Sunday, August 31, 2008

The whole hog

Evidently, Chinese weddings involve a lot of different traditions. One of them, which I thought was really cool, is the tradition of bringing a whole pig over to the home of the bride's family the day after the wedding. Since our new super-family is so big, we actually ended up getting two pigs. Here are some pictures.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

MARRIED!!!!!

This will be one of the very few non-food related posts. However, being our wedding and all, I feel its worth breaking from the traditional form of our blog and putting in some non-food pictures.

First of all, I am very happy to say that the day was a huge success, and after various trips to the caterer (blogged about here and here), we got a fantastic meal. Here's that actual menu we went with.
Unfortunately, we weren't really able to enjoy our meals. Everyone we knew who has gone through a wedding said as much. We got maybe two or three bites, but this is more or less what our sweetheart table looked like long after everyone else had finished their meals
the food was pretty much untouched. We were too busy running around toasting each of the tables
and since we had nearly 300 guests, it took quite a bit of time to get around to all of the tables. The wait staff was kind enough to pack up our meals though, so we were finally able to eat at around 2 or 3 in the morning when everything had settled down and we were back in our hotel room
and while we didn't get around to eating any of our cake until about two days after the wedding, Abby did get the cake toppers she had always wanted.
Anyway, now that the food pictures are out of the way, here is a quick, pictorial timeline of our wedding day, if you want to seem more pictures, you can just go to my sister's blog or check out the photo albums on my Facebook page. These are all just snap shots from friends and family, and we are eagerly awaiting the professional photos.

Here are Abby and I walking down the aisle with our parents
A couple of Abby's friends from law school, who happen to be really really good singers, performed the flower duet while Abby came down the aisle. Unfortunately, this video gets cut off when everyone stands up to see Abby, but you get the idea.
video
Here's the church. Abby and I are seated up front while Father Davitti gives the homily.
and afterwards, with a new set of leis and rings, we walk back down the aisle together and exit the church.
After a couple hours driving around Chicago taking pictures with the photographers, we arrived at the Adler Planetarium for our reception, which started out with a cocktail hour on the terrace
and a lion dance (notice the great view from the terrace in the background!)
After the lion dance, everyone grabbed their name cards
and filed into the planetarium for dinner
which was followed by a fireworks show
A fantastic musical performance by the Gold Coast Orchestra
and lots of dancing on an absolutely packed dance floor.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The biggest Chinese dinner I've ever had

Nearly two years after we began planning, our wedding weekend finally arrived, and with it came massive, massive amounts of food. The night before our wedding, the Kina and Moy families along with the wedding parties got together for a giant post rehearsal dinner at Evergreen Chinese Restaurant in Chicago. This place was a bit of a last second choice. We were trying to find the winning combination of someplace that was affordable (we were feeding 70+ people), clean, close to the church, and had good food, and Abby's mom was able to strike a deal with this place the week before the wedding. It was awesome. Unfortunately, I didn't get many pictures of the food itself, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Here are a couple of table shots though. As you can see, they are pretty crowded.
Normally, Chinese banquets feature a lot of dishes and piles upon piles of leftovers are the norm, but at Evergreen, they went completely overboard (in the best way possible). Abby's mom and I went to the restaurant a few days beforehand to put down a deposit and go over the menu. I didn't want shark's fin soup, which was one of the dishes on the banquet menu we selected, so they gave us three to four different dishes in its place (I guess shark's fin soup is pretty expensive). I don't remember how many dishes we had, but there must have been at least 15, including Peking dusk, spicy whole shrimp, shrimp with candied walnuts and mayonaise sauce, stir fried lobster, fried rice steamed in lotus lead, crispy Jon Dory (a really nice white fish), beef with broccoli, crispy chicken, stir fried green beans, tofu with chinese brocoli, at least one kind of soup...the list goes on.

In addition to eating tons of food, Abby and I also performed a tea ceremony at the rehearsal dinner. Tradittionally, the bride serves tea to the groom's married relative before the wedding, starting with the parents
and then proceeding to aunts and uncles in order of age. In exchange, we get marital advice and red envelopes stuffed with money. By drinking the tea, the relatives signal that they are welcoming the future bride into the family. I am happy to say, all my aunts and uncles drank their tea.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Taste of Summer


I came across this recipe for corn pudding and scallops in an old Food and Wine magazine I was flipping through a couple weeks ago. Corn is synonymous with summer. You can get anything pretty much year round these days, but the corn is just so much sweeter at this time of the year. It really makes the dish. The sweetness of the corn also goes really well with scallops, another great summer food. Here, they are seared and topped with a basil-anchovy sauce. I also made a side salad of arugula, hearts of palm, and olives dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. This is a simple salad that I have been making a lot recently.

Stir fried vegetables with noodles

This is another one of those pantry-raid, clean out the fridge sort of meals. It takes just a couple minutes to make and reheats well, so you can make a big batch and have leftovers.

INGREDIENTS (2 servings):
1/2 package spaghetti or spaghettini
1 crown broccolli
1 carrot
1 red bell pepper
1 handful of snow peas
12 large shrimp
2 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2" grated ginger root

SAUCE:
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp chili paste
1 Tbps Chinese cooking wine
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp corn starch

Start by boiling a large pot of water. If you have frozen shrimp in your freezer, thaw them in tepid water while the water is coming to a boil, then peel and devein them. Rinse all of the vegetables, julien the carrots and bell peppers, cut the broccoli into smaller florets, and mince the garlic and ginger. When the water is boiling, add salt to the water and then throw in half of a package of pasta. After about five minutes, drain and set aside. As the pasta is boiling, heat up a wok over a high flame. It will take a minute or two to get to full heat. Add a little bit of cooking oil (I like sunflower oil since it has a high smoke point) and throw in the garlic and ginger. A couple seconds later, throw in the broccoli, carrots, and peppers. Cook these for 1 to 2 minutes and add the shrimp. After another minute or two, add in the snow peas, cook for minutes, and then throw in half of the sauce. Toss everything together and add the pasta and remaining sauce. Let everything cook together for another minute or so. The vegetables should still have a bit of crunch to them. I like to cook stirfry this way if I am planning on having leftovers. Slightly undercooked vegetables are pretty tasty, and when you reheat them in the microwave, they don't get all brown and soggy.

Blue Burger

Good ingredients can take a simple meal to new heights. Here, I made a burger with ground beef and a brioche roll from Savenor's, a good strong roquefort cheese from the Wine & Cheese Cask, arugula from the farmer's market, and caramelized onions. The brioche was toasted with a little butter and the ground beef was seasoned with alder smoked salt and fresh ground pepper and cooked to medium rare.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corduroy

Corduroy is one of those restaurants that I heard about fairly often back when I was living in DC. I guess it used to be located in some out of the way, hard to find spot, so, being a bit off the map, it was never one of the first places I would think of when I wanted to go out for a nice dinner. Since I've left DC, Corduroy has moved into a new location. Although, being located next to the convention center, it still isn't in a place that you would normally go for an evening out in DC. That said, this place is a good destination in itself. The menu is a bit pricey, and the dining room is fairly formal (if you don't have a jacket, please, at least wear a tie), but the food is top notch. I thought it was just as good, if not better, than any of the big name restaurants Abby and I ate at earlier in the summer in New York. More importantly, though, Abby's friend, Natsu, recently married the chef and owner of the restaurant, so we just had to check the place out.

I'm never quite sure how to describe restaurants that, while high end, don't really fall into a well defined category (i.e. French, Italian, seafood, etc.) I guess I would say that this is classically prepared food that uses local, seasonal ingredients. There's nothing cutting edge here. Just great ingredients that are treated really well. The flavors were really clean and I liked the presentation.

For the starter, I had a salad of goat cheese, roasted beets and carrots.
Abby started with lobster tail.
I ordered crispy fluke with warm potato salad for the main course while Abby had Muscovy duck with fig sauce.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pasta Mia

There are two things you can be assured of when you go to Pasta Mia: long lines and large portions. Situated at the top of Adams Morgan's 18th St, Pasta Mia is a DC establishment that, for some odd reason, remains one of my favorite places to eat. I'm not sure why. Sure, the portions are big, but I don't have a huge appetite, so big portions have little value to me. The food itself is mediocre. I can, and often do, make much better pasta in my own kitchen. The house wine is terrible. And, while the food is cheap, you have to wait a long time for it, and I'm not sure that the time cost justifies going to Pasta Mia on economic grounds.
In spite of all of these short comings, I always find dining at Pasta Mia to be an extremely satisfying experience. For some reason, the bad table wine seems to go perfectly with the supersized dishes of pasta, checked tablecloths and cramped quarters.

Whenever Abby and I go here, we start with the prosciutto and mozzerella. This is one of our all time favorite appetizers and something that we often make at home.
After eating this, we order whatever pasta looks good. This time around, Abby ordered the papardelle bolognese and I had grilled chicken ravioli with a pink sauce.
Both dishes were good, but not great. Even so, I really liked them. A meal at Pasta Mia isn't about refined flavors or precise technique; it's about comfort.

Chicken and potatoes, two ways

This first one is really easy. It's a version of something Jamie Oliver did on his show a few weeks back. I just switched up ingredients according to what was in my fridge. Start by boiling a few new potatoes. While these are cooking, chop up an assortment of herbs - I just picked some oregano, rosemary, and thyme that I have growing on my back porch - and debone and cook the chicken legs. Cook the chicken skin side down with some olive oil and leave it alone for a few minutes. If you move the chicken too early, the skin will stick to the pan. As the chicken cooks, prep any other ingredients you want to throw into the mix. I used garlic, olives, capers, chorizo (cooked separately), and roasted red peppers.When the potatoes and chicken are done, toss together the potatoes, chicken, herbs, and additional ingredients with salt, pepper, olive oil and a touch of vinegar in a single dish. Cook at 350F for 20-30 min.
This next one is also pretty straight forward, but it requires a bit more attention since it isn't a one pot meal. Again, start by boiling potatoes, but you can peel them first this time. After starting the potatoes, preheat the oven to 350F, season the chicken with salt, pepper, and start cooking it skin side down over high heat with some olive oil. If the oil starts smoking, turn the flame down a little. After a few minutes, the skin will no longer stick to the pan and you can turn the chicken over. Once you turn the chicken, stick it in the oven, skin side up for 20 minutes. By this time, the potatoes should be done. When they are boiled through, drain them and cut them into halves or quarters depending on the size. Toss them in a pan over medium heat with olive oil and let them cook, turning occasionally so they brown on all sides. The potatoes and chicken don't need much attention during these last 20 minutes. So use this to make the collards. Just rinse them, cut them into strips, and saute over medium high heat with garlic and olive oil. Add a bit of salt and, if you have it on hand, let the collards simmer in a bit of chicken stock after they have cooked down. Add a little vinegar at the end to brighten up the flavors.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Grilled trout and asparagus

One of the sort of annoying things about planning for a wedding in a Catholic church is that you have to go through a series of meetings that, in the end, turn out to be completely useless. Last weekend, Abby had to fly up from DC for one of these useless meetings. Basically, we walked into the priests office, handed him some papers which were to be mailed to some central office to be stamped or something before being forwarded on to the church in Chicago where we are getting married. In retrospect, it was a huge waste of Abby's time, she really didn't need to be there, but at least we got to spend the weekend together. On one of here evenings in town, I made this nice little dinner for us. It's just a grilled whole trout with lemon jam and prosciutto wrapped asparagus with a mustard orange vinaigrette.