Lannae's Food and Travel

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February 23, 2008

The Standard


The little history I know about this place, The Standard Restaurant, is that when I first moved here, was that the building was and is beautiful and has retained its 1800's architecture splendor. It was once a bed and breakfast, and lunch room when I moved here in 1997-2004. The lunch room was called the Towne House Tea Room, and there was this older woman who ran the front of the house. I wish I knew here name. She never cracked a smile, she was all business. The gig was that if you wanted to eat lunch there, you must wait at the front door until it was your turn to take a little tour of the 1st floor and both hot and cold buffet lines with the woman. She had this slow southern gentry accent when she described each buffet item in detail, and then she would finish her tour and speech with, "And you may order off the menu if you like." The food was ok back then, but the southern tradition was strong, and the routine of the tour and description of the buffet was legendary and comforting.

By the time the Tea House closed, I think the building and dining room had shown its age, wear and tear. In 2005, the Smith family bought the place and restored it to its original 1800's splendor. The dining rooms are bright with new chandeliers, the hardwood refinished, the walls painted with bright white trim, and the menu revamped to honor southern traditions in best possible ways.
sweet potato fries

I have been to the new Standard Restaurant a few times for lunch, and I would say that it is like a place where Southern women who "lunch" would go, but the menu has a wider appeal than that. There a quite a few lovely salads, hearty soups, Southern fried chicken, various substantial sandwiches like a club or French dip that would satisfy any big appetite, and the piece de resistance - The Southern Hot Brown.

chicken salad

The Southern Hot Brown, from what I understand was invented at the Historic Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY. The Brown Hotel is Louisville answer to the historic and traditional luxury hotel as the Hermitage Hotel is to Nashville. The Standard Restaurant has embraced the Hot Brown Southern tradition and made a variation that is all their own. The Standard's Hot Brown is a hot open-faced turkey and ham sandwich with an addicting cheesy cream sauce ladled over the sandwich. The Standard's plate is served with tomatoes and kettle chips.

the Standard's Hot Brown

The Smith family did a fantastic job restoring (not just renovating) this historic building in Nashville. I don't believe there is any other building in downtown Nashville that has been restored with such respect for the building and the history that lived in the building. The care and 200 years of life and people are palpable the second I step into the front door. I feel like the energy in the Smith House is guiding me to feel happy, there were a lot of happy times in the building, and that the building is special and deserves my care and respect so it may live on for another 100 years at least. It makes me feel like I am a part of making history in the Standard Restaurant at the Smith House, as well as honoring all those who have graced the grounds of this building. Eating and tasting the Southern Hot Brown sandwich that the Standard Restaurant offers just seals the deal for me that I am honoring a Southern culinary delight. Having lunch at the Standard Restaurant reminds me that Southern history, Southern food, and Southern traditions are important, are valid and should be embraced as an equal to any other tradition.

Standard on Urbanspoon

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February 18, 2008

What a Knockout

Knockout Wings
1300 Jefferson St
Nashville, TN
615-320-3222

the sign

After years of trying to find a really good Buffalo Wing in Nashville, I think I found the place that makes a good wing. It is Knockout Wings. Trey has owned this place for about 9 years, and has made it an institution on Jefferson. We have gone twice so far, and Trey and staff are friendly, busy and efficient. The wings come in 4 flavors, hot, cajun, bbq and country fried. All wings are deep fried, but are well drained, they are not greasy. We tried all of the 4 flavors, and Matt's favorite are the hot wings, and mine are the cajun wings. Matt thinks the hot wings have a lot of spicy heat, but it isn't so hot that there are flames coming out of his mouth. The cajun wings are battered like fried chicken, and they are tossed in a bunch of herbs and spices to make a real flavorful wing. Yum!

hot wings

I work in Ohio fairly often, and there are a couple restaurant/bars that I always go to because they have really excellent wings. The wings are meaty, and these places have various sauces for the wings like bbq, hot, garlic, sweet and sour, parm, etc. the list goes on. Since the wings I get in Ohio are so good, I was willing not to eat any wings until my next business trip north. I had pretty much given up trying to find wings in Nashville because I have tried a lot of places with sub-par wings. My search for good wings has ended at Knockout Wings.

country fried wings

The funny thing about Knockout Wings is that I have heard about this place for a few years now from a co-worker. My co-worker and I talk about food all the time. I think that is mostly what we talk about. We both like some of the same foods, but the one we both really like are wings. My co-worker has been telling me about Knockout Wings for a couple years now, and every time she has a party, or function, she takes Knockout Wings. Fairly recently, another Nashville Food blogger I read, Nashville (hole in the wall) Restaurants ate at and wrote about Knockout Wings. Reading the blog about the wings reminded me about conversations with my co-worker. I have been keeping Knockout Wings in the back of my mind for years, and I never did go there because I didn't think any wing could be as good as the Ohio wings. Well, when the superbowl rolled around, I really wanted to have a munchy day, and I wanted pizza, wings, and chips and dip. I can made the pizza, I got some onion dip and chips, but I don't know how to make Buffalo wings.

bbq wings

A couple days before the superbowl, I went up to Knockout Wing and bought 3 flavors to try and see if these wings would suffice. Wow. They were good. I thought that since I bought 24 wings, we would do just a sampling of the wings, and keep the rest for the superbowl and heat them up before the game started. Well, sheesh, who was I kidding? They were all gone, and we had to go back to Knockout Wings on superbowl Sunday and get more. I don't think Knockout Wings is normally open on Sundays, just Mon-Sat, but they were open on superbowl Sunday to fulfill all of the platter orders. My goodness, there were A LOT! Even being slammed on their day off, Trey and co-workers were still friendly, hard working, organized and efficient. I just am so happy to know that I have a place in Nashville that has wings that are really good.

Knockout Wings on Urbanspoon

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February 17, 2008

Tofu House - Yum

I thought I did not like Korean food. I have had only a few dealings with Korean food, and it has all been kind of bad in the past. There was a place I spent a mint on, but it is now closed, and the beef was tough shards of boil meat that had the texture of a rubber tire, and it was flavorless. There wasn't enough sides and sauces I could put on the destroyed beef to make it work. That was 10 years ago, it was a gross meal, and I left frowning, and I did not try another Korean restaurant until 3 years ago. Again, the quality of the food was disgusting, and the pork that we got was nothing more than a food distributor pork cutlet, deep fried, and then ladened in a sweet brown sauce that overwhelmed everything. It was gross too. I had higher hopes for this 2nd Korean restaurant because I know the owners, they are from Korea, and have been in the restaurant business both in Asia and the USA for decades, and this was their 1st Korean venture in the USA.

Fast forward today, and we were invited to a birthday dinner at SDG Tofu House on Antioch Pike. This is where I discovered that I ACTUALLY LOVE KOREAN FOOD! I love the side dishes, I love dried fish, I love the tofu soup and I love the sauces!



eggs for the soup

We were so lucky to be invited to a birthday party dinner for a new friend of ours. She wanted to go to the Tofu House for her birthday dinner. Thank you dear new friend for choosing such a tasty restaurant for your birthday!

The food here at the Tofu House is a limited menu. There are a few meat items, and a few styles of soups, and then there are a combo of the meats and soups. I like the limited menu because that means that this family owned business only has to work on a few dishes and get them right. I got a beef short rib dish in combination with a tofu soup with everything in it. The soup arrived in a stone bowl that has been super heated in the oven before being filled with soup. The soup goes into the bowl and the bowl is then served.

my soup with shrimp eyes looking out

I grabbed my camera to show you how the soup bubbles at the table due to the really hot stone bowl. I saw this once on another's blog, Cooknegr. I was intrigued because I have never seen soup just bubbling away hot like that before. I thought that I would have to go to California where Cooknegr lives, and have him tell me where he got the soup, and I would go there to try boiling hot soup.


video
soup served in boiling hot stone bowls

I was happy to find out that a little local restaurant, the SGD Tofu House had this soup. The way to eat the soup is to NOT TOUCH THE BOWL, it is really hot. The other trick is to take one of the eggs, and drop it into the boiling hot water and poach the egg to make the soup really rich and perfect for a winter's day.

dried salted fish (hom ha (chi.), jagal chi (kor.))

The other think I liked about Tofu House were all the side items included in the price of the entree. They had various side dishes included sweet-savory sauced boiled peanuts, daikon in a spicy red sauce, pickles in a spicy sauce, kim chi, and dried small fish. The small dried fish are like dried anchovies, they are only about one cm long, and are eaten head and all. The salty preserved fish flavor is outstanding, and an acquired tasted. As a child, I had some of these dried fish on occasion, but not often. I really like the flavor and texture, but I have not had these little fish for about 25 years. Tasting these little fish took me back to my childhood when my mom would make a simple dinner of veggies, rice, and a little bit of the dried fish for flavor.
kim chi

The one side dish that I thought I would have more of a reaction to, was the kim chi. With the various flavors of the soup, meats, daikon, dried fish, pickles and peanuts, the kim chi took a back seat. Kim chi seems to be the best know side dish of Korean food traditions, and this kim chi was tasty. But because all the other foods were so spectacular in my mind, the highly flavored kim chi just faded to the background.

So Gong Dong on Urbanspoon

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February 16, 2008

Have you seen this lion?

Be on the look out for the Lion Dance. The lion is bigger than 2 grown men, and has been known to eat lucky red packet treats right out of innocent by-standers' hands. Spotting the Lion Dancing and jumping has been known to bring good luck to viewers during Chinese New Year.

Lion Mug Shot, be on the look out

Happy Chinese New Year! I love saying that, as Chinese New Year celebrations last for 2 weeks from the New Moon to the Full Moon. On the evening of the full moon, it is the last day of Chinese New Year, and is celebrated with the Festival of Lights. During the New Year celebration, I have come to love seeing my local Lion Dance Team. The team was the brain child of The Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville, and they perform for free all over Nashville and surrounding areas.

The other brain child of The Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville (CAAN) is the Annual Chinese New Year Dinner held at the Golden Coast restaurant, 1722 W End Ave, Nashville, TN (615) 321-8882. CAAN offers a 10-Course Good Luck Chinese Banquet, with a different menu each year. I look forward to this event every year because it is a way to break bread with my friends, celebrate the New Year, feel connected with my heritage, and celebrate my ancestors who came before me. Before CAAN came to town, there was nothing like this celebration, and there were no good luck Lion Dances to be seen in Nashville.

Dessert sweet red bean soup AKA Joy Luck Soup

On the menu for the 10-Course Chinese Dinner was the following:
1. Seafood hot and sour soup
2. Assorted Chinese appetizers
3. Princess scallops
4. Roasted Hong Kong style duck
5. Orange beef
6. Dried shitake mushrooms and bok choy
7. Sesame chicken
8. Crispy shrimp
9. Mixed vegetables with dried tofu sticks
10. Dragon flounder pearl
Bonus. Joy Luck Sweet Soup

Just a note about the banquet recipes, it has no mention of fresh silken tofu, or really white foods because white is the symbol of death, and it is no good to eat that during the Chinese New Year celebration. As most people know, I dislike fresh silken tofu (aroma and flavor), so it makes me all the happier to leave it out of my diet during the 2 weeks of Chinese New Year! The bonus dish Joy Luck Sweet Soup embodies the symbolism of the joy and luck with the tapioca pearls glistening in happiness, the red beans and red color of the soup is for good luck and vibrancy of life, and the ginko nuts symbolize gold ingots and wealth. Chinese New Year is all about starting anew and putting the past behind, honoring new friends and remember loved ones who have passed on, and being thankful for the good fortune of the last year and looking forward in hope of healthy, loving, prosperous and wonderful new year.

Happy New Year everyone! If you have any new year's resolutions that went to the wayside a couple weeks ago, feel free to think of Chinese New Year as a "re-do" or "do over" and start anew. Good Luck friends!

February 13, 2008

Roll Roll Roll your Sushi

There is a local school that offers night classes in the spring semester to the community at a cost. The price of admission per class is for the scholarship fund. What a great idea! The school probably offers over 150 classes at $40/class and about 10 people per class, that got a lot of cash to offer to students who need it. I am all about giving money to offer scholarships to a really great school. One class I signed up for was How to Make Sushi! That is a coincidence because one food blogger, Nicole Sauce, that I read, she has just done a 3 part series on making sushi right after I signed up for the sushi class. I was amazed at Nicole's sushi rice because she worked to understand the tradition of the sushi rice. There is an art to the sushi rice. There are people who go to sushi school and spend years on learning how to fan sushi rice before they are even allowed to cook the rice, let alone learning how cut fish. So many people all around the world take sushi rice for granted, but if one variable is wrong with the rice, there is no sushi.

some of my rolls

After I read Nicole's blog about sushi rice, I went to my sushi class. It was taught by a culinary teacher who teaches in the the western tradition, not eastern. He has never been to Japan, and has not studied the intricate nature of Japanese food. I have been reading Obachan's blog for a couple of years now, and reading her trials and tribulations of her Japanese cooking. She works a at a restaurant as some sort of apprentice, and Obachan practices creating perfect and beautiful Japanese artistic foods. Anyway, the teacher made the rice that we were using to learn how to roll sushi. The rice was short grain sushi rice, it was under cooked, over watered, too sticky, and not paddled nor fanned. For the learning purposes, it was ok, but it would not pass the muster for sushi.

smelt roe

I grew up with sushi rolls. When I lived in Los Angeles as a child, we would probably go to the old town Chinatown once or twice per month for Sunday lunch or dinner. We would walk around Chinatown, so my mom could pick up food supplies for the week, and see what she could see. On one edge of old town Chinatown is Japantown, where we would walk and get takeout sushi, Hawaiian shaved ice with hot red bean paste, or beautifully made bite sized treats. I must have been in pre-school or kindergarten when I had my first bite of sushi. It was like no other flavor I have ever tasted, and it was so pretty. There were yellow, red, green, and white inside the dark black circle of seaweed. I thought the colors reminded me of the colorful lights you see on trees during the holiday time, and the colors made a face of some sort.

horseradish wasabi on dried seaweed

I think that the sushi I ate when I was so young is my first memory of what it is to have artistry, function, flavor, aroma and texture all in food. That sushi when I was 4 or 5 was unlike any food I had memory of. Most of the food I had at that point was family style that my mother or grandmother made, or family style served in Chinese restaurants. That sushi was the first piece of edible art, that wasn't dessert, I have had.

start of my roll

I had attempted to make sushi about 20 years ago, and it didn't come out too well. I added too much vinegar to the rice, and the rice was not sticky enough. As Nicole says, rice has to be in that happy place between too dry and too wet to give the right stick, yet not sticky. The flavor of the rice was a little to vinegary and aromatic. I also did not know how to roll the sushi either. There is a fine line of molding and pressure for rolling sushi rolls, and I did not have the touch back then. After days, and years of watching the sushi chefs, I learned nothing about how to roll.

rolled up with sesame and smelt roe

Nearly 20 years ago, attempting to make sushi, I had declared that all sushi was going to be nigiri sushi for the day. I thought it was much easier to plop some veggie or fish on top of a rice ball - sort of. Do you know how hard it is to make uniform rice balls that need to be pressed together with that magic level of pressure without breaking or compressing the rice, and with enough pressure to keep the rice fluffy but connected to other grains of rice? Well, it is harder than it looks.

veggie and smelt roe roll

So, this day in sushi rolling class, with rice that was way too watery and sticky, I rolled fairly decent looking rolls, with too much rice, and not enough filling. I made them pretty though, or at least I thought they were pretty. I love the vibrant color of the smelt row. It was such a treat to smear some smelt roe on the outside of my sushi roll.

my perfect presentation dish

The teacher asked us at the end to pick the very best 2 pieces and make a display on a cute little plate. So I did. Come on folks, aren't they good looking? These 2 pieces I thought were awesome.

the kids candy sushi made with Twizzlers, fruit rolls, and rice crispy treats - Delicious!

There was a lot of laughter in the kitchen over at the kids' work station. They made these beautiful candy sushi. Cute huh?

sous chefs' desserts - chestnut, green tea cake, moochi strawberry

As a treat for the class, the teacher's sous chefs created desserts for us. I really liked the chestnut cookie with chestnut red bean paste inside. I also like the little butterfly on my cake.

Anyway, after rolling some decent looking rolls in class, and knowing the fundamentals in making a nigiri rice ball, I may attempt to make sushi at home again. The only thing standing in my way is the rice. There is the flavoring, cooking, the paddling and fanning that I am not sure how to do. If the rice is not right, there is no point in making sushi.

February 11, 2008

Comfort Food Party

I cannot believe I got a seat at THE Comfort Food Party during the charity auction that I love going to! This charity auction has a ton of themed dinners, like this one. Some others of many are faux blackjack and gourmet salmon dinner night, tapas and wine night, variety of chili night, and this one, Comfort Food and Game Night. I personally love these dinners because I get to see really nice people, and break bread with them. As through the ages, sharing a meal is a symbol of good will and camaraderie.

corn muffins

The menu for comfort food included homemade corn muffins, deliciously spicy chili, heart warming goulash, smooth mashed potatoes, baked macaroni and cheese, savory turnip greens, and chocolate peppermint brownies with ice cream. All this and a bunch of good bottles of wine and good company, who would not love this?

goulash

I got there a few minutes early, and I could smell the chili and goulash from the street. The spices, aromatic veggies, garlic, and onions were just stopping me in my tracks because it smelled sooo good! I was stopped in my tracks for only a second before I barged into the house and had to peek into the pots to see what I was smelling! Believe me, I wanted to dive in right there and then, but the majority of the other dozen guests were to come, and I needed to wait for them before we all dove into the yummies.

When I walked in and snapped photos of the goulash and chili as they sat side by side on the stove, I noted that they looked a bit similar with a deep earthy red/orange color, and a saucy consistency. That is where the similarities end. Both had distinct flavors, and textures. The goulash had a slow cooked stew quality to it with chunks of beef that melted in my mouth. The chili had ground beef and a nice Southwestern hot and spicy kick to it. Our host had dishes of chopped onion, shredded cheese and sour cream to top our chili if we wanted to. I ate my straight up because I didn't think it needed to be bolstered at all. It was yummy and comforting.

baked mac and cheese

After I first got to the the Comfort Food house, I was not initially aware that there was mac and cheese, one of my favorite foods, because the 2 big baking dishes of the mac and cheese were hiding in the oven, baking away. It was to my joy and happiness when I saw that our host pull out these golden goodies and place them on trivets on the counter. I just stood there snapping photo after photo. I actually had 2 huge helpings of this dish, and I was happy our host made 2 big baking dishes of this because I was sure there was enough for everyone, even if I did take 2 gigantic servings.

There was one other dish I took note on. It was the turnip greens. The flavor and texture was excellent. It tasted like our host spent all day cleaning, chopping and stewing the greens with a smoked ham bone. Even one of the people who claimed to dis-like turnip greens because of the harsh flavor, was converted by our host's offering of a smooth and flavorful turnip green dish. A few of us were chatting away about the greens when the host said, "Oh, it is Miss Glory brand turnip greens. I just added what Miss Glory said to add, and followed the directions on the can to heat the greens." Yes, we were all stunned. A canned green veggie that tasted this good? Really? Yes, really.

chocolate peppermint brownie

The dessert was really fun. It was a brownie mix out of a box, cooked as directed, but with a twist. This is the story, when our host was walking by William-Sanoma during the Xmas season, she caught a whiff of something sweet and pepperminty. She walked in and saw the clerk sprinkling peppermint chocolate bark shards onto a baking dish of hot brownies. After a minute or 2 of the bark getting melty, the clerk took a spatula and spread out the bark shards, and made a plain brownie spectacular. Our host was waiting to to make this brownie dish for 2 months for the Comfort Food Party. What a hit it was. I would not have thought to do that. So, William-Sanoma did its job by selling the chocolate peppermint bark, and getting a client to walk into the store because of the aroma. Anyway, let me tell you, after eating the giant piece that I did (the size of 4 reasonable sized brownies) I can attest to the deliciousness of this dessert, and I understand how the aroma would beckon people to look for where the aroma is coming from. It was comforting to the next level.

the comfort cat

The Comfort Food dinner just would not be complete without comfort pets. The cat, he is certainly a comforting pet indeed, and he has made himself comfortable in his chair at the table. Good kitty.

February 9, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!


Happy Chinese New Year! Officially, Chinese New Year started on February 7th, and it continues on for 14 days ending with the festival of lights. Since the 1st day of Chinese New Year landed on a Thursday, a day I need to jog (still trying to train for my next marathon), I had to go run after work, and spend no time cooking for Chinese New Year. My idea for a little CNY food celebration was to head to China Chef, and get a bite to eat with Matt after I finished my workout. I had to hurry because China Chef closes at 9:30 pm, and that means closes, not last order. We got there at 8:30 pm, and Suzanne let us come in thinking that would be ok and give them enough time to close by 9:30 pm.

The evening was about ordering off the special paper menu. We got five flavored eggplant, roasted duck Hong Kong style, and Kung Po squid. I did not take a photo of the eggplant because eggplant while raw is quite stunningly beautiful, but once cooked it looks like a pile of "you know what". Well that pile of eggplant was made tasty, and a we liked it. We took some eggplant leftovers home, and Suzanne suggested that it would be good cold, like a baba ghanoush which is good eaten hot or cold. Then Suzanne suggested that the left over eggplant would make a great filling for a sandwich too.

I also ordered 1/2 of a Hong Kong style roasted duck. China Chef, as far as I know from Brentwood to Charlotte Pike, is the only place that makes their own HK style roasted duck. All others are shipped in from a place in Atlanta. Even one of the Chinese Markets has deliveries of the HK style roasted duck from Atlanta. I have purchased these in the past, they are tasty, but I have to do all the chopping (I am not good at this because I don't have a good chopping block, nor cleaver) and presentation. It is much better to have a restaurant do all for me. China Chef was happy to do that for me. This duck was much less seasoned that the factory kind from Atlanta, but it was recently made and definitely made by China Chef's chef. The skin was very crispy, and the inside bones were flavored with anise spices. It was good. Again, we took some of this home for leftovers, and I am excited to have more for lunch today!

The last dish we got should have been a fish dish, a traditional CNY dish, but I wanted the Kung Po squid again. Squid is a fish right? That is what I thought anyway. Since my 1st visit to China Chef for Kung Po squid, I have been taking a tour of some other "Chinese" restaurants in town offering Kung Po. Well, what I got at the other places was no squid, so I substituted shrimp and all were overcooked and chewy. At the other places, I also got strange a dishes with generic brown gravy that seems to be on every beef and broccoli (and definitely not spicy like Kung Po), and a lot of zucchini and bell peppers adding to a soggy content.

Anyway, I have gone back to China Chef twice to get this Kung Po squid because it is, quite frankly, the best I have had in Nashville! I have decided that China Chef is my only source of Kung Po squid from now on. I need not waste my time anywhere else.

The last little tidbit about China Chef's chef is that the chef is a She, not a he, and I have not asked her name. She is originally from Hong Kong where she was a famous cook on Hong Kong TV. Now, how she found herself in Nashville, it is unclear, and I don't know. Since she is not from the USA, she isn't the best at making the Americanized "Chinese food" because it is not Chinese food and she did not grow up with that tradition, but she kicks butt when it comes to Hong Kong style recipes! I think that is why Kung Po is the best here, because there is a modern tradition of Kung Po in Hong Kong.

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February 6, 2008

A Study of Candy

3 cubicle rows over, there are bunch of co-workers with a bookshelf that is the height of desk. The bookshelf is right outside one of the co-worker's cubicle, and it is the dumping ground for all the extra goodies we don't want in our house, or treats from vacation, or home-made treats that would be eaten in one sitting at home. Yesterday there were homemade chocolate chip cookies. I have dropped off some chips, and cookies. Another has dropped off some British shortbread from his trip to England. This time, there were candies left over from the Halloween. They were just too cute to pass up.

There were ice cream cones, hamburgers and hot dogs in candy. These are all separate pieces of candy to make up the ensemble of candies. I ate the hot dog candy before I had a chance to photograph my candy, but here are my ice cream cone and burger. The cone, the ice cream, the buns, the pickle and the burger are all separate pieces of gummy candy. I like that, so whe I opened the candy package, I actually got multiple pieces of candy. Aren't my candy cute?

Here is a closeup of my ice cream cone candy.

Here is my hamburger candy.

I was thinking about photographing my candy, and making it the best I could possibly make them. One food blogger I read, Hazza, asked how some food bloggers photograph their subjects with the foreground focused, and the background blurred. I didn't really know because I have a small 2 year old Canon Elph, and the Elph is just a point and shoot. Well, I now know. It is the spot focus feature on the manual setting option. I used the spot focus option on the 2nd photo, with the ice cream cone fully focused and the burger in the background as a blur. I will have to tell Hazza what I found out.

February 4, 2008

Hong Kong in Houston

Hong Kong Restaurant
Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX

The sign, what does it say?

The one problem I have with waiting so long to blog about the food I ate in Houston is that I forget which Hong Kong restaurant this one is. There are more than one, and I am sure they are all quite good. This one was specifically picked by my Uncle, who is know for precision in making the right choices, for really good Hong Kong style food. This place delivered Hong Kong style food, and did right by their restaurant name: Hong Kong.

What I cannot get in Nashville is really good Hong Kong style roasted pork and duck. So, the first thing on my list was to get roasted pork and duck. These meats are hanging in the window, and I was just smacking my lips as I walked up to the Hong Kong seeing the delicious meats. The meat was well seasoned, crispy skinned, and just reminded me of good old fashioned Chinese food treats of when I was a kid. We did not eat roasted pork and duck very often when I was a kid, as it was always for special occasions. Every time I eats these treats, I get transformed into a giddy child enjoying the flavor and texture of the meat.

The soup my Uncle ordered was sea cucumber, seafood, chicken and egg soup. The broth was a light broth, and the sea cucumber had a slight crunchy texture that is similar to tripe, but less tough. The sea cucumber also has a rough texture like a cat's tongue. I really enjoyed this soup, and it is saying something about how my palate has changed from childhood until now. I have not had an opportunity to eat this soup since I was a grammar school child (too many years ago), and I am sure I did not eat it because of the rough texture and the al dente teethiness of it. There were a lot of foods I fought with my mother, and refused to eat. How things have changed. I liked the soup because it was soothing and comforting to me. It was a proper way to begin a Chinese feast. A little side note, I did notice my young cousin who just finished middle school did try the soup too. She drank the broth, ate the other goodies and left all the pieces of sea cucumber in her bowl. I suspect her palate was like mine when I was young, and one day in the future, she too will come back to the sea cucumber soup and find that she enjoys the texture and flavor too.

We got a lot of food this evening, and all the foods I cannot get in Nashville. This dish was dried string beans with chopped chicken and a pungent chili and fermented tofu sauce (I am guessing). This is a dish I rarely have, so I am not sure what ingredient added the pungent nose to this dish. I guessed fermented tofu, but I am not sure. It caused the nose sensation after I took a bite, and it made my mouth water. It was very good. If you know what that pungent flavor is, let me know! Maybe I can try to make it at my house.

The next dish is one of my comfort food favorites. It is sliced pork and bitter melon (foo qua) with fermented black bean sauce. There is not one restaurant in Nashville that serves foo qua that I know of, so I was so thrilled to be able to have it here. I have not had bitter melon in a few years, and I nearly got weepy with joy when my Uncle ordered this dish. The bitter melon was too bitter for me when I was a child, and I never ate them, but as my taste buds have dulled through the years, I have grown to love that bitter sensation in my mouth and nose as I eat the melon. It is almost a full body experience.

Another dish that I love is chow mein noodles with seafood and veggies. This seems like I can get chow mein most everywhere, but I can't get THIS recipe. The noodles are thin Chinese egg noodles that have been boiled al dente, then drained very well, then hot fried in a wok with some oil to make much of the noodles crunchy, the wok is flamed to give a smoky flavor to the noodles, and then some noodles still soft too. This dish has seafood and veggies sauteed in a light broth thickened with some cornstarch and then poured over the noodles. It is a textural and subtly flavorful dish that I could just eat daily if I had the chance. The preparation of the noodles is what you can only get in a real Chinatown. It just does not exist in Nashville, and many areas of the USA. I just loved this dish.

Ok, so what does the sign say? Does it say Hong Kong Restaurant? Hong Kong Cafe? Hong Kong something else? I need a little help remembering which place we went for our dinner feast.

Hong Kong Cafe on Urbanspoon

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