Craigie on Main {The Ultimate Craigie Experience}

>>  Monday, January 31, 2011

Tony Maws Craigie on Main
I need Runners!

It's exactly 6:30PM in the kitchen at Craigie on Main in Cambridge, MA.

One by one, colorful dishes seem to magically appear on the marble counter top. Chef Tony Maws, the captain of this ship they call "Craigie on Main," inspects each one, scrutinizing every last detail to make sure the plating is impeccable. A second man, standing right next to him, repeatedly wipes away any stray bits of sauce from the otherwise pristine plates.

The dishes continue streaming in from the kitchen, crowding existing dishes on the counter.


In less than 15 seconds, a swarm of waitstaff appear out of nowhere shouting, "Runners are here!"

Like a well-orchestrated symphony full of multiple moving parts, the dishes are whisked away to their respective tables, each one its own delicate sonata of flavors. Within moments, a new line of plated dishes appear, and the process starts all over again.

Welcome to the unique view from the Ringside Seats at Craigie on Main in Cambridge. These special, modern bar stools (there are only four of them!) face the gorgeous open kitchen and are specifically designed for those enjoying the chef's tasting menu.

We were lucky enough to book these Ringside Seats to celebrate Bryan's birthday back in October. Of course, we had to try the Ultimate Craigie Experience, a tasting that we hadn't experienced since Tony was at the old Craigie Street location.

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Reserve Tomato Giveaway WINNER + Boston Bloggers Cookie Swap

>>  Saturday, January 29, 2011

Muir Glen Gift Box
Wow! Thanks for all the WONDERFUL ideas for how you like to eat tomatoes. Like many of you, I love a simple caprese salad with fresh tomatoes, basil, burrata cheese, and a simple drizzle of olive oil. Thank you all for your great ideas!

Using, I drew three winners:

Leah said "My favorite way to enjoy tomatoes is this super easy pasta sauce - Tastes like summer!"

Christine said "A really fresh pico de gallo."

Sarah said, "I love making okra and stewed tomatoes over cous cous. So comforting and satisfying :)"

Congratulations Leah, Christine, and Sarah! Please e-mail me (jen{at}tinyurbankitchen{dot}com)your mailing addresses so I can get these lovely boxes shipped to you right away.

I leave you with mouthwatering images from a Boston Bloggers Cookie Swap that I attended last weekend. It was great to meet some local bloggers! Thanks so much to Shannon from Tri To Cook for hosting and organizing! Click through to each Boston bloggers' individual site for the recipes!

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Chinese New Year Recipes {Year of the Rabbit!}

>>  Thursday, January 27, 2011

Making wishes and setting off "lanterns" at the Taiwan Pavillion at the World Expo in Shanghai, September 2010

The lunar new year is just around the corner! This year we welcome the year of the rabbit on February 3, 2011.

But New Years is hardly a one day celebration! Most businesses and schools close for the entire week as workers travel back to visit their families. In fact, more trips are taken during this period (Spring Festival travel season, "Chunyun" 春運)  than the total population of China (yes, 2.26 billion trips taken in 2008!!!). The entire New Year celebration is actually 15 days long, starting with the huge feast on the Eve and ending with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day.

Food is a huge part of the New Years celebration, with the New Years Eve meal being one of the biggest. Families get together and often enjoy fish (symbolizes abundance), dumplings (symbolizes wealth), and "Nian Gao" (new year cake). Uncut noodles are super popular, as the long noodle represents longevity. Chinese pan fried cakes (typically taro or turnip, but why not pumpkin?) is also associated with the New Year. People eat vegetarian on the 13th day of the New Year, mostly to clean out their stomachs after gorging the rest of the time! On the last day of the new year, everyone enjoys tang yuan 湯圓 (rice balls), one of my favorite foods!

I've compiled a bunch of my Asian recipes together in one visual spread so that you can explore at your own leisure. :) Enjoy!

mustard greens kong xin tsai
Mustard Greens Sauteed Chinese Watercress
Spicy Minced Pork with Sour String Beans Chinese chives and Tofu
Spicy Pork with Sour String Beans Chinese Chives and 5-Spice Tofu
broccoli salad tea eggs
Crunchy Broccoli Stem Salad Tea Eggs
winter melon soup' pork winter melon soup
Simple Winter Melon Soup Traditional Winter Melon Soup
ro geng mian hand pulled noodles
Pork & Fishball Noodle Soup Hand-pulled Noodles
Lion's Head Casserole beef noodle soup
Lion's Head Casserole Beef Noodle Soup
Steamed Fish with Black Bean Sauce mapo tofu
Steamed Fish with Black Bean Sauce Spicy Mapo Tofu
meat sauce
Chinese Sticky Rice Taiwanese Meat Sauce over Rice
bawan batzang
"Bawan" - Taiwanese "Meat ball" "Batzang" - Taiwanese Rice Dumpling
homemade manto gua bao
Homemade Baos (Mantou) Traditional Pork Belly Buns (Gua bao)
Savory Chinese Pumpkin Cakes red bean mochi cake
Savory Asian Pumpkin Cakes Red Bean New Year Cake (Nian Gao)
Chinese Egg Puffs black sesame ice cream
Chinese Egg Puffs Black Sesame Ice Cream
spiral mooncakes Chinese Egg Tarts
Pumpkin Spiral Mooncakes Chinese Egg Tarts
Muir Glen Gift Box
It's not to late to enter the Giveaway for a beautiful gift box of reserved tomatoes from Muir Glen! Giveaway ends This Friday, January 28th, 2011.

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Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies

>>  Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meyer Lemons
When life gives you Meyer lemons, makes lemon cookies!

I first discovered Meyer lemons last April when they seemed to pop up in every food blog under the sun. A cross between a normal lemon and a Mandarin orange, Meyer lemons are also sweeter, less tart, and have a beautifully floral aroma. They also have a pretty orange colored peel, which could explain why they were such popular decorative plants in China (way before anyone knew the fruit actually tasted good!). Click here to see some cool side-by-side photos of Meyer lemons next to normal lemons.

Why did I decide to make these cookies? Well, a number of reasons: it was the holidays; I had just gotten this really cool letter press stamp and I was dying to try it on some non-leavened cookies; and my friend had some Meyer lemons on hand.

Stuck with limited ingredients in my tiny urban kitchen, we found a simple butter cookie recipe which only involved a few basic ingredients (to which we added our cool citrus twist!).  It was so good, I decided to make it again in January for a Boston bloggers cookie swap (more on that later!).

I love this recipe because it's so versatile. You start with this really basic butter cookie recipe and essentially tweak it slightly by adding different sorts of flavors. The cookbook gave examples of add-ins like orange zest, ginger powder, nuts, coconut flakes, or chocolate. The sky's the limit here. Maybe matcha? Or black sesame for an Asian twist?

Of course Meyer lemons work beautifully, creating a shortbread cookie that's actually not that tart and also not too sweet. Light, buttery, and slightly fragrant with the floral scents of Meyer lemons - perfect for a simple, afternoon tea.

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Tomato Vine Dining Tour with Will Gilson + Giveaway!

>>  Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tomato Appetizers from Garden at the Cellar
Anyone who's been reading this blog for awhile or listened to my interview on NPR would know that I'm a huge fan of Will Gilson, chef of Garden at the Cellar. Bryan and I probably dine there at least twice a month, if not more.

The food quality is excellent, the prices are very reasonable, and . . . those rosemary truffles fries! Will Gilson cares a lot about sustainable ingredients and responsively-raised food. He is fanatical about sourcing quality ingredients, and his menu changes frequently to reflect the freshest local produce available, many of which come from his family's farm in western Massachusetts.

So imagine my surprise when I was invited to a dining tour with Will Gilson in partnership with Muir Glen.

Muir Glen? The company that makes organic canned tomatoes? Canned? Really?

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Noodle Loft [Mian Ku]

>>  Monday, January 24, 2011

Once Anthony Bourdain has visited your restaurant, it's really hard to keep quiet about it.

Funny thing is, I don't watch TV. Well, hardly ever. I might occasionally sit down and watch an episode of a food-related show if Bryan has the TV on. Or I'll watch some Boston sports games. But by in large, I almost never watch TV.

So I actually had no idea that Anthony Bourdain had visited this authentic Shanxi noodle restaurant (in Beijing) when I visited last fall. My goal, as always, was just to seek out the best hand-pulled noodles I could find. We picked this place because it was close to our hotel (we had a flight to catch right afterwards!) and came highly recommended by the hotel concierge. In fact, we were cutting it so close we actually brought our suitcases to the restaurant and headed straight to the airport afterwards.

The best part about Noodle Loft is the noodle making show in the open, circular kitchen. Definitely try to get a seat at the bar, or at least on the first floor, where you can see the action.

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Best Artisanal "Oreos"

>>  Friday, January 21, 2011

January is a month that is often associated with new beginnings. Resolutions, goals, a new outlook on life. It's a time to clean out your closet, reorganize, and start anew.

That's almost always impossible for me.

I always travel like crazy around the holiday season. We fly to Southern California (Bryan's family), and then Ohio (my family), and then every year we've been going to CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, which is always the first week of January.

By the time I'm settled back in Boston, January is almost half over. Not only that, my house is a mess and the mail is piled up way beyond any optimal height for physically stability. It takes me a week just to get groceries, clean up, and get back to life.

Meanwhile, we end up eating out a bit more than normal. The funny, sort of strange side effect to that? We stop by a lot of bakeries, which means I've had a unique chance to do something I've always wanted to do.

A tasting of artisanal homemade "Oreos" throughout Cambridge and beyond. :)

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Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto

>>  Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chicken pesto
We were curious. Very very curious.

We'd heard amazing, almost fantastically amazing things about sous-vide chicken. All over the internet, people raved about its unique, velvety, almost "melt-in-your-mouth" tenderness. They said it was nothing like normal chicken. "You'll never be able to eat normal chicken again."

This miraculous chicken was supposed to be juicy, succulent, flavorful, and moist.

Really? We were skeptical, yet intrigued at the same time.

Admittedly, the sous vide machine had already done wonders for scallops, not to mention the perfectly cooked steak, delicious custard-like eggs, and duck confit. Even the sous vide salmon I had made from a hacked water bath system had really incredible texture.

But chicken breast? Which is inherently bland, tasteless, and boring?

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>>  Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Growing up, my exposure to international cuisines was limited, to say the least.

Perhaps it's because I was raised by immigrants, and thus mostly ate Taiwanese food at home. Or, maybe it's because, when our family did eat out, we almost invariably ate mediocre "Chinese" food, pizza, or your typical Midwestern suburban buffet.

I still remember trying my first falafel (from a food truck, no less!) when I arrived in Boston for school. What delicious exotic flavors! Hummus? What a neat concept!  I can still picture my first meal at a Korean restaurant (also around college time). I marveled at all those little freebie appetizers that kept appearing on the table, plate after plate after plate. What treasures! Why don't other cuisines do this?

Over a decade later, the journey still continues.

Imagine my excitement the other day when I found out that Boston opened its first authentic Senegalese restaurant. The food of Senegal is really really interesting. Because of its unique history, Senegalese cuisine incorporates aspects of French, Asian, Arabic, and African cuisine.

Can you even imagine how one lumps all those cuisines together?

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Romanesca Cauliflower

>>  Saturday, January 15, 2011

A complex geometric pattern exhibiting self-similarity in that small details of its structure viewed at any scale repeat elements of the overall pattern

Have you seen this curious looking vegetable? It's sort of a relative of both the broccoli and the cauliflower, though it's quite unique in one very special way.

It's nature's version of a "fractal," a geometric pattern where the buds form logarithmic spirals. More specifically, the entire vegetable is a huge spiral composed of smaller conical buds that are each a mini-spiral.  You end up with this spiralmania where tiny spirals combine to form bigger spiral cones, which combine to form even bigger spiral cones . . . you get the picture?

This differs from a real fractal in that these spirals are finite, limited by physical size.

So what to do with this funny looking mathematical model?

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The New Gastronomy Fiesta

>>  Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fifteen Michelin Stars.

One week.

Together, five of Spain's top chefs from the Basque region (a region known to have among the best food in the world) worked together to create a tasting menu of a lifetime.

How often do you get to sample dishes from five Spanish Michelin-starred chefs in one meal? In one room?

Not only that, they're ALL in the kitchen, cooking for you.


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"Jiu Men Xiao Chi" {Nine Gates Snack Street} - The best of Beijing Street Food

>>  Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sweet potato chips - about $1.30 USD for a huge bag

I have this thing for snacks.

I've never been a "three big meals" sort of person. If it were up to me, I would just snack my way through the day, never really sitting down for a proper meal. My favorite ways to enjoy an actual meal is in the style of dim sum or tapas, where I get to sample many tiny bites of a wide variety of things.

shao bing - sesame layered biscuit - about 10 cents each

As you may know, I've been doing this extensive series on China. I actually visited China twice this past fall. The first trip was a vacation that Bryan and I had planned months ago. We did all the touristy things - visited the Great Wall, saw the Terra Cotta Soldiers in Xi'An, and explored Shanghai and the World Expo.

The second trip was completely unexpected. Bryan found out last minute that he needed to go to China and Japan for business. Since I had several vacation days left to spare, I decided to come along with him.

Going on a trip where one person needs to work most of the time is really really different from a normal vacation. I found myself alone most days (and certain nights!). In some ways it's a bit lonelier, but in other ways, it's rather freeing as well.

I took these opportunities to do something I love that Bryan always hates - skipping meals in lieu of snacks!

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Crystal Jade {Shanghai, China}

>>  Monday, January 10, 2011

Crystal Jade
Dan dan mian with hand pulled noodles

If only franchised Chinese food chains in the US were this good.

Yes, Crystal Jade is a well known restaurant group that actually originates out of Singapore. They have multiple locations throughout Asia, including Singapore, China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou), Hong Kong, Thailand (Bangkok), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), Korea (Seoul), Indonesia (Jakarta) and Japan (Tokyo). They make everything from sweet bakery items to savory dim sum dishes.

It may seem a bit weird to be visiting a Singaporean chain while in Shanghai. However, many have claimed that this place has some of the best dim sum (both Cantonese and Shanghainese) that Shanghai has to offer. Not wanting to miss out on some of the best food in Shanghai, we came here for our first meal right after hopping off the plane from Xi'An.

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Eating At the World Expo (Shanghai)

>>  Friday, January 07, 2011

One way to taste a variety of cuisines around the world is to fly from region to region, country to country, scoping out the best foods from each location. Though super fun, most of us would go broke pretty fast if we tried that approach.

Another way is to have all these places come together in one single location.

The World Expo is a unique international fair that occurs once every five years. It is an extravagant event that lasts for months, where countries come together to exhibit to the rest of the world various aspects of their people, their culture, and, of course, their food!

Bryan and I visited Shanghai during the 2010 World Expo back in September. On top of learning a lot about the various countries, we also had some pretty unique food experiences!

I'm cheering for joy in the picture above because I finally found "China Food Street." What's China Food Street? Just imagine . . . a huge room full of various food stalls representing all the different provinces of China. Seriously, what better way to sample the cuisines throughout China in one afternoon than here?

Off we went . . . .

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Neptune Oyster

>>  Wednesday, January 05, 2011

There's no question that Boston is known for its seafood. Tourists near and far don't ever leave without trying our lobsters, fried clams, or a decadently delicious bowl of our New England style clam chowder.

Many visitors whisk in and out of the city, content with dining at the iconic Legal Sea Foods and calling it a day (as far as Boston's seafood is concerned).

Now don't get me wrong. I love the clam chowder at Legal's and I do think they offer excellent quality fish that's very very fresh. However, I think there are much better places to visit in Boston if you want an intimate and authentic New England seafood experience that is several steps above your classic grilled fish, baked potato, and steamed broccoli crown.

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Homemade "Oreos" [TKO's]

>>  Tuesday, January 04, 2011

As a kid, I always scraped off the sugar of my Oreo cookies. I much preferred eating the dark, chocolately cookie alone rather than suffer through the sugary chalky center. I wished for the day when Nabisco would sell the chocolate cookie separately, which it never did.

Then one day, (maybe 20 years later), I tried a TKO ("Thomas Keller Oreo") for the first time at Bouchon Bakery.

Now THIS is no ordinary chocolate sandwich cookie. The cookie itself is dark and richly chocolate-y, while the filling is creamy yet not too sweet. Together, they form the ultimate sandwich cookie that I'm more than happy to eat whole.

No need to dissect my Oreos anymore. These are perfect as is.

But wouldn't it be more perfect if I didn't have to haul myself out to New York, San Francisco, or Las Vegas every time I wanted to taste one of these beauties?

Sometimes, with the help of the internet, life can be even more perfect.

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Wintermelon Soup II

>>  Sunday, January 02, 2011

Oh the weather outside is frightful!

Boston just had its first real official blizzard in five years (yes, since 2005!) the day after Christmas. Though travel was a nightmare for many (thankfully we were able to fly back with only a 2-hour delay), for others it was a chance to curl up at home and watch the white powder slowly cover the city in a thick blanket of silence.

To be honest, I love snow storms.

I love how everything comes to a halt during a snowstorm. Schools and businesses close. Busy city streets become eerily quiet. You're forced to slow down from the craziness of everyday life and just wait the storm out.

It's also the perfect opportunity to cook up something warm, restorative, and delicious.

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Happy New Year! Top 10 Posts of 2010

>>  Saturday, January 01, 2011

pizza flags
 Happy 2011!

What did you do for New Years this year? Since Bryan and I have been traveling like crazy (just came back from flying cross country visiting both sets of parents for the holidays and are on our way to Las Vegas tomorrow!!!), we decided to take it easy and just hang out at home.

I absolutely cannot believe it's 2011 already!

In some ways, it really feels like this year has totally flown by. In another sense, I also feel like I have come so far since the same time last year.

Highlights of this year?

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