Category Archives: Eating Out

XLB Obsession


My fellow dumpling seekers, Kristen and Andrew

Little XLB beauties

I crave certain foods. Like really crave it. And once I get it in my head, all other meals are meaningless. That’s a very bold statement but I’m known to make an exaggeration here and there. Great storytelling runs in my family and my grandpa did and mother still does add on some mild embellishments every time a story gets told. Anyway, Andrew planted the seed in my head a few weeks ago, and I’ve had buns on the brain ever since. We made plans to grab lunch this past Saturday and he, his girlfriend Kristen, and I were seated at Gourmet Dumpling House a few minutes after we arrived. We promptly ordered the pork XLB and the pork and crab XLB. And then we promptly ordered another round. The three of us ate 32 dumplings and in reality, Andrew and I ate around 13 each.

Under normal circumstances, I would be a complete wild woman and beast all over these buns. Two things stopped me and my embarrassment to eat like a truck driver in front of Andrew and Kristen is not one of them. The first is the temperature. These little suckers are filled with scalding hot liquid. They’re not dubbed soup dumplings for nothing. The second was my extremely ballsy decision to wear all white to lunch.

That being said, it should come as no surprise that there is a proper way to eat this without any spills or injuries. Please refer to the pictorial instructions below so nicely enacted by Andrew:


Andrew wins ‘Best Sport’ award

1. Get your dipping sauce ready – Chinese black vinegar with a nice heap of shredded ginger
2. Carefully pick up your dumpling with your chopsticks, taking care not to pierce the skin.
3. Dip bun in dipping sauce.
4. Nibble the side of the bun and suck the broth inside. If too hot, let the broth pour into your large soup spoon and drink once cooled.
5. Add more ginger and vinegar (optional) and eat the rest of the dumpling.


Won’t see any spilled soup on my plate!
NOM NOM NOM

It was my first time at Gourmet Dumpling House. I tend to shy away from the establishment because of the hefty line that accumulates on weekends. Because it has the recognizable word ‘Dumpling’ in it, I find that many non-Chinese folks gravitate here. The xiao long bao was wonderful here AND they take credit cards. If you’re prepared for wait, definitely check this place out. Otherwise, you can go just around the corner to Taiwan Cafe, which I think has equally delicious xiao long bao and a whole menu of other delicious treats. The only downer is that it’s a true Chinatown joint and is cash only. Long story short, bring your appetite and cash/patience.

Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 338-6223

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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

NJ & NY Columbus Day Weekend

Last weekend I enjoyed a 5 day weekend visiting NJ and NYC. In 6 of the last 8 years I’ve made the pilgrimage back to the Tri-state and got to enjoy suburban NJ Chinese food and the company of some New Yorkers to take me around town. On Thursday, I took the bus and got home in time for dinner at Shanghai Bun, which is a family favorite. The interior has gotten a huge face lift over the years, but the food is still great as always. I actually had dinner here both Thursday and Friday nights. That is how much I love this place.


Fish and Mushrooms with Wine Sauce

Wonton Soup

Soup Dumplings

Wonton Soup

Scallion Pancakes

Beef Sandwiches

Fried Tofu with Fish

On Friday after working up an appetite at the gym, I finally got to try a burger place that opened up two or so years ago that a friend recommended. Frankly Burgers & More is now the burger to beat within a 30 minute drive from my house.


Frankly Burgers and More

Since it was probably the last warm weekend of the year, why not enjoy the last of the heat with some ice cream from Applegate Farms?


Pistachio and Cow Tracks

On Saturday, I woke up in Lower Manhattan and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time to eat at Grimaldi’s, which is among the most visited pizza spots in NYC by both tourists and locals. So much so that we barely made it on the first seating because a tour bus got priority seating.


Grimaldi’s Large Pizza with Sausage, Mushrooms and Ricotta

For dinner, we had Yakitori at Village Okocho in the East Village. Much more affordable than Kushi for you folks down in DC, but ambiance suffers.


Japanese Sausage

Fried Calamari

Mushrooms in Butter Sauce

Tofu

Fried Skewers

Yakitori and Smoked Fish

The next day we trekked out to Queens to have Korean at Sik Gaek Chun Ha, which was featured on No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain visited with David Chang to down a huge platter of seafood and fresh octopus. Sadly, they were out of fresh octopus so we dined on a spicy seafood stir fry, seafood pancakes and pork skin. Poor us.


Pork Skin Crisping on the Grill

Seafood Pancake

After this meal, we headed back to Lower Manhattan to have dinner in Chinatown to eat some Chinese fast food at Big Wong King. Think roast pork/duck over rice with some greens at those places with meat hanging from the windows. No pictures here as this type of food tends to be dumped on a plate.

Here are some pictures that capture the great weather, the great state of NJ, and the deliciousness of the weekend.


The Undirty Jerz

Thanks for the Delicous Trip NYC

In case you were wondering- 3 pounds gained over 5 days. Class.

happy birthday to me[nton]

25 is a big year, right?  You’re at the midway point of your twenties when society suddenly views you as a grown up and as a reward, you no longer have to pay some exorbitant fee to drive a rental car.  What better way to start such a year than to attend an exceptional chef’s tasting menu by the lovely, never disappointing Barbara Lynch (love to love you, baby).

Why yes we will.
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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)