Tuesday, February 7, 2023

I'm vlogging in Taiwan this month!

Last time I visited Taiwan was in summer 2007. My circumstances were so different then. I helped my parents pick out a condo as it was being built at the time. And now one parent has passed and another is pretty badly beaten up from a vehicular accident. 

So, I'm here to take care of administrative things and am not sure if/when I would be back.

I'm making sure that I take pleasure in the little mundane things when I can. Like finding a neighborhood fun milk tea joint that serves super interesting bagels while running errands!

The place is called Don't Yell at Me. 🤣 No idea... I'll ask them next time I'm there!

The rose lychee bagel was so good! It's super creative with lovely chopped up pieces of lychee fruit!A dream come true in bagel form!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Happy Year of the Rabbit and Ho Ho Chinese BBQ Review

I never really practiced any special Lunar New Year customs growing up except eating special treats and having a bountiful Chinese dinner.

This year, my daughter has learned a little bit about the Lunar New Year at school and a little bit about the Chinese horoscope. And she wanted to know if we could eat some new year food and treats. 

Thanks to Marley and Spoon providing a few new year dishes for selection this week, I made lion's head meatballs and Hong Kong egg tarts.

I made modifications to the meatballs by adding minced wood ear mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms. I also halved the amount of cornstarch, which made my meatballs too wet and thus became big hill mounds rather than balls. But these were so delicious; it doesn't matter that they're not balls! My mom learned how to make these from Chinese cooking school in Taiwan and has been known to make awesome lion's head, and she approved of these!

Lion's Head Meatballs

I continued my streak of ugly but yummy food with the egg tart recipe. Maybe I can blame Marley and Spoon for forgetting to include the pre-made pie crusts. I went and got some pressed empanada dough instead and churned these puppies out. The ones baked in small muffin tins were forgiving, but not so much the regular-sized ones! The flavor and texture are pretty spot on, but I swear the instructions did not include tips on how to avoid the custard from bubbling in the oven!

Mini Egg Tarts

Strange-looking Egg Tarts

For dinner, we ordered from the closest Chinese BBQ restaurant to Round Rock, Ho Ho Chinese BBQ. This place is straight up "we make good food and don't care about all the other variables that a customer may care about." It's an old school Cantonese restaurant where the exterior and interior aesthetics is pretty tattered, but it doesn't stop the influx of customers trying to get their fill of savory morsels of meats. My online pick up order was supposed to be ready at 5:18 PM, and they didn't have the food ready until 6 PM. Granted it's Lunar New Year and instead of taking the day off, they were trying to service greater than usual traffic. 

With my daughter in tow, I solved our long wait by ordering roast duck and roast pork belly to be chopped up straight from the BBQ line and took it out to my mom and daughter to munch on while I went back to the restaurant to listen for my name. 

I came back to very satisfied passengers

None of the dishes are particularly pretty to look at; maybe they're slightly better looking than the building that it came from, but there's definite skill and authenticity behind the taste. Each dish has its distinct flavor profile and none are overly salted. I feel like these have become rare qualities in Chinese restaurants as of late. As chefs who have trained in specific Chinese cuisines retire, new chefs or owners have tried to cater to the types of Chinese cuisines and dishes that have risen in popularity and they lose authenticity. Cantonese food has been pushed to the side to make way for Sichuan food. And restaurants that don't align to Sichuan food try to do a bit of everything to accommodate what's trending and lose their way. I feel like Ho Ho does a great job in staying true to Cantonese flavors, and I hope they can successfully continue that! 

Happy new year to all!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Komé: Sushi Kitchen Review

Since we rarely leave the Round Rock area, I make sure to plan out lunch/dinner, coffee, and grocery pick up whenever I need to run to Austin for some kind of errand.

I had to take my mom to the Airport Blvd area recently, and we lunched at Komé: Sushi Kitchen. I'm really excited that that area has been attracting more restaurants and coffeeshops! I would've checked out Jewboy Burgers, but I knew my mom enjoys Japanese food over burgers any day.

We ordered an una tama-don and a komè bento. They both came with a delicious bowl of miso soup. For the bento, you get a choice of roll. I decided to try something I've never had before - raw squid - the ika-umè-shiso roll, which as squid, cucumber, umè, shiso. The flavor wasn't distinct, but it was pleasantly less chewy than I thought it would be and pretty refreshing! I liked the balance of the clean taste of the sashimi and the fried and crunchy chicken karaage.

komè bento
(kara-agè, agè-dashi tofu, side salad, sashimi assortment, and ika-umè-shiso roll

My mom loved her eel rice bowl. It's simple but comforting for her. Look at that juicy egg! Yum!

una tama-don
(bbq unagi, onsen egg, negi, pickled daikon, nori, fried onion)

Overall, the food was fresh and delicious, and the service was excellent! I want to come back for dinner so I can try out the grilled items that are only available for dinner. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Bamboo House Review

Here's my first review of an Austin restaurant since my move back! One of my biggest gripes about the Austin food scene in the past and now is the lack of quality authentic Chinese food options.

Living in Round Rock further limits the options, and I lack the motivation to drive to even North Austin to get food from my past picks - Din Ho and First Chinese BBQ. However, when I heard about how a relative new comer, Bamboo House, serves up Peking duck, I made it a mission to go check it out!

Be prepared for long lines if you don't arrive by 11:45 AM. The good news is that they're able to turnover tables quickly so even though we arrived at 12:45 PM our first time and had to wait, it was only at most 15 minutes before being seated.

After ordering at our first visit, we immediately started gawking at the tables around us. The portions are huge and everything looked delicious!

My mom ordered the braised wheat gluten appetizer, which usually comes on a small plate for diners to pick at while drinking tea and waiting for the other courses to arrive, but this was a legit entrée size platter!

The salt and pepper fish fillet was my husband and daughter's favorite dish. Perfectly crispy, buttery, and savory. 

The surprise hit for my daughter was the duck soup that comes with your order of Peking duck (that's when you know this place is serious). I would have liked more ingredients in the soup. There's a little bit of cabbage and some tofu chunks, but pretty sparse. But the leftover soup and leftover rice make a killer rice porridge the next morning! 

The Peking duck arrives at the table beautifully assembled with all the accoutrements. It's pretty good! I wish that the duck skin can have less of the duck fat attached underneath it, but the duck meat tastes fresh and tender. It's really reasonably priced for all that you get. 

Other Peking duck experiences I've blogged about Dadong Kaoya - 1st Visit and Peking Duck in Shenyang: Yuan Wei Zhai.

Our second visit to celebrate Lunar New Year early was just as tasty, but it seemed like the wait for the duck to be ready is longer if you arrive at the restaurant early. The standout dish we ordered the second time is the lobster noodle with cheese. I don't know where the cheese comes in, but I guess the noodles are very creamy. The lobster was deliciously meaty and fresh. It's a lot of messy work though, so we savored the more challenging parts at home.

We'll be back! There are more dishes I want to try! 

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Rebooting My Dinosaur of a Food Blog Post-Child, Post-Pandemic, and Post-Dad

As expected, our lives have changed much since my last post about our trip to Montreal. That was written at a time when we were still a young married couple before a kid, before moving twice (Seattle to Madison and then Madison to Austin), and before the coronavirus outbreak. 

I've only played Pandemic, the board game, once at Cafe Mox inside Card Kingdom in Seattle. It was gruesomely fascinating to see it play out in real life while trying to figure out how to keep our daughter safe, healthy, and in good spirits while seeing my dad fade away from us long-distance and my mom's life turn upside down. 

Cooking and baking at home rather than eating out became a focus for us while we were locked down in 2020, but it fell to the wayside at the close of 2020 and as we moved to Austin after my dad's passing to tend to other family needs. 
Farewell to Grandpa, 2020, and our lives in Wisconsin

We're moving again?!?!

After almost 2 years since our move to Austin (3rd time residency in this city!!!), we're starting to feel some optimism about getting back into the swing of more social engagements and family vacations. I figured that I can start blogging again with more activities beyond the confines of our home, but I realized that my good ol' food blog is a thing of the past. I'm turning 40 this year and my preferred method of sharing experiences and opinions about food is now so retro. How do I use Instragram with the constant barrage of new features? What equipment and apps do I need to do a vlog? 

Keep Austin Weird Bat Mural at the Triangle

Haha! I'm not going to worry about readership this time. It was never about that beyond sharing and communicating with a couple of friends and family. 

Food Dilettante, let's see how long our comeback lasts! Cheers!

Glorious New Year Sugar Cookies from Our New Neighbors 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Montreal in May Day 6

On our last full day in Montreal, I took Mike to old Montreal in the morning.

Notre Dame in Old Montreal

Notre Dame

Coffee and Croissant at Maison Christian Faure

We walked along the waterfront and admired the buildings in the surrounding area.

Old Montreal

Old Montreal

Old Montreal

After a long walk through old Montreal, we took the metro out to the Olympic stadium and botanical gardens. This was our one regret in Montreal. There wasn't much to see at the Olympic stadium and the a major part of the gardens were under renovation and there were not a lot of flowers to see!

Olympic Stadium

Montreal Botanical Gardens

After a disappointing early afternoon, we headed back to the city center and meandered through the art district, which was a great way to people watch.

We finished the day with an early dinner at Notkins, a hip seafood restaurant, with an emphasis on "hip." The staff wore slinky black outfits and looked like models. There was a DJ near the the bar, which was lined with fresh oysters waiting to be shucked. We were so out of place with our run-down demeanor from walking all over town since the morning. I admit that I picked this restaurant because I wanted to experience the fake porta-potty restroom!

Port-a-potty trompe l'oeil restrooms

Inside the fake porta-potty

Feeling out of our element aside, the food was exquisite. The calamari was exceptionally meaty. The clam chowder had a smoky twist with a little bit of chorizo (not very New England but delicious!). Our main course was also impeccably cooked. The lobster meat in the burger was tender and sweet. My fish was fresh and had a great crunch on the exterior.

Calamari with papaya slaw and tarragon aioli

New England Clam Chowder
Lobster burger with fries

Special of the day fish with fiddleheads and mushrooms

Montreal in May Day 5

We took advantage of a sunny day to hike up Mont Royal. Of course the whole purpose of a hike for me is a rewarding picnic!

I chopped up spinach and stuffed it in paper cups and topped it off with baby tomatoes and honey mustard dressing made from packets I took from the hotel breakfast bar!
Hotel salad prep!

I packed some hummus and marinated mushroom medley that I bought from Marché Jean Talon.

Hummus and marinated mushrooms

In our walk up Mont Royal, we passed by a multi-school event. Parents were cheering on kids running a marathon in the park.

Beaver Lake

The lookout at the top of Mont Royal is beautiful and expansive. We arrived at the tail end of tulip season and still got to enjoy the sea of flowers.

Mont Royal Lookout


When it got a bit crowded at the lookout, we found a table and unpacked our lovely French/Jewish picnic. We needed to use up the St. Viateur bagel before we leave, so I brought that along rather than buying a baguette. We paired the bagel with salami, a smoked duck sausage, and two cheeses from La Fromagerie Hamel.


Très délicieux!

Once the crowd subsided, we went back to the lookout and tried to spot the sites indicated on the compasses.
Mont St. Hilaire

Concise Story of Mont Royal