Wednesday, August 29, 2012

3 Years at Club 33

It has been officially ... three years PLUS one month since our three year anniversary but I just haven't been in the mood to blog lately. Most of my time has been spent catching up on Smallville. I know right?! Yes the show is way over but Boyfriend and I were determined to watch the shows in its entirety, starting over from the beginning. Now that we have almost finished ... I have moved onto Parks & Recreations (shoutout to WeezerMonkey!) - it's quite a load off my mind.

Our 3-year anniversary was super-hyped up and kept secret by Boyfriend, though I tried to talk him down in order to not be disappointed. He dropped hints on me FOUR MONTHS IN ADVANCE, saying stuff like he was working with one of my friends on it, wouldn't tell me which friend, promised it would be "the experience of a lifetine" ... naturally when I repeated this to people, everyone immediately thought "engagement" ... which was not so.

After asking every one of my close friends (who all denied it) ... the night before out anniversary, he presented me with a present:

And told me that we were going to Disneyland. And we would be having lunch at Club 33!!! Spending our 3 year anniversary at Clubb 33 seemed very appropriate. My friend Peter helped him secure reservations. I didn't even think it would be there because Boyfriend actually couldn't keep track of the name (he is obviously a Disneyland amateur) and kept calling it stuff like "Catch 22" which made me automatically cross off the restaurant in my mind. I mean, who makes reservations at a place where they don't even know the name, right? Needless to say, I was surprised and we spent the entire day at Disneyland. And yes, we wore those Happy Anniversary pins around all day.

Club 33 is an exclusive club that is located right next to the exit of the Pirates of Carribean ride. Walt Disney used to entertain his guests here and it is the only place in the park where alcohol is served. Basically to get in, you either have to be a member (and pay ridiculous rates) or "know someone" to get you in. Newly built Carthay Circle at Disney California Adventure has its own counterpart, but 1901 doesn't have the same history that Club 33 does.


Club 33 bar

dining room

complimentary champagne

dessert buffet

appetizer buffet

lobster/crab/shrimp buffet

bread and butter

pan seared chateaubriand (8 oz center cur filet mignon), yukon potato puree, Cabernet demi-glaze, fave bean succotash, baby tomato salad

grilled lamb top sirloin, moroccan spiced heirloom bean ragout, pea shoot tendrils, truffled macaroni & cheese, wood-aged port cherry reduction

Yums! Everytime on the menu was the same price and included the buffets in the meal. We had a 1:15pm reservation, which was perfect for the park. We got to go on a few rides in the morning and then be in air conditioning during the hottest part of the afternoon. And while you eat, Mickey and Pluto walk around, greet you and take pictures with you! It's super fun and cute.

Afterwards we walked around the dining area and out onto the balcony. It was really peaceful and the weather was terrific. The restaurant was pretty packed and there was still a full seating when we left, so we couldn't get a historical tour or anything and we felt bad about going in to ask a cast member to take a picture for us on the balcony.

It was an amazing anniversary! Can't wait to see how he's going to top himself next year ... oh the pressure is on ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies by Jacque Torres

I seldom get so excited about something that I blog immediately, but this is one of those events. With the exception of Urasawa. But then again, Urasawa is the exception to everything. Both my friend Susie and Miss food, je t'aime raved about these cookies. Though it must be noted that Christina raved about them because she made them and ate them, and Susie raved about them because she saw pictures on Pintrest and thought they looked delicious.

I have dinner tomorrow at my co-worker Sona's house and my Asset Manager is going to be there. I thought it would be the perfect time to break out the cookie batter and see if it lived up to the hype. The very first time I met my Asset Manager was right after I took macaron classes, so I had brought vanilla macarons with salted caramel ganache into the office and it was love at first bite for him. He went nutso and from that point on, every time he came into the Los Angeles offices, he would ask if I baked anything. Last time he asked me right when I sat down in his office for my review! Needless to say, I hadn't (sad face) but that didn't stop him from giving me a good review anyways (relieved face).

I thought it would be the perfect time to break out the cookie batter and see if it lived up to the hype. Jacque Torres is a chocolate master and these cookies really show his skill, especially with the combination of flours. Luckily, I had both kinds of flours on hand so I didn't have to break the bank buying them along with the chocolate, which already cost me a pretty penny.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
adapted from food, je'taime and Jacques Torres
makes 18 5-inch cookies

2 cups minus 2 Tbps (8.5 oz) cake flour
1 2/3 cup (8.5 oz) bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 oz) light/golden brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbps (8 oz) granuldated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 lbs chocolate disks/fèves (at least 60% cacao)
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350degrees. Remove cookies from refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

I made some changes, as Christina suggested - baked the cookies in 2 oz portions so they wouldn't be too unwieldly and refrigerate the dough for the full 72 hours. These cookies were a pain to make, but don't let this deter you. I think they were more of a pain for me because I'm OCD. I actually weighed out each scoop of 2 oz dough so all the cookies would be a uniform size. Do you know how weird it is to be picking out 0.05 oz of dough to get it perfectly even? Since the cookies were smaller, I was able to make 33 cookies total. It took them 17 minutes to bake, but start checking at the 15 minute mark as it may depend on how much your dough has defrosted from being refrigerated.

One bite and it was totally worth it! Oh yes, and here's to you, Susie. You're pregnant and taking care of your baby Riley and you totally deserve each bite. Adhere to the note: none for your husband.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Craving for Steamed Fish

I know I had promised to update more with the last post, but things have just been so crazy lately. My dad had a birthday, and my brother, and my co-worker ... there was Book Club ... a trip to San Francisco and Monterey ... and budgets. Budgets are the bane of my existence, the one and only time at work where I'm actually crazy busy from the moment I walk in until the moment I leave. Excel spreadsheets in size 7 font are opened and my eyesight diminishes from day to day. I think I talked about this last year too.

I made the above dinner one night when I was really really craving steamed fish, Asian style. I was just going to go to 99 Ranch, have them fish one out for me (haha, get it?!), whack it until it died and then bring it home right away to steam up ... then realized that maybe Boyfriend and his Italian-ness wouldn't eat fish with the head on and he'd get grossed out. But don't Italians eat branzino?? What was I thinking. Basically out of that fear, I made the three other dishes to go with it, just in case. As it turned out, I didn't have to worry because he scarfed as much fish as he could. And poured soy sauce on his rice (from the bottle, not like, using the soy ginger onion sauce with the fish - that would have been acceptable) ... I have such a long way to go in teaching him not to do that.

Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger and Scallions
adapted from Epicurious

3-lb whole black bass or black tilapia
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch scallions, white and pale green parts cut into very thin 2-inch strips and greens reserved separately
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Put baking dish in roasting pan.

Clean fish by removing the guts (the fishmongers at 99 Ranch will clean and scale if for you, but only if you ask them to). Using sharp kitchen shears, cut off the top fin and side fins. Rinse fish and pat dry, then rub inside and out with salt. Transfer to baking dish and sprinkle with scallion strips (white and pale green) and ginger.

Stir together soy sauce and sugar until sugar is dissolved, then pour over fish. Add enough boiling-hot water to roasting pan to reach halfway up side of baking dish. This is the same concept as doing a water bath when baking cheesecake. Oil a large sheet of heavy-duty foil, then tent foil (oiled side down) over fish and tightly seal around roasting pan. Carefully transfer roasting pan to oven and bake until fish is just cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. While fish bakes, cut enough scallion greens diagonally into very thin slices to measure 1/2 cup.

Just before serving, remove foil from fish and transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the cut scallion greens. Heat wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes instantly. Pour oil around side of wok, then tilt wok to swirl oil, coating side, and heat until smoking. Remove from heat and immediately pour oil over scallion greens and fish. Make sure you stand back to avoid being splashed the hot oil, and it will hiss like crazy! Don't be scared. (I didn't do this last part because I had too many things going on, but I've done it before and its delicious.)

Chili Beef Stir-Fry with Scallions and Snow Peas
adapted from The Cooking Channel

2 Tbsp chili-garlic sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin or sherry
1 tsp honey
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 lb flank steak, trimmed and frozen briefly

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp grated ginger
12 ounces snow peas

Whisk the chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, mirin, honey, sesame oil, and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside. While half frozen, cut the beef lengthwise along the grain into 3 or 4 (2-inch) wide pieces. Slice each piece of beef across the grain into paper thin pieces, about 1/8-inch thick. Doing this half frozen will give you the thinnest cuts. Pat the beef dry and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over high heat just until smoking. Add the beef and cook, stirring rarely, until well browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil, 2/3 of the scallions, the garlic, and the ginger, and cook until just fragrant and starting to color, about 30 seconds. Stir in the snow peas, and cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the chili-garlic sauce mixture, then remove the pan from the heat, and add the beef and accumulated juices. Toss to coat and sprinkle with remaining scallions.