Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Daisy Mint

Good food, good prices, good service, and convenient locations are what every starving college student seeks. By Pasadena City College, a semi-new restaurant called Daisy Mint delivers just that. It's not a 5-star restaurant, but the food is more than just edible. It's not the kind of food you stay open-minded about because you're so broke, and when you consider the alternatives...it's not so bad. This place is actually pretty decent. They offer an eclectic mix of Asian cuisine, primarily focused on Thai style in an Americanized sort of way. That's actually a good thing because I think it meets the demands of the demographic.

My favorite and standard dish here is the Panang curry. It's a Thai-style curry with pumpkins, carrots, potatoes, and my choice of meat: pork served with a choice of white or brown rice. This generously portioned dish is served for a measly $7.50 and can be stretched into two meals. As you can see in the photo, the serving platter the curry comes in is a really deep and wide dish. Measure the size of the platter to the paper placemat. I rarely come across such a generous portion, even when it's twice the price of what Daisy Mint offers. The third photo is a cooked salmon dish in a creamy cilantro sauce with a serving of brown rice and a salad. I believe it was worth $8.50. That's a lot more costly than what most college students can afford, but as far as seafood dishes go, this is a good price for the amount.

Plus, it's about three blocks away from PCC (Pasadena City College). The service is efficient, the food arrives quickly, customers aren't rushed out, and the environment is ideal for studying or just hanging out with your friends. It's quiet enough to study, but it's not dead quiet, either. It's a very comfortable ambiance. The decor is quietly eclectic with frames from the vintage era occupying the wall.

But MY ABSOLUTE favorite about this restaurant is their listening skills. It's a top priority for them to be well-informed, conscientious of the menu, and make sure to exclude specific ingredients customers request. Not only that but the menu has a courtesy note reminding customers to let their servers know of any food allergies such as onions. I can't tell you how ecstatic that makes me because I HATE ONIONS with a passion. Too many times I've specifically requested no onions on a dish, and it was plastered with it. So, it was a refreshing treat to see servers competently take my order and find that the chef also followed those instructions. You wouldn't think that it's a difficult challenge to request no onions, but I eat out a lot. And, sadly, quite a bit of restaurants fail to get my order right. I'm not allergic to onions, but, as a customer, I feel that I have a right to get what I ordered. I don't enjoy being the customer who tries to get my order corrected from the same people who made the mistake in the first place, waiting on an empty stomach, in hopes that they'll get it right this time. I can't express enough how much I hate onions. I'm allergic to seafood, and I develop rashes. I used to be dangerously allergic to chocolate with symptoms characterized by dizziness, excruciating headaches, and hives. Yet, I've always tolerated seafood and chocolate much better than onions. I don't like being tempted to claim that I'm allergic just to ensure that I don't get onions in my food. Half the time my deceit and compromised karma was for nothing. So, I'm proud to say that this restaurant has become a staple for me. Check it out for yourself! If you don't like it, you haven't spent too much money. But it's definitely worth checking out.

1218 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106

UPDATE: I want to be objective and open with my reviews. I've ordered the Panang curry several times already, and, for the most part, I'm satisfied with the results. Recently, though, I've found some of the pumpkin to be undercooked. It was still edible, but I did want to warn others. I did find the salmon a little undercooked. The color inside was a different shade from the outside. It still tasted delicious, and the quality of the salmon wasn't that bad. Personally, I prefer raw salmon, so I liked the dish better because it was slightly undercooked. But I did want people to be aware of that. After all, the salmon is supposed to be cooked. FYI: The creamy cilantro dish contains onions.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

My friend wanted me to make onigiri for her, so I decided to practice. Onigiri is Japanese rice balls. You mix rice with furikake (Japanese rice seasoning), cooked salmon, or whatever you feel like. You mix the ingredients together and shape them into triangles. So, why they're called balls, which are round is a mystery for me, too. I'm not a fan of cooked salmon, so I used what's nothing more than "fancy furikake." It's a marketing gimmick. It's packaged differently, and there's a picture of onigiri on the cover. I purchased it because I like the flavor, and I couldn't find that flavor for cheaper. This one is umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) flavored.

4 cups of freshly cooked Japanese-style rice (I recommend Kokuho Rose brand)
Filling of choice such as bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce, flaked, cooked, salted salmon, chopped up tsukemono (pickles), or my personal favorite: furikake

Wet your hands with cold water so that the rice won't stick to you. Sprinkle adequate amount of filling over rice and mix in with your hands. Taste test it to make sure that there's enough flavor. Add more, if necessary. Then, take enough rice into your hands to form the triangular shape shown on the photo. Use your thumb and insert it into the bottom of the triangle. Add 1 teaspoon or so of seasoning inside and cover it up, again. (This is a recommendation I chose to ignore because the amount of seasoning you add varies on the intensity of the flavor. I found that adding 1 teaspoon was too salty. I also felt that the flavor of the furikake was adequate without adding a little extra). Continue following the same steps until all of the rice is used up. I made little balls with the remainder rice.

NOTE: There were other instructions I selectively ignored. It's suggested that you lightly salt your hands after wetting them to keep the rice from sticking. I felt uncomfortable doing that because I feel that the water keeps the rice from sticking well enough. Plus, I don't know exactly how much salt to add on my hands. I've had success in the past, but I've also had success making onigiri without using salt. I don't like the idea of using a method that doesn't work sufficiently enough for my standards that can ruin the entire recipe. Overly salty onigiri is no treat. And there's no recovering from that. I did add some filling inside some of the onigiri (the part of the instruction about inserting your thumb into the bottom of the triangle). I found the flavor too intense, so I skipped that step for the rest of them. I just don't like tasting the seasoning in one center but not everywhere else. The suggestion probably works better for salmon or another type of filling that isn't as salty. I've heard that the only way to make onigiri is with hot rice, but I've also heard the contrary. I personally prefer making onigiri with warm or cool but still soft rice. Trying to make onigiri with hot rice makes mixing in the ingredients properly a challenge. I don't like my hands burning especially if it makes me feel like I'm doing an inadequate job. Sushi uses cold rice. I don't see how this would be any different. As long as the rice is still sticky and soft, I think it's fine. If you want to eat it warm, I think it's great to wrap nori (seaweed) around the rice. But I like eating it cold because I find it refreshing. Plus, I think it looks nicer without the odd looking nori around it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poached Eggs with Steamed Broccoli and Nippy Carrots

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

I'm a little low on groceries. It's been pouring unpredictable, and I haven't had a chance to stop by the bank. I'm out of poultry, meat, milk, and most vegetables and fruits. So, basically every essential staple. I barely just picked up butter. I have miscellaneous spices and herbs (basil, BBQ grill seasoning, cardamom, chili powder, cumin, ground ginger, lemon pepper, mustard powder, whole nutmeg, extra-virgin olive oil, etc.), various condiments and pantry staples such as fish sauce, Maggi seasoning, a variety of vinegar, wasabi, baking soda, baking powder, all purpose flour, vanilla extract, sugar, salt, pepper, etc. I have eggs, butter, an Asian pear, a bag of baby carrots, Hot Pockets, pot stickers, instant noodles, frozen broccolis, and only one batch worth of rice. I can pretty much only make instant noodles, eggs, glazed carrots, roasted carrots, pan-fried carrots, other types of carrots, pancakes, basic yellow cake, steamed carrots and broccolis. My choices are a little limited right now. For dinner tonight, I managed to enjoy Poached Eggs with Steamed Broccoli, Nippy Carrots, and a bowl of rice, in spite of the paucity of ingredients. The eggs were poached in the most basic way, nothing special about the broccolis, either, nor the rice, but I followed a recipe for the Nippy Carrots. It came from my friend's cookbook, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.

Poached Eggs

2 eggs
A Splash of vinegar
Fill a sauté pan with an adequate amount of water (3 inches worth) and a dash of vinegar. Crack the eggs into a bowl beforehand. Bring the water to a simmer and add eggs into the water one at a time. Poach until the whites are no longer translucent. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly.

NOTE: The vinegar is added to keep the egg shape in place. I was surprised by how easy it was. I vaguely remember my first time being unsuccessful, but I'm not sure how accurate my memory is. The image I have in mind reminds me of something I saw in a video. In order to prevent the egg whites from separating and swirling into a big mess, I read that a splash of vinegar helps and gently using a fork in a circular motion to hold it in place. For people who have continually failed to poach eggs in the traditional way, here's another method I've tried with success: Crack an egg into a bowl lined with plastic wrap. Securely tie it in place, and follow the original recipe but omit the vinegar. Once it's done, simply unwrap the plastic and enjoy!

Steamed Broccolis

I simply followed the instructions in the back of the bag.

Nippy Carrots

1 lb. medium carrots
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tbsp mixed pickling spice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp pepper

1. Cut carrots diagonally into thin slices. In 12-inch skillet over medium heat, in hot oil, cook garlic. Add carrots and vinegar. Loosely tie pickling spice in a square cheesecloth; add to carrots with salt, dry mustard, and pepper.

2. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes until carrots are crunchy and crisp; discard spice bag. Pour mixture into shallow dish. Cover and refrigerate, tossing occasionally.

I used one pound worth of baby carrots. The recipe also called for chopped onions and onion slices for garnish, but I DESPISE ONIONS!!! So, I left them out. I didn't dislike this recipe, but I wasn't that impressed. It tastes like a weaker, inferior version of pickles. I wouldn't mind eating it, again, and the recipe is easy to follow, but it is what it is.

Promo Code

Vons.com is currently having a special promotion. During your checkout, use this promo code: 2STOCKUP to take advantage of the free delivery offer that expires on March 7, 2008. There are cheaper alternatives to Vons.com, but I like having www.vons.com around. Sometimes, when the weather is unpredictably raining heavily, I prefer not to go outside. When that's the case, I don't really have the means to travel to the best bargains. Usually the delivery fee is $7.95 or $9.95 depending on the time slot you select. But if I'm not paying for the delivery fee, and I don't have the means to go out, this is actually an ideal choice. You have to buy a minimum of $50 orders. Right now, Chunky soups are having a 10 for $10 special. Marie Callender's frozen foods are also going for $3.00 each. Frozen foods are grossly overpriced, but I like having them around for emergency situations. I have back and knee problems, so it's a nice choice to have around, rather than costly takeouts.

Free Delivery

Promotion Code: 2STOCKUP

Expiration Date: 3-07-08

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Italian Candy

I have such a sweet tooth. In fact, I even have aspirations about travelling around the world and sampling candies and fruits from different cultures. I'm not sure how authentic these candies are in the Italian culture, but I came across these treats at a corner sandwich shop run by an Italian couple. They're called Gelee's. What a simple and yet eye catching way to package goodies. I've seen on the Martha Stewart show similar packaging ideas, and they've always appealed to me, but I come from a generation that doesn't prioritize the presentation. I want to make an effort to change that, but I've never really made the time to. I rarely gift people with edible products. And, personally, I imagine supermarket candies packaged this way to be tacky. So, what's the point? Regardless of my inactive participation, I can appreciate thoughtfully displayed presentations. What a great idea to sell products like this. The wrapping itself makes it enticing, the colors are vibrant, it was more than affordable, and such a fun and rare treat for people like me. I consider these candies universally friendly. I hardly feel that you need an acquired taste. The rose-flavored candy was a new and exciting experience for me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Doesn't the sushi look scrumptious? It's beautiful art. It's exquisite food. It's a fantastic experience. What exactly am I going on about? Sushi at Genkai Restaurant. Here's the dialogue:

Someone says, "I want to eat sushi."

My response, "Oh, I know the best sushi place. PRIVATE RESERVE BEACH!!!"

Almost everyone has vehemently argued to have eaten at THE BEST sushi place ever, so what makes my claims any different? PRIVATE RESERVE BEACH! Sushi is seafood fished out from the sea. The better quality the seafood is, the superior the sushi is. The higher grade fish and shellfish are found in the freshest of waters. While many people, unknowingly, ignorantly go on about their favorite sushi restaurant being the very best, the majority of people don't have the slightest clue exactly where their food is coming from.

I, on the other hand, was properly educated by my friend who studies marine biology in Dana Point, CA, where Genkai is located. Dana Point is a small city that stretches 6.5 miles, home to a very well preserved beach. This small community prides itself on water life, nature preservation, and an appreciation for the charming and calm life living so close to the beach can offer. As a result, their beach is privately reserved and regularly monitored.

As you enter into this small town, you're immediately immersed by the salty air. The beautifully conserved beach is stretched out, and there's a magnificent view from virtually any of the major roads. The water is a glistening blue reflected off the sun. Even at night, the water's translucent. You often see still birds in the water waiting for just the right time to strike prey of sea urchins. Yes, you can see the dark, purple spikes of sea urchins. To be witness to such clarity near the Los Angeles area was a welcome shock to my system. The seashore is covered with crabs and other shellfish. There are guards who make sure that no one leaves the beaches with any shellfish, seashells, or anything else that belongs to the beach. With this kind of practice, it's no surprise that it's home to such fresh sushi.

Genkai, the hottest sushi place in town, employs the most prominent chefs from Japan who's creativities and skills are more than passable or great. They're exceptional. Each and every chef possesses an indispensable talent that's unique to themselves. Everything is prepared with the utmost care of excellence and respect. Everything served is fresh. By fresh, I mean, it's no longer than ten hours old. If the quality of the fish or shellfish isn't up their scrupulous standards, it isn't even available to the customers. The chefs work fastidiously to prepare imaginative and innovative dishes. To maintain this environment of artistic aspirations, Genkai doesn't carry a menu. The chefs surprise and impress you with whatever visions they bring to life. If, for whatever reason, you're not satisfied with your dish, you're under no obligation to pay for it. Although, I assure you that that'll never happen.

Some of you may find this operation to be restrictive, but it's quite the opposite. You can also guide your chef by telling him what kinds of ingredients you'd like. As a control freak, I practice that frequently. My favorite and regular chef is Tiger. He's friendly, diligent, and goes out of his way to please his customers. When I was bored, he made a puppet show for me with shrimp. Talk about customer satisfaction. Partly because my expectations are exceedingly high and mostly because I was curious to see what Tiger could concoct with such obscure ingredients, I demanded a dish with at least three types of sashimi, garlic, cream sauce, and fruit. And halfway through, I wanted him to use the fire torch. He presented a collection of sushi with three types of sashimi, cream sauce, topped it with slices of mangoes that were lightly torched (just enough so the juices were leaking), drizzled with cream sauce and garnished with roasted garlic. When I devastated that there was no sea urchin, he apologized with a redeeming dish. The tuna was shaped like a sleigh and stuffed with lobster and cream sauce surrounded by caviar. And, as beautiful as it was, just to paint a picture, I would consider that his mediocre performance. It was a lot simpler than his other creations. This was when he wasn't my chef, and he took on the burden of servicing me. And I'm a handful.

My friends and I have this tradition. We have to order the sashimi roll first. Normally, I'm unimpressed by sashimi. It's so average. What's so special about tuna and salmon, anyways? But the sashimi rolls here melt in your mouth and are the size of your palms. Each chef makes them differently, but it was served to me like flower petals before. It was overlapped in contrasting colors of the tuna and salmon and wrapped with soy wrap. Their sashimi rolls are always wrapped in soy wraps, which are white. They seem to dissolve in your mouth more pleasantly than the traditional black seaweed, and it's a lot more visually aesthetic. Some of my favorites are the sashimi rolls, sushi nachos, sushi burritos, monkey balls, and virtually every special that was ever made for me.

I'm never disappointed with the results. Their concepts are inventive and inspiring. As mesmerized as you are by the visual performance, you'll have very little restraint after you have a taste. As tempting as it is to say, "It's too beautiful to eat." That's far from the truth. It's beautiful, and it's a little tragic that it'll be gone, but to eat it is to respect it.

The first photo (above) is of the sashimi roll. Isn't it gorgeous? Sometimes, it's accompanied by cucumbers that are hulled out into tiny bowls with seaweed salad. Other times, it's layered like staircases or resemble flowers. No matter the presentation, the flavor dimensions always deliver. The response I always hear: The sashimi just melts in your mouth. I can't even remember what the second dish was exactly. I think those were a special. The third photo is of the Screaming Orgasm.

I’m sad to inform that it wasn’t very orgasmic or scream worthy. It didn’t hold the standards my friends and I were expecting, considering its name’s sake. It wasn’t an unpalatable dish. It just didn’t meet our standards. Truthfully speaking, titles, aside, it wasn’t the most memorable dish, and it was still a melt-in-your mouth experience. Monkey balls, on the other hand, were consumed so quickly that the camera never had a chance. It was a sushi dish served inside of button mushrooms. It looked gorgeous, tasted even better, but I can’t remember for the life of me what was inside of them.

The man in the picture is my chef, Tiger. Buy him a few rounds of drinks, and his inhibitions slowly dissolve. Not that he had much to begin with, but his creativity peaks even higher. Buy him a few more rounds, and he starts to forget exactly how many dishes you've ordered, and you end up with a massive discount. An estimated $300 bill totaled $90 between three people. I speak so highly of Genkai and Tiger that when I jotted down my friend's mother's model number for her hot pot (the brand being Tiger), my friend thought I tracked Tiger, the chef, down and got my hands on his employee ID number. Even with the knowledge that I was interested in the hot pot, she thought employee ID number. My boyfriend came to the same assumption. I'm just that obsessed.

Are you thinking it's true good to be true? Well, it is. Unfortunately, Genkai is now under new ownership, so the quality of the sushi has declined. It's still a lot tastier than other sushi restaurants. So, if you live in Orange County, I recommend checking the place out. Some of you will be pleased to hear that a menu exists now. As for me, I live in LA County. So the drive is too far. I just haven't gotten around to post this up . . .until it was too late. Because of this unfortunate turn of events, my search for the BEST sushi place continues. The next time someone claims to have eaten at the best sushi place, evaluate the location and where the seafood was feasibly obtained e.g., nearby lakes or oceans.

Foods I Want to Try and Foods I Want to Make

Foods I Want to Try

1. Cucumber Lemon
2. White Balsamic Vinegar
3. Frisée
4. Watermelon Radish
5. Purple Potatoes
6. Palestine Sweet Lime
7. Blowfish
8. Goat Cheese
9. Fennel
10. Quinoa
11. Japanese Sea Salt with Matcha
12. Haleakala Red Sea Salt
13. Fingerling Potatoes
14. Farm Fresh Milk
15. Champagne Vinegar
16. Homemade Mayonnaise
17. Freshly Shaved Truffles
18. Star Fruit
19. Miracle Fruit
20. Black Sapote also known as black persimmon
21. Mangosteen
22. Fresh Tamarind
23. Breadfruit
24. Umeboshi Vinegar
25. Red Rice
26. Hempseeds
27. Goji Berries
28. Green Peppercorn
29. Pink Peppercorn
30. Dulse
31. Sherry Vinegar
32. Guava

Foods I Want to Make

1. Fried Chicken
2. Chicken Picatta
3. Smoked Salmon
4. Chocolate Chip Cookies
5. Kimchi Successful kimchi
5. Beef Jerky
6. Pickled Shrimp
7. Pickled Papayas
8. Chili con Carne
9. Pot Roast
10. Pickled Okra
11. Pickled Garlic
12. Preserved Meyer Lemons
13. Classic Quick Sticks
14. Homemade Pasta
15. Sticky Rice
16. Red Rice
17. Chicken Stock
18. Pickled Beets
19. Kimchi Jigae
20. Pickled Cucumbers
21. Strawberry Jam

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Greek Garlic Chicken

This recipe makes delicious, flavorful chicken. I've made this for a number of pot lucks with success. It can be made ahead of time without worrying about the flavor altering. It doesn't take long to make it, and the results are worthwhile. I usually prefer to marinade my poultry or meat overnight, but the concentrated amounts of garlic make it unnecessary for this recipe. The ingredients are easy to find. My only criticism is that the garlic odor becomes intense during the cooking process. I wait for the chicken to be done, open a window, and then I go for a 30 minute walk. By the time I return, the offensive odor has dissipated, and it's left with an appetizing smell. Because of this, I wouldn't recommend leaving this recipe to the last minute when friends are coming over. Give the space time to air out. Other than that, it tastes amazing. The chicken isn't dry, and the garlic flavor isn't overwhelming. It mellows and marinades the chicken beautifully. I believe this is a Food Network recipe, but I can't remember who made it exactly.

8 chicken legs
2/3 cup minced garlic (about 3 heads)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp pepper
1-2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Parsley sprigs

1. Rinse chicken, pat dry, and discard fat. Put legs in a rimmed 12 x 17" pan.

2. In a bowl, mix minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, pepper, and salt. Smear garlic mixture evenly over chicken, then arrange legs, cut side down, in a single layer.

3. Bake in a 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven until skin is well-browned, about 1 1/2 (1 1/4 hour in a convection oven). After 45 minutes, baste chicken with pan juice every 10-15 minutes.

4. Transfer chicken to a warm platter. Skim and discard fat from drippings. Add 1/2 cup boiling water to pan, stir to loosen browned bits, and pour sauce into bowl.

5. Scatter chopped parsley over chicken; garnish with parsley sprigs. Add sauce to taste.

TIP: Try to mince the garlic as precisely as possible. Larger chunks will burn quickly especially if you have an unusually strong oven, which I've had in the past. Even then, basting it will prevent most garlic burns. If you find some garlic crisps, simply smear them off with a knife. I was surprised to find that the entire recipe wasn't ruined.

NOTE: I actually don't use a roasting pan, so I never had the luxury to eat this chicken with the sauce. It still tastes unbelievably delicious, though. I imagine following the recipe completely will be even better. I just seem to fail at making gravy, so I opted against making the sauce.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joe's Delicious Tomatoes

My friend, Joe, surprised me with these homegrown, plump, fresh tomatoes. They're these gorgeous Heirloom tomatoes that are oversized and super juicy. I simply cut chunky wedges and seasoned them with Maldon Sea Salt. They're the perfect healthy treat and not just because they're tomatoes, but they're also organically grown. Tomatoes found at the grocery store will never taste as fresh as these because they're picked before they're ready and speed-ripened. Speed ripening is a process when under ripe tomatoes are unnaturally sped to "ripen" and the skin turns red. But the inside is still under ripe. By the time it reaches the supermarket, the tomatoes have finished ripening, but it initially needed assistance. It's infeasible to wait for tomatoes to ripen naturally and deliver them from the farm without it rotting by the time it gets to us. So, given the circumstance, I can understand why this method is exercised, but that's also why I prefer going to Farmer's Markets. These were the free versions of the good stuff. Some of my friends think I'm nuts for making such a huge deal over tomatoes, but you'd be surprised to learn that tomatoes are the second most consumed fruit. Yes, botanically speaking, tomatoes are fruits. Produce that contain seeds are actually fruits, not vegetables. And yet the government perpetuates the ignorance surrounding tomatoes by legalizing it as a vegetable. I'm not exactly sure why. Well, anyways, if you haven't tried Heirloom tomatoes, I urge you to. I also suggest trying the yellow varieties, which, contrary to popular belief, aren't under ripe tomatoes, but, in fact, sweeter tasting than the red varieties.