Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gifts from Bermuda

Every island on the British overseas territory of Bermuda is like a postcard. We've traveled there twice via cruise ship but have not really sampled a lot of local food. Why? See my last posting! We went to a very popular local restaurant called Frog and Onion Pub just to try some of the indigenous fare. If you happen to come across it, try their Bermudian fish chowder. Their fish chowder is not at all related to the New England clam chowda or any chowder I've ever had. Their tomato-based fish variation is a chowder of a different persuasion but just as good.

My husband gave me gifts while we were on vacation and a couple of them were food related. This cookbook has some interesting recipes from famous restaurants and inns in Bermuda. It's filled with a lot of sophisticated yet easy to make British isle recipes.

Nothing screams like Bermudian flavor to me than Sherry Peppers(okay, rum cakes and those dark n' stormy drinks remind me of Bermuda too). It's a complex blend of spices and peppers steeped in some nice dry sherry. Use this sparingly and in lieu of hot sauce. It's good with Bermudian fish chowder.

Made in England Cadbury chocolate bars. I have nothing against their American counterpart but these are a lot creamier.

Before I go, here is one of our favorite stories from Bermuda: Bermudians were so nice and polite to each other and to us. For example, we hopped on a bus to go downtown Bermuda and a woman who was obviously a local got on the bus after us said "Good morning everybody." The whole bus said in unison: "Good Morning" back. It was almost Utopian.

Friday, July 24, 2009

2009 Boston to Bermuda Cruise

My husband and I came back from a 7-day Boston to Bermuda cruise with Norwegian Spirit not too long ago. This was our second trip to Bermuda. It was like visiting an old friend: warm, friendly and eager to tell you what's new (or the same) with her while you were away. Staying on a luxurious cruise ship is in itself a pampered and well-rounded vacation with everything you need -- lodging, entertainment, and food. It's a fun one-stop, (mostly)all -inclusive one heck of a boat ride. This cruise ship is no different from any other. There is food. Good food and tons of it. It's an added bonus when the ship takes you to a fantastic destination like Bermuda.

Two years ago, we sailed with Norwegian Majesty. The food was pretty good but the food on Norwegian Spirit far exceeds the food on the Majesty. Celebrity Cruises still has the best food overall but the "freestyle cruising" on NCL can't be beat!

My Top 10 food related experiences and observations (this is a food blog after all). The Norwegian Spirit itself is a culinary destination...

1. Escrargots a la bourguignon! If you didn't like snails before, you will after eating these!
2. The specialty restaurants: They have 11 restaurants on this ship and more than half of them are "specialty" restaurants including a steakhouse, a Pan-Asian restaurant, a French restaurant and a sushi bar.
3. The cold fruit soups were superb: peach and pistachio, cherry soup, and the blueberry soup to name a few.
4. Garlic Fried Rice. A lot of chefs are from the Philippines so there is "Sinangag" or garlic fried rice on this ship. I had it twice at the Raffles Lunch Buffet and they have it everyday at ship's amazing Teppanyaki grill. The Teppanyaki chef made garlic fried rice with our Fillet Mignon and jumbo shrimp.
5. The mostly Filipino waitstaff! We also met very friendly and attentive staff from Peru, Poland and St. Lucia. If you are going on a cruise, give an extra tip or write a "comment card" to those who provide you with exceptional service. The crew don't make a lot of money and are always working. I wrote 20 comment cards prior to disembarkation. I was told that comment cards actually help promote them.
6. The tuna and salmon tartare. I'm usually a little weary about eating raw fish on a cruise but these were exceptionally fresh and light.
7. The breakfasts at Windows Restaurant were phenomenal. I woke my husband up a few times in the morning because I didn't want to miss it. They "brunoise"(cut them into very tiny geometric cubes) the corned beef hash everyday! The lox, scotch kipper and some of our favorite European breakfast items were available at the restaurant everyday.
8. The ice cream was so luscious and creamy. I asked and they said the brand was San Bernardo. It's no Ben and Jerry's but it was pretty darn good. I had ice cream every day!l
9. Blue Lagoon Cafe. I nicknamed this restaurant and mini galley, "bottleneck cafe" because it's narrow as it is long and it's a very high traffic area. It's perfect for people watching and eating "comfort food" like freshly made fish and chips, big burgers and wonton soup. My favorite menu item here is the hot and perfectly deep fried crispy chicken wings. They did not say what kind of hot sauce they use but it tasted pretty similar to sambal oelek, a delicious chili sauce from Indonesia and Malaysia.
10. The food at the Windows Main Dining Room. It's pretty self explanatory:

Oh and yes, The Chocoholic Buffet...what NCL is known for.
We didn't miss the chocoholic buffet even though they didn't announce it! Take care!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Big thank you!

Thank you so much Acdee for this award! I truly appreciate it! Now I would like to pass this award to five talented, creative and haute mama bloggers:
Mely , Manang Kim, Peachkins , Acdee and Karen

Here are the simple rules:
♥ Take your award and put the logo on your post. ♥Link the person who awarded you.Remember each recipient of the award should acknowledge the person who honored them and go to Mom's Special Diary to copy and paste the award. ♥Put your own blog title and link. ♥Nominate at least five deserving moms.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Neighborhood Dish: Episode 7 "A Taste of the Philippines"

Last winter, my friend Kristine and I taped a show for Neighborhood Dish, a cooking show on Malden Access TV. Neighborhood Dish is produced and hosted by the multi-talented and vivacious Karen and Paula. This cooking show rocks! Some of my neighbors and I have never missed an episode. I cook a lot but never in front of a camera. This experience was fun and nerve wracking at the same time. For this episode, we simply channeled our inner Rachel Ray and just had fun. If you want to see Kristine and I cook Filipino food on TV and live in the Malden, Melrose and Stoneham area, please watch Neighborhood Dish on Fios Channel 28 or Comcast Channel 3 on Fridays at 4pm, Saturday at 7pm and Sundays at 2pm. MATV will run this episode until the end of June/beginning of July. You can also watch the episode online:
Neighborhood Dish: Episode 7 " A Taste of the Philippines"

Karen and Paula worked hard on this episode and every single Neighborhood Dish episode. I don't know anything about TV production but I after watching this episode on TV, I gained an appreciation for the hours and hours of editing that goes into one hour of TV. Not being Filipino herself, Karen picked appropriate Filipino music that perfectly matched the content and transitions of this episode.

I'm very proud of "A Taste of the Philippines" because the representation of Filipino cooking and food on US TV is few and far between. I'm very grateful to Karen and Paula for featuring Filipino cooking on Neighborhood dish. My recipes for fresh vegetarian spring rolls or Lumpiang sariwa with leeks, shitake, fried tofu, Chinese parsley and green papaya, "French custard based" Ube Ice Cream, Kalamansi juice with simple syrup and Kristine's delicious Chicken Abobo recipe can all be found on the Neighborhood Dish Website:

Neighborhood Dish Website

Thank you so much Karen and Paula for letting us cook on your show!

Jen and Kristine with Karen and Paula

Kristine's chicken adobo with green beans

Jen rolling vegetarian fresh lumpia

"French custard based" Ube ice cream

Kristine, a rockstar in the kitchen!

Jen and Karen rolling some fresh lumpia.

The New British Invasion: Sheperd's Pie!

Today, I will show you how I make my version of Shepherd's Pie. This is exactly how I make it. It's not the most traditional recipe but my family loves it. This English meat pie is hearty, yummy and makes a great weeknight meal. I love meat and potato recipes that are easy to make like this one.

1. First, caramelize 1 cup of roughly chopped red onion and garlic. Why red? because it's very sweet once it caramelizes. This will take about 30 minutes. Add about 2 pounds of ground beef and saute until brown. Add one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and 3 tablespoons of brown gravy mix. The gravy mix will give the meat some flavor and will bind everything together. Don't forget to season with salt and pepper. Add frozen peas on top. There is need to thaw them. The residual heat from the meat will thaw them.
2. Add mashed potatoes. You can make it from scratch if you have the time but I use instant mashed potatoes. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly with a spatula or the back of wooden spoon on top of the meat and green peas.

3. Add your favorite cheese. This is not a traditional ingredient by any means but makes this dish richer. Most anything is better with cheese, right? When I make casseroles that require cheese, I add a great Mexican cheese blend from COSTCO.
4. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for approximately 30-40 minutes. The top will turn golden brown. Wait for 10 minutes before serving because it's steaming hot after it comes out of that oven. Serve with your favorite salad. Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Harvard Faculty Club Mother's Day Brunch

Mother's day was awesome this year. My mom, dad, son, hubby and I celebrated Mother's day at the famous members-only Harvard Faculty Club. The Faculty Club is famous for their opulent Easter and Mother's Day brunch. Overall, this has been one of the best brunch experiences of my life. The food and service is comparable to the Sunday brunch at the Four Season's Hotel and the Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Langham Hotel in Boston. The piano player singing popular tunes and the beautifully wrapped pastries for the mommies were a nice touch.
My favorite brunch items not featured in the pictures bellow included: the Pate Maison and foie gras Mousse, the pasta salad with lobster and English peas, and oh the cheese blintzes with wild Maine blueberry sauce. I'm sure every mom in the room appreciated the unlimited Mimosas! Sunday brunch is not Sunday brunch without an omelet station. For me, eggs are eggs and I'd rather eat something that I don't eat every morning so I skipped the made to order omelets. One thing that was missing though -- a crepe station! I love both sweet and savory crepes and I wish they had one. Here some pictures from last Sunday's Mother's Day Brunch.

Our two year old got all dressed up for Mother's Day.

The carving station was phenomenal. This station included fork-tender roasted sirloin with horseradish sauce and honey baked ham with mustard chutney. My favorite though is the Salmon Coulibiac en Brioche. I had three huge helpings of this salmon mousse wrapped in a delicate puffed pastry.

I do admit that I'm not a big fan of oysters but these were great. The jumbo shrimp cocktail and fresh Littleneck clams were also delicious. The seafood menu also included delicately smoked trout, bay scallops, mussels and salmon.

The assorted sushi was fresh and plentiful.

The pan seared five spiced tuna loin was so yummy. It was perfectly seasoned and seared. Heaven.

A very colorful rainbow cauliflower salad with herb Polonaise

Heirloom tomato slices with fresh basil and mozzarella

Round 3(I made it past round 2)!

Did I make room for dessert? Most definitely! The desserts included the following: Banana bread pudding, mouse cups, pecan tartlets, almond brittle, miniature creme brulee, chocolate macadamia tarts and one of the best vanilla bean ice creams I've ever had.

This is me relaxing/digesting after eating all that food.

The Harvard faculty club is conveniently located on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sunday Night Dinner with the Family

My parents and brother live several towns away from us and once in awhile we have a potluck. My mom and I are the go-to cooks in the family. I love family gatherings because both my mom and I cook. Our dinner parties are a mish mosh of lots of different dishes so we get a variety of things to eat. My family is pretty down to earth and with the addition of our toddler to the bunch, dinners with my parents are sweeter, sillier, and a lot more entertaining. Here are a couple of self explanatory pictures from a recent dinner party with my Godfather who was visiting us from London a couple of weeks ago.

Now for desserts.....

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Filipino Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Let's Eat. Kain na tayo.

Tapsilog is a condensed word from three separate words: Tapa= cured Filipino beef, sinangag = garlic fried rice and itlog = egg. My husband calls tapa beef bacon because it's just that good. Tapa is usually eaten during breakfast along with garlic fried rice and a fried egg but I've had it for dinner many times. My grandmother made her own tapa. My mom also makes her own tapa so I learned to do the same. I cure thinly sliced and well-marbled beef strips with sea salt, brown sugar black pepper. The marinated beef sits in a Ziplock bag in our refrigerator for a day. Then, the tapa goes back in the refrigerator for another day to be "air dried." The tapa is then pan-fried and served with steaming hot garlic fried rice and a perfectly cooked fried egg.

Lunch/ Tanghalian

Kare-kare is my absolute favorite Filipino food. This Filipino stew is typically made with oxtail or tripe but I used large chunks of stewing beef for this recipe. First, I seared beef chunks on all sides and then I braised them in a flavorful beef stock. After a few hours in the pot, the beef becomes fork-tender. A packet of Mama Sita's Kare-kare mix containing roasted ground rice, ground peanuts and atsuete or annato flavoring goes into the pot. My grandmother made the roasted ground rice from scratch by roasting native mountain grown rice in her big wok and then grinding them with her mortar and pestle. To make life easier, I use a packet of Mama Sita kare-kare mix. I added a list of where I buy my Filipino ingredients in the Boston area at the end of this blog entry. This stew included (but are never limited to) the following ingredients: organic peanut butter, sliced Japanese eggplants and green beans. I prefer long beans or snake beans but I didn't have them available when I was making this recipe. It's an excuse to go back to Chinatown soon. After the veggies are fully cooked, I garnished the kare-kare with finely chopped roasted peanuts. Kare-kare is typically eaten with fermented shrimp paste or alamang. Yum.

Dinner/ Hapunan

Like I said in a previous entry, adobo comes from the word "adobar", a Spanish infinitive which means "to marinate". This quintessential Filipino entree is truly magical in every way. Every Filipino cook I know has at least one great recipe for adobo. Pork is my meat of choice for many of my adobo recipes. I braised thick bone-in pork chops in Native Filipino sugar cane vinegar, lots of freshly chopped garlic, black peppercorns, a bay leaf and good quality soy sauce. Like Kare-kare, this is a braise it and forget it kinda meal. It's best eaten the next day when all the flavors have married.

Where do I buy my Filipino ingredients in Massachusetts?

Supper 88 Market, 118 Commercial St, Malden, MA 02148
See Sun Market, 25 Harrison Avenue (between Essex St & Hayward Pl) Boston, MA 02111
Sure Pinoy Oriental Food Mart, 145 Water St., Quincy, MA 02169
China Merchandise, 120 Cambridge Street, Burlington, MA 01803

Where do get my "merienda" or Filipino snacks when I'm in Boston's Chinatown?

These Boston Chinatown bakeries have "dupes" of some of my favorite steamed and baked Filipino goodies:
BaoBao Bakery, 77 Harisson Ave. -- This Taiwanese bakery has good Chinese style siopao called "big bun" and wife cakes(lao po bing) or hopia.
Ho Yuen Bakery Inc., 54 Beach St. -- This bakery has pretty good moon cakes, coconut buns, spring rolls and puto!
Eldo cake house, 36 Harrison Ave. -- Their round cakes are somewhat comparable to Goldilocks' cakes. Goldilocks a very popular Filipino bakery in the Philippines.