Restaurant

Lately...

I was teaching one of my students last week, trying to explain to him the importance of rhythm when playing piano -- "Now M, rhythm is one of the life forces of music, without it, it lacks form! It gives songs a sense of identity, take Vanilla Ice for an example -- Ice Ice Baby dun dun dun dun dun dun dun, what if we were to throw a couple half notes in the mix and added a few rests in between, what the heck would that even sound like??" A blank stare covered his face -- "Who's Vanilla Ice?"

At that moment I realized, maybe I wasn't as hip as I thought. Here I was, trying to relate the importance of rhythm in music by making 90s references of bad one-hit-wonders to a kid who was probably born the same year the song was released. And that was real.

Feeling mildly defeated through the realization that the era of my twenties were soon coming to an end, I cleared my throat and performed my best Justin Bieber rendition of "Baby". Now we were on the same page.

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This year has been exciting and unexpected, turning 27 made me come to terms with a lot of things. I figured I'd share a few for "kicks" and giggles --

1. Wear sunscreen. Slather it on like it's free. Ditch the tanning beds and oils, avoid sunburns and get a sunscreen for the driver side window in your car. Your 40 year old self will thank you.

2. While we're on the topic of skincare, stop squinting so much. Also eliminate furrowing of brows, frowning, high levels of excessive stress, crash dieting, smoking, lack of sleep -- all direct causes of: wrinkles.

3. Now that we're done freaking out about the whole "aging" dilemma there's the weight aspect too. Three simple steps: eat WHOLESOME foods, stay ACTIVE, and love your BODY. It's all you need to do to live in a healthy state of mind and being.

4. Don't compare yourself to others, respect what your mama gave you and own it. Utilize your talents and make this life beautiful.

5. Time is the most precious thing you have. Spend it on people who you truly love and appreciate  and don't waste it on ones that take it for granted.

6. Be kind to others. Just because that guy wants to be a butt hole doesn't mean you have to be. Take the high road and put forth positive energy, the World needs it.

7. Protect yourself. People pleasers never win because the only one that ends up losing is you. Don't place yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable, you control the outcome.

8. Learn something new. A dance class, a cooking class, an art class or heck read a book on a topic that interests you. Something. Anything. Don't let that brain go to waste.

9. There's always time for reflection, make room for it. Take a quarterly analysis of your overall life -- relationships, career, personal growth -- the positives, the negatives, and what needs to be changed to ensure a better path forward.

10. Take chances always, what's the worst that can happen? Have the confidence to pave your own journey, path building comes afterwards.

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I recently upgraded to the new I phone and have really dove deep into Instagram. Actually I just love having a good quality point and shoot attached to my phone. It throws me straight into "Crazy Asian Picture Time" mode. Don't know what that is? You'll have to ask my husband for an in-depth explanation, he does a killer impression. But for now, enjoy these captures I've taken throughout this Summer..

Last year during our honeymoon, Collin and I stayed in Positano, Italy at the beautiful Le Sirenuse. They were recently ranked as one of the top 100 hotels in the World by Travel and Leisure magazine -- a special congratulations is in order to the fabulous Sersale family. You can find a few images on their website that I captured along with other breathtaking photos of their haven, be sure to check it out.  Thank you Le Sirenuse for all the beautiful memories your gem of a hotel provided us, it was one of the most magical places I've ever visited indeed!

 

In other exciting news, some of my travel photography has been picked up and I am now represented by the Voltz Clarke Agency in New York City! You can find my work here on the website for more info on my work and bio.

Lastly, a few shots from The Bowery, a restaurant that recently opened in Dallas last week.

A delectable gourmet hot dog joint with sweet libations ranging from cocktails to milkshakes, The Bowery is a great place for a friends gathering or a late-night bite.

I had to take home a little snack for myself afterwards and ordered the Mexican and some sweet potato taters.

The Mexican dog was wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans, sour cream, contija cheese, salsa verde, tomatoes and jalapeños -- it took me back to my kitchen days in Tucson, Arizona. They also had other interesting dogs like The Moroccan with a lamb sausage and apricot preserves and even a Vietnamese Bahn Mi dog with pork sausage and hoisin sauce. Good stuff people, you can check it out here:

 

Be sure to check out The Bowery: 3407 Mckinney Ave, Dallas, TX 75204

Mon - Thu:5:00 pm-12:00 pmFri - Sat:5:00 pm-1:00 amSun:11:00 am-12:00 am

 

 

Dallas Pizza Tour

 

Last weekend I embarked on an adventure – a 5-round Pizza Tour around Dallas.  Food-writer extraordinaire, Steven Doyle, the creator of Crave DFW was our leader through this epic journey of pizza greatness.  We’ll start out at Janice Provost’s home (owner of Parigi) where we’ll wine and dine on her thin crust pizza made from fresh local ingredients.  We’ll then cruise on down to Rockwall for some Zanata where you suddenly feel like you’re dining in a rustic haven with a large fire burning brick oven as its center stage.  Then we’ll venture to a very cozy cove, Coal Vines, an upscale NY-style pizza joint with an infinite wine list and delicious paper thin slices to pair.  For the grand finale we’ll finish in Deep Ellum where a brand new pizza joint, Serious Pizza will have some acrobatic tricks to share and last but not least, the infamous Il Cane Russo for that perfectly smoky crust.

First stop: Janice Provost’s home.  She needed our taste buds to sample some pizzas for an upcoming project and we graciously volunteered.  What can I really say?  Janice and Roger are just amazing all around.   As we pulled up to a beautifully quaint house with a bright orange door, I knew this was going to be the perfect start.  Upon entering their vintage-chic home adorned with beautiful antique wood floors with modern pops of color.  It wasn’t before long that I followed my nose into the kitchen.

There Roger was working the dough and Janice was saucing and topping.  Pancetta, arugula, mushrooms, white truffle oil, jalapenos, Jimmy’s sausage, the glorious spread of toppings went on and on…The crust was  everything I’d want a thin crust to be: light on the crust with a nice, crunchy yet delicate texture.  My biggest thumbs up went to the Jalapeno Pepperoni and the White Mushroom with Truffle Oil.  The flavors were comforting and fragrant with a dash of Parigi magic that gave it that pizazz that left your taste buds begging for more.

Onward we traveled all the way to Rockwall, a perfect spot just waiting to be found.  Adorned with weathered wood, antique cooking pieces against a rustic brick wall – stepping into Zanata took my breath away.  It was bright and airy with gigantic open windows along an entire wall and right in the center of the restaurant were two fiery brick ovens set as the stage where you can watch Chef Ted Grieb work his magic with his pizzas.  I’ve always believed a good pizza means good crust, excellent sauce and interesting toppings – Zanata does just that.

Their hand-tossed pies are baked in a 900 degree wood oven that are topped with organic ingredients, local produce, and imported cheeses.  Top favorites were the Truffle Pie with tartufo, potato, pancetta, rosemary and egg and the Standard with pomodoraccio tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.

Next we ventured back to uptown and moseyed on over to Coal Vines – the brain child of Joseph Palladino and Samir Dhurandhar from Nick and Sam’s.  Collin and I have actually been here before and loved it.  After being rejected from Teddy’s Lounge due to Collin’s unfashionable kicks, we were turned away and ended up next door.  There we enjoyed paper-thin NY styled slices that trumped any “wild” night we would’ve had at Teddy’s Lounge.  Plus with the charm of Joe Palladino along with an entire wall of wine of every variety, region and price range – this is the perfect place for an intimate date or gathering with friends.

The Bolognese blew me away with their housemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, Bolognese meat and Bechamel sauce – it was such a gooey, meaty goodness you just become lost in it all.  You enter this pizza heaven and you never wanna leave, which is why we ordered a pizza to take home the first time we were there.

As we started winding down towards the end of our tour we headed back over to Deep Ellum.  Riding on a 70’s bus plastered with colorful drawings of past cartoon characters, some even in compromising positions, was the highlight of this tour.  We had the radio blaring, beers were a-flowin’ and before we knew it, what once started as a bus full of strangers quickly became a bus full of friends, with a common connection of our love for pizza.

We stopped at Serious Pizza which was a brand new pizza joint that just opened which serves up pizza acrobatics of 30” pizzas.  If you’re not feeling as monstrous feel free to order pizza by the slice until 3 am – satisfy those drunk munchies the best way you know how.  I recommend the Veggie 2.0 which as spinach, broccoli, fresh tomatoes, artichokes and ricotta cheese, the toppings were bright, light and fresh.

For our finale we went to the infamous Il Cane Russo – Jay Jerrier has been deemed pizza God in Dallas for his perfectly cooked Italian pies.  What once started out as a popular weekly mobile venture, has finally settled into its beautiful home in Deep Ellum.  When it comes to pizza, Jay is serious – using fresh house made mozzarella, fresh local ingredients from popular vendors like Jimmy’s, and imported Italian flours to make that perfect dough.

He’s even extensively studied the art of pizza in Italy and has now brought the beauty for us to try.  Using a wood fire oven using only Texas wood, pizzas cook in two minutes flat here – leaving you with a slightly smoked-kissed crust that envelops this inexplicable feeling of greatness inside you.  I wanted to hug Jay, it was glorious – this was the pizza I’ve been searching for all my life.  Try the classic Margherita that will blow you away with its complicated yet simplistic flavors other popular pies include Paulie Gee with hot soppressata, caramelized onions, fresh basil and mozzarella, tomatoes and Calabrian chiles.  Jay also serves up great appetizers and desserts like Fried Artichokes with fresh arugula and Zeppole.

Oh man, the Zeppole.  It makes you feel like a kid again – served in a brown paper bag which you vigorously shake to make sure all the little fried dough pieces are covered in powdered sugar.  Then you dip it generously in the chocolate sauce and go crazy, it’s magical trust me.

 

It’s safe to say, this was one of the best adventures I’ve gone on in a while.  The people were great – read other personal experiences of the tour by Margie at Eating in Dallas, Kellyn at The Feast and Andrew on Side Dish D magazine, the pizza was out-of-this-world, and to our wonderful host, Steven Doyle who made it all possible: thank you for giving me the opportunity to try some of the best pizza places Dallas has to offer.  Every single stop was unique in its own way and I loved every place for different reasons.  When Janice opens her pizza joint I’ll be the first one in line.  If I ever feel like having pizza on a Sunday afternoon with friends or family, Zanata would be perfect.  For a swanky yet laid-back date, Coal Vines is the place to be.  Spend a beautiful day walking to Serious Pizza or stop by to satisfy those drunk munchies at 2 am for a late bite.  And for all you serious pizza connoisseurs, you don’t need me to tell you Il Cane Russo is where it’s at.  We finished off the tour with the tradition of sabering off two bottles of Champagne, which Jim Mcclure and Steven did with much gusto and excitement.  Cheers Dallas Pizza Tour, you were a hit – until next time.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Trip to the Unilever Test Kitchen

A few months ago, I was contacted by I Can't Believe It's Not Butter to attend a V.I.P. event at Unilever Test Kitchens  in New Jersey to test products and recipes .  I was truly ecstatic -- #1 this would be my first traveling opportunity as a result of the blog and #2 I get to go on a FOOD related adventure, what's not to love about that? The trip and expenses were all generously provided by ICBITNB (I am one lucky girl!).

They placed me in the swanky Hudson Hotel in New York right by the fabulous Columbus Circle.  It was a very modern-chic upscale hotel with random quirks that give it a little spunk.  The lobby was breathtaking, with the gigantic crystal chandelier and the open-window roof draped with plush green vines, gave the entire room a very cool greenhouse effect.

It was pretty amazing, the patio was converted into a bar at night.  Filled with the beautiful and the fabulous young professionals of New York City -- I was pretty awestruck by it all.  Until I got assigned my room number.  I was placed in - "666".

Eeerrr...

hotel clerk: yeah don't pay attention to the number -- I know what you're thinking.

me: Are you sure satan doesnt live under the bed?

hotel clerk: Everyone has the same reaction, trust me it's not cursed.

me: (*thinking to herself*) yeah easy for you to say because you've never slept there.

I accepted my room key wearily -- Okay but if anything is funky I am requesting a different room!  Thankfully no evil juju seemed present.  The room was pretty small, especially the bathroom (anyone above 5'4" would have leg room trouble big time haha) but the bed was very comfy.

I was able to meet up a couple of friends that lived near my hotel, and Patrick suggested Meze Grill -- which is a Mediterranean themed eatery with a modern eco-friendly twist.  Owner Marwan Salem,  came up with the concept back in college: he wanted to offer a fast, healthy (extremely delicious) affordable meal with a modern Mediterranean twist.

Not only does Marwan make amazing food but he loves the planet -- most of the restaurant is made from recycled materials, my favorite being the wooden walls made from recycled barn wood.  All of their dressings, dips and desserts are all made in house and they use all natural meats with no artificial ingredients.  One can see how Meze Grill was selected by diners as one of Google's favorite places in New York to eat! (Out of the 28 million businesses, only less than 1% of businesses receive this honor.)

Now let's move onto the food! You start out by selecting a choice of pita sandwich, rice platter or salad and then inventing your own creation from a vast choice of toppings and meats.  If you need a little help, any of the friendly employees will guide you down the right path :)

They make fresh pita chips daily which pairs perfectly with their rich and smokey babaghanoush -- a Mediterranean dip made mainly from eggplant and of course the traditional hummus made from FRESHLY soaked chickpeas NOT canned.

I told Marwan to give me his special and he created a  half pilaf half bulgur wheat bowl with a falafel and grilled chicken on top and finished it with lettuce, tomatoes onions and my favorite -- pickled turnips.  OKAY folks before you start scrunching your nose, these turnips are out of control.  THEY ARE SO GOOD, crunchy and brined in a magical concoction, I would put these on everything.  One of my favorite dressings would have to be the VEGAN garlic aioli, that's right, it is not made from eggs -- just a simple but perfect combination of garlic, olive oil and salt.  It packs a nice bite to awaken your senses.

I think my only complaint would be to have a bigger stomach, so I could've fit all of the delicious food that was given me, the portions are HUGE.  Not only did I find Meze Grill's food to be inspiring but Marwan's journey to this place reiterates my belief in life -- "It is important to pursue your passions".  Marwan is an inspiration indeed.

(pictured above: left, Patrick Chang; right, Marwan Salem)

Born into a family of mostly doctors, Marwan received family pressures to puruse the medical field.  But deep inside he knew his true calling was someplace else.  With the encouragement of his favorite college professor, Marwan followed his heart and opened up Meze Grill -- a place that shares a piece of where he comes from as well as making it healthy and good for you.

It was really quite a pleasure to meet someone like Marwan -- though we met as two strangers, I left the restaurant feeling as if I've made a friend.  His warm charismatic personality, instantly makes you feel at home-- it is hard to meet people of such genuinity now and days.  I told Marwan - "Dude you gotta open up one of these in Texas, people would go crazy for it."  His reply?  "One day I will."  Marwan, I will be patiently waiting for that day :).  Until then you guys can enjoy the hummus recipe I made in honor of Marwan's delicious food.   For all you lucky New Yorker's, check Meze Grill out.  I promise you it won't disappoint!

I hope you guys have a great weekend, please stay tuned for the 2nd part of my New York trip :)!

Part 4 of 5 -- Wuxi SuZhou and Chenghuang Miao

The second part of the Wuxi trip we went to Turtle Head Peninsula on Tai Lake.  It is the most beautiful place of Tai Lake and the name comes from  the tip of the peninsula that is shaped like a turtle head!  Inside the park are ten famous scenic spots, which include Chongshan Garden, Jiangnan Orchid Garden, Taihu Fairy Islet, and Guangfu Temple.

We only had about an hour to venture through the park, so Collin and I practically sprinted through the different scenic spots.  Inside the park was filled with lush vegetation of vines, trees, and vibrant flowers, creating a serene and splendid view for the eyes.

The traditional Taoist culture has influenced this island in many ways of becoming a natural wonderland.  The Sanshan Taoist Temple built during the Taibo era (around 3,000 years ago) was actually the only Taoist temple built on an island in China.

Scattered all around the park were these uniquely shaped limestones, I especially liked the checker board carved into a large slab of stone, complete with 4 little stone chairs.  Legend has it that the emperor of the Song dynasty nearly bankrupted the country because of his obsession with finding these uniquely shaped limestone rocks.  What unusual formations they were indeed!

I saw this alluring women adorned in traditional Chinese silk robe playing the Gu Qin - which is a seven stringed zither with no bridge, I call it an old-fashioned Chinese piano.  The notes are strummed by the hand, creating different effects by the skillful techniques of well trained fingers. Confucius was actually a master in this instrument, and said it had powers of enriching the heart and elevating the human spirit.

There were so many different types of flowers, the colors and fragrance permeated throughout the entire park.  I couldn't help but snap numerous pictures of their magnificent beauty, I find flowers fascinating.  To think that all of their traits were developed soley for evolutionary effects -- with their sweet scents, rich colors, various formations -- they not only attract humans but so many different types of animals and insects too!

A friend once jokingly said -- "Joy you take pictures of food and FLOWERS.  You're just like my mom, always snapping random pictures of flowers and trees and plants and stuffs."  Gosh, I honestly have NO idea what she's talking about! :)  It comes down to the basics for me though, the simplicities of life.  The beautiful and pure things that people often overlook throughout the day but never realize their enchanting effects.

9 times out of 10, if I see a beautiful flower I will stop to appreciate it -- whether it's to observe it's exquisite flawless beauty or it's intoxicating smells, it never ceases to amaze me what the world is able to create.  Are you diggin the babushka I am sportin on the left?  Also note the lack of enthusiasm on my face, that's because sprinting through a freaking GIGANTIC park and then getting LOST in between made Zhang very tired.

Our last stop of the day: Su Zhou.  By this time, it was around 7:00 PM, we were all very tired but a wedding dress had to be made people!  Most well known for their silk industry, Su Zhou is also heavily populated with wedding factories (score!).  As we were taking the city bus to the area, Jiu Ma just so happen to sit next to a young man whose family designed wedding gowns. WELL THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT because upon our arrival, there were THOUSANDS of wedding dress boutiques I honestly don't know where I would've started.  It was absolutely overwhelming.

But wait.  The story gets better. The minute I walked into the young man's boutique I spotted a dress that was almost IDENTICAL to what I wanted.  I couldn't believe my eyes, I literally thought I would be stuck in SuZhou for hours searching through hundreds of thousands of gowns until I found the perfect one.  Thankfully all the praying I did in the temples brought me good fortune :).  I picked out my dress, made a few modification, took some measurements and BAM I was out in less than an hour.  Oh did I also mention that my custom made gown was a whopping $85?  Verrry niiice!

After dress shopping we had to grab some grub.  We went to the main market center in SuZhou where there were numerous eateries, clothing stores and gift shops.  The streets were full of hip youngsters dressed in colorful and ecclectic fashions, I was surprised as to how up to date the youth seemed to be here.  I also saw this donut shop, probably the weirdest donut shop I've ever seen.  I usually go for the usual glazed and maybe on a good day I'll go for a chocolate glazed with sprinkles.  They had crazy flavors like "Italian-style Bacon" (what the heck does Italian bacon taste like??), "Spicy Fluffy" (wow yeah I dont know about that..) and Burberry (Uhm..so would that donut cost like $400?).  I did not buy one, I just couldn't -- all these flavors were just too much for me to handle. (Shipley's will always be #1 in my heart.)

The next night, Jiu Ma (#1!) suggested that we check out one of the most famous market areas in Shanghai -- Chenghuang Miao otherwise known as The City God Temple, an area of temples that are reminiscent of old Shanghai.  Back then, every Chinese city had a designated Temple of the Town God which served as a shrine for Daoist worship.  The temple in Shanghai was named “Cheng Huang Miao” which was devoted to the god of commerce.

However, the temple was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but thankfully restored during the early 90s.  It now has been transformed into one of the largest marketplaces in Shanghai filled with gift shops, restaurants, bulk food shops, basically anything you can think of!

I loved the lighting of the shrines at night -- the structures looked incredibly magestic.  It is hard to imagine that long ago these were the buildings people prayed in!  The antique Chinese architectural designs really brought you into another dimension of time, especially with the elegantly curved roofs crowning the shrines.

Nestled inside the shrines were individual vendors selling a variety of goods.  This woman sold hundreds of different types of Buddhist bracelets and name stamps carved from stone.  Back then when people wrote letters, instead of signing their signature they would have a name stamp containing the character of their last name.

This man sold Jian Zhi or Chinese Papercutting, an art practiced since the beginning of the Han dynasty in China when paper was first invented.  Back then people who used paper as a means for decoration were considered to be nobels and royalty.  Now they are used commonly in every household for decorative use, many families enjoy placing papercuttings by the front door to bring good fortune.  One must have much patience and a steady hand to master the art form of Jian Zhi!

This man sold miniature figurines and jewelery made from copper that he made with only a scarce set of tools and his hands.  If you look at the bottom left hand corner of the photo on the left, you will notice the miniature little figurines (you can barely see them) but I have blown them up in the picture on the right.  The detailing is pretty incredible, the figurine literally fit on the tip of my index finger.  He told me it took him about 6 hours to mold each of the miniature figurines, I think it'd take me a solid 6 weeks haha :)

Now.  Onto the important stuff...THE FOOD.  Oh man, the food possibilities are ENDLESS here.  Many people come to Chenghuang Miao for the infamous Xiao Long Bao -- there is a small restaurant here (I do not know the exact address) that serves only Xiao Long Bao.  Don't worry, you won't have any trouble finding it once you are here -- just look for the long lines that pour out of their doors (the wait could be as long as an hour sometimes!).

We actually went to the main food court for their wide range of options.  They serve hundreds of different types of traditional Shanghainese dishes -- think lots of seafood, dim sum, soups, and steamed dumplings.  The woman in the photo above is serving "Tang Yuan", tiny glutinous rice balls served in a steaming hot broth sweetened by Jiu Nian or fermented rice.  Some tang yuans are filled with traditional fillings like black sesame, red bean, etc.  The weird picture on the top right is Lotus Root stuffed with Glutinous Rice -- for those of you who have never had Lotus Root it's delicious.  It's the root of the beautiful Lotus flower -- with a very slimy but crunchy texture and slightly sweet nature, it is often stuffed with glutinous rice soaked in soy sauce and steamed to a wondrous perfection.

There were so many different types of crab -- I honestly had no idea what kind they were.  The common crab we have here in Texas would be the blue crab and other than that I don't see much else.  Here they had square shaped crabs, trapezoidal (is that a word?)  shaped crabs, tiny round looking crabs -- I mean there were a lot of freaking crabs dude!

But don't panic non seafood eaters, there's plenty more to choose from.  They also had a variety of fried foods -- fried chicken wings, tempura vegetables, fried fish cakes, fried rice cakes as well as various types of chow mein, soup noodles, cold noodles, hot noodles... I think even the pickiest of all picky eaters would be able to find something here.

They also had a HUGE selection of dimsum, some things I recognized other things I hadn't a clue.  They had Xiao Long Baos, Glutinous Rice wrapped in Bamboo Leaves, various types of Puddings, Steamed Cakes and Desserts, different kinds of steamed dumplings, it was seriously the most intense dim sum spread I've ever seen.  Mind boggling.

Unfortunately, the dishes we picked actually weren't that great.  The weather was really cold that day, and they don't really use heaters here so all of our food was cold by the time we brought it back to our table :( Better luck next time as one would say!

With full tummys and empty pockets, we headed home to enjoy a homecooked meal from Jiu-jiu.  The livin is good in Shanghai!  :)  My last installment will be more family photos, more food of course and any other random blurbs (they are pretty random...) If you have any questions about the places I've been or good places to eat in Shanghai, feel free to contact me!

Friday Night Dinners

At Mealtime Market, every Friday night Chef Thomas hosts a private dinner for about 8-10 people, reservations only.  The menu, which changes weekly, features a 3 course menu that also includes wine tasting!  At $70 a couple you start off with a choice of appetizers and soup, followed by an exquisitely prepared entrée by chef and ending with an array of sweets designed by yours truly :).

For an appetizer we had a Pan Seared Ahi Tuna served with Micro Greens and a Crisp Sesame Cracker drizzled with a Wasabi Vinaigrette.  I really enjoyed the delicate tuna with the crispness and the fragrance of the toasted sesame seeds on the cracker -- it made a great combination of textures and flavors.

If you are not a fish person you could choose the second option which was a Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup --- ooooh man this soup is delicious!  Being a huge fan of mushrooms I couldn't help but sneak a bowl of this soup.  It was rich and decadent, with a delicate earthiness in every bite.  Also since the weather is cold, nothing soothes the soul like a bowl of warm soup.

It pairs perfectly with some freshly baked bread (which we offer)! Now let's move onto the fun stuff -- the beautiful entrees!

First choice of entree would be -- Pan Seared Salmon served with Braised Spinach, Potato in a Blood Orange Bur Blanc.  The Bur Blanc sauce was rich with bright citrus notes which went perfectly with the tender salmon.  The spinach was braised with a little bit of garlic and olive oil served along side of some fluffy whipped potatoes.

Enticing, no?  The colors were really nice too, the creamy orange sauce contrasted with the blood orange slices made this dish very appealing to the eyes.  The salmon was seared to the perfect tenderness, the delicate flakes of salmon immersed impeccably with the decadent citrus bur blanc -- I would've cleaned the plate but there was another entree that needed to be tasted!

The second entree was my favorite one of the night -- Pan Seared Greek Chicken Breast in a Lemon Cream Sauce with Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes Kalamata Olives and Spinach topped with fresh Feta Cheese.  Talk about an amazing flavor combination!

The chicken was cooked perfectly, the meat was juicy and tender and immersed in the amazing lemon sauce that really gave this dish a kick.  Topped with the colorful vegetable medley and the fresh crumbled feta cheese,the only thing you'd be missing was a glass of ouzo and a loud and glorious "OPA!".

I thought the fried lemon slice was a creative twist on using the fruit, it gave the dish a nice rustic appearance (I had to ask chef if it was edible and he said it definitely ... was not :( ) The combinations of colors were beautiful, it was a color explosion on a plate!

I save the best for last of course -- DESSERT! For the dessert trio we had Huckleberry Empanadas with a Huckleberry Vanilla Coulis, a Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Chantilly Cream and Chocolate Shavings and Toasted Spiced Pecans.

I really loved the empanadas, I tucked fresh huckleberries and ricotta cheese into each one.  The result?  An ooey gooey filling paired with the flaky emapanda crust, it was almost like a miniature huckleberry pie!  The smells were absolutely amazing while baking these and the huckleberry vanilla coulis further accentuated the empanada.

Next we had the Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Chantilly Cream -- I love this mousse, it's fluffy and airy yet rich and decadent.  The slight bitterness of the dark chocolate and espresso was calmed by the sweet Chantilly Cream and served alongside some fresh berries and chocolate shavings? MMMM HMMM!

I whipped some up to put in our cases as well, so if any one of you are around the neighborhood you should definitely stop by and visit :) I even took it a step further and added some brownie chunks (From scratch of course!) and folded it into the chocolate espresso mousse.  Oh yeah, that's right -- Bad is my middle name!

Then we had the Toasted Spiced Pecans -- these are always wonderful as a dessert, or ontop of another dessert, or makes a wonderful mid-afternoon snack.  I like to add a kick of cayenne since the Pecans have such a high oil content, it kind of wakes up your mouth a bit.

This is usually what I do to any innocent bystanders that I find sound asleep, I simply take out a Sharpie and scribble on their face, but since I am no longer in college and rarely have sleepovers my only options are my pets.  Don't worry, I didn't draw on Lily's face THIS TIME, but next time instead of photoshop it'll be a big BLACK MARKER face :) I kid, I kid! Happy Friday folks, next week I plan on featuring an Indian Feast, Portabello Mushroom Risotto and last but not least...Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes.

(image from www.springwatershop.com)

Now I usually don't enter contests and sweepstakes because honestly I never win anything so I save myself the disappointment.  HOWEVER, this contest that I got through FoodBuzz just seemed to good to pass up so here it goes.

"... Foodbuzz has partnered with S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water to provide the opportunity for two Featured Publishers to attend The S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. The Almost Famous Chef Competition gives top culinary students from around the world a chance to showcase their skills to top chefs, culinary experts and media and the opportunity to win cash and a paid apprenticeship with a top chef to jumpstart their career."

Now I am suppose to tell you guys why I'd like to attend.  Well the better question should be WHY WOULD I NOT WANT TO ATTEND??? What could honestly beat eating food artistically crafted by top chefs in NAPA VALLEY? That's right, nothing.  I would spread the word by painting my entire body like the san pellegrino bottle and walk around with a huge sign that says "PICK ME TO GO TO NAPA VALLEY" -- now granted I do not have a professional body painter on hand this will just have to do...

I think if I were chosen to attend I would do a fantastic job of keeping fans posted, a play by play if you will, on this fabulous event through numerous pictures and writing.  Did I also mention that Mealtime Market uses ONLY San Pellegrino to make our Italian Sodas??? That's right we only use the best!

So San Pellegrino and FoodBuzz, pick me, Joy Zhang, to be YOUR guest at the S.Pellegrino Almost Chef Competition, I assure you you won't be disappointed :)