Category Archives: Entertaining

Great British Food

My first impression of British food came from watching The Two Fat Ladies while I still lived in Hong Kong. Despite being a British colony and having British influence on its culture and food, it was the TV episodes that gave me the impression of what British food would be like: rich butter, stews, game, fresh egg from the farm, the cloudy sky and green pasture…

Later, work took me to numerous trips to London where I would go out with office mates to pubs, Kebab places, Michelin starred restaurants, hotel establishments. And my impression was… rich, filling, bland food, but can’t compare to Hong Kong or New York (by then I have moved back to New York) unless it’s a really fancy restaurant. It’s also much more expensive. I know there are all these celebrity chefs from UK such as Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and  I have eaten at their restaurants in the US and UK, but I always felt that the neighborhood restaurants can’t compare.

Eating in London was never something to write home about for me… until a recent trip to London.

GreatBritishFood

In late April, C and I went to London for an art opening at the National Gallery with a group of people. We stayed at The Sloane Club located in Chelsea and only a few blocks away from the tube and all the shopping areas, much more convenient compare to where we would stay if we were on business trips in Canary Wharf area. The weather was beautiful, sunny, mild and never rained during our stay, plus this is not a work trip, we knew it would be a relaxing trip.

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Arrived at noon, we decided to have a light lunch around the neighborhood. A short walk from the hotel, we settled upstairs at Daylesford Organic on Pimlico Road. Daylesford Organic promotes sustainable organic farming and it has a few outposts around the city with groceries, cookery and  cafes. The decor is rustic, modern and minimal. I ordered a
freshly-baked tart of the day with two salads (bulgar wheat, parsley, mint, cucumber, lemon, garlic and toasted pine kernels; raw slaw with cashews and sticky soy ginger dressing) and a traditional lemonade. The food was simply prepared without too much manipulation and tasted great. It’s all in the fresh ingredients. All for 15 pounds, not bad! Besides food, this place has great potteries. They have a few shops in town but this one is tucked in a quiet corner in the village.

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For dinner, we went to visit our friends and their new baby in Balham and had a nice meal at Brinkley’s Kitchen. The restaurant was pretty big with nice decorations and a large open kitchen. It’s also facing the Wandsworth Common which apparently makes it a popular spot for lunch and coffee around the neighborhood.

brinkley's

My dinner included:
Appetizer: Roquefort, pear, walnut and endive salad
Slow roasted pork belly with mash, rosemary roast carrots, savoy cabbage and cider glaze
Desert: Hot toffee cake with cream or ice cream

brinkley pork belly

My friend recommended the slow cooked pork belly. It was indeed soft, rich, flavorful but not over done. The crackling pork rind was fun to eat! And of course no British meal should conclude without a nice pudding. This one has just hit the right spot. Rich, warm, sweet, balanced with vanilla ice cream and perfectly concluded the meal.

After dinner, we walked around the Commons and bid goodbye to our friends. The sky was clear and the air crisp. Six hours over the Atlantic ocean, we were in the Great Britain, leisurely strolled around town, enjoyed great time with old friends, over tasty food. We knew this would be a great trip!

 

 

 

Birreria

I had wanted to go to Birreria for a while now since it’s opened in the Eataly establishment, today is a perfect day! With all the holiday shopping frenzy, having an outdoor meal on top of the 14th floor of an office building sounded great! Plus, this was an unusually warm and sunny day after Thanksgiving.

We were going to order some cheese and salumi plates, but after the waitress explained the menu, we couldn’t resist to have the main courses. The food were delicious. Batali never fails!


Insalada Di Mela: Local apple, fennel, cabbage, speck, asiago with lemon vinaigrette


Extra virgin olive oil with bread


Beer braised pork shoulder with celery, local apples and mustard vinaigrette


Olive oil smashed potatoes

Studio Lunch . Chicken and Fish and Wings

I love to eat chicken wings! Recently, a few like minded office mates and I sampled wings around the pubs near work. We liked the ones when the wings are hot and crispy, coated with a thin layer of pungent sauce. This prompt me to give it a try at home. And I decided to try this recipe from the Pok Pok restaurant, famous for its Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings in Oregon.

I have to say, the result was great! And it was really easy! The crunchiness of the fried garlic and the fragrance of cilantro, mint are irresistible! Perfect with a cold beer.

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings Recipe

Ingredients:
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup superfine sugar
4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed and 2 minced
1.5 pounds chicken wings, split at the drumettes
1 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 tablespoon chopped mint
(add a bit of freshly chopped chillies for some spice!)

Directions:

  1. Mix the fish sauce, sugar and crushed garlic in a bowl. Add the wings to marinade. Refrigerate for 3 hours, tossing the wings occasionally.
  2. Heat the 1 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet. Add the minced garlic; cook over moderate heat until golden, 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  3. In a large pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Pat the wings dry on paper towels; reserve the marinade. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, add the wings and turn to coat. Fry the wings in batches until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan, simmer the marinade over moderately high heat until syrupy, 5 minutes. Strain over the wings and toss. Top with the cilantro, mint and fried garlic and serve.

Studio Lunch . Tonkotsu Ramen

Today’s lunch is yummy Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen. I jazzed up a frozen package of Ramen with braised pork belly slices, spinach, corn,  and Ajitsuke tamago (braised egg).

Here’s a recipe from Norecipes.com to try for this ramen.

Memorial Weekend Escape – Old Lyme and Mystic

A weekend day trip out of New York City can be hectic, but when you are less ambitious and just play by ear, it can be relaxing. The only planning is to rent a car and set a limit of how far you want to go. Getting together with like minded couple of people is key. So our group of four decided to take a day trip to the town of Old Lyme and Mystic in Connecticut on the Memorial weekend Saturday.

 

Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme is a lovely small museum that is the home of American Impressionism. In the 1890s, a women named Florence Griswold decided to operate a boarding house and it just happened that one of her visitors was Henry Ward Ranger, a New York artist in search of establishing an art colony like what he discovered in Europe. What followed was his friends and fellow artists like Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf…etc. Many of the paintings were inspired by the house, its garden and the Lieutenance River that runs pass the property. Today, the museum has a new building with a rotating exhibition and a gift shop. We happen to catch the current exhibition of “…isms: Unlocking Art’s Mysteries” and enjoyed it quite a bit.

After the museum, we drove in to S & P Oyster Company for some lunch. We ordered  lobster tacos and lobster rolls to help celebrate the local annual Lobster Fest. The lobsters were nice but the highlight is to sit by the water and watch the Mystic river and the old drawbridge. After lunch, we walked around the main street a bit and dropped in some of the vintage shops and souvenir shops. For us, this quick escape outside of Manhattan was perfect!

Studio Lunch . Convenient Scallion Pancake

I love a bite of simple scallion pancake dipped into pungent vinegar sauce for brunch or breakfast, but most of the scallion pancake offerings in Chinese restaurants tend to be a bit greasy. I have not tried to make scallion pancake from the scratch yet, perhaps that’s a future project. What I have found is a ready made scallion pancake from the frozen food section in Asian grocery stores. It’s convenient to make and you can add your creative embellishment to make it uniquely yours.

This morning I sautéed some finely chopped green onions with a bit of salt and oil and sprinkled on top of the pancakes. The dipping sauce is a mix of equal amount of Chinese dark vinegar and light soy sauce, with a dash of sesame oil and pepper flakes.

I added some sliced spring red radishes to compliment the plate. The radish is crunchy and taste refreshing together with the pancake. Dipping into the vinegar sauce adds some spice to it.

This is one of the brands of scallion pancake you can get. Each pancake is separated which makes it really easy to take out. Just add a bit of oil in the pan and put the whole frozen pancake in. It takes a few minutes to brown both side of the pancake. A really convenient snack!

 

My Attempt at Yakitori

Inspired by the delicious dinner at Aburiya Kinnosuke, I decided to try my own. Not having the proper yakitori grill, I substituted it with just a panini pan that can be used to grill things.

The plan was to make a few chicken tsukune (ground chicken meat ball), grilled mushrooms, asparagus and a cold udon which is a popular dish in the summer. All the recipes came from internet searches.

The result: grilled skewers on cold noodle plate, a dipping sauce for the noodles on the side. It was fairly easy and quite delicious. Recipes at the bottom of the post.

The dipping sauce: Tare

Tsukune (Chicken meatballs)

For 2 servings
Ingredients

Preparation

  • Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/3 lb. ground chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is opaque about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool.
  • Combine cooked chicken, remaining 1 1/3 lb. chicken, scallions, miso, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl. Knead with your hands until a homogenized, sticky mixture forms, about 5 minutes. Clean hands; lightly coat with oil to prevent meat mixture from sticking. Divide mixture into 16 equal portions. Roll each into a ball, then form each ball into a 4″-long cylinder. Press meat gently to flatten slightly.
  • Use medium heat (a grill is better, but in this case, I used a panini pan), lay out the skewers, turning every minute, for 4 minutes. Brush with tare sauce and continue cooking, turning once, for 2 minutes. Brush again with tare and grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Tare (Soy Basting Sauce)

Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 3/4 teaspoon (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 1-inch-piece peeled ginger (1/4 ounce), sliced
Preparation

  • Place a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to a generous 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes. Strain sauce, discarding solids in sieve. Let cool. The sauce can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.


You will see how easy it is to make this and this can be a simple party food.

Yakitori Dinner at Aburiya Kinnosuke

One of my favorite Yakitori restaurant is Aburiya Kinnosuke. They are the sister restaurant of Yakitori Totto. After the Deco Japan exhibition, we walked over to Aburiya to have dinner. We sat by the bar and were mesmerized by the chef’s precise sashimi cutting techniques. Here are some highlights of the food we had…

Avocado and sweet corn tempura. The tempura was light and crunchy with sea salt and fresh ground peppers adding to the flavor. I love this dish and will try to see how to make in the future!

Tsukune (Grilled ground chicken with teriyaki sauce) This one is on a asparagus stick. Dipping the chicken meatball with a semi-cooked egg adds richness to the grilled meat.

Miso cod grilled

Unagi (Eel) Kamameshi rice. So tasty.

Everything was so yummy and the service was impeccable. I think I will try to make some of the food myself. Stay tuned…

 

 

Studio Lunch . Prosciutto with Mozzarella Tartine

Happy Mother’s Day! It’s a bright and sunny sunday, the temperature slowly crept up 79F. So I thought a Prosciutto and Mozzarella tartine with some ice cold ice cold lemonade would be perfect for lunch.

Today is my lucky day and I got some ramps from the store. A simple saute with some salt and pepper and olive oil is just perfect for ramps. It’s sweet, fresh and fragrant.

A simple tartine with Prosciutto, Mozzarella, crunchy radish, sun dried tomatoes, pesto, fresh basil, sea salt and pepper. The key is good crusty country bread.

Here’s a Mother’s Day special lemonade: mix with blood orange juice to get the peachy, coral color.

Good food comes from great ingredients, simple combinations for me.

Life is just peachy!

 

 

Food For Spring!

Got some fresh seasonal vegetables for dinner tonight. Sweet peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, fresh lemon…I decided to make chicken picatta and a spring pea salad for dinner. Light and refreshing. Simple to make too!

Chicken Piccata

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Spring Peas With Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine
Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups shelled fresh English peas or thawed frozen peas (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons walnut oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. If using fresh English peas, add to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add the snap peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes, then add the snow peas and cook 30 seconds. Drain the peas and plunge into the ice water to cool.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts, dates and cayenne and cook until the nuts are slightly toasted, about 1 more minute.

Drain the peas, shaking off the excess water, then add to the skillet (if using frozen peas, add them here). Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the walnut oil and toss. Add more salt to taste.