Yikes, has it really been 3 months since I last blogged?! I'm sorry to the very few that actually follow... I've been quite busy with school and work and other stuff. However, I do have a treat for the eyes!

This past weekend hubs and I went to New Orleans with a group of friends. The mission of the trip: hit up all the good foodie spots. And boy did we do some damage... to the size of our stomachs, that is.

First, we went right across the street to Mother's. The line was ridiculous, and for each day that we were there, the lines were ridiculous. But we thought the food was only "okay"... so don't base your New Orleans foodie experience on Mother's if this is the only place you visit.





We had the jambalaya, gumbo and three different po boys -- fried shrimp, fried soft shell crab and fried oysters. The gumbo was delicious; this was the first time we've ever had it, and it was really good. A little bit watered down, and more soupy than stewy, but still very good. The jambalaya, on the other hand wasn't good. It wasn't what we thought a jamabalaya should taste like -- too sour and ketchupy. The other thing we didn't enjoy was the oyster po boy -- very fishy and seafoody. The shrimp and soft shell crab, however, were very, very good and fresh tasting. So just stay away from the jambalaya and oyster po boy and you should be good!

Next stop -- CAFE DU MONDE. What's a trip to New Orleans without some beignets, right?



I don't think I need to say anything further right? For those that don't know, a beignet is LIKE a doughnut, but TOTALLY different. It's chewy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, sweetened with powdered sugar, but not super sweet. It really is the perfect sweet treat.

Deanie's Seafood is up next. It wasn't on a list of MUSTS for us originally; we had really wanted to goto Willie Mae's, but it was quite far from the French Quarter, so after a little search on Yelp, we were directed to Deanie's, which is on Iberville and Bourbon, so perfect for us since we wanted to hang out on Bourbon after dinner.

First, chargrilled oysters. My god. I will NEVER have oysters ANY OTHER WAY. Deanie's does their chargrilled oysters with a lot of cheese and butter. I'm normally squeamish about too much cheese, but this was JUST right. And the perfect french bread to sop up all that fatty goodness.

Next, BBQ Shrimp. This is not the typical barbecue. It's spicy and not at all sweet or sour like most bbq food. I can't even explain it... this was so good that our table felt like they needed a bowl of rice to go with it! And again, that bread... soooo good to sop up the sauce. This was the bbq shrimp for one... can't imagine how big the for two would be.

And finally, crawfish etouffee. This is when I fell in love with it. Etouffee is almost like a gumbo, yet not. And I don't know what the difference is except that etouffees taste just a tad bit better. Trust me on this one! This is definitely comfort food at it's best. I think I would look forward to getting sick of this is what I get to eat.

We also had a Half Seafood Platter, which was a medly of fried shrimp, fish, french fries and crawfish dressing balls. It wasn't "special" so I didn't take a picture of it. And when they say Half Seafood Platter, they really mean family size. It was ginormous!

Lastly, we didn't have room for it, but our friends at another table did. They ordered the Gold Brick Sundae, which is ice cream covered in gold brick chocolate over a brownie with whipped cream. I can't imagine how fattening this is. Or I can but just don't want to think about it.

Stay tuned for the next New Orleans post!

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Yes, it is finally my week! And with this heat, boy am I glad I picked something that didn't really require much baking.

I love hazelnuts. The taste, the smell... just love everything about it. Toasting the hazelnuts made my house very hot yet very fragrant... and made the heat just that much bearable.

Hazelnut Truffles (page 218-219 from Sweet Melissa's book)

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups of blanched hazelnuts or filberts
14 ounces of best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico)

Instructions:
• Spread the hazelnuts out on a cookie sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.


• Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put in a large bowl.

• In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream to scalding, or until the cream is steaming and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges. Do not boil. Immediately pour over the chocolate to cover. Set aside for 5 minutes.



• Place 1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts in a resealable plastic bag, seal tightly and tap the nuts with a rolling pin until they are finely crushed.
• Whisk the chocolate cream mixture until smooth. Stir in the liqueur and the crushed hazelnuts until blended.

• Refrigerate until the truffle base is firm enough to scoop, at least 2 hours.
Place the remaining 2 cups of hazelnuts in another resealable plastic bag, seal tightly and tap the nuts with the rolling pin until they are finely crushed. Transfer the crushed nuts to a shallow soup bowl.
• Roll each truffle in the chopped hazelnuts to cover.


The truffles are best eaten at room temperature. They keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Now, the changes that I made:

• First, I halved the recipe.
• I used semisweet chips so saved myself some chopping time.
• Instead of hazelnut liqueur, I used hazelnut spread. I really didn't want to buy a whole big bottle of Frangelico just for this, so I used about 1/3 cups of hazelnut spread and incorporated it while I was whisking the chocolate spread when it was still warm.


I have to say, these were really, really, unbelievably good. So much like the Ferrer Rocher chocolates that I think I can wrap them up in gold paper and give it away as a gift! I will definitely be making these in the future, as well as trying other flavors.
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I want to preface this by asking - why do we have Restaurant Week? Isn't the whole point so that people can taste test restaurants they normally wouldn't, for one reason or another? And wouldn't you, as a restaurant, want to put your best foot forward in this case, so that you can gain another longtime customer?

I had a horrible, HORRIBLE experience at the Smith & Wollensky location in Midtown on 3rd Avenue. Now mind you, we've been to some quality steakhouses - Peter Luger's, Morton's, Quality Meats, The Palm, just to name a few. And yes, I AM name dropping, just to prove my point. NEVER have we ever been so disrespected nor served such disgusting fare as we had at S&W. NEVER. And to top it off, my review of the place was subsequently ridiculed by possibly one of their staff. How's that for constructive criticism?

Let me rewind. I will be posting snippets of my Yelp review since I'm a bit tired of telling and retelling this story.

On Sunday July 19th, we arrived at S&W for our Restaurant Week dinner. Walking in, we were greeted by a guy with a clipboard and instructed to go upstairs. We went up, and stood there like morons for a good 5-10 minutes before someone noticed us. He led us to our table, which was right smack in the middle of the dining room. There was a lot of natural light, which I definitely appreciated, since most steakhouses tend to dim their lights for ambiance or effect.

We were greeted by a John Goodman look-alike waiter. Gave us a bunch of menus and then not more than 5 seconds later asked us what we wanted to drink... dude, we didn't even have time to get to the beverage page?!?! So we just said water for now, and it seemed like after that, we were doomed for the rest of the meal.

After 10 minutes or so, we were greeted by yet another waiter. Let's just call this guy J; he was of Chinese origin. To be quite honest, we felt like we were given the Chinese dude 'cause of our youthful Asian appearance (we are professionals in our late 20's and still get carded for lotto?!) and the fact that it seemed like we were not going to be big spenders... this greatly disturbed me. But I was willing to give him a chance.

However, here's a sample conversation with J:
K: "One of each oyster please (pointing to the menu)"
J: "Whaa? 1 Kumamoto and whaa?"
K: "No, one of each (pointing down the list)"
J: Blank look
K: (Points his finger down the list of each oyster)
J: "Oh. 4 oysters (writes on a piece of paper like in a Chinese restaurant)"

Now, I NEVER like to complain about Asian waiters and J must've done SOMETHING good to be hired at this well-known establishment. But there was just no professionalism, no courtesy, no friendliness. And you would expect that from a place like this, no?! He did not seem to have a firm grasp of the language, nor did he treat us like guests. I tried to notice whether or not J was taking any other table's orders. Nope. He only took ours. In fact, it seemed like his main job was to bring dishes to customers' table and clear tables. So in other words, he was a glorified bus boy. It seemed quite discriminatory how they shoved us into the care of J, who was obviously ill-prepared to to be a professional waiter.

I ordered the garden salad and the 14oz steak, he ordered the calimari and the soft shell crabs and J had to ask K what he wanted again. I really felt like we were eating in a Chinatown restaurant and not at a place that seemed to have good ratings and rave reviews. J was just about to walk away when I said, "Uh I'd like my steak medium rare?!" and he quietly notes that on his paper. I don't understand why he didn't ask me how I wanted it? Isn't that the first question you ask when someone orders steak?

But I digress.

The Restaurant Week menu was quite lame, to say the least. Appetizers were either soups, salads or a calimari. The entrees were steak, beef hash, soft shell crab and I think a poultry of some sort. Desserts consisted of cakes and pies.

John Goodman NEVER talked to us again, until I asked him about my steak and its doneness.

When our entrees came out, J set them on our table and then said, "Sides are not included, do you want sides?" .... weren't you supposed to ask us that BEFORE when you originally took our order?!

TASTE: The steak was only passable. I think I've had better steak at APPLEBEE'S; that's how passable it was. Don't even get me started on the soft shell crabs. They were 4 very small, very illegal size looking crabs that were so fishy and disgusting that they just tasted unfresh.

We were offered no steak sauces, no condiments, nothing.

Towards the end, our table was finally cleared and our desserts presented to us. Our bill was flung onto the table by John Goodman as he walked past to goto another customer. I'm not sure what was worse -- John Goodman's outright rudeness/lack of professionalism or J's incompetence as a waiter.

As a last note, I think that S&W has some serious sanitary issues. If you have a big party, or if there is a lot of food coming out at once, they roll carts out with the food on them. These are narrow little carts that can probably hold 10 dishes on the top. So what happens if there are more than 10? Well, they are laid ON TOP of the original 10. How disgusting is that?! Why would you want someone else's food sitting on top of yours?

Seriously, this place really disgusted me. You can bet I will NEVER come back here again and will forewarn everyone I know.


So, what happened, you ask?

I wrote to management. I got an answer and satisfactory action was taken on their part. However, I come onto Yelp, and what do I see, but a personal attack from a "Linda W" who has never posted and suspiciously just joined Yelp this month!?

Here is what "her" review said:
I'm a frequent customer at Smith and Wollensky. I am a huge fan of their steaks and wine. I normally order a simply grilled 10 oz. Filet Mignon or New York Cut Sirloin medium rare with a nice bottle of 05 S&W Napa Valley private reserve red wine. Their wine is a perfect accompaniment to every meal. I always feel a warm tinge on my throat after one sip. Delicious! The crab cakes are to die for-huge chunks of Alaskan King Crab meat over a delectable sauce! Huge praises for their desserts- cheesecakes and mousse cakes are my absolute favorites! This is definitely a place to go for die hard steak fans who has a deep appreciation for real savory steaks. In response to Annie's comments to Smith & Wollensky's food and waitstaff is a real misrepresentation of their quality and service. Her review is completely biased which only centers her personal reflection of feeling discriminated as an Asian person catered by an Asian waiter. In all of my visits to S&W, I have observed that a majority of the waitstaff are Asians. The waitstaff has always been outstanding in delivering a well-informed menu and service to my table. I have never encountered any personal issues with the quality of food, presentation or waitstaff of S&W. This is certainly not a restaurant for people who are looking for cheap eats hence Restaurant Week to appreciate its full value and experience of S&W. I highly recommend this restaurant for serious diners who are well-informed and knowledgeable of steaks. It is definitely not for steak amateurs who compares S&W to Applebee's which is degrading and insulting to an upscale restaurant as Smith and Wollensky. Annie's review is unprofessional and should not be taken seriously at all. It is an ill-representation of the waitstaff and restaurant.

This is a joke, right? Are we in like a Communist country where freedom of speech (or of opinion, for that matter) is not allowed? Who the fuck are you, "Linda W" to personally attack me and my integrity? And you must be fucking joking that the "majority of the waitstaff at S&W is Asian". Maybe you don't know what "Asian" means then... because all I saw were Caucasian faces EXCEPT for that one Chinese waiter. Unless... you think Caucasian must mean that because it ends in "asian" that means Asian... I see... how interesting.

Smith & Wollensky, you have lost ALL credibility with me and negated all the good you have done with your quick response and action to my situation. I am horrified by how you have acted to an honest review and disgusted that you have the gall to personally attack someone who didn't like what you did to them. I will make it a personal mission to make sure that anyone I know will never step foot into your restaurant ever again.
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So last week I wasn't able to participate in SMS because I do not own an ice cream maker. A travesty, I know... there are just so many attachments to my KitchenAid mixer that I want to acquire yet I just can't seem to justify the money nor the added clutter. But anyways, looking at everyone's pictures of ice cream really got to me so I went out and bought a pint of Haagen Dazs Vanilla Honey Bee (which, I might add, is definitely my new favorite!) to satisfy my ice cream cravings.



Head on over to Karen's site for the recipe and some pretty pictures.

Last weekend was also July 4th weekend, and K and I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. It was quite a quiet weekend; I mean, I also had to work on Friday (from home) so I really didn't have an extended weekend or anything. It was also a mini break before my second session of summer classes started so I actually got to breathe a little bit. On Sunday, we decided to head out and do a little shopping for our upcoming trip to St. Croix. We've been having the weirdest weather in New York this summer; it's almost like we haven't had a summer yet and we're just going straight into fall?! And to illustrate this point, I was not able to find swimsuits except for the occasional small rack of mismatched sale items. What the heck?! I was sorely disappointed.

Which leads me to our visit to Ippudo. Since we were in the SoHo area anyways, we decided to take our chances... and guess what! Apparently when it's a long weekend, nobody goes to Ippudo so we had no wait whatsoever. In fact, there were quite a number of empty seats.


We ordered the Harata Buns... which is seriously indescribable. You just have to eat it and you will know what I mean. SO GOOD. I am salivating as I recall the memories of it, haha. They are little steams buns (in Taiwanese, we call them "gua bao") filled with fatty pork bellies and a little bit of lettuce, drenched in a spicy & sweet sauce. It's very similar to Peking duck, but even better because it's not as oily as Peking duck. They are quite expensive though - 2 for $8... but I think it is definitely worth a try (or two or three...) We will definitely have these in the future, despite the high price tag.

So K ordered the Classic Ramen, while I ordered the Tori Ramen. The only thing that seemed to be different from the menu description was our broth, which is really what makes or breaks a bowl of ramen. His was just the regular tonkatsu, while mine was chicken soup with tonkatsu. (Classic on the left, Tori on the right)



Now as you can see, the ingredients are fairly similar; we both had Berkshire pork BUT they both had different flavors. His was more of a broth cooked, natural flavor, while mine was sort of a roasted pork kind of flavor (I liked his version better, but my soup more).

This Ippudo trip was definitely enjoyable and opened our eyes to how good Ramen can be outside of Japan. We used to travel all the way to Mitsuwa in Jersey to get good Ramen at Santouku, but now we can just goto Ippudo... if only we had the patience to wait on the horrendous lines...

Ippudo
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY

***

Now, this week's SMS recipe is the Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with Cornmeal Crumble Crust chosen by Eliana. Personally, I am not a big fan of lemon nor blueberry, and I debated whether or not I should skip this week (yet again, ugh). But I decided to change it up a bit and personalize it to something that I would actually enjoy. Coincidentally, I was also meeting up with some friends for potluck this weekend and had been asked to make my green tea cupcakes. So then I thought... green tea cheesecake! Kill two birds with one stone!!

I made a few changes to the recipe:
• I made the crust exactly as described, but with vanilla wafers instead of cornmeal; I thought of using graham crackers, but I wasn't sure how that would taste with green tea, so stuck to vanilla wafers.
• I halved the recipe for the filling since I felt like there would be TOO much cream cheese.
• Instead of the lemon zest and lemon juice it called for, I used green tea powder dissolved in warm water.

As you can see, I had a little trouble getting the cake out of the springform pan. I'm not sure what it is, but when I tried to slide a knife between the cake and the pan, it would pull up the cream cheese filling? Why does it do that?! It made my cheesecake look really ugly, that's for sure. Even K was like, "Uhhh what did you do to it?"

So after nearly destroying it with a knife, I put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I also had a LOT of trouble trying to get the cake OFF the bottom of the pan. What a nightmare. I actually had to cut out each individual piece in order to get them off, so I'm not sure how I would fare if I had to serve this as a whole.


HOWEVER, all this hard work really paid off, because the cake came out really good (taste-wise, of course). It was creamy, yet not too cream cheesey, which I think a lot of cheesecakes tend to do. It wasn't heavy due to the mascarpone used and the green tea flavor was subtle, not overwhelming and just really added to the taste.

Now, if only I could perfect the aesthetics.....

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This weekend is a colleague's birthday, so I decided to bake something special to treat everyone. I didn't do anything special or fancy to this recipe; just decided to follow it directly and the cupcakes came out beautifully. I frosted it with a regular cream cheese frosting which I flavored with raspberry extract.

The dark chocolate cake came out very fluffy and moist. The chocolate taste is not so bitter that you would cringe; in fact, the slight bitterness is a nice contrast to the sweet cream cheese frosting.

I am definitely getting better at frosting, eh?

The biggest problem is that I baked 30 cupcakes and it's gonna be a real burden to get to work tomorrow! Let's hope that it really doesn't rain early in the morning...

Dark Chocolate Cake (adapted to cupcakes, makes about 30)

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 9" round cake pans. I lined muffin tins with cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Spread batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans. I filled the cupcake liners up to half-way full.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. I baked the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, until they puffed up all nice and cute! Allow to cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I used a basic cream cheese frosting (which just means that I eyeballed everything...)

I mixed the following together until they were the right consistency:
  • cream cheese
  • confectioner's sugar
  • butter
  • heavy cream
  • red food coloring
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This week's SMS recipe is extra special because it was picked by Melissa herself. You can see her post and the recipe at the SMS blog here.

I have to say, I've been quite busy lately, thanks to the start of summer classes. In fact, I have a midterm tomorrow and yet I procrastinated by baking today *hangs head in shame*. What can I say... I am just the queen of last minute cramming.

I have to say though, that this recipe couldn't have come on a better week (perhaps finals week, but that's besides the point). I whipped up the cookie batter in less than 30 minutes and baking was a breeze. I was too lazy to use my real oven (because when it's not doing it's real job baking, it's acting as storage for my pots and pans, which I have to drag out each time I'm baking) so I used the small toaster oven. Which is also why my cookies are not round but square since they spread in all kinds of directions. But it gives them character and a homemade quality, don't you think? :)


I also did not use toasted almonds as suggested, but added white chocolate, which gave it some sweetness since I used unsweetened chocolate instead of semisweet chocolate. Using unsweetened chocolate gave the cookies a heavenly smell of chocolate without the super sweetness of chocolate chips.
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I'm sad. This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe was picked by Jaime and hers came out so beautifully that it makes me even more sad because mine were a big flop. Go visit her page for her wonderful pics and also the full recipe. I hope I can try this again one of these days.

Memorial Weekend we went on a foodie trip to Los Angeles. Well, we were really there for a wedding, but will take any chance we can get to eat. You see, LA has some of the best Taiwanese food this side of the world. And hubby and I were super duper excited not to have to fly 16+ hours to get some of our faves.

And now, some of our food pics (unfortunately, some things were consumed too fast to whip out my camera... yes we're fatties.)


scallion pancakes with egg

porkchop noodle soup @ yi mei

dungeoness crab @ redondo beach

clams sauteed with basil

3 cup chicken (san bei ji)

stinky tofu

taiwanese style calimari @ #1 sun taiwanese bbq

beef noodle soup @ yong he dou jiang

uh, what's a trip to the west coast without an in-n-out trip!

my fave - original double double

Of all these places, I wouldn't recommend the Pacific Fish Center. It's Korean style seafood, which is perfectly fine, but the ambiance and the value is just not there. I would try somewhere else if you were to be in the Redondo area. But all the other restaurants get two thumbs up!

Monterey Park, CA

Redondo Beach, CA

Rowland Heights, CA

San Gabriel, CA

Rosemead & Santa Ana locations
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Busy, busy weekend! So this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe was the Strawberry Shortcake. You can find the recipe at Pink Stripe's blog here. We'll come back to the shortcake in a bit.

Coincidentally, strawberries were on sale at Stop 'n Shop. So being that I had so many strawberries, I decided to embark on something a little different on my own... I looked around for a fresh strawberry cupcake recipe but didn't come up with anything, and also didn't find anything that used preserves as a layer (instead of mixing preserves straight into the cake batter). So I decided to do a little experiementing.

I made adjustments to the following recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (I didn't have buttermilk, so used regular milk and just added vinegar)
  • strawberry preserves

  1. Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt)
  2. Beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each egg white. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches.
  3. Scoop a small amount of cake batter into cupcake liners, then strawberry preserves as a layer, and then another scoop of the cake batter.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
For the frosting, I used a regular cream cheese frosting, and chopped up itty bitty pieces of fresh strawberries into it. This made for a refreshing frosting that wasn't all cream cheese and sugar. Make sure that if you do this, you chop it small enough so that it can make it through the piping tip and that it doesn't get stuck.

I also didn't have buttermilk and after a little bit of Googling, I was able to find that you could make one cup of buttermilk by using one cup of regular milk plus 1 tbsp of vinegar. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and voila! You have homemade buttermilk.

I really have to pat myself on the back. This turned out to be one really good cupcake. The cake was a great consistency, light and fluffy. The strawberry preserves on the bottom was a nice little surprise, although I was a little disappointed that while baking, it sank to the bottom. The fresh strawberries in the cream cheese frosting was simply DECLICIOUS and also a neat little surprise, especially for the hubby. I'm glad I experimented with this!




***


For the Sweet Melissa Sunday shortcake, I followed the recipe exactly, except for the lemon zest and I also cut the recipe in half My biscuits came out light and fluffy and really, really good. I love macerated strawberries, so I made extra just to snack on... and my homemade whipped cream was easy to make and smelled (not to mention tasted) delicious. I was tempted to throw in small chunks of strawberries into the whipped cream, but decided against it. Even hubby liked these and he hardly ever eats sweets.

Here they are cooling on the rack, with the little cupcakes right behind. I also followed everyone's suggestions to make 4 instead of 3 when cutting the recipe in half and
look how cute they came out. I have made note to test this biscuit recipe in the future for savory flavors (cheddar, chives, etc).

I actually have a little secret: I've never had strawberry shortcake before. So having strawberries on biscuits was something that was a little bit strange to me, since I've always associated biscuits with savory flavors and not with sweet flavors. But strawberries with whipped cream on crunchy yet fluffy biscuits... how could I not like it?

On the right is the finished product. So pretty!

***

So as most of you know from my previous post, we went to DC and had some awesome crabs, which gave hubby something to work on. We bought a pound of female crabs and our very own Old Bay seasoning, and steamed them up at home ourselves.

It was actually very simple to follow. Clean the crabs, spread the seasonings, steam for 30 minutes and enjoy!

We used McCormick Old Bay seasoning, which was found at a Gristedes in the city. Apparently, the Queens supermarkets don't carry them :(

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So these past two weekends I've been preoccupied and therefore have not been able to partake in the SMS festivities. Apple Turnovers and Granola Breakfast Cookies can be found at the respective linked blogs.

What have I been doing? Well, we headed down to DC for a fun-filled (and food-filled) 3 day weekend. Crabs and oysters and other fresh seafood... to be quite honest I was getting a little bit sick of seafood towards the end of the trip and extremely happy to be pit-stopping at Pat's for some Philly cheesesteaks.

At Hank's Oyster Bar, we waited a good hour or so for our little table for four. It was a good wait though (and anyways, who wants to eat at a restaurant where there is no wait, right?) We had oysters, sablefish, soft-shell crab and a lobster roll. They also had something special, a Bloody Mary & sake oyster shooter. As you can see, there were only 3 'cause I was the only smart one who thought that the 3 combined was not going to be a good idea. Apparently it tasted pretty gross but was, of course, an experience to be had. The oysters were fresh and only $2 each, which is a lot less than we thought it would be. In fact, everything at Hank's was very cheap. We are so used to these outrageously priced restaurants in NYC that once we step out, we forget that the rest of the world eats at normal prices and portions. I highly recommend Hank's, but be forewarned that you should call ahead to put your name on the waitlist.

Hank's Oyster Bar
1624 Q Street NW
Washington, DC

Next stop, Maine Avenue Fish Market. I searched high and low on Yelp in order to find the perfect "stall" and I came upon Captain White's Seafood City. This place should be renamed Captain White's Seafood HEAVEN. There were fresh crabs, cooked crabs, raw oysters, cooked fish dishes, shrimp... if it lives in the water, they will have it.

We were only interested in the oysters and crabs, so that's the area we went straight to. For a dozen oysters, you paid only $11. That's practically unheard of. We also bought a dozen (which turned out to be 14) large female crabs for $26, and proceeded to the cooking station. We asked for the crabs to be cooked with spice (which is the Old Bay Spice, which is basically synonymous to Maryland-style crabs). There was a long wait; some families bought basket-loads of crabs and other assorted seafood items to be cooked. I really cannot say anymore because just thinking about it makes my mouth water. They are just really, really good. Go. There. NOW.

Captain White's Seafood City
1100 Maine Avenue SW
Washington, DC


On the way home from DC, we stopped at Pat's for some delicious Philly cheesesteaks. Okay, I must confess: I've never even tried Geno's and I already am prejudiced. I just don't like a newcomer coming in and trying to say they're the OG and they're the best. Plus, I don't like how a store needs to use flashy Vegas-like lights to attract attention. If your food is good, it will show. So yes, I'm a Pat's supporter!



This past weekend, I made chocolate chip cupcakes with hazelnut buttercream frosting. Now, unfortunately there are no pictures because I had some issues with the piping and therefore, instead of looking like yummy cupcakes, my frosting looked like piles of doodie :(

HOWEVER, the frosting was really good, so I'd like to share the recipe that I adapted to fit my needs.

Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting
(This recipe was enough for 12 cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter at room temperature (3 sticks)
2 tablespoons of milk
9 ounces of hazelnut spread (I used Nutella)
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3 cups (more if needed for consistency) of confectioners' sugar

In a mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add the milk and in batches, the hazelnut spread. While this is mixing, add in the vanilla extract. Once this has all been mixed, add the confectioners' sugar in 3 batches, adjusting so that the frosting is to the consistency that you like. Pipe as per usual.

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Here is my much prolonged update to my first Tahiti post. Hope this is helpful!

Activities: There are so many things to do in Tahiti, but at times, we just wanted to hang out in our bungalow because 1, you spent so much dang money on them and 2, it is just so pretty. The Tahiti brochures really don't do them justice.

As you can see, there is an abundance of fish near your bungalows... to the point where it actually gets kind of scary! But in an endearing way, of course. Snorkeling is definitely an amazing experience, right off of your little hut.

There is also the usual kayaking around your resort, as well as jeep safari adventures around the island. We took one that took us on a small loop around Moorea, and lead us up to Mount Belvedere. There is also the opportunity to ATV all the way up there, but I would think that this would be a very tiring (yet exciting) journey.

We rented one of their open air vehicles and drove around the island. As you can see from the right, it's a very cute little buggie... but it was a very bumpy ride.

There was a shark and stingray excursion, that ended with a homestyle meal on a secluded island. We booked most of our activities through our activities desk at the resort, and found that their prices were very comparable (so don't worry if you are too lazy to do extra research).

Food: I realized towards the end that our resort had arrangements with many of the nearby restaurants. These restaurants would provide free transportation if the resort "recommends" them to the visitors. So each night we'd goto our activities desk and look through their book and see what restaurants had reservations and what we'd like to eat.

On Moorea
Aito's
- Known as a Mediterranean restaurant, the staff is ever so friendly and there is a relaxed air once you walk in. You can sit by the water, and if you come at the right time, can even feed the stingrays that swim up to the edge. There is an abundance of seafood and it is good. The owner even came around to ask us how we liked it, and we felt like he really cared about his patrons.

Snack Maharepa - This was a little snack bar that we happened upon while driving the buggie around the island. They have homestyle food that was very similar to Chinese cooking. K had a plate of chicken over rice, that was very similar to something that we've eaten back at home. I had a really good mahi mahi sandwich. We saw many locals come here for lunch, which is always a good sign to us!

Alfredo's - This would have to be the most disappointing restaurant that we have ever eaten at. This is billed as an Italian restaurant and they had the haughty Little Italy attitude to go with it, which was extremely unwarranted. I mean, this was obviously a place that tourists frequent, so why be so nasty? Plus, it was not of Tahitian nature to be this way. The food was pretty bland, and not fresh. The only edible thing was probably the baguette that came at the beginning of the meal.

Te Honu Iti - Honu Iti was labeled a French restaurant. This was the first restaurant we went to after we landed, and I was feeling really nauseous and sick so unfortunately could not enjoy my meal. I did order some kind of fish and the WHOLE fish was put on my table (unlike in America where people think fish comes in filets *rolls eyes*).

On Bora Bora
La Bounty
- This place was definitely a disappointment since it was highly recommended by many TripAdvisor patrons. They were basically all about the effects, but not about the food. PLUS, they didn't list any prices?! I had a black ink pasta that came in a pretty package, while K had lamb skewers that they lit on fire at our table. It was a cool effect, but without that, they would just have regular food.

Bloody Mary's - This has got to be the most fun restaurant ever. You walk in, and there is a kitschy feel to it due to all the decorations and the sand on the floor, but you are greeted by a table full of fresh seafood. It's today's catch, and you get to pick what you will be eating and how it will be cooked. The food is fresh and good, although portions are a little bit small. There are a LOT of mosquitoes here too... I did not get bit ONCE on any of the islands but on our last night in Bora Bora, I got some real poisonous bites from these Bloody Mary mosquitoes that have left scars.

Matira Terrace - This was the restaurant within our resort, Hotel Bora Bora, and I have to say that they are exceptional. We ate breakfast there and also had an amazing customized dinner that we discussed with the chef. There was a seafood appetizer that included everything from poisson cru to lobster to sashimi (yes that is the spread to the left!) There really is nothing more for me to say about this place except GO THERE NOW. Villa Mahana has NOTHING on the restaurant at Hotel Bora Bora.
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This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe is the Brooklyn Brownout Cake, chosen by Elyse of Confectionary Creations. I saw this recipe and was like, dang there's so much to make and with school and work, there really is no time. So... I was going to do the unthinkable -- cheat and BUY brownies instead of making them myself. Well, Karen also thought this was unthinkable and graciously shared some of her homemade brownies with me. Thanks Karen!

Now, this cake should really just be called Triple Chocolate Cake -- there is a 2-tiered chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache frosting and brownie bits added in for good texture. I had one bite and instantly my mouth screamed, "I NEED MILK!"

On the top left is a picture of my cake, naked. It actually looks a lot like one of those Oreo cakesters, huh? In the middle is the gooey chocolate ganache with brownie bits. I didn't trim the sides, which might've been the reason why it was so hard for the ganache to cover the split between the two layers... I will try trimming them next time. There was a tip to level the cakes so that the "domed" parts were flattened, but I found that because this had a more chunky frosting, it was not necessary. Just fill the parts that are lower with more frosting and voila, you have a "flat" cake!

I've never worked with ganache before, so this was something a little tricky for me. It is a very liquid frosting, so once you pour it onto the top of the cake, it starts spreading itself and will drip down the sides of the cake. This also means that it is harder to hide the split between the layers. I waited a bit for the ganache to harden slightly and then resumed frosting the cake.

I found that this cake was very brownie-like. It was moist, but wasn't fluffy and had the dense thickness of a brownie. It was definitely very CHOCOLATELY, that's for sure.
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So I recently joined a baking group called Sweet Melissa Sundays. We base our recipes on a book called The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, which is a bakery based out of our very own Brooklyn. Each Sunday, someone will bake a recipe out of that book until we make it through all of the recipes. My bake date is August 16th, which is still months away, but no worries; I can still bake along with each of the weekly hosts.

This week's recipe was the Honey Biscotti (Melissa calls it the Beescotti) and will be made by Lorelei, which is where the recipe can be found as well. Now, I've made biscottis previously, but this one was new for me. First, I've never baked with honey before, and it was a somewhat frustrating experience that really tests your patience. Waiting for the honey to drip from your measuring spoon is seriously like waiting for a chick to hatch -- NOT FUN, as I am not a patient person by all means. And then there's the whole, I'm not a big fan of almonds thing. I debated left and right but decided to put in chopped almonds anyways (since I was leaving out the candied orange peels and caraway seeds).

The house smelled so wonderful that I think I will have to make these again and again... this is not to say that the biscottis weren't good. They were very good -- not too sweet, honey and almond taste were present but not overwhelming and super satisfying crunch. I did have some issues with the temperatures in the original recipe, so next time I think I will lessen the baking time for the first round of baking and lower the temperature for the second round of baking. With the original baking temp and time, the bottoms of some of the biscottis came out slightly burnt.
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