Flashback Friday – Calle Dao

Happy 2021! It’s been an interesting and unprecedented 2020 with the pandemic that turned the planet upside down. We are very grateful to be alive, healthy and employed *knock on wood*. One of major changes that took place in 2020 was the shutdown of business especially restaurant and food industries. Many famous restaurants, mom and pop restaurants and even landmark restaurants closed down permanently because their businesses suffered tremendous loss due to the restrictions that were set in place in order to keep people safe.

Prior to the pandemic and shutdown, my friend recommended an emerging restaurant chain somewhat that specializes in Cuban Chinese Cuisine. The restaurant is called Calle Dao. There are two locations one in Chelsea and the other in Bryant Park. They have a sister restaurant called Favela Cubana. They had happy hour until 7pm for discounted drinks and food. My friend and I have only been to the Bryant Park location because it was convenient especially during this pandemic. We came on a Monday evening during the summer and early this week for outdoor dining. The first time the outdoor dining setup in the summer was an open space. Recently, the restaurant revamped their outdoor dining space by building adding walls all round and heaters above every table. The new setup was very cozy, warm and toasty. We had the same server, his name was Marvin. Marvin was very nice, friendly, accommodating and generous. More importantly due to increased expenses incurred during the restaurant’s 10 day closure to set up outdoor dining for the winter, an 8% COVID surcharge was now added to the check. The COVID surcharge was implemented by NYC around October to help restaurants sustain themselves. Anyways, let’s get to the food and drink:

Tostones – great deal for a solo meal and definitely meant for sharing.

Shiitake Spring Rolls – pricey for the portion, but a great option for vegetarians.

Crispy Wings – another great deal but it is definitely sticky and messy.

Sangria – a must have here and highly recommended; they also have the option for a white sangria. FYI red wine is more health benefits than white.

Prosecco – a great alternative if you want to go light on the alcohol

In addition to happy hour bites and drinks, we also ordered additional food, which appeared to be pricey, but deceivingly large that we ate half and took the other half home. Both dishes tasted amazing and it’s low carb.

We will definitely return to explore our happy hour deals at all three locations and definitely try their brunch menu. This restaurant is worth trying especially if you want to experience Cuban Chinese cuisine.

Cheers to 2021!!

Traditional Tuesday – Carbonara

Ten years ago I have had the privilege of traveling to Italy for vacation. At time the Euro was stronger than the dollar so most things were pricey. Throughout my time there, I was approached as being “giapponese” which means Japanese. I went to Rome, Florence, Umbria, Vatican City and Pisa. We went to many churches, most of them were labelled as minor basilicas. We attended many masses unintentionally, maybe it was a blessing. A lot of people spoke English but they don’t want to speak English, so I spent time during my 9 hour flight there learning the basics and if I can’t speak it in Italian, I spoke Spanish. We hit the major tourist spots such as the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Square, Duomo, Tower of Pisa and Spanish Steps.

Now to the food, I have the privilege of tasting authentic Italian cuisine and wine throughout the trip. Given the cost of food, I resorted to what the Italian’s call “the poor man’s food” – Spaghetti Carbonara.

What is Spaghetti Carbonara?

Carbonara is a dish that consists of eggs, spaghetti (any pasta), cheese and leftover pancetta, guanciale or bacon. This dish was invented by a chef from Bologna, Italy named Renato Gualandi in 1944 just approximately at the end of World War II. During this time access to food and resources were very limited and he had a banquet to prepare for. Therefore, “he concocted a sauce for spaghetti made of bacon, cream, processed cheese and dried egg yolk, topped with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper”.

During quarantine I’ve been creating dishes with the food that we have. I had leftover bacon along with onions, cheese, eggs and pasta so I made carbonara. I searched for authentic recipes and I came across the simple recipe from Lidia Bastianich and I almost followed it to the “T”. So here is what I did:

Ingredients set up: bacon, onions, whole grain spaghetti, olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, two eggs (yolks were used), salt and pepper.
1) Boil water 2) Chop bacon and cook it over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes.
Push the bacon to the side and add the chopped onions. Cook the onions for five minutes.
As the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Combine the bacon and onions. Ladle 2-4 cups of pasta water (depending on serving size) to the bacon and onions.
Bring it to a boil and reduce.
Whisk egg yolks and add 1/2 cup of hot pasta water.
After the pasta is cooked add it to the bacon and onion mixture. Combine until well mixed.
Remove from heat and immediately add in the egg yolks. Stir until it’s creamy.
Add parmesan cheese and toss.
Serve immediately!!

Recently, I came across a recipe that was a low carb and even keto friendly from Food & Wine called: Asparagus Carbonara. There are so many health benefit to consuming asparagus. Asparagus contain antioxidants, which prevents inflammation, improve the immune system, remove excess water from the body. They treat ulcers, kidney stones, and depression. They also lower sugar levels, prevent wrinkles and breakouts, maintain skin elasticity and improve reproductive health. So, here is what I did with this recipe provided by Melissa Clark from Food & Wine magazine.

Heat skillet and cook chopped bacon for approximately 4-5 minutes.
Add asparagus and two tablespoons of water. Cook for 2-4 minutes.
Remove from the heat immediately and add the egg yolks with butter. Note: Pan was still hot and the egg yolks started to cook.
After the butter is melted, add in the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Toss and serve immediately!!

For the last 75 plus years, carbonara has become a staple dish in Roman Italian cuisine. The dish is easy to make and it does not break the bank, therefore it is budget friendly. I am happy to be finally posting and blessed to do it on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Cheers! Enjoy! God Bless you all!

Return to work game plan

After 3.5 months of mostly working from home, I am officially returning to work on-site full time. This is going to be interesting. I have lots of reservations about taking the bus and subway once again despite reports that it’s immaculately clean. This is a four day week, so we have options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I absolutely did not prep anything, however, this week, I am going to finish my leftovers: Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding that I froze because I made surplus of it. I am also defrosting my homemade Beef Broth, shrimp and pork chops. I have lots of carbs including English muffins, whole wheat bread and rice along with eggs, cheese wraps, chicken sausage, garlic, ginger, lemon, tomato paste and mushroom stock. We also have pantry items like pasta sauces, sardines, canned tomatoes, pasta and chips.

This week I am going to tackle the freezer, which is filled with a bunch of frozen foods, making egg breakfast dishes and building my immune system as I will be hydrating myself to last 10 hours wearing a N-95 mask.

Stay tuned as I try to post this week’s meals on Instagram: tablespoonsandteaspoons.

Stay healthy, stay safe and stay happy.

Traditional Tuesday – Bread Pudding

Over the weekend, I decided to clean out the bulk of my refrigerator. What I came across were the following: Whole Wheat Bread, Mushrooms, Eggs, Milk, Thyme, Cream of Mushroom soup and White Cheddar Cheese. So it’s Sunday morning and I don’t want to waste food so I decided to create a family style portion of this comforting, hearty dish, which can also serve as a perfect potluck dish.

What is bread pudding?

Bread pudding is a dish that comprises of layering pieces of bread with a bunch of ingredients and mixing it with egg cream mixture prior to baking the concoction.

Where did bread pudding originate?

There are various version of where bread pudding originated from. The concept of this comforting dish came from the idea of utilizing leftovers while not wasting food. After reading the versions, I personally came to the conclusion that the bread pudding originated from the Egyptians. The Egyptians call their dish “Om Ali”, a dessert containing bread, milk or cream, almonds, and raisins. The Romans also created their version using stale bread, milk, fat and sweetener. In the Middle East, they create their own version called “Eish es Serny” which contains dried bread, sugar, honey syrup, rosewater and caramel. Currently, there is an Indian dish called “Shahi Tukra”, which is made from bread, ghee, saffron, sugar, rosewater and almonds. Of course, the real geniuses behind this comforting dessert do not get the proper recognition for creating bread pudding.

Now let’s get into on what food history has addressed the origins of bread pudding. Historians have stated that bread pudding originated in the Middle Ages with the invention of custard. By the 13th century the dish was labelled as a “poor man’s pudding” because it was made from leftover bread and was consumed by the lower classes. By the 18th century, the dish was served to people who were sick because the bread was easy to digest.

Over the last few centuries bread pudding has evolved to become a versatile dish where it can be made sweet, which popular in most high end restaurants (found in desserts) and savory.

A year ago during NYC restaurant week I had the privilege to eat the the Australian restaurant “Burke and Wills” located in the Upper West Side, which permanently closed early this year. They served an amazing dessert that was part of their three course prix fixe called “Bread and Butter Pudding” which was made with bread, toffee sauce, marscapone, and hazelnut.

Burke and Wills “Butter and Bread Pudding”

Over the weekend, I purged the refrigerator by utilizing all of the Whole Wheat Bread, Mushrooms, Eggs, Milk, Thyme, Cream of Mushroom soup and White Cheddar Cheese to made a Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding .

The dish came out almost perfect because I used what I had leftover so this version had an unequal ratio. There was way more bread than there was mushroom and cheese. The cream of mushroom soup and thyme saved the day because the flavor of the dish was on point. In addition this dish serves six people and after consuming a third of what would be considered one slice was already filling. I had a lot of fun making this dish and would like to explore different variation of creating bread pudding. I definitely want to explore creating a different version that is gluten and dairy free.

“COVID-19” Game Plan Week 4

It’s been almost a month since the lockdown due to this ongoing pandemic spread. The previous game plan was posted over two weeks ago. Good news was that most of the stuff listed in the ingredients section of the game plan lasted over two weeks which was why there was no game plan for Week 3.

I am slowly eating out again to fulfill my food cravings but most of time I am behind the kitchen experimenting with the food I have.

Below are the images I posted on Instagram: tablespoonsandteaspoons.

Moving forward to the present and the rest of the week here’s my game plan for the upcoming week(s). This week is going to be different because I decided to venture into the meal prep kit from Sunbasket and even support local businesses in the area.

Stay turned for posts on Instagram at tablespoonsandteaspoons.

If you are interested in trying a meal kit from Sunbasket you will get $35-$40 of your first order by clicking on the link below: https://sunbasket.com/invite/Christina3035165

Thank you Yoga Club for the connection. If you’re interested in getting an amazing wardrobe for workouts delivered to your front door, click on the link below: https://refer.yogaclub.com/ChristinaP17

Wine Wednesday – Beef Bourguignon COVID-19 style

Week three of COVID-19 began with a stay at home Easter meal for two which leftovers lasted for two days.

I spent hours and days reading various recipes about the French classic Beef Bourguignon. My father introduced me to this dish when I was a child and regretted not staying by his side taking mental notes on how to cook this dish.

Anyways, back to the history and origin of Beef Bourguignon. This French class dish originated from Bourgogne a regional section in Burgundy, France. Beef Bourguignon is a rich slow cooked dish made with beef braised in red wine with carrots, mushrooms, garlic, onions, parsley, bay leaf and thyme.

Beef Bourguignon was originally considered a meal for peasants during the Middle Ages. It was economically friendly, filling and perfect to feed a crowd. The meat used was the once that were not consumed by high class groups e.g. royalty. The dish initially took two days to cook as the longer the cook, the more flavorful the dish will be and the meat will be more tender.

The first recipe was published in the beginning of the 20th century. Chef Auguste Escoffier labelled as the “grandfather of classical French cuisine”. This chef presented this provincial peasant dish to a high society group. As a result this dish became a overnight success where it is now served in fine dining restaurants in Paris, London and New York. Beef Bourguignon was labelled a national dish in France and in 1961, Julia Child introduced this dish which made her famous to America.

There were some subtle differences between Chef Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 recipe and Julia Child’s 1961 recipe. First, Chef Escoffier used whole beef and it would take two days to make the dish while Chef Child’s recipe used diced or cubed beef. Chef Child also used bacon fat and dried each piece of of meat prior to searing in the pan.

Well, guess what, I combined the two recipes without mushrooms and committed the cardinal sin by cutting a rib roast into think half in slices instead of cubes.

Well to start I used healthy ingredients such as beef, garlic, onions, carrots, tomato paste, red wine and homemade beef broth using the bones of the rib roast and onions. The broth tooks 18-24 hours to make.

Working with the ingredients that available, I made a very modified version with no mushrooms.

“COVID-19 Lockdown” Game Plan Week 2

Happy to say that Week 1 of the COVID-19 Lockdown was about 80% successful. I have been able to keep up with the steps which is essentially my meal schedule rather than food prep because my brain was not there to organize my meals. Part of that is just getting back into the groove and gaining momentum to eventually food prep for bigger and better meals.

Here are my pictures from last week’s game plan meals including the Rye French Toast:

Rye French Toast
Alpha Food Pot Pie Beefy Chedd’r (vegan)
Kodiak Cake Chocolate Chip Protein Waffles
Lentil Stew
Fettuccine with Mushroom and Steak Sauce
Fishpeople’s Cod with garlic parmesan potato bacon topping
Bacon wrapped carrots
Parmesan Bacon Orzo with Roasted Carrots and Onion

We have entered week 2 of the COVID-19 Lockdown and things in New York City has gotten worse. The lock down has now extended to another two weeks. There will be no Holy Week services, which I look forward too. However, I have been spiritually more involved in watching live streaming services online.

Given all that is going on I feel lucky and blessed. I am very thankful to God and the good spirits that I have a roof over my head and a job at least for two months. So making every effort to work for the glory of God because HE controls our fate.

In order to stay in compliance, my other half went to the supermarket while I worked from home. This week’s game plan also has ingredients from last week because there were some changes to the steps from last week.

We would love to hear any feedback regarding this week’s game plan. Stay tuned for pictures of my journey through this game plan. Everyone stay safe and may God Bless America!

Traditional Tuesday – French Toast

Today I am actually adhering to my COVID-19 game plan by making Rye French Toast. Given the pantry I have to date, I was researching the perfect french toast recipe. As a result, I ended up choosing the recipe from Food52. What I did was I cut the serving size in half. So this recipe here is for one person. But before I share this solo meal, I want to explore the history of this staple breakfast dish.

After reviewing sources of where the French toast originated, the earliest documentation of the dish goes back to the Roman empire (approximately the year 1 A.D.) which was called “Pan Dulcis”. This version is bread soaked in milk with or without egg prior to frying it in oil or butter.

Fifteen centuries later, the English and later the French reinvented and renamed this staple dish “Pain Perdu” meaning “lost bread” because this version utilizes stale bread and soaking it in milk and eggs then frying. The interpretation is losing the bread and transforming it into a complete dish comprised of protein (egg), calcium (milk) and carbohydrates (bread).

As I mention stale bread, this bread is preferred in Food52’s recipe, which I did not have. What I had was Pepperidge Farm Soft Jewish Rye Bread plus two eggs and olive oil.

Three ingredients – bread, eggs and olive oil
Take a piece of bread and dip it in the beaten egg. Let it soak for approximately thirty seconds.
Flip the bread and repeat previous step.
Heat pan and one tablespoon of olive oil. Place one side of the bread into the hot pan and let it sit for approximately 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
Flip bread over and repeat.
Bon Appetit! Cheers to French Toast with Three Ingredients!

If you have any questions or comments regarding this dish or ways to improve this dish, feel free to comment on this post. I am finally gaining some momentum back, maybe COVID-19 hysteria and being ordered to stay home has rejuvenated my interest and passion for food. Stay tuned for more….

“COVID-19 Lockdown” Game Plan

There is so much hysteria to the point that we are on the brink of becoming a martial law country. This lockdown game plan to “flatten the curve” is set up by NYC mayor and governor to hopefully reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases. As a result, I will be working my paid job, which funds this blog remotely. What does this mean?

This means I get the opportunity to hopefully reset and continue where I left off writing this blog. During the past few months I feel like I am getting ghosted by social media platforms such as Instagram. The only silver lining is that businesses and owner have liked my posts but there are so few of them.

When I launched this blog back in 2016, I had a vision that it would progressively grow and turn it into a career that is fulfilling and rewarding. Unfortunately I have experienced a lot of downfalls due to the lack of support and continuously fighting the powerful establishments and potential haters from the past who feel that they are entitled to any achievement on my own through emotional blackmail and spreading rumors by framing me as the evil, crazy and toxic person because I am finally free.

Still fighting the good fight as these people from the past who knew everything about me inside out are using it against me and taking credit for everything I have worked for including my degrees from Fordham, Hunter and University of Illinois. These same people are bragging to other people that without them I’ll never succeed. Ok..I’ll stop..

Given the circumstances that occurred the last month, normalcy on this end has come to a pause overall. However, I am very thankful to God and the good spirits that I have a roof over my head and a job at least for two months. So making every effort to work for the glory of God because HE controls our fate.

With the exponential increase of COVID-19 cases in NYC and in Long Island, and the origin of this debilitating and mysterious virus came from China, there is also an increase in hate crime against Chinese and Asian Americans because people are ignorant. I am thankful that I have not had that experience personally but given the fact that I am a first generation Asian American born in America with a background in public health and health communications that is passionate about food, culinary medicine, health, and research.

While COVID-19 is still hot press it is also an important public health issue because through health promotion, advocacy and communication communities are actually complying with the progressive martial law mandates such as social distancing, limiting store hours, working remotely and shutting down non-essential businesses. While these measures are implemented, the long term effects will be the disappearance of human social interaction that is essential to survival.

In order to stay in compliance, we went to the supermarket two days ago and brought 1-2 weeks worth of groceries. So without further ado and after hours of planning here’s the weekday game plan based on what’s available in the present moment:

We would love to hear any feedback regarding this week’s game plan. Stay tuned for pictures of my journey through this game plan. Everyone stay safe and may God Bless America!

Sunday Game Plan: NYC Restaurant week Winter 2020 & Long Island Restaurant Week

Happy Chinese New Year! So another health issues popped up and with one week of restaurant week already gone, it is time to give my game plan. This game plan is the Winter 2020 NYC Restaurant Week which began on January 21 and will end on Sunday February 9. Two course lunch/brunch is $26 and a three course dinner is $42.

After reviewing over 290 menus out of the 364 restaurants participating, there were a lot of restaurants continuing to participate plus several new ones. So, here is my plan for this year’s winter restaurant week adventure:

1) The Carlyle in the Upper East for dinner for two. This is the first time that they are participating for restaurant week. Definitely want to try their yellowfin tuna, beet salad, chicken, gnocchi and lavender creme brulee. In addition and it’s optional the wine pairing for all three dishes will be an additional $36.

2) Felidia in Midtown/Upper East Side is a great Italian restaurant with a connection to the Vatican because the owner Lidia Bastianich has served food to past three popes during their visits to New York. Personally I have eaten here this past summer for the Italian Restaurant Week and it will be interesting on how I will be treated because I experienced subtle inequality and slight discrimination when I dined there alone. Reservations go by very quickly.

3) Catch Steak is another restaurant under the Catch corporation located in Meatpacking is also participating in restaurant week for the first time for dinner. All three items chosen for their prix fixe are also sold a la carte. The ambiance of the place is awesome for pictures and girls night out.

4) Manhatta is a hard to get in restaurant under the Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group located in Lower Manhattan. They are also participating in restaurant week for lunch. Miraculously, I managed to get a reservation for a very early lunch. For my solo lunch, I definitely want to try the snails and lamb burger. Out of all the restaurants that are on this list, this is the one I am most excited about.

5) Aburiya Kinnosuke in Midtown is also participating in restaurant week for the first time and will be going for dinner for two. Definitely want to try their tofu, vegetable stir fry, black cod, chicken thigh, Shiratama Amitsu ice cream and mochi ice cream.

6) Ambassador Grill and Lounge located in the Millennium Hotel in the UN is also participating in restaurant week. All three items chosen for their prix fixe are also sold a la carte.

Due to time and obligations, I will not be able to eat at other restaurants this time around, so here is my wish list for restaurants to try: Cathedrale, David Burke Tavern, Tuome, Bann, Woodpecker, Cafe Boulud, Danji, Charlie Palmer Steak, Club A Steakhouse, and DB Bistro Moderne.

Now we will shift gears to Long Island Restaurant Week and over 175 restaurants will be participating. A three course prix fixe will cost $29.95. The awesome thing about this restaurant week is that they will be offering it on Saturdays until 7pm. Given that this restaurant week is coinciding with NYC restaurant week, it’s going to be difficult to participate. Therefore, here are my choices for this restaurant week: Red Salt in Garden City, Luigi’s in New Hyde Park and Imperial Meat Company in Huntington.

Stay tuned on my Instagram: tablespoonsandteaspoons and Twitter: spoonstt for posts during this adventure.