Atasca

>>  Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I am currently in China right now and will be there for one more week. This is the third of several posts that I had prepared beforehand for when I was away. Please understand that during this time my response to comments / e-mails / etc. will be slower than normal. Finally, if you are so inclined, you can vote for me here for Project Food Blog round 2.

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It seems like virtually the entire staff at my building is Portuguese. The head concierge,
other security staff, the live-in superintendent . . . . It's one of those family things.  One refers another, and pretty soon they are all working at my building.

I absolutely love it. During our annual holiday party, one of them always makes this fantastic Portuguese dessert. They will also cater all sorts of cool Portuguese dishes, such as linguica, salt cod potatoes, and my all time favorite, pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts - sooo good!).

Not only that, since I live in Cambridge, I happen to live steps away from one of the densest Portuguese areas in the city. Towards Inman Square and East Cambridge, there are countless Portuguese restaurants (Casa Portugal, Sunset Cafe, Portugalia, just to name a few) and markets as well (Courthouse Seafood, Casal Bakery). There's even a Portuguese Credit Union, and the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers in the area.

I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring this section of town.

However, there is one place that we frequent regularly, a place that even our Portuguese staff will acknowledge is one of the best.

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Project Food Blog - Round 2 Voting is Open!

>>  Monday, September 27, 2010

Kaddo Bourani
Just wanted to announce that voting is open for Project Food Blog! My entry is here.

Project Food Blog is a contest held by Foodbuzz seeking out the next "Food Blog Star." Over 1800 contestants have entered for a chance to blog their way through a series of challenges. With each round, about half of the contestants get eliminated. We are now in round two, where 400 contestants are narrowed down to 200!

Anyways, if you have a chance, please vote for me by clicking here.

In other news, I've spent a little over a week in China and have one more week to go. I am having a great time here. So much amazing food and culture! I can't wait to share it with you all. We've taken tons of photos and have seems some pretty incredible stuff!

Off to the World Expo . . .

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Project Food Blog:The Classics - Kaddo Bourani

>>  Sunday, September 26, 2010

sugar pumpkin with bag
“Are you more Chinese or American?”

My American friends in Beijing and I laughed as we reminisced about this all-too-familiar phrase my dad loved to ask while we were growing up. Every time he stumbled upon an “ABC” (American-born Chinese), that question would invariably emerge in some form or another.

I never knew exactly how to answer. I grew up with immigrant Taiwanese parents who cooked Asian food, held Asian values, and spoke Chinese at home. On the other hand, I went to American schools my entire life and I’ve never lived outside the U.S.

I’m in China right now on a whirlwind two week trip that Bryan and I had planned months and months ago. It’s my first time here, and the experience has been nothing short of fascinating.
Peeling Pumpkin
People look at us and assume we speak perfect Chinese (we don’t) and then they are tickled when they find out that we are actually Americans. One taxi driver was impressed that I spoke decent Chinese yet thought it was funny that Bryan was basically mute in China. The woman at the spa even dared ask me who I would support if the two countries went to war (I quickly steered the conversation away from that topic!!)

Not only am I culturally Chinese/Taiwanese and American, I also studied French and Japanese in school, spending time in both countries as part of school exchange programs. Furthermore, my sister married a Korean, and I had many Indian friends in high school.

Having been exposed to such a wide variety of cultures, I found this next Project Food Blog challenge (create a classic dish outside your comfort zone) a bit more challenging.

What culture and cuisine is totally foreign to me? What would be outside my comfort zone?

And then it hit me.

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Easy Homemade Basil Pesto (Tomato Pesto Papardelle)

>>  Friday, September 24, 2010

I am currently in China right now and will be there for the next two weeks. This is the second of several posts that I had prepared beforehand for when I was away. Please understand that during this time my response to comments / e-mails / etc. will be slower than normal. Finally, if you are so inclined, you can vote for me here for Project Food Blog.

Basil and Pine Nuts
What does everyone do when they have too much basil? Make pesto, of course.

For some reason, I never did this, and instead always (sadly) let my basil rot before I could finish using it.

This summer I learned an awesome trick from the weekly newsletter that I get from my farm share. The best way to preserve basil is to keep it in a glass of water at room temperature. It will last for a week or two like this! Granted, the basil we get still have their roots on, so they are still alive and thus can live easily like this. I doubt this would work for supermarket packaged or cut basil.

Despite being able to save the basil, I still accumulated TONS of basil that I could not use, so finally I decided it was time for me to learn how to make pesto.

This is probably review for most of you, but I'm willing to bet there's at least some of you out there who have still not tried this. I mean, I've been cooking for over a decade, and it wasn't until this summer that I finally sat down and tried making my own pesto.

And you know what? It really is just as easy as it sounds.

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Lord Hobo

>>  Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I am currently in China right now and will be there for the next two weeks. This is the first of several posts that I had prepared beforehand for when I was away. Please understand that during this time my response to comments / e-mails / etc. will be slower than normal. Finally, if you are so inclined, you can vote for me here for Project Food Blog.
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40 microbrews? Hard to find beers from around the world?

Owner Daniel Lanigan is no stranger to this beer business, having run two "cult beer bars" in Amherst and Northampton. The last time I had encountered such a diversity of craft beers was probably at Granville Moore's in Washington D.C.

Bryan and I finally got a chance to check out Lord Hobo (which took over the old B-side Lounge in East Cambridge) this past weekend. I had heard great things about it, so I was anxious to see if it lived up to the hype.

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Project Food Blog Voting is Open!

>>  Monday, September 20, 2010

JenEating1
Just wanted to announce that voting is open for Project Food Blog! My entry is here.

In a nutshell, Project Food Blog is a contest held by Foodbuzz seeking out the next "Food Blog Star." Over 1800 contestants have entered for a chance to blog their way through a series of challenges. With each round, about half of the contestants get eliminated. The first round is pretty brutal though, as these 1800 are cut down to 400!

Anyways, if you have a chance, please vote for me by clicking here.

In other exciting news, I am about to leave for China (I will have arrived by the time this publishes!)! I'm sitting in the airport lounge at O'Hare right now (yay for husbands who are million milers and can get me access to these fancy flagship lounges complete with free internet, free food, and a free cocktail bar!)

Unfortunately, China chose to ban Blogger access not too long ago, which is what I use to run Tiny Urban Kitchen. Accordingly, you will likely not see too much response from me when you comment. I'm not even sure if I will be able to follow anything that's going on here!

Anyway, I think I'll still be able to find ways to update the blog, but it may not be as refined as normal!

So, I've prepared a few posts for you guys to enjoy while I am gone. Other than that, I'll "see" you when I get back from China!

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Project Food Blog: Ready, Set, Blog!

>>  Friday, September 17, 2010

JenEating2
I am restless by nature. I love trying new things, I love learning, and I’m always looking to see what to do next. As a child, I never stuck with one activity for too long – one week watercolors, the next week writing and recording 80’s style pop songs.

I think at the core, I am still very much the same person today.

After graduating from law school in 2007 (a grueling 3 ½ years in which I worked all day, went to school at night, and didn’t have time for much else), I felt free! Free to finally try tons of different things!

My list of things to try was predictably ambitious, with activities ranging from “taking an art class” to “running a 10k.” Buried in the middle of that list somewhere was “start a food blog.”

Consistent with my personality, I didn’t stick with anything for a long time. I dabbled in an acting class before switching to oil painting. I learned Brazilian capoeira and stuck with it for about 6 months. Most recently, I became obsessed with sewing, churning out handbag after handbag. Alas, that only lasted 3 months before a trip to Japan cut that momentum short.

In the background during this whole time, my tiny little personal food blog, “jglee’s food musings,” silently hummed along. Unlike all those other activities, this one stuck.

I registered tinyurbankitchen.com in September of 2009 when I decided to “go public” with the blog (happy 1-year birthday!) . I signed on with Foodbuzz and began interacting with other food bloggers on the blogosphere. I recently renewed my URL for another 5 years. Clearly, Tiny Urban Kitchen isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Why do I have the passion and stamina to passionately pursue this "hobby" while I inevitably lose interest in most other things? What makes this blog so unique? What defines this blog?

After some soul searching, here’s what I came up with . . .

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Saucy Mama Giveaway Winner

Saucy Mama
Congratulations to Biz from My Bizzy Kitchen who wins the 6-pack of sauces from Saucy Mama.

Biz said,

"Have a safe trip! Oh my gosh, I bet the food in China is amazing - any noodle soup dish would work for me - as long as its spicy!

Oh, and I want that lime chipotle sauce, so pick me! :D"

Guess what Biz? You're going to get the lime chipotle sauce plus 5 other bottles!

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Biz, please e-mail me at jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com and send me your address so I can ship you the sauces! I'll be in China the next two weeks so I won't be able to send you the sauces until early October - but I promise you will get them!

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Spicy Potato Bacon Bites + Giveaway

>>  Thursday, September 16, 2010

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It's been a long week.

I an in the midst of preparing for my trip to China this Friday (!!). I've never been to China, so I'm super excited about the trip. However, that also means that things have been absolutely crazy around here as I wrap up stuff for work, church, and Tiny Urban Kitchen.

So here I am, past midnight, finally writing the post about this giveaway that I've been planning on hosting for awhile. I really should go to bed, as the cough is still lingering. Thankfully, the doctor gave me some cough medicine with codeine, so I think I'll have no trouble sleeping tonight. ;)

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Golden Garden

>>  Monday, September 13, 2010

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If you were to take a random person off the street in the U.S. and ask him what Chinese food was, you'd be lucky if he knew the difference between Cantonese and Sichuan food. I would be even more impressed if he knew what Taiwanese food was, or Hunan food.

And then, what if you asked him about Dongbei food?

Dong what???

Donbei literally means "East North" in Chinese, and refers to the area of China that was once Manchuria. A region surrounded by Mongolia to the west, Russia to the north, and Korea to the east, Donbei is far from famous when it comes to food. In fact, many Chinese southerners actually look down upon Dongbei cuisine, regarding it as more simplistic - less refined, if you will.

Defining characteristics of this cuisine would include dumplings, steamed buns of all sorts, potatoes (often stir-fried with vinegar), and lamb. They eat all parts of an animal, and it's not rare to see various types of offal on the menu. Cumin is heavily featured. Surprisingly, rice is rare, a luxury only enjoyed during the holidays. This is partly due to the poverty in the region - most rice is exported to richer areas of China. Instead, the staple is typically a combination of steamed bread (mantou), noodles, and potatoes.

I was thrilled to stumble upon an authentic Dongbei restaurant in Belmont (less than a mile from Cambridge) this past weekend. This place is the real deal. The owners ran a restaurant in China for 10 years before moving to the U.S. The food is decidedly authentic, and very tasty. Here's what we got.

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48 hour Sous Vide Short Ribs (Momofuku)

>>  Sunday, September 12, 2010

momofuku 48 hour sous vide short ribs
This post is part of a larger post titled Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style. In that post, I created a 3-course dinner showcasing the sous vide technique on a variety of cuisines. These short ribs were the "Korean" portion of that meal.


I decided to pick this dish for my third entree in my crazy sous vide filled dinner for a few reasons. First, I wanted to challenge myself by trying to make dishes that come from well-known, well-respected chefs. Second, I wanted to choose dishes that spanned several different cultures.

Thus, I was thrilled to find a sous vide recipe in David Chang's new book, Momofuku.  Perfect! Not only is David Chang;s Momofuku empire one of the hottest out there right now, his food is Asian, which is different from most of the French things you see in the sous vide world.

This interesting dish is David Chang's modern take on kalbi, a traditional Korean marinated shortribs dish.

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(Deconstructed) Spaghetti Carbonara with Sous Vide Egg

>>  Thursday, September 09, 2010

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This post is part of a larger post titled Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style. In that post, I created a 3-course dinner showcasing the sous vide technique on a variety of cuisines. This carbonara was the "Italian" portion of that meal.

There's something really magical about the sous vide egg. It's creamy, soft, and has the most unique custardy texture. You could seriously just enjoy it with a touch of sea salt and truffle oil and call it a day.

Or you can add it to any dish that is based on an egg sauce.

In this twist on the traditional spaghetti carbonara, you toss pasta with bacon fat, cheese, white wine, and parsley and then drop a sous vide egg on top - especially fun for those who love to break up runny yolks and mix it with everything.

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Duck leg confit, Pomme Sarladaise, Fried Hen Egg, and Frisee Salad

Confit duck leg frisee salad
This post is part of a larger post titled Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style. In that post, I created a 3-course dinner showcasing the sous vide technique on a variety of cuisines. This duck confit salad was the "French" portion of that meal.

The problem with only having professional cookbooks at your disposal when you are exploring a new, relatively unused home cooking technique is that the recipes you encounter will inevitably be geared towards a restaurant kitchen.

I'm not sure WHAT I was thinking when I decided to propose making a complete meal using sous vide. Not only that, but a complete meal using recipes from the likes of Michelin starred chefs, like Thomas Keller and  David Chang.

I should have known it would be challenging.

I tried picking the easiest recipe out of Thomas Keller's book, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, and still this recipe was by far the most complicated, step-intensive, and messy recipe.

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Duck Leg Confit (sous vide)

Confit duck leg frisee salad
This post is part of a larger post titled Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style. In that post, I created a 3-course dinner showcasing the sous vide technique on a variety of cuisines. This duck confit was one component in the duck confit salad, the French part of the meal.


Traditional duck confit is a pain to make because you need so much duck fat. Essentially, you are cooking the duck in its own fat. In order to really achieve this, you need enough fat so that duck meat can be submerged all the way. I watched one instructional video where the chef literally had over a quart of fat just for half a duck and a duck leg. It was crazy.

A great advantage of using sous vide to make duck confit is that you can drastically reduce the amount of duck fat you need. You can still cover the entire piece of meat much less fat inside a sous vide bag.

This recipe (from Thomas Keller) makes a flavorful and tender duck leg. It works great as an add-on to the tart frisee salad that typically accompanies this dish.

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Frisee Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

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This post is part of a larger post titled Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style. In that post, I created a 3-course dinner showcasing the sous vide technique on a variety of cuisines. This frisee salad was one component in the duck confit salad, the French part of the meal.


I have always wondered how restaurants were able to get such a fragrant dressing flavor that I could never recreate. It wasn't until I tried out Thomas Keller's Frisee Salad recipe (as part of a larger recipe for a whole Duck Confit Salad), that I realized the secret ingredient.

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Duck Fat Fried Potatoes ( Pomme Sarladaise) Sous vide

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This post is part of a larger post titled Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style. In that post, I created a 3-course dinner showcasing the sous vide technique on a variety of cuisines. These potatoes (pomme sarladaise) was a component in the duck confit salad, the French part of the meal.

When you usually read articles about sous vide, you probably hear authors extolling sous vide's wonderful abilities to make a perfectly rare steak or a beautifully soft short rib. Less often do you hear about people using sous vide to cook vegetables.

Yet sous vide is often used in high-end restaurants, and Thomas Keller uses it extensively both at  per se and The French Laundry.


Here, potatoes are cooked sous vide in duck fat. This method reduces the sheer volume of duck fat that needs to be used in order to fully coat the potatoes. Furthermore, excess cooking won't cause the potatoes to become too mushy and lose their shape.

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Egg Tempura (deep fried 5-minute egg)

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This post is part of a larger post titled Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style. In that post, I created a 3-course dinner showcasing the sous vide technique on a variety of cuisines. This fried hen egg was one component in the duck confit salad, the French part of the meal.

Oh my goodness - have you every had a deep fried egg? The kind where, when you cut it open, the yolk still oozes out?

I finally challenged myself this weekend by attempting a recipe from Thomas Keller's Under Pressure, a book dedicated to the art of sous vide. This beautiful coffee-table ready book provides sous vide recipes from his two restaurants, per se and The French Laundry.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I proposed attempting such a feat (especially in this tiny kitchen). The fried egg was messy, difficult to handle, and made my kitchen look like a tornado hit it.

Ohhh . . but it was so worth it.

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Foodbuzz 24x24: Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide Style

>>  Tuesday, September 07, 2010

This special blog post today is sponsored by both Foodbuzz and Electrolux. Electrolux has committed $750,000 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and Foodbuzz is getting involved not only by sponsoring all the 24x24 posts, but also by donating a matching amount to the OCRF. 

Having spent my career working at companies that research cancer-fighting drugs, I find this cause  particularly close to my heart. I'm sure all of you know someone who has struggled with cancer and can agree that current treatments are far from satisfactory. Thanks so much to Foodbuzz and Electrolux for investing in this important cause.
FoodbuzzSept2424
Although cooking in a water bath has been a technique that’s been around since medieval times, it wasn’t until the 1970’s that sous vide, a method of cooking food under vacuum in precisely temperature-controlled water baths, was invented in France. It would not be adopted in the US until 2000, when Daniel Boulud learned this fascinating technique from French chef Gerard Bertholon.

With the recent popularity of food shows and celebrity chefs, this method has taken the cooking world by a storm. In fact, many fine dining establishments across America now use this technique.

Despite its popularity in restaurants, it has not really caught on at home. A quick search of Amazon.com only yielded a handful of books about sous vide cooking at home, three of which published within the last six months.
FoodSaver Salmon
"Sous vide" literally means "under vacuum" in French. Sort of a misnomer, this method of cooking actually involves two parts. Food is first sealed under vacuum in a plastic bag and then cooked in a water bath set at a very precise temperature.

Sous vide cooking has a lot of interesting benefits. First, because you can precisely control the temperature of your water bath, you won't overcook your food. This is great for restaurant cooks who can't always predict exactly when something needs to be served. You can keep a steak at 130�° F (medium rare) for hours in that water bath and take it out to sear just moments before the guests arrive.

Second, this technique allows you to obtain textures of food you could not obtain with traditional cooking. I'll go into this more later, but a sous vide egg has an beautiful velvety creamy texture that is difficult to obtain with traditional methods. Likewise, you can cook shortribs at a low temperature for hours, softening it until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender yet still medium rare at the same time!

Finally, sous vide cooking, in many instances, allows you to reduce significantly the amount of cooking liquid you use. You can marinate with just a small amount marinade in the bag. Similarly, you can confit a piece of meat with just a small amount of fat, unlike the traditional method where you needed to submerge the entire piece of meat in a pot of melted fat.

You can rig your own sous-vide system with a magic cookerbeer cooler, or a cast iron pot. I've tried the magic cooker method, with great success. Alternatively, if you're not the tinkering type, you can use a professional unit, such as the SousVide Supreme
Sous Vide Supreme

An Exploration of Sous Vide Cooking Applied to Various Cuisines
Thanks to Foodbuzz, I was able to create a meal exploring sous vide through various cultures for this month's 24, 24. I decided to be ambitious and try using this method on a variety of different cuisines and different "classes" of restaurants.

First, we will look at traditional French cooking done in super high-end fashion as interpreted by Thomas Keller. This fancy take on the traditional French duck confit bistro salad, uses sous vide in several of the components. This is a recipe for a dish actually served at his flagship restaurants per se and The French Laundry.

Second, we will explore homestyle Italian cuisine. I have taken a traditional Italian recipe by Marcella Hazan for spaghetti carbonara but have "deconstructed" it by removing the eggs from the sauce. Instead, we will cook an egg sous vide and break it over the top during service.

Finally, we will look at Korean cuisine via David Chang of Momofuku. His 48-hour short ribs are served at Ko, his Michelin-starred flagship restaurant. He transforms a humble piece of meat into something glorious partly by using the sous vide method.

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Gnocchi with Summer Roasted Tomatoes

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I love love love tomatoes.

During the summertimes when I was growing up, we would often grow tomatoes in our backyard in Ohio. No supermarket tomato can even come close to the vine-ripen tomatoes that come out of a home garden. Picked right at the peak of ripeness, fresh "backyard" tomatoes can't be beat.

Well, I don't have a backyard garden in my tiny urban condo, but I do belong to a farm share that picks the tomatoes the same morning they deliver them to me.

When tomatoes taste this good inherently, there's not much that needs to be done with them. Hence, I kept it super simple in this bright, clean and addictive pasta dish that really takes advantage of the tomato's inherent beautiful flavors.

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[VIDEO] Rice Crispy Critters and Sushi

>>  Thursday, September 02, 2010

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Look Ma! I'm on television!

OK, not exactly . . . but I got to make my first video a few weeks ago! How2Heroes, a Cambridge-based company with an excellent "How To" site devoted to food-related instructional videos, contacted me several weeks ago and asked whether I would be interested in making a video about my cute little rice crispy treats.
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Wow, real live cameramen right in my own kitchen? They really use those clapboards like you see in the movies! I felt like a movie star!
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I was so nervous. I've never been on TV for anything, let alone a tutorial for how to cook things. Heck, I don't even watch that much TV, so I'm not even sure how to act like a food TV personality.
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The people at How2Heroes were super friendly and really put me at ease. They were so encouraging, and they even helped me take some of these photos. Thanks guys!
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It was really easy to relax and just have fun, which is exactly what I did.
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Check out the video (embedded below). For some reason, this version is a little distorted. If you want to see a higher-res non-distorted version, check out the video directly from the How2Heroes website.

For more information about the recipes in the video, check out the following pages:
Totoro Rice Crispy Treats
Hello Kitty Rice Crispy Treats
Sushi Rice Crispy Treats

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Genoa-style Pan Fried Potatoes

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Do you remember as a kid how anchovies were seen as something really gross? People would always talk about anchovies on pizza, and then go "ewwwww!!!" I had no idea what anchovies really were until I was much older, and then still, for years, I thought they were something gross that shouldn't be touched.

It wasn't until just a few years ago that I started to venture out and try anchovies. First it was on Caesar salads, and then in pasta dishes. I soon learned to love and appreciate the beautifully deep and rich flavors that anchovies contribute to a dish. Anchovies are packed full of umami, and can really provide depth of flavor to almost anything.

So when I saw this simple classic Italian recipe for pan-roasted potatoes with anchovies, I knew I had to try it.

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Menton

>>  Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Menton1
Has it already been a year? It really feels like just yesterday that Bryan and I celebrated our 8th anniversary at Barbara Lynch's then flagship restaurant. And then - woosh - all of a sudden a year has flown by and, again, we are visiting Barbara Lynch's new flagship restaurant for our anniversary.

It's been nearly five months since Menton (pronounced "Mon-ton") opened in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston. With Menton, Barbara Lynch ambitiously set out to out-do even herself in offering a new level of haute cuisine here in Boston. The service, the food, the ambiance - Menton aims to be at the level of a Michelin-starred restaurant.  Barbara Lynch is convinced that there is a market for fine dining in Boston, and she's willing to take the risk on Menton to prove this point.

In celebration of our 9th anniversary (which is actually today!), we visited Menton on Sunday evening.

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