Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Best Dim Sum I had in #Taiwan at Fullon at Fisherman's Wharf

No trip to Taiwan is complete without dim sum. We were lucky enough to be invited to some of the best dim sum I've had at Fullon Hotel at Fisherman's Wharf. To get there, take the subway from the Taipei train station to Dansui / Tamsui. When you arrive in Dansui / Tamsui, walk down the shoreline until you see signs for boat. It'll be obvious with the photos of boats. You'll ride the boat over to where the Fullon Hotel is located and enjoy a beautiful view of the river on the way.

These dim sum dishes may not look very different from dim sum that you've seen at other restaurants. However, they are not like any dim sum I've had. You'll  notice that the Taiwanese are very deliberate and skilled at handiwork - just take a look at the post on cakes. It is obvious from flavor that they give the same love and care to the dim sum at the Fullon Hotel Tea House.

The noodle wrapper on these was so delicate, yet structured. It was perfect from the eyes (or mouth) of this dim sum fancier.

Are these not the most beautiful steamed leek dumplings you have ever seen? The wrapper had the perfect amount of springiness and chew. The inside was fragrant with leeks.

This was a type of taro cake with savory bits of pork and fried shallots inside. It is topped with a light soy sauce and green onions.

Classic BBQ pork buns of my dreams! The outside was warm and fluffy like a soft pillow of hugging the sweet pork inside.

The next dish are the most perfect eggrolls. I usually strongly dislike poorly made eggrolls, especially those cheap ones that look like a small burrito with a soggy doughy wrapper that puckers with unappetizing bubbles of oil when fried. These are the exact opposite of those wanna be eggrolls. These have a thin crispy outer shell with flavorful savory stuffing.

I'm not sure what these things are called in English, besides delightful. Yes, you should order some.

During our meal, we saw who appeared to be the Dali Lama. I searched the interwebs for when he would be visiting Taiwan, and I did find a few articles about the Dali Lama and Taiwan. I'm not sure if we really did meet THE Dali Lama or his look alike as he didn't speak English, Mandarin, or Taiwanese to me. In fact, he didn't say much at all, but he did have an entourage of followers with him.
And next is a deep fried basket of noodles topped with a delicious smothering of seafood. The textures of deep fried noodles and uber fresh seafood was simply delicious.

And here comes the desserts - deep fried pockets with red bean paste inside. The outside is crunchy with a chewy layer of mochi-like covering. Inside is a sweet red adzuki bean paste.

And lastly, but probably one of the best things I have ever eaten, was a milk custard bun. The outside was the same fluffy covering that we had with the pork bbq buns, and the inside was a piping-hot-gift-of-the-pastry-gods sweet custard that was rich yet mildly sweet. This is one amazing pastry. Scoot over France, we got corner on pastries.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Soup Dumplings Din Tai Fung at Taipei 101 #Taiwan

Din Tai Fung was on my list of must eat places in Taiwan. Asians love dumplings, and Din Tai Fung is King of the Soup Dumplings. They have their Michelin star to display too.  My cousins took us to Din Tai Fung at the Taipei 101 Building. When you go, you'll need to know that they may be a long wait. The store we visited was at an hour wait. Here's several other articles on Din Tai Fung and how to eat the soup dumplings.

Seaweed and Bean Curd in Vinegar Dressing was our first dish.

Xiao Long Bao are the specialty of the house. Americans may refer to these as soup dumplings as they are filled with little pockets of savory soup. These also come with instructions on how to each these without having them tear open like a hungry panda.   I like to eat these little lovelies like I eat regular dumplings (boiled) or pot stickers. I dip a little in the appropriate sauce, take a bite out of it, stuff the inside of the other end with the yummy goodness in the sauce (not necessarily the sauce itself) like scallions and fried garlic, and then I eat the rest. With the Xiao Long Bao, I use a spoon to support the dumpling as the wrapper is quite delicate. Once I bite into it, I drink the juice, add some ginger or dab of sauce on the remaining dumpling, and stuff it into my mouth.

More dumplings in a spicy sauce. They weren't actually very spicy just a bit.
Here's another view of the delicious dumplings. The wrapper had substance and spring even when delicate. Look at those perfect folds.
This was a really amazing pork chop. It must have come from a really cute pig. Just kidding, kind of. The seasoning on the pork wasn't exceptionally different, but there was something about the pork chop that was fragrant and satisfying. The fried rice was also quite tasty. These everyday foods that I could, would, and have prepared at home were elevated to something amazing.
And a bowl of hot and sour soup does a body good.
On April 6, 2013, Tom Cruise visited the Din Tai Fung at Taipei 101, and he learned how to make the soup dumplings. I'm going to guess that he's probably still not as skilled as the employees as the art of crafting of the little morsels is a skill that isn't learned overnight.
Look at how these dumplings are made. Each one is hand wrap and sculpted into little baos. Each one is also weighted so that they are consistently 21 grams.

This is the taro dumpling. Each one needs to have exactly 18 folds, or else....
The inside was absolutely perfect. The chewy wrapper was perfect with the interior sticky and mildly sweet taro filling. This was a great ending to an epic dumpling time.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Recipe for Compounding Your Own Dog Supplements and Medication

Taking care of your pooches these days sometimes requires the administration of supplements and medications. If you have a dog that will eat anything you feed it without a care in the world, count yourself lucky. If you have dogs who will take their medications and then one day roll their eyes with disdain at the sight of their supplements, then you’ve probably tried a plethora of methods like I have. I’ve wrapped pills in cheese, stuffed peanut butter sandwiches, mixed into every single piece of their food, or tried shoving it down their throats.

Vesta is playing clean up.

After thinking of ways to convince my dogs to happily take their supplements, I came up with this idea based off of coconut oil chocolate fudge. Here’s a recipe for a version of it. I add coconut butter to mine in addition to the coconut oil. The texture is very satisfying. I could bake supplements into cookies. However, this recipe is much easier to make, and it doesn’t heat damage any of the supplements.
This recipe is appropriate for dogs who are active and lean. It is quite caloric, so I wouldn’t recommend it for dogs who are watching their caloric intake. My dogs already get coconut oil as a daily supplement so it isn’t too much different from what they already get. My dogs also get fish oil daily, but they eat those gel caps like candy.

Homemade supplements treats!

Make 12 days supply of supplements.

Ingredients (adjust to accommodate the amount you are making):
  • 1 cup of cold-pressed organic coconut oil
  • ¾ cup of smooth peanut butter
  • 12 day portions of supplements
  • Small pan
  • Whisk
  • Shallow Pan or Cupcake pan with cupcake liners
  1. In the pan, gently warm the coconut oil and peanut butter. Whisk to combine. Do not overheat the mixture. It just needs to melt and mix together.
  2. Once mixture is at body temperature, add in your supplements and whisk to combine.
  3. You can transfer this mixture into a shallow pan and slice into 12 pieces after it chills. OR you can portion these into 12 cupcake liners. Whichever way you choose, make sure to chill in the fridge into they are solid before feeding.
  4. Feed to your dogs on their regular supplement schedule. Store in the fridge as they can become a little melty when warm. If they do get melty, just chill in the fridge again.

Dog supplements are pretty diverse. This recipe is versatile and appropriate for supplements that are heat sensitive. Just a reminder: do not overheat the mixture. If you’re curious what I give my dogs, here’s a list of supplements I've given my dogs.
  • Coconut Oil
  • Fish Oil
  • Flax Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Probiotics
  • Tumeric
  • Fenugreek
  • Ground ginger
  • Kelp
Organic coconut oil and peanut butter.

Melt gently in a pan.

Just a few of the supplements I give.

Once the peanut butter and oil are melted and mixed together, you can start adding the supplements. Here's tumeric, fenugreek, and ginger.

And here's the kelp and phytoflex.

I know what this looks like. The dogs will eat it anyways.

Once it is portioned, I chill and store stacked in the freezer.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Books every Culinary Library Needs (or Great Gifts for me)

So you’re looking to build out your culinary library or you’re looking for a gift for a sophisticated palate, and you’re just not sure what books to get. I have curated a list of books that I consider foundation books in a variety of areas. Any one of these books would make a great gift for the budding food lover or seasoned eater. I do know several of the book authors, and I can attest that their personalities make the books even more enjoyable.

Seriously, how can you not want a book by these two?

The Bar Book:Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffery Morgenthaler and Martha Holmberg is a book about a technique that includes a MacGyver juicing section. There is even a section on how to shake a cocktail. It isn’t just blending flavors of spirits in a hand held vessel. It is a passionate dance that infuses the drink with the maker’s personality. If you don’t believe me, you’re not drinking the right cocktails.
Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State by David Alan is a dedication and celebration to spirits in the deep south. I consider this book a guide on how one should approach marrying fine spirits with fresh ingredients.

The amazing David Alan: Founder of Tipsy Texan.

The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver is one of my favorite starter’s book to beer. However, this book is really comprehensive in the coverage of beer as food and beer with food. You’ve probably seen in my previous posts about Garrett Oliver. He’s a catalyst in both arenas and a much deserved winner of a James Beard Award.
The Flavor Bible: the Essential Guide to Culinar Creativity, based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg was recommended to me by Bill Norris, and it has been a great reference book for cocktails, cakes, and savory foods.

Ratio: The Simple Code Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Rulhman is a great book to have on hand whether you’re just beginning to cook or an experienced chef. For those who are strict recipe followers, this is a great catalyst to help you start experimenting with recipe changes or developing your own.  

Some of the best ice cream from Jeni's. And no, it isn't enough. 

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer is hands down the best ice cream recipes ever. The ice creams are also available for purchase, but you’ll have more freedom to create what you like at home. Cooking for Engineers has made a roasted garlic ice cream that is delicious, and I used the chocolate recipe to make a Balcones Brimstone (smoked whisky) chocolate ice cream. Also, I had some of their ice creams at the Austin Food and Wine Festival along with the semi-sweet chocolate topping. It was chocolatey orgasmic.

Washoku: Recipes for the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh is a lovely introductory book to Japanese cuisine with extensive philosophy on food and Japanese traditions. This book is best paired with the Uchi: The Cookbook by Tyson Cole and Jessica Dupuy.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen: Celebrating the Tastes of Texas by Jack Gilmore and Jessica Dupuy is essential for every Texas kitchen. This book will make you proud to be in the Lone Star State with recipes that make you yell “YEHAW!” Also, I love Jack Gilmore. He is a great man. In the photo below, he presents yet another check to the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mosbuger in #Taiwan: A Japanese Twist on Burgers

You might be shocked.  Sit down. Take a breath. I’m about to write a blog post on a fast food burger chain. If I’m going to write about a chain restaurant, you know it is going to be really amazing. We first stumbled on a Mosburger location in Taipei while walking around looking for breakfast. We thought it couldn’t hurt to try sandwiches with rice buns.

The classic burger and Japanese fried chicken.

These Asian style burgers were amazing. Some I had were just good, but some were insanely awesome. They were literally bursting with umami flavors that caused a dopamine release.

This one had seafood and bonito flakes.

This breakfast sandwich has one of the best mushroom flavors ever.

I don’t remember the names of what all we ordered of the names of the sandwiches. I do have photos and recommendations after six visits over two weeks. The prices there are very reasonable. Some of the breakfast sandwiches with a coffee were as little as $3 USD.

Matcha (Green Tea) to go with your coffee.

This one was a Korean style burger.

  1. Any of the sandwiches with the rice patty bun. All of those that I tried were amazing.
  2. Japanese squash croquette. Oh man. This is 1,000,000,00,000 times better than anything I’ve ever had at any fast food restaurant in the United States. It blows waffle fries out of the water.
  3. Green tea cappuccino.
  4. Tonkatsu curry sandwich. This fried pork sandwich will explode your mind.

 Breakfast with Matcha, Japanese croquette, and two sandwiches.
There are Mosburger locations in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea, and of course, Japan. If you are in one of those countries, I highly advise you check it out.

This was another seafood burger.

The classic.

One o the best seafood sandwiches I have ever had. And I eat tons of sandwiches. Sometimes in one sitting.

Dinner spread.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

UI/UX of Taiwan - How to Navigate if You Don't Speak Mandarin

Don't be hesitant about visiting Taiwan, even if you don't speak Mandarin or Taiwanese. Taiwan has been growing in popularity for tourist not only from English speaking countries, but also Japan and Korea. Additionally, there are many English speakers in Taiwan now along with signs written in English, so navigating, feeding yourself, and finding a bathroom isn't an issue. However, this does still pose a challenge for Taiwan. How does a country accommodate large quantities of people in a small space, and many of whom are tourists who do not speak or read the native language?

The answer is using very easy to understand signage. I kind of joke (but mostly serious) that the UI/UX of Taiwan is fabulous. Transportation, logistics, and restaurant professionals might want to take a few hints from the Taiwanese. Here's some photos to illustrate what I mean.
Ordering food:
Mosburger in Taipei makes it very clear where you stand to order your meal. The location was teeny tiny, maybe only 150-200 square feet not including the kitchen space. Managing customers' is a must in that tiny space.
Stand here to pick up your food.

When it comes to ordering drinks, graphics like this are common. You can point and select how much ice you want and how sweet you want your drink. Some of them also include the grams of sugar corresponding to the sweetness level you select. Do note that higher sugar content is generally in red, and no sugar is in green. You don't need to learn how to say "easy on the sugar, or just a little ice" in Mandarin. Just point to what you want.

Here's an interesting one spotted at the Ippudo Ramen restaurant in the Taipei train station (second floor). Just how spicy and firm do you want your ramen? Point to the two scales. The top one is for spicy and the bottom on is or firmness (al dente).

Also at Ippudo Ramen here's a diagram that shows you how to crush your garlic for your ramen.

Here's a diagram n how to hold and eat your fried Japanese chicken at Mosburger. It reminds me of Ikea instructions.

Now that you've had a meal, perhaps you would like to walk it off with some sight seeing. Here's a crosswalk. The feet show which side of the street you should walk on. These are yellow feet for the oncoming pedestrian traffic to my left. I'm walking on the right.

Don't forget to hold onto your children when walking in the street.

Or you might want to take a train. You'll notice that the lines are color coded, but like it is in the United States.

What you might not see are color coded lines that walk you all the way to the train platform. This is for the bullet train. We just followed the orange line from the main entrance of the bullet train area, and then we arrive at our boarding platform. It even tells you where too stand to board so that you aren't blocking people who are exiting.

This particular screen showed the trains coming and the time to arrival. As the time of the train grew closer, the color card they were on turned from green to yellow to red.

When you're on a train or bus, seats for the elderly, pregnant, travelers with children, or physically disabled are clearly color coded. The color scheme for regular seats and priority seats is marked near the seats and often accented with additional yellow flooring. Don't use those seats unless you need them.

Speaking of trains, don't fall onto the tracks. If you do, hide under the platform and call for help.
Finding bathrooms here is very easy and obvious. The addition in Taiwan is the number of meters and/or minutes of walking it takes to arrive at the bathroom.

Some people really dislike QR codes. I see people post repeatedly about how much they passionately dislike QR codes. However, they are all over Taiwan. Menus, signs, billboards, brochures, and even tray liners. If you have a website, they'll turn it into a QR code and stick it everywhere.

When you're in Taiwan, there are lots of instructions on what to do and not to do. What no to do is usually with an "X" and/or red - like don't pick up a monkey and Herpes B.

Things you can and/or should do are noted with circles and/or a cool color. Please hide food in your bag, please keep your dogs on leash and hang on to the kids, and do tell  other people not to feed the monkey(s)!

Here's another one with the red coloring. Don't fall off into the water and get swept out to sea.

In case of rogue waves, crouch down. Don't run.

These graphics and layouts easily depict information so that non-Mandarin speakers and readers can have enjoy may of the fun activities Taiwan has to offer. Also, don't pet the wild monkeys.