Archive for the ‘holiday’ Category

2nd Annual Persian New Year Feast

March 20, 2008

Sepi (aka Jon Sublet) hosted yet another magnificent Nowruz feast last night. Persian New Year was official as of 2am (Thursday 2am), and you know that Iranians- in Tehran, in the OC, the world over- are going to be celebrating all weekend. There will be no limit to the amount of alcohol, food and love that will be consumed. Oh, the debauchery.

Frank, Sepi’s awesome dad flew into NY this week to help us celebrate, and barely left the kitchen in the 5 days he’s been here, cooking for the big night. Aw… now, that is LOVE. All I have to say is that the FOOD ROCKED! I love me some tadig.

Here it is, the 2nd Annual Apt 266 Persian New Year Party. We love you Frank! Happy New Year everyone!

Post for the 1st Annual Persian New Year Feast here.

It’s Not All Fried in Puerto Rico!

February 15, 2008
All I heard about Puerto Rican was that the food was fried, fried and fried. There was a “Puerto Rico Sample Basket” at my hotel beach bar, consisting of fried yuca, fried corn meal, fried empanada, and fried conch. Tasted good, but it was very fried…

It was my first trip to San Juan, and I absolutely LOVED the weather, especially Monday when it was 13F in New York, while 85 and sunny in San Juan. Yep, hate me, but I am the one who is nicely tanned!

I had no idea about the food there, though. To my surprise, my hotel had BLT steak (which I will blog about some other time), as well as Il Mulino, and next door hotel had Ruth Chris’, etc. Unfortunately Pinkberry hasn’t gotten to that south yet, although the weather was perfect for it….

One night, we went out to Old San Juan to try to have some good local cuisine. The concierge at the hotel recommended a couple of places, and we picked a seafood restaurant called Aguaviva.

Old San Juan itself was interesting. It was right next to a cruise ship dock, hence a lot of jewelry shops (who really needs to buy expensive jewelry or watch while on a cruise?). The restaurant scene was definitely Miami-esque. Aguaviva looked like it used to be a diner, and turned into a fancy seafood restaurant. For some weird reason, they asked for our names, though it wasn’t full whatsoever. So we said Donald.

Since we were in beach island, we wanted to get good seafood dishes. So we ordered 3 ceviches for appetizer. From right to left is octopus, snapper in lime juice, and fluke with avocado. I like carpaccio over ceviche, soy based sauce over citrus based sauce, but it was pretty good.

Here is one fried item. Fried tortilla, to scoop up the ceviches.

I ordered Tuna. I don’t know what it was called, but I remember it had some “empanada” referrence. It was basically seared tuna and some kind of empanada side (which tasted more like a spring roll). It was fresh and the sauce was good… To be quite honest, by this time, I had 2 martinis and don’t have a clear memory….

Donald had paella. Yeah, this is unusual paella, with pearl cous cous. I don’t think it had much seafood, just shell fish, scallops and mussels. Saffron was very subtle, but definitely there.

For desert, we shared a passion fruit sorbet. It was VERY refreshing, and yummy. I need to recreate this in the summer.

Finally the bill came, and look how cute this is. For Donald, it was Donald Duck!

364 Calle Fortaleza
San Juan, 00901
Puerto Rico

A White Christmas Two Months Late

February 12, 2008

What: Mid-winter ryokan getaway trip
Where: Seiryuusou ryokan, Shimonita, Gunma Prefecture (about 3 hours from Shinjuku station)
When: Saturday February 9 to Sunday February 10, 2008
Why: Thaw out, eat, wash away the grub of Tokyo

The food:
In general, the food was unpretentious and featured local ingredients native to the region – big, thick, sweet green onions, mountain animals and konnyaku (a kind of jelly made out of potatoes). I am not a huge fan of konnyaku – but having konnyaku sashimi was delightfully unexpected. Of course, a winter dinner would not be complete without nabe. In this case, it was inoshishi (boar) nabe. In addition, under the recommendation of the owner, we ordered the seasonal special: deer sashimi. This meal was not PC, and was only for one who can handle game meats.
Breakfast was modest (we were baffled by the lack of a fish dish) but alive with local ingredients. Most notable, for me, was the natto – the beans were firm and the taste robust.

The onsen and atmosphere:
There were two onsens – indoor and outdoor. The indoor bath was made completely of wood – therefore, no ugly tiling or slippery rubber. With a huge window overlooking a frosty river scene, I knew I would have to savor the soaking for all the times that I am and will be sitting on the seventh floor of a building in Ginza.
The outdoor bath was breathtaking. After indulging in the ryokan’s homemade sake brew, I hung out in the outdoor bath. With fine flakes of snow landing on my face and the rest of my body happily engulfed in hot onsen water, I was convinced the Japanese were geniuses at the art of vacationing.

Places like Kyoto and Hakone are beautiful, but the more I live in Tokyo, I realize that Japan is full of treasures without the crowds.

Deer Sashimi
The dinner, with inoshishi nabe (top middle), konnyaku sashimi (top right)

Breakfast natto

Frosty beautifulness

Entrance to Seiryuusou

Onsen Report

August 4, 2007

Despite the year’s first and hardest raining typhoon hitting on the same day as the first day of our one-night onsen trip to Yugawara, we got to the ryokan in one piece (after a lot of wrong turns – Japanese maps do NOT help in any way, also given that they don’t name the goddamn streets here. It’s better to ask the man who’s frying up chicken nuggets at the rest stops – all of them.)

I don’t know if it’s because I am getting older or getting lazier, but rolling around on a tatami mat, taking an onsen bath (hot spring) every few hours and eating epic 3-hour meals in your room is so my idea of the best way to vacation. This particular spot had both public and private baths. The private baths were superb (out on the veranda-ish with a wooden roof).

Anyway, my report comes in the form of pictures, as usual.

The toro here was amazing. I spread it out through the meal – saving it for moments when I felt like melting and dying. One of the very very unfortunate discoveries I made since living in Japan is that I am allergic to uni – sea urchin. I used to not be – but only would eat it once a year in bottled (cooked form). Then about half a year ago I ate a huge helping at Tsukiji for lunch after discovering I really loved it. This, I think, triggered an allergic reaction in me and I have since tried uni (cooked and uncooked) three times – just to make sure. And paying the price every time…

Fried Hamo – Hamo is a white fish. This was delicious and was also something I spread out through the meal. But much to my dismay the last bit I had to leave behind because I had filled my stomach beyond the tj maxx. (NOTE: the images here reflect less than half of what was actually served. I was distracted by the array to take photo ops every time a new morsel arrived).

This was the most artful edible that night. I had had enough shochu, however, to mistake it for matzo ball soup when the nice lady brought it to the table – upon which I had to explain to my unexposed-to-most-things-Jewish Japanese eating mate aka boyfriend what the hell I was blubbering about.

“Huh?” yeah, that’s me BEFORE the full Asian-people-get-red-in-the-face-when-they-drink effect. The room was beautiful, as you may or may not be able to tell from this photo.

Drinks: there was before-dinner japanese sake (served in the tiny cups in the foreground), my oolong-hai ingredients (this is what I drink here in Japan – shochu with oolong tea), beer, and the shochu bottle.

Yuzu sorbet. This reminds me, after reading the last Umami post, I’ve been praying for Pinkberry to make it to this side of the pacific.

Nothing like Japanese style breakfast. It settles the heart.

I don’t like raw squid but this was much too photogenic not to take a picture of.

The Jew-ban Seder

April 22, 2007

I know this post is VERY VERY late, but … better late than never. I just wanted to briefly share my experience cooking my very first Passover Seder dinner. That too was a little late, as it is supposed to take place on the first night of Passover, I had it on the 3rd or 4th night. I call it the Jew-ban Seder because I am Cuban and my boyfriend is Jewish, and amongst friends we are known as the Jewban couple. So being the Cuban I am, and the Jew-want-to-be I’ve always been, I was determined to cook my very own Seder.

It’s actually insane how much food I made for two tiny people – I did not skimp on anything. I even had to leave work 4 hours early so I could have the brisket cook in time. As you may have guessed, I had to start with the brisket first considering it takes 3.5 hours to cook. Brisket, by the way, is a cut of beef from the underside of the cow — it is pretty much a pot roast cut or I guess in Texas they like to BBQ it.

So, to start I had gefilte fish and matzah. Being that I’ve been through a few Jewish holidays with my boyfriend already, I had already been introduced to these two items. The matzah is the unleavened bread (pretty much a cracker), which is a huge part of the Passover tradition, and the gefilte fish is a jarred fish that both smells and tastes like cat food. It’s true, but it’s not that bad.

I also made latkes — oh so good. These are fried potatoe pancakes that are served hot with apple sauce and sourcream. They made my house reaked of fried foods for a week, but it was worth it.

After we enjoyed a warm bowl of matzo ball soup. This is pretty much a chicken broth soup with veggies, egg noodles and matzo balls, which are pretty much boiled bread balls (kind of). The matzo balls were actually not as tough to make as I thought they would be, and they were much better than the huge ones that we get from the Jewish deli we go to. I guess I just prefer the smaller balls! This dish was by far my fave.

And last, but definitely not the least effort, the brisket and garlic spinach. I actually got my brisket recipe from the Barefoot Contessa – love that weird lady. It pretty much consisted of hecka onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a whole lot of tomato juice. If I were to change anything about my next brisket recipe, I’d definitely add a whole lot of seasoning to the tomato juice! It didn’t turn out bad – the meat tasted just like a pot roast – but the tomato juice flavoring was too simple for my liking. David loved it and I actually loved it the day after. I think after the meat had a chance to sit in its juices over night it tasted wonderful over a bed of rice.

One other item that we had with our Seder was very untraditional and against the whole purpose of passover was Challah. Oh boy do I love me some challah bread and butta. It really put the cherry on my Seder sundae. In fact, I love it so much, I am about to have some challah french toast. Not so sure how that one is going to turn out, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

A Persian New Year Straight Outta Brooklyn

March 21, 2007

Today the sun has crossed the equator and we in the Earth’s northern hemisphere are treated to the introduction of the Spring season. With each spring season comes a celebration dating back nearly 3,000 years. The traditions of this celebration, Nouroz, has changed very little. It is still a time to gather and celebrate with friends and family. It is also a time for indulging in one of life’s greatest pleasures…FOOD!

In modern Iran, the traditional Nouroz meal consists primarily of two dishes Sabzi Polo Mahi and Kookoo Sabzi (link to a fine recipe).

Since I was unable to celebrate with my family in California I decided to invite what family I have in NYC to a homemade feast, courtesy of yours truly, in Brooklyn.

Sabzi Polo Mahi consists of rice with green herbs served with fish. The traditional seasoning for Sabzi Polo are parsley, coriander, chives, dill and fenugreek. Below you can see the Sabzi Polo and Mahi presented in separate dishes.

Kookoo Sabzi is an herbs and vegetable souffle. A light and fluffy omelet style made from parsley, dill, coriander, spinach, spring onion ends, and chives, mixed with eggs and walnut. Lemon wedges help to enhance both the flavor and presentation of any Kookoo Sabzi.

Together Sabzi Polo Mahi and Kookoo Sabzi make for a fantastic meal on any given occassion. To add more flavor to your plate try adding a delicious salad. I was lucky enough to have my sweet girl friend prepare an amazing salad made from avocado, spinach, pine nuts, and rasberries. The salad dressing was made from soy sauce, honey, and mustard.

At the height of my glory during the night I embraced my accomplishments with a smile, hungry stomach, and handsome portions for all my guests.

After a meal like this you’ll need something to sweeten your stomach. Might I suggest some baghlava and shirini nokhodchi (clover shaped, chickpea cookies).

Aydetoon Mobārak!
-Sepehr Hejazi Moghadam