Thursday, August 26, 2010

Roast Pork

I'm way too spoiled by food when I come home.

When I came home, in the refrigerator was a large piece of bone in pork belly marinated with five spice and salt baking mix waiting, just waiting, for me to devour it.

My aunt got this recipe from one of the patrons at our neighborhood Chinese coffee shop that my grandpa frequents. It's incredibly easy and it comes out perfectly every time--crispy skin, moist and juicy pork--just like the roast pork you buy a the Chinese BBQ place.

-Five Spice and Salt Baking Mix (you can find this in your local Chinese store, it comes in a red box and inside there are individual packets of the mix.
-Pork Belly (bone-in)

Pour about 3/4 of the packet on the pork and rub it in
Put the pork in the fridge for about 3-5 days, uncovered, to let the skin dry out ( this will help make it super crispy when you bake it) If you leave it in for more than that, then the skin will become too hard after baking.

After the drying process, place the pork in an oven safe dish and bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the skin becomes a dark golden brown. Lower the temperature to 350 and bake for another 10-15 minutes to allow the rest of the meat to cook through.

Remove and let cool for about 5-10 minutes and enjoy a perfectly crisp and moist roast pork.

When The Cows Come Home

Ahh, another one of those restaurants that have become a "must visit" whenever we make the trip from San Francisco to Southern California or vise versa.
Although this time was a little bit didn't smell like manure outside. Strange, I wonder why.

All of the Harris Ranch meat is incredibly fresh, perfectly aged, and cooked exactly to your liking. I've never met a dish here that I didn't like. (Wait...ok, I lied. I don't like their steak salad. But that's a lesson learned: never order a salad at a steak house, stupid).

You have to respect the fact that most of Harris Ranch's ingredients are locally grown and often, they come right from their own farm not far from the Inn. Maybe that's why it's so delicious.

Berry Boost Smoothie
Fresh berries and fortified with vitamins.
I'll take 5 please.
Prime Rib medium rare with a side of garlic mashed potatoes, au jus, and fresh horse radish--wouldn't have it any other way.
They're mashed potatoes were smooth and butter with just a hint of garlic flavor. Mix every bite of that with a piece of perfectly med-rare prime rib and you've won me over.
Grilled Farm Fresh Vegetables

Din Tai Fung

There's nothing better than biting into a freshly made siu long bao and sucking out all the juices (or broth) created during steaming, before dipping it into vinegar and ginger and savoring every bite of dumpling skin and juicy pork.

When my parents came down to Irvine to help me move, our first topic of discussion is always, "Where are we going to eat?" I was ecstatic to learn that a friend of my mom's suggested she try Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, CA. This was one of those places where Matt and I went, swore we would go back because it was so delicious, but never did because it's so far from Irvine. So when my mom brought up Din Tai Fung as a place that she wanted to try, I thought to myself..."CHA CHING!"
On the backside of the chopstick wrapper, it teaches you how to properly enjoy a dumpling (more specifically, a siu long bao)

1) carefully remove a dumpling from the steaming basket and place on a porcelain spoon
2)bite a small hole at the top
3) suck out the juices that have formed from steaming
4) dip in vinegar and ginger
5) enjoy

Siu long bao
BEST DUMPLING EVER! Din Tai Fung originated in Taiwan and boy do they know how to make a fresh siu long bao. All their dumplings are made fresh on site and you can watch them wrap and steam all the dumplings by order as you wait patiently for your table.

What I learned about Din Tai Fung while I was waiting for my table: They sell steamed dumplings by bulk at the Costco in Taiwan.
Am I jealous? You bet!
Fish Dumpling
Clear Broth Beef Noodle Soup
Vegetable and Pork Dumpling
My second favorite dumpling! I love the contrast of pork and vegetables. I guess psychologically, it feels healthier too.

Dried Tofu in a Clear Broth with Vermicelli
Can you say, "Rancid tofu"? Gross. The broth was good and the fact that I love vermicelli means that you can't go wrong, but rancid tofu? Gross.
I learned my lesson: Stick to the dumplings.
Vegetable and Pork Bun
They use the same filling as the dumplings for the buns. But man do I love a good steamed bun. It's soft and fluffy and goes great with savory fillings.

Black Sesame Paste Bun
The same bun is great for sweet fillings as well!
I loved breaking one of these in half. Steam came floating out as I pull the two halves apart to reveal the thick and almost creamy black sesame paste inside. Just makes your mouth water doesn't it?

One Last Trip

Something that I'll definitely miss is my dear breakfast nook--Break Of Dawn. I just had to make one last visit before I moved back to San Francisco where I'll have to find a new breakfast place that I can frequent. I made it my goal to try everything on the menu, and although I didn't reach that goal, I was pretty close--maybe 3 or 4 dishes shy. Matt said to me as we were perusing the menu, "This is our last time here for a while...we have to make it count."

I ordered the Casserole. I love a good soup in the morning! It was filled with delicious veggies and the best part was the melted cheese and of course, the poached eggs. This is probably one of the lightest dishes on the menu and I thought I could, but I was once again defeated by another one of Chef Dee's dishes. Delicious and filling, something I can always expect here.
Lobster spring rolls. (Maybe this is the reason why the casserole defeated me). I loved the skin of the spring roll--it was thin and extremely crispy, and never once did any part of the spring roll get soggy even when we ate it 15 minutes after they came out piping hot.
Lamb sausage with onyx rice. I love the idea of black rice! It catches a lot of attention and it's extremely dramatic when presented on a white plate.

I'll definitely miss this place. It's time for me to start my breakfast nook hunt.


Boy, do I adore Peruvian food. Luckily for me, Inka used to be a 5 minute drive from my Irvine house. It was not uncommon for me to take the short drive there and drown myself in some delicious ceviche.
Their delicious ceviche. It's perfectly tangy and the seafood is definitely not over marinated. This is the best ceviche I've had to date.
Seafood stew.

The Rooster Cafe

I've heard a lot about this Rooster Cafe place--totally hipster, great for breakfast, wonderful service, nice atmosphere and now...they're serving small plates for dinner. Say no more, I had to try it.
Sangria, tasted more like grape juice than anything, but I'm not complaining. It was sweet and refreshing with a small kick of alcohol at the end (but when I say small, I mean tiny)
We were guinea pigs for their fresh, homemade pesto--made with basil, extra virgin olive oil, feta, and pine nuts. It was so nutty and fresh tasting. It has inspired me to always make fresh pesto. The only downside to the pesto was that there wasn't enough of it.
Ceviche served northern Mexico style. It was like salsa with gargantuan shrimp cut in half length-wise served with saltines. Not too shabby. It definitely was not the--swimming-in-lime-juice--ceviche I was expecting, but it was definitely good.
Zucchini fritters--crisp on the outside and filled with shredded zucchini and creamy, warm feta on the inside. The small salad dressed with balsamic and olive oil was definitely a great complement to the richness of the fritters. This is a definite must try--but what can I say? I'm a sucker for fried cheese.
Prosciutto wrapped asparagus--definitely something that I could not turn down. Although the Prosciutto was a bit salty for me, you really can't go wrong with something as classic as this.
Grilled Shrimp--when we walked in the the Cafe, the whole place was perfumed with the aromas of grilled shrimp. It was the first night that they were trying this out. How could we say no? The flavor was amazing--perfectly salted and grilled--not to mention, I'm a huge fan of shrimp heads! The only downside, and it's a pretty big one, the shrimp were not too fresh because the flesh of the shrimp stuck to the shells. But if they ever had this on the menu again, I would definitely give it a second chance because the flavor was spot on.
Last but not least, the avocado cups. In a word: Amazing. It was such a brilliant idea to put shredded chicken, seasoned enchilada style, blacken it and fill that and salsa into the pit bed of the avocado. Delicious. The creaminess and coolness of the avocado complemented the texture of the blacked chicken--I didn't miss the tortilla at all!

If you're ever in Irvine, I highly recommend you swing by The Rooster Cafe, it's everything the Yelpers say, and more.

The Food I'll Miss Most

I think the thing I'll miss most about the OC is the California Burrito. And not a California Burrito from just has to be from Alejandros in Costa Mesa. I love how their tortilla is buttery and has just the perfect chewiness to complement the fries, the seasoned carne asada, the salsa, and the cheese all wrapped within it--it's unmatched. There are many places that have tried to make their California Burrito more superior...but they have failed--well, at least in my eyes, not one can top Alejandros.
Give me a California Burrito and a ton of their hot sauce, and I'll be happy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Healthy Snacks

So, the hunt for healthy snack recipes has begun. Being a recent graduate, and embarrassingly enough, unemployed, I've been looking for things to keep me busy--cooking being one of them. Not only have I been cooking, but I've also been snacking...which can be lethal to my stupendous figure (HA!...I meant the figure that I can only dream of having at this snacking rate). And so that's how the hunt began.

I would consider myself a seasoned granola baker and trail mix maker, but what about savory snack? Sure, I'm obsessed about popcorn and Old Bay, but I have to admit--it's gotten old.

Luckily for me, I stumbled upon three healthy, crunchy, and might I add, inexpensive snack recipes that I will have to try!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Temecula was not how I expected it to be at all--but, it was a very pleasant surprise. Old town was reminiscent of the wild west--very hot, arid on one side, and a quaint wine country on the other, and well...I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

We tried 25 different wines at 3 different wineries! Which isn't as much as it sounds when each wine is about a 2 oz. tasting. I'm a fan of red wines, but here in Temecula, it was the Roses and the sweet white wines that caught my attention rather than the leathery Zin's or the zippy Meritages. So, if you're a white wine enthusiast, Temecula is the place for you!

This was a great last weekend as a Southern California resident. Matt took me on a surprise trip to Temecula and

The grapes on the vines were beautiful!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Another great date night! I love dressing up once a week to go have a nice meal with Matt. And last night was just that, a nice Happy Hour meal! (Hey, I'm unemployed's about conservation of money!)
AnQi is located in Bloomingdales in the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, next to Charlie Palmer. It's run and owned by a family of 5 women from 3 different generations. I think they have a great concept here, however, it is a bit over priced when it's not Happy Hour. Which is why we took full advantage of their "Red Hour".

Ahhh, the hAlign Centerighlight.
Wagyu carpaccio with a yuzu truffle emulsion and chives and a side arugula salad with yuzu dressing Reggiano shavings and edamame.
Loved the salad! I felt like the emulsion atop the wagyu took away from the sweetness of the meat--it was probably the truffle that was too over powering. I think if there were more yuzu on the meat, it would have been to die for!

Garlic noodles
In a word--"disappointment". It was just chow mein noodles with a robust garlic sauce that tasted heavily of MSG. Sorry yelper, these "must try" garlic noodles were nothing more than a grave disappointment.

Steamed mussels in a coconut milk, kaffir lime leaf, and lemon grass broth
The mussels were perfectly cooked--tender and sweet, you could tell that they plated them immediately after they opened. And don't be scared by the red peppers, they were sweet rather than spicy. And as Matt said, "American restaurants know better than to put that much hot pepper in one dish." Sad, but so true.
The basil croƻton was also very bold in basil flavor and delicious.

Pork belly buns
SO GOOD. Probably the best part of the meal.
The pork belly was extremely tender and had a delicious caramelized roasted flavor that went well with the sweet hoisin sauce and the soft fluffy steamed bun.

Salt and pepper calamari
Reminiscent of calamari that you get at a Chinese restaurant but dressed-up
Shangria (yes, it's SHangria...and not sangria)
It was a little too sweet, but did the job!
Fancy bottle, no?