Amada: A Celebratory Suckling Pig

Is there a better way to celebrate than with a suckling pig?

My sister recently graduated from college, and to celebrate in the style my family prefers we went to Amada in Philadelphia to dine, wine, and cheers the new graduate. We pre-ordered the half roasted suckling pig when we made our reservation.

We started our meal off with some complimentary dishes.

Roasted Padron Peppers

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Crackers with Balsamic Tuna DipIMG_1922

And onto the things we ordered….

The Potato Tortilla Española – it was good, but I’ve honestly had better. The flavor and texture could be enhanced and perfected.IMG_1928

We ordered the Ensalada de Jamón and after receiving it almost immediately ordered another one. It was terrific.

Ensalada de Jamón – serrano ham wrapped around figs, salad, cabrales, and spiced almonds.

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Ensalada Verde – Green Salad, Asparagus, Favas, Avocado, Green BeansIMG_1934

THE LOBSTER PAELLA – Lobster & Seafood Paella, Fava Bean Salad, Smoked Paprika AÏoli, Squid Ink

Obviously, we really like my sister because we went all out for her. The paella was delicious, though the dish itself was very shallow and I’m not sure how I felt about the seafood to paella rice ratio.IMG_1939

While we were polishing off our paella, our pig arrived. It was carved before us into perfectly portioned pieces of pork. I was already quite full at this point, but watching the process unfold before me persuaded me to stretch the walls of my stomach.IMG_1945

Our pork came with sides (in order): Grilled Green Onions, Rosemary White Beans, Herb Roasted Fingerlings, Garbanzos con Espinacas. The fingerling potatoes and the grilled green onions were great. I found both of the beans to be over-salted, especially in conjunction with our pork.IMG_1947IMG_1951IMG_1949 IMG_1952

Cochinillo Asado

A meal for all of the meat-lovers out there to try. The pork was absolutely delectable. We had a significant amount of leftovers the next day and made bahn mi sandwiches with the pork for lunch. It was still delicious – perhaps even more so, because I was more hungry then.IMG_1956

Many thanks to my parents for the meal, and many felicitations to my sister on graduating.

 

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Husk: A Taste of the South

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Soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHdXQAQHjd8

During my Spring Break and my sister’s Spring Training, my family and I had a one day adventure in Charleston, South Carolina. We walked around the small city, seeing the market, Fort Sumter, and other sites. Charleston felt incredibly quaint and dainty – houses and roads are perfectly groomed and the architecture is charming.

For our dinner, my sister made us a reservation at Husk, a restaurant that takes a new twist on Southern food. In 2011, it was named Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant in America. Our dinner was delicious, though some dishes were better than others. The most disappointing was the scallop appetizer (which was bland), but all of the other dishes were tastefully composed and concocted an interesting combination of flavors, new and old. The prices are not cheap, but I would say it was worth it.

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The Pickling RoomImage

Here’s a taste of what we had:

Cheerwine with dinner, of course.

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Oysters to start. Wood Fired Caper’s Blades Oysters with Herbed Chicken Fat and Aji Dolce Pepper Mash, that is.Image

Dave’s Fire Roasted Clams, Spicy Preserved Tomato Broth with Ember Roasted Fennel, Tuscan Kale and Fried Chicken Skins

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This was, in my opinion, the best dish we had:

“Kentuckyaki” Glazed Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps with “Fermented” Cucumbers and Red Peppers, CilantroImage

and the worst…

Olive Oil Poached VA Bay Scallops with a Salad of Fennel, Sweet Peas and Spring Onions, HUSK ManchegoImage

 

Cornbread on the side.

We had heard that the Husk cornbread is very good and we were very excited. My sister was disappointed in its lack of corn flavor, but I liked the savory taste from the bacon and its incredibly buttery texture.

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Beeliner Snapper, Whey Whipped Potatoes with Baby Spinach and Ember Roasted Fennel, Smoked Oystar Cream, BenneImage

Golden Tilefish from Mark Marhefka, Roasted Brussels with Cara Cara Orange, Spiced Pecans and Butternut Squash JuiceImage

Cornmeal Dusted NC Catfish, Fried Cabbage with Smoky Tomatoes, Geechie Boy Grits and Appalachian Tomato GravyImage

VA Heritage Pork, Creamy Sea Island Red Peas and Scallion, Blackbird Farms Mustard Greens, Preserved Tomato Jus. This was fantastic.Image

 

And because we love food, despite the fact that our bellies were very very full, we ventured to get dessert.

Pecan Tart with Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Sorghum-Caramel SauceImage

Brioche Custard with Sweet Potato Anglaise, Candied Pecans, and Toffee “Caramel”Image

Heirloom Caroline Gold Rice Pudding with Cara Cara Orange, Shortbread Cookie, and Crispy Rice. This dish was also fantastic.Image

 

Some of my beautiful, focused dining companions.Image

This was my first experience in the South, nonetheless my first dining experience. I’m ready to return to try some more.

It’s Always Yummy in Philadelphia: Tria and Morimoto

I spent a few days last week in Philadelphia with my sister. Although the city may be known for its Philly cheese steaks, the City of Brotherly Love also has plenty of gourmet food to offer. I let my sister take me around town to try some of Philly’s finest (or phinest?) foods.

I was excited to be back with my sister, and more specifically, back eating with my sister. We make quite the dining pair, and I can’t quite perfectly order, enjoy, and critique a meal with anyone like I can with my sister. The one unfortunate part of this trip is that I forgot my SLR camera. But alas, the iPhone photos will have to do.

For a shopping break, my sister and I stepped into Tria, my mother’s favorite wine bar in Philadelphia. I love the simple decor and intimate ambiance of restaurants like Tria. My sister and I chose a few delectable dishes and had an enjoyable and relatively inexpensive afternoon snack.

Warm Poached Black Mission Figs with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto di Parma

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Warm Tuscan White Bean Spread with Paprika Toast

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Truffled Egg Toast with Fontina Fontal. Although this dish was quite simple (basically a croque-madame without the ham), it was one of the tastiest snacks I have ever had in my life.

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That night, we went to Morimoto. Coming from New Haven, I was excited at the prospect of some good sushi. Morimoto did not let me down.

The design of Morimoto in Philadelphia is quite bazaar. The lighting is minimal and the white furniture and walls of the room are tinted by purple light. I told my sister, “I feel like I’m in the stomach of a whale.” That’s all I have to say.

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In addition, each table had the most phallic lighting object (candle alternative) built in to the table. I was not a huge fan, especially because it hindered my direct access to all of the dishes on the table.

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Always judge a restaurant by its bathroom décor.

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The food, however, was amazing. We started with the whitefish carpaccio – thinly sliced with yuzu soy, hot oil, and mitsuba leaf.

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For the main part of our meal, my sister and I shared the $85 chef’s combination. The highlights on the platter included the Shrimp Tempura Roll (seen farthest left), which had the best flavor and texture out of any tempura roll I have ever had. The addition of a crisp stalk of asparagus in the roll was surprisingly perfect. The kasetura, or shrimp pound cake, (at the top right of the platter) was also surprisingly amazing, and had a melt-in-your-mouth light texture that was delightful. The sushi all tasted quite fresh as expected.

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For dessert, we had the black sesame mousse cake and yuzu meringue tart. Both were quite good. The taste of the black sesame cake was akin to a peanut butter-chocolate mixture. The yuzu meringue tart had a delightfully original taste.

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Until I’m reunited with my BFF (Best Food Friend) again!

Tastings in Tulum

I spent the last week in Tulum, or rather, Akumal, a small town 15 minutes North of Tulum (South of Playa del Carmen and Cancun) in Mexico. The attraction, of course, wasn’t the food, but rather the scene, the surf, and the sights. The food was simply an added bonus.

Here are some samples of what we ate:

Starting the morning off right with an açai smoothie with granola from Turtle Bay Café in Akumal:

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Tacos and Mixed Seafood Ceviche from Los Aguachiles in Tulum:

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I actually preferred El Cammello Jr., which is just down the block from Los Aguachiles in Tulum. The restaurant was less tourist-y, the servings were larger, and the seafood seemed fresher. Unfortunately, I have no photos – contrary to popular belief, I don’t take photos of everything I eat. This time around, I regret this fact.

Dinner at La Cueva del Pescador in Akumal (this is my recommendation for dinner in Akumal):

Octopus cooked Veracruz style. The octopus was more tender than any other octopus I have tasted, and the flavors were simple and fresh. This was the best dish.

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Mixed seafood – fresh, and simply seasoned and grilled:

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A refreshing Jamaica (Hibiscus) Agua Fresca:

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The scene at La Buena Vida in Akumal, where we sat on swings to enjoy Happy Hour:

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One of the local Mayan dishes, Cochinita Pibil, slow-roasted pork colored with a sauce made red by annatto seed:

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Homemade Flan. Perfecto.

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And finally, CHURROS. For those who know me, you may also know that I have been obsessed with churros since I was a small child. Everywhere I go, churros seem to call out to me. These were by far the best churros I have ever had. Surprisingly (to me, at least), they were from the local supermarket, the Soriana in Playa del Carmen. The churros are freshly made and laid out for customers to douse in cinnamon-sugar themselves. Thin, and perfectly crunchy on the outside. Pure heaven.

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Adios, Tulum. It’s been real.

A Day Spent in Point Reyes

On any typical weekend in San Francisco, you can find the road to 101 North jammed with cars filled with people in search of sun over the Golden Gate Bridge. On one such recent weekend, my family packed our car early Saturday and headed out to Point Reyes, a protected national seashore on the west coast of Marin County. A favorite sunny destination for my family, I have fond memories of day trips out to Point Reyes since my early childhood.

On this particular outing….

We started at Bovine Bakery (11315 California 1, Point Reyes Station, CA) where you can find a line of people waiting out the door in the morning for traditional, tasty pastries. They are not out of this world, but certainly make a delicious breakfast.

The morning bun:

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The blueberry buttermilk scone. They make their scones on large sheets and cut them into huge triangles. The scones are more moist and much tastier this way.

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The blueberry buttermilk scone and the fancy scone. (I personally prefer the fancy scone.)

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Bran Banana Blueberry Muffin (surprisingly and delightfully tasty for something that looks so healthy):Image

Then we headed over to Tomales Bay Oyster Company (15479 Highway One,  Marshall, CA 94940). You can reserve picnic tables there in advance. In our case, we simply arrived early (they recommend before 11 AM) and claimed an open picnic table. We hung out for awhile (No, we did not eat raw oysters before 11), before buying our oysters to have for lunch. We had bread, butter, homemade mignonette, and garlic butter to accompany our oysters eaten by the seaside.

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The scene at Tomales Bay:

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One fresh, raw oyster, shucked by yours truly:

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One cooked oyster, grilled on the grill provided with our picnic table.

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Limantour Beach. This beach is very nice and is never very crowded, but on this particular day was very windy. We did not stay very long.

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And of course, we had to stop by Cowgirl Creamery at Tomales Bay Foods (80 4th Street, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956), my favorite local cheese manufacturer. My personal favorites are their Mt. Tam and Red Hawk cheeses.

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On our way home we stopped at Fairfax Scoop (63 Broadway Blvd  Fairfax, CA 94930) for some ice cream. Fairfax Scoop makes their own organic ice cream (it is quite creamy and definitely on the softer side) in interesting flavors that all stem from very local products. My favorite part though was their waffle cups and cones, which they make fresh in the shop.

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Vanilla Honey Lavender (their most popular flavor, it is to die for) and Raspberry Sorbet:photo 3

Vanilla Honey Lavender and Controlled Burn (cinnamon with ginger and red chile, also surprisingly delicious):

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A note: I did get extremely sick with food poisoning for the night and day after this outing. Most likely, it was from a bad oyster. No one else in my family was disturbed. If you are worried/concerned, however, there is approximately a 1 out of 4 chance of sickness.

Paris Eats: Chez Paul

I love Paris. Paris in my mind is synonymous with high quality, quality that definitely applies when it comes to food. Whether I’m tasting a macaroon from Ladurée or cheese from a local stand, everything is almost guaranteed to be good. In my mind, there is food in Paris that is good, and food that is spectacular.

We went to Chez Paul with Parisian friends off of a recommendation. The food was all perfectly seasoned and fresh food, while remaining traditionally French. I love a good steak tartare, and the tartare Chez Paul was one of the best I’ve ever had. The food was spectacular.

The handwritten menu:

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Located on an adorable rue:

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A Boudin:Image

Salade Lyonnais: Dandelion greens, lardon, tomato, and a poached eggImage

The steak tartare:ImageChez Paul

13 Rue de Charonne  75011 Paris, France

+33 1 47 00 34 57

London Eats: Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi is one of the hottest cookbook authors right now. His cookbooks are extremely popular in the Lowe household. My mother received three different copies of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook for Christmas. Since then, she has made most of the dishes in both Jerusalem and Plenty. (Thanks, Mom, for feeding us well.) So it was only natural that visiting Ottolenghi was a must while we were in London. Although the trek up to Islington was challenging, we finally made it and it was so worth it. The space and the store’s goods were incredible – as was the food.

The baked goods featured in the store front were beautiful and incredibly colorful. They were also very fresh. We watched as the baker continued to emerge from downstairs with new baked goods.

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Most of the Ottolenghi stores are known as “delis.” Here is the prepared food displayed for take away:

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We sat down to eat. We first got the selection of breads which were all delightful, especially the cornbread with sun-dried tomato in it.

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The free range chicken (spiced with orange, grain mustard, garlic, honey and sage) with sides of char-grilled broccoli and mixed green beans. Everything had incredible spice to it. My one problem was that because they simply serve you the prepared food, it was all cold (I’m not a fan of cold food). I got over it.

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More desserts.IMG_7471  Our selection for dessert was the passion fruit tart with meringue. It was to die for.IMG_7478

London Eats: Borough Market

London’s Borough Market sits on the south end of the London Bridge at Southwark Street & Borough High Street. We headed there one day in search of good food, as always. What we discovered was one of the best markets, if not the best food market, I have ever been to. Selling a mix of produce and prepared foods, Borough Market has a delightful range of food to munch on and buy to make munchies of. The selection reminded me a lot of San Francisco’s own Ferry Building Farmers Market, but the space (in a large, open but covered space) reminded me of a cleaner, more-gourmet version of Barcelona’s La Boqueria.

Wandering around, checking out the scene:

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By the time we left the market, we were overwhelmingly full. Our stomachs were filled with some of the most delicious food items London has to offer.

The chorizo sandwich at Brindisa was recommended by goop, and I would recommend it to anyone traveling through the market. The sandwich itself was delightfully simple and oh-so delicious. It simply consisted of perfectly toasted ciabatta, chorizo, piquillo peppers, and greens. Mmmmmm…

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Next we tried the scallops with bacon (on a bed of bean sprouts, yes) from Shell Seekers, which we’re fresh and therefore tasty, but definitely not mind-blowing.

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We also tried the pork belly sandwich from Roast. Though pork belly has been declared as oh-so passé by now in the food world (at least in my San Franciscan mind), I can never resist a well-prepared and accompanied piece of pork belly. This pork belly was paired with chewy, flavor-filled crackling and Bramley apple sauce. The crackling was a delightful surprise, and it’s flavor and texture went deliciously with the soft, moist pork belly in the sandwich. After a while, however, most of the crackling was stuck in my teeth. Still, this pork belly sandwich, with its perfect balance of salé and sucre, ranks among my top favorite sandwiches ever.

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Some of the food items we didn’t get to try (though we were recommended them and wanted to, our stomachs simply wouldn’t let us) included the duck confit sandwich from Le Marché du Quartier and handmade pasta from La Tua Pasta. We’ll have to return to London and the Borough Market to try those. Any excuse to return to paradise, aka the Borough Market.

-M

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