Dinner at SXSW. Bibs. Food dumped on your table. Spicy crawfish, shrimp, taters, juicy corn, homemade honey mustard sauce, homemade cocktail sauce, warm bread. Delicious. The kids menu had chocolate covered crawfish heads on it....that's weird. Go to this place if you are in the mood for some simple, good Cajun style seafood! Here is a pic of the waitress telling us how to peel / eat a crawfish.
I had the wonderful opportunity to come to SXSW in Austin, Texas for work and I just had a very relaxing and delicious Sunday. My coworker and I spent the day at a very cool gathering for foodies, then lounged outdoors with Mexican Martinis (Martinis made with tequila in plastic cups), and explored Austin. For those of you who don't know, Foodspotting is an awesome new startup for people who love taking pictures of food, finding good food and eating food. The event was called the Foodspotting Street Food Fest. It was an empty lot with Austin's best food mobiles. The bases were covered with slides, BBQ, tacos, Aussie pies, a few others and, of course, a cupcake mobile for dessert. The picture above was from a Korean BBQ Taco truck called Chi'lantro and was a Mexican Korean fusion. I ordered the vegetarian tacos which were DELICIOUS. They were made with soy vinaigrrete Korean salad, cilantro, onions, sesame seeds, perfectly lightly fried tofu, and some special Chi'lantro house sauces - all served up on two warm tortillas with a lime wedge. While I didn't order it - the truck was also serving a delicious looking side of Kimchi fries with melted cheese....ummm...that is genius (see menu picture below). The Mexican-Korean fusion is a winner combo....dare I say that it is the peanut butter - chocolate combo of the savory world?
The coolest looking truck was an old jalopy of a school bus serving up some good'ol bbq. The shirt hanging on the bus is Foodspotting's awesome shirt.
For dessert I had a very yummy red velvet cupcake from the adorable Hey Cupcake. I highly recommend checking out the little intro video on their website HERE. The red velvet was moist, not too sweet, and the cream cheese frosting had just the right amount of tangyness.
Finally...this was unexpected but a surprisingly awesome product re-do - Peeps was going through an epic re-branding. Maybe epic wasn't the right word but whenever I think of Peeps I think of mildly stale Easter candies from the drug store. I'm not hating on Peeps but they have never actually tasted all that good. The entire company is dependent on the Spring for a reason. At the Foodspotting tasting event, some Peeps reps were there decked out in tiedye shirts with sparkly hula-hoops giving away the new Peeps candies. Below is an example of how Peeps has actually done some consumer research and refined their candies. It is dark chocolate dipped Peeps and little dark chocolate candies with a creamy mallow filling.
The reps were also giving away some awesome Peeps schwag, like adorable colored Peeps key chains...I wonder does anyone buy Peeps in all seasons?
This picture is taken from the location where the cave is looking up to the summit of the Indrahar pass. It looks close but it is a steep and super challenging climb up. I took this picture the day before - when we arrived to set up camp at the cave. Our plan was to wake up around 3am, make a quick meal, and scramble to the summit before sunrise....
The cave was the warmest night's sleep I'd had since arriving in India. Here are the two lovely English folks getting ready to sleep in the cave.
Here is our cook, Gulab preparing some hot chai and dinner in the cave:
And here is dinner: chapati with vegetable curry
The next morning we woke around 4 am an started the scramble to the summit. It was really hard for me. The sun came up and I had not yet reached the summit, I was close but slowing down significantly. Breathing became hard and it felt like each leg up was 200 pounds. Finally, we all made it to the summit of Indrahar pass and when you reach the top you see the beginning of the Himalayan range...
At the pass we were at 5000 meters. At first you feel warm and start removing all your layers, then you feel bone chilling cold. Breathing is still easy until you laugh - then you are really gasping for air. After about 45 minutes, we started to feel light headed and began our descent. Here I am at top with our guide, Papaji!
A few days later I would continue toward this Himalayan range...
The mountain in the background, on the right hand side, is the Indrahar Pass. That is where we are headed. I've stayed two night in Dharamsala. I met two awesome people from Kenya and two from England and we've decided to go on a climbing/camping adventure to the Indrahar pass. I don't have any trekking experience of this level and I'll soon discover that it is much harder than it looks. So hard actually that just before reaching the pass, about 50 meters from the mountain top, I'd start to cry because it is so hard, cold, painful. I'd pull it together and make it to the top but climbing mountains is a very humbling experience. If you look closely in the picture above, I'm with a backpack with all my gear turning the corner. Before leaving for this adventure we hired a cook and a guide to come with us. The mountains are ruthless and a lot of people get hurt trying to do it on their own. Our cook, Gulab was incredible. In the freezing cold and pitch dark elements he would prepare a warm meal. We climed to a certain altitude each day. Our first evening Gulab prepared the heart warming meal below: Clockwise from the spoons we have, papadams, vegetable curry, cucumber with cayenne, rice and dal.
Here is a visitor that joined us for the meal...these hard core mountain goats are all over the place!
The hire altitude we climbed the longer we could see the fog lingering up to us. It's remarkable to be hiking, literally, above the clouds. You can watch them slowly glide up to you - it usually takes about 2-3 hours once you are 4500 meters. After day three of hiking up to the Indrahar pass, we camped out in a cave and hung our clothes to dry as the fog sneaked up on us - then it cold really cold.
From 4500 meters, Gulab would prepare the best plate of vegetable pakoras I've ever had:
with the best view I've ever had....
The hike and days and nights continue - here is a pic of some of our crew. That's me, with the white shirt, heavy backpack, looking up.
I wasn't sure how to begin writing and sharing about pictures about India. India, for me, was such an incredible place. I loved India immensely. And, more than anywhere else I've been - I want to return. In fact, I would like to find a way to go every year for as long as I live. This trip that I recently returned from was two and half months in the North of India and I still feel like I barely scratched the surface. I didn't have a plan - other than to travel with an open mind and heart and to go North. I didn't know how far North or where in the North I just knew I wanted to be in the mountains. So I arrived in Delhi and immediately left. I guess I also knew I didn't want to be in any large cities. I spent 15 minutes in Delhi and that was at a bus station making a transfer. I will return to India and there will be opportunities to visit Delhi, but not on this trip. The stories are endless and still unraveling themselves to me. On this blog, I'll share snippets that have some food involved but, if your interested in hearing more or sharing your own stories of India, maybe one day we'll meet and talk and person. For now - here I go...
Upon arriving at New Delhi airport, I high tailed it to the bus station and hopped on a bus headed north. A nice young man sat next to me named Anu (he is in the one with the bright smile, in the front, in the picture above). It turned out he was going North too - to a small town - to visit his family. He invited me along and I joined. So after a 12 hour bus ride that was mind numbing and well numbing all around (I was sitting crouched next to some live stock) we arrived at Anu's cousins and sister's home (pictured above). Anu's cousin quickly prepared a nice meal that we all shared on their bed. This was my first meal in India. We had grilled corn which brought back fond memories of Ghana...
...and cucumber with cayenne pepper sprinkled on it - YUM!
....and chapati. Chapati I would have every night for the next 2.5 months.
Anu was a journey that I only learned about in our last hour together. He was meeting his fiance..for the first time. She was sweet and lovely and met us at the bus station. So this was the first time they met.
I didn't want to intrude on what is essentially their first date, even though they will soon be married - but they insisted I join them as they went to a temple, so I was the third wheel. Although they were both very shy around each other so I did most the talking.
I've had a lot of garlic bread in my life - at restaurants, friend's homes but I've found that I tend to be...well, bored with most garlic breads. They are either too lightly flavored, stale, poor quality bread and really I just don't care for it. However, my mom has taught me the secrets to preparing the a fool-proof delicious garlic bread and all of it depends on the quality of bread - sourdough bread (Sorry east coasters!) When it comes to high quality sourdough bread, San Francisco is where it's always been. There are disagreements as to which bakery makes the best bread - but every time we make garlic bread we use the Semifreddi's bread, available only in Northern California. Here is a picture of the bay :)
Garlic Bread on San Francisco Sourdough
1 loaf of Semifreddi's Sourdough
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Slice the loaf in half lengthwise but not all the way so that the halves are still attached. Pry open and spread butter on both sides of the loaf making sure to go all the way to the ends.
3.Generously sprinkle the garlic powder over the two halves. Sprinkle on the parsley. Lightly sprinkle paprika.
4. Place the two halves back together and cut thick slices in the bread, again leaving the spine intact.
5. Put the loaf in a paper bag in oven at for 15-20 minutes or into it smells so good you can't wait.
Whenever I go home, my mom prepares some delicious breakfast. Sometimes it's a dutch baby, sometimes french toast, and sometimes it is these DELICIOUS cottage cheese pancakes. These are best with some berry jam, although they taste quite nice with syrup too. They are light, fluffy, moist and perfect. The secret to getting them so thick and fluffy is the beating the egg whites until they are dry and stiff.
Mom's Cottage Cheese Pancakes
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1. Using an electric mixture, beat the egg whites until really stiff.
2. Whisk the eggs yolks in a bowl, then add the cottage cheese, sour cream, flour, sugar and salt.
3. Gently fold in the egg whites using a spatula until well incorporated. This is what makes them fluffy!
4. Over medium heat, heat a little vegetable oil and butter.
5. Add a 1/3 cup of batter to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
So at some point in my life, I am going to live in Maui. It's been decided. I love Maui. I love island life. I love Ono. I'm not sure if we can buy Ono on the main land - I haven't done sufficient research however I imagine that on coastal regions, this delicious tender fish is available. I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Maui over winter break and after, spending most the day in the ocean, I loved preparing a meal for my mom and sister using local and seasonal ingredients. Ono is the Hawaiian name for fish and it is also referred to as Wahoo fish. This tropical fish is highly regarded by many gourmets. I'd never had it before and my sister ordered a butter Ono one night at a restaurant. After one taste, I was hooked and decided to create my own Ono dinner the following evening. In accordance with the easy life on Maui, Ono is very easy to prepare. It doesn't take much time, just a little island love. For my first time making this dish, I prepared it with garlicky sauteed zucchini, and side dish of roasted brussle sprouts and mini yellow potatoes. Here is a pic of the side dish:
Ono, Maui Style
(4 servings...although 3 will finish this)
2 large fillets of ono
4 thin slices of lemon
Fresh lemon juice - to squeeze over fillets
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 small zucchinis thinly sliced
Ono seasoning (sea salt, cracked pepper, ginger, garlic, alea salt)
1. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add in the minced garlic and cook for 30-40 seconds.
2. Place the zucchini slices over the bottom of the pan and let cook for 3-4 minutes.
3. While zucchini slices are on pan, cut a slice in the Ono fillets, don't cut all the way through, just large enough to put the lemon slices in.
4. Put in the lemon slices in the fillets.
5. Place the fillets in the pan and sprinkle with Ono seasoning, oregano, and lemon juice.
6. Cover the pan and let the fillets cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip fillets over, and season the other side, cover, and cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until the fillets are cooked through. You want them to be white and flaky.
For my sister's 28th birthday, she had a pizza party with an array of homemade pizzas made by yours truly and Andy! Yes - we flew him in from NYC to assist with the pizza making. At the end of the evening, Andy and I had one dough left and it was clear that the guests were satiated and about to go into food comas so instead of making another savory pizza - we got creative with the ingredients my mom has in her semi-lethal snack cabinet and made a s'more pizza! A S'more Pizza - has all the beauty and simplicity of the classic American dessert and the addictive addition of peanut butter and we just threw in bananas because wherever there is chocolate and peanut butter, you gotta put in some bananas. This pizza is sure to be a crowd pleaser and it's fun to make - don't hold back!
Birthday S'more Pizza
1 white dough
Gram crackers, crumbled
Mini chocolate chips
Mini white chocolate chips
1 Banana, sliced
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Roll out the white dough with a little flour, place on a pizza pan, poke holes with a fork, spread very lightly some melted butter, cook for about 7 minutes.
3. Spread a generous layer of nutella on the pizza
4. Spread a generous layer of peanut butter on top of the nutella
5. Sprinkle on the crumbled gram cracker pieces
6. Slice one whole banana evenly across the pizza
7. Put the mini marshmallows on the pizza
8. Sprinkle the mini chocolate and white chocolate chips on the pizza
9. Bake in the oven for about 7 minutes
10. Turn the broiler on high and broil the pizza for about 30-45 seconds (watch closely, you want to create a nice golden crust on the mallows but you don't want to burn the mallows!)
It's been way too long since my last post - and so much good food has happened since! On January 18th, we celebrated my sisters 28th birthday with a pizza party - AND, Andy was visiting from NYC! So I quickly employed Andy to be my co-pilot for my sister's pizza party. We made 10 pizzas (maybe 11) and had quite the little system set up in my mom's kitchen. One of the most popular pizzas was Andy's divine prosciutto creation. We pre-cooked all the crusts (we got the dough from our local pizza shop, always 10x better than store bought), and prepped all the topping items, so we were able to pump out three pizzas at once. It got me thinking that we really could open up an inventive pizza shop one day!
Andy's Prosciutto, Apple, Pesto Pie
1/2 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
Pesto - marscapone - apple slices - prosciutto -walnuts - rosemary, you know the drill.