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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ramen Tatsuya, take two: How to enjoy Ramen Tatsuya at home

Before you freak out and wonder how there is such a thing as leftover Ramen Tatsuya, remember that patience is a virtue that is highly rewarded. 

Enoki mushrooms, rice noodles, marinated egg, and ground pork
There’s really no need for me to reiterate what pretty much every food magazine, blogger, instagrammer, food television show, and food personality has said. Ramen Tatsuya is the gold standard of ramen. Sometimes you want that Ramen Tatsuya, but you just don’t want to leave
the house.

You'll find this in my freezer.

Short of getting someone else to bring Ramen Tatsuya to you, you can save your leftover broth for a rainy day. I started saving my broth after devouring the slender noodles, soft yet structured eggs, and tender meat in the to-go containers. When I get home, I pour it into a sturdier container and freeze it until I’m ready. I’ll often add many visits worth of broth into the same container.

While there’s many things you can do with the broth, I’ll go through my typical routine. I’ve also condensed the broth and served it with leftover pork chop from Perry’s. I used spaghetti squash once, but I didn’t love the results. The squash didn’t have enough texture to hold up to the broth. I've also used cooked shredded napa cabbage, which is quite nice.
Enoki mushrooms purchased at an Asian Supermarket.
When thinking about serving up leftover ramen broth, start by thinking about what types of add-ins that you want. Ground pork, enoki mushrooms, and marinated egg are my go to favorites. If I’m feeling like some carbs, I will bring out the transparent rice noodles often used in hot pot / shabu shabu. Any type of noodle will work great. 

My ingredients in the saucepan.
For the ground pork, you’ll want to saute it up in a pan or use your Instant Pot. I like to add minced garlic or fried shallots to mine. When I use enoki mushrooms, I simply wash them and cut off the root part until I am ready to use them. For egg marinade, I simply put eggs into a mixture of 50:50 soy sauce to water. I don’t simmer it like you do in many marinated egg recipes, nor do I add all the extras. Sometimes I’m just not motivated enough to get all the ingredients out.

Warmed up and ready to eat.
To serve the leftover broth, I let it defrost in the fridge for a day or two. I heat it up in a saucepan, and then I add it whatever I want. If it is enoki mushrooms or noodles, I’ll add those 2-4 minutes (depending on the types of noodles) before I add in the other ingredients.

Another day, another bowl.
Because I believe in conserving water by not doing unnecessary dishes, sometimes I’ll eat it directly out of the saucepan. Serve with a beer, and you can enjoy Ramen Tatsuya at home without ever leaving the kitchen.

Doing leftovers right.
Or you can find every opportunity to visit Ramen Tatsuya.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Belgian Liege Waffles, possibly the most perfect food on the face of this planet

When I was on my way to Brussels, Belgium from Antwep hopping back on a train, I picked up a waffle (wafel) at the train station. I selected a plain waffle with a sheer dusting of powdered sugar. The lesson I learned was not to judge a waffle before you take a bite. This waffle was one of the most incredible things I have ever tasted. The outside was uniformly golden brown with a crust that makes its presence known. The inside was soft pillowy carby goodness with a sweet crunch of caramelized sugar.

I became obsessed with these waffles. They bore little resemblance to their thin, tough, and limp US counterparts. I found that a food truck in Austin served legit wafels. I have confirmed that they make a dough (legit) as opposed to that pale liquid waffle batter that you get at hotel hot breakfast bars.
Wafels come with an assortment of toppings and dips in Belgium.
 And I took it upon myself to figure out how to make them. After spending hours (yes, hours) researching the thickest waffle makers available and reading up on recipes. I thought I was a ready. I purchased Presto Flipside Belgian Waffle Maker that was touted to deliver the thickest waffles. I’ve baked many things in my lifetime, and the yeast-y dough of the leige waffle was well within my skill set. I made my own pearl sugar, and I tried a few haphazard batches based off the Smitten Kitchen recipe. I will admit that cleaning up a waffle iron is too much of a trouble, and I shouldn’t be making leige wafels at home that often anyways. I don’t need to spend time getting caramelized sugar off an iron that doesn’t have removable plates nor does my rear need that many waffles.  The Wafel Guys should be my go to when it is time to treat myself to a taste of Belgium, in moderation of course.

A video posted by Jennie Chen (@misohungry) on

Fortunately for me, the day that I decided that leige wafels should not be made at home, I walked by a sample cart at Costco with waffles. I was skeptical that something so amazing could come out of a plastic clamshell from an American warehouse store. 

A pack of 12 are 6.99. These are a seasonal item.

Again, I was wrong. Julian’s waffles are amazing. You can purchase them on Amazon if you don’t have a Costco membership, and some grocery stores may carry them as well. It looks like I can pick some up at my local grocery chain.

Wafels are in high demand. I demand one right now!

This blogpost originally started as a “how to make leige waffles.” It is now a “go to The Wafel Guys in Austin or buy Julian’s waffles.” 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands

Per capita, I might guess that Leiden has the most museums with a population of 117,915 (2011 data). Leiden is just a quick train ride from Amsterdam, and I was excited to meet my friend, Maud there. Though continents and oceans away, Maud and I share a deep love for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. It is amazing how the dedication to a breed can lead to almost a decade of friendship. I would be remiss if I did not mention Maud’s photography. Her ability to capture the essence of dogs is incredible, and I will always be in her debt for her photographs of Mouse. 

Windmill selfies.
While in Leiden, we made a visit to the Naturalis Museum that happened to be showcasing the most complete (80%) Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton affectionately named Trix. Trix was found in Wyoming and transported to the Netherlands with a festive welcome. She’s guessed to be around 30 years old. 

Can you outrun Trix?
There were animatronic dinosaurs in the museum, some 3D printers, and even a selfie station setup to get photos right in front of Trix. Though Trix  was a single display, the museum had a very clever ways of packing in a good bit of information into the display. There were educational pieces on how they assessed events that happened in her life due to evidence on the skeleton. However, I personally find it difficult to see the difference between damage to the skeleton when the creature was alive versus damage to the skeleton after being buried in Wyoming for 66 million years. That’s a failing on my part, not the scientists’ part. 

While Trix is impressive and the museum was filled with interactive games, the most exciting discovery for me there was the kenetic sand. The very last interactive section of the museum intended for children. Kinetic sand doesn’t look any different from afar, but one touch of the sand had me intrigued. The sand was moldable and holdable like a plasma, but it also separated and fell apart like regular same. You’re better off buying some to try for yourself. Amazon carries it at ~$25 for 3 lbs, and your inner child will thank you.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tales and Spirits in Amsterdam

Our last stop in Amsterdam was a at Tales and Spirits, a romantically dim bar that serves creative cocktails with a splash of showmanship. When you visit Tales and Spirits, be aware that they have rules, and one should abide by them. You are seated by the host, and table service is provided. No milling about or other unclassy behavior.

When I was here, I tried a genever (also called jenever, genièvre, peket or Dutch gin) straight up which is supposed to taste like gin. The one I tried was aged in barrels and had taken on more of a woody and smoky sweet flavor as opposed to a brighter herbalicious flavor.

All patrons are served a snack of lentil chips with housemade chutney. The concoction that night included pineapple, allspice, ginger, and chiles. The humble bartender who created it refused to tell me much else about it, but at least I have a flavor profile to use as a starting point.

If you’re looking for cocktails that are equally a visual treat as they are a flavor and aroma treat, try the Zombie or the Smoke and Mirrors.

The Zombie is a Tiki style drink that serves two for 15 euros. It boasts four different types of rums, pineapple, lime, and grapefruit juice alone with falernum, cinnamon syrup, passion fruit, absinthe, and bitters served in a giant zombie tiki mug that is about the size of your head. A halved passion fruit filled with rum is set on top of the drink which is then set on fire. Then the entire thing is sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon that creates a personal bartop fireworks display. I’d get this again just to watch it being made.
This Zombie is on fire!

The Smoke and Mirrors was a bit more mysterious in nature. It includes Ketel One vodka, Martini Gran Lusso vermouth, Pierre Ferrand dry Curaçao, strawberry-basil shrub, olive oil and rosemary presented in a cake dome filled with smoke. The drink was sweet and aromatic with the smoke and rosemary. I kind of can’t get over the presentation though. 
Smoke and Mirrors about to be released!
And lastly, if you feel like you have too many euros to spare, there’s a cocktail on the menu that will help you lighten your wallet. For 225 euros, you can get “the way it was,” a cocktail with Bacardi "Ron de Maestro" MMXII vintage rum, Wildflower honey, Original Abbott's bitters (100+ years old), and orange zest. The bartender commented that it was the Original Abbott’s bitters that was the pricey ingredient of this cocktail at something like 50 euros a drop or something. You can purchase a recreation of Abbott’s bitters now for just $34 for 100 ml. I can’t tell you whether or not it will be comparable to the original though. 

If you can’t find something on the menu that tickles your fancy, then let the bartenders know your preferences and trust that you will get something delightful!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kasteels and D'Heeren Van Barelo on the River Maas

If there’s something that that is all over Europe besides waffels, it is castles. We visited several castles while in Europe, and one of the most interesting one is in Keverberg. Many castles were left in ruins, but this one was remodeled with some modern features like the solar panel rooftops.

This is the castle ruins in Valkenberg, NL.
Since most of the castles were either in ruined condition or completely repurposed to be something, it isn’t easy to get a sense for how the castles were originally used aside from the obvious perimeter to keep invaders out.

Kasteel de Keverberg next to the Maas.
 This is Kasteel de Keverberg, one of the more visually interesting castles. This castle sits on the River Maas. I would highly advise visiting a few castles to enjoy a space that has so much lost history. 

This is definitely not your run of the mill castle.

Inside the Kasteel's cafe.
 After our visit to Kasteel de Keverberg, my good friend, Yvonne, took us to a local restaurant that she and her family enjoys. D’Heeren Van Baerlo is a located on the River Maas as well. The restaurant had a selection of local beers available to go along with the food. 

Outside view of the Kasteel shows off large windows to let in the natural light.
 Most of us at the table decided to go with the prix fixe menu with hard decisions on each course. For my soup course, I selected the fish soup, listed as vis huisgerookt zalm kabeljauw on the menu. Roughly translated, it means fish house smoked salmon cod. This is one of the best soups I have ever had in my life. And I do not exaggerate. This soup was complex with layers of umani and the sea. Seriously, it was the best seafood based soup I have ever had. 

This is one of the most amazing soups I have ever had.
The next course I had was a beef tenderloin with mushrooms in a wonderfully delicious sauce. It was on the menu as: spies bavette champignons knoflook roseval salade chimichurri. I snuck some bites of other dishes at the table too, and they did not disappoint. 
Very delicious steaks.
Any more meats.
And one of the most interesting dishes of all is the dressed up tea for dessert. Dressed up tea includes a fresh mint tea, a Bailey’s liquor, cookie, and chocolate truffle. Tea in the United States just does not compared to this. 

Dressed up Yvonne with dressed up tea.
You can find D’Heeren Van Baerlo on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll probably need to rent a car to visit this part of the Netherlands, and it will be very much worth it. A big thanks to Yvonne for showing us around the Netherlands!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Vaals, Three Points in Europe, Printen, Lebanese Eats, and Aachen

While we were in the Maastricht area, we rented a car to travel the roads less taken. Driving in the area gave me a better idea of the geography and lifestyle of Europe. In just 40 minutes, we were able to go from a college center of the Netherlands and pop over into the spa town of Aachen, Germany. I can barely get from one end of Austin to the other end when there is no traffic in that time. It is wild to think that I can drive into another country in such little time.

I'm in three countries at the same time. It is possible without the use of body doubles!
On the way to Germany, we made a stop in Vaals to visit the point where three countries meet. On top of the hill of Vaalserberg, you can hop from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. If your arms and legs are long enough, you can be in all three countries at the same time. This point sits in the middle of what seems to be an enchanted forest with no rigid physical borders for kilometers around.

This elephant was in the labyrinth.
On the Netherland side of the point, there is a fun labyrinth that will give you either hours of joy or frustration. For just 5 euros, you can join many other people running around in a maze of hedges, raised platforms, and motion triggered fountains. The goal is to get to the center of the maze, and then out of the maze. The GPS claimed that I went seven miles running through this maze before reaching the center with some help. That must have burned off a Belgian Wafel or more. I’d recommend it for children and adult, especially those children with an abundance of energy.

I'm at the center platform of the labyrinth after too much time running around in the rain.
The labyrinth had mazes for you to play to help you forget how long you were stuck in there. This one is the run away train concept. You at the entrance in the bottom and you can only turn in the direction of the curves. No curve = no turns.

Next on our drive through Europe was a stop in Aachen, a border down in Germany. Aachen is know for the mineral springs and plethora of fountains, and there are a few interesting activities for visitors. We visited the Charlemagne Museum, we had a treat at Noobis including a taste of Printen, took some photos of the fountains, had some very delicious Lebanese food, and then visited the Carolus Thermen Spa

Here's a delicious treat from Nobis.
Nobis is a popular eatery with many sweet treats including a printen shop next door. We had a light cake in the eatery along with some samples of printen. Printen comes in different shapes and sizes, the hedgehog being the cutest. The printen cookies are a hard and crunchy spiced with cinnamon, ginger, clove, anise, cardamon, coriander, and allspice.

The cutest little printen I've ever seen.

Many more trays of pastries at Nobis.
While in Aachen, we found a lovely Lebanese restaurant called AKL. The website isn’t in English, but you can point to whatever you want when you arrive. We ordered the grilled meat plate for two, and it might feed up to four people who aren’t quite so hungry. While verbal communication with the staff was a little difficult, I did manage to get the ingredients for the an amazing delicious sauce they served. It was an orange slightly tangy and rich sauce made of onion, orange juice, and sesame paste. My best guess is that it is a variant of Lebanese garlic sauce

Grilled meat platter for two.
After the delicious meal of smokey meats and fries, we drove over to the Carlos Thermen Spa. While it says spa in the name, there are some things that are different from spa in the United States. At Carlos Thermen, you’ll need to bring your own towel. There aren’t clean towels and robes provided for you. You’ll need to bring your own sandals or flip flops unless you want to run around barefoot. You’ll also need a bathing suit of sorts. The spa areas are communal, and there are occasional youngsters around. Make sure your stuff is covered. In terms of changing, there is one very large changing room with individual stalls. The showers and bathrooms are split by gender. 

So many things here are covered in gold.
There are several warm pools with massaging jets, one very chilly pool, and a steam room for your enjoyment in the main areas. There are other amenities too along with food and beverage service, but I didn’t use those services. I spent my time in the larger communal area that is included in the pass price (12 euros for 2.5 hours). The spa was very enjoyable, and I might even splurge to be able to use the additional services offered next time.

One of the fountains in the center of the Aachen Square.