Tuesday, August 16, 2005

This is a "tie ban niu rou" or "iron skillet beef steak" that I had a few weeks ago. The meat was a bit tough, but the meal included a buffet salad bar, so the price of $9 USD wasn't too bad overall. Posted by Picasa

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This dish was called "Western style fish". It's an odd mix of white fish with black bean sauce over fried rice with shrimp and topped with melted orange cheese. It was okay, but a bit strange for my palette. Posted by Picasa

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Dante Coffee Shop: My favorite thing to have here is the Classic Earl Grey Milk Tea.  Posted by Picasa

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Some English memories...

Not too too long ago I spent some time visiting friends in the UK. I was mainly in London, but I did venture to Oxford and Cambridge for day long visits. I had a fabulous time and much of it was due to the meals I had with my friends. Some home-cooked and others in posh restaurants, these memories are quite a nice trip down memory lane as I sit here in Taipei waiting for the typhoon to clear its tail out.

Roast Dinners…

Not known for having storied national culinary institutions like their rivals across the English Chanel, the British do have a certain tradition I think needs serious promotion: the roast dinner. Sure, we Americans have roast dinners of some sort and other cultures have them, too, but there is something rather comforting in this British tradition.

I was introduced to roast dinners by my British pal, A.H.N. who, on our drive to Cambridge, decided we needed a “pit stop” and dropped off at the first pub he saw, a somewhat dodgy place somewhere on the road. The interior of the pub was like a scene out of East Enders: a smoke-filled room full of middle aged, potbellied working class blokes drinking pints, playing pool or fixated on the telly as they watched a soccer match (yes, I’m American and that’s what we call the sport). It was too early in the morning for me to start drinking, but it is never too early for a true Englishman like A.H.N. and he ordered himself a pint of Guinness. For our roast dinner we had a choice of lamb chop, chicken or some other meat I can’t really remember (I was just a tad hungover). Of course I went with the lambchops, Rose always goes with the lambchops.

Like much of traditional British food, the chops were heavily laddened with a salty brown gravy. We could even add more from the gravy boat our pub lady supplied us with, but I found that there was enough on my plate to mix with the carrots, corn, cabbage, sliced potatoes and smashed potatoes. The corn, cabbage and carrots were definitely a frozen variety—hey, it was a pub not a four star restaurant—but the gravy on my plate masked the blandness of frozen veggies and intensified the texture.

Lamb roast dinner at an East End pub

The lamb chops were quite tender so they must have been roasted and simmered for quite a while. I decided to dip pieces of the lamb into the smashed potatoes and then into the pool of gravy—ah, delight! This was an incredibly satisfying bite of comfort food. The warm juicy lamb and the buttery smooth smashed potato blended well and melted in my mouth. We continued onto Cambridge happy folks full of food and drink.

A few nights later A.H.N.’s friend H.R. invited us over for a home-cooked roast dinner. It was a nice bird, a chicken with herbs. We opened the wine and started drinking right away (this seems to be characteristic of the Brits), well before the food was ready. We had a nice shiraz that A.H.N. and I had picked up at the local supermarket—I recall it went down very well, a smooth finish.

The chicken was lovely, it had that home-cooked flavor, the kind one can only get from a home oven and a busy life. No, it was not burnt…not at all. It was quite moist.

H.R. had cooked up something I had never seen or tasted before called "bread sauce". It's quite common in Britain, but I don't think it's common stateside. It looked, well, like white floaty stuff. But I liked the mixture of bread and cream; it was a homey sidedish to our bird, though looking back it must have been a caloric/fat nightmare for my body.

For his conclusion, H.R. made us 'Banoffee Pie'. Again, I had never had it before. It seems to be a very Brit dish, a pudding dessert made of biscuits (or crackers) and butter for the base and caramel, bananas and cream layered on top. Having bananas and caramel together fulfills the important three s's for a good dessert: sweet, soft and sticky.

The best thing about the whole dinner was that it was just wonderful being able to have a home-cooked meal amongst friends. The conversation, always helped along with “liquids”, is just as comforting as the food itself. I had such a great time talking, eating, talking, laughing at good jokes, bad jokes and the like.

Throughout the whole meal I kept thinking and wishing to have long roast dinners back in America. It’s one of those cultural traditions I wish I can take back with me and incorporate it into my own life. But I think life in New York isn’t very conducive for taking out the time and enjoying a long meal with friends.

To the British roast dinner, here’s a Rose salute. Like the Beatles, punk rock and Simon Cowell, I hope you come stateside.

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Champagne dreams…

Being slightly food-obsessed (heck, I have a food blog, right?), I tend to have moments of nostalgia: memories of incredible food or drink. One of the most recent was a bottle of Billecart Salmon Rosè (champagne) that I shared with A.H.N. at Fifteen in London. It was the meal to top off all the meals I had had during my ten-day jaunt in the UK.

No doubt the multi course meal was a well earned treat for my palette, but it was this champagne that A.H.N. picked off the wine list that still lingers in my mind. He had guaranteed that I would love this bubbly and he was so right.

I still remember the tingling of the bubbles in my mouth and the light touch it left on my tongue. As a rosè it was not quite as sharp as other champagne I’ve tasted, which made it a great compliment to the delicate flavors of our dishes.

I must admit that this champagne left such an impression on me (and my tongue) that occasionally it pops up in my dreams (yes, I dream about food and wine, doesn’t everyone?). I hope soon enough I can find another occasion to once more order a bottle…or two.

Ah, bubbly dreams…

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Another day in Taipei and another typhoon…

So I sit here on my aunt’s couch with not much to do and a typhoon (#2 for the summer) blowing hard against the windows (scary, scary wind). Okay, I’m fudging just a bit. There is a lot for me to do (I have an essay on the Chinese Communist government system that I have yet to start), but for now I’m procrastinating…like usual.

Last night I walked through the apartment door drenched from a sudden typhoon downpour and what do I see? There's my aunt having the LAST of the milk I bought the other day. So, of course, I had no milk to eat with my cereal this morning. Sure, you’re thinking, “Oh, little Rose, stop complaining, it’s not that bad, at least you have other food and a dry place to sleep.” Yes, true, I shouldn’t complain, but it got me thinking that I really do love my milk and cereal in the morning. It’s just one of those meals that I look forward to most everyday. It’s one of my food rituals. Even with all the different chinese breakfast foods available here in Taiwan, I always make sure I have cereal at my aunt’s place.

At home in New York, I often buy two or three cartons of Cheerios from Costco at a time—and that’s just a 2 month supply for me (I live by myself, too). I’m particularly fond of having fresh berries with my Cheerios. I love blueberries, but as a student it can be prohibitively expensive to get them all the time. So I suffer a bit and add chopped strawberries instead. I haven’t been able to find plain Cheerios here in Taipei, so I’ve opted for Kellog’s Cornflakes. For me there’s something so comforting about a big bowl of cereal and milk. I haven't come across fresh berries (or at least ones that look edible), so I've been adding dried cranberries as a substitute. I love the crunch of cornflakes, the creaminess of the milk and the sweet tart flavor of the cranberries. This is going to sound like a television commercial, but it just jumpstarts my day.

So today I wake up with no milk and pretty much nothing but Korean 方便麵 (pronounced: fangbian mian)--instant noodles to eat. Granted, my aunt was a bit creative and cooked them with onions and eggs. And for what it’s worth it was decently tasty. But nothing beats cornflakes and milk for a great morning start.

Korean fangbianmian/instant noodles with eggs and onions

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