Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm A Plant Mommy!

Say hello to my new herb garden at my apartment!

I have two different themed pots: Mexican and Italian. In my Italian pot, I have Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, Oregano, and Basil. In the Mexican pot, I have Roma Tomatoes (Yes, I know that is technically Italian), Ancho, Jalapeno, and Serano Chilies, and Cilantro. I love having fresh herbs around, but I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my tomatoes and chilies.

Missing Chicago

There are many reasons why I miss Chicago. Except for a certain life-long friend, food tops the list of things to miss.
Pepperoni deep-dish delicious, doughy, decadent goodness at Gino's East.

Just a sample of my first Korean food experience at Korean Seoulfood. The chef, Jae Cheon, treated us to Bi Bim Bop, marinated oriental veggies on rice, topped with a fried egg, BBQ Pork, Daen Jang Ji Gae, casserole with beef, tofu, and veggies in soy bean paste broth and Chap Chai, a noodle dish on the right in the picture.

Tagging our visit to Gino's East.

I couldn't resist free promotion!

Beer brewed bratwurst with saurkraut and duck fat fries at Hot Doug's.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Social Media and Culinary Culture Collide

In my Strategic Social Media class, we are examining the benefits, strategies and tactics of social media. Yes, it is new and scary, but if you (a company) choose not to embrace social media, you are truly missing out on very valuable marketing, both self and through your customers.

While social media is just beginning to tackle the culinary world, there is one restaurant (on wheels) that has curbed its innovative strategy, and has as a result gained a huge amount of loyal followers. Their method: Twitter. Every evening they tweet the locations of their two taco trucks, Verde and Roja, and the hungry followers come. Howerver, Kogi BBQ's Los Angeles based trucks have done more than master the art of social media, they are culinarily adventurous as well. Marrying Korean BBQ flavors and using Mexican methods of delivery from plate to mouth, they offer the best of both worlds.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rick Tramonto's Tru

Here are some pics from my remarkable dinner at Rick Tramonto's Tru in Chicago. We enjoyed the Chef's Collection, and definitely did not leave hungry. The pictures are out of order, and I tried to take the best shots I could without looking like I didn't have any business eating there. Enjoy!
The Group at Tru


First time I ate off Versace plates

So pretty!

Delicious cheese sample. My fav. was from Oregon of course.

Beef course

Fish course

Scallop and Foie - Melt in your mouth amazing

Soup Course

My first frog leg. Clearly it was so delicious I almost forgot to take a picture.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hot Doug's:Encased Meats::Peanut Butter:Jelly

Landing in Chicago energized me the way only a big, bustling city can. Mentally, I absorbed the spirit of downtown and I thrived. I love to be in the big city, and Chicago was no different. 

Surprisingly (for some), when I was planning my trip to Chicago, my list of to-do's included trips to restaurants and foods to sample; Hot Doug's, Tru, deep-dish pizza and korean cuisine.

While studying abroad in Italy in the fall, I did a lot of research on Lonely Planet's website to plan economical trips around Europe while I was there. It was at this website where I first learned about Hot Doug's. On the homepage, my eye was drawn to an article profiling a hot dog restaurant in Chicago doing unique and revolutionary things with their sausages. Soon after, Anthony Bourdain did an episode of his show No Reservations in Chicago and visited Hot Doug's. Clearly, word of mouth was benefiting the establishment and curiosity was spreading, including mine.

Drawn in by promises of Spicy Alligator Sausage with Cajun Remoulade and Golden Chesire Cheese, or Blue Cheese Pork Sausage with White Peach Creme Fraiche and Citrus-Soaked Dried Cherries, we could not keep away. We chose to visit Hot Doug's on friday for one main reason: Duck Fat Fries, and I could not have been more excited. We arrived via taxi at about midday on a chilly, 50 degree Chicago afternoon and faced a long, looming line of people freezing their butts off waiting for sanctuary inside Hot Doug's Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium. An one-hour long wait, and everyone around us was happy about it! Eavesdropping on surrounding conversations, I listened to friendly customers chatting about their love and loyalty to Hot Doug's. Tourists spoke about how excited they were to try Doug's famous "encased meats" and the great things they have heard about this Chicago culinary establishment, and locals compared favorites and tried to one-up each other on the frequency they visit each week, month, or year.

Despite the cold, the hour flew by quickly, and soon we were next in line to order and still very undecided on what to try. We were greeted at the counter by Doug himself and immediately felt at home. He has a way of making you feel comfortable by chatting with visitors as long as they desire despite the long line spanning behind. It was here I learned that my Twitter friend HotDougs really was not Doug. "As long as he is not saying anything negative about my restaurant or doing it from outside my window at night, I am thankful for the representation," he said. Sooner than we would have liked, it was time to order. My father's tactic was to go basic and let the genius work his magic. He ordered The Dog ("Chicago-style hot dog with all the trimmings 'nuff said") and a Paul Kelly ("Bratwurst soaked in beer - sort of like Paul"). He then recruited Doug to decorate his "encased meats" with the trimmings he would consider best. My ordering strategy was the last-minute, snap decision, letting my mouth voice the selection my eye first lands on. My order was one of the specials, chipotle-cilantro chicken sausage with mole and queso fresco. I was satisfied.

Shortly, we were settled into our seats, which were surprisingly easy to find, and were being handed our meals. It was as pleasant as you could imagine. My sausage was crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, snapping as you bite it. The mole sauce was tangy and chocolaty delicious. The fries were the only point of the meal that left me asking, "That's it?" They were perfect size, shape, texture, crispness and very delicious, but I guess I was expecting more from the famous Duck Fat Fries. Next time I visit, I will jump to ordering another dog to sample before the fries. 

My experience at Hot Doug's was one to remember and I was not let down despite the hype and popularity. It is definitely a figure in Chicago culture that is important to take in and enjoy. As is said in paint of the restaurant's wall, "There are no two finer words in the English language than 'Encased Meat.'"

Here is a link to their website:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Top TV Picks

Beyond my parent's influence, my love of cooking and food blossomed at a very young age. The first cooking show I watched religiously with my mother was Cooking With Caprial circa early 1990s, before I was 10 years old! Today, my cooking show repertoire has expanded drastically. 

Inspired by Anthony Bourdain's new takes on some of today's hottest cooking TV shows, I thought about doing the same. I should first specify that these shows are not the only ones I watch. Typically, if I am home, The Food Network is on. There are some shows, or certain people, who make me turn the channel (Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee or Ask Aida. I have no specific reason except that they annoy me), but I will always have it on in the background. Here are some of my thoughts about the cooking shows on today:

Ultimate Recipe Showdown 
I love this show. It really reverberates with me because it is something I can aspire to participate in someday. Also, the background stories on the contestants always make me want to root for them to succeed. My favorite contestant was Harold Cohen, 74, a retired plastic surgeon who won the Best Burger. Even though he is legally blind, he was still able to wow the judges with his Southern Pimento Cheese Burgers. Something about the playful competition, witty host (Guy Fieri) and thoughtful judges mixes up the ultimate recipe for organized chaos and all-around entertainment.

Top Chef 
This show has won my heart and loyalty season after season. I believe that anyone who has seen it understands why. Bourdain attributes the shows success to Tom Colicchio's hard-headed determination to let the food guide the elimination decisions rather than who would make good ratings if carried through the show. I do not personally know Colicchio, but I think the show is more than just how they make the final decisions at Judges Table. The crazy stunts the chefs are asked to do seem impossible to an aspiring food fanatic like myself, who sometimes finds it difficult to cook organic whole-grain rice in 30 minutes, let alone an innovative and unique dish. The chefs amaze me show after show. I cannot wait to head home to Seattle to catch up on all the episodes I missed this season; I already know Hosea served Carla a huge upset. That was ruined for me the day it all went down :(

Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals
Her popularity is overwhelming. While she has the "girl next door" appeal, or as Bourdain puts it, "America's little sister," doesn't anyone else find her obnoxious? She's a great host and entertainer, but the few times I have managed to sit and watch her show I am in disbelief any average American housemother, her target audience, would be able to conquer all the tasks she tackles in 30 minutes. It is just misleading! 

Paula Deen
I may confuse readers by questioning Rachael Ray, and then praising Paula Deen, but that is just what I am going to do. I think she is so quirky and likable. I want her to be my surrogate grandmother. Her Southern Hospitality is contagious, but my mother is convinced she is elaborating her personality by a factor of 100. However, after studying abroad with a handful of Southern students, I can say for certain her bubbly nature is authentic. Oh, not to mention her name is now synonymous with butter, her preferred and favored ingredient. The more the merrier.

Kitchen Nightmares
My parents hooked me on this one, and not because it is a very good show, but because of the shock. It is hard to remove the gasp from your face when you are presented with some of the conditions restaurant kitchens could be in. It is like catching someone picking their nose, you are disgusted but you can't look away from disbelief, and that is definitely something you could witness from watching this show. It irks me to think of what could be going on behind the kitchen door of my favorite restaurants, and I can only hope Gordon Ramsay gets to them before I dine there again :/

Giada de Laurentiis
Who doesn't love Giada? She's gorgeous and she specializes in Italian cuisine, which no one can deny loving to indulge in. Her pristine kitchens are the envy of any home-chef, and it is interesting to know the entire first season was filmed in a different kitchen every week. The crew travelled from neighborhood to neighborhood to film each episode in authentic family homes. Each episode of Everday Italian brings back wonderful memories of my own travels through Italy, which is one reason why I favor this show.

Next Food Network Star
This show displays to anyone that their dreams are possible. Not everyone may dream about staring in their own Food Network cooking show, but I sure do! Watching average people jump through hoops to survive until the very end and win their own show is the best recipe for entertainment. 
Down Home With the Neely's
These two are over the top with cutesy, lovey-dovey couple-ness (Ya, I made that word up). It is a fun show and they make delicious, stick-to-your-ribs, comfort food that require a nap after consuming. The idea of cooking with your spouse is something I hope to have one day, like my parents have. The extent to which I have that kitchen togetherness with my own significant other consists of myself thoughtfully marinating chicken or beef, and he makes Pasta-Roni. Always room for improvement, and the Neely's are an endpoint I hope to see in my own life in the future.

I love to watch this show when I get around to it. I like the challenge to think on your feet and create something truly unique in the kitchen with certain ingredients, something I feel like I do every night in my own kitchen when I open my cabinet doors and refrigerator wondering what to make for dinner. However, some of the ingredients, and subsequently, the ending dishes, are never appealing to the viewer to want to create on their own. I like to watch cooking shows for inspiration, and Chopped entertains me but leaves me uninspired.

Bobby Flay
His grill-oriented shows are delicious. I only wish I had a grill to recreate all the delectable dishes he makes on every show. One of my favorite episodes was when he made different types of tacos. They all looked so fresh and flavorful. 

Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern
I strongly believe this man has a death wish. There are only so many times you can sample death-defying dishes in every country in the world and get away with it. At the same time, he is so fun to watch, or sometimes to cringe.
Barefoot Contessa
In my opinion, Ina Garten makes the tastiest food on The Food Network. Her series on cooking with basic flavors and ingredients is refreshing. She truly knows how to perfectly highlight the flavors of all her ingredients in a dish to end up with a harmonious blend of culinary woah.

Anthony Bourdain No Reservations
When asked which five people I would invite to a fantasy dinner with anyone, Anthony Bourdain is on that list. His commentary and appreciation for culture is an inspiration to me. His show encompasses everything I would aspire to do, and what I often try to do with this blog. His no fear, no holds bar attitude speaks to those fighting to break out of their PC stranglehold and speak their minds. Bourdain is one of my biggest inspirations.

Man v. Food
Watching this show is like going sky diving; You are always curious about it, but too scared to actually go through with it. Where he puts all the food, I don't know. How is it not a risk to his health to be consuming such large portions so often? In my opinion, he must fast for a week before performing. 

Iron Chef America
This show is so fun. I fell in love with this show back when the Japanese version was on The Food Network. Now, with America's favorite chefs as the stars, Iron Chef has given its viewers people closer to home to get behind and root for. Iron Chef American is Chopped on 'roids, or Chopped but making successful dishes you yearn to taste and create at home. Go Team Cora, first female Iron Chef!

Monday, March 2, 2009

College Student On a Budget

As I find myself tightening the purse-strings more everyday, I am actively seeking hearty, healthy and tasty meals to satisfy my cravings on a college student's slim budget. I grew up in a home with two amazing Home Chefs for parents. I proudly call them "Home Chefs" because the recipes they hold in their back pockets exceed a family's traditional mac n' cheese or spaghetti and meatballs, but instead, are not traditional at all, and are rarely the same every time. Although neither were trained in culinary arts, both have informally studied under some of the nation's top chefs thanks to the Great Chefs Program at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, Ca. Charlie Trotter, Alice Waters, Jacques Pepin, Rick Tramonto, Gale Gand, Lidia Bastianich, Stephan Pyles and Michel Richard are just a small cluster of the chefs my parents had the honor to meet and learn from. What does this formula equate for someone like me? Let's just say I keep the dehydrated ramen in the cupboards unless a sickness disables my taste buds. 

I came across a recipe in a Cooking Light magazine perfect for my needs: Cumin-Pepper Flank Steak with Horseradish Chimichurri. The most expensive parts of this meal were the flank steak and horseradish, both ranging from $5-$8 depending on the size; I purchased a 1 lb flank steak and a small jar of horseradish. In total, this meal cost me about $13, a small price to pay to be hostess to a couple friends for the evening. 

I rubbed the steak with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, black pepper, and cumin.

In a small food processor, I blended
2/3 cup parsley 
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons water
1 hearty tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
1 garlic clove

I cooked the steak in a nonstick skillet for about 5 minutes on each side so it was not so bloody, sliced, and served!

This is the final product ready to serve with the horseradish chimichurri in the background.