64 Pints of Ice Cream Delivered

>>  Tuesday, July 31, 2012

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It was around 9AM when the doorbell rang.

I wasn't surprised. After all, I had been expecting a delivery. 2nd St. Creamery had contacted me a couple weeks before asking me if I wanted to sample some of their premium ice cream. They were about to enter the Boston market, and wanted to give me a chance to taste it.

How could I say no? Ice cream is one of my all-time favorite foods, and I'm always on the lookout for new premium ice cream.

They said they would send me 8 pints so that I could hold a small party and share it with friends, family, or coworkers. I had given myself about 15 minutes in the morning to put the ice cream away before heading out for a work meeting in the morning.

I opened the door.

There stood the delivery man, holding a box about the size of a small freezer.
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"I got one more in the truck for you!" he chirped as he ran back towards the truck.

I stood at the door, stunned.

He soon drove away, leaving me with two huge boxes at the base of the staircase leading up to the kitchen.

They were so heavy, I could not lift them by myself. I pushed them up the staircase to the living room area where I opened them up.

Why would 8 pints require such ridiculous packaging?
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Whaaaaaaattt??!!
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They had accidentally shipped me eight 8-pint packs.

Yes indeed. I had SIXTY-FOUR pints of ice cream and just a normal-sized refrigerator at home.
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What's a girl to do?

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Ippudo

>>  Saturday, July 28, 2012

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This is the fourth post in the Eating the Big Apple series. Other posts include Soba KohSylvia's Restaurant (Gospel Brunch), and Torrisi Italian Specialties

There's one ramen place in New York that I keep hearing about over and over again.

That's right -  the Japanese export, Ippudo.

We knew friends who made it a point to eat there every single time they visited the Big City. In a New York Times article, top New York chefs listed it as a favorite go-to spot to visit during their off nights. Plus, we'd heard about the insane line and long waits.

What is it about ramen that causes such craziness to ensue?

And has it always been this way?

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Taste of Kinsay with Chef Jason Doo - Take 2

>>  Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jason Doo
Do you remember Jason Doo?

I wrote about him a couple months ago. Chef Jason Doo is a rising chef who worked at Menton as a chef de partie before traveling to Asia for more culinary exploration and research. Back in February, I was invited to an incredible dinner at his home where I got to taste fascinating renditions of royal imperial cuisine, Asian street food, and creative fusion off-shoots inspired by Chef Doo's rigorous training at places like Menton.

Imagine my uncontainable excitement and utter curiosity when, in June, I was invited to a second dinner by Jason Doo.

I knew from the last dinner that this guy's creativity has no bounds and his food is really like nothing I've had at restaurants in Boston. Better yet, he had just returned from an extended journey in Asia where he had explored street foods, tea plantations, and even Michelin-starred Asian restaurants.

I couldn't wait to see what he had to offer.

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Torrisi Italian Specialties

>>  Friday, July 20, 2012

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This is the third post in the Eating the Big Apple series. Other posts include Soba Koh and Sylvia's Restaurant (Gospel Brunch).

The Torrisi chefs and co-owners Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi have received a ton of press lately. Food and Wine Magazine recently crowned them "Best New Chef" for 2012 and New York Magazine called their restaurant "Best of New York" for 2012. Their training arises from some pretty prestigious places (Cafe Boulud, WD-50, Babbo, and Del Posto).

The restaurant's gone through several metamorphoses in the recent past. Torrisi started out as a place that served great Italian sandwiches at lunch and a fun, spontaneous, and creative $50 prix fixe dinner. No reservations were accepted, and the place was always packed with notoriously long waits. People gushed about the incredible tasting menu for such an amazing price.

That was 2010, and a lot has happened since then. They've increased the price of the 4-course tasting menu ($65 last time we went), added the ability to make reservations, increased the number of servers, and made the space a lot nicer.
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Remnants of a bygone era - the sandwich menu is still posted behind the bar, even though they don't serve sandwiches here anymore

Speaking of space, the Italian sandwich shop is also gone, now situated down the street at a place called Parm. In November of 2011, Torrisi took over the space of Rocco Restaurant, a beloved, 92-year old red-sauce Italian neighborhood institution that had entertained the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Robert DeNiro, and Johnny Depp (there's a slightly sad tale about Rocco being forced out by an aggressive landlord, but we won't go into that here).

Before, it was virtually impossible (or at least quite painful) to land a seat to taste their creative renditions inspired by Italian food. Now, you can make a reservation during either lunch or dinner to enjoy the original 4-course tasting menu. At dinner, they've added an extravagant 20-course tasting menu for $125 which showcases them at their best (ironically, that has become the reservation that's impossible to score).

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Sylvia's Restaurant

>>  Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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This is the second post in the Eating the Big Apple series. Other posts include Soba Koh.

Update: Rest in Peace Sylvia Wood, the founder of this restaurant, who passed away Thursday, July 19, 2012. 

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For some reason, New Yorkers are obsessed about brunch.

Perhaps it's the opportunity to slow down from the busyness of the crazy work week; or maybe it's the availability of so many fantastic places at which to enjoy this beloved meal.

Whatever the reason, the city is abuzz with brunch seekers every Sunday morning. Try to get into some of the popular brunch spots around town, and you'll easily find yourself waiting in line, sometimes for well over an hour, for a coveted seat.

In the middle of all these different brunch options, there's a unique sub-genre that hails from another region and another time. It's the Sunday gospel brunch in New York - Harlem specifically. Chow down on delicious Southern dishes in rooms that feel like an old Southern house while listening to (and even participating in) a fun afternoon of live gospel music.

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Soba Koh

>>  Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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This is the first post in the Eating the Big Apple series.

I seriously don't know why there isn't an obsession about really, really good soba.

Ramen has already taken this nation by the storm. It's how David Chang made a name for himself. Lines at Ippudo in New York are notoriously long, and can we even count the number of people desperately trying to get into Guchi's Midnight Ramen here in Boston?

Soba seems to be a quieter affair. For most people (me included), it is a humble noodle that's served on the side, almost like an afterthought. It may play second fiddle to fried tempura, or could be tossed together with a bunch of other flavorful ingredients. Almost never is it allowed to shine on its own as the main centerpiece.

In fact, I don't think Boston has a single restaurant that makes its own soba. At most, soba is served as  a token noodle dish as part of a menu predominantly filled with fusion sushi rolls, shrimp tempura, and salmon teriyaki.

This is why I had to go to New York to seek out this rare specialty.

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Neptune Oyster's Lobster Caprese Salad

>>  Friday, July 13, 2012

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You know those people who always tend to order the same thing no matter where they go?

Unadventurous? Predictable? Boring?

That's me when it comes to caprese salads.

I'm not sure why, but I love, love, love that magical combination of a deliciously ripe tomato, a beautiful, creamy slice of mozzarella (or any of its lovely cousins, hello burrata!), and really fresh basil. Top that with some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, and I'm set. Don't even add balsamic vinegar - it's really not necessary.

I have such a hard time resisting caprese salads on menus, regardless of whether it's in salad form or sandwich form. I become that boring eater, always ordering the same thing.

A couple weeks ago, I received an intriguing invitation to a tasting and recipe demonstration. We would learn how to make Neptune Oyster's Lobster Caprese Salad from Michael Serpa (executive chef). We would also be tasting several different kinds of tomatoes courtesy of Backyard Farms tomatoes (the ones used at Neptune Oyster).

My favorite salad? Made by the chef of one of my favorite restaurants in Boston?

It wasn't hard to decide.

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Antico Arco

>>  Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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Tiber River in Rome

This is the seventh and final post in the Spontaneous Weekend Trip to Rome Series. Other posts in this series include: Dal Paino Pizzeria in RomeEtabliIl Convivio,Ciuri Ciuri Pasticceria Gelateria SicilianaSant'Eustachio Il CaffeGelato in Rome, and Roscioli.

Italy is so beautiful.

We all know that it's not just good food that makes a restaurant experience special. A lot of the total experience comes from the neighborhood, the dining space, the service, and the company with whom you are enjoying the meal.

Our last dinner in Rome was special.

Many consider Antico Arcoa warm, elegant, yet relaxed Italian restaurant at the top of a hill in Trastevere, to be one of the most romantic restaurants in Rome. 

Yet my fond memories of our evening out at Antico Arco go far beyond just the warm ambiance and excellent food at the restaurant. The entire journey of getting to the restaurant (and back!) was an adventure filled with gorgeous scenery, interesting explorations, and (occasionally), unexpected twists and turns.

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Roscioli

>>  Monday, July 09, 2012

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This is the seventh post in the Spontaneous Weekend Trip to Rome Series. Other posts in this series include: Dal Paino Pizzeria in RomeEtabliIl ConvivioCiuri Ciuri Pasticceria Gelateria SicilianaSant'Eustachio Il Caffe, and Gelato in Rome

It's been a tumultuous year on Italian food front.

This past year, our favorite Italian restaurant has been an ever-shifting target. Even though we still love our North End favorites, our food-related travels in the past twelve months have opened our eyes to some absolutely incredible Italian food. 

Bryan, the pasta aficionado, initially declared Mario Batali's ristorante in Las Vegas to be his favorite for pasta. This past year, that was superseded - first by Il Mulino (Las Vegas), and then again, by Il Buco Alimentari (New York).

And then we visited Rome.

Italian food in the U.S. is good. But nothing beats Italy.

Welcome to Roscioli, a quaint restaurant-salumeria-wine bar off the Campo di Fiori not too far from Piazza Navona. It's a high-end food market, wine shop, and restaurant all rolled into one. The market sells an  incredible selection of cheese, salumi, and other Italian specialties. 

And what does the restaurant serve?

Oh, just the best spaghetti carbonara that we've ever tasted in our lives.
Spaghetti Carbonara
Spaghetti alla carbonara

Gambero Rosso, a prestigious Italian food and wine magazine dedicated to the slow food movement, awarded Roscioli the "best carbonara" honor in 2008.

The carbonara at Roscioli is special because of its specially-sourced ingredients. Guanciale (bacon made from pork jowls) comes from del Conero. The sauce incorporates a mixture of Romano and Moliterno (a sheep's milk pecorino), and the spaghetti is made by a small producer from the Abruzzi region. Even the black pepper is a mixture of three different kinds from Jamaica, China, and India.

The most important ingredient, however, are the eggs. The eggs come from Paolo Parisi, a famous egg farmer in Tuscany. His intensely yellow-yolk eggs (which cost around $4 each!) come from free-range hens who feed on goats' milk.

Combine all these incredible ingredients and you have gloriously chewy spaghetti coated in this velvety, thick, eggy sauce full of intense flavors from the cheese and black pepper.

Bryan, who has always been a pretty big fan of carbonara, absolutely loved it, citing how wonderfully "eggy" (not a dash of cream in this dish) the sauce was.

It was seriously crazy good.

But let me not get ahead of myself.  First, let me tell you a bit more about Roscioli.

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Eating The Big Apple

>>  Friday, July 06, 2012

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In the spirit of celebrating our nation's birthday this week, I thought it made more sense to finish off this week writing about the U.S. instead of other countries, say, like Italy. So, even though there are still a couple posts left in the Spontaneous Weekend Trip to Rome series, I am ending this week by sharing with you a couple sneak previews from my next travel series: Eating The Big Apple.

I was lucky enough to visit New York City three times these past six months. Two were business trips for work, but one was a completely unexpected trip to the Saveur offices in Manhattan to celebrate my Best Food Blog Awards win (thanks again all for your support!).

New York is fun because you never know who you might encounter.
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Like these men, who I saw in the window during a random morning stroll to the new Bouchon Bakery in Rockefeller Center.
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Or this celebrity chef, who was wandering around saying hi to guests in his own restaurant. Of course I had to ask if I could see the kitchen.

Celebrities aside, there's still the never-ending diversity of interesting and really good food in New York, which is what I spent most of my time exploring.

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Happy 4th of July!

>>  Wednesday, July 04, 2012

USA Flag Pizza
Pizza Flags

Happy 4th of July!

I love, love, love going to the fireworks in Boston on July 4th. It's been a tradition since I was here for college. Even then, being on campus at MIT, we always had fantastic views of the incredible lightshow.

This year, we're planning on heading out there again. Maybe it's habit, or maybe because we're comfortable with the Cambridge side, but we've never ventured over to watch the fireworks from the Boston side.

This will be the first year (ever!) that we've owned a grill, so of course we're taking full advantage of it. Finally, we can join the tradition that millions of Americans do every year.

Just for fun, I've compiled the (smallish) list of grill recipes I've created up to this date.

Enjoy!

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Taiwanese Grilled Corn

>>  Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Taiwanese Grilled Corn
I'm convinced there's absolutely no better way to enjoy corn than this.

Perhaps it's the combination of culture, memories, and large doses of nostalgia. After all, this is my mom's special grilled corn recipe. We ate it while grilling the first time I ever swam at a "beach" as a kid (yes, it was just a lake beach in the land-locked Midwest, but I absolutely loved it).

Whenever my mom visited Boston (back when we didn't have a grill), she would make this at my sister's place, which has multiple grills. Every single time, it was fantastic and we could never get enough of it. This Taiwanese-style of grilled corn is really, really tasty. Imagine -  sweet, charred, almost caramelized corn with hints of garlic, soy, and sweet chili sauce.

In Taiwan, you'll most often see this type of grilled corn served at night markets, although it appears in  traditional outdoor markets as well.

I called my mom this past weekend in a moment of desperation when trying to figure out what to make for my relatives who were coming over for dinner.

My mom saved the day.

And I was floored how simple this recipe was.

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Pre-July 4th Grilling + Ice Cream Party

>>  Sunday, July 01, 2012

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Summer's in full swing here in Boston.

Bryan and I have a real special treat this week. Bryan's parents are visiting Boston (all the way from sunny California). As a result, we've been enjoying some great eats around Boston with them, with plans to show them other favorites we think they would like.

This past weekend, we kicked off the festivities by hosting a dinner party at our house. We invited all of the local relatives. It was awesome - we'd never had all of them under our roof before (frankly, in the old tiny urban condo, it would have been kind of difficult to fit so many people).

We whipped out the grill and took full advantage of the warm summer nights.

Yes, we set off the fire alarm twice, but we had a fantastic time enjoying lots and lots of grilled food as well as several homemade salads.

And how best to prep to entertain so many people with only a few hours to prepare?

1) Buy quality ingredients
2) Call Mom
3) Go back to the basics - make what you know!

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