Monday, May 10, 2010

Nick's pate choux

About a month and a half ago Nick bought Michael Ruhlman's newest book Ratio. It's all about how a lot of things in cooking are ratios, and if you change one of the parts (fat could be butter or oil or lard) or the ratio itself, it would make something different. Of course, the first thing to come to mind is baking.

Nick's first foray into the book was to make shortbread cookies, which were deliciously sandy and buttery. Afterward he decided his next project would be the pate choux dough. Apparently, the dough can be made into many things including, but not limited to, cream puffs and gnocchi. I had no idea that gnocchi could be made without potatoes.

pate choux

First, he made cream puffs. I loved how they looked on the silicone mat. I had some from the first batch with pistachio ice cream from Maple View Farms. They were great. The next day, Nick decided to make his own pastry cream, so I had some of the next batch with that. Also delicious. Pastry cream on the left, ice cream on the right.


Lastly, he turned out some new pate choux dough with parmesan cheese. The next day, he squeezed out little tubes of dough and cut them into boiling water. After they cooked, he sauteed them with butter, mushrooms, farmer's market spinach, and cream. It was a rich dish, and it might have been a good idea to serve it with greens and vinaigrette to cut the richness. Instead, we ate the gnocchi with bacon. Still good, right?

pate choux gnocchi

Saturday, May 8, 2010

City Beverage

This past weekend, while our respective fiancees were up in DC wreaking bachelor party havoc (and getting wicked paintball bruises), Emily and I had dinner at City Beverage down on 54. Online is has a reputation of being a neighborhood spot, though a bit overpriced and the service a bit slow. Nevertheless, we were lured by the promise of patio dining.

When we got there, the wait for patio seating was about an hour so we opted to sit inside. The interior is an eclectic mix that might be described as "modern tiki bar." To start, we got the homemade potato chips that came with the optional $1 blue cheese dip. We didn't request the sauce but were charged for it...I guess you have to specifically request not to have the sauce.

I ended up ordering the seared tuna tacos. The three tacos came overflowing with lettuce greens, red onions, guacomole, and a spicy, creamy sauce. The salad greens were an interesting touch, but the flavor on a whole was very satisfying.

tuna tacos

Emily ordered the veggie burger, which instead of having two buns with a garbanzo bean patty in the middle, turned out to be two garbanzo bean patty "buns" with sprouts, red onion, avocado, and a creamy sauce in the middle. She ate it with a knife and fork and enjoyed it.

veggie burger

We had great conversation while waiting an inordinate amount of time for our check to come and be discharged. I think I prefer the Federal for the food, service, and cost, but City Beverage wasn't a bad experience. I might come back.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Durham's food trucks

The mobile food scene in Durham and I are friends. Nick and I have already been patrons of the city's taco trucks late at night. They are delicious and totally hit the spot after a trip to the bars with friends. We have also gotten burgers and delicious fries from Only Burger. However, Durham has recently become home to an Indian food truck and a Korean-fusion taco truck, Bulkogi. I think this is a clever riff on the original Korean fusion taco truck, Kogi, in my hometown of LA.

Last week, Nick and I stopped by Sam's Quik Stop to get some food from the Indian food truck. The menu only has about 5 or 6 items on it ranging in prices from $5 to $7. Nick and I ended up getting three of the items: beef curry, samosa chat, and aloo tikki chat.

While waiting for the food to be ready, I walked to the end of the parking lot and spotted Bulkogi in the Wachovia parking lot. We decided since we were already there, we'd sample some tacos ($2). Bulkogi has three kinds: BBQ chicken, spicy pork, and BBQ beef. Other items on the menu included tortas, burritos, and quesadillas.

korean tacos

The tacos were good, but not spicy. We didn't add any of the spicy sauce because I wanted to try them as is the first time. At $2 they are the same price as traditional tacos and over just as quickly. I would stop by for a few tacos as a snack in the future.

When we got home, the smell from the Indian food was teasingly delicious. We opened the containers to massive amounts of food. The aloo tikki and the samosa chat each came with some channa masala. It was so good and spicy. Nick even got his "hot" so he was soon reaching for the milk.

samosa chat

I have a feeling we'll be back to satisfy our Indian food cravings now that Green Leaf has closed. The Indian food truck actually rents the Taqueria Rubio bus so look for the bright red bus. They don't have a twitter so I'll just be counting on them to be at Sam's Quik Stop from now on.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Counter Culture Coffee Cupping

Hey everyone, I'm back from a blogging hiatus. The final semester of school has been very busy, with a trip to Singapore, the second year retreat, and significant life decisions. The event that brought me back to blogging is the weekly coffee cupping at Counter Culture Coffee's Durham headquarters.


I've seen Counter Culture blends at various restaurants around Durham and heard about their weekly Friday morning coffee cuppings. At 10am every Friday, they invite everyone to come to their headquarters and learn about the process of tasting coffee. Afterward there is a roastery tour. I've been wanting to go since I moved here, especially since it sounded like wine tasting but I wouldn't get sick afterward.

I asked Hannah to accompany me and we drove 15 minutes to the little brick building on Alston. When we got there, everyone was holding little clipboards with pieces of paper. I picked one up and it had several columns: coffee varietal, fragrance, aroma, break, acidity, taste, mouthfeel, and flavor. Needless to say I was overwhelmed by the terms. Lem, the customer rep, explained the process to us.

Today we tried three coffee varietals, all from different places. I forget where the first one was from, but the second was from Ipanema, Brazil, and the third was from Aceh, Sumatra. First we sniffed the dry grounds (fragrance), then after hot water was poured, we sniffed the wet grounds (aroma). After steeping we broke the "crust" of grounds at the top and inhaled the release of CO2 (break). The grounds were then taken out and we slurped each coffee to determine the last four categories.

At each step, Lem asked us for our thoughts and input on each coffee. He emphasized trying the coffees in order and encouraged reevaluation at each step. At the end of the process he revealed that the three coffees we tried are part of their Espresso Toscana blend and the reasoning behind each coffee's inclusion in the blend. He then made espresso shots for everyone in the room of the Toscana so we could taste the final product. I found out I'm not an espresso drinker. It was bitter and sour to me.


Afterward he took us all on the tour of the roastery and we got to see the small scale of their production here in Durham. They have six other regional centers, but Durham is their world headquarters. It smelled amazing next to the roasters.


I'm actually going to the Science of Coffee event on Sunday at the Museum of Life and Science so I guess I'll get my month's worth of coffee over these two days.

Welcome back.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter Break

Sorry for the break in posting. Will relaxing in 75 degree weather in southern California count as an excuse? I had a great time at home, eating almost every kind of Asian food I could get my hands on. I think the only one I missed on my list was Malaysian food.

I also saw friends, looked at wedding dresses, and adored my nieces. It was jam-packed!

I wanted to spotlight this Vietnamese dish my mom made for me on Christmas day. It's banh beo, which are little disks of rice flour noodle that have been steamed and topped with various delicious things. I prefer the "wet" version, which is bigger than the "dry" and has a topping made with pork, shrimp, shrimp head, fish sauce, and corn starch, accompanied by scallion oil, deep fried shallots, and nuoc cham. Hope you enjoy the following photos as much as I enjoyed eating the banh beo!

First, the meat filling, in all its raw glory. The shrimp heads lend flavor and color.


Deep frying the shallots.


Steaming the rice flour mixture.


The assembled product. YUM!