Holiday Wrap Up

The one year anniversary of our last post is coming up, so we thought it would be as a good a time as any to dig this blog out of its grave. A recap of the holidays seems appropriate.

Knowing that I was going to be taking a rip to China for two weeks during Thanksgiving, led me to organize a little Friendsgiving a few weeks before I took off. I was originally thinking of inviting around 10 folks, but since I had a new roommate who wasn’t around and gave me more control of the common areas, 25 people ended up accepting an invite and 19 people showed up. It was the first time I was hosting so it felt like a good opportunity to go big. One thing that helped was that I didn’t take a vacation day from work in 2012 until late October so I had plenty of time to prepare. I had the Friday off before the party (on a Sunday), but the total prep time stretched to the weeks before hand.

Friendsgiving

3 weeks out-send out invitations, start planning menu (the fun stuff)

2 weeks out-trim down menu, begin shopping lists

6 days before party-regret decision to host, buy alcohol

5 days before party-buy pantry goods, dry ingredients, turkey

4 days before party-plan out prep and cooking schedule, assign dishes to pots and pans

3 days before party-clean, set up chairs and tables out of storage

2 days before party-brine turkey, buy fresh foods, prep and make apps, soup, desserts, snacks, beast mode

1 day before party-air dry turkey, cook majority of side dishes, beast mode, panic attack

day of party-showtime

Luckily, my sister and her husband came a few hours early to help out with the last of the prep so the afternoon was a lot less stressful. The final menu looked like this:

Appetizers

White bean dip, roasted garlic hummus, pita chips with oregano, brie and gouda cheese plate, stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs

Soups

Chilled potato leek soup with pesto genovese, southwest squash soup with ancho cream and toasted pumpkin seeds

Main

Roasted turkey, beef stew with herbed dumplings

Sides

Jalapeno cheddar biscuits, cornbread, apple sausage stuffing, mushroom leek stuffing, green bean casserole, braised red cabbage, spaghetti squash with cranberries, mashed potatoes, quinoa with caramelized onions and mushroom, mac n cheese, gravy

Desserts

Apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake, vanilla ice cream, chocolate coconut ice cream

Take Home Snacks

Cracker jacks, peanut clusters, candied pecans, gingersnaps

Some of the recipes were from the 6 week cooking course I took at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in the fall.  I cooked for two and a half days straight days. It was exhausting, but also so damn satisfying. It was my greatest culinary achievement to date. No regrets.


Mandatory Smiles for the Most Part

China- Yunnan Province and Shanghai

Moving on to my trip to China, the food was unremarkable, since we were on a tour group and ate rather generic plain food. The only highlights were some lamb and yak skewers at a night market and the signature dish of the Yunnan Province- Cross Bridge Noodles. It is a hot noodle sou, were you put raw, thinly sliced meats, and other toppings along with noodles into a hot bowl of broth with a layer of oil on top. When I went back to Shanghai prior to flaying back to the US, I had the best Beijing Duck (though there are probably better ones out there) in my life at a place near my aunt’s apartment.

Christmas

For Christmas (NJ for a little over a week), I ate a rotation of all the favorites. Dim sum, stir fried noodles, diner fare, pizza, steamed lobsters, hot pot, frozen yogurt and my mom’s home cooking.

New Years

I was back in Boston for New Years and hung out at 28 degrees (cocktails, french fries) for most of the night before heading to Katie’s new place (quiche, the largest shrimp cocktail I’ve ever seen).

I took a look back at my 2012 food resolutions, and I only managed to complete 1.5 of the 5 items I listed so here’s hoping the 2013 list will be more successful.

1. Make Thomas Keller’s fried chicken! (carry over from last year)

2. Make pasta or Asian noodles from scratch (carry over from last year)

3. Make key lime chiffon pie and rice pudding

4. Cook or try a new exotic meat, vegetable and fruit

5. Try sea urchin and Spam

6. Eat at Toro, Island Creek Oyster Bar and RF O’Sullivan’s

7. Visit East Boston for Italian eats and 1 other ethnic cuisine

Happy New Year and be on the look out for more updates!

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Ray Wu’s Lonely Hearts Club

I hope everyone had a fun and sexy Valentine’s Day. I’ve been single for basically forever, but for some reason, I find that I’m not usually too down as one would expect a single to be on Valentine’s Day. Sure there are years when it seems that everyone is coupling up or getting a date leading up to the day, but the sliver of optimism in me seems to show itself every February 14th. Being a hopeless romantic and thinking that everything will work out for the best, I have to spin things in my favor to make the best of the holiday as I see fit. Working at an awesome company with an awesome boss and co-workers definitely helps too. In summary, there was a building party, 2 team parties, an office party, I got video conferencing to work with my boss in our Chicago office and I got to have dinner with a friend at a restaurant I’ve been meaning to try. This year was probably a top 3 of all time.

Last week, a friend at work decided to organize “Eat Your Feelings Day,” and I agreed to make… wait for it… Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies. In addition to that gem, someone on a team that I’m suppose to be transferring to in the near future asked if I was planning on doing anything on V-Day (like how I put together a Sweets Exchange during the holidays). Hence, “Ray Wu’s Lonely Hearts Club” was added after the “Eat Your Feelings Day” celebration. We booked a conference room and brought our laptops to work while we gorged on sweets, listened to love jams and put a crackling fire up on the projector. I even stayed late at work one night to make a corny flyer.

Overall, it was a pretty big success with a steady flow of people stopping in to grab some treats. In addition to the red velvet cheesecake brownies, I made coconut macaroons with a caramel drizzle, peanut clusters, and some origami flowers for decoration. Let’s just say that the commute that morning sucked, but it was all worth it.


Coconut Macaroons, Caramel and Origami Flowers


Coconut Macaroons with Caramel Drizzle


Peanut Clusters


Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies


M&M Blondies


Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

So next year, if you’re feeling down on Valentine’s Day, just get cookin’ on something delicious. And if you are a lady, ask me out on a date. Either or.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Restaurant Review: Saus, Part 2

Last year we reviewed Saus, and almost a month from the one year anniversary, we got to try a bunch of the new menu items at a tasting a few days ago. Katie and I were served tasting portions of the Veggie Croquette, Sloppy Jacques, Chicken Sate Pocket and Drunk Chick Sandwich along with sides of the Apple Cabbage Slaw and Liege Potato Salad.


New Menu is Up!


Getting Excited


Tanya Rockin the Bandana and Chin Rockin a Sweet Hat


Veggie Croquette, Apple Cabbage Slaw, Liege Potato Salad (back to front)


Chicken Sate Pocket, Drunk Chick, Sloppy Jacques (front to back)

The clear winner of the group was the Veggie Croquette- crispy exterior, warm & fluffy interior and drizzled with samurai sauce. The Liege Potato Salad also got high marks from Katie and me, and it was one of the better potato salads I’ve had because of the smokiness from the bacon. While the Chicken Sate was ok, it played a much more important role in helping to bring in a new peanut sauce (Pindasaus), which I enjoyed with fries this weekend.

Since we only got to have tasting portions, we were still a little hungry and split a spicy Frikandel- Belgian/Dutch street food (some hybrid mix of a burger/hot dog/sausage). It was my first time having anything like it and was surprised by how much I liked it considering I was thinking it might have been similar to brats, which aren’t my favorite.


Frikandel with House Pickled Jalapenos and Ole’ Chipotle Sauce

We spent the remaining time snapping pictures so I will leave you with some of Katie’s beautiful photography.


Renee Customer Servicing


Awards and Memorabilia // Working Those Stations


View from the Counter


The Counter //The Register


What You Do When You’re Hungry Near Faneuil Hall

Wait, I have a blog?

Hi readers. Yes it’s true. I am actually suppose to contribute to this blog, and it has been over a month since my last post. Shame. Starring Michael Fassbender. A lot has happened over the last couple of weeks. I tried Burmese food, Jersey Mike’s and Bobby’s Burger Palace for the first time. I organized a holiday sweets exchange at the office. Four couples I know got engaged, and I accepted the role of groomsman. I ran more than 1 mile straight for the first time on my own free will since high school. I got my wisdom teeth pulled out. I poured boiling hot pasta water on my right index and middle fingers. I found out I would be moving onto a new client early this year. I made lemon chess pie, lobster rolls and rack of lamb for the first time. And lastly, I went to a tasting of new menu items at a friend’s restaurant.


Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Catfish Soup from Yoma


Coconut Chicken Soup


New Years Eve Hot Pot at my Sister’s


Hot Pot Protein Spread


Omni Parker House Boston Cream Pie


Homemade Lobster Rolls


Rack of Lamb with Pale Dinner Roll (from scratch) and Steamed Green Beans


Pan Seared Scallops with a White Wine Sauce and Penne with Pepperjack Cream Sauce

Food wise I still find myself day dreaming about dropping everything and going to culinary school or start planning a restaurant/food venture and getting in way over my head. I took a look at my post with last year’s food resolutions and got somewhat depressed about things I didn’t get to accomplish. So with that, here are food resolutions for 2012.

1. Make noodles and pasta from scratch (rolled over from 2011)
2. Make dumplings and spring rolls from scratch
3. Make Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Ad Hoc at Home (also rolled over from 2011)
4. New ethnic food to try: Russian
5. Meat to try: alligator
6. Fruit to try: durian
7. Dish to eat that I surprisingly never had: eggs benedict
8. Dish to make: souffle
9. Restaurants to try: Neptune Oyster, B&G Oysters
10. Additional skills to learn: properly eating a crab, scaling and breaking down a whole fish, making legit bbq ribs on a charcoal grill

What are your food resolutions for 2012?

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