Thanksgiving – Cooked and Raw Food style

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I am thankful for many things. 18 years with the best furry Party Cat ever, is one of them. Were he still with us, he’d have been on that plate of turkey in no time. Glaring and chomping away.

As it was, we settled on a new tradition of dog fights and blood drawing (oddly enough not between any family members, and more the result of two big doggie ‘tudes in one small kitchen). This was joined with family traditions of yore, like my mom hosting Thanksgiving.

It’s been a heck of a year for the lass, and when she offered to host, we all happily accepted. My good in-laws also trekked over from Amherst for the holiday.
Ready. Set. Eat. My mom even made cranberry sauce from scratch – quite a step out in her culinary repertoire, and tasty, too. My sister’s raw feast can be seen in the background. She also ate some cooked vegan foods as well, which was quite nice for the family. No quibbling or teasing, everyone enjoying company of some sort.

Albany John brought some gluten-free bread (with dates, nuts, cranberries, and raisins). I helped him make dressing/stuffing (which means I prepped everything and made him do the assembly/seasoning).
The pooches post-fighting. Water under the bridge. Must be nice to have the memory of a dog, right? Funny part of the night – the little one ate more than the big one.
Dessert time! My sister made a raw apple pie (coz she ate the raw pie I made) on the left. I made the pumpkin swirl cheesecake at center, and Mama and Papa Amherst brought ice cream from Flayvors (Inez and Pumpkin, yum!).

Pumpkin cheesecake was stupid easy to make. Take some regular cheesecake batter, and mix it with pumpkin pulp. Then swirl in. Done! My cheesecake had three cracks, though. I was quite pouty. No perfect cheesecake for me. :/

Here is the raw pie I made that my sister ate. I only brought 3/4 of it. I had to sample it earlier, to make sure it was worthy of bringing. And then I had to sample a slice to my sister as well, to make sure it was truly acceptable to the person who most enjoys raw food. I mean, if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it in the first place, you know? I wouldn’t bring it if she thought it sucked.

What’s it made of?

Coconut cashew cream with pecans and cranberries, TYVM. On a sunflower seed chocolate crust.

Here’s what I like most about raw foods. You can pretty much wing it. No baking times means that many ingredients are flexible. A lot of raw crusts call for almonds, pecans, cashews, or other expensive nuts. I soaked sunflower seeds for the majority of this crust. Way more economical, and you can’t really tell it apart from any other soaked nut.

Chocolate Sunflower Crust Recipe:
1/4-1/3 C virgin coconut oil, melted (dehydrator, your hot little hands, hot oven, etc)
1 C sunflower seeds, soaked until soft (30-60 mins in hot water) then ground/minced
1/4 C cocoa powder
2 T liquid sweetener (I used maple syrup. I know it’s not really raw, but it’s what I had at home. Go for agave syrup if you’re gonna have a fit about it)
1/4 -1/3 C almond meal
Mix it all up, then press in a pan.

I liked lining my pan with plastic wrap. Made it easy to spread and take out to serve later.

Step two: filling. Coconut cashew cream. This is just plain awesome. You don’t need to like raw food to like this. I had a ton of filling left over, and boy did I enjoy each and every spoonful.

Coconut Cashew Cream Recipe
1 C cashews, soaked ~2 hours
1/2 of a fresh (dried) coconut. The brown kind of coconut that you have to crack.
1/4-1/2 C liquid sweetener
1/2 of liquid from coconut (as needed to blend)
1/2 C coconut oil

Blend together until it has a paste/pudding consistency. I put this in an electric blender for several minutes until it was smooth.
Then add in some chopped cranberries and pecans. You can add as many cranberries as you like. The richness from the coconut cashew cream will balance out the tartness. Go for about 1/4 -1/3 C to start.
All mixed together.
Then you just plop and freeze it all together. You can take it out of the freezer an hour or two before you want to serve it, or just serve it frozen. This holds up surprisingly well (when I brought a slice to my sister before Turkey Day, it kicked around in a tupperware in my car for a few hours with no ill effects or mis-shaping).

I wouldn’t say this is an extremely rich pie. If you’re used to cooked food, this is probably a fine and dandy pie on its own to you. If you’re trying to eat foods that are a little less refined, you will also like this pie. If you like creamy tasty fillings, oh holy moly, you will freaking LURVE this pie.

I’m most thankful my sister was chill about me using maple syrup in the pie and not freaking out about it being a form of sugar and not being raw. And she sneakily ate the remaining 3/4 of it on Thanksgiving while cooking, and sheepishly admitted to it while we were serving up dessert and I was like “Hey, where’d the rest of mah pie go?!” . Now I’m starting to believe we actually are related. Sneakily eating almost a whole pie, and being cute about eating it all? Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Viva San Antonio!

Howdy y’all! I went for a quick trip to Texas recently to catch up with some friends. Bought a ticket for the mister, and told him to pack his shorts!

My buddy V picked us up at the airport and took us straight to Pico de Gallo for dinner. Sensory overload! Mariachis, and glitter, and lights everywhere!
Broken chips and salsa to start.
I made the mistake of getting a jumbo margarita. Y’know how some things are bigger in Texas? Well, the drinks are a LOT stronger too! I made my way through (maybe) half of this throughout dinner before throwing in the towel.
App for the table. Beef and onions with cheese. Tortillas on the side.
Chicken mole enchiladas. A little too sweet for me. Refried beans were nice, though. V and I ordered the same thing, and the dishes came out looking a little differently. I think they made one, then forgot about the second one and made it on the fly.
Albany John ordered some kind of a goat dish. Just tasted like pork to me. I think this was a stewed goat spine of some sort?
Then we made our way to the Flying Saucer for drinks. Waitresses in cute plaid skirts, and an impressive selection of beers to choose from.
They also had some nice spacing – some areas were more intimate, others brighter and chatty.
Hello Kitty enjoyed her beers – a raspberry lambic and golden wheat mixture. Nom!
Breakfast the next morning was chorizo and eggs! So good!
Then you put it in your mouth. Then we were off to try and find the one person I was really hoping to see:
SGM Pryor, one of my biggest mentors growing up. He passed away before I left Texas, and I got it in my head that I had to see him again before I left. V and I eventually found his plot, and shared a few moments with him.

I’ve never been happier to be in a graveyard before. SGM Pryor was a great man.

And then I was off to meet some other friends from high school at El Maracube. I’d been there once or twice when I was growing up, and was psyched to go back. Their chips were awesome – super thin, crisp, and fresh.

Albany John got a stuffed zucchini dish. Not bad.
I got shrimp enchiladas! SO GOOD! Lunch prices on a Saturday, yes please. I don’t think any of our dishes broke $7 or $8. We sat around catching up for a few hours, totally unrushed by staff. Actually, I think it was partially because once they drop the bill, you have to pay at a register up front, which I didn’t realize, lol.

Caught up on who’s doing what. Life, gossip, you know.
Snacks after!
Then V was ALL ABOUT taking us to the CIA bakery downtown.
How cute!
They had these knitted pieces around pipes. Very cute.
Well hello. I love you. I want to move back to San Antonio. Be still my heart.
So many breads! At great prices, too! Ooohhh, NY inflation.
Desserts! An entire case of them! We grabbed some snacks and sat down.
You can even peep in the kitchens.
Our model-esque desserts. Chocolate mousse bombe (gluten-free), banana white chocolate tart, and a chili pumpkin panna cotta.
The white chocolate banana tart was my favorite. Super rich and fatty. The banana factor was actually very minimal. Mostly white chocolate and tons of flaky, crisp pastry.

V and I digging in!
They had this cute pan-delier outside.
Hipster brew!
Anyone know what these things are? Red on the inside, with green stuff on the outside. Cute.
Then we walked around the new leg of the San Antonio Riverwalk. This is new to me – they hadn’t expanded when I left!
This was really nice – peaceful, quiet. Not the hot hubbub of tourism like the main part of the Riverwalk downtown.
Herons, even!
And art! ART!
V was really insistent that we go to Mi Tierra Cafe for dinner. He said it was even better than Pico de Gallo.
We grabbed a buzzer (the place was PACKED), and waited outside.
Busy bar, but the inside was great. So many murals, and rich colors on the walls. One room even looked like it was permanently Christmas.
Grabbed a canteloupe agua fresca. Something like $5 for this huuuuge cup. Soon enough, we were called in.
We went for some Texas beers. Which I forget what they were now, because I’m awesome like that. I went with a smaller baby-sized beer.
Tortilla soup! Nice broth. I could have had a larger bowl.
I got the appetizer platter for my meal. So much food to try! I ate about half of it, so full!
Albany John got pork ribs.
Hello Kitty was quite pleased with Mi Tierra and wants to go back again. Then we went downtown even more to meet up with one of my girlfriends (from lunch earlier at El Maracumbe) for the diwali festivities downtown.
Diwali party people!

Ended up going over to her place and hanging out for a few hours just talking and stuff. Awesome time – I love it when things like that happen. So unexpected, and so great!
The next day we went to the Oriental Sunken Gardens. It’s free, and so, so, so pretty! I never even knew it was nearby when I lived here. I’d have gone here all of the time.
We also went for a walk around the area. It looks like they feed stray cats/build them homes. And this area used to be an exit ramp for a highway. Albany John’s snapping some aerial photos here while V chills out.
Then we went to SAMA – the San Antonio Museum of Art. Ever in need of food, we stopped off at Cafe Des Artistes for some sustenance.
V was talking up the coffee. He said it was so good it didn’t need anything in it. He was right! It was tasty black!
This is a great spot to grab some light fare along the Riverwalk.
V got a quiche and salad.
Albany John got gorgonzola and beet soup (very cheesy!).
And I got a grapefruit tart. SO. Freaking. GOOD. Buttery and rich. Win!

That night we decided that we should a)knock it off with the Tex-Mex, and b)try some BBQ. I put my foot down on having Bill Miller’s BBQ. It’s just so-so chain BBQ and nothing outstanding. Enter Rudy’s. We went to the original location WAAAAY north of San Antonio. It’s worth the drive, though.
Such a good sign. This is the best ‘que I’ve had in San Antonio.
We ordered about $45 of meat and sides. The smoked turkey was AMAZING. If I lived down there, I’d order my thanksgiving turkey from Rudy’s.
We also got brisket, chopped (a mix of chopped beef, pork, and chicken), 2 sausage links, and a TON of sides:
Witness, the yellow-hued sides.The creamed corn was actually really good. Potato salad was so-so, and the cole slaw had a good crunch and freshness to it.
V got me a Lone Star beer to try and wash down the remaining food. The peach cobbler was quite tasty! Fresh peaches!
In the end, we finished it all save for this wee bit o’sausage. I mourned our inability to fit an extra 2″ of sausage in our bellies. Next time we will. Next time we will also try the ribs.

Showed Albany John a HEB (grocery store chain). They had so many kinds of wine in their grocery store!
My beloved box o’ wine was under $9!!!!!! Are you freaking kidding me?!
And then I saw the Krispy Kreme sign was lit and hot, so I squealed at V to pull the F over.
Donut win!
The next morning we barely made our flight, so I grabbed a McBiscuit for breakfast when we got to our connecting airport. Love these little shameful breakfasts. I wasn’t even hungover, but man, they hit the spot.

Pot Belly sandwiches for lunch.
I got a chicken salad for the plane. It was okay. Some kind of greenery, you know?
Albany John got this phyllo dough pocket with ham and cheese. Tasty and greasy. And then we were back in New York. Le sigh.

Texas, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but boy howdy do I miss ya.

Winter 2011 Seasonal Dinner at Ala Shanghai

Daniel B. organized another lovely seasonal dinner at Ala Shanghai. Now that we are in the middle of November, and well into our way of the season of slight chilliness in the Northeast, it’s a great time to try out some warming dishes at Ala Shanghai.

About 16 of us gathered earlier this week to eat a bunch of courses for $20 per person, inclusive of tax and tip. You too can enjoy this menu if you so desire. And by the end of this post, you’re gonna desire.

Many thanks to the man who organized the lot of us rogue eaters. Cheers, Daniel! (I hope I didn’t make your face look too melty here).

Thanks also extend to Steve for bringing some wine. Yay! Great pairing with the food. Ala Shanghai is a BYOB place, so feel free to bring your own if you’d like.

Xiao long bao to start. They were all soooo full of soup! Yay! No sad deflated XLBs here 😀

This time we made sure Celina had one, since I probably ate hers at the last dinner. That’s grounds for de-friending right there. I’m a terrible dining companion.Man, how have I not alienated myself from most of the fooding elite in Albany?

More apps – turnip pastries on the left, steamed glutinous rice dumplings in the center, and steamed and pan fried meat dumplings on the right. Love the turnip pastries when they’re nice and warm with crunchy sesame seeds on the bottom. And you can’t go wrong with meat filled carbs! I don’t really like rice that much, but boy does Albany John, so he ate my dumpling with gusto.
Soup course – chicken and wonton soup. It came out bubbling in the casserole dish. Now that’s fresh!

So chickeny! This was a great simple soup for a cold day – the chicken flavor shone, the soup was refreshing and light. I’ve mentioned before that Ala Shanghai is my favorite place for soup in the area because they don’t load their soups up with unnecessary sugar or fat.

Flounder filets with woodear. This is a simple fish dish. The fish are tender, and the woodear is a nice crunchy foil. I love, love, love woodear. It’s a mushroom/fungus that’s more texture than anything, but I think it goes really well in meat dishes.

Lanny and one of his staff assembling the sizzling lamb table-side.
Lamb slices with scallion and onion. I’ve had similar dishes Cantonese-style with beef, but the lamb flavor and tenderness blows it out of the water. It’s so meaty and good!
Note: This is not a dish for someone counting calories – there’s plenty of delicious fat and flavor in this dish.
Pork shoulder. Fatbomb on a plate! Unctuous skin, incredibly tender meat within, and a wedge of bok choy with some crunch. Mmmm. Meat coma. This is a little on the sweet side of flavor. This is a dish you absolutely must share with eight other people. You wouldn’t stand a chance of putting a dent into this rich dish on your own.

Ham with Chinese cabbages. I really liked this ham. I want to make some myself. It was rich and smoky, with a little bit of sweetness. And I usually don’t like sweet meat. It’s got a lot of flavor. The small slices are all you need. BIG FLAVORS here. Albany John wasn’t as big of a fan of the sweetness (just not his thing), but that just means he won’t be touching my ham this winter.


Lanny brought this out and told my table “This is favorite dish,”

He is so right. If there is a dish you MUST order at Ala Shanghai, it is this. It’s so good and fresh, and they make the salted veggies there (it’s salted mustard greens so they’re kind of like pickles), and the combination of flavors just makes it so that you can’t stop eating it, and I love it so much, and it’s perfect for winter.

It’s mega-salty and refreshing. And very low fat. It really wakes you up (and fills you up). And makes you a happy person. Like their soups, I think this dish really highlights Ala’s abilities to let ingredients shine on their own.
Noodles made in-house with some veggies and chicken. Tender noodles. They’re good. But you know what makes them even better? Having those salted veggies to toss on top! Great combo!

Red bean pancakes for dessert. I got at least two because Albany John doesn’t like red bean paste. Yesssss.

Go there. Bring your friends and get all of this delicious food. $160. 8 people (or dinner for a week). Do it.

Or just go there and get the salted veggies with soy beans and tofu sheets, because I said so, and because it will take the winter blues right out of you.

Epicurean’s Wine Tasting dinner – Bordeaux’s Left Bank

CelinaBean and I met up a few weeks ago for a wine pairing/tasting dinner at The Epicurean. Celina was looking for a girl’s night out, and loves Sandy’s wine pairings. I heard “Epicurean” and I was in. Check out their events page for similar upcoming events.

The wines we tasted were from Bordeaux’s left bank. Reservations are required, and the tasting cost $35 per person. There are two communal tables with about 10-12 seats each, and Sandy stands in between them talking about each wine. If you are a group of more than two people, you might want to get there a little bit early so you don’t get split into two tables.

I’m not much of a red wine fan, and Bordeaux’s I’ve tried in the past have usually been pretty high in tannins, so I went in expecting to not really LOOOOVEEE the wines I tried, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the new wines I tried.

The first course was a trio of pates. Liver on the left, rabbit on the bottom, and seafood on the right, and some zippy arugula in the center. A server who dropped them off took a guess at the pates, but was way off – he told us that at least one of them was vegetarian, hehe. Sandy clarified that for Celina and me, though. Sandy is definitely a part of The Epicurean experience for me – he is so warm and welcoming!

I ate about half of the pates. I wished I could have brought some for Albany John, he would have loved them!

The pork liver pate was, well, pork liver-y (some iron, you know).
The rabbit pate was delicately flavored. I really enjoyed this and can’t wait to have it again.

The wine we had was a Chateau Larose Trintaudon – Haut Medoc 2005. This was nice, and had been opened for about 10 minutes before it was poured. The meals pacing wasn’t rushed, so there was time for the wines to open up in our glasses and develop throughout the appetizer course. This may have been my favorite wine of the night – it was light, not too much of a tannin note.
Round two started off with a Chateau Malmaison Moulis – Baronne de Rothschild Medoc 2006. Bold, bold, BOLD wine. This was a very big wine. Like… wow. There was a whole lot of fruit flavor going on with some crazy bitterness, and I’ve since lost my note sheet so unfortunately that’s the extent of my description.
The main dish was coq au vin – so tender, with a nice crispy piece of bacon on the side. Mmm. I loved the rosemary polenta cake on the right, too. Nice aromatic flavor, and very tender polenta. I just love how well portioned out their main dishes are – plenty to eat, but not too much.
Wine number three was Chevalier de Rauzan-Gassies – Margaux 2005. I think I heard that this was the most expensive of the wines. I thought it was a fairly enjoyable wine on its own. But the real surprise was still to come with the cheese course.

The Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese was a nice funky blue cheese. Tasty on its own, but when you took a sip of the wine and cheese together…

All was right with the world.
Celina and I tasted this combo at about the same time and just… looked at each other. You know, with those faces, that say… “Oh, oh. This. This is good.”
The tannins in the wine and the tanginess of the blue cheese completely washed each other out and all that you could taste was this delightfully sweet creaminess. Man oh man, Sandy has an amazing talent for pairing wines.

Wine math is delicious stuff. It’s like when two negatives equal a positive. Two strong flavors = delicate deliciousness. I could have eaten an entire wheel of cheese with a bottle of this wine. So good.
They’ve also got a nice selection of cheeses in their display.

This was a nice night out to meet new friends and try out new flavors and combinations. I’m so excited to enjoy a wine and cheese combo this much!

Green Tea Macarons

Green Tea Macarons!

These are so awesome, recipe goes first, blathering later!

Green Tea Macarons

90-100 g egg whites (3 eggs)
200 g powdered sugar
50 g granulated white sugar
110 g almond flour
20-30 g matcha powder

Whip whites to stiff peaks, adding the granulated sugar in slowly.

Almond flour with powdered sugar and matcha.

Bake at 300 F for not very much time at all. Check on them after 7-8 minutes.
Plops! Ploparons! This was before I let them rest. Word to the wise, matcha powder absorbs water differently than powdered sugar, so… you might want to go easy on it or else your mixture might be a little more magma-like in texture than you really want.

Fluffy whipped egg whites! So pure and fluffy. If you can flip the bowl upside down and nothing moves, you’re good to go.

This is what it looks like when you mix in everything else. It was a little more deflated than I wanted it to be. I also didn’t sift out the almond bits in the flour, so there was some coarseness. I was just too lazy to break out the food processor and get it all fine.

WTF is this?

It’s my fave method for piping things. A Ziploc baggie in a cup makes it easier to pour batter/icing into. And you can just throw it away when you’re done. Easy clean up. Yay!

Just make sure you use Ziploc baggies. Maybe Reynolds is okay, but Ziploc is one brand I’ve had that never bursts or distorts in any way when I need to use it for decorating, etc.
Tada! Keeps the air out, and now it’s all in one easy place! Just snip off a corner and you’re ready to pipe out the batter.
More unrested macaron plops.

They were pretty intense without any filling. Like, so bitter I thought I’d maybe overdone it. But with a white chocolate ganache they were quite good. Even though my ganache refused to set, so I had to add powdered sugar and almond meal to thicken it up.

Oh well. They still turned out pretty well. Kind of crackly and ugly, but good in the mouth. Hehe.

Happy Blogaversary, Steve

Made it just in time to wish Steve a happy 3 year blogaversary at Taste’s upstairs area. The roast was awesome, there are some talented jokesters in the area.

Happy Birthday, Table Hopping! I love reading about everything that’s going on in the area. It’s like the meeting place for Cap District food stuffs. A crossroads of tasty awesomeness. Thanks for being so diligent with it, Steve!

Cheese and snacks from Adventure in Food. Those guys are awesome. Truffle cheese for the win!
Then we went to City Beer Hall after running into some of the guys there. I asked Kenny to surprise me with a beer, I think it was an Ephemere. Either way, tasty and a little fruity/tart. Mmm. I think Albany John got a Mother’s Milk.