Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

>>  Sunday, September 30, 2012

You Po MianWhy, oh why does this amazing little find of a restaurant have to be so far away from where I live?

Remember how I've been hunting for hand-pulled noodles since like, forever? How, after not being able to find any in Boston, I set out to learn how to make them, culminating in this crazy video that I made for Project Food Blog Round 7? And how I even went to Beijing and tried to learn the art of noodle pulling from a real master?

It's been a tough decade since Noodle Alcove closed.

But the days of waiting are now over . . . sort of.

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L'Autre Pied

>>  Thursday, September 27, 2012

We're not done with Canada yet, although we have concluded all four posts for Montreal. We'll take a brief break from Canada today as we whisk over to London briefly before returning to Toronto and Vancouver next week!

Whenever I'm in London, I find myself passing through Paddington Tube station a lot.


Many reasons, actually. First, the Heathrow Express runs straight into Paddington from the airport in a zippy 15 minutes. It is undoubtedly the fastest, most traffic-free, and most convenient way to get into the city.

Second, I go to London mostly for business, and my company is actually closer to Oxford. Again, the train that runs to Oxford leaves from Paddington Station. So I find myself near Paddington a lot.

Invariably, the question comes up about where to eat near Paddington. Is there good food in that area?

The last time I was in London, British colleagues of mine took me to a fantastic little French restaurant right in Marylebone, an area that's only about a 10-15 walk away from Paddington Station.The food at this one-Michelin star French restaurant was fantastic, and I was actually quite surprised at how reasonable the prices were.

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Joe Beef

>>  Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This is the fourth post in the Oh Canada series, summarizing some of the great eats I had when visiting various Canadian cities this past year. Other posts in this series include St. Viateur BagelsLe Bremner, and Schartz's Smoked Meats.

I hate dining alone.

Some people love it. Bryan travels a lot for work and is perfectly content relaxing at a restaurant, reading his iPad, and enjoying a nice meal.

I hate it. When I'm at home in Boston, I would rather scour the fridge and eat scraps of random stuff that I can dig up than go out alone. I get so bored sitting there, staring into space. Sometimes I'll whip out my phone and read emails. But at the end of the day, I would much rather relax at home.

So just a couple weeks ago, I had to go to Montreal for business. Thankfully, the first night some colleagues took me out and I had a lovely dinner at Le Bremner. The second night, however, I was on my own.

I soon decided that the uber famous French restaurant, Toque, felt too formal for a gal dining by herself.

The other famous place, Pied au Cochon, seemed like it had great food, but such huge portions that I (again) really wouldn't be able to enjoy anything if I went there by myself.

So instead, I reserved a table for one at Joe Beef, which turned out to be perfect.

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Schwartz's Smoked Meats

>>  Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This is the third post in the Oh Canada series, summarizing some of the great eats I had when visiting various Canadian cities this past year. Other posts in this series include St. Viateur Bagels and Le Bremner.

Who would have thought that one of the most famous places in Montreal - a "must-visit" that was recommended to me by numerous people - would be a Jewish deli?

Although the French influence is definitely the first thing you notice when you enter this city (they do speak French after all, and the place is filled with boulangeries, boucheries, and cafes), you soon begin to realize that there's quite a strong Jewish presence here as well.

Montreal is very well known for its freshly made bagels, which resemble New York bagels but are smaller and sweeter (check out the full post here). I soon learned, Montreal is also very well known for smoked meats, especially at this one historic Jewish deli which has been here since 1928, serving up some of the best smoked meat I've ever had.

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Le Bremner

This is the second post in the Oh Canada series, summarizing some of the great eats I had when visiting various Canadian cities this past year. Other posts in this series include St. Viateur Bagels.

Chuck Hughes is Canada's darling when it comes to food TV. He was one of only two Canadians ever to win Iron Chef America on TV, beating Bobby Flay. He currently has a show called "Chuck's Day Off".

Le Bremner is Chef Hughes' second restaurant. Located hidden almost beneath street level with the inconspicuous words "restaurant", we almost missed it. In fact, the cab driver had to recheck the address again before we confirmed that, yes, indeed this little red sign was our destination.

Although his first restaurant Garde-Manger is more popular and harder to secure, more than one food enthusiast has remarked that Le Bremner actually is better and it's where Chuck hangs out more, often working the line.

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St. Viateur Bagels

>>  Sunday, September 23, 2012

This is the first post in the Oh Canada series, summarizing some of the great eats I had when visiting various Canadian cities this past year

There's truly something irresistible about a fresh, piping hot bagel.

When my Canadian-Boston transplant friend found out I was going to Montreal, the first thing she requested was that I bring back some sesame bagels. For her, the memories from college (when she was at McGill) were priceless.

"It's super fun to go in the middle of the night and grab a fresh piping hot bagel as it rolls down the wooden chute."

"sooooo good."

Yes, exact words from her email. She really wanted these bagels.

What could I do? I had to make the special trip.

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Oh Canada

>>  Saturday, September 22, 2012

Our neighbors up north are hiding a lot of awesome things up there. This past year, after a decade-long hiatus, I finally had a chance to visit various parts of Canada and explore some of the amazing things it has to offer.

I'm no stranger to Canada. In fact, I grew up an hour outside of Windsor, Ontario. My family used to drive there all the time to eat dim sum and get Chinese groceries. It was one of those day trips I always looked forward to . . .

Ever since moving to Boston, however, those visits have diminished to nearly zero. My last visit was the Jazz Festival in Montreal during the summer of 2000. Yes, its' been that long. It wasn't until this past year, for a number of very different reasons (wedding, funeral, work), that I ended up hitting three major Canadian cities in one year.

As always, can you guess where I went?

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Rasika West End

>>  Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This is the seventh and final post in the new series about my recent trip to Washington DC right on Julia Child's 100th birthday (Series overview: Happy Birthday Julia Child): Other posts in this series include Wolfgang Puck's The SourceBen's Chili Bowl - an Inside PerspectiveExploring Little EthiopiaJaleo, The Federalist, and Peregrine Espresso. I hope you enjoyed the series!

I hardly ever eat Indian.

It's the one cuisine that Bryan refuses to eat. Even though he's not the biggest fan of Korean or Southeast Asian food (ever notice the death of posts for those types of restaurants on this blog?), at least he willing to occasionally try those two cuisines.

But Indian? Forget it. He tried it once in college, absolutely could not stand it, and has refused to set foot inside an Indian restaurant ever since.

So if I want Indian, I basically have to fend for myself.

Of course, this also means that my knowledge of Indian food is woefully elementary. I hardly am aware of the "basic" Indian dishes, (e.g., tikki malasa, samosas, and saag paneer), let alone some of the more exotic stuff.

Which is why I was all the more excited when I found out that we would be visiting one of the hottest Indian restaurants in Washington D.C.

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Peregrine Espresso

>>  Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This is the sixth post in the new series about my recent trip to Washington DC right on Julia Child's 100th birthday (Series overview: Happy Birthday Julia Child): Other posts in this series include Wolfgang Puck's The SourceBen's Chili Bowl - an Inside PerspectiveExploring Little EthiopiaJaleo, and The Federalist.

Oh coffee, how I tried so hard not to become an addict.

Strangely, even though I have been drinking some version of coffee since I was pretty young (my mom used to give me tastes of the free coffee from our local grocery store, diluted with TONS of cream, hot water, and sugar, of course), I was never addicted to coffee.

Throughout college, as other students at the 'Tute (affection way by which we refer to MIT) lived off of intravenous coffee drips into the week hours of the night with their problem sets, I never needed it. Sure, I drank my frappuccinos "socially", but it was never a daily occurrence.

It was the free, available coffee at work that did me in.

For years, I only drank coffee in the afternoon, convinced that I "wasn't really addicted" since I didn't need it in the morning to wake up. It wasn't until I noticed this dull, throbbing coffee headache  whenever I skipped my afternoon cup, that I realized just how physically addicted I was.

So what did I do? Embrace the addiction, of course!
cappuccino in Rome
Now I drink a lovely cup of cappuccino that I make at home every morning. After lunch, I brew yet another cup at work. Yes, I have a coffee maker in my office so I can make a fresh cup (even though there's free coffee in the kitchen). Yes, I'm a wee bit obsessive.

While in DC on this food trip, we soon found out there were several members in our group who were just as addicted as I was to coffee. We all politely requested (or more like begged) that a coffee shop be our first stop.

Our host, Katie, couldn't have picked a better place in DC for us to try.

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The Federalist

>>  Monday, September 17, 2012

This is the fifth post in the new series about my recent trip to Washington DC right on Julia Child's 100th birthday (Series overview: Happy Birthday Julia Child): Other posts in this series include Wolfgang Puck's The SourceBen's Chili Bowl - an Inside PerspectiveExploring Little Ethiopia, and Jaleo

These are exciting times for DC.

The presidential race is going full force, and pretty soon the inauguration will take over the nation's capital. Droves of people will swarm upon the city to enjoy its incredible museums, lively food scene, and excellent hotels (many of which have a rich history of hosting dignitaries over the years!).

Take the Madison Hotel, for example, which has been around for nearly 50 years and has housed countless dignitaries in its presidential suites, including President Kennedy, one of its first guests back in 1963. I had the pleasure of staying in the Madison Hotel during my short DC food trip back in August. It had just undergone an extension 22-million dollar renovation.

After arriving in DC that first night, it was nice not having to worry about trying to head out somewhere for dinner. Our group met at The Federalist, a new restaurant adjacent to the Madison that opened as part of the massive renovation of the hotel. The Federalist takes local Mid-Atlantic ingredients and creates dishes inspired by recipes from the 18th century.

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This is the fourth post in the new series about my recent trip to Washington DC right on Julia Child's 100th birthday (Series overview: Happy Birthday Julia Child): Other posts in this series include Wolfgang Puck's The SourceBen's Chili Bowl - an Inside Perspective, and Exploring Little Ethiopia.

Welcome to the totally redesigned Jaleo.

This Jaleo, which resides right in Penn Quarter in DC, is the original Jaleo, which has been open for nearly 20 years. Deemed by some to be the "DC restaurant most overview for a facelift," Jaleo closed its doors in the winter of 2012 for close to a month to revamp the entire space.

The design of the new space is stunning. Designed by Juli Capella of Barcelona, who also helped Andres design his Las Vegas Jaleo, this new dining space is colorful, whimsical, and fun. The bar is covered with colorful foam hexagons, which double as sound absorbers, significantly reducing the noise levels in the entire restaurant (upper left photo). Tiny fun spaces, such as the hidden "date spot" near the window (lower left photo) offer a romantic semi-private dining area that's great for people watching. Even the front hostess table is shaped like a flower pot, with a huge flower lamp hanging above.
Jaleo Gin & Tonic
With the new renovation, Jaleo also revamped its menu a bit. Although many of the dishes are the same as before, about 20% of the menu has changed, including more "playful" interpretations of traditional Spanish fare, a few more dishes incorporating Spanish Iberian ham, as well as a slew of new cocktails.

As part of our DC tour, we visited Jaleo in the afternoon to focus on cocktails. According to the schedule, we were to enjoy a one hour "cocktail class" at Jaleo.

It turned out to much more than that. Not only did we learn about (and sample!) several cocktails from Jaleo's new bar, we also muched on a variety of mouthwatering small plates, along with a fun dessert that incorporates some cool molecular-gastronomy techniques.

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Uni Shooters

>>  Friday, September 14, 2012

Uni Shooters Did you hear?

I was beyond excited when I found out that Cambridge would be getting its own H-Mart (Korean grocery store). Really? Finally! Super convenient access to a wide variety of fresh Asian vegetables, tofu, various types of sashimi, soup bases, etc.

Altough we don't really cook that much Korean food at home (with the exception of a few dishes I've learned through the years), I'm still excited at the prospect of a big Korean market near me because, typically, they also stock tons of Japanese ingredients.

As you must have gathered by now, I love Japan and all things Japanese.

A couple weeks ago, my extended family traveled to Los Angeles for a summer trip. While we were there, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Matsuhisa, Nobu's original restaurant in LA (post coming, hopefully soon!). Bryan and my brother-in-law, Mike, ordered uni shooters.

According to both of them, it was one of the best uni shooters they had ever had in their lives.

So of course, when we got back to Boston, what's the first activity we did together?

Make uni shooters, of course.

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Exploring "Little Ethiopia"

>>  Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This is the third post in the new series about my recent trip to Washington DC right on Julia Child's 100th birthday (Series overview: Happy Birthday Julia Child): Other posts in this series include Wolfgang Puck's The Source and Ben's Chili Bowl - an Inside Perspective.

I love exploring ethnic enclaves, especially of cultures that are really foreign to me.

That's why I was especially excited about a walking food tour of DC's Little Ethiopia, an area along U Street to 9th Street that houses a large cluster of Ethiopian-owned businesses. According to our tour guide, Ethiopians like living near the region of power, which is typically the capital city. This is why the Ethiopians flocked to Washington D.C. when they emigrated here after the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in their home country.

High rents in other areas forced them into the U Street area, at that time a dead, desolate block that soon became revitalized with Ethiopian shops, markets, and restaurants. Controversy between the African Americans (who see that area as their own) and the Ethiopians (who revitalized the area) has prevented the area from officially being recognized as Little Ethiopia.

Nevertheless, the culture is clearly present in this little corner. I took a fascinating (and tasty!) tour of this area where we sampled Ethiopian breads and spices; experienced a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, and watched the hand-laborious production of injera (Ethiopian sponge bread) from the largest producer in the area.

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Ben's Chili Bowl - an Inside Perspective

>>  Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jen and Virginia Rollins, co-founder of Ben's Chili Bowl and wife of the late "Ben" Ali.

This is the second post in the new series about my recent trip to Washington DC right on Julia Child's 100th birthday (Series overview: Happy Birthday Julia Child): Other posts in this series include Wolfgang Puck's The Source.

There's no question that this is one of the most famous and popular food places in the entire DC area.

Tourists line up around the exterior of the building just for the chance to take a bite into their famous, absolutely delicious, chili half smokes. It's the stuff of legends, really. President Obama's been there. Bill Cosby swears by it and goes all the time.

The walls of this simple, humble looking place are adorned with photographs from celebrities, old friends, and loyal customers from the past fifty years.

I first visited Ben's Chili Bowl just like any other regular tourist back in 2010 with Bryan's family. We stood in that long line to get inside to taste those chili half smokes. It was crowded, crazy, but lots of fun.

This time, I got the inside scoop.

Together with Kate, our fearless leader from Destination DC, we got up bright and early and headed over to the U Street in the Shaw neighborhood of DC.

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The Source (Wolfgang Puck)

This is the first post in the new series about my recent trip to Washington DC right on Julia Child's 100th birthday: Series overview: Happy Birthday Julia Child.

The last place I would have thought to look for D.C.'s best Chinese food would be at a restaurant inside a museum with Wolfgang Puck's name slapped on it.

I mean, I'd had Wolfgang Puck's food before. Nothing super fancy, of course, but I'd tried Spago Cafe in Vegas and his casual Wolfgang Puck Bistro in Los Angeles (underwhelmed both times). I knew he was the inventor of the creative California-style pizzas (like the barbecue chicken pizza) and was the brains behind his flagship Beverly Hills restaurant, Spago.

But Chinese food? Like, really, really good Chinese food?

I was seriously taken aback by the meal we enjoyed at The Source, Wolfgang Puck's first restaurant on the East Coast. I had not expected such incredible dumplings to come out of what seemed like a trendy, vibe-y modern American restaurant.

No joke. I don't think I've had dim sum dumplings this good since I was in Hong Kong.

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>>  Thursday, September 06, 2012

This is the eight post in the Eating the Big Apple series. Other posts include Soba KohSylvia's Restaurant (Gospel Brunch), Torrisi Italian SpecialtiesIppudo,Tasty Hand Pulled NoodleIl Buco Alimentari & Vinera, and Shake Shack.

I've heard of this place so many times.

First, in the thick of Project Food Blog in 2010 (wow, I can't believe that was 2 years ago!) when we were down to the final three contestants, fellow contestant Marc Matsumoto wrote a really creative entry about this place.

About a year later, friends of mine visited and absolutely fell in love with it. Knowing that I love vegetables, they continued to bug me to try it. "Jen, I think you'll really like it."

I definitely tried to go. Not surprisingly, this two star Michelin restaurant was really hard to book.

It wasn't until later that I found out the original chef, Masato Nishihara, had announced he was moving back to Japan in April 2012. People came in droves to experience his food before he left.

This past June (right after Nishihara left) I got the unexpected opportunity to visit New York again, this time to attend the Saveur Food Blog Award Celebration in New York (I still can't believe I won). I called Katjistu immediately and finally landed a seat at the table with the new chef.

I was so curious. What would shojin ryori taste like?

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>>  Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Bryan at Matsuhisa
This blog could have so many more posts if Bryan would cooperate.

You see, Bryan travels for work quite frequently. The nature of his industry allows him to visit some of the best food cities around the world. He often eats at great restaurants that I would love to write up. Unfortunately, whenever he shows me his dimly lit, fuzzy, yellow iPhone pictures that he took of his meals, I just can't bring myself to put them up on this blog.

It would kill me, really.

Thankfully, things are finally changing.
Bryan recently bought himself a pretty snazzy point & shoot camera. I have to say, I'm really, really impressed with this little Sony camera. It's small enough to fit inside his pocket, yet takes quite impressive food photos in pretty dark lighting.

Bryan really has no excuse now.

Lucky for all of us, Bryan has graciously agreed to start taking photos of the food he enjoys on his many business trips. We'll start an ongoing series of "Bryan's Travel Eats" on this blog. These posts will most likely be a bit more photo-driven, since I can't personally write nearly as much about these visits since I'm not there. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled to be able to share about even more cool restaurants on this blog.

For these posts, I will usually at least write a summary of his general thoughts regarding a restaurant at the bottom of the post. Hopefully, I can add as much detail as possible (but it's really all up to how much he can remember on these whirlwind trips that he takes).  :)

Please enjoy! (and check out the debut of this little camera's work!)

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Happy Anniversary!

>>  Sunday, September 02, 2012

Jen & Bryan at Rockport, 1997

I've noticed something that my parents always told me when I was younger.

As you get older, it's so true - time just flies by faster and faster and faster.

I'm really shocked that it's already been a year since that day when Bryan and I went out into the desert in our wedding garb and took some crazy photos to commemorate our tenth wedding anniversary.

10th anniversary shoot - September 2011

In fact, the past 5 years since I graduated from law school have just whizzed by. I really feel like I started the blog yesterday!

Has it really been five years???

In some ways, it's funny to watch the progression of my posts throughout the years, starting with my 6th wedding anniversary post from Craigie Street Bistrot which had no photos (I know, shocker, can you imagine me posting something without photos today?) to my 8th wedding anniversary post from No. 9 Park (wait did I really skip a year? - I guess 2008 was a bare year for the blog), to our 9th at Menton (yes, we did a Barbara Lynch series for a couple years I guess), culminating in our crazy 10th year menu degustation at Joel Robuchon in Vegas.

How do you follow a crazy ten-year?

By being simple, I guess.

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