Archive for ‘Restaurants’

September 30, 2013

Christina Tosi, Momofuko Milk Bar, New York NY

I slowly wake up to the sound of the pantry doors opening and closing and the clatter of breakfast bowls as the kitchen begins to come to life.  The warm light peeking out over Mt Diablo gives just enough light to guide me as I scamper out of bed and head downstairs.  I slide my bar stool close to the counter so I can kneel on the seat and get a good view of our morning treats.  Ice cold milk, Honey Nut Cheerios and a topping of fresh banana for Dad. As I intensely study the puzzles on the back of the cereal box my Dad casually flips through the morning paper.

Cereal Milk Soft Serve

Cereal Milk Soft Serve

On a recent trip to New York I was instantly transported back to this sweet moment.  I place in time that I never thought could be replicated in my years as an adult.  Christina Tosi’s cereal milk soft serve with a delicately, crunchy corn flake topping instantly took me back to those mornings with my Dad.  What took me by surprise was Christina’s ability to conjure up such emotion, and bring back a past time that felt as if it had happened just yesterday.  Her ice cream confection reminded me of those mornings I shared with my Dad as picked up our bowls to savor the last drop of sugary milk at the bottom of our breakfast bowls.

The idea behind cereal milk is so obvious it make you want to smack yourself and go, duh, why didn’t I think of that.  When I met with Christina she explained her inspiration behind this dessert.

“I was in the grocery store going up and down the aisle looking for something to flavor my panna cotta.  I couldn’t just serve any old panna cotta, it has to be one that no one had tried before.  I was in the cereal aisle and thought… hm… this is either a really good idea or a really bad one. It’s either going to be really well received of they are going to be like, this is dumb,” she explained when she was asked to prepare a memorable dessert for Momofuko Milk Bar.  But once they tried her cereal milk panna cotta they knew Christina had stumbled on something extraordinary.

I was lucky to spend an evening at her warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where she greeted us with an energy and happiness that was intoxicating.  With her strawberry blonde hair pulled back with a cherry printed bandana, I felt like I had walked into a family owned farm kitchen in the Midwest.  After sampling her compost cookie, crack pie and famous cereal milk ice cream she shared her inspiration and love for baking.  For her, it’s not about recreating a classic, but constructing something new that draws on a memory or an emotion.

“Everyone has their relationship with chocolate chip cookies, they know what their favorite is, what they like in them, what they don’t like in them… there is this range.  So for me it’s about tapping into that feeling, flavor, emotion and nostalgia that makes you love your grandma’s chocolate chip cookie but sharing it in a new and exciting way that doesn’t compete with the original.”

Christina doesn’t take herself too seriously, she just wants to have fun and experiment in the kitchen and lucky for us her experiments more often than not turn out incredible.

Christina Tosi Momofuko Milk Bar Williamsburg, NY

Christina Tosi Momofuko Milk Bar Williamsburg, NY

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September 13, 2011

Aka Sushi, Best Sushi in Houston

Salt and vinegar potato chips, molten dark chocolate cake, fish and chips, bacon, and stick to your ribs homemade macaroni and cheese.  We all give into our cravings. Lucky for me, one of mine happens to be healthy.  There aren’t many places that make me as happy as a trip to my favorite sushi place in Houston, Aka Sushi.

You will not find better sushi for such a good price anywhere in Houston, let along anywhere in Texas.  I grew up in San Francisco, a mecca for fresh fish and great produce, so I think I can say with conviction I’ve tried my fair share of sushi.  Through all my travels, Aka is still at the top of my list.

Upon my first visit, I was eager to try about 20 different rolls on Aka’s enormous menu. They’re certainly on top of some of the better Japanese fusion trends.  I took some recommendations from the welcoming and very informative waiters, and was extremely pleased with all my selections.  Ask for Tony and Jay (they are my two pals and know me too well), they will steer you in the right direction.  Whether you’re the adventurous type, or a beginner sushi lover, they’ll be able to help you navigate the multitude of choices.

Here is my number one tip.  If there is anything you remember from this post, it has to be this.  Ask for a side of their creamy ginger dressing to go along with your sushi.  This is essential to enjoying the ultimate sushi experience.  It has a smooth, rich consistency and the combination of spicy ginger and tangy vinegar makes a perfect addition to any roll.  It’s heavenly, pure bliss!

I’ve tried most of their sushi rolls, and here are my top picks for both the adventurous and timid:

  • Tony’s roll a.k.a. flamin’: spicy salmon, tempura crunch, pepper tuna, avocado, tobiko, sesame seeds, eel sauce, honey wasabi To die for…probably the best roll I’ve ever had.)
  • Ninja roll: spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado; topped with blackened tuna, crumbled goat cheese, honey wasabi, balsamic soy (ask for it “Tony style” and they’ll add some fresh apple slices)
  • Crazy: spicy tuna, shrimp temp., cucumber, jalapeño, masago, sesame, spicy mayo
  • Spicy crunchy salmon: spicy salmon with tempura crunch
  • Spicy crunchy tuna:  spicy tuna with tempura crunch

Aka’s lunch and happy hour deals are unbeatable.   If you get a chance to visit please let me know how you like it and your favorite roll, I’m always looking to try something new!

September 6, 2011

The Pappas-Mitchell Grilled Cheese

Cashew butter.  Fig Jam.  Sourdough bread.  Brie.  It’s like one of those mystery baskets on chopped.  Ok don’t walk away yet… I know you’re intrigued.  I had my doubts too, but trust me – this is one adult grilled delicacy you have to try.  Stephanie Pappas and Chris Mitchell, a couple very close to me who decided to leave me for the cooler mountains of Colorado, discovered this sandwich on a trip to Chicago at the Hop Leaf Tavern.  I’ve named it the “Pappas-Mitchell” sandwich in honor of them, and hope that if I name a few more dishes after them they might come back to Houston! J (I know, very unlikely but it’s worth a try right?!?)

Ingredients

  • Sliced Sourdough (or any kind of hearty bread you like, it can’t be too soft or it will fall apart)
  • Brie (any brand you like, I like the ones that aren’t too rich since it’s being paired with cashew butter.  Save the expensive cheese to eat solo with a glass of red wine!)
  • Cashew Butter
  • Fig Jam
  • Thinly sliced apple or pear (optional)
  • Butter for grilling the bread

Method

  • Butter both side of sourdough
  • Toast one side until golden brown in skillet
  • Remove from skillet and spread a healthy layer of cashew butter and fig jam to the toasted sides of each half.
  • Add a layer of sliced brie to one side and sliced apple to the other (apple is optional but adds another layer of texture
  • Assemble the sandwich and return to the skillet to finish toasting the other side
  • Cut in half and enjoy!

The last time I made this sandwich for Steph is was part of her going away dinner.  She said, “This sandwich just keeps getting better and better.  Philippa, you’re definitely mastered this one”.  Maybe she was just being nice, but I’ll take the compliment. J  I hope you enjoy this distinctive sandwich as much as I do.

August 31, 2011

Dutch Pancake Cafe Stowe, Vermont

If you’re a pancake aficionado like I am, then you must make a trip to Stowe, Vermont to visit the Dutch Pancake Cafe.  Apparently someone at the New York Times called it “the world’s most decadent breakfast”. I can confirm that you will not leave hungry, and only wishing you could spend one more night in Vermont so you can try another round of these delicious breakfast treats.

If you like lots of toppings, but hate when you have to fork around your plate to gather them all up into one bite, then this place has your problems solved.  Dutch pancakes are specially prepared, crepe-like pancakes with a variety of ingredients baked right into the pancake.  Each pancake is prepared in a traditional Dutch skillet, and is 12” in diameter and thinner than an American style pancake.  Once you have the batter, the fillings are up to you.  Whether you’re like a sweet start to your morning, or something savory there’s something for everyone on the menu.  Chocolate, strawberries, and fresh picked apples to tomato, sausage, bacon and spinach… the options are endless.  (I mean it, they have over 80 options on the menu and can also make you one to order)

Of course, I did what any sane person would do.  I ordered 2.  To begin my meal I ordered a plain pancake with lots of powered sugar and butter.  There’s extra powders sugar on the table for those who like to go overboard with their sugar intake.  I called this my breakfast appetizer; it warmed up my pallet for the next creation.  Round 2 consisted of onions, spinach, bacon and mushroom cooked into the pancake.  Could you ask for more?

To complete your meal, make sure you ask for some Keukenstroop Dutch Syrup.  It’s the color of molasses, consistency of fine honey and a not overly sweet yet complex taste, this Dutch pancake syrup is perfect for the distinguished palate.

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