Monday, January 5, 2015

NYE: Gold & Glitter

Happy new year! This year, my friend and I had opted to host a small party to pass the new year. We decided to class it up with gold, glittery, and anything shiny. Thanks to a few visits to Ikea, World Market, and our storage closet, we managed to put together a neat little table.

Photography: not my forté.

For decor, I scattered milk chocolate gold coins and leftover ornaments from our 3-4ft Christmas tree around the house. Gold taper candles do set the mood well. We celebrated the new year with good friends and company, a few bottles of Premier Cru from Veuve Fourny & Fils, a sweets platter from Porto's, 2.5 lbs of cheese from Andrew's, a very strong sangria concoction, and pizza (of course). :)

Bringing in the new year with seven hanging orbs, one melting clock-a-ticking, three teddy bears, two kissing fish, two Commonwealth plushies, one mini angel, a woman dressed in le smoking, AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE.

Cheers to the new year. :)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pops of Color

For having owned this place for almost two years, there is minimal decor in my rather...monochromatic living room. The dining room still has this beautiful teak dining table I imported from Winnipeg, Canada, that once was imported from Denmark (you see it beneath lots of the pictures I take, including the one below!), so that along with my herbs warms up the place a bit. And it's so easy to find eye-catching kitchen things! A quick browse through CB2 resulted in this haul of colorful plates:

I'm contemplating returning the small matching appetizer plates since it may be too much matching. Though...they were only $0.99...

But onto the task at hand. PILLOWS for my lovely grey couch. It's a work in progress, but here's a starting point:

Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Espresso on Ice

When the weather's balmy and I'm fighting jetlag, I get iced espresso drinks. I've been a subscriber to these for a whole week now, which are important especially after an emotionally exciting yet draining showing of the World Cup.

My favorite outdoor viewing spot was in the Shangri-La's Garden Courtyard. Calmer than the regular bar/pub, the hotel hosted a comfortable viewing in their outdoor area, within walking distance to the bar and the pool. We camped out earlier for brunch and a good seat before it got super packed for the USA vs Portugal game.

Before it got jam-packed with USA fans & Uncle Sam

After the game, I started heading back and decide that I need a coffee fix. Demitasse, of Little Tokyo fame, opened a 2nd branch just north of the Promenade and offers an amazing Iced Mint Cubano (side note: I should buy a mint plant). After days of experimenting with iced drinks around Montana Ave (including drinks that are 4 espresso shots poured over ice with a bit a of milk...), I decided to experiment with making my own ice brewed drinks.

I picked up some whole bean Safeway Select Espresso Roast for the experiment. And 24 hours of cold brewing later...

Some cold brew poured over ice, 2% milk, and a few mint leaves. Bliss.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back to the West Coast

Long time no blog. Because I'm great at timing, not long after I moved in, I moved again to London for a year. I'm home for the summer, working from home and enjoying the LA sun once again.

First line of business: Santa Monica Farmer's Market. I had developed an obsession with Greek salad, so my entire goal was to taste every tomato and pepper offered up to find the perfect combo.

And so the haul...
  • Celebrity tomatoes
  • Assorted bell peppers
  • Salad cucumbers
  • Organic basil plant
  • Organic lemon thyme plant
  • 1/2 of salad greens
I picked up some beautiful Feta from Andrew's Cheese Shop (not displayed - just ask! Makes me wonder what other great cheese are hidden behind the counter there) and a whole grain loaf from La Brea Bakery. I forgot how delicious this bread was.

Simple and clean ingredients, absolutely perfect for a sunny warm day.

Nothing like the comforts of home.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sharp Knives and Chinese Markets

I have been living out here for about 3 weeks now, and I have been cooking with a butter knife. I kid you not.

Additionally, my craving for real Chinese food was acting up - I've barely had ANY Chinese food out here since I moved out - WHAAA?

After I practically ransack the grocery store for all my Chinese staples at my local 99 Ranch Market, which is located in Van Nuys, I battled traffic all the way down to get me some knives. Because nothing is more frustrating than having food and not knowing how you're going to prepare any of it cause the butter knife ain't gonna cut through that galbi.

So I dropped by my neighborhood Williams Sonoma. I've been staring at these Shun Kaji knives for some time now. For me, they're just the best grip and weight. The Shun collection is also probably one of the top rated knives available at Williams Sonoma (on that note, WS started carrying Kikuchi knives, which felt great in my hand. However, they don't have any sets yet, so I went with my easier option of chef's knife, serrated knife, and paring knife).

Ooo shiny knives...image from Williams Sonoma.
Love love love.

Now. Time to cook. I haven't eaten alllll morning, except for these delicious little pumpkin spice cupcake samples at WS.

Fresh egg noodles + stir-fried beansprouts & green onion + pre-marinated galbi, all from 99 Ranch.

Meat takes the longest time to cook, so I heated up some canola oil in my pan and threw a piece of the galbi on the fire. While that's cooking, time to prep the other goods.

So my take on fresh egg noodles. If you follow at the recommended preparation, you'd boil water, throw the noodles in for 10 seconds, and then rinse it with cold water right after. Seems a bit much for 10 seconds of boiling.

My electric kettle from Target is probably the best $20 I've ever spent. In a few minutes, I get boiling water with no mess and no stress. So for my egg noodles, I placed them in a bowl, turned on the kettle and started chopping up my green onions. After the water boils, I poured just enough hot water to cover the egg noodles in the bowl, stirred the noodles for about 10-15 seconds, and then drained the noodles. Then tossed it back in the bowl. Tada!

I cut the galbi up with scissors and piled it on top of the egg noodles. I used the drippings from the meat to stir-fry the bean sprouts and the green onions.

Tada. Lunch is served. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Very Happy Birthday

Indulgence at its best...

Call it hype, call it a fad, call it what you will, but if you ask me, hands down, Sweet Lady Jane makes the best triple berry cake you ever will taste in Los Angeles. The original location opened on Melrose in Beverly Hills 24 years ago, and the store recently opened a new branch on Montana in Santa Monica. The great part about these cakes is that they are buttery-sweet and light, a thing that is hard to find in most American bakeries around. Personally, I love the Asian-style cakes at most Asian (Korean, Japanese, and Chinese) bakeries around Los Angeles - they're light, they're moist, they're not very sweet

So why would I pay a premium of $20 at SLJ? Well, SLJ employs the same concept, but with more buttery goodness. The frosting is just creamier and indulgent, where you can't help but take another bite. Or two. Or five. Luckily, they make all sizes of cakes, so the best solution for me was to just buy the smaller one so the three of us couldn't gorge on more than just that.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Catching Fire: How I Started to Cook

A quick note: The namesake of the post is dedicated to Richard Wrangham's Book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, not the Hunger Games one.

I've been here a week, and I haven't turned on the stove once. Until now. Up until now, I've been surviving off of checking out nearby places around me (check out my Yelp page) and making salads. I managed to miss the farmer's market on Saturday and another one on Sunday, but luckily, Whole Foods has an entire section dedicated to Local Producers.

All I knew was I wasn't getting enough protein. I typically rely on seeing what's in season and what's for sale in stores now to decide what I want for dinner. After staring at the counter for a good 5 minutes, I finally decided I'd rather work with the beef round than the ground beef.

Shopping Haul:

  • **Beef bottom round (1.65 lbs) - on sale
  • Saladini baby Italian lettuce
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Organic ground pepper
  • Canola oil
  • Organic figs (all gone by the time I started even thinking about dinner)
A great thing about Whole Foods is that they tell you what measures were taken to ensure your health. The beef I got was classified as Step 1 in the 5-Step (TM) Welfare Rating Standards.

If you're interested in the remaining steps, it's all listed on the Whole Foods website.

To me, beef rounds scream pot roast or a boeuf bourguignon or some sort of let-me-throw-it-on-the-stove-on-low-heat-and-forget-about-it-for-a-few-hours stew.

I had an open bottle of the 2007 Clos de l'Oratoire Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In retrospect, I probably should not have thrown a good 1/4 of the bottle into cooking, but I also didn't think I would finish the entire bottle within the next 2-3 days. And then it'd be even a bigger waste of good wine.

Had I a fuller pantry, I would've thrown in some onions, carrots, even beef broth and what have you. But no. All the spices I have are...salt and pepper. But hey, it works.

To add a bit of flavor, I seared the round in a pan, greased with some unsalted Smjor butter from Iceland, which I had purchased previously from Whole Foods. After patting some coarse sea salt and pepper onto the sides and getting a good sear, I placed the 1.65 lbs cut of beef into the crock pot. I poured in equal amounts of water and wine to cover the round, threw in about two tablespoons of sea salt, and turned the dial to "Low."

Within two hours, my place smelled AMAZING.

Eight hours later (at midnight), I turned off the slow cooker and removed the beef from the pot. I pulled the meat apart with a fork, tasted a bit, and stored the rest in the fridge overnight. As for the drippings, I kept them in a container, also tossed into the fridge.

For lunch, I did contemplate just reheating the beef and chomping away. But I decided to go with a bit more creativity.

Andrew's Cheese Shop is an amazing place just down the street. I managed to be the most confused customer they may have ever had, but I walked out with a good chunk of some delicious Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. With each purchase, the shop provides you a cheese card which describes the origins of the cheese and pairing suggestions.

"Cabot is very much a cooperative creamery. It is a union of 330 family farmers in Vermont that has existed since 1919. This quintessentially American product won the 2004 World Cheese Award for “Best Cheddar in the World.” Then in 2006, they won Best in Show at the American Cheese Championship. Taste this and tell me there are no great American cheeses, I dare you. This stuff is so good with beer, the richer and darker, the better. I also love this cheese with a nice, jammy California Zinfandel like Brown Family from Napa."

The sad part is that the only reason I was inspired to go is because my company's training website went down for an hour for routine maintenance. And I could not think of anything better to do than to go buy cheese.

Anyhow, with all my ingredients collected...this is how to make the most awesome beef salad ever.

  1. Wash and dry baby lettuce in a bowl. Place to the side.
  2. Place a few chunks of the torn pot roast in a microwave-safe bowl. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of leftover drippings on top.
  3. Microwave the pot roast on high for 10-15 seconds, until warm.
  4. Crumble a handful of cheddar on top of the pot roast. Pour in more drippings if desired. Return bowl into microwave for 10 seconds.
  5. Place the warmed pot roast and cheese on top of the lettuce. Dress with almonds, cranberries, and anything else your stomach desires.
Eat away. :)