Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall Feasting

Foodie Fish

For many animals, including humans, fall marks the beginning of fattening time.  Meat becomes gamier and soups become thicker.  People use flavorful holiday spices—cinnamon, nutmeg—and every dish seems to be more comforting during this season as the leaves change colors. 

Fall is personally my favorite season.  The air is cool and crisp, as the colorful falling leaves make me feel like it’s time for a fresh start.  It also happens to be the season of my birth date.  This means I have a pretty powerful card to play to get my family to take me out to special dinners with ornate dessert finished off with a lit candle. 

This year, I decided to document the best restaurant/dishes I’ve had during my birth month (October) to recommend some amazing locations for special events.

Rocky Hill Inn:

This is one of my favorite restaurants in the area.  It is located on the corner on the main street of the tiny town Rocky Hill, right outside of Princeton.  The building is an old, red brick inn with a white wooden sign out front. 

Eating at Rocky Hill Inn is done tavern style.  Although it has a rather “classy” atmosphere, the homey detailing and extremely friendly service makes it much less intimidating.  The waiters are very approachable, and you are free to make conversation with them.  They bring your drinks immediately, but they do take a bit too much time to take your dinner order. 

However, the food is definitely worth the wait.  The two dishes I want to highlight are the braised short rib and the seared diver scallops.  The short rib is a famous dish of Rocky Hill Inn, which has been highly anticipated by many restaurant goers (especially my mother) during the warmer seasons while it’s not on the menu.  Well the short rib just got back three days ago and it is better than ever.  The meat is now marinated longer, amplifying the flavors.  The way it’s braised makes the texture feel less pulled pork more baby back ribs.  It is served on top of a vibrantly colored butternut squash risotto with spinach and plenty of garlic.  The dish you would never get sick of is the scallops though.  The scallops are a truly comforting treat that does not even feel to heavy.  They are plump with a slightly crunchy sear on both sides.  Each serving has five, lined up in a row sitting on top of a delicious bed of risotto.  This risotto is completely different from the last.  This risotto is cooked in cream with pancetta for a great mouth-feel.  The pancetta adds a blast of flavor as well, very similar to bacon but less smoky.  The risotto is a flavor explosion of pungent mushrooms, pancetta, and the delectable white truffle olive oil.  It is an experience not to be missed that no one could get bored of.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Choosing a Caterer

Hello everyone!  It has been a while I know.  I’ve been out of the country doing volunteer work, but now I’m back and hungry again. 

One of the perks to being one of Princeton University’s chairmen’s daughters is getting to host parties.  I have an old soul, I know.  I love hosting classy parties with deconstructed spring rolls for hors d’oeuvres served by men in vests on a large silver platter for a room full of intellectuals in a historical building such as the Prospect House, but my favorite part is choosing the food.

Preparing for this year’s finance department’s party, I was burdened with the task of choosing who should cater for us.  This is the first party my father is officially hosting as chairman and it is held at our own home, so we want to make a good impression. 

In my head, I went through all the past Princeton University parties I’ve been through and the good eats I’ve had while at them.  I remember the food quite clearly since it was my only source of entertainment at a party where I was usually less than half the age of the second youngest person there.  I remember parties catered by Shanghai Park, D’Angelo’s, Olives, McCaffery’s, and Main Street.  Shanghai Park is nice and cheap, but it does not come with service and the food can be a greasy mess at a black tie event.  D’Angelo’s has excellent platters of salumi (Italian cured meat) and assortments of cheeses and the desserts are absolutely perfect, but the main dishes tend to be sandwiches, which once again do not really fit the event we are planning.  Olives is another great place with lots of finger foods such as cheese, pita, hummus, and cookies, but also a sandwich type catering company. 

The places I have listed are all absolutely amazing catering options and some of my favorite places to grab a meal, but none of them are the perfect match for this event.  I narrowed down my choices to McCaffery’s and Main Street.  Main Street has catered many Princeton University events with delicious shish kabobs, marinated seafood dishes, homemade dips, southwestern inspired foods, and decadent desserts all at a very reasonable price.  They seemed pretty perfect for our party, especially since we don’t live too far from them.  However, I wanted to see what McCaffery’s had to offer. I then learned that Mcaffery’s was so much more than your average supermarket.  I found out McCaffery’s caters everything from sushi to southern comfort food, and a gigantic salmon dish that costs $70.   Their bakery has never let me down in the past, and their salads are far from boring, I just don’t know if our family’s first event of the year is good for experimentation.

So it looks like I have more thinking to do, but now you know a little more about catering options in Princeton for your next event.

If anyone else has a suggestion, let me know.

Foodie Fish

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Art of Le Macaron

Foodie Fish

Most people think of the baked condensed milk balls of coconut or almond, and sometimes they are even covered in chocolate.  When I think of the macaron (usually still pronounced as macaroon) I think of the French delicacy of a dessert. 

The macaron is very trendy in New York City right now, and some have even called it “the new cupcake.” Macarons are sweet cookie-like sandwiches filled with jam or cream that are on average about one inch in diameter.  The cookie part is made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, and sometimes almond powder.  The cookies are extremely difficult to make, so difficult that Macaron Café (server of one of New York’s best macarons) published an entire cookbook with all their “secret” recipes knowing.  With the exact ingredients and techniques published, this only goes to show that the macaron is 70% the artwork of the pastry chef. 

The macaron can be so hard to perfect, the most famous maker of the macaron is Ladurée.  Ladurée is a French-based bakery that had to come all the way to the United States for the desirable macarons to be within reach of hungry Americans.  Ladurée’s macarons are imported all the way from Paris to New York every day for New Yorkers and tourists alike to enjoy macarons made by professional French pastry chefs.  The macarons at Ladurée have almost a cotton candy type quality to them.  Biting into one is first fluffy like a cloud, and then it melts in your mouth.  The rich creamy filling of Ladurée’s macaron is extremely buttery and they are definitely worth the trip to New York and the wait in line.  They are so delicate; I cannot fathom how they do not dissolve simply by being held in the hands of the chef.  Their rose is extremely fragrant, and it feels as though you smell actual rose petals while devouring it.  The pistachio is just the right amount of sweetness—not overwhelming the flavor of the pistachio.  My favorite Ladurée macaron is the orange blossom, which is both fruity and fragrant, much like herbal tea.
The second most famous macaron in the city is Macaron Café, as I have mentioned earlier.  Their macarons are brightly colored and beautifully decorated.  They come in all sorts of amazing flavors such as Italian wedding cake, green tea, rose lychee, and cassis jasmine.  The flowery flavors are not too fragrant, helping you avoid the feeling of drinking perfume.  They are less rich and fluffy than the ones at Ladurée, but there are more options and have a more classic cookie-sandwich kind of mouth feel.  Personally, I prefer these macarons here.  I love the variety, the appearance, as well as the slightly heavier feel to them, but that’s just me. 

There are also places like the well-known Bouchon Bakery that have macarons that are 3-5 times the size of the classic.  Although I cannot deny the fact that these macarons are absolutely delicious, they do not have the same airy light feel to them that macarons should have.  If you are looking to try one of the absolute best desserts ever invented by man, visit either Ladurée or Macaron Café, and you tell me which one you think is better!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Local, Delicious, Inexpensive Cheese, Please!

Cherry Grove Farm
by Foodie Fish

If you are a Princetonian, you’re probably used to some pretty pricy cheese from Olsson’s or Bon Appetite (which, by the way are both extremely delicious).  However, sometimes you just want some more budget-friendly quality cheese.  If you are not a Princetonian, you got to check this place out!  Cherry Grove Farm is located on Route 206 in New Jersey.  It is a sustainable farm that mostly deals with chickens, goats, and cows rather than fruits and vegetables.  Edible Jersey magazine has already praised it numerous times for their “Toma’s aroma” (Toma is a type of their homemade cheese), but I’m here to continue praising them for some of their newer stuff.

I have always been a bit too much of a cheese-enthusiast.  The local cheesecake lady told me I had “a gift” when I could tell her cannoli cheesecake contained ricotta and someone who works at Olsson’s (a cheese place) called me “Miss distinguished palette” when I could tell a sample was aged gouda.  Some might say that I know my cheeses; others might say I—well, have a problem I guess.  I don’t care either way.  All I know is I go out of my way for good cheese—and I can’t be the only one!

If you’re into cheese, Cherry Grove farm is the way to go.  They have homemade cheeses, many of which they invented!  Classic or innovation, all the cheeses at Cherry Grove are made from the cows and goats at their very own farm.  They raise their animals in a very friendly environment: providing them with love, attention, and the best natural food.  Not only is this great for those who care about the welfare of animals (including me!), but the milk of happy animals comes out a lot sweeter than poorly treated animals as well.  They make all their cheese in small batches for the most delicious of cheeses, also using local ingredients such as fresh herbs to add flavor. 

One of Cherry Grove Farm’s newest cheeses is the Layla, buttery like Brie and tart like goat cheese even though it’s made with cow’s milk.  The cheese is slightly sweet and goes great with salty crackers and berries.  It is a young tasting cheese that makes you picture the Scottish highlands or a milkmaid hugging a cow.  What I’m trying is, this cheese is delicious and it tastes homemade.

Another great cheese is the garlic peppercorn.  It is much softer than it looks.  Although it has a rind, it has the same mouth-feel as cheddar.  The garlic is infused into every bite of the cheese, clearly mixed in with the milk before the cheese began its processing.  The peppercorn is a nice surprise, filling your mouth with a slightly spicy explosion.  This cheese is a great melting cheese as well, that will make you an amazing grilled cheese.

Cherry Grove Farm is now the place I think of first when I think cheese.  It’s pretty much been said over and over again: if you want affordable fresh organic foods, shop at your local farm!  If you get lucky, you’ll find a gem such as Cherry Grove Farm near you J

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Authentic Indian: Cake Walk

Foodie Fish

This place does not even have curry!  That is just how different this Indian food is from what most people in America have experienced. 

What I’ve seen with almost everyone is they say they love Indian food, hate it, or have never tried it before.  I believe part of the reason why so many hate Indian food must be since people tend to only think of curry or Naan bread when they think Indian.  Or perhaps it’s because most Americans are limited to having Indian food from a cheap buffet that has the word “palace” or “jewel” in it to sound more exotic.  Well, if you want to try some real Indian, luckily there is Cake Walk. 

Plainsboro, NJ (where Cake Walk is located) has a pretty big Indian community.  Cake Walk is even neighboring an Indian food market and an Asian food market.  Cake Walk started out thinking that they were mostly going to sell cookies and cakes (hence the name) and maybe serve some Indian street/snack foods on the side.  But then, they realized that their savory menu became even more popular than the desserts menu since many people in the area did not have access to such authentic Indian food.  They later extended their menu to a variety of Indian snack foods and main dishes, including wraps and sandwiches.  Cake Walk is now teeming with business from many Indian immigrants and their families, and of course a few adventure-seeking epicureans like myself ;)

The menu can be intimidating for many new-comers.  There are no English translations for the items on the menu.  However, the cashier is now used to dealing with describing the dishes they serve to those of us who just want to try something new. 

Plain Dosa
They have a large selection of Dosas, which are pretty much thinner and bigger savory crepes.  They have the popular Masala Dosa filled with potatoes and other vegetables seasoned with a house blend of masala (a flavorful mixture of spices).   There is also the cheese cone Dosa (my personal favorite)  for those less hardcore Indian food eaters.  This Dosa, as the name suggests, is rolled into a large cone shape with shredded provolone between two layers of the paper thin Dosa.   Your Dosa will never lack in flavor if you are worried they sound bland, for every Dosa comes with their thin spicy lentil soup and coconut chutney.  The wraps are also good for those whose taste palettes are more accustomed to western food.  The wrap itself is soft and served slightly grilled on a Panini press.  Their wraps are like any ordinary wrap with lettuce, tomato, and a protein.  However, the protein here is a hearty serving of flavorful and often spicy meat or tofu-like cheese inside cooked in a traditional Indian style. 

Cake Walk’s snacks and appetizers are usually foods that you have never seen anything like before.  Many of the dishes sound strange, but they come out being quite satisfactory.  The vada is a savory fried lentil donut that is nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just like anything deep fried well should be.  The lentils are consistent with the texture of the rest of the donut and it is salty without overdoing it.  For something lighter, they also have soft steamed rice cakes that come with a fragrant mixture of spices to dip the otherwise simple patty.

My personal favorite part of Cake Walk is their cookies.  I always get at least a half-pound of cookies every time I go (once a week) and enjoy some with their amazing chai tea (like a Starbucks chai latte, only with less milk and sugar and more exciting spices).  They have a wide selection of cookies baked fresh each day sitting in the window.  They have all sorts of shapes toppings.  However, all the cookies at Cake Walk are light, fluffy, almost like shortbread.  Some have candied fruit on top, some have chopped nuts, and some have a different spice inside.  You don’t feel bad about helping yourself to a few since they are so light, which is good because they can get a bit addicting!  One time I let my friend try one and she ended up finishing the whole box!

Your meal at Cake Walk will never lack in flavor, for every dish is a hundred percent homemade and a burst of contrasting flavors.  You can tell this Indian food must be good since many of my mom and sister’s Indian friends say that the food at Cake Walk is delicious and authentic.  Every one of my non-Asian friends who I have taken there has been converted to one who enjoys Indian food.  The only thing you have to worry about when going to Cake Walk is if you can handle the heat!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I'm baaaaack

It happens to every foodie at least once in his/her life: the rut.  There comes a time when an epicurean wonders, “Who cares?!” Does it really matter how “fresh” the ingredients are in this dish?  Why can’t I just eat some Reese’s Puffs and call it a day?

It’s hard being extremely passionate about food.  Other than the constant risk of diabetes, no ordinary dish is able to satisfy you.  A true epicurean will go around his or her kitchen tasting everything until they find something interesting, delicious, or new.  But at the same time, you’re hungry!  You don’t feel like marinating for hours, seasoning to perfection, or bringing out a beautiful caramel char, you just feel like eating.  Well, I went through this rut for most of the semester.

It was sad for me not to appreciate food as I used to, but after a delicious tour of the Boston area I can safely say that I am out of my rut and back into the game!  I’ve been watching Food Network, my favorite show is Masterchef again, and making food art.

Unfortunately, fashionista partner la Mode Mare will no longer be running this blog with me. But hey, more focus on food!  She won’t be dropping off of the blogging world luckily (check out her book review blog)!  So at least for now, I will be in full control of Baubles, Bangles, and Brie.

Keep munching!
~Foodie Fish~^

^ An example of my “food art” :P

Friday, October 14, 2011

Explanation for My Pledge to be Vegan


Foodie Fish

Many of you may be wondering, is the food buzz just a phase? You may have noticed in your childhood, your mother probably had phases where she would make the most amazing cuisine for dinner for a week, and then go back to “peas and mashed potatoes again?” For me, this is not a face. Food is my life. Some people eat to live, well I live to eat. When I eat, I always try to make it an event. I am like Remmy from Ratatouille, sometimes I get tired of taking and just want to make! Which is why it broke my heart when I have recently lost my ardor for cooking. I also started running out of time to cook, sophomore year and all.

Recently, I have not felt quite like myself. I have been finishing jars of peanut butter at a time instead of making something gourmet. I have also been to forcing myself to eat meat, just because I felt peer pressured. Actually, I have never been the BIGGEST fan of meat. I love lamb, in certain applications, but in general I just tell people I love meat. When I was little, I ate nothing but eggs and tofu every night as my protein. However, back then, I got made fun of for that and thought I did not even like tofu for a while. I needed a change. I have been craving soooo much chocolate, nuts, and seeds lately. I have not craved any non-plant sourced protein. Weird? I know.

I realized I needed a juristic change. I wanted dream about the next meal I would create. So for a variety of reasons, I was easily talked into taking Peta’s 30-day vegan pledge from a friend of my (he happens to be a blonde guy with dreadlocks).

Surprisingly, this change to veganism has made me incredibly happy. I am probably the fattest vegan in history, since I use it partially as an excuse to eat as many vegan desserts as possible. I have been stuffing my face with the most delicious vegan peanut butter cookie dough, matcha cupcakes, and a whole lot of other sweet vegan concoctions. My friends were surprised, but I have been vegan for a week and do not feel at all restricted and deprived. Conveniently, it is extremely easy to be vegan in Princeton with Whole Earth center and the underground Spice and Souk market.

My favorite part of the transition, I’m back baby! The constant need to cook and create is back. I love vegan cupcakes to death, and a friend of mine gave me the most awesome recipe for green tea cupcakes that are so moist and flavorful, I accidently ate the wrapper when licking it. Vegan cupcakes have to work twice as hard to be delicious. What I love most is how every ingredient contributes to the flavor. For an apple cake, you would use apple sauce rather than butter, which just gives it so much more tart, apple flavor.

I have tried a vegan burger, a vegan ‘meatball’ sub, and of course many pastries. I have really gotten into cooking vegan. You have to be so much more creative, and there is no meat or dairy to fall back on. Meat is an easy crowd pleaser, but I plan on challenging myself by making extremely desirable vegan dishes.

Wish me luck!