Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Fuyu Persimmon & U2!

Yes, this is indeed a slice of a ripe fuyu persimmon! Kudos to doggybloggy of ChezWhat? who guessed correctly within moments of me putting up the photo!

I hadn't tried a persimmon in over 25 years, after having had a bad experience with them as a kid. Persimmons look so much like tomatoes that I was totally weirded out when I bit into one and found it sickeningly sweet - a total fake-out to my tastebuds. At the time, I felt like my mom had played a mean trick on me.

Persimmons have become more mainstream in the past few years, even showing up at my local Wegmans. Perhaps it was time to give them another chance. A couple weeks ago, I stopped at my local Asian market and bought 2 fuyus at different stages of ripeness, one smooshy red one and a firm orange specimen.

We ate the red ripe one almost immediately - it barely held together when I cut into it, the insides bursting all over the plate. The skin was a bit tough but we ate it anyway, the juicy insides (like an over ripe tomato) were very sweet with the flavor of pear, mango, and papaya.

The orange fuyu has been slowly ripening on my counter for over 2 weeks. Apparently it's fine to eat when firm, but won't be as sweet. I'll probably wait for it to become soft and smooshy before eating it, but I bet it would be great sliced up in a salad right now. Another variety of persimmon, the acorn-shaped
hachiya, is too astringent to eat before it's completely soft and ripe. Make sure you check which kind you have before you bite into it!

Now for something totally unrelated to food...Hubby Kris and I just got back from Dublin, Ireland, where we saw U2 in concert! I'll be writing more about our trip and local Irish food in future posts, but for now, here are some highlights from the concert:


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: ???

You know that I was just kidding around with that last post, right?

Here's the real Weird Food Wednesday. Can you guess what it is?

(will post the answer next Wednesday)


Weird Food Wednesdays: Turdaroon

I found myself a little strapped for time this week, hadn't even started to think of topics yet... but then I got an email from a cute little fellow named Turdaroon, asking to be considered for Weird Food Wednedsday.

What is a Turdaroon? Well, basically a chocolate
macaroon gone wrong, one that ends up looking like a turd. Despite the unfortunate swirly turd pattern, Turdaroon bears the mark of a true macaroon - he has feet!

He's also proud to possess a shiny crusty top with soft insides (but the little bugger refused to come clean off the parchment paper).

A huge thank you to
Heavenly Housewife for letting me borrow Turdaroon for Weird Food Wednesdays! Check out her fabulous blog, From Donuts to Delirium: My Life as a Housewife, for more culinary adventures (she really is quite an amazing baker).


Saturday, July 18, 2009

National Ice Cream Month: Princeton Ice Cream Crawl!

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month? And that tomorrow, the 3rd Sunday in July, is National Ice Cream Day?

To celebrate, Hubby Kris and I headed to Princeton, NJ, a local ice cream haven featuring 5 ice cream shops within a 1/2 mile radius!

First, to build up our appetites, a stroll in the beautiful historic campus of Princeton University:

Bunnies everywhere!:

Princeton's charming
Palmer Square:

This mirror was originally used in the Fun House at Palisades Park circa 1933:

We chose to do a
Blend-In, hard ice cream blended with up to 3 'mix ins', Chai ice cream with Heath Bar (small $4.10):

Yum! Super creamy, a bit spicy from the Chai, with little crunchies from the blended Heath Bar:

2nd stop, Halo Pub:

Hubby is so easily amused:

The ice cream is made at Halo Farm, a nearby microdairy. Pints of high quality ice cream are only $2 at their
retail store in Trenton:

Inside the microdairy:

Halo Pub is set up like a real pub, with hand-dipped hard ice cream or several flavors of soft serve 'on tap':

Several flavors of hard ice cream can be 'creamaided' - turned into soft serve via their Creamaider machine. Also offered: 'Weakdae', a smaller sized sundae:

Kris' Coffee Chocolate Almond ice cream (1 full scoop - only $1.75!):

Can you believe this is only 1/2 a scoop of Rum Raisin? (even cheaper at $1.25):

Our 3rd stop, The Bent Spoon, was voted as one of
MSN's top 9 ice cream places in America and one of Ed Levine's Top 10 most memorable bites of 2007:

Check out the line up outside:

We love this place because they use organic seasonal ingredients from local farms. A small cup ($3.50) comes with two flavors so I chose two sorbets, Purple Plum & Lavender and Blueberry Basil:

The Blueberry Basil sorbet had intense blueberry flavor with a tiny hint of Jersey sweet basil. The Purple Plum and Lavender sorbet was a bit strong, Kris said he could still taste the lavender several hours later!:

Kris' large Spoon Sundae featuring 3 gelato flavors: Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, and Cafe Latte ($7):

And don't leave without trying their famous Banana Whip, made with only 1 ingredient - organic bananas:

The Banana Whip tasted pretty amazing, but I felt like I'd eaten 5 bananas afterwards:

Final stop, Twist for some healthy probiotic frozen yogurt:

Self Serve, $0.45 per ounce:

Lots of toppings to choose from:

New York non-fat cheesecake yogurt, with strawberries, graham cracker crumbs and little bits of mochi:

Still hungry for more? At
Ricky's Candy, Cones & Chaos, finish their 15 scoop 'Belly Buster' in 15 minutes and make their 'Hall of Fame' (more like 'hall of SHAME'):

And you can't leave Princeton without stopping at
Hoagie Haven for one of their famous sandwiches:

Shout out to
OysterCulture for reminding me to get some Phat Lady hoagie action during my visit to Princeton ($4.95 for a 'small' Phat Lady sandwich filled with cheesesteak, mozzarella sticks, and french fries, with a squeeze of ketchup and hot sauce):

I'd told Kris beforehand that I was submitting this post to the
Ice Cream Social contest, held by ScottySnacks, SavortheThyme, and Tangled Noodle.

After we'd managed to hit 4 Princeton ice cream shops in a row,
Kris declared, "YEAH...we're totally going to WIN!"
Kris: "You know, because NO ONE can eat more ice cream than I can!" (at this point he flexed his arms and did a Hulk Hogan pose)
Phyllis: "You thought the Ice Cream Social was an ice cream EATING contest?!"

Kris: "Um, yeah..wasn't that the whole point of doing this?"

Well, I don't call him 'Einstein' for nothin':

Phyllis, 'Before' and 'After' (as depicted by the colorful mural on the wall at Thomas Sweet):


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Longan

If you grew up in an Asian household than this week's topic, longan, is definitely NOT weird to you. Still, most people in North America have never heard of it. And I sure have a heck of a time finding it around here, always hit or miss, even at my local Asian food market.

Longan's better known cousin, lychee, is bigger, fleshier and has reached a certain celebrity status in the cocktail world, appearing in fashionable lychee martinis across the nation. Meanwhile, the smaller, less-showy longan still lives in relative obscurity. I've always been confused by this because whenever I'm confronted with having to choose between buying fresh lychee and longan (the seasons overlap a little), longan is the clear winner!

Longan literally means "dragon eye" in Chinese due to its appearance - underneath the thin leathery beige/brown skin you'll find translucent juicy flesh surrounding a non-edible shiny brown pit. The size and shape is similar to a red globe grape. The texture is also grape-like but the flavor is really unique - so unique in fact that I had to eat almost half my stash to come up with an accurate description for you guys (OK, maybe I was just greedy - as a child, I would eat them non-stop until I gave myself a tummy ache). I may have to go back and eat the rest for a better description but for now, here's my best attempt: sweet, fragrant, refreshing, and slightly floral, like the nectar from a
honeysuckle. There's nothing like it! And perhaps I've been lucky, but every longan I've tasted has been sweet and ripe.

Although longan hasn't inspired me yet to write poetry (like I did for my
beloved cherimoya), I'm slightly obsessed with them. So I now present...

Longan: A Love Story...

The skin is easy to remove, just use your fingernail to pierce it gently and then it slips off very easily:

Unadulterated sweet glory, translucent, shimmering juicy flesh:

Separate the flesh from the shiny pit:

All gone! (sorry, Kris)

One of my top 5 favorite fruits of all time. I bet you'll love it!

Where to buy:

Fresh (in season during the summer months)
Chinatown/Asian Food Markets ($-$$ I paid a reasonable $4.99 per lb)
Specialty/Gourmet Food Markets ($$$ you'll pay a lot more at non-Asian places)
Online: ($$$$ - only if you are desperate)

Tips on selecting fruit: Longan are harvested when they are ripe. Choose fruit with skin that is free of any mold spots and tight to the flesh (no air pockets - this means the flesh inside is starting to rot). Longan still attached to the branch are fresher than fruits that have become detached. Longan can be kept at room temperature but should be eaten within a couple days of purchase.

You can also find canned longan (in heavy syrup) in your local Chinatown/Asian food market and sometimes in the international aisle of a well-stocked supermarket. Or buy canned longan online
here. While not as good as fresh, the canned version retains much of the texture and the flavor of the fresh fruit. Serve it with fruit cocktail and almond jelly as a refreshing dessert. Dried longans are sold in Chinese herbal medicine shops and Asian food markets for their purported health benefits.

And a huge SHOUT OUT to my good friend, Heavenly Housewife, who had her own Weird Food Wednesday adventure with Charentais Melon (which I am unlikely ever to feature since melons are the only fruit I'm allergic to!)


Monday, July 13, 2009

Vancouver Street Food: Japadog & Tenku Bakudanyaki

Vancouver's not exactly known for a having a thriving street food scene (unlike NYC with its 3000 food carts). But in the last few years, this Japanese hotdog vendor has developed an impressive cult following. And these aren't your standard dirty water dogs - Japadog serves fat juicy wieners (smokies, bratwursts, even turkey and veggie dogs) slathered with Japanese condiments. There's just no stopping Japadog, they've just opened their 3rd location in downtown Vancouver!

The lunchtime lineup was at least 15 people deep when we arrived at their original location at Smithe & Burrard:

Hubby Kris and I had originally planned to try at least 2 of their "perkily perfect" hot dogs during our recent trip to Vancouver but alas, our stomachs were already stretched to their limits, nearing the end of our 12 day Vancouver poutine crawl, and having just overdosed on chocolate at Thomas Haas in North Vancouver. We ended up sharing Japadog's No 1 selling Terimayo Dog, topped with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, fried onions, and nori. Instead of the traditional all-beef wiener, we opted to try their Kurobuta pork dog made from Berkshire hogs (#30 on Vancouver Magazine's 101 Things to Taste Before You Die):

Super juicy dog that 'snaps' when you bite into it, a little sweet from the drizzle of teriyaki sauce, little salty from the
umami-rich nori strips, rounded out nicely with creamy mayo. But a huge mess to eat on a windy day, I had seaweed strips stuck in my hair and teriyaki sauce and pork juice dribbling down my on my chin.

Can't wait to try the Oroshi (bratwurst, special soy sauce, grated radish. green onions) and Okonomi (Kurobuta pork, okonomi sauce, Japanese mayo, fried cabbage & bonito flakes) on my next visit.

For more on Japadog (including luscious photos of the dogs I didn't get to try), check out these awesome Vancouver bloggers:

Review: Japadog Lunch at Burrard & Pender at Ho Yummy
Japadog at Sherman's Food Adventures
Japadog Episode II: Pender & Burrard at eat snap repeat
Japadog - Burrard & Pender at I'm Only Here for the Food!

3 locations in downtown Vancouver:
Burrard & Smithe (in front of Sutton Place Hotel)
Burrard & Pender (in front of Scotia Bank)
Coal Harbour Community Centre
Check on their
website for hours of operation, they've been known to close down to due to inclement weather. Or follow Japadog on Twitter here.

Tenku Bakudanyaki
Located only a short drive from the Vancouver airport, in a desolate Richmond parking lot kitty-corner to Fitness World and populated with giant clay pots, you'll find a cute little
yatai (mobile food stall) selling bakudanyaki, giant Japanese fritters stuffed with no less than 7 ingredients.

Bakudanyaki are like
takoyaki on steriods, a little crispy on the outside, doughy and savory on the inside, topped with Japanese mayo and bonito flakes. From what I could tell, the main difference between the menu items are the flavored mayos drizzled on top. Having only a couple minutes, I asked the friendly cook to pick his favorite one for me, and he chose wasabi mayo. $5 for one bakudanyaki, packaged in a cute takeout container:

No time to eat it there - we were en route to our friend Ginger's house (actually kinda relieved I didn't have to eat it outside, those dancing bonito flakes would most certainly have ended up trapped in my big hair). A peak inside the container:

And right before it was dissected into pieces (and yes, it's as big as a chimpanzee!):

Sorry, forgot to take photos of the colorful doughy insides, we were in a rush to go out for dim sum (more eating -YAY!). But the bakudanyaki was filled with yummy surprises - a variety of colorful fish/seafood cakes, crunchy cabbage, ginger, even a quail egg! Topped with wasabi mayo, a sweet unagi type sauce, and those whisper-thin bonito flakes. Comforting, messy, and definitely fun to try!

For more about Tenku Bakudanyaki, check out these recent posts:

Tenku Bakudanyaki: Small venue, big balls at eat snap repeat

Review: Tenku Bakudanyaki at Yum-O-Rama: Where I Live to Eat!

And this one features a photo of the gooey insides:

Tenku Bakudanyaki at I'm Only Here for the Food!

Tenku Bakudanyaki

7100 Elmsbridge Way (corner of Elmsbridge and Gilbert)
Richmond, BC