Monday, September 14, 2009

Marie Callendar's Fresh Strawberry Pie

Anybody who knows me, knows that I have a penchant for this particular pie from Marie Callendar's. It's always been tradition to have one of these on my birthday. I was luckily born in April which is the beginning of strawberry season and boy did I reap the season's bounty year after year. My mom was also born in April and we would heartily finish off a pie just between the 2 of us in about a day and a half. The best part is collecting all the pie tins and then bringing them back for 50cents each and using that towards your next pie purchase. As far back as I could remember, these pies would be for about $7, but now theyre like a whopping $16-17? Anyways, I don't lament about the cost so much as my mom does. I'm just happy to get my hands on one and to have someone to eat it with. As much of a fatass as I am, I would never attempt finishing one by myself. Dumpling Man helped me eat this one. Most people don't understand my love for something to simple. To most, it's just a pie and there are certainly better strawberry pastry preparations out there. I do not disagreed. But this pie just holds a special place in my hurt, or maybe my stomach.

Anyways, since I haven't been home this much this strawberry season I haven't been able to get one for me and my mom. Come to think of it, I don't even think I had one for my birthday this year. Ok, that makes me feel a whole lot better for getting it this time. I was contemplating maybe getting a peach pie, but apparently they stopped making them last week but the strawberry pies will continue to be churned out for another 2 weeks! Now who else thinks this year has an uncommonly long strawberry season? I mean it's freaking September and there's still some delicious strawberries out there!

Look! You can see the seeds!

Pardon the un-artistic background. For now I'm working on lighting and keeping steady so that the details of the food come out well. A tripod would certainly solve my problems. I'm just too lazy to get one.

Yummm!! Look at the delectably flakey crust!

I ended up having this slice and a half for snack time, and another at dinner =)

Life is certainly better with Marie Callendar's Fresh Strawberry Pie in my life. *Sigh*

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Boy was I looking forward to eating here all week long! After watching Top Chef Masters, I made a mental note of all the LA top chefs and all their restaurants so I could eventually try them all. So that would include Jar, Ludo Bites (no longer at the Breadbar by my house sadly), Campanile, and Providence. The only one with any Michelin Stars is Providence with an impressive 2 stars. The 2 stars are well deserved in my opinion. So lets start our journey.

It was my sister's birthday so she flew in from SF to spend the weekend and do what the H.o.P. does best...GRUB. A place like Providence should be reserved for special occasions, and the descent into wrinkles and menopause certainly deserves forking over $$$$ for an extra inch on the waistline.

The ambience. It wasn't an exactly open layout, say like Cut. It was more partitioned off, and I'm not exactly sure how many areas there were but the room we were in had some funny stuck on things on the wall. Looked like sea shells but on closer inspection they were more like tortilleni shaped plaster things. Anyways, totally unimportant especially since I have no visual to show you. This next picture makes me want to go out and get a tripod. The Dairy Queen was right in his photo tutorial to me. It's all about lighting and how steady you are. This picture was obviously taken with the camera sititng on the table. I was pretty impressed at how nice it looked.

So I took every dish with and without flash. In my opinion flash really sucks. Makes things look so harsh, but these darn fancy restaurants and their low lighting makes food picture taking a real task. I got decent shots without flash, but for the extra detail I decided to post the flash ones.

The bread. Bacone brioche and olive foccacia. The bacon brioche tasted like you were eating a more moist and less crispy version of a biscuit with these undertones of bacon. I bet you instead of using butter for the fat they just used bacon drippings cuz I only got one or two bacon bits in my one brioche and it was deliciously bacon-y. The olive focaccia was also quite savory but not overwhelming olive-y. Both were annoying to eat cuz they made your hands oily, but I eventually caved and used a fork to eat my bread =). Nothing wrong with that I say!

We ordered the 5 course tasting menu for our table of 7. We got wine pairings for 3 of us, but really we pretty much all shared the wine cuz who's gonna drink one glass of wine with each course? On top of that we ordered a bottle for the table to start the night off. I think my brother has picked out better wines in the past, but still better than the 2 buck chuck sitting in my kitchen.

The amuse bouche. From left to right. Gin & Tonic in a gelatinous cube which is activated by the lime. Mojito in a thin skin that breaks in your mouth. Carrot soup with creme fraiche. The last one didn't really make much of an impression on me. The gin and tonic was interesting, but the mojito thing was wonderful. Both had such interesting textures and I never really imagined drinking alcohol this way. Very fun.

Japanese Kanpachi with crispy rice crackers, flowering coriander, soy creme fraiche.
Very fresh, delicate, and a good starter. The flowering coriander was a nice touch.

Salt Roasted Santa Barbara Spot Prawns served with simply with olive oil and lemon.
Oh so I mispoke when I said we had 5 courses. After hearing the description of the spot prawns from the waiter, we decided to order it as an additional course. So 1 spot prawn for each person instead of 3 as a regular appetizer or 5 as an entree. It's presented table side, still in the salt roasted pan. They uncrust it and plate it. I'm not sure if its cooked in the olive oil or if they drizzle it, but it is quality olive oil. I never smelled an olive oil so fragrant and delicious. It went well with a squeeze of lemon. I even ate some of the head and I was a lucky one that got a female so the eggs were creamy and delcious.

Hokkaido Sea Scallops with chantrelles, haricot vert, applewood smoked bacon, jurancon sec.
Don't know what that last ingredient was. Probably related to the sauce, which was lovely. Scallop was perfectly cooked the the sauce was so interesting. The wine pairing for this dish was totally off. It was the sweetest darn Riesling I ever had. It was even sweeter than the Moscato served with dessert. Bad job to the Sommelier! Overall the wine pairings at Michael Mina was far superior although the food was far inferior.

Wild Alaskan Halibut with burdock, shiso, lemon.
That crispy thing on top is burdock. Nobody knew what it was but we all loved it. Apparently, its some sort of plant thats eaten like a root vegetable, which makes sense since it had starchy quality to it and tasted like a fancy potato chip. We all associate halibut with being dry but of course this was very moist and light.

Roasted Tenderloin of Veal with crushed butterball potatoes, spring onions, hazelnuts, spring garlic confit.
This was probably my favorite dish and my first time having anything "sous-vide." After hearing it all the time on Top Chef it really makes you curious. So for all those who don't know, per Wikipedia:
French for "under vacuum",[1] [sous-vide] is a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked for a long time, sometimes well over 24 hours. Unlike cooking in a slow cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (usually around 60°C or 140°F).

Anyways, the best part of the dish was the potate thing under the meat with a wonderful caramelized onion flavor. The meat was obviously very tender, the sauces went very nicely and I even ate the whole garlic!

Cheesecake with cranberry puree, gingerbread crust, and pear sorbet.
This dish caused us some headahces thanks to my intelligent sister. My mom doesn't really like milky cheesey things being the typical Asian mom that she is. So when we initially ordered she asked if she could substitute out the cheesecake for another dessert. I guess we got the impression substitutions were not their favorite thing to do. So my sister chimes in that my mom is lactose-intolerant, which she IS NOT. So they ok'd the substitution most graciously. Anyways, the manager came to us afterwards to get more details about this "lactose intolerance," pointing out that most dishes had some form of dairy in it. I guess they confused "intolerance" with allergy because it seemed like a whole to do. They served her first course without the creme fraiche in the carrot soup shot. It seemed like my mom's tasting menu would be doomed, but I guess we clarified and my mom ordered a chocolate ganache for dessert. I think she really missed out because the cheesecake wasn't really that cheesey. It was more like a panna cotta, very delicate. That chocolate mess on the right was actually gingerbread ice cream and it was sooo original and tastey but definitely melted a lot faster than the pear sorbet on the left. God, I wish I could eat some right now as I type. Droooool.

My mom's dessert was too deeply chocolately, but quality nonetheless. I preferred the cheesecake.

Overall this place was simply amazing. Everyone was really pleased, unlike with Michael Mina where there was a sense of disappointment. I can't wait to find another occasion to go back for! I shall leave you all with this.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Harry Potter-Luck #3

I started a tradition some years ago with a potluck before watching the newest Harry Potter movie. This year marks the 3rd Harry Potter-Luck (get it, potluck, potter-luck? totally original and totally MY IDEA so if you ever hear anyone else say those words they had to have stolen it from me!). Anyways, I've tried to make it a cooking competition too with best dish winning a prize. Nothing too extravagant, just good food, fun times. Prior Potter-Lucks always fell on a Friday so I think it was difficult for people to cook. This year it was on a Saturday so I guess people had more time to actually cook, and boy did it show! Food was excellent this year!

Dish#1 - Veggie Platter
Good thing I bought this, cuz it was an attempt to balance out the dishes with something fresh and healthy.

Dish #2 - Nem Nuong Cuon (Grilled Pork Patty Spring Rolls) - Made by YOURS TRULY!
This dish was certainly well received and actually won for best dish, but being the host I couldn't accept my own prize. Anyways, I had to cook the pork patties on my little George Foreman grill and man was it a laborious process. And rolling all of them by myself wasn't so easy either, but I'm glad people liked them so much. It didn't have the fried eggroll wrapper inside them like they serve at the restaurants and I just served it with some fish sauce dipping sauce. I'll definitely make these again.

Dish #3 - Cauliflower and Chicken Curry - Made by Winnius/Darnie
This won best dish! I probably should have taken a picture of the dish in a bowl with rice, but I was too flustered and we should be happy we have a pic at all! It was delicious! Indian curry made by a non-Indian person, go figure! I think it was supposed to cook for another 3 hrs but didn't get to, still good anyways.

Dish #4 - Beef with Mini Yorkshire Puddings - Made by Susie
I didn't even know you could make mini yorkshire puddings. Leave it up to Susie to wow us all. Beef was nice and medium rare!

Dish #5 - Chilli & Cornbread with Honey Butter
Kudos to Tamby for making such a complete dish, it really was a meal in itself. Rave reviews for the honey butter, and how could you go wrong with Marie Callendar's Corn Bread. I always love a good chili even if it came from a powdered mix!

Dish #6 - Gumbo - Made by Claire
Another delicious dish! Very ambitious to attempt gumbo. It always seems so complicated with all the spices and making a roux.

Dish #7 - Ralph's Rotisserie Chicken - Brought by Christine
Who doesn't like rotisserie chicken!

Dish #8 - Sam Woo's Chinese Roasted Pork - Brought by Mada
And who doesn't like roasted pork?

Dessert time!

Dish #9 - Trader Joe's Cookies & Brownies - Brought by Emi

Dish #10 - Fresh Berry Mix - Provided by YOURS TRULY
These went very well with the next dish...

Dish #11 - Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcakes - Brought by Dumpling Man
OH SO VERY DELICIOUS! Dunno how they make something so pedestrian taste so special. I am certainly a fan!

Anyways, good times with good food! I can't wait for the next and last movie. It'll be a bittersweet moment.

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