Octopuscarwash's Gourmet Adventures

I live to eat. Yes, I am an Asian Jew. My favorite meal is breakfast (oatmeal in particular). I'm only in high school, so I am a complete amateur. Some of my favorite cuisines are Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Japanese and Korean. I eat so much Chinese food that it's hard to say whether I like it or not... all I know is that I don't like what most of America seems to think of as Chinese food, Panda Express. I'm a pescetarian and love coming up with my own healthy fusion food.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Neighborhood eats: Park 52

Hyde Park finally has a real restaurant! Park 52 has been opened by the same people who own Gioco, Marche, and Opera!
It's located on Harper court, right by Calypso Cafe and Dixie Kitchen. My mom had already been there and told me that it was pretty expensive, but with huge portions.
Basically what it was was a slightly more upscale restaurant, but still a neighborhood place, and adjusted to fit Hyde Park clients... that is, the food was slightly more "homestyle." My dad claims that a lot of it was more expensive Calypso food, but I don't really think so.
But first of all, mom, the portions were NOT that big. I had to order additional sides, and I still didn't feel full (granted, I came from swim practice).
The atmosphere was almost kitchy, like something out of Cabaret. However, what prevented it from being tacky was the TVs playing the presidential debate in the corner. It still felt like Hyde Park: the waitresses were equally nice and accommodating, and there was no wait for food.
We both ordered salads (me house, him Caesar), and they were definitely more restaurant-worthy than the usual wilted iceberg with gross tomato and raw onion.
I ordered the BBQ salmon over garlic spinach, which was perfectly cooked. The BBQ was more sweet than spicy, but an interesting way of serving salmon. The spinach was almost exactly like my dad's.
On the side, I ordered mashed sweet potatoes, which I feared would be too sugary and buttery, but they seemed to be just sweet potatoes with nothing added.
My dad ordered ribs, although the waitress misunderstood him and brought him a burger first. Still, since the ribs had been slow-cooked, she replaced the dish within seconds. His was served over mashed potatoes. The structure of the dishes was very formulaic and not especially interesting, but everything tasted great and was cooked perfectly. My dad didn't think he had ordered the right dish, although his ribs were good. He felt that he could have ordered them at a place like Calypso and ordered something a little more upscale here.
Despite everything we ordered, I was still hungry! We decided to order dessert. Everything seemed good, but the pineapple upside down cake jumped out at me-- I've been craving one so badly, since my dad and I used to get them at Calypso.
The verdict? like Calypso's, although in miniature, served with tasty sides, and missing its signature rum sauce. In general, Calypso's cake was probably better, but what I loved about Park 52's was its icy pineapple sorbet and a warm pineapple creme anglaise. It was nice and small, so my dad and I could share it without it being too much.
Will Hyde Park continue to change? I hope so. I hope eventually more and more places like this will continue to pop up. Maybe it wasn't the best meal I've ever had, but I would definitely come back and support park 52 and keep it in business. :)

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A thousand apologies. I'm not sure why I haven't been posting as much... it's not that my interest in food is diminishing, but my interest in photographing absolutely everything I eat certainly is. Because of this, I'm going to focus on posting highlights rather than daily eating habits.
On Friday we had a pasta party at my house for swim team! It was honestly the most fun I can remember having in the past few years. 14 out of the 18 girls on the swim team showed up! After practice, we headed over to my house in groups, where my parents were already busy cooking. I owe them so much for this, since the food was fantastic. Instead of making the usually boring meat sauce and no meat sauce spaghetti, we decided to carb load Asian style.
My dad made two kinds of sauces: one with ground pork, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, and the other my favorite ji ma jiang, or sesame sauce. With your choice of sauce, you got chewy Chinese wheat noodles and could top your bowl with cucumber, bean sprouts, bok choy, and additional soy sauce/ vinaiger.
One girl is allergic to gluten, so we made her rice noodles, which I almost would rather have had.
Just in case there were people on the team who found Asian food unappealing (do those people exist?), my mom also made a simple spaghetti with a tomato and pepper sauce.
We also had salad, and people kept munching on our many varieties of Chinese candy.
It was great to be around other people that eat just as much as me! Everyone had at least two giant bowls of noodles.
Dessert was brownies and Haagen Dazs! Not at all the kind of thing I would normally have, but my eating habits are changing so much. Not at all as health crazy as I used to be, which is SUCH a good thing I can't even put it into words. My obsession used to be an obstacle in the way of enjoying food, and I couldn't take a bite of a food I didn't consider "healthy" without imagining its harmful side effects on my body as I chewed.
Speaking of which, I'm considering stopping my vegetarianism. It's become too hard to get full on what I'm eating, despite a high-calorie diet. Also, I am going a bit crazy with these limitations. On the other hand, I still have strong opinions about the meat industry and its effects on the environment, not to mention the idea of biting into somebody else's leg. The concept behind hamburgers, the number one meat dish that I crave, is so disgusting: mashing different cows' bodies together and sandwiching them on a roll.
One of my best friends is also a vegetarian and on the swim team, and feels the same way. We both want to eat only organic, humanely killed (although I still considering that an oxymoron) meat, and we want to break our vegetarianism together. We're thinking between november and december, so she can have done it for one year and I can have done it for two. I still haven't made a definitely decision. What do you think?

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Breakfast and dessert

This picture is here because I love it. It was my dad's breakfast. If you ask me, he has a talent for food photography.

At breakfast-time I am a wild animal. In fact, I think one of the only incentives I have to get up is the prospect of a huge bowl of oatmeal, some yogurt, and a generous spoonful of peanut butter. I don't even want to think of the calories I consume at breakfast, and no matter how much I eat, I'm still starving by 4th period (11:30).

This week two of my best oatmeals were carrot cake oatmeal, partially inspired by Kath, and almond pear oatmeal, with baked pear, almond extract, slivered and chopped almonds, and almond butter (this was inspired by the pear-almond tarts in French bakeries). Also tropical oatmeal with pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut.

I've also been eating more dessert than normal, even if it is usually pretty healthy (frozen yogurt and fruit or baked apples).
I blame this partly on the fact that my mom chose to make the most amazing fruit crisp ever with the overripe plums and pears. We baked it again to make it crispier today and ate it with Greek yogurt. I ate way more than I should have because it was too good. I'd take this over chocolate cake any day.

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Je ne cuisine pas trop souvent, mais je mange tout les temps

It's true that I just never seem to cook. I've gone through cooking obsession phases, but lately it seems like all I ever do is eat. Of course, this has to do with swimming too... We swam 2.7 miles yesterday and my mom and I went to a friendly neighborhood restaurants, where I had to order SECONDS on rice and vegetables at a restaurant with already big portions! I can feel myself bulking up, and I need to eat even when food might not be the most appealing, just because I need fuel.
Oh, and I just have to rejoice a bit: my 100 breast stroke time is a 1:24 so far!!!!!!
That being said, we certainly do eat tasty meals at home:
Stir-fried eggplant with carrots and a mysterious Chinese sauce that we get in China town, one of my dad's "everything" stir-fries with summer squash, carrots, soybeans, and peppers, plus brown rice.
Salad with those candied pecans, feta, and more of the white beets. The pasta Patrizia gave me with tuna, capers and roasted red peppers (could have been a lot more sauce to pasta-- we accidentally made too much), and roasted pear-squash-ginger soup with Greek yogurt and pumpkin seeds.

This amazing and simple fish dish, according to my mom: baked tilapia with herbs, potatoes and olive oil, with salad and leftover soup.
Once again, I LOVE ARTOPOLIS BAKERY'S VEGETARIAN MOUSSAKA? It's such an indulgence. We got their butternut squash soup, but it smelled so strongly of chicken stock that it might as well have been the pan juices of a freshly roasted chicken. Alas.
We tried to cook spaghetti squash, but there was a misunderstanding. From reading other peoples' blogs, I know that the easiest way is to first bake it, but according to Deborah Madison, you were supposed to scoop out the raw insides and drop them in boiling water, which proved impossible because the strands weren't long enough. It also made the squash really watery. It was still good, though. We ate it with tomato sauce, feta, stir-fried broccoli, and I had the tiniest bit of brown rice (the presentation is all nice because I microwaved it in the container and it retained that shape).
Dinner: The baked mushrooms and eggs that failed earlier (but only my mom had an egg, because I had eggs for lunch). This time the egg wasn't overcooked and the mushrooms were perfectly moist. The croutons absorbed their juice and the additional cooking liquid from the red wine and became spongy and flavorful. We also had corn on the cob and stir-fried beet greens, which were a bit too salty and too tough to eat the stems. You can also see some overripe farmer's market tomatoes that we had to use up. I also had a fresh veggie burger from Trader Joe's on the side: the ingredients list is actually really short: just tofu, vegetable oil, salt, and various vegetables. My plate looks really unappealing because the ketchup sprayed everywhere.

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Fresh food... how colorful it is

Here's some stuff from the farmer's market last week (yes, I am really behind on posting). Family friends were in town, and the weather was perfectly crisp and autumnal... unlike today, which was 80 DEGREES! Too hot for me for sure.

STEEL-CUT OATS! With raspberries, raspberry preserves, and cream. Sadly, I had already eaten my oatmeal at home, so I wasn't the one who got this, but I did get to have a bite. I should definitely start making steel-cut at home, because the texture difference is really pronounced.
My grandparents were in town, and they pretty much went crazy at the farmer's market. They bought a breakfast sandwich with bacon eggs, and potatoes, but the healthy version (or the closest you can get to it). My grandpa ate all of it, but my grandma proclaimed it "horrible." Don't know why.
Butternut squash tart-- I pretty much ate the squash out of the inside but didn't eat the outside (my dad would only let me do this to one piece-- I know it's a waste but I hate puff pastry).
Lunch after coming back from the market.
Dinner that night, cooked for family friends:
My dad's stir-fried string beans
Roasted sweet potatoes
Tofu and scallions for me
Beer can chicken for everyone else
Salad with white beets (highest sugar content... really unbelievably sweet), candied pecans, croutons, and red peppers.

Dessert: pear tart, which I actually wasn't there for (aaaa, look at the grease). I left early to go to Homecoming, which was just so bad that I left after under an hour. Remind me to just stop going to school dances.

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