Japanese Matcha and Azuki Breads

>>  Thursday, March 31, 2011

This post is part 4 of my series: Tribute to Japan. Other posts in this series include: Part 1: Kappabashi-dori, Part 2: Tapas Molecular Bar, and Part 3: Suzuran (Ramen).

I've always had a special place in my heart for Japanese bakeries. I like how Japanese desserts in general are not nearly as sweet as their European/American counterparts. I also love Japanese flavors, like matcha (green tea) and azuki (red bean).

Alas, unfortunately, I am really not a baker. Between all 10 rounds of Project Food Blog, the baking challenge was by far the most difficult one for me. I seriously felt out of my element there.

A couple weeks ago, Foodbuzz invited us to develop a recipe using King's Hawaiian rolls. I actually grew up eating these sweet rolls and loved them as a kid. It has been years since I've tried some, mostly because I thought they didn't sell it in Massachusetts.

I was thrilled to find out that these rolls are actually all over the place. In the spirit of my tribute to Japan, I decided to use my favorite Japanese desserts as inspiration for my creations.

Best part? No baking required. You can "whip" these up in less than 15 minutes. ;)

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Suzuran (すずらん)

>>  Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tsukemen (dipping noodles)

This post is part 3 of my series: Tribute to Japan. Other posts in this series include: Part 1: Kappabashi-dori and Part 2: Tapas Molecular Bar

There's something I can't resist about tiny, hard-to-find, authentic yet undiscovered gems that serve absolutely incredible food.

Now, I'm not sure if Suzuran, a tiny noodle bar off the beaten track in Shibuya, exactly falls in to that category.  For one thing, I would hardly call it  "undiscovered," as lines sometimes literally go out the door due to its popularity. However, there's definitely something special about this authentic and surprisingly hard-to-find noodle bar tucked away in a back alley of Shibuya.

Bryan and I discovered Suzuran back in 2009 while hunting for fresh, handmade noodles. We found this delightful gem tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Shibuya. As we sat among Japanese businessmen in suits slurping up noodles for lunch, we truly felt like we were living and breathing a slice of everyday Japanese culture.

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Tapas Molecular Bar

>>  Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This post is part 2 of my series: Tribute to Japan which will explore Japanese culture through my trip there back in November 2010.

It's not everyday you get to feel like you are sitting atop the clouds, staring down at the city below you. Here, on the 38th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Tokyo, floor-to-ceiling windows display unparalleled views of the city's shimmering lights.

Better yet, each night seven seats open up at the bar (once at 6pm, once at 8:30pm) for one of the most unique molecular gastronomy experiences in Tokyo. Instead of just an extended tasting menu of twenty or so courses, think of this as a show - an evening of entertainment and delight both for the eyes as well as the palate.

Welcome to Tapas Molecular Bar, a one-star Michelin restaurant that really takes "Tasting Menu" to a new level. Here, you'll experience familiar flavors delivered in unconventional ways. It's both a lesson in science as well as food. Be prepared to be surprised, delighted, and entertained the entire evening. I came here on my birthday and enjoyed a night that was full of surprises and loads of fun.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #18 - Local News

>>  Friday, March 25, 2011

Kyubey in Tokyo, Japan

Happy Friday everyone!

I realize I've been doing a lot of non-local posts lately, so I thought I'd take a tiny break from the Tribute to Japan Series and talk briefly about local things going on around the city.

If you still want a taste of Japan, you can check out the one crazy post from the November Japan trip that I wrote earlier. In Round 9 of Project Food Blog, we had to write a restaurant review. The stakes were high, as 12 contestants were about to be narrowed down to three!

I decided to write about Kyubey, one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Japan. The entire meal is simply unforgettable, especially if you've never had a high end sushi experience Japan before. Check out the post here.


James Beard Award Nominees
Congratulations to some of my favorite local chefs for their nominations! Cambridge made a strong showing, with Tony Maws (Craigie on Main) nominated for Best Chef Northeast and Will Gilson (Garden at the Cellar) nominated for Best Rising Star Chef.

Barbara Lynch's Menton has been nominated for Best New Restaurant and Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Cafe and Maura Kilpatrick of Oleana have been nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Tim Cushman (O Ya) has also been nominated for Best Chef Northeast.

Several restaurants I've visited on my travels also made the list. Picasso (where I just went in January) has been nominated for both Outstanding Restaurant as well as Outstanding Wine Service. Richard Reddington from Redd and Josiah Citrin from Melisse are also nominated for Best Chef Pacific. Per Se in NYC has been nominated for Outstanding Service.

Finally, Gary Danko, who I just met a few weekends ago in Napa Valley, has also been nominated for Outstanding Chef. I would love to try his restaurant one day!

Congrats to everyone who was nominated!

New Openings!

Pinkberry will be opening right in the heart of Harvard Square at the old Alpha Omega Building (sharing that space with a spanking new Starbucks Coffee!). On top of the typical (delicious!) frozen yogurt and toppings, this Pinkberry will also serve breakfast as well as offer Pinkberry Take Home, a 25-oz swirl-to-order tub of your favorite yogurt.

Floating Rock, well loved Southeast Asian restaurant originally in Revere, has moved to Central Square and will have a soft opening next Friday, April 1. They are currently selling gift cards at a discount. These discounted cards will only be available up until the opening of the restaurant.

Purchase a gift card worth $25 for $20, a $50 card for $40 and a $100 card for $75. E-mail floatingrockrestaurant@gmail.com for details.

Thelonious Monkfish, a new Asian fusion place, has recently opened in Central Square. They have a full sushi menu, as well as plenty of Southeast Asian dishes plus many standard Chinese dishes. I've tried it a couple times and I plan on going again before writing up a full post. Initial thoughts? Some dishes were quite tasty while others were more average. Overall, I think it's a great addition to the area. Central Square can really benefit from a place like this.

EmPower Breakfast at Rialto with Jody Adams!
EmPOWER Breakfast is an annual benefit in collaboration with women from the business community to raise much needed funds for Asian women and children impacted by domestic violence.

This year, the event will be Thursday, April 7 from 8AM -10AM at Rialto. There will be breakfast, a silent auction, and a panel discussion. I'll be there blogging about the event as well!

To find out more and to purchase tickets, please visit this page.

This event will be hosted by Jody Adams (Chef/Owner of Rialto Cambridge), Vivian Hsu (Principal of Hsu & Associates, LLC) Renee Inomata (Partner at Burns & Levinson, LLC) and Janet Wu (7News/CW56).

Pop Up Restaurant!

They've struck again! It's yet another pop up restaurant! As many of you know, I went to my first pop up restaurant at the Taza Chocolate Factory.

This time, Aaron Cohen and Will Gilson (along with Sel de la Terre chef Louie Dibiccari) will set up a pop up restaurant at Mizu hair salon on Saturday, April 9, 2011. A 5-course menu will costs $100 and includes tax and gratuity. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the International Medical Corps to aid Japan.

To learn more and to buy tickets, click here.

That's it folks! Have a wonderful weekend, and we will continue the Tribute to Japan Series next week!

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>>  Thursday, March 24, 2011

This post is part 1 of my series: Tribute to Japan which will explore Japanese culture through my trip there back in November 2010.

For anyone who loves to cook or just loves kitchen supplies in general, a visit to Tokyo is not complete with a stop by Kappabashi. Not too far from Asakusa, Kappabashi is the area in Japan to get cooking and baking supplies, high quality knives, fake display foods, dishware, silverware, etc. etc.

Because this area is catered toward the restaurant industry, the prices for many things are quite reasonable. Better yet, many of these restaurant-grade items are super durable. I bought miso bowls from this area over a decade ago (for only $1 each!) and to this day they are still as good as new! (I even throw them in the dishwasher all the time!) Some of the smaller shops only accept cash, so definitely come armed with a wad of bills if you plan on shopping (which you definitely will because you'll be so tempted to get stuff!)

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A Tribute to Japan

>>  Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I have always loved Japan.

As a child, I was exposed to a bit of Japanese culture because my parents were Taiwanese. Taiwan was occupied by Japan for 50 years (between 1895 and 1945), and thus my grandparents lived under Japanese rule for a large part of their lives. Inevitably, they absorbed various aspects of Japanese culture. In fact, my maternal grandparents felt more comfortable speaking Japanese than Taiwanese or Chinese with their kids.

As a college student, I decided I wanted to learn more about Japan. I studied the language for two years before spending a summer interning at Hitachi Chemical. I absolutely loved living there. One of my favorite things to do was to roam the immaculate and beautiful supermarkets after work, picking out my dinner for the evening.

Of course, it's not just about the food. I also loved the people that I met. Even after leaving Japan, I continued to hone my language skills, building long lasting relationships with Japanese friends through language exchange partnerships.

The news of the recent earthquakes and aftermath in Japan is downright devastating. My few friends who live in Japan are in Tokyo, so they are safe, although extremely frightened. My heart continues to ache for those who have suffered great losses, and I pray for them.

The Japanese are quite resilient, and I am confident they will rebuild, recover, and come out stronger in the end. As a tribute to them, please join me as I begin a series dedicated to Japan: a celebration of their unique culture, rich history, and (of course) amazing cuisine.

Sneak preview ahead . . .

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S. Pellegrino 9th Annual Almost Famous Chef Competition: Signature Dish

>>  Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This post is part 4 of a larger series about the 9th Annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition.

This was it. This was the moment that would decide the final outcome of the entire competition. 10 students from all over North America had come together here in Napa Valley to compete for the Grand Prize of the Almost Famous Chef Competition.

Each had already competed in the Mystery Basket competition a day earlier. A combination of their scores from both events would determine the final winner.

The Signature Dish competition is especially interesting because each student has complete creative control over what dish to create. All of these regional finalists are cooking the winning dishes that got them here. You're seriously tasting the best of the best here. The twist? Instead of cooking it for 8 judges, they must now cook the dish for 200 guests!!

Crazy Challenging? Most definitely.

Let's meet the judges, the competitors, and (of course), find out the results!

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Trefethen Vineyards

>>  Monday, March 21, 2011

This post is part 3 of a larger series about the 9th Annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition.

Napa Valley is a beautiful place all year round. However, the spring season is especially unique because the surrounding hillsides are all very, very green from the rainfall during the winter. According to the locals, the grass on the hills are pretty dry and brown most of the year. However, this time of year everything  is especially verdant and just really, really lush and beautiful.

A wonderful way to experience the region is by bike! There are some really nice, virtually car-free roads on which you can ride. It's so relaxing to just be outside, drinking in the surrounded views of vineyards and hills.

On Sunday morning, the guests who were attending the Almost Famous Chef Competition road our bikes out to Trefethen Vineyards for a fun and educational morning leaning about food from our celebrity chef judges.

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Nickel & Nickel Vineyard

>>  Friday, March 18, 2011

This post is part 2 of a larger series about the 9th Annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition.

Welcome to Nickel & Nickel Winery!

After watching the Mystery Basket competition in the morning and relaxing in Yountville in the afternoon, guests arrived at this beautiful vineyard for a truly unique experience on Saturday evening.

Nickel & Nickel is different from most wineries because it aims to dedicate itself to only making single vineyard wines. What is a single vineyard wine? In short, it's wine made from grapes originating from the same vineyard. Typically, winemakers purchase grapes from various sources and blend them together to make their wines. The ability to use different grapes from different areas allows a winemaker to more easily tweak the flavor profile of the wine.

In the case of single vineyard wine, you are constrained to using the grapes from your plot of land.  According to US wine laws, you can only name the vineyard on the label if 95% of the grapes come from that vineyard. Single vineyard wines really express the soil, climate, elevation, and other characteristics of the grapes' specific growing conditions. Drinking a single vineyard wine is the best way to really taste the terroir of the land.

A high quality single vineyard wine can be challenging to make. You can't use grapes with slightly different terroir (from another vineyard) to balance out or tweak the flavors of your wine. It's also challenging to keep consistent quality, as weather patterns can vary wildly year to year.

We had the wonderful privilege of enjoying a unique wine tasting as well as an unforgettable dinner at Nickel & Nickel. This was a great chance for the contestants, who had worked super hard earlier that morning in the Mystery Basket Competition, to relax and have someone else cook for them!

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9th Annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition: Mystery Basket

>>  Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Welcome to the Almost Famous Chef competition in Napa Valley! This prestigious competition is held at one of the most beautiful spaces I can imagine for this event – the Culinary Institute of America (“CIA”) in Napa Valley.

Nestled between verdant hills and idyllic vineyards, the CIA not only sits in a beautiful location, it also houses some of nicest kitchens I’ve ever seen.
CIA (Culinary Institute of America)
The first day of the competition, the contestants square off in the Mystery Basket Challenge. I really think this is the most stressful part of the entire weekend.

Just imagine: you are told that you have two hours to create eight portions of a dish that will be judged. Not only that, you will not be told the mystery ingredient(s) until right before the two hour clock starts ticking.

Moments after they tell you the mystery ingredient, you're brought in to survey the ingredients that you will have at your disposal. You have ten minutes to design your entire dish. At that point, you must tell the judges what you will be making. If you veer from that later on, points will be deducted.

This particular challenge really tests the students’ ability to think quickly on their feet, exercise utmost creativity, and execute with precision within the allotted time. Unlike their signature dishes, this is not something they can really practice beforehand. It’s really a test of how they execute all the skills they have acquired thus far under extreme time pressure.

So, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. This year’s secret ingredient is  . . . . .  pork tenderloin!

The students actually seemed quite excited about pork (very different from last year where they all were really surprised and caught off guard!). Pork is quite versatile –you can do various things with the fat, the bones, the meat . . .

And the students ran with that . . . .

2 hours later, the contestants began presenting their dishes to the judges. Here they are, one by one . . .

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A Taste of Napa Valley

>>  Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I am exhausted.

In a good way!

It's been a crazy weekend. I hopped on a plane early early Friday morning to head out to Napa Valley for the S. Pellegrino 9th Annual Almost Famous Chef Competition. It was a weekend filled with food, laughter, intense competition, crazy talent, and lots and lots of fun.

Of course, I had an incredible time. I'm still digesting everything that happened this week, but I promise I'll share all the gory details with you once I process everything!

Here's a sneak preview . .

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Pasta Lensi Giveaway Winners

Thanks everyone so much for your amazing responses! It was so fun to read about everyone's favorite way of having pasta. I was really surprised at how many of the answers are really very simple preparations!

You don't need to be fancy to enjoy really delicious pasta. :)

Here are the two winners!

Matt Stephens and Krafted by Kelly!

The question was: what is your favorite way of preparing or eating pasta?

Matt Stephens said, "All summer long I love angel hair tossed with browned butter cut with olive oil, meyer lemon zest & juice, fresh basil, parmesan and bread crumbs. Such amazing, light flavors, but still hearty enough to fill up on."

Krafted by Kelly said, "I love pasta best when my mom cooks it at home. Sauce from the jar, plenty of onions and garlic, and generous chunks of Jimmy Dean sausage is absolute heaven with a helping of childhood memories. :)"

Congrats Matt and Kelly! Please e-mail me to claim your prize!

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9th Annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef's Competition Nationals

>>  Friday, March 11, 2011

CIA (Culinary Institute of America)
Culinary Institute of America

Guess what?

I'm going to Napa Valley again! I'll be covering the Finals for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition this weekend. It was barely over a month ago that I went to the New England Regionals competition, held virtually in my backyard at Bunker Hill Community College. I'll definitely be cheering on our local winner, Anthony J. Messina from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

The stakes are high in this competition! First of all, you have all of the regional winners coming together here, so competition is stiff! Second, winner of the Nationals Competition gets $20,000 along with a one year paid apprenticeship from one of the chef judges!
CIA kitchen
Last year was my first time coming. Foodbuzz held a contest to send one person to attend this event as a VIP. I was shocked but totally thrilled to be chosen. VIPs are treated really well! You can check out a summary guide to all the activities I attended here. If you're curious, here's the winning post from last year.

It's so cool to watch these accomplished young chefs execute such amazing dishes under such pressure. I can't wait to see what they have in store this year!
Luis Young
If you want to watch the competition this weekend, it will be streamed live from this link. Hosts this year are Ralph Pagano (STK Miami Executive Chef and also finalist from "Hell's Kitchen" Season One) and Gail Simmons, Food &Wine's Special Projects Director and Bravo's "Top Chef" Judge.

Mystery Basket Competition
Each competitor must transform a set of mystery ingredients into a delicious entrée in two hours or less. The winner receives $3,000.
Sat 3/12, 10:30am-2:00pm PST

People’s Choice Tasting Gala and Award Reception
Competitors will prepare their signature dishes, with the help of an appointed sous chef, for 200 VIP guests at a gala dinner. The winner receives $3,000. Gala participants will also vote on their favorite chef. This winner will also receive $3000.
Sun 3/13, 5:30pm-8:00pm PST

You can also vote for your fan favorite! Fan favorite also wins $3000. Better yet, people who vote get a chance to be entered to win a trip to Napa next year! Voting Starts Sunday, March 13th at 5:30pm PST to 7:00pm PST
Follow the competition on facebook or twitter. Stay tuned next week as I bring back delicious pictures and coverage of competition!

Media Judges
Dana Cowin of Food & Wine Magazine
Sophie Gayot of Gayot.com
Mitchell Davis of The James Beard Foundation
Bonnie Stern of The National Post

Chef Judges
Michel Richard of Michel Richard Citronelle
Chef Rick Moonen of RM Seafood
Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia
Jean Joho of Everest
Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko
Brooke McDougall of By Mark
Bob Hurley of Hurley's
Opus One
Opus One 

If you're interested in last year's competition (plus our other Napa Valley excursions), explore the posts below! (You can click on the pictures too, which take you to the same posts!)

Also, it's still not to late to enter the Giveaway going on right now! Ends Sunday, March 13!
Mystery Basket
Signature Dish
Del Dotto Caves
Dining At Redd
French Laundry
Opus One

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Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce with Bacon + Giveaway!

>>  Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bryan and I disagree about our favorite pasta shapes.

For him, thicker is better. Chewier always wins. Long and fat is better than short and skinny. The ultimate goal? The ability to wrap the noodles around a fork into a big, dense ball so that he can create the chewiest, thickest bite of them all.

Me? First of all, I love sauce. So, the more nooks and cranny that a pasta shape has, the better. Radiatore or Fusilli are typically my favorites, though I also love a good angel hair.

One thing we both agree on - we don't like mushy pasta. Al dente all the way.

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>>  Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Unparalleled views of the Bellagio Fountains.

Massive Picasso originals on every wall.

Excellent Michelin Star quality French food prepared by a very well known Spanish Chef.

There aren't that many two or three star Michelin restaurants in Las Vegas. With the recent closing of the beloved Alex at the Wynn (according to Bryan : best seared fois gras ever), Las Vegas is down to one 3-star Michelin restaurant and two two-star Michelin restaurants.

We haven't tried the other 2-star restaurant (Guy Savoy). We did try Joel Robuchon (the only 3-star Michelin) a little over a year ago, and found the experience to be the most over-the-top crazy opulent dining experience we'd ever had. The craziest "Menu Degustation" is a whopping $385. Even our 4-course meal (at $148) was plenty decadent.

Picasso, on the other hand, is a totally different experience. The environment is no less impressive, with lovely view of the Bellagio Fountains and huge Picasso originals ($30 million worth!!) gracing the restaurant walls. However, the outlandish opulence is absent. Instead, there's an understated elegance that's peaceful, relaxed, and beautiful.

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Spago Cafe

>>  Tuesday, March 08, 2011

These days, Wolfgang Puck is virtually a household name. You see casual sandwich shops inside malls with his name on it, takeaways inside airport terminals, frozen pizzas, and even a line of cookware.

Some may argue that this well-known chef personality has diluted his name by slapping it onto so many different products.Who was Wolfgang Puck. originally?

Wolfgang Puck initially became famous through his well known and uber popular restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills, which drew lots of stars from the area. Through Spago, Puck really pioneered "California Cuisine" - popularizing dishes such as funky designer pizzas and eclectic pasta dishes. The restaurant has won numerous awards, including the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Service Award and of course, two Michelin stars (one of only three restaurants in LA to have this honor - there are no three star Michelin restaurants in LA).

In 1992, Spago opened up a second location in Las Vegas inside Caeasar’s Palace after the smashing success of the original one. Puck was really the first elebrity chef to come to Vegas. He seriously started a trend. Nowadays, every major casino houses numerous celebrity chef restaurants.

This second Spago has two parts: a fancier sit-down section (in the back) and a “Spago Café” (in the front) that serves more casual and reasonably priced fare.

Having already tried the “fancier” Spago a few years ago with Bryan’s parents, we decided to stop by Spago Café for lunch before we headed out to CES.

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Flavors of Malaysia Book Winners

 Flavors of Malaysia: A Journey Through Time, Tastes, and Traditions

Congratulations to the Flavors of Malaysia cookbook winners! Thanks everyone for participating! It was really fun to read all your answers. I personally don't know much about Southeast Asian food at all, so it was really education to learn about all these wonderful dishes and restaurants around the world!

Seriously, if anyone is traveling to Malaysia or Singapore soon and is looking for some awesome dishes or restaurants to try, definitely check out all the cool suggestions in the comment sections of these three posts:

Hainanese Chicken Rice
Spicy Water Spinach (Kangkung Belacan)
Char Kway Teow (Chinese Stir Fry Rice Noodles)

Here is what our winners said . . .

What is your favorite Malaysian dish?
Day 1: bunster10
"I've only had a few opportunities to try Malaysian cuisine. I think the last time I did was on a trip to Hawaii. We decided to try a Malaysian restaurant. I don't remember what the dishes were but they were all very tasty!"

What is your favorite Southeast Asian Restaurant?
Day 2: Alain
"Thanks for posting this amazing recipe! I can almost smell the garlic when I look at the picture. YUM! my favorite Southeast Asian restaurant has to be Mandalay, a Burmese restaurant, here in San Francisco. Their tea salad is out of this world GOOD!"

What is your favorite Asian Noodle dish?
Day 3: Phong
"I absolutely love braised pork and eggs. The belly fat from the pork makes the dish top-notch!"

Thanks again for participating! Watch out this week for another great Giveaway!

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>>  Monday, March 07, 2011

A lot of restaurants will do crazy things to get attention. Take, for example, the $1000 opulent sundae at Serendipity or the 10,000 NT ($324 USD) beef noodle soup at Niu Ba Ba in Taiwan. Even though a majority of diners will not order the crazy menu item, restaurants offering these insanely-priced item inevitably receive recognition, visitors, and fame.

I often wonder how much of it is hype and how much of it is truly warranted.

Carnevino is yet another restaurant that sells a crazy menu item. What is it? The Riserva: an 8 to 11 month dry aged steak. Apparently, this steak is so aged the texture changes into something that more resembles ham than steak. Moreover, this unusual and curious meat takes on aged flavors reminiscent of aged cheeses, like blue cheese or gorgonzola.

Needless to say, Bryan, the steak-lover and stinky cheese-lover, was extremely intrigued by this idea. He absolutely wanted to try the restaurant and order the curious sounding steak.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #17 - Bryan Tries Puffer Fish!

>>  Friday, March 04, 2011

How many of you have seen that famous Simpson's episode where Homer tries puffer fish?

I think for most of us, puffer fish is something that's exotic, far away, and not really something you would expect to see ever on a US menu.

On Sunday we visited one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Boston, Oishii. Bryan saw fugu on the specials menu and really really wanted to try it. Fugu is the infamous puffer fish. It contains a lethal poison, tetrododoxin, which must be carefully removed before consumption. In Japan, fugu preparation is controlled by law and only licensed chefs (who train for 2-3 years!) can prepare and sell the fish.

Rumor has it that your lips "tingle" a bit when you taste it, allegedly from the tiny bit of residual poison. The poison works by paralyzing your muscles. Most victims die of asphyxiation.

And Bryan really wanted to try it???!!

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Serendipity 3

>>  Thursday, March 03, 2011

It was sooooo cold outside. Frrrrreezing!

In fact, it technically was freezing that crazy week in January when it briefly snowed in Las Vegas! It was so cold, area stores completely sold out of the season's winter coats to unsuspecting visitors who had shown up in the city assuming they wouldn't need jackets.

So why "frrrozen hot chocolate"? On one of the coldest days on record?

Hey, I'm from Boston. Bostonians love their iced desserts and will eat at anytime. Heck, our ice cream shops open all winter long and they are always crowded, regardless of how high the snow piles are or how cold it is outside. I am always happy to make and eat ice cream no matter what season it is!

So of course I was totally game. Plus, one of our friends had never been to Serendipity before and really really wanted to try it.

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Char Kway Teow (Chinese Stir Fry Rice Noodles)

>>  Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Welcome to Day 3, the final day, of our three part Malaysian Food Series! Check out Day 1, Hainanese Chicken Rice and Day 2, Spicy Water Spinach (Kangkung Belacan).

Char Kway Teow, which stands for "stir fried rice flat noodles" is a very popular street food in Malaysia.  It consists of these flat rice noodles stir fried in a very hot work with prawns, cockles, greens, bean sprouts, and eggs with dark soy sauce and spices!

Historically, fishermen and farmers would sell this savory, flavorful dish at night in hawker stands to supplement their daytime incomes. Traditionally, you stir fry the dish in pork fat, which makes it quite a rich dish (though I'm sure it's really really good!)

These days, most people have switched to using vegetable oil. Many versions include a fried egg as well, which adds back some of the flavor lost from the lard.

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Spicy Water Spinach (Kangkung Belacan) + Giveaway!

>>  Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Welcome to Day 2 of our three part Malaysian Food Series! If you missed Day 1, Hainanese Chicken Rice, you can check it out here.

If you are Asian, you're bound to have heard of water spinach, or hollow heart vegetable (空心菜). Even though I don't know Southeast Asian food well, I instantly recognized this vegetable because we also eat it in Chinese cooking.  In fact, the water spinach is so prolific in Asia, it does not even need soil to grow, profusely thriving in marshy wetlands, rivers, and streams. In parts of the US, it has become so prolific that the USDA has official designated it a "noxious weed." It grows THAT easily.

Malaysia's version of this dish is called kangkung belacan. It is served all over Malaysia, from casual food courts to upscale hotel restaurants. Traditionally, this is a peasant preparation of the dish, though it has gotten trendy in recent years.

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