my 2 cents

eating stockholm 1.1: frantzen


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Oh, for the love of food…

Last month, I’d gone to Stockholm to serve as guest chef at Ikea Sweden’s Supper Club. After an event in Milwaukee, followed by a butt-crack-of-dawn ride to the airport to catch an early flight to Houston, a 5-hour layover in Houston, then 16 hours of travel time to Stockholm, I stepped off the plane, dropped bags at the hotel, and headed straight to Frantzén, one of two 2-Michelin star restaurants in Sweden.

I must say, I believe I enjoy 2-star restaurants more than 3-starred ones. I chalk it up to my affinity for accessible food and dining experiences. When I say “accessible,” I mean dishes that can be relatable by all; sometimes, an experience is so formal, I’m too stressed about proper table manners to truly enjoy the experience. And eating, being a favorite pastime, should be nothing but relaxing. A part of it stems from my not being able to see; and thus, presentation of plates is not as impressive to me, nor is the often complicated methods of eating them—give me a single bowl and a single spoon, and I’ll happily scoop stuff into my mouth.

Frantzén, I was told, was small and simple in design. Unadorned linens, plain white walls, no fancy chandeliers or buttresses. Just a bar with an open kitchen, and a few tables gathered within the unassuming space.

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3 pairs of shoes, 1 tiny tote bag: how to pack luggage efficiently

As mentioned in last week’s post about the iGrill, Memorial Day—thus, summertime—is just about upon us. With the kids out of school and the climate luring us from beneath our down comforters and out our doors, summertime is peak season for a lot of people’s favorite pastimes: vacations!

Almost everyone has at least one (if not several) fond memories of vacations from childhood to present. My most memorable ones from my wee days were of road trips to southern California to visit family. I grew up an only child, so my cousins were the closest thing I had to siblings. We would hang blankets from the top bunk and force the youngest to go through our “haunted house.” We’d play with Barbie dolls or lip sync and dance to the VHS tape of Madonna’s Like A Virgin tour. In my adulthood, some favorite vacations include my backpacking through western Europe the summer after I graduated college, our honeymoon to Paris and Barcelona, and my two trips to Japan. If backpacking has taught me anything, it’s how to pack light and efficiently.

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help with relief efforts for sxsw car crash victims

SXSW is an Austin music festival that has, in later years, morphed into a huge multimedia conference with events in industries like film, tech, and art.

This year’s SXSW, however, was struck by tragedy when 21-year-old Rashad Owens, in an intoxicated attempt to flee from the police, drove straight into a crowd, injuring more than 20 fest-goers and killing, as of today, three victims.

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how to guide the blind

Last week, I discussed some of the things I’ve been doing to get in better shape and my dislike for blind running. The AFB offers some good tips on how to guide a blind runner, and to follow up on the matter, I found the YouTube video above about Paralympics track and field.

But guiding someone who is visually impaired extends way beyond the jogging trail. It’s part of the daily routines of my family, my friends, and mine. When my eyesight decreased to the level it’s at now, the boyfriend-turned-hubster had to learn how to guide me when walking around. He was never one to make me feel handicapped, so he was not super attentive when guiding me–”tough love,” he calls it. My friends have also since learned how to guide me, and most of them are very good. Some are more attentive than others, often holding both of my hands and walking backwards through a crowd, while others are easygoing and merely mention a change in terrain when they deem it absolutely necessary. I myself prefer a middle ground.

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the eone bradley: telling time by touch

Telling time has been the bane of my vision-less life. When I was still in grad school, I was wearing a talking digital watch. It had a button on the face, and when you press the button, it announced the time in a muffled, mechanical voice. It never failed: every class period, I’d accidentally knock my wrist against the table or chair, and the voice would say aloud, “You’ve still got another painful 98 minutes of class.”

Okay, just kidding. It would read the time, but it was embarrassing nonetheless, and I felt like a dunce. My ears would burn, and I’d apologize, even though nobody seemed to care. I just didn’t (and still don’t) like a lot of attention on myself (which is why it’s all the more surprising that I chose to do a televised competition).

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get your slurp on: a foray into other vietnamese noodle soups

“Brrr…it’s cold outside.” That was the outgoing message my college roommate and I had recorded on our answering machine. Don’t ask why. I think it had something to do with our adoration of Chilly Willy. But today, it is cold outside. It was a freezing 25°F last night in Houston. But who am I to complain? The northern states saw an insane −44°F (according to the hubster). I didn’t even think that was possible outside of the Antarctic.

I am so not a cold weather person. So when it gets down to the 20s, 30s, even 40s outside, my ideal evening is one spent indoors in fuzzy socks in front of the television with a good book. (I like to multi-task, often reading a book in Braille while listening to a sitcom.) And then I like to sidle up to the kitchen counter and slurp down a bowl of noodle soup. That’s the ultimate comfort food on a cold day.
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mc4, ep 1 recap: the top 100 audition

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4dGlaVqt-g
Hello friends! It’s been a whole year since I made my debut on the small screen. And now it’s a new year, a new season, and a new batch of contestants. I’m excited to see what happens this season and to find out, along with the rest of America, who the next reigning MasterChef will be.

I spent the last ten days in NYC promoting my cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen, and the season 4 premiere of ”MasterChef.” The red carpet, TV spots, and interviews are all fun…but nothing beats being back in my home with its glorious bed; cozy kitchen; and, of course, my hubby and two terror dogs. (That’s right, I meant to say “terror” and not “terrier.”)

I got home just in time to catch most of the season 4 premiere. It brought back memories of both filming and watching my season last year. There was Natasha who made some yummy sounding empanadas, Jordan whose story about his mother reminded me of my own, Krissi who was surprised by her son’s appearance at her audition, James who is a fellow Houstonian (w00t!), and Luca whom I befriended during my season when he was in the top 100 (and when he sadly did not get an apron even though his mama came in all the way from Italy to surprise him). There was [shaved and skinned] beaver tail, mac-’n-cheese made with breast milk, and a robot. It seems they’ve pulled out all the stops this year. I wonder what’ll be in store during this week’s episode as what I assume will be the remainder of the top 100 auditions followed by a whittling down to the final cast after a challenge.

From this point out, I’ll be blogging my recap thoughts of the episodes at TVGuide.com—I’ll post a link to the entries here. Don’t forget to tune in every Wednesday at 8 PM EDT/PDT on FOX!

eating nyc 1.4: eleven madison park

Finally. My long awaited post wrapping up my September trip to NYC. The ridiculous thing is I’ve been back to NYC since, so there will be a future post on my subsequent NYC trip. All this traveling is bogging me down.

It’s funny what they say about being careful what you wish for. Travel has always been something at the top of my list of favorite things to do in life. But lately, I’ve been traveling so much that all I really want nowadays is to read and sleep in my own bed.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Let’s talk about my first 3-Michelin star experience ever. I got us (and by “us,” I mean myself, my cousin Pauline, and Frank from the show) reservations at Eleven Madison Park. A couple of people who work at Pauline’s Manhattan firm had highly recommended 11 Mad, so we decided to pop all three of our 3-Michelin cherries together in one big hoopla of a meal.

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eating nyc 1.3: momofuku ssam bar

Okay, so I lied. I said I’d cover both Momofuku Ssam Bar and Eleven Madison Park in this entry. But the fact is I just discovered I have no photos from my evening at Eleven Mad, so I am awaiting my dinner companions to send theirs over. This means I won’t get to the Eleven Mad dinner till next post. But it’s all good because I have plenty to say about Ssam Bar.

Momofuku Ssam Bar is the closest thing to a gastropub of Chef David Chang’s family of Momofuku restaurants. (Ssam is in reference to the Korean term for “wrap” and indicates dishes in the Korean cuisine that involve wrapping some meat and pickled veggies in a lettuce leaf and dipping in condiments of sesame oil, salt, and pepper or soy sauce before enjoying.) We went on the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend and was told there would be close to a two-hour wait. Fortunately, like Ippudo, the hostess is willing to take down a number and text when the table was ready. That’s when we made our way over to our usual waiting spot at Sake Bar Decibel.

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eating nyc 1.2: ramen, pizza, lobster rolls & fish sauce micheladas

In my last post, I discussed the cheaper eats in New York City. This time, I continue the NYC gastronomical tour by talking about some of the additional places at which I dined, the not-so-cheap but also the not-so-expensive (I’m saving that for part 3 of this NYC series). Basically, these are the in-betweeners, the delicious, the memorable.

Ever since I’d gone to Japan and tasted what real ramen is supposed to taste like, I’ve been on an eternal hunt for a close imitation this side of the Pacific. There is a place in L.A. that I find pretty yummy and close to what I’ve had in Japan. But I’ve never had ramen East Coast style, so of course, I had to pop that cherry.

The first place on my list was Ippudo in the East Village. This ramen joint is notorious for table wait times of two hours plus. But the nice thing is you can put your name and number on the list, amble on over to Sake Bar Decibel, and throw back a few bottles while awaiting the coveted text message from the Ippudo hostess saying your table is ready. And that’s exactly what we did the two times I went. I’m a purist a lot of the time when it comes to food, so I always like to try the classic of anything, especially when it’s my first visit. I found the classic pork ramen at Ippudo to be incredibly savory but not oily; since ramen broth is made by cooking pork bones for several hours, it can sometimes taste too fatty. (For almost all noodle soups, the clearer the broth, the superior the quality and taste.) You can add extra toppings like an onsen (hot springs) egg or extra pork. The pork buns are also worth trying: slightly spicy pork belly nestled inside a steamed bun with extra crisp veggies to cut the fat. I took Frank here one night, and he agreed the ramen was even better than the bowl he’d had at Momofuku Noodle Bar though he’s not nearly of ramen connoisseur status either.

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