Gianduja (Homemade Nutella) & Happy New Year!

nutella1

Every year I hand make gifts for the holidays. Whether it’s homemade vanilla extract, cookies, truffles, ornaments, or even bread, I think that the extra effort and thought that goes into making something yourself is priceless.

This year, while looking through the Bon Appétit Holiday Issue for possible Christmas cookie inspiration, my boyfriend said “you should make this.” I looked at the recipe and agreed – I would absolutely have to make this delicious looking homemade nutella.

nutella2

The recipe was very straight forward (though if skinned hazelnuts existed in my area, I’d be much happier) and I made cute little recipe cards to go along with the gift. I only send recipe cards with edibles when I know they taste delicious and the recipient most definitely will be recreating on their own. Which they will, because this spread is delicious.  It might taste better because I skinned those hazelnuts with my own two hands, and worked my biceps while attempting to whisk the thickening ganache. But I think it tastes better than the stuff in the store because I know exactly what’s in it. Cream, butter, nuts, good quality chocolate, sugar, and a dash of salt. Not to mention that my packaging is super cute.

christmas2012

Here are some pictures that went out with my family’s holiday card this year. Every year it takes us a while to figure our how to use the timer on my mom’s fancy camera. Every year we have to take a bajillion re-takes while trying to pretend it’s Christmas even though it’s Thanksgiving. But it’s tradition, and it’s worth it. Just like these precious bundles of perfection.

It’s also my sister’s birthday today – Happy Birthday Ariel!

Seattle Vacation

After a wonderful time in Vancouver, we took an Amtrak train down to Seattle. Thankfully the train tickets were only about $15 combined due to my reward points, otherwise it would not have been worth it. The train is almost twice as long as driving and we got stuck in a car with kids and no view.

One big plus about Seattle was that we had cell phone service finally. While we did like being disconnected for a while in Canada, we were happy to be able to look up places on the fly, especially when we needed directions.

The weather was a bit chilly in Seattle and much windier than Vancouver. I also didn’t realize how some parts of Seattle are so hilly, almost like San Francisco! Each day we spent in Seattle was jam-packed to the point where there were a few things we’ll have to go back for some time that we didn’t get to do. Our motto when planning trips is that you have to leave some stuff to do next time!

Day 1

After waking up at 5AM and traveling across an international border, we were in desperate need of caffeine. After checking in to our AirBnb, we hopped over to Stumptown Coffee. The coffee was good, but not the best–a bit too acrid for my taste. We then headed over to the CakeSpy Shop.  – I’m a fan of Jessie (blogger/artist) and we were staying in Capitol Hill nearby. Sadly, the shop/art gallery is closing, but I’m glad we got to visit! It had some very interesting pieces of art, including the art donated to CupcakeCampDC and an art gallery upstairs. We continued to walk around Pine/Pike, though some portions of the street were closed due to a block party.

We hopped over to Marination Station which was some of the best food we had all trip. It’s a Hawai’ian place tucked into a shopping center with great sauces, daily specials (ex: Theo chocolate chicken mole because the Theo factory is nearby), and juice drinks from HI. Mac salad with spam? Yes please. We also got the kahlua slider and the Spicy Pork & Kalbi Tacos, which were juicy, saucy, and parcels of flavor in our mouths.

I only really wanted to try one cupcake place (Trophy), but Cupcake Royale was seemingly *everywhere*. I only tried one mini cupcake (peanut butter, chocolate, and bacon) and it was good. Before we went to Seattle, I asked fellow foodie Pat from The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook/Blog for some recommendations and I took her up on her suggestion for Little Uncle. It was a bit of a hike to get here, but since a lot of Pike was closed, we had had time to spare. We opted for the heirloom green rhubarb and peach shaved ice. The space is very interesting and the staff was very nice and friendly. The food smelled so good, I was tempted to order something, but we were very full.

What did I say about being full? That didn’t stop us from snacking on some Stumptown Coffee ice cream in a housemade waffle cone at Molly Moon’s. They had interesting flavors, but the ice cream was a tad too soft for my liking. We rounded the corner and walked in to Old School Frozen Custard for some tastes since we were on the verge of diabetes at this point. They have vanilla, chocolate, and a special flavor every day. It’s milwaukee-style and similar to Milwaukee’s Frozen Custard around here, so we didn’t go back. We then looped around to Bluebird for a taste of the weekend special, “Phantograham” ice cream. I don’t like graham crackers, but graham cracker ice cream for some reason tasted great. Since it was a weekend special, we made it a point to come back the next day, which was easy because they’re open late. They also make their own waffle cones, serve beer, and have board games that you can play like 1993 UNO and Boggle.

For dinner we sat outside at Restaurant Zoë. The drinks were nice, but a tad too sweet and weak. We got gnocchi, shaved beef tongue, wild boar pasta, and tumeric glazed lamb with lentils. The macadamia short bread cookie-accompanied coffee creme brulee we had for dessert and the soft and salty bread made up for any hiccups in the menu. We ended the night at Tavern Law / Needle & Thread. Needle & Thread is a speakeasy inside Tavern Law. We had a black tea rye fizz while waiting for our reservation for Needle, then went upstairs after calling from an old-school phone and entering through a saf-style door. Though it was a Saturday, we were the only people inside! I think it was because of the block party going on at the time. We got to talk a lot to the staff about cocktails and spirits in general and every great tasting cocktail was custom tailored to our request. We also got 2 containers of digestifs/bitters with our check. The space really reminded me of the Columbia Room.

Vancouver Vacation

Hi everyone! Last month my boyfriend, Dan, and I took a trip to Vancouver and Seattle. It was both our first time to Canada and it was Dan’s first time using his passport and travelling outside of the country. Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t actually give you stamps in your passport so there’s no physical record in our passports we went, though I’m sure the little chip inside recorded it.

We spent a lot of time planning this trip, but still didn’t get to do all of the things we wanted to. No matter how much you plan, you’ll always stay a little longer at one place or take a little longer getting somewhere else. Though we plan a stiff itinerary, sometimes we like to throw the plan out the window and be spontaneous.

We didn’t have a car, so we were limited in where we could go, but all in all Vancouver was great and we loved the city. We were staying in Gastown, which was a cool area, but in-between Gastown and Chinatown is the infamous Main/Hastings intersection. Our trip lasted 4 days and we used AirBNB for the first time instead of a traditional hotel service. It was a great experience and I would recommended to anyone who it open-minded and doesn’t like dealing with hotels or is looking for something a bit cheaper. We also used it in Seattle and are using it for a NYC trip we have planned in October.

The only confusing thing about Canada was our cell phone! I got a google voice number because it is free calls to Canada, but when you’re in Canada, it counts as international roaming in Canada to call anywhere. The only time I had to call was to schedule a taxi to the Amtrak station so the cell phone bill was pretty small, though I’ve heard horror stories. Another thing about not having cell service is not having the internet on your phone! It was hard to have to plan out all the directions and routes for all our places beforehand instead of being able to do it on the fly like in the US, but it also helped us be less “connected” and focus more on being in the moment.

Here’s a few hilights of our trip, separated by day.

Day 1

Day 1 started with a long journey via airplane to Vancouver. Right when our feet hit Canadian soil, we spotted a JapaDog cart and stopped for an improptu snack. We got the Kurobuta Terimayo which was listed as “must eat” and comes with a kurobuta pork sausage, teriyaki sauce, fried onions, japanese mayo, and seaweed. We also added peppers on one half. The people were super nice and all the dogs had interesting toppings, though a bit rich and salty for my taste. Too much japamayo? They took US & CAD.

View from our Condo Roof

While we were waiting to check-in to our condo, we stopped at Après-midi Premium Teahouse, which was tucked away into a small alley in Gastown. They had a great selection of loose leaf teas and made a nice, thick house chai with almond milk and agave. After check-in, we headed to Chinatown but stopped by Cartems Donuterie on the way. It was in a sketchy neighborhood, but the donuts (earl grey and cinnamon sugar) were the perfect combination of firmess and softness. The earl grey donut turned Dan into an earl grey fan (Seriously, he was on an earl grey kick the rest of the trip) and it wasn’t too sweet. After walking around Chinatown and stopping by some groceries and bakeries as well as the Sun Yat-Sen garden, we headed back to our condo to rest before heading out to Alibi Room. The drink menu was interesting menu and had a scale of “hoppiness” for each item. The scene was a bit too hipster, but we just went for drinks which were very strong but well balanced.

ChinatownBoneta

We then walked over to L’abbatoir for a delicious experience. We had accidentally made the reservation for the week later, but we just sat and ate at the bar. We asked for recommendations and received the poached egg and mushrooms with pecorino cheese sabayon and summer truffle, pan fried veal sweetbreads on toast with sauce gribiche with veal tongues, and an assorted bread basket. We ordered the banana daiquiri (Jamaican rum, Bananne de Brasil, fresh lime, Ardbeg 10 yr) and clover club refashioned (Gin, fresh raspberries, sweet vermouth, mint, fresh lemon) which were strong but easy to drink. The bartender was also nice enough to right down some Seattle recommendations for us since we were going to Seattle after our stay in Vancouver. We ended the night by stopping by Boneta and getting a Southpaw.

Mad Hatter Tea Party

 

Every year around Valentine’s Day, my sister’s usually throws a Valentine’s Day party for her Girl Scout troop. Last year, she decided the theme would be “Alice in Wonderland” and asked for my help in planning a Mad Hatter Tea Party. I worked with her and my mother to plan a menu and make all the treats. Everyone showed up to the party and was absolutely thrown away — they were expecting some food and some tea, but they got a full-blown professional-style party planned down to the tee.

Continue reading

Totoro Cookies

Last May, I saw a post by Anna the Red about making your own cookie cutters. Using this as inspiration, I bought a circle cookie cutter and tried to make my own totoro cookie cutter. It seemed to work okay, though my cookie dough was not the best. I just used store bought sugar cookie dough and mixed cocoa powder into some and matcha powder into others to make several different colored totoros, but I think the store dough is very greasy so the shapes spread and didn’t stay firm.

The occasion was my sister’s graduation from junior college (she’s now almost done with undergraduate, soon to start graduate school) — she’s as much of a totoro fan as I am! Another thing I didn’t take into consideration was the weather. I decorated these cookies with chocolate, but the hot May sun melted the totoros against the box and they ended up being all melted blobs.