Tuesday, September 25, 2012

milk bar cakes

I picked up this post card during my visit to Milk Bar when I visited NYC back in July...it is now displayed above my desk...hanging on by a small, blue robot magnet. I have heard rumors of their infamous crack pie and cookie selection, but never of their made to order wedding cakes. Isn't this one beautiful?
My first layer cake attempt was...interesting, but after all was said and done and done, frosted and garnished...building a cake like that from scratch was so gratifying. (I know, I get my kicks in weird ways okay).
I think if I ever get the courage to try and build something this one, I might cry after.
One day...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vegas Eats

This post is dedicated completely to eats in Vegas.

Whenever we make trips, friends and I rely heavily on Yelp to help find great places to grub. There never seems to be shortage of new places to try. 
Here are just a few of recommendations, from my non-definitive and ever evolving list of good Vegas grubbin. 

Grimaldi's  Pizzeria
I've said it once, I'll say it again--best New York style pizza this side of the coast. I've tried their different combinations, but my favorite is still the marinara pizza with pepperoni, onion, and garlic. Pizzas are cooked in a coal brick oven; they come out fresh and hot, never overly greasy or heavy. I especially like the fresh mozzarella cheese they use...it's all about the stretchy cheese.

If you're on their mailing list, and happen to be celebrating your birthday in Vegas, stop by and they'll give you a free pizza.

Lotus of Siam
Located off the Strip
953 E. Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89104
P: 702.735.3033

Have I heard correctly that the Owner/head chef used to cook for the Thai King? I love that she still cooks at her restaurant and pops out to greet guests and make sure everything is tasting delicious. 
My two recommendations special to this restaurant are Garlic Prawns and Soft Shell Crab Drunken Noodles. Oh, and I heart Papaya Salad. (no dried shrimp, please.)

Burger Bar
Located inside Mandalay Bay
P: 702.632.9364
Choose a burger built by Hubert Keller, or build your own. Add on options are extensive--you can even get truffle mushrooms if you're willing to shell out the dough for it. I'm not as crafty with my choice; I usually get the sliders with sweet potato fries. Nom, NOm, NOM.
Salads and Veggie Options available.

Jean Phillipe Patisserie
Go here for indulgent desserts and a curious looking chocolate fountain. Crepes, French pastries (which I've yet to try), gelato and sorbets. They also have expensive packaged candies and chocolates if you need to pick up a gift.

Hot day + Frozen Hot Chocolate = Magical
This drink in particular comes out in a huge glass, topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The perfect indulgence for a hot day, that leaves me swinging my feet as I drink it. Note: it can get packed inside the restaurant, but they have a to-go window just outside that serves a limited menu, but most importantly serves their frozen hot chocolate.  

Located inside Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
P: 702.414.6203
I've yet to eat at the restaurant, although I've heard it's great. I make the trek wherever I'm staying to get a pistachio macaron everytime.

Hash House A Go Go
Something very Vegas about the place...nothing spectacular about the decor, but probably because the food is decadent, flashy and over the top. I had read good things about Andy's Sage Fried Chicken and Bacon Waffles (yup, none of this bacon bit business; those are huge strips of bacon in the waffles) so I shared that with Abe--I have no recollection of finishing it. It's presentation is impressive--it's served more like a towering sculpture, more than morning breakfast. It was tasty and rich, maybe too rich for my blood, but definitely worth a try.
Deals available via Restaurant.com 

5030 Spring Mountain Rd, Suite 2 
Las Vegas, NV 89146 
P: 702.367.3511
This place came highly recommended by my friend, Brian (a sushi snob in his own right). The dishes are the opposite of Hash House--refined, clean, light. After many failed attempts, we finally scored a reservation and got to see what all the hype was about. They have a really unique menu that serves a combination of yakitori, fresh fish, and mixed specialities (things like poached egg with Uni and Salmon Roe, Kobe beef with garlic, a house-made agedashi tofu). It's worth the visit if you can get a table. Make sure to call early (they start taking reservations at 2pm), otherwise you could be eating late (they're open till 3a.m.), but hey, you're in Vegas afterall.

What are your favorite eateries/must haves in Vegas? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

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P.S. Speaking of Yelp, check out these videos via Cup of Jo. So awesome.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kentro Greek Kitchen

Genre: Greek| Location: Fullerton, CA
Yelp page

I'm always inspired to cook after eating at places like Kentro--places that introduce me to dishes and ingredients that I've never tried (not just a different variation of something I get all the time). I expected the usual Mediterranean menu walking into Kentro, but was confronted with a chalkboard menu full of things I've never heard of--Melitzanosalata, Saganaki, Tiropites? Am I the only one that thought hummus and kebabs were considered Greek food?
In short: Kentro serves strictly Greek food, strictly yummy Greek food...
There are so many little things I adored about this place. From the casual style dining, high top tables, chilled water served out of Italian glass bottles into little cups, to an ambiance that encouraged a relaxed, long, drawn out dinner. You order your food at the front counter and take a number (a la Panera Bread or Corner Bakery), which could suggest fast dining-esque food, but everything we had proved otherwise. Here's a few things I've tried...

Octopus {charbroiled with pickled vegetables, latholemono (Greek oil + lemon sauce)}
 Calamari Saganaki {with tomato, garlic, feta}
Brizola {rib-eye 8oz., cooked medium, briami, tzatziki}
Mousaka {bolognese, eggplant, potatoes, bechamel} **Favorite
Roasted & Pulled Chicken Pita {w/red onions, tomatoes, arugula, dijon aioli served with Kentro fries} **Favorite

{Manouri flatbread} **Favorite
This was my favorite plate (along with the mousaka and chicken pita), and the only one I might try to re-create at home. Baked crisp flatbread, topped with manouri cheese (a Greek cheese similar to feta, but creamier and less salty), dried oregano, dried mission figs, arugula and drizzled with honey and extra virgin olive oil. Overall, great service, food, ambience. Highly recommend it!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

green grape + lime frosty

It's been hawwwt these past few days. And though sweating straight out of the shower may not always the most pleasant feeling, I love how amazing a cold drink or slice of watermelon is when the temperatures get high. Can't beat it. Here's a simple, incredibly refreshing concoction I learned from the wonderful catering folks at Whole Foods to help you cool off.
Just blend:

1 cup of green grapes
1/2 lime (rind and all)
1 cup of ice
To make it a frozen cocktail, blend with tequila. Serve with coordinating green straws and stay cool friends.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

fresh lime chiffon cake

This was my second attempt at making this cake. The first was over 1 year ago for Abe's birthday...and I failed miserably. My cake was about 3 inches thick, dense, and had this really weird spongy texture. I'm kind of embarrassed now as I'm reliving it...only because I still served it up at this really nice restaurant and to good friends who ate it obligingly (sorry guys!).

Anyways, the first time I tried this cake (made by my baking guru, Karena), I savored each delicious bite.... then greedily took the leftovers home to eat for breakfast the next day. The delicious memory paired with round cake pans I scored on sale at Sur La Table, inspired me to give it another try. Yes, it was quite dramatic. I followed the directions to the T and used a KitchenAid mixer this time (instead of a hand mixer) to whip the egg whites into a fluffy cloud mass with stiff peaks. Big difference.

Cakes came out perfect. Light, fluffy, fresh, not overly sweet. Balance was restored. Wounds healed, baking cajones slightly given back, etc. etc. It's a nice divergence from the usual chocolate or vanilla cake, not to mention it's from Cooking Light (so don't feel too bad for cutting yourself a big ass slice). Labor of love? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

To make the filling, combine:
1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cake flour
2 cups sifted cake flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
3 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Garnish (optional):
Fresh mint sprigs 
Fresh blueberries 
Lime wedges

To prepare:
1) First prepare cake pans. Coat the bottom of your 8" round cake pans with cooking spray (no need to spray the sides). Line the bottoms with wax paper and dust with a little bit of flour. This whole process helps the cakes pop out of the pan when they are finished baking.

2) Lightly spoon 2 cups cake flour into measuring cups and level off with a knife. Sift into a large bowl and combine with 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk ingredients until combined. 

3) In  a separate medium bowl, combine oil, 1/3 cup lime juice, 3 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon rind, lemon extract, and egg yolks; stir to combine. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and mix until smooth.

4) Now for the fluffy egg whites. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer on high until foamy. Add cream of tartar until soft peaks form, then add the rest of the 1/4 cup of sugar one spoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Gently stir in 1/4 of the fluffy egg whites into the flour mixture; gently fold in the rest.

5) Divide cake batter in thirds and pour into prepared pans. You can break any air pockets by cutting through the batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool cakes in pans for about 10 minutes; then remove from pans, remove wax paper, and then cool completely on a wire rack.
To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread generously with lime filling (about half). Repeat step, topping it off with the third cake layer.  Spread with frosting--I used this recipe, omitted the chocolate, and added 2 tablespoons of lime juice, which really adds a nice light freshness. 
Garnish with mint, blueberries, lime wedges, or leave as is.


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

couscous with mint & fruit

I'm venturing out! In my attempt to increase my cooking vernacular, I cooked with three ingredients I've never used before. (go me). Shallots, mint, and this peculiar orange fruit, known as a loquat. Have you guys tried this before? It looks like a longer apricot, but tastes like a sweet, subtle pear/mango/something or other...

Anyways, you can use a loquat, but if you can't find it, I'm confident whatever in season fruit (apricot, plum, pluot, etc.) you decide to use will taste fancy and delicious.

First make the dressing:

Combine shallots, rice vinegar,
honey, and oil. Stir to combine. Then add mint and garlic salt. Set aside. 

Other ingredients: 
4 ½ cups water
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/3 cups dry Couscous (2-10 ounce packages)
½ cup Dried Currants or Golden raisins
½ cup chopped dried plumcots, apricots, plums, apples,
or kumquats
1 bunch green onion (trimmed and thinly sliced)
Extra mint for garnish
1 cup pistachios and almonds (or other favorite nuts)
4 fresh loquats, plumcots or red flesh plums (chopped)

To taste...
Garlic salt to taste
White pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
Lemon juice from 1-2 lemons 

To prepare:
1) In a large saucepan, combine water, oil, cumin and salt.
Bring to a boil on high heat. Turn off heat and stir in Couscous. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes. Add in dried fruit and raisins then fluff with a fork.

2) Toss dressing with couscous, then mix in green onions. Add in lemon juice, pepper, and more garlic powder, and salt if needed.

3) Toss in nuts and fresh fruit. Garnish with chopped mint and fresh sprigs.

4) Top with a some protein (or mix in some garbanzo beans!) to make it a complete meal or bring
to your next summer picnic.

Kinda messy...but worth it. 

Makes about 12 cups. Recipe courtesy Cathy Thomas from Melissa’s Everyday Cookingwith Organic Produce via the Great Park.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Well before this started looking like a food blog, I originally started 3 letter words to share travels, photos, stories and eats with friends, explore different cultures and the like. Recipe posts will continue, but a little more focus never hurts. :)

 Creative decor/illuminated bottles | Seoul, Korea

 Sunrise | Chicago, IL
Monet's Gardens--like real life versions of his paintings | Giverny, France

 Neon transportation | Bangkok, Thailand --photo by James

Pretty glass flowers (?)/Ceilings at Bellagio Hotel | Las Vegas, NV

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Broccoli Cornbread

Last year, my coworker friends and I started a tradition to celebrate birthdays. We exhausted some of the usual lunch spots so began holding Iron Chef challenges to celebrate the birthday honoree(s).  It was a slow start, but our food eventually graduated from store bought items to more elaborate dishes (e.g.: prosciutto wrapped stuffed dates, smoked tri-tip, authentic Filipino food, chorizo sliders...).  It's been a fun way to get out of the restaurant rut and learn new recipes. Did I mention there is a giant golden whisk trophy involved? It's kind of awesome. Anyways, this Cottage Cheese + Broccoli Cornbread won it for the cheese category. It's super savory and I really like the onions and broccoli mixed with the course corn meal texture. Don’t be thrown off by the name or seemingly out of place ingredients. It won for good reason--well done Rob. :)

You'll need: 
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cottage cheese, drained
1 teaspoon salt
1-8oz. package of corn muffin mix (I used 1 cup of Bob's Red Mill Cornbread & Muffin Mix)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1-10 oz. package of frozen chopped broccoli, thawed & drained (about 1 1/2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 8x8 pan.I've made these into muffins before. They tend to stick to the paper a bit, so I recommend making it in a baking pan, or greasing the muffin pan and doing it without the paper liners. 
1) Cook onions on medium low heat over oil, until translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.

2) Stir eggs, cheese, salt together till combined. Add corn muffin mix, butter, broccoli, and cooled onions.
3) Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
4) Let stand for 5 minutes before removing pan. 

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

saving berries

I grew my first strawberry. Just barely though. I'm hiding the bulk of this pot, which at one point flourished with promising green strawberry leaves. Only this guy made it and sprouted flowers. I guess only the strong survive in my garden. I still love you little strawberry!
Speaking of berries, I just learned a method to keep your berries fresh a little longer. Just mix one part vinegar (white or apple cider) to ten parts water. Swoosh the berries in the mixture, drain, and store in the fridge. Apparently, the vinegar kills any spores that cause your berries to grow white fuzz. Raspberries will keep for about a week and strawberries for 2. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

s'mores stuffed cookies...revisited

I've made these S'mores stuffed cookies a few more times and have since developed a S'mores Stuffed Cookie science if you will.

A few tips and changes...
Instead of breaking the graham crackers into smaller shapes, I stick a whole S'more inside the cookie (1 graham cracker sheet broken in half, 2-3 pieces of Hershey Chocolate, and 1 marshmallow cut in half lengthwise). I thought putting a smaller cookie would make these a little more manageable, but I've found it works better with a full size.

When assembling your cookie, make the bottom layer wider in diameter than the S'more inside (or Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in this case). Then pick up the whole thing and fold up the edges to enclose S'more. Add extra dough as needed. 

This results in cookies that are about the size of my open hand (much more fun and impressive)...and much better looking than my original version.

Bake for 22-24 minutes or until browned on top and dough is cooked through. Gently move onto a cooling rack for a few minutes. Serve warm, of if you need to, microwave for 10 seconds.

Unbaked cookies can be stored in the freezer (in case of an emergency). Taking them from freezer to oven actually results in really fluffy cookies in my experience.

I'm brainstorming and would love your ideas! What else can would you want to see baked inside a cookie? 

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

flower fields forever

The Flower Fields are open till May 13this year!
I had a bit of a Grand Canyon moment when I saw this in person. At some views, it just seemed to go on forever. They also have wagon rides, tulip fields, giant sunflowers, and different exhibits (succulents and orchids when I was there).  So if you're a gardening geek like me, are looking for a good photo op, or need somewhere to take your mom for Mother's Day, go here! It's gorgeous. We didn't make it out to the Strawberry Fields which are located right next to the flower fields, but they apparently have strawberry picking. 

5704 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92008

$11.00 for Adults, $10.00 for Seniors 60+, $6.00 for Children 3-10.
Children 2 and under are free.

You can purchase tickets on site or online here!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

berry crisp

Spring = Sweet, tart, fresh berries (+ my favorite cookies) = Mixed Berry Amaretti Crisp. 
I'm still going through this book and loving every single recipe I've tried.

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup crushed Amaretti Cookies (about 16 cookies)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup toasted almonds slices
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, then chilled in the fridge.

You can make the topping in a food processor, but I did it with a fork/by hand. In a bowl, combine the flour, both sugars, cinnamon, almond slices. Crush amaretti cookies and add to the mixture. Add pieces of butter and combine till the dry ingredients start to hold together.

6 cups mixed berries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons AP Flour
2 teaspoons lemon juice 

Arrange fruit in a baking dish, ramekin or bread pan in my case. (The juice from the fruit will come out during baking, so to prevent a mess, place a piece of foil under your dish to catch any spillage; or you can just fill your dish with less filling). Sprinkle with a generous amount of the topping mixture (enough to cover all the fruit). Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-50 minutes 
Serve warm with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream

(I've tried the peach version and loved it as well. You can find that version and original recipe here)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

jiro dreams

I watched this movie this weekend. In short, it was awesome and beautiful...and had me laughing at unexpected moments. And now, I'm thinking about mastery, hard work...and how to devise a plan to get a seat at his restaurant. I'm thinking I'll need a Japanese speaker, about $1,000...and a banana suit for good measure...

In the meantime, I'll spruce up on this sushi etiquette I stole from the amazing Janet (another food artist, naturally).

Monday, April 9, 2012

complementary colors


Have you guys tried purple carrots? Someone gave me some to try a while ago and though I don't taste a difference, they're pretty to look at, no? I'm digging the golden beets though (pun intended)...I also like that my hands and towels (and sink, face, clothes, kitchen handles) weren't stained pink after I finished peeling/chopping them. (P.S.: Why does the phone always seem to ring or my face start to itch when I'm in the middle of cutting beets?)

Anyways, I'm kind of a sucker for things like this...funky looking foods, miniature zucchinis, oddly shaped apples, cherimoyas, Okinawan sweet potatoes, and the like...

Sometimes it's just fun to cook with food that makes you feel like you're living in a Dr. Seuss book. I recommend it!

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