Sunday, November 29, 2009

Behind the Scenes, Thanksgiving Edition

Dad demonstrating Tai chi move to Grandma.

Great-Aunt stirring the pot.

Uncle slicing away.

Brother playing intense session of Wii.

Still Giving Thanks...

Chinese soup.

Basil Mashed Potatoes.

Pot Roast.

Background: Carrot Cake. Foreground: Italian Fruit Tart.

Swimming in a Sea of Sweet Peas.

Happy Thanksgiving


Clockwise, from Left: Goat Cheese, Garlic & Herb Cheese, Asiago Cheese.

Shrimp Cocktail.

Eggplant Tempura.

Fried Flounder.

Japchae, made by Great-Aunt.

Sputnik Sweetheart, Pt II

Photo montage taken November 22. Clark Botanic Garden. Albertson, NY.

Sputnik Sweetheart, Pt I

Photo montage taken November 22. Clark Botanic Garden. Albertson, NY.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Child's Play

Lost in space.

Simon says...

...Make like starfish!

Cheese monster.

Photo montage taken November 21. Flushing, NY.

Grandma Knows Best

Law baht go (Radish cake).

Clear noodles with shrimp, chicken and snap peas.

Made with love.

Siu long bao (juicy pork dumpling).

Cup of coffee.


Clockwise, from left: Pumpkin Bread; Corn Bread; Ham, Cheese & Onion Bun.

Bakery de Paris is one of my favorite bakeries in Flushing. The pastries are always fresh and I have yet to be disappointed in a single offering. Best of all, inventive options abound, and it always seems like there's something new to try.

Pumpkin Bread.

Raisins and walnuts fleck this hearty, thick pumpkin bread. I bought it for my grandparents. They liked the Sweet Potato bread I got them from here before, but since the bakery was out of it this time around, I went for the seasonal pumpkin instead.

Ham, Cheese & Onion Bun.

At $2.25, this may seem like a hefty price to pay for a "meal" bun. However, the refined ingredients and crispy-on-the-outside, silky-smooth-on-the-inside texture make for the tastiest Ham, Cheese & Onion bun I've ever had. The ham was so high quality I was almost tricked into believing it was a slab of bacon! And the nutty, creamy gruyere cheese added the right amount of zing to the entire treat. It tastes like decadence (as decadent as you can be without delving into truffles territory). For all my gripes against onions, this is one instance in which I would gladly chomp on a mouthful.

Corn Bread.

I'm not sure why this is called corn bread, as it looks and tastes nothing like actual corn bread. However, the simple ingredients made my mom happy, as did the ooey gooey moistness of the bread, which had a crusty edge to it. I stole seconds!

Bakery De Paris
38-19B Union St
Flushing, NY 11354

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fresh-N-Fast Pulls a Fast One

Photo by Sally Holmes.

I cringe at the title's similarity to the long-revered west coast burger champ, In-N-Out. Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to rethink this design concept.

The menu sounds inspired by Shake Shack: Four-ounce non-frozen patties with American Jack cheese and Martin's potato buns. French fries. Milkshakes in Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry. I just hope the burgers are decent.

Look for Fresh-N-Fast in the Flatiron November 23!

Taking it to the Stalls: Otafuku


This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

Tokyo, here I come! Well, almost. At least for twenty minutes I can pretend while chomping on my okonomiyaki (Japanese grilled pancake), brimming over with beef, shredded cabbage, katsuoboshi, special sauce, mayonnaise and aonori (seaweed powder), along with six creamy, fried takoyaki (octopus) balls. For a mere $9, Otafuku brings it hard.

Occasion: Post-wedding. My friends were wed on Halloween. As to the curious questions from passersby concerning our "costumes": "You mean these? We just got married!" Yes, here comes the wedding party, dressed in black dresses and dapper tuxes. After clinking champagne glasses and scarfing down vegan cupcakes (albeit tasty), I was ready for some real sustenance.

Cue Otafuku. Otafuku is a true hole-in-the-wall in this New York City dining oasis. The eatery only specializes in a few items, but makes them with skill and enthusiasm. Choose from four "Combos," each a slightly different pairing of okonomiyaki, takoyaki and yakisoba. My friend got Combo C: the Yakisoba and Takoyaki set. I had Combo B: Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. My takoyaki morsels were crispy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside (but I don't suggest poking them). They contained chopped octupus, scallions and ginger. The takoyaki alone would have filled me up. Drenched in thick batter, they were larger than life - both in bite and flavor.


Okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake, is a Japanese term that translates into "cooked as you like it." It originated in the Kansai region of Japan but can be eaten most anywhere in the country. Toppings and cooking methods vary by region, with each area putting their own twist on this classic favorite.

The okonomiyaki here was more doughy and liquid-like than I had anticipated, but that's not saying much since it was my first time having it. The consistency was probably watery due to the high volume of cabbage. I prefer one that's a little more dense and solid. Still, after chowing down on Combo B, I've safely concluded that okonomiyaki is to takoyaki as Bonnie is to Clyde. I challenge you to find a better partner in crime!

Save for a tiny bench in front, no other seating could be found. But it must be the way to attract customers. Even in the rain, people stopped by after watching my friend and I dig into our piping hot take-out plates.

The staff is boisterous and helpful - the kind of folks I could see myself having a friendly chat with. And they're fun to watch at work (making my okonomiyaki from scratch!). My server asked me if I wanted "everything" on my okonomiyaki. I eagerly nodded "yes." He immediately drizzled a swamp of brown goo all over my okonomiyaki. A bit overboard in taste - salt and a strong fish flavor from the katsuoboshi arrested my tongue - but I appreciated the thought. Guess I'm not that big a fan of the Otafuku sauce, which is like a thicker, sweeter Worcester sauce. From what I gather, Otafuku sauce is more powerful when applied to heat. Although it's tempting to dig right in, be careful not to zing your tongue in your anticipation.

Combo C: Takoyaki and Yakisoba.

The yakisoba, unfortunately, did not live up to the same quality. The noodles were a bit greasy, and I could make the same at home. My Combo was definitely more filling than my friend's, and he had to help finish mine, which is unusual since I can normally "eat like a horse." For $1 more, you can also order taiyaki, or sweet Japanese fish cake.

Prices are fair for the portion size, and the warm-in-your-belly food shoos the hunger pangs away. Otafuku serves up authentic (for New York) Japanese street food. Now that's fast food I'd be willing to have on a regular basis!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Sauce police, where are you?? Way too much sauce on my okonomiyaki, but I guess I was asking for it when I said "everything." Over-greased yakisoba did not provide any thrills. Come for Combo B, though!

236 E 9th St
New York, NY 10003

Monday, November 9, 2009

Christmas Came Early

Photo by Tavalon.

For my kind of guy...

Me No Speak

I'm up to lesson 29 of Pimsleur's "Learn to Speak Beginner's Japanese." As much as I enjoy amusing my co-workers with new phrases and actually understanding the Jdramas I watch, it sure is a piece of work! Memorizing a boatload of new vocabulary, not to mention getting down the grammar structure...nothing comes easy (especially when you're past 21).

If you don't have the patience, look no further! Me No Speak Language Companion is just what you need. Available in Chinese, Japanese and Thai, these pocket-sized phrase books cover all your bases - from food to basic hygiene. They're printed in both English and the target language, along with colorful pictures. How can you not dig it?

Be on the lookout for Me No Speak Korea and Turkey, coming soon.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sugar Sugar - Korean Bbopki

Photo by Bionic Bites.

Bionic Bites posted an excellent review on bbopki (Korean sugar candy) and traditional Korean breakfast. Makes me want to take the next flight to Seoul!

Wedded to Cupcakes

Sugar Sweet Sunshine.

Last time, some of my friends went to Sugar Sweet Sunshine without me. But I heard such tantalizing tales of the tiny morsels that I was hooked - cupcakes are definitely going back on my agenda.

Sexy Red Velvet Cupcake.

I chose the Sexy Red Velvet Cupcake, red velvet cake with "The Moose," as it's called here. Rather than cream cheese icing, Sugar Sweet Sunshine uses a rich, smooth vanilla buttercream. Right after I took a bite, I wanted seconds (the guy smushed my mousse a bit in the bag, but no biggie). Cake so soft without being sugar rush sweet. But it's the buttery whipped cream that deserves top honors. The mousse was the moistest I have ever tasted. Whipped to a fluffy, light texture. For just $1.75, you can get a half a dozen to sample.

Other delectable choices include: pumpkin (pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing), sunshine (yellow cake with vanilla buttercream), ooey gooey (chocolate cake with chocolate almond buttercream) and black and white (chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream). I am so coming back!

It's a ring thing.

Saturday, I went to my friends' wedding in the West Village. It was a beautiful ceremony, small but intimate. We all snapped the obligatory family pics and 'paparazzi' shots. I remembered to take one of the rings. Since it also happened to be Halloween, random people on the street kept asking us what we were dressed up as:

"I love your costume! It's so elegant. But - what are you supposed to be?"

"Uh....we just got married?"

Yerp. We would be the wedding party. Or more aptly described as The Mafia, what with our black dresses and vintage heels, waistcoats and fitted suits.

Vegan cupcakes.

We bypassed the Halloween parade (and the 100-strong police force in uniform) for some refreshments back at the newlyweds' apartment.

I don't know about you, but when I imagine vegan cupcakes, I didn't expect them to taste this, well...good. I was pleasantly surprised by this batch, made with coconut oil instead of butter. My favorite (and Calla's mom agrees) were the brownie cupcakes, which tasted rich and smacked of chocolate gobs. As I recall, these were some expensive cupcakes. But oh so tasty.

Let's toast!

Ear Candy

"Heaven" - Epik High

This song is aloe vera lotion for a sunburned heart. Don't know how else to describe it, but when I listen to this song I literally feel like I'm drifting away on Cloud 9. "My you."

Hula Girls theme song - Jake Shimabukuro

Jake, best known as the ukelele virtuoso for his stirring cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," composed this song for the Japanese movie, Hula Girls. A heartwarming tale of what people can create when they work together in community for a common cause and pursue their passions. And you get to see cute girls dancing the hula!

"The Girl Who Can't Break Up, the Boy Who Can't Leave" - Leessang

Leessang consists of rap duo Kang Hee-gun ("Gary") and Gill Seong-joon ("Gill"). The female singer here is Jung In. This music video stars Korean singer Hyori Lee, and actor Ryu Seung Beom (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance).

A classic love story-gone-haywire, but done up with some clever costumes and a creative narrative thread. You see their relationship progress through the cars they drive and the behavior of the couples around them. And all those masks! I wonder how many people they hired for this video...