Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mongolian Cuisine

(above) My approximation of a Mongolian meal with frozen dumplings made in Atlanta, looseleaf jasmine tea from China, dumpling sauce from Taiwan, Japanese tea cup, grape tomatoes from the Bi-Lo, and plate from Pier 1.

My Mongolian meal was inspired by a photo from the book Material World by Peter Menzel. The photo, taken inside a gher (round tent, like a yurt) of a Mongalian family dinner consisting of Mongolian mom made dumplings and cherry tomatoes. Mine were not homemade but purchased at the local Asian grocery store, in the frozen food case. It should be noted that if you go to your local Asian grocery store and it appears that they do not have any frozen dumplings, you should ask. At the one closest to my house, the store is rather small and some frozen items are kept in freezers that do not have glass, so you probably wouldn't know they are there.

These Asian dumplings are ridiculously easy to make because all you have to do is add the dumplings to boiling water. When they float to the top, they are done.
I recommend dipping them in dumpling sauce which can also be found at your local Asian grocery in a small bottle, near the soy sauce section.

In Mongolia, boiled dumplings are known as "bansh." A typical ingredient in Mongolia would be mutton, as the diet of that country consists of lots of meat and not a lot of vegetables. Mine are vegetable, leek, and pork flavor, with the pork flavor being barely discernible. I've had better flavors in the past and this one will probably not be purchased again.

I personally have never been to Mongolia although I did once have a long discussion with a former Peace Corps volunteer who spent two years there. What I remember most from that conversation is that the typical Mongolian greeting is translated as "How is your body?" What a bummer to live in that country where I would spend most of my day saying "Still sagging, thanks. How's yours?"

Mongolian cuisine myths: Mongolian barbecue restaurants, fun though they may be, are not actually Mongolian. They are actually more similar to a Japanese style of cooking. Mongolian beef served in Western restaurants also has nothing to do with Mongolia.

I found this link to a site with lots of mongolian recipes:

Monday, May 26, 2008

As the Blog World Turns

Here is a summary of some recent goings on in the blogosphere:

The ghetto fab boys are back after a long absence (*cough*prison?*cough*) at Ramendays with more remedial cooking lessons for culinary tards. I think they are cleaning up the language a bit, which is appreciated by us prudes. Their mama must have slapped them around a bit. I would link to their site but actually I think their hip hop music far outshines their culinary skills.

Now that Angelika is sleeping more than two hours a night, people seem to be giving her presents. She has gotten a new fridge (but not one that I can write on, so this is useless to me), stove, and this from her Mommy Dearest (but I bet she is pretending that Hugh Laurie gave it to her).

CLEAR THE ROADS! And keep all potted plants, young children, and any other breakable objects inside!!!!!! Just kidding. I'm sure L will be a great driver.

Ya know how on TV when someone goes blank or is absent they play cricket sounds to signify the emptiness? Has knitwithcats.blogspot updated her blog? Click here to find out.

Oh, if only my cat would tolerate this from Small Dog Stuff without spending the entire time hissing, crying, and plotting revenge. It is so cute! I think my next cat is going to be a poodle.

I find this funny. And either I haven't seen it before in an email or I have early onset Alzheimer's. Either way, it made me laugh.

Kitty porn. (how many times have I mentioned cats in this post???)

Oh the sacrifices this person has made for the greater good, and for her blog. A true patriot and team player.

My noisy neighbors seem to have moved. Sorry to the new neighbors, whomever and wherever they may be, that have to put up with them. Why would someone think it a good idea to play a musical instrument at 1:30 in the morning when you live in a townhouse and your neighbors are two feet away on either side? I like quiet. I don't care if my neighbor is a serial killer as long as he's quiet about it.

Tune in next time for more...(dramatic pause)....As the Blog World Turns. Still not sponsored by Target.

Adventure Dining: China

With the upcoming Olympics in China, I am sure that we will be hearing a lot about all the grossiosities that are consumed in that country. Just search for video's of the famous Beijing night market, to see exactly what I am talking about. I think that pretty much every living creature and animal part is consumed there, in some form. We eat a lot of strange things in the US, but typically we are blissfully unaware as the product is labeled "hot dog" or canned spaghetti and "meat balls."

In this video Sheila shares her culinary experiences in China:

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Missourian Species

I have completed my field research on Missourians and have learned quite a great deal about their habitats, environs, and food sources. Above you can see a covert photo taken of young Missourians at play in a large, inflatable cage-type thing. Amazingly, they will enter the cage voluntarily and it can be quite difficult to remove them. I have discovered that they seem to like to eat large wads of pastel colored cotton on a stick although they must beg the older of the species to be allowed to eat this. Odd.

Much of my research was completed at something they like to call a "festival". The young Missourians participated in some sort of ritualistic face painting and then were given inflated tubes twisted into shapes representing animals. Some put them on their heads. Afterwards, we returned to the habitat and placed circular disks into a machine, thus creating images on a screen, which we watched for hours.
Other random facts I discovered while there:
Missourians can be quite generous. They will let you stay in their homes, feed you, and may even carry your luggage. You must brush your own teeth however. They will not do that for you.
They are carnivorous. Definitely carnivorous. The do not actually have to hunt for the animals however, and the food source will magically appear at the feeding place, already prepared. Voila!
Missourians are allowed to pass freely between Missouri and Kansas. No passport is needed!
A great time was had by all and I plan to return soon to continue my research.

Kansas City Barbecue

Jack Stack Barbecue
Kansas City, Missouri

I believe I may have found the best barbecue in Kansas City. If you have been to Kansas City and have a favorite, you are welcome to beg to differ, however; Jack Stack has some of the most brilliant, cravable barbecue I've tasted. This is a local chain of four restaurants but it would not surprise me if they continued to expand (with the usual Dine-o-meter warning: Jack Stack, please don't lose quality in exchange for quantity).

The ribs, chicken, and burnt ends (very popular, very delicious) are great, but what impresses me the most is the attention to the side dishes. Most barbecue places focus on the meat and then serve baked beans from a can. At Jack Stack's, the beans are the best I've tasted--sweet and seasoned with pork. The cheesy corn is also great and not something I would typically see at a barbecue restaurant. The coleslaw was also flavorful and fresh.

We waited about 30 minutes for a table on a Sunday night, although we did have a large party. Smaller parties were seated much quicker. Given that the place was so packed on a Sunday night, I cannot imagine how crowded it would be on a Friday or Saturday.

I could have done without the paintings of doe-eyed cows on the ceiling, creating much guilt for me that I was about to eat their brethren. How about some angry, hostile looking cows to lessen my guilt?

We debated for a long time between a 9 and a 10. Some say they have tasted better barbecue, so we decided on a 9 or 90%, but really it's more like a 95%.

Dineometer rating: 90%

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jerusalem Cafe

Jerusalem Café
Kansas City, MO

Near the University of Missouri at Kansas City, this local chain of three Middle Eastern restaurant serves kabobs, falafel, Turkish coffee, and other traditional dishes in what may be the only of its kind in the area . I tried the lunch buffet option featuring roasted red pepper hummus, a very tender baked and seasoned chicken, gyro served cubed with sautéed vegetables, and a multitude of other dishes. The Jerusalem meatloaf was very similar to traditional US meatloaf. Something new for me were the wild pickles that looked to me like pickled okra but were entirely too sour for my taste. All dishes at Jerusalem Café seem to be fresh and homemade. There are regular menu options as well if you wish to bypass the buffet, and there is an ajoined shop serving wraps with non-middle eastern ingredients such as fajita chicken and Philly beef steak. This restaurant also has a small store which sells middle eastern foods and merchandise such as bottled rose water, dried figs, and elaborate tobacco pipes. Enjoy the large screen satellite TV broadcasting programs from the middle east while you dine.

Dineometer Rating: 80%

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blogging in the Hinterlands

(Anne Garney Painting, Kansas City Westside)

I am blogging today from the Kansas City area of Missouri and Kansas. I hope to find some unique restaurants to blog and review for y'all, and this being Kansas City, I am sure that some sort of beef and/or barbecue product will be involved at some point.

I also hope to take in a few tourist attractions while here, other than the lovely, lovely Sprint campus which, oddly, was designed to look like a college campus so that new hires would not be startled too badly when making the transition from school to work. The farmer's market here often has some great fresh produce buys, although there are no mountains in the backround like the Hidden Valley Ranch commerical would lead you to believe. Tomorrow, I will be observing Missourians in their natural habitat, whatever that may be. Will they finally "Show Me" what they have been promising to as advertised on all their license plates?

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ramen Lust

In Japan, ramen apparently is more than just something you can buy 6 for a dollar on sale when you are short on cash. YouTube user 46E2Q has 39 videos posted--all of Ramen. Other videos include the scientific study of Ramen.

Sure, this video is in Japanese, and you, like me, probably don't speak it, but just make something up: ...big, hot, steaming bowl..., popular people line up around the block...., ...garlic. The secret is lots of garlic....

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Restaurant Review: Apple Cake Tea Room

Apple Cake Tea Room
Farragut Tennessee

Except for a bunch of newly built gigantic houses, Deputy Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant) of Reno 911 having graduated High School there, and the Apple Cake Tea Room, Farragut Tennessee, a suburb of Knoxville, has few other talking points.

Housed in a log cabin just off I75, the Apple Cake Tea Room is the type of place that ladies go to lunch. The ambience is cozy with quilts on the wall and girly trinkets on the shelves. You could easily picture Mrs. Claus being right at home here. It's popular for showers and on any given visit you are likely to see a group of women surrounding someone who is unwrapping pastel colored gifts. Occasionally you will see a frightened looking man or two but I would estimate the clientele to be 85 to 90 percent testicle free.

The food at Apple Cake is relatively good with freshly prepared sandwiches and soups, served in lady-like small portions. My favorite was a chicken and dumplings soup that was served on one visit, but I have never seen again. When seated, you will be given a cute little muffin by a waitress that looks not unlike a Stepford Wife. (Discrimination lawsuit alert: If you are funny looking and live in the Knoxville area, please apply for a job there just to test out my suspicions. Let me know how that goes for ya.)

Being a tea lover, I mistakenly first went to the Apple Cake TEA Room several years ago, for a good pot of tea. At that time, they had only two different types of tea bags. I recently saw a box of Constant Comment on the shelf with at least two other different types of tea! Progress sure, but why not take a giant leap and invest in some little tea balls and loose leaf? Go crazy Apple Cake Tea Room. Hey, maybe you could also hire a few funny looking waitresses, just for variety.

Dineometer rating: 70%

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Japanese Maid Cafe

The cafe that started due to Manga mania, has now spread to several other Asian countries, and Mexico (according to Wikipedia). Now, in addition to the Maid Cafe, there is the Mother Cafe, featuring slightly older, motherly waitresses; the "Younger Sister" cafe; and the Butler Cafe:

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hand Knitted Wire and Bead Napkin Rings

Just to prove to my knitting buddies that I do finish things once in a while, here is a completed project. These are actually knitted wire and bead napkin rings that I made from the Venezia pattern found on Knitty, displayed on napkins made by my friend. Mine look rather anemic compared to the ones in the beautiful Knitty photo, but this was my first time knitting with wire, knitting with beads, and knitting a "tangy" level project.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

R.I.P. (way, way, off topic)

As if watching the Cubs lose last night wasn't bad enough, insult was added to injury when WGN TV Chicago broadcast images of the destruction of "The Spindle."

The Spindle was an art object in my hometown Berwyn Illinois, and probably the most recognizable feature of the city. It had a 2 second cameo in the movie "Wayne's World"and was considered an off-beat roadside attraction.
Despite a valiant effort by the Save the Spindle Foundation the statue, nicknamed "The Car Kabob" by some residents, was torn down last night without warning. Efforts to sell the statue on ebay for a starting bid of $50,000 plus moving costs, were not successful as no bids were received.
The site will now be the home of yet another Walgreens.
It's a sad day when a unique city feature is destroyed to be replaced by a chain.

Friday, May 2, 2008

As the Blog World Turns

A summary of some interesting goings on in the blogosphere recently:

Lofty Matters: This fruit from South Africa makes anything sour that you eat up to one hour afterwards, taste sweet.

A soap dish made from recycled record albums is among these earth friendly Mother's Day gifts.

Will Angelika ever get more than two hours sleep a night? Will she ever meet Hugh Laurie? Will the refrigerator bandit ever be caught? God I miss that fridge.

Boobs or apples? Join the violent debate at Ragtree's Funky Folky blog.

In Scotland, it's neither illegal or immoral to shufty at the church. Although I have no use for the hindi script translation button, a UK to US English button would really be helpful to me (scrummy bottle of rioja?)

Will Acne Control, the newest Entrecarder (as of this writing), betray us by not returning our dropped cards? Will they remain "Just here for the view" or will they become a "Drop Master"?

Will knitwithcats ever update her blog more frequently than once a month? Highly unlikely.

Will Target ever pay me for the for the extremely flattering article I wrote about their partnership with Andrew Zimmern?

Will my neighbor ever be evicted for playing their stereo at 1:30 am? (not a blog entry, just a question) Anyone know what the jail term is for breaking into a neighbors house and hacking up their stereo? Anybody? Anybody?

Tune in next time for more (dramatic pause).... As the Blog World Turns. Sponsored by Target (?)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Adventure Dining at Home: Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata may sound like a fancy dish but it's rather easy to prepare and will impress your friends. It consists of chicken breasts in a lemony butter sauce, with capers. Capers are a pickled, salty, flower bud that are sold in a small jar in most supermarkets in the US, on the pickle aisle. I made this dish for a friend's birthday based on a recipe from the Food Network (click here for the recipe). I substituted four already thinly sliced chicken breasts, which saved a little work because I did not have to butterfly the chicken breasts as called for in the recipe. I paired it with a simple chopped salad with red wine vinagarette, and a very easy to make zucchini and pasta toss.

I tried a new desert, a ricotta cheese with honey, cocoa powder, and fresh raspberries, eaten with chocolate biscotti. Very easy to prepare but I didn't like the ricotta cheese as a desert. Perhaps it would be better with mascarpone.

All in all, it took maybe 45 minutes to prepare the meal and I think my friends appreciated that I made the effort to cook rather than just making dinner reservations.