Saturday, August 15, 2009

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

Chocolate.

Hershey's Kisses. M&M's. Ghiradelli. Godiva. Dove. Ferrero Rocher.

Absolutely one of the yummiest candies in the world. Solid in room temperature, but melts into creamy goodness when tasted. Popular during holidays, especially Valentine's Day, when the boys give a heart shaped box of chocolates for the girls...at least for English-speaking countries. For some Asian countries (i.e. Japan, Korea), girls give chocolates to boys instead...and some girls even make their own chocolate to give! Last year on Valentine's Day, Cooking Club got together in an apartment lounge to make chocolate truffles, regular and oreo truffles. For my mother's birthday last year, I gave her white chocolate coated strawberries (our very favorite chocolate is white chocolate!). Chocolate is very delicate to deal with, because it's easy to burn! For an almost foolproof way to melt chocolate, I recommend using the double boiler method rather than the microwave.

Unlike me, Willy Wonka is a genius when it comes to making chocolate. I watched the newest movie adpatation of "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" starring Johnny Depp today. Now I've heard many friends say it's not as good as the original, and believe me, I read the book, but I really enjoyed this movie! It was a good modern take, and it made the plot more well-rounded by adding more background to Willy Wonka's personal life.

One of my favorite parts in the movie was the chocolate river. As Willy Wonka claims, "There is no other factory in the world that mixes its chocolate by waterfall." The scenery in the Chocolate Room is very beautiful; I couldn't believe that everything in the room is edible! Willy Wonka was funny on this line (not the exact words): "Everything in this room is eatable. Even I am eatable, but that is called cannibalism, which is usually frowned upon in most customs." The ride on the pink seahorse boat seemed so fun! Who wouldn't want to splash around with chocolate, except for Mike Teavee who claims to hate it? Also, who wouldn't want to watch a Willy Wonka commercial on TV, and be able to physically take a chocolate bar out of the TV to taste it? And imagine the creative things that Willy Wonka came up with for candy, like endless gobbstoppers and a three course meal on a single gum piece. His passion for coming up with creative candies is truly expressed in this film.

Apparently, a British theme park named Alton Towers opened a Willy Wonka boat attraction. As quoted from Wikipedia: "Guests travel around the chocolate factory in bright pink boats on a chocolate river. In the final stage of the ride, guests will enter one of two glass elevators where they will join Willy Wonka as they travel the factory, eventually shooting up and out through the glass roof." I would love to go on this ride! Here's the link: http://www.altontowers.com/theme-park/magic-young-fun/charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory/

Watching the movie made both my sister and I crave chocolate - we were eating and savoring it so much more than usual! Chocolate makes us happy. Go endorphins!

For a healthy chocolate snack, we decided to make chocolate dipped strawberries. I used two medium squares of Ghiradelli dark chocolate with 60% cacao for the dip. I microwaved them in a bowl for 1 minute on high, stopping halfway to stir. They turned out very delicious! Eating dark chocolate in moderation helps lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol to prevent heart disease, and eating strawberries, high in antioxidants and Vitamin C, fights cancer and boosts your immune system. What a sweet combination!

Wishing you happy chocolate days!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Urban BBQ

http://www.sfchefsfoodwine.com/RockUnionSquare.aspx

One of my interests is attending free events for free stuff. I was privileged to volunteer for the Saturday evening event of the premier SF Chefs. Food. Wine. weekend that took place from Thursday, 8/6, to Sunday, 8/9, at Union Square of Downtown San Francisco. For $95, you get to sample urban/BBQ foods from over 25 chefs, as well as cocktails and wines. Hmm... yes, volunteering is a free ticket.

I chose to volunteer with the SF Bay Area chapter of OneBrick, a volunteer organization that lets you volunteer with no strings attached. I dressed business casual as they requested, but realized that I had to wear the event t-shirt over my top anyway. So much for business casual. I understand it though; they want to be able to differentiate the volunteers from attendees. I was intially assigned to the Guest Services booth, and I found two other volunteers at the booth when I showed up. Obviously, they had more than enough volunteers! Barely anyone stopped by for questions, except for "where is the bathroom?" I was switched over to passing out wine glasses at the entrance (the assigned volunteers were taking an hour break), so that was more productive. When the other volunteers came back, I decided to take my break! Since other volunteers were doing it, and only about 500 people attended the event (compared to the expected 800), I decided to sample some foods and cocktails myself!

The following items are my favorites:

"Pulled salmon" sandwiches with pico de gallo and spinach
This booth served both pulled pork and pulled salmon sandwiches. The salmon sandwiches were awesome! It's easy to overcook salmon, but the salmon here wasn't dry or tough, but tender and juicy. It was served in some sort of mayonnaise, and the pico de gallo made it taste very fresh! This was my favorite sandwich.



Sweet and tangy whipped cream dessert
This was my favorite sweet dessert. It was a duo taste of sweet and tangy (maybe sour cream was used?) over a mini chocolate cake. It was sweet dessert heaven for me, because it was sweet enough but not too sweet (no instant cavities here)!






Sweet crab chowder with pesto oil
This was my first time I tried crab chowder, and it was good. Unfortunately, the soup was a bit too salty for my taste (the flavors probably got stronger while sitting for awhile). Nonetheless, the crab was very tender and moist! The pesto oil added a touch of color to the usual frothy color of chowder. This was a good soup!





Pork ribs with a sweet honey-ginger sauce
These were my favorite ribs, as they were literally fall-off-the-bone delectable goodness! Very moist, tender and juicy with a sweet and savory sauce. I'm glad that they served two ribs per plate, or else I would have went back to get another one.




Ahi tuna salad on fried wonton wrappers
This was my favorite appetizer! I remember trying a layered ahi tuna salad on fried wanton wrappers as an appetizer at a restaurant in Honolulu called "Top of Waikiki." This reminded me of that. The ahi tuna was delicate, and instead of the wasabi taste I was expecting, it was sweet and savory! The tuna was mixed in with some Mexican ingredients, such as black beans and pico de gallo. Talk about Asian-Mexican fusion.

Silver Moon Mojito Ice sorbet
This tops everything I sampled. I have found a new reason to enjoy frozen desserts! This sorbet was minty and limey, and I loved how it just melts in your mouth! I savored every scoop of this dish, and I had to get seconds. I wonder what glaze they used above the sorbet; it was sweet like honey. Plus, the flower bowl is very cute!

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I did taking them. I was so excited to try out so many yummy foods! My tastebuds are still tingling from the bold flavors!

Happy good eats to everyone during the summer!

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Julie & Julia" in theatres today

I looked forward to watching "Julie & Julia" with my friends today at our movie theatre's first showtime at 10:40. While we were getting tickets, other people around us kept saying "ticket for 'Julie & Julia,'" so I rushed my friends in the room for fear that it might get full. Surprisingly, it was far from it, but maybe it's because it was early in the morning. We were surrounded mostly by older white ladies, har har.

ATTN: Spoilers ahead! You have been warned.

Due to great expectations (don't we all have 'em when we're looking forward to a certain movie), I would have liked more cooking action and food, especially coming from Julia Child's side of the story, but I understand that the movie wanted to emphasize how their love for good food and cooking helped them start and carry through what they wanted to do in their lives. The first significant meal she eats in a French restaurant is Sole Meuniere - you could see the way the chef browned it in butter and how she ate it! She savored it immensely and made her husband, Paul, try it right away! My friend told me to eat before watching this movie, but my appetite couldn't help it! That was the best dish in the movie for me - it just sets the movie on how much Julia loves and appreciates food!

It was funny how when Paul asked Julia, "What is it that you really like to do?" and she proudly stated with no hesitation, "Eat!" And she laughed right afterwards. It was great to watch how she took the guts to attend Le Cordon Bleu advanced training with all men (the onion tower she made while practicing how to cut onions was so cute), and despite some trouble with getting started on her cookbook, finally got the interest of an American publisher in the end. Through it all, she held her head up high through the support of her husband and good friends, and she wasn't afraid to start all over again for the good number of times she had to rewrite the cookbook.

This movie is very inspirational to food enthusiasts and cooks. I hope to be able to try out some recipes from Julia sometime! I plan on reading Julie Powell's Julie/Julia Project book soon.

Bon app├ętit!

For anyone interested in checking out the blog that started Julie Powell's story, here's the link: http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/2002/08/25.html

See a recipe on Sole Meuniere: http://cookinginpajamas.onsugar.com/Sole-Meuniere-3706612

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Welcome


Good day fellow bloggers and readers:

Welcome to my foodie blog!

Ideas for blogging:
- recipe testing
- specialty dishes from home
- foodie movie reviews
- the best food of the 4 seasons
- holiday-themed meals
- restaurant reviews/happy hour specials
- foodie heaven vacation hot spots
- foodie game reviews


My mother have told me that I have developed a good sense of taste since I was 4, when she accidentally gave me spicy curry squid at a dim sum restaurant...and I liked it. While growing up, my parents took me and my sister to many Chinese restaurants for yum cha and dinners, whether it be for a family member's birthday or just because. My parents also took us to vacations where we got to enjoy the specialities of other places, such as fresh lobster in Boston and yummy buffets in Reno and Las Vegas. Moreover, my mother enjoys bringing me along to sample other ethnic cuisines at different restaurants, as she knows that I'm willing to try just about everything on my plate.

For the majority of my childhood, my house was home to more than just my family - my grandma, then grandpa, then two aunts all on my mother's side. My grandma is a great cook, so none of the others needed to cook dinner. As my mother and her two sisters didn't need to learn how to cook while they were growing up, my sister and I didn't need to either. In fact, my parents strongly discouraged us from cooking, dishwashing, and other chores. They didn't want us to accidentally hurt ourselves in the kitchen, and like typical Asian parents, wanted us to focus in getting good grades at school.

Unfortunately, my mother's family eventually left to their own homes in a nearby city. My parents were left alone to cook. The first couple years were definitely not easy, but my mother consulted with my grandma on how to make soups and certain dishes. It also helped that my mother developed a strong food background, as she learned how Chinese food was made by waitressing in many Chinese restaurants around the Bay Area and she learned how American food was made by working in a Safeway deli. Soon, both of my parents learned how to cook and came out with their own signature dishes.

Soon enough, it was time for me to go to college at UC Davis. For the first time, I was away from the homemade meals and ate meals at the nearby dining commons. Moving into my apartment the following year, I realized that I didn't know how to cook to feed myself. Sure, I can make simple things - but could I cook well enough to survive? Thankfully, my mother helped me out by packing up some dishes for me to bring back to my apartment. However, I felt that there was a need for me to learn how to cook as a survival skill. At the end of my freshman year, I researched the student clubs and found my answer: Cooking Club. Perfect! I e-mailed the contactperson about the club details...only to learn that the past president and members already graduated and if I was interested, I could start it over. Me? I don't have any past presidential experience. I messaged everyone in the Facebook group to see if anyone was interested in reviving the club with me, and only received one enthusiastic response. With the encouragement of some friends, I was able to turn in the paperwork to start the club during my junior year.

I really enjoyed the challenge of setting a new foundation for the club. The previous club members didn't leave any account or anything to help us, so it was starting a club from scratch. With our limited budget, we were able to pull off food demos, potlucks, recipe exchange, bbqs, a campfire, and an Iron Chef competition. One of my successes was bringing Martin Yan from "Yan Can Cook" to our bake sale table on Picnic Day 2008, where he wrote "Yan Can Cook, so can you" on our "Cooking Club" banner. We were part of a video he was filming for some future pilot. He gave more spirit to my club members, so I am very thankful for that.

The club encouraged me to experiment in cooking, such as doing some pasta dishes for the club and some cakes for my family. I hope to continue my cooking and food experiences post-graduation, and this foodie blog will document my new food adventures.