Impromptu Summer Picnic

do-Ding!

The text read: “Do you fancy a picnic in Finsbury Park?”

The sun had been out over London that day and a simple picnic sounded like a lovely way to spend my last night with my friends.

I quickly texted that I would have everything prepared by the time they both came home.

Moments after, I was on the tube to the nearest Waitrose with two canvas bags slung over my shoulder. I was on a mission!

I carefully strategized the meal that would limit prep time, utensils, and clean up. I also wanted to include one thing that would push my friend to be adventurous.

Her boyfriend and I share an ongoing joke that I have a special talent in persuading her to try and like things she normally thinks she doesn’t like. He claims that she only will begin to enjoy certain foods after she tries them with me even if he has suggested them to her year after year. First was beer, than salmon.

I think the truth is that he lays the solid foundation for her to be open to the food, which is crucial for her to want to try it when I suggest it to her.

After 45 minutes, I emerged with 13 items.

The spread: whole roast chicken, baguette, smoked salmon terrine, two kinds of pâté, salad greens, green pea and pea shoot salad, marinated olives, blueberries, cured meats, and three hard cheeses.

I had, after much deliberation, chose two types of pâté. One  flavored with honey and orange and the other with herbs to see if my friend would like them.

The verdict?

She ate them both but said they tasted a bit metallic. But she did continue to eat.

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Morito: Spanish/Middle Eastern Tapas

When I saw her come out of her office, I immediately remembered the last meal we shared seven months ago.

A divine early dinner at Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social!

Snacks before dinner: Chicharrón and olives

The highlight of the meal: Slow cooked egg, chorizo, and “patatas bravas”

Although we had barely communicated since I instinctively knew she was going to whisk me away to another fabulous meal.

I rarely trust people when it comes to food recommendations but she is one of the select few I genuinely do not question. If I could, I would have her tell me everything she eats all day, everyday and recreate her diet to precision.

After walking around a bit we ended up in front of Morito in Exmouth market with two wine cocktails in hand to get us through the hour wait.

The service was slow and choppy but we were happily seated at a curbside table eating dinner on a Wednesday night at 10pm.

A silky smooth tomato gaspacho with shrimp and avocado (oops…out of focus!)

Crusty bread rubbed with garlic and tomato topped with ham, blue cheese, and sardines +Fried potatoes with herbs

Scallops with chorizo and roasted tomatoes

Our last order of fried baby squid was lost because some confusion between the wait staff but we were too caught up in filling in the gaps from the past few months that we didn’t really care.

Instead, we ended our meal with a cheese plate (I forgot to take a photo of!).

Could we have eaten more? Probably. Would we have enjoyed it? Most definitely.
I can’t wait for our next food adventure!

Mystery Flavors

So I finally went through with the Walkers mystery flavor crisp tasting!

Unfortunately, we missed the deadline for the competition so we won’t be able to win 50,000 pounds but it was really a fun experiment.

A total of five tasters first admired each bag, then opened it and took in the aromas.

We jotted down what we smelled first on a piece of paper and then tasted one crisp. Once everyone had their first taste, we circulated the bag around again.

Mystery Flavor A: The sour cream flavor was very distinct with a hint of chives and an undertone of chicken fat.

Our guesses: Sour cream and onion, French onion soup, jacket potato, and rotisserie chicken
From these guesses, we picked jacket potato (baked potato with sour cream, dill, and cheese)

Mystery Flavor B: It smelled like worcestershire sauce and smoked meat. The flavor was a bit heavy and tasted a bit burnt.

Our guesses: Sausage,  beef jerky, chicken fajita, streak and eggs, chinese dumplings, and pork rinds.
We couldn’t agree on what the crisp tasted like.

Mystery Flavor C: I got a strong whiff of smoked paprika. This was by far our favorite because the flavor wasn’t overpowering and it was almost refreshing, with hints of cilantro, curry, and coconut.

Our guesses: Samosas, Thai green curry,and Chicken Tikka Masala.
This one, we were all confidant that we knew what the flavor was and agreed that we would buy this if it were available.

At the end, we checked our answers against the ones on the Walkers website: Check out the results here.

After we found out the real answers, we did another round of tastings and it became clearer to us what the mystery flavors were supposed to be. This proves that the knowledge and expectation of taste is a HUGE factor in determining your ability to identify flavors!

 

Royal Mail

I absolutely love receiving packages in the mail…especially if they contain food!

Remember when I introduce you to my top secret friend who works in Parliament?

Well, she sent me mystery flavor crisps through the royal mail!

Walkers has just launched a new campaign! They are “challenging the nation’s taste buds with three delicious mystery flavours inspired by ingredients and recipes from all over Britain.”

Mystery Flavors A (Blue), B (Green), and C (Red).

If we can guess what the flavor is we can win 50,000 pounds!

Let’s just speculate what each flavor could be based on the packaging today.

Ingredients featured on the package of Mystery Flavor A:

Cheddar cheese, red onion, sage, sour cream, roast chicken, tomatoes, parsley, ham, chives, and garlic

=Meaty Italian?

Ingredients featured on the package of Mystery Flavor B:

Red onion, rosemary, black peppercorn, brie, scallion, tomato sauce, yellow bell pepper, parsley, salami, and mushrooms

=Salami and brie pizza?

Ingredients featured on the package of Mystery Flavor C:

 Salami, swiss cheese, parsley, red bell pepper, shallot, red peppercorn, chiles, roast chicken, and cilantro
=Asian style meaty sandwich?
Ok, that proved to be harder than I expected. I have faith that you will have better ideas of what these flavors can be.
I’ll taste these in the next couple of days and report back.
But in the meantime, why don’t you take a stab at winning 50,000 pounds?

Honey bread

One of my resolutions for this year is to try more food/products.

While I was in Seoul earlier this month, I discovered that honey bread has become
as popular as waffles at coffee shops all around Korea.

At first, I thought it was something similar to a coffee cake or pound cake.
But I was told that it had a completely different texture and taste.

I had to try it for myself! I dragged my cousin to Zoo Coffee on New Year’s day and we ordered two cappuccinos and an “original” honey bread. (The other options were garlic honey bread, berry honey bread, and ice cream honey bread.) The staff told us that the honey bread would take 10 mins to be ready.

We sat and looked around. It really felt like we were at a zoo.

Inside Zoo Coffee

Me-20= Little girl

The cappuccino was tasty!

Ta-da~ The original honey bread

It was basically a thick piece of fluffy white toast with a very  crispy crust
dusted with sugar and soaked in butter.

And it tasted just like that.

We barely finished it because the bread + sugar + butter combo
was too heavy and filling.
Next time you hear Koreans tell you that most Koreans
don’t like sweet and buttery stuff, remind them of honey bread.

 The best part: the crunchy wall!

Seaweed Chocolate

Since I couldn’t buy a box of the kimchi chocolates, I bought a box of Korean seaweed chocolate instead. I gave away this box as a gift but the recipient kindly shared a piece with me! I’ve finally gotten around to tasting it today.

These are clearly marketed toward Japanese tourists because it says “nori” in Japanese on the right hand side of the box.

The package even looks like mini seaweed packages!

Seaweed vs. Laver

Which one sounds more appetizing?

Do you see the specks of seaweed?

Phase 1: Your mouth is covered in a thin film of milk chocolate which masks the flavor of the seaweed.

Phase 2: Once the chocolate melts, then you get hints of the seaweed from the greenish filling. It’s very subtle.

Phase 3: As the seaweed filling dissolves, you are left with tiny bits of real seaweed.

I really enjoyed the last phase but it made me forget that I just had it with chocolate. I didn’t think this combo would work but I’m pleasantly surprised by it being both novel and comforting at the same time.

 Now I’m craving a steaming bowl of freshly steamed rice and salty seaweed.

living on the edge

Did I ever tell you that I’m allergic to tree nuts?

And I do mean deathly allergic. You know how Will Smith’s face gets all swollen in the movie Hitch?  Yup, that happens to me if I eat large doses of tree nuts.

How do I know? I once had a quarter of a slice of chocolate torte, which had ground hazelnuts in the crust. The reaction was so bad that my facial features disappeared and I became a glob.

Don’t believe me? Ask my sister, the sole witness of my near death experience.

I usually have to ask people to tell me if there are nuts and to remove them for me (proven to be not a very reliable method!). What I actually end up doing is relying on my tongue to determine if I’m allergic to something in the food. But it takes time to taste a little and wait for the slight tingle, which signals the presence of an allergen.

Could my life become hassle free with this allergen detector?

My guess is not but I’d be willing to try one out for a bit.

Candy land

Do you judge a candy by its wrapper?

Our weekly CAFE (Cognition About Food and Eating) meeting started off by tasting two types of Japanese candy.

BLACK: S instantly identified black molasses/burnt sugar. T predicted it to be coffee flavored by the looks of the wrapper and arrived at the same conclusion when he smelled it. Then he decided that it was coffee-prune flavored.

WHITE: S thought it would be evil-spicy tasting because the picture of hello kitty with horns. T playfully imagined that it would taste like CAT. This made everyone crack up and C posed this question: What if you bit into a Cadbury egg and you discovered that it was an actual egg in there?!?

If you were presented with candy that you’ve never had before, how would you figure out what it tastes like before actually putting it in your mouth? Would it be the color, design, words, or shape of the candy and wrapper?

The REAL DEAL

Last night, I went to a potluck for the Food Studies program.

This was the second gathering of the year and it was nice to see new faces.

I made manicotti stuffed with eggplant and squash for the occasion. Maple glazed butternut squash, roasted zucchini, and fruit salad were some of the dishes present.

R(1) brought 5 different types of Ghiradelli chocolate for us to taste.

100%-THE REAL DEAL (This is my interpretation of it), 86%-“Midnight Reverie,” 72%-“Twilight Delight,” 60%-“The Evening Dream,” and a milk chocolate.

I absent-mindedly asked for R(2) to pass me THE REAL DEAL and hooked for the biggest piece. I heard R(1) go: “OOOOooooh” but nothing was going to stop me. I bit a huge hunk and chomped away, happily at first. Then BAM! (just like Emeril says it!)  The bitter, sour, and earthy taste struck me and my face crumpled. R(1), who had been watching intently, burst out laughing.

So is 100% cacao salty? bitter? sour? earthy? Or as L suggested, do we lack the right vocabulary to describe it? Why would Ghiradelli make a 100% cacao bar? For baking? For making mole?

We all proceeded to take tiny bites of THE REAL DEAL and another bar of our choice. I mixed the Midnight Reverie with THE REAL DEAL. It was the perfect combination.

I  guess I enjoy 93% dark chocolate. What’s your favorite percentage?

Battle of the Cheeses

THE MENU

The Cheeses

Murray’s selection: Tickler’s cheddar, double creme brie, and Vermont goat

Local/regional selection: Apple smoked cheddar, leek and morel cheddar, Swiss Connection sharp cheddar, raw gouda, French blue, and Capriole herb goat

Bread and Crackers

Baguette, table water crackers with cracked pepper, and rye crisps topped with a lemon-dill ricotta spread with smoked salmon

Wine

Georges Dubceuf-Beaujolais-villages (2009), Trapiche-Malbec (2010), Cellar No.8-Cabernet Sauvignon (2008), and Staccato-Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon blend (2010)

Condiments

Apples, Anju and Korean pears, nuts, apricot bar, honey, K’s homemade apple butter, and S’ homemade peach and jalapeno preserve

Dessert

Pumpkin bread, M’s chocolate marble cake, and rosemary shortbread cookies

The Authenticators: Eleven of the most dynamic, diverse, and dashing judges

Verdict: Murray’s 2:Local Cheese 1
Tickler’s cheddar, double creme brie, and Capriole goat won the most votes!

A taste of our conversation: Durian, sour tastes, Il Patio, insects, grandpa fashion (socks and pants), wolves turning into dogs, horse meat sausage on pizza in Venice, Dean and Deluca, Peruvian roast chicken, Murray’s bagels, caviar, and orange colored sour cream.

The Enablers: T and N are right on the pulse.

Conflict of Interest: I invited everyone to take a break from our busy schedules and wanted to use this opportunity to introduce friends from different contexts to each other. I hope I was able to spark new friendships. So the cheese tasting took a back seat, just like I hoped it would.