Foodbuzz 24, 24: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist

>>  Monday, April 30, 2012

I never thought I'd say this.

But, I actually miss the lab.

It's been years since I've touched a syringe, weighed out powders, or set up chemical reactions. Before law school, I worked for years as a synthetic research chemist making new molecules that could potentially become medicines. There was always a sense of excitement in trying to make something that had never been done before, hoping to find the next breakthrough.

This past weekend, the inner chemist in me finally got a chance to play.

Friends of mine gave me a molecular gastronomy set from Artistre for my birthday last fall. I can't believe it's taken me this long, but I finally cracked open my multiple bags of powders and began experimenting this weekend.

I had so much fun! All afternoon I read voraciously on the science behind techniques such as spherification, gels, and foams. I set up several "reactions", "purified" end products, and ran many test experiments.

The final result? A four-course meal consisting of various classic Asian dishes, re-interpreted with molecular gastronomy.

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Roasted Beet Salad with Feta and Aged Balsamic

>>  Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sometimes, you really don't need much cooking skills to make a really fantastic dish.

I swear, if you have access to high quality ingredients, you're most of the way there. Really good ingredients naturally supply a ton of flavor and nutrients. The rest is simple. Just mix good ingredients together.

So easy.

And so, so good.

I had a seriously good beet salad the other day at home, and it was ridiculously easy to make.

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Etoile (Chandon Winery)

>>  Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This is part 4 of the Napa Valley Adventures series. Other posts in this series: Ad HocBottega Ristorante, and Joseph Phelps Winery

There aren't that many places in Napa County where you can sit on the grounds of a winery and dine at a first rate restaurant.

Why is that?

Napa County actually has a law that prohibits restaurants inside of wineries. Although many wineries do offer small bites of food during their wine tastings, full fledged restaurants are not allowed. Etoile, a one-star Michelin restaurant nestled right in the middle of Domain Chandon Winery, was lucky enough to be grandfathered in when this law took effect.
As a result, a meal at Etoile is unique in a lot of ways.

You can visit the winery in the morning, and then walk straight into the restaurant for lunch. The dishes are tightly integrated with the wines at Domain Chandon, and the views of the vineyard from the restaurant are gorgeous.

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Joseph Phelps Winery

>>  Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This is part 3 of the Napa Valley Adventures series. Other posts in this series: Ad Hoc and Bottega Ristorante

Imagine having a chance to play winemaker for an afternoon.

A chance to sit in your own "wine lab" and experiment, tasting individual flavor components from single origin wines, and then mixing them according to your preference.

Better yet, imagine you were using the same components used to make the winery's own very special, very expensive signature wine.
The Joseph Phelps Winery in Napa Valley holds many different kinds of interesting wine classes and workshops. The inner chemist in me was drawn to this "Make Your Own Insignia Blend" class because it looked so much more interesting than a basic tour. Better yet, we would be able to taste elements of the wine that we'd never be able to taste anywhere else.

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5 Napkin Burger: Beer and Bourbon Series!

>>  Monday, April 23, 2012

A burger so juicy that you will need five napkins to wipe up all the juice?

That's the claim behind 5 Napkin Burger, a fancy hamburger-focused bistro that spun off of a really, really popular burger on the menu at Nice Matin, an Upper West Side restaurant in New York.

The restaurant has since been expanding, with the first Boston location opening in Back Bay right inside the Prudential this past year.

Recently, they began a Beer and Bourbon Dinner Series, where the restaurant partners with various different beer or bourbon providers and offers a multi-course dinner paired with the featured drink company's products. For $45, you get a 2-course dinner plus dessert, passed hors d'oeurves, and a chance to try 4-5 different types of beer.

Bryan and I happily accepted an invitation to attend the first dinner of the series this time around, feature Stone Brewing Company.

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Bottega Ristorante

>>  Friday, April 20, 2012

This is part 2 of the Napa Valley Adventures series. Other posts in this series: Ad Hoc

For food-obsessed individuals, Yountville is like a surreal, magical place that seems too good to be true.

This tiny town is home to some of the best restaurants in the nation. Just walk up and down the one-mile strip of the main road (Washington Street), and you'll saunter by Thomas Keller's empire (The French Laundry, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc are all within a mile of each other), Redd (1 Michelin star), and Bistro Jeanty (an excellent French bistro that's a favorite of the locals).

The local convenience store sells bottles of Opus One, Joseph Phelps Insignia, and gourmet cheeses alongside batteries and magazines.

Wine shops with incredible selections and tasting rooms dot both side of this road.

About halfway up Washington Street, right in the center of all this action, sits Bottega Ristorante.
Chef Michael Chiarello opened Bottega in December of 2008. After spending over a decade running a huge business that included his own family vineyard, the NapaStyle stores, and his TV shows, he decided he really wanted to get back into the kitchen. The restaurant has since received both IACP and James Beard Award nominations, as well as accolades from many other publications.

Chiarello loves being at Bottega.

"I don’t think I’ve been happier in years. It’s great to be able to throw a party every day. You don’t get that on TV. There, you are cooking alone," [Food Gal]

Bryan loves Italian food, so it was a no-brainer that we would eventually try this place. After failing to get a reservation the past few times I was in Napa, I finally landed an early (5PM!) reservation for dinner this year.

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Ad Hoc

>>  Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"for temporary relief from hunger"

Thomas Keller's more casual restaurant in Yountville, called "Ad Hoc" was never intended to be a permanent restaurant. While designing a very different type of restaurant (think "burgers and bottles" hamburger and wine pairing), Thomas Keller's team temporarily opened up Ad Hoc ("literally meaning for this purpose only") for just six months to serve the local community.

The concept?

Offer a 4-course family style meal with a small, accessible wine list in a casual environment that is "reminiscent of home."

It became so popular that it was really hard for them to close it down.

Thomas Keller quipped "if we keep it, we'll have to change the name. Maybe to Ad Lib."

That was 2007. Ad Hoc is clearly still around and going very, very strong. In fact, its fried chicken has become legendary, and Thomas Keller has even written a cookbook for the restaurant.

So finally.

Finally, after having tried Per Se, The French Laundry, and countless different Bouchon bistros and Bouchon bakeries, I can finally say I've tried all of Thomas Keller's restaurants in the US.

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Napa Valley Adventures (& a little bit of SF)

>>  Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I first got to experience California's breathtaking wine country when I traveled there three years ago to cover the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. I've been so lucky to be able to go back every year since that first time, and every time, I discover something new.

This past March, between the craziness of covering the Mystery Basket Competition and the Finals, Bryan and I had some time to get away and enjoy some other parts of Napa Valley.

We tried some fantastic meals (there seems to be an endless supply of really good food in this area!), visited some awe-inspiring vineyards, and even tried our hands at making our own wine blends.

Here's a sneak preview of upcoming posts from our next trip series on Napa Valley.

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Eleven Madison Park "Tour" at Menton

>>  Friday, April 13, 2012

This is so not your ordinary cookbook.

And most certainly not your typical cookbook tour.

What other (newly minted!) three-star Michelin chef has toured the country, cooking from his book at fine restaurants around the world?

It is seriously a treat for us Bostonians to be able to sample taste of Daniel Humm's creations from his new cookbook, the Eleven Madison Park Cookbook, a compilation of dishes from his award winning restaurant in New York.
Back in December, for one day only, Daniel Humm took over the kitchen at Menton. Together with a huge team including folks from both Eleven Madison Park and Menton, Humm prepared an unforgettable four-course meal consisting of dishes from his new cookbook.

In anticipation of this event, Menton's general manager Alec Riviero said, "this is probably one of the biggest evenings we are going to have here this year."

Here's our write-up, complete with many, many exclusive peeks inside the kitchen (Yes! Bryan and I had the great honor of sitting at the Chef's Table during this fantastic event!).

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Island Creek Oyster Bar

>>  Thursday, April 12, 2012

This massive oyster bar right next to Fenway has only been open for a little over a year, yet its success is indisputable.

Island Creek Oyster Bar's main aim is simple: "to bring the restaurant to the farmer" and to create a collaboration that joins "farmer, chef, and diner in one space."

A few things help make this work. Most importantly, one of the owners (Skip Bennett) is actually an oyster farmer from Duxbury. He helps supply the restaurant with its amazingly fresh and delicious assortment of raw oysters. Furthermore, the restaurant has relationships with other seafood vendors that enable it to get really, really fresh fish.

Their bar is run by the same guy who runs the bar at Eastern Standard. Both places are known for having excellent drinks.

We came on a Sunday to enjoy their special Sunday brunch menu.

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L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

>>  Tuesday, April 10, 2012

L'Atalier de Joel Robuchon
This is the last post (part 6) of the Winter in Vegas Series. Other posts in this series include The Wicked SpoonIl Mulino, Table 10, and Max Brenner.

The first time I tried French food, I hated it.

I was 17 years old, visiting France as part of a three-week home-stay exchange program. Being used to rice and stir-fried vegetables, the plethora of meat and butter at every meal turned me off.

If only I had known of Joel Robuchon back then, I may have changed my mind.

Joel Robuchon is the master of French cooking, having trained the likes of Eric Ripert and Gordon Ramsey. He's won countless awards and holds more Michelin stars (26!!) than any other chef in the world. Robuchon himself shunned the richness of classic French cuisine and instead (inspired by the Japanese) sought out a more delicate style of cooking that focused on the natural flavors of ingredients.
Bryan and I absolutely love Joel Robuchon's food. He takes great, great care in designing each dish, creating flavor combinations that will delight you, surprise you, and most certainly make you wish you had more. We celebrated our tenth anniversary by enjoying the Menu Degustation at Joel Robuchon and were seriously blown away. Even our shorter course meal at the Mansion was nothing short of incredible.

This past trip, we finally had a chance to try the more casual side of Joel Robuchon. The food is still made with the same precision and love. However, instead of opulent carts filled with every bread choice imaginable and waiters dressed in tuxedos to attend to your every need, you sit at a very trendy bar overlooking an open kitchen.

We had a fantastic time. We loved the casual vibe; the service was fantastic; and the food? Still among the best meals we've had in Las Vegas.

I think it's one of the best "bangs" for your buck in this city.

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Finalist for Saveur's Best Food Blog Award!

>>  Saturday, April 07, 2012

I got the craziest email last night.

I was quite sleep deprived, actually, so I wasn't even sure whether to believe my tired eyes or not when I received an email from Saveur telling me that I was a finalist for their annual Best Food Blog Awards in the Best Dining/Restaurant Coverage section.

Thanks to whoever out there nominated me, and thanks to those who worked so hard to narrow down such a crazy huge number of nominations (over 40,000 they said??). It's a tremendous honor to be among such a small, talented group of bloggers. Even if I don't win the actual award, in many ways I already feel like I've won.

All final winners will be chosen based on number of votes. To vote, please click here. You will have to sign up for an account with Saveur just so they can keep track of the votes.

For fun, I decided to round up some of my favorite restaurant posts from the past few years. It was hard to narrow it down, but I worked together with Bryan on this, and we tried to pick posts from all different sorts of locations.


Ragout of Wild Mushrooms, Farm Fresh eggs, flowers, herbs
Craigie on Main (Boston)
One of our favorite restaurants in the Boston area, we scored the exclusive "ringside seats" for Bryan's birthday, where we got to watch the kitchen firsthand!
Kyubey Toro
Kyubey (Tokyo, Japan)
The one-on-one interactions with the sushi chef as well as the top-notch sushi makes this one of our most memorable meals in Japan as well as one of our favorite restaurants in the world.
Menton (Boston)
A really unique and educational white truffle tasting meal at the Chef's Table at one of the best restaurants in Boston.
Kurobuta Kago
Kago (Tokyo, Japan)
Insanely delicious shabu shabu with kurobuta (Berkshire pork) belly from the Kagoshima region in Japan.
Oia Greece
Eating in the Greek Isles (Santorini, Greece)
Pictures and food from one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Joel Robuchon Mignardises
Joel Robuchon the Mansion (Las Vegas)
The craziest, most over-the-top meal we've ever had (to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary)
Made In China (Beijing, China)
At one time only available in the imperial palace to royalty, this mouthwatering, delicious specialty was finally brought to the masses in the 1800's and is still immensely popular throughout Beijing today. This was one of our favorite restaurants (and yes, we tried several places!)
Jia Jia Tang Bao
Jia Jia Tang Bao (Shanghai, China)
The most delicious pork soup dumplings (xiao long bao) that we enjoyed in China, and only $1 US for a dozen!!
Granville Moore Beer
Granville Moore's (Washington D.C.)
Lines go out the door at this fascinating, historical moules frites Belgian pub in D.C., which serves fantastic mussels, delicious fries, and has one of the largest selections of Belgian beers in the US.
Peking Restaurant (Los Angeles)
Our favorite "hole-in-the-wall" Chinese place in the Los Angeles area - you must try the "beef and scallion roll" (pictured).
French Laundry Amuse
The French Laundry (Napa Valley)
An exquisite meal in a farm house in Napa Valley - our first experience trying Thomas Keller's creations.
Fried Asparagus with black truffle
Per Se (New York)
Thomas Keller's urban, East Coast flagship, we visited this place just a month after visiting the French Laundry.
Sturgeon sabayon
Eleven Madison Park (New York)
Having just received three Michelin Stars, Chef Daniel Humm produces dishes that look like works of art and taste like magic.
SAMM (Los Angeles)
Sample Jose Andres's favorite creations (hello molecular gastronomy and various Spanish and French influences!) by trying a multi-course tasting at this restaurant-within-a-restaurant.
Peter Luger steak
Peter Luger Steakhouse (New York)
Insanely amazing steak at this no-nonsense cash-only steak restaurant right across the bridge in Brooklyn.
Gastronomy Fiesta
The Gastronomy Fiesta
Spain's Basque region's most famous chefs (15 total Michelin stars between!) ALL together in the kitchen at once to create a tasting menu of a lifetime at the World Expo in Shanghai.

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Cooking for a Cause - East End House

>>  Tuesday, April 03, 2012

One large ballroom right on the ocean.

Over a dozen well-respected local chefs personally handing you dishes they have designed and cooked for the event.

Mixologists from Boston's best bars stirring up cool drinks for you to sample.

Wines from New England wineries and incredible desserts from the area's well-known bakeries and chocolatiers.

Oh, how could I forget? Absolutely amazing coffee from what has become one of my new favorite coffee shops.

All this to benefit East End House, a Cambridge organization dedicated to serving under-resourced families in Cambridge by providing services such as an emergency food program, a child care program, after school programs, and training workshops for adults.

It takes a lot for all of these chefs to take so many hours out of their busy days to support such a fantastic event. Kudos to all who participated in this event!

Here's my recap!

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Super Fusion Sushi (Cambridge)

>>  Monday, April 02, 2012

This is the second restaurant post in the new series, Welcome to My New Hood. Other posts includes Rafiki Bistro.

I am always suspicious when I hear a name like “Fusion” in the name of a restaurant. In my mind, FUSION = NOT AUTHENTIC, which then begs the question of how good can the food be?

Clearly, Super Fusion Sushi is quite popular in Boston. The location that we visited in Cambridge is actually their third location. They started out in Brookline and quickly got the reputation of being a very good, authentic sushi bar with reasonable prices. A second one opened up in Watertown soon afterward. Finally, just about a year ago, this third location in Porter Square opened up.

Considering there is quite a lot of competition in the Porter Exchange Mall (unofficially the “Little Tokyo” of Boston), you figure it has to be decent in order to stay in business, right?

We decided to walk the 10-minute trek from our house to find out.

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