Friday, December 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Our Way

My family only started cooking for Thanksgiving roughly 4-5 Thanksgiving ago. Prior to that, we've always gone to a family friend's place and eat those Chinese-style Thanksgiving turkeys. The reason it is Chinese is because rather than putting stuffing in there, these turkeys are stuffed with sticky rice! While I do like the turkey, over the years we found that it is too tiring and too much for us. Most of my relatives still live in Taiwan, with only an uncle and a few cousins here in the US, so for the past 2 years, we've prepped ham instead of turkeys!

Now... I'll admit, we don't make everything from scratch. In fact, we love it when we can find shortcuts to things, sorta like Sandra Lee and her store & home prepped ideas. Some is worth making from scratch, but some store bought items just taste... good, and if we like it, why change it :P Also, my family's Thanksgiving isn't very... American in terms of the food we prep. We take inspiration from everywhere and as long as it is tasty, nobody minds at all, so this year we have American, Hawaiian, Taiwanese, and Thai!

glazed ham
So this year, we went for the Kirkland Smoke Ham from Costco but of course we enhanced it a little! We used pineapple and OJ as glaze, then stuck a few cloves to give it additional flavor. Honeybaked? Psh... ours is better :P

glazed ham
Cloves stabbed in there.

ramen salad
Usually we make have a mixed green salad with lemon balsamic vinaigrette, but this year, we decided to try something with a little Asian flair. Bought some shredded cabbage (the ones from supermarkets for cole slaw) and Maru-Chan ramen packs to make our own ramen salad! We just toasted the ramen a little, then tossed it in with the cabbage with some awesomePietro Sesame & Miso dressing. Pietro's dressings have always been family favorite!

ramen salad close up
Toss a little bit of sliced almonds, and there, restaurant quality ramen salad :P

taiwanese fried chicken
Taiwanese style fried chicken. Gotta have something Taiwanese! We made the marinade usually used for popcorn chicken, and soaked the chicken overnight to give the breast meat some flavor, then breaded lightly to be fried! All it needs is a little white pepper and everybody's happy :]

thai salmon
Oven-baked Thai Salmon. The sauce is just soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, lots of lemon juice with come chopped up red chili peppers, parsley, basil, and garlic! Simple, healthy, and super easy to make!

truffle mashed potato
Of course, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving if the table didn't have mashed potato. Last year I made garlic mash with some chopped garlic, but this year, taking it to another level by adding truffle to make truffled garlic mash potato! Russet potatoes, fat free half & half (I don't like it too fatty :P), garlic, garlic powder, and just a little little bit of white truffle oil.

truffle oil
La Tourangelle Infused White Truffle Oil. This one is actually made in Sonoma, CA, rather than Italy. I actually have truffle oil from Italy as well, but figured since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, gotta go with the American-made truffle oil!

I've been buying these small bottles of truffle at TJ Maxx & Home Goods, and yes they are still good and there's nothing shady about it! TJ Maxx & Home Goods are actually two of the best places to buy specialty food items since it's always at a discount. You just have to search for a bit since it is sorta like treasure hunting. I've seen truffle oil go for as low as $7 from their retail price of $25+! The one above was around $12, and yes even though it is small, a little bit of truffle oil goes a loooooong way.

garlic bread
We LOVE our Pepperidge Farm Texas Garlic Toast. Garlic bread is definitely one of those items where we could've baked our own garlic bread but why move away from the family favorite??? Look how perfectly golden brown it is :P

rum cake
There's always some sort of dessert, and this year, a family friend of ours dropped off a rum-soaked cake, and gotta admit, pretty damn good. First bite gives you a huge kick in the mouth with the rum, then a little bit of sweetness together with the flavors of all the nuts.

ham fried rice
There's always leftovers after a Thanksgiving meal and one of my favorite leftover meal is definitely the ham fried rice I get to make the next day! Leftover rice, ham, pineapple, eggs, green onion, soy sauce, white pepper, with a sprinkle of tasted sesame seeds.

We also made some tiny potato pancakes with the truffled garlic mash but I totally forgot to take a picture of it. Smelled to good and I devoured it before I remembered haha.

So that was our Thanksgiving dinner! A little unorthodox in terms of what we eat for Thanksgiving this year, but nevertheless, we are thankful for what we have and the time we get to share with family, even if it is only with my parents, sister, and cousins this year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Charlotte: Queen City [Day 2 & 3]

After I woke up from dreaming about the fried chicken at Mert's, proceeded downstairs for the 2nd day of the conference that was held at Westin Charlotte. They actually had breakfast catered, buffet-style, but to be honest, I was to groggy to take a picture of it so I'll just start from lunch!

lunch buffet
Some of the items from the lunch buffet. Pretty damn nice O_O.

flank steak with chimichurri sauce
The flank steak with chimichurri sauce and caramelized onions was one very delicious. Chimichurri is definitely one of my favorite sauces out there and theirs was a very solid one at that!

At night after the conference, they had a reception right at the Westin Charlotte so stopped by to check it out.

Like last night, they were serving small plates.

First run: carved turkey with biscuit & gravy, prosciutto, Korean beef.

turkey & biscuit
I gotta say... that turkey was one of the moistest turkey I've ever had! And really, the buttery biscuit was just a bonus.

Prosciutto and the Korean beef. The beef was just... beef sauteed in soy sauce?

korean bbq beef
For the second round, decided to go back and get more of the Korean beef. And after staring at the station for awhile, found out what I suspected was true: beef was just sauteed in the "Korean marinade." Meh, didn't have high hopes that it was gonna be like Korean food in LA, but still, put some more effort, catering company (or Westin)!

This is not edible but all over Westin Charlotte they had a pot filled all sorts of spices that is immersed in oil! They heat up the pot with a burner at the bottom so throughout the hotel you can smell the flagrance from the pots. Amazing. Some citrus peels, cinnamon...

duke energy
Afterwards, decided to walk around Uptown Charlotte again, taking a different route. Duke Energy Center again.

BoA stadium
Saw the BoA Stadium, where Carolina Panthers plays. No wonder there's so many sports bar around the area.

Picture of where I stayed, Westin Charlotte.

tin tin
After walking around a bit, decided to Yelp for a spot and ended up at Tin Tin Box & Noodles, which is this Japanese fast food joint.

hibachi combo
For some reason, "hibachi" is immensely popular in Charlotte, so I decided to check out Tin Tin since they had the highest reviews. Turns out hibachi is just your average teppan.

Went for the Hibachi Combo, which comes with beef, chicken, shrimp, and mushrooms on top of fried rice. It was very... whatevers. Fried rice was sorta cold and the beef & chicken were already precooked. They just heated it on the grill. The shrimp is obviously frozen (no problem with that), but I think it sat in its own thawed out liquid for too long so there's this really fishy taste.

Comes with this "sauce" that people there go crazy for. It's just.. a really mayo-ey sauce with some seasonings.

Should've just ate more fried chicken!

minut yogurt fruit parfait
Next day, woke up not too happy from my second dinner. For some reason the lunch they provided didn't look that appetizing to me so I just got some dessert.

Mint yogurt parfait with fruit. Was good when cold, nasty when warm.

chocolate mousse
Chocolate mousse with hazelnut creme. The little nut cluster at the top was the best part of it. Caramelized sugar + roasted nuts = match made in heaven!

Since our flight was early in the afternoon, we left for the airport early and just chilled. Probably won't be back to Charlotte for awhile, since they switch the location of the conference every year, which is sad since I didn't get a chance to make it out of downtown area for Price's Chicken Coop for the famous fried chicken.

At least I got one fried chicken meal in :P

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Charlotte: Queen City [Day 1]

For 3 years already, I've missed Halloween, but in return, I got to travel to HK, Taiwan, and China. I was super bummed out this when I found out I would not travel to Hong Kong like in the years past. No Far East work trip means no delicious Asian food in my belly :[

But, I was sent to Charlotte, North Carolina at the beginning of November. I've only been to the South twice, so I was definitely excited about going there. However later I found out that all the meals would be catered so all the attendees of the conferene would not have to worry about food. It's good in that it is all taken care off, but bad since that sorta prevented me from having to sample of what Charlotte has to offer.

I've split my posts about Charlotte into two parts. Definitely not as much fooding compared to what I usually do on these trips :P

Had to take the red eye flight out of LAX to Dallas, then to Charlotte. Travel time: 15 hours. I was pretty cracked out when I got to Charlotte.

By the time we got to the Westin Charlotte for the conference, they had already finished serving lunch, so I just grabbed two cupcakes and went to work. Peanut Butter Chocolate cupcake & Red Velvet. DAYUM they were so GOOD cupcakes. Super moist.

choco cupcake
Best one was definitely the Chocolate Ganache Chocolate cupcake! Moist chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache, then topped with dark chocolate cream and dark chocolate piece. Chocolate x4!

mint museum
After the first day concluded, there was a free cocktail reception sponsored by Lowe's at the Mint Museum, an art museum, so decided to go and check it out.

Open bar! First time trying a Yuengling. I know it is one of those old school breweries in the US. I remember the first time I heard about Yuengling, I thought it was a new Chinese brewery haha.

View from the patio of the Mint Museum at the 4th floor.

Breckler Museum of Modern Art. Too bad I didn't get a chance to check it out.

View of the Nascar building and Westin Charlotte, the hotel where the conference was held and where I stayed.

The crowd at the reception.

Carving station being set up!


okra gumbo
Okra gumbo. Southern influence with the okra.

NY Prime rib with horseradish sauce, egg bread roll, and the okra gumbo. Pretty nice for a "cocktail reception!"

Okra gumbo. Not a huge fan of okra but it was not bad!

Some cheesy hors d'oeuvres.

Had to go back for seconds, but made my self a sandwich this time! :D

Mediterranean flatbread with goat cheese, sweet peppers, figs, spinach, and caramelized onions. Very tasty and surprisingly light.

Crudites with seasoned salt! Crudites are raw veggies to dip in sauce, vinaigrette, or salts.

Himalayan pink salt, fire salt, and Sonoma sea salt. Himalayan pink salt is the purest salt on earth. TBH can't really tell the difference but I liked it cause it was weird sampling pink salt weird haha. Fire salt tasted like sea salt with some pepper powder mixed in.

bbq pork sliders
Pulled bbq sliders. Sadly this was the only BBQ I had in North Caroline. The funny thing is that Charlotte is actually not known for BBQ even though Carolina BBQ is famous.

Bow tie pasta with butternut squash, arugula, and shiitake mushroom with sage cream sauce. Wasn't that tasty after it got cold.

fresh chip
Fresh chips with seasoned salt was great though!

Afterwards, decided to walk around Uptown Charlotte for a bit and right outside Breckler Museum is a shiny silver statue of Sungod made out of mirrors!

Now... for those of wondering why I got so excited about a statue, it is because at UCSD, there is a Sungod statue by the same artists, and the Sungod is a very symbolic statue at UCSD.

A sign commemorating the Battle of Charlotte.

After walking around a bit, I got a little hungry so decided to stop my Mert's for some Southern cuisine!

Mert's, one of the highest rated restaurant in Charlotte, according to Yelp :P

brown bag
Brought it back to the Westin. Was gonna sit down and eat but decided to order to-go rather than sitting there like a loser HAHA.

fried chicken dinner
Fried quarter leg chicken entree!

whole cornbread
Cornbread... not gonna lie... it was pretty damn bomb, especially with the sweet butter!


fried chicken
Fried Chicken!! Seriously it was so good. No sauce needed.

Super moist. I was afraid of the skin, which is one of the best part, becoming soggy on my walk back from the restaurant but it was still crispy! Amazing.

I thought I wasn't that hungry but I probably could've ate 4-5 more pieces. It was that good!

Candied yams. Not that sweet, lots of spices.

mac & cheese
Mac & cheese. Yelp reviews raved about it... but I don't know... I've had better hahah.

bite size
The cheesy crust was definitely the best bite.

Ended my night with a bottle of IBC Root Beer.

Not gonna lie thought, it was nice not having to worry about looking for food but it does take the fun out of traveling. I still dream about that fried chicken... in fact... I'll probably start a fried chicken adventure, like the one I did for tacos awhile back haha.

Happy Turkey Day!