Eating in the Greek Isles - Santorini

>>  Thursday, June 30, 2011

A trip to Greece is incomplete without a visit to the Greek Islands of the Cyclades.

I'm typically a city-sort of person. I love walking in bustling areas, taking in the energy of the people, the buildings, and (of course!) the food. I enjoyed Athens a lot. It was rich with history, full of culture, and had great food.
Oia Greece
Having said that, I can see why most people flock to the islands when they visit Greece. The scenery alone is absolutely phenomenal. Furthermore, after a few days in Athens (which can start to feel crowded, polluted, and overwhelming), the Greek isles are a much needed oasis from the craziness of it all.

For this trip, due to limited time, I only visited one island - Santorini.

Despite the short duration of my trip, I absolute will never forget this magical place.

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Bon Chon Chicken

>>  Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bon Chon Chicken
Korean fried chicken.

It's crunchy, savory, slightly sweet, and spicy all at the same time. The skin is paper thin, the fat having been mostly rendered out of it (not unlike Peking duck!). It's almost always served with pickled radish, and most people like to enjoy it with beer or soju (Korean distilled alcoholic beverage, sort of like vodka).

Bon Chon Chicken is one of the most popular South Korean chains that serves this addictively delectable snack. Korean fried chicken differs from American fried chicken in that the skin is smooth, there is a slight glaze covering the chicken, and it's much less greasy.

The stuff reheats amazingly well, and (of course), tastes even better straight out of the fryer.

Lucky for us Bostonians, Bon Chon Chicken finally opened up in Boston in 2009 (first inside another restaurant Privus and then on its own in 2010 when Privus closed).

I'm a bit of a latecomer on this one, but I finally had a chance to try Bon Chon Chicken more than a year after it opened.

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Tavernas - everyday dining out in Greece

>>  Monday, June 27, 2011

Lamb and Potatoes
This is part 3 of a longer Greece Series. Please see bottom of the post for hyperlinks to the rest of this series.

While in Athens, we ate almost exclusively at casual, local places called "tavernas" (ταβέρνα). A taverna is sort of like our equivalent of a pub - a small, casual restaurant that serves local, Greek cuisine. Prices are usually quite reasonable, and the atmosphere is decidedly very Greek - traditional Greek music or even Greek dancing is not unusual.

In the touristy parts of Greece (e.g., Plaka), there are tavernas everywhere trying desperately to get your business. They are not shy, and they will stand outside their storefronts fearlessly beckoning you to enter.

We decided that any place that's super aggressive must not be very good, so we took care to do our research and sought out well-reviewed places. Not surprisingly, the places we chose (which were all very good), did not have a single aggressive person standing outside trying to get people to come in.

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Gyros, Souvlakis, and Pitas, Oh My!

>>  Friday, June 24, 2011

Note - I think the word "gyros" above should be souvlakis!

One of the my favorite parts of travel is the opportunity to sample the local, casual cuisine.

I've always been a huge fan of street food. I feel like I get to know the culture on a much deeper level when I experience what the locals are having, not what's being served at the local Michelin star restaurant (though those are fun for different reasons).

In Athens, we stayed right inside the Plaka, a cute, historical area right at the foot of the Acropolis. The neighborhood consists of narrow cobblestone roads and tight buildings all scrunched up next to each other. It's a charming, very walker-friendly area full of restaurants, shops, and cafes. Frankly, I wouldn't stay anywhere else if I were visiting Athens.

After "hiking" up the hill in the morning to see the Acropolis and surrounding sites, we were famished by lunchtime. What lovely Greek food could we find in the Plaka?

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Cafe Sushi

>>  Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This is a conversation that Bryan and I often have.

Bryan: What do you want to do for dinner tonight?

Jen: hmmm . . . I dunno, what do you want to do?

Bryan: well, it's Sunday . . .

Jen: It's SUNDAY!!

Jen starts jumping up and down in excitement. Bryan smiles in amusement.

Why am I so excited that it's Sunday? Well, on Sunday evenings, my favorite hyperlocal sushi restaurant has nigiri sushi for $1 a piece.There's hardly ever a wait, the sushi is good, and it's less than a five minute walk from home.

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Garlic Chicken with Golden Noodles + Giveaway!

>>  Monday, June 20, 2011

Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved "liang mian huang," the (literally) "two-faced" pan-fried noodle dish that you see at every Cantonese restaurant. Although the sauce-drenched center of the noodle "cake" usually had more flavor, I always opted for the crunchy, edge pieces.

I was thrilled when I discovered a recipe for this exact dish in A Spoonful of Ginger, a multiple award-winning Chinese cookbook by Nina Simonds.

Nina Simonds is a dear family friend and I've known her for as long as I can remember. She's also a wildly successful cookbook author, having won multiple awards (James Beard Foundation Book Award, IACP Cookbook Award just to name a few) and named in Newsweek Magazine as one of "America's Top 25 Asian Hands."

Nina has studied cooking extensively in Asia. Her cookbooks take classic Asian recipes and adapt them in a way that's simple, delicious, and suitable for the Western kitchen (and often Western supermarkets!).

 I had never considered making golden pan-fried noodles myself at home.  I always assumed I needed some hot wok or some fryer or something (nothing a tiny kitchen would have!). Nina has adapted the traditional Chinese method for the Western kitchen by making use of the broiler function of an oven.


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Sweets in Greece

>>  Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today we begin our series on Greece!

Some of you may remember my brief "greeting post" from Greece back in April. I apologize it's taken me this long to share the details of that trip with you. Traveling is great fun and all, but it really makes one fall behind on . . . life, I guess.

Thankfully, summer is a great time to catch up on a lot of things, including some of my long-overdue trip reports! Please enjoy this series on a fascinating region I know so little about . . . .

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Las Vegas Eating Guide

>>  Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bellagio Fountains night
I have finally compiled all my Las Vegas posts into one place. I go to Las Vegas at least once a year, so over the past few years I've built up a nice collection of posts. There's a ton of good dining in Las Vegas, and list below only scratches the surface of all the great food options in this unique city.

Nevertheless, I do try to seek out well-reviewed places that are known for food, so most (if not all) of the places on this list are restaurants that I highly recommend.

Note - the list below includes all restaurants I've visited. Not every single one has a post associated with it. I have tried to write short snippets about the restaurants without blog posts.

Don't forget to check out the photo gallery (with live links to related posts) below!

What are your favorite places in Vegas? Please share in the comments below!

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R.F. O'Sullivan & Son

>>  Monday, June 13, 2011

Here's a little known fact.

I've never had a cheeseburger.

OK, just kidding.  Well, sort of. This was actually a true statement for most of my life. In fact, all throughout college as I was dating Bryan (who kept trying to get me to eat one), I maintained the same position. I always ordered hamburgers ("no cheese, please") because I honestly believed I wouldn't like the cheese. I half jokingly would mutter, "I'll have a cheeseburger when I turn 30."

Well, when that day finally came, Bryan made me stand by my promise and organized a birthday party for me at R.F. O'Sullivan's.

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Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Tomatoes

I love learning new cooking techniques from my favorite chefs.

Earlier this year, I attended a fun "Tomato Vine Dining Tour" sponsored by Muir Glen at one of my favorite restaurants, Garden at the Cellar. Will Gilson, who (until recently) was the head chef there, shared with us how he uses canned tomatoes in the winter time to carry him through when doesn't have fresh produce.

Better yet, he shared one of his pasta recipes with us that involves sausage, kale, and (canned) tomatoes.

What I love best about this recipe is his use of egg yolks and lemon zest in the sauce. Deceptively simple, these hidden ingredients elevate an otherwise simple olive-oil sauce to new and more complex levels of depth and flavor.

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Emma's Pizza

>>  Friday, June 10, 2011

How in the world did I let this blog exist for so long without telling you about my favorite pizza place?

It's not like I've never gone there in the past few years. Maybe it's because it's so dark in there I was never satisfied with my pictures. Or maybe it's because I always order the same thing so I had a hard time writing a proper post about the rest of their menu. Whatever the reason, I'm terribly terribly sorry.

So let's not wait any longer.

Now, I know pizza can be a very polarizing topic, and everyone has an opinion about how an amazing pizza should taste. Personally, I've always had an affinity for super thin, crispy crusts and interesting toppings. I also love local, cozy restaurants that are fun and full of character.

Emma's is the perfect combination of all of those things.

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Sous Vide Cooking

>>  Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Parts of this post have been published before in my Culinary Tour Around the World - Sous Vide style post. However, I thought it would be useful to write a separate post dedicated to the general art of sous vide, sort of as a reference point. Enjoy!
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 only yielded a handful of books about sous vide cooking at home, many of which published within the last two years.

"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.

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Bouchon Bakery (New York)

We end our New York series with a place I always visit every time I come.

Yes, I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point, especially considering that I've already written posts about its sister bakeries, both in Napa Valley and Las Vegas. But I really really like this bakery!

And, for the sake of completeness, I really should have all three on my blog, right?

Besides, who doesn't want to look at pictures of more lovely and delicious baked goods? ;)

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Copper River Salmon (King)

>>  Monday, June 06, 2011

Congratulations to Erin from Long Island who won the California Giant Berry Farm Giveaway. Erin said "I love to dunk strawberries in Ulker Golden (like Nutella, but better!)." Thanks all for playing!

After seven long months of waiting, fresh Copper River salmon is finally here!

What's so special about it?
Copper river salmon come from the Copper River in Alaska, a 300 mile long 1-mile wide river in Alaska that is well known for its salmon runs. Each year 2 million salmon swim upstream (climbing over 3000 feet in elevation!) to their spawning grounds up north.

Exactly three weeks ago (on May 16, 2011 to be exact), the the 2011 Copper River Salmon season officially opened. The fisherman have been out in the city of Cordova (right near Prince William Sound on the map), catching salmon for this season's harvest. Currently, they are catching Copper River King (or Chinook), which is seriously among the most prized salmon in the world. It's known for its high oil content (yay omega-3!) and juicy rich flavor.

Map courtesy of Copper River Salmon Organization

All wild fish from Alaska is sustainably harvested. The Alaska Constitution mandates that fish "be utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle." 

As a result, fishing is highly regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Biologists collect data about the numbers of migrating fish throughout the season. This number governs the times and dates at which fisherman can actually fish.

The Copper River King season runs from mid-May to about late June, which means we're right in the middle of it now!

I recently had a chance to try a beautiful super fresh filet (right off the boat!) of Copper River King.

Oh My Goodness.

It was seriously the best salmon I'd ever had in my entire life.

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Momofuku Milk Bar

>>  Thursday, June 02, 2011

How can one dine at Momofuku Ko for dinner and not stop by the Milk Bar afterwards?

I was stuffed. Really really stuffed. Yet Bryan somehow convinced me that we had to go, with the exact reasoning stated above.

Oh, and his other classic line he uses all the time (to get me to order a dessert):

"You SHOULD . . . for the sake of the blog . . ."

So even though I had just enjoyed a 2+ hour 10 course tasting menu (and it was already past midnight), we stopped in Momofuku Milk Bar to get some after-dinner sweets.

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Momofuku Ko

>>  Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The door to one of the hottest reservations in the city is surprisingly inconspicuous.  If I had not known exactly where the restaurant was, I would have easily missed it.

The tiny sushi bar hides behind a large, glass door covered with cage-like grating that almost reminds me of a prison - except that these prison doors lock out everyone who couldn't score that elusive reservation. A tiny peach plus two miniscule letters "ko" are your only clues to the mystery behind those doors.

What's so special about this place? David Chang, the brains behind the entire Momofuku empire, pushes the limits, breaks traditional rules, and yet continues to wow diners left and right with inventive dishes that incorporate ideas from all over (molecular gastronomy, Japan, China, France . . .). This guy's a genius who has a natural knack for creating some really unusual, wacky, yet very tasty dishes.

David Chang giving a lecture at Harvard University

Bryan surprised me a week before our New York trip by telling me he had somehow nabbed a Saturday evening reservation at Ko! Needless to say, I was thrilled.

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