July 31, 2014

A Healthy Breakfast

I don't want to sound like a huge cliche but yes, breakfast IS the most important meal! It really helps kick start your metabolism and you will feel less tired and less likely to over eat during the day. We never ate "proper" breakfast food at home until a few years ago. I have fond memories of frosted Pop Tarts, Cap'n Crunch and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (fave!). Three years ago, Mama Bear started going to a personal trainer who was also a certified nutritionist. He set up a meal plan for her which included fresh berries and oatmeal for breakfast. He also suggested that she snack on cherry tomatoes, avocado and nuts throughout the day. Since then, our kitchen has been stocked with only healthy food items. No chips, no peanut butter, nothing. It was tough at first, but we finally caught onto Mama Bear's healthy eating habits. Recently I've been switching between having a sandwich and oatmeal with berries for breakfast. 

Here is one of my favorite breakfast combos: smoked salmon with avocado, cherry tomatoes and Greek yogurt on toasted sour dough. These things taste so good together! And you get vitamins and antioxidants from the tomatoes, Omega-3s from the avocado and salmon, and probiotics from the yogurt. You'll never want to eat plain ham and cheese again.


For 1


1 thick slice of sourdough, toasted
1 slice smoked salmon
1/2 small avocado
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt


  1. Lay the salmon on the sourdough. No butter or mayo needed!
  2. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the avocado into chunks.
  3. Add the yogurt and cherry tomatoes.
  4. Finish with black pepper.

July 15, 2014

Hong Kong - The Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein

It has been a very eventful week for an unemployed person like me. I attended a friend's beautiful wedding, went hiking, and made a few dishes for my blog. Before I tell you about this amazing dinner I had, I want to let you know that I've moved some food-related posts from my old blog to this one. Here are the links!

Los Angeles: Apple Pan, Umami Burger

They are restaurant reviews and recipes from when I was living in Vancouver. Enjoy!

Now back to the dinner I had over the weekend. Friday night was date night, so naturally, I got to pick where we would be having dinner. Midtown Plaza II opened recently across Times Square in Hong Kong, housing many new restaurants and office spaces. Harlan Goldstein's two new restaurants Sushi To and Penthouse by HG were situated on the top 2 floors of the building. Jamie's Italian will be opening soon in the same building. I've heard great things about Penthouse, so I called to make a reservation 4 days ahead and was told that only the 9:30pm slot was available. We arrived at 8:45pm hoping to grab drinks at the bar and were pleasantly surprised to find out that our table was ready. The first thing I noticed was the gorgeous view of Victoria Harbour and the high-rise buildings with neon-lights across the water. Nothing beats the Hong Kong skyline at night. The restaurant was mainly bathed in dark colors but had spots of light directly over the area of the place mats on your table. It was as if they designed it on purpose so we could take well-lit photos of our food! Everything was delicious. The one thing I didn't like was how the servers seemed to be were rushing us. They whisked away my dish right after I had put the last bite into my mouth. I wasn't even done chewing. After we were done with our main courses, our server took away our dishes and immediately put the dessert menu on the table without saying a word. Other than that, I had an enjoyable time at Penthouse.

Bread and pesto: I have mentioned how much I liked the pesto at Harlan's other restaurant Gold before, and this was no different. Fresh and tangy. Scooped up all of it with the warm crusty bread.

Grilled Italian Baby Squid with Chorizo, Haricot Beans & Saffron Aioli: The buttery grilled squid was cooked to perfection. The red sauce reminded me of a Mediterranean stew with the beans and chorizo. It was sweet, a bit tangy, and slightly spicy. The delicious aioli brightened up the hearty dish. Wish they gave us more aioli!

Spanish Red Prawn Spaghetti In My Secret Sauce: This was my favorite dish of the night. The fragrant umami sauce came from using a copious amount of toasted Sakura shrimp, which was a nice refreshing take on the red prawn pasta that is common nowadays on the menu of Hong Kong restaurants. The two huge prawns on top of the homemade al dente spaghetti were cooked just right and the juices from the heads blended perfectly into the sauce. The sauce was slightly spicy and the flavour lingered. It went really well with our wine. I liked how the ratio of sauce and patio was very balanced. The sauce coated every strand of pasta and it was almost like a lo mein (Chinese noodles stirred with a sauce).

Spanish Duroc Pork Ribs Bomba Rice with Chorizo and Piquillo Peppers: This was delicious. Each grain of Bomba rice had absorbed all the beautiful flavors of the broth (I think there was saffron and pimenton in it). The pork ribs had a nice caramelised crust and the meat was falling off the bone. However there was a thick layer of fat under the crust which was just a mouthful of oil. Loved how the fragrant chorizo and piquillo peppers seasoned the dish with their strong distinct taste. I also liked the crunch from the green beans and the crispy rice on the bottom of the dish.

Tater Tots with Blue Cheese Dip: I love tater tots. Ate them all the time growing up. These tots were perfectly fried and not greasy at all. The blue cheese was mild but didn't taste like the gloopy kind from a bottle. There were at least 25 tots per portion and sadly we couldn't eat them all. If you are going with a group, please order these! You will not be disappointed. I also dipped them in the aioli that came with the bomba rice. Delicious.

Verdict: Very pleased with the food. Looking forward to my next visit to try their mac & cheese and steak!

The Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein
Address: 30/F, Midtown, 1 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay
Phone: 2970 0828
Website: www.penthouse-dining.com

July 10, 2014

Grilled Sardines and Tuscan Bread Salad Part 2

This is the perfect summer salad and a great accompaniment to the grilled sardinesPanzanella is a Tuscan salad made with crusty bread and tomatoes. The addition of feta and roasted red peppers gives it a Mediterranean flair. The original recipe called for anchovies in the dressing, but I didn't have any on hand so I just added a tiny bit of sea salt. The dressing came out perfect. I really liked this salad because it was super easy to make and very delicious. The sweet cherry tomatoes went well with the fragrant basil/balsamic dressing, and the creamy tangy feta was a boost of flavour. The only thing I didn't like was how the toasted ciabatta absorbed the sauce quickly and became soggy. When I make this salad again, I will be sure to add the ciabatta last. Enjoy!

Oops the pancetta was for the sardines, but here are the main components for this salad: feta, roasted red peppers, capers, cherry tomatoes and ciabatta. 

Blend together a clove of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spring onion, basil and 3-4 cherry tomatoes. The original recipe used 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, but it was such a waste of the beautiful tomatoes, so I used only 3. It was enough to create a dressing-like consistency. 

I followed the original recipe and added the toasted ciabatta before the tomatoes. The bread absorbed a lot of the sauce and became soggy real fast. I have altered the recipe below to reflect this.

Recipe - adapted from Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals 

For 2


½ small ciabatta loaf
1 clove garlic
extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups mixed color cherry tomatoes, halved
½ bunch spring onion, ends trimmed
½ bunch fresh basil
1 tablespoon capers
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, cut into 1-inch chunks
Handful feta cheese

  1. Cut the ciabatta into 1 inch thick slices and toast them on both sides on a pan.
  2. Peel the garlic and put into a blender or food processor with 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic, 3-4 cherry tomatoes, spring onions and basil. Blend until it becomes smooth. Pour into a large serving bowl.
  3. Halve the remaining tomatoes and add to the bowl, along with the capers and peppers. Toss.
  4. Tear the toasted ciabatta into thumb-sized pieces into the bowl and toss once only to coat. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil to finish.
  5. Garnish with torn basil leaves and feta.
  6. Serve immediately with the grilled sardines.

July 9, 2014

Boston - Toro

For our second day in Boston, we wanted to check out Toro. Aside from Neptune, V told me amazing things about Toro, but also warned me about the crazy wait during dinner service. We went around 12pm for the lunch service instead and didn't have to wait at all. We were one of the first customers to arrive! It was really hot that day, but for some odd reason, we decided to sit outdoors because there was a nice breeze. After maybe 10 minutes, it got blindingly sunny, and the breeze had left us. I wanted to switch tables to one that was under the canopy, but the outdoor seating was already full by then. I kept hoping the sun would gradually hide behind a building but it never did, and my shoulders were tanned by the end of lunch. The boyfriend could not escape the horrible fate of obtaining a farmer's tan either. However, the amazing food made up for it and the photos came out great under natural sunlight! 

Our server came over quickly with menus. I literally wanted everything on the menu. I had a hard time deciding on which dishes I wanted to try, because we only had two mouths. We needed to be strategic. I wanted the corn, and he wanted the paella. The server was helpful and recommended that we order 4-6 dishes between us, but since we wanted the paella, he said 4 would be enough. We then decided on the bone marrow/oxtail and tuna from the cold tapas section. And good thing we only ordered 4 dishes. Our server kept refilling our bread and we found ourselves mopping up the delicious sauces of every dish! I left Toro a very happy customer with a full belly.

 He ordered a Spanish beer and I ordered a Gypsy - gin, elderflower, yellow chartreuse, lime: This was light and sweet, at first. I could taste a hint of the elderflower, but mostly a citrus note. Then after a few sips I was feeling the gin. Not such a light drink anymore, but overall enjoyable.

 Atun Crude - Yellowfin tuna with soy, spicy cucumbers, citrus and avocado: It may not look like it, but this dish was bursting with flavours: sour, sweet, spicy and savoury all at the same time. It had just the right amount of tanginess from the garlic/citrus sauce and kick from the kimchi cucumbers, balanced by the rich avocado cream.

Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija - Grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese: Oh dear. It pains me just to look at this photo. The corn was heavenly. I engulfed it within seconds. The corn was sweet and juicy with a lightly-charred smokiness, slathered in a delicious homemade creamy alioli (Spanish garlic mayonnaise). The spicy pepper and lime added a kick while the cheese sprinkled on top added saltiness. Loved every bit of it!

Asado de Huesos - Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade: I was shocked when this dish came. The marrow was as long as my knife (there were two!) and the oxtail sandwiches were stacked high. ALL this gluttony for $12! That's less than $100 HKD. Unbelievable. Aside from the huge portions, I was also blown away by how delicious this dish was. The bone marrow was cooked and seasoned perfectly. It just dissolved on my tongue, leaving behind a rich and buttery taste. The radish and mandarin/clementine mixture was a crucial component to this dish, because it cut through the fattiness of both the marrow and oxtail. Without the addition of the citrus flavours, the dish would've been way too rich and greasy to finish.

Sangria: Not on the menu, but the server told us that they had white or red sangria. It tasted alright, a bit too OJ-ish to me though. It would've been better with a touch of nutmeg or cinnamon.

Here's a closeup of the oxtail marmalade. It was a delicious work of art: oxtail meat removed from the bone cooked into a delicious "marmalade" with carrots, shallots, sugar and red wine, piled high on toasted ciabatta. The marmalade melted in my mouth and I could taste all the savoury and sweet components. The sandwich was a perfect ratio of meat to bread, so every bite had beefy goodness and a satisfying crunch from the ciabatta. We both agreed that this was one of the best things we have ever eaten.

Paella Valenciana - Mussels, clams, shrimp, Spanish pork sausage, chicken, and Calasparra rice: It is very easy to mess up a paella, because you want to strike a perfect balance between having the rice al-dente, the sauce reduced and the seafood just done, not rubbery and overcoooked.  This paella was a winner. The shrimps were succulent and fresh, the clams were briny and plump and the mussels were sweet. The sauce was well seasoned, and the bottom had crisped up to form a crunchy layer of rice. We ordered the half-portion for this dish, and as you can see in the picture below, it's quite a huge portion for 2 people. I recommend sharing this between 3-4 people. 

And this is me battling an intense food coma and burnt shoulders. zZzZzzz

Verdict: LOVED this place! If I'm ever in Boston again, Toro will be my first stop. 

Toro on Urbanspoon

July 8, 2014

Grilled Sardines with Tuscan Bread Salad Part 1

I'm all about weeknight dinners that are fast and hassle-free. Bonus points if they are healthy and nutritious! This recipe was taken from Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals. The book had some amazing recipes (and beautiful photographs), but I was skeptical about how fast a home cook could make these meals. For me, the whole process (sardines plus salad) took about 30 minutes, between prepping the sardines and vegetables, blending sauces and taking photos of everything. But nonetheless, super fast meal! I will share with you the Grilled Sardines first, and the Tuscan Bread Salad in another post. When I made this meal, I dealt with the sardines first, and started on the salad when the sardines were in the oven. The two dishes were done pretty much at the same time. 

I forgot to buy chilis at the market but luckily we had some growing in a pot outside our home! However they weren't fully grown yet and were super tiny. I decided to add them in anyway.

Baby chilis :)

The sauce consisted of spring onions, parsley, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, and chilis. For those who hate parsley, you will be glad to know that this sauce came out light and citrusy. The parsley was not overpowering.

Spread the mixture on a pan just large enough for the sardines and lay the sardines skin side up. Sprinkle the pancetta around. You can omit the pancetta, but using just a tiny bit won't do too much damage! It adds a nice smoky flavour and crunch to the dish.

After a quick 8 minutes, the sardines will be nice and crispy on top, moist and flaky on the bottom. I served the sardines just like that in the pan with the beautiful green sauce.

Verdict: I will definitely make these sardines again, but with regular sized chilis. My dish was missing a bit of heat. 

Recipe - adapted from Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals

For 2


4 spring onions (tops and white ends removed)
½ a fresh red chilli
½ bunch of fresh parsley
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
6 fresh sardines, heads removed, scaled and butterflied
Handful of cubed pancetta

  1. Set your oven grill onto high.
  2. Put the spring onions, chilli, parsley, fennel, lemon juice, salt and olive oil in a processor, and blend until it forms a paste.
  3. Rub the paste onto a baking tray and lay the sardines on top, skin side up.
  4. Dot the pancetta throughout the sardines.
  5. Grill until golden and crispy, about 8 minutes.

July 4, 2014

New York - Clinton Street Baking Company

Good morning New York! What an incredible view to wake up to every morning. It was our second day in the city and we were still jet-lagged because of the 12-hour time difference between Hong Kong and New York. We woke up around 7 am and couldn't go back to sleep, so we went for a jog in Central Park. By the time we were done, it was pretty much dinner time back home, so a big breakfast was in order (the only thing I like about jet lag!). My guru-for-all-things-food Laubaby blogged about Clinton Street Baking Co. before and it was exactly what we wanted - eggs, grease and pancakes. 

We arrived 30 minutes before opening time, and there were already at least twenty people in line. Five minutes before they opened for service, a woman came out to take down our names and the number of people in each party. After that, we were promptly seated. Apparently we were the last ones to get seated and the rest had to wait another hour! Sooo glad we came early!

Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter sauce: These pancakes were by far the best pancakes I've ever had. You can also pick banana walnut or chocolate chunk, but blueberry is the one that everyone orders. The pancakes were slightly crispy on the outside and super fluffy on the inside. The blueberry topping wasn't too sweet, which I liked. And that maple butter! Oh em gee it was so delicious. I love the combination of sweet and salty, and this really hit the spot. The sauce is really rich though, so I recommend dipping instead of pouring the sauce over the pancakes.

So fluffy and moist!

I ordered the Southern Breakfast: Two eggs, sugar-cured bacon, cheese grits and fried green tomatoes. The crispy bacon was my favorite. Sweet and salty! The green tomatoes were delicious too. They were coated in seasoned breadcrumbs and deep fried. The grits were okay, but overpowered the bacon and tomatoes. It kind of tasted like cheesy polenta, which I felt didn't go well with the other items.

He ordered the Country Breakfast: 3 eggs, hash, buttermilk biscuit and Heritage maple cured ham. This was pretty standard diner fare. The ham looked dry but it was surprisingly juicy and sweet with a hint of smokiness. I didn't try the biscuit but the boyfriend said it was buttery and flaky.

Verdict: Come for the pancakes! And come early. 

Clinton St. Baking Company on Urbanspoon

July 2, 2014

Smoked Salmon and Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt

People often mistake potatoes for being unhealthy and fat, but they are actually a really good source of vitamins and nutrients. Potatoes are a complex carb, which are different from the carbs you get from sugary things, so they leave you feeling full for longer. However, potatoes are bad when they are fried, piled high with sour cream and bacon, or made into a buttery mash. It's how they are cooked that give them a bad reputation. The fat and calories come from oil and heavy fattening additives. Like mayonnaise. I love potato salad. Chunks of potato lathered in mayonnaise make the perfect side to any summertime meal. But mayonnaise is high in fat and calories, so I wanted to make a light yet satisfying dish that would tick all the boxes of my craving.

The original recipe I found online used crème fraîche, but I opted for low-fat Greek yogurt to make the dish much healthier. I love using Greek yogurt because it adds richness with a lot less fat, sugar and calories. It has a creamier texture and taste compared to regular yogurt, and has more protein and less lactose. The potato salad turned out delicious. The dressing tasted like a light mayo, brightened with lemon juice. The smoked salmon added extra flavor to the dish (and Omega-3s!) and the spring onion and black pepper added sharpness that cuts through the creaminess. Overall, it was a delicious, guilt-free dish!

This dish only uses five ingredients: potatoes, smoked salmon, Greek yogurt, chives or spring onion, and a squeeze of lemon. 

I cut the potatoes into slices and then quarters, but you can cube them or cut them however you like, as long as they are similar in size to ensure an even cook. If they are medium to large potatoes with a dark brown fuzzy skin, you should peel the skin before cooking.

Cover the potatoes with cold water and a teaspoon of salt. Then bring to a boil and let simmer until just turning soft. You still want your potatoes to have a bite to it and not be a pile of mush.

Mixed the smoked salmon and chives into the yogurt. Add a squeeze of lemon and freshly ground black pepper. Then add in the slightly cooled potatoes and mix well.

Recipe - adapted from here

For two as a side

3 slices smoked salmon, chopped
2 medium potatoes, or 3 small ones
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons of fresh chives or spring onion
Squeeze of lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water and season with salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking until the potatoes can be pierced by the tip of a knife, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook or they will turn mushy. Drain and let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, chopped salmon, spring onion, black pepper in a large.
  3. When potatoes have cooled slightly but are still warm, add to bowl and toss to combine and coat with dressing. Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge and serve cold.