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Clean Plate in Paris

Joe and I just returned from our belated honeymoon voyage to London and Paris. Having something else to look forward to after the wedding planning madness died down was exciting, and it gave us the opportunity to schedule and plan enough things to do to cover two weeks across the globe. Our itinerary was evenly dispersed while still allowing for time to get lost in the two cities and live like the locals do. We cheered on West Ham at a “football match” in East London, had fresh oysters from Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House, saw priceless works of art in both cities, toured Paris by boat in the Seine River, and went to a late evening mass at Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. Of course, we ate some amazing food. And lots of it.

Oysters from Wright Bros.

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Bûche de Noël – French Yule Log

We are now days away from Christmas and I am as ready as I’ll ever be. Sure, I’ve got a menu of items to make for our big “Eve” party this weekend, but I’ve at least finalized what I’ll be serving and need to only make one more trip to the grocery store for our fresh ingredients. Anything else in my pantry, though, has dwindled down to next to nothing, including my compartment of baking ingredients. Only last week it was overflowing with chocolate morsels, flour, granulated and brown sugar and various other things needed to open my home bakery for the holidays.

I was oh-so-proud of my baking cabinet and the sweets it helped me produce: the chocolate chips I had stocked up on to coat my Oreo truffles, the loads of granulated sugar it felt like I used with my candied orange peel, and the various other Christmas treats that remind me why I love to bake. My favorite holiday dessert, which has become a tradition since I first made it years ago, is considered my “pièce de résistance,” and I like to think my family is anticipating its big reveal this Saturday. The classic French Yule log is no joke – if, like me, you soak up every single complement thrown your way regarding any of your dishes, make a Bûche de Noël. You will be the talk of your family holiday party well into 2012. Read More…

Peanut Butter Pie

I’m not an expert on relationships, but if anyone were to ask me advice I would recommend lots of delicious, home cooked meals for a great partnership. Believe me, I’m not preaching the archaic “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” outlook on life (though it is my dream to be locked away in a fully stocked, state-of-the-art, industrial kitchen all day and coincidentally get paid for it). Simply put: the way to a man’s heart is, without a doubt, through his stomach.

Ever since the start of my relationship, I’ve been feeding Joe the best possible dishes I can think of. In the beginning, it was fun to discover what his favorite foods were. On the same token, I learned very quickly what he couldn’t stand; since 2007, my “Chicken Parm” has been “Parm-less”. Parties, birthdays and holidays have been marked with memorable recipes like pastor-style tacos, chocolate bread pudding and apple cider brined turkey. We have also made it through some kitchen disasters, like the Valentine’s Day 2009 homemade lobster ravioli that took us five continuous hours to make; by the time it was ready, we were uninterested.

Just as I win Joe’s affections through my meals, he never fails to tell me how great my food is and he constantly brags about my skills in the kitchen. Plus, his dishwashing skills are on point, even after a four-course meal. Now that we are engaged, I feel even more responsibility to produce amazing dishes and am making it a point to create recipes with his favorite ingredients.

On a regular basis, I catch him with a spoonful of peanut butter, straight from the jar. He could eat peanut butter and jelly every day and be perfectly happy, and all of the desserts he flocks to include the thick, salty spread. This recipe for peanut butter pie might be one of the reasons he asked me to marry him.  Read More…

Beijing Hot Noodles

Across the city, through several neighborhoods and past the large, fancy skyscrapers lies a magical spot like nothing else I’ve found in Philadelphia. Though University City is home to prestigious collegiate institutions and Ivy Leaguers from all over the globe, I’m less fascinated by the geniuses roaming the college campus as I am wide-eyed over the “kitchens on wheels”. Scattered throughout the blocks from 38th to 33rd and Spruce to Chestnut (arguably) are the cities best food trucks. Whatever you’re in search of will be found, as the trucks and carts in the area boast global cuisines, menus catered to anyone from the adventurous palate to the student coming off of an all-nighter, and even vegetarian fare or fruit salad stands for those in need of a lighter lunch.

Food trucks seem to be a somewhat recent trend in the culinary sector, but Philadelphia is extremely familiar with them; one might even say our city was on the forefront of the movement and may just have the best food trucks in the country. Not only are new ones popping up all over the area, the Food Network has dedicated and entire show to cooking from a vehicle and our very own Chef Jose Garces makes his rounds in the Guapos Tacos truck. Heather Shouse, a food writer and contributor to Food & Wine magazine, has one-upped the rest of the food channels and articles covering the fad by not only scouring the country in search of the best food trucks America has to offer, she has also included some of the best recipes she’s encountered in her travels so we can enjoy them in the comfort of our own kitchen.

Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels  is packed with almost 200 pages of coast to coast trucks making anything from juicy burgers, smoky barbecue and SPAM sandwiches to cookies, pudding and other sweet treats. Shouse also included the back story of the trucks, which are sometimes just as exciting as the food they tout. Many respectable, trained chefs choose to leave the limelight of 4-star restaurants in favor of cooking is a tiny kitchen on wheels. Even more inspiring are those with self-taught skills, talent for cooking, and a passion for food, who are simply following their dream of bringing delicious dishes to hungry people.

On 38th Street, between Spruce and Walnut, the Yue Kee Chinese mobile kitchen dishes out traditional Chinese food from a somewhat beat-up, silver truck with a striped awning. The appearance of the vehicle is certainly no reflection of the food, but is a testament to the hours Yue Kee serves the University City community; the truck is open 7 days a week and provides a phone number for pick-up service. If you have trouble spotting it amongst the other food trucks on the either side of the block, just look for the long line of students, professors and locals alike. Read More…

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