Monday, June 29, 2009

Sauteed Clams

A dish I miss sorely from Taiwan is stir-fried clams. I love picking from an assortment of fresh clams from the traditional open air markets . It's also really cute how the clams squirt water every now and then at passer-bys.

Clams from the Nankan District, Taoyuan City, Taiwan Market

Live clams are much harder to come by in the states. You can cook with frozen clams with the shells still intact, but try to make this dish with fresh ones when available.

Clams (cleaned; let them soak in water a bit so they can spit out sandy stuff)
minced ginger, garlic, and green onions
dried red chili peppers
white wine
black bean paste, lemongrass sauce paste, or whatever jar of sauce/paste you want to experiment with
If you don't want to use a paste, soy sauce or salt would make this dish lighter but just as tasty

minced ginger, garlic, and green onions

In a lightly oiled pan, stir-fry the minced ingredients with the peppers then add in the clams. After about 2 minutes, add in the paste/sauce/seasoning of your choice (I used hot lemongrass paste), stir around for a bit, and add wine. Let the clams simmer in the wine until they open.

Spicy Lemongrass Clams

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I had time for a light dinner before the 8PM showing of Mamma Mia at the Bass Concert Hall, and I just couldn't think of a place near campus. I was going to settle for something from La Madeleine on N. Lamar when I came across Banzai (3914 N Lamar Blvd). Don't expect anything authentic, but I give this place props for offering very healthy and reasonably tasty sustenance to college students in the area.

Unagi Bento with Brown Rice and Salad
Sumo Roll-shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, asparagus , wrapped in soybean
Taro Milk Tea

Baked Lavender Halibut

Fickle Foodie and I took a day trip into the Hill Country last weekend. Our first stop was Miller Creek Lavender Farm. We were such eager beavers that we got to the farm before the owners, Karen and Don! We're such dorks. I just couldn't wait to pick culinary lavender and cook with them!

My bunch of lavender has dried out nicely, and just as I was pondering what to make with the little buds, I came upon a beautiful cut of halibut at Central Market.

dried lavender
salt & pepper
olive oil

I sprinkled salt on the halibut and massaged it into the fish. I crushed some thyme, rosemary, and lavender in a small bowl, and rubbed the dry mixture evenly on the halibut.

Rosemary, Thyme, & Lavender
I poured enough honey to seal in the dry ingredients and doused the halibut in some Johnny Walker. I think white wine will work really nicely. I refridgerated it for an hour before setting the halibut on a baking dish and in the oven on broil.
Halibut in marinade
Baked Lavender Halibut

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Taglioni Limone with Clams topped with Tomato Basil Salad

I spent New Year's Eve 2006 in Florence and brought back to my little bitty Paris studio a bag of Taglioni Limone and a jar of baby clams from San Marino. I figured citrus and seafood are always complements and threw them together.

Taglioni is thicker than most other pastas and is sort of pillowy when you bite into it. It's inherently heavy so I think a light sauce fares better than a heavy cream based one. I let the juices from the sauteed clams coat the pasta and avoided making a sauce altogether.

Taglioni Limone (or any lemon pasta you can get your hands on)
1 small jar of baby clams with the juice
some frozen clams
1 onion sliced
minced garlic
seeded and chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
lemon juice

Saute the onions and garlic together, add the frozen clams, then add the baby clams with the juice. Squeeze half a lemon into the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Once the pasta is done, add it into the pan of clams to toss together.

Mix the tomatoes and basil with salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and balsamic vinegar in a bowl, and spoon them on top of the finished pasta.
Taglioni Limone with Clams topped with Tomato Basil Salad

Friday, June 26, 2009

Madam Mam: More Dishes I've Tried Other than F11

I always get the same noodle dish at Madam Mam-F11. I felt like being a rebel and trying something different...sort of...My dining companion ordered F11 to share with me.

I ordered the A3 Kao Tung (Thai rice cakes with minced pork and shrimp in a spicy coconut sauce). It was a savory treat but not impressive as I couldn't taste the meat that's allegedly in the dish.

Kao Tung

For dessert, I had the Sticky Rice with Thai Egg Custard. This dish was deliciously creamy, warm, and comforting, but I still prefer the Sticky Rice with Mango because of the nice sweet-tart balance.

Sticky Rice with Thai Egg Custard

Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 2: Key West

We left Miami at dawn and arrived at Key West around 10AM. 500+ miles to Key West and another 500+ back to Miami. This day was exhausting but well worth every ounce of energy and sweat.

Overseas Highway

After a delicious pastry breakfast at Cole's Peace Bakery, we checked out Truman's Little White House.

Truman's Little White House

Floral and Fauna around the Little White House

We made reservations for a lunch of Cuban paella at El Siboney. Avoid the bar grub mess near the touristy Mallory Square and go straight to this restaurant smack inside a residential neightborhood. Amazing Cuban food.

After stuffing our bellies, we went to the Southernmost Point marker for an obligatory photo-op.

Southernmost Point Marker
I was most excited about visiting the Hemingway House because of the 50+ descendents of Hemingway's cats that now occupy the house. The cats seemed content and the tour guides and museum caretakers were all really nice to the kitties, but I couldn't help feeling sad for their dirty and hot outdoor environment.

Hemingway House

Hemingway Cat
After touring Hemingway's house, I had some time before my scheduled parasailing departure, so we walked around Key West, shared a super tart key lime pie from the Blond Giraffe, and gawked at some stray roosters, hens, and chicks.

Key West Museum of Art and History at the Custom House

Museum of Art and History at the Custom House

Wild Hen and Chicks
I reserved my parasailing trip through Fury Water Adventures. Originally, we wanted to also do the glassbottom boat tour, but we didn't want to over-schedule ourselves. Parasailing was awesome! This was my first time, and I can't wait to do it again! One of the passengers said that they caught a baby shark the day before on a fishing trip in these very waters.

Getting ready to parasail!

After parasailing, we headed to Mallory Square to enjoy the sunset. For the entire day, I was elated that was wrong about Key West being stormy, but menancing clouds quickly covered the sky as the sun was setting so we didn't get to witness the supposedly gorgeous Key West sunset...just a wee hint of it.

Mallory Sqaure

Street Performers during the Sunset Festivities at Mallory Square
We enjoyed a light dinner of conch fritters, key lime iced tea, and some Cole's Peace mango bread while watching the sun set and a juggler perform on a tightrope.

Key West Sunset

This would have been a perfectly relaxing and fun-filled day had the drive back to Miami been less stormy and scary.  The Atlantic Ocean actually poured onto the narrow, two-way Overseas Highway!  Driving that 500 mile stretch was incredibly stressful!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Non-Sushi Treats at Maiko Sushi Lounge

After our mid-terms during the Fall semester, a few of us went to Maiko specifically for the Kobe Sliders. Along with the sliders we sampled the Sake White Cheddar Mac and Cheese and Calamari, and I washed all my stress away with Champagne with Strawberries. I loved every dish, but my grad student budget bars me from visiting here often. In fact, I've only been there that one time! I'll find some excuse to wind up there for happy hour again one day.

Sake White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with with crispy cabbage, scallions, and black sesame; Calamari with Sambal cooked Miso
Champagne with Strawberries

Summer Burger Smackdown

After reading a post on Austin Chowhound on the best burgers in Austin, I thought that it's time for me to venture beyond my lifelong favorite--McDonald's cheeseburgers.

Just so you don't worry about my health, my compilation of burger tastings span a whole year, not just this summer. ;-)

P. Terry's
P.Terry's is definitely a local favorite. The drive-thru lines always leak out onto the street on Lamar. My McDonald's allegiance prevented me from ever contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions on this Lamar burger joint until today for this self-assigned burger taste test task.

P. Terry's drive-thru; Cheeseburger

The menu is simple and too the point: hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger, or veggie burger, which made ordering a no brainer. The cheeseburger is tasty and the veggies definitely make the burger experience slightly healthier than a McDonald's cheeseburger. The patty is what I would rate medium juicy and flavorful. The quality of the meat is excellent compared to the who-knows-what's-in-there patties of burger chains. The fries, however, are not good. It's a shame because they use fresh potatoes. Unfortunately they turn out limp and forgettable.

P. Terry's cheeseburger, fries, and iced tea

Rachel, yet again, introduced me to another Austin establishment back in college-Sandy's Hamburgers.

Sandy's drive-thru

I have no particular love for Sandy's, but an occassional hankering does creep under my skin once in awhile. The Bacon Cheeseburger is ok to bad on a normal non-crave day and tastes good to me on a crave day. I can't explain it. I feel that any McDonald's burger tastes better than Sandy's and probably prepared more properly. The fries (with or without the chili cheese) are even worse than P. Terry's because they're not made from fresh potatoes AND they're limpier.

Bacon Cheeseburger and Chili Cheese Fries
I guess the real attraction to Sandy's is the frozen custard. Try getting the custard sundae with pineapple topping. It's awesome.

Frozen Custard

Steak 'N Shake
I always see the highway food signs on long drives around the U.S. with Steak 'N Shake's emblem, but I would either stop at Cracker Barrel or of course McDonald's. I finally went to the Steak 'N Shake at the Southpark Meadows strip mall. Burgers are supposed to be warm right? These shooters (2 chipotle and 1 A1) were room temperature. Look at the photos below, the cheese didn't even melt and the patties were light brown...I felt queasy by the time I finished the second shooter. The fries were also served room temperature and were like nails. I really don't recommend these shooters and fries.

Chipotle Shooters, A1 Slider, and Fries

The one excellent item I came across was the banana strawberry side-by-side milkshake. It's hard to come by a slurp-able milkshake that doesn't have a watery consistency, and even harder to come by artificial banana flavoring that doesn't tickle my gag reflex.

Banana and Strawberry Side-by-Side Milkshake
That's right! Maiko serves up some awesome Kobe Sliders with with with avocado, white miso slaw, and white cheddar on their happy hour menu. It comes with yam fries and Japanese pickles. These sliders are juicy, creamy, and packed with flavors. The yam fries are delicious and the Japanese pickles are a perfect component to tie everything together.

Kobe Sliders with Yam Fries

I see they now have green tea milkshakes! Eeeeks! I'm so there!
Shuggie's Burgers and Fries
Shuggie's used to have seafood items, but they now concentrate on making just burgers and weekend brunch. I would've hated them for nixing the catfish po boy if not for the excellent burgers. I will even go on to say that the Rambler (with smoked Gouda cheese, grilled onions, chicken fried bacon, homemade BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, and mayo) the best burgers in Austin. C'mon...CHICKEN FRIED BACON! The patty is thick and juicy, and the ingredients are fresh. The fries are great and taste better plain with ketchup than with the green chile cheese topping.

The Rambler and Green Chile Cheese Fries
Root Beer Float

Five Guys
My first Five Guys experience was in D.C. before my addiction to photographing food. There's now a Five Guys in Austin close to campus, and I got a couple of my friends hooked on their burgers. Some claim that their Cajun fries are the best, but I find the seasoning doesn't quite go with these fries. I love cajun or spicy fries like at Popeye's, but somehow, the seasoning used here just doesn't work. The texture of the fries is perfect and certainly beats P. Terry's and Sandy's.

Peanuts, Cajun Fries, and Sweet Tea

The burgers are delicious. Its patties are tastier than P. Terry's, but P. Terry's lettuce and tomato portions are better.

Bacon Hamburger
There are still quite a few places I want to try:

Mighty Fine Burger
Phil's Icehouse
I would gladly take suggestions!

Here's an interesting NYTimes link about making the perfect burger.