Fish Bar

Hi all, its been a while! I’ve been in Chicago for about three months now, and culinary school has started for me. Chicago is an amazing city and I love it here. I have also gotten a job at Honey Butter Fried Chicken and I have learned a lot from there. I have still been cooking and baking at home, but I didn’t get the chance to pick up some photo-worthy dinnerware until two days ago. I can’t really give a solid reason as to why I haven’t been blogging (its many reasons, really), but I’m back with a review on the Fish Bar!

Gumbo - Blue crab, andouille sausage

Gumbo – Blue crab, andouille sausage

This was my and J’s (my boyfriend) second time here, and we came here knowing that we wanted the gumbo again. The gumbo is incredibly flavorful, spicy and full of chicken flavor. It has great sausage chunks, some seafood (I believe), and rice. Its perfect for a cold day. I would highly recommend the gumbo, perhaps even getting it again should we go back.

Soup of the Day - Lobster Butternut Squash Bisque

Soup of the Day – Lobster Butternut Squash Bisque

The lobster bisque was the soup of the day, and it was finished with butternut squash. I am a big fan of crustaceans in general, and the soup shouted “LOBSTER” to me. It had butternut squash in it as well, so it ended on a sweet note, and they seem to like their soups spicy so there was that as well. There were no garnishes for this soup, which is very traditional of lobster bisques, but I would have appreciated perhaps a couple of cubes of butternut squash or lobster.

Lemon Rings - Lemon, onions, jalapenos

Lemon Rings – Lemon, onions, jalapenos

We ordered lemon rings to share. Last time, we ordered tater tots, which are fingerling potatoes with herbs and olive oil. J opted for lemon rings to change things up a little. Lemon rings are deep fried lemon slices, onions and jalapenos. The lemons were very bitter, of course, but with a tang that you would expect from a lemon. I suspect the dish is as an accompaniment to beer, as I could see the bitterness working out. We did not order any drinks, so we were not a big fan of the lemons. Too bitter for J’s taste and I don’t really like lemons or limes. However, the onions and the jalapenos were very good and we ate all of those. The jalapenos can get a little spicy, but paired with onions they were amazing.

Crabby Patty - Old Bay mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion

Crabby Patty – Old Bay mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion

The Crabby Patty, which is a crab cake sandwich, was really good as well. It had great crab flavor. I do wish they put a little more mayo on it, or the mayo tasted more strongly of old bay, which would have really brought the sandwich over the top.

Octopus a la plancha - Cannellini beans, zucchini, lemons, capers, parsley

Octopus a la plancha – Cannellini beans, zucchini, lemons, capers, parsley

Finally, I got the Octopus a la plancha, which means grilled. Its served with cannellini beans, zucchini, lemons, capers, and parsley. I probably should have thought twice about ordering this dish, because it is very obviously a summer dish. The bright and acidic flavors were good, but not very warming on a cold October day. The beans were also a little undercooked to my liking. The octopus was grilled to perfection, tender and not chewy. The octopus tasted buttery and zesty, but it didn’t taste like octopus at all. It was a well executed dish, but I probably wouldn’t get it again because of the lack of octopus flavor.

Despite my (seemingly) negative review, I would go back to this place again. I love that they only use wild caught or responsibly raised seafood, and although the portions are small, the flavors are big. Have you been to Fish Bar before? What do you think about it?

Fish Bar
2956 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL
(773) 687-8177

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Project Wedding Cake

Hi all! Its been a hectic past week for me because MY BEST FRIEND GOT MARRIED TWO DAYS AGO. It was an exciting and happy event, filled with dancing and eating and general fun. And as you’ve guessed from the title of this post, I was asked to make the wedding cake. She only asked me a month before the wedding, and at first I was very nervous about it. I’ve never made a great tasting layered cake before, and the ones I have made usually 1) don’t look so great, and 2) don’t taste awesome. Thankfully though, I’ve made bad layered cakes before, so I knew what to watch out for. Thus started my journey of making a perfect wedding cake for my best friend.

Bride and Groom with the wedding cake

Bride and Groom with the wedding cake

Wedding cake:

One of my most trusted recipe blog sites is Smitten Kitchen, so I headed over right away to find a wedding cake recipe. Finding a wedding cake recipe is important because cakes tend to be heavy, and stacking them usually results in a dense cake. Although there is that fine balance between texture and being stackable, it was more important that my cake didn’t crumble under its own weight. Thankfully, Deb has made a wedding cake before, and her recipe is delicious. I decided to make both cakes, although I quickly realized the chocolate cake is very tender. My friend asked for a two-tiered cake, and although I would much prefer to have lots of chocolate cake for the bottom tier, I was afraid that the cake would not hold. Thus, I decided the bottom would be the yellow butter vanilla cake and the top would be chocolate cake. One of my baking habits is to NOT use vanilla unless the flavor of vanilla is a prominent feature (such as creme brulee), and that back fired on me on the big (baking) day. I forgot to use vanilla on the cake. =( Fortunately, the buttercream got some, so it all worked out. My final recipe is:

Yellow Butter Cake (for 8×3 inch cake pan):

  • 300g cake flour
  • 19g baking powder
  • 300g sugar
  • 7.5 oz butter, cubed, slightly chilled
  • 180g buttermilk
  • 48g buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  1. Line your cake pan fully with parchment paper.
  2. Add cake flour, baking powder, some salt, and sugar together into a LARGE bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer, Cream the butter into the dry ingredients by adding a piece of butter at a time. This helps the cake rise evenly without doming.
  4. Add the 180g buttermilk to the creamed mixture, and whisk the batter until light and fluffy.
  5. Whisk 48g buttermilk with 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks.
  6. Add egg mixture in to the batter. Mix until smooth. Pour into cake pan.
  7. Bake at 325C for 1 hour and 20 minutes

Chocolate Cake (for 6×3 inch cake pan):

  • 180g hot water for coffee/cocoa mix
  • 64g cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp instant coffee/ espresso powder / strong coffee
  • 180g cake flour
  • 225g sugar
  • 10g baking soda
  • 5g salt
  • 6oz butter, cubed, slightly chilled
  • 144g buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 eggs (24 g = half an egg)
  1. Line your cake pan fully with parchment paper.
  2. Make strong coffee using 180g hot water. This could mean brewing your own coffee, or using a couple of packets of espresso powder in water. I typically do 3 tbsp of instant coffee. Just taste the coffee – you want it to be fairly bitter.
  3. Add the 64g cocoa powder into the strong coffee and mix. There will be clumps but don’t worry about it.  Set aside.
  4. Again, cream the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, salt with cubed butter using an electric mixer.
  5. Pour the 144g buttermilk in to the creamed mixture again, and whisk until light and fluffy. You can add some of the coffee/cocoa mixture in as a reference to see when the batter has become lighter.
  6. Add 1 and 1/2 eggs into the coffee/cocoa mixture, and whisk until smooth.
  7. Pour coffee mixture into cake batter, and mix until smooth.
  8. Pour batter into 6×3 cake pan, 3/4ths high up. There will be tons left over, so I typically pour the rest into a pyrex dish and bake it as well.
  9. Bake at 325C for 50 minutes

Fillings:

The next thing to decide was flavors. At first I just wanted to be boring and use buttercream between the layers. However, upon reading all of Deb’s post for the wedding cake she made, I was inspired to do lemon curd for the yellow butter cake and raspberry for the chocolate layer. I knew the bride liked lemon tarts (cause I made her one a few months ago), and raspberry with chocolate is always a good combo. I opted for using Serious Eat’s lemon curd recipe (without the strawberry part). The raspberry part took a little more fiddling with. My recipe ended up being 200g frozen raspberries, 50g sugar, 30g corn starch (dissolved in minimal water) and created a congealed raspberry glob that was thick enough to create a nice, thick layer of raspberry in between the chocolate cake layers. The congealed part was important because I didn’t want the sauce to be flowing out of the cake once the layers were stacked on, and I found that unless the raspberry layer was thick, its flavor was not very prominent as I had hoped.

Project Wedding Cake 2

Buttercream:

To my dismay, the buttercream recipe Deb provides at Smitten Kitchen tastes like butter. And while that is awesome for cake making, eating a cake with that buttercream recipe tasted like I was rubbing my mouth down with sticks of butter. My favorite buttercream recipe is from the book The Science of Good Cooking (Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks) (which I HIGHLY recommend), but it is unfortunately at the bottom of my many boxes that are waiting to be moved to Chicago. So I turned to Serious Eats for another recipe. I don’t always count on Serious Eats for good baking recipes, but since it came with a slideshow regarding the technique to creating buttercream, I went along with it. The fact that it called for egg whites in grams also made it seem very promising. It turned out to be utterly delicious, and it is now my new favorite. Although the recipe calls for 1 lbs of butter, I typically add just enough butter just to get it to turn from a water-based emulsion to a butter-based emulsion, so the consistency tends to be loose.  This is usually calls for 3 to 3 1/2 sticks of butter. I flavored the buttercream with vanilla extract in the end. The buttercream is not a big part of the flavors of the cake however, because I used just enough to “glue” the fondant to the cake. Which finally brings us to….

Fondant:

What. A. Bitch. Fondant was by far the hardest thing to deal with while making the cake, but to be fair I’ve never worked with fondant prior to making this wedding cake. As for the recipe, I wasn’t choosy so I just went over to foodnetwork.com and found a fondant recipe. Translated into weights, that recipe means 60g water, 1 packet of gelatine (~8g), 170g light corn syrup or glucose, 28g glycerine, and ~2lbs sugar, depending on how much I work in. I think the trick to working with fondant is to try to not work too much sugar in initially, and then use tons of sugar while you are rolling it out to prevent it from sticking to the table/itself. If you add too much sugar into the fondant (rolling it out too many times due to rips, or working too much sugar into the fondant to begin with), the surface of the fondant won’t be smooth and end up looking like elephant skin.

Design:

Finally, the most fun part of a wedding cake: design! I chose to go with a simple quilted pattern (like a Channel bag), and used buttercream to glue on pale yellow beads. I cut a cardboard into a triangle, and traced the edge into the fondant using the rounded tip of a butter knife. I used 2.5 cm intervals between each line. The yellow beads the bride got for me from Michael’s. Near the big (baking) day, I was told a two-tiered cake would look tiny on the table, so the bride got me a 10x3inch and 12x3inch Styrofoam fake cakes to cover with fondant. In the end it required 1 1/2 buttercream recipes, 2 1/2 fondant recipes to cover everything properly, since the fake cake portion needed buttercream as well (as glue). The bride also asked her florist to put some flowers on top as decoration.

Tons of thanks to my wonderful helper, Demi Wang

Tons of thanks to my wonderful helper, Demi Wang

And finally, I would like to thank everyone who was encouraged me through this long process of learning how to make a wedding cake, and all of those that I have stuffed the cake down the throats of. 7 cake trials, 6.5 hours on the big (baking) day, and the magic of one florist later, the cake was baked.

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Korea Garden

The Korean food scene in Pittsburgh tends to be very pricey, and I believe Korea Garden is one of the cheaper places. However, they recently remodeled (sometime during March?) and they’ve raised the prices since then. It doesn’t deter me from coming back because I think they have the best soon dubu I’ve ever had.

Soon dubu

Soon dubu

I really like this dish because of the depth of flavor they put into the broth. Its just incredibly… brothy. It tastes like lots of different seafood has been cooked with the broth, which makes the flavor very complex. The egg comes precooked inside the soup, which is not typical, but I don’t mind. The rice they serve is also very delicious, and a little soup with some rice is amazing.

Spicy cold soba noodles

Spicy cold soba noodles

Non-spicy cold soba noodles

Non-spicy cold soba noodles

 

My roommates ordered a cold stringy soba noodle dish, one with the spicy Korean pepper sauce and one without. The dish comes with Asian pear, an egg, and various vegetables. Supposedly the cold broth is supposed to be a beef based broth, but it tasted more like a seafood based broth (perhaps seaweed?). My Korean roommate commented that the flavors of the dish were not typical. I thought it was pretty good, but I was completely weirded out by a cold broth soup. I guess, its an interesting dish.

Typical side dishes

Typical side dishes

So this post concludes my last post (for a while) in Pittsburgh. I am leaving for Toronto, and then I will settle in Chicago for culinary school. I’m not sure how often I will be posting in Toronto (since I am poor and lack equipment to bake), but during August in Chicago I will definitely try to update!

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Sesame Wafers

From my blogroll, the one that always makes me want to try their recipe is Pores au Chocolat. Maybe its because she’s British, and so all the things she makes seems new and exciting (let’s face it, American blogs seem to only care about making cakes, cupcakes, pies, or scones/biscuits).  Or maybe its the simplicity of her photography and recipes that draws me to it. Or maybe its the fact that all her recipes are posted in weight as opposed to cups, and in the metric system no less. Either way, when I’m feel like I need to step out of the usual desserts I make, I turn to her for some good recipes.

Sesame Wafers 1

I think what drawn me to this recipe was the use of sesame. I usually don’t see white sesame used in sweets, but black sesame is one of my favorite flavors or fillings in Asian desserts. I followed the sesame wafers recipe here, except for halving the recipe (I didn’t want to make 50 of these things), and substituting dark brown sugar for light brown sugar (its what I had on hand). Also, my cookies turned out baked at 6 minutes, and burnt at 10, so if you plan on making these be sure to check your oven often.

Sesame Wafers 2

The texture reminded me of the brandy snaps I made last year, also from Poires au Chocolat. Both cookies/wafers were lacy and sugary. However, the toasted white sesame seeds gave it an incredibly savory flavor that reminded me of some sort of childhood snack. They are very delicious, and it is unfortunate that I burnt my first batch. I wish mine were perfectly round like hers, but hey taste is more important. If you are interested in making these, head over to Poires au Chocolat and check out the recipe!

Sesame Wafers 3

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Park Bruges Cafe

I’ve been to Point Brugge, its sister restaurant many, many times. In fact, it is one of my first blog posts! I never really had a reason to come to Park Bruges Cafe over Point Brugge, but they do have poutine which is very exciting. A couple of weeks ago we decided to eat here because it was on the way to my driver’s test, and the instant I saw the breakfast poutine I knew I had to get it.

Brunch Style Poutine - Fried egg, Amish cheese curds, Parma sausage gravy

Brunch Style Poutine – Fried egg, Amish cheese curds, Parma
sausage gravy

I had really high expectations for this poutine because Point Brugge makes amazing fries, and Point Brugge makes good food in general. I was disappointed though, because the fries were mediocre and the gravy was also just mediocre. I do think the idea of a brunch poutine is genius, but the end product just didn’t live up to the hype. The fries didn’t seem freshly fried, so not incredibly crispy nor did it have the potato flavor that I wanted. The gravy wasn’t very flavorful, and perhaps a little too salty. Overall the combination of average parts created an average dish. Its not worth coming back for, but I would like to try some of their other items on the menu.

Have you been here before? If so, what did you think about it?

Park Bruges Cafe
5801 Bryant St, Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 661-3334

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