Monday, November 29, 2010

Bird head flasks

I saw these eagle head and swan head liquor flasks at the Met earlier this month.

I wish they produced replicas of these.

Too much pork belly dinner

We've had a slab of pork belly in the freezer for a long time. It even came with us when we moved. So I decided to cook all of it last night.

I divided it between two dishes. The pot going on top is Mao's Red-Braised Pork, an old favorite.

It came out okay, but I gave ourselves too many fatty pieces. Actually, now that I think of it (and re-read that old post), that wasn't the problem. We needed to cook it for 2-3 hrs instead of the 1 hour Fuchsia Dunlop calls for. Hmm, well, I'll make up the extra time with the leftovers.

The dish in the oven is a batch of Rillons. I got the recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Cookbook. These things are basically pork belly confit.

You cook them in their own fat, flavored with garlic, thyme, and wine. It was delicious right from the oven. Fearnley-Whittingstall says that he likes them better cold. They're not bad cold. I'm eating some cold rillons right now. But the fat is pretty intense when it's cold. You're basically eating lard. Some bread would be useful.

I retrieved the garlic from the rillons recipe before it had a chance to burn.

I gave the pieces to Mabel. Roasted garlic cloves puts a smile on her face.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November dinner

This post originally took place on 11/11/2010.

Henry was in town doing a project with Josh, so we all (including me, Eve, and Mabel) had dinner together.

Our guests brought over the wine. Included a magnum of barolo and a valpolicella (Henry can't resist the raisonated grapes) which we tied with a bow.

I picked up a last minute beef roast from Citarella which was tasty but not nearly as nice as the ones from our beloved Florence. We also had a dried mozzarella ball from Alleva. Josh and Eve handed off our country ham (which I have yet to write about, but there are some pictures here).

I've decided that there is absolutely no problem with buying prepared sides for dinner. Takes the stress out of having people over for dinner. Citarella has some decent options.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bahn Mi and Jury Duty

I had jury duty earlier in the week. I would have liked to sit on one of the cases if I had nothing else to do, but alas.

I got Bahn Mi on my lunch breaks.

The closest place I could find through Yelp was Sau Voi.

Very authentic-looking. Most of the store is taken up with DVDs.

The sandwich was respectable. The crispy bread is key. The crumbs splintering off the sandwich attracted a crowd of sparrows which are always nice. An aggressive albino pigeon, however, put an early end to my meal.

I didn't get picked on my second day of jury duty, and they let us out for good. I decided to celebrate by going to Bahn Mi Saigon Bakery, our favorite Bahn Mi place.

They moved and totally upgraded their establishment. They kept the jewelry counter, and I think even the jewelry is nicer. The sandwich is still awesome, though I think I will not order it spicy again.

Sau Voi
101 Lafayette St (at Walker St)
New York, NY 10013-4165
(212) 226-8184

Bahn Mi Saigon Bakery
198 Grand St (btn Mott and Mulberry)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 941-1541

Friday, November 12, 2010

ASA 2010-San Diego

The American Society of Anesthesiologists annual conference was held in San Diego this year. I was sharing a room with Caroline and Marny at the snazzy Andaz Hotel, a boutique hotel in the Gaslamp District. We were shocked when we saw our room:

There is nowwhere to hide when your shower has only clear glass! A quick trip to CVS got us the materials to provide some privacy.

Even so, we had to sit facing certain walls when someone was showering because there were mirrors everywhere. But we made it work.

The ASA annual conference sounds nerdy and is nerdy. Here I am modeling a pulse oximeter that goes on your forehead rather than on your finger.

I ran in place and held my breath to see how it would change the reading on the monitor.

The weather in San Diego was very bad. It was cloudy, rainy, and cold. But we got some good eating in. The Tin Fish was right by the convention center. We were sad about the rain.

But Tin Fish's amazing fried oysters cheered us up.

They were the best fried oysters I have ever tried, although they were not quite as good on our second visit. The first time we had them, they were hot, crispy, and extremely juicy when you bit into them. Very delicious.

On another day, Chris, Caroline, Fahad and I had dinner with Dr. Blanck and Sue at Aqua Al 2. Everything was tasty, but the most memorable part of the dinner was trying white sambuca for the first time. I wish I had taken a picture - it is a clear digestif that comes in little glasses with coffeebeans floating within. It is basically pure essence of licorice - not as caustic as Fernet Branca, but potent enough to necessitate slow sipping. The whole ordering of white sambuca came about when we learned that Chris and his brothers drink down a good amount of the stuff during the holidays with this chant, "'buca! 'buca! 'buca!" Seeing Dr. Blanck do the chant was pretty awesome.

On the other days, we ate at Cowboy Star, Stingaree, and Searsucker, all fun to eat at. And on our way home, we paid homage to the ultimate Californian destination - In 'n Out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


We went to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, which includes the Magritte Museum. The weather was fantastic, so we sat outside for lunch. I had a fancy salad and a glass of wine. We wandered around the Upper Town. When we got to the Parc de Bruxelles, we saw this funny lion.

Fleurise said, "I guess not everyone can be a rampant lion."

This gold and black color scheme could be found throughout the city. I thought it was very pretty.

We saw the Royal Palace, the Sculpture Garden, Notre-Dame du Sablon Church, the Place du Petit Sablon, a refreshing park with a beautiful fountain, and the Palace of Justice. There was an antique market near the church. We saw these cool knives.

We made our way back to the Manneken-Pis. There was an escargot stand featuring a bubbling pot of escargot.

10 for 3.50 euro. We went for it. Not only were they already shelled,

but the broth was savory and spicy.

A very nice appetizer to our next venture, which was having dinner at the Grand Place. My camera isn't powerful enough to convey the grandeur of this plaza, so I didn't even try. Suffice it to say that it is a beautiful place to get a beer and soak in the feeling of being in another time. We got a sampling of "Belgian Delicacies" - chicken, meatball, beef - with the requisite frites.

I thought we were winding down, but on our way to look for dessert at the Saint Catherine Square, we ran into an oyster stand. So we got oysters.

When we finished dinner, we still felt like we didn't have our fill of frites. It was our last night, so decided to make our dessert moules frites and to celebrate with a little champagne. We toasted to our last night in the looming presence of the Saint Catherine Cathedral. What a great week.


We went on a tour of the local brewery in Bruges, De Halve Maan Brewery (The Half Moon Brewery). These tools were once used in the beer brewing process.

De Halve Maan Brewery make Bruges Zot (Bruges Fool); nowadays they use modern equipment, but on the tour, we saw a lot of old equipment that was used in the past. One floor had large bath-like containers for fermenting the beer.

Another floor had these white cylinders with round holes just big enough for a person to get through.

Apparently, these white containers had to be cleaned very well and the task had to be done by at least two men. The person who climbed inside the cylinder would hum or whistle a tune while the other waited outside. If the singing started to go out of tune, the person outside would know that the cleaner inside was beginning to get affected by fumes, and would help get him out.

At the top of the brewery, we had a view far better than the one at the Bell Tower. We met Saint Arnold, patron saint of brewing, with his brewing stick.

The tour ended with a glass of Bruges Zot. I am definitely a fan. We decided to get classic Flemish food for lunch, so Fleurise and I dined at Bistro de Bekoring. We got more glasses of Bruges Zot. They had these really cute tiny sausages for us to munch on while we waited for the food.

The shrimp croquettes were crunchy, and even better, had this amazing briny of-the-sea shrimp taste. It was the best shrimp croquette I had ever had. Fleurise got a seafood stew. I got eels.

Both were delicious. We packed up our Miffy toothpaste and headed to the train station. The trip to Brussels was, thankfully, uneventful. But we had decided to be adventuresome and didn't make reservations ahead of time based on advice from Rick Steves' guidebook. Rick Steves' recommendations are generally really good, but this is one suggestion that I wouldn't repeat. The tourist office's internet and phone were down so they couldn't help us. So we wandered around the city dragging our suitcases on the cobblestone to maybe 4-5 hotels before we found one that had space and that we liked.

We walked around the city. We saw the Grand Place. Fleurise wanted to get strawberries on a stick, but turned them down once she found out they were for dipping in chocolate.

We touched a brass statue of Mayor Evrard 't Serclaes for good luck (we felt like we needed all the luck we could get). We saw some lace umbrellas with a creepy mannequin in the display window that moved.

We saw the Manneken-Pis, a fountain of a little boy urinating into a pool. We had moules frite at Restaurant La Maree. We liked the sign for the bakery next door.

The weather was beautiful and it was just warm enough to eat outside. After we finished, we called it a day.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bruges - Day 2

Fleurise and I were excited for our full day in Bruges. It looked different in the daylight. The town looked so perfectly medieval that for a while it felt larger than life, like we were in a movie set or at Disneyland. I settled into the town a bit more after I read that Bruges today is a pretty accurate depiction of how it actually looked in the old days. The city makes its living on tourism, so it makes sense that money is poured into restorations. We had a view of some of the characteristic gabled rooftops from our window.

We made our way to the famous Bell Tower. On the way, we saw perfect storefronts with beautiful displays of toys and lace and delectable chocolates, candies, and cookies. We paid 8 euros to the city of Bruges so that we could punish ourselves by climbing 366 steps up the Bell Tower. The view was just okay; the best part about the visit was the sign at the entrance.

Frites are specifically forbidden. We walked to Burg Square and marveled over the opulent City Hall. We visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood where it is said they keep a vial of Christ's blood. We went to, of all places, the basement of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the old ruins of a church had been converted into conference space. We contemplated "Madonna and Child" by Michelangelo in the Church of Our Lady, wandered around the Begijnhof, and sat down at Minnewater.

We had to try out Belgium chocolate, so we visited The Chocolate Line, which sold chocolates by the "mad scientist of chocolate," Dominique Person. He had some crazy stuff, like the Havana Cigar chocolate, which has rum, cognac, and Cuban tobacco leaves. We tried it; it had a spicy bitterness, but besides that, we weren't sure what to make of it.

Along our walk we happened on an old man playing a mechanical organ with a hand crank.

We enjoyed being outside so we decided to skip the museums and rent bikes. The ride was surreal. We rode by a canal to the next town over, Damme.

We went along fields, horses, sheep, windmills, and a majestic arch of trees like those at the Mall in Central Park or at Versailles. I didn't think that a bike ride could ever be this calming.

We walked through Damme and took what looked like a "wandering path" back to the canal.

We came back to town hungry. We sat down in one of those forgettable restaurants in Markt Square, and we had our moules frites, Belgian wafel, our people watching, and our view of the Bell Tower.