Thursday, December 30, 2010

They wished me many happy returns..

The 24th of this month, Christmas Eve, was the day I got older. I have no intention whatsoever to whine aimlessly about the worrying thoughts of quarter-life crisis that's going to hit me soon, though it might require a great deal of self-control. To be safe, let me just cut it off right here. Here's my birthday cake, courtesy of Yoshiko of Cakebelle. Ain't it lovely? Thanks so much, Yoshiko!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sugar Coma Festival {Better-Late-Than-Never Ed.}

First of all, hooray, my blog is featured as this week's Featured Blogs by Foodie Blogroll.

Second, I know this is totally lame that I am just now posting this, but in the heat of lavish! event this past weekend in Atlanta (which I wasn't able to attend because I thought I was going to be somewhere at that time but I apparently I didn't have to be -- and of course, by the time I realize that, it's all too late, the tickets are sold out. Oh life.), this was another swanky soiree held by The Broke Socialite (she's such a nice and funny lady by the way) called Sugar Coma festival and I was lucky enough to snag a ticket at the time.

Third, I'd have to admit, this quick post is my way of cutting corners. It has something to do with the very fact that everything in my life is such a whirlwind right now. I haven't been eating at cool places and have taken zilch pictures lately. Plus, it's the week before Christmas and I am far from being done with Christmas shopping. That's how bad it is.

Anyways, hope this would make a feast for your eyes.

These cupcakes are from Cami Cakes. I got to meet little Camille herself, such a cutie! Also, as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of red velvet cakes, I actually adore these babies. Moist, velvety, and topped with rich frosting.

Caramel-filled. Chocolate-drizzled. Cheerful taste buds.

Margarita cupcakes. Need I say more? FYI, the margarita did not get baked off. Let me repeat once again that it did not get baked off. Ahemm, I had mine straight up. These sassy treats were provided by Pink Cupcake Dreams and Peachy Treats.

Caryn's Cakes' strawberry cupcakes are one of the best strawberry cupcakes I've ever had. It's such a simple goodness and the frosting is just right: a tad sweet, not too rich, and still maintains that classic strawberry flavor. I actually bought a few to take home with me.

Sip the Experience is what would happen if Barnes & Noble got married to Starbucks and had an affair with your full- of- homemade- goodness neighborhood bakery. I wouldn't mind sitting there all day getting some work done. It'd be kinda hard to focus with all those luscious desserts calling out my name every five minutes though.

We had to take a break to prevent our glucose levels from going through the roof: by showing our savory spot taste buds that we still care about them. Chicken skewers by Bradford on Bishop on the menu.

See these gorgeous vanilla custards topped with fresh blackberries? Yum. Chris Arpante's mad dessert skills are responsible for them. It's ok to judge the book by its cover this time - because it fully represents the quality of the content.

Nah, these are not jello shots. They're even better.

I didn't actually get a chance to try these, but I'm guessing they're molten lava chocolate cakes?

This Cuban espresso flan is a work of art by private chef Bren Herrera. If you're a coffee lover like I am, you'd appreciate it very much. It's very fragrant and ahh, the texture - it sort of just glides in your mouth.

In the name of (sugary) festivity we trust.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Jolly Slice of December

I can't believe it's December already. I was just talking to my friend about this the other day: the moment it actually occurs to me that the holiday season has arrived is when I see Starbucks red cups popping up all across town. For some reason, it's like they bring out the holiday spirit in me. And strangely enough, they gently provoke a lot of beautiful memories, those little cups. But really, this mini post has nothing to do with Starbucks or their effective seasonal branding. It has something to do with all the little things that - however fast life's images flash through our eyes due to our crazy busy schedule dominated by everything that has a screen and buttons - can still make us stop for a second, look around, and smile. Because 'tis the season to be jolly.

Here are some of the things that make me smile (and scream for joy). I don't have a whole lot explanation for these beauties other than they're available at the White Windmill Bakery in Atlanta. Thanks to Yoshiko of Yoshiko Photography for sharing some editing tips!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Culinary Treats I'm Thankful For {Thanksgiving Ed.}

Durian. I know. A little bit intimidating, ehh?

Thanksgiving weekend has always been exhausting for me. The dinner part, the gathering part, and the part where we all religiously participate in a glorified commercial conspiracy by purchasing goods that we're not even sure we need - called Black Friday. So I think it's always nice to step back and count our blessings.

As for me, I'm immensely thankful for the strong network of support I have. Personally and professionally. Be it my family, friends, mentors, or professional acquaintances, I truly am grateful for the inspiration and comfort they have provided me. Without them I would be nowhere near where I am today.

Now that I'm done with the sarcastic and the mellow part, here are the twelve most amazing culinary treats ever created in this world (that I was lucky enough to have tasted) that have constituted a gastronomic euphoria in my dictionary. I am thankful for the very existence of:

1. Roasted Peking Duck. This one needs no introduction. With its crispy skin sheltering a generous layer of melts-in-your mouth fat, supported by a vulnerable bed of succulent meat on the bottom, this one is a true winner.

2.Chasiu/Barbecued pork meat. It's an undoubtedly pure form of beauty.

3. Bakut Teh/Pork Bone Tea Soup. Great-tasting, traditional ingredients nurtured by long hours of labor and love. This dish is very comforting - almost sacred - to me.

4. Kepiting Saus Padang/Crab in Padang Chilli Sauce. Hot and spicy. This one's pretty similar to Singaporean Chilli Crab.

5. Nasi Padang. A traditional Indonesian rice dish accompanied by a myriad variety of options: ayam pop (chicken cooked with coconut water, ginger, lemongrass, etc), gulai ayam (chicken curry), telor balado (eggs cooked with chili and shrimp paste), rendang, krecek (gelatinous crackers made of cow skin), daun singkong (cassava leaves), cabe ijo (green chili), etc. I also take pleasure in having a generous pour of the curry sauce all over my rice.

6. Sharkfin Soup. Oh gosh, don't even get me started on this one.

7. Chinese-style Seafood Hotpot. A piping hot claypot of fried Japanese silky soft tofu with squid, sea cucumber, shiitake mushrooms, shrimp, fish, and vegetables swimming in a very tasty, thick broth.

8. Fresh, glistening slivers of sashimi. The list includes sake/salmon, toro/fatty tuna, awabi/abalone, mirugai/geoduck/giant clam, hotate/scallop, uni/sea urchin, and ikura/salmon roe. And a side order of ankimo/monkfish liver, please.

9. I love veal, especially when cooked with good wine. And its leg, loin, shank, brisket, cheek, rack, liver, and chops. Not so much of the scallopini, though. Braised, stewed, sauteed, stuffed, you name it. And oh- did I mention braised? A phrase delivered by a server at one of my favorite Italian restaurants that immediately won my heart was: "Anything that can be done to veal, we can do it for you."

10. Bouncy, good- looking sea scallops. Grilled, sauteed, in a hot pot, or simply raw.

11. Martabak Manis. My favorite dessert of all time, with its crunchy crust and indulgent, shiny butter gushing out from the middle when you put pressure on the top. No mousse, souffle, cheesecake, flan, or tart can beat this.

12. Durian. So Andrew Zimmern can't stand it, so what? If they sell durian scent in a form of air freshener, I'd get one. Or three.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cakwe: Fried Little Goodness Filled with Memories

If I were a Southerner, these would be my precious little hush puppies.

I'm fully aware that by this time of the year, I should be writing about fried turkeys already. But nope, I decided to defy the norm. Besides, I've never really been a big fan of turkey. Definitely not compared to honey-glazed ham. Or roasted Peking ducks for that matter. I do love stuffings though. Anyways, last week I stopped by at a Chinese restaurant nestled in the strip of Atlanta's mecca of ethnic food, Buford Hwy, called Bobo Garden. And that's when I spotted these little guys. They bring back a lot of remarkable childhood memories. These are the things that I grew up eating almost every single day long before the days my taste buds got acquainted to zucchini, eggs benedict, or even pizza! They are a great complementary to what I call comfort food, a weighty fragment of my family's Sunday brunch rituals and the street food culture of Jakarta.

They're called you tiao (Mandarin) or yau ja gwai (Cantonese) - very common in Chinese cuisine especially to be eaten with rice congee or soy milk. They're also called by a bunch of different names here in the U.S such as chinese crullers, chinese doughnuts, fried bread stick, fried dough, etc. Oh well. The Indonesians call it cakwe. On another note, it always amuses me how the Indonesian language tends to try adapting foreign languages and sort of adding their own twist to it (read: butcher savagely). I take great pleasure in eating my cakwe Indonesian style though: drenched in peanut sauce.

Of course, the quality of these cakwe that I had at Bobo Garden was far from those that pretty much summed up my childhood. The skin should boast some satisfying crunch like it just comes out of the fryer, and the inside part should be pillowy soft. There are also some stuffed versions out there. The original shape is supposed to look like they're made of two pieces joined in the middle. Read this Wikipedia entry under folk etymology to find out the myth behind the shape.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Le Triskell Creperie - A Strong Blend of Nurture and Culture

It was a lazy Saturday and I was looking for a brunch place. Like many people, I turned to Yelp for this kind of guidance. Not that I have so much faith in Yelpers, but at least they can give me ideas of places to go. I found a place called Le Triskell Creperie and decided to give it a try. This little place is located in Buckhead, inside a building called Tuxedo Atrium. And it's tiny. As in it looks like a little cafeteria where you just go in to grab your sandwich for lunch, pay at the register, and take it to go. But something drew me in right from the very moment the French lady smiled at me. Her name is Rose- Marie, by the way. She and her husband, Michel, run this place - just the two of them. I could feel the love already. Plus, hearing them speak French made me feel like I was in the set of Amélie.

Their crepes are called galettes, a type of pancake made of gluten-free buckwheat flour. You know how Michel sold it to me? He said, "The French love it, you should give it a try." There. I'm sold. So I went ahead and got the La Bastille, which had eggs, ham, and Swiss cheese. The eggs were a little bit too runny for my taste, but it might just be me. Truth is, it's not bad at all. The slightly-melting cheese added a nice texture to the merriness of the savory ham and the eggs . The galette itself was crunchy and gave you a familiar taste of wheat flour. It's not as tasty as anything that's made of all-purpose flour - a little bit more on the humble side - and definitely would do a lot more good to your body. My friend got La Pacifique which had smoked salmon, soft white cheese, lemon, and dill in it. The cheese was rich and the dill added some kind of kick to it.

Our visit there was full of surprises. It started when I asked Rose- Marie where in France she's from. She calmly answered, "Paris. And you?" Normally when I'm not so thrilled in carrying further conversation with a person, I'd say Bay Area, California, which holds some truth to it. But I decided to give her an honest answer instead. Hearing that, her eyes lit up right away. She said "Terima Kasih" and yelled "Indonésien" to Michel who was standing in the kitchen at the time. He responded by screaming something in French that I can only tell by its elevated tone that it was indeed full of excitement. Then he came out of the kitchen and started telling us all these stories of how they've been to Indonesia, had stayed in Hong Kong for almost 13 years, and the fact that they're both musicians. How cool is that?

Michel sat with us the whole time and we had a great chat about a lot of eye-widening, heart-warming things. From how the Southern part of France, including the French Riviera, would be one of the best places to go due to its friendly weather and breathtaking scenery, to how the French and the Chinese bear some similarities when it comes to their cooking and how they treat their meat.

Sometimes I think the world is just way too small. Michel was telling me about the hotel that they stayed at in Jakarta. I asked him if he noticed there's an all-girls school right across from it. He went, "I saw them all the time getting out of their cars." Imagine his surprise when I said I was one of those girls wearing the green-checkered uniform skirt and knee-high socks. That I went to the very same school for 6 years. This time it's him screaming some high-pitched, full-of-excitement phrases in French to his wife.

Ahh, it was wonderful meeting them. To top it off, they insisted on treating us to some sweet crepes to-go: the caramel and chocolat maison (homemade chocolate) crepes. Wow. At the time I must have looked like a 5-year-old being treated to her first cotton candy. Or as we Indonesians call it, gulali.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The Third One said, 'I don't care'" {Halloween Ed.}

Five Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate
The first one said, "My, it's getting late.
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."
The third one said, "I don't care."
The fourth one said, "We'll have a lot of fun.
Let's run and run and run."
"Woo-oo-oo" went the wind.
And out (clap) went the light
And the five little pumpkins rolled right out of sight

(From classic children song "Five Little Pumpkins)

Image courtesy of

Halloween is just around the corner. I don't know if you care much about it, but I don't. I've never been a really big fan of it. There's nothing cute about it, everything's so "scary" (read: ugly) and lots of purple and orange. I love purple, but purple and orange? I'm also not a big fan of dressing up. I do, take the pleasure of seeing other people acting stupid in their costumes, though, especially after a good amount of some liquid courage. But ok, enough with the negativity. Sorry for being such a party pooper. As suspected, I won't be making anything for Halloween this time so I thought I'd just compile some of the (semi) cute-looking treats that I discover online.

For those semi scary-looking cupcakes above (Of course they have been censored, I only pick the ones that still maintain their cuteness factor just a tad bit) and their recipes, go here.

Image courtesy of

Classic whoopie pies! And I honestly think that haunted house cake is such a neato. Pretty cool, ehh? For recipes, click here and here.

Image courtesy of

Here comes the most important part: Halloween liquid treats for the adults. From eyeball martinis to the classic root beer float, take your pick. Click here for recipes.

Food Network has their own collection of Halloween desserts as well. And of course, you can count on the almighty Bakerella for everything baked and everything cute. For her Trick or Treat cake pops, click here.

Image courtesy of Geek Sweets bakery under Creative Commons.

I was scouring the net and bumped into these Death by Chocolate cupcakes by Geek Sweets. Thought I'd share. I think these are the prettiest Halloween cupcakes I've seen.

Happy Halloween!

These images are courtesy of those stated below each of them. I own no rights to any of them. Nothing. Nada.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tortillas, Steaks, and a Smackdown

Hot- pink walls covered in luchadores paraphernalia and illuminated by spinning disco balls?

They say time flies by when you're having fun. I'd say there's a lot of truth to it. I had a chance to reunite with a Taiwanese friend of mine whom I met when I was still going to school in Bay Area, California four years ago. She drove down from Irvine to meet me in San Diego. We went for a stroll in in downtown La Jolla and spent hours and hours reminiscing the past. I felt like hours just didn't cut it anymore. I needed days. Or months. It was a lot of remembering what my first few months arriving in the U.S were like. A lot excitement and a lot of adjustment. A lot of laughters and a lot of tears. Who knew, five years later, here I am, ready to leave and see what the other parts of the world have to offer.

Anyways, my friend and I decided to grab a few bites at Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop. Lucha means to fight or wrestle. Libre means free. La Lucha Libre commonly refers to the type of professional wrestling in which fighters are normally masked characters named by a pseudonyme. The term is used in Mexico and other Spanish- speaking countries. The movie Nacho Libre (with Jack Black in it) might ring a bell a little, yes?

Notice that it says "Reserved for Champions." I found out later that apparently you can make a 24-hour-in-advance reservation to self-proclaim your "champion" status.

I had Surf and Turf taco filled with marinated steak, shrimp, & avocado slices, smothered in a special sauce and Queso taco, which was grilled crispy cheese filled with steak and topped with more cheese and avocado slices. Other things on their menu include Tap Me Out, Undefeated Seafood Tacos/Burritos, Smackdown Quesadillas, and TJ Hotdogs (beef hotdog, wrapped in bacon!)

Like most taco shops, Lucha Libre has a small bar at the corner where you can spice up your tacos by making your own sauce. Their cilantro- lime sauce was phenomenal while their steak, on the other hand, was pretty dry. The fresh avocado slices seem to slightly make up for it, though.

I can't believe it's almost October already. I'm now back in Atlanta and trying to post all the San Diego entries as fast as I can before they get outdated. That is if I don't get distracted in between salivating over those winter squash soups that will start popping up all over the blogosphere and ahemm..figuring out what I'm going to do for Halloween.

Taco on Foodista

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buttery Lobster Tails (with Edible Shells)

I might have made it clear in the past that I'm no way a fan of MTV show Jersey Shore. I did write a blog post about the show though. This doesn't mean I have something against Italians (or what they call themselves - guidos and guidettes). I actually love a lot of things about Italians. Well, to be exact, their food. And the size of it.

We stopped by in Little Italy in San Diego because E had been craving for sfogliatelle (some people call it lobster tail) for a while. Sfogliatelle is a seashell- shaped Italian pastry filled with cream. There's a bakery in town called Cafe Zucchero that's really famous for their cannolis and happen to have sfogliatelle as well. We had to call in advance and asked them to save the sfogliatelle for us. They would've run out of those buttery babies had we not done that. Trust me, the person right in front of us actually asked for them and the wait staff swiftly shook her head.

Here's a video from the TV show Cake Boss showing how they make sfogliatelle:

It was such a bummer. The sfogliatelle turn out to be not impressive at all. It was slightly unacceptable to be honest. The pastry shell was not at all soft nor flaky. The cream isn't the freshest and it's a tad bit on the sour side. It tasted like it had been sitting in the counter forever.

The cannolis on the other hand, were such superstars. The ricotta filling was more on the refreshing side, especially with the endearing presence of the succade (candied citrus). And the chocolate morsels added some kind of depth to the flavor of the cream. Dusted generously with powdered sugar, the shell was quite crunchy judging on the fact that these cannolis might have also been sitting in the counter (I'm guessing - for a shorter period of time than the sfogliatelle did?) for quite some time. The crisp texture could've been brought up a notch but it was far from being soggy.

We couldn't help but noticed the long line that's coming out of Filippi's Pizza Grotto. After changing a few words with some people with some foreign accents, we decided to join the crowd. We were in line for over in hour and decided to take our food to go. Not that the old-fashioned, red-checkered tablecloths didn't entice us enough, but I guess the weather's just too beautiful to pass up. It's a good thing that the pizza (or pie, however you want to call it) was actually worth waiting for.

The bread was insanely good. It must have been a really elastic, stretched, and nurtured with love kind of dough. Please note that I might be a little biased since I'm a sucker for thick, hand-tossed crust. The crust had just the right amount of crunch on the outside and once you dive in, it's pure soft, pillowy goodness. And the cheese, it was the freshest, silkiest, best- tasting mozzarella I've ever had sitting on top of my pizza. The toppings and the sauce weren't bad at all but really, the bread and the cheese outshone everything for me.

The goodness buried under the tomato sauce was a meat lasagna. Look at the size of that meatball. Oh my. I can't really say anything about the lasagna since I didn't take a single bite of it. And oh- the pizzeria is also a delicatessen, it has a good selection of Italian gastronomy from dried salami, specialty pasta, to Sicilian olives.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ocean Beach's Farmers Market in San Diego

Standing in the U.S Airways check-in line at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on my way back from San Diego to Atlanta, I was constantly scrolling my way down the streaming tweets on UberTwitter. There, I finally saw it. A tweet from Atlanta's local meteorologist saying that it was hailing and pouring like crazy. He used a different kind of terminology of course, a more civilized one. At that very moment, I wasn't feeling so glad that Georgia's on my mind. Humid, sticky weather? The non-existence of sandy beaches within 20 miles? Ah, not exactly my favorite place on earth.

So let me indulge myself again by reminiscing all the good times I've had for the past few weeks. Last week I went to Ocean Beach Farmer's Market in San Diego, thanks to E for taking me. A farmer's market isn't all about organic, locally grown produce. It's also about the community and supporting local businesses. And of course, for me, when is an occasion not an occasion to pig out?

These Kyoto grapes were the best grapes I've ever had in my life. If Concord grapes and konyaku jelly got married and had babies, it would be these grapes. They're so plump, soft, juicy, and melts in your mouth type of delicacies. They're not necessarily sweet, but still would be a treat to your taste buds.

This was my first time trying out homemade blinis. I had one osweet with jam filling and the other one was savory with cheese and potato fillings, prepared on the spot by a middle-aged Russian lady. She found it funny that I made several serious attempts on taking pictures of the food. Well lady, obviously we haven't met.

I don't want summer to end too soon. Stay here a little longer, please?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Hillside Spoils of Bogor

Another post from Weigy Widyanputra who's kind enough to share his culinary experience during his stay in Jakarta, Indonesia. Thanks, Weigy!

Hop in a car, drive away from the urban jungle that is Jakarta and in 2 hours, you will find yourself in Puncak, Bogor.

Skyscrapers get replaced with hills, rice paddies and clouds. Shopping complexes get replaced with store-houses selling local food, crafts and daily necessities. The only constant seem to be the traffic; seasoned drivers in both Jakarta and Bogor navigate like lions after gazelles.

The first hour of the drive you will still experience similarity but keep driving. Soon enough there will be only tiny shacks by the side of winding roads, with undulating greens, gently nudged by a cloudy sky.

If there is a consolation to the way we Indonesians drive, Bogor's traffic is sparse on the weekdays. This being the month of fasting also meant a lot of the places were closed in the day. Still, a family run satay shop waved us down, to signal that they are open.

We took a step in and was amazed by the view. This was a concrete-based, wooden-floored shack hanging off the side of a hill. Before us was an unobstructed view of the hills, a calming breeze and a blanket of fog.

Their specialty is "Sate Kelinci", that means "Rabbit Satay / Skewers" and "Sate Kambing", which means "Mutton Satay / Skewers". We ordered both, sat down and took in the view. In my head, I honestly couldn't stop thinking that if we were in any other place, this location would have been capitalized on, made into a fancy restaurant, charging exorbitant prices for a view coupled with okay food. In reality, satay is already served as overpriced, bland, appetizers at misguided fusion restaurants.

The skewers come topped off with fried shallots, bits of red onion, chopped fresh tomatoes and assorted chillies. Basking in both the light and sauce it's resting on, the view got even better.

The rabbit was cooked perfectly, the rabbit was springy but not chewy. The judgement to serve this not drenched by the sauce was also a great move. The consistency was top-notch, the presentation was appetizing and again, it tastes great. The way the meat has been treated matches and in some ways, exceeds some fine French chophouses I've been to. If you are looking for ways to try rabbit as a delicacy, this would be a great way to start. Simple, tasty and unobstructed.

The mutton received the same respect and care, at a glance it is impossible to tell the difference. The aroma sets them apart. The mutton had a more prominent aroma, strong but not overpowering. The fact that the garnish was identical reminded me that the strength in these dishes is in how they've showcased the flavors of each meat. The usual gamey aftertaste of mutton was noticeably smoother and not obtrusive at all. The slight tinge of blackened tips, coupled with a tender core, this is great mutton.

I asked the store-owner / chef if his is the best around here, he humbly replied in Indonesian, "Ah, all are the same, we've all been at this for years and years". It reminds me of a fact: simple eateries in Asia that specializes in one dish excels at it simply because they've been improving on a family recipe for decades. Simple eateries in Asia usually starts as sources of food for the locals who aren't of high or middle-level income brackets. Every ingredient is used to the most, in consideration of nutrition, taste and conservation. There is a delicate balance in the way the food is treated that you won't find in Outback or such.

All this cost me a meager $ 5.00 US. There is no name to this place, you simply have to look for a small turquoise barbecue shack with a great view when you are on your way to the peaks of Puncak (which means peak, by the way).


Photo Credits: Weigy Widyanputra