Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hsinchu, Taiwan: Tien Hsiang Lo

We had a wonderful dinner at Tisen Hsiang Lo. The restaurant is on the second floor of the Landiss Inn, within walking distance of National Chiao Tung University.

The first dish of appetizers was Chengdu style.

Stuffed shrimp and noodles.

Our lamb chop was very tender, sauce was subtle addition to the meat without a wildly distinct flavor profile.p>

This soup reminded me of egg drop but included whole eggs as well.

The ducy was beautiful and very moist.

A selection of dim sum.

The steamed fish was perfect with moist, sweet flesh.

Some tender vegetables and noodles.

Dessert was tofu and almonds.

Of course, we ended the meal with fruit.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hsinchu, Taiwan: Vegetable Garden

My friend Steve has great taste in restaurants and he really enjoys showing off Taiwan's wonderful food. The Vegetable Garden is a top restaurant in Hsinchu and we enjoyed an amazing spread.

That is taro in the front of the picture. The green peppers were stuffed with eggplant as I recall. The smoked fish was very delicate and flavorful.

This dish is similar to Chinese tacos but much lighter---California version is usually more like mu shu pork. This version had shrimp and fried crullers for a nice crunch.

The omelet is stuffed with greens related to basil but with more of a licorice note---great combination of flavors. The pork was rich and savory.

We enjoyed a wonderful selection of fruit for dessert. Taiwan’s warm climate makes it ideal for tropical fruits.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

NRT: Bowl Bowl

Bowl Bowl is located in Terminal 2 of Tokyo's Narita airport. It is a fairly typical airport food line with a Japanese fast food menu.

Lots of matcha-based baked goods; I guess the matcha craze is even stronger in Japan than in the U. S. The Japanese also do a good job of cutlets and meat-on-a-stick.

Soup is comfort food so I ordered ramen. The broth was very salty but that is the Japanese style. The warm broth and soft noodles felt good after a long flight.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Arlington VA: Sichuan Wok

Sichuan Wok is ensconced in a small house in the middle of the high-rises of Ballston. Inside, the atmosphere is no-nonsense, order at the counter, a perfect place for a Chinese lunch on a busy work day.

Here is my kung pao tofu, which I thoroughly enjoyed. No peanuts, but the sauce was classic, with just enough heat to offset the sweetness. The coating on the tofu was very nicely done, beautifully crunchy (at least before the sauce had its ultimate effect) and perfectly seamless across the chunks of tofu. This was a big portion, fun and moderately healthy.

Arlington VA: Buzz

I was headed for a morning meeting at the Starbucks in Ballston Commons Mall when I saw that a wrecking crew was tearing down the entire mall. Hmmm, I don't think that Starbucks is open today...

I reconnoitered and found Buzz as an alternative location. It offers a wide range of baked goods ranging from traditional morning fare like muffins to the more radical cupcakes. No donuts, however. The d├ęcor is kitchy 70's.

I went with a croissant and coffee. The croissant was pretty good, the coffee very tasty. And it has plenty of table space for meetings.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fig Jam

I love figs. Their taste is just a little sweet and just a little earthy. I love their texture too, which doesn't translate well into jam. But even minus the texture, fig jam makes a wonderful treat in the dead of winter. This is the time of year to find fresh figs in the produce section and I always try to take advantage.

Here are the figs, some water, a little lemon juice, and the low-sugar pectin.

After cooking down the fruit for a few minutes, I added sugar. I brought the mixture back to a hard boil for one minute.

I loaded the cooked jam into jars and processed them in the pressure canner. They will join their canned fruit bretheren on the shelf to see daylight later this winter.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Corn Pudding

Corn pudding is one of those foods I had never heard of before I moved to Atlanta. It turns out to be a delightful side dish, basically a bread pudding made with cornbread and corn. Bread pudding is itself bread soaked in a custard and adorned with raisins.

Here is the start of the custard, in this case buttermilk (why not?) and eggs. This dish is traditionally spiced with cinnamon and I like a little nutmeg as well. I use only a small amount of added sugar; the cornbread itself contains some sugar.

I like to throw in the corn early to be sure that it mixes well.

And here is the complete dish ready to go into the oven. It is pretty darn dense and takes about an hour to bake. The result is hearty and just sweet enough. I also think that the texture of cornbread is more interesting than that of many other types of bread used for bread pudding. It freezes extremely well so I don't have to worry about making a large batch---I can enjoy it several more times.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Chamblee: I*CE*NY Ice Cream Rolls

I was interested in a break and a treat so I headed over to Buford Highway to try out I*CE*NY. The words "ice cream rolls" made me think about ice cream cake rolls. I should have realized that they actually serve hand-rolled ice cream off an anti-griddle. You order as a custom sundae: ice cream flavor, mixin, up to three toppings, and a sauce.

Here is my server starting to freeze the ice cream along with my mixin, in this case banana. She worked the ice cream until it was cold, then rolled it up very neatly.

And here is the result: chocolate ice cream, banana, coconut and strawberries, and caramel sauce. It was delicious and rich. It stayed cold for a long time too---I'm sure that spreading the ice cream so thin on the antigriddle helps to make it very solid. Just be careful for brain freeze...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

How Not To Make A Lattice Top Pie

I decided to top my latest pie with a lattice. My results in this domain have always been mediocre but this pie is the worst one so far. I started by violating two key rules. First, I started at the edges rather than the middle. Second, I started with strips in both directions; I should have laid down several in one direction, folded up alternate ones, then added the crossing strips.

This is the final result. A little sad, isn't it? Perfectly edible but sad. I am not a role model. Do not follow my example. If I ever manage to put together a presentable lattice top, I will let you know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lasagna

I haven’t made lasagna in awhile and sauce season was a perfect excuse to bake one. I haven’t used fresh pasta for lasagna in a very long time. I’m really glad that I did---I should go to the effort more often.

I rolled out the pasta and cooked it in two batches. I tried to use enough flour to keep the sheets from sticking to themselves without making them tough. I was moderately successful.

This is a three cheese lasagna with three layers of pasta. The bottom layer was ricotta and a little Parmesan; the top layer was mozzarella and a little more Parmesan. The top layer received a final dusting of Parmesan shavings just below the sauce.

Everything about this lasagna was delicate. The sauce was floral with tomato, carrots, celery, and onions. The fresh pasta nearly melted in my mouth. The cheese layers were thick enough to be hearty but not dense. And the best part is that I look forward to two or three more meals from this beautiful casserole.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tomato Sauce and Fresh Pasta

August means tomato sauce---I can my year's supply as the tomatoes come in. Did I miss the tomato season? The box of Roma tomatoes I bought was not local and the tomatoes were a little pale and firm.

p> I decided to use Marcella Hazan’s recipe for tomato sauce II. It includes onions, celery, and carrots. For very ripe tomatoes, I prefer straight tomatoes with a little onion. But I thought that this recipe, which I haven’t used in years, would be a good choice for these tomatoes and a nice change of pace. The sauce cooks pretty quickly, taking less than an hour. The mirepoix vegetables give it additional body and makes the water from the tomatoes less of an issue.

I broke up the ingredients using my stick blender. It isn’t as effective as a food mill but it works reasonably well. I enjoy the occasional piece of vegetable in my sauce for texture.

I wanted to eat a little right away so I tried a recipe from Chef Hazan’s cookbook that combines pasta, sauce, and fried eggplants. I coated some slices of tiny eggplant in cornmeal and fried them up.

For the pasta, I used a recipe from Serious Eats. It uses more egg than I am used to using and I was curious to see how it worked. Being in a lazy mood, I mixed it in the food processor rather than by hand. Continuing my streak of non-Italian-grandmother behavior, I rolled the pasta using the Kitchenaid. I cut it by hand in wide noodles, which gives me a little more control.

Once all the components were done, I assembled everything in a pan, giving the pasta a good stir to coat it with sauce.

I topped it off with some grated Parmesan. This was a superb dish---I am indebted to Chef Hazan. The eggplant gives the dish heft and nutrition; the cornmeal coating gives a bit of sweetness to contrast with the sauce. The sauce was superb with a garden taste that spoke of bounty. The fresh pasta was extremely tender and absorbed the flavors of the sauce.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse With A Side of Pie

Of course, I wasn't going to miss the total eclipse of the sun. I drove to Lavonia GA, fighting traffic the whole way, and made it with 10 minutes to spare. I found the perfect small town event. People stood and sat around the town square and the train station. Kids rode their bicycles expectantly around town. Dogs waited patiently for their masters. It slowly grew darker, then quickly.

And then it was dusk in the afternoon. The eastern sky glowed red like a sunset.

Two and a half minutes later, the sun returned. Hooray! The dragon that ate the sun has been vanquished! Time for some pie!

I headed to Dad's just off I-85. This is very much a small town restaurant as jack-of-all-trades. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is a simple affair of burgers, hot dogs, chili and---of course---pie. Many of the dishes were sold out thanks to the tourists who descended like locusts on the area. Luckily, the pie had escaped their reach.

I went for a slice of buttermilk pie, a single-crust custard pie made with buttermilk. It hit the spot: good filling, nice crust. That pie sustained me through the traffic back to Atlanta, a good finish to a memorable day.