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January 19, 2015 / Food Follower

Birthday Celebration at Gotham Bar and Grill

My parents took me out to dinner for my birthday to Gotham Bar and Grill. And might I say that the food was absolutely spectacular. Gotham Bar and Grill serves upscale American food, which has hints of French and Asian inspiration. The menu is full of fresh ingredients and interesting flavor combinations. I definitely had trouble deciding what to order (but in the best possible way).

The waiter showed us a selection of breads, which all looked good, but I ate two pieces of cranberry walnut bread instead of branching out. The crust was the perfect amount of crispiness, and the inside was warm and soft, with crunchy walnuts and tart cranberries. I knew from the moment I bit into my first piece of bread that this would be a wonderful meal.

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We split a kale and quinoa salad and yellow and red beet salad to start. The kale and quinoa salad had sweet pears, almonds, pecorino cheese, and a fruity vinaigrette which tied the salad together.

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I didn’t like beets growing up, but in recent years, I’ve grown to love them. The beet salad was served with goat cheese, frisée salad, and toasted hazelnuts.

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For my main course, I ended up ordering the cod, and I definitely made a good choice, but I would probably say the same thing if I ordered the halibut, striped bass, chicken, etc (aka pretty much any entrée on the menu). The cod had subtle Japanese flavors – it was marinated in a miso sauce and served with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and a soy lemongrass sauce. The cod was cooked perfectly. Cod is one of my favorite fishes, but I usually hesitate to make it at home because it’ll either come out perfectly or terribly (not cooked enough or overcooked).

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For dessert, I ate the warmed Gotham chocolate cake with salted almond ice cream. The cake was scrumptious, but I have to admit I tasted more salt in the ice cream than almond, but it was still very good!

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The waiter also brought mini financiers to the table for us all to share. You really can’t go wrong with financiers!

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I definitely recommend eating at Gotham Bar and Grill for an unforgettable experience.

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January 2, 2015 / Food Follower

Ramen at Gotham West Market

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My brother has been raving to me about Gotham West Market for quite a while now, so I decided to give it a try with one of my friends. The moment I set foot in Gotham West Market, I was reminded of a less crowded version of Chelsea Market. And trust me, the place filled up around 1PM despite its location which seems to be out of the way from everywhere (located very far west on 11th avenue and 45th st).

Gotham West Market has 8 food vendors and communal tables, so if you are feeling indecisive about what to eat or you want to eat tacos and your friend wants a burger, you can each satisfy your cravings and also sit with each other.

My friend and I both ended up ordering the Tokyo Shio Ramen from Ivan Ramen which came with pork belly and rye noodles. The ramen was really flavorful and was perfect for a cold day. I definitely recommend making a trip to Gotham West Market!

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December 25, 2014 / Food Follower

Apricot Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies

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I can’t believe it’s been half a year since my last blog post. A lot has happened in what seems like the shortest 6 months of my life. I started my first job and am really enjoying it so far! But I soon learned that work and home cooking do not pair well together. As much as I love cooking, I’m sad to say I’ve done very little of it since I entered the workforce. But I want to prepare more food, and I will try my best to post more regularly on this blog (one of my New Year’s resolutions?)

Anyways, I baked some apricot shortbread cookies which came out great! I was inspired by the recipe on Land O Lakes’ website. I made a couple of modifications to the recipe: I used apricot jam instead of raspberry jam, added the orange zest from one orange, and did not include the glaze.

These cookies are light, buttery, and absolutely scrumptious! They are great with some tea or on their own. Enjoy!

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June 20, 2014 / Food Follower

Adventures in South Africa: The Bush

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It all started off with this scone, and t’was love at first bite. My mom and I went to a private game reserve in Kruger National Park called Kapama Southern Camp to see the animals in South Africa. The animals were my primary reason for coming to South Africa and were definitely the highlight of my vacation. If you ever go to South Africa, I recommend staying at a private reserve rather than Kruger proper since I’ve heard it is easier to see the animals in a private reserve. I cannot say whether that is true since I did not go to the big national park, but I can say that I did see a lot of animals where I was!

The benefit to staying at a private reserve is that there are fewer people and fewer cars can observe an animal at a time. At Kruger, you can have 20 or more cars observing a pride of lines, while at Kapama, you can have a maximum of 2 cars. There are also more side roads to go view the animals. Also, I recommend going in South Africa’s wintertime since there are fewer leaves on the trees and thus easier to spot the animals.

I have to say that while I was awed by all the amazing animals, I fell in love with the food at my lodge. Breakfast was a buffet full of goodies. The two plates below only shows a small sampling of what I ate.

A scone with clotted cream and apricot preserves (see the British influence?), a mushroom quiche, and slices of fresh watermelon
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A poached egg and minced meat – the minced meat had so much flavor and tasted great even for breakfast.
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Lunch was an entirely different but beautiful beast. All of the ingredients were fresh and went really well with each other.

Smoked salmon with avocado on toasts
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Fried calamari with a tasty lemon and dill dipping sauce
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Beef carpaccio on a toast with edible flowers – the edible flowers were slightly toasted and tasted of honey.
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Beef medallion with red wine sauce on top of glazed carrots, baby corn, and mashed potatoes
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Butter chicken with basmati rice – apparently this is a classic Indian dish, and I could see this from the moment it came out. As I was ordering it, I was worried it would just be chicken drenched in butter. I loved all of the spices of this dish.
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Lamb chops with a salad and homemade potato chips
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Chocolate tart with coconut sorbet – this was my favorite dessert!
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Chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream – it had a texture which reminded me of a light cake, but regardless, it was good.
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And here are some of the highlights of the animals I saw, though I saw a lot more than the animals depicted in the photos below. I was very lucky since I ended up seeing the big 5 – the elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard (though only briefly, they are quite fast!)

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Look who’s hiding!
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Uh oh…
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He’s just tired!
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He ended up walking maybe 20 feet and then collapsing back onto the grass.

A mother cheetah with her baby – the baby didn’t even have spots yet.
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I saved my favorite for last – a mother giraffe with her baby. I love giraffes!
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June 19, 2014 / Food Follower

Adventures in South Africa: Lunch + Wine Tastings

One of the most memorable foods I ate in South Africa was not from a South African restaurant but rather a Bavarian cafe. I had a long and thin baguette sandwich with prosciutto, baby arugula, and parmesan cheese. It was very simple and on second thought, this sandwich sounds more Italian than Bavarian to me.

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For dessert, I ordered a cinnamon and apple danish. I was intrigued at how well the apple complemented the cinnamon.

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After our brief but satisfying lunch, my mom and I began our wine tour. We decided to dedicate one of our two afternoons in Cape Town tasting wine because South Africa is known for their wine. There are also a lot of wineries relatively close to Cape Town.

We first went to Fairview, a beautiful winery which sells several wines, cheeses, and other awesome food products. My mom and I sat at a table in the tasting room and sampled 6 different wines we picked from a menu and a variety of interesting cheeses.

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My favorite wines from Fairview were the Darling Riesling, the Fairview Chardonnay, and the Fairview Stellenbosch Merlot. The Riesling was nice and sweet and tasted like melon, the Chardonnay was a bit dryer but still light with hints of orange and honey, and the merlot had a good amount of body but didn’t feel heavy. The cheeses included honey chèvre (I liked it but my mom didn’t), garlic camembert (very good), a feta which tasted too salty, parmesan (yummy), and a cheese with cranberries (not my favorite).

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My mom and I also split a pretzel which was very tasty. THAT is more Bavarian!

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There were goats outside of Fairview, and I wonder if they make the goat cheese from their milk.

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After a pleasant experience at Fairview, we went to our second and last winery called Warwick. Unfortunately, the wineries close around 4 or 5pm, so we were pressed for time. I liked Warwick even better than Fairview.

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There was a huge Nelson Mandela figure made entirely of tiny beads right outside of the Warwick winery.

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I forget which wines I sampled, but besides the wonderful wine, I liked the atmosphere of Warwick a lot. It felt very cosy, and there was even a fireplace. Michelle Obama visited the Warwick Estate in 2011 and loved the wines so much that the owner decided to name a few of their wines after her, like the “First Lady Chardonnay.”

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It definitely was a winederful day!

June 18, 2014 / Food Follower

Adventures in South Africa: Cape Town

I just got back from my trip to South Africa yesterday in the late afternoon.  My mom and I went to Cape Town, Kruger National Park, Johannesburg, and Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe) in a mere 10 days! It was a lot of traveling to say the least (our return trip took 2 whole days), but my vacation with my mom was the best college graduation present I could have ever imagined. The trip in general was one of my most memorable experiences, and I recommend South Africa to anyone in search of a travel destination. I would love to go back in the future.

The first stop on our trip was Cape Town.  I was happy to discover that this city, and South Africa in general, has amazing fruit.  For my first breakfast, I had a croissant and plenty of fruit.  The photo below only shows some of the fruit I ate – passion fruit, kiwis, grapes, and guava (which I don’t like).  I discovered what passion fruit and guava actually look like (passion fruit and guava at 12 o’clock on the plate, left and right respectively)

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I soon found out how beautiful Cape Town is – it is right on the coast and is surrounded by mountains.

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We commenced our journey on Table Bay where we went up Table Mountain.  We took a round cable car up which had a floor that turned full circle along the ride, so we could see the panoramic view.

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The view from Table Mountain was spectacular.  It was fairly cold on Table Mountain (42 degrees Fahrenheit) not only because it is 1085 meters above sea level but also because June is winter in Cape Town.  My mom and I tried to take a few pictures of ourselves, but the wind was blowing our hairs every which way.
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We then made our way south to Simon’s Town, where we visited the penguin colony. It was my first time seeing penguins in the wild, so this was awesome! Also, I tend to associate penguins with cold climates because I think of the movie March of the Penguins. Reality check: not all penguins live in Antarctica. The penguins were adorable. Apparently the locals call these penguins “jackasses” since they make donkey sounds. They really do sound like donkeys. They are also known as African penguins.
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After the penguin colony, we ate lunch at Black Marlin Seafood Restaurant. The restaurant is very scenic, and we ate outside to enjoy the view.

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To begin with, I had a fresh salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and shredded carrots. It was very refreshing and a great start to the meal.
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For my main dish, I had hake with prawns, calamari strips, and sautéed vegetables. The prawns had some sort of sweet garlic sauce which was fantastic, and the calamari strips were lightly fried, but amazing also. Overall I was very happy with this dish.

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For dessert, I got vanilla ice cream with a yummy berry sauce.
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After lunch, we went to Cape Point where we went up a funicular for yet another stunning view of the water.
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On our ride to Cape of Good Hope, we saw a group of baboons which literally opened the car doors! I nearly had a heart attack. Curse you opposable thumbs! But luckily, the baboons did not enter the car. Apparently, the baboons go into unattended cars and take backpacks and other belongings in search of food. They are such devious and smart creatures. I unfortunately only managed to get a picture of the baboons while they were farther from the car and before they actually opened the doors.
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After that scare, we saw an ostrich pass right by our car!
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Cape Town is stunning!
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June 4, 2014 / Food Follower

Summer Burrito

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Whenever it gets really hot, I crave all things fresh.  The fruits and vegetables look beautiful these days, so I am trying to take full advantage of all of the wonderful produce.  I decided to make a vegetarian burrito tonight for dinner, which reminds me of the rainbow when I look at it. This burrito bursts of flavors with juicy mangoes, tomatoes, lime juice, and hearty black beans.

Ingredients

  • 1 large mango or 2 small mangos cubed into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 red onion, diced
  • 2 vine tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, with the seeds removed and diced
  • 1 can of black beans (16 oz)
  • 1 large avocado
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas (8 inches in diameter)
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprinkle of minced garlic

Directions

1) Combine mango, onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, and the juice from half a lime in a large bowl.  Add a little salt and pepper.

2) Cut the avocado and mash with a fork (do not over mash the avocado if you want your guacamole to be on the chunkier side).  Add the remaining lime juice to the avocado, and sprinkle a little minced garlic as well as some salt and pepper.  Mix the guacamole.

3) Meanwhile, heat the black beans in a saucepan until hot.  Strain the liquid with a sieve.

4) Optional: heat the tortillas in a hot cast iron pan for 15 seconds on each side (30 seconds total).

5) Divide the black beans accordingly and put in the tortillas.  Add the mango and tomato mixture, and put a dollop of guacamole on top.

6) Fold over the ends of the tortilla and roll into a burrito.  Serve with the remaining guacamole on the side.

Yield: 4 burritos

Enjoy!

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