Archive for March, 2012

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (Artisan American)

Not sure why vegetarians love their menu as only a couple dishes were veggie.

Great beer selection.

I will have to return, likely just for dessert and maybe to give the dinner a second chance. The concept of the restaurant is high quality, fresh American, but the execution of my hamburger caused the great fall. I asked for medium and burger came out charred and well done, killed the cow all over again. Even the chips and pickles being freshly made and the adorable, individual sized ketchup and mustard bottles couldn’t compensate for such a fundamental flaw.

For dessert, the hype is worthy as the innovation was evident on the menu and execution rocked on the plate. I had a dreamsicle baked alaska and it was complex and delicious all at the same time. Next time, I obviously will also try the signature hot chocolate.


Criollo (Flagstaff, AZ)

For a small town like Flagstaff, Criollo is a stand-out. While on the pricier side, the freshness and balance of dishes and quality of ingredients make it worthwhile. If this restaurant was in Chicago, I would become a regular.

salmon tostada ~ citrus cured alaskan salmon, chevre, black bean spread, jalapeƱo glaze, lemon crema, baby greens, toasted pepitas

The balance and seasoning of this dish was perfect. I enjoyed the acidity of the lemon with the smooth salmon texture and flavorful greens. I’ll have to find a way to make this at home…

Sourcing list.

So good!

Border Grill (Santa Monica, CA)

After being on Top Chef Masters, I expected a lot from the restaurant of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. I ordered three different tacos; lamb, quinoa cake, grilled fish. The lamb was most flavorful and innovative but the overall experience was..meh… I applaud the chefs for their dedication to quality ingredients and sustainability. The dessert was a mousse-on-mousse-on pastry decadence which I’d happily return for.

Tacos a-la-carte.

Crazy mousse dessert.


In ‘Wild Fermentation’, Sandor Katz suggests making sauerkraut for beginning fermenting enthusiasts. So, why not! I shredded both red and green cabbage and salted them as I packed them into separate ceramic containers. After 24hrs, you should add brine (salt water) if the water-level isn’t just above the cabbage. Pack it all down with a weight on a plate, I’m using a brick.

After a week and a half, the cabbage is on its way to sauerkraut but is missing that acidic tangy flavor that needs to be quelled by potatoes and pork. Katz describes sauerkraut as fermenting by three different microbial species; coliform, leuconostoc, and lastly, lactobacillus. Each works in succession and so I’d imagine 1.5 wks isn’t enough to complete this chain.

I boiled fresh pork brats from paulina meat market in two different pots, one with 312 wheat beer from Goose Island and the other with tap water. I added sauerkraut (both kinds although I think I prefer green), caraway seeds, juniper berries, and peppercorns to each pot and let boil for 30 minutes. I finished the brats with a light fry in bacon fat in the cast iron skillet. Starting smell was a frat house the morning after a kegger (not that I would know, mom), finishing smell was of a hearty pub meal.

The beer-boiled brat and kraut won, obviously. Can’t wait for the sauerkraut to be fully ripe!

Day 0.

Day 10.

Brat stole the show.

This fart goblin bread smells delicious.

For bread, I think the recipe makes a significant difference in the final outcome. Whereas carob powder and lots of espresso killed my first sourdough pumpernickel bread, coffee and cocoa powder made this batch delightful. Also, the fermenting time intervals were shorter as was the baking time, only 50 minutes! Here’s the link to the recipe:

from humble origins.

to an impressive result.

Kefir tasting

In a few weeks a set of Kefir grains will arrive on my doorstep, ready to take a bath in milk and ferment for a day. In order to prepare for my homemade kefir adventures, I bought plain kefir from the grocery today. I tasted it alone; sour like yogurt with a thick milk consistency. On the nutrition facts, it looks like they add fiber so I guess they’re optimizing the benefits for your digestive system. As you can see below from the label, it’s a low-fat milk drink with lots of healthy bacteria that can aid digestion and provide calcium.

According to wiki, kefir has origins in the North Caucasus region, most of which is now in Russia. It was discovered by shepherds who found that the milk in their leather pouches would ferment and become slightly carbonated.

I made a banana, honey, almond and kefir smoothie today with the help of my emulsion blender. Very good! Few days later I made apple butter, honey, almond and kefir smoothie, also good.

Also, apparently you pronounce the drink ‘Kee-fir’ not ‘Ke-fear’.

a point of comparison

My apron wall.



Anthony. Chad.


Lisa. Me.

Iris. Lisa. Qin.




Thanksgiving ready!

Dim sum: Steamed bun tacos with pork belly or eggplant

The dim sum crew came together this afternoon and produced two fillings with steamed bun dough rolled flat to make tacos. The pork belly tacos were accompanied by picked radishes, jalapenos, cilantro, spiced sweet soy sauce and lime. The eggplant and scallions were super flavorful with a hint of spicy cayenne pepper. (Thanks Arv!) Laying the steamed bun dough flat was an easier alternative to bundling them and provided more flexibility in filling components.

As good as they look.

Pork belly time! Pork belly time!

The only place in Chicago that sells pork belly is Paulina Meat Market. I love Paulina Meat Market. It came frozen so I thawed it in a water bath and prepped the marinade. Since the end result will be cubed for dim sum steamed ‘tacos’, I went for traditional Chinese flavors.

-dark soy sauce
-sesame oil
-chinkiang vinegar
-grated ginger
-szechuan peppercorns
-white pepper

After marinading in the fridge for an hour, I seared the pork belly in a cast iron skillet and poured in the marinade and some water to braise in the oven at 325F for 3 hours. I checked the liquid level every hour to make sure it was about 1/2 up the meat. I used a cover for the skillet to make sure the meat stayed moist. Right before serving, I cubed the belly and fried them up in sesame oil in the cast iron skillet. SO GOOD.

Marinade prep.

Cooling off after 3 hours of braising in the oven.

Trophy meat.

Finishing touches, golden and crispy.

Pickled watermelon radish and carrots

Pickled vegetables are an acidic complement to the fat in pork belly. I found a simple pickling liquid recipe online and used my mandolin slicer to julienne the radish and carrots. I let the mix sit in the fridge overnight. The results was tasty!

-.5 C hot water
-.5 C rice vinegar
-.25 C sugar
-.5 T salt
-1 clove garlic (minced)

Color party.

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