Key lime bonanza!!!

I got the most wonderful present this week:

One of my friends, a “barn mom” from home, Monique, sent me this box from Florida this week!!  After reading about my plight about finding fresh key limes in the city, Monique texted for my address, and about an hour later, I got a message saying the limes were on their way! What a kind gesture! Not that I should be surprised, Monique and her family (I used to babysit her kids, Anders and Liam, now they are in college! Time flies and I am old!) are some of the nicest and kindest people I know. The best part – she sent me a lime squeezer!!

So what to do with four bags of key limes!? Another key lime pie? Hmm. Key lime cheesecake bars? Okay!

I found a recipe on another blog. It was key lime cheesecake with an almond cookie crust. The cheesecake bit was delicious, but the crust was, while not terrible, “not going to win [me] any awards”, in the words of my ever so loving boyfriend. Keep in mind after he said this, he scarfed down three more bars for his dinner. Must not have been too terrible! And my co-workers seemed to like them as well.

Not so hot crust aside, I had a ton of fun making the bars. The fresh lime juice made such a difference compared to the bottled stuff, I loved the cheesecake bit! And I’m sure lucky Monique sent me that juicer – I squeezed and squeezed limes for what seemed like ages to get to my one cup of lime juice – my hands would have been dying!

One bag of key limes down, three to go!

Cheesecake bars coming up soon, but with the traditional graham cracker crust!

Thanks a million Monique!! xxxx

 

The truth hurts

I feel like I’ve just found out Santa Clause isn’t real. You should probably sit down before I tell you this.

Did you know that most (seriously, it’s basically ALL) key lime pies are made with bottled key lime juice? Even the ones in Florida!!!!!!

It’s like finding out Friends is really shot in LA, and NOT New York. It’s like when my brother found out he was year of the rabbit, and not year of the dragon, apparently a very hard time for him. Just think of something that you used to believe in and when you found out the truth, it was devastating, totally changed your view on the world, and you will be where I am now.

I have been talking about making key lime pie for about a week. I researched recipes on the internet for about 10 minutes, selected the best recipe (my criteria being how many tablespoons of butter go into the crust; I went with 7 tablespoons, versus 5 or 6), and set out to buy ingredients. The sweetened condensed milk and graham crackers were obviously a piece of cake. I knew that the key limes would be the tricky component, but I’d seen them at Whole Foods before. The Tribeca store didn’t have them. The Columbus Circle store didn’t have them, with no estimate of when they would get any. I called Gourmet Garage, Food Emporium. They also did not have any. I was so dismayed. My dreams of key lime pie up in smoke. My last resort: a plea to Facebook friends for any knowledge they had of key lime availability in the city.

That’s how I found out. My pastry chef friend Stephanie messaged me with the following:

Stephanie Jayne Shaiken Buy the key lime juice in the bottle, otherwise ull pay a small fortune for enough tiny limes to make enough juice 🙂

Okay, I thought to myself, if Stephanie says it’s okay, then I can do that! But then I had a thought: if a pastry chef is saying real key limes are too expensive, and to use the bottled stuff, is this a common practice? Not quite wanting to know the answer, and not really fully ready to accept this truth, I took our conversation offline, and texted her, asking if the pies in restaurants were made from bottled juice. This was her response:Yes, even in Key West.

WHAT!?!?!?!

Do you know that last summer on our road trip through the south, we drove through the pan-handle of Florida, and I was NOT going to leave Florida without key lime pie. It comes from there! I had to introduce Mike to one of the best things out of Florida besides Mickey Mouse. We made a special stop at a pie shop just for key lime pie, and I relished every bite, imagining how fresh the key limes were when they were squeezed into my pie, humming “Key Lime Pie” by Kenny Chesney in my head. Which, incidentally, I’m not 100% sure is about actual key lime pie, but that’s besides the point.

So as any millennial would do, I took the internet. I found this site: http://homecooking.about.com/od/fruit/a/keylimes.htm and did some reading. Most key limes these days come from Mexico!

So I dug deep, returned to Whole Foods, and bought the key lime juice. Damn it, I was going to have key lime pie.

And one final question – if the use of bottled key lime juice is so common, why didn’t ANY of the recipes I looked at mention that? I mean, come on Saveur and Bon Appetit! This is vital information one should know! It would have saved me a couple trips to Whole Foods, and probably would have softened the blow on this news.

So here’s the recipe. I checked through a bunch of them, and they are all about the same. I made minor changes to this one from Saveur.com, but also consulted a different recipe from Saveur, and of course the always reliable Mark Bittman. The variable that changes the most from recipe to recipe is the amount of butter in the crust. Obviously I picked the one with the most butter!

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Key-Lime-Pie

For the crust:
7 tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
(about 10 crackers)
3 tbsp. sugar

For the filling:
4 pasteurized egg yolks
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup key lime juice (8–10 key limes)  <—– see? No mention of the bottled stuff

1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9″ glass pie plate with some of the melted butter, and set aside. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and remaining melted butter in a medium mixing bowl; then transfer to prepared pie plate. Spread crumbs evenly on bottom and up the side of the pie plate; then, using your fingertips, firmly press down on crumbs to form a crust. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Remove crust from oven, and set on a wire rack to let cool to room temperature.

2. For the filling: Briefly whisk egg yolks in a large mixing bowl; then gradually add condensed milk, whisking until smooth. Add lime juice, and mix until just combined.

3. Pour filling into prepared crust (filling will thicken as it sits). Bake for about 10 minutes. Take pie out, let cool, and then cover pie with plastic wrap, being careful not to let it touch the surface of the filling, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours or overnight.

I also skipped the traditional meringue. More space in my tummy for key lime.

Good morning New York!!!

I just had a wonderful morning at the Union Square Farmers Market! I’ve been before, but never with serious shopping intentions. I woke up at 8am, about 30 minutes later than I’d intended, scooted out the door, grabbed a venti iced coffee, and boarded the N train down to Union Square, canvas tote and shopping bags in tow. As I started up the stairs exiting the subway, my nose was filled with the smells of herbs and greens, a wonderful change from the usual scent of stale urine, building my excitement. Stepping out of the subway I was thrilled at all the options of fresh produce that were laid out before me. I walked down the west side of the square, overwhelmed with all my choices – even if I stopped at only one stand, I could buy five different types of potatoes!!! I decided to walk back up the west side, and across the north side, canvassing everything before I started buying. Wanting to buy one of everything I knew I had to call my mom to cool my jets and compose myself. I needed a plan.

With mom on the phone, I excitedly reported everything I was seeing – a stand that ONLY sold lilies, a stand that sold potted plants (I considered buying a large cherry tomato plant for about 10 seconds), a couple of flower stands, a honey stand (the bees, real, live, bees, were flying back and forth between the honey stand and the flowers!), a stand that ONLY sold mushrooms (Mike doesn’t have to worry – I didn’t stop there… today…), and of course your standard vegetable stands and fruit stands. Collecting my thoughts I told my mom the first part of my plan: only buy fresh produce, no prepared goods. That ruled out the pie stand, the fresh pasta stand and the stand with all the nice looking jams (not that I eat a lot of jam. But I might, if only I had fresh jam!). I wasn’t ready to rule out the cheese stands, so they were going to count as “produce”. I decided that I wouldn’t be able to make good decisions unless I picked a head of time what I was going to make, so I took a break, and sat under the shade in the middle of Union Square. Inspired by the current cover of Bon Appetit, I decided to buy heirloom tomatoes. Stories of fresh corn from my dad inspired my purchase of sweet corn, peaches and nectarines would get me through the week for fruit, a cucumber would be nice with the tomatoes, and my impulse or wild card buy was fresh beets.

I went from stand to stand, making my purchases. I didn’t have much of a method of choosing my vendors, except maybe where the colors were the brightest. But even then, almost all the stands had great looking produce.

I got a bunch of those purple beets, but next time I want to try the golden beets to the right of the purple ones.

Look at all my choices of carrots!!!!!

I loved the contrast of the fresh food and the farmers against the city streets.

I am quite proud of what I ended up with, I didn’t really go crazy! In fact, I spent less than $15! Look how pretty my veggies and fruit are at home in a bowl.

I think after this morning I have a good farmer’s market strategy:

1. Walk through and look at everything.

2. Have a sit and think about what you want to make.

3. You can get one “wild card” item. Something that looks really good but you still have to figure out what to do with it. ]

4. And from my mom: Remember that the farmers market will be there next week, you can always go back. Don’t over buy, you’ll just end up throwing out food. 😦

Maybe I have a new Saturday morning routine! And hopefully I’ll be able to show you the fruits of my labors later! Pun intended. 🙂

Kitchen sink quinoa and roasted beet salad

Bethie had me over for dinner. It was delicious. We were aiming for light and healthy. We had homemade carrot/apple juice, quinoa salad and a roasted beet salad. Beth almost killed me by trying to feed me shrimps (she forgot!), but luckily I noticed right away and she most kindly got out a chicken breast for me. The shrimps and chicken were in a butter, lime, garlic and red curry marinade. Yum.

First – the juice. You need to buy a juicer, or this whole thing doesn’t work. You simply chop up fruit, and drop it in. While I can take the credit for the juicing (okay, you might call it the chopping and dropping), Beth was the creative genius behind the flavors. Two apples (Gala or something similar), two peeled carrots and about an inch of ginger. Delicious and so healthy. It’s really fun too. The clean up didn’t seem great, but Beth was saying the good thing about her juicer is all the parts come apart so you can get them all clean.

Next – the salads. The roasted beet salad was the easiest. The beets were the pre-cooked ones in the plastic package – they’re actually quite nice! We cut up the beets and roasted them in the oven while we prepared everything else. Then they went in the salad bowl with some spinach, roasted walnuts (done quickly over the stove) and goats cheese crumbles. The dressing was rice vinegar and olive oil. I love goat cheese and beets. I also love Beth’s glass bowl and salad tongs.

The quinoa salad is next. I called it the kitchen sink quinoa salad because that’s how we put it together – digging through Beth’s fridge. Luckily she has lots of nice vegetables in her fridge – mine typically has a Brita water filter, beer and condiments. Lately I’ve been stocking those Kozy Shack tapioca puddings too. Tonight I’ve also got some strawberries and celery in there. So, even on a good night, mine is not as great as Beth’s.

Beth prepared the quinoa. I’ve actually never cooked it – it looks easy, but I’m fearful that it is similar to rice – something I’ve never been able to successfully make. Please don’t judge.  I’m told it’s because I peek at it too much, releasing the steam. I had the all important job of chopping the veggies from the fridge. We decided to put in the following: avocado, red onion and red bell pepper. Non fridge items included raisins, almonds and a bit of shredded coconut. I was surprised that Beth had coconut on had and asked what she used it in – to which she said “everything”! Eating at Beth’s seems like it’s more of a party than at mine! Routine use of coconut!?! Fun! We drizzled a bit of the rice vinaigrette from the other salad on this as well.

Beth’s shrimps were pre-cooked, so they just needed to be taken out of the fridge where they’d been marinating, and I cooked my chicken breast on one of those Le Creuset grill pans. I loved that thing! I am definitely getting one! The chicken cooked so well, and it had grill lines on it! The chicken had marinade on it (a bit of butter, smashed garlic, lime juice and red curry sauce), but we sprayed the pan w/a bit of olive oil Pam so it didn’t stick.

This dinner was fabulous – so light, healthy and full of flavor, and not much work at all. We had so many colors on our plates – purples, greens, reds greens, orange – (that’s the new rage – eat as many colors as possible) that it was a treat to look at as well as being quite healthy. I really liked the quinoa salad. I was nervous about the raisins and coconut being too sweet with the savory items, but they came together quite nicely. I’m going to cook some quinoa and let you know how easy it is. It too, is the new rage – apparently the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has declared 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa”. See – and here I am helping you get ahead of the curve! It’s quite healthy for you – it has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties, and has antioxidants and heart healthy fatty acids. Not to mention this was a much more balanced dinner than the one I had the other night that was comprised of one cantaloupe, and one Kozy Shack tapioca pudding. Lol.

Update: After publishing this post, I think my mother was quite distressed at my use of the word “shrimps”, which I do know is not actually a word. Please note I do know that “shrimp” is the singular and plural form of those little things that will kill me.

Corn and black bean summer salad

So you may have read one of my previous posts where we had a giant dinner at my dad’s house. Polly, my step-mom, made a lovely corn and black bean salad that inspired me today.

I love sweet corn – it reminds me of summer. Also, summer is when you get the best avocados and tomatoes – best to use them now. This is a great salad to serve at a barbecue (or family dinner!) and is fairly inexpensive to put together. It’s easy too, but the corn can get a bit crazy – it leaps off the cob all over the counter, and when you’re husking the corn, somehow the silk gets all over the kitchen. Yikes. Lucky Mike is in London, away from the corn party.

Ingredients:

4 ears fresh sweet corn

1 jalepeno, minced

Juice from 1 or 2 limes

1 avocado, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 can black beans – thoroughly rinsed

drizzle of olive oil

Husk the corn and cut the kernels off the cobs into a bowl. Trust me, cut into a bowl – otherwise it will look like a corn exploded off the cob onto your counter and floors (I swear I cleaned it straight up!). Even with the cob in the bowl, stray kernels will still try to run. Scoop them back up and put them in the bowl. Dice up the jalepeno. I usually cut them in half lengthwise, and then remove the seeds under running water. Careful not to touch your eyes or nose or any sort of membrane after… it will burn like no other!!! The longer you let the jalepenos sit with the corn, the more the jalepeno flavor absorbs into the corn. Yum. Add the avocado, tomatoes and beans. Put in the lime juice and drizzle a bit of olive oil (just a touch). Season with salt and pepper.

Yay! You’re done! I like the black beans because they add a bit of protein, and fill you up. The avocado is my favorite flavor, particularly with the jalepeno.

Another thing about corn – you can tell how fast your metabolism is running! Hahaha.

Dinner at Daniel

DInner last night was amazing. Chelsea and I had dinner at Daniel, the 3 Michelin starred restaurant on 65th and Park, for those of you not familiar. It was reaaaaaaaalll fancy, probably the nicest restaurant I’ve been to. Our combined ages would have made us the youngest table there (we hesitated to say we were the youngest there, as we noticed quite a few May-December relationships… and none of the cougar sort. So disappointing. But maybe you wouldn’t woo your 25 year old boy toy with dinner at Daniel, I guess maybe front row tickets to the Knicks would work better. Or do you have to spend money on boy toys? These are things I should find out before becoming a cougar) but we never felt we got any less attention from the wait staff. You’ll notice I don’t have any photos – we felt taking photos weren’t really in keeping with the decorum of the restaurant. Haha.

We arrived a bit early (as if I’d be late for a meal, much less a meal of this calibre) and had champagne cocktails while they got our tables ready. Ugh, how did they make that Pimms and champagne taste so good? How did they get the olive tapenade baked into those teeny bits of toothpick bread sticks? Why was everything so good and we hadn’t even sat down at our table?

We were seated, and pretended to review the menu, as we’d pre-planned what we’d be getting for dinner, thanks to the inter-webs. Chelsea ordered the Main Lobster Salad with Poached Peaches to start and the Roasted Veal Tenderloin with Artichoke Barigoule for her main. I ordered the Trio of Arctic Char: Hot smoked with Yukon Gold Potato, Confit with Lemon Zest and Lovage Pistou, Tartare with Seasame Oil and Wasabi-Spinich Coulis. My main was the Duo of Beef: Braised Black Angus Short Ribs with Romanesco Puree and a Seared Wagyu Tenderloin.

Our amuse bouches were melon themed – they were delicious, but I didn’t really follow the details, except that mine were lacking all shell fish. Thankful that they had that option, though I feel I missed out.

The bread – oh the bread. I’m not really a bread-lover, but every time they came around with that bread tray, I found myself salivating for another roll. There were about four choices – Chelsea and I only alternated between two of them – garlic and parmesan, and rosemary and thyme. It makes me want to learn how to be a baker. Or marry one.

Our starters were so nice – Chelsea liked the combination of the lobster and peaches, and I thought the arctic char was a perfect start, my favorite being the smoked piece. Mmmmm. We couldn’t wait for our mains.

I loved the tenderloin – it was perfectly medium-rare, cut like butter, melted in my mouth. Wow. It couldn’t get much better. But then I took a bit of my short ribs. Tears started to well in my eyes. It was absolutely beautiful. I have never eaten any plate of food so slowly, and I’m embarrassed to say I shushed Chelsea so I could enjoy my last bite. I so rude, but I think she understood.

For dessert Chelsea ordered the Milk Chocolate Dacquoise with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. That ice cream was divine. I ordered the Warm Guanaja Chocolate Coulant – that’s fancy for chocolate lava cake. It was delicious, not too rich, and went down so well with a sip of Port. Chelsea and I didn’t lie and say it was one of our birthdays (we saw about four birthdays, some of which may have been lies), so we got no dessert with a candle in it, but the chef sent out a third dessert. Either they send every table an extra dessert, or our waiters liked us. We had a lot of fun with them, I think much less stuffy than a lot of the other guests. And just so you know, the service was impeccable, the wait staff was beyond helpful and they all had French accents. Chelsea and I debated if they were all actually French or if some of the accents were fake. I decided to believe they were all French, much more fun. Anyways, the third dessert was the Raspberry Almond Sable, with Creme Fraiche Parfait, and Yuzu Sorbet. So lovely, and it was nice to get a fruit dessert as Chelsea and I had both ordered chocolate.

So you’re thinking that must be it – but you would be wrong. Next came a tray of petit fours, which Chels and I quite fairly divy-ed each one up, and then they brought us a basket of madelines. We ate the tray of petit fours, which were divine, and then they brought a tray of mini chocolates that we each could pick one to enjoy with our cappuccinos, and then when we thought our night was sadly at an end, they sent us another tray of petit fours. That tray was considerably more enjoyable, as we knew what they were already, and didn’t have to cautiously explore, only savor.

At this point our night was truly over, we left with full bellies (might have been the three pieces of bread, but we would have been idiots to turn away those delicious rolls) and happy palates. Definitely in the list of top meals I’ve ever had – certainly the highest rated restaurant I’ve ever been. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed it’s over – nothing to look forward to anymore!

Thanks Chelsea! xx

Dinners at Dad’s

When I come home to Denver, my favorite nights are when we have dinner at my Dad’s. Always guaranteed to be a large production and delicious, these gatherings have been known to take 6-7+ hours, and everyone is invited. The standard crew is my immediate family: Mom, Dad, Matt, Polly, Jackie and Margot. A lot of times Emily is there too, and sometimes Mike (not ’cause we don’t like him, but he’s not always there!). Everyone helps with the preparation, so we all arrive early. Wine and drinks accompany us on our tasks – it’s not uncommon to get through a couple of bottles of wine before we sit down to eat. Appetizers are prepared and snacked on while we prep the main courses, and we never don’t have enough food. I usually have a standard request when I come – steaks and artichokes. Living in NYC I don’t have a real grill and even if I did, steaks by Dad always taste better. Matt is key to the execution – his expertise and technique help us all, as he’s somewhat of an expert somehow (even if his cutting tips are at times unwelcome!). This past trips menu included the following:

Appetizers: Prosciutto wrapped around cantaloupe and grilled artichokes, marinated in olive oil, basalmic vinegar and soy sauce

Main course: Ribeye steaks, pea shoot & arugula salad with radishes & hazelnuts, Ranch beans with hatch green chiles, corn salad, grilled ciabatta bread, grilled fava beans and grilled avocado

Dessert: Cinnamon-grilled peaches with HOMEMADE ICE CREAM.

Dinner. was. amazing. It’s okay to be jealous. I’m jealous of old me who hadn’t yet eaten all this, and then got to.

I made the prosciutto and cantaloupe. The trick is to not to eat too much prosciutto while you’re making them.

Grilled artichokes were marinated by Polly and grilled by Dad. Polly pressure cooks the artichokes, then sticks them in the olive oil, basalmic vinegar and soy sauce marinade before they are grilled for a few minutes. The marinade is so full of flavor you don’t really need any dipping sauce for the leaves, but we thought if you wanted mayonnaise, you should be able to have some.

I helped with the Pea Shoot & Arugula salad (recipe from August 2012’s Food & Wine magazine, included at end of post). The dressing was quite easy to mix, and we used a nice honey, with orange blossom flavors. We couldn’t find pea shoots, so we used Mache instead. I loved the flavor of the mache with the peppery arugula. I’d never toasted hazelnuts and peeled them – it’s ridiculously easy. Once you take them out of oven and let them cool a bit, the skins slide right off in the towel. I’m not sure how’d you’d make this salad if you didn’t have a mandoline – even the recipe tells you to use one for the radishes and fennel. Which, by the way, I do not like. We still put it in, but I picked it out of my serving, and gave it to Matt. Yuck.

Hazelnuts sans skins:

Matt with the mandoline, carefully slicing only veggies and not fingers:

Salad, before it was mixed:

Polly’s corn salad was so fresh and summery. She cut fresh corn off the cob, let it sit with diced jalepenos, added black beans, diced tomato and avocado, and tossed it in basalmic vinegar and olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. So simple, but full of flavor, and a great way to use all the sweet corn from summer.

We had Ranch beans with Hatch green chiles cooking, and to spice them up, Dad added a bit of cognac and some homemade barbeque sauce. So good. I wish I could find hatch green chilies not from a can in NYC. Then maybe I could have my own green chili. But I digress. These beans just sit on the stove while we cook, flavors sinking in. If you find them getting a bit thick as they cook, just add water. Oh, and I just found Ranch beans at Whole Foods. They have their own brand, they call them Ranchero beans. So happy. 🙂

The ice cream was churning in the maker while we were prepping – it had to sit in the freezer to get hard while we ate for a couple hours as well.

And here’s three of the steaks (we had five total, and no, we didn’t eat them all).

Margot had fun with the Fava beans.

Beverages included white to start, a couple gin & tonics (which, I don’t really like, except for the gin I’m showing here. So nice, almost fruity, not too pine-tree tasting, which is my main complaint with gin) and then red with dinner.

Decanting is a tough job, but someone’s got to do it…

Maybe it’s so good because it’s pink?

My plate, with a little of everything. Okay, maybe a little of everything, except the steak. That was only my first helping…

Mom enjoying dinner, with a side of sunburn.

Jackie about to eat. Don’t worry, that’s not her wine glass.

Polly prepared the glaze for the peaches, while Matt and I somehow failed to properly read the instructions on the recipe (perhaps the effect of the wine?) and struggled to get the peaches onto the cinnamon sticks. We had fun though.

Ready for the grill.

I think they look so pretty on the grill, the colors of the peach mirrored by the hot coals below. We’d cooked the steaks (and by we, I mean Dad) on this grill, and our peaches came out a bit meaty flavored. I thought it made them taste extra delicious, alongside our HOMEMADE vanilla ice cream. Matt didn’t really think that was the greatest, but I think it was quite the happy accident.

Like I mentioned before, the Pea Shoot & Arugula salad was from the August 2012 Food & WIne. Here’s the link, and the recipe.

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/pea-shoot-and-arugula-salad-with-radishes-and-hazelnuts

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon minced shallot

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces baby arugula

3 1/2 ounces pea shoots

4 large radishes, trimmed and very thinly sliced on a mandoline

1 fennel bulb—halved lengthwise, cored and very thinly sliced on a mandoline

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast until they are fragrant and the skins blister, about 14 minutes. Transfer the toasted hazelnuts to a kitchen towel and let cool slightly, then vigorously rub the nuts together to remove the skins. Coarsely chop the nuts.

In a large bowl, whisk the Champagne vinegar with the Dijon mustard, honey and minced shallot. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and whisk until blended. Season the vinaigrette with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the arugula, pea shoots, radishes, fennel and chopped hazelnuts and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and serve right away.

And here’s the recipe for the peaches. I think they were the dark horse of the meal – and it was nice to have COLORADO peaches. They’re the best I think. And I think the steak flavor from the grill was delicious. Try it!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bbq-with-bobby-flay/cinnamon-grilled-peaches-recipe/index.html

Ingredients

4 large ripe freestone peaches

8 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

8 fresh mint leaves

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup dark rum

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

Peach or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions

Rinse the peaches and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut each peach in half and discard the pit. Then, cut each peach into quarters. Using a pointed chopstick or metal skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each peach quarter, working from the pit side to the skin side. Skewer 2 peach quarters on each cinnamon stick, placing a mint leaf between the 2 quarters.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, rum, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the glaze boil until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Prepare and preheat the grill to high. Brush and oil the grate. Next, place the skewered peaches on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with the rum and butter glaze. Spoon any remaining glaze over the grilled peaches and serve at once. Peach or vanilla ice cream makes a great accompaniment.

Pick out your meal at Chuen Kee

Well after lunch at Tim Ho Wan, it was going to take a lot to have another adventure, but our trip to Sai Kung to eat at Cheun Kee was up to the task. Sai Kung is the most eastern part of Hong Kong, an old fishing village. The whole night was such an experience! We walked down waterfront, among the crowds of people who had stopped with the junk boats, little stands selling dried seafood (the smell was terrible haha). We even saw this little fishing boat selling live seafood over the wall – prawns, crabs, geoducks (!!), fish. It was so much fun to watch. There were several restaurants up and down the waterfront, that had a similar seafood selection – and by that I mean out the front of the restaurants there were giant fish tanks and baskets of LIVE seafood, any kind you can imagine. One of the tanks had one of those giant fish you always see snorkeling – presumably not for eating? The amount of different types, and even the sheer quantity of the seafood was incredible. There were giant crabs and lobsters – actual monsters!

Your selections from the boat:

Aquarium or restaurant?!

I told you, monster:

Even scarier on the ground:

The giant prawns have to go into bottles otherwise they fight each other:

After about 30 minutes of gawking, we walked down to Cheun Kee. It was so pretty.

Tiffany, our fearless leader and Hong Kong resident, of course did all the ordering for us, thankfully, and once she’d picked out our dinner, we got a number that corresponded to our fishes. Check out my dinner:

Once seated, Tiffany ordered pork ribs with chili and garlic and some greens. She also had them bring out some wine glasses (BYO!!) as she had brought a lovely bottle of wine, Cloudy Bay. After we’d chatted for a bit and gobbled down the salted peanuts, our food started coming out.

Pork ribs:

Long skinny clams:

Lobster with creamy cheese sauce. I was literally salivating over this when it was placed on our table, it smelled divine. I was so close to off-ing myself for just one taste. It smelled quite rich.

The scallops on a bed of rice noodles, with garlic and spring onions. The table, aside from me (Tom, Tiffany and Sophie) thought these were the best. The shells were beautiful, I wanted to take one as a souvenir!

Sea snails in a garlic chili sauce:

Something I can eat!!!

My fishy is looking a little less swim-y than he was before… tee hee. He came out, steamed with a soy sauce. Tiffany had them steam the fish so that we’d be able to taste the flavors of the fish better. The lady just took spoons and carved him right up, an deposed his head at the front of the plate. It was such a nice fish, the meat was light, flaky, maybe a bit sweet. I didn’t mind scooping him up onto my plate, although I was a  bit squeamish when I saw I’d gotten his fin… eek. I moved that bit into this bowl that had become my discard bin. Tiffany gave me the cheeks to eat – they were nice, and it is said that what parts you eat will help you out – good skin here I come!!!

He was very delicious!

We saw this lobster pass by, and had to go get a photo… His head was a big as mine!!!!

Post dinner:

After dinner was done, we did a bit more gawking at the diner options. Abalone:

EELS!!!!

Geoducks.

Heheheheheh.

The shops started closing up, so Tiffany took us next to Honeymoon Desert (the first one!). We got four different desserts so we could all try, one of which was durian!! Durian is this fruit that stinks to high heaven, when I would go into the grocery store, I thought I was smelling meat that had gone off. Nope, it was durian. Tiffany suggested we order durian glutinous rice dumplings. I don’t know how to describe the taste – the initial taste is sulfury, but the after taste is nice. That first bite is a shock, but it grows on you. Kind of. Enough to keep tasting. And of course I can’t find the photo, so here’s one from the website.

http://www.honeymoon-dessert.com/en_us/viewpic.php?pic=12%2F12286900540960195012008

We also ordered a mango soup with green tea ice cream, which I liked, except I wasn’t psyched about the bean curd.

We also got Thai glutinous rice with coconut milk; I loved the coconut, but the rice was okay.

And lastly, we had sweet balls. They were warm, sticky, covered in coconut and peanuts. The focus and flavors were really on the coconut and peanuts, as the ball was just sort of plain goop. I would like just coconut covered ones.

The whole evening was amazing, and many thanks go to Tiffany, our lovely host. Without her, we would have only gotten about half the experience. This was by far my favorite night in Hong Kong!

$14.60 for a seven course Michelin star meal?

Yep, that happened. I went to Tim Ho Wan (the original), which has a Michelin star for lunch yesterday. Check it out:

Tim Ho Wan menu

Once I finally found the place (I could tell based on the crowd gathered outside), I put my name on the waiting list. I was number 105, party of one. They were calling number 63 to be seated, so I was pleasantly surprised when she told me it would only be a one hour wait, as she’d been telling everyone else two hours. I wandered around for about 40 minutes through the Ladies Market that was just a couple blocks over, and came back, just in case they’d call my number early. And after about 15 minutes they called number 84, party of one. He was a no show!!!! He called 105 next, and I was there, jumping with my hand up! Wooo! It pays to be an eager beaver.

I was seated in a middle seat at a six person table. Two ladies at the table on my left, a girl about my age across from me, who was with the two boys to my right. We all nodded hello. I was a little scared and excited at the same time, adrenaline still pumping from getting to jump the waiting list. I looked at some of my neighbor’s food thinking “Fuck.really hope I didn’t order that” (I’d ticked off the items on the menu before I even went in. So efficient). The two ladies to my left didn’t speak much English, and the party of three next to me seemed quite friendly. We chatted a bit (well the word “chat” might be too generous). Given the low prices (about $2 – $3 per item) I ordered a ton of things, much to the amusement of my neighbors, as it wasn’t quite clear until I had about five plates that I was just going for the tasting menu approach.

Here’s how it went:

Glutinous rice dumpling

Glutinous rice dumpling. I think I’ve had this in Beijing before, it came wrapped up in a large green leaf, and it was filled with meat. I ate the pieces I could identify as chicken breast. Those bites were wonderful. I wish there had been more of them, and fewer scary looking bites, origins dubious. Luckily I reminded myself that I had six more courses coming, so I didn’t feel too compelled to eat even a substantial amount. Ha.

Steamed beef dumpling with potato

These came out next, and the shop owner had to show me how to eat them with the delicious sauce. Not dipping, as I was going to do, but you put it in the little empty bowl, and drizzle the sauce over. Just as well, I was having trouble keeping the dumpling in my chopsticks and put together from the bowl to my mouth. I loved these and the flavors. The potato was so nice. The beef was slightly strange looking, pinky and squishy. I tried not to think about it as I ate them. Good thinking, if I do say so myself, because they were good.

Fried noodle with soya sauce

The noodles were my favorite dish. I really liked the texture of the noodles and the green onions added such a fresh strong flavor. There were little bits of cabbage (I think) in there as well. I think a part of why I liked this dish so much aside from how it tasted, was that I could identify all the ingredients and could relax as I stuffed my mouth with these. One of my neighbors to my right thought this dish was the worst of everything. He had also eaten chicken feet. Clearly culture plays a part in palates.

Pan fried red bean dumplings

My dessert came next, the pan fried red bean dumplings, another item that I was so happy to have. I love these! Red bean paste in sticky rice dumplings, sprinkled with sesame seeds and pan fried. I need to learn to make these. They are similar to mochi, which aren’t pan fried.

Pan-fried turnip cake

The turnip cake came, three squares of strangely gelatinous white stuff, with things in it, some sort of meat. I took one bite, and instantly one of my neighbors started laughing at me. I realized that I’d made a face that clearly reflected how much I didn’t like it. It was quite funny, and since the jig was up, there was no point in trying another bite to make it seem like I was enjoying it. I left the rest of the dish untouched as I needed the real estate in my stomach for the other billion dishes that were yet to come.

Deep fried eggplant filled with beef

This looked terrifying when it came, and my fears eased only when I could identify the eggplant. This was definitely one of the dishes my neighbors had at the start that made me more than a little nervous. It was so hot, as things are when they come out of the fryer, and I’m embarrassed to admit I ate around the  beef, only getting little bites. The eggplant was so nice, and I wish I’d taken a little more time with this dish, to really get into it. I think the turnip cakes had knocked my confidence a little, and these truly would have been great.

Steamed beef roll filled with enoki and blac preper sauce

This looked quite strange at first, but it was wonderful. I loved, loved, the black peppercorn sauce. There was thin beef wrapped around what I thought was just the enoki mushrooms, but I think it was also some tougher, sinewy beef. I couldn’t get my teeth through it, so I unwrapped the thin beef using my fingers and the chopsticks. It was at this point the girl sitting across from me, who had done most of the translating throughout the meal, asked if this was my first time using chopsticks. Too embarrassed to tell the truth (although now I’m not sure that using chopsticks to fork sushi into my mouth counts), I said yes. She shook her head in obvious agreement. The seasoning in this dish was the best of all of them – complex, really nice. If it weren’t for the strange meat in the center, I’d make this my number one dish.

What a fun lunch – everyone there really wanted to be there – we’d all waited at least an hour. It was a little scary, it pushed my boundaries. I think there were bites in there that I really enjoyed, like when I’m eating some delicious Italian pasta dish or a steak, beyond the thrill of the adventure. I left feeling so excited and honestly, a bit proud of myself. And best of all – I didn’t need my Epi-pen!! I’d love to read the Michelin reviews, and see what dishes they had, and the reasons they awarded Tim Ho Wan a star – perhaps it would enlighten my Western mind. It was an experience so far from what I’d normally expect a Michelin-rated restaurant to be that it’d be nice to know the criteria, and what dishes they had. Not to say the food wasn’t good, it was truly was, but I just don’t think I understand the flavors/background to truly appreciate it. It was truly worth the wait, and worth the trip. I would certainly recommend it to anyone traveling to Hong Kong.