Category Archives: Vacation

Thanksgiving Eats


Turkey Time

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and adjusted back to life in the grind today. I had all of week plus today off and was pretty happy with the food I consumed over the break. I got home last Monday, and my dad suggested we go to McDonald’s to get some McRibs. Knowing my parents, such a request was pretty shocking. I declined, and he suggested driving up to Edison so I could try some new Chinese restaurants. The first two we tried were closed so we found ourselves in heaven H Mart. Spacious, clean, reasonably priced and delicious food court options. We got a seafood pancake, a bowl of noodle soup, and some Korean fried chicken. Then, we shopped for lobsters and abalone for a late dinner.

On Tuesday my dad got KFC for lunch. My reality is seriously taking a U-turn. Maybe it was a little Thanksgiving warm up? The mashed potatoes and chicken were as I remembered, but the biscuits weren’t as big or fluffy. Recipe change? Sad face.

On Wednesday, the cooking began after some take out Chinese for lunch. I got started on baking treats for in house snacking, friends and neighbors. First up were Chocolate Chunk Cookies based off Tollhouse Cookies without the walnuts and chunks instead of chips. Next were the office favorite, Cookies n Cream Cupcakes, which friends also enjoyed However, they didn’t get them until 2-3 days after so they dried out a bit in the fridge. Finally, Thanksgiving desserts included Pumpkin Cheesecake and Apple Pie.


Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Cookies N Cream Cupcakes


Pumpkin Cheesecake


Apple Pie

The big day included waffles for brunch with a blackberry topping and fresh blackberries and bananas.


Thanksgiving Brunch

For the big meal, we had a 12 lbs. turkey brined and rubbed with sage, kosher salt and a little rosemary along with a half lemon and cinnamon stick in the cavity. Gravy was made using a roux, chicken stock and soy sauce. This was the most successful gravy I’ve made to date in terms of universal appeal, color, texture and taste. I did feel guilty about cutting out the pan drippings, since I had so much to do. Green bean casserole, dressing, sage and rosemary biscuits, sweet potato mash and spaghetti squash with cranberries rounded out the meal. The green bean casserole was the first time I made it completely from scratch, and while it looked sexy, the fried onions still didn’t measure up to French’s. The dressing was still inferior to Stove Top, but I’m still confident that someday I will have a recipe that will be better. The spaghetti squash was a new addition this year and was inspired by a meal at Oceanarie the week before Thanksgiving. The strands from the squash are pretty cool. When my dad asked if I cut the squash into the strands, I was pretty tempted to say yes. Overall, my dad said it was the best Thanksgiving meal to date that I’ve made, so my constant need for approval was satisfied for the time being.


Sage and Rosemary Biscuits


Spaghetti Squash with Cranberries


Green Bean Casserole


The Spread


Coma on a Plate

On Friday night, I met up with a few friends for burgers at 25 Burgers and had a Bull’s Eye Burger with sweet potato fries. The burger itself was pretty messy and greasy, but it’s the best burger within a 15 minute drive from my house. The onion strings and patty were the highlights, while the bun was lacking. The fries were decent, but the portion was rather small. Overall the burger, fries, and drink were a little over $12.


BBQ Burgers Don’t Know How to Disappoint

The next day, I ate at Shanghai Bun and got some sauteed pork and vegetables with Shanghai noodles, and my friend got chicken and mustard green soup. For dinner, I hung out with a few of my sister’s friends and went to the Olive Garden for the first time. The place was pretty empty when we arrived, but was packed by the time we left. I was definitely surprised with the decor and ambiance, since I always though the commercials were so corny. However, the prices were also higher than I imagined. I was thinking most entrees would be $8-15, but the range was more like $12-$20. The seating was interesting, with wheels on all four legs sliding in every direction. The bread sticks were on the salty side, but you can’t go wrong with unlimited warm bread. For my entree, I got braised short ribs. I’m not 100% confident that it didn’t come out of a bag, but the tenderness of the meat was still enjoyable. Overall, the meal was better than I expected, but at $28 with tax and tip, I’d rather spend my dining out money elsewhere.


If Only Plate of Food Grew on Trees


Healthy Can Taste Good


The Most Perfectly Shaped Breadsticks I’ve Ever Seen in my Life


Braised Short Ribs

breakfast without boundaries

Hot dogs are probably the first hot junk foods I can ever remember liking. Long before liking burgers in high school due to my family’s limited beef consumption at home or pizza in elementary school due to my parent’s distaste for cheese, the humble hot dogs was there at BBQs, amusement parks and Asian bakeries. The Asian bakery hot dog bun is what first got the hot dog to make an appearance at the breakfast table and for that reason, I am much more open to the idea of foods having no boundaries during the day.

The Asian bakery hot dog bun is actually not that good. The bread that is wrapped around it is the real star. Growing up, Ball Park franks became the ideal because Michael Jordan (even though I wasn’t a Bulls fan) endorsed it. It wasn’t until I realized that casings mattered when I upgraded to Hebrew National and Nathan’s for the snap and texture.

On the last day in LA before Katie and I drove to San Diego, the three of us didn’t know where to go for breakfast. When Ivy asked what was left on my list, I said Pink’s was really the last thing I really wanted to cross off in LA on this trip. Thanks to Yelp, we found out that Pink’s opens at 9:30am. You know where this is going.


There Are No Clouds In The Sky When You Have A Hot Dog For Breakfast

After taking a stroll through Hollywood, we found ourselves at Pink’s along with a few other boundary-less patrons ready to dig into a breakfast hot dog. Only this hot dog is not of the Asian bakery variety. We’re talking greasy, oily, late night eats at 9:30am. To add insult to injury to our hearts, the three of us split some chili fries. Yeah, you’re impressed. I was originally going to get their signature chili dog, but with chili fries, I drew a line in the sand only to erase that line, take a leap forward and get another meat on meat abomination that is the Polish Pastrami. The Polish Pastrami was actually a Polish sausage, so I didn’t actually have a hot dog at Pink’s. Still, I left satisfied as it had the most snap of any sausage I’ve ever eaten. The meat was juicy, flavorful and the bread to pastrami and Swiss ratio was spot on. The fries were crispy and the chili’s texture was easy to balance on the fries. If I lived in LA, I’m sure that I would take out of town visitors there, but not so sure if i’d be a regular given the overkill of unhealthiness unless it was a late night out in Hollywood. Pink’s will satisfy a hot dog lover on that side of the country, but over on the East Coast, I’ll stick with some Gray’s Papaya.


Healthy (Ivy), Fat (Ray), Long Island (Katie)

the ramen monster

Ramen.  Just typing those five letters brings me back to late college nights, where fears of getting cancer or permanent brain damage from microwaving food in Styrofoam went completely out the window.  I’m not proud of myself, no.

I was first introduced to this stuff by my younger cousin, Laura.  I recall being at my grandparents’ house and seeing little Laura probably no more than 10, eating out of the ubiquitous styrofoam cup.  I had a very limited scope of exposure to ramen before college.  I knew Nissin’s Cup of Noodles from Laura and one “weird” girl from high school used to munch on uncooked ramen.  I don’t know how she stored it, but it was as if her left blazer pocket was a bottomless pit of broken noodles (GAG).

I went into college having a pretty negative outlook on these seemingly innocuous noodles.  Well, you know what they say about college… it’s your time to “experiment”.  Hit the books, hit the bottle, hit the ramen block (the shin ramyun block to be exact).  Somehow by the grace of God, I managed to evade the freshman 15 and other heinous weight gains in college.  Don’t worry, I’m expecting that to catch up to me soon (starting with this trip’s terrible eating decisions).  Since graduation in 2008, I’ve succumbed to the ramen monster maybe three times? Not too shabby, if you ask me!

Well, this past attack was a full fledged blow.  It wasn’t the normal moment of weakness I experience.  This was premeditated.  Ivy, Ray, and I headed into the heart of Little Tokyo and we waited.  Yes, we waited 45 WHOLE MINUTES … for ramen!


Heading into Little Tokyo Plaza

Enjoying some red bean treat while we wait // A very appropriate neon noodle sign!

Long ass line at Daikokuya Ramen

After some toying with hearts – there were three “Ray” parties on the wait list, we were finally called into the temple of noodledom.  Because we had ample time to decide what we wanted, we ordered immediately.  One tuna sashimi appetizer and three daikoku ramen combos – one tonkatsu, one shredded pork, and one teriyaki eel (not pictured).


Ramen packed with noodles, boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts, and sliced pork

NOT tuna sashimi // closeup on that fatty sliced pork (Chashu

tonkatsu and shredded pork

The verdict? The tonkotsu, not to be confused with tonkatsu, soup base was so rich.  TonkAtsu – pork cutlet; TonkOstu – very creamy, pork bone based broth.  I know, very confusing.  Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  Taking that quote completely out of context, the broth managed to have a profound and very rich flavor while still being subtle.  After eating half of the delightfully thin, springy noodles in my bowl and a few bites of my pork cutlet and Ivy’s shredded pork, I realized that yet again my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I woefully admitted defeat and couldn’t even bring myself to eat the boiled egg, which Ray said was delicious.

Ray and I both agreed we liked the noodles best and regretted getting combos, as I would have easily given up my pork cutlet to make more room for the noodles.  Ivy’s shredded pork was by far the best rice bowl.  Sweet, thick sauce on pieces of pork belly really can’t be beat.

While Daikokuya may not broken my vow of less ramen, it did show me if you can’t beat the ramen monster, EAT the ramen monster (in moderation, of course).

I’ll have some west coast with that butter


Katie, Ivy, and Ray — three very full traveling companions, at the famous Chinese Theatre

Guess what? We’re alive and posting from California!

This trip has been a long time in the making. After finally passing my last CPA exam this past February, I was able to make the executive decision to inject more fun into my life.  Why not round out my first summer of freedom with a foodie fueled west coast adventure with old college friends I haven’t seen for years.  Yes, you read that correctly.  YEARS.

Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  By a stroke of luck neither Ray nor I typically experience, we were able to fly safely out of Logan Airport Saturday morning right before Irene hit Boston.  We were greeted by a very friendly and familiar face, Ivy who flew into LAX from Palo Alto.

Once we got our big bear hugs out of the way, we headed out to Roscoe’s for some rib sticking chicken and waffles.  Having never experienced this before, I was more than ready to fill my quota of true “soul” food.

We each ordered southern style fried chicken (dark meat obviously!) with waffles.  In a total gratuitous act of fatness, we ordered a large plate of chicken chili cheese fries.  Let it be known, we’ve made a lot of decisions like this one since the first day.

What arrived was a plate full of crispy fried chicken (disappointingly, a breast and a drumstick — seriously, white meat puts the BOO in boob), two golden waffles, a heaping ice cream scoop of butter and a small cup of syrup.  Whether or not it was pure maple was debatable.

After I took it all in, I found myself in a conundrum.  Is this finger food/knife and fork food/a mixture of both?  My comrades took different approaches as Ivy started eating her drumstick with her fingers (a girl after my own heart) and Ray went in with his utensils.  I did some kind of unassertive mix of both.  Am I supposed to have a bite of waffle and then a separate bite of chicken?  Do I put the chicken on the waffle and let some of the grease fill up the nooks and crannies?  Should I sandwich the chicken between the two waffles and risk exposing my true barbaric eating habits to the regular patrons?  Am I supposed to be this boggled by soul food?

Once I decided to stick to utensils and take a bite of everything all at once, the myriad of flavors exploded in my mouth.  This reminded me of one of my staple favorites, bacon doused in maple syrup and not just drizzled, but poured with a very heavy hand.  Savory and sweet, not battling, but dancing together in frenetic excitement.

The chicken chili cheese fries were a sad plate of not surprisingly very soggy french fries.  Though the additional pieces of chicken thigh dotting the dish were fun, I have nothing further to say about these.

This was my first experience with chicken and waffles and though I’m sure this particular experience is not going to set the golden standard for me, it certainly was eye opening.  I think of all of the food out there that has not crossed my path and realize the new experiences are really endless.  I’m just lucky that I have food companions that are more than willing to take on the new adventures with me.

Portland, Maine

The NY Times article I read a few years back first put Portland, Maine on my radar as a dining destination, but back then, I already moved out of Boston and was adjusting to the more French and Southern inspired DC dining scene. When I moved back this winter, I made a goal to take a trip out with Katie and Krissie and as of this past weekend, I could cross it off my list. Sadly, we did not make it to any of the restaurants mentioned in the list, although Duckfat was by the same people who created Hugo’s.

Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.