Thursday, October 30, 2008

Japanese meat on a stick

To celebrate our almost-anniversary, FI and I went to Yakitori Torys for dinner. It's a higher-end yakitori place and is a lot quieter than the places on St. Mark's.

A simple and clean table setting. I like this plate and chopstick holder.

We love going to Yakitori Torys and even though we're really all about the meat on a stick, we love their steamed vegetables. I think we mainly like them for the sauces they come with - sesame, wasabi mayonnaise, and flavored salt. Every time we've eaten there, we order the vegetables. And every time we eat it and say "We can make this at home!" But it's really not the same without the sauces. Which we need to figure out where to buy.

Then it was on to meat on a stick! First up, chicken skin. Now chicken skin has a pretty fatty chewy texture, so you need to grill it just right to get it crispy and not gooey and fatty. Torys does a great job with chicken skin; I think they just take their time grilling yakitori so it's actually cooked well.

More meat on a stick! From top to bottom - kalbi beef, chicken oysters (tender part of the thigh), and soft knee bone (of chicken). All were delicious! The kalbi was juicy and tender. The chicken oysters were so soft and easy to eat and were very tasty too. The knee bone did not taste like cartilage at all.

Then one of our entrees showed up - grilled squid. That's a spicy mayonnaise on top. The Asians sure love using mayonnaise as a hot condiment. We saw it on top of all sorts of food - vegetables, fish, meat - when we were in Taiwan and Japan. The squid was pretty tasty, but the mayonnaise made it super rich. This was the only dish we didn't quite finish.

Our other entree was a pork stew with a turnip and a boiled egg. The boiled egg was like a tea egg and the turnip was pretty soft and salty after being cooked in the broth. The pork was so good. The fatty layer on top and the silvers of lean meat on bottom were thoroughly soaked in broth and a nice soy sauce flavor. It was such a great combination of textures to eat and I would alternate bites of the pork with bites of the turnip and the egg.

We also had a lamb chop. The meat was grilled well, but not very flavorful. It was actually pretty bland and putting lemon juice on it just made it taste like sour meat.

Our final yakitori was tsukune (basically a giant chicken meatball) with diced radish. We had forgotten what tsukune was but it was a special on the menu, so we got it thinking it looked pretty good. And it was pretty good. Very tender and the meatball was very well mixed and tasty. The diced radish added a nice crunchy addition.

We couldn't finish our dinner without sharing a dessert. We ended up with a pumpkin creme brulee. This was a cold dessert and the texture was much denser (due to the pumpkin) than your normal creme brulee. But it was really smooth and yummy and I almost wanted to lick the ramekin clean. :)

Yakitori Torys is one of the few restaurants we keep going back to. Not only is it pretty close to our apartment, but it's also delicious and they always have new specials on their menus. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tasty Spare Ribs

This weekend, we decided to go Southern and Eastern with our cuisine. Not south-eastern, mind you, but attempting our own version of BBQ spare ribs.

We had gotten some nice spare ribs that we decided to marinade and bake.

To properly marinade them, I first took them out of the package and stuffed them into a takeout container so there would be little room for the marinade to go and hence go into the ribs.

I didn't have a set recipe in mind for the marinade; I just pulled a bunch of things out of our fridge and cabinet and set about mixing them together until I had the taste I wanted.

I started out with honey and then added soy sauce. I think added vinegar and rice wine. Then I threw in some garlic powder and black pepper. Finally I added cane sugar. Then I mixed everything. That took a while since the sugar granules would not dissolve. Now I started taste-testing the marinade. It was a little too sour and sweet so I added soy sauce until the sweet and salty was just the right balance.

Then I carefully poured the marinade over the spare ribs.

Soak 'em up, spare ribs!

Then, cause marinades work better in the cold (I'm not sure where I heard that, maybe on Nigella Bites?), I covered it and stuck it in the fridge.

After 20 minutes, we pulled the ribs out to bake.

After plating all the ribs on the oven pan, each rib got a wash of the extra marinade. The rest of the marinade can be used for basting.

Into the oven they go! We looked online to see what temperature we should bake them at and we found 1 recipe that said 300 degrees for 1.5 hours for 4 pounds of ribs. Since we only had 2 pounds, we figured we'd just keep an eye on them.

We've been doing the "use only one part of the recipe" thing a lot recently. Mostly it's because we already have a sauce or marinade or something in mind, we just need to know the finer details of the science of cooking. Our theory is, as long as the meat is the same, it should cook the same way.

While the ribs were baking, we started on our veggie dish - snow peas and tofu.

Here are the cleaned and peeled (at least the stemmy things on both ends) snow peas and tofu.

FI prepares to cut up garlic for the dish, while I use a knife to section the tofu into cubes. There's something so satisfying about cutting up tofu, especially in its box. I love to cook, but my knife skills aren't the greatest and my knives are neither super nice nor super sharp, so I'm always having a tough time making quick, clean cuts. But tofu yields so easily and you get the edges of the box as a guide, so it's fun to make quick, clean cuts down and across the block of tofu.

The garlic and snowpeas went into the wok first since they'd take longer to cook.

Then we added the tofu and a little teriyaki sauce.

Our finished veggie stirfry!

After 20 minutes, we checked on the ribs and basted them with the marinade. After 40 minutes, we flipped the ribs over and added another coat of marinade.

We finally took them out at about 1 hour and 10 minutes. This was after testing a small rib first. You'll notice one less rib in the picture below versus the picture above.

I then plated everything for us to eat.

A homey and simple meal, plated on our coffee table, to enjoy!

I like our create-our-own-flavors type of meals. We basically use what's available in our kitchen and then adjust to our own taste. We use the web for guidance on the science part of it, but the sensory part - how it tastes, how it chews, how it looks - that's all up to us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rice Triangles Part II: Getting in the Middle of It

To continue on expanding my rice triangle-making skills, I decided to next make rice balls with fillings.

FI and I had bought some beautiful unagi (grilled eel) to eat over rice. Instead of over rice, I tried to make them in rice.

Here's the eel in the packaging. I love the soy/teriyaki/plum sauce that gets added to the eel when it's grilled.

Here's the leftover rice from my last rice-triangle-making session. I added a little water and heated it up in the microwave so it would have the hot, sticky consistency needed for rice patties.

Since the eel had been in our refrigerator, I grilled it first in our toaster oven to get it hot.

This time, instead of filling the rice mold, I only put in rice to fill up 2/3 of the mold.

Then I gently packed the rice down and topped it with a couple of pieces of eel.

Next I put more rice on top and filled the mold. Finally I put the top on and squeezed it tight so the rice patties would form.

I was able to make 6 more rice patties with the leftovers. FI and I already ate one of them before I had a chance to take a picture.

Here's the inside of one. FI liked the seaweed we used last time so he insisted we have them with these as well.

The rice triangles were super yummy. The eel was tasty and the rice soaked up all of the sauce. We only ate 4 of them and I got to pack the other two in one of my Bento boxes for lunch the next day!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Wedding Show!

Earlier this week, I attended a Luxury Bridal Show sponsored by The Wedding Salon. I was able to get a complimentary ticket to the event via Style Me Pretty, a wonderful wedding blog with lots of beautiful pictures and lovely ideas for weddings.

The show was designed for the luxury wedding market and all of the vendors there were such. Pretty much everything was out of my price range, but it was fun to walk around and get pictures of the beautiful table settings and taste cakes.

Here's one of the table settings. The centerpiece is gorgeous and huge, over 3 feet tall. I like the filler they used in the vase - clear rocks that reflect the colors of the table settings. See how blue they look in the photo? They're actually totally clear.

Here's another enormous table centerpiece. The column is covered in the white roses and white orchids decorate the top and base of the doric flower column. The shiny structure spiraling up the flower column are little gold votive candle holders. I think I would prefer a simpler version of this centerpiece, making it more of a ionic column without the orchids, giant leaves, and candle holders.

Here's a simpler version of a spiral candle holder and white rose centerpiece. In this one, you still get the height of the piece, but your guests can actually see each other across the table.

I love centerpieces that are low (so everyone can see each other) and still bursting with flowers. This low centerpiece is nice and girly with all of these pink roses.

The show had models in wedding dresses with bouquets walking around the space showing off the designs. What was really funny was that they had a sign hanging off of them with information on the dress designer, who made the jewelry, which florist did the flowers, etc.

Here's a wedding cake from Mark Joseph Cakes. I love the simplicity of this design (and so do bridal magazines, I've seen this cake in at least 2 issues) and the beautiful sugar bows. They had cake samples as well - chocolate with pistachio icing and vanilla with strawberry icing. Both the cakes were good, but I think the icings both overpowered the cakes and their flavors (pistachio and strawberry) were too strong.

Sylvia Weinstock had cake samples, which were super moist and yummy. No cakes to look at though. :(

Here's the gift bag everyone got, with gifts "worth more than $250". There were some cool beauty samples but that was about it. There were also tons of magazines, which made the bag ridiculously heavy.

Mars Candy had a booth there as well to show off their personalized M&Ms and Dove bars. For the M&Ms, you can even get your picture printed on the candies. Which while sort of cool, also kind of creepy, since you're basically eating yourself....

Here's a bouquet from one of the florists there. I like the bright colors and big bunched-up-ness of the roses.

All in all, it was neat to see pretty things you could have at a wedding, but I'm kind of glad I got to go for free. There were too many different types of vendors and not enough of each kind. When there's only 1 make-up artist, 1 florist, 2 cake people, but 2 dress cleaners, 4/5 vacation spots, and 4/5 jewelers, you're not going to really be able to do any comparison shopping or see a wide range of options.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hanging in the Hay-Hay

This weekend I was in New Haven for some alumni meetings. FI came up on Saturday and we went out on the town.

FI's new favorite blog that he's added to his RSS feed is A Hamburger Today, a blog devoted to his favorite food - burgers! So he really wanted to eat at Louis Lunch, where the hamburger was invented! (True story, go to their wiki page).

Here we are outside Louis Lunch.

They are purists in here and don't have any condiments for their burgers. They feel that any sauces ruin the purity of the taste of the burger.

I got a ginger ale. FI says it looks like a lite beer.

Here's the burger! The burger is cooked in a rack oven and it goes on 2 pieces of white toast. The bread is toasted in a revolving toaster and the cheese is a spread so it doesn't fall off while it's revolving.

I know, I know, that picture looks kind of gross, but I couldn't put a flash on because of all the white from the plate and toast.

Here's a better sideview picture of the burger.

The burger was pretty tasty. The meat was grilled well, although it was a little bland. But the toppings of cheese, tomato and onion added a lot of flavor. The toast was really good too! FI and I think we might try this next time we make burgers.

After Louis Lunch, we went across the street to Bar to have some New Haven-style pizza. Bar and the Bru Room are some nice spaces, with large rooms and lots of tables and yummy yummy pizza!

They also have a little micro brewery with their own beers.

New Haven pizza is amazing. It's a thin crust pizza baked in a brick oven. The crust is super crispy and the toppings are always nicely grilled. Some popular toppings include clams, eggplant, and broccoli. We got a white pizza with mashed potato and garlic. I know the mashed potato sounds weird, but it was delicious! Mashed potato is the speciality of Bar.

Every time FI has come up to visit New Haven, we've hit one of the pizza joints known for their New Haven pizza. Last time it was Modern Apizza and we had eggplant pizza. Next time we'll have to go to Sally's or Pepe's.