Monday, December 29, 2008

Airplane Food

"When I learn to fly (high)..."

I write this entry as I fly back to Boston after a wonderful and relaxing holiday back home. As I look wistfully at the slumbering man in the seat next to me, I curse my store-brand (useless) sleeping pills which had left me lethargic yet uncomfortably awake. Thankfully, the arrival of lunch provided a temporary relief from the nauseating boredom of the flight.

The combination of hunger, my general abhorrence of flying, and extreme boredom severely deteriorated my usually critical eye towards food. Nevertheless, even in my weakened state, I concur that airplane food is as bad as people claim. The grilled chicken strips in my salad tasted mushy and made me question if the strips were actually from a real chicken. The “feta” cheese tasted like plastic. I also had a sneaking suspicion that the salad was just a larger and better presented version of the meal in coach. Ironically, the tortilla soup was the tastiest part of the meal, and I usually cannot stand soups. Although the soup was a bit salty, it contained a good consistency of corn and tomatoes. By dipping my roll (which was fortunately served soft and warm) in the soup, I was able to offset the overly flavorful soup with the blandness of the roll. The dessert, a “fresh” chopped fruit bowl, looked presentable but was served as warm as the soup, which made me think that there was a high probability that consumption might lead to food poisoning.

All and all, the happiest moment of the flight was the landing.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Casa Romero / Boston Pops [Boston]

By: Finance Foodie 

Snowstorms in Boston are not to be tangoed with, for they are cold, windy, and downright dangerous for a warm-blooded Texan like myself. However, this past weekend, I strapped on my best (only) pair of snow boots and braved the 5 inch deep snow to have dinner at Casa Romero and attend the Boston Pops holiday concert. I had been looking forward the Holiday Pops show for over a month, and my stubborn resolve insisted I go…snowstorm be d*mned!
Winter Wonderland?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blue Ginger / ASPIRE [Boston]

By: Finance Foodie

I always like to find ways to combine my love of food with giving back to the community (fyi, some of us finance types have interests other than making gobs of money). Therefore, I want to alert all of you to the Blue Ginger/ASPIRE holiday fundraiser.

ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating In Reaching Excellence) is an organization that provides underserved Asian-American high school girls with mentoring and leadership training. This December, when you donate $40 or more towards this worthy cause, you're entered into a raffle to win a four-course dinner with wine pairings at Blue Ginger, as well as a copy of Ming's Master Recipes: a tasty reward indeed! The details are below and you can donate here.

Blue Ginger, a Asian fusion restaurant located in Wellesley, MA, is owned by the highly regarded and very attractive chef Ming Tsai (you might have seen him on his show Simply Ming on PBS or on People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful list). I had the pleasure of dining here a few weeks ago with a member of my SupperClub and her wonderful family and friends.

Since I...errr....forgot to take pictures of the food*, I cannot consider this entry to be a full length review (A review without visuals is as painful as a blind man at the Louvre). However, I do want to highlight my delicious entree, the miso marinated butterfish (which, unlike the implication of the fish's name, was not greasy at all). The butterfish was extremely tender and flaky, and the miso sauce added just the right amount of "kick".

I must confess, I forgot to take food pictures* because my main mission of the night was to meet Chef Ming. And we would of missed him were it not for our awesome (and well tipped) waitress who alerted us to his impending departure. Upon hearing this, our table immediately rallied like the stock market after an interest rate cut to catch him before he left. Awesomely, Ming was incredible gracious and chatted /posed for pics with our party.

What's cookin', good lookin' :)

So readers, the moral of this pseudo-review is: A donation to ASPIRE is your chance to have a great meal and meet a great chef, while helping a great cause. Afterall, 'tis the season to be jolly and (j)enerous!

Blue Ginger
583 Washington St
Wellesley, MA 02482

Blue Ginger on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pizza Pie-er [Boston]

By: Finance Foodie

It was a cold and windy Boston weekend, which equates to days filled with watching even more trashy reality TV than usual. But, I did manage to pull myself away from The Hills marathon long enough to grab lunch at Pizza Pie-er, a local pizzeria that serves "one-of-a-kind" pizzas. I decided to brave the cold and walk to the restaurant, as I figured I could use some fresh air/exercise (plus, given the current economic situation, I felt it best to cut back on discretionary spending, i.e. delivery fees)

I immediately became skeptical when I realized I was the only customer in Pizza Pie-er. As far as the restaurant itself, the d├ęcor was a bit cheezy (pun intended), with “pizza pies” as tables and garishly colorful chairs.

However, I found the menu to be quite impressive, with a wide selection of specialty pizzas with many non-traditional toppings. I am very picky when it comes to my pizzas, so my eyes immediately fell to the “build your own pizza” side of the menu. There were four options for the crust (white, wheat, multi grain, and veggie), numerous sauce options (ranged from the standard red tomato paste to the more exotic cilantro pesto), and a wide variety of toppings. After assessing my risk (weight gain) /reward (gastronomical fulfillment) profile, I decided to get the 7” multigrain crusted pizza with the ground walnut, olive oil, garlic & parmesan sauce, topped with mushrooms and prosciutto.

I could see my reflection on the grease!

The pizza itself was extremely delicious but incredibly greasy. I was a big fan of the crust, as it was a bit crispy at the bottom (tasted like a pan-seared pizza!). The ground walnut sauce was awesome; it was brilliantly flavorful and the nuttiness balanced the saltiness of the prosciutto. After finishing my personal sized pizza, I fell into a food coma and ended up taking a nap for 2 hours (so much for my Sunday errands).

My pizza was only about $3 (after using my $5 gift certificate), so I cannot complain about the price. I would like to come back to this place, as the food was tasty and I would like to try out other creative pizza combinations. However, I would recommend visiting this place only sparingly, as the high grease factor would likely contribute to heart attacks/laziness.

Pizza Pie-er
182 Massachusetts Ave.
Boston , MA 02115
Pizza Pie-Er on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sweet Celeb Encounters at Wakiya (CLOSED) and Rose Bar New York

By: Finance Foodie

So I try not to write about the past, but I felt compelled to write a post about my visit a few months back to Wakiya and the Rose Bar, both which are located in the insanely trendy Gramercy Park Hotel (GPH). I feel this past sojourn is notable because:
(1.) Wakiya is SHUTTING DOWN on Dec 21, 2008
(2.) Multiple celeb sightings / celeb chef

Rose Bar
I arrived at the GPH a bit earlier than the rest of my dinner companions (sketchy cabbie was quiet a speeder). Since I was afraid to be mistaken for a prostitute by "hanging out" in the lobby (remember that episode of SATC?), I decided to wait at the Rose Bar across the hall from Wakiya. I have been told this place has a notoriously tight door policy (selectivity to get into a HOTEL bar...welcome to NYC), but I figure I might as well try. Luckily, it wasn't super late, so I was able to "get in". I have to admit, the decor was exquisite, complete with a warming fireplace, comfy couches, art from Warhol and Hirst, and grand pool table. It wasn't crowded, but there was a fair amount of people lounging around (mostly beautiful young girls and "older" gentleman). At the risk of looking like a foolish tourist in a sea of Hermes, I decided not to take any pictures (sorry readers).

I was only there for about 20 minutes, during which a gauche man tried to chat me up but did not offer to buy a drink (call me old fashioned, but I feel a true gentleman should offer a lady a drink if he tries to talk to her for more than 10 minutes). Therefore, I didn't sample one of their $19 cocktails. All and all, it’s a gorgeous space with gorgeous patrons, but I felt a bit self-conscious (maybe because I went alone?), so I probably wouldn't go out of my way to go back there.

So thanks to my foodie friend, I was tipped off to a little known promotion at Wakiya that week where they comped your drinks, appetizers, and dessert. When I heard this, I automatically assumed it was because the restaurant desperately needed business (perhaps foreshadowing its eventual demise?) and was not expecting a great meal. wasn't a great meal, but it wasn't terrible either. What made the night memorable were our multiple celebrity sightings and our meeting with esteemed Chef Yuji Wakiya (a legend for Chinese cuisine in Japan).
I started off with a mango martini (pretty standard, although I did like the slice of star fruit used as a garnish) and a California roll as an appetizer (was confused as I thought this was a Chinese restaurant). The main courses are supposed to be eaten “family style”, family style defined at Wakiya as a family of two models. You see, readers, the main problem I have with eating high end Chinese food is the deeply ingrained knowledge that I can get cheap, delicious, authentic, and generously portioned dishes in Chinatown/St. Marks. Nevertheless, the three of us ordered three dishes: pan seared whitefish dusted with “golden sand”, the hosin beef lettuce wraps, and chin shan steamed lobster.
The whitefish was well seared and tender, although I still am unsure of what exactly was the “golden sand”. The beef wraps were tasty, but extremely Americanized. The best dish by far was the chin san steamed lobster with vegetables. I am biased because I love any type of cooked lobster (it’s hard to screw up a crustacean that is so innately delicious), but the presentation was way cool (steamed on the spot with boiling water poured from a tea kettle).
Beef Lettuce Wraps
Steamed Lobster 
For dessert, we got a shelf of mini truffles, which my dinner companions loved. I am not a huge fan of chocolates, but they were tasty enough to end the meal on a sweet note.
Mini Truffles
NOW, for the exciting part…celebs! The friendly manager (who stopped by our table at least 4-5 times) told us both Leo DiCaprio and Wilmer Valderrama (the guy from That 70s Show, LiLo's ex) were dining in the restaurant with us! I am terrible at celeb spotting, but sure enough, I recognized them as I walked by their table (more than a few times - how terribly indiscreet of me). BUT the best part of the night was meeting Chef Wakiya. He was extremely nice and we took a picture with him (he might have thought we were Asian tourists).
With the Chef
All and all, Wakiya’s ambiance (beautiful decor, celeb hotspot) offsets the banality of the dishes. I probably would not have gone to this place were it not for the comped items (I do not mind shelling out the Benjamins for gastronomical delights, but these dishes are significantly overpriced for the quality of the food). So my reader friends, if you are in search of edible but uninspired food in a “seen to be seen” setting and don’t mind shelling out the dough to be in the company of the beautiful people and celebs, then there are a few weeks left for you to try this place out

Wakiya / Rose Bar
2 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10010

Wakiya on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Liberty Hotel / Underbar [Boston]

By: Finance Foodie 

This weekend, I revisited The Liberty Hotel lobby bar and made my first sojourn to Underbar. We were able to take a nice tour of Boston by car, as the difficulty level of finding a parking spot on a Saturday night is on par with say, 5 dudes trying to get into [insert trendy Meatpacking club here] without buying bottles. As we looked longingly at the plethora of empty handicapped parking spots meters away from the hotel, I made a mental note to check if being legally blind without my glasses/contacts would qualify as a handicap. Finally, we found a spot, and headed inside the hotel to meet our party.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Nice and Noodley at Wagamama Boston

By: Finance Foodie

London: Two summers ago, when I was visiting London, my friends suggested we go to Wagamama (Wags) for a quick meal (she had read about this place in a guidebook). I prefer not to eat chain restaurants when I am on holiday (chains seem so....corporate) but I was desperately craving something (anything) other than the traditional "fish and chips" lunch (read: cheap Asian type food). My friends and I set off to find this pan-asian noodle house, but after searching for over 3 hours with no map and false directions given to us by (I suspect) equally lost tourists, we were unable to locate this place. Hungry and tired, we gave up and ended up at the local pub and chips, natch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Authentically Asian at Ping New York

By: Finance Foodie

To round out my weekend in NYC, I had brunch at Ping in Chinatown. Although I am liking Boston more since my big move, one complaint I do have is the lack of a sizable Chinatown. Maybe it’s because I have not discovered it yet, but I feel there is a terrible selection of dining options in Boston Chinatown. Boston readers, let me know if you think otherwise and please prove me wrong. Anyways, I was quiet excited to eat dim sum since I haven't had authentic Chinese food in 2 months.

Note: when I lived in NYC, I rarely visited Chinatown, as I am easily confused by areas that are not organized by a grid system. Being in Boston where there is virtually no Chinatown, I now totally regret that I did not take advantage of the NYC Chinatown.

Ping was quiet packed when we arrived at 11:30am. I would say 98% of the patrons were old school Asian (read: authentic Chinese food served), which made me trust the place even more. We had to share a table with 2 other parties (read: even more authentic Chinese food served). I was surprised to see the place was actually quiet clean (for Chinatown) and the servers were in actual uniforms of sparkly (albeit gaudy) silver vests and bowties.

The dim sum was good, although the selection was a bit lacking. My favorite dishes were the Chinese spinach saute with garlic and fried onions, the pan fried "lo bo gao" (turnip cakes), and shrimp in rice noodles. The rest of our party ordered chicken feet (I declined, the idea of eating any type of stinky feet grosses me out, plus I could see their nail beds...double gross). The items I was sad to have missed out on was the "fa gao" (traditional yellow slightly-sweet sponge cake) and the "do jian" (warm soybean milk) / "yo tiao" (fried dough sticks used for dipping in the "do jian". I was actually too full to eat anymore (still recovering from the previous night at Per Se) and I knew I had a long ride ahead back to Boston, so I decided to have willpower and not order these items.This place was very good. The place was small, so the turnover was quick for each item, which meant that the dishes were all served warm and fresh. Also a $40 meal (we gave a generous tip) for 4 people is pretty freaking sweet for NYC. All and all, not the best dim sum I ever had, but definitely not bad either.

22 Mott St.
New York, NY 10013
Ping's Seafood on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Most Memorable at Per Se New York

By: Finance Foodie

This weekend, I headed to NYC for a dinner set up by my NYC foodie friends at Per Se. Per Se is owned by the renowned chef Thomas Keller (also of French Laundry in the Napa Valley) and it is one of only four restaurants in the US to be awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide. I was UBER-EXCITED about this dinner, as I have been told it is a "gastronomic experience of a lifetime" by friend who had dined there before. In order to conserve my stomach for this occasion, I kept food consumption to a minimum (aka a can of Diet Coke and a cup of coffee) during the day. Our reservations were at 5:30pm (ungodly early for NYC, but it does take about 4-5 hours to finish the 9-course prix fixe chef's tasting menu). By the time we arrived, I could barely walk/stand due to lack of food, but the excitement and anticipation of the delicacies that laid ahead kept me strong enough to pose for commemorative pre-dinner pictures.

Below is a play by play of each course (will keep descriptions as easy to understand as possible), with pictures and commentary:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Secret and Sweet at Milk & Honey New York

By: Finance Foodie

So I made a sojourn to Milk & Honey (M&H) a few months back, wrote about it, but never published it until now. M&H is a small hidden speakeasy-type bar in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Reservations are mandatory and can only be done through a secret unlisted phone number that changes frequently. Major props to my foodie friend, now back in London, who hooked us up with the phone number. Below is an account of my night, circa March/April 2008.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

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