Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Get Your Juices Flowin.

There are moments. Moments where all is right with the world and especially moments where all is right in the kitchen. Last night was one of those precious moments (and I'm not talkin' about those cheesy figurines some of you collected back in the 80s, no offense to those who are still collecting). Most nights I have a plan for dinner and if not, I have some go-to items for those nights when cooking isn't realistic.

On Monday night, I made a pit-stop at Whole Foods to pick up a few veggies and fruits for the week. I tend to stay clear of packaged veggies but there was a pre-packaged container of stir fry veggies that caught my eye. Chunks of portabella and crimini mushrooms, leeks, napa cabbage, ginger, and bok choy. I was caught up in the "moment" and figured what the hell....I'll give it a whirl. I decided to make a stir fry of these veggies and for the main course I was going to make a piece of halibut (which I purchased from my favorite butcher/fishmonger, McCall's).

So last night was D-day. Earlier in the day, instead of working, I was day dreaming about how to prepare the halibut. I came up with a lemon panko crusted halibut. Added lemon zest, salt and pepper to some panko bread crumbs. Made a egg eash and a plate with all-purpose flour. Three steps - put fish in egg wash, then flour, then panko bread crumbs mixture. I seared the piece of fish in some olive oil before finishing it off in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

My biggest dilemma was a sauce for the stir-fried veggies. I would not be satisfied with soy sauce alone. So I made a little concoction while the veggies were cookin' and the halibut was roasting. The concoction consisted of chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili paste in soybean oil. I didn't measure, I just played around with amounts and found the perfect consistency (but if I were to guess-timate, I would say, 1 tbs. chili garlic sauce, 1/2 tsp. sesame oil, 1/2 tbs. soy sauce, 1 tbs. chili paste in soybean oil). About two mintes before I took the halibut out, I tossed this concoction with the veggies and let it simmer. Squeezed some lemon juice over the fish and the meal was complete. Sweet victory!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just Golden.

Last weekend, a bunch of friends went up to Big Bear Lake for a mini getaway. Because of work schedules and the volume of food we were bringing, we ended up taking separate cars to mountains. My pal, Richard and I, made a pit stop at Jonathan Gold's beloved Golden Deli in Alhambra. Hey, we had to kill some time avoiding nasty traffic and what better way then to have a lil' foodie adventure on the way?!?!?

Golden Deli has been on my list for quite some time now. Richard has mentioned it numerous times to all of us and Gold of the L.A. Weekly swears that Golden Deli has the best Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I'm a huge fan of pho and Vietnamese spring rolls, so I was really looking forward to trying this place out.

It's a hole-in-the-wall in a small strip mall and from what Richard was telling me, it's always packed. There's always a line, but for whatever reason we summoned the foodie gods and were able to get a table quickly. It was hustling in there, everyone was intent and focused on their menus and dishes. This isn't a place you screw around, you are there for the food and everyone knows it.

Richard suggested I try their fried pork with steamed rice and this scallion compote. I was game. The fried pork with short-grain steamed rice was tantalizing. Crispy, peppery without feeling heavy in your tummy, I could've devoured all of that pork. The perfect ratio of fat to meat, topped with a compote of scallions - it brightening the pork and your tastebuds.

I had to order a traditional bowl of pho and of course, the spring rolls. Piping hot, crunchy, delicate rolls, stuffed with pork, pepper, and julienned vegetables. One could eat the rolls all by themselves alongside that not-so-powerful fish sauce for dipping or swimming, whatever you prefer. Wrapped in a piece of lettuce with bean sprouts, cucumber, mint and basil, these rolls are worth living and dying for. If you forced me to only order one thing at Golden Deli, it would have to be the spring rolls. They are addictive in every sense of the word.

Pho is a tricky dish, you either love it or you don't. I can't use that four-letter "h" word because my feelings for pho are quiet the contrary. The beef based broth simmers with flavors of anise and other warm spices and the rice noodles swimming in this complex broth are as happy as can be. In terms of protein, your options are plentiful, however, I went a fairly traditional route and had the rare beef and tendon. Paper thin slices of beef garnish the top of your bowl of pho, immediately forcing you to swirl the meat around in the broth so that is properly cooks. A plate full of various condiments and toppings is always served with pho. Each pho joint may do things a lil' different, but the essentials include, sliced onion, jalapeno, lime, bean sprout, basil and mint. It's your choice, add a few tablespoons of hoisin or chili paste too, if you want to kick it up a notch. There isn't one way to do pho, unlike Burger King, YOU CAN HAVE IT YOUR WAY! I've been told pho is the great cure for a hangover, Lord, knows it definitely hits the spot on a rainy day or if you've got the sniffles. Pho is an ironic dish, it's simple and complex.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Portland: Pratically Perfect in Every Way.

Two weekends ago, I took a jet plane to Portland - met my mom there for a glorious and jam packed weekend and the main purpose was to attend the 2010 Zine Symposium. Portland is a hub of zinesters and aficionados when it comes to all things, zines, do-it-yourself publications and independent publishing. For more info on what a zine is, click here and for a mini tutorial, click here.

Mom and I had a grand plan from the time she picked me up at PDX until she dropped me off Sunday night. The first plan of attack was heading to Powell's Bookstore, downtown Portland. Powell's is a book lover's paradise, it covers several blocks of downtown Portland and there are color-coded rooms where various sections live. Of course, I was hunkered down in the cooking section, which was so well-stocked, it blew my mind.

My friends, Pete and Sarah, Portland ex pats (only for a temporary time though, they will return one day), recommended several restaurants, including The Farm Cafe where we dined Friday night. Farm Cafe is quaint home converted into a charming, cozy restaurant. Local, sustainable and carefully selected ingredients are worshipped and adored at this highly praised restaurant. It continues to win the hearts of locals and boasts a number of accolades. Mom had the pleasure of dining here last summer with some gal pals (thanks again to Pete and Sarah for the suggestion) and she ordered the pan crusted tofu with caramelized onions, mushrooms and mashed potatoes. As if that isn't enough to make your tummy happy, it's all surrounded by a sweet marsala sauce. We also shared an appetizer of halibut fish cakes that were served with a sundried tomato aioli. We could've eaten these alone for dinner and I would've been satisfied. I was torn between several dishes on the menu, but the call of goat cheese ravioli was too overwhelming to pass up, so I succumbed like an alcoholic. Mom and I shared the blueberry and peach cobbler for dessert, and left the Farm Cafe in quite a deliriously happy state.

Saturday marked the beginning of the Zine Symposium which was located at Portland State University (also located downtown) and lucky for us, the gym was a hop skip and a jump from the Saturday Farmer's Market which is held at the university every Saturday. Your eyes would pop out of your head at all the farmers and various of foodie vendors. Hypothetically, one could do all of their grocery shopping here at the market - flowers, cheese, bread, oils, jams, pickles, veggies, fruit, seafood, poultry...the list goes on and on. In addition, there are some amazing breakfast/lunch options while buying some groceries at the market. I had a homemade artichoke heart and cotija stuffed tamale and my mom had a savory french crepe stuffed with cheese and grilled veggies. When visiting another city, I always try to stroll through their local farmer's market, if they have one, it says so much about the city and gives me an excuse to take tons of great photos!

The Laughing Planet Cafe is a eclectic cafe that serves healthy quesadillas, burritos, tacos, bowls, other words, the works! Funky and electrically painted and decorated, this cafe automatically puts you in a good mood with their friendly staff and rockin 70s tunes. I had a yummy chicken burrito filled to the max with grilled veggies and my mom ordered a quesadilla stuffed with tons of veggies too. The trio of salsas each brought a unique aspect to each bite and neither of us felt "guilty" about eating our meals. We even sat outside on a picnic bench and enjoyed the cool weather as we dined and caught up on life and all we experienced at the first day of the Zine Symposium.

No trip to Portland would be complete without a pit stop at two of Portland's most famous places - Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Voodoo Doughnuts. Stumptown to Portland is what Intelligentsia and LA Mill is to Los Angeles, a coffee connoisseur's haven. Urban hipsters unite for good coffee, mellow vibes and hanging out at Stumptown, and of course a cup of java that will blow your mind. Now Voodoo Doughnuts is a very special place too, open 24 hours, this sugar fix joint thrives on its delicious donuts but also on its quirky menu, including donuts topped with your favorite childhood cereal and "adult themed" donuts for your wedding or bachelor parties (I kid you not). Voodoo has been featured on Man vs. Food and several other foodie t.v. programs. No wonder we waited 30 minutes for a donut, but the wait was absolutely worth it!

There were so many other wonderful memories, my mom and I shared while in Portland, this city is a very special place on so many levels and I can see why people choose it as a home base. It's beautiful with trees, trees and more trees, the river is close. Portland is a hub of culture, creativity and diversity. Magical place, it really is and I can't wait to go back someday.