Tiny Urban Tidbits #2

>>  Friday, April 30, 2010

Tiny Urban Tidbits is where I share with you some insights, "tidbits", or just random encounters from the week. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go, and I love capturing photos of interesting things that I discover. These may include new dishes from a restaurant that I've already reviewed, updates on what's going on locally, or encounters I've had in the kitchen. It could even include a beautiful sunset, a funny sign, or just stuff I find amusing. Think of it as snapshots (literally!) of my weekly experiences with food - intertwined with stories, of course.
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P1000151
Daniel, New York City

Top 50 Restaurants
San Pellegrino released their annual Top 50 Restaurants this past year.  Number 1 was Noma, a restaurant in Denmark, knocking E Bulli of Spain down to number 2.  Daniel, the highest climber, rose 33 to become 8th.  The French Laundry, the third largest drop, fell 20 slots down to 32.  The entire list can be found here.  A few days later, they released the "bottom 50", in other words, 51-100.

Here are my experiences at some of these restaurants. I do want to note that, out of all my amazing dining experiences this past year, I actually think Daniel was my favorite experience overall, so I'm not surprised that it's doing so well on this list.

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Soda Maker Winner

>>  Thursday, April 29, 2010

Soda Stream
Thank you all for participating in this Giveaway. It was SUPER helpful reading all of your comments about the blog. I really appreciated all the encouraging feedback, and the suggestions were GREAT! I am seriously going to start implementing some of them soon!

The winner of the Giveaway is . . . . #16 - Brit! Brit writes the blog Yuppish. Brit said, "I love the pictures, they're absolutely fabulous!"

Brit, please contact me so I can get the Soda Maker sent to you!

Thanks again everyone for participating.  I can't express how thankful I am for the constructive feedback and wonderfully encouraging comments you all left for me.  Thanks again,

Jen

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Formosa Taipei

Beef Noodle Soup
Why is it that Chinatowns tend to be Cantonese, and the Taiwanese/Northern Chinese restaurants always seems to be a bit further out?  OK, granted, I don't have that many data points.  I'm thinking of New York and Boston in particular.  In New York, the best Taiwanese food is definitely in Flushing, not in Chinatown.  Similarly, in Boston, the best Taiwanese food (with the exception of Taiwan Cafe), is also outside of the city.  My two favorites are basically in the burbs: Shangri La in Belmont and Chung Shin Yuan in Newton.  Even Jo Jo Taipei (Allston), Mulan (Cambridge), and Wisteria (Allston) are not in Chinatown.

More recently, some former members of the Jo Jo Taipei team left to open up a new restaurant in Lexington (another suburban Taiwanese spot!).  This location is literally a 5-minute drive from my church.  After church we are always looking for good places to eat in Lexington (and, honestly, there aren't that many), so we were excited to check this place out.

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Fiddleheads

>>  Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FiddleHeadViolin
I dusted off my violin last night for the first time in probably 2 years. I usually forget about it, but once every year or two, I am somehow inspired by something, or someone, to pick up my violin and start playing.  Usually, it's a beautiful violin performance that I've heard, or perhaps something that reminds me of an orchestral piece I used to play.

Last night, however, was quite different. I picked up my violin because I had bought fiddlehead ferns at the market just a few days before.  I was tickled how similarly the fiddleheads resembled an actual violin top.  Of course that's why they are called fiddleheads.  How cute, and how funny I never consciously thought about that before.

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Tango

>>  Monday, April 26, 2010

Tango Grilled meat
When the first page of a restaurant's menu is littered with phrases like "if there is a single food that represents Argentina, it is beef" and "Argentine beef is highly prized for its flavor and tenderness" you quickly realize they're trying (not so subtly) to tell you what to order.

Tango is, as far as I know, the only Argentinian restaurant in the Boston area.  They focus heavily on meat, and the menu is full of various grilled meat options.  Of course, there are traditional Argentinian appetizers too, as well as salads, pastas, and desserts.

We had the privilege of going with a friend who actually grew up in Argentina. It was great - he spoke Spanish with the owners, arranged to get a huge table for our party of 10 on a busy Saturday night, and ordered a bunch of traditional Argentinian dishes for us.

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Sparkling Blood Orange + GIVEAWAY!

>>  Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blood Orange Soda
Homemade Sparkling Water with a Splash of Blood Orange Juice

It's no secret that I love love love sparkling water.  I've been a huge fan of San Pellegrino, and I even had the amazing privilege this past year to attend the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chefs Competition in Napa Valley, where we learned a lot about mineral water, how it is made, and how it pairs with food!

More recently I found out about Sodastream, a company that sells a make-your-own-soda device from tap water. I was intrigued with this idea. Sodastream says that their sodas only cost 25 cents a liter (as opposed to > $1/Liter for most bottled seltzer water). The plain sparkling water is probably even cheaper.  Furthermore, you help the environment by reducing the number of plastic/glass bottles that you would otherwise be consuming.

Sodastream was kind enough to send me one of their soda-making devices to review.  Better yet, they are offering another one for me to give away to one of my readers!

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #1

>>  Friday, April 23, 2010

OceanaireBakedAlaska
Baked Alaska at the Oceanaire

I've decided to start a series called Tiny Urban Tidbits where I share with you some insights, "tidbits", or just random encounters from the week.  I carry my camera with me everywhere I go, and I love capturing photos of interesting things that I discover.  These may include new dishes from a restaurant that I've already reviewed, updates on what's going on locally, or encounters I've had in the kitchen.  It could even include a beautiful sunset, a funny sign, or just stuff I find amusing.  Think of it as snapshots (literally!) of my weekly experiences with food - intertwined with stories, of course.

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Teflon Pan Giveaway Winner!

Teflon Pan

The winner of the Teflon Pan Giveaway is . . .

randomgenerator

Ophelia from The House Poet!  Ophelia said

"Oh, what a great recipe and pan! :) I love eggs so much-- I think my favorite egg recipe would have to be an omelette with sharp cheese, green onions, and chicken apple sausage! I would definitely be making those with that pan!"
Congratulations Ophelia!  Please e-mail me your shipping address and I'll have Teflon send you your pan right away.
Tamayaki
Enjoy those eggs!

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Hei La Moon

>>  Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shrimp and Leek Dumplings
I grew up in northwestern Ohio, where there really wasn't much Chinese food available. At most, we had our share of not-so-authentic Chinese buffets and Chinese take-out joints. In fact, my resourceful mom learned how to make all sorts of Chinese/Taiwanese specialties from scratch at home because she had no access to these dishes locally.

One of my favorite food memories growing up was our road trips to Windsor, Canada. Only an hour's drive away, Windsor was a totally different world.  Windsor was filled with Chinese food. Chinese dim sum, Chinese supermarkets, Chinese bakeries. Dim sum was always a treat, and such a fun experience for a kid!  Imagine it: waitresses pushing around carts full of delectable steamed buns, shrimp dumplings, and fried taro balls.  The excitement of being able to pick what you wanted to eat from the cart.  And every single dish being so delicious, so much better than anything we could get in northwestern Ohio. Oh, I loved it. We always finished with a stop to a Chinese grocery store, and of course, the Chinese bakery.

Going to Hei La Moon this weekend totally brought back those memories. You definitely get the authentic experience at Hei La Moon, complete with the big round tables, harried waitresses pushing carts around, and a sea full of Chinese people.

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Oven Baked Taro Chips

>>  Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taro Chips
If you haven't noticed by now, I've been having tons of fun making all sorts of chips in the oven. From simple oven baked sweet potato chips to more exotic kale chips and sunchoke chips, I'm starting to think there's no limit to what you can bake as chips!

I happened to be Chinatown this past weekend, so I stopped by the Asian grocery store.  I love taro in so many things, so it was not hard to decide to pick one up. Of course, deciding to make chips took no stretch of the imagination.  Unlike sunchoke chips (which I just sort of made up off the top of my head), taro chips are actually marketed and sold. Those chips are fried though, so maybe there's some novelty to this recipe?

In any event, these chips are crunchy with a mild distinctive taro flavor.  Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on top, and you won't be able to stop eating them.

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Tamagoyaki (Japanese Omelet) + Giveaway!

>>  Monday, April 19, 2010

Tamayaki
I love sushi, and those who know me know that I typically shun most "cooked" sushi, opting instead for beautiful cuts of raw fish.  There are a few exceptions that I make, and tamagoyaki is one of them.  For some reason, I love the simple, slightly sweet, slightly savory taste of this Japanese omelet.

In Japan, they sell square pans for making these omelets.  I wondered whether I could make it at home with a normal non-stick pan.  Coincidentally, the folks at Teflon contacted me and asked whether I would like to test out one of their new non-stick pans.  According to the Teflon spokesperson, Teflon has been doing a lot of research the past few years, and the new coating is much more durable and will not flake off over time, unlike the previous generation of pans.  This particular pan is made with Teflon Platinum, Teflon's most scratch resistant coating to date.  There is an added midcoat technology that protects the surface from being scratched. You can actually use metal utensils on these pans! Better yet, they offered to give one away to a lucky Tiny Urban Kitchen reader (details at the end of the post).

Of course, since my own non-stick pans did not really work anymore (they stick dismally to eggs!), I agreed to test this pan and also conduct a giveaway.  What a great way to try out my tamagoyaki recipe at home!

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Olives

Olives
The other day Bryan and I were chatting and wondering who was the most famous chef in Boston.  Boston has no shortage of local celebrity chefs, but we really wondered how many of them would be nationally recognized. We threw around a few names. Ming Tsai.  Ken Oringer.  Joanne Chang.  Todd English.  Or maybe Jody Adam and Ana Sortum, contestants in most recent Top Chef Masters.

After only a few minutes, we decided it was a toss up between Ming Tsai and Todd English.

Todd English has had questionable press lately. Between the tabloids pouncing on his failed engagement to foodies accusing him of being a sellout, things have not been the most pleasant for this once extremely popular and well-respected chef.

We wondered how true the rumors were about his once acclaimed restaurant - the one that brought him to fame.  Is it really past its heyday?  Is the food still as amazing as it once was?

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Per Se

>>  Friday, April 16, 2010

Per Se
It's an oasis at the top of the Time Warner building. Down below, it's chaotic. Yellow taxis circle frantically around Columbus Circle dropping off harried guests. Pedestrians with a purpose walk quickly toward their destinations, while cars honk their horns impatiently.

It sort of looks like this.
Time Warner Building
But up here, it's quiet, relaxing, and sort of zen, almost.
Per Se
Welcome to Per Se, Thomas Keller's flagship restaurant in New York.  After having tried his West Coast flagship restaurant a month ago, we were curious what his other establishment would be like.  In many ways, the two restaurants are like night and day: east coast versus west coast; rustic cottage versus urban skyscraper; backyard vegetable garden versus international import hub.

And yet there are obvious similarities as well: impossible reservations, unique spaces, fresh and inventive high dining, three Michelin stars apiece, and, of course, one renowned chef.

For this meal, we did something a little different.  I ordered the Tasting of Vegetables, while Bryan got the classic Chef's Tasting.  Accordingly, there will be double the pictures compared to normal.  Please join my as  I take you on a photo journey of our exquisite meal at Per Se.

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Morimoto

>>  Thursday, April 15, 2010

Morimoto-1

Masaharu Morimoto.

An original Iron Chef from the hit Japanese show.  Trained in Hiroshima, both as a sushi chef and also as a kaiseki expert (fancy Japanese multi-course set menu experience).  Worked as the head chef at Nobu before opening his own restaurant, Morimoto, in Philadelphia in 2001.  And in 2006, opened a second one in New York, right in the Chelsea Market building (which, by the way, is a destination in and of itself for any food enthusiast who loves to explore interesting food markets).

Of course, we opted for the omakase ($120), the best way to experience this Iron Chef's creative energy.

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Waldorf Astoria

>>  Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Waldorf Astoria lobby
The Waldorf Astoria hotel is one of the most famous and well known hotels in Manhattan.  This luxury hotel sits right on Park Avenue in Midtown, and is rich full of history. When in opened in its current location in 1931, it became the tallest building in New York.  The famous Waldorf salad was invented at the original hotel back in 1896 by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel (dining room manager).  This simple salad, which at the time only consisted of apple, celery and mayonnaise, became a huge hit.  It has transformed over time, and now typically contains walnuts as well.

Countless celebrities and dignitaries have stayed or lived at the Waldorf Astoria.  In fact, every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover has either stayed in or lived at the Waldorf's towers.  The presidential suite currently goes for $7000 a night. This one-of-a-kind suite is filled with items donated by past presidents - everything from Kennedy's rocking chair to Regan's gold oval mirror.  Can you imagine what it must be like to stay in that room?

Well, we didn't stay in that room, but we did actually get to stay at the Waldorf Astoria.  I had a wonderful privilege of attending a work event hosted at the Waldorf Astoria a few weeks back. It was a great opportunity to explore and experience this historically rich hotel.

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Joe's Shanghai

>>  Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pork Soup Dumplings
In Nanxiang, China over a century ago, legend says the soup dumpling made its humble entrance into the world. Next to a famous garden on the outskirts of Shanghai, a man started selling these precious soup-filled pouches in his shop.  Called a "xiao long bao" (which literally translates to little steamer buns), this unique soup dumpling caught on and soon found its way to downtown Shanghai.  In the past several decades, it has spread around the world.

This fervor reached Taiwan, which still houses my favorite soup dumpling place in the world. It also made its way to America (lucky for us!).  And thankfully, finally, it came to the East coast.  In the mid-nineties, the xiao long bao craze took off in New York, culminating in the opening of Joe's Shanghai in 1995.

This place quickly had a cult following, and it's easy to see why.  Their soup dumplings are very authentic, filled with hot, satisfying soup housed in delicate, thin, yet chewy skins.

Bryan and I had a chance to visit this iconic establishment during our last trip to New York for a quick, Saturday lunch.

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Smorgas Chef at Scandinavia House

>>  Sunday, April 11, 2010

SmorgasHouse-1
New York City is one of my favorite places to visit.  One reason I love New York is its diversity of restaurants.  You can probably eat the world in New York City, and most of it will probably be pretty authentic. On this particular short weekend jaunt, I was able to "travel" to Sweden, Japan, China, and France.

First Stop: "Scandinavia"
I had the privilege again of meeting up with several New York food bloggers for a pleasant lunch in midtown.  Andrea of High Low Food Drink was kind enough to make a reservation here for the rest of our party, Christine from Fresh, Local, and Best, Jessica from Food Mayhem, and a few non-food bloggers (Frank and Bryan).

Let me just start out by saying that my exposure to Scandinavian food is pretty rudimentary.  Sure, I've made gravlax before, and I once tried some meatballs at IKEA.  Other than that, unfortunately, my knowledge of Scandinavian food is embarrassingly nil.
Salmon, chive, eggs
NORWEGIAN SMOKED SALMON
Chive scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and sour cream on 8-grain bread $11

Smorgas Chef was a great introduction to this type of food.  The prices are very reasonable ($14.95 for a three-course lunch special); the space is bright, funky, and fun; and it's situated in a museum! The Scandinavia House,  a cultural center for Scandinavian countries, is a great place to explore and learn a bit more about Scandinavian culture.

But let's get on with the food first!

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The Big Apple

>>  Thursday, April 08, 2010

NYC Tulips
I always love going to New York City.  There are countless great museums, amazing shopping, wonderful neighborhoods, and of course, the food!  I had a great opportunity a few weeks back to visit one of my favorite cities again, this time for a work event.  Bryan and I decided to stay the weekend to soak in just a bit more of what the city has to offer.

Here's a sneak peek at some of the posts you will be seeing next week as part of this Big Apple mini-Series.

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Meyer Lemons

>>  Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Meyer Lemons
You'd have to be in a food blog coma if you haven't read at least one blog post about the Meyer lemon. Before I started this food blogging thing, I had never heard of this lemon before.  However, this past winter, it seemed like every other post was about the Meyer lemon.  People were making all sorts of dishes out of Meyer lemons: cakes, pies, chicken, ice cream, lemon curd . . . the list goes on and on.

I was really intrigued.  What is a Meyer Lemon?  And what makes it so special?

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The Upper Crust

>>  Monday, April 05, 2010

Upper Crust
The secret's in the dough. And they're not telling a soul about it.

My friend likes to play with pizza dough - to the point that she's gotten into the habit of asking for a bit of pizza dough to play with when she goes to pizza restaurants. Bertucci's sells their pizza dough, and will gladly give you a bit to play with.

Guess what? The dough at The Upper Crust is so proprietary they won't let it out of their sight. So my friend wasn't able to even get a sample.

This secret dough results in some pretty tasty pizzas.

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Homemade Granola

>>  Sunday, April 04, 2010

Granola
Making homemade granola is so easy, so basic, so flexible, I really am not sure why I'm even posting this "recipe."  Well, of course I'm sharing this recipe because this is a food blog, and I love sharing about my food experiments.  However, I also have a sneaking suspicious that there are at least some of you out there like me.

Like me in the sense that you love granola - have loved it for YEARS - yet never took the effort to try making it.  In my case, I think I never tried it because I thought it would be hard, or maybe I was too lazy to figure it out.

Well, let me tell you.  It's uber easy, super cheap, very flexible, and tastes so much better than "supermarket" granola.  Better yet, you control what you put in there, and you can ensure that the ingredients are free of preservatives, additives, nuts, and the like.

Making this took me a total of 30 minutes, with only 5 minutes prep time.  So easy and so good  . . .

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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