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Saturday, November 5th, 2005

Portland Trip

I’m still trying to catch up on posts, and yet I still seem to be almost two months behind on everything…

Here are the food highlights from my trip to Portland (Oregon) over Labor Day weekend:

Friday, 9/2/05

  • We arrived at our “downtown” hotel (which was nowhere near downtown, but for $40 per night via priceline we couldn’t complain too much). We decided to have a cocktail at the hotel bar, mainly because it was named “The Speckled Rooster”. It smelled like bleach and cigarettes, but after several cocktails neither of us cared. After a few hours I realized that I needed food, but even in my inebriated state I knew better than to eat at The Speckled Rooster.
  • We walked (stumbled?) down the street and found a restaurant called Colosso, where I encountered the worst drink I’ve ever had in my life. It was so bad that I’ve managed to purge the details from my mind, but I can tell you that it tasted like the bad, bitter Chinese medicine my grandma gives me when I’m sick. Despite the awful drinks, we had some great food: an enormous plate piled high with delicious cheeses, various salami and a wonderful cayenne-spiked fruit chutney. We also tried some charred lamb skewers with great, spicy, cucumber riata.

Saturday, 9/3/05

  • The next morning I was craving a big breakfast (a.k.a. hung-over) and B suggested Milo’s City Café. When I saw how many different kinds of eggs benedict they had on the menu, I was smitten. My eggs benedict came with pepper bacon, tomato and a wonderful, light and lemony hollandaise. I was full after the benedict, but my meal also came with a bowl of fresh fruit and a giant helping of yummy, deep fried potatoes.
  • After too much (window) shopping in Portland’s gorgeous kitchen stores, I wanted lunch outside and near the water. There weren’t too many choices, so we ended up at Three Degrees Restaurant at the RiverPlace Hotel. It skewed a touch too yuppie for my taste, but on this lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon it was perfect. We settled into rocking chairs on the enormous Southern-style wrap around deck and drank vodka lemonades and people watched. We made a light snack out of the house smoked salmon salad—which was surprisingly tasty.
  • For dinner, we went to one of my favorite restaurants in Portland: Gino’s. It’s not fancy by any means, but it serves really great Italian food in a down-home atmosphere. We started with an incredible scampi appetizer, which was basically a pile of shrimp sautéed in a ridiculous amount of garlic and wine. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the broth was heavenly with the accompanying wedges of garlic bread. I was saddened to hear they were out of porchetta that night, and I reluctantly ordered a simple, seared rib-eye steak. It was incredible. The steak was tender and flavorful and didn’t need any accompaniment except a touch of salt. Alongside was a nice sauté of fresh veggies. The only misstep on the plate was the mashed potatoes; they tasted fine but were ice cold. B had the seafood pasta, which was a lot like a bouillabaisse over pasta and it featured incredible, plump mussels, more shrimp, calamari and other bits of fish.

Sunday, 9/4/05

  • On Sunday we went to my favorite breakfast spot in Portland: Byways Cafe. To me, this is the epitome of a diner; comfy, kitschy, Americana style, a bustling and saucy waitstaff, and simple, but good breakfast fare. Oh, and really delicious table jam that tastes homemade.
  • I think we were petering out on food at this point, so we skipped lunch and had a quick, early dinner at La Buca. La Buca is a very casual, Italian eatery that is known for panini. I was torn between panini or the pulled pork over soft polenta; pulled pork won out. Unfortunately, it was a little greasy and the flavor tasted slightly off. B ordered the penne with four cheeses and sausage, which was pretty damn good.
  • After dinner we decided to grab a drink at Doug Fir. The space was absolutely amazing and the mix of materials was mind boggling; it was like a super-hip and modern log cabin. I fell in love with the place instantly. Unfortunately, the place was so crowded, noisy and pretentious that we didn’t stay long. It’s rumored that Doug Fir has excellent breakfasts, so next time I’m in Portland that will be a must.

Monday, 9/5/05

  • By our last day, we were thoroughly burned out on eating out, so we ordered in. Hotel breakfasts at high-end hotels are never that great, so it follows suit that hotel breakfasts at cheap hotels would be even worse. The eggs tasted fake, the bacon was burnt and the biscuits resembled paper weights. The hot chocolate transported us back to childhood camping trips with Swiss Miss on the campfire. Oddly enough, the combination of all these breakfast items was strangely satisfying and comforting.

Since this was a vacation, I decided to give my camera a break as well. Although, I just had to snap a picture of this license plate. I couldn’t resist.

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Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

Oysterville: Day 3

consumed on 8/28/05

On our last day in Oysterville we decided to stop at Oysterville Sea Farms to pick up the obligatory jar of oysters and some amazing shortbread studded with dried cranberries. The shop was small but packed with delicious seafood and dried goods from around the Long Beach Peninsula.

The rest of the afternoon we spent hiking around the salt marshes on Willapa Bay. We were the only ones out there and it was eerie and oppressively quiet except for the chirping of crickets and the dim buzz of the dragonflies. The day was oddly muggy and the air was dank and stagnant. We wound our way along the spongy mud trail through the dead and decaying grasses, trying our best to avoid all of the snakes. The highlight of our walk was when we spotted seabeans. I’d never seabeans in the wild and I was slightly unnerved to see where they came from. We harvested several handfuls and left the marsh in search of crab—with the idea of recreating Rover’s crab bisque.

On the way out of town, we drove through Nahcotta and stopped at Willapa Bay Shellfish for two, beautiful, live crabs. Unfortunately, after the long drive back to Seattle, I forgot my seabeans in the car and ended up with just a crab. I didn’t have the proper ingredients handy for the Asian dipping sauce, so I decided to steam my crab with a coating of Survival Spice. I melted butter for the crab, but I was craving something more interesting. I pulled out the container of Survival Spice again and started using it like a dry dip. It may seem like an odd pairing, but I really enjoyed the assertively sweet and spicy flavors with the crab.

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