1:01 PM sians 0 Comments

two weekends ago was quite the eventful one. it was graduation for the class of 2010 at northwestern university and i have a few friends graduating this year. every year i attend my friend's convocation reminds me how many years it's been since i graduated... and how much older i am.. lol. 

congratulations class of 2010! you're all graduates now! :)

engineering graduates

it was a good day with the sun shining ever so brightly.. oo and i get to meet some of their parents too :)

that evening, francesca invited me to spend the evening with her parents and friends in celebration of her graduation at fogo de chao, an authentic brazillian steakhouse located in downtown chicago.  

from the outside, the place looks cozy and as you walk towards the entrance, there is a display of meats being grilled by a fire at the front of the restaurant which looks very appetizing. it seemed like the whole of northwestern somehow decided to come here and the reservations were running a lil behind. inside, it was cozily lit, with a wine rack lining one of the walls, a gorgeous water feature on another and paintings that reflected what it seems like their history and culture.

taken from their website

how a brazillian steakhouse works is you get seated at the table, the waiter would usually explain how the dining experience goes. on the table, there is a card with two colors on each side, green and red. essentially before starting with the meat fest, one can visit the wide array of varieties of cheeses, salads/vege, side dishes and cured meats at the salad bar. they also bring some side dishes at your table that includes strips of fried polenta topped with cheese, caramelized plaintains (love love love!) and mashed potatoes. oh and not to forget their every wonderful, yummy, buttery bread puffs- which oddly reminds me of puffs without cream but much more buttery. that thing is dangerous cos it's so addictive!

i was too busy enjoying the vast amounts of meat that came to the table that i didn't even visit the salad bar. according to ryan though, they had quite a few selections of things and i asked him to grab me a ton of asparagus. it was a nice compliment to the meatiness of the whole meal. ryan also came back with fresh mozzerella balls, sundried tomatoes and smoked salmon. he was rather disappointed that there was no goat cheese that usually is so awesome when you have it with steak. for drinks, they ordered the house favorite, brazilian caipirinha, a brazil cocktail made from cachaça, sugar and lime. i took a sip and it was delish :) 

fogo offers 15 choices of meat cuts and styles, all of which you can try:
01| picanha (top sirloin): two ways - just with sea salt or flavored with garlic. i tried this both, medium rare. it was flavorful and seasoned just right, tasted tender and juicy.
02| filet mignon: ryan got one cos by the time this came along i was pretty much stuffed. medium rare- melts in your mouth goodness. there was also the one wrapped in bacon which i had and i thought it might have been overcooked just a tad but bacon anything kinda makes up for it.
03| alcatra (top sirloin): i don't remember if i had this.
04| fraldinha (bottom sirloin): this was very good medium rare. ryan and another friend of mine wanted seconds of this. tender and succulent.
05| beef ancho (rib eye): i think i might have passed on this one
06| cordeiro (fresh lamb): it was served both ways: cuts from the leg of lamb and lamb chops. the leg of lamb itself to me was slightly dry but the lamb chops were excellent - full of flavor.
07| lombo (pork loin): passed on this too
08| costela de porco (pork chops): i thought this was one of the best meats i had all night. it was full of flavor and off the bone tender
09| frango (chicken): made two ways: chicken breast wrapped in bacon and marinated chicken leg. the one wrapped in bacon was too dry for me and i wouldn't go for seconds but the marinated chicken leg surprised me. it was yummy.
10| linguica (sausage): this was really good too.  smoky, pepper-y and tons of flavor. yum!

fran's parents were so generous and treated us to this wonderful dinner (thanks!). ryan was very happy cos he is such a meat lover. the food overall was scrumptious, paired with the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant. the waiters were very efficient, attentive and quick to return with new plates of side dishes and yummy bread puffs (cos we gobbled all of them so quickly). at the end of the night, we all left with full, happy bellies, cravings satisfied :)

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Fogo de Chao Churrascaria on Urbanspoon


wing challenge

12:53 PM sians 0 Comments

it's monday...

and it's foggy... and with a forecast of rain later this evening and the rest of the week....

what a triple whammy.. lol

on the flip side, it reminds me of cameron highlands back in malaysia. :)

so this weekend, i was very much inspired by man vs. food's host, adam richman in one of his episodes on the travel channel: san jose's hot wing challenge. i took on a challenge of my own: blazin' hot wings from buffalo wild wings. (oo they have a cool website)

this whole thing started with nothing interesting to watch on foodnetwork, so i changed to the travel channel and it was a man vs. food marathon. then the san jose's hellfire challenge came on: he had to eat a dozen of wings coated in a lethal sauce that contains about 6 ounces of habanero pepper powder at SmokeEaters hot wings in under 10 minutes. that's equivalent to half a habanero pepper per wing. what's excruciating is probably the rules: no napkins, no drinks, no condiments and then you'd have to wait for five minutes after you are done eating. i thought that was pretty brutal.

photo taken from man vs. food website

i asked ryan if i would be able to take on that kind of challenge but it did look a lot painful though. so with all the talk of chicken wings and stuff, i started craving for some of the good stuff and decided to try out the blazin' hot wings from buffalo wild wings. and oh i did crave for onion rings too which they have... been watching too much of diners, drive-ins and dives.

if you are wondering what is blazin hot wings, it is the hottest sauce they have at this chain restaurant. ryan and i ordered six of each for dinner: asian zing, caribbean jerk and blazin' hot wings.

we ordered it to go. i checked the boxes and they actually put a warning label on the box for the blazin' hot wings. it was pretty funny and i didn't think it was serious: keep away from eyes, pets and children.

my first bite into the blazin' wing was a surprise. i didn't think much of it at first but it started building pretty rapidly. it was freaking spicy.

after first two bites, i searched for a glass of cold drink to sooth the burning sensation in my mouth.

after several more, i caved in and asked for a glass of milk.

and i usually don't need that kind of thing. at the end of the first wing, my nose was running and i could feel the burn on my lips.

and i'm not a wuss when it comes to spicy food - i grew up in malaysia eating lots of spicy food.

well ryan on the other hand,  haha it was funny. he can eat pretty spicy stuff too since he grew up in the south. his first bite, his response was "it's spicy but it's alright". i was thinking to myself, there is no way i would lose to him in terms of tolerating spicy-ness! i warned him though the spiciness does grow over time. he just waved his hand like it was nothing.....
but.. he started having hiccups which is usually what happens when he is having something too spicy. and his nose was running too! hah! to be honest, i was secretly happy when he did.. cos i didn't feel too much of a wuss!
we each had two more of the blazin' wings each which actually didn't taste as spicy as the first one after i had one of the other flavors. i thought the spicy-ness mellowed a lil... but i also started dipping the wing in the blue cheese dressing. so i can't tell if it was the dressing or my taste buds been numbed by the first wing. lol.
if you are wondering how spicy it is compared to other peppers, i actually found an interesting article that compares this sauce with some of the hottest things around on the scoville scale: scoville scale chart for hot sauce and hot peppers. it is ranked just below the habanero peppers at a scale of 200,000 to 350,000 and about 70 times hotter than a jalapeno. if you are wondering what scoville scale is. it is actually  a measurement of the spicy heat of a chili pepper according to its capsaicin content.
ryan thinks that we should definitely do this again. i had to think twice before agreeing to it... i am actually still feeling the after effects. after last night, i still feel like there is something spicy in my tummy which is totally weird. but since i can't lose to a southern boy in terms of tolerance towards spicy food and plus although it did burn, it burned in an oddly good way. 


my kind of town

1:48 PM sians 1 Comments

i mentioned in my past entry that my girl friends came from california for a visit to chicago two weekends ago during memorial day weekend. i finally got some really pretty photos from them.. (thanks! :) )

saturday| downtown evanston

drink-in-hand: the popular joy yee's bubble tea. we walked around downtown evanston, exploring the little shops while i give them a tour of what i love about evanston. the sun was out but it was a tad chilly under the shade. 

i mentioned chicken wings at some point and kumitaa was excited about it since she loves them... there are two places in evanston: buffalo wild wings and buffalo joe's. since she wanted buffalo wings, buffalo joe's was the place to go. the wings here are really small though, kinda like mini wings but it is tasty. oh i love those buffalo chips (aka waffle fries) from there. although the fries are inconsistent in terms of texture: sometimes it's crispy the way i like it but sometimes it isn't, it still goes so well with  thai sweet chili sauce. (p.s. love my fedora!)

dinner was home made. they requested for something that i cook so i came up with wonton noodles since it was easy and quick. bought  a whole roast duck from a sun wah chinese restaurant in argyle to go with it. the rest of the menu was a vegetable soup and a packaged and marinated chicken that ryan cooked over the stove. 

i bought the fresh wanton noodles from a grocery store in argyle. the sauce i made was just a combination of garlic oil, freshly cracked black pepper, some oyster sauce and thick sweet soy sauce. my friends said that it reminded them of the ones they get back home and that's a huge compliment. that makes me happy :)

sunday | downtown chicago

we took the 'el' to downtown chicago pretty early in  the morning since there were much to do there. thank goodness for us the weather was warm, awesome and sunny. we stopped at chicago red line station to head to our first destination, gino's east for what chicago is famous for, deep dish pizza (aka chicago-style pizza). we visited their original restaurant just off of michigan avenue.

when we got there at about 10:40am, there was already a line waiting outside of the restaurant and it doesn't even open until 11am.

gino's east is not only famous for their deep dish pizza, they are also popular for the graffiti and etchings on the walls in the restaurant. when you get in there, don't be surprised if you see a ton of writings on the wall. they allow guests to write whatever they want (no profanities pls, thanks) on any surface they can see within the restaurant. it's a rather interesting sight.

they write on the seats too. lol. while we waited for our food, they provided us with an activity page (mainly for kids.. lol) and brought us crayons. it's been so long since i colored a coloring page. the wait for pizza was typically 45 minutes to an hour so that was a good way to keep ourselves occupied. haha. 

what's different about their deep dish is the crust they use. they use corn meal in the crust giving it a different texture and flavor from their competitors. my friends thought that the crust went well with the toppings, cheese and sauce but it was too dry when eaten on its own. sauce was alright and the general taste was pretty good. i personally will not go for deep dish pizza (i'm a regular pizza kinda gal) but gino's east would probably be my choice if i was going to have some.

we walked around magnificient mile to burn off some of the abundant cheese we had over lunch.

after a few blocks we made another stop: garrett's popcorn. this is a must have for people who has never been to chicago to get some of the yummy chicago mix popcorn: cheese and caramel crisp popcorn. (as written in past entry).. they said they liked it cos it's so different but as expected, first bite is always just overwhelming but after a few bites, it turns into an addiction.

more of downtown chicago and made some stops at starbucks for coffee since they didn't get enough sleep the night before: they needed their daily dose of caffeine..hmmm...there seems to be starbucks every few blocks or so.

an obligatory blackhawks photo: they won the stanley cup on wednesday after 49 years. it's a pretty huge deal in chicago and they had a parade in honor of them yesterday and another one today!

we walked all the way to the other must see place in chicago: cloud gate (fondly known as beanie). it captures the chicago skyline on this metallic bean.

we planned to bring them to xoco for an evening snack but unfortunately xoco is closed on sundays and mondays, very much to our disappointment. so instead we just skipped ahead to our next item in our itinerary for the day: the john hancock building.

not a lot of people know about this but this is one of the best places to get drinks at and enjoy the view of chicago from the sky, the signature room on the 95th floor of the tower. this was also my first time here and boy, was i glad my colleagues at work recommended this place to me. when we got there, there was a line to the elevators but we only waited for about 5 minutes before it was our turn. 

sadly, when we got up there all the seats by the window was taken so we found the second best spot.  we ordered our drinks and stuff but we were still looking around to see if anyone was about to leave. when one couple who was sitting by the window asked for the bill, i accidentally blurted out a tad louder then intended that they were leaving (omg it was embarassing). well.. i was excited! they asked us if we wanted the table (since we were all basically staring at them haha) while they paid which was so nice of them. so we quickly swooped in and took that table. oh, if you're wondering if the tiramisu was good, i didn't like it much. too sweet, not enough espresso flavor and not enough the cream.

the view was gorgeous and it was indeed one of the best places to get drinks. i bet it would be breathtaking at night too. i thought that was a great way to end the day of touring downtown chicago. :) we headed home and had dinner at my favorite thai restaurant in evanston. 

what i didn't know was they planned a birthday celebration for me that evening. i thought it was somewhat fishy when they insisted on getting a cupcake/cake from somewhere after dinner cos they kept mentioning they were craving for it. the starbucks cafe inside barnes&nobles that had splendid cupcakes was closed when we got there so we went to whole foods to check out their pastries and got some mini pastries as well as a mango parfait. ryan was in on it too...he was the one who bought the candles...
it was so sweet of them though and i was totally surprised considering my birthday is not until another month. thanks, you guys :) <3

it was definitely a weekend to remember :)


cheesiness melted.

11:13 AM sians 0 Comments

remember that one time i mentioned about making grilled cheese sandwiches?

as promised.

Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.
-cliffton fadiman

this whole grilled cheese sandwich started out as me experimenting to see which combination of cheese that would make the ultimate or at least a favorite of mine. it's rare that i'd go for grilled cheese sandwich since i am not too huge on too much cheese (ryan would probably say "there is no such thing as too much cheese")

first thing is the bread. i've always used normal white bread slices but since i was aiming for something different i decided on sourdough for the slight tanginess that cuts through the creaminess of the cheese.  i bought mine from fox&obel but my friend mentioned that trader joe's offers better sourdough bread.

the ever important ingredient: cheese (they dont call it grilled cheese sandwich for nothing)
i was trying to come up with combinations of cheese for meltiness and flavor. one sure cheese is cheddar since when i think of grilled cheese i think of cheddar. mainly for the distinct flavor. my choice was the white cheddar. the other two were muenster and provolone. i came up with this combination based on a grilled cheese sandwich that i saw at a deli and was told that it was great except instead of provolone, they have harvati instead. provolone and muenster are good for texture reasons: the meltiness of the cheese.

i bought the muenster and provolone from the deli and my gosh was i surprised when i opened the packs and saw how thinly sliced it was. i could read probably read a book through it. thank goodness i had enough so i folded the cheese slices into halves (i had to anyway) and made it semi thicker. and i had the three cheeses going on together.

it was then putting them together, slathering the bread with tons of butter (in my case i just put some in the pan) and toast the yummy goodness in a frying pan.

but.. i added something special in my grilled cheese though. one of my favorite ingredients : caramelized onions! i put it in between the cheese slices, right in the middle of the sandwich. toasting a grilled cheese sandwich takes a lot of patience and the right amount of heat and butter. haha. unfortunately, i wasn't as patient as ryan when i made mine so it was somewhat melted but wasn't melted enough.

mmm.. warm grilled cheese sandwiches fresh from the pan are awesome.

the bread was toasted nicely. the cheese could have done more melting (that was my fault) and i love love love the caramelized onions that gave it another taste and texture dimension to it. the tang of the sourdough was just enough to balance the savory and cheesiness of the three cheese combination. but i think that we may have to swap out one of the cheeses because i felt that the cheese flavor was kind of mellow - perhaps from the similar flavors of the three that none stood out. maybe a yellow medium cheddar instead of white. i actually made a small piece of grilled cheese for a snack with just yellow medium cheddar (leftover from making burgers) and some caramelized onion the evening before and it tasted really good.

oh well back to the drawing board for more cheese combinations for the perfect grilled cheese. one thing i will keep though is definitely the caramelized onions.

i just made something called pork tonatos over the weekend. upcoming post on how that turned out! :)

on other news: another amazing jabbawockeez vid on youtube to share. they are beyond awesome :) it makes me smile watching their performances almost everyday (sometimes on 

jabbalove <3