April 30, 2013

Thai Cooking Class

About 1.5 years late but better late than never. Was going through my old photos and realized I never blogged about this!

Last last winter break, some girlfriends and I traveled to Southeast Asia and for part of our trip, we went to Bangkok for a few days (which I might add was nothing like what was depicted in The Hangover 2). One of the items on our to-do list was to take a Thai cooking class and we found an adorable place called Silom Thai Cooking School which was owned by an equally adorable man who had traveled the globe and then retired to open up this cooking school (gave me some ideas for retirement). We made 3 "real" courses and 2 mini courses which in total spanned about 3-4 hours. Everything, from all of the fresh produce to amazing spices to anthropolgy-like dishwear made it such a memorable experience (the 150+ photos I took also helped).

Having authentic Tom Yum Soup in Thailand was a dream. Cooked with the right ingredients, its light, savory, spicy and so satisfying.  

Part 1 of Tom Yum Soup involved making fresh coconut milk (ahh so exciting). Who knew it was so easy, all you actually need is just fresh coconut meat from the market...nbd.Oh well, everything else international has already become part of the foodie lexicon (and part of trader joes), hopefully this will soon too!

Ingredients for Tom Yum Soup, too bad I can't just stroll into FroGro or even Whole Foods and get some kaffir leaves and lemon grass whenever the mood strikes.
Never made soup in a wok before but it actually worked quite well. 

Mmmm Pad Thai, who doesn't love pad thai??

I wish I could remember all of the spices and sauces we used for everything...fortunately we did get a cookbook to go, I think it might still be in my suitcase in the attic..

A light chicken salad that involve a lot of lime and herbs.

Never realized you made curry from pounding peppers into a pulp, this dish sure was hardwork, not even sure if we got it right...

Mashing the curry in a GIANT motar and pestle was also quite fun.

A giant basket of goods from the open air market.

My mom has been wanting to go to Thailand ever since I went (I've also been bugging her and my dad to go ever since I went). Hopefully, they'll be able to get some of their own pictures soon!

April 26, 2013

Brunch @ Honey's

Checked another restaurant off the list!

Now that the weather has stayed consistently nice, I have been majorly brunching it up - taking long walks or quick jogs downtown and walking back after a satisfying meal. The best part about going to these places on a weekday is that there is absolutely no line regardless of the time.  At Honey's, since J & I had just finished a 30 min. run, we decided to stay (relatively) healthy with our brunch selections. That didn't stop us from wolfing down the amazing biscuit though or the even more amazing (more like out of the world) homemade peach marmalade

Potato Latke came highly recommended via yelp but we weren't that fond of it. The scrambled eggs were tasty though with the onions which were crazily caramelized and gave the eggs a nice sweetness.
I usually don't go for the whole wheat options but these pancakes were GREAT, especially with the generous serving of fruit inside. 

The peach marmalade was full when we sat down...almost empty after we left. 

Highly recommend this brunch place and it is so adorable inside! I heard the cakes are great as well, if I go back again, I'll have to order a slice. 

April 25, 2013

Brinner: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

As promised, some lemon ricotta pancakes inspired by Cafe Lift. I cheated slightly by buying trader joe's buttermilk pancake mix (which I will say is amazing even on its own, perfectly fluffy pancakes every time and all you need to add is water and 1 egg). We had some fun playing around with the toppings and fillings including 1 topped with strawberries soaked in strawberry balsamic (from Garces Trading Co), & strawberry basil jam, 1 filled with begian milk chocolate (from TJ's), topped with Hershey's chocolate sauce and fresh blackberries, and 1 topped with blackberry sauce and mascarpone. Needless to say, it was a very satisfying brinner.

We had to think our batter out with milk since the pancake mix tends to puff up very quickly - probably why the pancakes always come out so fluffy.
Cook pancakes on a lower heat since the ricotta makes it easier to burn.

April 24, 2013

Dining Out

Crossed off 2 restaurants of my always growing restaurant list. Lately, I've feel like I've just been returning to the same places repeatedly so with only a few more weeks left in Philly, I made a bigger effort to branch out  more. And what's particularly exciting is that there are quite a few new restaurants that have made Philly Mag's Top 50 Restaurants for 2013.

Dinner at Vernick Food & Drink:

Vernick is a new Italian-ish restaurant which has been receiving rave reviews from critiques and social media alike. We went based on the ecstatic recommendations of a friend. She rarely raves about finer dining so I figured this was a big deal. Our meal was enjoyable and the entree was out of this world but not sure if I'm going to go back any time soon, the appetizers were good but nothing spectacular.

[Beef Tartar]: Horseradish, on toast with some kind of cheese. A very hearty appetizer but still fresh tasting without any gameyness from the meat.
[Pork Steak]: Onion marmalade, mustard greens.  It looks like duck and tastes like duck (actually almost better than duck) but its not duck, its pork! We were mind blown. Easily one of the best entrees I have ever eaten.
[Hamachi]: Ruby grapefruit, jalapeno. We ordered this dish since everyone on Yelp was going crazy about it but I wasn't very impressed. Just a nice cut of yellowtail sashimi with acid to balance it out.

Lunch at Matyson:

Matyson, on the other hand, I am now obsessed with. Lunch was delicious, but what they're really known for are their dinner tasting menus that change weekly. If lunch is any indication of the dinners, I am definitely returning to this place sometime in the next 2 weeks. And did I mention they have fresh hibiscus flowers in the bathroom?

[House Pasta of the Day]: Linguine in Harissa sauce w. cauliflower and I think oysters? Not sure how I felt about all of the components of the dish but it was definitely creative.
[Hanger Steak]: I don't think I've ever eaten hanger steak before, or ordered it, but this was cooked so incredibly well. It was cooked perfectly on the inside, still moist and juicy, and who doesn't love a huge side of truffle fries?
[Mascarpone Cheesecake]: The cheesecake reminded me of the panna cotta dessert we had in Venice. It was light yet creamy. I'm normally not a fan of cheesecakes but this one was so good, especially with the almond crust on the bottom.

April 23, 2013

Brinner: Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon

Part of the "brinner" series (excited about the lemon ricotta pancakes I'm going to make tomorrow which was inspired by this dish at Cafe Lift). As for the eggs benedict, after sweating over a stove for 20 minutes to try and create hollandaise sauce, I think I'm going to just order this dish from now on...or maybe buy really good hollandaise sauce if such a thing exists.

1) Making Hollandaise Sauce: 

Simple ingredients but a lot of beating required to make the hollandaise sauce nice and thick, which proved quite difficult since all we had was a fork and no whisk. Recipe here from allrecipes. Maybe if I'm feeling ambitious, I'll try and make it again at home before I start work.

2) Preparing the Other Ingredients:

Preparing everything else was much simpler - especially since I was cooking with another person. I still haven't officially poached an egg on my own yet but I have seen 3 people do it for me now...

The hollandaise finally started looking presentable after another 10+ minutes of beating over the stove. 

3) Plating: 

Fortunately, the final product looks about right and it was quite delicious too. 

April 19, 2013

New & Old Again

 More exploration into the cafes of West Philly and a return to an old favorite.

Dropped into Cafe Renata to do some mild studying with a friend, but we wound up spending 1/3 of the time eating. The homemade mozzarella cheese is outrageous, seriously the best I've ever had. The apple cream cheese cake came recommended from yelp and the owner which was also delicious, although a bit too sweet for me. They've just started serving brunch (free sparkling wine if you buy oj!!!) and Mediterranean inspired dinner. Go check this place out.

$15 prix fixe lunch at distritio? Sign me up! All of the favorites are on there including the guac and mushroom flatbread.

I walk past this place basically every other day so finally decided to drop in. My chai tea latte was quite generous in size and heavily caffeinated but service is veryy slow so only come if you have some time to kill and intend on mostly lounging/studying there. 

April 16, 2013

Brinner: Stuffed Challah French Toast

Aka Brunch for Dinner. Stuffed french toast inspired by Sabrina's with some apples because a certain someone loves apples. Fortunately, this took way less time to make than the lobster ravioli and there was still plenty left over.

1. Making the Filling:

First time cooking with mascarpone but I love it!Its much lighter than cream cheese and offered a nice contrast to the tartness of the cream cheese.

2) Stuffing the Bread: 

Egg mixture of milk, egg, vanilla, & cinnamon. Used a whole lot of eggs since the bread pieces were enormous.

3) Cooking the French Toast:

Have to be patient cooking these things since they're so big! Burnt the first batch when it was on medium high so turned the heat down much lower for the second batch. 

4) Plate with Lots of Goodies: 

Maple syrup wasn't really needed since the dish with the apples is pretty sweet already but the mascarpone on top definitely added to the dish. 

April 14, 2013

Homemade Lobster Ravioli

Step 1: Cooking the Lobster
The lobster we bought from the RTM wasn't just for fun (although we did have a fun photo op with it hehe), we also managed to do something useful and turn it into dinner.  We saved about 1/3 of the meat for the sauce and chopped in the rest finely for the filling. 

Step 2: Making the Filling 
We sauteed the lobster meat in some herbs, butter etc and then mixed it with ricotta cheese. 

Step 3: Making the Pasta
For more information on making pasta dough, you can check out the previous ravioli post. We've invested in some new pasta toys since then including a nifty scalloped edged pasta cuter which makes the end result look infinitely better. 

Step 4: Making the Sauce
The pasta sauce has almost all of the same ingredients as the filling except with the addition of some of the water we cooked the lobster in for coloring.  

End Result

2.5 hours later and here it is! 
Probably won't be making this again anytime soon since it was so much work but it sure tasted good. 

April 9, 2013

Reading Terminal Market Revisited

Reading Terminal Market Revisited

I haven't really properly explored Reading Terminal since sophomore year (a very old post here). Sure, I'll stop by to pick up some produce or get some Bassett's ice cream, but never really take in all of the eating options.So I spent the good portion of Monday checking out some new places.

The "Blitering Idiot" (11%) @ Molly Malloys. Didn't know they had a bar inside!
A medium sized lobster for us to make lobster ravioli. (post forthcoming! here!)
Corned Beef Sandwich with sauerkraut & spicy mustard from Hershels: I don't think I've ever had a corned beef sandwich before but man they are tasty (and filling).

2lb of cookies from 4th Street Cookie Company. I've picked up 1 cookie from here before because the smell of freshly baked cookies is too hard to resist but they've always carried a steep price tag (usually $2+/cookie). But apparently, they have a cookie sale right before they close where every cookie is only a $1! (cash only). So naturally, we bought 15.


I have been wanting to go to Barbuzzo since last fall and with the return of  V from Taiwan, I figured it was a good occasion to finally try it out. You could tell a lot of thought went into the ingredients for each dish which I really appreciated. Perhaps it was just because everything we ordered was more on the carby side I left feeling like I had just eaten a lot of bread, but the food was nonetheless delicious.

Sheep's Milk Ricotta: extra virgin olive oil, vin cotto, herbs, salt, & grilled bread.
The balsamic drizzle made this dish since the ricotta is more like a whipped cream - very light in texture and flavor.

Red Wine Sangria: Good balance of fruit and sweetness and perfect for a hot day like today.
Asparago Pizza: shaved asparagus, guanciale, white sauce, fior di latte, & truffled farm egg.
The truffled egg: gahh so good. The pizza was surprisingly light for having so much heavy creamy ingredients. The red chili oil drizzled on top added a nice extra punch.
Salted Caramel Budino: dark chocolate crust, vanilla bean caramel, & seat salt.
I was told this dish was a must try. It was indeed very tasty but a little too sweet for my liking.

April 7, 2013

Some New & Old

Since I was in major food withdrawal all week, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to do some exploring and check off some restaurants on my extensive "must eats" list.

West Philadelphia Exploration
I admit I am quite a bit behind when it comes to exploring and eating at the plethora of cafes, ethnic eateries and new additions of West Philadelphia. Inspired by all of the recommendations I have been receiving, I spent most of the week taking walks west of 40th and Spruce to see what was out there.

Quickly becoming a Penn staple, this tiny taco shop offers perfectly made tacos: everything from sweet potato to shrimp and carnitas (pictured above). I'm am definitely returning this week to try out the burritos which are supposed to be even better than the tacos.
Stopped by this BYOB after seeing Marigold Cafe was closed for brunch. The menu is quite creative such as the smoked salmon crepe with carmelized apricots and candied walnuts (above), but the portions were quite small and I left feeling a tad still hungry. Good for a lunch but not what I was expecting for a Sunday brunch.

Adorable cafe with wide-range of breakfast and lunch offerings. Wasn't impressed by my particular turkey sandwich but a good place to spend a sunny afternoon away from the crowd.
An oldie (Yogorino), and one of my all time favorite dessert places in Philadelphia & a newbie (Lil Pop Shop). Thought the $3/ tiny popsicle price tag was a bit overpriced but that was before I bit into my chocolate with salted caramel brownie fudge bar which included bits of freshly baked brownie. Definitely going back to try some of the other flavors such as green tea with mochi and earl grey with vanilla bean and black pepper.

Brunch Addition

Been dying to try this pace after I heard people raving about the lemon ricotta pancakes. Will admit it was a bit difficult to find but so worth the trip! The unlimited filter coffee instantly made me a fan of the place.
Huevos Rancheros: toasted corn tortillas, topped with refried beans, roasted peppers, jack cheese, and two fried eggs, finished with grilled chorizo and pico de gallo. [AMAZING, never much a fan of spanish inspired brunch dishes but this one has converted me]
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes: Light and fluffy, was surprised it wasn't more "lemony" but I liked how the dish was really light

All Time Favorite
I lovee Jose Garces and I love love love JG Trading Company (restaurant week post here). Probably has something to do with the wine shop in the store that lets you BYO every meal...Plus, this is probably his only restaurant that regularly changes the menu which gives me reason to keep coming back.

Finally tried to duck fat fries which were fried to perfection. They do taste a bit heavier even though the fries were light and fluffy thanks to the duck fat. 
Serrano ham pizza: Brussels Sprouts, Whipped Ricotta, Pear Balsamic. This pizza is great, all of the flavors work together so perfectly and the duck fat on the dough makes it taste like a cross between a cracker and cheesy bread, I'm usually the one leaving uneaten crusts on my plate but not this time.
The Spaniard: This sandwich came at the recommendation of our waiter but it was basically an underwhelming chicken club sandwich with very dry chicken. Probably won't be ordering any sandwiches next time I come back.