geaux cajun food!

10:27 AM sians 0 Comments

another entry that is long overdue and i've got so much things to write about from my trip to san francisco last weekend. but first, i guess i better get started with my christmas trip to louisiana to celebrate with ryan's family last month.

when i think of louisiana, i think of good ol' yummy cajun food - first few things that come to mind are boiled crawfish, seafood gumbo and raising cane's texas toasts among other things. ryan's mom texted me a few days before my trip, asking me what i wanted to eat while i was in baton rouge. my answer was turkey for christmas, boiled crawfish and turkey gumbo. his mom texted me back and said that was exactly what ryan asked for too when she texted him.

what can i say? great food minds think alike :p

the crawfish story |

we had our seafood gumbo and texas toasts and other louisiana cajun awesomeness but still no boiled crawfish. ryan and i were in an intense boiled crawfish hunt and we were determined to get some regardless of whatever. however, the crawfish supplies dwindled with the gulf oil spill last year so the usual places his mom would usually buy from weren't even sure if they could get any in. so off we searched on the yellow pages and when we thought we found another shop that had some, they were out of stock when we got to the store 15 minutes after.

found from google image
after several of phone calls and internet researching, we found tony's seafood which i have to say was out in the middle of nowhere (at least it felt like it was). it was about an hour drive away taking the back streets and found ourselves trying to find a parking space at one of their two parking lots. this place was bustling with a ton of people, getting their fill on fresh seafood tony's had to offer. they sell a variety of seafood items ranging from stuffed crab, boiled and fresh shrimp to cooked dishes like fried boudin balls or just the regular boudin and seafood gumbo to name a few.

but we weren't here for those (except for ryan who was eyeing the boudin from afar) - we were here for the real deal, fresh boiled crawfish, all 30 lbs of it. lol. when we got to the counter and asked the lady behind the counter for 30 lbs,  her eyes widened in shock and scurried to the back kitchen to ask if they had that much. we waited with our fingers crossed. she came out a few minutes later and told us that her colleague will bring us our box of crawfish in a few minutes - yay! :) since the supplies were scarce, the cost of boiled crawfish per pound is doubled the usual price this time of the year. but it didn't matter to ryan since he insisted on having these yummy crustacean regardless the price which thankfully is great for me!

with that, our feast was awaiting, the glorious boiled crawfish and sweet corn, boiled shrimp, fried boudin balls as well as regular boudin. few things that needs to be prepared before getting into the whole crawfish feasting.
01| wearing a tshirt which you don't really care if it gets dirty
02| tons of paper towels
03| a glass of your favorite cold beverage

found from google image
i found this image on how to eat a crawfish in louisiana and it's kinda hilarious. quite accurate i might add. lol. so typically people suck the heads of the crawfish because that's where the essence of the flavor is at. ryan and his family just goes straight for the sweet, succulent tails which are spiced with a peppery, seafood-y goodness. and it pairs so lovely with the mildly spicy sweet corn. sooo good.  oh another thing to be aware of: if the tails are abnormally straight, those should go straight in the trash cos it ain't fresh.

 a definite must do if you are in louisiana or not you're missing out!

not only does tony's have such fresh seafood, their boudin is one of the best i've ever had - both the fried boudin balls and the regular ones. ryan raved about the boudin when he took a bite and agreed with me - and he has had his fair share of boudin, growing up in the south. boudin is basically rice dressing encased in a sausage-like casing. it is super flavorful with a generous amount of meat and just the right amount of spices and seasonings. moist and delicious. similar to their boudin, their fried boudin balls is just as great but with an added crunch from the crust on the outside.

i ate till my heart's content and i ate and ate till i could eat no more. screw my diet because it's so worth it. :)

the christmas feast |

his mom makes the yummiest and probably my most favorite whole turkey - southern style. she just manages to inject so much flavor into the meat of the turkey and cooks it just right to keep the turkey all moist and tasty. ryan, his brother and his mom gets to fight over who does NOT get to carve the turkey. his brother lost. but at least he getting practice on how to carve a turkey right. hehe.

our christmas feast also included corn casserole, rice dressing, asian slaw, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, mini onion quiches (which i made!) and pecan tartlets which is a tradition every year. but this year we added a few more items into the mix: sauteed green beans with garlic, corn bread (ryan's special request), chocolate cookies and a chocolate gooey butter cookies!

no, i wasnt kidding when i said a feast. everything was soo good. it is times like these that i wish i had a bigger stomach to eat them all, twice!

but there are good things that comes with leftovers, especially the turkey - turkey sandwiches and turkey gumbo! the turkey leftovers make such awesome sandwiches with just a spread of mayonaise on soft and fluffy bread, topped with bread and butter pickles and generous amount of turkey meat. oh sooooo delicious!

turkey gumbo does require a bit more work but it definitely pays out in the end. warm, comforting bowl of smoky, flavorful turkey gumbo served with rice on a cold winter's day. we even had some for our breakfast snack the next morning. (yes, gumbo for breakfast)

it was soo delicious that i attempted to make turkey gumbo when i got back to chicago but it still doesn't come out as good as how ryan's mom makes it. (sad face) oh well. even ryan tried making gumbo when he went back to california. haha. gumbo fever.

there will be more entries about my southern vacation to come. the two restaurants i tried while i was in town which i will be posting real soon :)


restaurant week 2011

2:29 PM sians 0 Comments

the time of the year i absolutely love dining in the US: restaurant week


for one, it gives me a chance to get to know the restaurants that i might have missed with new ones opening almost every month. but the main thing is i get to enjoy the three course lunch/dinner (usually appetizer, entree and dessert) at a more affordable price at some of the finest restaurants in the city. the lunch menu is typically about $20 to $25 and the dinner ranges from $30 to $40.

i remember when i first participated in chicago restaurant week last year when i planned to make reservations for three restaurants but ended up with only two since one of them didn't actually offer the menu on the day i made reservations for.

02 | province for dinner | tried&tasted

so, one important thing that i learned  is to always confirm with the restaurant if they offer the restaurant week menu on the date that you make your reservations for. often times, most restaurants only offer the special prix fixe lunch on weekdays, so if you are planning to go for lunch on the weekend, definitely call in to check with the restaurant.

ever since then, i've been waiting eagerly for my next restaurant week experience and i will actually kick it off not in chicago but in san francisco this coming weekend! :) san francisco is organizing their restaurant week called dine about town which started on january 15th up till the end of the month.

the two course lunch is priced at $17.95 and the three course dinner is priced at $34.95

however, since i am heading there on saturday morning and leaving on sunday afternoon AND we already had other food plans, ryan and i decided to only go for one restaurant week dinner:

01 | chouchou restaurant | french | menu

then it would be ryan's turn to visit me in chicago for the restaurant week at the end of february. chicago restaurant week: eat it up, chicago kicks off on february 18th to the 27th and i've been trying to decide where to go since the beginning of january. lol. the three course lunch menu is at $22 and dinner is at $33. some restaurants also offer a special dinner menu for $44.

with the additions of more and more restaurants almost every week since i first looked at the website, it's been quite a task to choose from the extensive list of restaurants, however, i've already made reservations for two restaurants.

01 | cafe des architectes | french | dinner menu
02 | keefer's restaurant | steak house | lunch menu

we're looking into reserving another restaurant and here are some that we've narrowed down:

blackbird | american |
boka | american | menu
mercat a la planxa | spanish | menu 
seasons | american | menu

eek! i can't wait! :) i better start figuring out soon before it's all fully booked. :/

while i am on the roll with restaurant week, i've searched for some of the major cities restaurant week dates as listed below:

new york city | love nyc restaurant week
dates: jan 24 - feb 6
lunch menu: $24.07
dinner menu: $35

los angeles | dineLA restaurant week
dates | jan 23 - 28, jan 30 - feb 4
lunch menu | $16, $22 or $28
dinner menu | $26, $34 or $44

dates | jan 16-21 & 23-28
lunch menu | $20
dinner menu | $35

dates | march 1-31
lunch menu | $15
dinner menu | $30

dates | jan 17-23
lunch menu | $20.11
dinner menu | $35.11

for a compiled list of other cities, you can find it here to see if restaurant week is happening in your town. foodies rejoice!  cos it's gonna be glorious! :)


pasta making class.

11:53 AM sians 0 Comments

this post is long overdue. like two months overdue -.-

several (and i mean SEVERAL) months ago, christina sent me a message telling me to check out this pasta making class deal by cooking fools that was featured on groupon. we bought us the groupon since we enjoyed the other cooking class we went to at bespoke cuisine.

as far as i can remember, i have never had fresh pasta before and always wondered how it differs from those boxed dry pastas from the grocery store. i was super excited to learn something new since i've always seen chef ann burrell make her pasta from scratch on food network.

as we entered cooking fools, we walked pass a small deli/specialty food store on the way towards our "classroom".  since it was byob and if you forget to bring a bottle of wine, you can buy a bottle or two at their specialty store so you can enjoy a glass of wine as you cook.

we managed to find a table for the four of us and it was almost like a private class. lol. (and no we aren't antisocial) and i thought, "perfect! marble table!" our table was kinda special because everyone else's were metal tables. hehe.

i knew it was gonna be uber fun since this would be more hands on. our instructor informed us that we were going to make spinach and ricotta ravioli and pappardelle. when she said ravioli i almost shrieked with joy since i think it would be fun to be able to make it at home. the way this class works is, the instructor would demonstrate how it's supposed to be done and we have to return to our table to try it out on our own.

so to start a pasta dough, we weighed out the all purpose flour and semolina flour. mix both flour and then make a deep well in the middle of the pile of flour so we can break an egg in there without it spilling onto the ground. beat the egg with a fork and slowly incorporate the flour with the egg which eventually forms into a dough.

i kept saying it's like how chef ann burrell does it on tv as i went through each step! lol. i felt like a pro just for a moment until i realize it was somewhat tricky to get a feel how the dough should feel  - it could be too dry or it could be too sticky. but eventually i got my dough to be almost right. lol.

the instructors walked around the class to see how all the participants are doing. there are only two of them so it was occasionally difficult to get their attention for some guidance.

we left our dough to rest as they taught us how to make spinach and ricotta filling and basil pesto for ravioli and the tomato vodka cream sauce for the pappardelle.

after all that is done, we let the sauce simmer to let the flavors all meld together. we returned our attentions to our dough and finished the remaining steps to shape them into ravioli and pappardelle. in order to do that, we need a pasta machine to get a thin sheet of pasta which made me a lil nervous since i was worried i was going to tear it as it was so delicate.

christina making her ravioli.
but i sure was proud of my hand made pasta. :) they look like what they are supposed to! one good tip is to make sure there aren't air bubbles as you encase the filling with the pasta sheet to ensure that it doesn't pop when you boil your pasta in hot, salted water.

one thing that disappointed me a lil bit is that we didn't get to cook the pasta on our own. and i don't even know if the end product was what i personally made since they mixed all the batches together.

overall, the pasta flavors weren't as what i imagined. texturally, it wasn't as dough-y as i'd imagine and it was almost somewhat slightly grainy. it might be because the dough was overworked or something. but i couldn't compare this freshly made pasta to anything else because i haven't had it anywhere else before. the filling for the ravioli was slightly bland (not the fault of the instructor, more like the volunteer who admits she doesn't always salt her food -.-) and both the pastas were quite filling so i was full very quickly.

nonetheless, this class was super fun and it's especially an awesome experience since i went with a group of friends who enjoys cooking as much as i do. i am proud to say i can make pasta from scratch now - not that i would make it often but i can if i wanted to!

p.s. i took some pictures on my cell phone because it's kinda hard to take a ton of pictures with bits of dough stuck on my hands.  


updates after a short hiatus.

9:42 AM sians 0 Comments

there are a few reasons behind my short hiatus:

01| i've been sorta lazy to update my blog this past month
02| it's holiday season! christmas and all - so i've been away
03| mostly because i lack material to blog about 

but now i am back with some new restaurants i've tried in louisiana and my food stories while i was in the land of good cajun food :)

more updates very soon. in fact, i am working on a new blog post. keep checking back!

a lil late but happy new year everyone! :)