Sunday, May 29, 2005

and away I go...

I'm off on a 3 month journey through Asia. I will trek to various destinations in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and mainland China (including Dunhuang, yay!). My exploration in food shall be an intersting tale I'm sure. I'm particularly keen on Korean food--I loooove Korean food. I have days filled with dreams of bibimbop, bulgogee, BBQ, and all that wonderful bahn-chan (the little dishes of fermented, preserved, or marinated vegetables and radishes that are ubiquitous on any visit to a Korean restaurant). My classmate, E.H. has given me some tips on what I should try to eat while I'm in Seoul and I'll dutifully report what I've chowed on.

Having lived previously in Taiwan and China, I'm not as excited about what food I may encounter, although I'm sure I'll be much more attentive now that I am blogging about what I eat. Maybe it's because I've eaten so much Taiwanese and Chinese food over the years that they don't have the same cache like muching on some new (at least to me) Korean specialty or Japanese delicacy. So I'm going to make a promise to myself right now that I will try some Chinese dishes that I didn't dare before, like "chou dofu" (stinky tofu).

Preparing for my upcoming trip triggered memories of the last trip I took to mainland China with Mama Rose. I started digging through the photographs I took on that trip and realized I shot some food related images. I was already documenting my forays into food well before starting this blog and I didn't even realize I was doing it at the time! So below I've posted some of these photos.

I may not have much in the way of internet access during the first leg of my trip, so when I can post again is uncertain...but there's more to come. Stay tuned!

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Food photos from in and around Shanghai (2004)

Small restaurants are lined up along the small canals of WuZhen (which is situated about an hour away from Shanghai). Posted by Hello

A woman making zongzi (sticky rice with a meat or sweet filling wrapped in bamboo leaves) in WuZhen. Posted by Hello

The front of a Shanghai department store sells all types of food, including every part of a pig possible. Posted by Hello

Live chicken sold in Shanghai Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Finished yogurt container Posted by Hello

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Libertè Six Grains Stirred Yogurt

This was a tasty treat I bought from Fairway a few weeks ago. It's produced by Marque Libertè in Quèbec and I have never seen it before (although truth is I never really look at the yogurt selection at the supermarket). It was a bit more expensive than most other brands on the shelf(about a $1), but I felt it was well worth it.

My first impression was that the yogurt wasn't overly sweet. The label says "No Sugar Added, Sweetend with Fruit Juice" and this is really the key to the product. It's refreshingly tart but with a touch of subtle sweetness. One of my biggest gripes about Dannon and even "earth friendly" Stoneyfield Farm is the deep sugary aftertaste. I always feel I need to wash my palate out after I eat these big brand yogurts.

The "Six Grains" are really just that: Buckwheat, Rice, Barley, Wheat, Rye and Oats. The grainy bits mixed into the yogurt really complement the tartness as well as adding a much needed "crunch" to the soft peach pieces.

Even though it is a tad expensive for my grad student budget, I hope I can indulge in some of the other flavors soon. It is a great late night snack or a treat after a good workout.

Have you tried this brand? I'm curious to know what others think about this particular yogurt or other yogurts produced by Marque Libertè.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Wine bottles Posted by Hello

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Wine and cheese affairs…

Maybe it was watching Sideways. Maybe it was the numerous bottles sitting patiently on the wine rack, brought back from many a European excursion. Whatever it may have been, I had a stock of great wine and no outlet to enjoy them with others. So I set out to create one.

And the wine and cheese affairs were born.

The first time, back in December, I had just a few friends: E.P., K.A. and Tanying, join me in this mini-feast. Unfortunately, this was before I discovered food blogs and understanding the importance of writing down my food and drink opinions, so I’m relying on my memories to guide the first part of this post. I remember we had a gorgeous bottle of Cline 2002 Marsanne. The white wine felt so moist and buttery as it traveled from the top of my tongue down to the back of my mouth. The butteryness lasted long into the finish and I could still taste it well after my last drop. There were two other bottles, a red and a sweet wine, both from the Veneto region. Unfortunately, they did not leave me with any real lasting impressions and I hardly recall the tastes, lest their names.

E.P. brought a cracked pepper (chedder?) cheese and some plain Carr’s Table Water Crackers. These bland, but crispy crackers paired well with the pepper cheese because they didn’t overpower the sharpness or spicy aftertaste of the cheese. A few days before I had picked up a massive 5 lb. bag of dried fruit from Costco (gotta love warehouse shopping). The figs, peaches and apples blended especially well with the Marsanne and even the other two wines—so well that the whole bag was almost finished by the end of the night! Yep, 5 lbs!

My second wine and cheese affair, held last weekend, was also low-key with just a few friends and friends of friends. It was a gathering to celebrate the end of classes (for some of us) and just an excuse to drink wine and be merry for the rest. My two gallerying (note: this is a made up adjective to describe the activity one does with certain friends on particular Sundays in the arty neighborhoods of NYC) pals Tanying and J.M.R. as well as J.M.R.’s friends, D.K. and A.K. joined us for the festivities. I think one of the keys to holding these kinds of affairs is to limit it to 4-6 people. Anything more seems to be like a dinner party and just a tad too unwieldy for wine and cheese.

We started out with a 2000 Legend R Bordeaux, a white bordeaux from Barons de Rothschild. The Roses were given a case of this wine as a gift from our very kind and generous neighbors and of course I “gifted” myself a bottle (I’m in the process of trying to “gift” myself a 2nd). A.K. tasted hints of honeysuckle and other herbaceous matter. It was a very satisfying wine with a wonderful finish. I felt it went quite well the mild chevre that Tanying had picked out from Fairway’s gigantic selection of cheeses (note: going to the Upper West Side branch of this gourmet supermarket can become a game of squeeze, push and pull—not the most pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon).

Our next wine was a 2000 Masi Campofiorin Valpolicella from the Veronese region of Italy. Valpolicella is produced at the foothills of the Alps, just west of Verona and often composed of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. This vintage is a combination of red Veronese and semi-dry grapes. The wine was full-bodied with a powerful bouquet—one that seemed closer to a leather like taste than the normally associated floral essence.

The third bottle of the night was a vino frizzante, Soligo Marzemino Colli Trevigiani. A sweet, mildly bubbly wine that had clear hints of strawberries on its palate. It may have even been too sweet for the cheeses we had—the chevre, a peppery brie and a dutch cheese that A.K. brought with him. The fizz, again, was not very strong and did not overpower the sweetness of the wine. It was interesting, but I think I’m going to stick to good champagne for my next fizz fix.

The last bottle of the night is always a crowd pleaser and a favorite of mine, a 1996 Reserve de la Comtesse Pauillac from Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (now, if I could only pronounce this properly in French—sigh—I think it is a hopeless cause). A few years ago (like 1998) Mama Rose decided to get a few cases of this wonderful red—we are still “chuggin” away at our supply. I have “gifted” many bottles, for my own consumption, for actual gifts, and of course for my wine and cheese affairs. An intense and fully-bodied wine that has a deep full red, almost black color, the taste is complex and lingers long after drinking your glassful. I could taste the hints of currants and berries and its complexity would be a great accompaniment to a roast (or two).

To enjoy the company of close friends with food and drink is something I've only begun to appreicate. I hope I can afford (time and money wise) to continue this tradition for many years to come.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Turkey Delight

I first started cooking frequently when I had my first apartment in college. I had a limited meal plan at the cafeteria--a conscious choice as the food selection was either bland or extra salty--and a fairly well stocked kitchen, courtesy of Mama Rose who sent me off to college packed with every pot, pan and kitchen appliance I could imagine having at the time (today I know that there is an endless supply of kitchen stuff and in my kitchen fantasies I want them all--I savor the day I have my own set of LeCreuset pots or a Cuisnart ice cream maker).

At the time, my friend and new roommate, Mel had just come back from a year of studying abroad in Bologna. She returned to the US with some Italian dishes she had often cooked during the past year. From her I learned how to make basic sauces like tomato with tuna and zucchini (not necessarily together) and simple chicken dishes.

Looking back, it seems silly that I was so intimidated and anxious at the prospect of cooking by myself. I suppose it's because I did not have Mama Rose looking over my shoulder and directing me how to cook what, etc. She is a terrific cook and several of her dishes are famous amongst my family and friends. In future posts I will attempt to create them myself--we'll see if I'm successful.

I think Mel's casualness toward cooking calmed my own internal fears of it. After a few months I was compelled to cook more than just pasta sauces and chicken, but the fear of royally screwing up the food I cooked stuck in the back of my mind. After consulting a few friends about acquiring good basic cookbooks, I settled on two: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (13th edition) and The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. The recipes in both books seemed free of complexity and easy enough to build upon.

Through the rest of my years in college up to the present, I used these cookbooks whenever I cooked...usually creating the dishes exactly as written. Again, that little fear of ruining the food I cook stopped me from applying any creativity in the kitchen. Maybe it's because Mama Rose is practically a genius at invention en la cocina--it seems like she just pulls out a bunch of ingredients from the fridge at random and voila, an instantly delicious dish!

Recently, I've been trying to find inspiration in both selecting the ingredients I buy and what I end up creating with them. I'm trying to wean myself from relying so heavily on cookbooks and allow myself to be a bit more inventive.

Well, I'm trying.

A trip to the Union Square Greenmarket last week was rather fruitful (note: no actual fruit was bought) and I found a few items I normally don't buy. I've passed DiPaolo's turkey stand many times (they setup in several open air markets around NYC). I always tried their free tastings of grilled ground turkey breast and found it very fresh, but for whatever the reason I never bought any.

Well, I decided, "today I will buy a pound and find something to create." As I turned the corner of the market and walked along the north side of Union Square Park I saw bags of fresh spinach looking green and perky--with a quick change of a few dollars I had my veggies. Across the way I saw the mushroom man (sorry, don't know which farm he represents) and he had some pretty looking portabellas. I took a moment to pick the one I liked most (actually they all seemed fine, but I always hesitate)--my spinach now had a companion.

Of course, when I returned home I took a second look at the container of ground turkey breast and just sighed because I knew, Fannie was going to have help me with this one...again. But at least I knew that the veggie dish would be my own.

Baby steps, Rose, baby steps.

Ground Turkey Patties and Spinach with Portabellas

Ground Turkey Patties:
--from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (13th edition)

1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil

In a large bowl put the turkey, zucchini, onion, bread crumbs, salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper, and lightly toss with a fork until well mixed. Form the turkey mixture into 4 or 6 patties. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the patties about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until done and the meat in the center has turned opaque and is no longer pink. Do not overcook or they will be dry.

A few things I learned or changed after cooking this dish:
- I substituted shallots for the onions because I find the latter overpowering
- limit the bread crumbs to less than a cup as the patty can dry out quickly while grilling
- the first patty was too thick and I quickly realized this when it became easily burnt on the exterior but obviously not cooked through

Spinach with Portabellas
--a simple Rose creation (very simple!)

1 bag fresh spinach (washed and cut to 2 inch pieces, including stems)
2 small minced cloves garlic
2 large portabella mushrooms (1/2 inch slices)
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and salt and let cook for 20-30 seconds. Add mushrooms, and let cook for another 30+ seconds. Finally, add spinach and stir the greens with the garlic and mushrooms. Cook for about 1-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

So, basically I'm still relying on the recipe books and not being as inventive as I'd hoped...but this is a start.

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Turkey Photos

Ground turkey patty and spinach with portabella mushrooms (and a side of green beans) Posted by Hello

Ground turkey patty Posted by Hello

Ground turkey mixture before grilling Posted by Hello

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Image: Pei Hsieh Posted by Hello

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Have you eaten yet?

If you're going to be in the NYC area anytime from now until June (2005), I highly suggest a stop at MoCA in Chinatown to view their current exhibition, Have you eat yet?

This exhibit explores the one of the most iconic themes of Chinese-American culture, the Chinese restaurant. The museum is small and the exhibition is really only in one large room, but the curators and designers really maximized the space the have--they managed to document the rise and popularity of Chinese restaurants in America and how they changed and influenced American culture itself. It is fascinating to see a story of food that can be told through immigration

Since you're already in the heart of Chinatown, after your visit step outside and find yourself your next great Chinese meal.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Welcome to The Hungry Rose!

Some weeks ago I made a huge "discovery" that seems to have consumed much of my time lately. I've discovered food blogs. I somehow stumbled upon one (in the fast blur of web surfing I cannot recall how or which) and then hopped my way through many more. That first time I must have spent 5 hours online jumping amongst them and reading my way through. I was totally a captive audience (of one) to many of these sites. I took such enjoyment in reading the comments, convictions and discoveries of fellow foodies. I always knew other people were as obsessed or in all likelyhood even more obsessed with food than myself, but I didn't quite expect the multitude of opinions, ideas and passionate outcries from others or that there was this incredible community one could enter to give one's own take on the food consumed and savored in their life.

Yes, I'm not the most tech or web savy person around and this is likely why I didn't understand or enter the blog world till recently, although deep down I wish I found out about it sooner.

This "discovery" has affected my daily life. Now, after I turn my computer on in the morning I first check my favorite food blogs instead of my email or the front page news. I often spend hours reading new food blogs, looking for inspiration to my own cooking or just savoring what others have experienced when I should be studying or doing some other more important or urgent activity in my life.

Often, it was the writing style of a blogger that attracted me to their food blog. Sometimes it was the theme. In other cases it was the fabulous food photography that captured my interest. All of these food bloggers inspired me to start my own food blog, The Hungry Rose.

I do have my favorite food blogs, Chocolate and Zucchini, The Food Section, Orangette, Becks and Posh and The Tasting Menu to name a few. There are so many and of course, everyday there seems to be a gazillion more (like this one). For myself, I think I will keep this blog to discussions of food and other issues food related (i.e. wine, restaurant reviews). I would love to write about my travels and other aspects of life in general, but I'm going to try to keep these to a minimum--I've created this blog because, quite frankly, I'm passionate about food.

So dig in and let's eat!

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