Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sad State of Dim Sum in Madison

What happens when 3 Asian friends plus Mike get together for weekend brunch?  The craving for dim sum becomes so overwhelming that we dared to try dim sum in little ol' Madison.

Bad idea!  We should have had logic win over our craving!

We had a choice between China One, which Bing and Jenny said they've tried before and were scarred by the buffet/dim sum experience, and the harmless but nothing special Hong Kong Cafe.

Bing and Jenny never tried Hong Kong Cafe and Mike and I never tried their dim sum so we bravely headed there the weekend after the "Polar Vortex."

Let's start with the positives.  The Saturday-only dim sum at Hong Kong Cafe has a good variety considering the Asian ingredients limitations in Wisconsin.  The service is attentive and friendly. 

Menu of Dim Sum Dishes rather than Carts

Now the one major negative that detroyed our taste buds: Over salting all the dishes!

We started off with the best dishes that we tried: Pork Congee, You Tiao (Fried Savory Doughnuts) and Chinese Veggies topped with Oyster Sauce (they didn't have the traditional Chinese Broccoli)

Pork-Filled Tofu Skin (drenched in an untraditional extremely salty sauce) and Shrimp Dumplings (frozen?)

Shrimp-filled Fried Eggplants (drenched in an untraditional and extremely salty sauce again) and Singapore Noodles (a better dish than some of the other ones we tried)

Shu Mai (better than some that we tried)

Daikon Radish Cakes

Chicken Feet (super salty)

Fried Tofu and Shrimp Balls (super salty)
It would've been a signficantly better idea to wake up early and drive 2.5 hours to Chicago for great dim sum!

Weekly Eats 1/13 - 1/17

Week 2 of low-carb weekday dinners has been successful!  I'm learning that it isn't that hard to come up with low-carb meals.  And I don't feel deprived when we allow ourselves to have bread and starch in the daytime.

In preparation for the work week, I made 2 bulk meals on Saturday and Sunday so leftovers can be used for lunch.

On Saturday, I made a simple fried rice with eggs and frozen veggies (tip: adding fish sauce and lemon juice makes this dish out of this world) and a quick miso and chili garlic baked chicken tenders with sauteed Chinese greens and mushrooms.
Miso and Chili Garlic Chicken Tender with Fried Rice and Chinese Greens

Inspired by Lidia Bastianich's spaghetti and meatballs recipe from an episode of Lidia's Italy on Create TV, I made a ridiculous amount of her unique and veggie-filled meatballs.  What makes these meatballs unique is that you create a vegetable paste, pestata, to mix in with the ground meat.  This breaks up the meat and provides moisture so that the meatball isn't a tight wad of dry meat.  Lidia's recipe uses 3 kinds of meat (beef, pork, and veal) and carrot, celery, and onion for the pestata. 

I used just ground beef and four veggies for the pestata - carrot, fresh shiitake mushrooms, celery, and onion.  Instead of bread crumbs, I used corn meal because I didn't have bread crumbs or bread suitable for turning into bread crumbs. 

The result is delicious, juicy, and light meatballs that we ate throughout the week!

Sauce: Sauteed Onions with Salt, Red Pepper Flakes, and Crushed Tomatoes

Veggies for Pestata: Carrots, Celery, Onion, and Shiitake Mushrooms

Meatball Mixture: Egg, Ground Beef, Pestata, Salt, Red Pepper Flakes, and Shredded Italian Blend Cheese

Oven-baked Meatballs (400F for 45 min)

Sauce and Meatballs

Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Meatballs

Weekday Lunches of Meatball Sliders with Jack Cheese on Onion Rolls

Served with Sweet Potato Baked Fries with Buffalo Wild Wings's Chipotle BBQ Seasoning

With my weekday lunches prepared, the next things to tackle are the breakfasts and actual low-carb dinners!

1/13 Monday Meals
Homemade Pork Sausage: Pork, Shallots, Garlic Salt, Maple Garlic Salt from Spice House, Crushed Red Pepper, Fennel, and a touch of Hennesy (marinated overnight)
Breakfast: Homemade Pork Sausage Sandwich with Chipotle Cheddar, Fried Egg, and Mustard served with Fresh Pineapple
Dinner: Tofu, Shrimp, and Bok Choy Stew with Pear Slices for Dessert
1/14 Tuesday Meals
Breakfast: Homemade Pork Sausage Sandwich with Chipotle Cheddar, Fried Egg, and Avocado Slices served with Apples
Dinner: (no photo) left over Tofu and Shrimp Stew
1/15 Wednesday Meals
 Breakfast: Homemade Pork Sausage Sandwich with Spinach and Cajun Remoulade (Boar's Head) served with Apples and Fresh Pineapples

Dinner: Chipotle BBQ Seasoned Chicken Thigh with Tofu and Shrimp Stew and Sauteed Bok Choy
1/16 Thursday Meals
Breakfast: Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Loaf (Reese's Boxed Muffin Mix) with Jiffy Peanut Butter Filling

Dinner:  Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms, Bean Curd Noodle Salad, and Leftover Chipotle BBQ Seasoned Chicken
1/17 Friday Meal
Breakfast: Chili Garlic Paratha Bread (Pre-made Frozen) with Bits of Homemade Sauage, Egg, and Sriracha served with Fresh Pineapples

Mike's Favorite Restaurant: Vintage Brewing Co.

Vintage Brewing Co. has become our default Friday night restaurant because not only do they serve up the best fried cod sandwich that we've had so far in Madison, the S. Whitney Way location is conveniently right across the street from Hyvee and in the same strip mall as the new Asian grocery store, A Mart, which re-stocks fresh produce from Chicago on Tuesdays and Fridays!

Another plus is that they do brew their own beer as well as specialty sodas (usually root beer and one other monthly special like vanilla creme soda).

We usually start our meal off with the spinach artichoke dip:
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Then either one of their gigantic burgers, rueben sandwich, or cod sandwich:
Corned Beef Reuben

Cod Sandwich
I think what makes their cod sandwich so addictive is the buttery flakes of cod, crunchy batter, and lack of fishy smell.  It's the best dish on the menu!
Vintage gets packed in the evenings so arrive early to avoid waiting.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter 2014 Madison Restaurant Week Jan. 19 - 24!

Ever since moving to Madison, I haven't been able to take advantage of restaurant week as much as I should.  I don't have an excuse this time as I'm not travelling for work!

After reviewing the list of participating restaurants, a few menus pop out.

  1. Liliana's - The $30 Creole Dinner looks awesome!  I got hooked by the chocolate mousse stuffed beignets with strawberry coulis!
  2. Harvest - The selling point for the $25 prix-fixe menu is, again, the dessert! I think it's my self-imposed rule of no dessert in the evenings that is causing my cravings while writing this post.  But just look! They have chocolate-hazelnut-espresso custard with dried cherry crumble, and salted caramel!
  3. Eldorado Grill - In keeping with my dessert-guided decisions, Eldorado Grill's offering of lemon jalapeno pie or Mexican float on their $25 prix-fixe is making me salivate!
I can't wait to try at least 2 restaurants this time!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weekly Eats 1/6 - 1/10

With the start of the New Year, Mike and I have set a resolution of eating no/minimum carbs after 6 PM. 

To hold us accountable and share ideas on no/low-carb dinners, I'll post photos of my weekday dinner menu every week!  Fridays are our day off from our regimen.  :-)

For breakfast and lunch, we still eat regular amounts of carbs so I have to plan ahead and cook dishes where I can separate the veggies and/or protein from the carb for dinner or make the carb-filled meal over the weekend and save for weekday lunches.

Made-ahead Creamy Rice and Veggie Chicken Casserole for Weekday Lunches
1/6 Monday Meals
Breakfast: Green Chile Smoked Sausage Egg Sandwich with Fuji Apples, Blueberries, and Strawberries
(I made various versions of this breakfast everyday this week)
Dinner: Mushroom, Smoked Salmon, and Asparagus Frittata with Roasted Asparagus Spears and Tomatoes
1/7 Tuesday Meal
Dinner: Tofu Simmered in Homemade Chicken Broth and Mushrooms topped with Sautéed Ground Chicken in Black Bean Paste and served with Boiled Chinese Broccoli Stalks and Baked Salted Mackerel
1/8 Wednesday Meal
Dinner: Tikka Chicken, Soy-Sugar Cucumber Salad, and Leftover Tofu from the previous night
1/9 Thursday Meal
Dinner: Iceberg Salad topped with Tomatoes, Pears, Avocado, and Cheese with a side of Sweet and Sour Pork

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Work, Food, and Life at Epic Systems (in that order) 1 year 7 months

Epic HQ in Verona, Wisconsin
I arrived in the heart of winter to Verona, Wisconsin exactly two years ago.  This is where the "intergalactic" Epic headquarters is located.  More like a tundra, perhaps?  It's actually quite beautiful and peaceful out there in the middle of nowhere, but the buzzing of busy bees inside the campus buildings is in stark contrast to the quiet, calm outdoors.
Many new hires come here thinking that life would be like this:

Rocking Horse in the "Heaven" Building
But I found it to be more like this:
Rocking Horse in the "Heaven" Building
It really was quite the roller coaster ride - one that I didn't enjoy but don't regret.  I can even say that I valued my time there!  That's my sincerest assessment, and I'll leave it at that.
On with the food, which is something Epic uses to entice potential new hires!
"Cassiopeia" - the main cafeteria
Overall, the quality of food varies from day-to-day.  Some dishes can be spectacular and portioned well (meaning, favorable to the hungry average male and, but others can be mediocre and overpriced.  I believe prices were on the rise as I edged closer towards my departure.

Here are the great...
Seafood is a reliable pick

Smoked ham with creamed corn and mashed sweet potato

Tasty fried chicken

Shrimp pasta

Steak is also usually a good pick

 Pork Belly with a side of fried mushrooms
...the forgettable...
Don't get Tex-Mex

BBQ chicken was undercooked

How can you not dress the pasta?!?!
...and the "don't bother":

I'm not even sure what this is...

The pâte à choux for this éclair was hard, thick, and dry

Mayo overkill

Tough beef kebab that's overly sweet

The Fourth of July "EPICnic" is a fairly fun affair with decent steak and overcooked lobster. 


Steak and Lobster Picnic Meal!

Thanks, Epic, for a unique and challenging professional experience!  I am now at peace and happily applying my skills to a job I love!

"Hyperspace" - one of the many cool hallways