Dragon Fruit Flowers Only Bloom At Night

Tags

, , ,

Dragon fruits are also known as Pitaya or “fire dragon fruit” in Chinese. They are native to Mexico, Central America, and South America but you can also find them in quite a lot of Asian countries. The outside of the fruit is a vibrant red with little “petals” sticking out of its skin. I always think of them as little red fireballs. The inside consists of a white flesh (sometimes red) with tiny little black edible seeds all over. The fruit is mildly sweet and mildly juicy. I love the little seeds that pop in your mouth. Dragon fruits are also very rich in fiber!

Several years back, my mom’s coworker gave us two dragon fruit vines so we could grow them ourselves. I’m embarrassed to say this, but we didn’t put much effort in keeping up with watering. However, last year, after 4 years of growing these two vines, we had our first dragon fruit. It definitely wasn’t the tastiest but it did come from our own backyard!

The other day, we noticed two little flowers coming out of the vines. I was extremely excited because dragon fruit flowers only bloom at night and they close up and start wilting the next day. Apparently, dragon fruits come out ~15 days after the flowers. Here is someone’s timelapse video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7if0iLH71E0

At around 10pm, my flowers started to open and I was able to capture some pictures.

While taking these pictures, the dragon fruit fragrance got really strong. It was almost as if I was eating one. Eventually, these flowers opened up really wide and were really beautiful. The next day, I went to check on them at noon, and they already closed up. I was really happy to capture some pictures of these awesome flowers. Now I will have to wait ~15 days to finally eat the fruit. Hopefully they are much tastier this time around.

 

Advertisements

Honeymoon First Stop: A Super Tiring Rome

Tags

, , , , , ,

Long Post Alert!!!

Last year I got married and went on a Mediterranean cruise with Princess Cruises. I had an awesome time and would go on the same exact cruise and vacation in a heart beat. It was a 12-day Greek Isles cruise that had stops in Rome, Monte Carlo, Florence, Naples, Santorini, Athens, Mykonos, Corfu, Split, and Venice. With only 1 sea day, we were able to enjoy many different and unique places in 12 days.

Weeks before our honeymoon, I had researched each stop: where to stay in Rome and Venice, what buses to take, what roads to walk, what time, and etc. It took a lot of effort and web surfing but we managed! I didn’t want to arrive in Rome and have to immediately check-in for the cruise, so we decided to stay one night in Rome and take the train to Civitavecchia the next.

We booked a night at a bed and breakfast in Rome, ::A PEACE OF ROME::, which was very close to the Vatican. The people at this B&B were extremely friendly. Before we arrived, they offered us suggestions on how to get to their place and we decided to take a cab.  My husband and I arrived in Rome at 10am in the morning (Tuesday 8/9/11) and the driver was waiting for us outside the baggage claim area. The ride was ~30 minutes. The B&B was really clean and modern. There was a really cool looking elevator in the building. Our luggage took the elevator but we walked up the stairs haha.

We left our stuff in the room and immediately ventured out to a full day of sight-seeing.

We started walking through the neighborhoods to get to the Vatican. I took out my camera and immediately noticed I had my 70-200mm lens on, what an unpleasant surprise. We really were pressed for time and could not go back and switch my lens so we continued on the road. All my pictures of Rome are super close-ups hahaha! Good thing we had our point and shoot with us as well.

I think I almost sprained my ankle a few times because of the uneven streets. But walking around Rome was worth every potential sprain.

My husband had purchased the Vatican tickets online so we didn’t have to stay in line. We walked around the outside of St. Peter’s Square for a little bit and then went inside the Vatican when it was 11:50am (our time to go in).

The Vatican, in my opinion, was WAY too crowded, WAY too hot, and although some parts were impressive, overall was boring.

We saw this outside and thought “of course no one is going to drink from this!” This was a good setup to what was a funny story. Let’s call it funny story #1 (to be discussed later).

Initially, it was impressive. A lot of details in the artwork and each room’s ceiling was beautiful. However, the place was packed. We felt like sardines in an oven. There was no air conditioning and no elbow room. Everyone was just packed inside and slowly walked their way through numerous rooms to try and get to the Sistine Chapel. At the end of each room, a sign would say “Sistine Chapel –>.” After sweating buckets and seeing the same art over and over again in room after room, we were pretty annoyed. I think it took us 1.5hrs and many miles to walk from the entrance to finally get to the Sistine Chapel. We even had to cut across some roped areas to bypass some rooms.

A few of the areas had cracked walls and ceilings, which is a shame because the place really is marvelous without the heat and people.

I was pretty excited to finally reach the Sistine Chapel. All that hard work! The sign outside said “No Cameras” so I put my camera away. Once inside though, everyone had their cameras out and the flashes were nonstop. My reaction was “whaaaaaaat?” So I decided to bust out my camera too. It took me a long long time to find “The Creation of Adam”. I thought it was going to be huge in the middle of the ceiling but it was small. After spending a little bit of time inside, we were rushed out to the exit. It was a very tiny door at the other side of the chapel that over 100 people were supposed to go through at a time!

Overall, not a very good experience. I think it would’ve been way better if there weren’t that many people.

After the Vatican, we were on a mission to get to the Colosseum. My husband planned the Rome day so he said we were to walk along the Tiber river to get to the Colosseum. I was pooped! My husband wouldn’t let me rest on the way because we needed to get there before they close on us. I blame it on the Vatican hahaha. It was really hot and I was really tired. We even ran out of water!

Here’s where funny story #1 comes in. All over Rome we saw a lot of these water things:

We had no idea what they were and the area surrounding these water things were so dirty. I thought they were just some plumbing thing from buildings haha. So we were walking in the heat with no water and kept passing these water things. I even saw some other tourists put water from these fountain into their water bottle! But I refused to touch the water, let alone drink from it! Eventually, we finally found a store and bought a huge bottle of water.

Walking along the river was worth it. We saw a lot of bridges and walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo.

We finally did manage to get to the Palatine Hill and I was really impressed. Palatine Hill is one of the more famous hills of Rome. Apparently, this was where Augustus was born. One of the first sights we saw was The Stadium. Unfortunately, like many ruins, it’s left with very little.

One of many headless statues, this Parian marble statue was uncovered in the Farnese Gardens.

The hill is pretty big, a lot of beautiful trees and benches to sit on.

The Roman Forum and the Colosseum are next to Palatine Hill and are walkable distances. The Roman Forum is now mostly in ruins with a couple of buildings left. It’s really sad because the gift shops all sell books of these ancient places and what they used to look like. To see the before and after is saddening. Julius Caesar’s tomb is there as well but not very impressive :). The Colosseum was just a short walk over.

I really liked the Colosseum. I’m sure everyone who comes imagines all the gladiator battles that happened here. The underground passageways that they used to transport the gladiators are visible. I’m really sad though that what was once a stadium that could fit 50000+ people now probably can’t seat anyone safely. But, it is definitely a place that you must visit if you go to Rome. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay until night time to see the Colosseum lighted up but you should if you have a chance! Outside the Colosseum, there were people dressed up as gladiators to take pictures with tourists. I don’t know how much it is but I thought it was a good idea!

Our next spot was the Trevi Fountain.

Funny Story #2: Right before we got there, we saw a gelato shop. My husband asked if I had any change, so I gave him all I had. We reached the Trevi Fountain and it was super crowded. I asked my husband for change because they say that if you throw a coin in the fountain, you will return to Rome again one day. Well, my husband turned to me and said “I used it all at the gelato shop!” So we didn’t have any coins and I guess I won’t be returning to Rome 😦

At this point, I think it was 5pm and we were really tired and probably incoherent haha. We walked over to the Spanish Steps. Sat there for a minute, took a picture, and took the train back to our hotel. At 7pm we were clonked out! We woke up at 6am the next day haha.

So early in the morning, I decided to check the web and see if we can drink from those dirty fountains. Lo’ and behold, the answer is a big fat YES! The water is safe and really cold. These fountains are called “nasoni” and I should’ve just drank from it the first day. Good thing I didn’t die of thirst right next to one!

A Peace of Rome recommended a breakfast place right outside the B&B (http://www.compagniadelpane.net/). We went there and had no idea what to do. We just stood there and tried to see what everyone was eating and etc. They each had a pastry and a shot of espresso/coffee. So we decided to order a croissant each, ate, paid, and left. We felt so out of place and they didn’t speak English. After walking around the neighborhood some more, we packed our stuff and went to the train station to go to the port.

The line to buy tickets was not too long when we got there. There were maybe 30 people in front of us. However, I think we stood in line for 1+ hour. Only 1 person was working and he took forever! I was scared we would miss the 2pm check-in. There were a lot of people behind us that were also going to the port so that calmed me down a bit. We got on the train and off we went.

Once at the port, we took the cruises’ shuttle to the cruise. Check-in was really fast. Once on the ship, we hit the buffet and wandered around.

Rome was probably my least favorite of all the places we visited on our honeymoon but I’m willing to give it a second chance. My experience there could have been a lot better seeing as we arrived 10am in the morning, had the wrong/heavy lens with me the whole time, walked miles and miles inside the Vatican, walked more in the extreme heat outside, no coins at the Trevi Fountain, and experienced a long wait for train tickets even though there were only 30 people in front. I’m determined to go back and make it better for sure!

Next Post: Monte Carlo, Monaco! I promise it won’t be as long!

Tasting Menu: Sage @ Aria

Tags

, , , , ,

Last weekend I went to Las Vegas for my friend’s birthday. He wanted to try Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace initially but when I called to make reservations more than a week in advance for 12 people, they told me the earliest availability was 10:30pm that night! What the crazies?! Since we had a show at 9:30, we decided to go to Sage at Aria after seeing 4.5 stars with over 300 reviews on Yelp.

We arrived at Sage at exactly 5:30pm and were seated immediately in a long table out at the bar/lounge area. The restaurant was dark but ambiance was amazing. I love the purple!

We were given the regular Sage menu after we sat but we had read about the Chef’s Signature Tasting Menu ($79) online prior to coming, so we inquired about that. The super friendly waiter told us that all 12 of us had to order the tasting menu or no one can have it. We all decided to order the tasting menu and a few of us added wine pairings for an additional $39.

After we all ordered, we were given an amuse-bouche, a shot of tomato gazpacho with cucumbers. It was really flavorful and the bites of cucumbers made it more refreshing.

They also gave us two types of bread: sourdough and bacon dinner roll. The bacon dinner roll was to die for! I could’ve eaten 10 of those.

First Course:

There were three choices: Market Oysters, Wagyu Beef Tartare, Di Stefano Farms Burrata Cheese

My husband got the oysters since he doesn’t eat beef.

::Market Oysters::
Piquillo Pepper and Tabasco Sorbet
Aged Tequila Mignonette

I love oysters and I usually just eat oysters as-is to get the yummy ocean taste. Sometimes I add a squeeze of lemon but that’s the most I put on my oysters. These oysters came with Tabasco sorbet…AMAZING! The sorbet was not pure tabasco, thank goodness. I’m not sure what else they put in the tabasco sorbet but I have a feeling it’s just watered down and frozen? The oysters were really fresh and the tabasco sorbet added a great taste that complemented the oyster taste really well.

::Wagyu Beef Tartare::
Crushed Caper Aioli
Slow Poached Egg/Crispy Chocolate

This dish looked so delicious when it came. The beef is not cooked, so definitely not for those who don’t eat raw beef. They also gave each of us a lot of buttery french bread on the side to put the tartare on. The slow poached egg was awesome. You break into it but it stays put and doesn’t ooze out even though it looks like it’s not cooked.

The sauce, egg, beef, and chocolate all went so well together. It was a little bit heavy, especially with the bread, but overall the dish was so tasty. The chocolate pieces were not sweet but had the chocolate-y taste that went so well with everything else.

Second Course:

Choice between Grilled Spanish Octopus or Maine Dayboat Scallops

Seafood…yum. Scallops…even more yum!! I think I want to go to every restaurant in the world and just eat scallops.

::Maine Dayboat Scallops::
Braised Oxtail/Wild Mushrooms
Salted Caramel Reduction

This dish was definitely my favorite of the night. Not sure if it’s because I love scallops or because of the sauce. The scallops were good: texture and freshness were both good but not the best. The sauce is really something though. The caramel and mushroom tastes were really prevalent in every bite.

::Grilled Spanish Octopus::
Smoked Potato Puree/Romesco
Marcona Almond

A few of my friends ordered this but I didn’t get to take a bite! They said it was good though. 🙂

My husband couldn’t eat the scallops because of the oxtail sauce and he didn’t want to eat the octopus but Sage was really great about him substituting from the menu. For this course, my husband had pasta instead.

::Bellwhether Farms Ricotta Cavatelli:
Parsley-Walnut Pesto/Chanterelle Mushroom
Shaved Pecorino

This is one of the best pastas I’ve ever had! Perfect amount of seasoning, sauce, mushrooms, nuts, and cheese. I was able to have a little bit of everything in each bite. Pasta tasted like fresh pasta. The pine nuts were nicely toasted, pesto was not too oily. It was heaven in my mouth!

Third Course:

Choice between Iberico Pork Loin or 48 Hour Beef Belly

::Iberico Pork Loin::
Crispy Pork Shoulder/Spaetzle
Creminelli Mortadella

My husband got the pork loin and the dish was good. It consisted of a pork loin medallion, a slice of ham, and pork shoulder. The pork loin was a bit small but definitely really moist. The pork shoulder was a good combination of sweet and salty. My husband wasn’t full afterwards though because of the small amount of food that came with this course.

::48 Hour Beef Belly::
Grilled Summer Peach/Sweet Corn Puree
Pickled Ramp

The beef belly was extremely moist. Every bite literally melted in my mouth. The sauce was sweet and worked really well with the beef. Towards the end though, it got a little bit heavy but I still wanted to lick the plate clean!

Fourth Course

Choice between Gianduja Pave or Pistachio Tart

::Gianduja Pave::
Olive Oil Ice Cream
Hazelnut Crunch/Basil Jam

At first I wanted to try this because of the olive oil ice cream. My husband ordered this first so I had to order the other dessert instead just so we can try both desserts. I didn’t know this was chocolate until it came.

The chocolate on the left was interesting. After each spoon, olive oil would ooze out on the bottom. For every bite of chocolate, you can taste a really strong olive oil fragrance but it quickly disappears and you taste just the chocolate. Amazing! However, a lot of people didn’t like it and thought it was a bit weird. I can definitely see why.

::Pistachio Tart::
Sauteed Strawberries/Honeyed Mascarpone
Strawberry-Black Pepper Gelato

This dessert was so yummy! This one was definitely the better of the two desserts. The pistachio tart had just the right amount of sweetness. You can taste a faint hint of black pepper in the gelato but it went so well with the taste of strawberry.

Overall I had a great time at Sage, from the ambiance to the friendly servers to the food. The amount of food was just right for some of us but a lot of us had to get Mcdonald’s after our show. Awesome food and great time spent with wonderful friends though!

I would love to try more restaurants in Vegas!

Fair Animals

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

My husband and I are fair nuts for sure. We enjoy the delicious food, cute animals, beautiful decorations, and on rare occasions, the expensive carnival games. Today’s blog will be a quick feature some of the animals of the fair.

This is Daisy, 4 years old. At the time this picture was taken, she was expected to give birth in a few days. Doesn’t it look like she was smiling? I thought so!

Unfortunately, a day after Daisy gave birth to her 11 piglets, she died after a seizure. RIP!

I went back to the fair again and saw another pig with her piglets. One of these piglets was super friendly and walked right up to a fellow fair-attendee. He just sat there and let the man pet him. I really want a pet piglet!

Right next to this mommy’s pen, were Daisy’s piglets under a warm spotlight with no mommy. It was such a heartbreaking sight!

Very close to the pigs, this jersey cow also gave birth to a little calf boy. This picture was taken just a couple of hours after the birth. You can still see the placenta if you look really closely. The mom was really protective of the baby, as expected, and walked everywhere he walked.

Chicks! Everytime I see chicks, I just want to squeeze them (in a non-violent way) hahaha. I have an awesome picture of a little boy looking into the case from the other side of the glass and smiling but probably not a good idea to post someone else’s picture up here!

These two cows were just standing there letting people touch and take pictures.

Hahaha I thought this was so funny. The little goat just stood on top of the other goat for the LONGEST time. I’m surprised the bottom goat didn’t move at all.

After years of attending the fair, I finally got to see the pig races! We got there 15 minutes before show time and got pretty good seats. Then all these little kids started sitting around the track…turns out, they have even BETTER seats. Since I’m pretty short, I figured I could pass off as a little kid and sit there as well. It worked!

Here’s #1 Strawberry leading the pack, thinking “eat my dried grass!”

These pigs are actually pretty fast. When the announcer said this was a funny show, I thought the pigs were gonna walk slowly to the finish line but boy was I wrong! Again, I want a pet piglet!

As you can probably tell, pigs are my favorite fair animals!

Shrimp and Chives Wonton Recipe

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Food is one of my many passions. I loooooove to eat! I only looooooove to cook if it’s really easy and fast! I grew up eating dumplings/gyozas/wontons. Dumpling varieties are endless. There are boiled dumplings, fried dumplings, soup dumplings, and basically any meat or vegetable combinations can go inside a dumpling…even cream cheese or nutella! Yum!

I’ve made dumplings a few times before by following other people’s recipes but the other day I wanted to make something simple so I made my own shrimp and chives wontons.

Ingredients:
**Makes roughly 40 wontons**

1 pound of shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1 handful bunch of chives (cut small)
1 1/2 teaspoon ginger (minced)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine
white pepper to taste (I use more than a dash)
corn starch as needed
1 egg (beaten)
1 package of wonton skins
2-14oz cans of chicken broth

Cut shrimp into pieces and mix well with the chives, ginger, salt, sesame oil, rice wine, and pepper. Add a little bit of corn starch if you feel the mixture is too watery.  Remember to only add a little at a time.

For each wonton skin, fill it with ~1 teaspoon of the shrimp mixture in the middle of the wrapper. If you like your wontons meatier (like me), you can add a little extra filling. Seal the wonton skin edges with egg.

My mom always makes fun of me for the way I wrap my wontons because I wrap them like I would Shanghai dumplings but it’s the fastest way I know! With the filling in the middle of the skin, I fold two opposite corners together. Then I pinch the remaining two corners together.

Boil the wontons in a pot of water. When the wontons are cooked/ready, they will float to the top.
In another pot, boil the chicken broth and add the cooked wontons. Now you can serve the wontons+soup!

If you like, you can also cook egg noodles to make it a wonton noodle soup. Make sure you cook the egg noodles in plain water and not in the soup since the water gets really starchy.

Here’s a bowl of my shrimp&chives wonton noodle soup. I added some chicken thigh meat just to have more meat but that’s definitely optional!

Egg Tart Baking

Tags

, , , , ,

I grew up eating egg tarts, “dan tat” in cantonese. They are super popular in dim sum restaurants or Chinese bakeries. According to Wikipedia, they are #16 on CNN Go’s World’s 50 most delicious foods. There are so many variations in these little tarts. The ones I’ve tried are: traditional, egg white, bird’s nest, and my favorite, Portuguese tarts (“po tat”). Whenever I go to Macau, I always make a stop at Lord Stow’s Bakery to get their Portuguese tarts. I have a few pictures from a few years back of these delicious tarts but they are on my other PC!

The other day I was craving egg tarts and found an easy recipe on Christine’s Egg Tarts Recipe. I am the world’s laziest when it comes to cooking. I prefer recipes that are easy to follow and only need ingredients I have at home. I frequent Christine’s website all the time! She has the best Asian recipes with easy-to-understand instructions that even a novice like me could understand. 

So I decided to try her recipe and the egg tarts came out tasting great! Everyone, including myself, loved it. Here’s Christine’s Recipe with my pictures. Please note she uses the metric system, so use a scale!

Cantonese Egg Tarts By Christine’s Recipes
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Yield: Makes about 14-16 egg tarts (3-Inch Wide 1-1/2-Inch Deep Tart Tin) [[[Mandy’s Comment: I used silicone muffin cups]]]

Ingredients of crust:

  • 225 gm plain flour
  • 125 gm butter
  • 55 gm icing sugar [[[Mandy’s Comment: I used powdered sugar]]]
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • a dash vanilla extract

Ingredients of custard::

  • 3 eggs
  • 110 gm caster sugar [[[Mandy’s Comment: I just put regular sugar into a my magic bullet and pulsed a few times]]]
  • 225 gm hot water
  • 85 gm evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Method (making crust):

  • Place butter at room temperature until softened. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer over medium speed until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in color.

 +  = 

  • Add in whisked egg, half at a time, beat over low speed. Add vanilla extract, mix well.

 = 

  • Sift in flour in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions with a spatula, and make sure all ingredients combine well. Knead into dough.

  • Roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter that is just a bit smaller than your tart tin in size. Line dough in the middle of tart tins, one by one. Lightly press the dough with your thumbs, starting from the bottom then up to the sides. While pressing the dough, turn the tart tin clockwise/anti-clockwise in order to make an even tart shell. Trim away any excess dough.

 

Method (making custard):

  • Add sugar into hot water, mix until completely dissolved.
  • Whisk egg with evaporated milk. Pour in sugar water. Mix well.
  • Sift egg mixture to get rid of any foam into a tea pot. Carefully pour egg mixture into each tart shell.

Method (baking tarts):

  • Preheat oven to 200C. Position rack in lower third of oven. Bake tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown.
  • Lower the heat to 180C. Keep an eye on them. Once you see the custard being puffed up a bit, pull the oven door open about 2 to 3 inches. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the custard is cooked through. Just insert a toothpick into the custard. If it stands on its own, it’s done.
Note that the custard part puffs up if it’s too hot, which is why her recipe says to open the oven door slightly.
My finished product:
This recipe worked out really well, the custard was just the right sweetness and the crust was nice and buttery. Next time I will try to make a flakey crust!
Note: All pictures on this page are taken by me.

Must Eat OC Fair Foods

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

We’re already halfway through this year’s OC Fair! People say the fair is the same every year and that is mostly true but you only get to eat yummy fair foods once a year. That’s why I want to share my MUST EAT OC Fair foods. These are my must-eats every year when I go.

Ranked in order, with #1 being my favorite:

7. Fried Clams

I’m a HUGE fried clams fan. When I was little, my mom used to buy frozen fried clams from the grocery store and, well, fried them. We would dip them in ketchup and they were oooooooh so yummy. But, it’s been YEARS since I’ve seen them at the grocery stores and I have no idea where to find them again. So when I saw fried clams at the fair, I had to try them. It was $16 for “The Boat Load” which contained 1 fish, shrimp sticks, fries, fried clams, calamari, zucchini. The clams were the best…no doubt! Next time I will probably just get the clams.

6. Shrimp Cocktail

I know you can get shrimp cocktail anywhere, but this is different! I always get the large to share with my husband…but I’m pretty sure I eat 80% of it :P. In addition to the shrimp, there’s avocado, salsa, cheese, and they also give you a cracker to add in. It’s also really refreshing. I can eat 10 of these in one sitting (not proven)!

5. Funnel Cake

I love funnel cake. My very first funnel cake was from Knott’s Berry Farm and that’s when I fell in love. What is there not to love? There’s powdered sugar, fruits, whipped cream, and all kinds of yummy stuff. There are funnel cake booths everywhere at the fair but I like the one next to the stage/arts crafts village most. I usually get “The Works”: Strawberries, whipped cream, bavarian cream, chocolate chip, peaches.

4. Corn

The fair charges $4 for 1 grilled corn. For that price, I can get 16 corn and grill them myself but I’m too lazy. Also, it just tastes better at the fair :P. I like mine dipped in butter with a little bit of seasoning.

3. Turkey Leg

Turkey legs are so good and you don’t get to eat turkey leg on a regular basis. Story: One day at Disneyland, husband and I were hungry and decided to get a turkey leg. It was the driest and saltiest turkey leg we’ve ever eaten. Definitely spoiled by fair turkey legs! After that incident, we’ve appreciated Juicy’s turkey legs for the smokey flavor, and tenderness every time we eat it at the fair.

2. Watermelon Agua Fresca

We tend to go to the fair a few times each summer, so we decided to get the souvenir cup. At the same place where you get the shrimp cocktail, they have watermelon agua fresca. So we decided to get the souvenir cup with agua fresca ($5). Each time you refill, it’s only $2.75. The watermelon agua fresca quenched our thirst big time in the crazy heat. I’d rather spend $2.75 for agua fresca than soda! It’s really good, watermelon juice with a little sugar. Yum!

1. Bloomin’ Onion

My all time favorite fair food: the bloomin’ onion. I like onion rings but I dislike thick batter and non-fresh onion. The bloomin’ onion is none of those and the perfect food to share. The onion is cut so that it looks like a flower with petals sticking out. You just peel each piece out and dip it in the ranch in the middle. Super fresh and yummy. However, I’d recommend not eating the last row since it’s always drenched in oil!

Here’s my list of “tried, but will pass” list, with #1 being my least favorite:

6. Pulled Pork Sandwich

I think we paid $8.50 for one pulled pork sandwich. My husband loves pulled pork sandwiches. It was good and comparable to other pulled pork sandwiches anywhere else so we will most likely not try it again.

5. Crepes

Good but we can get it elsewhere as well. Nothing special and I prefer funnel cakes if I want something sweet.

4. Mangoneada

My brother wanted to try this out and thought it was a drink (mango lemonade). To all of our surprise, it was a mango popsicle dipped in chili powder and what tasted like tamarind. First taste reminded me of the tamarindo candy that I love. But the mangoneada was a bit weird for my taste: too sweet and too sour.

3. Fried Frog Legs

Through a moment of bravery, I tried fried frog legs. It tasted like chicken and I will never try again hahaha!

2. Fried Klondike Bar

My 10 year old cousin kept saying how yummy the fried Klondike bar was, so we decided to try it. Bleeeeh. It tasted like batter with chocolate syrup.

1. Fried Kool Aid

This is definitely the nastiest thing I’ve ever had at the fair. Shaped like donut holes but tasted like medicine. Save your money and don’t try this!!!

 

So there you have it, my list of fair foods. I still want to try chocolate-covered bacon and fried butter and many other things!

Happy Anniversary w/ Awesome Food

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The husband and I celebrated our first married life anniversary yesterday. Can’t believe it’s been 1 year! Time sure does go by really fast when you’re enjoying it. He is definitely everything I’ve ever wanted in a husband! We celebrated our one year walking around Disneyland/CA Adventure and had a wonderful time at dinner.

We arrived at Napa Rose 30 minutes earlier than our reservations. The hostess was super friendly and congratulated us right away. She also offered us a spot at the Chef’s Table for dinner because there was a cancellation! WooHoo! Apparently, the usual reservation for the Chef’s Table is roughly 2 months so we were super excited and we’ve read nothing but awesome things about it. We waited in the lounge for a bit while they prepared our table.

Everything on the menu looked really good! The hubbie decided to go for the chef’s sampling menu + wine and I ordered the scallops and filet mignon. The chef came over to check on our preferences/allergies and took down our dinner choices. It was extremely awesome sitting in front of so many chefs preparing food!

Right in front of me was Chef Danny (left). I tried really hard to pay attention to how he made the salad. He seemed to put so much heart into the food he was making. Every ingredient was thoughtfully pieced together on the plate, one by one. Chef Ronnie came over once in a while to help out as well.

One of the salads that went out that night, which we had the pleasure of trying as well!

After we munched on some super yummy bread, we both got a little surprise from the chef: Fried rice ball with duck confit and fried shallots. The rice ball was crispy on the outside and just right on the inside. The duck was really savory.

Then the husband got his salad that Chef Danny made! The California Heirloom Tomato Salad (Fresh Lemon-Thyme Mozzarella, Avocado and Sparrow Lane Vinaigrette). I’ve never tasted a salad this fresh!! The chef also told us that they just put this salad on the menu since tomatoes are seasonal and they just came into season. Once they are out of season, this salad gets taken off the menu. I saw a lot of this salad go out that night. I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes but this salad is so fresh and so good, I can eat it nonstop!

While the husband was eating his salad (and sharing with me), I also got a small cup of Portobello Mushroom Bisque “Cappuccino” with Brandied Thyme “Froth” to try. I’ve had many mushroom “cappuccino”s before that were really strong but this soup is JUST RIGHT! I shared with the husband too but accidentally ate all the portobello mushrooms. Oops!

While we were eating and waiting for our food, I noticed another chef cooking massive scallops nonstop. They were literally the size of my fists when raw. I tried to pay attention to how he seared/cooked them and one of the chefs also told me how it’s done…will be trying it out at home one day! Apparently the scallops are one of their signature dishes. At this point, I couldn’t wait for my scallops but it was only a few moments away!

After the soup+salad, our appetizers came. Husband got sea bass with potatoes. Sea bass is my favorite fish, and of course, this dish did not disappoint one bit.

My favorite dish of the night, though, definitely goes to the scallops! They were Pan Roasted Diver Scallops (on a Sauce of Lobster and Lemon Accented with Vanilla). The scallops were tender and sweet and placed on top of some mashed potatoes. There were also many yummy lobster pieces in the sauce. I will definitely get this again the next time I go to Napa Rose!

I was sitting next to the pass as well and got to see all the food that went out to everybody. A lot of people ordered the mac n cheese and it looked heavenly! Here’s Sous Chef Juan at the pass.

Next up was my husband’s Salt Roasted Santa Barbara Spot Prawn (Brentwood Corn and Shrimp Turnover with Prickly Pear Vinaigrette).

Again, super yummy and on an empanada. I think they said there was more shrimp inside the empanada. Everything from the corn, to the jicama, to the shrimp are really tasty.

Right before our main entree, we each received a strawberry sorbet with basil to freshen our palate. While I was taking pictures, husband already dug into his. His first reaction was “WOW this is really good…who would’ve thought strawberries would go so well with basil.” So I put down the camera and tried mine. OMG, what an awesome combination. In the car ride home, we were wondering how the little green basil pieces were made. Sugar + basil blended together? Sugar water with basil and then hardened pieces?

At this point, I was already satisfied and could go home happy already hahaha. But of course, our entrees!

Husband got the Roasted “Bone In” East Coast Skate Wing (Golden Chanterelles, Fava Bean Potatoe Salad with Orange Basil Butter). We both tried it immediately but it was a little on the salty side for our taste. We sent it back and they immediately made another one that was much better and really good. The bone of this fish is really easy to take out. He ate one side of the fish, flipped it over, and ate the other side while the whole bone was still intact.

I got the Sauteed Petit Filet Mignon (Sonoma Mushroom, Potato Gnocchi, Green Garlic and Cabernet Essence) cooked medium. You know how sometimes you ask for medium, but you get medium well? I asked for medium and it was medium! Yay! My husband doesn’t eat beef, so I haven’t had steak in a long time. This filet mignon was thick and juicy! MmMmM yummy. The potato gnocchi was good as well. My husband doesn’t like gnocchis but he found these to be really good.

Halfway through my entree, I was really full already but it was so good I finished everything! Both the husband and I finished everything and can’t be more satisfied! In the end, we decided that an anniversary dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert! We got the chocolate bundt cake with popcorn flavored sherbet on caramel popcorn. The popcorn sherbet was so good! Just the right tint of popcorn flavor. The plate even had “Happy Anniversary” on it!

The dinner was an experience I would never forget, especially with it being on our anniversary! We also got two small boxes of chocolates that were made in-house. The service from the host/hostesses, waiters/waitresses, and chefs was incredible and the attention to detail they put on the food is incomparable. I would highly recommend sitting at the Chef’s Table at Napa Rose!

Happy Anniversary, Babe!

I Love Dogs!

Tags

, , ,

I love dogs! The world is a better place with dogs and I really wish we could do more for them.

The sad look in their eyes when you leave home for work/school and their enthusiasm when you come home are priceless. No matter what you do, they are always happy to see you. Even if you leave them for 12+ hours by themselves or go on vacation for 3 weeks and leave them at a pet hotel, they still love you unconditionally when you come home.

I want to know what they really think about when they sit there and look up into the sky for so long.

This photo was taken in Florence, Italy. What was he thinking?? He reminded me of my dog, Happy. She loves looking out the front door, even if it’s just an empty street and nothing happens the whole day. But she always has this contemplating look on her. What does she think about? Food? Because I know she loves food! 🙂

When I went to Europe, I think 20% of my pictures were of dogs. Dogs are everywhere there and I loved it! It was incredibly hot when we went to Athens, and there were dogs taking naps on marbles in the shade at the Acropolis. I think they go there every day to cool off and people watch. There were at least 5 dogs there just cooling off and blocking people’s paths but all the tourists just smiled and walked around them.

Same thing in Greece! My husband and I were walking around Santorini and we noticed we kept running into the same dog. I asked my husband about their food/water and then we ran into a bucket with dog food that said “Food for Animals.” Definitely made me smile: 

So there’s a little insight into my love for dogs! I really want to open up my own animal shelter in the future and already have all these plans thought up, but that’s a whole different blog post!

I haven’t posted many pictures on my website yet, www.mandytom.com, but will continue to add more to my portfolio.

OC Fair Photography Competition

Tags

,

I love the OC Fair and make an effort to go every year. One of my favorite things to do at the fair is to go through the visual arts exhibits, particularly the photo exhibit.  All the pictures there are stunning and they are such an inspiration for me to take better photos. Apparently, last year’s acceptance rate was 33% out of ~3000+ pictures submitted. That’s so crazy! This year, I decided to submit a few pictures to see if they go through. I just heard back today that one of my pictures got accepted in the preliminary judging phase. I’m a little sad the other ones didn’t make it and ecstatic that at least one made it. I will definitely need to work harder and take better pictures for next year!

My (1st phase) accepted picture, Insect on Wilted Flower:

The next phase in the competition is to bring in the framed picture and the judges will go through again and see which ones will make it. The OC Fair starts on July 13th and I can’t wait for the fun, food, and excitement!