Friday, December 29, 2006

Tiki Party Picks

As the site says you can "incorporate this fun-loving figurine into the decor at a jungle-licious soiree. ". Only $3 for a pack of 8.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

What's Your Story #3: Nicole of Pinch My Salt

For the third edition of "What's Your Story" I contacted Nicole of the lovely food blog Pinch My Salt. Not only do I enjoy her site's clever name and beautiful recipes, but I really like how she sets up up her recipes and provides links for more information. It is so handy! Not only do we get yummy recipes but we learn a lot at the same time.

How long have you been cooking/baking?
My sister and I started baking with my mother when we were really small but I was probably 10 or 11 before I first really started cooking and baking on my own.

What are your favorite foods to make?
Well, I love to bake bread but other than that one of my favorite things to make are salads. I love trying different combinations of greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts and cheeses. It seems like the possibilities are endless!

What inspires you in the kitchen?
Fresh ingredients, new ingredients,and new kitchen gadgets! Sometimes I'm just inspired by my own hunger!

Why do you blog?
I started blogging because I live really far
away from friends and family and I thought it would be a great way to keep everyone updated on our adventures in Sicily. I started out with a "Life in Sicily" blog and I noticed that most of my posts were food-related. It didn't take long for me to realize how much I enjoyed photographing food, developing new recipes, and sharing with others. That's when I started Pinch My Salt. Since I haven't been updating my Life in Sicly blog, I will soon start trying to incorporate more of my Sicily experiences into Pinch My Salt.

What is your favorite post so far?
Well that one is hard to answer. I have a couple of favorite recipes and a couple of favorite photos but they aren't from the same posts! My favorite recipes are the Double Dark Chocolate Beet Muffins and the Cilantro Caesar Salad. But my favorite photos are the Mini Cherry Cheesecakes and the Peach Sorbet. But I guess my all-around favorite post would probably be Beef with Butter: Heart Attack or Heaven?

Best thing about living in Sicily?
The fresh produce! Oh, and the pizza and pastries and coffee and wine. Olive oil. Did I mention the pasta?

Do you share what you make?
Of course! My husband is in the military and unfortunately that means he isn't always around. But since I don't stop cooking when he's gone, my friends end up getting fed.

What do you do when you are not cooking?
Take photos of things I have cooked.

Favorite places to eat?
Greece and Italy. Oh, did you mean restaurants?
Some friends and I found this awesome pizzeria up on Mount Etna. I've only been there once but it was the best pizza I've had so I guess that's my favorite place to eat right now. It always changes! I also love Ring of Fire in Eugene, Oregon.

Any other interesting facts?
Well I'm originally from California but I lived in Oregon for several years so both places kind of feel like home. I have an English degree from the University of Oregon but I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. We don't have kids but I have a very spoiled little Boston terrier and a big fluffy cat who thinks she's a dog.

PS. if any readers want to be interviewed, send me an email!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I need your help!

My husband and I are going to have a 80s night and watch all of the 80s movies I never saw because I was in still in elementary school when the 80s ended. I also didn't have an older cool sibling, so anything that happened in the 80s that didn't involve My Little Pony, Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids or Tranformers is beyond my knowledge base. Matt, on the other hand graduated high school in 1990 and has seen many, many 80s movies that he feels the need to catch me up on.

This is where you came in, we've picked the movies but now I need help with the food aspect. I always associate sun dried tomatoes with the 80s. So I was kind of thinking of making a "California" pizza with sun dried tomatoes but am not sure. Anyone have better ideas? I saw that Cheetos were introduced in the mid-80s but that's not really a meal. Classic coke? Skittles? We don't want to spend money on something we don't really want to eat, so things like Hamburger Helper et al. are out, but anything else that reminds you of the 1980s is welcomed.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rheb's Candy

Every holiday (my birthday, Easter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc) my mom gets me a box of Rheb's candy. It is the best candy in the world. It is all handmade on site here in Baltimore (since 1917) and the caramels in particular are wonderful. I have never had better, even from fancy NYC candy shops. It is creamy yet redolent of burnt sugar. I am also partial to their dark chocolate covered sponges, and many coconut candies. If you go to the store (they have online ordering during the cooler months) during the holiday season, the line is hours long and wraps around the tiny shop and down the street. People are there buying 5, 10, 20 lbs of chocolate. You can make your own assortment, right down to the exact number of each individual candy (although prepacked is available and during the busy season, there is a separate line for prepacked only people that is still quite long, but faster moving) in your box. Then they wrap it up in apparently the same wrapping paper design they have been using since 1930 and tie it up with a bow. Rheb's is a major reason why I can never move from Baltimore-with an August birthday, I'd never get another birthday box. The prices are very reasonable too, it depends what you get but I am pretty sure it is all still under $15 a pound.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Moustache Factory: Monsieur Pain Grille

Moustache Factory has number of adorable food related mustachioed buttons for only $1.50 each. I love this french toast. And the word mustachioed.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I love: Pommery Pop Champagne

We discovered these last year: 1/4 sized bottles of Pommery Champagne. The huge bottles cost about $40 but the tiny ones are only around $8. They also have a 1/2 size that is about $17. The best part is that in addition to being cute, they are actually a really good Champagne from France, not just a novelty drink. The pink ones are a tad sweeter, but the blue ones are very dry. Both are delicious and it is so much fun to have your own personal sized bottle of Champagne. I think the idea of individual wines must be becoming popular because you can now buy the little bottles in a four pack ($34) and there are several shelves of other varieties of individual bottles of Champagne and sparkling wines where there used to just be Pop and Sofia (Sofia Coppola's sparkling wine in a can).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Book Review: Party Dips

It's the holiday party season and it seemed timely to share my favorite dip book. Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips by Sally Sampson doesn't revolutionize dips as we know them but she doesn't have to. What she does do is give us 50 recipes for all kinds of dips: creamy dips, hot dips, cold dips, chunky dips, low fat dips, cheesy dips, sweet dips, any sort of dip you can imagine. It is all written in a casual tone which is entirely appropriate for the subject matter. Dips are not serious foods. She does give tips and techniques on preparation and serving suggestions but all of the recipes are easy and most can be made from ingredients you probably have on hand. I have read a number of other dip books and this is the one I am most like to turn to. It sounds trite but there really is something for everyone and for every occasion.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Last Minute Gifts

It is not too late to put together a last minute gift: Hanukkah is still in full swing and Christmas isn't until Monday. These cocoa mixes use ingredients you probably have around the house, are quick to make yet impressive looking. These would make fun hostess gifts as well.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Traditionally at Hanukkah, children get gelt (chocolate coins) and play the dreidel game to win more. Now, you have an alternative: Maccabeans, legendary jelly beans. Kosher, tasty and a little kitschy, they come with their own "legend":

And it came to pass that the Maccabees had been fighting for many days. They were hungry and grew weak, for they had endured many hardships with little sustenance. Suddenly Judah chanced upon a small pot of jelly beans with enough to nourish only one. But selfless leader that he was, Judah apportioned the beans equally among his men. Then to the astonishment of all, the beans began to multiply in all the colors of the rainbow. One bean became two, two became four, four became eight, and so on, until there were ample beans for all. Replenished by the amazing beans, the Maccabees battled on and triumphed over tyranny.

which is an obvious spoof on the miracle of the oil story.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Or are you just happy to see me?

Feel a nostalgic pull towards wood panelling? Lust after Country Squire station wagons? Satisfy that need by eating off these faux wood plates by Pop Ink.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide

On my google homepage, I have NPR Topics: Food as one of my feeds. Nerdy, I know but that is how I heard about this cool book: Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide by Hemingway's grandson and a friend. which features cocktail recipes, quotes and anecdotes from famous authors like Hemingway, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald (side note: in the Zelda biography they mention that their liquor bill was often in the $500 range--in the 1930s! I trust they know their booze.)and many others. It looks like a lot of fun and a good way to look like a smarty while you get loaded. Just think of how impressed your guests would be at your next party when you serve Hemingway's favorite mojitos.

You can listen to the Morning Edition interview with the author and a "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" piece featuring my favorite Amy Sedaris taking a literary drinking quiz here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Wishlist: Pink Glitter Spatulas

Pink glitter spatulas by Le Creuset. Have you ever seen a spatula that was more beautiful? Curvy wooden handles, pink glittery silicone heads. This totally tops my wish list. Too bad we don't have a Sur La Table in Baltimore. Or any in Maryland at all for that matter. I'd have to drive to Charlotte, NYC or Pittsburgh to pick one up in person.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Review: Buttercup Bakes at Home

Buttercup Bakes at Home: More Than 75 New Recipes from Manhattan's Premier Bake Shop for Tempting Homemade Sweets by Jennifer Appel looks like it has promise and maybe it does-just not for me. I was underwhelmed by the first Buttercup Bake Shop cookbook and it doesn't seem like this one is much better. The recipes aren't bad, they are just sort of boring. The same brownies and cakes we have seen again and again but with the added bonus of calling for an inordinate amount of butter; most cakes (even those with just two layers) call for 3 or more sticks of butter. And that isn't including what goes into the icing. I can't say I am too surprised, I have been both to the Magnolia Bakery and the Buttercup Bake Shop in Manhattan (Appel was the co-owner of the Magnolia but parted ways and opened up the Buttercup) and wasn't too impressed with either of them, the icing on their famous cupcakes tastes like solid butter with a hint of sugar. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that her cakes call for so much butter, but I can't help but wonder if they come out greasy. I know even adding a extra couple of tablespoons of butter to a cupcake recipe can result in greasy cupcakes, so I can only wonder what a ratio of 3 sticks of butter (a cup and half) to two cups of flour would have on a cake. Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars do sound interesting: brownies with crisped rice and chocolate but I am not sure if I am comfortable enough with her recipes to bother making them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fruit Breakfast Set

I love anything with a fruit print and this breakfast set is no exception. It comes with a matching mug, bowl and plate; all you need for breakfast for one.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gift Idea: Threadless Shirts

I am a big fan of Threadless, a site where you can submit your t-shirt ideas to be voted on and possibly turned into shirts. They have a bunch of really fun food related shirts including the one shown above, this one featuring a vending machine, the Fruit of Negativitree with angry fruit, the super cute Nothing Rhymes with Orange, Cookie Loves Milk, two different shirts for meat eaters, one with bread spreading itself with jelly and a silly cupcake, the slightly blasphemous Fast Supper. You are sure to find something for everyone. Best of all: women, men and children's shirts are all just $10 today and tomorrow. The only catch? When they are gone, they're gone!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thrifty Tip #2

A great way to save money around the holidays is to shop at craft stores like Joann Fabrics for holiday decorations and party goods. As crafters know, the time to make a holiday craft is not December. Christmas and Hanukkah crafts generally start to appear in stores around August. By December, holiday related items are already marked down. Knowing this, we went to Joann Fabrics this weekend to pick up some paper plates and napkins for the holiday craft night we are hosting this week. All of the Christmas and Hanukkah things were 40-50% off and they had tons in stock. They even had heavy serving trays, decorations, gift items (like hot chocolate mixes, bath stuff, ornaments) all for 50% off. They weren't picked over junk either, they were things people would actually enjoy receiving. So, if you have to buy some party supplies or get a cheap gift, check out a craft store.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

On Sale: Baking: From My Home to Yours

I know a lot of you have been yearning for Dorie Greenspan's new book. I just saw it at for $22, way less than the $40 cover price.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Astro-Weenie Christmas Tree DIY Club

Why am I half (okay, a little more than half) tempted to make this? Have I gone mad? Have the days I've spent flipping through both Merry Kitschmas and Judaikitsch: Tchotchkes, Schmattes & Nosherei gone to my head? Possibly so.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gift Idea: Wooden Sushi Play Set

This wooden play sushi set almost makes me wish we had a kid. Or knew someone with a kid at the right age for it. It is so detailed and has every thing you need to have a play sushi party.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gift Idea: Hershey Kiss Fondue Pot & S'more Maker

I love this Hershey's S'more Maker & Fondue Pot for a few reasons. First, it is only $30 and you get two gifts: give them together, split them up, who would know? Secondly, I love anything that is in the shape of something else. Finally, it is one of those things that someone might think is fun, but it is not necessarily something one would buy for themself. Therefore, who ever you are buying for probably doesn't have one. It would also make a great gift for a couple, who sits around eating fondue by themselves?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Food Maven Shop & Gift Guide

I set up a little Amazon store where you can buy items that have been featured on Food Maven, check out a selection of cookbooks from my personal collection, my suggestions for gifts for adults and my suggestions for great food related gifts for kids.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holiday Treats Kit

This kit has all you need to make homemade holiday presents. It cames with 18 recipes and all the packing materal you need to make a pretty gift including coordinating tags, string, labels and bags.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chandelier Dinnerware

For some reason I am really drawn to things featuring a chandelier print, despite being apathetic to the idea of an actual chandelier. I have a chandelier necklace by Lusterbunny and now I want these plates.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gift Idea: Bacon Wallet

Not sure what to get that pork obsessed person on your gift list? How about a bacon wallet? Strangely, it is made of "faux leather" and is therefore vegan. And only $8. What are you waiting for?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mini Croq Holiday Cookbook

I have some vegan recipes in the mini Holiday Cookbook edition of the super cool zine Croq. Now, I don't profit from this but you can buy it here and get several of my recipes and a ton of equally tasty ones from other people. The Holiday Cookbook can also be found in the Holiday Sampler along with a contribution just from me: a special mini Winter Treats issue of my Coconut & Lime zine .

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hotheads Pot Holders

Oven proof mini mitts for holding hot pan handles. Clever idea on its own, but made even better by coming in fun dog and frog hand puppet-like faces. I have a little Le Creuset "handle glove" for my grill pan, but it is cloth and once caught on fire. This seems much safer, not to mention cuter!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Martha Stewart's Holiday Magazines

Last year Martha Stewart put out a one off Cookie issue for the holidays. This year she has a "Holiday Handmade Gifts" issue out. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Martha Stewart. Frankly, until she got out of jail and started her Martha show, I didn't like her much at all. I was pleasantly surprised by Martha, where she is actually sort of funny, and a lot less mean than I remember from her previous show. Any show that has guests that range from an indie designer showing you how to make lampshades out of cocktail umbrellas to Russell Crowe making (and cursing at) a turkey can't be that bad. Not to mention the Amy Sedaris episode. I don't go out of my way to watch but I find it enjoyable. I do subscribe to Everyday Food magazine and of late have been enjoying Blueprint, both products of her publishing company but magazines to which she contributes nothing content-wise. Anyway, I sort have always stayed away from Martha Stewart Living, it seemed to me to be too fussy and complicated. I had not really been aware of her holiday issues until last year when I picked up her cookie issue. I was worried it would be full of complicated recipes but it was quite well done, the recipes were not too difficult, the flavors were varied and separated in to sections like bar cookies, crisp cookies, chewy cookies, which was a nice touch. I thought she might have another baking issue this year, but instead she has come out with Holiday Handmade Gifts. It has a number of recipes for candies, cookies and drink mixes and craft instructions. You can see a sample here. It also has great packaging ideas. What I also like is how affordable the crafts/recipes are. Many of projects have you reusing bottles, yogurt containers and other materials. They also don't call for a lot of fancy tools. For example, rather than buy soap molds to make homemade soap, they tell you how to use household containers to make shapes. This year, we are going to make most of the gifts we give and it's great to have a guide that helps us do that on a budget. I also like how many of the crafts/recipes can be completed by someone who might not be the most deft crafter or cook. Well worth the $6 cover price, even if you just use it as inspiration.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chocolove Holiday Bar

Yum. New Chocolove Holiday bar with "blend of sweet currants, tart cherries, zesty orange, spicy ginger, and a mix of crunchy pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts enrobed in smooth dark chocolate". It's only available at Whole Foods, so you might want to get there before it sells out.


I posted a FAQ over at Coconut & Lime last week and it just now appeared. What's up with that?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Yan Yan

One of my favorite things that I bought while in Chinatown were two types of Yan Yan. Some of the stores around here sell it as a "specialty item" and it is priced accordingly but in Chinatown I was able to buy them for about 80 cents apiece. Yan Yan is basically little crisp cookie sticks (Matt has they remind him of tea cookies) that you dip in a sort of thick icing. It comes in several flavors, I was leary of the chocolate variety so I bought vanillacookies with vanilla icing and vanilla cookies with strawberry icing. Vanilla because pretty much anything vanilla is okay, while chocolate some times is just plain gross when it isn't done properly and strawberry because it was pink (which I now see also comes in a Hello Kitty version, which would be even cuter than what I bought). You dip the cookie sticks in the icing before you eat them. Sort of like a DIY version of Pocky. What sets Yan Yan apart from Pocky (and in my mind, makes it more fun) are the some times bizarre slogans printed on each cookie. Things like "Rabbit- eat more carrots", "Sheep- wool sweaters", "Squirrel- your best friend", "Horse- gallop away" and my favorite: "Stag Beetle- love it". What else can you buy for under $1 that is edible, interactive and amusing?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Food Celebrity Dish

Many cooks are familar with Madhur Jaffrey's Indian cookbooks. Did you also know that she is an actress who has been in many movies and TV shows? In fact, Madhur Jaffrey only learned how to cook after leaving home and missing her family's food, her goal had always been to be an actress.
She is soon to star in a new CBS reality tv/drama hybrid The Papdits about an Indian family in America.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Strawberry Popcorn

Today is an oddly mild day for late November and already my thoughts are turning to spring. Our pug and our whippet were frolicking in the area I'd like to convert into a vegetable garden and I was inspired to come in and do a little planning. I found these seeds for strawberry popcorn and think I might just have to get them. They make a tiny ear of red corn that pops up white. I have never planted corn before, but what could be more fun that growing your own popcorn?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey Talk

Happy Thanksgiving

It's not too late to brine your turkey. Or even if you are running out of time, you can quick roast it in about 1/2 the time it usually takes.

Have leftovers?


  • Turkey Chili
  • Turkey Stock
  • Turkey Gumbo
  • Chopped Turkey Liver
  • Turkey Kasha Varniska
  • Turkey Salad
  • Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Thanksgiving Musings

    In my family my mom always makes onion and celery bread stuffing to go with the turkey. I guess it is not techincally stuffing, because we don't actually stuff the bird, but I am not entirely convinced it is "dressing" either-in my family we make balls of stuffing and place it in and around the pan in which the turkey is roasting in the last 1/2 hour or so of baking so it sucks up the juices. We also eat an unusual amount of canned foods at Thanksgiving-canned vegetables, pumpkin pie from a can, canned cranberry sauce. This is odd because my mom is big on baking and fresh vegetables and I personally don't make/eat any sort of canned good beyond beans and occasionally soup. I think it is just habit. She also normally makes chocolate pie (made with Cool Whip-another ingredient we never use at any other point of the year) because I don't like pumpkin pie. We also serve mashed potatoes and saurkraut (another canned good!). I never found that we ate saurkraut at Thanksgiving odd until I met my husband. Most of my local friends eat it too. I think it is because Baltimore once had a large German immigrant population. Anyway, I'd miss it if we didn't have it, and it goes oddly well with (I know, losing foodie points here) canned jellied cranberry sauce. Speaking of the cranberry sauce, this year I came up with a homemade version which is amazing, so maybe I get some of those points back.

    The last couple of years I have gone to my husband's family's house. The first time I went I was surprised to see that they didn't serve mashed potatoes or saurkraut. Who doesn't serve mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving? I'll give them the saurkraut, but mashed potatoes! Matt made me gingery yams but it's just not the same. I do enjoy his family's cranberry sauce and they have a nice salad. They make a dressing with sausage (and without for the vegetarians) that is pretty good. They also stuff some of it under the skin of the turkey which is an interesting idea. They also fight over the turkey neck, something I have no interest in, so Matt has it to himself when we have roasted a turkey at home.

    This year, Matt has to work the day after Thanksgiving so we are going to my parent's house. We are probably going to roast our own turkey that weekend too, we can't resist the lure of 40 cent turkeys.

    What are your plans and traditions for Thanksgiving?

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    Aji Ichiban-Candy Shop

    When we walked by this shop in Chinatown, I pressed my nose to the glass like a Dickens character and insisted we go in. Aji Ichiban (188 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10013 near Broome St. 212-219-4010) is a Hong Kong based snack food chain. It mostly sells candy, but they also have some bulk items (shredded squid, dried fish, plum slices) and crisps. Some of the candy is packaged but they also have tons of candies (wrapped) that you can make your own assortment from. We bought durian (smells like hell, tastes like heaven-it smells sort of like natural gas mixed with garlic but tastes sweet) and coconut milk candies, white rabbit milk chews, different pudding and fruit filled marshmallows, a watermelon slice shaped lollipop, soda flavored hard candies, something called "seaweed muffin", cola gummies and some other odds and ends. I am going to review some of the candies this coming week-poor Matt has been instructed not to eat any of candy unless we have more than one of it-so you will get more details soon. Asian candy (not candy made by American countries for Asia-like the green tea kit kats and what not) is not as sweet as American candy, and tends to be more fruit flavored and of the chew/gummy/jelly/marshmallow variety than any sort of chocolate. They also sell many varieties of milk candy- not really milk flavored but sort of creamy. I have had both chewy milk candies and hard candies in the past and they are both really good. I don't understand why American manufacturers haven't started to make them for our market, they seem very popular else where. We have candy like Starburst which is sort of similar in texture but isn't nearly as good.

    Anyway, Aji Ichiban is a great source for candy from all over Asia: we saw Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Korean candies there. It is a little pricey (a smallish bag cost us about $6) but the advantage is that you don't have to buy a whole bag of candy that you might not be familiar with and not like and you can get a variety. All of the candies I saw there, I have seen in other stores in their own packaging, so if I did like something, I could buy a whole bag of it next time. That said, I wish we had one closer! I hear there is one in a suburb of DC, on the Maryland side, so we might have to check it out.

    Sunday, November 19, 2006

    Mandarin Court Dim Sum


    We went to Mandarin Court (61 Mott St., New York, NY, 212-608-3838) for dim sum. We chose this over our usual dim sum place (Grand Harmony) mainly because we were hungry and we were traveling with my vegan/vegetarian sister-in-law and needed to find a place that had a menu (preferably posted outside) that featured something vegetarian. Mandarin Court was a smallish restaurant with small tables compared to the seating-for-hundreds-giant-tables-where-you-sit-with-strangers Grand Harmony and when the woman came around with the cart, it had a quite a few different items, compared to Grand Harmony where each cart has maybe 2 different items (tops) and you have to wait for the next cart to come to see what they are offering. This way we got a few dumplings and things at once and when she came around again, she had different things and we picked out some more. My sister-in-law, Julie was able to order dim sum off the menu and they made it just for her. Below is what she ate, some veggie only dumplings (unlike the so called "vegetable dumplings" we had that included shrimp-something the waiter nicely pointed out before Julie ate them) and some greens that were very long and difficult for her to eat with chopsticks. Matt had no problem though, he is a chopstick wiz. I, of course, ate my dumplings with a fork and kept away from the greens.

    veggie dim sum

    Now on to what Matt and I had:

    Little round shrimp dumplings (har gao), and two types of pot sticker style dumplings: "vegetable" dumplings with shrimp and scallions, and pork dumplings. Both varieties of shrimp dumplings were wonderful. I think I liked the round ones slightly better because they were steamed and not fried.

    dim sum

    Lotus leaf steamed rice with tiny bits of pork inside (no mai gai). Really yummy. We so need to find a source for lotus leaf so we can make this at home. You don't eat the leaf, but the rice steams in it wonderfully!

    sticky rice

    We didn't have dessert but they did offer the typical sesame seed balls with red bean paste and I think some of those little steamed cakes.

    The only thing we missed was steamed barbecue pork buns (cha siu baau) and some more unusual varieties of dumplings. This was just lunch, so what we had was plenty. I also hate having to eat then take the train to the ferry so it was good not to eat so much.

    Here is our check:

    dim sum check

    There are different categories of dim sum and as you order/eat they circle how many of each you had and them and then they add it up when you leave. Our whole bill was about $20. I sort of feel like Grand Harmony might be a bit cheaper, but $20 for three people's lunch is awesome.

    A big plus for Mandarin Court was that they had vegetarian dim sum and they were willing to make it to order. Also: they had a variety of items on each cart so you didn't run into the problem of having to wait until something you liked came along or worse-eating a lot only to have your favorite come around after you are full. I am sure they would have made anything off the dim sum menu for us to order as well. The staff was friendly and the signs were in English as well as Chinese and they were able to explain things to us in English. This is good, because at Grand Harmony some times things were only in Chinese, the dim sum ladies didn't know English, there are no menus (at least during the early dim sum hours when we've been there) and you just had to guess what the food was if you couldn't tell just from looking at it. Not some thing I generally mind but not good if you have dietary concerns. Mandarin Court didn't have quite the variety or some of the more unusual items (shark fin dumplings, chicken feet) that Grand Harmony had, but again, they might have made it and not just had it on the cart. They also had non dim sum if you'd rather order a meal. At any rate, I would go back to Mandarin Court again and recommend it to anyone. I suggest going early in the day on the weekend to any dim sum place to get the full experience.

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    New York City's Chinatown

    It's the the largest Chinatown in the United States and the site of the largest concentration of Chinese people in the western hemisphere. It is also the place for great shopping and food. While there are some chain restaurants and stores (there is a a Haagen-Dazs with a mooncake flavored frozen treat) most of the places are independently owned. One of our favorite things to do in Chinatown is to get dim sum our usual place is the crowded Grand Harmony (98 Mott Street, New York, NY, 212-226-6603) but this time we went to Mandarin Court (61 Mott St., New York, NY, 212-608-3838) because they seemed to have more vegetarian options, a concern for my sister-in-law (see tomorrow's post for more details of our visit) . Dim sum is fun- a cheap way to try lots of little dishes. There are also many teahouses and bakeries and the very popular Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard St., New York, NY, 212-608-4170) featuring ice cream in flavors like red bean, wasabi, green tea, lychee, mango, passion fruit, and ginger. There are also lots of candy shops and cornerstores featuring American and Asian treats. There is also a fair number of Thai, Malaysian, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants and shops. Every time we go to Chinatown we come back with bags full of hard-to-find-in-Baltimore noodles (carrot! spinach!) , candy, tea, craft supplies and kitchenware.

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Talay Thai Restaurant

    I know Staten Island, despite being a part of NYC, is not known for it's culinary delights. Matt's parents had gone to Talay Thai a few times and pronounced it "not just good-for-Staten-Island, but actually good". Sure there are some good Italian restaurants and groceries (the area is traditionally heavily Italian-American) but good Thai? This we had to see. We were not disappointed. We shared amongst the four of us the fried calamari (grease-less!), the curry puffs (very "east meets west"-yellow curry potatoes in puff pastry), mango salad (okay, but I don't generally care for green mango) and tiny Siamese rolls. Everything was garnished with super cute butterflies and roses cut out of carrots. For my main course I ordered the Talay Thai (steamed seafood and glass noodles with a black pepper-ginger sauce) and imagine my surprise when it came out in a giant foil swan! The waitress (who was the daughter of the chef/owner and the sister of the waiter) cut wings out with a flourish and all of the lovely aroma and steam came wafting out. Everything was perfectly cooked-impressive because it is hard to cook calamari, shrimp, and mussels at the same time without one of them getting chewy and overcooked. The flavor was great, lightly ginger-y and mild. Everyone else enjoyed their food as well-they did a good job of varying the spice to taste. Matt got the same dish as his mother but extra spicy and it really was. So often a restaurant says it will vary the heat but often it just comes out some where in the middle. Everyone enjoyed the desserts, I had the mango and coconut sticky rice and the mango was perfectly ripe and the rice was great-not too sweet. Matt loved his fried coconut ice cream, the banana ma ma was greaseless and the pumpkin custard was tasty.

    Definitely worth a trip back.

    Next up: Chinatown and dim sum.

    NYC Trip Recap

    So, this past weekend I was in NYC to visit my husband's family. My mother and father-in-law live in Staten Island and my sister-in-law, Julie, generally lives in India, but is back for a visit. We can't make it up for Thanksgiving this year (although I honestly don't mind too much, the traffic is a nightmare-once it took us 10+ hours to make the 3 1/2 hr. trip home) and we wanted to make sure we saw Julie before she flew back to India and her life of yoga, Sanskrit and cave dwelling. Anyway, as it is with most trips it was also all about food. We went to a great Thai restaurant on Staten Island (review to follow), bought Italian goodies (3 liters of olive oil, canned tomatoes, large jar of anchovies, pasta, mozzarella/pancetta swirled cheese) at our favorite Italian grocery on Staten Island, bought goodies at Pearl River (more to come) and ate dim sum and bought fun candy in Chinatown.

    I love the above sign: no martinis allowed!

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Retro Recipe Challenge #4 Fall Favorites: Chocolate Fudge

    I've been wanting to participate in the Retro Recipe Challenge for a while now, but never got around to it. Part of the issue is that I only post recipes of my own creation on my food blog and in order to participate, I'd have to use an existing recipe. If I am going to cook, I like it to be something I can post! That said, I love old cookbooks and have quite a collection. One of my favorites is the 1998 reissue of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, which is an exact reprint of the original 1950 book, which is quite hard to find (in good condition) now. It has badly tinted pictures, kitschy line drawings and helpful tips on everything from steaming vegetables to cream sauces. Some of the ideas and recipes are quite modern: cooking vegetables briefly to retain nutrients, curries, fancy desserts and a surprising amount of ethnic foods but some are funny-"Dutch Potatoes" call for you to core a potato, stick a "wiener" in it and bake for 1 hour. It is also an odd mix of exhaustive detail-how to scramble an egg- and assuming you already know how to cook-directions at times give few details-just to "fry in fat", "caramelize", "bake until tests done" or "scald" with no clues on how or in what .

    Anyway, we just got back from a trip and I was in the mood for something chocolate-y. This chocolate fudge seems to fit the bill and is, to me, a Fall favorite-lots of stirring over a hot stove and rich flavor. It is also a healthier recipe than I would have expected from the era-no heavy cream and only 2 tablespoons of butter. The taste is rich and creamy and sharply chocolate. Much better than all of the "quick" fudge recipes that have become so popular in recent years.

    Source: Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950)

    Acorn Picks and Bowl

    I like seasonal items that don't just remind you of one holiday. Both these steel acorn picks ($7) and this lovely a detailed Sheesham wood divided acorn bowl would work at any get together from September straight through December.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    After the Feast Soup Mix

    If you are not impressed with my ways to use up leftover turkey or are looking for something easier, this soup mix is for you! All you need is leftover turkey, water and broth and this mix has the rest: egg-free ribbon pasta, onion, garlic, celery seed, carrots, tomatoes, celery, leeks- all dehydrated but I am sure it is tasty. Plus it yields up to 10 one cup servings-great for any relatives still hanging around the day after Thanksgiving.