WD~50 Revisited

Duck breast at WD~50

My friend Brian and I visited WD~50 this past Friday. It was my second visit to the place, and like I promised myself after my first visit, I ordered a la carte. As much as I enjoyed the tasting menu, the dishes were a tad bit too small for my comfort, and there was no way I was shelling out $140 on a meal. Continue Reading →

16. March 2012 by Earl
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Yale Final Cut 2012 – “Top Chef”

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Some years ago, Yale College began hosting a cooking competition known as Final Cut. The premise is simple, a team from each residential college—there are twelve—compete to create an appetizer and entree in the span of one hour. The primary ingredients are known beforehand, and additional ingredients or equipment can be requested, with the limitation of having two butane burners. The winning takes home a cash prize and a handful of culinary goodies.

The Final Cut competition had been one of the events I had been looking forward to coming into college, so when the time came, I teamed up with two friends Jonathan and Angela. We managed to win the preliminary competition, allowing us to compete in the final competition against eleven other teams.

In the preliminary round, we managed to win by cooking a vichyssoise containing chicken, candied carrot, blueberry-infused celery, and croutons. Vichyssoise is a French potato and leek soup normally served cold, but due to limited time and resources, we served our vichyssoise hot. When I tasted the dish, an assortment of contrasting flavors and textures greeted me. Croutons added a much needed bite to the dish. Chicken played a savory overtone, and the candied carrots balanced the primarily salty dish with strong, caramel flavors

At the final competition, we conjured up an appetizer soup based on spicy Korean flavors with enoki mushrooms, stuffed mushrooms, and daikon radish. Our main dish consisted of a Korean BBQ foam-filled mozzarella balloon, baked cod, candied beet, candied carrots, and quinoa. In retrospect, I think the execution of our entree during the final competition lacked finesse. The mozzarella balloons were made ahead of time, so not only was the filling cold, the balloons themselves cooled. The quinoa sat unattended for a while, losing heat, and were a tad overcooked. We didn’t have time to blowtorch them either for an added layer of complexity. The beets, which we struggled with during practice sessions, never reached the softness I desired, but on the other hand, I think we did a great job with presentation, especially considering our limited practice runs. The cod turned out silky soft, and the flavor of the soup was spot on.

The whole competition was a great experience overall, and I’m hoping to go at it again next year. If you’re interested in making something similar to what we made at the competition, here are some recipes.

Korean yukejang
Mozzarella balloon
Korean BBQ

Photos by Brittany Stager of GroupTalk.

07. March 2012 by Earl
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Fin’s

Tuna Tidbits lunch special at Fin s

Like most people, I grew up fearful of sushi. The concept of eating uncooked meat seemed unnatural to me. The only explanation I could come up with is that eating raw fish was a sort of rite of passage to adulthood, like drinking alcohol is. After all, I rarely see anyone but adults and college students eat copious quantities of sushi, and we all know what else adults and college students do in copious amounts… Those times I saw a child bite into sushi, I would always ask my parents how that could be so.

Of course, as I grew older, I realized that raw fish was, in fact, not poisonous or inedible. I quickly learned that raw meat may be eaten too, if handled carefully. The first time I tried sushi was at a dinner party, and by the time I had my first bite, my curiosity as a foodie influenced many of my decisions. The first few pieces were refreshingly unfamiliar. The fresh, squishy feel of raw fish though not immediately enticing, won over my palate. I remember leaving with a strong desire to try more sushi.

My subsequent encounters with raw fish were what really cultivated my appreciation for sushi. There is a psychological phenomenon known as the exposure effect—the more one experiences something, the more that person likes that thing—so soon enough, I had visited numerous sushi restaurants and binged on sashimi until the point of vomit. Still, every time I sit down for sushi, my mouth waters and I try to eat as efficiently and gluttonously as possible.

I need not go over how healthy sushi and raw fish is for the human body because I have already, here.

Last year, in January, I visited a sushi restaurant in Boston, MA with a friend named Handson. This was also about the same time I began to get hooked on sushi, so having the excuse of eating out, I searched for a sushi restaurant. Fin’s, a Japanese sushi bar and grill, was conveniently located along the Charles, on the outskirts of Boston University’s campus and across the river from MIT, which is the reason I was in Boston in the first place. Sushi at Fin’s smells and tastes impeccably fresh—like the ocean. The rice to fish ratio balances precariously on the sweet-spot, and the portion sizes make it seem worth the money. Price-wise, Fin’s offers a great lunch deal, and were I a stably employed adult living in Boston, I would eat here every day.

Fin’s Sushi and Grill
636 Beacon St. (between Brookline Ave & Raleigh St)
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 267-8888

14. January 2012 by Earl
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Cava Mezze Grill

Pita wrap at Cava Mezze Grille

After watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a few friends and I checked out the recently opened restaurant Cava Mezze Grill. This fast-casual joint spins of the success of Cava Mezze, a Greek tapas restaurant in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area which opened in 2006. Five years and an additional restaurant opening later, the three friends behind Cava Mezze decided to bring the taste of their upscale Greek cuisine to a more widely accessible platform.

The efficient, modern atmosphere of the Grill mirrors that of Chipotle. This is where you would grab lunch with virtually anyone, from the casual acquaintance to intimate friend. There’s a lot of brown inside—laminated wood chairs, wooden tables, unbleached napkins, and dark wall décor—just like Chipotle.

Most notably, you order food at the Grill like you would at Chipotle: you walk through an assembly line of ingredients, choosing a meat, dips, and various toppings; watch as your pita, or bowl, gets filled with delicious Greek ingredients; devour.

The Grill offers chicken, meatballs, lamb, or village sausage for choices of meat, but vegetarians can take comfort in the presence of falafel in the menu. The list of dips and spreads comprise of harissa, a feta mousse (Crazy Feta), hummus, tzatziki, and egg plant with red pepper. Toppings range from salad, cabbage, and tomatoes to feta, Kalamata olives, and basmati rice. For a bit more money, you can order some pita chips, seasonal soup, and Greek yogurt topped with an assortment of strawberries, blueberries, honey, granola, and walnuts.

I ordered a pita with Crazy Feta, chicken, tomato & onion salad, cabbage salad, lettuce, and Kalamata olives. The combination offered a range of textures, from the soothing, creamy Crazy Feta to the soft crunch of cabbage salad. I enjoyed the savory taste of chicken, which was marinated with a blend of Mediterranean ingredients, and the robust taste of Crazy Feta. My only complaint is that the Kalamata olives overpowers the taste of accompanying ingredients due to their saltiness.

Though the price of food at the Grill is only slightly cheaper than the price of food at Chipotle, portion sizes at the Grill are about 40% smaller. Still, for those keeping an eye on their waistlines, the smilers portion sizes are a blessing. For me, the pita packed a ton of taste but didn’t quite satisfy my hunger.

08. January 2012 by Earl
Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , | 2 comments

Danji; Cafe Habana

Spicy pork noodles at Danji

Having just finished my first semester of college and my first wave of finals, I have good reason for my month-long absence. After returning to school from Thanksgiving break, I trudged through one last week of classes, then studied for finals during the following week, and took my finals during the week after that. Needless to say, I had not found time to write until now. After finals, however, I booked the first train I could find to New York. After a much-needed day of respite at my mom’s, I went out to the city to meet some friends, Ashleigh, Dom, and Anh. We ate at Danji for lunch and Cafe Habana for dinner. Though, I feel like we should have done the reverse.

I’m lucky to have a mother who cooks well because the quality of her Korean cooking surpasses most Korean restaurants. In fact, the only reason I would eat Korean food out is to eat at Hangawi, which does not necessarily trump my mother’s cooking in quality but offers unique Korean dishes my mother has never attempted before—avocado bibimbap and portobello mushroom “bulgogi.” Continue Reading →

23. December 2011 by Earl
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Trattoria Trecolori; Locanda Verde; Miya’s

Locanda Verde 2

College has changed my view on money. By that, I mean I’ve become a lot less stringent about the little things, $8 sandwich, $2 coffee, and other similar purchases. I bought my cousin a buffalo chicken sandwich called ‘Wenzel’ a few weeks ago when he came to visit, and after handing him the sandwich, he offered to pay me. During high school, I would have asked out of formalities, “You sure?”, and proceeded to let him pay. Instead, I told him that he had already spent an exorbitant amount of money on cab rides that weekend and the sandwich was on me. I brushed it off and didn’t give a second thought to my actions. I would not say that I am less frugal, though. I still am. I search for the cheapest deals on Amazon, forgo buying items unless I really need them, and take advantage of free meal swipes every weekend, but around friends, I’m a bit more loose with my change. I don’t mind spending money on overpriced breakfast sandwiches if it means I get to go eat with a friend while sharing a mutual frustration over the price of such sandwich. It’s liberating not having to feel a pang of regret after buying some food that I could have otherwise obtained for free at home.

Trattoria Trecolori

Speaking of overpriced food, I ate at a New York City restaurant called Trattoria Trecolori while visiting my friend Brian at Columbia. I realize though, that practically everything in New York City is overpriced. The Chipotle burritos in Manhattan cost nearly a dollar more than those in suburban Maryland, and they taste the same. I’m biased because I’m not a fan of seafood besides salmon, mackerel, scallops, and anchovies, but Trattoria Trecolori’s menu could use some smaller numbers. Continue Reading →

30. November 2011 by Earl
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Recipe: Mozzarella Balloon

Mozzarella balloon

There’s only so much you can do with mozzarella cheese. There’s pizza, salads, and sandwiches, but the role of mozzarella in these foods is essentially the same. Mozzarella serves as an addition to a larger entity. Mozzarella sticks are different in that they serve as the primary component of a food, but what if mozzarella served as a vehicle or base for other flavors? What if, in the case of mozzarella sticks, instead of the breading acting as a shell for mozzarella, the mozzarella acted as a shell for other flavors.

Mozzarella balloons address this concept in that you can create a “balloon” made of mozzarella and fill it up with any flavored foams you want. Foam is an aerated liquid which usually includes some fats—which are necessary for the stability of the foam. Foods like whipped cream are foams, but foams do not necessarily have to be sweet, e.g. Easy Cheese. Nor do they have to be a product of the food processing industry.

For my first mozzarella balloon, I made a thickened tomato-balsamic liquid to pair with the mozzarella cheese for a modernist take on the classic caprese salad dish. The flavors resounded well, with mozzarella playing a minor role and the tomato-balsamic flavors stealing the show.

It’s simple to make mozzarella balloons provided you have a cream whipper like this one. You can even use mozzarella string cheese to make the balloons. Continue Reading →

24. November 2011 by Earl
Categories: Molecular Gastronomy, Recipes | Tags: , , | 1 comment

Finding a Routine

Katalina s Bakery

Ever since I started college a couple months ago, I’ve been trying to find a routine, one that will allow me to post on Toastable on a weekly basis. I have yet to find that routine, but I can feel it inching closer and closer. With my first set of midterms over, and more than halfway through my first semester, I’ve gotten a better feel for how to structure my time. (Tip: Don’t go out twice a weekend, every weekend.)

Regardless, I’ve had an amazing experience with food thus far—excluding my rapidly deadening tastes for dining hall food. I’ve taken food photos for the Yale Daily News, joined Yale’s only undergraduate food publication Yale Epicurean, found out that Yale libraries carry Modernist Cuisine—my friend checked it out, and now, I have it on hold—ate at a handful of restaurants, and attempted to make molecular cocktails.

While I can’t delve into everything right now, but here’s a collection of food photos I took while in New Haven. Among them are New Haven establishments such as Pepe’s, Zaroka, Caseus Cheese Trucks, and more. Continue Reading →

06. November 2011 by Earl
Categories: Life | Tags: , | 1 comment

Katz’s Delicatessen

Pastrami sandwich at Katz s Deli

For the world’s best pastrami sandwich, call 1-800-4HOTDOG. It seems odd that Katz’s Delicatessen, a New York City deli, has settled on a number containing ‘HOTDOG’, when their specialty—since its opening in 1888—is the veritable king of pastrami sandwiches. However, one taste of their flagship product tells all. Katz’s pastrami packs the intense flavors of a gourmet frankfurter with less than half the fat and twice the protein.

In the past century, Katz’s has become a bastion of classic New York City cuisine, alongside places like Gray’s Papaya and Russ & Daughters, and, like the latter, Katz’s delivers its signature product all across the nation. You simply need to go online to satisfy those pastrami cravings.

Katz’s pastrami traditionally comes served on rye bread with not much else, but simplicity is key in drawing out rich flavors. The deep red hue stands bright in the yolk-colored canvas of rye bread, and the savory flavor of pastrami shines uncontested against auxiliary flavors.

The rush of ordering at Katz’s is an experience in and of itself. During lunch hours, a horde of people crowd around the counter to order, while employees diligently slice, stack, and assemble pastrami sandwiches. Forceful yells fly across the air commanding people waiting in one line to distribute evenly into shorter lines, and grunts spring from behind the counter signaling that an order has been made.

At $15.75, Katz’s pastrami sandwich is not cheap, but price reflects popularity—as well as size.

18. September 2011 by Earl
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Korean short rib sandwich ssam

Short rib sandwich ssam

In a couple hours, I’ll be on my way to college. My orientation doesn’t actually start until Friday, but I’m going up there now because of a 4-day pre-orientation backpacking trip. Groups of ten students—eight incoming freshmen and two upperclassmen—can go on various different trips for meeting and greeting at its most basic form—in the wild. I signed up for the trip in Vermont, so we’ll be traversing various mountains, peaks, and densely wooded areas. My backpack is a bit more than half my size and probably weighs about half my weight. Still, I’m looking forward to the trip. After all, who doesn’t enjoy well-earned s’mores after hiking up 45 degree inclines and weathered trails?

After the trip, move-in day occurs immediately after and orientation starts, so I’m not sure when my next post will be. Hopefully, You’ll hear from me in two weeks or so!

However, I’m sure this recipe will tide you over. Crunchy, soft, refreshing, all mixed into one beautiful sandwich. Unlike traditional sandwiches, I forwent the bread in lieu of crisp romaine lettuce. Instead, this sandwich receives a small carb boost from the quinoa simmered in warm Korean BBQ marinade.

A line-up of blanched asparagus adds another dimension of crunch while 48-hour short ribs cooked with the molecular gastronomy technique known as “sous-vide” anchors the sandwich with chewy, meaty texture. Korean BBQ marinade goes a long way in this sandwich, comprising its primary flavors, and with a bit of red pepper paste, the flavors in the sandwich mirror traditional Korean lettuce wraps—ssam. Continue Reading →

22. August 2011 by Earl
Categories: Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 comments

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