Category Archives: Dining & Drinking

Happy eating, Newport Restaurant Week has arrived!

The 11th Newport Beach Restaurant Week starts next week on Jan. 16, and as the new girl in town (approximately 2 months and 11 days), I am excited to experience what Orange County has to offer. The two-week long event, organized by Dine Newport Beach and Newport Beach Restaurant Association, has over 60 participating restaurants.

The two-week Newport Restaurant Week features over 60 restaurants. (Image Credit: Web/Newport Restaurant Week)

The two-week Newport Restaurant Week features over 60 restaurants. (Image Credit: Web/Newport Restaurant Week)

The event also rounded up this year’s food trends, including:

  • Dessert for Breakfast
  • Meat the “New” Meats
  • Bar Food Boom
  • Cauliflower Marches On
  • Vegetables are the New Comfort Food
  • Spice Up Your Life

These are not exactly new trends per se — take “Dessert for Breakfast,” for example, there are limitless variations when it comes to pancakes and waffles — but I am looking forward to each restaurant’s take on these trends!

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Is my $4 ice coffee still amazing if it can be packaged into a milk carton?

No, it’s old news. Blue Bottle, having successfully raised $25.75 million in venture capital January, 2014, launched Blue Bottle New Orleans Iced Coffee – purchasable in blue and white half-pints milk carton, that summer. I was aware of the launch. Not only had I read about the initiative in several business publications, I also chatted with a couple Lower East Side-based baristas who informed me that Blue Bottle was no longer true, in the pure specialty coffee sort of way, to those in the coffee community.

I didn’t care then because I had plenty of accessible and equally delicious cafes to choose from. It wasn’t until I grabbed my first New York Blue Bottle on Monday, that I noticed how deeply affected I was by the milk, I mean, coffee cartons.

Artisanal coffee, when mass produced like Blue Bottle New Orleans Iced Coffee, can still uphold its integrity? (image credit: http://fastcompany.net)

Artisanal/specialty coffee charges a higher price than, say Dunkin’ Donut brew, because more attention was paid to producing that perfect sip. From selecting special coffee beans, to paying special attention to roasting and brewing, and of course, making that cup specially for you, specialty coffee is special in a big way. And consumers, like myself, willingly fork over $4, $5 for cold brew and $6+ for latte in exchange. Continue reading

Breaking Bread, when it’s that good get two

The humble baguette, in its most basic form, requires no more than flour, yeast, salt and water. It’s very white, and very French. But despite the simplicity, a good loaf of baguette is not easy to find.

What makes a good loaf?

The juxtaposition of the perfect crunchy exterior and soft interior complete with large irregular air holes. The crust is rich, dark golden, which indicates the robust caramelized flavor. Additionally, the crust is crunchy yet breakable by hand and the texture moist, slightly chewy and nutty in favor. Like ordering spaghetti bolognese at Italian restaurants, whenever I want to test the quality of a new bakery, I start with baguettes. And yesterday after a visit to the Union Square Green Market, I returned home a happy camper carrying a variety of young kales and two loafs of baguette from Bread Bakery.

Bread Bakery baguette, 2 for $6 (image credit: www.nyhabit.com)

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Tasting love: “Ice Kacang Puppy Love”

When it comes to the best one plus one, Baba Nyona — the mix of Chinese and Malaysian culture, cuisine is a hard one to beat. In addition to an impressive long list of Mee (see previous post), there are also an array of delicate, colorful sweet rice cakes Kuih for dessert.

Traditional "Kuih" (image credit: Hotel Armada/kuali.com)

Traditional “Kuih” (image credit: Hotel Armada/kuali.com)

The word Kuih(粿)came from the Chinese, but the Nyona version incorporates local ingredients such as coconut milk and pandan leaves. Coconut milk adds an exotic sweetness and pandan leaves, a herbaceous tropical plant with long green leaves commonly found throughout Southeast Asia, lend a unique taste and aroma to the foods. And when used in cakes and desserts, padan paste turns the sweets vivid green.

From layered pink-and-white Kuih Lapis to dual-layered Seri Muka (padan custard on top, steamed glutinous rice on the bottom) to tube-shaped Kuih Ketayap (pandan crepe wrapped around dark brown coconut filling), these chewy, bite-sized snacks will make you think twice about dismissing glutinous rice.

Another must-try is Cendol, a drinkable, soup-like dessert that soaks green jelly noodles (the green color comes from pandan paste) in coconut milk and palm sugar.

But all in all, my ultimate favorite dessert is red bean shaved ice. Known as Ice (Ais) Red Bean (Kachang) in Penang, and ABC (Ais Batu Campur or mixed ice) in the remaining Malaysia, the dish comprises of shaved ice topped with brown sugar syrup, red beans, various types of jelly and other dressings like ice cream or corn kernels.

My fondness for the dessert derives not from taste (because frankly, this version pales in comparison to Taiwanese-style shaved ice), but sentimentality for the 2010 romantic comedy “Ice Kachang Puppy Love” (《初戀紅豆冰》).

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Best of Penang Street Food Fest, Mee Mee Mee

Malaysia’s richness, whether it’s food, dialect or culture, derives from the intermingle of different ethnic groups, predominantly the Malay, Chinese and Indians. In Penang, where Chinese immigrants dominate,  food is further enriched by the marriage of Chinese and Malaysian cultures (known s babas and nyonas), literally and metaphorically.

Best of Penang street food (image credit: misstamchiak.com)

To get a glimpse of the awesomeness of one (Chinese) plus one (Malay) is more than two, just go through the list of noodle dishes the city has to offer:  Continue reading

First sip of Penang: OldTown White, OldTown Nan Yang

As of Monday, 9:00pm, New York weather read:

Temperature: 12°C (54°F)
Precipitation: 36%
Humidity: 95%
Wind 12mph

I felt the humidity without consulting the weather app, for one, my hair was damp and frizzy. But I relished the wetness as it reminded me of my one-month Southeast Asia trip, starting with Malaysia (Chinese New Year in Penang, Malaysia).

Arrival, Kuala Lumpur

January 31, 2011: Kuala Lumpur

The photo on the left was taken when I landed in Kuala Lumpur, after a 5+ hour flight from Seoul. From here I would take a connecting flight to Penang. Groggy, tired yet exhilarated (I am here), I stepped into the humid dawn. It was 5:17am and drizzling. The air smelled pregnant, full of water. My pores gulped the wet air. I hate to be overly dramatic, but at that moment, I thought, “Ah, rejuvenation. I am once again in a humid country where 10 years down the line, Forever young, I will be forever young…” (“Forever Young” video link).

I was, after all, born in Taiwan and a firm believer that staying hydrated is the ultimate youth serum.

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The 9-digit dance, and Petit Billy

Because this is life, and in life, shit happens, I am typing with nine and not ten fingers.

You see, I cut myself on the index finger while making dinner Easter Sunday. Not trying to be graphic here, but I bled profusely. It took a full 20+ minute of hard pressing for the bleeding to subside to an on-and-off ooze, and were it not for my level-headed roommate, who not only bandaged my wound but also assured me that I would not die, I don’t know what I would have done. The unfortunate accident resulted in my paying a visit to the ER, and, unintentionally, getting Good Monday off after all. Continue reading

Grilled cheese and ham sandwich Frenchified: Croque Monsieur

Life is unfair in a lot of ways. For one, all cultures are not obsessed equally, especially the French. From accent to fashion to even their women (see Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat), even a simple grilled ham and cheese sandwich seems that much tastier and worthy of the hefty $16 when it’s called Croque Monsieur (pronounced crock ma-seur). 

Literally translated to “fried mister,” the rustic yet elegant snack is a staple for the French and sold in most cafe, bistro, brasserie and even as frozen food in France. The iconically French dish is nothing more than “a hot sandwich, made of 2 slices of buttered bread with crusts removed, filled with thin slices of Gruyère cheese and a slice of lean ham,” according to Larousse Gastronomique.

From Burette, la croque madame (image credit: fancy.com)

From Burette, la croque madame (image credit: fancy.com)\

A ham and cheese is a “Mr” (croque monsieur) and a ham and cheese topped with an egg is a “Madame” (croque madame). While the treat can be replicated at home, nothing beats a a visit to the 50-seat, French-inspired Buvette in West Village.

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