Saturday, August 30, 2008


My fiance and I were looking to have some sangria and tapas one night in Boston. After a disappointing experience at Tapeo on Newbury Street, we decided to try out Toro in the South End. Toro was a tad better, but they were both disappointing. They both confirmed my belief that food in NY is better than Boston.

Why was I disappointed with Toro? First off, Toro didn't even have sangria. Second, prices were not reasonable - for example, portions with the pinchos were literally bites, with prices that would take a bite out of your wallet. Third, the taste was just average at best - there was only one plate we liked of the seven items we ordered.

We started off with two pinchos - Ventresca (Spanish Tuna Belly with Tomato Tapenade and Celery Leaves) and Datiles con Jamon (Dates filled with Almonds and Cabrales Blue Cheese, wrapped in Serrano Ham). The Ventresca arrived on a piece of bread. Seriously, if I thought this was one biter, I wouldn't have paid $6 for it. It was okay in taste. As for the Datiles con Jamon, they were pretty much that I couldn't even taste the ham.

Above, Ventresca (Spanish Tuna Belly) - our one biter

For the tapas, we ordered Boquerones (White Anchovies in Vinegar and Oil), Croquetas de Bacalao (Salted Cod Fritters with Lemon Rings), Costilla de Buey (Braised Short Ribs with armagnac soaked prunes), Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija (Grilled Corn with Aioli, Lime and Cheese), Mussels with Almond foam.

Above, Boquerones (White Anchovies in Vinegar and Oil)

The Boquerones were the only ones we liked...Croquetas de Bacalao would be a close second - the Lemon Rings were fried and an interesting touch). The Mussels were the worst thing we ordered - there was so much vinegar that it was close to burning my tongue. Costilla de Buey was just okay (I was told by my fiance as I don't eat meat). The Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija was good but the corn was practically swimming in cheese. Oh, how I miss Cafe Havana's grilled corn. Nothing beats food from New York.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I have been a true believer that food in Boston cannot compete with that in NYC. Fine dining was one exception. And I just added Shiki as another exception. It is a wonderful restaurant on a side street in Brookline that serves hot & cold Japanese "tapas," which I thought was an interesting way to put it. It's like calling Dim Sum Chinese tapas.

I've been to pizza and sushi joints with Best of Boston votes, but I was disappointed each time. So when my fiance suggested that we try yet another Boston restaurant at the recommendation of his friend, I did not think much of it. And what a pleasant surprise it was. I was pleased when I stepped into the restaurant to smell the aroma of Japanese cooking and to see a good number of Japanese patrons - these are often good signs of authenticity and quality.

I was excited to order and to see both traditional & unusual items (unusual to Americans anyways) on them menu. My fiance was salivating for sure when he saw Beef Tongue, which is not unusal in Japan, but sadly it wasn't available that night. We ended up ordering Monkfish Liver, spinach (you have to have veggies), fried oysters, broiled Yellowtail Kama (the fatty collar of the fish), broiled Mackerel, and a futomaki. With the exception of the spinach, which was overly salty, everything else was good.

So we started off with the Monkfish Liver with Ponzu Sauce. I liked its soft and creamy texture, but in terms of taste, I liked the version from Sushi of Gari better. Overall though, it was still a very good monkfish liver.

Above, Monkfish Liver with Ponzu Sauce

Then came the fried oysters, which were excellent. Not too greasy or soggy. The best though, were the Broiled Yellowtail Kama and Broiled Mackerel. The people sitting in the table next to us kept on looking at what we were enjoying throughout our meal...very annoying I must say. When one of them eyed the Yellowtail Kama, he ordered one for himself too! Both the Yellowtail and Mackerel were prepared perfectly - crispy skin, moist interior and perfectly seasoned.

Above, top - Broiled Yellowtail Kama (fatty collar), bottom - Broiled Mackerel

We ended our meal with the Futo Roll, which I thought sounded interesting when we ordered it. It had fresh water eel, egg, cucumber, black mushroom, snow crab, fish roe, pickle and sesame. The egg added a lot of taste, and the cucumber added a nice crunch in texture. I don't know if we let the roll sit out for too long, but the seaweed was a bit chewy. Overall, it was a fine roll, but it didn't hit us over the head with a wow.

Above, Futo Roll

Shiki fits all of my criteria...well priced, low key, quality, tasty, authentic. I don't mind the slow service, which gives us extra time to savor the taste. We will definitely be back to Shiki. Next time, we'll try out their Beef Tongue and sushi.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Flour Bakery

Flour Bakery has many Best of Boston votes, not to mention winning the Throwdown with Bobby Flay on sticky buns. We had to check it out. We went to the one in Fort Point Channel, which was the original location. The place was spacious like a warehouse. It had some communal tables inside and extra seating outside. I felt like this place could belong in New York (and would do very well there), on a side street in Tribeca, Soho or near Jacque Torres' Chocolate Factory.

Their menu ranged from baked goods to light lunches at reasonable price points. Everything looked good at the counter and I wanted everything, but I went there with a mission. So I ordered a sticky bun and coffee cake. My eyes were drawn to this interesting looking muffin top, so I threw that in there too. We also ordered some tea from their rather nice selection of black, green and white loose tea. Sadly, Flour, like many other places, used too much tea leaves in a cup of tea.

So what do I think of their sticky buns? Sticky, indeed. Stickier though if they were warm (and messier too of course). I didn't expect the caramel on top to be that thick, but it worked. It was so very rich and buttery though that it should be shared (and we did). Other than the caramel, the rest of the bun had a very nice soft texture. I enjoyed the pecans sprinkled on top and scattered within the bun. Overall, it was very well done.

Above, Sticky Buns (please excuse the poor photography - I did the best I could in a moving car)

Next up, coffee cake. I'm not crazy about coffee cakes, but I had to try it. Word had it that they made a really nice traditional version. I thought the traditional version had a thicker crumb topping than Flour's...Anyways, Flour's version was very light in texture. It wasn't overwhelmingly sweet & rich, which I thought was perfect. It was a lot more delicate than I expected.

Above, Coffee Cake

Third and finally, the blueberry muffin top...When I think of muffin tops, I think back to that Seinfeld episode where they just chop off the top of the muffins and dump out the rest. Flour's version wasn't that at all - it was a very flat muffin. It was packed with blueberries, which I love, and the top was finished with sprinkles of sugar for crunch. I saw nothing wrong with the muffin. It was perfect, but I am not a fanatic of muffin tops, so I'd much rather have a muffin. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting take.

Above, Blueberry Muffin Top

I wished Flour had more locations in convenient locations in Boston, but that would make it less special, no?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More than 900 Cranes to Go

Inspired by Stacie Tamaki's artwork of cranes, I decided to attempt one (because I have so much time on my hands). I figured if I make 10 a day for the next 10 months, I can make well over 1,000 cranes for good luck at my wedding!

So, I stocked up on origami paper, and I am soooo ready. I just started today and made about 20 paper cranes already!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My One Staple in Boston

Food in Boston may not compare to that in New York, but there is one thing that I will always return to in bean cream from J.P. Licks. This local ice cream chain is like Ben & Jerry's except for that it is not national and mass produced for supermarkets...well, at least I haven't seen J.P. Licks in supermarkets yet.

J.P. Licks is a local staple in Boston. Its shops have a bohemian vibe, cows on the walls and a wide variety of flavors with funky names like Cherry Ortiz (cherry and chocolate ice cream) and Lumpy Primate (translation: banana ice cream with walnuts). Tonight, I sampled one of their flavors of the month - cucumber. What can I say, I am adventurous when it comes to ice cream. It was interesting...I didn't think it would work, but it did. The cucumber flavor wasn't overpowering like I had expected. It was surprisingly rich and refreshing at the same time.

Since I was sharing my ice cream, we compromised on a safer bet...cappuccino crunch - it had bits of toffee and caramel in it. I normally am not a fan of caramel, but J.P. Licks did not put too much of it in there, so I didn't mind it so much. Unlike Ben & Jerry's, the toffee chips are in nice small chunks. Yum.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Vintage Tones in Photoshop

I have been digging through my photos from Paris to see what I can do to them on Photoshop. I have to preface this by saying that I'm not a great photographer (I've been told so by my lovely sister), and I'm not an expert at Photoshop either (I just play with whatever functions I can find or know little of).

Anways, below are my latest projects...all I did was use Auto Levels if needed, then play around with Color Balance to add a vintage tone. Some needed extra work like rotating the photo if crooked and clone stamping if something needs to be taken out. Sadly, I don't think I have enough wall space for all the pictures I've done so far.

Place des Vosges before

Place des Vosges after - vintage tone added

Pont Neuf before - taken at sunset

Pont Neuf after - levels adjusted, vintage tone added

Tuilieries before - crooked

Tuilieries after - straightened and vintage tone added

Tuilieries garden before - garbage can in the way

Tuilieries garden after - garbage can removed, vintage tone added

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I was looking for a place to eat on a Sunday night (not every restaurant operates on Sundays, so I was thinking quite hard), then I recalled my friend's recommendation of Tartine as a great brunch place. In fact, the place is so popular for brunch that a long line forms outside on weekends. I thought that a great brunch place shouldn't disappoint for dinner, so I went to check it out. I was wrong. It was just ok for dinner...average at best. Sadly, I don't have any decent pictures to share with you because it was pretty dark in there.

Tartine is in the West Village and serves French bistro food - it has your usual French onion soup and escargot on the dinner menu. You can bring your own wine, and there's no corkage fee. There's a nice dessert display, filled with delicious looking fruit tarts and such. My mind was fast forwarding to dessert once I saw that, but I had to focus on dinner, not dessert.

There were many specials that night, and I ordered everything from there. I had a pastry tart of tomoato, onion, anchovies and goat cheese for appetizer, followed by roasted halibut for my entree. Our server had raved about the halibut, so I was really looking forward to it.

When my appetizer came, I became worried. The portions were very generous, so I didn't know whether I could finish my meal. I bit into my tart, which I thought would be a buttery flaky crust, but it was almost like a crunchy flatbread...anyways, it was extremely salty. I thought it was the anchovies, so I took them off and tried another bite. It was better, but still salty.

Then my halibut came. It was nicely seared, but it was really flaky...kinda like red snapper. The halibut I'm used to is usually moist, rich and smooth. Not this one. The fish sat on these Chinese spinach that I love. They were nicely prepared; probably my favorite thing on the plate. Overall though, my entree was tasty, but the fish wasn't what I had expected. I also had a bite of my fiance's spicy chicken - it was overcooked and tough. The best thing on his plate was, I thought, fries.

I was hoping to get an apple tarte tartine for dessert, but I was too stuffed. Perhaps I'll try Tartine again someday...for brunch.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why are Some Florists Against Fruit Centerpieces?

I really don't know. Difference in artistic opinion perhaps.

I think fruits are a nice alternative to floral centerpieces and can look nice and classy too. Unlike flowers, fruits can be pretty if arranged nicely with flowers tucked in here and there, and they serve a real function too - you can eat them! I spent a lot of time looking for all the images I can find as examples, but it may look like we won't be doing any of them for our wedding.

Sorry I don't remember all the sources. Some are from Michelle Rago and Laura Novak.

In any case, they are nice centerpieces for entertaining. Guests can even bring them home!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Eggplant Vegetable Torte

Yet another eggplant recipe...I found this one in my Barefoot Contessa cookbook. Believe it or not, I still have enough eggplant for one more meal!

Eggplant Vegetable Torte can be a pretty impressive dish for company in terms of presentation. Better yet, it can be prepared more than a day ahead of time. With a bit of anticipation, I was excited to unveil and put this torte onto a plate.

I followed the recipe as much as I could, except for the cheese and zucchini. Instead of using parmesan cheese, which I did not have, I used mozzarella. And instead of using zucchini, I used green and yellow squash. These gave the torte a more interesting look for the layers. Also, instead of using a pie pan, I used a small loaf pan (I wasn't serving a party of 4 or more). It worked just as well.

Doesn't it look impressive?

Friday, August 15, 2008

More Window Treatment

I stumbled upon a series of window films featured on Real Simple while browsing for window shades. These films are adhesives with patterns or designs that you apply to windows (or any where there's glass like on a french door) where you need privacy and light at the same time - bathroom, basement or by the front door. Many of these are so pretty to look at!

The first one below is rather bold. I like it because the colors remind me of one of my favorite paintings, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (I'm so glad art appreciation was a course required in college.)

Above from Light Effects

Above, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt from All Posters

Above from Rare Device

Above from Light Effects

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Use for Silhouettes

Ordinary bathrooms are boring, but this one isn't. This is a great idea for those silhouettes I made! I don't know though about seeing an outline of my fiance or myself while using the bathroom...

The above was taken from a contest held on Design Sponge.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not Your Plain Ol'Window Shades

I was browsing through one of my sister's Domino magazines many moons ago, and saw this page that featured semi-sheer patterned window shades that I could not get out of my head. I'm so used to seeing curtains or vinyl blinds, and I love patterns, so of course my heart skipped a beat when I saw those shades. During one of my moments of boredom recently, I took some time to look for some thing similar to what I saw in the magazine.

My search brought me to Delia Shades, which makes window shades of many patterns - from Moorish arches, dots, Chinese latticework, and more. I love every single one of them! Here are some of my favorites:

Moorish arches from Delia Shades

Moorish Doors from Delia Shades

Frame Lattice from Delia Shades

Iron Orange from Delia Shades

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Wrap

In search of another eggplant recipe, I put my Martha Stewart Living Cookbook to good use again. I found Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Wrap and made it for lunch.

I didn't have any pita or wraps, so I had it with some greens and a piece of toast. Also, instead of using zucchini and cherry tomato, I used squash and grape tomoato (I had these in my fridge). It's a pretty satisfying lunch, and looks pretty healthy too!

Monday, August 11, 2008


If you recall, I had a very brief one liner on Financier from my Macarons round up a while ago. A few days ago, I had a macaron craving and I was right by Financier...needless to say, I couldn't stop myself.

The Financier macaron variety pack

After having their macarons (these are French almond cookies) again, I continue to stand by what I had said before - their macarons are just okay. The outer crust lacks the sheen that was common with the macarons I had from Laduree in Paris. However, you definitely taste the buttercream in Financier's macarons.

This time around though, there was a new tasty macaron in the variety pack - it was encrusted with coconut flakes; the inside was filled with a refreshing lemon (I think) buttercream. This was not a traditional French macaron, but I liked it for its originality and flavor.

A bite inside a macaron encrusted with coconut flakes from Financier

Aside from macarons, Financier is a great French bakery. I didn't care for carrot cake, but Financier's carrot muffin (which was essentially a mini carrot cake) changed my mind. I love love love their brownies...they are so silky smooth and rich (I had a big wow moment at my very first bite into their brownie). I also love the wide variety of their baked goods...I would often go home with either their fine pastries or cakes for birthday celebrations. Other than baked goods, I salivate over their warm Le Financier sandwich, which is made of grilled chicken, artichokes, roasted tomato and goat cheese. Like I tell everyone, I've never had anything bad there!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Eggplant Dip

What to do when life gives you eggplants? Make eggplant dip! I've been eating eggplant almost every day now...I have enough supply for at least 2 more eggplant meals to go.

So I whipped out my Barefoot Contessa cookbook, searched under egglant, and ended up with Roasted Eggplant Dip. It's made by roasting eggplant, red bell pepper, onion and garlic in the oven. It was easy to make and pretty tasty. I didn't have any pita chips or crackers, so I used toasts instead to go with the dip.

I think this spread is not limited to just being a dip. I can imagine using this in a vegetarian sandwich - if I had some portobello mushrooms, I would grill those and use the dip like a condiment....spread the dip on the bread, add some lettuce, spinach or arugula, pop in a portobello mushroom, and I'm done! I would sooo bring this sandwich out on a picnic with my fiance. There's no mayo, so there's no risk of it going bad during transport!

Friday, August 8, 2008


Believe me, Fresh IS fresh. I had the good fortune of trying out this seafood restaurant in downtown NY with my friend. This restaurant is exactly what its owner set out to do - the seafood is fresh and the preparation is perfect. With fresh in mind, me and my foodie friend set out to order the freshest items on their menu - this meant nothing that could be prepared ahead of time, such as pasta or seafood sausage.

I did my research on Fresh ahead of time, so I was looking forward to seeing the fish cheeks that I read so much about. To my disappointment, it wasn't there! So I started off with the Grilled Hawaiian Prawns, then the Seared Big Eye Tuna as my entree. My friend had the Tuna Tartare and Roasted Halibut. Before our appetizers came, our server treated us to some very good tuna springrolls, which were topped with a citrusy aioli with a hint of heat.

Here's a rather long and detailed review of what we had. You can skip the text and just look at the beautiful photography if you're interested. ;-)


I have to say that I may have been too busy talking to fully appreciate my meal, but I know for sure that the Grilled Hawaiian Prawns were possibly the best prawns I've had. Our server had told me when I ordered the item that the prawns came in just last night, so I was very pleased to hear that. When the plate came, all signals told me it was perfectly cooked - the prawns had a nice bounce in the meat and the flesh was not entirely white. It smelled delicious, and tasted delicious...perfectly seasoned. The accompaniments (avocado and tomato confit) were a nice complement to the prawns.

Grilled Hawaiian Prawns with Avocado and Tomato Confit

As for my friend's Tuna Tartare, it was quite flavorful. It was served with Taro Chips, a nice contrast of texture to the soft tartare.

Tuna Tartare with Taro Chips and Wasabi Caviar


My entree was overshadowed by my appetizer. Sadly, Fresh fell into one of those appetizer is better than entree category I have for restaurants. The tuna was fresh, but was a bit stringy (perhaps this was due to the cut of the meat)...there were these stringy membranes in the grain of the meat, and it took some strength to cut them. The fish came with baby bok choy, sticky garlic rice and shiitake mushroom - they were good, but not hit you over the head wow. I figured by now that it is food (or combinations of ingredients) I've never tasted before that have the wow factor for me...being that I'm Asian, a dish with Asian ingredients would take more to wow me than anything else.

Seared Big Eye Tuna with Baby Bok Choy, Sticky Garlic Rice and Shiitake Mushroom

I had two bites my friend's Roasted Halibut with Asparagus, Maitake Mushroom, Corn Puree and Pickled Shallots. From what I could tell, the fish was perfectly cooked. My friend said the fish was buttery, a good sign of a halibut cooked pefectly. I wasn't sure though about the combination of pickled shallots and fish. As for the maitake mushroom, I told my friend that it "tasted like feet, not that I know what feet tastes like." I haven't had that type of mushroom before. I don't know if it was the preparation of it with vinegar or that it's a very assertive and bold kind of mushroom that I didn't like.

Roasted Halibut with Asparagus, Maitake Mushrooms, Corn Puree and Pickled Shallots


Despite reading a good number of negative reviews on this part of the meal, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is contrary to popular opinion. The dessert menu had your standard Molten Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Moouse Cake, but it also had a few interesting items like Pineapple Upside Down with Coconut Sorbet and Lime Sauce and Olive Oil Cake with Balsamic Strawberries and Strawberry Sorbet.

I had the Lemon Almond Tart with Cassis Sorbet. Although I did not taste the almond, it was nicely done and was perfectly refreshing for a summer night. My friend's Olive Oil Cake had an interesting crunch on the outside. I have made Olive Oil Cakes before, and they can be dense. So I appreciated the fact that the pastry chef cut the cake horizontally and added some fruits in between the slices.

Lemon Almond Tart with Cassis Sorbet and Fresh Berries

Olive Oil Cake with Balsamic Strawberries and Strawberry Sorbet

Last and finally, we were treated to Oatmeal Macarons at the end of our meal. Macarons are French almond cookies with a buttercream filling. I am a fanatic when it comes to Macarons, so you could imagine the excitment on my face when I saw these. I was fooled...they looked like macarons, but tasted like oatmeal cookies. Very interesting...

Oatmeal Macarons

Overall, it's a good (above average) place for fresh and perfectly cooked seafood. I know now that when I go to Fresh, I don't have to worry about overcooked and tough fish.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sticky Rice Wrapped in Banana Leaf - a lost art

Let me share with you what I had for's sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf, a very traditional type of Chinese food and can be made either savory or sweet. I had the sweet version, which brought back a lot of fond childhood memories with my grandma.

The rice is wrapped in individual packets in banana leaf and is held together by a string. The result is somewhat of a triangular shape. My grandma would make it so I could wear it around my neck when I was young. They are usually no bigger than the size of your hand. I think I will attempt to make sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf someday so it won't be a lost art.

With the sweet version, they can be filled with red bean paste. Before they are consumed, they are usually sprinkled with sugar for added sweetness. When you unwrap them, they just have the most wonderful aroma from the banana leaf.

Please excuse the imperfect shape of this one...I broke the corner when unwrapping

As with the savory ones, they can be filled with a variety of things...peanuts, fatty pork, Chinese sausage, chicken, salted egg yolks, etc. These are quite tasty...and very sticky of course!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Asian Style Eggplant

My future father-in-law gave me a whole bunch of eggplants from his garden, so I guess I'll be having them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 5 days. What to do, what to do? Well, I thought back to the best eggplant I have ever was at Tsukushi, a real Japanese gem in midtown NY. I'll write a review on the restaurant some day.

I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to cooking, but I'm intimidated by eggplant. Eggplants are watery and even soak up extra moisture like a sponge (I hate greasy soggy fried eggplant). On top of that, large eggplants can be bitter and rubbery if not prepared correctly (I speak from experience). But that didn't stop me from making my version of eggplant inspired by Tsukushi. Let's call this invention of mine Asian Style Marinated Eggplant. This is good as a side dish or with some greens for a light summer salad.

The first time I made Asian Style Marinated Eggplant, I tossed together whatever that was Japanese I had in the pantry:
mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine for cooking)
rice vinegar
soy sauce
sesame seed oil
black pepper

I didn't have Japanese ingredients this time, so I made a Chinese version by mixing together:
Chinese rice cooking wine
distilled white vinegar
soy sauce
sesame seed oil
black pepper

In general, you just need some salt, acid and sugar. I didn't measure...I just mixed the ingredients in to taste. Then I sliced an eggplant about a third of an inch thick and made sure each side was covered by the sauce (make sure to save some sauce for later).
I popped the eggplant slices in the oven (or grill) until they were done, making sure to flip them over once. When they were done, I drizzled some sauce over them. Yum yum!