Monday, August 31, 2009

Shakin' Bobby's Burger Palace

I've been to Mesa Grill and Bar Americain and thought they were tasty experiences. So when Bobby Flay's empire expanded to NJ, I was a tad curious...only a tad because I don't eat beef. How else could I experience Bobby's Burger Palace, the latest Flay addition that was created to appeal to the common folks? Milkshake.

My husband tried their pistachio milkshake a while ago and has been raving about it ever since, proclaiming that it was by far THE best pistachio milkshake he's ever had. It's a pricey treat at $5 a pop for the equivalent of a tall drink at Starbucks, but I thought I should try it at least once.
We waited 10 minutes for the shake while they carefully shelled the pistachios in the kitchen one by one (sense my sarcasm?). Truthfully, the restaurant was pretty busy at 2:30 in the afternoon. Who wouldn't want to get a taste of the Flay starting at only $5.00?

The shake was sinful. I'm glad we shared one because I wouldn't have been able to finish one by myself. They have more than 10 flavors, with some of the more exotic being coconut and mango. There was no doubt that the pistachio flavor that we got was real pistachio...there were granules of crunchy pistachio nuts in the shake and it didn't have the neon green color like you seen with most pistachio ice cream. I thought the shake tasted more like almond than pistachio nut though.

To save some bucks, I think I'll make my own pistachio milkshake...grind up some nuts and mix it with milk and ice cream. Don't worry, I'll let you know how it turns out!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Twist on the Traditional Roast Pork ("Cha Siu")

My brother-in-law has been a devoted outdoor cook ever since he got his grill, and he didn't stop there - he had a thirst for more. So last week, he was excited and proud to unveil the smoker, his latest outdoor cooking appliance acquisition. I was joking that all he needed outside now is a sink, a countertop and fridge to complete his collection. I think I saw the wheels turn inside his head when I said that.

On the smoker grand opening menu that day was a spin on the traditional Chinese Roast Pork ("Cha siu" 叉燒). Cha Siu isn't smoked, so it was an interesting take. After my brother-in-law marinated the pork butt meat with cha siu sauce, he smoked it for about 2 hours. He also basted the meat with a honey concoction during smoking to get that sweet, luscious gloss.

The smokiness was quite intense. In fact, the taste stayed in my mouth long after I had a piece of Cha Siu. I wished the meat was fattier to stand up to the cooking. I think fattier meats would work very well with the smoker. I would be interested in smoked ribs or salmon next time.

They're making a trip to one of the capitals of barbeque soon. I bet they'll come back with lots of inspiration.

All photos courtesy of Martha's sister.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Being an Ice Cream Fanatic

My husband always teases me about being ice cream crazy. Is there anything I shouldn't like about ice cream? It's cold, sweet and creamy. To date, I have only met one person who doesn't like ice cream. I found that strange. How can you not like ice cream?

I have such fond memories growing up in Hong Kong, where my father took us out on weekends for my favorite honeydew ice cream, and my sister's favorite taro ice cream. Sadly, those flavors are not common here in the States. Instead, there are lots of complicated flavors here such as those with fudge or pretzel pieces. I am not that type. I gravitate towards the more simple ones. My sister is always asking me for recommendation for flavors, so here I share with you some of my favs, including those in the NY/Boston area:

Dublin Mudslide, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Strawberry - I was hooked on Dublin Mudslide after we had this then limited edition flavor at their VT factory. It has my favorite "Irish Cream Liquor" (Bailey's). I'm not crazy about fudge, but the coffee fudge in there doesn't bother me much. The chunks in the Coffee Heath Bar are too large for me, but I don't mind since I can always leave them for my husband.

Cookies & Cream, Strawberry, Mango - Haagen-Dazs is always is smooth and creamy, which translates to ultra fattening. I also like it that their flavors are simple. I used to eat lots of Oreos, but I've dumped the cookies and embraced the ice cream. Their Strawberry and Mango are always flavorful and refreshing. I specially love it that their Strawberry flavor isn't the pink colored ice cream common in some ice cream shops from their use of coloring - you actually see the fruit chunks.

Cappuccino Crunch - J.P. Licks is a homemade ice cream chain in Boston. I would say that they are like Ben & Jerry's b
efore they sold out to corporate America. They have wacky flavor names, but their variety of flavors aren't as complex as B&J. Their Cappuccino Crunch has bits of toffee and caramel. I normally am not a fan of caramel, but there isn't too much of it in there. The toffee chips are in nice small chunks, just the way I like them.

Red Bean, Lychee - What can I say, I'm Asian. I'm a fan of red bean in any form - ice cream, soup, jello, icicle, etc. This classic institution in NY Chinatown serves a wonderful version of red bean ice cream. I will, however, stay away from their Durian flavor...the fruit is an acquired taste. Of the fruits, I gravitate towards their Lychee flavor because of my love for the fruit. It's true to the taste of the fruit and refreshing.

Chocolate, Ginger - Gelato, ice cream...I like them all the same. Truly, I will not hesitate to try any flavors at Il Laboratorio, a gem in NYC's Lower East Side. Some of their flavors are Asian-inspired. These include Ginger and Black Sesame, which are flavors you'll find at The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I haven't tried Ginger or Black Sesame at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, so I can't tell you which ice cream joint I prefer for those flavors. The Ginger flavor at Il Laboratorio has a wonderful delicate ginger taste and a hint of heat.

Hazelnut - I find that some of their flavors are a tad too sweet, but I will not hesitate to try any flavors at Ciao Bella either. You can't have too much of their gelato, because they are very rich (like hazelnut) or too tarte (like Passion Fruit). They started in NY's Little Italy, but these days, you can find them in your local supermarket.

I have lots more favs, but the above are the more accessible ones. Hey, I have to stop somewhere!

Images - Ben & Jerry's from Wikipedia, Haagen-Daz from Wikipedia, J.P. Licks, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, Ciao Bella

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Places to Avoid in NYC

This is very unfortunate. A lot of establishments in NYC are now sell outs to popular shows like Sex & the City and the Sopranos. We've seen our share of street closures back in Nolita, my fiance's old neighborhood, for filmings for The Sopranos and The Devil Wears Prada...

...but never have we thought it would come to this. Imagine the shock when my fiance and I paid his old neighborhood bar a visit, and suddenly in comes a flock of women with cameras in hand, all sipping pink hued cosmos in martini glasses. Behold, it was the Sex & the City tour! I was a fan of the show, but have only figured out now that the bar was the backdrop to Steve and Aidan's bar opening.

While some places that were featured in those shows were overrated to begin with (Sushi Samba), others were once true gems (Magnolia Bakery, which by the way, has grown to 3 locations now in NYC).

The tours operate daily during the day, so avoid those places when you see sunlight, and you'll be fine (you should be safe after 8pm).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Finding OUR Style

I'm all about function and style. He's been all about function and no style. For our future home together, we agreed on modern functional comfort.

I really want our new house to feel like a home. I love light, so I'm not crazy about having a lot of dark furniture. That pretty much eliminates Pottery Barn since it
is all about traditional style and dark furniture.

Above from Pottery Barn

Although I've been drooling over the Herman Miller and Barcelona chairs, their prices are far from attractive...that eliminates Design Within Reach (which should be renamed to Prices Not Within Reach). Add to it that sticking to a strictly modern design translates to a rather cold-looking home.

Above from Design Within Reach

I was drawn to these magazine features on the homes of the famous wedding gown designer Monique Lhuillier and model/actress Molly Sims, and I've been drooling over them ever since I saw them. Hopefully, our home will look somewhat like them...a blend of chic and the old & the new.

Above from Elle Decor

Above from InStyle Home

Friday, August 21, 2009

Robeks, Jamba Juice's (Almost) Identical Twin

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a Jamba Juice fan. I was hooked ever since my first taste of their Mango-a-go-go on the west coast 6 years ago. Sadly, Jamba has no locations in CT, my possible future home. We did, however, find a juice chain called Robeks. It is almost identical to Jamba in its offerings...healthy smoothies with nutritional boosts in 3 sizes.

To test whether Robeks is as good as Jamba, I ordered a Mahalo Mango, which is the closest to to Mango-a-go-go. Mahalo Mango has papaya juice, mangos, pineapple sherbet and non-fat yogurt. Sadly, it is just not as good. The mango wasn't as intense as my favorite smoothie from Jamba. In fact, it tasted a bit watered down, and I couldn't taste any papaya either. It's good to know though, that if I need a Jamba fix, Robeks will be nearby. I can test out their other smoothies and come to a final verdict.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Happily, NYC restaurant week was extended to Labor Day, so we took this opportunity to try out Tocqueville. The restaurant has been on my birthday celebration wish list, but we never got around to it. The restaurant has a very high ceiling (with a private box upstairs) but the dimmed lights and dark curtains made it feel cozy. Due to the "romantic" lighting in the restaurant, you'll have to excuse me for the poor photos in this post.

Tocqueville specializes in using local produce from the farmers market and creates a tasting menu based on what's fresh using French cooking techniques. Overall, I thought it was a fine dining experience, but the portions were what most people would consider to be "French." I overloaded on their delicious rosemary ciabatta just to get full...three of them to be precise. That aside, everything was well executed.

For starters, I had their Asparagus Vichyssoise, a cold soup. It was surprisingly creamy, but had no cream in it at all. The soup didn't hit me over the head with a wow, but it was nice. I thought their Tomatoes in Consomme was so much better. The delicate tomatoes were paired with crunchy slices of radish. The consomme was tangy and tasty, without drowning out the flavors of the tomatoes.

Then came my Striped Bass with Succotash and Huitlacoche Timbale. I'm not a big fan of succotash, but I liked it...the corn was so sweet and fresh. The fish was perfectly seared, but too flaky for my taste - I'm a fan of big fatty fishes. As for the Huitlacoche Timbale, I had no clue what I was eating until I did some research at home after the meal. To me, the huitlacoche tasted like mushroom and cheese, and I guess I was pretty close because huitlacoche is corn smut, which is a kind of fungus that grows on corn. I've seen it on TV before, and it basically looked like rotten corn. It's actually a delicacy in Mexico. I thought the Huitlacoche Timbale was strange but wonderful...the timabale was like a warm, rich pudding with a slightly crunchy exterior. I'm glad I had the chance to try huitlacoche.

And lastly, dessert. I had the Frozen Strawberry Souffle. It was basically strawberry mousse. It was good, but just not my type of dessert. I was expecting souffle rather than mousse.

All in all, Tocqueville is a lovely restaurant for special occasions if you're looking for classic fare with fresh ingredients and small twists. It was like the delightful Elderflower Grapefruit Caipirinha I had at the restaurant - something traditional (in this case, Brazilian) with a memorable (and fragrant) flare.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kitchen Wish List

I admit, I am picky...somewhat :-)

I can be a picky eater, and I most certainly am picky when it comes to house hunting. Why pay for a house that you won't be happy with?

One of the most important features to me in a house is the kitchen. I truly believe it is the heart of the home. Add to it that I love to cook.

My husband thinks I ask for too much in a kitchen, when in truth, I would be happy with any kitchen with more than a foot of counter space, good ventilation and a cooking range that is not parked right next to a wall. I am done with cooking in tight living quarters where my elbow or pots would hit the wall and your furniture ends up smelling like your food.

So to my husband, who occasionally skims this blog, below is my wish list for a kitchen.


  • Counter space - more than a foot would be a huge upgrade
  • Good ventilation - either a window in the kitchen OR a great hood (not one of those over the range microwave) so we can breathe easy after I fry my spring rolls, and especially on curry night
  • Cooking range not parked next to a wall - it really is more pan and elbow friendly
  • Storage space - for our new kitchen equipment and tools so we don't have to use plastic pull-out drawers anymore


  • A wide and deep sink - for those countless times I do dishes even though our policy is one cooks, another cleans
  • An island - yeah right, I can keep on dreaming

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pork Chop Buns on My Mind

As you may already know, I am a recent pork convert. I confess, I have said before that I am only dabbing into little pieces or thinly sliced pork, but I have had a whole pork chop since my conversion. I didn't plan on it, but to my surprise, it happened. Now I can't stop thinking about that delicious pork chop bun I had in Macau! That's right, a lonely pork chop (bone in and all) sandwiched between a small baguette. Yup, no sauce, no lettuce or tomato.

My cousins brought me to a place in Macau that only served pork chop buns. The pork chop bun I had in Hong Kong was no where near as good as the one I had in Macau. The shop only opens a few hours a day, and by the looks of the line that wrapped around their shop, I knew that it had to be good. Apparently, the joint opens at 3pm and closes within 2 hours, when their buns sell out.

My pork chop bun arrived in a brown paper bag, which could not seal in the wonderful aroma of the grilled pork at all. Originally, I planned on only taking one bite and leaving the rest of the sandwich to my brother, but it was so deliciously addictive, I had to have more. The pork was so flavorful, juicy, tender and perfectly cooked. Add to it that the warm bun soaked up all the delicious juices. Before I knew it, I finished the whole thing!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Have You Ever Had Fresh Soy Milk?

And by that I don't mean those cartons you buy from your local supermarket here in the States...I mean the freshly ground soy milk made from soy beans. You can really taste a difference between the fresh and prepackaged soy milk. This one you see below is the one I had in Macau. It was so refreshing and had just the right amount of sweetness.

Soy milk can be served hot or cold. I grew up with this stuff, and it is the best! If you're around Chinatown, you can definitely find a shop that makes this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's No Secret...

...that I dislike networking. I finally figured out why, thanks to one of my favorite blogs by Jasmine Star. I was crazy about looking through photographers' blogs when I was doing wedding research, and her blog had such beautiful beautiful beautiful photography and was written with such passion.

Anyways, Jasmine's latest post was on her workshop, where she tackled the subject of ANTInetworking. Her slide spoke to me. Lots of people in the business world focus on networking, but I don't believe they truly make a real connection because there are plenty of people in this world who think "what's in it for me?" And then there are people who are just plain fake. I've always believed in being genuine and helping people, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who's ANTInetworking.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ask Martha on Clams

Below is a series of questions I just received from a devoted reader, Clamor Girl, also known as my sister.

Hi Martha,

I purchased 3 doz little neck clams for $10 last night at Fairway. My questions are:

  1. How long can they stay in the fridge for before cooking
  2. Can two people eat three dozens in a sitting?
  3. Would Martha be interested in clam dinner this week?


Clamor Girl

Dear Clamor Girl,

Wow, that sounds like a good deal! I would eat them that same night or the night after at the latest - the fresher, the better! I would not store them for longer than 3-4 days. Cover them loosely under a damp towel in the fridge and indirectly on ice if possible. I am interested in your offer, but I am not sure that they will survive beyond 5 days.

If you don't eat them that same night or night after, check to see if they're still alive before cooking by tapping on the shells that are opened (they're alive if they close upon tapping) or immersing them in water (they're alive if you see bubbles when they breathe).

Sure, two can eat three dozens in one sitting if you're really hungry. It really depends on the preparation - you can make clams casino with a dozen for appetizers, and the rest (or even the entire three dozen) in linguine with clams. If you just want to steam them, you can pretty much use my husband's recipe for steamers (and skip the bay leaf), and make some garlic bread.

I hope I have answered your questions. Enjoy your clam-licious meal!


Martha Fung

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Step Closer to Martha

My husband and I have said goodbye to Boston and potentially hi closer to Martha Stewart's territory - CT. We have also explored Bedford NY (land of one of MS' homes), but it really wasn't my husband's cup of tea. In CT, we attempted to go to SoNo Baking in Norwalk (John Barricelli of MS' Everyday Baking) and Margot's Cafe (Margot Olshan of MS' Everyday Food), but it didn't happen. We will try again, I'm sure.

Instead, I did some research and heard a lot of the pizza from Colony Grill in Stamford. From what I can tell, it is an institution in the area due to the popularity of its thin crust pizzas. The restaurant is so popular and confident in its pizzas that it neglects everything else (using paper plates, keeping its dated decor, etc.). Many patrons rave about its hot oil topping, so we tried that, plus half anchovies (at the recommendation of an acquaintance) and half sausage. The appearance of the cheese on our pizza was very reminiscent of the horrible school lunch pizza, but I didn't let that sway me.

I have to say that it wasn't bad at all. The crust was thin like flatbread and perfect. The hot oil topping added a tiny bit of spice and flavor to the pie.

I didn't have high hopes on Stamford's food scene (and still don't), but I have become less of a cynic since my experience at Colony Grill.

Friday, August 7, 2009

So Jealous!

I love to cook, but I'm not dying to see Julie & Julia. Surprised? I do have some interest though, in seeing how Meryl Streep pulls off the great Julia Child...she is just such an incredible actress. From what I can tell from the commercials, she does a pretty good portrayal of her!

Image from Wikipedia

There has been a lot of press for Julie & Julia, and I was so jealous to learn that they have been holding publicity functions for the movie at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, about an hour from NYC. Known for their use of fresh produce from their farm and other local producers, Blue Hill has been on my radar for a while now, but I haven't been able to bring myself to their location in NYC. Anyways, apparently, the press have been treated to their fare at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Lucky.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Potato Chips in Greece

While we were in Greece, my husband and I raided the local supermarkets for water and snacks for the beach. I stumbled upon the interesting variety of potato chip flavors there like Paprika.

Herbs are very popular in Greek dishes, so I wasn't surprised that Oregano was by far the most common potato chips flavor. I was just very amused to see an American brand producing flavors for the Greek taste buds in a familiar packaging but all in Greek.

It was so good that we bought 2 more bags after our first try!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Santorini Pistachio Nut

I recently brought home some roasted pistachio nuts from Santorini. What do they look like? They remind me of Santorini's infamous Red Beach.

Their reddish color isn't much of a surprise given Santorini's abundance of volcanic soil. I wasn't sure what to expect inside though. The only color I'm familiar is green, but they're actually yellow inside!

They definitely don't taste or look like the pistachio nuts in the States. Other than the obvious color, they're skinnier in size. In terms of flavor, they are very fragrant as they are roasted. If you pay close attention, you'll taste what I'd consider a very sophisticated pistachio nut - richer and a tad more intense.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Del Posto

Del Posto was the final stop of our NY restaurant week streak. I felt like I was in a high class, serious, old school hotel the moment I stepped into the restaurant. A huge door mat with the restaurant's initials welcomed our arrival (all it was missing was a door man). My eyes were overwhelmed by dark brown furniture and geometric printed floor tiles (I felt like I was looking at one of M.C. Escher's Symmetry works) as I took a few seconds to take in the decor of the restaurant. My eyes were so busy that I only had a glimpse of Sandra Lee from the Food Network walking right past me only less than a foot away!

Overall, the food was very good...not hit you over the head with inventive combination of flavors, but executed very well. I believe the restaurant sticks to Mario Batali's philosophy that when you have fresh ingredients, you really don't need to do much to it but to cook it to perfection.

I started with an heirloom tomato salad that was dressed with a simple but delicious vinaigrette. The colors of the tomatoes ranged from yellow, orange, to red...they were fresh and sweet. Fresh parsley further enhanced the dish's freshness. My husband had a salad of thinly sliced speck and cheese, and arugula. I enjoyed the speck's smokiness and how its combination with cheese did not taste overly salty.

Then came my salmon with bean salad. I know, I should've ordered pasta in an Italian restaurant, but my other option was spinach pasta in "Mario's favorite" (bolognese) sauce...I've been dabbing into pork, but not beef. Anyways, the salmon was excellent, aside from it being a tad undercooked. The bean salad was so flavorful with the use of pickled vegetables. My husband had the berkshire pork. He had absolutely no complaints.

And finally, dessert. I had a chocolate pudding with caramel. I'm not a caramel fan, but I did enjoy the dish very much. I loved the contrast in texture between the smooth pudding and crunchiness of the nuts and little chocolate covered beads that tasted like rice crispy (they may have been Goobers). I couldn't say the same for my husband's hazelnut bar though. The combination of the sweet chocolaty hazelnut cake with citrus sauce and spicy salty roasted hazelnut was way too complex for me. Needless to say, I didn't like it.

Overall, it was a very good meal. I just wish the portions were larger so I wouldn't have to chow down three rolls to get full.