Friday, March 30, 2012

Macaron Class with Rebecca Masson

So for my birthday, we decided to have a macaron class. Which is brilliant, friends know I make them, and a few had asked me to demo for them, and few solicited for me to make them for holidays. What would be better than to have the local Rock Star, Rebecca Masson (aka @sugar_fairy) of Fluff Bake Bar and Top Chef Just Dessert Cheftestant to be our teacher?! It's bloody brilliant is what it is.
Oooh, egg whites.

Bless her for taking us on. I'm sure having amateur bakers and not fully knowing how macaron is a bitch is not a fun thing to teach. But let me tell you, she was awesome.
Flavors were: Capt'n Crunch Berry (awesome!), Grapefruit Campari (white chocolate ganache), Beet Goat Cheese Ganache, Chocolate Jameson (whiskey ganache), Milk Chocolate Passionfruit, and Rose Lychee (white chocolate ganache)

She showed us alot of great tips, and while it is a bitch of a cookie to make, her methods have proven results even for novice like us. None of us had flat cookies, and all of ours turned out perfect.

She used the modified Italian method, which means, yes, you do cook the syrup and do the pouring, but also do her modified way to have good macaronnage, and thus baked nicely. Here (photo above): she's showing us to flex our arm muscles to mix in the ingredients. Honestly, my arms had a workout.

Here: she's teaching everyone how to pipe the fillings and put the cookies together. Also, don't forget to have some taste test.
Yes, you see alot of shells, which means there were lots of cookies. Trust me, I had given everyone a decent size box for their goodies, and there were left overs still.
This is her Capt'n Crunchberry. It's brilliant really, she blizzed up the cereal, and swap out some of the dry ingredient. Mix some left overs into the ganache, and viola, you have a nicely sparkled fun cookie! So cool.
You know who else like to use Capt'n Crunch? Fellow Cheftestant, Carlos Enriquez. Him and few of her fellow cast mates will be in town, April 1st, to do a Sweet and Savory dinner, a fundraiser for Lucky Dog Rescue. This is Rebecca's 5th time hosting it, even if you can't make this one, you should try to make the other upcoming ones. Subscribe to Lucky Dog for future events!
After you take a bite, you get your chewy center, and it's just a different taste than you expect. It does bring you back to your childhood with cereals.
Surprisingly, the beet and goat cheese wasn't as scary as it sound. It evens out where the goat cheese chase away the sweetness, and it also brings on a little zest to the cookies.

Overall, what have I learned?
Yes, do aged the eggs
Italian method is not as scary as I thought, but Rebecca's method is much more stable
Friends now appreciate why they charge so much for one cookie
Piping mantra: pipe, break, cut (good luck with that)
Get in dirty for good arm workout and good macaronnage
If someone tells you to brush the side as you cook your syrup, don't do it, it'll only crystalize your batch.
Invest in a digital scale (Got it!)
Invest in a digital thermometer (totally need one)

It was great fun! She was patient with a bunch of novice. We have novice bakers to full time cookie monsters, so needless to say, we don't have the kitchen skills that she has. It was super fun, everyone had a great time and went home with a sugar coma.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

E-Tao dinner

If you have been to the Galleria in the Nordstrom area upstairs, you must've seen this place. It's a recessed Chinese food place. Not your usual normal Food Court type food. I was skeptical at first, Mall Food, how good can it get?! Like I said last time, they were not bad at all.

So funny tidbit, the name E-Tao, in slang Cantonese, it can mean here (as in a generic area). But as it turns out, it means Cure [your] Stomach, which makes sense, they are there to cure your stomach by feeding you yummy food. Interesting, huh?

For this round, we ordered the Singapore Street Noodles. It wasn't bad, but also was hoping that they added more spice as they usually have a kick to them. I wouldn't say it's blend, just can use a kick.
My friend ordered their chicken wings, which apparently takes a while to make. So be patient if you order it. Turns out, they have different styles even for this one item. I forgot which style we ordered this in, but the sauce is tangy and has a kick for the wings. And they're not the oily KFC style wings, you can tell they're not covered with mushy battered then fried.
Of course we ordered the Shanghai Pork Dumplings, aka siu loung bao. I love theirs because they do seal some soup in the dumpling, so even though it might be hot, you get a nice dose of soup when you take a bit. Watch out, it is hot!

Some other interesting tidbits, the owners came here from Vancouver, which is a mecca of Asian population in North America. So, you know they know how to do things more authentic than most. The GM was telling us how you can do a Chef Choice if you are willing to be adventurous. For instance, if you have a large party and wanted to celebrate with some lobster, just tell them, they will whip it up in 4 different ways. How cool is that?

The GM also told us that the entire kitchen that is visible, all put together with materials from Hong Kong, even though the designer is from Canada. Then they piece everything together. They also trained their chefs to cook the same way to maintain consistency. More interesting tidbits because of their success in the mall, they are looking for space around Memorial for a second location restaurant. So, more yummy Chinese food to come!

5135 W Alabama St #7295
Houston, TX 77056
(713) 965-0888

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shanghai River

The other day I was just craving Peking duck. Being lazy and didn't want to drive down to Chinatown, I took Mom to the only other place I know that serves them readily.

We ended up at Shanghai River.

Yum! Just been craving for it. You can order it for half (which is above) or full order.

They should give you little flour crepe.

Here's the fixin's, you have scallion and plumb sauce.

The basic idea is like wrapping up like a burrito, taco, fajitas... I guess every cuisine has a similar version for food of some sort. It is definitely filling and you don't need too many to fill you up. If you get a good duck, it'll be nice and crispy and it'll fill you up.

Shanghai River
2407 Westheimer
Houton, TX 77098

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Uchi Houston - Happy Hour

So, my friend Julia of Travel with Flavor and my other friend Angie, went to check out Happy Hour at Uchi.

Though the menu is small, and the specials run 1.5hr long starting at 5pm. Even though that's early enough to avoid the dinner rush, I still would recommend to go for a reservation.

Machi Cure - yellow tail and yucca chip which amazingly goes well together. There's some sweetness from fruit, which was a surprise
Kakiage - sweet potato & onion fried cake, awesome dipping sauce
Eggplant Nigri - amazingly, just eggplant sushi is a great treat
Ham & Eggs - fried pork belly with egg yolk custard. You get to swirl thru the 3 sauces, my favorite is the mustard, don't ask me why, it went really well even though that's not my favorite condiment of choice.
Uchiviche - ceviche of salmon, bass, bell pepper, cilantro, and other spices. Personally, I'm not big on ceviche, so I don't feel one way or another.
Walu walu - cooked escolar with a sweet citrus taste, you have to eat it with the sauce
Bacon sen - pork belly on a stick? Sign me up!
Akame Ti - my favorite from Uchi! Tuna on top of compressed watermelon with dabs of Thai chili sauce on the side.
Suzuki Ringo - sea bass with apple and spices. By the way, this is how we know ringo means apple in Japanese
Brie Ringo - tempura-ed brie with apple on top, and sweet potato chips. Very warm and nice.
Scallop hotate midori - scallops with greens, it's very delicate.
Lemon Gelato - refreshing lemon gelato on top a bed of chopped pistachio with thin crisp that just go wonderfully together.

Are you drooling yet? Go make a reservation!

Uchi Houston

904 Westheimer

Houston, TX 77006


open for dinner only

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grand Lux

When my friends invited us out to lunch, they suggested Grand Lux, we were only more than happy to obliege. I always forget that their portions are huge and you basically have to share it with somebody.

I ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna salad. I'd like to think that what I ordered was healthy, but the way they drenched the salad dressing, I'm not sure how exactly it's healthy. I will say that the seared tuna was super yummy. They're great at knowing what your taste palette and hitting it right on the head, but dang those portions are huge.
Since it was a celebratory occasion, so we ordered the creme brulee duo. It is a chocolate brulee and a vanilla brulee. I love the whip creme with the chocolate brulee, the vanilla is good as it is. And again, this is alot of food, so you definitely need to share it with someone. If you were to attempted to do it by yourself, get some good coffee and prepare to wait it out.

Another thing to order is their Berry Fizz, it is blueberry, strawberry, raspberry blended up with Sprite, it's nice and fizzy.

Grand Lux Cafe
5000 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77056

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chantal Guillon

So my friend went to San Francisco, and she was kind enough to think of me and brought back a nice box of macarons.
Oooh, aaah, look at how pretty they are! *drool*
The box has a list of their flavors and how clever that they put their address on there. It's a great calling card.
Just pretty to look at it... don't even want to eat it.
But someone has to do it. *chomp*

The shells are moist and it doesn't crack when you bite into it. The filling are just right, not too buttery and not too wet. It works together perfectly. What I really wanted to see, however, was the shells to be taller. The feet were small, and it's kinda what we call the 'cheating' method. Basically, there are the machine cheat, the premix ingredient, some water in the mix (which is a no-no).

Chantal Guillon
437 A Hayes Street
(between Gough & Octavia St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Toyama vs. Osaka

So, it's a known fact that both Toyama & Osaka are owned by the same owners. How same or different are they?

Well, I ordered the Sushi Assortment A, and as you can see, they're both pretty much the same. You have a tuna roll, a piece of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, white fish, shrimp, and one has unagi and the other doesn't.
Well, since they have the same sushi chef rotates thru the different locations, it's not unusual if you get the same thing. So even though the menu is pretty much the same, they do have subtle difference. You just have to check out which chef is making the sushi.

2802 S. Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 528-8528


Osaka Restaurant (Bellaire)
4001 Bellaire Blvd. #J
Houston, TX 77025
(713) 838-9812

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Z Pizza

Z Pizza is really David's destinated comfort food. Whenever we're lazy or if he's sick, Zpizza is our go-to. So much so that when he calls in with the order, they know exactly what he is going to get. To top it off, they have a decent gluten free pizza that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
Since we're designing our own pizza, I decided to go all out. I had Gorgonzola cheese, eggplant, and Italian Sausage. So let's see, cheese - check, veggie - check, meat - check.
To my surprise, I was throwing those ingredients out on a whim, and amazingly, they all went superbly well together. So impressed with my pizza putting-together skillz. And what a yummy mad skillz to have.

Little known fact, there are 2 Z Pizza locations in Houston, one of which is located in the IAH airport. So, grab a bit out of Terminal C before you board that plane. Even if you aren't gluten sensitive, they have some pretty yummy creations that worth a try.

Z Pizza
4010 Bissonnet St.
Houston TX, 77005
P: (713) 432-7219

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


For our friend's birthday, she requested Mediterranean. Chatters was the first spot I can think of that is centralized, have something for everyone. They serve real Mediterranean to Italian, to burgers, to pizza.
I ordered a gyro plate, that came with pita bread. I subbed for the sweet potato fries and boy was that worth it. You know the drill, put together your own pita pocket. It's not like the full fledge gyro that you get a Niko's but still not shabby.

Here's something for you to try next time, check in on Yelp app, and get $5 on tickets over $20. It's totally worth it for a big party like a birthday dinner. When you check in on Yelp, it will show you the discount, and also a timer of how long you have to redeem it. Usually the clock starts at 4 hours. That should do the trick.

Chatters Cafe & Bistro
140 S. Heights Blvd
Houston, TX 77007
Reservations for parties more than 6.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Olive Garden

After the city savenger hunt event I went to (and placed 3rd), my coworker and I decided to go to Olive Garden for some grub. Since the event doesn't start until lunch and you do run all around downtown for a good hour and a half while solving puzzles, food was the last thing on your mind.

When we got to Olive Garden around 3-ish, there was a long line of hungry people waiting. Wha? It's in the middle of the day, how can you guys be hungry? It's either a very late lunch or a very early dinner. And for us, it was a celebatory meal!

Yes, totally not clean eating... that is nothing but carb and who knows what else, but boy was it good. And their garlic bread? I've been hooked on those since high school, you can say we go way back.

They do have gluten free pastas and dishes. I had the spaghetti with meat sauce and tons of parmesan cheese. I don't dare get desserts there because that's just as slippery slope for me.

Amended to add:
We went to another City Scavenger hunt, and we totally know that we were smoked unlike the previous time. But we went to have a constellation meal nonetheless. This time, I was totally enticed by their promotion pictures, and I went for the fried! I was craving calamari and fried ravioli.

I was reminded how I graduated from Olive Garden to Macaroni Grill. Just the environment, the decor, and the food. You felt like certain ingredient are fresh in comparison, and I'm sure a few of you probably say, duh here. But you can tell the difference.

That said, we saw first hand how a server was being mistreated, and he handled it with poise, and just go along as though nothing had happened, and you are always reminded why bands and stand-up comics will say this: take care of your server and they will take care of you, because they are people too. Understand that you may have a bad day but doesn't mean it's ok to take it out on any server.

Olive Garden
9750 Katy Freeway,
Houston, TX 77055
Phone: (713) 973-6287

Friday, March 16, 2012

Swirl Macaron

If you are lucky enough to be in Paris or NYC, March 20th is Macaron Day. Don't say that I didn't give you enough notice, plan your day accordingly. Go around those cities and taste the wonderful macarons. This year's proceed in Paris will be going to Autistic Without Borders. In New York, their proceed will be going to City Harvest. Go, if you are around there.

I've been secretly want to do another swirl mac for a long time. I got these flavoring a while back, and been itching to use them.
Yep, we have raspberry & coffee. I don't know why I don't have coffee sooner, because that's such an obvious flavor.
So the thing about making swirl macs is that you have to have 2 batches. Honestly, people can set aside a small bit aside to do designs on top of the shells. But to do swirls, it works better if you have two sizable batches to mix.
I only did 2 colors here, but here Macaron Fetish has a 4 colored swirl mac instructions there.
For some reason, the swirl macs are taller than the normal ones. So weird, not sure why, but they still tasted good.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blue Print Cleanse

I have been eyeing Blue Print Cleanse for quite some time now. I was totally thrilled to hear that a co-worker was doing it with her friends. Not only do I have some morale support, there's also a nice little discount code with a group.
So, it comes with 6 bottles. And they came all the way from NY, and you can pick up at Define Body in River Oaks. But they cannot stress enough how they want you to keep that refrigerated.
So Bottle 1 was Green (and has a kick). It is a mix of Romaine (I'm guess lettuce), celery, cucumber, apple, spinach, kale, parsley, lemon. It looks like alot of Green Monster/Superfood that you've seen at Whole Foods. What surprised me is that there's no lump, it's all juice. It goes down smooth, but afterwards you get this kick. Probably because I'm not a big fan of celery.

Bottle 2 was the P.A.M., which was Pineapple, Apple, Mint. I can do without the Mint part of it, which surprised me because I am a big fan of mint on any normal day. But it's not bad, on a good day, I would drink this.
Bottle 3 was the same as Bottle 1, needless to say, I wasn't exactly thrilled the repeat of that celery kick. Bleh!

Bottle 4 was the Spicy Lemonade. While I fully expected it to taste like the Lemonade Diet, where it has a strong after taste, it was a surprised that it goes down very smooth. And it's not until you fully swallowed then the cayenne pepper really burns your throat. EEK! At the very least you're not forced to drink this all day and burn you all day. Just one bottle out of 6.
Bottle 5 is C.A.B, which is Carrot, Apple, Beet, Lemon, and Ginger. My coworker was building me up to hate it because she really cannot stand it. I was so scared and afraid to do that. By the time I got to it, it wasn't as bad as I was led to expect. It again went down smooth, and it wasn't as bad as I thought. Would I have picked it out in the store? Probably not, but it doesn't taste as bad overall. Even though I'm not a big fan of beet.

Bottle 6 is what I've been looking forward the most. Cashew milk! It has Cashew, water, Vanilla, Cinnamon. It's definitely thick in texture and it does taste nutty and full bodied. It is filling for sure.
It comes in a neat little pouch that fits all 6 bottles. Since you have to refrigerate them, they do come in these insulated pouch. After you're done, you get to keep it as lunch bags, which is pretty nifty if you ask me.
How this works: you drink all of these in one day with no food. Granted, we are creatures of habits and you want to eat naturally. To be honest, I cheated, but not horribly. I only had fruits so that my mouth feels like it's eating.

I will say that I was never truly hungry. I was hungry in the morning and my tummy did growl at me, but I wasn't truly starving where I get that annoying headache. You are supposed to space these out at least an hour between and the last one you drink should be 2 hours before bedtime.

The overall day, you take in about 1100 calories, so in theory, you shouldn't be hungry. Just the idea of no food, does get your mind thinking about food. Just because you're so aware of no eating that you just want it more.

I will be truthful to you that they are very good at prepping you for this cleanse. There are different levels of cleanse, there are cleanse that you can do with food or with different days. I've done 2 days, and it does help get things moving. Not that I have trouble to begin with, but now that I've tried it I probably wouldn't mind revisiting in the future.

Go to their website and read everything. While that may sound excessive, they do give you tips from start to finish to maintenance that you want to know. They are really thoughtful and thorough about the entire process and their product. If the full cleanse is not for you, they have juice flights. Just as healthy. Keep in mind, when fruit and vegetable get juiced, they lost nutrients as days pass, so drink them fresh.

Blue Print Cleanse