Monday, January 31, 2011

Easy Recipes: Valerie Confections' Rustic Truffles

In anticipation of Valentine's Day, Valerie Gordon from Valerie Confections offered to share one of her recipes for my readers. If you've never tried Valerie Confections before, their salt and pepper truffles are addictive and they have some of the best toffees in town.

Don't worry, I got you covered and picked out the easiest-yet-delectable recipe (alright it's mainly so even I can make it).

Here is Valerie's recipe for her rustic chocolate truffles:

Rustic Truffles

2 1/2 cups 72% chocolate
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup unsweetened cocoa

Boil cream in a small saucepan.

Pour boiled cream over 72% chocolate, butter and salt.

Let sit for 1 minute, then stir until the chocolate melts.

Refrigerate until firm.

Using a small scoop or melon baller, scoop small rounds of ganache and drop in cocoa and coat completely.

Store in the refrigerator.

Yields: 50 truffles

Sounds easy right? And they look mighty good too. Now go and make your loved on some truffles. He/she will probably only need 20, and won't notice where the other 30 went ... ;)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Whole Foods Market Take It Up A Notch: Animal Welfare Rating, Collaboration Wines

Late last year Whole Foods Market invited some bloggers to talk about their latest efforts to be more than just a grocery store. These efforts include a partnership with Global Animal Partnership to introduce new meat rating system called the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating and exclusive wines resulting from a collaboration between Whole Foods and local wineries.

If you've read Michael Pollan's books, you're probably aware that "free range" labels on eggs, milk, and meat don't necessarily mean that the animals were treated well or were even let out of their cages much.

The 5-step rating goes beyond simple designations such as "organic", "free range" or "sustainable" but just how well are the animals being treated? To be step-rated to begin with, the farm couldn't use cages or crates.
Many of the WFM locations don't actually have all meats with the highest Step 5+ rating, which required the animals to have spent their entire lives on one farm, cattles and pigs must be slaughtered on the farm and chicken can only be transported a short distance, on top of having no physical alteration of the animal like ID tags (step 5). I'd imagine each step up will be more expensive too but at least you'd be able to deliberate over the benefit vs. price difference yourself.

The Whole Foods Market Southern Pacific Region has been working with some Santa Barbara County wineries to create blends exclusive to Whole Foods. In Fall 2010, they released two wines named "A Collaboration".
The first wine is a blend of six Santa Barbara Country vineyards created by Margerum Wine Company and is based on their M5 wine. This wine is priced at $19.99, a deal compared to their M5.
According to Whole Foods' Regional Specialty Coordinator, Claude Ruau-Choate,  this wine is representative of the European palate while the second is more California with its fruit forwardness.
The second wine comes from Hitching Post Winery and features 73% Valdiguie and 27% Syrah, priced at $12.99.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blue Danube Wines: Unique, Interesting Varietals Along the Danube

There's a new kid in the town of wine importing.
Blue Danube Wine imports some very interesting wines from countries along the Danube river including Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.


I've never encountered or even thought about the possibility of wines from these regions with only one exception (Tokaj from Hungary), but a blogger tasting (held at Mignon in downtown LA) guided by Stetson Robbins from Blue Danube Wine really opened up my palate.

Monday, January 24, 2011

8 Hours in Hong Kong.

An 8 hour layover in Hong Kong.

View from Victoria Harbour

Sunrise from the Plane
Landed around sunrise.

The authentic, cheap HK food was supposed to be in the area called Causeway Bay, so I attempted to walk there. Turns out Hong Kong was really hard to get around on foot - the map doesn't tell you where things are connected on land, by bridge, or not at all. Eventually I gave up and tried out their subway system.

Causeway Bay wasn't particularly "pretty" and there were a lot of small constructions going on. Interestingly, a high end mall with stores like Louis Vuitton were located just behind a row of market stalls.

I had some trouble finding food. See, I landed very early in the morning, and turns out that most places don't open until 10 am. So I walked and walked until I found something open and interesting. In the end, I went into a hole in the wall selling fish noodle soups.

How can I say no to a pieces of tripe and intestine hanging on a window display?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Magnum Pop-Up with Joseph Mahon and David Haskell

Oftentimes pop-up restaurants leave you to your own devices as far as booze-pairing goes. The team of chef Joseph Mahon and sommelier David Haskell (dubbed 'Magnum') promised to be different -a full tasting menu with pairings, and their own back-of-house and front-of-house team.
Joseph MahonIMG_5116

Chef Joseph Mahon was the latest Bastide "alum" and trained under Daniel Boulud and David Bouley in New York before moving back to California to work at David Myers' Sona. David Haskell had also worked in New York, including Le Cirque, before opening Bin 8945 in West Hollywood, which he then sold a couple years back. The pop-up was held at Biergarten in Koreatown. Koreatown?? Considering David Haskell's notorious love for Korean food, it wasn't that surprising. Mahon's menu turned out to be quite influenced by Asian cuisine (kimchi included). The pairing was also a nice mix of wine, beer, sake, and soju (hey, we're in Koreatown).

I was accompanied by Eating LA whose birthday, like mine, was coming up. It ended being a great pre-birthday dinner for both of us (read her post here).

Haskell visited each table for each course to explain the pairing that he had chosen.
The first course was Carrot Pudding  with orange granita and shaved peanuts.
Paired with: NV Jules et Michel Beauchamp: Champagne, France: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier

Haskell wanted to use the strawberry notes from the rosé combined with this course to invoke the taste of a creamsicle.

#2: Coconut Soup (mussels, tapioca, cilantro pistou, lime)
Wakatake "Onigoroshi", Junmai Daiginjo: Shizuoka, Japan
Coconut Soup with Mussels
Yes, it did say "tapioca" on the menu but nonetheless I was surprised by the texture it gave; the soup was a very pleasant surprise filled with great mussels. This dish along with a few others that night were nice examples of how seamlessly Chef Mahon can incorporate influences from Asian cuisine.
The richness of the coconut soup balanced out the slight bitterness of the sake.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whist at The Viceroy Hotel (Santa Monica)

Whist at The Viceroy Hotel seemed to have been under the radar, and there were more guests at the bar and lounge than in the dining room, which is a shame considering the talents and pedigree of the Executive Chef, Tony DiSalvo, who joined the restaurant in 2009. Executive Chef Tony DiSalvo trained under Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern before working his way up at New York's Jean Georges, eventually becoming the restaurant's Executive Chef. Whist and Jean Georges are two different animals, of course, from the ambiance to the food.

Whist at The Viceroy
I was immediately drawn to the interior and the unique touches they've put in. The wooden chairs and the curvy windows adjoining the bar speak casual, beachy, and antiquated. The dim lighting and the pentagonal lamps added a classy and modern touch. The food is Mediterranean with little fuss.

Whist and DiSalvo recently debuted a new menu in late November and I was invited to try them out.
Our meal started strong with the Beet Salad (hazelnut, truffle panna cotta, baby lettuce) - $16
Beet Salad
Accompanying the particularly sweet and juicy beets was the creamy and wondrously aromatic truffle panna cotta.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chicken, Sweat, and Hot Oil

It was about 90 degrees and 70% humidity, because it always is in the tropical country of Indonesia. The sweat and humidity made our shirts stick to our skin. There's no air conditioning here. That would be too much to expect from a dive called Warung Doyong.

Warung refers to a cheap eatery, a hole in the wall if you will. Doyong, on the other hand, means "leaning." And it isn't leaning in the sense of the tower of Pisa (ooh it's a wonder of the world!) but leaning as in the place is about to collapse on itself. Even in these conditions and heat, this place in Bogor is jam packed. The fan on the wall barely helped, so you order a fresh fruit juice or three - lots of ice cubes.

What is it that we all came here for? It's none other than the fried chicken.

Ayam Goreng (Fried Chicken)
Here, pieces of ayam kampung (the literal translation is village chicken - they roam free, but on the streets, not on a green pasture) are fried en masse in a giant wok, spiced with turmeric, garlic, and all kinds of spices, along with serundeng (spiced, fried shredded coconut).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Giveaway: Chef's Coat

If you're a chef, an aspiring chef, or just think you'd look cool in a chef's coat, this giveaway is for you!

Toughweld, an online workwear store, has offered to give away their bestselling chef's coat, the double-breasted coat with pearl buttons. Toughweld sells all kinds of work apparel from hospitality to chef's coat to flame resistant and safety gears.

To enter: just leave a comment below with your email address and your size.
To get extra entries, tweet about the giveaway or share it on facebook (be sure to refer to my handle @gourmetpigs or link it to my fb page so I can keep track of the entries).

The contest will end midnight of next Thursday, Jan 20.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hot Potting and Much More at Happy Sheep Cafe (Rowland Heights)

The chill in the air reminded my of an overdue post about a hot pot meal at Happy Sheep in Rowland Heights. Wandering Chopsticks had blogged about the Happy Sheep location in San Gabriel, and the owners wanted to thank her in some way. That way ended up being a (free) lunch for a group of her (mostly) blogger friends.

Hot Pot

Now, since it's been a while since this meal, I had forgotten all the prices. Luckily Wandering Chopsticks had blogged it, complete with all the price information, so I referred to her post for it.

As this is a newer location, the decor and furniture are nicer than the other location.
Happy Sheep Rowland Heights

Boiled peanuts
Their staple complimentary boiled peanuts.

Hot Pot Most people that come here will probably get the spicy Mongolian broth, but I can't eat spicy. Luckily, these places let you split up the broth bowl with a metal divider. Call it "yin yang" hot pot. Our table ordered the "Nourish and tonic" and "Mongolian mildly spicy" (the hot pot costs $3.50 per person, plus the dishes you order).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Endless Chocolate Indulgence at Oliverio's Chocolate Salon

I'm a self-professed chocoholic, and so was my companion. Yet we both had to wave the white flag after morsels and morsels of chocolate desserts were brought out to us at Avalon Hotel's Oliverio. I don't think I've indulged in so much chocolates in a while!

Photo courtesy of Oliverio
About a month ago, Oliverio started Chocolate Salon, a chocolate buffet spread out next to the pool of the Avalon Hotel every Friday and Saturday nights. For $28 per person or $50 per couple, guests can partake in offerings such as the triple chocolate truffle pizzetta, chocolate martini, white hot chocolate, spicy chocolate pot de creme, and all manners of chocolate dipped goodies.

I was invited by the restaurant's PR to try it myself, and my companion and I came ready for battle. It was raining so instead of setting up a buffet at the pool, the restaurant plated everything. We sat at the small lounge/bar area which extended from the restaurant instead of in the cabanas.
Oliverio at Avalon Hotel

We thought we should have a light dinner before digging into dessert, so we ordered some appetizers. On one hand, it was good to have something savory first. On the other, if we hadn't we would've had more room for more chocolates.

When you go for dinner, do try the smooth and creamy Tortino di Cavolfiore (cauliflower souffle, parmesano sauce) - $14
Cauliflower Souffle

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Patisserie Philippe (San Francisco)

I spent quite a bit of time in San Francisco´s SOMA last year. One of the things I discovered there was this little patisserie, Patisserie Philippe. The macarons were in primary display atop their marble counters and the posted sign invoked Ladurée, the inventor of macaron and purportedly the best macaron shop in the whole world.


San Francisco Bay Area

Bar Tartine
Bissap Baobab (Mission)
Blue Bottle Cafe
Butler and the Chef Bistro (SOMA)
The Chairman (food truck)
Coi (North Beach) **
Craftsman and Wolves (Mission)
Four Barrel Coffee
Masa's Restaurant (Nob Hill) *
Patisserie Philippe (SOMA)
Pizzeria Delfina (Mission)
Ritual Coffee (Mission)
San Tung (Inner Sunset)
Slanted Door
Verbena (Russian Hill)

Chez Panisse Cafe


Napa Valley:
Ad Hoc (Yountville, CA)
The French Laundry (Yountville) ***

South Bay (San Mateo/San Jose):
Falafel Drive-In (San Jose)
Wakuriya (San Mateo)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year! (Some of) The Best of 2010

Happy New Year, everyone! I wanted to do something amazing for my first post of 2011, something ... representative. But the holidays (vacationing, laziness) got the better of me.

Here are some (not in any particular order) of the most memorable bites I had in 2010, although I'm sure I had forgotten plenty. The year was so packed and flew by so fast, I'm not even sure what happened in 2010 vs 2009 anymore!

Kobe Tartar
Wagyu beef tartare, somen noodle, peanut vinaigrette, quail yolk, watermelon (Ludobites 5.0)

Lobster Moqueca from Moqueca (Oxnard)

Mussel Hash at M Wells
Mussel hash from M. Wells Diner (Queens)

Marlin Taquitos from Mariscos Ruben (Tijuana)

BakeLAB's awesome cookies ... from ginger molasses to peanut butter sandwich.
Durian Mochi
My mom's durian mochi at Kogyo (Surabaya, Indonesia)

My meal at Alinea as a whole.
There were a lot more ... if only I could remember *when* they happen. I did so much this year, from eating lots of haggis in Edinburgh, to taking a trip to Santa Fe with fellow bloggers, more Tijuana, making my pilgrimage to Di Fara in Brooklyn, and eating sushi off an almost naked woman.

Cheers to an even better and more exciting year ahead for all of us! 

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