Sunday, March 17, 2013

Experimenting on Creme Brulee

Yesterday, I tried my hand on macaron and it turned out pretty good. The thing about it is I only used egg whites, so I now have several yolks sitting in the fridge. What to do? I couldn't just toss them out. So i decided I'll try to make creme brulee / leche flan. Unfortunately, the laziness in me hindered me from making leche flan. Its a more tedious process. You have to make the caramel then the custard and wait till the caramel sits before actually putting the custard then its oven time.

My ama used to make leche flan all the time way back when I was a kid. It was pretty normal at home to have leche flan stashed in the fridge. I found it weird that every one was making such a fuss about creme brulee. After all, the two are almost the same. I'd like to think of leche flan as an inverted version of creme brulee.

Anyway, don't you ever wonder why they started making leche flan in the Philippines? I've been trying to search the net to verify my historical account. After all, it is based on my ama's stories, but to no avail, I couldn't find one. They started making leche flan as an externality of the construction process of churches and other stone buildings back in the Spanish Era. The Filipinos were forced to work through polo y servicios and egg whites were used as an adhesive for the building's walls/foundation. Egg yolks would have no use in the process and would most likely be thrown out. But the Filipino trait of not wanting to waste anything, especially food, paved way to develop the leche flan making process in the country.

Going back to my creme brulee experiment, the process is to mix the yolk with some sugar and temper it with heated vanilla infused cream. Put the mixture into ramekins and bake them at 250F for an hour in a water bath. Once they are done, burn some sugar on top and voila! You have your creme brulee (unfortunately, i dont have a torch so i'm skipping the sugar topping).

Economics is really everywhere. Although i am not sure if making this dessert is a positive or negative externality for me. :|

The Macaron Project

Spring break is about to end and I am in a bit of a quandary. I was just too sluggish to drag my lazy butt out of the apartment, so I decided to bake. For a while, I've been thinking of making my favorite French pastry, macarons, but I felt that it would be too difficult. Its basically the same concern with everyone else in the blogosphere. Macarons are simply made of several ingredients, almond flour, powdered sugar, granulated sugar and egg whites. I already have the last three ingredients, but no almond flour. Almond flour is simply ground almonds. I also do not have almonds, but I have pecans. I read that you can substitute any nut in the absence of almonds, but I think almonds would still be the better option for this pastry. I ended up with a pool of pecan butter after drinking it too much. On my second attempt, I decided to put the powdered sugar in while grinding and it turned out perfect. Most of the blogs I read said that baking paper is a must, even if you are using a non-stick pan. But I was just too stubborn. Refer to the second sentence, I was too lazy to go out. So I simply used the non stick pan. Lets just say the outcome is not the best, but its not a flop either. 

Contrary to my other kitchen explorations, this project was not measured out exactly. I just mixed everything up. I even had a problem with choosing the baking time and temperature and settled for 300F and a longer time 20 minutes.

After baking the cookies, I made strawberry butter cream and chocolate ganache. I tend to hoard things. So I have all the other ingredients.

 Chocolate-dipped strawberry buttercream filled pecan macarons

They do not look like patiserrie-quality goodies but I loved the taste and texture. I think I need more practice to perfect this but I need to grab almonds first.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Maryland Restaurant Week Spring 2013

We discovered that the National Harbor in Maryland is having Restaurant Week from March 4-17, 2013. Its not just a week but I'm not complaining. During this week, restaurants serve three-course meals for just $20.13 (lunch) and $35.13 (dinner). My friends and I had the time to go here because its Spring break this week! cool huh? (honestly, that day was the only day we took a break). We researched all the restaurants and we picked McCormick and Schmick's.

We had a reservation. So we were comfortably seated. For a weekday lunch, they had a good number of tables. The National Harbor is not exactly in the middle of a business center.

There are no signs to show that its restaurant week, so unless you know it, you'll miss out on the good deal. They won't hand you the menu unless you ask for it.

We had the mixed greens, and oysters for starters. Lets say its nothing spectacular. Just alright.
 Mixed Greens

Roasted Virginia Oysters

For the main course, everyone had the Bourbon Glazed Salmon, since everyone is on a diet. It was definitely a treat. You have to enjoy the fish with the side dishes to make it perfect.

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

And for dessert, we tried Creme Brûlée and Walnut Apple Tart. In my opinion, the Walnut Apple Tart was the superior dessert. It was served with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream which had the perfect texture as opposed to the creme brûlée which i feel tasted too egg-y, if there is a word. I know creme brûlée is made up of mostly egg, but I believe that it should be a combination of egg and cream, otherwise, we should just have baked eggs or something like that. Leche flan tastes better than it.

 Walnut Apple Tart

Creme Brûlée

After lunch, we were just too damned full. We felt so sleepy that we decided to walk around the harbor and take pictures, but it was too breezy and cold so we just ended up hanging out inside Gaylord Hotel and home after.

Going Japanese

We just had a very productive day and so my friends and I decided to go Japanese for dinner! Ever since I got here, I haven't had Japanese, and I was already missing it. Back home, I could never have enough Japanese. Every time Lovely and I would dine out, we would pick Japanese, even if we just had it the week before at the same restaurant. We went to Sumo Hibachi and Sushi Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. Hibachi means cooked on a hot plate, or simply teppan.  We were lucky enough to be there during happy hour. In the Philippines, happy hour translates to low-priced drinks. Here, happy hour could translate to low-priced sushi and appetizers as well. 

Here's the menu:

They have a special menu for happy hour so make sure you ask for it.

 We shared an order of Pirate Sushi

 Hong Kong-Style Roasted Duck Noodle Soup
Seafood Noodle Soup

Their noodle soups are so big! its good enough for two hungry people.

Overall, I love this place. I would definitely come back. The service is great! But when I go home, I would definitely go to Zensho, where they have eat-all-you-can teppan. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This one is for Lovely

Its already spring break but I'm swamped with work. I have tons of research to do and seminars to attend. It just does not feel like a break at all. With the single exception that I successfully survived a three-day detox plan that I designed. Anyway, I was able to attend a talk by a professor from Brown University at Georgetown University. Lovely of made sure that I took photos of Georgetown itself, so I did on my way back to George Washington University, my office. So here's what it looks like on a normal day.

 Healy Hall (Georgetown University)

  Georgetown Cupcakes 

Stores along M Street

 Stores along M Street

 Stores along M Street

 LOVELY!!! Here's your favorite store! 

 Stores along M Street

One of my favorites but I was too tired to shop earlier.

 Serendipity 3 is a branch of the serendity cafe in New York. I love their grilled cheese. 


 more food

 Coffee and dessert

 more shops



 Sprinkles (Another cupcake shop)

relax again...

I'd probably love M Street if I were a tourist. Its the perfect place to walk, eat, shop, eat again, shop again, walk sort of thing. But as a researcher, I feel that M Street is a distraction. Maybe I will have more time to explore during summer time.